Gang of Four: Entertainment! (1979)

The revolution had begun in earnest! Actually, “revelation” was the impression I had as a kid when I first heard Entertainment! on my revolving record player. The band went right to the root of the problem (capitalism) and ripped it up in a way that could only be called liberating. None of the conventional rules applied here: guitars were harsh instruments of torture and aggression, drums pounded at their pleasure, two voices could talk at the same time, and a white punk could lay down some of the funkiest bass riffs imaginable smack in the path of a speeding train. (No wonder Flea lists this band as an influence in the expanded reissue liner notes.) The opening side of music on Entertainment! represents some of the greatest punk music to come out of England in the late ‘70s. The Pistols and The Clash and even The Stranglers arrived first, but the Gang treated them like an opening act for their own anti-sloganeering agenda. Anarchy in the UK? Okay. London’s burning. Yeah, I suppose. But Entertainment! resonated with my American mind in a way that the other angry Angles couldn’t. “Please send me evenings and weekends” (from “Return The Gift”), “The poor still weak the rich always rule” (from “Not Great Men”), “This heaven gives me migraine” (“Natural’s Not In It”). We were awash in a sea of polluted principles and here was Gang of Four throwing us a life preserver. The songs on Entertainment! represent the band’s best work: “Anthrax,” “Ether,” “Natural’s Not In It,” “At Home He’s A Tourist,” “Damaged Goods,” “Not Great Men.” The albums that followed were supplemental to the discussion here, despite their own share of great tracks. Although GOF were hard liners when it came to their musical vision, Entertainment! does have some variety, most of it on side two. Listening to “Glass,” “Contract” and “I Found That Essence Rare,” you’ll hear similarities to the early work of The B-52’s or XTC that suggest Gang and the greater gang (which would include Adam + The Ants) drew inspiration from the same source. None of those bands released a debut as stunning as Entertainment! however. It may have been anti-jingoism, but I was sold after the first minute. (Note: The 1995 reissue includes the contents of 1980’s eponymous EP, the yellow one.)

Original LP Version
A1. Ether (3:48)
A2. Natural’s Not In It (3:04)
A3. Not Great Men (3:03)
A4. Damaged Goods (3:25)
A5. Return The Gift (3:03)
A6. Guns Before Butter (3:46)
B1. I Found That Essence Rare (3:10)
B2. Glass (2:28)
B3. Contract (2:37)
B4. At Home He’s A Tourist (3:29)
B5. 5:45 (3:40)
B6. Anthrax (4:20)

All songs written and arranged by Gang of Four.

CD Reissue Bonus Tracks (1995)
13. Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time
14. He’d Send In The Army
15. It’s Her Factory
16. Armalite Rifle

CD Reissue Extra Bonus Tracks (2005)
17. Guns Before Butter (alternate version)
18. Contract (alternate version)
19. Blood Free (live)
20. Sweet Jane (live)

The Players
Dave Allen (bass), Hugo Burnham (drums), Andy Gill (guitar), Jon King (vocals). Produced by Andy Gill, Jon King and Rob Warr; engineered by Rick Walton; tapes operated by Davy Phee, Edwin Cross.

The Pictures
Art design by Andy Gill and Jon King.

The Plastic
Released on elpee on September 25, 1979 in the UK and Australia (EMI, EMC-3313), the US (Warner Bros., BSK 3446), Canada (Warner Bros., XBS 3446) and Japan (EMI, EMS 81286). Re-issued on 180g vinyl elpee in 2005 in the US (Rhino, R1 78428), also available in limited edition multicolored vinyl exclusively at Newbury Comics. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1995 in the UK (EMI, EZ541) and the US (Infinite Zero, 43047) and on November 28, 1997 in Japan (EMI/Toshiba, TOCP-8724) with the Yellow EP. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 2005 in the US (Rhino, R2 78428) and on February 22, 2007 in Japan (EMI, TOCP-67969) with bonus tracks.

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