Tag Archives: the big issue in the north

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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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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Amy Winehouse *1

I HAVEN’T really got anything to add to the blizzard of uninformed opinion that has followed the death of Amy Winehouse.

Who knows what really went on? We’d all like to think that we make our own choices but what happens when choice is taken away from you? When the thing you think you need is really the very last thing you need?

The girl I met in late 2003 and again about a year later was very cool and while she definitely had an edge, she clearly wasn’t anywhere near as tough as she tried to make out. I liked her. She was funny and outspoken and real and honest – all you could want from someone you’re interviewing. And of course, it helps that the music she wrote and the words she sang were just incredible.

It’s a crying shame she isn’t around anymore.

* * *

AMY WINEHOUSE might look like she’s been dragged though a hedge backwards but she walks into the hotel bar like she owns the place.

 We’re introduced and she informs the photographer that, nah, he won’t be taking any pictures while we do the interview. She’s just this minute off the tour bus.

”Look at the state of me,” she says, unnecessarily. Everyone is looking at her already.

“Trust me,” soothes the snapper. “I can do something artistic with the computer 
later on.”

“Yeah? Well, I’m doing something artistic with these zits now. We’ll do the pictures later.”

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Alex Gopher

SUCCEEDING where Napoleon failed, those dastardly French have at last managed to invade this sceptered isle.

But rather than manning the barricades and ridding our supermarket shelves of brie and Golden Delicious, as a nation we seem to be welcoming this particular Gallic menace with open arms and dancing feet.

Whatever happened to the Dunquerque spirit?

In reality, it’s not like we have much choice. With music of the quality produced by the likes of Daft Punk, Air, Mr Oizo and Etienne de Crecy, we can do little but capitulate.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back on the dancefloor, Parisian funk merchant Alex Gopher turns up to deliver the coup de grace with his debut British album, You, My Baby & I.

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Unique 3

BRADFORD’S Unique 3 have been mixing up reggae, house and hip hop into over-the-top, bass-heavy dance music for a couple of years now. On the eve of the release of their new single Activity, they talk to Expletive Undeleted about bleeps, basslines and Belgium.

Even by bad taste nightclub standards, the fun palace where I’m to meet Edzy from the Unique 3 in Bradford is impressive.

It’s the kind of place which utterly transcends abstract concepts like taste and style. It’s huge, it’s gaudy and it’s one of The Hitman and Her’s more upmarket future stop-offs. But despite all the free aftershave, the multiple screens blasting out MTV, and the gold plating around the ornamental goldfish pond, the bottom line is that the gents still smells like a gents.

The rest of the club is as grandly decked out as the pissoir, with all the state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment you would need to make Sharon and Darren’s Saturday night go with a bang. All in all, there are a lot worse places to spend a Saturday night, I suppose.

But only if you can actually get through the door.

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Fila Brazillia

THEY know how to do band names in Hull. The Housemartins were named after the tuneful domestic songbird. Everything But The Girl were named after the ladies boutique on Beverley Road.

And Fila Brazillia are named after a huge South American fighting dog which is now banned in this country, thanks to the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

The name is nothing to do with trainers then?

“I think we confuse the hell out of most people.”

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Craig David

JAMES the tour manager has just reminded Thalia the make-up woman that Craig the popstar has to be ready for the pre-gig press conference at 4pm.

The presence of Danish television camera crews necessitate Thalia’s presence – some of us have an image to keep up – although David doesn’t seem to need much work. He looks far healthier than any man in the latter stages of a European tour has any right to. He’s positively glowing.

Craig David is the most promising singer/songwriter this country has produced in years. He’s got an effortlessly lovely and soulful voice, he knows how to write a decent pop lyric, he’s young, good looking and suddenly he is everywhere.

“There’s all this fuss being made and I’m just thinking, I’m just this guy from Southampton who writes a few songs. It’s a bit surreal, to be honest,” he says, visibly perplexed by it all.

Sometimes it seems like Craig David is the living, breathing embodiment of multicultural Britain at its wholesome best, with his flawless coffee-coloured skin and catchy soulful ghetto-pop. At the very least, he’s a pin-up boy for a generation of teens. Unlike previous UK soul contenders such as, say, Mark Morrison or even Omar, Craig David is about as threatening as Sir Cliff Richard.

Thalia diligently pads away at David’s face, stopping when he waves his hands around. She doesn’t seem to be doing much, some white stuff goes on and then instantly disappears under her brush. A brown smear, a shade or two darker than David’s skin-tone, goes on and vanishes just as quickly. We all swap over halfway through so she can do the other side of this face.

A homegrown and wholesome British talent, David doesn’t drink – apart from an occasional glass of wine – doesn’t smoke and doesn’t take drugs. The only chink in his careful diplomacy comes when he says he “hates” smoking. He doesn’t even swear – “knackered” is about as close as he gets.

But he’s looking good on it.

Unlike the crazy kamikaze nut-job who created Wired For Sound, Craig David still lives with his mum in Hampshire – if the 19-year-old globetrotter can be said to live anywhere. And rather than talking about sharing Mistletoe & Wine with all mankind, he talks about sharing Champagne and jacuzzis with all the ladies.

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