Graph – Drowning

11th October 2022 · 1970s, 1979, Music, Punk

Graph are another of those barely remembered bands from Fast Product’s first release in their ‘earcom’ EP series in 1979.

I’m not sure the band lasted long enough, or made enough of an impression, to merit any articles in the music press, but one of them ended up in The Human League.

Drowning was their first recording, and the first on that EP – an introduction to the bands on Bob Last’s influential label.

It sounds as startling today as it did then: a wall of distorted guitar, bass runs and a whining vocal – “Nobody’s gonna take this shit / Because they’ve got a fear of drowning” – that becomes increasingly hysterical.

The band, I now learn, met at boarding school in Peterborough where they started making music together: Ian Elliott and Ian Burden using guitars and tape loops and their friend Martin Rootes (aka ‘Did’) creating sounds from electronic devices, sound effects records and tape machines.

And that would have been that when they left school, but for a chance meeting on a train that led them to Sheffield, where Elliott was doing teacher training at Lady Mabel College… enabling them to develop their sound with the college’s equipment.

Burden then moved to Sheffield to study at Psalter Lane Art College and a year later Rootes moved up after finishing his degree at UEA, reassembling the original trio.

They gave themselves a name – Graph – and Elliott began to write fully formed songs to replace their experimental efforts, soon finding themselves part of an embryonic experimental music scene in Sheffield that included Cabaret Voltaire, also toying with avant-garde electronic sounds and staging subversive underground events in the city.

Graph began recording in the summer of 1978 at the Yorkshire Arts Studio in Bradford. By now Rootes was playing an organ and pushing it through various effects units, while Elliott also used effects to create his own distinctive guitar sound.

Before their next session they brought in a drummer, Nik Allday, who played on this song, Drowning. It drew the attention of Bob Last at Fast Records and went on to appear on Earcom 1 – and, 40 years later, a compilation of Sheffield bands called Dreams To Fill The Vacuum.

Soon after this they lengthened their name to Salon Graph and made minor lineup changes, recording two more songs at a never-released session in London for Pinnacle Records before taking another new name – Musical Janeens (And Other Party Games) and reverting to their early improvisation style.

A short tour of the Netherlands resulted in a live album, The Musical Janeens Sell Out, and they recorded another session at Psalter Lane Art College, producing a song that deserves a place in music history for its title alone: Glen Miller And His Contemporary Intimacies meets The Musical Janeens Uptown With A Packet Of Jellies And A Caribbean Monolith.

By 1980 they had broken up and Burden had joined The Human League – also from Sheffield and managed by Bob Last – going on to spend six years in the group.