Thursday, 16 July 2009

Beats International 'Dub Be Good To Me'

Chart Peak: 1 (4 weeks)


Four tracks in and we hit a Number One single at last. And we intersect with my record collection too, thanks to a recent MP3 purchase.

I've referred before to the fact that the Housemartins seemed to loom large in my childhood, and after they split I remember hearing a dance record on the radio by somebody called Norman Cook who the DJ said had been in the Housemartins. Even at the age of ten or eleven I could tell that was an unusually big change in direction; I could also tell that Norman Cook wasn't a very cool or trendy-sounding name for that sort of music, so perhaps it's not surprising that he didn't remain a solo artist for long, spending much of his subsequent career in groups or under pseudonyms. Beats International (featuring the sometimes credited singer Lindy Layton) were but the first of them.

'Dub Be Good To Me' seems to have gone down in history as the first chart-topping example of what was later called a "mash-up" (although of course the idea is about as old as music itself), blending the lyric from the S.O.S. Band hit 'Just Be Good To Me' with the bassline from 'Guns Of Brixton' by the Clash and the harmonica riff of Ennio Morricone's music for Once Upon A Time In The West. Back in 1990, though, I was only dimly aware of of that, beyond the connection to 'Just Be Good To Me', which I'd probably even heard when it was a hit, although I don't really remember it from then. Really, when I enjoyed this record, I was enjoying it entirely in its own right. When I listen to it now, unlike some of the music I enjoyed at that time of my life, it still impresses me. What strikes me most about the track, especially now, is the deep air of sadness that surrounds it, as the harmonica that sounds like it's in the middle of nowhere weaves its way around the protagonist to enhance the atmosphere of isolation; by the time we get to the fade-out her desperation is palpable; and the whole thing has an emotional weight that I just don't hear in the rather floaty sounding SOS Band record. Oddly, I don't feel that the more obvious "street" affectations detract from this either; they seem to act as a sort of framing device for the main part of the song. I could probably do without that swallowing solo in the middle, though.

Incidentally, I don't know much about the financial arrangements that may have been made in order to get this track released. I do notice that the writing credit is to Cook and Jam & Lewis (writers of 'Just Be Good To Me') and doesn't mention the Clash element. This may or may not be the reason for the little-remembered cash-in release 'Return To Brixton'.

Available on: Let Them Eat Bingo

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