Peace of the Past

One of our little obsessions around here involves the differences between album versions and single versions of hit songs. Records such as “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets to Paradise,” and the Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride” differ drastically from one format to the other. The “Joy” 45 is a different mix and a different edit of the master, but “Two Tickets” and “Free Ride” go further than that. I suspect that the vocal on “Two Tickets” and the guitar solo on the “Free Ride” 45 are different performances from those heard on the album versions.

There are a couple of other interesting examples. On Foreigner’s “Long Long Way From Home,” the single begins with a repeated guitar riff, but the album version begins with a sort of fanfare before the riff starts. (You can hear it on this live version from 1979.) The single is (as singles often are) a hotter mix than the album version. In addition, the vocal harmonies are different on the 45, and one lyric line is changed. Just before the sax solo, on the album version, Lou Gramm sings, “I’m coming home.” On the single, he sings “I’m a long way from home.” Another classic-rock staple, Boston’s “Peace of Mind,” was also changed for 45 release. The single is edited to 3 1/2 minutes from five, and in a couple of spots, the vocals are subtly altered—different harmonies, different inflections. To my ears, both “Long Long Way From Home” and “Peace of Mind” are improved by the changes.

Often these single versions—chopped and channeled and remixed as they are—become lost artifacts. Radio stations are usually not very precise about finding them to play, and record labels release them haphazardly, if at all. However, the single version of “Long Long Way From Home” is an exception. It seems to be proliferating at the expense of the album version—if you buy a Foreigner compilation these days, the 45 is what you’ll get. On the other hand, until I found it in the wild recently, I hadn’t heard the “Peace of Mind” edit since the 1970s. Nobody plays it anymore, and it’s never been released as part of any Boston reissue or compilation that I know of.

Here’s another oddity about the “Peace of Mind” single. When it was released late in 1977, the B-side was “Foreplay,” which we’re used to hearing now with the song that follows it on Boston’s debut album, “Long Time.” Looking back, “Foreplay” is a particularly weird choice for a B-side, given the availability of other, stronger songs on the album. “Smokin'” had been the B-side of “More Than a Feeling,” and “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” was the B-side of “Long Time.” So why not “Hitch a Ride”? Or “Rock and Roll Band”? It’s doubtful to me that either song was being held back as a future A-side candidate; in 1977 it was rare to go more than three singles deep on an album. But I suppose the thought process that ended with “Foreplay” as the B-side of “Peace of Mind” is lost to history now.

“Peace of Mind” (single version)/Boston (buy Boston here)