Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Oliver: One Dove - Fallen [Dawn] (29 February 1992)

The version of this track by the Scottish electro trio which Peel played on 29/2/92 is a real rarity.  So rare in fact that it was withdrawn from sale in the week after its release due to an uncleared sample.  This mix is as close as I can get to the one Peel played, but still contains all the elements which made this track so appealing to me.  Most of them are tied up with Dot Allison's breathy recollections of meetings with strange singers, angels and ghosts.  There's also a lyric which every young generation feels is talking about them: "They say we're hard to please/They say we want too much/As if all this would do/When all we want to have is fun."

Very much an end of evening mix, Peel promised to play a different mix of this tune on his next programme if he could remember.  He didn't but if he had, it should probably have been the ubiquitous Andrew Weatherall mix.

Video courtesy of markwo74.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Oliver: Gag - The Corner Hot Dog Stand (29 February 1992)

I've seen a few tweets recently linking to songs from the past that predict Donald Trump and the alt-right.  I'd like to add this track by Gag, the brainchild of Sue D, who also performed as part of a band called Tasty Bush, as well as Bald Cow.  According to the publicity notes, "Sue generally had lunch at Taco Bell, and dessert at Dairy Queen".

24 years ahead of Trump, The Corner Hot Dog Stand touches on many of the themes that have facilitated his rise and occupy the minds of the Left at this crucial moment in history.  The titular business, owned by a family of Mexicans, has gone up in flames, victim of an arson attack due to a refusal to pay for protection either from the Mob or the police.  New York Daily Times journalist, Shaun King's Twitter feed has been my source of news about the racial abuse doled out to Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans etc since Trump's victory.  Gag talk in this song about people watching the conflagration either in prayer or silence.  If they were to chronicle something similar now, they would have to think of something to rhyme with "Build the wall".  Though if we aren't careful, who's to say the alt-right won't lay claim to "Burn out the old/bring in the new"?

The family go back to Mexico and in their place a shiny, new chain hot dog place - spotlessly clean, gaudily neon and one more link in the chain of faceless globalisation, goes up - further inspiring another set of protestors and objections, at least on this side of the song.

You can take so many things away from this song and the fact that that it has continued to resonate more presciently in 2016 than could ever have been thought possible when it was recorded make it as socially an important record as any that Peel had played in 1992.

If you're nostalgic for the days when a Clinton could overcome both the political establishment, and a non-racist billionaire presidential hopeful, then BBC iPlayer is currently hosting The War Room, the inside story of Bill Clinton's victory over George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot in the 1992 U.S. Presidential election.

Video courtesy of FEBear1.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Oliver: Lucien Bokilo - Adidja (29 February 1992)

Listening to this track from Lucien Bokilo, I find myself thinking back to French lessons at school.  In particular, those moments when the teacher would bring out a tape recorder and bung on a tape to assist the class with its French listening exercises.  The lower school years at Falmouth Community School saw us use the iconic Tricolore books which are still going today.  13 years ago, I saw the comedian Ian Moore mention them in a throwaway line about how he was using them to help him, since he was moving to live in France.  I and a few others cheered the mention of Tricolore, and to a huge laugh he responded, "In case you're wondering, Jean-Claude is still living in La Rochelle.  Hoovering la fenetre.  What a disappointment he must be to the DuPont family.  No wonder they can't get a fucking army together".  This being the time when Jacques Chirac decided that following ourselves and the U.S. into a war in Iraq wasn't really something he wanted to be part of.
When I went to the upper school building of Falmouth Community School, there was a new kid on the French textbook block called Studio 16.  Funkier, hipper, more up to date.  The flared trousers and sideburns of the cast of characters in those Tricolore books replaced by vaguely preppy/or shell-suited teens pointing the way to the 1990s with lengthy dissertations about whether they liked British television or not.  I remember they liked ours considerably more than I liked theirs whenever I watched it on holiday.
What has stayed with me most about them were the musical stings on the accompanying cassette tapes.  Tricolore linking its sections with a jaunty acoustic guitar polka that ran throughout the tape.  Studio 16 was more varied.  The stings were more jingle like ensuring that you never forgot what you were listening to, but some would be done as bright electro-pop numbers; others as slower, bluesier efforts and every so often there would be a few bars of delirious Afro pop - Studio 16 doing a better job of reflecting France's racial make-up than Tricolore did.  Even now, Ousmane Seck of Senegal remains a clear memory of my education.
Adidja catches Lucien Bokilo channelling the spirit of those Tricolore/Studio 16 stings...and I can offer it no higher praise of comparison then that.

Video courtesy of soukousnostalgie.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Oliver: The Nightblooms - Butterfly Girl (29 February 1992)

I had a question mark against this when I first heard it.  What tipped the balance was listening, in error, to the 8 minute long version which showed up on The Nightblooms' debut album.  I adored the slow, meditative build up conjured by that 1-2-3/1-2-3 guitar figure, and the voices coming slowly into focus, like reverse radio waves eventually crystallising into the vocals.  The single version, which Peel played on 29/2/92, dispenses with that and comes straight in on the loud clanging guitars, but as you will hear, sound and fury doesn't really have a place here.  Putting their trust in Esther Sprikkelman's unadorned vocal (if this had been a British band at the time, it would have been drowned in reverb, I expect), the sun/rain/snow metaphors drift by like clouds in a Yoko Ono lullaby.

It all sounds horribly kitsch, the kind of winsome "slippergaze" that grunge was sent to obliterate, but instead it achieves a kind of beautiful serenity, even through the nihilistic lines: "I don't think and I don't mind.  I don't feel and I don't care."  I'm also tickled by the fact that the track was apparently recorded over the first two days of 1992.  There's a sense of moving from the old to the new, as in from last year to this year.  The sudden cut-off at the end encapsulates this completely, as though the butterfly girl has emerged from her chrysalis over the course of the Christmas period and is ready to fly into the new year, at least until the butterfly net of failed resolutions falls on her.

Video courtesy of fastfoodsblips

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Oliver: Bald Cow - Speed Skull (29 February 1992)

Sometimes, it's a mistake to be doing the ironing while making selections for this blog.  When first listening to the show from 29/2/92, this track bypassed me entirely and would have continued to do so if Peel had played the track he intended to from Bald Cow's 4 track EP, The Wrath of Achilles.  Instead of a take on Homer's Odyssey called Return of the Gone, we got a garage rock tribute to Albert Einstein called Speed Skull.  This was clearly a band looking to marry intelligent dissertations on science and literature to a biker bar musical ethos, and they do it brilliantly.  I nearly missed it, only hearing it and enjoying it when I was listening to clarify a point on the selection that will follow this track on to the blog.  I can only share it as a live recording from a gig that Bald Cow played in Chicago in 2011, but it captures the essence of the track perfectly.  Their full set from that gig is on YouTube together with some other recordings under their name.  Check them out.

Video courtesy of mmravic.

Oliver: Spitfire - Wild Sunshine (29 February 1992)

A few weeks ago, I downloaded the Oasis documentary, Supersonic.  It was great, though I wished we could have heard more from Tony McCarroll.  It did the right thing by focussing on the imperial years, simply because there really was nowhere to go but down post-Knebworth and they really did plummet in the last decade of their existence.  But what Supersonic did particularly successfully was consider how fast and stunning their rise was - and the appearance, at least superficially, of how easy it looked.  First single to headlining in front of 125,000 people in two years?  Piece of piss, mate.  Except that it wasn't of course.  It was hard work, dedication, a handful of stunning songs and a bit of luck.  Luck that Alan McGee happened to be in King Tut's Wah-Wah Hut in Glasgow on the pretext of going to freak out his ex-girlfriend, whose band were playing the night McGee first clapped eyes on Oasis. Luck in that Supersonic came out a week after Kurt Cobain's death upended everything and left the music media in need of a new cover star.  And these ones didn't do doubt or vulnerability, which must have seemed refreshing in comparison.  Correction - it was refreshing, because I remember it.

But as with Oasis, as with The Beatles, the question has to be asked: why did fate reward them, especially?  Was it timing?  I mean The Beatles were seen as a band who stepped in when their heroes from the previous decade either found themselves in the army, in disgracegetting religionin jail or dead and took the spoils home with them.  If the floor isn't clear, you need to do something exceptional to stand out.  And it's for that reason I declare Spitfire as our first entrants into The Smell of the Greasepaint and the Sound of the Peel's prestigious Should Have Been Oasis Before Oasis Hall of Fame.
Wild Sunshine is the sound of Britpop before anyone would have thought of it.  It is the spiritual father of one of Oasis's last truly great songs as well as one of the best songs produced by the era's whipping boys.  They also had plenty of admirers among the bands that followed in their wake - and which had greater success than them.  It's all here - the anthemic chorus, vocalist dripping with attitude, guitar pyrotechnics, whippy tempo and they look terrific, if slightly more indebted in their visual styling to The Ramones mixed with Moby Grape than the Beatles.  And yet, in 1992 what should have been a Top 10 hit and an iconic Top of the Pops moment, instead served as a jolting, uplifting record on a John Peel playlist.  He, naturally, recognised the gifts they bore.  Or perhaps, he just appreciated that it stood out from most of Spitfire's other work at the time.  Tracks like Superbaby and Sunflow sounding a little more stodgy and fussy in comparison to the thrilling directness on offer here.  If Wild Sunshine was meant to be Spitfire's ticket to the big time, it is a huge indictment on the state of the music business at the time that it slipped through the cracks.  If the timing was wrong, then people should have been making time for them. Just like John Peel did.
It was originally released on a 4 track EP called Free Machine which included a track called Rocks Off Baby - was this a legal requirement in the 90s?  A period when a single Rolling Stones track held the next generation in its thrall.

Video courtesy of EVEvideoproductions.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Oliver: John Peel Show - Radio 1 (Sunday 23 February 1992)

John Peel's Sunday ritual usually included spending his morning listening to Radio 4.  Invariably this meant The Archers omnibus and Desert Island Discs.  On this day, the castaway was Elvis Costello.  For anyone unable to hear the repeat scheduled for the following Friday, and with iPlayer Radio a mere fantasy at the time, Peel passed on a quote from Mr. MacManus which had stayed with him from that day's broadcast, "Sometimes music doesn't seem to have a place in the [record] industry's plans".  Tonight, my Twitter feed has seen people sounding off about X-Factor contestant, Honey G.  I haven't seen or heard her, although she visited my workplace just a week or so ago, and colleagues went to meet her.  They came back genuinely excited to do so, despite being in unanimous agreement that she had no musical talent.  The producers of that show, who to a large extent are the music business now, would probably feel that the being of Honey G, and the reaction it engenders, would be more than enough to validate Costello's statement.  This is nothing new of course.  Just the presence of Beatles, Stones, Michael Jackson, Prince - hell even the recently departed Leonard Cohen would whip people in to a frenzy.  But it was about what they could do, just as much as who they were that mattered.  It felt like the music industry understood that.  If Costello was talking, a quarter a century ago, about the focus shifting more to marketing, then at least it was marketing artists who had produced music that merited whole floors of record companies discussing image rights and advertising deals.  Whereas now, you can have the X-Factor treatment and a whistle-stop version of what Madonna would have been actively controlling, at least till the end of the series.  And then when your second record dribbles out with no promotion, and you're reduced to PA spots at a local Center Parcs for the whole of a summer season, and you look to the music business to help - they will simply ask, "Well, what did you do before we found you?"

Selections from this show came from a 92 minute file that caught different halves of the show.  Tracks I would have liked to share, but couldn't included:

Big Chief - Bong Wrench/Into the Void/Destination Poon [Peel Session]. The Ann Arbor - any band from Michigan which Peel played that didn't come from Detroit usually came from Ann Arbor - band had already made an impression with Reduced to Tears on 7/12/91 but this session was tremendous comprising a muscular rocker, a Black Sabbath cover and a wonderfully powerful instrumental.  All that and they managed to work a Simon Bates jingle advertising Radio 1's discontinuation of broadcasting on medium wave to play simultaneously alongside them during Bong Wrench.  Peel was impressed, "I wonder whose idea that was...."

Gush - Hell I - or Hell 1 as Peel pointed out.  A short burst of tremendously powerful, loud and thrilling, female Japanese noisecore.  And it led into another Japanese based artist, albeit one working a different style of music to Gush....

Tokyo Original Don Gorgon - Junk Rock - in the words of Peel, "Japanese reggae; we don't hear nearly enough of that...a concept almost too bizarre to grasp".  This tended more towards the full brass section side of the genre, with a "sweet sweet" refrain which had it come out a year later could easily have sat alongside Oh Carolina/Mr.Loverman/Informer in the top end of the charts.  A shame because this is pulled off really rather well.

Peel again played Gejo by Knowledge Kunenyate and Kasongo, but as on 15/12/91 this lovely African tune has not turned up.

And then there were those that were in, but when it came down to it, they were out:

The Gories - Telepathic - this garage blues tune had a question mark next to it when I first heard it and it stayed there after listening to it again.  I liked the very end of it though.  Recommended, if not included.

Strobe - The Cry - The Hitchin based space-rockers were getting correspondence from places as far-flung as Israel apparently.  "Blowing minds to a rainbow" according to Peel with a phrase he can't have used since 1969, at least not without smirking.  Unfortunately, I found this too much of a space rocker  noodling though empty blackness instead of catching the tail of a comet.

Curve - Lilies Dying - a case of diminishing returns for this listener.  Peel had caned the Doppelgänger album over previous shows and maybe Curve fatigue was beginning to settle in.

Bunny General - Mek Them Rock - although not quite as objectionable as the explicitly anti-Asian track, Pon Mi Border, its talk of forced integration made this feel like Norman Tebbit's Cricket Test transposed to the Carribean and set to music.  I could not support it.  "I seem to have a lot of Bunny General records to play you at the moment".  Yes John, but how closely did you listen to any of them?

Full tracklisting

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Oliver: Ivor Cutler - Jumping and Pecking (23 February 1992)

From what I can tell of it, Ivor Cutler's work essentially covered three topics:

1)  The monastic absurdity of his upbringing - see Life in a Scotch Sitting Room
2) Mudanely deranged encounters in the urban jungle - see Thick Coat/Eyes Shut Tight
3) The petty jealousies and mini battles waged in nature - see below...and above!

Whether it be hiding fugitive sparrows or providing advice on how to deal with an owl attack, The Great Outdoors played a huge part in Cutler's world.  But while his take on nature may have been surrealistic, it was never sentimental.  This was no bucolic paradise, rather a world with as many questions, absurdities and irritations as could be found in a teeming city.

This jaunty observation of the eating habits of birds and flies' resentment towards pips and seeds briefly threatened to miss the cut when I listened back to it - silliness for silliness sake, I felt.  But that honeyed refrain of "Nature, nature, nature, nature" has clung on to me like a Sleepy Old Snake.  I can't resist.

Video courtesy of ivorfan.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Oliver: The Ragga Twins - Bring Up the Mic Some More/Ragga Trip [Peel Session] (23 February 1992)

Greetings fellow citizens of the new world order... You're going to have to wait a couple of posts or two before I come to my cast iron "Now this is soooo apposite in this post-Trump election victory world" selection, but hearing The Ragga Twins launch into the first half of the session they recorded for "John Orange Peel" and them dedicating it to "The England posse, the Great Britain posse and all over the world..." before concluding with "We love all people" made me nostalgic.  There hasn't been enough of that in 2016, has there?

So enough with the politics and philosophy - on with the music.  I missed the second half of The Ragga Twins session on this date, which included tracks called The Truth and Tansoback, but the first half, represented here by the studio versions, was a doozy.  Bring Up The Mic Some More had, in its session version, some more vocalisations with Flinty Badman and Deman Rocker bantering with the sampled sound system MC, warbling diva and providing exhortations to those listening at home at 11:30pm on a Sunday evening to get up and dance.  But even with the embellishments, the core strengths remained in place: the jungle drum 'n' bass rhythms, the Missy Elliottesque synth lines, the  ominous compression of the "farting wasp warp".   A standout track from their Reggae Owes Me Money album, which showed these veterans of the London Sound System scene very audibly switching horses to the electronic rave scene and playing a huge part in starting off Jungle music as a result - something which squares like myself, and most of Radio 1, wouldn't cotton on to until the mid 90s; 1 in the Jungle and all that. Even then, I wasn't listening anywhere as closely as I should have been, simply associating the whole thing with Goldie's teeth.  Ah well, the benefit of age over youth is that it allows you to repent at leisure.
The second track, Ragga Trip, one of their earliest releases on Shut Up and Dance is less sonically interesting than Bring Up The Mic Some More, but offers a cracking narrative with Flinty and Deman trading lines about the tribulations of Ecstasy parties in Finchley and how their music could widen eyes and minds more effectively and more healthily than any little pill.

Videos courtesy of indiedancepop and bassbytes.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Oliver: The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy - Television, The Drug of the Nation (23 February 1992)

Now we come to a big gun, one of the best hip-hop tracks of the decade and as relevant today as it was 24 years ago, possibly even more so.

Laid down over an instrumental bed that sounds like a dry run for Beck's Loser, vocalist Michael Franti takes aim at all the ills which can be laid at television's door - rampant commercialisation, the corruption of innocence (the number of murders a child will see by the time it's 12 years old), political spin, mangled language and the general dumbing down of the passive drones that soak it all up. They may be easy targets, but the bullseye is hit all the way through.  It may also be the first track to reference the whole "150 channels and nothing worth watching" line.

Nothing has changed since The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy recorded this and the feel of the track is such that if you were to tell Franti that in 2016, it would be possible to get your fix by turning on a mobile phone, small enough to fit into a breast pocket, he would probably just shrug.

Video courtesy of Elgroover.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Oliver: Dirtsman - Mi Gun Nah Stick (23 February 1992)

Strictly speaking, this isn't the exact version played by Peel on 23/2/92, which featured a few more repeated lines of the title before launching into the track itself, but I liked it too much not to include it.

My relationship with dancehall music has become considerably more complicated since I started looking up  Rasta patois.  The realisation that Bunny General was carrying on like some kind of Carribean fusion of Norman Tebbit and Nigel Farage was a considerable shock.  I briefly entertained hopes that Mi Gun Nah Stick might be a sex song about the difficulties of getting it up, what with the "B'pum-pum" refrain (pum-pum refers to female genitalia) but with the song abounding with references to 38s, magazines, iron pills and "comedy" gun shots, I then had to try and work out whether the song was pro or anti gun.  If it was a hip-hop track around the same theme, how would I feel?  The speed of Dirtsman's toasting has left me floundering on what his intentions were.  However, the fact he also cut a track called Gun Legalise! suggests where his sympathies lay.  Sadly, he would become one of the large number of Carribean musicians who met violent ends when he was robbed and killed in December 1993.

Again, it all comes back to whether choices should be motivated by what the 16 year old me or the 40 year old me likes, and whose moral compass should guide the decision.  Unfortunately, at either age, I would have been shallow enough to include this because I love the way it works Nick Nack Paddy Whack into the melody.

Video courtesy of 1dubplate.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Oliver - Sonic Youth - Shaking Hell [Live] (23 February 1992)

This treat for "Sonic Youth completists" was taken from a live bootleg recorded in Groenigen, Belgium, circa 1983-84. It comes from their second album, Confusion is Sex.  So much of this came through in the selections that Peel played from 1987's Sister album over December '91/January '92 that I'm left wondering if they went in any other directions over the intervening four years.

Once again, it seems to me, that Sonic Youth perfected a narrative within their songs that fixated in the terrors of personal interaction and sexual attraction.  Terror was the apt word for something like Pacific Coast Highway, but here the landscape is far more intriguing.  That opening embrace between guitar and drums conjuring images of CBGBs in the early 80s where the freaks danced to blistering art-rock while facing each other down and touching tongues to decide if they would leave the club together.  It's 20 seconds of bump 'n' grind in which you can almost audibly feel the sweat pouring down the walls.  And then while that dance riff keeps on, in come the doubts - represented here by rolling shots of guitar blasts, like a flamethrower in a discotheque - "is this safe?" Can I trust them?""Do I love them?"  All these questions and more butt their way into the heads of our unseen pair.
There may be reasons to leave early, but in Sonic Youth's world, you will never get away in time - the rhapsody comes down with the classic Sonic Youth blast of guitars - a rush of noise which sounds like something trying to push through the membrane of the Earth and into the heavens beyond.  And then there's Kim Gordon - there's always Kim, but she offers no respite.  Her breathy vocals becoming more unhinged as she exhorts fabric and bodily disrobing, "Shake off your flesh", like a rock chick Isabella Rosellini. It's freaky, funky, euphoric, unsettling and utterly compelling.

Video courtesy of sonicboy19.