Rememberence of Discos Past

Featuring : Ann-Margret


With the sun beating down on the eager Brighton streets, one of your intrepid 20JFG scribes paid an overdue visit to his local hairdresser this evening.  Sun beating through the large glass window, shorts in abundance and Disco on the stereo — we’re reminded of why people pay immoral amounts of cash to live here.

We were too young to have experienced Disco as anything other than a faint rumbling from beyond the womb — before the racist backlash of Disco Sucks robbed us of a childhood of horn sections and extended drum breaks.  So for us, Disco is always a memory.  An unreal time (so we’re told) that can never actually be real for us.  Which is perfect in its own cyclical way.

So when, from nowhere, the seed of Disco lands once again in our overly impressionable minds, the rediscovery of the songs of our past is as fresh as it was the first time.  As it can’t be fresh at all.

Ann-Margret – Everybody Needs Somebody Sometimes (Instrumental)

Amazingly (and I searched) we’ve never posted Ann-Margret’s Prins-Thomas-bothering (and grammatically questionable) classic: Everybody Needs Somebody Sometimes.  Winner of many Emmys and once billed as the female Elvis (whatever that means), Ann-Margret decided to start putting out dance records at the end of the 70s.  And we’re very grateful she did.

Everybody Needs Somebody Sometimes is the nexus.  It contains within itself a greatest hits of what we love about Disco.  Synths!  Indulgent string sections!  Sultry vocals from a 40 year old Oscar nominated actress!  And that drum and bass combo, working together to grease the way towards the dancefloor.  It’s all just so fucking irresistible.  Soaring and base and camp and life affirmingly sultry all at once, over and over for seven minutes.  It is what Disco always promised — from out of the past — an escape to a place where you’re far sexier than mere mortals.  Who the fuck needs VR…

Dancing music in the C20: rock ‘n’ roll (1947-52)

History 24

Charley Patton’s Going to Move to Alabama (1929), Ike Turner’s Rocket 88 (1951) and Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock (1954) are just a few of the many cited contenders for “the first rock ‘n’ roll record”. And Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s rhythm & blues-era single That’s All Right (recorded ’46, released ’49) could be considered one candidate, given that its 1954 Elvis rendition broke rock ‘n’ roll. But Dancing music in the C20 is backing Wynonie Harris and Good Rockin’ Tonight for this honour.

Wynonie Harris – Good Rockin’ Tonight

Good Rockin’ Tonight was another photo-RnR anthem that The Pelvis had his eye on – his rendition followed his That’s All Right debut. Everyone from Link Wray to Diamond Head would later tackle the tune, which, despite being written for Wynonie in 1947, was only recorded by him following its chart success as a jump blues/swing number by its author, Roy Brown.

In attempting to summarise what had changed between Roy Brown’s original Good Rockin’ Tonight and Wynonie Harris’ version a year later, let’s list some adjectives commonly associated with the Harris Rockin’:

  • Raucous
  • Propulsive
  • Honking
  • Sexually suggestive
  • Intimidating leer
  • Hard
  • Dirty
  • Earthy
  • “Sense of Saturday night camaraderie and mayhem”

In short, Harris ramped up the energy, danger and lasciviousness of the song, and this – arguably rather than the heavily-touted and currently missing hillbilly component – is what made rock ‘n’ roll rock ‘n’roll.


Harris had a reputation as a bone fide IRL hell raiser. As Mike Greenblatt of Goldmine magazine commented:

“This hard-core blues shouter enjoyed the kind of lifestyle that mirrored the rough and tumble ribald tunes Harris belted out both live and on record. Harris was a lean, mean, love machine; a hard drinker, carousing womanizer and good-looking Dapper Dan who had been dancing, singing and playing guitar and drums since the mid-1930s.”

He was a bone fide pop star too – Harris lived in a big house and owned a cadillac, replete with chauffeur. However, Greenblatt notes that Harris’ fortunes took a tumble for the worse from 1954 onwards, when Elvis arrived and sent RnR stratospheric. This was now demon music – the stuff of hellfire and sins – and while Presley was marketable enough to get away with it, the black proto rock ‘n’ rollers suffered in the wake of his ascent.

Perhaps even more than Elvis, the musical direction of rock ‘n’ roll would be distorted more by the arrival of Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley in the mid-1950s, and their aggressive lead electric guitars, inviting a whole new world of rock music.

In this proto-RnR though, rock music and its heavy metal descendants were still a bad and distant thought, and this was still very much dance music. Essentially a leaner, meaner jump blues, it’s no great surprise that one of the defining tunes of this period was by Louis Jordan, the superstar who haunted our last two columns (on rhythm and blues and jump blues respectively).

Louis Jordan – Saturday Night Fish Fry

The 1953 movie Dance Hall Racket gives some indications of what dancing looked like in this pre-Elvis period:

Post-Presley, RnR dancing would mutate into unrepentant, competitive dance craze with a new, acrobatic form of the lindy hop, as this 1956 clip of a German dance contest proves:

Dancing music in the C20: rhythm & blues (1944-46)


As with many – if not all – of the proto-genres investigated as part of this series’ mission objective, rhythm & blues was not actually known by that name during its “period of innovation” (approx. 1944-46). It wasn’t until 1947 that record producer and music journalist Jerry Weller coined the term to describe the new evolution in black dance music, and the description wouldn’t become commonplace until the end of the decade, when Billboard changed the title of their black music chart from “race records” to rhythm & blues (RCA Records had also began using “Blues and Rhythm” as a catch-all term for marketing their black artists by this point).

So while rhythm & blues – as a slightly less-discriminatory replacement for “race” – was mostly an umbrella for an assortment of black dance and pop styles – and much later would be popularised as a badge for the white, English, transatlantic music of The Rolling Stones and The Animals – it did also become retrospectively assigned to the transition of big-band jump blues to smaller, electrified outfits.

The first rhythm & blues record can probably be regarded as Cecil Gant’s 1944 release I Wonder/Last Goodbye, though Gant was working in a piano blues format here that contrasted with the more boogie woogie-driven freight-train chug of most later rhythm & blues.

This style was more adroitly typified the following year by Joe Liggins & His Honeydrippers two-part signature tune, The Honeydripper:

Joe Liggins & His Honeydrippers – The Honeydripper

The Honeydripper holds the joint record for the longest-ever stay at the top of the Billboard rhythm & blues chart. It’s co-champion was a 1946 tune by the name of Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, recorded by none other than the star of last week’s column, jump blues innovator Louis Jordan!

Jordan’s influence permeates rhythm & blues, and he thrived during this new period of innovation (in a way that many innovators throughout this series failed to do once their sound became appropriated and mutated). However, Choo Choo Ch’Boogie was actually composed by three white, hillbilly songwriters – Denver Darling, Vaughan Horton and Jordan’s regular producer, Milt Gabler.

Gabler would later rerecord the song with Bill Haley, completing the hillbilly-‘race’ fusion of rock ‘n’ roll, but if we compare what was going on during this period of jump blues and rhythm & blues to the contemporaneous and increasingly chug-worthy dancification of country known as honky tonk, we can see that the two demographics were already on-track for a head-on collision:

Spotify playlist: early honky tonk (1940s)

Spotify playlist: early rhythm and blues (1944-46)

Both honky tonk and rhythm and blues adapted the pummelling rhythm of boogie-woogie into a more structured 12-bar format, though while honky tonk persisted with the western swing band instrumentation of guitar, fiddle, string bass and steel guitar, rhythm & blues bands typically had piano, saxophone, bass, drums, one or two guitars and – occasionally – backing singers.

Unlike the mostly-improvised meanderings of boogie-woogie, rhythm and blues eschewed spontaneity and was rehearsed to the point of perfection – a honing process that critics attribute to the casual, impeccably “cool” delivery of the rhythm & blues singers and musicians.

And unlike big band, swing, some jump blues and other derivatives of jazz, rhythm and blues stripped away the importance of individual instruments and virtuosity – the focus was on the interplay of simple component parts rather than soloing.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica entry for rhythm & blues, for instance, notes that – unlike honky town – guitars were relegated to a simple time-keeping status in rhythm & blues bands, “because guitar soloing was considered ‘country’ and unsophisticated.”

Nevertheless, as rhythm & blues clacked along the line to its inevitable destiny as rock ‘n’ roll, the electric guitar would be an increasingly prominent piece of instrumentation.

But before rock ‘n’ roll there was rhythm & blues, and before Elvis there was Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup.

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup – That’s All Right

“If I had any ambition,” the jumpsuited one was reported to have said, “it was to be as good as Arthur Crudup.”

Elvis’ first single was a rendition of Crudup’s 1946 side That’s All Right, and he also covered other Crudup tunes including My Baby Left Me and So Glad You’re Mine.

Crudup worked in a more traditional blues idiom than many modern rhythm & blues stars. Like Robert Johnson, his recordings would involve tracking several different versions of a tune, each with different lyrics pulled from the “grab bag” of phrases and rhymes that had been passed around from bluesman to bluesman.

Some of That’s All Right’s lyrics, for instance, are traditional verses that could be traced back to Blind Lemon Jefferson’s 1920s output (and almost certainly predated those recordings and that artist). In the same session, Crudup also cut I Don’t Know – an almost-identical track that again featured a different grab-bag of verses.

Interestingly, when That’s All Right was issued as RCA single in 1949, it appeared on bright orange vinyl – a super early instance of this now-ubiquitous vinyl fad for coloured vinyl!

Crudup That's All Right, 45

(Interesting side note: when RCA first  introduced the 7″ 45 rpm vinyl single in 1949, they came in a range of eight colours that were colour-coded according to genre. )

A library music fit for our times


Library music is the functional art par excellence, a utilitarian backdrop for other media – TV, adverts, radio shows – to do their thing. It should be flourishing in our hyper-mediated, information-rich, marketing-infested age, but it sadly isn’t.

When we think of contemporary library music, almost only bad things come to mind: the faux gamelan and revolting banjos of tech commercials, TED talks and storytelling podcasts, the plasticky electro music of science documentaries (Horizon, we’re looking at you), the sub-Moby (!) bombast that tries and fails to pound us into amazement when we run the insta-grammatical gauntlet of adverts at the movies. And then there is the general replacement in ads, TV and films, of library music with songs originally intended for other purposes, in transactions that taint the original song and ill-fits its new host.

This depressing state of affairs is a far cry from some decades ago, when Suzanne Cianni produced jingles for Coca Cola and Atari, Sven Libaek soundtracked trippy underwater documentaries, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop invented a thousand impossible genres, and populated a thousand children nightmares What would be today’s equivalent? Holly Herndon composing music for adverts? Hieroglyphic Being producing a techno-symphony about neuroplasticity? Hyperdub on a BBC Radio retainer?

We think this would be awesome for several reasons:

First, and contrary to what many of you may contend (“are you calling for these wonderful artists to prostitute themselves commercially, you 20JFG fiends?”), we feel that the best library music can and should capture the spirit of its times in a way that transcends its immediate utility, and enlightens its audiences both now and in the future. In short, it can be art, and also political. In the 1960s and 1970s, library music captured society’s fascination with the possibilities of science and technology, new types of leisure, mass holidays, sex and drugs. In the same way, a library music fit for our anxious times would reflect their illusions and worries (more on that below).

Second, the secondary role of library music as background for other media gives it a license to be experimental, weird and spooky. If in doubt, check Ron Geesin’s synth oddities and tape manipulations for headache tablet adverts. Creative submission creates opportunities for creative subversion, and we would like to see those explored and realised.

Thirdly, and more pragmatically, we are sure that a new revenue stream for musicians would be welcome in these days of business model turbulence and uncertain micro-transactional and gig economics.

So now that you are all convinced, how do we get the neo-library music revolution started?

As with almost anything else, the BBC is a good start. Hereby we call the Beeb to replace the non-descript drivel it often uses in its content with high quality sounds. An Oneida/Mary Beard collab would be a good start.

We also call brands and advertisers to recognise that nothing spells “innovation” like a music jingle offering a glimpse into the status anxiety of tech consumers whose lifestyles and identities are constantly “disrupted” by new products, services and experiences. Getting Burial to produce the ad for the next Apple Watch would show self-confidence and self-awareness, it is the way to go.

We think that new, non-linear media like social media, web, video games and augmented and virtual reality are ripe for musical exploration – the new frontier for a reclaimed music library genre. The possibilities are endless.

Here you have three examples:


Unfollow’s new cassette in Blue Tapes is pretty great. Shy techno for introspective cyberpunks, futurism shrouded by a fog of distortion devoid of aggression. If Demdike Stare adopted a puppy, this would be its dance.

In the press release for the record, Unfollow refers to it as good for “3am on the dancefloor when everyone’s drugs have run out and all the poseurs have taken Uber rides home.” We agree with the sentiment. We also think that its aura of mystery intermingled with recognisability would provide the perfect backdrop for a documentary about the future of jobs, or even more appositely, a fishing expedition into the job boards of the Internet, to look for new and strange occupational species resilient to the advent of mass automation.

Half Blu makes us think of cyclical delusions after a day working on an assembly lines for 3-d memes.

Unfollow – Half Blu

Get Blue Twenty-One from Blue Tapes.


We already told you about the majestic post-punk, red-cold skronk of JD Twitch’s So Low compilation. The remixes are similarly brilliant, specially Helena Hauff’s transformation of Klinik’s Moving Hands into a furious, fast-moving mechano-snake which could perfectly soundtrack one of those reality shows about brits getting blasted in Mediterranean resorts, its luridly epic synths and electro aggression a metaphor for their desperate, impossible joint search for control/oblivion, perhaps a glimpse into flares of stroboscopic violence that are unavoidable whenever a segment of society has so little to lose, even if it hasn’t realised yet.

Klinik – Moving Hands (Helena Hauff remix)

Get the So Low Remix EP here.


We conclude with Dang Olsen Dream Tape, whose ectoplasmic harmonics vibe mellow like a collection of Ariel Pink dub remixes, or Peaking Light dissolving into the primeval soup of our eternal summer.

We think this music captures perfectly the friction-less flow of tech utopia:

The placid waves of humankind’s collective intelligence getting itself linked up and ready to go.

The soft staccato of nano-orgasmic endorphin hits from a barrage of likes saluting our virtual personas.

Sipping on cocktails in the penthouse of a cookie-cutter creative city, while we wait for the singularity.

Can’t wait to see the advert.

Dang Olsen Dream Tape – Thumper

Thumper is included in DODT’s forthcoming Zonk cassette, in Constellation Tatsu.

Artwork: Emily Falling in Library


Featuring : Podcast + Standard Planets


Our friends Standard Planets recently issued a super-limited lust object – a collaborative EP with psychogeography icon Iain Sinclair, individually signed and each with handwritten postcards by Iain and three art prints. The EP is called Overground.

We asked the band if they could do a guest mix themed around the London-observing EP. This is what Ben from the band had to say about it:

This mix features our favourite songs about the pickled corpse that is London. It’s a plotting of the controlled demolition of ambition, social mobility and class dissemination, by eight years of a straw-topped man child who can’t keep his over-privileged winky or wallet in his trousers. This mix shows you the London that once was, – if only to its own tragic romanticists – and what it could’ve been, before the creeping virus of Thames-side condos with key-pad security dreams, matt-grey designer gyms and underground carparks of unknowing sociopaths; their car boots littered with dead sex workers and empty wraps of teething powder.

Standard Planets – 20JFG London Mix

Buy Overground by Iain Sinclair and Standard Planets

Image: Postmodern Gothic excess. Minster Court, London. March 2013, via the amazing ScavengedLuxury

Dancer of the Boreal Valley

Featuring : The Knife


Although the slowing of 20JFG posts over the last couple of weeks wasn’t caused by it (honest), it has coincided with the final part of this writer’s favourite video series.  So it seems appropriate to post today about Dark Souls 3.

Doubly appropriate if you consider that we spend a great deal of time musing on how old things are reconfigured into new.  For while all of the Souls games have had entropy at their heart (from being set amongst collapse and ruin to the very mechanics of the game forcing you to constantly contemplate loss), Dark Souls 3 seems to embrace the remix.

While the graphical overhaul from one generation to the next is totally a thing and everything looks nice and pretty, what’s significant here is the way that locations from the first game are reused for the last.  The sun-kissed beauty of the gothic city Anor Londo is revisited, this time  draped in snow and cool blue light.  Rooms that housed painful, exhilarating memories of death (many, many deaths) are returned to and the sorrow is palpable.  For a series that revelled in showing you locations after a collapse, the walking tour of these same locations after a long, long time is…emotional.

But the remix, the remix here is significant.  It’s the remix of self.  The Kate Bush Director’s Cut.  The David Bowie Toy.  This is a backward looking game in many ways but it isn’t regressive.  It holds up its original form to the harsh light and forces you to play through its environs, to appreciate them anew, but to know that this is a cycle.  This is a series that must end because, like all the heroes that have passed through its stories before, to continue is to repeat yourself.  You died?  Repeat.  Your triumphed?  Start again.  You want more?  Here’s two biannual sequels.  Dark Souls 3 uses the remix not to make the old more palatable to the new, but to kill it with sadness.


We Share Our Mothers’ Health (Shaken-Up Version)

In 2013/14 The Knife went on a farewell tour ostensibly in support of their album Shaking the Habitual.  Bringing along a dance troop, obscuring their presence on stage and mixing their ‘live’ performance with album playback, they were accursed of self-sabotage.

In 2014 they released an 8 track EP called Shaken-Up Versions which contained the versions of tracks played on the tour.  On it was the Shaken-Up version of one of 20JFG’s favourite songs of the 2000s, We Share Our Mother’s Health.  We were running a club night at the time it came out and that song is inseparable from all that was good and holy and banging in that dank basement.

On Shaken-Up Versions, The Knife strip We Share Our Mother’s Health of its deep percussion and bounding synth melodies.  In its place are hand claps and sub bass and a rattling drum edge, spinning round what I presume (and hope) is the original vocal.  It’s exhilarating.  It’s as if the memory of the 2006 version is conjured and held in place while the Shaken-Up Version is assembled anew around it.

And when it’s complete the 2006 banger has been sealed from the dancefloor.

You can get Shaken Versions on CD from Juno.  It’s also on all streaming services if that’s more your thing.  The vinyl’s probably going for loads on Discogs but I dare not look.

Dancing music in the C20: jump blues (1938-45)


In Billboard history, who is the black artist that has scored the highest number of weeks at #1? Michael Jackson? Prince? Whitney Houston?

Louis Jordan, mate. Though he may be less well known than Stevie Wonder (his nearest challenger for the most number of weeks at #1), Jordan, in his day, was second only to Duke Ellington and Count Basie in sheer popularity.

And as well as being a peerlessly a charismatic bandleader, Jordan was also a musical innovator. His two-part 1950 hit, Saturday Night Fish Fry, is regarded by some as the first rock ‘n’ roll record.

But before he invented rock ‘n’ roll, Louis Jordan was the driving force behind a music known as ‘jump blues’.

Spotify playlist: early jump blues (1938-45)

Like western swing, which we looked at in the last Dancing music in the C20, jump blues was a derivative of swing. Unlike western swing, it was predominantly black, unashamedly modern, and fizzing with energy.


Jump blues, and Louis Jordan’s jump blues in particular, was exciting, sexual, funny. It retained the scale and instrumentation of the big band but injected it with adrenaline.

It was also personality-driven music, both Jordan and Harry James – the white bandleader who recorded the first jump blues single One O’Clock Jump/It’s The Dreamer in Me in 1938 – carved out careers as motion picture actors alongside their flamboyant stage work.

Jump blues reconciled the seemingly opposing dance musics of big band jazz (opulent, excessive, meticulous) with boogie woogie (stark, minimal, spontaneous)

Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five – At The Swing Cats’ Ball

Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five – Caldonia

Jump was known for being even more lascivious than its more popularised grandchild, rock ‘n roll – which cleaned up the lyrics while dirtying up the music. Apparently, Jordan’s Show Me How You The Milk Cow isn’t even about a cow!

Ella Mae has a great big fat cow
A good looking cow I would say
What I want to ask of her now
Is a favor if I may

Show me how, show me how
Show me how, you milk the cow
Oh bella mia, oh bella mia

Tell me please, what you squeeze when the milk goes woosh woosh woosh
Oh bella mia, show me how you milk the cow

I don’t know what’s the matter, I try and try and try
But every time I go woosh, the milk gets in my eye