Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Milking a B-Side From the Pipettes

Here's one that took my fancy for a few minutes back in 2006. That's just about the time we were hit with a gaggle of girl groups, but I thought the Pipettes rose above the fray. First, unlike their '60s predecessors, these ladies were, hmm, how to put it nicely... forward. They sang about one night stands and female bullies without any masking. Underneath all of that pop, putting it plainly, the trio was kind of dirty. Second, they were backed by a terrific band called the Cassettes, led by a mysterious chap called Monster Bobby. He was said to be the puppet master. If so, what a talent! I have seen his name pop up from time to time since then, including working with a favorite of mine, Allo Darlin', but I have half expected his name to be linked to a string of hits. It hasn't happened yet.

When the first full-length album came out in '06, at least in the UK, the girls of the Pipettes were Rosay, Gwenno and RiotBecki. It was one of my favorites that year, and I began searching for B-sides that didn't make the record. "Guess Who Ran Away With the Milkman?" first appeared on the flip side of the "Pull Shapes" vinyl single. It is not only my favorite non-album song by the band, it might actually be my favorite song by them... period. In 2007, the song showed up in America as part of the "Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me" EP.

Speaking of here in America, the Pipettes were positioned to be a big deal in these parts. In early 2007, the ladies played a handful of U.S. shows, including well-received gigs at South by Southwest. For some reason, however, it took more than a year for the album to make it to these shores. When it finally did, the songs had been remixed, and the tracklist had been changed a bit. As someone who owns both versions of 'We Are the Pipettes,' in my humble opinion, the U.S. version was inferior. Even the new album cover was a disappointment.

After that, it all went into the crapper. Female band members came and went. There was another album, but the magic was gone. I wrote this post in the past tense, as if the unit has disbanded, but perhaps the Pipettes are still around. My ears have told me it doesn't matter if they are or not. Here is that fabulous B-side and a live version from one of the Pipettes' appearances at SXSW in 2007. After hearing both takes, I think you will agree Monster Bobby must be quite a studio wizard.

The Pipettes - Guess Who Ran Away With the Milkman? (mp3)
The Pipettes - Guess Who Ran Off With the Milkman? (SXSW) (mp3)

Oh yes, meant to mention that the U.S. title on the 'Kisses' EP was "Guess Who Ran OFF With the Milkman?"

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