The impossibly stylish sleeve design to the debut single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, ‘Electricity’, was an opening statement of intent by Factory Records, one so unusual to produce that it set the production presses on fire, with the result that the intended press run was left incomplete, apparently. It’s thermographed print was at one time de rigueur for stylish business cards – though black-on-black print as found here was perhaps a little more unusual. Whatever, this release in its original form has been a much sought after item and one you wouldn’t have imagined seeing again in its original form. However, 2019 saw the release of a boxed set of facsimile recreations of the first ten Factory Records artefacts to commemorate 40 years of the label, ‘Use Hearing Protection – Factory Records 1978-1979’ by Rhino Records. Let’s look at the original and recreation side by side…
The 1979 original
The beautifully minimal original cover – it has survived 42 years in good shape now. My copy of the vinyl is OK, hardly blemish free – also, it is a mis-press as it has the side A label on the B side too. Ooops! As for the music… famously, despite having re-recorded both songs at Cargo Studios with Martin ‘Zero’ Hannett as producer, the band insisted that their original somewhat low-fi and wonky version (recorded on the Winston 4-track recorder and produced by the band and then manager Paul Collister (aka Chester Valentino) in the latter’s garage, christened ‘Henry’s’), was used for the A side. But Tony Wilson insisted that the lush re-recording of ‘Almost’ was used on the B side.
1984 was the year that Cocteau Twins popularity would rise enough to make the top 30 of the UK singles chart and to skirt the edges of the mainstream, first with the release of the ‘Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops’ single and amplified by year’s end with ‘Treasure’, a third album from the band that contains many a fan favourite to this day and arguably the emerging dreampop sound. They were also filling concert venues the size and likes of The Royal Festival Hall in London and The Usher Hall in Edinburgh – a mere two years on from their debut album. Along the way, the independent spirit was retained with exclusive tracks on some more obscure cassette compilations. Starting with…
Cassette compilation: ‘State Of Affairs’ (Pleasantly Surprised, 003)
A various artists compilation from a period where sturm und drang was very much in fashion and is reflected in many of the tracks found here, the Cocteau Twins connection here is an exclusive remix of ‘In Our Angelhood’ that has never been reissued anywhere else. It appears that there were plans to issue this track as a single from the ‘Head Over Heels’ album, but it never came to pass. The intended single release is mentioned on the text in the booklet that accompanies this cassette, but I don’t know for sure if this remix was the planned single mix or not. Its a good bit different from the album mix for sure, though the sound quality here is not the best, it must be said. The arrangement on the version recorded for the October 1983 BBC Radio 1 David ‘Kid’ Jensen session is quite similar.
This odd little release was one in a series of short video compilations of Virgin label catalogue artists issued in 1989, while VHS was still the format of choice. Amongst other acts of interest in the series (at least for me…) were Skids and Magazine. This video was the first time I was able to view again some promo videos I had seen only a handful of times anyway back in the very early ’80s, and some I had never seen before, so it was a welcome purchase, despite the brevity (clocking in around 25 minutes). Being a UK based Top Of The Pops viewer, the videos were less common sights due to the frequent and memorable John Foxx appearances in the TOTP studio, not least for ‘Underpass’, ‘No One Driving’ (the latter with no less than four Yamaha CS80’s for the backing band!) and ‘Europe, After The Rain’.
‘Speak No Evil’ was intended to be one of the tracks on a planned debut 7″ single for 4AD by the band. That ended up being dropped when the recording of ‘Garlands’ was judged to be a stronger opening release on its own, so ‘Speak No Evil’ was instead given away as a flexidisc with the Dutch music magazine ‘Vinyl’. Obviously somewhat crackly in this flexidisc form, it was a welcome addition as a bonus track on the 1986 CD release of ‘Garlands’, but was removed on subsequent re-releases which opted to feature only the original eight track album running order. It has however recently been included on the four disc various artists compilation, ‘Make More Noise! Women In Independent UK Music 1977 – 1987’ released on Cherry Red in 2020. It has a downbeat, proto-‘Garlands’ type sound – the nearest comparison on ‘Garlands’ would likely be ‘Shallow Then Halo’, I feel. The flip side features the wonderful Thomas Leer with ‘Who’s Foolin’ Who’ – stylistically a good way away from the Cocteau Twins sound, originally also exclusive to this flexidisc, in recent years it found a home on his ‘1982’ compilation.
The accompanying live document to the ‘Third Day’ rehearsal recordings CD as featured in the previous post – ‘It’s All In The Brochure’ captures a selection of not only Wire’s performance but also the various other supporting acts from the occasion of their concert at the Royal Festival Hall, 26th February 2000.