IF you have never heard Shed Seven’s early song Kennel, Polydor’s re-issue of the York band’s three Top 20 albums as double-disc packages on Monday will give you that opportunity.
Lead singer Rick Witter and bass player Thomas Gladwin have been wading their way through boxes in their attics to find rarities, mixes, radio sessions, live recordings, B-sides and demos that now form the second discs on 1994’s Change Giver, 1996’s A Maximum High and 1998’s Let It Ride.
“We’ve found this song Kennel, which makes me sound like I was 12,” says Rick, now 41. “It was 1990 when we would have recorded that song at Tollerton Studios, and if we were told that 24 years later, it would be re-mastered at Abbey Road Studios, we wouldn’t have believed it.”
Nevertheless, this is exactly what has come to pass, Polydor repackaging and reissuing the albums a month ahead of the 20th anniversary of Change Giver’s release. “I’m not sure if that’s why they’re doing it now, but it can’t be long till the albums’ rights revert to us,” says Rick. “I can’t remember if they got in touch with us or I got in touch with them to mention the anniversary, but the reissues needed the band’s touch after Polydor had done two greatest hits albums already.
“We didn’t want our fans to be ripped off with another one, and Polydor were originally thinking about doing them as a supermarket budget release, but to be fair, Polydor have done a really good job.”
The Sheds’ relationship with Polydor had ended in “musical differences”, grinding to a halt when the label declined to release a prospective fourth album, but band and label have pulled together for the reissues. “Through the years, I’ve kept at least one copy of everything we’ve done, but because they’re in boxes everywhere, I’d struggle to find everything, so Tom and I pooled our resources,” says Rick.
“I’ve found lots of old photos and old reviews and Tom did most of the music side: mini-discs and even old cassettes; alternative takes and demos, though we didn’t want to get bogged down in the demo side, because they’re basically substandard versions of what became a single. But if you’re a fan, you may be interested.”
Listening to the old material again threw up surprises, be it choosing from seven DJ mixes of She Left Me On Friday or re-discovering a 1999 version of The Heroes. “I couldn’t even remember us doing it. It’s something that’s just been gathering dust in my attic, when it really should be heard by the Sheds’ fans,” says Rick. “Then there’s a demo of Magic Streets from A Maximum High that shocked me because it was recorded at the point I didn’t have a melody or chorus, but in the middle eight I’m already singing a melody and words that at some point I must have decided weren’t good enough.
“But I’m not precious; we know these reissues won’t sell brilliantly but the extra tracks have value for the fans.”
The re-releases also tie in with the 20th anniversary of Britpop. “This raps everything up nicely for us. If there was a time to do it, this was it...unless I die. We’ve pretty much scraped the barrel dry,” says Rick.
“Looking back, it was a good time for British music. In 1992/1993, we believed we were the only indie guitar band around; the Stone Roses had gone missing; Happy Mondays had split up and everything had gone dancey, and there we were, thinking we were the only ones playing rock’n’roll, when it turned out lots of bands had the same idea!”
Rick reckons the Sheds were “never a great studio band”. “We were always better live; even with Let It Ride, when we had Stephen Street producing us, it never seemed to have the same sheen as you would imagine we’d have by then. But we just went in and did the records,” he says.
“But it’s not a bug bear. We were better live. We still are.”
Summing up the three albums as succinctly as space allows, Rick concludes: “The first album was about striving to achieve something; the second was the celebratory one, at the height of Britpop, with five hits on it; and Let It Ride was the most ‘Americanified’ one. That kind of tells our story.”
The Sheds are on a British festival tour in support of the re-issues, playing Y Not Festival, Derbyshire, on Saturday; Lakefest, Gloucestershire, August 9; Victorious Festival, Portsmouth, August 24; Bingley Music Live, West Yorkshire, August 29, and Shrewsbury Fields Forever, September 13.
A headline tour will be confirmed for later this year.