Gang of Four

Gang of Four are an English post-punk band from Leeds that debuted with the 1978 single “Damaged Goods” on small-press Fast Product, followed by Entertainment! on EMI/Warner Bros. Their style — a mix of funky rhythms, dischorded riffs, taut vocals, and provocative lyrics — streamlined over their 1981/82 albums Solid Gold and Songs of the Free. League of Gentleman bassist Sara Lee joined for their 1983 release Entertainment and its single “Independence.”

Members: Andy Gill (guitar, vocals, drums), Jon King (vocals, melodica, percussion), Dave Allen (bass, vocals, 1977-81), Hugo Burnham (drums, 1977-83), Sara Lee (bass, 1982-83), Steve Goulding (drums, 1983-84)


Background

Gang of Four started in July 1977 at Leeds University when singer Jon King (b. 1955) and guitarist Andy Gill (1956–2020) teamed with drummer Hugo Burnham (b. 1956). King and Gill had been chums since their time at Sevenoaks School, where they were part of the “Art Room” along with future Mekons Tom Greenhalgh and Mark White.

From the outset, King played melodica and percussive sundries. He took to writing lyrics about manufactured consent. After a couple gigs with one Dave Wolfson on bass, they filled that role with Kendal, Cumbria musician Dave Allen (b. 1955). They named themselves Gang of Four after the faction within the Chinese Communist Party that attempted an intraparty coup during the Cultural Revolution.

Gang of Four made their vinyl debut in October 1978 with “Damaged Goods” (b/w “Love Like Anthrax” / “Armalite Rifle”), issued on Scottish small-press Fast Product (FAST 5), which also issued debut singles that year by The Human League, The Mekons, and 2.3. The three songs were recorded the prior June at Cargo Studios, Rochdale, and engineered by John Brierley (Tractor, Here and Now, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark).

A. “Damaged Goods” (3:35)
B1. “Love Like Anthrax” (3:17)
B2. “Armalite Rifle” (3:05)

In January 1979, Gang of Four cut their first session for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, performing four originals: “I Found That Essence Rare,” “At Home He’s a Tourist,” “5.45,” and “Return the Gift.” The exposure from these broadcasts elevated Gang of Four to national prominence and netted them a deal with EMI, which issued their second single “At Home He’s a Tourist,” in June with the exclusive b-side “It’s Her Factory.”

B. “It’s Her Factory” (3:08)

In July, they cut a second Peel session, performing “Natural’s Not In It,” “Not Great Men,” “Ether,” and “Guns Before Butter.”


Entertainment!

Gang of Four released their debut album, Entertainment!, on September 25, 1979, on EMI International.

1. “Ether” (3:52) Jon
2. “Natural’s Not in It” (3:09) Andy
3. “Not Great Men” (3:08) Jon
4. “Damaged Goods” (3:29) Jon and Andy
5. “Return the Gift” (3:08) Jon and Andy
6. “Guns Before Butter” (3:49) Jon and Andy

7. “I Found That Essence Rare” (3:09) Jon
8. “Glass” (2:32) Jon
9. “Contract” (2:42) Jon
10. “At Home He’s a Tourist” (3:33) Jon and Andy
11. “5.45” (3:48) Andy
12. “Love Like Anthrax” (4:23) Jon and Andy

Recorded 1979
Studio The Workhouse, Old Kent Road, London

Jon King – lead vocals (1, 3, 7–9), co-lead vocals (1, 4–6, 10, 12), backing vocals (2, 11), melodica (1, 11), art design
Andy Gill – guitar, lead vocals (2, 11), co-lead vocals (1, 4–6, 10, 12), backing vocals (3, 7–9), art design
Dave Allen – bass guitar, backing vocals (3, 5, 7, 12)
Hugo Burnham – drums

Technical personnel
Edwin Cross – tape operators
Davy Phee – tape operators
Rik Walton – engineer

New Zealand Albums (RMNZ) 35
UK Albums (OCC) 45

In May 1980, Entertainment! appeared in the US on Warner Bros.


Solid Gold 

Gang of Four released their second album, Solid Gold, in March 1981 on EMI and Warner Bros.

1. “Paralysed” Andy Gill, King (3:22)
2. “What We All Want” (4:59)
3. “Why Theory?” Lyrics: Gill, King (2:33)
4. “If I Could Keep It for Myself” (4:09)
5. “Outside the Trains Don’t Run on Time” (3:19)

6. “Cheeseburger” Lyrics: Gill, King (4:05)
7. “The Republic” Music: Gill (3:21)
8. “In the Ditch” (4:22)
9. “A Hole in the Wallet” Music: Gill (4:05)
10. “He’d Send in the Army” Lyrics: Gill, King (4:28)

Recorded January 1981
Studio Abbey Road (London)
Producer Dave Allen Hugo Burnham Jimmy Douglass Andy Gill Jon King
Jimmy Douglass – engineer
Andy Gill, Jon King – design

February 27, 1981
A. “What We All Want”
B. “History’s Bunk” (3:02)

June 12, 1981
A. “To Hell With Poverty” (4:58)
B. “Capital (It Fails Us Now)” (4:03)


Songs of the Free

Gang of Four released their third album, Songs of the Free, in May 1982 on EMI.

1. “Call Me Up” (3:35)
2. “I Love a Man in a Uniform” (4:06)
3. “Muscle for Brains” (3:17)
4. “It Is Not Enough” (3:27)
5. “Life! It’s a Shame” (5:06)

6. “I Will Be a Good Boy” (3:52)
7. “The History of the World” (4:40)
8. “We Live as We Dream, Alone” (3:37)
9. “Of the Instant” (4:58)

Recorded March 1982
Studio Ridge Farm Studios, Dorking, Surrey
Producer Andy Gill, Mike Howlett, Jon King

Hugo Burnham – drums, percussion
Andrew Gill – guitar, vocals
Jon King – vocals, melodica
Sara Lee – bass, backing vocals

Stevie Lange – backing vocals
Joy Yates – backing vocals

Technical
Simon Smart, Walter Samuel – engineer
Shot That Tiger! – art direction, design
Colin Barker – photography

April 30, 1982
A. “I Love a Man In Uniform”
B. “The World at Fault” (3:35)


Hard

Gang of Four released their fourth album, Hard, in September 1983 on EMI.

1. “Is It Love” (Gill) (4:35)
2. “I Fled” (3:54)
3. “Silver Lining” (4:13)
4. “Woman Town” (Gill) (5:12)

5. “A Man with a Good Car” (3:45)
6. “It Don’t Matter” (3:54)
7. “Arabic” (3:39)
8. “A Piece of My Heart” (3:14)
9. “Independence” (4:05)

Studio Criteria (Miami)
Producer Howard Albert, Ron Albert, Jon King, Andrew Gill

Jon King – vocals, melodica
Andrew Gill – guitar, vocals, additional drums
Sara Lee – bass

Jon Astrop – bass on “Is It Love”, “I Fled”, “It Don’t Matter” and “A Piece of My Heart”
Alfa Anderson, Brenda White King, Chuck Kirkpatrick, John Sambataro – backing vocals
Mike Lewis – conductor of strings and horns

Technical
John Rollo – recording
Scott Heiser – photography


Discography:

  • “Damaged Goods” / “Love Like Anthrax” / “Armalite Rifle” (1978)
  • Entertainment! (1979)
  • Solid Gold (1981)
  • Songs of the Free (1982)
  • Hard (1983)

Sources:

1 thought on “Gang of Four

  1. Quote from Baribrotzer on the passing of Andy Gill:

    “Andy didn’t play much, but what he played was perfect. Gang of Four were one of the big names in minimalist art rock; few bands could make more out of one chord. What they did was just as much an accomplishment as the far fancier music we usually listen to. It takes real skill to make music with that little in it and not have it come across as boring or stupid, and GoF never did.” (2/1/2020, progressiveears.org)

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