Inner City Goldie

Obscure Music & Football is normally a one-man blog, but here’s a cracking guest post by Football League and music connoisseur Rob Langham, aka Lanterne Rouge, co-proprietor of the excellent Two Unfortunates blog and contributor to sites like The Art of Noise. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @twounfortunates.

Today’s dance music occupies an altogether more homely place than it did in the 1990s. Back then, Sasha and Digweed were ‘havin’ it’ in Eye-biza, Leftfield were soundtracking a Guinness advert and Faithless provided the background music to Grandstand. By contrast, there’s an introspection to much of today’s offerings – a reticence no more apparent than in the UK context where the likes of Ghostpoet and Burial provide a dissonant, downbeat take on life in British cities – a depressing but beautiful soundscape that makes perfect sense in the light of last Summer’s troubled times.

This lack of exuberance has been accompanied by the rise of net music. Before, one was forced to listen to what Pete Tong or Dave Pearce forced you to listen to, be it on the radio or in a club. The theory of the long tail has allowed us to break free from these shackles so there’s little need to engage with the outside world at all – cooped up in your Fallowfield or Cowley digs, you can explore the deepest recesses of spacesynth or crunkcore.

One of the musicians to bemoan this loss of collaboration and togetherness is one Clifford Price – ‘Goldie’ to you and me. Now it may seem odd to you that my genial host Chris has allowed me to write a piece on this gentleman given this site’s billing as ‘obscure’. This is a man, you’ll remember, who has starred in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch and James Bond movie, The World is Not Enough, dated Björk and Naomi Campbell and chalked up appearances on Celebrity Big Brother, Come Dine With Me and Strictly Come Dancing. That he has made first round exits, his speciality does little to obstruct the Black Country boy’s fame.

Through all this brouhaha, not to mention his involvement in a more edifying and admirable activities like a three part series designed to scour the country for new musical talent, it’s easy to forget the real reason why Goldie rose to prominence – for this is no Kim Kardashian-style professional celebrity.

Drum and Bass – I can find no consensus to indicate whether it should be spelt thus, or as ‘Drum ‘n’ Bass’ – was a rare phenomenon – an example of a British musical genre that really lit the blue touch paper in its time. Growing out of Jungle, the at times unlistenable underground sub-discipline that emerged around the time of early Britpop, its smoother edge was lent individuality by the defining coda of the rapid breakbeat – that ubiquitous musical tic of the time and a style it’s hard to think of the nineties without evoking.

Goldie was the chief witchdoctor of Drum and Bass. Sure, the likes of Fabio and Grooverider may have predated him, but he did more than anyone to popularise it. Fundamental to this was the Metalheadz night – a weekly event at the Blue Note in Hoxton Square that was aimed squarely at proper music fans – a world away from the grandstanding show-offery of a Club UK, let alone the bloated nights that hastened the demise of dance – Gatecrasher in particular. Taking place on Sundays – so only for the committed, Metalheadz was eventually accompanied by a record label of the same name as well as an album of Goldie’s himself – the majestic Timeless. The vocals of Diane Charlemagne on pivotal track Inner City Life were to define that clubby decade.

Yet there was humanity behind the sometime glossiness of the music’s sheen. I once attended a Goldie gig at The Forum in Kentish Town and arrived unfashionably early. Minding my own business at the bar, I was struck by the friendliness of the early arrivers – not least a puffa jacketed individual who came up to me to shake my hand. A split second passed and a glint of gold and I realised that the man himself had approached me to thank me for coming.

Later and in the wake of his second album Saturnzreturn, a problematic artefact not least because of its inclusion of an hour long track on one of its two discs entitled Mother and the presence of David Bowie and Noel Gallagher as guest vocalists, Goldie again produced an accomplished summary of drum and bass’s range. No longer quite part of the zeitgeist, though, the album was panned in the style that is now familiar to any student of music journalism in the United Kingdom of the past fifty years. Taking it upon himself to pen a positive customer review online, a friend of a friend was astonished to receive an email from Mr. Price himself, thanking him for his kind words – the suspicion that Goldie was not only a musical innovator but something of a good egg was now confirmed.

In many ways, Goldie’s career since has become increasingly postmodern, with his involvement in all kinds of media an inevitable development – although few would have predicted his receipt of honorary degrees from Brunel and Wolverhampton Universities. His musical contribution remains indelible, though – and as acts like James Blake and Sepalcure take this generation’s most distinctive music, dubstep, into the mainstream – let’s raise a glass to a man who did the same a decade and a half ago now.


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