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Wreckers of Civilisation: The Story of Coum Transmissions & Throbbing Gristle Paperback – June 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Beware of post-postmodern types name-dropping COUM and Throbbing GristleTM as the proud parents of industrial music and industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails; that's the half-assed version to expect from people who think they invented black. Here, Ford shows the patience and respect of an extragenerational fan while detailing the frenetic evolution of COUM from a hippie freak-out band to a performance art troupe to TG, an anti-rock, anti-high art missionary. Although TG's attacks on social, political, sexual, musical, and artistic mores were brave, they often bordered on the hypocriticalAe.g., TG desired intimacy with its audience but used halogen lights and P.A. barricades to alienate people at live shows. Using his interviews with Chris Carter, Peter Christopherson, Genesis P-Orridge, and Cosey Fanni Tutti, Ford convincingly defends TG on every frontAincluding its use of fascist album imageryAand proves that COUM and TG elevated civilization more than they wrecked it. A dense but enlightening work; for larger public libraries.AHeather McCormack, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Black Dog Publishing (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1901033600
  • ISBN-13: 978-1901033601
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,460,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By JRBruun on November 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
It took me all of 1999 to get hold of this book, and finally sold me a slightly damaged copy for $32. People are waiting for a second printing and/or a US edition. The cover looks cheap, white with a cut-out and rearranged photo of TG members from the «20 Jazz Funk Greats» album cover. But that's about the only negative thing I could say about the book. This will stand as the definitive work on the subject for a LONG time. It's incredibly thorough, and with many picures and illustrations never or rarely seen before, including many photos of the pre-TG hippie version of Genesis P-Orridge. It tells the full story from GPO's birth in 1950 up to the split of TG in 1981.
While TG has been the subject of quite a lot of writing before, in two of the RE/Search books and many music mags, the performance art COUM period has had very little attention and critique. This is fully rectified here. When TG put out their first LP, you're more than halfway thru the book. Ford's unfolding chronological work is strong on both personal biographical detail and assessment of COUM/TG's place in art history.
I see TG/GPO as much stronger conceptualists than actual artists, much like their mentor William Burroughs. But as such, they have wielded an extremely strong influence on others, and sown the seeds of whole new genres of art and music. The unorthodox use of synths, «industrial» noise and cut-ups are now commonplace, while in the 70's it could cause riots when presented to an audience most used to the popular music of the time.
The COUM group's extreme use of bodily fluids and food in performance could be viewed as a continuation of the ground-breaking work of people like Hermann Nitsch and Otto Mühl.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Foxtrot Echo on July 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Having been a member of COUM TRANSMISSIONS from 1971 to 1976 I must say that Simon Ford has done a commendable job in his overview of the work of COUM and TG.I have corresponded with the author and he recognises that there still remains more to be told.There certainly is much about performances and first hand experiences that needs to be added.Hopefully in a subsequent edition ,or in a new contribution by another author, this will be addressed. Another reviewer asked the question "what became of Foxtrot Echo and Fizzy Paet?".We are alive and well and living lateraly,as allways, in England.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
Simon Ford interviewed Genesis P-Orridge, Chiris and Cosey and Sleazy at length over 3 years. For the very first time ever the actual origin of the musical genre that has since spawned Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, KMFDM and a host of other Industrial bands is explained. It is hard for us in 1999 to realise that until Genesis P-Orridge and Monte Cazazza invented the words Industrial Music to describe their radical new ideas on how popular music could sound, there was NO such thing as Industrial music. Simon Ford puts all this in perspective. From Genesis' birth in Manchester, to his explorations in late 60's Swinging London, to government sponsored art shows in Milan with Gilbert and George through the formation of TG and on until their demise in 1981. It is a great read. Almost like a detective novel, or acheological mystery. It is hard to imagine a world of music without having had Throbbing Gristle fanatically propose Industrial Music as a concept, an aesthetic and a way of life. We'd have no depeche Mode, (good!) and no techno, no so much that it boggles the mind. Yet they are still seen as a "cult group". Finally this book put Genesis P-Orridge in particular, and Throbbing Gristle and COUM the sexual performance action group rightfully at center stage in our art and rock music history. Bravo to Simon Ford. This book is so essential you can't imagine. It is about an entire FORM of music being invented as it happened. That is like being in the delta when the first blues music was played. it's that vital to knowing your own youth culture and understanding how the media are affected by radical change in the arts and minds of a generation.
Bryin Dall
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By kk33deg on June 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Anybody interested in truly subversive music / art / anti-art needs to read this. This obsessively documented and well written tome lays out the attempts by Coum Transmissions / Throbbing Gristle to wreck civilization, and for good reason. Dadaists P-Orridge, Tutti, Sleazy and Carter meet in post industrial collapsed welfare state Britain and decide that things must be changed or at least destroyed and set about to do so. Musically influenced by the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, 50-Foot Hose, Nico and a number of other artistes you've never heard of, t/g created the soundtrack for industrial society's post-mortem. On the surface apolitical, t/g was severely antiauthoritarian on all levels, deconstructing the 20th century while advocating a true revolution of the cortex, where everyone would be free to think for themselves without the restraints of normality or even sanity. Simon Ford does a very good job of putting t/g in context, and reminding us blase 21st century dwellers just how provoking they were. These four people shook the art and music world, and the reverberations affect people who've never heard of them, let alone the many that have heard of but never heard them. Read this while listening to "Second Annual Report", "Special Treatment", "Rafters" and "D.O.A." Can the world be as sad as it seems? Don't worry, t/g is long gone and civilization is safe.
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