BEATS & PIECES
As I hope you realised, last week’s column was printed before tragic events overtook its lead story … Steve Walsh’s untimely death has had one beneficial side effect, in that it appears to have given some of our fatter DJs a keen sense of their own mortality, and encouraged them to diet in earnest … Steve was chairman of the Dance Aid Trust, which has selected as one of three nominated charities for support this year the Christian Lewis Neuroblastoma Trust Fund. which become a registered charity on June 6 — young Christian’s own tumour is still undergoing chemo- and radio-therapy but has not shrunk (he’s the son of Swansea DJ James Lewis, who has written with local musician Maldwyn Pope a song called ‘Christian’, described as “not a bass bomber but a catchy pop dance number’, for which they seek a deal on 0792-896928) … S-Express have indeed changed their name’s spelling to S’Xpress, to make it more phonetic and prevent people pronouncing it as “S”- “Express” — incidentally, it really is very misleading sometimes having to review 12 inch versions of such as their new ‘Superfly Guy’, which turns out to be a much catchier song in its edited seven inch/video form … Gwen McCrae’s review last week was premature as her single isn’t now out until July 25, when the brand new jittery Jocelyn Brown-ish ‘Eighties Lady (Seventies Trammp Mix)‘ will be the A-side, merely flipped by the track previously promoed and reviewed … Groove’s ‘Hijack The Beat’ seems likely to be remixed extensively before it’s out commercially … Martyn Young of M|A|R|R|S created the Afro-Acid Remix of Mory Kante’s ‘Yé Ké Yé Ké’, and has another Mory’s House Remix ready to follow it, too … ffrr are previewing their ‘The House Sound Of London Vol IV — The Jackin’ Zone‘ album with a pair of 12 inch promos containing the frantic samba flavoured 125½-0bpm The House Addicts ‘Come Together‘ flipped by the Dancin’ Danny D-created “acieed”-chanting burbling 124¼-0bpm D. Mob ‘We Call It Acieed‘, and the Jazzy M talked and Julian Jonah moaned, Bam Bam co-produced, Fingers Inc backed jittery smooth (0-)122bpm The J&M Connection ‘Living In A World Of Fantasy‘, plus its more melodic 122¼bpm One For The Ladies Mix semi-instrumental, flipped by the synth washed and piano nagged slippery throbbing 0-120⅓bpm Richie Rich ‘Salsa House‘ … Inner-City ‘Big Fun’ is the next (and only logical) single to be pulled from 10 Records’ tedious ‘Techno!’ double album … Acid Fingers couldn’t possibly be Simon Harris’s new “house” alter ego? … Virgin have promoed on totally blank white label the particularly strong, jaunty girl rapped scratching and jiggling 108⅓bpm Syn-Dee ‘It’s Best To Be A Girl‘ … Jellybean’s new instrumental ‘Coming Back For More’ will in fact be followed by a vocal version featuring Richard Darbyshire from Living In A Box … Eddie Murphy, in his hilarious new film ‘Coming To America’, successfully shatters his old stereotype by playing four totally different characters — including an old white Jew called Saul! — while co-star Arsenio Hall likewise plays four characters, the make-up jobs being fantastic (incidentally, when you see it, which you must, the kid in the barber’s choir is Cuba Gooding Jr, presumably son of the Main Ingredient member) … Leroy Burgess is recording himself again and producing others for Zoo Experience Records in London next month … CityBeat have combined their previous releases by Philadelphia rap acts Cool C and 3-D into a six-track £3.99 mini-LP, ‘CityBeat Hilltop Hustlers‘ (CBLP 2) … Lindsay Wesker (playwright Arnold’s little boy) has co-founded the new Kiss Records label, debuting with — it has to be said — a very intelligent compilation LP of Salsoul oldies, ‘Salsoul 1‘ (LIPS 1), including such as Jimmy Williams ‘All Of My Lovin’’, The Strangers ‘Step Out Of My Dreams’, Surface ‘Falling In Love’ … Urban’s new ‘Urban Classics 2‘ (URBLP 5) includes such eagerly sought rare grooves as the squeaky Jackson 5-style 89⅙-88⅚bpm Foster Sylvers ‘Misdemeanor‘, and New Orleans chanting pattered and wah-wahed 0-111-112-113½-109bpm The Wild Magnolias ‘(Somebody Got) Soul, Soul, Soul‘ … Charly R&B have released a great double LP of Sixties material, classics and rarities, recorded by the likes of Aaron Neville, Ernie K-Doe, Benny Spellman, Eskew Reeder, Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint and The Showmen (featuring General Johnson) for the late Joe Banashak’s various New Orleans labels, ‘Mr Joe’s Jambalaya‘ (CDX26) … Big Dee Irwin, the singer/songwriter who 30 years ago led the Pastels doo wop group but is better remembered for his hit duet of ‘Swinging On A Star’ with Little Eva 25 years ago, has been signed (under his real surname, Ervin) by 2000 AD Records, the label that veteran record plugger Golly Gallagher is now running here … James Brown’s past cohorts, including Bobby Byrd, Vicki Anderson, Lyn Collins, Marva Whitney, Maceo Parker, the JBs, Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns are all live at London’s Town & Country Club in Kentish Town next Wednesday/Thursday (20/21) … James Brown’s CD is packaged more colourfully than the brand new bag given to his ‘I’m Real’ LP here … Keni Stevens’ old ‘Blue Moods’ album on Jam Today will soon be on CD with extra mixes and unissued songs boosting it to 13 tracks … T-Coy’s latest latin house jangler ‘Night Train‘ (a new tune) is due on promo now … Dave Rogers, a regular shopper along with me at Rayners Lane’s Record Centre, has himself set up a small specialist Soul Shop at 789-791 London Rood in Hounslow, supplying black and dance music plus imports for the locals there … Sarbani, the girl whose ‘(Ish Ka Deh) Marmaleh‘ Bhangra house single turns out to be produced by Andy Cox of Fine Young Cannibals, is the Wolverhampton teenager who won the national Bhangra dance contest on TV’s ‘Network East’ … Culture Shock’s pioneering ‘House Bhangra‘ only ever hit (in a small way) the Indie, rather than dance charts … North West London’s postal disputes held up DJs’ charts (and new UK releases) this week … NANU NANU!
STEVE WALSH died on Sunday, July 3, following an operation on his fractured left leg in Paddington St. Mary’s Hospital. His great bulk of around 26 stone, which gave him such a commanding presence on stage, proved to be his undoing. Apparently people who are very overweight are liable to get calcium deposits around their joints, bits of which can break off during this type of operation and get into the bloodstream, causing a blockage and heart failure. This is what happened when, made fully aware of the risk, Steve agreed that surgeons should put a plate in his leg, as otherwise his fractured femur might not have mended sufficiently to bear his weight and allow him to walk again. This four hour operation was successful, and Steve woke up after it, before his heart stopped twice, the second time there being no reviving him. Four evenings earlier, on Ibiza in the Balearic islands, Steve was being driven in a convoy of cars back from the final sunset shot of the third day’s filming for his new single’s video, when a car shot out of a side road straight into the car he was in, throwing him through the windscreen. In addition to a broken leg he suffered four broken ribs, a black eye and facial lacerations. Put in traction, he was flown home by air ambulance for medical attention close to the Paddington apartment he shared with wife Sue and three young daughters (one only weeks old).
Steve himself was born on September 20, 1958, in Walsall, although into a South London family with colourful connections about which he later loved to boast. Moving north of the river, he ended up at school in Paddington with classmates Paul Hardcastle, Billy Idol, radio DJ Gary Crowley and actor Phil Daniels. I first met him when he was 17, and we spent many hours talking about the art of DJ-ing, as he was even then determined to learn as much as he could in order to get to the top. While still a teenager, he talked his way into running very successful soul sessions on Sundays at the Lyceum, with which he made his early reputation. Soon there was a “Walsh Force” who followed him by the bus load to his out of town gigs. At this stage he was often accused of copying other better DJs’ styles: he was, however, much younger than his size suggested, and still learning by other people’s example. Cutting a Henry The VIIIth like figure with his red hair and massive girth, he commanded instant attention when on stage, not only because of his bulk but also, even more important for a DJ, he was loud and could be heard. Subtlety and Steve Walsh were the opposite ends of the spectrum, yet, against all odds, and showing again his determination to get things right, by painstaking practice he became one of the few disco DJs to make the successful transition from live stage work to radio, modifying his stentorian stage manner into the necessarily more intimate “one to one” style of the radio presenter. At one incredible period he was actually presenting soul shows on Guildford’s County Sound plus both London’s Capital Radio and BBC Radio London, before finally opting for the latter. (Most recently he also introduced the “Boogie Box” show on the Music Box cable TV channel.)
At Radio London his Sunday and Monday night soul programmes, in which he introduced far more new music than when on stage, were overshadowed perhaps by his partnering Tony Blackburn in the wildly successful Radio London Soul Night Out live broadcasts, these latter being really what established his reputation as London’s number one disco name. Everyone loves a fat man, and he only had to walk on stage with his arms spread wide and a smile on his face for the crowd to erupt. Indeed his actual disc-jockeying at such gigs was reduced to the predictable rotation of a few well proven favourites, one of which, Fatback’s ‘I Found Lovin’’, he eventually recorded himself and took into the top 10 last autumn. His simplistic “you wot, you wot?” catchphrase chant thus caught on nationally, and perhaps summed up his unpretentious live appeal. It certainly helped him at last to become the nation’s embodiment of a “disco DJ”. Prior to this, back in the early Eighties, for three years his face had appeared in advertisements on the front page of London’s Evening Standard newspaper, endorsing Svenson’s hair-weaving process, making him even then the first “mere” disco DJ ever to be given such prominence in an advertising campaign totally unconnected with the disco business.
Through all this, he surprisingly never let his ambition, and enjoyment of such fleshly pleasures as his Rolls Royce, weaken his commitment to the black music that some might have considered could hold back an entertainer in his position. Although the records he played at gigs may have been predictable, they were far from obvious to a pop crowd (he had long been an early champion of Aswad, for instance), as he always played primarily for the black market. It is a mark of the gap his untimely death now leaves that the organisers of a special tribute night, being planned for Hammersmith’s Le Palais to benefit his wife and daughters, cannot think of any other current figurehead from the disco world who could handle such an event as Steve would have done himself. He will indeed be missed.
(The single for which he was making the ill fated video, his “you wot”-studded rendition of McFadden & Whitehead’s ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’ will ironically still be issued by A1 Records on August 18, while his manager, Martyn Levett, has set up the Steve Walsh Family Trust, c/o Barclays Bank, Crouch End Branch, 46 The Broadway, London N8, account number [redacted], sort code [redacted], all to benefit his widow and children, as Steve seems to have spent his earnings as he made them.) Perhaps it is fitting that he should share with you the secret of his stage success, “Always look at the audience, look into their eyes as you are talking.” He learnt this, and passed it on.
LEIGH GUEST is the sole remaining original member of the Double Trouble remixing team but still uses its plural monicker for his work (joined though as he often is these days by the separately credited Simon Goffe, fuzzily glimpsed lurking behind him here), Leigh alone creating special mixes now for Chris Forbes’ Capital Radio soul show every Saturday night. Come to think of it, in this photo, Simon Goffe is (very appropriately!) the face behind the face behind the name on the label!
MANTRONIX ‘Join Me Please … (Home Boys — Make Some Noise) (Noise It Up Mix)’ (US Capitol V-15386)
Although this (0-)95-0bpm remix of their disappointing album’s wordy jitterer (with home boys making background noise) is the plug side, together with its LP version and dub, plus the dull booming 0-87bpm ‘Get Stupid (Part III)‘, it’s the flip’s brand new break beat-cutting 0-108-104-105⅓-103¾-97⅓-98⅓-0bpm ‘King Of The Beats’ instrumental scratch mix that’s selling it.
PUBLIC ENEMY ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’ (US Def Jam BFW 44303)
Interspersed with brief snips of live crowd reaction from their London concert (which is flattering to us considering that it’s the US pressing), this tracks crammed typically angry rap set to the b boys’ heroes exploded immediately for the “bass” repeating (0-)105½-0-105½-0bpm ‘Night Of The Living Baseheads’ but also has the (0-)107⅔bpm ‘Cold Lampin With Flavor‘, (0-)101bpm ‘Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic‘, (0-)117bpm ‘Caught, Can We Get A Witness?‘, (0-)96½-0bpm ‘She Watch Channel Zero?!‘, 0-108⅔bpm ‘Party For Your Right To Fight‘, (0-)99⅓bpm ‘Louder Than A Bomb‘, (0-)91 bpm ‘Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos‘, already issued 0-99⅚bpm ‘Rebel Without A Pause’, (0-)110⅕bpm ‘Bring The Noise’, 98½bpm ‘Don’t Believe The Hype’, 0-100⅓-0bpm ‘Prophets Of Rage’, and short 100½bpm ‘Mind Terrorist’, 0-107⅚bpm ‘Show Em Whatcha Got’, instrumental 97⅔bpm ‘Security Of The First World’. It’s a bit militant!
STETSASONIC ‘In Full Gear’ (Breakout AMA 9001)
Another tracks crammed though less angry rap set, with the excellent ‘Expansions’ basslined 0-108-0bpm ‘Talkin’ All That Jazz’ (which makes the point: “tell the truth, James Brown was old, ’till Eric and Rak came out with ‘I Got Soul’ — rap brings back old R&B, and if we would not, people could have forgot”), Force MD’s featuring dreamy (0-)40½-81pm revival of the Floaters’ ‘Float On‘, Mohawks ‘The Champ’-cutting wordy 104-108⅔-0bpm ‘Miami Bass‘, 98⅔bpm title track, 95bpm ‘Stet Troop ’88!‘, (0-)91⅓bpm ‘This Is It, Y’All (Go Stetsa II)‘, 97⅓bpm ‘It’s In My Song‘, 112bpm ‘Pen And Paper‘, reggae 88bpm ‘The Odad’, already issued 103bpm ‘DBC Let The Music Play’, 0- 101bpm ‘Sally’, and short 0-101bpm ‘Rollin’ Wit Rush’, bongo pattered 95-0bpm ‘Freedom Or Death’, organ instrumental 0-100⅔-0bpm ‘Music For The Stetfully Insane’. Continue reading “July 16, 1988: Steve Walsh obituary, Mantronix, Public Enemy, Stetsasonic, Mica Paris”