Dear Dixon (or whoever’s reading this),

I’ve just been finding out about how to do all this, and so I hope it works OK.  I’ve set up each page for each tune/band so that the page loading time is reduced.  There is a 1 min low quality Real to play to get some idea of the track, and then a real or an mp3 to download - the real will be much smaller than the mp3. The clip of Real is a lower quality than the download and can be a bit iffy at times.

I’ll provide all the details on the page.

LOVE (musical) ANDY!

Musings Around Post Punk Funk

I am always interested to know the origins of music I like, and get back to the originators of any “movement” - this is because there is usually an energy in the initiators which is not available in their followers.  This is not always the case, and it interests me just as much when it is not the case - what IS going on?

Post-punk funk, particularly in its Bristol and James Chance incarnations, tends to be free jazz over a repeated bass or drum groove. These are not exactly disparate musical sources, and they can go well together.  I do like music to draw from disparate sources, but I prefer the product to cohere in some way. In recent discussions about PPF I am amazed by people who think that the not fitting together is the whole point!  To me it is the not fitting together whilst STILL fitting together - maybe that’s a paradox too far.

With regard to the free jazz, I had the advantage over many of the punks and post punks from having spent the better part of my teen years going to free jazz gigs, particularly - and this is important in this context - people connected through the Keith Tippett Group and the Soft Machine.  The reason for the importance of the KTG is that Keith is Bristol-based, and - I have been told - his home gigs were very popular with the Bristol PPF crowd.  I would say specifically that the horn harmonies in Pig Bag are very close to those of the KTG. I could, in this context, claim to have invented PPF myself in about 1971 when I had a vision of a funked up KTG and tried to persuade them to follow this course.

The KTG was a large band with a rocky element, but I was also seeing the small very free bands.  My vision of free jazz that works would be a period of footling out of which someone begins to build an idea, another member of the band takes up the idea and develops it themselves only to pass it back, and after a period of this a fading of the idea and a return to footling. I once saw this fulfilled par excellence which was in a small band with Keith Tippett on piano and Roy Babbington (later of the good and then of the no-good Soft Machine) on string bass. I can’t remember who the drummer was - perhaps Tony Oxley (if he was a drummer) - but he was kind of left out of the picture by the musical relationship built up by KT and RB.  I cannot agree with the free jazzers who like it all to be disparate footling - surely the aim of anything like this is communication.

Even when it is footling, as it is immediate free jazz has a certain energy. As, of course, does good funk.  So to stick them together is a very sensible idea if you like the music you listen to to have energy in it.  The funk can also sustain the weaker moments - as I have seen Donald Johnson sustain weaker moments of A Certain Ratio, the Manchester wing of PPF. But if the two energies to not connect then the product is less than either of the forms have in themselves. My experience is that the Bristol contingent rarely made the product a greater energy than either form has in itself, which is why I have always been unsatisfied by their music - even though theoretically it should be just my cup of tea.

It is important in the context of energy to distinguish free jazz from jazz. Jazz lost its energy (if you want a sweeping statement) with Bebop, when, rather than searching for a groove jazz musicians were caught up in the extensions of classical harmonies. This is why Louis Armstrong was so angry about it. Mainstream “black” music was happy to stay in one key or follow a simple I IV V progression, and thereby gave its players room to concentrate on the rhythmic effects of their playing, resulting in incredible rhythmic products of the grooves of the different players. When jazz was split into soloist + “rhythm section” it lost its rhythm because its rhythm comes from this interrelationship of all the players (with the continuo clarinet early jazz bands always had the interplay of two “soloists”).

Funk as defined by the product of James Brown in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s was another forum for interplay, with repeated counterpoint grooves between different instruments, and also where an overall groove is shared between, say, three instruments over a two bar section - i.e. one may hear a phrase made up by 3 beats of the rhythm guitar, 3 of the lead guitar and 2 from the bass (a very good example of this is on BT Express’ “Happiness”).