TV Wipeout revisited

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TV Wipeout, as detailed in an earlier post, was a one-off “video magazine” compiled and released on VHS by Cabaret Voltaire in 1984. This was the fourth title on the Cab’s own Doublevision label which was easily the best of the UK’s independent video labels at the time. Many of the other Doublevision releases have either been reissued on DVD or can be found online but TV Wipeout has remained elusive, in part because it contains material that would offend YouTube’s copyright restrictions. Cabaret Voltaire’s deal with Virgin Records enabled them to pad the running time with music promos and trailers for some of the films on Virgin’s own video label.

Back in 2012 I was able to find some of the more popular items but not the obscurities, a situation that’s now resolved by this YouTube playlist which has uploaded the entire cassette as a series of separate items. Most of the previously missing pieces will only be of interest to completists—some of them are scratch-video creations that look very dated today—but if you’re like me, and have waited over 30 years to see this thing in its entirety, it means your curiosity can now be assuaged. A couple of items by Cabaret Voltaire and Japan are still missing but they’re easily found elsewhere.

Update: As noted in the comments, the Japan clip was missing due to an oversight, and is now in place. I’m still getting a message saying the Cabaret Voltaire video is “blocked in your country on copyright grounds” so that must be UK-specific.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Cabaret Voltaire on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Network 21 TV

Cabaret Voltaire on La Edad de Oro, 1983

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Cabaret Voltaire appeared on Spain’s La Edad de Oro music show a few months after Tuxedomoon in November 1983. This was three months after I saw the Cabs at the Haçienda in Manchester, a concert you can see yourself in terrible sound and picture quality on a Cherry Red DVD. (Granted, the Haçienda video recordings were never intended for public sale but that taping looks particularly poor.) So it’s good to find this Spanish broadcast capturing the band performing songs from their recently released The Crackdown album. As with many of the other British groups given a slot on La Edad de Oro, this was a much more generous showcasing than was allowed by the UK’s music shows of the period, most of which tended to favour safe pop or rock acts. One reason Cabaret Voltaire formed their own video label, Doublevision, was to provide an outlet for visual works by groups that the major TV channels were ignoring. The tenth release on the Doublevision video label happened to be Tuxedomoon’s Ghost Sonata film.

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The drummer for the Spanish broadcast, as on the Cabs’ albums, was Alan Fish, and the performance is mixed with shots of the band’s vaguely ominous film and video material. Both this show and the Tuxedomoon performance have translated lyrics running over the screen, a strange thing to see with Cabaret Voltaire who never printed their lyrics.

By coincidence a new Cabaret Voltaire compilation album has just been released, #7885 (Electropunk To Technopop 1978 – 1985), which Eugene Brennan reviews here. I’ve already got everything on it but it’s a good overview of the group’s evolution from post-punk weirdos to a formidable electronic-dance outfit. (Although the full-length 12″ tracks are the essential versions.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Tuxedomoon on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Network 21 TV

Doublevision Presents Cabaret Voltaire

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Videocassette box insert. Design by Neville Brody.

A couple of years back I tracked down some of the releases on Cabaret Voltaire’s Doublevision video label, the early titles of which have never been reissued on DVD. The first Doublevision release was the Cabs’ collection of their own music videos which Mute Records reissued on DVD 2004. That reissue seems to be deleted for the moment so it’s good to find a copy of the original tape release on YouTube. As with the other Doublevision releases I was well aware of this but didn’t have a VHS player at the time so wasn’t eager to buy anything I couldn’t watch. Unlike the other releases I did get to see several of the tracks during the Cabs’ Doublevision video night at the Haçienda in 1983, an evening that ended with the group performing for an hour.

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It’s good to be reminded of these videos, however crude they appear today. As with any early use of technology you need to bear in mind the limitations of the time. The tape was released in 1982 but the group had been experimenting with video equipment from about 1979 onwards. At that time commercial music video was just getting started but most of the examples on TV were paid for by the big record companies. Cabaret Voltaire and some of their associates in the UK Industrial scene—notably Throbbing Gristle and 23 Skidoo—were ahead of the game in acquiring equipment to make their own video recordings and promos. These videos were seldom shown on mainstream TV: I recall being thrilled to see a clip from the Nag, Nag, Nag promo on a pop programme but that was a rare one-off moment. The music industry was being forced to accommodate the awkward DIY merchants but the gates of broadcast television remained heavily policed.

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And speaking of heavy policing, you get some of that here, the Cabs’ obsessions with coercion and control being illustrated by footage of riot squads, together with religious mania, medical surgery, psychotronic films and much else, all of it processed, fragmented and distorted. Direction was by the group and by St. John Walker, with an extract from Johnny YesNo (recently reissued by Mute) directed by Peter Care. I’ve been listening to Seconds Too Late a lot this week so it’s great to see a video for that song. There’s also a slight conundrum in the tracklisting: if you’re familiar with the free four-track single that came with The Crackdown album it seems that Badge of Evil and Moscow have had their titles swapped. The Moscow video track, however, includes a shot of an Aeroflot passenger plane so it’s more likely that the tracks on one side of the single were mis-labelled when they appeared a year later, an error carried over to the CD release.

Tracklist: Diskono / Obsession / Trash (Part 1) / Badge Of Evil / Nag, Nag, Nag / Eddie’s Out / Landslide / Photophobia / Trash (Part 2) / Seconds Too Late / Extract From Johnny YesNo / Walls Of Jericho / This Is Entertainment / Moscow

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Just the ticket: Cabaret Voltaire
European Rendezvous by CTI
TV Wipeout
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Network 21 TV

TV Wipeout

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Another of the videocassette releases on Cabaret Voltaire’s Doublevision label, TV Wipeout was released in 1984 as a “video magazine”. This and Johnny YesNo were the two Doublevision releases I was most interested in, and I did get to see some of the former release when Cabaret Voltaire’s first appearance at the Haçienda in 1983 was preceded by an hour of “Doublevision Presents…”. The most memorable sights from that screening were the weird and scary Renaldo & The Loaf film and the video for Terminus by Psychic TV, a very Wild Boys-esque piece directed by Peter Christopherson. The Cabs’ Stephen Mallinder explained why the contents of the tape tended to be more commercial than other releases on the label:

Q: The next Doublevision was the TV Wipeout video which was a sort of disposable magazine compilation. It contained a fairly wide variety of contributors, from people like The Fall and Test Dept to some more mainstream groups like Bill Nelson and Japan.

Mal: The point was that Virgin Films were quite happy to work with us; they even gave us money in the form of advertising revenue for using some film clips from the Virgin catalogue. We were then able to camouflage them into the whole set-up and make them look as if they were part of the whole nature of the video compilation.

Q: One of those clips was a particularly inane interview with David Bowie. Was its inclusion merely a selling point?

Mal: Yes, it was purely that. There are a lot of people who will buy anything with David Bowie on it. So we said “Fuck it, why not use that as a selling point!” Actually the interview is appalling, it’s terrible. Our including it was almost like a piss-take. We were saying “you really will buy anything with David Bowie on it if you buy this”.

From Cabaret Voltaire: The Art of the Sixth Sense by M. Fish and D. Hallbery

Unlike some of the other Doublevision releases this one doesn’t seem to have been uploaded anywhere but since much of the content was music videos it’s possible to compile an incomplete playlist. The Paul Morrissey films (Heat and Flesh), Eating Raoul and Plan 9 from Outer Space were cult items that weren’t being screened on TV so this was an opportunity to see them outside a cinema. Some of the other selections—the Chel White, Steve Binnion and Space Movie—are still a mystery. Lost Possibilities Of Modern Dreams was footage of a painting exhibition by Phil Barnes soundtracked by the Cabs. The Claude Bessy piece is the only one from the original tape, a short film of the Haçienda’s VJ shot by Ikon Video’s Malcolm Whitehead in the basement of the club.

Bill Nelson: Flaming Desire
Bill Nelson interview
Plan 9 from Outer Space excerpt
Clock DVA: Resistance
Chel White: Industrial Park
Cabaret Voltaire: Just Fascination
Steve Binnion: Mediaevil
Renaldo & The Loaf: Songs For Swinging Larvae
David Bowie interview for Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
Andy Warhol: excerpt from Heat
The Fall: Live at The Venue (1983) with documentary footage
Space Movie excerpt
The Box: Old Style Drop Down
IKON FCL advertisement featuring various groups on the Factory label
Japan: excerpt from Oil On Canvas
Andy Warhol: excerpt from Flesh
Test Dept: Shockwork
Dieter Meier interview
Yello: excerpt from Jetzt Und Alles
Eating Raoul excerpt
Psychic TV: Terminus
Phil Barnes featuring Cabaret Voltaire: Lost Possibilities Of Modern Dreams
Marc & The Mambas: Caroline Says
Claude Bessy: Operating Instructions

Previously on { feuilleton }
Seven Songs by 23 Skidoo
Elemental 7 by CTI
The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire
Network 21 TV

Network 21 TV

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What was Network 21? It’s easiest to grab an explanation from the people responsible:

NeTWork 21 was a pirate television station which broadcast a 30mns program on Fridays from midnight throughout April to September 1986 in London. It had never been done before, and has not been done since anywhere in the UK. The broadcasts took place on channel 21 of the UHF band, slightly below ITV, using a low powered transmitter covering 8-10 miles across London. Program content was literally hand made, shot with a Sony Video 8 camera, edited on Low Band U-Matic, and broadcast on VHS. They showed slices of London’s artistic buzzing underground life as well as casual glimpses of everyday life, something which the normal television stations never showed. We would also offer slots to whoever was willing to appear on pirate TV, saying, showing or doing whatever they wanted, with no pre/post-production censorship of any kind. Because of our low tech approach, we could easily film people, situations and events with minimum disruption and maximum interaction. We were also free to choose program content and style according to our own mood, without having to worry about ratings, advertisers or good taste standards. (more)

In 1986 the UK only had four TV channels, and none of them ran through the night so theoretically there was plenty of space available for other broadcasters. In practice any unauthorised activity was always swiftly curtailed. Those of us outside London could only read about these illicit broadcasts but now it’s possible to jump back in time to the gloomy heart of Thatcherite Britain via the Network 21 YouTube channel. All the clips are fairly short and lean heavily towards the (for want of a better term) Industrial culture familiar from the early RE/Search publications, Simon Dwyer’s sorely-missed Rapid Eye, and Cabaret Voltaire’s “television magazine” TV Wipeout: William Burroughs (reading at the London Final Academy event in 1982), Brion Gysin, Psychic TV, Diamanda Galás, Derek Jarman et al. There’s also Roz Kaveney on passion, and Simon Watney with a news item related to the AIDS crisis in the US. The network website has complete listings for each broadcast.

Previously on { feuilleton }
ICA talks archived
The Final Academy