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First & last: 12″ singles

The first 12″ I bought is probably the worst record I ever owned. Smokey Robinson “Just to See Her” (1987, ZT 41148) was , shockingly, one of his best-selling hits, and I think was the third “come-back” of his long and checkered career. The mid-1980s was a terrible time for soul music. All the great artists of the 1960s and 1970s were aging; the energy that had fed it, coming out of black vernacular culture, was now invested in its younger and fresher relative hip hop. A few soul or ex-soul stars achieved huge crossover success in this period, as the airwaves became less segregated, but generally only by stripping most of the soul elements out of the music, which is clearly the formula Smokey Robinson is going for here. The track listing and appalling 1980s black and white video are here.

I bought it in a sale at WHSmiths. I think I was inspired to buy it by ABC’s song “When Smokey Sings”, who I vivvidly remember on Top of the Pops that year, so I’ll play that here.

The last two 12”s I bought I got at the same time, presumably (from the release dates) in 1995, from a very cool independent record shop in my hometown. I was completely obsessed with drum and bass at this time.

Roni Size “Timescretch”/”Phyzical”. The originals of these came out earlier in the 1990s and these were remixes released in 1995, “Phyzikal” engineered by Photek and remixed by Ray Keith, a 45rpm double A side released on V Recordings (V011). Roni Size was from Bristol and at the “intelligent” and jazzy end of the drum and bass spectrum, the Thelonius Monk of the scene – in fact, these tracks are a little bebop in their sensibility, breaking up a melody and reconstructing it, speeding up and slowing down its temporality.

This is the YouTube of the soulful and uplifting 1993 version. The 1995 version is clunkier, darker and more minimal.

D*Note “Criminal Justice. I had the 33⅓ rpm promo version, for some reason (the proper 12″ had a Guy Called Gerald remix), released on Dorado (DOR031). The A side was the song, with East London original junglist MC Navigator on vocals, the B side an instrumental.

Political songs like this were fairly unusual in the jungle scene at that time. While the lyrics also nod to the 1992 LA riots, they mainly commemorate what seemed to me one of the most important causes of the mid-1990s, the campaign against the John Major government’s Criminal Justice Bill (CJB), which sought to criminalise various forms of protest and social behaviour, including raving (famously targeting music with “repetitive beats”) and squatting. Consequently, opposition to it mobilised an interesting coalition of ravers and crusties, and various innovative forms of protest developed. Paralleling the anti-road-building movement of the time (most notably the campaign against the M11 extension in Wanstead, East London), the movement was part of the blossoming anti-capitalist politics that for a while in the late 1990s evaded and exceeded the boring and reactionary strategies of the traditional left.

About bobfrombrockley

South London family man. Eating bacon bagels on the 171 bus, listening to Johnny Cash while reading Hannah Arendt, the kid next to me playing dubstep on his telephone. Mostly politics at http://brockley.blogspot.com and mostly music at https://bobsbeat.wordpress.com

2 comments on “First & last: 12″ singles

  1. […] So, last week we were doing first and last EPs. Here’s me, but, far better, here’s Kellie. (Kellie Strøm is an excellent artist and illustrator, blogs at Airforce Amazons, and tweats as @kelliestrom. At his place, he blogs about all sorts of things, including the Middle East and old films. He sometimes blogs on music, from John Dog to Shirley Temple and Bill Bojangles Robinson to Two Tone.) Then, this week we moved on to 12 inch singles – here’s mine. […]

  2. […] and fun (or am I imagining that?) and some beautiful pop music during the “eighties hour” (ABC “When Smokey Sings”, a Madness […]

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