Yep Roc has reissued three of Robyn Hitchcock’s solo albums, which have been shamefully out of print for a while: Black Snake Diamond Role, I Often Dream of Trains, and Eye. They’re also available as part of a five-disc set, I Wanna Go Backwards, which contains an additional two discs of demos entitled While Thatcher Mauled Britain. The set includes twenty to thirty tracks either previously unreleased or difficult to find. Robyn Hitchcock is a brilliant songwriter, and it’s great to see these titles back in print – especially I Often Dream of Trains, which is a devastatingly sad and beautiful album.
When these albums were issued on CD initially, some pressings tacked on bonus tracks, some of which were rather ill-suited to the albums proper. The Yep Roc reissues draw from a broader range of tracks (including several that were previously on the Invisible Hitchcock compilation) but, oddly, they omit a couple few songs.
Here are three of those orphaned tracks. The first one is simply an alternate version of “The Man Who Invented Himself” featuring overdubbed and tweezed Gary Barnacle saxophones. I prefer the punchier, saxless mix – but this one has its period-specific pleasures as well. Appended as a bonus track to that same edition of Black Snake Diamond Role (on the British Aftermath label) is “Dancing on God’s Thumb,” Robyn’s fine, if slight, take on a vaguely dance-y sound. (He’d explore that a bit further on the generally disastrously arranged Groovy Decoy/Decay album a year or two later: incidentally, Yep Roc supposedly will be releasing some version of that album in download-only format.) Finally, from the Midnight Music edition of I Often Dream of Trains, the completely out-of-context goof of “Mellow Together.” That edition put its bonus tracks in the middle, rather destroying the flow of the original album – and this song, dumb voice and all, was completely jarring. I’m glad it’s not on Trains any more – maybe it’ll find a home on some hypothetical mopping-up compilation in the future.
Yep Roc plans to reissue some of Hitchcock’s albums with the Egyptians early next year – unfortunately, it appears that ensemble’s A&M albums are still tied up in litigation.
Robyn Hitchcock “The Man Who Invented Himself” (sax version) Black Snake Diamond Role, 1987 Aftermath edition (1981)
Robyn Hitchcock “Dancing on God’s Thumb” Black Snake Diamond Role, 1987 Aftermath edition (1981)
Robyn Hitchcock “Mellow Together” I Often Dream of Trains, 1986 Midnight Music edition (1984)
PS: Check out my Milwaukee compadre Don’s reprint of a 1996 interview he conducted with Hitchcock for the late, lamented Milk magazine, at his Timedoor site.