Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Saint Stupid

I've been meaning to post this for a few days, but I've been so busy. Today I'm finally going to put it up.
About 10 days ago one of the founders of the ridiculously awesome "culture-jammer" ensemble Negativland passed away much too young at the age of 56. His name was Ian Allen.
It'd be impossible to lend words for the uninitiated that would explain what Negativland do and have done for over three decades. The only way to give any kind of accurate impression would be to describe the genesis of the music in this concert I am posting, and exactly what brand of wool these guys were able to pull over the eyes of the world in one of the greatest musical hoaxes ever performed.
It happened like this: In 1987 the band released one of their greatest albums, entitled Escape from Noise. It contained what was to become, for reasons that will become clear, their most famous song, a hilarious little mashup containing some doomy drum & bass thumping and a crazy tape of an even crazier preacher from the 1960s they dug up. The man on the tape was describing, in a particularly apocalyptic sermon, a dystopic future in which Communism had eradicated Christianity and the rebellious holdouts were imprisoned in scary re-education camps where they were indoctrinated with an intoning voice from a loudspeaker -- "from 5 o'clock in the morning til 10 o'clock at night!" -- with a diabolical message that "Communism is good!" and that they should "GIVE UP!!!" because "Christianity Is Stupid!!!"
There was just one small problem: they didn't have enough money to fund a tour behind the album. What to do? They came up with the ludicrous idea of planting a story in the media that a then-recent case in Minnesota -- where a teenage boy had murdered his family with an axe -- had happened because the kid had been listening to that aforementioned song of theirs. 
It was totally false, but as you might imagine the "if it bleeds, it leads" mass media picked it up whole hog, with huge, hypefest stories in Rolling Stone, a million newspapers and magazines, and a full weeklong series on San Francisco TV news entitled "Music and Murder"! The band recorded every single tidbit related to their planted story and proceeded to make it all into another record! This one -- released 18 months later in 1989 -- was called, fittingly, Helter Stupid.
And what a record it was. Never have those major mass media brainwashing bastards been so skewered, with their pants pulled down 'round their ankles exposing their lack of factual endowment. Negativland finally got the money for their tour, and thank the God I never believed in they did, because if they hadn't done what they did we would not have this brilliant document of the proceedings.
This was captured by someone affiliated with the band off the mixing desk at a college gig in Massachusetts and was originally posted as two master cassette sides with no track markers. I set about remastering it, beginning by placing track markers at (what I thought were) appropriate points and tagging the files. Despite the original taper's protestations about how out of it they were to have managed to tape record any of this hilarious set, this really is a tremendous and nearly complete capture... only a small section of "The Playboy Channel" is missing due to the tape flip (I repaired this to sound fairly seamless and continuous). Besides that I beefed up the sound to a commanding perch using some Sound Forge 9 Graphic Dynamics experimentations. I think it really cuts through the air with a more emphatic slice after my slight-but-tight alterations.
Hampshire College
Amherst, MA
EN remaster

01 Christianity Is Stupid
02 Helter Stupid
03 Escape from Noise
04 Time
05 Another Perfect Cut
06 Free TV or Pay TV?
07 The Playboy Channel*
08 Why Don't They Blow Us Up?
09 I'd Like a Piece of Meat/Michael Jackson
10 The Letter U and the Numeral 2/These Guys Are from England and Who Gives a Shit?
11 Car Bomb

*tape flip cut at 0:42 repaired for continuity by EN

Total time: 1:31:29

disc break can be after track 06 or 07

Mark Hosler - tape, electronics, guitar, bass, vocals, effects, turntable, drum machine, keyboards, sampler, noise, percussion, CD player
Richard Lyons - tape, electronics, organ, guitar, vocals
David Wills - synthesizer, vocals, tape, effects, noise, radio transmitter, VCR
Chris Grigg - guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, effects, vocals, computer
Don Joyce - tapes, vocals, synthesizer, effects, sampler, radio, noise, CD player

soundboard master cassette of legend, remastered by me
It's very sad that Ian Allen passed away so young... he is not on this tape because he had a history of health issues and had to leave Negativland after their Escape from Noise opus in 1987. Nonetheless, his imprimatur and influence is all over this recording and I urge you to pull it down like an anchorman's pants, crank it up and celebrate Ian's life and legacy as a multimedia conceptualist and pivotal artistic figure in this most unique and sublime of groups, captured here at the height of their powers.--J.


  1. Just found out that Ian died yesterday -- over a year since he actually did. I was close friends with Ian in high school and after -- probably about 12 years. I lost track of him when he got more involved with computers and Negativland. He was a really remarkable person, an energy filled elf with a great sense of humor and a greater sense of wonder. Thanks for posting this tribute. It made a lot of great memories stream back. robt@lostinthestars.com

  2. I just heard The Letter U and the Numeral 2 on WFMU. Any chance of a re-up?

    1. I'm doing re-ups right now, lucky and well timed person, gimme a second

      is there any escape from noise?

  3. hey this is reupped for you, just click the link in the post :)