Apr 2, 2013

Stupefied: The Hugo Burnham Playlist

Hugo Burnham & daughter. (Source)
Early on: Gang of Four
This week I'm completely honored to present the Stupefied playlist of one of my favorite drummers of the post punk era, Mr. Hugo Burnham of the Gang of Four. That's the original line up, kids...the classic stuff, and a real experience if you ever got to see them live. Hugo has taken the time to write up some amazing memories to go along with the list, so have a read. They include not only memories of growing up in the UK & playing in the Go4, but also his later careers - moving to the US, becoming a fancy A&R man for some record labels, and later still, becoming a fancy college professor.  This is a true life soundtrack.

Where we find him all of these years later? Teaching at New England Institute of Art in Boston, and at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. Drummer, A&R man, father, teacher...who knows what's next? A BIG thank you to Hugo!

Take it away, Hugo:

In no particular order. Well…a little bit.

01. ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’ - The Buzzcocks
The Buzzcocks were very good to Gang of Four – they took us on their first big tour of the UK, then Europe, and finally our first (pre Warner Bros. Records deal) US tour in the summer of 1979 was anchored by 6 shows with them – including a show at Santa Monica Civic Hall. Alright…David Bowie’s best bootleg was done there…magic! And a couple of Runaways hung out backstage with us. Funny times. This song’s awesome drumbeat by the equally awesome John Maher was what I borrowed and based ‘Guns Before Butter’ on. Another Premier drummer.

02. ‘Re-Make/Re-Model’ - Bryan Ferry
I saw Roxy Music a lot early on – best time was skiving off school for an afternoon and driving
up to Chatham (in Kent) to see them. We got there early and were waiting outside the old cinema where the show was. An old Ford Transit van pulled up…but no – it was a spaceship! It had to be…these five fucking aliens got out of it – the hair, the clothes, THE SHOES!!! They said “alright?”, We said “yeah!”. In they went. Our jaws were on the floor. We had booked them to play at our High School, but the day before we were supposed to go up to London and sign the deal with their agent, they were on Disco Two, BBC2’s late night TV rock show – that was the pre-cursor of ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’. Blew my mind, and a bunch of others, too, apparently. They also blew our previously-accepted offer of £200 off. They were suddenly £400 or £500. Damn it. Oh well, I think we ended up with Ducks Deluxe, instead. Not so bad. I chose this version because I loved the first three Ferry solo albums (like Roxy – first three were the best)…all covers, and his versions of his own Roxy songs were very cool. A nice change.

03. ‘Run Through The Jungle’- Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence was the first (and second) band I ever saw live. First time was with my Dad and my brother, Jolyon at the Royal Albert Hall. A few months later, they were back…as a 3-piece, and I went on my own. I was right down at the lip of the stage. Got one of Doug Clifford’s drum sticks…which was not that hard – he was set up pretty much at the front of the stage, no drum riser. Woohoo! First song that I realized was an anti-Viet Nam War song. I had all their albums. They made me think that Berklee was in the Deep South…a town in some swampy bayou. Oops.

04. ‘Monkey Spanner’- Dave & Ansel Collins
I wasn’t exactly a skinhead at school…too bloody Middle Class, and I preferred rugby to football; but anything on Trojan Records was the dog’s bollocks, and this was a top records by Dave & Ansell Collins; I had a lot of Trojan’s ‘Tighten Up’ and ‘Reggae Chartbuster’ albums in between the Stones, Creedence, Zeppelin, Small Faces, Who, Motown Chartbusters and Island Samplers. America needs to hear this stuff. More. Often. Loud. Chris Blackwell’s Island Records (a big element of my musical education) helped get the label off the ground in the UK.

05. ‘Drive In Saturday’- David Bowie
Everybody always talks about and plays stuff from Ziggy, but this album came out in a thick haze of Bowie-world that some of us were deep within at the time. I saw him early 1972 at The Rainbow just after it came out. Changed my life. Went to the madness that was the Aladdin Sane show at Earls Court…dressed right up – and had the lightning strike across my face. It was so 1979 was so packed up at the front that I was standing on the back of the front row of un-secured chairs…that couldn’t fall over because of the pressure of all the bodies. Insane Lads (and Lasses) we all were. Leee Black Childers was running back and forth in the pit taking pictures of us all…giggling uncontrollably. God, being 16 was fun. My mate Dick Key (who was a complete Bowie-clone) and I used to go up to London all the time for shows – Bowie, Ronson/Hunter, Mott, Elton John, Alex Harvey…we met and hung out with these cool Ziggy girls from Brixton, before we headed back down to the country on the 4:00am Milk Train. Years later, and I’ve realized one of them was Rhoda Dakar from The Specials.

06. ‘Great Life’- Goatboy
I have just always loved this song by GoatBoy…even when I heard it recently on a Kia commercial. This is not Jim Breuer, and there have been a couple of other Goat Boy bands. I was talking to them when I was doing A&R…but the time and details of it have all faded into the mists, dammit. This song has always gone hand in hand for me with Citizen King’s ‘Better Days’. I guess I should have included that in the list. So, 21 songs? They were great, too…I tried really hard to sign them when I was in LA, at EMI Music. Failed, but I think I marginally helped them get their deal with Warner Bros. Records. They all came to a party at my house the night they signed that deal. Good people, good manager – Jeff Castelaz, in his first management gig – well, the band came from the ashes of Wild Kingdom, whom he managed. So many wankers you meet along the way…but not them.

07. ‘Barabajagal’- Donovan
Donovan’s best song, and he had a few. When I was living in LA, I had this fairly long-running fantasy that Dave Allen and I would get together again and do a ‘Gang of Two’ album, with a bunch of different musicians and singers…which, of course, went nowhere – except for us playing on Michael Been’s solo album together. God, I miss Michael – one of the loveliest people I have ever, ever met and worked with. Anyway, the one person I almost got to commit was Michael Hutchence (Jesus, him too; I should have put ‘Miss You’ in this list. 22 songs). I played him this song and he was dead into the idea. I’d been friends with him for years, starting when I was managing Shriekback, and they took us to tour Australia with them. We’d often get together when he visited New York when I lived there, and then later when I was in LA. My friend Bruce Patron was their tour manager, and we spent a lot of time messing about. Went to Dallas for the week-end with Kathy Watson, who I’d known from Island Records and who was working for INXS when they played Cowboy Stadium… Guns’n’Roses opened for them. Lots of mad fun. Anyway, we should have done it. He loved G4, and I told him he should work with Andy Gill some day. And now he’s the one everybody associates with Michael. That album they did together was really good. God, wish I’d had a couple of points on that one. ANYWAY – fab’n’funky stuff from a bunch of ‘60s English pop stars…Jeff Beck on guitar, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and I think Ronnie Wood, too.

08. ‘Black Skinned Blue Eyed Boys’- The Equals
The Equals….more British reggae muscle – not Jamaican-sylee, but very English – an awesome multi-racial band led by Eddie Grant (yes, that Eddie Grant). It was this one, ‘Baby Come Back’, or ‘Viva Bobby Joe’…all equally great. Should have let me pick 24 songs!

09. ‘Wishing Well’- Free
Free. Yes. SO much better than bad Company…and so much more than just the one solitary song 99.9% of Americans have ever heard (‘Alright Now’). They defined sparse English Blues Rock – the space around the sounds was almost Dub-like, sometimes…they were so damn young when they recorded their first album – for Island Records, of course. Andy Fraser was still only 18 when they did ‘Fire & Water’ (their 3rd - the ‘Alright Now’ album). I saw them live at The Royal Albert Hall, too…just after Paul Kossoff had re-joined the band, even though he was still high. THIS song has never been mastered quite right, but I love it. They were a huge influence on Go4…’Armalite Rifle’, anyone?!

10. ‘Sapsticus Autisticus’- Ian Dury
Ian Dury (not Drury, for god’s sake) – what a chap. There is a 2010 autobiographical movie about him called ‘Sex’n’Drugs’n’Rock’n’Roll’, which is quite wonderful. Andy Serkis (Gollum – all the Ring movies, Caesar - Rise of The Planet of The Apes, Martin Hannett – 24 Hour Party people, and a load of other brilliant roles) plays him to a tee. My brother tour-managed Ian for a year or so…he said it was a spot-on performance, so take it from the ‘Orses’ Marf, as it were. Dury was a Music Hall Master Magician as a performer, and a poet…his lyrics alone are golden. Anyway – the whole BBC and Spastics Society charity banning it and fucking Ian over because they said it was “offensive” saga was well-documented in the movie. He wrote it for the International Year Of Disabled People. Nobody heard any disabled people calling it offensive. Bloody BBC – banning people over lyrics – ridiculous, right? “I AM SPASTICUS!!”

11. ‘Broken English’- Marianne Faithfull
What label was this on? Oh, look…Island Records! I worked with them when I managed Shriekback, and then a couple of years later, when I first moved to the States, I got an A&R gig there. It was a fantastic time. Although, I never really got the chance to look Chris Blackwell in the eye and thank him for so, so many records that made me who I was and am; despite our numerous meetings. I was a little scared of him, frankly. Anyway – Marianne. Not much more to be said, is there? Had lunch with her a couple of times. Very exciting…but I think I played it relatively cool. Her musical director Barry Reynolds was a dear chap – English, of course…but not really broken. But, as a life-long musician…probably ‘broke’ most of the time. What a deeply, deeply sexy record. All of it.

12. ‘Me And Mrs. Jones’- Billy Paul
I was a Philly soul fan before I knew it. Gorgeous production, gorgeous voice, and that snare sound! Damn. This one, and that drum break in Toots and The Maytals’ ‘Funky Kingston’….Murdah! (25 songs). Deep pain in the man’s voice…and I don’t mean Bloody Michael Buble, either. Billy Paul, Baby. AND…Gamble & Huff. Yup. Have you seen the list of songs they wrote and/or produced? It’d take you all day just to read it. How do two people have that much magic inside them?!

13. ‘Dat’- Pluto Shervington
Yup….Pluto Shervington. Reggae, reggae, reggae. School days. Took me years to work out even 50% of the lyrics to this one; let alone his even more indecipherable ‘Ram Goat Liver’. Damn…it really should have been 26 songs total. Yes? No?

14. ‘Boops’- Sly & Robbie
Yup. Island Records. Sly & Robbie. Muscle. ‘Nuf said, Rasta. G4 got a Mojo Award (Lifetime
Inspiration, or something – very exciting, very honoured) in 2005, the same year they did. Our assholic management company were obviously just there at the Dinner Awards for the hang…my (dear, brilliant, ex-publicist) wife said, ‘They should get some pics of you and Dave together with Sly & Robbie’. They didn’t get us into any pictures with any bastard there that night. What a Waste.

15. ‘Telegram Sam’ - T. Rex
T. Rex, Slade, Roxy (early years), The Sweet….so many great bands that never got further than Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco in Hollywood, or just one hit single in the US – that defined what it was to be into music in the couple of years before, during and after 1972. Did I already say how great it was to be 16 back then? And a few years later; Dr. Feelgood, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Madness, and on, and on. Anyway – Marc Bolan. Genius…with his cork-screw hair.

16. ‘Four Enclosed Walls’ - Public Image Ltd.
Love this. John. Martin Atkins. A Mickey Mouse watch. Punching right through the wall. (Actually all four of them.)

17. ‘Monkey Man’- Rolling Stones
Charlie is My Darling…and I stole this drum riff to base almost my whole drumming style on. Just listen. This album was the best…anyone who argues the point is wrong. OK? Sexy, Dark, and Dangerous. Third album I ever owned. Still got it…but I lost the damn poster.

18. ‘Itchycoo Park’- The Small Faces
Steve Marriott. That is all.

19. 'Midnight Moses' - The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was pure hard rock, and pure music hall theatre. I have lost count of the times I went to see them. It was a tough crowd, not many girls. I went to the Southend Kursaal Ballroom one time...man, the aggro in the air was intense. I had a black'n'white striped jersey on, and a tailcoat. God alone knows why I didn't get decked at least twice. I think I always managed to look harder than I was. Lucky me.

In subsequent years, I have discovered a lot of friends and people I worked with loved them just as much. I signed a band with Big Paul Ferguson from Killing Joke and John Carruthers (Clock DVA and The Banshees) when I was at Island Records - we discovered our mutual SAHB-love halfway through making their record. Derwood (Gen X and Westworld), too. We were all in the same clubs and theatres, reaching out from the stalls to "Let me put my hands on you..." The riffage was amazing - Faith Healer and Midnight Moses. I managed and produced a band from Boston in 2000, called C60 - hard rock boys, cool black singer. I pushed and pushed them to do Midnight Moses, but they just didn't get it. Fools. It was right up their alley. (Just like I BEGGED Shriekback  to do 'We Love You' by the Stones. They didn't, either. FOOLS!) Bloody musicians, they never listen....I hate 'em all.

20. ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’- The Temptations
At the beginning of the first class every semester I teach ‘Survey of The Music Business’, I play this song. Then I ask them why they want to be in the music business. Then I ask them if they know what that song was. Who sang it? Who produced it? Do they ever think they can make something sound like that? What song do they have that brings an instant shiver to their souls, that makes them stop everything the moment it starts playing? If they can’t name one pretty quickly, I ask them why are they even here in this class? Don’t they live, eat and breathe music? I say that if they really do want to spend more than 15 minutes and make more than $15 in the industry…even now…that they had better know the answers to those questions, they had better know their history, and who they aspire to even get close to being like, or sounding like. This is one of mine. I play this one loud when I’m alone. Things go dark around me. I’m under water. I’m in another place. Every time. Still.

That was 20...Cheers, Dears!

1 comment:

Some Other Guy said...

brilliant list Hugo

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