My Pop Life #15 : Original Nuttah – Shy FX & Apache Indian

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Original Nuttah   –   Shy FX & Apache Indian

…rude boys inna London…bad boys inna Inglan….

After three years of living in West Hollywood the work dried up.  I’d done 2 movies : Undercover Blues, and Wayne’s World 2 ;  scored the best review of my life in the Los Angeles Times, to no effect;  been up for every film they were making in 1994 – an average of three auditions per week – and done precisely zero. A whole year without work, save for one BBC show in glorious Italy.  The parts I’d been up for were taken by Kevin Spacey (Seven, The Usual Suspects),  Dennis Hopper (Speed, True Romance) and Christopher Walken (True Romance, Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead) among others.  Glass ceiling.  Head bumping.  Break On Through To The Other Side.   Maybe we should have stuck it out, but a) we had no money left and b) Jenny hated LA.


We did an epic desert drive to Salt Lake City via Monument Valley and back through Death Valley in my 2-door Lincoln Continental being the ultimate posing ponces on a road trip to our jewish friends in the book of Mormon  and then Jenny went back to London and I spent the last month there writing a screenplay in a ferocious rage.  One of my last missions in California  was to my agency on Wilshire Boulevard – Susan Smith & Associates – to tell her that I was no longer interested in doing any meetings or auditions.  “Well”  she said, eyeing me up, “It’ll be very difficult for me to find you any work then.”  I smiled.  “Good”  I said.  “I have no interest in working.”   May her soul rest in peace.   I flew back to London after giving the car away and had a similar meeting with Michael Foster, my English agent.  Fuck acting I thought, what a fucking useless fucking waste of time, I should have done part 2 of the Legal Exam and I’d be a successful barrister by now instead of which I’m a sad unemployed failure of a git.  I missed LA but had a whole social life back in London to plunge back into.   I remember we started looking for somewhere else to live around this time.   Crouch End and Highgate where we were living by the suicide bridge on Archway Road.  You couldn’t get much bang for your buck even then.  Musically Britpop wasn’t really doing it for me, although I liked Suede and Supergrass.  I’d got disillusioned by the appropriation of the hip hop scene in the US by gangsta rap and turned off the whole thing.  Then I heard this song while out driving one day in North London.  WOW.  Like a breath of fresh air.  I’d missed out on a whole new subscene whilst living in California.  Jungle.  LTJ Bukem had released Logical Progression in 1991 just before we’d left for LA, it was called drum and bass – and Roni Size and Reprazent were a whole two years away – and this song Original Nuttah sounded completely mental, but homegrown mental.

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I loved the introduction in patois and cockney, the manically fast electronic drum machine, the similarly deranged stuttering delivery but mainly I think, I loved the fierce energy of England as a mixed-up melting pot of youth cultures which clashed together into this new music.  UK hip hop had a brief surge in the late 80s which I’d been deeply involved in and written a hip hop musical called Sanctuary but it felt that the scene had come to very little – probably Monie Love being the peak flow – top of a small pile which included The Cookie Crew, London Possee and MC Duke, Asher D, The Ruthless Rap Assassins and Demon Boyz.  Maybe it was just me that had moved away.  One difficulty was that somehow the british accent wasn’t acceptable in a rap – Jamaican was OK, british not.   It was a cultural lack of confidence – hip hop was American, but an English kid rapping in an American accent seemed way more problematic than an English pop star singing in one.  I’d had a similar train-wreck with my 2nd rap piece “The House That Crack Built” which was commissioned by the BBC and never made – was it English culture or American ?  Loads of my favourite singers deliberately sang British – Bowie, Ferry, Suggs, Ian Dury – but rapping in a British voice just wasn’t catching on.  It would be another seven years before Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Kano bust open the local accent as grime artists, underground east London drum and bass mixed with UK garage.  There are so many names and sub-genres around this period (early 2000s) that I get lost – but in 1995, jungle was IT, and this was the tune that showed its fin above the waterline, underground music surfacing on the pirate radio for a brief period.  It made me feel proud to be British again, and a little happier to be back in the smoke. Shy FX later worked with Dizzee and many others, while the singular vocals on this track are from Birmingham MC Apache Indian a British Indian ragamuffin bhangra artist who specialised in toasting in west indian, english and indian and had an influential LP out called “No Reservations”.  This was the England I’d missed without even realising it – the mix-up, the cultural smashing of the empire striking back.  Quite a relief after vanilla LA and all that shady sunshine, and radio stations that only play one genre of music.  This is what we do best.  Mash it up man !

My Pop Life #2 : International Feel – Todd Rundgren

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International Feel / Never Never Land   –   Todd Rundgren

…there’s always more…

I’d never heard of Todd until I got to London aged 19 – it was 1976 – and started at The London School Of Economics – the LSE, reading Law.   I  quickly fell in with the music lovers & dope smokers who hovered around the ENTS office, next to the college newspaper Beaver.   Bands were booked from here, LPs played, regulars included extreme groover Andy Cornwell, Tony Roose & Pete Thomas and Nigel.   Nigel hadn’t cut his extremely long hair for at least five years, and he loved Todd Rundgren.   After a stoned listen in the Vauxhall flat he shared with similarly long-haired Anton one night, so did I.  Glittering pop jewels, soul vocals, heavy guitar, ballads, rockers, curios, often all instruments played by Todd, it was all fantastically impressive.   When Todd and his band Utopia came to The Venue in Victoria  a few years later I went to see him six nights in a row.  The resulting live LP Back To The Bars is a compendium of his best and most ambitious tunes – but this song isn’t there.

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I had to wait until 2010 when, in a pleasing circularity of multi-intrumental pop genius, Martin & Paul Steel and I made the Hammersmith Odeon pilgrimage from Sussex to see Todd playing his entire masterpiece the 1973 LP “A Wizard, A True Star” live with Utopia members, including the great Prairie Prince (from The Tubes) on drums.  He appeared to get into a different costume for each song, and this was a tremendous gig.  These are the opening two tracks.

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The second song Never Never Land is taken from the stage musical of Peter Pan with music by Julie Styne.

While filming Wayne’s World 2 in Los Angeles in 1994, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and I discovered a mutual love of Todd Rundgren, and Dana even gave me 3 CDs of his which I’d never heard – Nearly Human, 2nd Wind and Healing.  Dana had become a friend of Todd’s since both appeared on Saturday Night Live one night and reckoned he wouldn’t have any problem replacing them…which I thought was very sweet of him.