REVIEWS 23/07/01

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I seem to have stopped listening to music and started reading about it. This is probably more to do with my walkman behaving strangely and not really having much time at home than any conscious decision but there you go. In any case none of these books are really 'about' music - they are more about where music exists, what it means to people and the cultural baggage that goes along with it. That stuff is loads easier to write about that the actual sounds, which is why you will find more reviews of books and zines here than records and CDs.

I picked up 'Revolt Into Style' by George Melly for 50p. It's a fairly good look at Pop Art which takes in the cultural aspects of rock 'n' roll and pop music until just after the release of Sgt Pepper. Pretty good in places, with some great first hand accounts of the London club scene at the time (which included lunch time clubs for officer workers(!), and the use of two turntables). It stands the test of time rather well, despite being written as journalism. There's also a lot of stuff on art and the media, which I skimmed. Plus a rather crappy quote abour reggae which I will not trouble you with here!

We also picked up the Beck Biography (which is still packed so I won't give you the title or the author) at the same charity shop for 50p, which I haven't read, but Lorna tells me it's quite a good look at his background (his parents were involved with Fluxus, apparently) but is spoiled by uber-spotterdom with lots of lists of gigs and TV appearances.

The Beat Goes On (edited by Hebdige?) was a quid from the Tower Records sale. It's a collection of essays that came out in the 70s with a sort of Annual compiling the charts for the year. Not much here of interest - a good piece on Northern Soul which goes into all the bootlegging and the way that the kids in the clubs got records in the charts which had passed the major labels by. Also a pretty scrappy look at lewd reggae lyrics, and a bizarre comparison of Marc Bolan and skinheads. Worth a skim, but not a keeper.

I was originally put off "One People" (by Guy Kennaway) (again, a quid from Tower) because it's cover looks like a bad rip off of the Blood & Fire record sleeves. On closer inspection it actually looks like it's done by Intro who do the covers for B&F. Anyway, it's a great read. One People is a novel set in the fictional northern Jamaican village of Angel Beach. The exploits of the villagers and their interactions with tourists is very funny - the whole thing has a warm glow about it and the laid back attitude comes across really well. Bit worried about this being an exercise in stereotyping the villagers as being fools but I think it's actually very sympathetic and that's just my own paranoia. The best section for me is the farcical series of events that culminate in one of the villagers impersonating legendary DJ U-Roy. There's a section towards the end of the book set in London which features on of the characters listening to Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise".

One of the first tracks mentioned in Bill Drummond's "45" is Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise". Obviously there is some kind of voodoo synchronicity going on in my life. But not as much as in Bill's. He seems to be a man caught up in a Robert Anton Wilson novel - plotting to demolish stonehenge, deriving in Iceland, discovering the truth about the Liverpool Omphalos and its relationship with Echo and the Bunnymen, and all that middle aged stuff like working in the Library, making soup, having doubts, making comebacks. He has a joyous chaos about him, though you can't tell if this is just in retrospect. Even if it is, it's an inspiring read.

Westsiders by William Shaw is an account of a middle aged white journalist trying to get to grips with gangsta rap. Naturally one of the first people he interviews got his first break doing flyposting for... Coolio, who is later interviewed about growing up in Compton. Shaw is pretty good at this stuff - making no attempt to be "down", he manages to get to grips with, and keep a critical distance from, the realities of life in South Central LA. Also some good historical perspective provided by his background research with luminaries like Guru and Kool Herc. I got into hip hop when I heard "The Message" on the radio about 21 years ago, and followed on and off for the next 10 years and then sort of lost track until the Wu-tang and Rawkus stuff. This fills in the gaps about the West Coast stuff that I missed after NWA. Definitely worth checking.

 

AUDIO

LONDON FESTIVAL ROUND-UP SPECIAL!

Stoke Newington Street Festival
It rained. Gladdywax from did a good reggae set in a very fetching jumper.

J-Day - Brockwell Park
It rained. A lot. Checked out some great drum 'n' bass avec femi-9 DJ Trouble J and the odd bit of reggae. But mostly tried to stay dry and watched people trying to skin up with soggy rizzlas.

N16 SK8 - Clissold Park
It failed to rain. A good day out in the park, lots of ramps for the kids to skateboard on. I wasn't tempted, my skate technique just involved bombing down hill with Husker Du blaring on the headphones and not worrying too much about what to do at the bottom - I still have a dodgy knee for my troubles. Some cool half-pipe acrobatics and also a street course for the really young kids. Lots of inter-generational hilarity with various Mums worrying out loud about whether their sons should be wearing safety helmets and thereby ruining what little street cred you have as a 12 year old. Most of the park was given over to some serious chillage. Some great scratchy hip hop DJs onstage and grainy urban video stuff projected onto some large screens. Best DJ of the day was Miss Pink who kicked off her set by getting a bloke to do some human beatbox stuff - he was great as well. She then started dropping... "The S, the U, the P the E the R" a set of stone cold drum 'n' bass classics from Zinc to Congo Natty to some stuff off my radar that was just as good. Worst DJ - the bloke that spoiled everyone's mood by playing a bunch of gabba and thrash metal. Great, thanks, we admire you for your cutting edge-ness, but next time have a wank BEFORE doing your set, eh?

RESPECT - Finsbury Park
I only caught the end of Run DMC. They were big on "showmanship" and low on actually doing anything. The last 15 minutes of the set seemed to be a load of "oh now everyone on my side say 'do that stuff'" and much was made of signing a t-shirt and lobbing it into the crowd. Bit of songs here and there, which were good, but not much else going on.

The Choice FM stage was rocking with some choice ragga cuts and seriously gymnastic dancing from some women in the audience a la Dancehall Queen. I left when the Garraaaaaage section began because I am a pleb.

Courtney Pine was way better than I expected on the main stage - managed to keep the 'jazz odyssey' freefrom parping under control. He did a pretty groovy version of "Get Your Freak On" as well!

State of Bengal did an ok-ish set - 'Flight IC101' is a blinding track and they finished with that. Coooooooool.

There was a techno-ey bus sounsystem at the back which was pretty happening. Everytime I walked past there were all sorts of weird combinations going on - the highlight being a load of goths and rude boys dancing to Beenie Man! Fantastic...

Also a great set from 2 UK rappers on the Jazz Fudge label - some very cool freestyles. They were much more entertaining than Run DMC, that's for sure.

Desmond Dekker was headlining the main stage, which was a bit of blimmin' surprise :-). Again - self consciously showman-ey (with an MC repeatdely praisig his genius, which actually is fair enough in my book!), but some cracking versions of Cherry Oh Baby, Shanty Town and all that good stuff. 'Cept the sound kept cutting out during "Israelites"!

The park was rammed, it was free, it was dry, there were a few good speeches among the usual tedium. Lots of stalls from unions, campaigning groups, etc, which on reflection were mostly a bit glossy for my liking in a liberal reformist way.




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