“Unusual Sounds for Levi’s selected by Tahiti 80
Call me schizophrenic, call me eclectic, when I’m home I can go from Sweet Soul to Eletronica, with the occasional detour via Rock Land or what’s unfairly labelled World Music. Sometimes the language or the sounds may differ, but in the end I’m just looking for a great song. Dear Friends, welcome to the land of Unusual Sounds where Frenchmen sing about Chinatown, where Brazilian big bands do it the Spanish way or more simply where friendly Martians yodel & dance like a Motown revue…
Tahiti 80 / Chinatown
We were at Tahiti Lab working on an unreleased track called Brooklyn Bridge, and we were getting nowhere. We took a break, I read a review of Fosbury that really pissed me off. It said we were making “gentle pop” …I went back, plugged my guitar, Pedro played keyboard/drums and we came up with our most powerful, soulful pop since Puzzle. Then, I saw a picture of Sylvain and I (with ’50 Cent’ Panda puppet) hanging out in Kobe’s Chinatown, and that was it, really. No Sleep Till…Chinatown!
Fugu / Here Today
Mehdi visited us during the Fosbury sessions – he even sang on King Kong (Pedro didn’t like it and discarded the tracks…oops sorry Mehdi). He played us some demos from the next Fugu album. It sounded like he had found a long – lost classic album buried in his garden. Right away, we wanted to be involved in it. For me it’s a bit like our 4th album, as we were the backing band and Pedro & I co-produced it. I even sang lead during pre-production when Mehdi had to get his appendix removed, but that’s another story…
The Posies / Ooh Child
This song opened up a new direction for me, I had always loved guitar bands but I also had a thing for R&B acts and wrong thought that the two worlds were irreconcilable. Then came “Definite Door E.P.” by The Posies, my favourite band at the time, with astounding covers of tracks by The Small Faces, Chris Bell and The Five Stairsteps. I think Ken’s ad lib is incredible, I still remember my brother calling me saying “the Blonde guy from the Posies sings like Michael (Jackson)” Thanks again guys.
Todd Rundgren / Wolfman Jack
Taken from arguably his best album, Something/Anything, Wolfman Jack shows that Todd can virtually do anything: sing ballads & hard rock anthems, and write this Northern Soul/Motown Song, with the Runt’s specific tricks: varispeed female vocals, syncopated drumbeats and great songwriting.
The McCoys / Hang On Sloopy
When I play this song during parties, the reactions are “Sacrebleu! Is this the song from Grease?” or “Non, c’est Louie Louie/Wild Thing”, it sounds Immediate-ly familiar to people. By the end of the song everybody is sing about Sloopy. Don’t forget to listen to the unstoppable rhythm section.
Elvis Costello / Less Than Zero
It took me some time to surrender to the other Elvis. As a Robert Wyatt fan, I loved “Shipbuilding”, and just like everyone else, I had read Bret Easton Ellis’s book, but the turning point was the “My Aim Is True” album. I still don’t know if the sound of this record good, I think it just sounds so incredibly different. It’s one of the rawest records I’ve ever heard. Songs from the 70’s record in the late 50’s, or vice versa…if you see what I mean.
Blues Explosion / Hot Gossip (Jay Braun remix)
There’s definitely a Beastie Boys flavor on this track. I always loved how The (Jon Spencer) Blues Explosion embodied the values of Rock’n’Roll and put them into a modern context without sounding fake. Nobody else combines Hip Hop dynamics with Old School Blues technique in such an original & personal way.
Nico Gomez & His Afro Percussion Inc / Baila Chibiquiban
Senor Gomez’s record sleeves are quite deceptive: you might expect something inevitably kitsch given the half-naked girls in exotic settings on the cover. When you put the record on, though, you just want to order a cold cerveza and dance to this suave version of South American rock.
Cymande / Pon De Dungle
I remember talking to a friend of mine who was obsessed by the tambourine on The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Revolver albums (yes, some of my friends are crazy…). Anyway, I’m sure he heard this song by UK based multi-ethnic act Cymande, he would rave about their unique flair for percussion or maybe he would actually be speechless on finding a new idol in the shape of their super-groovy bass player.
Marcos Valle / Mentira
Marcos Valle is up there, with all the great mavericks like Arthur Verocai or even Shuggie Otis. Their inspiring work was only known to a few privileged connoisseurs until recently. In Valle’s case, the combination of Soul Dynamics and European Harmonies make it sound like a post-modern Brazilian masterpiece. In 1973, no keyboards or drums sounded quite as groovy and poetic.
Tahiti 80 / Changes (Finchhatten Schaffel mix)
This reworking of Changes was our personal favourite from The Changes Remix Contest, adn eventually one of the 3 winners. The selection was harsh, some versions were better than others, but all were refreshing. It felt great to listen to so many alternate version of our song. On this one, we particularly appreciated the simplicity of the groove; everything goes out of sync, in time.
Mouse On Mars / Mine Is In Yours
For obvious reasons, the first thing we heard from Germany’s Mouse On Mars was the ‘Iaora Tahiti” album. It’s hard to precisely define their sound: at times the electronica roots will come out, then for a moment a twist of frozen soul will pop up, only to end on a 60’s four part harmony note. Intriguing stuff.
Cornelius / Another View Point
During our first trip to Japan, we were lucky enough to meet with Keigo Oyamada for a joint interview at his studio. We got a chance to hear some tracks from his then – forthcoming record, “Point”, which felt like listening to “Smile” from the Beach Boys, as if Brian Wilson had grown up listening to Grand Master Flash & Devo instead of The Drifters or Phil Specktor’s production. It was quite a shock. During our DJ sets, everybody goes ape shit on the dancefloor after “The Deja-vu Experience” breakdown.
Ginji James / Honey Babe
Stylish, classy soul,. I can almost hear the voice of the late Eugene Record on the opening “Honey Babies”. It has a Jacksonseque vibe, not the “5”, more like The Jackson Sisters. Ginji sounds and looks (sitting on a merry-go-round on the album cover) like a very innocent girl, I love the line “before I met you honey, I was a robot”.
The Newcomers / The Martian Hop
Speaking of science-fiction…If you wanted to find out how Indiana’s most famous 5 siblings would have sounded had they recorded with The Bar Kays and got their records release by Stax. Ladies & Gentlemen, here’s The Newcomers! Ok, it’s quite a strange scenario, but listen to the introduction of this song: “The martians plan to throw a dance for all the human race…”!
Otis Clay / Slow & Easy
“Slow & Easy” tastes like gumbo, though I’ve never actually tried it. This song also sounds as if Otis Clay and Hi Records’ backing band had taken some time off in Jamaica. You can really sense the Caribbean vibe on this number. I love the guitar chunks, the female vocalists… That’s the way we like it, that’s the way we get it.
Tahiti 80 / Give It Away
I think this was one of the hardest songs we’ve ever covered (the other one being Desiree by The Left Banke, now I know why they called it Baroque pop!). It sounds so deceptively simple and easy at first that don’t imagine it’s going to take you hours (or days) to get all the chord changes right. Somebody New and Fallen Down from Sotomayor E.P. were recorded during the same sessions, you can easily tell that we were going through a reggae & dub phase at that time
Curtis Mayfield / No Thing On Me (Cocaine Song)
‘Sure it’s funky’, as the king himself sings on “No Thing On Me (The Cocaine Song)”. It’s sensual as well, I guess it’s one of those soundtracks that you can listen to over and over again, without ever wanting to see the movie. The pictures in the booklet give you an idea and Curtis’s words & music do the rest.
Al Green / Have You Been Making Out OK
during an interview, somebody asked me if I had a recurring dream, I answered that I often dreamt of Al Green and that would love to touch people with only silences and whispers. That’s why I love this song so much: you get two Al Greens singing & harmonizing together for the price of one. The breathtaking moment being when he duets with himself on the strongest “baby” you’ll hear on this collection!
King Tubby/Roots Radics / Hungry Belly Dub
No need to take anything to trip to this sound! I think it’s the sonic equivalent to the first Star Wars episodes, lo-fi effects, that may sound dated (?) but still manage to sound mind-blowing & poetic to this day. This song remains a mystery, when it reaches the end, it’s hard to tell what happened.
Special thanks to:
All at Levi Strauss Japan K.K.,
Kayoko Ohkubo, Yoko Nakamura and all at JVC, all at Atmospheriques, Paule Thonon, Vicky Millar.”