This week, we invite back producer, DJ and artist Wrongtom, with a follow up to his previous 'Teenage Dubs' selection. This time a collection of 2nd hand records he picked up during in his teens...
"Teenage Dubs 2: Charity Shop Boogaloo".
"Last time I crossed the threshold of Dusk Dubs HQ I brought a sack of records I’d discovered in my teens, a selection which told the rough tale of my musical journey from the age of 13 and into my 20s. There was so much to pick from that I had to forgo any old records I’d stumbled upon in my quest for the perfect beat which led me through countless charity shops, market stalls and musty second hand stores.
Beyond all the modern soul, acid jazz, ragga and hip hop I was picking up, I spent a lot of my teens listening to old funk, jazz, reggae, dub, and loads of other oddities. Sometimes on dancefloors, sometimes with friends but often on my own by the record player, and almost everyday on trains and busses to school, college and work. So here’s part 2 featuring 18 old records which soundtracked my awkward years from the late 80s onwards..." [WRONGTOM]
You can find Wrongtom HERE:
1) Augustus Pablo - The Big Rip Off
Sometime around the late 80s I was following my brother around the record stalls in Greenwich market. Still fresh to the world of buying vinyl - I owned a few records but wouldn’t be bitten by the bug til I got a job - I was fascinated by the oddities he pulled out, and lost in a world of FX and bass when we returned home with Augustus Pablo’s Ital Dub LP and Joe Gibbs’ African Dub 4. They’re both still top of my list, especially this track.
2) 20th Century Steel Band - Heaven And Hell Is On Earth
The world of discovering other people’s samples is often disappointing but I’ve sometimes found it a revelation when you hear the rest of a track. I’d heard the “children growing, women producing...” line repeatedly through the 80s on various tunes and mixes but I wasn’t expecting the steelband-disco-funk that followed when I finally heard the full track kick in. My dad played me calypso records when I was a kid, he loved the lyrics, I was a fan, so hearing steel pans over funk, in hindsight feels like a galvanising moment.
3) Prince - Lady Cab Driver
With an entire shelf of my records collection dedicated to Prince and entourage, it’s strange to imagine a time when I wasn’t that into him. I liked the singles of course so I definitely like Prince, but no more than, say, Cameo, Michael Jackson or Peter Gabriel. Then, in 1988 I heard ‘Alphabet Street’ and rushed out to buy my first Prince LP, Lovesexy, and after repeated plays, counted out my pocket money and slowly started pilfering his back catalogue.
It’s almost impossible to pick one track but hearing 1999 in full was a hallelujah moment and this ‘Lady Cab Driver’ alone is an insight into his oblique vision. Fluid instrumentation dances around rigid electro-funk drums. It’s upbeat yet kind of sad, and it all gets pretty desperate when he simulates sex with the titular cab driver exclaiming “this is for why I wasn’t born like my brother, handsome and tall” whilst seagulls chirp in the background.
4) Cymande - The Message
Another classic sample. I played the shit out of ‘Me & The Biz’ by Master Ace in my GCSE years. On first hearing Cymande’s eponymous LP I was struck by how many riffs I recognised from hip hop tunes, and ‘The Message’ particularly grabbed my attention with it’s skanky organ-heavy funk. I’d later discover they were from South London. Later still I’d wind up watching members of the group jamming in the Effra pub in Brixton. Tracks like Fug and Bra became weekly staples in the 90’s at my friend Pony’s funk night in Kingston, and we soon discovered that our friend Lee who worked the door was the nephew of one of the band (was he the bassist? Trumpeter? I can’t remember).
5) Eugene McDaniels - Jagger The Dagger
A Tribe Called Quest marked a big moment in my listening habits. Their choice of samples delved deep into a world of overlooked soul-jazz, testament to which was the Tribes Vibes comps which compiled as many as they could muster. Years before that I was especially taken with the loping skit peppered throughout their debut LP, and even more so when I heard it in full in the mix on a pirate, I forget who played it but the vocal harmonies which become increasingly dissonant as the track expands are almost terrifying, like listening into some kind of jazz-funk fuelled satanic ritual. Sold! I became obsessed with the Left Rev McD and if someone doesn’t tell the bizarre story of his Headless Heroes album which enraged the Nixon administration, then I’m gonna have to somehow do it myself.
6) The 5th Dimension - Love Lines Angels & Rhymes
I was stabbing around in the dark with little more than pocket change when I first started digging for records. Bargain bins and forgotten corners of charity shops were my chosen spots, and in fact still are. I’d splash out 50p on many a record based on a cover photo, or a nice typeface. I’d generally check the credits to see if they featured somewhat esoteric instruments like percussion, double bass, synths etc. This album ticked many of those boxes, and whilst The 5th Dimension were more easy listening than classic funk, they had their moments including nice covers of Ticket To Ride, Sunshine Of Your Love, and on this LP, a wiggy Hair-esque number with some wild tambourine shaking in the crescendo.
7) Toots & The Maytals - Pressure Drop
I’m pretty sure I heard ‘Pressure Drop’ years before this but it wasn’t until I was about 14ish that I finally saw Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come, and was struck hard by the electrifying performance of ‘Pressure Drop’ by Toots & The Maytals. Since then it’s rare that I’ve heard a Toots tune that hasn’t made me stop dead in my tracks to listen. I once heard his voice across a field at a festival and found myself unconsciously running towards him, the resulting show was like a religious experience, perhaps the flipside to first hearing ‘Jagger The Dagger’ by McDaniels.
8) The Jackson Sisters - I Believe In Miracles
I was a very fresh-faced 16 year old. Today I’d have no chance of getting into clubs, even with fake ID but fortunately in 1991, the world was a terrifying place for parents, which afforded sweaty young guttersnipes like myself the opportunity to get into various fleabag bars and clubs with security handled by local biker gangs.
One such place was a stinky former wine cellar called Bacchus in Kingston Upon Thames. I was taken there by friends I’d made in my first job at a supermarket, and it is without a shadow of a doubt, a night which changed my life. Essentially an indie night, the “Dodgy Club” was a party run by a local(ish) band called Dodgy who’d self-released a couple of jangly sunshine pop singles. This was indeed that Dodgy who’d later ride the crest of Brit-pop with their infuriatingly catchy ‘Good Enough’ but in ‘91 all I knew was they had a DJ called Chris Slade who, amongst dance floor friendly indy like Primal Scream and The Soup Dragons, dropped ‘I Believe In Miracles’ by The Jackson Sisters. This was the moment, my brain lost control and my legs took over as the moog and drums pumped out of Bacchus’ shitty old sound system. He then dropped ‘Across The Tracks’ by Maceo Parker and, like a first acid trip or discovering your dad was a porn star*, my world was never the same again.
*Not my dad I should add.
9) Herbie Mann - Memphis Two-Step
Another record I picked up on the cheap on the strength of the cover alone: a psychedelic solarised shot of Herbie in a straw hat, shades and his goatee which he’d kept since his more beatnik days. Herbie Mann is much maligned by some of the record-bore cognoscenti but I fell for his music pretty quickly and there’s some real gems in his catalogue, including this number which features some amazing vibes-work from Roy Ayers.
10) Pharoah Sanders - The Creator Has A Masterplan
I’d been watching and listening to jazz most of my young life but a chance encounter with a guy I can’t remember the name of in the bin room of Waitrose, New Malden where I worked in the early 90s, led me down the wilder side of the genre. It started with a conversation about hip hop. Gang Starr, BDP, Tribe etc and of course their samples. He couldn’t believe I’d never heard Coltrane’s My Favourite Things LP so the following week he lent me a copy.
We talked more, I started digging deeper. I started reading Straight No Chaser magazine. I bought beads, cords, various furry hats. I should probably be embarrassed but I’m not. Most importantly, after playing ‘Leg In The Sea Of History’ by Galliano to death, I discovered it was based on ‘The Creator Has A Masterplan’ by Pharoah Sanders and my ears have been scorched by fire-music ever since.
11) Violent Femmes - Prove My Love
I mentioned in my previous Dusk Dubs that I didn’t really listen to much rock music until I went to college. I was turned onto various bands like Pixies, Telescopes, Pavement etc. There was one that really resonated though, the timeless sound of skiffle punk by a trio of Milwaukie kids sounding like degenerates who’d robbed the school marching band so they could perform Gordon Gano’s ratbag love songs.
I had no idea at the time that this album actually came out in the early 80s. It still sounds fresh to this day, and it’s perfect from start to finish.
12) Jeff Britton & The Spitfires - Rub Out
I picked this out of a box of 30p 7”s in about 1992. It’s a strange kind of glam-electro-funk hybrid produced by Martin Rushent in the mid 70s before he made synth pop with Human League. Someone nicked it from my bag at one of my early gigs, and on the rare occasion I’ve seen a copy since, it’s 100 times the price I originally paid.
Anyway, jump to a couple of years back and I got a call from my old mate Colin who wanted some advice about a tune on an advert by The Horrors which had ripped off one of his dad’s records. I’d known Colin since school yet I somehow didn’t know his dad was even a musician. Low and behold they’d ripped off ‘Rub Out’. We chatted some more, turned out his dad was the guitarist in rock n roll revival band Wild Angels, another band I’d bought on my early digs, on the strength of the cover alone.
Colin’s dad was the guitarist on Rub Out. We briefly discussed covering it featuring his dad reprising his role on guitar - Wrongtom Meets The Spitfires - but like a lot of my projects, I’ve yet to find a moment to put this one to tape.
13) Har-You Percussion Group - Welcome To The Party
I took up percussion in my teens, thanks in part to so many of these records I was buying. My folks gave me some congas for my 18th birthday and I started devouring any track that featured them. I think I picked this one up at first because the textless front cover looked remarkably like a Young Disciples sleeve - even the graphic designers were sampling - but on reading the story of the Har-You Percussion group in the liner notes, I couldn’t wait to get this record home and start battering away over the top.
I played Welcome To The Party at my first ever DJ gig in 1995, and I’m still dropping it in my sets to this day.
14) Art Ensemble Of Chicago - Theme De Yoyo
Summer 1993. I’d just finished my A-Levels and turned 18. I was in that dizzying axis of having the world at my feet and having absolutely no idea what to do. My friend Tom called me up to see if I fancied coming to a gig with him and his mate Forest, I’d never met a Forest before or since. I’d heard of the Art Ensemble but I don’t think I’d heard any of their records at this point. So we headed to Union Chapel in Islington and once again, my world changed.
I sat stunned for a couple of hours on my pew. The first half of the set building from sporadic whistles and bell shaking to frenetic free-jazz workouts from the core quintet, followed by the gradual introduction of another group, the Chicago Blues Tradition, until the stage was full with a dense and unstoppable barrage of free-blues and gospel. Another religious experience without God having to get involved.
I failed my A-levels and went back to college in the autumn.
15) Sopwith Camel - Fazon
Following that I formed a band with some cohorts I’d met whilst playing in another, uncomfortably proggy group. We were pooling our influences for the new band, and one member was especially well versed in jazz-rock and late 60s R&B among other things. Rob was a guitarist on the cusp of developing a serious obsession with the hammond organ. I’d often while away the hours in his kitchen with a soundtrack of Colosseum, Black Widow, early Steve Miller etc. There was one band and, more importantly, one song which I foolishly never found out the name of and spent years trying to remember until finally I recognised the album cover. Here it is, it’s perfect.
16) Juniors Eyes - Black Snake
So, my aforementioned band, the appallingly named Ganesha Traffic (my fault, sorry), we never gigged. I’m not even sure if we actually finished one song but we had fun jamming, and more importantly we made a new friend in our vocalist Sarah. The night she auditioned we dropped her back home and met her parents. A lovely pair of former hippies in a ramshackle house full of paintings and instruments belonging to her dad Mick, otherwise known as “One Take” Mick thanks to his prowess as a session guitarist, the results of which you have definitely heard on ‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie.
Rob and I quickly became good friends with Mick, prompting him for grubby stories from the sixties, and playing on tracks recorded in his living room studio in Tolworth. He died a year or so later whilst on tour in the states but his legacy lives on, especially on this track by his band Juniors Eyes on which he sang lead before they’d settled on a permanent vocalist.
17) Grady Tate - Be Black Baby
In ‘94 I went to art school to focus on graphics but a few polarising factors led me to spend most of my time listening to music, buying music, playing music, dancing to music, you get the picture. Sometimes I’d stay in though, and it was one of these nights, sat up late on my own flicking through cable channels that I settled on an early Brian De Palma film called Hi Mom ! starring a young DeNiro as a drifting artist, and his journey through porn, into off-off-off-Broadway theatre with a black-militant group, and onto terrorism. A timeless tale.
Holding it all together was this amazing record by Grady Tate, which by chance my friend Pony started playing at his club night The Great Escape.
18) Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66 - For What It’s Worth
Yes, as mentioned above, around 1993 I met a guy called Pony handing out flyers for a club night called Madonna’s Kitten. I went, I danced, we made friends, he started a Thursday night session at the previously mentioned Bacchus in Kingston. I danced some more. Friends started joining me on the dance floor, some travelled in from the stix, others from the big smoke, and we continued dancing until he finally jacked it in almost a decade later to focus on his Small World festival stage.
Some of the happiest moments of my teens were spent on this dancefloor, making bizarre shapes and doing freeform footwork which wowed and perplexed other punters equally.
Mendes’ version of ‘For What It’s Worth’ was often the final track of the night. In fact one night my friend Christoph was in town for the first time in ages, Pony started playing it mid set and I watched this inebriated Frenchman checking his watch in the confusion, evidently worried that he’d missed last orders.
I wouldn’t relive my teens if you paid me but these records, and the friends, relationships and moments surrounding them were definitely some of the highlights.