You know how you hear early demos of a band after you’ve heard the official versions, and they most often sound like hollow, shell versions of the song you’ve come to love? That’s why they’re demos – they’re generally forged as the band is learning to play, recorded as a way to get gigs or document existence, with little thought to making records. Often these early recordings are doled out after the fact for free to folks who’re putting out compilations, rather than recorded expressly for the compilations themselves. I’m not sure what the real story was with the LEAVING TRAINS and the “Keats Rides A Harley” compilation of LA bands in 1981, but their track “Virginia City” ended up being the most raw, frantic and alive thing they ever did.
The subsequent recording of the track on their first record blunted its sharp edges and just made it into an average keyboard punker. Likewise with a lot of the band’s material after this. Sure, I dug the Leaving Trains in college – we all did – but you couldn’t pay me to listen to “Kill Tunes” or “F*ck” all the way through now, let alone anything they did after that, when singer/leader/guitarist Falling James began prancing around in a dress and drinking/using drugs to near-oblivion. Actually I never actually saw him use mind-altering drugs, so never mind – just talked to him on at least two occasions as he licked his lips, scanned the room nervously, and spouted non-sequiters.
Anyway, this version of “Virginia City” was the LEAVING TRAINS’ first vinyl appearance, and it sounds even louder and hotter ripped straight off on my vinyl copy of “Keats” than it did on CD when the comp was digitized and released a couple of years ago. Hope you agree.
Play or Download THE LEAVING TRAINS – “Virginia City” (from 1981 compilation LP, “Keats Rides a Harley”)