Terminal Jive

Postcards from the outskirts of pop

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A Queer Revue! – Band on the Wall, June 2016

Photo: Kath McDermott/Manchester District Music Archive

Photo: Kath McDermott/Manchester District Music Archive

On Friday June 3rd, at the wonderful A QUEER REVUE! at Band on the Wall, I’m going to be doing a FREE talk on LGBT music and club culture in Manchester, marking the launch of Manchester Histories Festival 2016.

My talk will explore how queer music culture in Manchester helped to redefine attitudes to sexuality across the city and beyond, featuring rarely seen images and footage courtesy of Manchester District Music Archive.

I will be speaking in The Picture House next door to Band on the Wall at 8.30pm, and after that I will be raving in the main venue to DJ Greg Thorpe and some of my favourite Manchester bands: LIINES / Husk / ILL / Ménage à Trois

Tempted?

Booking for my talk is via Eventbrite:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/queer-noise-the-hidden-histo…

Booking for A Queer Revue! is here:
http://bandonthewall.org/events/5051/

 

Where’s Bowie?

Flyer (reverse) for Where's Bowie?, 2011. Artwork: R. Marsh

Flyer (reverse) for Where’s Bowie?, 2011. Artwork: R. Marsh

[From the vaults: a mix from 2011]

Back in 2011 I organised a night called Where’s Bowie?. It had two aims: first, to make a noise so loud and glamorous it dragged the much-missed Duke out of retirement (we succeeded!), and second to raise money for MIND – a charity that creates awareness around mental health issues.

We held the event at Night & Day Café, Manchester, on 29th November. We showed a great film – Fritz Von Runte‘s ‘Bowie 2001‘ – a piece that splices Bowie’s remixed back catalogue into the original Kubrick movie. Three bands played: Hooker (now LIINES), Black Antlers and Monte Carlo.

I DJed along with Clair & Rebecca (Bad Timing) and Jane Hector-Jones.

I put together these ‘Bowie-esque’ mixes shortly afterwards as a souvenir for all the pink monkey birds that strutted their stuff on that special night.

The lovely artwork was by Randall Marsh.

01. Sebastian Tellier – Fantino
02. T. Rex – Cosmic Dancer
03. Blur – Strange News from Another Star
04. Brian Eno – Dead Finks Don’t Talk
05. Jobriath – World Without End
06. Luther Vandross – Funky Music (Is a Part of Me)
07. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
08. The Emperor Machine – Repetition
09. Tobor Experiment Disco Experience – Station To Station
10. David Bowie – When The Boys Come Marching Home
11. Brian Eno and John Cale – Spinning Away
12. Carla Bruni – Absolute Beginners
13. Brian Eno – I’ll Come Running
14. Warpaint – Ashes to Ashes
15. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (Studio Instrumental)
16. Velvet Underground – Rock & Roll

Electric 50: A fundraiser for Manchester District Music Archive

dylan stan final

Artwork by Stan Chow

Tuesday May 17th, 2016
Manchester Academy 3
7.30pm £10

JUDAS! Manchester District Music Archive hosts fundraising concert celebrating Bob Dylan’s historic electric performance

Judas!’ is a shout that has been echoed through music history for half a decade, after a heckler loudly accused Bob Dylan of heresy by ‘going electric’ in 1966. That famous moment at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall is being celebrated 50 years later by a collective of musicians, playing Dylan’s same set list in full, little over a mile away from where the incident took place.

Manchester District Music  Archive (MDMarchive) is celebrating the anniversary with a fundraising concert, Electric 50, taking place on Tuesday 17th May 2016 at the Academy 3 (Hop and Grape) in Manchester University Students’ Union, Oxford Road. Contributors, including Jez Kerr of A Certain Ratio, Manchester guitar legend George Borowski and BBC 6 Music favouriteThick Richard, will interpret Dylan’s original performance and leave it up to the audience whether to recreate the famous heckle.

Dr CP Lee, co-founder of MDMArchive and author of ‘Like the Night’ which chronicle’s Dylan’s controversial electric tour, says:

 “Dylan’s emergence for the second half of his Manchester concert and ‘plugging in’ is hailed as one of the twenty most important moments in rock history, noted as the electrifying night the young American poet clashed head on with the traditionalist die-hards of the British folk scene. 50 years on, Manchester celebrates one of the most remarkable moments to have happened on one of its stages.”

Electric 50 audiences will also get the chance to walk away with a piece of remarkable memorabilia, with six raffle prizes of Mark Makin, presentation-sized original photographs from the 1966 Free Trade Hall concert itself. Each will be signed by Mark who famously took the only known photos of this historic gig when he was a 15-year-old schoolboy.

Broadcaster Andy Kershaw is to compere the show. Andy tracked down and unmasked the heckler who shouted “Judas!” and 32 years after the event revealed him in ‘Ghosts of Electricity’, the award-winning BBC Radio 1documentary.

Electric 50 will begin with an introduction from poet Tony ‘Longfella’ Walsh and then the following artists will perform the two halves of the concert:

Andrew ‘Blind Boy’ Butler, Kevin Hewick, The Speed of Sound, The Freshies, John O’Connell, Poppycock, Edwina Hayes, Dub Vampire, Thick Richard and Friends, George Borowski/EPI, Jez Kerr, The Creature Comfort, Vocal Harum, Gerry and The Holograms, Ensemble

Tickets for the anniversary performances can be obtained direct from the Manchester Academy website at : https://www.manchesteracademy.net

MDMArchive has recently been awarded charitable status and the Electric 50 show, which has been organised by MDMarchive co-founders Dr CP Lee and Dave Rofe and will raise funds for the Archive’s future work. This includes a forthcoming project looking at the history of Music, Politics and Protest in Manchester.

Original artwork for the concert has been designed by celebrated Manchester artist Stanley Chow, who designed the branding for Chinese New Year in Manchester, 2016.

I miss the hungry years – memories of Cornerhouse

cornerhousetriptych

01. Europa Cinemas Trailer
02. George Martin – And I Love her
03. Hi-Voltage Orchestra – Midnight Blue
04. Dave Grusin – Three Days of the Condor
05. The Jackson 5 – Can I See You In The Morning?
06. Brian Bennett – Solstice
07. Charles Earland – I Will Never Tell
08. Mo Foster – Stateside II
09. Bob James – Nightcrawler
10. Fat Gaines Band present Zorina – For Your Love (Diablo Edit)
11. Lonnie Liston Smith – A Chance For Peace
12. Leo’s Sunship – Back For More
13. Lambchop – Give Me Your Love
14. Pete Dunaway – Supermarket
15. Soul Sensation Orchestra – Faded Lady (Instrumental)
16. Robert Upchurch – The Devil Made Me Do it
17. Bob Welch – Don’t Let Me Fall
18. Marvin Gaye – I Want You (Vocal & Rhythm Version)
19. Freddie Hubbard feat Jeanie Tracy – You’re Gonna Lose Me
20. Johnnie Taylor – What About My Love?
21. Barry White – Sheet Music (US Promo Instrumental)


I never really wanted to be a DJ. I have always collected records and owned a turntable, but for much of my younger life I focused on writing my own songs rather than playing other people’s. That changed in 2007 when my friend Kate – then bar manager at Cornerhouse – asked me to do a mix of rare film scores for her to play at work. A short time later, she invited me to DJ on a Friday night, and so began a six-year tenure as a handmaiden of the decks.

On my first night, trembling with anxiety, I pitted my wits against a crackly Numark mixer and Cornerhouse’s famously sensitive limiter, a device that would cut the sound dead throughout the whole venue if it didn’t care for your tunes. I triggered it three times. Kate explained I had to balance on a stool and bash it with a tray to achieve a reset.

I called my night Big Strings Attached and indulged my love of all things stringed, from symphonic soul to cinematic pop, and of course, plenty of soundtracks.

Initially I played at the top of the stairs in the café bar. I would lose myself watching the weather out of the window while first dates and last orders rippled pleasantly around me. I stood up to DJ behind a makeshift wooden booth on wheels. It would be rolled in through double doors at the start of the night, reminding me for some reason of a coffin sliding into the furnace.

When the managers eventually agreed to replace the £50 Numark with a Pioneer DJM 750 mixer, the decks would no longer fit in the coffin, so I ended up sitting at an ordinary table. Pros: I could take the weight of my feet, always sore from a full Friday working the counter at Piccadilly Records. Cons: I became too accessible to punters who needed to chat.

From that point on, people were able to draw up a chair and talk to me. And of course, there was no escape. Many sordid sob stories and unsolicited confessions were shared, leading inevitably to dead air and flunked mixes on my part.

There was Elsie, still angular of cheekbone at 80, whose bright eyes would fill with tears when recounting her days treading the boards at the Royal Exchange; there was Terry, who claimed I was the only person he could talk to about his desire to have gender reassignment surgery; there was Dr Octopus, a GP with broken facial capillaries, whose tentacles, come 10pm, would brush across the buttocks of his always much younger female companions. There was Robin, who sometimes noticed blood in his stools.*

I hate talking to people when I am playing records. It’s a social no man’s land. You can’t get meaningfully involved in either the conversation or the music. Even when close friends came in to help me through a shift, I found it awkward. My heart would sink a little.

I tried for a time simply to exist within my headphones, strings blaring. But people would still come and talk to me. It was more disturbing to confront their wordless gaping mouths than to listen to their problems.

A sweet looking boy called John was a regular feature for a while. He would slope in early doors, always nicely turned out. Intermittently he was able to talk in fully formed sentences about college or music. Much of the time he spoke in strange fragments, little blurted scraps, tics. He wasn’t drunk. I never saw him with a drink. I suspect at some point he’d been flung through the doors of perception whilst on acid or ket and never quite made it back. Sometimes he did the crossword next to me, shouting out random words. One night I picked up the newspaper after he left and discovered he’d filled in each blank word with my name.

Very occasionally, perhaps once a year, someone would want to talk about the music I was playing. This was a genuine delight. I have no issue with people who want to talk about music. Provided their taste is immaculate, like mine.

In later years I was moved downstairs to play in the window by the door. The ground floor had a different atmosphere, a transient crowd, no food. I campaigned weekly to get candles on the tables and lights dimmed.

By now I’d toughened up a bit. I had strategies to deal with ‘sitters’. Downstairs, it was less heartbreak, more hassle. I still have nightmares about one night when the Rocky Horror Show was on at the Palace. The bar was heaving with stroppy hets in fishnets thrusting their pansticked faces into mine because I wouldn’t play ‘The Timewarp’.

Another time, over Christmas, a paralytic Santa on Oxford Road pressed his bare arse up to the window millimeters away from my face. I can still see his sad sack dangling.

Setting up the decks was less convenient. I had to carry my Technics, mixer, CDJ, and monitor down several flights of stone stairs that ran from the top to the bottom of the building. This area of Cornerhouse had a very particular smell: bleach, hops, sweat and something all of its own. All buildings have their smells, like people.

During the final year, appalled to discover that Cornerhouse was soon to be demolished, I began to experience an odd feeling on those stairs, almost as if I were being watched fondly by a future version of myself as I hoofed gear, outstretched foot holding open the fire door, cables spilling out of pockets. A spasm of intense nostalgia for the building not yet lost.

The bar staff at Cornerhouse were, almost without exception, kind, creative, funny. Working the pumps were writers, music producers, filmmakers, trainee psychologists, ceramicists, cartoonists, fashion designers. They were never stingy with the anaesthetic and if I was a good girl I could pick a leftover brownie at the end of the night. I did, for a short period suffer a rather painful crush on one particular bartender, who basked in my discomfort like a tabby on a windowsill.

Rory – a security guard, became one of my main allies. He would help me with my gear when my back was fucked. He had a sixth sense for when I was being mithered and would hover around diplomatically. He pulled me out of myself when I was red wine-glum (often), and nearly always had a Blue Riband going spare for a counter jockey who’d skipped tea. Rory’s most requested tune was Shirley Bassey’s version of ‘The Hungry Years’, which was absolutely fine by me.

There were celebrity sightings, both real and imagined: Eric Cantona, Damon Albarn and Willem Dafoe all came in during Manchester International Festival. One of these luminaries was, according to staff, foul tempered and condescending. Can you guess which one?

Sometimes, on the lonelier nights, my grip on reality dangerously loosened by Malbec, I would imagine being visited by the stars whose records I was spinning. Donald Fagen popped in regularly to ‘work a little skirt’. Nina Simone stopped by, fuming, because front of house had asked me to turn down ‘Baltimore’. The young Michael Jackson would crawl under my table, eyes brimming, during ‘Who’s Loving You?’.

In 2013 my time at Cornerhouse ended in the style of a long term lesbian love affair. Both parties claimed in public it was a mutual decision. And we’re still friends.

People who are concerned about the fate of the Cornerhouse building and ‘Little Ireland’ may be interested in attending the first Manchester Shield meeting at 6.30pm on Thursday 14th April at the Friend’s Meeting House.

*The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

OUT! – An introduction to recording oral histories, June 2016

Jumble sale on Canal Street to raise money for those affected by HIV, 1989. Credit: Manchester Pride

Jumble sale on Canal Street 1989 to raise money for those affected by HIV. Credit: Manchester Pride

Image: Never Going Underground, 1988, courtesy of Archives+

Manchester Pride presents:
OUT! – An introduction to recording oral histories
Saturday 18th June 2016

Time: 10am-4pm

Venue:
International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester

FREE – book a place

Join Manchester Pride for a day of training on recording interviews and oral histories within the LGBT community. This event is part of OUT! – a Heritage Lottery-funded project exploring hidden LGBT histories in Greater Manchester. Learn how to capture spoken word recollections and preserve them for future generations. This is a free, friendly event and lunch will be provided. All welcome!

OUT! is a project celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender histories across Greater Manchester using digital technologies. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and delivered by Manchester Pride.

This event, led by Dr Fiona Cosson (MMU) and Abigail Ward (Manchester District Music Archive), will be a fun and friendly day aimed at equipping LGBT history enthusiasts with the skills required to record and preserve oral histories for future generations.

It will be of particular interest to members of the community who feel they would like to highlight elements of our city’s history, which, due to legislation and social stigma, have remained hidden.

Trainees will learn about best practice in oral history, interview techniques, use of mp3 recorders, basic audio editing and preparing files for submission to the sound archives held by Archives+ at Central Library.

Some recordings will be chosen to feature in the digital exhibition space at Archives+ and will also form part of the OUT! online portal to be launched in June.

We are excited to be hosting the event in the International Anthony Burgess Foundation – a beautiful library, archive and study centre just a few minutes from Oxford Road railway station.

The IABF is wheelchair accessible. If you are interested in attending and would like to discuss your access requirements, please contact: abigail@manchesterpride.com

Booking is via Eventbrite.

Please note: places are limited, so we’d be grateful if you could let us know if you can’t attend.

Songs from a Railway Station at Dusk

SunsetTracksCrop
Photo: Arne Hückelheim


I love being on train station platforms when the sun is going down. I made this mix for those moments. It contains samples from the film Night Mail and trains I have recorded at various stations.

WARNING: Do not listen to this broadcast in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

01. Cage & Aviary – Giorgio Carpenter
02. The Gist – Love at First Sight
03. Abba – The Day Before You Came
04. Larry Heard – 25 Years From Alpha
05. The Juan Maclean – The Station
06. Warren Zevon – Nighttime at the Switching Yard
07. Colored Music – Heartbeat
08. Kraftwerk – Metall Auf Metall
09. Erlend Oye – Ghost Trains
10. John Tejada – Mechanized World
11. Blondes – Swisher
12. Levon Vincent – Impressions of a Rainstorm
13. Margaret – Yosa
14. Gavin Russom & Delia Gonzalez – Rise (DFA Mix)
15. John Carpenter – Wraith
16. Tangerine Dream – Love on a Real Train
17. Carl Craig – Wonderful Life

 

Heavy Petting for Celibates

John Hurt and Joanne Whalley in Scandal


[From the vaults: a mix from 2011]

For Steven, forever in his dressing gown…

01. The Korgis – Everbody’s Got To Learn Sometimes (Instrumental)
02. Yello – Of Course I’m Lying
03. Dusty Springfield – Nothing Has Been Proved (Dance Mix)
04. Sade – No Ordinary Love (Full Length Version)
05. The Eagles – I Can’t Tell You Why
06. The Mythical Beasts – Communicate
07. Maxwell – Everwanting: To Want You To Want
08. Rossoulano – Friends In Lo PLaces
09. Lalomie Washburn – Try My Love
10. Kylie Minogue – Confide In Me
11. Feist – One Evening
12. Bryan Ferry – Which Way To Turn
13. The Flaming Lips – Sleeping On The Roof
14. Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing (Alternate 12″ Instrumental)

Faster

manic-street-preachers-faster-epic

[From the vaults: a blog for Pop ‘Til You Drop, 2011]

“I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer

I spat out Plath and Pinter…”

A fortnight ago, whilst working my penultimate shift on the counter at Piccadilly Records, I was rendered flustered and giggly by the sudden appearance of James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire from Manic Street Preachers. They were in Manchester, it transpired, to perform a secret gig at Night and Day Café. I haven’t listened to the Manics for years, but seeing them up close and personal in the record shop environment made me ponder the influence of their music on my teenage years.

When ‘Generation Terrorists’ first came out in 1992, I was still, at fourteen, an enthusiastic attendee of my local Free Methodist bible group. I was troubled by all the usual teenage questions about evolution, mortality and morality, and persuaded, for a time, by the adults around me, that the answers could be found, if not in the dense and bloody Old Testament, then certainly in the eminently accessible, and rather funky, New. When, one Sunday, my bible group leader – a not unlikeable lad in his early thirties – pulled out a copy of ‘Generation Terrorists’ and cited it as an example of all that was wrong and evil in the world, I felt spasms of both shame and excitement. My sister owned the record and we’d been playing it for weeks.

Trying to work out how you really feel about things as a teenager is like starring in your own complex and slightly hallucinogenic detective story. You pull in clues from all manner of sources, to compare, contrast, reject. You believe what you think you ought to until you can’t any more. On the one hand I had the fluffy platitudes of Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still water”), which made Christianity sound like a really nice day out in the Lakes, and on the other I had the Sylvia Plath quotation from the back of the ‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ twelve inch: “I talk to God but the sky is empty” – a much more accurate description of what I was actually experiencing.

Thinking that Plath may be able to shed some light on the matter, I went to Waterstone’s one day and picked out ‘Ariel’, a slim volume – the only one I could afford – and immersed myself in it for weeks. Not the frothiest of reads, it has to be said. And not much help on the God front. But that’s what the Manics did. They forced you to investigate. Richey and Nicky spewed out reference points incoherently and indiscriminately, like cultural muck-spreaders, inviting their fans to work it out for themselves. It seemed like they were desperate to tell us something, but what?

Pre-internet it wasn’t easy to track down all those writers, those thinkers, those mysterious mind-shapers. Trips to the library were all part of the detective work: “Thus I progressed on the surface of life, in the realm of words, as it were, never in reality.” (Camus/’Love’s Sweet Exile’ sleeve.)

We got Henry Miller inside the ‘Generation Terrorists’ sleeve: “The tragedy of it is that nobody sees the look of desperation on my face. Thousands and thousands of us, and we’re passing one another without a look of recognition.” (I won’t forget reading ‘Quiet Days In Clichy’ under the duvet in a hurry.)

We got Marlon Brando: “The more sensitive you are, the more certain you are to be brutalised, develop scabs, never evolve. Never allow yourself to feel anything, because you always feel too much.” (‘Motorcycle Emptiness’ sleeve)

We got Ballard: “I wanted to rub the human face in its own vomit and force it to look in the mirror.” (‘Mausoleum’ sample)

The work of all of these people, and many more, became familiar to me through the Manics. Their music inspired my jubilant descent into atheism and its attendant vices – an experience entirely comparable, I suspect, to being born again, and one for which I shall forever be grateful.


(The Manics perform ‘Faster’ on TOTP – watch out for Vic and Bob)

In terms of actual songs, for me, ‘Faster’ is the Manics’ best – as lean as they ever sounded, stripped of the pop metal excesses of their previous albums, but still angry as fuck. The sample at the beginning is John Hurt in ‘1984’: “I hate purity, I hate goodness, I don’t want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt.” I love JDB’s guitar solo, which pops up unexpectedly in the last minute of the song, so waspish and wonky. In an interview, the band said they’d been listening to Magazine, Wire and Gang of Four. You can tell.

On June 9th 1994, the Manics opened Top Of The Pops with an incendiary performance of ‘Faster’. At the time they were wearing a lot of military gear, in tribute, they said, to The Clash. JDB was sporting a paramilitary-style balaclava with JAMES sewn on it. He looked like he’d been working out. Many viewers felt the band were aligning themselves with the IRA. The BBC received 25,000 complaints.

Four months later I saw the boys play Manchester Academy. They’d covered the venue in camouflage netting and were still in their army and navy shop fatigues. They came on to a ricocheting loop of the last phrase in ‘Faster’: “So damn easy to cave in! Man kills everything!” It was a powerful gig. Loud, mean, genuinely unsettling. Richey was there. Rake thin, of course, naked from the waist up, hanging over his upturned mike stand like the original James Dean in ‘Giant’.

Another four months on and he was gone, leaving behind a second ‘Holy Bible’ for me to pore over. With themes including prostitution, American consumerism, fascism, the Holocaust, self-starvation and suicide, it proved only slightly less punishing than the first.

Too Close to the Edit

Too Close to the Edit
Image: Danny Mitchell

[From the vaults: a piece for Red Bull Music Academy’s The Daily Note, 2010]

Forget ‘here’s three chords, now form a band’. At the moment, it’s more like: here’s an Ableton crack and a K-Tel disco LP, now go and forge a career in underground club music. Welcome to the weird world of disco edits – a magpie DIY genre that has sprung up and swamped the scene because of the ease with which record collectors and DJs can now access powerful music-editing software. These days, you can rip a track, cut it up, fuck it up and be playing it out to your Saturday night crowd all at the same time. Creative jocks are making the most of this development by presenting clubbers with unique collages of music that they won’t hear anywhere else. Other, less imaginative, knob-twiddlers are exhuming feeble disco obscurities that should have been left to rest in peace, adding a few naff tweaks and then pressing up a thousand twelves without so much as a by-your-leave to the original artist. They are like the paunchy uncles of the Noughties mash-up scene: the software is similar but these guys are serious. This is the rare disco mafia and they are here for your wallet.

In the last few years, the few remaining DJ-friendly record shops in the UK have been flooded with these modern-day bootlegs. As well as the re-hashed rarities that fly out, good or bad, because the originals are £50+ on the second hand market, there is also a glut of re-issued classics that have been randomly hacked about in the hope of providing a new slant on an ancient ‘anthem’ that no one ever needs to hear again. These edits in particular are often so bad they can put you off your own record collection. I recently stumbled across a version of Bowie’s Moonage Daydream that sounded as though Edward Scissorhands had gone postal on the Ziggy Stardust reels before attempting, shamefacedly, to gaffer tape them all back up again. Yours, if you’re interested, on a one-sided twelve, for a mere £9.99.

Choice items such as these are lapped up in the shop I work in by a loyal customer base I’ve come to think of as the Disco Dads – a coterie of suave, Barbour Jacketed forty-somethings who blanche visibly at the phrase UK Funky. One such punter came in the other day to try out the latest edits haul. He’d been propping up the decks, bumping through the new releases for about an hour before he suddenly ripped off his headphones, asked for the time and shouted, ‘Shit! I’ve left me toddler in the car!’ Not to worry, sir, at least you’ve secured your copy of the ultra-limited, hand screen-printed and numbered Muffled Sock Edits Vol 318 by Søme Scåndinavian Chåncer.

It must be noted, however, that dance music has a proud history of edits and mash-ups, and it’s often been this very practice that has ushered in new, exciting times for the genre. If you think of Tom Moulton’s first reel-to-reel and razor blade experiments or Kool Herc’s break-splicing turntablism it’s obvious that primitive edits by greenhorn producer-DJs make up some of the world’s most loved club records. The DJ Erens mix of You Got The Love, for instance, is an audacious mash-up that became a world-conquering classic way above and beyond the two tracks it comprises.

And it’s true, there are some compositions that benefit from a sensitive rework. George McCrae’s ‘I Get Lifted’ and JJ Cale’s ‘Ride Me High’ are two examples of tracks recently popularised by edits culture. Both fade harshly, in their original form, around the three-minute mark, leaving you and your dancefloor wanting more. In recent years, Mischief Brew, Joakim and Todd Terje have all released arrangements of these songs that do not intrude on the atmosphere of the original but artfully build the groove over seven or eight minutes, allowing humble bar DJs, such as myself, plenty of time to nip off for that all-important midnight widdle.

Unfortunately, though, to some people, doing an edit involves little more than hurling an innocent wav file into Soundforge, hitting time-stretch and dropping in a kick. And this is why we are drowning in mediocre records put out by uncreative opportunists, whose only real gifts lie in the art of self-promotion and online myth-making.

I wouldn’t want to argue that the current accessibility of music software is a bad thing. I love Ableton and have been known to disappear into it for days at a time. But now that the ‘perspiration’ element has been taken out of this aspect of music-making we all need to remember the ‘inspiration’ part of that old adage. Be discerning about what you edit and how you edit it. And if you really can’t do that, maybe it’s about time you sat down and learned those three chords.

Originally written under the pseudonym Jo Carstairs

Slow (Extended Mix)

Kylie_Minogue-Slow_CD2_(CD_Single)-Frontal

[From the vaults: a blog for Pop ‘Til You Drop, 2011]

“You know what I’m saying
And I haven’t said a thing
Keep the record playing…”

Bursting out of my speakers on this mercifully sunny afternoon, Kylie Minogue’s ‘Slow’ sounds every bit as seductive and extreme as it did on its release date eight years ago this November. A peerless pop production then and now, ‘Slow’ was masterminded by engineer Dan Carey (The Kills, Hot Chip), Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini and, of course, the former Ms Charlene Mitchell herself.

As with lots of the landmark pop tracks I blog about, I can remember the first time I heard it – after hours in the basement of the record shop where I worked, the extended mix played off a white label. It wound its way around me, gave me no choice. It’s one of those records that draws the listener in with what it leaves out. A real statement.

Tricky to pull off live (I’ve heard a few attempts), ‘Slow’ is all about the studio. It’s a lesson in stealth and minimalism: the dryest of dry rhythm tracks, the merest hint of a synth riff, that four-note bassline – simplicity itself. Then there’s Kylie, of course, all close-miked and conspiratorial, murmuring something rather promising about her ‘body language’.

It’s testament to the quality of the production that Michael Mayer, co-owner of Cologne’s famed techno label Kompakt, was moved to cover ‘Slow’ in 2005. But even he could not compete with the purity of the original. His version didn’t really work. Why?

Because Kylie wasn’t on it.

‘Slow’, for me, belongs at the centre of an imagined Venn diagram of ace pop: the place where the experiments and extremities of the underground collide with the lavish sex appeal, star quality and accessibility of the mainstream. It’s one of my favourite places to spend time. Click here, here or here for more details.

Baillie Walsh, director of the ‘Slow’ video, contributed further to the atmosphere of the track with his highly stylised aerially shot film of poolside bathers shifting on their towels in mellifluous synchrony. Kylie’s right where she should be, working it at the centre, ‘best dress on’ (just).

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