Welcome to May – Alternative Versions – #1

May As Well – Angel Olsen (2014, Jagjaguar Records, Taken from ‘Burn Your Fire for No Witness’)

As May rolls sunnily into view, we usher in this month’s theme, a theme that came to me one evening as I watched an excellent documentary on Simon and Garfunkel on the usually rubbish Sky Arts Channel.  In that documentary Simon and Garfunkel were shown in their studio where they were recording their classic ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ album.  It showed them larking about and generally doing a lot of things other than making music (Here’s Art Garfunkel eating some pasta, here is Paul Simon talking about baseball with some gonk with a beard and here are the pair of them playing cards together, that sort of thing).

Then around half an hour it cuts to them actually making some music, a voice comes on the telly and tells us that what we are going to hear is the original demo for ‘Bridge over Troubled Water in which Garfunkel records his vocals in a different part of the studio whilst Simon strums away and records his vocals in the main bit – or something anyway, you can hear Garfunkel but you can’t see him, if that makes sense.

It was an excellent version, one I hadn’t heard and one that no matter how hard I try and how hard I look that I cannot find it anywhere, but it did give me an idea for this series.  A series which I am calling ‘Alternative Versions’.  A series which will look at demo versions of songs, Peel Sessions – or other recorded sessions of songs, remixes, acoustic versions, live versions, versions recorded with an orchestra backing them, studio outtakes, rehearsal versions, instrumentals and anything that falls in between all that lot.  

This kind of thing really: –

Eat Y’Self Fitter (Peel Session #6)– The Fall (1983, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘Peverted by Language’)

Prague (demo) – Mega City Four (1992, Big Life Records, Taken from ‘Sebastopol Road’)

Disarm (acoustic) – Smashing Pumpkins (1993, Hut Records, Taken from ‘Siamese Dream’)

Breathe (Glitch Mob Mix) – The Prodigy (1996, XL Records, Taken from ‘The Fat of the Land’)

But of course, I’ll post the original version as well so we can have some light hearted banter about which version is better. 

Let’s just pop back over to Simon and Garfunkel because whilst I couldn’t find the studio demo of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ I did stumble across this rather fine live version of the song, which is essentially just Paul Simon on piano and Art Garfunkel’s voice and I think it’s one of the first times they ever played it live.

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Live in 1969) – Simon and Garfunkel (2008, Sony Music, Taken from ‘Simon and Garfunkel Live in 1969’)

Tomorrow – Fontaines D.C

Rocks Greatest J’s #8 Julian Cope

And Let me Fly….

Try, Try, Try – Julian Cope (1995, American Recordings, Taken from ’20 Mothers’)

Points 43

‘Try, Try, Try’ is my favourite Julian Cope song bar none.  I won’t hear a word said against it.  It was also a song that my friend Chris loved and as today marks two years since his passing, I’d like to dedicate this post and all the songs on it to him.  This means a slight diversion from the topic so I can post this.

The N.W.R.A – The Fall (1980, Rough Trade Records, Taken from ‘Grotesque (After The Gramme)’)

Right back to Julian Cope.

In a very old issue of the much missed Select Magazine, Julian Cope once posed for a photograph in a fur coat.  But this, what with it being wrapped around Julian Cope, was not any old fur coat. When you looked closer at the coat, it was shaped like a fox, it even had a head.  An even closer look showed that the coat had stitched inside it all the internal organs of a fox (the whole thing was of course fake).  It was one of the most vivid anti fur industry and ant fox hunting statements I’d even seen.  It was about then that I decided that Julian Cope was one of the greatest people that has ever lived.

However, all that love is kicked into the gutter by JM 13, who is so enamoured by Lord Cope that he might actually be related to him. 

“It’s difficult for me to write about – and arguably, at times defend – my love for Julian Cope’s music, not least because I’ve posted many, many times about it on my own blog. I might have captured it best though in the ‘Live in Concert’ ICA I did for the The Vinyl Villain back in 2020. I’ve bought all of The Arch Drude’s albums, solo and side projects, since the 1980s. Some are frankly self-indulgent shite and do not bear repeated listening. However, when Julian Cope is brilliant, he is indescribably brilliant. If nothing else, Julian Cope:

1)           made an art-form of using ‘ba-ba-ba’ in a song;

2)           swapped a bass guitar for an oboe on ‘Sunspots, which was pure genius

Sunspots – Julian Cope (1984, EMI Records, Taken from ‘Fried’)

3)           released a song in 2008 called ‘All The Blowing-Themselves-Up Motherfuckers (Will Realise The Minute They Die That They Were Suckers), which is a far catchier chorus than it deserves to be

4)           has never failed to entertain at any of the many, many gigs I’ve attended over the decades

5)           released a Tory-bashing album in 2022, including lead-in single (and long-time favourite) ‘C___ Can Fuck Off’

All of which still doesn’t really capture why Julian Cope is Rock’s Greatest J. But he is. Ten points please!

JM 13 is not alone though.  Here some more love (not quite as much though) from JM 12 and JM 10

“A solo back catalogue that is unparalleled in many ways.  More great songs than you can shake a stick at.  Several phases of great albums.  Songs.  Books about Neolithic sites.  Squabbsy and his anti poll tax protest.”

It is very hard to draw a line between when Teardrop ends and solo Julian begins (in my head at least), but he did produce an amazing run of albums on his own before the druidism and general insanity swallowed him whole

Yup, very hard not to love a bit of Julian Cope.

Here’s some Cope moments that have been on regular rotation in NBR Towers over the years, especially the last one.

Sunshine Playroom – Julian Cope (1984, Mercury Records, Taken from ‘World Shut Your Mouth’)

Charlotte Anne – Julian Cope (1988, Island Records, Taken from ‘My Nation Underground’)

Head Hang Low – Julian Cope (1984, Mercury Records, Taken from ‘World Shut Your Mouth’)

Here is tomorrows lyrical hint…

Well, the night I was born…..

League Two Music – #14 – Salford City

She’s Lost Control – Joy Division (1979, Factory Records)

In 2014, a bunch of people including the (very?) alleged wife beater Ryan Giggs, the 70s soul band The Neville Brothers, Qatari royal family pet puppy (again very allegedly), David Beckham, professional nobody Nicky Butt and the excellent former footballer Paul Scholes bought Salford City Football Club, well them and the Singaporean property magnate and billionare Peter Lim that is (who also owns Valenica FC in Spain and is good mates with at least one of the Nevilles (Aaron I think).  Paul Scholes’ investment in this in the only thing stopping me from changing the word ‘people’ in the first line to ‘arseholes’, well that and my lawyers.

At the time Salford sat in the Northern Premier League but this didn’t stop Giggs announcing to the world that within fifteen years, Salford City would be playing Championship football.  Their first season in charge was fairly successful with Salford achieving promotion to the National League North via the play offs (Salford won a thrilling final 3 – 2 against Warrington, a team I think managed by Peter Reid’s brother).  The club also reached the second round of the FA Cup for the first time, with both of their matches being shown by the BBC.  Salford eventually lost to the mighty Hartlepool United after a replay.  I’m fairly sure that the warm balls of the FA Cup would have arranged a tie against Manchester United in the third round had Salford won.

Salford turned professional in 2017 and by May they had won promotion to the fifth tier of football and were immediately installed as favourites to get promoted to the football league.  All other clubs in the National League thumbed their noses at the club and accused them of trying to steal a place in the league.  Salford were paying several hundred of thousand pounds to Scottish Premier leagues sides for their best players – so its easy to see why.

However, they had to wait a season but on May 5th 2019, following a play off win again (this time against Eastleigh) before they eventually won promotion to League Two, which is where they currently remain.  We are six years away from Giggs’ prediction and I’m literally hoping that it doesn’t happen. 

Slight Gillingham update, January has been a month of rebuilding and in the three games since the FA Cup lose to Leicester City, Gillingham have gained seven points and score seven goals.  For the previous league games before Christmas, the Gills scored six goals in total.  It’s a revolution.  Sort of.

Salford is stamped in musical legendary, firstly because it was the place where Joy Division and then New Order formed and called home (and I know I am massively simplifying that).

Round and Round – New Order (1989, Factory Records, Taken from ‘Technique’)

A photo of a working lads club was also used by some other mob on the sleeve of one of their recordings, but the NBR Contractual Ethical Policy clearly states that their name shall never be mentioned on these pages so we will move on.

In 1976, the Sex Pistols played a gig at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall and in the crowd, standing at the back looking curmudgeonly as he had to get a bus there from Salford in the rain (one expects anyway) was one Mark E Smith.  Smith, born and raised in Salford formed a band the second he left the venue and the rest is probably history and legend.

The Classical – The Fall (1982, Kamera Records, Taken from ‘Hex-Enduction Hour’)

One more, the Happy Mondays were also from Salford and for about three years in the late eighties and the early nineties, they were the greatest band on the planet.

Mad Cyril – Happy Mondays (1988, Factory Records, Taken from ‘Bummed’)

All of which brings us yippee yippee yi yiying to this weeks previously unheard of band who are a synth punk quartet called Sugarstone who sound like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and The Prodigy apparently. 

That’s Intense – Sugarstone (2022, Tri-Tone Records, Single)

A Month all about Names – #13 – Jack

Glass Smash Jack – EMF (1995, Parlophone Records, Taken from ‘Cha Cha Cha’)

Let’s rewind the clocks today to 1995 and listen to ‘Cha Cha Cha’ the third studio album by EMF and look in particular to the last track, ‘Glass Smash Jack’.  Right at the start, you can clearly hear Stephen Fry introduce the song in his best General Melchett voice before EMF come in with their trademark half shouty sing/speak tracks that is accompanied by some crashing guitars, thumping drums and jerky synth sounds. 

With about two minutes left, the guitars stop crashing and the drums stop thumping and all that is left are little sampled bleeps and stuff and suddenly rather unexpectedly the voice of Stephen Fry then begins to read a poem of sorts, it kind of sounds like Fry is reading it in time to the music.  Then it all dies down and that is that.  It will never be a question in any pub music quiz that I go to but should it ever come up, the answer to the question “Who is the last person to speak on the third EMF album?” is Stephen Fry, the erstwhile semi reclusive comedian and actor and renowned hater of singing (he famously said in interview that he has a voice like a drain and will rarely, if ever, sing  in public – although saying that he does it all the time on ‘I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue’)

It of course begs the question.  How on earth did EMF or their people for that matter persuade Stephen Fry to guest on their third album?  In 1995, Fry would have been a big star, it was just before he made the film ‘Wilde’ but he would have been well known to fans of Blackadder or A bit of Fry and Laurie (talking of which the sketch in which Fry and Laurie send up Countdown remains to this day the funniest thing that BBC 2 has ever shown).  The mind well and truly boggles.  It is without doubt one of the most bizarre cameos in musical history.

Loads of tracks in the music library that have ‘Jack’ in the title, here are a four of them, starting with Parquet Courts Tribute band Bodega and the tremendous ‘Jack In Titanic’, which is taken from their also tremendous debut album ‘Endless Scroll’.

Jack In Titanic – Bodega (2018, What’s Your Rupture? Records, Taken from ‘Endless Scroll’)

Next up, some early Ash

Jack Names The Planets – Ash  (1994, Homegrown Records, Taken from ‘Trailer’) – when Ash first burst on the scene, nearly 30 years ago (and that will make some of you feel utterly ancient, the fact that Tim Wheeler is 45 years old worries me deeply, because it means I am nearly 50) they were one of the most exciting bands to have emerged in years.

Next up, some very early Mark E Smith

Fiery Jack – The Fall (1979, Step-forward Records, Taken from ‘Dragnet’) – which was according to Sounds magazine, the sound of The Fall jumping head first into the world of rockabilly.  They also said it was ‘practically perfect’, which it isn’t, although it is very good in a typically ramshackle way.

Next up, bringing it full circle, we will end with another Stephen

Amberjack – Stephen Malkmus (2020, Matador Records, Taken from ‘Traditional Techniques’) – which sees rocks greatest Stephen (yes he is, face facts, other Stephen’s, and you never know that might actually be a series on day – ‘Stephens in Rock’) embrace folk music and do it remarkably well.

On Monday Diane who may well cruise down Rober Street

The One Word Countdown – #49

One of just two cover versions….

Number 49

Victoria – The Fall (1988, Beggars Banquet Records, Taken from ‘The Frenz Experiment’)

Points 86

I was in the Golden Lion pub in St Peter Port holding a pint of French brewed ale and waiting for (I don’t know why) an Arsenal game to kick off on the relatively big screen, when I first heard the news that Mark E Smith has passed away. I was standing on my own in the pub and it came up on my phone via the Guardian’s alert system.  Mark E Smith clearly wasn’t famous enough to warrant a breaking news alert from the BBC, unlike weirdly Dale Winton or Barry Chuckle.  I read the piece and said “Shit” out loud in the pub.  A pub I had never been in before or since for matter.   The man nearest to me, who was with a couple of other chaps, looked at me and said that “He couldn’t believe that they’d left out Aubameyang either”.  To which I nodded a confused yes and quietly returned to my pint gutted.

‘Victoria’ is of course a cover of a song by The Kinks – you can listen to the original here should you want to – its not a patch on Smiths version, although I strongly doubt that Mark E Smith would have agreed with me.

There were two other songs that I considered for the rundown, neither of which I think would have done as well as ‘Victoria’ they are

Repetition – The Fall (1978, Step Forward Records, taken from ‘Bingo Masters Break Out EP’) – not that I actually own a copy of the ‘Bingo Masters Break Out EP.  I’m told its quite hard to get hold of.

Iceland – The Fall (1982, Kamara Records, Taken from ‘Hex Enduction Hour’) and I only considered it because the comedian Stewart Lee once told me it was his favourite song off of his favourite album but that was in 1994, so he might have changed his mind since then if I ever meet him again, I’ll ask him.

There was one other song called ‘Victoria’ that was considered for the rundown but didn’t make the longlist at all and that was this

Victoria – Official Secrets Act (2009, One Little Indian Records, taken from ‘Understanding Electricity’)

Which I’m sure you agree is a pretty decent little tune.

The Sunday Shuffle – #23

Masquerade – The Fall (1998, Artful Records)

Today’s randomly shuffled track comes courtesy of the old iPod Classic which kept me company on Monday morning walk through the village that I did after I had dropped my daughter at school.  About ten minutes into the walk I reached the top of a hill, I was out of breath, and cursing the my decision to wear a pair of jeans that were, probably, at least one size too small for me.  I think this is because they may have shrunk in the wash, rather than me eating too much chocolate. As I stood there and caught my breath, I decided that whichever song appeared on the iPod next would be todays randomly shuffled track of the day.   That track was obviously ‘Masquerade’ by The Fall. 

The week after ‘Masquerade’ was released, Mark E Smith, was guest of honour at the 1998 NME Awards (The Brats, as they were called back them, in a joke aimed at mocking The Brits, a joke which got less funny every year), as they had decided to give him the ‘Godlike Genius Award’.   At that award ceremony Mark E Smith famously had an argument with Jo Wiley live on the TV, which ended with Smith telling her to “Fuck Off”.  Thus justifying the NME’s decision immediately. 

One of the B Side’s to ‘Masquerade’ was a track called ‘Calendar’, which was a collaboration with a lad called Damon Gough, who was at the time, an unknown musician (he later of course became Badly Drawn Boy).  Gough gave Smith a lift home, but only after Smith had promised to record one of his songs – that song then turned into ‘Calendar’ and Gough even played guitar on the track.

Calendar – The Fall (1998, Artful Records)

Thanks Chris

Totally Wired – The Fall (1980, Rough Trade Records)

A year ago today, Chris, a friend of mine who I grew up with died suddenly. He was a friend that shared my passion for music, a decent record shop, Lincoln biscuits and cheap wine from Kwik Save. Today’s post is dedicated to him

Every song on this page today was a song that appeared at some point on one of the many mixtapes he made for me, which I played until the tape wore out.

Dreams Burn Down – Ride (1990, Creation Records) – This appeared on a tape, called “Grungy MuffShag Vol. 2 and in brackets after the song title he’d written (Bloody great song) and for a while until I physically held a copy of ‘Nowhere’ in my hands, I thought the actual title of this song was ‘Dreams Burn Down (Bloody great song)’.

X, Y and Zee – Pop Will Eat Itself (1990, RCA Records) – Which was crammed in the middle of Side 2 of a cassette called “Giving a Dog a Rubber Bone (Fnar!)’

Touch Me I’m Sick – Mudhoney (1988, Sub Pop Records) – Track 1, Side 1, Grungy MuffShag Vol. 1.

I’ll be raising a bottle of dog in Chris’ honour tonight.