Thursday, 27 December 2018
My notes for this track when I selected it for inclusion talk of “techno reggae”. What a super idea - reggae flow over a drum and bass backing. How niche, eh? And then I listen to Hear the Vibes again and realise that plenty of other influential and creative people were thinking the same thing but they didn’t call it techno reggae, they called it jungle.
Peel wasn’t calling it that in 1992, but he had form for playing records that would fall under that label, especially if they were on a ragga tip. With Hear the Vibes though, he provided a showcase for Stephen Austin aka Stevie Hyper D, a man widely acknowledged as the finest jungle MC Britain ever produced. Ian McQuaid’s outstanding retrospective article does far better justice to the late Stevie than I am currently in any position to, but Hear the Vibes hits many of the fundamentals that seemed to make Stevie’s live sets so mesmeric - he hypes the room, giving himself space to build up his flow of ideas before launching, in double time into his flow of vocals. The speed flow beats me but he’s certainly shooting for the Millenium at one point. Sadly, he didn’t see it, dying of a heart attack at the age of 30 in 1998.
After releasing Hear the Vibes, Stevie sat out recording for three years by which point jungle was up and thriving both under and overground. I hope Peel went back to him or offered a Peel Session. As for Tigger Max, who provided the fantastic beats and beds for Stevie to work over, this record appears to be all they ever put out as an artist. Discogs turns up no further evidence or aliases. Maybe Tigger felt this could not be improved upon. Regardless, they left a mark.
Video courtesy of PitchlockmobileDJs Ireland.
Tuesday, 18 December 2018
With Christmas imminent, I must give thanks to this blog’s very own Santa Claus - the sainted Webbie - who has provided both of these tracks direct from Peel’s broadcast on 8/5/92.
On the one hand, we have Sleep by Australian power pop trio Not From There followed by Sleep as performed by one of the most influential jazz saxophonists of the 1930s-1950s, Earl Bostic. I can let Peel himself tell you about the significance of the Earl Bostic record and how it fed into his feelings of outsiderdom when he played it to his school’s jazz club. Needless to say this was of a piece with some of Peel’s other experiences of his upbringing which saw him being sneered at and snubbed by groups as varied as his army hockey team and Liverpool Ramblers A.F.C. In the former instance due to a combination of his inadequacy as a hockey goalkeeper and the fact that as the only non-officer in his team, none of them deigned to speak to him or treat him with any kind of respect:
“Before and after the games none of my team-mates spoke to me and they spoke rarely during the game other than to chide me for allowing the opposition to score. I was a crap goalkeeper and they were crap human beings” (Margrave of the Marshes, 2004, page 161).
In the case of the Ramblers, Peel was trying to please his father in looking to extend his social circle by joining a football team made up of the type of public school figures who had likely sneered at Earl Bostic in the mid 50s. “The Ramblers were almost exclusively public-school types who were crap at football and met in a bar called the Crooked Billet. Upon entering the Crooked Billet, you found yourself at the top of a flight of steps leading down into the body of the bar and it seemed to me that, in the manner of figures in an H.M Bateman cartoon, everyone spun around to check out new arrivals at the top of the steps. On the third occasion I put myself through this ordeal, there was as I entered, I felt, a certain amount of tittering from my team-mates gathered on the floor. I froze in the doorway. Eventually, some languid oaf detached himself from the crowd at the bar and sauntered over. ‘Excuse me, old chap,’ he said. ‘Are you playing for the Ramblers this afternoon?’ When I nervously confirmed that I was, he raised his voice slightly to say, ‘Perhaps, then, you’ll be a good fellow and do your flies up.’ This was greeted with guffaws from, it seemed to me, the entire company. I never went back.” (Margrave of the Marshes, 2004, pages 174/175).
Peel’s reference to the Lord Palmerston pub in South West London before playing Not From There refers to a sleeve note on the Conned mini-album encouraging people to send “All offers of food, money and drugs” there. Anyone taking them up on the offer would have had a return to sender given that the pub closed in 1990 and was converted to flats by 1996. You can visit the North London variant though. What seemed to have escaped Peel’s notice is that Conned was produced by Mark E. Smith. It surprises me that he would have the patience to produce another act, but he does a fantastic job on Sleep which fairly tears along. Building around a refrain of “The point that I missed”, which leads me to feel that the track may have been better off being called Insomnia given
the many things, looks and emabarrasments that vocalist Heinz Riegler reels off. After releasing Conned, two-thirds of the band were deported back to Australia with Riegler, an Austrian, moving out to join them. It would be another two years before they released their next record and they continued to be active through the 90s. It will be interesting to see whether Peel returned to them.
If I had been in Peel’s school jazz club, I would have loved the Earl Bostic record, mainly because I love a good vibraphone solo. Originally recorded as the flip side to future sitcom theme The September Song for a 1951 release, its treatment sounds remarkably prescient and in its urgent grooves and propulsive melody it seems to foreshadow elements of both rock ‘n’ roll and soul music, in contrast to its croonerish A-side. His feelings may have been hurt, but even at school, Peel was showing an awareness of what was out there, musically, that would move things along. It wouldn’t be the last time he would hear sneers for his musical enthusiasms, but it could also be seen to be the first clear example of his judgement being absolutely spot-on in the face of opposition.
Video courtesy of Webbie.
Tuesday, 11 December 2018
“Let’s get on...”
The unidentified sample at 2:13 provides a definite hinge around which the two halves of this track work. The first half up to that point is the typical hybrid of “thump/thump/thump” with the approaching train feel of the start of Theme from S-Express. Thereafter, it noodles out with prominent hi-hat action, “wah-wah” vocals, birdsong that sounds like it’s been fed through an old ZX Sinclair computer game and samples telling us to get “back to Pod”. Promotion for the record label that put out the 137 EP that 303 We Hate You came from, perhaps? Well, I’m sure it worked for Mowtown.
I find myself hoping that Peel went back to Bi-Face - the two halves of the act being Pascal Dardoufas and Uwe Schmidt - if only because most of the other tracks they did under this name are better than 303 We Hate You. So far I’m listening and selecting from Peel’s show from 29/5/92 and haven’t heard any Bi-Face tracks on files of shows between then and 8 May 1992 (though not every file I listen to is from a complete show). I won’t link to them in case they turn up in June 1992 shows and can be blogged about here, but if 303 We Hate You is vanilla (pleasant enough but unspectacular) then more interesting flavours are to be found in tracks like Flota, 137 Ambience and Slo/Fast. It’s your move, John...
Video courtesy of CookiesJunky
Saturday, 8 December 2018
In days of yore, painters and writers strove for cultural relevance or success in a garret. For bands, who couldn’t necessarily fit into a sloping attic, it was a squat that would serve as a base for their art. I was initially shocked, but then less so, when I read Carl Loben’s article for Louder Than War about some of the prestigious musicians who had been squatters when they were young and unknown. Squatting also provided its own music and culture scene. Julian Cope’s Head Heritage message board features a long thread on some of the most prominent and best bands from that scene, which seemed to specialise in various tribal, funky forms of space-rock. Magic Mushroom Band were a Peel backed band from this scene.
Formed out of a squat collective based in Peckham, Back to the Planet don’t appear to have many fans on Head Heritage, but they had John Peel in their corner and on this evidence, they would have had me too. Revolution of Thought was Back to the Planet’s first “proper” release after a couple of cassette-only live albums. It’s an interesting mixture of naively, sincere lyrics on gender politics and war-mongering bound up in fabulously funky rhythms and evocative production work (provided by Llwybr Laethog according to Peel). You can picture the dancing dreadlocks and raves around the campfire from here.
Video courtesy of maggieloveshopey.