Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
October 16th was apparently National Album Day, and it was also the 40th anniversary of the release of this LP …
The Human League – Dare – Virgin 1981
This is an absolute masterpiece of electronic pop music, but it could so easily have never happened…
Things looked bad for Phil Oakey at the end of 1980. He had fallen out with the other members of The Human League – Martin Ware and Ian Craig Marsh – who went off to form Heaven 17. They left Phil with The Human League name, but also all debts and commitments. Oh, and their projectionist, Philip Adrian Wright. They were booked to go on tour in a few weeks, and with the threat of being sued into oblivion if he didn’t fulfill those dates, Phil went clubbing in Sheffield looking for a female backing vocalist. At The Crazy Daisy he found two! Susan Ann Sulley – aged 17 – and Joanne Catherall – aged 18 – were still at school, but Phil managed to persuade them – and their parents to allow them – to join his band for the European tour.
The tour wasn’t a brilliant success, but impressed with their professionalism, Phil made the girls full members of the band upon its completion. Although they didn’t perform on the next single, Boys and Girls – they were too busy studying for their A Levels – they did feature on the cover, and the single was a minor hit, restoring Virgin’s faith in the band. This led them to introduce Phil to producer Martin Rushent, and the rest, as they say is history. With the addition of musicians Ian Burden and Jo Callis, their first single with Rushent – The Sound Of The Crowd – peaked at number 12, with Love Action (I Believe In Love) and Open Your Heart quickly following it and both becoming top 10 hits.
On its release Dare went to number one, and with the additional help of fourth and final single, Don’t You Want Me, becoming the band’s first number one single, the Christmas number one. It went on to sell 1.5 million copies in the UK alone, the LP went triple platinum.
This was our family copy, bought by my mum in 1981, and smuggled away to art college with me.
There is brilliant footage of the band performing Don’t You Want Me on the Christmas edition of Top Of The Pops. Phil and Jo are sharing the mic at the front of the stage when some arse in the crowd sprays them both with silly string. The daft twat unloads most of the can, about 90% of which ends up in Jo’s mouth, causing her to visibly gag – and laugh a lot. The daft twat with the can of silly string was their genius producer, Martin Rushent!
Goodbye to The Hawk, one of Library Music’s true greats …
Alan Hawkshaw / Steve Grey / Les Hurdle & Frank Ricotti – Terrestrial Journey – Bruton Music 1978
I’d guess that a lot of the people who I’m friends with on social media and who follow these posts will already know who Alan Hawkshaw is, because like me, you’re all slightly ‘mad’ when it comes to music, and care about, and think about it a lot more than your average person in the street. But I bet every single person in the UK has heard a track by Alan “The Hawk” Hawkshaw. Almost certainly more than one if you include tracks that have sampled his work. As well as endless brilliant pieces of music which he created and were then used as TV theme tunes – Grange Hill, Countdown, Channel 4 News – the website whosampled.com lists 205 of his tracks as being sampled by other artists, with The Champ by The Mohawks having been sampled an estimated 700 times!
The bulk and some of the best examples of the man’s work were recorded for the KPM and Bruton Music Libraries, and it’s one of those that I’ve picked here. Terrestrial Journey is in no ways typical Hawkshaw, with most of his tracks occupying the A-side, in a suite of pastoral, electronic themes. All very synth heavy and atmospheric, and some of it rather lovely, particularly Space Panorama and Wave Forms.
At the start of side B we get something a little more typically Hawkshaw – launching with my favourite track, the wonderful, The Speed Of Sound. It’s a stunning, driving, up-tempo, cosmic disco / funk masterpiece, which sounds like it could have been lifted directly from the Arpadys LP (themselves French Library music greats one and all). A serious dance floor weapon this. Thanks for the music, Hawk.
It’s been a year since we lost Jose Padilla …
Penguin Café Orchestra – Music For A Found Harmonium – Editions EG 1987
There are a handful of DJs who manage to change the direction that music takes simply by playing records, and Jose was one of them. I can’t imagine how different my life would be if I hadn’t heard his old Café Del Mar tapes all those years ago. I’d certainly have a very different record collection. There are hundreds of records in my collection that I owe to Jose. This is just one of them, and it’s an obvious one, but to me it sums up perfectly the genre-defying range of music he introduced me to. His “across the board” impeccable taste meant he was able to put together a set from disparate musical styles which would never have belonged together to create something new. Scando-jazz, new age, modern classical, European soundtracks, Australian pop, German kosmische… all expertly woven together.
I suppose I’ve picked this Penguin Cafe Orchestra record – since I discovered their entire catalogue of wonderful music through Jose and this tune. It has a very special place. Back then, with no Discogs.com, I had bought every LP by PCO I could find but had no idea that the track existed on this beautiful UK 12”, until Richard Moonboots unearthed one. Then the hunt was on. I think I found it, eventually, in this little shop in Oldham we would make occasional field trips to.
Marianne Faithful – The Hawk (El Galivan) – Island Records 1987
Originally released on the Trouble In Mind soundtrack in 1986, this beautiful Mark Isham production is one of my absolute favourite Café Del Mar tracks. Again, I had it originally on the soundtrack LP itself, and then found this 12” – which includes the track on the B-side – some years later.
I was lucky enough to meet Jose many times over a period of a few years in the early `90s. LuvDup had him over to DJ, and he stayed for the winter one year to DJ in the back room of Golden in Stoke, so our paths crossed a lot – particularly at Kelvin Andrews’ afterparties in Stoke. But it was different meeting him on his home turf, and hearing him play, at the Cafe del Mar, which I eventually did in 1994. Kelvin had been booked by Jose to DJ at a double header he was promoting at Pacha and Space, so my girlfriend and I booked some flights, I blagged a gig, and we flew out to Ibiza for a few days- my first trip to la Isla Blanca. We were picked up at the airport and driven straight to Pacha, then to Space, and then back to a villa. Kelvin had a villa adjacent to the one Andrew Weatherall and Alex Patterson were staying in, so those first couple of days were a bit of a blur. Eventually we made it back to my friend Graeme Fisher’s place where we were based for the rest of our stay. Grahame was out there all summer, DJing for Jose, so was living in Jose’s apartment, just a short walk from the Café Del Mar. After eventually sleeping I managed to get myself down to the Café for the last hour or two of Jose’s set. Graeme introduced me to Phil Mison who was playing the Café that summer as Jose’s alternate. I sat and listened, spellbound to the magic Jose was spinning to soundtrack nature. As the sun set the entire crowd spontaneously applauded the music. I bumped into Phil a few minutes later. “Nice sunset”, he said. I just nodded. It was. It`s something I`ll never forget. Thank you for the music, Jose.
Happy birthday to David Mancuso …
Barrabas – Barrabas (feat. Woman / Wild Safari) – RCA 1972
Another DJ – sorry, I think he preferred “musical host” – who not only changed the direction music took, but quite literally changed the world by playing records. If David hadn’t decided to hold an invitation only party – with “Love saves the day” written on the invite – in the Loft space in which he lived on Valentine’s Day 1970, I can’t imagine how different my world, and the world in general would be today. As well as creating the blueprint for the modern disco / nightclub, David’s incredible ear unearthed a variety of music that few – if any – could match, influencing so many DJs that would go on to become legends in their own right. Rare are the records that sum up the eclectic funkiness of The Loft parties like this one. The mixture of Latin rhythms, with African percussion and psychedelic rock…does that sound Balearic?
Apparently, David discovered this record on holiday in Amsterdam and took it back to New York, breaking both tracks to his appreciative audience. I first heard about it on the infamous “Larry List” in the mid / late `90s. This copy, an original US pressing, was scored from Nick The Record in one of the first – of many – parcels he would send me over the coming years. The first time I had the joy of hearing it on a proper club system was when DJ Harvey opened his set with it at Electric Chair at The Music Box, a few years before he emigrated to L.A.
The Gunchback Boogie Band – Funn (Instrumental) – Prelude Records 1982
I only spoke to David Mancuso a handful of times, all at the London Loft parties, and always to ask about records. This was one. Rob “J” Johnson had been raving to me about this track by a band with a bizarre name that he heard David play. Rob had described in great detail – big synth bass, mid-tempo, killer guitar riff over the intro, it’s on Prelude – and it sounds like it! This will seem astonishing today, but back then you couldn’t just go to YouTube and listen to every obscure underground disco track ever made. There was nowhere to hear this record, and I was struggling to find a copy.
At the next Loft party that we go to David plays an amazing record and I have no idea what it is, so halfway through I sashay across the dance-floor as one does, toward David, and politely ask him what this fabulous beast of a track is.
“Wait until it’s finished, and I’ll show you the record label. It’s got kinda a funny name!” says David.
Then the penny drops! Big synth bass, mid-tempo, killer guitar riff over the intro…sounds like it’s on Prelude!
“Oh! It’s not The Gunchback Boogie Band, is it?” I ask.
David looks at me like I’m the first psychic record collector he’s ever met. “Yeah!”
Happy birthday David, and thank you for all the music…