Saturday, 27 March 2010

News, Views and Music Issue 57 (Top Five) EP Rarities

♫ And its a happy EP day to all of you! Most of our readers born post-1970 probably won’t have a clue what I’m talking about, but back in the 60s many artists used to release Extended Play records, a sort of halfway house between singles and album tracks. They usually contained four tracks, came at a cheaper price than albums and occasionally contained exclusive material. Back in the 1980s when CDs lead to many classic AAA artists’ material being released there were a spate of EP compilations (The Kinks even memorably stretched to two!), but nowadays most of these tracks tend to be added as ‘bonus’ tracks on a full album. Here, in this week’s top five, is our handy guide to the AAA songs that – used to - be exclusive to EPs and where to find them now.

5) Poison Ivy (The Rolling Stones, ‘The Rolling Stones’ EP 1963 – still waiting for CD release!): In an alternate universe The Stones became the 60s’ biggest draw after The Beatles much earlier than their turning point as the bad boys of rock in 1964. ‘Poison Ivy’ was intended to be the band’s debut single, recorded as far back as August 1963, but was passed over for the vastly inferior Chuck Berry b-side ‘Come On’. What is there not to like about this cover? It’s funny, sassy, rocky and about as subversive as the censors would allow in 1963 (it skirts mighty close to being about sexual disease, even if the worst the boy narrator gets from his girlfriend is a bit of scratching) and perfect for what The Stones would become, even though they hadn’t actually got there yet (Andrew Loog Oldham only made the band an ‘anti’ Beatles the following year). Along with the band’s other key early song-that-nobody-knows, ‘Fortune Teller’, the band ignored it and stuck it on an EP (the latter overdubbed with fake screams to sound like a live recording!) and left it to The Hollies to release perhaps the definitive version instead (even though they too never released ‘Poison Ivy’ at the time). ollH

4) When I’m Not There (The Hollies, ‘I’m Alive’ EP 1965 – still only available on ‘The Hollies EP Collection’, now out of print although !) A forgotten Tony Hicks song – the first time any of The Hollies got solo billing apart from the Clarke-Hicks-Nash writing team – is, together with its partner ‘What Kind Of Girl’, one of the rarest of all released Hollies songs. And it doesn’t deserve to be – a short but soulful burst of Northern 60s pop, it’s a typically tight Hollies performance full of handclaps, chiming guitars and sudden bursts of adrenalin from drummer Bobby Elliott. Do you ever dream of me when I’m not there? Well, if this song is missing from your Hollies collection then you should dream of it. A lot.

3) Disguises (The Who, ‘Ready Steady Who’ EP 1966, now found on ‘A Quick One’): One of Pete Townshend’s key early compositions is strangely abandoned on this sea of leftovers including off-key covers of surfing songs ‘Barbara Ann’ and ‘Bucket T’ as sung by non-singing drummer Keith Moon and a run through the Batman theme tune! A loud, crunching, bass heavy song is given an extra murky riff to make it sound swampy and impenetrable, just as the girl in the song keeps changing her appearance, dress, mannerisms and opinions much to the narrator’s confusion. No wonder the band can’t work out what’s going on either – like many a song from 1966, the playing is all over the place. The Jam later covered this song in the late 70s, rescuing this song from its relative obscurity – and I’m glad, more fans should know about this song, if only because its a dry run for the equally ever-changing classic single ‘Substitute’ the same year.

2) I Call Your Name (The Beatles, ‘Long Tall Sally’ EP 1964, now found on ‘Past Masters Volume One’): The Beatles released loads of EPs in the 1960s but only one contained previously unreleased material – three varying covers (Larry Williams’ ‘Slow Down’ is the best and I’ve no idea why the recorded-in-the-same-session, unreleased-till-1966-best-of-compilation ‘Bad Boy’ isn’t on the same EP as its easily the best of the bunch) and one forgotten Lennon/McCartney song. ‘I Call Your Name’ is a halfway house between the classics the Beatles were churning out in their sleep in 1964 and the filler material that made up the handful of other songs in the period. It’s a brave stab at doing something different to the usual sounds around in 1964 – Lennon later looked back on this song and pronounced it an early attempt at reggae, albeit very much that of a white Merseybeat band doing reggae – and its sense of urgency at not getting a reply is very much in the Lennon mould of songs circa 1964 (it’s a dead ringer for ‘You Can’t Do That’). Now found alongside the other ‘Long Tall Sally’ tracks on the first Past Masters compilation.

1) This Is Where I Belong (The Kinks, ‘Mr Pleasant’ EP, now found as a bonus track on ‘Face To Face’). Another key song in the development of a composer seemingly chucked away on a forgotten EP (it’s not even the title track). ‘This Is Where I Belong’ is one of the most tortuous Kinks recordings of all – Ray is painfully off key and every note is a struggle, but that’s all a deliberate ploy to back up this multi-layered song about saying one thing while believing another. Ray was moving into his first house at the time this song was written along with a pregnant wife - and battling this sudden expectation to ‘grow up’ with every step if his songs about domestication in this period are to be believed. An early attempt at taking the audience somewhere different to where they’d have gone if they’d just read the lyric sheet, this is a break through song for Ray Davies and sits nicely among the tracks it inspired on the classic ‘Face To Face’ album, which is similarly split between the shallowness of life and the hidden meanings of its characters.

Well that’s it for another issue. Hopefully there won’t be such a long gap this week – till then keep rocking and see you soon!

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