In Praise of Learning

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In Praise of Learning
HenryCow AlbumCover InPraiseOfLearning.jpg
Studio album by Henry Cow with Slapp Happy
Released May 1975 (1975-05)
Recorded February–March 1975, The Manor, Oxfordshire, England
Genre Avant-rock
Length 37:28
Label Virgin (UK)
Producer Henry Cow, Slapp Happy and Phil Becque
Henry Cow chronology
Desperate Straights
In Praise of Learning
Slapp Happy chronology
Desperate Straights
In Praise of Learning
Acnalbasac Noom
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau B[2]

In Praise of Learning is an album by British avant-rock groups Henry Cow and Slapp Happy, recorded at Virgin Records' Manor studios in February and March 1975. It was the second of two collaborative albums by the two groups and was released in May 1975.


In Praise of Learning was Henry Cow's most overtly political album. Printed on the back of the album cover is filmmaker John Grierson's quote "Art is not a mirror – it is a hammer", and the Tim Hodgkinson 16-minute composition, "Living in the Heart of the Beast" made explicit Henry Cow's left wing political leanings, with Dagmar Krause's powerful voice adding a new dimension to their music. The Anthony Moore/Peter Blegvad song, "War" had been recorded the previous year during the making of the first Slapp Happy/Henry Cow collaborative album, Desperate Straights (1975). Moore later rearranged the song for his 1978 solo album, Flying Doesn't Help. "War" was also covered by The Fall in 1993 for a BBC radio session and on Middle Class Revolt (1994).

"Living in the Heart of the Beast" began as an unfinished instrumental that Hodgkinson presented to the group, which was cut up and performed live in 1974 with improvisational sections added.[3] One such performance, Halsteren was recorded in Halsteren in September 1974, and appears in Volume 2: 1974–5 of The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set (2009). After the merger with Slapp Happy, Hodgkinson commissioned Blegvad to write lyrics for the piece for Krause to sing. But after several attempts, Blegvad admitted that he was "out of [his] depth", and Hodgkinson wrote the lyrics himself.[3][4]

Chris Cutler's lyrics on "Beautiful as the Moon – Terrible as an Army with Banners" were the first song texts he had written,[5] and the song was the first writing collaboration between Cutler and Fred Frith that later grew into Art Bears. The song also became the longest lasting "building block" the band used in subsequent live performances.[3]

Cover art[edit]

The album cover art work was by artist Ray Smith and was the last of the three "paint socks" to feature on Henry Cow's albums. Smith was an old friend of the band from Cambridge who had worked with them on two dance projects and had often supported them in performance art at concerts. Smith came up with the idea of the woven sock and insisted that the band's name should not appear on the front cover. As Cutler later explained, in a 2011 interview, the idea was extended through the whole album series, with the sock changing "to suit the temper of the music".[6]

CD reissues[edit]

In 1991 East Side Digital issued a remixed version (by Tim Hodgkinson) of In Praise of Learning on CD with one extra track, "Lovers of Gold" (an alternate version of "Beginning: The Long March" created by Chris Cutler).[7]

In 2000 Recommended Records and East Side Digital issued a remastered version of In Praise of Learning on CD with the original mixing restored and the bonus track omitted. The "Lovers of Gold" bonus track would later reappear on the Cow Cabinet of Curiosities disc in the The 40th Anniversary Henry Cow Box Set (2009).

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "War"   Moore, Blegvad 2:25
2. "Living in the Heart of the Beast"   Hodgkinson 15:30
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
3. "Beginning: The Long March"   Henry Cow, Slapp Happy 6:26
4. "Beautiful as the Moon – Terrible as an Army with Banners"   Frith, Cutler 7:02
5. "Morning Star"   Henry Cow, Slapp Happy 6:05


Henry Cow
Slapp Happy
Additional musicians

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mills, Ted. "In Praise of Learning". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Henry Cow". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2011-06-15. 
  3. ^ a b c Cutler 2009, vol. 1–5, p. 12.
  4. ^ Cutler 2009, vol. 1–5, p. 39.
  5. ^ "Chris Cutler interview". Chris Cutler homepage. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  6. ^ "Chris Cutler interview about Henry Cow, Art Bears, Cassiber...". It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine. 22 December 2011. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Ramond, Michel; Roussel, Patrice; Vuilleumier, Stephane. "Discography of Fred Frith". New York Downtown Scene and Other Miscellaneous Discographies. Retrieved 2013-09-13. 
Works cited

External links[edit]