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RIP

Harry J

Harry J “The Liquidator” 1945-2013

Harry JHarry Zephaniah Johnson, the former insurance salesman, reggae producer and studio owner, better known as Harry J passed away on April the 3rd. It took DJ WrongTom posting his remix of Harry J’s most ubiquitous classic “Liquidator” to give me a gentle shove into posting a brief tribute.

Tom describes his remix as a “mess of synths, bleeps, and overlaid drum tracks” but keeps Winston Wright’s famous Hammond riff at its heart. To me at least the original is the sound of the Waltzers, stick it on and subconsciously I’m 15 and hurtling round with a disinterested youth whipping my neck back as he flicks the Waltzer into a spin. I’m not sure why I have this association… perhaps Cumbria’s funfair barons were reformed skinheads?

Some question whether Harry had his hands directly on the desk for “Liquidator” and the countless other “Harry J Productions” suggesting he was more of an instigator, arranger and entrepreneur. Drummer Carlton Barrett suggests the instrumental was originally meant for Tony Scott’s What Am I to Do while Alton Ellis highlights its similarity to his own Girl, I’ve got a date.

Whatever the truth, it says “Harry J All Stars” on the label and that’s the name forever associated with one of the most well known reggae tunes of all time.

The unmistakable bass of the intro was also pilfered by The Staple Singers, after Booker T & The MG’s drummer Al Jackson visited Kingston in 1969 and was given two copies of “Liquidator” by Harry J. Three years later Johnson was horrified to recognize his opening refrain on the radio as what would become a soul standard “I’ll Take You There” was played.

Margaret Thatcher Death Party: The musical influence of Maggie

Thatcher evil

Britain is awash with the giddy joy of people celebrating the death of an 87 year old woman. With unseemly haste the Tory “Britain isnt working” slogan has morphed into a queue to piss on her still to be dug grave.

It’s not that I don’t understand the emotiveness Thatcher has always bred, I just don’t get the point.  Her death wasn’t at the hands of a baying mob outraged at the inequalities of her rule, it was at the end of a long, happy and prosperous life. Dance on her grave all you like but she lives on in Blair, Cameron, Labour, the Tories and a whole host of Thatcher-Lites.

If the Iron Lady has a positive legacy, it is perhaps to be found in the music her divisive and destructive time in office inspired.
So Margaret, thank you for the music, if nothing else.

Here’s a selection, starting with Lenny Henry introducing The Beat on TisWas Correction: On OTT (the late ‘adult’ version of Tizwas).

Footsteps on the dance floor, reminds me baby of you… Cecil Womack 1947 – 2013

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Womack & Womack – “Missin’ Persons Bureau (Folk Version)”

Cecil Womack – who has died aged 65 – was an accomplished producer and songwriter but is best known as one half of husband and wife pop soul duo Womack & Womack.  Anyone growing up during their 80’s heyday will be familiar with “Teardrops” and “Love Wars”, in my case both the original and The Beautiful South’s take on the classic.

Donna Summer 1948-2012

Summer 77 – I’ve taped my favourite songs from the charts by holding a mic up to the radio & am now cranking up the cassette on the clunky mono tape recorder on my lap in the back seat of the family Renault 16.”I Feel Love” is playing & Moroder’s prototechno is gliding & phasing & I’m tranceing out. My Dad stops the car because he thinks there’s something wrong with the engine. Donna Summer – you rocked my world“. – Phil

The above comment left on the Music Like Dirt Facebook page is a far better anecdote to the powers of Donna Summer’s music (and her partnership with Giorgio Moroder) than anything I can muster.

My own first taste of Summer was probably in the mid 80’s when my dad who was DJing on London pirate station LWR used the orgasm filled mid section to “Love To Love You Baby” as a backing track to read out the football scores. Preston North End 1….Uhhhh owwwww….Halifax Town 2….ooooo Love to Love You baby… Kidderminster 1… etc. It’s not a particularly suitable memory to mark the passing of a musical great.

Paul Gambaccini on the other hand knows a thing or two about popular music and his BBC Radio 2 programme on Donna’s life is essential listening. Singer Brenda Russell recalls Donna giving her a voice coaching tip “you’ve got to sing from here” she told her tapping somewhere slightly below her waist.

BBC Radio 2 – “Feelin’ Love: The Donna Summer Story (50 mins)”
[audio:http://www.musiclikedirt.com/wp-content/MP3/FeelinLoveTheDonnaSummer%20Story.mp3]

Humphrey Lyttelton (1921-2008)

"As we journey through life, discarding baggage along the way, we should keep an iron grip, to the very end, on the capacity for silliness. It preserves the soul from...