Saturday Morning

In the company I work for it takes three weeks to prepare someone moving their computer from one room to another in the same corridor. And even then they manage to screw it up with paperwork. Right this second, several people are running around me bitching and complaining, and my ear caught that it costs 100 euro per moved computer. If they can’t do even the simplest things without making a total mess of it, how can they have so much money?

None of which has anything to do with “Saturday Morning”, apart from the fact I wish it was Saturday morning. This song’s an outtake from The Great Escape sessions, an instrumental version of which could be heard at the Blur:X exhibition in 1999. A vocal version exists as well, apparently. I haven’t heard either though, and as far as I’m aware no mp3’s are “out there”. Hopefully Blurfans’ patience all over the world will be rewarded with an official release (or a willing bandmember leaking it) someday.

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Published in: on June 29, 2007 at 9:16 am  Comments (2)  

Bad Day

At one point this attempt at a Beatles song as played by My Bloody Valentine was considered for release as a single, but in the end the honour went to “There’s No Other Way”, and taking into account that song’s chart performance it probably was a good choice. Nonetheless, “Bad Day” has the word “hit” written all over it; relentlessly melodic, good to dance to and easy to sing along with, baggy drums, wahwah guitars, organs and a melodica to add a little colour. It’s difficult to imagine Leisure without it (though it’s even harder to imagine the album without “Sing”, and that didn’t stop the Americans from dropping the record’s one undisputed masterpiece in favour of the vastly inferior “I Know”… but I’ll bitch about that at a later date).

In 1991, a “Leisurely Mix” was released on a rare 12″ promo that nowadays costs a lot more than it’s worth.

Published in: on June 28, 2007 at 1:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

French Song

This weird little instrumental, which consists of about half a dozen of riffs pasted together, that goes on and on and on for about eight minutes was a bonus track with “Tender”. Its closest companion in Blur’s catalogue is probably “Berserk” (with the accelerating pace from “Intermission tagged on for good measure), but whereas that song appeared to be on acid this one has had a few too many Bacardi Breezers. Or maybe even more tellingly: the 1991 song borrowed from Syd-era Floyd, while bits of riffs from “French Song” sound not unlike “Bend Me, Shape Me” by The American Breed.

What’s French about it? Fucked if I know.

Published in: on June 28, 2007 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Me, White Noise

“I’d really like to use him (Phil Daniels) again, because he’s one of these people that… he’s just great company, but I don’t think it’ll work again” – Damon Albarn (1995) 

Two different versions of this song exist (not counting the live performance that was given away on a CD with The Observer newspaper), one with vocals by Damon and one with Phil Daniels, of “Parklife” fame. And he was in some film too, I believe. And on EastEnders.

The Phil Daniels version appears as a hidden track on Think Tank. You have to rewind at the start of “Ambulance” to hear it. Recorded late at night in Devon by a drunk band and actor, Phil sounds slightly psychotic, shouting lines such as “You look at the wall, what does the wall say to you? I ain’t a mirror, fuck off!”, backed by an aggressive track that sounds unlike anything else in the entire Blur catalogue.

Damon’s “alternate version” is a b-side on the single for “Good Song”, has completely different lyrics, and its key line is “being English isn’t about hate, it’s about disgust, we’re all disgusting”. Someone was a bit grumpy when he did his vocal!

The music aside, the only constant factor between the two versions is the chorus, “why am I here? I’m here because I got no fucking choice. And furthermore, you’re booOOORINGGG” (cue very scary vocal effect). Pissed off to be in England instead of Morocco perhaps? Nonetheless, one of the very best songs on Think Tank.

Published in: on June 28, 2007 at 10:52 am  Comments (1)  

Young & Lovely

Unlike, to name a few, Oasis, Suede, The Smiths and Kenickie, Blur aren’t often mentioned as a band whose b-sides are as good (or even better) than their album tracks. Part of the blame can be laid with the band themselves; they’ve tossed a fair few near-turds, remixes, live-recordings and inconcequential instrumentals onto their singles, especially during the Parklife era. All these threaten to overshadow the fact that a fabulous 2-disc set of b-sides to compete with Louder Than Bombs, Sci-Fi Lullabies or The Masterplan could easily be compiled. Hell, it would beat any of them.

Let’s not shit ourselves to state it;  Young & Lovely” is the best of the bunch. Everyone who’s heard it, from fans to band, and people from other bands to Food Records, agrees it should have been on Modern Life Is Rubbish. But, in the words of Damon, “it didn’t get on there and fucking “Turn It Up” did”.

Everything on the track is perfect. A “Beetlebum”-like pace with drums and bass forming an incredibly solid base for Graham to hammer-on on top of. Beautiful melodies that take more unexpected, yet unforced, twists than a great Umberto Eco novel (as opposed to an insane amount of fairly obvious, not-so-unexpected clumsy ones a la The Da-Vinci Code… hello Kaiser Chiefs!), and a lyric about hitting puberty that may be Damon’s sweetest. “Friday’s child” goes out for the first time in his life and is confronted with mannaquins in shop windows that “look far too real at night”, especially when shitfaced.

In short, this song is good enough to have been one of the best songs on any band’s Best Of, and they decided to make it an extra track on “Chemical World”. It’s also a bonus track on the Japanese Modern Life Is Rubbish (along with “Popscene”) in an exercise of making an excellent album super-excellent.

It was played live during the band’s special b-sides gig in September ’99, which contains a lovely Freudian slip by Damon, although in the song’s context it still makes sense; looking at mannequins when drunk can cause one’s bit to be raised.

Published in: on June 27, 2007 at 10:23 am  Comments (5)  

It Could Be You

Opening with a reference to a controversial 1995 incident when a collection of Winston Churchill writings called The Chartwell Public were bought with 12.5 million GBP of National Lottery money, “It Could Be You” observes people’s obsession with getting rich quick, set to what sounds like an bonedry XTC song. Funnily enough, it started as a piano-led ode to The Kinks’ Ray Davies called, interestingly, “Dear Ray”.

There are nods to television programmes Telly Addicts and The Likely Lads (or possibly, the later sitcom Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads… ), and an early draft of the lyrics apparently also referred to The Beatles, maybe next to the lines about having “to have the best tunes, or that’s it, you’ve blown it” as another dig at Oasis. Or maybe not.

In Japan “It Could Be You” was released as a single in a horrible, spelling-out-the-lottery-theme sleeve, coupled with live versions of the a-side, “Charmless Man” and a glorious take on “Chemical World”, all recorded at the Budokan on the same night as the songs from Live at the Budokan, but for reasons unknown to me they weren’t included on said live album, while “She’s So high”, recorded a day later, was.

Published in: on June 26, 2007 at 11:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Money Makes Me Crazy

One frustration about Blur’s three 2003 singles is that, at least where I am, they were only available as DVDs. While it’s nice to be able to play video’s as good as “Out Of Time” and “Good Song” any time I want, they proved to be a bit of a pain. I don’t want to switch on my DVD player and go through menu’s when all I want to do is listen to a damn b-side. And don’t get me started on ripping them for my iPod!

The Marrakech Mix of “Money Makes Me Crazy” appeared on “Out Of Time”, and is somewhat similar to Cornershop’s “Brimful Of Asha” (the “My Sharona” of the 1990’s, and I don’t mean that as a compliment). Bonedry guitars, weird soundeffects (that don’t really add much) and a groove that could be but will not be danced to. Better, but only slightly, is the Deepest Darkest Devon Mix, which can be found on festival celebrating compilation Benicassim 2003. It’s not awful, and maybe it would’ve sounded better if it was coupled with “Crazy Beat” instead of the mighty “Out Of Time”, but (unlike three excellent other b-sides from the period) they were right not including the song on Think Tank. Then again, an awful lot of Blurfans seem to love it… the ones that either love or don’t remember Cornershop?

Published in: on June 18, 2007 at 11:28 am  Comments (5)  

End Of A Century

When my parents took my two sisters and me on holiday to Luxembourg in 1994, Parklife was the soundtrack to our ploughing through the country’s lovely landscape. I tried, for variation, to slip in some cassette’s with self-made Death Metal compilations, but my mum would protest as soon as the mighty Chuck Schuldiner and his ape(r)s opened their mouths.

While transferring Parklife to tape someone (mum with vacuum cleaner?) had knocked against the CD player, and towards the end of “End Of A Century” the music skipped back some ten seconds, causing the final words out of Damon’s mouth to be sung twice. However, it skipped so perfectly that everyone in the car that didn’t already know the song thought that was the way it was supposed to go, and only later when they heard the album as intended did they get to hear the real version. My dad still prefers “the Luxembourg version”, as it’s become known in my family.

Of all Blur’s opening lines, “she says there’s ants in the carpet” is my favourite. It sets the scene for what is to follow, a song of comfort. Or too much comfort, depending on the listener’s own opinion of a life spent with television and going to bed on time. The protagonists of the song certainly sound not only safe and secure, but dulled.

The music is nothing short of perfect, equal measures Kinks and Beatles shaken, stirred and poured into a Blurglass. Ice is provided by Graham; Confronted with Damon’s statement that the final song isn’t notably different from his original demo, the guitarist replied, “if he wants to think that, I’ll let him”.

The single didn’t do too well when released in November 1994, presumably because it was the fourth single from an album that everyone that would buy a Blur record by then had already owned for the better part of the year, and the b-sides weren’t much to phone home about.

Published in: on June 15, 2007 at 11:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Pleasant Education

For all the talk about 1992 being a year of disaster for Blur, they were certainly productive; apart from most of Modern Life Is Rubbish some twenty other songs were recorded. A large part of these have been released as b-sides, but there are still some left in the vault. “Pleasant Education” is the only one of these that has managed to fill the hearts and iPods of Blur songs after it was granted some exposure of Blur-radio.com in 2000.

It sounds much like a leaked demo on a bootleg. You wouldn’t want to play it in your car, since you’d get around three minutes of silence; the volume is low and not an awful lot of higher notes and tones made it (although Damon does sound a little like he had a few portions of helium). It’s enough to make you wish for a compilation of unreleased songs, because what does come across is that it’s a very very good song, with some catchy hooks and a wonderful chorus that demands to be sung by large crowds. “I don’t mean to be cruel”, our favourite control-freak sings, but if denying this little gem wider exposure isn’t an act of cruelty I don’t know what is.

Note to the band: if you’re going back into the studio at the end of the year, why not give this song a chance?

Published in: on June 14, 2007 at 11:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Turn It Up

The chances that this Modern Life Is Rubbish track ever shows up on a Blur setlist again are about as slim as Damon joining Noel Gallagher and Sting to cover a My Chemical Romance song for a pro-war-in-Iraq tribute album, since pretty much everyone in Blur thinks it’s a bit crap, and many fans agree. Well, nonsense! Granted, its lyrics are nothing worth analysing (but when was that ever held against “Song 2” for example?), and it doesn’t fit well with most of the rest of the album (but aren’t incoherent albums something of a trademark for this group?), but it’s fun and melodic and seems to have three choruses, no verses and one middle 8. Perfect single material in other words, and someone at Food (Dave Balfe?) must have thought so too, since alternative artwork suggests that this was considered as a double a-side with “Popscene” at one point.

Published in: on June 14, 2007 at 9:31 am  Leave a Comment