Twenty Eight Years Later

Whatever happens tonight in Moscow- England are playing Croatia in the World Cup semi-final in case you’ve been asleep for the last two weeks- the team have done themselves proud and exceeded any expectations many of us had of them. Since the late 1990s England have failed so often and so abjectly it became difficult to believe that any major tournament could be a success. Having shed themselves of the so-called ‘Golden Generation’, some really poor managerial appointments and the millstone of the superstars that hung around without really ever doing anything, Gareth Southgate has done something extraordinary- he’s built a squad of young men that play for each other and for the team, egos and factions apparently a thing of the past, with the confidence that being young and talented brings and also actually preparing for things like penalty shoot outs. The idea that England could be contesting a place in a World Cup final still seems a bit unreal to me. Last time around, in Brazil, they were the first team home, defeated twice in a matter of days, left playing a third and final group game that meant nothing.

The last time England were in a World Cup semi-final was 1990, a night in Turin against West Germany that ended with penalties and defeat. 1990 was a different world- Germany was not even re-united in summer 1990. Nelson Mandela had only been released in February 1990. John Major was not yet Prime Minister, Thatcher still in power and with no reason to think she wouldn’t be by the end of year (Major ended up leading a Tory cabinet and party massively split over Europe, so plus ca change maybe).

In July 1990 I was twenty years old and a group of us had been to Glastonbury at the end of June, arriving home to our shared student house part way through the England- Cameroon quarter final match to see England win 3-2. Glastonbury had been headlined by Happy Mondays and The Cure (both still playing big shows all these years later). We’d seen Sinead O’Connor, De La Soul, James, Jesus Jones and then Archaos closing the Pyramid Stage by tightrope walking across the top of it. There’s a review here which describes it as all mud, flares and the Mekong Delta. New Order were at number one with World In Motion. Adamski had been number one with Seal and Killer before that. Spike Island was only 6 weeks previously, a promise of something that never happened. With the university term and year over I watched the semi-final back at my parent’s house and as Chris Waddle put his penalty over the bar someone at our house, an older person who had dropped in, said ‘never mind, they’ll be in another one soon’. Not that soon it turns out. Whatever happens tonight, it’s been a long time coming. Good luck England.

Killer

The Official Colourbox World Cup Theme

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Sugarwings

Jumping forward slightly from the last three day’s posts to 1989 with a pair of dreads from East London, Alex Ayuli and Rudy Tambala. As AR Kane they made some bewildering and beautiful music, combining guitars with synths and breakbeats and what would become shoegaze. The pair used the term dream pop to describe their music, and the ambient, dubby swirl give many of their songs a dreamlike state. They released two albums- in 1986 their debut 69 followed in 1988 by ‘i’, both on Rough Trade. In 1990 they put out an e.p. of remixes from ‘i’ called rem’i’xes, with Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie providing three new versions and AR Kane themselves three more. This one is lilting and sweet but off kilter and experimental too.

Sugarwings (AR Kane Remix)

With Colourbox (as MARRS) they they would make Pump Up The Volume, an experience neither band enjoyed and wasn’t repeated, but which resulted in an international hit for MARRS and 4AD. The A-side, a number one single, is an amazing record, a groundbreaking piece of UK house music, laden with samples and a propulsive rhythm. There were so any problems with sample clearence that different versions were released in different countries. Pump Up The Volume was mainly the work of Colourbox and DJs Dave Dorrell and CJ Mackintosh. AR Kane’s contribution was pretty much solely a guitar line. The B-side was largely an AR Kane song but with drum programming from Colourbox’s Martyn Young and while not sounding much at all like Pump Up The Volume is a great track in its own right.

Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance)

Long Was The Morning

I may have posted this song before, or at least one of its versions (there are a few), but it was a few years back and it bears repeating. Arena II is a song by mid 80s samples, electronics plus instruments band Colourbox. They made a lot of reggae influenced stuff and some BAD style sample-driven instrumentals but this song is a piano ballad. It has factory settings drum machine, some clicky percussion, great big piano chords and a superb vocal. It is a bit proto-house music. It is about love lost. The bottom line- it is a piano ballad.

Arena 2

As I was listening to this song (while trying to type this post) Mrs Swiss came in and said ‘what 80s nonsense is this? It is 80s isn’t it?’ ‘1985’ I replied. I was about to type the words ‘I don’t think this song sounds thirty years old’, but maybe I’d be wrong.

Just Give ‘Em Whiskey

I dug out a Colourbox album the other day while tackling a mound of ironing that Hercules would have balked at. I managed to burn myself only twice as well (left forearm and right thumb), which for a cack-handed, left-hander isn’t bad. The album was the two disc vinyl version with the second mixed disc of offcuts and versions, including the monumental Arena II which I’ve put up here before. Some of their stuff sounds a little dated but there’s a load of goodness in it. There’s a boxed set out (released back in May also called Colourbox like the albums were, just to make it all a little confusing). This song is a killer, driving bass and guitars and BAD style samples littered throughout. Tip top, ahead of the curve stuff. They went on to make Pump Up The Volume and you can hear why in this song.

Just Give ‘Em Whiskey

We are off to a campsite near Tewkesbury for two nights, being time rich/cash poor in August, camping with Mrs Swiss’s best friend P and her family. Weather forecast looks reasonable. Back on Wednesday.

>We’re Gonna Shake Up Your Sleepy Mind

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Having already posted three Colourbox songs recently I wasn’t going to do anymore but the mp3 player keeps chucking this up, as if it’s urging me to share it, and who am I to ignore the God of the portable music device?

Arena 2 is a brilliant mid-80s, proto-house torch song- huge piano, skittering and rudimentary drum track and massive soulful vocal. It makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. Stunning.

>MARRS Attacks

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Pump Up The Volume by MARRS is surely one of the greatest singles ever made and a number one single to boot. From 1987 it was a one-off collaboration between members of AR Kane and Colourbox, both Bagging Area favourites, with extra input from djs Dave Dorrell and CJ Mackintosh. Does it sound twenty four years old? I’ve lost track of how things should sound after that amount of time. Made up mainly of samples it still shakes dancefloors- well, the floor in my front room anyway. I don’t know if anyone would play it in a proper club anymore. This is the B-side Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance), made up of an AR Kane track with Colourbox programming the drum machine.

>Baby I Love You So

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I couldn’t let Colourbox go by without posting this, the A-side to the 12″ single with Tuesday’s postee Looks Like We’re Shy One Horse on the flip. Baby I Love You So is a cover of an Augustus Pablo track. This is electronic dub at it’s best- big, swirly sound with swathes of colourful synths, a massive bassline, reverby guitars, samples and vocals from Lorita Grahame. Seven minutes or so of wonder. Play it back to back with Looks Like… for full effect.

02 Baby I Love You So 12_.mp3