Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Leo Anibaldi - Raiders of the Future (29 May 1992)

If you can listen to the whispers that bookend this piece of Italian electro techno without wanting to buy a SEAT, you’re doing better than me.

There is a little bit of confusion over the name of this track.  Peel explained that, “depending on which part of the label you look at”, this is either Raiders of the Future or it could possibly be a misprint and it should be the title track of the 12-inch on which it can be found, The Riders of the Future.  We have no clue of knowing whether Anibaldi was being obtuse with the titling or whether the record label, ACV, had problems with the typesetting at the pressing plant.  We’ll stick with Raiders though.

With a title like Raiders of the Future, you might expect something swashbuckling and futuristic - a space opera set to 136bpm, perhaps?  It doesn’t quite materialise here, I’m afraid.  Instead, we get a bit more of a bleeps ‘n’ beats stew.  The kind of thing that I might pass on, and indeed have on a number of previous Peel shows, but for some reason, I’m drawn to this example.  It could be the sound of molten raindrops falling from a gutter which underpins the whole thing.  But I expect it’s a subtle admiration for Anibaldi starting his musical experiments in the late 1980s by playing around on a Commodore 64 computer.  I had one of those, but I never thought of making music on it, despite the fact that the package mine came with included a piano keyboard mould which could be placed over the top of the computer and on which you could play piano by loading a cassette which allowed you to convert the computer to a music maker.  But I had neither the patience or inquisitiveness for this and limited myself to playing games - my package also  included a copy of  the computer game of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4 as well as the book of The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole.  Given that it was 1986, they also threw in a copy of Rambo: First Blood Part II. With the chance to be Mole or Rambo, how could a piano keyboard mould hope to compete with that?  But Leo Anibaldi didn’t want to be Sylvester Stallone, and within a decade of first playing with that piano mould and loading that tape - I think there was an instruction book as well, which was far too tedious for me to bother with when there were pixilated Viet Cong to fight - he was releasing his first album, Cannibald - The Virtual Language which come to think of it, sounds like something which should have been included in my Commodore 64 package as well.

Video courtesy of Old Skool Wax

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Anthony Red Rose - The Gangster (29 May 1992)

Over late May/early June ‘92,  Peel gave a number of plays to a remix of Anthony Red Rose’s signature cut, Tempo - originally recorded in 1985.  All being well, this will turn up on this blog when it covers Peel’s June 1992 shows.  On this night though, he gave a taster of what was to come by playing The Gangster, a contemporary team-up between Anthony and the producer, Captain Sinbad.

I like the track a lot, although it does play up the questionable notion of the “noble criminal” - unaffiliated with any particular gang (“the petty robbery and the chain robbery/Not my style”) and seemingly only threatening violence on fellow criminals.  Indeed, it feels at times like the track would have been better off being called The Enforcer.  There’s a swagger about the whole enterprise which could have been off-putting in lesser skilled hands, but the track doesn’t pass the buck or put blame on others for where Red Rose finds himself.  It’s a way of life, with conventions and rules like any other.  Indeed, at one fanciful stage, I thought Red Rose was writing it from the perspective of an everyday working man, who is an exception in that he doesn’t follow a criminal path, “Fighting for love and fighting for freedom” etc.  But with Ice-T’s iconic Original Gangster sample popping up throughout, I have to concede that this is set in the mindset of a character for whom murder pays the rent and the clothes bill.  There are no regrets and a constantly ringing phone with customers on the end of it.  It sounds way more seductive than it should, probably because singjays like Red Rose can sweeten the bullet in a way that US gangsta rappers never could.
Dangerous but nice...

Video courtesy of bobbyculture100.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

The Comedy of Errors: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Saturday 23 May 1992)

There was a sense that, over the period 22-23 May 1992, John Peel was going through a phase of melancholic isolation.  The night before, he had lamented the regularity with which planned meetings  in London with friends and acquaintances tended to fall through.  Tonight’s complaint was that none  of the bands which he had in to do sessions for him ever invited him to their parties.  Interesting behaviour given that in the same year, he wrote two letters to his literary agent, Cat Ledger, outlining the proposed structure for an autobiography.  One extract saw him write, “Important realisation that retention of sanity depends on avoiding showbiz - [...] triggered by appearance with Clive James and Andre Previn on awful TV programme, thought that if I really hustled I could spend most of time with glamorous folk such as these followed by thought that would rather have painful and humiliating  rectal surgery...” Given that his wife,  Sheila described him as someone who, at other people’s parties, tended to busy himself in kitchens rather than mix with the throngs, I suspect that had Peel received these invitations at the time, he would have quickly looked to make his excuses and leave.  In 1992 though, he was seen as an important but peripheral figure.  By the end of the decade, bands were much more eager to pay court to him, while live sessions held at Peel Acres allowed him to host bands through the night.  As Sheila said in Margrave of the Marshes, “I think he was generally happier playing home games rather than away ones.” (Page 222)
That’s not to say Peel was a complete social pariah in 1992.  Earlier this week, I found myself fruitlessly waiting for a work contact at Stevenage Library. I had a leaf through Michael Palin’s third volume of diaries, Travelling to Work: Diaries 1988-1998 and on 16 March 1992, he recorded details of a lunch with Peel and former Radio 1 producer, Teddy Warwick who was working for a new radio station called Melody Radio.  Palin had approached the lunch with a slight sense of foreboding. Although he and Peel were both former pupils at Shrewsbury School, albeit Peel was a few years older than Palin, much of their subsequent contact had been through Christmas cards..  However, according to Palin, “By the end of the afternoon, it’s as though we’ve been meeting for lunch every week for the last 10 years.”  There was a shared appreciation between the two old Salopians for the work of The Four Brothers.

One of the bands who, it appears, were not inviting Peel to their parties were Levellers 5. Their second session for Peel was broadcast on this show.  This was to be one of their last performances under this name because, according to Peel, they were going to change their name to “..either Doves or The Doves.”  In the event they renamed themselves Calvin Party, though whether they threw a party for this, I don’t know.
One record on Peel’s playlist for this programme was In the Meantime by Helmet.  He picked up the single from one of the Rough Trade shops and was asked to pass on a message to his audience that their mailing list had been lost due to a computer glitch. “I don’t want to enhance my reputation as a Luddite and say I told you so, but I told you so.  I don’t trust the things at all!”
Kicking off a brief feature over some of Peel’s May/June ‘92 shows which looked at the apparently small number of records about real-life astronauts, Peel played Mighty John Glenn by Peter Colombo.  I wasn’t persuaded by it.  Indeed, all the signs are that the 93 minute file I used to make selections for this broadcast were not, going by my personal reaction to it, a vintage set of tunes.

No less than four initial selections ended up being rejected by me when it came to blogging about them - and Junior Reid came close to making five.

i - Gat - minimalist, German electronica from Uwe Schmidt. My notes weren’t optimistic about its chances of inclusion, citing it as “A borderline case which may well miss the cut.”  I mention that it didn’t start to interest me until the latter stages when “ started to sound like a Halloween record”. I’ve no idea what this meant and couldn’t hear any traces of John Carpenter when I listened to it again, so it was out.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Shirt Jac - It’s only 88 seconds long, and I enjoyed the audio verite opening with it’s “live gig in the studio” feel.  But they were pretty insubstantial hooks on which to hang the track on.

Daniel Johnston - Pinny Pinny - This was Johnston’s contribution to an album of children’s songs released by T.E.C Tones called Goobers.  The tale of a hungry dog belonging to Mr Very Fat and Mrs Very Skinny has a nice twisted, nursery rhyme quality to it, with a twinkle in its eye, but fell flat with me given that Johnston appeared to be trying to channel Christopher Cross in his vocal performance.  I was five years old when Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do) was released.  Cross’s vocal caused me distress back then and my dislike of his voice and that song has only intensified in the 38 years that have followed.  Rightly or wrongly, it’s the sound of lush, treacly, “feel the budget and let us feel your wallet” pap that I associate with mainstream American pop music from the late 1970s/early 80s. Trying to pull off a sort of Marvin Hamlisch -Randy Newman crossbreed which oozed good taste and musical confidence tricks, it made me feel manipulated, nauseous and jealous - because I couldn’t pull off anything that seemed that effortless.  But any grudging respect got suffocated out of me by the waves of schmaltz which exponents of that style ladled all over their music.  If I couldn’t stand the real Christopher Cross, then I wouldn’t have wanted to listen to something which aped his style, even in the hands of the great Daniel Johnston.

Blak Prophetz - Chapter One - the fact that this was a Kold Sweat release definitely contributed to it getting on the list, but it was unforgivably dull. This label has set higher standards than were met here.

There was one track which I slated for inclusion, but wasn’t able to get hold of to include on this blog:

Poster Children - Isis - Peel had played a few tracks from an album of Bob Dylan covers album called
 Outlaw Blues.  On first hearing, I was quite taken by the quickfire delivery of this piano ballad (co-
written with Jacques Levy) from Dylan’s 1976 album, Desire, but if it had been available it might have lost out due to unfavourable comparisons with the original  - though I wouldn’t have known that back in 1992 given that my mum preferred Leonard Cohen and you’ll have to take my word for it given that my parents’ record collection offered no clues.  If nothing else, the experience of hearing Isis has led me to wonder whether I, who’s always been ambivalent about Dylan, might be better placed to jump to his 70s records if I ever decide to give a thorough listen to his stuff.  As I get older, that’s where the real gold seems to be.

Peel’s party playlist!

Thursday, 15 August 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Sugartime - Awestruck (23 May 1992)

“On this show we generally apply a blanket ban on records which feature bands going ‘la-la-la-la’, but that one appears to have slipped through the net.” - John Peel after playing Awestruck on 23/5/92.

Sugartime were a short-lived side-project/supergroup which brought together members of various noise rock groups such as Live Skull and Nice Strong Arm.  Their highest profile member was Swans
guitarist, Norman Westberg.

Awestruck sits in a kind of pop-grunge middle ground with those aforementioned “la-la-la”s being encircled by catchily, scrunchy riffs.  The lyrics are pure In the Realm of the Senses with the subjects of the song locking themselves away and losing themselves in carnal pleasure - the busily insistent, single guitar note at the start of the track coming on like a headboard smacking against the wall.  It does a superb job of capturing the wonder and delight of burgeoning sexual experience and a sense of being the only two people in the world who are doing it.  That phase where sexual experimentation becomes all-consuming both in thought, action and time.

“We lock ourselves up in your room and never leave.
Of all the things we do, your friends cannot conceive.
You have a special way of trying to unwind.
You match your woman’s body with a normal mind”.

Being that this is an early 90s US underground rock song, and its authors are leaving everything out there, the lyrics take an excursion into mutual sadism in the final verse, but the sense of exhilaration remains undimmed.  And on that note of ecstasy, Sugartime was laid to rest.

Video courtesy of Jon Boucher
All lyrics are copyright of their authors.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Junior Reid - All Fruits Ripe (23 May 1992)

When I write up the general notes for this edition of the John Peel Show, it will show that three selections fell from favour between hearing the show and blogging about them.  Junior Reid’s All Fruits Ripe very nearly made it four, but it was ultimately saved by its hip swinging rhythm, which encourages one to dance in order to try and overlook Reid’s flatness on the title line throughout the whole three and a half minutes.  Lyrically it leaves me behind after the first minute. I think the theme of the song is about the depletion of Caribbean youth leaving the islands upon reaching maturity (“all fruits ripe” etc) and the subsequent, damaging knock-on effect to Jamaican life (“a great mistake for you and me.”)  After that, I’m guessing I’m afraid.  However the image of shaking the grape tree presents the tantalising possibility of the man who made his name with Black Uhuru taking inspiration from Agadoo by Black Lace.  Maybe Reid had been at a party the night before?

Video courtesy of kyte2000.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Ween - Nan/Captain Fantasy/Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy) [Peel Session] (23 May 1992)

Henry Rollins is a belligerent sod, pretty much contemptuous of everything and everybody, so when he gives a rave about something you have to sit up and take notice.  When Ween supported Rollins at a gig in New Jersey in February 1990, they received a lukewarm response from the audience.  Rollins apparently came out on stage and berated the crowd. “Start liking them now,” he demanded, “(because one day) you will get down on your filthy knees and crawl to the altar of Ween.”

This repeated session, originally broadcast on 17 April 1992, the week after Oliver! had finished, was my first exposure to Ween.  My notes breathlessly declared it as my favourite John Peel session, perhaps helped by the fact that it was all played in one block.  Ultimately, I passed on Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese which sounded too much in thrall to Lilys for it to be borne, but the remaining tracks were a feast for the senses, calling as they did on Ween’s past, present and future.
Nan (short for Nanette in this instance rather than Grandma) was originally recorded for Ween’s 1990 debut album, God Ween Satan - The Oneness.  Apparently, Peel wasn’t a fan of this sprawling 26 track record.  I haven’t heard it, so am not qualified to question his judgement, but the studio version features a stodgy vocal from Gene Ween - one half of the creative duo that make up the group, the other half is Dean Ween, naturally - making him sound like one of Happy Flowers, all grown up and suffering girl trouble.  In trying to recreate the vocal effect for the session though, Gene ends up sounding as though he’s trying to do a bad impression of Bryan Ferry.  However, this can’t capsize the song which is one of the finest “this girl’s impossible” laments you’ll hear.  Sexually, emotionally, romantically and conversationally Nan does nothing but snub and frustrate Gene which of course only makes him more desperate to have her.  But if Ween seem to be getting the rough end of the stick with Nan, they are keen to put offers out to anyone else who may be interested in Captain Fantasy, which comes on like New York Dolls crossbreeding with T. Rex.  Taken from their 1991 album, The Pod, which contented itself with a mere 23 tracks compared to God Ween Satan - The Oneness, it’s a more confident piece of music, albeit that it betrays Ween’s inability to nail down the targets of their songs i.e. the whole “When I’m here, you’re there” refrain.  They are cords of vulnerability which transcend the whinging in Nan and the wannabe rock shapes being thrown in Captain Fantasy, though the performances are irresistible.

I’ve talked about who Ween sound like in the first two tracks, but the third selection, Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy) sounds like no one else except Ween and it’s devastating for all that, moving as it does into genuinely dark territory.  As YouTube commenter, Cousinted put it, “I’ve heard two very plausible explanations as to what this song is about: child molestation or heroin addiction.  Thus I can only assume it’s about a heroin addict being molested by his dad who is also shooting horse.”
I tend to veer towards the child molestation theory with an added side order that the father is going to kill the child before killing himself.  I nearly had an attack of morals and decided not to include it, but it’s simply too sublime not to include especially the beautiful piano break at 2:12.  The track was recorded for their 1992 album, Pure Guava, which was clearly seeing creative exhaustion kick in for Dean and Gene as they could only put together 19 tracks for this album.

Henry was right.  All praise The Boognish!

All videos courtesy of destr100.