Tag Archives: music

In those open arms is where I wanna be

We meet in town, in one of the pubs. Way back when, before gastropubs and chains, before pubs got remodelled to look like living rooms. Back in the 90s, when floors were sticky, decor was dingy and ashtrays overflowing (we smoked indoors, copiously, little realising what a luxury combination nicotine and warmth would become…) I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that I am wearing a little black dress and black trainers, my mate is wearing leather trousers and a fluffy fake-fur coat, because that is what we usually went for and this was going to be a great night out. The outer reaches of my memory suggest that it was midweek, a school night, but there can’t have been school because we never would have got away with it, both being in possession of the kind of mothers who could occasionally be distracted but who certainly noticed things like that. So it is a weeknight, probably in the holidays, maybe it had rained but stopped, so the Brighton pavements were greasy with a kind of black sludge that always seemed to appear from nowhere after a shower, making them treacherous for those in heels – even block-heeled 70s-style boots like my mate usually wore – and making my trainers screech as I went round corners.

I suppose we spent a few weeks doing that, working every Friday night; and Goldie was on the phone every other night with new ideas for different bits. If we were working solidly, we might have had it done in one or two weeks, but I think it was good that we didn’t, because we had the time to work on all the different ideas we had for the song.

– Rob Playford

I probably bought the album the day it came out, more or less. Waiting for it, with the release date marked on my calendar. I would have gone to the music store on my way to work, bought the CD and played it over and over and over again, showing no mercy to the parent downstairs trying to watch the telly. Learning all the songs, the words and the stories behind them.


Kemistry would have been one of my favourites, because of the adoration Kemistry & Storm inspired as two female DJs that made the stupid boys that said girls couldn’t DJ shut right up, as well as knowing that Goldie had written it for her when they were together. The voice that haunted the album’s intro and weaved and played through the bass before gaining strength: this is how it is going to be because ‘I need to be in your love/Living free’. That voice sounded like something heard in dreams, probably due to listening to it on low volume into the night and it being the last thing heard before going under. Pre-internet and Google hive mind, I probably didn’t put it together that it was the same voice as on The Key, The Secret, a song that in my family we always sang back at people when they asked us ‘have you got your keys?’ As I knew about the album release, getting the tickets would have been down to me too, probably buying them at one of the record stores in town that you had to go into and pay cash when you wanted to go to something that was happening in a month or so. I usually stuck all the tickets around my mirror so they wouldn’t be forgotten as I was leaving then checked they were in my pocket 799 times on my way to meet my friend.

I was living in Stevenage at the time and would give Goldie a ride back to London when we’d finished; we just kept rewinding the string section on the trip back, it was so gorgeous. After a few weeks, we thought that it would be great if this was a really long track; I suggested that we should make it go up to the 40-minute limit for a single. Then I realised that on Notator, our sequencer, at the tempo we were using, the maximum length was 32 minutes! I was gutted… (RP)

When it is time to go, running a bit late as we usually do, we don’t head in our usual direction – down to the seafront where the best clubs are – instead it is up to the main street with all the cheesy places, the massive nightclubs that usually have queues stretching around the block into freezing gale winds. The ones that don’t let you in with trainers and where we have both run the gauntlet of fake IDs and spoilsport bouncers. Although we did our apprenticeships in these cheesy dives, we have both since graduated into the house and garage clubs – out of a shared love of better music, cooler DJs and trying to avoid the more meat-head variety of the beery rugby lads we went to school with. These have not yet reached a comfortable level of metrosexuality where they can venture into a club with a drag queen in nine-inch heels on the door and a chance of their arse getting grabbed as they dance, nor will they for another decade. Tonight though, it is no meat-market, there will be no chart remixes playing, no local radio DJs shouting over the top pretending they have fame. Tonight it is a real S H O W with true S T A R S. The Muse alone knows how, who booked it, by what random act of madness this has conspired. But Goldie is on at the Paradox, doing songs from recently-released Timeless, with all the Metalheadz in support: Kemistry & Storm, Fabio & Grooverider and ohmygoodgoshyesyes: we have tickets. I checked, they are still in my pocket.

Later, after the show, when Fab & Groove are on the decks and we are all going nuts, in this venue that we shouldn’t be in, especially us because at weekends it is over 21s only. No way our shoddy fakes would get us in on a normal night, even if we wanted to. Although we wouldn’t anyway, but here we are now and our favourite songs are blaring because, wow, this cheese-palace has quite a decent sound system, who would have known, with proper lasers all across the dance-floor which is going right off like it has suddenly been beamed into our seaside town from South London. Then, over my shoulder there is a gleam from a lad asking my friend for a light and he holds a ciggie making it clear it isn’t just a ploy to talk to her so she is digging in her pocket. A flash of light reflected from the links around his neck and oh look, it is Goldie, come down from the stage. He dances with us for a bit, my face must be marked with shock and surprise, my mate is trying not to laugh at me, as he sticks both thumbs up with the cigarette pointing out of his fist and yells, ‘This is great, yeah!’ and we both agree ‘Yeah!’ as we dance and then he is off out into the crowd. Hands slap his back or grab his hand, no smartphones, no selfies, just a fleeting moment. He looks around the room like he is hosting the best party of his life before he dances off into Bjork-dating, acting, national treasure status LEGEND.

I think it’s still very experimental. Timeless was a blueprint for ideas for the future. It was about a kid having a dream about something he wanted to do in his head.

– Goldie

He was 30 that year. The owner of the most haunting, powerful voice in drum ‘n’ bass, Diane Charlemagne, was a year older. I would turn 18 a few months later. Time passes, we grow older, swap dancing for other pastimes perhaps. Think of other things. I hadn’t listened to Timeless in a little while as my CDs were packed up in a box in storage back in the UK. My MP3 player has so much on it it takes a while for the old favourites to shuffle round. There are YouTube playlists, Soundcloud mixes and more new music than anyone could know what to do with. So much to listen to passively now, you liked that so we think you will like this, people who bought that also bought this. The positive action of choosing, of deciding what mood you are in and what you need to listen to. Then taking the CD out of the box, or the record from the sleeve before pressing play or putting down the needle, it is – like the turning of a gramophone handle – something the youth know about in abstract, but can’t believe really happened.

I don’t know when the vocals idea came into Goldie’s plans, but he certainly didn’t tell me about it until we’d done the whole track. In my head, I’d constructed it to have all the pieces come out and develop; I couldn’t see where the vocals would fit in. Diane Charlemagne came over and did the vocals, and we put them onto DAT and sampled the parts we wanted. I also reprocessed them; I think I put them through a [BBE] Sonic Maximiser, to get that airiness in there. But it wasn’t actually until I put them into the song that I thought, ‘no, brilliant, they work perfectly.’ (RP)

Do musicians really die – not for their friends and family, of course, who miss them physically, but for the fans who knew them mostly in the space between the ears? I never met Diane Charlemagne in a club, but her voice made that night and many others possible. That amazing voice lifted me as I danced, relaxed or studied at home, walked around town or took train journeys with my headphones on. For years, the first thing I unpacked in a new place was the stereo and Timeless. It wouldn’t feel like home until that ritual had been performed. When the news came that she had died, far too young of cancer, my heart was heavy.

Thank you, Diane, for all the moments your beautiful voice soundtracked and for taking me right back to that time when I was 18, living by the sea with a head full of music, every time I press play.

Rob Playford interviewed on the recording of Timeless

Goldie interviewed around the 20th anniversary of Timeless


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DisGRACEfully Delicious

The DisGRACEfully Delicious Grace Jones is a natural phenomenon. How can such a force of nature be contained and distilled within the confines of a hardback covered book? Reckless and unpredictable on stage, her world is like a tempestuous tornado. How the devil can the whole Bacchae experience that a Grace Jones performance delivers be articulated just by the written word?


It was quite apt I read the book on a Saturday night, the traditional night to paint the town red, blue, purple and green. To exploit all the colours in the disco palette, I complimented the reading with a disco soundtrack and became totally absorbed into the small hours. The music ceased, the soundscape of a police helicopter being replaced by birdsong.

And what a tale she has to tell. I felt like I’d been completely taken up in her storm of a life, twisting through a strict religious Jamaican childhood, charmed by the sexual seduction of Paris, to the dance floors of seventies (cocaine-laced) New York and being dumped back into my chair in my little Liverpool flat, Treeview.

We see the origins of the model’s fashion lust,

I would cut up old dresses and make new ones from the material.

To her theatre-dabblings that helped sketch out her performance art and assist her in finding her natural tribe of people, the creatives.

Well I am not going back home, I don’t need no more education. This is education.

She speaks frankly about her sometimes controlled drug experimentation,

The doctor would safely guide us through the trip. It was like a clinical trip, with a bit of anarchy thrown in.

Her quest to explore the many levels of her personality,

The underground clubs satisfied the explorer in me seeking new discoveries.

Throughout the memoirs she illustrates a strong degree of self-awareness and a tenacity that can only be admired,

I knew I didn’t have a natural voice, but I was going to work at how to make it work, stretch into a new place.

She has many musical anecdotes, like turning down the song BOOGIE WONDERLAND,

Can you imagine me singing Boogie Wonderland? Preposterous. That song needs a tinkling Tinker Bell to sing it, and I’m much more of a witch with a smear of blood on my cheek.

Her values and respect for creativity and individualism are illustrated when she openly talks about one of my personal bug-bearers the reality talent show, the modern-day equivalent of the Roman Colosseum.

I’m offered so much money to do these kind of shows, but no amount of money is enough to compensate for what appearing on them would do to my soul. They’re awful, there’s no learning experience, it’s demeaning and dispiriting. Sure, it’s part of life and you have to go through it, but to set it up as something that people laugh at is so damned cruel.


She is aware of reputation and plays the part of Grace Jones, particularly for the press,

I am having fun with the idea of the performance, with me as a performance. I turn myself into a kind of party, but after you’ve been to a party, you don’t come home and have the same party.

Also, the book is philosophical, she comes across at times as a glittered philosopher,

Disco in its purest sense means that you will come out of a place having gone into euphoria, feeling that you have rejoiced. That’s the sense the disc jockey in the clubs was helping crowds achieve… Mixing the music to completely control your emotions, bringing you up, taking you down, slowing you down, speeding you up, making you soft, making you hard.

Essentially, Jones HURRICANE album was autobiographical, she shrieks at the beginning of the work,

This is my voice, my weapon of choice, this is life.

And goes on to deliver a musical confessional, the most overtly personal album of the maverick’s musical collection.

Did we really need her to pen her memoirs, ‘I’ll never write my memoirs’, a lyric she sung in one of my favourite tracks of hers, Art Groupie.

Well, if the truth be known, we didn’t really. Part of me liked the mystique, the uncertainty of the real Jones. But is she really revealing the Grace behind the mask in this book or is it simply another guise, another art project.

I am very militant and disciplined. Even if that sometimes means being militantly naughty, and disciplined in the art of subversion.

I guess we needed Grace Jones to pen her life, explain some of the incidents, as much as we need luxury truffles and caviar. We don’t really need them but there is a decadent delight in the consumption.

May she long continue being disgracefully delicious!

If you are based in the US and wish to purchase the book from an independent bookstore, the link below will take you to IndieBound – a community of independent bookstores. ten minutes hate will receive a small commission if you do. Many thanks!

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The Sound of the City

My desk space in the city is located just off Dale Street. I love walking to work across town in the morning, past the sprinkling of market traders that are left, setting up for the day ahead. I see steaming cups of tea being administered to people who look like they desperately need them. I try to interact with this dying breed of trader. Use them or lose them! I try to buy vegetables from the stalls as often as I can. I could not get a pumpkin at Halloween last year for love nor money. One of the regular stalls I go to complained about how they simply cannot compete with the supermarkets,

Even I had to buy mine from the Asda, lad!

I love this humour that is used as an attitude in this city. The unshakeable wit of Scousers that can be heard everywhere. Recently on a bus a teenage girl was arguing/flirting with one of her male friends, who had taken a picture of her on his phone,

Do you know it’s illegal to keep a picture on ye phone if the other person doesn’t want you to?

She barked. To which he quickly retorted,

Do you know it’s illegal to have them eyebrows?

The acidic comeback is natural to the average Scouser. It’s all part of the sound of the city. It is all about survival. I have noticed in the past few years, a couple of the flower sellers have vanished on my route, withering away into nothing like the flowers they sold. There is still the occasional Eccoooooooooooo of an Echo seller and thankfully the sounds of the buskers if you can manage to ferry your way past the Predator, the Alien, a balloon squeezing Mario (plumbing obviously has been affected by the recession) and the odd Olaf. (Please note it is not recommended to tell a three-year old if the said man in a snowman costume is not present by stating, ‘he must have melted’, as my nephew was traumatised by this for several hours after.)

But one of the most gratifying sounds is the one I often hear, the music from rehearsal rooms on Dale Street. A banging drum set beat as I walk to work early in the morning and guitar solos flooding into the night air as I finish in the evening. This always raises a smile on my face, as you can hear the soul that is going into the practice. It is so much more refreshing a sound than ‘Cashier number three please.’ It is part of the DNA of this city, music, yes respecting the past but also moving progressively forward, to the future bands.

princes buildings

I was appalled at the news that this magnet for musical talent, the Princes Studios could be threatened with closure. We need to close a vital creative hub – that makes great sense! We need new apartments in the city like the world needs Ebola!

As those behind a recent petition to the Council asking to save the building have written:

Princes Studios currently houses over 250 musicians and 50+ bands who make up a large percentage of Liverpool’s illustrious music scene.

If the building closes it will have a huge negative impact on the Liverpool music scene as there is a chronic shortage of flexible and permanent rehearsal space in the city.

I was so proud to show off this City over the holidays to friends who were genuinely shocked by the culture, humour, history and vibe that we have. I do wish I was equally as proud of its elected leaders. The local Council – the alleged custodians of the city – do not seem to realise they do not own this city, the people do!


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Everybody’s looking for something

At a recent re-union with my two close friends, I went through my archive to find photographs from our collective past, remember photographs? Actual hard copies, actual physical images? I had a suitcase-full from the University days in Aberystwyth: theatre projects, pantomime and holidays, all shared histories. At the time we looked so fresh, yet were stacked with insecurities. It was striking how visually we had changed, faces, bodies, the core of the physical.

One of the funniest – yet lamest at the same time – cracker jokes I had this year was about Santa having to discipline his staff, as productivity on toy production was down in his factories. This was due to the Elves taking Elfies. Indeed, if you think about it, 2014 was the year of the selfie.

Nowadays, everybody airbrushes, changes, edits, deletes! We all do it, we all modify our digital life experiences promoting the fun times and the happy memories. We are all self-aware to a degree, but only projecting what we want the world to see. We are all Public Relations agents. Some admittedly are better than others.

It made me extremely happy to see a musician I have admired, Ms. Annie Lennox in a portrait that did not iron out her life lines or laughter marks. An image that did not tone and gloss her face to resemble an alabaster porcelain doll. To be raw, to be unaltered, to be authentic.

annie lennox

It reminded me of an anecdote I heard about Audrey Hepburn, who was appearing on the front of Vogue. One assistant, when showing her copy from the shoot, told her not to worry about the wrinkles as they would airbrush them out of the picture. To which this dignified actress said,

Don’t you dare! Leave them all in. I have earned every single one of them.

The recent picture of the Eurythmic legend was accompanied by a telling quote about our society on the Purple Clover Facebook page,

There’s this youth culture that is really, really powerful and really, really strong, but what it does is it really discards other people once they reach a certain age.

I actually think that people are so powerful and interesting – women especially – when they reach my age. We’ve got so much to say, but popular culture is so reductive that we just talk about whether we’ve got wrinkles, or whether we’ve put weight on, or lost weight, or whether we’ve changed our hair style. I just find that so shallow.

Perhaps we all should be made to read Oscar Wilde’s, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Perhaps we all could do with a reminder of what happens when you try and remain youthful for eternity. Perhaps it’s time to delete that picture in the attic or re-examine the profile image of our digital selves?

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Treats for ears

Reviving an occasional series on ten minutes hate, here are the Top 5 Records currently bringing joy to my ears:

1. Javeon McCarthy – Lost Time (T Williams Remix)

It is rainy season here in Japan, so there are days when we can’t see much of anything through the rain. Still, these haunting lyrics of lost love, set against a beat you will find difficult to ignore the invitation to dance to, will make even the greyest of skies seem suddenly brighter:

2. Fact mix 327 – Disclosure

The series of mixes released by Fact magazine are always worth more than one listen and this from Disclosure doesn’t buck the trend. By three minutes in I already knew it wa the best mix I had heard all year and then it proceeded to get even better. Don’t miss out!

3. Cajmere & Russoul – Let’s Dance

Watch the video, practise the moves, hit the club, be the toast of the town.

Thank me later.

4. XLR8R podcast – Braiden

Another quality series of mixes, another great DJ. What’s not to like?

5. Flight Facilities – Foreign Language ft Jess (Will Saul & Tam Cooper remix)

More great lyrics, an amazing vocal and deft remix by Simple Records founder, Will Saul. Almost too perfect…

Hopefully that has you in the perfect mood for whatever shenanigans the weekend holds for you. As ever, let me know your top 5s in the comments, below and be sure to have a cracking one!

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Going missing

A grey sky, making it too easy to feel miserable. The heel fell off my boot as I walked into work, leaving me limping all day. Over-tired, I had slept too long, veering from one lucid, unsettling dream to another without any pause, so that I found it difficult to escape from the feeling of having disappointed some faceless authority, failed to measure up to what was expected of me and faced down accusatory tones, even after the alarm had intruded.

Days like today it is impossible to fight the urge to go missing for a while, even if it only is in the virtual sense. Turn off the internets, pick up a book, a notebook, a pen. Write letters, listen to music loud enough to have the neighbours cursing your name and hope that tomorrow the sun will shine again. Perhaps that is enough.

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The price of everything

A comment on my post about this week’s book signing event made from the direction of the mortal bath, when added to a Golden Week spent with delightful visitors from back home, has suddenly opened my eyes to a universal truth. Crikey, life in Tokyo is expensive at times.

I realise that I now regularly pay 4,000 yen (slightly over thirty notes) for a night of clubbing without batting a heavily mascara’d eyelash at it, when back in the East London days, a fiver would be all I would need for admittance to some of the city’s finest warehouse raves. A taxi home once the last train has been missed will cost slightly less than four grand, but is still a hefty chunk of cash and remember, no drinks have been bought yet.

Still, payday is approaching and summer fun is on the horizon. Ticket details for the forthcoming Tokyo performance by the xx were released today and I allowed myself a couple of moments of getting over-excited about the prospect of going. I love their sparse beats, plaintive lyrics and am sure that seeing them would be a highlight.

Then reality kicks me in the head. Tickets have been priced at forty-five quid (5,800 yen). I paid about the same to see The National last year, a band who have released five albums and a stack of additional songs and who were on stage for almost three hours. It felt at the time, and still does, like a good return – much as I hate to be measuring my enjoyment of music in such a way. I suppose I should be grateful that I am able to hand over actual cash in return for a ticket at all, when the xx’s London dates have completely sold out, having been released in a ballot.

And yes, I do appreciate that it costs money to run a club and to fly bands and DJs in from overseas. I don’t begrudge anyone making a living from selling their creativity, especially when the use of it results in me having a cracking night out. That said, there are times on the dance floor when wide open spaces loom all around and the thought that it would be better for the room to be full with people paying less is difficult to push away. If everyone is priced out of going clubbing and gigging, where will that leave the respective music scenes in a decade’s time? We will all be the poorer, not just the promoters, if they allow the atrophy to become irreversible.

So, with some reluctance, I will be sitting this one out. Hoping instead to pick up on some smaller, less well-known, less high-priced gigs and nights out over the summer, to enjoy the immediacy of live music without completely breaking the bank. And for now, I will have to content myself with sitting in my room, writing and humming along to the xx as I do.

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