Day 30: ‘Will to Power’ by SPK

Here’s another band I was fortunate enough to see live. In fact, this was one of the first gigs I went to in London: Camden Palace, some time during the autumn of 1984. It seems an appropriate way to round off the first month of this project.
SPK were an Australian Industrial band formed in 1978, became more and more recognised over time, and even had a bit of UK chart action with ‘Metal Dance’ (to which this was the B-side). In terms of musical primitivism, shock value and confrontational attitudes, they were the heirs apparent to Throbbing Gristle. Graeme Revell is now a very respected composer of film soundtracks, believe it or not.
The night I saw them, they didn’t go on stage until midnight. They played a fairly lacklustre set with synths doing most of the heavy lifting, but I was up front with a good view of their beautiful singer Sinan Leong, so I wasn’t too bothered.
At the end, they did ‘Will to Power’, complete with angle-grinders showering sparks into the audience. I beat a hasty retreat to just within flash range and took a few more photos. Meanwhile, Graeme slashed his arm on a piece of broken glass (an audience member threw a pint glass onto the stage) and smeared his own blood on his face.
I couldn’t find their live appearance on The Tube, but this is from the same period. The sound isn’t great, but you get the general idea.

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Day 29: ‘Confusion’ (instrumental remix) by New Order

I’ve chosen one of the Arthur Baker remixes, rather than the A-side of this single. I just love the way Hooky’s bass guitar rumbles in, across, and out again like a freight train on full power passing you on an overhead bridge. It sounds even better through a decent of stereo speakers!
I saw New Order at the Michael Sobell Sports Centre (the one near Arsenal’s football ground, not the one in Aberdare!) in the winter of 1985. I went along with a couple of my pals from Brunel University. On the way out, we bumped into a mate of mine from Aberdare named Paul, who was with some of his mates from Reading University. Small world, eh?

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Bernard Sumner – vocals, guitar, keyboards; Peter Hook – bass, vocals; Gillian Gilbert – keyboards; Steven Morris – drums

Day 28: ‘Windpower’ by Thomas Dolby

This is another Top of the Pops appearance that sent shivers down my spine in 1982. I rushed out and bought The Golden Age of Wireless that weekend. It’s a brilliant LP, and this was one of the outstanding tracks on it. Behind the absent-minded professor image was a keen musical talent, and it’s a shame this didn’t get more airplay at the time.

Day 27: ‘Like an Animal’ by the Glove

The random cut of the cards puts two Goth acts side by side. Isn’t it strange how the underlying patterns keep emerging?
This collaboration between two kindred spirits somehow managed to deliver less than the sum of its parts would lead you to expect. Robert Smith moonlighted from the Cure for a while after John McGeogh left Siouxsie and the Banshees. While Mr Smith was helping out on their 1983 tour, he and Banshees bass player Steven Severin came up with this side project.
They roped in a singer named Jeanette Landray, and the Glove were born. Their debut LP Blue Sunshine is an intriguing piece of post-punk psychedelia, sampling bits and pieces from The Man From U.N.C.L.E., among other things. It’s not exactly the Gothic masterpiece you might have expected, but there are some nice moments on it.
This was the first single from the LP – although Ms Landray doesn’t sing the lead here. It’s a shame this was just a one-off, as I think it had the potential to deliver great things.
Robert Smith – guitar, vocals, keyboards; Steven Severin – bass, keyboards; Jeanette Landray – vocals; Andy Anderson – drums

Day 26: ‘Lagartija Nick’ by Bauhaus

If Siouxsie and the Banshees were the mother and uncles of the Gothic Punk scene, Pete Murphy and Bauhaus were undoubtedly its father and weird cousins. Between them, they gave birth to a massive subculture. Bauhaus are still regarded as a huge influence on wider pop culture, being name-checked in books, films and graphic novels.
Formed in Northampton in 1978, their debut single ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ was an eight-minute epic with probably the longest introduction ever. After recording four LPs showcasing a wide variety of musical styles and some of the most wilfully impenetrable lyrics imaginable, they went their separate ways in the summer of 1983. They got back together over twenty years later, and appear to be still working occasionally.
This was one of their later singles (they split up in the summer of 1983), and I still remember seeing this edition of Top of the Pops. The very end, where Peter Murphy and David J. jump into the audience, was a thrilling moment. (It’s cut slightly short on this clip.)
I was in Cardiff about two years ago, walking past the Students’ Union building. I passed three Goth girls who’d obviously walked through the Rift in space-time some time during 1983, and emerged onto Park Place on a Saturday night in November 2013.
All three were pretty much my type. One of them was wearing a studded collar and had ‘bauhaus’ [sic] painted on her leather jacket. She could have been my next girlfriend if only they hadn’t vanished again almost immediately. (Must have been picked up by the Torchwood gang, I expect.)
Peter Murphy – vocals, guitar; Daniel Ash – guitar, saxophone; David J. – bass, keyboards; Kevin Haskins – drums, keyboards

Day 25: ‘Love Missile F1-11’ by Sigue Sigue Sputnik

Set against a constant drone of shambling/shoegazing guitar bands, novelty songs and the fading synth-pop scene, Sigue Sigue Sputnik burst into the 1980s music world (to borrow US critic literary Leslie Fiedler’s phrase) ‘like an explosion in a fresh air factory’. If you think bands these days are ‘manufactured’, read on.
Former Generation X bass player Tony James plucked good-looking guys from obscurity, just by wandering around London and approaching random strangers to be in his new band.
He taught them their instruments parrot-fashion.
He manufactured their image: part punk, part rockabilly, part fetish club, part anime character.
He surrounded them with six feet tall rubber-clad female roadies in stiletto heels.
He put them on the covers of all the papers, and got them onto all the music shows.
He released a zillion remixes of each single.
He even sold advertising to suitable clients (L’Oréal, i-D magazine and the fetish shop Pure Sex, for instance) to occupy the empty spaces between tracks on their debut LP, Flaunt It.
If nothing else, the guy had the chutzpah to make his eccentric vision a reality.
For several months in the mid-80s, it was impossible to open a music paper without seeing Sigue Sigue Sputnik.
History will ultimately judge whether they were actually any good. As with the Sex Pistols ten years earlier, the media attention may have focused more on the style than the substance. Certainly, disappointing ticket sales for their first tour and the LP’s poor reception didn’t help matter.
Nevertheless, the band played on until 1989 before going their separate ways. Mr James formed a new line-up a while ago, apparently. I expect they’re massive in Japan.
Perhaps, given the cutting-edge technology that we’ve got today, a reworked Flaunt It might be an interesting concept. In hindsight, might Sigue Sigue Sputnik actually have been ahead of their time? This, their debut single, still sounds pretty good nearly thirty years on.
I’ve yet to introduce my DJ pal Gareth to the joys of Sigue Sigue Sputnik for his Friday night 1980s flashback. It’ll be kill or cure, I think.
Martin Degville – vocals; Neal Whitmore – guitar; Tony James – guitars, bass, keyboards; Ray Mayhew, Chris Kavanagh – drums; Yana Yaha – keyboards

Day 24: ‘Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust’ by This Mortal Coil

This Mortal Coil was never a band in the accepted sense. Instead, it was a side project comprising several artists on the innovative 4AD label, co-ordinated by the label’s founder Ivo Watts-Russell.
In 1983, Robbie Grey, Gary McDowell and Michael Conroy of Modern English teamed up with Martyn and Steve Young (Colourbox), Gordon Sharp (Cindytalk), and Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie (the Cocteau Twins) to record an EP. This medley of two Modern English songs formed the A-side.
Even though Ms Fraser sounds as though she’s singing backwards (as always!), it’s lush, dreamy and rather gorgeous. I tried giving this a spin a couple of times in the late 1980s, when my friend Barry Blair and I hosted an ‘alternative disco’ night at a pub/club in Aberdare. It went over most people’s heads, unfortunately. The B-side was a superb stripped-down cover of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song to the Siren’. Check that out next!