Shop Around 17
I shanít bore you with the details, but my hearingís not been too good this week. For me, thatís caused all sorts of unexpected complications, and has scared the hell out of me. Itís
also made enjoying music a little strange. One of the things I have had
to fall back on is my collection of the early On-U recordings, which criminally
seem to be out of circulation.
Now hereís a question for you. Whatís the other film that features an old On-U number on its soundtrack? Yup, itís Smithereens, which memorably has Richard Hell and Susan Berman slow dancing to 'Devious Woman' by Singers and Players (with Bim Sherman on vocals). I would understand if you didnít get that one instantly, as Smithereens seems to have been lost along the way. But itís a lovely film, a bizarre new wave twist on the Holly Golightly/Breathless line, and well worth tacking down on DVD. Ostensibly these days I guess itís of interest due to directorís Susan Seidelmanís later work on things like Desperately Seeking Susan and Sex and the City, but it really has the coolest of soundtracks. Understandably thereís a few Richard Hell tracks, as he plays a dissolute wayward pop figure/chancer/loser and looks far better than he probably should have done. But better still thereís lot of use of songs from the Feeliesí Crazy Rhythms as incidental music, occasionally to heartbreaking effect. And thereís the Raybeats (ex-Contortions go surfing ripe for salvaging) and ESGís 'Moody' being played in that same bar scene.
There is actually a contemporaneous 99 Records connection here, as the Singers and Playersí War Of Words set was actually leased by On-U to the New York independent. Another early On-U recording I have rediscovered this week is Heart by Noah House of Dread, a showcase for Creation Rebel/African Headcharge percussionist Bonjo I. One gem contained in the sleevenotes is that back in the late Ď60s Bonjo I toured as part of Clem Curtisí Foundations of 'Build Me Up Buttercup' fame. I love the idea of tracing that particular connection. I am sure somewhere along the way we can tie-in the early Sex Pistols covering that particular song.
Actually the Foundations play an important part of what is another of the great untold pop stories, which is that of black and mixed race groups in the UK. The Foundations really were part of the UK soul scene, and not just bubblegum hit wonders. Itís the same snobbery/prejudice that others like the Equals faced at the same time. The Equals actually beat the Foundations to the top of the charts, but even with the Eddy Grant connection they are rarely given the credit they deserve. Thereís a fantastic anthology out on Sequel, and is worth buying just to hear their original of Police On My Back as immortalised by The Clash on Sandinista!
One good thing covered in the recent Mod NME Originals publication is the wave of live soul outfits so active here in the mid-60s and beyond. People like Jimmy James and the Vagabonds, of course, who were adopted and groomed by mod icon Pete Meaden after he lost The Who, and Herbie Goins and the Nightimers of 'Number One In You Heart' fame. The latter The Action referred to as consummate hard working hard driviní soul professionals, but The Action had that spark, that certain something, where they took the Tamla sound and created something new. If you move quick you may still get a copy of the limited edition set of archive BBC recordings by The Action on Circle. These feature immaculate covers of the Byrdsí 'I See You' and Coltraneís 'India', and my dreams have often been about much less.
Another group that has an amazing story that really needs telling is the Real Thing. We all know and love 'You To Me Are Everything' and 'Canít Get By Without You'. Theyíre perfect pop. But the Real Thing has roots going back to the Cavern club, and Eddie Amooís are in the Chants whose 'Baby I Donít Need Your Love' is much loved by Northern Soul fans. While I utterly approve of the Real Thingís links to David Essex, it should be noted that they could also be a harder-edged funk/soul outfit closer to the Temptations and Curtis Mayfield consciousness than the pure pop they are known for. Look out for cheap cassette copies of their 1977 LP 4 From 8 which is an absolute classic and perhaps the greatest UK soul set ever. Itís certainly a precursor of the Young Disciplesí Road To Freedom.
The 8 referred to in the title is Liverpool 8, and the set contains the classic Liverpool suite that includes the great 'Children of the Ghetto' (did Courtney Pine cover this back when he could have been a contender?). A bit of gritty realism, which I am sure got a few record executives hot under the collar. And the irony was that punk probably stole the setís thunder when people like The Clash may have been saying many of the same things, but did the twain ever meet?
© 2005 John Carney