Thursday, April 01, 2004


I suppose the best thing about not-entirely-legal CD(R)s is that they provide the listener with something which, as it hasn’t necessarily been packaged for the convenience of mass consumption, offers more life than might be found in conventional albums, no matter how good. Or at least they offer a broader snapshot of the narrowness of life.

In fact Pirate Flavas by DJ Wrongspeed is now obtainable from Resonance 104.4 FM at the cost of a “donation” of £12. Wrongspeed himself has of late disappeared from the schedules of Resonance following reported anxieties about the alleged misogyny and homophobia of some of his broadcasts, which on aural evidence is a bit like accusing Henry Mayhew of being a rapacious stormtrooper.

Like Mayhew, Wrongspeed offers a panoramic cut-up of the different voices which turn up across neglected parts of London; in this case, a kind of Pick of the Week-style digest of the most notable moments from London’s various pirate radio stations. And, as with all music/art that hasn’t yet been regulated and hammered into sellable shape, Wrongspeed’s digests are a thrilling and occasionally chilling listen.

The 70 or so minutes of the CD-R are divided into four sections; the first two are fairly straightforward cut-ups of London pirates. As documents they would be valuable enough, but as a listening experience (for who wants to dwell within a home filled with “documents”?) it thrusts along at 300 mph, daring the unwary outsider to keep up. Track one begins with some sporadic glitches of radio static, enough to make you wonder whether the CD is working properly, but soon these glitches multiply, unify and coalesce into an FM swoop across the dial – taking in a sample of the World’s Famous Supreme Team (from Duck Rock) to remind us where this all started – which is eerily reminiscent of the radio scan which begins Searching For The Young Soul Rebels. Back then the wall against which Kevin Rowland was protesting was one filled with “Smoke On The Water,” military brass band music, “Holiday In The Sun” and “Rat Race.” There are the briefest of snatches of things like Magic FM and Radio 1, enough to underline the glaring difference between the efficient, unengaging professional radio operators and the passionate, chancing amateurs (Westwood even makes a cameo appearance – if it is him – advertising something called Sean B’s Erection Selection Volume One. If this latter CD actually exists can anyone with a copy get in touch with me urgento at marcellocarlin@hotmail.com ?). There are also horoscopes (Cancer and Aquarius are not at all suited, apparently, which I suppose make sense as my dad was a Cancerian and I’m an Aquarian), what may or may not be the hijacking of a station by escaped cons (complete with a wistful rap about the woes of imprisonment), a measured rant against “the Great Devil” (America) and how there are “holes appearing all over the country,” and why 9/11 was therefore justified, and lots of fractured extracts from various grime and hip hop 12-inchers (and don’t they sound so much more exciting in this context than in the rather bland blankness of a 12-inch single?).

The second section is necessarily grimmer, as it focuses on phone-in programmes where various agonising issues are discussed. The major controversy within this CD-R comes, I guess, with the extract where a chap enthusiastically exclaims, vis-à-vis gays: “As soon as we find out which closet they’re in, we’re gonna set the closet alight!” and the discussions then divert into waters which wouldn’t be out of place on late-night, ultra-right wing TalkSport programmes, including some jeering at women in clubs who are only interested in chaps displaying the bling (whereas if an “ordinary brother” comes up to them, they will “run him down”) – kind of an unfortunate basic of human behaviour, unfortunately, and not limited to Thursday nights at the Brixton Fridge, either. Still it must have been this sequence which caused Resonance to get Arts Council-inspired cold feet (they won’t give us another grant!). A shame because it is simply being documented rather than agreed with, and to pretend that this sort of thinking doesn’t exist is, in the most literal sense of the word, whitewashing – contrast with the preposterous Eric Clapton in the new Uncut, sober but still agreeing with his beloved Enoch about those irritating immigrants (remember that quote from Presley: “The only things that coloured people are good for are writing my songs and shining my shoes”? If not, well, there it is).

However, it’s the third section which really pierced my heart; here we are presented with a vintage selection of cut-ups from the golden age of the early ‘90s, just as Acieed was about to evolve into Happy Hardcore. This really made me feel as melancholy as Alistair Cooke or even Ian MacDonald about What We’ve Lost; instead of the jagged, who-you-staring-at, vicious beats, here were speeded-up voices, ecstatic pianos, all treble or speaker-shattering bass; adverts for club night at 3rd Base, forgotten names like Richie Rich, Paul “Trouble” Anderson, Colin Faver and Steve Jervier, HAPPINESS…

…and then, as the beats start to fracture and stiffen up, a DJ cheerfully comments: “Is Hardcore FM turning punk rock? I think so!” and we hear the transition into what would eventually become drum n’ bass, and everything which would evolve from the latter. It’s a poignant memory of times which were good for both of us. I got very emotional listening to it.

The final section is a straightforward mash-up of “Work It” and various other semi-recognisables. As the radio static builds up towards the section’s climax, and the DJ/MC howls enthusiastically, it’s as if hope had been plucked from the jaws of nihilism. It’s as if to say, no matter how hard or how often you try to push us down, you can’t destroy our love. Get this record from Resonance FM before the vision changes, before the focus twists.

(Many thanks to the Woebot man for kindly burning a copy of this for me)

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