CD singles

#946: Novel 30 Year-Old CD Packaging

RECORD STORE TALES #946: 30 Year-Old Novel CD Packaging

It’s not every day that I run into a CD packaging design that is new to me.  From all sorts of digipacks, to variations on the classic jewel case, to the SACD and DVD Audio, I thought I had seen it all.  Today I found one that is new to me.  It belongs to a CD single by the Scottish band Gun, from their first album Taking on the World.  That dates the single to over 30 years ago, so it’s surprising I haven’t seen anything like it before.

This is how it happened.  I was looking for a specific Metallica single (“The Unnamed Feeling”) to begin completing my St. Anger collection.  (I still need the Australian version with unique Australian live tracks, and an annoying version with a remix on it.)  Because I don’t like to buy just one thing, I checked other discs that the seller was offering.  I chose a 1994 Jackyl single for “Push Comes to Shove”, and the Gun single.  It was the title track from Taking on the World, a brilliant song itself, backed by a 12″ mix of their other big single “Better Days” and a non-album cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe a Word”.  The singles arrived in the mail last week and now I’m getting around to listening.

The Gun single comes in a regular thin cardboard sleeve, like many typical CD singles.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  I popped out the disc, and what should I find inside?  Not the usual 5″ single, no.  This is a 3″ single, much less common.

I have seen 3″ singles come in four different kinds of cases before.

1. Simple 3″ cardboard sleeve, like this copy of Queen’s First E.P.

2. 3″ Jewel case, like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” 2021 release.  (Click here to see a version of the same jewel case, but sold with a blank 3″ CDr.)

3. This unusual white plastic stickered case, from Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”.

4. Finally and least interestingly…just a regular 5″ CD single jewel case.

The Gun CD, released on A&M Records in 1990, is now the fifth storage system I’m found for the 3″ disc.  From inside the regular 5″ cardboard sleeve came a 3″ CD attached to a white plastic tray.  I have never seen one like it before.  It is specifically designed to hold 3″ discs, and has a three-pronged center to grasp the CD securely.

Isn’t it fascinating that after almost four decades of collecting music over different formats, that I just found a packaging design that I’ve never encountered in my travels?  I spent 12 years in a used CD store and this is the first 3″ white plastic tray I’ve ever seen.  Thank you Discogs!

#942: My Brushes With Metallica

RECORD STORE TALES #942: My Brushes With Metallica

I don’t mind admitting that my first Metallica was Load.  Yeah, I was one of them.  Hate on if you gotta.

Like many my age, the first exposure came in 1988 via their first music video:  “One”.  To say the visuals were disturbing would be accurate.  Although I did enjoy the song, I didn’t feel the need to hit “record” on my VCR when it come on.  Other kids at school sure liked it, and copies of Johnny Got His Gun were claimed to have been read by some of them.  I figured I could continue to live without Metallica.

The Black album was released in 1991.  I was watching live when Lars Ulrich called in to the Pepsi Power Hour to debut the new music video for “Enter Sandman”.  The new, streamlined and uber-produced Metallica looked and sounded good to me.  I loved when James said “BOOM!” and thought that hooking up with Bob Rock had worked out brilliantly.  The sonics were outstanding.  While I enjoyed the singles Metallica released through the next couple years, I never took a dive and bought the album.  Why?

Three main reasons.  The key one was that I knew, even before I knew I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that I would feel compelled to collect all the Metallica singles that I had missed over the years.  That was, as yet, a bridge too far.  Second reason was that I satisfied my craving for that style of Metallica in 1992 when Testament came out with The Ritual.  It had a track like “Sandman” called “Electric Crown”.  It had a song like “Sad But True” called “So Many Lies”.  It was perfect for my needs.  Thirdly, for whatever reason I didn’t think I was going to enjoy “old” Metallica, which again, I would feel compelled to collect.

When I started working at the Record Store in 1994, I had the night shifts alone.  I could play whatever I wanted and sometimes I gave Metallica a spin.  I can remember “Enter Sandman” coming on while I was cleaning, and saying to a customer, “Man I love this song!”  He nodded awkwardly and wondered why I was telling him.

A bit later I was hanging out with this guy Chris.  He was extolling the virtues of thrash metal, and put on Kill ‘Em All.  I was astonished when “Blitzkrieg” came on.  “I know this song!  I love this song!”  I exclaimed as I jumped up.  Air guitar in hand, I started bangin’ to the riff.  “This is a song by Blitzkrieg,” I explained to Chris.  “It’s on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal CD that Lars Ulrich produced.  I didn’t know he covered it.”

This is the point at which I like to say I became a Metallica fan.  Collecting the older stuff was still daunting, and a lot of it was expensive because it was out of print.  Which is really why it took Load for me to finally buy a Metallica CD.

1996 was a glorious but so stressing summer!  I was managing my own Record Store for the first time.  The weather was gorgeous.  The stock we had was incredible.  The stress came from staff, which turned over faster than a dog begging for belly rubs!  There was “Sally” who was caught paying herself excessive amounts of cash for the used CDs she was selling to the store.  There was The Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd who came to work hungover and worse.  And, most trying of all, music sucked for people like me who missed the great rock of the 70s and 80s.

On June 4, Metallica released Load to great anticipation.  Their new short-haired look (a Lars and Kirk innovation) turned heads and it was said that Metallica had abandoned metal and gone alternative.  Of course this was stretching the truth a tad.  Metallica had certainly abandoned thrash metal on Load, and arguably earlier.  Alternative?  Only in appearance (particularly Kirk Hammett with eye makeup and new labret piercing).

Load was the kind of rock I liked.  The kind of rock I missed through the recent alterna-years.  I had been buying Oasis CDs just to get some kind of new rock in my ears.  Finally here comes Metallica, with the exact kind of music that I liked, and at the exact time I needed it.

And yes, I did immediately start collecting the rarities and back catalogue.  Garage Days and Kill ‘Em All (with “Blitzkrieg” and “Am I Evil?”) were both out of print at that time.  I snapped up the first copies I could get my hands on, when they came in used inventory.  We were selling them for $25 each, no discount.  I later found a copy of a “Sad But True” single featuring the coveted “So What” at Encore Records for $20.  The new Load singles were added to my collection upon release.  The truth is, I picked the best possible time to get into Metallica collecting:  when I was managing my own used CD store!  I soon had the “Creeping Death” / “Jump In the Fire” CD.  A Japanese import “One” CD single only cemented what a lucky bastard I was to be working there.

Because Metallica came to me relatively later in life, today they never provoke the kind of golden memories that Kiss or Iron Maiden do.  However the summer of ’96 was defined by Metallica.  Driving the car, buddy T-Rev next to me, playing drums on his lap.  His hands and thighs got sore from playing car-drums so hard.  Load was our album of the summer and it sounded brilliant in the car.  Hate if you hafta, but that’s the way it went down for this guy in the dreary 90s.

 

REVIEW: Metallica – Enter Sandman (Remastered 2021 German CD singles)

METALLICA – “Enter Sandman” (Remastered 2021 German CD singles – 5″ Maxi CD and 3″ Pockit-CD)

The Black Album box set is coming!  Batten down your wallet because it looks absolutely incredible.  Yet on the 14 CDs and 6 DVDs, you won’t find the specific live tracks released only in Germany on the new set of “Enter Sandman” CD singles.  (There is also a glow-in-the-dark vinyl single, but it is missing the live tracks.)  All the discs maintain the style and design of Metallica’s original 1991-1992 singles.  This is an appetiser for what is to come, including two of the newly remastered Metallica tracks.  Proceeds went to German charity.

“Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True” are the two remastered studio cuts included.  The remastering sounds good and the tracks are not brickwalled.  Fans will be pleased to know that Metallica opted out of the Loudness Wars this time.  Good thumping bass, nice and prominent.  Crisp, clear, and loud enough.  “Sad But True” is really punchy.

The live tracks are all taken from Frankfurt or Stuttgart, shows not included in the box set.  The 5″ Maxi-CD and 3″ Pockit-CD each contain two exclusives.  Just like in the days of old, you have to buy both formats to get all the tracks.

“Through the Never” is one of the thrashiest songs from the Black era, and the very dry recording here is evidence of non-tampering.  Tasty wah-wah from Kirk Hammett.  “Damage, Inc.” brings thrash the old school way, Metallica as frantic as ever, barely holding it all together, but making the heads bang no matter what.  By the end it’s a total steamroller.

The teeny little 3″ CD is no less mighty.  “Of Wolf and Man” is choppy and heavy.  Hunting relentlessly like the titular wolf, Metallica are out for blood.  What’s really wild is the long jammy section at the end which contains a surprise.  Finally the Budgie cover of “Breadfan” ends the whole series of tracks with an explosive go-for-the-throat attitude.  Sloppy but foot on the gas the whole way.

What’s better than a wicked set of Metallica CD singles, including a 3″?  What could beat that?  How about if both discs were pressed in black plastic?  Would that do anything for ya?  These limited singles are sure to be collectible for their exclusive tracks and unique traits.  Try the German Amazon site for international shipping.  Contrary to a report in Bravewords, these singles do ship worldwide.

4/5 stars

#924.5: Rippin’

RECORD STORE TALES #924.5:  Rippin’ 

It’s a long weekend here in Canada, and since we’re stuck in Kitchener instead of the lake this time, I spent my Saturday ripping music to hard drive.  And then backing up that hard drive to about five other devices.  I’ve been slowly but surely putting my collection on the ol’ PC for years now, in spurts.  Huge catalogues of bands have gone un-ripped due to negligence.  It’s fun to do when I’m looking for something to listen to that I haven’t heard in a while.

Right now I’m working on my Soundgarden.  Most of my Soundgarden was sitting there on the  shelves unloved until now.  Before that, I updated my Nine Inch Nails folder with all my CDs.  Apparently I was collecting NIN right up to The Slip (2008), although I missed a few albums like The Fragile and Ghosts.

I enjoy doing pretty mechanical tasks, like combining “part 1” and “part 2” of a CD single into one folder.  Adjusting the id3 tags.  For my “March of the Pigs” double CD, I added in an mp3 of the live music video as a bonus track.  All the while, listening to this music I haven’t played in over a decade.

Remixes are not something I’ve derived a lot of enjoyment from over the years, but bands like Nine Inch Nails flood their singles with them.   And I found myself enjoying quite a few of them.  The nine minute version of “Wish” from the Fixed EP is awesome.  Might even be my go-to version!  The “Clay” mix of “Head Like a Hole” (which is on both the “black” and “pink” versions of the single) was quite enjoyable.  And I have a lot of Nine Inch Nails it seems.  Three bootlegs too, including Purest Feeling (early versions and unreleased songs), Demos & Remixes (which includes “Supernaut”) and Woodstock ’94.  Diving back in is an adventure, listening to Trent Reznor evolve.

While I was grabbing my Prodigy Fat of the Land and “Firestarter” single, I lingered in the “P” section and pulled Elvis Presley, Praying Mantis, and Gord Prior.  Praying Mantis with Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton, in fact.  A lot of Maiden covers that just remind me that nobody sounds like Iron Maiden.  Nobody.  I’ll probably get more enjoyment from the Elvis 30 #1 Hits.  “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto”, oh yeah!  I know the saying goes “There are only two kinds of people, Beatles people and Elvis people”.  I’m a Beatles guy.  That’s all the Elvis I need, I’m good with it.

Moving up into the “O” section, I realized I hadn’t touched any of my Our Lady Peace.  I don’t have a lot.  A couple singles, Naveed, Spiritual Machines, Gravity and Burn Burn Burn.  Raine Maida is admittedly an acquired taste vocally and I won’t spend any time trying to convince you, or KevinSpiritual Machines is interesting for two reasons.  One, it’s a concept album about artificial intelligence, and two, I have an early copy in the rare black jewel case in perfect condition.

One thing for sure I’m noticing about these pockets of my collection.  I went big or I went home.  I have the DualDisc versions of Nine Inch Nails albums, or the CD/DVD combo sets.  I have the double CD of Badmotorfinger.  I didn’t buy the basic version of anything.  It looks like I also bought just about every single I could get my hands on.  Most of this stuff was acquired back in the Record Store days, so I had access to the rare stuff in the best condition.

Soundgarden seem to be hit or miss as far as B-sides go.  For every “Cold Bitch” there’s a “Jerry’s Garcia’s Finger”.  I see there is a super deluxe of Superunknown out there with four discs of extras.  I think I’d better just listen to what I’ve neglected before I worry about any upgrades.

Tangent:  Speaking of super deluxes, this week we were given previews for new ones from Whitesnake (Restless Heart) and Black Sabbath (Technical Ecstacy).  We have a 42 CD Judas Priest box set coming with oddles of unreleased live albums.  A Metallica “Black” album box with 14 CDs, six LPs and 6 DVDs.  There. Is. A. Lot.  It’s getting harder to pick and choose.  It’s also getting harder to find time to listen to it all.  In particular, all that DVD content.  There are not that many long weekends.

I know what my dad would say.  “Don’t you have enough music?”  Evidently!

A music collection is the kind of thing we justify by saying “It’s there for me to listen to on a rainy day.”  A long weekend home from the lake is kind of like a rainy day, so here I am enjoying the very dusty corners of my music collection.  Let’s see if these Soundgarden B-sides get any better!

 

 

REVIEW: Poison – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (1988 3″ CD single)

POISON – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (1988 Capitol 3″ CD single)

This is a beautiful item that I’m happy to have in my collection.  3″ CD singles were uncommon, but you’ve probably seen one before.  What is less common is the clamshell 3″ case that this Poison single came in.  A lot of 3″ singles came in regular 5″ cases, or a cardboard sleeve.  Clamshells are rare.  This one, called a “Gem Pak” (patent pending) was specifically made to house a “CD3”, another outdated term.  It’s made of white plastic and the artwork is in the form of a sticker which covers the front, back and spine of the case.  The Gem Pak’s flaw (patent pending!) is that it does not hold the disc in securely.  It wants to pop out.  Take care when handling one of these that the disc doesn’t fall out when you open it.

I’m a defender of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”.  I loved it as a kid.  I remember some people saying it might be “too country”, which is wasn’t.  It’s just an acoustic ballad but a well written one and deserving of its success, if not its notoriety.  It tended to spawn a generation of soundalikes, a fuzzy swarm of late 80s acousti-balladry that ultimately only served to take bands like Poison down, while ushering in the grunge era.  “Every Rose” broke down walls for Poison, but the backlash was inevitable.  When Bill & Ted quoted it to get into heaven in 1991, it was already all over.  I can hear all that history when I listen to this single.  It’s an excellent song, and even C.C.’s solo, as inarticulate as it is, still fits like an electrically heated glove.

The B-side “Livin’ for the Minute” shows off the heavier side of Poison.  Fans might forget that Poison liked to really spit one out every now and then.  C.C.’s solo is bonkers on this one, but perfectly suited to the frantic tune.  Bret really cuts loose too.  Poison actually have some pretty cool B-sides.

These tracks are both available on the remastered Open Up and Say…Ahh!! CD, but you gotta snap this one up if you find it in the wild.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Metallica – “Mama Said” (1996 CD singles one and two)

Part Two of a two-part “Mama Said” review

METALLICA – “Mama Said” (1996 Vertigo CD singles parts one and two)

In order to get all the songs, you had to buy three separate singles.  You needed the 7″ vinyl (reviewed yesterday) and two CD singles.  The total payoff was seven B-sides:  five live, one demo, one single edit.  The 7″ picture disc included “Ain’t My Bitch” live from Irvine Meadows in ’96, and the rest are on the two CDs each sold separately.

The first single ignites the live feast with “King Nothing”, which finds Metallica in an informal mood before kicking into the track.  Though “King Nothing” was eventually released on its own as the fourth single from Load, it was never really one of the best songs from that album.  It slams heavy enough and would have been fun to mosh to.  They go old school on “Whiplash” which has that energy you want out of live Metallica.  The old fans boo the new fans, but everybody gets what they want.  Lars is sloppy as fuck; what do you expect?  When Metallica play stuff like “Whiplash” live it’s not about precision, it’s about energy and this version delivers.

The first CD ends with just a single edit of “Mama Said”, a good ballad with a country twang that some fans might have found unpalatable.  It’s shorter by 40 seconds, starting immediately with James’ lead vocal.  15 seconds chopped at the start and 20 more at the end.  Do Metallica fans need single edits?  No; Metallica was always resistant to compromises like that.  Paul DeCarli was given the job of the edit, presumably being told to get it safely under five minutes for radio.

“Mama Said” album version (top) and single edit (bottom) waveforms

The second CD in the set wastes no time going for the throat.  It’s “So What”, the infamously vulgar Anti-Nowhere League cover that was a B-side for Metallica once upon a time before.  It was so notorious that it became a live favourite unto itself, often turning up in the encores.  That’s followed by “Creeping Death”, an epic way to cap off the live tracks.  That mountainously heavy rock just never lets up until it gives way to another massive one.

The last and most interesting track among the B-sides is the original “Mama Said” demo recorded solely by James and Lars in Ulrich’s basement.  Electric guitar at first instead of acoustic, but beautiful.  The purity of this version, unadorned as it may be, is the reason to seek it out.  The twangy guitar part is in place, as are the lyrics (not always the case with James’ songs).  Metallica could easily release an album of their demo versions, but they haven’t so you gotta get the singles.

Seek these out.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 single)

BON JOVI – “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” (1995 Mercury single)

It’s impossible to acquire a “complete” Bon Jovi collection; trust me on this. Even Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have a complete Bon Jovi collection. Up to a certain point in time, it’s fun to collect as many B-sides and bonus tracks you can get your hands on.

The second single from “best of” album Cross Road (1994) was “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”, and it was a pretty clear indication of where the band would go on their next album These Days.  But — surprise bonus — this single doesn’t have the studio version (that you already own) from Cross Road.  It has an uncredited live version instead!  Added bonus — Alec John Such on bass.  He had yet to be replaced (on stage, anyway) by Hugh McDonald.  This is probably the only live version of the hit with Such on bass.

Make no mistake, “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night” is a great song.  There’s a Bon Jovi niche for acoustic rock songs with down-on-your-luck/inspirational lyrics.  “My life’s a bargain basement, all the good shit’s gone.”  This is Jon’s bread and butter.  He wouldn’t know a bargain basement if he was shopping for old Bon Jovi singles in one, but he does this kind of rock really well.  This is one of the last of his must-haves of the genre.

Another rare one, “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”, is a studio track with the well-worn cowboy motif.  It’s from the movie The Cowboy Way featuring Jon’s old Young Guns buddy Keifer Sutherland.  Unexpectedly, this one is an  intricate hard-driving rocker, with a Sambora riff that he could take pride in.  Tico Torres is absolutely on fire on the kit.  That guy can lay down a groove while throwing in challenging patterns just for fun.  Why can’t Bon Jovi rock like this anymore?  This track feels more honest than the hard luck songs.

Two more live songs finish the CD.  These two are from Montreal in ’94:  “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker style) and “Always”.  The reason Bon Jovi can get away with “A Little Help From My Friends” is Richie Sambora, who always brings the soul and the integrity.  That’s not to say that Jon sucks.  Check out the note he holds at 3:57.  The man had lungs back in 1994!  The demographics of the audience are obvious: “Always” is almost drowned out by a sea of high-pitched screams!  It’s one of their last ballads that really deserves that kind of cheering though.

A great single is one that you can list to independently of the album, and doesn’t sound like a bunch of miscellaneous bonus tracks.  This single is like that.  There’s no wasted space, no filler, and no tracks you can get on the albums.  The live stuff is high grade and the studio track is extremely valuable for its hard rocking nature.  This is more like an EP than a single, but it’s all semantics.  Let’s just call it:

4.5/5 stars

 

You say you don’t like my kind,
A bitter picture in your mind.
No, it don’t matter what I say,
I hear you bitchin’ when I walk away.
I’ll never be what you want me to be,
You tell me I’m wrong but I disagree,
I ain’t go no apology.
Just because I don’t look like you, talk like you, think like you,
Judge and jury, a hangman’s noose,
I see them in your eyes.
Good guys don’t always wear white.

 

REVIEW: Bon Jovi – “Real Life” (1999 CD singles)

Forget Valentine’s Day…except when it’s good for traffic!  Back in my single days I used to call it “Bon Jovi Day” and listen to nothing but Jon & Richie.  Here’s some Bon Jovi for you!

BON JOVI – “Real Life” (1999 Reprise & promo CD singles)

There was an unprecedented five year interregnum between These Days and Crush.  This pause allowed Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora to get some solo albums out of their systems before the band re-convened.  In the buildup to the new album, Bon Jovi contributed a new single called “Real Life” to the movie EdTV.  Remember EdTV?  There were two movies out at the same time about a guy who had his whole life broadcast on television 24/7.  One, The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey, was a huge hit.  The other, Ron Howard’s EdTV starring Matthew McConaughey, was the also-ran.  EdTV might have been more interesting, but bombed.  This rendered the Bon Jovi single relatively obscure.  It’s not the first time a Bon Jovi movie track misfired.  Remember “Good Guys Don’t Always Wear White”?

“Real Life” was a decent tune, but it was a ballad at a time when Bon Jovi already had plenty.  There’s little to draw your attention, aside from Richie Sambora’s always alluring guitar and vocals.  The watery guitar tone is not far removed from These Days, but that album boasted the kind of ballads you’d never forget.  Songs like “Something to Believe In”, “These Days”, and “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go” are the kind of songs you carry your whole life.  “Real Life” is not.  In the wake of These Days, it was just another ballad.

Who is “Desmond Childs“?

This commercial single has two versions of “Real Life”, but there are actually four versions out there!  For the “album version”, if you don’t want the EdTV soundtrack, look for a promo single instead.  The differences between the album version and the radio mix are slight, but the album version has more guitar where the single mix has more piano.  The third version is an instrumental mix, which is nice if you want to listen to Richie’s guitar a little more.  The fourth and final version is an alternate mix that can be found on the box set 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

Finally, a live recording of “Keep the Faith” rounds out the single.  It seems to be a standby live B-side for this band.    They used another version on the 2013 single for “Because We Can“.  It’s certainly one of their most accomplished songs.  The bass groove and Tico’s busy drum patterns keep your feet moving.  It’s noncommercial and it strives to be something bigger.  It might be, in a technical sense, Bon Jovi’s most unapologetic and best hit.

Interestingly enough, “Real Life” is the only Bon Jovi video without David Bryan who was away on an injury.  I don’t think he missed out on much.

2.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: British Whale (Justin Hawkins) – “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” (2005 single)

BRITISH WHALE – “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” (2005 Atlantic CD single)

In 2005, while we anxiously awaited a new Darkness album (and they changed producers from “Mutt” Lange to Roy Thomas Baker), Justin Hawkins decided to do something on his own.  The rumour mill was going on about how the new Darkness was going to be an 80s-fest.  Justin’s solo single under the name British Whale certainly conveyed that sound.

“This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both Of Us” is a Sparks cover, previously tackled by Faith No More.  The original track was from 1974, but Justin’s rendition really did sound like the 80s.  Russell Mael’s high pitched vocal was exaggerated by Justin, with the cheese-whiz poured on thick.  It’s the kitchen sink approach.  But a classic pop song cannot be sunk and it’s quite listenable.  Faith No More’s cover would win in a one-on-one competition, but Darkness fans will obviously want to hear Justin’s take. The music video was popular because it featured world darts champion Phil Taylor (no relation to the Motorhead drummer).  Some fans expressed disappointment that the music video wasn’t included on the single, but in 2019 it matters not.  (The video was included on a DVD single, along with a “making of”, but that DVD did not include the B-side “America”.)

Perhaps better than the A-side is the more Darkness-like B-side.  It’s a tribute to the USA, its weather, and trees.  According to “America”, Justin really likes the scenery!  He sounds very sincere in his high-pitched praise.  There’s gui-board (or “keytar”) and a guitar solo that sounds like a cross between Brian May and Thin Lizzy.  It’s a bit of goofy fun.  Actually an excellent track, even containing some music from the “Star Spangled Banner” in the well-constructed solo.

These two songs really seem to convey that Justin really wanted to have some fun, blowing off steam with pop music in 2005.  In a way these songs are “peak Justin”.  You just can’t imagine anything more Justin than this!  (British Whale did another single called “England” in 2006 that never saw a physical release but we’ll cover that another time.)

British Whale can be bought on CD for ridiculously low prices.  If you’re a Darkness fan, you have no excuse.  Dive on in!

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Europe – “The Final Countdown 2000” (Single)

“Oh God!  What did I just listen to?” – J from Resurrection Songs

EUROPE – “The Final Countdown 2000” (1999 Sony single)

As we edge closer to the start of a new decade, it’s the perfect time to look back at the turn of the millennium, 20 whole years ago.   Sony decided that Europe’s “The Final Countdown” would make the ideal anthem for the millennium, and so had it remixed by the guy (Brian Rawling) who did Cher’s “Believe” a year earlier.  Joey Tempest was not amused, and tried to find another mixer without success.  Drummer Ian Haughland called the finished remix a “disaster”.

The full 5:45 remix was released as a single, while a 3:47 edit version was issued on a new version of Europe’s “greatest hits”, with title updated from 1982-1992 to 1982-2000.  At least the millennium led to a performance by a reunited Europe on New Year’s Eve featuring both guitarists John Norum and Kee Marcello.

The full length remix is the antithesis to rock music.  Sped up, with bouncy synth bass and drums, it was obviously calculated for dancing.  There are keyboards, weird sounds, and samples that have nothing to do with the song.  Of the original recording, Joey’s vocals remain, but the rest sounds completely digital.  It goes on, and on.  The edit is tolerably shorter, but barely.  “The Final Countdown 2000” is an affront to rock music and everything its fans enjoy.  It is pure pandering to people who would never have bought a Europe album in the first place.  Is that what Sony felt they had to do in order to make it a hit a second time?  Imagine if Europe recorded a new version with both guitarists instead.  The song was already pop enough to be a hit again on the wave of 80s nostalgia.  It didn’t need to be mutilated to fit into a dance remix.  It surely would have done better than this (#6 in Sweden, #36 in the UK).

As a consolation prize, this CD single includes a single edit of the original song.  All it’s missing is the countdown opening.  After hearing the dance version twice, it sounds strangely sluggish (even though it’s not).  It’s like taking an offramp from the highway into normal traffic.

Possibly the worst single I’ve ever bought.  And I’ve bought Puff Daddy.

0.5/5 stars