February 45s at Beat Research

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February 45s – Magnus Funk Mix

Here is another mix of Magnus 45s – the February 45 Magnus Funk Mix – just in time for the end of the month. I recorded it on February 22, 2014, a year after the passing of one of Boston’s legendary DJs and one of my dear friends, Magnus Johnstone.

I got to play it again on Feb 26th at the fist ever “all 45 Beat Research” with Brother Wayne, Axel Foley and my co-host DJ Flack. Unfortunately, the mixer was lacking outputs, so I wasn’t able to record the actual set. I’m afraid this practice recording will have to do and I am most sorry not to have caught the incredible sets from the two guests. The mix starts with one of my favorite Aretha tunes (I say a little prayer). Even if Magnus was never one for organized religion or prayer per se, the tune seemed appropriately mournful. Moreover, it allowed me to answer her prayer with Lee Dorsey’s classic intro “everything I do gon be funky”. A kind of promise to the man who left me more amazing records than I ever deserved to hear, let alone play.

I’ll try to get a track list together shortly and post it up here as an addendum. In the meantime, enjoy, and keep it funky.

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Mastermix radio show on WERS in 1983

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The title of this blog becomes increasingly ironic the bigger the piles of cassettes become around here. But then, they are mostly tapes of records, or at least radio shows of records and music made with other records. So that’s something. They are also revealing long lost tales of Boston’s largely overlooked urban and dance music scene in the 1980s. This new little collection also provides some important pre-history for the Leccos’s Lemma show, Boston’s first rap radio show that started in 1985. Allow me to offer a little context while you listen. I hope you like scratching.

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Mastermix Show with Hosh Gureli on WERS 88.9 FM 5-21-83

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the Lecco’s Lemma story, but those who are just getting here may consider starting with this piece from the Boston Phoenix. There have been big new developments on that front and Chris Faraone did an amazing job telling the tale of the tapes and the couple of crazy caucasians who kept them all these years. Just this past Sunday we finally got the whole collection together for the first time.

The proximate cause of this reunion was a visit up to see Willie “Loco” Alexander to collect the last two boxes of his Lecco’s Lemma show tapes. While conducting an interview (more of a paean to our pal Magnus really), Willie pulled out a small pile of other local college show tapes that he had set aside. Luckily, I was running video at the time. Watching it now, it’s cringe worthy how giddy and excited I become as he rattles of titles of shows I have never heard of with dates descending back into the electro infused daze of early 1908s. But then, these are the moments I live for. One of the most incredible and earliest in the pile was this tape of the Mastermix show on Emmerson’s WERS 88.9 FM from 5-21-83.

Although there is not much on the internets about this show, one of the first mentions I found brought me back literally full circle. It was in a comment left by Matt Reyes on my old blogspot site in a post called “Magnus Carta: Boston Hip Hop History” about the Lecco’s Lemma show. Wat?! Here’s what he said back in ’05. I had completely forgotten the reference to the Mastermix show.

Magnus Johnstone was always a bit ahead of his time where music was concerned. He’d discover, devour, disseminate, then depart once the next new thing came along. He was into reggae, Chicago house, Kraftwerkian electro, all before they became widely popular. And then in the early 80’s he got in on the ground floor with hip-hop. In 1985, he got a radio show on MIT’s radio station WMBR 88.1 FM, on Saturday afternoons, and would play the newest rap records from Spin City, Skippy White’s, Nubian Notions, and Nancy’s Record & Book Store downtown. Although some rap had been heard previously on WERS 88.9’s “Special Edition” (Cosmic Crew, pre- Def Jam Beasties, UTFO’s “Roxanne Roxanne” in Hosh Gureli’s 1984 Mastermix), that show featured mainly current urban dance like Jonzun Crew, Shannon and Freeez. Kiss 108 had played “Planet Rock”, “Jam On It” and “Rapper’s Delight”, but that was really just for novelty’s sake. And Boston’s preeminent black music station, WILD 1090 AM, utterly refused to play rap at the time. So hip-hop fans from all over Boston tuned in as best they could to Lecco’s Lemma, this tiny signal down at the bottom of the dial. The origin of the show’s title was that the whole thing was being run at the behest of a master computer named Lecco, and these songs were the “lemmas”, or things he desired.

Here is an even more detailed recollection from DJ Spinelli (Ed Note: Check out his amazing list of DJs including lots of local ones!)

Hosh Gureli (88.9 WERS) – One of the best DJs in the early 80s here in Boston. Known as the “Mastermix” on 88.9 WERS, he was far ahead of his time with mixing/remixing/editing and everything else in between.

His style of mixing wasn’t just “mixing one song into another” like most would do. Instead, he would have 3 or 4 songs going at once, throw some edits in and then go into another 3 or 4 songs (keep in mind, this is back in 82/83). Fortunately, I have many tapes of his mix shows that I recorded back then.

Interestingly enough (during the late 80s), I was in a “Battle Of The DJs” contest with Hosh at Faces nightclub in Cambridge and couldn’t believe I was going up against him (which he won, of course).

There are countless people in the Boston area that can thank Hosh for being an such an inspiration to them – myself included!

In case you missed it, let me repeat the most important line for you: “Fortunately, I have many tapes of his mix shows that I recorded back then.”

Mind = blown.

Dear DJ Spinelli, let me take this moment to publicly thank you for keeping your tapes of this amazing show and preserving Boston’s musical history. I think I can speak for all past, present and future Beantown beat heads and club kids when I say “we would sure love to hear some of your tapes”.

DJPace

Honk 7! Eureka Brass Band Bonus Track

Honk is here again! The seventh collection of activist street bands has been the best so far (despite some light rain last evening). Yesterday I had a blast wandering around Davis Square with my buddy Will, both of us with our little digital recorders vacuuming up audio all over.

The whole thing (but especially the high tech field recording aspect) reminded me of a new record I recently rescued from the trash. In the now familiar sequence, a friend was getting rid of the last mildewy pile of old LPs and I was the last to look at them before they hit the trash. Mostly light 70s and 80’s rock and random things like the Flashdance soundtrack. Ahhhh, but what’s this?!?!

Folkways Music of the South Vol. 10 Been Here and Gone. “Oooh…I’ll take this one! Thanks!” People seemed slightly perplexed as they watched all the popular (and perhaps their favorite) records banished to the trash while only this oddity was rescued. One man’s trash…as they say…and what a treasure it is!

Been Here and Gone - Music of the South Vol 10

This album originally came out in 1960 as an audio companion to a book of the same name. The tracks on this volume are selected from recordings made by Frederic Ramsey between 1951 and 1957. It is essentially a greatest hits compilation of the Folkways series “Music of the South” which began in 1955. The PDF of the liner notes are available free from the nice people at the Smithsonian if you want more details (and beautiful pictures as well).

The piece I wanted to share is the wonderful street recording of the Eureka Brass Band in New Orleans. In addition to the amazing performance that really heats up toward the end, I love the ambient crowd sound and the little discussion you hear between a man and a woman you hear throughout (listen for her mention of “Rock and Roll”!). If the content wasn’t good enough, its also on YELLOW VINYL!

Eureka Brass Band – Street Recording ca. 1950s

I have fresh batteries in my recorder and am off to Day 2 in Harvard Square!

It comes from Brockton!

While preparing for a talk this week on Boston Hip-Hop history, I stumbled on a youtube video of kids in Brockton, MA breakdancing in the 1980s. I think I got there while looking for info about Ronnie Ruff, a dope Brockton DJ/Producer/MC from way back.

I could not resist making a little re-edit of the original video replacing the CVS-inserted (yet strangely beautiful) audio with the Ronnie Ruff track, “It Comes From Boston“. Now I loved the original mind you and need to give props to Dennis, all his Brockton (East Side) breakdancing friends and especially his mom, who apparently was handy with the Super 8 (thanks MOM!). But adding the Ronnie Ruff track just seemed too perfect. Apparently, the gods of Hip-Hop agreed. Notice the reference to “frosting” right as the cake comes out? That was complete luck. I just dropped the audio in and it lined right up. I must be doing something right.

Ronnie Ruff

There are so many things I love about this video. Having grown up in Boston in the 1980s, I just love how it looks. Like home.

I also love how it transitions from hanging out with dad in the yard, to a quick dinner shot (mom was probably too busy making, serving and cleaning it up to run much tape) and then right to the impromptu breakdance parties in the street and driveway. Cardboard/linoleum + boombox + dope tapes (probably off the radio…maybe Lecco’s Lemma?) + friends = mini-kid block party. In this sense, the emergence of Hip-Hop was so very local and fractal…every neighborhood had at least one kid who could rhyme, dance, DJ or at least had some dope tapes and a boombox. Some neighborhoods had lots. The little block parties that happened all over sometimes got much, much bigger. Then it went global and the rest is history. But back then, before the big money got into it, it was more about your friends, their moves and who had the better boombox.

I especially love that the length of the video allowed for the shoutouts at the end and find it funny that we don’t get one for his own town…Brockton! (I have secretly considered doing a re-edit of the track to replace all the refs to “Boston” with “Brockton”. If someone posts a good “Brockton” drop, I am on it).

Another amazing aspect of the video (that only became clear after talking to Dennis this morning) is the way Hip-Hop attracted kids like a tractor beam and then mixed them together. When I watched the original video, I immediately noticed the older dudes who make a cameo appearance early on and then disappear. Apparently, these guys were from East LA and were out visiting one of the neighbors and came over when they heard the music and joined in. They were probably in their early 20s whereas the rest of the kids were early teens from Brockton, MA. Hip-Hop apparently bridged the significant differences between them. It just proves that one upon a time, kids loved Hip-Hop enough to forget their differences for a minute and just dance. Some of them still do.

Peace Boston

Pace

Massachusetts Graffiti History Vol. 1: MAST and SPRAY

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To celebrate the recent release of the book The History of American Graffiti by local author Caleb Neelon and co-author Roger Gastman, I thought it would be good to share some additional detail on a piece of Massachusetts’s graffiti history that did not make made it into his book. Though I am still waiting for my copy, I did skim the chapter in the bookstore and was blown away by the amount of history they cover. Neelon and Gastman clearly did an incredible job and I offer this as a friendly addition, both to my own chapter and to his, not as any kind of criticism. As I learned when writing my own version of our local history, there is no way to get it all the first time. That’s why we need to work together to get it straight. [Ed note: Caleb emailed this AM and explained that he was the one who connected Freight Train Graf folks with MAST and that both he and Spray WERE in his chapter on Mass. A real honor given how much he had to include. Apparently, its just me that has trouble getting it right out of the gate and he certainly needs no help from me! LOL and sorry to doubt you from a mere skim, Caleb!]

Back in the 1980s, a Lowell MC/DJ/Dancer/Writer by the name of MAST/Def Rock was rockin’ the Shaughnessy Projects and tearing up the train yards. Back in the early days, there was much less specialization in hip-hop than there is today. Def is a classic example of what I call a 4 elements b-boy. In other words, he could dance, rhyme, rock the decks and get UP…all at the same time. Dudes like him are rare (non-existent?) among the up and comers who seem to focus on one, or at most two, main skills. Like all fields, it seems hip-hop has undergone a degree of specialization as it has evolved. (Correct me if I am wrong about this and there are more young 4 elements b-boys/girls out there than I am aware of).

Back in the day, there seemed to be many more who could do it all. He was (and still is) one of those dudes. As such, he deserves our undying respect as a founding father of the art out here. And like many of the best from Mass, Mast didn’t get the credit he deserved. Luckily, he is still at it and still dropping heat (focusing on the music now rather than the less legal forms of the practice). Go check out his shows up at the Stone Church (recently rocked with Just Ice and Lyrical) and get his latest release Progress/Regress! Its free up on Archive.org fergawdsakes people (but you should really send him a check anyway for helping to create hip-hop for you).

Not only was he the mastermind behind monstamind/megabug and the engineer/DJ behind Excalibur’s 1997 Butta Messenga/Les Miserables (with a young MC Lyrical on the mic), he was also a well known freight train graffiti artist writing as MAST. Living near (and eventually in) the Lowell freight train yards, his early train pieces got him enough recognition to appear in the 2006 book Freight Train Graffiti. The picture above is MAST and his partner SPRAY (rip 1994) rockin’ red jackets in their “iron playground”. Note that like many things Massachusetts hip-hop, the title suggests a low status position in “eleswhere USA”. Come on man, it was right up in Lowell. Elsewhere my ass. Dude was all NATION – besting the hardest of the early MBTA bombers in geographic reach at least.

Freight Train Graffit Cover

The book quotes him as follows:

“My house was directly across the street from the biggest freight yard in Lowell. I had anger against the freights because those things woke me up in the middle of the night. I could step out of my house and there I was in my iron playground. I knew every nook and cranny of the freight yard; it was packed tight with trains. You couldn’t even take flicks of most of them because they were so close. The trains would pull out before you could see it too. We had three cabooses we used to hang out in. We brought turntables down and turned it into a writers bench. We had a power supply for the turntables — plugged into the weigh station for the trains. We actually did live in the freights: For a very long time, SPRAY and I were both homeless. We had these three cabooses that we painted, bombed and partied in and brought girls back to and drank wine in. During the cold winter, we stayed inside the engine because they kept it on all night. Graffiti was a big movement; Lowell was crushed out because we wanted it to look like New York.”

Can you even begin to understand having that kind of history in this hip-hop life?! Respect to all the Massachusetts originators out there and peace to my man Def. Give him respect due. Still wondering…go check the Battle Yell video! Underground hip-hop like it always was meant to be. RAWWW!

peace

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Rethink Music Remix Project

Rethink Music Remix Project

For the past two days I was hanging out at the Rethink Music conference in Boston. I had lots and lots of reactions, some of which I will share here over the next little while. But the one that sticks out most is that there was so little music there. I know it was mostly about new business models, but does that mean we don’t need a kick ass soundtrack? After the first panel as the wireless mics went down and the canned hotel music came back up (I think it was actually a Muzak version of a Kenny G song (if that’s even possible) I quickly tweeted “Rethink Muzak”. To the organizer’s credit, by the end of day two, I was hearing some Afropop and other less egregiously banal selections. Thanks for listening.

This reminded me of something Wayne said about musicology conferences having very little music. I guess the same could be said for the management conferences I go to (very little discussion of actual issues faced by managers). It also reminded me that back in 2003, when I was finishing up my PhD at Boston College, I was browsing around the database enclosure for music industry info and came across a Forrester Research report complete with AUDIO! I grabbed that fast thinking “someday, I am gonna remix this!” It has languished on my hard drive ever since (though I occasionally stumble over it and always laugh at the “disks are dying” phrase – when were they ever alive???).

Back at the once active Riddim Method site, we used to talk about musical discussions about music. That’s what I love the most about music, I guess. Talking about it while its playing and learning as I listen with others. So that’s what I want to propose here. A Rethink Music Remix Project.

To kick things off, I offer my own rapid prototype called Disks Keep on Dying. (There was lots of discussion at the conference of “failing fast” and I am sure that this will fit the bill). Its a quick remix I did just layering the first bit of the audio over a track I had been working on. More importantly, I include the original Forrester Audio here for all my remixologist pals to play with. I know you can do much better than I can. Have at it. Plus, its pretty interesting to listen to a prediction about the music industry from back in 2003. Not too bad really.

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Disks Keep On Dying

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Forrester August 2003 Report Audio

Without a proper soundtrack, I can’t think at all (let alone rethink).

Thanks to the organizers and panelists for a fantastic first year. Thanks also to the hidden labor at the Hynes convention center who kept bringing those bagels and keeping us in water bottles. And most of all, thanks to all my new Twitterypals. I am hooked. Your backchannel ROCKED!

Street Space Dance 2010

DJSpock

Thanks to all the rubberfans and funkateers who came out for (the last?) MUM this weekend! Brother Cleve, DJ Flack, Wayne&Wax, DJ Axel Foley, Dziga, Tdogg, yours truly and all the other people who volunteered their time and gear cooked up a proper P-Funk tribute all slathered up in rubbery bass, screwy syths and more bounce for your flashlight. There is nothing like dancing in the street with a few hundred of your new best friends to make you feel good about the world. Here’s some video of my set that gives you a sense of the vibe this year.

DJ Pace @ MUM 2010 from Carey Foster on Vimeo.

Thanks to the Somerville Arts Council for getting the community together to dance in the street.Those from funkier locations may think this sounds insane, but up here in the brainy Northeast, its often hard to get people dancing period. Forget about throwing a legal family style p-funk tribute dance party under a highway overpass. Despite the odds, that’s what we have done for the last 5 years.

This year the bass was so heavy and the funk so stanky that it made me want to take the show on the road. I kept wondering, “could a traveling caravan throwing outdoor electro-boogie-disco-breaks parties unite the country? The world?” Under a bridge in Somerville, MA this weekend, it sure seemed like it could.

Although the video clip above does not make it so clear, every year we rock together. Here’s a clip from last year with all of us on deck.

One nation under a groove. Under a bridge.

Beard Fest PS

Beard Fest Finalists

Folks, what can I say. I had so much fun at the All American City Beard and Moustache Contest this weekend that I had to share some YouTube links pics and stories! Not only was it packed with supportive onlookers and fans, the facial creativity was in full effect (as the videos will attest). Two particularly awesome moments included the 12 year old kid with the barely started fuzzstache who won second place in the mustache contest and the elderly Sikh gentleman who won in the natural beard category with his wonderful whispy white beard. So great! Somerville was certainly showin’ the love this Sat.

Along with all the nice community feeling, it also gave me an excuse to play some classic rock tunes and drink free Naragansett tall boys in the afternoon. What could be better? Well, how about an impromptu DJ lesson for the kids to wrap it all up?

Beard Fest DJ Lesson

I have often noticed this when I play family style events. The kids always seem fascinated with the DJ rig and often come up wanting lessons. At one wedding, I was literally swarmed with a ring of Lilliputian onlookers all decked out in their finest. Of course, being a teacher at heart, I am always glad to mess up the mix to explain the technique to inquiring little minds.

All in all, a pretty sweet weekend. Hope to see you all next year.

Boston Beats and Rhymes Day 3

Boston Beats and Rhymes Day 3

I took a week or so off since the Beantown Beats and Rhymes fest, but here are the links for the last day finally.

Part A 3-4pm
Part B 4-5pm

Its all up at WZBC for a bit longer, but grab it while you can. Thanks to Chris Faraone for comin’ by on the third day and bringing some of the latest local heat and classics from the last decade. I gotta confess, I spent much more time digging into the early years and left a lot of the more recent stuff to future efforts.

WZBC wall

I also have to thank Brick Casey again for coming down on the second day. As we were getting packed up I was snapping shots of the tectonic layers of local music history captured on the densely stickered, tagged and postered walls of WZBC. Among the Bentmen stickers and band posters from the 90s, there was the original Street Poets poster tacked up on a wood paneled wall next to an old milk crate. Apparently, Casey has been subliminally promoting down at ‘ZBC since the mid 1990s. Who knew? And who put that poster up?

Street Poets

Thanks again to Scott for having us down and to Brian for manning the decks!

Peace to the Bean in 2010.

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Boston Beats and Rhymes Day 2

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Thanks to Brick Casey (aka Polecat) who braved the snow storm yesterday to come down to WZBC and talk to us about the 1990’s scene in the Bean. Casey came up in the 4 Corners neighborhood of Dorchester and released a couple of early 1990’s underground gems under the name Polecat. Out Ta Flip is one of my personal faves. The Ruffa Mix features the gravelly Buju-style vocals of Dorchester’s own Ruffa and hints at the deep roots of the ragamuffin hip-hop sound in the Bean. More on that today as we round out the last of the 1990s and head into the Oughts and beyond. Happy 2010.

Here’s the audio from yesterday (Part A Part B).

P.S. Although it wasn’t snowing in the studio, I was sure dressed for it. Maybe I need to get a new hat too.