Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Meek Dreams

DJ Internet History

It was a desire to listen to some of the work of pioneering Disco remixer Tom Moulton (above) at around 1amish that sparked off one of those brilliant internet voyages that occasionally break up my constant bouts of flicking between Facebook and Gmail.

I went onto the unofficial (?) myspace fan page and listened to his mix of King Goes Forth's Don't Take My Shadow which unsurprisingly turned out to be incredible and had everything that I've come to like about his edits: catchy hook, loads of dreamy soul style back up vocals, classic emo disco vibes etc. Browsing around the page I noticed a link to an interview Moulton did with Dj History in 2008. It's a wholly worthwhile read (link) in which he discusses his career path starting as a buyer for a Jukebox company then onto an early champion of stereo and how he became involved in disco, making the first remixes, the emergence of disco/DJs and the usual banter about how New York gay clubs in the 70's were the pretty much best places in the world ever.

It led me onto a couple of things, Moulton spoke about how B.T. Express were livid when they first heard what he had done to their track "Do It Till You're Satisfied', unsurprisingly it blew up and became a hit. They even got to go on Soul Train and brag about how the song length (in itself revolutionary) was their idea. Now even though the internet is an amazing resource and I can access footage of them playing that song on Soul Train within seconds, we're still not quite at the level of Revenge of the Sith style meta-Jedi library just yet, as I couldn't find the footage of that exact exchange with Don Cornelius. But well done anyway.

I went off and listened to the what is claimed to be the first 12" ever commercially available, made by Walter Gibbons, after he was described by Moulton as a person who was 'as white as can be' - judge for yourself

That photo being infinitely more enjoyable than the release in question - which is disappointingly, pretty tedious

DJHistory also do some other really great interviews with other DJing pioneers, including a fantastic sit down with Jimmy Savile, who you know turns out to be quite important (at least according to him) in the whole business of clubs, disk jockeys and young people congregating and dancing in the UK. One of his claims is that he was the first person to think of having two record players on stage at the same time. Considering he grew up in a world where the very idea of dancing to a record was completely laughable, the fact that he was hugely influentially in changing that (for instance he actually did setup dancehalls and DJ's in other cities, eventually running over 50 and 400, respectively, of them) he can make up what he likes really.

-Special thanks to John Bloomfield for introducing me to Moulton months ago when he played me his mix of So Much For Love by Moment of Truth which completely dicks on the original and was the only thing I wanted to hear for a good few weeks afterwards. I think on that same night I stole a clock from a particular East London pub. The clock is now in broken pieces stuffed in a bag in John's house - 'THANKS' Karma.

Also funnily enough earlier tonight I had a similar urge to listen to some Nas, ended up rippin through the hits on youtube, reading the quite decent article about him on Allmusic and shamefully hearing the acidic Jay-Z diss Ether for the first time.

I did the pretentious thing afterwards and in an attempt to be interesting posted his full name 'Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones' on Twitter, but then thought nargh, deleted it and instead decided to put all the words together and make it a hash tag, clever. I clicked the post afterwards and found out that coincidentally some super fans had used the same tag yesterday, as it it was Nasty Nas' birthday, he was 37.

And another thing, whilst it's probably weird and pretty cool actually that Lil' Wayne sampled Iron Maiden's Fear of the Dark for his song 'Best Rapper Alive'. It's definitely a lot weirder and probably not all that cool that Brandy sampled a relatively obscure Maiden track (The Clansmen) for her song 'I Tried' in which she sings lyrics like 'I’m sittin' home on a cold day...Think I wanna hear some Coldplay'

Brandy's Twitter 4EVERBRANDY

Monday, 6 September 2010

Good Morning, Mr Orwell

The video for Peter Gabriel & Laurie Anderson's Excellent Birds that I included in my previous post was one that I discovered a while back when searching through YouTube for footage of Anderson to post on facebook. I had been previously unaware of its existence, but perhaps this is because it was not created with MTV in mind, but rather was part of a satellite broadcast "installation" by video art pioneer Nam June Paik, Good Morning, Mr Orwell. Transmitted on 1st January 1984 (for obvious reasons) primarily between WNET TV in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, it was intended as a rebuttal to Orwell's vision, by showing that technological advance is no bad thing. Try telling that to a typical Daily Mail journalist (I'm sure the left-leaning Orwell would be dismayed to find his book become such fodder for those loons). Alongside Anderson and Gabriel, the broadcast featured live and recorded work from the likes of John Cage, Philip Glass, Allen Ginsberg (with Arthur Russell on cello), Merce Cunningham, Oingo Boingo and The Thompson Twins.

Larger version can be found here.

Orwell's 1984 was of course even more explicitly acknowledged in 1984 with the release of the John Hurt/Richard Burton-starring film version of the book, complete with Eurythmics soundtrack.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Good Morning, Mr Gabriel

Renowned mentalist Fever Ray is soon to release a cover of Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street, this being the year that Gabriel released Scratch My Back, an album of orchestral-and-vocal covers of 12 artists, with an intended sister-release, I'll Scratch Yours, in which the artists each cover one of his songs.

Trouble is, Peter Gabriel covered neither Fever Ray, nor Karin Dreijer Andersson's more famous band, The Knife. It's a tad ironic that someone would voluntarily choose to cover one of his songs, when he has had difficulty getting some artists to return the favour for his own project. While some (Stephen Merritt, David Byrne, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Bon Iver, Elbow) have recorded tracks (released as double a-sides with the corresponding track on Scratch My Back), others (reportedly David Bowie, Radiohead, The Arcade Fire) have been a little less forthcoming. Of those released, Lou Reed's distortion-drenched version of Solsbury Hill is a clear winner, which is rather apt given that Gabriel and Reed's wife Laurie Anderson once scratched one another's backs when Gabriel did guest vocals on Excellent Birds on Anderson's Mister Heartbreak, which later appeared in a different arrangement on Gabriel's So.

It's long perplexed me that Gabriel does not receive as much hipster kudos as other contemparaneous artists, with his often dark, bleak, paranoid masterpiece third self-titled album deserves to be a revivalist hit on a par with Paul Simon's Graceland or Talking Heads' Remain In Light. Perhaps this is because of many people's (clearly misplaced) misgivings about Genesis or his mega-success with So tying him to the 80s, particularly embedded in the famous boombox raised aloft scene in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything (I feel that in real life Lloyd Dobler would have received a restraining order). My feeling was that perhaps the Scratch My Back/I'll Scratch Yours project would correct this, though its apparent failings point to no. Perhaps the Fever Ray effect will be a winner though. At the very least we can agree it's preferable to Bon Iver.