Agit Disco 9 by Mel Croucher

Agit Disco 9 by Mel Croucher
Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.

William Congreve (1670-1729)

Not in my experience, mate.

My Generation: The Zimmers (2007)

The next revolution will be lead by the old, as we reclaim the streets, occupy the pubs, colonise the internet and refuse to queue at the Co-op. We will shuffle ever onward under our pirate banner to the music of The Zimmers, lead singer Alfie Carretta (90), drummer Buster Martin (100), combined age of the band over 3,000 years. And we shall be victorious.

The Laughing Policeman: Charles Penrose (1922)

This is the first song I can remember. It made me pee with joy when I was a toddler. The lyrics are nowhere near as innocent as I remember, and reveal that the going rate for bribery and corruption of a police officer used to be half a crown.

Move It: Cliff Richard and The Shadows (1958)

My childhood home was full of pre-war shellac records and my job was to wind up the gramophone as dad changed the needle. There was jazz and comic songs but most of the music was crooning. Then rock’n’roll arrived, and there was dancing in the street. This is the first 78rpm record I ever bought with my saved-up pocket money; the snarling, subversive, cock rocking anarchist that was Cliff Richard.

Every Darky Had A Raglan On (Coon Song): Arthur Collins (1901)

I went on to collect wax cylinder recordings. I would pick up crates full of cardboard tubes containing these fragile bits of social history for next to nothing, usually because the seller had no machine to play them on. As soon as I realised that each one was a unique recording made through a horn, I was hooked. More than a century after it was committed to wax, this record still has the power to fill me with rage and sorrow, shock and awe.

Respect: Aretha Franklin (1967)

And then there was this!

Why Don’t You Like Me?: Frank Zappa (1988)

Zappa was a great influence on me long before I got the chance to work with the Zappa Family to put his entire archive on the web. Zappa was unafraid to ridicule hypocrites no matter what taboos needed to be broken. Many years before it became fashionable, he took this glorious swipe at Michael Jackson, and every insult is a gem.

Over The Blue: Comedian Harmonists (1933)

This was the favourite music played in my Mum’s home in 1930s Berlin. This gentle, melodic recording was banned by the Nazi regime because the singers were Jewish. They took the hint, and fled the country to escape death. So did my Mum.

Der Fuehrer’s Face: Spike Jones and his City Slickers (1943)

Like Zappa, Spike Jones used ridicule as a weapon, and this is my all time favourite anti-Nazi anthem. I often wonder what would happen if instead of fighting fascists, or locking them away, they were simply laughed at and exposed as clowns. By the time this was recorded it was way too late.

Pirate Jenny: Nina Simone (1964)

In a word, terrifying. A live performance to shrink the bollocks of the oppressor.

Blockheads: The Blockheads with Grant Nicholas (2001)

This is a tribute recording of Ian Dury’s spotlight on discrimination against disability, and I include it not only because he was one of the nicest blokes I’ve ever worked with, but also because it’s better than the original.

Sanctus: Muungano National Choir (1968)

Once upon a time, I was given a scholarship to pay my fees, a straw boater to decorate my head, a .303 rifle to learn how to shoot people, a book of Latin prose, and a fair risk of getting beaten up when I skulked back home to the other side of the tracks. And then I saw Lindsay Anderson’s film If, where the boys took over their public school and executed their teachers. This is from the soundtrack of that dream.

Let’s All Be Fairies: The Durim Dance Band (1933)

In the same year the Nazi’s banned the Comedian Harmonists from the German airwaves for being Jewish, the BBC banned the Durim Dance Band from the British airwaves for being homosexual. Here’s the reason why.

Sweet Home Chicago: Robert Johnson (1936)

The man who invented the modern blues, snorted cotton, sold his soul to the devil, choked on his own guitar, and made me pick up a plectrum.

First We Take Manhattan: Leonard Cohen (1987)

How to make a terrorist even more terrifying. This is a work of genius and I am thankful Mr. Cohen has not yet carried out his threat to bring down the capital cities that offend him.

Another Man: John Mayall (1966)

This is a very simple and powerful recording. The father of British blues sounds like he really does mourn the death of a hapless plantation slave.

Ay Carmela: La Quince Brigada (1938)

Another banned track. This is the glorious anthem of the 15th International Brigade, who stood against Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War. I was living in Spain when I first heard it, and the dictator was still clinging on to life. It still makes my flesh creep to think that you could have been shot for singing this song.

Last Great American Whale: Lou Reed (1989)

I have tried to understand America, I have American friends, I have worked in America, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand how such a profligate, insular, bankrupt and corrupt nation exists, let alone dominates. Lou Reed is American, so he says it better.

Stairway To Heaven: Red Army Chorus & The Leningrad Cowboys (1993)

This is probably the most surreal track in the collection. Savour the moment when the Red Army Chorus sings, “There’s a feeling I get when I look to the West, and my spirit is crying for leaving. Oo-oh it makes me Vunder!” I don’t care if they are taking the piss, I defy you not to be moved by it.

Clang Boom Steam: Tom Waits (2004)

It doesn’t get more raw than this, and the train that took his baby, it went clang, boom, steam.

Working Class Hero: Marianne Faithfull (1979)

I like the production of this very much, and I like the fact it is written by a middle class grammar school boy and sung by the daughter of a baroness.

Brother Can You Spare A Dime: Bing Crosby (1932)

Back to me winding up that gramophone for my Dad to sing along to his collection of old ballads. This gut-wrenching song from the collapse of the American dream is as powerful and as complete as any tragedy I have ever seen on screen or read in print.

My Generation: The Who (1965)

Alpha and omega. Thank you.

Comments (1)

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  1. John Mayall was an important man in my youth and I’m sure he did mean every thing. Probably deflecting the unbearable loss of his own English music/ethnicity which had been stolen, mangled and debased by the upper middle class coterie led by Cecil Sharp and Lord Reith, through their new media of free education and national television. Or maybe he was mourning the loss of Eric…

    and on Cliff Richard – my cringe equivalent of this is Lonnie Donegan. I loved his skiffle and was abit too young to folow the local skiffle groups but when he sang My Ole Man’s a Dustman to the Queen televised into every home from the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium my own unaware forelock tugging was nocked clean out of my system. The man was relaxedly proud of being working class. I had been brought up in a deep culture of deference – that sapped my youthful vitality and pride.

    The picture in the CD roundel is of the WW2 Kinder Transport. This is how Mel’s mum escaped the Nazi’s.

    stefanMarch 4th, 2009 at 17:49

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