by Paul Hamilton ( see full links at bottom):
High Wycombe is a satellite town of London and it was there, at Bucks New University’s Students Union building on Thursday 8th March 2012, Producers played the last of their nationwide sprint of college gigs. The group themselves – Trevor Horn, Lol Creme, Steve Lipson and Ash Soan, names that will almost certainly be found lurking in the small print of your record collection, no matter what your stripe – are no somersaulting, pirouetting circus performers. All, bar the far younger Soan, bear the hallmarks of a million recording sessions; the studio tans, the take-away pizza jowls, the all-night mixing-board hunches, the baggy-eyed insomniac ruination of a zillion repetitions of the slim volume of muso wisecrackery. So what are they doing and why are they doing it? (More pertinent, perhaps, is what am I asking and why am I asking it? The answers are plain: They do what they do and they do it because they do it. Like philosopher king Sinatra would say, “Do be do be do.”)
Lol Creme was probably half-joking when he said that the purpose of leaving the studio and hitting the road was to see if they could cut it playing in a pub. In a sense, it’s the toughest gig – winning over a partisan audience, in this instance a couple of hundred students who weren’t even born when Horn et al were pushing technology to the limits with ‘Two Tribes’. (And two tribes of opposing generations were facing each other at this venue.) Happily, Producers won this battle: They stumbled onstage with barely a ripple of acknowledgment (“Hello?” Horn quavered, peering through the lights: “Er, we’re here. Shall we come on again?”) and exited some 70 minutes later to roars for more.
A game that’s fun to play – partly because it’s all guesswork and it doesn’t matter, really, because it’s a debate and, no matter what conclusions are arrived at, the world still turns – is to pick apart the seams of a collaboration, trying to figure out who injects what into a joint venture. Lol Creme sings a new song – actually, it’s five years old – called ‘Barking Up The Right Tree’ and one can analyse and attempt to deduce, from what is missing from it, the input of Kevin Godley, his former writing partner. The surprising aspect is that it’s a totally straight song about love. Other than the wordplay in the title, a sweet twist on the well-worn old adage ‘barking up the wrong tree’, there’s little in the lyrical form and content to mark it out as Smart-Arse School Of Godley & Creme. One supposes that, had Godley been on board, there would have been some subversive upsetting of the applecart – maybe in the last verse we find his lover hanging dead from a branch of the Right Tree. (Similarly, in the GG06 songs Godley recorded with his former rhythm partner in 10cc, Graham Gouldman, the lyric content is unremittingly dark – poetic, yes; but the trademark wit is ebony, the landscape barren and bleak. Creme would have shone some light in the shadows, added a lick of colourful melodic paint. Godley & Creme’s strength lay in the harmony and balance of two opposing forces. This isn’t to say that the material they now write separately from one another is better or worse or anything. It’s just different. They’re not the same people and the old world is gone.)
In addition to a leper’s handful of Producers songs – ‘Barking Up The Right Tree’ being an anomaly (a deft, no-frills, fireside Honest Joe strum-a-long, far from the progging crowd that surrounds it) and the Yes-like ‘Freeway’ being the highlight, the filigree of dancing guitar notes bludgeoned by the irresistible force of a hammering Horn/Soan battery – the band rip through a mini-catalogue of numbers from Horn & Lipson’s studio diaries’ back pages. To hear ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ and ‘All The Things She Said’ shorn of the dominatrix defiance of Grace Jones and teen scream of tAtU is to experience them afresh. These are complex works of heart and mind previously masquerading as image-enforced run-of-the-mill pop fodder.
The venue – a students union building – was easy to gain entry. I shouldn’t have bothered buying a ticket. Plus £2.50 for a pint of snakebite. Not bad, eh? I got there (
Do you find that, the longer you make music and the more songs you produce, that this past body of work actually impinges on your creativity?
- “No, actually, because the trick is to forget everything. As soon as it’s done, forget it.”
- So, do you find yourself in a situation where a stranger will come up to you in the street and shout some song title that you have no recollection of?
- “Well, if anyone DOES recognise me, it’s ‘Load up! Load up! Load up!’ It’s not generally the case that someone will ask me about something really obscure like, er -”
- “Well done! You’re the only person ever to have mentioned that one. ‘Marciano’… God, where did you dig that one up?”
- I was whistling it on my way here.
- “‘Marciano’… It was called that because it sounded like a really vicious boxing match. We wanted to make a film to it.”
- How did that track come about?
- “It was a kind of reaction against what we had been doing – whatever that was, I can’t remember! I think we had been doing a lot of tape looping and we needed to break it up. So Kevin, bless him, set up the drums, loads of them, and just went absolutely mad, playing this free-form solo. And from this barrage we built up the track. It hasn’t any formal structure, I don’t think. It’s not melodic but it wasn’t intended that way. It is what it is.”…
Hamilton has made some records. Some are here at http://bisonics.bandcamp.com/album/seconds