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William S. Burroughs fronts Yellow Magic Orchestra, reprograms your mind
12.07.2017
09:29 am
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For 1993’s Technodon, Yellow Magic Orchestra acquired vocal tracks from cyberpunk novelist William Gibson, dolphin-dosing scientist John C. Lilly, and Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs.

Burroughs’ contribution to the album’s first song, “Be A Superman,” is a short vocal sample, structurally integral, information-poor. But on “I Tre Merli” (“The Three Blackbirds,” an image from a Wallace Stevens poem that points directly to Burroughs and Gysin’s “third mind”), Burroughs reads a few lines from The Job. His text comes from the book’s “DON’T HAVE TO THINK” section, which describes an exercise for “becoming oneself” through liberation from mental conditioning. According to this counterintuitive practice, you find your true self by pretending to be other people:

What I am here to learn is a new way of thinking. There are no lessons and no teachers. There are no books and no work to be done. I do almost nothing. The first step is to stop doing everything you “have to do.” Mock up a way of thinking you have to do. This is one exercise derived from Scientology we have all studied at one time or another. Exercise loosens the hold of enforced thinking and extends the range of don’t have to think.

Example: You have to run the things you are going to do today write letters call so-and-so take clothes to laundry see about getting the radiators fixed. You run these items ten times when once is already too much. So mock up a run of imaginary errands. Now mock up some thinking you don’t have to do. Select a person whose way of life is completely different from yours and mock up his thinking.

(Example: You have to mock up interviews or situations in which you play an effective role before imaginary audience. Well, mock some up. Now mock up some enforced thinking you don’t have to do, somebody else’s enforced thinking what Dutch Schultz the numbers racketeer had to think, what a hotel manager has to think what a poor Moroccan farmer has to think.)

 

Genesis P-Orridge models a YMO shirt on the back cover of Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Greatest Hits’
 
A few paragraphs down, Burroughs provides a negative definition of this “new way of thinking”:

The new way of thinking has nothing to do with logical thought. It is no oceanic organismal subconscious body thinking. It is precisely delineated by what it is not. Not knowing what is and is not knowing we know not. Like a moving film the flow of thought seems to be continuous while actually the thoughts flow stop change and flow again. At the point where one flow stops there is a split-second hiatus. The new way of thinking grows in this hiatus between thoughts. I am watching the servants on the floor pointing to the map and not thinking anything about what I see at all. My mind moves in a series of blank factual stops without labels and without questions. The objects around me the bodies and minds of others are just there and I move between them without effort or comment. There is nothing to do here, no letters to answer no bills to pay no goals barriers or penalties. There are no considerations here that would force thinking into certain lines of structural or environmental necessities. The new way of thinking is the thinking you would do if you didn’t have to think about any of the things you ordinarily think about if you had no work to do nothing to be afraid of no plans to make. Any exercises to achieve this must themselves be set aside. It’s a way you would think if you didn’t have to think up a way of thinking you don’t have to do. We learn to stop words to see and touch words to move and use words like objects.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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12.07.2017
09:29 am
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Get down, get funky with the Yellow Magic Orchestra on ‘Soul Train’
04.28.2017
10:07 am
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Ten artists who have performed on Soul Train, but one is a lie: Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, Sugarhill Gang, Stevie Wonder, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Jackson 5, Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin. The natural assumption would be to guess YMO, but you would be mistaken. Otis Redding passed away four years prior to the show’s premiere. And as odd as it sounds, YMO were on Soul Train!

Originally airing on November 29th, 1980, the Yellow Magic Orchestra feature on Soul Train was well out of the ordinary; but in no way was it out of place. Playing to an enthusiastic crowd (including their manager dressed as a camera-festooned Japanese tourist), the electronic music pioneers opened with their suitable rendition of Archie Bell & the Drells’ classic 1968 R&B funk track “Tighten Up” followed by their own hit, “Firecracker.”

Having released their first record two years prior, the Yellow Magic Orchestra were the biggest band in Japan by the time they appeared on Soul Train. An even more gratifying accomplishment was YMO’s lasting contribution to the music world as early innovators of the electronic dance music genre. During the brief interview that follows the performance, Don Cornelius asks drummer Yukihiro Takahashi what current sound YMO best resembles? He pauses for a long time before answering. There really was nothing else like the group at that time except, perhaps, for Kraftwerk (who Cornelius was clearly not familiar with).
 
Watch Yellow Magic Orchestra on ‘Soul Train’ after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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04.28.2017
10:07 am
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Soundtrack to a Generation: The ‘lost’ music of the Human League
06.08.2016
04:26 pm
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The Human League? When’s the last time you thought about them?

It must be incredibly galling to have recorded one of the top-selling pop singles of all time and then just a few years later, no ones cares about you anymore or has much interest in your new thing. No matter how good it is!

I’ve always been a Human League fan since I was a kid, but I wasn’t like a “fanatic” for them. I owned all of their albums up to and including 1986’s disappointing Crash but after that they fell off my radar. When 1990’s comeback album Romantic? flopped, it sold for $1 in the cut out bins and even then, I didn’t bother buying it. I still listened to them, but it tended to be the earlier “Being Boiled” or Dignity of Labour-era material that I liked the best, the pre-Dare stuff.

About fifteen years ago I picked up a bootleg of “The Jason Taverner Tape,” or just “The Taverner Tape” at the Pasadena Flea Market. This was a name from a Philip K. Dick novel, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said. In the book there is a television personality named Jason Taverner. “The Taverner Tape” is a demo that the Human League made and circulated to record companies, as The Same Mistakes blog explains:

The trio gathered homemade demos of several of the tracks they had been playing live, in support of bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Stranglers, and asked local network television personality Jason Taverner to introduce them on a tape to be sent round to the labels. Taverner was an avuncular figure; when they appeared on his show, he liked to call Ian, Martyn, and Phil, “the lads,” and praised their youthful optimism when other bands “were just trying to shock people.” In return, the band had recorded a hit album, “There’ll Be A Good Time With Taverner Tonight.” This was sure to get the attention of the A&R men.

Of course there was no Jason Taverner. The League had never been on TV, let alone recorded a hit album. It was all an elaborate ruse, somewhere between Situationist prank and Monty Python skit, with Phil playing the part of the regional television personality to a tee. To further confound matters, they inserted the same fifteen second theme, the so-called “Dominion Jingle,” after each song. An obscure reference to a fictional drug, and sounding like a lost sound cue from a low budget horror movie set in an abandoned amusement park, the jingle cast an ominous shadow over the demo’s collection of pop songs and futuristic instrumentals, reminding listeners that the League were as much descendants of Delia Derbyshire as Donna Summer.

Sounds good, right?

It is. Similar early Human League material was released as The Golden Hour of the Future in 2002 which is also highly recommended. Then one day I saw dozens and dozens of $1 cutout CDs of their 2001 album Secrets (it turns out that the label that released it had gone bankrupt and their offices were down the street from this record store) and so I bought it. To my surprise I guess, it was really, really good. I picked up both Romantic? and their little-heard 1995 album Octopus, in short order.

All three of them, I reckon, are quite good. If you look into it, the reasons these three excellent albums failed to get noticed can probably best be chalked up to bad luck and having not one, but two, record labels going tits up in row for consecutive releases!
 

 
If timing is everything, the baffling lack of success in the instances of both Octopus and Secrets cannot be blamed on the music. Phil Oakey must want to bash his head against the wall sometimes at what shitty fate the worthy music that he’s made during the latter part of his career has had. On the other hand, time is a great equalizer and I’m sure that at some point in the future some of the Human League’s “lost” songs will be rediscovered and perhaps adopted as a soundtrack by a new generation. It seems inevitable.

After the jump, some of the “lost” (at least in the US, if not Great Britain) songs of The Human League…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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06.08.2016
04:26 pm
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Synth Britannia: One Nation Under a Moog
10.11.2009
06:43 pm
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Synth Britannia, the latest in BBC4’s (excellent) Britannia series airs on Friday October 16. Covering the synthpop explosion of the late seventies and early 80s, Synth Britannia features interviews with John Foxx, MUTE Record’s Daniel Miller, Gary Numan, Neil Tennant, Phil Oakey, Martin Gore, Bernard Sumner, Cabaret Voltaire, Vince Clarke, Martyn Ware, Midge Ure, Soft Cell, Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. What a great line-up!

“In the late Seventies small pockets of electronic artists such as The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle were inspired by Kraftwerk and J G Ballard to dream of the sound of the future against the backdrop of bleak, high-rise Britain.

Gary Numan’s 1979 appearance on Top Of The Pops heralded the invention of synthpop, which would provide the soundtrack as Britain entered a new, ruthless era in the Eighties.

Depeche Mode, four lads from Basildon, came to embody the new sound, while post-punk bands such as Ultravox, Soft Cell, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Yazoo took the synth from the pages of the NME and onto the front cover of Smash Hits.

By 1983 the Pet Shop Boys and New Order were pointing to where the future of electronic music lay—in dance.”

I’m looking forward to see this and glad to see that they included John Foxx. I’ve always felt he was unfairly obscure. Despite making some of the most vital electronic music of that time period, few know his music. The first three Ultravox albums, with Foxx on lead vocals, are some of the finest albums of the punk era, yet they weren’t strictly a punk band (violins? synthesizers?) and so undeservedly fell through the cultural cracks. I think Ultravox’s Ha!-Ha!-Ha! is THE great lost album of the punk years and I tell everyone who’ll listen to me they should hear it. It’s nothing short of amazing. When Foxx left the band, his sound became more stripped, down, colder, synthetic—more European than English, if you take my point.

Maybe I say this because Foxx’s solo album Metamatic was in my Walkman as I took a long train journey across Europe in 1983. It was the perfect soundtrack to looking out of a train window. Every time I hear his music it takes me right back to that time, especially this song, Underpass:


One group who probably won’t make it into Synth Britannia for obvious reasons, is Japan’s Yellow Magic Orchestra, although they were most certainly working on a parallel track. Here’s their video for Computer Games, from 1980:

Posted by Richard Metzger
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10.11.2009
06:43 pm
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