Life begins…

I hit the big 4-0 today so I thought I’d reminisce…

I remember when (in reverse order):

young Strictly

The Blue Note was the place to be every night of the week

Coldcut couldn’t get a gig in the main room of any club because they were too ‘chilled’

The KLF were the greatest pop band in the world

Cynthia Rose’s ‘Design After Dark’ was the bible for dance music related artwork.

The smiley face badge from Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’ was copied by Bomb The Bass and kicked off the whole Acid fashion for smileys.

Big Black called it a day

The DMC finals were held in the Albert Hall

Mike Allen ruled the airwaves for Hip Hop in the South East via Capital Radio

12″ singles were £1.99

Kraftwerk were number 1 in the charts

Thatcher got in (please not again)

2000ad was 8p

Star Wars was everything

‘The King’ left the building

Epiphanies in sound:

These are songs or albums that I remember vividly having a profound effect on me when I heard them first, the ‘Shock of the New’ if you will. Most of these I remember having a hold over me whereby I had to play them again and again because I couldn’t get enough of the sounds each contained. They gave a rush of excitement that I’d been looking for that cannot be described, a feeling so alien from everything else I’d heard before that it was all I could do to keep pressing the rewind button. These are kind of in the order I heard them rather than the order they were originally released. Some of them occupy the same place because a friend made me a tape with both on or something.

chart-singles 82&83Kraftwerk – Autobahn – this has been documented before in my Kraftwerk Kover Kollection piece but to paraphrase – one of the first songs I remember, even though I didn’t know what it was until later.

The Police – Message in a Bottle – I loved the drums and the whole energy of it, one of the first pop songs I consciously remember liking.

Adam & The Ants – Dog Eat Dog – My dad liked the drums so taped it off the radio, little knowing that my 10 year old ears would want to listen to little else for the next 3 years

Kraftwerk – Computer World – perfect in every way, an alien world and forerunner to electro.

The Human League – Being Boiled – pretty creepy pop to an 11 year old

Malcolm McLaren – Duck Rock – After hearing ‘Buffalo Gals’ and not knowing what was going on I was seduced by the ghetto blaster on the cover and Worlds Famous Supreme Team patter.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax (Maida Vale mix) For some reason, when I came to tape ‘Relax’ off the radio the version I got was a special remix made by Dave Cash (a Capital Radio DJ) and this was on repeat play every day after school for the first few months of ’84.

Art of Noise – Beatbox – The DMX is still my favourite drum machine.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes (Annihilation) After what seemed like an eternal wait for the follow up to ‘Relax’ (all of 6 months) this 12″ mix blew away everything in the charts and was a landmark in reconstructing a pop single until Coldcut made over Eric B & Rakim’s ‘Paid In Full’ 4 years later.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome To The Pleasuredome (LP version) 16 minutes of Prog Pop perfection.

Double Dee & Steinski – Lesson 2 – A milestone (with the other Lessons) in cut and paste excellence, still stands up today where others sound dated.

Arthur Baker – Breaker’s Revenge – Something about this grabbed me and it was probably the Latin Rascals’ edits as much as the melody, when I discovered the remixed 12″ after hearing the Beat St. soundtrack version I flipped.

Grandmaster Flash – Adventures on the Wheels of Steel – Much like the Lessons, this was an even earlier example of how to mix and match (literally with the Queen and Chic basslines)

Word of Mouth & DJ Cheese – King Kut – The first time I tuned into Mike Allen’s hip hop show this was amongst the selection he played and still remains one of my top 10 favourite beats ever.

DJ Cheese – Capital Radio live session for Mike Allen ’86 – a scratch showcase as part of the set by Cheese (at the same time as he won the DMC championship) made me want to learn how to scratch.

Public Enemy – Son of Public Enemy – The sound of the JBs’ ‘Blow Your Head’ sampled over this made it as strange then as when I first heard ‘Buffalo Girls’. Plus I heard this version before the rap, making it seem even more odd.

Public Enemy – Rebel Without A Pause – When Terminator X scratched in the ‘rock n roll’ line I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up it was so cool, still one of the funkiest, but simplest scratch patterns ever.

De La Soul – 3 Feet High & Rising – A blast of fresh air that seemed like it was beamed down whole from another planet.

You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath – Hole   / Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel – Nail – Classics – early sampling, great wordplay and catchy songs too.

The The – Soul Mining / Infected – Two of my favourite records ever

Coldcut – Beats n’ Pieces – Heavy beats and breaks, spoken word and scratching – the blueprint for so much and by two British guys to boot – unheard of quality at the time.

Big Black – Atomizer / Songs About Fucking – Power and precision with a drum machine instead of a drummer – awesome.

Slayer – Reign In Blood / South of Heaven – I was never really into thrash metal but spent several weeks one summer at a mate’s house painting a Megadeth banner for him to take to the Donnington festival. During this time I was played everything from Metallica to Slayer, Anthrax to G.W.A.R. Some grew on me more than others but these two particularly stood out.

Stakker – Humanoid – I was never much into house music but I ‘got’ acid when I heard this and it still stands up as one of the greats.

Fishbone – Truth & Soul – Ska, funk and thrash metal, what a combo, Fishbone were one great live band but never got their dues. A friend taped me this in college and it was stuck in my walkman for months.

Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique – Unjustly rubbished on release, I never understood why, I suppose everyone wanted ‘Licensed to Ill’ part 2 but couldn’t they see that this was a much more complex beast?. Rightly acclaimed as an ahead-of-it’s-time classic years later.

Jungle Brothers – Done By The Forces of Nature – One of the funkiest hip hop records ever, supreme layers of samples and totally on point raps. I never tire of hearing it.

Depth Charge – Depth Charge – Sonar ping industrial ‘trip hop’ before the phrase was even invented.

808 State – Cubik – Heavy metal techno, the bassline is so simple and stupid it’s brilliant.

Coldcut vs The Orb – KISS FM ’91/92 – actually my introduction to the Orb and hugely influential as a signpost for where I was heading in the 90’s.

The KLF – Chill Out – a real soundtrack without a film kind of record, made just before they went stratospheric

Brian Eno & David Byrne – My Life in The Bush of Ghosts – no.1 in a field of 1

Future Sound of London – KISS FM radio mixes ’92/3 some of the best crafted ‘mixes’ ever, more like virtual worlds inside the radio, also opening up a whole heap of new music to my ears.

This Mortal Coil – Filigree & Shadow / Blood – I got played this after a friend heard me playing a FSOL record that had sampled it and I loved the concept, breadth and execution of them.

David Sylvian & Holger Czukay – Plight & Premonition – possibly my favourite ambient album ever.

Cocteau Twins – Victorialand / Treasure – Their pinnacle (along with their collaboration with Harold Budd, ‘The Moon and the Melodies’)

Aphex Twin – Didgeridoo – Changed the face of techno at the time, it was a good 10+ bpm faster than anything else at the time and sounded like it came from an alien planet.

Ken Nordine – Word Jazz vol.1 – Mixmaster Morris played me this in ’93 during one of my epiphanic visits to his house, little did I know I would end up actually working with Ken later.

Zimbabwe Legit – Doing Damage (Shadow’s Legitimate mix) Alongside ‘Entropy’ and ‘In/flux’ this pointed to a new way of presenting hip hop.

David Shire – The Taking of Pelham 123 – just an amazing suite of music based on a few simple themes, unavailable for years but now deservedly given it’s place amongst classic soundtracks.

DJ Zinc – Super Sharp Shooters – Stealth anthem and one of the best fusions of hip hop and drum ‘n’ bass ever

DJ Shadow – Changeling – if any track of Shadow’s is worthy of the label ‘prog hop’ then this one is it, Sublime, switching time signatures, mood building, he’s never bettered this.

Dick Hyman & Mary Mayo – Moon Gas – I searched high and low for this after reading Mike D rhapsodise over it in Grand Royal, it didn’t disappoint, a very unique record.

Boards of Canada – Skam EP – Beautiful and otherworldly, another record beamed in fully formed from somewhere else yet seemingly familiar.

Cut Chemist – Lesson 6 – the only other Lesson that measures up to the original three

Evolution Control Committee – The Whipped Cream Mixes – the origins of what we now know as the mash up, a complete comedy record from start to finish as all the best ones are.

Mr Bungle – California – stunning

Britney Spears – Toxic – a perfect pop song with a great video too

If you made it to the bottom of that I applaud you for indulging me, thanks to Steve Baker for the scan of the tape cover, possibly the first Strictly Kev mix tape? And congratulations to DK and family who had a new addition on Monday.

Posted in Event, Oddities. | 11 Comments |

Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Cookbook

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It was my better half’s birthday yesterday and a friend of ours got her this lovely Heston Blumenthal cooklbook. The big difference between this and any cookbook I can think of it that it’s illustrated by Dave McKean, he of Arkum Asylum, Signal To Noise, Cages and the Sandman comic covers amongst many others. This has to be a first surely? The book is gorgeous both in content and quality and very heavy too! Check the gallery for some of the spreads, there are many more although I’m not sure how much my wife will actually be attempting to serve up.

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Starting tomorrow, because it’s Record Store Day, a week long, series of daily posts on vinyl worth buying for both the cover and content.

Posted in Art, Books, Design, Oddities. | 2 Comments |

RIP Talcy Malcy

A sad loss, one of a kind for sure, the Sex Pistols – whatever. For me it was all about the Duck Rock LP. I wrote this for Wax Poetics #19 back in 2006 for my top ten all time greatest cut and paste records:

Malcolm McLaren “Duck Rock” (Charisma) 1983

More a collage of cultures than literal cut and paste—this is generally considered to be the record that brought hip-hop to the U.K. The rulebook was still being written and McLaren stuck his head in the door, staged a smash and grab and headed off to Africa via Cuba, Columbia and Tennessee with the words “Zulu Nation” ringing in his ears. He got pretty lucky with his big steal too—breaking by the Rock Steady Crew, art by Keith Haring and Dondi White, vocals by the Ebonettes, all dressed up back in London by Vivienne Westwood. Luckiest of all he got Trevor Horn to put it all together before he rocketed to super producer status with Yes, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Grace Jones. After liberally sampling everything, McLaren left it to Horn and his team to work out which way up the map went before returning to take all the credit.

This is McLaren’s strength, he’s a great A&R man and he was in several right places at the same time. He’s not an artist (Horn described working with him as like “knitting with fog”) he’s an ideas man and a publicist, this time with himself as the star. It always seemed a little weird to me at the time to see McLaren fronting this lot with his ginger curls and pasty complexion, he couldn’t have been further removed from the players and performers surrounding him. The whole thing had the air of someone’s dad trying to be ‘down with the kids’ because everyone knew of his past dealings in the Punk and New Romantic scenes. Even back then people were asking what bandwagon Malcolm was jumping on this time.

This is a record much like “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, one that exists in it’s own bubble; white, middle class Brits trying to adapt black traditional and homemade culture into pop music, of sorts, just don’t call it ‘World Music’. What they came up with is a gigantic, mutant version of the reality they sampled, rearing it’s head up into the charts, that could only exist for a very short while before all it’s constituent parts crashed to the ground and scuttled off in their own directions. This is more than a super group combining their talents, more like a super nation all finding themselves at the same party and staying just long enough to make something unique and never to be repeated.

McLaren 650

Posted in Event, Music, Oddities. | No Comments |

RIP Talcy Malcy

A sad loss, one of a kind for sure, the Sex Pistols – whatever. For me it was all about the Duck Rock LP. I wrote this for Wax Poetics #19 back in 2006 for my top ten all time greatest cut and paste records:

Malcolm McLaren “Duck Rock” (Charisma) 1983

More a collage of cultures than literal cut and paste—this is generally considered to be the record that brought hip-hop to the U.K. The rulebook was still being written and McLaren stuck his head in the door, staged a smash and grab and headed off to Africa via Cuba, Columbia and Tennessee with the words “Zulu Nation” ringing in his ears. He got pretty lucky with his big steal too—breaking by the Rock Steady Crew, art by Keith Haring and Dondi White, vocals by the Ebonettes, all dressed up back in London by Vivienne Westwood. Luckiest of all he got Trevor Horn to put it all together before he rocketed to super producer status with Yes, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Grace Jones. After liberally sampling everything, McLaren left it to Horn and his team to work out which way up the map went before returning to take all the credit.

This is McLaren’s strength, he’s a great A&R man and he was in several right places at the same time. He’s not an artist (Horn described working with him as like “knitting with fog”) he’s an ideas man and a publicist, this time with himself as the star. It always seemed a little weird to me at the time to see McLaren fronting this lot with his ginger curls and pasty complexion, he couldn’t have been further removed from the players and performers surrounding him. The whole thing had the air of someone’s dad trying to be ‘down with the kids’ because everyone knew of his past dealings in the Punk and New Romantic scenes. Even back then people were asking what bandwagon Malcolm was jumping on this time.

This is a record much like “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, one that exists in it’s own bubble; white, middle class Brits trying to adapt black traditional and homemade culture into pop music, of sorts, just don’t call it ‘World Music’. What they came up with is a gigantic, mutant version of the reality they sampled, rearing it’s head up into the charts, that could only exist for a very short while before all it’s constituent parts crashed to the ground and scuttled off in their own directions. This is more than a super group combining their talents, more like a super nation all finding themselves at the same party and staying just long enough to make something unique and never to be repeated.

McLaren 650

Posted in Event, Music, Oddities. | No Comments |

There was an old lady…


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Max in boat 650

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Bought this book for my boys yesterday (I’m a sucker for beautifully designed childrens books) Such a unique way of presenting the old tale and at the end her eyes close after she eats the horse. We also have another version by Jan Pienkowski (who did Meg & Mog and the classic Haunted House pop up book) in which she turns into a ghost on the last page!

This book though is illustrated by Jeremy Holmes and available from Chronicle Books from San Francisco, presumable available online but I got mine from Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill who have re-installed part of my Where the Wild Things Are Window display.

Posted in Books, Design, Oddities. | No Comments |

Psychedelic Pink

A current big hit in our household are the Pink Panther cartoons from the 60’s and 70’s with variations on Henry Mancini’s excellent theme to by Walter Greene to accompany them. One of my favourite episodes is this tripped out classic from 1968, the Panther goes into a weird bookshop and strange things start to happen. The background designs by Tom O’Loughlin are sublime and show a rare glimpse of the times in a children’s cartoon. See the gallery above for more shots…

Posted in Design, Film, Oddities. | 1 Comment |

Rave Wars 7″ with free figure

AT-AT DriverTie Fighter PilotDarth

A mysterious package turned up yesterday, inside were three 7″‘s titled Rave Wars, each complete with an original Star Wars figure attached to the front in the style of the old Palitoy figures of yesteryear. Whoever sent them must have figured me for a follower of the dark side as I got Darth vader, a Tie Fighter pilot and an AT-AT driver. The back cover shows a gallery of characters from the first trilogy (collect all 77 – ah the memories). The labels are blank save for a rebel and imperial logo and the legends “If only you knew the power of the dark side” and “The Force is strong with the one” (sic). The music is a ravetastic barrage of amen breaks, electronics and samples from the first (only) three films. Any more I cannot tell you…

Back coverRun Out Groove
Hear and buy here but be quick there are only 200

Posted in Music, Oddities, Toys. | 10 Comments |

C-Mon & Kypski’s More Is Less video

Video clipI’d never heard of this dutch group C-Mon & Kypski before until someone posted a link to their new video on the Ninja Tune forum. Besides loving the track – an mixture of ska, a sampled soul tune and synth bass more than a little reminiscent of Shadow’s ‘Mashin’ on The Motorway’ – the band are attempting to make their video online with the help of the general public.

The idea is very simple and anyone can take part as long as they have a webcam. They have already shot a basic video of the band larking about and you are invited to switch on your cam whereby one frame will be chosen at random for you to replicate. Strike a pose (they alternate your view with the chosen frame) take the picture (you have 5 seconds to get back into position) and they will add your image into the video. They already have over 6000 frames done and you can watch the video so far which is updated hourly.  Try it yourself

Posted in Film, Music, Oddities. | No Comments |

‘Brother’ John Rydgren

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On my new EP, The Shape Of Things That Hum, there’s a track called ‘Brother John’, a tribute of sorts to a remarkable man with a remarkable voice. He appears in the form of samples taken from records, air check recordings and station idents for his LOVE radio show. Most will never have heard of him but I’ve been collecting his recordings for many years now and thought this would be the ideal time to write up a proper introduction for those wanting to know about the man behind the voice.

I’m not sure how I first found the work of John Rydgren, it may have been via Otis Fodder and his 365 days project or maybe the single vinyl bootleg of his ‘Silhouette Segments’ album that began circulating around 2003. I can’t remember what drew me to it, it may have been the psychedelic cover (I’m a big advocate of judging a record by it’s cover).

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Anyway, as soon as I heard that baritone voice, the hip but sometimes dark delivery and the selection of music he chose to recite over, I was hooked. Many compare Rydgren to Ken Nordine and they certainly do have a lot in common. The crucial difference is that Rydgren was a man with a message and that message was spreading the word of the Lord. “Oh, he was a preacher”, I hear you cry, well yes – he was a Pastor and the American Lutheran Church‘s Director of Radio/TV and Film – but not in the clichéd fire and brimstone sense that we picture when one thinks of such things.

Rydgren – who also went by the moniker Brother John – was much subtler than that and chose to integrate God’s word into his radio shows, intertwined with subjects that the youth of the day could relate to. Sex, drugs, rock music, fashion, cars, it all went in with a Lord’s eye view on each and every one. The creation of the world was turned into a psychedelic trip with allusions to heavy rock and growing weed, a girl with thigh length boots he was checking out suddenly gets him thinking about who had made the girl – “quite a design”.

As well as weekly radio shows Rydgren was broadcast to Vietnam for the troops, intermingling his playlists of rock and pop of the day (Stones, Beatles, Byrds) with short segments he’d written and narrated. Over easy listening backing tracks he planted seeds for the listener to think about the relevance of god within their everyday lives. It was never heavy-handed or overblown and certainly never preachy. His messages were usually slipped in after setting a scene a teenager could relate to, bringing the church into the present day as opposed to the stuffy idea of it being something your parents foisted upon you. One of his often used motifs was, ‘they say…” before going off to quote an example of a commonly held belief before turning it on it’s head.

He was always playful but deadly serious, especially when talking about the Lord, almost to the point of morbidity on occasion as his voice dropped lower and lower in register. He was also very anti-drugs, regularly interviewing musicians of the day and quizzing them on the need for weed or LSD to gain enlightenment. As a Pastor for the Lutheran church he tirelessly spread the word in the form of spoken word radio plays and stories ranging from Moses to Elijah to Xmas tales of Theodore and the Angel, most of which he wrote and co-narrated.

All of his records are promo only radio station issues or were sold at church meetings and, as a result, are incredibly hard to come by. Originals, if you can find them, fetch a high price. Ridiculously rare interview 7″s for radio shows occasionally turn up, flexi discs, religious tales, Xmas stories and sampler records of radio inserts are among the unknown quantity of recordings he made over the years. The best of these is the double album ‘Silhouette Segments’ – literally segments from his radio show ‘Silhouette’. This includes the ‘Dark Side of the Flower – a meditation on the decline of the hippy movement over what sounds like a lost David Axelrod track.

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‘Worlds of Youth’ and ‘Contata Of New Life’ are two similar releases and it’s this last one that Rydgren is ironically best known for, although it’s by default and not actually for any of his vocal work. An internet debate has raged for years over where DJ Premier sampled the main hook from for Nas‘Nas Is Like’ and it appears that crate diggers have honed in on the backing track to one of Brother John’s pieces on the aforementioned album. The track is question, ‘What Child Is This?’, has John reciting over a version of ‘Greensleeves’ and Premier himself has said that the label of the record he sampled was pink with a fish on it, the same as the Lutheran church record label. (side note: my copy of Contata has plain black labels with silver lettering and is 12″ sized, i’ve never seen a Lutheran 10″ record but I’m sure they exist). Where John took this version of Greensleeves from is still open to debate but it’s a shame that most internet searches of his name will bring this up rather than any detailed information of his life and work.

Sadly John suffered a stroke whilst on air in 1982. Over time, with therapy, he was able to recover somewhat but had to relearn to read and speak from third grade level. He returned to work in the 80’s for a few years but died in 1988 aged 56. I was lucky enough to track down John’s son, Shane, and obtain his permission to use the voice of his father and am very excited to be able to release such a song knowing it has the blessing of a family member.

You can hear the track Brother John, as well as the rest of the EP, here:

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The Tapeworm

TapewormThe Tapeworm is a new micro cottage industry-styled record label with a difference. It shouldn’t really be called a record label at all because the only format they release music on is cassette. Run by an anonymous group of ‘worms’, they make limited editions runs between 250 and 350 copies of each release featuring the likes of Philip Jeck, Derek Jarman, Simon Fisher Turner, Geir Jenssen and more.

The music ranges from ambient to installation pieces, live sets, interviews, noise or solo piano improv. I have a copy of the Van Patterson Quartet release – reportedly a lost live psyche rock jam – and let me tell you, it’s the real deal. As tiny examples of how music used to be formatted they are building into a lovely little set of black and white wonders, some also featuring the music and artwork of Savage Pencil.

More info here

Posted in Music, Oddities. | No Comments |

The Tapeworm

TapewormThe Tapeworm is a new micro cottage industry-styled record label with a difference. It shouldn’t really be called a record label at all because the only format they release music on is cassette. Run by an anonymous group of ‘worms’, they make limited editions runs between 250 and 350 copies of each release featuring the likes of Philip Jeck, Derek Jarman, Simon Fisher Turner, Geir Jenssen and more.

The music ranges from ambient to installation pieces, live sets, interviews, noise or solo piano improv. I have a copy of the Van Patterson Quartet release – reportedly a lost live psyche rock jam – and let me tell you, it’s the real deal. As tiny examples of how music used to be formatted they are building into a lovely little set of black and white wonders, some also featuring the music and artwork of Savage Pencil.

More info here

Posted in Music, Oddities. | 1 Comment |