Monday, May 9, 2016

No Boys

A long time ago - the summer of 2005, it was - I bought an issue of Uncut magazine that came with this free CD:

Michael Stipe Presents... was a compilation album put together by R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe to accompany a feature about the band that Uncut were running that month (guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills each curated their own comps, too; you had to buy the mag three times to collect 'em all).

Mr Stipe's hand-picked playlist introduced to me to several great bands (including Tilly and the Wall, who I wrote about only the other week). But it also brought me a bit of frustration: one of my favourite tracks on Michael Stipe Presents... is a song called No Boys by a lady called Leona Naess. It's a sweet song that goes something like this:

"No boys in my room
Just the sweet wooden smell of my guitar's perfume
And in my head, a melody
Baby, you'd be proud of me"

The version of No Boys that appeared on MSP... was a live recording, on which Naess's wonderful voice was accompanied by beautiful strings and some lovely piano work. It's very moving stuff, not least because it always sounded to me like a bereaved woman's message to her dead lover.

At this point, I'd normally embed the song in question so that you could hear it for yourself. Unfortunately, I can't find No Boys anywhere on the internet - it's certainly not on YouTube or Bandcamp, and it even seems to have been removed from Grooveshark, where I'm certain I've seen it previously. In fact, it seems like No Boys doesn't exist anywhere outside of that Uncut CD; as far as I can tell, the song doesn't appear on any of Naess's albums, and there's precious little information to be found in the compilation's inlay:

11. LEONA NAESS - No Boys [live] 
(Naess) Copyright Control
Recorded live at the Living Room, NYC on
December 10, 2003

You know the worst part? After hearing Tilly and Bright Eyes on Michael Stipe Presents..., I immediately set about devouring those bands' back catalogues, and I've been ardent fans of both ever since. Perhaps if No Boys had actually featured on a proper album, I would have bought that album as well, and maybe Leona Naess would be as high on my charts as Tilly and the Wall are. But because I didn't have that 'in' - buying the album with the song I already know - it never happened, and until today, No Boys remained the only Leona Naess song with which I was familiar.

However, I have just listened to a couple of her other tracks, and I'm pleased to report that they're very good too. So, in lieu of No Boys itself, I invite you to enjoy the beautiful Ballerina (from Leona Naess, released in 2003)...

...and the more upbeat Charm Attack (from Comatised, 2000):

Perhaps this will be the start of my long-overdue journey into Leona Naess's actual discography; in the meantime, if you have any information about No Boys (Why was it never included on a studio album? How did Michael Stipe know about it?) then do get in touch. Especially if you're Michael Stipe or Leona Naess.

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