I’ve loved Yello since that fateful night in 1980 when I heard their debut Ralph Records single on WUSF-FM. They were a college radio station with a Friday night New Wave show that I could barely receive on my stereo, 90 miles away if I held the power cord juuuuust so! I started buying their music as soon as I could find it. In 1981 I bought their second album on Ralph and a little later, I came across the holy debut album “Solid Pleasure” in an exotic European pressing in the amazing Record City import cutout bins. A year or two later, I found the Ralph Records 7″ of “Bimbo” which had “I.T. Splash” as its B-side.
By then, I was reading Trouser Press, and there was an interview where the mentioned their first single on the Periphery Perfume label in Switzerland. Which was the song “I.T. Splash.” In the early 80s, I didn’t have much hope of ever finding that one! While I had the A-side on the “Bimbo” single, “Gluehead,” its B-side, would probably escape my grasp for good. I only ever saw what the single looked like once Discogs happened in the early 21st century. As expected, one can buy one of these 12″ singles since there were 1000 were pressed in January of 1979, but you’ll need to have a round three figures to do so!
I knew I would never complete that Yello collection, due to the high cost of this record. I’d made my peace with that posture when out of the blue, two days ago, a package arrived unbidden, at our home. My wife showed me a large box that had arrived from our friend Bert, in Florida. A surprise gift? It seemed very light. Was it possibly the best potato chips we’d ever eat? I opened it to find it was a record, very cautiously packed, of a 2022 pressing of the holy “Solid Pleasure” debut album by Yello…bundled with a yellow vinyl 12″ reissue of the “I.T. Splash” single! Gloryoski! I’d finally own this record, after all. So what was the very first Yello recording like, after 44 years?
Yello: I.T. Splash – EURO – 12″ [yellow] 
- I.T. Splash
At first there was a synth bassline [not a million miles away from what Moroder had used in “I Feel Love” before it had been doubled with delay] with the hint of a synth doppler shift swooping in from the right channel before the robust cackle of vocalist Dieter Meier in full character, letting it all hang out, immediately undercutting any sense that this was going to be cheek-sucking Synthpop-by-the-numbers. The first word from his lips is not something we ever hear in pop music as he croaks, “stillborn!”
Then Felix Haug on the actual drums sets a driving roll up on the snare as Boris Blank swoops in another synth approximating a car passing in the right channel. Synths sproing and gurgle in almost binaural spread in the stereo field as Meier [or more correctly, his character] ejaculates alliterative single words seemingly disconnected from one another as the track seems to advance while at the same time standing still. Leaving the singer seemingly agitated like a person having a breakdown.
The tension maintains throughout the song, never releasing to better stimulate the same sense of anxiety that the character singing had. The almost subliminal guitar of Chico Hablas rose from the murky depths of the track to introduce industrial howls that ultimately evaporated as the doppler shifting synths once more approximated sweeping traffic and the narrative of the song revealed that the protagonist was driving as the relentless bass synth was echoed by the vocal, which repeated lyrical figures in an anxious loop.
Drum fills broke down the coda as the narrative of leaving the city transitioned into a sort of color commentary by a TV announcer [dadaistically identified as Jackie Gleason at NBC] on what we had just heard. Never resolving any of the many tension elements of the song, which faded on the announcer’s spiel which pitched up slightly as it faded away.
“Gluehead” certainly had drug abuse connotations,but the sound was a million miles away from the A-side. It began cold on Meier’s proclamation of “this is Thursday morning, bright light in my room” over Chico Hablas’ rhythm guitar skank. Rhythm box claves hammered out a puny but fascinating beat as punctuated by massive explosions of white noise from a synth at the end of each bar.
The grinding guitar chords were matched with rubbery synths giving the track a cartoonish, yet nightmarish vibe of accentuated contrast. Meier continued with his narrative, doubling his eccentric vocals for maximum impact. Occasional fills from the drums of Felix Haug kept the unsteady construction lurching forward, like trying to dribble a balloon filled with oatmeal, the whole construction was too fluid to remain steady.
The drop in the middle eight went instrumental only as Hablas’ guitars singed the listener’s face inn the closest that Yello had ever edged to Heavy Metal. That rhythm riff returned with the slamming chunks of white noise became like face slaps as the complexion of the song began to radically change, and just as quickly, to fade away completely.
When I was entering this record into my Discogs collection, I discovered that another of those little errors that bedevil what’s left of the music industry had happened with this record. Even though UMG is the 800 lb. gorilla of what’s left of the industry, the wrong track had been pressed up on side two of this 12″ single. In 1982 Yello released the single “She’s Got A Gun” on Do It Records in the UK. I have the 12″ version, but the 7″ version contained an alternate recording of “Gluehead” titled on the record adjacent as “Bluehead” instead. Though this sleeve promised “Gluehead,” the record itself delivered “Bluehead.” Which I didn’t have, so that saved me from buying a copy of the “She’s Got A Gun” single on 7″ format. But in order to hear “Gluehead” the notes on the Discogs entry revealed that the 2005 DLX RM of “Solid Pleasure” [on the want list but not yet acted on] had the correct “Gluehead” track. So I bought it on iTunes for $1.29 so I could craft the review above.
Meanwhile, “Bluehead” which is what the record actually had on it was a very different kettle of fish. None of the psychotic levels of reverb were present. The song was the same. The rhythm track was the same, but it was all much dryer and far more polite. Felix Haug was still playing drums but it didn’t sound like there was any guitar in this version. It seemed almost like a demo in comparison, but the production allowed much easier comprehension of Dieter Meier’s lyrics. It really did sound like something that could have been on the “Claro Que Si” album. The middle eight solo this time was Boris on synths instead of the metallic guitar that was far more exciting in the context.
Knowing Dieter Meier’s passion for cinema [he would direct the occasional film as well as music videos for Yello and others, if seems to have been a primary influence on the early Yello material. It’s why I find the songs so entrancing as they seem to be crafting films out of sound and were perhaps more closely related to cinema than music. This single was certainly the band on the extreme side of the cinematic wildness that would eventually be tamed first when Carlos Peron on tapes, and then live drums and guitar were all marched off into the sunset as Yello matured into a synthesizer dance band who were far less fascinating to me. But this single certainly bristled with all of the promise that Yello would fulfill on their still astonishing debut album that came the next year.
The pressing and mastering of this re-issue [with “Solid Pleasure”] was not a GZ pressing. Not only is it missing their deadwax scribing, but the sound quality of this record was one of the best modern 12″ pressings I’ve heard in years. Vibrant and bereft of deleterious noise and defects, it was far better than most new records I have bought in the last 20 years. The UMG store still has some of these on hand should you lack early Yello at their finest in your own Record Cells. If you need one of these it can be had for $53.99 and domestic shipping…but don’t forget to stop by iTunes for “Gluehead!” It’s an utterly wild track.