Wednesday, August 6, 2008

gang of four: fast tourists run from mao

fast product FAST 5.

In October of 1978, Gang of Four made their debut appearance on Bob Last's Fast Product, the Edinburgh based label which had already previously released the superb electronic debut by Sheffield's Human League - "Being Boiled" - and had also signed Cambridge group, The Mekons, to secure Fast's first 45 release, "Never Been in a Riot", as that year kicked off. A UK distribution deal with Californian über punks, Dead Kennedys, was also reputedly in the pipeline.

Fast Product, despite being a homegrown Scottish business venture, rapidly became synonymous with the new breed of post-punk groups from the North of England, a far more sober line of acts armed with an entirely different agenda from their London based counterparts. Gang Of Four were potentially the most interesting of those groups. Manchester's Joy Division, of course, on Tony Wilson's Factory Records were undisputed leaders of the new wave of more introspective experimental acts who saw no good reason to relocate from the industrial north just to dance to the established music industry A&R man's tune in order to close a distribution deal or more binding contract.

As a result, the major labels were forced to reasess their deeply entrenched business code and venture out from England's capital city in an attempt to negotiate more flexible deals with the next generation of up and coming artists. Decades of complacency reinforced by the effective monopolisation of studio rates and existing distribution networks were quickly eroded as the independents flourished outwith the capital and sought to establish a cartel between themselves to further consolidate their considerable success.

Formed in Leeds, following a university funded trip to New York where the four were exposed to and heavily influenced by Tom Verlaine's Television, Gang of Four comprised Jon King on vocals; guitarist Andy Gill; bass guitarist Dave Allen; and drummer Hugo Burnham. The musical ideas they together developed were also heavily indebted to Ohio based, Pere Ubu, but were far more closely associated with the group's own collectively solid social and political agenda. Oddly, in spite of this and establishment attempts to censure them for perceived agitation, the group signed to EMI in 1979 in the wake of a successful US and European Tour, winning new audiences built on their muscular live performance; the sound generated on stage often dwarfed their earlier studio recordings. Well received sessions for the John Peel Show only enhanced their growing reputation.

Bob Last, disillusioned by the development, went on to set up a new label, Pop Aural, which looked even closer to home for emerging talent and introduced independent Edinburgh band, The Fire Engines to its continuing loyal cult support.

Recorded at Cargo Studios, Rochdale on 28/29 June 1978 (16 track). Engineered by Bob Brierly and produced by Gang of Four and Bob Last of Fast Product, mastered at the Masteroom.

GANG OF FOUR: LOVE LIKE ANTHRAX from "Damaged Goods" EP (Fast Product) 1978 (UK)

GANG OF FOUR: AT HOME HE'S A TOURIST from "Entertainment!" LP (EMI) 1979 (UK)


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