Friday 14 May 2010

Klub Londinium 20-30

“The sunglass stands of Via Buckingham. People came to join the organised dancing. So we made a Klub. Made it all up ...” Klub Londinium 20-30 is a track from the final Sudden Sway record, Ko-Opera, released on Rough Trade in 1990. Sudden Sway’s story is the great untold pop adventure. Throughout the 1980s they were the ultimate pop strategists playing with formats and processes, all the while creating sounds several light years ahead of the pack. If you’re not familiar with their work follow the clues on the web to their Peel sessions, the Spacemate game, the To You With ReGard 12”, Traffic Tax Scheme, the Sing Song exercise and, my personal favourite, the ’76 Kids Forever pop opera. Ko-Opera is in some ways their ‘straight’ record, though musically it was a blueprint for the ‘90s to come. Similarly, well before the likes of Iain Sinclair were the toast of the town, to complement Ko-Opera there were special themed Klub Londinium walks around the Capital. To my eternal shame I didn’t take part, though I do seem to remember seeing people pick up headsets at the Rough Trade shop in Covent Garden. This is borrowed from an account posted online, with thanks and apologies to the author Ken C: “Klub Londinium was the best thing they ever did. It was an exercise in psychogeography in which you walked the city in someone else’s shoes. Having completed a personality assessment questionnaire, you were assigned to a tour for a quite different personality. They decided I was an Outsider, so sent me on the Hedonist tour. The cassette contained two voices; one giving directions and factual, historical information about London; the other representing the interior monologue of the ‘raver’ driving himself to despair in pursuit of the good time that must be going on somewhere else. The tour began at Charing Cross station and led through Soho and Mayfair, describing this history of the Crystal Rooms in Leicester Square, the location of the first strip show in London, Sheeky’s restaurant, the location of private gambling clubs, 18th century brothels, and much else. A tremendous amount of research must have gone into the tours. I bought the tapes for the other tours: the ‘Mystic’ personality (a satire on new-age nonsense the led around Regents Park and up Parliament Hill); Materialist (through the City, St Katherine’s Dock and the yuppie housing in Docklands, ending in Tobacco Dock) and, the best I think, the Outsider tour, an eternal wanderer’s search for a home, through Spitalfields and Brick Lane, ending at the Geffrye Museum. The degree of synchronisation between the taped speech in your head and what you saw in front of you was often uncanny; graffiti on the walls was read to you as you passed; an electronic tone representing the onset of a migraine kicked in as you emerged from the shadow of a building into the sunshine; the sound of footsteps following you as you walked through a long tunnel in a dodgy part of Shoreditch.” The same internet posting refers to an earlier Sudden Sway installation at ICA in The Mall, and a clip of the group performing its Human Jukebox featured on the Old Grey Whistle Test ...

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