Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
A tale of great records and equally wonderful matching t-shirts …
Happy Mondays – W. F. L. (Vince Clarke / Paul Oakenfold Remixes) – Factory Records 1989
“NINETEEN EIGHTY-NINE! A number, another summer, sound of the ‘Funky Drummer’!” Yeah, I know, sorry. I’m starting to go on about summer 1989 quite a bit in these posts aren’t I. I’m thinking that maybe it could be the theme for a book? But, regardless of that, the sheer amount of incredible music I lapped up that year is quite staggering. This is another record which totally encapsulates the awesome variety of genre defying / creating records that were being produced, played, and danced frantically too in that heady, hot as fuck summer.
I know Rob ‘the guvnor’ Bright prefers the Vince Clarke mix, but I was always a sucker for the incredible Paul Oakenfold ‘Think About The Future’ Remix myself. This was an ever present as it soundtracked that long hot summer of working on the Palace Pier all day, and dancing all night. W.F.L. finally got a release in September 1989, and I can only presume that me and my friend Becca were waiting outside Rounder Records for it to open that day. I loved the song so much that I also bought the t-shirt – an enormous baggy white one with the cover art on the front.
Early October marked the start of a new term at Brighton Poly`s Fine Art BA course. As second years, we were tasked with putting on a little welcome party in one of the painting studios to welcome the new “freshers”. I`d brought my massive Hitachi ghetto blaster and a pile of tapes that I’d compiled, so was sort of ‘the DJ’, and had chosen to wear the W.F.L. t-shirt to impress the newbies…then in walks a fresh-faced young hunk wearing exactly the same shirt! We struck up a conversation about music, and football and instantly hit it off. He’d brought his own tape that he’d made – and actually mixed as well I might add! – and asked if it was OK to play it once mine had finished. I said it was..and the tape was very good. The young hunk was called Damian Harris, or Midfield General, as he’s probably a bit better known. Lovely chap.
(Rob – I had to include this one as well, because it`s just so brilliant)
I don’t know if it’s because I’m ill and feeling very croaky, but I seem to have come over all Scottish today…
Simple Minds – Promised You A Miracle / Theme For Great Cities / Seeing Out The Angel – Virgin 1982
As a proud Scotch I have always been a staunch defender of ‘The Minds’, despite their tragic descent – or ascent? – into stadium rock behemoths. This was the first record by them I ever heard, and I was smitten immediately. Released 40 years ago this week, it would become their first hit single that summer, climbing into the top 20 in June.
The band had released 4 LPs by this time, which had come nowhere close to bothering the charts or daytime radio, but which are all great. I’ve subsequently gone back and picked them all up cheap, but was blissfully unaware of them back then. Simple Minds came out of that post-punk explosion of music, and produced a sinuous, rhythmic kind of punk-funk sound, but with lyrics and songs which very much eschewed pop for a more underground and abstract aesthetic.
By Promised You A Miracle they seem to have worked out how to keep that wonderful propulsive groove in their music, but also add in some great more accessible songs, and this was their breakthrough, paving the way for the wonderful New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) LP, released later that year, to reach #3 in the UK charts.
Not only is the A-side an all-out pop classic, but the two instrumental tracks on the B-side are equally stunning and important. Produced by Steve Hillage who would go on to work with The Orb, and form System 7, they have a huge, epic, cavernous sound. Theme For Great Cities has become a Balearic classic, being played on underground dancefloors from Ibiza to Chicago to New York, where its impact was such that, it was lifted wholesale on the NYC freestyle / proto-house classic The Real Life by Corporation Of One. Seeing out The Angel sounds like some funky Can LP track. It`s a great 12”, that you still see in £ bins fairly regularly.
Still in Scotch mode … “Hey mate, have you got ‘The Hole In The Moon’ by The Watermen?”
The Waterboys – This Is The Sea – Ensign 1985
The above question was put to my dear friend, Justin Robertson, at some point in the early 1990s. I didn’t witness the historic interaction, and now I can’t remember if it occurred while he was DJing at some exclusive Balearic Network gathering, or over the counter of Eastern Bloc Records, Manchester, while he still worked there. Nonetheless it has remained one of my favourite little Balearic sayings all this time.
Before I’d ever even heard of Balearic Beats, I loved The Waterboys` album This Is The Sea. I got to this record via the minor hit single released from it at the tail end of 1985, The Whole Of The Moon. This wonderful piece of epic pop was apparently the result of trying to create a Prince-inspired sound, and the track does combine the atmosphere of the Paisley Park LP with The Beatles Penny Lane, to create something that music critics, after an earlier single, had already dubbed “The Big Music”.
I bought the LP off the back of the single and wasn’t disappointed. That tag, of “the Big Music”, is pretty accurate, with the songs having a vast, epic scale to them. It’s a bit like Echo & The Bunnymen, but Scottish, so with added elements of Celtic folk music.
The Waterboys were formed by fellow Scotch (!) Mike Scott, in Edinburgh, in 1983, and have always incorporated elements of Scots and Irish folk music in their sound, along with elements of soul, jazz, and blues. This Is The Sea features a lot of sax and brass, in an almost ‘wall of sound’ like approach at certain points. Plus, it’s full of fucking brilliant pop songs that make you want to jump up and down and sing along.
Like Theme For Great Cities, The Whole Of The Moon also became a huge Balearic hit, hence the quoted opening exchange, and was reissued in 1991 going top 3. I saw the band live in early ’89, not long after the also excellent Fisherman’s Blues LP had been released. They still played most of This Is The Sea, and they were brilliant.
This LP was 35 years old yesterday … bloody hell!
Happy Mondays – Squirrel And G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out) – Factory Records 1987
I wasn’t cool enough to have been into the Happy Mondays when this record came out. I was just about to do my “O” Levels and listening to pop, Prince, early house music and hip hop, which I was taping off the radio. I knew about New Order and Factory Records but wasn’t a big fan. I liked New Order and some A.C.R. records but hadn’t really noticed The Mondays at all.
Then Bummed and Wrote For Luck were released late in 1988, and early in ’89 and I started to get excited by them. Summer ’89 my friend Becca put Tart Tart on a tape for me, and I started to buy every record they’d put out, including this one. By this point, Northern Songs Publishing had noticed the subtle similarity between the Mondays track, Desmond, and a certain Beatles number, so my first copy, bought from Rounder Records, had that replaced by 24 Hour Party People instead. I picked up an original pressing – with the fancy plastic outer sleeve and original tracklist – in one of the secondhand record shops around Brighton`s Trafalgar Street later that same year, for not that much.
It’s a great debut LP. It has a scratchy, urgent sound – full of rubbery post-punk-funk basslines, like ESG on whizz, with Ryder`s unmistakable Mancunian meandering vocals sounding like no one else. The songs are also really good, and it starts with the two best in Kuff Dam (Mad Fuck backwards) and Tart Tart, which is still one of my favourite Mondays songs. 24 Hour Party People hints at the direction to follow on Bummed and Pills “N” Thrills And Bellyaches, without quite getting there. Double good start though.
An incredible record, that I played a tiny part in helping to get released …
Mark Seven – Divine Edits – Creative Use 2007
So, in the 2000s I used to speak to and buy records from Mark Seven an awful lot. First over the phone, when he used to physically post out lists of records for sale – bloody hell, what a stress that was, if you left for work before the list arrived one day – and then from his excellent Jus’ Wax website. Anyway, he was kind enough to send me files of these three edits that he’d done, and I thought they were amazing. I asked if he`d thought about releasing them, and he mentioned a couple of labels that were keen, but I suggested to him that those labels were a bit “meh”, and that my mate Kelvin Andrews` Creative Use might be a better option. I appealed to Mark`s background in design, and his love for the aesthetics of records, by saying “he’s into stuff like proper art work and that!” Mark was up for it, and after hearing the edits so was Kelvin. Mark had an idea for the sleeve design based on an old Fiorucci logo, and then a plot was hatched to do a limited-edition hand screen printed run of 100 copies with slightly alternative artwork.
I recall the day Kelvin brought a box of the limited edition pressing into Vinyl Exchange for us to sell. I quickly listed the copies on our website, posted a message on the DJ History forum that we had them in stock, and went for lunch. I returned an hour later to chaos! The traffic had crashed the site, and the phone was ringing off the hook with people from the forum trying to buy a copy!
The tracks have become staples that I’ve played hundreds of times around the world, and still play today. While Heaven might be the least impactful, it’s had lots of plays in chilled sets over the years, while Sermon became an anthem on our Down To The Sea & Back boat parties in Croatia, at both the Electric Elephant and Love International festivals. Higher is a favourite last tune, and I fondly remember it causing a bit of a stampede when I played it at The Do-Over in LA. A beautiful record.
Another ace record by a bloke called Mark …
S’Xpress – Hey Music Lover: The Trilogy – Rhythm King 1989
If any of you are fans of the radio shows that I used to broadcast on 1BTN with my dear friend Ben Monk, then you might recall that I always introduced the show with the greeting…
“Hey, music lovers…”
Although it could be taken as a tribute to the great Sly Stone, who recorded the original version of this track, in truth it’s inspired by this wonderful cover version by Mark Moore’s excellent S’Express (how DO you spell this bands name?).
I had yet to hear the Sly Stone version when this was released early in 1989, and while the original is brilliant, it’s never replaced this as my favourite. This is just an insane, funky, psychedelic piece of electronic madness. Sly’s version is part of a medley, and so before it really gets going your on to something else, while the S`Express cover gets to expand on the idea, and reveal the potential of that incredible groove and riff. It’s almost unrelenting in its intensity, with the acidic 303 bassline twisting the track one way then the other, letting the melody build and build, and with a soaring vocal performance from Billie Ray Martin – then of Electribe 101 – Michelle Ndrika and Eric Robinson.
I loved this track so much that I own all three 12”s. I bought the first, and then when I heard there was a Phillip Glass mix, I had to have that. When I realised that 12” came in a plastic sleeve designed to house all three, then I had to complete the set. The S’Express LP which was released a couple of months later in April ’89 is still one of my favourite house albums.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet Mark a few times over the years. In 1992, after seeing a totally mind-blowing chart of obscure disco that he’d had published in Mixmag, LuvDup invited him to play at the series of four parties they held that summer called Holidays In The Sun. Mark blew us all away with a depth of knowledge and selection that I don’t think any of us had heard before. He’s a lovely chap, with a stylish line in leopard print.