. . .
Bob Mould wrote a shitton of songs for the Copper Blue sessions. And while Sugar recorded nearly a couple of dozen of them, because Mould was committed to the idea that an album — even in the CD era — be a somewhat succinct statement, less than half of those songs actually made it to Copper Blue. Some of them made ended up on Beaster — stay tuned! — but others ended up as b-sides, of which all of Sugar’s singles had at least three. Because Mould was also committed to the idea that singles have non-album b-sides. Great non-album b-sides, like “Love is All Around,” “All Work and No Play,” “All Those People Know” and “Needle Hits E.”
And so, if you bought either the U.K.-only “Changes” single or the U.S.-only “Helpless” single, you got to hear the tremendous “Needle Hits E,” which kicks off with lyrics about what could either be burnout or maybe just driving your car for too long.
Been selling it short
I’m seeing sunlight for the very first time
And I’m changing my ways
Hanging out on the roof in the rain
The tragic comedy
I hit the station as the needle hits E
The needle hits E
Fill it up and take another twenty
“Needle Hits E” is one of those song where Mould just piles the verses and choruses against each other, scream-singing at the top of his lungs, and taking a break only for the usual tremendous guitar solo, before roaring directly into the final verse.
Been living it large
Fill it up and gimme the wheel
And I cherish the day
When you say the things that you feel
Your storm is over now
I hit the station as the needle hits E E E
The needle hits E
Empty empty empty empty empty E
And it ends with Mould repeating “the needle hits E / Empty empty empty empty empty E” a few times. So it is about burnout.
Like all of Sugar’s b-sides, “Needle Hits E” ended up on a posthumous compilation called Besides, which is both essential and a bit of a mixed bag. Essential because it’s got some great songs, but a mixed bag, because it combines live versions, covers, live covers, and David Barbe songs (though “Where Diamonds Are Halos” is pretty great), and so it doesn’t quite cohere like their other three albums do. But also essential, because c’mon, it’s Sugar! Plus the original CD issue of Besides also tacked on a pretty great live album to boot.
“Needle Hits E”
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