Useless Paraphernalia, Tea And Scones, A Musical Toy Pig And Three Oranges
Cemental Health Records EEG40
All tracks digitally remastered October–December 2004.
This compilation (P) Cemental Health Records 2000, 2004.
It started with a couple of speccy sixth-form nerds. It grew to encompass a minor political scandal, a regional number one and, just possibly, Britain’s most original comic sick-fuck of the last decade.
So there I was, in 1982, starting my home-grown cassette label in Belfast with a cheap synth and a twin-deck tape machine, and already I was so prolific (ah, those days!) that I needed some other names to stick on to the stuff I released. I wanted the first title I put out under my own name to be an album of songs, so in the meantime, Roy Watson was born as a pseudoplume or nom-de-nym for my primitive electro-grind pieces, somewhere between Depeche Mode, Cabaret Voltaire and a bus reversing.
And also a couple of tape montages. We weren’t the first, but everybody who chances upon the idea remakes it in their own way, and so it was with us. I’m Waiting For The Man is a simple, single-source job: a rehearsal tape of my old band with some extracts from radio news whacked on top. Almost immediately, I realised that material from a variety of sources could be cut together to create a surreal narrative: hence Masturprice (included here in its more complex, less tape-hissy second incarnation).
Iain Walker, though, was always more alert to the potential of such
things than me. While I carried on with the relatively conventional
The Prisoner, a school prize day speech and part of Molly Bloom’s
soliloquy from Ulysses), Iain had already eclipsed me with The
Leaker (This Is Moscow) – sure, the recording quality leaves a lot
to be desired (only by the Black Animal Summer
tracks did we graduate
to a four-track PortaStudio), but you could already see his malign genius
at work in embryo.
Then a friend gave us a tape of a speech by the Reverend Martin Smyth, Ulster Unionist M.P. for South Belfast and, at the time, Grand Master of the Orange Order. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. Over a bare-bones techno-groove, Walker laid an edit of the good Reverend that suggested the speaker was a sexually polymorphous, bloodthirsty secret Papist. Not a word of truth in it, of course (at least, not that we know of...). Finished just in time for that year’s Twelfth of July marches, it was an unholy joy. Obviously, we couldn’t put our own names to it. It sold strongly from under the counter at the legendary Good Vibrations record shop, and our mole in the Unionist Party assured us that it was enjoying heavy rotation among the grandees.
By that time, we’d also acquired a pet D.J., Davy Sims of what was then Northern Ireland’s only independent station Downtown. He heard Grandmaster Smyth and loved it, but informed us that of course he couldn’t actually give it airtime. There was only one avenue open to us: in a spirit of amiable revenge, we subjected him to exactly the same reconstructive surgery.
Moreover, Sims had a phone-in listeners’ chart, so equally naturally, as soon as he’d actually played it, we and our mates got to work hyping “Get Well Soon, Bobby Ewing” into his top five. Ah, but once it got airplay, the market took over: real people started voting for it! It knocked U2 off the top spot and was never dislodged... in fact, it was probably responsible for the death of Chartline. Ho hum.
But by then, Walker was already at work on his magnum opus: the sprawling, gangrenous phenomenon that would prove to be The Vivisector, preceded by the brief, single-source curtain-raiser Breaking The Ice. All the words to ...Ice were taken from a radio programme about the sinking of the Titanic (geddit?), but the main triptych drew on everything from Dr Who to Arthur C. Clarke to a Christmas mass. Iain said he had only two criteria for including stuff: it had to be funny, and it had to be sick. Ye gods, but he succeeded, in fucking great gravedigger’s spades. Twenty years on, it still exerts an abominable fascination upon all who hear it... heh, heh, heh...
There are lots of Interesting Facts about these montages. You can hear phrases from Masturprice (some of the bits taken from radio broadcasts of Under Milk Wood and The Caucasian Chalk Circle) reanimated in altogether darker form in The Vivisector. By the time we’d finished the Sims E.P., the main track had already had advance airplay, so “I’m Squeaking” manages to include Davy’s own verdict on “Get Well Soon...”. And Walker would invariably make his opinion of my clumsy guitar soloing known by bracketing the breaks with disparaging comments from Sims or Smyth. But, as a friend once grumbled when I was playing one of my albums, “You know what I hate most about this tape? The running commentary!” ...so enough of that.
And that comic sick-fuck I mentioned? Well, as I say, we can’t claim credit for inventing the tape montage, but I’m pretty sure I gave a tape of The Vivisector to my university friend Tom Morris (now blue-sky-thinking supremo at the National Theatre), just about at the time when his older brother was starting out on local radio in Bristol... his older brother Chris... So it’s not entirely impossible that we came to inspire... that.
And after all this time, only one question remains: who is the Vivisectah?
from cassette E.P. "Get Well Soon, Bobby Ewing": A Tribute To Davy Sims, 1984 (SBAC[S]18); produced by Iain Walker
from Black Animal Summer by Iain Walker, 1987 (EEG16); produced by Iain Walker