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Monday 30 August 2010


It is the August Bank Holiday which for Londoners means only one thing - rain! And the Notting Hill Carnival, of course.

I won't be going myself - things to do, people to see, you know how it is - but for those of you who are, here are four old standards to get you in the mood.

"Notting Hill" - Explainer (1983)

"Rock It" - Merchant (1985)

"Tumble Down" - Mighty Swallow (1987)

"Feeling It" - Baron (1983)

Bringing things more up to date, here from a couple of years ago are Patrice Roberts and Machel Montano inviting you to "Push Bumpa". I think you can probably work out from the video what that means.

Saturday 28 August 2010


For those of you heading out this Saturday night, here is some 1990s disco from the late Queen of South African pop, Brenda Fassie, to get you in the mood.

As disco divas go Brenda was the real deal - as her obituary shows - not like the fabricated ones we get fobbed off with today. Brenda could have had Lady Gaga for breakfast, in every sense of the phrase.

"Kuyoze Kuyovalwa" - Brenda Fassie (1994)

"Vulindlela" - Brenda Fassie (1998)

Brenda first hit the big time fronting an outfit called Brenda & The Big Dudes. Here are some more big dudes. Look out for Bruce Johnston's expression at 3:40.

Friday 27 August 2010

Midget Gems

For no particular reason, here are a couple of old favourites from the 1980s.

First up we have the Immaculate Fools with "She Fools Everyone". I could try to describe it to you - for example by saying it sounds like the Psychedelic Furs covering "Cath" by The Bluebells - but it is probably easier all round for you just to listen to it. Then second up we have the very late Gary Holton with his shouty pub-rock version of "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town". It was number one in Norway, apparently.

"She Fools Everyone" - Immaculate Fools (1987)

"Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" - Gary Holton (1980)

Poor Gary comes across as about 20% menace and 80% desperation (the Raoul Moat of cover versions if you like). I find the Kenny Rogers original much more menacing. If you don't believe me, have a listen and wait until he gets to "For God's sake turn around". Scary!

Wednesday 25 August 2010

TGI Freedy

It has been a thoroughly miserable day here in London, so to make us all feel better here are some good old pop songs from good old Freedy Johnston - whose latest album, aptly enough, is called "Rain On The City".

I am not sure I would want to listen to one of his albums all the way through more than once. I find a lot of the songs just drift by without really being noticed. But it is worth sticking with it first time round as every now and then he'll come up with something that is absolutely spot on. Here are three examples.

"Tearing Down This Place" - Freedy Johnston (from "Can You Fly", 1992)

"Seventies Girl" - Freedy Johnston (from "Never Home", 1997)

"Venus Is Her Name" - Freedy Johnston (from "Rain On The City", 2010)

Here is Freedy in the video for "On The Way Out" (also from "Never Home").

Is it just me or does he bear a passing resemblance to the popular star of 'Cold Feet' and the Yellow Pages adverts, James Nesbitt? Jimmy is considered by his admirers to have a winning twinkle in his eye. But nobody twinkles like this fellow.

Monday 23 August 2010


I know I have featured both of these tracks before, but they popped up in quick succession on my iPod on my way home just now and struck a chord with my own personal zeitgeist thingy.

"Plutonium Baby" - Miam Monster Miam

"Checkpoint" - Radio Telefunken Hamburg

Such little as I know about these two acts is summarised in the earlier posts (which you can find here and here).

Miam Monster Miam are from Belgium. Radio Telefunken Hamburg are from Germany. In between you have the Netherlands, which is where this lot were from.

Teach-In won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1975 with that. It's good, but how this deeply funky classic from Italy didn't win beats me.

Sunday 22 August 2010

He's Not That Sort Of Guy

The homoerotic subtext of the songs of Guy Mitchell has not to my knowledge been the subject of a detailed analysis, but I think it should be.

If that doesn't attract the attention of some of you flicking through Hype Machine I don't know what will.

Before the Guy Mitchell Trust or any lawyers out there start getting excitable, I am not for a moment suggesting that Guy was anything other than the thrice married All-American pop crooner of Croatian origin that he appeared to be. Nor am I casting aspersions on his producer, the legendary Mitch Miller, who sadly passed away last month at the grand old age of 99 - although I was interested to note that early in his career he was an enthusiastic player of the oboe - or the different songwriters involved.

Nonetheless, when you hear two songs opening with the lines "I love the sea, I love the navy" ("Pretty Little Black Eyed Susie") and "As I cruised out one evening" ("The Roving Kind") you have to wonder whether there is some sort of agenda. To my normally innocent ears the latter song, which takes the form of an extended and rather tortuous maritime analogy, appears to describe an encounter with a transvestite. Guy meets what he believes to be "a proper girl" who turns out to be "rigged up in a disguise". At the end of the song this individual makes him "walk the plank" and then "pushed me under too". One can only imagine what depraved practices those terms are meant to imply.

[While on the subject, I was recently approached in a bar by an individual who asked if I would let them "lick the brown pelican". I have no idea what this means but it sounded revolting so I declined. If any of you can shed any light on this - without scandalising my more respectable readers - that would be greatly appreciated.]

Anyway, back to Guy Mitchell. As with all conspiracy theories, once you buy into them you start seeing evidence to support them everywhere. I believe "She Wears Red Feathers" may be another song about transvestitism - surely no "proper girl" in her right mind would be seen dead in red feathers and a hooly hooly skirt? The porn shop on the corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is fairly self-explanatory. But Heaven only knows what putting another nickel in the nickelodeon entails.

Perhaps I am imagining all this. Judge for yourselves.

"The Roving Kind" - Guy Mitchell (1950)

"Pretty Little Black Eyed Susie" - Guy Mitchell (1953)

"She Wears Red Feathers" - Guy Mitchell (1953)

In all seriousness, I love these songs, and there's nothing funny about me. Unfortunately, there is nothing funny about Guy's attempt to carry out a comedy routine with Petula Clark either, but stick with it for the singing.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Tsonga On Saturday

Great news, Tsonga/ Shangaan fans. A treasure trove can now be found on Amazon. Over 300 albums released on EMI South Africa are now available to download (at least in the UK). They include music in all styles but among them are albums by some of the Tsonga stars we have featured here - big names such as George Maluleke and assorted members of the Chauke family.

They also include "Phulumende No. 1: Munhu Wa Misava" by Patrick Nkuna & Mavutani Band. To be honest I had never heard of Patrick before but he merits a passing mention in our old friend Max Mojapelo's "Beyond Memory: Recording the History, Moments and Memories of South African Music". So I thought he was probably worth a listen.

The album is an appealing mix of Tsonga Disco and more traditional mbaqanga tunes. Here are a couple from the Tsonga Disco end of the spectrum.

"Mbenjani" - Patrick Nkuna & Mavutani Band

"Ku Rhula" - Patrick Nkuna & Mavutani Band

This gives me a perfect excuse to give you this clip of another Patrick with disco connections.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Some Lateral Thinking

Yesterday we featured a couple of tracks from "Ways Of Escape", the new album by Great Lakes. It includes a cover version of John Prine's "Sour Grapes". John has a great song of his own about a lake. Here it is.

"Lake Marie" - John Prine (on "Lost Dogs And Mixed Blessings", 1995)

And if that has whet your appetite (get it? whet/wet - my goodness, I'm on fire tonight), here are three more lake-based songs.

"Bear Lake" - Martin Carr (from "Ye Gods And Little Fishes", 2009)

"Lake Hope" - Chrysalis (from "Definition", 1968)

"Old Hickory Lake" - Bekka & Billy (from "Bekka & Billy", 1997)

And here is Johnny P again.

I tried to find a clip of Bekka & Billy as well. I failed but there are plenty of amateur videos of people line dancing to "Old Hickory Lake", including this one from the 2008 Leipziger Stadtfest. Line Dancing in Leipzig? Is this what the Wall came down for?

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Superior Sounds

My old chum Liz at Deux Et Machina PR has very kindly sent me an advance copy of "Ways Of Escape", the new album by Great Lakes. She has impeccable taste - well almost, occasionally it can be a little peccable - and she is right on the button with this one. If you like your music wistful with a touch of pedal steel you would be well advised to check this one out when it gets released in October.

Great Lakes started up in Athens, Georgia in 1996 and this is their fourth album. I say "their" - from what I can gather Great Lakes is now one Ben Crum and assorted guest musicians. Ben now lives in Brooklyn. He is not to be confused with other bands with similar names.

According to Liz, much of the album deals with the theme of "self-actualization and the basic existential quest", reflecting Ben's attempt to realise his own artistic vision after splitting with co-founder Dan Donahue because of the proverbial musical differences. I must admit I didn't really take that from the first couple of listens, but I don't feel I've lost out. I just like the way it sounds. And after listening to these two tracks I'm sure you will too.

"Summer Fruit" - Great Lakes

"Wind Horse" - Great Lakes

I tried but failed to find a decent clip of Gordon Lightfoot performing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", that being the only song about the Great Lakes I could think of off the top of my head. Instead here he is with one of his other hits.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Sakkie Sakkie Time!!

Tsonga Disco continues to spread acrosds the Internet like a rather slow wildfire. This humble blog gets a mention in an excellent feature on the Norient blog. It is largely in German but you don't have to understand German to appreciate the music and the videos. Norient features a lot more great stuff which you should definitely check out while you are there - I would particularly recommend the Iranian psychedelia.

What I like about Tsonga/ Shangaan Disco (and the newer variation, Shangaan Electro) is the way it modernises traditional sounds without losing what made them special in the first place. And the Tsonga musicians are not the only ones doing that in South Africa. Take Valiant Swart & Ollie Viljoen for example.

Boeremusiek is pretty much the traditional folk music of the Afrikaners. Not surprisingly given their origins it draws heavily on central European musical forms - there are plenty of waltzes and polkas, for example - but American country music is also a major influence. The Afrikaners seem to love it, and there are almost as many bad hat acts in bloemfontein as there are in Nashville.

Over the last forty years or so there has been a line of Afrikaans singer-songwriters who operate at one or two removes from the tradition. I suppose you would call them roots-rockers in one form or another - people like Anton Goosen, David Kramer (who we have featured previously), Koos Kombuis and Valiant Swart, the self-styled "Mystic Boer".

In 2007 Valiant teamed up with Ollie Viljoen, king of the Boeremusiek accordion, to produce his take on the tradition. The resulting album, "Vuur En Vlam" (Fire and Flame) combined some original songs by Valiant and some original tunes by Ollie with a few old standards, and turned out to be a much bigger critical and commercial success that they probably expected. Now in 2010 they have repeated the trick with their new album "Wild En Wakker" (Wild And Awake). Here are a couple of tracks from each.

From "Vuur En Vlam":

"Katrina Lawina" - Valiant Swart & Ollie Viljoen

"My Hartjie, My Liefie" - Valiant Swart & Ollie Viljoen

From "Wild En Wakker":

"Ruiter In Die Nag" - Valiant Swart & Ollie Viljoen

"Lospit Lolla" - Valiant Swart & Ollie Viljoen

I could happily listen to "My Hartjie, My Liefie" all day, and some days I do.

Here are the lads in action:

Other Afrikaans neo-traditionalists include the marvellously named Fokofpolisiekar. I am sure you don't need me to translate that for you. Their name is far and away the best thing about them, but here they are anyway in case you are curious.

Sunday 15 August 2010


As a suitably mellow treat for Sunday evening, here is the latest in the line of West African female singers I have been getting into over the last twelve months or so. Following the likes of Mariem Hassan from the Western Sahara and Nahawa Doumbia from Cote d'Ivoire, here is Mali's very own Bako Dagnon.

Bako has been a stalwart of the Malian music scene for many years, but did not come to the attention of an international audience until her album "Titati" was released in 2007. Here are a couple of tracks from that album.

"Donsoke" - Bako Dagnon (with Kerfala Kante)

"Telemba" - Bako Dagnon

And here she is live.

Friday 13 August 2010

Earth Vs The Pipettes

The other day, at a loose end, I was looking at my statistics on and discovered that, as well as listing the artists and tracks you have listened to most, they now list your most listened to albums as well. Needless to say most of the albums on my personal chart are almost painfully hip, and I can only attribute the appearance of "The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra" in the number one position to some sort of technical error.

I was surprised to find "We Are The Pipettes" at number five in the charts, but I should not have been I suppose. When the album first came out in 2006 I was captivated by their update of the 1960s girl-group sound for the ladette generation, and listened to it a lot. It is a great pop album and I expected them to go on to great things. Instead everything went quiet for a long time, and various line-up changes meant that only one of the three girls who recorded the first album was still present when the comeback single, "Stop The Music", was released earlier this year.

A month ago I picked up a second-hand promo copy of their new album "Earth Vs The Pipettes" for a pound. As far as I can tell it has not yet been released, as it is not available on either iTunes or Amazon at the moment. According to Wikipedia it is due out in September in the UK. So what you are about to hear may be something of an exclusive, brought to you courtesy of 27Leggies and whoever donated their review copy to Oxfam in Crouch End.

The new album is not a patch on "We Are The Pipettes" but it is still a pretty good piece of pop. The Pipettes have updated their sound a bit, but only by a decade or two. There are a couple of 1970s style stompers on there ("Captain Rhythm" sounds like the bastard child of Chicory Tip's "Son Of My Father"), but mostly it has a very 1980s feel to it - think Bananarama and you won't be too far off the mark. Of course, some of you may not consider that a good thing. And you do feel their moment has probably passed.

Here are a couple of tracks from the new album:

"Thank You" - The Pipettes

"Ain't No Talkin'" - The Pipettes

And, as a special treat, one of the oldies from "We Are The Pipettes":

"One Night Stand" - The Pipettes

And here are the Bananas in their own early days:

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Les Punks

Tonight we bring you a small selection from "Nos Annees Punk 1977-80" which, as the name suggests, is a compilation of French punk. It was released in 2002 on Capitol Records, and is currently available for €5.99 in the record shop at Brussels-Midi railway station. And possibly elsewhere.

"Betty Jane Rose" - Bijou (1978)

"Plastic Face" - Stinky Toys (1977)

"Be-Bop" - Marie Et Les Garcons (1978)

Like their British counterparts, the French punks were reacting against the music of dinosaurs such as Jean-Michel Jarre and... er... Johnny Hallyday and... er... all those other well-known French acts of the 1970s. In clearing out the dead wood, they succeeded in paving the way for more cutting edge artistes. Like Ottowan.

Monday 9 August 2010

Reddy Or Not

During our brief stay in Brussels last week, Mr F and I wandered down to the Live Music Cafe on Rue Anspach to catch a band for free. With the free live music scene in London having been decimated in recent years, it is a real treat to be able to go to a bar and watch a decent band instead of some glorified karaoke act for a change.

The band in question were Jeanjou & Dieudos, who together with their drummer and sax player treated a (very) small but appreciative audience to some fine African sounds. Here are the lads in action.

My normal visit to Musicanova in Brussels to stock up on Congolese CDs wasn't a great success, as they were closed when we popped in. But I did manage to pick up "Likelemba", the new album by Reddy Amisi, at a shop round the corner. I unintentionally bartered the woman down from €15 to €10, and on first listen it is worth every penny. Here are a couple of selections.

"Generique" - Reddy Amisi

"Ndombele" - Reddy Amisi

Here is some earlier Reddy:

And some even earlier Reddy:

Sunday 8 August 2010

Two Pints Of Schlager And A Slice Of Cheese

Mr F and I returned yesterday from a whistle-stop tour which took us from Antwerp to Cologne via Brussels, Maastricht and Monchengladbach, with brief side trips to Aachen and Dusseldorf thrown in as well. A good time was had by all, although I will be quite happy not to eat pork or pickled cabbage for a while.

Musically the pickings were pretty slim, although pickings there were. They included "Die Super Stimmungs Parade 2", a compilation of "Deutsches Gold" acquired for a couple of euros in the Cologne Oxfam shop. It is mostly rubbish, obviously, with a particular lowlight being a novelty single by Der Bomber himself, Gerd Muller - let us hope Miroslav Klose never gets the urge to record a hip-hop album - but not without its moments of sing-a-long fun. Here are a couple.

"Pretty Belinda" - Bernd Spier

"Jeder Tog Haf Neue Lieder" - Holger Terry

Lovers of cheese will have immediately recognised the second selection as a cover of the mighty Joe Dolan's "Sweet Little Rock 'n Roller". Here is Joe to show you how it should be done.

"Sweet Little Rock 'N Roller" - Joe Dolan

Although not on the album, here as a bonus is a classic slab of Schlager. This one is for John, Linda, Renato and all the gang at Dino's Bar.

"Silvermoon Baby" - Randolph Rose

There are plenty of clips of Randolph on YouTube, although none of him performing that particular smash unfortunately. But while searching for I came across something even more marvellous - the extraordinary Ilja Richter.