post-punk gems, v. 76 — New Order

Hey folks! It’s a slow summer, prose-wise, for me, but I am keeping track of our musical history, and it’s been 35 years since New Order — appearing under the name “No Name,” since they had no name — made their live debut, opening for A Certain Ratio in Manchester, just two months plus after Ian Curtis’ demise. In front of 100 folks or so, prior to deciding upon a vocalist, they played instrumental tunes, novel, but somehow familiar, according to the write-up in New Music News:

“… we were all agreed that the intensity and novelty of the performance conspired to produce an overall effect rarely equaled. If the band can maintain this level then their future is secured, whatever their name …”

Their brilliant first single, “Ceremony,” would come out the following year and, in the years that followed, I spent many hours parsing the images of their record sleeves while the vinyl spun ’round the turntable. More so than any other band I knew at age 14, their music sprung from the alternate track of pop–not from Elvis Costello back to The Beatles, but from The Velvet Underground through Kraftwerk.

Enjoy!

post-punk gems, v. 37 — Dalek I Love You

Welcome back to Radio K-SAT, where on Wednesdays I track down lost gems from the punk and post-punk era. Many of these underheralded tunes come from bands whose members you know from their associations with other bands — you might recognize the lead singer of Graduate, who later formed a band called Tears for Fears, which you may be familiar with (smile).

Dalek, I Love You was the brainchild of young gents out of Thingwall, and included (eventually) Alan Gill (of Big in Japan & Teardrop Explodes fame) and Andy McCluskey (who’s still kicking around with a unit called Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark). The moniker represented an amalgam of Dalek, the Doctor Who cyborgs, and Darling, I Love You. It’s a unit that takes the notion of Bernard Sumner (of Joy Division and New Order fame), upon seeing the Sex Pistols for the first time, to its next extension: “I saw the Sex Pistols. They were terrible. I thought they were great. I wanted to get up and be terrible too.” It’s a raucous, synthetic aesthetic, and on “You Really Got Me” (a Kinks’ tune, yes), from May 1980, they drain it dry of the Van-Halen-infused virility from just a couple years before.

I would argue it even heralds the lounge-act qualities that David Lee Roth would embrace following his departure from Van Halen–which, as readers of *Stealing All Transmissions* know, was a key band in my youth, since they seemed to be the mirror image of The Clash, and represented all that was wrong with popular music. So, when Aztec Camera’s cover of “Jump” hit the radio in the US, it was the object of much DJ ridicule on the classic rock stations, but I savored every bar of it, even though Roddy Frame’s hair was only slightly less ridiculous than DL Roth’s mane at that point.

I dig the tuning of the lead guitar on this track, along with the sensitive piano comping during the chorus. Fun stuff!

I appreciate your checking in today, and hope to see you again on Sunday. Enjoy the week!

#postpunk gems, v. 29 — Huang Chung — yes that Wang Chung

So it’s a stiff coffee, and good morning to you, as I gather a bit o’ momentum to get the day started.

In the late spring of 1980, I was living in the San Joaquin Valley, playing 2nd-string right field for my little league team, and listening to Cheap Trick and, well, not much more. With summer commencing, I had no idea who Joy Division or Ian Curtis was and, like most Americans, I wouldn’t learn about Huang Chung before 1984 and the incredibly, well, suggestive “Dance Hall Days.” (Not even Prince was sly enough to get such a narrative on the pop charts.)

And that was part of the beauty of pop back in the day. It wasn’t easy to gather the backstory on a whole host of bands, and they would emerge on MtV for 15 minutes (or more), and then seemingly fade away. Little did I know the Huang Chung — which translates as “yellow bell” in Mandarin — had other singles in their catalog.

The other rumor going ’round was that “Wang” was the sound of the downward strum of the guitar, and “chung” was the upward strum — with no fingers on the frets, of course. With “Isn’t It About Time We Were on TV?,” Huang Chung blends elements of The Police and Frank Zappa, and the band behind Jack Hues keeps it tight. Back in the day, Sounds imagines the track to be a “jazzy version of XTC.”

That third week of June was a big one for post-punk: “Love Will Tear Us Apart” starts climbing the charts at that point, and The Clash’s “Train in Vain,” backed with “Bank Robber” (nice double-A side!), makes its way into continental record shops. Stateside, Bad Brains releases their first single, “Pay to Cum” b/w “Stay Close to Me.” Good times, good times.