“In 1989, when Can U Dig It was fresh and entirely cool, it felt inconceivable that this particular Pop wouldn’t just eat itself, it would eat the whole f***ing world. Because Pop Will Eat Itself had a beatbox, samples, world eating smarts and guitars – who needed anything more? But it wasn’t to be. Can U Dig It did not hit massive all over and everywhere. I guess the Poppies just weren’t cute enough (or maybe black enough). And ultimately, who cares? It’s the world’s loss, not mine. I’ve still got my Furry Freak Brothers, my Twilight Zone, my pumping disco beats. And yeah, Alan Moore still knows the score.” (Philip Random)
Two tracks that flow together as one in Philip Random‘s mind. “It always bugs me when people call Yello synth-pop. Yeah, they have synths and they’re not afraid to pop, but there’s so much more going on, with their first album Solid Pleasure a solid clue as what it was all about. It was about everything – from drones to sambas to just pure out there techno-pleasures. I had a drummer friend who’d throw side-one onto the turntable and just pound away to it. He said it was all there, everything he could ever want from music. Ten years later, he was a deadhead, but that’s another chapter.” (Philip Random)
“In which David Byrne and Brian Eno step outside of the Talking Heads for a bit and, to no surprise, end up changing music forever. No, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts didn’t invent sampling (Holger Czukay was already messing around with disembodied voices inside and out of Can), but it did rather open the gates, with Mea Culpa proving ideal for heroic doses of LSD, assuming you were up to it. I wasn’t always. I recall once hearing it at a gloomy, January dusk, a riverbank, a cold wind blowing. We were in the flight path of the local airport. I became convinced an incoming plane was crashing. But it wasn’t the plane. It was me.” (Philip Random)
“The whole of Holger Czukay‘s third solo album, On The Way to the Peak of Normal, is a weird and mysterious and wonderful gem, with Ode to Perfume (the full version which fills the entire second of side of vinyl) particularly notable because of that haunting melody at the beginning – actual chunks of somebody else’s song that I vaguely recognized but could never place (sampling before they called it sampling), until I finally did place it, but only because a friend’s mp3 shuffle randomly threw the two of them on pretty much one after another. It’s Suspicion made famous by Jimmy Stafford, a genius piece of paranoid pop if there ever was one.” (Philip Random)
John Kongos, who isn’t known for much else, loops up some genuine African drumming (way before it was the thing to do) lays a groovy pop song on top and cracks the British Top 5 at a time (1971) when that was simply not an easy thing to do. Philip Random recalls first hearing it on his second trip to Britain. “Mid-90s. well on my way to getting drunk at a very old pub in Nottingham. My immediate thought was wow, somebody’s done a helluva job with that Happy Mondays song. Of course, I had it backwards.”
In which the Residents sample the Beatles and make such a glorious mess of things that rumours eventually surface that they are in fact The Beatles themselves, undercover. And all of this at least a decade before sampling-stealing-pirating in the name of art had even begun to achieve hip status. “I actually heard this when it was new in 1977. Not that I was remotely cool at the time, more the opposite. A friend’s big brother heard me talking loud about how progressive rock was the only music that really mattered, because it was so inventive, so ambitious, so strange … so he got me high and set me straight on the fact that there were far, far stranger things going on out there in the name of music than I ever could have imagined.”
This one (from Pop Will Eat Itself’s 1989 mega-brain-exploder of a masterpiece, This is the Day … This is the Hour … This is This) concerns James Brown whose beats everyone was stealing at the time. 1989 being one of those years in which EVERYTHING seemed to be happening all at once, mainly because hip-hop was finally, officially here to stay, all that sampling (everything ever recorded really) setting folks free in ways they could never have imagined possible. At least until the lawyers caught a whiff.
The so-called sound art project known as Nocturnal Emissions take a few bland self-help samples, lay down a simple groove and deliver an anthem of sorts on the theme of healing. Because by the time 1985 hit, everyone knew someone who was dying of the big disease with a little name (as Prince put it), even if we didn’t actually know they had it yet. Such was the AIDS crisis of the mid-80s — a death sentence all the way. And yet we’re human, so we never give up. Some of us anyway.