Stardust -Music Sounds Better with You

My formative clubbing years, spent at Utopia in Reading pretty much until it closed down. We went Friday nights to Disco Inferno with Lionel Vinyl, which to this day has still given me one of the best Christmas eve nights I’ve ever had. Tuesday night student night, and Saturday night, the House/Chart/Garage Meat Market night. Thursday nights were the over 25’s night. Why on earth would you want to go to that I wondered in my late teens. When I hit 25 I realised exactly why you would want to go to a night like that.

But that was years away, it was Saturday night, I was inevitably driving (I didn’t drink for 5 years) and one song I loved more than any others for it’s sheer funk filled danceability  – was The Music Sounds Better with You. From the one hit wonders Stardust (featuring one half of Daft Punk, and let’s be honest, the track has French Disco smeared all over it, and no one really does disco as good as the french anymore) The Music Sounds Better With You was admittedly everywhere, in the charts, all over the radio, we are not talking a deep and dirty underground burner here, it’s pretty much pop.

But who cares, when it swung in over the preceding track through the speakers, you could not help but dance, singing to whoever was nearby that the music sounded better with them. The swaying Chaka Khan sample riding over chunky beats and a simple vocal that for me is an absolute classic slice of 90’s disco..ooh baby..

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Reef – Consideration

So my first holiday without my parents. A driving trip to the north of France, at a Eurocamp site. One of my mate’s driving him and his girlfriend in his clapped out Vauxhall Chevette and four of us in a Vauxhall Astra. and I definitely wasn’t going to drive, no sir, not in France. After leaving the ferry a journey that was supposed to take a few hours doubled as we got completely lost. The designated driver felt tired, I drove.

Arriving at the campsite at 3 in the morning after 8 hours driving was not the worst thing to happen that holiday, that would come on the way back. But we were there, we were without our parents. The holiday itself was great, I lived in shorts and sun glasses, I ended up driving on all of our excursions, we all got on surprisingly well despite the nocturnal habits of the couple and Grizzly Bear meets a bansaw snoring of someone else.

But one night I felt rough, really rough. I was in bed while the others got ready to go out. One of the guys was playing a Reef album, I have to admit, even know I don’t know what the name of the album is, but Consideration came on, and I fell in love with it, such a beautiful heartfelt song that sunk deep into my soul after just one listen. I have returned to it time and time again throughout my life to help me unwind and contemplate and to pick me up.

It’s slow, languid pace forces you to slow down before it whirls round and round to it’s rousing conclusion, and you know that whatever you’re doing, wherever you are, it’s gonna be alright..

Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack

At last! England had it’s own Bad Boy Gangster. Not a rapper admittedly, and he didn’t really do Hip-Hop, and he sung in an unusually high voice, and he was actually born in Germany, and came from Leicester, but he got in trouble with the police! Gangster I tell you, a proper Gangster that Mark Morrison.

I absolutely loved Return of the Mack as soon as I heard it, always danced and sung along as soon as it came on if we were out, and even now my mate says he thinks of me every time he hears it.

I used to go home for lunch at school, and used to get in at about a quarter to one. In 1996 it was Martin Collins on Capital radio at 1pm, and for months every day he would start his show, while I was eating my Pot Noodle, with Return of the Mack or Fast Love by George Michael, both of which were jockeying for the number 1 spot in the charts.

I bought the single, and then bought the album, from which Morrison had five Top 10 singles, the first artist in British pop history to do so. But the album wasn’t quite as good as Return of the Mack. After a few years, for some reason I felt the song was mine, and during a particularly difficult time I promised myself I would never play the whole original version until I was 100% happy, and I still haven’t played it yet (including searching for the video for this post).

I have listened to the remixes though, and at the Funky Fish in Brighton on New Years Eve it soundtracked my entrance into the club, which brought a huge smile to my face, and kicked off a great night and filled me with optimism for the coming year, so hopefully it won’t be much longer before the Mack returns.

 

Prince – Raspberry Beret

When Doves Cry (the first Prince song I ever heard), 1999, Nothing Compares 2 U, Purple Rain, The Beautiful Ones, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, Diamonds and Pearls, Money Don’t Matter 2 Nite, Kiss, I Feel For You, Little Red Corvette, If I Was Your Girlfriend, where do you start with Prince?

I will admit to shedding a few tears when I learnt of his death last year, a man whose songs I lost myself in, who was capable of moments of extreme musical genius and still at times of decidedly average music, and yet he still effortlessly wrote and performed rock, soul, love soaked ballads and sex drenched funk, a little hip-hop, a touch of jazz and a whole lot of purpleness.

I first heard him on the radio, got deeper into him via his greatest hits albums, just as he ditched Prince and came back as Symbol, or the more keyboard friendly TAFKAP. I was hooked just from The Hits 1, Let’s Go Crazy, Adore, Alphabet Street, Pink Cashmere, Sign Of The Times, pretty much every song was great. The Hits 2 contained more of the same, but from that I bought The Gold Experience when it was released, preceded by the pop ballady Most Beautiful Girl in the World. This album absolutely cemented Prince into my life. P Control, Shhh, Endorphin Machine, We March, Now, 319, Eye Hate  You, the uplifting ttle track, the funk busting Billy Jack Bitch and the electric soulfulness of Shy, it still ranks as one of my favourite albums ever. I listened to it over and over again, I threw almost every song onto one home made mix tape or another for my car.

From Gold Experience on I bought every album he released (that I could find out about) while slowly gathering his back catalogue. For some reason I instinctively knew there was a hidden track on New Power Soul, Wasted Kisses, probably the best track on the album, and after listening to The Vault, I wondered just how amazing he would be if he turned his hand to jazz. The Rainbow Children started in that direction but by then Prince had become a Jehovah’s Witness and the sweaty sex driven funk had become diluted. I listened to his later stuff, but didn’t get into it so much, completely missed the album released in the Daily Mail and just raved about the show I was lucky enough to go to as part of his 21 nights at the O2 in London.

So why Raspberry Beret? Mostly because it was one of my early favourites, and because I used to tape songs of the radio and I remember taping it on what would become my favourite tape. It always reminds me of summer and showcases Prince’s playful side
“busy doin’ somethin’ pretty close to nuthin’, but different than the day before …That’s when I saw her, ooh yeah I saw her she walked in through the out door..”

Since he was so hot on the ownership rights of his music (and rightly so) it’s actually fairly difficult to find his songs with audio on youtube or soundcloud, so I’m posting the links to the mixtapes I did in tribute, the 2nd one contains Raspberry Beret.

 

 

U2 -Mysterious Ways

After something of an unexpected hiatus, I’m aiming to carry on with my Life in Music series of posts, looking back at the songs that I’ve grown up with, that revealed a new direction to me and that soundtrack some of my favourite memories.

Music is probably the biggest passion in my life, it features much more in my life than my books do, mostly just out of practicality, I never leave the flat without my ipod yet I never really take a book with me (I don’t like them getting tatty).

So we come to U2. Or more specifically Achtung Baby, my first U2 album. This album is the soundtrack to Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo. I received both for Christmas and would put the CD on loop while I jumped, flew, rode Yoshi and grabbed mushrooms in my mission to unlock all 99 levels.

While I loved most of the songs on the first hearing, there were a couple that took a while to grow on me, and even to this day I still can’t say I love Acrobat.

It was Mysterious Ways though that went onto my casettes for the car and my walkman (I know, I’m revealing my age here), edging out the album opener, Zoo Station. The crashing wall of the guitar leading into bongo’s and rumbling base and Bono’s pleading vocals making the song an epic rock track..
I missed getting to see the tour for various reasons, but when watching the Zoo TV video (there’s no point trying to hide it now) I fell in love with it again when they revved up the guitar, added a big dollop of keys, some funky bass, and for good measure threw in a dancer (Morleigh Steinberg, or Mrs Edge). It’s this version I’ve bunged in at the bottom of the post.

Over time Ultraviolet (light my way) and Tryin’ to throw your arms around the world overtook Mysterious Ways, and I could easily write about every song on the album (think they’ll be another post coming) but it was Mysterious Ways that drew me in, and started my love affair with U2. Since drafting this post I’ve been listening to the album on repeat on my ipod, and it’s still stands the test of time.

 

M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume

I love everything about this song, which will always remind me of my school discos, and which almost certainly sparked the love of dancing that still drives my feet to this day.  From the unmistakable intro through the looping beats and sparse keys through to the iconic refrain, you can’t help but at least tap your feet or bounce to it.  This and C & C music factory, Everybody Dance Now were always staples at school disco’s while I went through school, from the last days of the Juniors to the formative years of the seniors, where I would happily dance away, knowing that my rest would come when the slow songs came on at the end.

James Brown – I Got You (I Feel Good)

The scream at the beginning of this song is classic, defining almost a genre as well as the man behind it.  Heard one night on Capital FM, James Brown was, as you can probably guess, my introduction to the world of Funk.
The low driving beat propels the track while the swerving horn takes up the baton from Brown’s lyrics before passing it back all the way through it’s short, punchy 2 and a half minutes, before the theatrical finale.
Later it would be The Boss, Talkin’ Loud, Sayin’ Nothing, or Sunny with Marva Whitney among others that would be my favourites of browns, as well as the classic tracks that were, and still are, a staple of clubs everywhere, but I Got You was the first, and revelatory track that introduced me to hardest working man in show business and a whole genre that would dominate my taste for a good long time after..