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The roots of hip-hop reach a very chilly Manchester
It was the cold, the unending, penetrating cold. The wind streaming in from the Atlantic, across the Mersey and into the heart of Liverpool. I was a student at Liverpool University and would turn street corners to be mercilessly whipped by the icy blast. It was late October and Halloween was just around the corner.
Having lived through punk and segued into ska and soul, I was equally transfixed by the electro-funk – as it was often called back then – coming out of the States. The NME had alerted me to the mysteries of Trickeration, Spoonie Gee, Sequence and the Funky Four Plus One and, of course, ‘Rappers Delight’ was a surprise breakout hit in 1979, but we knew there was more bubbling away in the fiery furnace of the New York rap scene.
It was hard to hear the music, but John Peel played hip-hop on his late-night radio show; it was worth trawling though all the noisy guitar soundscapes to press the record button as soon as the first electronic drumbeats came in. One track which was big at the time was ‘Magic’s Wand’ by Whodini, a two-man rap crew from NYC. So, when I heard that they were playing with Run DMC at The Haçienda in Manchester – a hop, skip and a jump away – it was a no-brainer.
So, on the chilly evening of Friday 28 October 1983, I boarded the train to Manchester.
The Haçienda has become legendary, but it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always that mad, raving haven of sweaty bodies jacking to acid house. In fact often it was relatively empty, a vacancy exacerbated by its aircraft hangar-like industrial architecture.
As for the gig itself, Run DMC cancelled, which may seem like a bummer now, but at the time Whodini were the headliners and the better-known act, with ‘Magic’s Wand’ a cult cut within the passionate, growing hip-hop community. Jive, the UK label they were signed to, had just released their debut album.
Part of deejay Greg Wilson’s night, the band took to the stage and, although there were two frontmen, it was really a trio, with Grandmaster Dee on duty behind the turntables. And even though they were heroes to us, at the same time they were kids, like us. Ecstasy, aka John Fletcher, who very sadly died last year, was only 19 – younger than me at the time. But they were canny, streetwise and had a sense of humour which rap had back then and which the crowd loved, but which became eroded during its gangsta years.
Despite their youth, they were almost alien spacemen – beings from another galaxy who’d come to bring us the future at a venue in a cold, grey, industrial metropolis in the north-west of England.
As well as the much-anticipated ‘Magic’s Wand, they played ‘Rap Machine’ and ‘Haunted House of Rock’ – appropriately three days before Halloween. It was a great show with the suave-looking Ecstasy rocking his trademark wide-brimmed, Zorro-style hat and trading raps with Jalil Hutchins, while Kangol Kid and Doctor Ice were busy performing their breakdance/bodypopping moves in the background (known as UTFO they were to have their own hit a year later with ‘Roxanne Roxanne’).
Of course, within a couple of years Run DMC were to become the bigger band, but this was a fat slice of fun, inventive, authentic NYC electro hip-hop which is scorched into the memory.
A big thanks to Greg Wilson and Mike Pickering for filling in some of the gaps.
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Former Pulp man lends his distinctive tones to a flailing acid track
Former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker has teamed up with house production masterminds Riton and Ben Rymer (together known as Gucci Soundsystem) for a new song, ‘Let’s Stick Around’.
Described by Cocker as “the world’s first sustainable banger”, the track deals thematically with global environmental conservation – a topic close to Cocker’s heart – and was surprise-released to align with the closing talks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26).
Riton summarised his thoughts on the track: “I’m really excited this track is coming out during COP26. Jarv has been one of the most influential and distinctive artists to come from the UK, it’s wicked to work with him. We all need to be more conscious of the carbon emissions we create in our lives and I hope ‘Let’s Stick Around’ can help raise awareness.”
Ben Rymer also said of the collaboration: “Working with Jarvis and Henry has been the highlight of my very limited music career. It’s been like ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ but with rave hoovers.”
Additionally, Cocker played a one-off live show at Barrowlands Festival in Glasgow to mark the release of the track and the closing of the conference.
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Eight piece share meditational video for teaser track ‘IWR’
caroline have announced their eponymous debut album will be released on Feb 25 via Rough Trade Records.
The London eight piece have shared a track – ‘IWR’ – from the album, which has been mixed by John ‘Spud’ Murphy (black midi, Lankum), together with a meditational, self-directed video.
caroline will be available on the usual formats but also as a ‘Dinked’ limited vinyl edition of 600 numbered copies available through UK independent record shops on transparent vinyl with a bonus 7” featuring exclusive audio and a signed print.
Forthcoming Live Shows
16/11/21 – London, Earth (Supporting The Microphones) – SOLD OUT
15/01/22 – The Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room (as part of Purcell Sessions), London
25/02/22 – Rough Trade East, London
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Some forty years in the making, Spoon Fazer’s debut album finally hits
“Ah, so I’m coldwave now am I?!” laughs Simon Patterson, the man behind synthpop act Spoon Fazer and the unlikely recipient of an unexpected and rather belated surge in current attention. It’s not a term he’d heard before, but he’s not objecting to his 40 year old music finding a new – and altogether logical – home in the musical zeitgeist of more contemporary times.
If you met this well-spoken and polite, middle aged gent from North London in a Camden coffee shop, as we did last month, you would never guess that he was responsible for some of the earliest synth music being made in the UK and that original pressings of his recordings were fetching downright silly money on certain vinyl marketplaces.
Those who have slightly less disposable cash need not fret, however, as an album – somewhat obscenely, the debut Spoon Fazer album a mere 40 years on from his first releases – of highlights from Patterson’s back catalogue has just been released. Alternative Regression Therapy came out on CD earlier in the year, but due to his vintage, and a love of the dark stuff that he shares with Juno Daily readers of all ages,
“I was really excited about the CD,” he says, “but I’m even more excited about the LP. I come from a generation of vinyl. I did have vinyl single, ‘Sunset’ is on 12”, but to have Alternative Regression Therapy’ as a red vinyl is so exciting.”
Although life took over from dreams and Patterson gave up making his often beautiful and poignant synth tracks in the mid-80s in favour of a career in market research, it feels as though, while talking to him about those days and the recent resurgence in interest, he never completely gave up on the dream.
In 2009, the German label Ann Logue collected four tracks for the ‘Bam Boo’ 7”, to meet a consistent interest in that country for his music.
So, while he does appear to be a little surprised by the fact he’s sat doing an interview and looking forward to the prospect of vinyl versions of the album arriving, it would be wrong to say it was totally unexpected.
“Really,” he says, for instance, of the album track ‘Fall In Love With The East’, “that should have been number one everywhere.” He’s also carefully curated and archived all his work from the period, in both visual and sonic form. “I’ve got loads of songs,” he says, “and we’re talking about doing a second album…” Far from viewing his works as museum pieces, he sees many as more relevant now than ever, like the anthem for freedom ‘Do Different Dances’ and its allusions to mental health and suicide . Its opening lines – “They say the world is falling down / Tell us London’s about to drown” certainly sound like they could have been written in the last couple of years to say the least.
Patterson’s musical roots ultimately lie even deeper than synthpop. Growing up in Totnes in Devon, he was a member of punk/new wave act The Whippets From Nowhere, who were tipped for big things, made the move to London but then never quite made the necessary grade to close a record deal. The band finally called it a day with a farewell show at Totnes Civic Hall, where Patterson also appeared as the support act, reborn as Spoon Fazer in a boiler suit daubed in orange paint bought from a yachting show, playing a set of electronic Simmons drums he had borrowed a fortune to buy.
You can see a picture from that show on the reverse side of the CD.. “For a long time I was embarrassed about that picture,” Patterson says, “but now I realise it’s kind of iconic.”
It’s certainly proof that he sensed which way the post-punk wind was blowing as the 70s started to give way to the 80s. He’d seen it in the bands that visited the venues in nearby Plymouth that he’d frequent – he recalls being fascinated by an early version of Human League and OMD show at which their tape machine, playing backing tracks, was considered to be a fully paid up member of the band called Winston. A trip to see Kraftwerk at the Hammersmith Odeon – now the Labatt’s Apollo – in 1981 was another seismic moment in this development, and Patterson has continued to return to see Dusseldorf’s finest right up until their most recent UK dates in 2017.
The other significant influence on the Spoon Fazer sound – and his performance art-style live show – was from even further afield – Japan. “My wife is Japanese,” Patterson tells me, “but I had a whole love affair with the orient before I met her. Where did it come from? Well, there was Deep Purple’s Made In Japan, Ziggy Stardust, the band Japan.” As for the distinctive look that Patterson sports on the sleeve of the album, that’s kabuki make up and costume. “It’s a stylized form of theatre which is where the humans are almost like puppets,” he explains, “it’s almost like Japan’s version of Shakespeare, an old art form. I’m not a great expert but I have seen it in Japan.”
A constant companion through both musical projects was fellow Totnes resident Jimmy Cauty. A long way before his days in The KLF, Cauty had already made his mark on mainstream culture by drawing a Lord of the Rings poster that would go on to be a best seller through poster chain store Athena. He spent the money he made on the biggest PA system that anyone in the locale owned, which was “very handy”. But his role was much more than that – “he was half roadie, half mentor” says Patterson, but also went on to create the artwork for the first Spoon Fazer single in 1980 – the four track 7” ‘Music 2 Dance 2’.
He even made a musical appearance on a track on the second release, the ‘Sunset’ 12”. Cauty played bass and Wasp synth on the song ‘Bälläd Of The Insectmän’ – it appears on the CD version of ‘Alternative Regression Therapy’, although not on the vinyl.
He and Cauty still keep in contact, although Patterson is clearly reluctant – or at least polite enough – not to associate his famous friend’s name too closely with the .project Nevertheless, the final surfacing of the Spoon Fazer LP is at least partly down to Cauty’s involvement. Ian Shirley, then the editor of Record Collector, first unearthed the Whippets/Spoon Fazer legacy while digging for information for his 2017 book ‘Turn Up the Strobe: The KLF, The JAMS, The Timelords – A History’.
Shirley went on to curate a Whippets From Nowhere album – Concrete Academy through Record Collector magazine, and since leaving the august journal, agreed to release Alternative Regression Therapy through the newly formed OM Swagger label.
The link with The KLF is an interesting connection – but that’s ultimately all it is. The significant thing, really, is that the briefest of listens to Spoon Fazer’s music tells you that while it’s a fascinating snapshot of its time, it’s also every bit as fresh and relevant now as the day it was recorded. Treat yourself to a bit of – Alternative Regression Therapy – it’ll do you the power of good.
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