When Gang of Four’s Andy Gill passed away in February 2020 he was already well down the track of marking the 40th anniversary of the first Gang of Four album with a special project.
After Andy died, as possibly one of England’s earliest Covid victims, his wife Catherine Mayer set out to finish the project ‘The Problem of Leisure’ with artists influenced and inspired by Andy and Gang of Four.
The album features Gang of Four songs covered by Gary Numan, Flea, Tom Morello and La Roux. It is a stunning homage to the band Andy started in 1976. However, Catherine is loathe to use the word “tribute” too loosely when taking about ‘The Problem of Leisure’.
“A tribute makes it sound like something to was possibly thrown together,” Catherine tells Noise11.com. “This was something that came out of Andy’s brain. It is much more a reflection of who he was. I know I am biased but I think it is a fantastic double album”.
The first Gang of Four album was released in 1979. Andy started work on ‘The Problem of Leisure’ to mark the 40 year milestone. “It was going to mark ‘Entertainment’, their debut album, which was coming up to its 40th anniversary,” Catherine says. “Andy had an idea of doing covers of ‘Entertainment’ but it had already changed for various reasons before Andy died, not least that when he started approaching musicians about the covers, a lot of them came back very enthusiastically. They wanted to do covers but they started choosing them from different albums, indeed different periods. People were choosing much later Gang of Four”.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and John Frusiante covered ‘Not Great Men’, La Roux ‘Damaged Goods’, Helmet ‘In The Ditch’, Gary Numan ‘Love Like Anthrax’.
Andy was the only original Gang of Four member still with the band at the time of his death. Guitarist and singer Jon King left in 2012 to pursue a media career. “Andy was the only member of the band who was in it from its beginnings in the late 1970s right through to when he died in February 2020,” Catherine says. “It was only after he died and so many of the tracks were already in and he had a wishlist of other people he was going to approach. I just thought I have to finish this for him. It was something that obsessed him for the past two years of his life and that is how it came into being. It is absolutely a tribute to Andy and a tribute to Gang of Four and the power of Gang of Four songwriting and Gang of Four’s extraordinary influence on music”.
Andy put storyboard for this project well into play before Andy passed away. “He was the most hands on person you could possibly imagine about everything,” Catherine says. “He was such a perfectionist. He had no idea that he was going to die. When he went into hospital he actually delayed the ambulance for me to run inside to get his computer and his noise cancelling headphones. He kept getting me to bring in external hard-drives that he could plug-in so that he could listen to tracks that came in while he was in hospital. The amazing artwork for the album was by Damien Hirst. Damien sent us the different possible designs while Andy was in hospital. Yeah, Andy was still working on it and still very excited by it. Again, another reason I could never shelve this. At the point he died there were more than enough tracks for one album but so many it was already looking like a double album and there was the wishlist there. So I just continued with Andy’s wishlist and pursued musicians after his death and got it up to 20 tracks, a double album”.
The complete track listing is as follows:
The Problem of Leisure: CD One
Vinyl One, Side A
1. IDLES – Damaged Goods (UK)
2. Tom Morello & Serj Tankian – Natural’s Not in It (USA)
3. Helmet – In the Ditch (USA)
4. 3D* x Gang of Four feat. Nova Twins – Where the Nightingale Sings (Redux) (UK)
5. Hotei – To Hell With Poverty (Japan)
Vinyl One, Side B
1. Gary Numan – Love Like Anthrax (UK)
2. Gail Ann Dorsey – We Live as We Dream, Alone (USA)
3. Herbert Grönemeyer feat. Alex Silva – I Love a Man in a Uniform (Germany)
4. LoneLady – Not Great Men (UK)
5. JJ Sterry – 5.45 (UK)
The Problem of Leisure: CD Two
Vinyl Two, Side C
1. La Roux – Damaged Goods (UK)
2. Everything Everything – Natural’s Not in It (UK)
3. Dado Villa-Lobos – Return the Gift (Brazil)
4. The Dandy Warhols – What We All Want (USA)
5. Warpaint – Paralysed (USA)
Vinyl Two, Side D
1. Flea & John Frusciante – Not Great Men (USA)
2. The Sounds – I Love a Man in a Uniform (Sweden)
3. Hardcore Raver in Tears – Last Mile** (China)
4. Killing Joke x Gang of Four – Forever Starts Now (Killing Joke Dub) (UK)
5. Sekar Melati – Not Great Men (live version) (Japan)
Follow Noise11 on Social Media
NEW: Noise11 on YouTube SUBSCRIBE