Desert Island Discs

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A while ago my friend Ian Wood did a kind of desert island discs meme asking friends on Facebook what six tracks were the soundtracks to their lives. Here were mine. What would be in your Desert Island Discs?

Jim Reeves – Senor Santa Claus – My Dad was a Jim Reeves fan and Christmas as a small child meant the smell of hot electrics from his DIY Christmas lights triggered by a contact rotated by an electric motor connecting with a circle of brass contacts and lots of hard-wired Christmas lights. No solid-state components or micro-chips involved. All the parts came from an electrical parts salvage shop in Birkenhead which featured dismembered military kit and early computers. Burning carbon bushes and motor grease is as much the smell of Christmas to me as the spices of Christmas pudding. This was accompanied by selections from my Dad’s reel-to-reel tapes of Jim Reeves.

Johnny Cash – Walk the line – Another track from my Dad’s tape collection, I used to like the back beat on this Johnny Cash track. Live at San Quentin is the best live album issued ever. Better than Woodstock, better than Bruce Springsteen Live/75-85.

Tyrone Brunson – The Smurf – Whilst I’d liked the disco I’d heard and found Kraftwerk’s The Model intriguing because of its alien feel, secondary school was when music started to get important and electronic music was where it was at. I was left a bit cold by the whole new romantic vibe. Instead I was impressed by electro and the little hi-energy I heard. If one track exemplified this then it was Tyrone Brunson’s The Smurf, this fired my interest in DJing.

James Brown – Funky Drummer (part 1) – The Art of Noise and Paul Hardcastle drew my attention to sampling but the diversity of tracks that the funky drummer break appeared on hammered it home. I remember hearing it in my fourth or fifth year of secondary school on the In The Jungle Groove compilation and it blew me away.

Phuture – Acid Tracks – I could have put hundreds of house tracks up here but I kept it down to two. Acid Tracks is timeless, hard-as-nails, alien funk that hasn’t been bettered. It reminds me of running around the country trying to get vinyl records: Liverpool, Warrington, Blackpool, Doncaster and occasionally London. The bad aspect to this was that many of the records were bootlegs and in the case of Trax Records even their own pressings were often crap, recycling older vinyl and repressing over the top! You would also rifle through rock record resellers and mail order catalogues to see if you could find a gem that they didn’t know the value of (though they eventually got hip to it). It is hard to get that sense of achievement now when any track can be Googled or Baidu’d.

Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy – this went in for a couple of reasons. Massive Attack were known as Massive because of Gulf War I hammering radio play and the band’s name resonating with a BBC newscaster’s description of ‘the attack was swift and massive’ (this also played hell with Bomb the Bass’ second album release). The lush sound of the album track was part of the audio background for my first proper job as a lab assistant for a plastics company that no longer exists. I worked on resin formulations for a wide range of products: bullet-proof glass, Bentley head lamp surrounds and bonding materials for the body panels of TVR sportscars. I had a Pro-Walkman and a set of Sennheiser HD414s that I used to listen to music to on the way into work in a Ford Transit crew bus.

I have a lasting memory of this video being on a laser disc player in the pub where I went for a lunch to celebrate my last day at the job, as I had secured a new one closer to home

Secondly the remix 12″ of this track with the Nellee Hooper club mix is a classic that remained in my record box; Oakenfold got covered in glory for his mix, but the Hooper mix is the one to have, I’d bring it right up on the Technics pitch control to drop in house sets.

Joe Smooth – Promised Land – If any one track represented house music it would have to be Joe Smooth’s Promised Land with Anthony Thomas on vocals. Smooth is an unsung hero of house music, first a DJ peer of the likes of Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy, then a producer working with many people on the DJ International roster. My abiding memory from this track is watching a couple of the most macho football casuals hugging each other on the dance floor of a wine bar I was DJing at when I dropped this track. On the video the guy with the flat top and mullet combo is Anthony Thomas, the nerdy looking guy is Joe Smooth.

Manuel Göttsching – E2-E4 – I’d love to pretend that I was sufficiently with it to have heard of E2-E4 when I was 13, but I didn’t I heard it. When it started to get sampled by other people; notably Sueno Latino. I hunted down and was blown away by the album (its a 59-minute piece of music but the video clip gives you the gist of it and probably the longest Desert Island Discs recording). It beat out Klein & MBO as my last track since it sounds fresher, but is a good reflection of the past and present electronica that I listen to. Göttsching apparently came up with the music as he wanted something to listen to on a flight.

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