28 June 2011

It’s Madison time

When I say hit it, I want you to go two up and two back, with a big strong turn – and back to the Madison.

Hit it!

One of the biggest hits by the suave jazz-blues pianist Ray Bryant has had many revivals. ‘The Madison Time’ – an instructional dance tune – was already two years old when the Ray Bryant Combo recorded it in 1959, but his group’s cool, swinging version of it has proved irresistible.

In 1988 John Waters used it in his original film version of Hairspray, and since then Quentin Tarantino has referenced it in Pulp Fiction, and it is featured in a scene in The Go-Getter, a 2007 vehicle for Zooey Deschanel. Both scenes were tributes to yet another film, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1964 Bande a Part (Band of Outsiders). The famous dancing scene starring Anna Karina is stylish, although her technique is wooden, and the dance is not actually the Madison.

Godard later said of the Pulp Fiction tribute that he would have preferred Tarantino had just given him some money. We can’t blame Tarantino on the Madison’s influence on the robotic dance craze of the early 1990s, line dancing. ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ was as dumb as the movements it accompanied, but it has to be said the Madison was its forebear.

Bryant, who died earlier this month aged 79, had a piano style perfect for the cool jazz era of the late 1950s. As this Independent obituary notes, he wasn’t swayed by the frenetic bebop pianists of the period, instead he kept his roots in gospel and blues; among his mentors was the elegant Teddy Wilson. Here is the Ray Bryant Combo performing an instrumental version of ‘Madison Time’ in 1960. The lyrics – or rather, instructions – are here. Hit it!

27 June 2011

Collision on State Highway 1

Originally from SH1 forestry town Tokoroa, funk band Collision emigrated to Australia in 1976 and got a gig at Les Girls in Sydney's King's Cross district. In 1978 they recorded their only album - Collision - for the Infinity label in Sydney. The producer/engineer was Richard Batchens, house producer for Festival Records. Overlooking the production was Dalvanius Prime of 'Poi E' fame. Nick Bollinger's 100 Essential New Zealand Albums (Awa Press, 2009) revived interest in the album; he reports that Lionel Richie encouraged the group to move to New York, but that was a step too far.

Collision were Harry Morgan (vocals, sax), Ali Morgan (vocals, guitar), Charley Hikuroa (vocals, bass), Colin Henry (vocals, drums), Philip Whitcher (all keyboards) and Mike Booth (vocals, trumpet). These are the first three tracks of side one:

1. You Can Dance (A. Morgan)

2 You Give Me Love (Muggleton-Nobel)

3. Love Finds Its Own Way (Jim Weatherley)

24 June 2011

Minting new coin

Larkin libraryDid Philip Larkin ever worry about key performance indicators? In Britain, there are 4500 public libraries, and government budget cuts are likely to close 500 of them. In the Observer Magazine of 1 May 2011 (not online), Ian Stringer, a retired librarian in Barnsley, said:

“The council once asked us for an assessment of outcomes, not output. Output was how many books we’d stamped out, and outcome was something that had actually resulted from someone borrowing a book. So say someone took out a book on mending cars and then drove the car back, that’s an outcome; or made a batch of scones from a recipe book they had borrowed.

“It lasted until one of the librarians told the council they’d had someone in borrowing a book on suicide, but that they’d never brought it back. The council stopped asking after that.”

The headline above comes from Larkin: 

Library Ode

New eyes each year
Find old books here,
And new books,too,
Old eyes renew;
So youth and age
Like ink and page
In this house join,
Minting new coin.

Philip Larkin