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Let’s get the topic right out of the way. I can never get enough of “Chant No. 1 [I Don’t Need This Pressure On]!” The 4:00 single/LP version is awe-inspiring enough to act as a tease. The 6:00 12″ mix begins to go places; the spoken middle eight by Tony Hadley was a step in the right direction. But for the full effect of all that “Chant No. 1” has to offer you must spin the re-mix version from the Diamond boxed set! It’s eight full minutes of high pressure funk shot through with swaggering, jazzy horns by Beggar + Co. In fact the horns got emphasized right up front. The re-mix started with a second or two of chuckling dubbed into the mix before the coiled, serpentine guitar lick of Gary Kemp heralded the onset of the number before a conga roll courtesy of Steve Norman heightened the tension, which was broken by the first jagged stab of horns. Then the big beat began in earnest. John Keeble would be performing two kinds of beat on this album. Dead simple, monolithic 4/4 slabs of percussion, or elaborate and nimble Latin rhythms. This song was the former.
The how and why of the beat came down to the secret weapon their producer Richard James Burgess gave them on this song. It was the first time that the iconic Simmons SDS-5 drum pads were used commercially. Burgess had hypothesized and built the kit with Dave Simmons and although his prototypes had been used on the second Landscape album and the singles by Shock he produced in 1981, the first use of a commercial unit appeared on this record. The dry, distinctive “thwack” sound that would define the first half of the eighties began here.
Before a measure of beats occurred, what sounded like a boozy trombone playing riffs over the beat expanded the parameters of the intro to let the listener get their bearings before kicking the energy levels upward. Now that I listen carefully, I suspect that Burgess was playing the trumpet solo of Canute Wellington at half speed here. Burgess let the riffs cook until he introduced tape splice “scratching” to break the tension as the single-minded riff plowed inexorably forward. Kemp’s rhythm guitar was then joined by a single, long, nasty, whammy bar chord that was the filthiest thing to ever grace a Spandau Ballet record. It was at that point where Tony Hadley began to sing.
I certainly hope we all know the insistent, high pressure funk concoction that is “Chant No. 1.” It’s a brutally simple ascending E-F#-G-A-B riff that builds in intensity through much repetition. The arrangement of the re-mix here by Burgess managed to keep it interesting with strategic dropouts from the instrumentation and generous applications of reverb where needed to lubricate the machine. The climax has a touch of jazzy flute sophistication that echoed the trumpet riffs that had driven through the heart of the eight minute song. Burgess even added occasional backwards reverb applied to keep things fresh throughout the running time. This monster of a tune is so fresh that it still needs no preservatives 36 years later. It managed the neat trick of being fleet of foot and brutal at the same time. And…wouldn’t you know it. I got off on a tangent on one of my favorite songs and we still have a lot to discuss about this release. Which we’ll pick up tomorrow.
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