Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
Two of my favourite LPs celebrated their birthdays in October. This one, my favourite David Sylvian solo LP, was 35 years old on the 19th.
David Sylvian – Secrets Of The Beehive – Virgin 1987
David Sylvian’s third solo LP since splitting his band Japan – just as the world was beginning to realise how brilliant they were – is a seeming return to a more conventional style of song writing. His previous record, Gone To Earth, had been a sprawling double album, with the final two sides devoted to experimental, if very beautiful, instrumental music, continuing his journey along a path he’d begun exploring on the excellent, Words With The Shaman, which he’d recorded with Steve Jansen, Jon Hassell and Holger Czukay in 1985.
With Secrets … David wrote the songs very quickly, in a fortnight period, at the end of 1986, with a focus on the lyrics, and the music exploring the subtler sides of folk, jazz, and orchestral composition. Put together with regular collaborators such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Danny Thompson, and Steve Jansen, along with contributions from Mark Isham, the LP, although finished quickly, ran over budget. This meant the track, Ride, which David saw as the centre piece, actually had to left off since it was incomplete. Although it is undoubtably a beautiful song, the album that was released is gorgeous as is, and I’m not sure that it would have been improved.
Secrets… has a wonderful, dreamlike atmosphere, and some of David’s finest songs in tracks like Orpheus (there are some lovely cover versions of this), When The Poets Dreamed Of Angels (Balearic Wife loves singing along to the line “Next time I’ll break every bone in your body …”), Waterfront, and my own personal favourite, Let The Happiness In. That it was released into a musical landscape which was beginning to be dominated by hip hop and house music, just makes it even more remarkable. I bought my copy in November from HMV in Warrington (it still has the £5.49 price sticker inside). It looks like a 4AD release, rather than something on Virgin, due to the beautiful sleeve design from Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson’s 23 Envelope.
November the 2nd and 3rd, 1987 are quite important dates in my life ….
Public Enemy – Bring The Noise – Def Jam 1987
OK, so this record looks a bit odd, doesn’t it! Quite obviously a member of staff from a record shop has written all over the shrink-wrap of this US import single to highlight the fact that on the B-side of this release from a New Jersey swingbeat trio, lies one of the greatest, most important hip hop records of all time!
This is how this masterpiece first saw the light of day, just over 35 years ago! Can you believe that we once lived in a world where the people who ran record company’s thought that this was a good idea? Astonishing!
In October that year, Stu Allan proudly announced at the start of his Sunday night radio show that he would be playing the new Public Enemy record. I was, like everyone else, blown away – astounded that the band had managed to build on, and transcend the sonic assault they’d pioneered on Rebel Without A Pause. I played the tape to my brother, and we listened on repeat, until a week or so later I headed into Manchester to buy a copy from the Spin Inn Disc Centre. Imagine my horror when I realised that it had been relegated to the B-side of this weird release (was this the inspiration for B-side Wins Again?). Anyway, I had to have it, so shelled out the monumental – at the time – sum of £5.49 for the import record, where staff had handily underlined in marker pen (look!) the fact that this was indeed the new Public Enemy track (was this you Russ?). It didn’t get a UK release until January ’88 – which was way too long to wait! This copy has been in this PVC sleeve for almost all that time. So long in fact, that the silver ink has now fused itself to the outer sleeve, meaning they will remain together forever.
A few weeks after buying the 12” I was in London with my art foundation course to visit galleries. On the Monday I was in Hammersmith, and rounded a corner to find the Hammersmith Odeon, with the sign proudly announcing that tonight on the 2nd of November, the venue was hosting the 1987 Def Jam Tour. I already had tickets for my brother and I to go to this in Manchester later in the month, but thought, fuck it, I’ll see if there are any tickets left. There was. Just the one. Front row of the circle. The gig was mind-blowing! One of the best gigs I have ever seen, up there with Prince and Trouble Funk. Public Enemy were on first, then Eric B & Rakim, then LL Cool J. It was the first European gig of the tour, with Public Enemy stealing the show despite their lowly billing. Recordings of the crowd were used on their next LP, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. The atmosphere was electric, and of course Bring The Noise was a show stopping moment.
I topped a superb night off by running into my friend Adrian, in Soho, who took me to The WAG Club for the first time. Adrian had lived in London at the dawn of the `80s and had been a regular Blitz Kid / New Romantic, so was revisiting his miss-spent youth. I was blown away, visiting this club that I’d been reading about for years in the pages of The Face and iD. My hazy memory is telling me that the DJ that night was Mark Moore, but I could be confusing another visit with this one. I became a bit of a fan of the club. I do recall a mix of music spanning from Public Enemy to Madonna’s Into The Groove, so who knows?
“Bass! How low can you go?”
Little did I know then, but the next night, Tuesday, November 3rd 1987, would include an even more momentous life event. It would end with me snogging this really cute posh girl from my course that I fancied, on a bench outside Selfridges on Oxford St at 1 in the morning. That was 35 years ago today, and luckily, she’s now my wife, and still the most magical, wonderful, weirdest, funniest, kindest, creative, cleverest, loveliest, and totally nuts person I’ve had the good fortune to meet. Love you Balearic Wife (and you as well Chuck D).
A total banger for bonfire night, released 40 years ago today … possibly?
Culture Club – Time (Clock Of The Heart) – Virgin 1982
This record is fucking wonderful ….It’s quite incredible to think back on just how hugely famous George became in the early `80s, with legions of fans copying his look across the globe. I was reminded the other night, while watching the new Channel 4 documentary series about the 1980s that he had a starring role, playing himself, in an episode of the fucking A-Team for Christ’s sake!!! I mean, that actually happened!
His own autobiography, Take It Like A Man, is one of my favourite pop biogs, and Dave Rimmer’s fantastic, Like Punk Never Happened: Culture Club and the New Pop, is also an incredible insight. There’s a great BBC doc called, Boy George’s 1970s, as well. Balearic Wife and I love it.
Blinded by the ‘look’, you could be forgiven for forgetting that it would all have been for nothing had he also not had immense talent. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me was a beautiful slice of lover’s rock, that I’m sure Dennis Bovell himself would have been proud of. They followed that up with this, for me one of the greatest pop singles of the `80s (my list is, admittedly, very long).
It’s pop dance at its finest, with the song driven along by a great synth-bass part, but it’s that voice, and what it does on the soaring, sing-along chorus that really seals this as a classic. George really does have one of the all-time great voices.
This song has caused ecstatic moments wherever I’ve played it, from the closing track on an Adriatic boat party, to causing a collective loved-up ‘moment’ at a very special afters in Hove. I must have picked up dozens of copies over the years and redistributed them. The two that I currently own, I think both came from the £1 bins in Kingbee Records.
Discogs says this was released on 5th November, while Wikipedia says 19th, which seems like the more realistic date, since it charted on 27th – but then I wouldn’t get to use my ‘banger’ gag, now would I.
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print