[From The Cutting Room Floor]: Eric Andersen, The Smiths and Bob Marley & The Wailers.

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Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Close The Door Lightly When You Go’ – Eric Andersen
If the mark of an artist is the company they keep then Eric Andersen can be ranked up there with the best of them, having rubbed shoulders with Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Joan Baez, The Band, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Andy Warhol and William Burroughs to name but a few. While Andersen has not shared as much of the limelight as his Greenwich Village folk scene contemporaries, his vivid songwriting about love in all its expressions has influenced and been covered by countless artists in the singer-songwriter tradition and in 2003 he was awarded the Premio Tenco for outstanding songwriting, an award previously won by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave (again, the company you keep). While later versions of ‘Close The Door Lightly When You Go’ have gathered a more upbeat pace, none of them have the same raw sense of self-loathing and loneliness as the original found on Andersen’s second album ‘Bout Changes ‘n’ Things. A documentary taking in Andersen’s ongoing fifty-plus year journey as an artist entitled The Songpoet is slated for release later this year.

‘Back To The Old House’ – The Smiths
Morrissey is set to release his tenth solo album World Peace Is None Of Your Business in July (announced by way of a tongue-in-cheek music video), and while he tends to divide opinion like Moses parts large bodies of water you’d be hard-pressed to deny the emotional weight he lends to this stripped down version of ‘Back To The Old House’ lifted from a John Peel session in 1983. Nostalgia drips from Johnny Marr’s honeyed arpeggios, complementing the forlorn quality in Morrissey’s tenor and the palpable ambivalence conveyed through understated images in lines such as “When you cycled by, here began all my dreams, the saddest thing I’ve ever seen”.

‘High Tide Or Low Tide’ – Bob Marley And The Wailers
Replete with sultry rhythms from the Barrett brothers and beautiful harmonies from Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, ‘High Tide Or Low Tide’ makes perfect listening for the nights drawing longer. It was recorded during the sessions for The Wailers’ Island debut, Catch A Fire, which would begin Bob Marley’s meteoric rise to become the Third World’s first superstar, but didn’t make the final tracklist. However, positioned alongside the social commentary of ‘Concrete Jungle’ and ‘Stop That Train’, this soulful ditty of solidarity and friendship shows the scope of Marley’s songwriting even at this early stage and it is this sense of peace and love he would infuse much of his music with throughout his career.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

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[From The Cutting Room Floor]: The Beatles, Marvin Gaye and The Gaslight Anthem

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Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Don’t Let Me Down’ – The Beatles
I’m going straight for the jugular this week. Gracing the other side of the Get Back single, this should really qualify as a double A-Side. Written by John Lennon as an ego-free plea to Yoko Ono, ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ is The Beatles at their most soulful, in my opinion. Lennon and McCartney’s hollering vocals channel Otis Redding, oozing with conviction alongside a Stax influenced keyboard that gives a soul-tinged vibe, while the intelligent countermelodies during the alternate verses and George Harrison’s slinky lead guitar gesture to the psychedelic leanings of their middle period. It was one of the songs played during The Beatles last public performance on the roof of Apple’s Saville Row headquarters on 30th January 1969 and remains a testament to the power and inventiveness of possibly the 20th century’s defining band.

‘I’m Going Home’ – Marvin Gaye
A studio outtake from the recording sessions for Gaye’s seminal soul masterpiece What’s Going On (read why it’s a masterpiece here), ‘I’m Going Home’ took fifteen years to surface until it was featured on 1986’s  Motown Remembers Marvin Gaye and served as a reminder to the talent which had been lost only two year’s previously. In many ways, ‘I’m Going Home’ condenses a lot of What’s Going On‘s narrative themes 0f family, urban strife and homecoming into five minutes, but musically it has a lot more in common with the emerging funk sound which Gaye would explore on his following albums Let’s Get It On and I Want You. Either way, it’s an irrepressibly catchy slice of funk which should not be missed.

‘She Loves You’ – The Gaslight Anthem
Not a Beatles cover, as I initially thought it to be. ‘She Loves You’ appeared on the flip side of their vinyl-only Tumbling Dice single (their last release with SideOneDummy) and is probably Brian Fallon’s most simple and direct love song. Backed by a simple guitar figure and a shuffling beat, Fallon achingly rhapsodises about rainy nights, broken love and the small certainties that pull us inexorably towards tomorrow, like flotsam and jetsam cast ashore on the tide.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys and The Doors

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Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Let’s Shake Hands’ – The White Stripes
Not a B-Side, but given that only 2,500 pressings of this release exist and that it wasn’t featured on any of The White Stripes’s studio albums it certainly qualifies as rare. Landing in 1998 on a limited 7″ run of 500, this single marked The White Stripes’s first recording and as a statement of intent they don’t come more definitive than this. Racing along on Jack White’s frenetic riffing and Meg White’s relentless drum pounding before clocking in at just over two minutes, this is taut, visceral garage punk at it’s best. It was paired with their ragtime version of Marlene Dietrich’s ‘Look Me Over Closely’, showing that the band had more than one string to their bow and singled them out as one to watch

‘You And I’ – Arctic Monkeys Feat. Richard Hawley
Crediting themselves as The Death Ramps on the B-Side to 2012’s Black Treacle, a pseudonym the band had used previously to anonymously release limited singles, Arctic Monkeys shift into fifth gear on this speeding road anthem. Sheffield’s elder songsmith, Richard Hawley, gives his meanest whisky-and-cigarettes-stained vocal delivery before the band head full-pelt into some scuzzy and searing solos. The whole track drips with attitude and quite frankly blows A-side ‘Black Treacle’ out of the water.

‘Who Do You Love’ – The Doors Feat. Albert King
When you can tour with blues giant Albert King as your opening act, you know you must be doing something right. Although their live acts courted much controversy in the preceding year and Jim Morrison would suffer an apparent breakdown onstage later in the year, forcing the band as a live unit into early retirement, performing here in June 1970 in Vancouver it is impossible to deny the elemental force The Doors wielded onstage. With Albert King invited onstage to provide slide duties and powered by Ray Manzarek’s groovy organ hook, the band burn their way through Bo Diddley standard ‘Who Do You Love’. While during this period Morrison’s performances were something of a crapshoot depending on how intoxicated he was, during this concert he is at his roaring best, a blues shaman channeling energy from somewhere else. As one of the last recorded performances and with Morrison dead within a year, this concert remains a testament to The Doors’s short lived greatness live.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: The National, Led Zeppelin & Michael Kiwanuka

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Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Blank Slate’ – The National
Appearing on 2008’s The Virginia EP, a collection of extra material and live cuts from the Boxer recording period, this song actually began life some three years earlier as a B-side to Abel called Keep It Upstairs‘. While ‘Keep It Upstairs’ owed it’s slightly anaemic and meandering sound to the heightened introspection of its parent album Alligator, ‘Blank Slate’ rumbles headlong with the wiry tautness of Boxer‘s ‘Apartment Story’ or ‘Mistaken For Strangers’. Soaring and fuzz-laden, this could be one of The National’s few unabashed anthems.

‘White Summer / Black Mountainside’ – Led Zeppelin
Fuelled by their own creativity and momentum in pioneering hard-hitting blues-rock, the band were on a prolific high in their early period and their live shows quickly gained a reputation for their intensity. Recorded at a 1969 show in London between the release of Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II, this arresting guitar instrumental signposts Jimmy Page’s emergence as a striding guitar hero. Flying solo with occasional help from John Bonham to up the drama, over eight searing minutes Page fuses Arabic scale influences with a rather untraditional, vamped up take on the traditional Irish folk song ‘Down by Black Waterside’ (although Page’s version actually owe’s a lot to Bert Jansch’s arrangement).

‘I Need You By My Side’ – Michael Kiwanuka
A perfect song to greet Sunday morning, this track from the I’m Getting Ready EP sees Michael Kiwanuka donning his musing-folky cap. When this EP and the Tell Me A Tale/Isle Of Wight Sessions EP landed in 2011 they garnered Kiwanuka a lot of attention, and from this song it’s easy to see why. Centred on his economical guitar and moving vocals, with tasteful horn and vocal accompaniments, ‘I Need You By My Side’ evidenced newcomer Kiwanuka’s skill as a soulful and mature songwriter. Above all though, it hits the heart first and the head second.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: Eels, The Rolling Stones & Tom Waits

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Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘Your Mama Warned You’ – Eels
A funky slice of ska influenced rock n’ roll appearing on the deluxe edition of last year’s aptly titled Wonderful, Glorious. Vitriolic and spitting feathers, E delivers a gruff reprisal against a backdrop of snarling guitars and pounding drums.

‘No Expectations’ – The Rolling Stones
Hard to believe this was ever pitched as a B-side to ‘Street Fighting Man’, for me it is one of the most enduring and emotive Stones songs. Brian Jones’s slinky and resonant slidework here is one of the last contributions he made before quitting the band and his death which swiftly followed, giving added poignancy to the line “Our love is like our music, it’s here and then it’s gone”.

‘I Want You’ – Tom Waits
Appearing on the Early Years Vol. 2 collection, which compiles glimmers of Waits’s early Kerouacian balladry that didn’t make the grade, ‘I Want You’ is a short and sweet throwaway ditty. It’s beauty is in it’s simplicity, for Waits distills into just over a minute what centuries of artists have spilt gallons of ink, paint, sweat and tears over. Tender, sincere and utterly sublime.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: Bruce Springsteen Special

bg-postcard_1119104652755“Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact, / But maybe everything that dies some day comes back”

It looks like Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes, a collection of session outtakes and unreleased material from the millennium years, is set to reach the No.1 spot, making it Springsteen’s tenth No.1 album. I am very partial to a bit of Brooce and his unreleased tracks are often beauties, but unfortunately after a few listens High Hopes falls just a bit short for me and I think I may have narrowed down the reason why. Springsteen’s previously released four disc collection of B-Sides and rarities Tracks (which was out of print for years, but has recently been reissued) covered a good thirty years from his early days as a New Jersey bar bandleader in the seventies right on through to the years in the wilderness without the E Street Band during the nineties. As such, the collection reflects a variety of periods and styles of Springsteen’s career as a maturing musician and songwriter. Compared to Tracks, High Hopes has a relatively meagre selection to draw from, with only thirteen years and four albums (seven if you count the solo and Seeger Session Band releases). This is Springsteen as a fully matured songwriter and while each of the four E Street Band albums is compelling in its own way, there is a clear oscillation in tone between bristled outrage (Magic, Wrecking Ball) and enduring hope (The Rising, Working On A Dream) in reaction to what was going on at the time (Bush administration; Post-banking crisis and recession blues; Post 9/11; And Obama’s rise to power, respectively). This means that while there are some fine moments on High Hopes, it just doesn’t have the gamut and variety of Tracks. With that in mind, I thought this seemed a prudent time to pull up some of Springsteen’s finest diamonds in the rough for a Cutting Room Floor special.

The Fever
An early cut from 1973, first recorded during the sessions for The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle and performed many time since then, but only officially surfacing in 1998 on the 18 Tracks compilation. In the meantime, Springsteen gifted the song to his Jersey Shore friend and contemporary, Southside Johnny, for his 1976 debut album I Don’t Want To Go Home. It kickstarted the career of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and Springsteen and other E Streeters have performed in the band with him down the years. The song itself is a slow bluesy ballad of longing with the E Street Band creating simmering tension while Springsteen’s croon is on smouldering form.

Born In The U.S.A. (Demo)
Probably the most well known and most commonly misunderstood of Springsteen’s songs. Like John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, where the causticly anarchistic message is thinly veiled behind a plaintive piano melody and uplifting chorus, ‘Born In The U.S.A.’s heavy irony has often been misconstrued by casual listeners who only hear the militaristic fist-pumping beat and the refrain “I was born in the U.S.A.”. In other words, they hear a call to arms rather than the cry of desperation and sorrow of a disillusioned Vietnam War veteran with “nowhere to run, nowhere to go”. The song was famously appropriated in a jingoistic way by Ronald Reagan’s 1984 presidential reelection campaign. Had they first heard the original version of the song, birthed during the sessions for Springsteen’s starkest record, Nebraska, they might not have been so keen. As the song pounds along on Springsteen’s jittery acoustic rhythm the wiry twang of an electric guitar rises in the distance like helicopters over Vietnam. From the breathless desperation of Springsteen’s delivery and his high and lonesome cries there is no doubt that this is about a man being hunted down; running, but with nowhere to run to.

Murder Incorporated
A rollicking barnstormer of a song, which rose to prominence during the E Street Band Reunion Tour in the late ‘90s. Describing the everyday dangers and pressures of living in New York during the Murder Inc. period of organised crime, it is the little vivid observations such as keeping “a little secret deep inside your dresser drawer” that make Springsteen such an accomplished songwriter. Recorded during the Born In The U.S.A. sessions, Springsteen even considered naming the album after the song before cutting it from the tracklist and going with Born In The U.S.A. instead. What a different album it would have been with that title.

‘Swallowed Up (In The Belly Of A Whale)’
And to finish where we started, here is a bonus cut from Springsteen’s last album, Wrecking Ball. Although there is a lot of rage and darkness on Wrecking Ball there is also a lot of hope, and ‘Swallowed Up’ must have been left off for fear of overtipping the balance towards the former. While bitter anthems on Wrecking Ball like ‘Death To My Hometown’ or ‘Jack Of All Trades’ had moments of galvanised rage or redemptive hope, ‘Swallowed Up’ is consumed by a resigned sorrow as Springsteen envisions the world swallowed whole by a dark beast and the bones of the dead sailors that lie within its guts, despite the true courses they held. It is allegorically bleak and without a sliver of hope seeping through into the belly of this beast.

This is just a small crop, but if you want to go further into Springsteen outtakes then I suggest checking out ‘Fire’, ‘The Promise’, ‘Iceman’, ‘Wages Of Sin’ and ‘Sad Eyes’. Also, if you liked this Bruce Springsteen special, why not check out last year’s Neil Young covers special?

[From The Cutting Room Floor]: Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Pearl Jam.

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Often, seeking out new music can feel like a treasure hunt (or sweeping a minefield, depending on how you look at it). And while the internet has made this search far easier it is still the case that sometimes X marks the spot exactly, and sometimes it just doesn’t. But, every now and then you will come across those completely unexpected diamonds-in-the-rough that appear in the form of B-sides, outtakes or bootlegged live cuts. Those happy moments where you stumble across something that stops you in your tracks and think ‘Why is this only a B-side?’. Of course B-Sides once used to serve the purpose of being where artists could experiment on a format which would not effect popularity (as A-side singles do) or stick out like a sore thumb in an album’s track list. But, these happy accidents still have the power to add immense value and enrich your life. This feature is about digging out those deeper cuts that deserve more attention than mere relegation.

‘All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun’ – Jeff Buckley

Presided over by his mother, Mary Guibert, Jeff Buckley’s legacy has been kept in safe hands since his death nearly twenty years ago, and the steady stream of bonus material that has surfaced since then has only served to cement his status as an effulgent talent. From the rough, but sophisticated eclecticism of incomplete sophomore album Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk, to golden throwaway moments on the expanded edition of Grace and stunning recordings of his café days on Live at Siné, all of these recordings prove that Buckley exuded the kind of creative gold dust that plenty of musicians would trade their own mother for. Here is a deep, deep cut that points to a possible collaboration with Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins that may possibly have gone down in history. Buckley is a perfect foil for Fraser’s quavering siren call, duelling perfectly with his own shimmering and elastic croon. The music strikes a nice middle-ground between Buckley’s innovative musicality and the dream-pop sojourns of Cocteau Twins, providing a mutual space for these captivating vocalists to meet.

‘Come Into My Sleep’ – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 

To be found on the mammoth, if literally titled, three disc B-Sides & Rarities collection, ‘Come Into My Sleep’ originally appeared as the B-side to ‘(Are You) The One I’ve Been Waiting For?’. I can certainly see why this track wouldn’t fit on the introspective tone of The Boatman’s Call, but it certainly offers a seductive remedy to its caustic A-side. It is a metaphysical serenade of sorts, with Cave petitioning his lover to sail through seas of stars into his dreams. A simple xylophone melody invokes intrigue while Cave’s vocals glide over them amongst dreamy strings. Stunning.

‘Drifting’ – Pearl Jam

This song was allegedly written on the back of a plane ticket after Eddie Vedder spent a night over at Neil Young’s house, and the vagabond spirit which has permeated both musicians’ work is certainly at the fore here. Unlike some of the sprawling, anthemic songs Pearl Jam have made, ‘Drifting’ centres on Vedder’s searching, soulful vocals and laid back acoustic strumming as he extols the virtues of untangling yourself from the complicating excesses of a materialistic lifestyle and hits with the force of a simple truth. It’s a lovely, carefree ditty which offers a precursor to his later soundtrack for Sean Penn’s film Into The Wild.

What are your favourite B-sides and rarities? Let me know in the comments below.