Archive for the ‘Cassette pets’ Category

Gary Numan / Tubeway Army 1981 cassingles

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

In these days of digital downloads and the disappearance of the physical format, it no doubt seems quite quaint to think back on the multitude of ways record companies used to dream up ways to exploit multiple formats in order to get eager fans to buy the same thing again and again. These two cassette singles are examples of that very thing, record company venal zeal in full effect. Nevertheless, they are presented here for what they are, their own charm, or otherwise to enjoy (or not).

Gary Numan / Tubeway Army 1981 re-issue cassingles - pack fronts

^ Gary Numan / Tubeway Army 1981 re-issue cassingles – pack fronts

1980 saw the emergence of the cassette single as a new format – largely propelled forward thanks to the missionary zeal of Malcolm McLaren and his cassette pet protégés, Bow Wow Wow. By the early months of 1981, the major record companies clearly scented profit and suddenly releases came not only on 7″ and/or 12″ formats, but increasingly with cassette single editions too. Step forward the likes of Pretenders, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kraftwerk, Ultravox, et al.

Gary Numan / Tubeway Army 1981 re-issue cassingles - pack rears

^ Gary Numan / Tubeway Army 1981 re-issue cassingles – pack rears

These two Gary Numan related releases were part of a ‘Double A Side’ cassette single series from WEA record labels pairing previous hits together on tape tape and lobbed out in new and colourful ‘flip-top’ cover design packs to house the cassettes. Along with Beggars Banquet, other WEA labels as part of this included Sire (with Talking Heads, Rezillos, Ramones), Real (with Pretenders), Warners Brothers (with Angelic Upstarts) and Carrere (with Saxon).

Gary Numan / Tubeway Army 1981 re-issue cassingles - cassettes A

^ Gary Numan / Tubeway Army 1981 re-issue cassingles – cassettes A

The series appeared around April 1981, if memory serves me right – I don’t remember much fanfare around such as advertising campaigns – instead, I came across these by way of a general shop checkout counter display box stand (John Menzies at the top end of Union Street in Aberdeen). Being a high water mark for my Numan fandom and being flush with pocket money due to the presence of visiting family from London, these two cassettes were eagerly added to my collection.

Gary Numan / Tubeway Army 1981 re-issue cassingles - cassettes B

^ Gary Numan / Tubeway Army 1981 re-issue cassingles – cassettes B

So, nothing of interest in the way of versions or the like, merely celebrating the curios of a long gone era in record collecting.

Gary Numan ‘Berserker’ – Numa variations

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

‘Berserker’ was the first album released on Gary Numan’s own label after he decided to up sticks and move on from his previous long established Beggars Banquet/WEA home. Numan mentioned in his ‘Praying to the Aliens’ autobiography how he felt that he had outstayed his welcome there, with the attitude that his success had plateaued at an acceptably comfortable level of sales, as evinced by the lack of promotional support, particularly for 1983’s ‘Warriors’ album. Intended as a fresh start, this new home, ‘Numa’ records, would see three Numan album releases in its original incarnation from 1984-1987, before Numan inked a new deal with IRS records for 1988’s ‘Metal Rhythm’ – though Numa would be reactivated again in the 1990s for further new album releases (and reissues).

Gary Numan - Berserker - Numa editions vinyl LP, cassette and (re-issue) CD - front cover designs

^ Gary Numan – Berserker – Numa editions vinyl LP, cassette and (re-issue) CD – front cover designs

This initial ‘Numa’ era came complete with a new sound, with the familiar analogue synthesizers of previous albums largely pushed aside for a more precise, harder edged, sequenced and sampled sound courtesy of the newer generation of digital synths, the PPG Wave in particular proving to be both hero and villain over the course of Numa time, with Numan’s eventual self-confessed over-reliance on it as a source of ideas. (Ironically, Gary has since noted in interviews that it wasn’t actually until much later in his career that he himself would master the art of sequencing and sampling by himself, when it became more a matter of survival when finances dried up.)

Gary Numan - Berserker - Numa editions - vinyl LP, cassette and (re-issue) CD - back cover designs

^ Gary Numan – Berserker – Numa editions – vinyl LP, cassette and (re-issue) CD – back cover designs

As well as the new sounds, this debut Numa album release also witnessed for the first time a new approach by the release of differing versions of the album for different media formats, with the cassette edition of the album containing extended length versions of most of the songs. As well as the ‘Berserker’ album, similar extended versions would also appear for ‘The Fury’, ‘Machine and Soul’, ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘Exile’ over subsequent years.

When later released on CD format, it was the extended versions, as per the cassette release, that made up the first Numa records CD release of ‘Berserker’ (Numa, NUMACD 1001). (There would be a 1991 re-release as well.) As a direct comparison, here is a list of the approximate track timings as a guide, the original vinyl durations as compared with the extended cassette/CD versions.

Vinyl LP Extended Cassette / CD
Berserker 5:50 6:40
This Is New Love 6:15 8:45
The Secret 5:54 6:40
My Dying Machine 5:33 9:04
Cold Warning 4:03 6:57
Pump It Up 4:45 4:45
The God Film 4:41 4:41
A Child With The Ghost 4:04* 4:04
The Hunter 4:31 6:47

* Note: The vinyl LP label states 3:04, but actual track time is 4:04

Following Gary Numan’s championing by a new generation of the great and the good (or, at least, popular…) and his subsequent critical rebirth in the mid 1990s, interest picked up such that ‘Berserker’ (as well as the other original Numa records albums) were re-issued on CD by the end of that decade – and in so doing, a hybrid version appeared, on the Eagle Records CD releases. Firstly, the ‘Numa Years’ 5 CD box set appeared (EAGBX025), but later on individual releases of each album also appeared, including ‘Berserker’ (EAMCD072). These versions mostly took the standard length versions from the original vinyl LP and added a selection of bonus tracks, but along the way, the extended version of ‘Cold Warning’ appears to have made the cut in preference to its standard length vinyl LP version – here is what appeared on the Eagle CDs;

Berserker (5:50)
This Is New Love (6:15)
The Secret (5:54)
My Dying Machine (5:33)
Cold Warning (6:01)
Pump It Up (4:45)
The God Film (4:41)
A Child With The Ghost (4:04)
The Hunter (4:31)

Bonus tracks:

Empty Bed, Empty Heart (3:12)
Here Am I (5:46)
She Cries (6:01)
Rumour (2:50)
This Ship Comes Apart (4:01)

Unfortunately, all is not quite right when it comes to the bonus tracks on this edition – all of them have been transferred at a slightly slower speed than they should be. However, they can all be found on other compilation CDs in the correct form, except for ‘This Shape Comes Apart’. At the time of writing, the Eagle CD editions are long out of print and appear to change hands for above average prices.

Numan’s American label of the time, Cleopatra, issued a largely similar version (Cleopatra CLP 0536-2), but with a different selection of bonus tracks – the extended versions of ‘Berserker’ and ‘My Dying Machine’ plus ‘Empty Bed, Empty Heart’ and ‘Here Am I’, the B sides from the two singles.

New dreams for old…

If you are unfamiliar with the album – and I dare say many may well be, as I think it was a crucial album for many existing fans as their point of departure in their fandom of all things Numan – it is worth a fresh listen. The combination of the increasingly funked-up music and the rather out-there blue hair/white pancake make-up look was probably a step too far, especially coming hot on the heels of the ‘Mad Max’ look of the previous ‘Warriors’ album/tour, causing a good many to move on. The somewhat unique blend of beautiful analogue synth sounds along with piano and viola to the fore of the classic ‘Pleasure Principle’ / ‘Telekon’ era had slowly been making way album by album – to the point where by ‘Berserker’ a cleaner, harder-edged, more precise sound was being fashioned from digital synths and drums, but with more mainstream funk-bass, female backing vocals and saxophone. The crossover tracks of both worlds are the likes of ‘Cold Warning’, viola still present and correct, and ‘The Hunter’, with a trace of the kind of anthemic sound familiar from the likes of ‘We Are Glass’. Elsewhere, ‘The God Film’ starts off pretty much a re-write of Brian Eno’s ‘Skysaw’ in its chord progressions. ‘This Is New Love’ had previously been premiered in a fairly different version on UK Saturday evening primetime TV earlier in 1984, the most striking difference being the complete absence of the female backing vocals, while in a fairly radical departure for Numan at the time, a fair amount of ‘The Secret’ is sung instead by guest vocalist Zaine Griff.

All in all, I still hold something of a soft spot for this album, even though it has less of the unique qualities of the earlier work.

Propaganda – ‘Complete Machinery’ Cassingle (ZTT, CTIS12, 1985)

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

A particularly fine example of ZTT and their multi-format splendour that helped to foist Propaganda into the consciousness of the world with the polished perfection of ‘P:Machinery’, styled here as ‘COMPLETE MACHINERY – A CASSETTE COMPILATION OF PROPAGANDA’S THIRD SINGLE’. It was one variety of the first outing for ‘P:Machinery’ as a single in August 1985, which came with standard 7″ and 12″ formats plus this lovely cassingle. (It would soon be joined, in the UK at least, by clear vinyl versions and a ßeta mix 12″ not long after – and then, just before the year’s end, a second life in ‘Reactivated’ remixed 12″ and 7″ form… but that’s another story…) A QUARTER HOUR OF ‘P: MACHINERY’ PLUS ‘FROZEN FACES’, the inlay card for this card spells out nice and clear in capital letters. COMPLETE MACHINERY IS NOW NUMBER 107 IN AN INCIDENTAL SERIES. BETTER STILL IT IS A PART OF NUMBER TWELVE IN THE ACTION SERIES, it adds further.

Propaganda 'Complete Machinery' cassingle, front case design

^ Propaganda ‘Complete Machinery’ cassingle, front case design

What was found on the cassette’s eye-catching clear shell and Super Ferro spools as captured in bright sunshine here? Let me detail what made up ‘Complete Machinery’ (the same programme repeated either side of the cassetter, fact fans…):

  1. Introduction
  2. P:Machinery (Connected)
  3. Separation
  4. Frozen Faces

‘Introduction’ is a short 25 seconds or so snippet of vocal – Play, Prepare, Punish, Persist, Ply, Profit, Position, Propaganda, Perform, Machine – while ‘P:Machinery (Connected)’ is an exclusive mix, conjured up from parts of the original P:Machinery and the Passive and Polish mixes of same. ‘Separation’ is another short interlude, freeze-framing the machine beat rhythm bed and marimba-like sequencing – after a short break there is then the longer mix of the wonderful (and at this time exclusive to the ‘P:Machinery’ singles) ‘Frozen Faces’, as found elsewhere on the original 12″ edition.

Propaganda 'Complete Machinery' cassingle, insert rear

^ Propaganda ‘Complete Machinery’ cassingle, insert rear

‘P:Machinery (Connected)’ has since seen release on a couple of CDs – firstly on the German edition of the ‘Outside World’ compilation, it warranted the following fair warning on the cover: ‘A very rare track remastered from a tape recording, as the original master is not available. It is included on this set for its merit as a collector’s item. You may find that the sound quality may differ from the other tracks on this CD.’ Winding the clock forward to 2014, it saw another outing in improved quality on ‘The Art Of The 12″, Volume Three (A Soundtrack For Living)‘, the third volume of various mixes cobbled together under a nominal ZTT umbrella (at least this had some provenance, unlike a good few others on the admittedly well put together compilation).

Propaganda 'Complete Machinery' cassingle, case and cassette

^ Propaganda ‘Complete Machinery’ cassingle, case and cassette

Propaganda 'Complete Machinery' cassingle, cassette and insert

^ Propaganda ‘Complete Machinery’ cassingle, cassette and insert