Disc four was a fascinating live album from a Japanese radio session for broadcast at the Laforet Museum in Harajuku in 1985 from the normally reluctant gigger where Haig performed in a Les Disques Du Crépuscule package tour with Anna Domino, Wim Mertens, Steven Brown + Blaine Reininger. The band was Alan Rankine [guitar], James Locke [drums] and Mike McCann [bass]. Rounding out the disc were another series of demos, including a few for the followup album to “The Warp Of Pure Fun” that never happened. Haig’s next waxing was 1989’s “Chain” for Circa Records.
Disc 4 – Live In Japan May 4, 1985 + DEMOS
- Scare Me [live]
- Blue For You [live]
- Heaven Help You Now [live]
- Love Eternal [live]
- Ghost Rider [live]
- Big Blue World [live]
- Heaven Sent [live]
- Magdalena 82 [live]
- The Only Truth [live]
- Testimony [demo]
- Wrapped [demo]
- Reach the Top [1985 demo]
- Eastworld [1985 demo]
- In-Flight Entertainment [1985 demo]
- Bridges [1985 demo]
While the material on “The Warp Of Pure Fun” was au courant mid-80s production, albeit with live drumming which was so not 1985, there was no mistaking it as music from its decade. The vibe was Dance Rock that hewed closely to the vein mined by his friends New Order. Much of the material were actually dancefloor bangers. The fascination for me in this live album was that there was nary a synth to be found! At most, there was a Simmons pad along with the acoustic drums. It was stripped back three-piece Pop Rock with Haig on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. It was transformational to hear this material being performed as if Josef K had never broken up and this was album number four from that Post-Punk band!
“Scare Me” was enveloped in jangular energies and really could have been recorded in 1979 as it played out here.”Heaven Help You Now” was still one of the finest singles on 1985, radically different in sound but as ever, the greatest pleasure of the song was hearing Haig really bite the line “to ascertain what’s good in life, you have to know when something’s right!!
The interview was a strange artifact with the reticent Haig hearing silly questions in Japanese, next translated to English, with his return quips, then translated back to Japanese. The big shocker here was out of a ten song set, two of them were Suicide/Alan Vega songs! “Ghost Rider” was pure amphetamine Rockabilly here; shorn of any synths or Dub affectation from the B-side version where the frantic pummeling beat held court. I’d have to say that this was his best version of the song yet. Later in the set, the band performed a cover of “Magdalena 82” from Vega’s “Collision Drive” album! The twin guitar twang was impeccable here.
The chiming version of “Big Blue World” on the live album was incredible. Hearing the song radically shifted from Synthpop with a funky heat to the janglefest that the track became was to hear it really take off; and I liked the studio version! The synth hook transposed to guitar was what we had been waiting to hear all along.
The demos started out with two tracks recorded in 1986 and “Testimony” and “Wrapped” were full featured demos that had an actual rhythm section in addition to Haig on synths and guitar. But these tracks were a bit light and breezy. I’ll admit that I was missing Rankine’s involvement by that time. Of the two, “Wrapped” was a bit more gritty, but these were high-80s productions. A bit too glossy and digital for my taste.
Then four instrumental demos from 1985 closed out the disc. “Reach The Top” will be known by all Billy MacKenzie fans as from his shelved album from 1988, “The Glamour Chase.” The version here was glittering and minimal in comparison. With a shimmering funkiness that skated above its programmed groove. Haig revealed that ZTT was interested in the track and MacKenzie singing it for a deal but that fell through. With Haig under the impression that ZTT saw Billy as a puppet to manipulate. We all know how that would have ended.
“Eastworld” had the delicate sound of a China Crisis instro B-side. “In-Flight Entertainment” was an astonishing concoction with prescient hints of Dubstep, nearly 20 years early in the overdriven, squelchy bass synth. But with plenty of finely etched melody as well. Both of these songs later emerged on Haig’s “Cinematique” album of 1991. ‘Bridges” was an appealing bland of twangy guitar and beatbox, which appeared her for the first time.
After over 30 years of finding the occasional, loose Paul Haig 12″ single here and there, I’ve been done a disservice in missing his albums. I’m so glad that Les Disques Du Crépuscule have compiled the material from Haig’s most popular album into this box, which tells the full 1983-1986 story of his output. He was clearly in a productive space at that time with plenty of music flowing copiously. His linking up with Alan Rankine was also a great creative decision. Rankine was another highly talented Scot, but one in need of a creative foil after his split with Billy MacKenzie. This was a more productive use of Rankine’s time than his inconclusive solo albums were. And Rankine would be the first to agree.
The span of vibe here was very expansive with much A-list material vying with the output of New Order around the same time. I still think that “Heaven Help You Now” was a blueprint for “Bizarre Love Triangle.” Only with better lyrics and vocals. But that didn’t stop Mr. Haig from investigating any other genres, with cinematic instrumentals, jangly Post-Punk from his Josef K past, and even Rockabilly, courtesy of Alan Vega from being targets for his restless gaze.
The production of the main album also wisely sidestepped the over reliance on Linn Drum that date-stamped too much of the mid-80s canon. Citing the more human feel of a live drummer, the material here certainly befitted from the effort. Had I heard it in its day, this would have been rubbing shoulders with Propaganda’s “A Secret Wish,” where I first became aware of the artist. But I don’t recall seeing a CD of this title, ever, in stores. Additionally, hearing the unreleased album was also illuminating in that it seemed like Haig’s fracture with his girlfriend at the time resulted in much of the stronger material for the final version of the album as compared to what was left behind in the aftermath. I guess we can’t underestimate the potency of a broken heart.
The fact that taunts me still is that there are yet almost another dozen albums taking Haig from 1983 to 2018 that await my ears. Everything I’ve heard from the gent suggests that he will always be probing areas of interest to me. And his link-ups with just Billy MacKenzie and Alan Rankine suggest that he had taste highly congruent with mine. Now I need to simply act. You can too. This box is priced at $30.00 from Darla.com for The States or £19.75 from BurningShed.com, so act accordingly.