How great were Lady Miss Kier and Deee-Lite? Really bloody great, that’s what.
The “Funky Drummer” drum break has been sampled more times than you and me have had hot dinners. Though it was more ubiquitous in hip-hop than a tracksuit and trainers its shuffling beat was also sampled to more mellow and trippy effect in records by George Michael, The Family Stand and, er, Candy Flip which were a reflection of the more chilled-out direction club music was going in post-Acid House.
My favourite such usage was on the gorgeous “I Don’t Even Know If I Should Call You Baby” by Soul Family Sensation from 1990. How such a sublime record was never a hit is beyond me but, despite several remixes (including one by Marshall Jefferson), it never made the charts and lead singer Jhelisa Anderson left the band for a solo career after their first album New Wave — which is well worth a listen too. I think maybe they were a little ahead of their time, making soulful Electronica before Trip-Hop was really a thing. Another few years and they could have been Morcheeba or something.
I was in the mood for more Deee-lite so why the hell not. I know this is a blindingly obvious choice but it’s a terrific performance (Bootsy Collins on bass!) and there’s Lady Miss Kier wearing what she’s wearing.
You may have noticed that I’ve added tags to every post now, all 384 of them going back over three years which took bloody ages but was worth it as the site now has an index of sorts (which you’ll find at the bottom of the column at right) so it will be easier to find the good stuff from back when I actually posted new and interesting writing on this blog. Some of the tags, like Pauline Murray and Phwoooaaaarrr!, should be fairly obvious, but others like Nice Lungs! and The Discount of Our Winter Tents are a little more obscure but I’m sure clever people like you can figure out the theme.
Been wanting to post this track for a while and this seems as good a place as any, some blazingly funky Hip-Hop from 1989.
Download: Know How – Young MC (mp3)
Lucky me! A pair of Acid Jazz beauties that take me back to clubbing in London in the early 90s before I split the scene for America. One of these you’ll probably know, the other is a bit more obscure but another belter (and produced by Mick Talbot).
(A little footnote to the previous post.)
For all the ink spent writing about the importance of punk and post-punk, the sounds coming out of Harlem and the Bronx in the early 80s were even more revolutionary and, given how pop music has evolved since, more influential too. Punk liked to proclaim that you didn’t need to know how to play an instrument to make a record, but hip-hop said that you didn’t need instruments at all. As the song said all you needed were two turntables and a microphone.
For several years it was thrilling music but I lost interest in hip-hop by the beginning of the 1990s as I suspect a lot of (white?) people my age did too. I’m not entirely sure why, unlike punk hip-hop never died or went underground but took over the entire planet so maybe the “novelty” wore off and the initial burst of creativity stagnated into cliched sounds and poses. I’m sure there are still great hip-hop records being made but at some point my ears drew a line and said “that’s enough for me, I’ll just stick with the records I’ve already got thanks very much.”
Like these old favourites which still sound fantastic.
Before 1981 scratching was something you did when you had a rash and sampling was what you did at a wine tasting. Then came “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels Of Steel” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five which was the first record to feature a DJ scratching snippets of different tracks together on the fly – in this case Chic, Blondie and Queen – using his turntables as “instruments” to create something entirely new. I remember hearing it for the first time at a house party that year and my reaction was similar to the first time I heard the Sex Pistols, not so much “this is revolutionary genius!” but more like “what the bloody hell is this?” as I tried to dance to it’s stuttering, cut-and-pasted beat. I literally hadn’t heard anything like it before because no one had made a record like that before and it still sounds absolutely mental today.
The second record to have scratching on it (and the first chart hit) came from a highly unlikely source: former Pistols and Bow Wow Wow manager and notorious bullshitter Malcolm McLaren. Back then the idea of that wideboy making a record of his own seemed like it must be a joke, or a con, or both. Turns out he wasn’t all mouth and no trousers though, as not only was “Buffalo Gals” quite brilliant but also — shock horror — one of the most influential singles of the 1980s. There had been a couple of rap hits before — “Rappers Delight” and Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rapping” — but it was “Buffalo Gals” (and its video) that really brought all the other elements of New York hip-hop culture — scratching, breakdancing, sampling, graffiti, DJs — to a wide audience for the first time, and pop music was never the same again.
The b-side was pretty silly though.
Download: Buffalo Gals (Trad. Square) – Malcolm McLaren (mp3)
You could be churlish and say McLaren was just a magpie dilettante nicking other people’s ideas for fun and profit. You could also say that a lot of the records brilliance was down to producer Trevor Horn and the funky backing by the musicians who later became Art of Noise (with guest keyboardist Thomas Dolby). The subsequent album “Duck Rock” was full of even more dodgy knock-offs of other musical styles from New York to Soweto, Havana, and Appalachia, producing a collage of global sounds years before your local record shop had a section called “World Music.” It might have all fallen off the back of a lorry but it was a ridiculously entertaining record.
But, apart from having the crazy balls to come up with the idea of mixing hip-hop with square dancing in the first place, McLaren’s talent was being an instigator and ringmaster and there is a certain genius in having the antenna to identify the sounds and people that are right now, and turning that into gold. He did it with the Pistols and he did it again with “Buffalo Gals”. To help start one musical revolution is impressive enough, to blag a seat at the beginning of the next one too does take some talent, and more front than Blackpool.
I shared a bedroom with my sister until I was 11 years old when we moved to a bigger council flat, and if you’ve ever been in that situation you’ll know what a liberating treat it is to finally get your own room. My new bedroom wasn’t much, it was very small (what used to be called the “box room”) and had this really ugly, orange-flowered wallpaper, but it was all mine, my own space to do what I wanted — Lee’s Room as the little sign said on the door.
One way I marked it out as my territory (and covered up that hideous wallpaper) was by putting pictures on the walls, usually with Blu-Tack which, their claims to the contrary, always left a dirty mark on the wall. Over the years I stuck up lots of small pictures of pop groups and singers torn out of the pages of Disco 45, Record Mirror, Smash Hits and the NME which formed a rapidly changing gallery of my musical tastes, but there were plenty of big posters too which charted other changes.
The first big poster I remember sticking up was one of Bruce Lee like the photo above which I put in pride of place over the top of my bed. A psychologist might say that I was making a symbolic, subconscious declaration that this was a boys room but it was really because like everyone else in 1973 I was totally caught up in the Kung Fu craze that swept the planet when Bruce Lee died and Enter The Dragon was released. The funny thing is I hadn’t seen Enter The Dragon or any other Bruce Lee films because they were all X-certificate, so I had to get my martial arts fix from other sources like the Kung Fu TV series or the Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu comic book. The only time I remember seeing Bruce Lee in action himself was when World of Sport showed a clip of him fighting Chuck Norris in Way of The Dragon. It wasn’t much but we talked about it — and acted it out – in the playground at school for weeks afterward.
Not being able to see any actual Bruce Lee movies didn’t stop me wanting to be him. I used to wish I had Spiderman’s powers so I could beat the crap out of the bullies at school and Lee was like a real-life superhero to me, so I would also fantasize about being a lethal martial arts fighting machine and taking care of whatever pig-headed twat was giving me bother at school that week with a few swift Kung Fu kicks to the head while shouting “Hayyyaa!” in proper Bruce style. Sadly I was destined to remain a bit of a weed, when I started learning Judo at school a few years later I broke my arm and never got past white belt.
I did finally get to see Enter The Dragon and most of Lee’s other films in my late teens at a dingy little cinema in Chinatown (appropriately enough.) Sadly I thought they were bloody awful, they have some kitsch appeal but they really aren’t very good films at all. I’m sure my 11-year-old self would have loved them though.
Bet you thought I was going to post “Kung Fu Fighting” didn’t you?
Download: Kung Fu – Curtis Mayfield (mp3)
More posters in Part 2 when I grow up a bit and put some women on the walls.