Release Date: Dec 95
Chart Position: 33
So testing times this week at Neggae Towers, with bust-ups, spats, tantrums, walkouts – but ultimately some bold decision-making that is going to see us through the tough times we face ahead.
Frankly, morale is low – we’ve not had a decent tune in weeks and when you look out on the the Neggae Hot 90 horizon and all you can see is this tosser:It gets you down. I know exactly how the lads feel.
But.. we’ve only got 11 weeks to go so if we can dig deep and plough through we can end this blog with a Crystal Palace-like flourish to give this beautiful genre the send off it deserves.
Before I get on with the music, a few of housekeeping points that need addressing. Firstly, we are very sad to see Chris ‘Norm’ Lamont bowing out from the Neggae blog. Inventor of the genre, spreader of Neggae through the American colonies, lover of Lilt and the Egg, Chris is taking some time out to spend it with his family, and we absolutely resect that. All the best Chris, we’ll have a pint of Red Stripe at the bar at the wrap party when we’re all out the other side of this.
This week we were initially to review the Orinoco Flow knock-off that is Somethin’ Stupid by Ali and Kibibi Campbell. By a flaw in the data retrieval process, this accidentally got added to the Neggae Hot 90. Well, after closer Quality Assurance control it transpires this is definitely not Neggae; it’s Holy Communion Party Karaokeggae. It doesn’t belong here. So to honour this genre and the brand of UB40 it’s therefore been managed out.
Finally, there’s been a few personal barbs made in Suggs’ direction recently that I believe have overstepped the mark into bullying of the ex-Nutty Boy. Some of the more powerful elders have I believe been exerting influence over the weaker judges, creating a frenzy not unlike the ending of Lord of the Flies. A meeting took place, and you’ll be glad to know that all views were taken on board, and a decision was reached – pretty much like this:
Readers of this blog can now expect much more measured reviews and complete agreement on all of this I’m sure from the other Elders’ reviews below.
On to the song..
The Tune was Suggs’ 1995 Yuletide effort with a fantastic ‘Blackadder Christmas Special’ style video complete with lashings of Fake Snow and Victoriana. Suggs’ hopes of capping his comeback year with an Xmas number one were unfortunately dashed as the song only reached 33, getting nowhere near Earth Song and ensuring that Michael Jackson slept with ease over the Christmas period (probably after bumming a child.)
“But is it any good Vince?” I assume you ask in your inner monologue. Well, not really. Sounds like his last two – which all sound like the theme to the Coco Pops adverts. I like the skittering drums and the deft piano, but ultimately there’s nothing there. And it’s 3 minutes too long – with pointless instrumental bridges. The middle eight bizarrely recalls the melody from Chain Reaction by Diana Ross. Which is her worst song by the way.
The video’s good though – the time machine and the dressing up box and shit. I liked that.
Score: There’s a reason this doesn’t feature on ANY Xmas compilation albums. 2/10
Apparently this week we’re not allowed to let personal opinion enter the review of this song, which I thought was the whole point of a review? I’m still undecided whether Vince’s editorial edict is yet another attempt to enforce an Orwellian air of censorship over the blog or just him trying to get the song better marks because he likes it, either way that jive turkey can swivel, I’ll write what I want.
This week is the return of that odious spunk bubble Suggs who took time off trawling Soho pubs with his mum to pebbledash all over the Hot 90 (I do owe an apology to Suggs having recently referred to him as a Gooner, he is in fact Chelsea which is really endearing). The song is called ‘The Tune’(!) and starts off reasonably enough with a horn section, jaunty beat and sax it’s the neggae equivalent of a cockney drinking song. I can imagine Chas and Dave wearing Rasta wigs and covering this and it’d be alright, apart from maybe the wigs. Then Suggs joins in with his affected vocal style which is a particular bugbear of mine, he tries too hard. The equivalent of that bloke at work who tries to make a joke out of the most mundane comment;
‘Sorry I’ve had to pull out of that meeting as I’m too busy’
‘Pull out? Didn’t want to make the meeting pregnant eh? Geddit? Geddit?’
‘You are destined to die alone and crying in a bedsit surrounded by piles of used, crusty wanksocks’
You know the type.
Lyrically the song is a bit of a nonsense, I think the gist of it is being at a party in a psychiatric ward and personally I’m with Nurse Rathcett on that idea. I think that’s the gist of the song anyway as Suggs seems to have played a bit of sentence roulette and chucked anything in there. The video is typical Suggs and by that I mean zany, zanier than Billy and Alex Zane riding space hoppers in Tanzania. We’ve got the lot
• Mugging to the camera;
• Sped up camera work;
• Literal acting out of the lyrics;
• Other assorted berks;
• People coming out a box.
I was pretty disappointed to see this bloke had sold out though, I’m assuming DVDs did for his career. Overall this isn’t his worst by a long stretch but I’ve seen the hot 90 and know there’s much, much worse to come.
I’m now about to send this to Vince for publication so fully expect it to appear like this:
Score: 4/10 – jog on you suggy c*nt
Up until lunchtime on Friday the next song to review was going to be Something Stupid by Ali and Kibibi Campbell (that’s his daughter, who couldn’t have been more than ten years old at the time). However Vince has now stricken that from the record on the grounds that it is not reggae enough, has no skank, and has no connection to neggae whatsoever except for the Campbell name, itself severely compromised by this point thanks to the Yeah Be Yeah debacle. It’s hard to argue with the decision but it does mean we’ll never know what the other elders think of that effort. To me it has “cutesy album filler” written all over it so I’m baffled at to how it was a single – I dread to think what the rest of the Big Love album must have been like.
And then I go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like “I’m going to make a solo album and recruit my tiny daughter to help me reinterpret the Sinatras.”
It does seem like a missed opportunity, since the more I think about the prospect of ALI CAMPBELL covering FRANK SINATRA, the more blackly hilarious it gets. But perhaps including terrible songs just to take pot shots at them runs contrary to the positive One Love philosophy of the neggae blog and the neggae movement in general, may it last forever. (Don’t believe anyone who tells you it ended in 1996, Snoop Lion is living proof that they are wrong.)
Anyway, instead of Something Stupid we have The Tune by Suggs, which whatever else you might say about it, cannot be accused of lacking skank. Unlike the three Suggs tracks we’ve encountered already, The Tune is much more ska than it is reggae: Suggs drops the sunny afternoon observations in favour of a frenetic party tune much more in the early Madness vein. Lyrically it’s a neggae equivalent of Blinded By The Lights by the Streets, except that instead of pills, Suggs‘s party takes a turn for the messy due to (1) having had a little more to drink than is wise and (2) having suddenly got old and uncool without realising it until that exact moment. The lyric comes from the point of view of a man who hasn’t been clubbing for a while but finds himself in a going out scenario, perhaps on the spur of the moment after a work do, sort of having a good time but also realising that the scene has shifted in his absence and he has no chance of properly comprehending the music that is now popular. He blunders about dancing badly (Suggs is very suited to this role) and veering between euphoria – if anything having a little more fun than is healthy – and a queasy contemplation of his own limitations and ultimate mortality. Just like the “madman’s song”, which today would be Skrillex or Magnetic Man, and at the time would have been the Prodigy or the Chemical Brothers, or some of that freaked-out Kula Shaker shizzle, he himself is not quite wrong but not quite right either.
This moment is a universal part of the human experience, so if you haven’t lived it yet then you can be thankful – but also be aware that your youth will not last forever. One day you too will be old and modern music will be too much for you. Even if you enjoy it you will not quite get it, you will become an outsider on the dancefloors you once dominated and the young people who truly belong there, even if they sort of admire that an oldster like you can still try to get your groove on, will not recognise or accept you as one of their own.
None of this is in the video, but I swear it’s there in the song. The Tune is firmly in the Madness tradition of seemingly jaunty songs that actually plumb the dark depths of human experience, a worthy successor to Embarrassment and House of Fun even if it’s not quite in the same league as those two classics. The lyrics were written by Madness’s background genius Mike Barson, but Suggs does a great job of fleshing out the role. The dad-style humour of the spoken “one, two, four, five” and “do you know my brother” bits, which help to fill in the loveable yet pitiable character of the protagonist, can only have come from him. And he even went full method actor on the B-side by covering Alright by Supergrass – the sound of this 80s star and Virgin Radio personality insisting that “We are young” over weirdly exhausted 1950s production adds massively to the pathos.
I’ve already said how I think recruiting Sly and Robbie to update him for the 90s was a masterstroke by Suggs, but they aren’t actually involved much with this one, only being credited with “additional production”. Sadly no one has yet come out with a meticulous history of the recording of the Lone Ranger album like they do with the Beatles so I can’t tell you exactly what the legends’ contribution was – maybe the honking sound at the end of every four bars? But as a true believer in the Madness boys’ genius, it’s reassuring for me to see that they put together something this danceable, poignant and multi-layered without outside help. Well done Suggsy.
Score: 9 out of 10
And so this seemingly endless assignment continues. Today was the first day for a while I got the genuine neg fear, the feeling I get when I know I have to deliver something, just anything to be able to move on with my life for another week. I was supposed to do this last night, but just blanked it from my mind only to wake up at 4am this morning in a state of distress knowing that the task and the elders are not going anywhere and will not have forgotten to bully me via various online social networks as soon as they awake.
‘Come on Jon, you can do this, you have managed far more complex and challenging tasks in your life to date. Don’t let this get you down!’ I kept repeating to my myself in the mirror this morning, a bit like the final scene from Boogie Nights, actually a lot like that in more ways than one! My wife heard me and could tell I was in some kind of emotional turmoil. She comforted me and promised she would cook me my favourite meal tonight if I got on with it and gave it my best effort. ‘What’s the song this week? Is it a good one?’ she asked, but to be honest I don’t even know, I haven’t even listened to it yet. All I know is that it is not a blockbuster as they seem to be drying up by now and I would have spotted it if it was. ‘I’m sure it’s a good one, you might enjoy it. Just listen to the song and think of how it makes you feel and any fond memories that it brings back’ she offered in support.
So I picked myself up off the bathroom floor, wiped away the tears, got dressed and headed for work to deal with it like a man. I even put on Stay Young by Oasis in the car, that song always makes me feel like I can achieve anything. I parked up and strolled into the office confident and with a new sense of purpose ‘I can f*****g do this!’ I said as I walked up the stairs and even had a little fist pump to help motivate me. I open up my PC and check out which artist and song it is.
I feel like a dagger is being pushed slowly and very deliberately through my chest by the Grim Reaper dressed up like Bob Marley. I can’t breathe and I push my chair back a bit and rest my head on my desk. A cleaning lady doing her early rounds stops to makes sure that I am OK but I put a brave face on and thank her for her concern.
After taking a few minutes to pull myself together and again build myself up, I am ready to listen to the tune ‘stay open mined’ I keep saying to myself, ‘it might be one of his better ones’.
I hit play.
After 30 seconds I am in the full foetal position under my desk, shaking and grinning almost hysterically. Like in a cartoon when Tom gets knocked out somehow and has little Jerry’s spinning round his head laughing, I have the same, but they are all neg artists laughing at me; Johnny Gill, Aswad, Bitty Mclean, Bob, Patto, they are all there laughing at me. A guy in my team, who is also in early arrives to see this all going and offers some support. ‘I’ll be OK thanks, I’ve just got some personal issues’ I explain to him, ashamed and embarrassed that listening to a Suggs tune released almost 20 years ago can reduce me to such a state. ‘OK man, but if you need anything or need to talk let me know’ he offered, but how can I share this? He won’t understand. Nobody does.
When will this all end? Who bought this crap in the 90’s? How did Suggs have a career? Does he know what this has done and is still doing to people? I can’t bring myself to write anymore, I have to move on and put it behind me.
At least my wife will now be cooking my favourite meal tonight.
Score: 0/10 – please please make this stop!
NEGGAE SCORE: 3.75