Essential Logic - Biography
By Oliver Hall
London’s Essential Logic gave voice to the singular musical language of singer and saxophonist Lora Logic, who led the band from 1978 to 1981 and intermittently thereafter. Many of the band’s English contemporaries were also working with elements from punk, funk, reggae and Beefheart, but few created music as thrilling, inventive, and rigorously (if unconventionally) melodic as the music Essential Logic made on its early releases.
Lora Logic joined the London punk band X-Ray Spex in 1976, at the age of 16, after answering an ad in the music paper Melody Maker. Logic played on X-Ray Spex’s still-great first single “Oh Bondage Up Yours! / I Am A Cliché” (Virgin 1977) before singer and songwriter Poly Styrene edged her out of the band. According to the account in Maria Raha’s book Cinderella’s Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground (Seal 2004), Logic returned from a trip to Russia in late 1977 to discover that the band had replaced her with saxophonist Rudi Thomson during her absence. Raha quotes Logic: “the manager told me [Poly] felt threatened by another female presence attracting attention.” Logic told Perfect Sound Forever that she wrote all the sax parts Thomson plays on X-Ray Spex’s album Germfree Adolescents (EMI 1978).
Feeling betrayed, Logic stopped playing music and enrolled in photography classes at art school. Fellow student Geoff Mann ran a small label, Cells Records, and encouraged Logic to record at his studio. She put together the first lineup of Essential Logic with former X-Ray Spex drummer Rich Tee, ex-Pere Ubu bassist Tim Wright, and guitarist Stuart Action, and recorded the visionary “Aerosol Burns / World Friction” single (Cells 1978).
The single brought Essential Logic to the attention of London’s experimental label Rough Trade, which distributed “Aerosol Burns,” and Logic contributed to subsequent Rough Trade releases by Swell Maps, the Red Krayola and the Raincoats. Tim Wright returned to the United States, where he joined the New York no wave band DNA. Logic held on to drummer Rich Tee and assembled the second, larger lineup of Essential Logic, with guitarists Philip Legg and William Bennett, bassist Mark Turner, and tenor saxophonist Dave Wright. This version of the band recorded the four-song “Wake Up” EP, sometimes called the Essential Logic EP (Virgin 1979), and the album Beat Rhythm News (Rough Trade 1979).
Bennett writes in the liner notes to Whitehouse’s Cream of the Second Coming (Susan Lawly 1990), “While I was playing guitar up onstage with Essential Logic as an 18-year-old back in 1978, I often fantasised about creating a sound that could bludgeon an audience into submission.” That was the seed of Bennett’s nihilistic, confrontational “power electronics” band Whitehouse, which he formed in 1980 after leaving Essential Logic. Around the same time, Logic’s friend Liz Gordon introduced her to the Hare Krishna way of life. “I was just ready for it and I embraced it and cleaned myself up,” Logic told Perfect Sound Forever.
Minus Bennett, plus new bassist Jon Oliver in Turner’s place, Essential Logic released two Rough Trade singles in 1980, “Eugene” and “Music Is A Better Noise.” The self-titled 12-inch EP Essential Logic (Base 1981) was the last new release credited to the band; the “Fanfare in the Garden” single (Rough Trade 1981) collects two songs recorded in 1979 and 1980. Pedigree Charm (Rough Trade 1982), recorded with new bassist Ben Annesley and second drummer Charles Hayward of This Heat, was released as a Lora Logic solo LP.
Logic’s devotion to Krishna played an increasing role in her life that continues to the present day. She moved into a communal house in England that George Harrison had donated to Hare Krishnas. Logic reunited with Poly Styrene, who had independently found Krishna herself, in the short-lived reggae Krishna band Juggernaut, which played at the 1983 Glastonbury Festival. She subsequently married and gave birth to two children. “I had an arranged marriage from the temple around '84 and we've been together ever since then,” Logic told PSF. Logic never stopped making home recordings, though she released little music over the next decade.
Logic sang on Boy George’s Krishna-themed UK hit “Bow Down Mister” (Virgin 1991) and contributed to the X-Ray Spex reunion album Conscious Consumer (Receiver 1995). She recorded new Essential Logic tracks in 1997 and 1998 with two different groups; Martin Muscatt created settings for her voice and saxophone on the first session, and a larger band that included former Blondie bassist Gary Valentine accompanied Logic for the second session. Tracks from these late-90s recordings were released by internet labels Peoplesound and Vitaminic in the early part of the next decade.
The best-of 2CD set Fanfare in the Garden: an Essential Logic collection (Kill Rock Stars 2003) features artwork by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and liner notes by cultural historian Greil Marcus, who had first written about the band in 1979. Essential Logic’s records had been out-of-print for decades, and the collection inspired and influenced numerous avant-punk musicians during the first decade of the new millenium.