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Vinyl memories

By May 2, 2011No Comments

I’ve been cart­ing around boxes of vinyl records from flat to flat and house to house since I was a kid. Lots of my records were bought from the plen­ti­ful record stores around the East End of London where I grew up and there­fore car­ried half way around the world when we emig­rated to New Zealand in 1986.

Recently I found myself think­ing that it might be time to finally flick these things on – they take up space on shelves and the turntable nev­er gets used. I’ve become used to lying on the couch lazily choos­ing music from my entire col­lec­tion using an iPhone as a remote con­trol. Yup, I thought – time to de-clutter a bit. But me being me, I could­n’t just take them off to a record store or thrift shop – I had to give them one last listen first.

Big mis­take. They actu­ally soun­ded quite good and I found all those memor­ies flood­ing back – flip­ping through record bins in High Street record shops, or queuing up out­side before they opened to get a highly prized new release. Stuff I haven’t done for a long time.

I worked out that I could attach my laptop to the amp and record a digit­al ver­sion of these gems and it occurred to me I might be able to share some of the rarer, more obscure, inter­est­ing or per­son­ally import­ant tracks here (or on those prized mix CDs that I some­times do for people). I’ll describe the pro­cess I go through (it’s a mis­sion, frankly) and the gear I use in anoth­er post but I thought I kick-off with a track that’s rare, obscure, inter­est­ing and per­son­ally important.

U.S.A. for Africa – We Are the World (1985)

At the end of 1984, Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Band Aid pro­duced their fam­ine relief hit “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and star­ted a thing, a thing that ended up with the massive Live Aid con­certs in Wembley and Philadelphia. Before that, though, musi­cians around the world had found a band­wag­on to jump on, not­ably U.S.A. for Africa’s “We Are the World”. And that was kind of cool but they wer­en’t the only ones. In February 1985, a bunch of Canadian super­stars got togeth­er as Northern Lights to record “Tears Are Not Enough”. It was released as a single in Canada and even­tu­ally made it on to the oth­er­wise fairly ropey We Are the World LP later that year.

It fea­tures a fairly phe­nom­en­al list of artists: Bryan Adams (obv.), Paul Anka, John Candy, Bruce Cockburn, Corey Hart, Ronnie Hawkins, Martha Johnson (from Martha and The Muffins), Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Anne Murray, act­ress and comedi­enne Catherine O’Hara, jazz legend Oscar Peterson (on piano), Paul Shaffer (of David Letterman fame), Jane Siberry, Neil Young and many more. I think it’s a more impress­ive line-up in some ways than the U.S.A. for Africa mob and it’s cer­tainly a bet­ter song. The line “Let’s show them Canada still cares!” brings a tear to my eye still, 26 years later.

Northern Lights – Tears Are Not Enough (1985)

[audio:|titles=05 Northern Lights – Tears Are Not Enough]

This ver­sion comes off my LP copy of We Are the World which was bought second-hand back in England don­key’s years ago so it’s a little scratchy.

Of the oth­er tracks on the album only three were very inter­est­ing. Bruce Springsteen con­trib­uted a blis­ter­ing live record­ing of his song “Trapped” (pre­sum­ably an out­take from the 1975/85 box set). You can find that on Disc 3 of The Essential Bruce Springsteen and I recom­mend you do as it’s awe­some. There’s an altern­ate ver­sion of Prince’s “4 the Tears in Your Eyes” on disc 3 of his Hits/B‑Sides col­lec­tion but I’m pretty sure the We Are the World ver­sion remains unre­leased. Everything else is tur­gid rub­bish: Pointer Sisters, Chicago and Tina Turner out­takes. If you really care you can still find a rare CD issue of the entire We Are the World album at Amazon for nearly US$40.

One last inter­est­ing note: how big must Kenny Rogers have been in 1985? He’s the fourth voice on We Are the World and gets a totally for­get­table track to him­self on the album.