Saturday, 4 September 2010

400 Blows

When the kids are upstairs having a play or simply splashing about in the bath I like to put on some "easy listening" piece of vinyl or cassette for them to experience and run about to. Psychedelic Furs, Lene Lovich, Au Pairs. That kind of thing. Throbbing Gristle "Thee Psychick Sacrifice" LP being a favourite of Oscar's. Anyway, last night I decided to put on the 400 Blows LP "If I Kissed Her, I'd Have To Kill Her First". (Illuminated Records) 1984. It sounded very dated, very, very dated. Mainly the sound of the technology - the rhythm machines and the polyphonic keys sound. Parts of it sounded bloody awful which is a shame because I thought I liked the LP, and I have quite a few bits of 400 Blows discography in my vinyl collection. There are some great tracks on the LP, just not the ones where they try and be a funk band.

1984. A strange year for me. 21 going on to 22 years old and living in Hulme, Manchester.
Year zero as record collecting was involved due to a massive flat burglary in Xmas 1983 - but I think I have mentioned that elsewhere. (the scars never heal).
1984, and I was discovering stuff like Soviet France, Come Org, Portion Control, Laibach and 400 Blows. Crossing the Pennines to go to the Leadmill to see Cabaret Voltaire, Hula, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and the like...also the nights of Psychic TV in Hampstead and Hammersmith were a joy. I cannot remember the first time I came across 400 Blows. More than likely Sean Rorke had "Beat The Devil" or something. I had certainly never heard of Concrete. Anyway. They were on Illuminated Records which was a label that was there to collect. Dormanuu, Empty Quarter, Portion Control, 23 Skidoo, Throbbing Gristle, Gary Glitter all releasing on the catalogue.
Looking back (isn't hindsight a wonderful thing) I can see the seeds of how I stopped liking music in the late 1980's.

The LP kicks off with a couple of beat driven tracks that also were 12" singles. "Groovejumping" and "Declaration Of Intent" So the LP kicks off with two really dated tracks plunging the LP straight in to the mid 1980's. Not a good start. Then comes "Them Thar Hills" a sort of stoned hillbilly jam with acoustic drums and slide guitar which probably seemed funny at the time but should have been left for personal consumption only. Where 400 Blows did excel is in their experimental (non-commercial) sound(scape). "Love" being prime example, as is "Lapwing Chant" and "Men Of The Divine Wind", two tracks that appear on side 2. Also on side 2 is the excellent "For Jackie M." a track of disturbed guitar with the voice of Charles Manson. (Again mentuoned elsewhere). Simply beautiful. So why did 400 Blows plump for being a white funk band instead of post-industrial sound artistes? They were certainly better at the latter? There's a track called "399 To Go" on the Touch cassette "Meridans 2" that is recorded in a concrete pipe during a rainstorm that is genious...why "Jive 69" and a collaboration with South London funkboys Brass Construction?

1984. I met 400 Blows on a couple of occasions. Firstly at The Leadmill in Sheffield, then I travelled from Hulme to London to see them support X Mal Deutschland at The Lyceum only to find that they had been thrown off the bill for The Guana Batz. Robert Taylor (guitar) was fully apologetic. I bumped in to Robert + Andrew at gigs throughout the year. Test Department, Psychic TV, Cabaret Voltaire gigs. They were obviously buried in "industrial culture" - even naming the LP after an Edmund Kemper quote....."The Co-Ed Killer". Ahh, them were the days when we were all serial killer obsessed. From Candyman to The Yorkshire Ripper, from The Hillside Strangler to plain old Bruce Lee (the Hull based arsonist...not the kung fu guy)! Everybody I knew had at least one Colin Wilson on the bookshelf.

I have a feeling that Andrew Beer is still active. I do know Tony Thorpe went in to KLF and was The Moody Boys. Back in the early 1990's I even bought a couple of Moody Boys 12"'s from Red Rhino Records in York. I have yet to fathom why! And Robert Taylor? Where are you now.

I think it will be a while before I play the LP again.

1: "If I Kissed Her, I'd Have To Kill Her First" LP Sleeve.
2: Andrew Beer live at Sheffield Leadmill, 1984. (They had a session bass player in a green boiler suit and full on mullet).

1 comment: