Month: February 2014

A SELECTION OF REALLY GOOD MUSIC BOOKS

A selection of music books you really do need to go out and buy if you a lover of music (80s and disco music in particular). They are in no particular order, and even if they occasionally contain viewpoints I might not wholeheartedly agree with, or may contain the odd error, they are all essential reading, written by those in a good position from which to describe, explain or simply tell a story. Please feel free to add your own preferences in the ‘comments’ section.

yeahYEAH YEAH YEAH – THE STORY OF MODERN POP, Bob Stanley, 2013
If you want a place to start then it’s all here – every genre, every decade, and every big star featured in one huge volume of not far under 800 pages. This is one hell of a read, and perhaps requires a good prior understanding of the subject matter but is expertly written by someone who has done it all in the music industry in terms of writing about and being heavily involved with the music industry, as well as being at one time a member of a highly successful chart act.

revolutions33 REVOLUTIONS PER MINUTE – A HISTORY OF PROTEST SONGS, Dorian Lynskey, 2010
The front cover of this near 850 page tome indicates that this is ‘an exhaustive history of protest music’, and it is certainly not wrong! From Billie Holiday and Woodie Guthrie, through Stevie Wonder, The Clash, to more recent songs from the likes of Public Enemy, The Manic Street Preachers and Green Day, the most significant protest songs of them all are afforded their own chapter.

pwl hardingPWL FROM THE FACTORY FLOOR (EXPANDED EDITION), Phil Harding, 2010
A really good, behind the scenes look at the ‘pop factory’ that dominated the music scene in the late 1980s and early 90s. As a huge Stock, Aitken Waterman fan this held particular interest, especially as it is written by one of the ‘team’. The inside story of their immense success with acts such as Kylie and Jason, Bananarama and Divine is coupled with details of the sound equipment used to record the biggest hits (and non-hits, of which, remarkably, there were quite a few). Towards the back of the book, there are several interesting SAW discographies, including one that features unreleased tracks and demos. This is a deceptively long book at over 600 pages.

saturday night foreverturn the beat around‘Disco sucks’ I hear you say? No it doesn’t. As a huge fan, there are two books that have been on my bookshelf for a few years. SATURDAY NIGHT FOREVER – THE STORY OF DISCO, Alan Jones & Jussi Kantonen, 1999 & TURN THE BEAT AROUND – THE SECRET HISTORY OF DISCO, Peter Shapiro, 2005. Although they cover much the same ground, each compliments the other. Disco wasn’t just about the music (and the music wasn’t just about The Village People), it was also the fashion, the drugs, and the sex (and lots of it). Unfortunately I was just a bit too young to enjoy the hedonistic pleasures offered in the 1970s, but was around to see it re-emerge as a force again in several types of genre, the following decade.

last night dj savedLAST NIGHT A DJ SAVED MY LIFE – THE HISTORY OF THE DISC JOCKEY, Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton, 2006 edition, is another large volume, at 600 pages, and covers much of the same ground as the two books above, However, this is, as the title suggests, more a study of the DJ him/herself rather than disco music itself. Definitely one of the best selections on this list.

rip it upRIP IT UP AND START AGAIN – POST PUNK 1978-1984, Simon Reynolds, 2005
Cabaret Voltaire anyone? Joy Division? Heaven 17 or The Associates? Britain’s rock/pop history has never been dull, particularly with labels such as ZTT, Rough Trade and Factory creating the headlines as much as those acts that defined the era, set in the backdrop of a tense political backdrop both in the UK and worldwide. This is a fantastic look back at those years when I was just discovering, and exploring the hidden depth and less hidden the delights of pop music.

independence daysINDEPENDENCE DAYS – THE STORY OF UK INDEPENDENT RECORD LABELS, Alex Ogg, 2009
The aforementioned labels also feature highly in Alex Ogg’s commentary. This book also featured a myriad of lesser known labels through the years, some of which were created as a backlash to the powerful, yet cumbersome and oft out-of-touch major labels, with others that were formed as a political statement, through to those set up primarily to release one man’s (or woman’s!) music. With many many interviews recorded, Ogg’s near 600 page effort deserves to be on any music lover’s bookshelf.

last shop standingLAST SHOP STANDING – WHATEVER HAPPENED TO RECORD SHOPS, Graham Jones, 2009 (new edition due out in 2014)
Exactly. What has happened to them? This book promises to be ‘A journey through an industry in turmoil’ and it certainly delivers. It is actually so much more than a look back at famous old record shops that are no longer with us though, as Jones, who has worked within the industry, and for several record companies, also delivers fascinating insights into how our music charts were compiled..or rather ‘rigged’ to suit various interest groups. Never mind the recent problems faced by HMV, remember the independent record shops and the second hand ones too. Little did most of you know that I used to buy my records – sorry, spend most of student grant – at ‘The Left Legged Pineapple’ in Loughborough. That particular town’s youth will never know the pleasures that could be had there..
sheffield
Two further books are essentially local studies. However, being as good as they are, they will have a wider audience among pop aficionados. BEATS WORKING FOR A LIVING – SHEFFIELD POPULAR MUSIC 1973-1984, Martin Lilleker, 2005, is a look at a city that is synonymous with rock and pop acts such as The Human League, Heaven 17, ABC, Pulp and Def Leppard. There have been many other fine bands emerging from the Steel city both before and since those better known days. The likes of Artery, The Comsat Angels and of course Cabaret Voltaire also deserve their places in history, and here they given just that.

bradfordAnd then there is BRADFORD’S NOISE OF THE VALLEYS volume 1 – A HISTORY OF BRADFORD ROCK AND POP 1967-1987, Gary Cavanagh with Matt Webster, 2008
This is a unique type of book concept. Not only are all of Bradford’s rock and pop acts of the era featured here, this large A4 sized publication features ‘family trees’ that detail the changing membership of local bands, and the personnel links between each of those bands. You don’t have to be from Bradford itself to appreciate the quality either.
Volume two, taking the story up to 1998 is now out, although I haven’t yet got round to buying a copy. I will do though, if it’s half a good as the first volume then it will make a great addition to any music book collection (there’s also a CD set available, containing music from many of the featured bands, as well as an ‘updated’ edition of volume 1.

grilloIS THAT THE 12” MIX?, Rob Grillo, 2010 Ok, I know, I had to include this. A light-hearted look at the obsessive music collector and the history of the 12” mix (and the 12” remix, the 12” dub mix, the 12” limited edition picture disc remix, and so on…)
Most of these books are easily available online, or orderable at your high street store (and especially at the declining number of independent bookshops that need your trade if they are to survive).

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ANORAK’S BESTEST RUNNING TUNES…part two

I’m off to India at the end of the week, so I thought I’d leave you all with this, the second part of Anorak’s favourite running tunes, the ones I rather enjoy listening to while out over those wild and rugged moors. And yes, they really are all currently on my ipod.

TALK TALK ‘IT’S MY LIFE’ (US REMIX)
Possibly the best ever remix of any song ever. Originally released in 1983 this failed to make the top 40. The UK 12 inch mix wasn’t much cop, which didn’t help. Then along came Steve Thompson, who created a monster of a track, which was initially released for the American market. The song still failed to become a huge hit in the UK until EMI tried for a third time in 1990 (to promote a ‘best of’ compilation) when it finally hit the top 20. The 12” mix released on that occasion wasn’t much cop either.

DAN HARTMAN ‘I CAN DREAM ABOUT YOU’ (LARRY LEVAN 12” MIX)
This is also one of the best remixes in the history of remixes. Seven years’ after his best known hit ‘Instant Replay’, this song hit number 12 in the singles chart in August 1984. There were two mixes issued on 12” single in the USA, of which this was the lesser known, the other being a rockier extended version of the original single version. The late Larry Leven, one of the most iconic DJ godfathers of them all created this more danceable, and likeable mix that was used on its own in the UK. Don’t buy any of those recently released Twelve Inch compilation CDs though, because they all opt for the rockier mix which is most annoying. The only problem with Levan’s mix is that it doesn’t last longer than 6 minutes…

PARRALOX ‘I AM HUMAN’ Parralox Parralox’s John von Ahlen shares a birthday with myself and fellow Oz singer Olivia Newton John. Just thought I’d share that. John himself is pretty prolific, being behind other acts such as ‘The Sound of the Crowd’. He is a huge Human League fan before you ask. Parralox first came to prominence with ‘Sharper Than a Knife, with Roxy, who was particularly all, on vocals. Subsequent releases saw the gorgeous Amy Jackson take lead vocals, and I couldn’t take my eyes off her when I saw them perform in the UK. More recently John has worked with a number of vocalists, but ‘I am Human’ has become my favourite., taken from the second album ‘State of Decay’. Incidently, if you ever buy a Parralox CD single (yes, some acts still release them) then it’s a bit like buying an album because you still get 70 minutes of music, along with lots of different, and often new, tracks on.

AMII STEWART ‘FRIENDS’ (UK 12” MIX)
Lush, simply lush. One of my all-time favourite tracks. Forget later remixes, the original UK 12” release can never be surpassed. Who says good music never comes out of Italy. If I was deserted on a desert island I would have this on repeat, I never tire of it and on occasions I’ve clicked on ‘back’ when it’s finished in order to hear it yet again. Most super.

MARSHEAUX ‘SUMMER’ (EXTENDED VERSION)
Greek duo Sophie and Marianthi have been producing fantastic electronic music since 2003, and that includes an awesome rendition of ‘popcorn’, which might leave you a bit dizzy if you tried running with that in your ears. Summer is a fine track with dreamy vocal, and appeared in its ‘extended version’ as a free mp3 giveaway on their now defunct forum. Therefore if you can’t track this down then the album version (from their third release ‘Lumineux Noir’ is only a little shorter. If you get chance, listen to their fantastic take on Human League’s ‘Empire State Human’ or their own ‘Dream of a Disco’.

PATRICK JUVET ‘THE GAY PARIS – FRENCH PILLOW TALK’Switzerland finest – what, I hear you say – but surely Celine Dion has that honour. No chance, this former model was the king of the dance-floors in the late 70s. This track is from his ‘Lady Night’ album and is over 11 minutes of pure disco exuberance. Get those flares and huge shirt collars at the ready, who cares if they look sily while you’re out running. I know I will get crucified for this one but it’s a fantastic tune to run to on a fine summer’s morning when you haven’t a care in the world. Juvet

NORTHERN KIND ‘ON AND ON’ (EXTENDED MIX)
Leicestershire’s finest electronic duo. Better than that even, let’s make that just plain ‘Leicestershire’s finest’ full stop. I first came across Matt and Sarah when this previously unissued track from their first album ‘Fifty Three Degrees North’ on the excellent ‘Electronically Yours’ compilation (UNDO records). Their third album, ‘Credible Sexy Unit’ is really quite apt and hasn’t been out long – well worth listening to.

GAT DECOR ‘PASSION’ (NAKED MIX)
Forget the reissued vocal versions, this, along with the epic Darren Emerson mix, is the one you need to be running along to. Labelled as ‘progressive house’ this mix builds slowly and takes you on a pleasant ride that helps you forget how knackered you are.

FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD ‘TWO TRIBES’ (ANNIHILATION MIX)
Another great remix from the 1980s. Classic Pop magazine rated this as the best 12 inch mix of the 80s, and who would argue. There’s also the Carnage mix, and the Hibakusha mix, on separate 12 inch singles, and a remix of ‘War’ with the Carnage mix on the ‘B’ side, and a whole host of different 7” / picture disc mixes as well – in true ZTT style of course. I could spend an entire two hour run listening to FGTH remixes..and on occasion I’ve been known to do just that.

HAZELL DEAN ‘WHO’S LEAVING WHO’ (BOB’S TAMBOURINE MIX)
I almost chose the ‘Indian Summer Mix’ of ‘They Say it’s Gonna Rain’, but instead opted for this, her biggest hit, produced by none other than Stock Aitken Waterman. It’s not the longest extended version you’ll ever hear, but there’s energy from the first beat to the last and it’s definitely one of those that enables you to put in a fast mile just for the sheer hell of it.

MANDY SMITH ‘I JUST CAN’T WAIT’ (COOL & BREEZY JAZZ MIX)
Proof that Stock Aitken Waterman were more than one trick ponies. The original 12” mix was good, but this a laid back groove that would not be out of place in a modern wine bar. Not the type of track you’d really want to hear if running through town, best reserved for those quiter parts of the run where you can relax that bit more.

SISTER SLEDGE ‘LOST IN MUSIC’ (NILE RODGERS 1984 REMIX)
The legend Nile Rodgers had to appear somewhere in these lists. Already a hit once, Rodgers remixed the track he produced in the first place and added backing vocals from Duran Duran, another band he was working with at the time. The result, a smash hit once again. This mix is a lot beefier than the original and is taken from one of disco’s finest albums ‘We Are Family’.

PAMELA FERNANDEZ ‘KICKIN’ IN THE BEAT’ (DANCING DIVAZ MIX)
In the mid 90s, any track that featured a ‘dancing divaz mix’ was worth listening to. This in an era when many remixes sounded nothing like the original, a dancing divaz mix always stayed true to the original, but added a bit more insistency and exuberance that made it all the more easy to dance – or even run – to.

THE MARY JAMES GIRLS ‘IN MY HOUSE’ (12” MIX)
The late, great Rick James produced Mary Jane Girls are best known for ‘All Night Long’, but this is just amazing. I always seem to put in a fast, fast mile when this is on, full of energy and vigour amnd includes everything you would expect from the great man himself.

FIDELITY CASTRO ‘21ST CENTURY GIRL’ (MARK REEDER’S STRIDENT REMIX)
And this certainly is strident. Anything with Mark Reeder on the mix can be nothing but. This is a stand out track from the fantastic compilation ‘5 point 1’ which features a whole host of Reeder mixes and remixes. On ite even breathes new life into John Foxx’s ‘Underpants’.

SCISSOR SISTERS ‘I DON’T FEEL LIKE DANCIN’How can you not be entirely uplifted when you are listening to this one. The only problem I have with it is that at certain points in the song I do indeed feel like dancing like Jake Shears does in the video, and that wouldn’t be a particularly good thing to do on a fast downhill stretch on the road or off the side of a hill.

By the way, if you do like electronic music then the best site to visit is: www.electricity-club.co.uk (no, i’m not on commission)

Oh, and ‘Is That The 12″ Mix’still available from amazon if you haven’t bought it!

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WANT…rude runners, polite runners & India’s poorest

I went for a long run the other morning. I stepped out of the house at ten past seven in the morning and got back just over two hours later. During that time I saw just nine other people – three other runners and six walkers. Some mornings I don’t see a single person, i‘m the solitary individual on a wild and windswept moor that marks the watershed between Yorkshire and Lancashire.

On this occasion I had a brief chat with every one of the other brave souls; ‘great morning’, ‘a bit windy up here’, ‘don’t worry he (the dog) is friendly, he likes runners’ and so on. The forecast of high winds and torrential rain had perhaps persuaded the others to venture out a little earlier than they would otherwise have done, so I had the company this particular morning.

Twelve months ago I had a meeting on a Saturday morning in south London. I never miss a Saturday run, so I was out of the hotel doors for a little after 6am and a put in a steady hour around Wandsworth and Clapham Commons. I didn’t mind the fact that there wasn’t a patch of moorland I could tread, or any real hills to run up, or that even at this time of the day, on a weekend, the traffic was heavier than it would have been almost anywhere else in the country. And I certainly wasn’t put out by the thirty or so other runners I encountered in those sixty minutes.

This photo was taken by a random stranger in the wilds of Yorkshire, just up the road from my village. Would I have been able to ask a random stranger to take my photo in London?

This photo was taken by a random stranger in the wilds of Yorkshire, just up the road from my village. Would I have been able to ask a random stranger to take my photo in London?

What I did mind, however, was the sheer lack of friendliness, polite conversation, or even the slightest acknowledgement to my cheery ‘morning’ that I made a point of delivering to each and every one of those thirty runners. It was like running on an alien planet – either that or I had inadvertently become temporarily invisible for that hour – because not one single person smiled back, returned the greeting, or made eye contact with the most dashing runner in the entire district that morning (ok, maybe that’s going a bit far). Only a small number of these rather rude runners had headphones on, so that was no excuse either.

By the end of the run, I was chirping my ‘morning’ greeting all the more loudly, knowing all too well that the greeting wouldn’t be returned. Then, the very next morning I was at home, out running early, and every single walker and runner I encountered that day spoke. Some offered their greeting before I did, others offered encouragement to the lone runner, I offered encouragement to the walkers struggling with the last part of the climb up to Top Withins (‘Wuthering Heights’ if you have heard of the Brontë sisters).

courtesy of wired.co.uk

courtesy of wired.co.uk

Next week I’m returning to Bihar, India’s poorest region, with a group of teachers who will, among other things, deliver training to unqualified teachers in India’s poorest region. My first visit to Bihar was this time last year. The locals were just charming: proud of their homes, to which we were always invited, proud of their village, their town, their region, of their family, and of the schools that defied the odds to give their children an education that wouldn’t have been available a generation ago.

It was the ambition of many of the adults to one day travel to London. That I come from rural Yorkshire didn’t matter, I had been to London. I live in the same country, so I must tell them all about the city.
DCIM100MEDIA They didn’t always get the replies they had been expecting. We discussed how proud they were of everything they had. I never dawned on them that in the rich ‘developed’ world (never mind just London), people in the UK are rarely proud of their village, their town, and their school. Few people in the cities will invite you into their home, and MOST OF ALL…people are not as friendly. They will not greet a stranger with a polite ‘hello’. They will not acknowledge a stranger. You will not even be given eye contact, not even if you are taking part in the same pastime, at the same time, around the same park.

Last week I was talking about the difference between ‘standard of living’ and ‘quality of life’ to my year 11 geographers. Guess what topics I discussed with them…

ANORAK’S BESTEST RUNNING TUNES…part one

At around 7.30am on a Saturday morning I’m out of the front door. A little over 60 seconds later I’m out onto open moorland. Two hours later, and having listened to some music in the last half-hour of that two hours, I’m home. Before many of you are out of your beds that is, feeling remarkably refreshed, invigorated and all the better for having seen all manner of wildlife and rare birds. This is a small selection of tracks that currently reside on my tiny mp3 player. All of them are equally as brilliant in their own way. You really should listen to them all.At least one of them is featured in that fine fine book ‘Is That The 12” Mix’.

GOLDFRAPP ‘SLIDE IN’ (DFA REMIX)
One of the trippiest tunes you will ever listen to on your headphones. The first five and a half minutes, with its exquisite cowbells, is worthy enough, but then follows a most unreal experience that will make you forget where you are, how far you’ve travelled from home, and, if you are out in the moors, how the hell you’re going to get back. But you won’t care…

PET SHOP BOYS ‘PANDEMONIUM’
From the PSB’s under-rated 2009 offering ‘Yes’, comes a track that a decade earlier would have been a number one single. A feel-good tune that will lift your spirits when you are starting to feel a little jaded.

THE CULT ‘SHE SELLS SANCTUARY’ (LONG VERSION)
Beggars Banquet’s finest and a slow burner from 1985. The original 12” long version is far superior to the ‘howling mix’ and any of the subsequent remixes that were released (even though some of them were rather good).

HEAVEN 17 ‘TEMPTATION’ (BROTHERS IN RYHTHM REMIX)
The original 1983 version was brilliant…the 1992 remix is awesome. Heaven 17 knew nothing about this mix, which was originally produced as a DJ-only mix for the DMC club, until someone told them about it after having heard it in Ibiza. The rest is history, it went on to become a world-wide smash for the second time, and the unedited version has one of the best three-minute intros ever in the history of outstanding intros.

OMD ‘METROLAND’ omd
From their 2013 album ‘English Electric’, OMD take you on a journey that, if anything, proves that some bands never lose the ability to produce damn fine electronic music.

WILL DOWNING ‘A LOVE SUPREME’ (JAZZ IN THE HOUSE MIX)
From an era where house music had taken control of our dance-floors, and the airwaves, this is one of 1988’s best tunes. I tend to bounce along on my run while listening to this.

WALTER JACKSON ‘TOUCHING IN THE DARK’ (12” VERSION)
More soulful than anything I’ve heard for years, the late Walter Jackson should have had a huge global hit with this in 1984. As smooth as Luther Vandross and more authentic than anything Barry White ever did. Beautiful. Mid-run it will leave you feeling all loved-up and warm inside.

lonnie
LONNIE GORDON ‘HOW COULD HE DO THIS TO ME’ (EXTENDED VERSION)
Penned as a single not long after her huge 1990 hit ‘Happenin’ All Over Again’, this sublime and lush Stock Aitken Waterman production was pulled at the last minute, and sat in the vaults until her album was released on CD – at last – just a few years ago. Proof that SAW could produce more than just cheesy (but brilliant) pop music.

THE FOUR TOPS ‘INDESTRUCTIBLE’ (EXTENDED VERSION)
Remixed by PWL’s Pete Hammond, this wasn’t as big as ‘Loco in Acapulco’ but is one of the best 80s songs to run along to, whether you’re making your way through city streets, meandering along the river or high up in the windswept moors.

ODYSSEY ‘NATIVE NEW YORKER’ (FULL LENGTH MIX)
It’s got to be the long version with its long introduction, so forget the 7” edit, which is good, but not a patch on the unedited version it all its piano-driven glory.

PRIVATE LIVES ‘LIVING IN A WORLD (TURNED UPSIDE DOWN)’ (12’’)
Either of the two slightly different 12” mixes will do. Why this ballad wasn’t huge is beyond me. A great tune to listen to while out running…a bit more reflective than many of the danceable (or should than be runnable) tracks even though it still straight pop.

SADE ‘PARADISE’ (EXTENDED VERSION)
More of a groove than a pop song, I first heard this is a record store in Greece. It’s very chilled out and is best listened to at the most remote point of your long weekend run. Bloody great stuff.

EG DAILY ‘LOVE IN THE SHADOWS’ (SPECIALLY REMIXED VERSION)
Produced by Harold Faltermeyer (the man behind ‘Axel F’), this is another track with a long outro that you never really want to end. Elizabeth Daily was the voice behind ‘Rugrats’, and if you have the album this came off (‘Wild Child’) on CD then you’re sat on one of the most sought after 80s CD albums of them all. I nearly included her other UK dance smash, ‘Mind Over Matter’, one of the lesser known PWL / SAW tunes.

SHEENA EASTON ‘101’ (THE REMIX)
David Morales shows us why he was one of the most revered remixes of the 80s with its deep beats and moody vocals. It’s also Sheena Easton’s finest eight minutes. She looked gorgeous at the time, the music still sounds just as gorgeous all these years on.

perfect kiss NEW ORDER ‘THE PERFECT KISS’ (UNEDITED 12″ MIX)
I broke my arm while out running once. I tripped over my lace. It didn’t matter, I was listening to this. Four minutes or so of Barney Sumners unmistakeable vocals, followed by another four minute outro that just builds and builds and builds. If you have ‘Substance’ on CD you have the ‘full-length-mix-with-half-a-minute-lopped-off-the-outro version’ which is almost as good as the version without the half a minute lopped off.

INSTINCT ‘SLEEPWALKING’ (EXTENDED MIX)
Unearthed after festering, unreleased, in the ZTT vaults for nearly three decades an epic Trevor Horn production from the days when he masterminded Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s domination of the UK singles chart. This track, by ex-members of Pigbag appeared on the 2011 compilation ‘The Art of the 12”’. Exciting.