Chart for stowaways – July 2020

July was a quiet month for the chart for stowaways. Pet Shop Boys sat on top of both the Singles and Catalogue Singles charts for the whole month with their recent lockdown version of West End girls, while recent single I don’t wanna and the My beautiful laundrette soundtrack hovered near the top of the Singles. After a quiet start on the album charts, Sparks‘ latest A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip finally re-entered at number 2 at the start of the month, and jumped to the top spot the following week, while various of their older albums hovered around too.

Here’s the album chart for 18th July:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. Sparks – A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip
  3. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  4. The Beloved – Where it Is
  5. Sparks – Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
  6. Depeche Mode – Spirits In The Forest
  7. Human League – The Essential
  8. Saint Etienne – Words and Music by Saint Etienne
  9. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  10. Sparks – Hippopotamus

Chart for stowaways – June 2020

June still saw Pet Shop Boys dominating, with Hotspot still at the top of the albums, and now My beautiful laundrette at the top of the albums. Kraftwerk continued to float around all of the charts, and we finally saw the long-awaited return of The Grid, with their new remix of Floatation.

Here are the singles from 13th June:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – My beautiful laundrette
  2. The Beloved – Grin
  3. Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls
  4. Pet Shop Boys – I don’t wanna
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Will-o-the-wisp
  6. Scotts/Travis Scott/Kid Cudi – The Scotts
  7. The Beloved – Forever Dancing
  8. The Grid – Floatation
  9. Kraftwerk – Taschenrechner
  10. Soft Cell – Potential

Preview – Kraftwerk

One of the greatest things about Kraftwerk is that even their bootlegs have taken on a degree of mystique. Their latest, Soest Live, has just reappeared with lovely artwork, and is available here. If you prefer not to give your money away for bootlegs, you can also watch the whole thing below, in its glorious experimental pre-Autobahn fame. Why not join in with the audience and jiggle around a bit while you watch?

Chart for stowaways – May 2020

May saw Pet Shop Boys dominating the charts, with I don’t wanna climbing to the top of the singles and Hotspot holding onto the albums for the whole month. Meanwhile, Florian Schneider‘s untimely death saw Kraftwerk turning up all over the single and album charts.

Here’s the album chart for 16th May:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Hotspot
  2. The Beloved – Where it Is
  3. Kraftwerk – 3-D Der Katalog
  4. Sparks – Past Tense – The Best Of
  5. Everything But The Girl – Temperamental
  6. Chicane – Behind the Sun
  7. Kraftwerk – Die Mensch-Maschine
  8. 1 Giant Leap – 1 Giant Leap
  9. Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express
  10. Kraftwerk – Computerwelt

Kraftwerk Alternative Versions

Like most people, I’ve found myself listening to a lot of Kraftwerk in recent times. One of the most mysterious parts of their oeuvre is the four-album series that appeared before they were really famous – Tone Float, Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk 2, and Ralf und Florian, some of which contain some great material. But what they really represent in many ways is the sound of Ralf Hütter und Florian Schneider honing their… err… kraft.

Some purists saw the 2009 Der Katalog (The Catalogue) box sets as somewhat revisionist, as the artwork changed, Electric Cafe got retitled back to Techno Pop and the track listings were tweaked, but the reality is that Kraftwerk‘s special form of perfektionism has never been completely fixed. There have always been tantalising glimpses at unfinished and alternative tracks, and so here we explore those.

TrackDescription
Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie 1Early version of Kometenmelodie 1, released on the Kohoutek-
Kometenmelodie
7″ single in 1973.
Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie 2Early version of Kometenmelodie 2, released on the Kohoutek-
Kometenmelodie
7″ single in 1973.
Techno PopThe 1983 version which would have been the title track of what became Electric Cafe. Somehow a demo version escaped the Kling Klang kompound, and appears on several bootleg releases.
The Telephone CallDepending on which you feel the definitive album version of this is, there is either an over-long 8-minute version (on Electric Cafe) or a shorter 7″ version (on Techno Pop).
House PhoneOriginally the b-side to The Telephone Call, this second part of the main track made it onto the 2009 reissue of Techno Pop.
Sex ObjectAnother 1983 version that has somehow circulated over the years.
RobotnilkA continuation of The Robots, released on the 1991 single.
RobotronikAnother continuation of The Robots, released on the 1991 single. An edit version also exists.
Expo Jingle30-second jingle (and six four-second snippets) released on the Expo 2000 promo box set.
Expo 2000 (Kling Klang Mix 2002)Early version with different drums, released on initial German pressings of the Expo 2000 single.
Tour de France 03 (Long Distance Version 2)Extended version of Tour De France Étape 2, released on the Tour de France 03 CD single.
ChronoAlternative version, released on the KW3 promo version of Tour de France Soundtracks.
RégénerationLonger version, released on the KW3 promo version of Tour de France Soundtracks.

It’s difficult to see some of these ever getting released again, unfortunately, but it would be nice to see them collected together as supplementary listening for a fascinating career.

Kraftwerk often described their live concerts as being a little like jazz, with improvisational moments woven into the hits, although you would often be hard pressed to notice. However, there are some exclusive early versions of tracks available on bootlegs that are worth hearing. The most widely available is probably Concert Classics (also released as Autobahn Tour and Live), where the third track, although listed as Morgenspaziergang (Part 1), is actually an otherwise unreleased piece called Kling Klang (not to be confused with the track on Kraftwerk 2 of the same name).

The Radio Bremen session from 1971 is also worth hearing if you’re searching for unreleased material, featuring five tracks of which only Ruckzuck was ever released, but most of this is barely recognisable as Kraftwerk, so may not be of huge interest to many.

Perhaps most notable of all is this bootleg from a concert in Croydon in 1975, which in addition to a number of other unreleased tracks pairs Mitternacht with a very early version of Showroom Dummies, finally released two years later and in very different form.

Their 1997 comeback tour saw the outing of three new tracks, with titles that haven’t entirely become clear yet. Tribal, or Nummweltverschmutzung, was one, and the other two were Lichthof and ZKM Song, although there’s no suggestion that any of those were official titles. This is probably the most listenable of all the bootlegs. It’s tempting to wonder whether these were just jams, or were intended to appear on an album one day? Maybe we’ll find out, if they ever get around to releasing it.

Kraftwerk Remixed

When you consider the huge part that Kraftwerk played in the development of electronic music, it is perhaps surprising how few remixes they have to their name – just N of their tracks have been remixed by others. In a way, there’s something rather beautiful about the preservation of their artistic vision in this way, but it’s also something of a shame that we can’t hear a few more reinterpretations, especially given how good the ones we did get are.

So here’s the full list:

YearTrackRemixerVersion(s)
1983Tour de FranceFrançois KevorkianKevorkian Remix (German)
Kevorkian Remix (English)
Kevorkian Remix (various edit versions)
1986Musique Non StopFrançois Kevorkian12″ Version
1986Der Telefon Anruf / The Telephone CallFrançois Kevorkian & Ron St. GermainRemix (German)
Remix (English)
1991Radioactivität / RadioactivityFrançois KevorkianFrançois Kevorkian 7″ Remix (German)
François Kevorkian 7″ Remix (English)
François Kevorkian 12″ Remix (English)
1991Radioactivität / RadioactivityWilliam OrbitWilliam Orbit 7″ Remix (German)
William Orbit 12″ Remix (German)
William Orbit 7″ Remix (English)
William Orbit 12″ Remix (English)
William Orbit Hardcore Mix (English)
2000Expo 2000OrbitalOrbital Mix
2000Expo 2000François Kevorkian & Rob RivesFrançois K + Rob Rives Mix
2000Expo 2000DJ RolandoDJ Rolando Mix
2000Expo 2000Underground ResistanceUnderground Resistance Mix
UR Infiltrated Mix
UR Thought 3 Mix
2004AerodynamikAlex Gopher & Étienne De CrécyAlex Gopher / Étienne De Crécy Dynamik Mix
2004AerodynamikFrançois KevorkianFrançois K Aero Mix
François K Aero Mix Instrumental
2007AerodynamikHot ChipIntelligent Design Mix
2007La FormeHot ChipKing of the Mountains Mix

There you have it – just eighteen remixes plus a handful of variations, of seven tracks, by eleven other artists. Some of the early ones don’t even stray far from the originals. But they’re pretty much uniformly fantastic, and do form a key part of Kraftwerk‘s wonderful discography – so I hope that one day we can see them all collected together. The Remix, anyone?

Florian Schneider

With the profusion of recent untimely deaths in the music world, I feel bad for picking that of Florian Schneider out in particular, but then, it is Florian Schneider. Many better writers than me have written tributes to the founding member of Kraftwerk who passed away yesterday, so I’ll leave it to the wonderful music that he left for us. Here’s what is, for me, the definitive version of Computer Love: in German, and from The Mix:

You won’t believe these 5 amazing things that I just made up!

Did that title grab your attention? I’ve had it on a list of things to post for years, but then never quite get round to thinking of 5 amazing things to go under it. Well, here goes…

Björk Has Horns

Well, she does in this video to Wanderlust, anyway. Fog horns, to be exact.

Röyksopp Prefer Seafood

Look! Here they are freediving for crabs and scallops, so it must be true.

The Human League Like Car Boot Sales

I didn’t even make this one up – watch right to the end!

Kraftwerk Are Comedians in Their Spare Time

They made a pilot for a sitcom. Look, here it is!

There is No #5

I’ll leave it to Feist to explain why not.

That’s right! What I discovered is that you can just make things up and search YouTube, and something interesting is pretty much guaranteed to turn up.

Greatest Hits 2020

Happy New Year! To celebrate, here are ten reviews from the last few years that you might have missed:

History of the UK Charts – Specialist Charts

These days, there are no shortage of official UK charts. As long as you aren’t trying to do anything too obscure or mainstream, and you can fit your work into a particular bucket, there is probably a specialist, or genre-specific chart for you – from R&B to rock, classical, dance, and even Americana.

Soul, Northern Soul, R&B, and Urban Music

For all the obscure modern genre-specific charts that we’ll meet later in this post, the concept is, surprisingly, nothing new – they were already well established as far back as the 1970s. It fell to our old friend Record Mirror, which had been publishing a singles chart since 1955, and had adopted the new official chart on its launch in 1969.

This is not a well documented history, but its first specialist chart seems to have been the Body ‘n’ Soul Record Mirror Chart, which looks as though it was an occasional guest chart compiled with help from another magazine. More established at this time was a chart dedicated to Northern Soul music, named after the legendary Wigan Casino All-Nighter which ran from 1973 to 1981. The Wigan Casino All-Nighter Top 20 was a regularly published piece in mid-1975, which we can only assume was an opinion-based chart, was supplemented by the UK Soul Chart from September 1975.

The first official UK R&B Singles chart launched in October 1994, followed in 2003 by the R&B Albums chart. Related, but not quite the same, the UK’s Official Charts Company also started compiling the MTV Urban Chart in early 2011.

Disco, Dance, Hi-NRG, and… Futurism?

In June 1975, Record Mirror had launched what appears to be the UK’s first chart dedicated to disco music. Starting as a top 20, the UK Disco Chart gradually grow to become a top 90, and ran all the way through the 1980s until it was finally replaced by the Black Dance Top 100, which gave way the following year to The Club Chart, which continues to this day.

In December 1980, they launched one of their most fun charts, the Futurist chart, which lasted a couple of years and allowed early new wave and the likes of David Bowie and Kraftwerk to dominate for a little while.

From 1982, they launched the Pop-Oriented Dance Top 75. This evolved, confusingly, into the Nightclub chart, which lasted until 1985, but shouldn’t be confused with the more recent Club Chart. Alongside it, the Gay chart, which evolved into the Boys Town Disco chart, then the Boys Town / Hi-NRG chart, the Hi-NRG Disco chart, and eventually the Eurobeat chart. This survived until 1989, after changing its name several times.

By 1988, there was also a Pop Dance chart, which, as with some of Record Mirror’s more obscure chart offerings was retired in 1989. Some of the others ran right up until Record Mirror’s untimely (and apparently unexpected) demise in 1991.

The UK’s official Dance Singles and Dance Albums charts launched in January 2003, but inclusion criteria appear to be a bit of a mystery. Accurate as ever, Wikipedia’s entry on the subject talks about “sales of songs in the dance music genre (e.g. house, trance, drum and bass, garage, synthpop),” but synthpop act Pet Shop Boys are an interesting case study, having had exactly four hits since 1994: Yesterday, When I Was Mad (#16), Paninaro 95 (#29), A Red Letter Day (#5), and Miracles (#1). Their hit albums are similarly confusing: Fundamental (#1), Disco 4 (#3), and the recent reissue of Introspective (#10).

Rock ‘n’ Roll and Heavy Metal

Record Mirror carried a Heavy Metal chart from December 1980 onwards, with a separate Rock ‘n’ Roll chart following five years later. Meanwhile, Kerrang launched their own charts, which continue to this day. Then, like the R&B Charts, the Rock & Metal Singles chart also started in 1994, and the Rock & Metal Albums chart followed in 2003. Inclusion criteria are similarly confusing and enigmatic.

Classical

Classic FM had broadcast its own chart since its launch in 1992, which subsequently and perhaps somewhat unpredictably boasted Mark Goodier as its presenter. As a competitor, not one but two official classical charts launched in October 1999, the Classical Artist Albums chart, and the Classical Compilation Albums chart.

If there’s a theme emerging here, it’s that inclusion criteria for the specialist charts tend to be arbitrary at best. Back in 2000, William Orbit famously caused something of a furore with his album of updated, electronic covers of classical music Pieces in a Modern Style. Exactly what they were talking about with this talk of a “ban,” I don’t know, as its chart run was still going strong months later, but

The Specialist Classical Albums chart followed in 2010. I don’t honestly understand the criteria for what makes them so special, but suffice to say, William Orbit would not be welcome here.

Finally, the Classical Singles chart was added in May 2012, but only lasted three years before being ignominiously retired. Four years later, the Official Charts Company started carrying another classical singles chart, the Scala Singles Chart, although its remit is rather broader, talking in the description about “classically inspired music,” and including Thom Yorke, among others.

Asian Music

For the benefit of non-UK readers, the UK is home to a substantial population of people of Indian, Pakistani, Baangladeshi, and Sri Lankan origin, with a strong culture and vibrant music scene. In recognition of this, the Asian Download chart launched in early 2010, later renaming itself the Asian Music Chart. This has a strong following, broadcast weekly on the BBC Asian Network digital radio station.

Other Specialist Charts

Record Mirror carried two other regular charts that I could find, plus a whole load of one-off personal charts. The Reggae chart launched in December 1980, but was sadly retired by 1987.

The Official Charts Company website now carries official Country Artists Albums, Country Compilations, and Jazz & Blues Albums charts going right back to January 1994. They then took things in new directions with Soundtrack Albums chart, which launched in early 2002, and then the official UK Christian & Gospel Album Chart kicked off in March 2013.

Perhaps the oddest is the official Progressive Albums chart, which launched in October 2015, an oddity for the Official Charts Company because it was only published once a month. This led to them forgetting to publish it a lot of the time, and it hasn’t now been updated since the start of 2017.

The most recent addition to the UK’s ever-growing list of official charts was the Americana Albums chart, launched in January 2016

So, all in all, there is a long list of historic and current UK specialist genre-specific charts, and, perhaps inevitably, just one thing is common to all of them – all rely on somewhat spurious rules to decide whether a release does or doesn’t fit. Sometimes, if a release underperforms on a regular chart, they can be a handy way to find out how it is performing. At other times, they can be confusing and more than a little disappointing.

Next time: format-specific charts

This post owes a lot to the following sources which weren’t directly credited above: