Early 1993. Everything But The Girl announce plans for a ‘Best of’ compilation covering material from the Blanco y Negro years, going back to Each and Everyone, released as the first single on the that label in 1984.
Like most albums of this nature, some new and previously unreleased songs, to be released as singles to help with promotion, are cut in the studio. In April 1993, a cover of a Paul Simon song becomes the band’s twentieth single/EP. I presume the decision to go with a cover was based on the fact that the only two previous times they had managed to ride high in the UK singles charts had been courtesy of covers – I Don’t Want To Talk About It (#3 in 1988) and Love Is Strange (#13 in 1992).
mp3: Everything But The Girl – The Only Living Boy In New York
It doesn’t quite work as it stalls at #42, but there’s no harm done to the wider marketing efforts as Home Movies, as the best-of album would be titled, does go Top 5.
As covers go, it’s a fairly faithful interpretation of the original, with a gentle acoustic guitar at the heart of the music. Where it is a bit different from most EBTG singles is that Ben Watt‘s vocal is more prominent than Tracey Thorn‘s, but what this enables, and really brings out, is just how fantastic the duo were when it came to harmonies. They are heavenly and go a long way to help nudge this one up there as one of all-time favourite pieces of music by EBTG.
The three other songs on the CD single consisted of:-
mp3: Everything But The Girl – Gabriel
mp3: Everything But The Girl – Birds
mp3: Everything But The Girl – Horses In The Room
All three songs might, on the surface, show a lack of ambition in that they consist of a simple acoustic guitar or piano with singing. But it mustn’t be forgotten Ben came close to death in 1992, suffering from a rare vasculitic auto-immune disease which necessitated a number of life-saving operations, and more than two months in and out of intensive care, during which time he lost 50lbs of his body weight, and let’s face it, he wasn’t the biggest of blokes to begin with. The very fact that he was able to get back into a studio was a miracle to begin with, and if the duo’s ambitions didn’t stretch beyond keeping it simple, then who could blame them.
Birds is a cover of a Neil Young song, as recorded for his 1970 album, After The Goldrush. The other two are original compositions.
Oh, and why haven’t I got nothing to do today but smile? Well, it just happens to be my mum’s 83rd birthday.