When they first
appeared, three decades ago this week, Electronic
must have been a bit of a revelation. True, New Order had been steadily
evolving from rock to pop over the preceding decade, but a collaboration
between Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr, the extraordinary guitarist from
The Smiths, must have conjured up ideas of something guitar-heavy. It wasn’t – Getting Away with It was, in a way, both
Sumner and Marr’s first experiment with true pop.
The single version
is, as I’m sure you know by now, exceptional. It’s a pop song, with synth
strings and sweet acoustic guitar work. There’s something a little quirky with
it, of course, but it still holds together beautifully. On vocals, Bernard Sumner and Neil Tennant – neither of them particularly accomplished
vocalists, but both great in their own way – harmonise perfectly, bringing a
delightfully humanist quality to the song. It’s definitely nothing like New Order or The
Smiths, and although it is a lot like Pet
Shop Boys, the pop lyric doesn’t feel like something that Neil Tennant would have come up with on his
The definitive track
listing appears to be the digital reissue, pulling all the different tracks
together in one place, and that takes us next to the lead track on the
12″, the Extended Mix. This is an
extended version very much in the 1980s style – take the first verse and strip
it back a bit, add an extra instrumental verse, and mix original elements in,
one by one. It’s a worthy version, but to a modern ear, there’s surprisingly
little new here until the long breakdown section in the middle, which could
honestly be dispensed with.
By 1989, artists
were already sending tracks off for a multitude of weird and wonderful remixes,
but Electronic seem not to have been
especially aware of this, so the various singles of Getting Away with It are largely peppered with alternative
versions. The extended Instrumental is
lovely, and unusually for an instrumental version, it stands well alone. This
includes the longer orchestral ending that would appear on later versions of
the single mix.
There is a b-side, though – and this is perhaps a surprise, given that it seems to have since flown completely under the radar. Maybe this was intentional, as it was omitted altogether from the CD release. Lucky Bag is a beatsy, early house instrumental that provides occasional echoes of Bobby Orlando‘s huge bass lines. It’s hard to know exactly what Electronic would have been thinking with this, to tell the truth – it’s nice, but also instantly forgettable. Maybe it’s an extended experiment, or maybe it was always intended to be a b-side. Either way, it’s a nice diversion.
There are remixes here, but there’s nothing particularly great. For whatever reason, the common trend at the time with remixes was to cut the original back, add beats, add a few cheesy synth lines, and a bit of a calypso arpeggio, and call it done. So it is with Graeme Park and Mike Pickering‘s remixes. The Nude Mix is an uninspired dub version with weird down-tempo, almost rave-inspired synth lines dropping in all over the place. The Vocal Remix is, I would assume, their attempt to add the vocal back in for a more radio-friendly version, and while there’s plenty to enjoy here, both mixes really seem to fail on most levels. They’re nice, but just not quite good enough, and while the final fade on the second mix comes a little suddenly, it really can’t come too soon.
It’s nice to get another version of Lucky Bag to close the release, but the Miami Edit is a curious version – slightly more beat-driven than the one on the 7″, but far from different enough to really be noteworthy. On the UK release, this was hidden away on the second 12″, which seems appropriate – it’s a nice treat, but nothing particularly special.
So Getting Away with It is a bit of a mixed bag – a great track, but not, perhaps, such a great single. Electronic, for the time being, showed all the signs of being a one-off experiment, but perhaps inevitably, given the success of this release, they got back together for the 1991 Electronic album, which then inexplicably went on to skip Getting Away with It from its original track listing altogether. But with Getting Away with It, they assured us that there was something special about this collaboration.
We reviewed the US CD single. The five versions of the original track from here can be found on this digital release.