Tuesday, May 30, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter E, Part 13)

Finally finished ripping all of my vinyl from Everything But the Girl. After four albums and scores of singles, I'm ready to move down the shelf. We will, of course, hear from Ben and Tracey later on when we get to Marine Girls and solo works. There has also been some interest in a bonus post of covers performed by EBTG as well, and I'm all for it. Look for that in the next week or so.

This is EBTG's fourth post in this series, and that's uncharted territory. No other band or artist, so far, has had four posts. Even Elvis Costello didn't get four, but that's misleading because we did listen to 10 singles crammed into three posts. When you consider I own almost nothing by EBTG beyond 1989, yet they still garnered this much attention, that's all the proof I need that they were and still are among my favorite artists.

Two more singles today and from eras we haven't listened to yet. From the 1985 album 'Love Not Money,' here is the second of two singles from that album. Incidentally, the first was "When All's Well," a perfect piece of horn-driven pop that raced up the chart to... No. 77. Ridiculous. Neither single made any noise on the big countdown, but I do think "When All's Well" and "Angel" were fine choices for radio. They weren't, however, the best songs on the album, and the LP managed to sell more than 100,000 copies without a hit on it. There were three songs on the B-side of second single "Angel," and none of them came from 'Love Not Money.' Much appreciated. There was an alternative version of "Easy as Sin," a song that first appeared on the 1984 U.S. self-titled release. This take was much longer than the original, and Ben took the vocals this time around. "Pigeons in the Attic Room" and "Charmless Callous Ways" were guitar and voice and piano and voice, respectfully. Each clock in at less than two minutes and took you back to the way EBTG did things in '82. No throwaways there.

"Angel" 12", UK Chart Peak: No. 93
"Easy as Sin" (Version)
"Pigeons in the Attic Room"
"Charmless Callous Ways"

Now we enter the 'Idlewild' era, but this was a non-album single from 1989. This was not my favorite single, not even my favorite cover, but I wanted to end the EBTG posts with a success story, and this was, by far, the band's biggest hit of the decade. In her memoir 'Bedsit Disco Queen,' Tracey went into detail about how 'Idlewild' marked a tough time for the band. Label support was low. In turn, the band's confidence was even lower.

How rewarding it must have been, then, to cover Danny Whitten's song, first recorded by Crazy Horse in 1971 and made famous by Rod Stewart in 1977, and watch it immediately get airplay on Radio 1. This was their "Top of the Pops" moment. Stewart was a big hero of the Thorn family when she was growing up, and EBTG stuck to a faithful rendition. Thorn admitted all of that attention was fun, but by covering Stewart they had "unwittingly steered ourselves perilously close to becoming housewives' favourites." Of course, over here, we didn't know about all of that. It would be seven more years before they would have that moment here in America.

If you can spare the time, try the instrumental mix from the flip side of the 12". Has a little different feel, and Ben Watt really shines. The rest of the B-sides were taken from 'Idlewild.' After all, this single was issued to beef up sales of the current album. The label did try to cash in on the band's fresh fame by issuing a followup single to "I Don't Want to Talk About It," the third from 'Idlewild.' "Love Is Here Where I Live" failed to chart. Personally, I'll take that one before the hit every time.

"I Don't Want to Talk About It" 12", UK Chart Peak: No. 3
"I Don't Want to Talk About It"
"Oxford Street"
"I Don't Want to Talk About It" (Instrumental Mix)
"Shadow on a Harvest Moon"


Echorich said...

Oh but that alt take on Easy As Sin is just so magnificent! Ben Watt sings from the higher end of his otherwise narrow register and gets so much power and emotion out of the song it's quite incredible. Where Tracey's approach is quiet and contemplative on a subject of the end of love, Watt is raw and raging with hurt and disappointment. He tapped into that indescribable something on Easy As Sin that says so much about his commitment to his art.
I think someone needs to point Emmylou Harris towards Pigeons In The Attic Room - or Willie Nelson for that matter. It begs for a smart Country artist to perform it.
Pigeons, as well as Charmless Callous Ways show Tracey channelling her inner Patsy Cline which would come to the fore on Baby The Stars Shine Bright.

I will always be grateful that I wasn't really familiar with Rod Stewart's version of I Don't Want To Talk About It. As an EBTG song it is a showcase of their talents. Tracey caresses the lyrics and Ben and the band frame Witten's beautiful words perfectly.
For my money, Blanco Y Negro missed the opportunity for a 3rd single from the album by relegating one of the albums standout moments, Oxford Street to a b-side of the IDWTKA EP. I really like Love Is Here Where I Live, but it might have been a bit more Jazzy than than what the market was interested in at the time. Oxford Street is so perfectly light and breezy, with subject matter of looking back and cherishing the past. It's among my favorite of their songs to this day.

Looking forward to the bonus Covers post Brian. In the end Everything But The Girl are among a handful of bands who's I don't think I could imagine not having in my life. As you can see I can wax on and on about my own appreciation of EBTG.

friend of rachel worth said...

Pigeons is one of those hidden gems and one tgst ended up on a lot of comp tapes i forced on people. In stopping at 89 youre missing out on their most consistent lp amplified heart!

Echorich said...

I have to agree with FORW - Amplified Heart acted as the musical reset for Ben and Tracey after weathering such trying personal experiences as a couple. It's why it's such an amazing return to form.

Brian said...

Hi, boys. You are not the first to lead me to Amplified Heart, and you will not be the last. Big moment for EBTG for sure. I wasn't listening to much of anything during that time period. That's when I was in Japan. When I came back to America a couple of years later, my malaise more or less continued most of the rest of the decade. I did, however, enjoy reading about the '90s through Tracey's eyes in her book.

Looks like JC covered the covers well today. No use beating a dead horse. Thanks for sticking with me during these four posts. I really enjoyed listening to these again.

kevinpat said...

Oh my goodness, sounds like I have missed so much EBTG. The love that you guys share about Tracey & Ben makes me wanna hear more. I must admit I have been neglectful. What was I listening to then? Echo, I really don't know most of those covers, although I know the originals for sure but I'm imagining in my head......and I like what I'm hearing! Hahahahaha. "I Don't Want To Talk About It" is such a beautiful, personal song, and I love Danny Whitten's original and....ahem....Rod Stewart's lovely cover. Having Tracey sing it is such a treat as well. There are certain songs that are just so wonderful it's always cool to hear another voice on it. I haven't listened to the tracks you posted the last few days. I'm distracted right now and I want to give it the time needed. I'm especially interested in hearing "Pigeon in the Attic Room"! Emmylou Harris or Willie Nelson, eh Echo?? Sounds totally intriguing.And I adore Patsy Cline. So all this to be continued.....Thank you guys!!!! I'll get back to you.

Brian said...

You are not alone, Kevinpat. EBTG didn't make much of a splash in our country until well into the '90s, but it's never too late to dive in. Hopefully the group of singles I highlighted this past week will whet your appetite.

JC said...

Huge apologies Brian.

My covers EP, and the XTC partner piece, was put up with no inkling that you had been in the middle of this superb series. I hope you'll forgive me. I'd have not posted it if I'd known....

I only have the 7" of 'Angel' so am really looking forward to playing the extra track, especially as Echorich has said about it.

I never took to the Rod Stewart cover...he was just about the least cool bloke on planet rock back then and to hear EBTG pay tribute to him was a bit squirmy. But again, the instrumental will be totally new to me and can't wait to hear Ben's work on it.

Brian said...

JC, Like Echorich, if I had known the Stewart version in 1989, I probably wouldn't have gone for it either. If I had heard the EBTG version on the radio all of the time as it raced up the charts, well, I probably wouldn't have liked that too much and would have probably rejected it. All of these EBTG singles were never released in America and never received airplay here, making them exotic finds to a teenager. If you look closely at my 12" in the photo, you will see a little circular orange sticker. It says "UK." All of these singles were hard-to-find imports.

kevinpat said...

Sorry my friends. I love the Rod Stewart version, especially the way it sits on the Atlantic Crossing album, which for some strange reason keeps playing around me, especially in the car. But that's just me. John Coltrane and the Carpenters. Go figure.