Propaganda – ‘The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse’ cassette single (ZTT, CTIS101, 1984)

March 27th, 2018

An incarnation of Propaganda recently reactivated and performed ‘A Secret Wish’ in full at a couple of sold out shows at ‘The Garage’ in London, under the monicker of xPropaganda. I never thought I would get a chance to hear this album performed live, so it was quite the event, one that simply had to be attended if at all possible. Many highlights, inevitably, ‘Dr Mabuse’ chief amongst them. What better way to celebrate the re-emergence than to take a look back at the ‘singlette’ edition (as ZTT were wont to call their cassettes) of their debut single…

Propaganda - The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse - cassette single inlay and case - front

^ Propaganda – The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse – cassette single inlay and case – front

The inlay card for the cassette noted “Three of Dr Mabuse’s nine lives appear on this cassette. Learn about his black crimes in Dr Mabuse. Hear about his strange lover – the woman with the orchid in Femme Fatale. Then marvel at his unlikely return in The Ninth Life” and went on to list the tracks as follows;

  1. Dr. Mabuse
  2. Femme Fatale (The Woman With The Orchid)
  3. The Ninth Life

However, that is not what appeared on the cassette. No, that would be far too straightforward for a ZTT release, wouldn’t it?!

Propaganda - The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse - cassette single inlay and shell - rear

^ Propaganda – The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse – cassette single inlay and shell – rear

In fact, the correct tracklisting is as follows;

  1. Das Testament Des Mabuse
  2. Dr. Mabuse (A Paranoid Fantasy)

The truly splendid, 10 minute long work that is’ Das Testament Des Mabuse’ made good use of the extended cassette duration, with the more familiar 7″ inch mix ‘Dr. Mabuse (A Paranoid Fantasy)’ alongside. No place then for the woman with the orchid, sadly. The tracklist repeats the same programme both sides of the singlette.

Propaganda - The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse - cassette single shell and case - front

^ Propaganda – The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse – cassette single shell and case – front

Why the tracklisting was incorrect, I don’t know.

The outside of the inlay also states “An ‘incident’ cassette that contains sections from number two of zang tumb tuum’s noble action series. As an ‘incident’, and despite its catalogue number, this cassette becomes number 12 in ZTT’s wondering incidental series.”, in familiar ZTT style. The cassette shell is a fairly standard moulded design, nowhere near as elegant as the later ‘Complete Machinery’ singlette would come housed in.

Propaganda - The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse - cassette single inlay and shell

^ Propaganda – The Nine Lives of Dr Mabuse – cassette single inlay and shell

Colin Newman, ‘Not To’ UK LP (4AD CAD201, 1982)

November 29th, 2017

Early 1982 saw Colin Newman’s third solo album ‘Not To’ revisit a good number of songs that Wire had first performed live but never recorded as studio takes, in equal turns sating a curiosity but also further underlining Wire’s extinct status. ‘Not To’ dusted off and updated ‘Lorries’, ‘We Meet Under Tables’, ‘Safe’, ‘5/10’ and ‘Remove for Improvement’, all of which had seen live Wire outings previously (and would be documented in rough, live recordings too – initially in 1981 on ‘Document and Eyewitness’, then many years later the remainder on ‘Turns and Strokes’). (There is also ‘You, Me And Happy’, though any Wire recording of this seems to be unheard of.)

Now, it was not only Colin Newman re-purposing this source material – Gilbert & Lewis and their ‘Dome’ project also made use of ‘And Then…’ on ‘Dome 1’ and ‘Ritual View’ on ‘Dome 2’, while Colin Newman himself had already revisited ‘Inventory’ for his initial solo album, 1980’s ‘A – Z’. ‘Alone’ from that same LP shares writing credits of Newman/Lewis, so a Wire connection there too perhaps.

Colin Newman 'Not To' LP front cover design

^ Colin Newman ‘Not To’ LP front cover design

So, ‘Not To’ inevitably had a great deal of comparisons to Wire from the off, given its source material. In particular, the more overtly ‘pop’ side was always bandied about as if this were the sole preserve of Colin Newman – despite his previous solo album, ‘Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish’, straying into the kind of outer fringes sonic areas that erstwhile colleagues Gilbert and Lewis had been mapping as their own. Having said that, there’s no doubt that this ‘poppier’ side was in the sights with this album’s sound. The album was produced by Colin Newman himself and this gives it a gentler, somewhat more clean and precise sound in comparison to how things had been sounding with Mike Thorne, who had helmed all three Wire LPs to that point as well as Colin Newman’s first solo outing.

Colin Newman 'Not To' LP rear cover

^ Colin Newman ‘Not To’ LP rear cover

Wire’s late-period material of 1979/80 acquired something of a mythic status as the stuff from which would have been spun the band’s notional post-‘154’ fourth album, had the sheer impediment of being Wire and self-imploding tendencies not finally gone nova with 1980’s final live outing at the Electric Ballroom. Some of these tracks had partly been preserved already in rough form on 1981’s ‘Document and Eyewitness’ live album. Some years on, the ‘Turns and Strokes’ waifs and strays tidy-up compilation of the late ’90s would document even more of them.

Colin Newman 'Not To' LP label side one

^ Colin Newman ‘Not To’ LP label side one

For many years then, it was a good parlour game to entertain various permutations of what might have been on this notional fourth album, since it had never come to pass. But in customary contrary fashion, in 2013 Wire released ‘Change Becomes Us’, which saw the band revisit this period and re-record anew based on the same source material as a starting point.

Colin Newman 'Not To' LP label side two

^ Colin Newman ‘Not To’ LP label side two

In 2016, the album was re-issued. The vinyl LP preserved the original track listing while the 2 x CD version came complete with a second disc of 21 previously unreleased ‘B Sides, Demos & Supporting Material, Home Studio Demos’ plus the ‘We Means We Starts’ single A side for good measure.

Tiger Lily ‘Monkey Jive’ UK 7″ single (Dead Good Records, DEAD11, 1980)

August 31st, 2017

As I pen this piece, Ultravox! have enjoyed a moment in the sun once more, with the issue of the ‘Island Years’ CD box set gathering their three Island-era LPs (and rarities) and coloured vinyl reissues of their first three long players. So, it is as good a time as any to look back on the proto-Ultravox! single recorded by Tigerlily, namely ‘Monkey Jive’ / ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’, the particular version featured here dating from October 1980. (A small piece about it in Smash Hits of the era can be viewed hereRead the rest of this entry »