Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

Great Cover

beatles for sale

Beatles For Sale wouldn’t be many people’s choice of favourite Beatles album, but it’s by far my favourite Beatles album cover. You can marvel at the druggy, warped close-up that heralds Rubber Soul, and  Klaus Voormann’s pen and ink collage on the front of Revolver, and it’s hard not to appreciate the vision behind Peter Blake’s Sgt Pepper concept,  but no album cover then or since probably froze the zeitgeist of a precise moment in time quite like the Robert Freeman shot for Beatles For Sale. Taken in London’s late Autumn Hyde Park, it cryogenically captures the band in the clothes they turned up in, battered, brusied and bloodied by Beatlemania, baggy-eyed and bored of it all, desperate for their beds and a bit of peace and quiet. Great hair though.

Beatles For Sale was the 4th Beatles album in 21 months. That’s four LPs. In less than two years. Coming hot on the heels of the phenomenal A Hard Day’s Night LP (their first to feature all-original material), Beatles For Sale represented something of a dip in quality for the band. And, as outlined above and below, no wonder why…

In late 1964, Beatles found themsleves in the unenviable position of requiring material to release in time for the lucrative Christmas market. EMI suddenly owned the biggest, fattest cash cow of them all and, what with this pop music lark being a short-lived affair and whatnot, were keen to milk it for all it was worth. Recording started only one month after A Hard Day’s Night was released and many of the songs were written in the studio and recorded there and then during any free days between shows.  All associated with The Beatles (including the band themselves) knew they were being somewhat exploited.

George Martin: “They were rather war-weary during Beatles for Sale. One must remember that they’d been battered like mad throughout ’64, and much of ’63. Success is a wonderful thing, but it is very, very tiring.”

Paul McCartney: “We would normally be rung a couple of weeks before the recording session and they’d say, ‘We’re recording in a month’s time and you’ve got a week off before the recordings to write some stuff.

Neil Aspinall: “No band today would come off a long US tour at the end of September, go into the studio and start a new album, still writing songs, and then go on a UK tour, finish the album in five weeks, still touring, and have the album out in time for Christmas. But that’s what the Beatles did at the end of 1964. A lot of it was down to naivety, thinking that this was the way things were done. If the record company needs another album, you go and make one.

And to think Prince had the cheek to scrawl ‘Slave‘ on his face in protest at how Warner Music treated him.

beatles i feel fine promo

Stuck for material, the band resorted to Cavern Club cover versions of yore. Indeed, almost half the LP (6 out of 14 songs) is made up of twanging country rockers and raucous rockabilly re-hashes. Not bad, all the same, just not the great leap forward you might’ve expected following A Hard Day’s Night. Of the original material, Lennon is in full-on Dylan mode (he met him around the same time in New York), harmonica wheezing like an asthmatic tramp, acoustic guitar high in the mix, and McCartney treads water slightly, looking for the inspiration to guide him towards Help and Rubber Soul. In the UK, no singles were taken from the LP, although I Feel Fine (written when Lennon riffed along to a playback of Eight Days A Week) and She’s A Woman, recorded at the same Beatles For Sale sessions were released on the one single, which duly rocketed to the toppermost of the poppermost just before Christmas. Despite the mood surrounding The Beatles at this time, I Feel Fine remains a defiant high point of early-mid period Fabness.

Ever since I heard it (and bought it) on that terrible, none-more-eighties Stars On 45 single, I’ve always had a something of a soft spot for No Reply. Maybe it’s because it reminds of BB discos when, loaded up on Kwenchy Kups and cheap maize-based crisps, I’d slide across the church hall floor from one end to the other while the ‘DJ’ played all 15 minutes of the terrible non-stop pumping Beatles karaoke just to annoy all of us who wanted Baggy Trousers and Stand & Deliver.

Contrast and Compare:

No Reply (Mono)

No Reply (Stereo)

Anyway. No Reply.  As done by The Beatles. I like how Lennon starts it straight away, before breaking into the hysterical “I nearly died!” section. And I like McCartney’s bridge, with its rush of handclaps and Little Richardisms in the backing vocals.  Over and done with in little over 2 minutes, it’s a muted melancholy masterpiece.

*Bonus Track(s)!

 Elliott Smith I’ll Be Back

Here‘s Elliott Smith‘s terrific version of A Hard Day’s Night‘s I’ll Be Back, all double-tracked vocals and sparkling electric guitar. Nice nod to John, Paul, George and Ringo at the end. Super-rare, I’ve featured it before. But it’s worth giving it the space again. And for entirely different reasons, a great cover too.

elliot-smith

Och, go on then…

(Stars on 45, all 15 minutes of it. Download available only on request. You don’t need it.)

Not such a great cover.

Cover Versions, demo, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

Three Little Birds

I’m just about finished Neil Young‘s autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace. It’s an annoying read, but now I’ve come this far, I need to finish it. I love old whiny Neil, I really do, but his book goes about dispelling the myth behind the man faster than the man himself was able to hoover up the white stuff backstage during The Last Waltz. The chapters jump from one time and place to another time and place and back again with random abandon (which I don’t mind) but the content therein just bores me. There’s just not enough background information on the kind of stuff I’d expect most Neil Young fans to be interested in.

 young høyde

For every “The day I wrote Cinnamon Girl…” you get half a dozen finger-pointing one-sided arguments on the benefits of the electric car Neil’s been designing for the past 390 or so years. For every “We had a lotta fun, I got another STD” tale of woe you get a step-by-step account of his shopping trip to Costco. Really! For every “Oh man! Let me tell ya about this one time in the Springfield…” you get seventeen lectures on the rubbishness of mp3s.  Indeed, ol’ Neil’s got a big shout for himself. He’s offered to help Apple improve the sound quality of their music files and much of his book reads like a particularly crass advertorial. He takes folk out to his car (always a ’51 this or ’67 that, never a B-reg Cortina) and plays them music through his self-designed PureTone/Pono audio system that he hopes will become the leading portable audio player on the market. Whatever, Neil. Just tell us more about the Ditch Trilogy and your guitar sound on Weld, and much, much less about the movies for Human Highway and Prairie Wind.

Much like his music, where great album is followed by mediocre shelf clutter (for every pearl, there’s a Pearl Jam, perhaps?), so too his story alternates between revelation and exasperation. He does admit that he shelved too many good albums in the 70s at the expense of at-best average ones. Maybe he should’ve got himself an editor who could’ve told him likewise about the output of his writing.

neil young shades

Young wearing yer actual After The Gold Rush jeans.

Press ‘Play’ to hear groovy 60s Reprise Records radio promo ad.

At the end of the 60s, Neil Young found himself living in Topanga Canyon, overlooking the Pacific Palisades in the Santa Monica Mountains. A liberal, boho-rich 60s community of artists, actors and assorted creative types, it lent itself perfectly to Young’s own creative, carefree spirit. Here, he would pen many of the songs that would later become staples of his catalogue and live set. Sugar Mountain. I’ve Been Waiting For You. Helpless. Tell Me Why. Only Love Can Break Your Heart. All materialised in some form or other in this period. Not bad going for a 24 year old song writer. Amongst his ouvre during this time was Birds.

neil young wasted

Birds  (Neil Young early version from Topanga Canyon)

Birds is not that well regarded in what is undoubtedly a gold-standard catalogue, but it should be. Eventually appearing on his 3rd solo outing, 1970’s After The Gold Rush, Birds found itself sequenced mid-way through side 2, sandwiched between acoustic Neil nugget Don’t Let It Bring You Down and the electric Neil ‘n Nils Lofgren guitar duellin’ When You Dance You Can Really Love. Birds is a great wee song; downbeat, introspective and yearning with a terrific backing vocal from the assembled Danny Whitten (who’d be dead from heroin in 2 short years), Crazy Horse’s Ralph Molina, old partner in rhyme Steven Stills and the afore-mentioned 18 year old wunderkid Nils Lofgren.

Birds (After The Gold Rush album version)

Hands down even better is the mono single released to promote the Gold Rush album. A markedly different version from the piano-led album version, the single places greater emphasis on shimmering electric guitars and richly plucked acoustics without losing the soaring, whisky-soaked, weed-smoked 4-part harmonies in the chorus. And it’s all over in barely more than one and a half extraordinary minutes. Most folk know Birds from the album, but the mono single is where its at…

Birds (mono single version)

A few weeks ago, when the news of HMV’s decline was made public, I found myself shamelessly plundering their website for keenly priced booty. Top of my wish list was Neil Young’s Archives Project, the catch-all, multi-disc labour of love that had been assembled by Young himself after trawling years of tapes from his own archives. At £200+ a pop it was one box set I could never justify purchasing. I’d already acquired it via other means (I’m sure you know what I mean) but the real deal offers updates via the web and enough interactive material to satisfy even the keenest of Rusties. Sadly, HMV had none to sell, so the mp3s above are taken from my own slightly more dodgy archives. Be careful not to play them too loud, though, or old Neil will be round in his car, the ’62 Chevy perhaps, or the ’78 Jensen, to make you listen to how they should sound on his latest hi-spec audio player. And he’ll probably charge you $250 for the meet-and-greet privilege. Hippies, eh?

Neil Young reprise promo

*Bonus Track!

From the throwaway and listened-to-less-than-once-before-being-filed-away-waste-of-his-time-and-my-money Studio 150 covers LP (phew!), here’s Paul Weller, in full-on white man sings Otis guise doing a fine version of Birds. Perhaps a reappraisal of Studio 150 is required.

Blur Fanclub Singles, demo, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

B.L.U.R.D.E.M.O.

Have you got Beetlebum?”

No. It’s just the way I’m standin‘.”

The happiest job I ever had (and possibly ever will have) was when I worked behind the counter of a well-known High Street music retailer. A stop-gap job that somehow lasted 11 years, it took me all the way from Inverness to Leeds and back again via Ayrshire. Amongst the minority of planks, skanks and wanks in management that I was unfortunate enough to share a tea break with, I met a fair number of like-minded music obsessives, film obsessives and the odd stereotypically sulky sales assistant happy to hang off the counter and unsettle casual browsers looking for chart fodder. Like the one quoted above. He did actually say that, and it was funny.

Anyway. Down to business. I’m not about to get all high and mighty here, but I am about to show a shocking sense of double standards. I don’t really like illegal downloading. Rich, I know, from someone who’s happy to provide crappy mp3s of all and sundry to anyone who fancies them. But I’m not talking about harmless, out-of-print singles from 1973 and whatever else makes its way onto these pages. Is that really affecting anyone? What I don’t like is what I’d term mass-market illegal downloading. The recent BBC report that showed Manchester to be the worst offenders in the UK was quite interesting. Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran are the big losers in the whole thing, as it seems that every school kid and upwards has illegally downloaded their music. It’s said that they’re the generation that understands music to be free, and I’d have to agree. Aye, some percentage or other of them may end up buying the album in the future, but that’s debatable. Anyway, here’s where my shocking double standards really kick in.

I like Blur. I like them a lot. I have done since She’s So High way back when. I’ve bought every single on or around the day of release. Even the shitey ones, and there’s been a fair few over the years. I’ve bought the albums on day of release. Even the shitey ones. Though, they’re all good in their own way, even if some have endured better than others. Leisure and The Great Escape are, to put it politely, ‘of their time’. Think Tank is by far the best, since you’re wondering. So. I have all the singles and all the albums, including Japanese imports and such like. I also have the 10th Anniversary Box Set, bought for a recession-friendly price in the Our Price sale. And there wasn’t even a recession at the time. I have the lot, as they say. Or, at least, I had the lot, until this summer when Blur 21 came out. All the albums. All the singles. All the remixes. Plus some demos and live stuff. At an eye-popping £150, this was one purchase I’d find hard to justify. So, a bit of Googling here and there turned up a download. Low-fi and crappy, but it meant I got all the rarities I wouldn’t have otherwise. The live stuff you can keep, but in amongst the rarities are a few diamonds. Here’s some to chew over:

She’s So High (pre-Blur Seymour demo) Drum machine and studio chatter before some out-of-tune distorted guitar and even more distorted vocals. I can’t listen to the bassline without seeing the cheese-making fop with his floppy fringe mincing about stage right.

Popscene (1991 demo) Mad, noisy, toys-out-the-pram shout-fest. Excellent, as Monty Burns might say.

For Tomorrow (Mix 1 of an early demo). Mainly acoustic guitar and vocals, with the odd bit of shaker for percussion and some synthesised strings. Nice double-tracked la-la-la backing vocals. It’s hard to tell if it’s Damon or Graham who’s singing lead here.

Badhead (demo) The most under appreciated track from gazillion-selling Parklife. Round ‘ere it was all “Oi! get some exercise mate!” Meanwhile, Badhead, with its wistful melancholia and Syd-lite psychedelia was where the real music fans got their Parklife kicks.

Squeezebox (Alternative version of Music Is My Radar) Imagine if Talking Heads got up one morning and instead of micro-biotic, high fibre health food shit ate a big bowl of guitar effects pedals. This is what they’d sound like. Really!

Graham Coxon Fact 1: He favours Converse trainers on stage, as the white toe-cap helps him find the correct effects pedal on which to stomp.

Graham Coxon Fact 2: He told me that on Twitter.

Now. Off you go and buy Blur 21, there’s a good chap.

Cover Versions, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, Sampled, studio outtakes

Spacemen mp3

If Pete Frame were to do one of his Rock Family Trees on fuzzed-up druggy drone rock he’d inevitably land up (*by way of Spiritualized, Spectrum and even (The) Verve)) at Spacemen 3. Long before Bobby Gillespie had grown tired of his Byrds LPs, Spacemen 3 were the ultimate ‘record collection’ band. Spouting a seemingly never-ending list of achingly cool records by artists I had barely heard of, let alone heard in their music press interviews (Stooges!? Sun Ra!? Electric Prunes!? Silver Apples!?) they totally blew me away with their track Revolution. Being an impressionable 19 year old at the time, into guitars in a big way and with an obsession for cheap fuzz boxes,  Revolution hit me between the eyes with all the subtleness of a Sonny Liston left hook.

Revolution was recorded on some rare vintage Vox guitar or other, replete with switches that fuzzed the guitar at source without the need for effects pedals. No doubt though Spacemen 3 further fuzzed the sound of the Vox by adding fuzz pedals to the guitar’s signal as it made it’s way to the amp. It was overloaded and it was incessant; Repetitive. Relentless. Remarkable! Riff upon riff after riff upon riff – the sort of simple stuff I could play on that plank of wood I called a guitar when I plugged it into my Rocktek distortion pedal – buzzed away in the foreground while a studiously bored-sounding Sonic Boom (Peter to his Mum) with an impossible-to-place accent (Rugby, middle England! Really?) ranted and raved on top, trying to sound as cool as the heroes he name-checked in those interviews I had been reading. I got the feeling copious amounts of drugs were involved and, later on when I was a bit more wordly-wise and able to decode their interviews, I realised there certainly had been.

Later on I also realised that Revolution was perhaps not as original as I had first believed. The riff could’ve come from any old garage rock nugget, but that’s not the problem. Every band does that when they’re new (and not so new) to the game. I brazenly stole the Revolution riff for one of my band’s greatest hits, if truth be told. But that’s another story for another time. And there’s plenty of tracks out there with the word ‘Revolution‘ in the title. But only one seemed to steal and appropriate bits of the lyrics from Iggy Pop’s I’m Bored (shitty mp3 here);

I’m bored. I’m the chairman of the bored………..I’m sick. I’m sick of all my kicks,” drawls the Ig. “I’m sick, I’m sooooo sick………and I’m tired, I’m sooooo tired”, parrots Sonic Boom.

And only one Revolution seemed to borrow large chunks of John Sinclair’s rabble-rousing and indeed revolutionary rhetoric at the start of the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams;

“Brothers and sisters! I wanna see a sea of hands out there…let me see a sea of hands…I want everybody to kick up some noise…I wanna hear some revolution out there brothers…I wanna hear a little revolution…Brothers and sisters…the time has come for each and every one of you to decide, whether you are going to be the problem or whether you are going to be the solution…You must choose brothers…you must choose…It takes five seconds . . . five seconds of decision . . . five seconds to realise your purpose here on the planet…it takes five seconds to realise that it’s time to move, it’s time to get down with it…brothers, it’s time to testify and I want to know…are you ready to testify?…Are you ready? I give you a testimonial – the MC5!”

I’m having that!” thought a sticky-fingered Sonic, and putting pen to paper came up with the following –  “And I suggest to you that it takes just five seconds…just five seconds of decision…to realise…that the time is right… to start thinkin’ about a little…Revolution!”

I suggest to you, Sonic, that it took just five seconds….just five seconds to rip that off. OK, so it’s hardly Visions of Johanna and, aye, most of the lyrics are lifted from other records, but 24 or so years later (ooft!) Revolution still does it for me. It’s been playing on repeat as I’ve typed this up and it still sounds as angry as a jar of wasps on a windowsill in July.

For added listening pleasure, here‘s Mudhoney‘s straight-up cover (with added swearing and methadone-referencing lyrics). And, here‘s that 10 mins + outake?/outfake? of The BeatlesRevolution that surfaced a few years ago and forced Plain Or Pan into temporary meltdown for a coupla days. Go, go, go, tout de suite, before The Man notices…

*When Spacemen 3 disbanded in the usual drug-fuelled ego-fest fashion, Jason Pierce formed Spiritualized and Sonic Boom formed Spectrum. Jason’s girlfriend and sometime band mate Kate left him for lanky, manky old Richard Ashcroft and his Hush Puppies and went to live in a house, a very big house in the country.

Cover Versions, demo, Double Nugget, Dylanish, elliott smith, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, Kraut-y, Most downloaded tracks, New! Now!, Peel Sessions, Sampled, Six Of The Best, Studio master tapes, studio outtakes

I Got 5 Years Stuck On My Eyes

I got 5 years, what a surprise!Five Years‘, Bowie’s opening track on the Ziggy album ends with that afore-mentioned refrain. But you knew that already. You might also know that Plain Or Pan has now been going for 5 years. Or you might not. Either way, thanks for visiting time and time again. Whether you’re one of the few who choose to ‘follow this blog’ or you’re one of those misguided creeps who ended up here via Google after searching for ‘Teenage Fanny‘ and got the Bellshill Beach Boys instead, those visits (and the numbers they register behind the scenes in the Plain Or Pan office) are what keeps me a-writin’ and researchin’. Not as often as I’d like to, but as someone commented some time ago, “One good post a week is better than 7 posts of shite.” I might be paraphrasing there, but you get the idea.

As is now customary at this time of year, my team of office monkeys gather up all statistical information made available to them and compile a couple of CDs worth of the year’s most popular downloaded tracks and painstakingly create a groovy cover that goes with it. This is not a quick process. Hours are spent refining and re-refining running orders. At least 14 different covers are produced before a carefully-selected random sample of Plain Or Pan’s target audience (that’s you, that is) choose the cover that speaks most to them. This year is slightly different. The office monkeys have gone on strike (they mumbled something about pensions) and time is at a premium (ie, I don’t have any). The tracks, 2 CDs worth are here. The artwork, not your normal CD cover, more of an image that you can use as cover art in iTunes or however you listen to music on your computer, is there, above this paragraph (right click, save as etc etc). The tracklist? I don’t have one. This year you can choose your own running order from the following:

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John Barry – Midnight Cowboy

King Creosote – Home In A Sentence

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now? (Rare Italian pressing)

Gruff Rhys – Shark Ridden Waters, which samples….

The Cyrkle – It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Midlake – Branches

Elliott Smith – Alameda

Peter Salett – Sunshine

Mott The Hoople – Walking With A Mountain

Primal Scream – Jailbird (Kris Needs’ Toxic Trio Stay free mix)

Primal Scream & PP Arnold – Understanding (Small Faces cover)

Ride – Like A Daydream

The Wildebeests – That Man (Small Faces cover)

Dion – The Dolphins (Tim Buckley cover)

Darondo – Didn’t I

Edwin Starr – Movin’ On Up (Primal Scream cover)

Shellac – My Black Ass

The Rivingtons – Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow (the building blocks of Surfin Bird)

The Survivors – Pamela Jean (Brian Wilson recording)

The Heavy – How You Like Me Now? which heavily ‘borrows’ from…

Dyke & The Blazers – Let A Woman Be A Woman (Let A Man Be A Man)

The La’s – Come In Come Out (John Leckie mix)

The Girlfriends – My One And Only Jimmy Boy

The Whyte Boots – Nightmare

James Brown & the Famous Flames –I’ll Go Crazy

The Jim Jones Revue – Hey Hey Hey Hey, cover of….

Little Richard – Hey Hey Hey Hey (false start take)

Suede – The Wild Ones (unedited version)

Lee Dorsey – Holy Cow

Fern Kinney – Groove Me

Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady (alt mix)

Jackson 5 –  I Want You Back (Michael’s isolated vocal – dynamite!!!)

Reparta & the Delrons – Shoes (the inspiration for The Smiths’ A Rush And A Push…)

Dusty Springfield – Spooky

She & Him – Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want (Smiths cover)

John Barry – The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair

A fairly representative selection of what Plain Or Pan is all about, you might agree. In other words, a right rum bag of forgotten classics and demos and cover versions and alternative takes and studio outtakes and the rest of it. Outdated Music For Outdated People right enough.

Missed any of these legendary compilations?

Here‘s the first 2 years, 2007 & 2008

Here‘s 2009’s

Here‘s 2010’s

Download ’til yer heart’s content!

demo, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

Bums, Punks and Old Sluts On Junk

This time last year I read an article in one of Mrs Plain Or Pan’s magazines about Christmas. The article asked a carefully selected sample of celebrities to describe their perfect Christmas Day. “A long walk in the woods with my fiancé,” cooed Kathryn Jenkins, “before curling up in front of the log fire with a glass of mulled wine.” “We always start the day with a champagne breakfast,” revealed Maureen Lipman. “Traditionally, we open presents after dinner, then the whole family settles down to watch The Snowman.” Christmas Day seems just peachy round at her’s, eh? I don’t know about your house, but mine on Christmas Day is nothing like that at all. “Those carrots are mushy…and the sprouts are still raw! You useless wanker!”(whispered of course,  so the relatives can’t hear us arguing, 3 feet away on the other side of the wall). “You told me when to put them on!” “Could you not tell the carrots were ready? Couldn’t you use your fucking brains for once?” etc etc etc. Like I said, I don’t know about your house, but I’m inclined to think it’ll be more like mine than Kathryn Jenkins’ or Maureen Lipman’s come a week on Sunday.

Still Alive! Todd Marrone did this, the talented so-and-so.

You know this already, but just for the record, Fairytale Of New York is the best Christmas song of all-time. It doesn’t matter what’s gone before (the Phil Spector album, Bowie ‘n Bing’s Little Drummer Boy, the glam slam of Slade and Wizzard) or what came after (East 17? Cliff Richard? Kylie Minogue panting her way through Santa Baby with all the sex appeal of an asthma attack?) Some of these records are better than others, but none of them come close to capturing the essence of Christmas (raw sprouts, useless husbands and all) quite like The Pogues.

A Fairytale Of New York is almost unique amongst Christmas songs in that it tackles the ‘C’ word with none of the blind enthusiasm or misty-eyed schlock normally reserved for such events. Slade set their stall out before a bell has even been clanged in excitement. “It’s Christmaaaaas!!” yells Noddy, and you know from then on in you’re in for a rollicking yuletide ride. Wham drown that thinly-disguised same-sex love song of theirs in a gazillion sleigh bells and suddenly everything in George Michael’s garden is rosy.  “All I Want For Christmas,” enthuses Mariah Carey, “is yooouuuuooooouuu!” Yeah, and an X-Box, an iPod and a flat screen TV, Mariah. We’re all materialistic over here. And while you’re at it, could you get me a job too? And maybe find someone who’ll give us a mortgage? Aye, bah humbug ‘n all that jazz. The Pogues have gone for none of that. Fairytale Of New York is still romantic, but it’s also raw, real and ragged, full of remorse for past misdemeanours while hoping for a better future. Nicely gift wrapped of course in a Pogues-punk waltz-time, with added BBC ban-defying swearing.

It’s a terrific arrangement, put together quite masterfully by Steve Lillywhite. Initially written as a duet between Shane MacGowan and Pogues bass player Cait O’Riordan, then scrapped when she left the band, it was Steve Lillywhite who suggested getting the missus in to duet with MacGowan instead. Listen to the demos below and hear how he transformed The Pogues’ half-finished ideas into the final record, with its peaks and troughs and instrumental breaks. Hear too how he gets the best out of Shane, who at this point in his life was eating tabs of acid the way the Fonz eats gum (all the time, if you didn’t know), whilst washing them down with enough brandy to drown a whale. Lillywhite somehow coaxes him out of the famous fluent Macgowanese mumble and into that raucous final take.

The Music:

  • One of the first takes. Fluffed lines, missed cues….and the band played on.
  • Shane ‘n Cait almost full-length run-through duet with alt. lyrics, missed cues, forgotten words………and the band played on.
  • The ‘blueprint version‘ – Starts with Shane ‘n James Fearnley on accordion. Different lyrics again. Shane struggles with the concept of singing in tune. Band in top form as usual. After listening to this you can begin to appreciate the contribution Kirsty MacColl made to the finished record.

Dylanish, elliott smith, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

I’m So Sick Of Snow Patrol-ah!

When people discover that I’m into music in a big way they will ask the inevitable question, “What music do you like then?” My standard glib and non-commital reply has always been, “Oh you know, anything released before 1986,” which, on the one hand tells you nothing, but on the other hand tells you everything you need to know. Why get into the present when there’s so much from the past just waiting to be discovered? Of course, just to be contrary, I’m very much into the present. Two albums currently on heavy rotation (do iPods rotate?) are Skying by The Horrors and Ersartz G.B. by The Fall. Both current, both new, yet crucially both steeped in a wide variety of pre-86 reference points. The Horrors album seems to have taken early Psychedelic Furs and the pre-pomp Simple Minds as its year zero. But that description doesn’t do it justice at all. Full-on, relentless and played by musicians at the top of their game, The Horrors would be my band of choice if I was 17 and had the waist size for skinny black jeans and the gall to wear pointy boots in public. Spotify it then buy it. And that’s an order.

The current version of The Fall are brilliant – tight, taut and tense with seemingly their leader’s approval to, like, get down. The album is all Sabbath riffs and rockabilly rhythms, wonky keyboards and slabs of cement basslines. On some tracks, Mark Smith sounds like an angry dog attacking an old slipper (eg the lyric that healines this piece). On the rest he sounds like a demented Dalek on downers. This may just be the best Fall LP since Extricate. It’s that good. In fact, if this album and The Horrors one aren’t in the Top 5 of any of those Best Albums of the Year lists that should be appearing any day now, I’ll turn my copy of Telephone Thing into a trendy ashtray and smoke myself silly.

Photo ‘borrowed’ from Flybutter via Flickr. Ta!

Another current obsession is Elliott Smith. I’ve written much about him in the past (use the ‘search‘ box on the side there). I love Elliott and return to him time and time again. This week I have been mostly obsessing over Alameda, from his Either/Or LP. It’s not just the way he practically whispers the lyric. Or the ghostly harmonising backing vocals. And it’s not just the way he sounds like he plays guitar with 10 fingers. On each hand. Nope. It’s the way (muso alert! muso alert!) the song goes from monochrome misery into a burst of technicolour joy over a pair of E flat and G minor chords. “For your own protection over their affection, nobody broke your heart. You broke your own…” Majestic is the word I’m looking for. My Christmas holiday task is to master this song on the guitar. Easy chords but a difficult picking arrangement. Pop round at New Year to hear me murder it if you fancy.

Here y’are:

Alameda (Either/Or)

Alameda (Alt. Lyrics)

Alameda (Live WMUC circa June/July 1997)

Oh aye. Is it snowing on your desktop too? Nothing to do with me….

UPDATED AUGUST 2012….UPDATED AUGUST 2012….UPDATED AUGUST 2012

Hard-to-find, Six Of The Best, studio outtakes

Six Of The Best – Craig Gannon

Six Of The Best is a semi-regular feature that pokes, prods and persuades your favourite bands, bards and barometers of hip opinion to tell us six of the best tracks they’ve ever heard. The tracks could be mainstream million-sellers or they could be obfuscatingly obscure, it doesn’t matter. The only criteria set is that, aye, they must be Six of the Best. Think of it like a mini, groovier version of Desert Island Discs…

Number 9 in a series:

Craig Gannon is, to use that much clichéd phrase, a musicians’ musician. Any band looking for some understated yet majestic, melodic guitar playing could do worse than turn to Craig for inspiration. His CV reads like a Who’s Who of left-of-centre British rock acts since the mid 80’s – he’s been the perfect foil for Aztec Camera and Roddy Frame, The Bluebells, The Adult Net, The Colourfield and much of Terry Hall’s ‘solo’ material.

He’s perhaps most famous for being (briefly) the fifth Smith, hired when Andy Rourke’s drug problems led to him being ousted from the band and, on his return, being given the role of 2nd guitar. Craig played on much of The Smiths’ vital output from 1986 – the Panic and Ask singles, London, Half A Person, You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby (the best Smiths non-single ever, surely?) and although asked to leave The Smiths in confusing circumstances, was considered vital enough to be asked back into the Morrissey fold, playing Last Of The Famous International Playboys on Top Of The Pops and as part of a pseudo-Smiths line-up when the old nipple flasher played his first solo show in Wolverhampton at the end of 1988. All this was happening whilst behind the scenes legal proceedings were underway to sue Morrissey and Marr for unpaid royalties relating to the afore-mentioned tracks. For a while it looked like Morrissey was considering him as his main writing partner, but being a man of principle, Craig wouldn’t drop the court case and, well, that was the end of that.

This was very much Terry Hall’s gain. Craig worked extensively with Hall throughout much of the 90’s and his guitar work on Hall’s solo albums Home and Laugh manages the trick of being both uplifting yet melancholic, with added fancy pants chords to boot. To these ears, both albums have the air of the undiscovered classic, and still hold up to repeated plays today. If you’re unfamiliar with them have a listen to the Forever J single, from Home. You’d like it. Craig has fond memories of working on these albums.

“The track I’m most proud of having played on would probably be a song called Take It Forever on Terry Hall’s second solo album which myself and Terry co – wrote. I rarely listen to records I’ve played on over the years but I still like the guitars on that. An obviously higher profile track would be Panic by The Smiths as I’m proud of my guitar playing on that.”

These days you can still hear Craig playing, though you might not realise it. His subtle playing is perfect soundtrack material for a whole host of TV and cinema productions – incidental music on Eastenders and A Question Of Sport amongst many others, and he doesn’t appear to miss the thrill of what you or I might refer to as ‘the music scene‘.

“I now make my living as a composer rather than a guitarist which is exactly how I like it and at the moment I’m just in the middle of writing the score for a film called R/Evolution which looks at the revolution in human consciousness. It includes contributions from Forest Whitaker amongst others and is narrated by Richard Olivier. The film was been shot around the world over most of this year and I’m writing a contemporary orchestral score which incorporates various ethnic and world music styles.”

Craig’s Six Of The Best is, I think, one of the best we’ve had yet and a good indication of the influences that seep into his guitar playing:

Walk On ByBurt Bacharach.

One of Bacharach’s most simple songs which in this case proves that simple can be good, although that’s not always the case. I first got into Burt Bacharach when I was about 14 and it was probably this song that started it. A great intimate feel and a never bettered vocal by Dionne Warwick this also has trademark Bacharach flugelhorn phrases. The Stranglers did a great cover of this track which I also love but this is perfect.

Alone Again OrLove

I first got into Love in 1983 through Roddy Frame who used to play this all the time. This song is off one of my all time favourite albums ‘Forever Changes’ and was written by Bryan Maclean rather than the usual Love songwriter Arthur Lee. It’s probably the most accessible track on an album which includes some pretty weird late 60’s psychedelia. It starts with a great acoustic guitar arpeggio pattern joined by strings and then into an inspired mariachi style trumpet solo. Love also did some rubbish but ‘Forever Changes’ is one of the best albums of all time in my opinion.

The Long And Winding RoadThe Beatles.

Growing up in the seventies I was always listening to The Beatles and I’m still amazed at how brilliant they often were and they had everything including two brilliant songwriters, great image, personality and chemistry etc. I could have picked loads of favourite Beatles songs but this is just one example of what an incredible songwriter McCartney was. Great chords, a poignant melody and a hugely emotional vocal. John Lennon played the bass on this and you can hear him fluffing all over the place but that doesn’t take anything away from it. The originally released version has choir and orchestra overdubbed by Phil Spector which apparently McCartney hated. One of many fantastic songs from the best band the world has ever seen.

Theme from Once Upon a Time In AmericaEnnio Morricone.

Written by one of my all time favourite film composers this is one of many works of genius he composed and it never fails to get me choked up every time I hear it. Knowing it so well from the film originally it evokes feelings of innocence, lost friendship and nostalgia. About a year after I first saw the film I was lay on the beach in St Petersburg Florida in the same spot De Niro and James Woods filmed one of the scenes in the film and I listened to the score on headphones…..the whole score is amazing.

Let Him Run WildBeach Boys.

I got into the Beach Boys quite late really, probably in my mid – twenties as before that whenever I heard the name ‘Beach Boys’ I always thought of ‘Surfin USA’ etc until I heard the album ‘Summer Days and Summer Nights’ and the masterpiece ‘Pet Sounds’. ‘Let Him Run Wild’ has everything you expect from Brian Wilson including great harmonies, catchy bass line and the best part for me Brian’s beautiful lead vocal, he had such a fantastic voice. This song was a taste of things to come with ‘Pet Sounds’.

The Girl With The Sun In Her HairJohn Barry

Loads of times in the Seventies I’d be watching TV and hear a great TV or film theme and a lot of the time it turned out to be by John Barry. Growing up on the Sean Connery Bond films I always loved the music although John Barry has written loads of great music for non – Bond films. ‘The Girl With The Sun In Her Hair’ was actually written for a Sunsilk advert in the late Sixties and you can hear that unmistakeable Barry sound, it could almost have been another Bond theme. Every composer ‘borrows’ occasionally and it sounds like John Barry ‘borrowed’ from Ravel’s ‘Introduction & Allegro’ for this piece.

Now, that’s what I call music! Every Six Of the Best compilation comes in a handy RAR download file. Get Craig Gannon’s here.

*Bonus Track!

Here‘s The Long And Winding Road, stripped of Spector’s syrupy strings and all its Mantovani mush. Essentially a McCartney demo and all the better for it.

Coming next in this series –

Six Of the Best from a worldwide singing sensation (TBC)

Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, studio outtakes

Redding Festival

Fate works in mysterious ways. Firstly, two items all typed up and ready for publication when Mediafire stop me uploading mp3s for your aural pleasure. Then, problem fixed (2 weeks later) and the two items I wrote have somehow disappeared silently into the ether, apparently gone forever. This post, therefore, is a test of sorts…

Today is Roger Waters’ birthday. It’s also Dave Stewart’s. It would’ve been Otis Redding’s 70th birthday today too, but he never made it past the age of 26. Aye, fate works in mysterious ways indeed. Otis, as you well know, was the soul singer’s soul singer. Pure. Raw. Heart bleedin’, soul sweatin’, down-on-his-knees soul. Following his performance at 1967’s Monterey Festival, he was one of the first black artists to cross over to a white audience. Keef prefers his version of Satisfaction to the Stones’ original. Modern day wannabe Stones The Black Crowes did a pretty rockin’ verison of Hard To Handle. Well, they were “modern” 20 years ago at any rate. Not many people even knew it was a cover. But you did, eh? Course you did. Unfortunately Otis was also partly responsible for The Commitments and therefore pub bands up and down the country doing buttock-clenchingly awful versions of Respect and Mustang Sally (I know, I know, it’s a Wilson Pickett track), but he was a long time dead by then, so he thankfully never heard any of them.

The music….

Take 1 of Try a Little Tenderness. Otis with Booker T & MGs feeling the song out for the first time. Isaac Hayes arranged the brass section, fact fans.

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long. The heart-wrenchin’, knee-droppin’ Otis at his finest.

*Bonus Track!

Tindersticks version of I’ve Been Loving You Too Long. Almost but not quite white man gospel. It’s downbeat, churchlike (funereal, even) and fairly terrific. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Tindersticks,  you might suggest Stuart Staples sings a wee bit like Vic Reeves’ Pub Singer on it. But don’t let that put you off.

Otis Deading

Cover Versions, Hard-to-find, studio outtakes

Les Coups Différents Pour Les Gens Différents

Ahem. Excusé moi…….

C’est Sly! Le Chat de Hep d’années soixante-dix mettre au point d’âme de banlieue son produit dans le studio tout comme la Famille Pierre partait. Vous reconnaîtrez que quatre au battement de tambour de plancher, la basse de duvet de frugtastic et ces super-glissant psychédélique remplissent sur la guitare. Vous pouvez reconnaître même l’air. Ce n’est que la Danse A La Musique, mes frères et mes soeurs ! En français ! La Famille « dum-duh, dum-dum-duh duh » les choeurs sont juste aussi indignes que la coiffure afro sur la tête de la Soeur Rose, l’air tout comme l’anneau-un-ding sauvage comme les 22″ fonds de cloche sur les jambes de Freddie. Enregistré comme French Fries au lieu de Sly et la Famille Pierre, il pose dans les coffre-forts pour les âges, non aimés, non découverts et incroyablement branchés. La face b est appelée Small Fries, le genre de r › la frousse-âme avec ces tromperie de studio de fausset fausse vocale qui a fait Prince s’assied sur et écoute quand il enregistrait If I Was Your Girlfriend.Vous creuse ?

La Musique:

Danse A La Musique

Small Fries

La traduction ici. Les excuses énormes à tous mes amis français pour tenter d’écrire dans français d’écolier! Il n’arrivera jamais encore!

Fin