It's Grim Up North
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|"It's Grim Up North"|
|Single by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu|
|Released||28 October 1991|
|Format||7", 12", CD|
|Length||16:16 (Parts 1 & 2)|
|Label||KLF Communications (UK)|
"It's Grim Up North" was a 1991 single by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The JAMs), the main lyrics of which consist of a list of towns and cities in the North of England, set to a pounding industrial techno kick beat and percussion reminiscent of steam whistles, all of which segue into an orchestral instrumental of the hymn "Jerusalem". The track reached # 10 in the UK Singles Chart.
"It's Grim Up North" was first previewed in December 1990 as a limited edition "Club Mix" with Pete Wylie on vocals. A re-recorded version with Bill Drummond on vocals received a regular release on KLF Communications in October 1991, peaking at #10 in the UK singles chart.
A recurring theme was drab greyness, representing the dreary, overcast skies of the "grim" North. The original release featuring Pete Wylie was on grey-coloured vinyl, and the same colour was retained for the sleeve of the 1991 issue. The video for "It's Grim Up North" was filmed in black and white and showed The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu performing in the pouring rain. Bill Drummond voices the words into the microphone of a backpack field radio worn by a woman at his side wearing military uniform and a tin hat labelled "KLF". Jimmy Cauty is shown playing bass guitar. Cars and trucks rush by, leaving a trail of spray, as evidently The JAMs are performing on one lane of a road, they are lit by the headlights of several vehicles stopped by the performance. As the performance draws to a close, and strains of Jerusalem can be heard, the slogan "The North will rise again" appears on screen.
The sleevenotes further elaborated on The JAMs' inspiration: "Through the downpour and diesel roar, Rockman and Kingboy D can feel a regular dull thud. Whether this is the eternal echo of a Victorian steam driven revolution or the turbo kick of a distant Northern rave is irrelevant. Thus inspired, The JAMS climb into the back of their truck and work."
The single was the first release under The KLF's "JAMs" alias since the 1988 compilation album Shag Times, and the last under that name. The release, with its markedly darker tone, punctuated The KLF's string of upbeat house hits, and it was planned that "It's Grim Up North" would be a prominent track on the ultimately unreleased album The Black Room.
"It's Grim Up North" graffiti - which had, since the early 1970s, been presented to northbound travellers on a bridge spanning the M1- led to a question about "regional imbalance" being asked in the House of Commons.
The single "It's Weird Out West" by Radsonic (1992) was an affectionate homage to the track, the list of northern towns being replaced by locations in Wiltshire and Somerset. Only five hundred copies are known to have been produced, although Annie Nightingale did play it on her BBC Radio 1 programme.
Pounding industrial techno.
Part of the long transition between the techno and the orchestra.
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"It's Grim Up North (Part 1)" is a 10-minute composition with two distinct segueing sections. The first 7-minute section is a heavy, pounding industrial techno track, over which Drummond gives a roll-call of Northern towns through a radio microphone. Between verses, Drummond's processed voice urgently alerts us that "It's grim up North". The instrumentation is in minor key and frequently discordant, featuring synthesised sounds reminiscent of passing heavy goods vehicles and steam whistles. Although the underlying rhythm holds a 4/4 time signature, several instruments keep 3/16 and 3/4 time throughout the track, including a deep second drum line - the "regular dull thud" - which juxtaposes when the 4/4 instruments and percussion drop out.
The second section is a fully orchestrated arrangement of Jerusalem, with the sounds of brass, strings, organs, drums and choir. The instrumentation and vocals of the first section gradually diminish to nothing over a period of nearly two minutes. Following the climax of the hymn, howling wind and crow calls are heard to fade out.
"It's Grim Up North (Part 2)" is a 6-minute reprise of the techno themes from Part 1, without the vocals and orchestra.
In awarding the 1991 release "single of the week", NME said: "The Scotsman [Bill Drummond] picks over the place names with gruesome relish, the backing track pummels and tweaks, blasts and buffets him round the furthest God-forsaken reaches of this demi-paradise, this land of kings, this sceptred isle, this England... A thing of feverish, fiendish irreverence and conceptual genius...".
In a 2007 article regarding songs about Northern England, The Guardian described the track thus: "It's Grim Up North, by a pseudonymous KLF, wrongfoots the listener. A deadpan catalogue of northern towns, recited over rainy-motorway techno, suddenly blossoms into a rendition of Blake's Jerusalem, as if arriving at some socialist rave utopia.".
All locations are in the North of England. They are predominantly in Yorkshire and Lancashire. Scarborough is the furthest north in the list and the furthest south is Nantwich. The full list of locations in the lyrics follows:
Bolton, Barnsley, Nelson, Colne, Burnley, Bradford, Buxton, Crewe, Warrington, Widnes, Wigan, Leeds, Northwich, Nantwich, Knutsford, Hull, Sale, Salford, Southport, Leigh, Kirkby*, Kearsley, Keighley, Maghull, Harrogate, Huddersfield, Oldham, Lancs, Grimsby, Glossop, Hebden Bridge.
- Note: "Kirkby" in Merseyside, is often misheard as "Derby"
Pendlebury, Prestwich, Preston, York, Skipton, Scunthorpe, Scarborough-on-Sea, Chester, Chorley, Cheadle Hulme (could also be interpreted as the equally valid Cheadle, Hulme), Ormskirk, Accrington, Stanley (could also be interpreted as the football club, Accrington Stanley FC), Leigh, Ossett, Otley, Ilkley Moor, Sheffield, Manchester, Castleford, Skem, Doncaster, Dewsbury, Halifax, Bingley, Bramhall.
Formats and track listings
"It's Grim up North" was originally released as a limited edition one-side promotional 12" on 17 December 1990. Reworked with Drummond's vocals, the track was given a European single release on 28 October 1991. The CD single track "Jerusalem on the Moors" comprises the orchestral arrangement of Jerusalem, beginning alongside a fadeout of the industrial techno instrumentation. The single's formats and track listings are tabulated below:
|Format (and countries)||Track number|
|One-sided 12" promo single (UK) (limited edition of 350)||O|
|7" single (UK, Germany, Denmark, Belgium), cassette single (UK)||p1||p2|
|12" single (UK, Germany, Denmark, Belgium)||P1||P2|
|CD single (UK, Germany, Denmark)||r||P1||P2||J|
- O - "It's Grim up North" (original club mix) (8:38)
- p1 - "It's Grim up North (Part 1)" (radio edit) (3:55)
- P1 - "It's Grim up North (Part 1)" (10:03)
- p2 - "It's Grim up North (Part 2)" (radio edit) (3:37)
- P2 - "It's Grim up North (Part 2)" (6:13)
- r - "It's Grim up North" (radio edit) (4:04)
- J - "Jerusalem on the Moors" (3:04)