A Certain Ratio

A Certain Ratio was an English art-funk/New Wave band from Manchester that released a slew of shortplayers on Factory Records circa 1979/80, followed by four albums on the label between 1981 and 1986.

Members: Jez Kerr (bass, vocals), Simon Topping (vocals, trumpet, percussion, 1978-83), Martin Moscrop (guitar, trumpet), Peter Terrell (guitar, electronics, 1978-82), Donald Johnson (drums, 1979-present), Martha Tilson (vocals, 1981-82), Andy Connell (keyboards, 1982-86), Tony Quigley (saxophone, 1983-present)


Formation

A Certain Ratio started in Flixton, Greater Manchester, in late 1977 when guitarist Peter Terrell and singer–trumpeter Simon Topping formed a duo. Enhanced by Terrell’s electronic equipment, they teamed with bassist–singer Jez Kerr and guitarist–trumpeter Martin Moscrop. For the first year, they jammed in a drummer-less configuration.

Their influences included American proto-punk (Velvet Underground, Pere Ubu), funk (Parliament, Funkadelic), Krautrock (Kraftwerk, Neu), and contemporary UK post-punk (Wire, The Pop Group). They took their name from a line in “The True Wheel,” a 1974 song by Brian Eno from his second solo album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). Mancunian music mogul Tony Wilson (host of Granada TV’s So It Goes program, a showcase of upcoming new wave talent) became their manager.


First Single, Peel Session

In May 1979, A Certain Ratio released their debut single “All Night Party” in a limited edition of 5,000 copies on Wilson’s Factory label.

A. “All Night Party”
B. “The Thin Boys”

“All Night Party” was the first Factory release by a single artist (FAC 5), ahead of singles by Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark and Joy Division. Factory producer Martin Hannett produced the single under the pseudonym Martin Zero. 

On October 1, In May 1979, A Certain Ratio recorded their first sessions for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. Their session (broadcast 10/17) featured “All Night Party,” “Do the Du,” “Flight,” and “Choir.” In December, ACR opened select dates on Talking Heads‘ UK tour behind their third album Fear of Music.


The Graveyard and the Ballroom

In January 1980, A Certain Ratio released The Graveyard and the Ballroom, a cassette-only collection of demos and live numbers. Side One (The Graveyard) gathers September 1979 recordings at Graveyard Studios in Prestwhich. Side Two (The Ballroom) contains numbers from an October ACR gig at Camden’s Electric Ballroom.

The Graveyard
1. “Do the Du (Casse)” (2:53)
2. “Faceless” (2:22)
3. “Crippled Child” (2:54)
4. “Choir” (3:21)
5. “Flight” (3:30)
6. “I Feel” (2:12)
7. “Strain” (2:31)

The Ballroom
8. “All Night Party” (3:38)
9. “Oceans” (4:05)
10. “The Choir” (3:22)
11. “The Fox” (3:25)
12. “Suspect” (2:24)
13. “Flight” (5:32)
14. “Genotype-Phenotype” (3:29)


“Shack Up” | “Flight”

On Factory Benelux, A Certain Ratio released “Shack Up,” an American hard funk cover backed with “And Then Again.”

A. “Shack Up” originated as a 1975 two-part single on United Artists by the US funk combo Banbarra.
B. “And Then Again”

In October 1980, ACR released their second UK single: the Graveyard track “Flight” backed with “Blown Away” and the Benelux b-side “And Then Again.” 

A1. “Flight”
B1. “Blown Away”
B2. “And Then Again”

In the US, Factory issued a four-song 12″ with a track each from Graveyard (“Do the Du”), Ballroom (“The Fox”), the Benelux single (“Shack Up”), and the new track “Son and Heir.”

A1. “Do the Du” (Casse)
A2. “The Fox”
B1. “Shack Up”
B2. “Son and Heir”

In January 1981, “Shack Up” reached No. 46 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.

A Certain Ration became a septet with singer Martha Tilson of the post-punk band Occult Chemistry, which issued a self-titled EP on the indie label Dining Out. Meanwhile, Moscrop started Swamp Children, an avant jazz-funk band on Factory.


To Each…

A Certain Ratio released their proper debut album, To Each…, in April 1981 on Factory.

1. “Felch” (3:45)
2. “My Spirit” (2:28)
3. “Forced Laugh” (5:53)
4. “Choir” (2:51)
5. “Back to the Start” (7:49)
6. “The Fox” (3:46)
7. “Loss” (3:23)
8. “Oceans” (3:30)
9. “Winter Hill” (12:45)

Studio E.A.R.S., East Orange, New Jersey
Producer – A Certain Ratio, Martin Hannett


Sextet

A Certain Ratio released their second album, Sextet, in January 1982 on Factory.

1. “Lucinda” (3:56)
2. “Crystal” (2:55)
3. “Gum” (2:59)
4. “Knife Slits Water” (7:34)
5. “Skipscada” (2:10)
6. “Day One” (6:12)
7. “Rub Down” (3:43)
8. “Rialto” (3:45)
9. “Below the Canal” (3:59)

Studio Revolution Studios (Cheadle Hulme, Stockport)
Producer A Certain Ratio

“Knife Slits Wate” /


I’d Like to See You Again

A Certain Ratio released their third album, I’d Like to See You Again, in November 1982 on Factory.

1. “Touch” (5:05)
2. “Saturn” (3:46)
3. “Hot Knights” (3:51)
4. “I’d Like to See You Again” (5:11)
5. “Show Case” (3:10)
6. “Sesamo Apriti – Corco Vada” (3:51)
7. “Axis” (6:25)
8. “Guess Who” (4:58)

Studio Revolution Studios (Cheadle Hulme, Stockport)
Producer A Certain Ratio

Simon Topping
Donald Johnson
Jeremy Kerr
Peter Terrell
Martin Moscrop

“Guess Who” /


Force

A Certain Ratio released their fourth album, Force, November 1986 on Factory.

1. “Only Together” (3:40)
2. “Bootsy” (4:38)
3. “Fever 103°” (5:13)
4. “Naked and White” (4:57)

5. “Mickey Way” (4:50)
6. “And Then She Smiles” (3:59)
7. “Take Me Down” (5:00)
8. “Anthem” (4:53)

Recorded July–August 1986
Studio Yello 2 Studios (Stockport)

Jeremy Kerr – lead vocals; bass guitar; tapes
Andy Connell – piano; vocoder; synthesizer; keyboard samples
Martin Moscrop – guitar; guitar synthesizer; trumpet
Donald Johnson – drums; backing vocals; lead vocals on “Inside”
Anthony Quigley – soprano and tenor saxophones

Additional musicians
Tom Barnish – trombone on “Bootsy” and “Mickey Way”
Corinne Drewery – additional vocals on “Bootsy”
Paul Harrison – Yamaha DX7 bass programming

“Mickey Way” /

“Bootsy” /


Good Together (1989)


Discography:

  • The Graveyard and the Ballroom (cassette, 1979)
  • Do the Du (EP, 1981)
  • To Each… (1981)
  • Sextet (1982)
  • I’d Like to See You Again (1982)
  • Force (1986)
  • Good Together (1989)

Sources:

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