Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
There’s an unusual story to how I came by this fabulous record…
Tony Allen with Afrobeat 2000 – NEPA Dance Dub – Earthworks 1984
Back in the mid / late `90s, Phil Mison would occasionally send Richard Moonboots and myself tapes. He once sent Richard a tape, swearing that it was from some unknown `80s White Isle DJ, and that Kenneth Bager – from Music For Dreams – had passed it to him. The tape was fantastic. Every time Richard would ask about a record on the tape, Phil would incredibly know what the track was. Turned out it the mix was by Phil.
One day a tape arrived for me at Vinyl Exchange. No note, or anything to say who it was from, but the cover was a photocopy of a photo and caption from the feature on Animal Nightlife’s trip to Ibiza – from the September 1985 edition of The Face. It must be from Phil I thought!
I popped it on the shop stereo, and we all listened to it while putting sleeves out that morning. The tape was great. Some I knew, lots of stuff I didn’t. Including this incredible track. Both Rob Bright and I were looking at each other asking, “Do you know what this is?”, when in walked Dave Rofe. Dave was an early resident DJ at the Hacienda, and at that point he was managing Sub Sub, who were just about to turn into Doves. We all played 5-a-side every Wednesday night at Chorlton leisure centre at the time. The smallest game of football in the Northwest!
“Any idea what this is Dave?” we both asked in unison.
“It’s by Tony Allen, he was Fela Kuti’s drummer. NEPA, UK release on Rough Trade.”
The track is phenomenal. A rolling, spacey slice of afro-beat, which sounds like it’s been mixed by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and then beamed aboard a spaceship on its way to Mars.
A couple of months later Steve Yates and I went on a buying trip to see someone over on the North West coast, somewhere between Southport and Blackpool, I forget exactly where. The collection was mostly dance music, with a bit of hip hop, and was a mixture of stuff that the shop really wanted – early `80s disco, electro, and dance – and stuff we really didn’t want – mid `90s European house, mainly Dutch, Belgian and German stuff. So, sadly, about 75% of the collection, we wouldn’t pay for, but the stuff we wanted was gold. I negotiated with the chap, but he wanted to get rid of everything in one go, which is fair enough. We couldn’t agree a price, so were going to leave empty handed. He must have been able to see the disappointment on my face, because he then said to us:
“I’m sorry to have wasted your time and thanks for coming out. You can have a couple of records each for your trouble.”
So, this was one of the records I grabbed. Not a bad night’s work after all.
Those lovely people at Disco Tees just sent me a T-shirt inspired by the cover art from this total Italo-piano banger!
Starlight – NUMERO UNO (REMIX) – Groove Groove Melody 1989
This complete monster of an Italo-piano-scream-up classic was produced by DJ Lelewel, a.k.a. legendary Italian genius DJ and producer Daniele Davoli, the man behind Black Box, Wood Allen, and a whole host of other massive Italo-house classics. Released in late 1988, originally under the less catchy moniker of Starlight Invention Group, by the summer of ’89 this was an absolute anthem in the clubs of the UK, along with a shit load of other Italo-house releases. It was snapped up by City Beat, Beggars Banquet’s (and Groove Records) dance label, storming into the UK charts in August, and peaking at #9 a few days after my 19th birthday. The same week Daniele went to #1 with Ride On Time as Black Box. What a time to be young!
I hadn’t thought about this record in ages, then a few months back I came across an episode of The Other Side Of Midnight – Granada TVs late `80s arts programme, hosted by Tony Wilson. It was an end of series, summer ’89 special. It was SO acid house!
It consists of T-Coy – doing Carino, A Guy Called Gerald – doing Voodoo Ray, and Happy Mondays – performing Wrote For Luck – all playing live to a load of ecstasy-fuelled kids. It’s ace. My highlight, however, was Mike Pickering of T-Coy’s NUMERO UNO promo T-shirt.
The copy I still have is the remix version, which I think is slightly more Balearic, as it starts with loads of Spanish style guitars before going piano-tastic! It still sounds great!
There is a legendary tale of a major incident between two giants of the Balearic / acid house world fighting over a copy of Numero Uno in Trax Records on Greek Street in London’s Soho … (Wasn`t Weatherall one of them? Rob : )
A few days ago on the 22nd May 2022, it was 40 years to the day that Prince recorded this, one of his most sought after vault tracks…
Prince – Purple Music – 1999 Deluxe Edition LP – Warners 2019
Recorded during one session at his Kiowa Trail home studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota, this has long been a holy grail for Prince fans. It’s appeared on many bootlegs over the years but was finally officially released in high quality on the recent Deluxe edition of the 1999 LP.
It’s a spellbinding 10-minute machine-funk opus, powered along by a Linn-LM1 drum machine, and some of Prince’s most trippy lyrics, comparing his music to a drug high. It`s inclusion helps to underline the huge influence Prince’s music from this period had on the embryonic sound of house, which was about to start being produced in the city of Chicago, and later Detroit. From the track Controversy onwards, along with classic Salsoul, Prelude and West End records, P-Funk, Italo-disco, and European synth pop / new wave records, Prince was a major factor in how the sound would evolve. He was absorbing many of these same influences himself, via legendary radio DJ The Electrifying Mojo – on his famous Midnight Funk Association show. Those early house records like Jamie Principle`s Baby Wants To Ride, Your Love, and Waiting On My Angel, are drawing on tracks like All The Critics Love U In New York, Sensuality, Automatic, and if they’d had a chance to hear it, Purple Music.
In the Channel 4 series Pump Up The Volume there’s an incredible quote from Marshall Jefferson, talking about Jamie Principle:
“We had no idea he was like a kid in his bedroom makin’ music. I thought Jamie was a millionaire in Europe somewhere. I didn’t even know he was black!”
Which pretty much mirrors how I felt the first time I heard Prince’s When Doves Cry, which sounds crazy now, as does Marshall’s quote.
“Don’t need no reefer, don’t need cocaine, Purple music does the same to my brain, and I’m high, so high.”
A couple of ‘blue’ ones, for the dads (Sorry, totally out of place Northern working men’s club comedian type joke, I’ll get my coat …) Blue vinyl I mean, and what a lovely records they are…
Sometimes with dance music, you’re working backwards. My knowledge of this record started in 2003, with the fabulous Joakim remix. I’d popped over to Piccadilly records after finishing work in VX a bit early on a Saturday, as Danny Webb had said there was a great record in that I’d love. He handed me the remix and I was of course blown away by the trippy, cosmic-disco epic I was hearing.
As I was about to hand over some cold hard cash – remember that – he asked:
“Have you heard the original?”
I hadn’t, but it had been on a Tigersushi E.P. – Joakim’s label- the previous year, and they still had copies in stock, so he dug one out. If the remix had blown me away, the original left me speechless. What an incredible track! Like some lost, epic, foray into space-disco by Serge Gainsbourg. I bought both, and proceeded to Moonboots old flat in Chorlton, “The Whirlpool”, for a night of playing tunes and boozing heavily. Richard was also unaware of the track, and I took great delight in playing him first the remix and then the original and seeing him react in an almost identical fashion to how I had.
Of course, I wasn’t going to be satisfied with the reissue on Tigersushi, so got to digging for the original pretty quick. Max Berlin is the nom de plume of Jean-Pierre Cerrone, the brother of French disco legend Marc Cerrone, and this track was originally a French-only release in 1978. It was rediscovered, reissued, and slightly remixed in 1987 on the Belgian / French EBM / new beat scene, which is possibly how it came to the attention of Joakim.
There really is too much amazing music out there. Vive la France!
Air Liquide – If There Was No Gravity E.P. featuring Stratus Static – Rising High Records 1994
The B-side wins again as Public Enemy once rapped. Air Liquide are a German techno / electronica duo, and the A-side is a kind of techno-nursery rhyme, which is quite nice, but I’ve honestly only played it possibly twice. Over on the flip we have the real bomb – Stratus Static – which I guess could be the dictionary definition of trip-hop, as it’s both trippy as f@@k, and very hip hop! Over a loop of the break from Cyprus Hill’s Insane In The Brain, the duo play fluctuating synth and acid lines, which twist in and out of the beat, becoming more intense, deranged, and “insane”, as the track progresses. It is THE SHIT!
I played this to death after buying it from Richard Moonboots over the counter of Eastern Bloc upon its release, but it became hugely sought after the following year, after it appeared on Coldcut’s now legendary mix CD Journeys By DJ: Coldcut – 70 Minutes Of Madness, which is also, it has to be said, THE SHIT!
The mid-90s was an incredibly inventive time in dance music, with new genres and sub-genres being invented every week, or so it seemed. This sometimes meant that the music often became formulaic, and dated quickly, but this still sounds immense almost 3 decades later.
For Andrew “Fletch” Fletcher – 1961-2022 …
Depeche Mode – Behind The Wheel (Shep Pettibone Remix) – Mute Records 1987
I was shocked, and completely gutted, to hear of the death of Depeche Mode`s Andrew Fletcher last night, at the age of just 60. Depeche Mode are one of my favourite bands. I have loved their music since their first record New Life, in 1981, right up to their last album, Spirit, in 2017. As well as being one of the finest pop bands of the last 4 decades they are also under appreciated electronic music pioneers. They also seem like very decent human beings. As with all great music, a lot of it is tied to memory and events, which makes choosing a record to mark this occasion so loaded.
My adoration for ‘the Mode” had its peak years between 1984’s Some Great Reward and 1990’s Violator, which is probably in my top 10 favourite albums of all time, but I’ve chosen this wonderful single from the 1987 Music For The Masses LP, as it has special meaning for me.
I`d started at college, studying my Art & Design Foundation Course in September 1987. By the end of that year, was in a relationship with a fellow student who some of you may now know as “Balearic Wife”. As 1987 turned into 1988 we started to see each other, and I would catch the bus from Latchford, in Warrington, to Lymm Village, in Cheshire, where she lived. It was a long bus journey – about an hour – and my Sony Walkman was a life saver. Two of the tapes I listened to most on this particular journey, in those cold, dark winter evenings, were the Depeche Mode`s Black Celebration and Music For The Masses. I’d also bought the Behind The Wheel 12” after hearing it played at both of Warrington’s two alternative disco nights, and had added it to the end of the MFTM tape. Its dark, propulsive energy will always remind me of those bus journeys, staring out the window as the streetlights of industrial Warrington gave way to the moon, star-lit countryside of Cheshire, and the excitement of the evening ahead. So, thank you for that, and a million other memories that your band`s wonderful music will forever evoke Fletch.
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print – personally I think they’d make damn fine record sleeves / disco bags.