Do You Know The Apple?
I never seem to get stopped in the street by zealous market researchers, asking me my opinions on life, love, the lottery and football's youth policy, but I live in hope that one day someone will ask me to name one LP which defined the early '90s in the same way that 'Searching For The Young Soul Rebels' towered over the start of the '80s. Easy, I'd say; A Man Called Adam's 'The Apple'. A record which should have irrevocably altered the future of pop, but at least the possibilities are still there for another day. I guess it just wasn't made for its time.

There really are not that many LPs which are complete, visionary, fully realised classics. Just 'Pet Sounds', 'Don't Stand Me Down' and 'The Apple'. The three greatest LPs ever. So what's so great about 'The Apple'? Well, I'm trying to resist saying that it's packed full of classic songs, because that sounds suspiciously like Oasis-speak and the small-minded mentality that is currently choking the life out of pop. However, 'The Apple' is a set of classic songs: great lyrics, melodies, ideas, twists, rhythms, and Sally Rodgers / Steve Jones surely rank as a songwriting team up there with Goffin / King. This is only remarkable because 'The Apple' is a pure, state of the art techno record, albeit downbeat every which way. Let's face it, techno is not known for it's songsmithery, and there's no reason why it should be. I'm no fan, but I'm with the Underworld man who said he retorted to people who accused him of not writing proper songs by saying that was the point, as he'd had over twenty years of proper songs and it was time for a change. By now, there are scores of great, mainly instrumental electronic LPs, but it's rare to find a record like 'The Apple' which is so spectacularly song-based.

Maximum credit must be given to Sally Rodgers for her singing and lyrics in the way they distinguish AMCA, even more so than your Portisheads and Saint Etiennes. Sally being far more in control and not just there to smooth the way and dress up the musical tourism that mars most 'dance' LPs. Previous generations speak of how Joni and Patti articulated feelings for them, but who need them when we've got Sally? It's unfortunate that, in true Vic Godard manner, there's not much in terms of quantity of product to substantiate my claims, but to put it bluntly Sally Rodgers is the greatest lyricist of her time. Strange, since Sally's very much committed to forward-looking club-orientated sounds, and she must be poignantly aware that words are not the main priority for that sphere of activity. Maybe Sally wanted to change all that, and maybe she just decided to have her say anyway, hoping someone would notice.
I remember coming home from a Huggy Bear / Bikini Kill show, very much fired up by the idealism, rhetoric, stances, but ultimately saddened by the realisation that it was all just another night of Punk Rock entertainment. I recall putting on AMCA's 'Bread Love And Dreams', Sally singing; "You believed in revolution, and you thought it could set you free. It seemed your good intentions got you nowhere, the time just wasn't right for it to be", and thinking to myself, why are all these journalists baying about grrrl power when they're not at all interested in people like Sally who were fighting new battles against prejudice, rather than the Riot Grrrls who had it easy with a ready made audience who had once been confronted by heroines of another age, like Poly Styrene, Slits, Raincoats, Kleenex, Delta 5. Ask any music journalist who covered club culture in the early '90s and they will tell you that Sally's one of the most passionate, articulate, imaginative people on the scene.

I suppose that it's some sort of consolation that the cornerstone of 'The Apple', 'Barefoot In The Head', is regarded as something of a classic. Myself, I'd put it down as a Desert Island Disc, and it certainly was one of the records which on its initial release as a single opened my eyes to the idea of techno / new electronic music being full of possibilities, something more than music to move to. Here was a song with Jim Webb proportions, and all the better for its absurdities. Like Webb and his leaving the cake out in the rain, and the George Du Maurier reference there, so AMCA's Barefoot took its title from Brian Aldiss' futuristic novel. Thurston Moore did the same thing, but that's neither here nor there. The anorak in me loved all the AMCA literary allusions, particularly the apparent futility of such minute details, but above all I got carried away with the hyperintelligent mod angle. AMCA as music for future mods. Daft, I know, but I thought others would tag along and create this whole new twenty first century mod music / lifestyle, and the new techno soul vision. Naturally it wasn't to be, and AMCA ran into all sorts of contractual and stupid old industry hassles, just because not enough people out there believed in their new pop dance stance. Do you know The Apple?

© Kevin Pearce, 1996.