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Andy Gill 1956-2020

Take an ounce of Wilko Johnson, a teaspoon of Sonny Sharrock, an echo of Robert Fripp’s solo on “A Sailor’s Tale”, marinate those ingredients in a powerful sense of political disenchantment, and you had Andy Gill, whose splintered electric guitar chords were the defining sound of Gang of Four, one of the most creative — and ultimately influential — bands of the late ’70s. Gill died on February 1 at the age of 64, and it was interesting to read so many tributes by people whose lives had been touched by his music. Among the most eloquent of those commentators, not surprisingly, were Jon Pareles in the New York Times and Simon Reynolds, who wrote about him for Pitchfork: “Remembering Gang of Four’s Andy Gill, Who Ripped Punk to Shreds”. I saw the band at the Electric Ballroom in 1979, and they left a powerful impression. To tell the truth, though, it had been a long time since I played one of their records. But listening again to “At Home He’s a Tourist” brought an immediate reminder of how fresh and smart they sounded back then, at a time when they, the Pop Group, Talking Heads and Television made it seem as though there might be a future for rock music.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Armalite Rifle, the Peel Session version makes my nape hairs stand on end every time. I loved what Andy Gill had to say about Wilko J and the Feelgoods in the Oil City Confidential documentary.

    February 5, 2020
    • Tim Adkin #

      Agree that ‘Armalite Rifle’ is great but are you sure it’s on a ‘Peel Session’? It’s not on my Strange Fruit disc and I doubt the BBC would have played it back then in any event. Personally I don’t actually think they ever topped that initial ‘Damaged Goods’ 3 track 45 a record I remember buying on the same day as The Mekons’ similarly epochal ‘Where Were You?’

      February 5, 2020
      • Cripes, Tim you are right! No wonder I couldn’t track it down. I think the confusion stemmed from me hearing Andy Kershaw play the e.p. and a G.O.F. Peel Session in close proximity ahead of their session for his own show at the time of the Entertainment 25th anniversary tour of the mid-noughties. This was the first time my ears really pricked up with that band. Funnily enough I discovered The Mekons a few years later via Terry Edwards’ Resonance FM programme, ‘It’s Showtime’. Where Were You really stood out the first time I saw the band play live, performed as an encore and sung by their tour manager, Mitch Flacko. Bowie chooses it during his ‘’79 Special’ DJ spot on Radio 1. Thanks for clearing that up re Armalite :^>

        February 9, 2020
  2. Paul Tickell #

    Like you, Richard, I have good memories of that ’79 Gang of Four gig at the Electric in Camden – the second time within a few months I’d seen them. They also gave a very good account of themselves at their 2005 reunion gig at the Barbican… Over the years I have been very fond of playing ‘Damaged Goods’ and ‘To Hell With Poverty’ in particular… Andy Gill got a great guitar sound. I was intrigued to read in the Simon Reynolds link that the way he used gaps – silence – owed a lot to Paul Kossoff of Free.

    February 5, 2020

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