Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Smiths - Unreleased Demos and Instrumentals.

You may have noticed a considerable amount of excitement in the mainstream media including The Word Magazine, Rolling Stone, NPR (American public radio) and the Los Angeles Times in the latter part of December along with a good number of fellow music fan sites regarding the 'release' of a double album vinyl bootleg called The Smiths - Unreleased Demos and Instrumentals.

Indeed such was the quality of this material, my first reaction when listening to it initially, was to check out if this was an official compilation and someone was having me on, regarding the material being a bootleg 'release'.

As a result of searching around online I have picked up a fair amount of additional information and my thanks go out to the many fans of The Smiths who have researched this (and whom I am unashamedly copying from in the details section below). The original vinyl rip was in mono and this is a vastly cleaned up version that improves the quality considerably. The 'informed view' is that the material must have come from somebody very close to the band, and be from source recordings (make of that what you will).

The original vinyl bootleg appears to have been a labour of love from persons unknown rather than any attempt to cash in on the bands unreleased material, the demand from fans and the knowledge that there are so many alternative versions gathering dust may have caused this well timed event to have occurred.

Source: Studio sessions (see details below).

Sound Quality: Very good stereo/mono mp3@320kbps.

Genre: Alternative rock, Indie pop and rock.

Sessions List:

01. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (Demo)
02. Reel Around The Fountain (Demo)
03. Rusholme Ruffians (Demo)
04. The Queen Is Dead (Demo)
05. Sheila Take A Bow (Demo)
06. This Night Has Opened My Eyes (Demo)
07. Untitled One (Marr Instrumental)
08. Ask (Demo)
09. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (Demo)
10. Is It Really So Strange? (Demo)
11. Frankly, Mr. Shankly (Demo)
12. Shoplifters Of The World Unite (Reprise)
13. Girlfriend In A Coma (Demo)
14. Death Of A Disco Dancer (Demo)
15. Paint A Vulgar Picture (Demo)
16. Untitled Two (Marr Instrumental)


As I understand matters Simon Goddard's book 'Songs That Saved Your Life' has been used to reference the following track by track information (with grateful thanks to the smiths recycle website from whom I have taken this in full).

1 The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (John Porter monitor mix)
Not much different from the final LP version, a monitor mix is a rough-and-ready mixdown done at the recording desk, mainly used by the band (and producer) to see what needs tightening/redoing (if anything) prior to the final mixdown.

2 Reel Around The Fountain (final Troy Tate mix)
Pretty self explanatory, the main difference between this blog's version and the bootleg version is the subtle guitar intro.

3 Rusholme Ruffians (early electric version, July 1984)
Goddard says the band originally attempted this in July 1984, several months prior to the main Meat Is Murder sessions. The very first July 1984 take stretched to nearly 7 minutes long (ding!), was much more rough/ready, and much more skiffle/rockabilly (ding!) than the final MIM track. Moz's vocal is really rough around the edges, it doesn't sound like he's fully worked out the melody or his phrasing, and the lyric itself isn't as tight as it would become. Based on this it can only be assumed the version here is the very same first take mentioned by Goddard.

4 The Queen Is Dead (original full-length unedited version)
Well, if the subtitle doesn't nail it down... the final album mix had several instrumental sections edited out at the last minute by the band and Stephen Street, as they felt it went on a tad too long. This is the full-calorie version.

5 Sheila Take A Bow (original John Porter recording, January 1987)
One of the more famous episodes in Smiths session history, this song was originally produced by John Porter, signed, sealed and delivered, ready to go. Then for whatever reason the band had a rethink, decamped to another studio with Stephen Street, and re-recorded the song (sampling some of Porter's guitar work in the process, to save time - which miffed Porter, understandably, since they never asked for permission). This original version is much more jangly, with Porter on emulated sitar, while the final Street take is all T.Rex'ed out. Honestly, I'd have to say I prefer the Street version, though that could be due to familiarity more than anything else (as I usually love Porter's stuff with Marr).

6 This Night Has Opened My Eyes (unreleased studio recording, June 1984)
The only released version of this song was recorded in September 1983 for a Peel session, at the BBC. For whatever reason the band chose to record a full-blown studio version in June 1984 during the William, It Was... sessions, but never did anything with it (it was meant to be a B-side along with the July '84 Rusholme Ruffians recording, backing a proposed-yet-binned Nowhere Fast single which also was recorded in June/July 1984). If anything, time gave Moz a chance to get a bit more confident with his vocal, but it's not significantly different overall. Still a nice find though...

7 I Misses You (unreleased instrumental, edit, December 1984)
Recorded during the final mixdown sessions for the Meat Is Murder LP. Goddard surmises that this may have even featured a Moz lyric at one point, but this is only supposition. A track that the band binned, honestly while interesting as any "new" Morrissey/Marr track might be, it would be moreso with a Moz lyric and is mostly forgettable.

8 Ask (probable first-ever take, 9 June 1986)
A very early, if not the first if Goddard's correct, run-through of this track missing most of the chiming/jangly guitars. This is a basic rough-and-ready bash it out take recorded by John Porter, with Marr and Gannon going at it on the rhythm guitars and Joyce getting all frenetic on drums. Wisely, a lot was tightened up as the session progressed; alas, this isn't the hoped-for "pre-Steve Lillywhite mix" fans hoped for (which sadly, according to Porter, doesn't exist because he never actually got the opportunity to mix it before Lillywhite got his hands on it and didn't understand the complex web of guitars Porter had built up).

9 There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (early take, September 1985)
A very early run-through with a relatively-confident Moz vocal, though it does feature the subsequently-omitted defining lyric "there is a light in your eye and it never goes out" during the final refrain. Missing most of Marr's overdubs, musically it sounds like a rough monitor mix of the basic Marr/Rourke/Joyce instrumentation, with the added synthetic string bits on the Emulator.

10 Is It Really So Strange? (unreleased studio take, June 1986)
Another track which has its only released version being a BBC session version, the known-and-loved release variant was recorded in December 1986 for John Peel at the BBC. Interestingly though, they did have a fully-recorded, mixed, release-ready take in the can, recorded during the Panic sessions in June 1986. For whatever reason it remained binned, to the point when it came time to select B-sides for the Sheila single in spring 1987, the band went to the (admittedly superior) Peel recording rather than the June 1986 studio take. This version is a bit more shimmery than the common version, and Marr's guitar is a bit more rhythmically choppy than the BBC take.

11 Frankly, Mr Shankly (unreleased Stephen Street "trumpets" recording, November 1985)
The story has it that when this song was recorded during the main sessions for the Queen Is Dead LP, with Street, there was a technical problem with the master reels for this track, necessitating an emergency call to John Porter to engineer an 11th hour re-recording in December 1985. What wasn't discovered (at least publicly), until Goddard dug it up, was that the "technical problem" was a bizarro trumpet part on the track. It does introduce an additional element of hilarity, but the final Porter recording nails it.

12 Shoplifters Of The World Unite (instrumental)
Goddard doesn't go into much detail into this track's session history, unfortunately. It's an instrumental, with some additional Marr-riffic guitars that are either obscured or wiped from the final recording, presumably due to Moz laying down his vocals on top. I do like Rourke's bass on this version however.

13 Girlfriend In A Coma (early take, January 1987)
While in studio with Street in January 1987 re-recording Sheila, the band took the time to lay down a couple takes of this track (prior to the main Strangeways sessions in April 1987). What sets this apart from the Strangeways version is the pronounced reggae-ness of the instrumentation (no, there aren't any steel drums). Goddard says the first two takes of this from the January '87 sessions featured this Jamaican interpretation, which we have here, and Moz's vocal is a bit rough around the edges (of course he'd tighten it up later on).

14 Death Of A Disco Dancer (first take, April 1987)
The find of the lot, in my book. This is markedly different from the final LP version, in that you can a) hear the song actually being structurally formed as it progresses, and b) Moz is audibly excited at the suspense and greatness of the track, this being the band's first run-through of it in studio, as per Goddard. All the musicians are in perfect synch with each other, you can just feel the bond between the members, as the song plays out. It's for things like this that I love the behind-the-scenes aspect of the recording business. If this were the only track leaked, I'd be happy.

15 Paint A Vulgar Picture (early take, April 1987)
Goddard says that this track went through several run-throughs before the final LP version, with entire Moz verses being chopped out. This doesn't feature the "missing Moz" which was compensated for by Marr's solo over that section on the LP version, but it does feature some unheard Mozwork with the title itself part of the lyric. If I read Goddard right, this take we have here would have been one of the very earliest ones.

16 Heavy Track (unreleased instrumental, April 1987)
Apparently this was recorded at the very beginning of the Strangeways sessions, before Moz turned up at the studio. It's the most musically different Smiths track of any of them, for all intents and purposes it sounds like Zeppelin (I can imagine Robert Plant wailing on top of it). Nothing shocking, nothing you'll kill yourself for not hearing over the past 23 years, it's still a nice one to have.

Website: Fan Site HERE. Morrissey Solo HERE.

Reloaded 25/May/2015 - download link in comments.


Ralph Dodger said...

"Heavy Track" is based around the main riff from "Still I'm sad" by The Yardbirds/Rainbow.

Anonymous said...

Superb - excellent quality, everything you could ever ask for from a boot.

Chris E

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Reloaded 25/May/2015

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