Afrofuturism Pt.1: Parliament-Funkadelic

Standard

Afrofuturism is hot. Ever since Black Panther clawed its way to box-office glory with a killer soundtrack by Kendrick Lamar, the concept has taken feverish hold on a growing fanbase. In the heady rush to capitalize on this trend, let us take time to appreciate Parliament-Funkadelic, the phenomenally futuristic acid-funk-rock-proto-punk-band with a history so vast that it cannot be contained in a single blogpost. Here is a band teeming with enough inspiration to inspire future generations. As pioneers, these exceptionally talented musicians, showmen and show-women were truly ahead of their time. Some of us are only now catching up to them. Others never will but that’s alright. P-Funk knew exactly who they were playing to.   

For much of my life, I’ve been familiar with smash hits such as Atomic Dog, One Nation Under a Groove and Tear The Roof Off The Sucker. But I knew nothing about P-Funk mythology until I spied Wax Poetics Issue 18 in a record store on Queen St. West in 2006. My interest was piqued by the animated figures of the band on the cover, (Mothership and all!) created by hip-hop sculptor Jean-Yves Blanc so I bought the magazine. It turned out to be an entertaining mix of archival photos, artwork and interviews with various band members and collaborators but most of all, it gave me clear insight into The Funk Mob spirit. Therefore, photos and references in my blogpost have been extrapolated from Wax Poetics Issue 18, a rarity since it is now out-of-print.

What’s truly astonishing about Parliament-Funkadelic is their early inception as doo-wop group The Parliaments, formed in a Plainfield, New Jersey barbershop by a teenaged George Clinton between 1955-6. Presently, Clinton is one of the few surviving members from this nascent period when Motown was king. That means he has experienced 7 decades of music history. In my opinion, this guy fits the definition of a time-traveller.

parliaments

The Parliaments l to r: Ray Davis, Calvin Simon, Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Grady Thomas, George Clinton

Peep this photo of The Parliaments taken in 1966. Now try to reconcile that with the wildly colourful elder statesman of funk we know now. If Sun-Ra was the godfather of musical Afrofuturism then George Clinton is the high-priest. 

Funkadelic, consisting of bassist Billy “Bass” Nelson, lead guitarist Eddie Hazel, drummer Ramon “Tiki” Fulwood, Tawl Ross and keyboardist Bernie Worrell was formed in 1967. They were younger and brought the psychedelic rock influence, whipped into shape by Worrell’s exceptional skills as arranger and composer. Shortly after moving to Detroit, Michigan, the collective became known as Parliament-Funkadelic.

Equally mindblowing is that in the early 70’s, Parliament-Funkadelic briefly relocated to Toronto, Canada. They even played gigs at The Hawk’s Nest which was located at 333 Yonge St. just north of Dundas. On The Robin Seymour show that aired from Windsor in the 60’s, the band used to wild out during their live performance and smoke ganja onstage in a hooka. After glimpsing their appearance on the show in a documentary, I realized that The Parliaments were Black artists that had given birth to punk a decade before it came to prominence by giving their unique interpretation of performance art that was previously thought to be the domain of hippies and privileged White artists. You could say they were…blippies! P-Funk were far-out, freakishly gifted and too funked-up to care what the mainstream thought. They had embarked on the trip of a lifetime and there was no stopping the souped-up funkateers, on course to make their collective mark on music history.   

mothership

The Mothership. Los Angeles Coliseum, 1977

The infamous Mothership from which George Clinton descended as alien Sir Nose D’ Voidoffunk now rests in the Smithsonian Institution. I have heard from a few people who claimed to have attended these concerts say they had never seen anything like it before, nor since. A Black man emerging from a spaceship in an outlandish outfit backed by an ebullient band gussied up as funk-galactics…not since Sun-Ra had Black people been exposed to other possibilities of reconfiguring themselves by creating their own mythology.

Parliament-Funkadelic’s Afrocentric philosophy, visuals and sociopolitical messages gave alternative thinkers delectable nuggets to digest – or barf, according to how much you could tolerate. George Clinton’s collaborations with visionary artists Pedro Bell plus Overton Lloyd who developed the comics for Funkentelechy, laid the groundwork for the band`s cosmological imagery and distinctive parlance in their liner notes and lyrics.

I could spend days speaking of Maggot Brain and what Eddie Hazel‘s searing guitar solo did to my brain cells. Or Bootsy Collins‘ larger than life Starchild persona. Or raving that Alice In My Fantasies is one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded. What’s the point? Just listen and experience greatness for yourself.

There is no question that the P-Funk multiverse consists of deeply intelligent beings, many playing the role of cosmic clowns in order to get their message of psychic liberation across. Parallel dimensions await people of all colours to “free your mind and your ass will follow!” The Mothership is really a metaphor for the vehicular mind freed from mental slavery. A mind set loose from its artificial moorings can traverse throughout the universe, to places many would not believe possible. Parliament-Funkadelic knew this and embraced cosmic philosophy in their branding strategies and outlandish performances.

My sole criticism of Issue 18 is input should have been included from the leading ladies of P-Funk’s empire, like Brides of Funkenstein’s Dawn Silva and Lynn Mabry. They are still touring and I’m sure they have many interesting tales to tell about their experiences as women in a band notorious for their wild antics.

20190531_113236

Pedro Bell`s insightful rendition of P-Funk positions them as galactic beings on a mission to bring funk to the masses

Parliament-Funkadelic knew the masses could only handle small doses of g-(alactic) tonic. So they diluted and spoonfed listeners bit by bit, ensuring to disguise the medicine in polychromatic layers of highbrow silliness, yet retaining the strength of the message in their art. Of course, what they were really creating went over a lot of people’s heads because their stage act and marketing ploys were so outrageous but they didn’t care! Top notch is the donkey taking a dump on the steps of Royal Albert Hall to promote “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow” in 1971. Apparently, the donkey was telepathically attuned to the band’s desire to overcome institutionalized racism – and made its contribution to the cause. Which in turn caused outrage from the stuffy British establishment while busting down barriers so the band could successfully tour Europe to sold-out crowds.

Through all of the internal squabbles, financial difficulties, drug abuse and inevitable losses, Parliament-Funkadelic succeeded in their mission because they knew it would take at least another 60 years for people to have that aha moment.

Having been recently honoured at the Grammys with a Lifetime Achievement Award in May 2019 and wrapping up a farewell tour for George simultaneously, it’s great to see Parliament-Funkadelic getting industry recognition that ‘s long overdue. Obviously, Afrofuturists can’t rely on the wilfully blind to show us the way because often, by the time they come around, our gifted professors have long flown ship.

Whether you can believe it or not, Parliament-Funkadelic is in fact a front for futuristic entities to show the dispossessed a way out of their personal funk. They found music to be a far more effective method of preaching to the population and they exploited that angle to the hilt. So what we have 62 years later is a living, breathing legacy that is still influencing next-gen musicians tapping into this dynamic, trans-dimensional lifeline. Despite old wounds, love remains among some surviving members, which was evident during their performance at the 2019 Grammys.

Wax Poetics Issue 18 is the definitive guide on the history of Parliament-Funkadelic, albeit in condensed form. It blows the cover off their delirious disguise and exposes them for what they really are and it may even blow your mind as well.

Kudos to Andre Torres, Matt Rogers, Edward Hill, Dante Carfagna and Richard Edson for your outstanding contributions to making Issue 18 a stellar example of music journalism.

Special shout-out to the P-Funk Family past and present: Garry Shider, Belita Woods, Glenn Goins, Jessica Cleaves, Fred Woseley, Frank “Kash” Waddy,  Prakash John, Maceo Parker, Phelps “Catfish” Collins, Ruth Copeland, Lonnie Green and many more too numerous to mention!

Copyright © 2019 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

Advertisements

Prince is Still With Us…kinda sorta

Standard

Today marks 3 years since Prince passed beyond the exosphere. I’m only now getting used to the fact that he’s gone but damn, I still miss him! Besides charitable works, Prince’s greatest legacy is his prodigious musical output. The best part of all is I’m still discovering loads of music and of course, I will spend the rest of my life unearthing his delightful gems until I, too, fly beyond the exosphere.

Personally I think that Prince died young, with still so much to give. His death, like much of his life, remains shrouded in mystery and methinks I smell a rat. But his massive stockpile of music, even if the majority of songs remain unreleased, gives fans many moments to savour in the coming years.

Just a few days ago, I discovered “She’s Always In My Hair” a delightful number from the b-side of the “Raspberry Beret” single. Never once did I hear this amazing track on radio, which illustrates the abundance of underrated tunes just waiting to be discovered. I suspect the mystery woman entwined in Prince’s hair might have been Susannah Melvoin, since, to paraphrase, she’s always in his boat even if he hits the wrong notes! Plus, they were engaged at one point, and he does toy with the idea of marriage in the lyrics. It’s one of Prince’s most playful songs as it lets your imagination ride on a canopy of spiky synths and signature arrangements that highlight his eclectic tastes.

This man touched millions of lives and influenced so many artists with his genius. So please take a moment to remember and appreciate Prince, one of the greatest musicians of our twilight civilization.

Copyright © 2019 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

Milli Vanilli: Still Sweet

Standard

51rR2yq4iYL._SX359_BO1,204,203,200_

Milli Vanilli captured the essence of their time

Few incidents have rocked the music industry like the Milli Vanilli scandal of the 90’s. At the height of their fame, Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus were outed by producer Frank Farian as having lip-synched their way through their hit record and performances. The fallout was huge. Milli Vanilli was stripped of their Grammy for Best New Artist and Arista Records erased their album from its catalog. It was a media circus of astronomical proportions and I was a mildly befuddled spectator, watching from the sidelines. Milli Vanilli’s unmasking yielded lasting personal and financial consequences for the young performers. With time comes perspective and now is a good time to examine this incident with a fresh set of eyes.

Summer of ’89:”Girl You Know It’s True” was burning up the charts and dominating airwaves. However, it was the visual impact of Milli Vanilli’s videos that helped to launch them into the stratosphere. Two extraordinarily handsome, Black men with exotic braids, lithe bodies and chic esthetic danced their way into millions of hearts. I was smitten; Rob and Fab were the epitome of cool. How could I ever forget Rob’s number after being transfixed by those eyes?! It was too much!!! I even went so far as to paint their likenesses with oil pastels on a t-shirt, which I proudly sported. Though there was an odd moment when I thought with a child’s wisdom that Fab’s looks didn’t seem to match his voice, I quickly dismissed that as my imagination. Even the album cover was pretty dope. Milli Vanilli was the new flavour in town and an adoring public couldn’t get enough.

Everyone knows what came afterwards. On the heels of scathing scorn and humiliation, the German-based duo attempted a comeback by singing during live performances. Under new management, they moved to Los Angeles and released an album entitled “Rob and Fab” that did poorly but is collector’s gold today. It seems the wounded ego of the music industry stifled any and all attempts at redemption from Milli Vanilli. The fall from grace was too overwhelming for Robert Pilatus, who sadly succumbed to a drug and alchohol overdose in 1998. The “Back and In Attack” record scheduled for release was shelved, ending the Milli Vanilli era for good. Fabrice soldiers on as a DJ and independent musician, having found the strength to move forward with his life.

Mass deception aside, the memory of Milli Vanilli lingers on like a stubborn aftertaste. Their songs still get airplay and you know what? The music is great! Iconic basslines don’t lie. “Baby Don’t Forget My Number” is one of the best music videos of all time. Rob and Fab had looks, presence, style AND moves. I still enjoy their performances immensely. Those guys had something, a spark that’s missing from a lot of performers these days. They captured the essence of their time and they delivered. Sure they lip-synched their way to the top but now that’s standard practice for ye average pop-star. Watching Milli Vanilli now makes me realize that perhaps they were judged too harshly for their actions. They brought joy and entertainment to millions so they’re not such bad guys, right?

Behind the rise and fall of every empire is a story. Milli Vanilli is a tale of 2 Black youth from Europe lusting after stardom. Enter Frank Farian, a German producer with a shady history of fronting Black music shell acts like 70’s phenomenon Boney M (who didn’t sing most of their songs). The trio forge a Faustian pact that brings Rob and Fab success but at what a cost! The dance-pop duo claimed they were exploited by Farian, yet they decided to go along with the charade from the start. If anything, theirs is a cautionary fable of the pitfalls awaiting those who seek a fast-track to fame. And yet, underneath it all, is heartbreak and resilience. A meteoric rise from poverty and shattered childhood to worldwide acceptance and back again. This is the real story that needs to be told. Fabrice opens up in this interview with VLADTV accessible via http://www.fabmorvan.com –  a must-see! In this era of docudramas, the time is right for us to know more about Rob and Fab. No disrespect to Charles Shaw and the original vocalists, but these 2 will forever remain Milli Vanilli.

1621989829111998606

Source: collectors.com

R.I.P. Rob, you are sorely missed!

Props to Fab for surviving  it all

Copyright © 2019 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

30 Years of Straight Up by Paula Abdul

Standard

It seems like just yesterday but 30 years ago on November 22nd 1988,“Straight Up” by Paula Abdul was unleashed to become a massive dance-pop classic. In recent times, Paula is best known for her role as empathetic judge on American Idol. Back in ’89 though, she was tearing up the charts with this funky tune that made her a household name. Everyone sat up and took notice of the short, sassy, exotic-looking dancer who  moved like a sista. In the age of MTV, visuals played a huge part in the commercial success of recording artists. Part of Straight Up’s endearing appeal is the stunning music video shot in black and white by legendary director David Fincher. Paired with Paula Abdul’s energetic choreography and streetwise aesthetics, they created a timeless classic that eventually went straight to no. 1. Even talk-show host Arsenio Hall got a piece of the action as he guest-appeared in the video, helping to raise its profile.

Hard to believe that at the time, Paula’s record label  wanted nothing to do with Straight Up because they thought it wouldn’t go anywhere. But Abdul’s intuition told her the song had potential and she fought to get it recorded. So this was a major personal triumph for her, being a testament to the power of faith and belief in oneself.

Straight Up is hands down a dance-music masterpiece that 30 years on, stands the test of time!

Copyright © 2018 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

The Age of Reason: Frankenräver 7

Standard

proxy.duckduckgo.com

Image source: sarahontheroad.com

7 impossible years later, Frankenräver’s still blogging. Sometimes I ask myself why when it’s so easy to quit. After all, there’s sooo much crayzee shit going on out there  maybe people don’t care to even read a 350 word article anymore. Heavens to Murgatroyd! The attention span of an average human is apparently less than that of a goldfish. Just stop and think what that means for a hot second. I smell a humongous cookout looming on the horizon and it ain’t your homefront fishfry.  But anyway, if I captured your attention long enough to read this, dag I’m happy! Coz even though I don’t blog as much as I like to, writing is and always will be my passion. And as long as there are pens, pencils, paper (well, in this case, a laptop and Internet connection) and worthwhile subjects,  I will continue writing. For the dispossessed, unsung, underappreciated aspects of human artistry and about exceptional, well-received and newly discovered artists. Coz that’s life after all.

To kick off my 7th Blogaversary, I chose Prince’s “7.” One of his best songs epitomizing the triumph of good over evil and quite possibly, his battle with Warner Bros. at that time when he was known as Symbol Boy and AFKAP to the unenlightened. I saw him perform this song live in concert at Maple Leaf Gardens after winning tickets and a copy of this album (cassette actually) from a radio contest. A cassette, wow…well that was the 90’s! ! Thanks Prince for the memories and the music. Enjoy your jubilant jam sessions with the angels.

Copyright © 2018 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

Easy Listening: Still Way by Satoshi Ashikawa

Standard

 

When the world is spinning out of control, Still Way by Satoshi Ashikawa can bring us back to zero lickety-split. This timeless masterpiece that I consider to be Japanese ambient was released in 1982 and has not aged a day since. It is the second album in a series of 3 recordings called Wave Notation and is considered a rarity, judging from the outrageous price on Discogs. Like cherry blossoms unfolding petal by petal, each gorgeous track transports you into a lush landscape of cascading water drops and falling leaves, created by repetitive arrangements of piano chords layered with harp, woodwind instruments and vibraphone. In “Still Park Ensemble” the haunting flute lilts like a fox padding softly through a verdant forest.

Satoshi Ashikawa wove an elegant tapestry of sounds with minimal arrangements that repeat like endless fractals of pristine beauty. This was key to how he interpreted these elements to create strong yet gentle associations with nature in the listener’s mind. Tracks with names like “Still Sky” and “Image Under the Tree” are undoubtedly tributes to the redeeming qualities of the natural world. Though this talented musician died soon after the release of this record, it continues to resonate like ripples in the galactic pond.

Copyright © 2018 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

 

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20 Years On

Standard

lauryn hill

Today, August 25, 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, a groundbreaking album that redefined feminine expression in hip-hop and influenced artists across many genres. Of course, everyone into popular music knows about the incomparable Lauryn Hill, former member of The Fugees who scorched airwaves with their infectious blend of reggae, hip-hop and RnB. But it was Lauryn who stood out with her seductive soulful crooning and natural beauty.

Summer of 1998: I was a full-blown raver, heavily into house and techno. There was always a room dedicated to hip-hop/DnB at raves; heck, even Run DMC made a guest appearance! At the time, I was dating a Chinese Canadian fellow raver, who was a bigger fan of hip-hop than I was. One day, while hanging out at his house, he turned to me and said, “Have you heard The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill?” I hadn’t, and I was too hyped up about the rave happening later on that night to really think about anything else. He gave me this look that veered somewhere between exasperation and annoyance, tempered with a sort of steely determination.“You have to listen to this.” Before I could escape, he clamped his headphones onto my ears and pressed Play.

After Intro, “Lost Ones” dropped like a feathered suckerpunch of sweetness. Lauryn Hill’s voice sounded like rich dark chocolate wrapped in gold tin foil, oozing all over my consciousness as she spat out a scathing rebuke to a wayward lover with elegant precision, backed by booming polyrhythmics. I was speechless, practically glued to Jeff’s bed, not from the usual excitement but from genuine shock. I had never heard music like this, ever! Sure, I had heard “Doo Wop” and seen the video but this album…this was something fresh, authentic and utterly compelling. “See?” Jeff said as he registered my reaction, and smiled, satisfied that he’d spread the gospel. For the next hour, I was wrapped up in Lauryn’s world, her stories of motherhood, relationships, heartbreak and triumphant awareness. As I read the liner notes, seeing Lauryn’s involvement in practically every aspect of the album, I realized Ms. Hill had arrived. She was exceptional, smart, gorgeous and she sure as hell did not need The Fugees. Here was a woman who knew exactly who she was and blowing minds with her artistry.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill set the music industry ablaze. The press just couldn’t seem to get enough of her! She was showered with praise, accolades, awards, money. Here on out, the world was Lauryn’s oyster. She could have done absolutely anything she wanted to but she seemed to reject fame and the whole world. Apparently, she gazed into the shell, inspected the pearl and found it rather lackluster. Shortly after, reports began to emerge of erratic behavior, she stopped making albums and got busy making babies. Lots of them! I was somewhat puzzled, but realized she had her battles.

There was even the lawsuit that seemed to indicate that The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was not properly credited to others working on the album. At the same time, I wondered if somehow she was not hurting her own success. It was hard to tell. Lauryn’s tunes were still getting airplay years later. Songs like X-Factor, To Zion, Everything is Everything were still dance club and radio staples. Life went on but people were still eagerly awaiting the next Lauryn Hill album, if it ever came. I learned not to hold my breath for that. Here was a woman, happy in her own skin, owning her decisions and certainly living life by her own defiant standards. Lauryn Hill did not ever have to make another album if she didn’t want to, but if The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the only one we would get out of her, we had to consider ourselves damn lucky!

lauryn hill 2

20 years later, we are still feeling the ripple effect of this seminal album. Now that women’s rights are trending, especially in arts and entertainment, I can appreciate even more fully Lauryn’s underappreciated genius at that time. Sure she’s not perfect, but she stood up against an industry that wanted to misappropriate her success. She chose to have a baby when others were telling her to have an abortion because it would damage her blossoming career. That shows integrity and strength of character that few possess in that particular world. Lauryn Hill understood that there’s more to life than fame and money, and she chose Life. She is alive and it seems she is happy with the choices she made and what she had to sacrifice in order to create a safe, healthy space for herself and what matters most to her.

As a woman, I think The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a clever backlash against the expectations Lauryn had of life and relationships, versus the steep learning curve of reality. She crafted her story so skillfully that heads are still bopping decades later and people still pay to see her. Younger generations speak of her with admiration, judging from the countless reproductions of the iconic album cover in contemporary art. Let’s be happy we have such a gifted artist and fine example of Afrocentric womanhood in our midst. The world is a much better place for it!

Copyright © 2018 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

Cool Music Videos I Somehow Missed

Standard

Hey y’all, I’m back! Somehow I continue to surprise myself by still having something to say on this blog. That being said, if ya haven’t noticed, time goes by really, really fast! So fast, sometimes you miss a lotta good stuff! Here’s my pick of amazing vintage videos that I’ve seen for the first time very recently. One of them, “Spacer,” is a song that I never heard either until now. Life is full of surprises and that’s why Frankenrӓver is still here.

“Spacer” by Sheila and B. Devotion (1979) is a disco classic produced by legendary hitmakers Chic (Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards). French singer Annie Chancel sings about her intergalactic love affair with an extraterrestrial while Black Devotion dancers Freddy Stracham, Arthur Wilkins and Dany MacFarlane cavort seductively in the background. This is a well-choreographed video steeped in futurism, judging from the stellar props, costume design and slick dance routine. Check out the cyborg at 1:15 which may have inspired that of iconic sci-fi film, Terminator. In our galaxy you can’t trust everyone you meet but one thing for sure is you can trust on-point production values to create a video that stands the test of time.

 

Seems teenaged boys from da hood of Roxbury, Boston got secret fantasies that ain’t so hard to figure out: girls and NBA stardom. The question in this video is which one? Enter New Edition’s “My Secret” (Didja Getit Yet?) Released in 1985 during the giddy years of pop, this has to be one of the cutest videos that escaped my radar back in tha day! Ralph Tresvant is obviously the star of this video, working his bike with wild enthusiasm for the opening sequence. Why, everyone on the corner just loves these talented Black boys who aren’t causing any trouble…just busting moves, getting cute girls of different ethnicities all worked up! Of course, Ralph gets the girl of his dreams and takes her to see an NBA game with the fellas. It’s Lakers vs Blazers and Magic Johnson’s centre court with coach Pat Riley on the sidelines. With the game tied at 124 with 12 seconds on the clock, it seems Magic needs some extra mojo to pull off a victory. So he calls Ralph down to save the day! This entire scene is surrounded by a halo, making it clear that this is a daydream. At the end, Ralph’s dream kinda comes true in a rather endearing, if unlikely way. I’m sure it was the record label’s idea and it actually works here. Though the song is clearly about a guy falling in love with a girl, the video leaves you guessing as it shows Ralph riding off at the end, ecstatic after meeting NBA superstar Magic Johnson. It’s a bromance yo!

 

Classic summer anthem “Vamos a la Playa” by Righeira (1983) has a very interesting background. Although it contains Spanish lyrics, the singers Stefano Rota and Stefano Righi are Italian. Both languages are pretty similar to begin with, so it was a no-brainer to pick Spanish since more peeps speak it globally than Italian. This video is a perfect primer on 80’s fashions for men: high-waisted baggy pants, short sleeved stripey shirts clashing with patterned ties. Fun! The polarized neon tint symbolizes a nuclear explosion that has just gone off in the ocean. But not to worry: now the water is clean because the fish are gone, plus baskers are wearing sombreros to keep radioactive wind out of their hair. That’s a pretty deep sociological statement about our messed up world but damn, what a cool video!

 

Last week, I plugged these words I remembered from a song in my childhood  into a search engine: “On the double, think I’m in trouble.” And googlemonster responded with “Trouble” by Lindsey Buckhingham. Astonishing. Who else could compose an alt-pop song of such transcendent quality? Lindsey Buckingham, that’s who! The mercurial frontman of Fleetwood Mac dropped this timeless bomb from solo album Law and Order in 1981. Like a time-travelling cyborg, it found me in the future and detonated a delightful blast in me brain. I love the playful contrast implied between good and bad, seduction and restraint symbolized by guitar gods on one side, devil drummers on another. Bandmate Mick Fleetwood makes a wonderful guest appearance with his tall, funny self. And Lindsey’s guitarpicking is superb. This dreamy number is now a permanent staple on my playlist.

 

“Gotta Go Home” (1979) by Boney M. is one of the most gorgeous videos I’ve ever seen. Extravagant colourful costumes, sparkly special effects plus steelband players in space-themed outfits equal mindblowing visuals. Makes you long for sandy beaches and island breeze, miles away from big city bustle. This song was produced by the notorious Frank Farian, who ruthlessly exploited people of African descent to front his musical numbers. Although Boney M. was a wildly successful act, only 2 of the band members, Marcia Barrett and and Liz Mitchell actually sang on the early records; the male vocals were recorded by Farian in the studio. So Bobby Farrell, the Black male dancer was simply there to do what Frank Farian could not: look super.

80’s pop sensation Milli Vanilli was another infamous casualty of Farian’s controversial shell group practice. It’s entirely possible Milli Vanilli was inspired to run in one place for their “Girl You Know It’s True” video like Bobby Farrell does here at 4:22. We know they didn’t get very far. But I digress. No matter how it came together, “Gotta Go Home” is a great song and this is an awesome video. Rock on!

Copyright © 2018 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

Vive Johnny Hallyday, French Icon

Standard

ib559331 N

Source: media.jukebox.fr

For the past week, France has been mourning the death of Johnny Hallyday, its biggest and most beloved rock star. I’d never heard of him until 8 days ago, when I saw a piercing set of blue eyes staring at me from the cover of Nice-Matin. Something about the expression of those eyes was intriguing so I picked up the daily to find out more. “Johnny Hallyday est mort,” announced the headlines. I was surprised to discover half the newspaper was wholly devoted to the deceased. Obviously this Johnny Hallyday was a big deal! With my rudimentary French, I deciphered some tributes splashed generously over the first few pages. Numerous artistes and French nationals professed their undying love for Johnny, with one person claiming she felt like she had lost her father. It rapidly became clear that Mr. Hallyday was an extremely important personality and revered music legend. So why didn’t I know anything about him? Furthermore, I was puzzled by the outpouring of affection and genuine sense of loss expressed by the public and music establishment.

From what I could gather, Johnny was the ultimate rock star and wild man. Those eyes told a thousand tales of a life fully lived. That well-coiffed head of strawberry blonde hair defied his 74 years. “I’ve seen everything and done it all,” was the message I read in his bold expression. Later, I overhead some French discussing someone who had died of cancer and Oh la la! – what a loss. “Are you talking about Johnny Hallyday?”  Yes they were. I asked a Frenchman in his 60’s why Johnny was so important. “I don’t know how to explain,” he replied, measuring his words carefully. “He’s a symbol of France, he was strong and when he performed, the people went crazy. I know Johnny all my life, I grow up with him and…it’s not so easy to explain,” he concluded, visibly touched. “He was like Michael Jackson to us.”

Jean-Philippe Léo Smet aka Johnny Hallyday was born on June 15th 1943 in Paris. He died on December 5th 2017 of lung cancer. His career lasted an astonishing 57 years, with 79 albums and 80 million albums sold worldwide. He had legions of loyal fans, yet he remained virtually unrecognized outside the French speaking world. How was it possible that I knew about Vanessa Paradis but not Johnny Hallyday?

After watching this performance of “Let’s Twist Again” in 1963, I had an epiphany. His obscurity in the English speaking mainstream music industry had less to do with French language. And more to do with the possible threat this handsome, charismatic European performer posed to outshining his hallowed American counterpart, Elvis Presley.

Excellent voice with nuanced English pronunciation. Professional hip swiveling. Fabulous in fitted suits? Two kings were not allowed in America’s rock n roll kingdom. It didn’t matter. Johnny Hallyday was king of rock in France and proud to sing in French! He gave France a larger than life persona, capable of living up to rock n roll’s colourful criteria in every category. This was a man who partied with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger, while avoiding the pitfall of premature death that afflicted so many of his peers. Mr. Hallyday had a powerful voice and towering presence that touched 4 generations. Very few singers have accomplished that.

You don’t have to understand French to see the unifying message Johnny was promoting in this performance of “Qu’est-ce que tu croyais?”(What Did You Think?) at the Eiffel Tower in 2000.

 

I got goosebumps listening to his soaring vocals on “Vivre Pour Le Meilleur” (Live For The Best). Here is an artiste that sings with conviction!

 

 

Over the weekend, I gleaned more insight about what Johnny Hallyday means to millenials. Nass, a 27 year old Frenchman and his best friend Romain spoke earnestly about what the beloved star means to them:

“Johnny Hallyday is like a legend for us. A real legend. Everyone knows him since my parents (generation) and maybe more. And this guy died. I didn’t think it was possible, honestly. That guy was one of the best French singers. I don’t even know how to describe it…I didn’t really like his songs but honestly I gotta say, this guy was unifying all the French people during the concerts; you can feel an emotion, something that you never felt before.”

Romain: “Johnny for us is like a monument.”

Voilà! Johnny Hallyday is like a monument, who will forever live on in millions of  L’Hexagone hearts. It’s a French thing. The rest of the world does not have to understand.

Copyright © 2017 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nebula Starway’s Parang Experiment

Standard

Once upon a time, I was part of a musical experiment known as Nebula Starway. In 2010 along with my partner Emil Z. I co-produced this house-inspired cover of parang classic, “Rio Manzanares” originally recorded by Trinidadian group, Paramininos.  This is by no means a pristine production. Nebula Starway had very little money so we recorded this track in a bedroom studio with a homemade soundbooth and software including Sony ACID and Traktor. In hindsight, I would reduce the lengthy intro and add more background vocs, among other things. The meatiest part of the song comes at 4:26 with a jubilant percussion jam arranged primarily by Frankie Diamond. Pandeiro, shekere, cowbell, handclaps, whistles…I cut loose and had a blast!!!! It was my idea to cover “Rio Manzanares” as a tribute to parang and also to experiment combining it with house music. It’s not a perfect endeavour but Nebula Starway learned a lot. Plus it’s fun to sing in Spanish!

Here we have a Venezuelan duo playing bandola, a close relative of the cuatro which is a four-stringed guitar utilized in parang. This video demonstrates the Latin-American roots of this folkloric artform that is now popular in Trinidad and Tobago. The close proximity of Venezuela to these twin Caribbean islands birthed a cultural crossover, despite the fact that TnT is an English speaking nation. Moral of the story is great music transcends language barriers. And of course, Trinbagonians took it and ran with it all the way to…

THE CURRYSHOP!

Indian singing sensation Sharlene Boodram mashed up the airwaves with salacious hit, “Mamacita” (1991). A classic example of chutney parang, this song blends South Asian themes with soca-infused parang. Santa gets a Curry Christmas, courtesy of Mamacita who gets caught cooking paratha (Indian flatbread) for her celebrity midnight guest. Say wha!!! This tune boils over with culinary references to spicy South Asian staples like roti and dhal, all set against cheeky humour. Which leaves one with the impression that there’s something hotter than curry cooking between Santa and Mamacita! Delicious, delightful and daring, “Mamacita” is an appetizing number that still sizzles 26 years after release.

Copyright © 2017 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.