A Certain Ratio

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A Certain Ratio
Also known asACR, Sir Horatio
OriginFlixton, Greater Manchester, England
Years active1977–present
LabelsFactory, A&M, Rob's Records, Mute
Associated actsSwing Out Sister, Swamp Children/Kalima
  • Jez Kerr
  • Martin Moscrop
  • Donald Johnson
  • Tony Quigley
  • Matt Steele
Past members
  • Peter Terrell
  • Simon Topping
  • Martha Tilson
  • Liam Mullan
  • Andy Connell
  • Denise Johnson

A Certain Ratio (abbreviated as ACR) are an English post-punk band formed in 1977 in Flixton, Greater Manchester by Peter Terrell (guitar, electronics) and Simon Topping (vocals, trumpet), with additional members Jez Kerr (bass, vocals), Martin Moscrop (trumpet, guitar), Donald Johnson (drums), and Martha Tilson (vocals) joining soon after.[8][9]

Drawing heavy influence from funk as well as disco and Latin percussion,[10] ACR combined the post-punk Factory sound with the emerging influence of funk in indie music. “One of the first post-punk bands to get to grips with funk”. (Big Issue North, May 2019)[11]

“ACR pursued a musical career that incorporated all elements of Dance music. Be it the rare-groove Funk of “Shack Up”, the Latin percussion street sound of “Skipscada”, the Dub of their sly Sir Horatio’s “Abrucadubra” or the New York party sound of “Touch” - all played with a typical Northern post-industrial slant!” (Sleeve notes - A Certain Ratio, Early).[12]

The band were among the first to debut on Tony Wilson's Factory Records in 1979 with "All Night Party," produced by Martin Hannett.[9] During ACR's early years with Factory, they scored seven Top Ten U.K. independent releases, highlighted by "Flight" and "Waterline," and released five albums beginning with The Graveyard and the Ballroom (1979).[13]

Following late-'80s and early-'90s phases with major-label A&M and Rob Gretton's independent Robs Records, ACR were intermittently active. They returned to the studio for the 2008 album Mind Made Up and since then have continued to perform, with their back catalogue recirculated through an arrangement with Mute Records. ACR continued to perform into the late 2010s, and during 2017-2019 expanded, reissued, and anthologised their catalogue once more, this time through Mute Records, through whom they continue to release new recordings.


The Factory era[edit]

The band was formed by singer Simon Topping and guitar/electronics player Peter Terrell, who after initially performing as a duo, were soon joined by bass guitarist/vocalist Jez Kerr and then guitarist/trumpeter Martin Moscrop, the band playing without a drummer for a year.[14] The band's name is taken from the lyric of Brian Eno's song "The True Wheel" from the 1974 album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy).[15] Their early influences included the Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk,[16] The Pop Group, Pere Ubu,[17] Wire, Brian Eno,[12] Parliament, Funkadelic, and Earth, Wind and Fire.[18] A Certain Ratio, by early 1979, were “beginning to forge links between post-punk industrial and dance-floor funk” (Tony Wilson, Factory Records).[19]

ACR's line-up, with a dark bass-heavy industrial/funk sound, recorded the group's debut single, "All Night Party", released by Factory Records in September 1979 (the label's first single artist release),[5] with Factory label boss Tony Wilson also becoming their manager, proclaiming the band to be "the new Sex Pistols".[14][20][21] The 5,000 copies that were pressed soon sold out.[22]

On 1 October 1979 the band recorded a session for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show, by which time Donald Johnson had joined the band on drums. The session included “Do The Du”, “All Night Party”, “Flight” and “Choir” and was broadcast on 17 October.[9][23]

ACR played their first tour of bigger venues as the support act on the Talking Heads UK tour in December 1979. There are suggestions that watching ACR perform encouraged David Byrne and Talking Heads to go in a more funky musical direction.[11][16]

The Graveyard and The Ballroom[edit]

Their next release, the cassette-only compilation of demos and live tracks The Graveyard and the Ballroom, was released in January 1980.[20][24] The Graveyard side of the album was recorded at Graveyard Studios, Prestwich, Manchester in September 1979, while The Ballroom side was a live recording of ACR’s October 1979 gig at the Electric Ballroom, London.

Martin Moscrop started a second band in 1980, Swamp Children (the name later changed to Kalima), that would go on to share several members with A Certain Ratio.[20]

In July 1980, the band's second single, a cover version of Banbarra's "Shack Up",[9] recorded at a cost of £50,[14] was released. This was followed in November with "Flight" on 12",[25][26] which saw their first placing on the UK Independent Chart, peaking at no. 7.[20][27] "Shack Up" got a US release in January 1981, going on to peak at no. 46 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart,[28] and the band expanded to a six-piece with the addition of former Occult Chemistry singer Martha Tilson, with Topping focusing on trumpet and percussion.[20][14]

To Each...[edit]

The expanded lineup recorded their debut studio album, To Each... The album was recorded in New Jersey with Martin Hannett producing, and released in May 1981.[18][21] It topped the UK Independent Chart.[20][27] To Each… represents a development in the ACR sound from the raw harshness of The Graveyard and The Ballroom to a percussion-based post-punk funk.

They recorded a second Peel session in June 1981. The session, which included “Knife Slits Water”, “Day One” and “Skipscada”, was broadcast on 2 July. [23]

ACR finished the year with the single "Waterline", which was another top 10 indie chart hit.[27] “Waterline” was the first record self-produced by the group. All of ACR’s previous recordings had been produced by Factory’s Martin Hannett but the band wanted a different sound. “We thought he was making us sound too much like Joy Division” (Martin Moscroft, ACR).[5] “Waterline” has a more funk and jazz sound than earlier recordings.


The band's third album, Sextet, followed in January 1982,[9] now incorporating elements of acid jazz, funk, and latin music, and again topped the indie albums chart,[27] also peaking at no. 55 on the UK Albums Chart.[20][29]

“Sextet was the first album that we produced ourselves. Tracks like Skipscada were a real departure. That’s from our first visit to New York, really when we started bringing our Latin influence into it. We went to quite a few jazz venues, like the Village Underground, places like that. And also going to Central Park on a Sunday afternoon and seeing all the Cuban guys playing percussion." (Donald Johnson, ACR)[30]

“When we did Sextet we were so headstrong. We’d worked with Martin Hannett and had loads of disagreements with him. So we just said “get us an engineer and we’ll do it”. It’s got something that the others haven’t got. It all sort of came together for us on Sextet really I think it stands out.” (Jez Kerr, ACR)[30]

“Up to this point we had always worked with Martin Hannett but we wanted to sound like we did live - a little more natural, and also capture the jazz and Latin we experienced in New York … We were listening to so many different types of music at the time, from Miles Davis to Airto, along with our own Mancunian industrial influence. As a result the album came out of the other end like something from a place that didn’t exist. Manchester meets New York via Rio.” (Martin Moscrop, ACR)[30]

In February 1982 they released the dub reggae single "Abracadubra" under the pseudonym 'Sir Horatio'.[2][20] ACR had further indie charting singles that year with "Guess Who?" and "Knife Slits Water".[27]

The group recorded a third Peel session in November, now without Tilson, but with Andy Connell added on keyboards and percussion. This session saw the group show more of a jazz influence in the three tracks (“Who’s To Say”, “Piu Lento” and “Touch”) which were broadcast on the John Peel show of 1 December 1982.[23]

I'd Like To See You Again[edit]

The band's fourth album, I'd Like to See You Again,[9] was released in November 1982, reaching no. 2 on the indie albums chart.[20][27] “The new music offered disciplined latin disco, inspired in part by Cameo.” [16]

The album received mixed reviews. “ACR aren’t sounding like ACR anymore so much as the latest New York disco imports” (New Musical Express, 1982)[16] “I’d Like To See You Again represented an aesthetic low. In striving for a more accessible sound, the group had become overly clinical.” (Adrian Thrills, New Musical Express, August 1985)[31]

"It was a bit of a scrappy time. The LP lacked songs for a start … By the time we came to do ‘I’d Like To See You’ we didn’t know what we were doing.” (Jez Kerr, New Musical Express interview, August 1985)[31]

The Old And The New[edit]

The band's two founding members, Topping and Terrell, left the band in late 1982.[22] Simon Topping recorded a solo single before forming T-Coy with former Quando Quango (and later M People member) Mike Pickering.[20] The band regrouped and returned in October 1983 with the single "I Need Someone Tonight" (with Carol McKenzie on vocals), another top-10 indie hit.[20]

Tony Quigley (of Kalima) joined on saxophone, and the band released three singles in late 1984 and 1985 - "Life's A Scream" (December 1984), "Brazilia" (February 1985) and "Wild Party" (June 1985).[32]

The Old and the New, a compilation album bringing together many of the non-album singles released from ACR's formation up to the end of 1985, came out on Factory records in January 1986. “Flight”, “And Then Again” and “Blown Away” are taken from a 12” released in 1980. “Do The Du” and “Fox” are lifted from a single that came out in 1981. “Life’s A Scream” and “There’s Only This” were the two tracks on a 12” released at the end of 1984. “Wild Party” and “Sounds Like Something Dirty” originally appeared as a 12” in 1985. An additional 7” single that made the centrepiece of the front cover of the compilation album included “Shack Up”, which came out as a single in 1980, and “Thin Boys”, which was the b-side on ACR’s very first single.[32]


Connell left in 1985 to form Swing Out Sister, whose singer Corinne Drewery guested on ACR's next album, Force (1986), their last for Factory.[20] In January 1986 ACR performed live on Channel 4 music show The Tube.[33]

1989–1997: A&M, Rob's Records, and Creation Records[edit]

New releases were sparse during the next two years. Dojo Records released a 1985 live recording as Live in America in February 1987,[34][35] and Italian label Materiali Sonori released the 'Greeting Four' EP five months later.[20][36] The band signed with A&M Records in 1987, the lineup now Kerr, Moscrop, Johnson, and Quigley, the first releases for the label the singles "The Big E" and "Backs to the Wall", which preceded the album Good Together, released in September 1989.[20] A 50–minute recording of a live show from London was broadcast on British television in October.[37] They also set up their own SoundStation studio in Manchester.[22] The band's only significant chart success with A&M came with the 1990 single "Won't Stop Loving You", which peaked at no. 55 on the UK Singles Chart, although the first two singles also made the lower reaches of the chart.[20] The album acr:mcr followed, but the band were then dropped from the label.[9]

In 1991, they signed with Rob's Records, owned by New Order manager and former Factory Records partner Rob Gretton, releasing a string of singles and the album Up in Dowsnville (1992).[20][38][9] In 1994, Creation Records began reissuing the band's albums on the Rev-Ola sub-label, and also released two EPs of remixes.[20] The band's first original material for almost three years was released in August 1996, with the live Soundstation Volume 1 EP, followed in November with the Change the Station album.[39] A second Soundstation live EP was released in March 1997, the band's last release for some time.[20]

In 2002 Soul Jazz Records reissued the albums with bonus tracks (but using the same masters as the Creation editions). Further re-issues and a live recording from 1980 were also made available on the LTM label.

2000s return[edit]

The band played occasional live shows between 2002 and 2007, and performed in the US for the first time since 1985 on 16 November 2008, headlining the Part Time Punks festival at The Echo in Los Angeles, releasing a new album Mind Made Up the same month, on French label Le Maquis.[2] They performed a headline set at the Offset Festival in London in September 2009, playing alongside fellow post-punk artists The Slits, following a one-off live performance commemorating Factory Records in Dublin, in March that year. They performed at the Plan K, Molenbeek in West Brussels on 12 December 2009 as part of the event, 'A Factory Night (And Then Again)'.[40] This event also featured Section 25, The Wake, The Names and Biting Tongues. Towards the end of 2009, the band announced a live appearance at a fund-raising event at Brighton's Concorde 2 venue on 7 March 2010. Their 2008 album, Mind Made Up was re-issued via LTM Recordings during 2010, along with a redux version of the 1986 set, Force.

In May 2011, they performed on The Satellite Stage at Friends of Mine Festival at Capesthorne Hall near Macclesfield, and were introduced by their friend Terry Christian.

In 2018, Mute Records began reissuing their back catalogue, they released acr:set, an album of mostly old tracks with two new tracks, one ("Dirty Boy") recorded with Barry Adamson and featuring a recording of Tony Wilson, and undertook a tour of the UK with dates in Ireland and Finland.[2][41][42] In November 2018 they recorded a session for Marc Riley's BBC Radio 6 Music show, performing new song "Dirty Boy", "Mickey Way", and "Flight".[43]

They released a box set, a 40th anniversary retrospective named acr:box, in May 2019 and toured in support of this.[44][45] It consists of 53 songs providing a detailed career overview to date.[46][47] After collecting their past on 2019's ACR: Box collection, A Certain Ratio has released ACR Loco in September of 2020. Their first album of new material in 12 years. Featuring three original band members – Jez Kerr, Martin Moscrop, and Donald Johnson – along with members of the band's current live ensemble. Loco finds the band in an expansive, jazzy, danceable state of mind. Musically, A Certain Ratio sound far removed from their post-punk roots now, relying more on their sound's dance and funk elements.

In film[edit]

"Wild Party" was used in the soundtrack of the 1985 film Letter to Brezhnev.[48] "Shack Up" was used in the soundtrack of Patrice Chéreau's Intimacy (2001). The band are featured in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People where Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan) describes them as "having all the energy of Joy Division but better clothes".[5] Martin Moscrop was musical supervisor of the film.[49]



Studio albums
Title Year Label Notes UK Independent
Albums Chart
UK Albums
The Graveyard and the Ballroom 1979 Factory – FACT 16 reissued via Rev-Ola, Universal Sound and Mute
To Each... 1981 Factory – FACT 35 reissued via Creation and then Soul Jazz 1
Sextet 1982 Factory – FACT 55 reissued via Creation and then Soul Jazz 1 53
I'd Like to See You Again 1982 Factory – FACT 65 reissued via Creation, LTM and Factory Benelux 2
Force 1986 Factory – FACT 166 reissued via Creation and then LTM (2010) 2
Good Together 1989 A&M ACR 550 reissued via Mute
acr:mcr 1990 A&M 397 057-2
Up in Downsville 1992 Rob's – ROB20 reissued via LTM (2010)
Change the Station 1997 Rob's – ROB50
Mind Made Up 2008 Le Maquis reissued via LTM (2010)
ACR LOCO 2020 Mute - STUMM454 69
Loco Remezclada 2021 Mute
Compilations and live albums
Title Year Label Notes UK Independent
Albums Chart
The Graveyard and the Ballroom 1979 Factory – FACT 16 Studio demos/live 29
A Certain Ratio Live in America 1985 Dojo – DOJO 47 Live album 10
The Old and the New 1986 Factory – FACT 135 Singles compilation 3
Looking for a Certain Ratio 1994 Creation – CRE159B Remixes
Early 2002 Soul Jazz – SJR60 Compilation
Live in Groningen 2005 LTM – LTM 2443 Live album
acr:set 2018 Mute – (CD/)MUTEL28 Compilation
ACR:BOX 2019 Mute – ACRBOX1CD Compilation
ACR:LOCO 2020 Mute Studio Release

Singles, EPs[edit]

A-side/Title B-side(s)/Tracks Format Year Label Notes UK Singles
UK Independent
Singles Chart[27]
"All Night Party" "The Thin Boys" 7" 1979 Factory – FAC 5
"Shack Up" "And Then Again (live)" 7" 1980 Factory Benelux – FBN 1
"Flight" "Blown Away"
"And Then Again"
12" 1980 Factory – FAC 22 7
"Do The Du (Casse)" "The Fox"
"Shack Up"
"Son And Heir"
12" 1981 Factory – FACUS 4 US release 46
The Double 2 x 12" 1981 Factory – FACT 42 Italian release inc FAC 22 and FACUS 4
"Waterline" "Funaezekea" 12" 1981 Factory – FAC 52 10
"Abracadubra" "Sommadub" 12" 1982 666 – Mix 1T as 'Sir Horatio'
"Guess Who?" (Parts 1 and 2) 12" 1982 Factory Benelux – FBN 17 23
"Knife Slits Water" "Tumba Rumba" 7" 1982 Factory – FAC 62-7   3  
"Knife Slits Water" "Kether Hot Knives" 12" 1982 Factory – FAC 62-12
"I Need Someone Tonight" "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" 12" 1983 Factory – FAC 72-12 (Also promo 7" FAC 72/7) 8
"Life's A Scream" "There's Only This" 7"/12" 1984 Factory – FAC 112/P 6
"Brazilia" "Dub" 12" 1985 Factory Benelux – FBN 32 13
"Wild Party" "Sounds Like Something Dirty"
"Life's a Scream" (live)*
"Force" (live)*
"Wild Party" (live)*
12"/cas 1985 Factory – FAC 128 4
"Mickey Way (The Candy Bar)" "Inside"
"Si Firmi O Grido"
12" 1986 Factory – FAC 168 9
Greetings Four EP "The Runner"
"Fever 103"
12" 1987 Materiali – MASO 70004
"Bootsy" "Inside" 7" 1987 Factory FAC 1667 Australasia only
"Bootsy (Remix)" "Mickey Way" 12" 1987 Factory - FAC 16612 Australasia only
"The Big E" "Love Is the Way (instrumental)"
"Day 2"**
7"/12"/CD 1989 A&M – ACR 514/ACRY 514/ACRCD514 96
"Backs to the Wall" "Backs to the Wall (Dub)"
"Be What You Wanna Be" (ACR version)
7"/12" 1989 A&M – ACRY 517 81
"Your Blue Eyes" "Thin Grey Line"
"Coldest Days"
7"/12" 1989 A&M – ACRY 534
"Won't Stop Loving You (Bernard Sumner version) "Repercussions" (ACR remix)
"Love Is The Way" (Instrumental)
7"/12" 1990 A&M – ACRY 540 55
"Won't Stop Loving You (Bernard Sumner version) "Won't Stop Loving You (Norman Cook remix)
"Won't Stop Loving You (Cook Instrumental)
7"/cas/CD 1990 A&M – ACRY 540
Good Together EP 12" 1989 A&M
"Shack Up (Machine)" "Shack Up (Man)"
"Shack Up" (Norman Cook remix)
"Party Up"
12" A&M – ACRYDJ 590 Promo only
"The Planet" "Loosen Up Your Mind" 12" 1991 Rob's – 12 ROB 2
"27 Forever (Bubble Bath Mix)" "27 Forever (Fix Mix)" (both remixed by Jon Dasilva) 12" 1991 Rob's – 12 ROB 5R
"Mello" "Dub"
"27 Forever" (Jon Dasilva remix)
"Moist Dub"
12" 1992 Rob's – 12 ROB 6R
"Turn Me On" versions 12"/CD 1993 Rob's – 12 ROBS 11/CDROB11
"Tekno" "Tekno" (Way Out West remix) 12" 1993 Rob's – 12 ROBS 18
"Shack Up" 3 mixes of "Shack Up"
"Life's a Scream" (Shaven not Stirred mix)
12"/CD 1994 Creation – CRE151T/CRESCD151
Soundstation Volume 1 EP "Samba 123"
"Yeah Boy"
"Funk Off"
12"/CD 1996 Rob's – 12ROB48/CDROB48
Soundstation Volume 2 EP "Samba 123" (Fila Brazilia remix)
"Yeah Boy" (Sons of Samarkand remix)
"Yeah Boy" (DJ Die)
12"/CD 1997 Rob's – 12ROB52/CDROB52
"Shack Up" Human League – "Being Boiled" 12" 2001 Soul Jazz – SJR 57-12

*Cassette-only tracks **CD-only tracks


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External links[edit]