There’s a new 3CD Britpop retrospective coming out, called ‘Common People’. It’s got a lot of people angry, primarily because it seems to have been compiled by people who think ‘Cookin’: Jamie Oliver’s Music To Cook By’ marked the genre’s dazzling high water mark.
(Side note: the second track on that album, after Toploader, was ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’, which must have caused countless dinner party hosts to puzzle over the line, “Your joys are counterfeit/This happiness corrupt political shit” while seasoning the asparagus spears).
There is one track on the album, though, that stopped me dead in my tracks. It’s by Perfume, and it’s called ‘Lover’. Perfume were a short-lived band from Leicester whose career highlight was supporting Gene. ‘Lover’ came out as a single in 1995 and reached number 158. I can’t link to the song because, in modern terms, is doesn’t exist. It pre-dated YouTube. It’s not on LastFm. You can’t buy it from iTunes or stream it on Spotify.
But it’s magnificent – an ecstatic, vernal bloom of falsetto and violins that gave me one of those powerful surges of nostalgia that critics always insist on calling a “Proustian rush”, when what they really mean is, you know, “it reminded them of something”.
Anyway, it got me thinking about other wonderful songs that, for whatever reason, have slipped through the cracks of popular culture. I’m thinking of tracks like Radiohead’s ‘Lift’, a song about depression that was bafflingly left off ‘OK Computer’ despite being the most heartpoundingly anthemic thing they’ve ever written (it also boasts Thom Yorke’s most personal lyric, a clue perhaps as to why it was nixed).
Or My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Off Your Face’, only released on the ‘Glider EP’ but just as brain-engulfingly beautiful as anything on ‘Loveless’ or ‘Isn’t Anything’, and so overlooked these days the only evidence you’ll find of it on YouTube is a clip of a fat bloke with his shirt off, playing along on bass.
Or Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Promise’, a ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’ outtake that would have slotted perfectly into the ‘Born To Run’ album as a desolate sister-song to ‘Thunder Road’ (the two songs share some of the same lyrics).
There must be thousands of these lost tracks worth rescuing from obscurity. Share your own suggestions. Think of this blog as a portal to a parallel history of rock’n’roll – a chance to celebrate the forgotten gems, the ghost songs, the anthems that never were…