Twenty more of the Music Musings and Miscellany 1000.
CHAMELEONS – A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days / Thursday’s Child (Statik 6 1983)
The influence of the Chameleons is all over the place these days, from Interpol and Glasvegas to shameless carbon-copyists Editors. They seldom get due credit. “A Person Isn’t Safe…” is one of the stand-out tracks on A Script of the Bridge, an album frankly full of them. It’s an edgy and paranoid tale of urban threat with thumping riffs.
PREFAB SPROUT – A Prisoner of the Past / Where the Heart Is (Kitchenware 70 1997)
Few would make a claim that Andromeda Heights is one of Prefab Sprout’s best records, but this single taken from it juxtaposes sweeping, lush strings with a fairly creepy lyric about obsession. A long way from jumping frogs.
DISCO INFERNO – A Rock to Cling To / From the Devil to the Deep Blue Sky (Rough Trade R2983 1993)
Disco Inferno were a group out of time. When everything was baggy and Britpop, they were making dense, sample-heavy records that were way ahead of their contemporaries. They had a small, dedicated coterie of fans, but jacked it in when their (uninsured) van and equipment were stolen.
MAGAZINE – A Song from Under the Floorboards / 20 Years Ago (Virgin 321 1980)
Lyrically inspired by Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground, “A Song from Under the Floorboards” was typical of a time when intelligence in pop songs wasn’t derided as pretentious. Great McGeoch guitar riff, too.
CHARLEY PATTON – A Spoonful Blues / Shake It and Break It, But Don’t Let it Fall (Paramount 12869 1929)
Charley Patton’s untutored howl, combined with the primitive recording techniques of the time (and Paramount’s notoriously poor quality pressings) make his records seem almost primeval, even compared to contemporaries like Lonnie Johnson and Willie McTell. “A Spoonful Blues” is probably his best known song due to the cover recorded by Cream forty years later. A copy, battered and scratched, recently sold on eBay for $1400!
MISSION OF BURMA – Academy Fight Song / Max Ernst (Ace of Hearts 104 1980)
It could be argued that Mission of Burma were the grandfathers of US alt-rock. Combining US punk and British post-punk, their records had an amazing energy. “Academy Fight Song” was their first, and probably best, single.
PHUTURE – Acid Trax / Phuture Jacks / Your Only Friend (Trax 142 1987)
HARDFLOOR – Acperience / mixes (Eye Q 18 1991)
Two very long singles, but both incredibly influential. “Acid Trax” pioneered the use of a 303 sampler to give that sharp, flangeing sound that came to define acid house. As a track, it’s as basic as they come, stretching one idea over eleven minutes. But that’s part of its appeal. As dance music mutated into endless genres and sub genres, the nine minute “Acperience” brought it right back to that acid sound, but with brutally hard techno beats.
BOBBY WOMACK – Across 110th Street / Hang On In There (United Artists 196 1973)
Blaxploitation movie theme tunes don’t come any better than this. The film wasn’t much cop.
ALTERNATIVE TV – Action Time Vision / Another Coke (Deptford Fun City 7 1978)
From the man who brought you “Sniffin’ Glue”, a fab three minutes of sloppy, angular punk-pop.
GRANDMASTER FLASH – Adventures on the Wheels of Steel / The Birthday Party (Sugar Hill 557 1981)
Recorded live in one take, “Wheels of Steel” sounded nothing like anything I’d heard before. It seemed impossible to figure out how he’d done it – incorporating bits of familiar records from Queen and Chic, and yet making it sound like they belonged together. This and Steinski’s three lessons are the Old Testament of turntablism.
AGE OF LOVE – Age of Love / mixes (React 100 1992)
Bruno Sanchioni & Giuseppe Chierchia’s “Age of Love” had actually first appeared two years earlier, but it was the definitive Jam and Spoon mix from 1992 that more or less laid down the blueprint for Trance which was to become all too ubiquitous in the years to come. Seldom a year goes by without new mixes of the track being dumped on to a credulous market without holding a candle to Jam and Spoon’s.
DIANA ROSS – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough / Can’t It Wait Until Tomorrow (Motown 1169 1970)
Diana Ross’ solo career was hardly living up to expectations when this came out. It’s more than just a remake of the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell hit – more a widescreen cinerama Cecil B DeMille production. Frankly, it’s ludicrous, but the melodrama and kitchen-sink production job are terribly seductive. In some ways it works precisely because it is so ostentatious.
LOUIS JORDAN & HIS TYMPANI FIVE – Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens / Let the Good Times Roll (Decca 23471 1946)
Farmer’s hassling his poultry, and the poultry are getting pissed off with his interruptions. I’ve never seen this record fail to bring a smile to anyone I’ve played it to. Brassy, bouncy and cheerful – I first heard it at a club in the eighties. Sandwiched between stuff like New Order and Heaven 17, the floor was shaking that night.
TEMPTATIONS – Ain’t Too Proud To Beg / You’ll Lose a Precious Love (Gordy 7054 1966)
With David Ruffin’s most soulful vocal, and possibly the sharpest backbeat on any Motown record, never has the desperate plea to a wayward lover sounded so uplifting.
KLEENEX – Ain’t You / Hedi’s Head (Rough Trade 9 1978)
More than just the Swiss Slits, Kleenex made ramshackle, strident records that had hooks as sharp as the best pop. They don’t make ’em like this any more – more’s the pity.
WAY OUT WEST – Ajare / Montana (Deconstruction 24380 1994)
Jody Wisternoff and Nick Warren’s Way Out West project has never been afforded the same kind of respect given to contemporaries like Orbital and Underworld. Which, to my mind, is a real pity. “Ajare” is a fantastic slice of urgent, crunching progressive house.
PRINCE BUSTER – Al Capone / One Step Beyond (Blue Beat 324 1965)
The record that, more than any other, was responsible for the Two Tone movement a decade and a half later. Two indisputable ska classics on one 45.
REPLACEMENTS – Alex Chilton / Election Day (Sire 8297 1987)
Paul Westerberg’s paean to his hero combined the big pop choruses of Big Star with the scrappy garage rock of his own band. Impossible to listen to without bouncing around with a big shit-eating grin on your face.
BESSIE SMITH – Alexander’s Ragtime Band / There’ll Be a Hot Time In Old Town Tonight (Columbia 14219 1927)
This was already a well-recorded standard by the time Bessie Smith laid her version down in 1927. But she made it her own with that big, bold, booming voice of hers.