Five (plus one) x Agua de Beber

AGUA DE BEBER is a song from the very earliest days of bossa nova written by the two men who defined the genre, with music by pianist and composer Tom Jobim and lyrics by musician playwright poet diplomat Vinícius de Moraes.

The story goes that the duo were invited to the then under-construction capital of Brasilia by the president to get the inspiration for music they were composing for the city’s opening ceremony.

Their tune didn’t make the cut but, while they were there, they kept hearing the sound of running water around the building they were staying in. A site security guard told them that it was an unfinished potable water pipeline. Aqua de Beber was the result.

It was first released as a single by de Moraes in 1961 and has become something of a standard, with anyone and everyone with any leanings towards bossa nova having a crack at it since then. If you buy a lot of bossa nova albums, you’ll end up with lots of versions of Agua de Beber. I’ve got about a dozen, all told.


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Flex Your Head by Various Artists (Dischord)

SOMETIMES this shit seems so important that it eclipses everything, and then when you finally get it together after years of trying and failing, it turns out it means absolutely nothing at all.

There’s a picture of me, Paul, John and Doug from about five years ago, at a house party in leafy Headingley. We’re all beaming. I’m well and truly trollied, having a right laugh with some of my dearest friends, as happy as Larry.

After a tough couple of years, things were happening. I was secure in an exciting new job, confident, cohabiting, committed, and happy with my lot. Full of optimism for the future, I was ready for anything and everything life could throw at me.

At least some of my exuberance on that particular night stemmed from Paul’s admission that he’d found the copy of the seminal Washington DC hardcore compilation, Flex Your Head, that he’d somehow appropriated from me back in the day. Like 30 years ago back in the day.

“I ended up with the record because you gave it me during one of your youthful ‘I’ve had it with that shit, I’m moving on’ moments,” says Paul. “You gave me Let Them Eat Jellybeans too”.

It does sound like something I’d do.

Getting Flex Your Head back seemed like a really big deal. I was proper excited to hear it again – even though, we should remember, I cared so little for this very expensive import that I gave it away within a year or so of buying it.

I was eager to revisit that bit of my ever-more-distant youth, and to recall old times and people and places, and probably make some hokey, convoluted point that while the good old days were pretty great at the time they were actually pretty shitty when you look back on them, yeah? Or maybe it would have been the other way around.

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Two hundred years of Paper Recordings

MANCHESTER-based Paper Recordings released some magical and beautiful house music from the mid-Nineties onwards. The label continues to release great music to this day.

This is the story of Paper Recordings, in the words of people who made it happen.

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Morrissey

WHAT did Morrissey do that was so bad?

For the tabloids it was his undisguised loathing for the Royal Family, his rampant vegetarianism, his refusal to play Live Aid, and his audacity, as a mere pop star, in discussing the crimes of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.

The music press, his initial champions, never forgave him for the split of The Smiths in 1987. He’s too intellectual, they say. He can’t cut the mustard as a solo artist without Johnny Marr, they claim. And worst of all, he has been tainted with accusations of nationalism and racism since he wrapped the Union Jack around himself at a Finsbury Park gig in 1992.

Two weeks ago, the NME listed his crimes in anticipation of his British tour this week, and advised its readers to ‘brick’ the singer offstage. It’s the martyrdom of Saint Stephen all over again.

So it’s not altogether surprising that this most English of entertainers has gone into self-imposed exile. The quintessential Mancunian miserabilist now resides in the shiniest happiest city in the world: Los Angeles, renting Carole Lombard’s bachellorette pad at 7953 Hollywood Boulevard no less.

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Dennis Morris of Basement 5 and Urban Shakedown

EVERYONE knows the score, right?

Someone whose work you’ve admired for three decades is appearing in town – except you’re broke and worse, broken-hearted, because your girlfriend’s just walked out on you, it’s all still very raw and you don’t really know what day it is.

So you walk all the way to the Whitworth in the rain, and then when you get there, you’re soaked to the skin, you’ve no fags left, everything’s a bit surreal and you suddenly feel utterly disconnected from whatever the fuck ‘normal’ is.

You can’t find the insightful, carefully-researched questions in your pad, so you just end up asking questions about stuff that’s not very interesting, and forget all the stuff you really wanted to know about.

Everybody has been there, right? No? Yeah, me neither.

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Greg Wilson

AS MUCH as Greg Wilson is excited about DJing a big, open-air gig on the Pier Head in his home town of Liverpool – and he’s clearly thrilled – you also get the impression that he’s every bit as excited about the chance to talk about the ideas behind his involvement with the Very Big After Party.

Transatlantic 175 is a commemoration of 175 years of passenger travel across the Atlantic, taking place on Liverpool’s waterfront and docks. It involves the Very Big Catwalk, an attempt to break the world record for most models on a catwalk, followed by the veteran DJ Wilson doing his stuff for the assorted fashion divas at the Very Big After Party.

Wilson was brought in by Wayne Hemingway (whose Vintage Festival is also at the dock over the weekend), with a brief to highlight the musical connections between Liverpool and the US.

The perceived wisdom is that the story of musical Liverpool all started with the Cunard Yanks, the merchant seamen who went to New York and took the music, the clothes, even the mannerisms they found back to their home city, planting the seeds that would eventually grow into the Beatles and Merseybeat. A young George Harrison, for example, bought a black Gretsch guitar from a Cunard Yank fresh off the boat from New York.

“That’s not half the story, even though it’s massively important,” says Wilson over a tea cake in a restaurant on the seafront in New Brighton.

“Bob Wooler, the DJ at the Cavern, told me that he got his records from everywhere, it wasn’t just about the Cunard Yanks. He told me he used to buy a lot of new American imports from a shop in Newton-le-Willows. That seemed a bit bizarre to me. But it’s next to Burtonwood Airbase. It makes complete sense. They were selling them to the US servicemen.

“There’ve been American servicemen in this country since the second world war. I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s such an affinity with black music. And that scenario plays out in Liverpool as much as anywhere else. Black American servicemen used to come to clubs like the Timepiece in Liverpool in the 70s. And at the same time, it was always a cosmopolitan city. It was a melting pot for ideas.”

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Róisín Murphy

“MY WHOLE career has been a happy accident,” says Róisín Murphy. “Even the fact that I’m a singer at all is a total accident. I walked into a party, fancied a fella and just walked up to him and said, do you like my tight sweater? He took me to his studio in the middle of the night and recorded me saying it, and it was the start of a relationship, not the start of a career.”

The Irish-born singer’s drunken chat up line became the title of the album she went onto record with the man she met that night in Sheffield, Mark Brydon. And an obligatory element of every interview Murphy has done since then.

Moloko made quirky, avant-garde electronic funk experimentalism topped by the sound of Murphy’s beautiful, jazz-influenced vocals being chopped up, mangled and stretched beyond all recognition. Their music ended up being remixed into the kind of enormous house anthems that soundtrack the never-ending summers of Ibiza. But there was nothing accidental about their success.

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