Hockley Babylon, Trannie Talk, and a couple of MP3s to break your heart. (NMC)

(ADMIN: Post delayed/revised from Monday night, due to the lateness of the hour and the advanced state of decrepitude of the author.)

Flipping heck. Two full days after Saturday’s Last-Night-EVER-At-George’s-Bar Marathon Bender To End All Benders, and my brain is still like concrete. Which TOSSER was it who said “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”, anyway?

(UPDATE: Oh! It was William Blake! And the full quote actually reads: The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom – for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough. Whoops! Point taken!)

A great night, though – even if poor old K only lasted a bare hour, due to the crowds, the noise and the claustrophobia.

(At which point they put someone on the door, thus swiftly reducing the numbers to a more manageable level, as the mid-evening bridge-and-tunnel crowd moved on to ritzier pastures. Unfortunately, the new regulars-only policy meant that poor old Dymbel was refused admission. If this doesn’t convince him of the benefits of texting, then I fear nothing will.)

For me, the defining pinnacle moment came at around 2am, when Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 got the whole bar on its feet – even the ones who “don’t dance, darling” – for a shared moment of delirious communion. Trannies on the tables, respectable elderly gentlemen in burgundy cummerbunds tapping their toes, gurning queens passing round the poppers, straight boys snogging gay boys snogging fag-hags, ashtrays spilling onto ruched silk, tables teetering (“careful darling, that’s champagne”), nice young gels hurling their guts up into the one remaining functional wash basin, while other nice young gels held their hair back … Hockley Babylon, it was. We shall not see its like again.

(Neil MovieBuff, another George’s regular, also writes about the night on his own blog, with his customary eloquence.)

I’ve also been corresponding, at some length, with one of my fellow Bloggies finalists – the lovely Siobhan of Tranniefesto – about perceptions of the whole cross-dressing scene, following a comment I left in this post. (Scroll past the rant about traffic in Lancaster, until you get to the section titled Whoo! Long hair!) Part of me wishes that we were blogging our conversation, rather than hiding it away in e-mails – although Siobhan does expand on the subject in this post. (Needless to say, the other part of me wishes that I didn’t spend quite so much time mining real life for blog posts.)

Anyway. To compensate for the break in service, have a couple of MP3s. Both of these popped up at random on my iPod during Monday, and both got me right THERE. The first is a bitter-sweet “farewell to all that” lament, full of wistful regret, which seems appropriate under the circumstances. The second is a heartbreaking soul ballad from 1970, which I found in one of the few crates that remain from James Hamilton‘s collection.

No multi-tasking when you listen to these, please. They both require your full attention.

Nightsong – Sidsel Endresen & Bugge Wesseltoft
(Buy it from Amazon UK.)

Go On Fool – Marion Black
(Buy it from Amazon USA.)

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The Troubled Diva Old Curiosity Box… has got… so much… GOING for it. UHHH! OOOH! YEAHHH!

Cristina – Disco Clone (Disco Mix) (1978)

Whip crack-away! Now that you’ve had time to get used to the “proper” song-based version, I think perhaps you might be ready for the full-on perv-fest of the Disco Mix, in which Cristina (and Kevin Kline) get low down and dirrrtay (and in the process, showing up latter day pop strumpets like Ms. Aguilera for the lightweights that they are). Warning: do NOT listen to this on headphones in crowded lifts. Yes, I speak from experience.

Katina – Don’t Stick Stickers On My Paper Knickers (1973)

Ooooh, cheeky! There were at least two, if not three, versions of this whimsically jaunty little pop-reggae confection knocking around in 1973 – none of which charted, probably having been deemed far too risqué for radio play (if not quite risqué enough to build up a Judge Dread-style cult following).

A period piece, this one; a social historian could have a field day with it. I particularly like the way the second verse fails to scan properly, and the Carry On-style banter towards the end.

The ALL NEW Troubled Diva Curiosity Box remembers the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike.

enemywithin

The Enemy Within – Strike (1984)

Lest anyone should think otherwise, Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas wasn’t the only topical, “issue-based” single of December 1984. With the UK miners’ strike moving into its tenth month, three singles appeared at much the same time, each offering its own commentary on the longest – and (give or take the odd scuffle down Wapping way) the last – of this country’s major industrial disputes.

Listening to them again twenty years later, Strike by The Enemy Within – the least commercially successful of the three – emerges as the strongest piece of music by some distance. Put together by the same team (Adrian Sherwood/Keith LeBlanc/Tackhead) that had been responsible for No Sell Out, 1983’s pioneering Malcolm X cut-up, Strike does the same job for Arthur Scargill (“The most gorgeous redhead since Rita Hayworth” – Julie Burchill, The Face), setting excerpts from his speeches against stark, stuttering electro. Surprisingly for such a time-specific piece, it retains a good deal of its resonance to this day.

redskins

Keep On Keepin’ On! – The Redskins (1984)

But can we say the same for The Redskins? Led by a former NME journalist, this deeply politicised punk-soul trio were effectively the house band for the Socialist Workers Party, with singles such as Kick Over The Statues, Bring It Down! (This Insane Thing), The Power Is Yours and It Can Be Done! Impeccable left-wing credentials aside, there’s something tinny and strained about the would-be clarion call of Keep On Keepin’ On!, with its Motown-pastiche bassline sounding as if it had been lifted from A Town Called Malice rather than Holland/Dozier/Holland. It’s also now impossible to listen to its earnest exhortions (“If it takes a year, we’ve gotta take it…“) in isolation from the knowledge that the strike collapsed just three months later, the miners’ defeat also signalling the inexorable decline of both the trade union movement and the British coal industry.

A heroically principled and uncompromising stance – or naive, shallow, manipulative posturing which barely disguised its hidden agenda? Oh, but you had to decide. For this was an age of binary choices and clear-cut ideological certainties, where fence-sitting was derided from both sides.

council

The Council Collective – Soul Deep (12 inch version) (1984)

However, listening to Paul Weller & the Style Council, Jimmy Ruffin, Junior Giscombe and a cast of thousands trying to imbue clunkingly prosaic lines (“Just where is the backing from the TUC?“) with some approximation of gritty “authenticity”, on this borderline-embarrassing stab at re-creating the “hard times” funk of US outfits such as Brother D & Collective Effort, Defunkt and the Valentine Brothers, you might find it increasingly hard to suppress a smirk. To say nothing of the cringingly misplaced “solidarity” of a bunch of pop stars deploying the first person plural so readily – because, like, this is our struggle too, yeah? You know those two adjectives that the right have always delighted in bashing the left with: “sanctimonious” and “self-righteous”? Well, it is difficult to argue convincingly against their presence on this effort (which nevertheless crawled as high as #24 on the UK singles chart, giving Paul Weller his smallest hit in over six years).

On the other hand, it does put Weller’s curmudgeonly scowling on the first Band Aid single into context. Don’t they know there’s a war on?

Coming up later (after a six-hour round trip to an industrial estate outside Rickmansworth chiz chiz) … one more MP3, which might put a somewhat different complexion on things.


However… flipping over to the B-side of the Soul Deep 12-inch, for its first playing in 20 years, I find this…

The Council Collective – A Miner’s Point (1984)

…which is a lengthy interview with a couple of striking Nottinghamshire miners called Bob and Chris (complete with a baffling writing credit for “Weller/Talbot”, but I’m sure there’s a VERY SOUND EXPLANATION for that). Instantly, the cynical smirk that had been spreading during the previous two tracks was wiped straight off my face.

In December 1984, in the rather less than glamorous surroundings of the John Carroll Leisure Centre in Radford, Dymbel and I DJ-ed a benefit night in aid of the miners’ strike, as organised by the local branch of the Labour Party. (My first DJ gig ever, in fact.) This turned out to be a decidedly disillusioning experience.

For – as PJ O’Rourke infers in this month’s Word magazine – in those almost unimaginably far off days, one of the great things about lining yourself up with the left was that you were simultaneously lining yourself up with all the cool kids. All the sharp, aware, sexy people, with the just-so flat-tops and the button-fly shrink-to-fit 501s, were sporting “Coal Not Dole” stickers on their donkey jackets and rattling collecting tins outside the refectory in the Portland building on campus. And, wa-hey, I was going to be DJ-ing for them!

Except, well, perhaps there were better things to do that night than shuffle on down to the John Carroll Leisure Centre. Which just left a couple of dozen morose old hippies – lank, centre-parted hair and shit-brown sweaters – skinning up in the corner and displaying absolutely no interest whatsoever in the contents of the singles boxes which Dymbel and I had spent all afternoon putting together. (Except for one solitary over-enthusiastic punkette from Tyneside who kept fruitlessly pestering us for “Nellie The Elephant” by the Toy Dolls – but to be frank, she was neither here nor there.)

With less than an hour left to go, Dymbel and I decided that it was only right and proper to play something that was directly related to the strike. Out came the just-released Soul Deep… and over to the decks wandered a solidly built man in his twenties, incongruous in sober suit and tie, who politely asked if he could take a look at the record sleeve.

“I’m on the B-side of this, you know. Have you listened to it?”

It was Chris, the younger of the two men interviewed. Decent, dignified chap – as you’ll hear if you play the MP3 (encoded at 96 kbps, to save space). I’d forgotten this until now, but I think we stopped the music and let him make a brief speech. Actually, we must have done – because then Dymbel introduced the Redskins record as being about the strike, in the hope that this would finally get the hippies off their arses.

It didn’t. At which point we just went “oh sod it”, and – all lingering aspirations of credibility finally cast aside – slapped on Jumpin’ Jack Flash. It filled the floor. As did Free’s All Right Now, and all the other dinosaur rock classics we followed it with. (I can still remember shaking my head in scornful disbelief: imagine only being able to dance to records which were at least 12 years old! I had a lot to learn.)

I wonder what happened to Chris and Bob – whose voices on this interview (and is that Gary Crowley talking to them?) sound like echoes from a world that has all but vanished. Impossible – utterly impossible – to imagine these sentiments, or anything like them, being expressed in the Britain of 2004. For of the wide range of emotions I experienced in the course of listening to this, the one that ultimately lingered was one of a great, ineffable sadness: at all which has been lost, and replaced with… what, precisely?


Coming soon: that filthy version of Cristina’s Disco Clone. Best stock up on the Kleenex, lads!

The Troubled Diva Old Curiosity Box – Item 144.

One Two Cha Cha Cha – Usha Uthup & Chorus. (1981)

ushaThere has been quite a buzz going round recently about a mysterious 7-inch single by the Bollywood Freaks, called Don’t Stop ’til you Get to Bollywood. (Indeed, an MP3 of the track turned up on Fluxblog not so long ago.)

For those that haven’t heard it, this is a hugely enjoyable Bollywood/disco cover version of Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – although in actual fact, it’s an only slightly re-tweaked bootleg mix of a genuine Bollywood soundtrack song: Chhupke Kaun Aya, as recorded in the early 1980s by Usha Uthup.

(Coincidentally, this original version has just been re-issued on Tom Middleton’s highly recommended double mix CD, The Trip.)

However, the real jewel in Usha Uthup’s crown is her TOTALLY and UTTERLY barmy masterpiece One Two Cha Cha Cha, as featured on the soundtrack of the Bollywood movie Shalimar in about 1981. (It also incorporates elements of a well-known disco classic – but I won’t spoil the surprise.)

You can purchase One Two Cha Cha Cha on a splendid compilation CD called In Flight Entertainment Vol.2, which is a pot-pourri of all manner of similarly kitsch delights.

This is a bit of a treat, actually. Take it away, Usha!

“Oh, how vile!”

pracatan

Margarita Pracatan – Hello (wand’s mini-drama mix)
(right-click to download)

Spring/Summer 1996. About once a month, we would pile out of Trade on a Sunday lunchtime, then head down to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to catch Adrella’s weekly drag show. Well before the Dame Edna Experience made the RVT what it is today, Adrella was packing the place out with her own loyal troupe, complete with their own set call-and-response phrases. (“Good afternoon Adrella, and how are you today?” “Oh, how vile!”)

Adrella’s top turns at the time included a coke-addled Liza, stumbling her way through Losing My Mind, a bouncy Gina G, flicking her tresses to Ooh Aah…Just A Little Bit, and best of all, her take on the emergent starlet of the moment, the one and only Margarita Pracatan. Replacing Margarita’s keyboard with an ironing board, if you please, you had to peel the queens from the ceiling by the time Adrella had worked her way through There’s-a Nooo! Business Like-a Shooow! Business.

Imagine our delight, therefore, when this extraordinary handbag house cover version of Lionel Richie’s Hello appeared on promo. And imagine our disappointment when at the last moment, with a tiny handful of copies of the CD single already pressed, Margarita’s record company pulled the single from the release schedules, never to see the light of day. Tipped off by my DJ mate from Central Station in King’s Cross, I quickly grabbed a copy from probably the only shop in the UK which had copies for sale (Trax Records on Greek Street).

Rare as rocking-horse poop, this is. You lucky, lucky people. Prepare to be amazed and astounded by the genius that is… Margarita “Hello! I Love You!” Pracatan.

Hey – after making you suffer through Lionel Richie’s original version (see below), it was the least I could do.