MC Tomster’s 1993 Gumbo! Part One

Guess the videos! After watching them all below…

Over the past few months, I have compiled and then listened to a Spotify playlist of around 880 hit singles that charted in the UK Top 75 singles chart during 1993. To plug the gaps of those not on that platform, I also constructed a playlist of 200 or so YouTube videos and watched those. Even with all these, there were a few not accessible anywhere, if maybe as few as 10-20.

What was the point of all this listening? Well, David Lichfield asked me to pick a year I could focus on and appear on his STORMERS podcast, introducing my four or five main picks. The only proviso being that they were, objectively, bangers or stormers, even! The said podcast appearance is upcoming, including my top five choices of favourite 1993 singles. This blog post features the overall Top 75 of my selected favourites from what was on Spotify. This is presented as a loose list, in a very vague order of preference from. It is simply music I liked very much or loved, that charted in 1993. Part one presents #75-26 of the main list of those Spotify-resident singles. Part two will present the all-important Top 25, plus a Top 25 consisting of my favourite singles not on Spotify, but on YouTube.

Why 1993? Well, I loved living through it as a year. Over halfway into my junior school years and both teachers I had in Year 5 and Year 6 were amazing in different ways. Yet, I was barely cognisant at all of popular music at the time. Starting, just about, to realise quite liked some ABBA songs via the prominence of ABBA Gold, both at home and elsewhere, but I don’t think I was consciously listening to music in any particularly interested way. Reading books and watching television were more typical pursuits.

So, this can’t truly be described as nostalgia so much as a discovery of older material that slipped through my perceptual net. An attempt to partially but empathetically listen to all songs that reached some level of popularity in the UK. My word, yes, even including Michael Bolton, though he didn’t produce the very worst song of the year, funnily enough! Of course, the years 1988 to 1992 are often said to mark the height of house, rave and dance influence, but I was interested to see what 1993 had in its vaults, given just how brilliant a musical year all round 1994 was. Of course, the Chemical Brothers, 808 State, the Prodigy et al were a key strain in late 1990s music, prefacing some tremendous bursts of popular dance music from acts like Basement Jaxx in the years of my youth, the early 2000s.

There was far too much heavy metal for my tastes in 1993, a kind of periodic element that keeps cropping up in BBC Four’s Top of the Pops reruns. I just don’t feel an affinity with or get that particular genre, though certainly have liked individual songs by Metallica and Def Leppard. There was something of a clash between that better more expansive “Britpop” before its time – Pulp, Saint Etienne, The Auteurs, no Denim sadly – and American grunge. All of which sounded more various and interesting than most guitar band music from, the last twenty years.

Consistently sonically adventurous and uncompromisingly direct in lyrics, hip hop was gravitating towards the gangsta, but there were also continued rhizomatic branching out from the Daisy Age tree, or oddities pointing the way to OutKast, Cannibal Ox, the Wu Tang Clan or Clouddead. New Jack Swing was in perhaps surprisingly rude health, clearly not being mainly a 1987 to 1991 phenomenon as I had presumed. It runs in parallel to the forgotten continent of women-led RnB, with the likes of SWV – and several girl groups featuring in my list – pointing the way to later works by TLC, Aaliyah, Lumidee or Destiny’s Child.

The one most annoying tendency – along with seemingly endless appearances by the overgrown laddish Rod Stewart – was the use of unsubtle, “smooth” or “passion”-signifying saxophone solos. These must have appeared in at least thirty tracks across the year. That may seem small, but 3 per cent is a far higher proportion than there are out-there oddities or bemusing novelties.

I have consciously not aimed to regurgitate the received wisdom or my own preconceptions of the key tracks of 1993, but I rather aim to reveal neglected delights and celebrate the less-remembered. #72, #75 and #27, for instance, are long-time favourites where my enthusiasm is cooled somewhat by various ill-advised media pontifications by their vocalists – in order: dissing Abba; going in for tiresome anti-PC/”woke” diatribes and trolling by endorsing Trump; endorsing anti-Vaxx and other Conspiracy Theories. I do think these songs’ musical power transcends the contemporary foibles of their key creative figures – so, it wouldn’t be true to my genuine feelings if I excised them all together.

Of the first fifty (#75-26) I have picked, all charted in the Top 75: 28 outside of the Top 40, 16 from #11-40 and a mere 6 reached the Top 10. The records below deserve recollection, rediscovery and will provoke thought or dancing in 2021.

I embed YouTube videos below, but you can also listen here to the Spotify playlist of the tracks featured here, in descending order from #75. This will be updated once Part Two has been published.

#75: Leftfield Lydon – OPEN UP
(13/11/1993, #13, 5 weeks; Hard Hands, HAND 009CD)

Opening up is London duo Leftfield and John Lydon’s ace techno track: every bit unreasonable and anarchic, even if we know that the singer’s unruly libertarianism now trends ever rightwards rather than being in any way righteous.

#74: Kim Wilde – IN MY LIFE
(13/11/1993, #54, 1 week; MCA, KIMTD 19)
This is cool, heavily Fairlighter-led (Fairlit?) dance pop. Kim Wilde is a reliably lively and attractive pop star, born in Chiswick, London in 1960. I love how she wittily wields a guitar in the video when no guitar is in evidence – quite right too!

#73: LL Cool J – HOW I’M COMIN’
(10/04/1993, #37, 2 weeks; Def Jam, 6591692)
East Coast gangsta stuff from the then 25-year-old Queens, New York rapper. Dynamic music and production, with vivid sirens and incendiary bustle. Sultry vocals from women backing singers among LL’s braggadocio; it isn’t going to be regulated!

#72: The Auteurs – LENNY VALENTINO
(27/11/1993, #41, 2 weeks; Hut, HUTCD 36)
Unquestionably Luke Haines (born Walton, Surrey, 1967)’s most undoubtedly topper tune, though the peak of his career has to be Black Box Recorder, where Sarah Nixey sings (much more recently, he did a tuneful and eccentric concept album about 1970s British wrestling). The Auteurs formed in 1992 in London and Haines remains a kind of metropolitan art school curmudgeon par excellence, who gets it right sometimes.

#71: Jade – DON’T WALK AWAY
(20/03/1993, #7, 8 weeks; Giant W, 0160CD)
RnB girl group from Chicago, IL consisting of Joi Marshall, Tonya Kelly and Di Reed. This is mint New Jack Swing from a great city. Their ‘I Wanna Love You’ is also good. Jade recorded two albums in 1992 and 1994.

(28/08/1993, #73, 1 week; XL Recordings, XLS 44CD)
A tail end of summer hit, here, if just for a meagre week. The vocal is ran through a vocoder, and feels very pre-Daft Punk or Modjo. Jonny Listers was born in 1970 in the UK. He later did a highly-regarded Drum N’ Bass album Sawtooth (1997) and even was even part of the True Steppers who recorded ‘Out of Your Mind’ in 2000 with Dane Bowers and Victoria Beckham. Good fast but slightly melancholy dance tune age. As Jonny L, five years later, he reached 7 places higher with ’20 Degrees’.

(11/09/1993, #73, 1 week; A & M, 5803792)
They are a London band, of course, formed as far back as March 1974, surely the only band in this list to date from the Harold Wilson era of British history. This is one of my favourite songs of theirs, I recall hearing it on the satellite channel VH1 long ago. Lilting, circling and plangent stuff.

#68: Sven Väth & Ralf Hildenbeutel – AN ACCIDENT IN PARADISE
(06/11/1993, #57, 2 weeks; Eye Q, YZ 778CD)
This is the first of two appearances in my list from German electronic ace Sven Väth. Hildenbeutel is a Frankfurt producer, born in 1969. It’s an obscure stormer, apparently perhaps ‘trance’ music, which I know little about.

#67: Kingmaker – 10 YEARS ASLEEP
(08/05/1993, #15, 4 weeks; Scorch, CDSCORCHS 8)
Jaunty stuff! This Kingston Upon Hull lot are very much an old favourite band of my wife Rachel. Vocalist Loz Hardy was born in Manchester in 1970. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer planet […] So don’t pretend to care when you don’t care”. Incredibly catchy indie pop.

#66: 2 Unlimited – FACES
(04/09/1993, #8, 7 weeks; Continental, PWCD 268)
Very good euro dance stuff, actually! Funnily moody posing in the decidedly garish video. ‘No Limit’ should perhaps be in here but is too familiar to need promoting. This lot were, of course, from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. You can get there on the ferry from North Shields, why-aye.

#65: Altern-8 – EVERYBODY – 2 BAD MICE REMIX
(03/07/1993, #58, 1 week; Network, NWKCD 73)
Fine techno from far-sighted mask-wearers from Stafford, Staffordshire in the West Midlands. “Everybody… EVERY-EEEEEE-BODY!” Helium oddity shifts to wistful minor-key chords, to see in the – as far as I recall – hot summer of 1993.

#64: Lena Fiagbe – YOU COME FROM EARTH
(24/07/1993, #69, 1 week; Mother, MUMDD 42)
Released and charting for a sadly solitary week in the heart of summer, this is tasteful symphonic soul. There is a laudably universalist, anti-racist message. I rather like it… Lena was born in Ladbroke Grove, London in 1972; her song here points forward to Emeli Sande or even the more orchestral Little Simz tracks on her new album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Watch here Simz’s mint performance which opened the excellent, overdue Tonight With Target BBC Three series which features British hip hop, grime, RnB and so much else. Of course that British-Nigerian rapper was only born in February 1994…

#63: Roach Motel – AFRO SLEEZE
(21/08/1993, #73, 1 week; Junior Boy’s Own, JBO 1412)
There are wistful 1970s echoes here, with minor-key inflections. Roach Motel was UK-based duo Pete Heller and Terry Farley’s house project, which predated many remixes of well-known electronic dance tunes. Heller was born in Brighton and is now London-based, which presumably this was. This record label later released Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy (Remix)’ in the summer of 1996. This feels close to X-Press 2’s ‘Say What!’ but edges it out in its layered hedonism.

(23/10/1993, #66, 1 week; MCA, MCSTD 1936)
In 1987, Hall had co-founded the crucial group Guy with Teddy Riley in Manhattan. Hall was born in the Bronx, NY, USA in 1964. This is a storming tune musically, properly improper New Jack Swing. There’s a Rick James or Prince element to it: ’nuff said.

#61: Tina Turner – I DON’T WANNA FIGHT
(22/05/1993, #7, 9 weeks; Parlophone, CDRS 6346)
I never really “got” Tina’s music back in the 1990s itself, just recalling ‘The Best’ being endlessly played at Sunderland AFC’s Roker Park at the instigation of chairman and Darlington furniture magnate Bob Murray. I didn’t know Tina’s horrific life story and how all these later hits were such a triumphant thing. Turner was born in Brownsville, TN, USA in 1939, making her the elder statesperson of this list. There are parallel readings of this as: ending a relationship or ending heated ideological battles in politics and coming to pluralist accommodations!

#60: Freaky Realistic – LEONARD NIMOY
(03/07/1993, #71, 1 week; Frealism, FRESCD 3)

This is hands down the most baffling 1993 hit single on Spotify! Freaky Realistic were Aki Omori, Justin Anderson and Michael Peter Lord: a band formed in Peckham, South London in the early 1990s. Oddly, they link to Saint Etienne through an engineer Gerard Johnson and Hearsay through a 16 year-old Kym Marsh doing backing vocals somewhere on their only album Frealism. This is just tremendously odd: catchy, 1970s-revivalist disco yet up-to-date. The name of the venerable Trekker actor’s name is chanted in the chorus, alongside winsome vocals by Aki and Lord rapping. Delightful, yet forgotten! Recall it. Play it!

#59: Sinclair – AIN’T NO CASANOVA
(21/08/1993, #28, 5 weeks; Dome, CDDOME, 1004)
A slow-burning, late-summer into autumn hit here from Mike Sinclair, born in West London, UK. Slightly jazzy New Jack Swing with significant humility and no braggadocio in evidence. This has an unassuming urban conviviality to it; is there a Paul Gilroy in the house?

#58: Ace of Base – HAPPY NATION
(13/11/1993, #42, 3 weeks; London, 8619272)
This song from Gothenburg band Ace of Base seems to reflect on social democratic Sweden, so long gradually less so from 1976… Singer Jenny Berggren (born 1972) intones generally incisive lines: “That no man’s fit to rule the world alone”, ideas won’t die et al. Interesting, good tune, opening with Enigma-like Gregorian elements, but which are more melancholy, accompanying the band’s patented – and unique – musical signature of moody Nordic reggae. This re-entered the chart in 1994 for another 3 weeks, reaching #40.

#57: Slowdive – ALISON
(29/05/1993, #69, 1 week; Creation, CRESCD 119)
Lovely dream pop, which charted ridiculously low. ‘Souvlaki Space Station’ is also on this Outside Your Room EP, from the Reading, Berkshire band who formed in October 1989. Luton, Bedfordshire-born Neil Halstead (1970) and Fareham, Hampshire-born Rachel Goswell (1971) sing celestially among the haze of reverb-drenched guitars and drums. This band are underrated besides My Bloody Valentine. Oddly, it almost feels it could be an ode to Alison Cooper (Charlotte Ritchie) of the tremendous BBC sitcom Ghosts!

#56: D:Ream – U R THE BEST THING
(Originally, 04/07/1992, #72, 1 week. Did 9 weeks in 1993, reaching #19, re-entering 24/04/1993. Also 1994! Magnet MAG 1011CD)

This is a truly excellent dance-pop song from the Derry, Northern Ireland band. I had no idea – or had forgotten – that BBC presenter Brian Cox (born 1968 in Manchester) played keyboards for them. He does a good job. The one co-opted by New Labour is also good, but this far exceeds it in its grace. ‘I Like It’ is also very good, with fine house piano presumably played by Cox. As Channel Four’s Derry Girls makes well clear, Northern Ireland was in need of uplift and cheer in the 1990s.

#55: dada – DOG
(04/12/1993, #71, 1 week; IRS, CDEIRSS 185)
Joie Calio, Michael Gurley and Phil Leavitt’s well-named band were a complete discovery to me when listening to the Spotify 1993 singles. The Los Angeles, CA band released five albums from 1992 to 2004. ‘Dog’, from the first, Puzzle, is winsome, tuneful and fittingly surreal.

#54: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – BOOM! SHAKE THE ROOM
(11/09/1993, #1, 13 weeks; Jive, JIVECD 335) 
This is definitely a case where my taste accords with that of the 1993 crowd! This West Philadelphia, PA duo had formed in 1986 and Jazzy Jeff (1965) and Will Smith, aka. “The Fresh Prince” (1968) are both Philly born. There’s some quite weird stuff on the verse leading into the chorus. Evidently, this reflects the pop end of hip hop and very effectively so.

#53: Aphex Twin – ON
(27/11/1993, #32, 3 weeks; Warp, WAP 39CD)
Not really his best but a grower on each listen and still evidently very good stuff. Richard D. James was born in Limerick, Ireland in 1971 but grew up in Cornwall. The excellent video to ‘On’ is directed by Jarvis Cocker there and seems to use “super” 8mm film to experiment in Salvador Dali-esque fashion. This is also, I gather, Aphex’s second biggest singles chart hit too, after ‘Windowlicker’.

#52: Good Girls – JUST CALL ME (Remix)
(24/07/1993, #75, 1 week; Motown, TMGCD 1417)
Los Angeles girl group – Shireen Crutchfield, Joyce Tolbert and DeMonica Santiago – on Motown, working in a New Jack Swing vein. This sultry urban tune plays on voice and technological communication means, linking back to Jade.

#51: Orbital – LUSH 3-1
(21/08/1991, #43, 2 weeks; Internal, LIECD 7)
Very good stuff per se, if not totally top-drawer Orbital, I’d say… This electronic duo, formed in Otford, Kent, were active from 1989. Nah, actually it is top-drawer, having played it more!

#50: Rotterdam Termination Source – MERRY X-MESS
(25/12/1993, #73, 2 weeks; React, CDREACT 33)
This is mental. A truly unique Christmas offering from the year of Saint Etienne and Tim Burgess, from this Gabber and hardcore group who, as you might expect, were from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. ‘Poing’ did well in 1992 charts. Maurice Steenbergen, initially with Danny Scholte, erm, programmed!

#49: Aimee Mann – I SHOULD’VE KNOWN
(04/09/1993, #55, 2 weeks; Imago, 72787250437)
This, Aimee Mann’s first UK hit, is excellent and overlooked. Mann was born in Richmond, VA, USA in 1960. There is even a tangential telephonic link back to #52. In the video, Mann holds a 1940s detective novel she is reading before she starts singing.

#48: Mary J. Blige & The Notorious B.I.G. – REAL LOVE REMIX
(28/08/1993, #26, 4 weeks; Uptown, MCSTD 1922)
Expansive urban soul from Blige, a Bronx, NY, USA artist (born 1971). This originally surfaced in late 1992, reaching #68 and spending 2 weeks in the chart, before this remix, with added Biggie Smalls (born Brooklyn, NY, 1972, died in Los Angeles, CA, 1997). Also good from MJB in 1993 is ‘You Remind Me’: fine harmonies and low-key synthetic synth work. And in the elegant ‘Reminisce’, is that a harpsichord?

#47: American Music Club – JOHNNY MATHIS’ FEET
(24/04/1993, #58, 2 weeks; Virgin, VSCDG 1445)

This is inimitable sad-sack storytelling from Mark Eitzel (born Walnut Creek, CA, in 1959), whose band had formed in San Francisco, CA in 1982. Wonderful! Wonderful!

#46: Martine Gerault – REVIVAL
(30/01/1993, #37, 5 weeks in total; 2 weeks in 1992, charting lower at #53; ffrr, FCD 205)
Lavish urban soul, like trip hop in its sensuous cool: predating such great bands as Portishead and Bows. Girault hails from Brooklyn, New York. Ray Hayden produced this downtempo delight; he runs the Hackney-based Opaz Records label.

#45: Sade – KISS OF LIFE
(08/05/1993, #44, 3 weeks; Epic, 6591162) 
This is similarly mint. From the same album, the other single ‘Cherish the Day’ is ace, drifting serene soul. Sade were a comparatively veteran band, formed in London in 1983, while Helen Folasade Adu was born in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1959. This is a music which is continually underrated, absurdly derided by some, though Marcello Carlin and Lena Friesen on Then Play Long have never made this mistake.

Great urban interior photography in the video; evoking Fassbinder or Scorsese cinematography?

#44: Ice Cube – IT WAS A GOOD DAY
(27/03/1993, #27, 4 weeks; 4th & Broadway, BRCD 270)
What a sublime main guitar loop on this! It is from Ohio’s finest, the magnificent Isley Brothers’ ‘Footsteps in the Dark’ (1977). O’Shea Jackson was born in Crenshaw, CA in 1969 and was a key figure in West Coast hip hop. From ’93, ‘Wicked’ is also excellent, with a ragga guest vocalist and an atmospheric siren. That one day in the neighbourhood where no one died from guns.

#43: The Juliana Hatfield Three – MY SISTER
(11/09/1993, #71, 1 week; Mammoth, YZ 767CD)

Forceful, sassy, tuneful stuff from Wiscasset, Maine’s Hatfield. Born in 1967, this isn’t the last time we hear this defiant, powerful voice in this story of 1993.

#42: East 17 – SLOW IT DOWN
(10/04/1993, #13, 7 weeks; London, LONCD 339)
Excellent strings! Good production, sense of space and dynamics for this track from the Walthamstow boy band who are on a different planet, quality-wise, to the vast majority of later 1990s boy bands. Other great slow tracks of 1993 are Debbie Harry’s ‘Strike Me Pink’ and Madonna’s ‘Rain’.

#41: Freddie Mercury – LIVING ON MY OWN
(31/07/1993, #1, 13 weeks, 16 including its 1980s debut; Parlophone, CDR 6355) 

Born in 1946, Mercury features as an elder statesman here, his great, vital scat vocals anticipating a certain mega hit of 1995.

#40: Baby D – DESTINY
(18/12/1993, #69, 1 week; Production House, PNC 065)
Not in this instance a magnificent epic of British history from David Edgar, but a first hit from a vital cutting edge dance pop act. This seems the closest here to jungle and DnB so far, coming late in the year. Dee had been a former member of Phil Fearon’s Galaxy…

This seems to be the somewhat tamer pop version:

Whereas this is the one I listened to via Spotify: ’tis the vastly more dynamic breakbeat hardcore bizness:

#39: Janet Jackson – IF
(31/07/1993, #14, 7 weeks; Virgin, VSCDT 1474)
There is that Jam and Lewis power to this, with a gorgeous RnB drift… As producers, they defined the ‘Minneapolis sound’, alongside Prince. This is high octane and high calibre. See other singles from janet. (1993), including ‘That’s the Way Love Goes’. Janet was born in Gary, IN in 1966, while Jimmy Jam was born in Minneapolis, MN in 1959 and Terry Lewis in Omaha, NE in 1956.

#38: David Bowie feat. Lenny Kravitz – BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA
(04/12/1993, #35, 3 weeks; Arista 74321177052)
After largely thin material with Tin Machine, the Bowie resurgence continued apace with this, following the decent Black Tie, White Noise (1993) LP. This is the title song from the contemporaneous BBC Two drama adaptation of Hanif Kureishi’s novel, directed and co-scripted by Roger Michell (1956-2021; RIP). Also from 1993 it is worth mentioning that track with Al B. Sure! and Timar: ‘Black Tie White Noise – Urban Mix’ which has some good jazz chords. Bowie never lost touch with the urban; while, in this recording, proving an evocative voice of ambivalence regarding suburbia.

#37: New Model Army – HERE COMES THE WAR
(20/02/1993, #25, 2 weeks; Epic, 6589352)

Here is a curiosity: a tangibly political Bradford, Yorkshire band led by a guitarist and vocalist called ‘Slade the Leveller’ (Justin Sullivan, born 1956) who were on two major labels, EMI from 1984 and Epic Records from December 1991. They were staunchly anti-Tory through the Thatcher era, writing a song called ‘Spirit of the Falklands’ and a haunting lament, ‘A Liberal Education’. As Discogs also says: ‘The group’s championing of traditional working-class ethics saw an unexpected boost for a dying art and trade – that of the clog.’ They appeared on Top of the Pops at one stage with the slogan ‘Only Stupid Bastards Use Heroin’ which attracted derision from anarcho-punk traditionalists Conflict who replied with their own motif: ‘Only Stupid Bastards Help EMI’. Surely there is a way beyond such purism into recognising that putting out left-wing material out on major capitalist labels isn’t a bad thing. No levelling up here: short shrift for that cynical slogan! This is trenchant, expansive and very well produced. The lyrics remind me of Band of Holy Joy but with a decidedly political edge.

#36: Apache Indian – MOVIN’ ON
(23/10/1993, #48, 2 weeks; Island, CID 580)
They had a strong of varied hit singles including this impassioned, defiant response to the BNP victory in the Tower Hamlets, London local election. Their singer-songwriter Steven Kapur was born in Handsworth, Birmingham in 1967. Far-right candidate Derek Beackon won the seat, was Councillor from 16 September 1993, but was to lose in May 1994 despite winning more votes. We should never be complacent about Nazism and need to keep heeding Apache Indian’s articulate message here.

#35: Sven Väth – L’ESPERENZA
(24/07/1993, #63, 2 weeks; Eye Q, YZ 757)
Väth was born in 1964 in the city of Offenbach, Germany (though others sources say Obertshausen, also in the state of Hesse). This is gently elegiac electronica dance or ambient techno, according to your predilection. He was later to record a version of the Gainsbourg-Birkin sensual belter ‘Je t’aime’ with Grenoble, France-born electroclash force Miss Kittin. Eye Q was a Frankfurt-based label that Sven co-founded.

#34: Culture Beat – GOT TO GET IT
(06/11/1993, #4, 11 weeks; Epic, 6597212)
Eurodance from Frankfurt, Germany, adjacent to Sven, but which caught on way beyond the technohead connoisseurs. Their singer, by this stage, was Tania Evans, born in Edmonton, London in 1967. Fine stuff. Enough said.

#33: The Breeders – DIVINE HAMMER
(06/11/1993, #59, 1 week; 4AD, BAD 3017CD)
They were formed in 1988 by Kim Deal of the Pixies and Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses in Dayton, OH – though by this stage it was Deal, Kelley Deal, Carrie Bradley and Josephine Wiggs. ‘Cannonball’ is magnifique, of course, but too obvious, so I am opting for this other single off their Last Splash (1993) LP. 4AD was started in 1980 by Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, financially assisted by Beggars Banquet. The significant label has bases in London SW18 and NY 10012.

#32: Ultramarine – KINGDOM
(24/07/1993, #46, 2 weeks; Blanco Y Negro, NEG 65CD)
This is an amazing folktronica single, with the great Robert Wyatt, born in 1945, on vocals and featuring as a King in the video! The video reminds me somewhat of a more assured Winstanley-reminiscent precursor of Jah Wobble’s promo for ‘Songs of Innocence’ (1996). While I prefer their earlier LP Every Man and Woman is a Star (1991) to United Kingdoms (1993), both are essential listening and this is a rare UK hit single that is intelligently Utopian, grounded yet inspiring, dissecting power relations and social class hierarchies. This Essex band later had a top 75 hit ‘Hymn’ featuring David McAlmont. They were clearly moving in circles with people who made some of the best music past and present: touring with Bjork, Meat Beat Manifesto and Orbital and working with Canterbury legends Kevin Ayers and Lol Coxhill.

#31: Malaika – GOTTA KNOW (YOUR NAME)
(31/07/1993, #68, 1 week; A & M, 5802732)
Malaika LeRae Sallard was born in 1972 in Seattle, WA. It’s an undoubtedly hip and vivacious vocal performance, Malaika opening with the “hey!” shout. This feels like a softer New Jack Swing: somewhere between Prince and TLC. Malaika had links to Steve “Silk” Hurley and Todd Terry.

#30: The Goats – ‘AAAH D YAAA’
(29/05/1993, #53, 2 weeks; Ruffhouse, 6593032)
Great stuff this. Jazz hip hop from The Goats: founded in 1991 in Philadelphia, PA. They were the rappers OaTie Kato (James D’Angelo), Madd aka. ‘the M-A-the-double-D’ (Maxx Stoyanoff Williams), and Swayzack (Patrick Shupe). Its flipside is ‘Typical American’ which is also good and vastly different, both to ‘Aaah D Yaaa’ and to much other music. Yes, there is the terrain of Guru, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, but The Goats were charting their own course.

Here is ‘Typical American’ too, with, impressively, a t-shirt of Belfast left-wing punk band Stiff Little Fingers in evidence.

#29: Belly – FEED THE TREE
(23/01/1993, #32, 3 weeks; 4AD, BAD 3001CD)
This is a fabulous blend of Pixies-type song and bass sound with a vocal which has Polly Harvey-like intelligence, strength and vitality. Belly were formed in Newport, RI in 1991 by former Throwing Muses and Breeders figure Tanya Donelly (also born there in 1966).

#28: Sabres of Paradise – SMOKEBELCH II
(02/10/1993, #55, 3 weeks; Sabres Of Paradise, PT 009CD)
Andrew Weatherall (1963-2020): a top man born in Windsor, Berkshire, who we haven’t heard the last of here… The Sabres were comprised of Weatherall, Jagz Kooner and Gary Burns: a London band extant from 1992-1995 and later responsible for the astounding ‘Wilmot’ (1994). Intriguingly, the band’s name seems to based on Lesley Blanch’s 1960 book The Sabres of Paradise, a biography of Tsarist Russian rule in early 19th century Georgia and the Caucasus. This sublime tune – later featuring in longform on their third LP for Warp Records, Sabresonic II – is based on ‘The New Age of Faith’ (1989) by The Prince of Dance Music and L. B. Bad, which had been released on a New York label. Unoriginal, sure, but when is that necessarily the point of dance music which is surely all about sharing? This is JUST magnificent.

While on Spotify, I have had to go for the ‘Beatless Mix‘ version on their debut LP Sabresonic (1993), this is the full original version, in ‘Entry’ and then ‘Exit’ forms:

(17/04/1993, #35, 3 weeks; Epic, 6590772)

Another alternative’ act on a major label, The The are Matt Johnson (born 1961 in East London), a follicly-challenged singer-songwriter who gradually shifted from bedroom electronica with a post punk attitude to stadium rock a tad edgier than most. Most of the The The albums from Blue Burning Soul (1981) onwards remain excellent, though you trust his presentation-of-self as truth-telling seer less as time passes and he opens his gob more. This is an unquestionably powerful song, though; featuring one of many stratospheric Johnny Marr contributions to 1990s music: see also everything Marr recorded with Kirsty MacColl, Billy Bragg and Electronic.

#26: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – DREAM OF ME (BASED ON LOVE’S THEME)
(17/07/1993, #24, 5 weeks; Virgin, VSCDT 1461)

OMD formed in Meols, Wirral in Merseyside in 1978 with the lead singer Andy McCluskey born in Heswall in 1959. These were the days when a band being a going concern for 15 years was relatively incredible: in the next part of this story, we’ll encounter a band of Brummies formed the same year. This is directly inspired by Barry White’s ‘Love Theme’ released by Love Unlimited Orchestra in 1973 and is that rare thing: a loving, subtle tribute to black American music from Britain that works as homage and as its own unique thing. There’s an arty, popular concern with sensuality from the off in the video with the direct allusions to Busby Berkeley dance choreography.

In part two of this article, we count down my subjectively selected Top 25 singles of 1993! Plus, go through my favourite 25 singles only accessible via YouTube. Oh, and I go over some of 1993’s curios and oddities which are, as expected, mostly to be found on YT rather than Spotify…

Brexit Britain: Day #1023 – Basil Fawlty to EU: “Give us a No Deal or you’ll be CRUSHED!”

So, the Brexit soap opera – series 4 is it, or 41? – has drawn to a close. Pleasingly, there has been much compelling television which engages with not just metropolitan London (the engrossing, zeitgeist-chasing Fleabag on BBC1) but also: down-at-heel Bognor Regis (the aptly discomfiting, sour Don’t Forget the Driver on BBC2), 1990s Northern Ireland (the magnificently refreshing Derry Girls, on Channel 4), 1970s-80s Yorkshire (Liza Williams’s astute, damning record of a society’s grim misogyny The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story on BBC4; why not BBC1?) and our very own Newcastle upon Tyne (David Olusoga’s A House Through Time, on BBC2, tracing a representative our-story of class, power, knowledge and culture).

It has also been a week when the Radio Times has proclaimed Connie Booth and John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers (BBC, 1975-79) as the UK’s favourite sitcom, which has also been interpreted as a warning about the isolated Little England mindset. One that wasn’t heeded. Somehow, many people have clearly overlooked Booth & Cleese’s encoding: laid-back liberalism and open-mindedness about women, the working class, the Irish, the Germans, black GPs and other professionals (not of the Bodie-Doyle kind!). Instead, they have aberrantly decoded Fawlty Towers as meaning that a besieged island mentality, angry paranoia and obsession with class status are desirable ends.

Speaking of Fawlty’s influence, what about that long-time MAY’S BRITAIN… favourite Mark Francois? This abuser of Tennyson and the English language (Europe will be “facing perfidious Albion on speed”, apparently), has not been tipped for the knacker’s yard of clapped-out Gammonry but for the Tory leadership…! By Telegraph columnist Charlotte Gill, who seems to have a latent desire for Tory oblivion, which would be just about the only positive by-product of an actual No Deal scenario. “A No Deal”, planning for which has been finally halted this week, is manifestly not the most popular option for the public, whatever IDS and Boris Johnson have claimed this week.

Gill’s unhinged punditry arrives amid inconveniently cautionary voices about the whole “Brexit” enterprise; not from usual suspects but from the Daily Mail‘s Peter Oborne on Open Democracy and James Kirkup in Brexiter-haven The Spectator. Oborne stresses the threat to the UK and regrets his lack of consideration for Northern Ireland back in 2016; Kirkup assiduously dismantles the myth that we would have ‘control’ or ‘freedom’ if we “go WTO”. Both reflect on actual scenarios we face now, not on the illusory fantasy Brexits that were hatched in many bonces in June 2016.

These were fantasies ludicrously indulged by the Prime Minister, as this January 2017 rhetoric captured on the front-page of The Times attests:

Somehow, the innate glory of Britain as a country put us in the driving seat, in a negotiation ‘against’ 27 other nation-states working in tandem and supporting each other… Somehow, for Brexiters, EU claims about not doing a trade deal without the backstop are bluff, yet a self-harming No Deal is not a bluff, but a desirable end!

As the second “Brexit Day” passed with barely a whimper; instead of mass public discontent, I sense rather tired annoyance and indifference. There was a whimper, an “off-grid”, “blackout” protest of maybe 3,000 (at best) social media diehards. Do they actually believe their propaganda that staying off work and sitting in the house with the TV off for one day could “bring the country to its knees”?

They exclaim: “No cars, no shopping, no TV, no phones!” Until we get our way and we get No free roaming on holiday, No EU food imports, No jobs from companies who have settled here over our 46 years of membership! No United Kingdom!

Well, I’m sitting in the house now, writing this and listening to house. Through the TV is playing ACID: MYSTERONS INVADE THE JACKIN’ ZONE, a compilation of Chicago Acid & Experimental House from 1986-93. A CD I bought in London two Saturdays ago. After having listened to Jens Lekman & Annika Norlin’s epistolary album Correspondence via the internet. I have played Mr Fingers’ ace ‘Washing Machine’ and also used a washing machine. Beat that! While they are free to listen to their Arthur Askey and Strawbs records on gramophone or vinyl and re-read Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech for the thousandth time without so much showing a leg… I think my activities will have as much effect on the world as theirs.

I seriously hope that this is my last Brexit post for a while, and the “Francois for PM” and “Blackout” incidents constitute an appropriately hapless, desperate damp squib with which to end this series of the Brexit soap opera. Sadly, I fear “Brexit” is going to be with us for at least the medium term. A nation has grown used to shouting at itself for three years, and, bizarrely, it likes it! Or, many do: especially those Leavers who like saying “get over it” and claiming to speak for “the 17.4 million”, but also that curious niche of Remainers who are desperate to rewind the clock to Cameron-Osborne’s neoliberal political programme of 2015/16.

As we enter a “Brexit Lull”, desired by all but those true believers in traitors and betrayals, there are other issues we might consider important. Greta Thunberg’s Friday climate change protests continue; David Attenborough is to broadcast on the subject on BBC1 next week. We might focus our minds on what happened one hundred years ago today in Amritsar, India, and while welcoming the fact that the Prime Minister raised the issue in Parliament, we should all urge her to apologise on behalf of the UK for what we did.

In writing about the 1978 Play for Today ‘Destiny’, I noted that the scene from David Edgar’s earlier stage play mentioning the killing at Amritsar of 400 unarmed Indian protesters by British troops ordered by Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer was excised from the television version. This showed a certain historical timidity in the BBC, which, while backing the play’s complex and even-handed dramatisation of many political voices, and showing the poignant death of Major Rolfe’s son in Northern Ireland, excised the historical facts concerning many more deaths in India in 1919.

We must remember, we must apologise. We must see ourselves as others see us, whether we want to do free-trade deals with India or Europe, or both or neither. I believe in the choice of a new generation and insist that we can leave Powell and Francois behind and heed the lessons of Fawlty Towers.

RIP, Scott Walker: the Outsider’s Champion

RIP, Scott Walker (1943-2019).

He was a transformational voice and exploratory musical modernist; no one has gone further into the ugly and beautiful. No other musical oeuvre has spanned ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ to the 22 minute-opus of oddity ‘SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)’. Only Bowie (and maybe Hollis) is remotely comparable, in making “the journey of a life” in music so fascinating. In the 1960s, he popularised Brel and chanson and produced some of the best music to listen to for heartbreak; I’ve lived through it with Scott 3 (1969), believe me…! Later, he detonated the ‘song’, culminating in the wondrous masterpiece Tilt (1995). His music is immersed in history and humanity, in its horror, ribaldry, melancholy and humour.

In addition to Bowie and Hollis, he stands beside Leonard Cohen, Robert Wyatt, Peter Hammill, Sun Ra, Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush as a musical force that will endure.

‘Bouncer See Bouncer’ is at the summit of where music can go. It will resound in 200 years’ time. ‘Cossacks Are’ is the avant-pop cut-up of our dreams, Burroughs in the age of the Iraq War:

“A rare outcry makes you lead a larger life”
“You could easily picture this in the CURRENT TOP TEN”
“Medieval savagery, calculated cruelty”
It’s hard to pick the worst moment, it’s hard to pick the worst moment

Here’s a current top ten, nah twenty, of my favourites by Scott Walker. Bit pointless as you really need to listen to it all…

  1. ‘Jackie’ (1968)
  2. ‘Cossacks Are’ (2006)
  3. ‘The War is Over (Epilogue)’ (1970)
  4. ‘It’s Raining Today’ (1969)
  5. ‘The Old Man’s Back Again (Dedicated to the Neo-Stalinist Regime)’ (1969)
  6. ‘The Electrician’ (1978)
  7. ‘Butterfly’ (1969)
  8. ‘Montague Terrace (In Blue)’ (1967)
  9. ‘Plastic Palace People’ (1968)
  10. ‘Boy Child’ (1969)
  11. ‘Farmer in the City’ (1995)
  12. ‘If You Go Away’ (1969)
  13. ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ (1966)
  14. ‘Epizootics’ (2012)
  15. ‘I Don’t Want to Hear it Anymore’ (1965)
  16. ‘The Seventh Seal’ (1969)
  17. ‘Tilt’ (1995)
  18. ‘Blanket Roll Blues’ (1984)
  19. ‘Lullaby’ (2014) (w/ Sunn O))))
  20. ‘Bouncer See Bouncer’ (1995)