How great were Lady Miss Kier and Deee-Lite? Really bloody great, that’s what.
A collaboration between Giorgio Moroder and Kylie Minogue is one of those which sounds like a dream on paper but in reality could have been a big let down. Glad to say that this is pretty great.
This was the first House record to make the charts in the UK but little did I know when I bought the 12″ back in 1986 that it would turn out to be as influential and game-changing as ‘Anarchy In The UK’. I knew it was a bloody great record though, with a beat and a vocal that leapt out of the speakers at you.
This performance by Darryl Pandy on Top of The Pops must have helped it make a splash too.
I was doing a bit of crate-digging at home the other day and pulled out the 1985 compilation album Go Go Crankin’ which dates from that brief moment in the mid-80s when Go-Go music from Washington DC was the hottest thing around – at least on the London club scene and in trendy style magazines.
Go-Go was heavily percussive funk with an emphasis on extended live jams that had been a local scene in DC for years before it came to the attention of taste-makers and trendies on the other side of the pond. It was given a big push by Island Records, hyped by a big feature in The Face, and was very popular at London warehouse clubs like The Dirtbox where it shared turntable space with Rockabilly, Reggae, and Electro (clubs were a lot more eclectic in the days before House devoured the entire scene).
But despite the big push it never broke through to a mass audience the way Hip-Hop did, probably because Go-Go was more dependent on funky jams than snappy tunes — not surprisingly then that it’s high point in the UK was probably Trouble Funk’s famous gig at London’s Town & Country Club in 1986.
It’s brief moment in the English sun did bring us some great records though, of which Go Go Crankin’ was probably the most essential collection. I hadn’t played it in years and it’s still prime booty-shaking music.
Recorded from vinyl so forgive any sound imperfections.
Download: Let’s Get Small – Trouble Funk (mp3)
Download: Meet Me At The Go Go – Hot Cold Sweat (mp3)
Download: We Need Some Money – Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers (mp3)
Posting that terrific Archie Bell & The Drells clip on Friday got me to dig out this old 12″ single. Wally Jump Jnr. & The Criminal Element was a pseudonym of legendary producer Arthur Baker and singers Donnie Calvin and Will Downing who released this version of “Tighten Up” in 1987 that mixed in a pinch of Janet Jackson’s “When I Think of You” with some massive drum beats to make one ferociously funky dancefloor workout.
BONUS BEATS: The same year Baker also put out the stonking “Put The Needle To The Record” under the name The Criminal Element Orchestra which sampled a little bit of “Kiss” by Prince with an even bigger drum sound and twisted, turned, and stretched it out into a pile-driving beat monster.
Download: Put The Needle To The Record – The Criminal Element Orchestra (mp3)
Sometimes it can take a while to choose a clip for my Friday post. But sometimes I see one that’s so great I immediately know I don’t have to look any further.
This is one of those. Just fantastic.
“The art schools from my time specialised in old-school teaching methods of brutalising your students with some wild thinking that was off the map.” — Pete Townshend
“The experience of just being at art school gave me a lot to draw on – Pulp’s most famous song [Common People] is about something that happened there – but on a deeper level I was taught to think about things in a non-lateral way.” — Jarvis Cocker
“I had no talent as an artist, no real interest in art. I really wanted to get into a band. And it seemed like all my favorite musicians had gone to art school. So I went to art school. I just figured my first day, I’d walk into the toilet and there’d be a bunch of guys with guitars, and we’d be all set.” – Mick Jones
Where would British pop music be without art schools? They’ve been the incubator for some of our best talent since the 1950s, the place where kids with creative inclinations can be in an environment with other outsiders and rebels who don’t fit into traditional higher education or want a job in a bank or office. Many of them end up picking up guitars instead of paintbrushes as a means of expression.
The list of pop/rock art school alumni includes John Lennon (Liverpool College of Art), Keith Richards (Sidcup Art School), Jimmy Page (Sutton Art College), John Cale (Goldsmiths), Pete Townshend, Freddie Mercury (Ealing Art College), Ray Davies, Adam Ant (Hornsey College of Art), Syd Barrett (Camberwell), Bryan Ferry (Newcastle College of Art), Brian Eno (Winchester College of Art), Malcolm McLaren (Croydon Art College), Ian Dury (Royal College of Art), Joe Strummer (Central School of Art & Design), Viv Albertine (Chelsea School of Art), Paul Simonon (Byam Shaw), Sade (St. Martin’s), and PJ Harvey (Yeovil Art College).
I went to one myself in the early 1980s. I had no thought of what sort of job or career I’d get out of it but I was, as the cliche went, “good at drawing” at school and didn’t fancy reading books for three years at a university, so art school it was.
To begin with I took a one-year Foundation Course which is designed to make you try everything before deciding what to study for your degree, so I dabbled in painting, sculpture, environmental art, printmaking, and even performance art (sadly my piece “The White Brick” wasn’t filmed for posterity). But going from my rather mundane secondary school art lessons to the radical, experimental atmosphere of an art school was a real challenge. My tutor was a hard-core conceptual artist who called my work “shit” at one point, and I was close to leaving the first term as I struggled to get to grips with some of the projects we were given. But I stuck with it and by the end it turned into one of most rewarding, transformative experiences of my life, as important to who I am as hearing The Jam for the first time.
A lot of my non-student friends thought I just drew pictures all day but art schools aren’t there to teach you how to draw. Instead they encourage creative thinking and rule-breaking expression. At least the good ones do. Even the graphic design degree course I took was more about teaching us to think originally than learning technical job skills, and we were hanging out with painters, sculptors, photographers, and video artists, so it was a very stimulating environment to be in. We got drunk a lot too, of course.
You can point to Pete Townshend smashing up his guitar, Bryan Ferry treating songs as collages, and the early visual style of The Clash as the direct result of their art school experiences, and there is a definite link between them and what makes British pop so distinctive: The synthesizing of influences, the emphasis on visual presentation, the conceptual cleverness, and the sense of playful, subversive adventure. At it’s very best it’s a fusion of avant-garde art theory and rock and roll.
Sadly I’m not sure how true any of this is anymore with higher education in the UK being more results-based now, and the introduction of student loans means that fewer kids are able to spend four years just pissing around being “creative” at art school without a proper job at the end of it. Maybe one reason British pop has lost its edge is that most of our new stars come from stage schools instead.
In case you’re wondering, I never started or joined a band at art school myself, but some of my mates did. They were called He’s Dead Jim and only played one gig, in the student canteen during an all-night sit-in. I did “play” keyboards for them during one garage rehearsal though, my technique very one-note and droney owing to the fact that I couldn’t actually play the instrument. But that never stopped Brian Eno, did it?
Download: Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy Of Arts – Bee Gees (mp3)
Grace Jones’ classic 1981 album Nightclubbing has been given a well-deserved reissue with the usual deluxe treatment of unreleased tracks, remastering, remixes and all that lovely stuff.
There are two extended mixes of “Pull Up To The Bumper” on the reissue but not this one for some reason. I can’t remember where I got this from and there seems to be some confusion over its origin and availability. But wherever it came from it’s still brilliant, really bringing out the rubbery funkiness of the great Sly and Robbie rhythm section.
I danced to this on many nights back when it was a new record — Lord, what an amazing time for new music that was — and even though I knew it wasn’t really about parallel parking I’d never listened to the words close enough to realize just how filthy it really is.
Download: Pull Up To The Bumper (Larry Levan Garage Remix) – Grace Jones (mp3)