hen you think of myths, you think of Zeus, Orpheus, the notion that George W. Bush served honorably during Vietnam. Lost records by the ugly Bee Gee and missing operas about Michael Jackson don’t really spring to mind. But when you have a forum that lends itself as acutely to voracious obsession as pop music does, these things have a way of becoming every bit as epic or dramatic as anything in The Iliad.
Such is the case with the Lost Album in pop – a record that should have been released, but for whatever reason, wasn’t. The circumstances behind their non-release, as you’ll see below, are frequently trivial and/or predictable – drugs, ego clashes, label rejection, deaths. They’re not unimportant, but it’s the myths surrounding the circumstances that often take on a life of their own.
In essence, lost albums are all about possibilities. They’re about the “what-if” – specifically what we don’t know and what might have been. “If it came out,” we ask, “how would this have changed things?” They’re like Mark David Chapman getting bored and going home on December 8th, 1980, or Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix actually making it into the studio with Gil Evans. We’ll never know. But we can dream – and we often do, of a music that surpasses everything we’ve heard, showing us something we’ve never seen, and in many cases, never will.
And with that, what this third installment of The Stylus Magazine Non-Definitive Guide is trying to do is simple – evaluate the most important lost records in pop, what they were supposed to give us, how they got lost and, most importantly, whether what survives lives up to that myth. At a time when the lost album itself is becoming a vanishing artform with the advent of the internet, reissue mania, and the proliferation of record labels, we wanted to give you the place to start.
Your Pals at Stylus
Bob Dylan & The Band: The Basement Tapes
Songs: (highlights of the unreleased songs) Sign on the Cross, Banks of the Royal Canal, I’m Not There, See You Later Allen Ginsberg, Folsom Prison Blues, Wildwood Flower, See That My Grave Is Kept Clean, Bells of Rhymney, Quit Kicking My Dog Around, I’m Your Teenage Prayer, Quinn the Eskimo, Joshua Gone Barbados, I Forgot to Remember to Forget, Ol’ Roison the Beau, Po’ Lazarus, about 80 more
What Was Officially Released: In 1975, Columbia put out a two-LP Basement Tapes set compiled by the Band’s Robbie Robertson. It pared down the 100+ songs recorded to just 24, and added on overdubs by the Band and some demos for their album Music From Big Pink, recorded without Dylan. Two extra Basement Tapes songs, “Santa Fe” and “I Shall Be Released,” appeared much later on Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3.
Where You Can Find It: The first hints of this lost music surfaced in 1968 on the bootleg Great White Wonder, the first ever bootlegged release of a commercially “lost” album. But it has only been in the past ten years or so that the full extent of this Basement Tapes material has become available, with the discovery of new tapes and the subsequent release of several comprehensive multi-disc bootlegs. Of these, a Scorpio four-CD set called A Tree With Roots seems to be the one with the best sound quality and track selection. These bootlegs can best be found in various Dylan boot-trading communities, or downloaded from your favorite peer-to-peer program.
Intention: On July 29, 1966, Dylan was in a mysterious motorcycle crash in upstate New York, and just like that he retreated from public view altogether for the next year-and-a-half. But the singer’s “missing” year was far from inactive; for the entirety of this time, Dylan was holed up in his Woodstock home, Big Pink, with his backing group the Band, recording and recovering from his injuries. While Dylan recuperated, he jammed nearly everyday with the Band, dedicating his attention to a mix of classic folk and country covers, remakes of some older Dylan/Band songs, and newly written material. None of this was ever meant to be released to the public; this was Dylan’s therapy, jamming off-the-cuff and losing himself in the simple enjoyment of playing. Some of the music was sent out to publishers to attract other artists to Dylan’s songs, but this wasn’t the primary purpose of the sessions. Nor were these recordings, as rough and informal as they were, intended for an album.
What Happened: Dylan never really intended this music to be commercially released, and sure enough, it wasn’t. After being gone for a year, Dylan returned with yet another new image and charged on with his ever-eclectic career.
Live Up to the Legend?: This missing phase is the explanation for the drastic changes in Dylan’s persona and musical style between 1966’s Blonde on Blonde and his next album, John Wesley Harding, released in December of ’67. When Dylan returned from his exile in 1967, it was with a new country-tinged storyteller image that had been borne (though few at the time realized it) out of his Big Pink isolation and the influences he’d explored during the prior year. On The Basement Tapes, Dylan covered blues standards like “Folsom Prison Blues,” improvised amusing oddities like “See You Later, Allen Ginsberg,” and recorded some of his most beautiful and enduring original compositions, including “Quinn the Eskimo,” the divine seven-minute “Sign on the Cross,” and “I’m Not There,” among many, many others. This was a varied and experimental phase of the shapeshifting rock poet’s career, its breadth of material revealing whole new paths and directions for Dylan and his followers to tread.
And despite the presence of commercially available recordings of some of this music, the non-release of the bulk of the sessions has very interesting consequences for the way in which Dylan’s catalogue as a whole is evaluated. Much of the music actually released by Columbia on The Basement Tapes double album fit neatly into the existing Dylan aesthetic at that time. It had been cleaned up, with new overdubs added by the Band, and the result was a natural extension of Dylan’s edgy rock of the mid-60s and the more polished rock he’d be delving into by 1975, when the double LP came out. The music that still lies in the vaults, on the other hand, is more clearly tied to Dylan’s early (and under-documented) roots, indicating that in 1966 the singer was expanding his reach further into all kinds of folk music, blues, and country, as well as rock. With this context added, his career from the mid-60s to the mid-70s makes an entirely new kind of sense; this missing music in essence explains many of Dylan’s future moves.
There is also a sincerity, an uninhibited air of fun, to be found in this music that is not present to this degree in any of Dylan’s other classic recordings, no matter how great they may be. The Basement Tapes, particularly in its bootlegged form, works because it captures the absolute essence of artistry, absent any commercial aspirations, absent any pressure, absent any pretense. There’s nothing here but purely amazing, spiritual, riotous, poetic, visceral music; every side of Dylan, every mystery, condensed and then dissipated through a prism’s eye into a rainbow aura of styles and sounds.
Verdict: Absolutely essential (and fun) listening, A+
Jimi Hendrix: First Rays of the New Rising Sun
Songs: Freedom, Izabella, Night Bird Flying, Angel, Room Full of Mirrors, Dolly Dagger, Ezy Ryder, Drifting, Beginnings, Stepping Stone, My Friend, Straight Ahead, Hey Baby (New Rising Sun), Earth Blues, Astro Man, Belly Button Window, and a few other “under construction” song ideas like This Little Boy and Locomotion that may or may not have been brought to fruition on First Rays...
When: May-September 1970
What Was Officially Released: After Jimi’s death, the Hendrix family released the First Rays... material in dribs and drabs. It appears on posthumous albums like Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge, and War Heroes. In 1997, MCA finally culled all the material from Hendrix’ sessions and released First Rays of the New Rising Sun.
Where You Can Find It: The re-released version of First Rays... is commercially available and not especially difficult to track down.
Intention: First Rays... was to be the double album follow-up to the epic Electric Ladyland, and as indicated by the title, was intended to take Hendrix in a number of different musical directions; specifically, it would have been a forum for Hendrix to indulge his growing fascination with funk and R&B. The recording of First Rays... also marked the debut usage of Jimi’s new, custom-built Greenwich Village studio.
What Happened: Jimi’s tragic death in September 1970 occurred during the recording of this record; before he died, he was able to complete several songs and even earmarked “Dolly Dagger” as the first single off the album.
Live Up to the Legend? It’s clear why so many people, Jimi included, thought this record would usher in a new musical era for Hendrix. Blasts of fuzzy guitar noise like “Room Full of Mirrors” co-exist comfortably with the funkier grooves of “Dolly Dagger” and especially “Ezy Ryder.” Jimi’s fondness for heartrending ballads is still in place, as evidenced by “Angel” and the R&B-ish “Drifting.” But it’s the psychedelic funk sounds that are most striking. Hendrix was smearing spacey guitar workouts over danceable rhythms provided by Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell, and creating a new sound for himself in the process. In retrospect, the electric funk of the live album Band of Gypsies provided the first clue as to Jimi’s burgeoning interest in rhythmic dance music, and First Rays... only goes further down that road. However, Jimi had always used the studio as a supporting instrument, and many of this album’s rough cuts lack the punch he often added during the mixing process. What the entire album would have sounded like with the full Hendrix studio sound is everybody’s guess. It’s probably best to consider First Rays... a transitional record, and not the end result of Jimi’s fascination with funkier, more rhythmic sounds.
Verdict? A strong record, and at the very least an intriguing listen to an artist in the process of musical evolution. A solid B.
Robin Gibb: Sing Slowly Sisters
Songs: Sing Slowly Sisters, Life, C'est La Vie Au Revoir, Everything Is How You See Me, I've Been Hurt, Iron In The Fire, Cold Be My Days, Avalanche, The Flag That I Flew, Return To Austria, Make Believe, All's Well, That Ends Well, A Very Special Day, Sky West And Croocked, Engines, Aeroplanes, Great Ceasars Ghost, Janice, You're Going Away
What Was Officially Released: Nothing
Where You Can Find It: The Russian bootleg CD-ROM Bee Gees Anthology #5, which contains mp3s of every released and unreleased Gibb solo record except for Maurice’s The Loner.
Intention: Planned as Robin’s follow-up to his solo debut, the heavily-orchestrated Robin’s Reign, which featured the British chart-topper, “Saved By the Bell,” Sing Slowly Sisters was to continue in the stylistic vein of its unjustly ignored predecessor.
What Happened: Following the Brothers Gibb 1969 masterpiece, Odessa, the harmony ended in a blaze of drugs, drink and ego-fueled cacophony that would split the band for two years. Maurice and Barry soldiered on with Cucumber Castle before they, too, parted ways, while Robin began his solo career in earnest with British chart-topper “Saved By the Bell.” A year later, Robin was at work on his sophomore effort, fraternal twin Maurice and big brother Barry were busy recording their solo debuts, The Loner and The Kid’s No Good respectively. But something in the estranged brothers clicked and all three pulled the plug on their mostly finished projects to regroup as the Bee Gees and record the aptly-titled Two Years On in 1971.
Live Up to the Legend?: As far as pop talents are concerned, none of the greats gets less respect than the Brothers Gibb and of them, Brother Robin—all bad teeth, quivering vibrato and in sore need of some good conditioner—is probably the main culprit. However, the toothy sibling’s solo work from 1969-1970 stands up as some of the best orchestrated pop of its era – easily the equal of Scott Walker’s in both portent and sheer bravado. Though it would have likely failed upon its commercial release, Sing Slowly Sisters surpasses the quality of semi-lost classic Robin’s Reign while being considerably darker to boot. Gibb’s voice here, as on early Bee Gee classics like “Holiday,” is positively haunting – often drenched in reverb, orchestra and choirs, the grainy, muffled bootlegs giving the strings a shimmering phase that only enhances the otherworldly atmosphere. As you might expect, the entire affair is uniformly nancy-boyish, melodramatic and obtuse – clearly, the Bee Gees’ most limp-wristed offerings from the period originated from Robin.
But Sing Slowly Sisters is no mere slice of Sixties esoterica; while big brother Barry is often credited as the Gibb with the compositional chops, almost every song here proves that Robin had a singular gift—if not genius—for achingly beautiful melancholy pop. From the moody and unnerving “Janice” and the glorious bounce of “Everything Is How You See Me” to the elegance of “The Flag That I Flew” and the utterly gorgeous “A Very Special Day,” consisting only of piano and overdubbed Robins, the record deserves to stand among the Bee Gees’ most shining moments.
Verdict: Hard to believe not a note has ever been released. A lost classic of the highest order from an unlikely place, A
The Zombies: R.I.P.
Songs: I’ll Call You Mine, Imagine the Swan, Conversation Off Floral Street, If It Don’t Work Out, Don’t Cry For Me, I Know She Will, Walking In the Sun, I’ll Keep Trying, Smokey Day, She Loves the Way They Love Her, Girl Help Me, I Could Spend the Day
When: 1969 – most of the basic tracks were recorded from 1964-1968 with overdubs in late-1968. There were six newly recorded tracks in late-’68.
What Was Officially Released: “Imagine the Swan” b/w “Conversation Off Floral Street” and “If It Don’t Work Out” b/w “Don’t Cry For Me” were both released as singles in 1969. “She Loves the Way They Love Her” and an orchestral version of “Smokey Day” were recorded by Zombies singer Colin Blunstone for his solo debut, One Year in 1971 (produced by Rod Argent).
Where You Can Find It: The material first started to surface on the 1973 Time Of The Zombies compilation. The whole record was released on the boxed set, Zombie Heaven in 1997, as well as the 2001 Repertoire reissue of Odessey & Oracle.
Intention: Posthumous release, as indicated by the title, of songs written during the band’s mid-60’s Decca Years with four songs written and recorded after the group’s acknowledged masterpiece, Odessey & Oracle.
What Happened: The formation of the proto-prog Argent, by group leader, Rod Argent, caused their label to scuttle the release of R.I.P. so as not to interfere with the new group’s promotion.
Live Up to the Legend?: There’s actually not much of a legend here, but for fans of early Zombies (typified by the pop-jazz of “She’s Not There”) and the later chamber pop of the Odessey period will want to at least want to hear R.I.P., which contains Zombified versions of songs given to other artists, such as “If It Don’t Work Out,” which was recorded by Dusty Springfield for her Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty album in 1965. Barring their clever version of “She Loves the Way They Love Her,” about a woman that loves to perform onstage to the delight of an overdubbed crowd, most of the Blunstone-less new material here, such as a rather pointless mod-Bach instrumental by Argent and the soggy “Smokey Day”, points to why the group disbanded in the first place. But the refurbished mid-Sixties material—“If It Don’t Work Out,” “I’ll Call You Mine,” the bouncy “Don’t Cry For Me”—does a fine job of reinforcing their reputation as leading purveyors of snappy mod pop tunes.
Verdict: A fine if inessential addition to a catalog that was never particularly deep. B
[Matthew Weiner and Todd Hutlock]
Darryl Hall: Sacred Songs and the ‘MOR Trilogy’
Songs: Sacred Songs, Something in 4/4 Time, Babs and Babs, Urban Landscape, NYCNY, The Farther Away I Am, Why Was It So Easy, Don’t Leave Me Alone With Her, Survive, Without Tears
What Was Officially Released: While Robert Fripp’s Exposure and Peter Gabriel’s second album were more or less delivered on time, Sacred Songsfinally received its release in 1980, before going out of print again for another 19 years.
Where You Can Find It: It was reissued in 1999 on Buddah records with bonus tracks from Robert Fripp’s Exposure sessions.
Intention: Upon returning to music after a three-year hiatus, King Crimson honcho Robert Fripp planned a three-album “MOR trilogy” to include Hall’s Sacred Songs and Peter Gabriel’s second record, with his own Exposure rounding out the trilogy, all of which he would produce, co-write and contribute to. The idea, as Fripp described it to Allan Jones of Melody Maker, was thus: “What I was trying to do in the original trilogy was to investigate the 'pop song' as a means of expression. I think it's an incredibly good way of putting forward ideas. I think it's a supreme discipline to know that you have three to four minutes to get together all your lost emotions and find words of one syllable or less to put forward all you ideas. It's a discipline of form that I don't think is cheap or shoddy.” For Hall’s part, the arty punk-soul entry was intended to open him to an entirely new audience.
What Happened: “It terrified the record company,” Fripp told Jones. “Terrified them. Their official description of the record was 'strange.' They simply refused to release it. The record scared off the company and his manager” (one Tommy Mottola, now head of Sony Music). Further, Fripp was prevented from using Hall on any more than 2 cuts on Exposure, requiring him to bring in Van der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammill and Specials singer Terry Hall to re-record many of Darryl Hall’s vocals on the album (Fripp: “[Hammill] came into the studio dressed in a rather svelte and smooth fashion, took off his nice cloths and got into a smelly dressing-gown, poured himself liberal dose from the bottle of cognac he'd brought with him, and went in there and started delivering the goods.”) Only Gabriel’s record was spared the label-hell the other records fell into.
Live Up to the Legend?: By the time Sacred Songs was released in 1980 (and sank without a trace), the artistic impact of releasing the three records in a sequence had been irrevocably spoiled. But more to the point, Hall had been thrust back into the Hall and Oates juggernaut (by then at the top of its commercial game with #1 hit “Kiss On My List”), effectively ending any chances for him to break out of the Philly Soul mold. But on its own terms, the record was eminently successful, a bizarre, often-exciting marriage of Hall’s smooth soul stylings with Fripp’s atonal guitar musings and “Frippertronics” loops – shown to best effect on the snappy “Something In 4/4 Time,” a record company jab with a bridge decidedly not in 4/4 time. Elsewhere, “NYCNY” shows Hall and Fripp in ferocious prog-punk rock mode, while “Without Tears” would rank as one of Hall’s most gorgeous ballads.
Verdict: Indeed, a strange affair, but a strangely affecting one as well. B+
The Associates: The Glamour Chase
Songs: Reach the Top, Heart of Glass, Terrorbeat, Set Me Up, Country Boy, Because You Love, The Rhythm Divine, Snowball, You'd Be the One, Empires of Your Heart, In Windows All, Heaven's Blue, Take Me to the Girl,
What Was Officially Released: “Take Me to the Girl,” “Heart of Glass,” “The Rhythm Divine,” and “Country Boy” were all released on the 1990 Popera compilation.
Where You Can Find It: The Glamour Chase was finally released on CD in 2002, paired with 1985’s Perhaps.
Intention: A belated follow-up to the chirpy synth-pop of Perhaps, The Glamour Chase was to be a further refinement of post-punk cabaret singer Billy Mackenzie’s establishment as a crooning Bryan Ferry-esque smoothie. With collaborator Alan Rankine having left early in the Perhaps sessions, the Associates had more or less become Mackenzie himself, and so Yello’s Boris Blank was drafted in to become his chief foil for the record.
What Happened: On the basis of there being very little audience for a post punk hero’s transition into the adult contemporary market, Warner Brothers rejected it, and Mackenzie’s long-term relationship with the label ended.
Live Up to the Legend?: No. Far from terrible, The Glamour Chase merely shows a once-pioneering artist refining rather than innovating. By 1989, post punk masterpieces, The Affectionate Punch and Sulk were ancient history – as were most of the edge-of-your-seat whoops and warbles with which Mackenzie had made his name. Mackenzie, rather, had become an adult contemporary “vocalist” – settling into writing smooth dance pop that was neither as edgy as his best work or as icily smooth as his most accessible work near the end of his career (Mackenzie committed suicide in 1997). And so it isn’t hard to understand why WEA opted to shelve the record. Still, “The Rhythm Divine,” reportedly written for Shirley (“Goldfinger”) Bassey, shows Mackenzie at his heartfelt, end-of-the-world best, and “Country Boy” revives a bit of the old post-Lodger strangeness of the Associates’ earliest work.
Verdict: A decent but inessential footnote to a brilliant career. B-
Large Professor - The LP
Songs: Sunrise, One Plus One, Hard, Spacey, For My People, Hungry, Get Off That Bullshit, Funky 2 Listen 2, Dancing Girl, Have Fun, I Just Wanna Chill, The Mad Scientist
What Was Officially Released: Two lukewarm singles, "I Just Wanna Chill" and "The Mad Scientist", were released in anticipation of the album back in 1995. For a long period of time, a hissy and downsampled vinyl bootleg containing 16 demo tracks and b-sides from the aforementioned singles served as the only version. Fortunately, Large Professor regained the rights to the album in 2002, and a remastered CD-R copy of the much vaunted album was available at shows and from a handful of online outlets with purchase of 1st Class.
Where You Can Find It: Outside of buying a promo CD-R copy from Large Professor himself or an online specialty hip-hop shop, good luck.
Intention: Large Professor has been one of the most abused figures in hip-hop to date. From producing the bulk of two seminal works with almost no credit, Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em and Wanted: Dead or Alive, to receiving a disproportionably small amount of cash for his group's debut, Breaking Atoms, Large Pro is intimately familiar with the art of getting shafted. Going solo is the natural solution, no?
What Happened: As usual, the deadly game of label politics rears its ugly head once again. By the time the singles from the forthcoming album were issued, the casual hip-hop fan's tastes were drifting towards all things hardcore or jiggy. While some artists associated with Large Pro were able to change with the times (e.g., Nas), others who flourished in the "conscious" rap movement spearheaded by the likes of Public Enemy and the Native Tongues were left to die. The combination of being unwilling to drastically change his style and the lukewarm response generated from the singles, Large Professor was dropped from Geffen and the album was shelved indefinitely.
Live Up to the Legend?: Due to his laundry list of stellar production credits and achievements, it's not surprising that The LP is simultaneously one of the most bootlegged, traded, and revered unreleased hip-hop albums of all time. Anyone expecting a revolutionary masterpiece, or even songs with elaborate metaphors on par with Main Source's "Just a Friendly Game of Baseball", will be sorely disappointed. Sadly enough, despite containing several gems, the album isn't significantly better than his official solo debut, 1st Class. For every laidback jam that serves as the perfect background music to that lazy Sunday on the porch like "I Just Wanna Chill" and "Have Fun", there are less memorable cuts that haven't aged well. In particular, "The Mad Scientist", with its Vincent Prince cackles and repeated verse, serves less as a representation of a living legend and more as a children's novelty record. (To be honest, most people were making fun of the track since its debut.) Granted, the flaccid R&B-influenced club tracks weren't beaten to death in 1996, but the grating hook to "Dancing Girl" set the downward spiral in motion. On the upside, the actual production on most of the album is trademark Large Pro -- utilizing a minimal number of soul and funk samples while maintaining a deep, vibrant, rich sound. The album also contains one of the best street conscious performances of Nas outside of Illmatic on "One Plus One". All in all, The LP is a wildly uneven mess.
Verdict: Geffen was right in sensing the album had little appeal outside the circle of obsessive hip-hop heads. Chalk it up as another case of unchecked fetishism for any work that's more than a couple years old and has a certain level of rarity and artist notoriety. C+
Del the Funkee Homosapien: Future Development
Songs: Lyric Lickin, Stress The World, Why Ya Want to Get Funkee..., Don't Forget The Bass, Faulty, X-Files, Future Development, Corner Story, Love is Worth, Del's Nightmare, Games Begin, Town to Town
What Was Officially Released: In 1997, Del released the album on cassette. Five years later, Future Development was re-released on CD and vinyl through Hieroglyphics Imperium, tacking on a bonus track with Casual.
Where You Can Find It: While hieroglyphics.com has all forms of the album for sale, the re-release is available to order from any decent record store.
Intention: After releasing the dark, alcohol-addled No Need For Alarm, Del wanted to further distance himself from the G-Funk shadow of his kitschy, novel debut as well as expectations to deliver the same product as his cousin, Ice Cube. In the process, he traded in most of the angry and 808-reliant sound of his sophomore effort to explore his now-patented aloof, homebrewn production style.
What Happened: Despite injecting some pop sensibility into Future Development, critical acclaim and a devoted fan base wasn't enough to keep Del around when the label was expecting lightning to strike again, ala N.W.A and Ice Cube. Elektra dropped Del by sending him a curt letter, given no warning outside of the previous silent treatment, a month before the set release date. Instead of letting the album languish in the vaults, Del and the rest of Hieroglyphics crew decided to release all future projects independently through their website, starting with the release of Future Development in early 1997. Not since Ice-T and Paris has a hip-hop artist of such notoriety made the decision to shun major labels, opting for the independent route.
Live Up to the Legend?: Unlike most lost albums, devoted fans were able to hear the intended original album shortly after its initial demise, circumventing the usual "what ifs,” epic tales of folklore, and hyperbolic praise. The album serves as the best sampler of the various faces of Del. The opening track shows remnants of the battle skills left over from No Need For Alarm. "Del's Nightmare," with its Michael Myers reminiscent piano loop, serves as a concentrated venomous diatribe aimed at all major labels, painting record executives as slave owners while condemning the outdated business structure of banking on a select number of "cash cow" artists. Del's playful side shines through on "Why Ya Want to Get Funkee...", as he relates being rejected and thoroughly clowned while trying to pick up various girls around town. The gem in this solid collection resides in his beautifully simple message track, "Love is Worth". Del preaches, "You say she leading you on, but you just added pressure/Of course she like you, you're friends don't try to test her/She says she likes you as a friend, not a lover or wife/So get a life, let her live hers and find another".
Verdict: Any fans disappointed by the bloated nature of Both Sides of the Brain or the heavy-handed sermonizing in Deltron 3030 will find solace in this underground gem. Twelve cuts, no skits, no filler -- the recipe for many a-memorable album. A-
The Who: Lifehouse
Songs: Baba O’Riley, Goin’ Mobile, Time is Passing, Love Ain’t for Keeping, Bargain, Too Much of Anything, Music Must Change, Greyhound Girl, Mary, Behind Blue Eyes, Sister Disco, I Don’t Know Myself, Put the Money Down, Pure and Easy, Getting in Tune, Let’s See Action, Slip Kid, Relay, Who Are You, Join Together, Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Song Is Over
What Was Officially Released: A significant chunk of Lifehouse was released on Who’s Next, with the 2003 “Deluxe Edition” containing the most from the aborted project. Also in 2003, Pete Townshend released a 6-CD boxed set of Lifehouse songs and demos, eleven songs from which he culled for the single CD The Lifehouse Elements. The boxed set contains everything Townshend ever thought about putting on Lifehouse, including orchestral versions of songs and the radio play he eventually produced in 2000.
Where You Can Find It: All versions of Who’s Next should be available at any record store worth the name; the Lifehouse boxed set and The Lifehouse Elements must be purchased from Townshend’s website, www.eelpie.com.
Intention: Tired of the touring grind, eager to expand The Who’s musical horizons, and inspired by the success of Tommy, Pete Townshend envisioned an even more complex project based around a new song cycle and feature film. Clearly stimulated by the artistic opportunities afforded to him by the concept album format, Townshend attempted to present the ideas developed in Tommy as having even broader significance than that album implied. Not only could pop heal the soul, perhaps it was also capable of reshaping the nature of society. Lifehouse was to be the story of a dystopian future society in which music was banned and the citizenry subjugated by a totalitarian government. One young man, inspired by rock music, hacks into the grid through which the government controls its subjects and thus reintroduces individuality and freedom to the world. Naturally enough, the first music the newly liberated populace was to experience would be from The Who. Townshend wrote the songs for the project and began working on a Lifehouse film script.
What Happened: Ever the big-thinking pop idealist, Townshend’s grandiosity finally got the best of him, and he found himself unable to effectively communicate his vision to his label, his management, or the public at large. Heavily reliant on manager Kit Lambert to be the spokesman for his most ambitious projects, when Lambert chose to pursue a film version of Tommy over that of Lifehouse, Townshend suffered a well-publicized nervous breakdown that scuppered Lifehouse for the next thirty years (although the band’s artistic ambitions by no means clouded their commercial judgment—they displayed enough discipline to record Who’s Next and gloss it with a sophisticated pop sheen, whereupon it sold millions). Although many Who worshipers breathlessly blame music industry betrayal and malice for the collapse of Lifehouse, it is also true that Townshend’s drinking and emotional exhaustion helped sabotage his musical vision (in the Who’s Next liner notes, he admits to an episode in which he attended a band/management meeting drunk and paranoid and attempted to throw himself out of a window).
Live Up to the Legend? As overplayed as it has become in the years since its release, Who’s Next, which was based on the more-or-less finished elements of Lifehouse, has the well-deserved reputation of being one of the best rock albums ever recorded. With each subsequent edition of that record, Universal has added more from the Lifehouse sessions, and it has become increasingly clear how brilliant Pete Townshend’s original vision actually was. In addition to the stone-cold classics “Baba O’Riley,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” and that lumbering but still-great dinosaur “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, songs like “Pure and Easy”, “Naked Eye”, and “Slip Kid” are as good if not better than anything on the original Who’s Next release. Their additions also reveal the surprising narrative coherence of what Lifehouse was supposed to be. God only knows how it would have functioned as the “original multimedia experience” it was planned on, but as a piece of music, Lifehouse fulfills the nearly impossible task of living up to its enormous hype.
Verdict: Given the quality of the material and the profoundly idealistic purposes for which it was created, it is easy to see why Pete Townshend obsessively returned to Lifehouse again and again for over thirty years; clearly, this was the man’s life work. Townshend wrote a song cycle about how rock and roll could save the world, and by God, I’m tempted to believe him; a definite A
Neil Young: Live 1970, Homegrown, Chrome Dreams, Island In The Sun, Old Ways (I), Times Square
Live 1970(1971): I Am A Child, Expecting To Fly, Flying On The Ground Is Wrong, Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing, Cowgirl In The Sand, Ohio, Old Man, Dance Dance Dance, Sugar Mountain, See The Sky About To Rain, The Needle And The Damage Done, Bad Fog Of Loneliness, Down By The River, Wonderin’, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Homegrown(1975): Homegrown, Vacancy, Homefires, Try, Star Of Bethlehem, Little Wing, The Old Homestead, Hawaiian Sunrise, Pardon My Heart, Love Art Blues, Human Highway, Separate Ways, Deep Forbidden Lake, Love Is A Rose, Daughters, We Don’t Smoke It No More, White Line, Give Me Strength, Long May You Run, Tie Plate Yodle #3
Chrome Dreams(1977): Pocahontas, Will To Love, Star Of Bethlehem, Like A Hurricane, Too Far Gone, Hold Back The Tears, Homegrown, Captain Kennedy, Stringman, Sedan Delivery, Powderfinger, Look Out For My Love
Island In The Sun(1982): Little Thing Called Love, Hold On To Your Love, Like An Inca, If You Got Love, Raining In Paradise, Soul Of A Woman, Big Pearl, Bad News
Old Ways (I)(1983): Old Ways, Depression Blues, Cry Cry Cry, Mystery Train, Wonderin’, California Sunset, My Boy, Are There Any More Real Cowboys?, Silver And Gold
Times Square(1989): Eldorado, Someday, Crime In The City, Box Car, Don’t Cry, Heavy Love, Wrecking Ball, Cocaine Eyes, On Broadway
When: 1970—1989 (see individual dates above).
What Was Officially Released: Most of the studio material recorded for these albums was released on subsequent albums; others have remained in Young’s live repertoire for years, but have yet to make an official LP appearance. Most of the songs were re-recorded for their commercial release. In some extreme cases, songs remained in mothballs for decades. For example, “White Line” from 1975 was re-recorded for 1990’s Ragged Glory, and “Separate Ways” was resurrected for Young’s 1993 tour with Booker T. and The MGs, but still hasn’t been released. Because of Young’s habit of playing unreleased material live, however, almost everything from these albums can be heard on bootleg live albums at the very least. Some of the songs were given to other artists, as well: “Dance Dance Dance” to Crazy Horse for their 1971 self-titled album, and “Love Is A Rose” to Linda Ronstandt, even though they were essentially the same song with different lyrics.
Where You Can Find Them: Bootlegs of almost all of this material is widely available. There is a large underground community of Young fans who regularly trade bootlegs with each other free of charge, so paying for copies is practically unnecessary.
Intention: Neil Young has never been afraid to buck convention, often choosing the rocky, difficult path in lieu of the seemingly lucrative commercial one. This fact is evidenced by the sheer volume of unreleased material in his back catalog. So why didn’t these albums come out? In some cases, Young simply changed his mind. In others, the albums were rejected by his label (Geffen, with whom he had a tempestuous relationship throughout his tenure). In all of the cases, though, it is clear that Young has been unwilling to let good songs die, as he has resurrected tunes that he clearly still believes worthy for albums years—sometimes decades—later.
Young is also an amazingly prolific writer, and his back catalog is already stuffed even without figuring in the unreleased material (there are even a few unreleased movies in his vault, including a live documentary from 1986, Muddy Track). It’s entirely possible that Young has got more tunes than he knows what to do with. While he may not have the greatest critical eye when it comes to his own work (check out Young’s misguided electro-experiment, Trans, from 1983 or 1986’s Cars-ish Landing On Water for further evidence), the fact that he is so uncompromising in his artistic vision is worthy of admiration, if not always actual enjoyment.
With his long-rumored multi-album Archive project still years away (apparently), we have no idea if or when some of this material will see the light of day, but it’s fairly certain that at least some of it will turn up there. Most likely is the rejected Geffen material, which Young obviously thought was worthy at the time, and if the live and bootleg tapes are any indication, he was right. For instance, based on the outdoor shed shows Young played at the time, the original version of Old Ways was initially slated to be his take on the Sun Records sound, with Young backed by a 3-piece male doo-wop backing group and stand-up bass.
Live 1970: Young was laid-up with a back injury (a slipped disc) in late 1970/early 1971, and his label, Reprise, prepared this album in anticipation of his not being able to record for a long period of time. When Young ended up recording Harvest for a late 1971 release, nothing more was heard about the project. Rumors abound that it will finally see the light of day when Young’s multi-disc “Archives” finally see the light of day (but that’s another story).
Homegrown: After finishing this double album, Young had a group of friends over to listen to the album at his house. At the end of the reel, the masters for the unreleased-at-that-point Tonight’s The Night (recorded in 1973) were still present, and apparently everyone agreed that Neil should release it instead. Which he did. Ten of these songs are still unreleased, the rest turning up on other Young albums eventually.
Chrome Dreams: This was to be released in late 1976, but was later retooled into American Stars N Bars, featuring a different track listing and different recordings of most of the songs. Most of the songs turned up on subsequent albums.
Island In The Sun: According to a 1995 interview with MOJO, Young says that he “offered that to Geffen just before Trans. It was a tropical thing all about sailing, ancient civilisations, islands and water. Actually two or three songs ended up on Trans.”
Old Ways (I): Again, rejected by Geffen, who claimed they wanted Young to “play some rock and roll,” as opposed to the dynamic 1950s style-rock/country hybrid of this album. He took them at their word, splitting the difference by recording the cartoonish retro-diner-rock of Everybody’s Rockin’ (generally considered to be one of Young’s worst albums) and re-recording Old Ways in 1985 as a straight country album, and not a very good one at that.
Times Square: After he finally left Geffen, Young finally got back to recording his trademarked style of thrashy garage rock that they had been looking for the whole time. However, apparently Young blew the whistle on this one, claiming that if he was going to make a comeback, it couldn’t be with such a loud, uncompromising album, which he claimed would scare off radio stations. All of the material (save “Box Car”) was released between the Japanese EldoradoEP and the Freedom album. Apparently Young knew what he was talking about, as Freedom’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” became a huge FM radio staple.
Live Up to the Legend?: Young’s habit of changing his mind is, in fact, a great part of his legend. Remember, this is a man who Geffen Records tried to sue for making albums that “didn’t sound like Neil Young.” Apparently, they did very little research into Young’s history before they signed him.
Verdict: The music is brilliant for the most part, but that’s missing the bigger picture here. For a lifelong maverick like the super-prolific Young, unreleased albums are par for the course, and his fans wouldn’t expect him to be any other way. A
Prince: Dream Factory, ‘Camille’, Crystal Ball
Songs: Tracks originating from the Dream Factory sessions include Dream Factory, Movie Star, Last Heart, Starfish And Coffee, Play In The Sunshine, We Can Funk, Data Bank, Neon Telephone, Wonderful Ass, Welcome 2 The Rat Race, Witness 4 the Prosecution, Good Love, Paris, Can't Stop The Feeling I Got, Girl O' My Dreams, Fat Lady, Data Bank, Last Heart, A Place In Heaven, The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker, Power Fantastic, Slow Love, The Cross, Forever In My Life, I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man, Adore, All My Dreams, Neon Telephone, Train, Visions, Sexual Suicide, Crucial, Teacher, Teacher, Interlude, It's A Wonderful Day, In A Large Room With No Light, Big Tall Wall, There’s Others Here With Us
Tracks originating from the Camille sessions include Housequake, Shockadelica, If I Was Your Girlfriend, Strange Relationship, and Rock Hard In A Funky Place. Rebirth Of The Flesh, Feel U Up (re-recorded from 1983), U Got the Look
Tracks originating from the Crystal Ball sessions include Expert Lover (a.k.a. “Crystal Ball”), The Ball, Joy In Repetition, Soul Psychodelicide, It, Sign O' The Times,
What Was Officially Released: It’s far easier to catalog what wasn’t released from this era than what was. As a rule, what didn’t end up on 1987’s Sign O’ the Times generally showed up on 1993’s 3-disc The Hits or 1998’s 4-disc Crystal Ball (not the same collection as the above-mentioned lost record, but a compilation of unreleased Prince material from 1986 through the early 90s) or it wasn’t released at all. One track appeared on Graffiti Bridge (“Joy In Repetition”). Several of the Camille tracks ended up as B-sides. “Rockhard In a Funky Place” was added to 1988’s The Black Album. “Data Bank” was eventually recorded by The Time, and Prince gave T.C. Ellis “Neon Telephone.”
Where You Can Find Them: Countless bootlegs.
Intention: While finishing up the ludicrously overblown Under the Cherry Moon film prior to the Parade tour in 1986, Prince begins work onThe Dream Factory, a prospective song-cycle about the pitfalls of stardom, recorded with the full collaboration of backing band, The Revolution. Those sessions produced a massive amount of material, much of which wasn’t yet completed. But in July of that year, the album, which reportedly had a final tracklist, is shelved (probably coinciding with Prince severing ties with the Revolution).
He begins to branch off into two separate but intertwined projects, Crystal Ball, drawing from several Dream Factory tracks, and an untitled project to be released under the name of Prince’s helium-voiced, ambigenderous alter ego, Camille. While he is tinkering with the Camille songs, it is Crystal Ball that is clearly poised to be Prince’s Masterwork – with visionary songs like the ten-and-a-half minute orchestral funk title track, metallic funk of “Rebirth of the Flesh” and ballads like the swooning “Crucial” showing to all the world the sheer breadth of the little man’s formidable talents.
What Happened: The Camille project got far enough along to be given a catalog number, release date (January 1987) and 100 test pressings before it was shelved and folded into Crystal Ball, which by the time it is delivered, ballooned to a 3-album set. And Warner Bros., while impressed by His Purple Prolificacy, was less than thrilled about his increasingly diverse direction, which they felt made it harder to sell Prince to the kids (sales from Parade onwards confirm as much). They convinced him to trim the record to a double-album set, retitled Sign O’ the Times, which despite failing to stop Prince’s sales slide would soon be regarded as his masterpiece anyway.
Live Up to the Legend?: As difficult as it is to keep up with Prince during the era, following the bouncing ball that was Prince in the mid-to-late 80s, it’s as task that is thankfully as rewarding as it is challenging. Of the reportedly thousands of unreleased tracks in Prince’s vaults (many of which made up the body of collections designed to help him out of his Warner Bros. contract in the late 90s) the recordings from the 86-87 era are among his best and for obvious reasons – they catch an artist at his creative zenith, confidently embracing almost the entire spectrum of popular music. Even the most average material from the era deserves better than the generally piecemeal releases they’ve been given thus far (the 1998 Crystal Ball compilation, 1999’s Old Friends 4 Sale), though given the already prodigious Princely output during this period of his career, writing for and producing The Time, Sheila E., The Family and countless others (in addition to the records he released on his own), it’s hard to argue that a bonafide release of any of these records might have altered his career in any meaningful way.
Though mainly drawn from the same pool of tunes, each of the three records had its own individual charms. A mix of dry Wendy and Lisa-assisted funk (the stomping title track), ethereal ballads (“A Place In Heaven”), pop-jazz (“All My Dream”) and bluesy pop (“Train”) suggests that The Dream Factory would have proven a more logical transition out of the Parade era than SOTT proved to be. Given how deliciously malicious the Camille material is (“Rebirth” and “Shockadelica” are particularly outrageous), it might have made for a unique release in his catalog. However, the combination of the two with the unreleased material from the Crystal Ball sessions (21 tracks altogether), suggests the proposed 3-disc set would have likely been a messy, mind-boggling and fascinating Magnum Opus of almost impenetrable proportions.
Verdict: Inconsistent to be sure, but the three projects are loaded some of the most fascinating material Prince ever recorded. A-
For more on Prince's lost albums, take a look at Matthew Weiner's article Welcome 2 The Funk Bible.
Prefab Sprout: Michael Jackson: Behind the Veil, Zorro The Fox, The Atomic Hymn Book, an Untitled Princess Diana Opera, Earth: The Story So Far
Songs: Most are unknown, but it is estimated that Prefab mainman Paddy McAloon stockpiled about 150 songs over a seven-year period.
When: Between 1990 and 1997
What Was Officially Released: “Swans,” from Zorro, came out on 1997’s somewhat disappointing, Andromeda Heights. Other songs may have come out, but as of now, McAloon has been cagey about their origins.
Where You Can Find It: You can’t.
Intention: McAloon was a busy man following 1990’s Jordan: The Comeback: he allegedly worked on an opera called Michael Jackson: Behind the Veil, another about Princess Diana, a semi-aborted cartoon musical, Zorro The Fox, a record of gospel-flavored spiritual songs called The Atomic Hymnbook, and the very modest-sounding Earth: The Story So Far, including songs about Adam and Eve, Neil Armstrong and Elvis.
What Happened: Of Earth: The Story So Far, which he reportedly worked on for seven years, McAloon said in 1997: “That project relies on a collage technique. I had to master so many things, in particular the technology to actually bring the album to life. I will finish it though and hopefully it will be the next record.” Needless to say, it wasn’t. It is unclear whether the other records were ever recorded, demo-ed, still in the songwriting/gestation phase, or if Paddy was just making them up to reporters (though one song thought to be a joke was his hip-hop version of “Streets of Laredo,” which appeared somewhat surprisingly on 2001’s The Gunman and Other Stories). In any event, it’s fairly understandable why a project entitled Earth: The Story So Far might be difficult to complete.
Live Up to the Legend?: Releasing albums once or twice a decade appears to be McAloon’s legend, so sure.
[Matthew Weiner and Todd Hutlock]
The Beach Boys: Smile
Songs: Do You Like Worms?, Wind Chimes, Heroes & Villains, Surf’s Up, Good Vibrations, Vega-Tables, Cabinessence, Wonderful, I’m In Great Shape, Child is Father of the Man, The Elements, The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine, I Ran (Look), Holidays, With Me Tonight, She’s Goin’ Bald (He Gives Speeches), I Love to Say Da-Da
What Was Officially Released: Smiley Smile, a collection of re-recorded Smile leftovers, came out in late 1967. Other overdubbed and newly completed tracks continued to surface on Beach Boys albums throughout the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Twelve rough mixes were on the 1993 box set Good Vibrations: 30 Years of the Beach Boys, and scattered archival tracks continued to appear on Capitol compilations like Endless Harmony and Hawthorne, CA.
Where You Can Find It: Many websites offer Smile mixes for download, but the best place to hear this music is on a handful of definitive bootlegs, including Vigotone’s two-CD set, a three-tape set called The Prokopy Tapes, and Sea of Tunes’ Unsurpassed Masters, Vol. 16-17.
Intention: The impetus behind Smile was Brian Wilson’s grand desire to continually expand his musical boundaries. Following Pet Sounds, Wilson busily spun off new ideas with startling frequency -- a humor album, a fitness record, inventive new production techniques -- and eventually combined all these ideas into one of the most ambitious recording projects ever. It was light-hearted psychedelia packed with brilliant pop tunes, a thematically cohesive album driven by the Americana interest weaving through the lyrics of Van Dyke Parks.
What Happened: Many, many factors converged to prevent Smile’s release. Not only was Brian Wilson putting intense pressure on himself to come up with his ultimate artistic statement, but outside pressures threatened to tear the band apart altogether. The band was undergoing legal difficulties with their label Capitol, Brian was having problems explaining his wild creative vision to the more traditional other Beach Boys, and Brian’s advanced new studio methods (however revolutionary the results) were time-consuming to the extent that it was virtually impossible to record a full album within a reasonable time limit.
Live Up to the Legend?: Amidst a mound of uncertainty surrounding this period in the Beach Boys’ history, what is certain is that Smile would have been the band’s best work to that point. Its scope reaches further than any other record in their catalogue, and its innovations arguably could have surpassed even those of the Beatles in the same terrain. Encompassing arty experimentation, gorgeous pop melodies, exotic, often surprising arrangements, and the twisting wordplay of Brian’s lyrical collaborator Van Dyke Parks, this was a tour de force of American music that could have expanded boundaries for both the Beach Boys and pop music as a whole. Instead, for the most part it remains unheard today, and that’s quite possibly the saddest fact in all of music.
Verdict: A sprawling, ingenious collection of lost gems, A+
For more on Smile, check out Ed's lengthy take on the album here.
The Beach Boys: Landlocked
Songs: Loop De Loop, Susie Cincinnati, San Miguel, H.E.L.P. Is On the Way, Take a Load Off Your Feet, Good Time, Over the Waves, I Just Got My Pay, Big Sur, ‘Til I Die, Lady, When Girls Get Together, Lookin’ At Tomorrow
What Was Officially Released: Almost everything, on one album or another. “Take A Load Off Your Feet,” “Lookin’ At Tomorrow” and a different version of “’Til I Die” ended up on Landlocked’s 1971 replacement, Surf’s Up (the Landlocked version of “’Til I Die” and a different version of “Loop De Loop” were released on 1998’s Endless Harmony). “Susie Cincinnati” wound up on 1976’s 15 Big Ones. ““Big Sur” became part of the “California Trilogy” on Holland from 1972. “Pay,” “San Miguel” and “H.E.L.P.” were at last released on 1993’s Good Vibrations box. “When Girls Get Together” ended up on 1980’s Keepin’ the Summer Alive. “Good Time” was included on 1977’s Love You. “Lady” was released as a b-side to a solo single by Dennis Wilson and Rumbo.
Where You Can Find It: Several bootlegs, one of the best of which is paired with Brian’s Adult Child.
Intention: Follow-up to the band’s critical (though not commercial) resurgence with 1970’s Sunflower. Landlocked was to be the second record on Warner Brothers showcasing the band’s individual songwriting talents.
What Happened: The label rejected it, insisting on the inclusion of Smile material and a little more Brian. The result was a complete revamping, including addition of the unreleased (and unfinished) “Surf’s Up,” one true Brian oddity (the strangely heartbreaking “A Day In the Life of A Tree”), a Bruce Johnston nostalgia-fest (“Disney Girls”), a couple decent Carl Wilson tunes (“Feel Flows” and “Long Promised Road”) and a few horrible Mike Love/Al Jardine tunes – leaving Dennis, perhaps the Beach Boy with the best compositional skills ca. 1971 with nothing on Surf’s Up.
Live Up to the Legend?: Few eras are as overrated by Beach Boys fans as that spanning 1970-71, when they released Sunflower, Landlocked and Surf’s Up. Still reeling from the failure of Smile in 1967 (and pressured by the label to release it), Brian was writing less and less frequently. Mike Love was—yikes!—writing more and more frequently. And nobody had much of anything to say. While Landlocked has three of the band’s best post-Smile tracks (“Loop De Loop,” “Lady” and the longer version of “’Til I Die,” Brian’s last classic), the record’s a hodgepodge of fun but inessential tracks (“H.E.L.P.,” “Susie,” “Take A Load Off Your Feet,” and “Good Time”) and maudlin ballads (“When Girls Get Together,” “Big Sur,” “Lookin’ At Tomorrow”) which stand poorly next to each other. Of the others, Dennis’s “San Miguel” is interesting, but “I Just Got My Pay” is better in its later incarnation (“Marcella” from 1973’s Carl And the Passions) and the instrumental “Over the Waves” is merely inconsequential.
Verdict: By no means a classic. C+
Brian Wilson: Adult Child
Songs: Life Is For The Living, It's Over Now, Everybody Wants To Live, LinesOn Broadway, Games Two Can Play, It's Trying To Say (Baseball), H.E.L.P. Is On the Way, Still I Dream Of It, Shortenin’ Bread
When: 1976-77, with a few tracks nicked from 1971’s Landlocked sessions.
What Was Officially Released: An overdubbed “Shortenin’ Bread” made its way onto 1979’s L.A. (Light Album); “It’s Over Now” and “Still I Dream of It” eventually came out on 1993’s Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys
Where You Can Find It: Numerous bootlegs
Intention: Brian’s Sinatra album. Vegas big band arrangements, brassy cover tunes, a few songs written with the hopes that the Chairman himself might sing them.
What Happened: The label heard it and probably rejected it before track 2 began.
Live Up to the Legend?: If “legend” means “an unreleased masterwork from the genius who brought us Pet Sounds” then no. But for Brian fanatics, Adult Child is a must-hear, even if it does chronicle the decline of what was arguably pop’s greatest talent. A sample lyric: “The cigarette butt when you throw it in the water goes ‘phhht!!’/But the trick, but the trick is you shouldn't laugh/'Cause if you start laughin’, you're just a coward/If you start laughin’, you're just a coward.” Clearly, the man had hit bottom – hard. Nearly every song reflects the sorry state in which the elder-Wilson found himself by the late-Seventies: a drug-addled, paranoid shut-in, weighing in at a none-too-svelte 300 lbs. As morbidly awful as that proposition sounds, however, Wilson’s melodic sense, arranging skills and humor had not yet totally abandoned him by 1977 – even if his choirboy voice, ravaged by a four-pack-a-day cigarette habit, had.
In some respects Brian’s “Food Album,” one song finds the recluse staring into the mirror at his blubbery naked body – in another, he yearns to drown his sorrows in a good meal, with the whole aesthetic basically encapsulated in a fantastically Moog-y rendition of the children’s song, “Shortenin’ Bread” (which, according to Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton, Brian had been performing at home for nearly a decade – often with friends like Hutton and Iggy Pop(!!) uncomfortably cajoled into singing harmony parts). Elsewhere, wanting to give their insane older brother a hand, Carl and Dennis pop in to croon a few as well, taking the leads on “It’s Over Now,” reportedly penned for Sinatra, and the bouncy “It’s Trying To Say,” respectively. Add to those a heartbreakingly sad orchestrated ballad, “Still I Dream of It,” and suspect covers of “Deep Purple” and “On Broadway,” replete with treacly Baker Street sax, and Adult Child stands as solidly B-grade Brian.
Verdict: B-grade Brian means it ain’t a classic, just a B
Dennis Wilson: Bamboo
Songs: Wild Situation, Moonlight, Baby Blue Eyes, School Girl, Companion, Love Surrounds Me, He’s A Bum, It’s Not Too Late, Holy Evening, All Alone and several others that were never completed or have not been found.
When: late-1970’s to 1983
What Was Officially Released: Denny’s versions of “Baby Blue Eyes” and “Love Surrounds Me” were released with minimal changes by the Beach Boys in 1979 on their L.A.: Light Album; “Holy Evening” was released in 1998 on the Beach Boys’ Ultimate Christmas; “All Alone” was released on the Beach Boys’ Endless Harmony soundtrack in 1998.
Where You Can Find It: Deluxe bootleg available through www.denniswilsondreamer.com with bonus tracks, liner notes, generally fantastic sound, and otherwise unavailable mixes.
Intention: Bamboo was slated to have been a more musically mature follow-up to Dennis’s impressionistic Pacific Ocean Blue (Caribou, 1977), on which the “real Beach Boy” emerged as a major talent in his own right. Pacific Ocean Blue established that the middle Wilson brother was capable of penning confessional balladry in heavily orchestral settings that were brushed with a touch of MOR (and selling in excess of 400,000, the record also established Denny as a commercial draw). At the outset, Wilson saw Bamboo as a more ambitious affair.
What Happened: It’s impossible to separate Bamboo’s failure to be completed from the Beach Boys’ turmoil in the late-70s. In an ideal world, Dennis should have emerged as the band’s lead songwriter in brother Brian’s absence, but it wasn’t to be. In the early part of the decade, Dennis had flirted with making a solo record, only to wind up sticking with a band despite their leaving his best material off their albums. After he finally mustered the nerve to release Pacific Ocean Blue, which sold better than any Beach Boys release of the late-Seventies, CBS-Caribou wanted a quick follow-up from the troubled, impulsive songwriter. But the record was almost doomed from the start. In addition to Dennis’s rather lackadaisical work ethic, drug and alcohol problems and his deteriorating voice, the band was wracked with jealousy stemming from his success. His loyalty nearly always question, personal problems and pressure from the band to contribute to their own records mounted. On top of that, there was a turbulent relationship with Fleetwood Mac songbird Christine McVie and a marriage to the illegitimate daughter of bandmate and cousin, Mike Love(!!). In the event that Dennis did finish songs, they were often pilfered by the Beach Boys, who at one point even dismissed the drummer from the band. Bamboo in a permanent state of near-completion, Dennis drowned in 1983 while diving in a bay to retrieve belongings from the bottom of the ocean that he’d thrown off his boat years before during a fight with second-wife and love-of-his-life, Karen Lamm.
Live Up to the Legend? At its best, Bamboo shows why some thought Dennis was nearly as talented as his big brother – despite a off-puttingly familiar AOR feel in places, there’s gorgeous, painfully sincere stuff here, almost equal his older brother’s work in some ways, if less immediately striking. But while nothing on Bamboo is ever less than very good, it suffers slightly in comparison to the coherence of the completed Pacific Ocean Blue, which understandably had more of a thematic and musical consistency. Still, several Bamboo tracks match its predecessor’s quality – particularly, the self-reflecting “He’s a Bum,” the ghostly hymn “Holy Evening” and stunning orchestral lullaby, “Baby Blue Eyes.” The same would be said for the gorgeous and heartbreaking “All Alone” and one of the most chilling songs in the entire Beach Boys catalog, “It’s Not Too Late,” featuring brother Carl’s impassioned singing, were it not for the fact that Dennis didn’t write or produce them: his guitarist Carli Munoz did. And while the Beach Boy never fails to make each song his own—“All Alone” particularly sounds Denny-esque with only a suspect saxophone solo to hold it back—there something a little off-putting about the songs being entirely shepherded by someone else. It’s altogether possible that it just was part of the Beach Boy’s generous personality, but the effect makes for a slightly unsatisfying experience.
Verdict: A distinct demi-classic, but not quite enough to push it over the top, B+
Songs: Technopop, Tour De France, Sex Object, The Telephone Call
What Was Officially Released: “Technopop,” “Sex Object” and “The Telephone Call” all ended up on Electric Café in 1986, reworked using digital technology. “Tour De France” was a single in 1983 and has somewhat bizarrely been revived in 2003 as the centerpiece for the Tour De France Soundtracks album – Kraftwerk’s first in more than a decade.
Where You Can Find It: There are demos of “Technopop” and “Sex Object” from 1983 available on various bootlegs. Copies of the unreleased Technopop album are not known to be available on bootleg, however.
Intention: Follow-up to 1981’s definitive Computer World, Technopop. No overarching concept. The song “Technopop” was supposed to be a side-long cut. Rumors persist that until copyright issues arose its original title was Technicolor.
What Happened: The circumstances surrounding the non-release of Technopop are almost torn from the pages of other famous unreleased records: a bicycling accident that almost killed Kraftwerk leader Ralf Hütter (see Dylan and The Basement Tapes); perfectionism and the falsely-reported destruction of master tapes (see Brian Wilson, Smile, particularly the endless reworking of “Heroes and Villains,” and “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow”); artwork that was printed up (again, Smile and Prince’s Black Album).
All are probably true to some extent. The record was clearly slated for release – in addition to the band scheduling shows promoting the release in England, EMI had received artwork for Technopop and had allotted the record a catalogue number. Certainly, the bicycling accident that left Hütter in a coma for two days contributed to the difficulty surrounding the completion of the record. Making matters worse was the decidedly cool reception lead single “Tour De France” received upon release in 1983.
But an even bigger blow likely occurred when Hütter took the analog masters the group had been working on to New York City for mixing at Power Station Studios, where he was reportedly confronted with digital technology for the first time (and “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, who they briefly—and somewhat bizarrely—considered collaborating with). Up until then, Kraftwerk had been among the electronic music vanguard elite, pushing the technological envelope at what seemed a breakneck pace. Discovering that the rest of the world had moved past them while they fumbled with analog whizzes and whirrs in their Dusseldorf-based Kling Klang Studios threw what proved to be a sizable wrench the works of der previously unstoppable mensch-machine.
While Hütter and fellow leader Florian Schneider have remained tight-lipped about the scuttling of Technopop, former Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos shed a little light to Sound on Sound magazine. “We got a little bit lost in technology,” Bartos said of the Kling Klang digital overhaul. “Suddenly, in the mid-‘80s, all this digital equipment appeared, including sampling. So we had to step back and think it all over, incorporate MIDI and sampling, and a lot of other stuff.” Bartos went on to tell the magazine that even though the band reworked the record digitally over the next few years to become Electric Café, “we should have released the Technopop version, because it’s much better.”
It is generally accepted that the double failure of Technopop’s non-release and Electric Café’s poor reception in the press were responsible for the group’s almost total silence for the next 17 years, with only 1991’s stopgap The Mix remix album and the disappointing “Expo 2000” single nearly a decade later to signal the group was even active at all. Regardless of how 2003’s Tour De France Soundtracks is received, a record built around four new versions of the 1983 single accompanied by eight other fairly minor tracks will almost certainly fuel the debate as to whether Technopop was where it all went wrong.
Live Up to the Legend?: Even with rather skimpy evidence of the final product, it is possible to construct a general idea of how Technopop would have sounded by stacking the early demos of “Technopop” and “Sex Object,” their drastically reworked digital versions on Electric Café, the single release of “Tour De France,” and the Electric Café version of “The Telephone Call” against one another. And the result is...not all that encouraging. Firstly and almost certainly, Hütter’s fear that the production would have sounded behind-the-times was a valid concern – a critical listen to 1981’s Computer World shows that the band was already slipping behind Kraftwerk disciples like The Human League and Gary Numan production-wise. The delay in release didn’t help matters; by the time Electric Café arrived, The Art of Noise had been there three years before.
But the other lesson demonstrated by Computer World (and a more problematic one) is that Technopop would have almost been entirely bereft of the elegant, neo-classical melodies the band had always been known for. Sadly, it’s a suspicion confirmed by the flat house music on the new Tour De France Soundtracks album – the band’s increasing interest in club music was working decidedly against one of their greatest strengths: songwriting. As a result, only the sweet “Telephone Line” struck the emotional chord of songs like “Computer Love” and “The Model.”
Kraftwerk biographer Pascal Bussy is blunt in explaining where Technopop failed, hinting that it was their legendary perfectionism that doomed the record. “I think that the very sad thing about Kraftwerk is that they very often have not been capable of completing their work or to materialize their ideas,” Bussy told Kraftwerk fanzine, Aktivität. “That goes from unreleased tapes to non-finished LPs and also includes some of their dreams...”
Verdict: Not a total washout, but however it turned out, clearly several cogs short of fulfilling our own dreams. C+
Buffalo Springfield – Stampede (1968) Would’ve been their third record.
Orange Juice – Ostrich Churchyard (1981) Original indie recording of Sound of Young Scotland’s debut, before it was re-recorded for Polydor.
The Doors – Celebration of the Lizard (1968) A 20+ minute ode to Jim Morrison’s penis.
NERD – In Search Of... (2002) The live instruments you hear on the released version weren't sent out to most journalists in late 2001 and early 2002. Luckily, they went back into the studio, cut the fat and released a classic with the same essentials- and a fuller sound.
Johnny Mathis – I Love My Lady (1981) Produced by the Chic Organization on the heels of an aborted Chic project with Aretha Franklin, I Love My Lady was reportedly abandoned by Mr. Mellow and Chic before its completion. An inspired pairing, the few who have heard tapes of what survives claim it sounds like a cross between Chic and Al Jarreau. Had you until that last bit, didn’t we?
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) Save the mythology for some place else- the most famous "lost album" of the new century was hardly lost, those who wanted to hear it had it months before its official release date after its rejection by Reprise.
Prince – The Black Album (1988) Famously disappointing released Lost Album.
The Ballroom - Untitled Album The inspiration for not one but two sunshine pop classics, The Millennium's Begin and Sagittarius' Present Tense, the unreleased Ballroom album is among the earliest evidence of the genius posessed by soft pop svengali, Curt Boettcher.
Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy Lost for all intents and purposes. And probably better off that way. Still didn’t stop G N’ R from suing The Offspring to prevent them from naming their album the same. Oh, Axl...
By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2003-09-02