Slapp Happy’s Anthony Moore, fresh off a year of collaboration with Henry Cow and the simultaneous dissolution of his own group, bounded up from the art-rock / 20th Century composition underground with this chart-challenging pop set for Virgin. Dropped before its planned release in 1976, ‘Out’ is an essential grab from the Britprog cutting room floor.
“Rock and roll was a relief after the rigor of Henry Cow.” That was one of the thoughts in Anthony Moore’s brain in the late summer of 1975. Of course, leaving Henry Cow had meant the dissolution of the band he’d founded, Slapp Happy, as the two groups had essentially merged over the previous year. Still, there was plenty yet to do with music and based on Anthony’s propensity for odd left turns, a solo career in the pop world seemed like a fine way to follow up his prior excursions in tape-based modern composition, writing soundtracks for experimental films, avant-pop and experimental rock.
Managed and published by Blackhill Enterprises, Anthony signed a solo deal with Virgin - and while the music he recorded for ‘Out’ didn’t see release upon completion in 1976 (and wasn’t released at all until a CD issue of the late 1990s), we’re finally getting those historic recordings for ‘Out’ on vinyl after all these years, with the long-lost original artwork restored. It is worth the wait - an absolute lost chapter from mid-70s, proto-new wave Britain, bringing to mind the bright and subversive sounds of Eno, Wyatt, Ayers, Cale and so many other trail-blazers from that time. A fantastic joy to the ears.
The original quality of ‘Out’ according to Anthony: folk-rock with weird time signatures. It made sense - odd bar numbers drifting in and out of sync were a driving aspect of the minimalist records he made for Polydor in 1971 and 1972 and now, played on piano, they sounded like the beginning of potentially radio-worthy songs. Music was still growing within him - it had first exploded in a weird, psychic shock that hit around the age of 18, comprised of equal parts youthful heartbreak, drugs and a recognition of the late 60s’ decaying zeitgeist. This was the start of a career-long pendulum swing between opposite poles: experimental and popular music. Never happier than when working with machines and processes, Anthony hadn’t really allowed his pure musician self free reign until ‘Out’. For ‘the troubadour with Revoxes’ this venture into playing guitar and singing in a professional context was a new thing. But it developed quickly and with the help of a bunch of like-minded studio folk and a hive of artists, writers and friends who revolved around an apartment in West London, the work progressed steadily. From the summer of 1975 to spring 1976, Anthony was in and out of the studios, along with producer Peter Jenner from Blackhill, working with a cross-section of Britain’s finest musicians and engineers at legendary facilities like Abbey Road, Air and Richard Branson’s Oxfordshire getaway, The Manor, to produce the eleven tracks that make up ‘Out’.
In early 1976, Virgin released ‘Johnny’s Dead’ as a single and ‘Out’ went into production: test tapes were made, artwork commissioned from Hipgnosis was delivered. Then fate took a turn in the form of a sudden changing of the guard in the Virgin front office. This brought a new team in with predictably different priorities. Despite the high quality of the effervescent, deftly-arranged pop songs that Anthony had delivered, the project was summarily written off.
Meanwhile, fate was taking another turn: a package containing the complete artwork for the cover of ‘Out’, previously sent to CBS Japan as part of a licensing agreement, went missing in Tokyo. It was rescued by the music lover, publisher, critic and producer Agi Yuzuru, who decades later bequeathed it to Anthony’s close friend Satoru Higashiseto: an edition of one, the only extant version of the original, cancelled Virgin release.
Anthony has continued making music on both sides of his internal divide — experimental and pop. The 1979 release, ‘Flying Doesn’t Help’, presented the singer-songwriter with a spiky art-punk production ’do, creating another cult masterpiece. Since then, with a variety of different labels, including his own, Anthony continues to make records and play live performances. 44 years later, this issue finally restores the original vision of ‘Out’.
- Stitch In Time
- A Thousand Ships
- The River
- Please Go
- You Tickle
- Lover of Mine
- Johnny's Dead
- Dreams of his Laughter
- Catch a Falling Star
- Wrong Again
- Driving Blind
- The Pilgrim