Friday, December 31, 2021

 Deserving But Denied: 33 Number Twos That Should Have Been Number One  


It's obvious that you can't rely on the pop charts as a mechanism for tabulating the comparative excellence of  hit records.  But the charts are actually not much better at displaying how popular a pop single is.  Because the volume of releases from the industry and the amount of purchasing power out there in consumerland both fluctuate with the seasons,  a Number One single in an off-peak period--like the post-Xmas lull of January--can  have sold less than any of the Top Ten's singles during busier times of year. The chart placing of a record is also affected by pure contingency--what releases by heavy-hitter groups  just happen to go out at the same time.  (Tough luck for all those Sixties greats who happened to release a single the same week as the Beatles or the Stones).  This list honors those  fantastically fine and/ or epochally significant singles that were cheated by some historical quirk or other  from fulfilling their true destiny: getting to Number One. Upon investigation, these injustices turned out to be so numerous that the List of Ten format had to be overspilled thrice over, even after leaving out many fabulous  #2 singles


The Who, "My Generation", November 1965.

It stands to reason that the Sixties was a cruelly competitive time.  All the genius and creative energy around  meant that many classic singles-- Dave Clark Five's "Bits and Pieces", Petula Clark's "Downtown", the Troggs's "Wild Thing"--fell just short of the top spot.  But it seems particularly unjust that The Who's defining anthem of mod frustration and pride never went all the way. Indeed a measure of the Who's distant third stature c.f. Beatles and Stones was that they never would score a #1 at all.

The Beatles , "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever", February 1967.

Arguably the Fab Four's greatest double A-side and conceivably the world's first concept single (both sides addressing the theme of nostalgia and helping to kickstart psychedelia's cult of childhood), this release nonetheless ended the Beatles unbroken run of Number Ones  (eleven in all) that went back to 1963's ''From Me To You". Perhaps "Strawberry Fields" was just too trippy for the general public? For a similar fate befell the equally out-there Magical Mystery Tour EP ("I Am the Walrus" etc) at the other end of 1967.

The Kinks, "Waterloo Sunset", May 1967.

One of a number of 67-defining singles--see also Traffic's "Hole in My Shoe"--to stall at the runner-up spot, "Waterloo Sunset"'s  shortfall is particularly poignant because the song constitutes the summit of Ray Davies's achievement as a songwriter (give or take the indian summer that was 1968's The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society).

The Jackson 5, "I Want You Back," February 1970

Anybody looking to prove that the universe is a botched creation ruled over by a callous, vindictive demiurge need only point to the shocking not-actually-Number-One-ness of this pop-soul cataclysm.


Don McLean, "American Pie", January 1972.

As if somehow always already a "golden oldie", this was a monstrously prolonged radio hit, and Zeitgeist-wise it distilled the early Seventies mood of melancholy retro-spection. But despite sixteen weeks on the chart it never actually topped them.

Gary Glitter, "Rock and Roll (Parts 1 & 2)", June 1972

Massive in discos, the almost-instrumental  "Part 2" was what drove Glitter's breakthrough single to the very edge of pop's peak.  At once lumpen and avant-garde, the missing link between the Troggs and techno,  this controlled stampede of  caveman chants and dead-echoing guitar doesn't actually sound anything like the Fifties rock'n'roll it purports to resurrect.  Next year's "Do You Wanna Touch Me" and "Hello Hello I'm Back Again" also stopped one place short, before "I'm the Leader of the Gang (I Am)" finally put Glitter and genius producer Mike Leander where they belonged.


 T. Rex, "Solid Gold Easy Action" (December 1972)

Number ones galore under his belt, Marc Bolan can't complain about his treatment at the hands of the UK Chart. That said, despite the Beatles-level fandemonium of  "T.Rextasy", several of his best tunes-- "Ride A White Swan", "Jeepster" (held off by Benny Hll's "Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)"!!!), and "Children of the Revolution"--swooped to #2 but never scaled pop's summit. Likewise "Solid Gold Easy Action", Marc's strangest single of all, with its jolting beat, enigmatic title and the sculpted hysteria of its chorus.


The Osmonds, "Crazy Horses" (November 1972)

Surprisingly hard rockin' tune from the Mormon clan, with a whinnying synth-riff that winnowed its way into your brain and refused to budge.  Kept off the top spot by Chuck Berry's execrable "My Ding-A-Ling" but the Osmonds could take consolation from their own Little Jimmy's subsequent annexation of the Xmas #1 with the execrabler still "Long Haired Lover from Liverpool".


The Sweet, "Ballroom Blitz" (September 73)

From its deliciously campy intro patter ("are you ready, boys?" etc) to its frisky Bo Diddley beat,  "Blitz" is the definitive Sweet monstertune, but--despite entering at #2 and hovering there for three weeks-- it stayed stuck.  Oddly, the same chart position was reached by its immediate predecessor  "Hellraiser" and immediate successor  "Teenage Rampage"  and the latterday ultra-classic "Fox on the Run". Sole Sweetsingle to go all the way:  "Blockbuster".


Sparks, "This Town Ain't Big Enough For the Both of Us" (May 1974)

Branded  into the memory-flesh of anyone who saw the Mael brothers perform  it on Top of the Pops, this torrid, swashbuckling fantasia was fended off the pole position by the Rubettes's sickly "Sugar Baby Love".  Five years later Sparks tried to restore some cosmic balance with the would-be self-fulfilling prophecy of "Number One Song In Heaven" but despite killer Eurodiscotronic production from Giorgio Moroder, to no avail.


Hot Chocolate, "You Sexy Thing" (December 1975)

As quintessentially Seventies as Sparks or Sweet, these hardy hit parade perennials paused poised at #2 for three weeks  (thanks to the juggernaut that was Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody") with this risqué slice of Britfunk. Errol Brown's delivery of explicit (for its time and context) adult content like "now you're lying next to me/giving it to me" and  "now you lying cross from me/making love to me" flushed many a pre-teen cheek even though the song spoke of things  beyond our ken.  Touchingly, the "miracle" Errol believed in was apparently his missus, Ginette.  Consolation prize for not making it all the way: rereleases and remixes have made "You Sexy Thing" the only song to be a UK Top 10 in the Seventies,  Eighties, and Nineties.


Wings, "Silly Love Songs" and "Let Em In" (summer 1976)

Culminating with bestselling-single-of-the-Seventies "Mull of Kintyre", 1976/77 was Macca's most successful post-Beatles phase (with the possible exception of 1983/84, but the latter period was nonstop drek). This brace of winsome confections from Wings At The Speed Of Sound confirmed everything the detractors (from Lennon on down) said about Paul's sweet tooth and miniaturist craftsmanship. But you'd have to be pretty hard-of-heart to resist their considerable charm, plus the metapop of "Silly Love Songs" cannily deflects all critique in advance with its upfront and unashamed candour.


Heatwave, "Boogie Nights" (February 1977)

This sublime shimmer of discofunk hovered at #2 on both the UK chart (where it was eclipsed by Leo Sayer, god help us) and the Billboard Hot 100, appropriately enough given the group's Transatlantic line-up.  Heatwave's British keyboard player and "Boogie Nights" songwriter Rod Temperton went on to pen "Rock With You", "Thriller" and other hits for Michael Jackson.


Sex Pistols, "God Save the Queen" (June 1977)

Punk folklore maintains that conniving by the authorities kept this act of sonic sedition off the top spot to avoid the treasonous insult to Her Majesty during the Silver Jubilee.  On one of the rival UK Top 40 charts, the #2 space was, in an Orwellian twist, blanked out altogether, turning the Pistols into an unband and  'God Save the Queen' into an unsingle, unrelease, unhit.  Meanwhile Rod Stewart's "I Don't Want To Talk About It" / "First Cut Is The Deepest" sealed over the cracks in the British polity by maintaining its emollient grip on #1 for a fourth week.


Elvis Costello, "Oliver's Army" (February 1979)

Costello's  one true pop moment  (his only other top 10 hits were cover versions,  "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down" and "A Good Year For the Roses") so it's sad that this Abba-influenced piano-rippling number didn't climb to the highest height.


Squeeze, "Cool for Cats" (March 1979") and "Up the Junction" (June 1979)

More New Wavers not getting their proper dues. Touted as heirs to Lennon-McCartney, choonsmith Chris Difford and wordsman Glenn Tilbrook narrowly missed #1 twice  in the spring-summer of '79 with the cheeky disco-flavored "Cats" and the poignant Sixties-evoking social realism of "Junction".


M, "Pop Muzik" (April 1979)

One of those hits so inescapably dominant that you have to rub your eyes in disbelief when checking the Guinness hit singles guide and discovering it never actually made it to  #1.  Robin Scott's proto-pomo metapop celebration was naturally a wow with radio deejays (as it was calculated to be), which doubtless explains the aura of ubiquitousness that clings to this tune.  But Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes" stopped its rise.


Adam and the Ants, "Antmusic"  and "Kings of the Wild Frontier" (winter 1980/81)

Adam and his merry minions at their most witty ("Antmusic") and thrillingly tribal ("Kings"--ooh that double-drummer polyrhythmic intro). In consolation, the Antman would subsequently make it to Number One three times (most notably with the autumn-of-81 dominating "Prince Charming") before his star faded.


Ultravox, "Vienna" (January 1981)

Can't say I was ever a huge fan but as a synthpop-era defining slice of pseudo-Mittel Europa pomp, this deserved better than to hover beneath Joe Dolce's "Shaddap Your Face" for a full three weeks.


Laurie Anderson, "O Superman" October 1981

With  Radio One's evening deejays and then daytime jocks too falling into lockstep with John Peel, this vocodered oddity by downtown New York performance artist/experimental composer Laurie Anderson joined the grand British tradition of novelty hits. But despite the cod-surrealist spectacle of  an interpretative dance by Top of The Pops's resident leggy troupe (there being no video and Anderson having declined to perform) "Superman"'s climb was halted.


Altered Images, "Happy Birthday" (winter 1981)

Seventeen weeks on the charts and three of them at #2,  this irresistible bounce 'n 'shimmer of fizzy glee was a chart topper in all but hard unforgiving fact.  With the gorgeous "I Could Be Happy"  they tried the classic trick of releasing a follow-up that contains the same keyword in its title (see Pete Frampton's "Show Me the Way" and "Baby I Love Your Way") but never hit as big again.


The Stranglers, "Golden Brown" (January 1982).

Only their second hit single about heroin (the first was "Don't Bring Harry," their sick-and-twisted offering as  Xmas single in 1979) but it sure would have been nice'n'sleazy if they'd gone all the way with this beguiling waltz-time oddity.  A fitting capper to the Stranglers career as New Wave's most prolific hit machine. Alas…


Frankie Goes to Hollywood, "Welcome To the Pleasuredome " (March 1985)

Not so much on its musical merits: a grand glistening Horn production of cinematic funk, it's a lot of record but not a lot of song. But getting a record-breaking four number ones with your first four singles would have been just reward for Frankie and ZTT having brought some tumultuous eventfulness to an otherwise fairly barren 1984.

Salt-N-Pepa, "Push It"  (June 1988)

Golden age hip hop at its most hooky and instant, the electro-pulsating groove  resembles a funked-up  Devo (hark at the titular echo of "Whip It"!) but the raunch of the vocals makes Salt-N-Pepa comes over like the female equivalent/equal of Rick "Superfreak" James.


Deelite, "Groove Is In the Heart" (September 1990)

So omnipresent that its charm turned to irritant in record time, it's almost impossible to believe this wasn't Number One. Apparently, it was.  Sales-wise "Groove" tied with the reissue of Steve Miller Band's "The Joker," so an arcane rule of chart tabulation was invoked and "The Joker" was granted the supreme position because its sales had gone up the most from the previous week.


The KLF, "Justified and Ancient" (December 1991)

Although Bill Drummond  made it to #1 with the Timelords (and then published a manual on how to have a number one single) and then again with the KLF's "3 AM Eternal", it's still sad that his greatest feat as pop conceptualist and mischief-maker--getting Tammy Wynette to sing "they're justified and they're ancient/and they like to roam the land" over a house beat on TOTP--was not appropriately rewarded.


The Prodigy, "Everybody in the Place" EP (January 1992)


Hardcore rave classic thwarted by the Wayne's World spun off rerelease of "Bohemian Rhapsody". Gah!


Shut Up and Dance, "Raving I'm Raving" (May 1992)

What is it about ardkore rave and the number two? See also: SL2's marvelous "On A Ragga Tip" the month before and Smart E's admittedly ridiculous "Sesame's Treet" later that summer. "Raving I'm Raving" went straight in the charts at #2 and might have gone higher if it hadn't had to be withdrawn on account of its hefty samples from Mark Cohn's AOR ballad "Walking In Memphis".


Pulp, "Common People" (June 1995)

Britpop's finest four minutes: Pulp's epic anthem brought class struggle back to the pop charts, the honed wit and keenly observed economy of the lyric confirming Jarvis Cocker to be the best wordsmith of his kind since Morrissey. It entered at Number Two but was barred from full triumph by Robson and Jerome's "Unchained Medley."


 T2 Ft Jodie Aysha,  "Heartbroken" (December, 2007)

The North Rises Again.  Flagship tune of the vibrant "bassline house" scene (a UK garage offshoot based in Sheffield, Nottingham, Leeds, Huddersfield, and other North Eastern cities) the deliciously pop-frothy "Heartbroken" crossed over big-time, but in the end proved unable to breach the barricade of banality that was "Bleeding Love" by X-Factor champion Leona Lewis.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Miles Davis


Black Beauty: Miles Davis At Fillmore West
In Concert: Live At Philharmonic Hall
Dark Magus: Live At Carnegie Hall

The Wire, October 1997

by Simon Reynolds

“Can the ocean be described? Fathomless music…” intones Conrad Roberts in a slightly hokey paean to Miles midway through Live-Evil’s “Inamorata”. I know what he was getting at, though, vis-à-vis Miles Davis’s early 70s output. No music makes me feel more inadequate or induces a stronger feeling of temerity--for ‘description’, however floridly imagistic, always seems like a reduction, and ‘explanation’ can only ever be a foolhardy projection.

In his brilliant 1983 essay ‘The Electric Miles’, Greg Tate argued for Davis’ early 70s music (still languishing in critical neglect when Tate wrote) as a sort of simultaneous culmination/dissolution of the jazz tradition. 15 years on, it’s tempting to align the electric Miles with aesthetic kinsmen outside the jazz lineage: the ‘oceanic’ tendency in post-pychedelic rock that encompassed Tim Buckley’s Starsailor, Yoko Ono’s Fly, Can’s Tago Mago/Future Days/Soon Over Babaluma trilogy, Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom, John Martyn’s “I’d Rather Be the Devil” and “Big Muff”. To varying degrees, all this music was animated by the same impulse that drove Miles, a quest for a “One World” music, a fissile fusion of jazz, funk, rock, Indian music, electroacoustics. To varying degrees, all this music shared the same split methodology that underpinned Miles’ Teo Macero-produced studio albums of that era: freeform, unrehearsed improvisation followed by extensive studio-as-instrument post-production and editing in order to sculpt jams into coherent compositions.

As with the aforementioned avant rockers, chromaticism--rather than melody or harmony--is what the electric Miles is all about. David Toop notes in Ocean of Sound how Stockhausen inspired Miles to organize his music around “textural laminates and molten fields of colour”. But it was Jimi Hendrix who hipped Miles to the chromatic potential of distortion and effects processing; during this period Miles played his trumpet through a foot-controlled wah-wah unit, guitarist Pete Cosey deployed an arsenal of effects pedals, and percussionist Mtume spiced the polyrhythmic paella with exotica like log drums and kalimba. As a result, Miles’ music of the early 70s is as livid as a tropical disease, as lurid as the patterns on a venomous snake, as lysergic as his own cover art (Mati Klwarwein’s Afrodelic fantasia, Corky McCoy’s Fauvism-meets-Blacksploitation street scenes of superfly guys, true playaz and fine bitches in hot pants and high heels).

Getting back to Miles’ kinship with the post-psychedelic starsailors and aquanauts, the music of Dark MagusOn the CornerAgharta, et al offers a drastic intensification of rock’s three most radical aspects: space, timbre, and groove (by which I something altogether more machine-like/mantric than jazz’s free-swinging drive). Making what he imagined was a sideways shift towards the pop mainstream (ha!), what Miles actually achieved was a culmination of rock’s trajectory towards kinesthetic abstraction, a.k.a the textured groovescape.

The music on these four double albums seem like excerpts from some continuous monster jam that lasted from 1970-75, when an understandably shagged-out Miles collapsed and retreated into coke-addled hermithood. Black Beauty and Live-Evil are both from 1970, and feature the instrumental line-up of the In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew era (Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette et al). The music is a darkside counterpart to Can’s halcyon flow motion universe. Miles’s ocean is no coral-reef arcadia or wombadelic paradise, but altogether more murky and miasmic, full of rip-tides, treacherous currents and chthonic undertow, not so much Jacques Cousteau as EA Poe (as in “Descent into the Maelstrom”).

It’s a realm of grace and danger. On Beauty’s “Directions”, Chick Corea’s Rhodes keyboards dart and dilate like shoals of poisonous jellyfish; Dave Holland’s bass sustains terrific tension (although his sound seems monotone and two-dimensional compared to the plasma-morphic, pulse-sculpturing of Michael Henderson--the missing link between Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins--on the later albums). “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” begins with the brontosauran heavy rock gait of Mountain, swiftly comes to a seething roil -- like magma in a caldera -- then subsides into an amazing drumless interlude of itchy-and-squelchy insectoid interplay. Lacking the grotto-like recessive depths of the Macero-sculpted studio version, “Bitches Brew” is over-run with scrofulous, scurrying detail, then unravels into a post-fever stillness of necrotic ambience. On Live-Evil, highlights include the discombobulated, three-legged falter-funk of “Sivad”, the eldritch timbre poem “Little Church”, and “What I Say”, which shifts from strident freeway boogie (imagine James Gang jamming with Art Ensemble of Chicago) to an amazing drumspace interlude before careening back onto the two-lane blacktop.

By 1973’s In Concert, Miles’ group was the On the Corner ensemble that included Michael Henderson, guitarist Reggie Lucas, drummer Al Foster and electric pianist Cedric Lawson. The album was a stop-gap release, offering loose and intermittently inspired versions of “Right Off” from A Tribute to Jack Johnson, the awesome sitar-laced acid-funk of On the Corner’s “Black Satin”, plus previews of “Rated X” and “Honky Tonk” from the next studio album Get Up With It. Even the Corky McCoy artwork reiterates the ghettodelic imagery of On the Corner, testifying to Miles’ determination to reach out to a young audience of black funkateers.

Throughout this period, Miles was infatuated with Sly Stone’s music; in the sleevenotes for Dark Magus, saxophonist David Liebman tells of how Miles made him listen over and over to one track on Fresh. From the Family Stone’s polyrhythmic perversity, Miles seems to have derived a model of musical democracy. But by Dark Magus, Miles and co-conspirators had gone several steps beyond Sly’s utopian funkadelic commune or Weather Report’s genteel “everybody solos, nobody solos” equality; this music was far more turbulent, closer to mob rule or flash riot. By this point, conventional structuring principles have long since been smelted down by the infernal heat generated by the ensemble, leaving just riffs, vamps, blips and blurts of sound, and irregular escalate-and-ebb dynamics that resemble the feverish struggle between a body and a contagion, or a soup shifting between simmer and boil. This is a music strung out between spasm and entropy.

In mob rule, there are no ringleaders, but certain troublemakers stand out from Dark Magus's crowded mix: Pete Cosey’s writhing spirals of lead guitar agony; Mtume’s rattlesnake lashes of percussion and random eruptions of drum machine that recall Can’s “Peking O”, Reggie Lucas’ scalding, staccato rhythm guitar, etching itself into your brain like a branding iron. And of course, Miles’ slurred, smeary trumpet, breaking out across this music’s flesh like weals and blisters. Miles sounds poisoned, like he’s siphoning pus from a soul-turned-cyst.

“Can the ocean be described?” was Roberts’ rhetorical question. I think of chaos theory (Dark Magus as demonic Mandelbrot?) and Deleuze & Guattari’s rhizome (“musical form, right down to its ruptures and proliferations, is comparable to a weed”). I think of post-Deleuzian cyber-feminist Sadie Plant’s description of the information ocean as “an endless geographic plane of micromeshing pulsing quanta, limitless webs of interacting blendings, leakings, mergings…” I reckon Miles was half in love with, half in dread of the ‘female’ will-to-chaos, the mutagenic, metamorphic lifeforce, exalted by Plant in her book Zeroes + Ones, that’s why Miles’s misogynist nickname for oceanic flux was “bitches brew”. I think also of the Afro-diasporic baroque that is wildstyle typography, then remember Greg Tate got there first with his description of Miles “scribbling blurbs of feline, funky sound which under scrutiny take on graphic shapes as wild and willed as New York subway graffiti”. Finally, I think of the word “protean”, which derives from the name of a shapeshifting sea god. That’s what Miles was, in his electrifying Electric Period: a Modern Proteus.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

RIP Greg Tate (Flyboy in the Buttermilk review, 1992)


Flyboy In The Buttermilk: Essays On Contemporary America

The Wire, spring 1992

by Simon Reynolds

One of the most intriguing phenomena in recent years has been the rise of the "postmodern Black". From hardcore punk rastas Bad Brains, through the Kraftwerk influenced Afrika Bambatta and Derrick May, to rap's strange infatuation with heavy metal (Motley Crue-fan Ice T's Body Count) it's become apparent that racial tourism is no longer just a one-way traffic, with whites spoiling the black scene(ry). As a staff writer for Village Voice, Greg Tate has spent the last decade formulating a critical language to deal with this anything's-up-for-grabs state of play. (He's also been a co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, which really got the crosstown traffic goin' on).

Tate's writing is produced out of interesting tensions: between his academic/radical background and his yen to be down with street culture, between his gung-ho fervour for African-American art and his fondness for some white artefacts (his fave LPs of last year included My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana, and bizarrely, Van Halen!). The most crucial, productive tension comes from his desire to build a bridge between Black cultural nationalism and post-structuralism; Tate wants his criticism to be proud-and-loud, but not to succumb to any fixed notions about what constitutes "authentic" Black culture. This is probably why Miles Davis is such a totem for him, Miles being the example par excellence of the Black artist who could incorporate white arthouse ideas and riffs (Stockhausen, Buckmaster) into his groove thang, and make them bad to the bone. Miles is the paradigm of the Black innovator (see also: Hendrix, Sly Stone, George Clinton, Jean-Michel Basquiat) who fused the superbad Stagolee tradition with an intellectual sophistication that white high culture couldn't deny. Their threat lies in being 'neither one thing nor the other': they're neither naively, instinctively passionate (the trad, racist idea about Black creativity) nor do they conform to the arid, restrained proprieties of white highbrow culture. Tate sees "signifyin'" -the ability to disguise meaning, to appropriate and remotivate elements from hegemonic culture - as a survival skill intrinsic to the Black American tradition.

Tate inscribes this "neither/nor" factor in a style that mixes in-your-face Blackness with po-mo riffs. Sometimes the onslaught of 'muhfukhuh's and 'doohickeys' can be a little alienating (possibly the point!). The idea is probably similar to the old Lester Bangs/Richard Meltzer notion of rock'n'roll writing that throbs like the music. Tate wants to write with the swank of a Bootsy bassline, and more often than not succeeds. Some of his neologisms are inspired: I particularly like "furthermucker", an inversion which manages to combine the swaggering Stagolee persona and the far-out cosmonaut of inner/outer space tradition, thus becoming the perfect term for Miles, P-Funk, et al.

A hefty portion of Flyboy In The Buttermilk consists of stimulating essays on Black culture--theorists like Henry Louis Gates, writers and artists like Samuel Delany and Basquiat. There's even some pieces on the occasional, honorary Caucasian, like novelist Don de Dillo, who's acclaimed for documenting the paranoiac death throes of white American culture. But for Wire-readers, the most interesting essays are about music. In some of his earlier pieces, Tate has yet to shed reified notions about musical "Blackness". In the 1982 piece on Clinton's Computer Games, he's flummoxed (as an unabashed Santana fan well might be) by the phenomenon of Black kids turning onto electro's "Monochrome Drone Brainwash Syndrome beat". At this point, he seems to share Chuck D's view of disco as soul-less, "anti-Black" shit. This notion of Black music as hot, sweat, funky and frictional, is uncomfortably close to the white stereotype, and it's a fix that Black youth have being evading throughout the Eighties. I wonder what Tate thinks of acid house or Detroit techno?

Elsewhere, though, Tate acknowledges that Bad Brains were most authentic and innovative when playing ultra-Caucasian hardcore thrash, but totally jive when they tried to play roots reggae. And in his piece on the Black British but not "Black" sounding A.R. Kane, he acclaims their radically polymorphous swoon-rock for opening up the possibility for a Black avant-pop that isn't "in the pocket" but out-of-body. 

The Kane boys acknowledged only one influence, Miles Davis, who coincindentally is the subject of Tate's best two essays, "The Electric Miles", and the elegy "Silence, Exile and Cunning". The former is the best piece on Miles' most feverishly creative, least understood phase I've yet encountered, with Tate anticipating the now emergent critical doxa that the late Sixties to mid-Seventies albums constitute the alpha and omega of furthermucker music, pre-empting Can, Eno/Byrne/Hassell, Metal Box, even dub and late Eighties freak-rock. Miles and his floating pool of players explored "a zone of musical creation as topsy-turvy as the world of subatomic physics". Tate's metaphors are vivid and precise: "He Loves Him Madly" is an "aural sarcophagus", Dark Magus sees Miles "scribbling blurbs of feline, funky sound which under scrutiny take on graphic shapes as wild and willed as New York subway graffiti". To say that he's mapped only the surface of Miles' planet, not probed the demonic, unclassifiable emotions that seethe at its volcanic core, is no diss to Tate, only a tribute to the inexhaustible nature of the music, of how far we still have to go (there will always be "further" when it comes to Miles).

An excellent book.