Random Album Facts: Loveless


My Bloody Valentine released their magnum opus,Loveless in 1991 after a grueling two-year recording process. Since its release the Irish shoe gazers have been silent. No follow up album, no live performances since 1995, and pretty much nothing holding the band’s reputation together but rumor, hype, and the fact that Loveless remains one of the most innovative and untouched experimental albums out there.

This year MBV embarked on its first world tour (or really first tour) in over ten years. The band is currently scheduled for an appearance at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom–one of five U.S. cities on the band’s lineup. So far setlists from the band’s recent shows look to be rooted primarily from MBV’s two studio albums–Loveless and Is this Anything–along with a handful of EPs including Tremolo and Glider. In interviews the band’s talking head, Kevin Shields claims that a new album is three-quarters of the way finished but whether or not new material will be unleashed on the eager audience of shoegazers awaiting the band’s arrival is up in the air.

While most serious music lovers are probably familiar with MBV and most likely escape into the world of Loveless on a semi-regular basis, I thought it would be cool to uncover some of the secrets and random trivial facts that went into recording and releasing this album.

  • My Bloody Valentine got its name from an obscure Canadian B-Slasher film of the same name. Kevin Shields has said in interviews that the band had toyed with earlier names for the band including Burning Peacocks.
  • The recording process of Loveless was a long, grueling experience that took over two years, in 19 different recording studios, and cost Creation Records nearly £250,000 almost bankrupting the label all together.
  • While past MBV endeavors were collaborative between the band members, Loveless was hands down Kevin Shields baby. The control freak musical mad scientist played all of the guitar and bass parts, wrote 2/3 of the album’s often undistinguishable lyrics, and even recorded many of the drum tracks.
  • MBV’s drummer and co-founder Colm Ó Cíosóig only contributed to two of Loveless’ tracks, the punch the gut opener “Only Shallow” and “Touched.” While Shields need for creative control played into this outcome, Ó Cíosóig was also extremely ill during most of the recording stages for Loveless and was at one point homeless. The other remaining tracks were produced from pre-recorded drum loops from Ó Cíosóig.
  • Loveless was the first project for then new vocalist Bilinda Butcher. It is said that Shields was inspired by Butcher’s dream like vocals but still made her endure bizarre recording practices such as closing off the window between the studio and the control room, thus not allowing anyone to watch the musicians at work.
  • MBV moved from one cheap studio to the next over the recording process and listed every single person involved in the liner notes for Loveless. Shields once said that, “even if all they did was fix tea, that might have had an effect on the album’s outcome.” In reality Shields only trusted himself and producer Alan Moulder with the important recording procedures thus giving him near complete control.
  • MBV deliberately did not include lyrics to Loveless in the album’s liner notes since the mystery of the sound is an important element of the sound. In the Japanese release there are printed lyrics (a requirement in Japan) but they are supposedly not even close to being correct. Likewise internet lyric sites all differ in some way with their interpretations.
  • While it’s assumed that the band took copious amounts of drugs–specifically psychedelic substances such as ecstasy–while recording Loveless, the truth is Shields main mind-altering drug was lack of sleep. Shields was interested in dreams and achieving the hypnagogic state, which is experienced between wakefulness and sleep and can produce hallucinatory events. Much of Loveless was created or imagined late at night while Shields was alone in the studio.
  • While much of Loveless’ “swirling guitars” sound like a dozen or so instruments being used, the majority of the effects used during the recording was simply realized with a tremolo arm or wammy bar.
  • The large budget for Loveless nearly bankrupted the band’s label, Creation Records. Creation would later be propelled from Indie status to mega stardom with its work with the U.K. band Oasis. Shields has said in interviews that most of the money spent was actually for living expenses over the two years and that the music itself only cost a couple thousand pounds. MBV believes Creation exaggerated greatly how much the album actually cost.
  • Loveless was recorded almost exclusively in mono.
  • Shields and Butcher both had a fascinating obsession with chinchillas and during the recording of Loveless it wasn’t uncommon to have up to 14 little critters running around the studio on a give day.
  • Shields once said in an interview, “My whole memory of making [Loveless] was just this constant sense of presence, like it was a mixture of angels and, funnily enough, cow ghosts, ghosts of cows. I don’t know why, but I kept having this impression of bloody animals and cows all the time–really big, weird faces with big brown eyes. But not like aliens.”
  • For a quick, highly informative read about Loveless and My Bloody Valentine check out Mike McGonigal’s book Loveless, which is part of Continuum’s 33 1/3 series.

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When Liner Notes Just Aren’t Enough

The Finest Album Companions

In the “digital age” of MP3s and iPods it’s easy to forget about one of the truly unique parts of an album; the liner notes. These little foldouts that come with CDs and the larger inserts that once were so caringly paired with vinyl, often serve as more than just outlets for the tracklisting and endless shout outs from the artists and producers involved in the recording. From song lyrics, album mission statements, recording session notes, to galleries for album art, liner notes enable dedicated listeners to crack the musical shell and dive deeper into the record’s artistic core. For true music übernerds or really anyone looking to learn a little more about their favorite albums sometimes liner notes just don’t cut it.

Back in 2003 a group of music enthusiasts started the Thirty-Three and a Third series, a collection of pocket size books for loyal listeners looking to enhance their knowledge of their favorite albums. The series set out to examine a diverse range of pinnacle albums of the past 50 years, everything from undisputed masterpieces (The Beatles’ Let It Be, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Neil Young’s Harvest), lesser known indie-gems (Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister), to overlooked albums from stellar artists (Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, David Bowie’s Low). Consider this column a recommendation to fellow music lovers who may not be familiar with this wonderful series.

The growing anthology (50 books currently available with roughly 20 plus slated for future release) provides curious listeners with a look at how the album was created–from the initial incarnation, to the recording process, followed by the release and the album’s aftermath–and then discusses the records importance in the wide arena of popular music. These quick reads (average editions range from 100-200 pages in pocket size formats) are brilliant ways to explore another side of some classic albums for five reasons:

1) For starters, they’re highly addictive, providing listeners with an easy fix of background information pertaining to a slew of stellar albums. Some books use interviews with the bands or artists to tell the story others focus on the album’s shear importance; all provide that extra bit of insight not found on a mere record listening or skimming of the liner notes.

2) Pretentiousness is not the series forte. While the writers do choose to chronicle some universally agreed upon monumental albums (Pet Sounds and Let It Be for example) for the most part the authors and contributors are more interested in tackling the less obvious, under-hyped records (Nirvana’s In Utero over Nevermind, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn over Dark Side of the Moon) as well as lesser known picks (where else could you find an entire book devoted to the minister of weird, Tom Waits’, Swordfishtrombones or Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea).

3) The scribes range from well-known music journalists, scholars and even musicians (The Decemberists’ frontman Colin Meloy contributed a surprisingly disappointing self-indulged look at The Replacements Let It Be), giving each book a unique voice to tell the story of each album.

4) At eight to ten bucks a hit these books are cheap companion pieces to albums you already own or ones you may want to indulge in (and no I am not a savvy member of the company’s PR department, but rather a humble fan of the series who has been hooked ever since I discovered them two years ago).

5) Finally, with an entire history of noteworthy albums at their disposal and fans all around the world eager to learn more about the records that hold a special place in their hearts (the series’ official blog encourages readers to voice their opinions of which albums should be chronicled next), the possibilities for this series are endless.

The impressive canon so far is bound to provide at least something for everyone, from casual listeners to “High Fidelity”esque music elitists. Some books that I’ve read are disappointing (the daunting edition on Zeppelin’s IV spends more time discussing the mystery behind the band’s use of “zoso” mystic symbols/identities and fascination with the occult than the record’s conception or music) while other subject choices are a bit baffling (book #7 tackles ABBA Gold, a greatest hits compilation of the boisterous 70s Swedish band’s disco blahs and this December marks the release of a book examining Céline Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love). Still, because the series taps into every pop genre and sub genre spanning the second half of the 20th century, the books are in many ways a complete modern musical history told one signature album at a time.

Bookstores around the world are saturated with writings and ramblings on popular music. While an entire encyclopedia devoted to the career of Bob Dylan or the making of Revolver is warranted and welcome amongst avid music lovers, there is something comforting about the 33 1/3 series, which seeks out the less obvious album gems. Rather than utilizing pompous music historians the majority of this series channels the best music writers, the faithful fans.

We all have a short list of albums that truly changed our lives and what’s nice about this series is that there are others out there who share the same passions. For every Beatles or Stones aficionado there is someone who is equally passionate about a lesser-known group like The Minutemen (book #45 Double Nickels on the Dime) or Love (book #2 Forever Changes), or a singer songwriter like PJ Harvey (book #48 Rid of Me). The 33 1/3 series serves as a vehicle for the communal appreciation of great music going above and beyond the content found on the liner notes of the albums we love and cherish.

For more information on the series visit 33third.blogspot.com .