16.2.11

2.3 : All Time Low 7" (1978)

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For anybody with an evolving interest in British independent music in the mid 80s, the only feasible way to hear keynote Fast Product 7"s by The Human League, Gang Of Four, The Mekons & The Scars was via the EMI-licensed compilation LP, Mutant Pop: The First Year Plan. A collection of the Edinburgh based label's first half dozen singles, the scope & ambition of it's contents was/is staggering, & it's retained much of it's shock/awe value: "Being Boiled" (one of the biggest selling self-released 45s at that point, though sadly nobody was collating a national indie chart back then), "Damaged Goods" (arguably the first post-punk record), "Never Been In A Riot"/"Where Were You?" (definitely the first post-punk punk records!), & "Adult/ery" (aloof, gothic powerpop) all still sound magnificent, 30 years on.

For the fifth band on the compilation, Sheffield's 2.3 (Two Point Three), their Fast Product release remains their sole, & thereby defining, recorded statement. Formed in May 1977, 2.3 were one of the city's few genuine punk bands, March 1978's "All Time Low"/"Where To Now?" sounding like The Clash if they'd grown up on an industrialised Northern sink estate. Their frontman was Paul Bower, renown for co-publishing South Yorkshire's notorious Gunrubber 'zine with Clock DVA's Adi Newton. A legendarily enthusiastic local music scene catalyst, it's Bower who arranged The Human League's first gig (Phil Oakey: "We put a tape together & played it to Paul Bower of 2.3 & he just arranged us a show at Psalter Lane Art College, so we had to turn up. I've probably never been so scared in my life") & fortuitously passed the original "Being Boiled" demo onto D.I.Y. label guru Bob Last, immediately changing the projected course of independent musical history (& unfortunately rendering his own band obsolete, of course). Despite supporting The Banshees, Stranglers & Rezillos early on in their career, time passed 2.3 by & they split unceremoniously in December 1979, members drifting off to Artery, They Must Be Russians, & complete obscurity thereafter (Hayden Boyes-Weston's cameos on Cabaret Voltaire's early recordings excepted).

2.3 left little in the way of unreleased recordings or historical evidence in their wake. All I (very vaguely) remember seeing is their brief mention in a 2-page article about the nascent Sheffield music scene in a late '79 issue of the perennially fab Smash Hits. Eve Wood's essential Made In Sheffield documentary acknowledged Bower & co.'s important position in the city's musical lineage. Hopefully her recent sequel, The Beat Is The Law (which I've yet to see), will restore the balance further?

13 comments:

  1. Anonymous20.2.11

    http://www.discogs.com/Various-Fast-Product-Rigour-Discipline-Disgust/release/1488211

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  2. Nice looking compilation that, but virtually impossible to find - I don't think I've ever seen a copy! The inclusion of "Candyskin" is a little puzzling too.

    Has anybody ever compiled the 3 Earcom EPs? They'd make a fine CD...

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  3. Yeah strange to include Candyskin but I guess it was on a Bob Last label.

    For some reason I skipped the 2.3 single but bought the rest. Maybe I heard it first...

    Andy

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  4. Hmm, I can imagine it might've sounded semi-conventional at the time, sandwiched between The Mekons & The Human League... Do you know if they recorded anything else. there's virtually no info about them on the 'net?

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  5. I musn't have liked it but wish I'd picked it up now. Likewise I didn't buy that first Earcom double 7" (?) although a mate had it. Sounded dreadful but the packaging was very cool...

    Andy

    PS stylus down at Floorboards until I can get a replacement so some ROIR cassettes coming soon.

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  6. There was a copy of the 2.3 7" on eBay at the weekend, it only went for a fiver in the end (wish I'd bid on it now!).

    I've managed to find all 3 Earcoms as mp3 &, hmmm, the quality is decidedly shaky isn't it? Mind you, I'm not a Prats fan... (isn't it about time THEY reformed, everybody else has? And they're probably only my age as well!).

    Bring on the ROIR...

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  7. Gods did I covet those early 80s ROIR tapes...I think it was the Bad Brains release that led me to discover a whole world of Americana weirdness anyway I digress.

    As soon as I saw the 2.3 cover a huge nostalgia tsunami engulfed me...as a 12/13 yr old I remember buying The First Year Plan (must have been cheap as that was my album critera at the time which is why I ended up with Sandanista and every Crass release lol)and spending hours listening to the album and studiously avoiding eye contact with the front sleeve while staring at the back cover which had the six single covers all beautifully laid out...personally I have always favoured the Bob Fast Product graphics over Factory's Saville...I do remember that beautiful synergy of image and sound which I seldom experience these days and Fast were one of the best examples of this imo.

    http://s.dsimg.com/image/R-446257-1283803934.jpeg

    Growing up near Sheffield I never saw 2.3 (always wondered if it was a Burroughsian or RAWilsonian 23 reference or not) but caught the aftermath in the form of Artery and TMBR which was kinda splendid....

    "2.3 were one of the city's few genuine punk bands" - have we forgot the Mau-Maus lmao!

    I just saw the cover for the Riguor, Discipline & Disgust CD and I am glad they used the last word because I think I am going to vomit, please tell me Bob himself did not commit this atrocity...compare and contrast:

    http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?release=1488211

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  8. Thanks for that jpeg, I'd forgotten how awesome the "deconstructed" back cover of that comp LP was - it still looks tremendous! I do agree that Saville is (slightly) overrated - many folk mistakenly assume that he designed ALL of Factory's early sleeves, so he's frequently credited for work he wasn't actually responsible for (the first Durutti Column & ACR LPs, or A Factory Quartet, for instance).

    Re: 2.3. By "genuine band band", I mean that they were formed when punk was still gestating (& relevant). Maus Maus were slightly later, I think? I've always assumed that 2.3 refered to that "average family" statistic that was always being quoted in the 70s?

    I still have my Bad Brains cassette somewhere, I definitely need to track that down. My favourite ROIR tape was always the Television one though, that's amazing!

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  9. I own that Fast Records Mutant Pop compilation and the Fast 3 EP from when I was 16 and they were new. Always LOVED 2.3 and put them on a billion compilation cassette tapes over the years. Always hoped there would be some LP or other EP of them somewhere. Alas.

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  10. I've read a band bio somewhere that the band did indeed take their name from that statistic.

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  11. I'm sure something with slip out of the 2.3 archive eventually, if only a badly recorded live tape?

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  12. Anonymous17.6.13

    OK stumbled on this and have to say it was great to see the magic synergy of music and sound referenced. ... and as it turns out the Rigour Discipline and Disgust cover was one I had least to do with!

    Bob L

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  13. Ha, thanks for the clarification Mr. L.

    Dare I enquire as to what you're up to these days? We're living in a Fast Product world nowadays, it seems! :)

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