The Only Fun In Town Posted on 13 Oct 16:51
Is There Any Fun In Town? Is there any fun anywhere? Yes. Yes, there is. You just have to try harder to make (safe, socially distanced) fun during a pandemic. Sign up for our newsletter (link below) for a run down of suggestions this week!
!This photo was taken on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade, looking North to Princes Street and the New Town, and I am waving around an original copy of 'The Only Fun In Town' By Josef K. They're Edinburgh's great lost band of the 1980's. This LP was released in 1981, the same year that the name Paper Tiger first appeared over the door at 16 Stafford Street, Edinburgh. We're both forty next year.
Josef K took their name from the protagonist in Franz Kafka's The Trial. Navigating the rules around the pandemic often feels Kafkaesque. Paper Tiger is widely acknowledged to be a phrase coined by Mao Zedong to characterise the threatening but ineffectual relationship the USA had with China. They recorded for Glasgow's Postcard Records, and label mates included Orange Juice, The Go Betweens and Aztec Camera. Styling the label as 'The Sound Of Young Scotland' the enigmatic founder Alan Horne managed to release a series of massively influential (but relatively poor selling) records for a few short years before the label folded.
The Only Fun In Town features artwork by Krysia Klasicki. I love the illustration of the New Town skyline, a simple, effective line drawing that brings out the joy and possibility contained within the sleeve of the record and - maybe - the buildings of the New Town. At the time it was being built, the New Town was the largest building project in Europe, and was the absolute last word on the Modern World, a new city conjured up in literary and philosophical salons of the Old Town, and then beautifully designed and artfully built stone. A gleaming tribute to ideas about how to live. By 1981, the New Town had just about been saved from neglect and urban vandalism, and Josef K were sauntering the streets of a dour city gripped by the recession of the early 80's. 'The Only Fun In Town' is both a deliberately ironic statement about the state of their hometown, and a statement of intent about the record they had made.
Unfortunately, it was more or less ignored on release. Josef K split up, and the album vanished, cited by a few hardcore fans over the years, but slowly growing in influence as their angular guitar pop permeated the genetic make up of bands that followed them. Alan Horne is a ghost presence, still alive, I think, but keeping a very low profile. Mao Zedung is long gone, but Paper Tiger is still here, and I cannot find any trace of Krysia beyond the work she did for Josef K. I would dearly love to see more of her illustrations.
My bit of fun this week has been writing this, and trailing up the Royal Mile to take this photo. I stepped out of my New Town bubble, onto the cobbles of the Old Town and considered the forty years since Josef K conceived their album, and Paper Tiger began its journey onto the High Street. It's good to get out, and there's fun to be had on that side of town.
What are you planning to do?