Get Your Headz Round This One
Shop Around 16
|It does still happen
that you can turn on the radio and have your life changed. Worryingly
itís normally a big hit that sounds wonderfully strange, but thatís pop.
Recently, though, I stumbled on one of the myriad of Mark Lamarr shows
on Radio Two, where he played a track I thought must be some lost nugget
from the Rough Trade archives. Actually it sounded like my cheap tranny
had got its stations all blurred, as happens sometimes when a discussion
on cybernetics is underpinned by two-step broken beats and a barked shout
out to the Erith massive. This time it sounded like the Big Bopper was
there, The Fallís Itís A New Thing was playing, Essential Logic were
back, and a tribute was being aired to Martin Denny.
Lamarr said it was 'Jungle Fever' by the Grand Preez, and I never expected to hear it again in my lifetime. But no, times have changed. Specialist shows like Markís have pages on websites, where they helpfully print details of tracks played, and where they can be found. So I learnt the Grand Preez were on Jungle Exotica Volume Two (of course), and off I went to Amazon, found a cheap copy via the good people at Caimen, and as the song goes I havenít stopped dancing yet.
Jungle Exotica Volume Two is worth having for that track alone, but it is actually one of the most joyous and weird compilations ever. Itís filled with Link Wray type Rumbles, doo wop madness, eerie exotica, rum rhumbas, twisted tropical stormers, and ricketty rockabilly. In fact itís the perfect accompaniment to a Barry Gifford book. Even he might draw the line at thinking up Mohammed and his Robed Rockers performing 'Harem Orgy'!
I mean I love music, and know too much. But who puts these things together? How do they know about all this wonderful madness, and where on earth do they find it all? Itís on the Strip label who have also put out several volumes of Las Vegas Grind, ďalcohol-soaked bumpínígrind Ď50s buttshake!!Ē. I have obviously led too sheltered a life.
Another wonderful compilation is the Cherrystonesí Hidden Charms one which came out last year. Again, a point is made about there ďbeing little documentation of Ď60s strip/burlesque musicĒ. Quite. The Cherrystonesí set is heavy on the garage rock organ-led groove, and is worth getting just for the awesome 'The Mound Moves' by Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band ≠ an absolute classic of British Ď60s noise, with oddly Andy Summers (of The Police) excelling on guitar.
Zoot Money was one of the underground British ríníb mod club favourites, and I am growing to love the British response to the Ď60s ríníb/soul pioneers more and more, and would point you in the direction of the Goldmine British Soul compilations. There was a time, however, when there was a desperate search for authenticity among the various mod generations. There is actually a lovely Mod publication out on the news stands as part of the NME Originals series. Among the gorgeous features and photos inside (though there are some awful mistakes but letís not quibble!) is Eddie Piller taking us through Randy Cozensí list of 100 mod soul/ríníb greats, which was circulated in the late Ď70s, and stylishly directed a new mod generation towards all sorts of classics, leaning heavily on the Sue and Chess families of labels. The organ-led groove is very much a part of this list, and I am sure contributed heavily to the development of new groups like the Prisoners and Makiní Time.
Tangents followers should know how we worship what
Fay Hallam achieved as part
of Makiní Time, but we have never said enough about her more recent work as Phaze
(Fayís). If anything the Cherrystonesí Hidden Charms set provides a
perfect context for the sound Phaze got on the Vinyl Japan release Who
Do We Think You Are. Itís a bit of a lost classic, but still around if
search ≠ unlike some of the classic releases by Vinyl Japan like their Girls
At Our Best collection. Phaze give us a mixture of gritty garage growlers, jazzy
grooves, and sweet soulful ballads, with Fayeís exceptionally strong vocal and
organ prowess to the fore.
The first Phaze recording was for one of the Acid Jazz Totally Wired sets, and was a cover of 'Indian Rope Man', which is a perfect concept with Fay as Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll beautifully as one. The role of Eddie Piller is actually one of the more interesting stories of pilgrimsí progress after their punk epiphany. His involvement in the new mod generation in the early Ď80s was central to the sceneís evolution (and this is all told in the highly recommended book on the 1980s London mod scene by Enamel Verguren). He was like Alan McGee at the same time a real one for participation! Fanzines, club nights, record labels (including Countdown where he released the great Makiní Time recordings).
It was Pillerís growing interest in the jazz scene in the mid Ď80s that led to him teaming up with Gilles Peterson to start the Acid Jazz label. I understand Piller has recently reactivated the label, so hereís hoping he remembers Fay Hallam is out there and needs bullying to give up the reclusive side of being the Julie Driscoll/Tippetts we want her to be.
Since discovering the Young Disciplesí Roads To Freedom all over again, I have been thinking a lot about the Acid Jazz/Talkin Loud labels. The latter being the label Gilles Peterson went on to form with big label backing, though itís also the name of the legendary Sunday afternoon sessions at Dingwalls where all the funky jazz and latin sounds were spun, and the rare grooves merged with the hip hop and a whole lot more. About how Eddie Piller has described A Man Called Adam who started out recording for Acid Jazz as the ultimate mod group. About how the Acid Jazz scene ended up as horrible bland fusion and anonymous identikit soul, but the best adventurous, creative parts bloomed under James Lavelleís MoíWax set up, one of the all-time great labels. Thereís a great story in there somewhere.
Funnily enough every charity shop I go into at the moment seems to have a copy of Gallianoís In Pursuit of the 13th Note, which seems like an omen, and an irresistible invitation to renew my acquaintance with the work of one Rob Gallagher. So I gave in. And I am delighted I did. Somehow I never really bought the Galliano thing in the early Ď90s, but I was too cruel. The 13th Note sounds fantastic, and I urge you to whip out your old Gabicci tops, dig out that knitted skull cap, and grow that goatee before the truth gets round.
Back in the days, at a time when youíre spoilt for choice with Eric B and Rakim, Gang Starr, De La Soul, and the like, it was easy to be dismissive about the need for a London clubland face and all-round geezer chatting away over funky jazzy beats. But listening again, there is a lot to love, and Rob Gallagher can be seen as a missing link between the Specials and The Streets. The Galliano set here is filled with great observations about London life, lovely stories and wry rhymes, set to some great sounds that capture a particularly important moment when the best British jazz musicians and some living legends played together in a spirit of adventuresomeness. Indeed the Gallagher family tree and accompanying collage that goes with the record set out a whole story, with connections and linkages that are now oft forgotten or taken for granted, from Archie Shepp and the Art Ensemble through Leroy Hutson and Jackie Mittoo through African Headcharge and the Wild Bunch to the Jungle Brothers and Jah Shaka.
The 13th Note sits so well with the Young Disciplesí Road To Freedom, and both are ripe for recovery, particularly when you consider itís hard not to go into a supermarket and hear close comrades Massive Attackís contemporaneous 'Unfinished Sympathy'. Interestingly the Disciples vanished into the night, when they offered so much, and itís perfect thereís just the one great record left behind, while Rob Gallagher continues down all the days with a string of Galliano recordings, and on to Two Banks of Four and the great Earl Zinger. Indeed the latterís Put Your Phasers On Stun And Throw Your Health Food Skyward is a lost classic too.
Maybe there is a case to argue for Rob Gallagher being one of the neglected pop greats. He is certainly a vital part of a great pop story. A story that no doubt will have a chapter dedicated to the great Mick Talbot.
© 2005 John Carney