Cliff Burnstein, the A&R man for Mercury Records in Chicago, trolled record stores. He came across the Street Waves / My Dark Ages Hearpen single late in 1976. David happened to be at his parent's house when Cliff called. Cliff identified himself, said he loved the record but noted that Mercury was not the right label for the band. He ended by saying that he was available for any advice David might want. A week later Chrysalis Records called from the UK. Cliff said to David, "Don't do anything. I'll get back to you right away." He called a week later to say he'd put his own label together at Mercury and wanted to sign Pere Ubu. It was to be called Blank Records.
Most of the album was recorded and mixed by Ken Hamann at Suma in November 1977. An American tour with Blank label mates, Suicide Commandos, was to begin February 18 1978 with Johnny Dromette's Disasto Two at WHK Auditorium in Cleveland. Beforehand, Scott Krauss quit the band for the first of the three times he would do so over the decades. He was replaced by Anton Fier, who began rehearsing with the band. Two weeks later, Krauss made it known that he wanted back in the band. Fier graciously stepped aside.
In the early 70s, it was said that Cleveland had the highest population of Maoists outside of China, an urban myth probably but that was the talk. Certainly, the Maoist warnings about personality cult were circulating. When China tested its A-bombs the fallout traveled in the high atmosphere to finally descend... on Cleveland. Thus, the inspiration for the song 'Chinese Radiation' and the album's cover art.
'Humor Me' was a reaction to the death of former band guitarist Peter Laughner. 'Street Waves' was inspired by a pile of used tires for sale on Detroit Avenue.
Produced by Pere Ubu and Ken Hamann.
Assistant engineers: Paul Hamann and Mike Bishop.
Recorded at Cleveland Recording and Suma (Painesville OH), 1976-1977.
Original artwork designed by S.W. Taylor from an idea by David Thomas.
Photo by Mik Mellen.
Reissue package designed by John Thompson
The analog 1/4" 2-track mix tape from 1977 was digitally transferred by Paul Hamann at Suma at a 192khz / 24 bit resolution. Those files were mastered by Brian Pyle and Pete Norman cut the lacquers for vinyl at Finyl Tweek, London, on a Neumann VMS80 lathe. David Thomas prepared the download audio files from the 192khz / 24 bit masters. CD audio was produced by processing an analog signal run through the Sumex Brown Box converter, designed and built by Ken Hamann.
Digitally transfered at 96khz / 24 bit resolution and mastered by David Thomas and Paul Hamann at Suma on August 16 2005. Cds from this master can be identified by the words "2005 Master" on the back tray card.
NB. A pressing plant error meant that old artwork was used to package the one pressing run of the 2005 Master. In these cases there's a sticker on the front identifying it as the 2005 Master and the cd label is black and white with an Avant Garage logo.
This DualDisc release features a mix in 5.1 surround sound by Chris Haynes, Silverline Studios, Los Angeles CA, June 15-17 2005, from digital transfers of the original 2" multitrack tapes. The DualDisc format is a two-sided DVD. One side is the 5.1 surround sound remix of the album, a 30 minute interview with David Thomas, and a 2005 master of the 2-track master mix tape from 1977 at 96 khz / 24 bit resolution. The other side is a cd audio format of the 2005 master at 44 khz / 16 bit resolution, which is playable on standard audio cd players. Silverline Records are distirbuted by Essential Music UK.
David Thomas, who attended the surround sound remix session by Chris Haynes, reports: "This is the way we heard The Modern Dance in the studio... no, it's better than that, it's the way we heard it when we were playing it. The detailing is fantastic. The space reveals everything while still retaining the album's intensity and original intention. And the best thing is, if you want to hear something louder or quieter you just move your head a foot. Everything is there!"
Digital transfer at 44.1 khz / 20 bit resolution and mastered by David Thomas and Paul Hamann at Suma in 1994.
Nonalignment Pact, Modern Dance
Recorded January 1977 at Cleveland Recording and engineered by Ken Hamann. Modern Dance is a remix of the Hearpen 45 side.
Nonalignment Pact was released on The Modern Dance album.
Recorded and mixed October 1976 at Cleveland Recording engineered by Ken Hamann. It is a remix of the Hearpen 45 side.
Laughing, Chinese Radiation, Life Stinks, Real World, Over My Head, Sentimental Journey, Humor Me
Recorded and mixed November 1977 at Suma, engineered by Ken Hamann.
Cooking Viny Records Cook CD 141 cd (UK / ROW), Jun 1998 & Jul 2008 (1994 Master).
Geffen Records cd (US), Jun 1998 (1994 Master).
Bomba Records BOM812 cd (Japan), Jun 28 1998 (1994 Master).
RTI Records CKV 2114 2 cd (Italy) (1994 Master).
Silverline Records 284402-2 DVD DualDisc (UK), Jul 31 2006 ( 5.1 Master, SurroundSound).
FIRECD360 cd, Aug 21 2015 (2015 Master).
FIRELP360 lp, Aug 21 2015 (2015 Master).
Jon Savage, Sounds, 2/11/78
Uh-oh, this is getting frustrating, trying to tell you how good this is - black and white is an inadequate substitute for the impact heard... This is a brilliant debut. Granted it lacks the superficial accessibility of lesser works, but this time around the aroma lingers. This is built to last! Ubu's world is rarely comfortable, full of the space beyond the electric light and what it does to people, but always direct and unwavering. And courageous.
Ian Birch, Melody Maker, 3/18/78
It's a devastating debut...this album has struck me with a vengeance. Because it delivers such a powerful, complex and open-ended punch, it's almost impossible at such an early stage to explain why or how in full detail.
David Stubbs, Uncut, August 2006 - 5 Stars
This is a far more cerebral, imperishable proposition than a mere local cry of urban discontent. The Eraserhead-style sad-clown personna of singer David Thomas, Tom Herman's nerve-shredding slide guitars and Ravenstine's abstract electronics combine to form a rock music as visceral and essential as The Stooges, yet which reaches parts of the brain untouched by their peers, predecessors or successors... An album that's only gotten more awesome with age.