S’Express “Mantra For A State Of Mind” 1989

This epic single took a lot of making, in many different studios. Started in the Guerilla Studio at Hampstead, the end of the lease on that property rather put a spanner in the works and it was finished at Swanyard and Good Earth, amongst others. Ultimately the Club Mix was done at the new Guerilla Studio in Crouch End.

Good Earth was Tony Visconti’s studio in Soho, a vibey subterranean place, reputedly haunted. Visconti closed it soon afterwards, citing an influx of Akai sampler-wielding types as having brought about the end. Oops!

This record was criticized at the time for being less catchy than its three predecessors, and it only made 21 on the UK chart. There are those though who appreciate it for the deep, funky, spiritual masterpiece that it is.

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Les Negresses Vertes “Zobi La Mouche (William Orbit Remix)” 1989

Back to the spring of 1989, where we’re keeping it furiously and fabulously French with a stomping remix of the excellent Zobi La Mouche by Les Negresses Vertes. This one features Laurie Mayer on backing vocals as well as me on synth and William Orbit at the controls. If this track doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know, you’re too cool or something.

Unfortunately, for the first time, I am unable to post the track I’m writing about; for whatever reason this one has a very stringent copyright protection. I love it too much not to mention it though. If you want to hear it I’m afraid you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way and plunk down some ducats.

Update: it seems the Zobi La Mouche blackout is geographical in nature. Only those of us living in the americas are forbidden to listen. I recommend the deployment of Hola or similar.

Ian Curtis Upper Fifth Divinity Prize, 1972

A sad anniversary passed this week; even sadder to reflect that, just 8 years before the end, about to turn 16, Ian Curtis was preparing to leave the King’s School, Macclesfield, armed with 7 “O” Levels and a religious education award. I know this because he was in Upper 5 Modern and I was in Lower 5 Modern, and I happened to find this rather historically interesting 1972 school report in a box of old stuff.

I didn’t know Ian well, although we were both in the Dramatic Society and I think we were both in a play called The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew. The last time I saw him was in 1976. He handed me a dole cheque through a pane of glass and we exchanged nods.

Meanwhile here I am later in the same report, chalking up a rather indifferent trombone grade as compared to my obviously more gifted brass playing peers. It was at about this time, at the age of 14, accompanied by some of these fellow brass players, that I had my first recording studio experience. The town of Macclesfield was putting on a grand Town Faire, and to enhance the grandeur it was decided to pipe brass ensemble music from large Tannoys. For some incredible reason which I have never divined, this incidental music was recorded in Studio 1 at Abbey Road, London.

Thus it transpired that every reasonably competent brass player in Macclesfield was bussed down to Saint John’s Wood. Being in Studio 1 was mind-boggling enough; down the corridor in Studio 2 The Hollies were recording, and during a tea break they allowed some of us schoolboys to stick our heads briefly into that hallowed space. And so my life’s course was set.

Les Rita Mitsouko “Tongue Dance (William Orbit and Mark Moore Remix)” 1989

The temporary Guerilla Studio digs in Hampstead soon became party house central. It was one of those charming old London town homes with wonky passageways and a blue plaque on the front to denote a former occupancy by the great and good, in this case the painter John Constable. There was always a session of some kind going on, generally William Orbit or Laurie Mayer projects, but there was also a retinue of sound designers including Simon Fisher Turner and my old pal Nigel Holland, who could regularly be found attacking pig’s heads with hammers and imbibing alarming amounts of alcohol.

What with all my travels I hadn’t done so much with William for a while. He had released the first of his excellent Strange Cargo album series and had also been going from strength to strength as a remixer. His stupendous remix of the S’Express show stopper Hey Music Lover had resulted in a partnership with Mark Moore that was to produce a lot of great work, starting with this mix for the fabulous french duo Les Rita Mitsouko.

When I was in Paris in early ’86 I saw Les Rita’s Marcia Baïla video and was absolutely blown away. Fred Chichin and Catherine Ringer had made their debut album with german legend Conny Plank and it was superb. Their follow-up with Tony Visconti didn’t disappoint. So I made sure I was lurking around the studio when William and Mark were working on this, and in particular when Fred and Catherine came to visit. That’s me on the funky Juno 106 in this slamming remix.

Pere Ubu “Love Love Love” 1989

Cloudland was the second album released by the mighty Pere Ubu during their “pop phase”; in fact this one is much poppier than the previous year’s The Tenement Year, they really went for it. The roster of producers includes Stephen Hague (Pet Shop Boys, Erasure) who did five tracks including the superb Waiting For Mary. Daniel Miller was asked to mix two tracks and he brought me in to help him.

So we set up Daniel’s jaw-dropping synth rig at Konk Studios in Muswell Hill, a studio much used for Mute sessions. Formerly a working men’s club, it had been bought and converted by The Kinks for their own use. It had the perfect mixture of homely comfort and high-tech desirability.

Daniel got a producer’s credit for Love Love Love and quite right too, this mix is full on Pere Ubu vs The Normal, with Dan’s ARP 2600 sequence running through the whole thing. The other mix we did was Why Go Alone?, which must be one of their prettiest songs, and most definitely makes the grade as a Rico personal fave.

I’d forgotten how great this album is. I’m gonna dig it out and blast it in my car.