15
Aug 11

KWS – “Please Don’t Go”/”Game Boy”

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#676, 9th May 1992

It’s hard to muster much love for “Please Don’t Go” – a barely adequate trot through a good song. “Begging” has never sounded so thoroughly rote. It’s a good example, though, of one of the nineties least-regarded, most revival-immune style, the generic dance cover version.

Dance music is notorious for its stylistic interbreeding, its rapid mutation: a music constantly in flux. Tracks like “Please Don’t Go” are what happens when dance stands still: the basic chassis of house music turned into a plastic mould that can be applied to any old song. From KWS to Mad House’s Madonna versions, any given 90s chart seemed to have a handful of these things in it. Pundits now complain about the effects of instant access to (almost) anything on popular culture, but let’s not forget that when people can remember something and not access it, the resulting gap doesn’t always produce productive mis-rememberings. It also produces cheap knock-offs. “Please Don’t Go” isn’t quite as deathly as the king of the dance cover version, Undercover’s formica take on “Baker Street”, but it’s never memorable. That this nullity got five weeks at the top says more about the immobile singles chart than any double-digit run.

A quick shout-out, though, to its notional double A-Side, the unremembered “Game Boy”, which is as near as we’re ever going to come to a hardcore track in Popular. As ‘ardkore goes, it’s poor, a collection of five years of weary dance tropes in search of even one good hook – Beltram-style hoover noises, house piano, cut-up vocal samples, a dubby bassline, none of them sticking around long enough to make an impact. It reminds me more of cover-mounted CD-Rs (“100 Banging Sounds”) on computer music mags than any kind of clubbing experience. But it’s there.

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  1. 126
    MarkG on 23 Aug 2011 #

    #117, there is a direct comment from Epstein in the “UpTight” book that their first album was the only music himself and his boyf had on holiday, so had happy memories of it.

    That’s a long way from ‘nearly signed them’, so yeah.

  2. 127
    AndyPandy on 23 Aug 2011 #

    125: – those “Streetsounds” covers really bring it all back – the ‘ghettoblaster’ one of the original series (I forgot they didn’t have numbers)was especially ubiquitous (Spring 1983 I think)and for my generation I don’t ever remember any other compilations with quite such an all-pervasive reach as Streetsounds/Streetsounds Electro and the early ‘Deep Heat’s.

    ‘Streetsounds’ featured the full 12 inch mixes and even used to include imports and exclusive mixes – I remember the mix of Tyrone Brunson’s electro classic ‘The Smurf’ (on the generic ‘Streetsounds’ as Electro hadn’t quite been launched then)being particularly raved about that summer. And the 12 inch of D-Train ‘s ‘Music’ if that isn’t the sound of loud music coming out of someone’s car stereo at the traffic-lights early on a sunny Saturday night in the summer of 1983 what is?

    And unlike some of the ‘Deep Heats’ they very rarely let themselves down with complete pisstake filler tracks.

  3. 128
    LondonLee on 23 Aug 2011 #

    I used to go to the Steve Walsh nights at the Lyceum on Saturdays too. Wasn’t Greg Edwards only there on Friday as part of Capitol’s ‘Best Disco In Town’ night?

    First time I ever saw anyone body-popping was there, two black kids doing it to ‘Planet Rock’ (first time I ever heard that too, what a night). Apart from that my biggest memory is the kids with their whistles, ‘Peckham Funk Patrol’ t-shirts, Farahs and Lois jeans, and everyone dancing in formation to ‘Jingo’ by Candido.

  4. 129
    AndyPandy on 23 Aug 2011 #

    re Lee at 128 he (Greg Edwards)probably was as his ‘Soul Spectrum’ (which along with Robbie Vincent’s Saturday midday show on Radio London were THE radio programmes back then)was on Capital. Steve Walsh* used to do “The Best Disco In Town” with him when they were both on Capital IIRC.

    Those Lyceum nights are just the nights I’m on about – different scene to the more suburban soul scene (although Greg Edwards was also an earlier (before my time) member of the Soul Mafia too) which was quicker to get into electro etc

    The ‘Planet Rock’ time would have also been about he time of ‘ET Boogie’ (massive all over the South East even in the mainstream nightclubs but only ever an import due to the name ‘ET’ being copyright or something), all those mixes of ‘Walking On Sunshine’ and Gwen McRae ‘Keep the Fires Burning’.

    And I remember the Candido ‘Jingo’ formation dancing too – once again everyone knew that track and it was played (and sort of conga’d to) EVERY night (even in mainstream clubs) – I don’t think I ever went to Tuesdays or Oceans in Wycombe, Sluffs/Blue Lagoon in Slough or Regals in Uxbridge when it wasn’t played! And that was for literally years but it never made the pop charts.

    *I wonder what would have happened to Steve Walsh if he hadn’t sadly died in 1988 – with his personality, musical knowledge, and streetwise attitude and the fact that when he had the accident in Ibiza he was there with Danny Rampling it seems quite possible that he’d have become on of THE djs as the summer of 1988 started in earnest.

  5. 130
    LondonLee on 23 Aug 2011 #

    I won a bottle of champagne off Steve Walsh there one night. He played a “mystery” record the crowd had to guess and the mate I was with knew it was a Johnnie Kidd & The Pirates b-side (of all things!) but didn’t want to go up on stage so I went and claimed the prize.

    Walsh was always doing odd shit like that, once he had a competition to find the ugliest girl in the Lyceum.

  6. 131
    hardtogethits on 23 Aug 2011 #

    Re #113 and sundry subsequent others, and the origin of “Hip Hop” in the UK pop lexicon.

    As you can imagine, I’ve been digging round – and as ever, I hope someone can flesh out what I’ve found with further facts.

    Firstly, I think you’re right AP about 1983′s “Hip Hop Be Bop” being the first time the phrase came to many people’s attention, standing as a phrase in the title of the song. But, at the risk of stating the obvious (is this a trap?) the title was repeating the phrase right at the beginning of “Rapper’s Delight”. I can’t trace “Hip Hop” back (to a relevant record) any earlier than that – and though part of me thinks there must be a more important precedent than that, ever since the record came out I’d rather thought that the opening lines of the rap would have emerged from improvisation, and playful, pointless reduplication. Even now, I think this is more likely than a conscious reference to the type of music, and as such I now wonder if “Hip Hop” as a term only works because of that record. Could’ve equally started “click clack” or “boom zoom.”, which may not have lasted. I’m loosely aware that the lyric of “Rapper’s Delight” may have complex origins, beyond that of the Sugarhill Gang’s recording, but I’d be interested to know if there are any earlier important recordings which a) mention “hip hop” and b) could broadly now be considered “hip hop”.

    Separately, I’d wanted to find when the term came into use to describe a genre in a way that wasn’t self-referential. I found a mini-article from Record Mirror in 1984 which begins “Ask Neil Tennant about hip hop and he’ll rap you into next week. ‘Everyone in London says it’s last year’s thing, but it’ll never go away,’ says Neil”. It describes the first release of West End Girls (May 1984) as “a slice of Hi-NRG with hip hop elements.”

    So, that’s interesting (IMVHO, obv). Any contributors who were in or around London in 1984 – do you recall rejecting Hip Hop as last year’s thing? And / or celebrating it in 1983?

    And can anyone trace any earlier UK references?

    And well done to Neil Tennant for his far-sightedness.

  7. 132
    Ed on 23 Aug 2011 #

    Fantastic spot! That’s a great quote from Tennant. I don’t quite remember hip-hop being written off, but I do remember all the hipsters I knew in 1984 being into “rare groove”, which did for 70s funk what Northern Soul did for 60s stompers.

    And I remember House being over in 1986, after that one-off novelty hit ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’. That was clearly never going to lead anywhere, was it?

  8. 133
    LondonLee on 24 Aug 2011 #

    The Face and, I think, the trendier corners of the NME, were pushing Go-Go as the next big thing for a while and as you know they can only concentrate on one black music genre at a time so Hip-Hop may have been a casualty of that.

  9. 134
    swanstep on 24 Aug 2011 #

    @hardtogethits. The movie Beat Street (1984) is surely a good marker here. It was a horrible film and felt every bit like a too-late cash-in. The lead single from that by Melle Mel, ‘Beat Street Breakdown’ is good but no White Lines or The Message, and it had some irksome coignings that felt forced or like marketing rather than any real slang, e.g., ‘All you hip hops get on up’. In sum, if you wanted to believe that hip hop was over in 1984, there were definitely some signs that that was so.

    At any rate, I remember (a) being able to pick up the Beat Street soundtrack album almost instantly for very little ($2.99 IIRC), (b) really liking it at that price (at which point I could easily ignore all its duff tracks), and (c) defending my affection especially for the Melle Mel against people who thought that that whole style of music and sub-culture was over.

  10. 135
    Erithian on 24 Aug 2011 #

    LondonLee #130 – was the Johnny Kidd and the Pirates B-side titled “Ecstasy” by any chance? (B-side of “Hungry For Love”, November ’63). I was thinking about that upthread when we were talking about words cropping up in unexpected times. ISTR Mari Wilson and the Wilsations doing a song called “Rave” in the early 80s too.

  11. 136
    punctum on 24 Aug 2011 #

    The first Run-DMC album came out in the autumn of ’84 so I knew it was far from over. As with other important records of that period in different genres, e.g. Zen Arcade, almost completely ignored by music press of the time for not having Soul, Passion, Honesty, Neil Kinnock and/or Westminster School pedigree.

  12. 137
    thefatgit on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Regarding Run-DMC’s debut album, Robert Christgau’s Consumer’s Guide comment is telling: “…easily the canniest and most formally sustained rap* album ever, a tour de force I trust will be studied by all manner of creative downtowners and racially enlightened Englishmen”

    * presumably as opposed to Hip Hop?

  13. 138
    Mark M on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Re 136: You mean in the way that the NME ‘ignored’ Zen Arcade via a glowing 500-word review when it was import-only?

  14. 139

    Troubled as the 1984 NME certianly was, in terms of its evolving direction, the annoying element Marcello cartoons as “Soul, Passion, Honesty, Neil Kinnock” surely wasn’t yet its primary flaw? Zen Arcade got an excellent review (Andy Gill); and this was more its batcave Goth phase as I recall. Caveats as usual for the view from inside the beast: least perspective of all.

  15. 140

    haha oops did Andy Gill re-review it then — or is my memory this flawed? Also: unfair to call Biba “batcave” Goth: he’s the REAL THING.

    My sense of the paper’s problems at this moment was lack of sustained focus, a lot of different sensibilities, some of them high-end — RDCook’s reviews pages were excellent, he went to Wire in mid-85 — all rather stumbling over one another: what Marcello’s describing was the subsequent over-compensation.

  16. 141
    AndyPandy on 24 Aug 2011 #

    131: “hip hop being over in 1984″ – it’s that usual thing of the ideas of a few hipsters in the media’s ideas being taken as what actually happened. And in reality often being about as wrong as possible.

    Even more annoying for non-hipster people from London as these scenesters often write things like “in London it was over” when it was no more over there for the vast majority of people than anywhere else.

    In this case 1984(along perhaps with some of 1983) was the highpoint of teenagers in shopping centres with their ghettoblasters, break-dance mats and electro tapes – so how could it be over?

  17. 142
    punctum on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Andy Gill reviewed Cupid And Psyche ’85 and hated it, wondering why Green was borrowing from (the quote went something like) “the most sterile and soulless form that black music has ever known.” Same as Gavin Martin dissed Music Madness by Mantronix in Nov ’86 saying that everyone should be made to listen to Aretha for half an hour every morning to teach themselves dignity and respect (subtext of both: stay slaves forever, we like you better that way).

    As for BK – “nobody gives a toss what they get up to in the dark and that’s their real problem”: review of Bronski Beat’s Age Of Consent, also in Sept ’84. I didn’t bother reading him too much after that so maybe that’s why I missed the Zen Arcade rave.

    Not so much Batcave Goth as Goth with a Master’s Degree, viz. Nick Cave, Foetus and what have you. Don Watson – where is he now (in best David Jacobs voice)?

  18. 143

    the central conundrum of pop cultural discussion — all along but i think very heightened in the early 80s in the uk — was finding a workable balance between “this is important because everyone’s buying/doing it” (which means “a lot of people” but never ever everyone) and “this is important because a far-sighted few are beginning to buy/do it”

    the debate at nme was — as much as anything — shaped by (i) the mod backgrounds of several of its writers, and (ii) a generational shift in the meaning and tastes of mod (the older mods not really in sync with the younger ones, tastewise): mods are hipster-scenesters par excellence, of course, and intensely given to declaring things “over” because they’ve got bored with them; but they’re also inclined to be hipster-scenesters who “make the scene”, as opposed to the more cautious writer-commentator, who observes and gathers info and artefacts

    watching al jazeera covering the battle of tripoli on sunday, you’d have seen the anxious need for journalists to be far more declarative about things being “over” than anyone has evidence for at that moment: the storyteller’s instinct is to tidy things up into a narrative with a beginning and an end (and this is what we pay them for, to be fair)

    then the historian has to come along after and correct everything that was wrong: not sure there’s ever be a way beyond this flawed sequence

  19. 144

    By 85/86 that cartoon tendency was absolutely in place, yes: but i don’t recall it had really got up speed in 84, which was in a way was closer to a botched dry run for where MM went subsequently… without the jazz or free improv of course

  20. 145

    worth noting perhaps also that gill/martin were not by 85 at ALL a decisive vanguard at the paper — AG resigned that year, when he didn’t get the job that went to Cosgrove — but something close to cranky professional rearguard fogeys explaining how it all used to be better when they were a lad… particularly disorientating from gavin, who is exactly my age and was barely out of his teens then

  21. 146
    punctum on 24 Aug 2011 #

    The irony being that the overegging of the Soul/Passion/Honesty pudding put a hell of a lot of people (Monitor folk most definitely included) off listening to James Brown, Aretha etc. for years and so the reported-as-it-happened history of where hip hop and R&B went next was distorted by this absence; although the abstractions of the mutating forms were still helpfully flagged up (Jam & Lewis, early Schoolly-D e.g.), the music’s context was gone/glossed over/ignored and thus the continued misunderstandings.

  22. 147
    LondonLee on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Re 135: Can’t remember the name of the Johnnie Kidd & The Pirates song but I’m fairly sure it was the b-side of ‘Shaking All Over’

    Suppose I could go and look that up but I prefer some things to remain a foggy memory.

  23. 148

    146 is absolutely true, though it very much underscores the monitor crowd’s parochial laziness as critics also — reacting ENTIRELY to/against the rhetoric of white folks of more or less their own class background, and damning vast reaches of the world’s music as a consequence

  24. 149
    thefatgit on 24 Aug 2011 #

    #146 I remember the Schoolly D issue of NME, adopting the “Yo-Boy” monicker to what was obviously gangster-influenced rap (we couldn’t know at the time, that Schoolly D was an originator of Gangsta Rap, but NME chose to over-simplify it or perhaps miss the point altogether). I can’t put my finger on who wrote that article, but he/she also coined the term “slur-rap”, for his style of delivery, again missing the point. If only the writer had looked further into what PSK actually meant.

    Of course, NME’s occasionally clumsy phraseology famously reaches a peak a little later with “sonic theft merchants”.

  25. 150

    i reviewed Schoolly D when he played in egham!

  26. 151
    Mark M on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Re 148: Indeed, early-ish Reynolds and Stubbs seem to be all about the epic battle of minds with… Pat Kane.

    149: I remember that issue, too, and think its wrongness was evident at the time, even for those of us who had been nowhere near the hip-hop heartlands.

  27. 152
    AndyPandy on 24 Aug 2011 #

    I only came into contact with the (rock) music press from the occasional copy I used to see left in the canteen (I was working in a supermarket at the time) at work by one of the blokes who used to work Saturdays and being me I’d glance through it (I’m sure it was the NME he used to get). This would have been the (early) mid 80s and being a fan of hiphop etc I would always I’d always be drawn to articles/reviews about that music – but invariably they’d always end up winding me up. As they seemed to end up seizing on some very mild fun teenage record along the lines of “Girls Ain’t Nothing but Trouble” (maybe not that exact record but in that area) and lambast it as the most unforgiveably sexist thing ever. I’d be thinking “why do they even bother?”.

    So yes I think they had a very dubious relationship with modern (post-about 1974!) black street music in general…

  28. 153
    Ed on 24 Aug 2011 #

    @151. Ah, but those were different times. You have to remember that in those days Pat Kane and people like him ruled the world, or at least the dominant discourse around British youth culture, which if you were a shallow pop-loving teenager amounted to the same thing. Stuart Cosgrove, for example, went on to be a big wheel at Channel 4, and some of the other fellow-travelers got into pretty influential positions. Certainly more than Reynolds and Stubbs did, anyway.

  29. 154

    “Pat Kane and people like him ruled the world, or at least the dominant discourse around British youth culture” <– this is total nonsense Ed.

  30. 155
    Mark M on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Re 141: I get that, but the feeling that if you blinked, a whole pop cultural moment could’ve come and gone was certainly for me part of the fun of being a teenager in London in the 1980s.

  31. 156
    Mark M on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Also, to the casual punter, I can see that it might have been possible in, say, the year and a half between White Lines and The Show, to imagine that we might be coming to the end of (non-comedy) rap.

  32. 157

    I’ve made this pont before more forcefully, but there wasn’t a pin-downable one-note “they” running any of the rock papers: the effect on the reader was a consequence of an aggregate of very different voices and sensibilities vying with one another, with factions moving in and out of influence all the time. There were individual writers at NME who were very good on what Andy’s calling “black street music post-74″ — but they weren’t necessarily dominant in any given week — and there were writers like Cosgrove who knew this stuff like the back of their hand, but often wrote about it in an offputtingly embattled and brittle way. (Cosgrove was the first editor to give me much of a break, so I’m always a bit conflicted by his writing: it was a strange mix of Burchillist style and left-academic polemic, generally in service of musics that neither of these would had much fondness for…) (He was a lot older than most of us, also, a determined and highly intelligent 70s scotnat soulboy).

    And he wasn’t a contributor in 84: he wrote for Black Echoes mainly then, and maybe Blues & Soul.

  33. 158
    Ed on 24 Aug 2011 #

    @154 Maybe. But for me as an NME-reading , Tube and TOTP-watching teenager, it felt that way. What was the year ‘What’s Going On’ was the NME’s official Greatest Album of All Time? 1985?

    And Pat Kane was a proper pop star, too, which made him seem like a much more important figure.

  34. 159

    Pat Kane did not make “What’s Going On”, Ed.

  35. 160
    thefatgit on 24 Aug 2011 #

    For an awful minute there I thought he was talking about Pat Sharp!

  36. 161

    he did rule the world

  37. 162
    punctum on 24 Aug 2011 #

    I pretty much gave up on the NME the same time Mark S did and I remember absentmindedly leafing through a copy in WH Smith about six months later and they were having a go at Ciccone Youth for giving their album a racist name (The Whitey Album) so no real change there, yet.

  38. 163
    MarkG on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Well, I ‘gave up’ as opposed to ‘gave up on’ the NME the week they gave the free Coldplay single. (That’s not why)…

    .. more because it really had nothing to say apart from “here’s a new band, they admit they’re not doing anything new but HEY THEY ARE FAB!”..

    Latterly, a change in editorship and style (not being afraid of anything recorded before “Nevermind” anymore helps) renders it readable once again, and I might get one once in a long while or so.

    “Renders it readable” ha, unlike my prose style, but hey I don’t get paid so hey.

  39. 164
    Tom on 24 Aug 2011 #

    I started buying it a bit after you and Mark gave up and there was plenty of cognitive dissonance going on – their review of Straight Outta Compton just ended up throwing up its hands and saying, look, this is a 10 but we can’t give it that (6).

    (Hello Popular people! I’m on holiday in France but I’ve just done the Erasure entry.)

  40. 165
    Tom on 24 Aug 2011 #

    #163 I think generally the NME is in a better place now than for a decade or so (not saying much at all) – the sheer number of Mojo-esque covers these days floors me a bit though.

  41. 166
    MarkG on 24 Aug 2011 #

    And yet, the circulation figures seem to suggest it’s only a matter of time…

  42. 167
    AndyPandy on 24 Aug 2011 #

    166: I read somewhere that they are the lowest figures since it was founded (below 30,000) – surely that isn’t sustainable as a mass magazine?

  43. 168

    Same problem right across print journalism though, if that’s counter-sales? I wouldn’t expect NME to be immune, but arguably — as a “cross-media platform” or whatever they’re called — it’s in a better position
    than publications that don’t come with a radio station attached.

    Last copy I read had D.Bowie on the cover, a fact I can’t quite parse even now (it was last year). It couldn’t be less like the mag I wrote for, but that was 25 years ago and vanishing under me.

  44. 169
    MarkG on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Maybe I’m a dull traditionalist, but the one thing I liked about it when I started reading it (Faces flexi – Dishevelment blues), was that it was a newspaper, i.e. printed on cheap newsprint like The Times, seemed to suggest that the stories and reviews had importance.

    Now, of course, it is heavily picture-bound, and like any other magazine.

  45. 170
    Mark M on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Re 166/7/8: Yes, the ABC figures are terrible (almost everyone’s ABC figures were terrible, but the NME’s were shocking) but as Mr Sinker says, their brand is stronger than ever. This is a problem all publishers are wrestling with: is the paper magazine (or newspaper) still necessary to lend aura to the rest of the products that bear its name?

  46. 171
    MarkG on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Well, “Top of the Pops” magazine is still going (strong?)

  47. 172
    LondonLee on 24 Aug 2011 #

    Saw the latest (?) NME this morning at a newsstand in Harvard Square (!) and thought it WAS Mojo for a second with its black and white pic of The Clash.

    I work in the mag business and it’s not so much sales that are bad but that advertising revenue has vanished. Our website makes more money than the print publication but taking that element away would seem to reduce the “brand” somewhat. There is still more prestige attached to a magazine than a website.

  48. 173
    AndyPandy on 24 Aug 2011 #

    I saw one earlier in Tescos (Undercliffe, Bradford) with Muse on its cover – weird as I hadn’t knowingly seen one for ages but maybe this thread brought its presence there to my consciousness.

  49. 174
    hardtogethits on 26 Aug 2011 #

    Many apologies if I missed this in any of the above; I’ve just found out this record went gold in the US (sales >500k) and made no 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

    Honestly, I’m staggered – not least because Double You had been so utterly successful in Europe (see comment #3).

  50. 175
    AndyPandy on 26 Aug 2011 #

    Maybe that American hit and the subequently raised profile’s how they got not just the Trammps but Teddy Pendergrass and Gwen Dickey (Rose Royce)to guest respecively on 3 of their later hits. Can’t think of any other production crew of that era who had that many relatively well known artists appear on their tracks.But it was obviously unusual for the average UK rave (or in this case vaguely ravey hit) to cross over to the US at all yet alone go Top 10.

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