During the 1994 US tour, James started to jam new material in preparation for the follow-up to the hugely-successful Laid album. No-one was to know at that time that it was going to be three long years before that follow-up was to be finally released and that release would be without long-term guitarist and key member Larry Gott.
Following an outstanding performance at Woodstock 2 in August 1994, James set about the task of writing their new album. However, fate, in the form of Larry’s decision to quit, Tim’s desire to go off and work with Angelo Badalamenti and a massive tax bill, meant that the recording of what became the Whiplash album was to be spread out over almost 2 1/2 years.
Early sessions at the Windings at Wrexham and Westside Studios in London had seen the band lose none of the creative energy that has fuelled its songwriting from the very early days in a South Manchester scout hut to the more luxurious studios the band can afford to use today.
By the time the album came to be released after James had overcome the trials and tribulations that almost finished the band off, many of the songs written in that initial period following Woodstock were lost on studio DAT tapes or discarded by the band as new ideas and new songs took their place.
Over the history of James, so many songs have been lost to the binbags of cassettes and DATs that Jim Glennie claims to have littering up his house. These songs never see the light of day despite continual badgering and the singles being littered with unsatisfactory mixes and live tracks.
Wah Wah was an insight into the unique working methods of the band, but it was merely a scratch on the surface. Below that one suspects there lies a wealth of improvised, off-the-cuff and truly inspirational music that we will never have the pleasure to hear as the band have deemed it unfit for our ears or it has simply got lost on tapes never to resurface. One only has to listen to the unreleased tracks that appear on bootlegs over the years – Somebody Help Me, Gregory’s Town and Pitiful as three examples, but the list is much longer – to realise this. Maybe one day James will be honoured with a boxset which reveals this previously unheard side to their music. We can live in hope.
Anyway, I digress. A selection of tracks in their early stages of development recorded during the post-Woodstock sessions has bubbled to the surface, featuring a total of twenty six tracks in total including fourteen songs that were not released on the Whiplash album or the singles that accompanied it. Dumb Jam and Make It Alright have since surfaced years later in a re-recorded format and Hedex featured in a different version on the studio disc of The Gathering Sound boxset, but there remain 11 songs, previously hidden somewhere away from the ears of the James faithful, a whole album of material that we were denied in place of the She’s A Star Dave Angel PAT Mix or the Tomorrow Droppin’ Cake Mix.
How these songs have surfaced is somewhat of a mystery. Why other songs from other sessions have not done so is equally mysterious. However, their existence must be addressed and documented as they are as much a part of the musical legacy James will leave as the commercially released material.
Brian Eno quite rightly identified in his first visit to a James rehearsal that the jams, the seedlings of James songs, are as much a part of the music James produce as the slick polished record that ends up in the shops.
These songs exist somewhere in the territory between the pure jams of Wah Wah and the finished product of Whiplash. There are pure pop moments as well as experimentation, both instrumentally and in vocal treatments. These are some truly fascinating pieces of music.
Many of the unreleased songs are documented in Brian Eno’s diary A Year With Swollen Appendices along with a number of other tracks which have yet to surface.
The Whiplash Sessions songs are:
- Homeboy Or Girl
- Hedex – Porn Organ, Synth Bass
- Without You
- Honest Pleasure
- Make You Alright
- Dumb Jam
- Your Story
- Maybe Jane – Stephen Hawkins
- Help Yourself
- Hand On My Rocket
- Last Orders
- Maybe Jane – Normal
- Whiplash (Play Dead)
- Angel (Watering Hole)
- What Time Is It?
- Waltzing (Along)
- Hedex – Spector Pastiche
- Gone Too Far
- Fishknives – Vocals
- Fishknives – Instrumental / Strings