Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
A random 12” from the shelves …
A Certain Ratio – Four For The Floor – A&M Records 1990
I was sent a promo email this week, rounding up the recent series of three 12” E.P.s from this incredible Manchester band. In the press blurb included with the email was a mention of this wonderful record from 31 years ago. I recall the first time I heard a track from Four For The Floor. I was in my second year at art college in Brighton and had befriended a bright new fresh faced first year, after bonding over a shared love of music. At the party we threw to welcome him, the two of us both wore the same Happy Mondays WFL T-shirt. His name was Damian Harris, and he was already a budding DJ. He`d managed to land himself a highly prized job in Rounder Records. Although initially a little jealous / pissed off about the latter, I quickly got over these feelings when he turned up in the common room one day with a promo w/label of Primal Scream`s Loaded for me, months before it was released. Anyway, Damian was DJing somewhere in Brighton, a bar up near the train station I think. In the middle of his set, he dropped Spirit Dance from this E.P. It completely knocked me for six, with its ghostly vocals and electro-style bassline it sounded like the new Voodoo Ray. I rushed over to ask what it was, and he showed me his minty fresh A&M promo copy. A few weeks later when I popped into Rounder Records, he had already bagged up a copy of the release for me. Now that’s what I call service. I should point out that all the other staff in Rounder Records were brilliant as well, particularly a young chap called Mark, I think, who had an uncanny knack of being able to discern whatever house tune I had heard in The Zap / Escape / Downbeat the night before and was currently trying to recreate at the counter.
As a side note, after moving to Manchester, I was lucky enough to meet a couple of the chaps from ACR. Martin is a very funny and excellent bloke, as is Tony, who is also really good at football. In the late `90s we had quite a nice midweek game going, populated by various members of the Mancunian music / fashion scene. Carl Burnham take a bow.
Another random 12” from the shelves …
Steve Winwood – Penultimate Zone / Time Is Running Out – Island Records 1977
In the year of Punk, it seems like Island Records just got on with whatever it wanted to do. I don’t need to tell you that Steve Winwood has made some great music throughout his long and illustrious career, but you might not know this lesser spotted Balearic / Loft / Disco classic, tucked away on the B-sIde of a 1977 UK 12”. Time Is Running Out is a fine record in its own right, but over on the flip is something really special. Penultimate Zone (Instrumental Version) is basically an instrumental remix version of the A-side, but co-produced with Chris Blackwell, it’s channelling influences from Jamaican dub, and disco. Stripped back to its bare essentials, the track`s bass-line is right out front, driving along a killer groove, which is then layered with freestyle synth passes, and all manner of dub effects until what we have is something that sounds half way between a War record and a disco track. It really is a phenomenal record, and in the perfect setting, with the right crowd and Soundsystem it ignites a dancefloor. It sounds like it was made specifically for David Mancuso’s Loft parties, but I’ve never heard anyone confirm if he ever played it. Colleen? File it next to those John Martyn 7” versions for sheer out there on your own / ahead of its time-ness!
For a UK 12” this is quite an elusive beast. I’ve been lucky enough to find a couple of copies out in the wild, the second of these only a few weeks after buying an expensively priced copy on Discogs to give to a friend as a birthday present – D’oh! Look how beautiful it is! Those `70s / `80s Island Records label and sleeve designs are such a joy – so Balearic. What a label.
There’s no Youtube clip of the original unfortunately, but here’s Ashley`s heroic Heavy Disco edit to give you an idea…
Another 12” from the shelves … Italians do it better …? It’s been a good summer for Italy – Eurovision champions, Euro 2020 champions, Men’s Olympic 100 meters, 4×100 meters relay and High Jump gold medals – so in an intermittent series entitled “Italians do it better”, here we go…
Last Rhythm – Last Rhythm – PostRitmo 1990
After the initial euphoric rush of the first wave of Italian house records from the tail end of 1988 through the summer of 1989, it seemed like the genre split into two distinct camps: ‘Scream-up’, typified by records like Black Box`s Ride On Time, Starlight`s Numero Uno, DJ H`s Think About, etc., and “Dream” or “Paradise” house. Records like Sueno Latino, Paradise Orchestra`s Satisfy Your Dream, Don Carlos` Alone…Of the latter group, this record is for me the high point. An absolutely gorgeous piece of dreamy, instrumental house music, which still sounds incredible and original today, thirty-one years after its initial release. It has an extra special place in my heart, and memories attached, as it was a huge record at the LuvDup parties which Adrian and Mark started hosting shortly after my arrival back in Manchester. Adrian devised a brilliant mix – I think the young people of today call such things a ‘mash-up’ or a ‘sound clash’ or something – using the acapella of Lisa Stansfield / Coldcut’s People Hold On over the top. The vocals just sat perfectly over this track, and it became a huge anthem, so widely praised that John Truelove approached Adrian about releasing it – but it never happened. Maybe if I tag Adrian, he’ll upload it to YouTube so you can hear it. Anyway, Forza Italia!
(Rob – wasn’t there a bootleg – made by Eren and John Truelove I think, that whacked the Peech Boys over the top?)
Following on from my post about Revolver …
The Beatles – Paperback Writer / Rain – Odeon / Parlophone 1966
This was the first record by The Beatles that I ever bought. I never really liked The Beatles growing up. I think I was horribly traumatised by being forced to sing Can’t Buy Me Love in a production of Cinderella we did at primary school one Christmas. I still don’t think I’ve really gotten over it. My next interaction with The Fab Four was on the sad occasion of John Lennon’s death. I remember Mum was really upset, and the BBC showed Help! on telly that night, so my brother and I watched it with her. We loved it, but more because it was funny and daft – a bit like The Monkees, which we often watched on Saturday mornings. But the music didn’t really make any impact. Why would it? It was old, and we had Adam & The Ants, Madness, The Jam, Gary Numan, etc., to entertain us. My conversion happened much later. The summer of 1989 in fact. I was at art college in Brighton, and over spring / summer I had started going to an Indie / Alternative night at The Escape Club called The Sunshine Playroom, with my friends Jo and Becca. I wasn’t really a big fan of Indie guitar type music, but over the previous couple of years I’d started to listen to a lot more. Bands like R.E.M., The Pixies, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, …and also the DJ at The Sunshine Playroom actually played quite a lot of house music. His name was Gordon Kaye, and he went on to be quite successful. Anyway, one night in summer 1989, I was dancing to something – probably a house record – maybe Tony G`s Tony’s Song or Frankie Knuckles / Jamie Principle`s Your Love – both records I first heard on those Wednesday nights, when suddenly these snare rolls rattled out of the speakers, followed by this woozy, disorientating guitar, chiming along, propelled by this huge rubbery undulating bass-line. Then the vocals floated out of the ether, detached and dreamlike. I was smitten. I turned to Jo and Becca. “Who’s this?” I asked. They both looked at me in complete astonishment, as if I’d just asked them if they could escort me to a large fridge, as I was made of cheese, and was beginning to sweat a bit without proper refrigeration. I think it was Becca who answered in her broad Bolton accent, Jo possibly too busy laughing? “It’s The Beatles` Rain you knob head! Don’t you know this?” I found a copy the next day, this copy in fact, in one of the many second-hand record shops in Brighton`s North Laine. This one was at the bottom of Trafalgar Street, possibly just up a bit from where Rare Kind is now. Brighton is one of the few UK cities which still has some excellent secondhand, and new, record shops, but it’s still nothing compared to what it was like in the late `80s and early `90s. It seemed like there was a record shop on every street. The chap who ran this one was about to get very used to seeing me over the coming months. He had an extensive range of Beatles stuff on 7” and LP. I quickly decided that if I was going to buy records recorded in the `60s, I was going to buy the records that were released in the `60s as well. I plumped for this particular copy, an original German pressing over some of the other copies he had just because I thought the sleeve was great. It was quite battered but played OK. It crackles quite a lot, but I didn’t mind. Both sides were magic. I was hooked.
On my next visit home, I “borrowed” my mums Beatles` records. A lot of the early albums and singles. A friend on our course from London who studied printmaking called John was a total Beatles nut, and I began pummelling him for information. And that’s how I also became a Beatles nut! I subsequently bought an additional copy, a UK reissue from 1986, just so I had a less crackly copy to play. The sleeve’s not so nice though.
Another 12” from the shelves … a proper Balearic banger from a few years ago…
Fela Kuti – Soldier (Jascha Hagen Remix) – Stamp Records 2015
You’ve got to have some balls to try remixing / re-editing an artist like Fela Kuti, but fair play to Jascha Hagen here, this is really quite special. It`s a pretty limited white label-only release from 6 years ago, with nothing apart from a red stamp of Fela’ s face on the label to identify it. He’s reworked a more obscure Fela track, which I didn’t know before this release, so that helps. The original – Unknown Soldier – is over 30 minutes long, taking up two sides of an LP, but this edits that down to just the highlights in under 8 minutes. Jascha basically turns the original afro-beat epic into a 100 BPM Balearic chugger of anthem proportions, with the piano riff in particular used to killer effect, as are the wonderful call-and-response vocals between Fela and his backing singers. It’s incredibly subtle, with minimal additions such as a steady kick drum and synth pads, but so effective. A proper Balearic battle weapon of a record. I haven’t stopped playing this since its release, and it’s often the record that really detonates the dancefloor, taking it to the next level – from dark sweaty basements to Croatian boat parties.
Another 12” from the shelves …
A Number Of Names – Sharevari – Capriccio Records 1981
This was a near mythical record at the time when I got a copy. In those pre-internet days, you’d often hear about records but not be able to actually HEAR them. This was one of those. It’s often cited as the first techno record, coming as it does from Detroit. But I see it really as some Detroit kids paying homage to the music being played by ground-breaking radio DJ, The Electrifying Mojo, on his Midnight Funk Association show. Sharevari sounds like Kraftwerk meets UK synth pop meets Italo Disco, all of which Mojo played – as well as the coolest new black music such as Prince, P-Funk and electro.
I owe my copy to Keith Richards. No, not that Keith Richards, the other one. Keith is almost as legendary as this record amongst the collectors and DJs of Manchester. Keith decided that instead of getting a job, he would use his extensive knowledge of music, particularly black music styles – he was a huge street soul fan – to earn himself a living. So he tirelessly trawled not only every record store, but also every car boot fare, charity shop, record fare, jumble sale, house clearance, basically anywhere he might find records for sale – buying things he knew were valuable and then selling them on, either privately if they were particularly valuable, or in bulk to secondhand record shops like Vinyl Exchange and King Bee Records. If there was something you were really after, you would ask Keith to look out for it, and most of the time he would eventually come up trumps. I think he charged me about £40 for this in the late `90s, which was a lot then, but so worth it.
I once flagged down a cab in Chorlton. I had a gig in London and had to pop home on the way to the station to grab my records and overnight bag. When the cab driver saw my record box, he said to me “I bet you know my son then”. I said “really, why? What’s his name?”.
“Keith” said the taxi driver, “Keith Richards”.
“Yeah, I know him”, I laughed.