It must have been late 1979 or early 1980 when it happened. I was flipping through the box of “Under £1” 7″ singles in my local record shop when I found one in a bright yellow and orange sleeve. It was labeled Moskow Diskow on one side, Rock Around The Clock on the other. The artist name was TELEX. I’ve always liked bizarre cover versions, so I decided to risk 50p.
What I had discovered was a radically different vision of pop music—all electronic, stripped down, deadpan funny. These days I can say that it’s as if Kraftwerk met Pet Shop Boys in a café in Brussels, but back in 1980 there was nothing like it. (Sure, Kraftwerk used similar noises back then, but the attitude was completely different.)
In April 1980, I watched the Eurovision Song Contest. I expected to hate all the music; that was part of the train wreck appeal of the thing. To my surprise, TELEX turned up as Belgium’s entry. They played their song, an archly self-referential song about singing in the Eurovision Song Contest.
When it was over, the stunned audience sat in dead silence. One of the members of the band stepped out from behind a synth and took a photograph. There was more awkward silence, then a little nervous clapping broke out here and there.
It wasn’t until 1992 that I’d see a better performance at an awards show. That was the year that the KLF treated the Brit Awards audience to an unexpected duet with Extreme Noise Terror, followed by a round of blanks fired from an automatic rifle.
I spent years trying to find more TELEX releases. I even tried record stores in Brussels. I scored a vinyl album, and friends who had had more luck made me some tapes. Finally, in 1993 the entire back catalog was released on CD, and thanks to the wonder of the Internet I was able to order a copy from Belgium.
Now it’s 2006, and TELEX are back. Check out the podcasts for a glimpse of what you’ve been missing. These guys were electroclash 20 years before electroclash was invented.