A Man Called Adam, A Lady Called Teena, and A Group Called Malaria!
ďLike all great, ďuniqueĒ pop music that is worth remembering ..Ē runs the sleevenotes on Malaria! Compiled 1981 ≠ 1984. I do have a weakness for pop groups that wield an exclamation mark, but more importantly this compilation is an essential part of the beyond-punk jigsaw. Iíve decided that beyond-punk is a much better phrase than post-punk or whatever. Malaria! were part of the worldwide explosion of creativity that used punk thinking as a springboard. Marlaria!ís pop was harsh and funky, confrontational and funny, and even better than comrades Liaisons Dangereuses. The Malaria! collection is frustratingly incomplete but essential nevertheless.

ďTeena went to wonderland, the plot is getting thick, met the king of punk funk, and he taught her all the tricks.Ē As we complete the beyond-punk jigsaw, itís worth recalling that line. Iím sure Teena Marie wouldnít thank me for digging that line up, but it gives me an excuse to argue that Teena is part of the chain that links the disco/soul scene to Ze and so on to labels like Les Disques du Crepescule (which Malaria! recorded for).

An extremely enthusiastic review of a new Teena Marie release prompted me to revisit some of her early Ď80s recordings. I have to confess I had forgotten how sumptiously soulful and uplifting her ballads were, how irresistibly captivating her funky excursions were. I havenít heard the new LP yet, but her It Must Be Magic and Irons In The Fire sets have been played to death over the past week or so.

The review I referred to makes the case for Teena with her innovation and imagination shaming the Madonnas that came later. Going back to Ze, you could almost make the case for Madonna making a bridge between Teena and Cristina. But what struck me most listening afresh to these records was that Teena almost provided a big beautiful ballad blueprint for my all time favourite pop group A Man Called Adam.

And thatís a good enough excuse to herald the fact that AMCA are back in our midst with their All My Favourite set, an odd but essential mix of the all-time classics and the new or at least new-to-me. It starts with THAT acoustic version of 'Barefoot In The Head', which is so exquisite it hurts. I have no problem with hearing beautiful pop songs like 'Easter Song', 'Estelle', 'All My Favourite People', and 'Superman' all over again. But new AMCA material is a cause for celebration, particularly after stories circulating about lost LPs that are destined to join those of the Beach Boys and Subway Sect as mythical holy grails.

Sally and Steve remain the arch pop architects, and the new songs sound the way you would want them to. Theyíre just A Man Called Adam moments. More pop than we deserve. Iíve been reading a lot of Geoff Dyer recently, and while I donít always love (or understand) what I read, the words flow in a way that have to be savoured (and envied!). AMCA seem to create their own musical universe untouched by time and trends with a sense and language of their own.

Their seeming nonchalence is infuriating. But then most of my ahem favourite people are like that. Itís that old thing from J D Salingerís Franny where she longs for someone to have the guts not to be a success. I have said this so often before, but Sally Rodgers is our greatest songwriter, singer and pop star, but how much do we have to show for over 15 years of pop life?

I would so love to hear an AMCA all-acoustic set. I would so love to hear this lost LP. I would so love this new set to be a huge success. I would love it if people like Sally Rodgers and Andrea Parker were really up there as widely loved greats, with Teena and Cristina, with Lizzy Mercier Descloux and Laura Nyro, on the front cover of Uncut or Mojo or The Wire or Jockey Slut or Time Out or whatever.

And letís not forget it was AMCA that made the Ze french disko greats Garconsí recorded legacy available again when no one was watching or listening. Itís that kind of small detail that matters.

And by the way Ze are shortly to make Cristinaís recorded works available again. If thatís not an excuse to dance around the room unreservedly to pop as great as all weíve mentioned here, I donít know what is. Oh and check out the AMCA website. Itís great fun, and has some lovely stories and photos of Sally and Steve. Now Iím off to order the new Teena Marie LP. Fingers crossed!

© 2004 John Carney

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