‘Pillows & Prayers: Cherry Red Records 1982-1983’ Expanded Edition

❉ Another deluxe version of Cherry Red’s iconic indie sampler, with a generous helping of new tracks added on.

Hard as it is for youngsters to believe, back in the eighties there was a minor spate of records which had a maximum price stamped directly on their covers, in order to prevent record shops over-charging their customers. Most famously, Billy Bragg did this for all of his singles and albums up to Workers Playtime in 1988, and I doubt I was the only teenager who saw him play Between the Wars on Top of the Pops and was then delighted to discover I could afford the £1.25 EP from which it came in HMV the next day.

But long before Billy got on the bargain price bandwagon, the Cherry Red label were already there, having released a compilation album of selected tracks by artists on their then current roster, Pillows and Prayers, just in time for Christmas 1982 – a 17 track LP for the even then amazing sum of just 99 pence. We all bought it, of course, and it spent months at the top of the Indie Chart and shifted a reported (and staggering) 120,000 copies. It’s been released in Japan about half a dozen times by various labels, was judged the 26th most important event in indie music history by The Guardian, and been described, with some justification, by one reviewer as a ‘ vivid and eclectic window into the dawn of alternative rock and the death of the U.K. punk scene.’ So successful was it, in fact, that Creation Records stole the idea six years later, when they released the excellent, if overly archly titled, Doing It for the Kids compilation album, marketed as ‘An LP for the price of a 7” Single’.

Obviously, an album so successful was never going to be allowed to lapse into memory, and in 1984, a sequel – the imaginatively named Pillows and Prayers 2 – was released, doing much the same thing as the original, only minus the 99p price tag. In 2007, a deluxe CD box set came out, containing both volumes of Pillows and Prayers, a Cherry Red rarities disc, and a DVD. It won the MOJO Catalogue Release of the Year award and was, frankly, a well-deserved winner.

Which brings us (I think!) up to date – except Cherry Red have released another deluxe version of the album. Which you would think was a bit much – except, yet again, it’s pretty much an essential release, especially if you don’t own any of the previous versions. 15 years is a long time in music, and there’s a whole generation of listeners who have yet to sample the delights of early Everything But The Girl (plus a track each from that band’s constituent parts), Quentin Crisp nasally reading from his diary and Atilla the Stockbroker’s seminal A Bang and a Wimpy.

And for those of us who have vinyl copies which decades of overplaying have rendered almost completely smooth, it’s an opportunity to pick up a handy package of shiny silver discs, with a generous helping of new tracks added on.  Each of the three CDs comes with enough extra tracks to satisfy, ranging from guaranteed winners (amongst Cherry Red’s typical demographic, at least) like the Dead Kennedy’s Too Drunk to Fuck, through the unexpectedly poptastic (I did not expect to see Patrick MacNee and Honor Blackman’s Avengers’ cash-in Kinky Boots, for one) all the way to the utterly obscure (The Compassion and Humanity of Margaret Thatcher, anyone?).

The third disc is the only one completely new to Pillows and Prayers, with a fine collection of live tracks and Peel Sessions, and if I could happily live without Attila’s very much of its time ranting poetry on The Night I Slept with Seething Wells, that’s more than made up for by Kevin Coyne’s fantastic session and some previously unreleased Nightingales.

The whole set comes in a sturdy hardback book style package, with an essay by Will Hodgkinson, and a selection of brief but interesting interviews.

Recommended – even if you already own one or two other versions.

❉ Various Artists – ‘Pillows & Prayers: Cherry Red Records 1982-1983’, 3CD Expanded Edition (CDTRED859) released 18 November 2022. RRP £26.99. 40th Anniversary Vinyl Edition also available, RRP £20.99.

 Cherry Red Records have been releasing and reissuing the most innovative and independent thinking music since 1978. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.

 Stuart Douglas is an author, and editor and owner of the publisher Obverse Books. He has written four Sherlock Holmes novels and can be found on twitter at @stuartamdouglas

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