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Gang Of Four 'Entertainment!' - One of the most important albums ever made?

Updated on August 22, 2016
Album cover
Album cover | Source

The Band

Gang of Four are an experimental / post-punk group, hailing from Leeds, Yorkshire, England. The founder members of the band were guitarist Andy Gill, vocalist Jon King, bass player Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham on drums. Originally together for 6 years, from 1977 until 1983, they released 4 albums in this period, including the seminal debut 'Entertainment!'. Following a couple reformations in the 90's, with accompanying record releases, the original band reunited in 2004. Still performing as of 2014, the line-up has altered a fair bit, with Allen leaving in 2006, and Burnham and King departing as of 2013, Andy Gill, the ever-present, creative driving-force behind Gang Of Four, the only original member remaining.

Although Gang Of Four are widely held as one of the outstanding and pivotal bands of the post-punk era, they are largely unknown by those outside of niche circles.

We were trying to invent a new kind of music, a new kind of language. We were using the building blocks of rock music, funk music and pop music, dismantling them to see what was there and using what we felt like using

— Andy Gill (on 'Entertainment!')
Andy Gill
Andy Gill | Source

The Album

Title - Entertainment!

Release date - 25 September 1979

Recorded - The Workhouse, Old Kent Road, London, 1979

Genre - Experimental rock / Post-punk

Runtime - 39:53

Producers - Andy Gill, Jon King and Rob Warr

Label - EMI (UK), Warner Bros. (US)

Personnel -

  • Andy Gill – Guitar, vocals
  • Hugo Burnham – Drums, vocals
  • Dave Allen – Bass guitar, vocals
  • Jon King – Vocals, melodica

Track listing-

Side one

  1. Ether – 3:52
  2. Natural's Not in It – 3:09
  3. Not Great Men – 3:08
  4. Damaged Goods – 3:29
  5. Return the Gift – 3:08
  6. Guns Before Butter – 3:49

Side two

  1. I Found That Essence Rare – 3:09
  2. Glass – 2:32
  3. Contract – 2:42
  4. At Home He's a Tourist – 3:33
  5. 5.45 – 3:48
  6. Anthrax – 4:23

The cover of Entertainment! was designed by band members, King and Gill. Depicting an Indian being set up for exploitation by a cowboy, this striking piece of art was influenced by the 'Winnetou' novels of Karl May. A strong, and not at all cryptic message unfolds along the right edge of the album cover, it's strong anti-authority theme clear to see.

Right from the first driving bars of "Ether" the bands’ tightness and sharp production is evident. The first lyrics to hit you "Trapped in heaven life style" set the heavy, angst ridden tone of this politically angled long-player. This is music the like of which had never been heard before, or since. Heavy with dissonance and downright filthy chops, the polished production is absolutely necessary to balance out the sound, and they got it spot on.

The music continues its jangling and energetically compelling way through 12 furious tracks, encompassing themes such as; political greed, love, the shallowness of pop music, socio-politics and consumerism. This all sounds very heavy... and it is. The music adds to this weight. This is not an album for the faint of heart.

The mix of funk, punk and rock make it almost impossible not to move to. With sudden jarring pauses and a heady array of styles and rhythms throughout, the first listen can be mind blowing. You can certainly be forgiven for 'not quite getting it' at first. Certainly for me, it was the second listen that exploded my love for this music, it's powerfully striking originality etching deep into my mind.

Remember, this was 1979, the punk movement had given the power to the people, opening them to a world of possibilities. Everything does not have to be black and white! All is not as it seems! Change is possible! Make of life what you will! Fight the system! Gang of Four burst onto the scene with an intelligent brand of music, expanding on these sentiments, smashing them forwards towards the 80's.

Click on the link below, take from it what you will, and feel free to comment at the bottom of the page...

Listen to Entertainment! on Youtube

Reception and legacy

Entertainment! was well received in music circles, upon its release. For the alternative album that it is, it did fairly well on the UK album charts, peaking at #45. A single, released in the UK, "At Home He's a Tourist/It's Her Factory", topped out at #58. Meanwhile, "Damaged Goods/I Found That Essence Rare" made it to an impressive #39 on the US Billboard charts.

As of 2009, Entertainment! had sold in excess of 100,000 copies in the UK.

BestEverAlbums.com rates Entertainment! as the 257th best album ever made, and the 4th best album of 1979, slotting in behind The Clash, Pink Floyd and Joy Division, but ahead of Talking heads, AC/DC and Michael Jacksons' 'Off The Wall'.

Rolling Stone hails the album as the 63rd best of the 80's, putting it just 2 places behind Captain Beefhearts' magical 'Doc at the Radar Station'.

Source

Impact

Gang of Four, particularly through the seminal Entertainment!, have influenced many bands, across many genres. Leading the way in post-punk music, echoes of the band can be heard throughout the genre, and into other genres, such as new-wave. Outfits like The Smiths exhibit many influences of Gang of Four, with their jangling dissonance.

Michael Stipe of REM, hails Gang of Four as a primary influence on their formation and music, while Kurt Cobain is said to have stated that "Nirvana started out as a Gang of Four Rip-off band. Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is full of praise for the band, especially Entertainment!, going so far as to say that the production and playing on the album made him re-think his whole concept of musical possibility. Fugazi, another band formed in the 80's, cite heavy influences from Gang of Four, this being abundantly evident throughout their own slightly more hectic brand of furious alternative-rock.

On into the 90's Rage Against The Machine, another band to blend funk, punk and rock music, continued in the lineage of creating beat driven, politically angry sounds, with jangling riffs and dissonance unbounded. Further forward into more recent years, the post-punk revival, from bands like Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes and The White Stripes, owe more than a passing nod to the brilliance of Gang of Four.

Gang of Fours' music has influenced many, and it can be said that the shape of music would have been very different without them. But, don't trust me, get stuck in and see what you think of this largely unknown British post-punk phenomenon.

Gang of Four on the Old Grey Whistle Test

Other Artists You May Find Interesting...

The Pop Group- An English band, formed in 1977. Post-punk pioneers. Similar to Gang of Four, but heavy on the psychedelia.

Talking Heads- Formed in New York in 1975, Talking Heads are one of the most influential bands ever. Moody, often darkly so, highly talented, and dynamic.

Mike Patton- Shot to fame as the frontman of Faith No More. Mike Patton never seems to have less than half a dozen projects on the go at any one time. From the native American rock of Tomahawk, to the craziness of Mr. Bungle. Possibly the most talented rock musician currently alive and producing.

Devo- If you've never heard of Devo, go rectify it. Punk... post-punk... Industrial... whatever you want to call them, they are totally original, zany, and full of beans. If you want something different, look no further than Devo.

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