Bone Bag

Sometimes misheard lyrics stick so long and rigidly that the mishearer ends up preferring their version than what’s officially being sung. When I first heard “Bone Bag” I thought Damon was singing about his cat called Shaking Bone Bag. At once I found this adorable, while I did worry about the poor kitty’s health a little. On subsequent listens I realised that Damon ain’t no Pete Doherty (even though The Libertines hadn’t formed yet at the time and Pete was still queuing outside HMV for Oasis releases and impressing MTV reporters), and he must have been singing something else. I’ve googled the words several times, but no website has given me a convincing alternative yet.

“Bone Bag” was recorded around the same time as “Oily Water” and “Resigned”, and shares those songs’ hazy production and introspective themes, while adding some Indian flavours in the percussion. Apparently Dave programmed those, went to the pub and returned to the studio to find the finished song. It remained unreleased until April 1993 when the band put it out there along with several other high quality b-sides to go with “For Tomorrow”. It fell off the radar almost immediately but resurfaced in September 1999 when it was played twice.

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Published in: on August 21, 2008 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Morricone

If this turns out to be Blur’s last ever b-side they’ve at least finished in style on that particular front. Co-written with Graham Coxon, it’s the sound of Blur evolving into something completely different, as opposed to Damon doing whatever he wants like much of Think Tank (a great album, but not a band album). It, along with “Battery In Your Leg” and “The Outsider”, makes you wonder how the album could’ve turned out had the band remained a foursome. “Morricone” does that even more than those two songs perhaps, because it combines Damon’s interests in African music with Graham’s trademark exceptional fretwork. The slightly mocking backing vocals are the cherry in the meantime. What any of this has to do with Ennio Morricone, after whom I presume the song’s been called, is a mystery, but it makes a change from calling it “Song 2”, “Good Song”, “Sweet Song” or “A Song”.

Published in: on August 20, 2008 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Tell Me Tell Me

Recorded when Blur were still called Seymour, “Tell Me Tell Me” is a trashy little number not a million miles removed from the (slightly) better known “Fried”. Loud, fast and about some chick with a chip on her shoulder, it can hardly be called a highlight in the band’s oeuvre, but is enjoyable all the same because of the abandon with which it’s performed. Particularly of note are the aiaiai’s and barking sounds that Damon produces to complement the sound of guitars being manhandled. It’s got more in common with what Blur would be working on in 1997 than the Madchesteresque sounds that were in the immediate future. This little curio was ultimately released in 1993 as one of “Sunday Sunday”‘s many b-sides.

Published in: on May 9, 2008 at 10:20 am  Comments (2)  

Beard

Having just spent half an hour writing about “Fried” only to realise that I already wrote about it before I am in no mood to treat any Blursong with respect. Which brings me to “Beard”. Now, I don’t think music ought to be taken too seriously, and don’t mind artists indulging their whims, especially when it comes to b-sides and such. Only fans will want to listen to those anyway, so you can get away with quite a bit. However, what the hell got into them when they thought releasing “Beard”, a complete waste of jazzy instumentalism, as a “Parklife” b-side was a good idea? It’s annoying, it sucks, and in comparison “Alex’s Song”, “Ludwig” or “Supa Shoppa” are right up there with the band’s best tunes. And it sucks. And it got included on The Special Collector’s Edition while “Young & Lovely” and “Explain” didn’t.

Published in: on April 4, 2008 at 11:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Death Metal

Every young boy needs to go through a heavy metal phase, rediculous t-shirts included. I have fond memories of my days as a headbanger, even going so far as to occasionally listen to some of the better records released at the time, most notably Death’s Individual Thought Patterns, Pestilence’s Spheres and Morbid Angel’s Covenant. Funnily enough it’s my discovery of Blur (and to a slightly lesser extend Suede and, erm, The Lemonheads) that spelled the end of this spell, and prompted me to go get a haircut.

Blur and Death Metal crossed paths again during the sessions for 13 when Blur recorded a 30 minute song called “Death Metal”, probably inspired by Graham Coxon who claimed to be something of a fan of the genre. Whether the song’s got Damon grunting and Dave using double bass drum or whether it’s just a title remains unsure. The chances of it ever seeing the light of day are about as big as England winning the European Championship football this summer. Not impossible (just ask Denmark), but very very slim.

Published in: on April 4, 2008 at 7:59 am  Comments (1)  

Peach

The lyrics sheets that accompany Japanese releases are notoriously unreliable. It appears that they’re translated from English to Japanese and back again, with often delightful errors, such as, say, “Chemical waste, best part of the beach”. And there was I thinking it was about being lovesick about some violent hippy chick eating peaches. It’s an anti-Greenpeace song, in which birds have no business nesting anywhere apart of the gaping hole in your head. Morbid stuff.

Very laid-back morbid stuff at that. The song’s strums and echoes recall “Blue Jeans” (which was released later in the same year), and was revealed to be a favourite of Damon’s when Select Magazine did that article about every Blursong. He still played it to himself regularly at the time. It’s doubtful he still does, but “Peach” is definitely yet another embarrassingly amazing “For Tomorrow” b-side, vinyl-skip-gimmick et al.

Published in: on April 1, 2008 at 2:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

So You

Sounding like it could grind to a halt at any time, 1999’s “So You” brought together post-Britpop Blur past and future like no song from the era. Its pleasantly underproduced sounds recall the Blur-era recordings while also hinting at Think Tank‘s more mellow moments. There’s more than a hint of Gorillaz in the melodica solo, while the words seeming to detail a relationship breakdown echo those of “No Distance Left To Run”. Which it is a b-side of.

Sadly, this song wasn’t ready when Blur released the singles boxset so the only way to obtain it is by buying the single. Or maybe it was ready, but wasn’t released when it could’ve been so as not to take away from the single’s sales. In either case, it’s an absolutely essential little jewel that deserves far more listeners than your average bonus non-album track.

Published in: on April 1, 2008 at 12:12 pm  Comments (1)  

Sub Species Of An American Day

As far as albums built from demo’s go, Democrazy, isn’t quite up there with Nebraska. Recorded while Blur was touring in support of Think Tank, here were a bunch of songs that were just a bit too unfinished, but the fact that the release was limited to 5,000 vinyl copies suggests that its creator understood how big the album’s importance in the grand scheme of things is.

One of these songs, “Sub Species Of An American Day” appears to have been develloped into a bona fide Blur song when the band reunited towards the end of 2005. It remains a guess if the result sounds anything like the demo, as Damon’s described the music during those sessions as punky and brash, while the 2003 effort sounds only a few steps short of a Gorillaz song. Having said that, it’s easy to imagine the last twenty seconds, with its increasing of both speed and volume, would make excellent cacaphony if assisted by guitars, bass and drums.

Published in: on August 21, 2007 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Maggie May

They could’ve just said “no”, but weakened resistance in three quarters of the band resulted in this Rod Stewart classic getting unceremoniously molested for 1992 compilation album Ruby Trax. Only Alex refused to play on it on the grounds of despising Rod Stewart, and all bass parts were played on a keyboard. If only the rest of Blur had been as sensible.

It was also a b-side on “Chemical World” and subsequently included on The Special Collectors Edition in favour of the likes of “Young & Lovely”, “Uncle Love” and “Explain”. What really takes the biscuit though is that Blur’s label thought it’d make a good single, which, as far as record company blundering goes, would have been up there with Decca turning down The Beatles, Virgin Records buying off Mariah Carey for a rediculous sum only for her to release her biggest selling record on a new label a short time after, or Linkin Park being allowed near microphones and amplifiers.

Published in: on August 10, 2007 at 12:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Got Yer!

While it’s really hard, if not impossible, to love this waltz including possibly the sleaziest vocal Damon’s ever committed to tape, I can appreciate it on occasions, possibly because it happens to have more than a few similarities to Faith No More’s fantastic “RV”. It’s got some grumpy fellow attempting to kill a fly. It’s got sounds of geese and gunshot (a speeded up sample of Dave hitting a snare). And that’s about it. You can find it on one of “To The End” singles if you’re curious.

Published in: on August 9, 2007 at 12:13 pm  Leave a Comment