Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
I got a copy of the very wonderful “Paul McCartney – The Lyrics” book for Christmas…
Paul McCartney – Check My Machine (B-side of Waterfall) – Columbia 1980
Imagine my surprise when I saw that there was a 4-page entry devoted to this weird, wonderful, and yet slightly lyrically-wanting track from the McCartney oeuvre!
This completely bonkers piece of techno-comedy-funk from the fabbest of the fab, was a total Richard Moonboots discovery. I can’t recall how he came across this brilliantly bonkers B-side, but it became a regular ‘Nado floor filler / clearer (delete to taste), and a staple of the all-night sessions we would have back at his flat in Chorlton, or The Whirlpool, as it became known.
Recorded in what Paul describes as his ‘Mad Professor” phase of the late `70s – the period that led to the McCartney II LP – this can be placed with those other wonderful experiments with machines, the tech-funk of Temporary Secretary and the ambient electronica of its B-side Secret Friend. Quite what his record company thought of these tracks, lord only knows. They did let him release them as singles, but then who says ‘NO!” to Paul McCartney?
It’s a wonderful, squelchy, repetitive groover of a record, with a kind of Southern country funk feel, but Eleanor Rigby it’s not, so I have to confess I wasn’t expecting it to turn up in a collection of his lyrics. Mind you, so does Temporary Secretary (although Secret Friend doesn’t) and We All Stand Together (the bloody “Frog Chorus” record), so I can only presume that Paul is a Moonboots level contrarian who thought it would be hilarious to include these numbers alongside the likes of Yesterday and Blackbird.
God, I love Paul.
Musical perfection for a Sunday afternoon…
Lyn Christopher – Lyn Christopher (feat. Take Me With You) – Paramount Records 1973
In 1998 a New York hip hop act called The Smut Peddlers released their debut single One By One / The Hole Repertoire on the independent label Eastern Conference. A certain Mark Ronson is credited with mix duties! This was a killer slice of independent NYC hip hop. The delivery and lyrical flow were great, with a super catchy chorus, but the thing that really got you was the groove they’d sampled. They hadn’t just taken a beat, they’d taken the whole song, bassline, and even sampled a chunk of this beautiful female vocal. I was completely smitten with it but had no idea what the track was, and of course they weren’t giving out that info on the record label.
Thankfully I was still working in Vinyl Exchange Manchester at the time, and we had our very own resident beat archaeologist in Si G. who of course knew what the track was. Lyn Christopher’s Take Me With You – only available on a now very sought after US, Canadian, Italian LP, or a US-only 7”. He also prepared me for the worst, as it was already getting pricey. But soon after, he bought one in a collection for the shop. It wasn’t a pristine copy, and was expensive, so I told him to put it up for sale while I pondered if I was going to stump up the money. I put the record on the shop deck to see how it sounded. It got about 30 seconds in before I took the sleeve off display and stuck it in my stash bag.
I can honestly say that I will never regret forking out what was quite a bit of money back then for this utterly wonderful piece of music. This was maybe a couple of years before it was available on that great As We Travel compilation, so there was no other way of owning the track…and just look at it. When a record looks and sounds this good who cares what it cost!
Odd factoid from Discogs – Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from Kiss sing backing vocals on this LP.
Keeping those funk-folk vibes flowing…
Severance – Severance (feat. Bobby) – Largo Records 1976
My dearest friends Kathy Mac & Abs have been visiting Brighton this weekend. We all worked together in Vinyl Exchange for many years, and I love them both. They were round here the other night and Balearic Wife and I were showing them around the house, as they haven’t visited us since we moved her just over 3 years ago. It was magic to see them both. While upstairs in what will be my ‘Record room’, Kath just couldn’t resist her age-old party trick of pulling a record off the shelf (actually, this time it was out of a box, but you get the picture) having a cursory look at it, and then stuffing it back in at some random spot which is not where that record belongs at all. For the approximately 30 years of our friendship, Kath has always found this absolutely hilariously good fun. I’m less keen on it if I’m honest. I frantically snatched at what I could see of the spine of the LP and retrieved it from where it had been randomly stuffed into the middle of my chronologically arranged Gil Scott-Heron LPs! Rather than file it away properly I simply left the album on top of the box, and hurriedly ushered the vinyl anarchists from my sacred place.
I hadn’t listened to this album, or this track, in many years. The LP had been in storage for much of our time in Brighton, and it was a joyous thing to hear it again. It’s a wonderful slice of funky, folky rock. The kind of track which would have killed at ‘Nado on a Sunday night. A gorgeous anti-racist vocal sits atop a killer shuffling funk beat, with beautiful strummed rhythm and wah-wah guitars. The track is fucking wonderful.
I was of course handed this by Vinyl Exchange’s beat supremo Si G back when we worked together. He knew the track as it had been sampled by DJ Shadow. It really is superb, and I was stunned to realise that band leader, guitarist and vocalist was legendary actor, dancer and choreographer Gregory Hines.
I`ve been listening to this beautiful record again…
Mercury Rev – Bobbie Gentry’s The Delta Sweete Revisited – Bella Union 2019
This absolutely stunning record is basically a song-by-song cover version of the 1968 Bobbie Gentry album The Delta Sweete, with Louisiana Man replaced by Ode to Billie Joe. Mercury Rev create jaw-droppingly beautiful musical reinterpretations, while a selection of some of the finest female singers around provide vocals. It’s a completely magical, mystical, immersive experience of an LP. Transporting you to another world, of steamy swamps and Southern hospitality.
Released in February 2019, just a few weeks after we moved into our current house in Hove – which goes some way to explaining how I completely missed it at the time – it wasn’t until late that summer when my dear friends Jeff & Noelle paid us a visit, that Jeff recommended the album to me, released on local Brighton label Bella Union no less.
I’m not a particularly huge fan of Mercury Rev, although their Deserter Songs is probably one of my favourite LPs of the `90s, but I do love the original Bobby Gentry album, so I was intrigued. By the time I’d listened to the opener – Norah Jones singing Okolona River Bottom Band – I was completely smitten.
Other highlights include Hope Sandoval on Big Boss Man, Carice van Houten singing Parchman Farm, Laetitia Sadier’s version of Mornin’ Glory, Margo Price on Sermon, Phoebe Bridgers beautiful Jessye’ Lisabeth, Beth Orton tackling Courtyard, and Lucinda Williams on Ode To Billie Joe.
I hadn’t listened to it in probably 2 years, and then it popped up on my iPod the other day, so have dug out the album to listen to it properly. The record looks almost as beautiful as it sounds as well. Perfect on this sunny winter’s afternoon.
Especially for Valentine’s Day…a UK chart one-hit-wonder, Wigan Casino stomper, David Bowie inspiration, and a Mike LuvDup floor filler …
Mr. Bloe – Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe – DJM Records 1970
This wonderful instrumental track was a surprise smash hit in the UK in March 1970, several months before I was born – only being kept from the number 1 spot by Mungo Jerry’s classic In The Summertime. The utterly brilliant harmonica part is played by a chap called Harry Pitch, who’s other credits include playing on the theme tune to Last Of The Summer Wine.
At some point during the 70s it worked it’s magic on Mr David Bowie, as he later confessed to its influence on his own track A New Career In A New Town, from the LP Low – as I mentioned in my previous post about the album.
In the late 70s Groovin` With Mr. Bloe gained a reputation as a Northern Soul record, although that wasn’t necessarily accurate. It did get spins in Mr. M’s, the oldies room at Wigan Casino, but when Russ Winstanley tried it out on the main room, it wasn’t so well received by the soul purists in the audience – as my one-time Vinyl Exchange co-worker and former Wigan Casino regular Manus confirmed.
I didn’t come across this record until I was at art college, in 1988, in Brighton. I was good friends with a chap on my course called Max Taylor. Max was a Brummie, who loved Aston Villa (all football in fact), jazz music and Woody Allen films. He was studying painting like me, and was incredibly talented, producing work somewhere between Lucien Freud and JMW Turner. He once brilliantly used this immense talent to win a competition in Shoot, the football magazine of the day, called ‘Paint Platty’. The task was to paint a picture of David Platt with the prize of getting to meet his then Villa hero. It was summer 1990, so Max proceeded to paint a picture of David Platt scoring the winning volley against Belgium in the knockout phase of the Italia ’90 World Cup. It looked like Lucian Freud had painted it. He won, and met Platty wearing a replica Villa kit that his mum knitted for him. Anyway, Max played me this record, and I instantly fell in love with it. He made me a tape, with a Leon Thomas Live In Berlin LP on one side, and Mr. Bloe and some other funky stuff on the other.
I didn’t hear the tune again for a few years, until I was in the backroom of a club in Manchester. A couple of DJs from Liverpool called Girls On Top were playing a nice mixture of funk, soul and other bits, when one of them played it. They were ‘pretty good’! It suddenly struck me that it might be possible to mix it into a house set, so I set about finding a copy. It took a couple of days – this is not a hard record to find – and turned up in either King Bee in Chorlton, or Gold Mine in Shambles Square. This was pre- IRA bomb. I did a fair bit of practicing at home with it, finding a small selection of tracks that it mixed well with, both into and out of, as it’s short, so you haven’t much time to piss about thinking of what to play next. I remember that I played it at what was my first gig as a (Junior) LuvDup. It was a LuvDup Valentine’s Day party in a small basement club in Manchester. I was warming up for John McCready and Adrian LuvDup. I set about the task in hand pretty well I think, and John was very complimentary, as he always was. He particularly liked the fact I’d managed to drop Mr. Bloe into my set, and gave me an incredibly handy tip – glue the 7” to some bargain bin 12” – it makes it way easier to cue up and mix with, and it doesn’t get lost in your record box. We still carried around ridiculously heavy boxes in those days, before even the record shoulder bag or rucksack had become the norm. And that’s the strange object you see in the photo – I glued my 7” to a random 10p 12” from the Vinyl Exchange bargain bin!
Armed with my new 12” copy of Mr. Bloe, I proceeded to hammer the arse out of the thing, dropping it into sets to ‘mostly’ ecstatic responses. I recall a particular trip North of the border to my homeland of Scotland with Adrian. We played the Citrus Club in Edinburgh on the Friday night. The place was heaving, and so hot that water rained down from the ceiling and the sleeves of our records were wrinkling like your fingers in a bath! Mr. Bloe got a good reception, but the next night it took the roof off. We headed further North to Dundee, after a brief diversion to go record shopping and drinking in Glasgow. The gig in Dundee was a tiny little basement, and you could tell from the stuff the residents were playing that it was going to be a great party – I recall one of them playing that Vapour Space record Gravitational Arch of 10 on Plus 8 Records, which was new to us. I dropped Mr. Bloe to a response akin to Scotland scoring an injury time winner against England at Hampden Park. When the record finished an orderly queue formed outside the DJ booth to ask what the track was. It was a terrific gig.
The DJs and promoters running the club were also putting us up for the night. I stayed in the bedroom of one of the DJs little brothers. He had a pet chinchilla in a big cage in the bedroom. The thing sat completely motionless, staring at me. Until I turned out the light, at which point it started running around frantically, making all sort of strange gnawing and scratching sounds. I could have sworn it had gotten out of the cage and was sat on the end of the bed; it was so loud. Every time I turned on the light the little fucker was just sat still in its cage, in exactly the same spot it had been before. I didn’t get much sleep that night. Great gig though.
I continued to play Mr. Bloe on and off for a year or so but haven’t played it out in many years now. In the mid 2000s Greg Wilson played it at Aficionado and it got a suitably warm reception. He subsequently made an edit of it. As you can see, I still have the rare homemade 12” copy, but I also have a spare UK 7” and this lovely Spanish 45 in a picture sleeve.
This monument to cocaine use turns 45 years old this month…
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – Warner Bros. Records 1977
You`d probably be quite hard pushed to find someone who considered themselves a fan of pop music who doesn’t like this LP. I read a quite remarkable article in the Guardian the other day which stated that the album was spending it’s 926th week on the charts! That’s almost 18 years! This regarding it’s continuous sales on vinyl is just staggering, from the same article:
“What’s truly remarkable, though, is how it continues to sell new physical copies, despite being available to stream and in secondhand form in every high-street charity shop. According to the UK’s Official Charts Company, Rumours sold 34,593 vinyl copies in 2021, third only to new albums by Adele and Abba, and besting new records by Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey. It sold 32,508 copies the previous year. It is currently at No 29 in its 926th week on the UK album chart – up five places from the week before – while in the US, Rumours sold 6,000 vinyl copies in the last week of January, reaching No 1 on the vinyl albums chart. It sold 169,000 vinyl copies in the US in 2021 (according to MRC Data).” – Annie Zaleski
What makes this even more remarkable to me is how this attitude has changed and shifted during its lifetime. Upon its release in February 1977, it obviously became a huge hit straight away. But it was almost immediately at odds with the pop landscape it arrived in. This was the year of Bowie’s Low and Heroes, and Iggy Pops Lust For Life and The Idiot, but also Talking Heads debut, and LPs from The Clash, The Damned, The Sex Pistols, Ian Dury, etc. It’s sense of being from a time already passed only increased as the `70s became the `80s, and the band slipped from view, with the exception of the huge success of the Tango In The Night LP in ’87. This was followed by The Reynolds Girls in ’89 … and that’s all I’ll say on that …
I can vividly remember an incident when I’d first started working in Vinyl Exchange. A customer asked which Fleetwood Mac album The Chain was on, and owner Mark instantly replied Rumours. After the customer had gone Steve, Matt & Jo – the punk / post-punk contingent – all rounded on Mark, mocking the fact he knew the answer. I was new. I kept my mouth shut. But that was a prevailing attitude then, that this was sad old bastard dinosaur music. You tell that to young people these days and they won’t believe you!
The world has obviously changed a lot since then, and it’s rightly regarded as the masterpiece of song-writing and musicianship that it is. Recorded across the bay from San Francisco in Sausalito, in the same studio that Sly Stone worked in, while both couples in the band were in the process of very messily breaking up. They all anaesthetised the pain away with copious amounts of cocaine and exorcised all that anguish and turmoil by writing and singing about it.
I own 2 copies of Rumours on vinyl – an original UK copy and an original US copy. The US copy is pictured, because I like the fact it has a textured sleeve and still has the $1 price sticker on the cover from when I bought it in a DC second-hand bookstore. It’s so odd to think that this was such a common occurrence – both my copies are from bargain bins – and yet now a new copy will set you back £30+! In 2020 Balearic Wife and I treated ourselves to The Alternate Rumours LP, released for Record Store Day. It`s currently on its second complete play today.
This turns 30 this year…
The Future Sound Of Prefab Sprout – If You Don’t Love Me (Future Sound Of London Mixes) – Columbia 1992
As remixes go, this one is pretty special, and radical. In an age when pop acts began looking to the world of underground dance music to give their music an extra sprinkling of ‘cool’ for the first time on a regular basis, it was still pretty rare for anything as radical as this to actually see the light of day. I should state for the record that I really like both acts, although my appreciation of them is somewhat limited; in the case of Prefab Sprout it’s quite tightly focused on the Steve McQueen LP, which is an all-time favourite, and a few of their bigger hits, while with FSOL it’s probably the 91-93 era.
We had just entered the age of the promo double-pack, where A&R men eager to cash in on the booming new dance music market would dish out bucket loads of cash to hot new DJs and producers and get them to stick a house rhythm under some pop song. There were loads of great records released during this time, but an absolute tsunami of utter tosh was pressed up as well. This, however, is a masterpiece. I’m pretty sure whoever dreamt up the collaboration couldn’t have expected anything as pedestrian as FSOL dropping Paddy McAloon’s vocals over one of their rhythm tracks, but the fact they turned in something as far removed from the OG as this, AND that it got approved and released is pretty great.
FSOL re-use that Meat Beat Manifesto Radio Babylon bassline that they ‘borrowed’ for Papua New Guinea again – setting it loose in a sea of breakbeats, atmospherics, and owls “twit-twoo-ing”. They loop up the smallest of organ riffs from the Prefab Sprout track, where it appears for seconds, and manage to create the main riff for the track. Then beautiful things are done, once again, with a snippet of backing vocals, and that’s the whole track. What you have is a propulsive night drive through the wilds of somewhere, and a complete dancefloor bomb. I lose count of how many times I’ve played this over the years. It still sounds gorgeous.
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.