this and the other texts as well - I have no idea where I got them from. I believe it was in my somewhat earlier WWW times, but I did not store the sources or the dates - and I also had to convert this stuff from WordPerfect 3 or so *lol*
The story of YELLO is a truly great story. Someone ought to make a film out of it. It's a story of heroes and thieves, machines and madness, dollars and divas, laughter and absurdity. It has resonance, warmth and originality. It has a triumph-against-the-odds angle. It has an existential undercurrent. It's one of the best stories in popular music. The stars of this living narrative, Dieter Meier and Boris Blank, have in the last fourteen years performed with a consistent inventive flare and obsessive integrity that sets them apart from pop's fleeting trash parade.
Taking themselves lightly, they have become heavyweights. Shunning fashion, they have sprinted ahead of musical style. This controlled extravagance, this focussed insanity, this roaming insularity that has been their dance from the beginning, has cast crazy shadows over the rest of the pop landscape.
The story of YELLO, however, is not just the story of Dieter and Boris. The supporting cast is formidable. There are real life cameos from Shirley Bassey, Billy Mackenzie, The Residents, Thierry Mugler, Afrikaa Bambaata, John Hughes and Jean Paul Goude. The fantasy sequences have to be dreamed to be believed.
Within the YELLO story there are glimpes of a thousand sub-plots where double-dealing vamps, possessed gamblers, crazed race track drivers, macho adventures, bar room philosophers, exotic belly dancers, uptown hookers and crestfallen crooners are caught in the freeze-frame of Dieter's fevered imagination, tussling with fear and desire. It's a riproaring, romping tale this YELLO yarn.
It's a tale which jump-cuts from authentic locations in Switzerland, England, Cuba, Poland and the United States, to imagined encounters in far flung corners of the globe, from Katmandu to the Amazon jungle. It's an adventure story. A story of two musical explorers, neither of whom had the musical training to sit in with a string quartet or jam with a jazz trio, who turned their limitations into something new and splendid. Glamour sits next to childlike naivity in this story. Art gets into a conversation with golf. And it's a story that can afford to be told and re-told, if for no other reason than the fact that the soundtrack, YELLO's soundtrack for their own zig-zagging progress, is a score that refuses to fade. There are some damn fine car chases too.
The opening scenes go like this.
In 1979 Dieter Meier is a resident of Zurich. The son of a banker, Dieter has at one time or another been a green haired performance artist, a law student moonlighting as a professional gambler, an experimental film maker, an essayist, a member of the Swiss National Golf Team and a dadaistic vocal noise-maker with a couple of singles to his name, released through the small label, Periphery Perfume. At the same time Boris Blank, a truck driver and former TV repair man, whose obsession with experimental sound recording has come to the attention of Periphery Perfume, is lurking in the back streets of Zurich, filling a trunk with one chaos-tech sound-sculpture tape per day. A meeting between this strange pair is suggested.
One saturday afternoon in the fall, Dieter walks into Boris's tiny flat, stands amongst the rubble of two cassette recorders, primitive synthesisers and broken and rusty instruments, and convinces a skeptical Boris to collaborate on a musical piece. It is thirty minutes long and called Dead Cat because the fictional New York character that Dieter invents for the piece finds an existantial epiphany in the sight of a dead cat in the street. This is the first of a long line of bizarre characters who will later stroll or drive or tango through YELLO's work.
Ten days later Dieter and Boris perform the piece at the Forum cinema in Zurich, with Dieter standing in front of the screen, and Boris and his chaos of noise apparatus hiding in the orchestra pit. "People were shocked and surprised," recalls Dieter. "But everyone felt there was something different and original happening. It was not like people carried us out on their shoulders, but it was a very good mood. And we both knew that we had given birth to something that was important. We celebrated, and I have never been more drunk, and Boris too, than this very evening."
This is the start of YELLO's story: a splash of originality on the canvas of boredom. A decade later and some million units down the line, this curious pair from the back woods of pop culture would be sitting in front of international journalists responding to earnest questions about how YELLO feel to have influenced the development of rap music, electronic pop, acid house, new beat, ambient music an techno. A decade later they would be invited to part with thousands of dollars to purchase an American made CD collection of the latest sound textures, a large part of which has been sampled from YELLO records. A decade later television channels around the world would flicker with images shaped and styled by YELLO's groundbreaking pop video productions. The ripples from YELLO's fourteen years of making a splash, spread out like this...
A first release I.T. Splash had been and gone. Carlos Peron, a fellow found sound enthusiast, who Boris had met packing a microphone at a car-crushing plant, was in on the plot. Boris flies to San Francisco and clinches a deal with Ralph Records, a front for the much respected eyeball rockers The Residents. Based on the principle that if YELLO can come up with a tape with more music and less hiss than Boris's demo, then Ralph would release it, the first YELLO album is issued in 1980. Titled Solid Pleasure, the album is a shadowplay of dance polyrythms, anxious synthesizer pulses, and spoken, sung and atmospherically implied snapshots of life in the global urban jungle. It bristles with drama, grandeur, tension and weirdness, whisking you from a spy thriller setting to a carnival backdrop and on to outer space like a hallucinatory limousine ride through Universal Studios with the windows down and a Latin American driver tapping out bongo rhythms on the wheel. It is a new thing this YELLO thing. Critically acclaimed for its innovation, Solid Pleasure begins the process of defining and re-defining an exotic disco world that is still being expanded by YELLO today.
At first sight, the next twist in the plot looks like a strange one. The phone goes in Dieter's Zurich home. A friend tells him that a single from the album, Bostich, is getting heavy rotation airplay on New Yorks's black dance station WBLS. Bostich has become a club hit in New York and London, and rap pioneer Afrikaa Bambaata is using it as a basis for his early rap sratch mixes. Suddenly YELLO are a name to drop in the funkiest of circles. It looked strange at the time, but in retrospect YELLO's satellite influence on the forefront of dance music, based in Boris's prescient drum machine creativity and Dieter's phonetic looseness, makes perfect sense. Later, Bostich is used in influential video director Jean Paul Goude's Lee Cooper jeans advert, establishing a link with commercial sales campaigns which has kept YELLO on TV screens up to today. Sometimes advertisers don't even think to ask permission first.
"When I hear one of Boris's pieces I'm immediately inspired very visually," says Dieter. "For me it's like when you're looking for a hero for a story you're writing, and as soon as you put on his music the hero comes through the door." Perhaps this is why Dieter's videos for YELLO songs are such a success. Perhaps it's why his early video for Pinball Cha Cha, shot as all of them have been on 16 mm with Dieter and Boris acting most of the time their parts in front of a backscreen projection is chosen as one of the few to be featured in the Museum Of Modern Art's Music Video Exhibition in 1985.
This early seal of approval from the art curators is the first of a long list of critical plaudits handed out to Dieter for his video work, which from The Evening's Young (1981) through Bostich (1984), Desire (Midem Music Video Award, Cannes 1986) up to The Race (Diamond Award for Special Effects, Brussels 1988 and World Musik Arward, Monte Carlo 1990) has influenced countless directors and helped to define the possibilities of the form.
While their videos are opening eyes in the pop promo world, YELLO release a second album, Claro Que Si an elegant but unpredictable set of syncopated, cosmopolitan novelettes in sound (including Pinball Cha Cha). And YELLO dip a warm toe into the icey waters of the beau-monde, providing the soundtracks for Thierry Mugler (She's Got A Gun) and Azzedine Alata fashion shows in Paris and New York.
As synth pop duos short life teen appeal sprout in the now technologically fertile soil of Europe, YELLO continue on their scenically superior path of enforced deviancy. They follow nobody's noses but their own. "Because we were living in the musical colonies of continental Europe, and within that in the very provincial situation of Switzerland, we had absolutely nothing to lose," explains Dieter. "Had we been in England, maybe we would have tried to become part of a fashion, but in Switzerland we could just make fools of ourselves and nobody would care anyhow." If YELLO are pop fools, it's by now becoming increasingly clear that they are fools of the idiot savant variety.
With his first full length movie 'Jetzt Und Alles' completed and delivered up to the international film festival circuit, Dieter relocates to New York, jetting back to Zurich whenever possible to bring a gust of anarchy to Boris's precision studio work. From the 'cable salad' of their gradually
updated studio, a third YELLO album emerges in 1983, titled You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess. A collection of awesome dreamscapes and mischevious dance beats set in YELLO's mysterious, perfumed, other-time, other-place (The Fifties? The moviers? The asylum?) You Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess spawns two singles. The first I Love You, complete with Dieter's video of a terrified Boris in the passenger seat of a speeding Alfa Spider sports car, breaks into the British charts. The second Lost Again, has the same impact in Germany.
By now it is impossible to dismiss YELLO as mere eccentrics. They make a rare live appearance at The Roxy in front of three thousand mostly black and Hispanic New Yorkers who add their raving approval to the polit applause of theorising critics. A Live At The Roxy EP is issued and YELLO are confirmed at that almost unique phenomenon, a pop group who justify intellectual cross-referencing with Dennis Hopper, Raymond Chandler of El Greco, and who also make you want to dance.
In 1985 YELLO issue their most vivid album so far. Around the flesh metronome percussion, Boris builds exquisitely haunted melodies and Dieter wraps over-ripe vocal evocations. The three singles from Stella establish YELLO as international hit makers. Vicious Games features a guest vocal from Rush Winters. Desire is accompanied by a video which Dieter shoots in Havana, Cuba. Somehow the song drifts west and turns up as part of the soundtrack to an edition of designer cop TV show Miami Vice. The luxuriant Oh Yeah proves itself to be uniquely adaptable, climbing the U.S. charts, accompanying American Football on TV, slotting into the soundtrack of two Hollywood movies, John Hughes Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the Michael J. Fox feature The Secret Of My Success and underscoring major commercials for chocolate and motorcars.
Commercial success and success with commercials would have knocked less committed voyagers off course. Dieter, however, is already well acquainted with the ritzier hotel bathrooms of the world's perfume capitals, and Boris is content to remain in his studio inventing names for the thousands of new sounds he's patented. Their fourth YELLO album proper One Second follows hard on the heels of a deluxe re-mix-compilation 1980-85: The New Mix In One Go. Under the polished pleasuredom of One Second's aural architecture, the silvery tones of ex-Associates singer Billy Mackenzie are perfectly matched to Boris'shimmering soundtracks, while in a different corner Dieter lobs absurdist spanners and travalogue spice into the works. He pays tribute to Charlie Chaplin in the single Goldrush, he lays out Santiago in Afro Cuban dialect. He calls the song Si Senor The Hairy Grill. Delicious madness all round. One of the album's finest moments, however, comes with Shirley Bassey's succulent performance on The Rythm Divine, a track specially composed for her by Dieter and Boris, which she records in their Zurich studio in under forty minutes. Arriving an hour later for the session, Dieter misses the entire thing.
As the acid house explosion takes place in Britain, and London DJs dig out mid-Eighties YELLO tracks to play alongside current dance from Chicago, Boris and Dieter find themselves accidentally ahead of the game once more. In a typically bizarre YELLO-esque chain of events an unregarded studio piece is offered by Dieter to a pair of magician friends to use in their performance at the Magicians World Championship in New York. The conjuring team of Tempest and Cottet win at the Waldorf Astoria, and the music proves so popular that in the summer of '88 YELLO re-work it into a single. Titled The Race it accelerates into the top five internationally, and Boris and Dieter are simultaneously presented with their biggest hit to date and saddled with the misconception that they are nouveau dancefloor converts. "We were acid house ten years ago!" Dieter screams at a radio interviewer.
The momentum of The Race propels YELLO into the new decade in a blurr of activity. 1988's album of global image collisions Flag clocks up a million sales, unleashing Tied Up and Of Course I'm Lying as singles along the way. Dieter repairs to Poland to wrestle with his unruly pet gorilla - the
filming of his major movie project Snowball, a "neo expressionist baroque opera kind of thing" still taking shape from around four hundred thousand feet of celluloid. Boris meanwhile turns up the heat in his Swiss sound kitchen to tenderise the carnival moods and stirring vistas that are eventually dished up as YELLO's most recent album, Baby.
As the YELLO story wheelspins into the future, the heroes are still living out a larger than life script. Their 1991 single Rubberbandman saw Dieter filling the accompanying video with the products of his wife's silk factory. 1992's Jungle Bill has additionally been tossed into the crocodile jaws of the UK's foremost dance remixer, Andrew Weatherall, running the risk of a mass out-break of YELLO popularity at la discotheque all over again. Boris has been working on Hollywood soundtracks as he already did on Ford Fairlane and Nuns on the Run. Dieter has just completed his first Hollywood feature film production, M.M., a story of a young man's obsession with the death of Marilyn Monroe. And of course, there's a new album, Trouble on the way.
The beauty of this unfinished story of YELLO is that there are so many strands and twists, ripples, red herrings and Rosebuds, that everyone who hears it comes away with a different version. YELLO are 'a gorgeous repository of useless mischief and absolutely irrelevant anarchy', if you like. Or they are 'like inhabiting the collective consciousness of the Old World aristocracy, all its fetishes and facades and arbitary codes'. Or maybe they're 'a vast, beautiful isolation chamber', or 'Europe's most influential makers of soundtracks for non-existent films'. Then again if you believe the principle actor in the drama, Dieter, they are 'Music for the jungle of the 20th Century'.
What is certain, is that from discos to movie theatres, from Italy to the Ivory Coast, from The Art of Noise to The Pet Shop Boys, echoes of YELLO can be heard loud and clearly. As a whole new generation discovers today's YELLO and their backcatalogue consequently becomes more and more in demand, the Essential YELLO album gathers together most of the highlights of the YELLO story including previously deleted singles and new single versions of Jungle Bill and The Rhythm Divine and displays them in one vinyl cassette or CD gallery for the first time. Accompanied by a collection of the best of their videos the full effect of YELLO can now be felt more powerfully than ever.
"People ask me how do you feel that you've influenced so many other bands or musical directions," says Dieter. "People say that we have ideas stolen from us and commercialised. And I always say that it's a very good sign when people steal from you. I think it's a very bad sign when nobody steals from you! Maybe if a certain musical trend becomes common knowledge, then people listen to the original too.
It's learning about YELLO's past through today's fashion, and this is also the reason why we released the Essential YELLO album. Because it's not just a compilation from someone who had a few hits, it's more like an exhibition of fourteen years of our work, and I hope that a lot of people realise that these boys have initiated something, and are not the epigones of something. And this is a bit our pride." Without the story of YELLO, the story of pop may have been another story entirely.
Talk of anything YELLO
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