Sunday, 26 March 2017

Throbbing Gristle - Brighton Polytechnic, March 26th 1977

Throbbing Gristle's show at the Brighton Polytechnic (the first of two visits by the group, a second followed in 1978), was staged at the campus' Sallis Benney Theatre, a dingy cavernous space that served as a locus for all sorts of idiosyncratic art happenings. Invited by the students from the art and design faculty, the group might have expected a more receptive audience than the sneering punks at the previous show at the Nag's Head in High Wycombe, but TG managed 50min of their 1-hour set before a hail of jeers and bottles flung by drunk, abusive punters brought things to a close. As TG concerts go, the Brighton '77 show is one of the group's finest, and despite the antagonism on the night, the group were pleased enough to include a few excerpts from the show on Second Annual Report. The Brighton show opens with a particularly strong Zyklon B Zombie, and it's curious that TG all but retired the song after the concert, dropped from the set-list, with the studio version only making a belated appearance a year later as the flipside of the United single. Ominous bass rumblings, eerie drones and garbled walkie-talkie sounds usher in the urban paranoia of Last Exit, (the title, one presumes, a nod to the Hubert Selby Jr. novel), which builds to a chugging mechanical crunch accompanied by a surreal Genesis P-Orridge vocal about being smashed in the face with a brick and suffering disturbing visions of the British Queen being sodomized by her husband. The lengthy instrumental passage that follows is one of the great TG jams, an astonishing free form torrent of noise and mangled voice sample cut-ups, including the dispassionate confession of a teenage murderer, surely one of Sleazy's most effective dialogue lifts. Genesis returns to the mike for Mary Jane / Record Contract with an improvised vocal that is silly, witty, embarrassing, and ultimately fascinating, the long rambling monologue that eventually mutates into a rant against rock star posturing and record company prostitution, the Sex Pistols in particular the focus of Genesis' scorn. Despite the Pistols burning through contracts with EMI and A&M, (and pocketing the severance pay), Genesis clearly valued TG's independence over Malcolm McLaren's cash from chaos strategies.


Perhaps the biggest talking point of the Brighton '77 show (or the concert recording at least) is the coda tacked on to the end of the Industrial tape where the house DJ berates the audience for their hostility towards TG, sarcastically blasting out The Stooges' Down on the Street on the PA. The group, ever mischievous included a few seconds of the exchange to close out one side of Second Annual Report, (a companion of sorts to D.o.A.'s Death Threats) and it's worth noting that this short snippet is the only place where one can hear (albeit a few seconds only) of the Funhouse opener; the Stooges airbrushed entirely from the TG24 CD edition of the Brighton show. And while the concert never descends into the violence of the Film Makers Co-Op show, the mood sounds edgy and tense - at one point Genesis can be heard saying "make sure everything is safe" presumably referring to TG's equipment. In the years following TG's split individual members would recall weariness at the increasing adulation they were seeing at later shows, a sharp contrast to the sense of disillusionment at the Brighton performance. No breakthrough in grey room it seems...

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for these fascinating and informative TG related posts here and at Facebook. I absolutely love reading them and appreciate you writing them.

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  2. Many thanks Jeremy for stopping by, and I'm so pleased that you enjoy the TG posts. More to coum...

    For readers seeking interesting cultural connections, be sure to visit Jeremy's fabulous Moon in the Gutter journal, and while you're there, be check out Jeremy's print magazine Art Decades and his forthcoming book Sylvia Kristel in the Seventies: From Emmanuelle to Chabrol. Lots of terrific reading awaits...

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