There is a compelling case to be put for the inclusion here of the first of those singles - the rampant ‘English Electric Lightning’. With it’s lines about Vulcan bombers, Cornish harbours and William Blake in Cash Convertors it was a startling piece of commentary on contemporary England that managed to strike a perfect balance between the rotten and the righteous; the grime and the glory. It’s flipside, the seven and a half minute ‘The Coldest Winter For A Hundred Years’ was every bit as memorable for different reasons. A tale of life in the Liverpool flat Simpson shared with then Bunnymen drummer Pete de Freitas, it was a track that perfectly captured the poignant, bittersweet blend of hope, love and doomed romantic despair inherent in the lives of young artists struggling to scrape a living. The specifics of the references meant it was impossible for the likes of me to detach it from the memories of the darkness of Thatchers’ England, but really it remains a timeless document - a beautifully observed piece that reverberates with spirit and soul. Which, when you think about it, is exactly what The Wild Swans have always been about.
Despite that, however, I am opting here instead for the second of those singles - the two and a half minute Pop rush of ‘Liquid Mercury’; a song that sounds exactly like its title suggests it ought. Guitars that shimmer in silvery fountains and atop it all, Paul Simpson. The voice of an angel. The soul of an England imagined in books and films and songs; that mythic England of Ray Davies, Evelyn Waugh and Nick Talbot. An England that is part fact, part fiction. An England that is a psychedelic daydream.
On the flip-side of the 7” (I suppose the very notion of ‘sides’ is anathema to the digital generation?) is another spoken word piece. In ‘The Wickedest Man In The World’ Simpson tells of how every year “gets just a little tougher to get through; the regime just a little tighter, and the stars a little more distant.”
I know the feeling.The Wild Swans - 'Liquid Mercury'