April 7th, 2010
I’m taking a bit of a detour this week and will mostly be avoiding live concerts and instead emphasizing studio tracks. Listening to your favorite songs performed live by a band you love is one of the joys of boots. However, there are lots of great songs recorded in a studio that were relegated to the vaults but have leaked out over the years. In this week’s show, I want to highlight some demos, outtakes, and other assorted rarities. First, some definitions.
Demo. I think of demos as being sketches or outlines of songs that the musician(s) will later complete. An illustrative collection is Pete Townshend’s Scoop along with its follow-ups Another Scoop and Scoop 3. These albums are full of songs recorded by Townshend which were referred to by either The Who or the backing musicians he recruited for his solo albums. Some of them are just Pete and a guitar while others have bass, drums, and keys as well. These demos demonstrate what the people recording the final product should do, essentially. Outtakes, on the other hand, are usually songs that exist in a more-or-less finished state and were recorded at sessions which were to produce a final product such as an album. I also consider recordings of rehearsals and jams recorded between takes to be outtakes. Lastly, I use “sundry rarities” in the title to indicate that there are some live songs here as well.
I realize that the recording process is a lot more fluid today than when these terms entered the parlance of collectors. At the time most people couldn’t record albums at home, there was no MIDI nor mp3s, and recording music involved going into a dedicated studio. But these terms have stuck and, I would argue, are still helpful in describing recordings. To this caveat I would add one more: the songs here are mostly from progressive rock or “classic” rock groups/artists as my knowledge in this area is mostly limited to these genres.
And so my intent here is to give people a chance to hear songs they have never heard before by artists they like or embryonic versions of familiar songs that differ from those that have been released commercially.
“Loving Cup” – The Rolling Stones
Recorded sometime in the first half of 1969. The Stones are great for fans of outtakes – there are tons of them out there. You can hear an alternate version of “Honky Tonk Women” where Mick sings about strolling the boulevards of Paris as well as “Street Fighting Man” with completely different lyrics when it was called “Everybody’s Got to Pay Their Dues”. You can also hear how the band would resurrect songs from earlier sessions. For instance, “Start Me Up” was released on Tattoo You in 1981 but the tune originated in 1975 during the sessions for Black and Blue.
Similarly here we have “Loving Cup” which most folks know from 1972’s Exile On Main Street. However, it began life in 1969 during the Let It Bleed sessions. This version is a bit slower and has some different lyrics.
“Let’s Hear It For Rock and Roll” – Wilco
As far as I know, this is an original Wilco composition and that it appeared on a tape of songs that the band sent to Reprise Records in 1994 in a bid to secure a recording contract. It’s a pretty straight-ahead rock song in the same vein as “The Long Cut” or “Casino Queen”. According to WilcoBase, the song has been performed 18 times in the band’s career with the last appearance being on 28 October 1995. Presumably it harkened back to the alt-country of Uncle Tupelo a bit too much so Tweedy dropped it when moving Wilco away from that sound.
“Seven to a Room” – Son Volt
It was unsurprising to find out that this song was left off of Son Volt’s best of compilation A Retrospective as it features the vocals of Jim Boquist, the band’s bassist, instead of Jay Farrar’s. (“Old Dutch” with vocals by Dave Boquist was also left in the can.) I haven’t been able to find much info out about this song and am left to presume it is an original song by Boquist and not a cover. Some sites list it as a demo but doesn’t say if he alone provided instrumentation or whether it is indeed Son Volt. I’m left thinking that it is simply a Boquist original that the band ran through before dropping it. I have no idea when it was recorded. A Retrospective features “Ain’t No More Cane” and says it was recorded after Trace was completed so that the record company would have a b-side for a single. Perhaps the Boquist tunes were recorded at the same time.
“Frizzle Fry” – Primus
This song comes from Primus’ “Sausage” demo tape from sometime in 1988. At this point neither Ler nor Tim Alexander were in the band which instead featured Todd Huth and Jay Lane. They would later team up with Les Claypool to form Sausage for one album.
What’s interesting about the demo tape is just how much the songs sound like they do on Primus’ debut album Frizzle Fry with Ler and Tim in the band. There are some noticeable differences in the guitar solos and drum fills and the tempo might be just a bit slower but, by and large, the Primus line-up which most people know kept things the same.
“Sky Blue” – Peter Gabriel
This song was released on Gabriel’s 2002 album Up and featured some great backing vocals by the Blind Boys of Alabama. However, the song dates back to the sessions for his previous album, Us, released 10 years earlier and this is what we have here.
The tempo is a bit faster on this version with the bass snaking in and out whereas on the released version it stops and starts. And Gabriel provides all the backing vocals.
“Wake Up Sunshine” – Elf
Ronnie James Dio is known for flashing the devil horns and his time with Black Sabbath but, being a pre-Baby Boomer, he had a lengthy career before ever joining the Sabs. His musical career started in 1957 when he was still in high school and he was in various rock’n'roll bands through most of the 1960s. In 1967 he formed the Electric Elves which shortened its name to The Elves and then simply Elf in late 1971.
Live sets from this time are a mix of originals as well as covers by Chuck Berry, Jethro Tull, and Black Sabbath. Yes, Dio was doing “War Pigs” 7 or 8 years prior to joining Sabbath. But a batch of unreleased studio recordings from 1972 show Dio’s tender side. “Wake Up Sunshine” is not an ironic title and is a million miles away from his work with the Sabs. Instead it’s an R&B-inflected rock ballad with Dio singing of his love for a woman.
“The Fallen” – Black Sabbath
Dio left Black Sabbath (the first time) in 1982 and was replaced by Ian Gillen of Deep Purple fame. The resulting album, Born Again, is notable for the incredibly muddy production work and is generally thought of as one of the lesser Sabbath albums. But I rather like it. Iommi has some great riffs and Gillen’s voice works well. Sure, it stands in contrast to Dio’s more operatic style but how can you not like his demonic laughter on “Disturbing the Priest”?
In 2005 or thereabouts a bootleg started circulating called the Born Again Demos. The songs were more like rough mixes to my ears. It sounds as though they had recorded everything but the music was awaiting the mixing engineer to put the finishing touches on – tweak a guitar solo here, fade a song out there. “The Fallen” dates from these sessions but was left off the album. (“Death Warmed Up” is another leftover which has yet to see the light of day.) It is a bit
faster and a little more slick than the rest of Born Again but it certainly isn’t dramatically different from the rest of the album.
“Gil Blanco County” – Albert Bouchard
The story behind this song is remarkably long and convoluted. Bouchard was Blue Öyster Cult’s drummer and the tune is a part of the Imaginos song-cycle. BÖC released the album Imaginos in 1988 but it was really just the tip of the iceberg of a Wagnerian-length epic envisioned by the band’s mentor, Sandy Perlman.
As per the BÖC FAQ which was on the now-deceased AOL Hometown: ” The Imaginos story actually pre-dates BOC, and started within the mind of Sandy Pearlman, who, back in about 1967, wrote a collection of poems called “The Soft Doctrines of Immaginos” (note the original spelling of Immaginos). It was Pearlman’s desire that BOC be the embodiment of the Imaginos concept.”
In 1988 Perlman described the story as follows: “Basically, it’s an interpretation of history – an explanation for the onset of World War 1, or a revelation of the occult origins of it. Imaginos is the main character, and is what I call ‘an actor in history’. He plays different roles in history and was born as a modified child, modified by an alien influence, and his mission is to present the human race with the challenge of evil. The aliens are playing with our history as if it’s a game, and he motivates the game and presents the choices to the human race. They react as they will.”
The band recorded a handful of songs from the cycle in the late 1960s and 70s but it was Bouchard who took it upon himself to attempt the whole nine yards in the first half of the 1980s. “Gil Blanco County” was recorded in 1970 as a demo when BÖC were known as the Stalk-Forrest Group but the band left it out when putting together the Imaginos album in the late 1980s. This is Bouchard’s solo version of the song.
“We Can Fly From Here” – Yes
By 1980, both Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman had left Yes and were replaced by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes. Hard core fans of the band tend to have a love/hate relationship with the resulting album, Drama. On the one hand, Anderson’s voice is missing but, on the other, the songs are quite good and certainly much better than what we have of the band’s final sessions from 1979 before Anderson and Wakeman had departed. (Many examples from these aborted sessions appear on the 2004 reissue of Drama.)
During the tour in support of Drama Yes played two leftover songs from the recording sessions for that album – “Have We Really Got to Go Through This?” and “We Can Fly From Here”. The former was released on the aforementioned 2004 reissue and the latter is presented here.
“Tom Sawyer” – Rush
Starting in 1976 Rush began undertaking short tours after the main tour in support of an album had finished to preview some of the new material that they had been working on. The last of these was in the spring of 1985 when a couple songs which would eventually appear on Power Windows were given workouts in front of live audiences.
In autumn 1980 Rush hit the road along with two new songs: “Limelight” and “Tom Sawyer”. We have a nice recording of the latter from Allentown, Pennsylvania on 30 September. There are a few kinks yet to be worked out and some different lyrics, but it is very similar to the recorded version. The reaction of the crowd to “Tom Sawyer” here is funny as it is so sedate compared to how audiences would react in the future. “Huh? What’s this?”
“Tomorrow Was Today” – Jethro Tull
Another live song. Tull shows in late 71/early 72 were a real treat for fans. Aqualung still fresh and the band were inserting new material into their shows. For starters comes an embryonic chunk of “Thick As a Brick” which Tull were still writing. (About 15 minutes worth starting with the “Poet and the Painter” section.) Early in 71 an unreleased and likely unrecorded song “The Hard-Headed English General” was inserted into the lengthy “Wind-Up/Locomotive Breath” medley which finished shows and it remained there during 1971/72. Lastly there’s “Tomorrow Was Today”. I’ve found no evidence that it was ever recorded and it was dropped by the time Thick As a Brick was released in March 1972. Martin Barre’s riffing sounds like Benefit era Tull to my ears but it is reportedly an outtake from the Aqualung sessions. Lyrically it prefaces A Passion Play with “celebrate the consciousness of the Universal Man”. It was the opening song in a medley which also included “Hymn 43″ and “Nothing Is Easy”. This rendition is from Hannover, Germany recorded on 27 January 1972.
“No Quarter” – Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin is another band whose demos and outtakes are numerous. Physical Graffiti collected most of the leftover songs from previous sessions but you can still hear the evolution of various tunes via boots.
One such instance is “No Quarter”. It may have been released on Houses of the Holy but its genesis lies in the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV or whatever you want to call it. And that’s what we have here. Recorded at Headley Grange Studios in the UK sometime in December 1970 or January 71. Plant mostly improvises the vocal melody and the drums are much busier. Still, you can hear the version you know and love taking shape.
“Highway Star” – Deep Purple
Legend has it that the band were on a bus bound for Portsmouth to begin their tour in support of Fireball when this song was written. This was September 1971. A reporter was aboard and asked about their songwriting process. Richie Blackmore picked up an acoustic guitar and came up with a riff while Ian Gillen improvised. Apparently the band liked the song so much they fleshed it out immediately and it made its live premiere that same night. This version was recorded in Bournemouth later that month on the 29th. There are some relatively minor musical differences and lyrics that would eventually be changed but it is definitely recognizable as the song which would become the lead track of the classic Machine Head album.
“He Knows You Know” – Marillion
Marillion got a lot of crap in their early days for being Genesis clones and while they lovingly appropriated bits here and there, they certainly deviated from Genesis dramatically. This version of “He Knows You Know” is very different from the one on their debut album. Although the opening is almost certainly a nod to “I Know What I Like”, the song is much heavier than anything Genesis had done up to that point and, indeed, is much heavier and more menacing than the version which was released.
It was recorded at Roxon Studios in July 1981 along with “Garden Party” and “Charting the Single”. The latter of these two is also radically different from the released version which emerged as a b-side.
“Imogen Slaughter” – Porcupine Tree
Recorded during the In Absentia sessions in 2002 as The Tree was beginning to show the influence of Opeth, “Imogen Slaughter” is one of the heaviest songs they’ve ever done. If memory serves, the song was never intended to be released as a PT tune but rather as a metal side project of some ilk. Unfortunately I cannot find anything supporting this notion to link to.
“Ascension II” – Pete Townshend
This comes from the bootleg Behind Chinese Eyes and I’m not certain about the recording date. It seems odd that The Who rejected both “Dance It Away” and How Can You Do It Alone?” only to have Entwistle and Jones help Pete out on “Ascension II”. It’s a very odd song that really moves along and has these breaks with a chorus of multi-tracked Townshend vocals singing “Ascension one” almost as a round. This seems to be more of an experiment and I highly doubt it was seriously considered for inclusion on All the Best C
owboys Have Chinese Eyes.
“Russian Girl” – Liz Phair
This song is included because I am trying to get into Liz Phair’s music and I happened to like this song. It’s from the so-called “‘96 Shelved Demos” which places them between Whip-Smart and whitechocolatespaceegg and many of the songs on the boot appear on the latter. Since I am not familiar with her music, it is possible that “Russian Girl” was changed and ended up on a later album under a different title but, as far as I know, it was rejected for wcse and never reused.
“Me In Honey” – REM
We close out the set with an early version of one of my favorite REM songs, “Me In Honey”. It was recorded in late 1990 at Bearsville Studios in New York. Michael Stipe is just improvising the vocal melody here though it’s pretty much as it would be on the released version. Someone – Mike Mills? – is playing organ here and provides the major musical difference between this and the song as it appears on Out of Time. It also lends the track an oddly upbeat feel that is missing on the rather melancholy version we’re used to.