A Change Of Atmosphere

In 1990 the members of Big Audio Dynamite that weren’t Mick Jones left the group. Mick ventured on with a new group of recruits, renamed as Big Audio Dynamite II, all Stussy bucket hats and combat trousers. Mick’s song Rush stands out from that time, along with The Globe, evidence his songwriting skills were as sharp as ever and that he was still on top of things in the studio and in production. BAD II records are peppered with samples, new technology, house beats with guitars and some general Second/Third Summer Of Love vibes.

Rush

Mick played it a bit fast and loose with the release of Rush. It had already appeared on the Kool Aid album in a earlier form called Change Of Atmosphere. In 1991 The Clash were back in the press, charts and public consciousness with the use of Should I Stay Or Should I Go in the long running Levi’s adverts. The song was re-released and went to number 1, a feat which Mick was chuffed about, the song playing in every cinema in the country and it was an achievement The Clash never managed during the group’s lifespan. Mick insisted that the B-side to the single was Rush and then managed to get it listed as an AA side rather than a B-side (in an interview at the time Mick, a tad disingenuously claimed new bands always needed exposure and he saw BAD II was a new band). Apparently this didn’t go down too well with Joe and Paul. Rush is a super smart song though, whatever the back story. Mick’s voice crashes in, all reedy West London. ‘If I had my time again’ he sings, in the wake of the break up of another band, ‘I would do it all the same’. The song then finds space for some crunchy Jones guitar chords, keyboard and organ samples from songs by The Who and Deep Purple, a stolen drum break and some distinctive vocal samples by Big Hank from the Sugarhill Gang and  Peter Sellers. In verse two Mick continues to regret rien…

‘Now I’m fully grown
And I know where it’s at
Somehow I stayed thin
While the other guys got fat
All the chances that are blown
And the times that I’ve been down
I didn’t get to high
Kept my feet on the ground’

There’s then a long sample driven, breakdown section before a little mea culpa in the third verse

‘And of all my friends
You’ve been the best to me
Soon will be the day
When I repay you hands and knees
Broken hearts are hard to mend
I know I’ve had my share
But life just carries on
Even when I’m not there’

Fast on its feet, full of life and with an exciting, catchy chorus, Rush is a giddy blast.

As well as the Should I Stay Or Should I Go single Rush was released as a single in its own right in the UK and in America, eight versions and mixes, partly aimed at radio stations in the U.S and MTV- which clearly worked, Rush was at number one on the Billboard Modern Rock chart for four weeks. The UK White Label mix turned up officially on an Australian BAD compilation, a mix very much aimed at British clubland.

Rush (New York 12″ Mix)

Rush (UK White Label)

 

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

Lists

List time again, for what it’s worth.

Albums
It looks like 2018 has been a very good year for albums, a format everyone keeps suggesting is dead or dying. Making a long list was very easy. There are albums that came out at the start of the year I’m enjoying, albums that have come out recently I’m still getting into and albums I haven’t heard yet which I feel sure I should have (Beak for one, The Orielles for another and Neneh Cherry for a third).

Floating around above my top ten are all of these albums and placing them in order seems very arbitrary. All of them have brightened up my year and all are worthy of a mention- Factory Floor ‘Soundtrack To A Film’; Mogwai ‘Kin’; The Orb ‘No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds’; Hollie Cook ‘Vessel of Love’; Gwenno ‘Le Kov’; J Mascis ‘Elastic Days’; Tracey Thorn ‘Record’; Echo Ladies ‘Pink Noise’;  The Advisory Circle ‘Ways Of Seeing’; Half Man Half Biscuit ‘No-one Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fucking Hedge Cut’. A week ago AMOR’s debut album Sinking Into A Miracle arrived. If it had come out sooner I think it would have made the dozen below.

I should also mention a pair of albums out this year but not of this year- Primal Scream’s Memphis Sessions, Tom Dowd’s recordings left unreleased for two decades, and Joe Strummer 001, a compilation of Joe’s solo years with enough newly uncovered material to make it feel like a treasure trove. Today is the sixteenth anniversary of his death and the world feels like a poorer place without him.

Previously unreleased, this is a Joe and Mick Jones song from 1986. Ten minutes inside Joe’s mind with some of Big Audio Dynamite accompanying.

Albums of 2018- a top twelve

Twelve
Gulp ‘All Good Wishes’
Ace kraut-folk from Wales, full of invention and melody.

Eleven
Rival Consoles ‘Persona’
Perfectly judged laptop electronic dance music that works just as well at home/in the car. Very rhythmic and abstract in places but never without tunes.

Ten
Finiflex ‘Suilven’
A 2018 return for the duo from Fini Tribe- an album named after a mountain, aimed at the head and the feet with multi-tracked vocals, synths and chugging electronic drums. Uplifting and fresh.

Nine
The Liminanas ‘Shadow People’
Ten songs from France’s best kept secret, ten versions of a psych-folk-Velvets-1960s for the modern world.

Eight
Chris Carter ‘Chemistry Lessons 1’
Twenty five short electronic pieces- dance music, ambient, reflective industrial tracks, littered with found voices and shot through with melody. Brilliant and warm.

Seven
Jon Hopkins ‘Singularity’
Starting and finishing with the same note, a sort of cosmic joke, and between the two some of the year’s wildest techno and electronic tracks (especially the ten minute journey of Everything Connected) plus some very beautiful minor key piano pieces.

Six
Mr Fingers ‘Cerebral Hemispheres’
This record has been a bit overlooked I feel, a double album by one of the men who invented house music. He spreads it around on this in a multitude of styles and the peaks are very peaky. Acid peaks Techno peaks, Dub techno peaks. All sorts of peaks.

Five 
Spiritualized ‘…And Nothing Hurt’
If this ends up being the last Spiritualized album then Jason has finished it in fine Spaceman style. Bleak in places but well worth committing too and an album that rewards with repeated plays.

Four
The Lucid Dream ‘Actualisation’
They blew me away at Gorilla in September- I was expecting them to be good after the single SX1000 early on in the year but not that good. The album then followed it up in spades, a perfectly 2018 cut-and-shut job combining acid house, psych-rock and dub.

Three
Gabe Gurnsey ‘Physical’
The sound of a night out, late 80s drum machines, synths and some impressionistic vocals parts. Funky and sexy, and drenched in the smells of clubs- cig butts, dry ice, perfume and sweat.

Two
Daniel Avery ‘Song For Alpha’
Minimal techno, buckets of reverb and some lovely ambient noise, designed to be listened to from start to finish, packaged beautifully and utterly absorbing.

One
Wooden Shjips ‘V’
In a year when most of my favourite and most played albums have been electronic and dance music based the album sitting at the top of my list is the fifth lp from San Francisco’s rocker Wooden Shjips, setting out on a trip through their record collections (psychedelia, stoner grooves, krautrock) but done with a lightness of touch and some real earworm melodies. Ripley’s guitar playing and his tone are as good as anyone since the turn of the century. Why do I like this so much? It makes me happy.

Singles/remixes/e.p.s

There have been so many great songs, singles, remixes and eps this year that I could easily extend the length of this list but 40 seems like enough (and although his name appears all over the place below I have actually left some Weatherall tracks out of this).  There are probably things I’ve forgotten too that I’ll kick myself about next week. In the meantime here’s a second list…

40. Johnny Marr ‘Hi Hello’
39. audiobooks. ‘Dance Your Life Away’ Andrew Weatherall remix
38. A Certain Ratio ft Barry Adamson ‘Dirty Boy’
37. The Liminanas ft Peter Hook ‘The Gift’
36. Timothy J. Fairplay ‘An Introduction To Consumer Electronics’ ep
35. Field Of Dreams ‘Nothing Is Perfect’ original and Andrew Weatherall remix
34. Aphex Twin ‘T69 Collapse’
33. The Twilight Sad ‘Videograms’ Andrew Weatherall remix
32. Steve Mason ‘Walking Away From Love’
31. The Long Now ‘Restoration’
30. Underworld and Iggy Pop ‘Teatime Dub Encounters’
29. Echo Ladies ‘Overrated’ Robin Guthrie version
28. Daniel Avery/Jon Hopkins remix 12″
27. Hardway Bros ‘The Laser’ ep
26. Tracey Thorn ‘Sister’ Andrew Weatherall remix and dub
25. Factory Floor ‘Heart Of Data’
24. Lost Cat ‘Postcode’
23. The Vryll Society ‘Light At The Edge Of The World’ Richard Norris Dub
22. Gabe Gurnsey ‘Eyes Over’/Eyes Over Extended Dub
21. Bob Mould ‘Sunshine Rock’
20. Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds ‘It’s A Beautiful World’ Andrew Weatherall remixes
19. Ride ‘Tomorrow’s Shore’ ep
18. Roisin Murphy ‘Plaything’
17. Rude Audio ‘Rude Redux’ ep
16. Daniel Avery ‘Slow Fade’ ep
15. Woodleigh Research Facility ‘Heilige Siedhr’
14. Marius Circus ‘I Feel Space’ 12″
13. Craig Bratley ‘99.9’ ep especially Take Me To Bedford Or Lose Me Forever
12. Daniel Avery ‘A Quick Eternity’ Four Tet Remix
11. Mogwai ‘We’re Not Done’

Ten
Circle Sky ‘If I Let Go’
Richard Norris and Martin Dubka slipped this single out, a totally beguiling song from the heart of a very human sounding machine.

Nine
Lana del Rey ‘Venice Bitch’
This took the top of my head off a couple of months ago- ten minutes of lullaby vocals about being ‘fresh out of fucks forever’, of being together and apart, some gorgeous atmospherics and a stunning guitar part.

Eight
The Lucid Dream ‘SX1000’
Roland synths banged all the way up, bassline from ’89- acid house reinvention from Carlisle.

Seven
Amy Douglas ‘Never Saw It Coming’/Crooked Man remix and dub
Straight out of New York and remixed and dubbed out of Sheffield, September’s moment of  late autumn sunshine Balearica.

Six
Gabe Gurnsey ‘Ultra Clear Sound’
A direct and sleek single ahead of the album back in May. A proper heads up moment.

Five
Andrew Weatherall ‘Making Friends With The Invader’
From a two track 12″ called Blue Bullet, a long exploration of dub and guitar that I cannot get bored of hearing. The other side is pretty smart too.

Four
The Confidence Man ‘Out The Window’ Andrew Weatherall remix
Weatherall’s had another excellent year as this list shows and this remix is up there with his recent best, a gorgeous gospel/rave/steel guitar tribute to staying out all night and coming home as the sun comes up.

Three
Death In Vegas ‘Honey’
Ten minutes of sleek, seductive techno from Richard Fearless and Sasha Grey. What 12 inches of vinyl was made for.

Two
Circle Sky ‘Ghost In the Machine’
I thought If I Let Go was good but this one worked its way into me a few weeks ago and refuses to leave. Futuristic and cool as fuck, deep and light and magical.

One
Roisin Murphy ‘All My Dreams’
Roisin has blazed a trail through 2018 with four 12″ singles recorded with Maurice Fulton, eight songs designed to work on the floor, covering a bewildering array of electronic styles. If there’s a better song out this year that this one, I haven’t heard it. Massive drums and bass, experimental dance music but still with a foot in pop and some great juddering shifting sections where the floor seems to give way beneath you. By way of explaining Roisin sings ‘ridiculously sexy, this is ridiculous’. Ridiculously good. For good measure she directed four videos too and this one looks like good club nights feel.

Why Don’t You Play Us A Tune Pal?

Nicolas Roeg has died aged 90. The films he made in the 1970s and 80s were the type of films you read references to and in those days where things were scarcer you hoped they’d eventually be shown late at night on BBC2 (with a VHS cassette close by). Performance is a counter-cultrue classic, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg and James Fox all going slowly mad in a big house in Notting Hill Gate (and when it was being made Keith Richards waiting in his car outside the set, paranoid about what Jagger and Pallenberg might be up to). The soundtrack was legendary too and this (with my surname too, which added to it for me) is a genuinely great Jagger vocal with slide guitar from Ry Cooder…

Memo From Turner (Alternate Version)

Mick Jones paid tribute to Roeg, his films and especially Performance in Big Audio Dynamite’s 1985 single E=MC2, peppered with dialogue from the film and a verse about taking a trip in Powis Square with a pop star who dyed his hair, mobsters, gangland slayings and insanity Bohemian style. The opening verse is about Walkabout (1971) and the 3rd verse is about The Man Who Fell To Earth, another late night, video tape film that had the capacity to freak the viewer out.

E=MC2

The chorus took me years to fully work out and I’d sung all kinds of words along to it but I think it goes…

‘Ritual ideas, relativity
Holy buildings, no people prophesy
Time slide, place to hide, nudge reality
Foresight, minds wide, magic imagery oh ho’.

Happy Mondays 1988 masterpiece Bummed was also Roeg and Performance inspired with at least 3 songs referencing the film. Mad Cyril includes dialogue from it including the line that opens the song ‘We’ve been courteous’. The Mondays played it on Granada TV for Wilson’s The Other Side Of Midnight show, a band at their peak…

I’ll Be Playing Concerts In The Mud

Periodically it’s good to remember this 2014 song from the combined talents of Frank Ocean, Diplo, Paul Simonon and Mick Jones. Put together as something to do with Converse it goes way beyond a cheap commercial tie in. Mick’s shimmering guitar part and Diplo’s beats are the perfect accompaniment to Frank Ocean’s meditation on being a young black man in the USA- ‘I’m a badboy, I’m a punk’. The West Los Angeles Children’s Choir join in and lift it further upwards. I don’t think all four were ever present in the same room at the same time- Frank’s vocals were done elsewhere, at a different time- but it doesn’t show or matter. At the time there was talk of other tracks Mick and Paul put down with Diplo but it doesn’t look like anything came of them, so this is all we have. The only real disappointment is that it’s all over in under three minutes.

Hero

Situation No Win

This picture was from an NME interview, Mick Jones photographed in Portobello Road following his recovery from chicken pox and complications with pneumonia in 1989 that nearly killed him. I was hoping to find other similar pictures of punks on bikes and do a semi-regular feature called Punks On Bikes but alas I’ve not found any others (apart from Paul Weller in that Style Council video).

Mick always had the ability to rise from the ashes of defeat and disaster. He came back from being sacked from The Clash with Big Audio Dynamite and a debut album that was chock full of tunes and hits. When the original line up of B.A.D. walked out in 1990, partly in response to his ‘intolerable’ attitude after getting over his near fatal illness in ’89, he put together a new line up and came back once again. Rush was a big hit in the US (on the back of the re-released Levi’s tie in Should I Stay Or Should I Go? admittedly but it also gained B.A.D. II plenty of airplay and curiously they also won the Billboard Modern Rock Song of 1991 award). In Rush Mick sings of no regrets and of keeping moving…

‘If I had my time again
I would do it all the same
And not change a single thing
Even when I was to blame

For the heartache and the pain
that I’ve caused throughout the years
How I learnt to be a man
Through the laughter and the tears’

The song is so full of Mick Jones joie de vivre you can practically hear his wonky toothed grin as it plays and his continuing love of sampling is evident with borrowed sections from The Who, Deep Purple, Tommy Roe, The Sugarhill Gang and Peter Sellers.

‘Now I’m fully grown
And I know where it’s at
Somehow I stayed thin
While the other guys got fat

All the chances that I’ve blown
And the times that I’ve been down
I didn’t get too high
Kept my feet on the ground’

Mick was still playing Rush when touring with the Justice Tonight crew in 2011- hedefinitely played it The Ritz in Manchester, Pete Wylie sharing the mic and The Farm backing him. The release of it as the AA side to Should I Stay Or Should I Go? caught him a bit of flak from people accusing him of cashing in the back of The Clash’s belated number 1 single, but the whole Levi’s re-release was a cash-in, so why not? Across a multitude of formats there are at least eight different versions of Rush. This one is the album mix.

Rush

You Said You Stand By Your Man

Under Bernie Rhodes’ tuition Joe Strummer and The Clash were encouraged to write about the world around them, real things that mattered. Joe said as far as love songs were concerned ”subject covered” and he had a tendency to be a bit sniffy about Mick’s love songs. But as Viv Albertine pointed out in her autobiography Clothes Music Boys in some ways it’s Mick’s love songs that have been among the most enduring of The Clash’s tunes, Train In Vain and Should I Stay Or Should I Go among them.

Train In Vain was a last minute addition to London Calling, added right at the end after the sleeves had been printed (which added to the notion that the group were embarrassed about love songs). It was also intended for an NME flexidisc but that never happened so onto London Calling it went. Train In Vain rides in on a railway rhythm and Mick’s twin riffs- harmonica and guitar- and the country and western inspired lyric, which may be about Mick’s relationship with Viv which broke down around the time of the London Calling sessions. It was also the first single that got into the top 30 in the USA, the country they were bored with and enthralled by. Throughout his time as leader of Big Audio Dynamite Mick barely wrote a love song, in either incarnation of the band- in fact I can’t think of a single one off the top of my head.

I saw on Twitter over the weekend that it is now 6 years since the Mick Jones/Pete Wylie/The Farm tour that played Clash songs up and down the country. It was a great moment to see Mick play Train In Vain and do his little shuffle and grin on stage at The Ritz. Later on Ian Brown and John Squire turned up for the encore, their first appearance on stage together since announcing the Roses reunion. Train In Vain is a great little song, one which always raises a cheer when I hear it.

Train In Vain