Intro – Snapshots – Deaf School
In 1980, the same year as the Manchester band, Magazine, released a 7
inch single called A Song From Under The Floorboards – a three verse
and chorus distillation of Dostoyevsky's novel, Notes From Underground
– an art school scandal occurred.
This scandal took place in Liverpool, and was based around a project
called the Furbelows, although it became better known in the Liverpool
Echo and other organs that reported it as the Woolly Nudes.
The Furbelows, or Woolly Nudes, were a group of artists who had come
out of Liverpool College of Art, who, dressed in grotesque woolly
costumes which featured knitted approximations of male and female
genitalia, made assorted public interventions around the city centre as
kind of living sculptures acting out assorted narratives.
The Furbelows project had been funded by what was then Merseyside Arts
Association, and, after the participants were arrested and taken to
court on obscenity charges after what were deemed to be public displays
of nudity – despite the fact that everyone involved in Furbelows was
fully clothed and all the approximations of genitalia were made of
wool, - questions were asked, both by the press and the city fathers
who oversaw Merseyside Arts Association, about whether this was really
the sort of thing that public money should be spent on.
The Furbelows, or Woolly Nudes, and Magazine's non-hit single, A Song
From Under The Floorboards, were pretty much the first things I thought
of when I walked through the Masters of the Multiverse show, this
cartoon cornucopia of heroes and heroines, screaming or otherwise, hung
upside down on big screens and small or else on unoccupied stage sets
dressed with gold leaf or
kidnapped from Big Rock Candy Mountain, bound, but not gagged.
What's on show today at Masters of the Multiverse isn't a case of what
goes around, comes around, but more of a trickle-down continuum of
subliminal influences possibly caused by chaos theory and the butterfly
A prime example of this comes in the song I played just before I
That song was called Snapshots, and was recorded in 1976 for 2nd
Honeymoon, the debut album by a band called Deaf School.
Deaf School formed at Liverpool College of Art in 1973 when guitarist
Clive Langer, who had been in a band with Julian Temple, who would go
on to become a close confidante of The Sex Pistols and, with Malcolm
McLaren, would direct The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, met vocalist
Recruiting a large ensemble of their art school contemporaries,
including lecturer John Wood on keyboards, Langer and Allen changed
their names to the more evocative Cliff Hanger and Enrico Cadillac
Junior, with other members including Bette Bright and Mr Average.
John Wood became the Reverend Max Ripple.
The nascent Deaf School rehearsed either in the nearby building that
gave them their name, or in the art school cafeteria where former art
school student John Lennon had rehearsed with his band, The Beatles,
who then featured Edinburgh-born Stuart Sutcliffe in their ranks.
The same cafeteria was where artist Mal Dean, who did illustrations for
1960s counter-cultural bible, International Times, and Michael
Moorcock's science-fiction magazine, New Worlds, as well as Moorcock's
Jerry Cornelius novels, would work on his illustration for the cover of
an album by poet and former Cream lyricist Pete Brown and his band
The album, released in 1970, was called Things May Come And Things May
Go But...The Art School Dance Goes On Forever.
This title could have been a manifesto for Deaf School, who made their
live debut at the Liverpool College of Art Christmas Party 1974, and
went on to produce a stylistic mish-mash of theatrical art-rock cabaret
on three albums worth of narrative vignettes.
Deaf School never became famous, as they were overtaken by Punk Rock,
but for several years after their demise, and in an all too fleeting
moment of taste, Deaf School's best known song, the sublime
suicide-ago-go of What A Way To End It All, used to be played at all of
Liverpool's coolest clubs as the last record of the night.
This is a tradition I'm keen to revive.
The full story of Deaf School can be found in Paul Du Noyer's book –
Deaf School – The Non-Stop Pop Art Punk Rock Party, which charts the
band's rise and fall, and how they affected bands like
Madness and Dexys Midnight Runners, who both cite Deaf School as major
That might have been the end of it, except that the guitar riff of
Snapshots, the Deaf School song I played earlier, and which was
recorded in 1976, sounds identical to a song called Bran Flakes, by a
contemporary band from Edinburgh called The Pineapple Chunks.
To the best of my knowledge, none of The Pineapple Chunks, who include
one of the artists from Masters of the Multiverse in their ranks, have
ever heard or indeed heard of Deaf School.
Maybe the guitar riff of Snapshots is a much used set of chords, which
The Pineapple Chunks carved out because they were as easy to play as
they are evocative of a certain strand of pop music.
Maybe the fact that Deaf School's keyboardist, the Reverend Max Ripple,
aka John Wood, went on to become Emeritus Head of Design at Goldsmith's
College, might have something to do with it.
One of Wood's students at Goldsmith's, after all, went on to become the
Pineapple Chunks current bass player.
I'm sure the Pineapple Chunks aren't the first band to become the
beneficiaries of the Deaf School butterfly effect.
In January 1981, I went to a Furbelows benefit gig at the Everyman
Bistro in Liverpool, beneath the Everyman Theatre on Hope Street, just
over the road from the art college.
The headliners were a band called The Moderates, which had been formed
in 1978 by a bunch of art school students led by vocalists John Brady
and Heidi Kure, who wrote quirky songs about high-heeled shoes, suntans
and falling in love with girls on buses.
The Moderates also performed a jaunty white reggae version of Buffalo
Springfield's 1966 protest song, For What It's Worth, written after a
10pm curfew on rock clubs in Los Angeles prompted riots on Sunset Strip.
The eccentric, boy-girl vocal lines of The Moderates might well have
been influenced by Deaf School.
The fact that Deaf School vocalist Steve Allen's brother, Phil Allen,
played drums for them suggests there was certainly a connection.
Three years earlier, Deaf School's Clive Langer had suggested to a
young Scottish set designer who had dropped out of Liverpool College of
Art and travelled the world before returning to Liverpool, that they
form a punk band.
After he returned to Liverpool, the young Scottish set designer worked
at the Everyman Theatre, and later on maverick theatre director Ken
Campbell's twelve-hour staging of Robert Shea and Robert Anton
Wilson's science-fiction epic of conspiracy, coincidence and
Langer went off on tour to America with Deaf School, but the set designer, whose name was
Bill Drummond, formed a band called Big in Japan, whose ranks included
future pop stars Holly Johnson and Ian Broudie, as well as original Moderates
drummer, Phil Allen.
Drummond would himself take on the pop world, first as manager of Echo
& the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes, then as performer and
avant-provocateur with the KLF.
The KLF would later morph into the Turner Prize baiting, million-quid
burning K Foundation.
Drummond, who is currently under investigation by the police for
allegedly vandalising a UKIP European election poster in Birmingham,
has just published a large and weighty catalogue to accompany his
exhibition, The 25 Paintings, which is currently running in Birmingham.
In the catalogue, Drummond writes about how 'Artists are flunkies', how
'Power wants what Art has', and how 'all big art was the art of
bullies, dictators or dominant cultures.'
Drummond then goes on to quote three lines from a song.
'Don't love my baby for her pouting lips
Don't love my baby for her curvy hips
I love my baby 'cause she does good sculptures, yeah!'
The song Drummond quotes from is (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures, and
was released in 1977 by Edinburgh group, The Rezillos.
The Rezillos were formed by students from Edinburgh College of Art in
1975 as a trashy cartoon styled band who, like Deaf School, took on
false names to accentuate their characters.
The Rezillos signed to a major record label, and had a hit with the
song, Top of the Pops, for which they duly appeared on the television
programme of the same name.
The manager of the Rezillos was another Edinburgh College of Art
graduate, Bob Last,
Like Bill Drummond, Last had worked as set designer, who also worked on
a science-fiction play, Tom McGrath’s The Android Circuit, at the
In 1978, Last and partner Hilary Morrison, another Edinburgh College of
Art graduate, released the first record on the new Fast Product imprint.
Inspired by the Buzzcocks EP, Spiral Scratch, released on the New Hormones label set up by Richard Boon, Fast Product was one of the first city-specific independent record labels to be founded on the
back of punk.
In Manchester there would be Factory, in Glasgow Postcard, and in Liverpool,
Zoo, co-founded by Drummond.
Fast Product, however, didn't just shop local, and released singles by
The Mekons, The Gang of Four and The Human League, as well as
Fast Product also licensed the first single by American band, the Dead
Here, then, were templates for what would become known as Post Punk and
Electronica, all presented as part of a package that was as much about
a visual aesthetic as aural, with assorted inserts and cover art
effectively becoming several works of art wrapped around each other.
Later, Last would found Pop Aural records, which released records by
Edinburgh acts such as Fire Engines and Boots For Dancing.
Even later, with Fire Engines off-shoot, Win, Last would attempt a form
of pop entryism to take art-rock bands into the major label mainstream.
It never happened with Win, but, with ex Rezillos guitarist Jo Callis
conscripted into the Human League, for whom Callis wrote 1981 hit
single, Don't You Want Me, it worked, as it did for Heaven 17 and
Scritti Politti, who were also under Last's charge.
All of this developed out of ideas hatched in the institution where
Masters of the Multiverse is holding court in right now.
It may or may not be coincidence that a reformed version of The
Rezillos played an Edinburgh gig at the Liquid Rooms on May 24th, which
was also the opening night of Masters of the Multiverse.
While Edinburgh Colege of Art's Wee Red Bar Bar became a crucial hub of art school musical
activity, off campus, the Edinburgh scene thrived in local pubs such as the Wig and Pen and the Tap O'Laurieston.
Later, there was the Cas Rock, which in the 1990s and early noughties
hosted a mini festival called Planet Pop, where the likes of The Fall
and the Nectarine No 9, formed by ex Fire Engine Davy Henderson, played.
The close proximity of these satellite venues to Edinburgh College of
Art was crucial to the activities that were fostered in both.
Now, however, while the University of Edinburgh, now in charge of
Edinburgh College of Art, keep an eye on the Wee Red Bar in light of
the amount of other student unions in the city, both the Tap
O'Laurieston and the Cas Rock are gone, bull-dozed away in the name of
hotels, flats and Edinburgh College of Art library.
Some might call it urban renewal.
It was perhaps with this sort of thing in mind that, in 2007, a DVD was
produced by Edinburgh College of Art and the Wee Red Bar, which
showcased performances by twenty Edinburgh bands at the Wee Red Bar,
filmed over a two day period.
The DVD, produced by Graham Dey and Jenny Hogarth, directed by Jez
Curnow, and with sleeve design by Tommy Grace, currently playing with
another ECA band, Django Django, was called The Art School Dance.
The full title of Pete Brown's album appeared on the DVD itself.
Many of the bands who appeared on The Art School Dance played at a club
that existed at the Bongo Club in Edinburgh several years ago.
The club was called Fast, or Fast Punk Club, and took its logo from the
one originally used by Fast Product Records.
Meanwhile, beyond a series of live art events instigated by former
students Hogarth and Kim Coleman several years ago, the continuum which
Masters of the Multiverse was formed out of goes on.
Several weeks ago, the Sculpture Court hosted a film, video and
performance-based event called Bring Your Own Beamer.
One of the bands playing was called Naked, whose members were
previously in an act called Edinburgh School For The Deaf.
Edinburgh School For The Deaf sounded nothing like Deaf School, but,
like the Pineapple Chunks, you get the sense that something has
unconsciously left its mark, just as the Furbelows, the Woolly Nudes
did before them, and just as Masters of the Multiverse will do now.
As Pete Brown wrote - 'Things May Come And Things May Go...But The Art
School Dance Goes On Forever.
Outro – What A Way To End It All – Deaf School
Originally commissioned by Edinburgh College of Art, the above was
presented as part of Masters of the Multiverse: An Evening of Responses
on May 28th 2014, alongside contributions from Richard Baxstrom, Maria
Fusco and Dave Sherry.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBfh8682eLE – Magazine – A Song From
Under The Floorboards
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWmiN4ih_rQ – Deaf School – Taxl / What
A Way To End It All
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzfSbX02CXY – Pete Brown and Piblokto –
Things May Come And Things May Go But...The Art School Dance Goes On
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nb8wp1NJ5Pg – The Moderates – For What
It's Worth /Nightlife / Housewife For Life / Emile
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3eyvxVh_WA – Big in Japan – Cindy and
the Barbie Dolls
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCDUq0fDBSc – Big in Japan – Suicide A
Go Go / Taxi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKly-dga3Nw – The Rezillos – (My Baby
Does) Good Sculptures
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DM3f-pRidnU – The Rezillos – Top of the
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA3ItW1A-GM – The Human League – The
Dignity of Labour Parts 1-4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQBK-prKSNE – Fire Engines – Meat
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVxyqRl7Y98 – The Human League – Rock
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FD7E6hKjaYc – Fire Engines – We Don't
Need This Fascist Groove Thing
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9B-uWoYs3X4 – Heaven 17 – We Don't Need
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPudE8nDog0 – The Human League – Don't
You Want Me
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZWh8ezykkM – Win – You've Got The Power
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOdw44biZ2Y – Win – Super Popoid Groove
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-5uEtmZIpQ – ECA Revel 1985
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnry1MQCCUw – The KLF – The White Room