7 days of tunes

So there was a “thing” on Facebook where people were nominated by a friend to post 7 music tracks across 7 days. There was no other guidance given, no theme to stick to and no rules. Some folk ran with it and others were a bit sniffy about it (as often seems to happen on Facebook). I was nominated by an old friend from back in the days of a great chat forum on the website for the best magazine ever produced (in my opinion), Straight No Chaser, Paul Gamblin. I decided it would be fun to think a bit about what the most influential tracks for me have been (to date) and why. I got more into it as the week went on and ended up writing quite a bit about some of the tracks.

I don’t blog about music: I do my blogging about HR stuff and let music speak for itself on my mixtapes. But having given it some thought and then written so much about it, I figured I’d pop all seven days worth of tunes and writing into a blog and save it here for posterity. So here you go: my 7 tunes in 7 days, as posted on Facebook between 24th and 30th October 2015…

So thanks to Paul Gamblin (not that I need much encouragement), I’m posting 7 tracks in 7 days. I figured I’d start at the beginning. The Beatles are definitely one of my earliest musical memories and this short track from Sgt Pepper used to make me dance about as a kid. I know now it was my first exposure to the power of the breakbeat..! Strange that I ended up living a mile or so from where John and Paul grew up. Anyway turn it up and ready your chicken impressions.

Day 2 of my 7 days of tunes. When I really started to establish my own taste in music, I was drawn to the blues via Eric Clapton. To this day whenever I hear the Cream version of this Robert Johnson track I am astonished not just by the ferocity and intensity of Clapton’s playing (for me, probably the greatest guitar solo of all time) but also the tightness and efficiency of Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. This may have been recorded live (and possibly edited down I guess) but I don’t think any overdub could improve it. Later on this kind of music would get a bit meandering and long-winded for me – but this track comes in strong, hits hard, and leaves you wanting more. Ready your air guitars…

Day 3 already? So I credit this tune with changing my life. No, seriously. I was lucky to grow up with Top of the Pops and ITV’s The Chart Show as mainstream TV music shows. I saw this track on The Chart Show one Saturday, I guess 1994/95, immediately loved its fusion of bluesy rock with funk and went out to get the album. Through that I discovered a love of Acid Jazz – both the genre and the label.

Somehow (my memory is hazy on this bit) I found out that the label’s co-boss Gilles Peterson had a Sunday night radio show on Kiss 100. I tuned in expectantly but didn’t get a couple of hours of Acid Jazz – I got the trademark GP mix of jazz, soul, drum n bass, techy bits, house… And then I tuned in early for GP and caught Joey Jay and Patrick Forge and carried on listening afterwards for Dr Bob Jones. My blues and rock musical mind was blown wide open and I had to get my hands on some of this incredible new (to me) music. A lot of it was only released on 12″ so I bought a turntable and went record shopping whenever I could. One discovery led to another as I fired off in all musical directions. As I started to play more electronic music, it seemed a logical step to get a second turntable and a mixer. Someone showed me roughly how to work it (no YouTube in those days) and suddenly I was “DJing” at people’s house parties…

Day 4 of my 7 days of tunes. So yesterday I mentioned how I came to appreciate electronic music. The downside was that my only experience of “clubbing” at that stage had been an excruciating night at Ritzy’s in Romford. I figured going to clubs just wasn’t for me. But I heard Gilles Peterson talk about the Blue Note and his own night at Bar Rumba (“That’s How It Is”) and decided to pop along the A12 into London with a bunch of willing mates and give clubbing another go.

The Blue Note in Hoxton Square was the club that changed my mind. I must have only been a handful of times but it left a massive impression. From hearing Massive Attack on a big system to Joey Jay’s throbbing dub selections to the Jazz dancers and the nodding headz and bumping into most of Galliano, every time I went was an education and an absolute blast. I loved that place. It was at the Blue Note, in the sweaty basement to be exact, that I heard this tune for the first time, played by Kev Beadle I think: an epic, soulful piece of jazz funk from George Benson who I’d previously associated with iffy 80s chart tunes. Very wrongly. As sampled brilliantly on a cracking drum n bass track I bought in Boogie Times (there’s a WHOLE other story), I give you “The World is a Ghetto”…

Day 5 of 7 days of tunes from me. I came to Liverpool to go to university waaay back in 1994. I had a great time at uni and wouldn’t change it at all but in that time I never really connected with anyone musically for some reason. I still DJ’d at home, made mixtapes and played at the occasional house party (mainly at Barry Sykes’ come to think of it) but I just didn’t find that bunch of like-minded musos I’d assumed I would. There didn’t seem to be a “scene” in Liverpool for my brand of jazzyfunkysoulfulhiphoppydrumnbass stuff. In fact, I memorably completely (and I mean COMPLETELY) cleared a previously jumping club dance floor with this particular record, which is partly why I’ve chosen it.

To this day I think it ranks as one of the greatest remixes because of the way it takes the original (amazing) track, keeps the vibe and yet gives it a new twist. Anyway, a few years after leaving uni and with the internet becoming a “thing”, a mix CD I did for Emma McGuigan found its way to Phil Charnock who got in touch and asked me along to the first ever Soulfelt night. I felt that night I’d found those like-minded musos at long last and I had it confirmed when I played on their home turf in Southport at Flava and dropped this tune again (I don’t learn). Mercifully, far from clearing the dancefloor, it packed it out and I can still remember the elated reaction of everyone there. Great times – and undoubtedly the (re)launch of my DJing career. Enjoy “I am the Black Gold of the Sun”, originally by Rotary Connection but I’m featuring the 4hero remix of the NuYorican Soul version… (If you’ve never heard this before, hold tight for the switch at 3’50!)

Day 6 of 7 – nearly there. There are only a handful of tunes that I can specifically remember hearing for the first time – day 4’s George Benson track being one. Tonight’s tune is another and also has the honour of being the only piece of music ever to make me pull my car over and stop to listen to it as I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing…

Back in the early 2000s, I used to record Gilles Peterson’s weekly late night/early morning (ie incompatible with working hours) Worldwide radio show onto a video tape then transfer the recordings to C90 tapes to play in the car on the way to and from work. Every week. You see kids, this is why my generation are jealous that you get to grow up with the Internet. Anyway, one day I was driving home down Muirhead Avenue, listening to the latest GP tape when this track came on. I had literally never heard anything like it. Fractured drum programming, booming sub bass (somehow still intact despite my recording process), Lyric L’s half-rapped, half-spat lyrics…

As I said, I pulled over and rewound the tape to make sure I hadn’t imagined it. And that’s how my love of what became widely known as “broken beat” came about – through that track I discovered the Bugz crew, the whole Goya thing, the Co-op massive (though sadly I never made it to Plastic People) etc. Bruk/broken/future jazz/callitwhatyoulike went on to be at the heart of my sound as both a DJ and producer for the next few years. I was lucky enough to interview (and sometimes meet) some of the luminaries of the scene for my Samurai FM show and at various DJ gigs. It was definitely my “thing”: a time of great creativity and cross-fertilisation of some of my favourite musical sounds to create something awesome, in my opinion anyway.

This track is 13+ years old but still sounds so fresh – especially off the original vinyl. I remember playing it in Rotterdam one night and people standing there clapping along with that double snare, not really knowing what else to do to it and clearly never having heard anything like it before. So fire up *that* siren, make random animal noises, watch out for the lazer kru and dance like no-one’s watching… this is the man like Seiji.


Day 7 of my 7 days of tunes: yep, you can have a day off tomorrow!

I figured the last one has to be the most special to me. Like most musos I have sometimes thought about what my desert island discs would be. This is always top, the number one tune I would want with me.

I think I first came across Terry Callier‘s music via one of Acid Jazz’s (excellent) Totally Wired comps. But this track is in a league of its own for me. There are the usual Callier hallmarks – the soulful but husky vocal that is full of emotion, the acoustic guitar, the elements of both folk and jazz – but it’s the songwriting that makes this a standout track. The lyrics are slightly at odds with the jaunty feel of the track: they are pretty maudlin in places and yet ultimately kind of hopeful too.

When you know a bit about the story behind Callier’s life and work, you get the picture. He would probably have said he was an Ordinary Joe but I’d say he was far from it. Incredibly talented, for me he deserves to held in the same regard as the true giants of soul music. But he accepted what came his way with no apparent bitterness.

I was fortunate enough to meet him briefly when he played in Liverpool some years ago and after the show he signed merchandise until everyone waiting had gone. We were last-but-one in the queue but he chatted with us quite happily while I stood there slightly in awe. I don’t really get starstruck as such but he had a real charisma about him, it felt almost like a spiritual experience meeting him. A special moment.