Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 3]

OMD ca. 1980 – and then there were two

[continued from previous post]

So, yes. OMD quickly discovered they were “failing upward” with surprising ease. As 1979 turned into 1980, they readied their debut album for a release early in the year. We discussed the motorik art rock of “Bunker Soldiers” up front. The next song on the album was an absolute early OMD classic. “Almost” was the same version used as the B-side to the still unlucky third release of “Electricity” at the time of the album’s release on Dindisc. Much of this album is synthpop by reputation only. Many songs barely have actual synths used and alternatives [electric organs, the Selmer Pianotron®] were used because they were cheap and more available. The band did have a Korg M-500 Micro-Preset by the time of recording the album, and the lead lines here were expansive and cinematic. Since the Korg was a monosynth, the band applied a chorus to fatten it up admirably. Most of the lead lines on this album did not have the “pop” that they attained here with it.

The stuttering, white noise rhythms of the song and the rhythmic use of organ chords perfectly fit the melancholy of the number. It sounds like they had eight tracks to play in in their studio, unless they bounced four tracks. That made for a clear, powerful mix that had simplicity, clarity and punch. The stuttering repetition coupled with the melancholy of the lyric and the bass line, actually superseded much of the first album, and pointed to the much darker second one to come.

The Pianotron: outstanding in its field

As a contract, the subsequent track, “Mystereality” could not be more different than the song that preceded it. This one really felt like a song left over from their days with The Id. It sounded like the product of teenagers with even a punning title that would have been past its expiration date by age 20, I would think. The simple, chugging rhythm box and the Pianotron sound almost like nursery rhymes and the lead instrument here was saxophone, as played by Martin Cooper, who would figure more prominently in the band’s future.

The classic track “Electricity” was a debut single of staying power that few bands get to enjoy. The Pianotron was used for the lead riff with a simple, motorik beat bashing away in the background as organ chords mirror the bass line an octave up. Very simple, but effective. The intelligent lyrics that examined power generation and where humanity has to go with it was a signifier from the get-go that OMD were not content to relive rock clichés but would mark out their own territory with a series of intellectual observations that would soon get even more ambitious than this song was.

Of course, years later McCluskey admitted to Kraftwerk when meeting them as a lifelong fan that they just took “Radioactivity” and sped it up, to which the Düsseldorf band simply stated “yes, we know.” I could not have known it at the time, myself. In 1980 I had only a copy of “Autobahn” to my name and I did not even know of, much less actually hear the “Radioactivity” album until 1982 -1983, if you can believe that! I did not know it existed until my friend Tom showed me a copy. At first I thought it was a followup to “Computerworld!”

OMD claim to have never performed a concert since day one where they did not include “Electricity” in the set, and if a band ever had to have a song that they simply had to include in their sets, than it really doesn’t get much better than this one. It remains the quintessential OMD song and a powerful précis of their entire artistic point of view. One can understand why it was released three times in a year, though the sleeve at left was the third release on Dindisc that thriftily knocked out the text in white instead of the costly thermographic process used on the first 5000 copies released by Factory in 1979.

Next: …Yet more nods to Kraftwerk

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Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 2]

Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark – Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark | 1980 – 2.5

The perky drumbox that set the pace of “Bunker Soldiers” was adorned with an expansive, almost Asian melody on the polysynth. It plays almost like a cute parody of technopop until the chorus, where the band have obviously been hitting their Velvet Underground records.  In a gambit taken straight from “The Murder Mystery,” the title is spelled at random in the left channel while random numbers are spoken in the right. The deliberate deconstruction of data into noise that cannot be parsed was an early move that this band were going to play the rock game by their rules. After all, they were only doing this for fun.

OMD were formed while Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys were still in school. They first knocked around under the guise of Hitler’s Unterpants who sounded for all the world like kids goofing at being a band rather than the real thing. By the time of college, they had formed a large band known as, The Id, and gigged around Liverpool from ’77-’78 before breaking up. McCluskey played bass and sang while Humphreys, an electronics buff, played keyboards. Julia Kneale and John Floyd also sang and the drummer was Malcolm Holmes. They had a second bass player, Steve Hollas, and a pair of guitarists: Neill Shenton and Gary Hodgson. With eight members, it was impressive that they lasted as long as they did.

After the band split, having only recorded three songs in primitive demo form. One of these, “Julia’s Song,” was posthumously released on a 1979 compilation of Liverpool bands called “Street To Street.” McCluskey joined the first Liverpool technopop band, Dalek I Love You, for all of a month before realizing that Alan Gill was not going to cede the writing spot in the group to others. He then reunited with childhood chum Humphreys, and they set about making their own mark as Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark; a band name that was as different as possible to the prevailing punk name ethos of the time.

Click to enlarge – you won’t see anything otherwise

The band recorded a two track demo as produced by manager Paul Collister under the nom du disque Chester Valentino [“Electricity” + “Almost”] and sent out copies and quickly got the nod from Tony Wilson and Factory Records. Actually, that’s not quite right. It was Wilson’s wife who thought that OMD had that certain something, and convinced her mate to sign them for a single. The band were favoring the demo recordings to be pressed on 7″. Wilson thought “let’s see what Martin Hannett” can do with them.” Hannett was the in-house producer doing interesting work with Joy Division at the time and he favored a more polished sound, heavy on the reverb for the iconic “Electricity.” For release the band got their demo on the A-side with Hannett’s version of “Almost” on the B-side.

While McCluskey had designed all of the band promo materials until then, they wisely ceded design control to Factory’s in-house designer Peter Saville and the start of a long partnership and many sleeves began when Saville suggested a radical, black-on-black thermographic printed sleeve; similar to how business cards were made back in the 70s. When the ink was printed to the surface of the sleeve, before it had a chance to dry [which takes hours] it was dusted with plastic powder and blown off, leaving the powder affixed to the still wet ink. Then the sleeves were heated, allowing the plastic powder to expand and puff up, giving the printing a tactile element. Because of the expense involved, there were only 5000 of these sleeves printed for the first, 1979 release of the single. I once bought one of these mail order for about $30 in 1986-5 and rethought the cost and returned it to the dealer for a refund – like a fool!!! The median cost now is five times that.

Having singed a single deal with Factory, this quickly snowballed into a long-term deal with Dindisc, a Virgin subsidiary as run by Carol Wilson; the aforementioned wife of Tony Wilson who knew a good thing when she heard it. OMD and “Chester Valentino” took their advance for the album and sagely built their own studio with it, reasoning that this might be their only ever album and instead of running up bills in someone else’s studio, they would at least have this to show for it when it all faded. But the best laid-plans of mice and men beg to differ sometimes. In early 1980, their debut album was released on Dindisc with a striking Saville/Ben Kelly cover as shown above. Kelly was an industrial designer and partner of Saville who had punched some metal panels like that and Saville had liked the look. The losenge shapes were stamped out of the outer sleeve, leaving the orange inner sleeve visible from inside. Saville admitted that he was influenced by Talking Heads award-winning “Fear Of Music” sleeve with an embossed black-on-black diamond plate texture of the previous year. Come 1980, Saville would be the one taking home awards for his OMD sleeve. Thank goodness I was able to buy a pristine first pressing of this in the blue/orange 12×12 grid sleeve as shown above in the early 90s for about $30. Mint- copies now are over twice that.

Next: …What about the other 9 songs?

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Rock GPA: Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark [part 1]

Well, with the latest OMD album finally in the Record Cell, it was time to breach the notion of another really long Rock GPA for this highest level Core Collection band in my collection. I have lots of deep collections, but really, there are but three [technically four] bands that sit on the top shelf: Ultravox/John Foxx, Simple Minds, and Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark. I’ve already done Ultravox. I spent over half of a year examining my thoughts on the Simple Minds career up to the point of their 2014 album. I can’t do one on John Foxx [yet] because he’s so prolific that I still don’t have all of his albums! In spite of owning dozens. But I do have “The Punishment Of Luxury” in house, and the time is nigh for a thorough examination of this beguiling technopop band who perhaps come the closest to embodying all of my attitudes within the worldview that informs their music. As a result of this, there is a bond that I feel to the music of OMD that is more intimate than the more dispassionate linkage I feel to other bands of a similar stature in my Record Cell.

My first exposure to OMD was on Mike Cooper’s “Import Hour,” a weekly program on my local FM Rock radio station WORJ-FM. It was probably late 1980 when I chanced to hear Cooper play the band’s debut single, “Electricity.” He also played the album cut “The Messerschmitt Twins” from “Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark.” This probably meant that he was working from the import debut album and not the single re-release of “Electricity.” My ears perked up at the paean to power generation that clearly marked this band as disciples of Kraftwerk, though the extent of it at that time was something that I could probably barely parse. “The Messerschmitt Twins” was something else entirely, though today I hear more Kraftwerk in its bleak, arid landscapes. In any case, I had absolutely noted the band and their approach and I put them in the box marked “investigate this band – pronto.”

All was quiet on the musical front until the late Spring of 1981, when I saw that the short-lived Virgin/Epic label linkup released an album called “Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark” all across the land. I made it my album to get that week and it instantly became an absolute favorite! I played it constantly. I took it everywhere and played it. I took it on cassette decks and carried it around with me everywhere I went. I played it in friend’s cars on a cassette recorder that my computer used to write and store programs on! I played OMD for any and all of my friends, who all took the band to their heart as well, to varying degrees. This was a major new band for my ears at a time when there was a surplus of such things in the world.

The sound on this album went from hook-laden technopop to brooding, gothic atmospherics of a cinematic bent. The first time I heard an electronic ballad was here, and it was a love song to an oil refinery! A 6:30 love song to an oil refinery. And it was stunning. I had never heard anything this passionate, yet, strange before. The band were definitely oddballs. None of their songs were typical pop/rock fare. Their subject matter was highly idiosyncratic and abstract/intellectual. There were no love songs. By the  time hat I entered college in the Fall, this band was one of my absolute favorites. As the year progressed, I was rapidly descending [or should that be ascending] into a world of imported records and secret musical knowledge making itself manifest to me. As wonderful as “Orchestral Manœuvres In The Dark” I had by tat time learned that it was a compilation of the first two OMD albums for the American market. The time was now to find and purchase the real albums as released in the UK.

Next:  …Five new unheard songs

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Record Review: Steven Jones + Logan Sky – Corrupt State

Logan Sky + Steven Jones are back with the kind of songs that I have been waiting for

Last night I got a doozy dropped from the sky and it’s the kind of news we need right now. Logan [Visage] Sky and his partner in crepuscular synth rock, Steven Jones, have been active with many EP projects under their belts of late. Like the others, this also features duets with fellow Visage member Lauren Duvall lending her gilded tones to provide some chiaroscuro to the moody Eurovibe this band inhabit. Unlike their recent EPs, this one also features the man himself, Steve Strange, with the last song he wrote before his untimely death in 2015.

Originating as a demo written with Strange during Visage activity in the Summer of ’14, this one shows Strange willing by that point in his life to get more real than the club fantasy he made his name with. The songs he had co-written for “Hearts + Knives” showed a willingness to reveal real emotional truths and vulnerabilities that were unthinkable prior to the return of Visage in 2013. Now, in the post-Snowden universe, it was time to get even more real. The song “Corrupt State” was the result and the song thematically colored the rest of their new EP of the same name. Like The Blow Monkeys or Heaven 17 before them, Jones + Sky have elected to unite musical style with political substance whilst mining their particular vein of analog technopop.

UK | CD EP | 2017

Steven Jones + Logan Sky: Corrupt State UK CD EP [2017]

  1. Corrupt State
  2. Siberian Eyes
  3. For Europe
  4. Moscow Descent
  5. Through Sweden
  6. Corrupted Statements
  7. Supply Chains
  8. Downfall
  9. Corrupt State [edit]
  10. For Europe [extended]

“Corrupt State” began slowly, with a lumbering, methodical rhythm behind lowing bass synth for a slow burning buildup featuring Daphne Guinness contributing her soprano expression vocals to the song for a chilling ethereal effect. Then, Steve Strange made his appearance after a soaring synth riff by Sky heralded his arrival on the first verse. Then, Strange speaking the title as a loop was used as a rhythmic device to counterpoint the chorus as sung by Steven Jones. The mix of voice over and singing here is a stylistic gambit that Jones + Sky rely on pretty heavily in their history and even Strange didn’t get a pass here. It makes for a highly textural approach by the duo with their lyrics both sung and sang for maximum left/right brain absorption.

It is intriguing hearing someone finally addressing a litany of society’s ills in the 21st century in the form of popular music. I was hoping for a lot more of this in recent years, but maybe I’m just old. That they managed to do it within a song that sounds like it’s sporting the DNA of a number like “On We Go” from “Hearts + Knives,” we can only applaud.

The more complex rhythms of “Siberian Eyes” announced that the band were going to enter the Eastern Bloc for the first but not last time on this release. Jones shared the mic here with Lauren Duvall; the first of three duets here. The analog synths coupled with the vocal harmonies gave this song a warm, albeit technological patina that any music fan who remembers 1978 would appreciate.

Then came “For Europe,” which is the next breakout single from “Corrupt State,” if there’s anything still right with this world. The motorik imperial period Depeche Mode sound the band favored here fit the vibe like fingerless, black leather gloves. I love the Simmons crashes that Depeche Mode would never have done, added to the rhythm bed. Again, Ms. Duvall duetted on the chorus with Jones to add depth and contrast to the song as well as adding expression counter melodies throughout. The Europulse middle eight makes explicit the heritage of what I’ll call autobahn musik that informs this work.

Fans of the shadow side of Jones, such as he gave an outing last time with his pervy cover of “Strangelove,” will find much to celebrate in the dark cinematic nod to John Carpenter soundtracks with “Moscow Descending.” This marked the end of a trilogy of tunes with Lauren Duvall duetting with Mr. Jones, who smoulders throughout this one. I enjoyed the subtle beatbox programming with just enough fills to break up the inexorable pace of the song.

More nods to soundtrack work were explicit on the instrumental “Through Sweden,” which Sky wrote while on the Visage tour bus while traveling though …guess where? The synth pulse that undercut the glitchy media soundbites that opened “Corrupted Statements” were strongly redolent of surveillance helicopter blades. Omnipresent and inescapable. This time the lyrics to “Corrupt State” were given the voice over treatment by Jones while Sky built a 3 a.m. version of the song that closed with the return of the pulsating synths from the intro; cutting off any potential exit from the inevitability and oppression unfolding here.

“Supply Chains” minced few words even as the ambiguity of the title could refer to either enabling manufacturing or imprisonment.

“Wake. Now.
Work. Now.
Eat. Now.
Sleep. Now.” – “Supply Chains”

But that was optimistic next to the closing “Downfall.” That was a brief, embittered coda to “Corrupt State” wherein Jones actually invoked “the end to the dream of freedom.” Closing out the EP in the bleakest way possible.

Steven Jones with Steve Strange in 2014

Jones and Sky have made a fruitful partnership with a penchant for frequent EPs, but with ten tracks, “Corrupt State” is nominally a full album. The thematic way it congeals with both metaphoric political innuendo and explicit harangue in the shape of the title track also conspire to give it album status to my ears. In that case, the decision to make this available in CD format makes perfect sense and is a big step up from the cassettes that, until now, marked the only way to hear Jones + Sky other than downloads. As far as setting a mood and carrying it through, “Corrupt State” could hardly be bettered! The tone here is one of resignation to the inevitable, though. It’s not a confrontational album except on the title track, and even then, the tone was embittered and not combatant. That’s just not their style.

The feeling of a pervasive dissolution of privacy, liberty and all that’s decent has certainly been justified by the political events of recent years. The worst fears about our governments that any of us have previously carried in our darkest depths have now been revealed to us as facts. And things are only getting worse with time. Jones + Sky are giving voice to the resulting miasma of depression, anxiety, and mistrust all of these actions engender with the songs they’ve committed to this release. Their press release even referred to it feeling like “an elegy.” Their press release for this EP concludes with the statement:

‘Corrupt State’ creates the soundtrack for hopes lost and voices unheard, for dark thoughts at 4am, for the mute disbelief engendered by another prime ministerial address.

I can only conclude that they have hit their target directly in the bullseye. This music is the ideal soundtrack for the post-traumatic stress of simply being a citizen in the 21st century. With analog synthesizers. “Corrupt State” will be released on September 29th and will probably be available as a DL or CD here.

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Record Review: Hot Gossip – Soul Warfare

Dindisc ‎| UK | 12″ | 1982 | DIN 38-12

Hot Gossip: Soul Warfare UK 12″ [1982]

  1. Soul Warfare
  2. Soul Warfare [instrumental]

Back in April, I wrote about the excellent 12″ that The British Electric Foundation produced for the dance troupe Hot Gossip. It was a cover of the early pseudonymous Human League single “I Don’t Depend On You” and it was my favorite version of the great song; largely due to the spotlight on John Wilson, the great bass player that B.E.F. stumbled onto in those early days. I concluded with the vow to buy the second 12″ from the “Geisha Boys + Temple Girls” album and this has now happened, as it entered my Record Cell via the large box alluded to last week.

First of all, the song “Soul Warfare” had been a slow burner with me. It was the final track on the “Pavement” side of “Penthouse + Pavement” but on the US H17 debut album seen at left, it was one of the songs that Arista thought to cut from the running order, to better fill the disc with unrelated single tracks and songs from the as yet unreleased second album. I had a copy of “Soul Warfare” on the “Methods Of Dance Vol. 1″ compilation, so I was taken care of until I relented and tracked down an import copy of “P+P” shortly afterward.

In 1982 I didn’t miss the track all that much, but as the years have trundled onward, the insanely funky Latin syncopation of the track has really gotten under my skin to the point that I much prefer the song in today’s environment and consider it one of the killer deep cuts from “Penthouse + Pavement.” I’m not surprised to see that enough was thought of it to make it the second single from the B.E.F.-led Hot Gossip album of 1982.

I noted at the time of the previous Hot Gossip review that I really needed this single. Then, I was eager to hear what had been done to the song for its debut on 12″ single. As it turns out, that was for naught. The 12″ I just bought simply has the LP mix on its first face. Fortunately, the emphasis on the bass of John Wilson made this a winner no matter how one heard it. The backing track sounded remarkably similar to the H17 version. So much so that I have vacillated on the thought that it’s just a remix on the Hot Gossip album.

Currently, I am of the opinion that the bass playing is slightly more aggressive on this take [it would be the second time that John Wilson laid this track down in the studio] that perhaps came with the chance to do it over. He hits the same marks, but maybe it just came down to the bass being more prominent in the mix. To better offset the thinner vocals on this version of the song. As a dance troupe forced to sing, you could do a lot worse than Hot Gossip, but they are no match vocally for Glenn Gregory.

The B-side here was an instrumental version of “Soul Warfare” and though hope was held out that it was a dub mix, the fact was that it was simply the backing track to side one of this disc. But that’s not to say it’s without merit! The nutzoid syncopation between the multiple layers of Linndrum percussion and John Wilson on bass is laid bare to the whole world on this side and it’s a thing of wonder to hear without vocals intruding on the very sincere funkiness of it all. Best of all, it’s just waiting for you to lay your dulcet tones on top for your personal Heaven 17 karaoke night. I’ve really grown to love this song a lot in recent years and it’s fun to sing it with this backing track; not appreciably different to the version you’ve known and loved for 36 years. At the very least, it was gratifying to know that “Soul Warfare” finally merited a release as a single, even if it was with the name of Hot Gossip attributed to it.

In looking at the “career” of Hot Gossip, their early, pre-B.E.F. period was on Ariola-Hansa and leaned heavily on a kitch sci-fi disco vibe best avoided. Then their later material was on an even dicier label and seemed to be just hi-NRG under the guiding hand of Ian Levine. Not my cup of joe. But…there was one more 1982 single that calls to be with intrigue whispered in my ear. The troupe next released a cover of Metro’s “Criminal World” [before Bowie!] as produced by Richard James Burgess, the man who coined the term “New Romantic.” So my dalliance in the potentially tacky world of Hot Gossip has yet one more chapter! Look for a fourth and final Hot Gossip post one day here at PPM. No telling when, since all the copies on sale at Discogs right now are prohibitively European in origin.

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Record Review: Adam Ant – Apollo 9

CBS ‎| UK | 7″ | 1984 | A 4719

Adam Ant: Apollo 9 UK 7″ [1984]

  1. Apollo 9 [Blast Off Mix] 3:24
  2. B-Side Baby 4:47

When Adam disbanded The Ants and went solo in 1982 he still had a strong grip on the UK top 10. Two of the three singles from the “Friend Or Foe” album had no trouble going top ten [“Goody Two Shoes” was number one, of course] but the best of the three, “Desperate Not Serious” only made it to a lowly #33.  The next year brought the “Strip” album and two singles produced by… Phil Collins? Wha…? The obnoxious “Puss ‘N Boots” scraped into the top ten, but the title single missed the top 40 altogether. Clearly, some trimming of the Adam Ant sails were necessary.

I remember when the video for “Apollo 9” popped up in 1984. It seemed that Adam had been to multiple viewings of “The Right Stuff” as it was all NASA inspired themes for the single and video. The A-side was a remix of the album track and it’s all I’ve ever heard to this day. I’ve not heard any Adam Ant albums past “Prince Charming,” which lasted a brief time in the Record Cell just recently. That time out, Ant secured the production of Mr. Tony Visconti who had helmed iconic albums by both T-Rex and David Bowie. This all but assured that Ant would make a play for his talents.

When listening to the Blast Off Mix of the single, it’s apparent that it’s 1984 as drum machines and synths predominated. The Burundi rhythms that had served Adam well were executed on machine that time, giving the resulting record a mid-80s club-ready stiffness that stood apart from the more traditional Ant sound. The robust guitars of Marco Pirroni, who was still Adam’s right hand man even then, were seriously mixed down in favor of acoustics. When Marco’s rip-roaring solo arrived at 1:09, it lasted for only 2 bars!

The mix here favored vocals at the expense of band power, but with machines in charge, maybe that was a good thing. As for Adam, he was his usual daft self, constructing daffy meta-pop from a Marc Bolan framework. I feel that gut level sound mattered most to this guy. Lyrics were there to fill the emotional gaps in the backing track. Who else would have the verve to throw “yabba dabba ding ding” into a chorus but one who strove only for effect and feel over actual content. This was pop, after all.

As was often the case, Adam made sure to include a non-LP B-side to his latest single. This time out, it was a paean  to the very idea of B-sides, albeit couched in a framework hostile to both his girlfriend playing the B-side records as well as Joey Ramone [?]. Adam started out the track by introducing his band, one by one, as the music began and got cranking. As opposed to the nothing-left-to-chance, programmed-within-an-inch-of-its-life A-side, the vibe here sounded very live and raw, with Marco’s guitar getting fully unleashed to engage in what could be hair metal in the wrong hands. It all sounded vibrant and great, because the Ant-penned number came within an inch of “20th Century Boy.” I could only wonder what producer Visconti thought about this… let’s call it a homage.

Overall, a surprise left turn from Adam Ant that telegraphed his dwindling audience going forward. This would be followed by an artistically triumphant [but commercially failed] followup single from the “Viva Le Rock” album which followed this single by the better part of a year. More about that one, later.

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Record Review: Blondie – Blonde And Beyond

Chrysalis | US | CD | 1993 | F2 21990

Blondie: Blonde + Beyond US CD [1993]

  1. Underground Girl
  2. English Boys
  3. Sunday Girl (French Version)
  4. Susie And Jeffrey
  5. Shayla
  6. Denis
  7. X Offender
  8. Poets Problem
  9. Scenery
  10. Picture This
  11. Angels On The Balcony
  12. Once I Had A Love
  13. I’m Gonna Love You Too
  14. Island Of Lost Souls
  15. Call Me (Spanish Version)
  16. Heart Of Glass (Disco Version)
  17. Ring Of Fire (Live)
  18. Bang A Gong (Get It On) (Live)
  19. Heroes (Live)

Things were pretty quiet on the Blondie front by 1993 when this unexpected compilation made a welcome appearance. The band had been mothballed since 1982. Deborah Harry only released solo albums and single by that time. There had been a few compilations of note over the years. 1981 had brought the consolidating success of “The Best Of Blondie” with a third of the cuts being #1 US singles. “Once More Into The Bleach” was a program of Deborah Harry solo singles and post-modern remixes of older solo and band material. and 1991’s “Complete Picture: The Best of Deborah Harry and Blondie” consolidated singles from both camps. That seemed to be everything one might have expected by then, so the appearance of “Blonde And Beyond” certainly got noticed.

What this compilation consisted of was a program of over half of the tracks rarities and the rest a mix of singles and deep cuts. I bought it for the rarities, with three never having been released in any previous form. Right off the top the opening salvo here was “Underground Girl,” a duet between Ms. Harry and one of the members of Blondie that made a convincing case that they were shooting for an Iggy + The Stooges vibe. The cut was dated 1976 and probably dates from the Alan Betrock demo sessions that predated their signing to Private Stock Records. The booklet showed writer and producer credits unknown, but thankfully someone still saw fit to release it. It was definitely a walk on the wild side for this band. It took some chutzpah to lead off with such a track here.

“Sunday Girl [French Version]” was one of two foreign language versions here. Singing in a different language made for a very different vibe on Ms. Harry’s vocals. The French take being more demure than the brassier English language version. I had “Susie And Jeffrey” from the B-side of “The Tide is High” previously, and the girl group/snuff rock pastiche was obviously a B-side from the album sessions. The lyrics seem kind of muddled or obscure to these ears.

I was happy to see some love going for “Shayla,” one of my favorite “Eat The The Beat” deep cuts. The borderline country weeper given some not entirely inappropriate guitar twang was always a soaringly emotional number. Following the stunning perfection of “Union City Blue,” “Shayla” always tended to slightly suffer by comparison, and it really had nothing to be ashamed about. It’s one of Blondie’s most emotive ballads.

Following a pair of pre-superstardom singles in “Denis” and “X Offender,” “Poets Problem” was a B-side from their “[I’m Always Touched By Your] Presence Dear” EP. The Jimmy Destri number boldly included a cocaine reference in the chorus of this one. This was followed by another previously unheard track, “Scenery.” It was yet another one with no credits, but this was a far more together number of yearning pop with the whiff of classic Blondie to it.

Two more deep cuts followed and then it was time for the bait the Chrysalis knowingly set this trap with; “Once I Had A Love,” the legendary early version of “Heart Of Glass” with slightly different lyrics and minus the injection of disco DNA that made the hit heard ‘round the world. The rhythm guitar hook was still there, though, and while the rhythms were less sleek than the hit version, that alone gave it a whiff of even early disco that would have led to its informal name of “the disco song” among the band. This was a less eerie, more straightforward version without the title that would take it to the top. Instead of “soon turned out, had a heart of glass” Debbie sang “soon turned out, to be a thing of the past” instead.

Two more conventional tracks followed and then the album ended on a quintet of rarities. The Spanish version of “Call Me” [released in The States on Salsoul instead of Chrysalis] showed that the band had a firm grasp on the marketplace for this world conquering single that was number one everywhere. Having it in Spanish could not have hurt. The disco version of “Heart Of Glass” was added to the later pressings of “Parallel Lines” so it was only a rarity by the books. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the original LP mix.

The disc ended out with a trio of live covers all mixed together with segues to form a suite of tunes. The unique arrangement of Johnny Cash’s sturdy “Ring Of Fire” was originally on the “Roadie” OST that many of a certain age will remember from the cutout bins. The “Band A Gong” cover I first thought was from the same recording as used for the “Picture This: Live” album [Dallas and Philadelphia shows] but it hailed from a different Boston performance on that same “Eat To The Beat” US tour. This had never seen the light of day previously. Finally, I had the UK “Atomic” 12” by 1993 for its live cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes” as recorded on their Parallel Lines UK tour. This made it one of the first covers of that song, and possibly the best, since it had the secret ingredient that no other “Heroes” cover could claim: their pal Robert Fripp guesting on guitar!

This was a strange compilation. I guess with all of the rarities and less of the straight hits, this was pitched directly to fans like myself, who already had the albums and wanted more in a Blondie-less universe. It goes without saying that the discographical information inside the booklet was just the sort of data that project coordinator Vinny Vero loved to lavish on projects under his watch. Also, the unreleased tracks certainly pointed in his direction, thought executive producer Bruce Harris and compilation producer Dan Loggins got top billing here [and they mixed the unreleased tracks, too]. Over the years, many of these tracks filtered out as bonus tracks on DLX RMs and new compilations from the band. I appreciated them all right here the first time out.

This was the third EMI CD that I could thank Vinny Vero for, following his US stewardship of the Ultravox/Midge Ure compilation “If I Was: The Best Of Midge Ure + Ultravox” and the Bow Wow Wow “Girl Bites Dog” compilation of the same year. 1993 marked the time when I really took notice of what the right person in charge of a reissue could achieve and Sir Vero set the bar admirably high.

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