Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
I wrote most of this text as part of the sleeve notes for Down To The Sea And Back Volume 1, but coming across the record again, when fishing The Pedestrians out of a box, and then a brief exchange with a friend about that record, made me want to give this a spin again, and expand on what I originally wrote…
Phill & Friends Band – This Man – Rio Records 1980
EBAY MADNESS ALERT!
“Interest in this peculiar yet compelling scene started with a faint hum about three years ago, when British journalist Louise Oldfield wrote a piece about something called Afro Cosmic. That hum has since become a murmur and, with the recent eBay sale of the rare Cosmic classic “This Man’ (by Phill & Friends Band) for $400, a clamour.” (Bill Brewster, Wax Poetics 2005)
That was me, that was!
In fact, with shipping and insurance from Italy, it totaled out at £217.00, making it the most expensive record I have ever bought. But by golly it was worth it.
It’s another one of those mysteries this record. Rio Records, the Canadian label it was originally released on back in 1980, is a disco label which leans heavily towards the more Hi-NRG, Italo / Euro Disco campery of things like D. D. Sound and La Bionda, so what they were thinking when the released this is beyond me.
We first heard this track when Diesel – of X-Press 2 fame – passed on a copy of a cover mounted CD of Cosmic / Afro classics from an Italian music magazine to Phil Mison, who passed it to me and Moon. Of course, there was no track list, why would there be! I recall it also included Codek`s Tim Toum, and the instrumental of B+`s B-Beat Classic, as well as an edited version of Phill & His Friends Band. I think it must have been Diesel who eventually came up with the name as well. Little known factoid – X-Press 2 would go on to cover it (sort of) on their 2006 LP, Makeshift Feelgood.
Then there was the small problem of finding the fucker. The first time I typed the artist and title into Google it returned 0 results. If you Google it now, there are millions, including fan made videos on YouTube. Which is why, when it did finally appear in an eBay search, I went a little mad in my determination to get it. I can still remember winning the auction. It was a Sunday night and Leon and Jan Hammered had come round to offer support, and drink. We all cheered when it ended, and I’d won!
Then a month or two later something ‘hilarious’ happened (this is the opinion held by Jan Hammered – my own feelings are somewhat different on the subject). It was the weekend of the first of David Mancuso’s Loft parties in Oslo, and just about everybody except me and Jan had gone to Oslo for the party, and I mean everybody. It was like the entire DJ History, Test Pressing, and Electrics forum all went. Which meant that when Jan got an eBay alert email telling him there was a copy listed on eBay, as a ‘buy it now’ at €1, he was probably the only person currently looking for the track who wasn’t partying in Oslo…and you know, the nice thing about friends is that they never take the piss about things like this do they. Jan never phoned me in a delirious state of joy and disbelief to laugh down the phone about it, and he almost never drops it into any conversation at the first opportunity he gets. Oh wait, no, sorry, that’s wrong. He does…anyway, back to the record. It’s the perfect record for Baldelli’s Cosmic Club and appears to have been completely unheralded outside of Italy. It’s sluggish, dislocated groove is underpinned by a loping, hypnotic bassline, which almost struggles to hold the whole track together. It’s constantly on the verge of falling apart. The drums sound like some kids hammering on plastic buckets, and the vocal is indecipherable gibberish – I’m not even 100% sure what language it’s in. It is in short, 9 minutes of total, accidental genius. It was totally worth it, if only that it enabled Kelvin and I to include it on Down To The Sea And Back Vol.1.
While looking through my Down To The Sea And Back notes, I remembered this almost made it onto volume 2, but was left off at the 11th hour …
Tony G – Tony’s Song – Mic Mac Records 1988
Although released at the tail end of 1988, this record will always remind me of summer 1989. To be fair, the records that remind me of summer 1989 could fill a fairly large volume all on their own, but anyway …I’d just finished my first year at art college and spent what now seems like a golden summer, working first in a bingo hall, the now sadly empty and crumbling Hippodrome, then selling ice cream on the Palace Pier – still to my mind the best job I’ve ever had! Fuelled by a healthy balanced diet of Cadbury’s flakes and Coca Cola, I had plenty of energy, so I went out a lot..and I mean a lot. Like every night of the week, every week, for months. That time was split between the newly reopened Zap Club, The Escape, Downbeat, the odd rave in a nearby field, and accompanying my friends from art college to the regular indie nights.
It might seem odd, but as a fully committed disco kid, I was still very much in the minority at college in 1989, with most of my friends firmly of the indie / alternative rock music variety. I’d started going to ‘alternative’ nights in ’87 when I started art college in Warrington, mainly due to the lack of local clubs playing dance music, and because all my fellow art students went. By ’87 John Peel had already been playing hip hop for a while, so you would generally get to hear a couple of hip hop records, and maybe the odd rare-groove tune if you were lucky during the evening. But by ’89 there was a sea change in the air. Bummed, by the Happy Mondays, had a major impact, and by the time W.F.L. was released, house music was fighting its way onto the unlikely dance floors of these indie / alternative clubs.
Our regular haunts were the Basement underneath the art college on a Friday, where the DJ, a chap called Josh who also worked on the local listings magazine Buzz, mixed up the usual playlist of current indie / alt, with classic `60s, psyche, a bit of hip hop, go-go, and, spurred on by the sound of W.F.L., the odd house track. You would regularly see the likes of Genesis P. Orridge and Bobby Gillespie, then still long haired, clad in black leather jacket, black skinny jeans, pointy boots, and a black Primal Scream t-shirt, as he chatted up the art students – with some success I might add. A year later he would look very different.
My favourite of the regular indie haunts though, was a night called The Sunshine Playroom, at the Escape club, just by the pier. One of the DJs there was a local lad called Gordon Kaye. Gordon was way better than most DJs at these sorts of nights. He loved house and hip hop, and he applied those mixing techniques to his sets, so he would be able to seamlessly mix from something like The Beatles’ Rain, into a chugging early house track. This clever tactic meant he was slowly weaning his indie kids onto house music, and they were beginning to love it.
The two tracks I remember most from this time were Jamie Principle & Frankie Knuckles’ Your Love, which had gone largely unnoticed on its previous two releases, and this record by Tony G. The first release of Your Love, on Persona, had arrived when no one in the UK new what the hell house was, and its second release in 1987, now with a shorter, more effective mix from Frankie, on Trax Records, was on the flip side of Baby Wants To Ride. Most DJs ignored that b-side, since the a-side was immense, and those that did flip the record over often found that the side with Your Love on was too badly pressed to be listenable.
Whatever the reason, I first heard Your Love regularly at the Escape, but the record which really transported me back there is this one by Tony G. Released on the New Jersey label Mic Mac, it has as much to do with New York and the kind of freestyle records being made by Todd Terry et al., as with Chicago house. Its combination of electro beats, a catchy piano riff, the almost comedic inclusion of a Tony Montana vocal parody, and crowd cheering, all add up to a piece of ecstatic dance floor lunacy.
Balearic factoid: Phil Mison told me that he lent his copy to Jose Padilla and never saw it again …
It was already about six months old by the time I was hooked enough to want a copy, which in those days meant it wasn’t easy to find. I recall the excellent day that I tracked it down. I was up in London in October / November that year, and found a copy nestled away at the back of a rack in Black Market Records in Soho. I also picked up It Is What It Is by Rhythim Is Rhythim – original Transmat pressing – and when the chap behind the counter (was it Ashley?) played J.T. & The Big Family’s Moments in Soul on Italian import, and I ran to the counter to get a copy. I then spent the evening in Clapham, in the company of a beautiful woman who worked in Harrods, but that’s another story …
The sun`s out in Brighton and summer 1989 is once again on my mind…
Gino Latino / Jovanotti – Welcome / Gimme Five 3 (Acid Five) – Ibiza Records / Yo! Productions 1988
A post about the best records of 1989 would be a post approximately the same size as a multi-volume encyclopaedia. What an amazing year for dance music, across every genre. As well as the sound of Soul II Soul, daisy age hip hop, ‘Lil Louis French Kiss, The KLF’s What Time Is Love? and Doug Lazy’s Let It Roll, the sound of Italian house music played an absolutely massive part in the soundtrack to that year in clubland.
While Black Box stormed the heights of #1 in the UK charts with Ride On Time, the clubs that summer were filled with this funky, strange, and at times very ethereal sound of this new Italo-house. There`s no way that this track could be described as ethereal though. It’s house music made by madmen! It is so funky, weird, hilarious, fun, joyous. It`s a totally original piece of music that had me totally hooked. It was also stupidly difficult to get! Released in 1988, it was massive in the clubs in the summer of ’89, by which time FFRR had licensed it for their next compilation LP, The House Sound of Europe Vol. V: Casa Latina. With a single release also planned, they’d put an import ban on it. Thankfully those nice people in Rounder Records managed to get me a copy, but not before I had bought the compilation LP.
The original Italian release has the added bonus of an amazing B-side in Jovanotti’s Gimme 5 3 (Acid Five). This sounds like Inner City’s Good Life, but played on a home Cassio keyboard, with a speak and spell toy replacing Paris Grey. Shit but great!
I re-posted an old photo on Facebook the other day of myself and then girlfriend, Sarah, at Greg Fenton’s Glitterbaby night… needless to say, I looked well ‘refreshed’ in said photograph, while amazingly Sarah looked completely lovely, and not a sweating, gurning, arms-in-the-air lunatic. Anyway, amongst the nice comments which were left, many people were talking about tracks from the clubs of the time in Manchester, and more specifically tracks played at Glitterbaby. Then someone mentioned this Belgian beast of a track from 1990…
Lhasa – The Attic – Music Man 1990
Sitting equidistant from the genres of techno, new-beat and bleep this is a complete monster of a tune. It also goes some way to illustrate the wonderful eclecticism of the Manchester Balearic scene at the time, and Greg’s excellent weekly party in particular. As the name suggests, Glitterbaby’s modus operandi was disco really, in all it’s weird and wonderful forms. The last track played at the final night was We Are Family, and disco, hi-nrg and Italo, were constants on the decks. But Greg had a wonderful ear for connecting all kinds of dance music together, so you would also have much harder sounding tracks like this seamlessly programmed into the night. A Killing Joke record was one of Greg’s special curveballs, and Nitzer Ebb and Fini Tribe also featured regularly, alongside the wonderful campery of Taffy and Divine.
My other favourite memory of this track is hearing Huggi play it at Back To Basics in Leeds one night, and blowing Kelvin and mines minds with it. Huggi was “perhaps the happiest member of staff” (Herb Garden fanzine) behind the counter of Eastern Bloc Records, Manchester, and a Yorkshireman and Basics resident. This was the same night that Huggi introduced me to one of my favourite phrases of all time. Derrick Carter had just played on one of the other floors in Basics, and Huggi asked if we’d checked his set out. We had, and then Huggi came out with …“Fuck me he’s so good! He makes me want to put “L” plates on me record box!” Classic Huggi.
The house sound of Birmingham…
The Groove Corporation meet Original Rockers – Stoned – The Cake Label 1993
A wonderful slice of deep and dubby house music from a city that I spent an inordinate amount of time partying in in the early to mid 90s. We all did to be fair! In the early `90s Brum was absolutely having it. Most of the UK suffered under dark ages licensing laws, but for some strange reason Birmingham clubs seemed to completely ignore this minor inconvenience, and residents of the city partied all weekend long. After LuvDup’s first invitation to play at Wobble, we decided to regularly join in. And oh, how we joined in…
Anyway, back to this wonderful record. The Cake Label was a collaboration between Brummy legend, DJ Dick, and his Original Rockers / Rockers Hi-Fi, and Groove Corporation who were all ex-members of Electribe 101. As well as the label they also ran some excellent Cake parties.
They possibly got the idea for this record from Dub Syndicate, who had released an LP and track using the same Jim Morrison sample in 1991 called Stoned Immaculate. Groove Corporation and Original Rockers take the sample into house territory, but keep that nice dubby, deep and trippy vibe.
I thought this track came out late on in 1992, which would make it 30 years old this year, but Discogs is telling me it was 1993. Oh well, no wonder my memory is a little fuzzy. I do know that in ’93 I played a lot of warm up sets for LuvDup, and this record featured heavily in those.
In praise of bargain bin house classics…
Clive Griffin – I’ll Be Waiting (Red Zone Mix) – Mercury Records 1991
From the moment this record hit the shops it was as cheap as chips. I think my own copy was 99p in Woolworths on the Monday it came out – sometime in the summer of ’91. This is what sometimes happens when major labels release underground dance music classics without actually realising it.
I`d been working in Vinyl Exchange for a few months at this point, and I didn’t know anyone who didn’t think that the David Morales Red Zone mix of this track was an absolute, stone cold, 18 carat, club classic in the making.
Every DJ who you wanted to listen to was playing this mix. Justin Robertson at Most Excellent, Greg Fenton at Glitterbaby, the LuvDup Twins, at, err, LuvDup, Mike Pickering, Jon DaSilva, Graeme Park and the other 10,000 DJs currently listed as residents at the Hacienda, and everyone on that amorphous, nebulous scene that became known as the ‘Balearic network’, from Slam in Glasgow to Venus in Nottingham…and yet, through some mysterious alchemy known only to major record labels they managed to saturate the market to the point that, upon release, this record was already in the bargain bins of most record shops, and it’s remained there ever since. Current starting price on Discogs is 75p.
This is one of my favourite David Morales mixes. Admittedly I’m not his biggest fan – that title belongs to someone called Stuart Douglas who used to work in Eastern Bloc Records- but I am a fan of his Red Zone and Dead Zone mixes. I like it when he gets dark and heavy, and this does just that. He makes great use of a tiny vocal sample from Brenda and the Tabulations Let’s Go All The Away Down, mixed with hard as nails techno synth stabs – we’re almost in Belgian hoover techno territory here – and slamming drums.
This was maybe the best 99p that I’ve ever spent – although I did buy Alison Limerick’s Where Love Lives from the same Woolly’s bargain bin around the same time.
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.