Of course it has been wonderful to hear old favourites in a newly digitised form; all clean and shiny new. Some records, it must be said, do not always benefit from this process, but it was a delight to hear these songs afresh, with a newly appreciated sense of space amongst the sonic elements. Best of all though was the unearthing of previously unreleased gems. With some salvage operations the ‘bonus’ tracks are throwaway: unreleased at the time because they were merely sketches or, frankly, rubbish. With a group like The Claim, whose recorded output was necessarily restricted, that is seldom the case. ‘Ernestine’ is a classic example: an established favourite of fans at the time, it would no doubt have cropped up on a follow-up to the legendary Boomy Tella set, if times and circumstances had been different. Certainly it is a particularly fine sparkler in a bag full of diamonds.
Now one of the things that struck me whilst listening again to Ernestine after all these years since my sole cassette copy gave up the ghost was how it appears to nod to several sources. Lyrically it seems to me that The Smiths are all over the song, with the lines about plagiarism and not owing anything... And whilst it is easy in hindsight to cast The Smiths as despoilers of post-punk possibilities with their insistence on trad-rock sound and style, it is also easy to forget just how influential and important they were from a cultural point of view; opening eyes to authors, films, literature and the like.
More vitally for me, however, are the sonic nods to Hurrah! and by association back towards Pentangle, to whom the gorgeous guitar in the closing phase of the song most notably suggest.
If you have yet to discover the pleasures of The Claim, may I humbly suggest that you pick up a copy of Black Path forthwith. And for all of you who are already dedicated followers of the cause; ‘Chapeau! Chapeau!’The Claim - 'Ernestine'