Friday, 1 August 2014

Freak Power 'Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out'

Chart Peak: 3 [29 in 1993]

'Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out' is the soundtrack to the current Levi's advertising campaign... It charted at No. 3 on 12/3/95 after just one week on release giving Norman Cook (ex-Housemartins and Beats International) his biggest hit to date with latest venture Freak Power.

OK, so my original plan was to write about Now 30 in the thirtieth anniversary year, but as you may have noticed that ended eight months ago. Still, it's an interesting album, or am I just saying that because it was released around the time of my 17th birthday? One way or another there's stuff in here I wanted to write about anyway, and besides, it's a chance to repay the investment I made in actually buying a copy of the opening track.

As the note there slightly glosses over, 'Turn On...' had been a minor hit two years earlier but was revitalised by that advert, which perhaps hasn't dated too well but certainly got the song (or at least a heavily re-edited segment of it) noticed. It was a clever choice, actually, fitting both the apparent 1970s setting of the ad and the somewhat mocking tone. As with most of his projects, Norman Cook didn't directly front the band; the most visible member was singing trombonist Ashley Slater, he of the baritone voice and shaven head. I'm not entirely sure about the health and safety implications of balancing a candle on one's head, as he does in the video, but at least he doesn't have any hair to worry about singeing.

It's hard to know how seriously to take the apparent anti-drug message of the lyric (my guess is "not very") but it does at least raise the song above some of the more earnest funk pastiches that were around then (and now, indeed). Slater's trombone solo also adds a slightly cheeky edge to the finished article.

Despite Cook's previous success, Freak Power went the way of most acts who have a breakthrough hit from an advert and never enjoyed a big hit again. They just about scraped the Top 30 with one-off single 'No Way' in 1998, but Cook had already turned his attention to other projects like Fatboy Slim, Mighty Dub Katz and Pizzaman so they're deservedly best remembered for this. It's a good song if possibly a bit quiet for the opening track.

Available on: Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out

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