G. B. M. (Gardening by Moonlight)

In early 1982, J.J. and DUNCAN BRIDGEMAN decided to dedicate more time to the G.B.M. project. J.J. wanted to express more through lyrics / song / production, as well as different rythymic influences to the ones that had been used in dance music at that time; some songs, later recorded on the G.B.M. L.P. & singles, having a gaelic rhythmic / melodic lilt, and others, having a more hybrid rhythmic / melodic direction, an attempt at reinventing song and dance music, with a very personalised and British / local, influence and identity, mixed with various extremes of electronics, F.X. and synths. With the emphasis being on, “FEEL”.

The duo then, started demo-recording an albums worth of songs, J.J. taking on lyrics, lead & backing vocals, drums & percussion, composition and co- production, and Duncan on keyboards, co-composition and co-production. The recording and writing process took about a year, in between other commitments, and numerous approaches to record companies. Then eventually, after complex negotiations, J.J. signed to, INTERDISC RECORDS, which was part of the ISLAND RECORDS label.

Gardening by Moonlight Johnson/Bridgeman

The first G.B.M. release on that label was STRANGE NEWS / IS IT SAFE, a 7 inch single, (cat no. M P E 2 ), and STRANGE NEWS, ext mix STRANGE VEIWS ( IS IT SAFE? ), mixed by G.B.M. and STRANGE CLUES, dub mix, which was mixed by ADRIAN SHERWOOD of ON-U- SOUND, on the 12″ single.They were released in February 1983.

STRANGE NEWS

7″ Single:cat no. IN-3

12″ Single:cat no.M P E 2

February 1983

The singles got a brilliant reaction from the press and in the clubs, especially the 12 inch version, and got loads of airplay. By this point J.J. had dropped his nickname, and reverted to his real name, JOHN JOHNSON and was credited as such on the records.

Because of the interest and response generated by STRANGE NEWS, the record company wanted to follow through with a second single, and an album. The G.B.M. duo, then started recording at THE CHAPEL 24 track studio in rural Lincolnshire, recording album tracks including the second single DICTION AND FICTION.

DICTION AND FICTION was released on 23rd of May 1983 in a 7″ ( cat no.IN-3 ) version, containing the tracks:

12 inch ( cat no.12 IN-3 )Club mix version with the track DICTION AND FICTION extended mix.

The single received good / mixed reviews and airplay, but was not greeted with the same sort of enthusiasm as the first single, although it got lots of club play. The recording and promotion continued, G.B.M., then doing a promo – video of DICTION & FICTION, although some reactions and responses from the press indicated that they preferred the more extreme musical direction of the first single, STRANGE NEWS, to the more conventional DICTION & FICTION.    Diction and fiction record cover

Diction and Fiction

7 inch singleCat no.IN-3

12inch single Cat. no. 12 IN-3

Released: May 1983

More recording, and final mixing sessions at THE MUSIC WORKS STUDIO and AIR STUDIOS, in London, produced the album METHOD IN THE MADNESS, which was released in late September 1983, to great acclaim, and numerous airplay.

METHOD IN THE MADNESS LP

Released:Sept 83

Cat no.Interdisc INTO2      

Tracks:

(side 1) , METHOD IN THE MADNESS, LETTERS, DICTION & FICTION, WHISTLING IN THE DARK.

(side 2 ) WEIGHTS & MEASURES, STRANGE VEIWS (IS IT SAFE), CHANCE, STRANGE NEWS (12″ version), and METHOD AGAIN (instrumental)

REVIEW | HELEN FITZGERALD | MELODY MAKER

GARDENING BY MOONLIGHT

METHOD IN THE MADNESS Interdisc INTO2

Rich, pure and astonishingly subtle, Gardening by Moonlight’s first album offers layer upon layer of magical invention. Crescendos of percussive symmetry form a backdrop for cleverly twisting atmospheric tangents that elevate GBM to the status of Thomas Leer and bands like Shriekback and The Cocteau Twins.

Astonishingly clever innovations and a more tongue-in- cheek rejection of the saturated neo-disco funk invasion forges a strong identity for GBM. John Johnson on drums and vocals is the musical dice man who traces the revolving, percussive patterns for Duncan Bridgemans pumping synth to decorate. A founder member of Wayne County and The Electric Chairs (I kid you not) and a veteran of The Flying lizards and the Skids, Johnson,s vocal talents have long been overlooked. “Diction and Fiction”, a superbly orchestrated swinging sub-funk jigsaw, forms a tantalising matrix, with mysteriously understated vocals sweeping in and around the music.

Gardening by Moonlight succeed where other purveyors of a “new dance” mode fall short – they offer more than a simple re-juxtaposition of old tricks and much more than mere quality beat. Sculpting almost visual images in the air their only serious rivals at the art must be Swiss electronic eccentrics Yello, whose wackiness shadows their boldly innovative talent. But “Method in the Madness”, a self-explanatory title, surpasses even Yello’s convoluted progressions by combining the polarities of seriousness and fun. Elemental rhythms will give twitching bodies an ecstatic thrill…Camden Palace clones will drool to the beat, but GBM offer the more sedate audience enough intricate delicacy and intrigue to warrant hours of pleasurable discovery. The kaleidoscope Mardi Gras urgency of “Letters” and the warmly embracing fluidity of the title track owe much to Thomas Leer’s pioneering developments with synthesiser combinations, but GBM successfully avoid plagiarism. If any criticism must be levelled (and they’re hard to fault), its target must be their almost over clever obsession with technique. the production (credit GBM) is wide and deep but seems in places to dally with intricacies rather than ambience.

But this album is more about overall feel than technique and falls not one inch short of creating a new in-road in intelligent dance-orientated music. GBM have made their point – it can be done.

HELEN FITZGERALD

MELODY MAKER October 22, 1983.

The release of the album was followed by the third single WHISTLING IN THE DARK also released in late September 83. All tracks were published by WARNER BROTHERS MUSIC /April Music.

G.B.M. had never aspired to be a conventional band / duo, always attempting to move in a more challenging, original direction and sound, giving its members a lot of musical freedom, which in itself created complications.

Although G.B.M. achieved musically what it set out to do, G.B.M. never gigged, despite the original intention being to do live shows.

Also, throughout this period, separate and musically opposite to G.B.M., was the complication that Duncan Bridgeman was part of funk / pop band, I LEVEL, and had signed to VIRGIN RECORDS which eventually led to contractual / commitment problems and made it impossible for the duo to work together.

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