📚 The notes 📚
After kindly featuring an article that I wrote on No Signal’s NS10v10 in a previous letter, Jed has let me compose a guest letter for Love Will Save The Day. As a bit of an introduction to who I am, I’m a music supervisor, which essentially means that I source and license music for use in visual content, be that adverts, TV, film etc. By virtue of what I do for a living, you would assume that I’d be good at this sort of thing but putting together a playlist of thirty perfectly sequenced tracks is surprisingly difficult, but I’ve had a stab at it!
I decided to use my playlist as a bit of an overview of who I am as a person and the music that I like. Given my job, I have to be somewhat of a musical encyclopaedia, so I guess this represents only a small percentage of my taste but is perhaps the most appropriate when considering the newsletter being an homage to David Mancuso.
When it comes to ‘party music’, I definitely find that my favourite tracks are those that are a bit left of centre. I would categorise these tracks as ‘leftfield groove’, being tracks that have inflections of disco, R&B and pop, but with a slight edge. You might say that a lot of these tracks are post-punk, and quite a few of them are, but others very much aren’t, yet they all have a similar groove in common. Talking Heads are probably the best example of this but I decided to omit them as I couldn’t whittle it down to just one track by them! It’s difficult to describe but when you listen through, hopefully it’ll make sense.
Starting with ‘Ebb Tide’, this is a track that you certainly wouldn’t hear on any dancefloor. I have an immense love for all things outsider and lo-fi. There’s something particularly touching and warm about tracks that just don’t fit anywhere. You have no idea how to describe them or where to place them but they just work. The next track ‘Should I Say Yes?’ is one I have to credit my mother for. Growing up, there was always music playing, mostly 80s R&B, freestyle and pop, as well as the classic Heart 106.2. The former has definitely shaped my taste today, and is a sound that I always go back to. Similar to the previous track, there’s something sweet and naive about it. You can’t quite put your finger on it.
A brief mention goes to ‘Let’s Be Adult’, the first of two ‘guess the sample’ tracks in my playlist (note: this is the original, but someone sampled it for a pop hit in the 00s).
Skipping ahead a few tracks is the wonderfully depraved ‘Why D’ya Do It?’ by Marianne Faithfull. I was a huge Rolling Stones fan as a teenager (more on them later), an obsession which introduced me to Marianne Faithfull, an artist who should receive much more credit than she has over the years. This track in particular is probably the first track that is most indicative of ‘my taste’, as it were. The formula for a ‘Quintessentially Jumi’ track is, funky bass, infectious beat and slight punk edge. Bonus points for some smutty lyrics – and Faithfull doesn’t disappoint here when she refers to someone as having ‘cobwebs up her fanny’.
Another very brief mention goes to the wonderful Thelma Houston with ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’, the only disco track you’ll find here. Denis Sulta revamped this a few years back and unfortunately, his version is a bit too ‘uhnz uhnz’ for my liking and only really makes for truly enjoyable listening whilst in a k-hole (certainly not speaking from personal experience!). Houston’s original is packed with emotion and simply lush Philly production. So gorgeous I had to sneak it in.
Jumping forward, there are some brilliant 80s synth tracks from Pete Shelley and Duran Duran, another band that was an object of my teenage obsession, bear in mind I was a teenager in the late 2000s…
This love of 80s synth – again thanks to my parents – has given way to a more recent obsession which is the world of italo disco and hi-NRG. There’s something about this particular genre that just screams ‘studio magic’. The production is slick and precise – the epitome of studio engineered. The finest example of this is ‘Witch’ by Helen, complete with lyrics that are equally profound and nonsensical. Upon further research into the track, I found out that Helen doesn’t actually exist and is actually just a session singer. Italo disco to a tee!
Closing out the foray into hi-NRG is the one of a kind; Divine. I’m a huge lover of RuPaul’s Drag Race as well as Paris is Burning. On the outside, I’m a pretty monotone and minimalist person but on the inside, I’m insanely camp. For the pageantry that the likes of RuPaul and Pepper LaBeija bring, Divine brings the opposite – being completely profane, if not grotesque, and that’s why I love her so much. Introduced to audiences by arguably the king of smutty camp, John Waters, Divine launched a music career in the 80s, with a bit of help from none other than Stock Aitken and Waterman and this track is a highlight for me.
From glitzy pop production to durgy punk, these next few tracks are arguably the most ‘leftfield groove’ of the bunch. Funky punk is typically how I describe them. Lots of edge but still enough groovy bass in them to entice the pop purists. SebastiAn has the honour of having the second ‘guess the sample’ track, taking its beat and bassline from an 80s one hit wonder…
Towards the end of this section, you’ll find a Rolling Stones track, ‘Too Much Blood’. The Rolling Stones are one of my favourite bands, a fact that I rarely admit to publicly, despite the fact that a large part of my undergraduate dissertation was linguistically unpacking ‘Exile on Main St’. As I said, I’m not really that open about my love for the Stones, probably because they are firmly in the realms of dad (or grandad) rock and the fact that Mick Jagger is a raging Tory. That said, they soundtracked my teen years so I feel somewhat of an obligation to back them and defend them to the death, despite how problematic they can be. 80s Stones is never really looked at particularly fondly, however, this track is a real standout. The track also follows the same formula as the aforementioned Marianne Faithfull track, with smutty lyrics, this time referencing Issei Sagawa, an infamous cannibal from the 1970s (who is currently alive and a free man!), in a questionable spoken word section from Mick Jagger.
A quick stop off in the land of early 90s R&B/pop by way of Jane Child and the Purple One, Prince. Picking a Prince track was probably one of the hardest decisions for this playlist, next to choosing a Bowie track (soon to follow). I decided to go with ‘Gett Off’ purely because of the line, “Tonight you’re a star / And I’m the big dipper”. Prince does what few others can, somehow fulfilling the dichotomy of being tastefully bawdy.
Now onto Bowie, another insanely hard decision. Yet another artist that I had an unhealthy obsession with, but this obsession is arguably the most persistent and genuinely appreciative of his music as an art form, so much so that I have ‘serious moonlight’ tattooed on my arm. Bowie isn’t short of leftfield groove, so I decided to go with a bit of a leftfield track within his catalogue. Apparently this track was meant to be a bit of a laugh but I think it’s perfectly suited to a set filled with a sophisticated groove.
I’m a real sucker for when DJs pull something completely random out of the bag as their set finisher. Something that isn’t like anything else in their set but just leaves you with a smile on your face. Finishing out the playlist are two tracks that are from my childhood and remind me most of my mother, and are both tracks that are really needed during the COVID-19 period. Growing up, I always looked at my dad as the musical one as he was really into jazz and just generally niche stuff, but on further reflection, I think my mother was a much greater influence. The Temptations are another act where you would ignore their catalogue post early 1970s, however, this was a song that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. This is a track you’ve probably heard before as there have been quite a few versions, probably the most notable by the New York Community Choir, but this is one I know and love the most. Perhaps another reason why I keep going back to this track is because I’m quarantining with my mother and this is the first track on a minidisc (remember them?!) that has been stuck in her stereo for the past few years so it’s inescapable.
The last track pretty much does what it says on the tin. Whilst I grew up in the Catholic church, I’ve always had a real love and admiration for gospel music. It is the epitome of uplifting for me and this track, ‘Optimistic’ by Sounds of Blackness, never fails to make me look at life in a positive way, even if it is only for 5 mins 19 seconds. Try to listen to this song without cracking a smile. Go on, I dare you!