Black Sea had been released to high critical acclaim at the same time as Generals and Majors was denting the charts. Virgin Records decided to strike while the iron was hot by quickly releasing a second single from the album. It was a slight gamble in that it was going to have to be an Andy Partridge composition as he was responsible for nine of the ten tracks that were still a possibility; after all, none of his previously penned 45s had made the charts. It turned out to be sixth time lucky….
As with many of the other singles, it was a slightly abridged version compared to the LP, this one being about 50 seconds shorter.
It later transpired that the band’s first stab at the song was a much slower, more acoustic and mournful take appropriate to the subject matter of the tens of thousands of unsung heroes whose blood, sweat and toil had shaped London in the Victorian and Edwardian era when so much of its infrastructure was laid and so many of its landmark buildings had been erected. It’s a version that would surface on Coat of Many Cupboards, a compilation LP of unreleased tracks and demos issued in 2002.
The b-side of the single was a live version of a song from the band’s debut LP White Music as captured by the BBC for an In Concert broadcast from The Rainbow Theatre in London in September 1979:-
The initial copies of the single came with a free 7″. One of the tracks on the free single was a live version of Battery Brides, a track on the band’s sophomore album Go2, and again recorded at the gig at The Rainbow. Sadly, I don’t have a copy of the free single and so can’t provide that particular song.
The other track was a Peel Session version of a track on the band’s third album Drums and Wires. The modern miracle of file sharing and the fact that so many folk do like to put Peel Session versions of songs out there means I have been able to track it down:-
For my money, this faster and more frantic version is superior to that recorded for the album.