Gang Of Four – ‘Yellow’ US 12″ EP (Warner Brothers Records, MINI 3494, 1980)

Back in the early ’80s and my nascent record buying bug began to flourish with a regular wage packet from a Saturday morning job, there were many a tempting release to be found in the record racks of local shops such as 1-Up, The Other Record Shop, Bruce Millers, Easy Rider and the like. The exotic, foreign pressed 12″ EPs or mini-album that scooped up tracks from individual 7″ single releases and brought them together in a new sleeve design were especially eye-catching. With its bright yellow cover design and stark type arrangement, this positively shouted from the racks. However, it would be some time later before I would come across a copy – before then would be a copy of ‘Solid Gold’ swapped from a school friend and the wonderful ‘Another Day, Another Dollar’ mini-album, found in the second-hand racks of 1-Up, which I have written about before. And far from the expected compilation of tracks from the singles, on close listening there is far more going on, as we’ll see…

Gang Of Four US 1980 'Yellow' 12" EP front cover
^ Gang Of Four US 1980 ‘Yellow’ 12″ EP front cover

In the UK (and various other territories) the Gang Of Four were signed to the establishment machinery that was EMI Records – however, in the US, they were signed to Warner Brothers Records instead – since the US EMI equivalent, Capitol Records, had passed on the chance to sign the band (a facsimile of the rejection letter having most recently been one of the items of ephemera in the 2021 ’77-81′ boxed set). So, there was inevitably some leeway for Warner Brothers and their take on how the band’s releases should work – this EP (which isn’t actually called ‘Yellow’, though that has become its unofficially official title these days, not least on CD re-issues). Additionally, when it comes to the music, this EP is not quite as straightforward as its cover credits might indicate.

Gang Of Four US 1980 'Yellow' 12" EP rear cover
^ Gang Of Four US 1980 ‘Yellow’ 12″ EP rear cover

Based on the cover text, we should have…

Side One:

  1. ‘Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time’ (3:13) Recorded March 1980
  2. ‘He’d Send In The Army’ (3:39) Recorded March 1980

Side Two:

  1. ‘It’s Her Factory’ (3:07) Recorded March 1979
  2. ‘Armalite Rifle’ (2:48) Recorded June 1978

It’s not as straightforward as it seems though – three out of the four tracks on this 12″ contain different versions (to greater and lesser extents) than those contained on the original UK 7″ single releases.

Gang Of Four US 1980 'Yellow' 12" EP label side 1
^ Gang Of Four US 1980 ‘Yellow’ 12″ EP label side 1

First off… ‘Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time’. It’s a good bit shorter than the original UK 7″ A side mix – the editing scissors have been taken to the section of the song where much of the instrumentation drops out and then the guitar slowly starts to fade back in and build again before the song erupts fully into life with the rest of the band again (i.e. from roughly 1’33” through 1’52”). Perhaps they felt it outstayed it’s welcome – the equivalent period on the 7″ mix is approx. 1.33″ through 2’07”. To my ears, the bass is also a good deal punchier at this point too. Other differences are subtle and are with the stereo panning and the mix – for example, listening to the introduction to the song, on the ‘Yellow’ EP version the guitar is panned side across wide across the stereo, more to the left, which the tom drums are much more centred. The 7″ mix is pretty much the other way round – the guitar concentrated in the centre and the toms are occupying the wider stereo field. Other easy to spot differences are round about 53 seconds in where the secondary, slightly echoed guitar appears – on the EP its panned towards the right but in the 7″ mix it is centred. Round about 1’04” the backing vocals also differ – on the EP they are centred, while the 7″ mix sees them centred to the left and right. And the very end of the song… on the 7″ mix it finishes bluntly, while the ‘Yellow’ EP version sweetens it very slightly with a touch of reverb. Durations: the original 7″ mix is approx. 3’27”, whereas the ‘Yellow’ EP version is approx. is 3’16”.

‘He’d Send In The Army’ seems to be the same as the original UK 7″ B side, no differences I can detect.

Both of these songs would later be re-recorded in January 1981 for ‘Solid Gold’, both are noticeably different takes though.

Incredibly, the ’77-81′ boxed set released earlier this fails to include either of the these tracks in their original 7″ forms nor the ‘Yellow’ EP version of ‘Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time’. You would have assumed it would be a no-brainer to include the 7″ mixes at least on the ‘Singles’ CD in that set.

Based on the versions I own and can vouch for, these original versions can be found on CD format on the following releases;

‘Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time’ (7″ version);

‘Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time’ (‘Yellow’ EP version);

‘He’d Send In The Army’ (7″ version);

Meanwhile, on side two both tracks are different to the original 7″ versions to some degree…

Gang Of Four US 1980 'Yellow' 12" EP label side 2
^ Gang Of Four US 1980 ‘Yellow’ 12″ EP label side 2

‘It’s Her Factory’ first appeared as the B side of the UK 7″ single release of ‘At Home He’s A Tourist’, recorded March 1979. The version on this EP is a different mix however, not the same as found on the 7″ B side. The differences are subtle but they are there. As some easy to spot examples, the opening toms are spread across the stereo field on the 7″ mix and the (to my ears) saxophone parts first appear 19 seconds in – the ‘Yellow’ EP mix meanwhile has a much tighter spread in the centre of the stereo mix and the sax parts start up by 12 seconds in and are a lot more frequent.

The version of ‘It’s Her Factory’ from the ‘Yellow’ EP can be found in the following CDs;

The original 7″ B side mix can be found on;

‘Armalite Rifle’ meanwhile is a totally different recording compared to the version that first appeared in November 1978 on the Fast Product releases 7″ ‘Damaged Goods’ EP, which had been recorded in June 1978. When does this re-rerecorded version date from? I’m not sure… Its a completely different take from the ‘Damaged Goods’ EP version from June 1978, not just a different mix, and it doesn’t seem likely that they had budget nor luxury to lay down multiple takes in that Cargo studios session.

As well as the musical/vocal takes being quite different, there are even subtle differences lyrically, with different band members name-checked;

  • “I disapprove of it, so does Jon” on the original Fast Product ‘Damaged Goods’ EP recording.
  • “I disapprove of it, so does Dave” on the re-recorded ‘Yellow’ EP version.

Some of the other obvious differences are once again with the stereo mix, on the ‘Yellow’ EP version the band vocals on the intro are mixed left and right, whereas on the original 7″ mix they are mixed towards the right channel (as is the hi-hat). The feedback squeal prominent at about 23 seconds in on the original is missing on the ‘Yellow’ version and as for Gill’s one-note solo – totally different!

‘Armalite Rifle’ has not appeared on CD as often. The version of this song from the ‘Yellow’ EP can be found on the following CDs;

The original Fast Product 7″ EP recording can be found on the following CDs;

  • ’77-81′ US/UK 2021 boxed set (on the ‘Singles’ CD) (Matador OLE1570CDX)
  • ‘100 Flowers Bloom’ 1998 US compilation CD (Rhino Records R2 75479) – even though it is listed with a suffix of ‘EMI Demo’ – the mastering is quite harsh and makes it sound a bit different, particularly the opening snare drum, but it seems to be the original version nevertheless.
  • ‘Entertainment!’ 1995 UK/Europe CD re-issue (EMI CZ 541 / 7243 8 32146 4)
  • ‘Fast Product – Rigour Discipline & Disgust’ 1993 UK various artists compilation CD (EMI / Fast Product CDEMC 3654 / F520)
Gang Of Four US 1980 'Yellow' 12" EP inner bag
^ Gang Of Four US 1980 ‘Yellow’ 12″ EP inner bag

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