One of the first & best British new wave bands, XTC scraped into the U.K. charts a handful of times during their long & turbulent "career in rock" but never quite captured the greater listening public's imagination or gained the support of the (then) all-important serious music press, earning themselves the undeserved (& peculiarly English) epithet of "irreverent underachievers". Hailing from nethermost Swindon - "a gritty little concrete industrial blob" as their agreeably eccentric frontman Andy Partridge once painted it - this unabashedly provincial ensemble formed in the early 1970s & stumbled along under a succession of ill-considered handles (Zip Code & The Helium Kidz, Star Park, Skyscraper, The Snakes), before settling on "XTC", around the same time that they discovered punk & began mailing demos to John Peel. Stylistically scattershot - much to their record company's chagrin &, ultimately, to their own fiscal detriment - their first two Virgin albums came & went in a squabbling maelstrom of Farfisa-infested, adrenalin-chraged post-punk power-pop. Merely frenetic on vinyl, their new wave-era live shows could be heart-stoppingly ferocious, wildly accelerated affairs, as this cudgelling FM radio broadcast affirms.
Recorded (yet again) at San Francisco's Old Waldorf Music Hall on 25th February 1980, the first show of a 2-night residency, XTC's set herein is an unusual selection of classic early singles ("Making Plans For Nigel" had recently scrambled into the top 20 in the U.K. & Canada), superior LP tracks (Real By Reel", "Battery Brides", "Complicated Game", the little-heard "Crowded Room"), & a few rarely-performed B-sides (I don't think I've ever heard them play "Heatwave" or "Instant Tunes" before). It's split fairly evenly between Partridge & his prudent songwriting foil Colin Moudling, & the disparities between the duo's compositional styles couldn't be more pronounced: inserting Colin's measured "Ten Feet Fall" (incidentally their debut U.S. 45) between the spasmodic double-whammy of Andy's "Scissor Man" & "Heliopter" here illustrates how melodically divergent the two of them were. At their finest - & particularly during Go2 or Drums & Wires' most inventive moments - early XTC sounded like a breakneck hybrid of Devo & The Kinks, minus the former's absurdist mechanised theatrics of course, but steeped in the unassuming parochial essence of Ray Davies' pebble-dashed lyrical Everywheresville.
Following XTC's dissolution in the early 2000s, Colin retreated into wilful non-musical obscurity & hasn't seemed to be in much of a hurry to talk to anybody since, but there are dozens - perhaps hundreds - of Andy Partridge interviews online. I recommend you do yourself a massive favour & read all of them, beginning with this relatively recent & particularly candid one. Then go & check out his inimitably unorthodox boutique record label. He may be a certified garden shed looney & a walking disaster area but I can't help liking him.
Set-list: (Intro tape) / Beatown / Real By Reel / When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty / Life Begins at the Hop / The Rhythm / Meccanik Dancing (Oh We Go!) / Heatwave / Scissor Man / Ten Feet Tall / Helicopter / This is Pop / Battery Brides (Andy Paints Brian) / Statue of Liberty / Instant Tunes / Crowded Room / Are You Receiving Me? / Complicated Game / Making Plans For Nigel.
n.b. Eternal gratitude (once again) to Mr. Hammer.
● Instant Tunes
ROBERT FRIPP : Mark Radcliffe session - 12th November 1996 / Robert Reads Hardy - 15th December 1996 (Radio broadcasts).
On the one hand, the lifespan of this post may only amount to a matter of scant minutes as Herr Fripp is notoriously exacting with regard to copyright (& who can blame him, it's his livelihood after all?). On the other, all of these tracks were originally recorded for the BBC & have been "officially" released in the past as digital loss leaders c/o King Crimson's own DGM website. So who knows, perhaps he'll turn a blind eye on this occasion?
Performed live on 12th November 1996 for Mark Radcliffe's Evening Show (at the Beeb's since-demolished Oxford Road studio in Manchester), these 4 relatively brief (but nonetheless remarkable) Frippertronic exercises are book-ended by amusing & enlightening chats with stand-in host Stuart Maconie, Radcliffe & his his sidekick Lard (ex-Creeper Marc Riley) both having cryptically absented themselves on the night in question.
Fripp appeared on Radcliffe's show again the following month, reciting a quartet of Thomas Hardy readings in his rhotic Dorset burr for broadcast on 15th December, accompanied by his own gentle ambient soundscapes. Apparently only a couple of the poems were used on the night, but I've been able to include the complete set here - thanks once more to DGM's cavernous annals - with Robert's own potty-mouthed introductions intact.
If you're so inclined, a dumbfounding myriad of King Crimson & Fripp-related paraphernalia (including hundreds of hours of historical recordings unavailable elsewhere) are available from DGM's vast & constantly expanding archive. I recommend you peruse Robert's minutely detailed online diary while you're there, though sadly it only seems to updated sporadically nowadays.
● Horse Trumpets
Though arguably responsible for more unintentionally titter-worthy sub-T.G. codswallop than most Industrial acts in the early 1980s - i.e. viscera-encrusted sour-faced Antipodeans barking in die Muttersprache over looped recordings of Der Führer & camp Bobby O (...if only they'd known!) sequencers & ultimately sounding about as frightening as Freddie Starr's farcical Hitler-in-gumboots - on a good night SPK were still more than capable of engendering a venally thrilling typhoon of blood-tinglingly brutal white noise & depraved synth corruption, providing the planets aligned & the drugs kicked in on time, as this tour-de-force London performance-cum-assault demonstrates. It's an profoundly oppressive din.
"In 1980 we were performing in a squatted railway arch in Atlantic Road, Brixton. There were riots going on at the time, a response ti Thatcher's racist policing operations. The street outside was strewn with rocks & the burned-out shells of cars, the end of the road was blocked by rows of policeman. we'd seen SPK perform a few weeks earlier in Heaven, a gay nightclub, where they'd turned strobe lights on in the face of the audience. Whether this was an SPK stunt, or Heaven's usual policy, I never found out. But we knew they were coming to see us in the railway arch, so in homage we'd turned the strobe lights on the audience. I remember Graeme (Ravell, aka Operator, aka Oblivion) complaining in the pub afterwards that he thought he was going to have a fit. We became friendly & they invited us to play with them at The Crypt, a youth centre in North London, at the height of their noisy period. I recorded the show on my Walkman, & I think it's the only live recording they ever allowed to be released. If you listen carefully you can hear me & my brother arguing over the Walkman's switched on or not" - Nigel Ayers, Nocturnal Emissions.
A 1-sided cassette, At The Crypt was recorded at the venue of the same name in Paddington (also known as the Cryptic One Club) on 25th April 1981 & was released later that year on Sterile Records, a label founded by that evening's support band Nocturnal Emissions. SPK's line-up on this occasion was Operator (synth, tapes, metal, & vocals), Tone Generator, aka Dominik Guerin, (synths & visuals) & Mike Wilkins (guitar & bass).
By 1984 it was all over. Signed to WEA on the back of a Neubauten / Test Dept.-led metal-banging music press fad, the by-then hopelessly watered-down SPK (complete with a newly-instated "sexy" female vocalist) secured an appearance on The Tube & managed to make themselves look not only completely ridiculous, but also pitifully ineffectual. Machine Age Voodoo, their debut major label LP, arrived & departed without anybody really noticing & shortly thereafter they were discreetly dropped.
Ex-frontman Revell disbanded SPK in 1988 & now makes a mint composing scores for big budget schlock in Hollywood.
Set-list: Berufsverbot / Emanation Machine R.Gie 1916 / Ground Zero : Infinity Dose / Stammheium Torturkammer / Serenade / "John" / Victim.
● SRC 4
"Bettina (Köster) & I ran this store called Eisengrau in Golzstrasse. It was a clothing store, but also a hangout for peopl eot exchange ideas & listen to music. There weren't many places like that in West Berlin. We had a pinball machine that someone had brought round. It was a big, empty store we had painted iron grey. That's where the name came from. We sold dyed shoes & T-shirts from New York by Wiebe whose clothes we had on commission. Wolfgang Müller sold his fanzines. And out of sheer boredom I put up a knitting machine & designed by own knitwear - lots of grey & colours that didn't match, weird patterns, simple hems, fringes & those multi-coloured knit pants for men. Later, I continued the store with Blixa Bargeld & we also sold the Eisengrau Allstars Tapes, which were live & rehearsal recordings. Unfortunately I don't have a single one left.
The first Mania D. took place in September 1979 in Wuppertal. We rehearsed in the basement of Blixa Bargeld's storefront apartment in Langenscheidstrasse. Blixa wanted to start a band too, & asked us if we were interested in joining. We said "Sure we do!". Those were the beginnings of Einstürzende Neubauten. As spontaneously as we came together, we went our separate ways again. The most important thing for us was having fun, getting along. We didn't have a business strategy or anything, like they did in England, where pop music was conquering the world.
We were strong women, not delicate fairies, not flute players. We wanted to make a point of that. The hippies did the exact opposite. Although I did knit. But on a knitting machine. That was the slight but significant difference!" - extracts from a conversation between Gudrun Gut & Robert Defcon, June 2014.
Recorded at Düsseldforf's Ratinger Hof pub & the SO36 club in Berlin (which, remarkably, is still open for business), released in miniscule quantities (possibly as few as 20 copies) on their own hand-crafted Eisngrau cassette label, & allying punishing post-punk bedlam with clandestine Weimar-era cabaret jazz, the music contained on this often astonishing Mania D. tape (their only other "official" release besides a precursory 3-song 7") reminds me of absolutely nobody else. Virtually every other Eisengrau title I've heard to date has been just as extraordinary - be it an anarchic early Einstürzende Neubauten performance or the eccentric Die Tödliche Doris' vulgar vaudeville - indispensable stuff. Box-set now please.
The striking colour photographs were taken on location at Teufelsberg (aka Devil's Mountain), Grunewald, West Berlin by saxophonist Eva Gössling in 1979.