Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
Another record from 1971, celebrating its 50th birthday this year …
Labi Siffre – The Singer And The Song – Pye International 1971
There really was something in the water in 1971. This is another LP that I couldn’t live without. Simply put, every track is beautiful. It’s like the sound of Laurel Canyon being filtered through the spectrum of a London-born Brit with Nigerian roots. I bought this original UK pressing in Kingbee Records, Chorlton, probably for about £5. It was the late to mid `90s, around the time that record shops were starting to fill up with interesting compilations of obscure funky music, stuff that hip hop producers might like to sample if that way inclined. The Labi Siffre track Summer Is Coming had found its way onto one of these comps – which I’d bought in Fat City. Due to the outright balearicness (not a real word!) of said track, I was delighted to find an original copy of the actual LP so quickly out in the wild. The rest of the LP isn’t really in the same vein as Summer Is Coming, with the exception of Rocking Chair. Mostly it’s acoustic, ballad-like tracks, often with very little accompaniment other than acoustic guitar or piano, so I didn’t really give it much of a listen… until the early noughties, and The Whirlpool.
The Whirlpool was the nickname given to Richard Moonboots` flat in Chorlton, where a small band of us spent many a debauched night – or weekend – happily listening to music together, and it was here that Richard pulled out The Singer And The Song to play one of his favourites – the track Bless The Telephone. Seeing my astonishment that there was more to the LP than I thought, it was played in its entirety, and then again, and again, and became something of an anthem amongst our small band of travellers – being played from start to finish, and then someone would yell “put it on again”, and we would, all singing along and hugging and crying.
There really aren’t any duffers on here, but if you want to dip in, as well as the tracks already mentioned I’d recommend Who Do You See, The Shadow Of Our Love, Thank Your Lucky Star, and Nothing In The World Like Love – but, it’s all gorgeous.
Happy birthday to Lee Hazlewood, who would have been 92 yesterday …
Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood – Nancy & Lee – Reprise Records 1968
I’ve owned several copies of this LP over the years, passing them on as I found them for pennies. This particular copy, a pristine 1971 UK repress, was gifted to me by my in-laws, Carol & Tony, in exchange for recording it, and another Nancy & Lee LP, onto CD for them. It contains some of the most nuts pop music ever recorded, with Summer Wine and Some Velvet Morning being the two standouts. In Summer Wine Lee plays a cowboy, who rides into town over a country music meets Bond-theme backing track, only to be seduced by the lure of Nancy’s summer wine, which contains “strawberry’s, cherries and an angels kiss in spring”. Nancy proceeds to ply Lee with said wine and “an unfamiliar line” – of what? – and then drugs and robs Lee, who wakens to find his silver spurs have gone! Aww.
I can’t even begin to describe Some Velvet Morning to you. Suffice to say that the first time I played it to my friend Leon back at Baia Degli Alphonsus, I turned around to see him sat in terror on the sofa. “How are you doing that without moving?” he asked? He`d thought I was mixing between 2 records without touching the decks. It had been a very long night / day by this point. Poor lad. In the sleeve notes they are asked WHAT DOES SOME VELVET MORNING REALLY MEAN? We don’t know. The words “velvet” and “morning” rhyme in our heads. Phaedra sounds like an “upper” that doesn’t quite make it.
You might be aware that there’s a football match taking place this evening, so the rest of this week`s selections have been picked with that in mind … Forza Italia!
Jago – I’m Going To Go (Instrumental Plant Remix) – Full Time 1986
I originally wrote this text for the sleeves notes to mine and Kelvin Andrews second installment of our Down To the Sea And Back series of compilations. It seems timely to dig it out again and give it a little “remix”….
Summer 1989, and the clubs and raves are filled with this new, dreamy. lighter sound, the sound of Italian House music. It was one of the longest, hottest summers in memory, and my first living away from home. After the grim Northern wastes of Warrington, Brighton in the sunshine seemed to this young gun like the Italian Riviera. The Zap Club had been closed for most of the winter, undergoing a major refurbishment and extension, which took it from two rather small arches into four – encompassing a huge, cathedral like dance floor. I went as often as I could. The week after it opened, I remember Soul II Soul DJing there, which was amazing, but all summer long they had a terrific roster of regular nights, with Harvey & Choci’s Tonka Soundsystem on a Monday – really? I think it was? – an insane new Gay midweek night which I can’t remember the name of – Club Shame maybe – they’d make boys kiss each other on the door to prove that they were gay, and of course Chris Coco’s Coco Club every Saturday night. I heard this record at all of them. I can’t remember exactly how I found out what it was called or who it was by. If I asked a DJ it must have been at a Tonka night. The Zap Club`s DJ booth was high on a balcony above the bar, overlooking the main dance floor, and so a right pain to get to, but at Tonka, Harvey and Co. set up the decks on the stage, right in the middle of the dance floor, so you were literally dancing around them. Much easier to pester them. I bought it from Rounder records in Brighton some time that summer – the reissue with the brown label. I remember at the time, Mark, I think his name was, and the other staff in there all thought that it was a new Italian House record and that the Frankye Knuckles – miss-spelt – mention was just a cunning ruse to get people to buy it. None of us had any idea that it was really an old Italo-Disco track from 1983, or that it really had been remixed in Chicago by the godfather of House three years later. That’s part of the enduring appeal of this record for me. It sounds like it could have been made at any time over the last thirty plus years, right up until today. Hence no surprise when I relocated to Manchester and found that everyone I met here loved it as well. It’s also one of the reasons why it rarely, if ever, leaves my record box.
Back in the early `90s when I first met Kelvin, we were at an afterparty in the house in Withington that I shared with Adrian LuvDup and Chris Sheep. As usual we were hunched over the decks, deeply involved in a game of musical top trumps. When I played this track, we both decided that we should release a compilation LP, with this on it. It only took us 20 years to get round to it.
In 2013 I DJ’d at the Electric Elephant Festival in Tisno, Croatia. Frankie Knuckles was also on the bill that year, a little closer to the top of the DJ listings than me! One day a few of us were strolling past Hotel Tisno and I saw him sat at a table outside the hotel having breakfast / lunch with some friends. We were in the process of licensing Jago for DTTSAB Vol.2 at the time, and as well as wanting to say, “by the way Frankie, thanks for inventing house music and shit…”, I thought it would be great to speak to him about the Jago record and how it came about, any memories he might have. Anyway, I bottled it! He was having a meal with friends, and I thought I shouldn’t bother him, figuring I’d bump into him on site when he played his set and speak to him then. Needless to say, I didn’t bump into Frankie again, so never got to ask him. He passed away the following March after a long fight against diabetes. So, Frankie, thanks for inventing house music and shit, yeah! My friend Oscar – from Trax – has a son named Jago.
Linda Di Franco – TV Scene – WEA Records 1985
Again I originally wrote this text for Down To the Sea And Back, but since it`s the big game with Italy tonight I`ll give you an extended version…There are records which sound Balearic, and there are Balearic records. This is most definitely the latter. I first heard this track on a tape recorded at Pacha, Ibiza, in 1985, which Phil Mison brought back from one of his many visits to La Isla Blanca. The tape itself went from the sublime – Linda, Slave To the Rhythm – to the ridiculous – Howard Jones – was absurdly Balearic, and contained this, as yet, unknown gem. In these post-internet days, it must seem incomprehensible to some of you just how daunting a task discovering the who and what of this track was. I forget the details of the detective process, but between Phil, Moon, and myself we set about the task of unraveling this mystery. I recall an article in The Face on Animal Nightlife – who recorded a cover of the track – playing Ku in Ibiza being a piece of the jigsaw puzzle, but I think the mystery was solved when Moon quizzed Cesar De Melero – Pacha resident during the 80s / 90s – who also recorded a cover of the track- while he shopped in Eastern Bloc. I might be imagining that last bit.
We now knew our quarry, but, pre-internet, where the hell were you going to find a single by an Italian pop star? Italy might be a good bet. It`s September 1999, and my friend Oscar is going to visit his “nonna” (grandmother). She lives in a tiny village called Pratola Serra, in the province of Avellino. The nearest city is Naples, and by a stunning coincidence Italy are playing a vital European Championship qualifier against Denmark in the Napoli stadium, on the day after my birthday. “Why don’t you come with me?” he asks. I couldn’t think of any good reason, especially as Italy was the home of Linda. Everything about the trip was magic. I’d never been to Italy, and here I was, deep in Soprano’s country, filling my time with pizza, obscure records and international football. Pratola Serra was a tiny village, high in the hills. At night, it’s one main street played host to the entire population, as its handful of bars and cafes spilled out into the warm night air. Our favourite watering hole sold Peroni Red for the lira equivalent of 25p and had Mike Francis records on the jukebox – how Balearic do you want it? The match was a classic, a top of the group decider, with Denmark coming back from 2-1 down to steal the game 2-3. The biggest cheer of the night coming when Peter Schmeichel was booked for time wasting. Then, while in Naples we visited the first ever pizza restaurant in Italy. I highly recommend it.
The nearest town to Pratola Serra was Avellino itself, which although fairly small, still managed to contain a couple of tasty little record shops. So, with Oscar as my translator, the search for Linda began. And straight away we struck gold. The first shop we went into, we were directed to the “Italian singers” section and there she was, in all her enigmatic, mysterious, 12” glory. But what’s this? There was another record by her as well! Well, I just had to check it out as well, the shop did have a listening deck after all. My joy turned to ecstasy as the opening bars of “that tune from the Look De Ibiza video” spilled forth from the speakers. It was My Boss! So, not a bad haul really. I’m glad I decided to leave the 15000-lira price sticker on the sleeve. I also picked up a couple of 7” s of TV Scene for Moon and Phil. The record shopping was surprisingly fruitful for such a small, sleepy countryside town. Although we were both aware of Italo-Disco and had been buying Italian records fairly regularly from the end of the `80s through the early `90s, we had yet to hear anything about Italy’s Cosmic-Afro scene, so we were perplexed by some of the weird Balearic oddities we found, not realizing until years later that they had been big records on that, as yet unknown – in the UK – scene as well.
Many years later I decided to use the name Linda Di Franco as my nom de plume on the DJ History forum, and soon after, the real Linda Di Franco emailed me to ask me why. The Internet really is quite good sometimes, isn’t it! We’re still friends on Facebook! And this made it quite a bit easier licensing TV Scene for DTTSAB Vol.2. A while after Linda and I connected, Matthew Burgess contacted me for her details. He wrote to Linda asking her for a favour. His friend and DJ partner, Jolyon Green, was getting married, and he wanted to give him an uber-Balearic wedding present. Linda obliged, and hand-wrote and signed the lyrics to TV Scene for Matthew to frame. Aww!
Lama – Love On The Rocks – Numero Uno 1983
For those of you who don’t know this track, it’s a rather excellent Italo-Disco cover version of Lucio Battisti’s song, Il Veliero. You will almost certainly all be much better acquainted with the cover version of said song by Dutch outfit, The Chaplin Band – as played by DJ Harvey, Moonboots, me and pretty much everyone else. This lesser-known English language cover was actually the first version of the track that I came across. It was recommended to me in the early `90s by Les Cokell.
In Manchester’s Gay Village there was a sex shop called Clone Zone, selling … well I’m sure you have an idea. In the basement of Clone Zone was a tiny record shop called Energ-Highs – I think – run by Les. Several of us Balearic DJs had a bit of a passion for Hi-NRG and Italo, so we became regular visitors to Les’ shop, picking up all manner of strange and wonderful music on his recommendation, though none of us really knew who Les was at the time. Les was a pioneering force in the Manchester music scene. According to legend he played the last record at The Twisted Wheel in 1971. He then went on to a residency at Blackpool Mecca, eventually being replaced by Ian Levine. In the mid-80s he was resident at legendary Manchester club Hero’s. He helped to shape the hi-NRG scene in the UK with his pumping club mixes and his ‘Castro Connection’ column in what was then known as Disco Mix Mag. He would entertain us all with tales of visits to legendary discos in San Francisco and New York such as Trocadero Transfer where he’d heard Patrick Cowley DJ.
As the `90s progressed I visited the shop less and less, and then one day it wasn’t there anymore. It wasn’t until years later I was having a conversation with Greg Wilson that I learned that Les had died tragically in 1998 at the age of only 50. Thanks for all the great recommendations Les, and the hours of entertaining stories and information you were always happy to provide.
Roberto Lodola – Marimba Do Mar – Academy Records 1986
About as Balearic as sand between your toes, this is solid proof that Italians really do it better. A beautiful jazzy, Balearic dream of a track from a legendary DJ on the Afro-Cosmic scene. He was better known as a DJ than producer, but has a handful of releases to his name, and also provided the excellent “Afro Mix” on that other Italian Balearic classic from 1985, Helen`s Zanzibar. Original copies of this were going for rather large sums, but it was reissued a couple of years back by Best Record Italy, so shouldn’t be too hard to find.
For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike. Mike also has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music.