Tuesday, 30 December 2008
The Smiths Singles Box...
"Kiss my shades". "Talent borrows, genius steals". "Beware the wrath to come". "Our souls, our souls, our souls, our souls..." There was more wit and wisdom engraved into the run-off grooves of a Smiths record than in the entire recorded output of most of their contemporaries. And now thanks to the wonderful Rhino records those of us who weren't able to enjoy the first 10 Smiths 7 inch singles first time around* can feel the hairs stand up on the back of our necks and the whole of our being sizzle with adolescent joy (...slight return in the case your humble scribe) as we nurse these glorious and lovingly produced facsimiles of the original Rough Trade singles.
OK, there are a few minor quibbles - the sleeves on the RT originals had the tabs showing at the back rather than glued under the rear cover. And the Jean Marais pic looks a bit cheap and p/copied compared with the original. But they're minor cavils when set against the love and care and attention to detail that Rhino have so evidently put into this re-issue. Let's hope they've been let loose on the original LPs and CDs too - I'm sure they'll sound as good if not better than our lovingly nurtured but inevitably slightly torn and frayed eighties copies. As well as those cryptic run-off messages, there's another lovely touch in the silent area. The original Rough Trade RTN part of the serial numbers has been crossed through and replaced with an RHN prefix. But it's the sound of the things that's really been shown the most respect. As Johnny Marr himself said to critics of the band's decision to sign for EMI; it's what's in the grooves that counts, not what's on the label.
If the sticker on the box is to be believed, the contents of the box have been mastered directly from the original tapes. Whatever the source, boy do they sound good. It really is like slipping one of the original singles out of its wrapper for the first time when you go to play one of the Rhino reproductions; quite uncanny. And they've maintained that slightly boxy, brash indie single sound on the earlier songs like 'Hand in Glove' and 'This Charming Man'. But listen to 'That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore' and it actually sounds even clearer and more detailed than my lovely first pressing Rough Trade original album version of the song on 'Meat is Murder'. You can see why RCA (who invented the format) were so keen to persist with the faster speed of the 45 rpm platter - singles sounded so *sharp*, didn't they? So my copy of 'The Boy With the Thorn in his Side' is slightly wonky (it still sounds OK - amazing how you get used to stuff like that) - that's the deal with vinyl; you're prepared to put up with the rough, because when it's smooth.... well, it's like most of this Singles Box; a very deep joy. Or, perhaps more astonishingly, like travelling in time. Yes, that'll do. When vinyl is good, it's like time travel.
So, a very big thank you to Ma Swipe, for queuing up outside the shop for three days. You've made an old man very happy. (And when I find him, I'll *murder* the old bastard...)
[These may or may not sound any good as MP3s; but what the heck: it's Christmas! (Well, it *was* Christmas...)]
The Headmaster Ritual MP3
Still Ill MP3
That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore MP3
* I tended to buy the 12 inch versions. They sounded fantastic *and* you got an extra track - often of exceptionally high quality: think 'Girl Afraid', 'Rubber Ring', 'Unloveable' and, of course, the full version of 'How Soon is Now'.
L.U.V. on y'all,