Friday, 12 April 2013

The Pastels - BBC Sessions 1984/Demos 1985

Next month The Pastels release Slow Summits in what's being touted as their first new album in 16 years. Quite why long distance collaborations with Japanese artistes and film soundtracks are discounted as albums I know not.

To be honest, I have only payed a passing interest in The Pastels since the original line up went their separate ways soon after the release of their overlooked second album Sittin' Pretty. Subsequent releases in the first half of the nineties sounded like more of the same, only lacking the spark of the eighties incarnation propelled by the inimitable pulse of Bernice's beat. No doubt influenced by the Slint-inspired bands emerging from the Glasgow scene, 1998's Illuminations was a surprising development from their oft-dismissed shambling beginnings, but their foray into post-rock was dissatifying to my ears.

Having heard snippets of songs from the new album, it sounds like a welcome return to their pioneering Velvety Richmond take on indie pop of the eighties. Before you accuse me of being puritanical, I recall around 1987 a publication entitled The Pastels Are Dead circulating on the "zine scene". The perpetrators claimed the Glasgow four-piece had betrayed their indie roots upon releasing debut album Up For A Bit. The person(s) unknown even had badges made bearing the name of the fanzine which were given out freely to audience members at the group's gigs! It appears some small town sections of eighties neophobic youth couldn't come to terms with The Pastels discovery of "weightlifting" and "Rustler magazine".

Tipped for big things in 1984, possibly by Alan McGee, whose overzealous enthusiasm made good copy for the hype machine, this was the only session the "classic" line up recorded for Peel. Their most realised studio work up to this point, the session featured superior versions of the two songs that comprised their debut single for Creation. Trains Go Down The Tracks was an early stab at what became Breaking Lines; despite being potential album closer material, the song would end up on the flipside to Truck Train Tractor a couple of years later. Tomorrow The Sun Will Shine, a regular feature in their live set around this time, never made it onto record.

It would be almost 14 years before The Pastels next featured as session guests for Peel.

Peel 17/1/1984
Something Going On
Stay With Me Til Morning
Tomorrow The Sun Will Shine
Trains Go Down The Tracks

Legend has it that when the producers of the Kid Jensen Show received the master tapes for this session, they bulked at what confronted their ears. No doubt a bunch of bearded long hairs weened on bloated drum solos and precision engineering axe fretwankery in their foggy proggy student hay daze, they unreservedly deemed the performances as substandard and therefore unsuitable for broadcast.

By summers end, Jensen had quit the show (to be replaced by Janice Long) for an unsuccessful television career presenting The Roxy - ITV's equally unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the institution that was Top Of The Pops.

Three of the songs would later receive an official release on Suck On The Pastels - one of Creation's many so-so quick buck compilations that probably ensured the label's survival in the early days - in 1988. The little heard She Always Cries... only ever appeared on the aforementioned album. The inauspicious 25 Unfinished Plays would later morph into one of their finest songs, Truck Train Tractor.

Million Tears
25 Unfinished Plays
She Always Cries On Sundays
Baby Honey

Finally, for your delectation, we have four rough quality demos recorded at an unknown studio in 1985. Couldn't Care Less comes almost fully formed to its counterpart on their third and final Creation single later that year. I'm Alright With You receives a more laid back acoustic treatment with an alternate intro and slightly different lyrics. Blind Faith is another lost original that never made it to the pressing plant, while the set ends with a wistful take on Suicide's Cheree, complete with stylophone organ and what sounds like a struggling-to-stay-awake vocal.

I'm Alright With You
Couldn't Care Less
Blind Faith


  1. Thanks for this (and the TVP stuff too - is that Thatcher story true??!!)I love early Pastels recordings.

    1. My dad mentioned it several times,so I can only assume that it is true.

  2. Thanks for the sessions. I hadn't listened to The Pastels in a long time but heard a great Marc Riley sessions version of 'Baby Honey' (c2010) on the radio tonight (I'm still after that one).