Tag Archives: Lionel Ritchie

Rocks In The Attic #723: Billy T. James – ‘Billy T. Live At ‘Pips’’ (1985)

RITA#723Billy T. James is one of the original national treasures of New Zealand, a club comedian from the cabaret circuit who became a household name for his long-running TV sketch comedy.

This live LP from 1985 finds him in fine form. Recorded at ‘Pips’ in Whangarei and backed by a live band, his act shows how much of an all-round entertainer he is. Opening with a performance of Lionel Ritchie’s Running With The Night, the audience seem reserved at first before he starts to win them over with his stand-up.

Being half-Maori and half-Scottish (“I’m half Maori and half Scots. Half of me wants to go to the pub and get pissed, and the other half doesn’t want to pay for it”) most of his material revolves around being from a racial minority, and all other minorities – Chinese, Japanese, gays (“poofs”), immigrants – are fair game. Different times, and all that.

I first laughed out loud at a routine in which he did an note-perfect impression of Bunny Wailer singing She’s A Lady for a TV commercial, with the lyrics changed to:

Well she’s all you’d ever want / She’s the kind they’d like to flaunt and take to dinner / She’s got style, she’s got grace / She’s got herpes on her face…

In 1988, Billy T. suffered a heart attack and underwent a quadruple bypass, followed by one of the first heart transplants in New Zealand. While the operation was initially a success – leading to a return to the stage in 1990 – his health deteriorated and died from heart failure in 1991.

Since arriving in New Zealand over ten years ago, I’ve found much of the art and culture here is a watered-down version of what I knew from the UK (and in some cases, the USA). Billy T. is a different prospect though – he’s naturally funny, and the equal of the great British comedians of the 1970s and 1980s.

Hit: Running With The Night

Hidden Gem: The Band

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Rocks In The Attic #518: Beastie Boys – ‘Paul’s Boutique’ (1989)

RITA#518aIt’s been a long time coming but I finally have some Beastie Boys in my record collection.

Like most musos, I was shocked to wake up one morning in May 2012 to find out that Adam “MCA” Yauch had died. It’s always a blow when someone so young (47) dies when you’re not expecting them to. With MCA it probably felt like he was even younger, just because the Beasties are eternally stuck in their youth. That morning I reached for my copy of Licensed To Ill before I realised I didn’t have any Beasties on vinyl. Bummer.

I’ve righted that wrong now, with this lovely repress of the Beasties’ second album. As much a Dust Brothers album as a Beastie Boys album, it’s chock-full of samples – about a quarter of a million dollars’ worth in clearing rights. Any album that lifts samples from five Beatles songs (The End, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise), When I’m Sixty Four and Back In The U.S.S.R.) on one song (The Sound Of Science) is worth checking out.

The Dust Brothers’ use of sampling is not overbearing either. On Hey Ladies, they use a tiny snippet of The Commodores’ Machine Gun, but not the main hook of the song. Instead they just take a short vamp from the outro of the song, to use as a groove to drive Hey Ladies along. Lionel Ritchie’s former band never sounded so cool.

On breaking the shrinkwrap on this record, I was amazed to find that it has a four-panel gatefold sleeve, to showcase a panoramic version of the album’s cover photo. A wonderful surprise.

Hit: Hey Ladies

Hidden Gem: Shake Your Rump

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Rocks In The Attic #415: The Commodores – ‘Machine Gun’ (1974)

RITA#415It’s a shame the Commodores are in black and white on the cover of this. I suspect they’re wearing the same colour skivvies as the Wiggles. Wake up Lionel!

Machine Gun has to be one of my favourite R&B songs – second only to Pick Up The Pieces by the Average White Band. This is the sort of music I was turning to just after I left my DJing gig in the early 2000s. I walked out on that gig after the bar manager asked me to play more Limp Bizkit – I think history deems me the righteous winner in that exchange.

I prefer an alternate timeline, one where Lionel Ritchie doesn’t go solo, one where he stays in the Commodores and they churn out dirty R&B stompers like Brick House and Machine Gun year after year after year. How fabulous. And no Hello or Dancing On The Ceiling

Hit: Machine Gun

Hidden Gem: The Assembly Line