Best tunes of 1992: #2 The Sisters of Mercy “Temple of love (1992)”

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Here we are finally near the end of this list of my favourite tunes of 1992, a series that I started just over a year and a half ago. I figure it’s time to wrap this thing up. And with these last two songs, we’ve got some epic, exciting tunes that are, comparatively speaking, quite different from each other.

Number two feels like a bit of a cheat. “Temple of love” was originally released as a non-album single by goth icons, The Sisters of Mercy, way back in the band’s early days in 1983. But this isn’t the version I know and love. No. I’m talking instead about the version that was re-recorded and reissued in 1992 to promote “Some girls wander by mistake”, a compilation of the band’s early material released by the label to mitigate the impacts of what it saw as rampant bootlegging. This new version of “Temple of love” doesn’t actually appear on said compilation, choosing instead to only include the original, untouched version. In fact, all of the songs that the Sisters released between 1980 and 1983 appear here as they were originally released, much to the chagrin of band frontman Andrew Eldritch, who wasn’t such a fan of all of it.

My friend Tim, whom I’ve credited in the past with introducing me to the band, loaned me his CD single copy of “Temple of love (1992)” in high school English class one day. I duly brought it home, copied it to cassette tape and repeatedly listened to this recording on my walkman that year. I had transcribed the name of track one exactly as it appeared on the back of the CD case: “Temple of love (Touched by the hand of Ofra Haza)”. Perhaps it was innocent of me but I had no idea at the time that this wasn’t a new song. I only heard the original when I dubbed myself a copy of “Some girls wander by mistake” much later.

Some have said this new version was faster and more guitar heavy but, if you listen to it back to back with the sinister sounding, post-punk influenced original, you can hear that original is actually faster in pace and has plenty of guitars to go around. The 1992 version just feels harder by comparison because of the stepped up, stomping drums and because it continues the heavy guitar themes explored with lead guitarist Andreas Bruhn on their previous studio album, 1990’s “Vision thing”. And I haven’t even mentioned yet the lengths of the two tracks – the original was quite big at just over seven and a half minutes but this second version bigs up on the original by additional thirty seconds.

But the real treasure of this second version for me is the vocal work by Ofra Haza, whose contributions Eldritch tried to highlight in the aforementioned title byline. It was another collaboration that sounded odd on paper**, but this one actually worked. Haza was a pop singer, one that maybe wasn’t as well-known in England or North America, but one that was very popular in her home country and was known there as “the Israeli Madonna”. It is her mezzo-soprano that lays another level to the chugging, chainsaw guitars and feels like an angel singing among the demons. It is a tender foil against Andrew Eldritch’s dark and deep voice espousing love as a religion, a spiritual experience to be feared, revered, and awed.

“In the temple of love: Shine like thunder
In the temple of love: Cry like rain
In the temple of love: Hear the calling
And the temple of love is falling down”

And as I said back when this very tune came in at number one out of my top five Sisters of Mercy tunes in a post a couple of years ago, this is a song that I’ve danced to many times over the years, especially back in my university days. Indeed, in my mind, “Temple of love (1992)” is a perfect fit for a dance floor explosion.

*The Sisters of Mercy’s label, WEA, had claimed in and around this time that the band were the most bootlegged band in their roster. And I believe it, given the ridiculous amounts of bootlegged vinyl I’ve seen flipping through the bins over the years.

**I’m pretty sure I read that it was also Andrew Eldritch’s idea for The Sisters of Mercy to tour North America with Public Enemy in 1991. It wasn’t quite as successful.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.

Vinyl love (revisited): Barenaked Ladies “Gordon”

(I started my Vinyl Love posts pretty much right after the launch of this blog to share photos of my growing vinyl collection. Over time, the photos have improved and the explanations have grown. And looking back at a handful of the original posts in this series, I found myself wanting to re-do some of them so that the posts are more worthy of those great albums. So that’s what I’ll be doing every once in a while, including today…)

Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album Title: Gordon
Year released: 1992
Year reissued: 2017
Details: Black vinyl, 2 x LP, 180 gram Gatefold sleeve, 25th anniversary edition

The skinny: My original ‘Vinyl Love’ gallery on this record was posted back in November three years ago. In that piece, I blamed my pre-ordering of it during the prior summer on my friend Patrick, who is a pretty big fan of the Ladies and had alerted me to its reissue. I think it funny now that I had actually had to think about purchasing it. “Gordon” was a pretty big deal, especially in Southern Ontario, when it was released back in 1992. The rest of the world wouldn’t officially catch on to the four-piece from Scarborough until a few years later and by that point, I (and a lot of their other early diehard fans) had moved on. This debut, however, remains a classic and I had forgotten how great it was until I received this 25th anniversary reissue on two 180-gram discs in the mail. I feel like I’ve listen to these 15 songs more in the last three years than I had in the previous two decades. And yeah, I still know every word to every song. Every word. Every song. Classic.

Standout track: “Brian Wilson”

P.S. Those of you who are aficionados of early 1990s Canadian alt-rock might appreciate a photo I am planning on posting to my Instagram account tomorrow. Watch out for it.

Best tunes of 1992: #3 R.E.M. “Nightswimming”

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“Automatic for the people”.

It was indisputably R.E.M.’s finest hour and I’m not just talking commercially. Sure, the album spawned six singles and went gold and platinum for sales in pretty much every country. However, it was also universally acclaimed. And for very good reason: There’s not a single bad track on the album.

For me, though, and as I mentioned back when I wrote about “Sweetness follows” when it came in at the number twenty spot on this very list, it’s the less obvious tracks, not the hit singles, that have become my favourites on this album. And yes, I know. “Nightswimming” was actually released as a single but I didn’t actually know that until about three years ago when I wrote the piece counting down my top five favourite R.E.M. tunes on which this song appears at the number two spot. I am thinking that the single might not have gotten a wide release here in North America because it didn’t make the charts here, only placing in England and Australia, and a track this great should definitely have placed, given the chance.

It was originally recorded as a demo for “Out of time” but was used instead for the following album. The original recording had Michael Stipe singing over top Mike Mills’ piano and was augmented by a string arrangement put together by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, along with a forlorn oboe to seal the deal. Mills’s piano doesn’t meander or dance or tiptoe. Instead, it eddies in place, like a whirlpool to get caught in, a bit of danger that might be heightened if the swimming hole was ventured upon at night.

“Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago”

The penultimate track on “Automatic for the people” is a quiet wonder, Mills and Stipe without Buck and Berry. A song about memories and remembering. A track that brings back many memories. Many of them driving in a car at night. In the city. On a backroad. Memories that are mine and memories that aren’t mine. But could be.

“Nightswimming, remembering that night
September’s coming soon
I’m pining for the moon”

There’s a sadness in Stipe’s lyrics and in his plaintive voice. Perhaps there’s regret in those memories, a sentiment never expressed, a kiss never stolen, a nakedness needlessly covered up. Yet there’s also the heavy weight of nostalgia, the excitement of youth lost forever. It’s something one can never forget. And never should.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.