I don’t know a huge amount about Fad Gadget, to my shame, and in spite of having seen them live once, but Back to Nature is definitely brilliant:
Closing this mini-series out is a quick look at Daniel Miller‘s Mute Records, which, since its launch in 1978, has become one of the most cult, collectible labels. Initially devised as an engine to release Miller’s own electronic act The Normal, it has grown to house a huge roster of artists from a broad range of genres.
Key artists include Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Moby, Goldfrapp, and more recently, New Order, but it has also housed some hugely influential underground artists, including Fad Gadget, Nitzer Ebb, and Laibach. The list could be endless. Many of those artists were lost when Mute was sold to EMI in 2002, and didn’t follow back when it regained its independence at the end of the decade, but the list of artists is still very strong.
Perhaps most notable in recent times is the now-legendary box set MUTE433, a compilation of different artists performing John Cage‘s 4’33”. Which is clearly brilliant, even if I don’t really want a copy (thanks all the same). By the time you read this, it might already be in the shops.
You can find out more about Mute by going to
Our first stowaway hero is Daniel Miller, boss of Mute Records, and one of the most influential and seemingly hands-off individuals in the world of electronic music. In his late twenties, he was working as a film editor, and scraped together enough money to buy a synthesiser. His resulting 1978 solo double a-side single T.V.O.D. / Warm Leatherette, released as The Normal, is fundamentally brilliant:
It’s not clear to me whether Miller actually intended for Mute to become a fully fledged record label or whether it was all supposed to just be a one-off, but always way ahead of the curve, he also came up with his own virtual group Silicon Teens, who released a couple of great singles including Memphis Tennessee:
But of course, Mute is most famous for the astonishing roster of artists who were signed over the decades that followed, including mainstream acts such as Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Moby, Nick Cave, New Order, underground and cult successes including Fad Gadget and I Start Counting, and even (briefly) Kraftwerk. And he didn’t completely keep his hands off their output either – here’s his take on Erasure‘s Supernature:
He also presented a radio show on Berlin’s Radio Eins and remains well respected throughout the music industry, despite the slightly questionable sale of Mute to EMI for £23 million in 2002 (which was fortunately rectified by a split in 2009). It’s rare for someone so influential to turn up in so many places but be so unknown. So he’s a worthy first hero for this blog – hats off to Daniel Miller.
Edited, 25 Feb 2018 – removed Silicon Teens video that is no longer available.
Browsing through someone else’s record collection is always very rewarding. You learn so much about the owner!
Although I’m sure none of us really needed to learn much about John Peel‘s beautifully eclectic tastes. If there’s anyone who didn’t worship him as a living God when he was around, then I’d be fascinated to know why. And if there’s a music fan out there who doesn’t know where they were then they found out he’d sadly died, then I’d be very surprised.
If you are the one person on the planet who wasn’t aware, then he was probably the finest DJ in British radio history. After some time in the world of piracy in the mid 1960s, he joined fledgeling BBC pop station Radio 1 when it started in 1967 and stayed there right up until his death in 2004. He was responsible for starting the careers of so many big name bands that it’s not even worth considering listing them, and his Peel Sessions remain a household name worldwide.
And this year, 45 years after he joined Radio 1, his estate have been working on a wonderful project to digitise his record collection, and they finally reach the end of the alphabet this week. Starting initially with the first hundred records from each letter, the archive of a few thousand records is quite compelling. Check it out here.
I’m sure I’ve missed plenty, but here are a few of the things which have caught my eye in his collection on my quick browse. Obviously I’m a lot less open minded than he is, but then neither was I going to list all 2,600 entries here! I’ve copied their links where appropriate, but I’d strongly recommend that you go and browse them for yourself!
- ABC – The Lexicon of Love, Beauty Stab and How to Be a Zillionaire
- Cabaret Voltaire – loads of albums
- John Cage – Nova Musicha N.1
- Calexico – The Black Light and Feast of Wire
- Terence Trent d’Arby – Introducing The Hardline According To…
- The Eagles – loads of albums
- Fad Gadget – Incontinent and Gag
- Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel and Ein Deutsches Album
- Diamanda Galás – The Litanies of Satan and The Divine Punishment
- I Start Counting – My Translucent Hands and Fused
- The KLF – What Time is Love, Space, Chill Out, and The White Room
- Mory Kante – A Paris
- Labradford – Prazision LP and A Stable Reference
- Ladytron – 604 and Light and Magic
- Laibach – Nova Akropola, Neu Konservatiw, Opus Dei, Let it Be and Macbeth
- Mad Professor – pretty much his entire back catalogue
- Madness – One Step Beyond, Absolutely, 7, Mad Not Mad and Utter Madness
- Madonna – Madonna
- Youssou N’Dour – Nelson Mandela, Djamil and Immigrés
- Mike Oldfield – loads of stuff
- Saint Etienne – Fox Base Alpha
- T.Raumschmiere – Radio Blackout, Anti: End and Stromschleifen
- Tangerine Dream – about fifty albums
- U2 – all their early stuff
- UB40 – a pile of albums too
- Ultravox – another huge pile of stuff
- Paul van Dyk – 45rpm and Seven Ways
- Vangelis – Heaven & Hell and Albedo 0.39
- Sven Väth – The Harlequin, The Robot and The Ballet-Dancer
- Yazoo – Upstairs at Eric’s and You and Me Both
- Yello – Solid Pleasure, Claro Que Si, You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess, Stella, One Second and Live at the Roxy N.Y. Dec. 83
- Yellow Magic Orchestra – Yellow Magic, XOO Multiplies and BGM
- Zombie Nation – Absorber
In particular, the brilliantly bizarre industrial Slovenes Laibach get a full interview in the L is for Laibach feature here, which is well worth watching.