Saturday, 27 February 2016

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 - Sunday 12 January 1992

Only selections from the Sunday show available here, I'm afraid.  But the good news was that they came from a complete show.

The show was notable for a very welcome play for my 1991 Festive 50 winner followed by a diabolical phone interview with Lesley Rankine of Silverfish, which started with Peel, in his desperation not to go down obvious lines of questioning, asking her if she knew of any good Indian  restaurants in Brick Lane.  He wanted to know for the benefit of his eldest son.  Peel himself had been in an awful one earlier in that day, but no details were forthcoming.  The interview continued in similar vein, taking a nosedive when they started talking about falling into swimming pools when clothed as Silverfish were expected to do the following day for a photo shoot.  By the end Rankine was making little attempt to disguise her disappointment in the dreariness of the proceedings, by exaggerating her voice when saying really inane things.  Peel was aware of his own shortcomings too, "My interview technique hasn't got any better, has it?  Sorry, Lesley."  He was still some years away from nailing this sort of thing on Home Truths.

There were several tracks, I wanted to share but couldn't; to wit:

Thousand Yard Stare - Comeuppance (dark tinged but energetic rock)
Salt Tank - Pressure Drop (a terrific dance track)
Zimbabwe Cha Cha Kings - South Africa (more African guitar wizardry)
William Bell - Quitting Time (last track on the show, laid back soul)

3 other tracks fell from favour between first hearing and writing about them:

Superchunk - Throwing Things (I think these guys are destined never to appear on this blog)
Siouxsie and the Banshees - Love in a Void [Peel Session] (a treasonable offence in some repects, but I just couldn't see what the fuss was about)
Distorted Pony - Pillar of Salt (who also earned Peel's disapproval by featuring a picture of the gates of a concentration camp on the sleeve of their record: "I wish they hadn't done that").

Full tracklisting

Friday, 26 February 2016

Oliver: Dennis Alcapone - Run Run (12 January 1992)

My production of Dracula is over.  It survived a cast member breaking their ankle and the enforced pressure on me to learn the part in 48 hours went someway towards helping me get over anxiety issues that I've been having about appearing onstage over the last 4 years and which caused me to be very, very discerning over which shows I appeared in.
My wife is now rehearsing a play with the same company.  Rehearsals started this week and she came home from the second rehearsal in a bit of a state, lambasting herself for being unable to stop offering suggestions and advice or for not getting the nuances of an accent quite right.  All this after 2 rehearsals and with 7 weeks to go to the first night.
I sympathise with her though because I've already found myself thinking at times about what my 1992 Festive Fifty will look like. A fatuous thought because it may be 3 or 4 years before this blog gets to that time of the year.  So far I only have 2 choices out of those I've put up from 1992 which I think are good enough.  This was brought into focus when I listened to Run Run by Dennis Alcapone, and found myself thinking, "If only this had been recorded in 1991 instead of 1971, it would be a shoo-in for a place in my eventual chart".  Rationality and calm have subsequently descended and I can now enjoy this mix of rocksteady and nursery rhyme on its own terms.  As can you, and guaranteed no talking about a 1992 Festive Fifty until 2019 at the earliest.

Interestingly the inclusion means we have back to back selections with alliterative titles.  Peel surely meant this, didn't he?

Video courtesy of Danny Sinclair.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Oliver: The Undertones - Jimmy Jimmy (12 January 1992)

If you could have asked John Peel one question, what would it have been?  Would it have been about hanging out with Marc Bolan when Peel was a princeling among hippies?  Perhaps, you would have wanted to know what sustained him during the prog years or anecdotes about his conversion to punk. Memories of John Walters and lusting after Clare Grogan.  Did he prefer The Smiths or Public Enemy?  Was Courtney Love misrepresented? Did he ever think of doing a programme consisting of
nothing but reggae records?  Would he have liked to see Jack White collaborate with a grime duo?

For myself, the question has always been the same: did you feel in any way conflicted when the man who sang your favourite song ever had a number 1 hit with a piece of pure MOR pop that wouldn't have been anywhere near your 1985 playlists?
It's not really a fair question, not least because I actually rather like ol' "Sheargal Farkey"'s, A Good Heart.  In fact, in my unregulated moments, I cite the bit at the end of the second chorus where he goes "Yeah" before the slide guitar solo flies down a fireman's pole as one of the most hair raising moments in 80s pop.  But even at 9 years old, I was still taking the piss out of his hair, and that so sincere, quavery vocal, which made Jonathan Donahue sound like Robert Plant.  So if I was thinking that, and I'd only seen the bloke 2 minutes earlier, I can't imagine what those who had been lapping up his excellent vocal performances on Undertones records were feeling.

Before this recording, my only exposure to Jimmy Jimmy was the fact that Sky Sports used it as theme music on Jimmy Hill's Sunday Supplement.  It was not an entirely appropriate choice given the gargantuan levels of self-confidence that Hill had in pretty much every thing he turned his hand to were not qualities shared by Sharkey's titular friend.  There's an ease to this urban fairy tale which shines through from first second to last.  It's one of those records to make the jaded pop nostalgist reflect back on the second coming of the Beat Boom which in many respects is what all those Undertones, Buzzcocks, Sham 69 et al records were, and every bit as cherishable.

That "hit it" in the middle of the solo remains an abomination, though.

Videos courtesy of joseedc and Flashlights.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Oliver: Lord Finesse - Return of the Funky Man (12 January 1992)

Some time in the late 90s, I was listening to a Peel show in which he played Take Yo' Praise by Camille Yarbrough a 1975 composition from her album, The Iron Pot Cooker, but which was enjoying a new lease of life as the main vocal sample on Praise You by Fatboy Slim.  The ability to discover such origins was always one of the great fringe benefits of John Peel's shows.
Lord Finesse, performer of the present track would also find himself in Norman Cook's plan for world domination as his refrain of "Right about now, the funk soul brother" from Vinyl Dog Vibe by the Vinyl Dogs was lifted onto Rockafeller Skank.
Such exposure was some way off when Finesse was unleashing his  second album onto the world, from which the title track was given a spin on this night.  It's pretty standard "I'm the greatest" shtick, with obligatory references to venereal disease, but I've always been a sucker for records which sample jazz clarinets and the vocal sample is from the peerless Gang Starr.

This nearly made him a star!

Videos courtesy of Gordon Paul and enricoSFK.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Oliver: Suffocation - Synthetically Revived (12 January 1992)

This nearly missed the cut with me despite it opening with one of the few Death Metal tropes I like: to wit - the crash rumble that heralds one of those low rumbling demonic growls - how do they do that?
Death Metal was in high ascendancy on Peel's show in early '92 with its apex of cross appeal coming from the collaboration between The KLF and Extreme Noise Terror.  This track probably resonated more with me on the Wednesday just gone in which one of the actors in the production of Dracula that I'm currently directing, phoned me to say that he had broken his ankle in a pizza restaurant.  On the opening night of the show. STRESSSED!  And as I stood in Victoria Station, waiting for a delayed train to take me home for a deferred first night, which would now be a rehearsal so I could at least get attuned to the mood and staging ahead of desperately trying to learn the part, I thought to myself, "I wish I could put Synthetically Revived by Suffocation on at full blast".

So now I can.

Ironically, ankle injuries would play a similarly ill timed role in the production of Oliver as well, but we're still some way off that yet...

Any excuse to include this:

Videos courtesy of MrRob'sWorld06 (Suffocation) and Groenlandrecords (Fujiyama & Miyagi).

Monday, 15 February 2016

Oliver: Mercury Rev - [Peel Session] (12 January 1992)

July 21 2001, I'm sat in the dungeon at Windsor Castle, the ceilidh band are about to strike up their latest jig and Caz, who I've managed to charm into my arms and kisses with a joke about William Hague is telling me about her favourite band.  Arguably still the best wedding weekend I've ever attended outside of my own and when we reach 2001, in the next half century, I'll provide some proper context....

I was only dimly aware of Mercury Rev by that time.  Had I been paying attention, I'd have jumped aboard the Deserter's Songs bandwagon.  But in 1998, I was devoting more time tilting at windmills like The Supernaturals or Delakota.  As breathlessly and rhapsodically as she talked about Mercury Rev, all I could do was smile and nod encouragement, while wishing that I could actually offer some insight back at her about them in order to make a glorious evening even better.
With fortuitous timing though, Mercury Rev released the follow up to Deserter's Songs a couple of weeks after that wedding. All is Dream went on my Christmas list and to my great shame, although I bought it, I haven't listened to it more than 3 or 4 times in the preceding years.  The music was epic, panoramic, shot through with spidery tension and brittle, loving emotion, but I couldn't make it a regular play in my life.  I always feel that way about any pop music which seemingly requires you to dress up in formal evening wear in order to listen to it.  Nite and Fog remains one of my favourite songs ever though and considering that the last time I heard the album in full, I was listening to it in my car while driving away from a farce of a birthday party (not mine), 9 years ago, the words "ripe for re-appraisal" keep dipping into my conciousness with every word I write in this post.

I can't remember much of what Caz told me about Mercury Rev on that glorious drink-filled weekend, but I don't remember her saying anything about them starting out with a different vocalist.  If the Mercury Rev sound can be boiled down into one constituent part then the quavery, taut vocals of Jonathan Donahue would be it.  However, this Peel session which was a repeat of one broadcast oringinally on 5 October 1991, showcases the band at a time when Donahue was in the background and the vocals were delivered in an equally distinctive, though somewhat more lugubrious style by David Baker.  Imagine a sound somewhere between Max Headroom and Paul Robeson and that's Mercury Rev before Donahue piloted towards its more elated reputation.
Had I been listening on 12/1/92, I may very well have named Mercury Rev as my new favourite band off the back of this session (apologies to Hole.). Those wondering if there was any alternative to grunge would have found much to appeal to them here, with tracks ranging from the epic, Velvet Underground infused, opener Chasin' a Bee (Chasin' a Girl Inside a Car) - all squally whines and slow motion breezes - the audio equivalent of trying to chase something either insect or human around the confines of a hot car, across sticky leather upholstery.  It's unsettling, strange and utterly beguiling if you're in the right mood for it.
But this was no bunch of one-trick ponies and after the darkness, they serve up a full on glam-style
stomper in Syringe Mouth - all driving drums and head banging guitar riffs.  And from that, with tasteful lashings of stringy indie guitar and clarinet, suddenly they're giving Loaded-era Primal Scream a run for their money with Coney Island Cyclone.  Three songs - one group - all pointing to a different direction from the 1992 zeitgeist.  Maybe they were seen as too hi-falutin' amid the onslaught of blood on the tracks pain that many of their countrymen would hit paydirt with, and had to wait until the world was ready for Donahue's widescreen cinematic vision.  Or maybe people hated the punning album titles.  Either way, it's a darn shame that the David Baker Years are seen as Mercury Rev, before they got good, when on the evidence of this session, even leaving aside vague space rocker final track, Frittering, they were one of the best around from the very start.  But what did Caz think of the David Baker Years?  I was too pissed to remember.

Still one of the 10 best songs ever written in my opinion:

Video courtesy of Vibracobra23 and Walliewall.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Oliver: King Tubby - Rebel Dance (12 January 1992)

Tortured am-dram/music metaphor ahead, so be warned.

Although I can sing well enough, I can't play any musical instruments.  However, I'm becoming more convinced that I missed my true calling as a dub producer.  To believe Wikipedia, it's all dropping in one channel and pulling out another.  Presenting snippets of horns and strings against rocksteady guitar, bass and drum lines.  Twiddle the knob and slide the fader at the right place and you've got it.
I'm aware this may sound like Tommy Saxondale DJ Bashing, and of course it isn't that simple.  The dub producer has to have an extra set of ears, allowing him to hear outside of the track.  You have the basis and then the embellishments, but curiously the embellishments come from within the basis.  And they have to enhance rather than detract from it.  You hear 2 different tracks within the same one and merge them together to create the supertrack.  Directing's exactly the same.  You see what's on the page and then think about how you can embellish what's written.  You can't add to it, though you can cut it, and whatever thoughts you have need to be at the service of the story and not against it.  As with the dropped in sample, you're sometimes looking for something to stir the audience out of their apathy or jog them out of the beat they've become accustomed to.

Many of you won't see my latest attempt to do this, but you can listen to King Tubby and then see if you agree with Tommy Saxondale.

"They go thumpedy, thumpedy, thumpedy, thumpedy, thumpedy thump!"

Videos courtesy of UnitedNewThinkers (King Tubby) and DJ Reach - Audio Visual Butcher (Saxondale).

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Oliver: Lucien Bokilo - Leonore (12 January 1992)

Before playing this piece of beautiful soukous music, Peel made a surprising announcement:

"Andy (Kershaw) was telling me, I must admit that I didn't hear it myself, that a track by Lucien Bokilo was played on (Dave Lee Travis's) programme yesterday on Radio One FM, this is marvellous news."

Subsequent history meant that this wasn't quite the ringing cultural endorsement it appeared at the time, though it does present a more edifying mental image of DLT than we may otherwise have of him now.  "All righty, we've got Darren on the line waiting to play Snooker on the Radio after we've heard this little toe tapper from Lucien Bokilo.  Come on get those hands up and sashay round your kitchen, come on now."
Thinking back it may have been around this time that I was reading the local paper, The Falmouth Packet (do teenagers read their local paper anymore?) and saw a story in it about a Falmouth resident who called DLT's show to take part in one of his quizzes.  Participation in the quiz wasn't the story, but rather the fact that the bloke brought the show to a standstill for several minutes by reducing Travis to tears of laughter in response to the question, "Which American National Park is the location of the Old Faithful water geyser?"  The answer being Yellowstone but the Falmothian plumped instead for Jellystone, the home of Yogi Bear.  Somewhere in the UK, another local paper was running a similar story about poor Bob - we're still waiting for that book, Dave.

Travis and Peel were right to be seduced by Bokilo's artistry though.  Accompanied by a charmingly low-fi video shot on someone's JVC near the Eiffel Tower and featuring crippingly of their time coloured trousers and coats, it's a track which rewards the listener's patience, once the arpeggios come in around 1:45, showcasing Bokilo's heritage as a member of Loketo.  He could call on some outstanding players to accompany him.

Peel was hopeful that soukous music making it to weekend daytimes on Radio 1 gave hope for the future, saying at the end of the track, "And Dave, if you're listening, I've got loads of good records you could play next weekend."

Video courtesy of thoms903.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Oliver: Gospel Fish - Too Much Gun Talk (12 January 1992)

Beaten by the patois on this one I'm afraid so can't, at this point give you a detailed breakdown of this track.  What I have caught is that the Reverend approves only of licensed firearms.  So that's all right then.
While the attitude to guns may not sit well with me, I'm powerless to resist the chunky bass line and lazy conga/drumbeat that runs throughout it.  I'm also delighted to get Gospel Fish on this blog having been unable to share their track, Gimme Pass, from Peel's show on 1/12/91.

Video courtesy of JarrettMC

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Oliver: Calamity Jane - Shark (12 January 1992)

It stands to reason that if you call a track, Shark, you'll start with a psych-punk take on John Williams' legendary Jaws theme.  Just what is it with all these movie references cropping into these January 1992 selections?  Dropping down into a suitably haunted house vibe, this is an enjoyable piece of hard rocking filler from the Portland, Oregon all-female, four piece.  It makes up for not being able to include their much superior, You Got It Rough, which Peel played on 5/1/92.