a short site about The Divine Comedy

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07/01/2020, 2020 reissues ?

Happy New Year!

2020 is a new year in the life of The Divine Comedy, and may see the band fully celebrate their 30th year anniversary. Indeed, despite the band was initially formed/named in 1989, they got officially signed to Setanta Records in January 1990 which was the beginning of an amazing career.
Even though we still not know what surprises the band has to offer us for this year, in a few interviews Neil Hannon has hinted that proper re-issues could finally see the light of day, and the man himself have admitted having recently reviewed all of his demo material.
We’d like to take this opportunity then to take a review of the many lost and forgotten gems the band has produced over the past, and will – hopefully – consider for bonus material.

Recent studio material
  • 2015: Foreverland outtake. While initially Neil Hannon considered 22 songs for the Foreverland album, only 13 were recorded in the studio (the other probably made it to Office Politics). Which left one unreleased track.

  • 2013-2015: National Concert Hall demos. In those years Neil was offered a writing room at the National Concert Hall, where he demoed a lot of material… Some of these demos were officially released as exclusive one-track CD-R at the time of Foreverland, and then are unlikely to be released again, in respect of the fans who bought them (this is a totally lost/lost deal). On the other hand, since Neil demoed Office Politics at the same time, demos for about handfuls of songs would still be fit for release.

  • 2014: The Adventurous Type. On January 2015 Neil Hannon gave a workshop on songwriting at BIMM, Dublin. As a result a new and exclusive song, ‘The Adventurous Type’, was produced, which has been heard only by a selected audience so far. It is unsure though if any recording of it exists however.

  • 2013: The King Of Swing. The only outtake from the Sticky Wickets sessions. It already saw Neil having a try to OMD-like synthpop. The song was partly broadcast on the BBC when the band was promoting the album, but release has never been considered back then. Not sure if that would fit on a Divine Comedy anniversary project though.

Stage and screen works
  • 2015: Samantha’s Theme. In 2015, Neil Hannon composed and recorded an advert music for the bankers. The thing was kept secret by the band’s management, but the brand communicated about it. Part of the music was used in various video trailers, but no clean edit of the instrumental has been made available yet unfortunately.

  • 2012: Sevastopol. The third, and last opera/musical of which a soundtrack haven’t been released. Well, Neil Hannon stated in the press that after the premiere he realized he “couldn’t actually write an opera”. It is unsure then if a soundtrack of that Royal Opera House production will ever see the light of day then.

  • 2012: Lost Sailors’s with Cathy Davey. In 2012 Neil and Cathy did a soundtrack for an exhibition of Cathy’s mother Agnes Conway. The installation was held at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland and unfortunately no review of it ever surfaced. Hearing such a work would be something of a curiosity for any fan.

  • 2012: Holy Motors. For Leos Carax’ movie Neil Hannon wrote a song, ‘Who Were We?’ which has been included in various forms in the film, including a performance by Kylie Minogue! The film has been released for a while now; but for sure a 15 minutes soundtrack was not commercially an option. The release of the original studio takes and/or original demo by Neil Hannon would be worth on any Divine Comedy anthology.

  • 2014/2009: The Walshes / Wide Open Spaces. Many years after Father Ted, Neil Hannon has continued to work either with Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews for film or series. For both project Neil Hannon composed theme and incidental music. These soundtracks are certainly not as important as most of the work Neil Hannon has done under The Divine Comedy moniker, but at a time were digital EPs could be released for almost anything, it is a shame that these musics were not considered for release. If it doesn’t happen now, it probably never will…

The 2000’s
  • 2008: Cité de la Musique. The limited edition of Bang Goes The Knighthood saw the release of some extracts from a show in Paris where Neil was having a go at French songs. Of course more than that was played, and even though most of the rest was material regularly played since the Victory… tour, a few interesting gems were unfortunately left off the bonus CD: ‘Sexy BB’ (a medley Gainsbourg’s ‘Initial BB’ and Air’s ‘Sexy Boy’), a French version of ‘Europop’, Daphnée’s cover of ‘If…’ and Vincent Delerm’s cover of ‘Songs Of Love’.

  • The years 2005-2009 saw Neil Hannon collaborating on many projects. Some of them made it to the end (Carl Barât, God Help The Girl, Eg White, Jane Birkin, ….) and some other didn’t or just partly (Guy Chambers).
    Since those projects are more than 10 years old now, it’d be interesting to have a retrospective look at those intensive songwriting sessions, even with just demos if for contractual reasons the finished version was left in a status quo.
    In 2007, an original demo of ‘If You Run’ was actually leaked online, which proves that such material Neil was producing was circulating for people in the industry. The original demo of ‘Home’ also would be worth hearing, since it was said to sound radically different before Johnny Marr got to play it.
    Also a lot of unreleased songs for aborted projects have been published to author companies, and so we know that many songs have still to be heard.

  • 2006: Guantanamo. In 2006 Neil Hannon recorded a political song called ‘Guantanamo’. The song was available through MySpace, but officially the song was not to be released. 15 years later, what is left of it is only a 96kbps recording, which is of course easily available via youtube, proving the concept of ‘leaking but not releasing’ was not truly working. Strangely, on the other hand an instrumental version was officially released through an obscure promo CD. So while it remains possible to hear in great stereo HiFi the great arrangement of the song, hearing Neil’s vocals performance still remains edgy today because of the quality of the source. If any anthology of some sort is to be released, and aimed to be a well-crafted product, we do hope it’d repair the mistakes of the past, and offer at last proper versions of songs.

  • 2005: the original Victory For The Comic Muse. At first the successor to Absent Friends was supposed to be a synthpop cover album. Neil Hannon worked on some arrangement on classic hits such as ‘Turning Japanese’ (The Vapours) or ‘Question of Time’ (Depeche Mode). Finally the idea was dropped because most of the arrangements sounded the same, and his intensive songwriting led him to have a proper album ready. So only ‘Party Fears Two’ made it onto the album. However, especially today where Neil’s love for synthpop is no secret anymore, it’d still be curious to hear some of the demo/arrangements Neil originally did.

  • 2005/2006: The IT Crowd. In 2006 Neil Hannon did the music for Graham Linehan’s sitcom The IT Crowd. The theme music has now become very very popular now, and other incidental music were also composed (the Emergency Service Advert is now a classic). Of course the songs can be heard on the series’ DVD; but having officially cleaned version of the tracks (without the laughs) would be expected by anyone who wants to have a proper listen to the songs.

  • 2001/2004: Regeneration & Absent Friends B-sides. While most of the singles/EPs since The Bavarian are available on download platforms, all the catalogue prior to this has never made it onto digital. In those days singles were released as double CD + another format, and included about 5 B-sides. Many songs have been almost forgotten now, or available only to a dedicated fan-base. The winner in all that being youtube, taking the advantage of all the unauthorized uploads. For sure any Divine Comedy anthology shall include most of these songs, if not all.
    Some live tracks were also released for fan-club CDs which have become quite valuable now. They included recordings from one of the latest show of the classic line-up at the Olympia in Dublin; and takes from a show at the Bloomsbury Theatre in 2004. Additionally, a take of ‘I Hold Your Hand In Mine’ from this show was also made available on MySpace for a very limited time, and remains to be heard again.

  • 2001, early Absent Friends demos. While many demos from Absent Friends have been released as B-sides from 2004 to 2006, the songs actually went through many phases. In 2001, when the band-split-up, it was rumoured having started rehearsals for a new album. We do not know how advanced the rehearsals were, and if any of the new material did actually made it later on Absent Friends; but if such a session was ever recorded, having the last testimony of the classic line-up would be a historical document.

  • 2000: Regeneration demos. Neil Hannon did compose and demo most of the Regeneration album at a time he was moving home and couldn’t dispose of a piano. Therefore, most of the songs were written on acoustic guitar, and demoed as such. An original demo was sent to the band members who then added their own hands. Hearing the original and raw version of the tracks would be quite interesting, especially to finally close all the discussions regarding Nigel’s Godrich influence on the album.

Forgotten tracks from the 90’s.
  • 1999: The World Is Not Enough. In 2012, Neil Hannon admitted he composed a song for James Bond’s movie ‘The World Is Not Enough’ (1999). The song was not considered for the film and it remains unreleased. At that time the song was contractually not to be heard. That was 20 years ago. Since then, Pulp released their try at ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ in one of their anthology, so why couldn’t the DC?!

  • 1996-1999 Classic B-sides. Whereas the band actually owns all that back catalogue, and made it available though digital platforms, little (not to say no) concern was given to the B-sides. Most of the Divine Comedy singles are now tracked down by collectors because they show how rich and original the band was, and a large part were even released only on analogue support. The request for B-side compilations have been one of the most reoccurring request (after the request for physical reissues of the albums) on social networks over the last few years.

  • Instrumental versions. Instrumental versions are like Proust’s Madeleine for fans… They give a new perspective to a familiar song. Many fans, musicians themselves, have asked for release of instrumentals… While most of the albums since the Parlophone era have been leaked in their instrumental forms now, there is only little from the Setanta era. For sure the release of a “Stack-O-Tracks” compilation would please many fans.

  • 1997: Grizzly Knife Attack. In August 1997 Neil Hannon did a couple of shows with composer Michael Nyman. The collaboration resulted in joined efforts for a new song called ‘Grizzly Knife Attack’, which was premiered at these shows. Plans for a studio recording and inclusion on a forthcoming Nyman’s album were evoked but never happened. Even if a studio recording was not done at the time, highlights from these shows (which included Divine Comedy’s covering some of Nyman’s works, and Michael Nyman Band covering some of the Divine Comedy classics) would show the Divine Comedy on their orchestral rise.

  • 1996: Christmas With The Hannon’s. In the early days of Casanova, The Divine Comedy had a plan for a Christmas single entitled ‘Christmas With The Hannon’s’. Finally the idea was dropped, and the song has never been heard. Other outtakes from the Casanova sessions also included the original studio version of ‘I’m All You Need’.

  • 1995: Father Ted. It’s a fact that most of The Divine Comedy’s success in UK came thanks to Father Ted for which Neil Hannon did the theme music and other incidental music such as ‘My Lovely Horse’. While the theme music was re-recorded as ‘Songs Of Love’ later, the original theme tune (recorded at The Jesus and Mary Chain’s studio) has never been properly released; and other songs such as ‘The Miracle Is Mine’ are yet to be heard in full.

  • 1994: Sean Hughes’ poems. After the release of Liberation, The Divine Comedy received support from writer Sean Hughes. The two had a project to set up in music some of Sean’s poems… The project was evoked to the columns of Hot Press, but never saw the light of day. Sean sadly left us a couple of years ago, and releasing those sketches could be a way to pay homage to Sean.

  • 1993: Indulgence No.1. The Indulgences singles are some of the most valuable Divine Comedy EPs, as they are nice 7” records with exclusive material. For sure CD release of that material would be more than welcome. But it also less known that the original plans for the Indulgence No.1 was to include a cover version of The Ramones’ ‘Something To Believe In’. It is unsure why the idea was dropped, but according to Keith Cullen, the song was recorded at the time.

Early demos
  • 1992/1993: The Liberation & Promenade demos. This is certainly the keystone of all The Divine Comedy’s career. When Neil Hannon re-conceived what was an indie-trio into a baroque pop project, he locked up in his room and recorded demos over and over until he was satisfied with the result. No doubt there shall be hours of material to heard (assuming it still exists), and even if a double CD would certainly not be enough to cover everything, it would give a panorama over the musical accomplishment Neil Hannon went through over these years.

  • 1991/1992: Europop rehearsals At the time the early Divine Comedy line-up, with John Allen on vocals, was promoting the Europop EP, the band was already playing some early versions of songs that would later be recorded for Liberation such as ‘Super-Natural’ or ‘Lucy’. We have no idea if any live or rehearsals were ever recorded; but if such a document exists, it would have a historically important place to play in any anthology as a starting point to The Divine Comedy as we know it.

  • Earlier material would also be historically interesting wherever they come from. Although it would also be interesting to select it depending on how it connects to Neil Hannon’s later works. Some ideas such as ‘October’ have been seen later within songs like ‘Assume The Perpendicular’. Therefore, there is no doubt covering the early years could put the light on some of Neil Hannon’s songwriting genius.

To conclude, there is certainly a lot of material to pray for the re-issues. However, since the albums re-issues is mainly what is expected by the fan-base, we are aware the bonus are secondary and no doubt only a tiny little part of all that will get released, but at least it gives us an idea of what to expect. Anyway your opinion matters: don’t hesitate to leave to comment to tell us what you would love to hear from all we know that exist.
Next time, we will review the video material that exists too, and what could be fit for bonus DVD if such a thing would ever be considered.