My only prior knowledge of Leftfield at the time of the release of the album Leftism in January 1996 was the single Open Up, the collaboration with John Lydon at the tail end of 1993. It wasn’t so much a lack of enthusiasm that prevented further learning and exploration, more a matter of time as I was in a demanding and high-pressure job that meant any spare time was spent keeping up with the indie guitar stuff that has always been my go to music in times of stress.
I didn’t actually buy the album until a few months later when I fell head over heels for Original, the track to which Toni Halliday of Curve contributed a stunning vocal. It took a while for me to really get into the remainder of the songs but in due course found myself increasingly playing the CD at home of an evening, glass of vodka in hand as I tried to wind down after another tough day working alongside and for the politicians who were governing my home city.
I was however, bemused to read that the band were intending to lift the opening track of Leftism as yet another single in January 1997, a full year after the album had hit the shops, especially given that so much of its near eight minutes, while being a tremendous blend of dance and reggae, seemed just too trippy and languid to be tailor-made for radio:-
A couple of weeks later I caught the video for the new single on the Chart Show on the telly one Saturday morning and found myself staring at the screen as it sounded very different from the album version. Even through the rubbish speaker on the television I could tell something a bit special had been done to it, ans so I went out and spent £1.99 on the single (I only know this as the sticker is still on the case – I bought it from the Virgin Megastore).
Edited down to just under four minutes and with the hip-hop beat being maintained constantly throughout amidst additional vocal ad-libbing, it had been transformed into a bona-fide classic of appeal to fans of many genres and went on to hit #13 in the charts, matching the placing of Open Up.
What I didn’t know for many more years was that Release The Pressure had in fact been previously released by Leftfield on vinyl back in 1992 and so in fact was one of their oldest songs being given a makeover for the LP and again for the single. I’ve never heard the original version or the mixes found on its b-side, but I’m guessing that much of it would have sounded in places much like the other four versions made available on the 1996 CD single:-
I particularly enjoy playing these bits of music loud through the headphones while sunning myself on a faraway beach. But that’s not to say they can’t be fully appreciated in the depths of winter.