Saturday, November 22, 2008


CHAPTER 21: NEW GOLD DREAMS 81-82-83-84: The Peak and Fall of New Pop

+ Appendix: MTV and the Second British Invasion

Chapter 20 in the US edition, incorporating MTV/Brit Invasion]

PAGE 405

>Club Country

According to Alan Rankine, the words were written back in the summer of 1980, when the Blitz scene was at its height, and he and MacKenzie were regulars on that scene. Spandau Ballet, Visage and “Vienna”-era Ultravox were making the charts with flimsy nonsense, while The Associates used the same sources (Bowie, Roxy, Eurodisco) to greater ends but remained resolutely hitless. “Club Country” staked the claim for MacKenzie & Rankine as the true coming of the Neu Romance, the real “music for heroes”.

>largesse and luxury… Sulk

Billy Mackenzie: “It was all very dandy and glam. It reeked of extravagance. We were extreme, like rock royalty.”

He's actually reminiscing about the retro fashion boutique he had managed in Dundee during the 1970s, but his words distil the essence of Sulk.

>sumptuous… voluptuous

In one interview Alan Rankine described Sulk's sound as "thick... dripping".


Note also Billy MacKenzie woozily enunciating the phrase “marvellous lousy” in an uncanny Sean Connery imitation.

PAGE 406

>Dead Pop Stars

>entirely out of snare drums

Alan Rankine: "A seven inch metal snare, a five inch copper snare, a really deep nine inch black beauty made out of ebony, and so forth"

>"Make it sound expensive"

Speaking to Sounds in July 1982, MacKenzie declared: “Pop’s going through a Harrod’s-like stage. We’re pleased to be involved in it all.”

>"18 Carat Love Affair"

This song was actually Sulk’s closing instrumental “nothinginsomethingparticular,” with a torrid and soaringly stratospheric MacKenzie vocal added to it. In combination with "Love Hangover", the single propounded Associates vision of love as inTOXICant, malady, madness, poperatic hysteria.

"Those First Impressions", the first Associates singles after the split, was exquisite, but "Waiting For the Loveboat" was an early indication that Billy McKenzie's sans-Rankine career was set to sink

PAGE 407

>epic bluster

Especially on 1981’s Steve Hillage-produced Sons and Fascination/Sisters Feelings Call double album

>shifted whole mindset from prog to pop

In interviews singer Jim Kerr gushed unabashedly of his love for Peter Gabriel-era Genesis

PAGE 408

>had made the major label plunge

Alan Horne’s stay-independent ideals had crumbled when Orange Juice’s fourth single “Poor Old Soul”, released April 1981, failed to go any higher than #80 in the national pop charts. Realising that Postcard, in tandem with Rough Trade distribution, would never have the muscle to score a real hit, he got Orange Juice a deal with Polydor, who gave them their own imprint, Holden Caulfield Universal--named after the hero of The Catcher in the Rye.

Don't Shilly Shallly: a medley of quotations that illustrate Postcard's divided impulses at this juncture.

Malcolm Ross: “When Postcard Records was going strong, Alan Horne was absurdly confident. He’d phone journalists and say this is the best label in Britain. And then I think he lost the ability to do that. There was a kind of crisis of confidence about the whole thing. That’s when Orange Juice signed to a major label. And Aztec Camera went to Rough Trade.”

Edwyn Collins (NME, February 1984): “We knew we were the brightest people around, not in an intellectual sense, but we were really shining. We felt that nobody could touch us, and that was largely down to Alan’s incredible arrogance. We put too much faith in the music press.”

Edwyn Collins: “We could never quite go for the pop jugular that other groups could…. "Flesh of My Flesh" got to Number 41 and no higher. I think everyone thought it would sail in. But I don't think Orange Juice were ever that kind of band. It was a journalist idea of Perfect Pop and we partly believed the hype, because we'd helped to initiate it. The public's idea of perfect pop is completely different to journalists” (from Jon Savage’s sleevenotes to the Orange Juice remastered reissues)

Alan Horne (NME, November 1981): “We were all wound up in the Rough Trade Conditioning Syndrome, whereby you’re told that everyone on Rough Trade is ethically sound and morally very, very good; and that the people in the big corporations are evil ogres, bureaucrats and capitalists, bourgeois pigs. But once you meet those people you realize that they’re exactly the same as the people at Rough Trade—it’s just that their Kickers are newer… It’s stupid to stick to the sort of independent ideas that we had about 18 months ago. We can’t do it ourselves. I want to be able to sit back and say, well here’s 40 percent of a hit record – a decent song—and have someone else arrange it, produce it, get it played… That way you end up with ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. Only one Byrd actually played on it, but so what? It still stands up today as a great record. And if The Byrds had played on the single the way it had been written, then it would probably just have ended up as a track on the Nuggets album.”

Paul Haig( NME, July 1982): “I was always depressed, worrying about all the wrong things… I wasn’t interested in making pop records and being successful.” Alan Horne asked if [Josef K] wanted to do a feature in Jackie and we refused. We thought we were too good for a girlie magazine. Now I’d love to be in those kind of pages. These things are available. Why scorn them?”

>Haircut 100… choppy funk sound

Equal parts Talking Heads 77 and Chic


In photo shoots, Nick Heyward dressed in bright yellow sou’westers or chunkyknit sweaters; in interviews, he talked about being influenced by Tonka toys

>High-calibre musicianship

Indeed Haircut 100’s brass section were alumni of the National Jazz Youth Orchestra!

>purge of "unprofessional elements"

Steven Daly: “James Kirk was brilliant, but not your type A personality. A dreamer, and he wasn’t putting in the time or coming on as a guitarist. I said, ‘no, we can’t throw James out ‘cos it won’t be Orange Juice’. So they threw me and him out… But you know, it was 1982, the Smash Hits era was taking over, the music press didn’t matter anymore. The feeling was: ‘We can’t fuck around anymore. We’ve been talking about pop music, Orange Juice has to be popular and make hit records.’ “

the new line up of Orange Juice, after the purge

PAGE 409

>“’A sophisticated … virtue”

Collins. NME 4/23/1983.

>"Spiral Scratch" / "Rip It Up"

The line "You know the scene it's very hum-drum" is a sample from "Boredom", where Devoto sings:
"You know me - I'm acting dumb
you know the scene - very humdrum
boredom - boredom

>"Rip It Up"… metapop… fifties rock'n'roll

The “Rip It Up” versioned by Little Richard, Bill Haley, and Elvis Presley

PAGE 410

>Duran Duran

They had all the appearance of being one-and-a-half hit wonders when their second single ‘Careless Memories’ peaked at #37… but sadly it was not to be.

>Duran… Sex Pistols meets Chic

A shaky proposition given the drummer’s glaring deficiencies

“Could never perform… show”

Bailey. NME 7/25/81.

>Alannah Currie… Pop Group

And she had once lived on the same South London street as The Slits!

PAGE 411

>“A multinational… Stock Exchange”--Bailey.

Quoted in Dave Rimmer’s Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop. (London: Faber and Faber, 1985)P. 150-151

>Sixties-styled guitarpop band The Tourists

They had a massive hit in 1979 with a cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want To Be With You”.

>“The music’s timeless… could be 1986”

Dave Stewart. Rolling Stone 9/29/83.

PAGE 412

>“Wham Rap”

An anti-employment, pro-dole ditty in the mold of Bow Wow Wow’s “W.O.R.K.”

Lyric to "Wham Rap"

You got soul on the dole
You're gonna have a good time down on the line.
You got soul on the dole
You're gonna have a good time down on the line.
I said get
Get on down
I said get
Get get on down

I said get
Get on down
I said get
Get on down.

Hey Everybody take a look at me
I've got street credibility.
I may not have a job but I have a good time
With the boys that I meet down on the line.
I said D.H.S.S. - man
The rhythm that they're givin' is the very best.
I said b-one b-two - make the claims on your names all you have to do.
Folks can be a drag if work ain't your bag and when you let them know
You're more dead than alive in a nine to five
Then they say you'd got to go

And get yourselves a job or get out of this house.
Get yourself a job are you a man or a mouse.
A finger in each ear you pretend not to hear

Gotta get some space get out of this place.
Wham bam - I am a man
Job or no job
You can't tell me that I'm not.
Do you enjoy what you do if not just stop
Don't stay there and rot.
On the streets in the cars on the underground

If you listen real hard you can hear the sound
Of a million people switching off for work

Mr. Average
You're a jerk.
Not me - you can't hold me down

Not me - I'm gonna fool around
Gonna have some fun.
Look out for number one
You can dig your grave
I'm staying young.
Wham bam - I am a man
Job or no job
You can't tell me that I'm not. . . .
If you're a pub man or a club man
Maybe a jet black guy with a hip hi-fi

A white cool cat with a trilby hat maybe leather and studs
Is where you're at
Make the most of everyday.
Don't let hard times stand in your way
Give a wham give a bam

But don't give a damn
'cos the benefit gang are gonna pay.
Now I reach up high and touch your soul
The boys from wham
Will help you reach that goal
It's gonna break your mama's heart

It's gonna break your daddy's heart
But you'll throw the dice and take my advice.
Because I know that you're smart
Can you dig this thing? - Yeah.
Are you gonna get down? - Yeah. Say wham - wham
Say bam - bam.
Wham bam - I am a man
Job or no job
You can't tell me that I'm not. . . .
Wham bam - I am a man
Job or no job
You can't tell me that I'm not. . . .

>“Plagiarism is… most”

Boy George, quoted in Dave Rimmer’s Like Punk Never Happened.P. 82

>“Not a great… adapt”

Boy George. Rolling Stone 6/7/84

PAGE 414

>Resoundingly re-elected.

And Labour, under Michael Foot, was thrashed, winning only 28 percent of the vote, although the SDP played a big role in splitting the anti-Tory vote and ensuring Thatcher's re-election (she was also buoyed by the support for the Falkland's War)

PAGE 415

> ad for the single "All of My Heart".... country squires

From the back cover of The Face, September 1982.

The front cover, incidentally, was Robert Elms's famous "Hard Times" report/manifesto -- heralding the London club scene's shift to a tougher, de-glammed style (torn denim,DMs, etc) and harder, politically-conscious dance music ("How We Gonna Make the Black Nation Rise", "Money's Too Tight To Mention"), all in reaction to New Pop/New Romanticism glitz and escapism. In other words, much the same shift that ABC would attempt a year later with Beauty Stab.

>Beauty Stab… ABC … Gang of Four

Another odd echo of Gang of Four: the horrible oil painting cover of Beauty Stab recalls the photograph of a matador that Gang of Four had wanted to be on their debut EP Damaged Goods, only to be over-ruled by Bob Last.

>“The way I…. period before,” “There is… now”

Martin Fry. NME, 10/22/83

PAGE 416


Heaven 17's first real hit went all the way to #2 and was only held off the top spot by Spandau’s odious “True”.

>conventional pop group

The Luxury Gap album was a lesser remake of Penthouse and Pavement. Worse, the B.E.F. concept had contracted in scope and was now effectively Martyn Ware’s production company; Ian Craig Marsh had no interest in producing the likes of Tina Turner, while Bob Last, preoccupied by the enormity of the Human League’s success, had absented himself from the partnership. Finally achieving the hit singles they wanted so ardently ended up narrowing Heaven 17’s world; first they became a highly successful conventional pop group (the horrible gloopy ballad "Come Live With Me" was another big hit, and "Crushed by the Wheels of Industry" was a medium-sized one), then they became an unsuccessful conventional pop group with the third album How Men Are not doing well at all.

>the New Poptimism… out of step with political realities

In an NME interview, Oakey declared that the world had “in reality got harder since Smash Hits came true”

>didn’t even make the Top Ten

"The Lebanon" charted weakly, stalling at #11. Other singles off Hysteria did worse.

Note the attempted repositioning of the band through visuals -- Phil Oakey's unshaved stubble (gritty, rock-ish), the prominence of the guitar fretboard at the start, the "performing live" to a concert hall audience set up (a "boring promo" approach usually taken by rock bands) and the generally unsmiley grim unpop aura of group. Sonically the guitar finds the missing spot between Levene on "Public Image" and The Edge in "I Will Follow"/"Sunday Bloody Sunday" mode

PAGE 417

>Those who senses were acute

Around the time of "Rip It Up" becoming a hit, Edwyn Collins, another aesthetic soothsayer, started pointedly wearing a Sex Pistols T-Shirt. “I’m getting more interested in punk again,” he told NME, railing against the groups that had “put the ‘a’ back into pop music… I hate them the same way I hated progressive groups in
’77. Hate was the good thing about punk. I think hate can be very positive if it is directed in the right way.”

Orange Juice shifted to a rockier, American sound, with Texas Fever. But a year of photo shoots for teenmags like Jackie and Smash Hits had damaged their credibility with their old proto-indie fanbase, The timing was a little off too: in mainstream terms, a full-blown resurrection of rock was on the distant horizon. 1983-84 were the years of New Pop’s hegemony, a harvest glut with the ripenened fruit brown and squidgy.

Malcolm Ross: “Orange Juice and Aztec Camera both embraced that chartpop principle wholeheartedly, they wanted to be stars. Which was stupid, because Orange Juice alienated the audience they already had. By the time I joined Orange Juice [having left Josef K], that was happening--the fanbase was being turned off by seeing pictures of the band in their wee sister’s copy of Jackie. We did photo shoots for Smash Hits and the teenybop mags. And it wasn’t the record companies pushing us, it was a band’s decision--a plan. Looking back, it was a great mistake, because most pop bands, it’s a very shortlived thing, whereas rock bands have longevity, Edwyn really realised the mistake later, I think, and Orange Juice went back to a harder, rockier sound. But by then they’d blown it. ‘Cos a year before that Edwyn had been doing photo shoots for magazines like Jackie dressed as a boy scout with shorts and neckerchief.”

>Streamlined ultramodern pop sound

Circa ‘The Sweetest Girl’, Green had celebrated black music’s ““economy of style, as opposed to an excess of signature” (the latter referring to the wilful eccentricity of everything from henry cow-style prog to postpunk). But on Songs To Remember, Green hadn’t achieved that almost anonymous, depersonalized elegance he admired in black music--the music was fussy with clever-clever bits, the lyrics wordy and smug. With Scritti #3, he came up with a state-of-art sound drawing on contemporary influences like Quincy Jones’s productions for Michael Jackson, Leon Sylvers’ work with Shalamar and SOS Band, and an obscure dance outfit called The System who also influenced Robert Palmer at that time.

the new line up of Scritti -- Scritti Mark 3 -- with Fred Maher and David Gamson -- as seen on the inner sleeve of Cupid & Psyche

>“We used… Swiss Watch”

Green. Mojo August 1999.

>‘Wood Beez’

Producer Arif Mardin, who’d worked with Aretha and Chakha Khan, added a cute touch by putting a sample of the Vienna Boys choir over the line “each time I go to bed/I pray like Aretha Franklin”.


Faith (amorous, political or religious) equated here with the longing for "a principle/to make your heart invincible". With drugs ("now the words are vodka clear"--"Absolut" geddit) hinted at as the surrogate and salve for such crippling uncertainty (c.f. Wood Beez's oblique reference to heroin: "There's nothing I wouldn't take/Oh, even intravenous.")

Absolute lyrics

Absolute, on power drive
I need you so to keep me alive
Absolute, I long for you
A girl to make a dream come true
Oh baby understand

Absolute, on power drive
I need you so to keep me alive
Absolute, I long for you
A girl to make a dream come true
Absolute, a principal
To make your heart invincible
To love (do do-do-do)

(Ooh love you)
(Ooh love you)
(Ooh and I love you)
(Ooh and I love you)

Holy girl your lips of clay
Will whisper words of yesterday
Holy girl my paramour
I know too much to be so sure
Holy girl you kiss away
The meaning of the working day
For love (do do-do-do)

(Ooh love you)
(Ooh love you)
(Ooh and I love you)
(Ooh and I love you)

Where the words are worn away
We live to love another day
Where the words are hard 'n' fast
We talk of nothing new but the past

(Ooh love you)
(Ooh love you)
(Ooh and I love you)
(Ooh and I love you)


Where the words are vodka clear
Forgetfulness has brought us near
Absolute, a principal
To make your heart invincible
To love (near)
To love (oh)
To love

(Love you) love you
(Love, love you)

(Love) absolute
(Love you) love you
(Love you)

(Love) absolute
(Love you) love you
(Love you)

(Love) absolute
(Love you) love you
(Love you)

(Love) absolute
(Love you) love you
(Love you)

PAGE 418

“hymns for… myself”
Green. MM 6/22/85.

Agnosticism: In a 1984 Melody Maker interview, Green declared himself a believer in at least one thing: “the power of pop. It gives you a taste for change.”

>"The word girl" /"the ‘Sweetest Girl"

Green, 1999 interview: “The 'girl' in the love song, unrequited love, or lost love can stand for other losses, greater longings”.

In 'The Word Girl', the girl in “outgrew” the role of sacred beloved, a mystification close to a form of abuse or imprisonment, just as the “sweetest girl” had left because “she understood the value of defiance”. Leaving Green, the dreamer, as just one link in a “chain of fools”: a nod to Aretha’s song, but also to the interminable text of post-structuralist theory, where absolute meaning is endlessly deferred as the signified recedes always from your grasp thanks to the play of differance.

Lyric to The Word Girl

To do what I should do
To long for you to hear

I open up my heart ...
And watch her name appear

A word for you to use
A girl without a cause

A name for what you lose
When it was never yours

The first time baby that I came to you
I'd do things that you want me to
The second time baby that I came to you
Oh you found my love for you
The third time baby that I came to you
Oh Oh Oh I knew
The last time baby that I came to you
Oh how your flesh and blood became the word

Name the girl outgrew
The girl was never real
She stands for your abuse
The girl is no ideal
It's a word for what you do
In a world of broken rules
She found a place for you
Along her chain of fools.

On the 12 inch, the Female finally gets to have her say, in the second section of the song, "Flesh and Blood", with some dancehall chat from Ranking Ann, a female UK reggae MC: real name, Ann Swinton.

"Flesh and Blood" lyric by Ann Swinton

This song is to a teenager
Say whether minor or whether major
When me was young, me never have no teacher
Me do some things, me never know what a-better

But let me tell you something, we can reach further
Say wait a with your friend or wait here no far
Some of them are fake and some are liar
Make no mistake, me say some are user

Some of them a-use manipulation
And some of them a-practice exploitation
It's just one thing when you're a woman
It sometime feel like like ten against one
And let me tell you something, say that's no fun

Say this kind of feelings you can't override
Say from the truth and from the fact, you just can't hide
My flesh and blood, your blood and flesh
Lord above, look how you're fresh
Me out-a here and out-a mind
This request is justified

Check with me, nobody
Mentally, not physically
There's a way, you can-a say
Yes, it's my identity
Check with me, nobody
Mentally, not physically
Check, check
For me!

Just one thing you must contemplate
In everything you do, you want be concentrating
Concentrate on what you need
The things you need, the soul you feed

Take what you want and get what you need
Feel secure then you will succeed
Cos life is short and it can be good
But just remember say you no make out-a wood
Help yourself, you know you should

Say this kind of feelings you can't override
Say from the truth and from the fact, you just can't hide
My flesh and blood, your blood and flesh
Lord above, look how you're fresh
Me out-a here and out-a mind
This request is justified

Check with me, nobody
Mentally, not physically
There's a way, you can-a say
Yes, it's my identity
Check with me, nobody
Mentally, not physically
Check, check
For me!

No use me, abuse me
Excuse me, I'm flesh and blood
I say no use me, abuse me
Excuse me, I'm flesh and blood

You say
You can stop, me say you love machine
Yes you know, just what me mean
I used to act the cherry and the cream
A woman left me just a dream

Me say no use me, abuse me
Excuse me, I'm flesh and blood
Me say no use me, abuse me
I'm flesh and blood

Me flesh and blood, me blood and flesh
Lord above, me say no get too fresh
Me out-a here and me out-a mind
This request is justified

Me say
Check with me, not me body
Mentally, not physically
There's a way, you can-a say
Yes, it's my identity

Me say no use me, abuse me
I'm flesh and blood
Me say no use me, abuse me
I'm flesh and blood

Me say
Flesh and blood, a-ya
Flesh and blood
Flesh and blood, and me no make out-a wood
Flesh and blood, a-ya
Flesh and blood
Flesh and blood, and me no make out-a wood
Me say no use me, abuse me
I知 flesh and blood

Me say
If you don't lose but you no find me quiet
Me have to tell you, say you must have been wrong
I said don't use me

Flesh and blood, a-ya
Flesh and blood
Flesh and blood, and me no make out-a wood

I'm flesh and blood
I say no use me, abuse me

Lyric to The Sweetest Girl

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

>high, almost varispeeded voice

Inspired by Michael Jackson, this uber-falsetto sound was achieved by singing from as high up the neck as he could go, so that the sound didn’t resonate in his body.

>Cupid & Psyche 85

The title was explained by this interview for Jamming (June 1985) done by Chris Heath (full text at )

Green: "There is the myth, the legend of Cupid and Psyche. They fell in love with each other but could only stay that way as long as neither attempted to find out too much about the other. Their ignorance was their bliss. But overfamiliarity got the better of them. I don't know specifically what they found out about -- his nosepicking? ingrowing toenails? sweaty bottom? I suspect none of these, it being a myth. Anyway Psyche fled and Cupid was fated to travel the universe in search of him. Apparently in the end they got together but part of Cupid's punishment was to be in the service of Venus. Apart from that, which I thought was relevant to one or two of the songs, I liked the idea that Cupid had come into common parlance as a key word for affairs of the heart and psyche had for the tortured unconscious. Hence the title. The '85' helps ground it."

The one or two songs would include "A Little Knowledge" with its lyric's rather bleak Lacan-influenced ("there is no such thing as the relationship" --or is it "no such thing as the sexual relationship"? ) view of Love. i.e. "now I know to love you is not to know you", references to the " I got too near to you/ Oh, in the court of contempt " no doubt referring to the age-old idea that "familiarity breeds contempt" and nothing kills the romance quicker than cohabitation.

A Little Knowledge lyric

GREEN: Now I know to love you
FEMALE: Is not to know you
GREEN: Oh I got too near to you
Oh, in the court of contempt
I have to tell you
FEMALE: One thing I'm certain
GREEN: I've been overtaken, girl
Oh, by the need to be loved

We don't have forever
FEMALE: To find a reason
GREEN: How I lost the will to love you
Out in the way of the world
Maybe I could see you
FEMALE: When this is over
GREEN: Maybe when our hearts are healed
Oh what a day to behold

FEMALE: There'll be a day, lovers away
(You can) call me and mend a broken heart
There'll be a time long after mine
(He will) call you and mend a broken heart

GREEN: Not a lot to say now
FEMALE: Except I miss you
GREEN: Not a lot to take your place
Oh, in the heart of the boy
Ooh a little knowledge
FEMALE: Is so exciting
GREEN: You became a part of me
Oh, and the world that we knew

I guess it's a sickness
FEMALE: That keeps me wanting
GREEN: Ate away the heart of me (heart of me)
Oh, and the heart that I loved
Still beyond believing
FEMALE: In love forever
GREEN: Quite the brightest star, girl
Oh, in the reason of sleep

FEMALE: There'll be a day, lovers away
(You can) call me and mend a broken heart
There'll be a time long after mine
(He will) call you and mend a broken heart

GREEN: Listen to her say

FEMALE: Got a little radio
Held to my body
I can feel your back beat boy
GREEN: Moving a muscle of love
FEMALE: Turn it up and press it
I don't understand it
I can feel your message boy
GREEN: Calling me over and out

Here's a verse for nothing
FEMALE: An introduction
GREEN: To the way the world will be
Now we're apart and alone
Mustn't be unhappy
FEMALE: When you remember
GREEN: Lovers never lose each other
Oh, such a lot to be learned

>“When I met Derrida… in”
Green. MM, 3/5/88.

Bob Last recalls this meeting: “French radio arranged for us to have dinner with Derrida. A very charming and interesting guy, but Green and I were both a little shocked by his ideas about music-he thought jazz was good, because it overtly involved skill, and good jazz was the jazz that was hardest to play. It was strange that the implications of his way of looking at the world didn’t carry through to his understanding of music. There was a complete lapse there.”

Green naturally was blown away to meet his intellectual idol.

spot the difference

PAGE 419

“the bright… barrage” “any attempts… nonsense”

Green. The Face, 1988. At

>Buying in or selling out

Bob Last: “There was an uncertainty that once they delivered that high gloss whether they were really distinguishable [from the rest of chartpop]. I think Green found that difficult, and I’m not sure he ever felt like he’d successfully resolved that issue.”


>“The velocity of sales”

Frith, from his “Making Sense of Video” essay (see bibliography). P. 210

>“It is easy to get…. ago.” Countercultural… buy [certain] things” “culturally harmless”

Levy. Rolling Stone, 12/8/1983. “Ad Nauseam: How MTV Sells Out Rock & Roll.”

>David Bowie

>“never before… surrender”. “will… be remembered”

Greil Marcus, NME 12/24-31/83.

>“import a raw… offer them”

Marsh. “It’s Like That: Rock & Roll on the Home Front” from The First Rock & Roll Confidential Report: Inside the Real World of Rock & Roll by Dave Marsh et al.. New York: Pantheon, 1985. P. 27.

>“flag wavers vs fag-wavers… shitkicker”

Carducci. From Rock and the Pop Narcotic. p. 125

“the strength of… having fun”

Simon Frith. “Frankie Said: But what did they mean?” .In Consumption, Identity, & Style. Ed. Alan Tomlinson, (London: Routledge, 1990) P. 183


Owen Hatherley on Scritti

Stylus piece on Cupid & Psyche

Thompson Twins information

Smash Hits - Alex Petridis's warm tribute to the deceased pop mag --which, conversely, myself (and Steven Daly, as it happens) always regarded as the enemy of true pop, in both the UK art-into-pop sense AND the thoughtless rapacious pulp-mythic Superpop sense (as defined by Nik Cohn); this through it having pioneered a certain kind of fatally demystified, irony-clad, enjoy-it-while-seeing-through-it approach to pop, which in term helped to spawn the culture of heterosexual camp and compulsory archness that now benights us. Still, it is worth checking out the following

Like Punk Never Happened -- Smash Hits archive
some nutter's archiving the entire run of Smash Hits -- the front cover's on the blog, click on the image and it takes you to flickr where every page is available. Archive fever on yeah. At this point (Feb 2010)it's only up to 1980 and so it's not full New Pop yet, in fact what's surprising is how NME/inky press in contents like the early issues are (Ian Dury, Siouxsie, Specials, Secret Affair), it was the same with the Face for the first few years, it was basically NME with less interesting writing but much better (and bigger) photographs

Piece by Bob Stanley on 1983 as the year New Pop went wrong, albeit largely focused on the career mis-steps of Orchestral Manoeuvres


Me on Simple Minds

Themes--Volume 1: March 79-April 82
Themes--Volume 2: August 82-April 85

Melody Maker, September 1990
By Simon Reynolds

It's a trick of history. Just as it's difficult to listen U2's genuine peaks without looking for the seeds of the fatuous flatulence of Rattle N' Hum, so too is it night on impossible to remember that Simple Minds could often be inspirational, now that Jim Kerr is lost in the realm of platitudinous populism.

The first two volumes of Themes, a rather unnecessarily deluxe collection of their 12 inch singles (each colume contains five silver discs, where two would have sufficed), both invites and confounds speculation as to exactly whenabouts Simple Minds went astray. When did heroic vagueness degenerate into vague heroics?

The standard interpretation is that all went awry when Simple Minds exchanged fascination with Europe for the challenge of America's wide-open spaces (and markets). "I Travel" was doubtless inspired by the confusion of being on the road on the Continent, but nonetheless manages to render this tawdry experience as a form of spiritual nomadism: perpetual motion as an eternal exile from everyday life. Musically, the track sounds a bit dated: it's basically Eurodisco, a Moroder pulse-matrix and a chorus that sounds uncannily like Sparks's "Beat the Clock". The calvacade of "Celebrate" sounds far more alien and unsettled. It's not as schizo as side two of Empires and Dance, but it's still a celebration of travel not as a means of broadening the mind, but of breaching: the story of an "I" scattered and saturated by stimuli.

Simple Minds didn't exactly deflect all the prog rock accusations by choosing Steve Hillage to produce "The American", and despite the slap-bass and sequencers, there was no disguising the rockism of this dirge. But "Love Song" has real funk propulsion beneath its swirling vistas. It's a love song to geography ("America is my boyfriend"), a kind of reversal of Lyotard's idea of the lover's face as a landscape in which you lose yourself. "Sweat In Bullet" is another surge of panoramic, only slightly stiff-joined funk-rock: the line "rolling and tumbling/mission in motion" is valorously unspecific, there's a vague desire for some kind of crusade or Holy Grail, but Live Aid and Mandela Day are still a long way off. Thank God.

The glistening "Promised You A Miracle" was Simple Minds' breakthrough(into the charts and out of the fug of progressive rock production). Its brimming anticipation ("golden daybreak wondering/everything is possible") perfectly captured the feel of the moment, as the charts were engulfed by the accessible-but-weird New Pop of The Associates, Human League, Japan, etc. "Glittering Prize" is possibly even more ardent and awake. These two singles and the shimmering New Gold Dream were Simple Minds' moment of perfect equipoise. For a moment, they hovered in mid-air: between grandeur and grandiosity, nobility and pomp, abstraction and woffle. And then came the plunge…

Well, not quite. Sparkle in the Rain is supposed to be when the rot set in: a regressive step back from pop to stadium rock. But the ambient bombast of "Waterfront" is actually pretty magnificent in a Jim Morrison sort of way. And "Up On the Catwalk" is probably Simple Minds' s most underrated single, their last bout of topsy-turviness and abstracte euphoria, before the descent into facile transcendentalism and blunt, unwarranted affirmation ("Alive and Kicking", etc). But "Speed Your Love To Me" is as bad and boring as "Don't You Forget About Me".

Thereafter, Kerr & Co exchanged their glory daze for Springsteenesque glory days; the quest became concrete and coercive; finally, they abandoned wonderlust/wanderlust for roots, responsibility and homecoming to the heartwarming hearth. From outlandish alienation to "a big country" and "the little people". Pah!

Extract from the Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock'n'Roll on Annie Lennox

Apart from Madonna, the singer who has most successfully brought masquerade into the mainstream is Annie Lennox. In Eurythmics, Lennox certainly made a concerted bid to be taken seriously as a female Bowie. (In 1993, she penned a poem/paean to Bowie for an Arena special on the middle-aged glam rocker). Around the time of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983), Lennox's image--a short, sharp shock of inorganic orange hair, virulent red lipstick, a streamlined and hard edged physique, big-shouldered men's suits--was a perfect blend of Bowie's 'Thin White Duke' and Grace Jones' glacial androgyne. In the song 'Sweet Dreams', she plays the dominatrix, her voice oozing cold wisdom when it comes to men's wiles: some want to abuse, some 'want to be abused'. Like Madonna, Lennox aimed to set herself up as a human question mark, a bewitching but baffling enigma; like Madonna, she wrote a song called 'Who's That Girl?'. For the video, Lennox tried to resurrect the cross-dressing confusion of Bowie's 'Boys Keep Swinging' by playing both the male and female parts in the love triangle that is the video's mystery story.

Ideas of glamour as reinvention of the self were in the air: it was the height of New Pop, the UK movement that refloated glam rock ideas as an alternative to the various dead-ends trailing from the still-warm corpse of punk. ABC's strings, schmaltz and gold lame suits, Adam Ant's procession of heroic archetypes, Boy George's gender-bending: Eurythmics cannily plugged into this new pop Zeitgeist in which the subversive possibilities of artifice were being reappraised. 'Who's That Girl?' casually incorporated a buzz-phrase of the day, 'the language of love': bands like ABC, with their The Lexicon of Love LP, and Scritti Politti, with their Barthes-influenced deconstruction of 'the lover's discourse', had trailblazed a strategy of ironic deployment of romantic cliches, which were simultaneously celebrated and unravelled.

As their career developed, Annie Lennox ran through a plethora of derivative poses: the white Aretha Franklin demanding 'Respect' on 'Sisters Are
Doin' It For Themselves' (with the real Franklin relegated to backing vocals),
the sassy soul mama who gives her faithless biker boyfriend a dressing down on
'Would I Lie To You?', the Tin Pan Alley showgirl of 'There Must Be An Angel',
the commanding Piaf-like chanteuse of her 1992 solo album Diva.

One song stands out amongst all this corn, though: 'I Need A Man' (from 1987's Savage) is Lennox's one truly confounding (im)posture. Over an immaculate
simulation of the discofied raunch purveyed by the Stones in the mid-'70s,
Lennox plays Jagger's swagger to the hilt, parodying his own caricature of
low-down blues rapacity. In the song, the female protagonist treats men like
men treat women: as object, prey, plaything. Her contempt is as obvious as her
lust, her repetition of the word 'baby' beautifully belittling. In the video,
Lennox is so vamped up and caked in make-up she could be a male transvestite,
echoing the Stones' own cross-dressing escapades in the promo for 'Have You
Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?' 'I Need A Man' is a Moebius
strip of gender confusion: is Lennox playing a man in drag who's impersonating
a man-eating vamp, or a 'real' female vamp, or what? Annie Lennox's more
feminine personae often have an air of drag about them. For Marjorie Garber,
drag puts 'in question the "naturalness" of gender roles through the discourse
of clothing and body parts.' The question is: what is communicated when a
female artist like Lennox or Madonna goes into drag in order to play feminine
roles? How can the questioning of cliches and stereotypes be distinguished from
mere conformist perpetuation of those stereotypes?

My interview with Green in 1988 around Provision

Melody Maker, March 3rd 1988

By Simon REynolds

I can map out the last 10 years around the eternal returns of Scritti--the lengthy absences (they seem to have average out at about two and a half years), the disowning, in fairly scathing terms, of the previous work, and the reappearance each time with material ever closer to the hyper-real phantasm of "perfect pop" Green pursues, perhaps despite himself.

I've followed the trajectory avidly, because from the start it was clear that here was that rare thing, a pop intellect able, at least half of the time, to evade itself, to steer unclear of the customary pitfalls of intelligence in rock--archness, over-determination, manifesto-mongering. And rarer still, a pop intellect endowed, arbitrarily, with the facility for melodies of almost murderous elegance and poignancy--apparent even in the mannered, self-consciously fractured early DIY songs like "PAs", "Confidence" and "Bibbly-O-Tek". I've watched this ease grow, through the asphyxiating sweetness of "The 'Sweetest Girl'" (like "The Word Girl", a love song about the implausibility of love, that seduces as it unravels(, the grandeur of "faithless" (a song about the impossibility of faith
couched in the deep testifying of gospel), the somehow lethal slickness of "Wood Beez", "Absolute", Hypnotize", all eerie spaces and opaque, dazzling surfaces like a hall of mirrors, literally brilliant pop. Green understand and distrusts our need for the immaculate, the mythic. He knows that beauty can be terrorising.

Now he's back, with a new single, "Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy)", and what promises to be a cracking album to follow. But for the first time, there's been no major leap, he's still working with David Gamson and Fred Maher, the new stuff takes the hyperactive synthetic-funk and hard gloss of "Cupid & Psyche" only marginally further into the mainstream. And, although it may just be his manner, you get the impression that Green is a little sure about his own doubt, smugly settled in uncertainty. Nineteen eighty eight's "Oh Patti" does pretty much
reiterate the perplexities of 1981's "Faithless": "I got so tired of concluding there's nothing for us to conclude...we tried together to discover why we failed the test of our time...I've gone where a lost cause can be found".

"Well, yes, there are abiding concerns...the fact that lessons learnt' politically or philosophically, can't be gone back on or be forgotten. They just become part of the way you think about the world, they aren't problems which become solved or superceded. I haven't found a faith to replace the faithlessness."

Does this give you grief, on the level of everyday living?

"It is difficult to live with what I see as an endless indeterminacy of meaning, an interminable equivocality, a lack of any higher authority to sort out the lack of founding principles..." (ie God, or some kind of science of history like Marxism which would enable you to predict the imminence of revolution)..."I consider them all to be irreversibly revealed to be metaphysical" (ie nonsense). "Which is not to say that you can live without some idea of truth, history, prescience...but these are never to be relied on. It means living in a world that's never to be trusted. And, as the single says, you should certainly never trust yourself. So you do live propelled by these nightmare anxieties, in a little daydream of a world. It's not grief, exactly, it's just weird."

He certainly looks as though the groundless existence agrees with him, ruddy-cheeked and slimmer than we remember. But why deal with this perplexity in uptempo, coherent, joyous pop?

"Because on one level, doubt is a liberating thing, engenders an anarchic freeplay of meaning. but also I just happen to like those kind of pop sounds at the moment, not that this aesthetic preference is at all fixed."

This refusal to be pinned down, to close off any bolt-hole, is typical of Green's slippery, elusive discourse.

"And again, maybe the idea of assembling a piece of music when all around you is chaotic and falling apart, is the appeal -- you're able to build, perhaps, because music is, in a sense, outside meaning."

The lyrics, I tend to find a bit opaque...

"They're opaque in the sense that I don't think language can be transparent and clearly revealing, either of something within yourself or outside in the world. Language is oblique, opaque, ambiguous, and the thing to do is court that a bit...and try to maintain a little diligence...the fact that I don't believe that someone's intentions count for anything in how a piece of writing will be read, doesn't lead me to give up on any idea of purposiveness in my writing..."

You seem to like to run together statements that are in contradiction -- on the new track "Lovesick": "come back baby I know it's over" -- or surgically bare the impossible aspirations that are generated in the lover's long, unheard monologue with the loved object: "I've gonna get that girl/and give her a present that never arrives...a future that's hard to believe in...the time of my life"...

"There arise fairly unforcedly...from the way I is nice to unsettle and undo...and it doesn't seem incongruous to do this from within uptempo music rather than atonal, dirge-like music. One is no more truthful, or ultimately radical or interesting than the other. But it's not so much that I'm fascinated by the bizarre pieces of language that people generate when 'in love', but that I think all language is nonsense...and that love is just an effect of nonsense. I think someone once said that all our problems are the result of our bewitchment by language."

The irony, of course, is that Green talks with eloquence about the futility and poverty of words, soberly and sensibly about nonsense. He speaks sotto voce and with the fastidious emphasis of a schoolteacher. Where the rest of us sluggish, vernacular souls are impeded by the torpid resistance of language, he moves through it as though immune to gravity. 'E talks like a booook.

"But, arguably, my preoccupations are ultimately irrelevant to how the record is consumed...the meaning of a record is determined by a whole bunch of other parameters and elements..."

Does this worry you?


Amuse you?

"It's something that I'd like to see understood more widely, that the hearing of a record is where its meaning(s) or lack of meaning is determined. And that you should be wary of anything that causes the closure of those meanings. If you think you know what something's about, you should be decidedly suspicious of yourself."

(Of course, here Green sounds at his most supercilious and invincible. In fact, I've just twigged who he reminds me of: a tutor I once had, a very clever man unfortunately handicapped by an insufferable manner, in which he sounded both pedantic and at the same time immensely weary, almost extinguished, by the laboriousness of having to go over ground immensely obvious and familiar to himself.)

There are those who would say that if you want to do anything in this world, have any kind of political agency, then you have to make some kind of mental closure...

"Yes, yes, I'd agree with that...and in as much as conservative pragmatist accept that the best you hope for is a provisional morality, I'd certainly urge for a provisional immorality."


"I'd seek to undo and unsettle a provisional morality...because to accept it would be unthinkable."

Is this the idea that wherever power, or the "normative" is, you should resist it, simply for the sake of resistance?

"Well, it's difficult. It's easy to end up in a kind of infantile anarchism, if you're not watchful...although it's arguably
difficult to point a way out of that...that anarchic 'fuck it' completely attitude...But I think it's such an arid, sterile place to end up! There's a half-assed, ill-thought-out proclivity to drift romantically towards the margins, in a juvenile, narcissistic way, which you find in some quarters of the indie scene..."

Here, readers, Green is talking about everything you and I hold most dear, from The Butthole Surfers and Big Black to The Smith and the Mary Chain...

"And having been on these margins of convention myself, I can testify that is no greater power or truth or radicalism there...which is not to say I won't revisit them, or that history might put me back there. But to seek them out and install yourself on them, amass some sort or armament of difference for yourself, mark out an identity by choosing from the catalogue of stylistic and theoretical positions with attendant aesthetic preferences..., well, it's just a trip...I couldn't make any claims for it...does that answer your question, in a roundabout way? Eight vodka and orange, you know!"

I should cocoa. Norralf. The above could pass for a scathing portrait of me, and all my friends. Complete coincidence, I'm sure. So what were the revelatory intellectual moments when you realised everything you'd done
previously was rubbish?

"Oh, I always think what I do is rubbish...or at least I'm never comfortable with it...or anything else. But to answer the question...Marx, Freud, Nietzche, art college, drugs, rock'n'roll, Derrida, Jamaica, certain seminal indie figures like Mark E. Smith, hip hop..."

Now hip hop, to me, corresponds to the juvenile, anti-nomian narcissism you were disparaging just now, more than soul (which is why I like it)...

"Yes, it's certainly shot through with that...but I find it crushingly interesting for all that, in the same way I find patchouli smelling Goths...rather crushingly sad."


I credit Green with a lot of influence for the pivotal shift away from rock towards funk-and-soul, that took place in the early years of this decade. He was doing a lot of interviews, and in them he presented his switch from cerebral, introverted, self-consciously "different" rock to black pop, as a king of paradigm of a return to health. Post-punk, squatting and speed had nearly killed him; he withdrew to Wales to recuperate for nearly a year, and emerged a bush-tailed blue-eyed Soul Man. But doesn't he think the idea of health especially where it connects to the hegemony of soul today, has subsequently proven to be rather an
oppressive apparatus?

"At the time, things had gotten unhealthy, I had gotten unhealthy. A sluggishness had set in around the early Eighties, and I would point to PiL as representing the other way things were going to go, a reversion to a white rock ghettoisation. There was a certain frisson then of talking self-consciously about a cathartic transition to clear-eyed pop, but really, I'd like to think I have an 'unhealthy' attitude to black music."

What do you think of those people who throw themselves wilfully into "unhealth", that Nick Cave syndrome...

"Oh, I'm still a bit of sucker for that...Everything abut Cave I have a lot of sympathy for...until it comes down to making the actual records! Same with The Smiths...fabulous song titles, but the music...I think that in a world of nothing but provisional morality and unwarrantable assertions, a self-destructive bent is a perfectly understandable and excusable movement. The crisis of the Subject, of the belief in the individual's consciousness, which is what I'm engaged in, is a kind of self-destructiveness that seems inescapable to me, and for me...although maybe that seems anomalous alongside the records. But beyond this microscopic, factional approach to pop where you argue that such-and-such record is more disruptive than another record, you should look more broadly at how all pop is disruptive of meaning. When I met Derrida he said that what I was doing was part of the same project of undoing and unsettling that he's engaged in. He's written that what sets the musician apart is the possibility of meaninglessness. That unsettling has always been my experience of pop, from the earliest moments -- pop is about the abuse of language, the assertion of rhythm. And that element is there in my music, no matter how saccharine it appears."

Can you think of some kinds of pop you'd claim a disruptive effect for, that we in the rock press would be surprised by?

"A lot of the Beatles records...I remember buying them, having great reverence for them, and being greatly disturbed by them. But it's more difficult to think of something so anodyne there was no tension in it, for some reader."

My pleasure in music is very much bound up with what you describe, jouissance, a mindblowing incapacity of language to contain the experience. But many people would argue this was a very middle class, elitist, solipsistic version of pop. Pat Kane, for instance, argues that people use pop to make sense of the world, give them a narrative.

"It's not true in my case -- except in the sense that my way of making sense of the world is to make nonsense of it. This deconstructive movement is the movement of our epoch. And when the last refuge of homogeneity (which is, even after Freud, the human Subject, when that is finally pulled apart, then a whole new sense of the world emerges. And it's just puerile to think of pop as providing people with narratives to their lives."

But the people you've influenced, the new, white Brit-Soul, do see soul as therapeutic, a stable ground, a return to sanity, roots, "real" expression. (Wet Wet Wet even get their name from a Scritti song ['Getting Havin' Holdin'--the line "wet wet wet with tears".]

"Yes, you're right, there's this wholesomeness, earnest expressiveness, honesty... and yes, that's garbage. I would say that soul and funk are the most WRECKING experiences, you can feel it when a really NASTY groove hits you, there's much more a sense of falling apart, in an affirming way, than of its..." [really sneering now] "...its honesty."

Hasn't soul become over-written and over-determined in much the same way that you used to complain rock was in 1980? It's got so I can't listen to Aretha Franklin's voice without horrid words like "pride and dignity" popping into my head.

"I think you're right and it's something we should, um, band together and fight against! No, if that is the story that maintains then it needs to be contradicted and undone, and another story needs to be told about it, because that sure as hell wasn't what appealed to me about black music, even though the 'health' factor was salient at the time, strategically. It's a question of tactics without teleology , of slipping around."

Do you follow what happens in the world of rock? I mean, what do you think about the validity of "noise" as an option?

"There is no point at which music stops and noise begins...that's elementary. I've always considered music as noise and noise as music...these are obviously the arcane squabblings that persist in the airless, closeted confines of the music papers." (Here, I have to think of how unlikely this notion of the interchangeability of noise and pop would be to deflect those rock carnivores The Stud Brothers from their jeering Green-is-a-nance Oporto stance.) "I don't make any noisy noise right now, but I'd be quite happy to make it in the future. There's every reason to expect as bold departures in the future as I've made in the past. Five years ago it would have been inconceivable to me that I'd have a song on a Madonna album, or be working with Miles Davis."

Having covered "Perfect Way" on Tutu, "we've become good friends" and Miles guests on the "Oh Patti" single. Another celeb collaborator is Roger Troutman, the genius funkateer behind Zapp, and Top 3 in the States recently with his solo single "I Want To Be Your Man". His unique vocoderised meta-ecstasy appears on a couple of album tracks and there are plans for a more involved project.

"Roger's firmly entrenched in the Seventies P-Funk groove syndrome that's so scarce these was fabulous working with him, he really suffers from the funk, every twitch of his body is syncopated."

From your own, punk generation, do you feel you have any peers?

"No, not really."

Anyone you appreciate?

"Lots, lots. I like Bros. I like The Proclaimers."

I'm stupefied twice, especially about The Proclaimers. Why?

"I don't know why, I just think they're good. I allowed myself not to think too hard about that."

Having started from an interest in politics, do you have any ideas about the viable forms of political agency? Do you see any kinds of activity of resistance that encourage you?

"My ideas on that are as abstruse and difficult as ever...I couldn't point to any particular text or group with a handle on the right way...I can do nothing more than be hopeful for the Labour Party...a statement which rings in hollow silence...and is unlikely to incite much comment or fervour from me or anyone...A lot of undoing needs doing in the Labour party, and there's no one about to do it...I just have this negative theology...which is to deny privilege wherever I find it."

(Here, he doesn't mean toffee-nosed twerps in stately homes, but the privileging of ideas and theories. I reckon he could afford to undo his own privileging of black music as a source of extra-linguistic force and as a cue for jouissance--but then I would, I'm a ROCK FAN.)

"Beyond this denial of privilege, though, I can't be prescriptive, or teleological, or...oh!...I'm so sorry..." (a supremely hollow note of apology) "...I'm disappearing,'s been a long day..."

Disappearing into the labyrinthine recesses of his own colon. And good for him. Someone's got to do it.

All non-pictorial contents copyright Simon Reynolds unless otherwise indicated

No comments: