Gang Of Four – ‘What We All Want’ UK 7″ and 12″ (EMI, EMI 5416 and 12EMI 5416, 1981)

The road to the Gang Of Four’s second album, ‘Solid Gold’, was something of a tentative, stop-start affair, looking back. Although the album itself in its final form was recorded in January 1981 with Jimmy Douglass sharing the producer role along with the band themselves, no fewer than five of its tracks had been released before the album on singles or compilation album appearances*.

‘What We All Want’ would be the track lifted from the album as a single immediately prior to the album’s eventual release however, ramping up the funk side of the band’s muscular rhythm section in particular into a hard-hitting battering ram of a single that stands up well forty years on from its original release.


7″ single

For the single’s A side, ‘What We All Want’ was edited down to 3’23” – losing its scratchy vibrato style opening guitar-only rhythm that the LP/12″ version features), so it jumps right on in.

Gang Of Four – 'What We All Want' UK 7″ front cover

^ Gang Of Four – ‘What We All Want’ UK 7″ front cover

Once started, this is relentless and ever building – the drums thump away like a wind-up toy that can’t stop for anything once started and the bass guitar locks in and around it’s cyclical mechanism. Above it all, some of Andy Gill’s finest, trademarked atonal guitar shards. Vocally, one of the more straightforward songs of the album, lyrically it has enough hinted anxiety to chime well with the zeitgeist.

Lyrically, the opening track of the ‘Solid Gold’ album, ‘Paralysed’ was something of a monologue that summed up in a spare, singularly bleak vision the sense of abandonment, waste, frustration at the sudden realisation of meaningless in life, that Britain of the era was suffering. Often cited as a vision of the early effects of Thatcherism, Andy Gill would later describe it as about capitalism more broadly. ‘What We All Want’ is not too difficult to imagine as a forerunner to that realisation, a rising anxiety as the situation becomes all too clear.

“This wheel spins letting me off, These nagging doubts and worries, Nothing to work towards. This demon on my back, Preaches the razors cut, The hope that does not fade… What we want’s not what we get.”

It chimes all too fittingly forty years on with the chaotic, spiteful, inept ‘government’ that Britain idiotically voted in and seems in no hurry to slow handclap off the world stage despite near daily exposure of corruption, fecklessness, indolence and lies. A government that revels in pissing on your head and then stands behind a lectern trying to gaslight you into believing it’s actually rain…

Gang Of Four – 'What We All Want' UK 7″ rear cover

^ Gang Of Four – ‘What We All Want’ UK 7″ rear cover

‘History’s Bunk’ on the B side was a single exclusive, produced by Andy Gill and Jon King, worked on aside from the main album production. An even slower motion car-crash funk workout than the A side, it’s guitar feedback atonality providing some quality noise-merchantry as a counter to the dual vocal assault and topsy-turvy drum foundation. This fine track would be packaged up some months later along with the subsequent ‘To Hell With Poverty’ single A and B sides and a couple of live tracks to form the ‘Another Day/Another Dollar’ Special Edition 12″ EP released in the US and Canada.

Gang Of Four – 'What We All Want' UK 7″ label side A

^ Gang Of Four – ‘What We All Want’ UK 7″ label side A

Gang Of Four – 'What We All Want' UK 7″ label side B

^ Gang Of Four – ‘What We All Want’ UK 7″ label side B


12″ single

No picture sleeve issued for the 12″ edition, just packaged in a plain black die-cut label hole sleeve, with the colourful, eye-catching Gang Of Four label design each side. The 12″ features the longer, 4’55” version of the song, the same version as included on the ‘Sold Gold’ album. ‘History’s Bunk’ on side B remains unchanged from the 7″.

Gang Of Four – 'What We All Want' UK 12″ label side A

^ Gang Of Four – ‘What We All Want’ UK 12″ label side A

Gang Of Four – 'What We All Want' UK 12″ label side B

^ Gang Of Four – ‘What We All Want’ UK 12″ label side B

* Those five tracks being…

  • ‘Outside The Trains Don’t Run On Time’ (A side) and ‘He’d Send In The Army’ (B side) – 7″ single release, April 1980 (EMI, Z1), versions produced by the band themselves.
  • ‘Why Theory?’ – earlier recording, again from the band themselves, included on the compilation album ‘Rock Against Racism’ in 1980.
  • ‘In The Ditch’ and ‘If I Could Keep It For Myself’ both appeared on the compilation album ‘Rock Against Junk’ in 1981 in live versions recorded December 1980 in Berlin.

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