I’m going back to February 2014 to re-post something from that time, partly as it covers everything I have to say about the song, but also that I was surprised it had been more than eight years since I embarked on the quest to have a weekly look, in chronological order, at the 45s released by James.
One of my favourite early James singles and the least favourite of the sleeves.
The latter half of 86, all of 87 and early 88 was a strange time to be a James fan. It was also a frustrating time to be in the band, and I’m assuming even more frustrating to be part of the label to which the band had signed.
James were uncompromising in how they wanted to sound while Sire Records had made it clear that if they didn’t release material that was more commercial or radio-friendly then nothing would ever see the light of day. In early 1987, a new album was recorded, but the label demanded a ‘better’ mix which just wasn’t forthcoming. It really did look for a while as if we had seen the last of the band.
The boys eventually relented and in return the label agreed that they would back a new single which was released in March 1988, a full 18 months after the previous 45. What For turned out to be a stunning record. Joyous, anthemic and completely radio-friendly. It was surely destined for the Top 10. It even had whistling on it!!
Except……….the record label felt it was still too indie-sounding to be deserving of a promotional push and so again it was left to the late night DJs to try and champion it….but the problem being that the band had been away for too long and nobody was really all that interested.
A crime for which lots of folk should be put in the dock and found guilty.
A 12″ copy of this single sits in the cupboard so here we go:-
mp3 : James – What For (Climax Mix)
The b-sides are worthy of your attention.
mp3 : James – Island Swing
mp3 : James – Not There
Island Swing perhaps suffers from having a wee bit too much in the way of harmonica and the second half of the song doesn’t match the opening minute or so, which is quite tremendous, but there can’t be many bands that have done something this jaunty as a dig at the British Empire and other forms of colonialism – while Not There is an alternative and better version of a song that would later appear on the LP Strip-Mine.