The Beloved – Single File

In spite of their short, one-decade chart career, The Beloved made a good impact in their day, and there’s a good chance you might still be aware of some of their hits. If not, now would be a good time to find out about them, because their singles collection Single File celebrates its twentieth birthday this week.

It skips straight to their 1989 breakthrough hit The Sun Rising, presented here in its album version. Beautifully relaxed and chilled out, and yet at the same time full of energetic beats and an uplifting vocal, this has to be one of the finest singles of the late 1980s. Although it only peaked at number 26, it’s still one of The Beloved‘s best known songs.

The other is next, the brilliant Sweet Harmony, a top ten hit from the start of 1993. Now a husband-and-wife duo, they were briefly to be found everywhere when this was released, and the accompanying album Conscience, although perhaps not as distinguished as its predecessor Happiness, was a huge chart hit.

Some of the lesser-known hits come next – Your Love Takes Me Higher first, which came out twice as a single and never managed to make much of a dent on the charts. It’s a big, beatsy affair, which if it weren’t for the energy – and the acid bass line that turns up from time to time – might almost sound as cheesy as most of the other things that were on the chart in 1989 when it first came out. But it doesn’t – it’s easy to tell that there was something special about The Beloved.

By the late 1990s, they had evolved into a solid house-pop crossover act, so Satellite, from 1996’s exceptional X, gives us our first taste of their then-contemporary sound. It’s a strange mixture in a way, with its clearly accomplished melody and songwriting alongside some very silly lyrics and slightly naff backing vocals. It almost certainly would have sounded better in a club than it did on the radio – but by no means is it bad, and its energy is definitely not in dispute.

Outerspace Girl is next, the house-piano-driven minor hit that closed out the singles for Conscience. It was actually released as the preceding single, but it’s a good fit alongside Satellite, although more laid back than its neighbour.

Next comes the fantastic Time After Time, another minor hit from 1990. Driven primarily by a huge rhythmic bass line, with just a couple of string and pad lines, this is truly pop music at its best. So it’s a natural transition to the third of the big hits, Hello, a memorable hit that lists a lot of famous people, also from 1990.

The Beloved‘s penultimate hit single Ease the Pressure is next, falling just short of the Top 40 in mid-1996. It’s a deeper, more soulful hit than Satellite, with huge house beats and rippling bass lines and countermelodies alongside backing vocals from a male gospel choir. If there had been any justice, this would have been an enormous hit.

Representing the 1990 remix album Blissed Out is the longer, more melancholic, Back to Basics version of It’s Alright Now, a truly wonderful song. It isn’t the single version, and while it’s a shame that that never saw the light of day on an album, this is definitely the more appropriate recording of the track to have on here. After about five minutes or so, you’ll catch yourself wondering if it’s ever going to end. Sadly it does, but it’s a welcome excursion into the softer side of The Beloved.

You’ve Got Me Thinking is next, sweet, acoustic, and summery. The follow-up to Sweet Harmony, it peaked just outside the top 20 in the UK, thanks to some creative repackaging with remixes of Celebrate Your Life and the previous single.

Then comes Deliver Me, the single that never was (it was pulled shortly prior to release, although seems to be widely available anyway). Quite why it was never released is a mystery to me – it’s one of the duo’s finest moments – possibly even their finest – and even though it might not have sold millions, it still would have been a respectable hit.

But by 1996, the writing must have been on the wall for The Beloved‘s time on a major label. Shortly before (or perhaps after) being dropped, EastWest gave us this parting gift, with another fantastic Bob Linney sleeve, just like their early works, and finally a second release of The Sun Rising, packed with excellent new and old remixes. Closing Single File is Mark Pritchard‘s fantastic twelve-minute deep house odyssey. That might sound long – it really doesn’t seem that way when you listen.

Single File is not without its failings – in particular I think it would have benefitted from some more material that wasn’t on the major albums, so perhaps the single version of It’s Alright Now, or an early rarity such as Acid Love might have been nice. But in general, it’s a great introduction to a great group, who really need to get back together and release some new material.

The CD version of Single File no longer seems to be widely available, but you can still find copies or download it from places like this.

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Artist of the Week – The Beloved

Many moons ago, there was a radio show called Music for the Masses, which I presented on and off between 1999 and 2005. I’ve talked about it here plenty of times. One of the features was the Artist of the Week, and contained various errors, incorrect opinions, and the following information:

Jon Marsh originally formed a band called The Journey Through in 1984 with fellow Cambridge students Guy Gausden, Tim Havard, and Steve Waddington. After some demos, they evolved into The Beloved, and started making music not a million miles away from the style of Joy Division, early New Order, or even, occasionally, The Smiths.

After a number of minor singles, they released their debut album Where it Is, but following little success and disagreements with the record company, they left, dropped two members, and reappeared in 1988 with their first commercial release Loving Feeling.

It was at the end of 1989 that they saw their first major hit, with the release of The Sun Rising. Further singles from the first successful album Happiness were also hits, including Hello and Your Love Takes Me Higher. A remixed album Blissed Out also saw some success.

The third album Conscience followed in 1993, including the smash hit Sweet Harmony, and saw them starting to explore deeper dance territory with more house-based tracks and remixes. The fourth album in 1996 was in many ways a transitional piece, with the tracks starting to show great signs of depth.

Since then, they’ve done naff all… (that is genuinely what it says here!)

Peel Sessions – The Beloved, 13 October 1985

Long before fame crossed The Beloved‘s path, they recorded two sessions for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1. Both were recorded in 1985, before debut single A Hundred Words appeared the following year, and long before debut compilation album Where it Is (1987).

The sound on both sessions will be familiar to those who have heard any of The Beloved‘s early material – raw, indie, and owing a lot to some very heavy influences. Intriguingly, most of the tracks were never formally released though – Josephine opens, and then Up a Tree and So Seldom Solemn follow, none of which ever saw the light of day.

Honestly it’s difficult to believe many people will enjoy this session enormously – it’s all entirely pleasant, but there isn’t a lot that stands out. In fact, In Trouble and Shame is probably the only one that has anything special to say for itself, and so it should come as little surprise that it subsequently appeared as the b-side to the debut single and also found a place on the first album.

On this session, cut short at only six and a half minutes, In Trouble and Shame is still a pretty worthy piece to finish the recording. It owes a lot to Atmosphere, and is almost certainly aware of the fact, but it’s a worthy tribute and a great track in its own right.

It would take another four years of lineup changes and experimentation before The Beloved finally hit the charts with The Sun Rising, and while there’s little of that sound to be found here, it’s still a great moment for the archives.

As with the first session, which we covered previously, this recording is available as a download from The Beloved‘s semi-official website here.

Four years of stowaways – year four

And so we reach the present day, by starting a sentence with the word “and”, which is probably a very bad thing.

When I started this blog back in 2012, I really had a number of aims: to force myself to write more; to listen more to the music I already owned; to find more new music; and I don’t remember what else. I’ve reviewed over three hundred different albums, and the backlog never seems to end.

I’m sure I’ll get bored eventually, just as I imagine most of the people reading it have by now, but for now, let’s come together and enjoy some nakedness from 1993:

Peel Sessions – The Beloved, 8 January 1985

Since The Beloved clearly had their heyday in the early to mid-1990s, it’s really rather fascinating to me that they appeared on the John Peel show halfway through the preceding decade – and not just once, but twice. It really illustrates just how broad minded and open Peel actually was.

The first session opens with debut single A Hundred Words, really sounding rather good after presumably only a year or two of practice. To my untrained ears, it sounds a lot like the later single and album versions, but that’s definitely no bad thing.

Never-released track Idyll follows, a frantically fast piece. Perhaps surprisingly, given the direction their careers would take a few years later, most of The Beloved‘s output from the mid-1980s has a dark, indie, slightly dirty sound, I think from a combination of the bass and rhythm guitars, and this is no exception. It’s good, but entirely unlike Sweet Harmony. It’s nice to hear the lyric “the journey through” here, which for fact fans was in fact The Beloved‘s original name, when they formed back in 1983.

In fact, apart from the first track, nothing here appeared on their debut album Where it Is (1987) – which is something of a shame for A Beautiful Waste of Time, with its enormous drum fills.

The Flame is something of a surprise – it appeared in one of their original demo sessions, and eventually became their first single for a major label, with a new set of lyrics and a new title – Loving Feeling. Even here, though, with a growling synth bass line, you can hear there’s something a little bit different about it.

We’ll cover the second session in a future article. This session is available as a download from The Beloved‘s semi-official website here.

Singles chart of the year 2015 for stowaways

Time now to announce the top singles of 2015 on the Chart for stowaways:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Remix EP (I)
  2. Röyksopp – I Had This Thing [number 46 in 2014]
  3. MG – Europa Hymn
  4. Little Boots – Working Girl
  5. New Order feat. Elly Jackson – Tutti Frutti
  6. The Future Sound of London – Point of Departure
  7. Étienne de Crécy – Hashtag My Ass
  8. Dave Gahan & Soulsavers – All of This and Nothing
  9. The Beloved – Love to Love
  10. Röyksopp – Sordid Affair [number 36 in 2014]

Here are some highlights from outside the top ten:

  • 11. Moderat – Bad Kingdom
  • 15. Hot Chip – Move with Me
  • 18. Marsheaux – See You
  • 24. Leftfield – Bad Radio
  • 26. Sarah Cracknell – Nothing Left to Talk About
  • 29. Róisín Murphy – Exploitation
  • 30. Camouflage – Shine
  • 38. Shit Robot – Do That Dance
  • 44. Lean Jean-Marie – Bring it On
  • 50. Röyksopp – Running to the Sea [number 1 in 2014]

Music for the Masses 40 – 14 May 2005

This was the last ever Music for the Masses, just a little over a decade ago, and it would go out with nothing but a sombre wave on the webcam, ten minutes before the end. Over the preceding five years, I had immensely enjoyed doing the show, and would spend another eight years or so wondering how to recapture those times. Eventually, it was reincarnated in the shape of the blog you’re reading today.

The last track had to be, of course, the fantastic Sweet Harmony by The Beloved.

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Show 40: Sat 14 May 2005, from 6:00pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Everything But The Girl.

  • Portishead – Glory Box
  • Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At
  • Kings Have Long Arms feat. Phil Oakey – Rock & Roll is Dead
  • Sohodolls – Prince Harry
  • Everything But The Girl – Missing (CL McSpadden Powerhouse Mix)
  • Underworld – Pearl’s Girl
  • Client – Don’t Call Me Baby
  • Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  • Garbage – The World is Not Enough
  • Everything But The Girl – Walking Wounded
  • Wolfsheim – Kein Zurück (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Vic Twenty – Wrong
  • Moby – Raining Again
  • Luke Slater – I Can Complete You
  • Röyksopp – Poor Leno
  • Everything But The Girl – Blame
  • Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 2)
  • Goldfrapp – Tiptoe [Electromix]
  • Jolly Music – Radio Jolly (ADULT Remix) [Electromix]
  • Massive Attack – Butterfly Caught (Paul Daley Remix) [Electromix]
  • Alpinestars – Green Raven Blonde
  • The Beloved – Sweet Harmony (Live the Dream Remix)

The Electromix feature from this show still exists, and will be included on a future Playlist for stowaways.