45 45s #17 McCarthy – Red sleeping beauty (The Pink Label, 1986)

McCarthyThis was another tough call – was I to pick one of my favourite ever charity shop finds, the very first self-financed and I suspect quite rare McCarthy single, ‘In purgatory’, or their third, the majestic ‘Frans Hals’, with its brilliant lyrical conflation of the painter exacting artistic revenge on his mean-spirited subjects and life on the dole in eighties Britain?  Or indeed one of their excellent later singles, ‘The well of loneliness’ or ‘Should the bible be banned?’  Or should I go for their second, which made everyone in a small circle realise that McCarthy were special?

The latter, I think.  ‘Red sleeping beauty’ is a swirl of musical exuberance and lyrical pessimism which the Manic Street Preachers – initially inspired by McCarthy as much as anyone – took on themselves in 2007, not entirely successfully.  The original is played quite brilliantly by the group.  In Tim Gane they had a melodic genius, and Gary Baker was a drummer so far above run of the mill indie that he was on a different planet.  Which brings us to Malcolm Eden.  Not naturally blessed as a singer, his weedy, reedy voice is somehow perfect for the songs he chose to write – dry, arch, full of double bluff.  Back then, you soon attuned to Malcolm’s voice, and stopped thinking of it as a weak link.  Unlike Bob Dylan, with his perfect not-perfect voice, Malcolm never became the voice of a generation, but he was nevertheless hugely important to the people in that small circle whose lives McCarthy touched, including mine.


One response

  1. […] trick that Tim Gane first practiced alongside Malcolm Eden in McCarthy (whose ‘Red sleeping beauty’ was number 17 in this series of 45 45s) is here brought to its culmination – for surely there could be no finer […]

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