It was February 1985 when The Alarm released the non-LP single "Absolute Reality" in the UK, which rocketed into the Top 40 the next week and went on to be a huge hit for the band.
How it came to be released at all is a story that just might surprise you. In yet another attept to be U2, the band had tapped producer Jimmy Iovine to produce the follow-up to Declaration. The band went ahead and booked studio time, but Jimmy never showed, thereby derailing the band;s next album as the band had to go in search of a new producer.
They go crawling back to their original producer Alan Shacklock, who they'd previously chosen to NOT work with on the album, but he's booked solid (or so he says). With no new album to promote the band's summer dates, their manager convinces IRS Records to release a song that the band had cut with Alan Shacklock during recent nine-song demo sessions. The resulting tune, "Absolute Reality", jumps right out of the speakers and straight into the UK Top 40.
Heck, they even make a video for the song.
That's all fine and dandy, as that performance remains one of my all-time faves from that era. Sadly, it is their completely unnecessary re-recording of the song with new producer Mike Howlett for the strength album that is, without question, one of the worst performances of the era.
On the original, the energy is not forced. It is as if the band is playing for their lives. On the re-recorded album version, Peters thinks he can make up for the band's general lack of enthusiasm by screaming to the furthest reaches of the auditorium. This particular take has all the characteristics of a song a band cuts after they nail the keeper, but their producer asks them to do another take anyway.
Upon completing the final mix of Version #2, somebody should have had the brass balls to stand up and say, "This version sucks. I'll ask one more time, why can't we just put the original version on the album?" Hell, why stop there? Put the other eight songs from that same demo session on the album and be done with it. Problem solved.
Never mind that.the single version would have easily been the best song on the album and revealed Howlett's production (whose work with early OMD and A Flock of Seagulls I love) as the weak sauce that it was. As it stood, the band's re-recorded version was tacked on near the end of side two, as if they were trying to slide it 'neath the door without anyone noticing.
Another minor quibble, if I may: the UK 4-track "Absolute Reality" single also featured a b-side track called "Reason 36" hat ranks among the band's best songs, yet not only was it not seen fit to be included on "Strength", it has yet to even surface as a bonus track on the band's 2000 remaster series.
Considering that just about every other known recording by the band was included as a bonus track on this expansive overhaul of their catalog, the song's absence in any digital format is an "absolute travesty".