CHROME : Live at the On Broadway Theatre, San Francisco - 21st August 1981 (Cassette recording).

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Legend insists that Chrome's classic Damon Edge / Helios Creed-fronted configuration only ever played two bona fide gigs - that is, pre-advertised full band performances in front of a paying audience - during its rather-too-brief existence.

This better-than-average sound-board recording of their final show - actually their sole appearance on their Californian home turf - was taped "On Broadway" at San Franciso's Mabuhay Gardens on Friday 21st August 1981, mid-way between their metal-influenced Blood On The Moon and Third From The Sun albums. A quick sweep of the 'net suggests it's been circulated less widely than one might expect, which necessitates its inclusion here I suppose. Naturally, it's an oppressively heavy affair, Chrome's dense tape-enhanced live sound invoking a claustrophobic web of discorporate televisual harangue, static-spitting radio fragments, distortion-steeped acid-punk guitar disfiguration, and a clattering fusillade of drums. Sadly, this line-up - comprising vocalist and guitarist Damon Edge (real name: Thomas Wisse), lead guitarist Helios Creed (real name: Barry Johnson), and rhythm section John and Hilary Stench (real surname: Haines) - would only survive another year or thereabouts, disbanding following Edge's decampment to Paris with his then-partner Fabienne Shine (of popular French hard-rockers Shakin' Street) shortly after Third From The Sun's release. Both Edge and Creed would record separately and prolifically for the subsequent decade, Creed eventually reclaiming the Chrome mantle for himself following Edge's untimely demise in 1995.

Incidentally, Chrome's other live show - their debut, in fact - took place a month earlier in Bologna, Italy and was bootlegged in full on the Chromosome Damage LP back in the mid 1980s. Seek and ye shall find.

Set-list: Introduction / Insect Human / Out of Reach / Brain On Scan / Blood on the Moon / Pulsating Android - Jam / Innervacuum / Perfumed Metal / Armageddon / Future Ghosts / The Stranger.

Thanks: Mike Kaupp (poster) and Victor Andrews (clipping).

Don't Fall Off The Mountain


KRAFTWERK : Live at Rock City, Nottingham - 24th June 1981 (Cassette recording).

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It wasn't until 1981's globe-traversing Computer World tour that Kraftwerk made their first appearance in Nottingham, my home town. Thus far, it remains their only visit, though the current, significantly modified incarnation is scheduled to finally return to the city in June of this year, a mere 36 years later, with only frontman Ralf Hütter still present from the classic '70/80s line-up.

Their debut show in "the heart of the Midlands" took place in front of a capacity crowd on Wednesday 24th June at the recently opened, but already somewhat dilapidated, Rock City venue. Notorious for its comically inadequate sound-system, malodorous sticky carpets, rancid shit-stinking toilets, and daunting Hell's Angels bouncers (though, in its favour, advance tickets cost a mere £3.50), its biggest claim to fame was that its manager would wind up being head-hunted by Factory Records' pre-eminent Hacienda club - with The Garage's Graeme Park in hot pursuit - just in time for the drug 'n' gun fuelled Madchester phenomenon. On reflection, Rock City hardly seems like a suitable locale for a prestige performance by Düsseldorf's finest, but the recorded evidence suggests die Mensch-Maschine pulled it off with aplomb as the audience's response verges on the rapturous.

Kraftwerk, of course, were still a relatively hands-on proposition at this point: the synths often slip out of tune and their timing is often a little rickety, while Ralf still counts in some of the songs with an amusingly anachronistic "Ein, zwei, drei, vier" and even responds to the occasional heckle. Whereas their current touring configuration could feasibly comprise Hütter and a fully-loaded USB stick, back in 1981 it was necessary that all four members be on-hand to tap in most of the sounds manually. Consequently, there's a humanistic, even vulnerable quality to parts of this performance (the elegant "Neon Lights" and "Ohm Sweet Ohm", for instance) that one simply wouldn't expect to hear nowadays, while audience participation introduces a good-humoured spontaneity to the undeniably funky rendition of "Pocket Calculator". The career-spanning set-list naturally focuses on their then-current Computer World album and its immediate, benchmark-defining predecessors, The Man Machine and Trans-Europe Express, but - at almost two hours long - it also includes a surprising number of selections from the earlier Radioactivity, and even Autobahn's seductively morose "Mitternacht" makes a fleeting appearance. Possibly the biggest surprise is the climactic pitched-up version of "It's More Fun To Compute", whose expedited rhythm sounds exactly like one of DJ Assault's bawdy late '90s Detroit Ghettotech jams. Take note also of the house DJ's gauche post-performance announcement - all gigs ended like this in the 1980s! Incidentally, Kraftwerk's 1981 U.K. tour dates were postponed at least once due to problems with their prototype video projection set-up, and the Nottingham show was originally scheduled to take place a month prior to this one.

Several versions of this recording have been circulated over the years, but this one is the very best I've heard. Much gratitude to the original taper, whoever (s)he may be, and to the enigmatic Hiro 666, whose skillful pitch-correction and remastering have made this 36 year old clandestine cassette sound far better than it reasonably ought.

Set-list: Introduction / Numbers / Computer World / Computer Love / Home Computer / The Model / Neon Lights / Geiger Counter / Radioactivity / The Voice of Energy / Uranium / Die Sonne, der Mond, die Sterne / Ohn Sweet Ohm / Autobahn / Hall of Mirrors / Mitternacht / Showroom Dummies / Trans-Europe Express / Abzug / Metal On Metal / Pocket Calculator / The Robots / It's More Fun to Compute.

● Die Stimme der Energie


VARIOUS ARTISTS : Posters For The Royal College Of Art, 1953-1967 (Vintage design).

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This selection of eye-catching and era-defining poster art from the archives of London's Royal College of Art would've originally been employed in-house to promote the institution's manifold art exhibitions, guest lectures, film clubs, and student balls. Concurrently topical and ephemeral, many of them would have also decorated the pages of Ark, the college's regular self-published journal. All of them date from the mid-1950s to the tail-end of the '60s - an explosive period for British art which sired both the "kitchen sink" and Pop movements before collapsing into Psychedelia. Pink Floyd's comically ghoulish 1967 Horrorball design - the poster that drew my attention to this collection in the first place - so perfectly reflects its era of conception that it could only have emerged during the closing months of 1967 I think?

Artists include Brian Hodgson (Horrorball), Barrie Bates (Young Commonwealth Artists), Gordon Moore (The Wild One), John Sewell (Markfilm), Neil Godfrey (The Savage Eye), Wendy Coates-Smith (Graphics RCA), Tony Guy (Wozzeck), and Patric Toft (Why Do The Germans Hate The Russians?) - though many remain sadly unattributed.
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SUICIDE : Craig Leon sessions, aka "1977 Demos" (Archival studio recordings).

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Suicide's eponymous debut LP, a demonstrable (punk) rock music milestone, was released in December 1977 on manager Marty Thau's Red Star Records to complete bemusement in the U.S. - Rolling Stone magazine dismissing it as "absolutely puerile" - but to immediate and voracious deification by the British music press. Since the mid '60s, Thau had pursued a career in management and publishing for the Buddah and Paramount labels, concurrently marketing several of that decade's biggest bubblegum hits while working on early solo albums by Van Morrision (Astral Weeks, Moondance), John Cale (Vintage Violence), Cass Elliot, and Biff Rose. Quitting Paramount in 1972 to champion the New York Dolls' cause, he quickly immersed himself in N.Y.C.'s mushrooming underground scene, shepherding the Ramones, Blondie, and Richard Hell (amongst others), and subsequently founding his own label, the aforementioned Red Star, to showcase local talent.

Brooklyn's combative Suicide were the first band he signed, on the basis of a demo tape (not this one) passed to him by Phibes-ian organist Martin Rev. Having spent the previous half-decade performing them live, Rev and frontman Alan Vega knew the songs back-to-front, and Suicide was recorded in 4 intense days at Ultima Sound - an out-of-town facility frequented by Bruce Springsteen, Dusty Springfield, James Taylor, and the Ramones in it's previous 914 Studios incarnation - with dub-influened producer Craig Leon (the effects on Vega's lurid vocals were achieved with the same Eventide delay unit Lee "Scratch" Perry was so enamoured of). Once the sessions were complete and Leon had returned to California, Thau remixed several of the tracks, adding further layers of eerie delay, while Vega completely changed (and vastly improved) the lyrics to "Frankie Teardrop", perfecting his unnerving tour de force. (n.b. Jump to the comments section for some clear-cut elucidation on this subject from Mr. Leon himself.)

It's Leon's "unfinished" mixes that I've included here - historically they've been consistently mis-labeled as "1977 demos" so it's possible you may recognise some of them. They're all noticeably different to their Red Star variants, and bookending the session are 2 versions of the hitherto unreleased "Whisper", a crooning '50s-style ballad fronted, for once, by Rev rather than Vega. Though the alternate early attempt at "Frankie Teardrop" herein was belatedly released (as "The Detective Meets The Space Alien") on the B-side of a limited edition Blast First 10" a few years ago (long gone, I'm afraid), the rest of these recordings remain otherwise unavailable. Officially, at least.