China My China (1974)

This pre-MTV music video shows Brian Eno performing the track China My China from his second solo album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) in front of a Nam-Jun-Paik-like television wall. Judy Nylon and Polly Eltes provide backing on guitars. Check out the use of a typewriter for percussion from about 1:40. This is post-punk from the period before punk. Performance artist/musician Judy Nylon looks really new wave, but this is 1974, not 1980. This is closer to video art than music video. Surely Eno’s concerns here are artistic, not aimed at gratification of a pop audience. As with other innovative Eno works there seems to be a focus on process over product. Something to reflect on as we begin a new year.

Here’s another track from the same album. Third Uncle is considered notable as an example of proto-punk, but again this is really closer to post-punk. There’s a strong resemblance to Joy Division here, however this was recorded a couple of years before Joy Division was formed.

Walls of Kyoto – Cabaret Voltaire live in Tokyo, 1982

This is what really good electro sounded like live in 1982. In those days this was known as industrial music. Cabaret Voltaire was one of the first groups to play like this along with Throbbing Gristle. Lo Fi video art was de rigueur for industrial bands even in the days before MTV.

Check out the video for the early CV track ‘Obsession’. This may be more accessible than the above live track.

I’ll bet Grimes has given Cabaret Voltaire a good listen. Certainly there’s a direct link via Skinny Puppy.

Finally, here’s the video for one of my fave CV tracks, ‘Nag Nag Nag’.

I first heard Cabaret Voltaire on an alternative radio show in the late 70s and a while later saw some of their videos on late-night cable tv. It seemed pretty fresh then because there was not much else around combining techno (at that time disco) beats with noise. In retrospect this was experimental pop music, though at the time it seemed too deviant to be pop. At some point, the subversive deviance of the late 70s/early 80s industrial subculture was recuperated.