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the complete a-z track listing
Due to demand from readers, we are currently compiling Softcore, a complete guide to every track Robyn recorded. As well as being serialised in PVs it will be published as a booklet sometime towards the beginning of next year. We need as many contributions as possible. Any entries, on any track, would be very welcome; write to PVs if you would like a complete listing of every track. Feel free to say anything you like about any track; we don't intend to gloss over the fact that
Robyn (and even more so, Andy) have been responsible for some real turkeys in his time.
At the moment, the listing doesn't cover Surfer Ghost tracks. Once the album is released they'll be added to the booklet and to later instalments as they come out.
Following a suggestion from Kimberley Rew, Katrina & the Waves tracks will be dealt with separately later, as they don't really fit in with Robyn's work. Kimberley's Bible Of Bop tracks featuring the Soft Boys will be included.
If you've heard or read any interesting explanations of tracks, please send them in. If you have any comments on this listing, please send them in. It's a big piece of work, and if we don't get the sense that people are interested we won't keep it up. And quite aside from that, comments are always gratefully appreciated on anything we do!
Robyn solo. B-side to 12" 'Eaten By Her Own Dinner' single. Added as a bonus track to CD reissue of Invisible Hitchcock.
The audio equivalent of an optical illusion; the closer you look, the less you see. A pointless song, but no more so than most of the album, and still rather endearing in its way. (Aidan Merritt)
Soft Boys/Robyn solo/Egyptians. Solo version on Black Snake Diamond Role album, with Morris on drums. Live version from the Marquee, with Egyptians, on Gotta Let This Hen Out! album (but not video). Soft Boys bootleg version on The Fall And Rise Of The Kingdom Of Love cassette, and 'reformed Soft Boys' version on Where Are The Prawns? cassette. BBC radio version on The Kershaw Sessions CD.
I first heard this as a child, when the Soft Boys were still going, and it really got to me then. I no longer understand why. (Aidan Merritt) I could never go along with the party line and say I love this song - it never got to me emotionally. Gorgeous guitars, choruses, Byrds flying, but it's hollow inside (Barb Lien)
Robyn solo. Eye and The Soho Natural Soda Sessions albums.
Procreation & digestion. Clinical, like the sex ed films they show to grade schoolers, which make the kids wonder why they'd ever want to participate in such a bloodless activity in the first place. Terrible melody. Robyn at his most actively annoying. (Barb Lien)
I think it's a song for men. It sounds like it's been written by a bored schoolboy in his maths class. (Elaine Pym)
Egyptians. Element Of Light album.
The song that always makes me forgive songs like 'Agony'. The combination of realism and longing is irresistible. Perfect, except for the filtered, annoying backwards guitar. (Barb Lien)
Features Roger Jackson on glass harmonica, but the sleeve doesn't give any indication if a synth or a genuine glass harmonica was used; in live performances Andy uses a synthesiser, for obvious reasons. (Aidan Merritt)
Unreleased (but much-boot-legged) track from the Underwater Moonlight sessions.
Those who say the Soft Boys never recorded a bad track should have a listen to this irritatingly wacky twaddle. (Aidan Merritt)
Alex Chilton. Single B-side featuring Robyn on guitar.
Robyn solo. Invisible Hitchcock album. With Matthew Seligman, and Vince Ely from the Psychedelic Furs.
A sweet song from a time when Robyn wasn't writing sweet songs, so I've always been fond of it in spite of its being so lightweight you could knock it down with a feather. (If you had one. Sorry, couldn't resist) (Barb Lien)
Egyptians/Robyn solo. Additional track on some promo releases of 'Driving Aloud'. Often performed live.
A very sweet song from a time Robyn's been writing more and more sweet songs. Still, rarity of rarities, I like this one. Again, it's lightweight, but for once the often brought out Beatles comparisions are spot-on accurate. (Barb Lien)
Soft Boys. Live At The Portland Arms album.
Surprisingly good cover of the old Presley chestnut. (Aidan Merritt)
Robyn solo/Egyptians. Single A-side from 1982 and on Groovy Decay/Decoy albums. Live Egyptians version from the Marquee on Gotta Let This Hen Out! album and video.
It's like one of those paintings in the Sistine Chapel that you can't see the bright colours of because they're buried beneath the grime. It's a good song sunk by the arrangement and production. Almost all songs on Decay/Decoy sound as if they were purposefully drowned in honey or treacle or that yellow brown stuff that prehistoric mosquitoes get stuck in after sucking dinosaurs' blood. (Barb Lien)
John Hegley & the Popticians. B-side to 'I Saw My Dinner On T.V.' 12" single, it features Robyn and Morris.
I don't like him when he gets like this. I know Robyn didn't write it but he should stay off this kind of thing. It's a boring song that thinks it's funny. (Elaine Pym)
Egyptians. Fegmania! album.
A small but wise song about being positive. You see the person you fall in love with as a person, not as an illusion, which is also kinda what 'Airscape's about. Lovely melody, too. (Barb Lien)
Soft Boys. Never released officially, but is very widely available in various bootleg forms, it was recorded for Underwater Moonlight and never used, and was a staple of the later live set.
If 'SYTYIL' concerns being confident about being in love, this song is even more so, translating into being confident about getting another person to have sex with you. For some reason, the line "I want to fuck around with you" is one of my faves - you can't get more to the point than that, can you? (Barb Lien)
Robyn solo. Eye album.
Has the kind of feel that the 'Aquarium' piece from 'Carnival Of The Animals' has - deep & murky. Unfortunately, the lyrics sound adrift and just sloppy, although I do like that "All you need is love, but all you get is afraid" line. (Barb Lien)
Soft Boys. Legendary 'lost' Soft Boys track, as far as I know no recording exists "The guitars were so loud on this that the tape disintegrated" (Robyn Hitchcock, Can Of Bees CD sleeve notes)
Robyn solo/Egyptians/REM/Michael Stipe. Solo versions on Live At The Mountain Stage Volume Two album and Live Death promo, Egyptians version on Respect/Spectre. Covered by REM, as B-side to 'Man On The Moon'; this version also available in the Automatic Box REM box set. Substantially different Michael Stipe solo version on In Defence Of Animals: A Benefit Compilation album. BBC radio version on The Kershaw Sessions CD.
"'Arms Of Love' was originally called 'Arms Of God' (I had it in mind for Roger McGuinn, in fact). REM have done a (sort of) countryish version of it, but they've changed the chords slightly. And that has Andy playing wine glasses on it. We actually had a bunch of wine glasses in the BBC mobile, because we recorded it on the BBC mobile, and the BBC came in and put the mikes, you know, on the kitchen table, and Andy just put his moistened finger around the circles of each wine glass. That's what that sound is at the beginning. The best thing about it is, as I was writing it I suddenly realised I didn't have to spend as long getting from one chord to another as I thought - otherwise there would have been a really slow sort of waltz thing. But in fact I managed to skip from one chord to another quite fast, so it's quite a concise tune. I mean, I like the tune. And the good thing about it is that it hasn't got very many words, and I keep forgetting them and I always change them each time I sing it. I changed it from 'Arms Of God' because that was too much like being about to be dead. The idea it that the two people in the song are separated, and soon they will be in the arms of love. But will they be in each others arms or some other's arms? That worry_ You'll soon be back with me? Back with someone else? What? You don't know. So it could be the ultimate reassurance or it could be your worst fears being confirmed. Either way it'll be quite exciting and probably a little sad Well, it wouldn't be sad if you got back together again." (Robyn Hitchcock, Spectre album)
About the tenderest thing Robyn's ever come up with and one of the few A&M songs I can point to with pride. (Barb Lien)
Soft Boys. B-side to 'Only The Stones Remain' single, Invisible Hits album.
A big emulation of those long tales Steeleye Span, Fairport and Richard Thompson used to come up with. In spite of some downright spunky bass playing, it is probably the cut I'd leave off my beloved Invisible Hits, because it slows down the pace. Without it and the instrumental, the LP is almost, dare I say it, punk, if punk, by nature, could have been made by a bunch of public school-boys. (Barb Lien)
Soft Boys. Two Halves For The Price Of One album. Live version of the Syd Barrett staple.
Yay, Syd. This is the kind of cut one loves to hear on bootleg tapes or live, just before last call, the sort of thing where you say "Christ, they covered that? Cool!". Unfortunately, as part of a hastily put together release simply trying to cash in on the dismembered corpse of the Soft Boys, it feels like filler from an LP of filler. (Barb Lien)
Robyn solo. I Often Dream Of Trains album. He's taken to performing an electric version of this at solo performances.
Robyn translating the death of summer into the death of a relationship. Atmospherics and regret. Gorgeous, especially the Aaaaaaah's at the end. (Barb Lien)
Egyptians. Queen Elvis album.
So-so. Not actively annoying like 'The Devil's Coachman' (except for the spoken part), just not anything that makes the senses sit up and beg for more. (Barb Lien)
"I like the fact that it goes out of time, which is very deliberate. Some people can't stand this track, and other people think it's the best. It's the most abrasive track on the record; if my music on the whole is becoming more serene, this is the opposite of that. Every so often you realise what your tendencies are, and it's a good thing to reverse them." (Robyn Hitchcock, A&M press release, 1989)
Egyptians. Very occasionally performed live.
Yawn. Who cares? Stick to what you're good at, boys. (Aidan Merritt)
Egyptians. Outtake from Element Of Light, and quite frequently performed in the late '80s.
Ace. If there was ever an unreleased song of Robyn's that really deserved release it's this. (Aidan Merritt)
Egyptians. Globe Of Frogs album; at least six versions of the 'Balloon Man' single; an MTV 'best of' album which I don't know the name of; Brenda Of The Lightbulb Eyes video.
The start of the wacky old uncle Bobby persona that makes me want to toss my cookies all over his purple winkle pickers. The preferred pronunciation is chummus, not hummus. (Barb Lien)
The extraordinary thing about 'Balloon Man', given the media saturation A&M gave it, is that by whatever standard it's a pretty poor song. It's musically catchy but nothing special, lyrically it's pisspoor and way substandard to its B-sides ('Globe Of Frogs' and 'Ghost Ship') and even as a piece of jolly eccentric English wackyness it's substandard - wot, no fish reference? (Aidan Merritt)
Egyptians. BBC radio version on The Kershaw Sessions CD
Yeah, yeah Robyn, you're hilarious. Post-modern irony by performing Harry Belafonte covers! Someday, someone other than Ian Penman's going to call your bluff, Robyn, and maybe you'll realise most people don't like to hear this sort of art-student smugness. (Aidan Merritt)
Egyptians. Element Of Light album. BBC radio version on The Kershaw Sessions CD.
I hate this, I really hate this. There's everything on that album that's really pretty and he goes and ruins it with this. Nobody wants to hear about fish, he's just being selfish by making us buy these songs. (Elaine Pym)
Robyn solo. Eye album and Eye promo video.
Take my advice, if you want a sincere love song in this acoustic vein, check out Big Star's 'I'm In Love With A Girl' instead. This one kinda sits there. You wait for more, but it just repeats itself ad nauseam. (Barb Lien)
Soft Boys. Unreleased track from 1978. As far as I know, no recording exists.
"Inverted calypso in 5/8 that only Morris could ever finish. Nifty piece of gate on the snare." (Robyn Hitchcock, A Can Of Bees CD sleeve notes)
Soft Boys/Robyn solo/Egyptians. Live Soft Boys version on Two Halves For The Price Of One album. Robyn solo version on 1984 on 4-track single for striking miners (reissued in Germany with an extra track). Added to German releases of Fegmania! album in place of 'I'm Only You'. Added CD reissues of Fegmania! as a bonus track.
One of the few covers Robyn does that doesn't sound disappointing. Not much very special, though. (Aidan Merritt)
Robyn solo. Only officially released on the Pave The Earth promo, but a staple of live performances (especially with Peter Buck) and very widely bootlegged, most recordings in circulation are from 1991s Bingo Hand Job REM/Hitchcock/Holsapple/Bragg luvviefest or the 1992 Soft Boys Bosnia benefit.
Plum purty song, that. (Barb Lien)
Egyptians. Perspex Island album. BBC radio version on The Kershaw Sessions CD.
I like this one well enough, especially done live and acoustic, where it actually does come alive a little. This song and 'Lysander' have the most intellectual and emotional depth on the LP. Something Shakespeare actually said (in sonnet 76) that sums up PI in a nutshell: "O, know, sweet love, I always write of you/and you and love are still my argument/So all my best is dressing old words new". Astute man, that Shakespeare. (Barb Lien)
Egyptians. Added to CD reissue of Element Of Light album as a bonus track.
Atmospheric but still perhaps the worst song on that album. (Aidan Merritt)
Soft Boys. Live version on Two Halves For The Price Of One album. Studio version added to CD reissue of Underwater Moonlight album as a bonus track.
Amazing Captain Beefheart emulation. Whether it's a worthwhile song by itself is in doubt, but, sometimes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. (Barb Lien)
Maureen & the Meatpackers. Unreleased, and as far as I know not to be released.
Robyn solo. Invisible Hitchcock album. Produced by the legendary James 'The Great One' A. Smith.
Mean slide guitar, an anglo piss take on blues, complete with sexist violence so absurd it's almost harmless. Just not very funny, though. (Barb Lien)
Soft Boys. Invisible Hits album.
"You're the one I left you for" is such a great line. (Barb Lien)
Everyone else seems to love this song and I don't know why - I think it's the Soft Boys at their most mawkish. (Aidan Merritt)
Soft Boys. Unreleased. The master tape no longer exists.
"Only half a take of this exists. Even Morris couldn't get to the end of it. Named after the damp bungalow outside Cambridge where we rehearsed Invisible Hits. Kimberley rented it off the explorer, Sir Raymond Hoon, and we ate lots of ravioli" (Robyn Hitchcock, A Can Of Bees CD sleeve notes)
©1994 Positive Vibrations. Not to be reproduced without prior consent.
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