It’s a little difficult from the distance of 2010 to appreciate just how revolutionary ‘Ghost Rider’ and the album it came from were in 1977. Up to that point very little music with a driving beat or a dance rhythm in which everything had been created by keyboards and drum-machines had ever been released.
Kraftwerk of course, but they were by then German cool and never as manic as Suicide. Donna Summer’s revolutionary and revelatory ‘I Feel Love’, but that was never threatening.
And then there was Suicide - apparently out of nowhere with a complete album of the stuff, an album cover that featured nothing but the word ‘suicide’ written in what appeared to be blood and an album reverse that told us nothing more than that Suicide were a duo comprising Alan Vega who ‘sang’ and Martin Rev who played ’instrument’. What instrument was never made clear.
So revolutionary was Suicide’s music that it is absolutely impossible to imagine how music in the ’80′s, ’90′s or ’00′s could have developed the way it did without their catalytic kick-start. So threatening was it – even to supposedly open-eared Punk and Post-Punk audiences – that they rarely managed to complete a live show in the 1970′s without being bottled off or sparking a riot.
But even a revolution as radical and apparently out of nowhere as Suicide’s nearly always has a starting point somewhere in the past. A starting point that’s often not that obvious at the time and is usually from a generation or two before the one immediately preceding the revolution.
It certainly wasn’t that obvious in 1977 where Suicide’s inspiration was derived from. Their sound was so original, so different to anything that had ever gone before, it seemed inconceivable that there could be a real historical inspiration or blueprint. But in hindsight, there was and it was located somewhere in the late Rock’n'Roll period described in Monday’s ABON post.
Because, although ‘Ghost Rider’ is a thing of marvel, sounding as stunningly original and fresh now as it did when it first appeared, it’s also – in a different world maybe – Benny Cliff’s Rockabilly guitar lick from ‘Shake Um Up Rock’ (ABON 0060) played through a warped electronic keyboard with a new set of beautifully concise and poetic lyrics, a distorted synthesised drumbeat and a very heavy dose of menace added for good measure.
Seems paradoxical but maybe, more often than we care to believe, it’s through such unlikely lateral leaps of imagination and re-invention that the future of music is created.
Available on the Earth-shattering and absolutely essential album ‘Suicide’; Amazon