"Girlfriend In A Coma"
Rough Trade RTT197
Produced by Morrissey and Marr, engineered by Stephen Street
* Produced by Grant Showbiz, remixed by Stephen Street
1 Girlfriend In A Coma
2 Work Is A Four-Letter Word *
3 I Keep Mine Hidden *
4 Work Is A Four-Letter Word (7" edit) *
5 Girlfriend In A Coma (demo)
1-3 from "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" (Line [Germany] LICD9.00440J, Fall 1987)
4 edited from 2 by Analog Loyalist
5 from Unreleased Demos & Instrumentals (unofficial LP December 2010)
Gentle EQ as needed, a smidgen of tasteful noise reduction if required, and very cautious, gentle peak limiting.
Artwork for this, and every other release we'll be featuring, was sourced from the amazing Vulgar Picture treasure trove of sleeve artwork scans (with permission).
Spring 1987 saw the band, with Stephen Street, retreat to the idyllic Bath countryside to record what was to be their swan-song LP "Strangeways, Here We Come". Apparently the album sessions were pictures of camraderie; all accounts say that the sessions themselves would never be portents of the fractures that the band would sustain just months later.
So it was that "Girlfriend In A Coma" was chosen to be the lead single for the LP. A beautiful, jaunty, acoustic-tinged number, it wasn't quite the "Smiths are back!" moment that "Bigmouth" was a year earlier, but it did foreshadow to a degree the direction Johnny Marr wanted the band to take going forward.
Then, Marr had a rethink and eventually wanted to take a break from the pressures of no management (or management stifled by Morrissey, depending on who you believe). By his account, he didn't want to break up the band, just take some time away from it all and regroup later on with a more concrete plan for the future. Morrissey, however, sensing discontent, ordered the band back to the studio to record B-sides for the upcoming singles. So, with the band at soundman Grant Showbiz's studio in London, they set to tape the tracks that really told Marr that the end was near. Morrissey wanted the band to cover Cilia Black, so they did "Work Is A Four-Letter Word" which Marr hated (though the recording is professional, as you would expect). The session also produced the final Morrissey/Marr original composition, "I Keep Mine Hidden" - a jaunty music hall ditty that Morrissey claimed was his favorite Smiths track of all time (why...?). It sounds nothing like previous Smiths tracks, and I doubt this direction is what Marr intended had the band not split shortly thereafter.
The 12" of "Girlfriend" had the full-length "Work Is...", while the 7" featured an early fade version. We have both here.
As with "Sheila Take A Bow", we decided to bonus this post with the first version of "Girlfriend" recorded in January 1987, during the Street "Sheila" sessions. Much more reggae-influenced than the final version, about the only thing that survived from this session was the majority of Morrissey's lyric/melody, and Andy Rourke's bass (surprisingly, close inspection of the final version's bass track reveals the reggae pattern prominent in the demo recording, which I never noticed before hearing the demo). Just like with the Porter "Sheila", the demo "Girlfriend" we have here is from a newly-sourced high-resolution transfer from bootleg vinyl, with all evidence of vinyl in the lineage gone. It's another track that could be lifted from this blog and released by Rhino.
- Analog Loyalist