Saturday, December 31, 2005

I Don’t wanna Go to….and other things

A few months back I posted a list of the recording acts that I truly can’t abide. It was (almost) a throw away list for which I got some flack, predictably, but I stand by every word of it. There are others I’d happily add to the list but they are all too predictable and to be honest, I can’t be really bothered. Certain acts are simply such easy targets and there is no fun in continually lambasting them and they don’t care. Instead, I’m satisfying the list fetish another way, with a scroll through the songs I really never want to ever hear again. Songs I’m absolutely and without reservation sick to death of. Rules, you need them, so I’ve only hit songs by acts I either like a lot or, some, I don’t actively detest. And only songs that are actually, by all reasoning, usually perceived to have a commonly agreed quality. If that makes sense. Hence no Stairway to Heaven or Money for Nothing. Those two miss out because the first is the universally agreed shitiest song by an otherwise great band, and the second is the shitiest song by an appalling band that has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

And to counter I’m going to throw in a few tracks that never cause a groan…..

Never again please:

  • Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five….The Message…..god, not again. Why is it that every young wannabe old-skool dj feels the need to play this one as a badge of credibility. Joseph Sadler with and without the Furious Five (and vice versa) dwarfed this track half a dozen times or more…Wheels of Steel, We Rap More Mellow, Step Off, You Know What Time It Is, Scorpio, Freedom, The Birthday Party and Superrapping all leave it in the dust.
  • New Order….Blue Monday…groan. Yes it changed the world, yes it’s iconic, but should it ever be played again? No, fuck off….virtually every other New Order single of the same decade instead please. Although the b side is just fine.
  • Stevie WonderSuperstition…..makes my skin crawl. True, a good, maybe a great song, in its day, but that day is long set and a great big hole needs to be dug somewhere and every copy of this, plus the multitracks and the masters needs to placed in and the hole filled with sulphuric acid. Even the thought of Superstition is doing odd things to my stomach
  • The Beach BoysGod Only Knows…in fact most of Pet Sounds. I love Brian Wilson (and his brothers but the odious Mike Love can absolutely fuck off) and virtually everything he’s done, but this has long outstayed its welcome I’m afraid and has become such an overplayed piece of slush, it must be due for a Hayley Westerna cover soon.
  • James Brown...Sex Machine….take it to the bridge…if you must, but take it somewhere far from me…I love James Brown, his muse and his genius, but on anything else…..
  • Roy AyersEverybody Loves The Sunshine…..actually no they don’t. This is so gruesomely nice it does my head in. Overplayed, over-rated and over it. The same goes for I Live in Brooklyn, Baby. I dig Roy a lot but give me Poo Poo La La anytime thanks.
  • ParliamentFlashlight….see Sex Machine above…Clinton yes, can no wrong…almost, Flashlight no. I guess its too many nights in too many dark clubs over decades but I’ve always hated this. The 12” is a lousy edit too….
  • Blaze…..My Beat…I don’t care who mixed it, and half the planet seems to have done so, this is a stinker
  • The O’Jays…I Love Music…an exception that defines my Philly rule..see below
  • Cheryl Lynn...Got to be Real… no, please, I hate this record, always have, always will……
  • Inner CityBig Fun & Good Life…to be honest, both these walk a thin line between love and hate. It’s a mood thing compounded by the interminable remixes, good (the recent Agoria one of BF was sheer bliss and I’m fine with the Carl Craig and CJ Mac re-touches of GL) and the bad (most of the others sadly) and complicated by my love for most of Kevin Saunderson’s records. But these are, in late 2005, the very last records I want to hear in a club.

Songs I’ve heard a thousand times but….any time you want, the only rule here is that the song has to reasonably Sun Ra or Milton Wright:

  • The Clash….Bankrobber…actually I only threw this one on to the list as it came on the iPod whilst I was typing this bit and it made me remember yet again how, without any needed qualification, great, how monumental Joe Strummer actually was. The Clash, bless em, the greatest rock’n’roll band of the past thirty years and the second greatest band ever, full stop.
  • Blaze…If You Should Need a Friend…great soul music. They don’t make house tunes like this anymore (says the old guy)
  • First Choice…Double Cross….any version but especially the Danny Tenaglia 1993 remix. Timeless soul, the wonderful place in our musical history where r’n’b started to mutate into house, garage and techno. I need to add Runaway, Hit’n’Run, Ten Percent, You’re The One for Me, and at least two dozen other tracks on Salsoul, Westend, and Prelude. Anytime, anyplace, even if the thought makes me groan, as soon as I hear the opening bars of something like In the Bush, I’m suckered again.
  • Any damn thing on Philadelphia International (with the obvious exception above) but especially the 11 minute Krivit re-edit of MFSB’s Love is the Message or the slightly shorter Moulton mix it’s derived from; or Tom Moulton’s orchestrally orgasmic take on The IntrudersI’ll Always Love My Mama.
  • Elvis Costello and The Attractions…Watching the Detectives...the thought of it yet again actually makes me wince. I wonder how many damned times I’ve heard this thing. But each time I hear it the magic comes bounding back. 27 years young.
  • The Incredible Bongo Band….Apache…
  • SOS Band….Just the Way You Like It….Jam & Lewis pre 1990, absolutely rule.
  • Fingers Inc….Can You Feel It….forget the remixes, the various vocal takes, its all about the recorded-on-cassette mind boggling original
  • Kerri Chandler….Inspiration.. with Arnold Jarvis of course…and yes, once again, forget the remixes
  • The CleanTally Ho…yes I know it was lifted wholesale from The Mighty Wah and if Pete Wylie had had any inkling….but it’s the best $50 ever spent in NZ rock’n’roll. Roger sent me half a dozen of this on release and so there has never really been a little black sleeved single far from my turntable since
  • The Small Faces….Tin Soldier….another on that just arrived on the iPod…..a glorious little punk anthem from West London. Why do so many of the greatest bands surround themselves in tragedy
  • The Undertones….Teenage Kicks & True Confessions…Terry Hogan from Warners turned up at my record shop in 78 with a promo 7 inch of this and I’ve been thrashing that same, clicky, worn out disc ever since. John Peel, might be deified now and its easy to forget that he championed a bunch of right old tosh as often as not, but he wasn’t wrong on this.
  • Wham.....Everything She Wants…on the 12”….such a great great pop record
  • And of course a thousand others. I really only bumped these on the end to illustrate that I’m not such a negative bastard, really….not always anyway

I’ve had trouble getting away from three records in recent days, two of older stuff re-issued, and one mish mash of old and new. Richard Hell’s Spurts is a single disc comp (he had a double on Matador a few years back called Time but this is more concise) of one of my favourite New Yorkers of the past few decades. Listening to this record its hard to get away from how important but unsung Hell is/was. He provided Malcolm McLaren and Vivien Westwood with the styling that took them thru the next few years and took them from Kings Road hustlers to global names, on the way he helped invent the thing we now call punk rock…oh and he made some killer records, most of which are here. The only gap I can find is the omission of the stunning live take of Allen Toussaint’s Cruel Way to Go Down which appeared on the Matador album. The Orange Juice collection of pre-Polydor tracks, The Glasgow School is, I guess the best word is, lovely….just plain lovely. Many years ago I used to mail order UK indie and post punk singles out of a little record shop in Melbourne called Au-Go-Go. Owned by a guy called Bruce Milne (I think), those were the days when, courtesy of the Stalinistic paranoia of the Muldoon government, these things were simply unavailable in New Zealand..go into Real Groovy now and look in awe…it wasn’t always like that…I ended up with dozens of cute little seven inch singles and more than a few twelves. Amongst the raft of bits and pieces were lots of quite cool Australian underground singles (the last time I really enjoyed much music from the red continent actually) and pretty much everything on the Scottish Postcard label, including four singles from Edwyn Collins, James Kirk et al, calling themselves Orange Juice. Those singles, and an unreleased album are gathered here in a cute little black booklet with excellent liner notes, as all compilations deserve (are you listening Newmatics¸Blams...), and still sound just as rough and as charmingly vital as they did back then. Orange Juice went on to make some wonderful records after they jumped into bed with the majors, but they never bettered these tracks.

The other record I’ve been playing a lot is the Clone compilation Box Jams, Dutch and European electro tracks from the past couple of decades, mostly new but with obvious nods to Chicago circa 86 and the uber-Fashionality of Italo disco. Twisted and kind of thing exactly.

And a nod to The Walker for this fantastic list of one person’s 100 personal musical passions. As he notes, the written musical world is dominated by these sorts of lists and they sell magazines. I like them actually but they frustrate the bejesus out of me, as I guess they should. They are simply so wrong and I might get inspired to do one myself…just because I can. This list is amazing, because it’s adventurous, complex, unpredictable and full of some many truly great records. I won about 50% of his lot and although I can quibble and much of this won’t end up anywhere near my list, it’s pretty inescapably fine in both its content and execution.

That said, the Uncut and Mojo lists inspired me to buy the Black Mountain album….the best Sabbath album since Paranoid, albeit with a wannabe Peter Perrett on vocals instead of Ozzy.

I also have a soft spot for a take of The Jam’s lovely Carnation off an otherwise useless tribute album, as performed Liam Gallagher and Steve Craddock which does justice to the original. I hate the gruesome concept of tribute albums…they almost never provide anything of worth and I don’t like to see songs I like massacred by artists I don’t like. A case in point…the ugly recent Finns tribute with the likes of the rather unnervingly awful Missy Higgins and, worse, Brooke Fraser, an artist cynically manufactured by Sony Music, and radio in NZ, to do a Bic Runga (whose first album is a genuine masterwerk and, despite all indications to date being that she may not reach it again, iconically and timelessly great) and failing, despite her obvious genuine talent, and failing by failing to understand what made Bic so truly great…I asked my daughter, who professed to liking her early stuff which songs she still liked and she said she had no recollection of any of them a year later….I can still recite most of Drive a decade later…

And talking of Bic, what in gods name happened to the outer (front and MS Word numbered style back) sleeve of the new album…it really is awful….

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I get high / I get high / I get high…

Johnny, Johnny….what a bloody waste. The world is a lesser place because of the existence of certain people. One of those people was the now globally infamous Mark David Chapman. He wanted to become famous and the fucker did…he’s a household name. It worked.

Damn him…

I wasn’t going to write anything particular on the death or life of John Lennon, so many words, worthier than mine, although no more heartfelt to be sure, have been written and I’ve written a few that I’m a little proud of.

But this sad little piece by fading UK hack Robert Elms made me change my mind. I often wonder what certain people have done to repeatedly get published. Who they have slept with or what connections they have to keep on getting their opinions in print. A blog is one thing, hundreds of thousands of us burble on and on, and opine which is neither here nor there, and despite the social revolution that it may be, it is still recognisably a blog and should be viewed accordingly.

However Elm’s unworthy burst was on the BBC’s web site. I guess, to steal a phrase from George Galloway, standards have slipped.

The British have always have an attraction to these sort of know nothing, ego ridden overly verbose twats and Elms comes from an era that was particularly plagued by them: the late seventies, early eighties, NME, Face, ID era. They sounded smart, obnoxiously opinionated and connected then but later you realise that they knew no more than we did, perhaps less because they were sheltered by the need always to be, to use the term of the era, “crucial”. Elms aside there was Parsons, Burchill, Morley (Morley at least did something with ZTT and FGTH) and a whole bunch more.

These people all claim to have been where it mattered when it happened but in reality were largely peripheral accessories, unlike the truly great journalists of their era, the likes of Nick Kent or Charles Murray, and their “claim” is largely by association rather than action…they hung out with the doers rather than ever actually doing; they may have been in the car but they were neither driving nor navigating, and Elms is more guilty of this than anyone.

It’s not just this piece that’s annoyed me but the last 25 years of accidentally bumping into this man’s opinions. He may well be a pleasant enough guy in person, and all indications from people that I know that've spent time with him, are that he is, if a little over forthright.

so, moving up to said BBC piece, Robert ventures forth with a badly argued opinion that the fabulous four, were not all they were cracked up to be, were a lesser “blues boom” act than The Rolling Stones or Them, both bands who made some killer singles and were, by all accounts astounding live in the early to mid sixties. Them, however, as magnificent as those records are, were largely out of step with their incredibly fast moving times and The Rolling Stones, once they got in their stride about 65 made some wonderful records but only on 45. Their albums, until the end of the decade were largely nothing affairs, often in the shadow of The Beatles, with perhaps the exception of their debut, even that pales beside With The Beatles, arguably the first Rock album ever. I say arguably because it’s a toss up between that and A Hard Days Night and Live at The Apollo....there are no other real contenders.

To imply The Beatles were a lesser “blues boom” act is indicative. This is the first time, ever, anywhere, in all the verbose screeds I’ve read about The Beatles where they were called a “blues” band or alleged to be part of that movement. As I said, it’s indicative that he says that as it indicates a vacuum of historical knowledge and perspective which is even more strongly indicated elsewhere. But it begs the obvious question…how can one be a social commentator if one has no understanding of the context?

And go and listen to the extraordinary live version of Money on the first Anthology and tell me that The Beatles couldn’t cut it as a live beat act. Or ask the thousands who queued in Liverpool or the north before the frenzy took over whether they could cut it. Statements like that just make Elms look silly and I guess are made for effect…we all do it , but if you can’t at least make a stab at backing it…

A fair argument could be made that without Lennon et al no-one would ever have heard of Them or The Rolling Stones beyond a few smelly bars in Belfast or Richmond. And that brings me to the crux of the failure of his arguments.

The social and musical revolution that the Beatles drove....

Without The Beatles, The Rolling Stones could never have become “The Rolling Stones”, The Band, who he obviously rates, could never have become “The Band”, Little Feat, likewise would not have been who or what they were if Roger McGuinn hadn’t, after A Hard Days Night, added the jangle to Dylan. In Dylan’s own words, it was listening to I Wanna Hold Your Hand on a car radio that took him in the direction that led to Blonde On Blonde. He may well have gotten there via another route but The Beatles were his self admitted catalyst that took him to Newport and to shouts of Judas in the UK. And opened a new world to everything that Bob Dylan inspired thereafter….

Likewise, after With the Beatles and A Hard Days Night we were given the concept of the album as an album. Rock’n’roll records became more than two hits and a few fillers (12 in the UK and 8 in the US). Go and look at the album charts pre and post A Hard Days Nights. Other acts wrote their songs…Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, but none were ever album forces. In a flash the Beatles invented the force which drives popular music, the artist album, oh, and tossed in a concept called “rock” at the same time.

There were, at the same time countless studio innovations led by a belief that the word “no” didn’t matter anymore...anything was possible because and you could at least try. The power of musical invention was given a new, ruthlessly inventive voice. The studio innovations that revolutionised popular music didn’t all come from The Beatles (although many did), but the motivation and ethos to drive forward most certainly and inescapably did.

The Beatles were able to take what was being done in the US and toss it back at them, saying...look, this is where you can take it. It was the power of The Beatles and the voice it gave the “British Invasion” that filled the garages of the USA with thousands of bands, not the least of whom were likes of The Stooges. That the Velvets could have existed without The Beatles is simply naïve.

Naïve….like statements like “truly great bands don’t make terrible records”…which is then followed by the incredible line “that lack of editorial control and judgement is a large part of what I have against them…”. What lack of “editorial control” allowed a line like “truly great bands don’t make terrible records” to even make it to the screen.

What insipid nonsense….what, like The Rolling Stones, Rob? Like Their Satanic Majesties or like a few of the Miracles’ lesser moments, or Coltrane’s drug infused indulgences or Miles Davis’ rather embarrassing attempts at hip hop…these people aren’t truly great? What a silly thing to say…

Whole concepts changed courtesy of The Beatles. The Beatles gave the UK a musical voice that it had never had before and a music industry that mattered internationally, it was the Beatles that made The Gang of Four or The Clash or Oasis¸ or The Chemical Bros possible. It was The Beatles and their momentum that made Robert Elms possible.

Musically, you won’t get much argument from me about the slippery road to bloated indulgence that Sgt Pepper opened the doors to. But that is like blaming Steve Silk Hurley for Lola’s Theme…it’s a silly stretch of logic.

They recognised the drift themselves, they were after all still northern lads, and within a few months were retrenching towards the magnificence of the White album. A Day in the Life and Mr Kite aside, I don’t think its one of their finer moments, Revolver, With The Beatles , A Hard Days Night, Rubber Soul, The Beatles and Abbey Road all eclipse it and are pretty much universally regarded as doing so. As I said earlier, understanding your subject before you write about it is important.

Elms says that punk was needed to burn away the excesses of Pepper, but punk was just a return to the place where The Beatles were at in 1963, and it was a place that they had returned to themselves by 1969. If you don’t think Cold Turkey or Ballad of John & Yoko aren’t punk records then you aren’t listening. But then again, I think it’s pretty evident that Mr Elms hasn’t listened.

Lennon was still there at the end. The unreleased rock version of I’m Losing You is a magnificent beast, but more to the point, his last recording (and it was more him than Yoko despite the name on the sleeve), in his hand as he was shot, was Walking on Thin Ice, a revolutionary record on its release in 1981 (although maybe not as revolutionary as Spandau Ballet whom Robert was involved with then…Spandau Ballet…oh dear) and an underground and club anthem for years that inspired the No Wave movement in NYC.

How can a truly great songwriter write a song like All You Need is Love, a song that went around the world and engrained itself in the global consciousness as a part of mankind’s vocabulary until this day? Easy….when it’s written in the same twelve month period that he wrote A Day in The Life, I Am The Walrus and Strawberry Fields.

Yellow Submarine is dismissed and yet it appears on the same album as Tomorrow Never Knows, a song that set the blueprint for much of the next forty odd years. Yellow Submarine, rather than reflecting poor song writing or editorial control blatantly reflects exactly the obvious. It is indicative of a wry sense of Northern humour, a sense of understanding exactly where they come from, of a sophistication that Little Feat or The Rolling Stones could never aspire to. The Beatles were never monochromatic. Those other acts made some fine records but, seriously, even a superficial overview and a little knowledge of popular musical history, and indeed history itself, dismisses any fantasy that they had the same impact or musical vision as Lennon—McCartney-Harrison-Starr.

not your finest moment Robert…

Thursday, December 08, 2005

How the hell do you do a top five…..

Ok, list time. End of the year, almost, but close enough as matters, another best of. I guess it’s an excuse really for me to bleat on about the records I liked best this year.

In the assumption that there is someone out there that cares? No not really.

It’s a personal thing that may or may not make any difference to anything or anybody, I don’t care, but music is and I hope always will be a crucial part of my existence on this increasingly shaky rock. And the urge I’ve always had has been to share that, something that kept me on the radio for close to two decades (and, once again, to those that may care, there is an Extended Play on George FM on Wednesday 21st courtesy of Mr Fell who has given up his spot for a week, ta Grant).

Is it an ego thing, maybe it is without consciously intending it to be, but more, simply put, I like playing music to people and talking about it. God knows I’ve dragged more than a few through the more obscure regions of my record collection in the early hours of the morning. I guess most of them want me to actually finish a record before I move onto the next.

Anyway, without to much more tu-tuing around (have you ever tried to explain that phrase to a barely-English speaking Indonesian crowd…bemusement doesn’t describe the looks), these, for better or worse are the records I’ve liked lot, and there are a few, over the past eleven and a bit months:

Ok disco re-edits and the like: It goes without saying, but I will regardless, there are good, indifferent, and, countless bad. This little cottage industry has exploded in the past twelve months. Every hack bedroom DJ seems to think they have the ability to, here we go again, tu-tu around with classic and not so classic tracks (being old does not make a record good). It’s a step beyond the shoddy Grant Nelson school of time stretching a song then banging a rolling 4/4 under it. Still the hack approach is the same. The essence of dance music is its punk element, the D.I.Y, bedroom-ness, but that doesn’t make any D.I.Y. record right, especially when we all have access to a copy of Acid. At least when tape and a razor were used the skill level required, and the determination to actually do it made the bar higher. I love the way you can read in a book about the edit at 1:16, and then when you listen to the bugger you can actually hear it, you can almost see the sticky tape slipping across the head. With that in mind, I like most of Greg Wilson’s Credit to the Edit. Not all of it, there is the odd track which grates a little but, although these are actually re-created turntable edits mostly, the ethic is the same. His hard to find I was a Teenage DJ is the same, especially the killer title track which was on DJ friendly 12” too. In a similar style, the Original Block Party Edits, from Frank Tope’s OST label has too many killer sharp edits to name here but the Black Science Orchestra’s edit of Patti Jo’s stone classic “Let Me Believe In You” was an often repeated 10 minutes in recent months for me. Both these albums take me back to a time when I first started hanging out in dark clubs listening to black music so they may be more of a personal thing…

12” wise on the edit front, I loved the Italian Neroli Slam Jam singles, snippets of things you may never have heard before, like kraut rock, severely fucked with; Todd Terje’s Michael Jackson and George McCrae tweaks; the NYC2 single was a lovely revisit of an old Nu Groove record I liked a lot the first time around about 17 years ago; Prins Thomas did a pretty neat four track EP on Rong which was a turntable fixture for me in the early part of the year, especially the old French disco tune, the name of which escapes me right now, which he mutated into some warped noisy techno thing; the Moxie 12”s were all reliably essential, but that’s about it for me

The fashion victim in me went gaga over the rise of Big Apple punk funk in recent years, once again, because of where I was musically a long time ago, and I’m still there I suppose. The Out Hud album Let Us Never Speak of It Again, but more especially the single One to Leave were quirky, irreverent and fun; the Tussle album Kling Klang was initially one dimensional but its Bootsy goes to CBGBs grind was pretty appealing and I played it a lot; the DFA album, went all major labelish with EMI but still managed to put out three of the years best albums, from LCD Soundsystem, The Juan Maclean with the wonderful Less Than Human, and the glorious synth punk wash of Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom’s Day’s of Mars. There are so many ghosts in these records but they effortlessly look forward too. Somebody at EMI is smart…LCD could be massive.

After a gap of god knows how many years the house releases from New York City finally recaptured some of the spirit it once had, moving away from the post MAW house by numbers which fed the Defected compilations but not much else. And they did it by toughening up, by adding at times a techier edge, almost moving back to the Tribal (as in the label), almost epic feel that symbolised so much of the best music from this city in early to mid of the last decade. Kerri Chandler, still, after all these years, had a string of killer records, Bar a Tym was one of the year’s anthems, and worthy it was too, I loved, big loud thing it is, it but hated the unnecessary UK remixes; the follow up Sunset was almost as good, if more subtle, but got overshadowed by Bar; Back 2 The Acid, was better than either of those but in itself was overshadowed by the majestic Six Pianos, an epic trek to Detroit in the mid nineties and one of my singles of the year; and then there was A Demo by 6:23 Quentin Harris, of course was justifiably one of the producers of the year, his Lets Be Young, both in its original and Community Vocal remix takes are simply fantastic, big, dance records that are of their time; his bootleg mix of Luther Vandross’ Apologise has been a huge favourite of mine in 2005, its simplicity and beauty is worthy obituary for one the great voices, placing him firmly in a contemporary surrounding, somewhere he’d not been for too long ; his Ron Trent collaboration, Happiness, was in a similar vein; and The Shelter Anthem which was simply an old school reference point for the kids to try and understand where this all comes from. Its all disco y’see…it never went away…

Also from the NY axis, on Ibadan, I’m a sucker for Jerome Sydenham’s dark dubby symphonies and Road to Calabar and Stockholm Go Bang were well cool, as was another favourite for the year, Herb Martin’s one sided percussion fest, Soul Drums.

I bought a copy of Kraftwerk’s live double, Maximum Minimum in Singapore and after finally getting past the copy protection nonsense, thrashed it relentlessly for a month or two…and was sorely tempted by the boxed vinyl but common sense won out for a change. More records by old soldiers: I liked the loud tracks, and a couple of the ballads on the Paul Weller album As Is Now, but it was more a whim for the past than a genuine “damn this works”. I have a soft spot for Paul simply because of The Jam and the early Style Council records but it’s a soft spot anchored firmly in pleasant memories and he does little to enthral me now; the Elvis Costello return to form The Delivery Man really was that and it bloody well worked; finally, guilty pleasures time, I loved big slabs of the Paul McCartney Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, one of my most played albums of 2005. I guess when one gets to, the quaintly named, middle age, you can listen to virtually anything without shame. I’m certainly not going to hide from my musical past and the first couple of McCartney albums were a part of them.

I also warmed pretty much to the New Order re-comeback, Waiting for the Siren’s Call, which fitted pretty well with their Singles compilation which gave me warm fuzzies.

The Norwegian connection got massive amounts of attention this year, and deservedly so. The Lindstrom & Prins Thomas album was a wonderfully textured collection that is still growing on me, and the twisted mutant disco of the Major Swellings album from Thomas alone is perhaps my album of the year. These guys were relentless in their rush of singles this year but the ones that hit the mark for me included Paaskeyld off the Lindstrom Plague the Kid II ep and the 10” Violent Group, and Thomas’s shimmering Goettsching and the remix of Chicken Lips’ Sweet Cow, and the Tribulations remix and the…actually most of them, truth be known.

And to Carl Craig, yep one after another ballistic and breathtaking in their quality, barely taking a breath and only faltering, for me, with the Fabric 25 album which I found quite a letdown after his Auckland live set earlier this year. The Another Day ep, with its subliminal Sandstorms only got better after the release of the remixed, and totally revisited Darkness backed with Angel. He reissued Landcrusing, albeit in re-visited form, maybe the greatest album of the post Detroit electronic era; sympathetically tweaked Hugh Masekela’s Doing it for the Boys on the otherwise redundant Verve Remixed 3; but saved the best for the end of the year, the sensual climatic remix of Laurent GarniersBarbiturik Blues, the classic tech soul of Terry Brookes and Aaron Soul’s City Life, and the monumental Falling Up from Theo Parrish for some reason only on Japanese 10” to date but a record, that in itself justifies virtually everything that’s ever been said about C2

I’ve long lost track of hip hop and its something I’m a little sad about. Until a few years ago I bought and consumed hip hop with a hunger. But I still buy the odd thing…I’ve always bought Common’s albums, and whilst I still regard 2003’s Electric Circus as his masterpiece, I loved Be this year, I could just feel the hand of some A&R guy at Universal a little too strongly. I liked Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock a lot in the sunshine in Bali.

There were dozens of singles that worked for me this year and I’ll never remember them all, especially since most of my vinyl is a long way from me as I write. So…..Quiet Village’s Can’t be Beat ; Black Joy’s La Stache; the Frantic Flowers Sampler and the Hutton Drive 324 single on the same label; Soul Mekanik’s Wanna Get Wet; I:Cube’s Chicago Sur Seine; FK & U-Roy’s Rootsman, especially the dub; Ame’s Rej; two remixes from Abe Duque: Take Care from Chloe, and the neat Expression from Vinny Troia; New Young Pony Club’s cool post Blondie 7” Ice Cream; on the same label, Tirk, Maurice Fulton’s Mom, The Video Broke, and his production of Kathy Diamond’s Sunshine on Cottage; Yukari Fresh’s incredibly limited Break remixes; Blake Baxter & Mark Romboy’s acidic Freakin’; Mathew Jonson’s stunning Followed by Angels; Vince Watson’s Sunrise; Slam’s Human as remixed by Vector Lovers; a few by Anders Trentemoller….his mix of Fred Everything’s Friday, and his very cool mix of Oh You and I by Unai, and his own Sunstroke; David Duriez’s mix of Ok Rocks on Artofdisco; Nick Chacona’s Angel Dust Swan Dive; and finally two from Patrick Chardronnet, which were and are big records for me in 2005, Phonix, with Afrilounge, and the minimally beautiful Eve by Day which is, happily, playing as I write.

I listened to lots of old soul, disco, funk, jazz, reggae, house and rock records in 2005 but this is not really the place to write about them. Suffice to say that Eddie Kendrick’s Philly drenched He’s a Friend was a major discovery and got rather thrashed.

Locally, and I write this from a desk outdoors in Bali, so I mean enzild, I lost touch a bit but failed to find an album which really did too much. I own quite a few local albums from 2005 and kinda liked the Phoenix Foundation album. Many of the uusal suspects (Roger Perry, Joost, Cuffy) were noticeably quiet in 2005 so I expect to hear things in the new year...please. Tomorrowpeople did a killer remix for Pluto, which, sticking their heads in the sand, they refused to sanction…when will these people learn about expanding their markets. He, TP, that is, provided me with an unnamed track which I played a lot and still do; many of the best things I heard in 2005 were unreleased demos, that arrived in the mail and Tom Ward sent me a series of very cool mix CDs which were quite a soundtrack to a few days and nights, as did the Soultrust guys; The Others released a wicked 7” and I acquired a bunch of forthcoming demos; Greg Churchill’s mix of SJD was seriously good but his own Automatique and the new Lesser Meaning (Techno single of the week in the UK’s influential Update and number 7 on their overall chart)are the real deal and the latter is gonna be huge. He offered to do a mix of Savage but got turned down….as I said, when are these guys gonna work out marketing 101. Greg also, despite his international success, got ignored in New Zealand outside the dance scene, especially by the recording industry and it associated agenices…Budonkadonk is probably the biggest inner city anthem of the past decade but gets ignored….its indicative….

And if you think I’m gong to spend half a week linking to that lot on 64kbs Indonesian “broadband”……

I still believe in….

It’s been 25 years since I wrote, in tears, an obituary for John Lennon for Murray Cammick’s Rip It Up, and I still miss the bugger and hear him in virtually every note I listen many of my generation, he changed my life, it’s that simple.

I’ve been meaning toss together something more and probably will at some time in the near future

But in the interim….love ya John….always will

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Maybe I’m Amazed…..

Yesterday morning I made caught the Garuda flight from Denpasar to Yogyakarta in central Java. Nothing to special in that really. I came back on the late evening flight and arrived back about ten at night to a friendly but quiet Bali. I’ve done it a few times in recent months and I guess what was once quite an adventure has become rather ordinary. Alan Whicker…remember him? I used to love him on the telly when I was a lad…all walk shorts and knotted hankies…I could never figure out whether he was gay or not, not that it was any of my business and not that it mattered in any way it simply was one of those things you wonder…I still don’t know and it still doesn’t matter at all…once said, quite recently actually (I thought he was long dead and there he is popping up in the Guardian pushing his new book), that the first time you arrive in a town you should write down every thing that astounds you because the next day it starts to become ordinary and everyday. And that’s the way with Jogja, the first time I visited, less than a year ago, I took about 75 photographs, and walked, somewhat warily keeping to the busy roads, rather gob smacked.

It’s not Grey Lynn.

That’s all gone now, I’ve spent the best part of a year in this country, speak a little of the language, and although I’ll always be foreign, I’m not a stranger in my mind.

Yesterday I had five hours to kill and did a walk through the markets and the back alleys of central Jogja which I enjoyed more than I expected to. I found a street the length of K Road that sells only pirate DVDs and CDs and to honest, I bought a couple of CDs…a Santana CD with every track they’d ever released pre 1990 on MP3, simply because I wanted to format shift Soul Sacrifice off the first album from the vinyl I own to was NZ$0.80 for the lot…mea Culpa! I love the Department stores full of Xmas glitter above Muslim shawl displays, the dozens of bent over old men, backs long ruined, down dirty gangs weighing precious stones and the groups of giggling school girls that could be anywhere on the planet if it wasn’t for that cheeky Indonesian grin that you see everywhere here and nowhere else. Some of the awe came back

And Garuda..yep, it’s a flight like any other Garuda flight which means it really isn’t like any other. The runway at Jogja International Airport is a piece of work and you tend to bounce around and across it rather randomly but you get there. The woman next to me was down praying feverishly to her god. I’d rather put my faith in the maintenance crews but that’s a not a comforting thought on this 737, which had life jacket instructions in Russian stencilled on the back of the seats. I guess they were stripped from an Il-18 or something back in the day. The broken ashtrays were superglued shut. I once flew business class on Garuda for six hours with every light on the plane. It was the middle of the night and the inflight entertainment system crashed at the same time. It rocks your faith in any systems, the completion of any of those rather important checklists that may or may not be in required before take off. The crew seemed to have no idea what exactly to do and smiled before hiding. But Indonesia comes with a degree of acceptance of these things.

On the other hand, trying to explain to a Muslim cabin crew that the wine is corked is fun too.

As usual I killed the hour and a half with a book and the iPod and decided to listen to Neil Diamond’s 12 Songs as I’d been given a copy. To be honest I had found it rather hard to get enthused about it but there is that Rick Rubin factor. The spectre of Rick riding to the rescue of some American icon who had lost their way and were ripe for the Rubin touch; whose careers are saved by his rekindling what was always there but had been smothered by the machine, is part of the contemporary US rock’n’roll wisdom.

He did it, rather successfully, to Johnny Cash. But Neil Diamond is no Johnny Cash and I was right to have reservations. Diamond has some fine songs to his credit, he was quite a Brill factory tunesmith, although never quite in the Goffin-King league, and had his moments. Unfortunately his moments were all more or less over by 1970. I’ve yet to see any one list Neil’s post 1970 killers. Since then his high points have been an album about a bloody seagull, a massively successful double live album of his pre ’70 highpoints and a duet with the odious Barbara Streisand complaining about a lack of flowers.

A record company person who knows more than most of us told me some time back that Neil smokes so much puff these days that its all something of a vague mystery to him anyway.

And a mystery to me..why am I writing about a Neil Diamond record?????

So the Neil Diamond thingy is bound to get Grammies and it’s already had critical plaudits everywhere…critics love this sort of shit, but shit is what it mostly is. Mostly…I’m On to You is ok in an average sort of barroom way, as is We. The rest shudders under its self important affected unpretentiousness and I’ve done the only decent thing and recovered the space on the hard drive for a better purpose.

And I got rid of the Sony BMG spyware.

Lots of old people made “comeback” records in 2005. Some were ok…like, and I though I’d never say this, but the Rolling bloody Stones who had one killer song (Rain Fall Down complete with an Ashley Beedle edit) even if the rest was a bit naff, some were good, like the Paul Weller one which I played quite a few more times than I expected to, and two were great. New Order’s Waiting for The Siren’s Call is and was a great guitar pop record which dwarfed much of the new wave of British guitar pop; and Sir Paul McCartney’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard which sounds like an old Beatles record, or at least a part of it. Bits and pieces sound like they were written for the Get Back sessions and then finished 35 years later. And songs like Anyway and How Kind of You are simply lovely songs and as good as anything he’s ever done. Or any pop musician for that matter, especially one in his mid sixties with more money than he could possibly ever know what to do with.

McCartney might have released a very large number of truly appalling records over the years, and as often as not been a prize twat, but I’ve got an unassailable soft spot for him. I mean he was a Beatle and they were the reason I ended up spending most of my life involved in popular (and peripherally popular) music.

Guilty pleasures…I’ve got a few…..

The killer record:

Terry Brookes featuring Aaron SoulCity Life (Carl Craig vocal mix) single of the year right now hands down. I don’t know where brothers Terry and Aaron are from, Europe I guess since this is on a Dutch label and Terry has released a couple of singles on European labels, but Carl Craig does something special again in a year when he’s done it over and over again. In the same way he nailed 2003 with Angola, right at the end of the year and redefined the tribal techno, this drags his sound back to Detroit circa 1993 when KMS were doing all those wonderful Chez Damier tracks and bangs Motown back into the mix, but a more contemporary Motown personified by the likes of Kem

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Like Diana Ross / I’m the Boss

I have, happily, refrained from commenting on the recent Sony BMG spyware mess for a couple of fairly good reasons. Firstly others have done a much better job than I could hope to and I’m happy just to sit back and follow the story and the way it evolves. I love the comments from my friend Simon and think he nailed it pretty much. All this fuss really is simply a blip on the radar that warns of the impending storm…the real crime here is in the list of albums affected. Ok, the Dion album is excluded but simply releasing the rest is a crime against good taste. This brings me to the second part of why I haven’t bothered commenting until now. I think I’ve used the term “suicide note” before but this sort of desperation really reeks of a scorched earth policy..if we can’t will then we are going to take the whole thing down with us. The record industry talks of doom, of downloading, of burning, of anything that pushes the blame away from their doors for the collapse in sales in recent times. But just look at that list, what a bloated ugly bunch of records they really are. In a craven desperate run for profits they forget, as always the reason they exist…the song and the passion that song brings out in a human being. We all feel it. I’m not afraid to die but I’m scared to death of never being able to hear music again.

The glory days of the eighties, widely seen in the industry as a golden age, a time when record sales rocketed worldwide, but especially in the USA, which drives the global music industry were largely a result of two things. A quick look at the US charts of 1980 or so is a pretty depressing thing. Bloated, turgid, for want of a better word, shit, like Kansas, Journey, Van Halen, REO Speedwagon dominates the album charts and the only memorable things on the singles chart are black. Pretty scary stuff and not an industry showing signs of a healthy future but by the mid eighties that all changed. The most obvious thing that saved their bacon was the CD. But the other thing, which revolutionised everything was British pop, the stuff that raised its head in the aftermath of punk, the Culture Clubs, the Whams, the ABCs etc which in an odd way represent as much as anything the true legacy of Malcolm McLaren and John Lydon (Johnny, Johnny… released half a dozen of the greatest singles of all time and one of the finest albums ever then ended up parodying yourself in 1996 with that sad Pistols quote Blake Baxter, What the fuck happened?). MTV and British pop came crashing together and the rest, as they say…. If you don’t think Van Halen’s Jump isn’t that band trying their damnedest to sound like Flock of Seagulls then you are wrong.

And it’s the failure of the record industry to embrace the song again, especially in the rock’n’roll world, which is killing them. The MP3 is the 7” single and just as disposable, and so it should be. Download, burn and delete…it’s not destroying record sales, it’s the only thing keeping them alive. The number of blank cds sold is no indication that burning is destroying the industry as these are ultimately disposable items (I’m more worried about the landfill problem). The assumption that every song downloaded or burnt is a lost sale is so obviously flawed I won’t even go there. As soon as the industry embraces the technology, encourages the future, then they might have one….once the industry gets its head around the passion that this piracy indicates again then it can move forward.

The other thing which Simon goes into in his blog which I’m gonna touch on briefly is this whole Fallujah WP thing. What really gets me is the fucking stupidity and arrogance. If you really need to see how arrogant these pricks are check out Cheney today. From the most corrupt dishonest American politician since Nixon, this really is rich, paraphrased as: “we lied and fucked your country and I became a lot richer in the process as did many of my friends so now its time to roll over and take some more”.

It’s not about the Democrats and the Republicans for god’s sake. The Democrats have blood on their hands too. It’s about those poor begotten people in Iraq who have had their country ruined, their lives taken, their world turned upside down to suit the grand purposes of the US government and their generally compliant populace. Despite all the bullshit about freedom, tyranny, democracy and all the other Kentucky Fried Clichés, the place is immeasurably worse off than it was three years ago. Saddam’s tyranny is replaced by another (oh…you only tortured seven…that’s ok then), Chalabi, Cheney’s buddy and just as odious, looks likely to return; death is random everyday as terror organisations, which were given a happy breeding ground to replace Afghanistan, kill with regular impunity; towns are destroyed from the air, just like Saddam with chemical weapons of questionable legality (and its got nothing to do with the letter of the law legality you idiots, you are the liberators, remember, this is the very thing you claimed you wanted to liberate Iraq from…) . Its about our world and how the United States has fucked it…Democrats and Republicans. So, forgive me if I sneer at your blame game….

Oh and Link Wray died…sad.

I need to mention some songs that hit a nerve today………

Ok….Sonny & Cher-Just You….Sonny hung around with Spector and learnt a lot. This one, from about 65 is pure homage and glorious it is too. Sonny might’ve died coked up as he skied into a tree and Cher might be a bit sad around the edges (although I like her and she’s made a good record or two), but check out the bit about 30 second in when Sonny drops in…whooo…which leads to The Ramones-Danny Says…off the much underrated End of The Century. I know Spector’s a nutter and he probably killed that poor girl but what I wouldn’t have done to have heard a Spector produced Joey Ramone solo album…Independent Movement-Slipping Away…a tip to Bill Brewster for this one. From 1976, one of those, is it funk, is it disco records that evolved in to the boogie sound off the early eighties. I played it five times yesterday….fits nicely with Lee Douglas-Same Changes…on Rong, very Levanish, bubbly, funky, glistening, …all the clichés but I like it. Roxanne Shante-Have a Nice Day….Marley Marl on the board and pure genius. She’s an academic now I believe but she made at least half a dozen killer singles in her day…Kerri Chandler-Six Pianos… lush, very late eighties Detroit, with more than a touch of the likes of Mathew Jonson. One of those records…well, well one of those records that leave me a little speechless. I really like Happiness by another old trooper, Ron Trent (who has made more than a few dull noodlefests in recent years) and Quentin Harris. Nothing special, just pleasant old school vocal house but it works. Finally Patti & The Lovelites’ oddly named Love Bandit on Cotillion from the mid seventies, very Barbara Mason. There seems to be an endless supply of these one off gems…check this….click

Saturday, November 12, 2005

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

Winston Churchill

Here I go again, but something in all this nonesense in Australia simply doesn’t smell kosher (not the right word here I know but somehow, somewhere, we have to all coexist). Australian politics really holds little interest for seems to be populated by scumbags on both sides of the political spectrum. I mean Hawke was a scumbag, Fraser was a scumbag, and I have trouble thinking of any politician of any note or of any political colour...maybe that guy from the Greens... who couldn’t, even in my most forgiving and generous moments, be reasonably described as a scumbag. Honesty and a respect for the electorate and the office seem to be alien to the world’s dullest city, Canberra (although it has a massive sex and drug industry to alleviate that boredom).

My problem is that John Howard is a scumbag tour-de-force, pure and simple, and he leaves the rest in the dust. There is ample evidence of that. Look at the appalling Tampa incident and the children overboard incident when he was caught blatantly lying to the electorate (but still won). Then there is the shameful episode with the East Timor reserves. I genuinely believe the NZ Government went into Timor in a naïve moment, for the right reasons. Australia did no such thing, it was an oil and gas grab pure and simple and it served a double purpose in that it destabilised the Indonesian Government, something that has been at the core of Australian Foreign policy for a long time. That they seemed happy, no actually, to be more precise, totally unconcerned about the suspect legalities of the grab and the effect it would have on of the world’s poorest nations is more evidence of the real motives. Then there is Kyoto and the whole Iraq thing. Howard’s gutless toadying towards the Bush regime makes Blair (almost) look like a man of integrity. I have trouble attributing a rationale to Howard’s motives in all this beyond some self serving self aggrandisement. Certainly it was in no way in the best interests of his nation and if there is substance in this week’s raids that further illustrates that. No-one can seriously think that a fundamentalist attack would have happened on Australia’s self-described hallowed earth, if Howard hadn’t become Bush’s pembantu in recent years...actually that’s not fair on pembantus..they are usually hard and decent workers and are often well regarded by their employers. I really doubt whether, Bush and those that control him hold Howard in anything but contempt, despite the façade that greets him in Texas or DC. Anyway the point is, Howard is a proven liar and a person who, on past evidence is happy to manipulate events and human lives, regardless of the pain it may cause, to his own end.

And, despite the increasing “revelations” by the powers that be this thing stinks badly.

There is the scant evidence, now being held behind closed doors and leaked bit by bit to increase the public unease. Lawyers are being denied access and those arrested are being held “Guantanamo Bay style conditions”. There are the comments from a whole variety of “establishment” figures, not the least was this from an Australian police counter-terrorism chief:

"their motivations were the same motivations that terorrism has in its form all around the world" - but also as followers of Osama bin Laden. "There's no doubt that this group followed that same philosophy."

The pre-determination of guilt does neither Australia nor the victims any good and whips up the sort of scarily ignorant verbiage illustrated by many on this page.

Those arrested are an established, well known and convenient target, and if London showed us anything, the real threat (and I firmly believe there is a strong and imminent threat against Australia and this has done nothing to alleviate it) comes from a place you least expect it to…

Maybe I’m wrong and this bunch were about to take out Central Station during rush hour but it’s far too close to all those terror alerts that the DOHS have fired off in the US at appropriate moments. And with Howard aspiring to be a low rent sub Neo-con, it’s all too convenient timing wise, the evidence seems incredibly thin; and hopefully will cause Howard to suffer the sort of damage that Blair suffered this week. But I doubt it…the UK’s scumbag–to-politician ratio is much healthier than the Great Southern Land.

On a similar note, I read with increasing horror, several hate filled anti-Muslim (or anti anyone who isn’t god fearing (as long as it’s the right one) and freedom-lovin’) web-blogs this week in the aftermath of the terrible beheading of the three young girls in Sulawesi. The black and white hate therein belies the fact that in Indonesia, nothing is what it seems. That simple concept would be absolutely alien to those righteous armchair soldiers. So it is with interest I read this analysis of the recent events in Poso, which put a somewhat different light on it, a light which, having lived here for only a short time, already makes perfect sense in an Indonesian way. The ignorance or indifference that much of the world shows to this, the worlds largest Muslim nation is betrayed by the fact that Microsoft Word’s spell checker puts a red wavey line under Sulawesi….part of a chain of islands, along with Maluku (which also gets wavy lines, Bill) which drove the direction of the world’s history for several hundred years.

If someone had had told me when I was, for want of a better word, young, that I would be in Indonesia at this time in my life……

But what an odd thing it is for me see the punk generation, of which I am proud to be one, head towards fifty. Kerry Buchanan, whom I’ve known for 28 years, since he and a few mates turned up to Disco D’ora’s in Newton Road to see the Suburban Reptiles, told me he was about to turn fifty soon. It’s still there…D’Ora’s that is…if you stop at the Caltex Station and look up to the left of it, it was the top floor. I booked the Reptiles in there early 77, it was a failed disco, and we managed to pull an ok crowd plus the odd bemused disco kid. There was a broken mirror ball, a smoke machine and some bad dayglo graffiti. Perfect. The most memorable thing about it was original Reps drummer, Des Edwards, pulling a big hunk of raw meat out of his trousers (he was a butcher’s apprentice by day, and not a great drummer….last heard of he was a juggler in Australia..nice guy) and slamming it down on the snare, to some effect. Anyway, other big thing was a bunch of kids arriving from the North Shore for the first time. One was Kerry, another was John No-one. They later become Rooter and then The Terrorways.

So we punks are getting old. Some have been past the cusp of 50 for a while and I turned over a few weeks back. I guess like every generation we assumed we would never get old, that it would last forever, and we were the ones, but we had the perfect soundtrack to our assumption, the nihilistic self styled revolution that was punk rock. My Generation was never as fuck-you as White least to us. But the initial burst of UK punk (as derivative as it was of the NY scene, it added a certain snottyness that the CBGBs crew lacked), as a musical revolution was incredibly short lived and the radical had turned to the cliché almost as soon as it happened. What broke new ground in January 1977 was stale and formulated by the time The Sex Pistols released the over-produced Bollocks album in August or so. The revolution had moved on and I like to think those of us there then rolled with it. Some of us anyway…. So, we are aging, and generally, fairly gracefully, even if I do say so myself. Bad drugs or the misuse thereof took a few early on but the survival rate to the half century, at least amongst those I associated with (god knows about those that disappeared back into the public bars of the North Shore and Avondale) has been pretty good and I get quite a buzz out of having known some of these people for so long. If punk did anything, it pulled the cream to the top… ……………………….

Songs in the sun today:

2 Phat C**ts-Ride….the last decent thing either Sasha (who did some great remixes at the dawn of his career…Urban Soul etc) and BT (who made two magnificent 12s for Deep Dish way back when but then immediately turned to complete shite) did...but what a record

James Brown I Wanna Be Around…off the peerless Ballads collection…the GFOS goes schmaltz

Pashka -Island Breeze (Trentemoller Remix)….almost Balearic…the title says it all..not sure about the vox but the underlying swell is just fine

Theo Parrish-Falling Up (Carl Craig Remix)…ha! I’ve finally got my hands on this one sided 10” Japanese single. Deep as fuck…pure genius

Angie Stone- I Wasn't Kidding…the killer new song off the Greatest Hits that’s going around and round in my head day in day out

Friday, November 04, 2005

Other Fine albums from our Catalogue you may enjoy…..

I know its only a record company and record companies come and go but I feel the need to say something about the twinge of sadness I feel with the passing of Festival Records.....sorry… FMR…but I guess to those of us who have been around for a year or two, they will always be Festival.

Yep, a record company is just a record company, and this one has been controlled for most of its existence, at least in Australia, by the not-user-friendly Rupert Murdoch, who bled it for much of its life. But Festival, at least on this side of the pond, was something else. It was, for years, half locally owned (by Kerridge Odeon and before that by a series of entrepreneurs) and it had a freedom of spirit and a drive, by virtue of the people who worked there and the fact that it was small and relied on its deals with offshore indies and its suss in the local market to survive. In the eighties most of Festival’s major indies, Island, A&M, Arista, Jive, and Chrysalis, were bought and effectively turned into little more than names by multi-nationals. Whilst under the wing of Festival, all those companies enjoyed better success in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world. Even Mushroom jumped ship for a while, although its subsidiary, Flying Nun stayed in the fold. Things were tough after that and never, despite the best efforts of some pretty talented people, never really recovered. The surprise is that it took Murdoch so long to offload FMR…rumours having been rife for years.

Trips to several conferences in Australia over the years confirmed pretty much what had been obvious to many for a long time, that a&r was not a strength in the Australian operation, and hadn’t been since the golden years of the sixties. Indeed at one of those conferences, at some hellhole in Coffs Harbour, MD Roger Grierson stood up and announced that whoever had signed that “last piece of shit, was fired”. Sadly things didn’t improve much, and they even neutered pretty much Mushroom after they absorbed it. It’s a tough call trying to think of the last act signed by FMR in Australia that couldn’t be generously described as toss. Anything vaguely interesting on their books right now comes out of NZ.

And I would guess that if Warners are smart they have bought the company as much for these as its glorious catalogue.

New Zealand’s operation was different. For much of the past three decades Festival was a cornerstone of local music, giving a home to those that needed one, pressing and distribution facilities, and a place to store all those unsold discs. Much of the history of New Zealand’s popular music is tied to the company, especially in the era before the multi nationals showed much interest in NZ music (with a few exceptions, in real terms about six years ago).

The lineage of New Zealand labels and artists that owe their (often brief) careers to Festival is astounding. Think…Th’Dudes and Dave Dobbyn, The Exponents, Deep Grooves, Wildside, Mikey Havoc, Scribe, The Screaming Meemees, The Blams, Hello Sailor, The Chills, Tall Poppy, Headless Chickens, D4, Mar-ve-elle, Upper Hutt Posse, MC OJ and Rhythm Slave, Bats, Car Crash Set, Carly Binding, Coconut Rough, Ngaire, 3 The Hard Way, Look Blue Go Purple, The Clean…damn, the whole bloody Flying Nun catalogue…and that list took about 2 minutes..there are hundreds more, major and lesser….

I took Nice’n’Urlich to FMR and I doubt anyone else could’ve seen the potential in that. We sold over 40,000 albums across the series. It was a perfect FMR record. In a similar way, does anyone really think that Dirty, as talented as Callum is, would’ve had the success they had with Scribe without FMR’s talents and understanding of detail. Or with anyone else…..

With Festival, then FMR, every sale counted, it had to, and they took pleasure in taking a record to a few thousand sales. A Festival success would often be counted as a failure anywhere else. But it wasn’t.

When I had my clubs, it was Festival who turned up week in and week out with new records, with rare remixes. Thus Eric B & Rakim’s Paid in Full was a far bigger hit in NZ than anywhere else in the world. Likewise Womack & Womack’s Teardrops.

When I first when to Festival, at the instigation of Victor Stent, in 1980, I’d released a few singles, sold a few thousand, distributing effectively out of my flat and had several hits but had hit a brick wall. I found an independent synergy with Festival that I guess others did later.

The company, then, was run, like a fiefdom, by Ray Porter. It was Ray who used to put ads on the back of album covers for other records in his catalogue, without making any effort to consult the acts involved, so a an album for, say, Traffic might have four Shirley Bassey albums advertised on the back (in fact they always included Shirl…Ray had a thing about her). By the time I arrived these were, thankfully, in the company’s history. Although Ray did try and insist, when The Screaming Meemees’ See Me Go became the first NZ single to enter at number one, that we put the band in a club that week to quickly record a live album to add it to. I resisted. He also gave me a golden licensing deal with Propeller, offering me 25% of retail, a deal that was to cause Festival major headaches in the future after Ray left (he knew he was leaving when I signed) when it was realised that a most-favoured-nations clause in the A&M contract (they were on 20%) could cost the company millions.

That problem was covered with a side handshake deal between me and Ray’s successor, the large, in every sense of the word, Jerry Wise, a man who I still regard as a mentor and whom I miss to this day. Jerry was English and used to work as an accountant for The Who and as such I guess he really had seen it all and took everything in a gracious stride.

Jerry and I always got along fairly well and he saved my label’s and my bacon several times and took our dealings very personally. He was open, honest, generous, both in spirit and financially. We had a run in with a studio that had gone back on its word on a deal and Jerry took them to task over this, which was something he didn’t have to do. In fact Jerry, over the years, did an awful lot for a lot of people that he didn’t have to do, and there are many of us who owe a great deal to this giant of a man. Friday nights at Festival, with Jerry’s open door policy, became quite an institution, something which survived him to the end of the company. I respected him immensely and his, far too early, funeral, in Dominion Road, indicated that I was in no way alone.

I guess the personal side of Festival was what really made it what it was. There have been quite a few comments over the years about Festival being neither an independent or a major, sitting more or less in between. It wasn’t a major because, despite failed attempts over the years by the Australian office, it had no multinational operations supplying product. And yet it wasn’t an indie because it was owned by Newscorp. Rather, it was an indie trying hard to be a major.

But it was the independence of spirit that defined it and that spirit came from the staff and management over the years. There are too many to name one by one, but Festival and later FMR often had a team second to none and provided quite a training ground….the manager of a major US label started in Newmarket. I haven’t many business dealings with FMR in the past couple of years but, clearly, the tradition has continued through to the likes of Jonathan Hughes, Dylan Pellet and Darryl Parker, often regarded as the nicest guy in the industry, and the others at FMR at the end.

From Carlton Gore Road, where Jerry had to ring me to get the skinheads designing their album cover out of the stairway during a retailers conference, to the damp end of Nikau Street, to the rather odd offices in Scanlan Street, to the final resting place in Freeman’s Bay, Festival Records contributed something that was often un-catered for elsewhere. Over the past forty years, they provided something that no-one else did and it’s hard to see where the interesting little labels with something quirky and vital will go now. But then again, perhaps its time, like the record industry as we know it, is past. There is no doubt however, that without the support, drive and belief exhibited by the management and staff of this wannabe major, the indigenous NZ industry would not have been in the position it was in 2000 to make that jump to where it is now.

A minor but cruel irony….Flying Nun quickly ended a disastrous deal with Warners years ago and now end up owned by them, indeed such a large slice of our national musical heritage is now controlled by a listed American company. It’s like Coca Cola owning Bastion Point…..


aannnnd……The tunes that worked for me today…..

Donald Byrd-Love Has Come Around…pure of the happiest songs I know.

Darkman-Annihilating Rhythm..wild pitch, I love wild pitch

Patrick Chardronnet-Eve By Day..lovely sparse old school techy thing. Favourite new record…

Kerri Chandler- Sunset…Kerri’s on a roll…again…

Luther Vandross-Apologise (Quentin Harris mix) ..I guess it’s a bootleg, dunno, and I don’t even know where the original comes from and this is just on blank CD-R, and the new whizz kid takes no real risks however its kinda nice to hear Luther sound contemporary…even if he is dead

EPMD- Listen to my the second, quite frankly, brilliant album from Eric & Parrish, a wry rhyme about getting a deal, over Faze-O’s Riding High

Tyree Cooper-Acid Over (the Piano mix)..prototype acid house complete with an exquisite blue funk piano line (from Marshall Jefferson?)..

Patti Jo-Make Me Believe in You (BSO / Asher mix)…one of those songs, that, truly, unless you Kid Cremed it or something, it would be impossible to mess up. And they haven’t……

John Davis & The Monster Orchestra­-The Theme From Kojak..big band orchestral disco complete with a lollipop….not a million miles from….

Louie Ramírez-Do It Any Way You Wanna.. a sultry Latin spin on the T Connection tune,