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Listen to “Sunburn” by Sylvan Esso

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I wanted to spotlight Sylvan Esso because electronic music coverage has been scarce of late in the blog. The acclaimed duo have new music out by way of the track “Sunburn“. They are not without a legion of fans. Although I have looked into them frequently, the full extent of their allure didn’t yet rub off on me. They are a band with festival and TV appearances aplenty and a Grammy nomination under their belt. Their popularity is such that I do not think my quiet period of indifference has much impact on them, though.

Since the sun put in an appearance the last weekend. I just felt it appropriate that I slap “Sunburn,” the latest from Sylvan Esso, streaming into my earbuds and seeing what effect it would have on me. Let me begin by first saying I felt the hypnotic pull of the track. (The bass line pops off like the little explosions popcorn kernels make when in a pan, heat on and with a lid firmly in place). This I found immediately transfixing.

Equally, the dreamy vocals by Amelia Meath of the duo exhibit wholly mesmeric properties. “Sunburn” is more of a stripped-back track that relies on a steer of catchy rhythm and blippy electronic bleeps.

Listen on Apple Music

When seeking an electronica hit that is uncluttered but still attention-grabbing. Plugging into “Sunburn” by Sylvan Esso is a move well made. Listening to the song, not only are we swept up in the feverish rhythm. We also get a sweet reminder about the after-effects of sitting out in the sun for too long. The metaphor extends much further than that. As the duo’s Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn explain:

Sunburn” is: eating candy till you’re sick or riding your bike too fast down a hill.”

Coming, from not being sure about them to then having their skittish electronic track, “Sunburn,” firmly stuck in my head. I guess I don’t mind Sylvan Esso after all.

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/sylvanesso
instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sylvanesso/





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Depeche Mode remember late bandmate Andy Fletcher

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Depeche Mode with Andy Fletcher
Depeche Mode with Andy Fletcher (middle)

Dave Gahan and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode have thanked fans for their “outpouring of love” since the sudden death of founding member Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher last month.

“We wanted to take a moment and acknowledge the outpouring of love for Andy that we’ve seen from all of you over the last few weeks,” the surviving members wrote on Instagram. “It’s incredible to see all of your photos, to read your words, and to see how much Andy meant to all of you.”

“As you can imagine, it’s been a strange, sad, disorienting few weeks for us here, to say the least,” they continued. “But we’ve seen and felt all of your love and support, and we know that Andy’s family has too.”

When Fletch’s death was first announced, there was no mention of how he died. In the post, Gahan and Gore confirm that it was natural causes.

“A couple weeks ago we received the result from the medical examiners, which Andy’s family asked us to share with you now. Andy suffered an aortic dissection while at home on May 26. So, even though it was far, far too soon, he passed naturally and without prolonged suffering.”

The duo went onto talk about “a beautiful ceremony” they attended last week to remember Fletch.

“We had a celebration of Andy’s life in London last week, which was a beautiful ceremony and gathering with a few tears, but filled with the great memories of who Andy was, stories of all of our times together, and some good laughs,” they wrote.

“Andy was celebrated in a room full of many of his friends and family, our immediate DM family, and so many people who have touched Andy’s and our lives throughout the years. All being together was a very special way to remember Andy and see him off.”

Read more: Top 40 Depeche Mode songs





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Adamski interview: “I licked Boy George’s moped as we went scrambling in the rain”

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Adamski KillerAdamski was the child punk prodigy who became one of rave’s first superstars, with his mega-hit Killer. In 2020 he told Classic Pop of tabloid infamy, offending Seal, LSD-fuelled biking with Culture Club’s frontman and David Cameron’s unlikely cameo in creating a smash…

My whole life has been very weird,” notes Adamski. He’s not wrong. Just the tale of creating Killer is so bizarre that it involves lurid rumours about a future Prime Minister. There’s Adamski’s days as an 11-year-old punk, gatecrashing the first ever Indie Chart; the time his mum thought he’d died due to an error by BBC News; and ending up on the front page of News Of The World as a menace to society.

That’s before he’s even touched on how he went from DJing for 30 people to hanging out with Elton John in less than a year. “The things I like mostly aren’t commercial,” he explains. “I never thought any of this would happen.”

Adamski had a thorny relationship with his alias and dance music in general. He talks warmly of the early days of rave, playing clubs like Cream’s predecessor Underground in Liverpool and Sub Club in Glasgow long before they became legendary names. But he feels house music didn’t progress and turned stale, so he rejected it for years, becoming sick of Killer and his own name as a side-effect. 

But now, marking the 30th anniversary of his No.1, Adamski has made Free To Kill Again – an album of 10 new versions of the smash, featuring Boy George, Adrian Sherwood, veteran leftfield icon Nina Hagen and transgender rapper Mykki Blanco.

“There was a long period where I was sick of Killer and bored of people asking me about it,” he admits. “Then I realised that was ungrateful of me to the universe for giving me that blessing in the first place.” 

He seems bemused as he says how much he’s enjoyed making the new versions, enthusing: “I’ve felt inspired and re-energised working on the album. You can hear that in the music.” He’s right – whether sampling Sarkodie’s club hit Party & Bullshit or getting Boy George to revisit his reggae side on Sherwood’s mix, it’s enjoyable hearing Adamski reacquaint himself with that squelchy riff.

“I didn’t think Killer was single material,” he admits of its creation. “It’s called Killer because I thought it’d be best as incidental music for a film, suitable for a murder scene. There was no mention of ‘Killer’ in the lyrics until Seal added the line ‘It’s the loneliness that’s the killer’ to make the title make a little more sense.” 

Adamski had played the instrumental original in his DJ sets. “It didn’t stand out,” he insists. Meeting Seal helped, of course. Fresh from “playing jazz-funk bars in Thailand for six months,” Seal saw Adamski perform at early rave Sunrise 5000 and tracked the DJ down through his flatmate. “I wasn’t looking for a singer,” says Adamski.

“I was quite happy playing instrumental techno, as it had already taken me from performing to literally 30 people to crowds of 8,000 within a couple of months. But Seal was an interesting guy with silver dreadlocks and this gritty Jimi Hendrix-ish voice. I gave him some demos and invited him to pick one to sing on. I still don’t know why he chose Killer in particular.” 

The pair became friends when it transpired that they went to the same Sunday nightclub, Solaris, in Kings Cross. “Apparently, David Cameron used to go to Solaris,” Adamski reveals. Really? “Yeah, I gather he’d lurk about in the corner with a big baseball cap on, gurning.” 

Adamski Killer

Adamski was just 21 when Killer reached No.1 in May 1990. “The success happened a bit too quickly to come to terms with each stage of it,” he admits. “It wasn’t exactly how I’d planned it. I was still loving acid house raves and going to Nerve and Amnesia in Ibiza.” 

At least he’d already had his first taste of tabloid fame, having appeared at the infamous Biology rave at a forest near Watford the previous year. One of Britain’s first large-scale raves, Biology made the front page of News Of The World.

“Biology went on for so long, when the paper appeared, half our mates were still dancing in the field,” Adamski laughs. “It was described as this awful illegal menace, with residents saying it was ‘mindless machine music’. I like to think that was my set they were referring to!”

Adamski had been drawn to rave for its anarchy and DIY spirit, having grown up as punk starlet Adam Tinley in the New Forest in Hampshire. Aged just 11, he formed Stupid Babies, persuading his five-year-old brother Dominic to sing while Adam valiantly played a few riffs. Their songs Baby Blues and Baby Sitter featured on Earcom 3, a sampler EP on punk label Fast Product.

In January 1980, Earcom 3 was at No.7 in the first ever Indie Chart – 10 years to the month before Adamski’s first hit N-R-G. “My favourite promo photo of me is in a Sid Vicious T-shirt, next to my little brother in dark glasses with a toy microphone,” Adamski chuckles. “I’m really proud of Stupid Babies.”

Although success was a whirlwind, Adamski was able to reject the obvious commercial offers, turning down remixes and superstar collaborations, though he did meet Elton John: “Nice feller.” He also became friends with Boy George, having been a fan of his DJing as well as Culture Club. “I first spoke to George when I saw him DJ in 1988 in Heaven. I asked him where he got his trainers from,” Adamski recalls.

“George had orange and blue Adidas on, and in 1988 you could basically only get black or white trainers. I was so impressed, but George told me he’d got them in New York. That made me go, ‘Oh… oh well,” as I didn’t believe I’d ever go to New York, which seemed a fantasy metropole.

“By the following year, I was with George and Fat Tony in the forest in Ibiza, me and Tony tripping on LSD while I was licking Boy George’s moped as we went scrambling in the rain. That was a fun day.”

Adamski delivers the story with great dry comic timing and a slight sense of bafflement. Shaven-headed, a youthful 51 and with neat glasses, he resembles a college lecturer who’s held the English faculty together for years now. He may occasionally lose his initial train of thought, but that’s only because he’s remembered another hilariously unlikely story to impart. His restless spirit meant he soon grew bored of the mainstream, despite the Top 10 success of his album Doctor Adamski’s Musical Pharmacy.

“I’ve always approached every new thing I do like an art project,” he explains. “I’ve made a living from music since signing my record deal in 1989. I don’t care if I’m rich, because I never expected to make a living from music. When I was very young, we went on holiday to Tenerife and I heard the hotel band coming up through the floor of the bedroom, playing Nights In White Satin. That was the height of glamour for me: ‘Wow, playing in a hotel band!’ 

“I still feel like that. Unless one of my kids or someone I loved needed thousands of pounds for medical treatment, I’d never do anything just for the money.”

Despite never doing anything solely for cash, Adamski admits he did briefly set out to deliberately write a hit while his family were living in Italy in the late 90s. “The commercial scene there was ridiculously cheesy,” he remembers. “It was all tunes like Blue (Da Ba Dee) by Eiffel 65. I thought I’d take that commercial formula and subvert it somehow. But, after about half-an-hour, I’d get bored and veer off at a tangent, start sampling something mad like Crass.”

By the time Adamski was living in Italy, he’d changed his recording alias to Adam Sky. As he’s the first to point out, his new name was only one letter different, but it was enough to throw people off the scent. Adam Sky found acclaim in the early 00s, when his friend Jonny Slut from cult punks Specimen began influential London club Nag Nag Nag, the centre of the hip electroclash scene. Adam Sky was releasing music on the cult Kitsuné label, whose other acts included Bloc Party, La Roux and Klaxons.

“It was brilliant playing huge clubs as Adam Sky, rather than because I’d had a No.1 in the 90s,” he states. Bizarrely, Australian DJ Adam Neat also began DJing under the name Adam Sky, becoming one of Australia’s most successful dance acts, remixing Scissor Sisters and David Guetta. Adamski “couldn’t be bothered” resolving any confusion. 

Tragically, in May 2019 the Australian Adam Sky bled to death after slicing his arm opening on a window. The BBC News website got the two DJs mixed up, their obituary leading a friend into panicking Adamski’s mum when he rang with his condolences. “He also messaged my wife on our WhatsApp, saying, ‘Adam was like a brother to me’ and I thought, ‘What the fuck are you on about?’,” Adamski recalls. “That really was a weird one.”

By then, Adamski was back to his original alias, his wife Nana and various friends suggesting he give it another go. “I’d spent so long working at getting away from the name, I was a bit ‘meh’ about being Adamski again at first,” he admits. “I’m much happier going with the flow now.” 

He even worked with Seal again, when the singer dabbled with returning to dance music. “It was good fun being back in the studio with Seal, but I was smoking really heavily at the time and I think that annoyed him,” he reveals. “I was smoking half-size corona cigars, which really stink, and Seal had a throat issue. That was inconsiderate of me, but we had a laugh otherwise.” Eventually, Seal abandoned the electronic concept, releasing 2017 covers album Standards instead.

Free To Kill Again should be followed by a new Adamski album, as well as one from his psychobilly alias Sonny Eriksson. As with finding Seal by chance 30 years ago, he won’t court big-name collaborators. “I know trendy remixers who’d have done a new Killer at mates’ rates,” Adamski summarises.

“That doesn’t interest me. I’d rather people came to me serendipitously, like Theo Zero: his dad, Robbie Maddix, drummed for The Stone Roses, but he’s singing on the album because he’s my daughter Bluebell’s flatmate – she asked him if he knew of any good singers.

“Mykki Blanco came along as she’s a mate of Theo. I’d loved Mykki’s song Wavvy, but I’d have been too scared to ask someone like her to be on one of my songs, because why would Mykki Blanco work with some English has-been? Working with people like that, it’s like so much of what I’ve done: I don’t know how I’ve managed it, but I’m really glad it’s happened.” 

Somewhere in the universe, someone has got plans for Adamski again. Whatever happens, it’s guaranteed to be a blast.

 

All photos copyright Nana Tinley



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Spotlight: We Are The World – the album

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We Are The World
We Are The World album cover

We Are the World hit No.1 across the globe, sold 10 million copies and picked up four Grammy Awards. Yet the album of the same name appears to have been erased from existence. Classic Pop takes a look back at the most forgotten U.S. chart-topping LP of the 80s. 

Bob Dylan singing about world hunger with about as much passion as the talking clock. Bruce Springsteen straining so hard that you can practically hear his neck veins bulging. Cyndi Lauper’s caterwauling attempt to ‘do a Bono.’ It may be for mostly the wrong reasons, but it’s pretty hard to forget America’s less-than-subtle attempt to replicate the success of Band Aid.  

Indeed, even us Brits – who just months earlier had made Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s slightly more modest supergroup effort the biggest-selling song of all time – sent We Are The World to No.1, denying Tears for Fears’ far superior Everybody Wants to Rule The World in the process.

But chances are that you don’t remember its same-named parent album, a 10-track collection of curiosities which gave many of the names who so desperately craved centre stage on its lead single the chance to take it. 

Yes, while Band Aid perhaps wisely restricted their recording output to a one-off track (well, until 1989, and then 2004, and then 2014) that will forever remain a staple of Christmas playlists, USA For Africa decided to extend their back-patting efforts to a full LP.

Overseen by the legendary Quincy Jones, We Are The World repeated the success of its opening call-to-arms in the States, topping the Billboard 200 during its 22-week chart run. And yet it left virtually no cultural imprint there. It’s not available on any of the major streaming services and several cuts remain strangely absent from YouTube: should Pointless ever make it across the pond, then the category of 1980s No.1 albums has at least one sure-fire winning answer. 

And in Britain, where tolerance for cloying sentimentality and bombastic self-regard had perhaps been tested too much by its opening seven minutes, the LP couldn’t even trouble the Top 75. 

Listening to We Are The World the album 35 years on, and it soon becomes apparent that we’re not dealing with a lost classic here. With its tinny synths and Kenny G-esque saxophone solo, Steve Perry’s offering If Only For The Moment, Girl – reportedly self-financed by the Journey frontman – ticks off nearly every cliché in the mid-80s soft-rock handbook.

Peter Cetera didn’t exactly go out on a high with the tepid light funk of Good For Nothing, the last Chicago track to feature his familiar tenor before he found Karate Kid-assisted solo success. And Huey Lewis And The News’ closing contribution, a live rendition of 1980 album cut Trouble In Paradise, essentially screams “this will do.”

And then there’s Northern Lights’ Tears Are Not Enough, Canada’s admirable, if ultimately second-rate attempt to create an empowering star-studded charity anthem of their own. The man responsible for the collective, Bryan Adams’ manager Bruce Allen, sure made use of his contacts book, securing some of the nation’s most well-respected singer-songwriters (Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot).

But he then saddled them with an air-grabbing power ballad, co-written by his gravelly-voiced client, even treaclier than their fellow North Americans’. 

Interestingly, Tears Are Not Enough wasn’t conceived with the Ethiopian famine in mind. Producer David Foster initially offered it to director Joel Schumacher for his Brat Pack coming-of-age drama St Elmo’s Fire. However, even the man who would later helm Batman And Robin recognised it wasn’t much cop.

Well, initially, anyway. By the time he did a U-turn on the track, the mishmash collective that also included Geddy Lee of prog-rock giants Rush, Sunglasses At Night hitmaker Corey Hart and larger-than-life comedian John Candy were already gearing up for its recording.    

And yet We Are The World isn’t without merit. The Pointer Sisters, then approaching the end of their commercial heyday, once again deliver a slick and sassy synth-R&B number tailor-made for a Jane Fonda workout with Just A Little Closer.

We Are The World tracklisting
We Are The World tracklisting

Tina Turner intriguingly transforms the new wave of The Motels’ minor hit Total Control into a sultry soul number. And although A Little More Love is never going to top anyone’s Best Of Kenny Rogers lists, it’s another solid country-pop crossover from the man who was reportedly the first major name to say yes to the whole project.

There are also two little gems hidden in amongst all the corniness and castoffs. Bruce Springsteen and reggae may not sound like natural fits. But The Boss redeems himself for his We Are The World showboating with a slow-building, impassioned take on Jimmy Cliff’s Trapped recorded on the New Jersey leg of his world-conquering Born In The USA tour.

Springsteen’s cover was the only other album cut to strike a chord with audiences Stateside, topping the Billboard Rock Chart and introducing a whole new generation to the sounds of the Jamaican cult hero. 

Prince famously refused to join the celebrity do-gooders’ singalong for the album’s title track: his unwillingness to share the studio with other artists and his apparent offence at being called a “creep” by Bob Geldof were just two of the rumoured explanations. 

Instead, The Purple One offered the only solo track to be penned especially for the record. Opening with the lines “long ago, there was a man/ Change stone to bread with the touch of his hand,” 4 The Tears In Your Eyes reads like a weighty sermon on paper. But with backing from The Revolution, its twinkling synths and cooing harmonies could easily have fitted onto his 1984 juggernaut Purple Rain. 

It’s not the definitive version, however. Just two months after the album’s release, Prince also recorded a more stripped-back affair – the video for which debuted at Live Aid – that allowed his explicitly spiritual message to connect further. 

Sadly, it remains a mystery which category the shelved We Are The World track would have fitted into. Linda Ronstadt’s Keeping Out Of Mischief – pulled over either musical differences or a row with USA For Africa’s co-founder Harry Belafonte, according to reports – has never been officially released. 

Of course, the album’s main initiative was to urgently raise money for a humanitarian crisis. And with its sales of three million contributing significantly to the $63 million raised by USA For Africa in total, it achieved its goal and then some.

Sure, the majority of those bought are likely to have been gathering attic dust since 1985. But its mediocrity, rather than any specific crimes against music, perhaps explains why We Are The World has essentially been airbrushed out of history. 



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