Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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February 15, 2007
wipe out the problems of our society

Wax Poetics # 21 hides its most fascinating (to me) article deep beneath several other also great pieces given more prominent billing.

What is it but everything you wanted to know about the history of A Certain Ratio's all-time classic anti-marriage anthem, "Shack Up." The history goes back to a 1975 single by Banbarra, who essentially never made it out of the studio.

The story picks up in Manchester in 1979, when ACR's singer/trumpet player finds the record in a cutout bin for 20 pence, then jumps to spring 1980 when the group does their version on four-track at a cost of 50 pounds.

Band member Martin Moscrop explains how to make a virtue of the simplicity born of technical incompetence:

When we heard 'Shack Up,' we thought that we could play that, because it was so simple and we were not really musicians yet. The guitar and bass were really straightforward, and the vocal didn't sound odd coming from a White boy. It also had a two-note brass riff, and me and Simon had just started playing trumpet in the band.
Thank heavens that P-Funk fan, drummer Donald Johnson, had recently joined the band. He actually could play and his contribution is the track's conditio sine qua non.

The tune showed up in the USA the following year on a record, Do the Du (Casse) [?] with production attributed to the great Martin Hannett. Hannett as almost always lets the simple pieces be, shrouds them with space and silence/echo, and lets them kind of hang there in the void, as Sartre claimed Giacometti's sculptures did.

As for Banbarra, on whom Wax Poetics places the deserving focus, their tale could come right out of a cable TV music channel bio-documentary:
group comes from nowhere to record tune with killer groove that falls perfectly into place, with "suggestive," socially conscious lyric years ahead of its time;

group gets ripped off by the music industry and strangled in the cradle;

group breaks up;

record goes on to become underground club hit; and

group's founding member becomes dynamic, beloved urban community activist and gets honored after his death by the state of Georgia.

As for ACR:
more on their Factory-era history is here via the ever brilliant Soul Jazz label;

most of their 1981 US "Do the Du" EP can be heard on the all-devouring MySpace; and

a video for "Shack Up" appears on YouTube here. It is adorable.