A set of links from the seventies this time, the usual stuff – old school rock, reggae and afrobeat. Often referred to as the “decade that taste forgot”, these clips show what a truly creative and innovative decade the seventies really were.
Classic Ska cut from Prince Buster, stage name of Jamaican musician Muhammed Yusef Ali, formerly Cecil Bustamente Campbell, having converted to Islam in 1965. He is regarded as one of the founding fathers of Ska and Rocksteady, the latter being a slower and more danceable form of Ska. Rocksteady would evolve through artists such as Prince Buster to include lyrics expressive of the emerging black consciousness movement and later of the increasingly popular Rastafarian faith. It was this latter influence that troubled Ali, who could not square his Muslim beliefs with the Christian influenced mysticism of the new Rocksteady form that would become Roots Reggae as we know it today. Lots of versions of this around, but an easy one to find is Fabulous Greatest Hits.
The former guitarist with Procol Harem formed the Robin Trower Band in 1973 and released a series of individualistic rock albums throughout the seventies, noted for his funky, Hendrix – influenced playing style. From his best known album Bridge of Sighs to Long Misty Days and Victims of the Fury he attracted critical acclaim, but never achieved stardom being derided by some as a Hendrix rip-off. Still recording and still touring, Trower retains a loyal fanbase to this day. The track above is from his 1979 album In City Dreams.
Known also as Fela Ransome – Kuti, or more usually just Fela, he is the godfather of Afrobeat. Fela Anikilapo Kuti was born the son of a talented family in late colonial Nigeria. His father was Israel Ransome-Kuti, a pastor who founded the Nigerian Union of Teachers and his mother Funmilayo was a feminist activist in the Nigerian independence movement; he was also the cousin of Wole Soyinka, the first African Nobel Literature laureate. Sent to the UK in the late 50’s to read medicine, he instead studied music and formed his first band Koola Lobitos. Experimenting with the Highlife music style of his homeland, essentially Africanised 50’s danceband music, he added more contemporary jazz and rock influences overlaid onto a hypnotic multi layered beat heavily laced with traditional Yoruba rhythms and call / response vocal backing– the resulting new music form was christened by Fela as Afrobeat.
Heavily influenced by the US Black Power movement, on his return to Nigeria he also became politically active, and was for most of the rest of his life a permanent thorn in the side of Nigeria’s military government in the years following the end of the fratricidal Biafran War. This song, Zombie, is his most famous number, the zombies of the title are the military (” … zombie no go tink unless you tell am to tink …”). Harsh words, but then 1,000 troops had just stormed his family compound, raped his wives, murdered his mother by throwing her from a third story window and destroyed his studio and all his stored tapes. Another of his best known songs Coffin For Head of State also dates from this period. Although he became famous in Europe and the US in the 1980’s, he mostly performed songs that had already been hits in Africa in the 1970’s, such as Zombie.
A famously serial polygamist, in 1978 he married all 27 of his backing singers and dancers simultaneously at a special ceremony in Lagos; in later life, he became more restrained and stuck to a rota of just twelve wives. The most frequent jibe from his critics then as now, is that he was essentially a misogynist. He died, of AIDS, in 1997. Many versions of the above track are around, but for this track and a general introduction to the man’s music go for the 1980 compilation Black President.
Born John Ritchie, Sid Vicious was bass player with the Sex Pistols until their acrimonious split on tour in the USA in 1978. He acquired his nickname from fellow band member John Lydon (Johnny Rotten), whose pet hamster, Sid, has just bitten Ritchie. Often considered the most unhinged member of a band that was pretty wild to start off with, he was never much of a bass player to be honest. He once tried to get Lemmy of Motorhead to teach him; “I can’t play the bass” he is reputed to have said, to which Lemmy apparently replied “yeah I know, I’ve heard you”. After living the sex-drugs-and-rocknroll lifestyle to the full in New York, he was arrested on suspicion of murder in October 1978 following the death of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. He was eventually released on bail on 1st Feb 1979, having been detoxed of his notorious heroin habit. Two days after his release, he was found dead at the home of his new girlfriend Michelle Robinson of a heroin overdose; a suicide note would later be found by his mother in the pocket of the jacket he had been wearing. He was cremated and the ashes scattered on Nancy Spungen’s grave. This track, one of the last he recorded, is a half-crazed re-work of the Eddie Cochrane’s 50’s rock and roll classic . Available on the album Sid Sings.
Rare TV recording from 1977 of German rock band Can performing the opening track of their album Saw Delight. Founded by avant garde German musician Holger Czukay in 1968, they were the first German rock band to make an impact on the notoriously anglophone UK and US music scenes. Somewhat like their contemporaries Pink Floyd, their studio albums were mere “seed compositions” for more elaborate live performances. This live version of Don’t Say No is developed from the opening track of the studio album Saw Delight
Classic early reggae from the Rocksteady vocal trio of Leroy Stibles, Earl Morgan and Barry Llewellyn. Founded in 1965 in Kingston Jamaica, they were, together with The Techniques, considered one of the top Rocksteady bands of the late 1960’s. After successful spells with both Studio One and Island Records, in 1977 they teamed up with Lee Scratch Perry to produce the album Party Time and this track, which was released as a 12″ single, and remains to this day a classic early roots reggae track.
Darling of the early skinheads, Desmond Adolphus Dacre, alias Desmond Dekker remains in the eyes of many the King of Ska and the only one who gets five tracks here
From a fictional Chinese villain to a genuine Japanese genius, Ryuichi Sakamoto. After releasing an album of solo work in 1978 he teamed up with Yukihiro Takahashi and Haroumi Hosno to form those pioneers, along with Kraftwerk, of electro-pop in the late 1970’s – the Yellow Magic Orchestra; part of the techno pop music boom in Japan in the late 1970’s. Many middle aged men in Japan today still wear the seventies techno haircut. The lessons for a future generation of electro pop players were laid out here in their first album – use the technology to create new types of sound and keep the tempo up. Sakamoto is more closely associated today with his contemporary piano music and his film score work, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence being a noted example.
Its most famous number is Forbidden Colours, or in Japanese Kinjiki, which refers to different colours worn by different social ranks, and colloquially as denoting homosexuality. The title comes from the third novel of Japanese writer Yukio Mishima; it being the story of the marriage of a gay man to a young woman. Mishima, who was himself a married gay man, after penning a further thirty seven novels brought both his art and his life to its apotheosis on the 25th of November 1970 when he completed his final work, The Decay of the Angel. The story describes Honda, an elderly and wealthy widower, saturated with contempt for Japan’s consumerist society, who meets and falls in love with a teenage boy; when he first see him, the boy is holding a crumpled and dying lilac hydrangea, his forbidden colour. On the day he completed the novel, Mishima and a small group of followers, donned military uniforms then broke into the office of the regional commander of the Japanese military, held him hostage, read out a short speech intended to inspire a coup d’état and then proceeded to commit seppuku in front of him.
Copyright ©2011 Savereo John