Lucky Dip

Here’s something quick and tasty to tide you over while try and finish the epic blog post I’m writing at the moment. A funky number from 1971 and one of my favourite Rare Groove tunes from my mid-80s clubbing days.

Download: Funky Nassau – The Beginning Of The End (mp3)


Royal Master of Images

The great English illustrator and designer Alan Aldridge passed away at the weekend. Like many in the graphics field who become known to the wider world, Aldridge did so through his work with the music business.

His career properly started in the mid-60s as art director at Penguin Books where he slowly shook up the rather rigid format of the covers, developing the technicolor style that would make him famous. His science fiction covers were especially trippy.

Not surprisingly, being a young and talented working-class boy led him into the world of Swinging London counter-culture. He designed the cover of The Who’s 1966 album A Quick One and became design consultant to The Beatles’ Apple Corp. While there he edited and produced a lot of the art for the 1969 book The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, probably the most lavish publication devoted to one pop group at that point. John Lennon called him the “Royal Master of Images to Their Majesties The Beatles” and his aesthetic was as much a part of English psychedelia as “Strawberry Fields Forever” — equally influenced by Pop Art, LSD, and Alice In Wonderland.

The Fabs didn’t keep him completely to themselves though, he also did work for their rivals The Rolling Stones like this terrific poster for their 1969 film Rock & Roll Circus.

I first heard of him via his best-selling 1973 children’s book The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast. The illustrations in it were just the most gorgeously detailed, phantasmagoric things and they blew my young mind at the time. I was stunned by Aldridge’s technical mastery and imagination.

He produced several sequels to the book which also spawned a concept album with a minor hit single, and a live show. His other high-profile job in the 70s was the hyper-detailed sleeve of Elton John’s Captain Fantastic album. Apparently this was also going to be turned into an animated film but the project fell apart when Elton came out as bisexual in the press. Those were different times, my friend.

Like many artists from the Hippie generation his ornate style fell out of fashion in the post-punk years and he moved to LA where he continued producing work like the logo for the House of Blues (he had previously designed the Hard Rock Cafe logo). But fashions always come in cycles and he had a long-overdue retrospective exhibition of his work at the Design Museum in 2008.

Here’s a tune from that Elton John album and probably my favourite song by him.

Download: Someone Saved My Life Tonight – Elton John (mp3)

The Axe

Legendary genius producer/composer/arranger David Axelrod sadly died on Sunday. I first heard of him via his gorgeous production work for Lou Rawls in the 1960s, then his far-out solo albums like Songs of Innocence which existed in a unique space between film music, funk, easy listening, and Prog.

Though his lush style was out of fashion for many years, he was rediscovered by crate diggers in the 1990s and the grooves on his old records became the source for a gazillion Hip-Hop samples, and his use of beats and strings was a huge influence on Trip-Hop.

These are some of my favourite records he had his fingerprints on in one way or another. All very groovy and trippy.

Download: Holy Are You – The Electric Prunes (mp3)
Download: Down Here On The Ground – Lou Rawls (mp3)
Download: Holy Thursday – David Axelrod (mp3)

PS: If you’ve noticed some weird stuff here the past couple of days it’s because I’m being hacked. God knows why they find it amusing, but hopefully the idiots will get bored of it soon and go and bother The Pentagon instead.

She’s So Modern

Posting the Sheena Easton video on Friday reminded me that Scottish indie-poppers Camera Obscura did a wonderful cover of “Modern Girl” in 2006.

When trendy indie bands do covers of uncool pop songs like this they usually stink of smug irony, but this one sounds genuinely loving and the song doesn’t seem out of place done in this style.

Download: Modern Girl – Camera Obscura (mp3)