When I was a teenager I invented, named, discovered something called Perfect Documentary Syndrome (PDS): if there was a programme on TV or radio about something I loved, especially if it was something obscure, I wouldn’t, couldn’t bear to watch it. It’s insane and self-destructive I know, but there we go.
Private childhood obsessions like The Prisoner, The Avengers (the 60s British TV series, not the comic book franchise), offshore pirate radio stations all were exposed and re-popularised, but the one thing that survived the longest without succumbing to PDS the longest was Consequences: a 1977 triple album made by Godley & Creme when they left 10cc. It is a concept album about a divorce, an eccentric musician and the end of the world caused by extreme weather, the latter fact seeming very timely as I sit here sweltering on an unusually hot August day in London.
I heard of it because my (much older) brother had two cassettes someone he worked with had made for him. He knew I loved 10cc and he lent, then gave me, the cassettes. Or perhaps I just never gave them back. This would be in the early 1980s. Consequences had flopped, it was deleted, forgotten - most of all by the people who made it. But I almost wore those C90s out.
The album - and this I am sure was part of its downfall and yet its genius and charm all at the same time - was made to showcase a haunting musical instrument Godley and Creme had invented called the Gizmo as well as featuring a long, rambling play written by and starring, in all roles but one, the humourist Peter Cook. Its bizarre but insanely memorable turns of phrase became part of my everyday vocabulary: ‘nothing to set the Thames on fire about’, ‘if you’re not a chicken, don’t eat corn’ and ‘I suppose your niece is on fire again, Miss Farthing.’ Actually I don’t think I ever had cause to use the latter.
And - aside from one school friend - no-one else I knew got it, liked it, or had even heard of it. Which was perfect. It was my constant frame of reference. It was there for me when times were tough. It was there for me when the older girl at my school I had never spoken to and yet upon whom I had the most insane crush, left school and I knew I would never see her again. The closing movement with chaos and destruction turning to peace and tranquility was there to soothe my soul like no human could. No-one knew about my crush. No-one else liked Consequences. This was as it should be.
The year 1985. I was on my gap year and in a secondhand record store in Boulder, Colorado. They had a US edition of Consequences on vinyl for $29.99. It seemed like an outrageous amount of money to a school-leaver Greyhounding round the US, but I bought it and took it on the road then brought it back home to the UK.
Spool forward to 1997. I was on attachment from my BBC radio studio manager job as London producer for the US public radio network NPR. Unlike most of the rest of the BBC we had really fast US-based internet down a leased line from Washington. I had access, through programs like Spry Mosaic, to an intoxicating invention called the World Wide Web. Between stories I had a lot of downtime. I should have spent it making radio features and documentaries, but instead, inspired by Geocities and a spookily accurate music recommendation site called Ringo (later Firefly), I taught myself HTML. I wanted to make a website. But you need a website to be about something, right? What could I make a website about that hadn’t already been thought of, even in 1997? Consequences!
Mr Blint’s Attic, this web site devoted to just one album, was born, hand-coded in Notepad. It got mentioned in Mojo magazine. I had emails, literally some emails, from about 3 people around the world who loved it as much as I did. I could cope with less than a dozen fellow fans on the same planet.
Then one day the phone rang. It was some grand fromage in Phonogram, the now long-subsumed record label that originally released Consequences. He was sitting in Tony Wilson’s office in Manchester - yes that Tony Wilson, the man behind Factory Records, whom I idolised. They must have been talking about doing a deal to rescue Factory - I think London Records was part of Phonogram - and I guess they got talking about the great heritage of Strawberry Studios in Stockport. I know Wilson admired 10cc, a Manchester band, for sinking money into a well-equipped recording studio in the North. Much of Consequences was recorded in Stockport, in studio downtime overnight.
With hindsight, I should have bunked off work and caught a train to Manchester on the spot, met my hero Wilson and helped get my beloved album re-issued on new-fangled CD. But I never followed it up. Self-destructive Perfect Documentary Syndrome again. The conjunction of Anthony H Wilson, Factory Records and my favourite, secret album was all too much.
I never did meet Tony Wilson and he’s long-dead, so let that be a lesson to you.
Spool forward again to 2019. I’m overcoming my PDS. Artwork from the album booklet has been used for the cover of a Chemical Brothers album, and I was asked to help clear the copyright. There’s now an excellent podcast - a podcast! - devoted to Consequences, and I’ve even listened to most of them and have been trying to help them find guests such as Ken Maliphant (former MD of Phonogram): https://consequences.podbean.com/
There have been a couple of CD re-issues over the years, but I’m genuinely happy to say that it’s been re-issued again in 2019 in a smart 5 CD box set by Caroline International.
It’s been re-mastered and as well as the original triple album on 3 discs, you get the Music from Consequences sampler album which was released, I think, in an attempt to try to recoup some of the money burnt on the album: it contained all the best music, and there are some beautiful songs on there which would never have made a 10cc album such as ‘Sailor’ and ‘Lost Weekend’. It cut the play and was much cheaper. There’s also a disc of edited highlights, another promo device which I’d not heard before. It’s a bit jarring - you get into a good song or bit of dialogue and it cuts to another scene, but it’s a welcome historical curiosity for the hard-core fan like me. The main 3 discs and the Music from Consequences sampler albums are both, however, superb listens as ever. The original booklet is reproduced in full - not their fault, but the CD format’s size means some of the additional text is a bit small for my ancient eyes, but it’s great to see Paul Gambaccini’s sleevenotes reproduced in full and there's also a whole new interview with Godley & Creme! I'll post a proper review when I've absorbed and listened to it all properly.
I have a spare copy of the new CD to give away as soon as I think of a suitable competition - watch this space!
Giles Booth, London, 26th August 2019