Something for El Weekend

By far the hottest, sweatiest concert I’ve ever been to was Tito Puente and Celia Cruz at the Hammersmith Palais in 1990. It was a hot summer night and the place was packed to the rafters, a steaming mass of bodies dancing to the caliente Latin rhythms. By the end I must have lost a stone in sweat. 

A lot of the crowd were Cuban expats and they were waving flags in patriotic solidarity with Celia who, like them, was exiled from home — it was probably the most passionate and celebratory atmosphere I’ve ever been in at a gig.  The epic “Bemba Colora” is my favourite track of hers and I was so happy she encored with it. 

I was there because I went through a phase of loving Latin music in the late 80s-early 90s, kicked off by the We Got Latin Soul! comps that Charly put out. I especially liked the Boogaloo and Cuban Son styles, and spent many evenings dancing at London clubs like Sol y Sombra and Pachanga. Not only was the music fabulous, but so were all the lovely South American girls we met in them.


The Cat’s Away

The wife and kids are going away tomorrow to visit her family in North Carolina, leaving me all on my lonesome for FOUR DAYS.

So obviously I’ve been on the phone ordering up the whiskey, drugs, and hookers for a weekend of debauchery and fried food.

That’s what the fantasy me would be doing anyway. In reality I’m going to be on the couch watching bloke movies, and the thing I’m most looking forward to is pottering around some book shops on Saturday afternoon. How sad am I?

Download: Having A Party – The Osmonds (mp3)

The Singles Box

I used to work with a bloke who was such a big Theatre of Hate fan he got their name tattooed on his arm. Unfortunately for him they broke up about a year later which should be a lesson to all you kids out there: Think twice before you get that tat.

I didn’t mind Theatre of Hate, but Kirk Brandon‘s wobbly, operatic voice was an acquired taste, and I think I was more inspired by his Punkabilly style than his records. But I did like the first single he released with his new band Spear of Destiny in 1983 which is more poppy than anything he’d done before. The chorus is massive, soaring stuff and the track has a Celtic feel like they were trying to do a Big Country. His voice is still a bit Marmite though.

Download: Flying Scotsman – Spear of Destiny (mp3)

New Monday

The mega-talented Jenny Lewis has a surprising new project with the pithy name Nice As Fuck (whatever you do, don’t do a Google image search of that), an all-female trio she formed with Erika Foster of Au Revoir Simone and Tennessee Thomas of The Like.

The band are a complete left-turn from the sophisticated country-pop of her solo records into stripped-down and bouncy Post-Punk driven only by drums and throbbing Joy-Divisiony bass.

I don’t know if this short, nine-track album is a one-off but it does have a casual, thrown-together quality that suggests it is but is also very appealing. 

The vinyl version isn’t out until next month but you can get it digitally right now. Sometimes, nice as fuck girls finish first.

The Best Years Of Your Life

When you were a kid and grown-ups told you that school was the best years of your life you always thought they were talking rubbish. Didn’t they know how much you hated school and couldn’t wait to be an adult with all the privileges you thought came with it?

Now I’m a grown-up myself I understand that it was really just wistful jealousy on their part. They would have loved to go back to a time of no responsibility themselves (while also idealizing it) and were pissed off that we didn’t seem to appreciate how golden our existence was. That’s why George Bernard Shaw said “Youth is wasted on the young.”

So of course this Panorama documentary from 1977 looks like a transmission from a golden era to my adult eyes. I was 15 that year and this is almost exactly what my school was like — but without girls sadly — right down to the teacher who would bore us all shitless by playing classical music in morning assembly. 

But I’m not too blinded by nostalgia not to notice how chaotic and rowdy the lessons are, and how frazzled and tired the teachers seem. I didn’t see those things at the time.

This is hardly the most obscure song I’ve ever posted here but over the years it has become one of my very favourite Paul Weller songs. I used to consider it a little throwaway but now I’m older I appreciate more how it captures the fleeting joy of being young before “you find out life isn’t like that”. Weller was only 21 when he wrote this. Was he wise beyond his years or has he always been an old man?

Download: When You’re Young – The Jam (mp3)