Skids – ‘Fields’ UK 7″ and 12″ (Virgin VS401 and VS401-12, 1981)

When first released in the summer of 1981, ‘Fields’ was quite a challenging release for Skids fans to get used to and it never really gained the success the new vision that the remaining band members, Richard Jobson and Russell Webb, had in mind for the band. The departure of Stewart Adamson was obvious, his familiar sonic hallmark missing from the A side, replaced by a somewhat more twangy guitar and a more pastoral scene fashioned from acoustic guitar, flute, traditional drums and layered, choral vocals. In retrospect it is not nearly the radical departure it was made out to be, though much of the subsequent ‘Joy’ album certainly would be.

Skids - 'Fields' 7" - Richard Jobson sleeve design, front

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 7″ variation 1 – Richard Jobson sleeve design, front

Skids - 'Fields' 7" - Richard Jobson sleeve design, rear

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 7″ variation 1, rear

To help it on its way and tempt fans to buy more than one copy, Virgin came up with some sleeve options. The 7″ came in two differing variations, with each of the two remaining members gracing the front and rear covers flipped either side, with a total of four pen and ink drawings on show across the two cover designs. The 12″ version had just the one sleeve version, but gathered together all four of the drawings onto the front cover and included the lyric to the A side on the rear cover.

Skids - 'Fields' 7" - Russell Webb sleeve design, front

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 7″ variation 2 – Russell Webb sleeve design, front

Skids - 'Fields' 7" - Russell Webb sleeve design, rear

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 7″ variation 2, rear

The versions of the tracks are unique to the singles, with a different version of ‘Fields’ (compared to both the 7″ and 12″ versions) eventually appearing on the ‘Joy’ album, while ‘Brave Man’ remained only as a B side… originally.

Neither the 12″ single sleeve nor labels make any mention of the fact that versions contained are extended other than simply noting the track durations on the label, which are listed as follows;

  • Fields (7″): 3 min 50 secs
  • Brave Man (7″): 3 min 37 secs
  • Fields (12″): 4 min 26 secs
  • Brave Man (12″): 6 min 43 secs

The 12″ mix of ‘Fields’ is relatively similar in structure to the eventual LP version, though it is easy to spot from the off as it does not include the heavy kick drum intro that the album version sports. The 7″ mix edits out the quiet ‘breakdown’ drumming interlude altogether. The original vinyl 12″ mix of ‘Brave Man’ is something of a mish-mash of effects, seriously twisting and turning the material from the relatively straightforward 7″ mix a good deal. Verging on the dub styling perhaps, there’s a lot more space, where the full complement of instruments drop out leaving particular elements in the spotlight. It rather outstays its welcome by the end compared to the more economical 7″ mix. ‘Brave Man’ is a curious one, hailing from a brief period after ‘The Absolute Game’ LP where Kenny Hyslop occupied the drum stool (presumably from the previous connection with Russell Webb) and Stewart Adamson was still on board.

Skids - 'Fields' 7" label, side A

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 7″ label, side A

Skids - 'Fields' 7" label, side B

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 7″ label, side B

The tracks from the singles would eventually be released digitally as bonus tracks to the ‘Joy’ album – initially as a download-only digital release in 2009 (this was via iTunes for me) and then some years later in 2015 on a CD as part of the boxed CD set ‘The Virgin Years’. These releases of ‘Joy’ are not identical, however. The initial digital download version managed to include the 12″ mix of ‘Fields’, but the later CD edition missed this off in favour of prioritising an alternative 7″ mix of ‘Iona’ instead. It also gets complicated with the 12″ mix of ‘Brave Man’ too…

Skids - 'Fields' 12" front cover

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 12″ front cover

Skids - 'Fields' 12" rear cover

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 12″ rear cover

The 12″ mix of ‘Brave Man’ that has been released on both the 2009 digital download and 2015 CD edition of ‘Joy’ is not the same mix as originally released in 1981. While it has much of the same effects and in general shape follows the same rather unusual, dub effected stylings, it is not the same, though both versions are near enough the same duration. To be honest, neither really do it for me, so it is a difficult call to say which is preferable – best take a listen yourself if possible.

Skids - 'Fields' 12" label side A

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 12″ label side A

Skids - 'Fields' 12" label side B

^ Skids – ‘Fields’ 12″ label side B

Finally, just to finish off, a scan of the original advert of the time, this from the UK ‘Smash Hits’ magazine, issue dated 20th August to 2nd September 1981, noting the two different sleeves available and limited quantities on 12″.

Skids 'Fields' Smash Hits magazine advert

^ Skids ‘Fields’ Smash Hits magazine advert

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