Throbbing Gristle: An Endless Discontent

Ian Trowell

£29.95

This book situates the British band Throbbing Gristle as both a lens and critical tool for England during the punk years and the Winter of Discontent. Using detailed archival research and testimony from key performances, it plots the impact and affective reach of the band. 

Available to Order

ISBN: 9781789388299 Category: Tag:

Description

In 1976 the British band Throbbing Gristle emerged from the radical arts collective COUM Transmissions through core members Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti, joined by Hipgnosis photographer Peter Christopherson and electronics specialist Chris Carter. Though having performed previously in more low-key arts environments, their major launch coincided with the COUM retrospective exhibition Prostitution at London’s ICA gallery, showcasing and contextualising an array of challenging objects from COUM’s various actions in performance art and pornography. In a deliberately curated strategy inviting press, civic and arts dignitaries, extravagant followers of the nascent punk scene and music journalists, the band created an instant controversy and media panic that tapped into the restrictive climate and encroaching conservatism of late 1970s Britain. Any opportunities that were being explored by a formative punk ethos and movement around sex, censorship and transgression were amplified and exposed by Throbbing Gristle and Prostitution. An outraged Member of Parliament Nicholas Fairbairn took the bait and called the ensemble the ‘wreckers of civilisation’, providing the suitable newspaper headline that would be followed a month later by ‘the filth and the fury’ as the Sex Pistols uttered strong profanities on live television.

The switch from COUM to Throbbing Gristle encompassed a primary mode of expression in making music as opposed to art, to further coincide with the energy of the nascent punk scene. The band quickly developed a radically deviant and challenging reputation through pushing the punk format past its strictures in terms of lyrical themes, amateurism, and considerations of what constitutes music. Through a handful or record releases on their own label Industrial Records, and a sporadic string of live performances, the band nurtured a strong and devoted following including key journalists and fanzine editors of the punk and post-punk scenes such as Jon Savage and Sandy Robertson. The band’s style of exploring harsh pre-recorded sounds, samples of disconcerting narrative and conversation, and feeding all sounds through messy electronic processing devices gave rise to the title industrial music. This was further buttressed by performing a strictly timed set of one hour, and adopting a non-rockstar mode by appearing disinterested and preoccupied with electronic devices. Having given a name and impetus to the industrial music scene, many of their followers and fans formed bands in later years.

Drawing on works such as Andy Bennett’s When the Lights Went Out, this book looks at late 1970s Britain, before, during and immediately after the Winter of Discontent, to situate the activism of Throbbing Gristle in this time. It explores how the band worked in and against the time, and how they worked in and against punk as punk worked in and against the time and place. Punk acts as a mediating factor and nuisance value, as Throbbing Gristle emerged with punk in late 1976, seemingly grappled with it through 1977, and then went on to create and eventually criticise a number of post-punk scenes that had flourished around 1979. Trowell narrates the story through a series of live performances, as this is a point where Throbbing Gristle interact with the various city-scenes around England during their original period of operation (1975-1981). The band reflected (and incorporated into their live music) key tropes form the time, both ‘mainstream’ and fringe (subcultural, avant-garde art, counter-culture, taboo subjects, extremes) such that Throbbing Gristle events had an impact and affect, and Trowell traces these as a series of impressions and reverberations amongst fans who went on to do their own music and projects.

Additional information

Author

Cover

Publisher

Payments

Orders placed via our website can be paid using any of the following methods:

  • Credit or debit card
  • Google Pay
  • Apple Pay
  • National Book Tokens

Our credit and debit card payments are securely processed by Stripe, and your full card information is neither stored by our site or accessible to our team. If you select to save your credit or debit card information during checkout to use again for future orders, your card information is encrypted and stored only by Stripe, who have been certified as a Level 1 PCI Service Provider (the highest level of security certification available for online payment services). Read more about Stripe and security here.

If ordering from a device or browser that supports Google Pay or Apple Pay, you will be automatically shown the corresponding payment button on product pages, the cart page, and the checkout page. Please note that the personal and payment information shown by Google Pay and Apple Pay is stored only by your payment account, and is neither stored by our site or accessible to our team.

Payments made using National Book Tokens are processed by National Book Tokens Ltd, and you can read their Terms and Conditions here.

If you encounter any issues with payments when ordering, or have any questions about the available methods of payment, please don’t hesitate to email us.

Ordering Information

Orders
Orders placed through this site will typically be fulfilled from our shop’s inventory within 48 hours. Occasionally an item may be out of stock, in which case it may be fulfilled by our supplier and dispatched directly to you, or to the shop if Collect in Person was selected during checkout. We will inform you of any delays affecting your order as quickly as possible.

Backorders
Items marked AVAILABLE TO ORDER are available on backorder and typically arrive within a couple of days, but can occasionally take longer to arrive. In the event that an item you have ordered is unexpectedly delayed for 7 days or more, we will contact you by email with a delivery estimate.

If you’d like to confirm an item’s availability or check on the status of an order, please email us.

Pre-Orders
Any forthcoming titles available to pre-order are clearly marked with a red PRE-ORDER label, and the anticipated publication date. Typically, pre-ordered items will be available on or occasionally very shortly after the publication date, and in the event that we do anticipate a delay we will endeavour to keep you updated on the status of your pre-order.

Publication dates are subject to change (although this is an extremely uncommon occurrence overall). If you have a question about the status of a pre-order, please email us.

Gift Wrapping

Select the Gift Wrapping option on the Cart or Checkout pages to have your order wrapped for a flat fee of £2.20. Orders placed including the gift wrapping option will be wrapped using tissue paper and sealed with a Pages of Hackney sticker. A gift message can be included during this process, which will be written on a Pages of Hackney card and included with your order (if you’d prefer we use a greeting card, please add one to your order and mention this in the order notes field).

Unless requested, gift wrapping includes all items in an order. If you have different wrapping requirements for individual items, please either place multiple orders or let us know your requirements in the order notes field during checkout.

Delivery Costs

UK postage costs (per order):

Royal Mail First Class – £2.95
Royal Mail Second Class – £1.95

Orders with a total greater than £50 will automatically qualify for free delivery (excluding subscriptions).

If you do not wish to have your order delivered, please select Collect In Person during checkout.

Please note that orders placed via our site can be delivered within the UK only. For international delivery, please email us stating the items you wish to order and your delivery address, and we’ll let you know your options for shipping.