Below the words, the début single from popular beat combo Spiritualized, a cover of The Troggs’ 1966 hit ‘Anyway That You Want Me’. It’s a fascinating track for a variety of reasons. I’d struggle to argue that it’s the most substantial of compositions, the most immediately engaging of compositions, or the most obvious band to cover (unless you’re motivated by the extrapolation of anodyne, the type of record which when aligned with a shite British rom-com, subsequently spends sixty-five consecutive weeks squatting atop the hit parade with all the allure of a flesh-eating virus. Thank you, Marti Pellow).
I’m probably heading off on a tangent with The Troggs references; where-as the mawkish ‘Love Is All Around’ was written by Reg Presley, ‘Anyway That You Want Me’ was penned by American songwriter Chip Taylor – the two are very different beasts, their own sets of context. And it’s context that fuels the fascination alluded to earlier, the backdrop the rancorous disintegration of Spacemen 3. I’ll set today’s homework now; read Erik Morse’s Spacemen 3 & The Birth Of Spiritualized, which catalogues the break-up in leery detail, protagonists interviewed (J Spaceman excepted) to stretch and skew the narrative – just your everyday tale of unravelling relationships, dissonant allegiance, management subterfuge, a fondness for pharmaceuticals… not to mention Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember’s planet-sized ego. ‘Anyway That You Want Me’ was in effect smuggled out into the wider world, a track Kember claims to have introduced into the Spacemen 3 repertoire, and others used to reinforce the distance between former comrades.
Spacemen 3 had pretty much ceased to operate as a cohesive unit by the time of final album Recurring. Released after ‘Anyway That You Want Me’ but recorded prior to the first appearance of Spiritualized, this is a long-player that’s effectively two solo albums welded together by the politics of major label interest (BMG signed Spacemen 3… and inherited Spiritualized instead). The initial release isn’t schizophrenic as much as two distinct units, and by featuring a first half of songs written and performed by Kember with Jason Pierce nowhere near the studio, Kember’s exclusion from the second stanza suggests a Spiritualized record in all but name.
Hence it’s this continuation in which ‘Anyway That You Want Me’ should be considered, Sonic Boom inadvertently abetting those forces ready to manipulate him out of the group, Spacemen 3 seguing into Spiritualized (only later did Pierce purge the rhythm section – thankfully unaccompanied by show trials or an axe in Kember’s Trotsky-homage head). And should you draw a straight line between Recurring’s later movements and the blissful dénouement of the first Spiritualized album (Lazer Guided Melodies – the title might be familiar), the mesmerizing quality that underpins the J Spaceman aesthetic suggests that ‘Anyway That You Want Me’ is more curiosity than an integral plinth of the Spiritualized back cat.
Which isn’t criticism – the 12” is a prized component of the vinyl pile; I know exactly where it is should fire-breathing space lizards suddenly materialize in the LGM compound, and me and few prized possessions need to make a speedy exit. It’s a song rich in Spaceman motifs, an application of measured yet highly addictive drone references that engage the listener like a pincer movement of the soul.
But it is a very different type of Spiritualized song, the comforting air of fragility that’s always a component of Pierce’s vocal hemmed in by the confines of a (fairly) faithful rendition, the generous use of fiddle reminiscent of The Wonder Stuff circa Never Loved Elvis. It hints at a particular direction the band’s dynamic could have taken, a sound having more in common with the Waterboys than MC5… which brings us back to context in which this record sits; that despite being born through necessity, owing as much to backstage politik as artistic endeavour, J Spaceman still manages to conjure something riveting.
Spiritualized / Anyway That You Want Me