The recent, timely discussion of Ric Ocasek and Suicide in the wake of September's Mezzanine show set things up rather naturally for a return to Terminal Vibration. And as we begin to gear up for the final stretch of the whole extravaganza, which will be rounded out by a trio of minor entries in the ongoing serial, it makes sense to trace it all back to the original source: the bedrock of kosmische/funk/disco/reggae fed through the atmosphere of punk and hip hop at the close of the 1970s.
It quickly becomes apparent that this was the crucial interface at which the rulebook got reworked, with all these sounds filtering in from wildly disparate points of origin down to the street level. A phenomenon like punk funk seems to lie at the center of it all, epitomizing of the whole lumpen principle. Before that, you're talking roots/hard rock/prog/canyon and afterwards its all been launched through dance music, hip hop, house, techno and beyond. Sure, the picture's a whole lot more complicated than that: once can't underestimate the importance of all the music from the preceding years, grasping toward the future, and obviously there's been plenty of great music wrung from earlier forms long after the fact.
The point is that it's pretty hard to argue with the fact that at some point in time, the balance shifted fundamentally: something cracked, the sea change had occurred and all the resultant fractals began to spiral off and work out their own internal logic. Naturally, this is the very interface that I've become fascinated with. By now, the Terminal Vibration saga has drawn in the story of the music that drew up the blueprints for the revolution just around the bend, grasping wildly at a future before it was ready to arrive. To me, it's as fascinating a story as any other in the annals of pop music.
But what about the music that came even earlier, music that crafted the tools with which to draw up the blueprints in the first place? The Vibration before the Vibration, if you will. That's a story unto itself right there: the prequel to the prequel, the relic from the relics. The original plan was to dig back into all this music once the Terminal Vibration thing had run its course, but what can I say, the mood's caught me. For the moment, it's enough just to focus on the soundclash between punk and funk... that'll do the trick.
So over the next few weeks, I'd like to take a look at a few of the figures who were doing their thing before there was even a concrete context for this sort of thing. If the standard path for funk going to the disco arrived with PIL's Metal Box and The Pop Group's She Is Beyond Good And Evil, then this was the music working out those equations just before the fact. Often under the radar (but not always), and yet if you read between the lines, it's unmistakable. This isn't Radio Clash, but instead it's the stuff that cleared the way for the transmission...