Gone

This came as a slap in the face yesterday, the news that Florian Schneider, co- founder of Kraftwerk and as a result one of the most influential musicians in post- war Europe, has died at the age of 73. Kraftwerk’s importance cannot be overstated. Their pioneering music, use of machine rhythms, synths and keyboards, vocoders more or less invented the genre of electornic music. That they then popularised it with a mass market and continued to experiment makes their achievements even greater. Their influence on other artists from the 1970s onward is immeasurable. Florian Schneider met Ralf Hutter as students in Dusseldorf and it was Schneider who first purchased a synthesiser and said that was the direction they should pursue. Autobahn. Radio- Activity. Trans- Europe Express. The Man Machine. Computer World. Tour de France.

I saw them play at the Apollo in March 2004, one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever seen, from the four men- machines in lit up suits at their work stations across the front of the stage to the films projected onto three giant screens behind them, to the run through their greatest songs and the robots appearing from behind the curtain for the encore.

This is an impossibly beautiful song, the topline melody is heartbreakingly gorgeous. It is even better sung in German.

Neonlicht

R.I.P. Florian Schneider.

Equally sad (and equally pioneering) Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen died on April 30th of Covid 19 symptoms. I meant to do something about him sooner but things kept getting in the way so I’ll pay tribute to him here. His work with Fela Kuti in the 1970s combined his Nigerian native music, Juju, with jazz and highlife. Fela’s music and stance became increasingly militant especially with the Africa ’70 group which Tony was the bandleader of. Brian Eno and Talking Heads were in awe of him. This one is from 1973 Tony drumming with Fela Kuti. I can’t really do this music justice with a simple description. Just listen to it.

Jeun Ko Ku (Chop And Quench)

In recent times he worked with Damon Albarn in his The Good, The Bad And The Queen supergroup, his Africa Express project and Gorillaz. Following his death Damon released this Gorillaz song in honour of him, Tony Allen still the bang on those rhythms aged 79. This quote was put out with it-

“I want to take care of youngsters – they have messages and I want to bring them on my beat.” Tony Allen

R.I.P. Tony Allen

 

Ole

Obscure Monday- as if it hasn’t been obscure or obtuse enough here recently. Afrobeat legend and drummer Tony Allen remixed by Berlin techno legend Oswald von Moritz back in 2007 (that’s ten years ago now, as if you need reminding that these things are all longer ago than you thought they were). What is this? It’s Afro-techno-dub.

That doesn’t really do it justice. It’s lighter than air, languid poly-rhythmic, Nigerian disco via  Deutsch motorik funk with a dubbed out end section.

Ole (A Remix by Moritz von Oswald)

Streets Are All Quiet

Simon Tong joined The Verve as guitarist when Nick McCabe left and then stayed on when he came back (awkward! as the youngsters say). When in 2006 Damon Albarn put together a supposedly nameless band around himself, Paul Simonon (coaxed out of painting to pick up his bass again) and Afrobeat drumming legend Tony Allen, Tong came on board too. The Good, The Bad And The Queen was a very English sounding album (despite Tony Allen on drums)- Dickensian almost, songs summoning up London murk, dark, damp streets and noise coming out from behind half closed doors. This song, the album closer also called The Good, The Bad And The Queen, opens with pub style piano and closes with all of the players racing each other to get to six minutes plus ending. The album was produced by Dangermouse but doesn’t really sound like it.

The Good, The Bad And The Queen

Back In The Day


I’ve had an uneasy relationship with Damon Albarn from the off, starting with splashing his desert boots at a trough urinal in Liverpool when Blur toured to support their debut single She’s So High. While quite liking some Blur singles I rarely bought them, and Damon seemed a prickly, arrogant, off-putting figure for much of the 90s. I like some of Gorillaz records but got tired of the cartoon characters thing. In fact thinking about it, some Gorillaz songs are top notch and I loved the two recent ones but I only bought the first two albums long after they came out. The Good, The Bad And the Queen appeared to be a different kettle of fish and appealed to me much more. It brought Bagging Area hero Paul Simonon out of musical retirement and to good effect, and Damon seemed a bit humbler and less overbearing. The music, described somewhere as ‘Dickensian dub’ was more up my alley, and the whole project was both out of step with the times and reflecting the times (references to war, drinking, city life etc). He was criticised for underusing Tony Allen’s drumming but it wasn’t really an afrobeat album was it? Recently I read a reappraisal of the album so I went back to it and was struck by the number of good tunes on it- the title track, Kingdom Of Doom, Three Changes, Herculean, Green Fields… As someone mentioned on a comment thread, it is a London album but also a great record for listening to driving around English towns late at night. This song was the B-side to the Herculean single.