Smiths Complete - Available at Rhino.coma-ha "Hunting High & Low" and "Scoundrel Days" Deluxe Editions Rhino Handmade raids the vault!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bonus Lost B-sides: Duran Duran & Kissing the Pink

“Secret Oktober”, the flip side of Duran’s “Union of the Snake” is truly a buried gem, a song that would have considerably brightened the overblown and overly bloated “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” (perhaps replacing the unnecessary instrumental “Tiger, Tiger”?). “Secret Oktober” is basically Simon and Nick, vocals and synths, very much in the vein of “The Chauffer” off “Rio”, a nice melody over a comparatively understated synth riff. It continues to be a big fan favorite to this day – I even saw them do it live in 1994 during the Cucurillo years, so it must be close to the boys. Luckily for Durannies, each and every b-side and remix is available on two different box sets. The first one (’81-’85) is essential, the second, not so much.

And by request, here’s a pretty rare Kissing the Pink b-side – “Garden Party” is not the Ricky Nelson hit, but rather an extension of its a-side, “Maybe This Day” (which we've talked about here). I’d like to think it was meant to describe the party sung about in “Maybe This Day” (over the garden wall she said / let’s go to the party). Perhaps, or maybe it has nothing to do with it. In any case, it’s an arty, moody little number, worth a couple of listens, but hardly their best.
posted by John, 3:44 PM | link |

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lost B-sides Week: Thomas Dolby "The Wreck of the Fairchild"

One of Thomas Dolby’s earliest singles (even before THAT song, I believe) was the incredible “Airwaves,” a song I think was tough for him to equal – it’s mellow and epic all at once, with mysterious lyrics and a fantastic bridge with great lines:

Control has enabled
the abandoned wires again, but
the copper cables
all rust in the acid rain
that flood the subways with
elements of our corrosion
cable them to me.

Of course, when “Airwaves” was released as a single, the bridge was completely excised. Sigh.

“Airwaves” didn’t exactly burn up the charts – it was never even released as a single in the States. That ramps up the scarcity factor of today’s b-side, “The Wreck of the Fairchild,” a mostly instrumental funk/reggae/new wave stew with a pretty cool finish that segues directly back to its a-side. “Fairchild” sounds like a song in progress, something just waiting for a melody line to be written over it, but ultimately scrapped to an obscure b-side, never to appear on any other compilation or collection. Too bad – it would have been interesting to see it fleshed out, since it fits the vibe of Dolby’s first (and completely essential) album, "Golden Age of Wireless", which is in dire need of a deluxe re-mastering (complete with original mixes of “Radio Silence” and b-sides – c’mon, EMI). It was featured on the initial UK pressing of the LP, but quickly deleted and replaced by “One of Our Submarines” and a little-known song called “She Blinded Me With Science”.

Download “The Wreck of the Fairchild”.
And just because, here is the full version of “Airwaves”.

”The Wreck of the Fairchild” was the b-side to “Airwaves,” released in 1982, and on the first UK pressing of “The Golden Age of Wireless”.
posted by John, 3:25 PM | link |

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Lost B-Sides Week: Echo & the Bunnymen "Rollercoaster"

"Rollercoaster" was the b-side of the Bunnymen's most aggressive stab for a U.S. hit, the immortal "Lips Like Sugar". While the a-side was an instant alternative classic, the b-side....welllllll...

With some excellent production from Pixies producer Gil Norton, "Rollercoaster" chugs along like a rawer, earlier Bunnymen tune - one in particular. The chorus is a little too close to the chorus for "The Cutter", so it's understandable that it was left on the scrap pile. It also drones on too long near the end.

The most interesting thing to me about the tune was that out of all the hundreds of 45s, LPs and cassettes I had to choose from, for some reason, my then 14-year old sister was fixated on "Rollercoaster"! She played it over and over and over, yet despite my attempts to use her love for this song as a gateway drug into more alternative rock, she ended up retreating back to her Duran Duran and Tiffany LPs. Sigh.

"Rollercoaster" was inexplicably left off the current remaster of "Echo & the Bunnymen", but it is included on the "Crystal Days" box set if you wanna drop some coin.

Download "Rollercoaster".

"Rollercoaster" was the B-side to "Lips Like Sugar", released in 1987.
posted by John, 3:14 PM | link |

Monday, December 12, 2005

Lost B-Sides Week: Tears for Fears "Wino"

One of the joys of scrounging through sorely neglected vinyl bins in used record shops is stumbling across something that you didn’t even know you were looking for. Such is the case of a recent find – the original UK 12” single for Tears for Fears’ “Suffer the Children”.

boo hoo

I hadn’t even realized this was released as a single overseas, much less that it featured a b-side, “Wino”, that was even left off the 1996 b-sides collection, "Saturnine Martial & Lunatic". “Wino” is interesting not for its lyrical content (“Wino / You’re a cigarette smoker / You have a good time / they call you a joker” - - really?), but more for being the first truly acoustic Tears for Fears song, completely stripped of synths, a direction the band would follow more in the future, resulting in massive hits.

Since I bought the 12” mostly for the b-side, I didn’t have much expectation that the extended mix of “Suffer the Children” on the a-side would be much more than the normal version with a longer instrumental portion attached to the beginning. I was pleasantly surprised to find this version is more of a radio remix than a simple extended version. There’s an almost entirely new vocal, completely new background vocals and an all-around beefier mix. I don’t believe this version has ever made it to CD, not even on the recent reissue of "The Hurting".

Not bad for $1.99. More b-side bonanzas all week.

Download “Wino”.
Download “Suffer the Children (Remix)”.

Neither song was released as a single in the U.S.
posted by John, 4:01 PM | link |

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

This Christmas, shower me with Jules Until December.

Okay, I’m a bad music blogger. No update since November?? Awful. I’m here to make up for that today, with not one, not two, but three Lost in the 80s artists. Let’s not just get busy – let’s get biz-zay.

Kicking things off is a group that sounds timely and seasonal, but that’s just the name they happened to choose. Christmas was a trio from Boston who were kicking around the then-called “college music scene” for a few years until being snatched up by the hopelessly ironically-named RCA Records imprint Big Time, a label with the distinct talent for making excellent albums instantly vaporize upon release.

Christmas’ major-label debut “In Excelsior Dayglo” is interesting because it sounds like the Pixies – a LOT like the Pixies – before the Pixies. Now, the Pixies were formed in Boston in 1986, the same year “Dayglo” was released. I’m not saying anyone ripped anyone else off – the Boston Sound at the time was just that – a distinctive, recognizable sound – but boy, listen to "Big Plans," Christmas’ “hit” that got some MTV play and tell me the likenesses aren’t uncanny. Christmas went on to record two more albums, then morphed into the more lounge-influenced Combustible Edison.

Keeping with the seasonally named theme, San Francisco-based Until December scared me in 1986. I remember a brief article about them in Star Hits magazine (my New Wave Bible), where they talked about the “homoerotic underpinnings” of their songs accompanied by a pic of the band in various leather harnesses, chaps, studs and S&M drag.

Until December's Adam Sherburne with legendary KITS DJ Steve Masters. Work, gurls!

I was attracted and repelled all at once. However, finding anything by the band in my local Ohio record shops proved to be tough, strange considering they had major-label distribution from CBS Records. I was finally able to snag a used promo copy of their single, “Until December” (by Until December from the LP, “Until December”) at a record swap meet. Very Giorgio Moroder, very Depeche Mode, very good. After one LP, Until December dissolved, but band leader Adam Sherburne went on to form the more industrial-based Consolidated (whom I never cared for as much - sorry).

Jules Shear doesn’t have a holiday-themed name, so he’s totally ruining the flow of this post, but after writing so many great hits like “If She Knew What She Wants” by the Bangles and “All Through The Night” by Cyndi Lauper (although he recorded them first), we can excuse him and blame my clunky writing instead. Jules’ solo career is an exercise in frustration, as he recorded album after album for label after label, coming close to hitdom several times, but never truly making it.

Starting with Jules & the Polar Bears (alongside future New Wave producer/icon Stephen Hague), then solo, Jules packed his albums with plenty of hooks, spectacular production (especially from Todd Rundgren on 1983’s “Watch Dog”, only to see them sink with nary a trace. In 1983, his current label EMI released an EP called simply “Jules” that featured tracks from “Watch Dog” on one side and a stab at club play called “When Love Surges” on the other. MTV picked up the simple video featuring stock footage of dancers cavorting around and it looked like Jules might have a crossover hit of his own, finally. But it was not to be. Two years later, “Steady” would peak at #57 on the Hot 100, and that was that for Jules’ Top 40 dreams. Shear still records and releases albums, they are still uniformly great and they still don’t sell.

A special thanks to Eat Sleep Drink Music for the shoutout today – and I know I may be a little late to the game here, but I’ll be damned if Jefitoblog isn’t the best damn music blog out there. Check ‘em both out.

None of these singles charted. Sad, really.
posted by John, 12:08 PM | link |