Saturday, 14 October 2017

Oliver!: Shake Inc. - Adrenalin (3 April 1992)

Always with a techno record, what I’m listening out for is the contrast moment.  Once the initial beats and squelches have set out their wares, it’ll be the moment of change in the track that will decide for me whether I will include the track or not.  With Shake Inc.’s Adrenalin that moment comes at around 1:15 when a freaky, ghostly synth line - blasting out from a rave in the divide between this world and the next - makes its entrance into the blazing mix of noise in this banger.  Bringing a greater range of sonic variety than the previous week’s Twin Rave, there’s plenty of energy, life and...well...adrenalin surging through this track’s veins.  I love how the sound gets dirtier as it goes on too.  A mini-epic.

Video courtesy of E for Free.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Oliver!: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Saturday 28 March 1992)

I turned 16 years old on 27 March 1992 (cards and presents to the usual address next year please, fans).  I didn’t spend it going mad on a moped or losing my virginity at the earliest opportunity.  Instead I went for dinner with my parents and watched a double-bill of the Doctor Who videos for Logopolis and Castrovalva.  One of the boys acting in Oliver!, Toby Haynes, was a Doctor Who fan and actually lent me videos of Who stories recorded off the television in the mid-80s.  It was like having access to YouTube, a decade and a half in advance.  My whole memory of that period can be boiled down into a series of word associations: new house, foolish romanticism, stage make-up, spring sunshine and 1980s Doctor Who.
John Peel broadcast a show on March 27, but all the available files failed the minimum time-limit test  (as near to a single side of a C-90 tape as possible), so we have had to skip on to Saturday 28 March 1992 instead.  My birthday isn’t particularly well served by the Peel share universe.  There are plenty of years where no record of what Peel broadcast on March 27 has shown up, or the files are very short.  1979 and 1980 provide some decent running times, but I’ll have to wait till 1993, when I was performing in a production of Peter Shaffer’s play, Equus to have a birthday Peel show to savour.

Selections from this show were taken from a 93 minute long file.  A news bulletin contained news about the 1992 General Election, only 2 weeks away at this point.  Des Wilson, campaign manager for the Liberal Democrats, implored the two main parties to focus more attention on Europe.  It was where our future was, according to him....  On that tack, I’m currently reading this and it’s shaping up to be a classic of its kind.

There were several tracks that I would have been interested to share had they been available.  They included:

Brother Blue - Ons Het Hautuley - my notes describe this as an example of 60s South African skiffle, which sees discordant accordion played alongside a traditional soukous guitar line.  Peel had two copies of the record and had given one to Andy Kershaw.  Very difficult to find any record of it online, so may qualify as one of Peel’s rarest records.

Cul-de-Sac - Cant- this was the B-side of their 7-inch single, Sakhalin.  With its mixture of varispeeded organ and supermarket Muzak guitar, Peel preferred this instrumental to the A-side.  I agree with him, Sakhalin starts off well, but outstays its welcome.  He referred to Cul-de-Sac as a “String-a-Longs for the 1990s”.

Piss - Nightmare - Peel adored this all-girl Japanese punk band and the loss of the Women’s Liberation album on which they contributed pained him later in the decade by all accounts.  This was the first of their tracks to make any impression on me, supposedly because of a comedy vocal and hints of melody through the thrash.

Rise From the Dead - Full of Dirty Money - More Japanese rock goodness and I liked the start, which was fortunate as that was all I heard due to the tape on the file running out.

Falling from favour were:

The Wedding Present - Silver Shorts - on first hearing, this was a cinch to be included.  However, it lost its sheen on subsequent listens.  I feel bad about this, because the only post I’ve deleted from this blog was for The Wedding Present’s superb Blue Eyes (nothing that they had done, just I was a bit too open in what I discussed about myself and ended up causing un-nessecary distress to a loved one).  Perhaps Blue Eyes, which seems magnified in status because of its deletion, set standards that need to be met by this band if they are to feature here again. I certainly hope so, because Blue Eyes told me just why The Wedding Present mattered to so many.

Augustus Pablo - Black Gunn - it was Rob Da Bank’s Early Morning Dub Appreciation Society which first introduced me to the brilliance of Augustus Pablo.  I think some residual appreciation from that may have led to Black Gunn being earmarked for inclusion, but there was always a question mark next to it.  Despite the charming, music-box like quality given to the glockenspiel part, the ennui was palpable.

Happy birthdayish

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Oliver!: Monster Magnet - Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother (28 March 1992)

Like a dope, I missed the 1970s episodes of The Evolution of John Peel.  My suspicions that it would be nothing more than a John Peel greatest hits of the decade proving to be spectacularly wide of the mark.  At least with reference to this track, there was nothing from Grand Funk Railroad featuring in the programme, offering little clue as to why Peel gave airtime to covers of their tunes through late 1991/early 1992.  Grotus missed out with me on their version of We’re An American Band but three months on, Monster Magnet make the metaphorical mixtape with their version of Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother, the opening track on GFR’s 1970 album, Closer to Home.

Dispensing with the acoustic opening section and clocking in at a minute less than the original, Monster Magnet do a great job of conjuring up the mythical rock preacher sound in this song with its reflections on how good and evil are two sides of the same coin and calls for revolution - topic of the day in 1970 and seemingly acted out by 1992.  But ultimately everything is subservient to the riff that drives the track and which sets everything on course with the false ending and subsequent race to the end of the track.  The 16 year old me would have lapped that riffage up, though whether it would have inspired me to seek out the source material is a moot point.  Because, in my ignorance (and I am still moored in it) Grand Funk Railroad are one of those band names that can fatigue me without hearing a note - see also the likes of The Eagles, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Chicago Transit Authority (later just known as Chicago).  Just to look at the names conjures up images of triple or quadruple albums, guitar solos that go on for three hours and grim musicality.  Are they justified opinions to hold without having sampled much of any of their music?   No, of course they aren’t, and in Grand Funk Railroad’s case, they were hugely influential on a number of 90s bands.  In Monster Magnet’s case it fed towards their 1991 album, Spine of God, which managed to be thrilling, intriguing and irritating sometimes all within the space of the same track.  It’s my hope that those bands I’ve just slandered managed to be equally diverse when the time comes for me to hear them.  In the meantime, the John Peel quarterly meeting of the Order of the Grand Funk Railroad cover will hopefully reconvene in June 1992.

Videos courtesy of P.P. (Monster Magnet) and drwu1975 (Grand Funk Railroad)

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Oliver!: Capleton - Prophet (28 March 1992)

This track by Clifton Bailey aka Capleton would have turned up here much sooner if I’d been content to stay ignorant and write about how the patois had been too quick for me, but I loved the delivery and how it fitted with the Batty Rider Riddim.  However, I wanted to provide some attempt at analysis, for the 50 or so people who read and listen to the posts, so I made one final attempt to see what I could catch.  And early on, it was all pretty much par for the course: inspiration from God rather than Man, worship to the prophet, cursing the forced repatriation of Africans to the Carribean - oh, and adulterous women should be stoned.  Eh?...What? ...Did I hear that right?  And would I be comfortable including it here in 2017, when it feels at times like such misogyny could be given free reign again.  But on listening to the vocal again, maybe it wasn’t the woman on Mount Sinai who was going to be stoned but instead one of her accusers.  But on the other hand...  The ambiguity makes me a little queasy but I see enough parallels with Jesus and the woman taken in adultery (the origin of “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”) to wave it through. Anyone with a keener ear than me  is welcome to set me straight or confirm the worst.  And if we can’t be clear, then let’s just dance.

Video courtesy of kikiReloader.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Oliver!: Shut Up and Dance feat. Peter Bouncer - Love is All We Need [Peel Session] (28 March 1992)

Unlike their first session, from 1990, which features a mix of your favourite 1990 issues of the day (The Poll Tax) and more evergreen concerns (White domination), the second Peel session by Shut Up and Dance has to be represented by the original records.  Fear not though, there isn't much difference between the recorded and session version of the track presented here.

For their second trip to Maida Vale, DJ Hype, Smiley and PJ were joined by the dancehall singer, Peter Bouncer.  A strange kind of alchemy occurred whenever they worked together.  Compared to the dreariness of his own recordings on labels like Unity, Bouncer always sounded an artist transformed when working with the beats and production offered by Shut Up and Dance.  It was a combination that later in 1992, would see them an uncleared piano sample away from a potential UK number 1 single.  For this session though, they produced a come-down classic which must have sounded unbelievably moving in the clubs as the bliss started to take hold.  At its core is a mixture of restraint and gentle nostalgia for a past love affair which the singer is trying to come to terms with.  In keeping with the spirit of times, there's no animosity on the singer's part.  He tries to take the best of the memories from the relationship and use them to sustain him, going forward.  A heart-mender for recovering clubbers everywhere.

I haven't heard the full version of the session on the tape either, which only caught 93 minutes of the show, but it did include a session version of an earlier Shut Up and Dance recording, played by Peel on 14/12/91.

Video courtesy of AlvinAI3000.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Oliver!: Shake Inc. - Twin Rave (28 March 1992)

There's something about the opening synth chord in this record by Dutch producer Aad de Mooy that makes me convinced that Angelo Badlementi was influencing ambient dance music more than anyone else in the early 90s.  However such thoughts are dispelled within seconds here once the twinkly synths start in over the top of that Fire Walk With Me-like chord, and then when the beat drops around the 50 second mark, our move from Lynchian despair to a full on rave sound system head to head is complete.

Video courtesy of E for Free.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Oliver!: Marcia Griffiths - Closer to You (28 March 1992)

I've focused so much of my attention on John Peel's radio programmes over late 1991/early 1992, that I have been somewhat slapdash when it comes to other opportunities to appreciate him.  I still haven't listened to any of 6Music's current retrospective series The Evolution of John Peel, partially because I fear that it will just end up being a greatest hits collection through the decades - though I will pull myself together and listen to it soon.  Perhaps even more unforgivably, I've been equally tardy when it's come to watching him on BBC Four's repeats of Top of the Pops.  This damns me heavily because when BBC Four kicked off the run, back in 2011, with the announcement that they were going to start with shows from 1976, my initial reaction was "Bloody hell, it'll be 6 years before they get to Peel hosting it!"  In the event, once episodes that had either been wiped or hosted by Jimmy Savile or Dave Lee Travis were skipped past, they reached Peel's 1982 return within 5 years.  He had co-hosted the show on one fateful occasion in early 1968, and, by his own admission, did a terrible job of it - forgetting who Amen Corner were at one point.  But after a mere 14 years, he was back and I was keen to see the repeat of his first, well second, appearance on the programme, especially considering that the opening sequence of him introducing Theatre of Hate was one of the first Peel related clips I remember seeing on YouTube, some 11 years ago.  Peel acquitted himself well - there were tracks I was pleased to see and others that were completely new to me including a band clearly put together to try and cash in on Shakin' Stevens popularity.  At the end of it, I was pleased to see that Peel was finally on the Top of the Pops list and looked forward to catching his Rhythm Pals act with David Jensen once they got to 1983.  I think I caught one more of Peel's 1982 TotP shows before they were suddenly in 1983 and he was paired with Jensen.
They hosted the show 13 times that year but I only caught two of them, which is silly considering that I would have been watching the show as a curious 7 year old at the time, and the original broadcasts would have been my first awareness of Peel in any form, beyond possibly hearing snippets of his show on the radio I used to play at bedtime when I was even younger (that's a story for another time, I expect).  Now the Pops repeats have got to 1984 and aware that Jensen moved from Radio 1 to Capital Radio - to Peel's great sadness - and subsequently off Top of the Pops as a result, I made great efforts to catch their last few shows together.  The Rhythm Pals were essentially Top of the Pops version of Morecambe and Wise, with Peel free to engage in whimsy and gently absurd piss-taking, while Jensen could guide things back to Earth, with a"What can you do?" air about him in regards to his sidekick.  Their affection for each other, and enjoyment in hosting the show was obvious, despite the fact that their natural radio environment was, to varying degrees, some way removed from the neon and party balloons environment in which they hosted the show.  For all that, it's worth remembering that regardless of how frivolous or dour, depending on the approach producers took with the show, its great strength was that the credible would follow the cheesy without comment - it was an open house to pop and popular music, and the likes of The Clash and The Arctic Monkeys lessened themselves by not appearing on it.  In terms of 1984 pop music, I often think that one reason why the early appearances of The Smiths on the show are so fondly remembered is the fact they would either be following or leading on to Black Lace.  Right up to its dying day, I always regarded the Top of the Pops studio as simultaneously the most exciting/naffest place in the world.  It clearly had something about it, just look what it did to Danny Baker.

One feature of the TotPs I've seen with Peel in them is a performance of a record described either by himself or Jensen as "coming up through the clubs".  Four years on this would invariably mean an acid house or techno record, but in 1984, it was usually something that attempted to meld together Hi-NRG beat with soul vocal. Exhibits from the time, cued in by Peel include I'll Be Around by Terri Wells and the stone cold classic High Energy by Evelyn Thomas.  Such records seemed pertinent when we bring ourselves back to Peel broadcasting in the middle of the night from a Radio 1 studio, eight years after he was taking the piss on prime time BBC 1. A record like Closer to You seems closer in tone to those Top of the Pops club classics, even though its much more laidback and fuses dancehall with lovers rock.  Such an expression of unadulterated sweetness and love always seemed vaguely shocking on a Peel playlist, as though he decided to aurally airfreshen his airwaves for a moment after all the expected rock, racket and rave.  But as BBC Four have shown us, there were plenty of occasions when Peel found himself engulfed in "sweet" music.  He was just better at picking out the nuggets amidst the chintz than many others.  And Marcia Griffiths' voice was pure gold.

The video is of someone playing a record, which I appreciate is a bit unsatisying, though good for the   ear heart.  The record plays twice, but is around 3:40 in duration. There are other versions which include toasting by Buju Banton.  If you find it visually dull, then enjoy the best clip I've seen from Peel's '84 shows so far, featuring Zoo, the final dancing troupe used by Top of the Pops in order to boost a rather dull Pointer Sisters video for their terrific track, Automatic.  Sadly, no videos from the programme include Peel's hilarious attempts at robotic dancing at the end.

Videos courtesy of 777SKA (Griffiths) and memorylane1980s (Pointer Sisters).