Top 10 Sprechgesang Songs (Talking Instead of Singing)…
Top 10 Sprechgesang Talk/Sing Songs… (from long before it became “a thing” a few years ago…)
As dry cleaning is about to release its second album, Yard Act on tour and The cool greenhouse LP about to be released worldwide – indie rock fashion for Sprechgesang – talking-singing – still seems popular….
You could say it’s become the “lingua franca” in hipster band circles. (Maybe not.) Despite the Quietus examining the Yard Acts, the overprint under the title Discharge Sprechgesang – it’s here to stay…probably.
In fact, he has always been with us. From The Fall to Sleaford Mods, Blue Airplanes to Black Box Recorder – not to mention rap – to Max Bygraves deck of cards.
But here I go back and track down some of the old Sprech Gang classics and some weird dark gems you might not have heard. Mostly from Peel’s post-punk heyday, it has to be said…Enjoy it. (GB)
The Velvet Underground: The Gift (1968) from the album White Light / White Heat.
Waldo Jeffreys had reached his limit... John Cale reads a grim Jackanory story on one channel and the Velvet jam on the other. An absolute classic, without vocals.
The Fall: Many Times (1978) B-side of It’s the New Thing
Mark E Smith was a singer who never really sang in terms of holding an identifiable note. He was a genius with words and knew how to deliver them. He remains an inspiration to many and we will never see his equal again. Eventually Mark tried singing, on Bill Is Dead of course, but he will be remembered that way.
DIP-Religion II (1978) from the album First Issue
Lydon’s voice was always distinctive and easily identifiable, no matter what group he belonged to. The religion was unique in the way it was recited as if indeed, from a pulpit, giving it intensity in the most overwhelming way possible.
In the early 80s, I had a girlfriend at an all-girls convent whose proudest moment was writing the entire lyrics on the back of a bathroom stall door and nearly having a nun burn with fury.
Magazine the book (1980 B-side of Merci (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
Howard Devoto tries his hand at writing a short story in that unique, clever dick style that Morrissey later adopted wholesale. The ending always felt a bit underwhelming, but it’s smart in a style that ties in with multiple layers of cynical style.
Scars – Your attention please (1981 from the album Author! Author!)
A poem by Peter Porter – an imaginary radio warning and government instructions before an atomic attack.
‘Leave the old and bedridden, you can do NOTHING for them…’ Set to brilliant effect by Scars and dramatically enunciated by Bobby King. The phrase “statistically probably not you” sounds so much scarier with a Scottish accent. ‘Stut-ustic-ully it’s crazy as-ully to be yuh-ooo-wa’.
Smack – Edward Fox (1980 or 81)
One of Wonder Peel’s favorite hits – lyrics taken from a magazine interview with the upperclass actor in which he talks about anarchy. Just a great classic….
Barry Andrews – Win an evening with a well-known paranoid (1979 Virgin Records B-side)
Previously a keyboard player with XTC, he was one of Annie Nightingale’s favorites. A hilarious story that ends with an adaptation of the most striking scene from Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man. One could easily argue that Win A Night Out is the greatest song of all time….
They Must Be Russian – Don’t Try to Cure Yourself (1980)
Were the student doctors of the group? A lecture on various venereal diseases. Another one-of-a-kind classic from Peel – which, despite being a great new wave track, falls into the “novelty record” category because it’s hilarious and because of its sprechesang format.
Works of Art – Showing Off to Impress the Girls (1981)
Art Objects later became the Blue Airplanes and had a career in poetry set to music, but in my opinion it never really improved upon that work of absolute genius which predated and ‘invented’ the Smiths and the fey- indie sappery.
Conflict – The Guilt and the Glory (1984)
After Crass, the most successful, powerful and committed anarcho/activist group. Brilliant and effective lecture on how big business fucks the world. ‘economics, the science of greed‘ . As relevant now…etc.
So… who says good songs need a real “vocal”? Point proven I hope. Anything I missed or forgot is put in the comments below. xx
Court Act’s UK Tour has “sold out”…
Take comfort in pre-ordering Cool Greenhouse’s new album
All words/choices by Ged Babey
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