Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Rock Pioneer: LINK WRAY




LINK WRAY: 
 THE MISSING LINK… 

 2 May 1929 - 22 November 2005 

Punk-rock, Grunge, Garage, Heavy Metal and ‘rock guitar’ in general… 
 they can all trace their roots back to Shawnee Rocker Link Wray… 
 in 1958 you could buy “Rumble” on a 78rpm record. In 2005 
 you can buy the Link documentary ‘The Rumble Man’ on DVD



 ‘ROCKING WITH 
THE ‘RUMBLE’ MAN…’ 

Link Wray perpetrated the classic “Rumble” – the original master-blaster of Rock ‘n’ Roll guitar, a huge 1958 hit he was never able to follow. There are myths and legends attached to the ‘Rumble’-man. How could there not be? – we’re talking about events half-a-century ago. Did they really blow the Diamonds off-stage with their spontaneously improvised ‘Oddball’ which they then perform a straight four times in succession? Was it a Shawnee hunting knife or – as in another telling of the tale, just a sharpened pencil-point he uses to sonically perforate his amps? Was Archie Bleyer really intent on junking the demo tape before overhearing his teenage daughter’s rave-response? And how exactly do you record on three-track… in a converted chicken-shack?

Who knows. Who cares. This is the stuff of legend. His talent may have been narrow-band, but in his ability to employ quivering distortion and shove the electric guitar into places it had never gone before, he is assured his place as an innovator. His finest tracks retain their original menace and raw power. While his influence can’t be overestimated – Pete Towshend was an early champion, ‘he is the king, if it hadn’t been for Link Wray and “Rumble”, I would have never picked up a guitar.’ John Peel also makes a point of highlighting “Rumble” on his Radio One show. Even Bob Dylan writes – in his ‘Chronicles’, of being ‘hypnotized by the tone’ of Link’s ‘classic’.

Frederick Lincoln ‘Link’ Wray Jr was born of Shawnee Native American stock in Dunn, Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1930, to impoverished semi-literate parents. His father suffered shell-shock resulting from his experiences in World War I. And the family live an itinerant life, often sleeping rough, picking up casual farm work, augmented by his mother’s street ‘brush’ preaching, while evading the Ku Klux Klan threat. ‘Elvis, he grew up white-man poor. I was growing up Shawnee poor’ Link once told an interviewer, ‘Elvis came from welfare, I came from below welfare’.

He began playing ‘geetar’ as an seven-year old kid, tutored in bottleneck-slide by black blues-man Hambone, ‘I was brought up on the blues’ he told ‘Melody Maker’, ‘– the painful music’. At age thirteen the family migrates to Portsmouth in Virginia, where - as the ‘Ranch Gang’, they play the local circuit, with his brothers Doug (drums) and vocalist ‘Lucky’ Vernon, a line-up completed by Brantley ‘Shorty’ Horton (bass) and Dixie Neale. They specialise in Western swing – ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll before it was Rock ‘n’ Roll’, doing Bob Wills and Hank Thompson songs, touring bars, whore-houses, rodeos and clubs. They name-change to ‘Lucky Wray And The Lazy Pine Wranglers’ for some AM radio, and to play back-up for visiting C&W stars. They cut some country songs too, as ‘Lucky Wray And The Palomino Ranch Hands’ in 1955, and older brother Vernon cuts some sides as ‘Ray Vernon’. Then, while doing his two-year military service in the Korean War, Link contracts tuberculosis, he’s coughing up blood. In the resulting surgery he loses a lung and doctors confidently predict he’ll never be able to sing again. What the hell do they know?


With Link home again, the group name-switches to the Ray-Men for a family move to Washington DC, and to neatly jump the Rock ‘n’ Roll juggernaut, supporting the likes of Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Ricky Nelson… and Crash Craddock! Link’s a big man, with a monumental greaser Brylcreem slick-back quiff – although his later sleeve-shots will show him tanned and deeply-lined with gaunt Indian cheekbones and long raven-black hair. With typical ingenuity he confides it’s his lack of musical ability that forces him to contrive and invent sounds. Ripping holes in his amps’ tweeters with his knife and grinding smouldering slugs of sound up and down the fretboard, creating thundering breaks later to be known as the power-chord. ‘I was looking for something Chet Atkins wasn’t doing, that all the jazz kings wasn’t doing. I was looking for my own sound.’ To journalist Max Bell the resulting discord was ‘that near fatal collision between metal and rockabilly’ (‘Vox’ May 1993).

One night, as house-band for TV’s ‘The Milt Grant Show’ (on WTTG, Channel 5) and its spin-off live ‘Record Hops’, the Ray-Men find themselves backing Doo-Wop hit-makers The Diamond (“Little Darlin’”). They’re instructed to play the headliners’ single “The Stroll” – ‘I don’t know no stroll’ protests Link, but picks up on Doug’s improvised drum-beat, and what spontaneously emerges shimmers it way into Rock ‘n’ Roll history. This is what will become “Rumble”. Cadence is a small indie label formed in Washington DC in 1953 by Archie Bleyer, best known for its seven Nashville-based million-sellers by the Everly Brothers. The story is, Archie at first declines to issue the tape they’ve made of what they originally call “Oddball”, until he overhears his teenage daughter raving about the instrumental demo. She says its harsh jagged malevolence reminds her of the ‘rumble’ gang-fight sequence in ‘West Side Story’ (1957 Broadway musical) so Archie retitles it “Rumble”. Those ‘rumble’ associations, with switch-blade juvenile delinquency as disreputable then as Hip-Hop’s ‘Gangsta’ notoriety is now, results in some disapproving radio bans on the grounds of inciting teenage violence, but it also propels it high into the chart. Entering the US Hot Hundred 12 May 1958 on a big brittle pizza-size 78rpm, it peaks at no.16 and stays listed for ten weeks.


This first Rock ‘n’ Roll wave sees itself as a music for the generationally dispossessed. The outcasts, no-goodniks and social misfits. And its ingredients are as ethnically diverse as the American ‘melting pot’ can devise. Black ‘Race Records’, Jump and R&B obviously. Fused to the music of the hillbilly ‘trailer trash’ and rural ‘poor white’. Plus the Italian-American hoodlums and Doo-Wop street-gang delinquents. And Hispanics like Ritchie Valens. But there can be no ethnic group more dispossessed than the Native Americans. And they are there too. Marvin Rainwater, a full-blooded Cherokee from Wichita, Kansas might peak no higher than no.60 on the US ‘Billboard’ chart, but his devastatingly echo-drenched “Whole Lotta Woman” takes it all the way to the UK no.1 slot 25 April 1958, and he hangs around long enough to leave an indelible mark on the rocking decade. It’s said that in amongst Link’s poorly-documented session-work there were studio cross-overs, a likelihood improved by the fact that Link’s brother takes production-credits for Marvin’s follow-up “Hey Good Looking”.

If post-war jazz is all about startling dexterity and virtuoso improvisational skills, Rock ‘n’ Roll – the bastard offspring of R&B and C&W, has got to be its polar opposite. Instinctively it’s suspicious of basic proficiency, never mind virtuosity, which is why seventies Prog-Rock strains the limits of what’s considered acceptable, why Dire Straits are suspect, not despite but because of their abilities and articulate ambition. Rock has always been more a Folk-thing valuing pick-up musical illiteracy and the inspired three-chord accident. But that’s only half the story. From explosive energy and undisciplined spontaneity can come a purity undiluted by premeditation, unhampered by intellect. An earthy visceral howl. An unfiltered connection from urge to expression, by-passing language and preconception. By bursting through frustration and incoherence, at rare moments, it can achieve levels of pure expression. A sonic assault on all that’s inexpressible. It happens rarely. An unstable combination of unpredictable elements. But when it does, its effects can be seismic.

All its classic statements, from Elvis and Gene Vincent, through the Sex Pistols and Ramones, via the Who are about that mysterious alchemy of the moment that things come unexpectedly together. Link Wray stumbles into one of its purest expressions, summoning spectres and talking in tongues. He does it once. But that’s enough. Such moments are quintessential. It’s not so much that he broke the rules, as that he didn’t know the rules were there in the first place. There’s no real logic in gouging and busting open your 40-watt speaker cabinets, it’s more a kind of raw intuition. The resulting burn of kicked-in Les Paul fuzztone distortion, fretboard scrape and wang-bar overload sounds right. Strings resonate and squeal over floorboard-stomping rhythms, with a tin-full of nails to add cymbal-FX. And it’s indefinably right. No way to quantify or rationalise it down. He certainly never did. But once it comes roaring out from what’s left of the battered amp he knows he’s found whatever it is he needs. An exact analogue of Dave Davies’ galvanic amp-demolition for the neolithic “You Really Got Me” riff. To Pete Townshend’s frustrated auto-destruction. Or Jimi Hendrix triggering squalls of techno-primitive feedback. Chances are you don’t know what you’re looking for, until you find it. It can be hoodlum dumb. But it is also egalitarian. It doesn’t have to be dumb. It also has gene-traces of both Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie. So it can be smart and cunning. Bob Dylan or Ray Davies. But “Rumble” heads more for the heart than the head, it is primal wordless expression, so crude it hurts. And – by accident or intuitive design, it is a decade ahead of its time.



‘JACK THE RIPPER… 
AND BEYOND…’ 

When Archie Bleyer unwisely advises Link to ‘clean up his act’, Link – never less than restlessly unpredictable, ups and signs to Epic. But, despite a further hit with “Rawhide” – which enters the US chart 16 March 1959, peaking at no.23 and spending just three weeks listed, they also try neutering his style by steering him towards recording mainstream standards, when his real genius lies in creating some of the rawest crudest ear-trembling sounds ever recorded – “Ace Of Spades”, “Comanche” or “Run Chicken Run”. After leaving Epic, Link and his brothers set to converting their family chicken-coop out back of their trailer-home in arid Accokeek, twelve miles from Tucson Arizona, into a rudimentary recording studio from which they can unleash more wild instrumentals, with the background sound of croaking bullfrogs occasionally audible way back in the Ampex mix.

They briefly form their own ‘Rumble Records’ to issue three singles – including the instrumental “Jack The Ripper” (1963). Allegedly recorded on a hotel staircase to achieve the correct echo, it gets picked up by Bernie Bennink and Tony Mamarella of Philadelphia’s Swan Records, and goes on to provide the Ray-Men with final chart hit. Swan encourages a relative studio freedom Link’s other major-label encounters have denied, and his years with them prove innovative (until the label goes into liquidation in 1965). He formulates tremolo effects activated by turning a knob on his Premier amp, with occasional vocal-shots too against medical advice – sometimes modulated by hooking it through his garden hose. But despite touring the East Coast, doing TV’s legendary ‘Dick Clark Show’, while recording a wealth of low-fi material over the next five years for other labels, including Alpine, there will be no more hits. Lack of funds and poor health conspire against him. Yet despite barely scraping a living he continues as an obscurely prolific one-man social disturbance, in his own niche corner, across every decade since. Creating music that is subject to no pressures other than the need to play. He, and the Ray-Men, who at various times number Doug, Ed Cynar – who replaces Shorty Horton in 1964, Elwood Brown, Johnny Sneed and Chuck Bennett. With Link self-producing his brooding reverberating screwball excursions up the fretboard in scorching blasts of adrenalin.

His mainstream success had always been slight and frequently-interrupted, and then – for the greater part of the next decade, Wray drops from the major label scene entirely. First overtaken by the cleaner distortion-free guitar sound of the Ventures, and by the Duane Eddy ‘Twang’, then by the English vocal-group invasion that overnight renders the Ray-Men’s style obsolete. Ironically so, as it’s John Lennon, the Who, Jeff Beck, and Marc Bolan who are among his staunchest and most verbal admirers. Yet it’s precisely Link’s dogged adherence to his primal garage sound, despite changing trends, that guarantees him the minor but secure cult following that keeps him working, until it eventually full-circles back into currency. And it’s this underground word-of-mouth reputation, fuelled by gushing references to his work in interviews by these new Rock gods, that reaches the attention of English record execs, who issue the gutsily uneven ‘Link Wray’ through Polydor in 1971, and the more Country-Rock ‘Be What You Want To’ with its guest superstar sidesmen soon after. Link goes on to tour and cut two well-received albums with retro-rockabilly throwback Robert Gordon, only to resurface with Virgin for the rough-cut country-blues of ‘Beans And Fatback’. Although each of these albums has something to recommend them, it’s also true that – just because big-label money is involved, Link is never tempted to raise his game, and sees no need to alter his working methods. He enjoys his ripple of late-recognition without ever taking it too seriously or feeling he has anything to prove, or live up to. He plays and records as he’s always done, warts and all. But this renewed interest, alongside sporadic rockabilly revivals, and energetic evangelists such as Robert Gordon and the Cramps, creates a ready market for new compilations and CD reissues of rare and previously unavailable recordings from various lost back-catalogues. And Europe opens up a new audience for him, right through his final years. As devotee and website-host Greg Laxton points out ‘Punk-rock, Grunge, Garage, Heavy Metal and ‘rock guitar’ in general… they can all trace their roots to Link Wray… in 1958 you could buy “Rumble” on a 78rpm record. In 2005 you could buy the Link documentary ‘The Rumble Man’ on DVD.’

Meanwhile, brother Vernon moves west to Arizona, slicing off the back-wall of the chicken-shed studio, and taking it with him as a base for a reconstructed ‘Wray’s Shack 3 Tracks’. Kris Kristofferson, among others, record there. Brother Doug stays on in Waldorf Maryland, a businessman by day playing solo gigs in local clubs. While Link himself marries a Danish student of Native American culture – Olive Julie Povlsen, in 1979 (supposedly his third marriage, with some eight or nine children), and the following year they settle on an island off the coast of Copenhagen with their son Oliver. With Olive functioning as his manager, and a blitz of movies cinematically soundtracking his music, such as Richard Gere’s ‘Breathless’ (1983, which included his “Jack The Ripper”), ‘Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind’ (George Clooney’s 2002 movie featuring “The Swag”), ‘Pulp Fiction’ (joining other manic guitar legend Dick Dale on the 1994 soundtrack), ‘Johnny Suede’ (1991, with Brad Pitt), and Sci-Fi blockbuster ‘Independence Day’ (1996). These last fifteen years ensure the man who launched a thousand buzz-saw guitars enjoys a higher profile than at any other time since the birth of “Rumble”. The man who time-warped the guitar by sneaking proto-Heavy Metal into the fifties, tours regularly – and vigorously, across Europe and back in the States. Never less than authentic. Always real. Until he’s finally stopped by heart failure, aged 76. He dies at his home in Copenhagen, on Tuesday 5 November 2005.

‘LINK BY LINK: THE ALBUMS…’ 

Singles:

May 1958 “Rumble” c/w “The Swag” (Cadence 1347)
March 1959 “Rawhide” c/w “Dixie Doodle” (Epic 9300)
August 1960 “Jack The Ripper” c/w “The Black Widow” (Swan)
Other sought-after Swan singles includes “Branded”/“Hang On”, “Deuces Wild”/“Summer Dream”, “Batman Theme” (with goonish voice-effects)/ “Alone”, “Ace Of Spades”/”Hidden Charms”, “You Hurt Me So”/”Girl From North Country” (Dylan song)
April 1962 “Big City Stomp” c/w “Poppin’ Popeye” (Trans-Atlas label)
January 1964 “The Sweeper” c/w “Weekend” (Swan)
February 1964 “Mr Guitar”, “Dinosaur”, “Rumble”, “Run Chicken Run” (Swan EP)
March 1978 “Batman” c/w “Hidden Charms” (Chiswick) plus “Little Shoes” c/w “Down In The Mine” by The Wray Family (Lawn label)

Albums:


MISSING LINK SERIES’ compiled from rare acetates by US Indie Norton label ‘Vol.1 Hillbilly Wolf’ (ED210) collecting the Rockabilly roots of ‘Lucky Wray & The Palomino Ranch Gang’ through the earliest Ray-Men, with “Teenage Cutie” ( from US Starday label), “I Sez Baby” (Link’s first recorded vocal, a 1955 Kay label single), “Johnny Bom Bonnie”, “Pancho Villa”, “Hillbilly Wolf”, “Flirty Baby”, “Danger One Way Love Ahead” etc, ‘Vol.2 Big City After Dark’ (ED211) includes six live cuts circa 1961, with “Big City After Dark”, “The Bad & The Good”, “Big City Stomp”, “Rumble Rock”, “Hold It”, “The Stranger” etc, ‘Vol.3 Some Kinda Nut’ (ED212) Link & The Ray-Men with early and mid-60’s rarities, “Baby Doll”, “Run Boy Run”, “Growling Guts”, “Drag Strip”, “Hungry Child”, “Genocide” etc. Their 63-track ‘Mr Guitar’ set compiles material from all four. There’s also a highly collectible single “Vendetta” (early sixties) c/w “Facin All The Same Tomorrows” (1965 vocal demo)(45-003) and mini-LP ‘The Junior Raymen: Rumble 66’ (Norton ED213) by nephew Vern (who died soon after) with his teen combo, produced by Vernon Wray with “I’m Branded”, “Ace Of Spades”, “The Rat Fink”, “Jack The Ripper”, “Rumble ‘66”


WALKIN’ WITH LINK’ (Sony CD4728662) 20-tracks from Epic period with “Slinky”, “Ramble”, “Hand Clapper”, “Rawhide”, “Dixie Doodle”, “Studio Blues”, “Comanche”, “Right Turn”, “Radar”, “Lillian”, “Dance Contest”, “Guitar Cha-Cha”, “Rumble Mambo”, “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby” (Jimmy Reed song), “Mary Anne” (Link vocals on Ray Charles song), “Oh Babe Be Mine”, “New Studio Blues”, “Walkin’ With Link” (reissued May 1993 Epic CD)

LINK WRAY AND THE RAYMEN’ (Originally Epic LN 3661 USA – 1959, Edsel ED149 - 1985) tracks drawn from the Epic archive with “Dixie-Doodle” (with Duane Eddy-style ‘rebel yells’), “Ramble”, “Caroline”, “Rawhide”, “Right Turn”, “Golden Strings”, “Comanche”, “Hambone” (tribute to Link’s earliest guitar tutor), “Mary Ann”, “Rumble Mambo”, “Ain’t That Loving You Baby”, “Slinky”, “Hand Clapper”, “Lillian”, “Radar”, “Studio Blues” (also issued under the title ‘Rockin’ And Handclappin’)

GROWLING GUITAR’ (Big Beat/ Ace WIK65 – September 1987) tracks from the Swan catalogue, with “Climbing A High Wall” (‘a one-take monster of a recording’ says ‘Record Collector 168’, using wah-wah pedal), “Genocide”, “The Earth Is Crying”, “Growling Guts”, “Hungry”, “Ace Of Spades ‘69”, “Ruby Baby”, “Hang On”, “Summer Dreams”, “Sorrento”, “Peggy Sue”, “Alone”, “Girl From The North Country”, “You Hurt Me So”, “The Fuzz” (re-issued May 1991 with bonus ‘Live In ‘85’ tracks)

JACK THE RIPPER’ (Swan SLP 510 USA – 1963, reissue Line LLP5187, Germany – 1982, Hangman June 1990) with “Mr Guitar”, “My Beth”, “Deacon Jones”, “Steel Trap”, “Cross Ties”, “Jack The Ripper”, “Ace Of Spades”, “Hidden Charms”, “Fat Back”, “Run Chicken Run”, “Dinosaur”, “Big Ben”, “Mash Potato Party”, “I’ll Do Anything For You”, “Rendez-Vous”, “Slinky”

THERE’S GOOD ROCKIN’ TONIGHT’ (Union Pacific UP002 – August 1973, Ace CH69 - 1982) 17 tracks from Cadence, Epic and Swan from 1957-1965 compiled by Union Pacific label-boss Ian Sippen who died in 1973, with the original “Rumble”, its B-side “The Swag” from Cadence (1958), plus 13 1963/4 sides from Swan Records, “Deuces Wild”, “Mustang”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Law Of The Jungle”, “Blueberry Hill” “Run Boy Run”, “Honky Tonk”, “The Sweeper”, “Hound Dog”, “That’ll Be The Day”, “Zip Code”, “Scatter”, “El Toro”, “Tijuana”, “Rumble Mambo”, “Jack The Ripper”, “Black Widow”, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (vocal version of Roy Brown hit), “Batman Theme”, “I’m Branded”, “Hang On”, “Ace Of Spades”, “Alone”, also re-issued as ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Rumble’ (Charly CR30171 – 1979)

LINK WRAY: THE EARLY RECORDINGS’ (Chiswick/ Ace CH6 - 1978)14 tracks from 1963-’65, with “Batman Theme”, “Ace Of Spades”, “Cross Ties”, “Jack The Ripper”, “Hidden Charms” (vocal version of Willie Dixon song), “I’m Branded”, “The Shadow Knows”, “Fat Back”, “Run Chicken Run”, “Black Widow”, “Scatter”, “Turnpike USA”, “Mr Guitar”, “Rumble”. ‘Apart from Bo Diddley, no contemporary of Wray’s ever coaxed meaner, nastier noises out of a guitar’ writes Charles Shaar Murray (‘NME’ 6 May 1978)

GREAT GUITAR HITS OF LINK WRAY AND THE RAYMEN’ (Vermillion LP1924 USA – 1967) + ‘Link Wray Sings & Plays Guitar’ (Vermillion LP1925 USA – 1968)

YESTERDAY AND TODAY’ (Record Factory LP1929 USA – 1969)

LINK WRAY’ (Polydor 24-4064 – August 1971) produced and part co-written with Steve Verroca, with Billy ‘Juke Box’ Hodges pno, Bobby Howard mandolin, Doug Wray drs, and Link gtr, dobro, bass, vocals, includes the single “Fire & Brimstone” c/w “Juke-Box Mama” plus “Take Me Home Jesus”, “Black River Swamp”, “The Rise & Fall Of Jimmy Stokes”, “La de da”, “Fallin’ Rain”, “Ice People”, “God Out West”, “Crowbar”, “Tail Dragger”. Richard Williams writes ‘this is probably the ultimate down-home album, recorded on the little three-track machinery in Wray’s Shack’ (‘Melody Maker’)

MORDICAI JONES’ (Polydor PD5010 – 1971) Mandolin player on Link’s ‘Beans & Fatback’ solo album, with Link Wray participation

BE WHAT YOU WANT TO’ (Polydor PD5047 – 1973, reissued on CD 2005) in country-Rock style, recorded in California, with Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane’s Peter Kaukonen, Commander Cody and others guesting, produced by Thom Jefferson-Kaye, includes the single “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” c/w “Shine The Light” plus “Be What You Want To”, “All Cried Out”, “Tucson Arizona”, “Riverbed”, “You Walked By”, “Walk Easy Walk Slow”, “All The Love In My Life”, “You Really Got A Hold On Me”, “Morning”

BEANS AND FATBACK’ (Virgin V2006 – October 1973) produced and all co-written with Steve Verroca but for traditional “Georgia Pines” and “Take My Hand”, recorded at ‘The Shack, USA’, includes the single “I’m So Glad” c/w “Shawnee Tribe” plus “Water Boy”, “Beans & Fatback”, “Hobo Man”, “Alabama Circus”, “From Tulsa To North Carolina”, “Right Or Wrong”, “In The Pines”. ‘A fine album… as raw as chapped legs, as grizzly as a brown bear, its spirit is strong, its flesh barely covers its white-hard bone’ (Geoff Brown ‘Melody Maker’)

THE LINK WRAY RUMBLE’ (Polydor 2391128 - 1974) with Pete Townshend liner notes. Tracks later compiled on 1996 ‘Guitar Preacher: The Polydor Years’ (Polydor 527 717-2)

STUCK IN GEAR’ (Virgin V2050, March 1976) Link’s first UK-recorded album, eight tracks including a version of “Jack The Ripper” caught live at the London Lyceum, plus “Southern Lady”, “Tecolote”, “Quicksand”, “I Know You’re Leaving Me Now”, “Did You See The Man”, “Midnight Lover”, “Cottoncandy Apples”, “Bo Jack”



ROBERT GORDON WITH LINK WRAY’ (Private Stock PS2030 – August 1977) one of two album collaborations, features The Wildcats (Billy Cross gtr, Rob Stoner – formerly of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder bass, Howie Wyeth drs, Charlie Messing gtr). Richard Gottehrer – formerly of 60’s Strangeloves pno and production. Recorded at Plaza Sound NY, includes the single “Red Hot” c/w “Sweet Surrender” plus “Flying Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll” (the Billy Lee Riley hit, as is ‘Red Hot’), “I Sure Miss You”, “Lit’s In The Bottle”, “Woman”, “Is This The Way”, “Summertime Blues”, “The Fool”, “Boppin’ The Blues” (Carl Perkins). The other Robert Gordon collaboration is ‘FRESH FISH SPECIAL’ (Private Stock Records PVLP1038 - 1978) includes the singles “Fire” c/w “If This Is Wrong” and “The Way I Walk” c/w “Sea Cruise” plus “Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache”, “Five Days”, “I Want To Be Free”, “Twenty Flight Rock”, “Lonesome Train”, “Blue Eyes”

THE GUITAR ALBUM’ (Polydor 2482382 – 1977) compilation includes Link doing Willie Dixon’s “Tail Dagger”

BULLSHOT’ (Charisma CAR 1143 /Visa Records – June 1979) with Alpha Band stalwarts Rob Stoner bass, Howie Wyeth drs, Billy Cross rhythm, Anton Fig drs, Chris Robinson keys, plus producer Gottehrer, includes single “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” (Dylan song) c/w “Just That Kind Of Switchblade” (instrumental), plus “Fever”, “Good Good Lovin’”, “Rawhide”, “Snag”, “Wild Party”, “Don’t” (originally done as a demo guide-track for Robert Gordon), “The Sky Is Falling”

LIVE AT THE PARADISO’ (Passport PB2014, Canada – 1980, Europe-only CD, Visa 7010 USA – 1980) with Anton Fig drs, Jimmy Lowell bass, including “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Ace Of Spades”, “Walk Away From Love”, “I Saw Her Standing There”, “Run Chicken Run”, “She’s No Good”, “Rumble”, “Rawhide”, “Subway Blues”, “Money”, “Shake Rattle & Roll”, Bebop A Lula”

LINK WRAY: LIVE IN ‘85’ (Big Beat WIKM42 - 1986) recorded during a US tour through January and February with Keith Lentin bass, Marty Feier drs, including his final gig in the Washington DC area – at the ‘Wax Museum’ with “Rumble”, “It’s Only Words”, “Fire”, “Mystery Train/ I Got A Woman/ Baby Let’s Play House”, “Jack The Ripper”, “Love Me”, “King Creole”, “I’m Counting On You”, “Rawhide”, “Born To Be Wild”, re-issued as 2-for-1 with ‘GROWLING GUITAR’ as Ace CDWIK972

BORN TO BE WILD: LIVE 1987’ (CD - 1987)

LINK WRAY: THE RUMBLE MAN’ (Ace CH266 – 1988) recorded in one night for Ace’s Ted Carroll, with “Draggin’”, “Bull Dawg”, “Aces Wild”, “Street Beat”, “Honest, I Swear Somebody Lied”, “The Rumble Man”, “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry”, “Big City Walk”, “I Will Be Home Again”, “Copenhagen Boogie”, “The Thrill Of Your Love”

THE ORIGINAL RUMBLE + 22 OTHER INSTRUMENTALS’ (Ace CDCH924 – 1989) 23 thunderous guitar instrumentals, including “Rumble”, “The Swag”, “Batman (Theme)”, “Ace Of Spades”, “Jack The Ripper”, “I’m Branded”, “Fat Back”, “Run Chicken Run”, “Turnpike USA”, “Deuces Wild”, “Mustang”, “Blueberry Hill”, “Run Boy Run”, “The Sweeper”, “Hound Dog”, “That’ll Be The Day”, “The Fuzz”, “Rawhide”, “Draggin’”, “Aces Wild”, “Bull Dawg”, “The Rumble Man”, “Copenhagen Boogie”

APACHE: WILD SIDE OF THE CITY LIGHTS’ (Ace CDCHD931 - 1989) two complete 1989 albums, + bonus track, includes Link’s raw take on the Jerry Lordan-penned Shadows’ hit, plus vocals “Big Boss Man” and “Beautiful Brown Eyes”, plus “The Wild One”, “Dallas Blues”, “Shawnee”, “The Joker”, “Stars & Stripes Forever”, “Green Hornet”, “Dick Tracy Private Eye”, “Hotel Loneliness”, “Raunchy”, “The Flying Wedge” (a homage to drag-racing), “Don’t Leave Me”, “American Sunset”, “Little Sister”, “Love Me Tender”, “Wild Side Of The City Lights”, “Viva Zapata”, “As Long As I Have You”, “Street Beat” With Bruce Brand (harmonica and drums). Produced by Wray

INDIAN CHILD’ (May 1993 Sony Denmark EPC473100 Europe-only CD/ imported by Ball Products, a Creation affiliate) ten tracks includes two recorded for a 1985 MTV-special, “Rumble” and the vocal “Trying To Find Your Love”, plus others recorded with Danish backing band Shaky Ground (Kim Hyttel keys, Flemming Nilsson percussion, Jan Mols rhythm, Carsten Egholm bass, Erik Lodberg drs), with “It Was Elvis” (vocal, ‘I wrote ‘It Was Elvis’ because the kids only remember the fat Vegas Elvis who died. That’s not Elvis. This is Elvis, the young Elvis, the progressive Elvis, the Sid Vicious Elvis, the boy with guts’ he tells ‘Record Collector’ August 1993), plus “Torture”, “Guitar-Man From New Orleans”, “God’s Little Baby”, “Indian Child”, “Saving All My Love”, “Bring On The Night”, “I Apologise”, “Diamonds & Pearls”. Some lyrics by wife Olive. As ‘Neanderthal as anything that ever crawled out of a swamp’ says ‘Vox’

WALKING DOWN A STREET CALLED LOVE’ (1996 – Cherry Red/ Visionary) live set with tribute-to-Elvis medley, “Jailhouse Rock/ Young And Beautiful”, issued with the video ‘RUMBLEMAN’ 

SHADOWMAN’ (Ace CDCHD638 - 1997) with “Timewarp” (a souped-up version of “Rawhide”), “I Can’t Help It” (vocal on Hank Williams song), plus savage instrumentals

BARBED WIRE’ (Ace Records – 2000 CD) Link ‘unplugged’, acoustic guitar and vocals

SLINKY: THE COMPLETE EPIC SESSIONS’ (2004 double-CD compilation)

THE SWAN SINGLES COLLECTION’ (2004 CD compilation)



RUMBLE: THE BEST OF LINK WRAY’ (CD – Japan)

DAVE DUDLEY WITH SPECIAL GUESTS LINK WRAY AND THE RAY-MEN

RUMBLE RECORDS Vol.1’ + ‘RUMBLE RECORDS Vol.2

Link Wray material can also be heard on the soundtrack of ‘Desperado’, ‘Twelve Monkeys’, ‘This Boy’s Life’, ‘Blow’… and ‘Taco Bell’ TV-ads. While the ‘Wray Collective’, and Link himself were involved in recording “Hide And Go Seek”, a 1962 US Top 40 solo hit for ‘Bunker Hill’ aka David Walker of the Mighty Clouds Of Joy, for 1955 RCA sides by Dick Williams, and some seventy other singles (including ‘Ray Vernon’s 1957 Cameo-label version of “Remember You’re Mine”, covered into the charts by Pat Boone), as well as an A&M album by avant-garde band Eggs Over Easy…

A current TV-ad for confused.com uses ‘Rumble’

with discographical thanks to:
http://www.wraysshack3tracks.com/linkdisco.html 

Published on ‘Peace & Freedom’ website ‘booksmusicfilmstv’: http://www.booksmusicfilmstv.com/AndrewDarlington/LinkWray.htm
(January 2006)



Wednesday, 29 April 2020



IN THE TIME OF 
THE STAR QUEENS 
 (from an idea by Steve Sneyd) 


when the last of
the Star Queens died
they drew seven suns
into tight orbit,
one for each century
of her rule,
then ignite them
into beacon pyres to
illuminate the galaxy and
across a million light-years
so other universes
can also marvel…

we, exiles on the
shores of this ice moon,
watch our sun flare
into bright nova,
and pledge a revenge
that will reach across
that same eternity…


Featured online at:
‘SFPA: SCIENCE FICTION &
FANTASY POETRY ASSOCIATION’ (28 June 2017)

Electronic Music: BLEEP AND BOOSTER





BLEEP AND BOOSTER: 
FUTURE SOUNDS OF SHEFFIELD 


 As part of ABC, Stephen Singleton helped write 
 ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. He blames ‘LIVE AID’ for subsequently 
burying innovation in Pop. Meanwhile – once upon a time 
 BLEEP AND BOOSTER were a boy and his robot companion 
on TV. Stephen is Bleep. David Lewin is Booster. 
‘The World Of Bleep And Booster’ represents the 
Future Sounds of Sheffield with a major-label 
album of Ambient Electro. This is Now…



There’s a Wurlitzer Jukebox in the kitchen. There’s a poster for Adam Faith’s 1960 movie ‘Beat Girl’ by the stairs – ‘it was the first soundtrack scored by John Barry’ he explains. And there’s a bendy-toy Topo Gigio beside the cooker, the saccharine-cute Italian mouse who caused a sensation on ‘Sunday Night At The London Palladium’ three or so decades ago.

There are Gold Disks on the wall too – an Australian award for ‘Lexicon Of Love’, a UK one for ‘Beauty Stab’, and an American one for “The Look Of Love” single. Stephen Singleton dismisses such ostentatious displays of his gilded past, ‘that’s for me Mum. THIS is the one that’s really important,’ and he digs out a carefully hoarded Gold Disk for “Jeepster’ by T Rex, and brandishes it with obvious pride.

A one-time member of ABC, Sheffield’s most opulent Popstrels, Stephen collects bric-a-brac of the past. Videos. Magazines. Memorabilia. But his music – the sound of Bleep And Booster, is here and now. Bleep And Booster are two Byte-Bonding Buddies who use synths as tinker-toys. To SF prophet JG Ballard ‘Sex times Technology equals the future’. He could have been talking about their first album, ‘The World Of Bleep And Booster’. Stephen, and fellow electrophile David Lewin, create a unique product, without any of the obvious fake ingredients. “Find The Light” is a journey into the electrosphere on gigabytes of data-surge. Art, science and melting noise. “Electro City” visits Kraftwerk’s Electro Café, noodling with potions, notions and lotions somewhere deep inside rhythmic E-Space, and the stunning “Glock” is a cool chill-out autobahn to Sim City. But there’s no vocals – apart from treated voices and samples. Few heavy dance rhythms either.

‘Y-e-e-e-e-s’ he concedes. ‘That’s why I’m pleasantly surprised that we got a deal with a major record label. Because Bleep And Booster is an odd thing to pick up on.’

So, is it Chill-Out Music?

A careful pause. “Some people tell me they like to take drugs while they listen to it’ he laughs warily.

But, as Marc Bolan says on the Wurlitzer behind him, ‘Life’s A Gas…’


--- 0 --- 

It’s often forgotten that before the hits, ABC started out as part of Sheffield’s revolutionary electronics wave, the same movement that produced Human League and Cabaret Voltaire. ‘I suppose the change to ABC’s more Funky style, with strings and lush production, came about because we discovered that Martin (Fry) could sing’ he muses. ‘And going with that suited his voice more. Also we’d done a lot in the electronics field, and we’re the kind of people who always want to do different things. Not say ‘this is successful, we’re going to do this for ever and ever.’ We wanted to try something different. So we did that…’

But That Was Then. This Is Now.

‘Yes, I’ve gone right back to what I was doing when I first started. Partly because of the limitations – we don’t HAVE a singer anymore! So the way around that is to go back and do electronics. Now we make fairly complicated musical statements, but keep the voices really simple. We’ve not got a regular vocalist to work with, so we get friends to say a few words on a piece of tape. And chop them up. Or just write a few lines and get somebody to come in and speak them.’

Like “Genki”? The album – courtesy of London Records, is ignited by what resembles the soundtrack to a Japanese Manga animation, ‘Yes, I know all that ‘Akira’ stuff’ he grins. It’s a trapped memory of the future, with weird percussive effects, the cries of electronic birds. And her voice. Hard-Line meets Soft Focus. ‘But no, it came about when a Japanese girl sent me a tape through the post’ he explains across the kitchen, making coffee for us with ‘Aquapura’ designer water. ‘She’d put a little greeting message on the end of it. We’d already created an original track by writing a hi-hat pattern, then accidentally the computer transposed it into a ‘bell’ sound, and it created this really odd rhythmic and melodic… thing! So we started using that as a basis, and we thought ‘this sounds a bit oriental, where’s that tape with the Japanese girl on it?’

It works so brilliantly it’s haunting.

‘I suppose there’s an influence from things like Brian Eno’ he admits. ‘I’ve always been a big fan of his work. It’s like – every week there’s hundreds and hundreds of Dance records, Pop records or Rock records. But if you say ‘ambient’, there’s not really many people who work well in that particular area. Aphex Twin get a lot of publicity because he’s doing it – Richard Dean James, and there’s not a lot of other people that ARE doing it. Or if they are doing it, they’re doing it on such a small scale that it’s only their friends who find out about it.’

Stephen Singleton at the foot of this early studio shot of Vice Versa
--- 0 --- 

Following ABC, Stephen – with David, set up their own studio in Sheffield, while all around them the innovations of the early eighties atrophied. ‘‘Live Aid’ brought back a load of old bands’ he accuses. ‘Suddenly everybody rediscovered things that were popular ten years earlier. And that’s never really gone away. Elton John, Queen, Status Quo, and all those kind of people created a renewed Stadium Rock by doing that one gig. And people have stayed with that. While electronic music is back where it started, in a way…’

It mutated into House, Rave and Techno?

‘Yes’, with some satisfaction. ‘It became a mutation.’

Stephen and David’s studio, producing and remixing for a host of musicians, also became the launch-pad for the new adventure. For Bleep And Booster.

David Ball of Soft Cell is back in the Top Ten with Grid’s Techno Hoedown. Ex-Style Councillor Mick Talbot is also there as part of Galliano. Hype is where the Art is. The future is here, it’s hard, hot, and it’s media-jamming. There might yet be more awards to hang on the wall to delight Stephen’s Mum.

But wait… wasn’t ‘Bleep And Booster’ originally a kids TV programme – like ‘Button Moon’ and ‘The Clangers’?

‘In a way’ says Stephen Singleton, who hoards memorabilia. ‘Bleep And Booster were a boy and his robot companion. They went to the Moon. It wasn’t a puppet thing, it was drawings and a story voice-over on ‘Blue Peter’.’ ‘Blue Peter’? I think he’s wrong. Did ‘Blue Peter’ ever run cartoon strips? I think not. Evidence on a postcard please.

‘It’s a slightly silly name as well. We didn’t want to be Electrolux 3000 – a ‘serious’ electronic band. We wanted to be apart from all that. So I’m Bleep. And David’s Booster.’

As I leave, Sheffield is laid out beneath us. Like the Bleep And Booster title which dances Giorgio Moroder-hooks as addictive as Crack, the city has again become a kind of “Technotropolis”. Stephen Singleton lives here, just across the tracks from where he grew up.

‘When I was at school I used to have a newspaper-round, and I delivered papers to this house’ he smiles. ‘And now – I OWN it!’ He also owns a Wurlitzer Jukebox, a T Rex Gold Disk, a flexible Top Gigio – and an album you’re going to want to hear.






BLEEP AND BOOSTER: 
CYBORGASMS 


Bleep And Booster: As easy as ABC.

(Atomic*Bacteriological*Chemical)

Bleep And Booster know there are ten glands that control your destiny. It’s the secretion of these glands that insinuates through the bloodstream, fine-tuning all your energies.

YOU ARE ONLY AS HIP AS YOUR GLANDS.

Now modern digital audiophonics through the medium of Stephen Singleton and David Lewin has laid its hand on that kernel of all human life, and through this unique programme of sonic glandular regeneration, the application of rejuvenation opens up new horizons to all organic activity – sexual, cerebral, neural, bacteriological, pharmaceutical, and sub-atomic.

BLEEP AND BOOSTER BEGIN WHERE WORDS END.

Bleep And Booster hit the vital synapses with a VROOOM!!!, with the pure swirling song of hydrogen. Their music haunts with the odours of time stimulating your every senses, while propelled by its own integrated rhythmic chassis design.

Bleep And Booster know that those important glands include:

(1) Endocrinal Hydraulic Suspension: ‘GENKI’ – inaugurating this revolutionary audiophile program with scintillating cyborgasms of sound.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23skzUowB7E

(2) Glandular Atomic: ‘SEXY’ – a nourishing miscegenation skilfully textured.

(3) Orchis Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: ‘FIND THE LIGHT’ – patenting a cure for a big disease with a little name.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-VOzpBW8SI

(4) Endorphins: ‘ELECTRO CITY’ – a simulated landscape dislocating three-minute Pop heroics to infinity.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKXACQH839o

(5) Pituitary Adrenal: ‘BELLS’ – tones textually nodding, rejuvenating as they thrill.

(6) Thyroid: ‘GLOCK’ – regenerating as it startles, with Bizarre True-Life Adventures and Daring Investigations Into The Unknown.

(7) Incendiary Parathyroid: ‘AMBER TO ATOMS’ – no artful thefts here, but original ingredients especially formulated to seduce the listener into its slipstream.

(8) Pineal: ‘BOOSTERDROME’ – a stretch Cadillac of cut and slash, motorvating from the Academy Of Art Violence.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk3lR_FgxHs

(9) Harmonic Hormonal: ‘TECHNOTROPOLIS’ – augmented with beatbox and jive to tickle the eardrum and twitter the imagination.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkOjAGj0NyA

(10) Testosterone Sotto Voce: ‘WONDERS OF THE WORLD’ – this is the sound of your future, broadcasting from Sheffield to the world. ‘The shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades’

At the industry’s commercial core, and at millennia’s end, the vital pulse beats more slowly, declines into safe self-conscious self-referential style larceny, contrived and knowing. Even its so-called extremes are well-charted repetitions.

Bleep And Booster exist to pump up its vocabulary. To further the art of MORE.

Bleep And Booster know there are ten glands that control your destiny, and offer you this unique digital therapy in convenient easy-to-ingest CD form. Tuned in to the glandular and way on down through to the cellular. They drink at the Bars that go from here to the stars. They prefer to take the trans-Sirian by-pass using maps of Ganymede to warp-out past the S-Bend at gravity’s rim.

Bleep And Booster are the ten glands that Particle Accelerate your destiny by insinuating electro-secretions through the bloodstream, fine-tuning all your energies.

Through the magic of sonic digital therapy, they are making the world a purer place.

SPEND THAT CASH*BREAK THAT GRAVE*ONLY SUCKERS SAVE.

Bleep And Booster is a psychic diagram that lays its hand on the kernel of all human life.

SO KEEP SPLITTING THOSE QUARKS FELLA’S, OR WE’LL ALL FREEZE!

Bleep And Booster: as easy as ABC.

Atomic*Bacteriological*Chemical.

TEXT PREPARED BY ANDREW DARLINGTON 





BLEEP AND BOOSTER: 
THE ADVENTURES 
OF A BOY AND HIS ROBOT 


Sheffield is the home of British electronic music. 
 With VICE VERSA Stephen Singleton was part of its first wave, 
 alongside HUMAN LEAGUE and CABARET VOLTAIRE
 Then, as part of ABC, he helped write ‘The Lexicon Of Love’. 
 Now – with fellow electrophile David Lewin, he’s gone back to his 
 first love. And BLEEP AND BOOSTER’s first album 
 advances Ambient Electro into the future…




Freeze.

He inches the picture forward. Almost frame by frame. Elvis Presley. ‘Roustabout’ (1964). Above the funfair there’s a burst of coloured balloons bright against a blueness of sky. At that exact moment Stephen Singleton – former ABC founder member, pauses the image for long enough to photograph the screen.

Then a different video – ‘China: The Mao Years’ (1994). A man on a bicycle passes through the crowd, which parts obediently. At that exact moment he pauses it long enough for the photograph.

These will be parts of the stage slides projected behind Bleep And Booster. ‘We’re not too keen on video-walls and all that kind of technology’ he explains. I want to put a different kind of show together. Something like what Velvet Underground did when they were using slide projectors and sixteen-mm films as opposed to just hiring twenty video screens. Somebody said that sounds very ‘Sheffield’. And in a way, it is. But I don’t care.’

So why go for the anonymous throwaway sequences between the action? Why not go for stills of Elvis, or Mao – the iconic images? Because Sheffield’s Bleep And Booster – Stephen and David Lewin, avoid the obvious. It’s difficult to file them into recognised categories. Signed to London Records, the advance copy of their album ‘The World Of Bleep And Booster’ (1994, London 828-511.2) is on my Music Centre, and it’s Ambient Electro, with Kraftwerk overtones to shred your nervous system to a million fibres. An Orb with ‘A’-levels in Trance. In a world where nation shall network unto nation, they represent what SF Cyberpunk-writer William Gibson calls ‘Samizdata’. The electronic underground.

Stephen Singleton grins at the idea. That same grin you saw on the ABC videos for “Look Of Love” or “Poison Arrow”. The blonde quiff a little less extravagant. And he’s not shaved yet. But it’s that same grin. He’s come full circle.

‘The reason I started doing electronic music in the first place – before ABC, was because of the things that were happening in Sheffield, Human League and Cabaret Voltaire, plus the other electronic bands and Industrial-noise merchants, particularly Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle and Clock DVA. They were a big influence. Also, probably, it was a way around the fact that we couldn’t play very well. You can make an interesting noise with a synthesiser. We thought ‘this way I can create something that other people will be interested in hearing’.’

From such roots, by linking up with producer Trevor Horn, ABC became huge. Their ‘Lexicon Of Love’ the most highly-rated chart album of 1982. But midway through ‘Beauty Stab’ (November 1983) – the group’s self-produced follow-up, Stephen quit, unhappy with touring, and ill-at-ease with some aspects of its musical direction.

‘Now I’ve kind-of gone full circle’ he agrees. ‘And it’s good to go back to all those really old synths, and say ‘oh yes, the MS20 – it’d be nice to create some sounds with that’. But it’s even better to be working in electronic music NOW, rather than with guitars and drums. Because there’s been so many advances in the equipment too. I’m really enjoying it.’


--- 0 --- 

Titles like “Genki”, “Boosterdrome” or “Technotropolis” ripple and shimmer in a production sheen as clean as a Clearasil commercial. “Amber To Atoms” photographs infinity through the Hubble Telescope, then particle-accelerates the dance of mesons into strangely luminous Floydian astronomy. “Sexy” extends the mood in floods of virtual light muttering wordlessly of sensual mystery, capricious and strange. Until it shrugs silvery shoulders and undulates through hypnotic silences.

‘What I’m trying to do is NOT do the obvious thing with computers, drum loops or samples’ he explains. ‘To do things a little bit different. To experiment a little bit more. Spend more time making up unusual sounds and ideas. Rather than get the computer going, and use samples to make it sound like a drumkit, make a bass-sound like a bass guitar, or a piano-sound like a piano. I don’t see the point of trying to recreate something. You get Musician’s magazines that review new synths, they say ‘you can get an incredible violin on it’. Why bother? I’d rather get a violin player! Synthesiser players should be making up their own sounds. There are so many people who buy the instrument then never alter any of the preset sounds. You can buy a second-hand synth and it goes ‘plink’ – fourteen, oh yes, that’s the tympani. It’s been in there since it was new! Nobody’s ever changed it! And oh, there’s the string pad, and this pad and that pad. And yet there’s so much room there to create your own sounds and make up your own textures. And people don’t really DO that. So that’s what me and David have been trying to do.’

You can’t deny your roots. So long as you’re not trapped by them. Following ABC, Stephen (with David Lewin) set up a Sheffield studio, producing and remixing. They were responsible for introducing the samples into a ‘New Musical Express’ Single Of The Week – “Iron Guru” (1987, Native NTV23). And an album – ‘A Fracture In Time’ (February 1988, Native NTVCD29) by the UK Screaming Trees (a band that included Richard Hawley). ‘That was the first time I’d had chance to spend any time using samplers. The Steinberg Pro-24 Music Sequencer Package had come out. Before that, if you’d not got a £100,000 Fairlight then forget it. But they came out, and the Akai and Roland Samplers came out around the same time. Suddenly you didn’t have to be a member of Genesis to own one.’


Other productions followed. The studio worked out well. But sooner or later the musical restrictions were bound to tell. Bleep And Booster is the logical outcome, utilising ALL the resources of the studio.

‘The old approach to samples was that people took little bits from films’ he says. ‘Rather than now where they go ‘there’s a good dance beat on that record – we can nick that’, and then just put music on top of it. Our musical content and rhythms are grooves that we’ve devised ourselves. The samples in there are heavily disguised, or else just used as the vocal refrain. When we were doing Screaming Trees it was really fun to say ‘yeah, let’s just nick a great big chunk of Janet Jackson’, and put it in there – for the laugh. Then mix it with a bit of a Jackson Five song. It was kinda playing around with a new medium. But once everybody’s sampled everybody else to death, then it’s time to move on. When the sampler came out it came with a disc with a few sounds on – a piano, a violin, and this thing that sounded like a nose-flute. Peter Gabriel was probably one of the first people to have one of those samplers. “Sledgehammer” starts off with a ridiculous sample. Everybody went ‘Wow! What a great sound’, but now everybody who buys that sampler hears that same stupid sound. So the longer the instrument is around, the more people can get into it and create their own way of working with it. That’s why I prefer old synthesisers to the newer models, because with the old ones it’s a much more physical process than just typing in numbers, and saying ‘yes, right, I want to change the LFO’, and it’s so precise what you can change it to, sixty behind there and a sine-wave here. The whole process of making it squeak and squonk or whatever just by saying ‘what does this do?’. And changing the frequency…’


--- 0 --- 

Freeze.

The Las Vegas skyline. Swooping in low towards the Golden Nugget casino. Elvis, ‘Viva Las Vegas’ (1964). At the exact moment that the perspective focuses most clearly, but before the credits come up, he pauses the video for long enough to photograph the image.

But meanwhile – ‘Bleep And Booster’, wasn’t that a kid’s TV programme from the early seventies?

‘Yes. Bleep And Booster were a little boy and his robot companion. They went to the Moon. I vaguely remember the music, which was probably by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. And when we started messing around with electronic music again, it SOUNDED like how I remember ‘Bleep And Booster’. So that’s what we became. And that’s what we’re doing now. For me – playing around with an MS20 synthesiser again is like a second childhood!’


BLEEP AND BOOSTER’S EIGHT-TRACK MAXI SINGLE’ (1990, Tove Corporation TOVE1) ‘Astral Planning’, ‘Milky Way’, ‘Aural Crush’, ‘Genki Bells’, ‘Neon Glow’, ‘Gasoline’, ‘Flash Bulb’, Ambient Techno’

TECHNOTROPOLIS’ (1991, Tove Corporation TOVE3, 12” Single) ‘Technotropolis’ (with Janet Allaker, voice), ‘Sounds Of The Space Age (Mix 1), ‘Sounds Of The Space Age (Mix 2)

THE WORLD OF BLEEP AND BOOSTER’ (1994, London Records 828-511.2) ‘Technotropolis’, ‘Sexy’, ‘Electro City’, ‘Genki’, ‘Find The Light’, ‘Boosterdrome’, ‘Glock’, ‘Amber To Atoms’, ‘Wonder Of The World’, ‘Piano 1’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoyAnsVemCs




BLEEP AND BOOSTER’S 
 JOURNEY TO THE MOON

Sheffield is the home of British electronic music. With VICE VERSA
Stephen Singleton was part of its first wave, alongside HUMAN 
LEAGUE and CABARET VOLTAIRE. Then, as part of ABC, came 
Gold Disc’s for ‘The Lexicon Of Love’, “Poison Arrow” and “Look 
Of Love”. Now – with fellow electrophile David Lewin, he’s gone 
back to his first love. And BLEEP AND BOOSTER’s first album 
‘The World Of Bleep And Booster’ advances Ambient Electro 
 into the future… 


Surfing in LA, sure.

Surfing in Newquay, that’s fine too.

But Data-Surfing in Sheffield?

Bleep And Booster are Stephen Singleton and David Lewin.

Stephen was a founder member of ABC (he’s there on ‘Lexicon Of Love’ and ‘Beauty Stab’). They record in their own Sheffield studio. But check in your preconceptions at the door. Listen to ‘The World Of Bleep And Booster’ from London Records – with titles like “Genki”, “Amber To Atoms” and “Technotropolis”, and it’s pure Ambient Techno of awesome power and imagination. Talk about perception versus reality! Like a branch of Global Village Communications theirs is the sound that wild-eyed fast-talking sonic virtual reality evangelists dream of. Date-Surfing from here… to your Earbuds.

Catch a wave.

It starts with this interview…


ANDREW DARLINGTON: First, who are Bleep And Booster. You’re not a one-man Aphex Twin set-up?

STEPHEN SINGLETON: No. There’s me and David Lewin. We’ve known each other, well – we knew each other even when I was in ABC. And we’ve been working together ever since. Started out by writing songs together and working with a girl singer called Gloria. We had this kind of funky type of outfit, and just wrote songs that were suited to her voice. Nothing happened with that. We got close to getting a record deal with Virgin. One day they wanted to sign us, the next day they didn’t. They were hot and cold. But once they’d been so hot for it, and then pulled out of the deal, other people who were interested thought ‘there must be something wrong with this,’ like they do. And that project just disintegrated. Gloria went to work in London and started doing session work for different people there, and being a backing vocalist on tours. While me and David stayed in Sheffield, and started working in production. We set up a studio together and just began recording anybody who wanted to make music. We’d record local musicians, your basic kinda Rock bands or Indie bands, producing and doing remixes. We were making our living that way. But we also wanted to do something where we could fully use all the equipment we’d got in the studio. A lot of it we never got the opportunity to use. We’d go ‘try this effect’, and people would say ‘I’m not having THAT all over my track’. So in our spare time we were also making music as a hobby, doing things that were quite a lot different to the way we worked when other bands came in. Experimenting with computer programs and making up odd different sounds and arrangements. So we did that, following our own lines of pleasure, and we started coming up with things that we liked. Then we thought – let’s put these out! Just set up an independent label. Which we did, and just put out small quantities of records. It was like going back to what I’d done previously with Neutron (the Indie label that launched Stephen’s first band Vice Versa, which went on to evolve into ABC). We did that without any big aim (Tove Corporation). We didn’t think it was music that was appropriate for a big record label. But once we’d put out a couple of singles people started phoning us up and saying ‘I like what you’re doing’. Eventually there was a bit of a buzz going around. And once the guy who co-owns London Records – Tracy Bennett, heard it, he wanted to sign us. He went with it, and since we signed the deal we’ve been working on material for the album. We have done one or two other bits of remixing too. When something’s come along and we’ve thought ‘yeah, we’ll have a go at that’. But most of the time we’ve just been concentrating on doing our own things. On doing Bleep And Booster. And that’s it. That’s how we got together and started doing it all, and progressed to where we’ve got to now.


AD: One of your earlier post-ABC production was an album (‘A Fracture In Time’, February 1988, Native NTVCD29) for the UK Screaming Trees, which makes liberal use of sampling.

SS: Yes. Screaming Trees was the first LP we produced, and that was the first time I’d had chance to spend any time using samplers. The Steinberg Pro-24 Music Sequencer Packages had come out. Before that, if you’d not got a £100,000 Fairlight then forget it. But they came out, and then Akai and Roland Samplers came out around the same time, and we got offered the chance to work with Screaming Trees. We’d heard some of their things and thought they had some good ideas, so we just tried to take it a lot further. We really got into experimenting with what you could do with a sampler. The idea of using bits of other people’s sounds was like – ‘oh yeah, everybody’s doing THIS now.’ You’d got this machine that was a lot more accessible. You didn’t have to be a member of Genesis to own one. And you could do whatever you wanted to do. There was a whole wave of nicking other people’s stuff. If you liked a little groove in some song, then take it and incorporate it into something you’re doing. I really liked doing that LP. I was really pleased with the way it turned out. We then did a single with them – “Iron Guru”, and it was ‘New Musical Express’ ‘Single Of The Week’, and for a brief time there everyone wanted to know who Screaming Trees were…

AD: There was also an American Screaming Trees.

SS: Yes. Both bands took their name from a foot-operated effects-pedal called ‘Screaming Trees’. So Screaming Trees – UK, changed their name to Success. But they didn’t really have a lot of success, which is a pity because they’d got some good ideas, and it was great working with them. They were one of the few bands I’ve worked with that were interested in trying to take their music somewhere else. A lot of bands get very precious about what they do, and don’t want to try anything different. Which is – I suppose, up to them, but it’s sometimes good if you’re collaborating with somebody else to see what ideas they’ve got. And at least try them out, rather than just saying ‘no, we don’t use synthesisers’ or ‘no, we don’t do this and we don’t do that.’ There shouldn’t be any rules about it. You should just go with it. And then keep whatever sounds good.

AD: In a way – with Bleep And Booster, you’ve gone back to your beginnings. You started out with electronics, and now – after all the Trevor Horn flirtations with ABC, you’ve reverted back to electronics again.

Vice Versa, with Stephen centre
SS: I’ve kind-of gone full circle. I think the reason for that is, when I started doing music, there were the things that were happening in Sheffield – Human League and Cabaret Voltaire, then there were other electronic bands – particularly Kraftwerk and people like Throbbing Gristle and Clock DVA, all those kind of Industrial noise merchants. They were a big influence. And also, probably, it was a way around the fact that we couldn’t play very well. You can make an interesting noise with a synthesiser. And we thought ‘oh yes, I can create something that maybe other people might be interested in hearing.’ The changes came about because when we were working in Vice Versa we discovered that Martin (Fry) could sing. Going more with the kinda funky style, the strings, and that kind of lush production suited his voice more. Also, we’d done a lot in the electronics field, and we’re the kind of people who always want to do different things. We don’t say ‘well, this is successful, so we’re going to do this for ever and ever.’ We wanted to try something different. So we did that. And yes, now I’ve gone right back to what I was doing when I first started. But it’s good to be working in electronic music NOW, rather than guitars and drums, because there’s been so many advances in the equipment that’s around. While there’s still a lot that can be done with synthesisers, in creating unusual sounds. Another factor is the self-imposed limitations within Bleep And Booster – we don’t have a singer anymore! So the way around that is to go back and do electronic stuff. We make fairly complicated musical statements, but keep the voices really simple. We’ve not got a vocalist to work with so we get friends to say a few words on a piece of tape. Then chop them up, or just write a few lines and get somebody to come in and speak them. And yes, it’s also good to go back to all those really old synths, and say ‘oh yes, the MS20 – it’d be nice to create some sounds with that.’ So I’m really enjoying it. 

AD: I always thought that – following the success of Human League and the other early-eighties synthesiser bands, that electronics was going to be the shape of music for the rest of the decade. But instead we got the retro guitar backlash. 


SS: ‘Live Aid’ brought back a load of old bands. Everybody rediscovered things that were popular ten years earlier. And that’s never really gone away. Elton John, Status Quo and Queen, and those kind of people created a renewed Stadium Rock by doing that one gig. And people have stayed with it. While electronic music is back where it started, in a way. 

AD: It went into House, Techno and Rave. 

SS: Yes. It became a mutation. Music can be a good laugh sometimes, if people want it to be. It can be serious too. It can be all kinds of things. It can be different music at different times. But what I’m trying to do now is not do the obvious things with computers or drum loops or samples. I’m trying to do things a little bit different. Experiment a little bit more. Spend more time making up unusual sounds and ideas. Rather than – what a lot of people do now, get the computer going and use samples to make it sound like a drumkit, make a bass sound like a bass guitar, or a piano-sound like a piano. They spend all that time RECREATING a sound! I don’t really see the point of trying to recreate something! You get Musician’s magazines that review a new synth, they go ‘you can get an incredible violin’ on it. I’d rather get a violin player! Synthesisers should be about making up all your own sounds. There are so many people who buy the instrument, then never alter any of the sounds that are preset there. You can buy a second-hand synth and it goes ‘plink’ – fourteen, oh yes, that’s the tympani. It’s been in there since it was new. Nobody’s ever changed it! And oh – there’s the string pad, and this pad and that pad. And yet there’s so much room there to create your own sounds and make up your own textures. And people don’t really DO that. So that’s what me and David have been trying to do. Make up all our own sounds and just experiment within that. 

AD: Bleep And Booster is a unique product with none of the obvious commercial ingredients – no vocals (apart from treated voices and samples), few Dance rhythms either. Some tracks sound like ideal Chill-Out music. 

SS: Some people tell me they like to take drugs while they listen to it (laughs). Y-e-e-e-s. I suppose there’s an influence of things like Brian Eno. I’ve always been a big fan of his work. Every week there’s hundreds and hundreds of Dance records, Pop records or Rock records. But if you say ‘ambient’, there’s not really many people working in that particular area. Ahpex Twin get a lot of publicity because he’s there doing it, and there’s not a lot of other people that ARE doing it. Or if they are doing it, they’re doing it on such a small scale that it’s only their friends who find out about it. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised that we got a deal with a major record deal. Because Bleep And Booster is an odd thing for them to pick up on.

AD: You use some interesting samples on the advance tape you sent me. 

SS: There’s one or two there, yes (sly laugh). 

AD: There’s Oppenheimer’s pronouncement on first seeing the Atomic bomb (‘I am become the destroyer of worlds…’). 

SS: That track isn’t on the LP. We left that one off. The quote came from a television programme. We’d done the music, and it just seemed to work with it. We just piece things together from wherever. There are other things from different sources. 

AD: The track called “Genki” is like the soundtrack from a Japanese Manga animation. 

SS: Well – I know all that ‘Akira’ stuff. But it came about when a Japanese girl sent me a tape through the post. She’d put a little greeting message on the end of it. We’d already created an original track by writing a hi-hat pattern, but accidentally the hi-hat pattern got transposed in the computer so it played as a ‘bell’ instead, and it created this really odd rhythmic and melodic… thing! So we started using that as a basis, and we thought ‘this sounds a bit oriental, where’s that tape with the Japanese girl on it?’ The old approach to samples was that people took little bits from films. Rather than now where they go ‘there’s a good dance beat on that record – we can nick that,’ and then just put music on top of it. Our musical content and rhythms are grooves that we’ve made up ourselves. The samples in there are heavily disguised, or else just used as the vocal refrain. When we were doing Screaming Trees it was really fun to say ‘yeah, let’s just nick a great big chunk of Janet Jackson,’ and put it in there – for a laugh. Then mix it with a bit of a Jackson Five song. It was kinda playing around with a new medium. But once everybody’s sampled everybody else to death, then it’s time to move on. The longer the instrument is around, then the more creative people can get with it. When the sampler came out it came with a disc with a few sounds on – a piano, a violin, and this thing that sounded like a nose-flute or something. And Peter Gabriel was probably one of the first people to have one of those samplers. “Sledgehammer” starts off with a ridiculous sample. Everybody went ‘Wow, what a great sound’, but now everybody who buys that sampler hears that same stupid sound. So yeah, the longer the gear’s been around, then the more people can get into it and create their own way of working with it. That’s why I prefer old synthesisers to the newer models. Because with the old ones it’s a much more physical process than just typing in numbers, and saying ‘yes, right, I want to change the LFO (low-frequency oscillation),’ and it’s so precise what you can change it to, sixty behind there and a sine-wave here. The whole process of making it squeak and squonk or whatever just by saying ‘what does this do?’ and changing the frequency.


AD: To less esoteric matters – wasn’t ‘Bleep And Booster’ a kid’s TV puppet programme, similar to ‘The Clangers’

SS: Yes. It’s from ‘Blue Peter’. Bleep And Booster were a little boy and his robot companion. They went to the Moon. It wasn’t puppets though. It was drawings, and a story voice-over. I remember it only very vaguely because it’s a memory from childhood. I remember the music, which was probably the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. When we started messing around with electronic music again it SOUNDED like how I remembered ‘Bleep And Booster’. So that’s what we became. It’s a slightly silly name as well. We didn’t want to be ‘Electrolux 3000’ – a ‘serious’ electronic band. There’s so many bands with the same kind of idea and the same kind of name. We wanted to be apart from all that. So I’m Bleep. And David is Booster. 

AD: It’s also a name that taps into a shared generational memory. 

SS: Yes. And that’s what we’re doing. For me – playing around with a MS20 synthesiser again is going back to second childhood. 

AD: Is Sheffield still a musically active city? 

SS: (long pause) There’s quite a few interesting bands around. I try to go and check different bands out when they play here. I go down to the ‘Hallamshire’ and ‘The Leadmill’ on special nights when people are playing there. But I don’t get the same feeling as I did in the early eighties when everybody was getting on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and getting record deals. There’s still good bands around. Although there’s not lots and lots of bands I can name and say ‘yeah, they’re really good, they’re great.’ A lot of them, to me, are quite disappointing. Not many new people are doing anything that makes me go ‘yeah, that’s DIFFERENT, GOOD, EXCITING.’ But all the original people are still working in music somewhere along the line. Richard (Kirk) from Cabaret Voltaire is still working in Sheffield. The guys out of Hula are around. They may be doing soundtrack music. They might not have the same kind of high profile. But they’re still working at it. People can carry on doing that for ages and ages. I sometimes think it’s really odd that I’ve been working and making music for… a l-o-n-g time. I get kids coming down to the studio saying they want to get ‘into music’, and I’ve been doing music almost since they were born! It seems really odd to be still doing it, still ENJOYING it, and still working with the same enthusiasm as when I started. Our first ‘Bleep And Booster’ LP is complex musically and rhythmically, but very simple lyrically. For the send LP – the next thing we do, I want to change that, and have simpler sounds and rhythms too. Make it more basic – but use more words, and tell more of a story. Just to keep it fresh for us. We want to keep changing what we do slightly – but we’ll still be Bleep And Booster. Some people have said Bleep And Booster sounds naïve, as if it’s been made by some eighteen-year-olds. And I’m glad about that. I don’t want it to sound jaded. It’s important that it sounds exciting, fresh, and yes – a little bit naïve too…


Friday, 24 April 2020

MICHAEL MOORCOCK: 'The Final Programme' Book And DVD




‘A VERY TASTY WORLD’: 
MICHAEL MOORCOCK AND 
 ‘THE FINAL PROGRAMME’ 

 ‘The Final Programme’ was the novel that introduced 
Michael Moorcock’s multidimensional counterculture 
antihero ‘Jerry Cornelius’. It was also made into an 
intriguingly-flawed movie…



 ‘THE ULTIMATE COMPUTER, PROGRAMMED BY 
THE MOST TERRIFYING EVIL GENIUS 
 IN ALL OF SCIENCE FICTION!’ 

Jaunty caper music plays as nomads trek across the moody unfriendly Lapland landscape, almost as though they’re hardly on Earth at all. A Priest reads Latin as the coffin on the pyre they’ve constructed catches fire and begins to burn. This is the funeral of Dr Alexander Cornelius. Jerry leaves by helicopter. He drinks ‘Bells’ cream whisky from a plastic cup as he steers his Rolls through JG Ballard M-way structures back in England. In the Michael Moorcock novel he drives a Cadillac Convertible. In the short story he introduces himself as ‘I am a self-employed fratricidal maniac.’ One of the great character inventions of the Sci-Fi multiverse, Jerry Cornelius is a multidimensional chameleon, beyond race, gender or temporal fix. Here, he’s a foppish Nobel prize-winner, with shirt-ruffles and calf-leather gloves worn over varnished fingernails. Jerry Cornelius, as incarnated by Jon Finch, talks to Professor Hira in the magnificent ruins of the Khmer city Angkor. The Brahmin physicist tells him of Kali Yuga, the ‘eternal cycle’, in which our present long dark age – which began in the afternoon of 18 February 3102BC, is ‘about to end.’ A New Age will follow.


There are stacks of autowrecked cars in Trafalgar Square. Amsterdam has been accidentally nuked. Jerry enters through metal gates. The chandelier has been lowered to the floor. He strolls across a giant pinball machine where Go-Go Dancers and clowns cavort within transparent bubbles, to a guitar soundtrack. Nuns play the one-armed bandits in a huge Pop Art absurdity. His dead father left a microfilm. Jerry knows that sister Catherine is under the spell of brother Francis – ‘Frank’, both siblings are in his Father’s lavish stronghold. Jerry – Jeremiah, intends to rescue her, and revenge himself on Frank, before he napalms the house.

‘Where will you go afterwards?’ he’s asked.
‘Somewhere with a bit of sun’ he muses, ‘Cambodia, I fancy…’

 This is a mad nerve-burning film with all the correct style signifiers, from brutalist Shock Art to surrealism. It teeters on the brink of a greatness illuminated by the fading nuclear glow of Swinging London. With a bigger budget, and a more visionary director – a Ken Russell perhaps, maybe it could have achieved yet greater things? For Michael Moorcock, although it was his first novel to feature Eternal Champion Jerry Cornelius, it has a more conventional narrative structure than the deliberately fragmented volumes that will follow. It first featured as a trio of short stories in ‘New Worlds’ magazine, where Moorcock – who was editor too, warned readers of its anarchic approach, ‘all we ask is that you take it in the spirit the author intended and don’t take it too seriously’ (in no.153, August 1965). Not only would the polymorphic Cornelius be reincarnated as an ‘It: International Times’ comic-strip, but other writers would be drawn into the gravitational maw of the growing mythology, with contributions from Norman Spinrad, Brian Aldiss, M John Harrison and Langdon Jones… to myself. There’s also a thesis to be written about the way this first Cornelius book retells the origin-tales of his other great fantasy antihero Elric Of Melnibone, with Jerry as Elric, Catherine as Cymoril, and Miss Brunner as runesword Stormbringer!  

Moorcock throws off ideas like an angle-grinder throws out sparks, brief illuminations that detonate, some will survive through multiple rewrites, others are discarded on whim. A paragraph in the original short story, deleted from subsequent versions, suggests that Jerry had joined the Jesuits ‘after his father had found him with Catherine,’ suggesting an incestuous relationship. How readers of those first short stories reacted to their inclusion in Britain’s erstwhile premier SF-magazine must be left to conjecture, but there was certainly confusion and outrage among traditionalists, as well as raw excitement from those more attuned to its innovation. To Brian Aldiss, a co-conspirator in the literary insurrection, Moorcock ‘set out to prove to the world that we had arrived in the future’ (in his ‘The Twinkling Of An Eye’ (Warner Books, 1998). And Moorcock did that. But Aldiss also points out (in his foreword to ‘Space Time And Nathaniel’, 1966, Four Square Books edition), that ‘whatever it may pretend to do, SF is essentially a reflection of its own day.’ And Jerry Cornelius is very much that, too.


The film more-or-less follows the novel’s strange convolutions. Jon Finch who plays Jerry, had debuted on TV’s crime-drama ‘Z-Cars’, gone on to play Simon King in the BBC-TV SF ‘Counterstrike’ series, then played in two Hammer Horror movies ‘The Vampire Lovers’ (1970) and ‘The Horror Of Frankenstein’ (1970). He also worked with Alfred Hitchcock (in ‘Frenzy’ 1972), as well as on Shakespeare adaptations. Jerry Cornelius is an impossible role to play. To Moorcock, he resembles doomed young fin de siècle poet Algernon Swinburne, a decadent intellectual with a blasphemously ascetic appearance. In the novel he’s ‘a young man, with long, fine black hair that flowed to below his shoulders. He wore a black, double-breasted car coat and dark grey trousers. His tie was of black wool and his white shirt had a high collar. He was slim, with large, dark eyes and large, long-fingered hands.’ Cornelius is an amoral hipster, with vampiric tastes in that he feeds off energies and narcotics as well as confectionary. Faced with such a demanding template, Finch acquits himself reasonably well.


South African-born Jenny Runacre – who is Miss Brunner, had appeared in the original stage production of the controversial ‘Oh! Calcutta!’, she worked with both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in ‘The Creeping Flesh’ (1973), but could also list Pier Paolo Pasolini (‘The Canterbury Tales’, 1972) and Michaelangelo Antonioni (‘The Passenger’, 1975) on her CV. There is a scattering of familiar supporting faces elsewhere, including a scene-stealing cameo from Sandra Dickinson, and they’re all decked out with Ossie Clark and Tommy Nutter design credits. The novel’s music-references to Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band and the Beatles “Baby’s In Black” were ahead-of-the-game in 1965. Although Hawkwind had been Moorcock’s natural choice to furnish the movie’s soundtrack, the director’s preference, the Beaver And Krause duo, had a background in early electronic music, promoting the Moog synthesiser from their stand at the ‘Monterey Pop Festival’, before signing to Warner Brothers for a series of critically well-received albums, including ‘Gandharva’ (1971) with musicians Mike Bloomsfield, and Gerry Mulligan – who plays tasty sax over the end credits here.

Freelance computer-programmer Miss Brunner (Jenny Runacre) wears long white furs. In the novel she’s an ‘attractive young woman with the look of a predator,’ a programmer ‘of some experience and power.’ She also has cannibalistic tendencies. Cornelius becomes the ‘random factor’ in what she terms the ‘Ultimate Joke’, which is also the Final Programme, ‘the programme for immortality’ that will form the bridge between science and Hinduism. She’s read the self-published and self-destroyed book that Cornelius wrote – ‘Time-Search Through The Declining West’, with its own built-in obsolescence, and she sees him as the ‘New Messiah born out of the Age of Science.’


There are pulse-flashing pseudo-epilepsy-inducing stroboscope psychedelic colour-effects as the party approach what the novel specifies as the ‘fake Le Corbusier Château’ off the Normandy coast, which is the Cornelius house (events sketched in the short story “Further Information” (‘New Worlds’ no.157, December 1965. ‘Michelson’s stroboscope (Type 8)’ is credited courtesy W Burroughs and J Colvin – ‘James Colvin’ is another Moorcock alias). It is a house armed with strange weaponry. Jerry’s palm-print scan admits them, and Brunner accompanies him up the lift to the main hall. A chessboard code from a Cornelius-composed music score opens the security door for Mr Smiles and his two colleagues (‘Mr Smiles smiled a satisfied smile’). There are electronic ‘Dr Who’ sound-effects, faintly-yellowish hallucinogenic LSD-gas, and a huge maze like a lethal ‘The Avengers’ puzzle (Robert Fuest had directed ‘Avengers’ TV-episodes, as well as set-designing for the 1971 ‘The Abominable Dr Phibes’ movie). Catherine is a Sleeping Beauty with hypodermic puncture tracks in her arm – ‘she is well turned on,’ as Jerry pursues Frank with his pressurised Sci-Fi needle-pistol. Jerry shoots at a figure glimpsed through a draped curtain, only to discover that he’s shot Catherine in error. ‘Catherine with a dart in her heart.’ Miss Brunner forces Frank to open the safe vault where the microfilm is secured – but he escapes with it. ‘See you in the next time-phase’ mocks Frank.


All is entropy, collapse, flux, with even the continuity of time itself disintegrating around them. ‘Jerry no longer had any idea whether the world he inhabited was ‘real’ or ‘false’; he had long since given up worrying about it.’ Miss Brunner muses that, for Jerry, ‘it seemed that the mind behind cried forward while the mind in front cried back.’ It’s a vision embedded in the apocalyptical New Age feel pervading the late-Sixties counter-culture, redolent of nuclear ‘Eve Of Destruction’ superpower uncertainty. It did seem to be a time of great impending change, in Pop culture, it was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. There is no new morality. There is no morality. There are no values. But Jerry looks forward to further positive disintegrations of the vanilla norm. He recognises that ‘the true aristocracy who would rule the seventies were out in force: the queers and the lesbians and the bisexuals, already half-aware of their great destiny which would be realized when the central ambivalence of sex would be totally recognised and the terms male and female would become all but meaningless.’

Michael Moorcock as 'James Colvin' reviews Michael Moorcock as EP Bradbury

Following the assault on the chateau, Jerry wakes in the ‘Sunnydales Nursing Home’. He meets Brunner again in a nightclub where he attempts to buy napalm, and there is whitewash mud-wrestling bouts going on in the background (Moorcock himself, with members of Hawkwind can also be glimpsed there), they drink industrial waste from the Beaujolais district – ‘from the right bank?’ enquires connoisseur Jerry. Then they go back to Jerry’s apartment where there’s a ‘Rare Rainbow’ poster on the wall, and a fridge-full of chocolate digestive biscuits, ‘do expect the Spanish Inquisition’ Jerry quips. There’s the louche Mick Jagger ‘Performance’ loutishness as he strides across the couch, although without the novel’s androgyny. ‘I have a plane, and a chopper’ he tells Brunner. ‘Tell me about your plane’ she counters. ‘Sod Frank’ says Jerry. Jenny (Lumley) plays the electrified piano nude, then appears to go down on Brunner. The following morning Jenny is gone. ‘Strange chick. How did you find her?’ he asks. ‘Delicious’ says Brunner.

Brit-Blues guitar plays as Jerry and Brunner locate Frank at a rail-siding, they follow his car in an acid James Bond sequence. Frank intends selling the microfilm to Dr Baxter, but Jerry pursues him through junk and vineyard, stone ruins and along the rocky sea edge, set to brittle drum solos. Jerry shoots him. Frank falls. Gulls cry overhead. Baxter talks to Brunner, ‘of course, the inevitable happened.’ ‘It frequently does’ she agrees. She retrieves the microfilm from Frank’s pocket and screens it from a small projector. ‘Where’s Baxter?’ enquires Jerry. ‘He’s inside’ says Brunner. ‘Inside who?’ says Jerry.


Moorcock’s writing is at its most effervescent, bubbling with playfully irreverent invention impossible to transfer to the screen. So they don’t try. Jerry seeks ‘The Testament Of Major G Newman, USAF Astronaut’ which consists of 203 neatly-numbered manuscript pages each filled with columns of ‘ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.’ The guest-list of people who attend Jerry’s months-long Holland Park party reads like an absurdist poem, ‘the late great Charlie Parker just in from Mexico under his alias Alan Bird,’ Pop groups Les Coques Sucrés and the Deep Fix (Moorcock’s own group who record the ‘New Worlds Fair’ LP, 1975), plus ‘Turkish and Persian lesbians with huge houri eyes like those of sad, neutered cats’ and on. From ambisexual to multi-sexual. Omitted from the film, the party assumes the same lavishly pointless hedonism found in Moorcock’s later ‘Dancers At The End Of Time’ tales. It’s a narrative that contrives the intricate shock of an Aubrey Beardsley sketch, with the visual assault of a Rick Griffin psychedelic poster. A soft-focus social comedy with only the most tenuous links to SF. As London is abandoned and begins to stink, with power-failures and people mutating into amorphous masses, as the seat of government relocates to Edinburgh, and ‘something is wrong with time,’ the party goes on. ‘This was a gift-wrapped throwaway age’ comments Brunner, ‘now the gift-wrapping is off, it’s being thrown away.’

 
‘Moorcock’s liquid-tongued epic of a world camping towards apocalypse becomes a fatally stiff SF tale’ says ‘Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia’ edited by John Clute (Dorling Kindersley, 1995). It goes on to note that ‘the film is glossily done. But the story is almost incomprehensible on screen,’ in which ‘Jerry Cornelius meets Miss Brunner, they quarrel over an Earth-threatening computer programme, have sex, and give birth to a smirking ape creature that inherits the Earth.’ John Brosnan calls the film ‘an example of style triumphant over content,’ with the multi-faced multi-purpose ambiguity and ironies of the characters reduced to ‘a series of knowing winks’ (in ‘The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction’ edited by Peter Nicholls, Granada Publishing).

‘I hate long goodbyes’ Jerry tells Brunner ‘so piss off.’ Yet they ascend in a Hot Air Balloon together, and he’s soon munching chocolate digestive biscuits in the film’s closing location, Laplab, North of Uppsala in Sweden, NW of Kvikjokk, a small village beyond Kiruna. ‘Daddy’s Summer Place’ is a lapsed underground wartime bunker complex, complete with rusting submarine, and geodesics in Lapland. Perhaps a relic of Nazi attempts to locate evidence for the Hollow Earth theory? The flip bantering dialogue continues – ‘the twilight of the gods, or humanity?’ And Jerry explains that ‘the third world war has been going on for years, but everyone’s been so busy watching the bleeding commercials they haven’t noticed.’


In the novel the setting is more elaborate, in a way that only digital imaging technology could do justice to. But in all versions, ‘DUEL’ is the ultimate computer, the most complex computer in the world, because it is fed on ‘the best brains in Europe’ which are suspended in liquid tanks. A brain-drain. The intention is to feed that ‘sum total of human knowledge’ back into a single – or dual human brain. A ‘G-Day’ process powered by solar energy stored during Lapland’s long six-week day, for what is – as Brunner explains it, a scheme to create ‘an all-purpose human being, a human-being equipped with total knowledge, hermaphrodite in every respect, self-fertilising, and thus self-regenerating, and thus immortal, re-creating itself over and over again, retaining its knowledge and adding to it.’ The Cornelius microfilm forms the enabling link.


Experimental subject Dimitri, who has a more prominent role in the novel, is the man in the isolation cube reading ‘World Mythology’. ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ says Brunner, ‘but the two should never be confused’, before she scrawls ‘Goodbye’ in lipstick on the transparent curve of his chamber. She first attempts to kill Dimitri in his incubator, and then she shoots him. Because Cornelius will be the preferred choice. A fusion of diaphanously-dressed Brunner and naked Cornelius. ‘Can’t you feel our bodies merging?’ says Brunner as their naked bodies roll together, devoured by yellow rippling colour-drenched effects. The movie does its best to portray consciousness-expanding supra-dimensional events on an inadequate two-dimensional screen. The equipment shatters. The scientists and suspended brains are dead. There are choral voices over the distorted visions. The original short story – which is a kind of compressed version of the novel, ends with the same fusion, ‘a tall, naked, graceful being stepped out. It had Miss Brunner’s hair and Mr Cornelius’s eyes. Miss Brunner’s predatory jaw softened by Jerry’s aesthetic mouth. It was hermaphrodite and beautiful.’ The movie also loses its nerve in failing to portray the vast lemming horde of celebrants who sweep across Europe to their own suicidal destruction, as in the ‘Acid Head War’ stories of Brian Aldiss’ ‘Barefoot In The Head’ (Faber, 1969).

‘See you around, sweetheart’ the shambling beast that is the fusion of it all lumbers off into the future. ‘The New Messiah? The end of an Age. Time to start building a new one.’

It turns to deliver the final quip to camera, ‘a very tasty world.’



TERMINAL DATA 

THE FINAL PROGRAMME’ (October 1973, US title ‘The Last Days Of Man On Earth’) Goodtimes Enterprises, Gladiole Films. Directed and screenplay written by Robert Fuest, from the novel by Michael Moorcock. Producers John Goldstone and Sandy Lieberson (with Nat Cohen, Roy Baird and David Puttnam). With Jon Finch (as Jerry Cornelius), Jenny Runacre (as Miss Brunner), Derrick O’Connor (as Frank), Sarah Douglas (as Catherine), Hugh Griffith (as Professor Hira), Patrick Magee (as Dr Baxter), Sterling Hayden (as Major Wrongway Lindbergh), Ronald Lacey (as Shades), Harry Andrews (as John, John Gnatbeelson, Jerry’s old servant and mentor), Graham Crowden (as Mr Smiles, the bearded banker), George Coulouris (as Dr Powys, who lives off an inheritance left by his mine-owning great uncle), Basil Henson (as Dr Lucas, casino owner), Sandy Ratcliff (as Jenny Lumley), Julie Edge (as Miss Dazzle, hermaphrodite Pop singer of ‘Big Beat Call’ hit, Mr Crookshank is her agent), Gilles Millinaire (as Dmitri), Sandra Dickinson (as night-club waitress). Music by Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause. (94-minutes). ‘A confused novel… becomes an even more confused movie, as if James Bond had ventured into fantasyland’ says ‘The Ultimate Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction: The Definitive Illustrated Guide’ edited by David Pringle (Carlton Books, 1997)


The novel ‘THE FINAL PROGRAMME’ by Michael Moorcock (March 1968, Avon Books (USA, a censored version), then October 1969, Allison And Busby hardback (UK), then 1973 Mayflower Books paperback, ISBN 0-583-11822-4, with cover art by Bob Haberfield and interior art by Mal ‘Malcolm’ Dean. ‘Preliminary Data’ originally a short story in ‘New Worlds’ no.153, August 1965, in which Jerry has a Swedish wife called Maj-Britt, the story voted no.4 best in issue. ‘Further Information’ in ‘New Worlds’ no.157, December 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock, illustrated by Douthwaite ‘The conflicting time-streams of the twentieth-century were mirrored in Jerry Cornelius’ in the assault on the Cornelius chateau. ‘Phase Three’ originally a short story in ‘New Worlds’ no.160, March 1966 in which Jerry and Brunner first travel to the Lapland caves – the issue’s lead story is ‘The Evil That Men Do’ by John Brunner (!). The short stories include sequences that are not included in the novel.