Damn, why won’t this car start?
The most amusing thing in retrospect about “Close (to the Edit),” and Who’s Afraid of the Art of Noise? (1984), the album that spawned it, is that the first kids in my hometown that gravitated to the Art of Noise were the breakdancers. Their music didn’t quite gel with Mantronix, or Newcleus, or the other electro-funk stuff they were blasting out of their boom boxes – even funnier is the fact that many people just assumed that the Art of Noise were black, solely because of their affiliation with the electro scene – but a big beat is a big beat, and “Close (to the Edit)” has some seriously big beats. The problem, though, was that once the breakdancers gravitated to the album, it was instantly uncool to like the Art of Noise.
Luckily for me, I was already uncool.
For the life of me, I could not imagine how someone could watch Zbigniew Rybczynski’s eye-popping video for “Close (to the Edit)” and not think that was the coolest song or video ever made. Three guys in business suits bashing the shit out of various instruments to one colossal drum beat (Alan White of Yes, as sampled by Art of Noise founder and producer extraordinaire Trevor Horn), and the main instrumentation consisted of the sound of a car starting at various speeds? (A VW Golf, if Wikipedia is correct) It was a veritable cornucopia of awesomeness! And yet, whenever I sang the song or video’s praises to any of my cooler, macho friends, the response was always the same: “Fag.”
Fuck those guys. “Close (to the Edit)” kills, and has stood the test of time better than whatever dinosaur rock or hair metal they were into at the time. In fact, on the soon-to-be released DVD for “Slaves to the Rhythm,” the 2004 all-star concert for the Prince’s Trust featuring nearly every artist that ever worked with Trevor Horn, one of the evening’s highlights is when Horn, backed by a small army, plays “Close (to the Edit)” live, and rocks the daylights out of that octave-jumping bass line. Fittingly, Alan White played the drums.
Reading the Wikipedia page dedicated to the Art of Noise was quite an eye-opener. I had no idea that there was such acrimony within the band. When I saw that Horn was no longer involved with the band when they released In Visible Silence in 1986, I figured it was a casualty of his ever-increasing profile as a producer. As it turns out, arranger Anne Dudley, keyboardist J.J. Jeczalik and engineer Gary Langan did not like the direction Horn and Paul Morley wanted to take the band – plus Jeczalik thought Morley’s writing was pretentious – so they split from Horn and ZTT Records and went their own way. The bad blood seemingly persists, as Jeczalik and Langan did not participate in the Prince’s Trust show. Dudley did, though, and had the honor of “playing the car,” as it were.
There are roughly six million different mixes of this song, but alas, I only have three of them, plus the album version. The two “Close-Up” mixes have an even bigger drum sound than the original, if that’s possible. Start popping, fuckers!