June 10, 2011
I just saw via Twitter that the great Darryl Pandy has passed away. Sad news. His performance on Top Of The Pops where he got so excited that he kicked of his shoes was a classic moment in the programmes history. Well for me and my mate Emma it was. I had the privilege of having dinner with Darryl and his manager Sir George (who got annoyed when you just called him George) when we made possibly the worst record ever with Darryl at Junior Boy’s Own but anyway, lets go back to the all time classic that is ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’. I can’t decide which is the more fitting tribute, the Top Of The Pops performance or the video for the single so here are both.
May 31, 2011
It was a sad day when we heard about the passing of the genius that was Gil Scott Heron. The good Dr Rob brings a fitting Test Pressing tribute.
Gil Scott-Heron: April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011
Gil Scott-Heron: Lady Day & John Coltrane (Flying Dutchman)
Gil Scott-Heron, Brian Jackson & The Midnight Band: The Liberation Song (Arista)
Gil Scott Heron & Brian Jackson: The Bottle (Live) (Arista)
Gil Scott-Heron & His Amnesia Express: Angel Dust (Live) (Essential)
Gil Scott-Heron: The Klan (Chicken Wings Edit) (Soul In The Hole)
Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson: Peace Go With You Brother (Strata-East)
Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson: Angola, Louisiana (Arista)
Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson: It’s Your World (Soul Brother)
Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX: I’ll Take Care Of You (Young Turks)
If I had to choose only one Gil Scott-Heron track then it would have to be the version of “The Bottle” from the live double LP “It`s Your World”. I picked up my copy, which is only half the album, for 50 pence in The Record And Tape Exchange in Notting Hill in the mid-90s. I now know this to be a David Mancuso “Loft classic”, but I can remember being pretty nervous the first time I played it. Worried about audience reactions to the extended percussion break. Needless worries. For at the point when the song kicks back in the whole place literally jumped. Including those folks at the bar. The whole place lifted several feet. Everyone was higher. One of my fondest DJing memories.
Music so life-affirming, so positive, so inspiring and so heart-felt from an intelligent man clearly troubled by personal demons. A man who struggled his whole life with the very things he was warning against. Like Burroughs, a man who totally understood the tools of control, but still couldn’t help himself. The simple true-ism that “Everybody needs something”, a criticism and a confession, is something I’ll be quoting for as long as I`m still breathing.
When I dug the record out again to put this compilation together, and heard the line “Brother says he’s got to have some money, sister told me all she needs is love”, I was reduced to tears. I guess if you don’t understand, then you might count yourself lucky.
Compiled by Dr Rob, with considerable assistance from Tim H.
April 8, 2010
I was just thinking yesterday that Madam Butterfly could be my defining modern balearic moment and today we hear the sad news that Malcolm McLaren has passed away due to cancer. If you feel like tracking down some wonderful McLaren footage check the documentary on the making of ‘Fans’ the album that ‘Madam Butterfly’ came from. He was a true, true visionary who has left a massive mark on modern culture – God bless you Malcom.
October 22, 2009
Long live Flowered Up. Read Robin from Heavenly’s spot-on Guardian piece here on the passing of Liam Maher, singer with the band. For all our European cousins, Weekender is perhaps the best film on acid house bar director Wiz’s Boy’s Own ‘E’ film. Watch Part One here and Part Two here. Top boys.
Image pinched from a thread on DJ History. Ta Mikuni.
So I ordered a load records (and a T-shirt) from Submerge recently and the package arrived today. In with the vinyl (still shrinkwrapped) was a free CD (Nocturbulous Behavior – very good) and various bits of 313 ephemera; in particular this notice about last year’s Ron Murphy memorial. We thought it might be interesting to some of the heads. Cutting room engineers can make or break a record so always good to find out more about these mysterious figures. Look out for more on this topic in the near future, but for now, here is a lil’ more on Ron…
Ron Murphy set up National Sound Corporation (the ‘NSC’ etched into all your better records) with Steve Martel in 1989. Shortly afterward, Juan Atkins and Derrick May discovered his service and started pressing records with him, on a cutting lathe from the ’30s. Ron encouraged them, and others, to personalise their records with etchings and also pioneered lock-grooves and outward play (which really confused me the first time I encountered it).
Ron’s connection to the music of Detroit far pre-dates Techno however, he cut his first record at some point in 1966, and was cutting, engineering and producing throughout the Motown decades. Sadly, he died of a heart attack in January last year. Not only had music lost wonderful and warm talent, but also a wealth of memories and what I’m sure would have been a fascinating autobiography…
March 18, 2009
I love an obituary, mini-biographies that they are, and was discussing with my colleague the other day that it would be great to have a place to pull together obituaries from across the board. Obviously to Test Pressing this means musical heroes and cult figures through time so here we go. First up we are taking a look at the gentle genius of Curtis Mayfield. The following obituary, written by Spencer Leigh, first appeared in The Independent newspaper, and as I couldn’t find a better one here it is as it was published. Following this is a lovely radio show from the good Dr Bob Jones bringing together some of the great mans work – solo, with The Impressions and some of his many productions. This was aired in 1999 on Greater London Radio (GLR), just after Curtis passed away. Press play and read on…
When Curtis Mayfield sang, “I’ve got my strength and it don’t make sense not to keep on pushing”, he was singing his own epitaph. He may not have had much success in the UK record charts, but he is among the most influential musicians of the past 30 years.
Mayfield was born in Chicago in 1942 and was raised by his mother as his father left the family home. He criticised parents who have left the family home and a sense of family pervades his own work. His mother wrote poetry and encouraged his sense of rhythm and verse. In 1996, he dedicated his book of lyrics Poetic Licence to her. Mayfield was singing publicly from the age of seven and was soon teaching himself to play guitar. He commented, “I was writing songs from when I was 12. My songs always came from questions that I need answers for.” He also said, “My fights and arguments, even with God, went down on paper.”
When Mayfield was 14, he met Jerry Butler, who was three years older, and sang with him in a gospel group, the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers. They befriended a vocal group, the Roosters, who had come, chasing success, from Chattanooga to Chicago. Butler joined them as a lead singer and Mayfield sang tenor and played guitar. Their first performances as the Roosters were not successful as the audiences would crow as soon as they heard the name. They became the Impressions and secured an audition with Chess Records. When the receptionist would not let them through, they went to Vee-Jay Records and recorded one of Butler’s songs, a soaring ballad, “For Your Precious Love”, and its style was a considerable influence on the 16-year-old Mayfield.
“For Your Precious Love” made the US Top Twenty but the billing on the record label, “Jerry Butler and the Impressions”, created friction. After a promotional tour, Butler went solo but he retained his friendship with Mayfield who wrote several of his records, notably “He Will Break Your Heart”, a No l R&B hit in 1960, and “Find Another Girl”.
Mayfield with the brothers Richard and Arthur Brooks, Sam Gooden and Fred Cash made further records as the Impressions for Vee-Jay, Bandera and Swirl, but their break came when they signed to ABC Paramount Records in 1961. Their US hit single “Gypsy Woman” contained erotic imagery (“Her eyes were like that of a cat in the dark”) and was the first of many tender love songs that they took on to the charts. Their gospel influence showed in their biggest US hit, “It’s All Right”, which climbed to No 4 in 1963.
Despite the British invasion of the US charts by the Beatles and their acolytes, the Impressions did remarkably well in 1964 and each single was a classic: “Talking About My Baby” (No 25), “I’m So Proud” (14), “Keep On Pushing” (10), “You Must Believe Me” (15) and a stunning arrangement of the gospel song “Amen” (7). Mayfield also wrote for Major Lance and one of the songs, “Um Um Um Um Um Um”, was a UK Top Ten hit for Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders.
With his sublime sense of melody and sensuality, Mayfield could have become a leading pop songwriter, rivalling the tunesmiths in the Brill Building. However, he was impressed by Bob Dylan, who had brought civil- rights issues into popular songs, but Dylan was white and Mayfield wanted to present songs from a black perspective. He believed in the creed “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, and he idolised Martin Luther King. Both “I’m So Proud” and “Keep On Pushing” reflect his philosophy, but he became more explicit with the years, releasing an inspirational single, “Choice of Colours”, backed with “Mighty Mighty Spade and Whitey”, in 1968. His music was more melodic and less raucous than James Brown’s and, hence, less threatening to a white audience.
Mayfield’s greatest moment is with the stunning “People Get Ready”, a US hit for the Impressions in 1965. It is both a gospel song and an anthem for the civil-rights movement. Bob Marley and Rod Stewart are just two artists who have recorded successful versions.
Mayfield wrote many songs that were successful for other performers, notably “Mama Didn’t Lie” (Jan Bradley), “The Monkey Time” (Major Lance), “I Can’t Work No Longer” (Billy Butler and the Enchanters) and “Just Be True” and “Think Nothing About It” (both for Gene Chandler). Mayfield and his business partner Eddie Thomas set up publishing companies so that he could control his own work and they established their own label, Curtom.
His first solo album, Curtis (1970), was a poignant picture of ghetto life including three of his best songs, “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Gonna Go”, the UK dance hit “Move On Up” and surely one of the best song titles of all time, “We the People Who are Darker Than Blue”. He followed this with a stunning double album, Curtis/ Live (1971), where his spoken introductions are as moving as his songs.
In 1972 he was asked to score a “blaxploitation movie”, Super Fly. As with Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, the soundtrack was far better than the film and Mayfield used the film, which centred around cocaine deals, to comment on America today. Both “Freddie’s Dead”, which was banned by the BBC, and the title song were US Top Ten hits.
This led to Mayfield’s scoring other black films, often working with other performers. They include Claudine (1972) and Pipedreams (1976), both for Gladys Knight and the Pips, Sparkle (1976) with Aretha Franklin and Let’s Do It Again (1975) with the Staple Singers. He had difficulty with the Staple Singers as their leader, Pops Staples, refused to sing the word “funky” as he disliked its sexual connotations.
Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is a key album of the early 1970s and Mayfield expanded Gaye’s concepts with Back to the World (1973) and the ironic There’s No Place Like America Today (1975). In 1978 he produced a second album for Aretha Franklin, Almighty Fire.
In 1983 Butler, Mayfield, Gooden and Cash reunited as the Impressions for a tour and LP. He toured regularly and he became involved with British politics when he attacked Thatcherism in “(Celebrate) The Day After You”, which he recorded with the Blow Monkeys in 1987. This might have become a significant hit record but it too was banned by the BBC.
In August 1990 Mayfield was paralysed from the neck down when a lighting rig fell on him during a concert in Brooklyn, but he determined to continue with his music. He wrote songs for Erykah Badu and in 1996 was nominated for a Grammy for his album New World Order, which he had had to record one line at a time. In 1998 he contracted diabetes and had a leg amputated.
Mayfield was twice inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a member of the Impressions and once as a solo performer. In 1998 the Georgia House of Representatives honoured him calling him “an undisputed genius of modern music”.
His songs have been used in contemporary films and Ice-T sampled his “Super Fly” recording for The Return of Superfly in 1990. One of his older songs, “Giving Him Something He Can Feel”, was a hit for En Vogue in 1992. Mavis Staples summarised his work – “There’s a beauty about him, an angelic state. Everything he wrote had a whole lot of love.”
Curtis Mayfield, singer and songwriter: born Chicago 3 June 1942; twice married (10 children); died Roswell, Georgia 26 December 1999.
(Originally published in The Independent on Tuesday 28 December 1999)
Dr Bob Jones: A Tribute To Curtis Mayfield
(Thanks to Andy Crysell for help with the idea.)