|IN THE manner of any smooth operation worth 'its nuts and bolts,
the British Electric Foundation chose to discuss the prospective publicity
of one of its subsidiaries over fine China tea and assorted English biscuits.
The gents were wearing their most genteel suits ("We have to try our best,"
Mr Craig Marsh assured me), and felt, well, very British.
They were just returning to their calm, unflustered selves following a minor brush with some erstwhile business partners who are now in a different league. They ventured a curt 'no comment' on that situation to discuss any previous collaborations.
|Since its inception, the productivity of project 'B.E.F.' has been an
example to us all: three twelve inch presentations of astringent quality
and high creativity quotient, one recreationally-oriented cassalbum and the
latest Heaven 17 package, the cerebral yet terpsichorean 'Penthouse And Pavement
recently given a successful launch.
Mr Ware, Mr Gregory and Mr Craig Marsh gave me their full attention as I inquired about the new, exciting lines set to emerge from the '17 camp
Tell me, Mr Marsh, about 'Music Of Quality And Distinction'.
Marsh: " Essentially, in old days of the Human League we liked to do covers of our favourite songs - one of which is 'Wichita Lineman' which will be sung by the wonderful Mr Glenn Gregory, But we are trying to get other vocalists involved, and succeeding."
Is this still 'under wraps', as we say in the trade?
Ware: "Yes. Well, it would lose the impact if we dribbled names out in public."
Despite Mr Ware's reticence, I gathered negotiations may be taking place with a Ms Shaw and a Mr Glitter. The trio remained tight-lipped about it apart from informing me that production has been put back to mid-February instead of November, as advertised. Mr Craig Marsh indicated, however, "that it will be good." Perhaps, then, we might take a glimpse of 'The Future Tapes'. a different kettle of fish?
Picture by Steve Rapport
|Mr Craig Marsh laughed at this suggestion.
Ware: "I don't think we ought to mention that at the moment. We've completed it. ."
Craig Marsh: "It's waiting to be released, but there's a bit of a hold up with it, for reasons we don't want to go into."
I came to the conclusion that our meeting thus far was not producing the necessary results. So you're not going to tell me about anything, gentlemen?
Ware: "We're not being uncooperative!"
Craig Marsh: "Apart from the fact that a lot of people aren't necessarily that committed yet - if it came out splashed all over the press, it might put them off."
Hmmm.... I saw the point: tell anyone else your new ideas in this game and there would be endless industrial espionage and plain plagiarism.
Ware countered: "Well, it does make for boring interviews, but there again.
Gregory: "We are boring people..."
I got the message, and threw convention to the wind. The 'boring' chaps perked up.
Martyn (Mr Ware): "Ask us about Penthouse And Pavement."
Ian (Mr Craig Marsh): "That's actually released, we can talk about that!"
We conferred, firstly, on the problem of our reviewer, 'Scoop' Moren: was it to be the arranging of concrete socks or a pat on the back? Ian, without remorse, decided on the latter,
since he had never previously received a good review for an album he'd been involved with.
So, the concept of 'Penthouse And Pavement'...I bravely ventured... One side is for mind and body, the other for the feet, but I can't remember which. I did read the Press Release, though!
Ian: "I wish I had, I'd know what to say then."
Glenn (Mr Gregory): "I've read it, don't, worry, I'll cover this one."
Martyn: "The 'Pavement' side is the dance side, quintessentially!'
WE ARE interrupted by the arrival of bone china crockery and unnecessarily disgusting jokes involving Cliff Richard and a bag. We pressed on. Why did you split it up into two sections?
Glenn: "Hedging bets."
Martyn: "No. partly because we wanted to feature John (Wilson, guitar/bassist) on a good part of the album because he's very, very talented."
He's only 17 isn't he?
Martyn: "Yeah. 16 next year. But we didn't think it'd be a good idea to put him on the whole album because then it would've become his album, as it were, and for a first album it wouldn't have exactly been a wise move. So we thought half
of it should be a follow on to 'Travelogue', and half of it a new direction.
"'Travelogue's still a fairly new direction even now, as judged by the number of people who're going out and buying it. We were a bit worried it wouldn't work, actually. Well, I was. Ideally it would be the perfect thing for the press to slag off, but fortunately it turned out well and I don't think they will."
Their other black talent coup was getting Josie James, vocalist with Stevie Wonder and the Crusaders amongst others to sing on the title track, the most outstanding dance track of the set.
Glenn: "She's got a great voice and she looks good too."
Martyn: "She's going to be on the next single, remixed. It's definitely the sort of thing Radio One DJs will go for, it's just about down at the level where they can understand it, even though the track's a little bit odd. They can just about understand excellence, I think. I can't believe how conservative Radio One DJs are, it stuns me."
He added, abstractedly: "Don't you get bored with albums that are exactly the same all the way through? I do."
Ian: "One side's enough."
Glenn: "That was also the idea behind Penthouse And'
Pavement' so that you could put it on, say at a party, and leave it as it is. It's sufficiently different and danceable."
Given, I astutely remarked, that you have to work within the format of a vinyl disc, it's about time somebody tried to do something different within that format, as it 's been unchanged since its invention over 50 years ago. They agreed unanimously with my statement, which heralded the arrival of the Abbey Crunch. And just when I thought how business-like Mr Ware looked without his beard and moustache, he went and asked (albeit jokingly) for some mushy peas and crips. How very Northern!
We eventually decided that the 'Penthouse' side was indeed the 'Electronic' side, which Glenn pronounced "just as danceable."
Glenn: "The press release should read that it's for mind, body and feet."
Martyn (in facetious manner): "And the third side appeals to feet, body and mind."
Ian: "And pancreas, in that order!"
Gosh, sometimes they seem so 'in tune' with each other, they sound like the Mrs Mops on the Trio advert. It's quite uncanny...
You appear to have left your more thoughtful lyrics for the 'Penthouse' side.
Glenn: "Yeah, it would seem that way, though maybe it wasn't intentional,"
Unfortunately, Martyn was too busy being image conscious at this moment, preventing lensperson Steve from getting a shot of him dipping his biccie in his tea. Onwards, hack.
I never discovered what the LP cover was a pastiche of...
Glenn opened his mouth before Ian could: "I thought he was going to bring it out then, he normally carries it around with him everywhere."
Ian (unflustered): "It came out of a copy of Newsweek, it was an ad for a multi-national American firm."
Martyn (groaning): "Called, OKI International (pronounced 0-kee) would you believe,"
Ian: "It was one of those classic drawings, a guy with a pipe, cigars, case, contracts, lots of people in the background and telecommunications satellites all merged, and a slogan about keeping ahead since 1881 and being ready to meet the challenge of yet another century. So I thought that sounded like a good idea to use for a cover."
Martyn: "The advertising idea behind the concept of the cover means you can use the crassest imaginable real advertising and marketing techniques, which is very useful because usually groups tend to regard it as a contravention of their artistic rights. We Don't."
lt certainly continues the impression of a polished, business-like stance. Martyn, his keen mind and sharp wit obviously sang ahead of the field, suddenly announced:
"I'll still vote for Tony Benn, though. I love him, think he's great."
THIS SPARKED Ian off.
"Healey's such a berk, waffling on about brotherhood like a Reagan speech where he goes on about the shining city on a hill.'
Martyn: "They were comparing Benn to Oswald Moseley and Enoch Powell in the Daily Mirror! That means he must be good. Nationalise the banks, that's what I say, that'll solve a few economical problems."
Henceforth the conversation took off on a more highbrow level, encompassing the defence of America, 'The War Game' and how the word's getting more like Dallas and/or Dr Strangelove every day.
Martyn: "Its much more interesting than talking about music, isn't it? Isn't music boring?'"
Glenn "It's just for listening to, not for talking about."
MUSIC's so unimportant, isn't it ?
Martyn: "It is, yes...Not going to make a very good article, this..."
Glenn: "Just make something up, we don't mind."
I attempted to stir his O.F. by bringing up the question of the lack of national identity in this country. The outrage stirred.
"I think it's a good thing we don't have it. Nationalism is the bane of the world, That's what makes Britain special."
And having it makes people die for their country, work for their country so that a chosen few can rake off. . . see 'Play To Win', 'Let's All Make A Bomb' or 'The Height Of The Fighting' (Heat/War/They sent you to it, do it') for further education.
Via some wild and wonderful diversions, we finally got back to the hoary old subject of Press + 'Groove Thang' = Overkill.
Martyn: "Everybody overreacted to 'Fascist Groove Thang', everybody nervously underreacts to everything else. I'm beginning to think it was the worst thing we ever did releasing it at that time. If we'd put it out after a sort of minor hit, I think it might've transcended the lack of airplay and actually got into the Top 30, in which case they'd have had to play it."
Ian: "One of the main reasons the BBC said it couldn't be played was that they thought Ronald Reagan could sue them over it."
Martyn: "Imagine the publicity! A world diplomatic incident!"
Ian: "They didn't mind the fascist bit so much, just the Reagan and Hitler - you can't even mention Hitler."
Glenn: "We could've said fascist fascist fascist fascist, but not 'we don't need this' or 'we do need this' you can't express an opinion. Reagan likes it 'cos it mentions him. His wife smiles when his name comes up!"
Ridiculous reactions from radio and press aside, it was a great track, but my humble opinion is that they've bettered it since. No other gentleperson of the nib seems to agree.
Glenn: "When we released 'I'm Your Money' and 'Play to Win' we said everyone would say it was a good track, but not as good as. . . 'Fascist'. We're going to re-release it next, and keep on re-releasing it."
Ian: "Fourth and fifth singles, yeah."
Martyn: "The thing is it was hard for the general public to understand what on earth we were doing, considering all they've heard of Heaven 17 is each single as it's come up, but now they can hear the album, they'll understand a little more and realise 'Groove Thang' was just a one-off satirical comment."