‘76’ Roc Marciano (Reloaded, Decon, 2012)

Quattroportes slide off through a time warp
Been getting money before dinosaur
Diamonds is on, llamas is worn
Write rhymes on island resorts
Dimes who snort
Some guys who slide a line inside a Newport
Push a fly two door like Too $hort
I’m just an artist with a tec
Hard as a baguette

Two reasons to love this song by Roc Marciano, if you are looking to be convinced: the essential genius of the choice of sample, the immediately identifiable 70s anti-love-song by 10cc and how its used and the wonder contained in the way Marciano delivers his rhymes.

Add to this, the core lyricism and indestructible mood of the track too.

There is a repeated three, or four steps forward style to the way Marciano presents his words that is extremely distinctive and powerful. He speaks the content in a way that is theatrical and unnatural – not unlike the way French people speak English, breaking up sentences constantly, with lots of pausing for emphasis.

Certainly, there is much attention given to the intricacy of the wordplay, and yet Roc Marciano speaks as if he is stating something simple, essential – uncontested and true. This gives an enormous power to the tale being told. The way the content is said forces us to listen and this makes it seem timeless, out of time, as if a message passed on from some kind of sage.

This is where the song is so redolent for me, as it is the combination of said delivery and the fractured-imaginative content of the lyrics that fits perfectly with the dominant mood of nostalgia; but the question, though is nostalgia for what and when? (Marciano was born in 1978).

Leave that question unanswered. Let the tension remain, fully aware that the final line of the track is: ‘Don’t let it be left unsaid.’

Speaking personally, just for a minute, this song evokes memories from my lived experience of going to New York as a younger version of my self - catching the plane alone, waking up to see ice on glass, the chests of red squirrels quivering; the steam everywhere, rising from the concrete – because of the intense emotion it contains. Pretty much nothing else in recent hip-hop comes close.  

Then, of course, this ‘nostalgia’ is tied to the sample, the so-obvious 10cc sample … (a song that could carry the subtitle, 'Spirit of the 70s') 

I keep your picture
Upon the wall
It hides a nasty stain that's lying there
So don't you ask me
To give it back
I know you know it doesn't mean that much to me
I'm not in love, no no …

Using this sample arguably goes against the grain of the production mindset, as it’s so recognisable, so well-known. Check out Pete Rock’s take on the same raw material in ‘Comprehend’ feat. Papoose from his record, NY’s Finest (Nature Sounds, 2008)

This is cool, especially when Pete Rock chops it up, breaking it up and down and all over the place, but the atmosphere is completely different to Roc Marciano’s interpretation four years later. In ‘76’ the sample is central to the music, but remains in a kind of suspended development, as if it’s always on the cusp of becoming … We all know the song, what comes next, but it’s stopped, there.

The lack of development, the resistance to fulfilling our expectations, is key to the power of this music and why it’s so evocative of human emotion, whether it is nostalgia or longing (which are, after all, the same thing perhaps). The video is a perfect fit, directed by Jason Goldwatch, with its washed-out tones and the blurry lack of definition of a Lumet film, or the amateur ‘home movies’ captured on Super-8. Liked this exchange below the video:   

Sicilian Pride19772 years ago (edited)

what was the 1970s effect used on the video?

hustlaave2 years ago

Increase blur, Color Grading (curves adjust blue channel to lower blue and raise yellow) add film grain, add jitter

'Young don, son'’s under the arm
He treats Lamborghinis like bumper cars
Got scars, chains around the neck like scarves
Your limbs hang out of threads like yarn
I’m the next big thing
Chickenheads cling, the bedspring king
Run the ring, my head is on top of the pyramid
Pictures of me and all my affiliates
We lit phillies like idiots
Kill the lineage, let them know what it really is
Niggas is penniless with skinny ribs
I fire semis at too many wigs
I feel like Billy the Kid, skinny big
You literally live as a guinea pig
If the Timbs ain'’t on deck you know the Pennys is
Your finger still penny pimps
You make me pull the Mac Milly out the Fendi trench
In any event, hold the 12 gauge that’'s heavy as shit
For every clip we let steadily rip
Push your afro back to '76 motherfucker
Hold up, any good year baby
Those some great years baby
’75, 76 know what I'’m saying
’77 and into the 80’s I’m saying word
Seen a lot nigga, word up
….

Dump with the feds like I'’m on a dead with' one in the head
Don’t let it be left unsaid.' 

Live Recordings: ‘Mary, Don’t You Weep’ Aretha Franklin (Amazing Grace, Atlantic/Rhino Entertainment, 1972)

Recorded 'Live' at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Los Angeles in January, 1972. With the Southern California Community Choir.

Personnel: Aretha Franklin - vocals, piano, Chuck Rainey – bass, Cornell Dupree – guitar, Kenneth Lupper – organ, Pancho Morales - percussion, conga, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie – drums, Southern California Community Choir - background vocal

Amazing Grace won the 1972 Grammy Award for Best Soul Gospel Performance and is the biggest selling pure Gospel album in history.  

Oh Oh Mary
Oh Oh Mary

Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn. 
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep.  

I went to this recording session. It was announced on the soul station in LA on Friday nite that Aretha was recording live that weekend & people were welcome to come, so I scraped together my dimes for gas & high-tailed it down there Saturday in my white Pontiac Bonneville which got 8 miles to the gallon. To add to the drama, Mick Jagger was up in the front row clapping & yelling. Aretha’s father ran the show & the title says it. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. 2 sessions — Saturday & Sunday. Seems like a dream now. What a moment in time. When Aretha was in her prime she could make you hallucinate. When she ran a scale it was like a huge firetruck drove by with all the sirens blasting. W-O-W...I remember her father saying...Aretha is a “stone singer”.  Well, yes. Testify. I was there & must say I agree 1000%.
— Comment below the YouTube video (Esquibelle)

Well, Satan got mad and he knows I'm glad. 
Missed that soul that he thought he had.
Now, didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep.

Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn. 
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep. 

I went to the second session, that Saturday evening and you’re right, seems like a dream now. When Aretha was leaving the church, so many people shook her hand. She was so gentle and a little timid back then.
— Comment below the YouTube Video (Harold Walker)

Well, one of these nights around twelve o'clock
This old town's gonna really rock
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 

Oh, Mary, don't you weep.

What I appreciate most about music of that decade is the very fact that instruments and voices were pure. No pitch bender, nothing mechanical, no tweaking, nothing artificial..................just pure music.
— Comment below the YouTube video (Monique Purcell)

Cheer up, sisters and don't you cry. 
There'll be good times bye and bye.
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep.

Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn. 
Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned? 
Oh, Mary, don't you weep. 

Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn.
Oh, Mary, don't you weep, don't you mourn. 

Didn't Pharaoh's army get drowned?

Oh, Mary, don't you weep. 

'Gharbzadegi’ Robert Wyatt (Old Rottenhat, Rough Trade, 1985) plus live performance, 2002

It's so easy to decide on a name
It's a name caller's game
It's so easy to look down from above
Helicopter vision
Get the picture when you're outside the frame
Retrospective my eye
Call it art and you can say what you like
It's a name caller's game
Your perspective describes where I stand
Out of line, out of mind
Calling myopia 'focus', of course,
Makes it easier still
Gharbzadegi means nothing to me
Westernitis to you
...We get so out of touch
Words take the place of meaning

So sweet this drum-beat, splintered and fragile like birds’ bones and the instruments taking the part – the piano repeating a few notes over and again to provide the foundations, (apparently, arguably) echoing Coltrane

with an English accent, poetic-abstract lyrics conveying a radical critique (damning ‘Westernitis’ – Gharbzadegi in Farsi … or Western Imperialism) sung so carefully and consciously as if it were a lullaby; could any listener ask for more? 

Listening to this you can see the deep influence Robert Wyatt had on Radiohead; I could pick any of their earlier/less-commercial tracks to provide proof of the fact, the influence of the Soft Machine alumnus seeps from their music (the way they use momentum, or not – and lyrically as well, the off-hand allusions to politics and the overriding emphasis on the creation of mood).

Wyatt’s song ‘Gharbzadegi’ is labelled ‘rock’/’progressive rock’ on websites of record, but this is jazzy, of course it is; in the way draws attention to the materiality of the instruments and the parts -  focussing on sound as quality in and of itself. 

The way the music disrupts our expectations of the parts the instruments should play (the piano provides the foundations, as if it were a bassline, but then the flourishes and exuberance); in the way the parts rise and fall, the gentleness of it all; the submerged momentum.  

As for the concept: Gharbzadegi 

Gharbzadegi (Persian: غربزدگی‎‎) is a pejorative Persian term variously translated as "Westoxification," "West-struck-ness"[1] "Westitis", "Euromania", or "Occidentosis".It is used to refer to the loss of Iranian cultural identity through the adoption and imitation of Western models and Western criteria in education, the arts, and culture; through the transformation of Iran into a passive market for Western goods and a pawn in Western geopolitics.

The phrase was first coined by Ahmad Fardid, a professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran, in the 1940s. it gained common usage following the clandestine publication in 1962 of the book Occidentosis: A Plague from the West by Jalal Al-e-Ahmad. Fardid's definition of the term as referring to the hegemony of ancient Greek philosophy, differed from its later usage as popularised by Al-e Ahmad.

Al-e Ahmed describes Iranian behavior in the twentieth century as being "Weststruck." The word was play on the dual meaning of "stricken" in Persian, which meant to be afflicted with a disease or to be stung by an insect, or to be infatuated and bedazzled. "I say that gharbzadegi is like cholera [or] frostbite. But no. It's at least as bad as sawflies in the wheatfields. Have you ever seen how they infest wheat? From within. There's a healthy skin in places, but it's only a skin, just like the shell of a cicada on a tree."

Al-e Ahmad argued that Iran must gain control over machines and become a producer rather than a consumer, even though once having overcome Weststruckness it will face a new malady - also western - that of 'machinestruckness'. "The soul of this devil 'the machine' [must be] bottled up and brought out at our disposal ... [The Iranian people] must not be at the service of machines, trapped by them, since the machine is a means not an end."

Live performance taken from the 2002 Robert Wyatt documentary Free Will and Testament

Words take the place of meaning …

Coda: 

‘Seriously deep’ Eberhard Weber/Colours (Silent Feet, ECM, 1978)

Personnel

Eberhard Weber – bassCharlie Mariano – soprano saxophonefluteRainer Brüninghaus –pianosynthesizerJohn Marshall – drums

It’s interesting to think about that line between the overly sentimental and lacking in heart, the formulaic and manufactured (the kind of over-produced sounds you hear on the radio as if pre-digested) and other kinds of music that mine a similar territory of accessible, not too difficult music, but escape such criticism.

Perhaps it’s always about context and reception, alongside something about the musician/composer that allows this reprieve. This piece of music, chosen for me by YouTube (by the anonymous seer at YouTube, or ‘algorithms’ - according to one person commenting on this phenomenon of modern-day tech-mysticism)

ˈalɡərɪð(ə)m/

noun

plural noun: algorithms

1.    a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

could tick all the boxes for the kind of jazz I like least, but escapes such categorisation because of the skill of the musicians, is that what it is? Or the way it sounds, the beautiful production sound maybe; or the way it makes me think of other favourite musicians from the era, albeit a much quieter version thereof. Or the way the elements are perfectly balanced and the way it returns to the centre; yes, it could be this (but I always say this about music I like). Maybe it's the track title, who knows about such things?

Even if arguably this kind of jazz, the borderline background music you hear being played in a chain hotel bar (all muted and tasteful tones, very 80s lighting) has ushered in a kind of undeniable stasis in the genre and smothered much of the wild individuality and freedom that stamps earlier periods, I like this music. 

According to the very short, dismissive ‘review’ by on Allmusic: 

'In the late '70s and '80s, bassist Eberhard Weber's music epitomized the ECM sound. Emphasizing long tones, contrasting sound with silence (... edit) Weber performs three stretched-out originals including the 17½-minute "Seriously Deep." This music moves slowly and requires a lot of patience by the listener.'

But listen to ex-Soft Machine drummer, John Marshall from 9’20” and the so-natural, but highly complex interaction with Weber, which is so beautiful to hear, as is the contained aggression, for want of a better description, that is conveyed in this music at this point.

And then around 11’30” something remarkable happens; the piece offers up an interlude, a kind of space and introspection. I love this, this section where the instruments communicate with each other: the insistent piano line asking the others to listen (and the other instruments responding with a controlled groove, taunting almost with the rolling drumming so flashy, while remaining under-stated if that’s possible).

This is taken from John Kelman’s interesting look at Weber’s significance, his collaborators and innovations on All About Jazz

As the jazz-rock fusion movement gained ground from its early years in the late 1960s through its glory days in the early-to-mid-1970s—blending the more sophisticated harmonies of jazz with rock music’s rhythmic power and high volume—all too often it was about muscular chops and complex writing for the sake of it. Little attention was paid to nuance and understatement. While guitarist John McLaughlin’s high octane Mahavishnu Orchestra and keyboard player Chick Corea’s guitar-centric incarnation of Return to Forever were tearing up the charts around the word, in Europe a different approach was taking place—something that didn’t fit into the broader definition of fusion but, nevertheless, took advantage of the broader sonic textures afforded by technological innovation. 

Here is his assessment of the Weber record Silent Feet, which starts with an appreciation of the wonderful contribution/foundations provided by the drummer, John Marshall (something that immediately struck me as well):

What Marshall brings to Silent Feet, almost from the start of the opening “Seriously Deep,” is more overt virtuosity, a more direct kind of energy and a considerable change in texture. As opposed to Christensen’s dark, splashy cymbal work, Marshall’s was more delicate; but once the 18-minute track makes its way into Mariano’s first solo of the set, Marshall’s more unbridled power becomes inherently clear (...)

As a soloist, Weber had evolved considerably; while in later years he would turn to greater scripting, here he was on the ascent in his improvisational prowess, a lithe player combining dexterity and lyrical intent with visceral glissandi to make him, to this day, one of the instrument’s great soloists, and one whose electro-bass permitted him a facility not available to the more unwieldy double-bass. He solos for four glorious minutes before turning things over to Mariano who, on soprano, again asserts his position as a player who, recently deceased, was well-known but absolutely not reaching the larger audience he deserved.

Check out this interesting interview with Weber by Kelman, entitled ‘Positive Pragmatism, again from All About Jazz

The best, or most perceptive review of this work comes from the ECM site, by Tyran Grillo,  apparently there are repeated references to the novel Watership Down (“Silent Feet” and “Eyes That Can See In The Dark” both refer to a central creation myth among the story’s protagonists, a herd of rabbits fleeing in exodus from the warren they once called home’ to be found in this music) on the record that also assesses Weber's work with his group, Colours:

“Seriously Deep” throws a light blanket of tender drones and electric piano, quilted with gorgeous solos on soprano sax and bass. Steady rhythms (hereon provided by ex-Soft Machine drummer John Marshall) turn something otherwise mournful into life-affirming joy. The title is not a pretentious statement of the music’s emotional cache, but rather a description of its physical path as it digs toward the center of the earth. The second, and title, track of the album’s modest three is an ironic one, requiring active hands to evoke silent feet. The helix that is Weber and Brüninghaus spirals in place as cymbals connect like base pairs within, thus leading to one of the latter’s most captivating pianistic passages. It is the kind of balanced exuberance that characterizes Pat Metheny at his most potent stretches of imagination. Stellar breath control from Mariano plays beautifully off Weber’s every move, making for one of the finest cuts in the collection.'   

‘Sankara’ JP Manova (19h07, Not on Label/Self-Released, 2015)

[Intro : Sample]
"Les masses populaires en Europe ne sont pas opposées aux masses populaires en Afrique. Mais ceux qui veulent exploiter l’Afrique, ce sont les mêmes qui exploitent l’Europe. Nous avons un ennemi commun."

 ‘The working-class in Europe are not in opposition to the working-class in Africa. Those who want to exploit Africa are the same who exploit Europe. We have a common enemy.'

Thomas Sankara, president Burkina Faso, 1983-1987

In a 2015 interview entitled ‘I met JP Manova, the invisible man of French rap’ - originally in French - by Ramses Kefi the very, very famous French rapper MC Solaar refers to Manova as the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ for his secretive, or publicity-shy ways. (Manova asked the interviewer repeatedly why he wanted to meet him). But despite his low profile, Manova offers a fine continuity with the past and the contemporary hip-hop scene in France. 

This track, ‘Sankara’ is a perfect example of Manova’s skill to present a powerful argument, keeping it cool, while skewering the hypocrisy of Westerners looking at Africa, whatever that means; see, for example these great lines:

À ceux qui pensent l'Afrique comme un clip de Shakira
Où le blanc mène la danse et les nègres suivent le pas

(For those who think Africa is like a clip from Shakira/Where the whites lead the dance and the negroes – or niggers, it’s the same in French - follow the steps)

There is a submerged intensity, or anger in this song and the way the lyrics are delivered, alongside a kind of intimacy where the repeated refrain suggests that if you – we – have these questions, or prejudices we will keep coming back to Thomas Sankara, the great revolutionary leader who promised another way forward in the post-colonial era.

From the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Sankara:  

‘Sankara declared the objectives of the “democratic and popular revolution” to be primarily concerned with the tasks of eradicating corruption, fighting environmental degradation, empowering women, and increasing access to education and health care, with the larger goal of liquidating imperial domination. During the course of his presidency, Sankara successfully implemented programs that vastly reduced infant mortality, increased literacy rates and school attendance, and boosted the number of women holding governmental posts. On the environmental front, in the first year of his presidency alone 10 million trees were planted in an effort to combat desertification. On the first anniversary of the coup that had brought him to power, he changed the country’s name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means roughly “land of upright people” in Mossi and Dyula, the country’s two most widely spoken indigenous languages.’

Here is an interview – in French – with JP Manova around the release of his record where he speaks about the values of hip-hop and gives his thoughts on Trap among other subjects.

Manova grew up in the 18th arrondissement, the area in northern Paris where there are large North African and West African communities, he has described how this experience of not growing up in the banlieues  (the poor, largely immigrant neighbourhoods surrounding central Paris) gave him a particular perspective.

As he told the online magazine Le Bon Son in 2015

‘We’re not in the banlieue, but the edge of it; we’re not in Paris, but on the edge of it. It’s a working-class area … where there are workers, immigrants, but also Sacré Cœur the tourist site the whole world wants to see’ (this is my neighbourhood as well, so I appreciate this description when I’m so far away).

Coda:

‘Eternel été’ Ezechiel Pailhès (Circus Company, 2017)

“Au milieu de l'hiver, j'ai découvert en moi un invincible été.”

Albert Camus

Purposefully slowed down to create a sleepwalking mood, part little girl’s music box with the spinning ballerina, part disco echo, this song traverses the borderline between the overly sweet to create its own musical headspace that is forever holding back.

Linking the consonants so as to create new words, new meanings – the title could suggest a new noun that doesn’t exist in French, the way North Americans add ‘ess’ or ‘ful’ to create new words – the eternalness, perhaps (even if a word already exists for eternity, of course).

Shy, older uncle singing and a rubber-band beat to become a distended hand-clap or basic tambour, this song is lovely in its musical lyricism and ambiguity, making statements with no apparent connection between them, words that I mishear – trop ardent becomes an expression of apology on first hearing, rather than denuded intensity. The centre does not hold.

The corny guitar element at just before two minutes is intentional, but alright because it’s appreciated for what it is; the ironic effect is held within a certain sphere of gentle sincerity.

'You trip me up’ Jesus and Mary Chain (Psychocandy, Blanco y Negro Records, 1985) original/acoustic plus ‘My Girl’ cover & Spacemen 3 'Revolution'

With skin so Scottish pale it reflects the glare, it's hard to imagine the logic behind this video-shoot location on a sunny Portuguese beach other than it was meant to be a joke of some kind; as one person adds below the video, ‘The first time ever the band had seen the sun.’

This mix of a 60s pop-aesthetic and noise became standard the following decade, but when JAMC bubbled up onto the surface it was new, for some time. Check out this typically good feature from The Quietus Brown Acid Black Leather: the story of Jesus and Mary Chain’s Pyschocandy’ by Julian Marszalek, published in 2011.

Despite the overall serious tone of the interview, some of it is very funny. I like, for example, the image of JAMC rehearsing at the local community centre in East Kilbride, where the night before ‘old ladies played bingo’ or this quote from Jim Reid: ‘People would look out of their windows and see these skinny guys with sunglasses on pushing all this fucking stuff down the road. And we’d get there and argue for half an hour and then go home.’

Coda:

Released on Fire Records, 1988

Versions: ‘She’s my witch’ Kip Tyler (Ebb, 1958)

Following the contemporary tic of mentioning who or what brought a listener to a particular piece of music, for many this comes with a nice kind of provenance (to slightly misuse a word) – of that great rangy showman, Lux Interior of The Cramps.  

(Memory of one of my first live music experiences seeing The Cramps do their thing in a long-gone venue; all velvet curtains, with tassels, as Lux rattled and rolled on the stage and Ivy never smiled).

The recording of this track is so modern, so clean. Like this description of Kip Tyler – one of the key members of the 50s Californian rockabilly scene: Kip Tyler (May 31, 1929 - September 23, 1996) was an American rock and roll singer and bongo player.

And then later similarly from wik:

‘Tyler took on the name of Jimmy Daley (the main character of the movie who he provided a voice over for) and formed the band Jimmy Daley And The Ding-A-Lings.’

(The Ding-A-Lings? These guys were doing it deadpan in that era, though, never for a laugh. Such detail always appeals to me, similarly this very serious comment from an appreciation  of the artist:   

There are rumours that Tyler in 1962 recorded the single “Drum Twist 1 & 2” (Torchlight #501) under the name of Kipper & The Exciters but we have been unable to conclusively prove this. Similarly, it remains to be established the “Target Twist/Stompin” released under the name of Kippster was Kip Tyler.

‘There are rumours …’ Sounds like something from The Pixies).

This tune, this paean to a ‘chick with a wicked twitch’ has been covered numerous times, with each rendition tending to stay close to the original – with a few exceptions. My favourites among them, this super-delicate version from the Voodoo Sharks, with the stagey almost-spoken delivery (note the great B&W archival and other footage in the video). 

The most popular in terms of views is by the UK-based psychobilly group, The Radiacs – sped up part, chilled, slow down towards the end, descending .. vocals sound as if they were recorded back in the distance.

Direct quotation: "The term "psychobilly" was first used in the lyrics to the country song "One Piece at a Time", written by Wayne Kemp for Johnny Cash, which was a Top 10 hit in the United States in 1976. The lyrics describe the construction of a "psychobilly Cadillac using stolen auto parts."

But the true keeper for me is by The Fuzztones, a group apparently ‘dismissed by some critics and listeners as a "bar band" or unoriginal, they maintained a strong fan base in New York, in Europe (with their music being played on Hungarian State Radio) … and in Los Angeles.’

It’s really lovely how they slow it down and purposefully under-play it.