Spangle

In the September of 1994 I was on holiday, driving round Ireland in a battered old Capri with my girlfriend. Watusi was released while we were out there and not being able to wait until I got home, I picked up the cassette version in Dublin and spent the next week or so listening to the new album on a continuous loop. The songs were varied and sometimes challenging but the essential TWP-ness was there.

‘Spangle’ was a favourite right from the off with the otherworldly scratchy intro. Although I’d already heard the rockier version on the Peel show the previous Spring, this charming version had an affect on me. It brought out the yearning and the angst in the lyrics, it made me think of misty mornings and the pain in the heart when you wake up alone. It’s like a dream with its woozy Optigan and ancient sounding guitar but rooted in reality thanks to the ever-clever words of David Gedge.

There’s nothing quite so sharply painful as the feeling and words you get from someone that used to love you. You can tell they don’t care anymore just by their tone, their silence, their general disregard. But you deny it’s true, it can’t be. You push the matter, you ask again and again and then they finally tell you how they really feel and you wish you’d never asked.

Questions and Answers with David Gedge:

Most important one first, why is it called ‘Spangle’? I’m hoping it refers to the sweets!

DLG: Ha, ha… no, I was just thinking of something sparkling… maybe a piece of jewellery… that the narrator has, which belongs to the person he’s talking to. But I do remember those sweets. Surely if you were correct the song would’ve been called ‘Spangles’, though! There’s actually a Fall song called ‘It’s A Curse’ which does include a reference to those sweets, by the way.

I know that originally you planned for the ‘rock/electric’ version to be on Watusi and then you changed your mind and put the ‘acoustic’ version on there instead. Can you explain what lead to that decision?

DLG: We wrote and arranged the songs for the Watusi sessions in the usual way but in the back of our minds we had vague plans for recording alternate versions to use as B-sides for singles, etc. We were thinking of the usual ‘acoustic versions’ – basically recording them with acoustic guitars, drums played with brushes, stuff like that – but we hadn’t counted upon the genius of the producer, Steve Fisk! As well as being a keyboard player himself, Steve has an extensive knowledge of keyboards and synthesizers going back to early Rock ‘n’ Roll. And one of the instruments he introduced us to was the ‘Optigan’. They were made by a subsidiary of the toy manufacturer, Mattel, in the early 70s and got the name because the sounds came from pre-recorded optical soundtracks that came on discs. It had such a beautiful, haunting sound that we immediately wanted to experiment on a song and ‘Spangle’ seemed the obvious choice.

I love both versions but do you have a preference? The version on Watusi certainly helps make the album more eclectic and different from previous albums, which I know is always an aim.

DLG: It’s hard to say which version I prefer because although the electric version totally works as a rock song [I especially like the end section with the slide on the bass and the faded up guitar] the Optigan version has a poignancy that complements the lyric. Like you say, I’m always looking to push the band into different musical landscapes and I think once we’d come up with the new arrangement for ‘Spangle’ using the Optigan I don’t think there was any way that the original version was going to end up on the album!

How much of the Watusi version was down to you and the band and how much was Steve Fisk’s influence? I believe that’s him playing the Optigan at the start and during? Is that him on piano/keys at the end as well?

DLG: I can’t remember who played what! However, it could quite easily have been one of the band playing the Optigan because extensive keyboard skills are not required! It’s more a case of pushing buttons that operate the discs! But obviously that version of the song would never have existed had it not been for Steve so, yes, he was hugely influential.

How was the scratchy vinyl sound created?

DLG: That’s the sound of the actual discs. They’re from the early 1970s, remember. They get dirty and scratched with use… just like a 7” single. I love it, though… I think it adds to the mournful feel of the recording.

You’ve mentioned before that this song is one of your favourites. Why?

DLG: Well, I’ve always been happy with the melody and the lyric but also working with Steve introduced me to the Optigan and other vintage keyboards like Mellotrons, Moogs, Vox and Farfisa organs and, ultimately, the idea of recording a different kind of music from just guitars, bass and drums. I think you could almost say that ‘Spangle’ was the birthplace of Cinerama in that respect.

The lyrics follow the conversational style for which you’ve become famous. When you write these, is the whole conversation in your head [i.e. including the missing parts from the other side of the row?]

DLG: Oh, yes. The whole thing is meticulously planned out. That’s why it takes me so flipping long!

I was amused that in latter years you corrected the lyric “I’m not going to share you with no one” to the more grammatically correct “I’m not going to share you with anyone”. However, the official lyrics in the recent Watusi re-issue still show the old lyric. Do you have any other tiny changes like this on other older songs?

DLG:  Ha, ha… probably. When I originally wrote that lyric I thought the ‘slangy’ version “I’m not going to share you with no one” suggested the narrator’s anger and frustration… but then when we played it live I thought it sounded a bit stupid. These days I tend to save the “no-one” for the final chorus but the ‘official lyrics’ should, I suppose, always be taken from the ‘definitive’ recording… which is the Watusi version in this case.

Official Lyrics:

I’m glad you found the time to ring
Oh, I just spent all day waiting
I need to know what’s happening
Well at least we both agree

I really don’t know where to start
Well, did you say you met some neighbour?
I guess I’m heading for a broken heart
Why are you doing this to me?

It’s all clear (I can hear)
And I’m not gonna share you with no one
Well surprise, I’ve got eyes
Now goodbye

How long have you had this planned?
Well I guess it shows how much you care
No, I understand
I just played the fool

Oh, sure, I’m going let you go
Well, I was wrong to ever trust you
But I don’t think that I’ll ever know how you could be so cruel

It’s all clear (I can hear)
And I’m not gonna share you with no one
Well surprise, I’ve got eyes
Now goodbye

It’s all clear (I can hear)
And i’m not gonna share you with no one
Well surprise, I’ve got eyes
Now goodbye

Written by Gedge / Smith / Belk / Dorrington and published by SM Publishing [UK] Limited.

Studio Versions:

1 – Watusi version released 09/09/1994 TIME: 3:11

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals); Steve Fisk (Optigan, keyboards, producer and mixer) John Goodmanson (engineer) [see DLG’s answer above as to nature of recording]

Recorded in the Spring of 1994 at Bad Animals studio, Seattle USA

2 – Electric Version (John Peel Session) TIME: 3:10

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Paul Dorrington (guitar); Darren Belk (bass); Simon Smith (drums); Mike Robinson (producer)

Recorded on 22/03/1994, first broadcast on 16/04/1994 on BBC Radio 1 John Peel Show

3 – Versions version TIME: 3:11

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals, guitar); Paul Dorrington (guitar); Darren Belk (bass); Simon Smith (drums); Heather Lewis/Carrie Akre (backing vocals); Steve Fisk (producer and mixer); John Goodmanson (engineer)

‘Rock’ version originally meant for Watusi

Version 1 and 3 are found on Watusi (Edsel Records reissue [EDSJ 9008])
Version 2 is found on The Complete Peel Sessions (BBC Records [CMXBX1447])

Live Versions:

1 –  1995 Phoenix Festival (acoustic version) TIME: 2:48

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals); Darren Belk (guitar); Jayne Lockey (backing vocals); Simon Smith (drums); Hugh Kelly Jnr. (keyboards)

Recorded at The Phoenix Festival, Long Marston, Stratford upon Avon on 14/07/1995, first broadcast on 15/07/1995 on BBC Radio 1 John Peel Show

2 – Live Tape 14 version TIME: 3:00

Recorded by : David Gedge (vocals); Darren Belk (bass); Paul Dorrington (guitar); Simon Smith (drums)

Recorded on 17/03/1995 at L’exo, Rouen, France

3 – Cinerama : John Peel Sessions (Season 3) TIME: 3:16

Recorded as Cinerama by : David Gedge (vocals); Simon Cleave (guitar); Terry de Castro (bass); Kari Paavola (drums); Sally Murrell (keyboards and backing vocals); Rachel Gilchrist & Eleanor Gilchrist (violin); Sarah Harris (viola); Abigail Trundle (cello); Andrew Rogers (producer)

Recorded and transmitted live from Maida Vale on 09/01/2002 on BBC Radio 1 John Peel Show

Version 1 is found on The Wedding Present : The Complete Peel Sessions (BBC Records [CMXBX1447])
Version 2 is found on Watusi (Edsel Records reissue [EDSJ 9008])
Version 3 is found on Cinerama : The Complete Peel Sessions [BBC Records CMXBX1526])

Watusi

Live:

‘Spangle’ was played live in the Spring of 1994 in the months leading up to the release of Watusi and carried on into 1995. Cinerama incorporated it into their repertoire of occasional The Wedding Present songs around 2002. The first tour of the reformed band put the song back in the set.

Videos:

Cover:

In 1998, American alt-rock band Jimmy Eat World put out a cover of ‘Spangle’ which borrows from all the different versions in its tone.

[Special thanks to Tracy Hopkinson and Thomas (@scribbler81)]

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Spangle

  1. Spangles were great sweets, but the ‘Old English’ flavours were rather nasty if my childhood memory is anything to go by… around the same time Toffos brought out some amazing flavours. Back on topic, ‘Spangle’ is a great song!

  2. The “not going to share you with no-one” used to annoy me so much I screamed the correct grammar when singing along to this. Still one of my favourite TWP songs. By the way, love these write-ups – keep them coming.

    Andy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s