MORE MONEY THAN SENSE?

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When the news emerged that the record company people were hell-bent on issuing a 40th Anniversary edition of Sulk, I gave a snort of derision.

It has long been one of my favourite records of all time, one that I have on vinyl (with a mint copy having replaced my battered, scratched and damaged version) as well as a CD version that was released in 2000 on the basis it had been remastered and came with seven extra tracks.  There were a few promises given that even the most diehard of fans would have stuff to look forward to with the 2022 re-release, but I had made my mind up that I wasn’t going to bite.

I’m guessing, however, now that I have a copy at Villain Towers, the record company people are having their own snort of sorts at my expense.

I should explain that it was only down to the fact that the shop at Last Night From Glasgow was getting some stock and was offering its members a reduction in the price of the deluxe version that led to my change of heart.  It still involved me shelling out £44 for something which I wasn’t entirely sure I needed, albeit I wanted.

So, the question has to be…..was it worth it?

The packaging is exquisite.  It’s a hard cover, inside which is a book pack, containing notes and thoughts from the writer Simon Reynolds, along with some photographs from the era, some of which are moody and atmospheric while others capture the fact that the band members really enjoyed one another’s company.

As for the music, the 140gm blue-coloured vinyl copy of the album looks and sounds great, and being a remastered version, does feel like a worthy addition to the collection. There are also 3 x CDs – one being a copy of Sulk which feels a bit superfluous, while the other two comprise

  • 17 tracks (out-takes, monitor mixes and rarities)
  • 19 tracks (nine Peel Session takes, and ten songs recorded in Holland in January 1981)

At first glance, it does appear to be a lot of additional music, but most of it, other than the Dutch concert, has been previously available, thanks in particular to the release of Double Hipness in 2000, a 2xCD effort that was largely a collection of (then) unreleased demos.  The fact I hadn’t ever got round to buying a 2016 2 x CD re-issue of Sulk meant that I was picking up versions of some songs for the first time….any Associates obsessive might be feeling a little cheated by how little previously unheard or unreleased material was contained in the 40th anniversary edition.

mp3: Associates – Me, Myself and The Tragic Story (John Leckie Recording)

This had previously been part of that 2016 re-release.  In mid-1980, Associates had gone into Abbey Road studios with John Leckie involved in production duties, but having laid down a couple of tracks, the decision was taken not to pursue things any further.  It proved to be a great call as there is no question that the songs written for Sulk would have sounded totally different, and less other-worldly, than they did under the guidance of Mike Hedges.

The track is an early version of Arrogance Gave Him Up, the instrumental opener on Sulk.

mp3: Associates – Skipping (live)

This version shows the extent that songs underwent a transformation once the band got into the studio.  There’s a real energy to the song, as well as an introduction which could very well something that was separated at birth from Rip It Up by Orange Juice.   It’s worth remembering that Associates, when playing live back in 1980/early 81, didn’t make much use of keyboards, and yet they became the backbone of so much that made the album so memorable.  The lyrics also would be changed a bit……….

The thing is, having now played the blue vinyl and listened to the CDs, I’ll be surprised if I reach for them again in the near future.  The songs are now on the hard drive of the laptop as well as part of the i-tunes set-up, so I can get them at any point in time.  I can see me reading the sleeve notes and looking at the photos again, especially when I give the original album a spin in the future, but the hardback 40th anniversary edition is now tucked away alongside a few other box sets, safe and out of harm’s way.

Overall, I’m happy that I picked it up, but there’s a slight nagging feeling that it wasn’t entirely a necessary or essential purchase given what I already owned.  I think it’s time now to slow down on shelling out on nostalgia…..after all, there’s already plenty of artefacts lining the shelves.

JC

15 thoughts on “MORE MONEY THAN SENSE?

  1. I didn’t bite.

    I genuinely thought I’d relent when a limited edition of the limited edition was highlighted – the same box set with 18 Carat Love Affair/Love Hangover Exclusive Gold* Cassette, Signed.

    * Gold coloured, or I might have reconsidered

    I didn’t bite.

    I think it important to mark a 40th anniversary for what is, for me, a landmark record but… like JC I own it twice already. I acknowledge the ‘pension plan’ of such items but how much money would a band ever see?

    I don’t doubt it looks great. I know some will enjoy another remaster. Me? I like how it looked. Me? I love the original sound (its place in time) and that’s how Sulk will always sound to me.

    Here’s an idea…

    to mark a significant anniversary of an LP why don’t bands/artists just post ‘something’ on social media thanking fans for buying it? That’s naive, I know, however my days of reissue of reissue of reissue seem considerably less pressing.

  2. I have a weird apocalyptic vision of an age where hard drive music evaporates, so have been buying up backlist CDs on ebay or charity shops to fill gaps in the collection. Happily for my debit card, I find costly deluxe box sets tend to muddy the brilliance of a beloved 40 minute LP with pointless unfinished demos (unless it’s Dylan who tended to leave a lot of the best stuff in the cutting room).

  3. Well, I don’t blame you for picking it up for that price, but I haven’t myself – I have it on vinyl and CD and I probably don’t need more. Nothing will ever outshine the original album!

  4. Being an obsessive Associates collector I of course bite, I now have (I think) 9 different versions of Sulk on vinyl and every issue of the CD (don’t own a CD player so they are just for the sake of completeness). Do I need? Of course not. Do I want? Hell yes!

  5. Let’s see…I have the UK LP [two copies as I ran across one actually in a great store I was visiting in Atlanta and had to buy it…just in case it was cleaner than the one I bought online]. The 1988 German CD of the US version. The V2 2000 CD of the “corrected” version that still had the wrong [but unique] mixes of PF2 and “Club Country.” I still had not bought the 2016 remasters [shamefully] so I was all over this one! I got the 4xCD set from superdeluxeedition.com that had the exclusive PF2 CD single with 5 versions [two unique] of PF2 and its B-side “It’s Better This Way [alternate].” So yeah…I was all over this for the £50 that SDE.com was selling it for. The “free” 4th CD was actually so! And they had by far the cheapest shipping from the UK at £18!

    Word has it that the PF2 is still different from the UK LP mix, but “Club Country” is the first time that the original UK LP mix ever hit CD. It looks like they used the 12″ mix [10 sec shorter with briefer coda at the end] on the new CD. Sigh. I’ve begun the forensic listening and am currently diving deep on this crucial album, which has [like many other albums I’ve perhaps inexplicably not yet written about over the years] not yet been featured on PPM because of the elevated esteem with which I hold it. I have to do it justice and now’s obviously the time for that! I’m two posts in and it’ll might be 6-7 by the time I’m done. I’m a Monk. I count the number of remixes dancing on the head of a pin. I’m fine with this being one of my now rare purchases. Especially since the vast majority of my Associates purchases [only from 1990] were second had with the band getting naught. I am ALL IN on Associates. One of the finest bands ever.

  6. It’s funny that your mention the synth-free live music as being redolent of Orange Juice! Earlier this year I got the DLX RM box [4 discs] of Paul Haig’s “The Warp Of Pure Fun” and there’s a live in Japan disc on there that has a band with Haig, Rankine, James Locke, and Mike McCann and nary a synth playing the music of the album [which in the studio had a strong New Order vibe] and on the live CD it was transformed into JosefK material!

  7. So…having said that I’ll stop getting things I already have, I’ve now just gone and ordered a copy of the 4xCD ‘The Warp Of Pure Fun’ on the basis of PPM’s note that the live stuff sounds more Josef K than New Order. It wasn’t that expensive, so I can’t really grumble. Besides, it will no doubt end up providing material for blog post at some point.

  8. “More Money Than Sense” should be written in capital letters under every Los Angeles County sign.

  9. I simply couldn’t buy into this. Too many previous disappointments over a really marvellous 1982 album. Most of us fans already had it back in 1982. Or became acquainted with it since. Like many of the Class of 82, I also picked up the US vinyl, UK/US double cassette version, the US/ German CD from 1988 and hung on with those four versions I’d already bought…. waiting, waiting, waiting for the proper UK version to drop on CD. The years went by, Billy left us, the horror began. Given Dempsey and Rankine’s involvement with the tragic V2 and BMG re-issues… I just couldn’t look at this new SulkBook clusterfuck of usuary. Rankine and Dempsey were simply unable to, unwilling to or simply couldn’t be bothered to create a well mastered CD of the original UK “Sulk” in the years following Billy’s death. They have instead treated us to brickwalled docker’s omelettes served up in sleevenotes which showed the noteswriter hadn’t been acquainted with the original “Sulk” or hadn’t even bothered listening to the re-issue they were writing the liner notes for. Just read Tom Doyle’s sleeve notes from the V2 re-issue “here are the original ten tracks as presented in their UK released form.. with none of the lumpen overdubs, tracklist shuffles or remixes that marred the US Version”. Utter pish.

    Painful and disappointing… instead of getting the original album we’d been waiting decades for a copy of on CD…. they’d slapped on 7″ single edits instead of album versions, 12″ mixes instead of original album versions, brickwalled Peel Sessions we already had, b-sides we already had, a few brickwalled out-takes we’d never play again, ‘unreleased’ tracks that had already cascaded onto the Armitage Shanks via a previous re-issue of a different Associates CD. Just how many times were they gonna try and sell us “Sulk”? Happy to sell fans Alabama Hot Pockets as the real “Sulk”, it sure leaves one with a bad taste in the mouth after the fifth, sixth and seventh time.

    The fact that this latest (8th) issue (the SulkBook set) had three different versions (one with a cassette, one with a print, one with a free 6 track CD single of PF2) … were they expecting completist folks not just to buy it once but maybe twice or thrice more? At forty odd quid a pop? The selling point of the “PF2” version of the SulkBook being that PF2 never been available as a CD single before? Well I have it on a 4 track CDEP so their claim is a crock of Oxtail for starters. This latest flurry of slurry made all that steamy piss about “Sulk sounds like music beamed in from another planet” seem a bit of a watery docker’s omelette as they were referring to an album they had repeatedly spraffed up against a wall, unable as they were, to get a decent CD of the original UK release together. For my money… Mr Vinyl Villain… you DO have more money than sense. But I think you already know that. It doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy “Sulk” though. It is a beautiful treat.

    For my other money the very best version of “Me, Myself And The Tragic Story” is by far the Dale Griffin produced version for the John Peel Show, recorded on 28th April 1981 and broadcast on 4th May 1981, it sizzles, froths and blows the socks off John Leckie and Assoc/Mike Hodges versions. There was also another version on the flipside of the Club Country single called “A G It’s You Again” (also produced by Associates/ Hedges). Four different versions of one instrumental with three different producers and all have seen official releases. No wonder the re-issue programme has been so “problematic”…

  10. Thanks Sid

    You’ve been a huge supporter of this blog over many years, and I don’t know anyone out there who is more knowledgable or passionate about the work of Billy Mackenzie. There’s an awful lot of what you’ve said that I won’t disagree with, and I know that I’m really fortunate in having a decent copy of the 1982 album, and it remains my go-to version anytime I want to listen to Sulk.

    I think I was admitting that there wasn’t a great deal of logic in the purchase, but I’m of an age that I don’t mind having the occasional indulgence in life, and this book set is one of them. It looks and feels great, which I admit is a very superficial way for any music fan to make any sort of purchase, but I take a bit of consolation that the album credits indicate that the rights are split between ‘The Estate of the late Billy Mackenzie, Alan Rankine and Michael Dempsey’.

    I’m certainly not disagreeing with you on your observation about the best version of ‘Me, Myself and The Tragic Story’, which you’ll be aware has been given another release via one of the CDs with the latest release. I only highlighted the Leckie take on things to illustrate how different it all could have been if he’s been selected for full production duties….as much as I admire and enjoy Leckie’s work, he would not have been a good fit with the Associates, and we would not have had the perfection of PF2 et al.

  11. @ Sid. What a colourful and enjoyable take on the re-issue (any re-issue, really). I’ve always held a view that while bands etc. are free to remaster/remix a song/album that they should not shit down the throat of fans who have bought and enjoyed the’original’ version(s) by claiming the’new’ version sounds better. Sulk can never sound better to me than my original LP. It’s not possible.

    Is there anything worse than a band reissuing an LP and meddling with the original running order – or adding tracks? Of course there’s much that is worse but sometimes…

    While I made my choice not to bite I do understand why others did and why sometimes a little bit of indulgence lifts the spirits.

    I think if the post highlights anything it’s that many Associates fans are questioning these type of releases – even those that are buying them.

    @JC – See what passions have been stirred on both sides of the fence.

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