We’re in the house of pox again. The little fella has caught chicken pox from me. But he’s still dancing!
I love this tune and so does he!
One of the bonuses about being at home has been time to listen to music properly. I listen on the train, but it’s surprising how much you stop listening when it’s over headphones at 6.30 in the morning. I love listening to music in a room, loud and with room to jump around.
Anyhow, I’m listening to loads of American ‘indie’ rock stuff. Going back over thirty years, including things like Nirvana. Stuff that I know, but never really got off on. One of the things that’s lighting my fire currently is American punk band Rancid. I’d sort of registered them before but never investigated. Bored out of my mind and in a state of constant irritation from the chickenpox they make a lot of sense.
It’s the sort of thing I would have loved when I was 16, rough and ready, Clash, Specials, Pistols, Pogues and heading off into that almost football chant singalong punk that people like Sham 69 excelled at. Music that was made to be played loud!
When we came back to school after the summer holidays in 1982 there were rumours of this amazing song that some of the guys had heard during the break. They didn’t know what the name of the tune was, but it was supposed to be like music made by robots in New York. It was supposed to sound like the future, and if you hadn’t heard it you were nobody.
So yeah, some song made by some New York robots. Try asking for that in the local record shop. I did!
Anyway, one lunchtime queuing for my hotdog in a bun and chips (35p!) I heard this noise from a cassette boombox that some sixth formers had. A crowd had already gathered around the table to listen, including some of the younger teachers. It was bleepy and reminded me of Being Boiled by The Human League (the fast version – I didn’t know at that point it was speeded up for the single!) but shouty. It sounded like Martians had walked into the room. I swear you could hear everybody listening. There was an excitement in the room that was completely at odds with a dark school dinner hall in late September.
That track was Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa And The Soulsonic Force. Within six months there were breakdancing crews in the school and outbreaks of graffiti tagging in the local area. Even me, the shortass Mod had a tag. I was Blazer. So called because of a blazer I used to wear and my nasty little habit of burning things. I used to love flicking lit matches and watching their smoke trails as they shot across the pavement when we were out and about.
If there was a point where everything changed this was it.
Can you believe Maxinquaye was fifteen years old last month? I can remember the first time I heard it, it sounded like another planet. Both this album and the first Portishead album ended up as ‘coffee table’ music didn’t they? But they both sound otherworldly, dark and mysterious. This was not easy listening by any stretch of the imagination.
The track that led a lot of people into it was Black Steel which you will find below, a cover version of a Public Enemy track, turned into a full on punk metal track. My favourite track is Ponderosa, sounding like some sort of cross between Tom Waits and Lionel Bart and the Fun Boy Three. It’s funny actually, if you listen to the Fun Boy Three and some of the tracks on More Specials you can hear the roots of a lot of the mid 90s. Both Tricky and Massive Attack, and Blur cited Terry Hall as a big inspiration at the time.
Yup that’s what I look like today. You think I exaggerate? Children were nearly running from me screaming yesterday. It doesn’t itch like yesterday though, but it hurts. My face is so tight with blisters that it it hurts.
Oh well, lets have some 80s dance moves from Hipsway, featuring what is probably one of the most successful of all 80s musicians Johnny McElhone, who had been in Altered Images previously and went on to form Texas.
Not really who you would think of as being one of the most successful is it?
Oh god, everything itches. It’s taking all I’ve got to stop myself scratching. It’s driving me mad.
Have some Elvis in the meantime…