Pressure Drop A Drop On You

Don Letts is a man who looms large in The Clash story- the dj who played dub for the punks, the man who dressed the bands who couldn’t afford Malcolm’s clothes, the film maker who went with them to New York and the cover star of Black Market Clash (later expanded into Super Black Market Clash), a compilation of B-sides and assortments. One of the highlights inside these two albums is Pressure Drop, an amped up take on the Toots And The Maytals song (and originally the b-side to 1978’s English Civil War). The Clash’s enthusiasm for reggae was a gateway into Jamaican music for many fans. Joe often worried about covering reggae songs, stung by Lydon’s criticisms, and he referred to them as trash reggae but this cover is way more than that.

Pressure Drop

Rewind

I was listening to Big Audio Dynamite’s third album, Megatop Phoenix, released in 1989. In 1988 Mick Jones contracted chicken pox which then spread to his lungs causing double pneumonia. He was close to death, in intensive care and in a coma for several days. Hence the phoenix of the title. It was also the last album made by the line-up of Mick, Don Letts, Leo Williams, Dan Donovan and Greg Roberts last album. BAD had already pioneered sample based songs, using drum machines, films and hip hop and reggae influences. By 1989 they were soaking up house sounds too. The album shows the quality of the group’s songwriting, the wide range of Mick’s lyrics (James Brown, love and romance, the UK, football, the emerging house scene, Victor Tretchikoff’s famous Green Lady painting, Tower Bridge and World War II all make appearances) and the scope and wit of the sampling- Charlie Watts’ drumming, Bernard Cribbins, The Great Escape, Noel Coward, George Formby, Alfred Hitchcock, The Who and The Pretty Things and James Brown (again) are among the credited ones. House music is all over the lead single Contact, essentially a verse-chorus house song sung by Mick and the song House Arrest is pretty convincing too- pianos, jackhammer bass, whistles. There are songs which are cut and paste experiments and songs which are more crafted. It’s an album that intends to be modern. It’s not easy to get hold of currently and doesn’t seem to be in print- but if you go second hand you’ll find an overlooked but fine lp. Rewind is sung by Don Letts, digital reggae inspired, diverting off into Tenor Saw’s Ring The Alarm at one point and including part of the later song Stalag 123 played backwards. Ideas busting out all over the place.

Rewind

The band shots on the inner sleeve are superbly late 80s. Mick went to the photoshoot dressed like this…

Much Worse

Don Letts was Mick Jones’ right hand man in Big Audio Dynamite, never more so than on this B-side to Just Play Music! in 1988. This has a ragga vibe, a stuttering drum machine rhythm and Don’s vocals about everyday hassles- ringing phones, toothache and headache, shaving cuts and much worse.

Much Worse (Extended Version)

I’ve been giving the idea of an imaginary Big Audio Dynamite compilation album post some thought but don’t want to step on The Vinyl Villain’s toes with his series. There’s much more to B.A.D. than just the first album. They did have a knack for choosing the right songs for their singles though.

Out Of The Black

This is a bit good and thanks to Echorich for the tip off- a remix of Out Of The Black from Neneh Cherry’s excellent album Blank Project. The songs on the album are really stripped back and percussive, Neneh’s singing blues and jazz influenced. This remix by Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard puts some clubby sounds and dynamics into it, alongside Swedish popstar Robyn.

And tying recent postees together neatly, in this Big Audio Dynamite video for C’mon Every Beatbox, Neneh Cherry busts some moves and cuts some rug. I always love the way Mick and Don sing alternate lines in this song (and there’s a guitar solo pinched from Jimi Hendrix). Surely this was where Roddy Frame got his inspiration for Good Morning Britain from too.

Covered Wagon Medicine Show

Medicine Show was/is one of Big Audio Dynamite’s best songs- one of the best singles of the 1980s if you ask me- and a show of post-Clash songwriting  and production strength from Mick. Six minutes of choppy guitar riffs, drum machines, spaghetti Western samples triggered from Don Letts’ keyboards and proper funny lyrics. It sounds like good fun and was innovative too. The United States got a different version, or at least a remix. I don’t know why- it doesn’t sound especially American or FM radio, the guitar riff is chopped up a bit and song has less of a flow than the original. Of interest to the completists among you (and thanks to Dubrobots).

Medicine Show (US Remix)

Dread

This Dreadzone song, from their early days on Creation, pays homage to spaghetti westerns and features a vocal appearance from Miss Alison Goldfrapp, and is very good indeed for a Sunday morning in August. Where’s that sun gone? It’s been pissing down here for days.

The Good, The Bad And The Dread

And I like this Don Letts cut and paste video too.

 

Introduction

hird post in a row in what seems to be turning into an accidental ‘what the punks did next’ theme week. Greg Dread (Big Audio Dynamite, Dreadzone) has recently unearthed and shared a track he put together back in the mid 80s, Big Audio Dynamite’s live show intro music. It’s a five minute track with snippets and samples from BAD’s back catalogue all layered over a drum machine set to ‘loud and fast’. The band would ususally appear at around the two minute mark but this goes on for another three. It won’t embed but you can find it and download it here. Via the marvels of social media Greg said I could share it. Thanks Greg.

As a bonus this is BAD performing The Battle Of All Saints Road live on the telly in 1988. Mick suave in leather biker jacket and grey trousers, Don giving the one fingered/keyboard-playing salute…

What a good band they were.
Dreadzone are currently rocking a dancefloor somewhere in the UK, celebrating their twentieth anniversary.