The Electric Circus was a punk club in Manchester, England, in 1976 and 1977. The Anarchy Tour allegedly stopped there twice. When the Electric Circus was closed, they had a big blowout with many bands for an entire weekend. Much of that was recorded, and the highlights were released in 1978 on a 10" Ep called Short Circuit Live at the Electric Circus. Most of the bands that weekend were small potatoes then, and most of them stayed that way. By the time the thing was put together, the compilers had the benefit of hindsight about which bands ended up going anywhere.

The Ep was reissued sporadically on into the early or mid 1980s, which is when I got my copy. The sleeve is a dark bluish green, with red lettering and a goofy schematic of a circuit (ha ha, get it?) on the front. There are many small, unidentified photos of small, unidentified musicians on the back and on the innersleeve. Some of them I recognize; I'd know Bernard Albrecht and Ian Curtis anywhere. With others, your guess is probably better than mine. The innersleeve also has extensive liner notes by Paul Morley (maddeningly vague about dates), and (precious, precious) a complete lineup for each band featured.

It's great stuff. Manchester was happening at that moment. Here's a track listing:

Side A:
  1. "Stepping Out", The Fall
  2. "(You Never See a Nipple in the) Daily Express", John Cooper Clarke
  3. "At a Later Date", Joy Division
  4. "Persecution Complex", The Drones (who?!)
Side B:
  1. "Makka Splaff (The Colly Man)", Steel Pulse
  2. "I Married a Monster from Outer Space", John Cooper Clarke
  3. "Last Orders", The Fall
  4. "Time's Up", The Buzzcocks

Both of the Fall's tracks here are now available as bonus tracks on a CD reissue of Early Fall 1977-79 (a record you cannot live without). They're great, a direction the Fall could have gone in but didn't: It's like they thought maybe they might like to be a punk band but then changed their minds, and Mark E. Smith really sings. The lineup at that particular instant was Martin Bramah (guitar), Una Baines (electric piano), the durable Karl Burns (drums), Tony Friel (bass), and of course the man himself holding forth out front.

Somebody identified only as "Garth" plays bass with the Buzzcocks here. That's how he's identified in the notes, with quotation marks: " 'Garth' ". Howard DeVoto was gone already, and Steve Diggle had arrived. My great secret shame is that I don't have a copy of Spiral Scratch, but I don't think "Time's Up" is on it. Nevertheless, this is early, early, and it'd fit right in on that record.

Joy Division was still called Warsaw. Their one little song here is of interest mainly to fanatics. If you've heard any Warsaw-era JD material, well . . . this is more of it. They were still learning onstage. As for the Drones, the liner notes have this to say: "Pulp. Representing those groups who for a year experienced brief minor fame cos [sic] for a little while we just wanted to dance.". That about sums up the Drones: Loud, fun, and forgettable.

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