Letter #87

24.05.19
Hello hello hello,

How are you? I hope you’re well. Summer has (fingers crossed) finally arrived in London. It is glorious. And hopefully it’ll stay sunny for the long weekend too!

So, I had a very different (and maybe even melancholic) mixtape and letter planned for this week, but then a new guest letter came in, and immediately struck me as being more in keeping with the summer happening outside and the British bank holiday weekend. So I’ll save my letter for next time, and this week you’ve got a real treat.

I seem to start most guest introductions with the phrase “I’m not sure how I know…”, but I definitely remember how I know Eamon. My future-mother-in-law, the incredibly cool Lou, messaged me to tell me about Eamon. She told me that I should follow him on Twitter immediately, and so I did. After a few weeks of chatting back and forth, I felt like we’d known each other for years. Pretty quickly he signed up here, and I’ve felt like we’re kindred spirits ever since. Eamon is a working DJ who plays across London and beyond (and if you’d like to book him, contact him here), he has a brilliant radio show, and often plays at Spiritland (shows here). He’s one of us.

The mixtape is exceptional, familiar, yet surprising. The letter is a classic, and harks back to the early days of Love Will Save The Day, when I’d write out my thoughts behind every track on the mixtape. You’re going to love it.

Enjoy ❤️

PS We have a lot of new people again this week, so if you’re new here and wondering what’s going on, then this is how this all works, and here’s the archives of all the old letters. Hope you enjoy!

PRESS ME TO PLAY
🌪 TL;DR Section 🌪
  1. Make sure to snap up a copy of Emma Warren’s excellent book on the current music scene in London – covering the UK jazz explosion, Total Refreshment Centre, and a whole host of other centres of cultural gravity
  2. Sign up to long time family member Jack White’s regularly updated jazz playlist – Jazz I Like
  3. You should absolutely be listening to the Slowthai’s debut album, as well as putting the new Tyler album on repeat too (ignore the haters, it’s brilliant)
  4. To celebrate a decade in print, they’ve published an oral history of culture bible Crack magazine
  5. Paul Bradshaw (the founder of Straight No Chaser magazine) has a brilliant show on Worldwide.fm
  6. There’s also a great documentary on BBC Radio 4 on the importance of social housing on culture from Kieran Yates that’s a must listen too
  7. And finally, we should all be celebrating the updates the the Guardian has made to its style guide too (trust me)
🌪 Guest TL;DR Section from Eamon 🌪
  1. The Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum looks great
  2. There’s a Teddy Pendergrass documentary coming
  3. This Blue Note documentary is a classic
  4. The BBC recently ran a short documentary series on background music which is ace
 📚 The notes 📚
Hello strangers,

My name is Eamon, and I play records in and around the east end of London (available for weddings, Bar Mitzvah’s and general hedonistic nights of pure debauchery). I also host The Black Wax Solution Radio Show on Totally Wired Radio (the new internet radio station from Acid Jazz Records & Fred Perry). That said, I’m not entirely sure how I’ve ended up ‘here’ but how lovely to be asked to write a letter to a couple of thousand strangers. This feels like speed dating on a grand scale – at least I know we’re all into music, and that’s always a good ice-breaker.

I make my living playing (mostly) funk, soul and disco to drunk people, and I’ve been obsessed with music since I was given the Pinocchio soundtrack for Christmas when I was three. It was the first object I remember being conscious of owning. It set me off on a long journey collecting flat black pieces of plastic. The wall of vinyl may well cause subsidence but if the house collapses with me at the decks then at least I’ll die happy.

My kid recently asked me what it was about music I liked and I said that it’s because whatever your mood there’s a song to either heighten that feeling or help turn it around. Happy, sad, angry… “Angry?” she said, “Yes, even angry”. “Daddy, can I hear some angry music?”. And then we listened to Bad Brains and ran around the house pretending to be dinosaurs. I envy her being at the start of her musical journey.

I hope this playlist takes you on a journey today – there is happy, sad, and all points in between, so stick with it and if there’s something you don’t like, don’t worry something else will be along in a minute.

Cheers,
Eamon (Black Wax Solution).

PS For best results set your crossfade up for a second or two… As a DJ the sound of unvibrated air makes me weep.

Funkadelic – Music For My Mother
I like the way this track sounds like the start of a journey (because for you, dear listener, it is), the music seems ponderous at first then picks up in speed and confidence as the story is told. Sure sounds like funk to me.

Sylvester – My Country Tis Of Thee
Sylvester is best known for his care free uptempo hi-energy disco cuts such as ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’ and ‘Do you Wanna Funk?’. Shameless pop music at its finest. In the past I have heard people dismiss this period as synthetic and trashy but those songs came from a master musician. Back in the days of The Hot Band, Sylvester proved himself on the live circuit with blisteringly energetic performances. The time spent early in his career honing his formidable talent in a traditional set up laid the foundations for those super hits of the 70s. The vocal on this cut is quite exceptional, and I love the way it ushers the following track in. It’s one of my favourite pairings to mix together live.

Undisputed Truth – You + Me = Love
One of the things I enjoy about mining for new (or in this case old) music is suddenly hitting a new seam of raw talent. I’d seen Norman Whitfield’s name on a number of Motown releases and had mentally tied him to the boom years of the 60s. It wasn’t until a few years ago I started to search out the records he produced in the 70s and 80s and oh boy I’m glad I did! The man was prolific. Undisputed Truth could give Funkadelic a run for their funk / rock money in their early days, but he also paved the way for disco to happen. ‘You + Me = Love’ is probably my favourite funk disco 12’ mix. It is such a jam. Whitfield didn’t stop there either, as disco finally took control of the airwaves he was already onto a new project – Rose Royce – producing another swathe of hit singles and excellent albums. Whitfield spent decades at the very top of the game.

Uta Bella – Nassa Nassa
This tune has everything you need to rock a dancefloor. It’s got tight production, drive, rhythm, bass licks, catchy hooks and singalong vocals. If you don’t end up humming ‘Nassa Nassa Alright!’ at some point after hearing this record then you’re not living your best life.

Hokis Pokis – Nowhere
This track is a soul classic hidden in the gaudy clothes of 70s disco. Made by church-going white men from suburban New York, it was released in 1975 and just a little too ahead of it’s time, pre-empting the disco boom that followed. That’s a shame because everything about this arrangement is perfect. Great harmonies, killer rhythm section, space age synth sounds and an arrangement so tight it stops on a six pence.

Interview – Salut et Salauds
I stumbled across this perky bit of Parisian boogie on the excellent Chebran Compilations. French pop music is often regarded with more than a little cynicism but away from the more familiar world of Vanessa Paradis and Sacha Distel there was of course a vibrant underground scene producing lots of quirky, funky records. I love the confidence of this tune. It bursts out of the speaker like a can-can girl emerging from a cake.

Christy Essien – You Can’t Change a Man
Another cut from Nigeria, this time featuring Christy Essien the ‘First Lady of song’. This song is such a wonderful oddity. It’s more akin to house music than high life with its 4×4 beat and Paradise Garage keyboards. For 1979 this track is literally a decade ahead of its time. I also love the unusual angle of attack that the lyrics take – basically Christy reckons you should lay off your wayward man because men can’t be changed, and she sounds quite pleased about that oddly enough. Not sure about that Christy, I’d get him told.

Riton & Kah-Lo – Fake ID
Fast forward to this century and African musical influence is everywhere in cutting-edge electronic music. Grime, drill and electro pop are all swimming with African talent. What I particularly love about this infinitely catchy tune is the way it carries on a nursery rhyme tradition that has always existed in pop music from The Dixie Cups singing ‘Iko Iko’ through to Shirley Ellis and the ‘Clapping Song’ all the way up to now. I find Kah-Lo’s infectious vocals pretty irresistible throughout the whole album.

Super Collider – Darn Cold Way O’ Loving
I first came across Jamie Lidell and Christian Vogel through their relentless and noisy brand of underground techno in the 90s. If you are not familiar with those records, try throwing a bucket full of cutlery down a lift shaft while a 909 drum bangs out a rhythm through a Marshall Stack. It was all quite heavy, disorientating and pretty brutal. So it came as a surprise when they teamed up to form Super Collider. Lidell’s voice is chocolate-smooth and the cold electronics still manage to convey a deep seated respect for funk and soul music. It is pure garage really. It also packs enough bass to shake your windows out.

Galaxy 2 Galaxy feat. Paula McPherson – First Galactic Baptist Church
Underground Resistance were an important group of artists to me in the 90s. Mad Mike and his posse made soulful techno in a way that no European producer was managing to at the time. This slice of intergalactic gospel blew me away on its release. I had no idea techno could sound like this. The driving baseline and accompanying organ riffs are augmented by a vocal straight from church. For me, it opened my eyes to the key differences between mostly white European techno and its Detroit forebears.

Prince – Chelsea Rogers
God I miss Prince. I mean really. I saw him at the O2 when he did his 21 night stint and it was one of the finest concert experiences I’ve ever witnessed. At the age of 50+ Mr. Rogers was singing, wailing on the guitar and doing the splits with ease (in stilettos, no less). A true all round entertainer, he had everything in abundance. It’s a shame his later work wasn’t curated a little better – he lost a lot fans through being relentlessly productive, and the music industry could neither keep up nor understand where he was coming from. I now believe this is because he was so far ahead of the game. This track comes from the Earthalbum released to support that tour. It was given away free with the Daily Mail and to this day is the only decent thing that rag has ever been associated with.

Moodymann – Lyk U Used 2 (feat. Andres)
Moodymann is a grandmaster of house music and living proof that the genre is about much more than banging tunes and DJ sets. He’s another Detroitian who has pushed electronic music into a soulful territory. This track feels like a lost Prince single that slipped between the cracks of 1999 & Purple Rain. It’s got swagger and a hint of self-depreciation that rarely appears in modern soul. Mr Mann sings about losing the interest of his girlfriend in this super-slick love song and even takes a few seconds at the end to make fun of himself by referencing one of his earlier more sexually confident releases ‘You Sexy Muthafucker’.

Marvin Gaye – You’re The Man Pts 1& 2
This track is taken from the previously unreleased album ‘Who’s The Man?’. I’m amazed that a record by the legend that is Marvin Gaye, recorded just a year or so after his masterpiece ‘Whats Going On?’ could ever be lost. Somehow it was, and nearly 40 years later we get to hear the legendary sessions in full. Despite a ropey xmas song, it contains enough silky voiced genius to satisfy the fans. Marvin was a special talent.

Gboyega Adelaja – Colourful Environment
An instrumental track taken from Soundway Records’ excellent compilation of Nigerian Boogie: ‘Doing it in Lagos’. This instrumental could have graced any Philly label in the 70s but remained hidden from western dancefloors for decades. I love labels like Soundway, who unearth gems like this. It’s a reminder of how much great music there is out there if you spend enough time looking.

Fern Kinney – Groove Me
Phil Barton (the proprietor of Sister Ray Records) turned me on to this glorious little gem of UK disco. Perhaps best known for the easily parodied love song ‘Together We Are Beautiful’, this track highlights Fern Kinney’s underground disco credentials in effortless style. It’s a synth based chugger that infectiously worms its way into your conscious. The slow pace makes it a tricky track to drop into a set but when the moment is right its sweet groove makes hips wiggle. ‘Because it’s beautiful, oh yes it’s beautiful’ (especially the laugh at the end).

Mathematiques modernes – Jungle Hurt
I know almost nothing about this French synth-pop duo, I discovered them after falling down into a steep-sided YouTube hole. I was looking for old disco cuts that might work for one of my live sets and I slipped through the cracks of Italo house and the space disco of the late 70s before I found this curious track, and I couldn’t stop replaying it. There’s something wonderfully decadent about the swirling string arrangement and disinterested vocals that just made me want to light up a Gauloises and down some Chablis.

Swans Way – Soul Train
Channel 4’s The Tube was the most influential music program on TV for me. I was moving away from Top of the Pops and searching for something deeper, more meaningful and rebellious. It’s hard to express how different and exciting a live edition of The Tube was to a teenager in the 80s. Conceived and filmed far from London (in Newcastle), the show was irreverent and daring. It helped launch the careers of Jools Holland, Paula Yates, and Muriel Grey as well as showcasing new comedy from Steven Fry, Hugh Laurie, Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall (as the painfully funny Dangerous Brothers). All this happened at teatime on a Friday night. The music they championed opened my ears to new ideas with everything from Twisted Sister to The Smiths. Swans Way only had one hit (scraping the top 40) but it has stuck with me for decades and I still love it’s film noir aesthetic.

Yussef Kamal – Yo Chaves
Jazz is back, back, BACK! A new generation of UK based jazz artists is currently reshaping the genre for the 21st century. This tune comes from the first ‘Black Focus’ album. It’s full of surprises, at times it displays a clear lineage from Miles Davis and the grand old masters of jazz, it also bares the hallmarks of modern dance culture referencing drum & bass, dubstep and much more.

King Midas Sound – You Disappear
KMS represent one of the many faces worn by bass supremo Kevin Martin (aka The Bug). Martin’s production is dark, heavy, and often terrifyingly direct. This track, however, shows off his more melancholic side. The poem is beautifully delivered; somber tones surround it giving space and power to the words. There are many worthy projects associated with The Bug; Miss Red, King Midas Sound and an upcoming ‘solo’ album to name a few. If you see the name Kevin Martin in the brackets don’t think, just buy.

Guyane – Gayane Ballet Suite (Adagio)
I’m hoping people stick with the playlist as it turns through these darker passages. Music is best when dealing with a spectrum of emotions and despite being a disco junkie I often crave a swim in melancholic waters. This piece came from the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Oddity and it perfectly illustrates the loneliness of infinite space to me. This version is slightly longer than the one featured on the soundtrack. I love its delicacy.

Melon – Spring
It would be remiss of me not to include some electronic music in this selection as it has played such an important part in my life. This is pure techno to me; a linear arrangement that gently evolves without ever leaving its origin behind. There is a delicacy in the carefully tweaked bell sounds that I find has the ability to clear my mind in a single listen. I love listening to this sort of music when I am doing something else: walking, working, cleaning, thinking… The gentle progressions give me a feeling of making progress.

Breakage – Clarendon
I was a resident DJ at Oxfordshire’s biggest (and best) drum & bass night ‘The Source’ back in the 90s. I played eclectic stuff down in the basement and I loved hearing the latest dance music wobble the crowd upstairs. Each week DJs would offer up brand new tracks that seemingly came from nowhere. Many of them have been lost over the years but a few will last forever and have given me a lasting love for jungle / drum & bass. This track has it all; atmosphere, bass power, and foot twitching drum patterns that tap away at your brain like demented woodpeckers.

Maestro Roberto De Simeone – Coro Delle Lavandie
This is another track I discovered whilst searching YouTube for disco rarities. I don’t know much about it and I’ve no idea what the singing is about. It’s definitely not disco per se but apparently it became a cult tune on the more underground disco scene. It has a quality that I find intriguing. These angry Italian women sound like they are telling some guy terrible some home truths. The instrumentation is so bare and sparse it’s not far from the techno hybrids championed by Four Tet and Caribou. I’ve played this out, and despite some initial confusion, it often ends in wild clapping, dancing and shouting. That’s all a DJ can ask for, really.

Sparks – Metaphor
Now in their fifth decade of music making, the brothers Mael are still making ear-opening records that take classical riffs, literary lyrics and an avant garde attitude into areas no other band has. I am still banned from playing this album in the house due to the obsessive way I fell for it in the first place. There’s nothing like Sparks and once I got into it I was unable to play anything else for weeks, which is unusual for me. I can normally find something similar but different enough to take me away from repeated listens but there will only ever be one Sparks.

Supermax – Love Machine
Looking something like Ozzy Osbourne doing disco this German producer had a few hits at the end of the 70s before moving into deeply suspicious space reggae. This tune is pure sex though; a determined 4×4 kick drum underpins a rock-disco hybrid that could only have taken root in the seedier side of teutonic disco. Not many disco cuts have the patience to build up like this. Too often the hedonistic urge to get hands in air means the music is rushed and unconvincing, but when Mr Supermax informs us that he is a love machine, we just know he HAS done the ten thousand hours of love making that such a claim requires.

Peggy Gou – Moment
Peggy Gou is everything that is good about house music at the moment. Light, breezy and full of promise. This track exudes summer in the most joyful way. There is a definite old school feeling to this tune but Peggy also brings a modern touch that swerves the cliches and offers something fresh to a genre in its fourth decade. The album is going to clean up.

Chaka Khan – Sugar So Sweet
The Queen is back. Long live the Queen. OK, so it’s just a massive Fatback Band sample but if you are going to sample 70s disco-funk then that’s who to sample. Equally, if you are going to throw some lyrics over the top, then get Chaka to do it.

DB Cohen – Find A Way
I love reggae and often lay down some bass at The Howling Hops Tank Bar on a Saturday night. Most of the music I love comes from the last century but Ramrock records based in London are bucking the trend, making absolutely vital reggae tunes you feel like you’ve known for years. This track is a perfect slice of offbeat skankery. With mixes by Ashley Beedle and The Wrongtom it is an unmissable release in my book.

The Quantic Soul Orchestra – Pushing On (The Wrongtom Skanking On mix)
One of the UKs top reggae remixers and producers, Wrongtom has steadfastly built a back catalogue of incredible quality. His ‘Wrongtom meets…’ series has been a joy to watch unfold and the Ragga Twins collaboration was something I personally had been longing for since the days when I first heard ‘Reggae Owes Me Money’ the seminal Ragga Rave album that turned the scene on its head way back in ’91. This joyful remix is a complete re-recording of the music in a ska styling. It’s a testament to what a remix can be when it’s not treated as an exercise in copy and pasting.

Delroy Wilson – I Want Justice
This fabulous slab of Jamaican ska is as vital and relevant today as it was when it was first recorded. It’s from the Soul Jazz Ska Compilation so you know it’s going to be good. Soul Jazz are another label that keep bringing out good music you’ve never heard before. I will be forever grateful to them and the incredible artists they introduced me to.

That’s it for now, but if you’d like more, you can find me on Mixcloud, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you for listening – I hope you enjoyed listening to this playlist as much as I enjoyed making it.

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Funkadelic – Music For My Mother
  2. Sylvester – My Country ‘Tis Of Thee
  3. The Undisputed Truth – You + Me = Love
  4. Uta Bella – Nassa Nassa
  5. Hokis Pokis – Nowhere
  6. Interview – Salut Les Salauds
  7. Christy Essian – You Can’t Change A Man
  8. Riton – Fake ID
  9. Super Colider – Darn Cold Way O’ Lovin
  10. Galaxy 2 Galaxy – First Galactic Baptist Church
  11. Prince – Chelsea Rogers
  12. Moodymann – Lyk U Use 2
  13. Marvin Gaye – You’re The Man Pts I & II
  14. Gboyega Adelaja – Colourful Environment
  15. Fern Kinney – Groove Me
  16. Mathematiques Modernes – Jungle Hurt
  17. Swansway – Soul Train
  18. Yussef Kamaal – Yo Chavez
  19. King Midas Sound – You Disappear
  20. Aram Khachturian – Gayane: Gayane’s Adagio
  21. Melon – Spring
  22. Breakage – Clarendon
  23. Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare – 2* Coro Delle Lavandaie
  24. Sparks – Metaphor
  25. Supermax – Lovemachine
  26. Peggy Gou – Starry Night
  27. Chaka Khan – Like Sugar
  28. DB Cohen – Find A Way
  29. The Quantic Soul Orchestra – Pushing On (Wrongtom Skanking On)
  30. Delroy Wilson – I Want Justice
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

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