It’s not normal practice round these parts to pull together some thoughts on a gig from exactly three weeks back, but these circumstances are a bit special.

Earlier this year, Matt Johnson announced a comeback tour of fairly impressive proportions for The The, including two successive nights in Glasgow. There was a slight twist in that the first date, 4 September, was at the all-standing Barrowlands while the following night would see the band perform in front of an all-seated audience at the Royal Concert Hall. I was keen to get along to both nights but was a bit slow off the mark on the day the tickets were released, missing out on Barrowlands show but being happy enough with the decent seats, about 15 rows back in the centre stalls, for the Concert Hall.

The plan had been to try and pick up a Barrowlands ticket nearer the time and look to compare the two gigs given that the two venues couldn’t have been more different. One would have involved a hot, sweaty and loud crowd, possibly with some semblance of a mosh pit, with all sorts of singing and chanting to accompany the band while the other, certainly based on previous experiences, would be akin to watching and appreciating an orchestra with polite but generous applause offered at the end of each song. As it turned out, a busy work schedule in advance of my planned trip to Toronto precluded me having enough time to get along on the first night and I had to make do with just the one show.

Me and The The go back a long long way, not quite to the very beginning of the band but certainly to 1982 and the singles which pre-dated the release of Soul Mining the following year.

The enigmatic yet charismatic Matt Johnson has always fascinated and impressed me, releasing distinctive music that seemed to be perfectly in tune with my own feelings and views at different stages in my life. He has always surrounded himself with the very best of musicians, initially in the studio and then on the road in the 90s. He is highly regarded and respected by just about every other fellow musician, not least Johnny Marr whose membership of The The was actually longer than his time in The Smiths. Having said that, Luke Haines isn’t a fan, having had a huge bust-up when The Auteurs were the support act on a UK tour…..

I was accompanied on this occasion by Mrs Villain, a rare gig outing together for us, partly out of her own love for The The but also that she likes the venue, one which has superb acoustics and lends itself to performances of all kinds. The audience was, for the most part, people of our ages, primarily groups of bald/balding men dressed head to toe in black; this may have been in tribute to the band who, as it turned out, were also dressed in a similar way but I reckon in most instances it was an effort to disguise the paunches brought about by the onset of middle-old age. I reckon most of us, while loath to admit it, would be glad of the fact that we were getting to sit down at the show, especially after seeing the notices posted up at the entrance requesting no photos or filming during the gig also advising that The The would be performing for more than two hours. All of a sudden, £40 felt like a bargain.

For those of you who don’t know, it’s been almost 20 years since The The last released new music or toured, a period in which Matt Johnson retreated to the shadows without ever completely going away. He’s composed music for films and also had a substantial on-line presence thanks to a series of podcasts under the beaner of Radio Cineola. There was also a single, We Can’t Stop What’s Coming, released for Record Store Day in 2017, in which he renewed his collaboration with Marr, on a song that was inspired by the death of his elder brother Andy, who, as Andy Dog, had contributed so much in the way of artwork and visuals to the band in the early years.

It was therefore very fitting that the show paid tribute to the life and work of Andy Dog with the musicians performing against an ever-changing complex backdrop of still and moving images from the halcyon days of the 80s and 90s. I learned afterwards that the technical limitations of the Barrowlands had prevented the background being on display at the previous night’s show which I feel would have been something of a loss as the visuals seemed to be an essential accompaniment to many of the songs.

Ah… the songs. After all, this is what a music blog should be concentrating on.

It was something of a subdued beginning for most of the audience thanks to the decision to open with three lesser-known tracks, albeit they were all among my own personal favourites from the back catalogue, including an airing for Flesh and Bones, the b-side which had featured on this blog on the very day of the gig. Things very much went up a notch thereafter with a run of singles, all of which were received enthusiastically, having been delivered in a slightly stripped-back way that demonstrated the talents of the singer and his fellow performers. The audience was, as is almost always the case at this venue, reverential and serious which I was delighted with as every note could be heard thanks to nobody chirping away annoyingly to their neighbour.

The rest of the night went along at a perfect pace, with the set drawing on all the studio LPs, including the lesser spotted debut Burning Blue Soul as well as Hanky Panky, the ill-begotten and largely misguided album of Hank Williams covers. The five-strong-band provided the audience with everything it could have wished for, effortlessly switching pace and tempo throughout with a performance that was reminiscent of the Bad Seeds at their very best.

It was clear that the band had rehearsed and prepared intently for the show, even down to the gaps between songs which allowed Matt to talk to the audience, reminiscing occasionally about the old days but also pointing out how, in reality, so little had changed in society. The younger me might have got a bit annoyed at how polished, professional and perfect it all was; the older me, however, fully appreciated it all, and as I sat and listened with intent I found myself being transported back in time to when I had first heard so many of the songs, thinking again about certain people, occasions and incidents for the first time in a long while. I laughed, smiled and I wiped away tears on one occasion, now fully understanding, thanks to the passing of some people who I was so close to, the power and emotion of one particular song:-

mp3 : The The – Love Is Stronger Than Death

The downside to an all-seated audience is an understandable reluctance to get up and dance for fear of irking the person sitting behind you. As a result, barnstorming renditions of This Is The Day, Infected and I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All of My Life), while getting the loudest cheers of the night in the main set, didn’t get the reaction they fully deserved other than a handful of fans moving to the side of the hall and throwing their shapes.

Matt, however, had a solution for the encore, Having given a truly wonderful solo rendition of True Happiness This Way Lies, he told us that he had spoken to the venue management while he’d been off-stage and the OK had been given for everyone to stand for the final two songs of the night which became 15 truly unforgettable minutes which sent everyone out into the night happy, buzzing and hoping that he won’t keep us waiting so long till the next visit.

mp3 : The The – Uncertain Smile
mp3 : The The – Lonely Planet

My opening line to this referred to special circumstances.

This posting hasn’t just been inspired by the gig itself, but is a the outcome of an exchange of e-mails with the wonderfully talented C, she of Sun Dried Sparrows fame.

She has never shouted about it but C has a connection with the Johnson family, initially having been close friends/neighbours with Andy and his dad, who himself sadly passed away earlier this year. She has gotten to know and become friendly with Matt over the years, although she had long appreciated much of his music with her introduction being Soul Mining in the early 80s. This comeback tour was, however, the first opportunity she ever had to go see the band which she did in Birmingham just a few days after Glasgow.

Those of you who are familiar with her blog will know that C is a terrifically articulate writer, capable of composing the most memorable of pieces no matter the subject or genre. She dropped me a note, which I only picked up on my return from Toronto, telling me that the Birmingham show had exceeded all expectations but had at times been emotionally draining, particularly from seeing the images of Andy and his work as the backdrop. She told me that she had been ‘umming and ahhing’ ever since about writing a review on her own blog but had found it very hard to be objective as things were coloured by her connections to the family and by knowing Matt as the man outside of The The. She also, very gently I must say, asked if I’d consider penning a review as, and I quote ‘it would be a joy to read it and I feel it would kind of help cover it on my behalf too, if that makes sense.’

I’ve been more than happy to accept the commission. I just hope I’ve lived up to her expectations.



Beneath the old iron bridges, across the Victorian parks
And all the frightened people running home before dark
Past the Saturday morning cinema that lies crumbling to the ground
And the piss stinking shopping center in the new side of town
I’ve come to smell the seasons change and watch the city
As the sun goes down again

Here comes another winter of long shadows and high hopes
Here comes another winter waitin’ for utopia
Waitin’ for hell to freeze over

This is the land where nothing changes
The land of red buses and blue blooded babies
This is the place, where pensioners are raped
And the hearts are being cut from the welfare state
Let the poor drink the milk while the rich eat the honey
Let the bums count their blessings while they count the money

So many people can’t express what’s on their minds
Nobody knows them and nobody ever will
Until their backs are broken and their dreams are stolen
And they can’t get what they want then they’re gonna get angry

Well it ain’t written in the papers, but it’s written on the walls
The way this country is divided to fall
So the cranes are moving on the skyline
Trying to knock down this town

But the stains on the heartland, can never be removed
From this country that’s sick, sad, and confused

Here comes another winter of long shadows and high hopes
Here comes another winter waitin’ for utopia
Waitin’ for hell to freeze over

The ammunition’s being passed and the lords been praised
But the wars on the televisions will never be explained
All the bankers gettin’ sweaty beneath their white collars
As the pound in our pocket turns into a dollar

This is the 51st state of the U.S.A.
This is the 51st state of the U.S.A.
This is the 51st state of the U.S.A.

And in the next few months, as we steer towards the madness of Brexit, it is only going to get worse.

Heartland was one of the biggest hits enjoyed by The The, reaching #29 in August 1986.

mp3 : The The – Heartland

The 12″ version had two formats, both featured this short instrumental/spoken word which was a reminder of how vile and racist the South African regime was in that apartheid-governed era.

mp3 : The The – Born In The New S.A.

One format had a track that was very reminiscent of the songs which had made Soul Mining such an essential listen a few years previously:-

mp3 : The The – Flesh and Bones

The other format had what was at the time a new track but which would appear in a shorter version, and with a different mix, on the LP Infected:

mp3 : The The – Sweet Bird Of Truth

I’m off to see The The tonight. It’s one of my most anticipated gigs in many a year.




While Matt Johnson had previously made Burning Blue Soul as a solo record , Soul Mining was the first album by The The, and was released to huge critical acclaim in October 1983.  Indeed, a few years ago at the official website of The The, you could re-read endorsements from all four of the UK’s weekly music papers (NME, Sounds, Record Mirror and Melody Maker), as well as broadsheet newspapers and glossy magazines; there was even a thumbs-up from Smash Hits. But surely the most bizarre positive rating was this:-

“Soul Mining is certainly something to be treasured. One of those integrity leaden packages which manages to be both experimental and accessible.”
* (source at the foot of the page).

There’s only seven tracks on the vinyl version of  the LP with only three songs appearing on Side B. The Ramones it certainly wasn’t.

Most songs were at least 5 minutes long, with one stretching out to almost 10 minutes. But Genesis or Pink Floyd it certainly wasn’t.

From the opening countdown of ten-to-zero (which sounds as if it was sampled from an Apollo space mission) right through to the incessant beat and chanting of the closing song, this is an LP that has a bit of everything thrown in. Bitter and twisted lyrics of despair and attacks on Thatcherism nestle alongside songs about love, lust and devotion. But it’s very much the music that carries this album along.

The The, at the outset, hadn’t been a band.  It was a vehicle for Matt Johnson who preferred to write and sing songs backed by synthesizers and drum machines. But for Soul Mining other talents were brought into the studio, not least Zeke Manyika of Orange Juice – a hugely underrated drummer – and Jools Holland who contributed an astonishing piano solo to transform an older The The song – Uncertain Smile.

The use of these talents, combined with Matt’s growing confidence in his abilities as a vocalist, produced a piece of work that, in the opinion of this humble scribe, has not dated one iota.

I sometimes think Matt Johnson was someone just a little bit ahead of his time. Some ten years later, Thom Yorke and Radiohead came along with a similar style and approach that made them media darlings. And while I am very fond of The Bends and OK Computer, I do honestly believe that Soul Mining and its follow-up Infected are every bit as good. But I’m obviously in a minority going by poll after poll.

The full track listing of Soul Mining:-

01 I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
02 This Is The Day
03 The Sinking Feeling
04 Uncertain Smile
05 The Twilight Hour
06 Soul Mining
07 Giant

Initial copies came with a free 12″ single, and one of these tracks – Perfect – became an eighth track on the CD version of the album released in 1987 but seemingly much to Matt’s displeasure as it was removed for the 2002 re-issue so that the album was again, just the seven tracks.

Soul Mining ranks high among my favourite albums of all time.  That is all.

mp3 : The The – I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
mp3 : The The – Giant

*Oh and the unlikely plug for the album back in 1983 was from Penthouse magazine.



(and re-posted on 5 November 2013)


It was back in 1983 that I plucked up the courage to move out of the family home into a student flat in time for my third year out of four at university. And aside from a couple of times when I’ve returned to mum and dad’s place to sleep on a spare couch, numerous flatmates (and two wives) have been the ones that have had to put up with my mood swings for quarter-of-a-century. They’ve also had to put up with my taste in music, although thankfully, just about everyone (bar wife numero uno) who ever lived under the same roof as me liked what I was playing.

This particular song is the one that I most associate with my first flat.

‘Well you didn’t wake up this morning cos you didn’t go to bed’ – as an opening line seemed to capture what every weekend was designed for.

‘This is the day your life will surely change’ – as a chorus seemed to capture what the hope of every Friday and Saturday night was going to be about as I set out in the hope of finding a true soul mate.

This particular song is the perfect companion piece to How Soon Is Now? by The Smiths, yet another great hymn of the 80s dealing with angst, loneliness and a desire to belong. And while the genius guitar work of Johnny Marr was at the heart of what made his band’s song so special, so the accordion work of someone simply called Wicks turns This Is The Day into an instant classic.

Matt Johnson is probably the most under-rated and unappreciated singer/songwriter of my generation. He started off using The The as just another name for his solo efforts augmented by hugely talented guest musicians, including Jools Holland (who contribute a memorable piano solo on the LP version of Uncertain Smile) and Zeke Manyika who gave the drums one hell of a pounding on most of the LP Soul Mining, in a style that was completely different from his work with Orange Juice.

Then Matt decided that The The needed to become a band, primarily for touring purposes – and lo and behold, he unveils Johnny Marr as his lead guitarist. Strange as it may seem, Johnny was actually a member of The The longer than he was in The Smiths….

From 1983-1992, The The released four LPs at regular intervals. Three of these – Soul Mining (1983), Infected (1986) and Dusk (1992) remain among my favourites by any band. And while Mind Bomb (1989) is a bit more patchy, it did spawn a couple of great singles, including the astonishing and controversial Armageddon Days Are Here Again, the first few seconds of which are a tribute to 70s glam rock band The Sweet, before turning into a fantastic tirade against those who use religion to justify war and violence.

Just when I thought The The could do no wrong, Matt dissolved the band as it was, and in 1995 unleashed Hanky Panky an LP consisting solely of covers of songs by Hank Williams. It’s pretty awful with few redeeming features……

It was another five years before the next The The LP – Naked Self – which was very much an understated production but a fabulous return to form. Since then, all of the old LPs have been remastered, remixed and re-issued, as well as the release of a ‘Best Of’ with very little in the way of new songs being available in the shops. However, Matt remains very active in the things that most interest him, and much of his energy is focused on a truly stunning website which can be found here. And that’s where you’ll be able to hear some new songs……

But returning back to This Is The Day……

I was sure this was a minor hit back in 1983 – I certainly recall seeing the promo on the telly as well as Matt making at least one appearance on a Channel 4 chatshow performing the song. And yet it barely scraped the Top 75. Maybe that’s why the song was given a radical makeover in 1994 as the main track of the Dis-Infected EP which did hit the Top 20 and saw the band appear on Top Of The Pops.

The 1983 single was yet another 7” single that was lost for many years, but now I have a copy back in the collection. The version I owned was a limited edition double-pack, and it’s that which I picked up (at some expense) on e-bay a couple of months back. And here are all the songs in their full glory…

mp3 : The The – This Is The Day (single version)
mp3 : The The – Mental Healing Process
mp3 : The The – Leap Into The Wind
mp3 : The The – Absolute Liberation

I bet the b-side and the other two tracks weren’t what you would have expected given the pop brilliance of the single……each of them were culled from an unreleased LP called The Pornography of Despair.

And as a bonus, here’s the 1994 version of the song:-

mp3 : The The – That Was The Day



R-506444-1124987902.jpgR-506444-1124987927.jpgI have to admit that I really cringed when I read the part in Luke Haines‘ supremely entertaining bio Bad Vibes… that went into some detail about a huge fall-out he had with Matt Johnson when The Auteurs were the support act for The The. It’s brilliantly written but it leaves both protagonists looking like a pair of dickheads.

Now I know it’s not essential that you necessarily have to like everything about your favourite musicians, authors, artists, sports stars and so on, but if they have very severe character defects it does make it all the harder. Reading what Haines felt about Johnson was quite uncomfortable, but hey….it’s only one bloke’s view and opinion and it doesn’t detract from the fact that over a recording career that now stretches back some 30 years, a lot of the music written, recorded, produced and released by Matt Johnson is quite special (there’s also been one or two follies along the way, but everyone is entitled to an error somewhere along the line).

I can never make up my mind which of the The The LPs is my particular favourite. Some days I rejoice in the glorious synth-pop of Soul Mining from 1983, while there are other days when the sheer beauty of some of the lyrics and guitar playing from Johnny Marr make me think that Dusk from a decade later is preferable. But then again, when I’m in one of my melancholy moods, I can be transported back to a time and a place when I wasn’t entirely happy with my lot and the 1986 effort Infected was very much the soundtrack to my life. David Gedge may be the best songwriter about the pain from relationships, but Matt Johnson in 1986 perfectly captured fear, paranoia and isolation in a world that was far from secure and which right-wing zealots seemed keen to take to the brink of destruction.

But instead of looking at any of those, I’ve gone back even further in time, to the days of the early singles, different versions of which would ultimately appear on Soul Mining. And sitting in the cupboard is a 12″ single that I found in a second-hand store in Toronto back in the summer of 2007 for the princely sum of $4, released on Epic Records and brings together versions of two very early singles:-

mp3 : The The – Perfect (extended version)
mp3 : The The – Uncertain Smile (extended version)

Between them, the two songs run to a total of 19 minutes. Some of you might think that’s just a bit self-indulgent, but I most certainly don’t.




Most of us who are in our 40s and 50s who retain a love for quality music surely have a bit of a soft spot for Matt Johnson, aka The The.

It would be very tempting to concentrate today’s posting on the 1983 LP Soul Mining. It remains not just my favourite release by The The, mainly because it just perfectly captured my mood at the time of release, but it is also one of my favourite albums of all time.  In some ways it is so good that it casts an almighty shadow over many other excellent work before and since.

It was a really frustrating time being a fan of the band at that time as there was a real unwillingness to tour and a desire by Matt Johnson to spend months and indeed years striving for perfection in the follow-up which eventually saw the light of day in 1986.  By this time,  I was into a new period in my life, post-university and not long into my first job in Edinburgh; Infected (together with The Queen Is Dead) is the LP that I most recall when I think back to those days.

I had become involved in a community drama group, initially as a way to meet folk and try to make new friends in a strange city. It was based in Stockbridge, which for those of you who don’t know Edinburgh, has long had a reputation for being a bit on the bohemian side. The flat I was living in at the time was just around the corner from the theatre, and it just seemed that every night, after rehearsals, a large group of us would end up back in the flat via a couple of hours in the pub, and we’d end up mostly listening to The The, The Smiths and New Order. Many was the morning that I didn’t make it into the office, and when I think back, I’m sometimes bemused that I didn’t lose my job over my behaviour….

Fast forward three years to 1989, and somehow I was still in my job, but had moved on to a more sensible way of living my life, when Mind Bomb hit the shops. The fact that Johnny Marr was now working and recording with Matt made this one of the most eagerly awaited LPs that I can recall. At the time, I was a quite disappointed with it, as it was just too downbeat to be enjoyable, and the tunes weren’t as easy on the ear as those on the previous two albums. But it is a record that I have grown to appreciate more and more with the passing of time, and I’m always happy when one of the tracks comes round via the shuffle on the i-pod.

Johnny Marr and Matt Johnson have each gone on record as saying that their time working, recording and touring together were among the happiest experiences in their musical careers, and proof can be found on the next album, Dusk, which contains some of the best songs Matt has ever penned, both musically and lyrically. Released in 1993, it criminally failed to spawn any huge hit singles, but was a LP that received all sorts of critical acclaim in the popular and specialist music press, and was the biggest-selling in the band’s career. And in Love Is Stronger Than Death, written by Matt as a way of helping himself to get over the tragic loss of his brother, you’ll find what I think is the most gut-wrenchingly beautiful song ever recorded.

I’ve always felt that The The could have really gone massive at this particular time, in the same as R.E.M. had done four or five albums into their career. But Matt chose an entirely different career path. The idea of a touring band was dismissed, and instead, the next project, in 1995, was Hanky Panky, an entire album of cover versions of songs by 50s country & western superstar, Hank Williams. It didn’t work. The record was very poorly received, and I honestly can’t find any way to defend it.

I really thought that was the last I’d ever hear from The The, but then in 2000, the LP Naked Self came out, almost under the radar. If this had been the debut album of some new band, it would have been praised beyond belief. Instead, there was a great deal of indifference, and sadly, a wonderful record was mostly ignored. It was, like all the previous original The The records, packed with thoughtful lyrics on difficult and often contentious issues. They were the thoughts of an angry man, a concerned man, a worried man and a pessimistic man. But it was far from a depressing and doom-laden bit of work.

That remains the last studio album to date but two new songs were added to a 2002 release of a Greatest Hits package.  Since then, Matt Johnson has kept a reasonably low profile concentrating on soundtrack work.  Earlier this year, a 30th Anniversary edition of Soul Mining was released and I intend to ask Santa Claus to bring me a copy later on this year….

I put Matt Johnson up there with Nick Cave, Billy Bragg and Steven Morrissey as the greatest lyricists of my generation. His collection of work over the past 30 plus years has been, for the most part, of the utmost quality. This imaginary LP wasn’t easy to put together:-

Side A

1. I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life) (Special Mix)
2. Slow Emotion Replay
3. Infected
4. The Beat(en) Generation
5. Uncertain Smile

Side B

1. This Is The Day
2. Armageddon Days Are Here Again
3. Love Is Stronger Than Death
4. Dogs Of Lust
5. The Mercy Beat

Tracks A1, A5 and B1 are from the era of Soul Mining
Tracks A4 and A5 are from Infected
Tracks A3 and B2 are from Mind Bomb
Tracks A2, B3 and B4 are from Dusk

I feel bad about not including stuff from other albums but these are the ten that run best together.

mp3 : The The – I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life) (Special Mix)
mp3 : The The – Slow Emotion Replay
mp3 : The The – Infected (12″ version)
mp3 : The The – The Beat(en) Generation
mp3 : The The – Uncertain Smile
mp3 : The The – This Is The Day (7″ version)
mp3 : The The – Armageddon Days Are Here Again
mp3 : The The – Love Is Stronger Than Death
mp3 : The The – Dogs Of Lust
mp3 : The The – The Mercy Beat

That closing track scared the life out of me upon its release – it was the soundtrack to an impending apocalyptic nightmare.  I hadn’t played it in years until I dug out all the stuff to make up this posting.  I always thought it the perfect ending to the LP Infected and while I can’t believe I didn’t have Perfect close this compilation , the memories invoked by The Mercy Beat, especially coming in late of an evening very drunk and playing it loudly so as to annoy my flatmates and neighbours, mean it has to go in.




A cracking novel I read a while back made a claim about there being a ridiculously high number of christian denominations in the world.  As the novel was a parody, I assumed the figure being quoted was for comic effect.  It was when I was rummaging through the cupboard recently searching through Tindersticks for the copy of Kathleen that featured at the beginning of the week that I came across all of my 7″ singles by The The (of course my vinyl is  filed alphabetically).

The fact that one of the 7″ singles has an excellent and fairly rare remix on its b-side is the sole reason for featuring it today.  But it also acted as a reminder to check out the number of christain  denominations. So I fired up wiki.

41,000 is the estimate.


Admittedly, many of the 41,000 have just a handful of followers but it is still a mind-boggling number and this link will give you an idea of just how many christian religions there are out there….all, more or less, proclaiming theirs is the one true way.

41,000………………………………………. jeez.

Even those who preach the word of god admit that the denominationalism is usually the outcome of conflict and confrontation. And that’s scary enough without considering the fights that break out as a result of disagreements over different religions.

mp3 : The The – Armageddon Days Are Here Again (radio edit)
mp3 : The The – Armageddon Days Are Here Again (orchestral version)

From 1989.  It reached #70 in the UK singles chart.  You won’t be surprised to hear it didn’t get much in the way of airtime.

The single version features the god-like genius of Johnny Marr.

Is it fair to say that he would feature in any list of the top 41,000 guitarists in the world?