Sunday, 14 October 2012

This is a raving POP blast

Back in those distance pasts when cardigans ruled and a quiff was the order of the day – I would make contact with like-minded souls through ink and roughly recorded cassettes. Scrawl out your ideas and hope that reciprocation was the order of the day – much like this hyper-writing on here. So letters were sent and songs exchanged and gigs attended.

I’m not certain how I first heard The Groove Farm – it may have been on John Peel, it may have been a flexi-disc taken from the hand of another fanzine writer, a cassette from a friend or in the flesh – but I’ve been thinking about them recently.

I guess that’s because through some odd quirks of fate I was suddenly reacquainted with that heady bunch of beatniks through the vagaries of social networking. A picture posted from the past – tagged with a friend and then suddenly comments from groove farmers and rosehip(sters) arriving in inboxes and awakening memories of fuzzy pop and feeling.  They really were quite a group – I saw them more as a collective if I’m honest – I was a little afraid of them -  if I’m honest – looking back they couldn’t have been that much older than me – but they already had the indie cultural competence tucked under their belts. Tours and vinyl, sessions and interviews – a real pop band in bleak times adding excitement and simplicity  - a raving pop blast to our humdrum lives.

As is the way - independent pop music post C86 was characterized as a shambling – rambling discordant bunch of no hopers giving rock a bad a name. Now don’t get me wrong I found it hard to revel in the fey and the flowery – but that isn’t really representative of the scene. Although I will go on record that I was a bowl headed youth who once wore a paisley pyjama top as a shirt. I’d like it to be viewed as a confrontational fashion statement – a nod to the sartorial send ups of PuNk rock. It wasn’t. It was a pyjama top left in a charity shop from the relatives of a dead old man.  Not that anyone would ever admit that there was a scene by the way  – it was a scene with no name. Commonalities and connections – shared interests and recommendations.

It was friendship across cities and fields.

And whilst I don’t find myself diving for blasts of that teenage anguish in the same way as I used to – there are moments when those tunes come rolling down the streets and right into my heart. Simple as that really. There’s always space for a Pastels tune somewhere, for The Sea Urchins, the Razorcuts, Remember Fun and The Groove Farm.

And this is about The Groove Farm as I said. A band of Bristol troopers. Creating their own brand of buzz soul glam stomp shouters. You see it’s hard to categorise a band like The Groovies – no one by the way ever referred to them as this – and to be honest no one will ever again. But they make you feel playful and daft and want to write all that daftness down. Not that you could or shouldn’t take them seriously either. But they weren’t out for the studied cool of the Velvets – although they had an edge. You get me – they weren’t CUD – they had an edge. The Groove farm were a noisy guitar pop band made in 1986 -  making things happen on the cheap, with handmade sleeves, and hand coloured labels. It felt personal and honest. This DIY punk spirit seeping into our sore heads and happy hearts. But live was where it was at – there was a control of the cacophony and rock to its roll. Garage punk played fast and loud with ba ba baaas and sha la la laaas.  They could work an audience. They could play  - sometimes on the verge of disintegrating or coming to a grinding halt but somehow rescuing the collapse and building something ba ba ba better. I saw them a fair number of times as they made their way up North to play Arts centres, public houses and polytechnics. It was that kind of time. We – that is The Williams – supported them – we were loud and jangly  - they were simply ace. Good times. I know the whole Subway records ordeal is not considered the pinnacle of pop for The Groove Farm  - but Alvin is King was/ is a stomper. A record that should be in your record collection.

And now through chance posts and pictures from my past I’m suddenly connected to Andrew (of the Groove Farm) and reacquainted with that energy and purpose they made. He’s still making music  - I expect they all are – but I’m not that well connected – moved on to a different place – like we all do – you can buy his records by searching for Our Arthur. There’s an honesty and in all his tunes – that goes right back to that Kvatch flexidisc.  You should have a listen. I have. And I liked them.

There’s also a covers album of old Groove Farm songs that Andrew has put together. I’ll get round to buying that soon.  The Williams weren’t asked to contribute – but we used to do a mean version of ‘In the Summertime’ – in a cold rehearsal room in an Ashby church.  

So in the spirit of connecting with the past – but trying to look forward. This is a raving Pop blast. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

There’s a natural mystic in the air

I stumbled across Golden Clouds today. A Perry/ Orb collaboration that borrowed from one tune and cheekily became another over four minutes. The subtle sequences of fluffy clouds laying host to Scratch’s observations and overstanding. As this red, gold and green wizard kicked off his shoes and walked in ponds and streams to bring his musings on things that floated.

I like Lee Scratch Perry. He’s a nutter. But I like him.

I wrote some time back about jury service in industrial ports. Of Grimsby streets and barbaric youth stood up in docks made from wood not ones that produced ships or unloaded goods. I was young myself then. I was judging not being judged. Unlike now as I wait for the suits and the clipboards to hasten an exit from a profession I am actually good at but they will fail to see. But that’s another story. And I’m telling this one.

I have talked about purchasing Linton Kwesi Johnston’s sounds. I have yet to tell of the second tape purchased from that record store – which is now a simple stolen shot that I find hard to recall. A shop on the streets full of sounds and surprises. As I said before I was looking for tapes – digging the crates – to fill the journey on hard train seats from Grimsby to Scunthorpe. A scenic route as yet to feature on any holiday programme or Portillo’s travels by train. It’s all blast furnaces, coal trucks, articulated lorries and corrugated sheds.

It was my vista. Show me yours.

And there nestled in the ‘reggae, reggae’ section with UB40 and Aswad was a little tape. Red and green – the gold being the music – do you get me?  An almighty allegiance with the Mad Professor – all gated reverb and twisted pitches  - dubbing them crazy. It spoke to me at that time – and listening to it now it talks again – all version and sound sound sound. This upsetter was making me happy through dub workouts and smoked up sounds – (duppy) conquering. There was something magical in licks and rolls, the snatches and snippets of bass and drum heavy in reverberation that tickled and soothed my brain.

I’ve always liked those dub sounds – as tapes melted and heated and expanded and sounds merged and extended with rimshots and bursts of melody. It’s a Jamaican ting. This warmth of sound in the warmth of the sun. Yet it translates to concrete streets and struggles. It’s excursions and versions sound tracking our resistance and anger. You can understand why PuNk got it. As I said in a post about P.I.L – John didn’t have a support act – he simply had some dub. It starts deep and takes you deeper.

There used to be a wonderful public house in New Cross. By the university, all smoky corners and pool hall bravado and simple reggae sounds. The Tavern – a haven for the Goldsmiths’ underground – well a place to drink after hours. You would hear a mighty tune in there of an evening. It was a mellow place. As I have aged I think I’ve become more aware of the trouble that bass can cause – as it seeps under floorboards and through walls. But this was a public house – you can play that kind of stuff there. I don’t pull out my Augustus Pablo records or King Tubby 12s these days. Even though we’re end of terrace – it doesn’t seem fair on the neighbours. As the grey hairs come thick and fast you just buy better headphones.

There’s a wonderful book heavy in weight and attitude called Bass Culture. It rides the beginnings of bass right through those West Indian struggles and leaves you feeling knowledgeable about politics, race and sound. You should read it – you probably have done. Scratch pops up in there from time to time. A pioneer, a seer, a shaker and a maker. His imprint sitting in all things reggae. You can’t ignore his presence and what presence he has.

And over the years Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry has bubbled and popped up across a variety of records I’ve bought. Through Trojan sets, MC battles and blissed out ambience Scratch can be called on to provide that sideways stomp. The unexpected. Not lyrically  - his musings and bubblings have a familiar ring – but his philosophy is one of not compromising.

Build it up. Burn it down.

I don’t buy into all that mysticsm – I don’t need a God to explain a thing – we’ve got scientists for all of that. And I like them. But possibly not chatting on records. This crazy witchdoctor can provide that and the Mad Professor can man the mixing desk. Dubbing it crazy for those who like their bass on the heavy, heavy, heavy side.  The professor really is an academic of dub. He can twist and tickle a line – make it say something else – educate the mind without words – through sounds.

I like Lee Scratch Perry. I like the Mad Professor. I like them working together.

This is was on the tape. Now it’s in your house.