Genesis P-Orridge: bass, violin, vocals Cosey Fanni Tutti: guitars, cornet) Peter Christopherson: tapes, found sounds, horns Chris Carter: synthesizer
Quite an interesting one, this. The debut 45 by Throbbing Gristle received a fair degree of publicity through certain \’glamour\’ magazines circulating newsagent top shelves at that time. Chiefly \”Fiesta\”, a periodical renowned for its popular \’Readers\’ Wives\’ content, which engaged artist Connie Jude as its in-house illustrator. This may well have been as a result of members of the band – or those close to them – being in the employ of the pornographic industry at the time, though this is of course mere conjecture.
Given the heavy S&M themes propagated by Malcolm McLaren and even Vivien Westwood in his Kings Road shop, the bondage model adopted by punk rock found a natural bedfellow in London\’s Soho as early as 1976, with photographers and art directors keen to trade on its provocative imagery. Just as with the Beat Generation, pornographers and artists collaborated gladly in seedy studios at the dark end of a two-way street; a means to generate and sustain a mutually beneficial market.
From their web site:
\”Industrial Records began as an investigation. The 4 members of Throbbing Gristle wanted to investigate to what extent you could mutate and collage sound, present complex non entertaining noises to a popular culture situation and convince and convert. We wanted to re-invest Rock music with content, motivation and risk. Our records were documents of attitudes and experiences and observations by us and other determinedly individual outsiders. Fashion was an enemy, style irrelevant.\”
Their motives were deemed suspect by many, the collective\’s courting of negative publicity spurious at best. The sleeve image to the single\’s b-side, above, attests to the more obvious methods employed to agitate and provoke.
\”United\” itself is atypical of TG\’s generally abrasive experimental output. As a song with a formal structure and arrangement, it might have been recorded by 10CC fore-runners, The Hotlegs. Had Industrial Records succeeded in generating more commercial airplay from this release, it is worth speculating as to what degree of controversy a Top 40 \’hit\’ may have aroused.
\”Throbbing Gristle\’s confrontational live performances and use of often disturbing imagery, including pornography and photographs of Nazi concentration camps, gave the group a notorious reputation. However the group always maintained that their mission was to challenge and explore the darker and obsessive sides of the human condition rather than to make attractive music. Throbbing Gristle pioneered the use of pre-recorded tape-based \’samples\’, and made extensive use of special effects to produce a distinctive, highly distorted background, usually accompanied by lyrics or spoken-word performances by Genesis P-Orridge.\”
I recently re-purchased \”The Second Annual Report\” from 1977 on CD, but I\’m pleased to still have this 45 on original vinyl. A valued artifact of early Industrial Noise.
▼ THROBBING GRISTLE: UNITED (MONO) from \”United b/w Zyclon B Zombie\” 45 (Industrial Records) 1978 (UK)