Thursday, November 09, 2006

It Should Have Been On The LP

Blur - Young & Lovely

I’ve just finished reading Julian Cope’s marvellous autobiography ‘Head-On’ (I’ve now flipped it up the other way and am reading ‘Repossessed’, which is just as good). It’s a rollicking good read for a myriad of reasons, but I found Copey’s hate-hate relationship with his keyboard player and co-owner of the Teardrop Explodes’ label Zoo Records (with Bill Drummond) Dave Balfe rather amusing. You see, as a fanatical Blur fan, Dave Balfe is someone that it is easy to dislike. As joint head of Blur’s label Food Records, it was Balfe who (perhaps unfairly) came under the ire of the band during the period around the recording of ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ when Blur very nearly self-destructed. If you watch the Blur documentary ‘Starshaped’ (which covers this period in the band’s history and is really very funny in a completely tragic way), Balfe appears with a black bar covering up his eyes. Of course, much of the band’s decline was self-inflicted, due to copious amounts of booze and disillusionment when ‘Popscene’ failed to be the massive hit it deserved to be, but Balfe’s rejection of the first set of demos for ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ on the grounds that they were uncommercial and contained no hit singles was a contributing factor. The band loved to wind up Balfe, much as Julian Cope had back in the 1980s, naming a track on ‘MLIR’ ‘Pressure on Julian’, purely to annoy him. There is one crime that Balfe should never be forgiven for, and that was his insistence that the godawful ‘Turn It Up’ stayed on the album (with the inexcusable opening line "Kazoo! Kazoo! You are mine") as he felt it was the only song that had a chance of success in America. This wouldn’t be so bad, but it deprived the album of the utterly wonderful song ‘Young & Lovely’ that all the band wanted to be included. Damon says, "It should have been on the LP. But it didn't get on there and fucking 'Turn It Up' did." The really ironic thing is that during this period Suede stole Blur's thunder and fanbase, but a track like 'Young & Lovely' is easily the equal of the material Suede were releasing at the time. With a bit of an edit and a judiciously placed string section it could have been a hit single. Imagine ‘MLIR’ minus ‘Turn It Up’ and with ‘Young and Lovely’ slipped in between ‘Oily Water’ and ‘Miss America’ as track 10. Suddenly a really good album is an absolute classic. Balfe – you are a fool. Though according to Cope’s autobiography, he always got the best looking groupies and now lives in a house, a very big house in the countryyyyyyy so I’m sure he doesn’t give a flying fuck what I or anyone else thinks of him. And luckily enough, ‘Young & Lovely’ popped up on the B-side of ‘Chemical World’ so we all got to hear it…

Ride - Tongue Tied

…which is more that can be said for ‘Tongue Tied’ by Ride. This is one hidden gem that very nearly remained hidden forever, saved only when the band were asked to put together a collection of their rarities for inclusion as part of the triple CD box set which was released in conjunction with ‘OX4: The Best of Ride’, in 2001. The box set included the 16 track ‘Best Of…’, a live album recorded at the Reading Festival in 1992 (why not Brixton?!), and a compilation called ‘Firing Blanks’ which contained a collection of unreleased Ride recordings spanning the period from 1988 to 1995. It is here, amongst the demos, covers and outtakes that you will find ‘Tongue Tied’ and gape with slack-jawed wonder at how this classic song never ended up on the album ‘Going Blank Again’, despite being in the original track listing submitted to the record labels in the UK and America. Bass player Steve Queralt takes up the story, “It (‘Tongue Tied’) was dropped on the advice of both record companies who were insisting that the album was way too long. I think they had a point.” Maybe they did Steve, but as you point out, “It is one of the few occasions where the intensity and beauty of Ride was captured on tape, everything fits together perfectly.” This is a FACT. From the opening crisp acoustic strumming to Loz’s peerless drumming (why just thump out a beat when you can cascade endlessly brilliant fills and rolls?), a classic Andy lyric and vocal, chiming Byrdsian guitars and flashes of distorted riffs, ‘Tongue Tied’ is Ride at the peak of their powers. So why the hell did the band let it go? It wasn’t just dropped, it was completely forgotten, as it never even turned up as a B-side. Imagine ‘Going Blank Again’ without ‘Making Judy Smile’ (Ride try to be The Kinks and fail) and ‘Tongue Tied’ slotted in its place between ‘Cool Your Boots’ and ‘Time Machine’. Another good’un becomes a great.

Buy Blur albums from Amazon
Official Blur website
Veikko's brilliant Blur fansite
Rare 'Chemical World' CD2 on ebay which features 'Young & Lovely'
Information on the Ride box set from the Creation Records website
Buy the box set from
Official Ride website
Excellent Ride fansite
Buy Julian Cope’s autobiography ‘Head-On / Repossessed’ from Amazon