Laibach “One Vision” The Normal/Rico Remix 1987

I mentioned this mix in an earlier post, and at the time thought it had never been released. Imagine my joy to find it at last on the 2004 compilation Anthems. It seems it was hiding all the time, masquerading as “Liewerk: The Kraftbach mix”. That’s cute, and I suppose if you look at it squinty-eyed it does seem a bit Kraftwerk-ish. I must say I find that just a tad disrespectful though, because this is very much a Daniel Miller mix, and arguably he is an even more pure electronic musician than the formerly flute-tootling Düsseldorfers.

I’m glad it was finally issued though. It was a landmark mix for me and I think it still sounds good.

Erasure “It Doesn’t Have To Be Like That” 1987

Here’s my audio and visual reinterpretation of Erasure’s “why can’t we all just get along” opus. For this clip I have mangled the song’s original rather excellent video, with hopes that my liberties will be excused by those involved.

The remix was done almost exactly 30 years ago at the dawn of 1987, around the same time as Daniel Miller’s legendary lost Laibach mix, which would account for the presence of his EMS Vocoder 2000 in the studio.

The edit of this mix is unusual in that there is no edit at all for the first couple of minutes. Having looped a few bars of backing vocal over the rhythm section I enjoyed the resulting chord inversions so much I just let it run, even though the results were a tad dissonant for an Erasure track. In fact I got a phone call from Flood after delivering the mix, to warn me that this one “might not fly”, as he could imagine Vince Clarke gagging somewhat on the jazzy chord shapes. But it did fly, Vince didn’t gag…and here it is, pop pickers!

Swans “Real Love” 1987

I’m back, mission accomplished: Arnold Turboust’s new album is in the can, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever worked on.

I flew out of Charles De Gaulle airport on November 12th, happy and satisfied. As we all know, 24 hours later a horrible atrocity was committed in Paris.

This one hits home particularly hard, partly because of my personal love for France and my friends there, and not least because many who lost their lives were enjoying a performance by a local Southern California band.

I have quite a few readers in France; if any of your family or friends were caught up in this tragedy, please accept my deepest condolences.

I’m posting this song again as a tribute to all those affected by this terrible event.

Three Wize Men “Cruising For A Bruising” 1987

An earlier Rhythm King session from the end of ’87, this featured the late great Matthew Ashman of Bow Wow Wow on guitar*. An interesting mashup of influences, perhaps not altogether successful but I think you’ll agree that an entertaining video came out of it. And who can forget the immortal couplet :

It is the sound of the inner city…it ain’t The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

*The linked Bow Wow Wow clip is, in my opinion, the best music video of all time.

The Bambi Slam “Happy Birthday (Yet Another)” 1987

This is from the end of ’87, one of the last sessions I did at the Guerilla Studio in Maida Vale. The band mainly seemed to comprise a Canadian chap named Roy, and was signed to Product Inc, the Mute subsidiary that also released the Swans output.

It isn’t a great song, probably not his best song, but listen to the way the overdriven guitar comes in. I was certainly to recall it a couple of years later when the new sound started to come out of Seattle.

Test Dept. “Terra Firma” 1987

A nice surprise: the lads called me up out of the blue, flew me to Belgium, got me ratarsed on that lethal cloudy brew they have over there, then threw me in the studio to record them for a couple of days. Flew Me and Threw Me…sounds like a Robin Thicke song. Somebody get Pharrell on the phone. Lawyers on standby.

I would say this is an unusual album on the “industrial” scale of things; not as overtly political as their previous output, it delves more into the politics of personal life, the power of tradition, the power of the feminine, the incontrovertible power of bagpipes. I like it a lot.

The song Current Affairs features your loyal servant banging away on the studio grand, while the crew man the drums in laid back mode. Somewhere somebody is watching Panorama…or is it Un Homme Et Une Femme

Renegade Soundwave “Cocaine Sex” 1987

Mute Records launched a new subsidiary called Rhythm King, a label that was to make a lot of noise over the next couple of years. Their message was loud and clear: DJs are making hit records now and they’re here to stay. As a longtime Jeremy Healy collaborator I was of course down with that.

The first signing was this trio of post punk refugees, three of the funniest and most talented characters I ever worked with: Gary Asquith, Danny Briottet and Carl Bonnie. Their song Cocaine Sex really blew the cobwebs out when I first heard it and I couldn’t wait to work on it. It had already been masterfully recorded by Paul Kendall but a bass sound courtesy of the Roland Juno 106 pulled things into focus.

Jah Wobble “Tradewinds” 1986

I found another great track Wobble did at Guerilla, which gives me a good excuse to write some more about him. For I was thinking about Wobble (as you do) and I had a far distant memory of the first time I saw him, when I was but a lad of 18.

The occasion was a Sex Pistols gig at the 100 Club in May 1976, attended by me and Jo Forty, with whom I had already launched a musical project later to be called The Lines. Like about half the audience at that concert, we were checking out the new gang in town. The other half was mostly the “Bromley Contingent” resplendent in their nascent punk fashions. One man stood out though as being more stylish than the rest, he may have been just a lad himself but it was almost as if Bryan Ferry had decided to join a church youth club. I also noticed that this was the one person in the room to whom John Lydon made a point of paying respect.

I found out who he was when Public Image put out their amazing first two albums, and 10 years later here I was working on this rather excellent track, again with Ollie Marland and Harry Beckett. I suppose I’m the one who should take the blame for the jack hammer snare sound, but that’s just how we rolled in the mid 80s.

Frank Tovey “Civilian” 1987

Back to Sawmills Studio, Cornwall, this time in high summer. “Foxy” the Sawmills boatman waits at the jetty for the latest session to arrive. Knowing I’m the producer, he may well be nervous about the wellbeing of his boat. But those thoughts disappear when his cargo for the day finally turns up in a Uhaul van: not the usual Marshall stacks and instrument cases, but a massive sculpture made of  different lengths of drainpipe, like a plumber’s version of a church organ. This is duly loaded onto the boat and chugged down the river. Wish I had a picture.

The “Batphone”, as it was named, was in fact a large instrument that Frank Tovey and percussionist Mark Jeffery had built. By whacking the ends of the drainpipes with a ping-pong bat, great honking percussive pizzicatos were produced. The lengths of pipe were carefully cut to produce concert pitches. This instrument was the main producer of bass notes for Frank’s new album, all of which, except for the vocals, consisted of sounds that were generated or triggered percussively.

This album was a lot of fun to record. Sawmills in summertime was a very different place from the forbidding days of February. The tidal inlet became a much needed swimming hole. One day when the tide was out Frank covered himself in mud. Within a few minutes he disappeared and Fad Gadget (in negative) lurched into view.

On a technical level this album is notable in my memory as the first use of my first computer, an Atari ST, which I still own and sometimes use.

This work seems to have disappeared somewhat, it isn’t even mentioned in many biographies I’ve read, and I think that’s a shame. I urge you to give it a listen.

It always sucks to write a eulogy for somebody your own age but that’s what many of us had to do when Frank Tovey suddenly died at the age of 45. Frank was a very special artist, unusually humble and unaffected in everyday life, quick to laugh but with a certain steely glint that betrayed his East End origins. He was always moving forward and trying new things. I know my good mate Nick Cash misses him a lot and although I didn’t spend much time with him apart from the making of this album, I think about him often.

Head “A Snog On The Rocks” 1987

My esteemed manager of the time (Richard O’Dell esq) was also managing, or trying to manage, this wacky but hard-rocking bunch of Bristolians led by Gareth Sager, formerly of The Pop Group and Rip Rig and Panic.

Gareth Sager is a genius, but the evidence over the decades would seem to indicate that he’s hard to capture on tape. If anybody reading this witnessed the Pop Group performing live circa 1979, they will surely agree with me that none of their records came close to that intensity. Rip Rig and Panic was his band with Sean Oliver and Neneh Cherry; they were groundbreaking but never seemed to live up to their initial promise. For this project Gareth, who could have been a jazz virtuoso if he wanted, decided it was time to rock out. So he recruited ex-Clash (post Mick Jones) guitarist Nick Shepherd and superb singer Rich Beale. The album was recorded by engineering legend Marvin Black, and my long-suffering liver thanks him for taking on the task, as it was evidently quite a party.

I’m really fond of this album and it’s a shame that it has virtually disappeared. The only video I can find on youtube is of some dude shaking the cover around and playing the daftest track. That’s somehow apt though, and I here present it in the hope that adventurous listeners will seek further.