Monday, 28 May 2018

Oliver! appendices - The Pied Piper - Dreamers [Lucid Dream Mix] (29 December 1991)

This comes from that period when Peel was playing tracks called  Pied Piper as well as tracks BY The Pied Piper aka Michael Hazell - although I was ambivalent about some of them.
My notes from the 29/12/91 show read like those old Melody Maker reviews where journalists who cut their teeth on Acker Bilk singles attempted to review Tomorrow Never Knows.  For all that it remains “a piece of lovely breakbeat filler” though, I’m kicking myself that I never recognised Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka providing the “We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.” line.  What a lovely voice though, eh?  He missed his true calling as an ambient dance vocalist, I feel. But then he got to hang around with Richard Pryor, Kelly LeBrock and Joan Severance so who had the last laugh, ultimately?

Video courtesy of Dave.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Oliver! appendices: Knowledge Kunenyathi & The Kasongo Band - Gejo (15 December 1991/23 February 1992)

My last reference to this track by the Zimbabwean seven-piece band came some 18 months ago when I was summarising Peel’s show from 23/2/92.  It was the second show I had heard him play it on and remained resolutely unavailable - perhaps because whenever I entered it in to search engines, I kept spelling vocalist, Knowledge Kunenyathi’s name wrong (my notes for the 15/12/91 show have it down as Knowledge Cunin Yate).  Peel initially credited the track solely to Kunenyathi, but by the 23/2/92 show, he attributed it to Kunenyathi and Kasongo Band, and so shall I.
The confusion was understandable given that Kunenyathi had managed to wrestle control of the band from its founder, Ketai Muchawya.  The Gejo album, of which this is the title track, was the group’s first one under his direction.

The story of The Kasongo Band is a fascinating and eye-opening tale of comradeship forged in civil war, AIDS related deaths (groupiedom in Africa being a far more dangerous thing than the Led Zeppelin-esque debauchery we associate it with in Europe), power-struggles over money and control, use of ju-ju to settle disputes (who needs lawyers when you can get a witchdoctor) and spiritual salvation.   It’s often so difficult to find much information about many of the African artists Peel played on his programme, so this article from the Zimbabwean website, The Patriot is gold-dust.

Video courtesy of  La Meillure Musique Africaine- uploaded to YouTube on 2 May 2018 (a reupload)

Oliver! appendices: Rufus Thomas - 44 Long (8 December 1991)

I’m overjoyed that this track has turned up.  After hearing it on the recording of Peel’s 8/12/91 show I returned to it again and again, but it didn’t make it to YouTube until 3 months ago.

44 Long went unreleased until it turned up on album of unissued Thomas recordings called Can’t Get Away From This Dog.  It’s a reminder of a time when record labels like Stax had more material than they knew what to do with.  I have pondered at length what 44 Long refers to: a gun? a car? Thomas’s dick?  All and any of these are possible, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s about a suit, mainly due to reference to “Mohair living on my back”.
Can’t Get Away From This Dog covers tracks recorded by Rufus Thomas between 1963 & 1967, and 44 Long is a cracking example of Thomas’s 60s soul period - well into his forties by the time he hit international recognition with Walking the Dog, he had spent the 1950s cutting blues records while the 1970s would see him tackle funk and come up with one of the defining records of the genre.

As this tribute shows, Thomas led a full and funky life.  Given his love of the Stax label, I hope Peel pulled out more of his tunes as the years went past.  On the 8/12/91 show, he played 44 Long after reading out the names of some people based in a wine business who had sent him a company Christmas card: “Next year, just send me some of your product, skip the card.”

Video courtesy of Gioberry.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Oliver! appendices: The Divine Comedy - Timewatch (24 November 1991)

If the Institute of Contemporary Arts ever approaches Neil Hannon about presenting a Divine Comedy album in a live concert from start to finish, the odds are nil that he will choose to present any work from the concept’s earliest days, when Hannon played guitar and sang lyrics of urbane, romantic wonder backed by a jangle-pop sound.  If the early 90s were a fertile time for rock trios, they threw up an unlikely one in the shape of The Divine Comedy - a band which, as Timewatch shows, were more likely to quote Nat King Cole than the Sex Pistols.  With bandmates, John McCullagh and Kevin Traynor, Hannon cooked up quite a neat little sound.  Although he has subsequently disregarded the music recorded in this line-up, leading to it attaining considerable rarity value - just look at the prices a copy of the first Divine Comedy album, 1990’s Fanfare for the Comic Muse are going for - it really isn’t that much of a gulf between a nascent sound and what the world at large considers “The Divine Comedy” sound to be.  The Timewatch EP was self produced by the group and this ensured that Hannon could be heard loud and clear - you don’t bury your key asset after all.
For a long time, I had thought that Timewatch was about aging and death, especially given the opening, “When I fall asleep” verse.  But ultimately it all comes back to love and the “time to fear” seems more indicative of a clock ticking on a relationship which is apparently full of fun and frolics, but not a lifelong commitment.  The allusions to being put back together suggest that the relationship is a port after the storm for Hannon after a traumatic period in his emotional life.  Touchingly, Hannon is open to it becoming something more substantial if his lover gives off signs or indications that they are worthy of the love into which he can feel himself falling.  Never is this better evidenced than in the long held cry of “you” at the 2:39 mark just as the music picks up the pace to reflect the emotional discombobulation. Even more dramatically, it appears as though as both parties in this relationship are waiting on the other to make that commitment first.  If neither is prepared to blink first, then an avoidable termination of the relationship duly awaits.
Hannon probably felt that he was doing the moods and emotions of the track justice when he re-recorded it at glacial pace with strings for the next Divine Comedy album, Liberation, but I don’t think it holds a candle to the version Peel played on his programme on 24/11/91.
Hannon went on to record many fine tracks in the following years and created records of glorious, edible, luxurious music, but he has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to this example of his early Byrdsy work.  Come on, Neil - ditch the string quartet and put that 12-string Rickenbacker on for this tune, in the future.

Video courtesy of Zuru.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Oliver! appendices: Lethal - Techno Stylin (17 November 1991)

The Beatlemaniac sounding crowd screams at the start of this track are entirely in keeping with what makes this such a compelling listen.  Techno Stylin is a joyous, uplifting record which not only celebrates the thrill of making music but something more parochial and personal - making music in Sheffield.
On his 17/11/91 show, by accident or design, Peel found himself showcasing a couple of examples of dance music coming out of Sheffield.  One of them came up at first search and proved to be perfect fodder for New Year’s Eve, but had Nu-Tekk set the revellers Riverdancing over midnight, it would have been Lethal setting everyone up with a sense of possibility for the new year.  Techno Stylin goes head to head with every “I’m the greatest and this place is the centre of the universe” US record you’ve ever heard and makes a compelling case for Sheffield being the hippest place it was possible to be.  If you’re quick-witted enough to catch Lapello Barnes’s flow, this serves almost as a how-to guide when it comes what you need to succeed in techno-breakbeat-rapping, but if you can’t catch it just enjoy the love and excitement in these beats and rhymes, combined with a come one/come all invitation to get to Sheffield on the weekend and feel the music.  As Resident Advisor’s 2014 retrospective on bleep music shows, Yorkshire found itself in a good musical place at the end of the 80s/early 90s.  Recognition of a golden age often heralds its demise, but with tracks like Techno Stylin to chronicle the thrill of the time and place, the music will never grow old even when attention shifts elsewhere and leaves Sheffield’s once thriving nightlife in a state of current inertia and Sainsbury’s Local hell.

Video courtesy of bonbonfabrik

Friday, 18 May 2018

Oliver! appendices: Superconductor - The Most Popular Man in the World (10 November 1991)

In looking at the title of this track while doing a trawl of appendices for the Oliver! selections, all I could remember was the rather gross cover photo for Superconductor’s debut single.  It had been some three years since I heard the 10/11/91 show and it had been my Festive Fifty winner from the 1991 shows that I had heard which I most readily associated with that edition of Kat’s Karavan.  It was only when doing a little research on Superconductor, ahead of writing this that I rediscovered exactly what piqued Peel’s interest in them.  Basically, if you wanted sonic rock excess - no, sonic rock gluttony - in the early 90s, then Vancouver, Canada was the place to go.  Superconductor boasted a line up containing 6 guitarists and 2 bassists.  Clearly A.C. Newman and friends decided that an indie version of Paul McCartney’s Rockestra was a potential going concern.
The Most Popular Man in the World is essentially two styles parading for audience attention.  The first half is hard rock lamentation about the title character’s drinking exploits, but at 1:40 the tone changes to something more akin to garage rock.  It’s these shifts in tone, alongside the sheer weight and brio of the sound that guarantee its inclusion, some three years after I was initially left wishing for it.

Video courtesy of Irresponsableful.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Oliver! appendices: Eggs - Ocelot [Party Mix] (10 November 1991)

Yet another find of a track which wasn’t around when I originally looked for it. Strictly speaking, this isn’t the version Peel played on 10/11/91, which was the b-side on Eggs’s first single on the Teenbeat label, Skyscraper.  That version started at the 20 second mark and was a little more stripped back, using only a single vocalist rather than the frail harmonies on display in this ”Party Mix” version from Eggs’s first album, Bruiser.  It was also a little slower and featured low-mixed horn parts.  Nevertheless, I’m delighted to have a version to put on this blog.  It seems to be a great example of what I think of as campfire rock - overdriven acoustic guitars backed by sludgy electric guitar and bongo like drumming (although, in this case they really are bongos helping to drive this track along).  A decade or so later, Jack Johnson would enjoy substantial success with a variant on that sound.

As well as being catchy as hell, other notable features of Ocelot include its vaguely surreal lyrics: “Every ocelot is a stroked cat/But not every stroked cat is an ocelot”*; weird verse metres and Mark E.Smith vocal lifts.  No wonder Peel was getting letters about them.

*Not quite so surreal since I’ve subsequently discovered what an ocelot is.
Lyrics copyright of Andrew Beaujon.
Video courtesy of Amye Sagar