Tag Archives: music

Weatherall – Rest In Beats

On the day when a ‘weirdo and misfit’ UK government adviser called Andrew made the news for all of the wrong reasons, some thoughts on a man who shared that Christian name, a maverick who awkwardly and rightly sat – and will now for ever sit – somewhere between iconic and iconoclastic:

Along with Theo Parrish and Harvey, he was an uncompromising and ever-challenging DJ who kept playing, kept evolving, but kept you coming and made you get on the floor. There are inevitably only ever going to be few of these future-thinking technicians and they don’t tend to kick around until they’re in their dotage and so can collect a gong or two. Even fewer are the ones who sound like nobody else.

He kept faith in a creed where music was central to living and breathing be it at a blues party, an unfashionable boozer or a sweating club. As we gained a mortgage, kids and bills, we moved away from the fields, the unofficial festivals, the ‘one night only’ warehouses, the dodgy basement parties and the industrial estates with vacant lots. For many, the vinyl was parked in the loft and new discoveries were forbidden. Not him.

As much Augustus Pablo as Paul Simenon, he seemed to be as black as he was white in his musical tastes, which is a rare combination in general but is even more noteworthy given his prominence and success within dance music culture and when one considers his well-known affiliations and team-ups.

Pigeon-holing him never worked. There was still a magical, organic lustre to his name which directly evolved from his sets, remixes and productions (unlike other DJs whose surnames were bandied around pre-party or club night but who fell from our admiring view along with the short-lived musical movements associated with them).

He was a Larry Levan-cum-Malcolm Sargent for those of us who came of age in clubs of the late 80s and early 90s; a vinyl lover and backroom man who was quickly promoted to the main stage who convinced in the flesh and also away from the decks, his pedigree never doubted and his star never dimming.

Was he ‘cool’? Yep. An example would be when I couldn’t muster the courage to do anything other than nod to him one day in London in the mid-Nineties – pre-beard and braces – even after an old friend had remixed one of his tracks on Sabres of Paradise.

Does ‘cool’ matter? Yep. Am I trying to hive off a little of his? Yep.

As dance music emerged in the 1990s as a commercial behemoth in the UK, Europe and further afield, both as an industry and as an alluring, captivating and demanding force within our lives, he kept his good taste and ploughed a productive and occasionally lonely furrow. His reality and myth-puncturing realism was a welcome contrast to the ‘over-hyped and over here’ shiny, happy DJs who still lived off the glory of two decades-old sets in order to milk every last penny from your memories. 

With his remixes, he elevated the frequently half-decent and the end result was frequently triumphal and ever-lasting, and usually a realm away from what was expected (and this should have been expected but rarely occurred with others). In an age when ‘remixing’ was short-hand for hasty beat replacement/insertion under one stripped vocal phrase, he re-positioned, re-made and re-invented.

Soon by My Bloody Valentine was a good track anyway, but the addition of Westbam‘s Alarm Clock was a genius move if only for joining the dots between Gang of Four, German music post-DAF, NYC beats and the morphing nature of Creation records.

It frequently took the rest of us a while to catch up on where he was headed, musically, and many of us, including myself, didn’t keep pace.

29 years ago his set at the Event in Brighton with Alex Paterson of The Orb before and after Primal Scream played were the perfect accompaniment to my ‘Bart Simpson’ and one pint of lager, to my lift-off and re-entry from a sticky carpet in the midst of a memorable summer.

Two summers ago he made me dance on my own on an empty dance-floor at the Trades Club in Hebden Bridge as he played support to A Certain Ratio and the middle-aged Factory devotees sat and waited for the main act (who were excellent). Slowly probing but essentially expansive, his CDJ set was the perfect warm-up and a filling ‘meal’ in itself.

In an age of celebrity, it seemed that he resisted it. In an age of blatant bollocks masquerading as truth, he was publicly silent and free of BS. He lived it, he meant it, whatever it was that he was up to. More music, more effort and less PR, few interviews.

As with the recent death of another music lover and DJ, Scott Macnaughton, who also never lost sight of the dance-floor, this is an unexpected loss in so many ways.

He was Andy Weatherall.

Mellow Music No.1

AFTER what seems like a lifetime of finding, buying, playing and coveting vinyl, I’m well on my way down the road of divestment. But there is still much music out there which is un-digitised and not known [especially anything outside of canonical lists dominated by white American males] and I like to research and enquire about it, perhaps to write about it too.

In light of the recent report on just how much music was lost in the Universal Music Group fire of 2008 – and what that says about music companies’ traditionally cavalier approach to artists and their recorded output – it’s all the more important to stand up, as it were, for that which has been lost or is in danger of being forgotten.

At the same time, you can take the man out of hip hop but you can’t…

In other words, old habits die hard. A crummy album from a bargain bin or dusty, damp back room in a shop may well have a few seconds or more of a weird beat/arrangement or strangely affecting voice/keyboard line. The rest is dreck but that one element is to savour, perhaps even re-deploy elsewhere to greater effect.

In the same vein as the seminal Octopus Breaks and continuing the great auditory turn-on which was Lovefingers – RIP to both – here’s four beats for free; musical oddities which still possess life and a promise of… of… of something! Do what thou will neighbour.

Name all four tracks and I’ll send you a coveted, culturally valuable and scarce piece of vinyl, free of charge.

Love,

Pat

https://soundcloud.com/patmellow/mellowbeats-1

 

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Introduction to Caveman

Long Island, Compton, High Wycombe in the Chiltern Hills. That last place doesn’t have quite the same resonance when it comes to backing up a rap group’s credibility, especially during the Nineties when fans in the UK struggled to appreciate the beats and rhymes of our own, but the emergence of Caveman on Profile records was a sign that British rap was coming of age after too many years of cross-Atlantic sycophantic emulation.

GET51271CD-2-1As with the London PosseGunshot and the other British crews around at the tail end of the Eighties-start of the 90s, Caveman used their own accents and steered clear of boasting about their Tims or pretending they were from the Five Boroughs. Before grime and dubstep stars StormzySo SolidMan Dem Crew et al spat about the ends – and long before Roots Manuva talked ofeating his cheese on toast’ on Witness  Caveman had ‘rhymes so crisp like Golden Wonder’ over a sped-up version of D-Nice’s All About Me. This was decent rhyming over a solid production that held its own alongside the tunes now deemed classics.

The trio weren’t the first British artist to be signed to NY heavyweight record label Profile; that honour was Paul Hardcastle when his electro-boogie track ‘Rainforest’ was released in 1984. Neither were they the first rap act to be taken across the Atlantic and asked to impress the Americans; that somewhat difficult task befell lightweight rapper Derek B followed then by speed ragga duo Asher D and Daddy Freddie.

 

But in 1990 it was Caveman, and their debut Fry You Like Fish, which stood shoulder to shoulder with Poor Righteous Teachers’ Rock Dis Funky Joint and original hoodz Onyx with their debut twelve Ah, And We Do It Like This.

Record company Profile went for a moody out-of-focus illustration of a British council estate chain fence behind a capped black youth staring straight into the camera that hinted at the struggles depicted on the wax inside.

caveA squealing sax reminiscent of the opening cut to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing with Rosie Perez frugging animatedly on screen, was squeezed over JB wails and horns with a tease of wah-wah guitar. Lyrically, Caveman could hold their heads high alongside peers like Jungle Brothers’ Afrika Islam and Prince Be of the similarly open-minded duo PM Dawn with their positive exhortations, mentions of black pride and praise of God on Introduction To A Caveman.

Robi Laskar (aka The Principle) and Mark Layman (aka MCM) are credited as songwriters on both of their first two twelves with the follow-up, 1991’s I’m Ready, with lyrics by MCM and cuts by Diamond J (third member William Graves), that really announced the trio’s arrival.

Run DMC’s What’s It All About had already been released in ’90 and its sampling of the Stone Roses’ Fool’s Gold (which itself had made off with Clyde Stubblefield and John ‘Jabo’ Starks’ Funky Drummer beat) preceded Caveman’s appropriation of Jimi Hendrix’s Crosstown Traffic on I’m Ready.

On the B were two crate-digging classics hidden away: firstly, Back To Cause Mayhem with its gnarly riff, urgently uttered rhymes and percussive cymbal ride. Then, over the pealing notes of an Impressions-like guitar, Pages and Pages detailed how they’d ‘check a Muslim, check a Christian, but all the fightin’ and fussin’, I think we’re missing the point, we all worship the same God’ which now serves to remind of how conscious rap was so prevalent at that time – and was taken for granted.

As with their debut, I’m Ready was a refreshing, cross-pollinated fusion; this time an upbeat walking bass was underpinned by fat phased drums as that familiar kazoo-like guitar riff served the group’s readiness to get paid and ‘make a change’.

There were seven singles and two albums from Caveman between 1990 and 2011 in total – all of which are freely available (and cheap) on Discogs. MCM carried the name forward into 2013 when he released a seven-only release entitled Rhymes Equal Actual Life (R.E.A.L.) for KingUnderground/Headcount Records.

 

deedBut it was Diamond J who arguably had the most success of all three members, going on to showcase his best hamsters on Sexy MF for Prince’s Love Symbol LP.

How to be a playerHe also landed a producing credit alongside Trackmasters, the green-eyed bandit himself Eric Sermon and Havoc on Def Jam’s soundtrack to the 1997 film How to Be A Player.

 

 

Nowadays they’re barely a footnote in any Hip Hop history, but Caveman left us with good memories of a relatively brief yet still refreshing time in music when producers and rappers could look where they liked for inspiration, pushed an Afro-centric yet English viewpoint and were defiant about doing both.

‘The C, that is for the courage, the A, that is for the action, the V that is for the victory, the E is for everlasting, the M, that is for the knowledge in my mind, the A is for youthful accessory, the N is for the slackness that is none, the N, that is for the slackness that’s none…’

FoR

A musical response to this wonderful poem (which was in itself a response to the cover image).