THROWBACK THURSDAY: Leftfield – Original [1995]

This past week marked the 25th anniversary of the release of Leftism, the seminal debut album by dance act Leftfield, and for this week’s Throwback Thursday, 909originals examines the single that earned the duo their first Top of the Pops appearance.

Original, which closed Side C on Leftism‘s original vinyl release, was released on 13 March 1995 – the first single to be unveiled following the album’s launch (Open Up and Song of Life had been originally put out in 1993, and Release The Pressure in 1992) – and saw Paul Daley and Neil Barnes team up with Curve songstress Toni Halliday.

Commenting on the track’s composition some years back, Sunderland-born Halliday described how the partnership came together.

“They gave me a DAT tape of 12 minutes of music which seemed to change every 12 bars. I put it on my 24-track and added some experimental vocals, with different lyrics and chorus ideas. There was one bit where I wrote
the start and end of a scene in an imaginary movie, and they loved that. So they rewrote the track to fit around it.”

Halliday’s lyrics criss-crossed between images of the future and the past, creating a subtle sense of foreboding atop the solid, bass-heavy groove.

“Sonically we’re in control
We’re the diamond in your soul
Images come thick and fast
From the future, from the past…”

As Leftfield’s Barnes put it, “The lyrics on that track are quite scary and twisted, but all of Toni’s lyrics are like that. It’s that bit about her mother I find freaky.”

Or, in Halliday’s own words, “One person said he thought ‘Original’ was about the death of dance music. I can’t say what it is about, but it’s definitely personal. It’s very dark and disturbing. Whatever people think of my lyrics, I always say it’s probably more interesting than my own explanation.”

Original entered the UK charts at #18 on 19 March, which would be the track’s pop highpoint – the following week, it fell to #35 – with Barnes later recalling that he couldn’t take doing Top of the Pops seriously.

“Everyone was on it that night, Duran Duran, East 17, Wet Wet Wet, Simple Minds, but the vibe on the set wasn’t friendly,” he explained. “Duran Duran were just prats. The only person who talked to us was Jim Kerr from Simple Minds.”

Also worth checking out is Filter Fish on the B-side, a solid 4/4 pounder that wouldn’t have been out of place on the group’s follow up album, Rhythm and Stealth, released in 1999.

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