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.
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.
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.