It’s that time of the year where I honour my father’s memory with an unnecessarily detailed blog post. Everything spirals from formative experiences and I have some curious memories with regards to my dad’s record collection — it wasn’t especially expansive and punk didn’t seem to operate in his dojo, yet the lettering, photos and promises as to the sonic delights in those black grooves had a vast effect on me. I’d sit and stare at the covers for hours, obsessing over the liner notes and imagining the films they soundtracked, losing my mind when I spotted a picture disc. I was pretty much banned from using the record player because of my clumsy pre-pubescent hands and their scope for snapping a needle, so I’d have to call my dad over to cue up ‘Flash’ on Queen’s ‘Greatest Hits’ or Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’.
I’m not sure I ever really witnessed my dad listen to any of his records either — as I gathered, some were bargain bin come ups and others were unwanted gifts, but over the years since he passed, I’ve made the effort to at least listen to each one in its entirety. Sometimes, the cover art surpassed the album, sometimes the instrumental jams were intolerable, but there were plenty of strong moments that helped me understand how they ended up in a wooden cupboard alongside a yellowing stack of replacement LP sleeves and a PUMA box of photos. So I decided to turn today’s blog entry into a tribute to that disperate pile of black and whiter than white music that somehow seems to have leached into my psyche to influence my own tastes, both musically and visually. If anyone’s wondering why I’ve got Status Quo on my iTunes, here’s your answer. I wonder if kids will trawl their old mans’ MP3 horde with the same curiosity?
DIRE STRAITS ‘ALCHEMY: DIRE STRAITS LIVE’ (1984)
It’s not cool to like Dire Straits, but they’re great. They might be the group that represent the dawn of the soulless zillion selling CD era, back when ‘Tomorrow’s World’ said that they were indestructible, but if you don’t like ‘Walk of Life’ or Mark Knopfler’s ‘Local Hero’ theme, you’re a dick. I remember them taking years to deliver a follow-up album post ‘Money For Nothing’ that was terrible, but Knopfler’s headband seemed like the coolest thing ever, back in the day. ‘Alchemy’ had cover art by Brett Whiteley, that cut the Mishima portrait stuff out, but I’m sure it had a hidden Disney character on there. The live jams went on for ages — ‘Romeo and Juliet’ seemed to last about 3 hours. Unfiltered dad rock. I apologise if that read like a Patrick Bateman rant.
FREEEZ ‘SOUTHERN FREEEZ’ (1981)
We had jazz funk in the house too. This album still sounds pretty good in a fleck jacket wine bar kind of way, but crucially, Freeez went on to have a 1983 hit with ‘IOU’ which had an amazing video laden with breakdancing, popping and BMXs. I was extremely proud that my dad had an album that was almost hip-hop back then. The b-boying in that video was way better than the out-of-place popping in King’s ‘Love and Pride’.
BROTHERS JOHNSON ‘LOOK OUT FOR #1’ (1976)
“Thunder Thumbs” and “Lightnin’ Licks” (who played bass on ‘Thriller’) had such amazing attire on the cover to this album that I had to listen to it. It wasn’t the disco album I assumed it was, rather some real funk. Later, when Brand Nubian, the Hoodratz and Grand Puba sampled tracks from this album, I assumed that my dad’s stash was a hotbed of valuable breaks. I was mistaken.
STATUS QUO ‘IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT’ (1978)
Status Quo were already on their eleventh album in 1978 and this sounded exactly like you’d expect it to sound. My dad denied ownership, claiming it was mum’s, but she claimed otherwise. The case remains unresolved, but I was obsessed with the corner cutaway that revealed an image of a burning match. I love this album cover, but I can’t remember the music, other that recalling that it contained a track called ‘Long Legged Linda’ which I imagine was quite saucy in a lumpen, power chord kind of way.
THIRD WORLD ‘JOURNEY TO ADDIS’ (1978)
My dad liked reggae. I’m sure he told me a story about going to see Sizzla in the early 2000s in the British Virgin Islands, but having to leave early because a man stood up and started preaching against the white man. He also really liked Sean Paul and exercised on a rowing machine while listening to ‘Like Glue’ and ‘Gimme the Light’ — a pretty amazing way to work out. This Third World album had a cool cover and they were super musical — it was also the first place I ever heard a cover of ‘Now That We’ve Found Love’.
AVERAGE WHITE BAND ‘AWB’ (1974)
Funky white Scotsmen in flared trousers. I honestly only liked this because there was a naked lady on the cover and ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ was in ‘Superman II’. When Premier flipped Average White Band samples, I pretended I loved this album all along.
PAUL SIMON ‘ONE TRICK PONY’ (1980)
Paul Simon can’t write bad songs. This was my introduction to singer/songwiters and I never associated Paul with the guy who made me cry at the end of ‘Watership Down’ and it’s a tie-in with a really miserable film where Paul wears a baseball cap and gets messed around by Rip Torn a lot. For years I wondered what the film was like, and on seeing it around Christmas in 1986 or 1987, it bored me, despite a cool concept of a faded folk star eclipsed by the punk boom. ‘Jonah’ is a great track, which seems to be about the titular folk star’s plight. I was obsessed with the font here and would gawp at it for prolonged periods. My dad liked ‘Graceland’ but never heard him mention this album once. Blatantly a gift.
HERBIE HANCOCK ‘SUNLIGHT’ (1978)
Proto electro from the master. Herbie’s glasses and collars on the cover are immense and this is pretty underrated. I’m not sure if this was a success or why my dad had this and the ‘I Thought It Was You’ 12″ but it sets the seeds for ‘Rockit’ and the picture of Herbie with his keyboard setup on the sleeve is amazing. Dilla sampled this album for one of the tracks on ‘Fantastic Vol. 2’. I’m not enough of a Slum Village fan to find out the track title though.
VARIOUS ARTISTS ‘THE STORY OF THE BLUES’ (1968)
Keep your white man reinterpretations, because Paul Oliver’s masterful compilation tied in with a book I’ve never read but contained recordings by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Leadbelly and Black Bob. There’s even some depressingly unknown artists on here, plus praise songs by Fra-Fra Tribesmen that go right back to the origins of blues (I recommend Robert Palmer’s ‘Deep Blues’ for an equally deep insight into the music’s roots). Thanks to this compilation, I was able to silence friends’ fathers who tried to tell me that Clapton was god with my liner note researched nuggets of knowledge.
SANTANA ‘INNER SECRETS’ (1978)
This album is pretty weak. I was always freaked out when Carlos returned with the Latin sound, because on the basis of this album, I assumed they were just another dull rock group. When I look at that cover, I always imagine the group accusing Mr. Santana of not being as good as he used to be, but this was my introduction to the Santana font (on which there’s an excessively lengthy post somewhere else on this blog).
On a wildly different note, Monday’s Nike European Innovation Summit included a little exhibit I worked on for Nike Basketball entitled, ’20 Designs That Changed the Game’ with interviews with the likes of Tinker Hatfield and Eric Avar, sketches and ads, plus OG shoes. Salutes to Nate and Chad for letting me get involved. I also got to sit opposite Carl Lewis and Sir Charles Barkley. Carl was rocking the reflective Team USA Windrunner, so I had to capture it with a flash (apologies for the picture quality).