Wire




This piece celebrates Wire's 40th anniversary, which falls on the 1st of April, the date of their first gig as a four piece in 1977, at The Roxy.

It's a light-hearted, affectionate tribute which takes edits of songs from the first phase of activity ('77 - '80) as a springboard, tapping into various suggested cultural reference points, and interviews with the band, which are threaded through with humourous asides via Max Wall, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, Monty Python, Steptoe & Son etc., the music of The Beatles, Captain Beefheart, Roxy Music, Small Faces, Frank Ifield, Helen Shapiro and other conceptual/thematic tie-ins.

For example, my way of deciding on what elements of field recording to include were to scan lyrics and draw out some salient aspects. The image of water features a fair bit, a train (Other Window), fireworks (French Film Blurred), shark ('A dorsal fin breaks the water..'), but instead of an actual shark recording, I used some of the Jaws soundtrack.

There were some unintentional synchronicities, such as when Colin is talking about The 15th, and the clip about decimalisation happening on the 15th of February 1971.. which also ties in with the fact that he says 'if I had a pound..' Cut to Taxman, cut to Rob's redundacy, cut to Cream (as Rob was a Ginger Baker fan), cut to Heartbeat, as Rob is the heartbeat of the band... and so on. I used some of Ligeti's music too, suggested by the fact that Colin remarked in Kevin Eden's Wire biography about MikeThorne's breadth of producer's experience encompassing everything from 'Ligeti to X-Ray Spex'.

The decision to limit the Wire source material to the first phase was taken for a number of reasons: firstly, in time-honoured Wire tradition, to keep it simple. Secondly, it's the period where I initially discovered them, via a schoolfriend who lent me a copy of 154, and my head was turned.
The spaces opened up by this record, musically and lyrically, were places I wanted to inhabit. I felt in my element. I was smitten. Gilbert & Lewis' inscrutable and intriguing cover design, coupled with Dave Dragon's art direction created an artifact that seemed to fit the music perfectly, but not in a literal way. I loved the openness and clarity of the Futura Medium font used for the lyrics.

Thirdly, the piece marks the 40th from the point of view of origins rather than an exhaustive overview. Something more chronologically comprehensive would've taken me considerably longer. Anyway, more than enough of a rich seam to mine in the first phase !

The piece functions more like a radio play or film for the ears, with a cast of characters that enter and leave at various points. The song edits are deliberately brief, which ties in with Wire's charcteristically stripped approach. They enter the scene, then exit stage left. There are jump cuts, cross-fades, subtle layerings, superimpositions, cross-hatches, buried fragments, partial echoes, glimpses, traces, imprints - parts of which will not be immediatley obvious on first listen. It's woven densely as a rich plunderphonic tapestry. A filmic trawl through various points and connections, a sonic constellation.

The title functions on a number of levels for me: on a basic level, it refers to the idea of a radio play being literally scenes you don't see, but hear. The strip-mining and re-combining of older Wire material to make 'new' tunes – ore from yore - could be taken as scenes unseen (harvesting the Harvest years). On a general level, the orchestration of all sources creates unique scenes.

There are also the theatrical echoes within the cover of Chairs Missing, with curtains framing the flower adorned table, lyrical echoes, 'never lacked a sense of theatre..', 'please don't turn a deaf ear..' 'symphonic in persuasion' and the 'unseen ruler'. Wire also famously flirted with absurdist theatrical elements at the end of the first phase, as captured on the Document & Eyewitness live album.

No comments: