Every now and then, those of us who enjoy hunting down old records will stumble across something a little out of the ordinary. If you're fond of collecting a particular band or artist, then finding an unusual version of a favourite piece of music, single or album can be a real joy. Coming from an unashamedly biased position, what follows here are a few interesting examples.
Budgie: Never Turn On Your Friend (MCA album, 1973)
"I have never promised anything but blood, tears, toil and sweat"... As album introductions go, it doesn't get much more powerful than this. The band lifted the brief segment from one of Winston Churchill's World War Two speeches, and it leads beautifully into the hall-of-fame riff that drives 'Breadfan'. Sadly MCA were nervous about copyright clearance and decided to remove the excerpt. Still, the initial version emerged on early pressings in France, Germany, Australia and Venezuela.
AC/DC: (Australian pressings, Albert Productions 1975-77)
The best way to hear AC/DC's early work with Bon Scott is to track down the original editions of their first four albums. Outside of Australia, the LPs most of us became familiar with had drastically revised track lists, unwelcome edits and different sleeves. The band issued two domestic albums in 1975, High Voltage and T.N.T., before an international version of High Voltage emerged the following year containing selected songs from each of the aforementioned releases. Annoyingly, this omitted several crucial tracks, the outstanding 'Soul Stripper' among them. Their next LP Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap received similar treatment, and even Let There Be Rock didn't fully escape the meddling. For a true grasp of Young, Young and Scott's efforts from this period, it is well worth hearing them as they were intended.
Samson: Hard Times (Gem single, 1980)
It would be fair to say that Samson's second album Head On sounds like nothing else. An imaginative set of songs fronted by a world class singer, wrapped up in a strange, off-kilter production. Evidently there are some who find the whole thing a tad unsettling to take in. If you're that type of listener, Tony Platt's remix of 'Hard Times' is for you. It's a snappier edit with a fatter, warmer sound. Anyone who has watched the Biceps Of Steel film will recognise this version.
Hard Stuff: Jay Time (Purple single, 1972)
Does anyone know which rendition of the song came first? This, or the one that opens Hard Stuff's fabulous debut? For those familiar with the album, what we have here is an intriguing alternate take of one of its catchiest tunes. A contagious, looping groove laced with the brooding sense of paranoia that pervades so much of John Du Cann's work. Sonically, the principal differences here are the additional lead guitar and handclaps throughout.
Andy Scott: Lady Starlight (RCA single, 1975)
Having penned the gorgeous 'Lady Starlight' for Sweet's Desolation Boulevard album, it seems Andy Scott didn't take long before wanting to have another crack at it. This rendering stays reasonably close to the original, adding keyboard flourishes and a slightly slicker production. Throw in the superb b-side, 'Where D'Ya Go?' and you have a faultless 7" record.
Patto: Hold Your Fire (Vertigo album, 1971)
Only a few thousand copies of this groundbreaking album were pressed at the time, yet somehow they do not all appear to be the same. The edition familiar to many is now widely available on vinyl and compact disc reissues, whilst the lesser-known version contains 'Hold Your Fire' in edited form along with a completely different take of 'See You At The Dance Tonight'. If you already have the original, it'll take a bit of work to find this one - the sleeve and catalogue number are identical for both.
Sweet: Off The Record (Capitol album, USA 1977)
Sweet followers the world over are aware of the American pressings of their LPs, or at least they should be. Each one is noticeably different from its UK counterpart. Whether it's an altered running order, an additional song or a different sleeve, there's always something that will catch the eye of a Sweet fanatic. Unlike the butchery that took place with the early AC/DC catalogue, these records are deserving of your attention. The US release of Off The Record is a particularly nice one. 'Fever Of Love' starts with a few bars of unaccompanied guitar that will come as a surprise to those only familiar with the British release, but best of all, the infectious 'Stairway To The Stars' has been absolved of its single-only status and included here.
Budgie: Zoom Club (MCA single, 1974)
What a pleasure it is to hear this unique rendition of one of the many jewels in Budgie's dazzling catalogue. I'm not going to comment on the relative merits of this version versus the one that features on In For The Kill, except to confirm that it makes for a heartwarming listening experience.
Trust: (French language albums, Epic, 1980s)
Several of Trust's early albums were issued in two forms, sung in either their native language or English. Looking at the impressive March Ou Creve (UK, 'Savage' 1981) record, the song 'Misere' was removed from British pressings. Why? It appears there was a worry that the lyrical content might offend the delicate sensibilities of folk here. Strange really, as it's harmless enough. Vocalist Bernie Bonvoisin clearly has trouble differentiating between England and the United Kingdom, yet still gamely blunders through a confused slew of platitudes on Thatcher, the IRA and so on. With the stellar instrumental work of Nono, Nicko McBrain and friends, this remains a slab of hard rock excellence.
Humble Pie: Street Rats (A&M album, USA 1975)
Street Rats is often spoken of as a Pie album in name only, given that much of the material started life as part of a Steve Marriott solo recording. What's more, over subsequent years various members of the band expressed displeasure at the release, criticising the song selection and production. That said, it's still an essential listen if you love this group. In places a more restrained and reflective offering than previous LP Thunderbox, this is nevertheless a gripping collection of tunes. Whether it's their soulful reworking of the Beatles' 'Rain', the heavy swagger of 'Let Me Be Your Lovemaker' or the cheeky cockney filth of 'Queens And Nuns', there's something for most of us here. Allegedly Marriott & co. preferred the US mix, which diverges from the UK version in several obvious places. American pressings also substitute the impressive, autobiographical 'There 'Tis' for 'Funky To The Bone'. So on that basis alone, you need to seek this one out.