a short site about The Divine Comedy

French version



  • Formats (editor / manufacturer, date)
    CD (Setanta / FSV, 12/1999): 
    SET CDL 100 R

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This collector album originally came with the limited edition of A Secret History. Therefore the design is the same as the best of CD from the book. Later, the CD was also sold on The Divine Comedy’s webshop, but in a plastic CD envelope.

The CD came with an insert card featuring an artwork made of a photo from the Fin De Siècle sessions and, on the other side, the full tracklisting with recording details and notes by Neil Hannon himself for each song. However most of those details are inaccurate or wrong, a complete summary of the albums songs is to be found below.

Around the centre of the CD, we can read:
17606 03880 SETCDL100 SP F
110399 (an ifPi logo)LD81

On the album, the songs are in alphabetical order. It begins with ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair’ and ends with ‘Your Daddy’s Car’. The only exception is ‘Soul Destroyer’ which follows ‘The Summerhouse’ probably to make the album finishing with pre-Liberation tracks.

Most of the songs are live songs, but there are also demos, outtakes or previously released rare tracks. Here is a summary about each track (in chronological descending order) with Neil’s notes and source information:

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National Express’: the live version “somewhere in a large field” of the song was actually recorded at the Reading Festival, in 1999, which was broadcast on radios and TV.
Neil’s notes:
  • “The ‘ba ba ba da’ chorus makes ‘de do do do, de da da da’ sound positively intellectual. Good sing-along at the end through.”

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Life On Mars’: this song was recorded with Yann Tiersen along the live version of ‘Geronimo’ on Gin Soaked Boy. Both songs were already released in Yann Tiersen’s Black Session album.
Neil’s notes:
  • “Young French instrumentalist Yann Tiersen provides the music for this rather lovely Bowie cover. A hugely satisfying collaboration (for once).”

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Commuter Love’: this live version features Hilary Summers and is said to be recorded at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 1998. However a bootleg from this show invalidates this fact as it has a different song introduction by Neil.
Neil’s notes:
  • “A pleasant moment from last automn’s Fin De Siècle tour. Hilary beats the electric guitar hands down.”

Generation Sex’, ‘The Certainty Of Chance’: two interesting demos from Fin De Siècle. ‘The Certainty Of Chance’ demo has different lyrics and ‘Generation Sex’ is in an instrumental form. The song was actually at that time still untitled as his working title became ‘La Dolche Vita’ before becoming ‘Generation Sex’.
Neil’s notes:
  • Generation Sex: “Of all the demos for Fin this one got by far the closest to the eventual sound. The lyrics came later unfortunately.”
  • Certainty Of Chance: “Initial Spacemen 3 type demo of Certainty with odd lyrics put through even odder effects.”

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Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind’: This cover of a traditional song was recorded for the Beyond The Line TV program in 1997.
Neil’s notes:
  • “Why an Anglican hymn then? Well, as another Irishman once said, ‘the Catholics have cool stage gear but the Protestants have all the best tunes.’”

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The Frog Princess’: This live version was recorded at the same night as the Everybody Knows B-sides: that to say from the Shepherd’s Bush Empire 1996 concert.
Neil’s notes:
  • “One of the few remaining unreleased moments from that glorious night in West London.”

The Booklovers’, ‘The Summerhouse’: those songs were recorded at the Theatre De La Ville, in Paris, on 24th October 1994 (and not in November as written on the notes). This was the first show of the Divine Comedy band line-up including Joby Talbot, Bryan Mills and Stuart ‘Pinkie’ Bates. The band was also joined by a string quartet. Sadly the Booklover’s outro was left out.
Neil’s notes:
  • Booklovers: “At the insistence of the venue we were not allowed to have a drummer at this show. We managed to hold it together until the second chorus. We’ve spared you’re the unlistenable outro.”
  • Summerhouse: “Another cut from the drummerless Paris show. The first appearances of both Bryan and The Pinkster make this a truly memorable occasion!”

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Bernice Bobs Her Hair’, ‘A Drinking Song’, ‘The Model’: those songs were recorded in 1994 in various places in Europe and different line-ups:
  • Bernice Bobs Her Hair’ was recorded supporting Tori Amos in March 1994, before going on tour with her, and performed with a 4-piece line-up with Joby Talbot on piano. Neil’s notes: “A sparse but energetic acoustic rendition of the Liberation tune, greeted with polite curiosity by the Tori Amos faithful.”
  • A Drinking Song’ in an unusual rendition of the song. Performed by Neil Hannon solo with the guitar, the song was recorded in April 1994 during a support set to Kristin Hersh. A full recording of this show was said to be in circulation formerly. Neil’s notes: “A live solo rendition of the Prom song complete with free-form scat in the middle. Why ? Because that section’s virtually unplayable on guitar.”
  • Unlike what it is stated, that version ‘The Model’ is not from Düsseldorf. The song was indeed played in Düsseldorf and meant to be released on Indulgence No. 2, but the sound was said to be terrible. Therefore the version included instead is from an earlier performance at the Sound Factory Festival in Bochum which was recorded for a video release. The mistake can be noticed as the song is played by a 3-piece band (guitar, violin and cello) and - unlike the Indulgence No. 2 tracks - does not feature Joby Talbot on piano who joined the band when supporting Tori Amos. Neil’s notes: “Kraftwerk covered in equally [reference to ‘Life’s What You Make It’] typical (if not as well recorded) fashion during an early sojourn to Germany. I’m told that they were never actually that big in Germany which would account for the bemused reaction of their home-town.”

Queen Of The South’, ‘Life’s What You Make It’: recorded in late 1993 at the beginning of the Promenade sessions, those songs were previously available on the Promenade Companion CD and the Volume 9 compilation. However this version of ‘Queen Of The South’ has been edited at the beginning and the middle, and ‘Life’s What You Make It’ has been remastered.
Neil’s notes:
  • Queen Of The South: “A Promenade era take on a Liberation era tune.”
  • Life’s What You Make It: “Talk Talk covered in typical early D.C. style during the sessions for Promenade.”

Painting The Forth Bridge’: this song is an early demo of what would later become ‘Middle-class Heroes’.
Neil’s notes:
  • “You may recognize the hotel lobby-esque melody from a certain Casanova song. As far as the lyrics are concerned, well this is an important example of how record companies can sometimes be right.”

Bleak Landscape’: everything’s said in Neil’s note:
  • “Two demos of the Fanfare tune (made for possible inclusion on Liberation) cunningly spliced together for maximum oddness.”

Your Daddy’s Car’: this is the demo which was released in the flexi split single with The Glee Club in 1993.
Neil’s notes:
  • “Recorded in the wilderness years of ’91/’92, this was just one of many takes on this song. It was also John Allen’s final D.C. appearance. Big respect to him and everyone else who put up with my whims over the years. Cheers.”
The choice of the version is probably based on the alternate lyrics which end differently.

Soul Destroyer’: this song was part of the Active Studio demo of what would later become Fanfare For Comic Muse.
Neil’s notes:
  • “Hmm, the phrase ‘airing one’s dirty linen in public’ springs to mind, but there is something naively cute about this, an extract from the demo that got the band signed to Setanta in the first place. Big thanks to John McCullagh, Kevin Traynor and Lawrence Hoy.”

Moon River’: this bonus song is a cover of a Breakfast At Tiffany’s tune sang by Audrey Hepburn in the movie.
Neil’s notes [1]:
  • “The unannounced track at the end is Moon River by Henry Mancini. I found that early rendition when scouring my old tapes and just thought it was cute.” “It’s only significance is that it’s probably the best song ever written and that this demo was of such wonderfully bad quality it made it sound a bit like some old Mississippi blues recording. Cool. I think it was done in about ’91.” (This last information is unsure knowing the song was played live in 1993-1994)

[1] The Divine Comedy Q&A, 2000