Monday, May 18, 2009

Funk you

I'm not a big fan of soul, or R n' B as they call it today. In fact, someone accused my ipod of being racist because it had no Beyonce or hip hop on it. It's true I have no Beyonce but there's plenty of black music on there: Motown, northern soul, the Jacksons, Otis Reading, loads of jazz, the Rocksteady Crew, Hootie & the Blowfish (yes, really) and even some Public Enemy. But if you weigh it up compared to everything else it's fair to say it's pretty thin on the ground.

What I do have a bit of a soft spot for however, are some of those nice over-produced, lush, one-off funk or soul hits from the early to mid-Eighties. You know the sort of thing: The Rain by Oran "Juice" Jones, Shake You Down by Gregory Abbott, Always by Atlantic Starr or Zoom by Fat Larry's Band. These hitmakers were quite flash in the pan - can you name another Gregory Abbott song? - but these records were big hits.

If you went into wine bars in the Eighties called Street Level or Boogies then onto clubs called Cinderella Rockafella's, Barbarella's, Friday's or Raffles, then you wouldn't hear Duran Duran or Simple Minds. It was this kind of thing. Feel So Real by Steve Arrington, When You Say You Love Somebody (In The Heart) by Kool & The Gang or Somebody Else's Guy by Jocelyn Brown - these were soundtracking those sort of places. Unless it was student night then you'd get The Cult or The Smiths. I had no objection to popping into one of these places as a warm-up, as it was one of the only places where town met gown and it didn't all kick off. Must have been the music.

The wildlife consisted of the locals. Electricians, secretaries, mechanics, hairdressers, shop workers and insurance admin clerks called Dean, Tony and Chris, Fran, Tracy or Jayne. I'm not being a snob - this is how it was.

He'd be in burgundy sta-prest pegs with a baggy white shirt done up at the collar tucked right in and grey soul slippers offset by white socks gently swaying to Central Line's You're The One For Me.

Or he'd be a twat in a hat pulled down over one eye, with Martin Gore hair, who wore baggy straight-leg trousers tucked into pixie boots wearing a flying jacket over a David Sylvian shirt and bowtie combo self-conciously grooving to Mtume's Juicy Fruit

The women would sport sub-Joanne from The Human League haircuts or the early Tracy Thorn look, wearing diagonal striped dresses or mint green bolero cardigans with three-quarter length sleeves paired with pedal pushers, and set off by white stilettos, white handbags and lots of gold jewellery. The Tracie look. What a catch.

From what I remember, it was all rather good natured fun, and if you stuck around you might get to dance to Colonel Abrams' Trapped or Let The Music Play by Shannon.

Oh those salad days. Do you have a spot spot for something you should by rights loathe?


A Kitten in a Brandy Glass said...

I only ever went into nightclubs on the obligatory goth/indie student night (and even then, very seldom), so I had no concept of what they were like the rest of the time. I imagine a lot of martini glasses and shiny shoes, like one of those 80s airbrush paintings.

My own favourite soul one-off of that era is "Ghetto Heaven" by The Family Stand.

Planet Mondo said...

That has nailed the early 80s experience FC - I was a student at the time, and a regular at Crocs, but had a friend who was a 'Soul Boy'. He would drag us round the chrome and mirrored clubs of Essex - the heartland of 'Jazz Funk' fans then.

Epping Country Club, The Goldmine on Canvey, Raquels in Basildon. Zero 6 or TOTS in Southend to hear random crowd chants of "you what, you what - you what, you what, you what" or waiting for the drunken-stumble slowy at the end of an evening.

Out and about George Benson, Freeze 'I.O.U' and Rockers Revenge 'Walking On Sunshine' would boom from every XR3 while the smell of Kouros For Men wafted out of the windows.

Other delights were the mad 'shaved-sides-permed-on-top' look for blokes or geometric wedges although that was mainly for casuals..

Ronni Griffiths - Best Part of Breaking Up was one of the few tunes popular at any style of club

Ishouldbeworking said...

I'm from Mondo's neck of the woods so can vouch for every word. I did occasionally creep into a few of 'those places' and secretly quite enjoyed some of the music ('Space Base' comes to mind), but it was very tribal and you didn't 'mix'.

I was once bundled out of a 'soul pub' near Romford by my boyfriend, because I had pink hair and he'd noticed I was about to be punched by someone with a wedge and a pair of Farahs. Happy days.

Matthew Rudd said...

You've picked some fine choices there F-C, many of which are in the soul and funk section of my 80s repertoire on Saturday nights. Chuck in Prince, Gwen Guthrie, the Pointer Sisters, the Whispers, Luther Vandross, Club Nouveau, Joyce Sims, Mary Jane Girls, Oliver Cheatham, Odyssey, Bobby Brown, Stacy Lattisaw, Brothers Johnston, Yarbrough & Peoples, Teena Marie.... and any number more.

Modern RnB is insipid, self-indulgent bollocks.

Planet Mondo said...

ISB - Did you ever go to The Windmill at Hanningfield or the Fontaine Bleue cocktail bar in Billericay?

Wall-to-wall jazz funkers in slip on shoes and stretch jeans, or permed girls looking like blonde versions of Angie from Eastenders..

Five-Centres said...

Oliver Cheatham - Get Down Saturday Night?

And let's not forget Change and the SOS Band.

Who's coming down the Pink Toothbrush? I know that is/was your neck of the woods PM/ISBW.

Helen said...

Oh, don't! I remember getting the whole of the Blackfriars pub in Guildford groovin' (some on tables) to Trapped.
Used to go to Stringfellows and The Hippodrome (at the ripe old age of 15) on weekends in London. It was like an Athena poster!

Matthew Rudd said...

That's the one F-C, as sampled the other year by Room 5 for the Lynx ad thingy.

The SOS band were marvellous. Try also a spot of Narada Michael Walden or Total Contrast...

Five-Centres said...

Hels, I know you loved things like this. Didn't you put the Peech Boys on? I remember you going to Stringfellows and the Hippodrome at 15. Thing is, you looked 15 too. How on earth did you get in? Did Charles L'huilier bribe the dooman?

Helen said...

How could you say that....I was so sophisticated! Really annoying (at the time naturally) that when I was old enough to get in they wouldn't believe me.
I also remember going to Cinderella's in Guildford, but I think that was after you'd left. Suze and I shimmied across the floor to 'Heaven Must be Missing an Angel' thinking we were so cool which of course we weren't.

Five-Centres said...

I do remember going to Cinderella's a lot though. Didn't people have birthdays there?

Ishouldbeworking said...

WE (Mondo and me) went to the Pink Toothbrush when it was still Crocs. Complete with live crocodile. Rumour had it the beast would attack a soul boy on sight, but was docile and loving to the Essex punks.

I never went to either of those bars, but Fontaine Bleu was a bit of a legend (pron. 'FonTAYYYYYNE BLEW').

I've got a Peech Boys 12".

Planet Mondo said...

I'm convinced those croc's were battery operated

I lived in Billericay back then, so had a few scoops in Fontayne Blew..I used to go there with the chap who cut Depeche Mode's hair (they were only 5 miles away in Basildon)

How about the Sam Lord pub in Benfleet another local ledge...did you ever hit that ISB??

Ishouldbeworking said...

Sadly not - if we knew a boy who had a car, we would usually sweet talk him into taking us up the West End (missis) rather than striking out along the A13...or up to Toot Hill, which was haunted...