Along with Elemental 7 by CTI, this was another Doublevision video release that I never got to see in its original videocassette form. Seven Songs is the first and arguably the best of the 23 Skidoo albums, released in 1982 on Fetish Records in a great sleeve by Neville Brody. Production was by “Tony, Terry & David” aka Ken Thomas, Genesis P-Orridge & Peter Christopherson. The latter two were still in Throbbing Gristle at the time so there’s a further connection with the CTI release. The video director was Richard Heslop who can be seen with his Super-8 camera on the inner sleeve of 23 Skidoo’s second album. Seven Songs is his first credited film work.
The videos are very much of their time, layered and cut-up images mixing footage from numerous sources—tribal rituals, totalitarian politics, animation, medical or scientific films, shots of the group performing, and so on—with the whole mélange processed through a video synthesiser. While it may look outmoded now, thirty years ago this degree of intensity and fragmentation was still radically unlike anything being offered by broadcast television. Pop video directors and ad agencies weren’t slow to adopt similar techniques for far more commercial ends. Richard Heslop went on to work with Derek Jarman, and recently directed a feature of his own, Frank. Low-quality bits of Seven Songs have been on YouTube for a while but Heslop posted the whole thing to Vimeo a few months ago along with the Tranquiliser footage that rounded out the original cassette release. 23 Skidoo are still active, and are playing a gig in London next Sunday with the former singer from Can, Damo Suzuki. Details about that event here.