In my medium feed at the weekend was a link to a post titled “British skinheads in the 1980s were young, pissed, and stylish as hell“. I scanned through the pictures, read the accompanying text, and see just a very small slither of a culture and a style that I and my friends wouldn’t have been associated with in 1972, and would have rejected. Yeah some of us were involved it fights at Football matches, it was of it’s time.
As I sit here today, my clothes are still inspired and styled by those days, I’m even comfortable with a #1 haircut. While Richard Allens books Skinhead, Suedehead, Boot Boys, Skinhead Escapes, Smoothies, Terrace Terrors, Boot Boys and the final Mod Rule chronicled a generation, it’s unlikely that any single person experienced more that a few of the fictionalised events as youth culture was moving too fast.
Where I grew up in Hemel Hempstead we were almost exclusively white, and with London our nearest big city which had been hugely multicultural, for hundreds of years, racism just wasn’t a thing. So the toxic, hatred filled skinhead imagery of the 1970’s – 80’s just doesn’t ring true for me.
There are a few interesting videos online, two of the best by Don Letts. Letts was the DJ at the Roxy Club and before that, Chaguaramas, and we were there on New Years Eve 40-years ago at the Clash gig, we walked out, our time had passed. Letts films, especially the story of Skinhead, and it’s predecessor, the Fred Perry Sponsored, Subculture of British Music and Street Style take a serious look at the genre. I’d love the chance to talk to Don one day.
One of the things I’ve had most fun with since going into “semi-retirement” or as I call it, retired-until-further-notice (RUFN), is being able to spend time getting back to the music and sound editing that I so much enjoyed at the end of the 1970’s.
MixES on tape 70’s stylE
Back then, doing dance music mixes, for they were true mixes using the technology available to me then, meant recording a series of tracks from vinyl albums and vinyl 7-inch and 12-inch vinyl to a cassette. Reel to Reel tape would have been easier, but wasn’t affordable. I would then play a track from vinyl, recording it to a cassette, with the other cassette which contained the first set of recorded tracks queued up on another player. Good times, I have a couple of mixes left from then on cassettes labelled Gone Single 1 to 3 and will post them online when I can.
In essence, I’d have to record every second track before starting to record the mix. That really didn’t make for much spontaneity, and mistakes mostly meant starting over. Still I enjoyed it, and used to record either the left or right of a stereo recording, and play that into the start of another track, beat matching as best I could, then stop the recording and restart with the complete stereo mix.
Getting the band back TOGETHER
It’s been fun getting all my vinyl back together, adding to it from my Cousin Bills Jazz/Funk/90’s stuff, a couple of crates of early 2000’s ex-DJ vinyls, and the equipment that I’ve collected over the last few years, including a Sony dual cassette deck, a Panasonic 8-track player, and the trusty Philips reel-to-reel tape deck along with a Music hall MMF 2.2 turntable.
8-Track veRSUS Cassette
Digitizing Miroslav Vitous Magical Shepherd album, from 8-track was an interesting exercise. I understand why they never really caught on, especially once cassettes became a thing. At least and some of the other 8-tracks I have, tracks are often split across the 8-track.
Unlike cassettes which are a length of tape, which has 4-tracks, two tracks per side, and you play one side, the tape collects on a single spool, and then you turn the cassette over, and run the tape across the head back on to the original spool. 8-Tracks are a continuous loop of tape, wide enough to hold 8-tracks, 2-tracks per loop. So what happens is you start the 8-track, the head plays two tracks of the eight, then when the loop gets back to the start, the tape is moved and the head plays the next two tracks and so on.
What that means practically is that the 8-track tape is never at the start, and never at the end. It also means the loop of tape is a fixed length, if the track is longer than the loop, it is split onto the next 2-tracks and there is a break in the middle. Any album had to be divided into 4 roughly equal programs.
In the UK home players were not a thing, the only place you could get 8-track players was in-car entertainmentinment. They were available both as factory fitted, and aftermarket installs. There is a great overview and intro to 8-tracks here.
I have fond memories of driving to photography jobs with Pete Ward of the Hemel Hempstead Gazette in his VW bug with a built-in 8-track player, playing mostly the Carpenters. It was a surprise when I learned that you could get your own blank 8-tracks, and then record onto them. Who knew?
I found a few cassettes that we’d recorded in the early 1980’s and used them to send back to family in the UK instead of writing letters. The quality wasn’t bad. We have some Type III Ferrichrome / Ferro-chrome Audio Cassettes that were recorded on professional equipment. Compared to 8-track and even reel-to-reel tapes, the quality when digitised is pretty great. Here is an intro to one of the cassettes
The addition of Dolby Noise Reduction meant that the background hiss and other noises often associated with tape recording was gone forever, leaving the clarity heard in this example.
Back to Vinyl
Most of my time though has been digitising vinyl. I’ve developed a fairly painless process to clean vinyl, record it, and clean up, tag and save the digital files. I keep most of the vinyl as MP3. Yes, I know that has restrictions, but for the most part I can live with it for the convinience of streaming music around the house. I keep the raw .WAV files for everything I record, so I can always go back and go through the cleanup and tagging process again.
Favorite albums are saved in FLAC format including any live performance albums on the CTI/KUDU label.
The following is a pretty hard to believe story of what happens when you subscribe to the Apple Music service. This isn’t new, back in 2008, I got a call from Cassidy, she couldn’t find any of the music on her PC after installing iTunes to sync to her then, new ipod.
It was partly what I learned then that convinced me to never ever install iTunes or use Apple devices. I admit I was pre-disposed to not using Apple anyway.
Recently I’ve been backing up my digital music collection to Amazon Cloud Drive (unlimited everything) service. I’ve had lots of problems backing up 2.5Tb of music from my NetGear ReadyNAS RAID Array to the Amazon service via an intermediate PC. I’ve not got to the bottom of this yet, but the good news is the intermediate PC only has READ access to the music, so the original files cannot be deleted by the Amazon Windows app. However, I’ve got a lot of empty folders on the cloud service that are not empty of the NAS, and lots of directories that simply don’t get backed up.
The following article has some important lessons for anyone who deals with or creates their own music. Backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup, backup.
“The software is functioning as intended,” said Amber. “Wait,” I asked, “so it’s supposed to delete my personal files from my internal hard drive without asking my permission?” “Yes,” she replied. …
I just don’t get it. I admit, apart from McCartney, mostly from his Beatles era stuff, I was never a fan of any of these bands. Among our joint collection of some 20,000 albums, singles, and digital files, we only have around 100 from these artists, and the majority are Beatles.
Hopefully the ridiculously price includes insurance in case any of them die on stage during performances. Seriously, I don’t get this fascination with old bands. I understand they got ripped off by record companies when they were kids, and are now broke(not) and need supporting, but heck most of this lot are British and they get pensions, and free medical care for life…
There are a ton of young bands out there you can help with $1,000… have a look on kickstarter and Indiegogo etc. Become a producer, help create the next generation of bands, leave a legacy instead of putting more money into some rich pop stars who don’t need it.
I did this back in 2014 and would/will do it again, I was Executive Producer for Toyface first ever full album, Follow the rules of the trainwreck.
Support emerging artists, you know “oldchella” won’t really live up to your expectations.
Thursdays Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London discussed and took submissions from the listeners on their top-3 British Youth Culture films featuring music. I’d not heard of many of them, so I hit the BBC iPlayer pause button and made a list of all those mentioned. The films are listed as they came up on the show.
The most popular films mentioned, including by Robert were Quadraphenia, Take it or Leave It, and Babylon.
Quadraphenia (1979) features one Gordon Sumner aka Sting, as we as Phil Daniels and is set in London in 1965. The music is predominantly American acts, but features 4-tracks from the Who.
Stardust(1974) features then “teen pop-idol” David Essex as the pop star Jim Mclean and was a follow-on to the 1973 film, That’ll be the day. It was a surprisingly gritty film, and certainly had an impact on me. The soundtrack is primarily numbers by David Essex and Dave Edmunds(as the Stray Cats).
Babylon(1980) features Brindsley Forde’s character as he takes his reggae sound system based in west London. The film was for the most part set in “current times” and was no a retrospective. It was a relatively low-budget film compared to the first two entries.
Telstar– The Joe Meek Story(2008) set in the 1960’s about about Joe Meek, the flamboyantly gay, tone deaf, songwriter-producer behind the ’60s. Features many 1960’s tracks.
The Harder they come(1972) – Honorary entry, highly rated, not British. Features reggae star Jimmy Cliff(and others), filmed in Jamaica. Reggae soundtrack primarily featuring Jimmy Cliff, but also Toots & The Maytals, Desmond Dekker.
Breaking Glass(1980) London new wave/punk scene – featuring Phil Daniels, Hazel O’Conner and Jonathon Pryce.
Absolute Beginners(1986) Set in the late 1950’s, famously features David Bowie and Bowie tracks, but also Sade, Paul Weller and Gil Evans.
Young Soul Rebels(1991) Set in London 1977 and the Queens Silver Jubilee celebrations and two friends running a pirate radio station. Music features many jazz-funk style tracks popular at the time.
24-Hour Party People(2002) Retrospective on the mid-1970’s with Tony Wilson setting up Factory Records whose acts included Joy Division(New Order), The Happy Mondays. Features racks by the Clash, the Pistols, Happy Mondays, Simpley Red, New Order.
Human Traffic(1999) features the Cardiff club scene of the 1990’s and a story around a weekend of music, love and club culture. Varied club, trance music tracks inc. Fatboy Slim, Public Enemy, Armand van Helden and more.
Velvet Goldmine(1998) set in 1984, but primarily about the 1970s glam rick era. Surprisingly features Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale, also Eddie Izzard.Music from bands of the glam rock scene inc. Roxy Music, T-Rexx and also contemporary artists such as Thom Yorke.
That’ll be the day(1973) drama set in the late 1950’s/early 60’s with David Essex as the lead, and featuring a soundtrack of early rock and roll, primarily American inc. Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin et al.
HELP!(1965) drama film featuring the Beatles and their music, but based on a story about Ringo and a ring being a human sacrifice.
The Commitments(1991) – story of a imaginary Irish band the Commitments and their struggles to make it. Features classic remkes by the band of classic songs. Features the vocals of lead singer Andrew Strong.
Kill Your Friends(2015) drama set at the height of the Britpop music scene in the 1990’s.
Expresso Bongo(1959) drama about the music business featuring Laurence Harvey and Silva Sims, Cliff Richard. Cliff Richard provides much of the soundtrack.
Pink Floyd The Wall(1982) not clear(to me) this film belongs, but it is set in the UK and around the music business. Pink Floyd provide majority of soundtrack.
Control(2007) biopic/profile of Ian Curtis the troubled lead singer of Joy Division. Soundtrack includes tracks from glam rock(Roxy Music, David Bowie) through Punk through electronic and especially remade and original Joy Division tracks.
Backbeat(1994) dramatization of the Hamburg(late 50’s) period of the Beatles. Soundtrack by various artists from the time.
Flame(1975) drama featuring the band Slade as 1970’s band Flame. Features reworked Slade tracks, also many stars of the then pop-music industry are in Cameos.
Bronco Bullfrog(1969) gritty East London drama covering the period and influences that lead to the Mod movement.
Radio on(1979) road trip drama set in 1970’s Britain. Soundtrack features Bowie, Kraftwerk, Ian Dury and the Blockheads
Born to Boogie(1972) – features Marc Bolan and Ringo Starr pseudo documentary about T-REXX.
Nowhere Boy(2009) dramatization of the formative years of John Lennon. Sountrack features tracks by Elvis Presley, Dickie Valentine, Gene Vincent and others, as well as remakes of tracks by cast members.
Beat Girl(1960) (I assume not the 2013 DJ based remake?) Released in the US as Wild for Kicks. Set in the late 1950’s features numerous British character actors including Adam Faith, Oliver Reed and Christopher Lee. Notable John Barry’s first music soundtrack commission, with vocal tracks performed by Adam Faith.
Blow-Up(1966) archetypal mod photographer shoots mysterious beauty drama featuring David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave et al. great jazz soundtrack by Herbie Hancock.
Performance(1970) Classic Nicolas Roeg film about an east London gangster and a former rcok superstar. Stars Mick Jagger; also an appearnce by one of my favorites from the 1970’s Callan series, Anthony Valentine.Sountrack features track by Merry Clayton and Buffy Sainte-Marie, and one by Jagger.
Sid and Nancy(1986) morbid biopic about Sid Vicious of the sex pistols; features Gary Oldman. Soundtrack features classic Pogues performances, also Joe Strummer and the Sex Pistols and others.
The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle(1980) “documentary” about the Sex Pistols break-up, from the point of view of Malcom McLaren the Pistol manager. Soundtrack includes many Pistols songs specially engineered for the album using older lyrics and band members, as Johnny Rotten refused to participate.
Catch us if you Can(1965) released in the US as “Having a wild weekend”. Eponymous movie named after the David Clark 5 (DC5) hit, filmed at the peak of their success. The film is a drama about a model and a stunt actor.
Still Crazy(1998) (incorrectly called Strange Fruit on the Elms show). Features Billy Connolly, Jimmy Nail and Bill Nighy, as well as many others. The seminal 1970’s band “Strange Fruit” reuniting after twenty years of silence. Soundtrack contains tracks by the cast, written by the likes of Chris Difford, Mick Jones, and Jeff Lyne(ELO).
It couldn’t happen here(1987) Surreal Pet Shop boys movie, based on memories of Lowe/Tennats childhood, crossed with Mrs Thatchers late 80’s England. Ensemble British cast including Barbara Windsor. Soundtrack by, and featuring classics of the Pet Shop Boys.
Smashing Time(1967) Comedy drama filmed in London and written by George Melly. Stars Rita Tushingham, Lynn Redgrave and Michael York. Lots of satire, also Juke Box Jury is parodied.
Spinal Tap(1984) American film, Directed by Rob Reiner and set in 1982 about a British heavy metal band, Spinal Tap. Film didn’t qualify for a formal entry in the list as it is staged around the bands American comeback tour, filmed in California, and thus not about British youth culture. Soundtrack features songs written and performed by the cast.
The Rutles(1978) original title All You Need Is Cash. charts of the adventures of the prefab four, a total Beatles send-up. The soundtrack also parodied many Beatles songs, and features the work of Neil Innes of Monty Python. Actually, if you like the Beatles, this film is quite good, if you don’t like the Beatles, this film is very good.
From the Robert Elms Facebook page:
British Hustle(1978) – Few details, seems to have been a film shot at Clouds, Brixton, featuring some of London’s club dancers at the time, including Tommy Mack. Also includes Greg Edwards as DJ.From this clip and this clip on YouTube, seems to be a documentary rather than movie.
Pirate Radio(2009) original title The Boat that Rocked. Movie about the early days of pirate radio, set in the 1960’s, primarily a comedy parodying Radio Caroline. Soundtrak contains many classic tracks from the time, mostly British.
I mentioned this list and the show on Stuarts facebook page. Stuart runs a fantastic used music and record shop. He is a brillaintc resource, and in a flash came back with these two films which hadn’t previously been listed.
Rude Boy(1980) Features The Clash and a fictional roadie as well as actual events from the time. Shot in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Soundtrack includes live, rehearsal and recorded versions of Clash tracks.
Dance Craze(1981) documentary film about 2 Tone. Film includes broad selection of live performances of 2 Tome bands at the time including Madness, Bad Manners, The Specials, The Beat.
Do you have any others to include in the list? The classification was British, and Youth Culture, that featured music. Documentaries were not really included. Feel free to add a comment below and I’ll update the post.
While you can find copies of most of these movies online, many legitimate through the British Film Institute aka the BFI, also through streaming services such as Amazon, and Lovefilm, I’m not going to include links here.
It’s David Bowies 69th Birthday today, Happy Birthday David.
It’s also 44-years since a 1972, a wet evening photo-shoot in Heddon Street in London gave us one of the more iconic album covers ever; and finally, it’s the release date for Bowies 28th studio album, Blackstar.
He was hugely influential on me in my early teens. I saw him live a few times, including during the first Spiders from Mars Tour in 1972 at his second gig that year in High Wycombe. I also saw Bowie at the Milton Keynes bowl in 1990 as the UK Leg of the Sound+Vision Tour, which famously was the last outing of his back catalog. The concert was overshadowed though by a car crash on our way home, when another driver ran a red-light and very nearly killed both me and my wife Wendy.
Asides from trying to copy his style in the early 1970’s, I used used many lines and couplets from David Bowie lyrics in my English language course work. Sadly I don’t have any of that now but can recall getting A’s for some of the submissions. Mr (Paul) Coffman must have known, but I assume since I could actually explain the structure that was good enough.
Towards the end of 1974, the end of Ziggy Stardusts 5-Years, I started working on Wembley Market, selling pub mirrors and 7-inch singles on two stalls(Proprietor: Tony Clifford), as Bowie switched to a more soulful music direction, so did I.
Robert Elms on BBC Radio London featured Bowie today in his “fourfer” weekly segment, where listeners call-up and request their favorite four tracks. You can hear the whole program here, the fourfer starts at 1:05:00.
The foufer featured only 1-track I would have chosen, but it did make me think what my personal fourfer would be. Enjoy.
“And it was Stalking time
for the Moonboys, the Bewley Brothers”
And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor
And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there
Your face, your race, the way that you talk
I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk
Trump is such an ass, he typifies the greed and avarice of the last century. Despite all his boasts, he really hasn’t done much except bully his way through life.
I’m delighted to see Richard Digance has finally seen the light and allowed much of his 1970’s song and some of his poetry material to make it on to youtube. He, or his record company, had previously fought and issued take down orders for anyone trying to provide copies, and in some cases, even links to copies.
I saw Digance twice live, and was there for one of the nights at the Rainbow Theatre in 1974 when his “Live” album was recorded. Of those tracks, “How the West was lost” was pretty influential on me at the time.
A couple of years later when recovering from knee surgery after a motorcycle accident, I spent a lot of time in the library researching American history. Digance songs, and his poems were intelligent, articulate, and often funny, quite the opposite of Trump.
How Bowie & Kraftwerk Inspired The Death of Rock’N’Roll
Screams the subhead, and book cover, along with
[David Bowie and Kraftwerk] invented modern pop music
I admit, I have not read the book. While I can see some validity in the death claim, except I doubt anyone in the US would actually agree Rock and Roll is dead, even today. I just don’t agree that Kraftwerk, and/or Bowie invented modern pop music.
David Lauire says of himself “David Laurie was 14 in 1982, living in an endlessly damp, grey South Wales”. Coincidentally, 10-years before that, as a 14-year old, in April of 1972, I was watching David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars in High Wycombe.
There is no doubt about his influence then, but I do think this is taking what Bowie did, and fitting it to a chosen narrative. ie “Can you write about how Bowie invented modern pop music?”.
Rather than Bowie being and driving the change, what he really did, more than possibly anyone else, was make the changes to himself, his own music, to stay relevant. The changes would have happened without him, it was his realization and ability to move with the changes that set him aside from his peers… The Soul diva persona was a direct response to the dance music revolution that had started in earnest in 1972 in London and was growing rapidly through the mid-70’s. Glam Rock was dead…
I’d argue, somewhat more tenuously, that his electronic music, and man who fell to earth period was little more than Bowie thrashing around trying to find a way to be relevant with the emergence of punk, and equally more electronic music, along with Eno two guys with history, trying to find a future. The Berlin Trilogy a good justification for this, it wasn’t until the b-side of Lodger, with it’s more traditional Alomar guitar riffs, and more regular beat that Bowie found his rhythm again, and this continued on Scary Monsters.
So, yes no one predicted his new personas, because at the time, only the people dependent on the Bowie income stream cared. Pop culture, fashion and youth movements wait for no man…
I’ve not covered music and arts projects I am, or have been involved here, much to my changrin. My film ventures have taken a back seat this year, although Moving Day continues to garner awards, my role as Associate Producer has long passed.
Yesterday I had the chance to catch-up with Tamysn and James the two driving forces behind toyface. They are just off their frantic album launch phase, I was Executive Producer for, and we talked on Skype to look at the next few weeks and getting a promoter and publicist involved to help them gain wider attention for the album.
You can hear and buy the album from bandcamp, here. If you have any radio contact, even here in the USA, or especially in Austin, I have a few CD’s that I can send you to help promote their work.
If you like what you hear, they also have a soundcloud page here, which has some great remixes, including this one from Oilver Si.
I’m not going to drone on here about Frankie Knuckles, I’ve done enough of that on Facebook. This NPR review of Frankies’ impact and his music though contains two of the best ever in a music review
To listen to his “The Bomb Mix” of Chanté Moore’s 1995 R&B song “This Time” is to be suspended in air for 10 minutes.
Moore sings Knuckles’ rendition more tenderly (she recut the vocal in his studio, following his directions to sing it at a club-friendly tempo), more like she’s having a secret talk with God, as if she’s praying that this time, heaven allowed, things are going to work out. She’s singing as if she’s asking to be blessed.
As much as people are calling Frankie the “”God Father of House music”, what Frankie really did was kept soul alive.
Finally thanks to Christian Barbuto and the folks at Resident Advisor, Learning Secrets, and Kingdom nightclub in Austin for bringing Frankie to town last year. Great to see Christian last night at the impromptu Thursday night Frankie celebration.