This week we invite DJ, collector and Bam Bam Sounds resident Johnny Clash to the Dusk Dubs family.
"First things first. While I felt hugely honoured to be asked to contribute to this venerable series, I was also knocked sideways a bit by the brief, mainly because my personal inclination at the hour of sundown is generally either (i) to listen to some brutal half-time drum & bass with some guy yelling a list of items of Jamaican vocabulary in a Manchester accent or (ii) to watch an old episode of The Chase on Challenge. Neither of which really seemed appropriate behaviour in this instance.
So, after some thought, I tasked myself with identifying and collecting together music that fitted into the category of “I like this music but it is not too bangin for other people to listen to at the cocktail hour, nor does it feature Bradley Walsh”. I soon found that I had a bunch of tunes that I thought were either rather nice or made me feel rather emotional, or both. And then I had another look at the brief and I realised that I had just done pretty much exactly what the brief had been asking me to do all along.
So there isn't really a theme beyond that. But I have noticed that I did manage, quite unwittingly, to come up with a set of recurring motifs. I had no idea prior to preparing this mixtape that I had such a thing for moving water, for example. Other motifs, themes, or nervous tics I have spotted in my tracklist and in the music and lyrics included therein are: places and place names, spirited (and spiritual) vocal exclamations, music I've heard at festivals and in basements, struggle, solidarity, survival, hope, redemption, and love. That's a pretty good list if I say so myself. Do let me know if you spot anything else."
You can find Johnny HERE:
1) Sengerema (Kagunga) S.D.A. Choir - Simba Wa Yuda
First tune is from a Seventh Day Adventist choir from Tanzania. I downloaded this for free from the awesome Awesome Tapes From Africa website. I'm lucky enough to have heard the Awesome Tapes From Africa guy djing off of cassettes at a festival and it was bloody lovely. I picked this tune partly because there is one repeated lead vocal snippet which absolutely slays me, and also because I spent four years of my childhood in Tanzania, so it means a lot. True story.
2) The Wailers – How Many Times aka Do You Remember
A tune so good they named it twice. I chose this one because once again the lead vocal, and particularly this one kind of exclamation that he does halfway through the chorus, makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. This is a promising group of young lads from Trenchtown in Kingston, Jamaica, by the names of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone. I wonder what ever happened to them?
3) S.E. Rogie - Dieman Noba Smoke Tafee
The title translates as Dead Men Don't Smoke Marijuana, which, as far as I can ascertain, is true.
4) Amadou and Mariam – M'Bife
There's a story that's been going round for a few years that I cried while I was watching Amadou & Mariam at the Big Chill festival. So what if I did?
5) Nina Simone - Chilly Winds Don't Blow
I only got into Nina Simone properly quite recently. I think I'd been put off by that advert for yoghurt or home contents insurance or whatever it was that had that “I've got my arms, got my legs”tune on it. And then I saw footage of her performing the entire tune live and it was frankly mindblowing. It's a completely different story to the one you get in the advert. Chilly Winds Don't Blow is great and it is a close relative of a variety of other American folk/gospel tunes. It's practically the same song as Woody Guthrie's “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad”, but I think it is part of the same family and shares some (if not all) of the same connotations as a song such as “This Train Is Bound For Glory” as performed by Louis Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Big Bill Broonzy, Staples Singers, Alice Coltrane, and many more.
6) Aretha Franklin – The Weight
When I was a child my dad sat me on his knee and explained to me why the Band were better than Creedence Clearwater Revival. Don't get me wrong, Creedence were super and some of John Fogerty's solo stuff is great too. But the Band were on a whole other level. Here's Aretha with a cracking version of a great Band composition. I believe that is Duane Allman on slide? He was once asked how a skinny white dude from a military family got to be so good at playing the authentic blues and he replied something along the lines of “I locked myself in my room with a huge bag of amphetamine and a guitar and didn't come out for two straight years”.
7) Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss - Catch Me If I Fall
I didn't really get how good these guys were till I saw them live. This song has the single strongest emotional effect on me of any piece of music ever.
8) Cakehole Presley - Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down
In the mid to late 90s I lived in a basement in Coldharbour Lane in Brixton with some rough but gentle boys from Somerset and at least once a week we listened to a little-known but well-loved album from 1988 called “Soft Drinks & Snacks” by a band called The Howling Sleepers. It's almost impossible to get hold of now and I don't even have a copy myself. I wish someone would re-release that record. The singer Chris Ridgway has carried on and here he is in reflective mood, with his current band the excellently named Cakehole Presley. This song contains quite a lot of swearing and yelling. But I think it's actually lovely so nerr.
9) Slaid Cleaves - Breakfast In Hell
I saw this guy play in a basement in the Farringdon area. He's from Austin, Texas via Washington D.C., Round Pond, Maine, and Cork City, Ireland. Can you imagine being called “Slaid Cleaves”? I mean, that's his actual name, pretty cool.
10) Joe Strummer - Tennessee Rain
What with me being called “Johnny Clash”, people often ask me “do you like the Clash at all?” And I actually do. Here's Strummer in mumbly country mode, from the soundtrack of the frankly bizarre Alex Cox movie “Walker”. (Is there any other kind of Alex Cox movie?) That's Zander Schloss playing guitar and looking after the arrangement on this tune. I saw him playing guitar in Strummer's band at a music festival in Milton Keynes in approx 1986. Alexei Sayle was compere. “Wouldn't it be great if everywhere was like Milton Keynes. Would it fook!!” I pretty much forgot about Zander Schloss after that apart from hearing Strummer introduce him as “the weiner man from Straight To Hell” on the bootleg cassette I bought of the same festival performance I'd seen them at. (“Straight To Hell” is another frankly bizarre Alex Cox movie.) Then thirty years later I saw him play at a festival with Sean Wheeler and I buttonholed him afterwards to tell him I'd last seen him play thirty years previously. He sort of said thanks that's a great story and then sort of ran away.
11) Planxty - Rambling Boys of Pleasure
There was about a year starting mid to late 1991 when I stopped pretending to be Jamaican and pretended to be Irish instead. That's when I first got into Planxty. Planxty were an astonishing, revolutionary, ground-breaking, raucous, beautiful, Irish folk music band made up of four remarkable individuals. Singing lead on this number is the inspirational, all-round good human being Andy Irvine. He's still going strong. I saw him play a few weeks ago, he was great.
12) Stick In The Wheel - Sweet Thames Flow Softly
My new favourite band. An astonishing, revolutionary, ground-breaking, raucous, beautiful, English folk music band made up of five remarkable individuals. They do a few of the same songs as Planxty funnily enough, including this one. This is from an audio-visual art project thingie, designed to be listened to on headphones whilst standing on Waterloo Bridge, which is how I heard this band for the first time. This song was written by Ewan MacColl, who also wrote “Dirty Old Town” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”. Pretty good at the old songwriting, then.
13) Tanya Stephens - To The Limit
A big Bam Bam Sound tune. (Bam Bam Sound is the tag-team reggae and bass music dj thing I do with my handsome footballer friend, you should check it out.) Tanya Stephens is the don. “Some people live their life like a metaphor, clean as a whistle, neat as a pin, That's not the kind of vibe I'm looking for, haffi try a likkle bit of almost everything.”
14) Judy Mowatt - Black Woman
15) Culture – Love Shines Brighter
I am so in love with Joseph Hill's voice I can't tell you. I can listen to this group happily every day. This one is a very jolly number. They recorded it three times in about six months in 77/78 and the three versions came out on three different albums, two of which were official releases and one which was a kind of bootleg. This is my favourite of the three, it's from the “Baldhead Bridge” LP.
16) Sons Of Kemet - Rivers Of Babylon
I've only just started listening to Sons Of Kemet. Most of their stuff is pretty bangin, this one is a bit more mellow. What with these guys and Nina Simone on my playlist, I may be in the process of reiventing myself as a groovy jazz guy. That might freak a few people out.
17) Konono #1 - Kuke Kule
I have this theory that Konono #1 might be the best band in the world. Much like the previous act, they usually do straight bangers, but this one is slightly more contemplative and breathy. I have seen Konono #1 twice at music festivals and I wish to see them again sooner rather than later.
18) Big Bill Broonzy – This Train
So I thought I'd finalised the tracklisting and for reasons too tortuous to go into a vacancy opened up for one more tune. And I'd been thinking about this song in connection with that other song so I went and listened to about fifteen versions and picked this one. I would also heartily recommend the Bunny Wailer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Culture, Snooks Eaglin, and Buckwheat Zydeco versions, in addition to those mentioned above. I wouldn't recommend any of the three Cliff Richard versions and certainly not the Mumford And Sons version. I haven't listened to it and I am not going to and I don't think you should either. By the way, Big Bill Broonzy also did a version of “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad”, which I mentioned earlier as a kind of twin brother of “Chilly Winds Don't Blow” and first cousin of “This Train”. And Woody Guthrie, who did a marvellous version of “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad”, liked “This Train” so much that he named his autobiography “Bound For Glory” after it. It's all circles within circles and wheels within wheels, bud.
19) Fats Domino – Blueberry Hill
The Fat Man. The greatest. RIP the daddy of rock'n'roll and the grandaddy of all subsequent popular music. Yes.