(Planet Me)
Thursday, March 22, 2012
 
THE SMITHS - "Songs That Changed Your Life" (Unofficial Box Set)

In brief : if it isn't in "The Complete Smiths" official box set, it's here, on this unofficial box set. The contents are enormous - six and half hours of audio on five CD's, and three concerts and 19 TV appearances on a 4 hour DVD. The audio is not necessarily remastered, and the video is far from perfect - being 25 year old TV broadcasts sourced from VHS - but its all here.

Disc 1 is the complete Troy Tate sessions that became heavily circulated in the nineties, with 79 minutes of material, including the entire unused first version of the debut album, and numerous extra versions. The tracklisting covers most of the bands material at the time, and runs slightly fast as the original tapes did, but offers an essential alternate look at what the debut record could have been. The tracklisting is : Reel Around The Fountain, You've Got Everything Now, Miserable Lie, These Things Take Time, Wonderful Woman, Handsome Devil, Suffer Little Children, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Hand In Glove, What Difference Does It Make?, I Don't Owe You Anything, Jeane, Accept Yourself, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Miserable Lie (alternative mix), Pretty Girls Make Graves (alternative mix), Reel Around The Fountain (alternative mix), What Difference Does It Make (alternative mix), Wonderful Woman (alternative mix).

Disc 2 is a live recording for the BBC from Oxford in 1985. Heavily bootlegged, the show also yielded several b-sides for various singles though the full performance has never been broadcast. The rest of the disc is made up of 1983 BBC TV and Radio Sessions, none of were used for "Hateful Of Hollow". William It Was Really Nothing, Nowhere Fast, What She Said, Hand In Glove, How Soon Is Now?, Stretch Out And Wait, That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, Shakespeare's Sister, The Headmaster Ritual, Still ill, Meat Is Murder, Miserable Lie, Barbarism Begins At Home, You've Got Everything Now. BBC demos: Reel Around The Fountain, This Charming Man, Still ill, Wonderful Woman

Disc 3 is the final Smiths live performance, from Brixton in December 1986. It is an audience recording, but for historical purposes, being the only full length show by the original quartet on UK soil after Craig Gannon departed. The tracklist is : Ask, Bigmouth Strikes Again, London, Miserable Lie, Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, Shoplifters Of The World Unite, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, Is It Really So Strange, Cemetery Gates, This Night Has Opened My Eyes, Still ill, Panic, The Queen Is Dead, William It Was Really Nothing, Hand In Glove. Bonus tracks are taken from the Fighting Cocks, Birmingham, England - June 3rd, 1983: (Wonderful Woman, These Things Take Time, I Don't Owe You Anything, Hand In Glove), and finally a Smiths/Sandie Shaw session for Radio 1, Saturday live - April 14th, 1984: I Don't Owe You Anything.

Disc 4 is a set of Vinyl Rarities - there are 8 duplicated live songs from Oxford and Brixton, but still 14 not-on-any-album, official Smiths songs and versions collated here. The tracks are : Accept Yourself, The Draize Train (studio), Work Is A Four Letter World, I Keep Mine Hidden, Handsome Devil, Hand In Glove, Girl Afraid, (and teh following are from Oxford), William It Was Really Nothing, Nowhere Fast, What She Said, Stretch Out & Wait, Shakespeare's Sister, Meat Is Murder, Miserable Lie, with the following from BBC Sessions and deleted singles : What's The World, Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others, Rusholme Ruffians, Nowhere Fast, William It Was Really Nothing, Hand In Glove (with Sandie Shaw), I Don't Owe You Anything (with Sandie Shaw), Jeane (with Sandie Shaw)

Disc 5 is Derby 1983, and presented in radio quality. Extra songs come from Belfast 1986, which is an incomplete but listenable audience recording. Track listing - Derby Assembly Rooms - December 6th, 1983: Handsome Devil, Still ill, This Charming Man, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Reel Around The Fountain, What Difference Does It Make?, Miserable Lie, This Night Has Opened My Eyes, Hand In Glove, These Things Take Time, You've Got Everything Now. Belfast Queen's University - February 12nd, 1986: Stretch Out & Wait, That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, Nowhere Fast, What She Said, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, Bigmouth Strikes Again, Meat Is Murder, William It Was Really Nothing, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, Hand In Glove



Now, what about 1984, and 1985? Well, I'm glad you asked. Disc 6 is a DVD and contain three full length live performance as broadcast on TV. Madrid 1985 is 85 minutes long, in first gen VHS quality - however, the view is obscured by a station logo ident in the bottom right hand corner that has been crudely blurred out. The picture is occasionally blocky/pixellated, with edge enhancement - on the other hand, the source tape was hardly immaculate. Madrid tracklist for May 18th, 1985: William It Was Really Nothing, Nowhere Fast, I Want The One I Can't Have, What She Said, How Soon Is Now, Handsome Devil, The Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, Shakespear's Sister, Rusholme Ruffians, Headmaster Ritual, Hand In Glove, Still ill, Meat Is Murder, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, Ask, Barbarism Begins At Home, This Charming Man, You've Got Everything Now.

Second show on the DVD is from Derby 1983, and 37 minutes long. Broadcast on December 7th, 1983, it is again sourced from VHS and with some compression noise in the visuals - tracklisting : Handsome Devil, Ask, This Charming Man, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Miserable Lie, What Difference Does It Make, Nowhere Fast, Still ill, Hand In Glove, Handsome Devil, You've Got Everything Now.

The third show is 59minutes and 58 seconds from Rockpalast, Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany - May 4th, 1984: Again, a station logo ident is crudely blurred out and some compression noise is evident. Tracklisting : Hand In Glove, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, Girl Afraid, This Charming Man, Pretty Girls Make Graves, Still ill, Barbarism Begins At Home, You've Got Everything Now, Handsome Devil, This Night Has Opened My Eyes, Pretty Girls Make Graves, What Difference Does It Make, These Things Take Time, This Charming Man, Hand In Glove, Headmaster Ritual

The DVD disc is rounded out by 19 or so TV appearances of varying quality and performance, but nice to see all collected in one place. There a handful of omissions - the remixes of "This Charming Man" - but, by and large, all of this set contains 10 hours of rare, live and demo material from one of the best bands of their era that is in dire need of official recognition. In the meantime, here it is, presented as best it can be on the basis of what is circulating at the moment. A treasure trove for the dedicated.

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