I would like to talk to you about exciting music. Around 1995 I went into a cd store in Sydney, behind the Metro theatre in George street. It was a tiny little store and is still there but back then it was a portal to another dimension. The shop was pretty much a hip hop exclusive joint so it operated by all the rules of that audience. There were no rock posters or flyers anywhere of course and there were usually a few young fellows doing their best impression of "hanging out" by the counter . Nobody looked like they were working. It was like being in a giant jukebox and you had to hang on and listen and look. (I'd once seen the same kind of scene at Hound Dogs Bop Shop in Melbourne, with geezers who were probably this crews parents).
It was a great time. Mainly , for me, because of the Wu Tang Clan and their ever expanding universe. They were, as the poet said ( dunno who) a palace within a labyrinth. Sometime in the early 90s they had dropped their first album, " enter the 36th chamber" which contained their threat/promise/dare , " the wu tang clan ain't nuttin' to fuck with!". They were a real clan. An old fashioned mysterious clique who had the strange aura of a 1930s radio serial about them. They were shrouded in smoke and mirrors and mystery.Here is a list of characters for you. I know very few of them . Aside from the basic (?) crew of the RZA, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, GZA, Raekwon, ODB, Capadonna etc…who knows ? ( Live reviews of the Wu were mostly discussions of who was actually there and who they were supposed to be and who the new guys could be )
Like a lot of people, I’d been keeping an ear open to hp hop since it broke onto the mainstream. I’d loved Schooly D from Philadelphia who pretty much invented Gangster rap in 1985 with “PSK what does it mean” and the incredible "saturday night”. (“It was saturday nite an’ I was feelin kinda sporty”) I was late on the Wu scene however , which made it even better for me. It was like an endless trail that led into the past and into the future and it looked like it was impossible to pick up the thread. ( It was kind of like getting into a story halfway through and nobody was there to guide you. Fans of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its even better offshoot “Angel” would know the feeling of trying to explain that shows allure and joyous mystique to unbelievers). I used to trade tapes with David McComb with the latest hip hop or dance r&b sounds we liked . Nobody else we knew was interested. I still have one with Urge Overkills "Saturation" on one side and Nas' "It was written" on the other. I had, over the previous year or so, picked up my way towards the colossal tower that was the Wu Tang Clans house of mystery by getting into the solo albums of each of the individual members. See, the Clan arrived fully formed onto the scene and then exploded right in the middle of the mainstream with each member releasing solo albums on different labels. It was a play that had only been tried before by George Clinton and his Funkadelic / Parliament crew. They were writing their own story, not living out the myth as set out by the texts of a cold and dry wanking music business. It was thrilling to watch.
I'd got a record called Genius/GZA- Liquid Swords. I didn't know what was the name of the album and what was the artist. Likewise I got Ghostface Killah/Ironman. The latter was full of references to the comic book character with his alter ego / real life identity, Tony Stark. The Wu always led you down these dark alleys where more was revealed and even more was hidden. You had to keep going. There was little talk of ho's and bitches but a lot of shaolin imagery and snippets of dialogue from strange action films. Anyway, they dropped their first album and then they all dropped their solo discs. It was one of those things, like a great bank heist. You watched it all fall into place , even though city hall had it locked up so tight it looked impregnable. They just summoned up their own momentum. Like a wind from nowhere. And the greatest scam was that the roughest and most black and most damaging of them all, Ol' Dirty Bastard, suddenly appeared on a tv set nearby duetting with Mariah Carey! It all happened that quickly. ( I heard recently that ODB had clued his record company in with his grand plans , which included the album cover with welfare food card and the duet with Mariah and the undeniable truth of his character…and it all fell into place. The only problem being that , in the meantime, he had discovered crack cocaine and then the court appearances and the prison sentence and the brilliant second album and his sudden death in a studio in 2007 happened. Thats what I mean by quick. Lightning quick. Like life itself, full of glimmering possibilities and sudden departures and slamming doors).
So, I went into the shop, looking for clues to all this mysterious activity, the Wu were yet to bring out their second album. (It dropped on July 4th 1997) . Tupac and the Notorious BIG were playing out their strangely pantomime duel/ gang war which actually / terribly/ crazily resulted in them both being shot dead. In real life. And Puff Daddy taking both their places with a tribute rap across "every breath you take" by the Police! What a hurricane it was that was blowing itself out! . Slick Rick was also in gaol . Tricky was fucking with everybodys mind in the UK . Over in the rock world, they were still coping with Kurt Cobains suicide. Oh, and all the Wu Tang Clan lived in their special compound on Staten Island and go to any outer suburban market and there will be stalls selling bootleg versions of their Wu Wear clothing line. They are ever elusive on their island eyrie but their reach extends everywhere! Cue ominous strings, a mad laugh and a voice booming, "What evil lies in the hearts of men? The Wu knows!"
All the cds in the shop had photocopied versions of the album covers in the cases. In the world of rap, nothing is ever discounted and the kids love to pay top dollar. (If they can't steal it) The funny thing was, I found a whole other world while I was on this case. It was a series of compilations of Latino hip hop called "Lowriders". On Thump Records . ("The Party Label!") Each disc featured a voluptuous model in an evening wear / video shoot bikini standing beside a hotted up lowrider car. The cover was emblazoned with warnings that it would blow any ordinary speaker up . There were about ten in the series. I picked one at random and I must say, that cd has never stopped giving. I have never heard music like it anywhere else. Funny samples of 80s sounding electro tracks with latin street hustlers rapping all over them. Weird names like "late night creepin" and "aztec funk" and "ground shakin' switches". The artists were fellows with tags like "Click the Super Latin" , "Lawless" and "the sleeze boys". Its is also the only rap cd I have heard that features a sample of Santana.
Of course, like a caravan in a fairgound in a horror movie; I have been back to that shop and it has never appeared so full of intrigue and promise. Never the same ambience. And I have never seen any of the other volumes of "lowriders". They , and the world that I glimpsed so feverishly disappeared like snow.
That was a glimpse into a world of possibilities. A world that moves so fast. You see the televised Grammys and the black elite artists are there. They are dressed the best and have the most street glamour. They are gods. Yet they are treated as strange figures on the margins as opposed to the main attractions of the rock world. All the people I've mentioned would be seen as "old school". Jay Z carries himself like an olde worlde retiree from the footlights. He has bought the world and now toys with it in his own Xanadu like mansion like Hearst and his "rosebud". Outkast and the Neptunes are connected to other planets. People line up to be blessed by a Pharrel Williams hook or beat. It works every time. How can a modern day Fabian/Shaun Cassidy like Justin Timberlake fail with Pharell on his side?
Meanwhile, in the world of rock, young artistes argue angrily in the pages of papers , outbidding each other on how much more they love AC/DC than that last rock band who was talking. And the sad ones whisper about Leonard Cohen or Neil Young. And they all love the Beatles. Especially Paul. (The most radical especially love his last album) . Because there is only old school in rock music. Like Bob Seger said, "Rock'n'roll never forgets". Radio tunes it all smoothly. Punk rock was an abberation. We recently had a very successful Prime Minister who has said he is "optimistic about the past" . And the culture struggles to breathe in this gelatinous miasma.
I sometimes pick up hip hop compilations and , the ones that broke through to the mainstream, (Tone Loc, Redhead Kingpin, Young MC, De La Soul), are so engineered for sensation and immediate hooks that you could hang off for days that they launch out from the cd covers at you. In some ways they're so familiar I have no feel for them. In other ways, I sometimes pull out a rap cd that I've had for years and it always reveals something to me that I just couldn't catch at the time . I was off key or too slow or not ready. I love that duality , that combination of audacious, brazen nowness and look out tomorrow as well that they bring to the grooves. They were all trying to land bang in the middle of things, but bringing the noise as well. I could recommend many disc of course but some state of the art 90s epics of studio magic and tv news sensation would have to be Tupacs "All Eyez on me" (double disc, too many intimations of death to be true .Never stops giving) and " Voodoo" or “brown sugar” by D'Angelo. ( That disc still drips something out every time I slip it in the player.)
My favourite antihero of rap would have to be Kool Keith under the guise of Dr Dooom. His music is creepy and synth based (no samples) yet full of hooks and his mad tirades against the world at large and especially the world of music are great.
Then there is the incredible fluid schemes that make up more recent rap. And this stuff is incredibly successful and POPULAR. The last two albums by NAS being amazing works by a socially conscious musician and the playful , stoopid scenarios dreamed up by Lil Wayne from new Orleans. The latter being influenced by both his native city and the local taste for “Purple Drank”. Liquid Codeine mixed with Sprite.
Dave Graney, Knock Yourself Out , old school weirdness est 1978
- dave graney
- WORKSHY - 2017 memoir out on Affirm Press. Let's get Tight - 2017 CD with Clare Moore. Moodists - Coral Snakes - mistLY. I don’t know what I am and don’t want to know any more than I already know. I aspire, in my music , to 40s B Movie (voice and presence) and wish I could play guitar like Charlie Christian or Grant Green -but not in this lifetime, I know.
2014 solo album from Dave Graney. *****"If I've learnt anything in my years of writing about music it's that if you are going to do anything of worth in this tough game, you better have your own thing. Today's generic is easily replaced by tomorrow's. And yet you need to be flexible, to follow wherever the songs demand. In the case of this, only the second credited as a solo album among 30 or so Graney releases, it's a curious yet welcoming lane he walks you down, with acoustic guitars, not much percussion, vibes, smooth sounds. At the end of it you feel like you've awoken from a strange yet pleasant summer's dream. As shot by Luis Bunuel. It ranges from off-kilter reveries (A Woman Skinnies Up a Man, The Old Docklands Wheel) through to the softly seductive (How Can You Get Out of London) and the downright arch (Look Into My Shades, Everything Is Great In The Beginning.) This is music that is neither folk, nor blues, nor country, but it's all Graney, somewhere out to the left field beyond Lee Hazlewood's raised eyebrow. It's astringent on the tongue but sweetens in the telling." Noel Mengel Brisbane Courier Mail
you've been in my mind
June 2012 super high energy pop rock album - blazing electric 12 strings - total 70s rock drive. Greatest yet! available via paypal - $20 pp
SUPERMODIFIED - August 2010 remixed/re-sung/re-strung//remastered/replayed comp via PAYPAL
also available as a digital album
Knock yourself (2009)-first ever dg solo set-filthy electro r&b-available via Paypal- $20
available as a digital album too
We Wuz Curious (2008)-blazing R&B jazz pop album available via paypal-$20
UNAVAILABLE-COMPLETELY SOLD OUT!!!
AVAILABLE AS A DIGITAL album
Hashish and Liquor (2005 double disc by Dave Graney and Clare Moore) available via Paypal $25
UNAVAILABLE-COMPLETELY SOLD OUT!!!
Single album HASHISH available as a digital release