Gang of Four

I Found That Essence Rare

Gang of Four – I Found That Essence Rare

I was looking for a video and stumbled onto a channel with several old concert clips from New York City in 1980 including this one and a bunch more by Gang of Four. I’ll tell you what, if we’re in for dark political times, I really hope we get the kind of post-punk music scene that late 70s/early 80s Britain inspired.

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Hi-Hi-Whooppee

The Method Actors – Hi-Hi-Whooppee

I went up to the storage area to get a tape for the drive this morning. I wouldn’t say I’m running out of tapes but there are fewer mixes and more that have one album on each side. Those seem a little less interesting to write up for Tape Deck Tuesday. Then there’s all the bootlegs that I’ll probably never write up. For today I grabbed one that my best friend taped for me at the tail end of August in 1986 or 87, the year isn’t listed, but I can tell it’s from that vintage.

Side A: Concrete Blonde/ The Method Actors: Little Figures
True
Your Haunted Head
Dance Along the Edge
Still in Hollywood
Song for Kim (She Said)
Beware of Darkness
Over Your Shoulder
Little Sister
(You’re the Only One) Can Make Me Cry
Cold Part of Town
True (Instrumental)
————–
Halloween
Hi-Hi Whooppee

Side B: Gang of Four: Songs of the Free
Call Me Up
I Love a Man in a Uniform
We Live as We Dream, Alone
It Is Not Enough
Life! It’s a Shame
I Will Be a Good Boy
The History of the World
Muscle for Brains
Of the Instant

I had a hard time getting the tape out of the box, it was really wedged in there. Once I did, I could see it was because there was a little slip of paper inside the folded over part of the label. I unfolded it to find this:

Gof4

wpid-wp-1415766967407.jpegThat’s my friend’s rendition of the illustration on the back of the album, which is itself a drawing of the front of the album. Of course I didn’t have the record then (which is why she taped it for me) but I bought it sometime after that and now you can see, she did a pretty good job (click the pictures to enlarge). These things were very important. They’re still important to me. It’s one of the reasons why I still don’t really like downloading albums. I do it, especially when I want something quickly or it’s much cheaper that way and I don’t really want a physical copy, but nine times out of ten, I will still want to at least see the cover and any liner notes, etc. Recently I downloaded an album but then discovered there was a copy at the library so I borrowed the library’s copy just so I could read everything inside and made a copy of the insert to keep. I will never understand why all digital downloads don’t include a copy of the CD insert. It’s a simple file they could easily include if you buy the whole album. Do they just assume, hmph, you’re downloading it, you must not really care.

I popped it into the tape deck without rewinding it, catching the end of the instrumental version of True. This was Concrete Blonde’s self-titled album, their first LP. Then there was some crackling and popping, tell-tale signs of the needle touching down on the record. There must only have been room for two songs by the Method Actors. They were one of those bands we’d heard lots about but they’d already broken up and, let’s be serious, the people we knew at college were decidedly not people who would know anything about them.

After those two songs, the tape reversed itself and started playing Gang of Four. I originally thought about posting I Love a Man in a Uniform, seeing as how it’s Veterans’ Day, then I thought, Life! It’s a Shame was perfect (look up the lyrics and ask yourself how is it they’re still relevant 32 years later!?). I miss music like this. Thought-provoking in both sound and lyrics, and you can even dance to it. People make songs of substance still but, it’s not like this. Tucked in at the end of side B was a live recording of the Everly Brothers doing All I Have to Do is Dream.

On the way home I caught the rest of the Concrete Blonde album and thought, hmm, maybe Still in Hollywood will be the winner for the video today, but in the end, the tape made it all the way to the end of side A again and I decided, it has to be the Method Actors. I mean, come on. And somehow, this video was only uploaded four days ago and I was the first person to watch it. It was meant to be. Hi-Hi-Whooppee!

 

We Live As We Dream Alone

Gang of Four – We Live As We Dream Alone

I don’t know about you but it feels like the music press has spent the last two years reminding us of what albums are now 20 or 25 years old. Sometimes it seems impossible that so much time could have passed, other times it feels like, yeah, 20 years is probably about right. When I watch old clips on YouTube, it often looks like it was even longer ago (this one is *gulp* 30 years old). Poke around there for a while and if you’re looking for it, you’ll find some extraordinary things.

I bought myself a CD player as a college graduation present but I didn’t have any CDs yet so I also bought a receiver, turntable, and speakers. The CD player bit the dust a number of years ago but the turntable was just given a clean bill of health at a turntable clinic put on by my local record store. I sold off some of my records when I left college but I kept most of them and simply replicated my collection on CD as well. It’s funny because CDs were supposed to be indestructible but many of those now skip and one of them, the data just vanished from it completely. Luckily, I still have the records and they still play. Songs of the Free by Gang of Four is one of those treasured vinyl albums.

I remember reading that they were a big influence on bands I loved and they were in that movie, Urgh! A Music War which we got a copy of somehow. I loved digging around connecting the dots. In the pre-internet days, it took time and dedication and those were two things I had in abundance. The pay-off would probably seem small to most people—getting to see live footage of a band that had broken up—but to me it was like a secret code. Pay attention. It’s all there. Hey! Kids.