doubling and trebling the locks on the door

Two related, somewhat obscure Wire songs. The first, “Ally in Exile,” was among the tracks prepared for but never recorded in studio for what would have been the Wire album to follow 154; instead, the band broke up (for the first time). Many of those tracks (but not this one) found their way onto Colin Newman’s first two solo albums. The only released version of this song, though, is the live recording released on the Document and Eyewitness CD. The CD is oddly sequenced: although the bulk of the disc features the band’s rather bizarre and avant-garde final performance (of version I of the band, anyway), the first 7 tracks are from a more conventional performance the year before, in July of 1979. (Correct your ID3 tags now!).

The song appeared to have been forgotten…but apparently not completely, for twenty years later, after having re-formed and re-disbanded and then re-formed again, the basic situation of “Ally,” as well as the two rhymes characterizing its chorus (“-ill” and “-ival”), showed up in a track with almost no musical resemblance to “Ally,” entitled “Art of Persistence.” (If you stretch your ears you might imagine that some of the more discordant and odd chord sequences in “Ally” are reflected in the drop to the oddly voiced “A” chord near the end of the chorus of “Persistence”…but really, many Wire songs use unconventional chord sequences or voicings.) This was recorded during the band’s initial rehearsals for its Royal Festival Hall reunion, but perhaps the reason it wasn’t developed further (the recording is subtitled “1st Draft”) is that sonically and compositionally it really doesn’t fit what Wire Mk. III eventually became as newer songs developed.

In fact, “Persistence” sounds to me quite a bit like a late Joy Division or early New Order song, in its chord sequence, voicing, and rhythm. I’m guessing that aspect felt just a bit too backward-looking, particularly given Wire’s momentous decision to “cover” its own older songs, a practice the band had generally eschewed in the past.

Apparently “Ally in Exile” itself was revised in a few performances on that 2000 tour (some reviews here), crossbred with aspects of “Art of Persistence.” I haven’t heard recordings of that version (if anyone knows of any, pass ’em on to me and I’ll post them).

Wire “Ally in Exile” (Document and Eyewitness, 1980 – track recorded 1979)
Wire “Art of Persistence (1st Draft)” (Third Day, 2000 – track recorded 1999)

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1 Comment

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One response to “doubling and trebling the locks on the door

  1. James

    If I remember correctly, Document and Eyewitness also tags on Wire’s post-EMI, pre-break-up single for Rough Trade, as well. Which makes that record even more unusual (but, hey, that’s Wire for you).

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