23 October 2009

Before the Mortal Coil

October can be the cruelest month. So pretty yet so useless. Cold and dry. Apparently, it snew somewhere in the Alps. Not here. The storm missed all of France and just grazed Chamonix. So I'll wait. I have bindings to mount on new skis(!) and liners to bake in the oven. There is a garden to break down. Plenty of trail running. I suppose I should wash the car. And some clothes. I guess I could shave. Change t-shirts.

So while we're in a holding pattern I thought I'd post some music. Recently I heard the "legendary solo version" of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren" as it was recorded on an episode of The Monkees TV show sometime in the late '60s. I won't post the version but you can watch the clip, afro and all, on YouTube. Hearing the song again took me back to the This Mortal Coil version found on their first 1984 album It'll End in Tears. My, my, that was a long time ago. Twenty-five years ago, in fact.

In honor of the momentous occasions--the fact that the first This Mortal Coil album is twenty-five years old this year, plus the fact that winter will soon be here, which is a great time to listen to the This Mortal Coil albums--I will hereby offer the original versions of songs covered on all three albums. We'll start with 1984's It'll End in Tears, then feature the covers from the 1986 album Filigree & Shadow, followed by the third and final album from 1991, Blood. A single disc of the original versions accompanied the four disc This Mortal Coil box set that came out in 1993. By 1993, however, my fascination with the 4AD sound was gone, never to return, and many of the albums that the cover versions were pulled from were already in my collection. I don't own the box set and I'm pretty sure it's now out of print. It's also an incomplete collection.

After all these years the full albums still hold up pretty well, though I think they always suffered from the "goth" label misappropriated onto them. This Mortal Coil is no more gothic than the groups they covered. Call it high-brow or artsy-fartsy but it's still pop. There ain't a single pasty, hair-dyed, sad-sacked, gothic goofball that has ever listened to Big Star.
Ivo Watts-Russell, producer and founder of 4AD records, sure did and he put This Mortal Coil together in part to show off some of his favorite artists and songs. Granted, twenty-five years ago I had no idea what a Big Star was either. Back then my hair was dyed blond and though I wore a little eyeliner here and there I never felt compelled to do the whole Edward Gorey/Tim Burton movie character thing. These days, too, I much prefer Alex Chilton to the warble of Elizabeth Fraser. And though I haven't worn eyeliner in years there is no doubt that these three albums helped form my musical sensibilities and encouraged my ceaseless curiosity.

Below is the track listing for the entire album with the original versions substituted for the covers.

1. Big Star: Kangaroo
from: Third/Sister Lovers, 1975

2. Tim Buckley: Song To The Siren
from: Starsailor, 1970

3. Big Star: Holocaust
from: Third/Sister Lovers, 1975

4. Fyt

5. Rema Rema: Fond Affections
from : Wheel In the Roses EP, 1980

6. The Last Ray

7. Roy Harper: Another Day
from: Flat Baroque and Berserk, 1970

8. Waves Become Wings

9. Barramundi

10. Dreams Made Flesh

11. Colin Newman: Not Me
from: A-Z, 1980

12. A Single Wish


Jeff said...

That photo's fantastic. Reminds me of low down in the Smokies.

steven hatcher said...

Thanks, Jeff. It's the Bienne river inside the Bienne Gorge. It's a stretch of very difficult to access river between Morez and St. Claude, France in the Jura mountains. I've been scoping the place for trout streams.