Including this double dude…
Literally nothing is more embarrassing than having someone burst into the shower just as you’re about to hit your peak during an emotive soul recital. You’re naked, you’re squealing, those vocal runs you’re doing are much more impressive in your head, they’re pointing at you and sharing crude pictures with their mates on Instagram. It’s a sorry situation for everyone involved. But that wouldn’t be a problem for any of these guys, who can sing the fuck out of shit because they’re bloody amazing… MY FAVOURITE MALE SOUL SINGERS LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. Feel free to go absolutely apeshit in the comments section because I’ve got it all wrong and didn’t include Stevie Wonder…
The greatest of them all, his voice is smoother than a long piece of wood you’ve spent the last week sanding down for eight hours a day without stopping. Do the maths, that’s basically smooth as fuck. Stupidly, he decided to kill himself in 1979 by jumping out of a window. I was just three at the time, which is neither here nor there.
It’s nuts to think that Otis Redding was just 26 when he was killed in a plane crash, he sounds so mature and borderline-elderly when he sings. Confession time guys! Otis Blue is one of the few records I own that I could listen to from start to finish every single day without tiring of. I have no idea why I just made out that was a big confession.
You might not have heard of this cat, because Frankie Beverly was never a solo star in his own right. He sung with the band Maze in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and possibly beyond, and those cats were funkier than a stink on a hot summer’s day. Some of you might have noticed that I’ve suddenly started saying “cat” a lot in this paragraph. Go with it, I’m just trying it out.
Bobby Womack’s enjoying another blast in the sunshine after collaborating with Damon Albarn on that album about a year ago. Everyone liked it because it combined modern day sounds with old style singing. I didn’t listen to it because I’m a bearded vinyl twat who pretends to only like old stuff like 1970s albums and vintage shirts. I do love Bobby Womack though, he always sounds about this close to a violent coughing fit.
I’m going through a big Isley Brothers moment that doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon. I love them because they looked like a great big pile of fat black Elvis impersonators, I like that they could throw down serious funk jams next to syrupy soul ballads. I adore them especially because Ron Isley has one of the most slippery voices the world has ever seen. And I mean that in a good way.
If I had to pick my favourite Marvin Gaye album I’d go for I Want You because it’s the sexiest record ever made, full of secret messages in between the lines saying stuff like “come here woman” and “I’m gonna hold you real tight”. Chicks love that kind of shit. I also like What’s Going On, Trouble Man, Let’s Get It On, Here My Dear, and basically every other record he ever made.
Whether fat or thin Luther could sing the phone book and while everyone would listen for a minute then whisper “is this guy actually singing the PHONE BOOK?” to each other with an incredulous look in their eyes, they’d all agree that the lyrics might be boring as fuck, but that fat guy’s got the voice of an angel.
When I was a student in Bristol I spent my days frying up pieces of bread for my world famous fried bread fried bread sandwiches and listening to Brown Sugar by D’Angelo. Man that cat could groove. That’s right everyone I’m back to saying “cat” again. Deal with it.
Obviously I’m never going to die, but if I did – IF I DID – during the bit where my coffin is lowered into the ground while all manner of beautiful women in black howl to the heavens I’d like someone to put on Hercules by Aaron Neville. It tells the story of a man just trying to get through life and deal with the struggles. I know what you’re thinking – that’s me in a nutshell. Great song, and what a voice.
Ah man, the last spot was always going to be a nightmare. Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, even Lionel Richie had a shout. Then you’ve got Bill Withers and Gil Scott-Heron who I adore. Terry Callier’s amazing. Sam Cooke. White soul singers like Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart. James Brown who grunted a lot but could also sing amazingly well, Michael Jackson who took soul to the billions. Smokey Robinson, any of the Temptations, I even like R Kelly a little bit. But in the end I went with Willie Hutch who’s just plain wicked.
Yeah, afraid not lads
The debate has been raging for months and years and will go on literally until the end of time, but I’ve finally cracked it – I’ve compiled a list of the Top 20 Great British Bands of all time… according to me. It was a painful, emotional and often unnerving experience, as I watched groups that I adore trundle along the imaginary conveyor belt in my mind, only to clumsily fall off like overfilled cardboard boxes right at the very end. Amongst them The Rah Band who could boogie with the best of them at one point, Dexys Midnight Runners who were consistently excellent, Massive Attack who provided anthems for 1990s dope smokers, The Jam, The Smiths, New Order. Loose Ends. The Shadows. Average White Band. I secretly like Duran Duran and The Pasedenas. Even Wham! One of my guilty pleasures is Young Guns by Wham! I fucking love that track. But in the end I got there. You won’t find Coldplay, Keane, Radiohead, Blur or Oasis in this list. Basically because I don’t like those groups. Neither will you find Queen on account of me not standing them, which is unusual…
1. Small Faces
The greatest band of them all for so many reasons. They dressed in fine outfits made from continental thread, they weren’t alarmingly tall which is neither here nor there, but most importantly they made great tunes, made even better on account of Steve Marriott having the howliest British rock roar of all time. When Marriott eventually flounced off, they famously dropped the Small and employed a guy with a dreadful cough called Rod Stewart.
2. The Beatles
Everyone likes The Beatles. Everyone. Even people who go on about how much they hate The Beatles secretly get home every night and dance naked in front of a mirror to Twist and Shout or Hey Jude. They’re just really bloody excellent, even Ringo who had a foghorn voice and was hilariously considered the twelfth best drummer in the band. Both Revolver and Rubber Soul would make my all-time top 100 albums list. The below track, however, features on neither of those records.
3. The Specials
For those who don’t remember 2-Tone, it involved wearing clothes that were a touch too tight and running on the spot to reggae played a touch too fast. So in short, it was fucking amazing, and of the swathes of bands that bum rushed the charts this one was the best. Their presence here means there’s no room for Madness, The Selecter, or Bad Manners. Although there never would have been room for Bad Manners anyway. No offense.
4. The Kinks
The quintessential English band, that’s what everyone says about The Kinks. They’d sing about things like sipping a cup of tea and bonking the vicar’s wife, or about a buxom man-women they met in a seedy Soho coffee shop. All with a wry smile, a cheeky wink, and a fist punched into the crease in their forearm accompanied by a big chorus of “phwoooar look at the arse on that!”. Without them we wouldn’t have bands like Blur, which may or may not be a good thing. It would mean no almighty cheese prick Alex James. Yeah, perhaps we hate The Kinks. Actually no, we love them. Sorry.
5. Black Sabbath
Before he married a frumpy lady in a floor length Laura Ashley frock who was the opposite of his usual crumpet called Sharon Arden, Ozzy Osbourne was in a band called Black Sabbath, and they were really really fucking loud. So loud your ears would actually grow skin over them during the course of an album. So loud that voices in your head would start to exist just to tell them to stop. So loud that you wouldn’t hear an explosion unless it was actually in your face. So loud that they keep other heavy rock bands like Motorhead, Iron Maiden and the Zep out of the top 20. Which is ridiculous when you think about it, because the Zep were AMAZING and should definitely be on this list. And yet they’re not.
6. The Rolling Stones
Old Rubber-Face and the girls have been around so long and now look so old and decrepit like a collection of line drawings wearing suits that it’s hard to remember that when they were younger they were great looking like hot European chicks and innovative like serious German scientists. They were dangerous innovators and over the years they have produced some outstanding music moments.
7. The Jesus and Mary Chain
Don’t be fooled by the strange pissing noises and the fact these guys look precisely like glue sniffers, they’re the real deal. They’re artistes, which is French for artists. They’re also Scotiche, which is French for Scottish. The below clip comes with an introduction from the original Pixie Geldof – Paula Yates.
As funk bands go, the US had it nailed, but Cymande could go toe to toe with any one of them in the 1970s. Formed in London in 1971, they’re still going, and if you listen to this stuff for long enough your trousers morph into flared jeans and some wicked sideburns just appear from nowhere.
9. The Who
If it’s a loud 1960s mod band with buckets of attitude you’re after, try The Who. If you’re looking for solid 1970s rock featuring a man who was separated at birth from Kevin Keegs, try The Who. In the mood for a rock opera?…. you’re probably starting to get the gist of this. Like it when songs start all teasingly slow and then suddenly feature aggressive guitar licks and mad drum skills? I’m doing it again aren’t I?
10. The Style Council
The debate will rage until the planet finally explodes itself on account of global warming, but who is better, The Jam or The Style Council? Both Paul Weller groups, they divide people. One were all jackets and haircuts, the other soft synths, a bit of sax, and men looking like they’d oiled up and recreated Brideshead Revisited. In my case, I like to take The Jam from October to March, then from April to September I prefer The Style Council. At the moment, I’m in an April kind of mood what with it actually being April, so you do the math(s).
11. The Coral
Merseyside has a great tradition in churning out fantastic pop groups, and these cheeky chappies follow in a great tradition that follows The Beatles, The Farm, The Boo Radley’s and Cast. Yes, most of the bands just mentioned are utter shit. That was the joke. These guys aren’t though, hence why they keep The Zutons, The Las and all manner of other floppy haircuts in tight jeans out of this line up.
12. Gang of Four
Time was when you could go for a job interview in a stuffy office working for THE MAN during the afternoon, then head off to perform your political socialist mantras on The Old Grey Whistle Test in the evening without bothering to change outfits. Above are post-punkers Gang of Four. A band that keeps Orange Juice, The Pop Group and Magazine out of the running for reasons of being ever so slightly better.
13. Soul II Soul
Jazzie B is the only human being who has ever dared to pick up a keyboard/guitar without looking like the world’s most stupid prick. Hence Soul II Soul keeps Young Disciples, Freeez, and Loose Ends out of the running. Just.
14. The Clash
Probably three of the greatest front men of all time stuck into a single band, Jones, Simonon and Strummer were like three Springsteens, only not quite so palatable in a good way. The Clash were also the pick of the 1970s British punk bands, so they keep The Damned and the Sex Pistols off the list.
15. Arctic Monkeys
Definitely the most current band on the list, Arctic Monkeys are continuing the trend of nifty bands coming out of the Northern city of Sheffield, which is famous for making steel and generally being an incredibly depressing place for everyone involved – ABC, Pulp, Heaven 17, The Human League. Of that lot, these guys are possibly the best. They can’t quite beat local legend Joe Cocker though. Not yet.
As a band, Aswad were far better than their international saccharine smash Don’t Turn Around would have you believe. An excellent, excellent reggae group, with an occasional singing drummer thrown in to boost them up to Warp Factor A Million on the Wicked-o-Metre. They keep UB40 out of the Top 20.
17. The Slits
Long before The Spice Girls, Girls Aloud, The Saturdays, The Sundays, The Mondays, Little Mix and One Direction girl groups were already going super strong in the UK. Look at The Slits – below in 1979. Their lead singer Ari Up invented a revolutionary one-legged dance, which she’d occasionally practice in one of London’s many parks.
18. The Stone Roses
For a strange period in the 1990s, everyone thought it was cool to talk in a Manchester accent and walk around like a really arrogant version of Charlie Chaplin with their feet pointing in opposite directions. That was entirely thanks to the Madchester explosion that started when these guys detonated a pop-funk-dance-rock bomb and ended when the shaved gorillas in Oasis started throwing their weight around because they’d just that minute taken a bunch of coke. Oasis didn’t make the list.
19. Echo and the Bunnymen
Although as a child the bitter disappointment of not seeing a rabbit on guitar or a big brown hare on drums would have me shouting and throwing bricks at the TV whenever these guys were on Top of the Pops, you just can’t fault them as a band. They’ve got all the ingredients: a guy on guitar, someone singing, a bloke playing bass, a wild feral animal smashing around on the drums. They keep The Smiths and The Cure out of the running.
20. Public Image Ltd
Johhny Rotten’s second most famous band, but my favourite of the two – they had a slightly less shouty thing happening, and proved once and for all that Rotten really can’t sing. Not that it matters.
Absolutely including this lot…
The big news is that John Lydon is reforming his old group Public Image Ltd to go on some kind of tour. And that got us to thinking. PiL was Lydon’s second successful stab at the big time with a band, but what other artists have been lucky enough to enjoy two days or more in the sunshine? We decided to come up with ten of the best, with the likes of The Last Shadow Puppets, The Raconteurs, Gorillaz and The Foo Fighters all falling at the final hurdle…
1. The Style Council
The Jam split up in 1982 and Weller formed The Style Council in 1983. Much to a lot of Jam fan’s disgust. Where were the spikey guitar riffs? Fuck me, is that a PIANO? The Style Council were much silkier and soulful. They wore lovely cardigans. It was picnic-pop, but totally brilliant. Weller’s finest hour?
2. The JB’s
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, James Brown ploughed through backing band line ups – mainly because he was a massive soul bastard, and paid everyone in either punches or peanuts. The JB’s provided the sound for his golden period in the early 1970s, succeeding The Famous Flames, The James Brown Band, and The James Brown Orchestra. Bootsy Collins on bass, “Jabo” Starks on drums, Fred Wesley at the back tromboning. So to speak.
3. Public Image Ltd
Formed in 1978, almost directly after the Sex Pistols had imploded, PiL featured John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten), Keith Levene – once of The Clash – and Jah Wobble. Or, at least, the first line up did. Over the years, almost twenty thousand people could claim to have once been a member of PiL. You were probably in the band without realising it. Lydon’s best band.
4. Humble Pie
Small Faces were bloody excellent, Humble Pie weren’t too bad either – much rockier, intent on wooing audiences in America. They initially got together after Steve Marriott had failed to convince his Small Faces bandmates to allow Peter Frampton to join the group, so he flounced off and made Humble Pie instead. For the first half of the 1970s, they were a fantastic band, then Marriott went a little bit loco.
5. New Order
After Ian Curtis decided to dance weirdly into the eternal night in 1980, the Joy Division morphed into New Order – a far more oily band, replacing their office temp outfits for short shorts, and highlights in their hair. All three surviving members– Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Stephen Morris – stayed on board, with the addition of Morris’ girlfriend Gillian Gilbert on keyboard guitar. As anyone who reads massive textbooks about war well knows, the Joy Division was a reference to the prostitution wing of concentration camps during the Second World War, New Order was incorrectly seen to be taken from a quote in Mein Kampf. The band are not fascists.
Wings, though rather unfashionable to like, were actually a pretty decent band. Not, obviously, as good as The Beatles, but tracks like Maybe I’m Amazed and Live and Let Die would have been great additions to any Beatles back catalogue. In fact, the latter was produced by George Martin. They were also the only permanent band formed by any of The Beatles after the split, with McCartney leading the merry troupe for around ten years. He might even have been a Wing for longer than he was a Beatle. They enjoyed much chart success with Linda on backing vocals.
7. Crosby, Stills and Nash
Crosby was once of The Byrds, Stills was once of Buffalo Springfield, and Nash was once of The Hollies. All very successful, sometimes brilliant, pop groups. Hence, this was seen as something of a supergroup project when the three formed in 1968. And yet, they’re still going. Or, at least, on and off. They were so-named to prevent any of the bandmates stealing the name of the group should any of them decided to leave – a result of bitter experience in the cases of Crosby and Nash – and Neil Young would occasionally join in, making it Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Rather cleverly.
8. Lucy Pearl
Like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Lucy Pearl was made up of three big names from successful R&B and hip hop groups. There was Raphael Saadiq from Tony! Toni! Tone!, Dawn Robinson from En Vogue, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest. Originally D’Angelo was supposed to join in too, but some kind of commitment clash meant that he couldn’t. In the original formation, they only managed to squeeze out one album – in 2000 – but the good news is that it was a corker.
9. Big Audio Dynamite
After getting royally booted out of The Clash, Mick Jones shuffled around for a bit, then eventually formed Big Audio Dynamite with reggae/punk legend Don Letts in 1984. With Jones on lead vocals for once, they became known for mixing punk rock with reggae, hip hop, and whatever kind of genre they fancied with an impressive degree of success and innovation. Their biggest hit came with E=MC2 in 1986. Which isn’t featured below.
10. Gnarls Barkley
Both members of Gnarls Barkley have enjoyed musical success with other groups. Danger Mouse with the Damon Albarn cartoon vanity project Gorillaz, and Cee-Lo Green with the popular US rap group Goodie Mob – who were particularly popular in the 1990s thanks to their affiliation with Outkast, and the rise in popularity of raps from the Deep South. As Gnarls Barkley, everyone knows them for that great song about going bananas.
Including this man all grown up…
Names are important, that’s why we all have one. You can tell a lot about a man/woman from staring at their face, or deep into their eyes, but to really know someone, you have to know their name. And these simple monickers can tell you nearly everything you need to know. For example, no one called Neil has ever run a successful import/export fruit company, and you’d be hard pushed to find a Jimmy who couldn’t sing at least slightly in tune. There has never been a popular male model called Simon, and no one in the House of Lords is called Carlos. These are the facts. And another fact is that anyone called Larry will have a special talent, as proven by these four remarkable Larries…
1. Larry Sanders
Although a made-up sitcom character, Larry Sanders is our favourite Larry. The brainchild of the brilliant 1970s/1980s comedian Garry Shandling, he is a chat show host warped by neurosis and a massive ego. The show itself is our third favourite US sitcom ever, and probably responsible for faux-reality programmes like The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. A great Larry.
2. Larry Graham
The greatest bass player of all time, Larry Graham was the man behind the slapping technique – once reserved only for wives by kitchen sinks, but then readapted to bass guitar playing. It was rife in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a member of Sly and the Family Stone before going off to front Graham Central Station, and he has collaborated with some wonderful artists, including Betty Davis and Prince, both of whom could be easily described as “raunchy”. He proves that some Larries can be very good at music.
3. Larry David
The sitcom world’s greatest actual real-life Larry, David was one-half of the mighty throbbing brain that conjured up Seinfeld – the greatest sitcom of them all – and now he’s continuing to blaze trails as the star of Curb Your Enthusiasm. His baldness proves that many men called Larry have to endure a pay-off for their talent, so while he might be really good at being hilarious, he will never again know what it’s like to wear a gentleman’s quiff.
4. Larry Hagman
It was a tough one, deciding on the fourth most wonderful Larry, with Fishburne, Grayson, and ... the Lamb all very nearly barging their way into the final cut. But in the end we went with the man who put the JR in Ewing, Larry Hagman. A wonderfully sleazy actor, he wasn’t just brilliant in Dallas, he was also quite handy in I Dream of Jeannie, in which he played both master and sexual love interest to a very strange magic woman.
Level 42, The Sun Goes Down
A hugely underrated band, Level 42 were oozing with synthesized funk, especially Mark King on bass who liked to wear his guitar just centimetres below his chin. It was an impressive look, and above is one of their greatest moments.
Marvin Gaye, A Funky Space Reincarnation
You might only know Hulk Hogan from Rocky III, in which he played the part of a wrestler called Thunderlips – he was overlooked by the Academy, but his performance was very solid. He even held his own up against Sly Stallone. Others might know him from Thunder in Paradise, a television programme about ex-Navy SEALS who have become local guns-for-hire on a dreamy holiday resort. The rest will know him because he’s a gigantic wrestler who is turning 56 today. Hence we thought we’d get him a gift, so we organised an enormous conference, hired an entire hotel, went around a room asking thirty or so very reluctant employees to introduce themselves and tell a funny story about something hilarious that once happened to them, underwent a series of very pointless and time consuming bonding exercises which did nothing but further alienate the shyer members of the team, endured extremely awkward conversations with higher ranking colleagues who appeared to be attempting to hide the thin-lipped greed that drives them to the very highest highs professionally, but has left them both socially and sexually impotent. Then, FINALLY, we got round to the gift ideas, and all immediately agreed on either a survival knife or a Marvin Gaye song. In the end we got him both. Happy Birthday Hulk Hogan!
Heatwave, Boogie Nights
Yes, Wednesday! That means it’s time to listen to some excellent disco records by men in matching leotards wearing strange womanly belts. Thank Christ then for Heatwave, here telling us that there ain’t no doubt, we are here to party. Take note.
Crazy cartoon funk!
Funk went forking off in numerous directions during the 1970s. Excellent bands like Kool and The Gang put down their handfuls of grit, and picked up bottles of baby oil. James Brown went even harder and funkier, whilst a few of his old band members seemingly wolfed down giant clusters of zany psychedelic drugs, and began acting weird. Mostly under the tutorage of arch weirdo George Clinton. This record was released in 1977, bang in the middle of the hazy Clinton days, and features ex-JB’s superstars Fred Wesley, Bootsy Collins and Maceo Parker. The cover reflected this freaky new direction, with some kind of gargantuan cartoon woman holding a trumpeter in her hand, whilst a massive Fred Wesley smiles like a maniac with a trippy lady perched atop his wizard-like hat. Also featured are a tiny little frightened looking Maceo, and a white dude in what looks like a purple Nazi helmet. What the cover is saying is this… erm, okay, we’re not sure what it’s saying. We have no idea. That Funk bands like drugs too? Yeah, probably that. Great album though. Here’s a cut from it…
Gene Harris, Los Alamitos Latinfunklovesong
Just as night turns to day, and mid-morning turns to elevensies and then brunch, Monday night has taken us all the way up to Tuesday – the official day of impressive jazz sounds, like trumpets, weird staccato drums, and in the case of today’s piece, sexy latin grooves that morph into something slightly more modern for the second half. That’s because this is the Bugz in The Attic remix, jazz friends.
No room for this gentleman…
In tragic music icon terms, Michael Jackson actually lived a fairly long and prosperous life. He made it to half a century, which isn’t bad at all. Elvis only got as far as 42, John Lennon made it to 40 before taking four bullets in the back, and Michael Hutchence was still a fairly youthful 37. Keith Moon and John Bonham made it fashionable for great drummers to die at 32. Then, of course, you have all of the rock stars who couldn’t make it past 27 – Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison. Gram Parsons was even younger at 26, as was Otis Redding when he died in a plane crash. Tupac was 25, Notorious BIG 24, Ian Curtis 23, and Sid Vicious and Eddie Cochran were barely grown ups at just 21. In fact, the list of tragic early deaths is relatively endless. So with that in mind, we thought it high time to select the four most unfortunate, as decided by us…
1. Jimi Hendrix, 27
It was a very sad day for music in 1970 when Hendrix apparently lay on his back, choking on his own sick, thanks to a few too many red wines. The whole thing still smells a little bit fishy, with rumours floating around that it might not have simply been the innocent death of a drinker. Either way, it robbed the world of a fantastic music man, who managed to mix rock, soul and psychedelic stuff really really well. He keeps the likes of Steve Marriott, Janis Joplin, Marc Bolan and Phil Lynott out of the top four, and, to really put things in perspective, without Hendrix we probably wouldn’t have Prince. What kind of rubbish world would that be?
2. Minnie Riperton, 31
One of the great female soul singers, Riperton died of the damn cancer when she was 31. But what a 31 years. She’ll always be remembered for Lovin’ You, a slightly drippy love song, but we’ll forever love her for the rock/soul numbers she did with Rotary Connection, Les Fleurs, and the rather graphic sex song, Inside My Love. With so many excellent soul singers to choose from, she has achieved the remarkable feat of keeping Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke out of the top four. That’s a very big score for the sisterhood.
3. Keith Moon, 32
There were a few decent dead drummers to choose from, but Keith Moon just beat Dennis Wilson and John Bonham to grab a place in the top four. He edged it for being more of a total maniac. Famous for driving cars into pools, flushing explosives down toilets, and for being a completely brilliant drummer in The Who, he died after taking too many anti-alcohol pills in 1978. He’d just been out for dinner with Paul and Linda McCartney, which presumably had nothing to do with the overdose.
4. Big L, 24
The rap game has seen lots of premature deaths – Easy E, Big Pun, Tupac, Scott La Rock, Jay Dee, Biggie Smalls, Jam Master Jay, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. But the one that really makes us slam our fists and weep up to the heavens screaming “why?” is Big L‘s. We honestly think he could have been the greatest rapper of all time, but instead he took seven bullets to the head and chest one evening in 1999. The murder remains unsolved, which makes it double annoying.
Women who can sing the FUNK…
There is a world of difference between being a good soul singer and a good funk singer. Mariah Carey, for example, is a good sweet soul singer, but if she were to suddenly start grunting into the mic and demanding snare kicks from the drummer, her people would rush the stage within seconds to drag her off to the mad house. Presumed breakdown. She hasn’t got the funk. Sadly, neither have many of today’s fine young singers, with the possible exceptions of Beth Ditto, Mary J, Beyonce and that’s about it. Even the greatest soul singer of them all, Aretha Franklin, doesn’t quite have the funk chops to be a BOLD SOUL SISTER. Our top four female funk sensations read like this…
1. Betty Davis
One part of possibly the greatest model/musical genius combo of them all, Betty was the great Mile Davis’ second wife. Back then, in the 1960s, she was just a sexy young model who was friends with Hendrix and Sly Stone, then in the 1970s she emerged as a funk/rock force of nature, with a trio of albums brimming with sexual aggression. An amazing woman, and our top female funk singer.
2. Tina Turner
Before she became Tina Turner with the feathery Rod Stewart hair, and the enormously popular soft rock ballads, Tina Turner was a funk goddess – touring the world with angry, punchy Ike and the magnificent Ikettes. What really marks her out are her excellent dance moves, and a growling voice that sounds like Cathy Beale after a big night on the cigs.
3. Marva Whitney
Featured before as one of our favourite Underrated Soul Stars, Whitney’s piercing, raw voice was the perfect match for James Brown’s band, The JB’s. Alongside other female funk greats like Lyn Collins and Vicki Anderson – both of whom just missed out on a place in the top four – she became a part of the gigantic James Brown family in the 1960s, although she only managed one solo studio album – It’s My Thing, from 1969. Great record.
4. Mary Jane Hooper
Not much is known of this funky Mary Jane Hooper woman. What we do know is that her real name was Sena Fletcher, she had gritty vocal talent that really floated the magnificent Eddie Bo‘s onions, and she churned out about three bona fide funk classics in the 1960s. We also know that she’s our fourth favourite female funk singer.
Chic, I want your love
Wednesday is officially the most glitzy day of the week, so if you’re at work, dim the lights, get one of those sparkling disco balls happening, shrink all of your clothes, and set sail into an ocean of pelvic thrusts. Today, the magnificent Chic are here to smear disco lube into your ears.
No room for the Fresh Prince…
Something about the sunshine and the outdoors can make certain records sound magnificent. Only a few years ago there was that Macarena song – a repetitive number, with a vocal delivery from two grown men who wouldn’t make 10p busking in the middle of Covent Garden on Australia Day. And yet, the combination of heat, cold beers, heavy drugs, and an semi-erotic dance made it the hit of the Summer. Hence, this list is not about summertime hits, but songs about the Summer itself. After much debate, the top four ended up looking like this…
1. MFSB, Summertime
An up-tempo instrumental take on the sultry jazz classic, we love this. MFSB stands for Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, which lends this track a wholesome family appeal, and it’s great for dancing around to in a field full of borderline trustafarians. At, say, The Big Chill.
2. Roy Ayers, Everyone Loves The Sunshine
When Roy Ayers was wondering what people might love, he eventually hit the nail on the head. Everyone really does love the sunshine. Except perhaps for Stephen Hawking that time his girlfriend took the batteries from his wheelchair and left him to crackle and burn in the sweltering heat (true story). But robotronic genius aside, this is one magnificent ode to the weather.
3. The Style Council, Long Hot Summer
For a brief period in the 1980s, Paul Weller – the Modfather – became a little bit camp, and this video catches him riding the crest of a slightly pink wave. And it’s no bad thing at all. In fact, we much prefer his Style Council days. Hence Long Hot Summer can be found rotating at around 45 rpm on the Interestment turntable with startling regularity during the sunshine months. Make no mistake about it, this is a classic record.
4. Alice Cooper, School’s Out
It’s hard to find a decent rock record that encapsulates that Summer feeling, probably because most decent heavy rock bands are made up of people who prefer the night time. This, by a strange woman/man called Alice Cooper, is one of the few exceptions. Sadly, grown men in leather get little chance to celebrate the school holidays in these increasingly suspicious times.
The Stone Roses, Fools Gold
For a strange period in the 1990s, everyone thought it was cool to talk in a Manchester accent and walk a bit like Charlie Chaplin. That was mainly thanks to the Madchester explosion that started with these guys and ended with the shaved gorillas in Oasis. Above is a Stone Roses classic.
Quincy Jones, Summer in The City
Believe it or not, but Jazz isn’t only intended for bespectacled gents with moustacheless beards and berets. It’s also suited to drifters in flip-flops laying beneath trees, women in short shorts, people who don’t wear glasses, and Ribena drinkers. Here, Quincy Jones takes us all for a sweaty walk.
Ian Dury and The Blockheads, What a Waste
As modern British songwriters go, they don’t come much better than the late Ian Dury. A brilliant lyricist, backed by a great band – really really great in fact. Above is our favourite of their songs, narrowly pipping Spasticus Autisticus…
James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince
Much is going to be written about Michael Jackson for the coming weeks, after he finally lost out to a bastard heart attack or some such. He was only 50. And what a life. Brilliant Jackson Five records, often overlooked but completely fantastic tracks during the band’s young-adult incarnation as The Jacksons, and then all of the solo magic – particularly Off The Wall. Obviously the whole thing was slightly marred by his weird monkey, the melty-face stuff, and the eyebrow-raising sleepovers. Still, we thought we’d get him a couple of gifts as a thank you for the music, so we drank heavily until we became forgetful, and it soon boiled down to a toss up between a James Brown gig clip in which Michael is invited on stage, shortly followed by a far more overconfident Prince, or a dodgy recording of Rock With You… ahhh, or the James Brown clip! In the end we got him both. RIP Michael Jackson!
Michael Jackson, Rock With You
Lalomie Washburn, Try My Love
Brilliant, it’s Tuesday, or as we call it, Jazz Day. We love Jazz Day. It’s a time to pull on a sexy set of slacks, balance a cool pork pie hat atop your head, and allow some brass instruments to take you for a motorbike ride. Today, Lalomie Washburn showcases the funkier side of jazz-funk.
Idris Muhammad, Could Heaven Ever Be Like This
It’s Tuesday, friends, that makes it Jazz time. So, take off your square work clothes, slip into a nice polo neck, a Frenchman’s beret, some Orbison shades, and allow the cool Jazz Funk sounds of Idris Muhammad to take your ears for a jog.
Not including anything by this man…
It’s always completely brilliant to hear from an important member of the Interestment family, and today Emily – a lady with a sharp mind, and a witty way – turns her attention to the love songs that really float women’s yachts. She had this to say…
There I was, sighing heavily as I pondered love lost and Idris Elba in a pair of clingy knickers, and it struck me. Songs these days are all about sex, sex, sex. Even girl pop stars are telling us to forget about the joys of love, and stick to jiggling our bums into a boy’s face to start a meaningful relationship. In the old days, men wrote songs about worshipping and respecting ladies – there were no references to booty and wobbly bits . Their shanties were soft odes to wafting beauties they longed to cherish and adore. Sometimes I lie in my bed with a cuddly bear and entertain that these songs were written about me. So in no particular order, here are the songs that girls wish were penned with them in mind. As usual, some absolute classics just slipped through the net…
1. Mary Jane, Rick James
We all know this song isn’t about a pretty lady called Mary. It’s about the real sticky-icky-icky, the chronic, yes that’s right, cannabis. But a recent survey by More magazine, 85 per cent of all men admitted they prefer spending time hitting up a bong than talking to their girlfriends, so this is a true love song. Also the line “I’m in love with Mary Jane, I’m not the only one” suggests that more than one person is in love with the object of the song. This makes imagining it is about you even better.
2. Fresh, Kool and the Gang
“She’s fresh, fresh – exciting, she’s so inviting to me, yeah!” croons Robert Kool Bell. It was a close call between this and Too Hot, but Fresh edged it, as the former is a bit marriage-y, and the latter perfectly encapsulates the feeling we all want when we’re new in town – especially Renee Zellweger in her latest flick New In Town. Probably.
3. Let’s stay together, Al Green
On the fringe of a dumping, we’d all really like it if our soon-to-be-ex fella would swiftly metamorphasise into the young – and totally gorgeous – Al Green and sing: “Let’s, we oughta stay together, loving you whether, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad”. Sooo, yeah. But obviously that’s if we actually still like you. Which we probably don’t.
4. Golden Lady, Stevie Wonder
Ever since Sisqo‘s ditty about thong-th-th-thong-thong-thongs, women’s anatomy has been objectified and topped with lashings of sleaze. That makes the romance in Golden Lady so lovely. “Looking at your hands, hands can understand, waiting for the chance, just to hold your hand,” it goes. I know Mr Wonder isn’t technically looking at his Golden Lady, but he’s singing about her hands, her hands! Women want men to love their hands. Not just their lumps.
It’s a wonderful day for people called Curtis. Had he not died on Boxing Day 1999, the magnificent Curtis Mayfield would be a very soulful 67 today. But as it is, the man we have decided to honour is Tony Curtis – great actor, wonderful voice, 84 today. He’s made some great films over the years – Sweet Smell of Success, Some Like it Hot, Operation Petticoat. He was also part of one of the finest double acts of all time when he teamed up with Roger Moore in The Persuaders. Hence, we thought we’d get him a gift, so we formed a drumming circle in the park and began chanting ideas at the moon, and pretty soon it boiled down to a toss up between a boxing glove with a horse shoe in it to punch hippies with, or a clip of some early b-boy action. In the end we got him both. Happy Birthday Tony Curtis!
Not including food products…
Copycatting – or, as some people call it, copydogging – is rife. If you write down a list of all of your favourite things – from foods, to films, to drinks, to songs, to clothes, to anything at all – they’re probably all total rip offs from something else. Pasta is one Italian man’s version of Chinese rice, whilst a gentleman’s shirt was originally modelled on the womanly blouses worn by buxom whores attracting incoming sailors. Even Scarface, yes Scarface, was a remake of another film called Scarface from 1932. Both great movies, by the way. And let’s not forget that Heinz Baked Beans have been ripped off and outbrillianted by Branston ones. Everything is a cover version. Everything. So, with that in mind, we peered at music, and deduced the four most impressive copydogs, as decided by us…
1. Joe Cocker, With a Little Help From My Friends
Once in a while, The Beatles would throw Ringo a bone, and he’d get the chance to sing on an album. It was a move akin to Monet asking a hysterical four year old to finish off his lilies for him. It just never worked out. What Goes On (Rubber Soul), Yellow Submarine (Revolver), and then this on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – all the low points on great records. And yet, when Joe Cocker got his teeth into the song, it transformed into a gritty, rock-soul workout. Plus it reminds us of the brilliant Wonder Years. Here’s Ringo’s wrongo attempt…
2. The Clash, I Fought The Law
The Clash painted a snarling picture of spitting teens trying to put one over on the police, while the original – by The Crickets minus Buddy Holly, deceased – sounded more like a cheerful inmate regaling his jail buddies with something he’s just written in his cell. This, of course, making him a serious target for The Marys. Here’s that version…
3. Louie Louie, The Kingsmen
No doubt about it, The Kingsmen‘s version of Louie Louie is one of the greatest pop records ever made. The 1957 original, by Richard Berry, isn’t too bad either. It’s a doo-wap song about a Jamaican man explaining his love life to a bartender called Louie. It’s a far more docile affair…
4. Hey Joe, Jimi Hendrix
Fourth spot was a close call as ever, with some magnificent songs falling at the last minute – James Brown’s version of Think by The 5 Royales, Johnny Cash’s excellent cover of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, Labelle doing Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones – but in the end, Hendrix just nicked it for Hey Joe. It was a hit for the garage rock band The Leaves just a year before Hendrix made it iconic in 1966. It was an extra close call, because The Leaves‘ version is almost just as excellent…
Super Slo-mo Surfer
May is an amazing month for birthdays, it really is. Missing out today are Harvey Keitel, Stephen Colbert, Dennis Rodman, Richie Valens and Samantha Morton. Why? Because it’s bloody Stevie Wonder’s birthday, and Stevie Wonder is basically God. He’s turning 59, and what a life that guy’s had. He’s felt people’s faces, he’s felt keyboards, he’s felt to check he’s wearing his denim trousers, not his silky jogging bottoms. He’s touched his food to check it’s exactly what he ordered. He’s felt women’s noses to deduce exactly what they look like. He’s made an appalling bust of Lionel Richie. His hands have been very busy. Hence, we knew straight away that we should get him a gift. We blindfolded ourselves and went for a long noisy drive, and along the way we talked presents, with one side of the car keen to buy him some of those oversized comedy sunglasses that people used to wear for kicks, while the other side insisted that he’d love the soothing sounds of a wave moving in extra extra slow mo. In the end we got him both. Happy Birthday Stevie!
Without them, no sign of this strange man…
It’s with total and unreserved elation that we welcome Hip Hop Sam back into the Interestment fold. He’s been off the scene lately, spending nights rifling through his thousands of sleek vinyl records. Today, he’s provided an interesting historical lecture about Drum and Bass music, and how it really came about. He had this to say…
Drum and Bass is amazing, and in its heyday it was an exciting movement to be part of – cowering in a dark room throbbing with bass, crack smoke wafting through the air, fingering a rosary, praying that a gun crazed madman won’t get all shooty and kill the vibe. Ahh great days. No one really knows where this weird and frightening music originated from, but if you pull up a chair, I’ll tell you who invented it.
1. Rebel MC, Comin’ On Strong
We’ll forgive the Rebel for making awful pop-rap song Street Tuff, partly because when he preformed it on Top of the Pops he shouted “am I a yankee?” and we all cheerfully shouted “no I’m a Londoner!” back at the telly, but also because in 1990 he released a b side, Coming On Strong, that merged bleeps with drums, bass, and a bit of talking in strange new language, called Ragga. He later went on to release the Drum and Bass classic Conquering Lion under the name Code Red. Bo? Exactly.
2. The Ragga Twins, Spliffhead
Originally from Hackney’s s Heatwave Sound System (alongside future Drum and Bass great DJ Hype), Shut Up And Dance (PJ and Smiley) made a number of mistakes in their career including the terrifying release of Raving I’m Raving – a record banned the second it was released thanks to copyright naughtiness. They also appeared topless and greased up on their debut album cover, which is quite frankly a big no-no. However they were among the fist to mix House music with breakbeats creating early Drum and Bass. Above is the track Spliffhead – produced by Shut Up And Dance for the Ragga Twins, everyone’s favourite brothers.
3. The Winstons, Amen Brother
There wouldn’t’ be any Drum and Bass music without drum solos from early funk bands. Most of these drummers were fat, sweaty men with kind faces, and of course excellent rhythm. The best example of a breakbeat is the break from Amen Brother by The Winstons, which has been used in almost every single Drum and Bass track ever created. It’s located at around one minute twenty-seven seconds.
4. 4 Hero, Mr Kirk’s Nightmare
Before Drum and Bass, ravers were annoying. They used to take vast quantities of the evil drugs – acid and ecstasy – and then danced around sweating, gurning, and wearing Global Hypercolour t shirts and yellow smileys. They were an embarassment to our once proud nation. 4 Hero put a stop to this nonsense with the release of Mr Kirk’s Nightmare. The record was based on a cop telling Mr Kirk that his son had “died of an overdose”. This made all these grinning imbeciles feel frightened and paranoid… thus paving the way for the darker sounds of Jungle. Rewind? Yes please.