Monday, 17 May 2010

Ten songs to remember London by...

I hope you’ll forgive me a little self indulgence this week. After 14 years of living in the big smoke I leave London in the next couple of days to start a new life in the country. Fear not, the blog will continue to bring you the best music across the spectrum but this week I felt a reminiscence was in order. Below I select the ten tracks that will forever remind me of the greatest city on earth.

DJ Kool – Let me Clear my Throat

I moved to London in 1996 and was immediately drawn to the emerging (and now deeply unfashionable) big beat scene. In later years this became very formulaic - hip hop beats punctuated with big vocoder builds (think Propellorheads or Bentley Rhythm Ace) but this did big beat, as it was initially conceived, an injustice. The key club and the one I went to on a number of occasions was the Heavenly Jukebox at Turnmills. Resident DJs were Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and (in my opinion the best of the lot) Jon Carter. The ethos of Heavenly was simply to mix it all up – hip hop next to indie next to techno next to dancehall. For a club scene which had been dominated previously by house and techno purists this was thrilling and (until the beer monsters moved in) created a unique atmosphere. Carter always played this track – essentially a call and response track over the top of the 45 King – and the place would explode.

Red Astaire – Follow me

If you are a Dj it goes without saying that you can’t play bangers all night. A good DJ takes the listener through a range of moods and as such there is a genre that will forever be known as ‘warm up’ records. The records you play as people arrive are crucial in setting the mood. This record has become my ultimate warm up record. It features what can only be described as a xylophone riff over the top of some funky beats but it has a certain loungy, cheesy listening quality which draws the listener in. Astaire has recorded under a number of guises including Freddie Creuger and his work is well worth a further listen.

John Holt – Ali Baba

The first night I put on in London was Shop Local. Myself and mate Will secured a residency at an old boozer in Stoke Newington in 2000 and we spent the next half a decade playing all over east London to anyone who would listen. The general consensus was that the Trolley Stop in Dalston was the best place we played. It was run by an Irish guy who didn’t give a shit what went on and as a result it would go off in there. Pitchers of Vodka and Red Bull were downed at a tenner a time and that was just the people who hadn’t taken something stronger! Our ethos was eclectic – everything from reggae to house and back again. We would love taking people up to a peak and then drop some reggae or soul later on to build the lovey vibe. Ali Baba was an example of the sort of track we would play at 2am with everyone boogying together before the inevitable after party back at someone’s flat. Happy times!

Jean De Kou Kou – Fela Kuti

One of the best things about Lnodon’s nightlife is the way it draws on influences from around the World to create something new. The Future World Funk guys were a real influence on me for a while – turning me onto Brazilian Drum n Bass, Afrobeat, African House and Balkan Reggae. I had a residency at a bar called District in Hackney where I would seek to play some of this stuff and this track has been a favourite ever since. It isn’t particularly typical of Kuti – you couldn’t really call it afrobeat as its much mellower but its 10 minutes of great instrumentation.

Da Funk – Daft Punk

In my humble opinion the best dance music record ever made. A huge club and chart hit and yet no vocal and, like the clash, completely uncompromising. If there was a word to describe this track its ‘dirty’ – it instantly takes you to a sweaty club at 3am with no-one thinking about anything but enjoying themselves. This track will never let you down.

Standing in the Rain – Don Ray

I couldn’t not include some disco which is without a doubt my favourite genre of recent years. The track starts with a wonderful floaty synth before a catchy vocal and an irresistible breakdown. I played this track many times at my Castle residency in Walthamstow in recent years.

Chi-ching Party – Lady Sovereign v’s Fred Wesley.
Bootlegs really hit London hard in the early part of the last decade. For me, this was one of the very best – taking Fred Wesley’s funk classic House Party and putting a Lady Sovereign accapella over the top. Again, well utilised in the Walthamstow years – I think it was put together by a producer from Bristol called Rhythm and Booze and is probably pretty difficult to pick up now.

London Calling – The Clash

I can’t really have a list of songs that remind me of London without having at least one that refers to it. For me, this is one of the best singles ever made – it has a great melody but isn’t in any way compromised. Strummer’s wolf howl is perhaps one of the most thrilling moments in popular music. If you don’t know the London Calling album seek it out as its brimming with ideas and an absolute classic.

Tarrantula – Zomby

London is always at the forefront of musical innovation and Dubstep is the latest of a number of genres to explode out of the capital since I’ve been here. This is a great example – quite melodic and accessible compared to much dubstep. It features on the excellent Hyperdub 5 compilation which has been on my CD player pretty much non stop over the last couple of years.

Les Fleur – Minnie Riperton

Mentioned on this blog a number of times already. If push came to shove my favourite song of all time and one which has ended many of my finest nights in London. The folky start gives way to a crescendo of joy and there is no feeling in the world better than punching the air, hugging mates and living for the moment. Goodbye London, I’ll never forget you but it’s time to move on...

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