Saturday, 7 December 2019

The Comedy of Errors: The Ragga Twins featuring Junior Reid - Shine Eye (12 June 1992)

I’ve often felt that one way John Peel could have tempered any frustration he felt over his listeners’ conservative choices on a Festive Fifty would have been for him to give out some unofficial awards as a way of recognising records or artists who hadn’t made the chart.  The likes of the Kold Sweat label and Shut Up and Dance should have been given some form of acknowledgement at the end of the year.  In Shut Up and Dance’s case, they should have been given the Best Collaborations award.  Having seduced listeners with their Peter Bouncer team up, Love is All We Need earlier in ‘92, the label provided another dream match when it put together The Ragga Twins with Junior Reid and in the process invented Kanye West.  The title of the track is patois for a female gold digger.  But many years before West made his name with Gold Digger, Black Uhuru had got there first with their 1979 single, Shine Eye Gal.  Rather than sample it, The Ragga Twins hooked up with Reid, who had been Black Uhuru’s lead vocalist in the mid-80s to sing the opening verse and bestow some sense of authentic link to the original source material, while they worked nascent jungle music magic over it.  It’s a perfect match.  Reid’s strident vocal drawing out the frustrated passion of the lyric amid the frenetic arrangements.  My advice is to create your own collaboration between the two versions by listening to the Ragga Twins/Reid version to psych up with before going out for the evening and then chill with a nightcap and the Black Uhuru original before bedtime.

Videos courtesy of X-Dream USA (Ragga Twins) and markobolwyn (Black Uhuru)

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Sonic Youth - 100% (12 June 1992)

In prepping this post about 100%, the lead single on Sonic Youth’s Dirty LP, I was surprised and chastened to learn a little bit more about why Henry Rollins hates everything.  On December 19 1991, Rollins and his housemate, Joe Cole were held up outside their house in Venice Beach by armed muggers.  They only had 50 dollars between them, so Rollins was ordered into the house at gunpoint to get more money.  He managed to escape through a backdoor and raise the alarm, but Cole was not so lucky and a mugging escalated to a murder.  The perpetrators have never been caught.  Rollins had to contend not just with grief at the murder of his best friend, but also the trauma of briefly being suspected of the crime himself.
Sonic Youth dedicated two songs on Dirty to Joe Cole.  JC is the private grieving song with Kim Gordon chocking out an incantation that’s factual, unsentimental, brutally cognisant of life’s fragility and transience, but just about holding itself in from screaming about how unfair the tragedy is.  The music reflects this though with guitars wailing like the sound of walls being beaten by fists and tears burning out of eyes that are melting with the torrent of emotion from those left behind.  It’s the grieving process that those who stood at the back of the crematorium and offered their genuine sympathies at the funeral but had moved on to other things by the next day, don’t see and would run a mile from in terrified helplessness if they ever witnessed it.  According to The John Peel wiki, Peel played JC on a few occasions over the summer of 1992. Alas, I was not acting in anything over that summer so I haven’t heard those shows and won’t be blogging about them, but I wouldn’t have been up to the challenge of JC, I don’t think. It goes to necessary, real places in typical Sonic Youth fashion, but I end up one of those who runs away from the raw pain on display there.  Instead, I would be clinging to the other tune dedicated to Cole’s memory, 100%, which in Thurston Moore’s hands comes across as both the sermon at the funeral and the communal hymn sung to remember their fallen friend.

It does Moore a dis-service though to think that although 100% may be a more palatable expression of grief and remembrance, it’s by no means soft in terms of its feelings.  In the background, Lee Ranaldo’s guitar sounds like a dozen churning stomachs, sick with grief and sticking a handkerchief in the mouth to try and stop the dam of grief from bursting over in public the way that JC shows that it will in private.  Lyrically, the track balances tributes to Cole (“I can never forget you/The way you rock the girls/They rule the world and love you/A blast in the underworld”) with direct questions about forgiveness (“Can you forgive the boy/Who shot you in the head?/Or should you get a gun
and/Go and get revenge?)  This last week in the UK has seen notions of forgiveness and not meeting violence with more hate given a considerable amount of analysis.  But as far as Sonic Youth are concerned, in so far as the murder of Joe Cole went, they lean more towards a Henry Rollinsesque worldview (“I’ve been around the world a million times/and all you men are slime/A gun to my head/Goodbye, I am dead/Westwood rockers, it’s time for crime”).

Incitement to violence couched in a tribute to a murdered friend but presented in thunderously catchy style means that 100% stands as one of the more genuinely edgy UK Top 30 hit singles of the 1990s.

Video courtesy of Sonic Youth.
All lyrics are copyright to their authors.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Chaka Demus - Special Request (12 June 1992)

A year after this edition of the John Peel Show was broadcast, I got very interested in the UK Top 40 Singles Chart.  This was because at the tail-end of 1992, I’d bought a copy of The Guinness Book of Top 40 Charts 1952-1991, one of the great reference books I ever owned until I threw it out in a house move 12 years ago.  Well, it wasn’t like I was going to start a blog where it might have been useful to refer to, back then, was it?  For several weeks across March-May 1993, I listened to Bruno Brookes taking us through the chart and dutifully wrote down the climbers, the fallers, the non-movers and new entries.  Like the Guinness Book of Top 40 Charts, I drew a box around the highest number that any single had reached when it became apparent that it was now on a downward curve.  It was only a brief obssession, perhaps 6 Sundays’ worth, but it did allow me to record the second most remembered set of chart placings of the 1990s, after the outcome of the Country House/Roll With It face-off.  I refer to the Top 3 singles at week ending 21 March 1993 with pop/reggae crossover hits by ShaggySnow and Shabba Ranks dominating the top of the chart.  Whether it was a quirk of timing or a genuine moment of cultural change, I couldn’t tell, but it opened the floodgates to a spell where chart reggae gave chart dance a real run for its money.  After the initial burst of chart successes, the second wave of artists - many of whom had been toiling away on smaller labels or in clubs for years - starting having hits.  Names like CJ LewisPato Banton and Ini Kamoze hit the mainstream jackpot, all a long way from the days when their main UK radio exposure was through John Peel or The Man Ezeke.
Looking back on it now, the relationship those records had to reggae/dancehall was tenuous to say the least.  They were party records, perfect for summer evenings and given the fact that a number of them had their biggest hits with reworkings of 60s tunes like Sweets For My Sweet or Baby, Come Back they had understandable cross-audience appeal for all ages.  One can only have sympathy for genuine natty dreads who had to endure tourists shouting “Shabba!” as they went about their business.
I think that the best of these records was Tease Me by Chaka Demus and Pliers, which was slinky, sexy and perfectly pitched in terms of the performances and production.  It carried off that trick of sounding like an obvious hit without the workings that made it so, being exposed.  By early 1994, the duo had thrown the kitchen sink at Twist and Shout and were rewarded with a Number 1 single.

For Chaka Demus this was the commercial pay-off for nearly 10 years worth of graft.  The idea of Number 1 singles seemed very remote when Peel played Special Request on this show.  The Top Rank label, who issued the single couldn’t even spell his name correctly.  Unlike the hits with Pliers, you can forget singing along all the way through as Demus starts toasting.  The track appears to be
in praise of women advocating friendship, respect and love for them, but there’s moments where things get earthier.  I hear the phrase, “rear end” and references to how this proves love between a man and a woman, a potential anal sex subtext which gives the phrase, Special Request added potency.  If I’m looking for things that aren’t there, I’m simply happy to sit back and enjoy a performance and production ringing with positive vibes and endorsing male/female romance.  A nice change from the prevailing reggae mood of desperate living, vendettas and self-aggrandisement .

Video courtesy of devagne

Friday, 29 November 2019

The Comedy of Errors: The Gibson Bros. - Old Devil (12 June 1992)

NOTE - The video features both sides of The Gibson Bros. My Huckleberry Friend single. Go to 2:45  to get straight to their version of Old Devil.

Listening to Don Howland sing Old Devil, I found one of popular music’s perennial questions running through my mind: Can White Men Play (or Sing) the Blues?  To which my answer would be, yes they can, if only they didn’t make such a big show of singing them.  Because when white musicians sing blues songs, affectation rules.  They are the musical equivalent of British people ordering a meal in an Italian restaurant or Steve McClaren doing an interview with Dutch television.  It’s incredible that audiences listen with a straight face to it, but I suppose it’s because very few of us were genuinely Born With The Blues, so reproductions are as good as we can aspire to.  If you can’t be pure, then at least be sincere.  Out of that sincerity, it may be possible to create magic.

The Gibson Bros. provided me with one of this blog’s great earworms several years’ ago with the “Lordy lord” refrain that ran throughout their relentlessly chugging Broke Down Engine.  This cover of Bo Carter’s 1938 song is essentially a solo turn from Howland as he runs through a litany of problems including fish theft and domestic abuse.  Throughout the track he vocally gurns in a way that makes it feel like he’s trying to summon up the blues from the very depths of his gut.  Compare his performance to Carter’s effortless original and it seems to bear out the belief that the blues are both a state of mind and pure distilled pain.  Only by sharing the misery can these poor put-upon folks make themselves feel better.  In keeping with the best white blues singers/bands, the Gibson Bros.’ success comes from the fact that they bring fresh elements of themselves to what they do.  The vocals are contorted blues croon, but blended with the almost Appalachian country playing and production which makes the guitar/banjo sound like it’s being played by the Devil, all the way down in Hell, as a soundtrack to the parade of petty and nasty acts on the surface, it comes together to create something which could sound laughable, but ends up rather compelling.  Somewhere in Detroit, Jack White, was taking notes...

Videos courtesy of Ecilliterate (Gibson Bros.) and randomandrare (Carter)

Sunday, 24 November 2019

The Comedy of Errors: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Saturday 6 June 1992)

For the first time in ages, we’ve skipped some Peel broadcasts due to the timings on the files not matching my minimum of 45 minutes worth of material rule.  If you’re less precious about these things, and quite frankly most people are, then head to the John Peel wiki to find out about (and listen to) content from 30 May 1992 and 5 June 1992.

Tonight’s Peel Show had a real need for speed running through it.  Perhaps it was inevitable given that Peel was setting off to the Isle of Man for the 1992  TT Races on the following day.  He was sent a postcard from Andy Overton, one of the competitors.  Further DeathRace like thrills found themselves on Peel’s playlist in the shape of On the Road Again by Drag Racing Underground, which nearly got in on the grounds of the extraordinary vignette it includes which is set at a truckstop.
As he had hoped to on the previous week’s show, Peel had met up with and shaken the hand of Diblo Dibala.

Elsewhere, it wouldn’t be summer 1992 without a story about the unravelling marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.  Today’s news story concerned them turning up separately for Prince William’s school sports day.  Peel expressed surprised sympathy for Diana, “I don’t think any marriage could survive the crap being thrown at hers.”

The selections from this show were taken from the last 90 minutes of the programme.  I had only one selection that I wanted to share but was unable to:

The Bardots - Gloriole [Peel Session]: I caught two of the tracks from the Norwich four-piece’s session.  This brisk piece of Goth rock caught my interest, but I wasn’t so taken with their cover of The Beatles song, Don’t Let Me Down.

One track made my initial selections only to ultimately miss out:

Velocity Girl - My Forgotten Favourite: Named after a C86 touchstone track and with a sound that was pure UK shoegaze, the fact that Velocity Girl  hailed from College Park, Maryland seemed to suggest that not every female fronted Stateside band in the early 1990s wanted to be Hole, when they could instead be Bleach.  I was initially seduced but ultimately found myself thinking that Ipswich’s finest did a better job.

The file that I heard the recording of this show on ran on to include the start of Lynn Parsons’s show. This provided a fascinating insight into pre-Matthew Bannister playlisting though to Parsons’s credit, she showed an early understanding of the orthodoxy that would see nothing older than 5 years played on the station by opening her show with One Better World, a 1989 single by ABC, which had barely scraped inside the Top 40.  Maybe Peel’s influence rubbed off on her and she opened all her shows with similar minor hits.  At 2am on Sunday morning, she’d surely earned the right to experiment.

Full tracklisting

Video courtesy of ABCVevo

Thursday, 21 November 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Winfred Shaw and Dick Powell - Lullaby of Broadway (6 June 1992)

In time for the 6/6/92 show, a listener called Dave (not me) sent Peel a postcard with an owl on it and a request that he play something for himself.  “Hope you’ve got your dancing shoes on” said Peel and responded to the invitation not with Teenage Kicks but the breakout tune from Busby Berkeley’s 1935 film, Gold Diggers of 1935.  Written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, featuring one of the largest collections of tap dancers preserved on vinyl, Lullaby of Broadway was a perennial favourite of Peel’s and cropped up intermittently on his playlists.  Set in a world of Broadway dancers and wannabe Manhattan starlets who need stamina to survive long nights with their “Broadway Daddies” as well as skill to get their big break, it may very well have inspired tracks like My Time of Day from Guys and Dolls, which I appeared in, though I didn’t sing the song, a year after this show was broadcast.
The track goes through four movements: Winifred Shaw, backed by Leo Forbstein and his orchestra takes us through the tune up to 2:10, which is where Berkeley’s dancers get to work (the version on record is shorter than the sequence in the film). At 3:25, Dick Powell gets a contractually obliged turn, only 15 seconds long, but enough to get him on the record sleeve, which is nice work if you can get it. From 3:40 onwards the chorus and dancers take the track through to thunderous applause at the end including at 4:30, one of those descending brass runs which were so much a feature of 30s and 40s soundtracks.  A musical cue ripe for use either in a Golden Age of Hollywood musical or a film noir.

I suspect that had I been listening to the show in 1992, I’d have taped Lullaby of Broadway because a) it’s a wonderful tune and that enchanting gramophone-like quality to the sound genuinely allows us to feel like we’re hearing the past and b) the LOLBANTZ of hearing a 57 year old musical track played on Radio 1 (albeit in the early hours of the morning).  I don’t listen to Radio 1’s night-time output these days, though I keep meaning to.  Does anyone there now have the heft of Peel which would allow them to play records as old as this with impunity?  Would Huw Stephens ever feel inclined to play something like Dance at the Gym on a Sunday night?  Hmmm...I doubt it, but Phil Taggart could be persuaded, I think.

It would be another 9 years before Lullaby of Broadway would register with me.  In August 2001, I appeared in The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, a zany 1987 comedy-thriller by John Bishop - not the comedian -  The curtain music at both start and end of the play was Lullaby of Broadway - though it wasn’t this version-  and as I drove home from St. Austell to Falmouth after the dress rehearsal on 7 August 2001, I listened to Peel’s show and he played the Shaw/Powell version of Lullaby of Broadway.  It was surely an omen that the show was going to be a success.  It certainly should have been with its mixture of escaped Nazi spies, undercover murderers, a spooky house and the subplot about staging White House Merry Go Round a musical about U.S. Presidents which is used as the cover to bring the characters together in the hope of unmasking The Stage Door Slasher -  maybe it inspired The Simpsons?  If that all sounds like the recipe for a ghastly night out, have a
heart. I hadn’t done a show in nine months and was desperate to get back onstage.
Alas, it missed the mark.  It will be a long time before we soundtrack The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 so I’m not worried about giving spoilers out here.  Our production never quite got over the handicap of our director having to act in a medium sized role which we weren’t able to fill.  It meant that he couldn’t watch the rehearsals as forensically as a fast-paced comedy demanded.  It needed someone to be able to tell us when less was more or indeed when more needed to be more.  It wan’t a disaster - you’ll have to wait till this blog reaches 1997 for one of those.  The performances were all good and it looked ravishing - but it lacked polish and focus, meaning that a potentially riotous night at the theatre never quite achieved lift-off.  A point brought home to us as the run of 12 performances progressed by curtain-call applause from audiences that suggested they quite liked what they had seen, but only if nobody asked them any questions about it.  As we made our way offstage after taking our bows to another crescendo of polite applause, I was moved to comment to one of the cast, “Sounds like a parish council meeting accepting the minutes”.  I brought friends of mine out to see one performance and dropped them home afterwards.  In the bar, they smiled and nodded and said “Well done” to everyone, but the moment we were in the car, I said, “We botched it, didn’t we?” and their agreement was immediate.
I couldn’t be too down-hearted though.  My character, struggling comedian, Eddie McCuen got the girl at the end of the play, undercover naval agent, Nikki Crandall. And for a brief and blissful time over late 2001, art imitated life as myself and the lady who played her, Ruth*, got together before the end of the run.  We reinvigorated each other’s lives just at the right time for both of us and as previously discussed here, she brought me a rare piece of treasure that I still value to this day.  Just over a week ago, she celebrated her birthday, so this one’s for her.

*The Stage Door Slasher went on to become her father-in-law a couple of years later.  So she gained a father-in-law and a starting point if she, or indeed any of us who were in The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, ever find ourselves playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

The full sequence is just over 13 minutes apparently, but here’s an excerpt.  Still staggering in any era.

Videos courtesy of Okmusix and TheJudyRoomVideos

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Anthony Red Rose - Tempo [Fever Pitch Riddim] (6 June 1992)

The fact that this Bunny Lie Lie produced remix of Anthony Red Rose’s 1985 track - originally produced by King Tubby - was preserved as one of the 1992 selections for the Peelenium automatically concurs some level of respect to it.  But is it justified?  Well, it may take a second listen to confirm it, but I think that it is worthy of a place in any list of great/representative 20th Century tracks.  It’s certainly up there with one of the great remixes of any era because it manages to achieve the difficult task of boosting both the singer and the song.
The ‘85 original is perfectly fine in its way, but it is first and foremost a statement by King Tubby.  Red Rose finds himself enmeshed in murky echo, like he’s singing behind frosted glass.  This may count as a piece of considered production work, but it does feel like a waste of a good singjay.  Also, for a track called Tempo, the first recording proceeds at a pretty dirge-like one.  The most successful element of the original is the sense of tension and menace it brings to the idea of face-offs between the soundboys, though this in itself is as common in reggae dancehall as broken hearts are in country music.  Had Peel played the ‘85 recording on this show, and he acknowledged after playing the remix that the original had been a favourite of his back in the day, I might have included it here.  But I might well have passed too.  It’s good, but feels a lot like something to be observed under a glass bowl rather than fully engaged with.
Now the Bunny Lie Lie production may lack a little in the way of musical variation - essentially the same backing melody runs all the way through from beginning to end - but this is fine because it means that while Red Rose has to do all of the heavy lifting, he at least gets to be star of his own song rather than an element to be phased up and down at the producer’s whim.  What Anthony brings to the piece is a tangible sense of joy.  In 1985, the dancehall felt an intimidating place to be, possibly with good reason, but in 1992 and to era defining effect, Lie Lie and Red Rose turn it into a palace of delights.  The title, Tempo, could have any number of contexts and intriguingly, the remix touches on many of them by bringing out a number of the essential elements required to make popular music so compelling.  These include the thrill of being out where the action is (“I just love how the dancehall vibes keep flowing”), the competitive edge underlying soundclashes (“clip them wing” etc), the sheer transformative power of this music (“I just love how the champion sound keep playing”) and finally and most importantly of all, the chance to impress women (“Girls them bubble like a soup in a pot...”). It’s far more than just “a little of this and a little of that”, it’s the world of Dancehall presented as an intoxicating way to spend your money, time, hopes and life.

Video courtesy of Dylan Esquivel

Friday, 8 November 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Swell - Life’s Great [Peel Session] (6 June 1992)

What’s interesting about San Francisco based Swell is how much they sounded like various British bands of the early 90s.  The awesome Down shared the world-changing possibilities of early Suede, though part of this may be down, as far as I can see, to Peel’s tease that he was going to play a track by a band beginning with the letter S of whom great things had been predicted.  That band were Swell, who still found themselves in the Next Big Thing stable when they recorded a session for Peel on 28 April 1992 for broadcast on tonight’s programme.

The video features the full session, but for me it’s only the second track, Life’s Great (starts at 4:27) that really merits repeat listening.  It starts out as something of a swing slacker song with its references to casual nihilism, “50 cent beers” and voluntary isolation.  However, David Freel’s vocal manages to nail a real sense of anguished apathy.  Just where is he going?  “ I don’t know what the fuck I need.” as he remarks toward the end, almost audibly slouching towards the refrigerator for another beer.  It’s a sentiment expressed in dozens of grunge songs recorded around the same time, but here Swell sound nothing like Nirvana, but more like The La’s.  That blend of driving acoustic guitar allied to folk-rock riffs would have potentially provided a refuge for all those waiting for Lee Mavers and friends to snap out of their Axl Rose phase.  If The La’s had no plans to record a follow-up to their totemic debut album - and The Stone Roses were too busy being trussed up in legal battles to record anything, then Swell looked well placed to fill the gap for UK music fans who couldn’t get on board with grunge or shoegaze..  Freel even has a variation on the Mavers sneer about his vocal, and there are elements in the session closer, There’s Always One Thing (which I originally had slated for inclusion, but have gone cool on subsequently) of The La’s creative apex, Looking Glass.

Video courtesy of Fruitier Than Thou

Monday, 4 November 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Viva La Musica - Impression (6 June 1992)

The phrase “The Godfather(s) of...” gets applied to all manner of people across the different genres of popular music. So much so that it’s virtually become a cliche. Even Peel wasn’t averse to bowdlerising the label when he wanted to praise artists that he regarded as pioneers in their genre.
In the case of Papa Wemba though and his influence and standing in the field of African music, no other label will do.  He was in at the start with one of the most formative Congolese soukous groups, Zaiko Langa Langa and was the driving force behind one of the movement’s best known groups, Viva La Musica.  He led the way in the pilgrimage that African musicians made to Paris and at one point was operating variants of Viva La Musica both in Africa and Europe, so as to cater for both audiences - the belief being that in Africa, soukous music should pay greater acknowledgement towards God then was perhaps expected in Europe.
Wemba operated a commune in Paris and offered support to musicians making their way out to Europe for the first time.  Viva La Musica operated both as his backing band but also as a sort of supergroup - bigger in scale than the likes of LoketoMatchacha et al - as evidenced on Impression by the multiple vocalists taking lines and then coming together to such brilliant effect ahead of the play out.  Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find out when Impression dates from, what I do know is that it is musically timeless.

Video courtesy of killero72

Friday, 1 November 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters - Cry Baby (6 June 1992)

A Number 4 hit on the US Billboard Top 100 in 1963, Cry Baby sits in that intersection between gospel and soul, with a smidgin of doo-wop thrown in for good measure.  This would be an intoxicating combination for John Peel who, despite a pronounced scepticism towards religion, adored religious music both in its classical and gospel forms. The influence of gospel music bled into rootsier forms of soul music such as that released by Stax Records and which, to judge by his playlists, Peel seemed to feel a greater affinity for than the empire building of Motown.  However, Cry Baby was released through United Artists Records.

Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters never troubled the UK charts, but with its passionate directness and conciliatory romanticism, Cry Baby was always going to reach a wider audience outside the USA in some form.  It’s best known version is probably the one that Janis Joplin recorded for her posthumous 1971 album, Pearl.  You can barely get a cigarette paper between the two versions if trying to compare quality.  I give Mimms the decision on the grounds that it doesn’t lapse into vocal self-indulgence, but Joplin’s version, recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band has a more satisfying completion and her updated take on the spoken section shows just how different the vibe within popular music had become in just seven short years.

Videos courtesy of catman916 (Mimms) and Janis JoplinVEVO

Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Zero Zero - W.F.K (Malice Afore thought) (6 June 1992)

As the recent non-story about an actress working in a “conventional” job between acting work showed, the capricious nature of the arts are such that it’s always worth having a second string to your bow if needed.  Simon Robinson, creative dynamo and one half of dance duo, Zero Zero, took this advice to heart after the release of The World Famous Killer EP.  After a year in which Zero Zero  had crept in the Top 75 UK Singles Chart with the excellent Zeroxed, whose No. 73 chart placing proves the maxim that The Great British Record Buying Public never recognise a good thing when they see it - Robinson wound up Zero Zero in order to study at law school.

W.F.K. (Malice Afore thought) marked a fine swansong for Zero Zero , pulling together piercing “guitar-board” notes, portentous public service announcements and, slightly incongruously, the “Who’s a potty mouth?” sample last heard in this parish courtesy of Kalaeidoscope’s remix of I’m Gonna Get You to fine driving effect.  My notes initially attribute the track’s  inclusion to the presence of this sample, but it’s really grown on me over the last few days.  Play it loud.

After graduating from law school, Robinson resumed collaboration with his Zero Zero co-producer, Mark Grant to form the drum ‘n’ bass oriented, The Advocate. Not only could they play at illegal raves, they could argue for them in the courts now, as well.

Video courtesy of browno 1971

Sunday, 27 October 2019

The Comedy of Errors: M’Pongo Love - Partager (6 June 1992)

How wonderful to finally hear some female-fronted soukous after so long.  M’Pongo Love’s story is one of a constant battle against ill health (she contracted polio when she was a child) and the cliff-face of the African music business.  Aged 19 she was able to develop a professional relationship with TPOK Jazz Band saxophonist Empopo Loway.  After developing her craft through the mid/late 1970s, she struck out on her own in 1980 and joined the soukous exodus in moving from Zaire to Paris.  It was there that Love developed the feminist lyrical themes that would define her work in the 80s.

“I sing about women’s problems.  I try to give them courage...and I will stop singing when the relations between men and women in Africa become problem free.  But what man in Africa doesn’t have a mistress?  In addition to a hard life, women have a lot to endure.  I have a feminist duty to see they fight, they defend themselves, they hold their heads high, that they take independent women as examples...We must know how to say what we are, we African women without fearing all the modernism that we need to assimilate.”  (M’Pongo Love speaking in 1989. Quote and background can be found here.)

Featuring Dally Kimoko on guitar, Partager, which translates as Share, is the title track of Love’s 1987 album, which curiously doesn’t feature any self-written material.  When he played this, Peel wondered whether her surname should be be pronounced “Lov-eh” but worried this might be felt affected.  Sadly, the lady herself would have been unable to provide any clarification on this.  She died of complications related to cerebal meningitis in 1990.

Video courtesy of Africa-Hits-70+

HOUSEKEEPING - I’ve been delighted to receive comments on some of these posts over the last few months including an invaluable one about the equipment used to achieve the early 90s rave piano sound.  Frustratingly, Blogger is not publishing my replies.  I’ve done everything I can in my settings to rectify this, but to no avail.  I will keep working on it.  Just know that if you do leave comments, I can see them and I’m very grateful for them.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

The Comedy of Errors: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Friday 29 May 1992)

John Peel was in a good place on the 29th of May 1992.  He had plenty to look forward to and had already spent the week indulging in things he enjoyed, such as drag racing at Santa Pod where he had seen one car reach a speed of 263 miles an hour!  Andy Kershaw had done a field recording on a recent trip to the drag racing, which Peel used to cue up John Fahey.
He was in a good position to see two musical favourites at close quarters as well.  He intended to watch Richard Thompson play a live set for Kershaw’s programme on Saturday evening and then hoped to shake Diblo Dibala’s hand as he was due in the UK that week, although no-one knew what his plans were.
Dibala featured on the first Kanda Bongo Man track that I’ve heard crop up in all the time that I’ve been doing this blog.  Alas, Naloti from Kanda’s 1989 album, Kwassa Kwassa didn’t grab me enough to merit inclusion from this show.  Neither was I receptive to a clatteringly ramshackle cover of  Smells Like Teen Spirit by The Honeymoon Killers.  “Is nothing sacred?  I like to think not.”

In the wider world of Radio 1, the Peel show was contributing to a series of live sessions that the station was putting out under the banner of One World by offering up sessions from A House and Superchunk, which would be broadcast on his show for Saturday 30 May.   Sam Johnstone of Aigburth, near Liverpool wanted to hear sessions of a more vintage era and wrote to ask whether the Peel sessions recorded by Nick Drake were likely to be released through Strange Fruit any time soon.  Peel suspected that they wouldn’t and he was right, they never saw commercial release in his lifetime.  In 2014, Antar Records released Drake’s 1969 Peel Session on a 10-inch LP as part of a package with a biography of him called Remembered for a While.  Limited to 1000 copies, it is currently retailing for an absurd amount of money on Discogs.

The news bulletins included stories that South Africa would be allowed to field competitors in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona.  It would be the country’s first participation since 1960.

I made my selections from a full 3 hour show and everything that you’ve seen posted from that show over the last couple of weeks stood up to scrutiny, I didn’t go off anything that initially grabbed my attention.  There were two selections I was unable to share:

Dumpster Juice - End of Ages the second release on Spanish Fly Records, a US label which was part owned by Lori Barbero, drummer with Babes in Toyland.  Somehow, Dumpster Juice manage to make a compelling sound out of their mixture of nu metal and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Splintered - Judas Cradle/Kill the Body so the Head Will Die/Godsend [Peel Session] Three-quarters of the UK industrial-noise rock group’s repeated first session for Peel.  My notes say that they sound like they should be soundtracking grindhouse films.  Splintered pull off the difficult trick of making sure that their ideas, usually in the form of samples and counterpointing sung vocals with spoken word content, are always backed with music that rocks and elates the listener, even when it sounds like it’s disembowelling someone with a chainsaw, as is the case with Godsend..  Kill the Body so the Head Will Die sounds particularly compelling enough to make me wish I could have seen them live.  I’ll take it as a belated 16th birthday present given that it was originally broadcast on that day.

Full tracklisting

Saturday, 19 October 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Messiah - Temple of Dreams [Manix Remix] (29 May 1992)

Opening with an attention grabbing sample from the Arnold Schwarzenegger film, The Running Man (set in a totalitarian version of the United States in 2019, so it almost qualifies as a documentary now), Temple of Dreams was a moderate hit for techno duo, Messiah, which incorporated the ethereal euphoria found in This Mortal Coil’s cover of Tim Buckley’s Song to the Siren with the noisy, bravado of the contemporary club scene in the early 90s.  It’s a thrilling brew with genuine crossover potential, and the men behind Messiah - Ali Ghani and Mark Davies - clearly had an ear for this as evidenced by one of their other 1992 releases, their cover of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love.  Both singles reached the UK Top 20 Singles Chart.

The Manix remix keeps many of the prominent features from the original bar some of the diva vocalisations, but allows space for the elements to marinade in silence, which seems slightly revolutionary in its way.  Around this, there’s dated keyboards a la 1990 and jungle-pace drums which point the way forward to the mid-90s.

Did Ghani or Davies inspire Ebeneezer Goode?

Videos courtesy of indiedancepop and knersi 1.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Comedy of Errors: The Kingswoods - Purty Vacant (29 May 1992)

“John had also resumed gigging in the late nineties, though instead of returning to the university circuit, he was restricting himself largely to more ambitious and prestigious events....Anything at which he seemed like an unlikely choice, such as the Tribal Gathering or Big Chill extravaganzas or the Sonar festival in Barcelona, held a special allure....He had determined beforehand to play different kinds of music (at these events).  Not just dance music, but music people could dance to.  That was his motto...So he played The Fall, some guitar-driven soukous from the country formerly known as Zaire, a few reggae tunes. Status Quo.  Yes, Status Quo.  John had told several people that he wanted to go down - or as he put it, down, down, deeper ‘n down - in history as the man who played Quo at Tribal, so he was obliged really.” (Sheila Ravenscroft, Margrave of the Marshes, p.449-450, Corgi, 2005)

Peel, was according to his autobiography, always convinced that his club dates over the late 90s & early 00s were going to be a disaster.  A lot of that was probably down to the fear that rather than going into those gigs armed with a box of 30/35 phat bangers, he was instead taking an eclectic mix of records - essentially a John Peel show in a club - so that for every Elementz of Noize he was dropping on the assembled throng, he would counter it with the  Cheviot Ranters.

We are able to get a decent idea of what Peel’s sets must have been like thanks to the release of Fabriclive 07 in 2002.  Blasting out of superclub speakers, this mix of dance, happy hardcore, blues rock, funk, girl-group soul, reggae, indie, barbershop and  The Undertones must have sounded impressive enough to banish any doubts amongst the crowd.  Nevertheless, I’ve often wondered whether he was trading on the crowd’s goodwill with the presence of quirky covers in his set, namely the bluegrass versions of Lust for Life by The Bad Livers and this present track, a break(red)neck country romp through The Sex Pistols, Pretty Vacant.  Or maybe, he figured that while he could give the crowd what they wanted, he would be failing in his brief as “John Peel” if he didn’t give them what they actually needed.  There’s something admirable in that.

The thought of Peel playing something like this to hardcore clubbers was a laughable fantasy when he gave The Kingswoods 1983 recording a spin early in the 29/5/92 show.  I’m not especially enamoured of it, but it owes its place here to the certainty that the 16 year old me would have found a country take on a punk classic absolutely hilarious.  Indeed, I remember a few years after this, standing backstage with a friend during a show at Falmouth Arts Centre and whiling away the time before we were next due on by suggesting absurd musical covers - Take That covering Megadeth for instance, though ultimately we had to make do with them covering Nirvana.  Well, we had to make our own entertainment in the mid-90s.
Despite the pitch perfect, good ol’ Southern Boy vocals on this recording, The Kingswoods were actually from Brisbane, Australia.  Peel may well have thought he would get Fabric, Tribal Gathering etc up and grooving along to it, but I think that Paul Jones’s 1978 take on the track may have been even better.  Under Tim Rice’s “Welcome to LA” style production, it really takes on a discernible Studio 54 airhead quality that complements the intentions of the Pistols original very nicely.

Videos courtesy of W ookieSnort (The Kingswoods) and Cover Heaven (Jones).

Monday, 14 October 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Pain Teens - Death Row Eyes (29 May 1992)

I’m currently in the process of listening to John Peel shows covering October to December 1992 so as to put together lists of selections to soundtrack the rehearsals and production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I performed in as part of a BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts at Cornwall College.  It will probably be another 12-18 months before I start blogging about that show, but I give advance warning that Dirty-era Sonic Youth are going to be featuring heavily when we get there.  So in that spirit, sit back and enjoy Death Row Eyes by Pain Teens who do a marvellous job of repackaging the Sonic Youth playbook in their own unique style.

Formed in Houston in 1985, Pain Teens were prodigious artists on the hardcore-cassette scene, using the format to effectively release double/triple albums worth of material.  Initially regarded as a metal band with leanings towards punk, at the point where I first met them through Peel - on the true crimes  set to music spookiness of Sacrificial Shack (which should have been blogged about here in its own right rather than as an appendix to an inferior piece of music) - they had moved beyond that hybrid into something more noisily claustrophobic.  Like Sonic Youth, their guitar sound can be described as an angry wasp buzzing inside your ear-drums.  Despite the compressed sound, this is music that attacks the listener while looking to climb inside you  Even the guitar solo eschews virtuosity in favour of the sonic equivalent of a Siren  trying to aurally suck the listener into those Death Row eyes and in Bliss Blood, Pain Teens had a front-woman cut straight out of the Kim Gordon mould of bored, sensual danger.  If they were going to share a split single together, then I would hope Death Row Eyes Would pair up with Pacific Coast Highway.

Pain Teens released most of their music through their own Anomie Records label, but Death Row Eyes caught the wave that was crashing over early 90s US guitar music and was issued via Sub Pop.
After Pain Teens disbanded in the mid-90s, Bliss Blood stepped away from noise rock and moved into ukelele-led retro jazz.  She also composed songs for a 2012 production of The Comedy of Errors by the Independent Shakespeare Company of Los Angeles.

The nearest we got to anything like this in Falmouth Community School’s production was me sneaking my harmonica onstage for the pre-curtain scene.  Even then, I bottled out of playing it too loudly.  Probably because I couldn’t actually play it.

Videos courtesy of SwampCulture and IndependentShakesLA

Friday, 11 October 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Dr. Phibes and the House of Wax Equations - Mr. Phantasy [Live] (29 May 1992)

NOTE - The video is not a live version of Mr. Phantasy as it has not been shared.  Peel played a version which Dr. Phibes and the House of Wax Equations recorded for Mark Radcliffe’s Hit the North programme on Radio 5.  We’re better off hearing the studio version given that the Hit the North recording sounded like Peel had taped it off the radio.  The joys of  medium wave....  Nevertheless the quality of the track still came through.  The tracks that Dr. Phibes and the House of Wax Equations recorded for their first Hit the North session were subsequently issued on an album called Seconds Out Round One alongside contributions from The Boo RadleysLeatherface and Scorpio Rising.

I’m coming to the conclusion that it was everything except the music which conspired to prevent Dr. Phibes and the House of Wax Equations becoming stars in the early 90s.  Combine that unwieldy band name, the hippy look with the tie-dyed tops, beanie hats and self painted van (see the video for the sublime Hazy Lazy Hologram), the fact that the bassist played with his guitar up around his neck like a crusty Mark King, the drug-centred nature of their output which seemed to be accepted if you were wrapping it around a dance beat or you were an American band but meant the BBC wouldn’t touch them before the watershed and the lack of anything approaching dynamism in the early 90s British record industry; it’s little wonder that the band were always up against it in terms of breaking through to a wider audience in the manner that they deserved to:

 “We found that there is no push, no money around, no record company willing to get off its fucking arse and take a chance on us.  So we did it ourselves.” Keith York, drummer with Dr. Phibes and the House of Wax Equations in conversation with Jon Bains circa 1993.

Mr. Phantasy is, in its way, a gloriously irresponsible song.  It sells drug-taking with all the gleeful hucksterism of The Beatles’ Doctor Robert, by forecasting pilgrimages to the eponymous drug-dealer .

Sandpaper smile/Sandpaper smile
Don’t worry about tomorrow.
Sandpaper smile/Walk half a mile
For Mr. Phantasy.

There are references to consumption suitable for fussy or reluctant samplers (“ artificial flavours
or sweetners”), safety advice (“Nobody talks about the consequence so keep all medicines out of reach of curious children.  Should a ten-ton truck knock me over/please return all contents to my
doting mother.” *Shudder)
Finally though, it advocates that indulgence in pharmaceuticals is your own choice.  The pushback line, “Need no DJ to be my conscience/What an example to set when the world’s got so much to answer for” reads like a rebuke to dance DJs and a scene which had had the drug stories all to themselves over the late 80s/early 90s.  I can well believe that there would have been resentment about this in the rock community.  Drop an E, incorporate a drum loop and you get called a band-wagon jumper.  ‘Fuck that acid and weed shit, ecstasy is where music is going’ and I think at the time, it really felt like that to some bands, who feared being written out of the picture.  Ultimately, as Mr. Phantasy shows, they were all in thrall to the same thing - at least until the money and cocaine rode in.

In the hands of Dr. Phibes  and the Wax Equations, this hallucinogenic public service message should have been a Top 20 hit, as indeed should Hazy Lazy Hologram before it.  It’s catchy as hell and precision tooled in every respect.  If it had been picked up and given wider exposure then with increased scrutiny, I think it would have caused every bit as much of a moral panic as Ebeneezer Goode did.  Not that it would have bothered me, I would have been too busy singing along.  But without the push of label funding or pre-evening radio play it got nowhere.  And the nation’s moral fabric remained undisturbed.

Video courtesy of Pie Ness.
All lyrics copyright of their authors.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Pulp - O.U. (Gone, Gone) (29 May 1992)

So, do you remember this mid 90s question and its popular answer?

Oasis or Blur?  Neither, Marion.  At least that was how I used to answer it, but everyone else said Pulp.

In 1995-96, that was still a debatable question, though Pulp could rightfully claim to have released a better album and lead single than either Oasis or Blur produced during Britpop’s high summer.  But at least the other two bands had credit in the bank from previous releases, so I never regarded the argument as being quite as cut and dried as those who considered themselves above the Battle of Britpop thought it was with that trick question.  But if we pose it in 1992, then Pulp wipe the floor with both of them.
In fairness to Oasis, they weren’t yet part of the discussion in 1992.  Their horizons at the time stretched no further than sporadic gigs in the North West to break up their long gestation of songs and sound that they were putting together in rehearsal spaces at Manchester’s Boardwalk.  Meanwhile, Blur spent the year walking into walls at every turn - sometimes literally given the excessive drinking  that they were indulging in; a crutch to help them deal with scrapped sessions for their first attempt at recording a follow-up album to Leisure, an American tour which saw inter-band relationships hit a thudding low with the only thing sustaining them being a realisation that they held the USA, at that time, in as large a contempt as it seemed to hold them (and from there, a future would emerge) and most damaging of all, their ace in the hole return single, Popscene was received like a cup of cold sugary tea by both the charts and the critics.  As it was 1992 though, a number 32 chart peak for a comeback single could be filed as a “setback” rather than the career killer it was for other bands 5 or 6 years later.  Therefore, even with Suede stealing column inches and playing their part in Blur’s annus horribilis, there was still a space for Pulp to walk into.  It would take a year or two for the spotlight to be turned on, and they had spent a decade buggering about releasing records between line-up changes, degree courses and broken legs, but 1992 was the year when Pulp found their voice and people began to listen.
Pulp had been a very occasional presence on John Peel playlists in the 11 years since they had recorded a Peel session for broadcast in November 1981.  Although that session had been well received enough to receive two repeats, Pulp were still waiting for a return invite by May 1992.  However, they were now in a position to give the record buying public of the time more of themselves than had been previously possible.  Three years after recording it, Fire Records, Pulp’s label from 1985 to 1992, finally put out the band’s third album, Separations, which showcased the band’s flirtation with house music alongside their usual lush treatises on love, sexual desire, relationships and urban fragility, not least in the superb My Legendary Girlfriend.  But in purely commodified terms, the Separations LP represented the “old” Pulp.  Indeed, a look at the admittedly
incomplete list of Pulp appearances on Peel’s show reveals that he only gave one track from that album any exposure. This might have been because he was now fixing his ears to the sound of the “new” Pulp, signed to Gift Records, with whom the band would release three singles over 92-93 which would put them on the road to mainstream success, a mere 14 years after Jarvis Cocker started the band with three school friends.

There was always something wonderfully cinematic about Pulp’s music.  At their best, they could sound punky, glam and symphonic simultaneously.  Their use of synths and keyboards tied to their
rock solid rhythm section and Russell Senior’s violin work gave their recordings a beguilingly, exotic quality even if the songs were about the aftermath of one-night stands in dingy bedsits. O.U. (Gone, Gone) features plenty of sex, at least at its outset, but sets itself within the context of the classic trope of “Girl’s waiting at the station, Boy’s got to tell her he loves her before the train arrives or he’ll never see her again.”  Being that this is Sheffield, there are certain obstacles to overcome, not least the need to get out of someone else’s bed in order to get to the station on time. In the second verse, the characters change and Cocker works himself into the song so that the girl rejects the train and comes running back down the platform towards him.  In Pulp’s world, nothing is simple though.  The song takes place against the backdrop of a breakup and the re-use of the line “The world is ending/ the sky is falling down” implies that the only thing worse for this couple than breaking up might be
staying together.  It features plenty of touches that would become familiar over the subsequent years as Pulp became better known such as Cocker’s passionate “yeah, yeah, yeah”s, the Pulp Ascent in which the music builds up behind Cocker before waiting to explode (examples can be heard in the coda of Common People and everything after the opening lines in Mis-Shapes) and the Big Ending in which you can imagine Nick Banks orchestrating audience applause with his cymbal rattles at the end of live performances of the track.  Considering that O.U. (Gone, Gone) had been released by Gift Records to do battle with Fire Records Separations album, it’s only fair that I put up something from Separations which could be thought as a companion piece to O.U. (Gone, Gone) despite pre-dating it. Don’t You Want Me Anymore? sees Cocker returning to the girl and town he took a train out of 18 months previously expecting her to fall into his arms again and be acclaimed as a returning hero only to find that time stands still for no-one.

Videos courtesy of Pulp - Topic and Neptune’s Trident

All lyrics copyright of Jarvis Cocker

Thursday, 3 October 2019

The Comedy of Errors: John Fahey - Revelation (29 May 1992)

Where do Radio 1 DJs go when they’ve outlived their usefulness to Radio 1?  If we put ourselves inside the psyche of your average Radio 1 DJ, the moment they leave the station is one on a par with discovering their first grey hair or the realisation that they make noises when they bend down.  Leaving Radio 1? YOU’RE OLD!  That’s pretty public shaming and in the early 90s, it would become very pertinent in terms of the station’s reinvention into something that would get me acting my age and listening to it rather than listening to Radio 2, which I did through my teen years up to my 19th birthday in 1995.  In fact, I think I may have still had Radio 2 as my station of choice at the point where Steve Wright joined them, at which point I made my excuses and started listening to Radio 1.  In the 21st Century, a number of the DJs I fell in love with on mid-90s Radio 1 ended up doing stints on Radio 2: Chris EvansMark GoodierSimon MayoJo Whiley and Mark Radcliffe are the most obvious examples.  Even the specialists in 1995/96 found their way there eventually; take a bow Dave Pearce and Trevor Nelson.
The procession of talent to Radio 2 was not a new or sudden event.  One look at the photograph of Radio 1 disc-jockeys taken in 1967 at the launch of the station shows faces that are more automatically associated with Radio 2: Terry WoganJimmy Young.  And as the station ploughed on through its “classic” period, so many of the names associated with it at that time eventually found homes at Radio 2: Ed StewartDavid HamiltonAlan FreemanJanice Long.  Even now, you can still find Tony BlackburnJohnnie Walker and Gary Davies spinning tunes and hosting flagship shows.  But one man who was not allowed to rock up to a Radio 2 studio and open his record box was John Peel.  That’s not to say that Peel didn’t brush against Radio 2 from time to time, but his contributions seem to have been restricted to narrating documentaries, though I remember The Law Game which Peel was a regular panellist on during the early 80s when his profile was expanding thanks to his TV appearances on Top of the Pops and The Late, Late Breakfast Show.
Peel never had to look for an alternative radio home, though there must have been periods such as the mid-80s or the arrival of Matthew Bannister and Trevor Dann where he possibly readied himself to type up his CV and hawk himself around.  If Radio 1 ever had let him go, it’s unthinkable that he would have gone to Radio 2 - certainly not in the cosy incarnation that I first started listening to in the mid-80s, or even possibly around 1993-94.  No, I suspect that if he had ever needed a new outlet to play music on, he would have moved to Radio 3 given that from time to time on his playlists, tracks would appear that would not be out of place on a Petroc Trelawny running order.  John Fahey’s Revelation is a supreme example of this.

Throughout his life, Fahey appears to have approached playing the acoustic guitar as a way of
climbing inside  his country, local community, the world at large and God Himself.  Fahey’s work encompasses folk, Delta-blues, gospel, roots and world music.  So devoted was he to acoustic blues that several of his earliest works featured songs credited to an early 20th Century Blues pioneer called Blind Joe Death, a pseudonym that Fahey went under.  One of his Blind Joe Death compositions missed the cut on this blog when Peel played it on 8 March 1992.  In attempting to tip his hat towards his formative influences, he found himself hailed as a pioneer in American primitive guitar.  In the knowingly, mythological sleevenotes to his 1964 album, Death Chants, Break Downs & Military Waltzes, this is referenced as “a way in which [Fahey] could express the intensely personal, bitter-sweet, biting, soul-stirring volk [sic] poetry of the harsh, elemental but above all human life of the downtrodden Takoma Park people.”

Revelation is the opening track from his 1989 album,  God, Time and Causality.  It’s a slide guitar led piece of Delta-blues based on Charley Patton’s 1929 recording of You’re Gonna Need Somebody When You Die which quotes from the Book of Revelation.  Later in 1992, Fahey would release a new LP with one of the all time great album titles:  Old Girlfriends and Other Horrible Memories.

Video courtesy of Awkadan.

How many of these guys would have playlisted John Fahey on Radio 2?

Friday, 27 September 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry - I Am the Upsetter (29 May 1992)

One day, someone with more time and commitment than I will ever have will present a fully comprehensive guide to all the categories of human experience that have been covered in popular song.  I suspect that love won, love lost and love making will take the gold, silver and bronze medals, but there’s a good chance that the fourth place holly medal will go to score settling disses to former musical colleagues.  And if so, then I Am the Upsetter will be pushing for attention alongside the likes of How Do You Sleep?Too Many People and Sorrow Will Come in the End.

Reggae is no stranger to beef in its grooves and this blog has featured a number of reggae tracks in which performers are either calling out their musical or criminal rivals, but when Lee Perry recorded this in 1968, he had one target in mind; his former mentor and boss, Coxsone Dodd.  Perry had worked under Dodd since the late 50s and as well as managing his sound system for him, Perry had recorded a number of records on Dodd’s Studio One label.  However, the pair’s relationship began to deteriorate as the 1960s wore on, and by 1968, Perry was his own man and ready to tear things up when he came to record this on Amalgamated Records for Joe Gibbs.

Despite the gentle rise and fall of the verses and Perry’s winsomely high vocal, the track drips with contempt and sour feeling.  Perry feels ill-used and paints Dodd as self-obsessed, selfish  and a leech:

You take people as fool
Then use them for a tool

There’s a reckoning to be paid, according to Perry, who sets it out in terms that could be construed as threatening violence or more likely, with Dodd representing the old guard against which “the avenger” Perry was comparing himself, obsolescence.  This would be harder to achieve, but far more damaging if it could be done.  Nevertheless, Perry is arming himself for a scrap which he intends to win.

I promise you the left and the right
And there’ll be the uppercut

But it’s the refrain of “Suffer, you’re born to suffer” that pushes this track to another level of nastiness.  The pupil determined not just to better his teacher, but to grind him into the dust.  We’ve
all had moments like that towards bosses, but very few of us can express it this well.  Ultimately, Coxsone Dodd’s legacy was safe but if nothing else, the track gave Perry, who recorded it under his original monicker of Lee ‘King’ Perry both a name for his own record label and more importantly,
his sublime backing group, who would see their work chopped up and repurposed by him in the name of dub to gamechanging effect over the subsequent years.

Video courtesy of trojangilly
Lyrics copyright of Lee Perry

Monday, 23 September 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Bauhaus - Dark Entries (29 May 1992)

If you were going to choose a year to write a book about Gothic Rock, then 1991/92 would have been an ideally timed choice.  With Grunge as the ascendant form of guitar-rooted music at the time, it made sense to look at a scene with which it shared a lot in common on a thematic basis, if not a sartorial one.  We’re still a year or so away from I Hate Myself and I Want to Die at this point, but it was a message which Goth rock bands had been extolling well over a decade earlier, and just as with Nirvana, the best of them had been doing it with a touch of flair and exuberance that made the material more intoxicating than it otherwise may have seemed when set down on the back of a record sleeve.  And while Kurt Cobain may, on the face of it, have little in common with Bauhaus’s lead singer, Peter Murphy - described by Simon Reynolds in Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 as “teeteringly tall, gaunt, with a bruised pout and perfect cheekbones..a Goth pin-up, the ultimate erotic enigma.” (Reynolds, page 432), what was Courtney Love but Grunge’s repackaging of Siouxsie Sioux? Which leads us to the question, when is a Goth not a Goth?  As far as Reynolds was concerned, Siouxsie and the Banshees were Goth rock, but not everyone seemed to agree with this and that is where Peel’s play of Bauhaus’s Dark Entries on 29/5/92 comes in.

Mick Mercer’s book, Gothic Rock: All You Ever Wanted to Know....But Were Too Gormless to Ask was released through Cleopatra, with an accompanying compilation album released through Jungle Records.  The book pre-dated the album by a few months and Peel made reference to the fact that he had played some records earlier in the year based on bands/artists covered in the book and was now turning his attention to the album. He mentioned the sleevenotes to the album, which opened with a quote from a letter written by Tim Collins, the manager of Siouxsie and the Banshees to the label putting the record together, “Many thanks for your wonderful offer to be included in a cavalcade of Goth-geek.  I’m frankly amazed that some of the bands listed have agreed, however I can understand why others have.  I’m afraid we will decline this wonderful opportunity on the grounds of Mick’s comment that Siouxsie and the Banshees were not part of the Goth movement. We’ll just have to hope that our exclusion from this project won’t reflect too badly upon us.”  Peel felt that it did, but he didn’t read out Mercer’s response to Collins as set down in the sleevenotes, “How could it? Nobody even thinks of you anymore.  The Banshees, ShowaddywaddyBaccarah (sic)...all legends in their own time but sadly no longer with us.” (Mercer). What’s most surprising to me, as someone used to bands rejecting that they were part of any scene, is to hear a representative of one displaying such petulance at having not been thought to be part of it, especially when considering that, by 1992, Goth rock suggested the likes of The Cult and The Sisters of Mercy trying to ape mid-80s U2, rather than its then contemporary exemplars, Rosetta Stone or Creaming Jesus.

Bauhaus’s 1980 single, Dark Entries was the opening track on the compilation, and having spent most of yesterday’s England-Tonga match working through the tracklisting by navigating YouTube, it was very much the best track on there, though I’d give an honourable mention to The Danse Society.  The lyrics are psychosexual bollocks, albeit delivered with a passion and conviction that pins the listener back in their seat but it’s the arrangement that really scores - all skittering drums, descending Hammer Horror style guitar lines and distortion effects suggesting frantic sexual encounters in street alleys and hovels.

Video courtesy of Mindkid

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The Comedy of Errors: God is my Co-Pilot - I’m Not the One (29 May 1992)

NOTE - the video features all five tracks from God is my Co-Pilot’s On a Wing and a Prayer 7-inch release through Funky Mushroom Records.  I’m Not the One starts at 4:33.

It’s the evening of 21 December 2018 and your humble blogger is sat in the spare room of his parents’ house in Falmouth, wrapping Christmas presents ahead of a journey back to London, that will have to begin at 5am because he wants to watch Ipswich Town play before he rejoins his wife. Mad fool, though at least they made it partially worthwhile.  As I worked my way through my usual bodge job of wrapping the various gifts, I wasn’t listening to seasonal tunes from BingWoody or even Shonen Knife, but I was listening to a full-length file of the John Peel show from 29 May 1992. I often have the files playing while I do other things because I reckon that if a track can distract me from what I’m working on then it justifies its place on my initial lists for blogging.  The crunch comes when I go back to listen to them again subsequently.  For Peel shows where there are lots of tracks which appeal to me then, as I’m sure you can imagine, it takes a lot longer to get anything done.  But for the 29/5/92 show, I found it was a case of 1 good track followed by 4 dull ones.  Needless to say I’d got a good wodge of wrapping done while Peel played tracks by MudhoneyScornThe Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Oliver Mtukudzi, before suddenly perking up from the scissors and sellotape as a yelping, 51 second blast of off-kilter drumming and scratchy guitar introduced both me and Peel’s 1992 listeners, as it was apparently his first inclusion of them on his show, to  God is my Co-Pilot.  They were to become staples of his show over the next seven years, popping up, as they did here, to provide quick caffeine blasts of sexual ambiguity and romantic anguish.  I don’t think I’m Not the One is a particularly great introduction, I much prefer the second track, I Hate My Friends, which starts at 1:23, and which Peel appears never to have played on the radio. Nevertheless, I highlight it here for all those Peel mixtapers who would get jolted out of their lethargy by short sharp shocks like this one.

Video courtesy of youtubedotmp3