Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
“Give me your answer, fill in a form, mine forevermore…”
Prince And the Revolution – Girls & Boys / Under The Cherry Moon / Erotic City (Make Love Not War Erotic City Come Alive) – Paisley Park 1986
OK, so the above lyric is from Paul McCartney, and not Prince – but, as it’s from When I’m 64, and today would have been Prince’s 64th birthday, I think that he might have appreciated it.
This is one of my top 5 Prince singles, containing two of his finest songs. The A-side is a standout from my favourite LP of all time, and the flip side, well the flip side is EROTIC F@@@KING CITY!!!
Originally released as the B-side to Let’s Go Crazy, back in 1984, but only discovered by me when I bought this 12”, Erotic City was the first track that Prince recorded with Sheila E, who shares vocal duties with Prince, and whose voice is both sped up and slowed down on different parts of the track. Sheila sings the immortal line, “We can fuck until the dawn…”, which they both subsequently claimed is actually “We can funk until the dawn…”, but come on guys, who are you trying to kid?
The song is like an experimental mix of P-Funk and house – though I’d never heard of house in 1984 – and it is an immense dance record which I have played to death over the years. I need a new copy!
Girls & Boys is another monster track, enhanced by a great farting baritone sax riff from Eric Leeds – his first appearance on a Prince single. The scene in which it appears in Under The Cherry Moon is a highlight of the film, and replicated in the song`s video, with the addition of a cameo from The Revolution and Suzannah Melvoin. If the film had been more like the video, more people might have liked it. The movie has Kristin Scott Thomas in it, and she dances in a glam dress and looks wonderful, so it’s not all bad. Kristin included Girls & Boys in her Desert Island Discs, which was nice of her.
I still recall the single received a hilarious and excellent review in Smash Hits, and thanks to the excellent blog: Like Punk Never Happened – Brian McCloskey’s Smash Hits Archive – I’ve been able to track it down and regurgitate it here for you:
“Released in place of ‘Anotherloverholenyohead’. The drums sound like someone banging a wooden spoon on an Addis flip-top bin turned upside down; the cymbals sound like someone tapping a Lucozade bottle with a penknife, and Prince sings things like ‘she had the cutest ass he’d ever seen’ and it’s totally brilliant.” (Simon Mills – Smash Hits Singles reviews – August 13-26, 1986)
Sums it up nicely I feel!
I have the UK 12” with a poster, and a UK 2×7” in a gatefold sleeve which has She’s Always In My Hair and 17 Days, instead of Erotic City.
Happy Birthday Prince. Forever in my life…
There are so many versions of this quite brilliant piece of music, but I think the original is the best …
Jasper Van’t Hof – Pili Pili – Keytone Records 1984
I imagine that like most people of my age, I first encountered this record via a very lovely Italian cover version which arrived in time for the summer of 1990. It was by Voice Of Africa and called Hoomba Hoomba, and with its slow tempo, Soul II Soul beat, melancholy piano riff, and African chanting, it was a sure fire hit on the more Balearic leaning and open minded – and at that time that was quite a few of them – dancefloors of the UK club scene. It features in the excellent Channel 4 documentary about the Ibiza 90! event, “A Short Film About Chilling”.
At the time I think UK DJs and clubbers were of the mind that Italian producers were making these records to cater directly to the tastes of UK clubbers who’d experienced the epiphany of Ibiza and the sound of Balearic Beats. Little did we know at the time that they were actually inspired by Italy’s own exciting club scene, called Cosmic / Afro. Many releases were just wholesale remakes of tracks which were big for DJs like Danielle Baldelli and Beppe Loda. A track like Wood Alllen`s Airport ‘89 for example, is just bits of the Cosmic classics Ali Shuffle, by Alvin Cash, and the Rah Band’s Electric Fling – mistranslated as “Electric Flying”, hence “Airport”.
Voice of Africa was another, a remake of Jasper Van’t Hof`s epic blend of African percussion, tribal drums, chanting, and a haunting piano part which just keeps building and building until its 15-minute crescendo. Jasper is a prolific Dutch jazz musician, who started incorporating African musical influences into his music in the `80s. Pili Pili was something of turning point, and he then started recording under the name Pili Pili occasionally, with the song sometimes changing its title to Hoomba Hoomba. Confusing, eh?
I’m re-reading Chris Heath’s hilarious and fascinating book ‘Pet Shop Boys, Literally’ for the umpteenth time, and hence listening to a lot of their music as well …
Pet Shop Boys – Being Boring (Marshall Jefferson Remix) / We All Feel Better In The Dark (Brothers In Rhythm Remixes) – Parlophone 1990
The Pet Shop Boys are one of my favourite pop groups, but I don’t just love their records, I love THEM. I find Neil and Chris just fascinating, intelligent, and incredibly funny people. I never tire of reading their interviews. The Rock`s Back Pages podcast with Neil Tennant as a guest is one of my favourite things to cheer me up.
It would be near impossible for me to pick a favourite of theirs, but this remix of Being Boring is certainly in my top 5. It’s a near perfect mix of heartaching-ly beautiful lyrics, and a deep Chicago house rhythm track, courtesy of Marshall Jefferson. Written after the tragic death of one of Neil’s friends from Newcastle to AIDS, the lyric remembers the parties they held and takes its title from the Zelda Fitzgerald quote that they used as an invitation, that she was never bored because she was never boring. This line is one of the greatest lyrics ever written and slays me every time:
“I never dreamt that I would get to be, The creature I was always meant to be.”
On the flip is one of my favourite PSB B-sides as well, again with excellent remixes, this time from Brothers In Rhythm, although I do still just prefer the original version of this track – with it’s nice use of a vocal sample from Tramaine’s Fall Down. It’s a magical, mid-tempo Balearic shuffler, with an amazing ambient mix as well – both gorgeous versions, but I do wish they’d left Chris Lowe’s rap in! – although these are certainly more playable DJ wise.
The sleeve is both beautiful, and funny. Replacing the title with “Being Remixed” is just so Pet Shop Boys. To quote Chris Lowe in the aforementioned book “If something looks good … it usually is”.
Forty years ago, this LP went straight to #1 …
Roxy Music – Avalon – E.G. Records Ltd. 1982
The final studio album from Roxy would be the first one that I fell in love with – although not until a few years after its release. It’s sophisticated grooves, and a quote from Duran Duran’s John Taylor – on a free Smash Hits interview flexi-disc – where he stated that his favourite song lyric was “I blew up your body, but you blew my mind…” from In Every Dream Home A Heartache, were the beginnings of my love of Roxy Music.
Nile Rogers has famously said many times that he got a lot of the inspiration for Chic from Roxy Music, when, a girlfriend took him to see the band live. With this album, musically we can hear the wheel turning full circle. The Roxy sound has absorbed the influence of Chic, and that highly polished, and undeniably rhythmic style they developed on previous LPs hits its zenith here, on Avalon.
The sound is hugely influenced by the locations the music was recorded in – with sessions beginning in Chris Blackwell’s legendary Compass Point Studio’s in Nassau. F@@king hell, there is something in the water in that place! Recording was very loose and experimental, with the tracks being pretty much written as the band recorded them. Then the tapes were taken to The Power Station In New York, where Bob Clearmountain would mix the LP. Another Chic connection – Bob was the producer who recorded Good Times, and continued to work with Nile and Bernard over many years, most famously on Bowie’s Let’s Dance.
I bought my copy of Avalon from a £1 bin when I first moved to Brighton, but I probably hadn’t listened to it in years, when in the early noughties Richard Moonboots bought his first Cosmic tape from Daniele Baldelli over the internet. Moon had asked for Daniele`s best tape from 1982, and brought it round so that I could transfer it to CD.
“It’s got some tracks on it that sound like Bryan Ferry singing”, Moon said.
Daniele plays 2 tracks from Avalon, cutting from The Main Thing, into Liaisons Dangereuses’ Los Ninos Del Parque, and then back to The Space Between. It`s quite a good feeling when you already own 2 tracks on a classic Cosmic tape!
These last pieces were supposed to accompany the Cabaret Voltaire and Impossible Dreamers posts a while back, but better late, etc… A couple of Balearic beauties that are approaching – or have just had – their 40th birthdays…
China Crisis – African And White (Remixed And Extended Version) – Inevitable 1982
This magnificent slice of Scouse-pop passed me by completely on its original release, although the subsequent single from China Crisis did hit the charts.
The first time I bought a China Crisis record was in 1985, the single Black Man Ray, which I followed with the subsequent Flaunt The Imperfection LP. African And White however, was one of those Balearic rediscoveries of `88 /`89 – getting lots of plays from more adventurous DJs, resulting in Virgin Records re-releasing it in 1990 with a Steve Proctor remix.
The remix still sounds good to me, but the original version is just a timeless Balearic classic. I managed to get this copy out of the bargain bins in Vinyl Exchange sometime shortly after starting work there. You can see the line scored on the sleeve that we used to make once a record went below 99p.
What a beautiful piece of ‘accidental’ Balearic beat. All Balearic beats were accidental back then.
This was a bit of a Balearic cover-up that then got remixed into a monster progressive house beast …
Shakespeare’s Sister – Black Sky (Black Widow Mix / Underworld’s Dub Extravaganza Remix Parts 1&2) – London Records 1991 / 1992
Shakespeare’s Sister were (are?) a really interesting pop group, and in September ’91 they released a rather excellent pop single, called Goodbye Cruel World. On its B-side were some very Balearic versions of a track called Black Sky, remixed by Pete Tong no less! These versions, both the Black Widow Mix and the Black Dub, were getting a lot of plays in Manchester’s Balearic clubs – each a thrilling mix of funky break beats and a killer piano hook. Some naughty DJ types resorted to putting stickers over the labels of their records back then – oh what fun we had!
Anyway, I bought this 12” pretty cheaply at work in Vinyl Exchange, as we seemed to get loads of promo copies in. Mine still has the press sheet an mahoosive poster. Then a few months later there was another, promo only version of Black Sky appeared, this time it’s remixed by Darren Emerson and Rick Smith of Underworld. This is a very different take, given an epic, building, pounding house rhythm. It’s deep, but at the same time utterly euphoric, with sweeping string sections, and wonderful swinging drums and percussion. It`s an utterly wonderful remix, and it still sounds incredible now, 30 years (30 F@@KING YEARS?!?!) later. My only criticism would be, that they should have kept the two parts together as one gorgeous 15-minute mix. I’ve never really understood why they split them. Also, part 2 should be part 1, and vice versa! Bizarrely they decided to only release them on separate CD singles. Record companies just have no f@@king idea sometimes, do they!
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.