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A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (28)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON WEDNESDAY 16 APRIL 2008

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I’m no connoisseur of art and paintings. I’ll see something hanging on a wall and decide pretty quickly whether I like it or not. There will even be times when one work by an artist will appeal, while another of their paintings will appal.

One thing I can’t do however, is really explain why that happens to be the case. I’m not able to dissect a work or art, nor can I really look beyond the immediate visual images that meet the naked eye for something that is more deep and meaningful. And sometimes this happens in music.

I chanced upon a brilliant piece of writing on the LP Songs To Remember by Scritti Politti. It highlights how the record, which on first listen appears to be a hotchpotch of soul, jazz, R&B and pop at its purest, is actually a very clever and subversive piece of work full of political sentiments that almost border on the anarchic.

Now I’m not saying I was never aware of the fact that Green Gartside had a strong and almost extreme left-wing ideology, but I kind of let it drift away on the wind whenever I played what has long been one of my favourite LPs of all time. There’s a lot to admire in the essay – for instance, I’d never have cottoned-on to the fact that the sleeves of the singles were a parody of the finer things in life such as cigars and Courvoisier. I also love the analysis that this was a record full of innovative acts of homage thanks to Green’s style and approach, but the use of soul would later be stolen by ‘the hideous mid-Eighties Live Aid Brigade with their own agenda’, with many of them believing ‘big hair and big volume equals soulfulness’ .

This is all very well and true, but I just can’t help but proclaim my love of the songs is all down to finding something classy sounding in among all the guitar-dominated songs that I was immersed in at the age of 18, which for some reason was of immediate appeal to my ear. Especially this:-

mp3 : Scritti Politti – Faithless (Triple Hep’n’Blue)

I loved the vocals, both lead and backing, and I loved the instrumentation and arrangement. I could never have said back in 1981, nor indeed now in 2008 that what made it so special was:-

“Proceeding at the sombre pace of a New Orleans funeral march, heavily lacquered in gospel shrieking, it is, as the title suggests, implicitly about the modern, probably white soulboy and lover addicted to the linguistic constructs of soul, the “oohs”, the “testifies”, the “I got souls” but who is disconnected from them in his contemporary, agnostic time and place – “Faithless”, indeed.”

That’s how it’s described by David Stubbs, author of the piece I was mentioning earlier. Read it in full right here.

Scritti Politti went on to be a chart success on both sides of the Atlantic a few years later when they left the Rough Trade label and signed for Virgin Records. But these later works of art, while pleasant enough in their own right, never appealed as much as the songs to remember from 1981.

 

RT 111T

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(My posts tend to be written in batches as and when I have time to sit down and work on the blog. Brian was first to comment on yesterday’s posting and displayed incredible psychic powers……)

Ok…the title of the posting looks like some kind of binary code gone wrong.  But it is in fact the catalogue number given to the 12″ release of this single on Rough Trade Records back in September 1982:-

mp3 : Scritti Politti – Asylums In Jerusalem
mp3 : Scritti Politti – Jacques Derrida
mp3 : Scritti Politti – A Slow Soul

The single was released a month after the LP Songs To Remember – which I will argue long into the night is one of THE greatest albums of all time – and it reached #43 in the UK singles charts which was a fair achievement for any band on Rough Trade far less one who got no daytime radio exposure whatsoever.

I should have given this a mention yesterday when I did the St Etienne A-AA sided single as being another great example of the genre. The 12″ release offers up a couple of different things in that Jacques Derrida is a fair bit longer than the album version while A Slow Soul is a completely different mix from that which was on Songs To Remember.

Little known fact. Until The Smiths came along, Songs To Remember was the biggest selling record that Rough Trade had ever released, reaching #12 in the album charts here in the UK.

Green Gartside was soon wooed by many a record label and he signed for Virgin Records. The band’s next album (featuring a completely different line-up from that when he was ‘indie’) went Top 5 while the singles got him his lifetime’s ambition of appearing on Top of The Pops.

Enjoy