Loveless is the second studio album by alternative rock band My Bloody Valentine. Released on 4 November 1991, Loveless was recorded over a two-year period between 1989 and 1991 in nineteen recording studios. Lead vocalist and guitarist Kevin Shields dominated the recording process; he sought to achieve a particular sound for the record, making use of various techniques such as guitars strummed with a tremolo bar, sampled drum loops, and obscured vocals. A large number of engineers were hired and fired during the process, although the band finally gave credit on the album sleeve to anyone who was present during the recordings, "even if all they did was make tea", according to Shields. The recording of Loveless is rumored to have cost £250,000, a figure that came close to bankrupting the band's record label Creation Records.
My Bloody Valentine's relationship with Creation Records deteriorated during the album's recording, and the band was removed from the label due to the difficulty and expense of working with Shields. While the album was not a great commercial success, Loveless was well received by critics. Widely regarded as a landmark of the alternative rock genre, the album has been cited by several artists as an influence, and by critics as one of the best albums of the 1990s.
Recording and production
My Bloody Valentine were initially scheduled to record at Blackwing Recording Studios in Southwark, London for the month of February 1989. The band attempted to use that studio time to conceptualise a new, more studio-based sound for their second album. Shields said that Creation thought the album could be recorded "in five days"; he later recalled, "But when it became clear that wasn't going to happen, they [Creation] freaked." After several unproductive months, the band relocated in September to the basement studio The Elephant and Wapping, where they spent eight fruitless weeks. In-house engineer Nick Robbins said Shields made it clear from the outset that he (Robbins) "was just there to press the buttons." Robbins was soon replaced by Harold Burgon, and according to Shields, Burgon's main contribution was to show the group how to use the in-studio computer. Burgon and Shields spent three weeks at the Woodcray studio in Berkshire working on the Glider EP, which Shields and Creation owner Alan McGee agreed would be released in advance of the album. Alan Moulder was hired to mix the Glider song "Soon" at Trident 2 studio in Victoria (the song would reappear as the closing track on Loveless). Shields said of Moulder, "As soon as we worked with him we realized we'd love to some more!" When the group returned to work on the album, Moulder was the only engineer Shields trusted to perform tasks such as micing the amplifiers; all the other credited engineers were told "We're so on top of this you don't even have to come to work." Shields has since stated that "these engineers—with the exception of Alan Moulder and later Anjali Dutt—were all just the people who came with the studio...everything we wanted to do was wrong, according to them."
During the spring of 1990, Anjali Dutt was hired to replace Moulder, who had left to work with the bands Shakespears Sister and Ride. Dutt assisted in the recording of vocals and several guitar tracks. During this period, the band recorded in various studios, often spending just a single day at a studio before deciding that it was unsuitable. In May 1990, My Bloody Valentine settled on Protocol in Holloway as their primary location, and work began in earnest on the album, as well as a second EP, Tremolo. Like Glider, Tremolo contained a song—"To Here Knows When"—that later appeared on Loveless. The band stopped recording during the summer of 1990 in order to tour in support of the release of Glider. When Moulder returned to the project in August, he was surprised by how little work had been completed. By that point Creation Records was concerned at how much the album was costing. Moulder left again in March 1991 to work for The Jesus and Mary Chain.
The vocal tracks were taped in Britannia Row and Protocol studios between May and June 1991. This was the first time vocalist Bilinda Butcher was involved in the recording. Shields and Butcher hung curtains on the window between the studio control room and the vocal booth, and only communicated with the engineers when they would acknowledge a good take by opening the curtain and waving. According to engineer Guy Fixsen, "We weren't allowed to listen while either of them were doing a vocal. You'd have to watch the meters on the tape machine to see if anyone was singing. If it stopped, you knew you had to stop the tape and take it back to the top." On most days, the couple arrived without having written the lyrics for the song they were to record. Dutt recalled: "Kevin would sing a track, and then Bilinda would get the tape and write down words she thought he might have sung".
In July 1991, Creation agreed to relocate the production to Eastcoate studio, following unexplained complaints from Shields. However, the cash-poor Creation Records was unable to pay the bill for their time at Britannia Row, and the studio refused to return the band's equipment. Dutt recalled, "I don't know what excuse Kevin gave them for leaving. He had to raise the money himself to get the gear out." Shields' unexpected and random behaviour, the constant delays, and studio changes were having a material effect both on Creation's finances and the health of their staff. Dutt later admitted being desperate to leave the project, while Creation's second-in-command Dick Green had a nervous breakdown around this time. Green later recalled, "It was two years into the album, and I phoned Shields up in tears. I was going 'You have to deliver me this record'." During this time, both Shields and Butcher became affected with tinnitus, and had to delay recording for a further number of weeks while they recovered. Concerned friends and band members suggested this was a result of the unusually loud volumes the group played at their shows. Shields dismissed these concerns as "Ill-informed hysteria". Although Alan McGee was still upbeat and positive about his investment, the 29-year-old Green, who by this time was opening the label's morning post "shaking with fear", became a concern to his co-workers. Publicist Laurence Verfaillie, aware of the label's inability to cover further studio bills, recalled Green's hair turning grey overnight. "He would have not gone grey if it was not for that album", Verfaillie said.
With the vocal tracks completed, a final mix of the album was undertaken with engineer Dick Meany at the Church in Crouch End during the autumn of 1991; it was the nineteenth studio in which Loveless had been worked on. The album was edited on an aged machine that had previously been used to cut together dialog for movies in the 1970s. Its computer threw the entire album out of phase. Shields was able to put it back together from memory, yet when it came to mastering the album, to Creation's dismay, he needed 13 days, rather than the usual one day.
As the previously prolific band were unusually quiet, the UK music press began to speculate. Melody Maker calculated that the total recording cost had come close to £250,000; however, McGee, Green, and Shields dispute this. Shields argued that that estimated cost (and Creation's near-bankruptcy) was a myth exaggerated by McGee because the Creation owner "thought it would be cool." According to Shields, "The amount we spent nobody knows because we never counted. But we worked it out ourselves just by working out how much the studios cost and how much all the engineers cost. 160 thousand pounds was the most we could come to as the actual money that was spent." In Green's opinion, the Melody Maker's estimate erred on the low side, by £20,000. He said, "Once you'd even got it recorded and mixed, the very act of compiling, EQ-ing, etcetera took weeks on its own." In a December 1991 interview, Shields said that most of the money claimed to have been spent on the album was simply "money to live on" over three years, with the album itself only costing "a few thousand". He also claimed that the album represented only four months work over two years. Shields later said that most of the money spent was the band's own money, and that "Creation probably spent fifteen to twenty thousand pounds of their own money on it, and that's it. They never showed us any accounts, and then they got bought out by Sony."
- Only Shallow (Remastered Version)
- Only Shallow
- Loomer (Remastered Version)
- Touched (Remastered Version)
- To Here Knows When (Remastered Version)
- To Here Knows When
- When You Sleep
- When You Sleep (Remastered Version)
- I Only Said (Remastered Version)
- I Only Said
- Come In Alone (Remastered Version)
- Come In Alone
- Sometimes (Remastered Version)
- Blown A Wish (Remastered Version)
- Blown A Wish
- What You Want
- What You Want (Remastered Version)
- Soon (Remastered Version)
- Only Shallow (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- Loomer (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- Touched (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- To Here Knows When (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- When You Sleep (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- I Only Said (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- Come In Alone (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- Sometimes (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- Blown A Wish (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- What You Want (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)
- Soon (Remastered (DAT 2006) Version)