Tag Archives: urban shakedown

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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Filed under expletive undeleted, interviews

Some Justice by Urban Shakedown (Urban Shakedown Recordings)

WHEN Michael Eavis decided that the Glastonbury should take a year off in 1991, he spent a lot of his  time trying to work out a way of keeping freeloaders and other non-paying fellow-travellers out of the festival. The idea he came up with was to surround the entire site with a very big fence.

The following year Tom Jones, Blur, Television, the Fall, Curve, Primal Scream, the Levellers, PJ Harvey, Carter USM, James, the Breeders, Billy Bragg, Van Morrison, Kitchens of Distinction and  Spritualized were on the bill – and numbers of fence-hoppers were right down.

Among the thousands of lucky festival-goers were my then-girlfriend and me, inveterate freeloaders both. We’d managed to blag into the festival by writing a lengthy preview for the magazine we both worked for at the time.

I don’t recall seeing any of the bands above – not even the mighty Fall – but we did manage to catch the Shamen, which I think was just about the first time a dance act had played on one of the bigger stages at Glastonbury. Unfortunately, “good lights” is about the most either of us can remember about this groundbreaking performance. But they were always pretty good live, weren’t they, the Shamen?

“I think you and I only stayed two nights and didn’t sleep at all. We were up all night and too hot to sleep in the tent in the day. I do remember it wasn’t a lot of fun really,” says that same ex-girlfriend now. “Too hot, too skint, too tired, too paranoid, too scared of the toilets, going off crowds so only really being able to cope at night… Maybe you enjoyed it more.”

I probably did. I didn’t even notice how bad a time she was having, which probably says a lot.

I’ve just got a loose jumble of disembodied memories from the weekend. One of the most vivid is of an ambulance inching its way through a very packed crowd after one of the big acts had finished on the Pyramid stage one night. Some drug-nut planted himself square in front of it, crying and bellowing and wailing his heart out, not letting them by until they promised to take him away too. We’ve all been there, I’m sure.

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Filed under hardcore / rave, hip replacement

Basement Shakedown

ONE of the last, great undiscovered bands of the Eighties, Basement 5 are completely unknown to most, forgotten by many and utterly loved by a lucky few. Kris Needs nearly went and spoiled it by writing a piece about them for Mojo last year, the bloody bugger, but luckily nobody seemed to take much notice. I’m only telling you now on the condition that you keep all this to yourself, so think on.

Formed, so the story goes, by Don Letts with one-and-a-half grand of Chris Blackwell’s money, Basement 5 occupied a space somewhere between Killing Joke and PIL – like a real-life collision between punk and dub reggae rather than a theoretical one. I only know their stuff because some guy I happened to sit next to during registration at sixth form sold me their 1965-1980 album and the accompanying dub 12-inch for a fiver in 1982.

“You have to play it very loud to enjoy it fully,” said control room wizard Martin Hannett some time later. “It was the most difficult production, I must say, the heaviest. It was 18-degrees in the shade, the end of August. As I recall it has been the most physical album that I’ve ever done. Made me feel like I’d been carrying bricks around. Heavy work. Putting the bass lines in the right place.

“But it was good.”

It’s probably a bit much to call it a ‘mix’ so let’s just say I’ve put together a sequence of music which includes Too Soon and Omega Man from the album closely followed by the Holocaust dub from the 12-inch, book-ended by Careering by PIL and Killing Joke’s Turn To Red, for no other reason than I can. You can download it here.

After Basement 5 split up, singer Dennis Morris went onto form Urban Shakedown, who I saw on some late night youth-orientated post-pub light-entertainment show – perhaps involving Jonathan Ross – in the early days of Channel 4. They looked just extraordinary, two post-apocalyptic punky, funki-dreads, one white, one black, on drums and bass. No guitarist. And their sound was easily as arresting as their look. Drums and bass, pure and simple. It was a tantalizingly brief performance but I never forgot it.

The song they performed on the show, Big Bad Wolf, was one of the first singles on Paul Weller’s Respect label. It never did anything and they sank without trace – though I was very excited when I first heard Some Justice by Mickey Finn’s Urban Shakedown project. I’d hoped it was the same guys I’d heard ten years earlier. It wasn’t. Good tune though, either way.

I bought the seven-inch of Big Bad Wolf, with the dub, Rap The Wolf on the other side, from the marvellous Action Records in Preston last year. Strangely, around the same time, the BBC put out a teaser viral campaign for a Dr Who plotline which involved Big Bad Wolf.

I had to get MP3s of Big Bad Wolf and Rap The Wolf together for a mate, so I thought I may as well share them too. And ChickitupPickitup has a tasty download of Basement 5’s Silicon Chip here.

Be quick now.


Filed under expletive undeleted, hyperbole