Gang of Four Part 2: I Found That Essence Rarem

Mekons Quality Of Mercy

We’ve all got opinions
Where do they come from?

—“Why Theory?”

Reading Jim Dooley’s invaluable Red Set: A History of Gang of Four1 last year I was fascinated with how some of the philosophical underpinnings of the band’s songs mirrored what I’ve been dealing with in writing materials with comrades in a labor group. What follows is not a review of Dooley’s book, but rather a commentary on the mirrored passages and also, to a much lesser degree, remarks on my exposure to theoretical thought via pop music, of all things. This post is based on the notes I took at my first (and only) full reading, and is not a comprehensive look at Gang of Four reasoning. Continue reading “Gang of Four Part 2: I Found That Essence Rarem”

Gang of Four Part 1: Natural’s Not In It

Gang Of Four photo image

Last month I saw Gang of Four for the third time.

1980

The first was at a small club, probably their show at the Starwood in West Hollywood, capacity 400–800, May of 1980. Earlier that same year, the band had opened for the Buzzcocks and later, Iggy Pop, both at the much larger Santa Monica Civic. But those garnered lousy reviews by the Los Angeles Times, the first due to bad sound, the second to fatigue. The Civic could put a lot of distance between the stage and the floor. And it ostensibly seated 3,000, but when I saw the Clash there, the seats were replaced by metal plates; when we bounced, so did they—and there were a lot more than 3,000 bouncing.

Obviously that Starwood show in 1980 featured the band’s original lineup: Hugo Burnham on drums, Dave Allen bass, Andy Gill guitar, and Jon King vocals. It was was riveting. The stage was small enough to bridge the Civic’s divide, but broad enough to allow Jon King his signature sprints between microphones. If King was a gazelle, Gill was a beast of prey, exactly as described by poet Ted Hughes in his “Second Glance at Jaguar”: “He coils, he flourishes/ The blackjack tail as if looking for a target.”

Continue reading “Gang of Four Part 1: Natural’s Not In It”