Awkward Movements on NTS – 7.1.17 (2016: Year Of Death)

If you locked in to Awkward Movements on NTS last weekend you would’ve caught Paul Ackroyd aka Kamikaze giving tribute to the artist’s death toll of 2016. You can’t fit it all in a two-hour show however, with the original being over four hours covering 43 artists. Paul’s words and tribute show below.

2016 was not kind to the music world. Throughout the year barely a week would pass before the announcement of another musician’s passing. It got to the point on my weekly show on Reel Rebels Radio that I had to introduce a dead-person-of-the-week feature. And a lot of tribute shows happened across the station through the year.

There were the headline-grabbers of course. David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael… But, big-guns aside, it was the highly-respected but less high-profile artists that often left the deepest wounds. On a personal level Alan Vega, Pauline Oliveros, Phife Dawg, Marlene Marder, Else Marie Pade, Getatchew Mekurya – all heroes, thus gutting to hear the news.

But those barely scratch the surface when it comes to musicians who died in 2016. It being customary to have reflective backward-looking review shows this time of year we struggled to find any other way to round up the year than to pay our respects. So step up 2016 : A Year Of Death. A four-hour Awkward Movements special for NTS playing music from 43 musicians who died through the year. 43!! And those are just the ones we’ve heard about.

2016 was particularly harsh on experimental, electronic, and electroacoustic musicians. Don’t get me wrong, most had reached a respectable age, it was their time, they’d had a good innings – all those sorts of phrases we throw about when someone dies in older rather than younger age. But death is death. For musicians we’ve spent times in our lives listening to, their passing will have an impact on us. Certain music holds significance to different periods of our lives, we’re not only feeling a sadness that an artist we admire has died, but often awash with nostalgia too.

The year started with the death of Pierre Boulez, but many more electronic, experimental and electroacoustic powerhouses dropped after him. Pauline Oliveros, Else Marie Pade, Jean-Claude Risset, Eugeniusz Rudnik, and Jed Speare to name a handful. Ben Patterson, Bruce Lacey, Don Buchla, Peter Maxwell Davies, Tony Conrad and Jean-Jacques Perrey to name a handful more. And of course Richard Lyons from the legendary Negativland.

A lot of ‘classic bands’ too. Paul Kantner from the original Jefferson Airplane lineup, Rick Parfitt from Status Quo, two thirds of Emerson Lake & Palmer, Glen Frey of The Eagles, Gilli Smyth from Gong… Most of those artists I’ve never felt the need to play on the radio before – not to say I haven’t enjoyed their music. More that, with my leanings towards the more obscure musical offerings this world has to offer, they’re not artists I would ordinarily find myself playing on the radio.

The same can be said of George Michael. I never thought the day would come when I’d be spinning Status Quo and George Michael in the same show. But, although not the biggest fan of his music, it’s hard to deny what a thoroughly decent chap he seemed to be. Charitable work, enormously generous donations, etc etc. And not for the headlines, mostly under-the-radar work. To have sold as many millions of records as he did in his life yet find the time to selflessly and secretly volunteer in homeless shelters speaks volumes to me. Plus Too Funky is just a damn fine tune!

As for the other big guns – Bowie, Prince, Cohen – well they’ve been very well documented already, but I would like to point you to three Planet Of Sound specials from the year. Kevin Robinson dug deep with these, and painted interesting, impressive and heartfelt musical tributes to all three. Click on the links for Kevin’s David Bowie show from January, the Prince show from April, and his Leonard Cohen offering from November.

And whilst we’re chatting tribute shows let me point you to Kevin’s discotastic tribute to Loft founder David Mancuso. I’ll be honest, Mancuso was little more than a name I had seen in passing before his, erm, passing, though Kevin’s show started me on a musical journey which it’s fair to say has got the hips-a-shakin. Nu Yorican Soul represent Mancuso in our 2016 : A Year Of Death offering, though to the best of our knowledge, and fingers crossed n all, the members of Nu Yorican Soul are safe and well.

Interesting point there though – that thing when you hear that someone has died, and you’ve heard of them, been meaning to get round to listening to them, but for whatever reason you missed out. Or those that you’d never heard of but end up learning about them posthumously, your interest likely piqued from something you clocked in the obituary pages. Or the other option – those whose works you’ve flirted with over the years but never gone balls-deep with, never fully experienced within the context of their back catalogue. If there is awareness beyond the grave then I imagine that would be appreciated – that their music lives on and continues to locate new ears way beyond their passing.

So three artists in the show that fit that description for me – Paul Bley, Ahmad Sabri and Gato Barbieri. The latter an Argentine saxophonist, the middle a Pakistani qawwalii singer, and the former a Canadian jazz pianist. Another I didn’t previously know was Cassius Clay. I mean I knew of Muhammad Ali, but I had no idea about his slightly strange stand-up style ramblings.

Which leads us to the wider world of celebrity. Lots died, you’ve heard about most of them already. But whilst planning the show we considered dropping that Aphex Twin tune that samples Gene Wilder, comedy skits by Victoria Wood, Paul Daniels magic records, punk songs about Johann Cruyff, or numerous memorable film scenes for those in the acting world that moved on to that next plane. And although it would’ve been fun, we were so pushed for time, what with all the dead musicians, that all of that stuff got shelved.

Back to the musicians though, and it’s Alan Vega’s death that probably hit me the hardest through the year. Suicide have made me very happy for a couple of decades at least, and that’s in no small part due to Alan Vega’s croonings. Within 24 hours of his death I’d churned out this tribute show, which, if you’re not so familiar with the works of Alan Vega and Suicide, I’d like to point you towards.

Another tribute show I made back in the summer was for the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse – a gay club in Orlando where 49 people were murdered. It’s wall-to-wall LGBTQIetc artists, and not an Elton in sight.

Sticking in club land though, and equally horrific was the fire at the Ghost Ship in Oakland when 36 people lost their lives at a 100% Silk night, including Joey Casio and Cherushii. Our thoughts remain with the friends and families of the victims.

Over to South Africa next, and to Lucky Ranku and Pinise Saul who both passed on late in 2016. Moving a few hundred miles north and Congolese megastar Papa Wemba died on stage inna Tommy Cooper stylee. A further few hundred miles north and east to Ethiopia next, and to Getatchew Mekurya – another which struck me deeply on a personal level. Love that man, simple as.

Next it’s Parliament and Funkadelic keyboard maestro Bernie Worrell, and also on a funk/soul tip Billy Paul and Sharon Jones. On an 80s pop tip there was Prince-associate Vanity of Vanity 6. And lest we forget the legendary Prince Buster too.

Saving some of the more untimely deaths til last, and Liliput’s Marlene Marder, acid house guru Spank Spank, Fashion MC Tenor Fly, and of course Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest.

Rest in peace one and all. And 2017 if you’re listening – go a little easier on us. Please.

Negativland – No Business
Ben Patterson – A Fluxus Elegy
Cassius Clay – Round 8 : The Knockout
A Tribe Called Quest – The Donald
Tenor Fly – Rude Boy Talk (Toddla T & Mele Remix)
Prince Buster – Seven Times To Rise
Papa Wemba – Analengo
Malombo Jazz Makers – Abbey’s Mood
Dudu Pukwana & Zila ft Pinise Saul – Baqanga Bay
Getatchew Mekurya – Gofere, Anttchi Hoye
The Sabri Brothers – Kali Kamaliya Wale
Jed Speare – Taboo Death
Pauline Oliveros – III of IV
Don Buchla & Robert Moog – In The Beginning – Etude II
Pierre Boulez – Avant L’artisanat Furieux Rapide
Jean Claude Risset – Computer Suite From Little Boy – Contra Apotheosis
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
David Bowie – Blackstar
Bernie Worrell – Volunteered Slavery
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights
Billy Paul – Everyday People
Nu Yorican Soul – The Nervous Track
George Michael – Too Funky
Vanity 6 – Nasty Girl
Prince & The New Power Generation – Gett Off
Spank Spank – Da Phormula
Joey Casio – Debtor’s Prism
Cherushii – Ultraviolet Nights
Tony Conrad with Faust – From The Side Of The Machine
Liliput – Die Matrosen
Suicide – Frankie Teardrop vs The Space Alien 1976 demo
Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit
Bley-Peacock Synthesizer Show – A Loss Of Consciousness
Gong – The Pot Head Pixies
Bruce Lacey – Kissing Film
Jean-Jacques Perrey & Harry Breuer – Re-Entry To The Moon
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Honky Tonk Train Blues
Status Quo – Down Down
Gato Barbieri – Mi Buenos Aires Querido
Eugeniusz Rudnik – Stone Is A Musical Material
Else Marie Pade – Etude
Peter Maxwell Davies – Execution and End Music