Friday, 16 April 2010

Don't Be Easy, Hot Cat

I've been reading lots of things about homemade compilation tapes, I guess Spotify has rekindled something in the hearts of those of us of such a bent. Everyone of a certain age did it of course and I'm not going to add to the romanticised hindsight of the analogue era. Yes, it was brilliant, yes we all had our own rules and I took it all very seriously (my top tip: start side one and side two first - build them up that way rather than going straight through one and two in order). You'd get lucky and there wouldn't be much of a tape click between songs, one day you could actually fit the whole track list on the original inlay - even occasionally spelling the name of it right on the label. Good days. I made loads and loads - for friends and for myself (I still have most of those) - usually just singles and key album tracks of the day compiled to play in the car (I'd even slave over that to make it perfect) or random collections to flaunt my own identity to whoever would listen. They ended up with names like 'Companion', 'Aeronaut', 'Floatation' and the more literal 'Luverly Choons From Essex Road N1'.

The greatest one I made was called 'Don't Be Easy, Hot Cat' - a very amateurish collection of funny lounge and up-tempo library music for my chums in the Laurent Toure Silky Lash Team to listen to driving to school / back from the pub / on the beach. Unusual in that it was themed and on a 60 minute TDK (a really nice one - selected especially). It was so popular among the chaps that eventually I had to run off about 10 copies and even 'reissued' it on CD with bonus tracks when the technology became available as a special treat on birthdays. These were the days before massive interest in this sort of music - TV themes and loungecore compilations had yet to cash in on the retro Loaded magazine / Italian Job / Ollie Reed / Are You Being Served market and it was quite hard to find, especially in Southampton HMV, still awash with Doop and Reel 2 Real. Hence some tracks were not the ideal versions - The Wedding Present doing 'U.F.O.' rather than the original, and some Walker Brothers, although these all came into their own over time. I was overjoyed that I eventually signed my band to Blow Up Records - the source of many of the trendsetting discs with their 'Exclusive Blend' series (we're talking 1994 - 1996 - very much hand in hand with the 'Southern' end of Britpop). With the help of 'The Sound Gallery' (Volume 1, on the EMI Premiere label) and 'House of Loungecore - The Easy Project (Volume 2, on the Sequel label) and some other stray Corduroy Acid Jazz b-sides the tape took shape effortlessly. With a short sleevenote of the type found in those library albums (Jason King would be turning in his leather jumpsuit) the collection was ready to be rolled out nationwide (in Eastleigh).

Who would have thought that Moog and windwind with double tracked drums would have sounded so contempory? Ok, I'll get nostalgic - John Schroeder's slowie 'Wana Nana Wana Nana' still reminds me of those hot days in Lorette De Mar, Keith Mansfield's timeless 'The Young Scene' of dancing at whatever dive it was played (I think the Club Hawaii stuck on the tape between Abba and The Prodigy a number of times, and maybe in the garden of the disused Hotel Eugenia across the road), the aforementioned 'U.F.O.' acting as get away music more than once, 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore' sitting in the glorious Mediterranean sunshine as we were facing the long trip back, 'Make It Easy On Yourself' walking from our bulletproof Daimler to the airport lounge (true story) suited and hatted, Roy Budd's epic 'The Car Chase' of driving into town on warm Saturdays with Little Chip. I even think we once played John Keating's unusual lounge reading of 'Jesus Christ Superstar' during some successful Euro '96 barbecues. Good days.

The arguably stronger but less successful follow up 'The Versatile Cornelius Lechenstein' is still to receive a CD reissue.