Wednesday, 23 December 2015
In the 60s, Peel often used to claim that he got a kick out of winding people up by making them believe that he thought Donovan was better than Bob Dylan. Had I been aware of the issue at the time, I may have tried to update this by telling people that Hole were better than Nirvana, though I guess if I had really wanted to provoke a reaction, I'd have swopped Hole for Pearl Jam. But listening back to the session that Courtney and co recorded for Peel which was broadcast on 5/1/92, I'm starting to think that this would have been an argument I would have genuinely advocated.
Due to the vagaries of my listening pattern with the recording of the show, I only heard the two tracks presented here. I missed out on Drown Soda with its spine chilling refrain of "Just you wait till everyone is hooked", quite possibly the best performance of the lot. However, Violet comes close to that accolade. Propelled along by an incendiary guitar line and with Love in her finest succubus/she-dragon form, it comes on like a turbo-charged update of Good Sister/Bad Sister but it's the Cobain like "Everything"s which catch the ear. Even at 100mph, she was doing Kurt better than Kurt. But it's Doll Parts which comes on most uniquely Hole-like. Unlike her husband, Love never seemed to have any qualms about meeting the image of a rock star head-on. She understood the commodification of the artist and seemed resigned but unperturbed about being plastic onto which different looks and images could be hung off, but that seemed a worthy sacrifice to become to girl with "the most cake" even though this would ultimately extract a high price, both within Love's musical vision and her personal life. The willingness to ride the pop hammerhead shark head-on perhaps meant it was inevitable that Love and Hole would find themselves swapping Caroline and Sympathy for the Record Industry for David Geffen. As Peel himself remarked after playing Violet, "Like that did you? You, me and Madonna it seems". Indeed, it's not fanciful to suggest that in another musical universe, Love and Hole became as big and as uncompromising in their way as Madonna did in hers.
The session was fascinating, comprising tracks which didn't surface for over 2 years and which, when they did, were recorded by a new rhythm section in Hole. This is a fascinating snapshot of the original Hole line-up including Jill Emery on bass and Caroline Rue on drums. The full Peel Session
is also available
Merry Christmas to you all and my special Christmas wishes to all those who have provided clips for this blog and the shows which I can make selections from.
Videos courtesy of Vibracobra23redux and Bow Down To Me.
Monday, 21 December 2015
House music may have seemed like it was purely based on appeals to the emotions and energies but a surprising number of tracks used the freedom of the format to try and put messages across to their audiences. CLSM's John Peel is Not Enough was perhaps the greatest example of a 128bpm Reith Lecture in Peel's lifetime, but there were plenty of other examples of DJs coming armed with a beat, a sample and a written manifesto.
LFO's What is House doesn't go overboard on this - mostly it's a set of names, some of which I recognise and others that I don't. You may question whether Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk count as house, but at least it confirms that LFO were more concerned with the ambient side of house music than the banging beats side.
Video courtesy of BenZomb.
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
At the time that this show went out, I was still a year away from starting to go clubbing. My own impressions of what clubbing was like were based almost entirely on old editions of The Hit Man and Her which I had had to fast forward through, while watching with an appalled fascination in the days when I had to leave a video running all night so I could record WCW wrestling, until I worked out how to set the timer on it. If you never saw The Hit Man and Her, it was a simple idea, cooked up by Pete Waterman and sold to Granada Television which saw him and Really Wild Show presenter, Michela Strachan present an evening's night-clubbing. Not just dancing or people trying to make themselves heard at the bar, but games and club PA sets, usually by The London Boys. It was simultaneously terrible and compulsive; the type of show which told you it was time to go to bed, but which you struggled to tear yourself away from, despite the fact that there is nothing worse than watching other people seem to be having a good time. Someone has posted whole editions of the show on YouTube, but I think this taster gives you an idea of the entrancing awfulness of the show, as well as Pete Waterman highlighting that non performing creative artists haven't got a rhythmic bone in their bodies when it comes to dancing.
The link between John Peel and Pete Waterman is not immediately obvious, but as this article reminds us, The Hit Man and Her was being broadcast during a period where the only chart perennials you could count on were Stock, Aitken and Waterman or acid house. In their default settings, Peel's show and The Hit Man and Her were poles apart, but Waterman admitted a love of acid house and trance music, while Peel, yet to discover variants of dance like drum 'n' bass or grime, wasn't averse to giving techno tracks an airing. His shows of the period are dotted with them among his preferred house music enthusiasms. That intersection shows itself on the brilliantly named Fierce Ruling Diva track, Rubb It In, which mashes up the quick fire-edits of house music with the Baleric piano samples and big voiced female vocals so beloved of Messrs Waterman and Strachan's after the pub extravaganza. "Need I say more?"
That was what I expected of clubbing in the run up to my 16th birthday. The reality, in Falmouth anyway, was very very different....
The video may say that this is the Paperclip mix of Rubb It In, but Peel announced it as the Ruling Radio mix, probably put together by Frank De Wulf. There were certainly enough mixes to be shared around. Regardless, this was the one Peel played on 5/1/92.
Video courtesy of picolettettauo.
Friday, 11 December 2015
Oliver: The Art of Noise - Instruments of Lightness [The Sequel - The S1000 Life Beyond Transformation mix] (5 January 1992)
You may have missed it back in 1991, I know I did, but it seems that The Art of Noise's star was back on the rise at that time. Ironic really given that their last original album for a decade was released two years earlier, but as 1991 was the year that dance music really cracked the mainstream, it may not be so surprising.
To children of the 80s, this "anti-group" were as much a part of that decade's musical landscape as yer Durans and Whams. Indeed, go up to a music fan of a certain age and start singing "DUM. DUM. DUM DUM DUM DUM DUM. DUM. DUM. DUM." and they will reply with the "La-la-la" refrain from their 1984 top ten hit, Close (To the Edit), a record which 31 years on has lost none of its ground breaking qualities regardless of how dated the Fairlight synthesisers sound. Shot through with a mix of absurdist humour, musical classicism, disturbing world views and a dancer's instinct, Art of Noise records were always an exhilarating experience to listen to. That mix of elements worked flawlessly together to prevent their material from ever seeming cold, dry, over-arch or dull. For me their sound in many ways is the 80s, you only need to look at their record sleeves for proof of that. But that mix of stabby orchestral fanfares, blurts and shouts sums up an aesthetic that while not remembered particularly fondly, encapsulates memories of adverts for those alcoholic drinks like Tico that were advertised in scorched European capital cities glimpsed through half-drawn blinds which gave sight to exotic models sipping their alcoholic gunk after applying body paint to their faces. Yes, it seemed ludicrous and awful at the time, but it's acquired an undeniable retro chic in the time since, in a way that the 90s have yet to do. Perhaps the link I've made there really did come about after former music journalist and manifesto-writer in residence for The Art of Noise, Paul Morley, left the collective, at which point this anarcho-sound project became in Morley's own words, a novelty act: getting Tom Jones to have a crack at Prince, putting together the definitive theme to The Krypton Factor or covering one of John Peel's favourite instrumentals. But whatever they did, it sounds like an Art of Noise record and completely unlike anyone else.
By 1989, The Art of Noise had gone their separate ways, but the new generation of dance DJs and acts that they had influenced were ready to keep their music in public consciousness with a wide array of remixes. 1991 saw an album of mixes from FON Studios in Sheffield including Carl Cox's take on Paranomia. Released as a 12-inch single, it included S1000's remix of a track from The Art of Noise's 1986 album, In Visible Silence. Instruments of Darkness in its original incarnation, is a slice of pessimistic mid-80s paranoia in which the grooves are interspersed with the fear staples of the age: nuclear war and apartheid in South Africa. However, depression is offset by that mix of offbeat humour and classical virtuosity. S1000's remix, like a number of their contemporaries' approaches to The Art of Noise's music throws all that away, apart from some bits and pieces, "Now the fuse is lit". Instead, we're drawn onto the dance floor and invited to lose ourselves in the beats and mix of tempos. The Art of Noise attempted to distort reality and look at it through their own
peculiar kaleidoscope, but in doing so, they would inspire other musicians, living in what seemed like a time of prolonged peace (The Cold War over, Nelson Mandela released) to make party music out of it. But then, I feel sure that it would have only been a matter of time before AoN, as I shall never call them again would have got there.
This nearly didn't make it on to the tape, I loved it on the recording, wasn't so keen when I listened to it in preparation for this post, but it won me over in the end and its contrast with the original is staggering. Peel called it Instruments of Darkness, but Discogs calls it Instruments of Lightness (The Sequel) which makes perfect sense when you consider the joy and optimism of the time. What a shame that we appear to be living in an age where the original could almost become a modern anthem.
Videos courtesy of Per Christian Frankplads and Adam Ant & Art of Noise.
Sunday, 6 December 2015
This blog's previous excursion into Bhangra, mixed together an Indian standard with Western rap and beats. This one goes right to the source. I'd urge you to bear with the track through the first 45 seconds, which sounded cliched even in 1992. Once the vocal comes in things pick up all the way through to the delightful chorus and the mix of keyboards and shenai pipes, which isn't something you write every day. I haven't a clue what the lyrics are about but it sounds like a tribute to Vanessa Paradis in the last verse.
Any Bhangra experts passing through, and please make yourself known if you do see this, may like to confirm the spelling of this track, which comes from the Roshney album, Maar Sutiya, as I've seen at least two different spellings of it.
Joyously, the video has been taken directly from the show on 5/1/92 including Peel's introduction which sees him grappling with the natty problem of singer, Sukhbir Ral's stage name.
Video courtesy of John Peel.
Friday, 4 December 2015
We seem to be dealing only in single verses at the moment. This beautifully delivered slice of lovers' rock from one of the titans of the genre is notable for its decidedly unromantic mood. I have listened to it over and over again in recent days and still can't decide whether Hammond is singing about a relationship gone sour or a new life creedo in which to try and survive by in our dog-eat-dog world. The legacy of the 80s had a long creep to it and can colour anything which uses the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" angle. "If you can't stand the pace, then get out of the race". Sounds like a co-write straight out of Wall Street or the Square Mile.
Video courtesy of RootsCali831