Stowaway Heroes – Shep Pettibone

One of the most important names of the 1980s is Shep Pettibone. You’ll know him from multiple remixes and production credits, but there’s a good chance that you don’t actually know anything about him. Me neither, frankly, so let’s start with something we can all agree on – the brilliance of his 1986 remix of Love Comes Quickly, by Pet Shop Boys:

The New York-based DJ would work with Pet Shop Boys a number of times between 1986 and 1988, working on ten tracks in total. But by 1986, Pettibone was already half a decade into his career, having cut his teeth on Afrika Bambaataa‘s Jazzy Sensation in 1981:

His CV for the late 1980s is impressive to say the least, including remixes and production work for Art of NoiseThe B-52sBee GeesBrosDavid BowieDepeche ModeDuran DuranDusty SpringfieldElton JohnErasure, FalcoGeorge MichaelJanet JacksonNew OrderRun DMCWhitney Houston and many others. But his most prolific collaborator seems to have been Madonna, who used his services no less than sixteen times between 1985 and 1993. Here’s Into the Groove:

His mixes were undeniably of their time, with huge drum fills and solos, and a lot of orchestral hits – so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that his remix work dried up somewhat in the 1980s. But if you’re looking for someone who heavily impacted the sound of a particular era, Shep Pettibone should be very high on your list.

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Retro chart for stowaways – 20 May 2006

While I’m still away on my holidays, here are the top 10 albums from eleven years ago:

  1. Massive Attack – Collected
  2. Goldfrapp – Supernature
  3. William Orbit – Hello Waveforms
  4. I Monster – Neveroddoreven
  5. Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel
  6. Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor
  7. Röyksopp – The Understanding
  8. Pet Shop Boys – PopArt
  9. Röyksopp – Röyksopp’s Night Out
  10. Sugababes – Taller in More Ways

Artist of the Week – William Orbit

Time now for another of our archive Artist of the Week features, dating back to early 2005. Some of these do contain errors, and probably contain some plagiarism too. Apologies in advance…

This week’s Artist of the Week was born William Wainwright, and would ultimately go on to become one of the most important musicians in the world of electronic ambient and dance music.

He began his musical career in the early 1980s in the new wave group Torch Song, and while recording with the band started to learn studio techniques, and by the end of the eighties was making a name for himself by remixing and producing the likes of Kraftwerk, The Human League, Erasure, and Madonna.

His first solo album Orbit was released in 1987, but it was with the Strange Cargo project that he started to make a name for himself. The first part of the four-album epic also came out in 1987, and was followed by parts two and three at three-year intervals. It was with these that he kick-started the career of folk singer Beth Orton, who first featured on 1993’s minor hit single Water from a Vine Leaf. The fourth album in the set, Strange Cargo Hinterland, followed in 1995, and features some of his best material to date.

It was at this time he first recorded his legendary Pieces in a Modern Style album, featuring inventive new interpretations of classical pieces, but it initially attracted very strong protests from some of the composers involved, so he re-entered the world of production, apparently never to be seen again.

However, it was with his production work that he truly made a name for himself, being responsible for some of All Saints‘ later material, as well as Ray of Light, one of Madonna‘s best albums to date, and also Blur‘s acclaimed album 13. On the back of this, he returned to the studio to re-record Pieces in a Modern Style, which swiftly made its name as a modern classic thanks to remixes by Ferry Corsten and ATB.

As rumours of a new album continue, he continues to work with the likes of Pink and Eagle-Eye Cherry on production work, and we await his return with baited breath.

Record Store Day 2016

Backlash aside, I always feel as though we should try and stir up a bit of excitement for this weekend’s Record Store Day, as we did in previous years. Here are some of the releases that caught my eye…

  • a-haHits South America – five previously unreleased live tracks (12″ EP, 3,000 copies in the US, also in the UK and Germany)
  • AirCasanova 70 – four remixes including two by Brendan Lynch (12″ “maxi transparent splatter vinyl”, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • David BowieThe Man Who Sold the World (12″ picture disc, 5,000 copies in the US, also Canada, Germany and Netherlands), TVC15 (7″ picture disc, 5,000 copies in the US, also Canada, Germany and Netherlands), and I Dig Everything – The Pye Singles (12″ EP, 7,500 copies in the US, also Canada)
  • CassiusAction EP and 8 Beats (both 12″x2, Germany only – the latter also in Canada)
  • ChvrchesEvery Open Eye Remix EP (12″ EP, 5,000 copies in the US and Canada)
  • John Cooper Clarke – Ou est le Maison de Fromage (180g coloured vinyl, UK only)
  • Étienne de CrécySuper Discount 1, Super Discount 2, and Super Discount 3 (all UK only, format not stated)
  • Dead Can DanceAnastasis (2xLP, 1,500 copies in the US, also Canada, Germany and Netherlands)
  • 808 StatePacific – three remixes (12″ EP, 2,000 copies in the US, also in the UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • EuropeThe Final Countdown 30th Anniversary – three tracks including new remix (12″ electric blue vinyl, UK only)
  • Frankie Goes to HollywoodRage Hard (The Making of a 12″) (12″ EP, 2,500 copies in the US, also in the UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • The Future Sound of LondonAccelerator plus Andrew Weatherall remix of Papua New Guinea and Stolen Documents (black heavy weight LP in printed inner bag with hand-numbered 7″ vinyl, UK and Germany only)
  • Heaven 17(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (repressed 12″, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Jean-Michel JarreE.S.Exit (7″, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Kings of ConvenienceQuiet is the New Loud, Versus, and Riot on an Empty Street (LPs, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • MadonnaLike a Virgin & Other Hits (12″ pink vinyl, reissue of 1984 Japanese EP with Obi Strip, 4,500 copies in the US, also in Canada, the UK and Netherlands)
  • Mike OldfieldNuclear (7″ picture disc, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • The OrbThe Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (4xLP, UK and Netherlands)
  • The ResidentsThis is a Special DJ Record of The Residents’ Alleged Music. Please Do Not Steal It! Keep it at Your Station – We Need the Radio Airplay (LP, 1,500 copies in the US, also in Canada, the UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Soft CellSex Dwarf – including remixes by The Grid (12″, Canada, UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Alan Partridge – Knowing Me, Knowing You (picture disc, UK only)
  • Doctor Who – Genesis of the Daleks (LP blue vinyl, 2,500 copies in the US, also in the UK,  Germany, and Netherlands)
  • Dr. Who and the Daleks / Dr. Who – Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (LP box set, UK only)

Good luck trying to find any of those. More information for the US here, the UK here, Germany here, and various other countries here.

Retro chart for stowaways – 4 March 2006

The top ten albums from a decade ago:

  1. Goldfrapp – Supernature
  2. Röyksopp – Röyksopp’s Night Out
  3. Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor
  4. Sparks – Hello Young Lovers
  5. Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel
  6. Sugababes – Taller in More Ways
  7. Röyksopp – The Understanding
  8. a-ha – Analogue
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Battleship Potemkin (OST)
  10. Faithless – Forever Faithless – The Greatest Hits

The Best of the BRIT Awards

The 2016 BRIT Awards take place tonight, but unfortunately (well, fortunately, for me) I’m actually on holiday right now, so I’ll have to catch up when I’m back. In the meantime, here’s something I knocked up a few weeks ago – you could call it The BRIT Award Awards, or perhaps The Best of the BRIT Awards.

I’ve gone through each of the previous ceremonies, and worked out the most nominated and winning artists for each category. So here goes! For the most part, we’ll be using the current awards and names.

British Male Solo Artist

  • Phil Collins. Won 1986, 1989, 1990.
  • George Michael. Won 1988, 1997.
  • Cliff Richard. Won 1977, 1982. Nominated 1983, 1984, 1988, 1990.
  • Paul Weller. Won 1995, 1996, 2009.
  • Robbie Williams. Won 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003.

The winner is Robbie Williams, with four wins. Honourable mention to Ed Sheeran for scraping into sixth place.

International Male Solo Artist

  • Beck. Won 1997, 1999, 2000.
  • Eminem. Won 2001, 2003, 2005.
  • Prince. Won 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996.
  • Justin Timberlake. Won 2004, 2007. Nominated 2014.
  • Kanye West. Won 2006, 2008, 2009.

Winner: Prince, and an honourable mention for Bruno Mars, for just missing out on the nominations.

British Female Solo Artist

  • Kate Bush. Won 1987. Nominated 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 2006, 2012.
  • Dido. Won 2002, 2004. Nominated 2001.
  • Annie Lennox. Won 1984, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1996.
  • Alison Moyet. Won 1985, 1988. Nominated 1984, 1986, 2003.
  • Lisa Stansfield. Won 1991, 1992. Nominated 1990, 1993, 1995, 1998.

The winner is Annie Lennox, a tearaway success with six wins.

International Female Solo Artist

  • Beyoncé. Won 2004. Nominated 2007, 2009, 2012, 2015.
  • Björk. Won 1994, 1996, 1998. Nominated 2002, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2016.
  • Madonna. Won 2001, 2006. Nominated 1986, 1987, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1999.
  • Kylie Minogue. Won 2002, 2008. Nominated 1989, 1995, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2011.
  • Rihanna. Won 2011, 2012. Nominated 2008, 2010, 2013.

The winner is Björk, much loved and much deserved.

British Group

  • Arctic Monkeys. Won 2007, 2008, 2014. Nominated 2012.
  • Coldplay. Won 2001, 2003. 2012. Nominated 2006, 2009, 2015, 2016.
  • Manic Street Preachers. Won 1997, 1999.
  • Simply Red. Won 1993, shared win 1992.
  • Travis. Won 2000, 2002.

The winner, with three wins and rather more nominations than Arctic Monkeys, is Coldplay!

International Group

  • Bon Jovi. Won 1996. Nominated 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990.
  • Foo Fighters. Won 2008, 2012, 2015. Nominated 1996, 2003.
  • Kings of Leon. Won 2009. Nominated 2004, 2008, 2011, 2014.
  • R.E.M. Won 1992, 1993, 1995. Nominated 1997, 1999, 2002.
  • U2. Won 1988, 1989, 1990, 1998, 2001. Nominated 1992, 1993, 1994, 2005, 2006, 2016. Nominated for British Group 1985, 1986.

Winner: with five wins, U2.

British Producer of the Year

  • Brian Eno. Won 1994, 1996. Nominated 1988.
  • Flood. Co-won 2014. Nominated 1994, 1995, 2012, 2013.
  • Trevor Horn. Won 1983, 1985, 1992. Nominated 1984, 1986, 1987, 1993, 1995.
  • David A. Stewart. Won 1986, 1987, 1990. Nominated 1992.
  • Stock, Aitken and Waterman. Won 1988. Nominated 1987, 1990, 1992. Pete Waterman nominated separately in 1993.

Winner: Trevor Horn.

British Single

Adele and Coldplay tie for fifth and sixth place in the nominations, so we have six nominees:

  • Adele. Won 2013. Nominated 2009, 2012, 2016.
  • Blur. Won 1995. Nominated 1995 (again), 1996, 1998, 2000.
  • Coldplay. Won 2006. Nominated 2001, 2009, 2013.
  • Queen. Won 1977, 1992.
  • Take That. Won 1993, 1994, 1996, 2007, 2008. Nominated 1993 (twice more!)
  • Robbie Williams. Won 1999, 2000, 2001. Nominated 1998, 1999 (again), 2002, 2013.

Winner: Take That, with an honourable mention for Robbie Williams for taking part in several of their wins too.

British Artist Video

There are seven nominees in this category, because four artists are tied for the bottom position, with one win and two nominations.

  • All Saints. Won 1998. Nominated 1999, 2001.
  • Blur. Won 1995. Nominated 1996 (twice), 1998.
  • The Cure. Won 1990. Nominated 1991, 1993.
  • Peter Gabriel. Won 1987. Nominated 1993, 1994.
  • One Direction. Won 2014, 2015. Nominated 2016.
  • Spice Girls. Won 1997. Nominated 1997 (again), 1998.
  • Robbie Williams. Won 1999, 2000, 2001. Nominated 1999 (again), 2002 (twice).

Winner: Robbie Williams.

British Album

Six nominees again for this one:

  • Arctic Monkeys. Won 2007, 2008, 2014.
  • Blur. Won 1995. Nominated 1996, 2004.
  • Coldplay. Won 2001, 2003. Nominated 2006, 2009, 2012, 2016.
  • Florence + The Machine. Won 2010. Nominated 2012, 2016.
  • Manic Street Preachers. Won 1997, 1999. Nominated 1997.
  • Oasis. Won 1996. Nominated 1995, 1998.

That’s a decisive win for Arctic Monkeys!

And that’s your lot! If it seems a slightly odd list, think of it as a list of the typical nominees and winners at the BRITs. If you’re more interested in the ceremony that’s about to happen, that would be here.

Anyway, enjoy the ceremony tonight, and we’ll catch up on the results here very soon.

Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor

Whatever you thought of her in the 1980s, by the turn of the 21st century it was hard not to have some respect for Madonna. Her ability to bring together some of the finest producers in the world of electronic – even if only by virtue of the size of the paycheck – was impressive to say the least.

After collaborating with William Orbit and Mirwaïs on previous releases, on Confessions on a Dance Floor, it was the turn of Stuart Price, once styled Jacques Lu Cont of Les Rhythmes Digitales.

Confessions on a Dance Floor starts with Hung Up, modelled around Gimme Gimme Gimme. The nice thing about taking other people’s songs as a starting point is that you can pretty much guarantee yourself a hit, and so it was with Hung Up, which peaked at number 1 all over the place. Rightly so – it’s a great song.

Other songs miss the mark slightly – third single Get Together is a bit chaotic, apparently based on Music Sounds Better with You (possibly played backwards?) Despite having confusing lyrics and no particular hooks, it still grabbed a top ten spot in the UK, and was a decent hit elsewhere too.

Second single Sorry follows, the track that Pet Shop Boys really brought to life with their remixes. Leaving aside the appalling foreign pronunciations, it’s a pretty good song, but does lack a bit of substance in its original form. If only Madonna could write lyrics like Neil Tennant – this could have been the blueprint for their Electric album.

As it is, there’s an early lull with the dull Future Lovers and the abominable I Love New York, neither of which has anything particular to offer the world. Neither is particularly long, but both seem as though they go on forever. Madonna isn’t a good lyric writer, and rhyming “New York” with “dork” is neither funny nor clever unfortunately. Other singers have got across a similar message much more eloquently.

Having worked through that, however, Let it Will Be and Forbidden Love are actually both pretty good – both are catchy pop songs, again with slightly daft lyrics, but that’s forgivable sometimes. Actually, in many ways both are better than the other single, Jump, which follows, and is decent, but ultimately has relatively little to offer except the word “jump” in the chorus.

You could probably skip the rest of the album and not miss too much. How High is catchy but lacking in any particular substance. Isaac has some nice vocal samples, but not a huge amount else. Push is kind of catchy but ultimately forgettable, and Like it or Not has a nice cheeky rhythm and burbly bassline, but it’s just an average pop song in the end.

So that’s Confessions on a Dance Floor – a mature and competent album from a global superstar who would sell a lot of records even if she released a CD of herself snoring. But when she works together with the right team, Madonna is still capable of creating interesting music, and for that she has to be applauded.

You can still find Confessions on a Dance Floor through your regular retailers at a bargain price.