That Summer Feeling
If Jonathan Richman, with his inimitable way with words, summed up 'that Summer feeling' better than most, then what does summer mean? A friend once said that summer meant putting on your Ramones t-shirt and your deck shoes, but those were different times. I would argue that summer means putting together compilation tapes. Tapes that will go with you throughout the summer, on holiday and days out, in the garden and in the park, or rail journeys and coach trips. Tapes you can depend on, and which will define a certain moment in time forever after. This is beginning to sound suspiciously like Dexy's immortal 'Reminisce (Part 1)', but I make no apologies there.
So, here are a few suggestions for the summer of '99:
1. Something by Clinic from the compilation on Domino, probably 'Monkey On My Back'. Clinic being a resolutely anonymous collective for now are ineffably cool, and the loving nods and winks to the mythical New York New Wave and the original Garage punk portfolio are carried off with such aplomb that it adds to the appeal. Where they go from here remains to be seen, but their first steps forward are to be celebrated.
2. Something by Roots Manuva from the LP on Big Dada, Brand New, Second Hand, probably 'Inna' or 'Wisdom Fall' which wilfully pervert the course of Hip Hop and take the UK response into very new territory. Territory which acknowledges and embraces the culture of reggae sound systems and dance hall sound clashes, a different kind of low end theory, and the assemblage of bedroom scientists with new sounds found with the aid of mix'n'match technology put together with the zest of the pioneer. Young Roots has taken the time and space to create a new voice and he has the due gravitas to carry off his tales of adventures close to home.
3. Something from Groundation by Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rasta Fari, because this early '70s triple LP set is now available on one of those great cheap double CD box sets you can get for £6.99 in bizarre (bazaar?) places like discount bookshops and newsagents, and it seems to be the real thing too. This sort of thing needs to be encouraged. For those who don't know, Count Ossie's team were exponents of traditional Rasta percussion and are famously heard on the Folk Bros' original of 'O Carolina' back in '64 or whatever which had the Mods dancing the blue beat in Soho. By the early '70s Count Ossie's squad had teamed up with Cedric Brookes' horns and Groundation is a sprawling mess of infectious rhythms and bets, jazz excursions, Rasta chants and recitations and is at times exquisitely beautiful.
4. Something off The Isolationist LP on Jazz Fudge, with the Anti Pop Consortium on the mic, DJ Vadim on the mix and a Scratch Pervert on the decks. Sort of an update on the Kool Keith, Q Bert and Automator collaboration as Dr Octagon but without the gynaecology, and indeed listening back the whole Octagon thing sounds somewhat lame.
5. There has to be something from The Fall, and you could probably get through the summer just with a compilation of tracks from The Fall's first ten years. It is astonishing how well this stuff has worn, and where shamefaced I have replaced scratched vinyl with cheap CD reissues it's been a revelation to find how Live At The Witchtrials, Dragnet, Grotesque and particularly Hex Education Hour are musically peerless. Forget M.E.S., it's those guitars that conquer all, and some of the best drumming pop side of Count Ossie.
6. I've hear the new Fall LP contains a version of The Saints 'This Perfect Day', which sounds like an excellent excuse to dig out the original. Possibly the greatest punk blast, it shows the power of the tide at the time as this snarling anti-social song was a genuine hit with the group memorably eclipsing the Pistols on Top Of The Pops. Well, I remember it, and equally I remember The Saints on an episode of The Saint filmed live at The Marquee when it was still in Wardour Street. Anyone wondering at this shameless sentimentality is encouraged to obtain the Know Your Product compilation CD and discover the power of this Australian take on punk and several classics, including 'This Perfect Day' are included.
7. You know how one song dominates any one given moment? Well, just now I can't stop playing The Raincoats' 'No-One's Little Girl', and can't help bowing in admiration for the gentle and sophisticated execution of such a strong message of defiance. I've never been the world's greatest Raincoats fan, though love the debut 'Fairytale In The Supermarket; single and their Odyshape LP and this song. Still, it's easy to understand their bemusement at being adopted and canonised by Nirvana and the Riot Grrrls, when those people were playing straight rock, yet the Raincoats were always about adventure and reaching out to embrace disparate forms so that by the time of 'No-One's Little Girl' ('82?) they were using Sly Stone bass runs, Chic licks, African rhythms, Nashville fiddling as much as the punk/reggae experimental springboard. 'No-One's Little Girl', incidentally, is now available on the reissue of the Raincoats third and final LP, Moving, which if you like the Tom Tom Club, you'll love.
8. Well, you have to have some dub for the sun, so the latest Blood and Fire release, Dub Like Dirt from King Tubby and Friends seems an excellent choice, with 'Bag A Wire Dub' and 'Sly Want Dub' being my choice cuts.
9. I always like special, unexpected inclusions to fill gaps at the end of sides, so on one side I will go for something classical and melancholy for the summer twilight. I know so little about classical, but I like the fact that there are all these ultra-cheap CDs floating around, where you can get 70 minutes worth of sounds for under a fiver and I'm quite getting into the idea of checking out some of the names the terribly tastefully knowledgeable tend to drop. Hey, I even have an Arvo Part CD if my own now, and yeah I guess stuff like 'Cantus In Memory of Benjamin Britten for strings and bell' is incredibly moving and haunting. So, over on the other side I would have to put something from a tape I got for 50p of Allen Ginsberg reading Ti Jean's Dharma Bums, though sadly it's only Parts 3 and 4 so I miss him saying 'pretty girls make graves'. Though I suppose that is too much to ask for 50p.
So, there you go, and anyway I will probably change my mind and only listen to Fela Kuti or the Go-Betweens. Yeah, that's what summer means; changing your mind!
© Kevin Pearce 1999.