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!
Cloudland was the second album released by the mighty Pere Ubu during their “pop phase”; in fact this one is much poppier than the previous year’s The Tenement Year, they really went for it. The roster of producers includes Stephen Hague (Pet Shop Boys, Erasure) who did five tracks including the superb Waiting For Mary. Daniel Miller was asked to mix two tracks and he brought me in to help him.
So we set up Daniel’s jaw-dropping synth rig at Konk Studios in Muswell Hill, a studio much used for Mute sessions. Formerly a working men’s club, it had been bought and converted by The Kinks for their own use. It had the perfect mixture of homely comfort and high-tech desirability.
Daniel got a producer’s credit for Love Love Love and quite right too, this mix is full on Pere Ubu vs The Normal, with Dan’s ARP 2600 sequence running through the whole thing. The other mix we did was Why Go It Alone?, which must be one of their prettiest songs, and most definitely makes the grade as a Rico personal fave.
I’d forgotten how great this album is. I’m gonna dig it out and blast it in my car.
I don’t know why, but this B-side remix, the last I did for Erasure, is the one of theirs that I love the most. It certainly isn’t the most ambitious; I liked the song so much I mainly just dubbed it up and grooved it out, and as always I am firmly of the opinion that my mix kicks the original’s ass.
A funny thing happened during this session. Realizing I’d left something important at home, I flagged a cab and ran back there, to find a gang of youths in the process of burgling my apartment. The element of surprise was on my side and they all jumped out the window as I burst in (it was a ground floor flat). With no time to assess the damage I battened down the hatches and returned to the session. Coincidentally this song seems to feature the sound of a window breaking.
Imagine you could book The Normal to come and play a gig at your house. At the appointed hour Dan would turn up in a black London cab packed to the gills with all of the more portable items from his enormous synth collection, still enough to make the average analogue enthusiast weep tears of joy.
He’d get to work and before long a drum beat made of purely customized synth sounds would start up. The ARP Odyssey would spit out a bass sequence. The impossibly exotic Synton Syrinx would weave some strange mercurial sounds through the groove. Then he’d break out the EMS Suitcase Synthi and things would really start to take off.
That, dear reader, is what it was like doing a remix with Daniel Miller…plus I would get to join in and record the whole thing. The mixes I did with Daniel were the first truly radical remixes I worked on, in that we’d jettison major elements of the track and make new ones, as opposed to working with the existing track elements as I had previously. Making new backing track elements was something I hadn’t really felt the authority to do up to that point, but if Daniel Miller said it was OK, then fuck yeah it was OK.
The first remix we did together was of Laibach’s version of the Queen anthem One Vision, soon after the Opus Dei album was completed. It was fantastic, it was brilliant, it was pure electronic beauty, pure The Normal. I wish I could play it to you but it has disappeared from history due to the fact that, as if to underline their perversity, the band rejected it. [Update: in fact this mix was featured on the 2004 compilation Anthems.]
The second remix I did with Daniel was this thumping version of Erasure’s steamy hit. The most radical thing about this mix was the enormous speed bump we gave it, from a grinding 110 BPM to an almost hi-energy 124. I wasn’t sure she could take it, Cap’n, and we nearly careened into twin planets Pinky and Perky, but she held steady, the dilithium crystals in my Akai S900 having been put through their paces as never before.
My next Mute assignment was to mix two tracks in one night, the Erasure single Sometimes backed with Sexuality. This was Vince and Andy’s first big hit as a duo, and an important record for Mute.
What a fantastic gig, although I had to work like the devil, as an “alternative” mixer I wasn’t so much bound by the strictures of the dance floor or the need for radio play. My main job was to try to give a new spin on the track, to come up with something different. I was being paid to mess around with the multitracks of the gods.
On this occasion I had a new toy to help me out, an Akai S900 sampler, which I was still getting to know at this point. Here I mainly used it to loop and effect vocals.
As soon as you hear that undulating noise gate matrix, you know it’s a Rico joint.