Super selections & wonderful words by Balearic Mike.
Writing about “Our Lips Are Sealed” made me want to also dig this amazing record out … This is just a wonderful, wonderful pop song!
Jane Wiedlin – Rush Hour – EMI-Manhattan Records 1988
The former Go-Go, and co-writer of Our Lips Are Sealed with Terry Hall, had her one and only UK chart hit in the summer / autumn of 1988. It’s quite simply a turbo-charged, utterly euphoric, slab of perfect pop music. I still recall her performing it on Top Of The Pops in some cut-off denim shorts and a cropped leather jacket. I just rewatched it on YouTube. A hat was also involved! I’m still smitten.
There were an awful lot of good records to buy in 1988, plus I was just about to go to Paris with Balearic Wife, so I didn’t pick this record up. It slowly slipped from my conscious memory over the years, until sometime in the mid `90s I was at a party in that weird, multi-level venue off Deansgate, and Johnno (John Burgess of Jockey Slut / Bugged Out / Disco Pogo fame) played it! I ran over to the DJ booth and to ask him what it was, as it must have been a decade since I’d heard it, but the memories and sense of euphoria all came flooding back. I couldn’t find a copy anywhere, though, and gradually it slipped form my thoughts again.
Then a few years ago I was watching those re-runs of classic Top Of The Pops episodes, and we got to August 1988, and here it was again. This time I was determined to own a copy. The next day Balearic Wife and I went to Chichester to see an exhibition. This had the added value of allowing me to visit a quite decent record shop… and what would I find in the racks for the sum of £2! Why only this `80s pop masterpiece. At last, I would own this marvellous record.
It has the added bonus that the previous owner loved it so much that they cut the lyrics out of Smash Hits and placed them inside the record. Which was a wonderful bonus. I did this habitually in the early 80s as well. A kindred spirit.
Balearic Bonus Points: Jane Wiedlin also had a starring role in the fabulous movie “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, where she plays Joan Of Arc, and goes a bit aerobics crazy! Said film had a significant impact on the UKs Balearic Network in the early 90’s, with certain people naming their clubs things like “Most Excellent”!
This hip hop masterpiece turned 20 years old in December …
Common – Electric Circus – MCA Records 2002
I absolutely loved this album, picking up the 4-track sampler 12” as well as the double LP upon release. But then I suppose I like quite ‘unusual’ shall we say, music. I also like straight up pop, but you know what I mean. Anyway, I thought this was a huge step forward from Common’s previous, and also excellent Like Water For Chocolate album. Electric Circus, perhaps more than anything else from that time period, acts as a salient prediction of the future for rap and R&B music, but also the pop music landscape in general.
Hip hop has always been fond of the guest MC, or producer, but on this LP the array of talent dropping in for a coffee, and to then produce, sing, or play on a track is truly staggering. It’s almost as if they invited everyone featured on the record sleeve, a beautiful tribute to the Peter Blake designed sleeve of The Beatles “Sergeant Pepper…” to come round and do a turn. Most of the tracks are produced by Questlove and J Dilla, with The Neptunes, James Poyser and Pino Palladino finishing the rest, but the list of contributors is quite incredible. Prince shows up on one track, and we also get high quality musical cameos from Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Hove local (I see him at the Pizza Van occasionally) Omar, Pharrell Williams, Bilal, Bobbi Humphrey, and Cee-Lo.
The album pulls in almost as many disparate influences and styles as it has guests, and yet still manages to sound cohesive. It’s avant garde at the same time as it’s funky. It’s melodic and soulful while being experimental. It’s a truly wonderful LP from front to back. A few highlights for me are Aquarius, featuring Bilal, the entirety of Side 2, which flows through The Hustle, with Omar and Dart Chillz, Come Close, with a gorgeous vocal from Mary J. Blige, the audacious New Wave with Laetitia Sadier’s vocal managing to make the track sound like more like Stereolab than Stereolab, and the hazy psychedelic soul of Star *69, featuring Prince and Bilal. Also, let’s not forget the frankly remarkable Jimi Was A Rock Star, which sounds like Arthur Russell jamming with guest vocalist Erykah Badu!
It’s fair to say that at the time people were a little ‘surprised’ by the album. In fact, reaction was mixed, from positive to openly hostile, with many critics praising its ambition, but criticising the execution. The really sad thing is that at the time Electric Circus was a commercial failure, selling less then 300,000 copies, less than half that of its predecessor – although this can be partly explained by the absorption of MCA Records into Geffen just months after release. Hopefully with hindsight it’s time this experimental, ground-breaking, and just plain excellent album was reappraised for the masterpiece it is. I saw Questlove post about the LP last month on his Facebook page. He had this to say:
“Back then one could say in 2003 this felt like the asterisk or blemish of the period ‘cause it was too ahead of its time – “too weird” “too experimental” “too soft” “too pretentious” “too out there” “trying too hard” “too emo” “too futuristic” “doin’ too much”. … Funny what a difference 20 years makes: now a new generation is sayin how life changing this was & how futuristic and ahead of its time it was, and how played now it sounds like we made this last week.”
(The Playgroup remix of this is off the hook – Rob)
I was saddened to hear of the passing of the pioneering electronic musician Yukihiro Takahashi….
Yukihiro Takahashi – Neuromantic (feat. Drip Dry Eyes) – Alfa Records 1981
Although probably best known as the drummer in the Sadistic Mika Band, and the ground-breaking, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Yukihiro had an incredibly prolific career, spanning 6 decades, multiple collaborations, and over 40 solo albums!
It’s hard to pick a favourite amongst that lot, and I did think of a number of fabulous YMO records, but I decided to choose this beautiful solo LP from 1981, with which to pay my respects. It’s title pays tribute / takes the piss slightly, out of what was happening in the UK club scene at the time, and is a really solid album from start to finish. In some ways It’s almost a Yellow Magic Orchestra album, with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Haroumi Hosono both contributing, as well as the likes of Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay.
The music is pure electro-pop, with influences from the likes of Brian Eno, on Charge, and even the band Japan on opening track, Glass. It really is a wonderful album, but for me there is one real standout. I first heard Drip Dry Eyes on an incredible mixtape by Jolyon Green. This must have been the mid-noughties. After a few years of us all desperately trying to unearth all the mystery tracks on Danielle Baldelli’s Cosmic tapes, Jolyon had gone off to explore another musical avenue. Jo had been listening to tapes by Belgian DJ Fat Ronny (Ronny Harmsen) from the legendary Antwerp club Ancienne Belgique, as well as tapes of the ‘Liaisons Dangereuses’ radio shows, and his mix was exploring some of those colder, more Northern European sounds. I messaged him, asking what this track, and a few others, were, and was delighted when he replied, as we actually had a copy of the LP in the racks at Vinyl Exchange. Thank you for the music, Yukihiro, and thanks Jolyon for telling me for telling me what it was!
For Martin Duffy …
Primal Scream – Shine Like Stars (Andrew Weatherall Remix) – Sony Music 2022
The passing of Martin Duffy just a few days before Christmas last year came as a real shock. Not just because another great musical talent has gone far too soon, but because there’s a physical space in the local Brighton community where Duffy should be. A genius level musician who, although widely acclaimed as a member first of Felt, and then Primal Scream, had played with numerous artists, from The Charlatans, to Dr. John, Beth Orton, and the Chemical Brothers. Duffy had presented shows on our radio station 1BTN, DJ’d around Brighton and Hove with lots of my fellow 1BTN DJs, and was a regular in our local pub.
Martin’s collaboration with another former Brighton resident, Steve Mason, on 2017’s Alien Stadium project is a personal favourite of mine, but I decided to post this record, the Andrew Weatherall remix of Primal Scream’s Shine Like Stars, which although recorded in 1991, only got a release for Record Store Day last year. The whole song builds around Duffy’s simple keyboard part, almost like a child’s nursery rhyme. It’s beautiful in its original form but becomes something even more incredible on this remix. Weatherall also left us far too soon. This was one of my favourite releases of 2022.
Thank you for the music, Duffy, and for taking this song title quite literally.
There are musical giants, and then there was Thom Bell…
Dionne Warwick – Track Of the Cat – Warner Bros. Records 1976
Thom Bell also passed away just before Christmas. Along with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, he was one of the architects of the Sound of Philadelphia, that gorgeous hybrid of R&B and funk, which took over from Motown as the sound of black America, and spawned the music we now know as disco at the beginning of the 1970s.
Thom worked with a staggering number of acts, including The Delfonics, The Stylistics, The Spinners, Elton John, the O’Jays, Deniece Williams, Dusty Springfield, and James Ingram… His credits on Discogs runs to almost 3,000 entries, which means that there’s a pretty serious list of tracks I could have selected to pay tribute. I was toying with the fantastic Elton John record, Are You Ready For Love?, which was originally released as “The Thom Bell Sessions”, and only became a hit after its rediscovery – via Ashley Beedle? – in the early noughties.
However, I’ve selected this utterly sublime piece of music. Track Of The Cat was co-written with Thom’s long-term writing partner Linda Creed, specifically for Dionne Warwick, and was originally the title of her 1975 LP. I was completely unaware of this track until Jan Hammered played it to me. The song is an incredible slice of slo-mo, slinky, sexy, soulful disco. A proper 6AM disco-sleaze masterpiece.
Jan had this same, unusual UK promo 12”. I`ve no idea why it was pressed on a 12” like this. The LP was released the previous year, and this has a track by a pop act called Liverpool Express on the A-side (this is the B-side!!!), called You Are My Love. It’s an OK early / mid-70s pop track, of the type which sounds ripe for inclusion on a ‘Guilty Pleasures’ style compilation, but it’s not in the same league as Track Of The Cat.
I eventually found a copy in an amazing record shop in Southport for £1. It’s quite rare now. It’s the same mix as the LP, at nearly 7 minutes in length, and nice to have on a loud UK 12”.
Thank you for the music, Thom – and Dionne.
Highlights from the soundtrack to this morning’s trip to Tesco. Part 1: The walk …
Cocteau Twins – Heaven Or Las Vegas – 4AD 1991
It’s a beautiful sunny winters day here in Hove, so I decided to get my arse out of bed and get the usual horror-show of the weekend walk to the supermarket out the way early to avoid the queues. It’s freezing. I mean literally, which is rare for Brighton. Being so near to the sea means there’s lots of salt in the air, so it takes a real drop in temperature for things to freeze, but the streets are all icy, puddles frozen, thick layers of frost on all the cars. But spectacular sunshine, so I set off.
I always have my iPhone on shuffle, unless there’s something like my latest radio show to listen to before I upload it, or I’ve just bought something new that I haven’t had a chance to play yet. I just like not knowing what’s coming up next. Balearic or what? But it never ceases to amaze me how appropriate the music seems a lot of the time. This morning was a case in point, hence pulling out a few highlights.
It kicked off with Material and Reduction, which was pretty good for getting a march on, but next up it selected Fifty-Fifty Clown, from Heaven Or Las Vegas. This is certainly my favourite Cocteau Twins album, and one of my favourite tracks from it. That opening synthetic bass throb, the subtle drum-machine rhythm, that slow build as the synths come in. There`s something quite crystalline about the Cocteau’s music. This track in particular has an icy, glacial quality, while at the same time those warm synth-pads felt like the winter sun on my face. I was half tempted to abort my mission right there and then, walk down to the sea, and sit on the beach and listen to this album in its entirety. But I had pizza to make for dinner, so I resolved to complete my task. Heaven Or Las Vegas is a complete masterpiece, so I promised myself that I’d listen to it all properly when I got home.
Although I think of myself as a fan of The Cocteau Twins, Heaven Or Las Vegas was the first album of theirs that I bought. It was released just after my 20th birthday in September 1990, but I didn’t buy it until later, when I was working at Vinyl Exchange. There were a lot of great records to buy in 1990, and I suppose I was mainly buying dance music at the time. It must have been played quite a lot on the Vinyl Exchange shop stereo, by I’m guessing Matt and James, and it really got under my skin.
You could describe all Cocteau Twins music as beautiful I suppose, but there’s something about how their sound has evolved by this album that makes it especially gorgeous. They still have moments when they go full ‘wall-of-sound’, with those chiming guitars and Liz Fraser’s voice becoming so powerful, and almost overwhelming, but on this LP, there`s a much sparser arrangement, and the use of synthesisers and drum machines makes for a more rhythmic and minimal set of songs.
There’s not a single track that you’d call filler, or less than wonderful. The first side is my favourite, with the opener Cherry-Coloured Funk, a total, chugging, Balearic classic – even more so in its remixed form, as are Pitch the Baby and the aforementioned Fifty-Fifty Clown. Iceblink Luck and the title track are perhaps more typical of the Cocteau’s classic sound. The B-side continues the sublime mood, becoming more soothing and gentler as it comes to a close with the beguiling, and bizarrely titled, Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires. The 12 of Iceblink Luck had a non-LP track on the B-side, called Watchlar, which is an uber-Balearic little electronic pop beauty, so I bought that as well at some point.
Magical music, from Grangemouth, in Scotland. FREEDOM!
Highlights from the soundtrack to this morning’s trip to Tesco. Part 2: Let’s make this quick and get the fuck out of here …
Fingers Inc. – Another Side – Jack Trax 1988
OK, so I arrive at the supermarket, and it’s nice and early, and not too busy. Lots of room in the aisles, no queues, so I should be able to whizz round pretty quick and get out. Some house music would be good to set a nice tempo, and what does my iPhone go and select? Only this absolute classic! I swear it has consciousness sometimes.
The track my phone selects from one of, if not THE finest house music LPs of all time, is Bye Bye, but to be honest it could have chosen any of the 16 tracks, and it would have had the same elevating effect on me. Suddenly I’m flying around the shop with my trolley, in another world entirely. I suppose that’s some contrast to all the times I would have been flying and ‘off’ my trolley to the music contained herein.
Larry Heard is undoubtably one of the giants of house music. Probably the most important producer in the genre’s history. Possibly only Marshall Jefferson could give him a run for that title. On Another Side he’s joined on some of his greatest tracks by the wonderful vocalists Robert Owens and Ron Wilson.
The track Bye Bye is an utterly sublime slice of what would come to be called deep house, and yet it’s not even one of the best tracks on this album by a long way. It must contend with more than half a dozen songs which are some of the greatest in house music’s 35+ year history. It’s followed by Never No More Lonely, and on side 2 we have I’m Strong, and A Love Of My Own. Side 3 has Feelin’ Sleazy and Distant Planet – which first I owned on Jack Trax Vol. III – and still sounds so futuristic today – blurring the boundaries between house and techno. Side 4 closes the album with a run of songs which are quite frankly, taking the piss, they are so incredible: Mystery Of Love, A Path, Bring Down The Walls and Can You Feel It – which is included in its original instrumental form. It’s just extraordinary that these records are all from the same brief period in time.
I bought my copy of the LP in the old HMV shop in Churchill Square, in Brighton, sometime in the winter of 1988 / 89. The album was released early in 1988, but I bought it when I saw it reduced in the sale bins. It was a bit worn around the edges then, which might be why it was reduced, down from its original price of £6.49 to £3.99. I liked to keep price stickers on records when they tell a bit of a story like that. I once had a video, bought from the same HMV shop, of “Scotland: The World Cup Story”, that had been reduced from £10.00 to 99p. Bit of a digression there. Sorry. Anyway, Larry Heard. So much incredible music, and still making wonderful music to this day. Great music to shop to, and for dancing!
Highlights from the soundtrack to this morning’s trip to Tesco. Part 3: The journey home …
Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go – Epic 1984
So now I’ve got 2 fucking heavy bags of shopping to walk home with, and I’ve just used an obscure Star Trek joke. I need a bit of a lift. What’s the iPhone got? Well, I have to say it surpassed itself. First with Bobby Konders` Nervous Acid, to get me in proper marching mode (I’m going to write about that record soon), and then this slice of perfect pop to get me over the finish line – home.
I love Wham! and I`ve loved this record from the first moment I heard it… and I bought this copy, the UK 12”, pretty much the moment it was released in the spring / summer of 1984. Much lighter, and with more of a soul / Motown influence to differentiate it from the tougher funk elements present on the Fantastic LP, this was always going to become an all-time pop classic.
That summer was a tumultuous time in my life. We`d decided as a family to leave Mayfield, Scotland, and the only home I’d ever known, and move to Warrington in the North West of England. This was so my Mum could be with her boyfriend John, who she`d met on a holiday for single parent families, out of season, in Bude, Cornwall in 1982. He tracked her down in Edinburgh the following year, and they’re still together 40 years later. No one else would put up with either of them to be fair. Anyway, we moved at the end of the school year, and this act of leaving the life we had in Scotland brought me and my brother much closer together. We found comfort in the wonderful pop music of the time, both sharing similar tastes, and deciding which of us would buy the records that we liked. I lucked out I think, as I bought the next 4 #1 singles which dominated the summer. They were (in order): Duran Duran – The Reflex; Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go Go; Frankie Goes Top Hollywood – Two Tribes; George Michael – Careless Whisper. What a time to be alive, eh pop pickers! Anyway, this gem knocked Duran Duran off the #1 spot, and would probably have spent a reasonable amount of time there itself if it hadn’t been for the cultural juggernaut of Frankie.
I have another Wake Me Up Before You Go Go story! Balearic Wife and I were on holiday in Skiathos one year. Her parents had rented this amazing villa on the outcrop of Kanapitsa, on the South of the island, high on a cliff face with an incredible view overlooking the Aegean, and with a private beach at the foot of the cliff. We had the villa to ourselves for a few days, and were sat looking at the view and enjoying the sounds of the waves lapping against the shore and cicadas chirping, when suddenly…
… and out of nowhere a boat sails around the headland, packed with people partying, and Wake Me Up Before You Go Go blasting out! It had been silent, then this! It’s lunchtime!
We got up and watched the boat sail past. This song blaring out across the calm waters. Bedlam on board from the look and sound of things. It slowly passed, and as it glided off into the distance, the song faded away to silence again. We both just stood there laughing our arses off, then went back to quietly enjoying the view.
Oh, and the sleeve! It would take me about 20 years before I realised that the sleeve design is by Factory Records visual genius Peter Saville! Not really in a similar style to Blue Monday, Unknown Pleasures, or Movement, is it?
Thanks for the music, George. We all still miss you.
For more from Balearic Mike you can find him on both Facebook and Instagram – @balearicmike.
Mike has a Mixcloud page packed with magnificent, magical, music, and you can catch him live on 1BTN, from 12 noon until 2 (UK time) every 1st and 3rd Friday.
You can also check out the super silk screen prints of “Balearic Wife” over at @jo_lambert_print
One thought on “Balearic Mike’s Musical Diets / Week 62: 15/01/2023”
Re Jane Wiedlin, it is a great pop record and has a great B side “The End of Love”. Indeed in 1991 when I briefly had a radio show I used to blend “The End of Love” with Weatherall’s mix of “Come Together”. It sounded awful but in my defence it was hard to do when the decks had no vari speed on them other than 33/45.
Though the blend of Connie Lush “Giving Away” with Then Jericho “Big Area” was considerably worse.
Always a good read your column.