Archive for the ‘Obscurios’ Category

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

Thursday, 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 here(more…)

Japan ‘Visions of China’ UK 7″ and 12″ singles (Virgin VS436 and VS436-12, 1981)

Friday, July 31st, 2015

This was actually a relatively straightforward release in fact, but I highlight it here via this post for the curiosity of what might have been…

Japan 'Visions of China' 7 and 12 inch singles - front sleeves

^ Japan ‘Visions of China’ 7 and 12 inch singles – front sleeves

Released as the single immediately before the ‘Tin Drum’ album in 1981, ‘Visions of China’ with its faux-oriental styling was certainly a departure from all that had gone before from Japan as far as A sides go, though the clues were there on the B sides from the two preceding singles (‘Life Without Buildings’ and ‘A Foreign Place’). With ‘Tin Drum’ itself, the ante would be upped even further, it verging on something of a concept album in theme and sound. Even ‘The Art of Parties’, which earlier in the year had firmly hitched its wagon to the in-vogue white funk sound, complete with brass section and backing singer troupe, saw itself stripped down to a somewhat more cold-blooded, oriental tinted reworking by comparison.

Japan 'Visions of China' 7 and 12 inch singles - rear sleeves

^ Japan ‘Visions of China’ 7 and 12 inch singles – rear sleeves

As a single however, ‘Visions of China’ barely consolidated the previous re-release of ‘Quiet Life’, whose Moroder-esque synth-sequencing and precision-tooled backbeat had provided Japan’s first foray into the upper reaches of the UK singles chart and fame at last. ‘Visions of China’ by comparison was a somewhat more relaxed workout and its rather dry sound, lacking reverb, and precise, stabbing oriental synths, while different, didn’t quite click with the record buying numbers in the same way.

Japan 'Visions of China' 12 inch single - rear sleeve

^ Japan ‘Visions of China’ 12 inch single – rear sleeve

What might have helped was some more unique selling points perhaps – and it did look like the single would have that at one point. Reproduced below is a period advert for the single (from ‘Smash Hits’, no less) that clearly states that a forthcoming 12″ version would feature an extended mix of ‘Visions of China’ as well as a ‘Dance Mix’ of ‘Swing’ (a highlight of the previous ‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ album and which might itself have provided a second single release at the time, given that a promotional video was made for the song, featuring a slightly remixed edit of the track).

Japan 'Visions of China' Smash Hits advert

^ Japan ‘Visions of China’ Smash Hits advert

However, the 12″ single itself failed to deliver on either of these. The version of ‘Visions of China’ clocks in as per the 7″ and album mixes, while ‘Swing’ is simply the same as the album version. The only tack to see any attention was on the flip side of the 7″ single, which saw a Steve Nye remix of ‘Taking Islands In Africa’ that was more of a re-edit than a remix, to these ears at least – no radical changes, more some some nips and tucks here and there.

Japan 'Visions of China' 7 inch single - label design side A

^ Japan ‘Visions of China’ 7 inch single – label design side A

An extended version of ‘Visions of China’ would eventually appear over a decade later on a compilation CD titled ‘Kult Klassix Volume 3’ – upping the duration from approx 3’35” to 4’20” or so. I’ve not heard this myself, but it is intriguing that the mix would see light of day in such a low-key way. As for a Dance Mix of ‘Swing’ if that was ever put together then it remains firmly under lock and key and there has never been so much as a hint of it to date.

Japan 'Visions of China' 7 inch single - label design side B

^ Japan ‘Visions of China’ 7 inch single – label design side B

One further oddity with the 12″ though – some copies have the same version of ‘Swing’ pressed twice – as a second track on side one after ‘Visions of China’ and then taking up all of side two, even though the labels still list one track apiece per side – curious…

Japan 'Visions of China' 12 inch single - label design side A

^ Japan ‘Visions of China’ 12 inch single – label design side A

Japan 'Visions of China' 12 inch single - label design side B

^ Japan ‘Visions of China’ 12 inch single – label design side B

Wire ‘Exploded Views’ Italian Book / ‘Live – May 1990’ CD (Stampa Alternativa, SCONC.25, 1994)

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Never been entirely sure where this fits into the grand Wire scheme of things, whether it is official, semi-official, unofficial – does it count as one of those ‘objects’ that numbered up to 47 at one point? I’m unsure, since it clearly has input from the band somehow or other, whether that be via the separate interviews or the exclusive live recordings – this is no mere cut and paste history in cuttings type affair. But neither is it an ‘Everybody Loves a History’ nor a ‘Read and Burn’. It shares a series with similar tomes on many other alternative favourites, more likely appearing due to quirks in Italian copyright law than official sanction, I’d wager.

Wire - 'Exploded Views' book, front cover

^ Wire – ‘Exploded Views’ book, front cover

What is is though is half Italian and half English, combining a selection of standard fare for such tomes in the shape of reprinted Wire lyrics, a chronology, a discography, along with four separate, typically self-lacerating interviews with each of the band. Visuals are minimal and of little more than angular sketches or xerox standard for the most part. The interviews are well worth a read, with a particular downer on the ‘Manscape’ era from Colin in particular – making it all the more odd then that the accompanying live cuts hail from that tour. But let’s not be too critical here – this book I’m sure was someone’s labour of love and saw the light of day in its own way to bring some unique Wire texts and recordings to us all. So, praise be, there can never be too much Wire, even of dubious official provenance.

Wire - 'Exploded Views' book, back cover

^ Wire – ‘Exploded Views’ book, back cover

So much for the book then. The accompanying CD is a live recording excerpt with excellent quality sound – its a shame that there isn’t more from this source that has surfaced as a document of the live instance of Wire’s ‘Manscape’ era. The tracks as listed on the CD are;

  1. Sixth (aka ‘Sixth Sense’)
  2. What (aka ‘What Do You See?’)
  3. 1 2 Drill U
  4. Underwater (aka ‘Underwater Experiences’)
Wire - 'Exploded Views' live CD

^ Wire – ‘Exploded Views’ live CD

Despite the good audio quality, it’s a demanding listening experience. This is easily one of Wire’s more challenging eras. The ‘Manscape’ album, even in its studio form, skids off onto all kinds of icy terrains with its discordant guitar-synth MIDI and machine-milled rhythms and in a live setting its even more free-form and volatile concoction, going off in all directions. ‘Sixth Sense’ and ‘What Do You See?’ are originally from ‘Manscape’. ‘Sixth Sense’ has a fairly creepy feel to it at the best of times, this live version uncoils the track out to the eight minute mark, near doubling the length of the original studio take and laying on the ominous atmospherics. One of my favourite Wire ‘texts’ (Wirespeak for lyrics) – “eternal youth seeks fatal bloom” indeed. This is a great version in its own way.

Wire - 'Exploded Views' book - index page

^ Wire – ‘Exploded Views’ book – index page

The live take of ‘What Do You See?’ doesn’t carry the same strength for me somehow though, the dynamics of the studio version are absent. ‘1 2 Drill U’ here in rough and ready prototype would later morph into becoming ‘In Every City’ from the subsequent ‘Drill’ album, cross-referencing some vague trace of 12XU’s text into the kind of relentless machine-beat electronic juggernaut much of their 1990/91/92 work became, for better or worse.

Wire - 'Exploded Views' book - interviews title page

^ Wire – ‘Exploded Views’ book – interviews title page

Finally, ‘Underwater Experiences’ is a track that Wire have revisited and reshaped on many an occasion since the late ’70s through to 2013 – its most well know outings were originally in frantic form on both discs from 1981’s ‘Document and Eyewitness’ live recordings, though an earlier recorded instance surfaced some years after the fact on the ‘Behind The Curtain’ CD of hitherto unreleased demo recordings in the mid ’90s. Its most recent reshaping came on 2013’s ‘Change Becomes Us’ and it’s melting pot of the ‘Document and Eyewitness’ era material, becoming that album’s ‘Attractive Space’ – harking back to the original demo form most of all, though only in the most passing of similarities.