Andy Gill, guitarist of Gang of Four, dies aged 64

Andy Gill, the guitarist who provided scratching, seething sounds that fulled British punk band Gang of Four, died Saturday at the age of 64. 

Gill died after a brief respiratory illness unfortunately progressed. Touching tributes were posted online from all walks of life. Gills commitment to the band was outlined on Twitter by one of the other members “His uncompromising artistic vision and commitment to the cause meant that he was still listening to mixes for the upcoming record, whilst planning the next tour from his hospital bed,”

Gill was born in Manchester on January 1, 1956. The band formed in 1976 when Jon King, Andy Gill, Dave Allen and Hugo Burnham met each other at university in Leeds. The band’s debut single “Damaged Goods” backed up with “(Love Like) Anthrax” and “Armalite Rifle”, was recorded in June 1978 and released on 10 December 1978, on Edinburgh’s Fast Product label. It rose to Number 1 in the indie charts and became a regular on the John Peel radio show. This early success led to two Peel radio sessions which propelled the band into international attention, mainly due to their emphatic live performances. 

1979 Gang of Four released the debut album “Entertainment!” To critical acclaim, It was named by Rolling Stone magazine in 2003 as one of the 500 greatest albums ever.

This being said the band wasn’t far away from controversy, the BBC invited the band to play “At Home He’s a Tourist” (which topped the charts) on ‘Top of the Pops’. The band walked off and refused to play after the BBC asked the band to change the lyrics from ‘rubbers’ to ‘rubbish’ as the original line was considered too risqué. The single was subsequently banned by the BBC radio and TV. A later single “I Love a Man in a Uniform” was also banned by the BBC during the Falklands War in 1982. 

The 70s punk scene in Leeds were wreck-less places for the faint-hearted. One extreme saw the first openly Nazi punk bands the Dentists and the Ventz. The other extreme saw the city’s university and the radical leftwing theory popular in its fine art department produced the Mekons, Delta 5 and Gang of Four. As you could imagine the result was frequent chaos and terrible violence through the university campus and at the F Club, the city’s main punk venue. This unrest placed mass influence on the music bands were producing. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Gill “virtually weaponised the instrument with his stabbing, scraping attack and feedback sorcery.”

The band followed up their debut album with ‘Solid Gold’. The album was a massive success providing us with songs such as ‘What We All Want’, ‘Paralysed’, ‘He’d Send in the Army’ and ‘Cheeseburger’. 

In addition to Gill’s work with the Gang of Four, he was also a record producer. He produced or co-produced all of the band’s albums. He also produced albums for artists such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Jesus Lizard, the Stranglers, the Futureheads, Michael Hutchence, Killing Joke, Polysics, Fight Like Apes, Therapy? and the Young Knives. Most notably working with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on their self-titled debut in 1984. 

There’s no doubt when it comes to assessing Gill’s talent, you could say he was the most acclaimed guitarist to come from the post-punk era. We’ll leave you with a statement wrote by one of his former band members “We’ll remember him for his kindness and generosity, his fearsome intelligence, bad jokes, mad stories and endless cups of Darjeeling tea. He just so happened to be a bit of a genius too.”

thomas ayres