post-punk gems, v. 68 — Gang of Four

"Entertainment!" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.
“Entertainment!” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

For nearly all of my purchases of vinyl before the age of 25 (and even a fair share of my CDs and tapes), I can recall the moment of acquisition, the ripping open of the cellophane, and the debut rotation on my turntable. On occasion, though, I have only faint traces of that history, and such is the case with my coming to own the absolutely brilliant Entertainment!, by Gang of Four (1979).

In my collection it sits astride GO4’s Another Day/Another Dollar (1982), which was in rotation on San Francisco’s KQAK circa 1983. I so often recorded my vinyl onto Maxell XL II 90s, and on the flipside of this tape (which I still have, although most of the high-end’s gone–or is that my hearing?) is Husker Du’s Candy Apple Grey (1986), so I figure I came to Entertainment! a bit late in the game. It certainly stuck with me, though, and probably was a key factor years later in my attending one of the more left-leaning graduate programs in sociology here in the states.

The Leeds combo first gigged in May 1977, and guitar-wise, Andy Gill modified Wilko Johnson’s angular rhythm-as-lead style. The overall sound–as lovingly noted by Simon Reynolds in Rip It Up and Start Again–started “stark and severe,” and remained defined as much by avoidances (cymbal crashes, guitar fuzz and distortion) and T. Monk-like spacing, as it did by its constitutive elements. Here’s two versions of one of my fave tracks: the John Peel version (with a bit more resonance on the vocals) and the LP version. Enjoy!

post-punk gems, v. 39 — The Swell Maps — DIY indeed!

Thanks for tuning in today to what I expect will be my last post for awhile. It’s been a year since Stealing All Transmissions came out in paperback, and I had initially decided to give the blog at least a year of my thoughts, ideas, and odd connections. In the meantime, my publisher’s gone kaput, and I have a couple writing projects that need more time than I’ve found in recent weeks.

Many thanks to those of you who’ve tuned in either regularly or episodically, and to offer a special shout-out to those of you who’ve weighed in and, in turn, helped sharpen my own take on the virtues and continued vitality of the era we called punk. Seeing the number of readers on the dashboard spike here and there really gave me a good jolt of pleasure week in and week out. One last bit of self-promotion, for now: on Tuesday, 10/29, I’ll be giving a talk kitty-corner from the Empire State Building at 630pm on technology, music, and fandom. It should be a hootenany. (Tix are free, but a reservation is required.)

I love the we’re-all-in-it-together aesthetic of the vocals, the foot-tapping cadence, and buzzsaw guitars up until the point where the tune offers no other possible direction but chaotic climax, dissolve, and cut. So good!

Blogging is certainly in the DIY tradition, but it took much more back in the day to create your own label, record a few tracks, and then get the discs into the shops. The Swell Maps, out of Birmingham, had been kicking around since 1972 and, circa 1976, the punk movement helped sharpen their focus. On their own Rather Records, they got 2,000 copies of “Read About Seymour” into UK shops, and forged ahead from there. John Peel, of course, hosted a recording party for them, and they churned out a couple real classics on this bit, which resonated years later in the heads of esteemed noise purveyors such as Thurston Moore, Peter Buck, and Stephen Malkmus (with whom I share a hometown connection–Stockton, CA, in the house!).

Again: thanks for tuning into radio-KSAT. If you find anything you like among the previous posts and you (terry) chime in, I’ll be sure to reply, of course. For those of you in the blogosphere. Keep up the fine work! I look forward to reading what you’re up to in the coming months!

(post-) punk gems, v. 21 — The Vibrators

The days are getting nice and long in our neck of the woods, and I hope you too are getting your share of Vitamin D.

I’m kickin’ out this jam from work, so I’ve got to be quick as a Ramones’ b-side.

The Vibrators were there at the get-go, playing the 100 Club, backing Chris Spedding, put down wax with John Peel over and over, and their debut LP, Pure Mania (Epic, June 1977), led the critics to gush about the resuscitation of rock energy, and eventually ended up on the Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music top 50 punk LPs of all time.

The following summer, The Vibrators released “Judy Says (Knock You In The Head)” / “Pure Mania” (Epic, 9 June) which rocketed up the UK charts to, well, #70.

The Vibrators kept it real, energetic, and not terribly reflexive, and that was fine for 1978–for most bands, but not The Clash. More on that question come Sunday. Cheers!