Record sleeve image

Outside the Trains Don't Run on Time

Gang of Four

1980 (single), 1981 (Solid Gold LP)

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If there’s one band whose influence seems to massively outweigh their own commercial success, it’s Gang of Four. Year-in, year-out, we hear new acts influenced by their funk and dub influenced post-punk rock. This song encapsulates everything I loved about them. It’s angry. political, energetic, and yet it grooves.

Despite the enduring popularity of songs like Damaged Goods, and At Home He's a Tourist, they never troubled the top 40 single or album charts. The latter single earned them an invite for a Top of the Pops appearance, which The Internet widely reports them as turning down when asked to change a lyric from “rubbers” to “rubbish”. Oddly, I thought I could I remember seeing them on the show, but I can’t find evidence of it happening, so I’ll have to put it down as a false memory.

Refusing to compromise would have been totally in character. And most reports of this go on to blame it for the souring of their relationship with EMI, who had signed them up after a successful indie EP release. The first album, Entertainment!, was a major critical success, though some fans preferred the less polished pre-EMI sound. The band and label parted company after this one LP, though EMI haven’t been shy in coming forward with re-issues etc.

Outside the Trains Don’t Run on Time was released after Entertainment!, and appeared on their 2nd LP, the post-EMI Solid Gold record. It did, however, get onto some re-issues of the first LP also.

My choice of Gang of Four track was really a short-list of two. I also nearly went for the slightly-later To Hell With Poverty. Check it out. I wouldn’t really call it “easy listening”, but I think it’ll be worth your time.

Guitarist Andy Gill still performed as Gang of Four until his sad death on 1st February 2020.