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.

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

One Born Every Minute

July 28, 2007: Many unsuspecting members and lurkers at the official Blur message board surf in for their daily dose of speculations about the original four’s reunion or to check if there are any new interviews, only to find something remarkable: some poster named demodude has uploaded an album’s worth of what appear to be demo’s from 1993. While some of these demo’s appear to have doubled as radio sessions and two have had official releases, there are some others that have never been heard before.

One of the more intiguing of these is named “One A Minute”, released later as “One Born Every Minute”, known to have been written during the same end of the year 1992 holidays that saw the birth of “For Tomorrow”. Some elements from the demo sound like they’ve been carried over into the released version (the guitars in the two versions sound so similar I’m inclined to say they’re the same take), but the lyrics are very different, at least during the verses. Likewise, there’s no sign of the rediculous but fabulous Sesame Street-like weird effects (it always brings to mind a scene between Bert and Ernie where Ernie annoys the former with his comb-and-paper wind-instrument). In fact, it sounds perfect for the children to sing along to.

Was it attempted for Parklife, shelved, and finished two years later so it could accompany “Country House” up the charts? Was it finished earlier and pulled out of the vault when a b-side was needed? Why is the version given away on a flexidisc with The Bob magazine Nr. 52 called a demo when this is (apparently) the same version as on “Country House”? Or is the released version just a slightly more evolved version of the demo. All the questions… so many questions…

And they don’t really matter one bit. What’s important is that “One Born Every Minute” is yet another in a long line of excellent but underexposed songs by the best band of the past twenty years. And I ain’t biased! Altogether now, “Here we go, here we go, here we go again, dirty knickers, pop music, vodka beer and gin”.

Published in: on August 1, 2007 at 1:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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.

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

The Horrors

This instrumental was included as an extra track on the “Charmless Man” single (and on “Stereotypes” in some European countries). While most of those early 1996 b-sides offered a glimpse of Blur moving away from their previous output towards Blur territory, “The Horrors”, has more in common with Damon Albarn’s composition “Closet Romantic”, his contribution to the soundtrack of Trainspotting (which also included Blur’s “Sing”).

Maybe this is something Damon tossed off when he had 5 spare minutes while working on “Closet Romantic”. In fact, I cannot establish whether there are any Coxons, James’s or Rowntrees on “The Horrors”. There’s keyboards, wordless vocals, and quite a bit of accidental noise (it sounds like something falls over at one point). And that’s about it. Sweet, but if the current rules for singles were valid back then (ie. a maximum of 2 b-sides) this would probably never have seen the light of day.

Published in: on June 13, 2007 at 12:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Red Necks

Having scraped the barrel for b-sides with the last single, “Parklife”, Blur decided release the barrel itself and the ground beneath it as bonus tracks with follow-up “End Of A Century”.

Difficult to imagine Radiohead doing this. Recorded by three completely wankered bandmembers while Dave was taking his cat to the vet, “Red Necks” is a short Country & Western song, with Graham (who wrote it) doing his best Johnny Cash impression, Alex talking a load of nonsense and Damon playing what sounds like one of those only-one-finger-needed riffs on a really cheap keyboard. And yet it’s quite funny, mainly thanks to the interaction between Alex and Graham. “That’s in the east wood, you gotta go to the wood and go east, it’s in the east wood”, Alex says apropos of nothing, which Graham immediately counters with a well-meaning, “Go west brother”.

There’s a great musical joke too: on a guitar a crescendo that can only signal the end is played, and indeed it’s the last thing played on guitar, but there’s no stopping that damn keyboard.

A version that lasts more than 30 minutes is rumoured to exist. 

Published in: on June 4, 2007 at 11:43 am  Comments (1)  

The Great Escape

Touring The Great Escape during the final months of 1995, Blur regularly opened the sets with a 90-second rendition of the theme tune from the 1963 Steve McQueen film with the same title. Dave’s drumming would kick off proceedings along with a trusty brass section, only for the rest of the band to crash in with the same lack of dignity and respect that characterizes most of their covers, but not before a few bars of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” have been wrestled out of a keyboard. The end result is a joyous little mess, of which a recording can be found on Live At The Budokan.

Published in: on June 1, 2007 at 1:09 pm  Leave a Comment