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Review: Happy Mondays – Excess All Areas – by Simon Spence

Happy Mondays

This is the third Simon Spence book that I have read. He is a very talented music journalist from Manchester with a taste for documenting, wild, stylish cultural movements that have emerged from the Madchester craziness. Excess All Areas covers perhaps the most successful and innovative band to have ridden the early acid house craze that swept the nation in the mate 1980s. With the charismatic Shaun Ryder heading up the band, a true hedonist, a notorious substance abuser, it was always difficult for the true Happy Mondays to translate through the myriad web of journalists who tried to document them. Ryder, much to the annoyance of most of the musical backdrop of the band, Paul Ryder (Bass), Gary Whelan (Drums), Paul Davis (keyboard), Mark Day (Guitar), Mark ‘Bez’ Berry (dancer), got into a habit of blagging the press and feeding them over the top exaggerations of the band’s history and exploits. In hindsight, this was pure marketing genius and led to much of the mystery and notoriety that paved the way for success. However, it sifting all the bullshit, has made the writing of this book that much more difficult for Simon Spence. The early days of a relatively privileged middle class upbringing contrasts with the bunch of Manchester council estate ‘scallies’ they tried to portray themselves as. Sure there was petty crime and shopflifting etc. but nothing serious, although perhaps the addition of Bez to the group was actually verging on real true life crime as he obviously was up to the neck in it as a youngster and quite obviously expanded his mini empire quite a lot under the guise of being part of the band…. Manchester Giants, Factory Records and Tony Wilson picked up the band and signed them which paved their way to success following the ilk of luminaries Joy Division and New Order and allowing them direct access to one of the UK’s most influential music venues, the Haçienda. It all happened at just the right time for this band, as the cultural rebellion against failed Thatcherism took hold of the UK’s disillusioned youth masses and expressed itself in the ‘Acid House’ movement. Ecstasy-fuelled, fashion shifts, mass movement and gathering of people in raves, parties and festivals, vast increase in polydrug clubbing and mainstream ending of anti-drug taboos. A lot of this movement was driven by DJs and the Mondays’ uniqueness was that they…

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Surfing The Waves Of Creativity

Teahupo’o (Tahiti)… pronounced ‘cho-pu’, ..  I’ve been asked by my good friend, Johan Flapsandwich, to do a guest blog on his website http://flapsandwich.wordpress.com Flaps and I met 20 odd years ago and have grown up together as DJs and more recently, producers. We often get together for regular chitchats in Cardiff and have worked professionally together at various times in the music industry. In a recent drinking session, where I like to philosophize, Flappy heard me tell him a tale of New Zealand All Black rugby captain, Richie McCaw. McCaw is a flanker (wing-forward) and is widely regarded as one of the finest rugby players in the world today. He is an All Black legend and has amassed more international caps than any New Zealand player in history. The icing on the cake of his glistening career was lifting the Webb Ellis Rugby World Cup trophy on home soil in the 2011 World Cup. The All Blacks, if you are unfamiliar with the sport, are at the cutting edge of rugby – They are to the oval-shaped ball what Brasil are to its round cousin.  They determine the whole pace of the international game and are always innovating new styles. In effect they set the pace. McCaw, as an individual is one of the most highly talented sportsmen in the world. Why, you ask, is this relevant to an anarchic Welsh Music producer, most widely known for releasing the terror that is ‘Sicknote’ http://sicknote.tv onto the world?   I wanted to make a point to Flappy – that to reach the dizzying heights of ultimate success, there tends to be a formula. Those people who truly attain greatness in their chosen profession, have hidden secrets, that can be applied across the board. What is relevant to leading sportsmen, international political leaders, top businessmen, bestselling authors etc. can also apply to the world of music. Sure, we could find plenty of examples of success in the world of music itself… What makes Madonna tick? How do the Rolling Stones never cease to stop rolling? How does Brian Wilson imbibe from his muse? I wanted to keep it simple for Flappy and as I’d just read Richie McCaw’s cracking autobiography it was fresh in my mind.   Flaps probably hasn’t exercised since he left his caribou herd behind in the deepest Scandinavian Arctic and headed over to Wales in the first place….

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