45 45s @ 45 : SWC STYLE (Part 20)

A GUEST SERIES


26 – Come Home – James (Flood Mix) (1990 Fontana Records)

Released as a single in June 1990 (Reached Number 32)

More mixtapes of the heart today.

I was in a tent when I first heard ‘Come Home’ by James. Actually I’ll go further than that in an attempt to make myself cooler, I was in a tent that I wasn’t supposed to be in when I first heard ‘Come Home’ by James.

I wasn’t supposed to be there because it was the girl’s tent and I am a boy. It was the summer of 1990 and I had gone to Guernsey with the Scouts, yes the Scouts, shut up, when the zombie apocalypse arrives, you’ll be glad that I can tie a granny knot properly and know how to distinguish between a church with a spire and a church with a tower.

Anyway, we’d met some girl guides, whilst doing something scouty, like help old ladies across the road, or build a waterproof shelter out of matchsticks and old copies of Razzle. We got chatting to them when queuing for water. They were all from the Doncaster and Barnsley area of South Yorkshire and after about an hour showing off and general chit chat, the guides invited all of us to a disco that they were having at their campsite in a couple of days.

Which was nice of them.

The disco was awful. It consisted of bored looking adults chucking on a Now That’s What I Called Music CD (probably) and plying about 50 youths with Pepsi and jelly laces – the DJ was a guy called Barry, who rigged up some speakers through his car stereo so we could all hear Haddaway a bit better.

Which is sort of why I ended up in a tent with a girl guide.

Now.

There was no funny business, I want to make that clear. We were listening to music. I promise. We had two cans of Pepsi, a Walkman, two tapes and a pair of tinny little speakers. It turns out that Jackie, that was her name, was something of a kindred spirit, she loved indie guitars all most as much as I did. We sat there talking mainly, whilst her tapes played in the background.

I can remember that tape really well, the way that ‘There She Goes’ by the La’s ended and the opening whirls of ‘Come Home’ filled a little bit of the tent. I loved ‘Come Home’ and made a mental note to try and get a copy of it when I got home. Jackie promised to send me a copy of ‘Gold Mother’ if I gave her my address.

There She Goes – The La’s (1988, Go! Discs, Did Not Chart, Reissued 1990, Number 13)

‘Come Home’ was followed by this

I’m Free – Soup Dragons (1990 Big Life Records, Number 5)

And we were half way through that when the zip to the tent opened and a face peered through at us. It was Albert. Albert was one of the Scout Leaders and he went bat shit crazy at me, literally eyes popping out of his head style rage. I was dragged out of the tent by what our parents would call the scruff of my neck and in full view of about twenty five people he bollocked me. Which considering he was a Scout Leader was probably a lucky escape on my behalf.

He ended with him telling me that he was going to phone my father in the morning.

To which I shrugged my shoulders, my father wouldn’t really care, I could hear his voice now, “Being, caught in a girls tent, at night, well done son, have some extra pocket money”.

I never did get that copy of ‘Gold Mother’ either.

SWC

 

 

FROM THE ARCHIVES – 28 DECEMBER 2009

WHEN THINGS WERE AT A REALLY LOW EBB…

I’ve written before about how tough things were for James back in the late 80s and how it was the generosity of a bank manager who was a fan that got them out of a particular hole and allowed them to continue writing and performing.

The story of the single Ya Ho really illustrates just how bad things were.

It was originally scheduled for release in September 1987, but wasn’t issued until 12 months later. However, the catalogue number didn’t change, which is why it is NEG 26 when the previous single What For had the number NEG31. Having been shelved, Ya Ho was only resurrected to coincide with the very belated release of the LP Strip-Mine.

The version released as a single is different to that released on the album, being the original mix produced by Hugh Jones before Steve Power was drafted in by the label to remix songs in an effort to make it sound more commercial.

I’d been on the look-out for this single for a while and some sites had it on offer for the £15-£30 mark which I was thinking of paying but shied away from. Then about six weeks ago I found a copy in a Glasgow shop for just £3. A bargain and a half:-

mp3 : James – Ya Ho
mp3 : James – Mosquito

The band also released a 12″ version of the single which had two additional tracks on the b-side (and was therefore known as Ya Ho & 3). Now if any reader has these b-sides – Left Out Of Her Will and New Nature – I’d love to be passed on copies…….*

Oh and to show just how annoying the record label were becoming , have a listen to the soul-less, artificial and more commercial version:-

mp3 : James – Ya Ho (album version)

*I do love it when readers do help me out…..

mp3 : James – Left Out Of Her Will
mp3 : James – New Nature

JC

A RE-POST TO BUY MORE TIME (9)

3 February 2009 saw the 700th post over at the old blog….it felt like a landmark occasion and so I did something a bit unusual.

BACK TO BASICS WEEK : TUESDAY

The 700th posting.

And for only the second ever time in all of them, a complete album is available to listen to.

One Man Clapping is a live album, released in March 1989. It had been recorded over two nights the previous November in Bath. So what?

Well, the fact is that James at the time were in dire financial difficulties, so much so that without this record they would in all likelihood have broken-up. The move away from from Factory Records some five years earlier onto the major label with Sire had been an unmitigated disaster.

The debut album hadn’t sold well, largely because the label thought it uncommercial and refused to give it any meaningful promotional budget. The band decided to swallow their pride and make a more radio-friendly second LP, only to find to their horror that the record label more or less rejected it – it was given a release more than a year later, again with next to no promotion. It was fair to say the relationship had broken down, and James manufactured their escape.

But that left them with no record deal and no incentive for touring, although their fan base remained loyal. The boys were reduced to taking part in medical experiments at a Manchester hospital to pay the rent, when they come up with the idea of recording a low-cost live album which would not only make them some money, but also showcase their new songs to other labels. But how could they get the money to pay for the recording of such an album?

Believe it or not, it was a bank manager who came to their rescue – one Colin Cook of the St. Anne’s Square, Manchester branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland – with a loan of £12,000. He did so after he’d gone along to see the band play live after they had put in the request for the loan.

The LP was a critical success, and its aims of making some money and getting the band back in the spotlight were achieved.

Only around 10,000 copies of One Man Clapping were made available. The cassette and vinyl versions have 12 songs on them, but the CD version has 13 songs; in 1989, vinyl was still way more popular than CDs, so in all likelihood, the extra track was included in the hope that the more loyal fans would buy both versions. Indeed, the CD version is a rare beast and changes hands for decent sums nowadays.

I’ve only the vinyl version, but it’s one that has a proud place on the shelf. I picked it up second hand some two years ago not long after starting the blog, and I always wanted to make it available on some sort of special occasion.

And today seems to be as good as any.

mp3 : James – Chain Mail
mp3 : James – Sandman (Hup-Springs)
mp3 : James – Whoops
mp3 : James – Riders
mp3 : James – Leaking
mp3 : James – Why So Close
mp3 : James – Johnny Yen
mp3 : James – Scarecrow
mp3 : James – Are You Ready
mp3 : James – Really Hard
mp3 : James – Burned
mp3 : James – Stutter

One Man Clapping was released on One Man Records, which in effect was an imprint of Rough Trade – the sleeve notes give a very big thank you to Geoff Travis.

Indeed, Travis went even further in terms of saving the band by giving them a contract with his indie label which had really made its fame and fortune a few years earlier with The Smiths – only to see James walk away after a couple of singles so they could have another stab at stardom with a major, in this case Fontana.

The rest, as they say, is history.

There’s quite a few who say James were at their very best in the era of One Man Clapping, but I think that’s a bit of indie-snobbery talking. Some of their very best songs lay ahead of them, and while the rise to stardom did result in some hugely over-produced stuff that changed dramatically the way the band sounded within a handful of years, I don’t think anyone who watched just how much of a struggle those first 6 or 7 years were for all concerned could begrudge them the success. If you can’t be bothered to listen to all of this album and want a recommendation for just one song, then how about I steal some words from Stuart Maconie and his book Folklore : The Official History of James:-

The album’s highlight is its least well-known track, Burned, a new song written in the aftermath of the Sire debacle. The lyric is a defiant denunciation of the music business.

“If you don’t look cool, they won’t look at you
But if your image is strong, any song will do
They think that the wrapping’s the gift….

All we want is an empty throne
I feel I’ve been burned
But I won’t let it show

My beliefs are all shaken
I’m lost in the grief at the state I’m in
Seen too much goodness chewed up by money men
If God exists she should make us king…”

And God it seemed was listening and yes, she was planning to make them, if not king, then certainly minor archdukes of the business they were so bitter about.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (14)

James have been the subject on an in-depth look at all the 45s they ever released, (and as such have been unlucky in never having an ICA devoted to them), so this isn’t the first time JimOne has been featured on the blog. I did hum and haw a bit, but given it’s now over four years since it last featured, I think it’s OK to have feature again as part of this series.

I’d forgotten until a recent re-read of Stuart Maconie’s essential bio of the band that was published back in 2000 just how many name and line-up changes they had gone through prior to getting the first single out and into the shops. Venereal and The Diseases, Volume Distortion, Model Team International, Model Team and Tribal Outlook had all been adopted and discarded. Tim Booth was the fourth person who had taken on lead vocals, and indeed had only really been recruited on the basis of him being a dancer until it was considered his status as public-school educated university student gave him a capability for writing better lyrics than any of Paul Gilberston, Jim Glennie or Gavan Whelan.

Indeed, many of the most popular early songs written and performed by James were tunes that pre-dated Tim getting on board, many of which, including at least one of those on the 3-track debut, had their original words butchered or removed altogether with the vocalist far from keen to blast out lyrics that were, at best, ambiguous and, at worst, borderline misogynous.

They had been gigging a fair bit around Manchester, including some reasonably high-profile support slots for The Fall, when Tony Wilson asked them to sign to Factory and release an album.  Despite Wilson and others such as Rob Gretton actively pursuing James and talking them up at all times, the band were very wary of the label and did everything they could to be awkward, including refusing to record what the label were hoping for as a debut single.  Indeed, the band went to the other extreme and offered up what they saw were their three weakest  bits of material that between them lasted less than six-and-a-half minutes.

mp3 : James – Folklore
mp3 : James – What’s The World
mp3 : James – Fire So Close

Factory were already renowned for issuing material that wasn’t obviously commercial, but Folklore, as the lead track of a debut single was particularly bonkers. It’s a folk-song, almost sea-shanty like, with minimalist playing that was a long way removed from the indie-pop that many were expecting. On the other hand, the two tracks on the flip side were upbeat belters with a direct lineage back to the sounds of young Scotland on Postcard Records that you can still, all these days later, throw fantastic shapes to on the indie-disco dance floor .

No wonder Factory were excited and they went a long way to ensure they did everything to keep the band happy, issuing the single with a really cheap sleeve design that went against many of their principles and promoting a song whose lyric was a savage attack on the music industry and indeed could be interpreted as a direct attack on the label:-

What would you sell, with the glasses and suit
Heart and a soul that won’t wear out
That’s not enough, I want what’s inside
You took a fish fillet knife and cut right through my eyes

I don’t recall it at the time, but JimOne was given rave reviews in the UK music press with big things predicted for the band. What happened next, however, seemed to sum up just how ill-prepared James were, initially, for life in the music industry. Paul Gilbertson, who had been the main driving force from the outset, was sacked shortly after the debut single and the three songs remain his sole contribution to recorded music. Tim Booth fell seriously ill, not for the first or last time in his life. Jim Glennie, having gone through the pain of being part of the decision to sack his best friend, struggled with everything, and indeed he and Booth ended up joining a sect that placed all sorts of restrictions and limitations on their behaviour and so put the band’s very being in real jeopardy for a while. It would take a full 12 months before the follow-up was recorded, with a further four-month delay before Factory issued it. The success that had been predicted with the release on JimOne wouldn’t come until the 1990s….

JimOne is a very fine release. Folklore is one of those songs that, once you get used to its idiosyncrasies, is a very listenable number and, as I alluded to earlier What’s The World and Fire So Close have always been magnificent as evidenced by how well they have aged.  Despite all that, JimOne is not close to being the best 45 ever released by James, but it is indeed, a cracking debut.

JC

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT..WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (22)

The Shoebox of Delights – The Robster Picked Number 18
‘Nowhere’ Original Soundtrack – Various Artists

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Soundtracks. I rarely buy them, in fact I own two. This one, which I didn’t buy, and Trainspotting which was a gift at Christmas. The problem with soundtracks is that you never get one that is 100% full of good tracks. You get the odd track, the odd unreleased gem, the odd hard to find song, but you wouldn’t buy the whole thing because it also contains Celine Dion, Phil Collins or Mumford and Sons.

Nowhere is no different. It contains some excellent music but it contains some utter utter shite as well. Believe me no compilation album with Marilyn Manson on it is worth buying.

Nowhere is a Gregg Araki film about the Doomed Generation or something – here is a snippet from the press stuff around the film

“A group of teenagers try to sort out their lives and emotions while bizarre experiences happen to each one, including alien abductions, bad acid trips, bisexual experiences, suicides, bizarre deaths, and a rape by a TV star. All of this happens before “the greatest party of the year”.

Now bearing in mind my favourite film of all time is Raiders of the Lost Ark followed by Back To the Future II – this isn’t my type of film but it does have a pretty good soundtrack (Marilyn Manson, 311, Coco and the Bean and Catherine Wheel withstanding)

Going off topic slightly I was once on a training course and we did this stupid ‘icebreaking’ thing where you had to name your favourite food, favourite album, favourite film and fantasy dinner party guest to a bunch of strangers. Anyway, I was sat on a table with four chaps, one I can only describe as a ‘hipster twat’ and when it was his turn to talk about his favourite film (this was after I said mine and the chap next to me, said ‘I don’t know, probably Jaws’) said this “I guess, I’m kinda leftfield, my film would be something by Russian avant garde agent provocateur Alexandr Soukurov”. That is what he said. Hope he’s reading this and if so – your beard looked crap and from the look of it your tattooist has put the Sanskrit word for ‘Knobjockey’ on your left arm.

Anyway, the soundtrack, let’s talk about the good stuff, the best track on it by far is by Chuck D ‘Generation Wrekked’ angry, shouty hip hop at its best by the guy who does it better than anyone else on the planet. There are some other gems ‘How Can You Be Sure?’ by Radiohead – which I think features on the B side on ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ but dates back to when they weren’t even called Radiohead (thanks Badgerman, for that snippet of information, he really is a walking Radiohead encyclopaedia). You get an Elastica track ‘In the City’ which I think is only available on a BBC Radio Sessions, and at just over 90 seconds, it is exactly what you expect from Elastica snotty, ferocious and bratty. There is also ‘Dicknail’ by Hole, which is them at their rawest, angriest and ultimately best. It’s a downright nasty song but its also great.

mp3 : Chuck D – Generation Wrekked
mp3 : Radiohead – How Can You Be Sure
mp3 : Elastica – In The City
mp3 : Hole – Dicknail

There are a couple of tracks which are not rare, ‘Life Is Sweet’ by the Chemical Brothers is here (given the Daft Punk remix treatment) in all its eight minute glory and ‘Trash’ by Suede – or The London Suede as the album calls them. Both are excellent – the Suede track ends the album and rather lifts the gloom from the Americanised College rock that precedes it.

You also get a few tracks by decent bands who recorded them specifically for this album – there are two of these that stand out ‘Nowhere’ by Curve, which is possibly one of the best tracks that they have ever produced. They sound sinister, angry and Toni Halliday vocal is more menacing than ever on it. The other one is ‘I Have the Moon’ by the much missed and loved Lush – and this may be the albums highpoint, a tremendously dreamy gorgeous song that is relaxing and a genuine chill down the spine moment.

mp3 : Lush – I Have The Moon

You also get a rare James track (saying that I gave up on James after ‘Whiplash’ so it might not be that rare) called ‘Thursday Treatments’ which is an instrumental track. Its bland. Really bland. They are trying to sound like Aphex Twin but end up sounding like the music I expect to be played in Japanese lifts. Seriously this is why I gave up on James. Twenty years ago I would have bought this solely for the fact it had a James track on it and would have justified its uselessness by calling it ‘Experimental’. I don’t know why but this song has angered me so much but I have just punched a cuddly toy owl.

mp3 : James – Thursday Treatments

So that is ‘Nowhere’ I am half tempted to give the film a spin now but I have just read that it has Ryan Philippe in it, so know it will be waste of time, a man that is to acting what I am to flying helicopters – bizarrely it also has Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers in it, still no reason to watch it though.

That was Number 18, on the list, what’s next guys…?

S-WC

THE JAMES SINGLES (27) AND (28)

We're Going To Miss You FrontGetting_Away_With_It_(All_Messed_Up)

Apologies to those who don’t like James for them featuring two days in a row. But I had intended to have this series wrapped up well before now.

Yesterday’s single was the last of the James singles that I have in my collection. I did have a few gaps that I’ve plugged since beginning this series back in November 2013 and while it was tempting to chase down the final CDs via ebay/discogs etc I decided against it and instead hunted down whatever songs I could find online.

We’re Going To Miss You was an unexpected third single lifted from Millionaires albeit the track was re-recorded for release as a 45. However, the record label again seemed to mess things up by shoving it out just before Christmas 1999 when the airwaves were full of the usual cheesy numbers that abound at the time of year as well as filling time with a look back at classic pop songs of the 20th Century as the new millennium was just over the horizon. As a result, the single completely stiffed and for the first time in seven years the band missed out on a Top 40 placing:-

mp3 : James – We’re Going To Miss You (not available)
mp3 : James – Wisdom Of The Throat
mp3 : James – Top Of The World (Live at the Embassy Rooms) (not available)
mp3 : James – Pocketful of Lemons
mp3 : James – We’re Going To Miss You (Eno’s Version)

The next and final physical single appeared in June 2001. It was the only single lifted from the album Pleased To Meet You. The single preceded the album by a week and was released at the end of June 2001.

mp3 : James – Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
mp3 : James – Make It Alright
mp3 : James – So Swell
mp3 : James – Stand
mp3 : James – The Shining (live at Ridge Farm) (not available)

It reached #22 in the UK charts. An anthemic number that, at the time, was dismissed as very much James by numbers and used to demonstrate just how tired and cliche-ridden they had become.

Six months later, James called it a day but signed off with a triumphant tour of the UK’s main arenas culminating in a gig in Manchester that was later released as a live album.

POSTSCRIPT

The band reformed in 2007. There have since been three singles released as digital downloads – Whiteboy, Waterfall and Not So Strong – none of which charted.

And that, dear readers brings the series to a close.

Next up, and in response to the positive feedback the other week, will be a short series looking at ten singles released by Altered Images.

THE JAMES SINGLES (26)

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index2

I’d be amazed if anyone who was into James circa 1985 – with songs like Folklore, What’s The World and If Things Were Perfect – would ever have imagined they would g on to write and record what can only be described as an MOR love song such as Just Like Fred Astaire some 14 years later.

By all accounts, I should hate this song.  It is sentimentally soppy and tune wise it is the sort of thing that you would imagine would be handed to the winner of the X Factor or The Voice to grab hold of and release on the back of them winning the vote of the general public.  But, just like the Four Tops (and Orange Juice), I can’t help myself….and have to confess to having a real affection for this particular single.

There’s a place in the world for outstanding love songs and James, having previously delivered an absolute belter in Sometimes back in 1993, managed to deliver another one right here.  It the sound of a band comfortable with their place in the world – the success of the greatest hits package had finally put any money worries firmly to bed – and the notion of making new and innovative sounding music can now be left to others.  It is mature, grown-up music that in the hands of others could border on boring, but thanks to the collective talents of all concerned, they manage to pull it off:-

mp3 : James – Just Like Fred Astaire

It was released on 2 x CDs in October 1999 and came with three completely new tracks plus a re-working of a track from the Laid LP:-

mp3 : James – I Defeat
mp3 : James – Long To See
mp3 : James – Mary
mp3 : James – Goal Goal Goal

The first of these features a contributing vocal from Sinead O’Connor and is one of those songs that you listen to and wonder why the band chucked it away on a b-side. It’s another mid-tempo ballad but it is quite unlike anything else the band ever recorded and, with its catchy chorus could easily have cut the mustard as a single.

Long To See is a real slowie that relies heavily on Tim’s vocal to make it of real interest while Mary sounds like an outake from the Whiplash era, so if you liked that sort of song you’ll fall for its charms.

Goal Goal Goal is a real oddity. It takes the tune of Low Low Low but the new lyric is football related. The story is that the band were keen to have it adopted as the official anthem of the England Football Team at the 1994 World Cup taking place in the USA – after all, New Order had enjoyed a #1 hit with World In Motion at the previous tournament four years earlier. The problem was, England failed to quality for the 94 Finals……

The song was however, put on an excruciatingly awful album called Gloryland, released by the football authorities to commemorate the tournament. To give you an idea of how bad this record was – Queen, Jon Bon Jovi, Tina Turner, Fleetwood Mac, Scorpions, Daryl Hall and Santana are among those who feature. The band however, five years on, dug it out and shoved it on CD2 of Fred Astaire.

The two CDs do make for a decent enough package but the record label made a huge error in releasing the single just one week before the LP Millionaires. It did hit #17 in its first week on the back of solid amounts of radio play and the band carrying out promotional duties on UK television but the type of record buyer it was aimed at would have bought the LP when it came it out rather than boost the sales of the single.

It remains the last time that James went Top 20 in the singles chart.

Enjoy

THE JAMES SINGLES (25)

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It’s now approaching nine months since the nonsense of the Sit Down remix and it is time for what would be the 25th single to be released by James.

Let’s give the band a bit of credit.  They were wounded by the criticism offered by fans about the multi-formatting of recent 45s and that almost all of them had been padded out with remixes or live versions. and so it was made clear that the first post Best-Of single would come accompanied by high quality new songs unavailable elsewhere.

The single itself caught more than a few folk out:-

mp3 : James – I Know What I’m Here For

This was a different sounding James…well to an extent. It had a joyous sounding 45 with a catchy chorus but in a way that was unlike any of their other singles.  I was caught out by it at the time and to all intent and purposes I should have fallen for its charms.  But I couldn’t help but think that they were trying to take a leaf out of the book of U2 with a conscious and deliberate attempt to make something different just for the sake of it rather than head down any new and exciting musical direction.  And sixteen years on, I remain strangely unmoved by the single.  There’s evidence that I wasn’t alone as it stalled at #22 in the charts.

So what about these anticipated b-sides??

mp3 : James – All Good Boys
mp3 : James – Imagine Ourselves
mp3 : James – Downstairs
mp3 : James – Stolen Horse

CD1

All Good Boys is a slow song initially driven along by a strong vocal from Tim over an acoustic guitar before the chorus licks in where it sadly falls away into something a bit dull and leaden with the rest of the band joining in on backing vocals over a tune that could pass for a Robbie Williams b-side.

Imagine Ourselves is another slowie.  This time it is initially driven along by a strong vocal from Tim over some electronic noodling.  However, there is no upbeat shouty chorus to take the song to a different level so it sort of meanders along for the whole four and a half minutes but in a way that is quite lovely and moving.  It’s a song that needs two or three listened to be fully appreciated but there’s no denying it is top quality for a b-side.

CD2

Downstairs is very much James in the 90s by numbers in that if you were fond of the singles you’d immediately fall for its charms.  Regular readers will know that I found the James of the 90s a bit more miss than hit and so it is with this song. But I can see and appreciate why it is so well-regarded by fans

Stolen Horses is yet another ballad and again doesn’t do all that much for me but this is as much to do with the fact that James are no longer sounding anything like the band that I had fallen for almost 15 years previously than it being a crap song.

Listening to the songs some sixteen years later and I think I may have come up with the answer to as why I’m not a huge fan of them…….

These b-sides, and indeed the a-side could have been written today and no-one would be any the wiser.  There’s lots of singers and bands out there who have great sounding voices and whose technical skills on their chosen instruments are there for all to hear and who have no trouble filling large venues and arenas to ever-increasing fanbases.  These James songs from 1999 sound as if they would fit very comfortably into such sets and that’s what’s wrong with them.  The music snob in me shies away from the mainstream for the most part and these highly proficient songs repel me in the same way.

But this journey of looking at James singles is almost at an end and so I’m not disembarking the vehicle until it reaches its final destination.  I am however, bored with the repetitive scenery as I look out the window.  I need that ‘wow’ factor………

 

THE JAMES SINGLES (24)

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I hadn’t forgotten about this series….I was simply putting off having to write about this rip-off.

I mentioned last time out that the release of Runaground, while being a right pain in the proverbial with its 3xCd format, at least, and for the first time in ages, provided some value(ish) for money with decent b-sides, mixes and live session versions.

Six months later in November 1998, and with the Best Of still doing quite well in the album charts James were about to embark on a sold-out tour of large arenas in the UK complete with support from either Stereophonics or Gene.  The record label decided something had to be done to tie-in with the tour and also to prompt the Christmas market record-buyers that a James greatest hits CD might be worth popping into someone’s stocking.

And so the idea of a remix of Sit Down was hatched……

There’s lots to despise about this release.  It has an appalling sleeve and the remix isn’t very good…it sounds awfy like the Doctorin’ The Tardis by The Timelords which had got to #1 away back in 1988…and then there’s the heinous crime of the record label stating that the inclusion of Sit Down on the b-side was the ‘original version’ when in fact it was the hit single version already on ‘Best Of’ rather than going to the trouble and expense of getting permission to go with the version released back in the days on Rough Trade.

What almost saves it are the two acoustic tracks lifted from the April 1998 session recorded for GLR Radio and the rocking version of China Girl which the band had recorded as a one-off on 21 April 1997 as a contribution to a Radio 1 Show, hosted by Jo Whiley, to commemorate the 50th birthday of Iggy Pop.  If you hadn’t taped it off the radio it was otherwise unavailable:-

mp3 : James – Sit Down (apollo four forty mix)
mp3 : James – China Girl
mp3 : James – What For (GLR session)
mp3 : James – Sit Down (GLR session)

Enjoy.

THE JAMES SINGLES (23) : A RE-POST AND APOLOGY

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An observant reader spotted that I had messed up some of the links to the b-sides in the original posting. The easiest thing to do was delete the old posting and do it all gain using cut’n’paste.  Sorry I made such a basic fuck-up…..

Here we go with V2.

Yet another James single which came as a 3xCd release, with each going for £1.99 or all three for £5 if you wished.

Truth be told, I didn’t wish. Runaground is a decent enough single but was already available on the Best of James compilation as one of the two new tracks which I had already purchased out of laziness just so that I could put one album with all the ‘hits’ into the CD player.

Not buying Runaground was a major error in my part for it denied me the opportunity to enjoy some tremendous live versions of old favourites as well as a couple of otherwise unavailable b-sides.

The single was released in May 1998 when the band were receiving all sorts of acclaim for the quality of Best Of which had topped the album charts in the UK. I think everyone concerned was bitterly disappointed when it crawled into the singles charts at #29 and then disappeared from trace almost immediately. Maybe if a little bit more had been made of the b-sides  or maybe if the record label hadn’t blundered by labelling Disc 1 as having exclusive rare tracks when fans of old already had them then we night have given it a bit more attention.  Who knows.

The three b-sides on CD 1 consisted of two tracks that had originally featured on the initial release of the 1990 LP Goldmother only to be removed and replaced by the singles Sit Down and Lose Control less than a year later when the LP was re-released as the band’s popularity exploded; the other track on CD1 was a song previously available as a b-side to the hit single Born of Frustration.

So far so humdrum

The three songs on CD2 consisted of songs taken from a BBC Greater London Radio session that had been transmitted on 6 March 1998. Here was a stripped back and wonderful sounding James with acoustic takes on three previous hit singles that bore little resemblance to the original versions.

Now you’re talking.

The three songs on CD3 featured an interesting and extended 8-minute remix of Runaground which is very reminiscent to the remix of the song Goldmother as featured earlier in this series when it was a b-side to hit release of Come Home; a largely instrumental track with a spoken/choral vocal that sounds as if it would fit on a film soundtrack; and a cracking and funky remix of an otherwise dullish track from the 1997 studio LP Whiplash.

Put On Your Dancing Shoes.

mp3 : James – Runaground
mp3 : James – Hang On
mp3 : James – Crescendo
mp3 : James – Be My Prayer
mp3 : James – Say Something (live at GLR)
mp3 : James – Laid (live at GLR)
mp3 : James – Lose Control (live at GLR)
mp3 : James – Runaground (The James Remix)
mp3 : James – Egoiste
mp3 : James – Lost A Friend (Aloof remix)

At long last, an entire singles package that wasn’t a rip-off.

Enjoy

THE JAMES SINGLES (23)

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In March 1998, all concerned thought it would be a good idea to compile and release The Best of James. It brought together fourteen hit singles from the Mercury/Fontana years together with Hymn From A Village from the Factory Records era plus two brand new songs, both of which were due for release as singles as part of the promotion of the ‘new’ LP.

Destiny Calling was made avilable a couple of weeks before the album and was issued, as had become the norm, in a 3xCD package. It’s a single that’s among the best James released in the mid-late 90s. The tune is more than decent while the lyric pokes fun at how the music industry was beginning to pan out in the run up to the turn of the century with its ever-increasing emphasis on manufacturing and controlling the entire sound, look and feel of musicians. Who really in their right mind would set out to be a famous pop star in these times?

The first of the CDs featured what was claimed to be three exclusive rare tracks all of which however had been available as b-sides to previously released hit singles and therefore probably already owned by most fans.  The second CD went for live material from what had been, to all intents and purposes, a more than decent show at the Reading Festival the previous August, and having come in for justified criticism over the choices made on previous live songs as b-sides it was good that two of them were from Wah Wah and this rather different in the live setting that than the studio.  Just a pity the other track was a lumpen and wearisome number that too often sounded like u2 by numbers.  CD3, which I don’t have, provided a  multimedia section containing the video of She’s A Star together with snippets of videos of other songs you could find on ‘Best Of’.

Interestingly, the artwork for the single harked back to the baggy era with the use of the daisy logo that had adorned so many t-shirts.

The single entered the charts at #17 and dropped down the week after just as the album began its ascent to the #1 spot.

James were now arguably,  more popular and better-known in the UK than at any other point in their career, thanks to this compilation drawing attention to the consistency and quality of the singles.  Those of us who has been looking on for over a decade could only sigh and think of all the great tracks that would have made it a genuine ‘Best Of’ rather than a chart-fodder effort.

The tracks on CD 1 (Assassin, Goalie’s Ball and The Lake) have all featured earlier in this series so here’s the tracks from CD2:-

mp3 : James – Destiny Calling
mp3 : James – Jam J (live)
mp3 : James – Honest Joe (live)
mp3 : James – Sound (live)

Enjoy

THE JAMES SINGLES (22)

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The first James single that I didn’t set out to buy at the time.

Waltzing Along was one the tracks from Whiplash that  I liked most, helped by the fact that it is driven along by some lovely work on the slide guitar which gives the song a country feel akin to some work a decade or so earlier by R.E.M.

mp3 : James – Waltzing Along (LP Version)

A lovely bit of slide guitar that was replaced by a horrible bit of standard guitar work.  Indeed, all the lovely subtle sounds which made this such an enjoyable LP track were butchered away and in their place came a more commercial and jarring sound.

The single was released in June 1997. Again, it involved 3 x CDs.

The first of them had three live renditions of songs lifted from a London gig a few months earlier, and for the second single release in a row Greenpeace featured as did  Homeboy (another track on Whiplash) together with an old favourite:-

CD1

Waltzing Along (single version)
Homeboy (live)
How Was It For You (live)
Greenpeace (live)

The Second CD was where you’d find the three new songs:-

CD2

Your Story
Where You Gonna Run?
Long To Be Right

And finally, yup, you guessed it, CD3 for the diehards who wanted all the remixes:-

CD3

Waltzing Along (Disco Socks Mix)
Waltzing Along (Flytronox Mix)

Once again it was all three for £5 if you wanted or £1.99 each. Fans bought enough copies to have it enter the charts at #23 before it plummeted like a stone.

There was a rather savage review of the single in NME but it was hard to argue with it:-

Time was when these merry Mancunian misfits could lay claim to being one of the most forward-looking groups in this country, with their weird take on rock music and an ascetic outlook that stuck out a while in times of much frippery. These days, James are more like Simple Minds than the Scottish stadium rockers themselves, if the hackneyed and plodding backing track here is to be taken seriously. Which is a pity as Tim Booth still sings like he’s got something of importance to impart – in the case a prayer for the dying. Oh well, there’s always the solo career.

The really annoying thing is that having subjected myself to so many sub-standard b-sides with the Whiplash singles I missed out for 17 years on one of the more interesting efforts from the band. CD2 was well worth £1.99….

Your Story is a song about being obsessed with sex and rather unusually has the odd expletive thrown in during its five-minute duration.  The tune is a bit more rock orientated than most James songs but it is different enough to merit attention.

It’s a total contrast to the instrumental track which follows – you could have given me 100 guesses and I don’t think I’d have stumped up James as the band who composed and recorded what is the rather haunting and occasionally beautiful Where You Gonna Run?  It sound like the sort of music that comes over the credits of a movie that just had the saddest and most moving of endings.

Just a pity that the final new song, Long To Be Right, is a self-indulgent, noodling waste of three and a bit minutes of your life.

mp3 : James – Waltzing Along (single version)
mp3 : James – Your Story
mp3 : James – Where You Gonna Run?
mp3 : James – Long To Be Right

Tune in next time to see how James got the critics and record buying public to like them again!

THE JAMES SINGLES (21)

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The Top 10 success of She’s A Star was followed up with the issuing of an old song.

Tomorrow had originally appeared on the Wah Wah LP in 1994 but had subsequently been re-recorded as the opening track of the follow-up LP Whiplash, released in February 1997. Now the decision was taken to release it as a single and again completists would need to fork out for three separate CDs. At which point this fan decided enough was enough.

I’d been very disappointed for the most part with the content of the new songs, live versions and remixes which had accompanied the previous single (see Part 20 for more details) and I drew the line at Tomorrow. I wasn’t even remotely tempted by the fact that in some stores you could get all three together for £5. As a result there’s a gaping hole in the collection, one that would in fact grow in the years to come as I finally got bored with James (although that situation would change again many years later).

What I have done however, knowing I was trying to get this series sorted out as best I could, is go on-line and look to track down second-hand copies for as cheap a price as I can find. Which is why I can now at least bring you these from CD1:-

mp3 : James – Tomorrow
mp3 : James – Gone Too Far
mp3 : James – Honest Pleasure
mp3 : James – All One To Me

(all of them being previously unreleased songs)

and from CD2:-

mp3 : James – Lost A Friend (live)
mp3 : James – Come Home (live)
mp3 : James – Greenpeace (live)

All recorded for the Marc Radcliffe show on BBC Radio 1 in January 1997.

Tomorrow, helped by the multi-formatting, entered the charts at #12 but dropped down dramatically in the next two weeks…it was now becoming apparent that singles success was almost entirely down to long-standing fans…which would be further exploited by the record label in the months to come.

It’s a single which is a big improvement on She’s A Star but I feel it is very reminiscent of Ring The Bells which, as I mentioned in an earlier part of the series is one I’m not that fond of.

Turning to the new stuff on CD1.

Gone Too Far is a frantic and unusual sounding song (for James) and one that, on the first few listens in recent weeks, I will give the thumbs-up to.

Honest Pleasure is an out-and-out rock song driven along for the most part  a ‘classic’ riff that you’ll find on compilation CDs made for driving along highways – it is bloody awful.

But not as awful as All One To Me which sound not much more than a demo…

CD2?

Well, the live version of Lost A Friend is a fairly faithful representation of one of the better tracks on Whiplash.

And while I know the world could exist happily enough without James releasing yet another version of Come Home, this live version does at least try to blend the sound of the original release with the sort of electronic noodling the band were growing increasingly fond of….and it’s also unusual in having such an understated vocal delivery from Tim – he almost sounds bored.

As for Greenpeace – again it’s a faithful representation of a Whiplash tune – one which starts off sounding as if it could be a real tear-jerker but drifts into something unlistenable.

I am sorry to sya that I”m beginning to lose interest in this series…..but I will keep ploughing on.

THE JAMES SINGLES (20)

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With apologies for the past two weeks of repeat postings.

There are occasions when pressures of work and other commitments mean I can’t devote all that much time to the blog. I always try to have at least a week’s worth of postings ready in advance to cover eventualities but I had just about emptied the well quite recently and as I can load up about 5 old posts in the time it takes me to compose a single new post I bought myself a bit of breathing space.

So here I am back with the series on singles from James.

It had been three years since James had last unleashed any new material on the public.

The band had come very close to breaking up at the tail end of 1995 thanks to a combination of tensions among members exacerbated by a very unexpected and very large tax bill covering a period when they had first tasted success.

There were was a degree of profile as Tim Booth had worked with composer Angelo Badalementi, and with contributions from Bernard Butler, an LP entitled Booth and The Bad Angel had surfaced in 1996 including a hit single in I Believe.

The following year the band, but without Tim, began to re-visit some material previously recorded with Brian Eno as well as start work on new songs in a studio in Wales.  It wasn’t an easy or seemingly an enjoyable experience, certainly in the initial stages, but very slowly the semblance of a new LP began to be knitted together with Tim sending vocal contributions from New York.

When Tim returned back to the UK the band and record label decided it would be an idea to finish things off by bringing in uber-producer Stephen Hague to deliver a commercial radio-friendly finish.  The first material anyone got to here was this single in February 1997:-

mp3 : James – She’s A Star

It became a Top 10 hit in the UK, helped by the fact that the band were willing to go out on the telly/chat-show circuit to give it maximum possible publicity.  It also came with a stylish and expensive video.

There was one really annoying thing though for band completists, namely that the single came in 3 x CD versions, although there was no vinyl issue.  The first CD featured live versions of two very old James songs as recorded the Alton Towers gig back in 1992, the second CD offered three new songs and CD 3 had two remixes of She’s A Star, plus – and I’m certain this was done by the record label out of spite to piss off fans who had moaned about remixes – the Weatherall mix of Come Home which was its third(!!!) appearance as James b-side.

mp3 : James – Stutter (live)
mp3 : James – Johnny Yen (live)
mp3 : James – Chunney Chops
mp3 : James – Fishknives
mp3 : James – Van Gogh’s Dog
mp3 : James – She’s A Star (Dave Angel’s PAT Mix)
mp3 : James – She’s A Star (Andrea’s Biosphere Dub)

The big problem for me is that She’s A Star is a really disappointing 45 particularly compared to the pre-fame and fortune  material.  While I hadn’t liked the stadium-rock material of the Sound era I could understand in some ways what the band were setting out to do and they had made a great comeback with Laid.  But for the first time ever, I found myself using the word boring to describe a James single.  And I haven’t changed my mind all these years later,

Turning to the other tracks.

The two live songs are fine but both are drawn out to almost 7 minutes in length and while I’m sure this it must have been a real treat for fans  who went to Alton Towers  they don’t match the intensity of the live versions released many year previously on One Man Clapping. (It was also the second time Stutter had been released as a live b-side having done so on Come Home a number of years earlier)

The new songs contain some of the worst bits of music the band have ever released and in days of yore would surely have been consigned to the bin.

The first minute and a half or of Chunney Chops is really instrumental bland synth-pop that just gets on my nerves.  It is the sort of music that Genesis began to make when Phil Collins talked them out of being a prog band and into the pop charts in the mid 80s.  Yup… that bad.  And and while the remaining three and a half minutes do feature what sounds like a half decent Tim vocal it is mixed low behind an awful bit of annoying music.

The third track – Van Gogh’s Dog actually opens with a great deal of promise.  A slow number with a bit of noodly synth music in the background…something a bit different appears to be coming our way.  And then, just a minute or so into the song it becomes almost a lazy pastiche of With Or Without You by U2…made worse by Tim doing a bit of falsetto singing that would get him booed off most stages if he was a support act.

Which makes it such a shock that the middle track of the new songs – Fishknives – is so bloody brilliant.  Yup it is more electronic than James fans were used to but it has a soundtrack quality to it that brings to mind some of the work of David Holmes.

The remixes?   Well it’s 12 minutes of music that is supposed to resemble She’s A Star.  The Dave Angel mix for the most part doesn’t as so that’s a blessing.  But it is , like the Jam J stuff, an acquired taste.

The other mix, which was produced by Norewagian electronics wizard Geir Jenssen, turns out to be the release’s true saving grace.  All the bombast of the single is replace by wonderful keyboard noises backing a most gorgeous and understated sounding vocal from Tim…..it’s only when you listen closely that you realise it is the same vocal as the single but here it seems to find its rightful place.

Totally unexpected and so out of place on what really is a sub-standard release.

THE JAMES SINGLES (19)

180648bMarch 1994. The record label, as usual, want to promote an album through lifting a further single from it. The band, conscious of the backlash from fans when this had happened before, are against the idea. But where in the past there would have been an irreparable clash between label and band, this time round a compromise was reached.

It was by now an open secret that during the recording sessions for Laid that much more material had been recorded. Indeed, James had hoped that the fruits of those labours, which were for the most part were well-produced recordings of demos and works-in-progress, would have been released alongside Laid in a limited edition form. In the end, it would be in September 1994, a full year after Laid had been released, that the LP Wah Wah was released.

The March 1994 single provided a taster for Wah Wah as one of its two lead tracks was culled from that material along with a track from Laid:-

mp3 : James – Jam J
mp3 : James – Say Something

Unsurprisingly, the radio stations stuck to the tried and tested and it was Say Something which was given all the prominence.  Jam J didn’t at the time, nor today, strike anyone as an obvious single release……

The single was released as a CD and in cassette form with the CD single having two further bits of music:-

mp3 : James – Assassin
mp3 : James – Say Something (new version)

The former was a more than half-decent new track (albeit one which clocked in at under two minutes and whose storyline would no doubt be greeted with horror by the UK tabloids nowadays leading to an immediate ban across the airwaves) while the latter was exactly as it said on the tin and came in at over a minute longer than the version made available for radio play. At least it wasn’t a crazy dance remix….that came via a second CD and a 12″ single.

I never did get round to buying the second CD of Jam J. It was two remixes of the track by Andy Weatherall in his Sabres of Paradise guise, each clocking in at around 17 minutes in length. I have absolutely no doubt that it is top quality material but I balked at the idea of owning a James song clocking in at that length. Nor was I sold on it when reviews indicated that the remix was ambient music with Tim’s vocals more or less removed altogether. Very much an acquired taste.

The single reached #24 in the UK charts. Little did any of us know that it would be three more years before the next James single.