After The Smiths spilt up, Morrissey briefly considered a change in direction. He recorded six tracks for what would have been titled either “Campfire Sing-Along” or “Fun with Morrissey”, had the project been completed. Instead, he abandoned the idea entirely to record Viva Hate. Those six tracks (“Kumbaya”, “Michael Row The Boat Ashore”, “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”, “Old Joe Clark”, “B-I-N-G-O”, and a devastating version of “Little Rabbit Foo-Foo”) surfaced in 1990 on a very rare Japanese bootleg, Daikon Motor Activity Friends, along with “Cauliflower Ear”, 7:37 of Morrissey and Michael Stipe swapping vegetarian recipes over the phone.
Many fans wonder what the guys in Metallica were doing during the long period between The Black Album and Load. Well, in the summer of 1995, singer/guitarist James Hetfield spent two weeks in the studio laying down tracks for an aborted solo album. Rumor has it that when drummer Lars Ulrich got wind of this, he went over to Hetfield’s house and threatened to defecate in his washing machine unless the project was immediately abandoned. (No one has ever been able to substantiate this claim, although apparently the subject was treated in a scene ultimately cut from the Some Kind of Monster documentary.) At any rate, the album was never completed. One track survives, however: a fascinating, gritty demo of Hetfield’s take on Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” that appeared briefly on a few mp3 blogs early last year, only to quickly disappear – often within a day of the file being posted. One can only hope that it will someday see an official release, along with the rest of the cuts recorded then.
With the advent of the CD and the intarweb and various other infernal engines, there has been an upsurge of older, deleted material being remastered and reissued, often with various out-takes and live cuts appended. This is good.
Inevitably, however, there are a few gems that have either slipped under the radar entirely or were re-released only to be dropped again. Here are a few I thought of off the top of my head – please feel free to add your own.
Après REM, le deluge. Of the approximately forty billion jangly pop bands which sprang into existence in the mid-to-late 80s, these guys were among the best. I’ve heard rumors of Heavens being reissued soon, but then again if you listen long enough you’ll hear anything. In the meantime, here’s a taste: “Lunar Module”.
The Original Sins – Big Soul
In perusing Brother JT’s site while preparing this post, I was surprised to see that the Sins are still playing out. I thought they’d split up long, long ago. It just goes to show: ya gotta pay attention, always. Anyway, this is an album full of big, dark, loud garage/psyche goodies, with a little tinge of Dylan just for kicks. If “It’s All In My Head” whets your appetite, there’s an anthology (another surprise) available now through the website that looks pretty good.
Bram Tchaikovsky – Strange Man, Changed Man One of the better power pop releases of the late 70s, featuring a full-on twelve-string attack. You may know the band for the single released from this album, “Girl of My Dreams”. While that’s a fine song (as is the title track), I chose another to share here. I’m perverse that way. Here’s “I’m the One That’s Leaving”.
Sweet, downbeat jangle-pop from Austin, TX. They did a fantastic cover of Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”, and their originals were pretty fantastic as well – “Araby”, “Things Don’t Change”, “Freight Train Rain” all stick out in my memory. A fave from the early 80s. I wish I had a track to post here, but apparently I missed the window during which the album was available on CD. Sorry.
I’d argue against the inclusion of some of these covers – The Frivolous Five are obviously having a little joke at their own expense, and it works. And, y’know, there’s a bit of “Ha ha, seventies fashions sucked” and/or “LOL XTIANS!!!ONE!” which I think we could all do without. And then there are the simply tasteless. (Warning: unpleasant image.)
The ones that fascinate me, however, are the metal covers – especially the ones with a bit of money behind them. I’m guessing that neither Heavy Load or Battleaxe had much in the way of a budget for graphics, so someone in the band gave their semi-talented 13-year-old male cousin a box of colored pencils and told him to go nuts. They’re awful, but at least there’s some enthusiasm there.
But Black Sabbath were on a major label at the time (Warner Brothers or Capitol, I think), and that’s the best they could come up with? Nobody had the courtesy to let the guy in the red spandex know what an awful mistake he was making? And Man O’ War… Dudes. Seriously. What was the thought process?