6
Apr 10

M/A/R/R/S – “Pump Up The Volume”/”Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance)”

FT + Popular123 comments • 9,439 views

#598, 3rd October 1987, video

“Kept the hooks flying so fast that it sounded like a pop radio hit”

This entry is constructed around ‘samples’ of other people’s blog posts or writings mentioning “Pump Up The Volume”. Even saying that feels absurd and a little pompous – they’re just links, right? In the way that samples now are just… samples. If you listen to 21st century pop you experience them as content, not as process, with the occasional exception – Girl Talk for instance. But “Pump Up The Volume” got at least some of its power from the sample-as-process, the surprise and delight of cut ups, that videogame sense of micro-events coming at you in random attack formations.

“Colourbox was the band with the drum machines and samples while A R Kane were the shoegazers, but the more I listened to [A R Kane]’s records… it makes me wonder what Colourbox contributed!

Actually “Pump Up The Volume”‘s pace isn’t particularly fast – the track feels roomy, a sandbox of possibilities bounded by that loping bassline. It’s nice to imagine that this is down to AR Kane’s interest in dub, though the participants have suggested the ‘collaboration’ was fractious and the dreampop band’s contribution to the hit side of this double-A came down to little more than guitar overdubs. Whatever the inspiration, it means “Pump Up The Volume” has aged more gracefully than some of the spatchcocked sampladelia that followed it – though I love almost all its imitator records too.

Also, those slices of echoing guitar are the ingredient that gives this single its enduring strangeness – alien noises cutting across the hip-hop and funk sources “Pump” mostly draws on: as a proportion of the record they’re minor, but they’re also what makes it special.

“some people were yearning for acid house before it was invented, almost willing it into being”

Like “Jack Your Body”, “Pump Up The Volume” was another step towards club culture’s takeover of UK pop. But while “JYB” was an unexpected shot of purism in the compromised land of the top 10, “Volume” is a wild hybrid, made by intrigued outsiders. Which makes its success even odder – imagine the Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move” getting to #1, maybe? The record is as much hip-hop as house – it owes more to Grandmaster Flash and Steinski than to Chicago musicians, and I’d guess hit bigger as a pop event than a club one.

“Ofra Haza turned out be to the Yeminite equivalent of Barbara Streisand or Celine Dion, didn’t she?”

The DJ house strain of club music “Pump Up The Volume” helped birth burned itself out fairly quickly because it was incestuous in terms of sample sources and easy to parody, and because unpredictable juxtaposition isn’t a consistently useful strategy on the dancefloor. But “Pump” itself chose its samples well and set them well too: the bassline working as a tour guide, and that sly top-end ripple on the drum track giving the record an intimacy where most sample workouts simply used novelty and brashness. We peep through a hidden door into a different record, hear Dunya Yunis sing, then shut it again and stroll on.

“bewilderment gave way to enthusiasm and we had a hit on our hands”.

Whatever its place in the wider story of dance music, for me “Pump Up The Volume” was a moment of pop crisis. I’d overlooked or ignored “Jack Your Body” but M/A/R/R/S was more strange and striking – and I despised it. Its rejection of structure, of tune, of identification points seemed close to nihilist: this simply wasn’t music as I could recognise it. This state of mind is hard to recover now – dance music and hip-hop have rewired how I hear music to the extent that it’s ended up being rock I’ve had to re-learn how to listen to. What seemed like a destruction of everything I associated with music now seems like a blueprint for so much I enjoy about it: an equal and opposite exaggeration, perhaps, but this record is still a milestone for me.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    Steve Mannion on 6 Apr 2010 #

    Re the PUTV credibility issue I think it’s probably true that it fell between two stools for too many. In general, too ‘wacky’ for serious clubbers and too ‘hip’ for the types who’d otherwise vote for Colourbox in the Festive 50 (altho I see PUTV did make #46 that year so bad example maybe).

    Andy in my own experience snobbery in hip-hop is no worse than in Indie. Motivated by different causes but having similar effects (at least wrt the ‘no sell-out’ ethos in rap). Privilege (and the abuse of which) was surely a prime factor (and the major stumbling block with, say, Vanilla Ice – more than ‘wack flow’ or a cheesy sample I’d say).

  2. 32
    AndyPandy on 6 Apr 2010 #

    Steve at 25: They were set in a Geordie WMC not one in Yorkshire.

    I actually had “Pump Up The Bitter” and the one from a few years earlier called “Stars on 45 Pints” sending up the “Stars on 45” type medleys.Got rid of them years ago but think they’d still raise a chuckle now.

    Having said that if DLT was even remotely involved in their mild popularity its sort of ruined it for me!

    LA Mix or Les Adams was actually a very respected dj/producer back then and “Check This Out” wasn’t really “playfully mocking” PUTV it was just one of the more successful examples of the hundreds of similar records that came out like this back then. He was quite big around London until round about 1990 think he was playing at the Lyceum one night when I was there – think he used to play “The Best Disco In Town” show live from there on the radio a Friday night after Steve Walsh had passed away.

    Yes Eric B and Rakim were very angry remember them being very racistly/sexistly insulting about the singer back then.

  3. 33
    Jimmy the Swede on 6 Apr 2010 #

    Like Rosie, I thought that this was another April Fool from Tom…

    For me, the advent of this being number one simply meant that the game was up for the charts. After this, I just didn’t care any more. If ever the currency of being number one was devalued, it was by this thing.

    Rosie # 9 – Not Captain Beefheart and codeine for me. My escape from M/A/R/R/S is going to be “Pet Sounds”, a homemade shepherds pie and a bottle of claret. The Swede needs reassurance. Wouldn’t it be nice?!

  4. 34
    Conrad on 6 Apr 2010 #

    this is a great track that I appreciate a lot more today thanks to my early 2000s journey through turntablism and hip hop, and this is exactly the type of scratch-laden, playful hip hop I love.

    Sounds incredibly fresh and exciting now. Didn’t know what to make of it in 1987.

    Records this inventive should be allowed a free pass on sample clearance on grounds of bringing new artistic merit to an existing work.

  5. 35
    thefatgit on 6 Apr 2010 #

    No doubt a 10 and bloody hell! This turned my head in a big way. Having heard that it came from the same label that gave us The Cocteau Twins, I had some kind of internal crisis. AR Kane and Colourbox collaborating with Dave Dorrell and some fella called CJ Mackintosh, dreampop to hip-hop via p-funk, world music and house? (Points two fingers at right temple and pulls imaginary trigger making PWOOUUUGGGGHHHH sound).

    In all fairness, we ought to have been prepared for a moment such as this. Age Of Chance, Steinski, Paul Hardcastle and Coldcut had nudged hip-hop towards the dancier end of the spectrum. M/A/R/R/S crystallised this intention with this record. For the cherrypicker like me, this was everything compressed into a scooby snack of a record, and it took a while to make sense of it and work out what all the flavours were. However PUTV had an infectious and compelling groove, and if you let it in, then you couldn’t take it off the turntable.

    A little note of acknowledgment for “Full Metal Jacket(I Wanna Be Your Drill Instructor)”. Having seen the movie and felt the dehumanisation of young men as they are trained as marines, was less a war film and more a study of the american psyche, Mead and Goulding’s samples of R. Lee Ermey over party-funk nestled alongside PUTV’s ColdWarSpaceRaceStarWars video, felt like a reappraisal of the US/UK “Special Relationship” forged by Thatcher and Reagan. Did we really want to be dragged around on a US leash? Global politics was changing. Somebody mentioned the U2 crowd would have rejected this. Having owned every U2 album since “October”, I felt more in tune with PUTV and even “Licensed To Ill” than I would listening to “The Joshua Tree”. Just goes to show how out of step Bono was around this time.

  6. 36

    As usual my sense of times passed is all scrambled: Coldcut’s “Say Kids” preceded this by some months, and “Paid in Full” was almost exactly contemporary.

  7. 37
    Tom on 6 Apr 2010 #

    Yeah, Coldcut were the pioneers here in the UK at least – Marc Gascoigne once did a tape for Franks’ APA with a prehistory of sample house (including one amazing Velvets-Philip Glass-James Brown mashup I wish I had a good quality copy of).

  8. 38
    Steve Mannion on 6 Apr 2010 #

    I loved ‘..Drill Instructor’ at the time too and was fun being confused by wondering if said drill instructor was in fact named Abigail.

    At this point 9 years old I think I was experiencing an enthusiastic peak wrt the charts and most of what was in them be it the Fat Boys or bloody T’Pau. The biggest party-poopers were indeed U2 and their Joshua Tree singles, boring me to tears. My attitude to Bono & Pals changed dramatically soon after tho for reasons that I may attempt to rationalise another Popular time.

  9. 39
    Steve Mannion on 6 Apr 2010 #

    Actually that’s a point. The Edge-y ear-splitting guitar howls on PUTV wouldn’t sound amiss on Achtung Baby!

  10. 40
    swanstep on 6 Apr 2010 #

    Comparisons to Telstar (especially) and I Feel Love seem very apt to me. But both of those got Tom-scores of 9. Cssty suggests that that’s the right score for this too. (I also tend to think 9 is right independently of cssty considerations. Oh well.)

    Anyhow, having dabbled in and been actively turned off by first wave House music, this and the Coldcut remix of Paid in Full and Public Enemy’s It takes a nation of millions (the latter being a pure extinction level event of a generation) were a friggin’ revelation and/or revolution. No fads, this music was fun and imaginative as all get out, not at all boring. A good chunk of the future had rudely showing up and elbowed everything else aside. The broadly clubby music had serious legs, projecting the globalized, interconnected future built around sampling, and shared content that came true, etc., and Rap was now officially huge. Rakim’s flow astounded, and with PE, rap had a genuine colossus to stare down the Beatles, Led Zep, whomever you like. A massive few months at the 1987/1988 boundary.

    It’s worth pointing out too, that Sinead O’Connor’s Lion and the Cobra album came out in November 1987 with this vid a few months later. The full sonic connection between rock and all this new sampled drum kit stuff had been made at this point. I was in my own little musical bubble at the time and so didn’t pay close attention to what was really going on until the end of 1988… but the M/A/R/R/S track was in the charts and everywhere as the undeniable, visible sign of a truly massive, multi-faceted musical reformation that was going on, and that a lot of us spent the next several years catching up with. So Tom’s hi-score certainly isn’t crazy (sorry Rosie).

  11. 41
    swanstep on 7 Apr 2010 #

    And U2 weren’t too far off the pace here: the Hollywood remix of their forthcoming bunnyable track was seriously nodding to M/A/R/R/S’s world…

  12. 42
    TomLane on 7 Apr 2010 #

    A low peak of #13 in the States, although the single was certified gold. Another unbiquitous 80’s song that is even more popular now (in the States) than when it was on the charts.

  13. 43
    Doctor Casino on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Once again Popular serves as an intriguing history lesson on stuff that’s just never been on my radar before. Listening to this for the first time tonight, I basically enjoyed the track but find a 10 completely baffling….and thus interesting. Always nice to get these transmissions from alternate realities with different canons than your own, and force yourself to inhabit this other world. Really don’t get it, but happy to be exposed to it…

  14. 44
    tonya on 7 Apr 2010 #

    It’s a 10 for me, hugely important even if you already knew about sampling, hip hop and house music. Some other sampled records from this time sound cheap, but this one always sounded smooth. My recollection is that this was more popular among hip hop fans in California than with the alternative rock set.

  15. 45
    swanstep on 7 Apr 2010 #

    A couple of links that might be useful for novices:
    Eric B. and Rakim, Paid In Full (Coldcut remix)
    Public Enemy, Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos

  16. 46
    Pete Baran on 7 Apr 2010 #

    My sister had a tape to tape stereo at this point and I spent a whole weekend using it to make my own remixes of two separate taped off the radio versions of PUTV, with stabs of my own attempts of samples to add to it (Ian Dury’s Hit Me With Your Rythmn Stick was not successfully interpolated into the mix). For me this was the breakthrough of the music, I imagined I understood how it worked, and that I could do it too. It is thus a bit of a pity that I did not have the access to the tools I could use now to do this, but its amazing how idyllic being chained to a Amstrad tape deck can seem now.

  17. 47
    MikeMCSG on 7 Apr 2010 #

    I’ll have to join Rosie and Jimmy in the naughty corner on this one. Tom’s initial reaction was exactly mine but unlike him I haven’t shifted from it. I did actually give this a fair hearing because I rated Colourbox from previous singles such as “Breakdown” but couldn’t get this at all. It’s just a bassline with some random effects and samples. At least 19 and even Jack Your Body had some nice keyboard bits (and the former a lyrical premise) but this has no compromises. At the time I think I made the dodgy assumption that there must be too many chart return shops in London so black tastes were over-represented in the charts. I just couldn’t conceive that anyone would want to put this on their turntable at home. I know it’s a big question but when and why did melody and meaning become unimportant to people ?

    As you’ll have guessed from the above this was a bit of a departure point for me. It was around this time that the charts switched to being announced on the Sunday Chart show instead of Tuesday lunchtime and that didn’t help. Partly this was due to Bruno Brookes and his moronic pretence that the chart was still being compiled while the show was on air. Anyone with even a basic grasp of mathematics would know that you can’t work out what’s at no 40 before what’s at no 1. But it wasn’t just him; I liked the certainty of the old show, knowing exactly what was going to be played and when (perhaps going back to when I used to tape things off the radio) and after 14 years of listening to the show religiously I started to tune out. This was also due to Erasure’s “The Circus” being just about the only record I liked in the charts at the time. It didn’t seem worthwhile investing two hours of my life in listening to it anymore.

  18. 48
    will on 7 Apr 2010 #

    A landmark Number One, for sure. Though being a young indie Luddite I didn’t like it at the time. I’m sure I remember complaining loudly that it was nothing more than a hip version of Stars On 45.

    And yes, and Mike points out, PUTV’s first week at Number One was the final chart to be announced on a Tuesday lunchtime, and thus the classroom culture of smuggling radios into lessons and dissecting the new chart during the lunch break ended forever.

  19. 49
    Izzy on 7 Apr 2010 #

    47. why did melody and meaning become unimportant to people?

    Wow. It’s never occurred to me until now that this record could be seen as unmelodic or lacking in meaning, and I’d’ve said that my tastes have generally tended towards the traditional structure of pop. I don’t normally count myself as a massive fan of dance or hip-hop or anything, and I’m definitely not criticising – but I am interested in this perception of it lacking the essential qualities of a record, because I just don’t see it.

    I wonder if it’s just age that is the difference here? I was eleven when this came out and I got and loved it instantly, and I guess my whole enjoyment of music since has been coloured by knowing that this stuff exists and that it can be brilliant, or alternatively that dance culture has been the water in which I’ve swum all these years, and never realised it. If your perceptions were formed just a couple of years before, this might never have happened. Or it could just be this record and its succession of thrilling hooks – maybe this has always been melody and meaning enough for me.

  20. 50
    Tom on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Melody I don’t know about but yeah PUTV has plenty of meaning – like a lot of club pop it’s a meta-record, a record about the thrill of a DJ dropping a great track. With a lot of these records the meaning works best when distributed and experienced as a crowd, PUTV is slightly different though: as a few people have said it’s not an especially good club banger, so beyond the formal meaning (DJs R GRATE) there’s a layer of meaning around the space and sense of possibility in the music. Coldcut brought that subtext into the text of their record with the “This is a journey into sound…” sample – a journey you could make on a dancefloor but also in an armchair :)

  21. 51
    MikeMCSG on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #49 Izzy, I’m sure age does play a part in it (I’m 11 years older than you) and of course if you didn’t remember too much of what went before this wouldn’t seem so revolutionary. If you enjoy it that’s great. I am interested in why what hitherto seemed fairly essential (there were exceptions of course)ingredients to a hit record – a memorable tune and reasonably coherent words – became superfluous.

  22. 52
    MikeMCSG on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #50 Yes good answer. As someone who didn’t go out much at the time I probably underestimated the expansion of the clubbing demographic. Would people then buy the single to re-create the thrill of the club in their home ?

  23. 53

    I’m not that convinced that it’s just a matter of age: to me what’s arriving now is the half of music that had been acting as incontestable and undeniable backline for most of what counted as meaning in rock, since around 1965 (and in pure groove terms 1969 or so). No James Brown: no Stones. And what was taken to matter in the Stones wouldn’t have registered or arrived at any peak of importance without the palpable spectre of what it drew from and played with. So now that rhythm and gameplay* become the hook, instead of melody and meaning, this isn’t the emergence of something new and vanishing of something old, more like the tilting back towards the key element that had been simultaneously present and overlooked for so long.

    *This record is gleeful and witty and knowing at one level — a playfulness aimed at the high cognoscenti of dancemusic — as well as actually and effectively rhythmically constructed and delivered; post-punk often achieved the knowingness but it rarely had the chops too…

  24. 54
    MikeMCSG on 7 Apr 2010 #

    #53 But was there any particular reason why that tilt happened at this point in time ?

  25. 55
    wichita lineman on 7 Apr 2010 #

    I think PUTV is a great noise, has worn very well too, but…

    Didn’t anyone else feel at the time it came out that the ground had been broken long before by Grandmaster Flash’s Adventures On The Wheels Of Steel? THAT was a record that I couldn’t make head or tail of when I first heard it in 1981. It sounded like a joke I didn’t get, and it took a few plays (by David Jensen and John Peel both) before I realised the bursts of laughter, self-referencing and sense of reckless fun was the whole point.

    Pump Up The Volume sampled stuff like Time Zone’s Wild Style which sounded dated to me in 1987. A great record, but 3 or 4 years old, so not old enough to be old school (an expression that I don’t think existed in 1987), just old fashioned. Maybe this explains the “inauthentic” tag?

  26. 56

    “the key element” should i think be “a key element”

    here’s koganbot on the unresolveable core of james brown’s music (haha quoting me, but he explores it much more clearly)

    what i’m suggesting is that the coming tilt over towards “dancemusic” was a correction — perhaps an overcorrection — in respect of two contradictory but necessary constituent parts with pop’n’rock as a whole: focus on one without the other and you’re missing more than half the picture (because the picture is the interraction)

    agewise i was 27 in 87; kogan is older

    ps also: i thought of this last night — this is the actual arrival of the idea of club music that trevor horn was dreaming with frankie; this really is a crackling marriage of ideals not a purity of distillation…
    pps: ok i think my various arguments contradict one another but i’m on deadline with a film review and basically procrastinating by posting at all

  27. 57
    punctum on 7 Apr 2010 #

    It is at this point that I feel the urgent need to balance out the largely dismal picture of 1987 as painted by its number one singles by stating that 1987 was in fact one of the most exciting of all years for music. Scarcely a day passed without some new and unexpected perspective on rap or rock or pop or dance music or (insert Dewey decimal system classification category of your choice) catching my ear. Hip hop in particular was in the midst of its most golden of ages; Public Enemy had emerged out of a blackened hole in the collapsed centre of nowhere, providing the most startling use of random noise in pop since Pere Ubu; Eric B and Rakim were stretching the syllabic flow of rap into new, indeterminate undulations of whimsical and pointed length; Schoolly-D had moved into the previously undefined arena of nihilist rare groove; Boogie Down Productions were finding new ways of minimising minimalism; LL Cool J was angling to become the first hip hop superstar (Cut Creator, rightly described by Reynolds as the Jimmy Page of scratching, makes LL’s Berry-citing “Go Cut Creator Go” sound like the violently exuberant Lazarean resuscitation of rock). Meanwhile, dance music, principally in the form of House (and nascent techno), was conquering and redrawing everything we might illogically wish to expect from a “pop record.” Somewhere in between lay what the NME hilariously dubbed “sonic theft merchants,” those DJs, pranksters and activists who, in those accidentally halycon days just prior to the tightening-up of laws on sampling and copyright infringement, were happy to throw in elements from dozens or even hundreds of other records to embellish, centralise and strengthen their own. Sadly the latter, insufficiently brave new world soon caved in on its own wearisome tribal insistence on “identity,” such that sampling was soon reduced to the same half-dozen James Brown and Led Zeppelin quotes rather than the diatonically shattering embraces between Bartok and Slayer which would, for example, underline the pioneering work of Switzerland’s Young Gods. The extra ounce of courage was lacking…though the good humour of “Bits And Pieces” by Coldcut, themselves less than a year away from their own number one, must not be overlooked, nor the surprisingly successful fusion of cut-up and indie snarl achieved by the first incarnation of Age Of Chance.

    The British duo Colourbox had started playing around with the notion of placing samples at centre stage and eliminating the tangible author as early as 1982; such 1985 efforts as “Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse” with its shoot ‘em up cowboy film cut-ups, construct a template which a dozen years later would belatedly detonate into the mainstream in the form of Big Beat. As an electronic dance duo they are the direct antecedents of the Underworlds, Leftfields, Orbitals and Chemical Brothers who would briefly, or not so briefly, rule the world at various stages throughout the nineties.

    In the meantime rock had also set about reinventing itself, and not just in the form of the Rick Rubin-produced Cult joyfully and unapologetically bringing back the delicious indulgence of Zeppelin, after a decade of enforced denial, with the fantastic and defiantly shallow “Love Removal Machine.” Steve Albini’s Big Black built upon 1986’s revolutionary Atomizer to produce the stuttering sweep of Songs About Fucking (Robert Plant’s top album of that year), Throwing Muses and the Butthole Surfers methodically broadened out their appeal via their own divergent paths, Hüsker Dü (alas unsuccessfully, since they had split by 1987’s end, leaving behind Warehouse: Songs And Stories, the polished bookend to Zen Arcade) and REM were preparing to pierce the mainstream, Sonic Youth gained a temporary definite article and produced maybe their masterpiece with Sister, Dinosaur (then still without the legally-imposed “Jr”) and the Pixies emerged with their entirely unanticipated takes on guitar music – all of which centred around the reinvention of the role of the guitar in rock, the realisation that textural innovations and perspectives were entirely possible without the need to use the guitar as a cock substitute, in its commitment to sonic and aesthetic equality demonstrating significant markers leading towards a “feminisation” of rock. In Britain C86 had been revealed as an endearing dead end, with only the Wedding Present making any real advancements (the tremendous George Best album of which, amongst many others, the teenage Kurt Cobain would take careful note) My Bloody Valentine were already preparing, with “Strawberry Wine,” to make tentative moves towards breaking the mirror and stepping through to the other side, but they were still a year away from their real breakthrough. Spacemen 3 and Loop were already halfway there – their respective 1987 album releases, The Perfect Prescription and Heaven’s End, were milestones (and for the acts themselves, their best work) largely missed or dismissed at the time, but their combined influence on subsequent developments in rock falls perhaps just one horse shy of incalculable.

    But the most remarkable group of them all may have been AR Kane. In an age where we were guiltily forcefed the soulful, passionate honesty of Jackie Wilson and Ben E King, the East End trio of black musicians had other priorities. They began 1987 with a one-off single for the One Little Indian label, the promising “When You’re Sad” which seemed to announce the first true advancement on the sonic parameters suggested by the Jesus and Mary Chain (by 1987, the Mary Chain themselves had abandoned feedback and structural experimentation in favour of the dour balladry of Darklands). But even that didn’t prepare us for the shattering three-track Lollita EP which appeared on 4AD a few months later. Produced by Robin Guthrie with a force and fire temporarily absent from the Cocteaus’ own work of the period – they were just about emerging from their meditative, New Age-y Victorialand phase – the record laid out new possibilities for British rock music. The title track itself sees Alex Ayuli’s beautifully dazed voice flow over barlines and across syllables in the manner soon to be made familiar by the Kevin Shields/Bilinda Butcher approach, while the group’s guitars alternately caress and howl imperiously. It is a luxurious swoon of a minor key song – hear how Ayuli sighs the line “oooh my head slides and slips” like a jetstream vanishing into a seabed of snowdrops – but the title gives the subtext away; this is illicit and dangerous love, and the frustration gradually mutates, via the smoothness of the second song “Sado-Masochism Is A Must,” into the open, horrific violence of the closing “Butterfly Collector,” culminating in Ayuli screaming “I’m gonna KEEP you!” over and over while we experience the most hostile avalanche of white noise heard in British rock since the Buzz’s “You’re Holding Me Down.” This too cuts off suddenly, as knife slits water.

    4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell was very keen on seeing his label’s artists as part of a communal family and encouraged collaboration between them, mainly via his successful ongoing This Mortal Coil project, and dreamed up the idea of a collaboration between Colourbox and AR Kane. Unfortunately the two sets of musicians found little common ground, and arguments swiftly ensued, with the result that each group ended up working separately and passing their work to each other for adaptation and embellishment. Thus “Pump Up The Volume” is mainly Colourbox with some occasional strata of AR Kane guitar, while “Anitina” is principally AR Kane with additional Colourbox drum programs and samples.

    It was “Pump Up The Volume” which sold the record, of course; but it has been its fate to become one of those tracks which, though indisputably radical and immeasurably influential from the moment of its appearance, has long since been superseded by subsequent developments, and therefore now sounds rather old-fashioned and musty, even though it can hardly be blamed for the onset of bad impersonations which appeared (and continue to appear) in its wake. It is best heard in its original and relatively sparse 12-inch version. Featuring live scratching by DJs CJ Mackintosh and Dave Dorrell in addition to Colourbox themselves, it builds up its few ingredients steadily and logically and its snakelike groove works well with all the space left around it. Samples are comparatively few; Rakim rapping the title, the soon-to-be-obligatory James Brown snatches, a spot of Trouble Funk Go-Go percussion in the centre, some distant female soul group harmonies, and a couple of others – Mackintosh and Dorrell’s scratching is largely abstract, their whooshes bodilessly floating through ghost spaces like Grandmaster Henry James. In the track’s second half the cap is appropriately doffed to Art Of Noise – but note the cumulonimbi of AR Kane guitars which systematically drone and cut through the beats at highly irregular intervals.

    The track was remixed for the American market, using a substantially greater number of samples, and the 7-inch edit of this mix is the famous version which pushed it up through the clubs and towards becoming the first independently-distributed number one single. Maximalist where the original 12-inch was minimalist, we are now bombarded with waves of familiar and not-so-familiar samples, including some up-to-the-second Public Enemy (the “Brothers and sisters!” intro to “Rebel Without A Pause,” then only available in Britain as a white label 12-inch import), a snatch of the Last Poets to remind us that PE didn’t quite come from nowhere, a speeded-up section of Ofra Haza’s Yemenite wailing (which Coldcut subsequently adopted into their far more classicist approach to sampling in their “Seven Minutes Of Madness” remix of Eric B and Rakim’s “Paid In Full,” a Top 20 hit later that year which led to one of the most surreal of all TOTP appearances since both DJ and rapper were clearly unaware of the remix’s existence) and sundry others, turning the track into a sonic theft bombardment which would be endlessly replicated over the next generation. Coupled with MARRS’ staunch refusal to appear on TOTP – a musician-less video was shown instead, but since neither half of MARRS was talking to the other it’s unsurprising that they wished to keep a low profile – “Pump Up The Volume” had a profound effect on how pop and dance singles would henceforth be constructed. Sonic theft bombardments inevitably mean legal action, and several court cases came up, most notably from Stock, Aitken and Waterman, who objected to an uncleared sample from their rare groove scam hit of the time “Roadblock” being used; this section had to be withdrawn from later pressings of the single, but it is worth noting that the bassline of Sybil’s “My Love Is Guaranteed,” a big SAW-written/produced club hit of the same period, owes more than a little to “Pump Up The Volume.” The remix now sounds cluttered and overly boisterous with more than a laddish hint of “look how many records I can slot into these four minutes” and in itself wouldn’t require much evaluation in 2007 apart from its undeniable historical significance.

    “Anitina,” however, is a different story. Quite possibly the least heard of any single track to reach number one – other than the stalwart John Peel and Janice Long on evening Radio 1, it received zero radio airplay, and due to the messy legal battles initiated shortly thereafter regarding rights to the MARRS name, as well as AR Kane’s angry walkout from 4AD, it has (in common with the Lollita tracks) yet to be reissued on CD (unless anyone knows different; a CD version of the single certainly came out at the time because I’ve got a copy) – it is also one of the greatest; the record was specifically conceived as a double A-side, and thus both sides were credited in the chart listings, which means that this glorious blast of futurism can legitimately be termed a chart-topper.

    “Anitina” is brilliant, from its intro of handless, attack-free guitars into which Colourbox’s gigantic drum tracks (doubtless influenced by Keith LeBlanc’s contemporaneous work with Tackhead and Mark Stewart) slam like gods. Soon the hurricane relents to let in a Human League-ish bassline, and Ayuli’s voice shimmers out of the dub tangents to say much the same as he said in “Lollita” – “Little dolly…follow…I’ll feed you sugarkane.” As he pleads “Keep me close/Hold me tight” the guitars float back in with immaculately immense majesty – a chorale which again predicts the pink canyons of Loveless. The song sets up its protagonist as a child-catching pied piper: “All my little dollies, follow…follow, hollering…play the pipes, follow?” while the sexual urges cannot be suppressed (“Ooh sweet, sweet/Touch me where it’s forbiddden”). Ethereal venality, the clean dagger concealed beneath the satin duvet cover.

    Beats crumble up into multiple assaults midway through as Ayuli intones a lament: “Crackle’s sick,” to which Colourbox immediately respond with a barrage of “SICK!” voice samples. Then the storm once more breaks to let in a backwards drum track with scratchily lyrical guitars over which Ayuli works on the syllabic implications of the words “follow” and “holler,” before the final, apocalyptic onslaught which he rides with fearless, aqueous joy. Harmonically the guitars augment and ascend, and then with one final feedback-meets-voice squeal – orgasm of causes ambiguous – the song drowns itself to its own fade.

    As I mentioned, serious disagreements, both with Colourbox and with Robin Guthrie, ensured AR Kane’s premature departure from 4AD, and their two historic albums, Sixty-Nine (1988) and “i” (1989), each of which proposes an entirely new future for rock and neither of which has ever been properly followed up (although if the various contributors to Screamadelica had not listened intently to “i” I would be extremely surprised – the Primal Scream of 1987 still faithfully tethering themselves to the Byrds of early 1966), appeared on Rough Trade and, though doing little commercially, happily remain in print. Given some of the lamentable experiences through which 1989 Popular will be obliged to wade, AR Kane’s gain was the public’s loss. But for such a wonderfully radical record to get to number one practically via the back door – and not even intentionally, in the manner of “God Save The Queen” – was enough to remind this (then) 23-year-old writer that marvellous miracles could still occur, and that music of quality and adventure was still able to scythe its way through the assorted film themes, AoR balladeers, coasting megastars and dismal cover versions and reveal what the true music of 1987 really was like – though of course, those with open ears and generous minds were glad to be caught in its entrancing embrace.

    (Oh, and Rick Astley? Lovely lad, lovely number one hit, more Michael McDonald than Luther Vandross to my ears and probably more Craig Douglas than either – and that’s all I have to say about “Never Gonna Give You Up” at the moment other than it sounded great on a sunny Friday afternoon on the M25).

  28. 58

    We’re only saying the “tilt” happened now because now is when a very rich and well-made expression of it got to No.1 in the UK: in other words, its presence became something even its opponents could no longer ignore. But it had been gathering the momentum to become a tilt for years. Cabaret Voltaire’s track titled “James Brown” came out in 1984: one their first (?) LP for Virgin; ie — for them — the moment of shifting above ground.

    At some point round now — might be some years earlier, might even be later — the network of clubs and labels that served UK dance audiences became extensive enough to hit critical mass in terms of charting material. Changes in the nature of radio earlier in the 80s — simply the number of stations, and how they were encouraged to define themselves and their brand niche — also plays a massive role.

  29. 59
    punctum on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Jonathan King on Round Table in 1984 reviewing “James Brown” by Cabaret Voltaire in an outraged splutter: “This will never be a hit if I have anything to do with it!”

  30. 60
    wichita lineman on 7 Apr 2010 #

    Re 57: “number one practically via the back door”. I feel like a killjoy, but AR Kane only reached number one on paper (ie Music Week) didn’t they? In the same way The Fatima Mansions and Jesus Lizard would later score unlikely hits.

    It feels vaguely appropriate to don my vinyl nerd hat and list the genuine (as in both sides have received significant airplay) double A sides that have been missed on Popular:

    1959: Elvis Presley – I Need Your Love Tonight/ (A Fool Such As I)
    1961: Everly Brothers – Ebony Eyes/ (Walk Right Back)
    1961: Shirley Bassey – Climb Ev’ry Mountain/ (I Reach For The Stars)
    1961: Elvis Presley – Little Sister/ (His Latest Flame)… one of the best double siders evah!
    1962: Elvis Presley – Rock A Hula Baby/ (Can’t Help Falling In Love)
    1963: Cliff Richard – Bachelor Boy/ (The Next Time)
    1971: Rod Stewart – Reason To Believe/ (Maggie May)

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