Though this has the original studio recording dubbed over it it’s still a joy to watch. The audience don’t seem too excited though.
Originally posted January 2008
A lot of you probably recognize the blond bird in the middle of this photo as Britt Ekland: actress, sex symbol, Bond girl and former main squeeze of Peter Sellers and Rod Stewart. Some of you might know that the guy on the left is actor/director Lionel Jeffries, best known for his roles in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Railway Children. But who’s the bloke on the right grinning like he’s the happiest person in the world at that moment? That’s my old man, that is.
The picture was taken in 1972 on the set of a movie called “Baxter!” that Jeffries was directing and my old man had a bit part in it. In the 60s and early 70s Dad was a London taxi driver with dreams of being an actor, and one day he picked up Jeffries in his cab. The two got chatting and my old man told him he was an aspiring actor so Jeffries offered him a part in his new film — playing a taxi driver. If you’ve never heard of “Baxter!” that’s because it was a flop and sank without trace when it came out, it’s never even been out on video far as I know. I’ve only ever seen it once and if you blink you’ll miss my Dad and his one line of dialogue (he picks up Britt in his cab and says something like “Cheers, love” when she tells him to keep the change.) It wasn’t much but still, he was in a movie with Britt Ekland — not bad for a cab driver from Shepherd’s Bush. Unlike me he preferred blonds which partly explains his huge grin in the photo.
After this brush with fame Dad bought himself an old Rover P4 which he called Baxter. It was a beautiful car, tan exterior with cream leather seats and an 8-track player which was the latest in high-fidelity mod cons back then. Of all the albums my Dad had on 8-track the one that most reminds me of that car is Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key of Life, especially the track “Joy Inside My Tears.” It was never my favourite on the album, it followed the ridiculously catchy “Isn’t She Lovely” and always seemed such a downer after that — it sounds like it was recorded at the wrong speed and sort of plods along like it’s all woozy on cough medicine. But there’s something hypnotic about it and when I hear it now it’s that foggy and muggy warmth which reminds me of sitting in that car on a cold day with the windows misted up, having a day out with my Dad which usually involved a lunch of egg and chips with a banana milkshake and going to the pictures.
Download: Joy Inside My Tears – Stevie Wonder (mp3)
The acting thing didn’t work out for my Dad, after the movie he had small parts in television commercials for The Sun newspaper and Slimcea bread but that was all far as I remember. He did far better behind the scenes though and became a Stage Manager at the National Theatre in London where he had a very successful career — his first boss was Lawrence Olivier and he counted many famous actors and writers among his friends. He even got to meet the Queen, not too shabby.
Canadian Jessy Lanza makes the sort of sensual, electronic-flavoured music full of skeletal beats and spacey textures that’s become known in some circles as Indie R&B, or Hipster R&B and PBR&B if they’re being unkind.
But who gives a toss what it’s called or if it’s even R&B at all? Whatever it is, her debut album Pull My Hair Back is terrific. Here’s another, more uptempo, track from it.
I first heard this at the Lyceum soul nights I used to go to. I think Steve Walsh played it, and it was one of those very rare moments when a record literally makes you stop and think “What the fuck is this?” because I wasn’t sure what the hell I was hearing — some guys rapping/chanting over an electronic beat (Kraftwerk it turned out) — but whatever it was it sounded brilliant.
It was also the first time I saw anyone body-popping as there were two kids dancing near me like herky-jerky robots (this was before Jeffrey Daniels appeared on TOTP). When it was over I asked one of them what the record was called and he said “Planet something”, so the next day I went to my local Our Price and asked if they had some funky electronic record called “Planet something” and the man handed me the 12″ of “Planet Rock” — which I still have and it still sounds bloody amazing today.
This is a terrific short documentary with great archival footage about the British soul scene from the 60s to the 80s, part of a series of films about British youth culture directed by Don Letts for Fred Perry.
The differences between the scenes in the North (thumping beats, practical clothes) and the South (slick Jazz-Funk, fashionable gear) seem like cultural cliches of Hard Northerners vs Soft Southern Pooftahs but are actually mostly true in this instance.
The soul scene in the South hasn’t been written about nearly as much as the one oop North — a reversal of the usual media prejudice — but it was just as vital and more modern in outlook so it’s nice to see it given some proper respect in this movie. My earliest clubbing experiences were at the Lyceum in London in the late 70s with soul-scene legends Steve Walsh and Greg Edwards DJ-ing. The place was packed with Soul Boys (and girls) wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the name of their local posses like Streatham Funk Patrol and blowing the whistles that hung around their necks. While the clothes were important — this was the era of Pringle jumpers and Lois jeans — there was no posing going on, everyone was too busy dancing.
Here’s a Brit-Funk classic from those days featuring the amazing bass-slapping fingers of Mr. Mark King.
Download: Love Games – Level 42 (mp3)
It might be sacrilege to say it but I’ve always preferred this version to Bill Withers’ original. Partly because it’s the first one I knew, but I also love its more expansive treatment of the song. That Jackson kid was a hell of a singer, too. Whatever happened to him?
Quite the classy routine from Pan’s People too.
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.
Somehow I don’t think this song is about hi-jinks in a department store.