Digest...

December 28, 2008

The PopArt End-of-year message

Filed under: music, editorial, Tamla Tim, PopArt, The label — digest @ 3:13 pm

Hello our darling Smart Kids

What a year 2008 has been for PopArt enterprises. Join us as we sit around the fire with a pipe and a brandy and muse on what has come to pass, and what delights are to look forward to in 2009.

We started 2008 with many board meetings in various pubs, frantically planning and scheming for the year ahead. Once we had dried out the beer soaked minutes and remembered what we said we’d do, we kicked off in earnest with an all dayer - ‘BritPopArt 2: Bargelife’ on the Battersea Barge, the now annual celebration of the glory and the folly of the Britpop wars. This saw the return of the game show ‘Line Up In Line’ with our resident compere, Leicester’s Funnyman ‘The Bullet’ Dave Rees. All the bands did a Britpop cover version and the PopArt AllStars supergroup did a full set of mad ferrit classics. There’s some footage from that event here:

Pete Green doing ‘Inbetweener’ | Goodbye Lennin doing ‘Ready To Go’ - | PopArt AllStars with ‘Babies’ and ‘Trash’

Shortly afterwards we set up home at The Fly on New Oxford Street for PopArt Monthly, the staff have come to both love and fear the second Saturday of the month in equal measure. They always compliment the bands we have on and sing along to our choice of tunes, but are often perplexed when we explain there will be a live game show on stage between the bands. We have had some fantastic nights down in the PopArt bunker, had some of our favourite bands play, had lots of silly fun with game shows like ‘Indie Bingo’ and danced the night away to indie pop, alt rock, soul, hip hop, stadium fillers, lost classics and the odd TV theme tune. London Fire Brigade paid us a visit one month due to a smouldering fuse box and the Smart Kids serenaded them with a disco chant of ‘Burn Baby Burn’ before dancing on to ‘Heatwave’ and ‘Panic!’. We ended the year in our own indie pop prankster style with the PopArt AllStars getting everyone in the yule mood with a set of Christmas covers. Some footage of that here:

‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ with Leiscester’s Funnyman ‘The Bullet’ Dave Rees | ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ with the living legend Mr Solo | ‘Do They Know It’s Christmastime?’ with erm … everyone

From January onwards there will be a whole extra hour and half of dancing at our PopArt Monthly nights. The party people often beg for ‘one last tune’ at the end of the night. We’ve listened and can now bring you lots more tunes until 3.30am! The first night of specially extended mayhem will be on 10th January, with the Bridport Dagger, Fulcher, Smith & Dance (featuring members of Art Brut) and Evilwitch playing live. Plus there’ll be a game show when we think of one.

October saw the third annual celebration of Belle & Sebastian at a bowling alley, namely ‘Bowl & Sebastian 3: Is It Wicked Not To Spare?’. This saw B&S cover versions from the fantastic bands, the return of every twee kid’s favourite American geography based quiz ‘The State That I Am In’ and another high octane set of covers from the PopArt AllStars with guest singers from Lucky Soul, Brontosaurus Chorus and Pocketbooks amongst others. Some footage of that here:

MJ Hibbett sings ‘La Patie De La Bourgeoisie’ | Mr Solo sings ‘Judy And The Dream Of Horses | Andrew from Lucky Soul sings ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’

November saw PopArt London the fledgling record label make something of a splash with the long awaited release of the Subliminal Girls single ‘Self Obession Is An Art Form’. This was the first time we’d done a release that would be on iTunes and HMV and all that and, being like we are, we didn’t make it easy for ourselves. We signed up with a distribution company who would get the single in all the online stores and we started talking with authority about things we didn’t understand. We found ourselves saying things like “Yeah, no problem, I’ll send through the UPC code this afternoon,” and sometimes even knew what this meant. Other times, Wikipedia was our friend. The single itself was by no means run of the mill either. Actual Pop Artist Stuart Semple designed and made just ten special packages which contained the single on vinyl along with all sorts of arty goodness, and these were sold in galleries as far a field as Milan and New York, while we handled the digital release back here in Blighty. It’s still too early to know exactly how it went but it was number 1 in the Play.com indie download chart, which was very exciting, and we were delighted to be involved with such a fantastic song and such an interesting project. If you haven’t got a copy yet you can still download it from:

Play.com | HMV | Or search iTunes.

As ever, keen to run before we can walk or even before we’re potty trained, we are currently working on not one but TWO albums which will both be out in March 2009. This is very much hot off the press, the first whisper of two very exciting releases.

And What Will Be Left Of Them? - The Hi-Fi Low Life Blasting out or Worcester with a song in their hearts and whiskey in their bellies, AWWBLOT? have built up a storming reputation through years of gigging up and down the country. bringing their own charming brand of clatter pop to the kids, not least at PopArt events. This will be their debut album.

Brontosaurus Chorus - You’ve Created A Monster Also the debut album from this London 8 peice (yes, 8 piece) quirky but classic pop orchestra, marrying ringing guitar with throbbing bass with swoonsome strings with soulful trumpet with bitter sweet lyrics. Compared to Belle & Sebastian and Arcade Fire.

The CDs have just arrived and they look and sound amazing. Both will also be available as downloads.

What a year it’s been and we can hardly believe 2009 is shaping up to be even better. Stay tuned for more events and records which we and you, the Smart Kids, can inject with our own ramshakle charm.

Keep a little PopArt in your heart x

November 17, 2008

Single Out Today!

Filed under: music, Tamla Tim, PopArt — digest @ 11:14 am

 Buy from HMV | Buy from Play

Exciting news everyone! The latest release from everyone’s favourite indie-pop pranksters PopArt London is afoot!

The new Subliminal Girls single is available on November 17th for download (links below) and as a VERY limited edition vinyl. Tracklisting is:

1. Self Obsession is an Artform 2. Posh Girls Names 3. Electronic Hearts

Following our adventures with the And What Will Be Left Of Them/Brontosaurus Chorus split 7” pink vinyl and the charity download album ‘Covered At Christmas’, both of which we sold from our website, we’re going to play the big boys at their own game, but by our rules. Our rules are; there ain’t no rules.

So for our third release we’ve hooked up with one of our favourite bands who’ve played our club nights - bubblegum cynics Subliminal Girls - and between us we’re shaking things up.

British artist Stuart Semple, a huge fan of the band, volunteered to create a very special limited edition artwork. Inside a silver screenprinted box, art collectors and music connoisseurs can expect to uncover; a special fold out print, a photographic book by Semple, a hand silk-screened t-shirt, a laser cut acrylic disk and one-off signed negatives of the band. Of which only a very few will be available.

The limited edition vinyl package will mainly be for sale in galleries in such salubrious locations as Milan, New York and Honk Kong BUT the three tracks will also be available to download from iTunes, HMV Digital and all good online music stores and also come with digital artwork by Semple.

Sub Girls have already released one double-A side, indie top 20 smash “Burn Koko/Mirror” and a cover of one of the biggest pop bands of all time, Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” The synth-pop quintet’s latest single contains 2 b-sides and through its three tracks, show off their sweet yet venomously bitter sound. The band reckon it’s the best they’ve ever done and we’re inclined to agree.

We’re all in this for the love of it and because we think the songs deserve to be heard, none of us are going to make our fortune on this. So as well as getting three of the year’s best tunes for your listening pleasure, you’d also be striking a blow for the good guys in this business we call show, and it would mean we might be able to put out more records by other deserving, talented people the majors are too blinkered by the latest fad to notice.

Keep a little PopArt in your heart x

Buy from HMV | Buy from Play

Please also check out the Facebook group here - Invite your friends and spread the word!

October 12, 2008

Burn Down The Disco - PopArt Monthly Report - 10 October 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized, music, Tamla Tim, Events, PopArt — tamlatim @ 7:54 pm

Well, we were determined that last night at The Fly was going to be one of the all time classic PopArts, and having thought at one point the night had been cruelly snatched from our grasp, a classic it did turn out to be - in a particularly demented, typically PopArt kind of way, and provided a fantastic bit of drama for the first official blog of a PopArt event, which we’ll be doing for every event from now on.  London Fire Brigade were involved last night, but more of that later.

The Seven Inches

There was a big, up for it Saturday night crowd of Smart Kids for the wonderfully charming pop weirdness of The Seven Inches to kick off the live music.  Hailing from my previous home of Leeds, boy singer Ian was resplendent in a sort of Morris dancer style hat that a Blue Peter presenter might have showed you how to make from everyday household items, and wielded a faux guitar fashioned, unless I’m mistaken, from a thin sheet of polystyrene.  There was boy vocals from him, girl vocals from Emily, trumpet, melodica and foot tapping, singalong pop poetry perfection from start to finish.  With wit and style and emotion and above all a sense of fun they couldn’t have been better for us.  Check out “Cashback.”

Penny Broadhurst And The Maffickers
Next up, also from Yorkshire, was the swoonsome pop gorgeousness of Penny Broadhurst And The Maffickers, lyrics with a kind of bruised humour that refuses to stop finding joy in life no matter what it throws at us, all wrapped up in fantastic melodies and solid gold hooks.  And … there were more trumpets!  I love the brass.   Penny started as a spoken word performer and her wordsmithery shone through, but for me the world would have been robbed had these not become the beautifully realised pop songs they deserve to be.  Buy their Allons-y! EP.

Indie Bingo
Then, after all that poetic beauty floating around, what else could we do but give our compare Leicester’s Funnyman, ‘The Bullet’ Dave Rees the run of the stage to delight and confuse in equal measure with his own special brand of wordplay.  This was the long awaited return of ‘Indie Bingo’, in which all the Smart Kids in attendance were given cards with various songs titles on them, when a song was played from the DJ booth, they crossed it off their card.  For those who might not know all the tunes, Dave Rees was on hand with his Bingo caller patter.  Personal favourites were “Two fat ladies – The Magic Numbers,” and the frankly bizarre “Fiddle de da, fiddle de de – Saturday Looks Good To Me.”  Although of course everyone who witnessed The Bullet was a winner, some fine prizes were given out including the best CDs and DVDs the 3 for £10 offer at Zavvi could provide, some beef jerky, many Fredo chocolate bars and a lime green hat I found earlier in the day.  Someone finally took the copy of Suede’s  ‘A New Morning’ that we’ve had as a prize since the first ever Indie Bingo two years ago.  The joy on the faces of the Smart Kids when they completed a card and shouted “Indie Bingo,” was like they were having Christmas and birthday all at once.  In that way I suppose they were like Jesus that night.

New Royal Family
As the final band of the evening took the stage, there were whispers of a strange smell, as though someone was sawing wood, but all that was forgotten in the excitement of The New Royal Family taking the stage and the hilarity of Dave Rees introducing them as “a ‘king great band.”  Another band that couldn’t fit in better with the many faceted nature of PopArt, they put me in mind of a pretend toff Buzzcocks with lyrics by Oscar Wilde proofread by Captain Beefheart.  If you can imagine such a thing.  All the magic of that particularly British off kilter pop was here in the somehow smutty but I’m not sure why picture postcard fun of “Anyone Fancy A Chocolate Digestive,” (answer: “no thank you, it sounds suggestive,”) and the tough guy’s camp hip hop anthem “IWISHIWASGAY,” which is “out” soon on Filthy Little Angels records.

Firemen In The Disco!
Just as the Family were finishing their set, Dom alerted me to the fact that, due to the strange ‘hot’ smell downstairs, the Fire Brigade had been called.  So during the encore five burly fire fighters trooped downstairs into the PopArt bunker.  Having just been delighted by “IWISHIWASGAY,” rumours about this strange occurrence spread through the crowd like wild fire.  Most plausible amongst them was that the firemen were in fact dancers about to join the band on stage for a song about helmets and hosepipes.  As the Samrt Kids continued to dance and drink and generally have a ball around them, blue watch carried out their investigations and tracked down the smell to a slightly smouldering fuse box.  Just as the encore finished the power downstairs was cut, leaving us with no way to reassure the crowd that they were in no danger and could continue to party safely in the bar upstairs.  In the event they didn’t seem bothered and joined us in a disco chant of “burn baby burn,” until security told to stop being silly and get everyone upstairs.  As we led the PopArt refugees to safety and further drinking opportunities upstairs, the other DJs very graciously gave their decks over to us to continue the party.  I’m proud to say that once we knew everyone was safe my first thought was “what’s the right song for this ridiculous moment?”  I went with “Heatwave,” by Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, then “Panic,” by The Smiths (“burn down the disco, hang the blessed DJ,”), under some considerable stress I frantically searched for more songs to soundtrack the emergency.  I didn’t seem to have “Light My Fire,” by the Doors, “Fire,” (Jimi Hendrix or Arthur Brown) or “Fire Brigade,” by the Move.  I had a feeling I had the theme tune to Fireman Sam somewhere but with ten seconds to go I shoved on some Pulp.  From there it was all dancing with wild abandon, air guitars and hugging: everything that’s great about doing PopArt.  Upstairs is smaller so we inevitably lost some of the people who came to watch the bands when we had to evacuate but much as that was a shame the hardcore regular Smart Kids were where they always are, down the front being silly and beautiful and making it all worthwhile.  You know who you are, thank you.

Full DJ set list and photos may follow depending on whether anyone does them.  Until the report from Bowl & Sebastian 3, dear readers, keep a little PopArt in your heart.

x

December 13, 2007

Have I Got Tunes For You

Filed under: music, editorial, authors, Tamla Tim — tamlatim @ 6:19 pm

Tamla Tim’s current affairs based mixtapes.
The story that’s caught my eye recently is the bizarre tale of prison warden John Darwin, who went out to sea in his Canoe in 2002 and disappeared, only to walk in to a Police station on the 1 December claiming to remember nothing since the year 2000.  His wife had claimed thousands of pounds in insurance payouts and Darwin has now been arrested on suspicion of fraud, since a photo of him and his wife together in Panama came to light, helpfully dated 2006.  Rumours are that he might have faked his death to avoid some big debts.
 So, as ever, I put together a mixtape to listen to while I kept abreast of all the latest developments.  Obviously I’ve been listening to “Strangeways, Here We Come”, lots of Dead Or Alive, British Sea Power and The Grateful (missing presumed) Dead.  But as you know I like the lyrics to speak to me, so the final tape was:
 
Flesh Canoe - Animal Collective
In his hasty attempt to make it look like an accident at sea, Darwin sets out in vessel made from human skin.  A waterproof but not exactly a sturdy vessel.  Would have been the perfect crime had he taken this route.
 Paddle Out - Sublime
Outside Stockton gets hot like a glove,” sing the Sublime lads.  I think they’re talking about surfing in the U.S. of America somewhere, but for our purposes Stockton is in Middleborough, not far from where Darwin ‘paddled out’ and didn’t come back for over four years.  Since he did resurface the heat has definitely been on.
 
Going Missing - Maximo Park
In “Canoe-gate: The Musical!” this will be the song Darwin sings to his wife before he leaves for the coast with his canoe under his arm - “I’m going missing for a while, I’ve got nothing left to lose.”  The lead role will be cast in a BBC reality show, hosted by Graham Norton – “Can-you Make It In A West End Musical?”
 How To Be Dead – Snow Patrol
If only he’d listened to this before he set off.  Then again you would have thought ‘don’t appear in a photo with your wife, dated after you’re supposed to have died’ would be a given, without any help from an indie band.
 
How To Disappear Completely – Radiohead
More good advice too late from Thom and the boys.  “Where were you in 2002 when I was hatching this crazy plan?” pleads Darwin.  “We were recording ‘Hail To The Thief’” says Thom. “You’d disappeared as well then,” sneers Darwin “up your own arses.”  He prefers ‘The Bends’.
 Get Myself Arrested – Gomez
I can only imagine this is what Darwin was thinking when he strolled into a police station and said “I think I’m a missing person.”  So when you went to Panama with your missus and bought that apartment, were you missing then?  “Erm … shit I hadn’t thought of that.”
 
Amnesia – Chumbawuamba
But Darwin has an ace up his sleeve, the old classic excuse “I don’t remember anything for the last seven years.”  I got me some extensions on my college coursework I can tell you.  Apparently he used the lyrics verbatim.  Do you suffer from long term memory loss (altogether) “Oooh I can’t remember.”
 This Photograph Is Proof (I Know You Know) – Taking Back Sunday
The cops tell Darwin to leave all the tall stories about memory loss out of it and explain they have a photo that proves he saw his wife in 2006 by playing him this tune by Long Island’s finest.  The song taunts him “Would you like to forget , would you like to forget, drop everything, start it all over, well, drop everything start it all over (would you like to forget)?”  That must count as cruel and unusual punishment surely?
 
High Risk Insurance – The Ramones
Darwin tries to pull the Judas Priest/Marlin Manson card and claim listening to the Ramones made him do it.  To be fair that refrain of “high risk insurance, the time is right, high risk insurance, the time is right,2 is hard to resist.  But as the boys say “everybody wants an explanation.”  Do you know if you listen to the Ramones backwards it clearly says “Og Stel, Oh, Yeh,”?  Which doesn’t mean anything.
 You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison – My Chemical Romance
Ex-Prison Warden ends up inside?  I don’t think he’s going to be the most popular person with ‘Gripper’ and the lads in C Block.
 
So, on that unsavoury note my C90 reaches the end of side two and is filed away.  Stay tuned for more ‘Have I got Tunes For You’ when I get round to doing another one.
 Keep it current affairs x
 
PS – If there’s any songs I should have put on or you want to do your own current affairs mixtape let me know!
 
 

 

October 4, 2007

Have I Got Tunes For You

Filed under: music, editorial, authors, Tamla Tim — tamlatim @ 2:15 pm

Tamla Tim’s current affairs based mixtapes.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading the papers and catching up on world events I like to have an accompanying soundtrack and I thought it might be nice to share some of these current affairs compilations with you. PopArt naturally seeks to inform and educate as well as entertain. If you’re too young to know what a mixtape is just substitute ‘i-pod playlist’ or ‘range of ringtones’.
So this week we find out what I’ve been listening to whilst keeping abreast of all the news surrounding the strife at Northern Rock, who seem to have lent out more money than they could afford.  Which is quite an oversight given that they are a building society and are usually expected to be, you know, quite good with finances. Obviously I’ve been listening to a lot of Big Bank Hank, Northern Uproar, Money Mark and Broken Society but I like the lyrics to speak to me, so the final tape was:
Straight To The Bank – 50 Cent
Fiddy is first in that long queue snaking down the High Street.  “It go all the way down past Greg’s the bakers and Halfords. Gotta get my hands on them Benjamins, which mean getting in a motha fuckin line again for the Bureau de Change.  This some fucked up shit.”  He might have said had he really been involved.
The Old Account – Jonny Cash
Like his ‘Essential Collection’ best of, Johnny is good value on this mixtape.  He’s keen to see if there’s any money (or ‘Cash’) left in ‘The Old Account’.  Not to mention the fact that, given the long queues, he slowly but surely ‘Walks The Line’.
Love Me Tender – Elvis
In his more well known Memphis drawl, this is a beautiful love song, but the American thing was just a marketing gimmick, Elvis was actually from Barnsley and most of his sizeable funds rest in the local Northern Rock.  In his native gruff Yorkshire brogue he’s heard to say “Ah best still be able t’get me brass from t’bank.  I love me tender, tha knows.”  Oh, and that means he’s not dead either, obviously.
In The Waiting Line – REM
Yes, REM are there too.
Part Of The Queue – Oasis
Yes, and Oasis.  Liam only wanted to cash a cheque he got for his birthday.
Northern Whale – The Good, The Bad and The Queen
I hope they don’t bump into Liam in the queue, all hell could break loose if the Gallaghers suspect their Southern nemesis to be poking fun at the plight of the North or accusing anyone of ‘wailing’ over the Northern Rock crisis.  “No, it’s not ‘wailing’, it’s whale.  As in a large sea mammal. I’m not saying you’re wailing.  I’m not saying you go whaling either,” Damon pleads with little success.  “Alright then, but don’t hit the face; I’ve got a photo shoot for my new range of braces and bowler hats tomorrow. Erm … guv’ner.  Apples and pears and such and such.”
Home Loan Blues – Simply Red
I’ll be honest I didn’t listen to this one.  Relevant title, shit song.
Panic – The Smiths
That’s right Moz, there is indeed panic on the streets, especially of Humberside, Leeds side-streets that you slip down and provincial towns you jog round.  But being British we panic by forming a polite orderly queue and muttering under our breath.  At least when we get home we can have a nice cup of tea and a sit down.  Oh, the house has been repossessed?  And the chair and the kettle and the tea?  Ah well, mustn’t grumble.
Save Tonight – Eagle Eye Cherry
Yes, indeed, save tonight but save it in cash under the mattress or in suitcases in the attic like Ken Dodd.  It seems our financial institutions are run by no more than vagabonds and fly by nights.
Nothing Left To Borrow – Jayhawks
Succinct analysis from the Ohio purveyors of alt country.  That’s about the size of it lads.
Account For What? – Black Flag
The, to say the least, imposing figure of Henry Rollins demands, not unreasonably, of the bank clerk what his current account is for if they’re going to go and piss all his money away and then call Ocean finance to help dig themselves deeper into the mire like the all the other idiots, and consolidate all their debts into one convenient heap of misery. “Erm … ‘No Deposit, No Return’?” replies the clerk, wittily referring to the track from Black Flag’s “Family Man”.  Rollins remains unimpressed and expresses his displeasure by making the clerk swallow a revolving leaflet stand.  Whole.
And that’s it, I’m feel eternally grateful I haven’t got any money anyway and haven’t lost anything and file away my Northern Rock Crisis mixtape.  What tunes will we have for you next time? Only the news gods know.

July 10, 2007

Have I Got Tunes For You.

Filed under: music, editorial, authors, Tamla Tim, Topics — tamlatim @ 11:35 am
Tamla Tim’s current affairs based mixtapes.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading the papers and catching up on world events I like to have an accompanying soundtrack and I thought it might be nice to share some of these current affair compilations with you. PopArt naturally seeks to inform and educate as well as entertain. If you’re too young to know what a mixtape is just substitute ‘i-pod playlist’ or ‘range of ringtones’.

So this week we find out what I’ve been listening to whilst keeping abreast of all the news surrounding the smoking ban in enclosed public spaces. Obviously I’ve been listening to a lot of Ash, Smokey Robinson, Collapsed Lung and oft overlooked fag end of Britpop chancers 10 Benson, but I like the lyrics to speak to me, so the final tape was:

Left Outside Alone – Anastacia

Poor old ‘Stacia. She is famously a big fan of Rothman’s Superkings but can’t get anyone to join her in the pub car park for a crafty smoke. She’s literally been left outside alone.

Smoking In The Boys Room – Motley Crue

Traditional right of passage in schools but we’ll see more of this kind of thing in pubs and restaurants no doubt. Along with bogwashing diners who look like they might play chess and writing ‘Terry Patterson is made from helmet cheese’ on the wall with Tip-Ex.

Smokin’/Lets Quit Smoking - Super Furry Animals

Both sides of the debate on these two tunes from 1998’s Ice Hockey Hair EP – SFA, as ever, about 10 years ahead of their time. I like the fact that once they’ve decided to kick the filthy habit their spelling immediately improves.

Baby It’s Cold Outside - Bing Crosby

You won’t get round a no nonsense landlady like Big Vera ‘Bluto’ McGarnigy with that kind of sweet talk, Crosby – take you pipe out into the car park and keep Anastacia company.

I’m Still Your Fag - Broken Social Scene

I think they mean ‘fag’ in the American sense of the word, but to me, as I read the weekend supplements, it sounds like a desperate plea from your last Marlboro Light. “I’m still here for you,” it cries. “Remember the good times?” No? That’s just me then I think

KC and the Sunshine Band – Give It Up

Up tempo encouragement to kick the habit from the Disco legends. Leaves more time and lung capacity to ‘Blow Your Whistle’. So actually carry on smoking.

MC Hammer – Too Legit To Quit

The Hammer, on the other hand, is very successfully sticking to all the requirements of the new legislation, and sees no sense in giving up. He’s literally too legit to quit.

Breath – The Prodigy

Ooooh, get that fresh air in your gills.

Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes - Modest Mouse

Bing and ‘Stacia didn’t have much to talk about out there in the car park and have undertaken some microscopic town planning with the piles of fag ash. It’s the material of the 21st Century.

Nicotine and Gravy – Beck

That same cigarette style hit and a pub lunch in one convenient package, all quite legally enjoyed indoors. Typically innovative thinking from Beck, tends to taste like shite though.

Tar Heel Boy – The Magnetic Fields

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I admire the James Bond-esque gadgetry of concealing tobacco products in your shoes but you’re bound to be noticed trying to light your loafer and in any case would have to walk home in your socks. Full marks for ingenuity but frankly unworkable.

Ashes To Ashes – David Bowie

Seems to tell the tale of the death of smoking itself. The literal cigarette ashes have turned, metaphorically, to the ashes of a bygone age. I’ve only listened to the first half and I’m getting all conceptual – that Bowie weaves some strong voodoo. And it contains the lyric ‘One flash of light but no smoking pistol’ which could be about smoking fags. If you ignore the word ‘pistol’.

 

The Hymn For The Cigarettes – Hefner

But of course this had to be included. “Lucky Strikes remind me of my friends out on the west coast, Camel Lights remind me of my ex-girlfriend at Christmas time, Marlboro Reds remind me of giving up in Berlin .” They’ll all remind me of huddling in shop doorways and getting rained on now.

So that’s it. I’ve had my last drag indoors and filed my Smoking Ban mixtape away. What tunes will we have for you next time? Only the news gods know.

May 4, 2007

Tamla Tim’s Soul Survivor

Filed under: music, editorial, Tamla Tim — tamlatim @ 12:21 pm
Stevie Wonder, “Superstition”, Motown, 1972

We take a detour into the 70s this month for a Stevie Wonder classic. Of course he’d stacked up a shed full of classics before this; the 12 year old Steveland Morris having been signed to Motown and dubbed ‘Little Stevie Wonder’ in 1962. But it’s songs like ‘Superstition’ that represent a change in attitude and direction for Wonder.

Motown was known as ‘Hitsville’ for a reason and reportedly worked on the same ‘production line’ basis as the Detroit car factories that surrounded it. Artists, songwriters and producers were usually considered separate, specialist parts of the process and crossing over into other areas was generally frowned upon. This meant that creative control lay with the label rather than the artists themselves. Being outrageously talented in several areas Wonder, along with other artists such as Marvin Gaye, reputedly argued with Berry Gordy about the restrictions of this set up and control of his songs. As a compromise Motown allowed him to release an instrumental album that strayed from his established soul-pop sound, but only under the pseudonym Eivets Rednow (although “How do you spell Steve Wonder backwards” is subtly printed on the top corner of the album sleeve).

However the arguments continued and Wonder allowed his Motown contract to expire, leaving the label on May 13th 1971, his 21st birthday. Having seen him independently record two albums after leaving them, Motown were finally convinced that the trade off on creative control and the rights to his own songs were worth the talent (and marketability) he brought and he retuned to the label under a year later.

His first release in this new era was “Music Of My Mind” which was an immediate departure from the usual Motown album format – often a collection of singles, b-sides and covers, and Wonder instead delivered a considered, unified LP and included his early experiments with synthesizers and influences from other genres of music. But, for my money, it was the album “Talking Book” and particularly the single “Superstition” itself, that saw these ideas come to fruition later the same year.

The song was originally written for guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck (who played guitar on the album) and that central, spine tingling riff gave Wonder a new rock audience. In fact it was played on a clavinet rather than a guitar – a keyboard instrument that uses rubber keys to ‘hammer on’ the stings and uses pick ups to amplify the sound, achieving a similar raw sound to the electric guitar whilst having a quality all of its own. The sound achieved here would see Wonder support the Rolling Stones on that years American tour.

However you don’t even have to wait for that riff to kick in to know you’re listening to genius. The opening drum loop (performed by Wonder himself) is instantly recognizable, as are the blistering horn parts and the innovate use of Arp and Moog synths. Any one feature could have carried most songs perfectly well on its own, but “Superstition” threw them all in together and whipped up a frenzy.

He had been a fantastically talented artist ever since his days as ‘Little Stevie Wonder’ but on this song he’s all man and really started to break down perceived barriers between genres and change people’s ideas about what could be achieved in pop music. And he also happens to have given us a timeless dance floor shaker in the process, still played everywhere from provincial ‘carpet and chrome’ discos to somewhere as effortlessly cool as, well, PopArt.

April 2, 2007

Tamla Tim’s Soul Survivor

Filed under: music, editorial, Tamla Tim — tamlatim @ 12:24 pm
Marvin Gaye, ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’, Tamla, 1968

So this is the third edition of Soul Survivor and I haven’t written about a Tamla Motown record yet. A severe oversight for a man who dares call himself Tamla Tim. So to make up for that it’s a huge Motown classic this month.

Marvin Gaye’s heart wrenching version is one of the best known and most loved Motown songs ever. The haunting arrangement drips despair and Gaye’s raw vocal – slightly higher than is comfortable for him, injects the hurt into every syllable. I imagine we’ve all been there; when you’re the last to know that the special girl or boy in your life isn’t all you thought, when someone else lets something slip and you have to deal with getting binned, via someone you hardly know, in a crowded pub. But somehow this song carries it all for you and makes you feel that someone understands.

Amazingly it very nearly didn’t see the light of day. The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and was recorded first by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, then by The Isley Brothers and then by Marvin Gaye. Motown held ‘Quality Control’ meetings every Friday to decide which new recordings from Hitsville USA made the grade as singles. On each occasion it was decided that none of these versions cut it. Whether that tells of the immense quality of songs coming out of Motown or represents a huge error of judgement is debatable.

The first version of the song to be released was by Gladys Knight & The Pips; a fine, up-beat, gospel tinged version in the mould of ‘Respect’. Even then Motown seemed to have little faith in the song and promotion of it was severely limited. It reached number 1 regardless, becoming Motown’s biggest hit up to that point.

Whitfield however was still in love with the Marvin Gaye version and tried to convince Berry Gordy to agree to a single release of it. Still it was refused; the logic being that his version wouldn’t be a hit following on the heels of the Gladys Knight version. It was sneaked on to Gaye’s album ‘In The Groove’ at the last minute and, whilst the official single stalled at number 34 in the chart, ‘…Grapevine’ was being played by DJs straight off the album and became the most requested track. When it was finally released as a single it outsold the Gladys Knight’s version and set up camp at number 1 for seven weeks.

Since then it’s become part of the musical furniture, but has lost none of its pathos and redemptive power and will be a comfort to over-sensitive soul boys like me for as long as people are having their hearts broken.

March 1, 2007

Tamla Tim’s Soul Survivor

Filed under: music, editorial, Tamla Tim — tamlatim @ 12:26 pm
Gloria Jones – “Tainted Love”, 1964, Champion

The fact that this is one of the most covered songs of all time is testament to truly classic song writing that that has been able to transcend the particular fashions and tastes of several generations. From the sleazy synth-pop of Soft Cell’s version – often assumed to be the original, to The Clash (although never officially released), to Inspiral Carpets, to Marilyn Manson’s panto-goth version to the respective cats and dogs versions by The Pussycat Dolls and Skinny Puppy … the list goes on and on. But for my money none can touch the raw, stomping soul power of the Gloria Jones original.

 

On its release the single barely made a dent in the chart and Jones never really took off as a solo artist, although she did work as a writer and producer for Motown artists like Junior Walker and Gladys Knight. It would take the obsessive vinyl junkie of the British Northern Soul scene to rescue it from obscurity and make it one of the all time favourites at sweaty, amphetamine fuelled all nighters in Manchester and Wigan . On the back of this second lease of life Jones (like several other minor American soul singers) moved to Britain , where the cultish devotion of Northern Soul fans ensured regular work. Here she met and would later marry Marc Bolan and also featured on backing vocals and keyboards in T-Rex. They had a son together, Rolan Bolan, but the story ended tragically when Marc was killed in a car accident. Gloria Jones was the driver. Tainted love indeed.

 

Early in her career Jones had been working as a backing singer and featured on hits by Elvis Presley and the original late 50s/early 60s versions of ‘Rockin Robin’ and ‘The Monster Mash’. The song that would, eventually, make her name was written and produced by one Ed Cobb, who went on to produce L.A. garage legends The Standells, and the immediacy and punch of garage rock is in evidence here too. The two famous horn stabs between lines cut like a knife and dance floors across the world have shuddered as people stamp along in time – the most literal example of a Northern Soul ‘stomper’. The rhythm is not so much ‘driving’ as ‘hurtling’ and the vocal … well, there are few finer examples of music as a kind of public therapy and catharsis, it’s the sound of a woman who has invested everything in a man who has driven her to the edge of insanity and emotion pours out of every syllable as intense pain and desperation seem to give way to strength and hope and redemption. As James Brown put it; dance until you feel better, try and release the pressure.

February 1, 2007

Tamla Tim’s Soul Survivor

Filed under: music, editorial, Tamla Tim — tamlatim @ 12:27 pm
Jackie Wilson - ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher’, 1967, Brunsick

This is one of a handful of songs that, just about every time I hear it, completely engulfs me. I’ve been known, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, to close my eyes on the dance floor when this record comes on, dancing crazily into people feeling the driving rhythm, absolutely past caring what anyone thinks. Jackie Wilson had, many say, a voice that could rival and even surpass any of the best soul singers but rarely found song writing to match it. Having had early hit written by Berry Gordy (then a failed record store owner, before he went on to start a little label called Motown) Wilson went through a lean period that wasn’t helped by a ‘fan’ who shot him onstage in 1961. ‘higher and Higher’ was his big comeback, and what a way to come back. After years of below par material he sings like he’s found heaven and achieves that rarest of things - a love song that never once sounds trite or mawkish and could convince even the most jaded of ears that it’s not all a conspiracy to sell more chocolates and roses but raw, passionate, beautiful, all powerful force. The combination of an explosive horn section and Wilson voice moving effortlessly from almost a growl of desire to ecstatic falsetto threatens to lift you up off the dance floor with it and, if only for a few moments, nothing can touch you. It was also the song which, in the film classic ‘Ghostbusters 2’ brought the Statue Of Liberty to life to go and kick ass on the spirit of an evil dictator who had escaped from a painting, which is the best recommendation I can imagine.

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