This week it’s a slightly shorter set of rambling notes. This is because I’ve spent a lot of time this week writing next week’s letter. It’s a very special one (our year anniversary), and I want to make sure it’s exceptional. As such, I’m putting a lot of energy into ensuring it’s suitably celebratory 🎉.
This week is also a milestone week, as I FINALLY finished that bloody Rickey Vincent book. I expect a certificate to be posted to my house within one to two weeks. Pretty much the second that I put it down, I picked up my next book. Something I’ve been excited about reading for a while now, Rave On, by Matthew Collin. I’m already about a third of the way through, and I can’t put it down. If you’ve any interest in the development of dance music, or culture (which I know you have), then go buy it.
The book opens with Collin’s taking a tour of Detroit with ‘Mad” Mike Banks, and Collin’s goes on to chart the rise (or birth, depending on your view) of techno in motor city. There are, of course, lots and lots of similarities between what Vincent described in Funk, and what Collin’s is describing in the early chapters of Rave On. Collins draws the link when he refutes the idea that Kraftwerk single-handedly invented techno; “The sonic Afro-futurism of musicians like Herbie Hancock, George Clinton, Stevie Wonder and all the others who pioneered the use of electronic textures, synthesized basslines and rhythmic technologies in the seventies and eighties was equally vital in terms of laying out a palette of possibilities for the electronic dance music that followed”.
It feels poignant that last week was Movement in Detroit, because what we celebrate now emerging from Detroit then, very nearly wasn’t anything at all (RA has a great oral history of Detroit from a few years ago). In a city that was on it’s knees, people like Derrick May and Jeff Mills (who, incidentally, gave a great interview recently) created something from nothing as a protest. They had hunger, and belief. One of the important collectives that emerged from Detroit (Underground Resistance) became a powerful driving force for change. They spoke of riots, and overthrowing governments and the establishment, and Collin’s reminded me of a brilliant Martin Luther King quote; “a riot is the language of the unheard”. The echoes to jazz, soul, and funk are strong, and in fact, it was Sun Ra’s birthday this week, and I remembered a quote from him; “if you’re not mad at the world, you don’t have what it takes”.
So I’ve spend a lot of time thinking about those two quotes and their relation to culture, as well as the idea that hunger and belief are all we need to do something new, something challenging, and something important. Also, it feels like in drill music we may have another example, after the government demanded that YouTube remove a number of drill songs this week for ‘promoting violence and creating social unrest’.
The thought around hunger and belief has been rattling around my head for a while now, and I think I’m maybe suffering from a little Baader-Meinhof bias. I’m most certainly susceptible to it, whether it’s spotting the same three stars I swear I’ve seen since I was a child, my current obsession with Magpies, or my new obsession with hearing saxophone in techno. I think that last point has definitely had a big impact on this week’s playlist, and after hearing the latest Ben Vince album, I’ve gone out and bought anything that he’s ever done. There’s also a great interview with Vince and Joy O here.
If you’ve got this far, then you deserve a treat. Have a read about the impact that Ken Collier had on the emerging scene in Detroit, in this excellent profile RBMA recently published.
As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day