An early version of Alien Lanes. Tapes of Scalping the Guru were sent around to record labels before GBV signed to Matador.
Scalping The Guru
1. Cigarette Tricks
2. My Son Cool
3. Always Crush Me
4. Watch Me Jumpstart
5. They’re Not Witches
6. As We Go Up, We Go Down
8. My Valuable Hunting Knife
9. Big Chief Chinese Restaurant
10. Closer You Are
11. Lariat Man
13. A Salty Salute
14. Pimple Zoo
15. Motor Away
18. Striped White Jets
19. My Buddy Bill (A Good Flying Bird)
20. Blimps Go 90
21. Gold Hick
22. King And Caroline
23. Evil Speakers
24. Motor Away (alternate version)
It’s hard for me to listen to Scalping the Guru, because the flow of Alien Lanes is such an integral part of that album. Alien Lanes is perfect, so this just feels like something wrong here, especially with iconic opener “A Salty Salute” right in the middle (I suppose it could be the start of side 2).
The most interesting thing about this sequence is the couple of songs that didn’t make the cut. One is a Sprout tune called “Lariat Man.” It’s a gorgeous song, but is by far the slowest and most ballad-like song on this set. It’s less than 3 minutes long, but seems much longer. On such a quick-paced album as Alien Lanes, it would seem out of place, and I wonder if that’s why it was cut. Sprout eventually released a single with a re-recording of the track.
The other track exclusive to Scalping the Guru is an alternate version of “Motor Away,” which appears in addition to the normal album version. It’s a stripped-down arrangement (although not “acoustic,” as it is sometimes labeled) with chiming guitars, what sounds like an organ, and no drums. The vocal sounds bit less refined, as if this version were an earlier take than the more familiar rock version. It’s very interesting to hear the song in this way, but I’m glad this “reprise” didn’t make the album.
Here are the Alien Lanes songs not present on Scalping the Guru:
(I Wanna Be A) Dumbcharger
Game Of Pricks
The Ugly Vision
Those first three, including the immortal “Game of Pricks,” appear right in a row on the final tracklisting. It’s like Pollard didn’t just add three songs, he added a block of songs (if you compare Guru to Alien Lanes you’ll see a few such mini-sequences that were not changed between the two). “Chicken Blows” (originally from Back to Saturn X) is dug up, and Sprout’s “Little Whirl” makes a fine replacement for “Lariat Man.”
Alien Lanes is a masterpiece not only of inspired songwriting, but also of sequencing. Scalping the Guru has the songs, for the most part, but is a few tweaks away from attaining perfection.
But don’t take my word for it:
Seek out “Lariat Man” and “Motor Away (alt.) on some rarity bootlegs floating around.