Ain’t Nothing But A Houseparty

We got back to the flat on Friday evening, it was the 1980’s we probably watched “The Tube”, a spirited attempt to put “the weekend starts here” energy of popular music back in our TVs. There was a message for us, Tony had rung & left an address for a party in South London that night. Good one, always interested in a party, especially one within walking distance but which of the 2 Tonys of our acquaintance had called?

 

Tony #1 was a Birmingham drug dealer who had crashed with us a couple of years back when he needed to avoid the cops. He became our connection for the best Kashmiri black hash around. Boy that was some Summer, we were very popular among our small circle of friends. Despite smoking more of the stash than we sold & owing money we didn’t have we had parted on good terms. It would be good to see him again, the refreshments would be first class & at least he was not in prison. Tony #2 was a proper acid casualty who stayed at ours when his squats got too weird. He was a freeloader & a little scary for those who didn’t know him but he was harmless, needed help & no-one but us were around to give it. We were no strangers to a squat party, cheap, very cheerful & often a live band rocking out in the basement. Whichever Tony had put us on it, we had no other plans for the night so we were going to a party.

 

 

We showed up, just the 2 of us, on the correct doorstep at around 10.30, suitably hydrated at one of our usual haunts, clutching a bottle of wine, our trusty cassette of “You Dancing ? I’m Asking”, a personal mix of favourites (4 of which are featured here), in a pocket. “We’re with Tony” was a pretty lame opening gambit, inviting “Tony who ?” from the justifiably suspicious woman who had answered the door. Shit, we had not thought this through & a long explanation would not help. We were bailed out when someone we knew bounced up the hallway to¬† greet us. Oh, it was THAT Tony ! We were in !

 

Tony #3 lived out in Kent & we didn’t see him Uptown much. Always fine company with stories & objects of interest. The only man I have met who has produced a quail’s egg from his coat. While I never told him, his rakishness reminded me of a young Bryan Ferry. I liked him. It was a fine night out, we could do that party guest thing, respectful of the premises, would talk & listen to anyone then drink anything but the wine we had brought. This wasn’t the night that Mitchell woke me up from a very comfortable chair to tell me it was time to go home. I protested that I was having too good a time only to be informed that it was 7.30 in the a.m. & I had been asleep for 3 hours ! This was the night that we were stumbling home on Camberwell’s deserted backstreets & met an equally inebriated Tony #3 looking for our house. He hadn’t said that he needed a place to stay !

 

 

We threw a mean open house ourselves. Of course we spent too much time on the music. 6 hours of all killer no filler takes a lot of planning & heated discussion then guests have the front to talk to each other. Still the big room was always jumping by midnight & not a minute of Sting or the Police to be heard. Our big flat was rammed on a New Year’s Eve when we had only invited those who called us (you didn’t call then no invite) & people we met that night down the pub. We had just cleared the debris when our housemates returned from Amsterdam. We told them we had a few people round but they probably sussed out the runnings when everyone who came around for the next 3 months mentioned that they had missed quite a night.

 

In the late 1980’s the young Irish groovers who I worked with knew of a party most weekends. My new girlfriend was most taken by this raucous company, their all-nighters fuelled by whisky, amphetamine & my mate Scot determined to break on through to the other side. There were some outstanding warehouse parties when we were hanging with Armoury 88, a loose collective of DJs. The best nights were when no-one was playing out & we were back at their flat in Wandsworth, the old Jamaican guys chatting over some dub plates. Come on down it’s dancing time.

 

 

Clive’s parties lasted the whole weekend so I usually reserved a room in his large suburban house. It was at one of these that I last saw Tony #3. He & his lovely Pre-Raphaelite wife (apologies, her name escapes) had arrived early & he had partaken of the available goodies before anyone else had taken off their coats. The kitchen became a no-go area as his impression of a dog, barking & crawling around on all fours, was irksome & embarrassing. The next morning, rather than face the walk of shame he had sharply scarpered back to Sevenoaks & it was some time before anyone saw his cold, wet nose again. Hey that’s what happens when the cocaine is free. I was not too bothered by his antics, there’s always someone who peaks too early & I was glad that this time it wasn’t me because, you know, sometimes it was me ! Anyway, like many of the similarly stupified, his bark was, I’m sure, worse than his bite.

 

OK, where’s your icebox ? Where’s the punch ?

 

 

 

Temptations Bout To Get Me (Cover Versions)

While giving myself twisted blood trying to get it right about the Temptations in just 1000 words & 3 video clips (I like a challenge…soon come) I was reminded of some memorable cover versions of their work by a wide variety of artists from rock, soul & reggae. So here are just 3 of those…OK there are 4…I do what I can.

Oh Yeah ! The wonderful Faces from 1971 crashing their way through a show-stopping take on “I’m Losing You”, the Norman Whitfield/Edward Holland Jr/Cornelius Grant song released by the Temptations in 1966. 1971 was a big year for the group. It started with the release of their 2nd LP “Long Player” & there was another to follow in November when “A Nod’s As Good As A Wink” came around. With the Beatles done, the Stones, the Who & Led Zeppelin gone global, Faces became the best rock & roll band in Britain. Formed when Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood off of the Jeff Beck Group joined the 3 remaining Small Faces to replace Steve Marriott, these 2 records fused their energy, humour & talent, blending bluesy good-time rock with Ronnie Lane’s more considered compositions.

However, the record everyone bought in the summer of 1971 was “Every Picture Tells A Story”, Rod Stewart’s 3rd solo LP. He had joined Faces with his own contract already in his back pocket. The 3 solo records are a mix of his own songs with very well chosen cover versions. “Every Picture…” & the single Maggie May” were #1 hits around the world & Rod became a very big name indeed. So, the hard-edged “I’m Losing You”, his first Motown cover, recorded by all of the band & performed in their set, was released under the singer’s name. In the US they found themselves billed as Rod Stewart & the Faces which must have affected the rest of the band. There was to be just one more LP from the group while Rod released 2 more. Ronnie left & in 1975 Stewart hooked up with Britt Ekland…I don’t want to talk about it.

Over in Jamaica, where vocal groups were always a thing, the Temptations were regarded as a close second to the sweet gospel-soul of the Impressions. Local musicians regularly covered the Motown hits. The move from Detroit to Kingston inspired a lovely alchemy, imagination & inventiveness adding shine to material that was already golden. Trojan Records’ 3 CD collection “Motor City Reggae” is a Who’s Who of Sixties & early Seventies Jamaican music. Back then JA produced singers like they now roll out world class sprinters. Slim Smith is included in Trojan’s treasure trove though his cover of “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, an absolute delight, isn’t. How the heck did the band come up with that bouncing rhythm, the loping bass ? It’s original, irresistible & I love it. I’m thinking that we are hearing the Soul Syndicate, from Greenwich Farm, with bass player George Fulwood. That’s some group.

Slim sang with the Techniques & the Uniques before starting a solo career. His sweet, passionate vocals proved to be very popular but Slim suffered with mental health problems & entered a sanitorium in 1972. The next year he cut his arm when he broke a window of his parents’ house & bled to death aged just 25. Slim is remembered for more than his sad passing, he was one of the finest singers in a very crowded Jamaican field. Check him out. In 1971 toaster Hugh Roy (that would be U Roy, “The Originator”) & producer Bunny Lee took Smith’s song & came up with “Love I Bring”, a great song, a superior mix of singer & DJ & a bonus version. It’s quite a way from the Temptations’ original & I include it here, in all its scratchy glory, for Danny McCahon who I know is partial to this sort of thing.

Heaven 17 were formed after the bifurcation of the Human League in 1980. While still committed to the Man/Machine electro-pop they still loved the funk. The 1981 debut LP “Penthouse & Pavement”, a classic prescient satire on a corporate culture which was rearing its ugly head, opened with their own Norman Whitfield inspired Motown Manifesto, the hectic “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang”. Their own enterprise ran parallel with the production company British Electric Foundation who, in 1982, released “Music of Quality & Distinction Volume 1”. It’s a odd mix of great pop songs, former pop stars & Billy McKenzie. Once you recover from Gary Glitter’s platform-booted stomp through Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” there’s an LP that does what it says on the sleeve. The lead track is the Temptations track “Ball of Confusion”, initially meant for James Brown who asked for too much money & was replaced by Tina Turner.

Since her split with Ike in 1976 Tina had done little of note (She was the “Acid Queen” in the 1975 movie of “Tommy). Her tour may have been called “The Wild Lady of Rock” but Tina was on the chicken-in-a-basket cabaret oldies circuit. “Ball of Confusion” was noticed by Capitol Records who offered her a new deal. In November 1983 her cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” put her back on the charts then the LP “Private Dancer” took her to the Thunderdome & a decade of platinum records. “Let’s Stay Together” was another B.E.F. production. Whatever your opinion on Rock & Soul’s favourite granny she was skillfully managed, recorded & promoted. I’ve always thought that not enough credit came the way of Heaven 17 for bringing Tina bang up to date & putting her back in the frame.