I feel the love within me / And love can’t be removed
I’ve debated for a while whether to include this here or not as I’ve wanted to keep this list limited to the band’s official studio releases, and when this was originally released it was noted down as a demo. It’s however really hard to view it as one – the sound quality, composition and production are far from the band’s usual demos. So without much further ado, it now finds a place here as it’s more or less a fully-fledged Manics track.
That said, it is in fact a Shirley Bassey track. The legendary Welsh singer’s 2009 comeback album The Performance featured songs written by a number of contemporary artists, and “The Girl from Tiger Bay” was Manics’ contribution. While written for Bassey, and about Bassey, it doesn’t really move itself away from Manics’ safe zone; in fact, after Journal for Plague Lovers this could be seen as a precursor to Postcards from a Young Man as it carries much the same sound and feel. It’s a swooping orchestral rock track in exactly the vein you’d expect to come from James Dean Bradfield’s hands, to the point that the Shirley Bassey version never really feels like it’s actually hers. It’s probably its Manics-ness that lead to the release of Manics’ own version (free on the band’s website at the time); something that any of the other songs Manics have written for other artists have never gotten.
While not even thinking about reinventing the wheel and certainly not a important hidden rarity, “The Girl from Tiger Bay” has the feel of a timeless classic, even if not the strength of one – it’s clear that the idea was to write something befitting for a respected artist full of style and class. Wire’s lyrics, offering his interpretation of Bassey’s mindset at her old age, aren’t bad either even though it’s the first time he’s tried to write from the viewpoint of someone else. It’s overall rather enjoyable and would have slotted fairly effortlessly somewhere within Postcards or its b-sides.
The Bassey version’s main difference outside her vocals is the added orchestra behind the track, replacing the faintly audible synth strings on the Manics version. Otherwise they’re more or less identical.