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Slapp Happy was a Germanmarker/Englishmarker avant-pop group consisting of Anthony Moore (keyboards), Peter Blegvad (guitar) and Dagmar Krause (vocals). They formed in Germanymarker in 1972, moved to Englandmarker in 1974 where they merged with Henry Cow, but the merger ended soon afterwards and Slapp Happy split up. Slapp Happy's sound was characterised by Dagmar Krause's unique vocal style. From 1982 there have been brief reunions to work on an opera, record a CD and tour Japanmarker.

History

Germany

Slapp Happy was formed in 1972 in Hamburgmarker, Germanymarker by Britishmarker experimental composer Anthony Moore. Moore had recorded two avant-garde/experimental solo LP for Polydor Germanymarker, but they rejected his third because it was not commercial enough. As a result of the rejection, he proposed a pop project with his girlfriend (and soon to be wife), Dagmar Krause from Hamburg, and a visiting Americanmarker friend, Peter Blegvad. At the time, Krause couldn't sing because of voice problems, but when she heard Blegvad's singing she agreed to sing for the group.

With krautrock group Faust as their backing band, Slapp Happy recorded their debut album, Sort Of, for Polydor Germany in 1972. The songs were simple, primitive pop, a "naive rock" as Peter Blegvad put it. Commercially, the LP did not go very far, primarily because Slapp Happy refused to perform live "like a real pop group".

In 1973 they returned to the studio (again with Faust as their backing band) to record their second album Casablanca Moon. After the commercial failure of Sort Of Polydor had demanded more pop-sounding material, and so Moore and Blegvad wrote "straight" pop songs with beautiful melodies and poetic lyrics, but Polydor was still not happy and refused to release it.

England

Slapp Happy then left Polydor Germany and moved to Londonmarker where they signed a deal with the then emerging Virgin Records label, which was looking for experimental groups. Faust and Henry Cow had already signed up. At Virgin's Manor Studiosmarker in Oxfordshire, Slapp Happy re-recorded Casablanca Moon with the help of session musicians (under the direction of violinist Graham Preskett) and Virgin released it as Slapp Happy in 1974. The songs here were more sophisticated than those on Sort Of, lyrically and musically, and their eccentricity showed Slapp Happy's ambivalence towards pop music. It wasn't until 1980 that Recommended Records released the original Casablanca Moon (with Faust) as Acnalbasac Noom (the words of the original title reversed). Comparison of the two releases revealed two very different musical arrangements. Acnalbasac Noom had a raw and unsophisticated feel about it (which appealed to many fans), whereas Casablanca Moon tended to be more sentimental and "dreamy" with more complex arrangements, including a string orchestra. The debate as to which is better still goes on.

In June 1974, there were plans for a joint appearance by Slapp Happy and Virgin label mates Henry Cow and Robert Wyatt at a free concert in Hyde Parkmarker in London, but these were cancelled at the last minute. However, on June 25 Slapp Happy recorded a Top Gear session for the BBC, enlisting the help of former or current Cow members Geoff Leigh, Fred Frith and Lindsay Cooper, plus Robert Wyatt, who contributed guest vocals and percussion to a version of Blegvad's "A Little Something" from Casablanca Moon. Credited as "Slapp Happy & Friends", this was later released in 1994 on Wyatt's compilation album, Flotsam Jetsam.

The idea to collaborate with Henry Cow eventually materialised in November 1974 when Slapp Happy asked them to provide instrumental backing, much as Faust had done on their initial recording sessions, for their next album. The resulting Desperate Straights was released under the name "Slapp Happy/Henry Cow". The success of this collaboration surprised everyone, considering how dissimilar the two bands were, and they decided to merge. Desperate Straights was the perfect mixture of avant-garde music and nostalgic pop. The music often had a Berlinmarker Cabaret feel about it with a taste of avant-garde jazz.

The merged group returned to the studio in early 1975 to record Henry Cow's In Praise of Learning (as "Henry Cow/Slapp Happy"). The only real contribution from Slapp Happy (besides Dagmar's singing) was the Moore/Blegvad song "War", which blended in well with the album's political aggression. But differences in approach between the two groups had come to a head in April 1975 and Anthony Moore and Peter Blegvad quit, suggesting that Henry Cow's music was too serious (and political) for their liking. Dagmar Krause, however, elected to remain with Henry Cow, who needed a vocalist to bolster their sound. But this effectively spelt the end of Slapp Happy as a band.

Reunions

"Everybody's Slimmin'" single.


Anthony Moore and Peter Blegvad then both embarked on separate solo careers. In 1982 the trio reunited briefly to record a Slapp Happy single, "Everybody's Slimmin' (Even Men and Women)" on their own private label, Half-Cat Records. Here Krause sings rap-style to a rhythm box sound. They also performed live (for the first time ever) during the "Dial M For Music" festival, held at London's Institute of Contemporary Artsmarker on 10 September 1982.

The three collaborated again in 1991 on a BBC commissioned television opera "Camera", based on an original idea by Dagmar Krause, with words by Peter Blegvad and music by Anthony Moore. Dagmar played the lead character "Melusina" and the opera was broadcast two years later on Channel 4 in the United Kingdommarker. The soundtrack Camera was released on CD in 2000, although under the names "Dagmar Krause, Anthony Moore and Peter Blegvad". Aside from Dagmar's singing, the music on Camera was performed by other artists and for that reason, Camera is not strictly a Slapp Happy album.

In 1997, Slapp Happy reunited again to record a new studio album Ça Va on Richard Branson's new V2 label. It was Slapp Happy's first album since 1975 and the music picked up from where they had left off with literate and quirky pop songs. A departure from the past, however, was that they made the music themselves. They played all the instruments and used a digital studio to produce a layered sound on many of the tracks. This departure from Slapp Happy's "acoustic sound" disappointed some fans, but overall the album was well received.

Slapp Happy was very popular in Japanmarker and in 2000, they toured there playing on stage without any backing musicians. A CD, Live in Japan, was released in 2001 in Japanmarker only.

Music

Slapp Happy's music was eccentric pop with an "avant-garde" twist to it. It drew on a variety of musical idioms, including waltzes, bossa novas, Frenchmarker chansons and tangos. The songs' lyrics were literate and playful while the mood varied from "dreamy" to sinister.

But it was Dagmar Krause's unusual and eerie high-pitched voice that was the group's most arresting feature. Her German-inflected vocals ranged from a sweet melodious croon to the "love-it-or-hate-it" Armageddon style typified on In Praise of Learning.

Members

  • Anthony Moore – guitar, keyboards, percussion, programming, tape manipulation, toy theremin, melodica, harmonica, vocals
  • Peter Blegvad – guitar, bass guitar, saxophone, clarinet, percussion, harmonica, vocals
  • Dagmar Krause – vocals, piano, percussion, harmonica
Note: Dagmar Krause was credited as "Daggi" on Slapp Happy's first album, Sort Of (1972). On the next three albums, Slapp Happy (1974), Desperate Straights (1975) and In Praise of Learning (1975), she was credited as "Dagmar". From Acnalbasac Noom (1980) onwards Krause was credited with her full name.

Discography

The year below indicates the release date (not the recording date).

Albums

Singles



See also



References



Footnotes

  1. Cutler 2009, vol. 1-5, p. 21,40.


External links




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