It’s hard to believe that Saint Etienne’s debut album Foxbase Alpha turns 25 this year but the good news is that it still sounds as fresh, vibrant and relevant as the day it was released. Often hailed as one of the most important DIY albums of all time Foxbase Alpha became the first long player released on fledgling Heavenly Recordings in 1991 and went on to be nominated alongside ‘Screamadelica’ in the first ever Mercury Music Prize in ’92.
On October 28th a limited edition triple-vinyl box set available to pre-order for delivery / release on January 13th 2017. This includes the original album cut over two discs at 45rpm plus a bonus album (at 33rpm) of associated recordings from the era - most of which is appearing on vinyl for the first time. A special one sided 7” single featuring a previously unreleased demo of Moria Lambert (vocalist for Only Love Can Break Your Heart) singing over a radically different version of Kiss And Make Up, plus a 32 page book and assorted inserts - including band photos, original press releases and Foxbase trading cards - complete the package.
Additionally, following their recent pair of sold-out shows at Heaven in London, an extensive re-issue campaign via Heavenly to celebrate the albums quarter century begins on October 28th when the album will be re-issued on vinyl for the first time since it’s original release as an exact replica of the original UK pressing. A double CD version which includes the original album plus a disc of 14 associated recordings from the era and a lavish 28 page booklet will also be made available.
Foxbase Alpha was an era-defining album which musically spanned everything from the prevailing dance music sounds of the time to 60s pop and perfectly reflected the tastes of founder members Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs. Featuring the vocals of Sarah Cracknell on the majority of tracks, the album was one of the first to emerge at what would be a boom-time for DIY music in the UK.
Talking about the album recently, Bob Stanley says:
“I'd say the turn of the 90s was the biggest boom time for UK DIY music, even moreso than the late 70s. For a start, these records were having a direct effect on the singles chart. Also, it felt like a lot of the characters who had been around in the post-punk era were now part of the rave era (I love the fact that Acid House DJ Colin Faver had worked at the Small Wonder shop and signed the Cure and Bauhaus!).
Anyway, me and Pete were working on a budget made up of our savings. Heavenly was in similar straits. I think it cost about £4,000 in the end, but that was about a year's worth of recordings. Ian Catt's studio was in a prefab on a council estate in Mitcham. We were really influenced by Joe Meek at the time, and so was Ian. Making the biggest noise possible in the smallest room.
I can still feel and hear the enjoyment we got from messing about with samples, playing old synths, splicing tapes, trying to get every idea in our heads - Derrick May, the Beach Boys, bits of quiz shows and ad jingles - onto one record. Because obviously we thought we'd never make another. I'm envious of my younger self - it did seem like we wrote a new song every day for about six months.
Initially I owned a Korg MS10 that I'd bought when I was 16 with money I'd made working selling eggs on Surrey Street market in Croydon. Once me and Pete started to record Foxbase Alpha we used to buy Loot and look for old synths and keyboards - a Roland Jupiter (knackered), a Prophet 5 (great), a Crumar Performer (I don't think we ever got it to work so we disemboweled it).
Everything was recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder with an eight-track mixing desk. If we weren't happy with a song after a couple of days, we'd move on to something new.”
The track listings of the albums are as follows:
LIMITED EDITION BOX SET
• The original 13 track album remastered over two 12” vinyls running at 45rpm for Hi Fidelity
• A bonus album cut at 33rpm featuring 10 associated recordings from the period (mostly on vinyl for the first time)
• Side One
• 1. Kiss And Make Up (Sarah vocal)
• 2. Filthy
• 3. Chase HQ
• 4. Sally Space
• 5. Sweet Pea
• Side Two
• 1. The Reckoning
• 2. People Get Real
• 3. Winter In America
• 4. Speedwell
• 5. Fake 88
• A unique 32 page perfect bound book including previously unseen band photographs and ephemera from the era
• An exclusive 45rpm 7” single of the original unreleased demo recording of ‘Kiss And Make Up’ featuring ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ vocalist Moria Lambert
• Photographs, original press releases and Foxbase trading cards
1. This Is Radio Etienne
2. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
4. Carnt Sleep
5. Girl VII
7. She’s The One
8. Stoned To Say The Least
9. Nothing Can Stop Us
10. Etienne Gonna Die
11. London Belongs To me
12. Like The Swallow
13. Dilworth’s Theme
DOUBLE CD EDITION
Disc 1 - As per the original vinyl edition above
1. Kiss And Make Up
3. Chase HQ
4. Sally Space
5. The Reckoning
7. Parliament Hill
8. People Get Real
9. Sweet Pea
10. Winter In America
11. Fake 88
12. Studio Kinda Filthy
13. Kiss And Make Up (Sarah Cracknell version)
14. Sky’s Dead