Hard News by Russell Brown

29

Friday Music: Making the scene with a time machine

Even before I went to London, I was envious of my elders; people who'd made the same journey as me a few years earlier and wound up being there for the explosion of punk rock and the energy and new sense of identity that brought.

A dozen years after punk, in 1988, that's what I thought of when I realised what was going on with acid house: it's a genuine British pop culture phenomenon, a big one, and I'm here for it. That really only lasted a year – one great summer, a dozen or two brilliant nights – before it turned into the era of the orbital raves, which was a different thing again. But I was so happy to be there.

I consider myself fairly blessed in this respect, because I'd been in the right time and place for the flowering of Flying Nun, where a community similarly formed and operated to an unspoken imperative. I didn't know much about anywhere else back then, but there were certainly times I thought there was nowhere else I'd rather be.

Does anyone think about this stuff? Is there a time and place you'd have loved to be? Not just a particular concert, but a scene. In one sense, the obvious candidate would be the chaos of late-1970s New York, where the three streams of modern popular music – punk, dance music and hip hop – all appeared at once in an evolutionary flurry. But did anyone experience all of those, or was each largely inaccessible to the other?

I thought about Swinging Sixties London and the early Chicago house parties ... but I settled on The Loft. David Mancuso's invitation-only club nights, which began in 1970, are the headwaters of contemporary dance music. They signalled a different understanding of what the whole thing was for and they directly inspired both the glorious bullshit of Studio 54 and the new sonic adventures of Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles, who found their feet on The Loft's dancefloor. (I wish Auckland would follow the current London trend of audiophile listening and dancing nights, which often employ the same Klipschorn speakers as Mancuso did 35 years ago.)

There are also, of course, scenes I know nothing about, perhaps in countries I don't pay attention to, but in all the ones I have described about there is, I think the element of marginalisation. Whethere it be the gay, black outcasts or New York or white kids like me forming bands on what seemed like the very far side of the world from everything else. I think that's what makes it work.

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Last week, various papers carried the news that Chris Knox was to be wed to his sometime carer, Raewyn Alexander. The stories previewed an essay written by Alexander and published in the new Metro magazine, telling the couple's story in personal detail.

Unfortunately, the story is not what it seems. There was an intention to marry last year, but that has not been the case for some time, and as Chris emphasised yesterday on Facebook (with the assistance of his carer Stefan), he has no relationship with Alexander.

Last Friday, he sent an email to Metro saying much the same thing. He typed that one himself, which says something.

The piece seems to have been published without checking with Chris's friends and family (although their near-absence from its narrative perhaps ought to have been a red flag) and is understandably causing distress.

I contacted Metro's editor, Susannah Walker, for comment and receved this today:

Thanks for your email about Raewyn’s story, which we were first approached about in December. We understood that Chris was supportive of this story being written when it was pitched, and throughout the writing process. The story had been planned and written over the course of several months, and we have been assured that it was true and correct at the time of writing. At the time of publication, Raewyn believed that Chris wanted publication of the story to go ahead.

As far as Metro was aware at the time of publication, Chris and Raewyn had been together for some time as an established couple, and were engaged. In her story, Raewyn indicated that she and Chris had been having difficulties, however it appears that even Raewyn was not aware of the extent of those difficulties until very recently. Metro had no reason to believe that this article was anything other than true and correct in all respects.

I should say that my dealings with Susannah as editor have been very good and I don't envy her position. But not checking with friends and family was a failure.

I've also received a message from Alexander saying, among other things: "What I wrote in Metro was true at the time, as far as I knew." That's strongly debated, and does not explain why she talked up the piece last week and continued to do so even after the red flag was raised. Other parts of the message are, I think, somewhat defamatory.

To put it mildly, this is a very unfortunate situation. But Chris's friends and family, who I have known for many years, wish it to be known that the essay is inaccurate.

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The current interesting weather will have cleared by Saturday and if you're in Auckland, you'll really want to get yourself along to Silo Park's Five Year Celebration, a six-hour silo session special celebration featuring Shayne P. Carter and band, The Conjurors, a DJ set from Coco Solid, Race Banyon and Murray Cammick on DJ duties. That's a bloody dream lineup!

I can't see set times anywhere yet, but the Facebook event page might be the place to look.

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A group of people associated with Auckland's dance music scene have launched a Facebook page called Dance Till Dawn to put club culture's case in debates over the Local Alcohol Plan – which has become especially acute in light of the destruction of Sydney's nightlife with harsh, often arbitrary licensing laws.

It's a good and sensible initative. These aren't people who just want to sell more booze, they're part of a night-time culture. And they don't think banishing people from the city is the right solution.

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You might have heard about Iggy Pop's endorsement of The Chills on his BBC 6 Music radio show. Here's the actual audio:

And two great reads from The Guardian:

An 80th-birthday interview with Lee Scratch Perry.

And the sad, wonderful story of Bristol music legend DJ Derek.

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If you're looking for something to watch over the holiday weekend, allow me to recommend the 2002 BBC three-parter The Story of Jamaican Music. Written by journalist Lloyd Bradley, it traces an arc from the earliest days of ska to the breakthrough dancehall of Shabba Ranks and the pop styles of Shaggy.

It not only gets the story and the context right, it features some of the best use of music I've ever heard in any documentary. In true Jamaican style, the continuinty is the riddims: individual themes in the story are each underlaid with a well-known rhythm that binds them together. Graham Reid interviewed director Mike Connolly in 2005, when a two-part version screened on BBC World.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

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By general acclaim, Auckland City Limits last weekend was a highly successful debut for this new kind of city festival. There were probably a little over 20,000 punters – likely not enough for the promoters to turn a first-year product, but certainly enough to encourage a return next year. Although it must be said that with another 10,000 or 20,000 on site, it's not going to be a breeze to get around like it was last weekend. And god knows what they'd do about bar service.

The festival will have been most people's first encounter with AWOP cash bands, used for all onsite spending, and the Globelet reusable cups. If you've been to Splore you'll be familiar with both. But there was one Splore-like feature that did more than any other to set the tone for the day: the presence of children.

Having kids around is a useful moderating influence on adult behaviour, and we saw kids – including a six year-old who was a fabulously funky dancer – who were clearly having a fine time. Pass-outs meant that parents could come early and do the Kiddie Limits thing with their small ones, then pop home and drop them off to the babysitter – I saw Damian Christie doing just that.

A couple of things didn't work out: the sound in the stadium was uneven (although Kendrick was plenty loud). The public bar queues were ludicrous at times. And having to pay an arbitrary $3 for the first cash top-up on the wrisbands seemed a bit gougey.

But mostly, welcome to the calendar Auckland City Limits!

PS: If you haven't seen Jackson Perry's excellent pictures of the day, go and feast your eyes.

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Tunes!

As you may know, Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest died this week, aged only 45. Here's a funky litle remix to download and dance to in his memory:

A Skillz reworks another classic – this time Candi Staon's 'You Got the Love'. Much bass, many filters:

And finally, I was at the Thirsty Dog for a while last Friday night and heard the DJ drop what I immediately recognised as a funky reggae version of Aretha Franklin's unbeatable 'Rock Steady'. I had one of those "I have to ask" moments and it turned out to be by The Marvels:

What it is, what it is. Have a good Easter break, everyone.

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The Hard News Friday Music Post is kindly sponsored by:

The Audio Consultant

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