Splash FM Website of the Day, 1st August 2005. Be Impressed.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Rebecca Pan – Kowloon Hong Kong.

In 1982 Margaret Thatcher embarked on The Falklands War which would result in a thousand deaths to keep a wool producing island of less than two thousand people British. In 1984 she willingly signed over 6 million people in one of the most affluent places on earth to one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Go figure.*

At midnight on 30th June 1997 Hong Kong was officially handed over to the Chinese government and became a “Special Administrative Region”. Up until that point, and - to be fair to China - until now, the system in Hong Kong couldn’t have been further away from Communism. They had no unemployment benefit, minimum wage or trade union laws. They also had, until 1980, on open door immigration policy. All this resulted in Hong Kong being richer per head than all but three countries despite having almost no natural resources.

Hong Kong owes much of its success to the incredible good fortune of being assigned a politician who wasn’t a self-important idiot. After the Second World War, John Cowperthwaite was sent by the British to redevelop Hong Kong. He decided that they were doing a pretty good job of redeveloping themselves and anything he did might ruin it. According to Cowperthwaite, “All I did was to try to prevent some of the things that might undo it.” If only every politician thought the same way.

Rebecca Pan is best known, although still not that well known, as an actress appearing in the Cannes Award Winning In The Mood for Love. But the finger-clicking, big band nonsense of her album Qing Ren Qiao suggests singing is her real talent.

“But,” I hear you all cry in unison, “surely Rebecca Pan’s Qing Ren Qiao was released in 1996 and posting it would invalidate the whole premise of the blog”. OK, ya got me. But two things:

1) This track is bah-rilliant and I’m sure they were all still listening to it in 1997.


b) Shut up.

Rebecca Pan – Kowloon Hong Kong

It's unavailable in the UK but you can buy it from iTunes. God I love iTunes.

*Some suggest it’s because the people on The Falklands/Malvinas are white and those in Hong Kong are only Chinese so not worth bothering about. Of course, to believe that you’d also have to believe the Tories are racist. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Speedlimit – Holiday in Cambodia.

Although 1997 was a great year if you were a music lover, it was less of a good year if you happened to be a murderous, maniacal dictator. 1997 saw the overthrow of Mobutu in Zaire (more on him when Live 8 rolls around) and the arrest of Pol Pot in Cambodia.

Pol Pot (or 'Brother Number One' as he, rather stylishly, insisted everyone refer to him) came to power as the head of the Khmer Rouge in 1975 after 5 years of civil war. He immediately began to purify Cambodia of capitalism. All institutions were banned (that included hospitals, schools and even families) and the cities were evacuated as people were forced to work in the so called ‘killing fields’. During the three and a half years of the Khmer Rouge power it is estimated that 2 million Cambodians (about 30% of the population) died of disease, execution and, despite the plan to increase agricultural production three fold in one year, starvation.

With the world running at around 33 1/3 revolutions per minute at the time, his regime could not last long and he was overthrown in January 1979. Pol Pot was tried in absentia and was sentenced to death for genocide. However, the Khmer Rouge still had considerable power in areas of Cambodia and it was not until 1997 (when he lost the support of the party after he ordered the killing of Khmer Rouge minister Song Sen and his wife and children) that he was arrested by the Khmer Rouge itself. Pol Pot died in 1998 reportedly of natural causes. His happy legacy was an estimated 10 million landmines left in the ground of Cambodia.

Today’s track is Dutch covers band Speedlimit’s 1997 version of Holiday in Cambodia. Or, if you prefer, RIAA’s mash-up of the original Holiday in Cambodia with Martha and the Vandellas’ Heatwave.

Speedlimit – Holiday in Cambodia

RIAA – Sounds for the Sun-Set

Hire Speedlimit for your wedding or bah mitzvah.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Finley Quaye – Sunday Shining.

Summer’s here and the time is right for drizzle and hosepipe bans.

Quite how a Scotsman managed to make the summer record of 1997 is mystery but Finlay Quaye’s Sunday Shining (a reworking of Bob Marley’s Sun is Shining) was all over the radio at the time. The original was one of Marley’s more forgettable songs (still amazing compared to most stuff) but Quaye lifts the tempo and adds brass and a superb guitar riff to great effect.

Finley is definitely brother to Caleb Quaye (guitarist with Elton John) and possibly uncle to Tricky. Quaye and Tricky had initially been friendly and collaborated, along with Iggy Pop, on Please Share My Dappy Umbrella. However, their relationship took a turn for the worse culminating in Tricky laying into Quaye on Can’t Freestyle “Calling yourself Quaye/Leave that for another day/Don't you feel no shame/Taking my mother's name in vain”.

Quaye was also criticised by some journalists for being too mainstream and making cod-reggae; a criticism which he seemed to take to heart. It took him four years to make the follow up to Maverick A Strike, Vanguard, and it turned out to be a rather uninspired album of lumpy rock songs. Last year’s Much More Than Love saw a return to a more pop sensibility and some success in the States after Dice was featured on The OC. However, it’s still his debut that I put on when the sun is shining.

Cannily, Quaye made Maverick a Strike 52 minutes long – the exact length of the average British summer.

Finley Quaye – Sunday Shining

Buy Maverick A Strike

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Loudon Wainwright III – Bein’ A Dad.

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A quick post for Fathers’ Day from Loudon Wainwright’s 1997 album Little Ship.

Wainwright has written a huge number of songs about his family; about his Dad (e.g. Surviving Twin), his Mum (e.g. White Winos), his Granddad (Half Fist), his sister (e.g. The Picture), his son (the outrageously un-prophetic Rufus is a Tit Man) and his daughter (e.g.Father/Daughter Dialogue).

However, more recently, his offspring have started to get their own back and haven’t pulled their punches. Rufus’ Dinner at Eight includes the line “Daddy, don’t be surprised/If I want to see the tears in your eyes” and Martha wrote the cryptically titled Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole.

Loudon’s response to being asked about BMFA was, "That song is about me?! I thought it was about President Bush. That girl is gonna be so grounded!"

Loudon Wainwright III – Bein’ A Dad.

Buy Little Ship.

Download BMFA from Martha Wainwright’s website.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Sherwood Consort – Sumer Is Icumen In.

I can’t pretend it’s a smooth transition between Mmmbop and medieval British music but there is a link. Medieval church songs often included a line in English followed by a line in Latin. The Latin was incomprehensible to the average member of the congregation and taken to be gibberish. This idea was adapted by singers of folk songs as a way of expressing the inexpressible, which usually meant it was used euphemistically, hence much ‘fa-la-lanky-down-dilly’-ing. This tradition of nonsense lyrics has carried on throughout pop music and reached its undoubted peak with Hanson.

Sumer Is Icumen In is from a mid-thirteenth century manuscript (see it here) and is one of the few surviving songs of the period. The lyrics seem to be simply celebrating spring but it has been suggested that there is a less wholesome subtext with the cuckoo symbolizing infidelity. You can read a translation of the lyrics here and make up your own mind.

The Sherwood Consort are essentially a Medieval Baebes for those who don’t mind ugly people. Personally, I am fan of any band that contains a sackbut player. The group were formed in 1995 by Mary Devlin after she developed an obsession with medieval English music, as so many Californians do. Sumer Is Icumen In is featured on their 1997 debut album Between March and April.

The Sherwood Consort – Sumer Is Icumen In

Between March and April is currently unavailable but can be purchased on iTunes.

Download more on IUMA.

Visit their website.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hanson – Mmmbop.

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Despite their tender age at the time (singer/keyboardist Taylor was 15, guitarist Isaac 17, and drummer Zac just 3 months old) Hanson were not an overnight success. They had been dragging themselves around record companies for five years before Mercury signed them on the strength of Mmmbop.

The list of people Mercury brought in to work with Hanson on their major label debut Middle of Nowhere is staggering. Mmmbop was produced by The Dust Brothers; who had previously worked with Beck on Odelay and The Beastie Boys’ on Paul’s Boutique and went on to make the Fight Club soundtrack. Much of the album was produced by Steve Lironi (Black Grape, Fun Loving Criminals). Songs were written with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, Saturday Night at the Movies and, fittingly, Who Put The Bomp?) and Desmond Child (Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and The Baha Men). The video for Mmmbop was made by Tamara Davis who had previously made a video for Sonic Youth’s Bull in the Heather.

Hanson went on to defy all expectations by failing to end up as bloated corpses floating in a pool of hookers and gin.

Hanson - Mmmbop

Buy Middle of Nowhere

Monday, June 06, 2005

Crazy Frog/The Frogs

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While the likes of Radiohead and The Verve were stunning the world with their magnum (opuseses? opii? *reaches for dictionary*) opera (that can't be right) a 17 year old Swede called Daniel Malmdahl decided to imitate his friends’ mopeds and post the results on the net.

Yes, Crazy Frog was born in 1997. Frogs have a lifespan of around 15 years.

Crazy Frog – Axel F (a mercifully brief clip)

Hear the originator himself.

Sign a petition against the Crazy Frog.

Buy Axel F

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But the Crazy Frog wasn’t the only frog related weirdness in 1997.

The Frogs, consisting of brothers Jimmy and Dennis Flemion, have set themselves the task of offending as many people as possible as much as possible whilst wearing six-foot wide green bat wings.

On their debut LP they set themselves up as the heads of the ‘gay supremacist’ movement. Racially Yours saw them blacking-up and singing racist lyrics in a minstrel pastiche – their record label refused to release it. My Daughter the Broad contains some hilariously offensive song titles (see for yourself).

However, in 1997 they were in a rather relaxed mood on the Billy Corgan produced Starjob EP (now out of print) and restricted themselves to poking fun at Nirvana.

You can hear a session version of I Only Play for Money, as well as a huge number of other oddities, on WFMU’s On The Download.

The Frogs – I Only Play for the Money via WFMU’s On The Download

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Primal Scream – 96 Tears/Know Your Rights.

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“You have the right to free speech, as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it.”

Primal Scream’s 1997 album Vanishing Point saw them returning to the dance sounds of Screamadelica after the critical panning of the Stones influenced Give Out But Don’t Give Up (although the album and the single Rocks gave the band it’s highest ever chart positions). However, the party vibe of Screamadelica was replaced with a much darker sound.

As well as recording a cover of Motorhead's Motorhead for the album, these two cover versions were released on the first single off the album Kowalski.

96 Tears is a cover of 60’s one-hit wonders ? and the Mysterians. Yes, the group really was lead by a man who referred to himself as “?” (originally Rudy Martinez but he legally changed his name to “?”). He used the name ? as he wanted to be anonymous – a feat he achieved by disappearing into obscurity after releasing 96 Tears. Primal Scream's version is fairly representative of Vanishing Point in the way it matches electronic blips and beats with raucous, distorted guitars.

Know Your Rights is a cover of millionaire Marxists and Sony-owned revolutionaries The Clash. The original is from their final album Combat Rock which was their most commercially successful thanks to monster hits Rock the Casbah and Should I Stay Or Should I Go?. Primal Scream’s version replaces The Clash’s sharp guitar stabs with a rollocking guitar riff that wouldn’t have been out of place on Give Out….

Primal Scream – 96 Tears

Primal Scream – Know Your Rights

Buy Kowalski

Buy Vanishing Point