Side by side: Wire – ‘Silk Skin Paws’ UK 7″, 12″ and CD singles [Mute, MUTE 84, 12 MUTE 84, CD MUTE 84, 1988]

Lifted as the second single to promote the band’s 1988 ‘A Bell Is A Cup (Until It Is Struck)’ album, the opening track ‘Silk Skin Paws’ was remixed for 12” and 7”, with a ‘Filofax’ format 3” CD single along for the ride for added ‘80s gimmickry.*

Wire - Silk Skin Paws - UK CD, 7" and 12" singles front covers

Wire – Silk Skin Paws – UK CD, 7″ and 12″ singles front covers

Perhaps not the most obvious of choices to lift as a single from the album, to be fair it had a bit of a job on its hands from the off in having to follow-up the glassy, strange pop perfection of ‘Kidney Bingos’. (Not perfect enough to score a hit, mind.) Nevertheless, to launch it on its merry way chart bound, the song was remixed from the Hugh Jones produced LP version, a bit more spring in its step through sonic streamlining courtesy of Dave Allen (who would work with Wire again on the future ‘Manscape’ album).

Wire - Silk Skin Paws UK 'Filofax' pack CD single front

^ Wire – Silk Skin Paws UK ‘Filofax’ pack CD single front

Wire - Silk Skin Paws UK 'Filofax' pack CD single rear

^ Wire – Silk Skin Paws UK ‘Filofax’ pack CD single rear

Wire - Silk Skin Paws UK 'Filofax' pack CD single disc label

^ Wire – Silk Skin Paws UK ‘Filofax’ pack CD single disc label

The remixes of ‘Silk Skin Paws’ are not especially radical. Side by side comparison with the album mix reveals that the guitars are a lot less dense in places, Lewis’s bass guitar is removed to make way for a more radio-friendly synth octaving synth(?) bass, there’s some additional harmony vocals on the final verse and more of the low Graham Lewis ‘ahhhhhhs’ underpinning the chorus on the last repeats of the chorus. The 7” remix has a classic ‘repeat to fade’ of the chorus – the 12” remix retains the cold end of the album mix. In general, the overall arrangement and structure of the 12” remix and album version remain largely the same. The 7” edit has a very different start, getting to the first verse much earlier than either, but is otherwise in similar territory.

Wire - Silk Skin Paws UK 7" single label side A

^ Wire – Silk Skin Paws UK 7″ single label side A

Wire - Silk Skin Paws UK 7" single label side B

^ Wire – Silk Skin Paws UK 7″ single label side B

Wire - Silk Skin Paws UK 7" single rear sleeve

^ Wire – Silk Skin Paws UK 7″ single rear sleeve

The revisions were not confined to the lead single track. This release is most effective in its 12” and CD formats, where it bulks up into a four track EP, with re-recorded versions of two further tracks (as well as a single-exclusive B side too).

First off, the exclusive non-album B side, ‘German Shepherds’. This was first heard as part of a John Peel session in fact, transmitted 10th May 1988. That version would eventually be released on the ‘Coatings’ compilation CD in 1997. The version to be found here was recorded at Worldwide International studio, with Paul Kendall credited as co-producer along with Wire, though a later WMO interview with Paul Kendall, where he is asked about his first time working with Wire, sees him note that though he engineered the session it was, in his own view, Hugh Jones that did most of the work. It’s a good track this that fits nicely into the whole sonic world of ‘A Bell Is A Cup…’ – especially this version, since it sounds very much like a hybrid between ‘The Finest Drops’ (the distorted bass line) and ‘The Boiling Boy’ (the glassy arpeggiated guitar), lyrically it has some degree of crossover with ‘A Public Place’ in its storytelling too (and one of its characters). ‘German Shepherds’ has been revisited a few times for re-recording. A year on and it was to be found in quite different, synth-heavy style on the album ‘Its Beginning To and Back Again’ (the title of which is of course derived from the song’s chorus).

Its next studio revision is to be found on 2011’s ‘Strays’ CD EP, different yet again, taking onboard a faster tempo feel that harks back to ‘Map Ref. 41ºN 93ºW’ in its baseline, dare I say.

Despite all the version craziness, I think this take remains my favourite. (The Peel session version is similar too.)

Wire - Silk Skin Paws UK 12" single label side A

^ Wire – Silk Skin Paws UK 12″ single label side A

Wire - Silk Skin Paws UK 12" single label side B

^ Wire – Silk Skin Paws UK 12″ single label side B

Wire - Silk Skin Paws UK 12" single rear sleeve

^ Wire – Silk Skin Paws UK 12″ single rear sleeve

The next track on the CD and 12” is a re-recording of ‘Ambitious’, which first appeared on ‘The Ideal Copy’ and the Wire history has revealed to be something of a contentious track. (Check out the ‘Everybody Loves A History’ or ‘Read and Burn’ biogs for more detail.) The original LP mix has Graham Lewis on vocals, while this radically different take has Colin Newman behind the microphone instead. It also has congas in a rather incongruous percussion bonus feature plus a much sweeter guitar added for company too and these additions and Newman’s  coal delivery add up to something altogether different. I must admit, I’m not a fan of this version at all. ‘The Ideal Copy’ was a bit underwhelming when it appeared, for me, but this track was one of the better experiments it had and Lewis’s arch vocals gave it that certain something.

Turns out that ‘Ambitious’ is another of those tracks that Wire have re-recorded a few times. It can also be found in an alternative version of the main disc of the ‘Coatings’ compilation CD. That version has Colin Newman on vocals too but leans a little closer to the original LP mix, perhaps. Still not as good, but I prefer it over the version on this single.

There is also the 19 minute ‘Ambitious (MiddleSex Gorge)’ mix that there was an offer to send off for from the aforementioned ‘Coatings’ CD – I never got round to that and they are rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth now…

The fourth track on the CD/12” is a radically more reflective, slower paced take on ‘Come Back In Two Halves’, which on its original form on ‘A Bell Is A Cup…’ I always found to be too manic and brittle for my tastes. This version is gorgeous and is one of my all time Wire favourites. It’s a shame it’s never resurfaced anywhere but here. It scored precisely zero points on Wire’s ‘A List’ football league table exercise that led to the selection of the tracks on the ‘1985-1990: The A List’ compilation. Truth be told, this whole EP fares badly in the scoring!

For completists, if you want to track down the 7” Remix on CD format of ‘Silk Skin Paws’ then the good news is that it is out there and is to be found on the odd selection anomaly that is the UK 3” CD single of ‘Eardrum Buzz’ (Mute, CD MUTE 87, 1989).

Wire - Eardrum Buzz UK CD single front

^ Wire – Eardrum Buzz UK CD single front

Wire - Eardrum Buzz UK CD single rear

^ Wire – Eardrum Buzz UK CD single rear

Wire - Eardrum Buzz UK CD single disc label

^ Wire – Eardrum Buzz UK CD single disc label

* Not being the owner of a Filofax at any point, I left the CD cover as is, instead of folding in half, which appears to have been intended, as can be seen in the images below. Other territories such as the US and Germany kept it simple with standard plastic cases.

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