Sunday, 16 August 2015

Oliver: The Farm - Mind [Peel Session] (28 December 1991)

When I last wrote about The Farm, I came to praise but with reservations.  I still had many of them even while listening incessantly to Mind, another track from their August 91 Peel session, which surfaced as the first single ahead of the Love See No Colour album.  It starts with one of the band's regular set-ups - meeting up with an old friend you haven't seen for years and noting the changes in them.  So far, so Hooton; at least it's catchy as hell.  My perception of the song changed as I listened to the second verse:

You're just another number on another chart.
I bet you've broken so many hearts.
I think back to the days when you laughed.
Laughed at those people, now you're one of them.
In the Eighties, the tables were turned.
After those riots in the midnight sun.
I tell you no lies and it's a fact.
Soon our cities, they were full of...

And then I strained to hear, what were they full of?  I mislaid the recording from the 28/12/91, so had to keep using the video, which is mixed as close to the sound that I heard on the Peel session.  I knew the whispered/silent word had to be something controversial but what?  A swear word?  "Shite" might rhyme with "fact" when said in a Liverpool accent, and the word definitely began with an "s".  At last, in my final listen before writing about the track, I worked out what it was - "skag".  And suddenly, their whole approach made more sense to me.  The nostalgia for more innocent times carries an even greater weight when it's married to a present as awful as the one described here.  And to be addressing such concerns to a drug addict is far more emotionally involving than if Peter was singing to someone who had jacked in their dreams for an office job and 2.4 children.  The symbolism in the video with "kids representing us in our younger days" and the walk around a dilapidated Liverpool Airport is a bit obvious, but for all that it's a lovely moment when you realise that a group you've previously dismissed as nothing more than good-timers have a bit more about them than you thought.

Unfortunately, the record buying public and presumably the radio stations who had been putting All
Together Now and Groovy Train on daytime playlists shied away from this funky, sensitive account of re-acquaintance with a heroin addict in ransacked British cities and it scraped into the Top 40.  A
real shame as it's arguably a better tune than either of those big hits.

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE - This is the 100th post of 2015 and that seems an appropriate point to announce a short break for this blog.  I love what I've put together here and I have so much music and Peel related stuff I want to share.  However, on August 28, I will be getting married.  Things are coming to a head in terms of organisation and I'm travelling to Ireland with my fiancĂ©e next week ahead of the ceremony the following week.  I need to give my time to thoughts of wedding speeches for a few weeks, instead of what I'm going to write about PJ Harvey, Nirvana or First Offence.  So in the event someone chances across this blog in the next 2 or 3 weeks and likes it enough to favourite it, I will be back with more Peel selections in early September.  Please send your wedding donations to the usual address.

Video courtesy of geddes57.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Oliver: Bally Sagoo featuring Cheshire Cat and Rama - Mera Laung Gawacha (28 December 1991)

If pop culture is destined to recycle its various stages of development every 20 years or so, we can't be far away from seeing a clutch of British Asian acts grabbing mainstream attention and wearing the dubious label of Next Big Thing.  Around 1991 several bands/artists of British Asian descent started musical journeys which would quickly see them become a mix of musical hot properties and the faces/voices of British Asian youth culture.  I'm thinking of the likes of Apache Indian, Cornershop and Fun-Da-Mental who in their different ways married together Eastern and Western music styles and achieved unprecedented commercial success as well as critical acclaim.  These acts achieved the holy grail of crossover appeal without compromising their identities. They should have been the first of dozens given the number of potential musicians in the British Asian population, the widespread appeal of bhangra/Bollywood/ragga within the communities and the ease with which these styles could be worked into reggae/hip hop/indie frameworks.

Why there weren't more breakthroughs is difficult to say.  Certainly the acts previously mentioned found themselves just as disposable within the mainstream as those within any other culture (though to be fair, all had built up enough support when they were emerging to cushion their falls from Top of the Pops appearances and NME front covers).  A lack of outlets on national radio didn't encourage the flood either.  At a time when Bobby Friction and Nihal were but a glint in Andy Parfitt's eye, the responsibility for airing anything from the British Asian community rested squarely on John Peel's shoulders (we can only assume that Andy Kershaw was going direct to sources in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka for his Bhangra fix).  Peel played the artists already mentioned as well as many others including dub producer, Bally Sagoo, whose debut album Star Crazy included this gorgeous update of a traditional Indian tune featuring Sagoo's contemporary, reggae singer, Cheshire Cat providing his smitten commentary in a track that fuses dub bass lines with tablas and flutes to stunning effect.  Only two things let this track down:
1) the "of their time" squelchy saxophone stings.
2) the cultural cringe lyrics - "From the moment that I saw you.  I was most definitely interested in you"

But these are only minor criticisms.  Sit back and let yourself be drawn into a track that unfolds as luxuriously as a thick sari enveloping you into an embrace with the wearer.

Musharrat Nazir with the non-dub version in a video featuring some lousy attempts at subliminal advertising.

Videos courtesy of Sahil Budphal (Sagoo) and Harpreet Kaur (Nazir)

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Oliver: The Rockingbirds - A Good Day for You is a Good Day for Me (28 December 1991)

Live version from 2009 to replace the long deleted YouTube topic version.

A late contender for my favourite track of the 1991 Peel shows comes from London based country-rock band, The Rockingbirds.  A glorious update on The Beatles song, Good Day Sunshine, with lashings of pedal steel guitar, the biggest compliment I can pay to this track is that I'm thinking of singing it at my wedding party at the end of this month.  It's a love song everyone can sing in company without a trace of embarrassment, and that surely makes it a true song of the people.

The Rockingbirds - 25 years earlier.

Videos courtesy of phillivelymasters (Rockingbirds) and MixTapePlayer1 (Beatles)

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio Mafia [Finland] (Thursday 26 December 1991)

I've had to skip Peel's Radio 1 show on Sunday 22 December 1991 due to not finding a suitable file to listen to.  I nearly skipped this Boxing Day show which Peel recorded for Radio Mafia.  The main reason for this was, as a look at the tracklisting confirms, I'd heard and selected/rejected most of what Peel played in previous posts.  I actually ended up listening to the tracks I hadn't heard, on YouTube instead of listening to the broadcast.  I'm glad I did listen to it in the end though as it helped provide me with more context about the one selection I couldn't share:

Steroid Maximus - Life in the Greenhouse Effect - with its thumping samba drum patterns and blaring movie score brass, this effectively laid the ground for the work done by The Avalanches - cinematic, stylish, funky and the brainchild of someone that Peel freely admitted he hadn't been a fan of up to that point: Jim Thirlwell of Foetus.  Peel was able to pinpoint the reasons for why he liked Steroid Maximus's album, Quilombo "I think it works largely because at no stage is Jim tempted to sing". In its own notes, the record was referred to as "a film soundtrack for no film in particular.  Ancient music from the future.  Ethnic music for a civilisation yet to be invented. Aural LSD." 'Not that again!' Peel moaned.

Of other tracks, I Say Yeah by Pied Piper nearly made it in, but eventually I stuck to my guns and left it off.  However, the Pied Piper is destined for this blog soon.  If you can't wait that long, open your KP nuts and strew Quality Street wrappers everywhere and you too can get in the 1991 festive spirit.

Jim Thirwell sings as part of Foetus.  Who said Peel didn't care about technique and style.

Video courtesy of #Foetus.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Oliver: D-Nice - To Tha Rescue (26 December 1991)

"These blokes always seem to  have dozens of mates that they can mention on their records, don't they?  If I was to make a record I don't know whose name I'd put on there.  Not very many people, I suspect"

I was so seduced by D-Nice's previous contribution to this blog that I waved this track, the title track of his second and final album, through, almost sight unseen.  It was only when listening to it again that I realised how ordinary it was.  In fact were it not for the catchiness of the title line, which fits perfectly with the sample of Junior Mance's A Time and a Place, I probably would have left it out.

The rest of the track is a series of self affirmations as Nice bigs himself up at the expense of other rappers, but it's all rather tame and Gang Starr did it all much more effectively a few posts back.  You know inspiration is waning when a track ends with a shout out, which Peel passed comment on above.  It wasn't even last track on the album.

Junior Mance makes sure To Tha Rescue gets included on a mixtape that doesn't exist.

Video courtesy of N3r0nFerdy (D-Nice) and groove addict (Mance).