Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
This week I play through a few records that remind me of when I began working in Vinyl Exchange, and a couple of others besides …
A sunny spring afternoon, and an LP that reminds me of my first spring / summer working at Vinyl Exchange, Manchester.
Electronic – Electronic – Factory Records 1991
Perfect pop. That’s this LP summarised perfectly. What follows is just me waffling on and feeling nostalgic.
I started working at Vinyl Exchange in Manchester’s then incredibly grotty Northern Quarter – it wasn’t called that back then – on 4th February 1991. It was a fairly momentous moment in my life. Much more than just starting a new job. It’s the sort of job that if you want it to, and let it, can change your life really. I don’t have many friends in my life from the time before I started working there. I moved around quite a bit in my teen years, so friendships proved fleeting, and most didn’t last. When I started working behind the counter of this record shop, I suddenly realised that I’d found my tribe, my people. Over the many years I spent there I met every nutter, record obsessive, DJ, musician, clubber, journalist, reviewer, producer, raver, engineer that resided in or visited the city. It was incredible…and this LP transports me back to the time when all of this was brand new and so, so exciting. I couldn’t really believe I was being paid to come in.
I was living back home with my mum in Warrington temporarily when I began working, so this reminds me of train journeys a lot. A few after work pints in Dry Bar, then the journey from Piccadilly to Warrington Central looking out at the then dereliction of the canals around Deansgate with this on my Sony Walkman. It wouldn’t be until the following year that Dukes ’92 would open, and the reclamation / regeneration of that area, and indeed inner-city Manchester as a whole would really begin. Of course, Electronic was also played to death in the shop. Mostly by Matt Norman.
Anyways, it’s a beautiful, gorgeous, melodic, and dare I say Balearic classic of an LP, with not a single duff moment. Initial worries as to why the fuck they haven’t included lead single, Getting Away With It, are quickly kicked into touch when you hear tracks like Patience Of A Saint, Get The Message – featuring the sublime vocals of Denise Johnson, Try All You Want and Feel Every Beat. Joy on vinyl.
Another record I bought soon after joining Vinyl Exchange…
Gang Starr – Step In The Arena – Cooltempo 1991
This had just been released a few weeks before I started work at Vinyl Exchange, and I hadn’t been there maybe more than a month when a UK copy turned up, I think from one of owner Jo’s buying trips from a reviewer. It still has the press sheet in it. An instant classic. I already liked the single Jazz Thing, but this was quite different, establishing the smooth, funky and soulful style Gang Starr would become known for. The template for the decade to come. Quite possibly the stand-out hip hop act of the `90s, Guru is certainly one of the all-time greatest MC’s. What a voice, what a delivery. The title track is still my favourite on the LP, with its superb use of Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns` Four Play, but it really is all killer … taking a deep dive into the world of rare and obscure funk, soul, and jazz. Execution Of A Chump, with its Pointer Sisters` Don’t It Drive You Crazy sample, Check the Technique using that Marlene Shaw California Soul riff, Who’s Gonna Take The Weight? … and all with Guru’s perfect delivery over the top. Again, I’m transported back to just having started working in a record shop, in one of the most exciting cities, at one of the most exciting times.
“If a beat was a princess, I would marry it.”
Afternoon Balearic bangers pt.1!
Bocca Juniors – Raise (63 Steps To Heaven) – Boys Own Productions 1990
So when I started working in Vinyl Exchange, one of the first things I did was look for some of the records I hadn’t been able to buy over the last 6 months of sketchy or no employment – going back to the previous summer, and this, the first release on Boys Own Productions. I managed to get a nice promo copy, with the extra mix – CD only on the commercial release, and including a nice hand written press release from Mr. Weatherall, as well as a longer, more official looking press release about the label and organisation in general. I still love this record. It has a beautiful naivety and optimism, while still maintaining that high level of Boys Own sarcasm, and the vocal from Anna Haigh is really great – landing somewhere in Anne Clark /Nina Hagen territory, and that Thrashing Doves piano riff!
“Raise your hands if you think you understand, raise your standards if you don’t”.
Afternoon Balearic bangers part 2!
Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart – Bomba – Boys Own Productions 1990
The second release on Boys Own Productions, and it’s a beauty. Probably my favourite – or maybe second favourite on the label – One Dove`s Fallen being the other contender. Two absolutely speaker rattling remixes from Andrew Weatherall and Hugo Nicholson. The ‘Miles Away Mix’ was the big favourite back then, and indeed still is if I’m thinking of playing the record to people who are dancing, but over the years I’ve really grown to prefer the A-side mix, the ‘Nonsonicus Maximus Mix’. It’s a slightly gentler, less deranged version, with a beautiful female vocal. Again, I have a lovely Boys Own promo in those nice sleeves that they sadly stopped doing after the first One Dove single. I have all of them.
If you’re only going to make one record together, best make it a good one, eh lads!
Choice – Acid Eiffel (Paris E.P.) – Fnac Music Dance Division 1993
Honorary Manc. Laurent Garnier, Ludovic Navarre – of St. Germain, and Didier Delesalle – of Shazz, all get together for this one E.P., and it turns out so bad they never work together again! Except it doesn’t work out bad at all. It actually works out quite brilliantly. In fact, you could probably make a good case for the track Acid Eiffel being one of the all-time greatest house / techno records ever made. It lies somewhere between acid house, with its gurgling 303 acid line, and melodic Detroit style techno. It’s frantic, yet gentle; driving, and yet it floats along on beautiful synth pads like a symphony. It will take the roof off a club, or you can stick it on your stereo at home and bathe in the twittering analogue warmth. I probably haven’t played this record out nearly enough, but It’s soundtracked many a nocturnal adventure. Vive la France!
Slightly belated Happy birthday to this …
Stereolab – Emperor Tomato Ketchup – Duophonic Ultra High Frequency Disks 1996
Released 25 years ago this month, this is one of my favourite Stereolab LPs, as it’s the first I bought – my gateway drug LP if you like. Again, this was hammered on the stereo at Vinyl Exchange, mostly by Rob “The Guvnor” Bright. He was quite evangelical about Stereolab, and rightly so. The opening track on this, Metronomic Underground, was a staple in Rob`s sets upstairs at Bugged Out – and everywhere else he played, and probably still is. It’s insane, twisted, space-funk, with a bassline very reminiscent of Gil Scott-Heron`s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. It’s then followed by the completely different, Cybele’s Reverie, a slice of winsome Gallic pop, which could be by someone else altogether. I think that’s one of the things I love about Stereolab: they sound like about 10 different bands – all of which are brilliant – and maybe that’s why I own about 10 LPs by them now. And probably as many singles. That and the fact that Laetiitia Sadier could sing her shopping list and it would sound beautiful. As an added bonus, the LPs are translucent yellow glittery vinyl!
Vive la France again – and the UK!