An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Martin Aston - Facing the Other Way, the Story of 4AD

Your humble Jonny is on the usual rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. The pickings of late have been thin on the ground. Well actually, there’s plenty of stuff out there to buy, it’s just way overpriced and I am several million short of being a millionaire….

But then Martin Aston has agreed to do an interview with me for my little blog, such a wonderful chap, and to top it off he has mentioned me in the online version of The Wire magazine. Wow. Typically I’m up and down like a shy girls rollerblind. So I shall shut up and let you read the interview. If you haven’t purchased Martin Aston’s book, then I strongly advise you go and do it now.  It’s the first comprehensive history of 4AD, and it is, because 4AD say so, alright?

Facing the Other Way at 4AD

Purchase here :

Why choose 4AD, when there are safer and more covered label histories such as factory?

I don’t know what you mean by a “safer” label history; I only know that Factory had a shorter history than 4AD. But as you say, it’s “more covered” so why repeat someone else’s book (in this case, by James Nice)?  4AD is one of the most admired and adored record labels, independent or otherwise, and had never had a biography – so to be the first was a perfect opportunity.

Why do you think 4AD survived when the other great iconic indie labels died off? Factory / Creation?

You’d have to know the histories of Factory and Creation to really know what happened there. Like 4AD, both labels had single-minded spearheads, but Factory – under Tony Wilson’s ‘management’ - was run democratically between its founding partners, while Creation boss Alan McGhee had co-founder Dick Green, so neither were autocratic in the way that Ivo Watts-Russell ran 4AD. But Creation sold half the company to Sony, McGhee admitted he had drug problems and disappeared from the industry, whereas Green eventually wanted to work with another A&R cohort. Factory went bankrupt, but Tony Wilson – with Factory Too and F4 labels – couldn’t get anything going and then died of complications from cancer. When Watts-Russell sold his share of 4AD to his business partner Martin Mills of Beggars Banquet, there was a structure (ie Beggars) in place for Mills to carry the label on with new people running it for him.

What has been the greatest surprise discovery from putting the story of 4AD together?

Some of the earliest records had escaped my attention; I didn’t know every single record that came out on 4AD, and when I started writing about music in 1984, I didn’t go back and revisit what I had missed - I wasn’t a collector of labels (I’m still not). So hearing the likes of Rema-Rema and Dance Chapter was a thrill and an education. I was also surprised by the level of dysfunction at the label during the Nineties when there were two offices, one in LA having joined the one in London, and the lack of communication between them. But they were very trying times due to watts-Russell’s mental frailty and the difficulty in running a label with a figurehead who was unavoidably absent during that period. It’s what led to him finally giving up and severing all ties to the music industry, and heading off to live, in relative isolation, in the New Mexico desert.

Did anyone, anywhere, artists or label staff make any money away from a very basic cost of living from the label at any time during the first twenty years?

I didn’t discuss money/profit with anyone. I guess the more commercially successful bands such as Pixies, The Breeders, Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins and Belly made more money than lost it, but who knows? And who knows who else did? You’d have to ask them.

Do you think that the way that music has moved to a virtual format will kill off the physical format altogether eventually? Can you explain to a younger generation why this would be a shame?

The resurgence in vinyl sales shows there is a market for the musical artefact, and the beauty of artwork. I have no idea if following generations will feel the same, but limited runs can be 500 or one thousand, so it doesn’t need to be a huge audience. I just hope they do. There’s something wonderful about a beautifully designed and produced object, same as with books. Likewise the experience of watching a film in a cinema rather than at home. It’s more of a complete experience. And there is something more tangible to own.

Do you still afford time to just sit and listen to music? How do you do it and do you share the experience?

It’s harder to find time to “just sit and listen” when you have to write about the music you hear, and to consider it from the perspective of a job. There is the need to keep digging for “the next thing” – which is also a pleasure, as I do love hearing new music, especially if it’s new unto itself, ie a trailblazer rather than following a trend. But if you don’t make room for something that’s a pleasure and a release from work duties/stress, that’s not a good state of mind. So I will put music on mp3 and go for long walks, and listen to music in the car, when it feels much less like “work”. Though even then, your mind can process what you’re hearing, sometimes you find yourself “writing” something in your head without meaning to; it’s a habit that’s hard to break. As for sharing, yes, through making compilations (granted, not often, usually an end-of-year round-up or two) for friends, or via email/Facebook. I find that part of the emotional package surrounding music is to share it with others, to see if they have the same reaction as I do.

Are there any plans to move to a 4AD documentary? Have you heard of any plans from anyone else to?

There are plans for a documentary, but I can’t reveal exactly what at this point. But I had to get the book written and them promoted first, and also have a little break from 4AD: it’s not good to be totally obsessed with one project for too long a time. But I’m returning to it pretty soon. I’ve not heard of anyone else’s plans.

As a journalist, do you find the artist more flawed than the “man on the street” and if so, how have you found that affects your objectivity? 

The only way to answer that is, I have more information at my disposal about an artist, so I have more evidence of a state of mind or approach, which can include “flaws”, but it can also create a positive and empathic reaction to their situation/condition, where “the man on the street” sometimes has to rely on what the media tells him, and that viewpoint is sometimes clich├ęd, or sensationalist. I try to keep a balance of objectivity and subjectivity, to present the facts as they are, and my opinion of those facts, and my own hopes for what art should achieve, but also know the commercial conditions under which the production of art takes place. 

How, as a journalist, do you find the right level of publishing knowledge in the public interest and not going over the line of invading privacy or getting too personal about an artist or subject?

It’s a personal decision every time. I don’t like to sensationalise, and to keep asking the obvious questions about an artist’s most headline-grabbing piece of news. Sometimes I have no choice if I am to continue writing for someone who wants that kind of material, in which case I stop writing for them or I find ways of writing about what I want to. But the creative process fascinates me, and I want to know what artists create the way they do, it can be in intellectual and emotional reasons. They can answer my questions, or not, that’s their choice. I won’t keep nagging.

How have you found the whole experience? Would you tell your former self (before starting the book) to go ahead and do the project?

It’s been an intense, and labour-intensive, project, and you generally don’t write books for the money. But it’s also been exhilarating and extraordinary, to talk to 120 people or so, who are all connected to one central theme, and then weave it into place. I have been very lucky to have a publisher who was happy for me to tell the story of 4AD as I wanted to tell it, so I had no editorial interference, from content to word count. I don’t know how often that’s the case. So no regrets

Any new works in the pipeline?

In my head, yes, but again, nothing I want to share at this moment. I’ve said before that writing a book means you don’t get to leave the house much, and I don’t enjoy too much isolation in this way, so maybe I need more a prolonged break before getting lost in something again. The end usually justifies the means, so we’ll see.  

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Here we are again, happy as can be

Ah, hello again. Once again it's just been too long since my last post. As always no real excuses except for having way too many things that I have given myself to do. For those of you that may not have followed all my blogs, apart from giving myself this nigh on impossible mission of collecting every 4ad licensed release from the first ten years, I have always had a habit of picking up other projects as well. Like writing a book. I decided this time last year to write my own biography as I've had an interesting life to say the least. Well, a year on and a couple of hundred thousand words later and I'm still writing it and wanting to just get the thing finished.

As I mentioned in my last post, the greatly anticipated book by Martin Aston has now been published. It's called Facing the Other Way and covers the story of 4AD. As I've ordered the limited edition and the production of that version is a little behind, I still haven't got my hands on it yet and I'm going nuts with anticipation for the chance to read it, but it won't be long now.

The reviews over the last few weeks have been interesting and eye opening. So I've collected a few for you to have a look at if interested :

The Writing Disorder
Drowned In Sound
The Guardian
The Mouth Magazine
Clash Music

I just hope that something else follows on the back of this book as it has done with the other well known 80's indie labels, such as a documentary or film. That kind of overview of the 4AD is well overdue in my opinion when the other labels have already had their fair share of documented history of late.

I have been in touch with Martin Aston over the last year and I recently submitted some questions to him for an interview for this blog. Martin is a very busy chap at the moment with the publicity for his book, but I hope I can bring you the interview soon.

I also recently came across a wonderful youtube blog that is wonderfully geeky, honest and yet fun and great to watch. The guy is called Bret Helm and he reviews music that he likes and listens to and does a few 4AD reviews as well as a review of Martin Aston's book. The channel can be found here and is well worth a look through. He has inspired me to try and have a go at doing a video blog myself. This turned out to not be any easy thing to do. Usually I can talk the hind legs off a donkey, but suddenly put me in front of a camera and I can hardly speak and I keep tripping over my own worms, sorry words, see what I mean? Maybe with a bit of practice and perhaps getting over the nerves I may post something, who knows.

I've had quite a few new additions to the collection and hope to get those shown soon as this very blog, you lucky people. I may also have something nice to give away again soon, so please keep reading and feel free to leave comments

Thursday, 1 August 2013

What colour is a lazy streak?

So what is happening of late. Well I went through a spate for a short time of finding lots of collection pieces on Ebay for a very reasonable price. For two weeks I was struggling to keep up with the flow of reasonable priced items on offer, and then with a bump just stopped. This wasn't from a single source but from all over the place, from the UK, from Europe and even from the US with a decent postage amount. Why the sudden peak of items and then hardly anything again, I have no idea.

Needless to say that my usual roller-coaster ride of interest and then general annoyance with myself and this stupid idea of doing this collection has made it's usual route of peaks and troughs. At the moment I'm in-between moods. Trying to persuade myself what a wonderful thing it is to collect such wonderful music and respect such great artists and then thinking that perhaps I should be slapping myself around the back of the head with a very large wet haddock for taking such a journey on in the first place.

I'm generally a lazy person. Being lazy and sitting on my fat arse is the major default setting for me. After being at work all day, the ONLY thing I want to do when I get home is sit in a nice comfy chair. Perhaps I may be persuaded to switch the TV on, maybe I will browse the interweb, but mostly it's pastimes that involve sitting. I reckon my brain also has the same desire. My brain also goes to work all day and wants to just go home and relax in a bowl of comfy warm mush. Even while writing this, my brain has had enough of working for the day and wants to just do as little as possible. That's not actually easy for me, I have a brain that never shuts up or winds down, I'm mentally on the go all the time, so my brain also nags me to just slow down a little by doing as little as possible. This of course includes doing this blog, or updating facebook, or joining in on a forum I'm a member of and, of course, all the other things I want to do generally in my life, such as sending an email to a friend and just staying in touch.

So now that I've put myself through a bought of flagellation and got my brain in gear (but still with fat arse firmly planted on sofa leather), what have I accomplished or found out since I last posted so very long ago. Well in the the soon to be released 4AD book by journalist Martin Aston. Called "Facing the Other Way, the Story of 4AD". Set to be released on September 26th 2013, it will be the first official account of the label we love. Focusing on mostly the first 20 years of 4AD's history, it has the prestigious boast of having the cover designed by Vaughan Oliver and will also be available as a limited edition with 2 CD's of some of the labels musical history. Info here : 

As a warning to all those looking to try and pre-order the the book, be aware that Amazon do not have copies of the limited edition on order to sell to pre-orders made on Amazon. Amazon may get some copies if the publishers don't sell all the limited editions and have some left to pass on. I fell into this trap with Amazon before when they list something they may likely never get their hands buyers beware.

On a slightly different note, I've started to notice a pattern of reprints of cassettes. I say reprints because they are not official re-releases, but an obvious sign that the originally made stock has run out and new batches of cassettes manufactured. Cassettes are really easy to spot because of the change in cassette design during the eighties. In the early eighties, cassettes were solid colour plastic, usually white or black, occasionally other funky colours to match the general colour of the album design but the coloured ones are much more rare. By the mid eighties though, a new fashion for seeing the workings of a mechanical object became desirable, the watch makers Swatch being one of the trendier items that everyone wanted which showed the gears and workings of the watch behind garish cheap clear plastic.

Cassette manufacturers such as TDK followed this fashion through, showing the tape wound up on the spools through clear plastic. Pretty soon, you couldn't get a cassette tape that wasn't trendy and see through and I suspect that 4AD had the same issue when ordering new stock. So there are distinct and obvious signs of a reprint of early eighties releases on cassette. This Mortal coil and Cocteau Twins albums are the first that I've noticed and I'm sure there will be more to be found.

So if you are interested in getting original cassettes for early eighties albums, stick to the solid colour plastics and not the clear.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

From a time when music was inventive...Bauhaus

Years ago, as a young lad hungry for music, I spent many a year just going to any gig going. When I wrote my Fanzine in 1991-92, I went around the local counties interviewing bands and seeing concerts. Then when I joined a band and did gigs around the country, I inevitably saw a lot of other bands also doing the same thing. Then on top of that, going out nearly every weekend and then several times a week, meant seeing a lots of bands that just happened to be on.

Unfortunately, I would say in my humble opinion, that the vast majority of bands I saw were somewhere between OK and terrible. On the rare occasion that there was something that had potential or promise, they were never seen again. For me the early nineties were a turning point in music, where popularity started to mean more than originality in music. Even in the marginalised gothic culture that I was heavily into, anyone who thought the big goth four were just ok (Mission, Sisters, Nephilim, Rosetta Stone) and preferred more of the diversity of the culture, were even marginalised within a marginalised culture. Where goth music had sprouted out from the roots of punk, by the early '90's it had drifted heavily into standard stadium rock and the diversity was drastically diminishing. Every band on the scene was trying to either emulate the big four or emulate each other emulating the big four. The only hope at the time was from outside the UK.

So in my older years, I got more picky about what music I went to see. In the yesteryear, before the internet and a million young bands, the only way of finding new music was either taking a chance and buying it or going to copious gigs in the hope of stumbling across something worthwhile. Of course today, anyone can spend an eternity looking for new music on the interweb. There was an interesting statement in this months record collector magazine about how the easy access to music has cheapened it for many of today's youth, to the point that the majority just don't see the worth in music and have very little attention span for it.

In the past fews years I have seen some of the best gigs of my life. I've already gone on before (at great length you may think...sorry) about how good Dead Can Dance are live, or even better a Lisa Gerrard gig. But this week I went to a gig that really blew me away. Peter Murphy is currently doing a world tour, playing only Bauhaus music. I saw the first leg of the UK part of the tour this weekend and I have to say it was one of the best gigs I have ever seen. I came out it thinking about how privileged I am to be able to listen and witness the kind of music I am exposed to at the moment. I was too young to have seen Bauhaus when they were a live act, so be able to just grab a snippet of that experience before either I or the creators of this music pass away has been a rare honour indeed and one that I would encourage anyone to see before the tour is over.

What also struck me about the gig and has also been the elements that I found the most fascinating about goth music when I first got into it, were the strong combinations of drums and bass. Bauhaus' music was built on this combination, with everything else being an additional flavouring on the top. Today the bass guitar seems a forgotten instrument, unfortunately. My love of Joy Division and The Cure also had this same element, where the bass accompanied by some skilful and diverse drumming patterns, makes the music so powerful and strong, that the additional of a guitar or keyboard becomes almost an afterthought. The rhythms punched out at the Peter Murphy gig from the songs Dark Entries, Stigmata Martyr, In the Flat Field and Kick In The Eye were so powerful and strong it kicked the audience into a frenzy. These songs are over 30 years old now and still there is nothing like it around. I couldn't help but think how the younger generation are missing out on such music as there was practically no-one under 35 years old at the gig.

So just in case you are under 35 years old and starting out in a band, for goodness sake, give this stuff a listen, the world needs more music like this.

Then send me a copy of it please.
If you have the chance, go and see Peter Murphy on his tour.

The one surprise song from the set was a cover of Dead Can Dance's Severance, which wasn't done that well, but then I would think that Dead Can Dance wouldn't do a Bauhaus song very well either.

Just a quick message to TinyPie that I have seen your comment. There seems to be yet another version of the Bauhaus single Dark Entries which TinyPie has found, so that would bring the tally up to eight versions, will this end I ask myself while pulling the remainder of my hair out! I will get this added soon. Thanks again to you all for reading, let me know if you have seen Peter Murphy on this tour and let me know your thoughts

Thursday, 13 June 2013

I have twice the standards, they're double standards

I know, I know, don't nag me, I've taken too long to post again. I have been a busy chappy. The book I'm writing is taking considerably longer than expected, but is slowly progressing. I have also been hit by numerous small disasters at home, which hit the home finances somewhat, making buying 4ad stuff a secondary priority. So far this year we have suffered a bathroom leak, a central heating blockage, a total washing machine failure, my wife going off to Australia for two weeks and the car needing tyres, brake discs and pads. Then we had a holiday booked in Italy, but that was the inspiration for this blog entry.

I don't generally go mad when it comes to gigs and paying for high ticket prices. I have seen over the past few years how concert ticket prices have soared. When the average ticket price for a large stadium size gig a few years ago was around the £20 to £30 mark, many large stadium concerts today have ticket prices of £100, £150 or even £200.

As a consumer I have always thought that I have a responsibility to help maintain the market. There should always be a level where a price is just too much for a service or an item. If we, as consumers, have no limit and are willing to pay anything, then we encourage a market to over inflate a price because the market knows the consumer will pay it. This is evident in car insurance for young people. Years ago, a teenager couldn't afford several thousand pounds a year on car insurance, so had to forgo owning a car until they were a little older. This reduced consumer demand and the insurance was cheaper than today. Today, teenagers feel that they cannot do without a car, that having a car is not a luxury, but a necessity and therefore are willing to pay any price to be insured and be able to drive, even if that means getting into a large debt at an early age.

This is also true of any shop a consumer visits. During my holiday in Italy, I visited a second hand shop in Florence. To my surprise, the shop had loads of stock that I wanted and was desperate to get. But I had to walk out empty handed because the prices were just too high, about double what they should have been. To pay the prices would allow that business to carry on inflating the prices which would reflect back on me and other customers again the next time we visit, because the prices would likely have increased. I do talk quite a bit about the worth of certain records in monetary terms, but this is one of the reasons. When buying records, there has to be a standard set where the price paid is too much and the retailer is just being greedy, but then the price has to be a certain level so that the retailer can keep a job and help us source those records we want. So a balance has to occur.

I think this is the same with concert tickets. There has to be a level set where anything over a reasonable price, the promoters are just taking the piss. But unfortunately if a minority are willing to ruin it for the majority by paying any price for a concert ticket, then the prices will just keep going up. I can understand when a concert is a rare event and the punters are afraid of missing a rare event. When Led Zeppelin decided to reform to do just a couple of concerts, after nearly 30 years since they split up, many of the fans must have been willing to pay just about anything to have seen them. But in the end, it's just a gig.

But then, to be a complete hypocrite, I'm tempted to break the rules to see Dead Can Dance, but I wouldn't directly break them. Some artists are worth the extra effort. When I saw that Dead Can Dance were to play a Roman Amphitheatre close to the city of Florence, I thought it was an opportunity not to miss. I live in the UK, so it would be quite a trip just for a gig. So I decided to wrap a holiday around it, giving me the chance to see the lovely Italian countryside and the incredible history that Tuscany had to offer. So I didn't break my own rule directly as the ticket price was just at the top end of what I'm willing to pay, but the rest of the trip, the flights, car hire and holiday added immensely to the price of the ticket!

The concert was worth it, as also was the rest of the holiday. About half way through the concert, behind the stage and over in the far distant mountains, a huge thunderstorm brewed and exploded into a fantastic light show as though the Roman gods themselves approved of the music. Quite a unique experience and worth every penny.

This weekend I'm going to see Peter Murphy play a lot closer to home. He is touring, playing only songs from Bauhaus. Will it be a good gig? I'll let you know quite soon.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Pump up the volume....ARSE!

MARRS - Pump up the volume.

I remember this hitting number one in the UK singles chart. I hated it. As a person into goth, new wave, indie, punk, prog and electronic synth music at the time and sometimes liking the odd pop tune, I found it to be yet another trend starting up where all of a sudden DJ's instead of musicians were starting to become highlighted as artists. I found the music to be quite offensive to the ear and was also the start of using samples   to fill out the song.

There were a lot of issues over sampling. The music that was used or the audio pinched from a film to be used on a song was used without permission. I understand that at the time the thought never entered the head of the person putting the song together, after all, if you're a DJ, you don't go around every artist asking to play their songs before playing one at a club, so using a sample was pretty much the same I suppose. Over the next couple of years in the late eighties, there would be a few court battles over the use of sampling in music.

It was a shock, some years later to learn that MARRS was a 4AD signing, a collaboration between Colourbox, AR Kane and a few others.

I still don't rate the song much. I know this must be heresy to some 4AD enthusiasts, but I don't love everything that 4AD put out. But for me that is a good thing, it shows that the label had some diversity and if there is diversity, not everything will be to everyone's taste. Pump up the volume has since been stamped as one of music's most influential or genre changing moments in music history. I remember Q magazine having it amongst their top 50 music changing releases.

I can appreciate that, all of a sudden this music opened up in the UK after this single. But for me that just made matters worse. It's just my little personal opinion, but I have never took stock in a DJ being a creative artist, pretty much the same as a producer. Don't get me wrong, I think that a DJ and producers have to have some artistic flair, but they are making music off the back of others greater artistic talents and as such short cutting the creative process. I'm sure many of you would disagree, but I saw a distinct change in the late eighties between the lines of what was art and what was just a commercial process.

It's a bit like pottery. There are a lot of artists that create 3d works of art from clay, but how does a cup, a mug or a bowl suddenly become an art piece as well. Where is the line drawn between a plain cup made from pottery and the same piece cup painted and decorated as art? I have the same issue with music that is made using other artists work, I'm not talking about cover versions, cover versions are generally done as homage to the original artist, but using another song as the backdrop for any easy win new song is not artistic in my opinion, it's just lazy and talentless.

So why am I whining on about sampling and DJ's? MARRS single Pump Up The Volume has arguably been the most successful single 4AD has released and, unfortunately, has so far had around 50 versions released and on top of that, because of it's success, ended up in countless chart compilations, dance compilations, DJ remix versions and compilation remix versions as well as film soundtracks, I have to collect all these as I included those as part of my collection remit. If I wasn't so enamoured with Pump Of The Volume some 25 years ago, I'm just about sick to the teeth of it now. This makes it so hard to try and collect all of the many versions and appearances of this bloody song!

Don't ever ask me if there is any difference in the music between any of the versions as I will certainly not be listening and comparing every version of it that I will acquire, I will leave that privilege to some other fan who has no problem listening to the same sodding thing over and over again. If I am asked there would be a polite reply......

There looks to be more than 60 appearances on compilations before the end of 1990, on top of the 50 something versions of the actual release.

Breathe deep and just get on with it,.....sigh

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Whoa, woe and wow fact double arse with a couple of damns and a flippin 'eck thrown in as well. You see, I know how to swear.

Ok its been too long by far since I last posted. Its been a difficult month. I have been struggling to find items just lately that aren't stupidly overpriced. There has been a respite in the last week or so though, so collecting has been back on again. But in the meantime the number of items newly discovered has shot my want list up so far that I have a want list larger than 8 months ago. Very frustrating!

The over enthusiastic alternative language is down to an amendment I have had to do to the what was 7 versions of the Bauhaus single Dark Entries. I was buying a version going cheap on ebay that I thought I could sell on. First of all I was hit by the poor state of the record when it arrived, it looked as though someone had eaten their dinner on it, but then on closer inspection realised that it was none of the 7 versions I had compiled for my blog last year.

I thought I had the seven versions pinned down, but this poor condition extra has hit me with another matrices. I have added the extra details onto the original blog entry here :

I had a version with matrices with W-3 and W-4 on them, but this has a W-2 and a W1KD and some very small little stamps on as well. I do wonder if the W's are Warner matrices as highlighted with the text on the back of the third version listed.

Good news though, some wonderful person from Colombia called Daniel has won the Cocteau Twins vinyl album of Garlands that I was giving away and it has been shipped out, congratulations Daniel.

Dead Can Dance are releasing a new live triple vinyl album soon that's already sold out before its release date, I wonder how many traders have bought these up just to sell for extortionate prices?

I must also apologise for taking so long to write on my blog this time. There are no excuses except that as I have mentioned before, I am prone to fits and starts and having stupid ideas that I get very excited about, then lose interest quickly and leave things unfinished. This years typically stupendous idea was to write my memoirs, as much for personal reasons, as in do it while I still have a memory intact, but also because I seemed to have had an interesting and strangely varied life. Well in typical fashion, doing this has taken on a life of its own, and what was meant to be perhaps a 10,000 word short and satisfying story has currently worked up to a 125,000 novel that still about 2/3rds of the way through. I'm determined to get it finished, although I have no idea what I'm going to do with it when I have. So this has been taking time away from concentrating on my blog. But I promise to get the sodding thing finished and out of the way so that I properly concentrate back on collecting 4AD the first decade once more.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Peppermint Pig - Pigging Mint

Keeping on the same track as my previous submission by staying with the Cocteau Twins, I've recently collected all of the release versions of their single/EP Peppermint Pig. Although of course, this is everything I've discovered so far of of Peppermint Pig, who knows how many other versions I may find lying around the corner.

It seems the Cocteau Twins were not very happy at all with this release. As usual, there's a good write up of the history of Peppermint Pig on the Cocteau Twins Fan Site. This was the first and only time the Cocteau Twins used an outside producer, Ian Rankin of the Associates. The result was a release that the band were not happy with and didn't represent what the Cocteau Twins intended. So before I go through the releases, I'll try and explain how a producer can make, or completely arse up, a release.

An artist or a band put together a song either in the studio, on the road or by purposely sitting down and composing closed off from the outside world. If not composed in a studio, songs will be a deliberate or experimental process not generally driven by anyone outside. In other words, what makes that artist or band have a particular style is defined through that process and not mixed up by the influence of another interfering artist. Sometimes, when a song is composed, it helps when recording that song to have another artist with another set of ideas to help push the artist or band to embrace a slightly different approach. Although not an additional member of the band or a co-composer, this extra artist can take the raw recording of a song and add or remove elements, direct the recording process in a certain way, or even re-arrange a song completely. This is what a producer is, adding an extra element of style or influence on the final production of a song.

This works well when the producer chosen "gets" the music or understands the focus and intention of the artist(s) and the vibe the artist(s) is trying to attain. A producer can make or break a record. When Joy Division recorded their debut album Unknown Pleasures, it was the producer Martin Hannet that heard what made Joy Division different to other punk bands and made that record have the iconic and distinct sound that it had. Joy Divisions songs were unique, but is was the production of the album that highlighted that difference and made it stand out from the crowd.

This nearly always creates friction and frustration from the artist or band. In the case of Joy Division, they didn't like Unknown Pleasures at first as they felt it didn't sound like them at all and Martin Hannett was a difficult, moody and bad tempered producer to work with. But Joy Division couldn't argue with how the production had added an extra definitive element to their songs.

The real problem comes when the producer just doesn't get what the band or artist is trying to do. And I think this was the case with Peppermint Pig, to the point that Cocteau Twins never let an external producer work with their recordings again.

So onto the Peppermint Pig release versions.

I'm showing eight in the picture below. Two of these are postcards and not the actual releases. One is also the CD version, that although was released in 1991 and so not released in the first decade, I've included as a useful record of when Peppermint Pig was released on CD.

These are the fronts of the releases, numbered for reference as follows :

(1) Netherlands 12"
(2) German 12"
(3) UK 12"
(4) UK 7"
(5) Netherlands 7"
(6) French Postcard
(7) Postcard from UK Set
(8) UK CD

These are the rear sleeves. Notice that all the rear photo's on the back are upside down except for the Netherlands 7".

(1) First up then the Netherlands 12" - 4AD - 151.109 - Released in 1983

This has a distinct Label code 151.109 in the top right corner of the front sleeve.

The rear of the sleeve has the Netherlands code, the 4AD logo and a 23 Envelope logo in the bottom centre

The "Grass" label is the same as the UK version

The none picture label has the Netherlands code printed at the bottom

(2) Next up is the German 12" release. Intercord - INT 125.209 - Released in 1983

This has a large pink banner across the top of both the front and rear sleeves. While the UK and Netherlands 12"s sleeves are made of card, the German release is thin paper and quite obviously different in thickness by feel.

The rear of the sleeve has a different set of label text at the bottom centre and an LC1109 printed in the bottom right

The labels aren't the 4AD labels, but blue Intercord labels. There are only 2 tracks on this version as opposed to three tracks on the other 12"s.

(3) Next is the UK 12" on 4AD - BAD 303 - Released in 1983

The front cover is just the picture with no other catalogue number printed

The rear just has the 4AD and 23 envelope logo's and no other print over the photo at the bottom of the sleeve. The labels have a "grass" label on the one side, then a 4AD printed label on the other side, slightly different to the Netherlands version.

(4) UK 7" on 4AD - AD303 - Released in 1983

The 7" is practically a miniature version of the UK 12" as you would expect, except for the inclusion of the catalogue number at the top of the rear sleeve - AD303. Why this is on the 7" and wasn't put on the 12" I have no idea.

The labels on one side has "Dry Ground" picture on it with the other side having the catalogue and track details

(5) The Netherlands 7" on 4AD - 145.033 - Released in 1983

The 7" single is similar to the Netherlands 12" version, with the catalogue number in the top right of the front cover. This same catalogue number is on the top right of the rear sleeve as well. The bottom centre is slightly different on the rear sleeve as below. The big difference to all the other versions is that the rear photo is actually the right side up, unlike every other version

The labels are similar to the UK version with one side being the "Dry Ground" picture and the other having the Netherlands catalogue number printed on it.

(6) French Postcard - CC 607

I don't know how legitimate this postcard is, but it has it's own catalogue number (which proves little I know). So I don't know if it was included with a release or was a separate promotional item. The print down the centre says "Delta Editions Imprime en France - Tous droits reserves"

(7) UK Postcard - From 23 envelope set PAD 23 - Released in 1986

Landscape version of just the photograph from the Peppermint Pig cover. No band logo or writing on the front. Postcard No 1 in a series of 12

(8) UK CD 4AD - BAD 303 CD - Re-released in 1991

I wouldn't normally include anything outside of the first decade. But this was the only time the Peppermint Pig single was released as a single on CD. It was released as part of a singles box set and separately as well. This included both the 12" extended version and the 7" version of the title track, so had 4 tracks on it. The front sleeve is as plain as the UK 12" and 7" versions, but the inside fold of the sleeve has the photo upside down the same as all but the Netherlands 7".

So there is the list so far. I'm certainly not saying that this is definitive, there may well be more to come. But as yet I haven't seen anything else. There maybe a poster, although I haven't discovered one yet. There may also be a French release that goes with that postcard, if that postcard is genuine. Of course there will be somewhere, test pressings for these releases, if they haven't been destroyed. But I will keep my eye out for any items missing

No-one has yet claimed the Cocteau Twins- Garlands album I was giving away last month. Is there no-one that wants it??? Surely not. If you want a genuine, free, debut vinyl album of The Cocteau Twins Garlands, then send me (Jonny Halfhead) a message on Facebook telling me why I should give this away to you. No catch, free postage, just take it off my hands.

Thanks for reading and let me know if I have missed a release, or even get in touch and have a boast if you have all of these already. Ta ta!

ADDITIONAL : 15th May 2016 - This is a typical example of the fluidity that will be required from this blog. I have found another addition to this list. The US CD single on Capitol. This is actually outside of the first ten years as it was released in 1991 in the same year as the UK CD single.

This came in a full size jewel case, instead of the thin single jewel case for the UK CD single. This was also part of a US box set and sold separately

Anyhow, the US version is different from the UK version

(9) US CD Capitol - C2-15767 - Re-released in 1991

The back sleeve has the Capitol logo as well as the 4AD Logo. If there are any other editions discovered I will add them as well.