22 June 2009


Following on from the Cabaret Voltaire post, I've tracked down a few other clips that stand out in my memory as particularly influencial in my personal development. It is perhaps hard to remember now how influential these brief televised encounters could be for a teenager growing-up in the '80s, thirsty for fresh musical experience, yet desperately restricted for choice and information by today's standards. Yes, we had the radio, and we had the music press, and sometimes we even had enough pocket money to buy an actual record, but often it's these fleeting, unplanned televisual experiences that burn brightest in the mind's eye. Perhaps the slower rate of intake allowed these things to be inwardly digested better. I mean, I can't remember what I was watching/listening to on the internet last week, yet these clips from over twenty years ago still linger...

I didn't see the original broadcast, but this clip was repeated on Whisletest sometime in the mid-'80s (during the Mark Ellen/Andy Kershaw years). At that time I knew very little about Pil apart from maybe recent hits like "Rise". I'd never seen a group playing like their lives depended on it before, and I remember being utterly gobsmacked by Keith Levine's deft, almost violent, approach to synth-playing. As the clip finished I suddenly realised I'd been holding my breath.

I'm not sure when and where I saw this clip, originally broadcast on one of Granada's regional shows, but it was my first exposure to the music of Joy Division, viewed without any knowledge of their history or growing legendary status, nor any inkling of the dark, tragic story attached to the lead singer. I wasn't as immediately blown-apart by the music, but the image of the group on those raised podiums, so starkly intense and transfixed by their own sound, (plus the singer's rather curious dancing technique) is the first image that comes to mind whenever I think about Joy Division.

The Southbank Show did a documentory on the Velvet Underground in 1986. I'm not sure if I'd even heard of the group at this point, but I would always make a point of watching the programme when they were covering music. This one totally hooked me into the sound and mythology of the Velvets. It looks like the whole thing is now up on youtube, although this section, with it's evocative description of the creative tensions that spawned "Sister Ray", made a particularly heavy impact on my young mind.

To finish (for now), here's one that was actually a current, brand new track at the time. Again I have Whistletest to thank for playing this video and thus irrevocably cementing my love for Mantronik and electro-flavoured '80s hip-hop in general.

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