Gang Of Four had wowed the critics with the albums Entertainment in 1979 and Solid Gold in 1981 without ever really translating the column inches into sales and familiarity with the general public. Things weren’t helped by an hard-headed and uncompromising attitude towards their art, with one example being them eschewing the opportunity to appear on Top of The Pops after the show’s producer asked that the word ‘rubbers’ be replaced by ‘rubbish’; it’s worth recalling that someone like Paul Weller was more than OK to change the occasional lyric to appear on the show, and so maybe Go4 were just a bit too precious about things, given that getting their message(s) across to a wider audience would have paid dividends in different ways.
The third album, Songs of The Free, was released in 1982. It was preceded by an absolute belter of a single, one which could be said to be the perfect hybrid of punk and disco:-
The use of the female backing vocals to shriek out the song’s title over the catchiest of bass lines and riffs on the back of the innuendo-laden line ‘The girls, they love to see you shoot’, made it ideal for shaking your stuff on the dance floor…..and easy enough to pay no attention to the rest of the lyrics that referred to the inadequacies of men who signed up for the army life and the fact they ran the risk of an early death.
The song stood every chance of hitting the charts and this time there wouldn’t be a word which would be of concern to the TOTP censors…..and then Argentina and the UK went to war over the Falkland Islands and a large number of songs, old and new alike, were banned from radio play for fear of causing offence. I Love A Man In A Uniform had no chance of surviving that cull……
Just the other week, as part of a wider on-line purchase of some second-hand vinyl from a shop in Berlin, I picked up a 12” copy of this single, one that had originally been issued in the USA by Warner Brothers, and which featured an extended remix and dub version of the song, along with a far from throwaway track which I’m not sure ever saw the light of day in any other format:-
One listen and you’ll recognise just how many 21st Century bands, on both sides of the Atlantic, have been influenced by Gang of Four.