It's Spring, We Must Be On An Early Ministry Kick!

Yes, Every spring, we begin to fancy a walk on the darker side of the '80s synth-pop avenue, which invariably leads to us pulling out our vinyl copy of With Sympathy and reliving those halcyon days of yore before Al Jourgensen started piercing his face.

Days before procuring the album shortly after its release, it was a brief mention in Trouser Press magazine that tipped us to the group's existence, which was good enough for us. Sure, according to his page-turning autobiography "Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen", his days on Arista were a never-ending cavalcade of leeches and soul-selling, but, damn, the music remains timelessly fucking awesome.

Granted, there are songs on With Sympathy that reek of "major label meddling", but then I heard the demos that Al was shopping that got him signed to Arista in the first place and I am left wondering what dear Al is talking about. Was he somehow artistically stifled by the fact that a label signed him on the basis of said demo tape and merely wanted him to continue exploring the same glossy synth-driven pop direction that he, himself, had established?

Now, I'm not a psychologist, but I wasn't born yesterday either. Jourgensen had left Special Affect to "do his own thing" and forged his own path.  In short order, he got everything he could have possibly dreamed of: a record deal, loads of money, the chance to move his base of operation to Boston at a time many (myself included) perceive to be that city's richest musical period, and, last but not least, he got to bang Aimee Mann, who would go on to write "Voices Carry" about him.

Back in 82-83, recording at the Cars' studio was a pretty substantial feather in one's cap, as kids across the land knew about Syncro Sound, home of the tastiest new wave hits. To have the chance to record there...holy shit.

None of it was apparently enough for Jourgensen, who seemed to enjoy the experience of performing in stadiums (including Comiskey Park) while opening for The Police, yet rebelled against the suits at Arista until they finally dropped him, at which point he immediately released three slightly darker, but no less catchy singles for fledgling Wax Trax! Records, culminating with the dance club smash "Every Day Is Halloween".

Had he been holding out on Arista?  More importantly, had he been holding out on us?

For fans of With Sympathy, "All Day", "Nature of Love" and the aforementioned "Halloween" had more in common with the high points of With Sympathy - "Revenge" and "(I'm Not An) Effigy" - than duds like "What He Say" or "Should Have Known Better".  Needless to say, when Twitch was released, we bought it instantly based on what we'd heard (and LOVED) on the Wax Trax! singles.

What we heard initially left us wondering if our speakers were blown.  Further listening revealed it to be our mind that had been blown. This wasn't the admittedly derivative synth-pop of his first go-round, Jourgensen was breaking new musical ground!

We said it at the time to anyone who would listen..."This dude just invented his own genre!"  That made his signing to Sire all the more perfect.  Sire, after all, had signed the Ramones.  And Madonna. That juxtaposition was surely not lost on Mr. Jourgensen!

And though he was off recording for Sire, that didn't keep his other personalities from recording with Revolting Cocks, Skinny Puppy, Lard, 1,000 Homo DJ's, and more.  Keeping up with Jourgensen's many projects kept one pretty busy, but we weren't complaining.

As history has proven, he would add metal guitars to the mix on The Land Of Rape And Honey.  The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste was "Stigmata" on steroids. By then, Ministry wasn't just  synth-duo, it was a living, breathing, six-piece band of pirates and the name Ministry had come to mean something completely different.

We had absolutely nothing in common with this new sound, or fan base, but hung on until Filth Pig proved once and for all that Jourgensen was now off on a Bush-bashing speed metal goose chase.

Still, as yet another brutally long Chicago winter finally loosens its chokehold, we can't help blasting some early Ministry. There's just something about cranking "I Wanted To Tell Her" or "We Believe" at top volume to help one claw their way out of that winter coccoon. ah, but if only there was more early Ministry for us to get our hands on...

Alas, thanks to YouTube, we are now privy to a treasure trove of lost Ministry tunes, in various degrees of sound quality, but the most notable track to surface is "Same Old Madness", which a previous line-up of Ministry had recorded before signing to Arista.  Heck, they even filmed a video for the song.

There's more where that came from and, on April 18th - a.k.a. Record Store Day - we die-hard early Ministry fans with a couple Benjamins burning a hole in our pockets will be able to get our hands on Ministry Trax Box, an expansive 7 CD and 1 LP collection of early Ministry favorites and unreleased gems.  While one might be apprehensive at the prospect of being sold the same "previously unreleased" tracks again (and, yes, the usual suspects are here), but there is also so much more.

CD 1 gives us pristine studio versions of "Madness", "I See Red", and "I'll Do Anything For You".

CD 2 includes the original demos for "Work For Love", "Madness", "Revenge", "The Game Is Over", "Let's Be Happy", "Same Old Scene", "Wait", and "I Wanted To Tell Her".

CD 3-6 All the Revolting Cocks and side projects we all already have...

CD 7 A third version of "Same Old Madness", a four previously-unreleased live tunes from an '82 Detroit show, and "Self-Annoyed", a 1987 Ministry Rape And Honey outtake.

LP 1 A five-song live recording from Chicago, 1982, giving you a fourth and final version of "Same Old Madness".

What truly makes this a compelling potential purchase is the 64-page book of memorabilia and artifacts from Ministry's earliest days.  Whether that makes it worth the $170 list price is up to you.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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