3. TURN ON, TUNE IN, BURN OUT 1985 – 1989
In the winter of 1984, entrenched on a wild gothic road trip with The Cult, I barely noticed the triumphalism of ‘Do you know its Christmas’. Over the following six month’s, Geldof and Live Aid would push aside all that had gone before to create a new elite of decadent new popster's, mediocre non entities, careerist charlatans, a man who would be God, and clapped out 70’s scum like Queen and the Quo. Not one of them seemed to recognise the irony of reviving their careers off the backs of millions of Africans fucked over by the West. The mutual back slapping almost caused a tidal wave while all that remained was homogeneous, smug, bullshit.
The real horror was that Thatcher’s children clutched at these careerist pop fuckwits as pillars of truth and meaning when all they made me do was yearn for a new flash of brilliance, a new ‘fuck off’ movement or an epic, foolish gesture like Frankie. Genius or stupidity who cared, anything to smash the normality of it all. Prince singing about the spot on his arse was more exciting than Annie Lennox’s greatest passion. She was that shit.
What was really depressing though wasn’t the mainstream tyranny of nouveau riche pop promoted by the orgiastic spectacle of Live Aid, it was the apathetic state of the independent scene. Post punks energy had long evaporated, every possible trajectory exhausted, and Independent groups sounded tired, bored and boring, bereft of anything much to say, wrapping everything in ugly noise undercurrents or wimpy, anorak pop. Even John Peel, that well-known supporter of all things Independent admitted ‘I don’t even like the records I like’. We all kept hanging in there, clinging to the scattered, bitty output, a good record here, an ok group there, but were all dimly aware that the motion and meaning might be going nowhere and meaning less. The heroic phase of the movement was long past and there began to be a shift from ‘Independent’ to ‘Indie’, from futurism to retro.
During the punk and post punk era, the past was obliterated because there was too much happening in the present. But like many others, from 1985 I began to buy the occasional second hand record, referencing old favourites like the Stones and The Velvets, but also Syd Barrett era Floyd, The Byrds, Big Star and garage punk. It wasn’t just that we started listening to 60’s music, the new groups seemed to be name checking that era as well. For the first time there was a widespread impulse to go back to the future and with Criminal Damage I was right in the middle of it.
If 1984 was living the dream, 1985 was clinging on for dear life as Independent sales began their steep decline. Obviously, the groups blamed us as all groups do, but in reality no-one was to blame. Illuminated decided to cut their cloth accordingly and we got the chop, owed thousands of pounds we would never receive. I quickly sorted a pressing and distribution deal with Backs Records of Norwich, seizing the opportunity to rebuild the label from scratch and develop a core of groups that mirrored my own expanding tastes. With the label temporarily on hold while I searched for likely candidates, Yaron and I embarked on another UK Cult tour and the Sisters Of Mercy’s Turn On, Tune In Burn Out shows, both cash in hand offers too good to turn down. I was a sucker for Andrew Eldrich’s defiantly rockist, ultra stylised approach of sunglasses after dark and speed emaciated bodies and for the first and only time, black leather jeans made an appearance in my wardrobe. While Yaron learnt the complex art of sound engineering, I humped gear and sold T Shirts, an exciting distraction from reality until the novelty wore off. I missed my son too much and with another on the way, I dipped out of the European legs leaving Yaron to it. By year end he had forged a fulltime career and disappeared to America, never to be seen again.
Back home, I quickly found a new aide de camp in Ged Athendriou, part time promoter and quiff about town, and the second phase of Criminal Damage began to coalesce around Mighty Ballistics Hi-Power. A local group playing Clash style reggae, they had relocated to North London and developed into a thoroughly modern, heavily politicised, dub posse. All the London based Reading groups; Them Howlin’ Horrors, The Jack Rubies and the De Freitas sisters Heart Throbs, suddenly came out of the capital to play their home town which ironically created a substantial local scene for the first time. To help the labels visibility we started promoting at the tiny Paradise Club where, in a few short steps, you could go from a steamy, sweaty bunch of psychobillies rocking out stage front, to a gaggle of ganja smoking West Indian OAP’s slapping dominoes down in the bar.
When the opportunity arose we moved to the 1,000 capacity Majestic ballroom where Reading’s show starved youth turned out in force every Wednesday for The Meteors, Dr & The Medics, Voice Of The Beehive, Zodiac Mindwarp and far too many others to mention. I would walk home in the early hours, pockets stuffed with a couple of grand in cash to hide under the floorboards. Our most profitable night was one hit wonder Belouis Some, a show packed with screaming teeny girls, wetting their pants and scratching each others eyes out to get to the front. Crazy, crazy days.
My closest confidante and drug buddy was Denny Mills of Them Howlin’ Horrors. We would tour round a number of Reading pubs principally so Denny could get his nightly intake, but we always ended up at The White Horse opposite The Majestic, which had a cool jukebox and pool table. Throughout the summer but particularly during festival week we’d sit outside with Denny playing requests on his battered acoustic for the flirty girlies and their student boyfriends. In many respects Denny was like a child with ADHD but ultimately his own sense of failure began to eat him up and he became just another depressed junkie loser. Chris Maund of The Ballistics was no less intense but the complete opposite, a tee total, anti drugs puritan. He would spark some heavy duty debates on anything from the miner’s strike to the number of rapes in London, throwing his heart and soul into every possible cause. Idealistic beyond compare, I often wondered how he would get through the rest of his life.
Meeting the likes of Denny and Chris gave me a remarkable education in 50’s rockabilly, 60’s classic soul, ska and all things rockin’. For a while it felt like I was living in Joe Strummer’s jukebox. But then, having been educated in the past, along came Karl Bonnie to educate me in the future. Recording as The Jackal before forming Renegade Soundwave, he opened my ears to the possibilities of sampling and hip hop. A long way from the novelty it had once been, hip hop was punk incarnate. Why buy a guitar or synthesizer when you could make records from the stolen bits and pieces of others?
I guess I had always been unashamedly rockist, driven by notions of subversion and the underground, dissent and disruption. And yet as young black men and their machines made most everything irrelevant, those notions could only be found in hip hop, techno and acid house, infact in most everything other than Indie rock. The label still wobbled on with ever decreasing returns but I began to believe that Independent label’s generally were becoming hopelessly outdated and irrelevant. Sales were decreasing month by month and when a group as vibrant and revolutionary as MB Hi-Power struggled to recoup recording costs, I could see little point in continuing.
In the end my mind was made up for me. The Majestic’s availability was curtailed by a new manager, Ged found a full time job in London, and the benefits office began to tighten the noose around my neck, threatening to stop all payments unless I could prove I was actively seeking a job. In the end I closed down Criminal Damage but continued with my other less visible label activities. Of course, as I knew only too well, the big problem with actively seeking a job is that it can only be a matter of time before you get offered one and even though I dragged it out for over a year, that’s exactly what happened. In the winter of 1987, I was forced to wind everything down and clock on for the first time as a postman.
Though I didn’t realise it at the time, that signalled the end of an era as my life eased onto a different path, steering away from any involvement in record labels, groups and musicians. In a way I suppose I got out at just the right time. The Independent network had already started to implode with more and more labels sliding under, and an altogether different feeling had begun to sweep the country. Acid house and its chemical partner, ecstasy, took almost everyone by surprise, the loved up, communal ‘e’ high representing as clean a break as possible with the me, me, me mantra of right wing politics.
Maybe I was feeling old, or maybe I was just too busy trying not to burn out on yet another exhausting nightshift, but I never felt any desire to take an ‘e’ or go to a club. Much like hip hop, my interest in acid house was purely in the radical nature of the records, the aural, sonic experience rather than the physical, raving one, but I could still recognise the emphatic sea change in attitude and that in its own way, rave culture, Madchester and all that, would be as innovative and pivotal as punk.
1.1 TENOR SAW / Ring The Alarm / Tenor Saw Meets Nitty Gritty LP / February 1985
The post punk years felt like one endless rush of surprise, excitement and creativity. There was so much going on I struggled to keep up. And yet by 1985 that spirit of futurism had almost completely disappeared before Live Aid delivered the final, killer blow. Scratching around for anything new and vital, reggae crossed my path again. On the cusp of the digital era, root’s had already faded into history, obliterated by the rise of dancehall. ‘Ring The Alarm’ neatly signified the changeover between the old and the new by splicing together a moody digital dub intro with high stepping reggae vocals, and introduced the talent that was Clive ‘Tenor Saw’ Bright, sadly killed by a speeding car less than four years later.
1.2 SCRITTI POLITTI / The Word Girl / Single A Side / May 1985
Scritti Politti and Green Gartside were a weird punk paradox. Once DIY almost to the point of death, Green did a complete about turn and became the first post punk musician to talk about pop as the way forward. I knew what he meant and embraced the new Scritti (almost) wholeheartedly, their precision tooled, contemporary dance pop hiding words that on the surface were rinky dinky love ditties but underneath were angry hymns for the disillusioned. The problem was, for all of Green’s wolf in sheep’s clothing punk rhetoric, in the end, buying in or selling out, was there really any difference?
1.3 THE POGUES / The Old Main Drag / Rum Sodomy & The Lash LP / August 1985
In 1985 The Pogues were a fucking great whirlwind of rip roaring Irish folk punk action, and London’s only genuinely great group. Rum Sodomy & The Lash mixed centuries of Irish rebellion and London history with 80’s rent boys, football thugs, fucked up war vets and teenage runaways puked onto the streets after just a few years of Thatcherism. All on his ownsome, the genius Shane MacGowan reintroduced me to my own Dublin bloodline but more than that he reintroduced grim reality to Thatcher’s brainwashed generation who were in danger of zoning out completely. These days he may be a burnt out wreck of a man, bumming drinks off everyone with a face like a busted concertina, but I reckon he’s more than earned the right to do what the fuck he wants, even if it’s for this record alone.
1.4 KATE BUSH / Hounds Of Love / Hounds Of Love LP / September 1985
Punk was a scorched earth policy refuting everything that had gone before; music, dress, hair, speech, self expression. It all had to go. Kate Bush harked back to those days of yore with more than a whiff of the Floyd and Genesis about her, influences we were supposed to hate. And yet she possessed a magical, other worldly aura and a Bronte sisters on acid persona that was impossible to ignore. An artist with a capital ‘A’, her songs explored the less illuminated darker corners of life: lust, menstruation, paedophiliac desire, incestuous relationships and the post nuclear apocalypse sung by a foetus. Middle class Mum’s buying that nice girl Kate’s albums for their young daughters would have found, if they’d bothered to listen, that she wasn’t quite as nice or innocent as they thought. Hounds Of Love was her masterpiece and contained such scope and vision that its influence still echo’s in everything from Bjork to Bright Eyes and from Aphex Twin to Arcade Fire.
1.5 THE CRAMPS / What’s Inside A Girl? / A Date With Elvis LP / February 1986
If 1985 was the worst pop year in living memory, 1986 wasn’t much better, so thank fuck for The Cramps. Over the years I would keep returning to Lux ‘n’ Ivy for the harsh, cleansing action of their primal, quite frankly dumb arse, rock’n’roll. On A Date With Elvis they used their eleven songs to find five hundred ways to say vagina, which strikes me as far more useful than finding fifty ways to leave your lover.
1.6 DEPECHE MODE / Fly On The Windscreen / Black Celebration LP / March 1986
There was a period between 1982 and 1986 when arty experimentalists Psychic TV, Cabaret Voltaire, Foetus and Fad Gadget threatened to go overground. Signed to major labels, they all had their chance to subvert the music industry with a strategy of conform to deform. Ultimately they failed, presumably because they didn’t compromise enough and soon returned to the margins, preaching to the converted. Ironically, the one group who did pull it off were Depeche Mode, the babes of the pack, who followed the same process but in reverse. Starting out as gimpoid synth poppets, they gradually became more and more committed, utilising hardcore electro beats, workers power imagery, musique concrete, S&M pervery and air punching misery to become exactly what their more revered peers desired.
1.7 SCHOOLY D / Put Your Filas On / Single A Side / April 1986
The six previous songs prove what a fucked up stylistic mish mash the mid 80’s really were. Some plundered the past while others were of the moment, but only Schooly D represented the future. Infact, right here is where hip hop really began, the first time we had heard such stoned, taunting, psychotic tones backed with nothing more than beats, handclaps and a load of echo. Yes, there had been Run DMC and LL Cool J, but ‘Put Your Fila’s On’ made them sound like the pop tarts they really were. Gangsta rap was on its way, carrying with it a sense of danger and fear that hadn’t been heard since the demise of the Sex Pistols.
1.8 BEASTIE BOYS / Rhymin’ And Stealin’ / Licensed To Ill LP / November 1986
As much as Schooly D was the start of a new black revolution, the Beasties were the start of white frat boy punk, an unlikely union of meathead macho and boho cool that proved a major influence on the Chilli Peppers, Limp Bizkit and Eminem, to name just a few. In an era dominated by a lust for the dollar, the Beasties were a bit of light relief in some heavy duty times, unless of course you were 15 years old, in which case they were the last word in revolutionary politics. How anyone took them seriously is beyond me, but somehow they managed to piss everyone off, from black rappers to white liberals, and were labelled the new Sex Pistols, when in reality they were the new Monkees.
1.9 THE THE / Heartland / Infected LP / November 1986
Matt Johnson was another maverick infiltrating the market place with something more than glib pop platitudes. Infected brings back some nasty memories of a time following the birth of my second son when I finally realised my marriage was a sad, lonely cage. After eight years of Tory rule, Britain’s towns and cities reflected my despair with a mood of hopelessness so overwhelming you could almost touch it. 25 years on, while I have long been free of my own cage, in Britain nothing much has changed, and the sentiments of ‘Heartland’, with its ‘country, that's sick, sad, and confused’, still ring true.
1.10 MARC ALMOND & THE WILLING SINNERS / Mother Fist / Mother Fist & Her Five Daughters LP / March 1987
I loved Marc Almond, his earliest LP’s straying so magnificently beyond standard 80’s fare that I just couldn’t resist. Mother Fist was the best of the lot, a gothic, cabaret, masterpiece, painting colourfully ribald pictures of a sordid, romanticised European city with glimpses of the lost, the lonely and the bizarre.
1.11 PHUTURE / Your Only Friend / Single B Side / March 1987
In 1987 all I knew about house music was the big chart hits ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ and ‘Jack Your Body’. Like many others I thought they were just novelty disco throwbacks. I didn’t have a clue that house had a far deeper, darker side until I heard ‘Your Only Friend’. Even more eerily brilliant than its lauded, yet overlong, partner ‘Acid Tracks’, ‘Your Only Friend’ denounces the use of cocaine via a robotic slave voice, while trumpeting the arrival of acid house, ironically a movement renowned for it’s prodigious drug intake and one that essentially fused 60’s Dionysian frenzy with post punk futurism.
1.12 RHYTHIM IS RHYTHIM / Nude Photo / Single A Side / April 1987
As if the arrival of hip hop proper and the birth of acid house wasn’t enough, along came Detroit’s Derrick May and Rhythim Is Rhythim to thrill us with yet another new electronic dance genre. This one was called techno. ‘Nude Photo’ is all machine tooled lines and piston percussion, an odd mix of euphoria and anxiety, the sound of a man trying to escape the world without leaving his bedroom.
1.13 ULTRAMAGNETIC MC’s / Travelling At The Speed Of Thought / Single A Side / April 1987
The second best rock record of 1987 was by a hip hop group. ‘Travelling At The Speed Of Thought’ sucked me in with a beat that was pure late 60’s Stones before the masterstroke, a teasing edit from the chorus of the immortal ‘Louie Louie’ that made the weird connection between 60’s rebel rockers and 80’s B-boy’s.
1.14 NEW ORDER / True Faith / Single A Side / July 1987
I have never understood the uncritical adoration that New Order continue to enjoy off the back of Joy Division, particularly as I can only ever think of them as the three nobodies Ian Curtis left behind. They became increasingly tedious and repetitive, and even ‘Blue Monday barely moved me. Then came ‘True Faith’, possibly the only single where, if you ignore Barney Sumner’s trademark ‘that’ll do’ vocal, they sound far more friendly and enjoyable than before or since.
1.15 SISTERS OF MERCY / This Corrosion / Single A Side / September 1987
When I first got to know Andrew Eldrich around 1982, the Sisters songs were nothing more than a cheap drum machine and the singer’s gloomy drone. But it didn’t matter at all because the theory behind them was far more important and attractive than the actual music. In a declared war on pop Eldrich alluded to classic rock’n’roll imagery that was most enticing, in particular the Stones of Altamont and ‘Gimme Shelter’ when the hippy dream finally turned sour. It would take five years and producer Jim Steinman’s heavenly choirs and thunder for the records to catch up with the theory and finally match Eldrich’s vision. No question, the best rock record of 1987.
1.16 MARK STEWART / Survival / Mark Stewart LP / October 1987
Following The Pop Groups demise, Mark Stewart continued to carry his own punk values with him by refusing to fiddle while Babylon burned. As a select, moneyed, elite gorged on 80's pap and danced till dawn in Club Tropicana oblivion, he confronted the real world, chopping up well known lyrics and micro samples to document the growing sense of alienation creeping through the cracks of modernity.
1.17 ERIC B & RAKIM / Paid In Full [Coldcut Remix] / Single A Side / October 1987
I have always felt an equally powerful attraction to Indie rock, pop and hip hop. Certainly, that’s how it felt in the mid to late 80’s when I was unwilling to choose between The Cramps and Schooly D, the Sisters Of Mercy and Eric B. Of course, I didn’t have to choose but it’s remarkable how many did. Some white fans invested all their belief and passion in hip hop, seeing it as the vanguard, the sole bastion of culturally dissident energy, and as a result had to grapple with all the complex issues related to being a white acolyte of a music largely made by and for blacks. There were no such issues when white Londoners Coldcut reconstructed Eric B and Rakim’s ‘Paid In Full’, turning a low key, thoughtful, album cut into a seven minute blast through found voices, Brit humour and Ofra Haza’s exotic, ‘ Im Nin’alu’. An extraordinary record, it furthered hip hops British cause immeasurably, although Eric and Rakim refused their approval until they saw the size of the royalty cheque.
2.1 MORRISSEY / Everyday Is Like Sunday / Viva Hate LP / March 1988
‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’ is the quintessential Morrissey song, retaining a sad, beauty that reminds me of when Sunday was a melancholy day of nothingness, all Sunday school, roast dinners, Songs Of Praise and mind numbing boredom. In Morrissey’s last wave goodbye to an obsolete working class tradition, our hero visits a decaying, windswept seaside resort to hymn the memories and decry the desolation. This is the resigned response of the devastated land Thatcher would leave behind.
2.2 THE VASELINES / Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam / Single B Side / March 1988
I picked up on The Vaselines because a friend used to rib me about my childhood church days, constantly singing ‘Jesus wants you for a sunbeam’. This simple, lonely song was my handy riposte, ‘Jesus don't want me for a sunbeam/Cause sunbeams are not made like me.
2.3 HOUSE OF LOVE / Christine / Single A Side / April 1988
The House Of Love were a 60’s throwback to rock classicism, the last of a dying breed. ‘Christine’, with its post psychedelic guitar and soaring chorus was a hymn to an idyllic vision of love, one of those timeless records that sent tingles down my spine and, for a couple of minutes at least, made me believe once again in rock’s power and brilliance.
2.4 SMITH & MIGHTY / Anyone / Single A Side / May 1988
There was always going to be a fusing of punk and disco and although any number of landmark records could claim to be the first, that honour must surely go to Smith & Mighty. Not that this record contained any obvious elements of either genre. A surreal cover of ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’, it was informed by reggae sound systems, hip hop breaks and more importantly, a giant, heroic, punk leap into the unknown. Unclassifiable and at least five years ahead of it’s time, in one move Smith & Mighty invented trip hop, Massive Attack, Soul II Soul, Tricky, Portishead and the Bristol Sound we would all come to know.
2.5 MC LYTE / 10% Dis / Lyte As A Rock LP / May 1988
I've never been that interested in the sociological, socio-political, academic view of hip hop and its place in popular culture. I liked hip hop because it was different, because of its sonic delivery and because it’s fuck you attitude ran about as deep as you could get. So, as with so many records, I have no idea intellectually why I liked MC Lyte’s fearsome ‘10% Dis’, I just did.
2.6 PRINCE / Alphabet St / Lovesexy LP / May 1988
I’m ashamed to say that Prince passed me by until Sign O’ The Times, but then I couldn’t get enough. Throughout the eighties, he was the only one to give R&B and contemporary pop, any real credibility, taking it to the conceptual high ground before hip-hop dismantled it altogether. In an era of faceless corporate soul and MTV brainwashing, Prince was the only artist able to synthesize his influences into an original vision. Perhaps, more importantly, he was the only black performer to address the hopelessness and spiritual desolation of the Reagan years. No-one else could touch him. Lovesexy was his eighth album in a decade and some would say the exact point where his immaculate powers began to wane. Luckily, with my limited knowledge of his past I had no idea but I did know that although ‘Alphabet Street’ wasn’t one of his more prophetic songs, like the man himself, it was funky as fuck.
2.7 ORANGE LEMON / Dreams Of Santa Anna / Single A Side / June 1988
One unexpected bonus of my withdrawal from the music ‘biz’ was I regained the freedom to listen to whatever I wanted. For too many years, listening to music had been a part of the job, albeit a brilliantly exciting, once in a lifetime job. No matter how much I tried, I had always listened with one ear on the prize, trying to predict future trends, listening to new production techniques, comparing rival groups and labels blah blah blah. Listening for pure pleasure had been a rare thing indeed but without it I would never have found a record like Orange Lemon.
2.8 PUBLIC ENEMY / Bring The Noise / It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back LP/ July 1988
One of popular music’s true masterpieces and the best hip hop album in the world ever, A Nation Of Millions was urban noise, black rage, punk revolution, revenge fantasy, community activism, intellectual rigour and organised chaos all mashed into one magnificent roar. With a sound swarming in feedback, James Brown horn riffs as air raid sirens, shards of thrash metal guitar and the strangest funk ever recorded, no group had ever matched words and music so perfectly.
2.9 MUDHONEY / Touch Me I’m Sick / Single A Side / August 1988
So while all the radical stuff was going on within hip hop, house and the ecstasy generation, what the fuck was going on in rock’n’roll? After too many years of grim indie noise and cutesy indie pop, in his journalistic role, John Robb of The Membranes became the first to discover Seattle. I got hold of ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ to find out what all the fuss was about and while it was undoubtedly a cracking record, a screaming blast of Stooges infected garage punk, it was too much of a cultural cul de sac, it’s on the surface wildness masking a tame predictability. I’d already been down the same route with the The Nomads, The Scientists et al over three years before so decided that the next rock revolution was definitely not going to be coming out of Seattle! Little did I know?
2.10 U2 / Desire [Hollywood Remix] / Single B Side / September 1988
I fell for U2 in 1980, when they were different, thrilling even. I pledged that I would indeed follow but less than two years later I had broken that promise because they kept on making the same bombastic and blustery record again and again. There was also the matter of their faith, my own Christian upbringing still a bitter memory. Since then I’ve dipped in and out although most of their stuff sounds incredibly hollow and dull. At least this ‘Desire’ remix has a bit of urgency and vibrancy.
2.11 MY BLOODY VALENTINE / Soft As Snow / Isn’t Anything LP / November 1988
Now, I’m not one of those fools who believed that the Valentines Kevin Shields was a supreme being who found the lost chord. However, by using unconventional tunings, dislocated rhythms, sweet textured harmonies and erotic themes he did manage to conjure up the astonishing Isn’t Anything, equating his perfect pop vision with the sounds in his fucked up head.
2.12 PET SHOP BOYS / Left To My Own Devices / Single A Side / November 1988
There is something in Neil Tennant’s twist on the single life and childhood memories that stirs a feeling deep within me. You see, I believe that most of us would just love to be left alone, to find a place where the world can’t find you to tap you on the shoulder and remind you how many years of work and piles of money you owe it, just for the privilege of being alive. Maybe that’s just me but somehow I don’t think it is. No-one ever told us it would be this tiring and that so many cunts would have a say in our daily lives. ‘Left To My Own Devices’ finds a way of expressing that without rubbing any noses in it.
2.13 EPMD / Strictly Business / Strictly Business LP / November 1988
2.14 2 LIVE CREW / Me So Horny / As Nasty As They Wanna Be LP / March 1989
There are some people who have never embraced hip hop because they think it consists of someone complaining or ranting over a sample of someone else’s record. There are just as many who pretend to like it, and some who really do. Me, I really do, and it’s because of records like these. Like the best roots reggae, EPMD’s slurred, stoned malevolence was swathed in dope fumes, their breaks coming from the oddest sources like the title tracks use of Clapton’s ‘I Shot The Sheriff’. As for 2 Live Crew they proved that not all hip hop had to be filled with radical diatribes, new beats or big mouth boasting. Some of it was just hilariously filthy and ‘Me So Horny’ was about as filthy as it could get.
2.15 COLDCUT / Beats + Pieces [Version] / What’s That Noise LP / April 1989
Influenced by the Art of Noise and Mantronix, DJ crews began playing around with their own breakbeat driven sample collages. Naturally critics focused on the death of traditional musicianship, paying dues and all that bollocks while pointing out that the resulting records were essentially stolen. Of course the protagonists laughed in their faces, underlining samplings subversive nature, the joyful abuse of copyright and their punky attitude to music making. Coldcut’s 12” sleeve of ‘Beats + Pieces’ countered the luddites with the classic sleeve slogan, ‘Sorry, but this just isn’t music.’ In other words ‘Fuck off!’
2.16 HAPPY MONDAYS / W.F.L. / Single A Side / September 1989
The Happy Mondays and the skanky testimonies of poet laureate Shaun Ryder were a litany of junkie psycho babble and weirdness. Veterans of two LP’s of surreal magic they were already being bigged up as yet another new Sex Pistols when they decided to go for broke with a Vince Clarke remix of their previous flop ‘Wrote For Luck’. Reworked as ‘W.F.L.’, for the first time ever Ryder’s voice came over loud and clear, spewing out his contempt for every thieving two faced drug fuck there ever was while slyly letting us know that he was no better. The mash up of snappy electro and glam stomp was a perfect lifeline for all those indie kids fed up with sitting in their bedrooms listening to miserabalist rock while everyone else was getting loaded. ‘W.F.L.’ was their ticket to fly.
2.17 THE BELOVED / Sun Rising / Single A Side / October 1989
Dance and drug holidays to Ibiza caught on quickly amongst the more committed acid heads. Through the non stop nights of raving, the idea was to build to a frenzied peak around three in the morning and then gradually come down until the sun rise when that whole Meaning of Life glow would kick in. Unfortunately, I was too involved in fatherly duties and far too poor to enjoy any Ibiza escapades, but I don’t think there’s ever been a more perfect Balearic record, a lovely, timely few minutes that could transport you to a Mediterranean beach even if you were sitting on a British one in the rain.
2.18 STONE ROSES / Fools Gold / Single A Side / November 1989
After the so called Summers Of Love, the most ridiculously overrated group of all time heralded the birth of laddism, all things knuckle dragging, the cretinous Gallagher brothers and play it safe rock conservatism. Yes folks, it all started here. Strange then that ‘Fools Gold’ is quite possibly the greatest funk record made by a British group of any colour ever!