Saturday, 30 January 2016
I was listening to Big Audio Dynamite's third album, Megatop Phoenix, released in 1989. In 1988 Mick Jones contracted chicken pox which then spread to his lungs causing double pneumonia. He was close to death, in intensive care and in a coma for several days. Hence the phoenix of the title. It was also the last album made by the line-up of Mick, Don Letts, Leo Williams, Dan Donovan and Greg Roberts last album. BAD had already pioneered sample based songs, using drum machines, films and hip hop and reggae influences. By 1989 they were soaking up house sounds too. The album shows the quality of the group's songwriting, the wide range of Mick's lyrics (James Brown, love and romance, the UK, football, the emerging house scene, Victor Tretchikoff's famous Green Lady painting, Tower Bridge and World War II all make appearances) and the scope and wit of the sampling- Charlie Watts' drumming, Bernard Cribbins, The Great Escape, Noel Coward, George Formby, Alfred Hitchcock, The Who and The Pretty Things and James Brown (again) are among the credited ones. House music is all over the lead single Contact, essentially a verse-chorus house song sung by Mick and the song House Arrest is pretty convincing too- pianos, jackhammer bass, whistles. There are songs which are cut and paste experiments and songs which are more crafted. It's an album that intends to be modern. It's not easy to get hold of currently and doesn't seem to be in print- but if you go second hand you'll find an overlooked but fine lp. Rewind is sung by Don Letts, digital reggae inspired, diverting off into Tenor Saw's Ring The Alarm at one point and including part of the later song Stalag 123 played backwards. Ideas busting out all over the place.
The band shots on the inner sleeve are superbly late 80s. Mick went to the photoshoot dressed like this...