Friday, October 24, 2008

The Blue Peter Files #1

“Here’s one I/we made earlier” is a phrase that has become commonplace in the British English language during the last 40 years or so. Certainly during the last few weeks you will not have been able to open an English newspaper without encountering it, and with good reason. This phrase has its origins in the children’s TV show Blue Peter, which celebrated its 50th birthday last week and is now apparently the longest running children’s TV show in the world. Blue Peter holds a special place in many a British person’s heart, especially those of a certain age, e.g. like me who, at 50, can truly be said to have grown up with the program.

The picture here is of my Blue Peter badge. I seem to remember getting this for collecting and sending in milk bottle tops (for one of their annual charity appeals). This would have been sometime in the sixties and demonstrates that Blue Peter were ahead of the game in the recycling stakes. There was also a deluxe version of the badge which had a dark blue background and the ship picked out in gold (or silver?). I seemed to remember you had to do something a bit special to get that one, although the Wikipedia entry says that it was just issued to those who already had the white badge. In any event I never managed to get one, but I’m sure my next door neighbours did – they were pretty gung-ho about most things.

Now I just have to show you this….

When they weren’t cocking a snook at the old adage “never work with children or animals”, amongst other things, the Blue Peter presenters were always showing us things to make with any old bit of tat and general stuff that you were bound to be able to find lying around the house. Coat hangers, empty washing up bottles (well, empty after you had deposited the contents into a glass or some similar receptacle, inviting mum’s wrath), sticky back plastic, cornflake packets, that sort of thing. After some enthusiastic instruction they would, with a flourish and the words “here’s one we made earlier”, produce a completed example of their industry.

Happy days.

Right, now it’s time for some music, and I thought I would use “here’s one we made earlier” as the theme of this, and my next post.As I have no doubt described before, my love of music really started in the early seventies and I quickly developed a love of soul and funk music. In Britain Soul to the masses was Motown if nothing else. Motown had become established as something of a mainstream sound, and for me, through continued radio airplay and reissues of classic sixties hits, the lineage of acts such as Stevie Wonder and The Temptations was clear.

But I was also discovering all sorts of great new artists and groups. At least I assumed they were new groups. Then I gradually became aware that these acts weren’t new on the scene at all, they had been around for years – way back into the sixties – and they were just reinventing themselves, embracing new musical technologies and trends, and giving us vital new music. A cynic might say they were deserting their roots and simply riding a commercial wave. But there is nothing wrong in moving with the times, and you have to make a buck to eat.

When you juxtapose the output of these groups from the different phases of their careers (and yes I know the nucleus of both these groups goes back even further than my starting point here) you realize just how much their sound changed and, indeed, that of soul and funk music in general. You also realize there was true musical genius at work here.

The Parliaments – Don’t Be Sore At Me 1967

Parliament – Star Child outro / Unfunky UFO 1976

The Ohio Players – Here Today And Gone Tomorrow (mp3) 1968 *

The Ohio Players – Fire 1974

* I've featured this one before, and have no hesitation in doing so again as it is such a great record.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mine's a Southern Comfort and lemonade

While I slowly get my act together on a more verbose post I thought I would offer up this not so little track. This has been inspired by DavyH’s recent rediscovery of jazz-funk and his craving for full length versions of same, and is for him, at least.

For a few years now I have not been able to get enough of the immediacy of two minute something 60s and 70s southern soul and obscure sister funk tracks. Whereas back in the late 70s early 80s, in my relative youth (early twenties), I was cruising around in my silver Capri with my “If it aint Jazz, it aint worth a Funk” sunstrip listening to the likes of Lonnie Liston Smith, The Jeff Lorber Fusion, and Sadao Watanabe, (OK, yes, I’ll admit it, Shakatak too). The land of jazz-funk where every track was at least five minutes long.

Sometimes I think I must be living my life backwards.

Hiroshi Fukumura with Sadao Watanabe – Hunt Up Wind 1980*

*recorded in Tokyo in 1978 this was released on Inner City in 1980. Check out the credits on the back cover, all the ususal suspects were on the session.

(I can’t find this currently available on CD anywhere).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

For Dad

How to start this post? I don’t know. I’ve made a few false starts that the delete key was happy to swallow up. So, not even knowing if it’s fair to even burden you with this, I’m just going to come straight out and say it. The truth is it’s been a bad week in my world. The worst. Dad passed away on Monday.

A neighbour of my parents summed it up well when he said it must have been a blessed release. He is right, in the end Dad’s health had deteriorated so much that he had no real life left, and no prospect of any real recovery. The last year had been tough for him and mum, and our family.

Only last Saturday my parents had celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary. I’m sure Dad was still with us enough to be aware of this and I think he was determined to reach this milestone. Then I think he said to himself - enough is enough. Dad reached 89, so life dealt him a fair hand.

I can’t really put in to words how I feel at the moment so I will just leave you with some music. Dad liked piano music of various forms (and, in his earlier years, used to play the piano accordian). There are a few Oscar Peterson albums in his collection and I remember this particular track was one he kept going back to.

Oscar Peterson – Robbins Nest (mp3)
recorded in 1967

from this if you can find it available.