Sometimes I need a warm cosy record. Sometimes I need a comforting old slab of plastic. All this new music is all very well, but now and again one needs to turn up the volume and sing along to tunes that marked an era, or provided the soundtrack to a time in one’s life that may or may not have been as rosy as you now remember it.
With that in mind.....
Item 1: Recently I rediscovered Massive Attack’s first album. When Blue Lines was first released I knew the band, mostly because of the single Any Love, which had been a minor anthem for us at The Siren over the summer of 88/89, and partially because of the reputation the Bristol movement had with the similarly dub infused central Auckland scene of the time.
So in London I latched on to the album the day it hit the shops. I bought it from Bluebird, in Berwick St and it came in an oversized cardboard sleeve, which I still have, under the name of just 'Massive'…it was felt that the word ‘attack’ might be offensive to some during the gulf war (we’d just flown through LA which was festooned in giant yellow ribbons). And I loved it immediately. But it was one of those records that I played intently for a year or two and have never really gone near it again since…until last week when I found a copy and it all flooded back. This record didn’t seem that radical at the time..it came in the midst of a swag of mid tempo British records that began a few years earlier with Soul II Soul and Smith & Mighty. But it was Massive Attack who took that uniquely Jamaican infused Anglo-Soul and ran with it.
Grahame Greene, Mexico, Catholicism, blah, blah. That, in the pop world, makes you literary, because you've read a book and want people to know it by dropping all the names. In other people I would find it intolerable. I let myself get away with it because the music and overall effect is usually OK
Paddy McAloon, 1985.
I’d almost forgotten Prefab Sprout’s lovely Steve McQueen. It sits in a shelf, on vinyl, in a storage facility in Auckland. But, oh, how I loved that record at one time. Paddy McAloon’s swirling, just on the right side of twee, songs, could almost be described as slight but instead were simply understatedly lovely. I was reminded of the album by a thread in a recent forum and hunted down a digital copy. And twenty five years later it still makes me swoon; it’s still as lovely as ever.
How does one forget a record like this? One day I’ll get around to checking his other records, but around 1986 I found myself sidetracked from albums like this and it took me a decade or so to get back there again
Item 3: And the sidetracking included the works of Nick Lowe as an artist (although not as a producer). Once upon I was a completist, with all the Stiff and Radar releases, and pretty much all the Brinsley Schwartz stuff. I loved his work and saw him live with Rockpile at some god forsaken venue in Sydney. Then I lost track, only to be bought back to Nick by a glowing review of a mid noughties album. And so, with some pleasure I acquired the recent remaster of his, obviously classic-to-be even in 1978, debut Jesus of Cool (renamed, as was the Prefab Sprout, for sensitive Americans: Nick’s became Pure Pop For Now People; Sprout’s became Two Wheels Good) a month or so ago.
Suffice to say, three decades on (god, it really has been that long), Jesus of Cool remains the masterpiece it seemed at the time of its original release. It’s wry parodies of then contemporary pop which stand on their own unlike many such parodies, and it’s often hilarious lyrical twists still work. And it remains a production masterpiece (with the addition of an extra ten tracks, some of which accurately forecast Nick’s later move into a gentlemanly countrified craftsman.
Ironically, despite the fact it was lost for years, Jesus of Cool remains one of the 70s great treasures from a decade that produced quite a few.
Can we have Labour Of Lust next please?
In the interim, here are a couple of videos. The first is the producer as pop star, complete with squealing girls, with a track from that second album (in bouncy demo form on the JOC remaster), the second is perhaps the worst example of lip sync ever, albeit with one of JOC’s more sublime moments.
Item 4: I saw Miles live twice. Both were in the eighties and they were noisy, tough, abrasive gigs. What I wouldn’t have given to see Miles in his space period.
Then, that’s a silly term as I guess his whole life defined space in music, even when he was at his most intense. But for me the term means one thing: In A Silent Way. How I came to this record is still a mystery to me but I’m guessing it was an outgrowth of the likes of the Hendrix I was liking a lot circa 1972 (I was late to him but over 1970-72 I was addicted to Jimi moving from the earlier UK stuff through to things like Band of Gypsies). I always think of Jimi and Miles together in a way. Jazz wasn’t a thing I’d been exposed to at all in my life, but this album simply bewitched me and took me on a path which meant that by the punk era I’d as likely go home to Sketches of Spain as I would The Ramones.
But, despite the various Columbia box sets and the mass of live sets I’d buy over the years, I didn’t ever find myself acquiring this in any digital format, instead I wore my original CBS NZ issue down until it probably had a flat EQ register.
Then I found it again in Singapore a few weeks back, lovingly remastered for a silly price, in a little store underneath one of those soulless malls which populate that island state.
So now I find myself revelling in the tension and space that is the majesty of Miles, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland and Tony Williams.
This time it stays. They all do.