It is one of those facts of life we have come to accept.
But The Police, well, they were a MAN band. Yes they did have the millions of young female fans and were a phenomenon (thankfully the cheesy dance routines were a no-no and their hair was just blonde) but they were men. Continue reading “THE POLICE” »
Tracy Chapman’s another artist whose career I’m too young to have witnessed in person: her first album was released the year after I was born, while the last one I heard of, Telling Stories, came out right when I was starting to despise commercial pop and engage with my first love, punk-rock. I found out about Tracy Chapman’s most known singles much after they were released, thanks to the afternoon radio programmes that my parents used as background noise at home. Bless the radio, yeah – I don’t listen to it much these days, but it saved me from death by boredom lots of times when I was a kid.
Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman. Despite her name, I thought for quite a long time that she was a actually man.
I don’t mean to be offensive, here; on the contrary, my mistaken impression was due to the depth and power of her voice, which I absolutely admire. And to the fact that back in the day I barely saw her face, and first got to know of her through her music and voice alone. Plus, her hair’s quite short on the cover of the first album, isn’t it?
Well, nevermind. What really matters is her music, and who cares if she has a deep voice, if it conveys intense emotions and tells meaningful tales? I surely don’t.
Let’s take Fast Car, for example. Fast Car sounds a little bit like every girl’s story – or, in a way, a story every girl would like to tell. Drunk father, dreary life, unhappiness everywhere…until, suddenly, someone truly beautiful saves it all and provides a means of escaping to a brand new life.
Again, no offense, no sarcasm: I love that song. I have found myself a million times dreaming of the Right Guy with a Fast Car, and every time I thought I’d met someone who could fit the description I hopelessly daydreamed about finally finding out how nice his arm felt around my shoulder. Or where we could run away to, what would our tiny and cheap apartment look like, how long it would have taken us to finally settle down – together.
Yes, I was that kind of daydreamer, when I was younger. Hopeless, did I already mention that?
Just like the girl in the song, I guess. And a million other girls out there.
Tracy’s deep, moving voice sings the story of all of us, with the words we’d use ourselves to tell it. And that’s why Fast Car is precious – as much as Baby Can I Hold You, for that matter, or any of her other songs. They possess the right balance between intimate feelings and universal meanings, they show us both life as it is and as we would like it to be. And that’s what makes them worth to be listened to again, and again, and again.
One of my favourite songs of all time period is Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam’s I Wonder If I Take You Home. Whenever I hear it, it instantly takes me back to my childhood. I still remember hearing it for the first time in 1985 while on a school trip at the final day disco! And it still remains a tune which gets rinsed in the clubs till this day. And is a staple tune, during summer barbecues!
Continue reading “LISA LISA & CULT JAM – I WONDER IF I TAKE U HOME” »
I remember purchasing Hanson’s single, the oh-so catchy Mmmbop, on cassette, back in 1997. I vividly recall walking up to the ‘H’ section and picking up the cassette thinking ‘wait a minute I thought Hanson were a boy band. These girls have lovely thick blonde hair.’ I seriously went home and listened to the tape thinking, ‘well they have high pitched voices, they could be girls’, but thanks to Top Of The Pops magazine I found out that their names were Isaac, Zak and Taylor, three brothers from Oklahoma. I then immediately felt jealous because they had way nicer hair than I did, whatever their sex. Continue reading “HANSON” »
God, I love Blondie. Maybe this is based on the fact that lead singer Debbie Harry is the epitome of glamour with her iconic platinum tresses, framing those fab cheekbones and wildly expressive eyes… She’s my ultimate girl crush. However, she’s not just a pretty face! She also lent her voice to some of the most amazing tunes ever recorded.
It’s time for me to take you back to 1980. Blondie’s new album, Autoamerican, is due to hit the soundwaves this November… and it’s going to utterly transform the face of the music industry FOREVER! Continue reading “BLONDIE – AUTOAMERICAN” »
I’m writing this as someone who grew up with Nirvana, despite coming across their music a good seven years after Kurt Cobain’s death: I still can sing almost each and every line of their songs by heart and their bitterness, angst and anger have never ceased to be a part of me. Continue reading “NIRVANA” »
Born Louisa Gabrielle Bobb in Hackney South London, this notable British songstress launched her music career back in 1993 with the infectious UK number one single Dreams. The track, taken from her debut album Find Your Way, spent three weeks on the top of the charts and the production was originally based on a sample from Tracy Chapman’s classic Fast Car.
At the time, the song was the highest ever UK chart entry scored by a debut artist.
Aside from the fact she had a distinct voice and the song relayed such an accessible message, the main thing that stood out about Gabrielle, when she first came out, was she wore an eye-patch. In the video for Dreams most people thought this was merely a fashion accessory, but it soon became apparent there was more to the story. The mystery went un-solved for a few years and then it was revealed that the singer suffered from a condition called ptosis (which causes drooping of the upper or lower eyelid).
But that didn’t stop her chart domination, and she continued on her successful ride by picking up a BRIT Award for Best British Breakthrough Act, and lit up the charts with melodic corkers such as Rise, Out Of Reach – (the one on the Bridget Jones soundtrack), and the Shai cover If You Ever, a collaboration with East 17. There was also my personal favourite Sunshine. She picked up another BRIT in 1997, this time for Best British Female. Her sophomore album Rise was also a huge hit, although subsequent album releases were not as successful.
What stands out about all he aforementioned tracks, (for me anyway), is the melodies. They are in a word: beautiful. So many effortless notes travelling down twisty, bendy roads which lead you to a fulfilling finish. They touch something inside of you and make you tingle. As cheesy as that sounds.
I also feel Gabrielle didn’t really get the credit she deserved for her song-writing talent, as she wrote most of her hit material and the tracks featured on her popular albums. This was kind of rectified in 2008 when she picked up the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Collection.
But what made our Gabs shine through most, however, was the fact most people could relate to her. She was always came across as a real person and very down-to-earth in interviews. There was a story that came out at the height of her fame, where the father of her then-baby son was sent to prison for murder, and she spoke out about it with dignity, even though it was obviously very traumatic for her, thus showing the average Joe that everyone has their problems, even millionaire popstars.
She really did appear as if she could almost be living just next door to you, popping round for a cuppa every now and then. But of course she probably lived in a big old mansion somewhere out in the country, with all the royalties she picked up. But good on her!
Word on the street is Gabrielle is back in the studio and should have a new album out by the end of the year! Can’t wait!
By Lara Piras
Ed Says: Gabrielle definitely helped popularised the finger-wave hairstyle when she first surfaced in 1993, along with Renee from US r&b duo Zhane who also sported the look in the early 90s ! I had the style and loved it!
‘Straight outta Compton… A crazy mutherf***** named Ice Cube, from a gang called N**** Wit Attitude!’ Blam!
When I first thought about writing this post, I questioned why my 11-year-old self was so excited to hear these opening lyrics blasting out of the speakers of my older brother’s record player for the first time. It could have been hearing a couple of ‘rude’ words so blatantly on record that made my ears perk up ? Maybe that was part of it, but truth be told I wasn’t getting hyped over swearing at that stage… After all similar language was being shouted out in my school playground near enough everyday.
Nope, from what I can recall, it was more a combination of that hardcore pulsating beat and the pure passion and sense of urgency in the voice of the speaker. It all made my head spin – but in a good way… Nah, scratch that, in a great way! At the time I didn’t know that said voice belonged to O’Shea ‘Ice Cube’ Jackson, who at the age of 17, was not much older than me. We even shared a hairstyle in the much-popular 80s do the ‘Jheri Curl’, neither of our finest moments I’m now thinking. But unlike me, Cube can be forgiven because of what came with it.
NWA, N****z with Attitude, everything from their name to their lyrics came with a ‘I don’t give a fuck’ swag firmly attached! YESSSS! *light bulb moment* That’s what it was – I heard that from the very first time! I was a young girl growing up in north west London, Kensal Green by way of Harlesden, while NWA, a group which also consisted of Andre ‘Dr Dre’ Young, Eric ‘Eazy E’ Wright, MC Ren and DJ Yella were, as the song unapologetically, announced ‘Straight Outta Compton…
NWA’s official debut album of the same name (1988) hit hard! How could it not with lyrics like that? They weren’t pretty, that’s for sure – a lot of it was damn right wrong. When someone is proclaiming… ‘So what about the bitch who got shot? Fuck her! You think I give a damn about a bitch? I ain’t a sucker!’ as Eazy did on the track, you gotta know that isn’t something you actually want to agree with. And of course I didn’t. But it was still music to me, ‘my music’ and I couldn’t help LOVING it, not the meaning of every lyric that was spat, often with more venom than a truck filled with poisonous snakes, but how it made me feel, which wasn’t violent or angry, just kinda free.
Of course it wasn’t my world or my story. I’d never even heard of Compton (in Los Angeles, USA) up until that point, but I could certainly relate to being strong, being passionate and being black and proud. That was what was inspiring to me.
Interwoven between the obscenities, there was a clear message of empowerment and standing up for yourself against those who try and bring you down. In the case of NWA, the police were a huge focus for their anger. Album cuts such as F*** Tha Police blasting police brutality and racial profiling, made NWA extremely significant in giving a large chunk of young African American men, namely those living in US ghettos across the country, a voice. They could relate. Heck a young black kid from Nottingham who had been stopped and searched by the police for no reason other than the colour of his skin could relate. I had an older brother, uncles, cousins and a dad who could directly relate.
Like a lot of hip hop music in the 80s and today, NWA also appealed to white male teens (many of them from middle-class homes). It was anthemic, the beats were addictive, the lyrics were charged and everybody wanted to be in NWA. They wore bomber jacket, shell-toe Adidas, baseball caps, neck-breaking gold rope chains and walked around like they owned the world! Well, everybody apart from moral group, politicians and the of course parents who didn’t want their kids listening to ‘that mess’. The FBI even tried to shut them down, and they were labelled ‘the world’s most dangerous group’!
NWA also spoke to young middle class females, judging by the appearance of actress Gwyneth Paltrow on the Graham Norton Show earlier this year (below).
The group’s audience was strong and this was reflective in the sales of Straight Outta Compton, which went platinum, as did their follow-up EP, Five Miles and Runnin’, which didn’t feature Ice Cube, after he left to go solo, following contract disputes.
Speaking of contracts, the one Cube refused to sign was drawn up by Eazy E, who owned Ruthless Records (co-founding it with Jerry Heller, who went on to become NWA’s manager), NWA’s label. Not many give Eazy, who passed away from complications from AIDS in 1995, props for his business acumen regarding NWA. Whether you share the view that he was shady or not, that doesn’t take away from him being one of the first hip hop players to own their own label, albeit one initially funded from money he made in his former ‘career’ as a drug dealer. The likes of Diddy and Jay-Z made that factor very cool in the 90s. But before them, following on from Russell Simmons, Eazy was also flexing as a label boss and signed acts such as D.O.C, Bones Thugs and Harmony and both Dr Dre and Ice Cube before they became NWA.
I remember having a recent debate about NWA and Public Enemy, over which was the most important group. I guess that totally depends on who you are asking. Most people I know would kiss their teeth at the mere mention of NWA being any sort of comparison to Public Enemy, and maybe for the majority they are not. But for me as much as I respect Public Enemy and wholly cherish a lot of the songs that are now stone-cold classics, NWA is a totally different monster for me, and that is all based on how I connected with them in my formative years. I guess I never had that experience with Public Enemy. Maybe as an 11-year-old who had posters of New Kids On The Block on her wall (Yes, I am a very eclectic, and WHAT???) I was looking for somewhere to channel another side of me and I found it in the music of NWA.
Whiel in the group, Dre and DJ Yella handled production, while Ice Cube and MC Ren wrote the majority of the lyrics. After they broke up in 1992, Dr Dre went on to become one of world’s most respected producers, discoverer of the world’s biggest rapper Eminem and someone who also introduced us to Snoop Dogg and made history with Death Row Records.
Ice Cube, who went on to have a handful of notable solo albums and became one of 90s rap’s most prolific voices with a solo career that will no doubt be etched in hip hop history. He then surprised a lot of people by carving out an uber successful Hollywood career as a bankable actor, producer, writer and director in both film and TV.
DJ Yella also released a solo album in 1996, called One Mo Nigga Ta Go. But these days he is best known for his successful career directing porno films, and has a whopping 150 under his belt.
Mc Ren has released five solo albums since NWA disbanded, including Kizz My Black Azz, which went platinum in 1992.
Yesterday would have been Eazy’s 47th birthday, his 20-year-old daughter, Erin ‘EB’ Wright, is now taking up the baton by releasing her own single, What I Wanna Do. Check out her story and a snippet of the single below!
But there are some who do make it across the pond…
Lisa Stansfield is the Lancashire lass with the soul voice. Her success in both the UK and the USA, in the late 80s and early 90s, was almost identical – something which few British artists can claim to have. Continue reading “LISA STANDSFIELD” »
Few bands that were part of the Britpop explosion of the 1990s were as integral to the genre as Blur.
The six albums Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree released between 1991 and 1999 (not forgetting 2003’s Think Tank) varied dramatically in stylistic terms. Their most drastic reinvention came between the baggy abandon of 1991’s Leisure and the quintessential Englishness of 1993’s Modern Life is Rubbish.
Anyway, enough of that. Were you Blur or were you Oasis? A smart-arse would probably say ‘Neither. I preferred Suede.’ (Suede were something special, mind).
Ironically, whilst Oasis were trying so earnestly to be the Beatles, it was in fact Blur who came closest to the creative thrust of the Fab Four.
To pin a Blur badge to your school jumper suggested you were of an altogether artier inclination; someone who had a sense of humour and who enjoyed that mad eccentricity which defines all that is good and English.
To scrawl Oasis on your school books, though, proposed an appreciation of ‘Classic Rock’, football and scowling.
Me? I was always an Oasis boy but I was dragging my knuckles on the floor back then. In time I’ve grown to appreciate Blur’s inventiveness much, much more. Plus, Girls and Boys (a song which perfectly distils the tacky shag-athon of the 18-30 holiday) is one of the great British singles of the last twenty years.
The two bands’ scrap for domestic dominance (dubbed ‘The Battle of Britpop’ by a salivating NME) was standard copy for the music press during the mid-1990s. This was a tale of chart dominance which embraced the whole of Britain and everyone had an opinion. (my gran thought the Oasis boys needed a good wash.)
In Blur’s defence, they did little to aggravate the situation. Instead it was the Gallagher brothers (ever reliable for a mindless, controversial remark) who gleefully fanned the flames.
The Battle of Britpop came to a head in August 1995 when the two groups released singles on the same day. Blur’s Country House, a wry Kinks-esque jaunt, pipped the more meat and potatoes rock of Oasis’ Roll With It to the number one spot, and with that bragging rights in classrooms across Britain were settled.
Blur’s music provided a perfect soundtrack to the joie de vivre attitude of the mid-1990s.
In times of nostalgic reflection it seemed as if their music played out constantly over blazing hot summer days whilst I ran riot over the park, stuffing my face with pick ‘n mix from the newsagents (you could get so much for 30p back then, couldn’t you?). And is it me or were the scuzzy streets alive with the sound of Stereotypes, Charmless Man and Coffee and TV on an almost daily basis?
The four members have since gone on to other endeavours with Albarn’s Gorillaz the most notable project, but back in the 1990s Blur were that rare thing: an intelligent, opinionated group who infiltrated the charts. They were part of the last batch of such pop stars; playful, free of PR restraints and, gasp!, carrying a bit of personality.
By Jack Prescott