I had already planned to post this record in the next week or so as part of my I Have Twelve Inches series, but now, sadly, it will have to do as a tribute to the great Frankie Knuckles.
Of all the genres, subgenres, and microgenres of dance music over the years the classic Chicago House sound has been my favourite from the moment I first heard the massive pounding beat of “Love Can’t Turn Around” in 1986. Give me a big piano riff and drum machines over a 4/4 beat with soulful vocals and I’m in Dance Music Heaven. Frankie Knuckles practically invented that sound which not only revolutionized the club scene — giving us superstar DJs and Raves — but was also a huge influence on mainstream pop music.
Club music was changing and evolving so quickly back in the late 80s-early 90s that it could he hard keeping up with who was doing what or even know the names of records you’d been dancing to, but if I saw Frankie Knuckles name on a label, either as producer or remixer, I’d buy it.
“Tears” from 1989 is my pick for his best record. A slow-burning, hypnotic number, with a gliding sensual beat and an intensely soulful vocal by Robert Owens. Just sublime, and a contender for greatest House record ever made IMHO.
I’ve been a huge fan of Phil and Don ever since I bought a copy of the 1970s compilation Walk Right Back With The Everlys (with the great Mick Brownfield sleeve) back in my teens. Still got it too. I thought the mountain-air purity of their voices was one the most beautiful sounds in pop music.
Unlike a lot of other 1950s acts The Everly Brothers never sounded dated to me, and transcended the era of bobbysoxers and quiffs because of the classic, clean-cut lines of their harmonies and guitars. They weren’t as big in the post-Beatles world (though they remained very popular in England) but you could hear their influence all over 60s music and beyond.
This is a gem from 1966 which shows they were still making great records then too.
“We both are old now, more sedate, more responsible, we sleep in beds and sometimes we are sober; our bones are brittle, our sinews want elastic, the optician is kept busy and the dentist’s in despair, the barber gives us shorter shrift while the tailor makes thick overcoats, but should a shining occasion present itself, why, we will run jump fight fuck wheel a barrow drive a truck and generally present ourselves, singly or in tandem, to whatever merry mayhem takes our fancy”
“Without Lou there is no Bowie as we know him. Me? I’d probably be a maths teacher” – Lloyd Cole
Brian Eno’s famous line about the first Velvet Underground album only selling 30,000 copies but “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band” may have been a very quotable exaggeration but was a tidy way of expressing their oversized influence. I wouldn’t even want to hazard a guess at what British music would have sounded like for the past 40 years if it hadn’t been for the Velvets and the literate, envelope-pushing songs Lou Reed wrote for them and in his solo career — from Glam Rock, Punk, Post-Punk, and Goth through to jangly-guitar Indie, his fingerprints are all over it.
But only seeing him through the lens of his influence on other people does him a little disservice when his own records were often – and with the Velvets, nearly 100% – brilliant in their own right, no matter who formed a group because of them.
Very, very sad to hear about the death of Bobby Bland. I’m not a huge Blues fan, but his voice is one of my favourite sounds in all of popular music. That mixture of gravel and honey and the way he would suddenly, dynamically, shift from a tender whisper to a full-throated, lion-esque roar could give you goose pimples. I didn’t really consider him a Blues singer anyway, to me he was up there with the great Soul growlers like Otis, Wilson Pickett, and James Carr.
I know it’s a cliche to talk about hiding behind the couch in terror when you were a kid but I remember literally doing that during the skeleton fight scene in Jason & The Argonauts when it was on the telly at my Gran’s house one Christmas.
But the giant statue was my favourite bit, and I still think it’s impressive.
I suppose a lot of people will be posting Elvis Costello’s “Tramp The Dirt Down” today but not me. Even back in the 80s at the height of my Maggie hating I thought that was a stupid, over the top song. No matter how wrong, divisive, and damaging she was, and how many lives and communities she destroyed on the altar of her beliefs I could never take pleasure in her death. I wanted her gone, and maybe even locked up for crimes against the working class, but it was her ideology I wanted to die, and sadly “Thatcherism” is still very much alive today, even in the Labour Party.
So I’m not sure how I feel today. Very mindful of the passing years because such a major figure from my youth has now exited and gone into the history books, and a bit surprised that she actually died which proves she was human after all.