Futurama 3 1981


A big barney in a big barn. We were on just before the superb 23 Skidoo and we stuck around long enough to see their set. Later I had the pleasure and privilege of doing a few sessions with the Skidoo boys, although I don’t think anything was released that I worked on. Excuse the cliché, but that really was a band ahead of its time.

In other news: a nice review of Frogmore on the Cold War Nightlife website…thanks to Simon Helm for caring.

Last but not least, we salute another music giant lost to us this week, the great Glen Campbell.

The Lines “Old Town” 1981

Wormholes into space and time…who needs ’em? Can’t the brain effectively do that already, on command? Sure it can, and here’s the soundtrack, courtesy of me and my old muckers.

Notable here is the use of a new Blackwing acquisition, the fabulous Lexicon 224 digital reverb. When I discovered you could effectively turn the knob all the way to the right (in fact it was a fader) and make the reverb go on forever, that was a moment of cranial light bulb wonderment.

The Lines “House of Cracks” 1981

Big news from Acute Records today: the countdown to The Lines third album hull down has begun and orders are being taken. I will soon be posting more information about this project, in its chronological place of course. Meanwhile I have started a Facebook page to help handle the massive upsurge of public interest. I hope all of my readers around the world will stop by to visit and befriend. And if you haven’t already you should visit the official The Lines Facebook page, curated by the goodly Mr Cash.

Meanwhile, back in the late summer of 1981 we reconvened at Blackwing Studios to record our last single. Technically speaking, one of the main points of interest is the method used here to produce the groove. Instead of playing along to a click track as per usual, we built up a few layered bars of percussion and constructed multitrack tape loops out of them. What now can be achieved in Pro Tools with a couple of clicks was then a much more complicated affair. The cycling of a 10-foot loop of 2 inch tape requires some careful ergonomic planning and finagling of pressure on tape capstans and the like. Most engineers would flat out refuse to attempt a stunt like that, but luckily we had the crack team of Eric Radcliffe and John Fryer, who were used to such shenanigans.

The rhythm constructed for House of Cracks was a straight ahead four-on-the-floor, what was then still known as a disco beat but would soon be recast as house. The backbeat is provided by a Simmons Claptrap borrowed from Laurie Mayer. The track layered over the rhythm was a slight return to the febrile funk of 1980, but more stretched out, and with added sound design. The song layered over the track was a sort of sea shanty about a bad night in Stoke Newington circa 1978. Those who were there at the time may recall how bad that could get, although any recollection is in itself a minor miracle.


The Lines “Cat Bug Jeep” 1981

In the summer of 1981 we did a session at a studio called Starforce in Clapham. We recorded a few tracks, some of them demos for the gestating  Ultramarine album, and one for a cassette compilation called Bits released by Reading based X-Cassettes.

There is more about this compilation, and a download too, here.

Cat Bug Jeep is an imaginary theme song for nothing in particular, and also a binaural stereo experiment, by which a couple of omnidirectional microphones were attached to the sides of a skull, a technique we employ to this day.

There’s a remastered version on the Memory Span page at Acute Records.

The Lines “The Landing/ The Gate” 1981

The Landing and its coda The Gate make up the central section of the Therapy album. I think the production here is about as widescreen as we ever got, the tale of a futuristic River Styx (yep, those Gates of Hell again) set in a cavernous mix of percussion, bowed guitar, whirling tubes and sound effects, including beloved Manor Road dog Cicek. Listening back, the blend of delays and reverbs reminds me how much I learned from the great Eric Radcliffe.

The Lines “Disenchanted” 1981

This piece for treated trombone is a primitivist experiment that has its roots in my schoolboy doodlings of 10 years previously. It has been called bleak, and I suppose it is, for something that was originally inspired by Hotlegs and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

Here’s an excellent video made by master editor Zekeland a while back. The observant viewer may spot a few frames of your devoted auteur, enjoying a relaxing smoke by a stagnant motel pool in Kingman, Arizona.