This is a staggering record – relentless cyclical guitar and bass, beautiful intertwining melodies and Mapfumo on top form with his socially conscious lyrics.
Thomas Mapfumo is widely regarded as Zimbabwe’s greatest and best known artist. He invented and popularized Chimurenga music – literally “struggle” in Shona – which was often overtly political. In addition to his modern incarnation of traditional music, his lyrics were sung in Shona. In the late 1970s singing in Shona instead of English was a political statement in and of itself. In Mapfumo’s case, it was specifically critical of the white ruling class of Rhodesia. The government, underestimating his popularity, eventually banned his records and imprisoned Mapfumo without charges in 1979. After a series of large protests demanding his release, he was set free three months later.
Though he initially celebrated the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, he became increasingly disillusioned with the regime of Robert Mugabe.
Shumba (or Lion) was a particularly popular song during the fight for liberation and is a cautionary tale warning of spies in the midst …
Do not talk of secret issues or give information in public
Informers are everywhere.
A perfect record
Another song that just leapt out of the iPod as I took my daily “constitutional” this morning; this time around the nature reserve in Godmanchester.
Not, as some might anticipate, some carefully chosen social critique shedding some welcome light on the interminable Brexit debate currently limping to its much awaited conclusion next week. Instead, a classic slice of roots reggae originally released in 1982 and then re-released on the stupendous “Live It To Know It” compilation on the still essential Pressure Sounds record label.
Jimmy Riley died in March at the age of 62 – with this record, he leaves the world in a much better place than he found. If only it were longer!
With Northern Ireland about to kick off their Euro 2016 fixtures this afternoon, what better way to get ready than to hear this classic piece of 1980’s pop from Ulster’s finest?
Definitely the best thing Feargal Sharkey recorded in his solo career and, in my view, right up there with the classics from his Undertones days.
Written for Sharkey by Benmont Tench (a founder member of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), the song also features the unmistakeable sound of Keith Richards on guitar. Tricky to track down on iTunes or Spotify, Youtube comes up trumps!
With Euro 2016 underway (a “soccer” tournament for both of my non-European followers!), I’m hoping to post a song or two that relate in some way to some of the countries playing each day (I suspect this good intention might fizzle out quite quickly ..)
So what better way to kick-off this project than with one of the greatest songs by one of the greatest songwriters from Wales (who are playing Slovakia later). I first heard this song on the compilation “10% File Under Burroughs” ( a series of songs with some relation to William Burroughs). The version on there is a live recording featuring Cale playing alone at the piano. It is completely different to the original that appeared on Cale’s “Artificial Intelligence” LP released in 1985. It turns out that it was taken from the “Fragments of the Rainy Season” live LP that Cale released in 1992 …
Deeply reflective and moving, this might be the best song John Cale has ever written …
I’ve been chasing ghosts and I don’t like it
I wish someone would show me where to draw the line
I’d lay down my sword if you would take it
And tell everyone back home I’m doing fine
Five versions(!) – a superb live solo version from the BBC; the live LP version; the original from the LP and then two live cuts: one from the Old Grey Whistle Test and one from Later With Jools Holland!
This has been a great day for Switzerland with the opening of the world’s longest and deepest rail tunnel – well done guys! (Details, here)
Until this moment, I think most right-thinking people would have regarded Switzerland’s finest achievement to date as being this track, “Film 2” by the short-lived but stupendous post punk band Grauzone. Others, of course, might debate this point and argue that hand crafted timepieces, cuckoo clocks, cheese with holes in it and/or, err, the Swiss Roll were superior. However, they would simply be wrong and, in the process, look faintly foolish.
Formed in Berne in 1980, Grauzone managed one LP and a handful of singles before disbanding two years later. Film 2 was the opening track on their only LP and is a pounding, relentless, bludgeoning instrumental. Play loud!
As a professional economist, I have always been a huge admirer of Gary Becker who won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work on the economics of discrimination and the economics of the family. The application of the neo-classical utility maximising framework to inform our understanding of the inter-relationships between decisions regarding marriage and partnerships, fertility and labour supply opened the eyes of many people to the potential explanatory power of economics.
Now, of course, we all know that real human beings are not fully informed, rational beings, carefully weighing up the short, medium and long term consequences of their choices on their own utility (“desiccated calculating machines” as Nye Bevan might have described them). Nonetheless, Becker’s insights have added rigour to the way in which we try and understand the choices that people make.
In my own life, the decision of my (now) wife and I to finally get married after 31 years of (trial) cohabitation was significantly driven by the need to make sure that she fully inherited my pension …. (who said romance is dead?)
This same, hard, cold, logic also underpins the lyric of this soul/funk/house classic from 1986. Using a ruthless logic that would have had Gary Becker “welling up”, Gwen Guthrie sets out the case for his Treatise on the Family in just 6 minutes …. A few snippets:
No romance without finance
Boy, nothin’ in life is free
That’s why I’m askin’ you what can you do for me
I’ve got responsibilities
So I’m lookin’ for a man whose got money in his hands
‘Cause nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
You got to have somethin’ if you wanna be with me
Oh, life is too serious, love’s too mysterious
A fly girl like me needs security
‘Cause ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent
You got to have a J-O-B if you wanna be with me
Boy, you’re silky ways are sweet
But you’re only wastin’ time if your pockets are empty
I’ve got lots of love to give
But I will have to avoid you if you’re unemployed
The 12″ club mix for your delectation ….
For Christmas, I bought myself Herbie Hancock’s “The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1972-1988” boxset. Over the last few weeks, I have been working my way through the 34 CDs and stumbling upon many gems in many genres that I hadn’t heard before.
I reached Herbie’s “Magic Windows” LP today which was originally released in 1981. The final track on the album turns out to be a stone cold funk masterpiece which immediately warrants escalation to thebestmusicofalltime!
My immediate thought was that it sounded like a missing track from Talking Heads’ all time classic LP “Remain in Light” – a bit of digging on Discogs reveals the link .. Adrian Belew played guitar on the Talking Heads LP and on this track on the Herbie Hancock album! Most famous for fronting King Crimson, Belew has been involved in countless other collaborations including playing on David Bowie’s “Lodger” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland”.
A perfect record.