Early Ephemera

During the early stages of their existence almost every band creates a catalogue of songs which they would draw on for a time then drop from their live sets. Sometimes ideas would be merged into other songs, sometimes they'd just get discarded and sometimes they'd be treasured as early hints of greatness. After listening to early live shows and other recordings I've identified a number of songs by the Teardrop Explodes from their early career which the band would never record but are worth hearing, even if only once. 

From Five Miles Up

The sleeve notes on the "Zoology" are notoriously wrong in many ways. Already in this blog the notes have assigned a live "Sleeping Gas" to the wrong bootleg from the wrong year, and given a different date for the Granada broadcast of "Camera Camera". So should we take the notes on "From five miles up" with a pinch of salt? Maybe. Cope states this instrumental was recorded at MVCU in December 1978 then lost for years and found on another band's demo tape. I suppose that's possible. If it was recorded at MVCU in December 78 then it would have been during the "Sleeping Gas" sessions, and it sounds too clean and reverb-free to be recorded with those songs. So is it from December 78? Who knows. What I know is that it's a spunky and punky little instrumental, Simpson plays the same organ line over and over while Cope and Finkler change key on bass and guitar. It works in its own way, and would have been an ideal set opener at the time. However there is a recording of another instrumental set opener (from the Masonic Arms, Feb 79) which is closely related but different, and also untitled. So...

Seeing through you

Now this definitely was recorded at the "Sleeping Gas" session but remains unreleased, and more than likely will never appear. The reason for this was explained by Paul Simpson in a recent tweet - the song was recorded but nobody was happy with it so "Kirkby Workers Dream Fades" was recorded in its place to fill the EP. Then the original multi track tape was reused by the next band to use MVCU so the studio version of "Seeing through you" was wiped. Maybe somebody somewhere has a dubbed copy of the song but it has yet to turn up.

Luckily there is a live recording available from a Feb 79 gig, which shows that the song is fast, desperate and over pretty quickly. The verses (as such) revolve around a two note guitar riff played high up the fretboard, another repetitive organ riff, and Cope repeating the same phrases (a trick he mentions in "Head On"), almost conversational. There's a chorus of sorts where Finkler, Cope and Simpson play other short riffs, and there's a midsong freakout where it almost falls apart, kept in place by Cope's bass. But the song speeds past and is over in almost two minutes. It's very typical post punk, and if it sounds like anything it sounds like the kind of song Stockholm Monsters would record in 1982. Which is no bad thing. A properly recorded version would be nice to hear. Ah well.

Straight Rain

Often titled "Straight Reins" or even "Straight Reigns" this is another instrumental which was used to fill out their early sets. Mind you some of that confusion over the title comes from Cope himself who announces it sometimes as "Straight rain" and other times as "Straight Reins".Whatever the title they clearly liked it because it remained in their live sets into 1980, which is odd as it's really nothing special. 

The organ plays two chords, Dwyer beats out a tomtom heavy tattoo, Cope plays a simple bass line, Finkler plays choppy guitar chords. It's sort of syncopated, sometimes chords and patterns are sustained, sometimes they're played in staccato patterns. It drones on for a few minutes and not much happens. In early shows Cope introduces the song as "something to boogie to", from time to time mentioning it was influenced by Credence Clearwater Revival. In later shows Cope explains it sounds weird as two members are playing in a different key to the other two members. 

"Straight Rain" was never attempted in a recording studio, which is why I believe it was a live set filler. The only officially (and I mean that term very loosely) issued recording of the song is as part of the "Leigh Festival" double CD set issued in the mid 2010s which brought together sets played by various Zoo and Factory bands at Fac 15, "Zoo meets Factory half way", a self explanatory festival from August 1979. 

The Tunnel

There are two distinct versions of "The tunnel" if you wish to locate them. There is an instrumental version issued on "Zoology" supposedly recorded by Yorkie (aka David Palmer) at a gig at Eric's, but there are recordings available with Cope's lyrics, and though it's hard to make out exactly what is being sung, "The tunnel" works much better with a lyric to guide it. 

Cope claims that this song was recorded at the Open Eye studio in Liverpool for inclusion on the "Street to street" compilation which included tracks by The Id (a pre-OMD "Julia's Song") and Echo and the Bunnymen ("Monkeys") alongside other Liverpudlian bands like Tontrix, Malchiks and Big In Japan. However the track was erased by a "dickhead engineer" who recorded Those Naughty Lumps over it. Only Those Naughty Lumps weren't on "Street to street". Hmm. I do wonder about Cope's role as an unreliable narrator. Or maybe it's the drugs. 

Anyway ...

"The tunnel" is a cracking little song, fast paced and urgent. It starts around a speedy cyclical guitar part from Finkler, before Cope and Dwyer thump in with a two chord vamp, while Simpson plays an octave leaping organ line, and Cope sings about "there could be a war upstairs" and "no-one tells me anything". The early trick of repeating phrases works well here. After a minute of building tension, there's an instrumental chorus which breaks nicely - it's a great little riff played well by the whole band in unison. Then back to the cyclical riffs again. And so on. There's a hint of the Seeds here - the Teardrops had rehearsed "Evil Hoodoo" in their early days, and this could have been adapted into "The tunnel". What's interesting is that the instrumental version on "Zoology" has almost inaudible organ which makes it sound like a traditional punk song, whereas the vocal version makes more sense with words and an organ to give focus to the song. 

Still, it's a nice idea well executed and no worse than other songs of the era. A little known gem then. 

Beauty comes second

This is quite a rarity as the song was only in Teardrops' live sets for a few months during the later part of 1979. By this point Simpson is long gone on organ and Dave Balfe is playing organ for the band, and maybe he contributed to the song? Who knows? There's very little information about this song to draw on. 

The song itself is fine, a jaunty little tune with another cyclical four note figure, played on organ with jangling guitar chords, and Cope sings about something in his attic, and more repetitive phrases and there's a few changes for the chorus. It's a cool little song to be honest, tuneful and fun. I can hear some sections of this song being merged into other later Teardrops songs - the bridge into the chorus was reused in "For years", another song which wasn't issued on record. It also has some resemblance to "Psychotic reaction" by the Count Five, but that's not a problem - just part of the post-punk "Nuggets" aesthetic the band was aiming for in their early days. It's a shame it wasn't recorded for the third single in January 1980, making a two track single into an EP. But there you go. Another hidden gem.

Save Me

This is a cover of a song by Aretha Franklin, originally issued on her classic 1967 album "I never loved a man the way I love you". It seems it was played by two lineups - with Finkler then Alan Gill on guitar, with the Gill lineup expanding the song out into a lengthy improvisation. The recording above is from Erics in July 1979, and it's rough around the edges, but by 1980 it was more organised. Cope is no Aretha Franklin, but his passionate vocal cuts through and the band get a good groove going, probably due to the song's three chord similarity to "Gloria". It's also notable how in the middle eight rave up in the 1980 version Dwyer turns the beat around and we get a glimpse of "Reward" in embryo. An intriguing curio. 


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