Thursday, November 13, 2014

John Balance: In Memoriam

Almost exactly four years ago, on November 25, 2010, Peter Christopherson (aka Sleazy) passed away in his sleep. I was distraught enough to write this memorial, which primarily explained Sleazy’s greatness – he was a key member of Coil and Throbbing Gristle, as well as an accomplished artist, designer, and director – and Coil’s enormous impact on my life. When Sleazy died, he survived his partner in music, life, and love, Geoffrey Burton aka John Balance, by six years. Today is the tenth anniversary of John’s death and – though I never had the opportunity to meet either of them personally – I’m just as affected as the first time I heard the news.

John was a few years younger than Sleazy, and the two met when he was just 18 thanks to his love for Throbbing Gristle. They began an affair that would last until the late ‘90s and they officially brought Coil to life in 1982. Coil was one of the first openly gay bands in Britain (if not the world) and one of the first to cover gay themes. Through their close friendships with other musicians, John was also a member of or collaborator with Current 93, Death in June, Nurse with Wound, Psychic TV, and others. He brought so much to Coil and other musical projects, primarily his fascination of ritual and chaos magic (he had an impressive occult library, including a number of original Aleister Crowley volumes), his experiments in expanding consciousness, and his beautiful, rich, and moving vocals.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia as a child, drug and alcohol abuse plagued much of his later life. He went to rehab around 1998 and was clean for a few years, presumably until Coil began touring in 2000 (they were a studio-only band before this).  John’s death, just four years after they began touring and one of their most productive recording periods, he fell to his death in an alcohol related accident.

I’ve heard a lot of things about John from friends, other admirers, and distant acquaintances. By all accounts, he was contradictory: loving, but shy and distant, incredibly creative, intelligent, and well-read, but also crushingly self-destructive. Whatever he was lives on through his interviews and through Coil. In my teenage years, I was a little bit in love with him, or maybe I just idolized him. I always had trouble introducing friends to his and Peter’s music; you either already liked Coil, or you didn’t. The best I can offer, ten years later and in tribute, is a potential introduction.

Here is the playlist, which was nearly impossible to put together. I tried to keep it to around two hours with a mix of singles and more obscure songs. I hope this is your gateway drug and that when you fall, you fall hard.

Coil Playlist:
1. Ubu Noir (Scatology)
2. Tenderness of the Wolves (Scatology)
3. Tainted Love (Scatology)
4. The Anal Staircase (Horse Rotorvator)
5. Slur (Horse Rotorvator)
6. Circles of Mania (Horse Rotorvator)
7. Blood from the Air (Horse Rotorvator)
8. Windowpane (Love’s Secret Domain)
9. Titan Arch (Love’s Secret Domain)
10. Chaostrophy (Love’s Secret Domain)
11. Love’s Secret Domain (Love’s Secret Domain)
12. Bee Stings (Solstice and Equinox Singles)
13. Rosa Decidua (Solstice and Equinox Singles)
14. Are You Shivering? (Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 1)
15. The Dreamer is Still Asleep (Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 1)
16. Ether (Musick to Play in the Dark Vol. 2)
17. Sex with Sun Ra (Part One – Saturnalia) (Black Antlers)
18. Fire of the Mind (The Ape of Naples)
19. Tattooed Man (The Ape of Naples)
20. Going Up (from their final live performance in Dublin, 2004)

On I final note, I didn’t upload any of these songs, I just arranged them in a playlist, but I’m eternally grateful to those people who have – the entire official Coil discography is available on Youtube, as well as much more. There were a few individual tracks I couldn’t find but wanted to include, such as “Home to Sewage,” “Here to Here (Double Headed Secret),” or the “The Hellbound Heart”, which you can find on Unnatural History I or Unnatural History II. And if I didn’t include some albums, it’s because many of the later works, such as the excellent The Remote Viewer or And the Ambulance Died in His Arms, function better as a single, unified work.

No comments:

Post a Comment