Monday, 24 October 2011

Music That Made Me #39 - Curtis Mayfield - Move On Up

This series is about songs that have formed my tastes and memories of key (and not so-key) moments in my life. Some of the songs are inspirational; some are never to be played again.

Mainly for reasons of practicality (the series needs to make way for the traditional favourite albums of 2011 and ones to watch for 2012 posts in December), but also because it’s the number of years I’ve spent on this planet, there will be 42 choices in total. When it’s done there will be a list of all of the tracks and links to all the posts, but let’s be very clear now – this list is in no way designed as a definitive collection of my favourite songs of all time, nor are they all what I deem to be ‘classics’. Sure, some of them are probably considered as such, songs by the likes of The Pixies, Kate Bush, The Cure, Chuck Berry and Kraftwerk could all easily turn up in the kind of lists you find in critics polls or music magazines, but I very much doubt if you would find The Wombles, Thousand Yard Stare or King in those lists. Nor would many music publications suggest that memories of snogging a girl at a school disco or lyrics that remind you of unfulfilled relationships would go down as valid methods of assessing great music, but this is what this series has done.

Looking back at the 38 choices before this, one thing is very clear. There has been very little (by very little I mean none) rap, hip-hop, urban or soul music in the choices. It appears on first glance that the soundtrack to my life has been largely empty of such music. Yet the likes of Public Enemy, Diana Ross and Sam Cooke would all feature in my ‘classic records’ list and todays choice very much fits into this mould.

This selection –Move On Up – by Curtis Mayfield ticks all the boxes. It’s undeniably a classic recording – funky, sharp, with hyperactive bongos, a punchy brass riff that gets me every time; it found Mayfield reaching the zenith of his career. It’s one of my absolute favourites, irrespective of it’s a classic status or not. It also provided a memory of soundtracking a moment in my life – the summer of ’96 to be exact, rather than 1970 when it was originally released.

I’d originally discovered the song in my early teens on a long lost compilation record that I had purchased for just a few pennies in a charity shop. I remember very little about it now except for its dog-eared slightly musty smelling blue cover and a title something along the lines of The Ultimate Soul Collection or Soul Classics. It featured the likes of Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Jackie Wilson, Percy Sledge, and Curtis and I played it over and over again until the grooves were nearly worn out. If you read the blog regularly you may occasionally spot this records influence – ever since I heard it I’ve become a sucker for punchy brass riffs which in a modern context you can probably best hear in Rizzle Kicks Down WithThe Trumpets or The Milk’s All I Wanted Was Danger. And let's not forget that a certain Kanye West sampled the song a few years back and brought it into a modern context.

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