Monday, 18 July 2016

Blur - The Lost Album

The annual birthday post, so I decided to make it a big one. When I posted about Blur's brilliant second album 'Modern Life Is Rubbish', I mentioned there was a planned record that the label rejected because it contained no obvious singles. Some of its songs ended up on 'Modern Life', but most of them only saw the light of day as b-sides. Details of this 'lost album' have never been revealed, thus one can only speculate as to what it might have actually sounded like.

However, I did once have a go at compiling it having been inspired by an article penned by Stuart Maconie and David Cavanagh in Select magazine in 1995. This article covered every song ever released by Blur to that date, including all those intended for that second Blur album. So taking my cue from Brian and George who commented on my 'Modern Life' post, I decided to revise my attempt at compiling the 'Lost Album' by Blur.

There were fourteen songs originally demoed for Blur's follow-up to 'Leisure'. Of those, only four found their way onto 'Modern Life Is Rubbish': Oily Water, Coping, Resigned and Pressure on Julian. While recording the album proper, the likes of Villa Rosie, Sunday Sunday, Colin Zeal, Blue Jeans, Turn It Up and Starshaped were trotted out and all of them could potentially have been on that record. The band submitted the tapes to Dave Balfe at Food in December 1992, so it's perfectly feasible it could have contained any of the 22 tracks recorded by that point.

Balfe hated it and refused to put it out until the band came up with some singles. Popscene was deemed worthy of a single release, but it flopped and as a result its follow-up Never Clever was shelved. Starshaped had been earmarked, but as far as Balfe was concerned there was no killer first single. Within a few weeks, Damon had written For Tomorrow. Chemical World was penned shortly afterwards purely to keep the US distributors happy. Finally, 'Modern Life' saw the light of day.

My thoughts are what would have come out if those early sessions were deemed worthy by the label? That's how I've approached this little project. I've kept it to 12 tracks (still 50 minutes long, so the vinyl version may have sounded rather quiet), and I've deliberately omitted the instrumental interludes Intermission and Commercial Break, originally titled The Intro and The Outro accordingly. They opened and closed Blur's gigs around the time and may well have appeared on the intended record, but they're rubbish so there's no place for them here!

As I said before, this is purely speculative, but it's well within the realms of possibility. And it's still a really good album. As good as 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'? You decide...

Side One
1. Oily Water
I waxed lyrical about this in my 'Modern Life' article. The first post-'Leisure' recording and the original demo was never redone, deemed good enough to stand untouched. A simply wonderful, wonderful track.

2. Popscene
The great forgotten single. Everyone had high hopes for Popscene, yet it bombed, just scraping the Top 40. One of the great injustices of pop consumerism. It was left off 'Modern Life' out of spite: "We thought, if you didn’t fucking want it in the first place, you’re not going to get it now," Graham later recalled.

3. Pressure On Julian
Dating from 1991, Julian is a reference to Julian Cope. Apparently, owing to Balfe's stormy relationship with Cope while both were members of the Teardrop Explodes, Damon used to deliberately reference the singer just to wind his label's owner up.[1] This early demo version includes a longer middle section that was omitted from the later version re-recorded for 'Modern Life'.

4. Peach
A lovely song that was strangely picked up by US college radio when eventually issued as a b-side of For Tomorrow. It features a harmonium and long-remained a favourite of Damon's.

5. Never Clever
OK, so here's a rarity. Originally touted as the follow-up single to Popscene, it was shelved indefinitely once the former failed to set the world alight. A live version appeared as a Chemical World b-side, but this studio take remained unheard until it showed up on a Food label sampler in Japan in 1997. It's still very hard to find.

6. Garden Central
A brilliant psychedelia-tinged instrumental that was put on the b-side of Popscene. In a Melody Maker article where the Beastie Boys were reviewing the week's new singles, they slated the A-side and reckoned Garden Central should have been the single instead.

Side Two
1. Beachcoma
Written around the same time as There's No Other Way, Beachcoma was demoed and subsequently recorded properly in 1992 for the second album. A lovely woozy track.

2. Star-Shaped
Muted early on as a single, Star-Shaped caused various headaches for the band. It still rates as one of the best songs on 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' and would have been a much better single than Sunday Sunday, but Dave Balfe still didn't think it good enough to release when it appeared on the originally-submitted album. This version is labelled as a demo and appeared in the 21-disc boxset '21: The Blur Box'. I think it's more representative of the sound of the 'Lost Album' than the final version on 'Modern Life'.

3. Into Another (Headist)
One of the last songs demoed, Into Another (then called Headist) became a firm fixture in Blur's live set. It's a safe bet it would have made the album-that-never-was, even if today it comes across as one of the weaker tracks.

4. Miss America
The mood of this track is attributed to how the band felt on returning from their first US tour in 1991. During recording, three of the band went to see Pulp play, while Graham went to the studio to record some guitar parts. When the band returned, Graham was pissed out of his mind and hitting a chair with a stick. You can hear that throughout the song!

5. Bone Bag
6. Resigned
The final two songs were demos recorded at the same time as Oily Water. They too were deemed good enough for release without further tinkering. The former only came out as a b-side of For Tomorrow, which is a shame as it deserved a much higher profile. Resigned, of course, appeared on 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'.

For a limited time only, here's a .rar file of the album (MP3s at 128 only).

[1] Coping may be another example of Balfe-baiting titles. A 'Lost Album'-era version of that song has never been released, despite it being one of the earliest songs demoed, which is why it's not included here.


  1. Happy birthday mate. All the best and go on giving us some of these superb Posts. Most of these Songs are new to me so I've to listen to them after work.

  2. Happy Birthday! This should be some interesting listening....

  3. You should have birthdays more often. Thanks, mate. Looking forward to this.

  4. Happy birthday to you sir. I thought we were meant to give you presents!

  5. Wow,

    This is one that I'll need to make time for in the coming days(maybe weeks!!)and get back to you on.

    Many thanks and a belated happy birthday.