White Town – Wanted (Remixes)

Many of the releases explored by this blog are not available on your regular streaming services, and so the concept of waiting a quarter of a century to find a particular release probably won’t be too alien to readers. For me, though, this is probably the most extreme example – I must have learned about a legendary 12″ white label promo of White Town‘s Wanted in about 1998, I think, and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally received a copy. Was it worth the wait? Well, we’ll see.

White Town, of course, was the tearaway success of early 1997. After spending most of the early 1990s self-releasing one-off 7″ singles and just one CD album in 1994, Jyoti Mishra sent a copy of his >Abort, Retry, Fail?_ EP to various DJs at the end of 1996. The first track, Your Woman, captured the imaginations of many, leading to a bidding war among record companies, and a number 1 hit single in the UK at the end of January 1997.

A quickly-assembled album, Women in Technology, followed, and the EP and album sold healthily in various countries, so the race for a follow-up single began. The original plan, it seems, was that it should be Wanted, and so a two-track CD promo appeared, which is fairly widely available and includes a brilliant rework by Vince Clarke. Much less well known is the 12″ white label, with its four completely exclusive remixes.

It opens with ScissorkicksWarped Mix, an insane but somewhat marvelous drum and bass excursion which can be viewed on YouTube at the bottom of the page. I’ve never heard of DJ Scissorkicks elsewhere, but he actually remixed three of White Town‘s 1997 tracks as well as a handful of big names at the tail end of the 1990s. For the most part, this one could be a remix of pretty much anything, but there’s still something rather brilliant about it.

For the second track, Heaven 17 take the driving seat. I’ve never heard them remix anything before, and these artists are clearly heroes of Mishra’s, which makes this single’s subsequent cancellation all the more mysterious. Their version is entitled Rise of the East, in common with one of the tracks from the album that gave this blog its name in the first place. The big surprise is a guest vocal from Glenn Gregory, but it’s really the big squelchy bass line that makes this version worthwhile. It’s faithful to the original, but brighter and cheerier.

The Vince Clarke mix turns out to be so similar to his Remix 2 from the CD promo that it’s not really worth seeking out. A close examination of the waveforms of both reveals that the 12” mix does fade out a few seconds sooner, but you wouldn’t notice that if you weren’t looking for it. If there are any other differences, then I’ve no clue what they are. That’s no bad thing, by the way – this mix has a lot in common with Clarke’s other remix work, but it’s a particularly fine example. Far from sounding like some of his own work, to my mind, he has taken the vocals to a better place than the original.

Sitting right at the end is another rarity – a mix by Mute Records boss and former The Normal / Silicon Teens mastermind Daniel Miller. It’s a gentler, more trippy, abstract and experimental interpretation than some of the others on here, but it’s a pleasant listen to close the set. As with all of these versions, it’s a shame they ended up hidden away on an obscure white label – this might never have hit the lofty heights of Your Woman, but there was plenty here to delight a broad range of fans of electronic music.

But ultimately, it was for nothing. Exactly what happened next is a bit of a mystery, but having gathered up such a wonderful set of names to rework this song, White Town’s record company cancelled the release. Its replacement, Undressed, which appeared just a few weeks after this one was due, included two more remixes and three b-sides, and crept into the charts at number 57 following limited airplay. White Town stayed with the label for just a few months more, before leaving or being dropped at the end of 1997, and the new versions of Wanted remained the stuff of legend.

Jyoti Mishra, meanwhile, has been scathing about his experience with the music industry’s major labels, and it’s not difficult to understand why, or to guess what likely happened to this release. He must have been hugely excited to engage several of his heroes to remix Wanted, only to have the whole release pulled at the last minute.

For me, though, and for anyone else who hasn’t tracked down a copy of their own yet, was it worth the 23-year way to hear this? Well, probably not, but it’s nice to finally find closure. There’s nothing here that will change the world, but it’s a nice set of remixes, and we can just hope that maybe, one day, they might find their way onto a special edition of Women in Technology.

If you don’t have a copy of this release, keep an eye on eBay or Discogs, and for now please enjoy ScissorkicksWarped Mix, thanks to somebody on YouTube:

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