If You Catch Me At The Border I Got Visas In My Name

A month ago I watched the excellent documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A., a film about the life, music and politics of M.I.A. The film is made up of home video footage, TV appearances, time spent with Justine Frischmann and on the road with Elastica, interviews and various shaky, hand held video camera and phone clips. It’s a fascinating document, energetic and gripping. Much of the film centres around a visit to Sri Lanka which Maya extends longer than intended and the impact this has on her convictions and politics and the effect this then has on her music, her view of herself as an immigrant and a Londoner. As her music becomes more popular and widespread she walks into various controversies. She is accused by the US media of being a terrorist sympathiser (her father was a founding Tamil Tiger). She is set up by the New York Times and responds by tweeting the journalist’s mobile phone number. She is invited by Madonna to appear with her at half time during the Superbowl and gives the whole of Middle America the middle finger. Her ambition and attitude are evident from the star and she comes across very well too, likeable and genuinely questioning her own attitudes and beliefs. She has swagger and self- belief and has made some of the best pop songs of the 21st century.

I’ve posted this before but it never gets tired, a thrilling pop- rap blast riding in on that Mick Jones Straight To Hell guitar sample, Diplo’s production and M.I.A.’s lyrics about people’s perceptions of immigrants (hence the gun shots and cash registers of the chorus).

Paper Planes

The best use of a Clash sample? Maybe so. Norman Cook and Beats International made very good use of Paul Simonon’s bassline for Dub Be Good To Me in 1990, with Lindy Layton’s sweet vocal and The SOS Band’s song.

Dub Be Good To Me (LP version)

In 1994 Deee Lite sampled the wheezy organ from Armagideon Times for Apple Juice Kissing, a song about kissing on the back row of the movies and therefore a much less political song than Paper Planes, Straight To Hell or The Clash’s cover of Willie Williams’ reggae tune but all part of life’s rich tapestry. And a very smart use of a Clash sample too.

Apple Juice Kissing

Return To Brixton

Paul Simonon realised after a while that the money was in songwriting. During the sessions for what became London Calling he worked up a tune into what would become one of the group’s most recognisable and best-loved songs, thanks in large part to ‘the bassline of the twentieth century’. The swagger of Guns Of Brixton comes from the swing of the bassline and Paul’s rough and ready vocal, the ripping sound at the start (velcro being peeled off the studio chairs apparently) and the chanted backing vocals. One of my favourites.

In 1990 Norman Cook borrowed the bassline for his number one hit Dub Be Good To Me. Without asking permission. Paul and Norman settled in a cafe and according to Paul at the time the cash injection was much needed. I happen to love Dub Be Good To Me, an updating of The SOS Band’s Just Be Good To Me with harmonica pinched from Ennio Morricone and the rap half-inched from Johnny Dynell.

CBS, sensing a hit, decided to get a top dj to remix Guns Of Brixton, for the club scene. Jeremy Healy was the dj and a 12″ single with three new versions (two are below) was put out. It stormed into the charts reaching number 57. I don’t remember the clubs and bars of 1990 being awash with this version either. Well done CBS, good work.

To be honest I quite like the remixes, they present the song a bit differently, give it something else. They’re not as good as the original no, and yes, they’re probably for completists and the curious only.

Return To Brixton (Extended Version)

Return To Brixton (SW2 Dub)

Jeremy Healy was in Haysi Fantayzee previous to his dj career. I’ve been watching the Top Of The Pops re-runs from 1983 this year and the January editions had Haysi Fantayzee on several times doing Shiny Shiny,a sort of pirate, nursery rhyme, tribal, glam, anti-nuclear thumper. Having recorded it, I re-watched it a few times too. Two words- Kate Garner.

People Always Talk About Reputation

Yesterday’s post- Garbage sampling The Clash- led me to thinking about who else has sampled The Only Band That Matters, which immediately led me to this song from 1990.

Norman Cook, fresh from The Housemartins, lifted Paul Simonon’s bassline from Guns Of Brixton. Lindy Layton sang The SOS Band’s Just Be Good To Me over the top. Add a snatch of a rap from Johnny Dynell’s Jam Hot, the harmonica from Once Upon A Time In The West, some scratching and a funky beat and you’ve got a number one single. According to legend Norman hadn’t cleared the use of the bassline with Paul and the pair met in a London cafe to come to an arrangement. This song says 1990 to me almost as much as any other.

Bonjour

Now that was a long drive.

We got back late last night, having left Quimperle just before midday the day before. What day was that? Monday? Predictably the only bad traffic was in Dover and on the M1. Anyway, we had a great time, lovely weather, wish you’d been there.

This song has been bubbling in my head from when we got the ferry to Calais two weeks ago Norman Cook’s proto mash-up from 1990, splicing Paul Simonon’s bassline with The SOS Band.

Dub Be Good To Me