I first heard throbbing gristle’s ‘united’ in january of 1981 on cherry red’s ‘business unusual’ compilation.
Paddy used to share a bedsit with Wattie Buchan, but had moved out to East Craigs to live with four other semi-disturbed young people.
East Craigs was – and may well still be – a desolate, tarkovskian wasteland with one pub, one supermarket and shitloads of cardboard-and-plaster housing, trapping desperate insect-people in its web of valium and vodka.
Throbbing gristle always sounded like a good idea. I’d read the ‘from genesis – revelations’ interview in melody maker in 1976 or 77 and made a mental note to check them out. And never got around to actually hearing them. But this two-and-a-half years old single was pretty good!
So I decided, with my very next giro, to buy something by them.
Allans” records in tollcross (near the co-op, roundabout where uta’s joolz is now) was a family-run chain of shops across the city and, more importantly, five minutes’ walk from my flat.
The guy behind the counter showed me ‘twenty jazz-funk greats’ and ‘heathen earth’. I decided to invest my £4.29 on the latter, as it appeared to be live, so therefore had more chance of containing the ‘united’ track in some form.
Maybe.
There was no track listing, just ‘the live sound of T/G’ and, when you opened the gatefold, two nondescript-looking blokes – one wearing a FUCKING ABBA BADGE and the other with a moustache, lifting some injured bloke off the pavement.
The other bloke just looked weird, then there was this modeling photo of a young woman. What. The. Fuck?
So I paid, carted it home, trying not to let the wind flap the bag around and put side one on.
I wasn’t impressed. It started off with echoed trumpets, then went into a scratchy, repetitive guitar thing, followed by a bloke talking and a long, miserable, slow song with the same bloke moaning and intoning.
Back in the days before we had illegal downloads to help decide whether an album was worth having or not, pop stars often managed to con us youngsters out of our pocket money and that’s what this looked like.
I only played side two to see if it was the same as the first side. A fast instrumental with growling guitar prowling through it – a bit better. Then a different bloke and (presumably) that woman, having an un-conversation; disjointed sentences and again, loads of echo.
Another thrashy, repetitive piece, the first bloke shouting over and over, DON’T DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD! DO WHAT YOU THINK!
Then a calm male voice, telling us we’d ‘enjoyed this experience of relaxation’ and to open our eyes. The sound of equipment being switched off and the needle lifted and returned to where it normally sat.

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