James Chance and the Contortions. C or D

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i say unadulterated classic, even though i had never heard of them until i turned 23. they're a classic because i say so, dammit.

JOOLS, Friday, 16 May 2003 19:43 (nineteen years ago) link

i'm going to take the lack of answers to mean that they're so classic it's not even worth mentioning...

your null fame (yournullfame), Friday, 16 May 2003 21:56 (nineteen years ago) link


As is this article:

Wired Flounder (Wired Flounder), Friday, 16 May 2003 22:56 (nineteen years ago) link

I only heard the No New York tracks and they were pretty much my least favorite of the album("i can't stand myself" excluded) the annoying sax work bothers me alot.

rexJr., Friday, 16 May 2003 23:01 (nineteen years ago) link

Everybody is jocking their sound in NY.
Their are some real nice funky numbers. nice and raw

party pizza party!

jjcummingson oyu, Saturday, 17 May 2003 02:35 (nineteen years ago) link

I love'em if only for "Sax Manaic."

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Saturday, 17 May 2003 03:58 (nineteen years ago) link

kind of awful hipster shit really. you know the story about how ornette can't play? chance thought it was true, and applied it to his singing as well. pity, the bands are often, er, smokin'.

gaz (gaz), Saturday, 17 May 2003 11:50 (nineteen years ago) link

anyone getting the box set?

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Saturday, 17 May 2003 13:26 (nineteen years ago) link

is the live NY thing that came out on ROIR in it?

gaz (gaz), Saturday, 17 May 2003 14:00 (nineteen years ago) link

four good songs, the rest duds; aside from the blueprint of wild white soul guy as violent shit-starter, they pack an excessive amount of duds in. if you saw the bullshit i saw when they reunited back in 95, you'd think so too.

mosurock (mosurock), Saturday, 17 May 2003 14:07 (nineteen years ago) link

yes but its a fucking reunion. you can't draw any worthwhile conclusions abt any band from a reunion show.

hey gaz- I heard no new york yesterday bcz nathalie, who promised me a copy for ages and ages and then she finally sent it through the post (but your copy has mars/dna ep so thanx for that) but anyway I have to say the contortions and Mars stuff was my fave but i must listen more.

I love his vocals, they are really infernal, full of love actually (but he has a funny way of showing it i think) and the saxophone playing is wonderful but I listen to the sound of saxophones almost everyday so rex's 'annoying sax work' is a no no for me.

''is the live NY thing that came out on ROIR in it?''

i don't know but i have it on single CD. I think its called 'white cannibal' but i haven't heard it in months.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Saturday, 17 May 2003 14:20 (nineteen years ago) link

yay julio, you finally got it! sorry for the delay. i still havent got the boxset though i hope it gets here quicker than i sent julio NNY. i love the chance material on NNY the most. depends on my mood actually.

nathalie (nathalie), Saturday, 17 May 2003 14:24 (nineteen years ago) link

yeah I'll probably get that boxset now (it depends on the price i suppose but I'm really tempted to get it).

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Saturday, 17 May 2003 14:30 (nineteen years ago) link

Its not like i hate saxophones or anything, I luv what Pere Ubu and the Pop Group did with it (altho i may be confusing sax with a trumpet, its been a long time since i'v heard The Pop Group). my problem is with the way he's playing on the first three track on No New York. I'v downloaded "Sax Manaic" under Alex's advice and i loved it, much better than thoughs three tracks on NNY and the sax sounds much better.

And BTW, i'm rexJr. I'v just registerd.

Jr_Vision (visionjr), Saturday, 17 May 2003 14:37 (nineteen years ago) link

The Contortions "Buy" is quite a good record, but I really like how the scratchy guitars the best in that band. That slide playing is just so weird that it works. The rhythm section is funky as all get out and probably the most accomplished players of the lot.

There are some cuts on that "Off White" album that are just flat out annoying. I haven't given it a listen in a few years.

I had the "Soul Exorcism" album for a year or two until I sold it off. Other than the ironic cover of King Heroin, it was interesting but pretty shabby like most of those ROIR live albums.

James Chance as a sax player is alot like Greg Ginn on guitar. They are trying to put it out somewhere else, but half the time you don't know if they are inspired, just sloppy or both.

earlnash, Saturday, 17 May 2003 14:42 (nineteen years ago) link

half the time you don't know if they are inspired, just sloppy or both.

would it make a difference? i *am* a sax player, and his sound doesn't bother me at all. i don't necessarily want to emulate him over, say, dolphy, but it is nice sometimes to hear a horn player who sounds squealy and feeble (as opposed to brazen and muscular). classic, for 'dish it out' most of all.

Dave M. (rotten03), Saturday, 17 May 2003 15:37 (nineteen years ago) link

I do have the box set (I think I we had an exchange on an earlier thread about this Julio), and while it may be more James Chance/White than you'll ever need, it does have tons of great stuff on it, and the price is pretty cheap. If you're into him I say get it.

Sean (Sean), Saturday, 17 May 2003 16:13 (nineteen years ago) link

i can't remember sean but ok if its cheap then i'll try to track this down. i agre with dave abt 'dish it out'. i have also just finished reading kogan's piece in the voice abt them and i am exteremely jealous.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Saturday, 17 May 2003 16:19 (nineteen years ago) link

actually i have a few questions abt that article but his account of the gig was really fine.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Saturday, 17 May 2003 16:23 (nineteen years ago) link

just a band by a reunion is ludicrous. rarely is anything reformed as good as it originally was. James Chance, in his prime, which is covered in the TigerStyle box, was remarkable, convincingly combining no-wave (scratchy guitars, etc) with disco beats, James Brown etc with his wailing sax over the top. Sure it can be goofy, but it's also undeniably the epitome of fun and dance music I can actually shake my ass to as opposed to the metronome beats and leaden synth lines of much that passed for dance musique. Chance's work bristles with energy. You may beat Chance over the head for his Terminal City band, though I guess you cant blame him for trying to cash in on the swing craze of yore, but not for his work in the late seventies and early eighties. (so, yeah, go get it, julio -- it ain't "awful hipster shit" in the slightest, unless "awful hipster shit" means "a person with a musical vision who is unafraid to follow it and create great music").

jack cole (jackcole), Saturday, 17 May 2003 16:39 (nineteen years ago) link

"would it make a difference?"

Probably not, that is true. Like most things, it mostly comes down to having the tunes and making them work on record.

The first record is really good, I gave it a listen right after posting earlier today. That was a crack band.

earlnash, Saturday, 17 May 2003 17:05 (nineteen years ago) link

ZE & Cristina

Tracer Hand (tracerhand), Saturday, 17 May 2003 17:35 (nineteen years ago) link

the ideas good, accepted. the intensity level is high, great. but...julio, the sax playing is wonderful? the vocals are full of love? ok ok...i'm 'a listen again...

gaz (gaz), Sunday, 18 May 2003 08:25 (nineteen years ago) link

four years pass...

what an amazing record "buy the contortions" is. kind of perfect.

Frogman Henry, Monday, 1 October 2007 09:22 (fourteen years ago) link

yeah it is

latebloomer, Monday, 1 October 2007 09:44 (fourteen years ago) link

I love the way I have a million different versions of "Contort Yourself" on various post punk compilations, suggesting that James Chance has only one, not very good song. DUD.

The Real Dirty Vicar, Monday, 1 October 2007 12:21 (fourteen years ago) link

If he had only one good song (he's got several), it'd be his "I Can't Stand Myself" cover.

Myonga Vön Bontee, Monday, 1 October 2007 22:19 (fourteen years ago) link

two years pass...

he is apparently playing tonight in nyc

Afterwards at the Lower East Side Public School our dear pal Jason Spun is hosting a RONG MUSIC Holiday Freak-Out with an all-star DJ cast of Eric Duncan (Rub n Tug), Lee Douglas, Free Blood, Spun, Shane & Tommy Moye... with a special live performance by the legendary JAMES CHANCE!!!

mizzell, Friday, 18 December 2009 17:57 (twelve years ago) link

When Michael Jackson died, I tried desperately to find James Chance's version of "Don't Stop til You Get Enough" to post as a tribute to people (like me) who don't really care about Michael Jackson. (By the way, I DID claim the "King of Pop" title first, after he died. All rights reserved.)

dave225, Friday, 18 December 2009 18:10 (twelve years ago) link

kind of awful hipster shit really. you know the story about how ornette can't play? chance thought it was true, and applied it to his singing as well. pity, the bands are often, er, smokin'.

― gaz (gaz), Saturday, 17 May 2003 11:50 (6 years ago)

Hahaha I think I like this band even more now.

retrovaporized nebulizer (╓abies), Saturday, 19 December 2009 17:13 (twelve years ago) link

six months pass...

Got this in the post the other day:


How can it be definitive without the disco version of Contort Yourself? Only the baddest bassline in punk history...

village idiot (dog latin), Thursday, 15 July 2010 12:20 (eleven years ago) link

two months pass...

His James Brown covers are probably my favorite of his material. Also his cover of Don't Stop Til You Get Enough is amazing.

buju_stanton (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 02:55 (eleven years ago) link

Man I would love to hear those. I've only heard "contort yourself" all the way through and some of the other songs on different albums and stuff by James white and the blacks.

peacocks, Tuesday, 12 October 2010 03:29 (eleven years ago) link

You can ;)


buju_stanton (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 03:31 (eleven years ago) link

(record version)

buju_stanton (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 03:33 (eleven years ago) link

I've got Buy, but I haven't listened to it in a long time.

Was surprised to see that it is going for money on Amazon.com


Didn't realize it went out of print already.

I will always think of you, while (quite) fondly, myself (Evan), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 04:49 (eleven years ago) link

Oh shit...was about to say you can still get it straight from ZE, but they're out too. The others are still available, though; maybe some weird rights issue?

muus lääv? :D muus dut :( (Telephone thing), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 04:52 (eleven years ago) link

Which others?

I will always think of you, while (quite) fondly, myself (Evan), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 04:54 (eleven years ago) link

Off White, Flaming Demonics, Live aux Bains Douches

muus lääv? :D muus dut :( (Telephone thing), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 04:56 (eleven years ago) link

Oh... Its late, I thought you meant other retailers. Never mind!

I'm not sure why it went out of print. Are the other albums issued by the same label as Buy? I never looked into it at all, and I only own Buy.

I will always think of you, while (quite) fondly, myself (Evan), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 05:03 (eleven years ago) link

Yeah, they're all on ZE, which had a huge reissue explosion a few years back, commissioned a bunch of remixes that got shelved for years and eventually released on Strut, disappeared for a while, and finally seem to have gotten their existing-and-putting-out-music shit together. Newer reissues are coming out as downloads only, which kind of sucks, but they'd already gotten most of their classic releases back out there.

muus lääv? :D muus dut :( (Telephone thing), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 05:09 (eleven years ago) link

James Chance and the Contortions were great "gateway drug" for going into post-punk music for me. They had the right minimal funk elements that I was use to hearing beforehand. However, their frenetic style is sooo not the same way as James Brown or Michael Jackson. They are classic to me and "Buy" and "Off White" are great records.

lilsoulbrother, Tuesday, 12 October 2010 18:15 (eleven years ago) link

I'd probably never have got into 'Off White' by myself, but one of my friends was obsessed with it and I gradually got into it.

'Buy Contortions' is far more accessible I think. Good record - it always sounded to me like the musicians were jamming and having a lot of fun whilst recording it.

Bob Six, Tuesday, 12 October 2010 18:32 (eleven years ago) link

Also, I was reading that Village Voice article about James Chance earlier in the thread and their is no mention of his girlfriend/manager/stylist/svengali Anya Phillips. Actually there is scant information on this woman. The only thing I know is she was James Chance's manager/Debbie Harry's friend/and apparent drug dealer to all the NY musicians during the punk/post-punk era. I'm surprised their isn't any documentary or thread on ILM about her.

lilsoulbrother, Tuesday, 12 October 2010 18:38 (eleven years ago) link

There's a couple of photos in the 'Please Kill Me' book and a brief capsule summary "Entrepreneur. Dominatrix. Former manager of James Chance and the Contortions. (Deceased: 1985)"

Bob Six, Tuesday, 12 October 2010 20:05 (eleven years ago) link

I've got Buy, but I haven't listened to it in a long time.

Was surprised to see that it is going for money on Amazon.com


Didn't realize it went out of print already.

this is the one record i have two copies of

Lost Chance is really good

sarahel, Tuesday, 12 October 2010 20:13 (eleven years ago) link

(Deceased: 1985)

Pretty sure Anya died in 1981.

Taller than the president (Dan Peterson), Tuesday, 12 October 2010 21:34 (eleven years ago) link

This site says 1981


curmudgeon, Tuesday, 12 October 2010 22:03 (eleven years ago) link

Yeah - seems it was 1981. I guess P.K.M isn't always that accurate.

Bob Six, Tuesday, 12 October 2010 23:11 (eleven years ago) link

I read those two punk music books that included Anya's photos and all, but you would think with someone was an influence in that scene their would be a documentary about her. I mean I know she wasn't Clive Davis but if it wasn't for her, James Chance wouldn't be James Chance. Plus, she seemed to be connected to a lot of cultural moments during that era. Maybe one day.

lilsoulbrother, Wednesday, 13 October 2010 00:18 (eleven years ago) link

pretty sure Simon Reynold's "Rip It Up & Start Again" book has a little more info about her.

sleeve, Wednesday, 13 October 2010 01:52 (eleven years ago) link

Seeing James Chance live in 1979 in the 100 people at most capacity DC Space when I was 18 was an experience. I liked the music but his schtick where he would grab audience members (at this show, a woman's hair) was dumb, and I recall he quickly let go when a big dude suddenly appeared nearby.

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 13 October 2010 13:38 (eleven years ago) link

I didn't see Chance until about 1981, as James White; no violence left in his schtick, and musically The Blacks were a well oiled machine, much like Defunkt (with whom I believe they shared some members.)

I don't think enough is known about Anya Phillips' life to support a documentary. But with the gentrification of so much of formerly-seedy Manhattan, closing of CBGB etc., it would seem that whole era, shown in tantalizingly brief snippets in Downtown '81, would be ripe for some sort of film. That intersection of punk/no wave/art/gay/hiphop culture is really fascinating, if the story were told right.

Blog entry on Chance here (with Anya misidentified as Lydia Lunch):


Taller than the president (Dan Peterson), Wednesday, 13 October 2010 14:26 (eleven years ago) link

the film blank city - which i haven't seen, but i met the people who made it when i was in new york last week - pretty much is about that era and apparently do a really good job - they've recovered a lot of rare and lost footage.

sarahel, Wednesday, 13 October 2010 17:51 (eleven years ago) link

Hadn't heard about this, thanks. Trailer looks GREAT!


Taller than the president (Dan Peterson), Wednesday, 13 October 2010 18:08 (eleven years ago) link

five months pass...

Blank City theatrical premieres are next week:


dan selzer, Thursday, 31 March 2011 22:38 (eleven years ago) link


sarahel, Thursday, 31 March 2011 22:41 (eleven years ago) link

I'm pretty excited about this. I love the no wave scene. Oh and I forgot to say this about James Chance:

FUCKING CLASSIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

lilsoulbrother, Friday, 1 April 2011 15:29 (eleven years ago) link


xyzzzz__, Friday, 1 April 2011 21:28 (eleven years ago) link

One of the best bands that ever walked

ford lopatin (dog latin), Friday, 1 April 2011 21:55 (eleven years ago) link

two weeks pass...

James Chance will be doing a Q+A after tonight's screening of Blank City at the IFC center in NYC. OK?

dan selzer, Monday, 18 April 2011 16:39 (eleven years ago) link

five years pass...

I just discovered these today on youtube, so in case they have not come to others' attention: here's lovely footage of James White and the Blacks at Hurrah in 1980.


Wants to impose Sriracha law in America (Dan Peterson), Thursday, 29 September 2016 18:52 (five years ago) link

this is from the "Almost Black" era, is there any discussion about that song and how "fraught" it is ...?

sarahell, Thursday, 29 September 2016 20:49 (five years ago) link

amazing footage!

A bear made of Tetris blocks (stevie), Friday, 30 September 2016 08:39 (five years ago) link

thanks for this!

Lennon, Elvis, Hendrix etc (dog latin), Friday, 30 September 2016 08:46 (five years ago) link

two weeks pass...

New album, The Flesh Is Weak, coming out in November. Credited to James Chance & the Contortions, though it's almost all new bandmembers except for guitarist Tomás Doncker. Includes a new version of "Melt Yourself Down" and covers of "Home Is Where The Hatred Is," "That's Life," and "I Who Have Nothing." It's really good.

Don Van Gorp, midwest regional VP, marketing (誤訳侮辱), Thursday, 20 October 2016 17:58 (five years ago) link


sarahell, Thursday, 20 October 2016 17:59 (five years ago) link

Nov. 10th NYC gig

Nov. 12 in Austin

Dec. 10 in Toronto

curmudgeon, Thursday, 20 October 2016 18:43 (five years ago) link

four months pass...

Listening to the new album and per Don Van Gorp's post just above, very good indeed. Even better -- they're touring the West Coast here in a couple of weeks, and the SF show is just a couple of blocks up the road from where I live. See you there!

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 11 March 2017 22:03 (five years ago) link

Here's the full tour details:

March 14 - Austin TX - SxSW
March 18 - San Diego - The Hideout
March 19 - Los Angeles - The Echo
March 22 - San Francisco - The Knockout
March 24 - Portland - Star Theater
March 25 - Seattle - LoFi

Plus a KEXP session a couple of days after the Seattle show.

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 11 March 2017 22:04 (five years ago) link

it's apparently sold out. I snoozed. I also feel like a dork asking my friends whose bands are opening for a coveted guest list spot because I'm sure those are already taken too.

sarahell, Saturday, 11 March 2017 23:22 (five years ago) link

Can't be sold out, I snagged two tickets for Kate and I an hour ago:


Unless my doing that made it sold out. :-D

Ned Raggett, Saturday, 11 March 2017 23:25 (five years ago) link

I just tried and bought one!

FYI this was posted on the fb event page on Thurs.
Savoir Faire Booking
March 9 at 12:41am ·
The show has sold out. We will release 15 tickets at the door day of show.

sarahell, Saturday, 11 March 2017 23:32 (five years ago) link

Weird. Guess we'll find out! But might not hurt to double check beforehand.

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 12 March 2017 00:09 (five years ago) link

Yeah apparently there was a ticket glitch and they were quite apologetic! Waiting to see how this gets resolved!

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 12 March 2017 01:24 (five years ago) link

Okay looks like they're honoring the sales -- apparently the idea was to hold some spaces open for walk ups on the day but those were the ones you and I (and others!) got. Guess it all evens out!

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 12 March 2017 01:49 (five years ago) link

three years pass...

Fundraiser for or James Chance and Judy Taylor


stirmonster, Tuesday, 8 September 2020 14:35 (one year ago) link


sarahell, Tuesday, 8 September 2020 18:44 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

Buy getting reissued I see - is this the best James Chance record?

clouds (peanutbuttereverysingleday), Friday, 6 May 2022 21:46 (two weeks ago) link

it's up there.

stirmonster, Friday, 6 May 2022 21:59 (two weeks ago) link

Buy and Off White and uh a whole lotta other stuff on the 4-CD Irresistible Impulse(Tiger Style,2006), which I've still got, though haven't played it in a long time. Think I liked most of it---still available, and here's track list:https://www.amazon.com/Irresistible-Impulse-James-Chance/dp/B000089J02

dow, Friday, 6 May 2022 23:27 (two weeks ago) link

Yeah, that set is definitely the best option - I like Off White more than Buy, even if starting with two versions of "Contort Yourself" in a row is kind of annoying.

but also fuck you (unperson), Saturday, 7 May 2022 02:48 (two weeks ago) link

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