Seeing as how it’s just barely still May the Fourth, I should drop this in. Follow @Rebel X on Twitter for forthcoming events info …
Despite having a well-developed music industry since the early 1950’s, Israel has a very tiny flexi heritage. None of the major record-pressing plants had a proper technology for production of flexi discs. Working with factories abroad made the process slightly expensive for a record that was supposed to be a free bonus. Nonetheless, the 80’s saw quite a few well-known flexi releases in Israel, including an Agfa-sponsored single by Ofra Haza in 1984, a famous Burger Ranch (local fast-food chain) “menu song” lottery, and this special oddity. The story of this weird record goes like Ariadne’s thread through the very labyrinth of the Israeli 80’s popular culture, connecting its distant corners:
In 1984, Yair Nitzani, a keyboard player and songwriter for the extremely popular nonsense pop-rock band T-Slam, joined the cast of “Ma Yesh” – one of the most popular entertainment radio-shows of the decade. He impersonated an eccentric and slightly controversial character – Hashem Tamid (a word play on arab name Hashem, and common Jewish phrase “God is always with you”; check out Coen Brothers‘ “A Serious Man” for a clearer reference) – an arab that tries so hard to assimilate in the higher levels of the Jewish Israeli society, that in the end converts to Judaism. As a side-kick for the radio-show, Nitzani released a few songs by his character. His first song – “Hashem Tamid” – a humoresque “Celebration Rap”-style tune, became, in fact, the first rap song in Hebrew. The music video for the song was broadcast on Israeli Channel 1 in prime-time, which quickly turned it into a major hit, which was even voted a song of the year!
The song was released in minor quantity as a promo 12″ for local radio stations, but became available to public only on this flexi disc, which came as a bonus with the monthly lifestyle magazine “Monitin” (“Reputation”) – a sort of “light” take-off on Penthouse.
The title translates for “Hashem isn’t ours, Hashem is not alone, and is surely not anybody’s sucker.” Actually, this wasn’t even the original version of the song, but a remix!
The single was backed by even weirder B-side: a crazy Hebrew take on James Brown‘s “Sex Machine” – “Sex Mashmin” (“Sex Makes You Fat”), with sloppy and sleazy lyrics and a heavy oriental accent:
The label says “not for broadcast”, I guess that’s because of the content of the song, but the song never had any radio play for a different reason. Both tunes from this flexi, with an addition of some more songs and sketches were collected on a cassette. However, except for a minor run of promo copies of the title song, none of the rest of this material, saw a proper vinyl or CD release. “Sex Mashmin” got pretty much lost between the pages of the magazine, leaving it a “joke that never shot”.
Here’s also a poster from the same issue of Monitin, which says “Not for broadcast. The song that’s forbidden to play on the radio”
Photo by Beit haTaklit, Ramat Gan
Later, Yair Nitzani became a CEO of the major recording company – Hed Artzi. Among his achievements was Ofra Haza‘s major international breakthrough with a mixture of Yemenite songs and modern beat. The first real hip hop record came out in Israel only in the early 90’s…
As a special bonus – and because Avengers 2 just opened and it’s Free Comic Book Day this weekend – Markey has dug out another weird treasure from his collection: the ‘Scream Along With Marvel’ flexi by the Merry Marching Marvel Society which features the theme song for the 1960’s cartoon ‘The Marvel Super Heroes’.
I’d say it’s merits lie in the cover art more than the music but who am I to judge?
Markey is about to embark on a European tour, starting with The Apples in London on May 4th, and then going solo later in the month, catch all the details on his Facebook page.
The Moomin 7″ from Finders Keepers was certainly one of the most popular releases of RSD 2015 in the UK and it’s an item of beauty, both musically and sleeve-wise. The cover is made of felt, hand-stitched and colour printed, I’ve never seen anything like it (there are also two different cover images to collect). The music is pure analogue electronics, being the UK-specific soundtrack by Graeme Miller and Steve Shill.
Happily for those that didn’t score a copy on RSD and now that the fuss has died down, Finders Keepers are allowed to sell it on their site. So don’t feed the flippers on eBay, pay the label direct. Whilst you’re there you could do worse than also pick up Bruce Ditmas‘ ‘Yellow Dust’ album – I did, he plays a Moog Drum and it’s mental in the best possible way.
I don’t often feature tech stuff but I have to share these headphones as much for the packaging as the hardware. Beautifully presented in a box that seals itself with two indented buttons these AIAIAI TM-2 headphones come as a modular system that you build and can easily change to suit your needs. They even have a very nice ‘configurator’ on their site to build your own virtually.
I started using the TM-1s in the studio a couple of years back after having Sennheiser‘s for an age and the difference is stark. I’m using the S03 drivers in mine – titled ‘Warm’ – and the sound is indeed rich, warm and deep, lots of clarity, kind of like bathing your ears in molten chocolate. The headphone cup is perfect on the ear for long hours too, the tension on the headband just enough not to get uncomfortable and you can forget you have them on (my studio is next door to my kids’ bedroom so I work a lot in headphones in the evenings).
The new modular range consists of 18 different parts (not all contained in the box) including four different drivers, five different ear pads, six cable and three headbands variations. There are studio and DJ set ups and they have a neat locking action on the mini jacks that can be set to pull out if the cable is snagged so that you don’t damage the lead or connection. Any additions or upgrades to the line will presumably be compatible and any damaged parts can easily be exchanged. They’re not cheap but my god they are worth it and beautifully thought out.
Who’s got tickets then? All Killer, no filler…
The ‘Pop Art’ show by Keith Haynes just opened at Gallery Different, 14 Percy Street, W1, just off Tottenham Court Road. The North American map above, entitled ‘Hitsville USA’, in made up of vinyl records, all laser cut and named after each of the states. Likewise the ‘Going Undeground’ maps all have relevant records associated with the stops they represent, a simple idea presented immaculately. In a subtle touch Haynes has used various colours from Factory Road’s extensive 45 adapter range to compliment the 7″ centres. I predict we’ll be seeing this ripped off for years to come.
Musical icons such as the smiley and the target are rendered in coloured badges that remind me of the work of Ian Wright or Jimmy Cauty. ‘Cover Versions’ of Bowie & Beatles sleeves are cut up and modified, looking like physical manifestations of Photoshop filters. The mutated sleeves work well (the ‘Heroes’ one above is even preferable to Jonathon Barnbrook‘s reworking of same for Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’ last year) because he’s remixing the original physical media to form a new work, in the same way Christian Marclay has in the past. Where I find it less successful is when he’s recreated existing designs in vinyl – the Sex Pistols, Velvets (not shown) and Dylan covers for example. They’re beautifully done but they’re Reid, Warhol and Glaser designs, not Haynes’ and it irks me when I see artists reappropriating the iconic work of others. I feel the same way about the portraits of singers like Amy Winehouse, Blondie, Bolan and more in used copies of their old vinyl records.
It renders him as more craftsman than artist, reproducing and recontextualising the work of others, relying on the audience’s familiarity and love of the original subject matter to sell ‘his’ work. The same could be said for the smiley and underground map of course but these are now accepted cultural icons, as part of the public visual consciousness as Coca Cola or Apple. I love the look of his show but I’m conflicted because of some of its artistic origins. It’s on until May 30th, so still a month to check it out and make your own mind up. Photos courtesy of Leigh Adams
Finally, FINALLY!, I’ve secured a copy of Kevin O’Neill‘s legendary ‘Mek Memoirs’ fanzine/mini comic from 1976. It’s only taken me 14 years since first signing up to eBay and creating a search for it, having been outbid on the only two other copies to have come up in that time. 12 pages of self-published, prime pre-2000AD O’Neill robot business, no one can draw bots like Kev.
His hyper-detailed style is still forming into the unique presence he would add to the comic a year later here, first as art director and occasional spot illustrator and then as fully-fledged art droid. For a thorough overview on Kev’s early career including his stint on Horror Classics, take a look at Lew Stringer’s excellent blog piece here.
Details and excerpts from Jason De Haan‘s ‘Nowhere Bodily Is Everywhere Ghostly’ exhibition at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in 2010 – incredible collage work. Above and below: ‘New Jerusalem’, 2010 (detail) “A floating city/landscape collaged from the deconstructed covers of over 1000 1950’s-80’s science-fiction paperbacks.”
We have a brand new Solid Steel website, built for us by antipattern, which finally does all the things we wanted it to do with the vast archive of mixes we’ve accumulated from the last 27 years. We’re very pleased with the results as the site is full of easy to navigate touches that leave plenty of room for a gallery of artwork and photography to grace your desktop, tablet or phone whilst you listen.
Here’s a quick walk through: (above) Main landing page with Featured mixes bar on the right – just tap Featured to close it. (Below) Once a mix is selected just hit play on the Solid Steel logo on the left, you can jump through the mix once it’s loaded or pause by tapping the logo again. Click Tracklist to open a side bar with a scrollable tracklist.
(Above) Click the Synopsis tab to bring up details of the mix plus a link to Soundcloud where you can find the mixes and leave a comment or download. (Below) If you fancy finding an old mix there are several ways of accessing them: the good old Search button in the middle of the three top left circles or the Timeline button next to it which brings up a new graphic showing the decades from 1988 to the present.
(Above) Click the Year you want and a side bar will appear with a scrollable list of all the shows from that date. You can also then scroll vertically through the years too. (Below) Finally there’s an A-Z directory down at the bottom left so that you can see if an artist you love has contributed a mix to the show, hit the name and all their mixes will appear in a scrollable side bar.
Big thanks again to Suki and Paul at antipattern, go visit their new site, DK for producing the whole project and Tom and James at Ninja for the behind the scenes help.
The start of the new Solid Steel site was the creation of a new logo for the show, from which we determined where we were going design-wise. A clean, modern look was wanted that also had to work alongside an image of the mix artist featured each week. I decided on a very thin, san-serif font that would leave plenty of space for an image, show date and artist name, all within a circle or square that would work at thumbnail size.
(Below) I won’t bore you with all the endless font and weight placements but there were many and I ended up with a central ‘o’ which aped a record or CD appearance from a distance and a very thin font on which I did a lot of work kerning and re-sculpting letters to sit at different weights. There were many subtle variations on the ‘S’s and by extending the ‘L’s and ‘T’ the text was suddenly no longer floating and a unique, eye-catching logo had been formed.
(Above) Variations in a heavier weight as well as an off-centre ‘O’ were needed for use at smaller sizes.
(Below) I then started experimenting with different ways to unify the weekly artist images – toning or tinting the images and discarding an oblong title card inside a square as it looked too much like existing mix show graphics.
(Below) A brief flirtation with breaking the circle which was discarded because it would cause too much trouble when placed onto a coloured background or image.
(Above) Different weights of type for readability. (Below) By moving the artist name out of the centre circle we freed up space and gave ourselves room for longer names. I have to be creative with the image placement each week but the date is readable and there’s plenty of room for the artist names in the top right section.
Just saw Avengers: Age of Ultron which was excellent fun. Then this got posted to my Facebook page – an alphabetical run down of Marvel characters to the instrumental of Blackalicous‘ ‘ Alphabet Aerobics’ by Tribe One. The man has skills.
This line up is ridiculously good, I’m almost jealous that I’m not playing but in reality I get to go as a punter without having to worry about performing. The DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist ‘Renegades of Rhythm’ show in Jan is the one to beat but this could be show of the year. Early bird tickets just went on sale here – be quick! Great poster by Tom Miller too.
I originally posted this on Otis Fodder‘s incredible 365 Days Project back in 2003 and if you’re not familiar with that treasure trove of weirdness then you’re in for a treat but you have your work cut out for you. This though, is a jewel in the flexidisc crown and always worth hearing again as the lushous tones wonder-wander out of the grooves. A red 7″ flexi produced by the one and only Ken Nordine to show what Evatone promotional soundsheets can do for your company. He goes through six imaginary scenarios all based around what any PR rep would be thinking given such an opportunity, “Why would I want to give such a thing away?” “What will I say?”, “Who will do it?”, “Will they do a good job?”
Apparently this originates from 1970-71 and came as a magazine insert and it has ‘Free Eva-Tone Idea Kit ’70’ on the bottom right of the A side so we’ll go with that. Ken mentions that Reagan sent out one and a half million such promo sound sheets, “and look where he wound up“, at one point which originally suggested to me that it might have been later. There are quite a few dents in the flexi so please excuse the audible bumps, I did my best to digitally iron them out.
The A side, ‘Words We Live By‘, isn’t on the web that I can find and, unfortunately, I can’t find the flexi right now but when I do I’ll encode that too.
New Jaga Jazzist – title track from their album ‘Starfire’ – insanely good. 5 tracks, out 1st June on Ninja Tune, pre-order here. There’s also a Todd Terje remix of album track ‘Oban’ too.
I keep forgetting to post this – there’s a Ninja Tune 25 Year retrospective currently showing at the Médiathèque Voyelles, 2 Place Jacques Félix, 08000 Charleville-Mézières in France. It’s been curated by Jais Elalouf aka DJ Oof (that’s him below, at the opening night) from his own personal collection and some of my archive. It features many record sleeves, promo posters, proofs and some original artwork and finishes on April 30th so if you’re in the area check it out.
I didn’t go into town for RSD, instead I stayed south of the river, went to smaller, local stores like Rat Records in Camberwell, Casbah and The Music & Video Exchange in Greenwich and The Book & Record Bar in West Norwood (above). Much calmer atmosphere, no crush or crazy queuing, no crowds. I saw some scenes in the centre of London on the day and it looked like Carnival was on. Read what happened to Mr Thing at his set on Berwick St. in the middle of Soho… not cool.
I went to West Norwood first, got there at 10am, walked in and pulled one record straight away from my list (the Amorphous Androgynous ‘Wizards of Oz’ comp above). No fuss, no crush, no queuing. They also still had records from RSD 2014 in the racks. I will go to Rough Trade at some point in the next few weeks to see what they have but I joined a queue there on RSD about 3 years ago and never again. It’s not for me, I don’t enjoy buying records that way. If people are all looking in one place I want to be somewhere in the opposite direction.
In all on Saturday I did four records shops, only two of which had RSD records, but I got plenty of vinyl, both old and new (plus books, magazines and a CD).
Also had time to see an exhibition (Snub 23, see previous post) and meet up with friends and family in the park. A relaxing day that involved going to record stores/shops and helping support them plus the artists and labels. No fretting about whether a record I wanted was going for stupid money on eBay, there’s plenty of time to hunt the one that got away down, I don’t need anything so badly that I have to pay those kind of prices. I should probably also add here, that this is pretty much the same as any number of other days in the year when I go shopping for records rather than making it a one-off.
Currently starring in his first solo show at the Ben Oakley Gallery in Greenwich is Snub23, a Brighton artist I’ve featured a few times on here and who I’ve collaborated with before on the last Herbaliser album.
One of the most dedicated stencil artists I’ve ever come across, he’s always moving his style forward and several are on display in the show. His signature 23 piece and Mongrol character preside over the back wall with new 3D heads appearing for the first time of the robot.
His Isometric Op-Art designs multiply across distressed metal drawers and more characters grace found signage, a skate deck and circuit boards. Subtler line drawings of female faces in a number of expressions adorn one wall and delicately stenciled feathers are free to viewers.
He also has these T-shirts for sale plus prints of the same at the gallery, the show ends on May 3rd so be quick, the gallery in a little side passage off the main market square in Greenwich.
Above was filmed at the Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg earlier this year, check around the 1 minute mark for the stage-diver
Tonight DJ Cheeba, DJ Moneyshot and I retire the ‘3-Way Mix’ live set as part of the line up at the Funk & Soul Club at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. It’s been 18 months since we debuted it in Paris and since then we’ve toured it across Europe, to Russia, Canada and Australia, adding a full video component as we went. The 25th anniversary of the ‘Paul’s Boutique’ album it’s based on has come and gone and the third anniversary of MCA‘s death fast approaches. Time to put it to rest and move on…
Dick Clark reviews his memoirs of his lifetime (thus far) in pop & rock music. Nicely placed spindle hole there, maybe he had enemies in the art department?
Included as a bonus record with the ’20 Years of Rock N Roll’ double vinyl compilation release, not a rare find but always nice to see full blown colour flexi’s pressed onto cardboard.