Friday, July 24, 2020

Nirvana - Donkeyshow


Nirvana – Donkeyshow
(soniclovenoize Verse Chorus Verse reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Drain You
2.  Aneurysm
3.  Breed
4.  Serve The Servants
5.  Smells Like Teen Spirit
6.  Spank Thru
7.  Sliver
8.  Dive
9.  Lithium

Side B:
10.  Rape Me
11.  School
12.  Sappy
13.  Negative Creep
14.  Heart-Shaped Box
15.  Blew
16.  Scentless Apprentice
17.  Territorial Pissings


Hello there.  Hope you are staying safe!  Although quarantine restrictions are slowly being lifted, alas there won’t be any live music anytime soon.  So in remembrance of the magic that was a band making music right in front of you--just for you, the energy and passion, the direct connection between artist and audience--I am going to upload a trilogy of famous live albums that never were.  First is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1994 live Nirvana album Donkeyshow.  Originally the first disc of the double-live album Verse Chorus Verse, slated for a November 1994 release, the album was canceled and instead the second disc was released as its own album: MTV’s Unplugged.  Donkeyshow was later meant to be released on its own, but was instead reimagined as 1996’s From The Muddy Banks of The Wishkah.  This reconstruction attempts to present what Donkeyshow was supposed to sound like, mostly using the performances originally slated for inclusion on the album.  Only the best sources were used, EQd and volume adjusted for album cohesion. 

By 1994, Nirvana was the biggest rock band in the world.  Upon the suicide of frontman Kurt Cobain in April, that status was cemented, although this ensured no new recordings from the band.   With only a small discography of three studio albums and one rarities compilation, Nirvana had made a tremendous impact on music and culture with a limited time and body of music.  How can a record label continue the legends of rock greats?  Well, with a live album, of course!

By the summer of 1994, the Nirvana camp decided to prepare tapes for a double album of live material that covered their entire history, in hopes to upstage the rampant bootleggers and satisfy the hunger for new music from Nirvana’s grieving fans.  Titled Verse Chorus Verse--which was at one point an early title of In Utero--the first disc would contain a compilation of recordings from their standard electric show, ideally recreating an actual Nirvana concert.  The second disc was to feature the entirety of the band’s recent performance on MTV Unplugged.  In effect, Verse Chorus Verse was meant to demonstrate the versatility of the band and present their ‘light’ and ‘dark’ sides.  The double album was scheduled for a street date on Halloween and an official release on November 1st, 1994. 

Although a rough assemblage of Disc One was compiled with promo tapes manufactured in-house at DGC Records and artwork proofed, Chris Novoselic and Dave Grohl did not have the heart to continue the project, their wounds being too raw from the loss of their friend and bandmate.  Ultimately, Verse Chorus Verse was scrapped and the band instead chose to just simply release the second disc as MTV Unplugged.  It was a wise move; the album was considered a reverent eulogy for Cobain and a brilliant swan song for the band, winning a Grammy and hailed as one of the greatest live albums of all time.  Simultaneously released was the VHS Live! Tonight! Sold Out!, a finalized version of a concept Cobain originally conceived: a documentary of the band’s rise to fame intermingled with live clips.  The video sufficed as the only souvenir of an official "electric" Nirvana show. 

The remaining members of Nirvana never gave up on the concept of an "electric" live album  and made plans to release Verse Chorus Verse’s forgotten first disc as a standalone release called Donkeyshow (taken from Cobain’s often-said homophone of danke schoen).  But hindsight gave Grohl and Novoselic an opportunity to rethink the compilation itself, and Donkeyshow never saw the light of day.  Eventually Donkeyshow’s tracklist was slightly altered—using different live performances and completely remixing the others—and it was reborn as 1996’s From The Muddy Banks of The Wishkah.  The album debuted at number one on the charts and was the last word from Nirvana in the decade they reigned. 

Despite Wishkah’s success, the contents of the original Donkeyshow remained a great Nirvana mystery for some time, with fans wondering what it had originally sounded like when initially conceived.  Over a decade later, scans of the DGC in-house promo tape emerged, revealing the songlist although without performance dates.  Even though very few were privy to the audio, it was verified that only a handful of versions from Donkeyshow actually made it to Wishkah!  But with no leaked audio from the tape, the mystery only deepened as Nirvana obsessives wondered what actual performances were on the album.

It wasn’t until December 2019 that Robert Fisher, Nirvana’s longtime art director, posted his long-lost test proofs for the actual artwork for Verse Chorus Verse and Donkeyshow on his Instagram.  Revealing for the first time ever not only what Verse Chorus Verse would have actually looked like—which was a bit of an amalgam of the MTV Unplugged and Live! Tonight! Sold Out! artwork in a collaged gatefold packaging—but the liner notes that specifically stated which shows each of the songs originated from!  Surprisingly, many of the recordings stemmed from some of Nirvana’s most heavily bootlegged live shows: Pat O’Brien Pavilion, Del Mar, CA 12/28/91, distributed as a Westwood One promo CD; Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA 10/31/91, Nirvana’s legendary Halloween show which was one of their most popular bootlegs; Pier 48, Seattle, WA 12/13/93, recorded for and televised as MTV’s Live & Loud.   Five of the cuts were the same performances as heard on Wishkah (although in a different mix) and another five were sourced from otherwise completely unheard, uncirculated shows.  Two of the later--"Serve The Servants" from 1/7/94 and "Sappy" from 11/22/89--surfaced as low quality mp3s. 

Since complete rips of the full 60-minute Donkeyshow do not circulate, we will use Fisher’s liner notes to reconstruct a facsimile Donkeyshow from the best quality versions of the Paramount, O’Brien Pavilion and Pier 48 shows.  The mixes from the five Wishkah-overlapping recordings will not be used, as they are a bit muddy and Cobain’s guitar was mixed to mono; we will try to use the original Andy Wallace mixes from the early 90s, at least in the case for the Paramount and Pat O'Brien Pavilion shows.  Additionally, we will substitute different soundboard recordings for the five songs not available, using similar, same-era recordings.  We will also attempt to match the side lengths as stated on the promo cassette for accuracy and master this reconstruction at a similar volume as the original 1994 master of MTV Unplugged, as this would theoretically be paired with Donkeyshow, had it been released.  Finally, to make this Donkeyshow reconstruction a bit more authentic to an actual Nirvana concert, all mistakes were left as-is and we will include the crucial element of any Nirvana concert (that Wishkah unfortunately overlooked): Novoselic’s drunken stage banter! 

My reconstruction begins with a trio of songs taken from JWB’s excellent remaster of the O’Brien Pavilion bootleg, “Drain You”, “Aneurysm” and “Breed”.  Note that two channels of Cobain’s guitar is panned stereophonically, as opposed to the channels summed to mono and panned slightly right as on Wishkah.  On the actual Verse Chorus Verse/Donkeyshow, “Serve The Servants” from was taken from the Seattle Center Colosseum 1/7/94; since that show is not available to us, I substituted the version from Pier 48, just 23 days earlier, taken from the fourt disc of the In Utero 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe box set.  Next is “Smells Like Teen Spirit” again from Del Mar.  On the original Donkeyshow, “Spank Thru” was taken from The Astoria 12/3/89; since we do not have that show available to us, I used the version from Fahrenheit, MJC Espace Icare 12/1/89, two days earlier.  “Sliver” from Del Mar again, then “Dive”, substituted with 12/1/89.  “Lithium” from Del Mar, yet again.  They sure liked this show, didn’t they?

Side B—as heard on the promo tape versions—begins with the slower, early “Rape Me” from the Paramount Halloween show, taken from JWB's remaster of the bootlegged original Andy Wallace mix.  Next, “School” from the San Diego Sports Arena 12/29/93 is not available, so we substitute the classic Palaghiaccio 2/22/94 version, from just under two months later.  Likewise, the following “Sappy” from Geneva 11/29/89 is not available, so we will substitute it for the classic Vienna 11/22/89, one week earlier.  The ripping “Negative Creep” from Halloween at the Paramount is next, followed by the trilogy of “Heart Shaped-Box”, “Blew” and “Scentless Apprentice” from Live & Loud 12/13/93.  The album closes with “Territorial Pissings” from, of course, Del Mar. 




Sources used:
In Utero (20th Anniversary Super Deluxe Box Set, 2013)
Live at Le Fahrenheit, Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture (Pierre Leroy transfer)
Live at Palaghiaccio, Rome (JWB Remaster)
Live at Paramount Theatre, Seattle (JWB Remaster)
Live at Pat O’Brien Paladium, Del Mar (JWB Remaster)
Live at U4, Vienna (JWB Remaster)



Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Who - Who's For Tennis? (UPGRADE)



The Who – Who’s For Tennis?
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

May 2020 UPGRADE

Side A:
1.  Glow Girl
2.  Fortune Teller
3.  Tattoo
4.  Silas Stingy
5.  Dogs
6.  Call Me Lightning
7.  Melancholia

Side B:
8.  Faith in Something Bigger
9.  Glittering Girl
10.  Little Billy
11.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
12.  Sunrise
13.  Magic Bus


Upgrades to this April 2020 are:
  • Updated source for “Glow Girl”, “Fortune Teller” and “Melancholia”. 
  • Dropped “Girl’s Eyes”, “Early Morning Cold Taxi” and “Shakin All over” from the album.
  • Added “Tattoo”, “Silas Stingy”, “Glittering Girl” and “Sunrise” so the album will fit in Who’s Lily’s continuity. 
  • Widened stereo field of “Call Me Lightning”.
  • New stereo mix of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”
  • New edit of “Magic Bus”, a hybrid of the long and short versions

Next in a series of social-distant-reconstructions is my upgrade of the proposed and promptly withdrawn 1968 album Who’s For Tennis? by The Who.  Originally intend as a proper studio album (or live album, as some maintain) that would have been released in-between The Who Sell Out and Tommy, the idea for the album was scrapped and the recorded material instead came out as either single releases or remained in the vaults.  This reconstruction draws from numerous sources to create a completely stereo, cohesive album, utilizing the best mastering available and is volume-adjusted for aural continuity.  Also, a completely new and unique stereo mix of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was created, unavailable elsewhere and exclusive to this reconstruction.  This revised version is meant to follow Who’s Lily, so there is no overlap between the two albums. 

Riding as high as they possibly could from 1967’s The Who Sell Out, a concept album recorded to emulate British pirate radio stations, The Who embarked on tours of Australia and the United States throughout 1968, biding their time until their next concept album.  During this time, Pete Townshend began composing what he believed could be his magnum opus, a rock opera that spanned an entire album-length (rather than a single-song ‘pocket-opera’ such as “A Quick One While He’s Away”) about a deaf, dumb and blind kid (who sure played a mean pinball).  Such a lofty project required time to compose and demo properly, and the album was set to be recorded that fall.  But in an attempt to keep up with their British rock contemporaries such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Kinks who could release an entire album of material every year, the question was proposed: what album would The Who release in 1968 to fill the stopgap until Townshend’s rock opera, which at best would be released in early 1969?

Thus The Who’s manager and producer Kit Lambert proposed an album entitled Who’s For Tennis? to be released that July of 1968, meant to capitalize on the upcoming Wimbledon Championships.  The album would have included all new recordings as well as any number of the relevant outtakes from the previous year’s Sell Out sessions, which had produced a wealth of non-LP material.  In January and February of 1968, The Who recorded Townshend’s “Faith in Something Bigger”, “Glow Girl” and “Little Billy”, the later written for the American Cancer Society for an anti-smoking campaign.  Also recorded during these initial sessions was a very old Who song originally dating from 1964 called “Call Me Lightning”, and bassist John Entwhistle’s own “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, yet another ‘scary’ children’s song.  After embarking on their spring tour of the US directly after the February recording sessions, The Who returned to the studio in May and June and recorded seven more tracks: Townshend originals “Dogs”, “Melancholia”, “Magic Bus”, “Joys” and “Facts of Life” as well as live staples of old blues covers “Fortune Teller” and “Shakin’ All Over”. 

With twelve new studio recordings in the can, the absurd idea of Who’s For Tennis? was eventually withdrawn as the summer drew upon The Who.  Instead of an entire album, just three of the tracks trickled out as single-releases: the US single “Call Me Lightning” b/w “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and it’s UK counterpart “Dogs” b/w “Call Me Lightning”.  Neither single charted particularly well, becoming long-forgotten Who singles.  There was also some discussion of a live album of The Who’s performance at The Fillmore East to be released in Who’s For Tennis?’s place (some sources claim the Who’s For Tennis? concept was this live album rather than a studio album of the 1968 recordings) but the performances were a bit too sloppy and were set aside.  The final decision was to instead release the single “Magic Bus” as well as two cash-grab compilations: The Magic Bus: The Who On Tour in the US, and Direct Hits in the UK.  The decision paid off, as “Magic Bus” became a long-time fan favorite and live staple for The Who for years to come.  This was enough to bide the band’s time until Townshend could see, feel, touch and heal his rock opera into fruition, even as much as pillaging the outro of the now-canned “Glow Girl” into Tommy’s “Overture/It’s A Boy”. 

The remaining tracks were left unheard for years, with each slowly trickling out on anthology collections: first on Odds and Sods in 1974; then on Rarities volumes 1 & 2 in 1983; and finally the Maximum R&B boxset in 1994.  Aside from the tracks that remain in the vault to this day (“Shakin’ All Over”, “Joys” and “Facts of Life”), Who fans have just enough material to reconstruct what this theoretical 1968 stopgap album would have been.  Various fans’ track sequences tend to utilize the same 12-or-so tracks recorded during this period but the actual track sequences fluctuate wildly, as there never was a finalized tracklist.  The only concrete information we have (beyond a title) is that it would have been a ‘preachy’ album (a reference to the inclusion of “Little Billy” and “Faith in Something Bigger”) and the album would have opened with “Glow Girl”.  Keep in mind that allegedly Sell Out outtakes and non-LP tracks would have been used as filler on Who’s For Tennis?, which could have included any of the following songs: “Pictures of Lily”, “Doctor, Doctor”, “Glittering Girl”, “Hall of the Mountain King”, “Sodding About”, “Early Morning Cold Taxi”, “Girl’s Eyes”, “Summertime Blues” and “Someone’s Coming”.  What would have actually been on Who’s For Tennis?  While there is no possible answer, we can certainly know what is on this reconstruction!

For the purposes of this (updated) reconstruction, we will obviously use the eight studio recordings from 1968 that are available.  But to fill out the album, we will use the four songs recorded in October 1967 (“Glittering Girl”, “Tattoo”, “Silas Stingy” and “Sunrise”) as those would have been recorded a month after the theoretical Who’s Lily album.  We will include them here, so that both reconstructions could fit in the same continuity. 

Side A begins with the only clue Pete Townshend has left us: the album starts with “Glow Girl”, which would have also been a single, here sourced from the best-sounding version 2015 SHM remaster of Odds and Sodds.  Following is “Fortune Teller” taken from the 2011 SHM remaster of Who’s Missing.  Much like their live shows, “Tattoo” follows, from the 2014 remaster of The Who Sell Out, as well as “Silas Stingy”.  Mellowing down a bit, the unique stereo mix of “Dogs” taken from the Maximum R&B set is next, followed by mod-rocker “Call Me Lightning”, using the true stereo mix again found on Maximum R&B, but with the stereo spectrum widened slightly.   Side A closes with the epic rocker “Melancholia”, the superior mix taken from the 2011 remaster of Who’s Missing. 

Side B opens with Townshend’s admittedly preachy “Faith in Something Bigger” from Odds and Sods, followed by the remake version of “Glittering Girl” from October 1967, from Sell Out.  Next is a song that seemed a bit ahead of its time in terms to social acceptance to the health hazards of smoking: “Little Billy”, using the superior master from Odds and Sods.   Next is a completely new stereo mix of the otherwise mono “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, created when syncing up the two different mono mixes, both taken from the 2011 SHM remaster of Who’s Missing.  Some phasing happens during the third verse, which I left in because of its appropriate timeliness.  Next is Townshend’s essentially-solo recording “Sunrise”, again from Sell Out.  Closing the album is my own unique edit of “Magic Bus”, using the body of the common stereo mix from Then and Now, but with the extended middle section taken from the mono mix on The Who Hits 50. 

With cover art brilliantly reimagined by Jon Hunt (thanks Jon!) as the icing on the cake, we have twelve songs evenly spread over two sides, in tandem with their previous three albums.  And what of the quality of this audio tennis match?  The most points scored here is for the drastic change from mod-pop into full-blown rock icons.  Here we hear the band beefing up their sound and more importantly Roger Daltrey shifting from the slight, short-haired teen-pop singer of “I’m A Boy” and “Substitute” into the wailing, bare-chested, long-haired rock star of Tommy, Who’s Next and Quadrophenia.  Listening to the album, we now see how The Who went from Sell Out to Tommy.  But taking the album into a whole, we can understand why Who’s For Tennis? was left out: while there are some great songs here, the album as a whole is pretty weak, scatterbrained and honestly a bit corny.  Regardless, this reconstruction offers a missing piece of The Who’s history, an excellent addition to their album discography as it, at the very least, collects a number of non-LP songs that would be quite an annoyance to gather piecemeal.  Let the match begin! 




Sources used:
30 Years of Maximum R&B (1994 original CD master)
Odds and Sodds (2015 SHM CD remaster)
Sell Out (2014 HDTracks stereo remaster)
Then and Now (2004 original CD master)
The Who Hits 50! (2014 Geffin Records)
Who’s Missing (2011 SHM CD remaster)



flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included