Saturday, November 22, 2008


CHAPTER 19: PLAY TO WIN: The Pioneers of New Pop

(also Chapter 19 in the US edition)

Page 361

>“The group and I… in hospital”, "It was a combination… worrying me”

Interview with Green, Sounds 5/29/1982, by Simon Dwyer

>“We were a sick…. Drinking too much"

Green, Smash Hits 6/10-23/82

Page 362

>“quirkiness… idiosyncrasy”

Green. NME 10/31/81

>thorny tangles

That “anguished racket” (as he later derided it) Green now felt was overdetermined by gauche and outmoded notions of authenticity through difference, and difficulty.

Page 363

>“a perversion… Rock.”

Green. MM 12/5/81.

>C81… an absolute bargain

1.50 pounds for 81 minutes and 24 tracks

Side one
1. "The "Sweetest Girl"" – Scritti Politti
2. "Twist and Crawl Dub" – The Beat
3. "Misery Goats" – Pere Ubu
4. "7,000 Names of Wah!" – Wah! Heat
5. "Blue Boy" – Orange Juice
6. "Raising the Count" – Cabaret Voltaire
7. "Kebab Traume Live" – D.A.F
8. "Bare Pork" – Furious Pig
9. "Raquel" – The Specials
10. "I Look Alone" – Buzzcocks
11. "Fanfare in the Garden" – Essential Logic
12. "Born Again Cretin" – Robert Wyatt

Side two
1. "Shouting Out Loud" – The Raincoats
2. "Endless Soul" – Josef K
3. "Low Profile" – Blue Orchids
4. "Red Nettle" – Virgin Prunes
5. "We Could Send Letters" – Aztec Camera
6. "Milkmaid" – Red Crayola
7. "Don't Get in My Way" – Linx
8. "The Day My Pad Went Mad" – The Massed Carnaby St John Cooper Clarkes
9. "Jazz Is the Teacher, Funk Is the Preacher" – James Blood Ulmer
10. "Close to Home" – Ian Dury
11. "Greener Grass" – Gist
12. "Parallel Lines" – Subway Sect

Piece at Stylus on C81

>30 thousand sent off for it

Resulting in terrible mail-out delays

>already crumbling

After the triumphs of 1979, postpunk had begun to falter. Some of the heavyweights were in difficulties: Joy Division, shattered by the death of Ian Curtis; PiL, weakened by splits and creative constipation; Pop Group and Slits festered in aesthetic and philosophical wrongheadness. In the wake of landmarks like Metal Box and Unknown Pleasures, a host of second-division bands had come through and were busy turning the signature sounds of the vanguard into emergent cliches. Those with the sharpest antennae could sense an impending stagnation.

Page 364

>Of the three bands covered … the mainstream was where it was at

Bristol’s Essential Bop lambasted local gods The Pop Group as “beatnik fascists” presiding over an incestuous and festering scene. Restricted Code, signed to Bob Last’s new label Pop Aural, declared “a year ago we would have loved to be in the underground charts, but now it doesn’t mean as much.”

ABC saxophonist Stephen Singleton told Morley that ABC’s dream was to have one of their records played in the background of Coronation Street.

ABC's precursor group Vice Versa, cold and synthetic

>coined the term New Pop

First broached not in NME but in a Morley article for New York Rocker in America, the term started popping up in his writing across 1979 into 1980, and was initially fairly hazy as a concept, referring to groups with punk-derived energy, economy and simplicity, who had a certain spikiness of sound but were accessible, melodic and radio-ready. In 1978-79 this stuff--groups like The Cure, Spizzenergi, XTC, Monochrome Set, Scars, Distractions--was largely the province of independent labels, along with a few New Wave-attuned majors like Virgin or Fiction (a subsidiary of Polydor). By 1980, though, the independent scene was starting to seem like an impediment to the New Pop achieving its full potential. A ghetto mentality had set in, Morley believed-- the recent institution of separate charts for independent releases had given bands a low horizon to aim for, an excuse for underachievement.


Including mental health: “mad” and “genuinely ill” is how Green described the third Scritti EP, Peel Sessions; hence also the reference to "the sickest group" in "The Sweetest Girl" in reference to Scritti, always physically poorly owing to their punishing lifestyle but theory-mad to the point of morbidity too.

Morley used the same rhetoric, addressing the sceptics among his readers with the reassuring “let’s be friends. I care about your health. Let’s keep moving. You have to be quick”, and later even denouncing those opposed to the New Pop vision as “very ill people” (one target being Barney Hoskyns, then celebrating sickness/danger/madness/dirt in the form of The Birthday Party, very much a repudiation of the squeaky-clean New Pop and the Morley way of seeing things).

> mobility

A few years later, Green looked back on the period, dramatizing the reborn Scritti against “a sluggishness [that] had set in around the early Eighties”, with PiL’s Metal Box and Flowers of Romance “representing the other way things were going to go".

Scritti in their first pop phase, circa 'Sweetest Girl' and 'Faithless'

>“cleaning up… music”

Fry. NME 12/25/82.

Fry further wanted to “scrub out the matt attitude and replace it with a gloss attitude that [expresses] dignity, feeling, optimism…”.

Page 366

>“Twitched… slime”

Morley. NME 9/12/81. Live Futurama 3 review.

>“A boggy… wilderness”

Green, Sounds 5/29/82

DIY's quirked-out zone had become, said Green, “a safe alternative which wasn't threatening, exciting or valuable in any way.”

>“lost cause… music”--Green.

Vinyl November 1981


The debut column, hosted by Adrian Thrills, August 9th 1980.

>Only ten months later Garageland was closed down

The final column, hosted by Paul Morley, doused the luckless denizens of DIY-land with abuse, and concluded on a note of ominous exasperation: "Does anybody ever send off for those cassettes? This could be the last ever Garageland entry ever. We're having a meeting about it next week”.

The final Garageland column, hosted by Paul Morley, May 23rd 1981.

>entryist logic

To the New Pop propagandists, the way forward was “entryism”, originally a left-wing concept describing the strategy of militant left groups infiltrating social-democratic parliamentary political parties, but here repurposed to describe the notion of leaving the independent sector for major labels. Bob Last had been the first to champion this idea, encouraging his bands to sign to major labels and eventually closing down Fast Product (he even sold the back catalogue in toto to EMI). As the idea caught on, a curious transformation occurred to the image of the independent label: it went from having the idealistic glamour of the pioneer to seeming dowdy, dull-and-worthy, puritanical. Rough Trade suffered particularly from this reversal.

>“squattage industry”

Green. Sounds 5 29/82

More from that interview..
Green: "I can't see the point of remaining marginal. For one thing, it doesn't suit my politics or my temperament. I'd rather sell a lot of records than get a lot of letters asking how to make records because I really do think that a lot of my strengths and a lot of political focus lies in that music rather than it would in me sending people information on how to commit their own attrocities to vinyl and sell 150 copies…. "We stopped being crusaders for DIY records 'cos we know how awful it is. My advice to anybody doing it now is please, please don't!"

>stylish packaging

Further from the Dwyer interview Sounds 5 29/82

Green: “Diehard fans will still have those 15,000 copies of 'Skank' in their coffee stained Xerox covers growing mould at the bottom of their collections I suppose… We took a lot of trouble to emulate Dunhill and Eau Sauvage covers because I like the packaging. Like Dunhill packets convey a sense of a common, available thing which is classy, like our records now.

"I want our records to sell now, if 'Confidence' or 'Sweetest Girl' had been
recorded and marketed properly they would have been very big hits, so
it's a kind of testing time for Rough Trade as well at the moment and it'll
be very interesting to see if we can become big with them."

"That's why we've put out, and will continue to put out a string of very
high quality pop records."

>“cheap classiness”

Green. NME 9/4/82.

>“Our covers…. robots!"

Green. Sounds 5 29/82

>“You grow up… power”

Green. NME 10/31/81.

>“post-political politics”

Green. Vinyl November 1981.

Page 368

>“that what you’ve… them”

Green. NME 10/31/81.

>French thinkers… America

In the early seventies some of them had flirted with Maoism, impressed by the Cultural Revolution’s anti-bourgeois upheaval

> America and British socialism

British anti-Americanism of the leftwing sort was rooted in cultural revulsion towards its pop culture and consumerism as much as in political disapproval about US foreign policy. Also bear in mind that Mrs Thatcher wanted to make Britain more like America--go-getting, ambitious, consumerist, everyone owning their own car rather than public transport, less state-run or state-subsidised industries and civil service employees--as well as reinforcing the Special Relationship in foreign policy with UK as a bastion of NATO, base for US nuclear warheads etc versus the Soviet bloc.


A good example of how this filtered into songwriting in "Lions After Slumber", the B-Side to "The Sweetest Girl", and a gorgeous slice of piano-laced funk


My diplomacy, my security, my hope and my ice-cream
My tomorrow and my temperature, my lips and my selfishness
My cigarette, my uncertainty, my penetration
My notebook and my limit, my importance and my glycerine
My customer, my function, my lawlessness, my charm
My hunger, my refusal, my tissue and my vodka
My ommission, my ability, my telephone and my holler
My relaxing, my distress, my bedroom, my cassette
My dictation and my pulse, my fortune and my death
My flake and my restlessness, my headache and my dirt
My paper and my charity, my rose and my pallor
My guess and my closet, my light 'n' my time
My worry, my perversity, my transgression
My temptation and my polythene, my gunshot [click]
My jealousy and my water
My demands 'n' my angels 'n' my waiting 'n' my distance
My death, my curtness, my insulin, my memory
My partner 'n' my sadness, my story, my wantoness
My wish, my despair, my erasure, my plantation
My white chocolate, my thoughtlessness, my gracelessness
My courage and my crying, my pockets 'n' my mistakes
My body and my sex, my gaze and my helplessness
My letter, my sugar, my homework, my walk
My records, my smile and my struggle
My reflection, my eyelid, my fragility, my discretion
My hair, my austerity, my tattoo, my demise
My fooling and my terror, my problem and my judgement
Oh my disguise, my tongue
My ownership, my formula, my property, my thought, my razor
My blessing and my silence, my lust and my practice
My sincerity, my penecillin, my window and my androgyny
My mother, my recorder, my pity and my posing
My light, my carelessness, my drummer, my drummer, my drummer, my drummer
My tenderness 'n' my car, my undoing and my history
My bottle and my drugs, my drugs, my drugs
Tomorrow, my temperature, my lips and my selfishness
My cigarette, my uncertainty, my penetration, my notebook
[breath] My limit, my importance, my glycerine, my customer, my function
My lawlessness, my charm and my hunger
My refusal, my tissue, my vodka, my admission

My ability and my telephone, my holler, my relaxing
My distress and my bedroom, my restlessness, my headache
My dirt, my paper, charity, my rose
My pallor, my guess and my closet,
my light 'n' my time, my worry, my perversity
My transgression honey, my temptation honey
My polythene, my jealousy
My water, my demands, my angels
My waiting, my distance, my death, my curtness, my insulin
My memory, my partner, my refrigerator
My sadness, my story, my wantoness, my skipping
My wish and my despair, my erasure, my plantation, my chocolate
My thoughtlessness, my gracelessness, my courage and my crying
My pockets, my homework
Like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number
Oh yeah

The title comes from lines in Shelley's 'The Mask Of Anarchy':

Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
That in sleep have fallen on you

Apparently Shelly wrote this in 1819 after the Peterloo massacre when British troops opened fire on peacefully protesting workers (Chartists?). So the idea here is that Green, ever the narcissist, is mapping his own interior polyphony of polymorphous desire--appetites, erogenized zones, glances, stances, myriad sundry moments of briefly cathected intersections with commodities/bodies/objects of desire that make up any individual's day to day life--onto the body of the proletariat; finding an equivalence between his inner multitude and the masses.

Here's something I said about the song and its A-Side "sweetest girl" in an interview/jukebox jury type with Wilson Neate for Pop Culture Press:

SR: This was originally the B-side of 'The Sweetest Girl', which is when Scritti Politti reinvented themselves as a pop band. 'The sweetest Girl' is--as its title suggests--a very "sweet", almost cloying pop-reggae song. It's a beautiful love song, but the sort of love song that actually questions the idea of love songs and problematizes notions of love and possession. And then, on the other side, "Lions After Slumber" is a very strange track. It's a list song--a list song through the lens of Green's narcissism. It's a list of things to do with him: "my langour", "my greed", "my elbow", "my indecision", "my sex", "my white chocolate", and so on, all these states of mind, bodily dispositions, little moments, fragments of time, things he owns, his stance. It's obviously very influenced by post-structuralism and the idea of the self not as a unitary entity, but as a plurality or as a multiplicity, and the idea of there being no essence to someone--just these moments and interactions with things or with people. Despite the fact that it's about the fragmented self, coming through it all is this very strong, almost feline narcissism. The way Green sings it, you feel he's like a cat basking in himself, arching his back, really in love with himself. It comes through in this sort of falsetto he sings in. So there's an interesting tension there between the fragmented self and the absolute self-love conveyed by the vocals. It ties in with the band's failing really: Scritti Politti ultimately wanted to be a pop group but none of their songs ever really got beyond Green's psyche. I imagine people bought Scritti's records and found meanings in them for themselves but it's all so tied up with Green and his particular anguishes and doubts."

>Jacques Derrida

Bouncy little song influenced by the country and western side of the Kinks, according to Green. The singer declares his adoration of the white-haired philosopher: “Read a page and I know what I need ta/Take apart my baby’s heart”.

The lyric:

I'm in love with the bossonova
He's the one with the cashanova
I'm in love with his heart of steel
I'm in love
I'm in love with the bossonova
He's the one with the cashanova
I'm in love with his heart of steel
I'm in love
How come no-one ever told me
Who I'm working for
Down among the rich men baby
And the poor
Here comes love forever
And it's here comes love for no-one
Oh here comes love for Marilyn
And it's oh my baby oh-oh my baby
What you gonna do?
In the reason - in the rain
Still support the revolution
I want it I want it I want that too
B'baby B'baby it's up to you
To find out somethin' that you need to do
I'm in love with a Jacques Derrida
Read a page and know what I need to
Take apart my baby's heart
I'm in love
I'm in love with a Jacques Derrida
Read a page and know what I need to
Take apart my baby's heart
I'm in love
To err is to be human
To forgive is too divine
I was like an industry
Depressed and in decline
Here comes love for ever
And it's here comes love for no-one
Oh here comes love for Marilyn
And it's oh my baby oh my baby
What you gonna do?
In the reason - in the rain
Still support the revolution
I want it I want it I want that too
B'baby B'baby it's up to you
To find out somethin' that you need to do
Oh I'm in love with bop sh'dayo
Out of Camden Town for a day - oh
I'm in love with just gettin' away
I'm in love
Oh I'm in love with militante
Reads Unita and reads Avanti
I'm in love with her heart of steel
I'm in love
He held it like a cigarette
Behind a squaddie's back
He held it so he hid its length
And so he hid its lack - oh
An' it seems so very sad
(all right!)

[the rap section]
Well I want better than you can give
But then I'll take whatever you got
Cos I'm a grand libertine with the
Kinda demeanour to overthrow the lot
I said rapacious
Rapacious you can never satiate
(ate what?!) desire is so voracious
I wanna eat your nation state
I got incentive that you can't handle
I got the needs you can't assuage
I got demands you can't meet
'n' stay on your feet
I want more than your living wage
Well I want better than you can give
But then I'll take whatever you got
Cos I'm a grand libertine with the
Kinda demeanour to overthrow the lot
I said rapacious
Rapacious you can never satiate
(ate what?!) desire is so voracious
I wanna eat your nation state

I was always intrigued by the nonsequitur reference to "held it like a cigarette behind a squaddie's back"--is he talking about taking a slash?--and was pleased to see that confirmed in an interview by John Lewis for Time Out in 2006, Green recalled that it came from liking the way old men urinated at folk clubs:

‘They had a way of holding their cocks while they were pissing. I found that fascinating. I wrote a lyric about it on the first album. “He held it like a cigarette/ Behind a squaddie’s back/He held it so he hid its length/And so he hid its lack.”’

> desire is so voracious… nation state…

From Dyer, Sounds 1982

Green: "Well, that song about him is probably going to be the next single. It's about how powerful and contradictory the politics of desire are. About being torn between all things glamorous and reactionary and all things glamorous and leftist. Then in the rap it dispenses with both in favour of desire!'I want better than you can give/ but then I'll take whatever you've got/ Desire is so avaricious [sic]/
I wanna eat your nation state...'"

>how globalization works

It also chimes weirdly with the rhetoric of those who argued that Eastern Europe’s lust for Western pop and clothes (blue jeans) and general standard of living/consumer choices was what brought down Communism, eroding the Soviet's politico-moral fibre.

>The Sweetest Girl… the strongest words in each belief

"The 'Sweetest Girl'" lyric

Sweetest girl in all the world
His eyes are for you only
Sweetest girl in all the world
His eyes are for you only
Sweetest girl in all the world
His words have died before me
Sweetest girl in all the world
His words have died before me
When they walk in the park, I never can tell
When they walk in the dark, I never can tell
It's just loving - ooh loving
The sweetest boy in all the world
His life has got so lonely
Sweetest boy in all the world
His life has got so lonely
Sickest group in all the world
How could they do this to me
The sickest group in all the world
How could they do this to me
What I want I will take, what you think that you know
Oh such an awful mistake to never let go
It's just loving - ooh loving
The weakest link in every chain
I always want to find it
The strongest words in each belief
Find out what's behind it
And politics is prior to
The vagaries of science
She left because she understood
The value of defiance
When the government falls, I wish I could tell
When, oh when necessity calls, I never can tell
It's just loving - ooh loving
Sweetest girl in all the world
These words are for you only
Sweetest girl in all the world
These words have died before me
When they walk in the park, I never can tell
When they walk in the dark, you know that it never can be told

page 369



Tears of sorrow, tears of joy
Oh come at once for the sweetest boy
(nobody knows)
That's the price that the boy has paid
To choose not to be afraid
That's the price that the girl has paid
Oh for all the promises she made
(y'look pretty good)
She is triple hep 'n' blue
She'll never ever know what's true
Fallout of love
It's the fallout of love
(what you want and you need)
Do right, they do wrong, they understand
That they're never ever ever ever gonna win
These are the better times
(oh yeah darlin'!)
I'm a hetero-genius
I wanna testify (oooh)
But she does it but she doesn't understand
Faithless now I just got soul (baby)
Ooh look at the girl go (baby)
Oh look at the girl go
She looks so fine (so fine)
Do you do you do (baby)
Do you do you do
(But you looks so good)
Do you do-oh
Do you do
Do you do-oooh
Oh who coulda seen it
(who coulda heard)
Who coulda told them
(who coulda known)
Oh who coulda seen it
(who coulda heard)
Who coulda told them
(who coulda known)
They do it but they never understand
Tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me now
Tears of sorrow, tears of joy
Oh come at once for the sweetest boy
(nobody knows)
That's the price that the boy has paid
To choose not to be afraid
Fallout of love
Ow! The fallout, baby, fallout of love
(nobody knows)
The girl is righteous and she understands why
These are the better times
All the boys down at the club
They say "Now she must be something"
I said "You don't know the half of it Jack!"
She does it but she doesn't understand


the lyric in "Gettin' Havin' Holdin' goes “it’s true like the Tractactus”--but the joke (the book’s about how all our problems come from our enchantment by words, how ‘truth’ is just an effect of language) would be lost on most pop pickers.

Gettin' Havin' & Holdin' lyric

When a man loves a woman
He is happy, maybe
When a man loves a woman
He is never alone, he's never alone
Baby, well you know that he's (ooh)
Bound to be heartbroken (heartbroken)
He's just bound to feel so ill at ease
Bound to nothing
Bound to lose, to lose yeah
When a man (when a man) loves a woman
He is broken, I think you know he is
When a man loves a woman
He is always alone, he's always alone
Baby, well you know that he's (ooh)
Bound to be so happy (so happy)
He's just bound to feel so ill at ease
That only he will never realise he's in love
In love, yeah
S'time I just get so sad
Take that, baby, y'know I get so sad
It's just
A man loves a woman (loves a woman)
He is jealous (jealous, jealous, jealous)
Baby, when a man loves a woman
It's the language of getting, having and holding
Baby, well you know that it's
Just like a great nation (great nation)
It's so bound to type up on the...
Typed-up on the wall
It's tired of joking - wet, wet with tears
So sad, yeah
When a man (when a man) loves a woman (loves a woman)
He is happy, maybe
Gets his orders from chaos
Some say nothing will change oh nothing will change
Baby, well you know that it's (ooh)
True like the Tractatus (Tractatus)
Oh, knows it's harder than the rest
So exciting, so divine
Divine, yeah
Ooh, his love is a heart breaking out
Ooh, his love is a heart breaking out
Ooh, his love is a heart breaking out
Oh, oh, you know that his love is a heart breaking out
When a man (when a man) loves a woman (loves a woman)
He is happy
When a man (man) loves a woman
He is always alone, he's always alone
Baby, well you know that he's
Bound to be heartbroken (heartbroken)
Bound to feel so ill at ease
He hardly stands, she doesn't understand
He's in love
In love, yeah
>strongest push to date
Strong push
Asylums came with a a free limited edition print, signed and numbered. Pretty yukky looking, though as I recall…

>“What has meaning… meaning”

Green. Vinyl November 1981

>this was crushing

Green-eyed Green made jibes at the supersuccesful ABC, who'd achieved everything they’d promised: ““If it weren’t for a stick of Erace Plus [the acne medication] and Trevor Horn, I don’t know where old Martin Fry might be!” he quipped to NME in late 1982, masking his envy with cattiness.

>“silly groups… music"

Green. The Face June 1982.

> him wanting to leave Rough Trade

Geoff Travis: “ Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame and Green both went with our blessing because we knew we weren’t ready to do the job.”

Page 370


Green. MM 5/29/82.

>written all the music

Yet he'd been trammeled by soviet-style bureaucracy: before presenting a new song to the band, “there had to be a board meeting first!" he complained in the MM interview above. Kind of chimes again with the anti-red tape, anti-bureaucrat, unshackle-the-creative-entrepreneur type rhetoric of Thatcherism with its opposition to nationalized industries, trade unions, the idea of worker's councils and management consulting with their labour forces etc etc.

>Tom Morley

Apparently a key reason for his departure--or at least a stage in the breakdown within the group--came when the group did a feature for Record Mirror; they all posed for photographs, together and separately, and when the issue came out, it was Tom with his striking dreadlocks that was the cover photo. Green apparently had a hissy fit and from there on it was always Green as the focal figure in photo shoots.

What Scritlock drummer Tom Morley went on to do. Well there was an abortive career as a solo act (the name escapes me) on Zarjazz, the ill fated label started by Madness (good friends with Scritti through the Camden connection, hence their cover of 'The 'Sweetest Girl'"… Today Tom Morley is doing "corporate drumming" for a kind of team-building consultancy firm that works to develop cooperation and motivation within business environments. Check it out

A modern-day noir /crime mystery that is clearly based on Scritti, its shift from squatland to pop charts and the bitterness caused by the "streamlining" of the group, was published by Serpent's Tail in 1997: John L. Williams' Faithless. Since Williams played in punk bands in Wales, it seems likely that on his move to London he became part of the Scritti at Carol Street milieu. The Green character in Faithless--Ross--is a charismatic guy who always gets the girls and abandons his erstwhile cohorts for the big time. I can't remember if he also turns out to be the murderer or not, but the title makes a good knife-twist on the other meaning of "faithless" than the one the song itself concerns (loss of spiritual or political faith).

some of the subtle and not so subtle references to Green in the Williams book and also the general postpunk to new pop climate-shift:

that last character, the soulboy journalist, appears to be partly based on Gavin Martin

A mordant anecdote from Sue Gogan vocalist of pragVEC, former fellow travellers with Scritti.
For those who didn't take the chartpop entryist route, the alternatives were to continue making marginal music in an increasingly discouraging environment, or... get a job. Gogan briefly worked as a road sweeper for Camden Council after the band fell apart. One cold morning in 1984, working her broom at the bottom of a short steep hill near a photographer's studio, she saw "a pretty flash motor pull up. The driver got out and opened the back door of the car. Out stepped Green. I guess he'd 'made it'. Funny."

>“a kind of production company”

Green. MM 5/29/82. interview by lynden barber.

>“art and prints and video”

Haig. NME 7/17/82.

>better off as two separate outfits

Ian Craig Marsh remembers a number of solutions being kicked around in the immediate aftermath of the split. “One was the idea of Human League Records, a sub-label of Virgin. So there’d be two new groups, and the idea was that I could work with both of them rather than having to choose. Everyone was into this idea of Human League Records and me working with both parties--Virgin, Bob Last, Martyn, me. But Phil wasn’t fine with it, he has this paranoid notion that I would communicate all their good ideas to Martyn.” So Last came up with an inspired management idea: British Electric Foundation.

Page 371

>“small, mobile… units”

Fripp. MM 5/10/74

More from that interview, in which Fripp seems to have coined the concept of the rock dinosaur that was so vital to punk's upstart insurgency.

Fripp: "At the moment, we're going through a transition from the, if you like, old world to the new. The old world is characterised by what one contemporary philosopher has termed "the dinosaur civilisation," large and unwieldy, without much intelligence – just like the dinosaur.

"An example of this would be, say, America or any huge, worldwide power. Another would be any large band with lots and lots of road managers... all these units originally start out to service a need but you now have a situation where, being creative, they have to create needs in order that they may continue to exist. In other words, they've become vampiric.

"The interesting point is that a number of groups are still going when the musicians involved are no longer in charge of the situation. With King Crimson, although that situation hadn't yet been reached, it could have developed that way within the next six months..."

INTERVIEWER: It was becoming a dinosaur then?

"No, It would never have become a dinosaur. But it would have become a smaller version of a dinosaur. A mechanical situation would have developed which would have been unwieldy. And the band wouldn't have been sufficiently small, independent, and intelligent enough to exist in the new world.

"And those, of course, are the attributes of the new world: small, mobile, independent, and intelligent units, whether it's, ah ... instead of a city, you'll get small self-sufficient communities, modern villages. And instead of King Crimson, you're now getting me – a small, independent, mobile, and intelligent unit. That's substantially the difference between the old world and the new.

"But the transition between the old and the new has already begun. The old world is, in fact, dead and what we're seeing now is, if you like, the death throes. The large units have immense resources and a lot of power, albeit power of a not very nice kind or quality, which they will use to maintain their existence.

"They will not, I feel, be intelligent enough to realise that, in fact, they're dead and, instead of co-operating and participating in the coming of the new world, I think there will be a fight."

>Heaven 17 … production company

On the sleeve of Penthouse and Pavement, Bob Last is credited as Executive Manipulator

>Cassette only

So successful was the Music for Stowaways cassette that Virgin pressured BEF to rerelease it on vinyl. They agreed on condition that it would be a US-only release and retitled Music For Listening To--“a joke on Eno’s Music for Airports.”

Page 372

>“just a medium for enjoyment”

unidentified Heaven 17 member. NME 10/17/81

>“That’s one of… a confection”

Ware. NME 3/27/82.

>“fascist guard in motion”

The original lyrics went “Reagan is the fascist twat/I’d like to fucking top him”
On the next single “I’m Your Money”, a message was scratched into the inner groove: “Better luck next time, J.H. Jnr”. J.H was John Hinkley, the Jodie Foster-obsessive who nearly assassinated Reagan

Page 373

>punchy… no reverb

Reverb came be artifically applied through effects or from room ambience. What Ware calls “all that pompous Seventies rock” was drenched in reverb, the aim being to simulate the sound of a band playing live, or to sound good on an expensive stereo. Penthouse and Pavement was more like a flat plane of in your face sound, less depth between instruments. Ware: “It’s similar to modern R&B records, where they don’t use reverb at any, just occasional close and clustered echo repeats on the vocals. That ‘dry’ sound isn’t ‘realistic’ at all, and that appealed to us--it’s another level of abstraction. And it’s more direct.”

>"Play To Win"… ex-city traders

According to Ian Craig Marsh, “Let’s Make A Bomb”--a satirical song on side two about nuclear proliferation--was also misconstrued as a money-making anthem!

Page 374

>Penthouse and Pavement sleeve

It was Ian Craig Marsh who found the image that inspired the cover, an advert for a multinational firm in Newsweek. “It was one of those classic drawings, a guy with a pipe, cigars, case, contracts, lots of people in the background and telecommunications satellites all merged, and a slogan about keeping ahead since 1881 and being ready to meet the challenge of yet another century,” he told Sounds in 1981

Page 375

>Expressivity, contact with the audience

ian craig Marsh: “That was a pet agenda of mine going back to the Human League. I thought us using tapes in part was a way of proving that idea of expressivity wrong. Admittedly we were playing live keyboard lines on top of the tapes, but in theory we could have not played at all and had the same effect on the audience.”

> No hit singles… 1 percent off Dare

Penthouse never quite became “pop” in the sense that Dare spectacularly had. “We earned more through that 1 percent than through Heaven 17’s releases at that point,” says Marsh.

>critical and hipster… success … the record was absolutely ubiquitous

It mostly definitely was the hipster pick of that season. Says Bob Last “There was a time when you couldn’t walk around any metropolitan centre of Britain without hearing bits of that album coming out of shops.”

>pop classics remade

The original Human League were the first postpunk band to bring back the cover version, with synthetic adaptations of songs by Gary Glitter, Mick Ronson and The Righteous Brothers, and even its cover of the Gordon’s Gin theme. The title Music of Quality and Distinction’s had an echo of glam rock, its appeal to "timeless" standards of songwriting recalling Bryan Ferry’s solo albums with their cover versions of pre-rock standards. But instead of being unified by a single singer’s charisma and vocal tone, MoQ&D was rather motley and unfocused.

Page 376

>neat pop-critical games

Another one was that they got Gary Glitter to work in the studio with the Glitter Band for the first time ever; they were his live group, but Gary Glitter's records were studio constructions made by producer Mike Leander in tandem with Gazza. Unfortunately the result of this historic team-up was a yobbish rendition of Presley’s “Suspicious Minds”.

>“We don’t think… demi-god”

Marsh. NME. 3/27/82.

>An embarrassing position

That said, Martyn Ware could console himself with the thought that Music of Quality had opened up doors for him as a producer (he later got to work with Tina Turner). And there was always the second Heaven 17 album--another chance to match and maybe surpass his estranged friend Philip Oakey.

>style analyst Peter York

Marketing consultant and Harper's style editor Peter York was renowned for his celebratory analyses of punk rock and the UK music press (he adored Burchill, Parsons, Danny Baker--but hated the pale theory boys that came along later) and many other modern micro-cultures and sensibility-zones; he's most famous though for his sustained ethnological study of the Sloane Ranger (if you don't know, don't bother to get to know… honestly it's not worth it). In the Harper’s piece on postmodernism--pretty much the first time these ideas were introduced to a non-academic readership-- Fast Product’s record sleeves for Human League and Gang of Four were used illustrations. “I was secretly very pleased that they were used by York as exemplars of postmodernism in pop culture,” says Bob Last.

Page 377

>“the transient thrill”

Morley. 4/11/81. Scars album review

Yet although Morley goaded the sluggish-minded bulk of the NME readership by declaring that a certain single by plastic teenybop outfit Tight Fit was better than Led Zep III, most of the real New Pop groups he celebrated--Depeche Mode, Altered Images, even Haircut 100--still had some kind of residual edge somewhere within the sugarspun surfaces; all could be traced back to punk in some way.

>trashed meaningfulness and well-meaning in favor of hedonistic paeans to consumption and polished product

While an intellectually agile minority of music press readers thrilled to the new pop vision touted by Morley/Penman/Adrian Thrills at NME and Dave McCullough at Sounds, many more baulked at it. A brand new gossip column, Morley-and-Penman-penned and based around a fictitious character called Errol, rubbed salt in the wounds of the earnest and stolid postpunk faithful. Errol's celebrations of drinking cocktails at glitzy expensive nightclubs in London, its exaltation of the lifestyle of posing and schmoozing, were taken literally, with much offence taken at statements like “How to celebrate that insidious contempt for plain people that some viewers see conquering the NME more and more each second?” and Errol's approving comments about the opulent ethos of Kid Creole and the ZE family (“August [Darnell, aka Kid Creole]’s advice to the world is—clear up your troubles with a world cruise on the QE2, it only costs 200,000 dollars.”) The column's slogan "dance, don't riot" was considered particularly outrageous, coming not long after the inner city riots of the summer of 1981.

The yawning gulf between the mindset of the majority of postpunk fans and the New Pop vanguard of opinion was dramatized by John Peel’s Festive Fifty of 1981 and the NME readership poll for that year--both announced within a few weeks of each other as 1981 turned into 1982. Based on listener votes, Peel’s Festive Fifty is a chart of all-time classic songs. In 1981, the Pistols, Clash and Jam were still in there, but the Fifty was dominated by Joy Division and New Order: “Atmosphere” was #1, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was #3, and there were three other songs by the group in the Top 10. The only New Pop group in the entire chart was Altered Images, a personal favorite of Peel's and heavily played on the show (he even got to sing on their second album's cover of "Song Sung Blue").

For Morley and his minions, all this proved further that Peel --or at least his listenership--represented a new form of postpunk conservatism, essentially recreating progressive rock but with Joy Division stepping neatly into the polar position vacated by Pink Floyd. Wrote Morley angrily, "the image conjured up by that Festive Fifty was of people drifting away from hope… and taking strange comfort in a place even more restrained and constrained than the chart world.”

The NME's own audience was equally conservative, its 1981 poll (published early 1982) plumping for The Jam, Echo & the Bunnymen, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and The Clash, with the only nods to the New Pop being The Human League and Altered Images.

>gender-coded shift

There was also a polemical point to these provocations. New pop involved a conscious, concerted and brave attempt to bridge the separation between ‘progressive’ pop and mass/chart pop--a divide which could be dated back as far as 1967 and which corresponded very roughly to the divisions between male and female taste, between middle class and working class leisure. Despite its experiments with funk and reggae, postpunk fit into the general tenor of progressive music since Sgt Pepper: it was head music, implicitly antidance. Because of punk, it wasn’t as utterly albums-oriented as progressive rock (which had disdained singles and abstained from the pop charts), but it had the same mentality: treating records as statements (artistic, social), a focus on lyrics along with the auteur’s intentions and beliefs as expounded in music paper interviews. Mainstream pop was body music--oriented around dancing and sex (and the heavenly bodies of the stars themselves), singles-based, and mediated through discotheques, clubs, and day-time radio. Glam rock had breached the prog versus pop, boys versus girls, bourgeois-bohemian versus prole divide, which is why Bowie and Roxy were such touchstones for the New Pop groups, representing a dream of “pop + intellect”. Punk had too, in a way, but its premises were too anti-fun and anti-funk to really make it as pop music. New Pop was a fresh stab at uniting head and body, serious ideas and surface pleasures. The investment in the word ‘pop, against ‘rock’, was a renewal of faith in the possibility of breaking those gender-coded divides. There was an attempt to confuse gender distinctions within the individual as well as the pop marketplace: androgyny, gender-bending, etc. Albeit mostly a question of men becoming more effeminate and glammed-up (boys keep swinging) rather than women (exceptions: Annie Lennox, Grace Jones, a few others…).


Page 379

>carte blanche to expand upon these kernels

Anne Dudley: “Martin Fry was a very bright Sheffield english graduate, and he had written these clever lyrics, and together with Mark White, they had the basis of the tune. Mark was a pretty average guitar player and nobody in the band played keyboards, so I played all the keyboards. Trevor Horn and I would work through the arrangements with Martin and Mark, adding a section here, changing the voicings, using a different chord here or there. We also brought in a bass player—cos they didn’t have a bass player. But they had already had a good drummer David Palmer. He went on to become a big session drummer who’d play in Rod Stewart’s band.

"ABC were very eager to embrace everything that went on.. They were very trusting. I could be looking through rose tinted glasses, but I don’t remember any tension between the band and Trevor."

>Gary Langan

Anne Dudley: "His contribution can’t be underestimated, he was most creative. He was working a very good studio with very good equipment."

Langan, Horn and Dudley were thrilled by the new possibilities opened up by the Fairlight sampler, which had just come on the market, although for the most part they used it as to add ear-catching gimmicks, like the musique concrete (well, not really--more like Pink Floyd "Money") sound of a cash register that appears on the song “Date Stamp.” Dudley: We didn’t use it a lot on Lexicon, but we did use a cash register on ‘Date Stamp’. If you listen carefully you’ll find it appears in different pitches."

>Chronically addicted to alliteration and puns… mixed metaphors

“All of My Heart” declared “the kindest cut’s the cruelest part”, while "Valentine's Day" taunts "With your hard-on parade and your heart on parole/I hope you find a sucker to buy that mink stole”


Martin Fry: “We treated each single sleeve like anyone else would treat an album sleeve. We fought with the record company about the need to do a colour photograph and have sleeve notes”. The latter ranged from a fictionalized account of the rise of ABC on the back of “Tears Are Not Enough” to a letter written and signed by Fry to ABC’s fans on the reverse of “The Look of Love”. Fry: “It was wish fulfilment, ‘cos we didn’t have any fans initially. Like a spell--say it enough times, it’ll happen!”.

The back cover and sleevenote to "Tears Are Not Enough".

>Purveyors of Fine Product

Paralleling the assembly-line pop vison of B.E.F., the sleevenote to “Tears Are Not Enough” talked about how “the initial idea had been to make music like a factory would build a car, with a designer’s attention to detail, scanning from bumper to fin, upholstered and customised to personal specifications.”

>gold lame suits

Songs for Swinging Lovers era Sinatra was another influence, says Fry, “and just the whole idea of romance—which, like ‘pop,’ was a total dirty word during the postpunk period."

Page 380

>“It surprises me… glop, you know?”

Fry. The Face January 1984.

Page 382

>Horn … "when Martin sings "when your girl has left you out on the table"

Misquoted by Horn, it's actually "left you out on the pavement"

"The Look of Love" lyrics

When your world is full of strange arrangements
And gravity won’t pull you through
You know you’re missing out on something
Well that something depends on you
All I’m saying, it takes a lot to love you
All I’m doing, you know it’s true
All I mean now, there’s one thing
Yes one thing that turns this grey sky to blue

That’s the look, that’s the look
The look of love

When your girl has left you out on the pavement (goodbye)
Then your dreams fall apart at the seams
Your reason for living’s your reason for leaving
Don’t ask me what it means
Who’s got the look? I don’t know the answer to that question
Where’s the look? if I knew I would tell you
What’s the look? look for your information
Yes there’s one thing, the one thing that still holds true
(what’s that? )

That’s the look, that’s the look
The look of love

If you judge a book by the cover,
Then you’d judge the look by the lover
I hope you’ll soon recover,
Me I go from one extreme to another

And though my friends just might ask me
They say martin maybe one day you’ll find true love
I say maybe, there must be a solution
To the one thing, the one thing, we can’t find

That’s the look, that’s the look
The look of love
That’s the look, that’s the look
The look of love
That’s the look, that’s the look
Sisters and brothers
Should help each other
Oh, oh, oh
Heavens above
That’s the look, that’s the look, hip hip hooray, ay
That’s the look, that’s the look, yippee ai yippee aiay
That’s the look, that’s the look
Be lucky in love
Look of love

>“I am a punk…”

Fry. Melody Maker 1985

>>ABC couldn’t have happened without punk

Paul Morley: “Today the nostalgia industry has made ABC seem like one of those New Romantic Eighties bands, but at the time they were a postpunk band as far as I was concerned.”

>Fry went to interview Vice Versa

and it turned into a sort of job interview

>Helped create the critical climate

Both through their interviews and the postcards with which they bombarded select journalists in their early days, which included bits of auto-hype and self-praise like this:

“ABC represents… respect for in-built obscolescence and in-built adolescence. A technicolour flag. High-tech, low-tech and discotheque. Respect for the single. Revolutions happen at 45 rpm. Respect for friction and fact, sophisticated boom-boom and the status of The Song”

Chunks of these postcards would get reproduced in journalists's features on ABC. Indeed you could even say that Fry’s excitable tone and pun-thick style actually influenced the style of music journalism for a season or two.

>ABC repaid the compliments

Martin Fry: “We always had this vision of the teenage girl in Barnsley who would buy our record. But at the same time I was trying to impress Morley or Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire.”

>Number One for four weeks

In its first week, Lexicon Of Love had ousted from the top spot Avalon by Fry’s old heroes Roxy Music --“a very strange sensation”, he says.

>Could look back on a year of grand achievements

In a Christmas 1982 colloquium with Morley for the NME, Fry looked to greater feats still to come: “We want to compete with the great songwriters. So the stakes are high... If we succeed we’ll succeed magnificently, and if we fail it will be a magnificent failure. The magnificence is important.”


Vast archive of Scritti interviews at

Useful Scritti site: Scritti Crush Connection

Another content-heavy Scritti site is Scritti Cola

Another excellent and vast Scritti site -- what is it with Green fans?!?-- called Bibbly-O-Tek,

A biographical timeline of Green/Scritti, with a few errors but lots of cool data including Green’s real Christian name

Made in Sheffield documentary film and Beats Working For A Living: Sheffield Popular Music 1973-84 book

Made in Sheffield documentary links for specific bands

All non-pictorial contents copyright Simon Reynolds unless otherwise indicated

1 comment:

Unknown said...

In re: the "five-single" version of Music of Quality and Distinction (p.376) -- this was issued, as the 5x7" box set VV 2219. Both of the tracks issued as singles ("Anyone Who Had A Heart", "Ball Of Confusion") had the instrumental versions of the tracks as the B-sides so they couldn't have been the initial salvos in a 5xAA release.

(This is, of course, a quibble. Taken as a whole Rip It Up... is almost beyond reproach -- thanks for writing it!)