Wednesday, 6 June 2007

late night love songs

if you're in the mood, or trying to attract someone's attention, you might text the name of your loved one to one of the numerous music channels and get a request played. but they need to be aware that you're doing so or they'll be watching one of a hundred other channels - which misses the point, and the element of surprise. this was one of the good things about local radio.

local radio djs were smooth. they played soothing sounds that you wouldn't normally hear on daytime radio. they didn't try to be cool - if it was popular, they played it.

people do still listen to the radio, and its a lot less tricky in these days of dab stations, which have removed the need to stand in front of the radio holding the aerial up at funny angles to get a decent reception.

twenty years ago, if you sent out a similar request on a late night radio show, you could be reasonably certain that either the intended recipient or at least one of their friends, would hear it. the song we chose for our dedication was most likely sophisticated beyond our years. even though we did have younger artists in the 80s, like five star, new edition, debbie gibson and countless others, most soul music was adult. we were listening to artists singing about relationships, emotions and situations we couldn't possibly understand.

so, as a result, instead of the obsession with youth that appears to start as early as age ten nowadays,we actually wanted to be older. thirty, to be precise. thirtysomethings were glamorous and the had the kind of lifestyle I looked up to. they went to clubs, restaurants, had exotic holidays, exciting friends and dramatic relationships. john hughes movies aside, most popular 80s tv shows and movies, bar those specifically produced for kids, focused on older characters, not those that still lived with their parents.

so ironically, I wanted to be the age I am now, twenty years ago, and now that I am, I'm made to feel like I should want to be younger. but i don't - the thought of being someone who didn't grow up in the 80s and experience real life terrifies me much more than getting older.

late night dedications - download here

alexander o'neal - if you were here tonight
his first solo single, and classic.

anita baker - caught up in the rapture
apparently inspired mary j blige to become a singer.

controllers - stay
typical 80s slow jam.

eugene wilde - gotta get you home
later sampled/covered by foxy brown and blackstreet.

force md's - tender love
later covered by cockney soul boy kenny thomas.

freddie jackson - rock me tonight
what happened to freddie?

gap band - yearning for your love
one of those songs you've heard before...but didn't realise.

george benson - in your eyes
from smooth jazz to weepy ballad.

gregory abbott - shake you down
very popular last dance at many an 80s club.

isley brothers - choosey lover
this was later covered by aaliyah.

janet jackson - let's wait a while
slightly different version from control the remixes - more tinkly.

kool and the gang - cherish
anyone from the uk remember anton singing this on popstars the rivals?

luther vandross - so amazing
vintage luther. tribute version by beyonce and stevie wonder.

melisa morgan - do me baby
prince cover, actually think i prefer this version.

midnight star - slow jam
one of the first 80s slow jams - covered later by usher and monica.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

school disco

who can forget school, I'm not talking high school prom style antics with spiked punch and big meringue dresses battling for supremacy on the dancefloor. quite frankly, in the uk, school discos are best left alone past the age of 12. although I do remember a gcse leaving party that saw our entire year get lashed with the enthusiastic support of the teachers, who looked fairly trolleyed themselves.

at this particular event I drank almost an entire bottle of malibu and you can imagine the rest. however, this example is out of context. in fact, real school discos, the ones people remember fondly, took place much earlier, at junior school in the mid-late 80s (for us anyway). and i did get my coconut fix then too but it was a long lost fizzy pop called coco pina.

authentic junior school discos had several essential elements - boys, girls, the assembly hall, the tuck shop. it would be decided days, possibly weeks in advance, who you would dance with. you would be jealous of the people who lived near school, as they would be allowed to walk home without their parents arriving to embarrass them.

seeing people out of their school uniform was hilarious.

the boys adopted a miami vice look complete with hawaiian shirts for the brave, or rolled up sleeves on pastel coloured suits with contrasting t-shirt. mullets of course, were present, as were spiky hairdos and wham style big hair. i always remember a ginger classmate who had no luck with girls, turning up in a leather jacket, clearly in a bid to impress. 'oh yeah i always dress like this out of school...'

the girls, well, anyone who thinks fashion obsessed 10 year olds are a new phenomenon clearly didnt attend school in the 80s. witness a spectacular array of outfits we screamed and nagged our way to. i think for my first junior school disco we all dressed as madonna - lace, fingerless gloves, leggings, backcombed hair. basically as close to the above picture as possible. then came the chino invasion and we posed in our little pastel coloured chino skirts and logo tops.

download your step by step guide to the 80s junior school disco

a-ha - take on me

hmm, not quite sure how to dance to this one. probably why the dj played it as everyone was arriving...and wishing they'd worn something else. i didn't see any peach chino skirts in tammy, where did she get that from?

rick astley - never gonna give you up

things are warming up a bit now but you'd have to really want to dance to this song whilst everyone else is in their collective gangs, checking that everyone they fancy has turned up and eating refreshers in case someone kisses them later.

madonna - la isla bonita

the £40-a-night dj, obviously used to better audience participation in the social clubs he usually plays in, banks on anything madonna to get the girls onto the dancefloor. it works.

billy joel - uptown girl

the song that used to require everyone standing in a line with their arms linked, walking from side to side kicking their legs out like drunk uncles at a wedding. don't be fooled by the proximity, this was as friendly as it would get.

mel and kim - respectable

stragglers - this dance is easy, you've no excuse. just strut up and down like a supermodel and leave the fancy bit to the pros. the first couple of the night get together (and do nothing) in the curtains, and another girl starts crying.

nu shooz - i can't wait

now the dj targets the boys, most of whom have been lingering waiting 'for something good to come on'. 80s discos rarely played proper breakdance music so this would suffice. a couple of hawaiian shirts would start walking towards each other and a circle would form. he's going to ruin those white trousers....

bros - i owe you nothing

before someone injures themselves, the dj puts on some girl friendly boy pop and the dancefloor fills up again. the shadow of someone throwing up outside after too many cola cubes can be clearly seen through the assembly hall curtains.

pepsi and shirlie - heartache

you were likely to have a dance made up already for this. you are outraged to find that groups of girls across the entire school have copied your moves. you have spent the last eight lunchtimes practising for nothing.

wham - i'm your man

several of the boys, high on too much cherryade, will do a bizarre chest-pounding, lionistic tour of the dancefloor and the decent looking ones will get groups of adoring girls dancing along with them, whilst the others will just get booted off the dancefloor.

tiffany - i think we're alone now

ok girls, this is your last chance to look cool. if you fail, you will end up crying into the curtains whilst someone else dances with your man.

whitney houston - saving all my love for you

this is it, the erection section. except, you don't quite know what that means yet. if you're dancing with someone, try not to look too smug. if you're not, grab a friend and waltz ironically, pretending not to care that someone else got your man. there's always next term...

Monday, 4 June 2007

don't call them new jill swing

when new jack swing started to falter, a new influx of girl groups, including swv, appeared circa 1992, along with mary j blige, and were hailed as 'new jill swing'. see what they did there?

this was in fact a misleading label as the music these girls were making wasn't a feminised new jack sound. it was in fact far grittier, and more likely to take its cues from naughty by nature than guy. another labelling hiccup occurred when, logically, since their names begin with a 't' 'l' and 'c', you guessed it, that was to be the group's name before the eventual tlc beat them to it within a matter of weeks.

most of these girl groups, in order to compete in the g-funk era, were forced to dress and act like men. gone were the lyrca minidresses and heels. in with the homegirl persona and lumberjack shirts. swv didn't go down this route. maybe because they were still in high school, and hadn't developed the right kind allure to carry it off. they were far from ugly, but its fair to say swv would never have been accused of possessing looks over talent.

coko, lelee and taj may have been young, but i had no idea at the time. they sang like women, in contrast to left eye's cute rapping for tlc. they dressed older than their years, unlike jade, who appeared to still be hanging out with the underage street crowd. they weren't too cool, which made them real. years later, their songs sound fresh.

their accessibility saw them enjoy huge success until their split in 1998. coko then embarked on a solo career, to lukewarm success. taj married a dallas cowboys footballer and currently has a reality show amusingly titled 'i married a baller'. lelee recently revealed that the group received little financial reward for their work and that she's been struggling to stay afloat since the group split. sound familiar?
twelve swv essentials - download here

right here
their most famous track has many versions. the most ubiquitous is definitely the michael jackson sampling human nature mix, but this g-man mix is probably lesser known and proves there was more to the song than good sampling.
i'm so into you
again, there were several versions of this track - the original and allstars mix are widely available, but this teddy riley mix featuring wreckx-n-effect bumps along nicely. the first swv track i ever bought.
the original ballad is nice, but this remix is perfect midtempo 90s jeep music. it had stuttering beats before timbaland invented them and twittery, electronic background vocals. should be on every chillout playlist.
again, the original is ok but this remix, featured on above the rim, with the wu-tang clan, is something else. i defy you not to dance if you hear this in a club.

can't cope
an unreleased track which sounds early 90s to me so probably a leftover from 'it's about time'. nice production, this has become one of my favourites.

all night long
featured on the waiting to exhale soundtrack, this is one of swv's best slow jams.

use your heart
this version is a duet featuring rome. a young pharrell williams produced this, and several other tracks on swv's second album 'a new beginning'.

another unreleased track, very unusual arrangement and I'm wondering why this failed to get past whichever album session it was recorded in.

can we
from 1997's booty call soundtrack, this is one swv's most popular tracks.

tell me how you want it
another soundtrack contribution, this time from the money talks soundtrack.

i'm not sure many people realise this is actually a cover of an 80s vesta williams track. this is one of those rare times when the cover is better.

where you are
a jackson five cover for the hav plenty soundtrack. i prefer this version to wacko's pre-teen squeaking.