Monday, January 17, 2011

The Smiths - Unreleased Demos and Studio outtakes

The Smiths - Instrumentals and Studio Outtakes
Part One

Slap me on the patio. What a great late Christmas present or early kick start to the New Year. Thanks to friend who pointed me towards the Power of Independent Trucking Blog I was able to download the stereo mix of Smith’s studio out-takes,demo's and instrumentals. The tracks first surfaced before Christmas on the Morrissey Solo Forum.

The link is here -

Used to spending warm summer days indoors it was great to have these tracks to shed light on the song writing process and undoubted genius of The Smiths. The unreleased songs are a collection of demos, finished mixes and instrumentals that appear to have once been part of a rarities disc prepared by Warners as part of their management of The Smiths back catalogue. The disc was never issued which is a real shame. For a band as big as The Smiths there has been precious little in terms of bootlegs outside the aborted debut LP by Troy Tate and live shows. This feels like it has been sent from heaven. Well I Wonder what else is tucked away in the vaults?

Below I have outlined my take on the songs. I am no musicologist and have listened to them with reference back to the official releases and let me memory guide me. If you haven’t read Simon Goddard's book Song's That Saved Your Life it is worth seeking out a copy and cross referencing but I lost my copy years ago.

Reel Around the Fountain (Troy Tate Final Version.)

Lovely spidery light fingered opening to the track that is missing from version released on the debut LP. The sound is much sharper, less muddy and brighter than on the versions of the Troy Tate sessions than I have heard before. Morrissey is in fine voice and the bands trademark shimmer is present in the blend of electric and acoustic guitars and tight high wire bass placing. I would love to hear a fully master official release of the whole of the Troy Tate sessions. Some added extra acoustic riffs towards the end also add some additional lightness to the song.

Hand the Rocks The Cradle (John Porter Monitor Mix)

This is a much rougher sounding take on the song. It is a basic mix for the band and producer to work from, a step between a demo and the finished product. The tempo is faster than the final version that surfaced on The Smiths and Morrissey’s vocal is not as focussed or sharp. Mike Joyce adds far too many hi hats to the backing track. The official version is a much better take.

This Night has Opened My Eyes (Studio Recording)

A version of the track that was recorded for the bands 2nd Peel Session in September 1983 and later appeared on Hatful of Hollow. The band had however recorded a full studio version that was never released. The studio version doesn’t differ greatly from the Peel session version. Some wordless vocalising from Morrissey in the mid-section of the song and a slightly different outro are the clear differences but there is nothing here of great interest.

Rusholme Ruffians (First Take – John Porter)

A much longer version than that released on Meat is Murder this first version of Rusholme Ruffians is dominated by Andy Joyce’s bassline that anchors the song as Johnny Marr riffs around the edges. Morrissey’s vocal is wonderfully ragged and aching. It shifts between his lower register and that keening falsetto that has sadly disappeared from his vocals now. The lyrics seem to be tumbling out of him and there are slight variations in his phrasing compared to the final released version. The phrasing around “parachutes” is completely different and rather lovely. The coda is completely different and this is well worth a listen.

I Misses You (Instrumental)

I Misses You is a completely unreleased instrumental from the Meat Is Murder sessions. A trademark set of mournful chords, sparkling guitars riffs and an impossibly tight rhythm section mark this out as another gem on this collection. It shows how sure the band was of their genius at the time that this could just disappear for years. It is the type backing that most mid 80’s indie bands would have killed to produce. Wonder if Morrissey ever penned lyrics for it?

There Is a Light That Never Goes Out (Early Version)

There Is a Light That Never Goes Out is one of my favourite Smith’s tracks. This take is a very early version. Even at this point that trademark bass line was in place along with the vocal melody and lyric. The rhythm track lacks the urgency of the released version and Johnny Marr’s acoustic guitar seems to power the track compared to the one on The Queen is Dead. There is also the added lyric that gave the song its name but was omitted from the official release. Morrissey sings quite beautifully “There is a light in her eyes, and it never goes out..”

The Queen is Dead ( Full Version)

The legendary full length of the title track from The Queen is Dead. This is album version with added venom and more guitars! Clocking in at 7.30 it is over a minute longer than the official versions and the extended coda seems to contain most of the extra blast. Johnny Marr’s guitar gets more furious, dirtier and harder. The piano part is slightly more extended and the funk is located more clearly. I can’t see why this was the version released it is amazing.

Frankly, Mister Shankly (Trumpet Version)

Another completely finished version that was omitted from The Queen is Dead. This Steven Street mix is more of a curiosity than anything else. This version has a very odd trumpet line and lacks the bite and focus of the official release. I am not surprised at all that this was re-recorded and this version hidden away.

I will listen through to the remaining tracks and post my thoughts later this week.

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