Renegade Soundwave “Probably a Robbery” 1989

Back in the late 50s to early 60s, when I was a bairn, comedy records were all the rage in the UK. Opuses like Tommy Cooper’s spooky Don’t Jump Off The Roof, Dad (You’ll Make A Hole In The Yard) and the early George Martin masterpiece Auntie Rotter by Peter Sellers burned images of grotesque violence into my unformed brain that have never been erased.

I suppose Gary Asquith, being about the same vintage, was similarly traumatized. His way of dealing with it was to meet the beast head on, to channel his inner Bernard Cribbins and bring the world Probably A Robbery. I’m sure the I’m Too Sexy chaps were taking notes.

Thus my last mix with Daniel Miller was a minor hit, and I was able to end my innings with head held high. Silly as it is I love it, not least for the classic Asquith couplet:

The funniest thing…I just wanted to sing, but the notes wouldn’t come my way.

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Dusty Springfield “Born This Way” 1989

I got to work with two legends on this assignment, two legends who are sadly no longer with us: Dan Hartman and the immortal Dusty Springfield.

Dan Hartman started out in the Edgar Winter Group in the early 70s, a magical time when heavy bands were also allowed to be funky, and their big hit Frankenstein is a good example. Another chart topper was the super catchy Free Ride, penned by Dan himself. In the late 70s he was big in the disco world, and coincidentally at the time of this session a sample from one of his disco hits (Love Sensation by Loleatta Holloway) was all over the dance floors once again. In the mid 80s he produced James Brown’s last hit Living In America, in fact I think he did a mix of that at the Guerilla Studio in Maida Vale; I seem to recall some excitement back in ’85 when the Godfather’s multitrack tapes turned up.

I’d been doing some mixes for Dan at the Virgin Townhouse in Shepherd’s Bush. He’d been working with an interesting outfit called The Fabulous Pop Tarts, two highly talented chaps, Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, who later became film makers and reality TV pioneers. I don’t think any of my mixes were used but Dan seemed to like me and asked if I’d be recording engineer on his next gig, which was to record some tracks with Dusty Springfield for her Reputation album.

I probably shouldn’t have taken the job, because although a nifty mixer, I am not the world’s best recording engineer, particularly on those big-assed SSL desks…but come on! Dusty Springfield! Even as a nipper back in the 60s, her voice touched my heart like no other. No other white girl, anyway. This was a job I had to do, and although ensign Rico did have a couple of close calls on planet Dusty, he got through it and all was well.

The Townhouse was buzzing at that time. Prince was gigging in London and every evening after the show he would come down to Shepherd’s Bush and jam for hours into the night. Quite something to go to the bathroom and hear The Revolution blasting down the corridor. Every studio was booked solid; Bob Clearmountain was mixing a The Who album in one of our vocal rooms.

Dusty was charm itself, her instinct and attention to detail supernatural, her voice as shiver-inducing as ever. Memories of recording her, kidding around, listening to her and Dan reminisce in the canteen…this stuff fills my head like a corny tableau, but it’s my corny tableau, and nobody can take it away from me!

Dominique Dalcan “Comment Faut-Il Faire?” 1990

What the heck, I’m going to mess with the timeline again, this time to jump forward, because I rediscovered this song and I think it’s pretty damn great.

There is more to write about 1989, including sessions with Dusty Springfield, as you shall hear. But around this time I am tiring of my subterranean existence and beginning to take fewer studio assignments. Tony Visconti certainly saw the writing on the wall when he closed down his large studio. By the end of the 80s anybody with a cheap computer, a sampler and a synth could make a good enough track in the comfort of their living room, and many were abandoning the studios to do just that.

This blog will similarly slow down some, as I have an Arnold Turboust album to finish. Bear with me though dear reader, for there is still much to tell.

So let’s jump off the Time Tunnel in late 1990, when I was in Belgium to do some mixes for the excellent Dominique Dalcan, who played and sang everything on this song. It was released on the Crammed Discs label run by Marc Hollander; this is a label that has given me a lot of pleasure over the years, not least with its very first release Onze Danses Pour Combattre La Migraine back in the late 70s.

Also major props to Mr Henry Rollins, who played a track from Onze Danses on his KCRW radio show recently, making a Sunday evening drive to the supermarket an unusually magical experience.

Baby Ford “Beach Bump” 1989

I mentioned previously that Rhythm King didn’t release much Acid House, but to be fair they did release arguably the most successful UK version of the genre in the form of Baby Ford’s Oochy Coochie. Peter Ford was also a more than respectable white soul singer, as evidenced by this summer stomper, co-produced with Jeremy Healy, with Laurie Mayer, Lorita Grahame and Sonique on backing vocals, and programmer R.Salt’s Roland Jupiter 8 abundantly featured. Also check out the excellent Wigan on the B side.

E-Zee Posse “Everything Starts With An E (Sir Frederick Leighton Remix)” 1989

The advent of “rave culture” propelled Jeremy Healy into that top tier of superstar DJs, where he has remained to this day. He also had a record label called More Protein, in partnership with his old mate, the estimable Boy George. Their first release was Everything Starts With An E.

You won’t see this one listed on my Discogs resumé; it was done under the alias, given to me by Jeremy, of Sir Frederick Leighton. Truth be told, Sir Fred was a bit of a lost soul: somewhat above it all, but also an outlier; forced, despite his heightened sensibilities, to grub around with the salt of the earth to earn his crust. And yet more truth be told, Sir Fred was somewhat appalled by Everything Starts With An E. In fact he thought it was a fucking nightmare, MC Kinky’s fierce performance seeming to convey the sensation of being dragged into a parallel universe by a yellow DMT goblin of questionable intentions.

Obviously this impression informed the musical parts I added to the track. There is a pervasive atmosphere of doom, and at one point the gates of hell open up, with deep droning synths and apocalyptic choirs ushering sinful partygoers across the stygian divide.

Now here’s a funny thing. As a result of this remix I became the secret co-author of a Renegade Soundwave classic, a fact they probably aren’t even aware of themselves.

In 1990 RSW did their own mix of Everything Starts With An E. As usual their mix has the best bass line. They also used quite a few of the elements I had added to the track. Two years later they released their own Women Respond To Bass, which itself included some elements of the E-Zee Posse track, including, bang in the middle, the “gates of hell” section! Those mischievous magpies…

Pankow “Germany Is Burning” 1989

You might not expect a hard-hitting electronic band like Pankow to emerge from the historic city of Florence, Italy. As I discovered though, there are two sides to Florence. The incredible old town is practically unchanged from the days of Leonardo, but sprawling off down the valley is an industrial new town.

This genial and dedicated collective had done a lot of good work with the estimable Adrian Sherwood, and it was an honour to do some mixes for them. The enchanting environs and friendly company made this project memorably pleasant.