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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Flies, Brix, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock

FLIES ON YOU lumber onto the stage, and contain not one, but two of my very oldest and dearest friends, while the crowd contains lots of other old and not-so-old friends from far and wide. It is very much a family affair, and all the more wonderful for it.

I even run into the lovely Maureen, who used to sell me pot back in the day. It’s like some kind of obscure DIY band, fanzine writer, drug dealer convention.

Having missed the debut gig of the Extricated in Manchester a couple of months ago, due to circumstances beyond our control, going to see them at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds was the next best thing, particularly when I found out my old friend Doug’s band, Flies on You, were supporting.

The gruesome twosome of Doug and Paul (who is standing in for studio bass monster Andy Watkins), plus a couple of guys I don’t know, play short, spiky, angular rock tunes with great titles like Can You Smell That Burning Noise? and You’re the Anaesthetist, John.

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“WE WALKED around for a while before we could find someone to tell us where the gig was. We went up these endless dark steps up to a massive hall with lots of people with funny hairstyles, selling ace fanzines called Kill Your Pet Puppy, while other people with green and red dreadlocks smoked sweet-smelling ciggies. We sat in front of the stage and read some fanzines.

The Passion Killers came on and did a lot of songs and I liked them all. There were three of them and the drummer was very good. They went off and I went to the toilet.

When I came back, D&V were on and by now the hall was filling up with girls with fluffy pink hair and studded leather jackets with ‘The Destructors’ painted on the back. There were lots of other people as well but I didn’t really notice them. Anyway, D&V were ace. They did the stuff off their Crass record and most people seemed to like them.

Zillions of people came onstage and started to put a washing line up on stage. A bloke started sweeping up in the middle of the audience. Chumbawamba’s set was very theatrical, with people swapping instruments, chalking stuff on the floor, and splashing red paint over Action Men and themselves. Some of the songs were slow, gentle ballads, I suppose, and others were like wall of noise aaaaargh-type things. I liked it…”

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Death Church by Rudimentary Peni (Corpus Christi)

Ultimately, I don’t actually give a shit whether you like Rudimentary Peni or not – come to think of it, I’d probably prefer it if you didn’t – but if you’re coming to this cold, but you can find out everything you need to know about them here.

Essentially, in the words of a very wise man, Peni “took the basic thrash blueprint, wiped their arses with it and screwed it up into a tight little ball before exploding all over you like a bad medieval disease.”

If you’re already a fan, and you’re looking for catalogue numbers and release dates, you’d be better off elsewhere.

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Football crazy

brasilLONG time, no see, blah blah drone.

Football does my nut in. My one crumb of comfort over the last couple of weeks has been the beautiful Brazilian music in the idents for the world cup TV coverage – although, obviously, because the the philistines at ITV don’t actually give a flying fuck about beautiful Brazilian music, they only play a paltry few seconds of each tune.

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Life after Fidel

YOU have to search long and hard to find any statues of Fidel Castro in Cuba.

Unlike just about anywhere else you care to mention, consumer advertising was replaced by stirring revolutionary imagery, snappy slogans and useful cultural announcements decades ago.

There is no shortage of statues and images of Castro’s revolutionary compatriot Che Guevara. The iconic stencil-style image based on Alberto Korda’s photograph of Che is everywhere. From murals and T-shirts to tattoos and three-peso notes in Cuban pockets, Che’s black beret, flowing locks and smouldering eyes are never far away.

IMG_3628Cuban kids start the school day by pledging that they “will be like Che”. There’s even a song about Guevara, Hasta Siempre, Commandante that, inevitably, you’ll hear sooner or later.

Similarly, every street corner seems to have statues and memorials to José Martí, the poet and writer who gave a voice to the earliest notions of Cuban independence in the 19th century.

You’ll sometimes see Fidel, wearing his trademark beard and peaked military cap, alongside Che and fellow revolutionary hero Camilo Cienfuegos, on colourful and appropriately heroic murals throughout the island.

Occasionally, there are inspiring quotes from Fidel on roadside hoardings (although many have him eulogising his martyred comrade-in-arms Che). But there’s not a single road named after Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz anywhere in Cuba.

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Martha Reeves

UNLIKE many people who turned up on Berry Gordy’s doorstep when he established the Motown label, Martha Reeves was invited.

Working as a cleaner through the week and performing in clubs at the weekend, Reeves was spotted by Motown A&R man Mickey Stevenson one night in the Twenty Grand in Detroit.

“He gave me a card and said, you have talent, come to Hitsville,” says the formidable Miss Reeves over the phone from her home in Detroit. “He went all over the city, gathering up singers and musicians.”

One of 12 children, Reeves was raised in a god-fearing Alabama family and first sang publicly in her grandfather’s Methodist church after the family moved to Detroit.

It was in Detroit where Reeves fell under the benign influence of her godmother Beatrice.

“She was a woman who took me under her wing and took me to a lot of plays and concerts at the theatre – with my mom’s permission, of course – and I saw Lena Horne when I was about three years old,” remembers Reeves.

“She was so pretty and she was singing the blues. As a child, I couldn’t imagine anyone like her being unhappy, as pretty as she was. And later I was influenced by Della Reese. I saw her in church and she was singing Amazing Grace. The next day I saw her singing one of her songs on TV. I identified with her and she became my role model.”

Attending Northeastern High School alongside Supremes Flo Ballard and Mary Wilson – practicing singing while she washed up in the family kitchen (“the acoustics were good,” she explains) – Reeves was part of the generation whose parents escaped poverty in the South to reap the benefits of contributing to the war effort in the North.

But not everyone was content to work for minimum wage on the Ford Motor Co production line.

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