Like many of Manchester's foremost punk-catalysed musicians, lifelong friends Alan Hempsall (vocals) and Robert Davenport (guitar) originally formed Crispy Ambulance after witnessing the Sex Pistol's Manchester debut Lesser Free Trade Hall performance in 1976. Cryptically (and brilliantly) Christened by close friend Graham Massey (Biting Tongues / 808 State), the duo played their first gig on 1st January 1978 at a youth club in Stockport, with Massey stepping up to add electric violin on a couple of songs. Keith Derbyshire (bass) and Gary Madeley (drums) were recruited shortly thereafter - thereby establishing a line-up that would remain steadfastly in place for the duration of the band's existence, even after their confusing change of monicker (to Ram Ram Kino, taken from a German sex cinema) and defection to Psychic TV's Temple label (following a swan-song Crispy Ambulance performance at Nottingham's long-forgotten Ad Lib club in October '82). The same four core members reformed 17 years later at Manchester's Band On The Wall and continue to tour and release the occasional album, often-as-not with Massey at the controls.
"The motivation for formation for me was a combination if seeing the Sex Pistols at their first Manchester gig in July 1976 in front of an audience of about 40, made up mainly of Bowie clones and hippies, and seeing Magazine's first gig. The latter had a more immediate effect, with me forming Crispy Ambulance a mere six weeks after seeing Magazine. None of our early tunes passed the test of time, mainly because it took about 18 months to find an identity. People asked about (the name) and how it originated every time we did an interview. At the time every other band was called "The..." - fill in the blank space - whereas our name gave nothing away with regard to image, musical style, etc, but at the same time captured the imagination.
Joy Division stumbled upon us in July 1978 at a gig with played in Manchester and they liked our approach, even if the material was a little weak - to say the least. They dragged Rob Gretton, their new manager, down to see us some months later and, as a result, we did a gig with them at The Factory around the time that Unknown Pleasures was released. Tony (Wilson) never liked us, but suffered us because Rob liked what we did. Since he had become an equal shareholder (in Factory Records, following Ian Curtis's death) Tony had no choice but to bite his lip. Tony craftily got us off his back by depositing us on Factory Benelux, which we didn't object to because Tony was only making things difficult for us on Factory, whereas Michel Duval, boss of Factory's Belgian counterpart, genuinely liked us and had an enthusiasm for the records almost as strong as our own." (Excerpts from an interview with Alan Hempsall by James Nice of Les Temps Modernes).
Crispy Ambulance were mocked from the out-set as artless provincial Joy Division plagiarists, and took a lot of flack for their unfashionable beards and (gasp) flares, though musically they had as much in common with the dystopian prog of Obscured By Clouds or Space Ritual than Unknown Pleasures. Their only Factory-era long-player, 1982's unfairly neglected The Plateau Phase, is one of the label's finest "lost" releases: mystical, elemental and meditative, but never as relentlessly despairing or apocalyptic as Joy Division. Regrettably, much like The Wake's Harmony and Minny Pop's Sparks In A Dark Room, it's been written out of most histories of the label in favour of its obstreperous (and remunerative) Madchester era. Their storming January '81 appearance at the ICA's annual Rock Week (supporting The Passage and in the company of Cabaret Voltaire, This Heat, The Blue Orchids, the Soft Boys, The Cravats, Lemon Kittens, Altered Images, and most of the Postcard bands) was scathingly dismissed in the following week's NME as "so uninspiring and uninspired that they do not deserve to waste any more of this space". No doubt they were too busy grooming Kid Creole & The Coconuts for success instead?
Set-list: Egypt / Come On / Drug User, Drug Pusher / New Violence / Batman - Dracula / Hell's Bells / Deaf / The Presence / From the Cradle to the Grave / October 1st.
(Sound quality = a cautious B, i.e. crude in places, but surprisingly listenable considering the recordist's Walkman was concealed amongst the ensconcing folds of a dead man's overcoat.)
● Nightfall ends the ceasefire
Last time I checked, Zoology was commanding in excess of £100 on Amazon (and only marginally less on Discogs). Though several of its most interesting tracks have since been officially licensed for release on Mercury's various "historical" (and, frankly, better quality) collections - many of the "demos" included here are actually poorly recorded "off-air" captures of BBC session songs for instance - Zoology still harbours a slender depository of anachronistic cassette-sourced curiosities that you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. So, as it's been summarily deleted from the Head Heritage catalogue, and is far superior to Document's earlier/similar Piano collection, I suggest you dig in (before shelling out for those bonus-packed "deluxe" editions of Kilimanjaro and Wilder obviously).
Originally assembled by The Teardrop Explodes' pissed-off ex-obergruppenführer in response to his former managers' promiscuous re-repackaging of the band's antecedent back catalogue, Zoology contains a handful of esoteric nuggets which may still blow the mind of any unsuspecting Cope afficianado: the ridiculously early rehearsal room recording of "(Read It In) Books" by the Arch Drude's pre-TX outfit A Shallow Madness featuring the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch on vocals; Cope's funereal as-nature-intended pre-ensemble demo of "You Disappear From View"; and the psalmic rendition of John Cale's "I'm Not The Loving Kind" (from a Wilder-era Richard Skinner session) are my personal favourites.
Meanwhile, anybody in search of further primitive Drude-ness would do well to step this way.
● Nobody knows this is everywhere
Though I was already a regular listener to Peel's show by the time UT recorded their first session for him, I've no recollection of him broadcasting it & was probably in the pub arguing about Echo & The Bunnymen when I should've been at home listening to it. That said, I expect I may have still considered their aloof abstractions slightly too challenging at that point - & too great a stylistic leap from my (then) beloved New Order, Sisters Of Mercy, & Three Johns. Even The Fall would've sounded unusually orthodox by comparison I thnk? It would be another year or so, following my discovery of Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising LP & its radical re-wiring of the electric guitar, before UT & I finally crossed paths.
It appears that a lot of other ardent tapers were similarly nonchalant as I've never managed to find a complete recording of UT's set - I've pieced this one together from 3 different sources, so you can expect some minor sonic turbulence, but the important thing is that it's complete.
Amusingly, the session was produced by Radio 2's Mark Radcliffe, who you're more likely to hear pontificating about archaic Manchester punk or extolling the (questionable) virtues of Elbow from Salford's garish MediaCity - an imperious glass citadel for corporate luvvies riding the BBC's licence fee gravy train - nowadays.
Track-list: Confidential / Absent Farmer / Tell It (Atomic Energy Pattern) / Phoenix.
"Music itself is, of course, very mystic. It has always been used in mystic rites. If you look at house & techno music, it's a kind of occult - from a certain perspective. People try to get entranced or take certain substances to get into a higher dimension. Musical notes & frequencies work on your brain on a certain way. It's occult because people don't really know what's going on, but they're compelled by it. In the Western world - around the 9th century I believe - they started using polyphonic music in Christian churches. That music came from the East, & was used to influence you to the point of being in a trance-like state.
Medieval music was also very simple in rhythm. It was just one drum playing the same pattern all the time, so it's not that difficult to make a transition to a more modern-sounding thing. They're very similar. Techno music is a little bit faster, & it's made with electronic instruments, but in the end it's pretty much the same.
I like it when music is very... unclear. It's nice when you walk down the street & it's foggy. Your imagination works differently because you cannot see things clearly, only shadows & outlines. If you use a lot of misty, foggy effects - like old delays, reverbs, & filters - the music becomes more shadowy. You can still hear the melodies but they're a little more buried. I would hope it makes it more exciting to listen to. The listener can disover secret melodies, & their imagination can be tested. For me, it doesnt really matter what you use to make music because inside the hardware there's a chip too. The whole hardware vs. software, digital vs. analogue thing, it's completely not important for me. I think purism is a very bad thing, because then you confine yourself too much. Purism can be a dead end." - excerpts from an interview with Danny Wolfers by Lauren Martin, April 2014.
I've cherry-picked 9Tz Tapes & Unreleased's track-list from the extensive (& constantly expanding) selection of gratis add-ons, off-cuts, rejects & remnants that Legowelt's Danny Wolfers regularly deposits at his official online outpost - no doubt there will be stacks more up-for-grabs by the time you read this. Though I'm happy to bypass most contemporary house & techno these days (with a handful of notable exceptions), Wolfers' productions - released under a baffling multitude of preposterous nom de plumes - have maintained a stubborn foothold on the playlist at Chéz Rooksby. Channelling, to all intents & purposes, Blake Baxter & Vangelis on a Maplins budget, his murky tech-funk squints inscrutably through an amorphous pea-souper of undulating cassette hiss, cabalistic attic static, & forensic hardware thrum. It probably goes without saying that Wolfers' singularly warped productions have little in common with the banal cut-&-paste faux-house music that today's somnolent nappy-ravers wave their flaccid glow-sticks at as, skint & bewildered, they listlessly lurch 'round Europe's mangy flyer-littered dance-floors, clutching their £5 cans of Red Stripe & uploading photographs of their tacky trainers to Instagrim, before (inevitably) dropping their vomit-flecked iPhones down an overflowing crapper. Turn the flamethrower on 'em.
n.b. Cassette recorder depiction by Mees Zikijer.
● Acid in my fridge