Friday, November 22, 2013

Quarantine sound

My 40th birthday party is looming, and ‘programming the music’ is taking unhealthy priority. There is a band, and me and two or three others each have an hour so DJing. But I’m not worried so much about decks-slot – the funk, disco, post-punk, synth pop and rave classics should wreck shop by the time everybody is well oiled – but by the hour and half or so of playlist music before the band comes on. You know the bit, when the place is sparsely populated and most people (apart from the guy whose tunes are playing) are ignoring the music as they meet ’n greet.

To that end I’ve amalgamated the likeliest tracks from two ageing Macs into one potential playlist, transmittable either via the iPod or a CD on the night (I’ll take both). Problem is that has come to about 120 songs (see below) and I’ll only need about 30. Swingeing IMF-endorsed Osbornesque cuts will be needed here – but on which 90 or more tunes will the axe fall? I’ve got two each of The Creation, Fall, Inner City, Jorge Ben, M.I.A and Minnie Ripperton so that’s six down.

These 120 tracks are not necessarily my favourite tunes ever (most of those whether house, jungle, hip-hop or rock are on vinyl) but have served me well as an endorphin rush when I’m finishing some writing, on the rare occasions we have had people round and iTunes works best for entertainment, or an enabler of the post-match intercity rush between Manchester and London. They came from CDs or downloads, illegal or otherwise, or other people’s hard-drives. They reflect a predilection for focusing on just a few bits of any band rather than the tedious catalogue. Singles-man, me (still).

Other characteristics of the list are readily definable: there is nothing here too noisy, too ravey, too experimental – no point pretending stuff from the dark and wonky limits of my collection will be a contender. As much as I’d love to play Dream Continuum’s Giv a Lil Luv its euphoric blend of footwork and jungle is unlikely to be parsed by the 40-somethings. Some are quite cheesy but perhaps recognised by friends as one of ‘my tunes’; others are unknown to virtually everyone I know and all the more ‘mine’ for that; still more, especially a few 80s pop numbers, I have no particular attachment to (reminder: take vinyl copy of ‘Dance Little Sister’) but I know will have ‘impact’. They must be expected to grab the attention but not steal the show – if that is suspected then they should be in the DJ list. Some are generic pastiches but nail that genre, others are genre-defining. The candidates when put together must also display a historical breadth so that none of the major movements since my birth miss out, and some of the pre-70s stuff is referenced at least a little. The whole popular music range.

Who am I kidding? Inevitably there will be gaping holes in this playlist. I recoil at going too obvious so Beatles-Stones-Motown-Oasis-Mickey J-Whatevs don’t make it, my genuine-yet-fairly-universal faves like the Human League will be DJ fodder and essentially this is just an exercise in hastily dragging stuff into a folder – then subjectively assessing their merits afterwards.

Yet looking at the list I can see a few absolute certs to make the 30-for-40 – perfect warm-up material: Love’s She Comes in Colours (thanks Scouse influence), Black Moon’s Who Got Da Props (90s hip-hop dat), Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions (my old jazz-funk friend), LFO’s Freeze (ooh those warm clonks and prangs). For the rest - get cutting:

Air: La Femme D'Argent
Afrika Bambaata & The Soulsonic Force: Planet Rock
Amira: My Desires (Dreem Teem remix)
Aphex Twin Analogue Bubblebath
Arcade Fire Ready To Start
Aswad: Warrior Charge
The Associates: It's Better This Way
Bananarama: Really Saying Something
Battles: Leyendecker
Bibio: Kaini Industries (original by Boards of Canada)
Black Lips: Raw Meat
Black Moon: Who Got da Props?
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Whatever Happened To My Rock & Roll
Mary J Blige: Family Affair
Bodyrox: Yeah Yeah (D. Ramirez Instrumental)
Booker T. & The MG's: Green Onions
Buzzcocks: Boredom
David Carretta: Vicious Game
Chase & Status & Liam Bailey: Blind Faith
Chico Science & Nação Zumbi: Computadores Fazem Arte
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood
Lyn Collins: Think About Break (Djekyll edit)
Commix: Be True
Cris Waddle: Ayi
Cybotron: Clear
The Clash: The Magnificent Seven
The Creation: How Does It Feel To Feel
The Creation: Making Time
The Cure: Primary
Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain
Darkstar: Aidys Girl's a Computer
Depeche Mode: New Life
Disclosure: White Noise (feat. AlunaGeorge)
Lonnie Donegan: Gamblin' Man
Kenny Dope presents The Bucketheads: The Bomb
Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick: The Show
The Du-Ettes: Every Beat Of My Heart
Egyptian Lover: Egypt
Brian Eno: Third Uncle
Everything Everything: Invisible Remix - My Kz, Ur Bf
Gang Of Four: At Home He's A Tourist (The Others Remix)
Goldfrapp: Happiness
Ellie Greenwich: Baby
The Fall: Fiery Jack
The Fall: The Classical
Falty DL: All In The Place
Fine Young Cannibals: Good Thing
Fischerspooner: Turn On
Flirtations: Nothing But A Heartache
Foals: Olympic Airways
DJ Fresh: Gold Dust (feat. Ms Dynamite)
Fun Boy Three: Our Lips Are Sealed
Gotye Learnlilgivinanlovin
DJ Gregory: Block Party
Grimes: Genesis
Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra: Some Velvet Morning
The Horrors: I Can See Through You
Iggy and the Stooges: Search and Destroy
Ilaiyaraaja: Raja Rani Jaakki (ft S.P. Sailaja & Malaysia Vasudevan)
Inner City: Good Life
Inner City: Big Fun
Isolee: Beau Mot Plage
Jackson Sisters: I Believe In Miracles
Jake Bugg: Lightning Bolt
Jam City: Magic Drops
Joakim: Lonely Hearts
Jorge Ben & Toquinho: Carolina Carol Bela
Jorge Ben: Ponta de Lanca (Umbabarauma)
Joy Division: Isolation
JUSTICE: Phantom
Kasabian: Empire
Kelis: Suspended
Kings of Leon: Red Morning Light
The Kinks: Picture Book
Kode9 + the Spaceape: Curious
LFO: Freeze
Led Zeppelin: Rock And Roll
The Libertines: I Get Along
Liquid Liquid: Cavern
Fred Locks: Black Star Liners
Lonnie Liston Smith: Expansions
Love: She Comes In Colors
M.I.A.: Bad Girls - Wiley Remix
M.I.A.: Jimmy
Maceo & The Macks: Cross The Tracks (We Better Go Back)
Magnetic Man: I Need Air
Manchester City: The Boys In Blue
Manix: Special Request
Gianni Marchetti: Part-y-time
Bob Marley & The Wailers: Small Axe
The Mary Jane Girls: All Night Long
Mount Rushmore" The Vibe That's Flowing
Maria Minerva: A Little Lonely
Kylie Minogue: Shocked
Moderne Switch: On Bach
Mo-Dettes: White Mice
The Monkees: I'm Not Your Stepping Stone
Munk ft James Murphy and Nancy Wang: Kick Out The Chairs
Les Negresses Vertes: Face À La Mer (Massive Attack Remix)
Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band: Do You Really Love Me?
New Order: Fine Time
Positive Force: We Got The Funk
Minnie Riperton: I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun
Minnie Ripperton: Les Fleurs
Rhythm Quest: Closer To All Your Dreams (Hybrid Mix)
Oumou Sangaré: Ah Ndiya
Marlena Shaw: California Soul
Kenny Shepard: What Difference Does It Make
Joyce Sims: Come Into My Life
Sons & Daughters: Johnny Cash
Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons: Beggin' (Pilooski Re-edit)
Bill Withers: Use Me
Neil Young: Old Man
Zagazougou: Allah Ma Diana

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

What We Mean When We Talk About ‘Southeast’ London

To say ‘Southeast London’ is to conjure up specific ideas of a place usually seen as distinct from Southwest London, a place we readily associate with the highly gentrified streets of John Lanchester’s Capital (although its ‘Pepys Road’ was likely named after a New Cross street). Southeast, we tell ourselves, is definitely not Clapham, Balham or Putney, which are cast closer to their neighbours across the Thames in Fulham and Chelsea. But have you seen swathes of Battersea or Stockwell – mile after mile of tower block and housing estate, as grim and real as any of SE’s? And, conversely, have you seen some of those belles rues in Camberwell, Blackheath and Greenwich?

Hemmed in by hillier country and the M25 while divided by the Thames, London lends itself to regionalist divisions but does not work so well in bloc terms – patches of increasingly obscene wealth sit next to low-quality housing in most areas. On the frontline of this internecine debate is Brixton, an area seen as the home of black pride and of a certain working class communal initiative struggling with gentrifying forces (‘Yuppies Out’ they scrawl on the cover of Foxtons). Some happily class it with the SW likes of Clapham; others see it as a more of a piece with Camberwell and Peckham.

Nevertheless, we love to self-ghettoise – folksy traders keep calm and call their little area a Village, YouTube grime heads big up their relevant area as their Ends. Postcode warfare is a thing for both go-getting professionals eager to land a place in the right area, and for 15-year-old playaz staking their turf. Clearly those specific ideas of place differ from person to person, with varying degrees of accuracy depending on prejudice.

(Peckham relics)

Yet there is a slippage here, a lot of slippage. Mention ‘southeast London’ to many an out-of-towner or north Londoner and if the Peckham unworld of Only Fools and Horses doesn’t come up first they’ll think of the old southeast London – the docks, wharfs and warehouses, bombed out bits of Bermondsey, Southwark and Rotherhithe. One blissfully ignorant colleague resident in N19 claimed the reason ‘southeast Londoners’ (meaning those in the more central bit just described) were so depressed because it is under sea level. Here SE London also equals ‘Millwall’ and that football club (despite the actual place being on the Isle of Dogs) does so much to feed people’s fertile imaginations of the area. A criminalised and chauvinistic world, pantomime hoolies; Horrible Cunts. Nil by Mouth for these helpless white trash. But isn’t Bermondsey home to foodie markets, art galleries and chi-chi enterprises? And don’t many of Millwall’s boys come from Bexley, Sidcup and other suburban nonplaces? Nah mate, you can’t change the spirit of the place.

The BBC’s Secret History documentary featured three southeast London areas. While the Deptford one in particular suffered valid criticism for over-simplifying or fudging the issues over the changes, the Bermondsey and Camberwell ones told a less contentious story of how former down-at-heel streets became sought-after des res areas. Such gazumping of the locals is a familiar story for London as a whole, but no doubt it would have surprised some non-transpontiners that these southeast streets were so fetishised over.

Other corners trade on that southeast-ness for gritty cultural cachet but have a tenuous association with it, having been largely developed in the mid-19th century as suburbs to areas of industrial production. The likes of Brockley, Forest Hill and Sydenham were the domesticated and park-filled foil to the factories and commerce in Deptford and New Cross; Herne Hill would have had that relation to the hubbub of the commercial centre of Brixton. I’m guilty of such slippage, my Twitter bio has me in ‘London [SE]’ as if that signifies a lift of hardnosed realism when actually I’m out in generally nondescript Crofton Park. I’ve never forgiven St Etienne for calling south London an ‘endless suburb’, but by zone 3 and beyond they are of course largely right.

Yet neither these excessively grim inner images or leafier outer images quite nail What We Mean When We Talk About ‘Southeast’ London. For example, drive around the infinite maze of residential streets between the south circular, the A21 and Burnt Ash Road where there seems to be little of the basic facilities and cultural spaces (pubs are conspicuous only by their demolition or conversion to residential use). Filling former social housing built when relatively generous garden suburbs were the thing, this ethnically mixed and largely working class space seems to me a lot closer to what people think of as ‘southeast London’ – if only the metropolitans would venture down there to realise it.

So there is slippage: patronising minds have a small area of post-industrial docklands or cartoon Peckham in their minds when it comes to ‘southeast london’; sophisticates often ignore a much more inherently SE-London area round Downham, Grove Park, Mottingham, etc when proudly foisting their ‘sarf’east and proud’; all of us who live here in some way suffer from the constant barrage of negative associations in the press about the area. There is also self-parody – come the weekend at my work pub the locals think nothing of serenading the yuppie arrivistes with ‘Maybe it’s Because I’m a Londoner’ or ‘Let Them All Come Down the Den’. And why is the almost total cultural victory of the South Bank/Bankside there in SE1 not claimed as evidence of the transpontine surge – who even bothers with the West End now? Down here off the rive gauche we have everything we need, thanks.

(talk of Bermondsey's Blitz Spirit no longer applies)

In an area so prone to myth as this, truisms mix with and thus have to be constantly redefined from mere fertile association. So we know there aren’t enough good state secondaries in Lewisham borough while ‘gang culture’ seems more of a problem here than elsewhere. Yet I don’t live in Kilburn or Tottenham or Acton so cannot accurately compare these trends with other areas.

‘Southeast London’ for me is as wide a snapshot of the area as possible – Mountsfield Park for Save Lewisham A&E demos; Peckham Rye with the kids; Champion Hill for the football; Tamil shops in Loampit Vale; budget stores in Deptford; wandering round Downham while my son has his drum lessons. But there is a poignancy here – ever-inflating house prices in the capital means joining a rabid rat race to get a decent sized house and we’re not keen on that – and also an anger over land grabs at the Heygate or Kidbrooke that threaten the area with ever more stultifying homogeneity – of people as well as place. Yet whatever and wherever you think it is ‘southeast London’ resists and prospers in spite of all the negative developments and muckraking myths.

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