Thursday, 30 December 2010

Claremont 56 and the Balearic Axis of Evil

Claremont 56 is a record label that occupies a special place in our hearts here in the Disco Village. Andy had mentioned that he really enjoyed some of the early label spotlights that I included in the fledgling days of this blog and recommended that I should write some more. Of course Claremont 56 immediately sprang to mind due to its releases filling a substantial amount of shelf space in my record collection. Joey Huavon is the real Claremont aficionado and whilst he should really be writing the label spotlight I’ll fill the gap until his selection is ready.

When thinking about the spotlight it dawned on me that there was a much larger story to tell because the world is a funny place. And many different stories seem to converge in the retelling of the Claremont story, from my point of view.

I first met Paul Murphy (also known as Mudd) at the infamous and now sadly defunct “Bam-Bam Club” that ran for a couple of years at the Rainbow pub in Digbeth in Birmingham. We’d heard a lot of good things about the party, primarily through the DJHistory website run by Bill Brewster (, and Andy suggested popping along for the all day party they were putting on, involving Moonboots, Matthew & Jolyon, Mudd and Lindstrom & Prins Thomas live. Sounded like a good idea, so we booked a travelodge and tootled off down the A14.

When we got there, we announced ourselves, and the Bam Bam hospitality machine rolled into action with Rob J, Oyvind and Chuggie welcoming us into the fold like old friends. Drinks all round and as we’d arrived quite early they took us through to the courtyard to introduce us to their guests. Firstly, the courtyard blew me away – it was perfect, a large open space, graffiti on the walls, a large jet heater blasting warmth into the then semi-covered yard space and a wall, literally a WALL of speakers, floor to (very high) ceiling and the ubiquitous yellow and black Bam Bam decorations adorning the place.

We were sat down next a to a group of rather cheerful looking Balearic types and introduced in particular to Mudd (Paul) and his partner in crime Jess. Shortly after, in swarmed Moonboots and his rather large entourage. Oyvind rather worriedly sidled over to Moon to give him the details of the times that he would be playing, finishing his sentence with a nervous “and so you’ll be playing at x and then y o’clock… is this okay with you?”. Mr Boots replies deadpan and dour “No, no it’s not. This is shit and I want to go home”. Oyvind’s face was a picture and he was stunned into an unusual silence, mouth left open, stuttering “oh, er… er…” And it even took us all a second before we realised that this was a typical Moonboots response and Mudd started chuckling, giving the game away. Of course everything was all right and Moon was perfectly happy, going on to grumble about a lack of drinks and the number of people he was allowed to bring in for free. This was also our first encounter with the Mancunian Balearic behemoth (he’ll like that description, or perhaps I’ll get a slap, you never can tell!).

The day proceeds with Oyvind getting told off for playing something too fast (by Moon, of course) and then flooring everyone by breaking the Mungolian Jet-Set remix of the Kreeps – All I Wanna Do Is Break Some Hearts. By this point, I’m enjoying myself perhaps a little too much, as evidenced by Rob J quietly asking Andy “Is your mate alright? He’s on his 10th pint of Magners and spouting about it tasting like Lucozade…? It’s only 3pm?!!”. Andy later picks me up off the floor in the toilets, kindly advising that, “perhaps we should take a little walk and get you some fresh air?”

After I regain my composure (consciousness), we re-enter the fray; the club is rocking by this point, Matt Burgess kicking off his set with a crazy edit of Ram Jam - Black Betty chopped up to shout “Bam Bam, Birmingham!” in place of original lyrics sending the place into a frenzy. Andy by this point has disappeared. This troubled me slightly as the last time I’d seen him he was well on his way to being off his face himself. I run around for about an hour trying to find him, worried that he needs the “picking up off the floor” favour repaying and just when I’m getting seriously concerned he rocks up declaring that he’d “been out for a pint of milk”, proudly displaying a 6 pint bottle and clutching and handful of Cadbury’s Flake chocolate bars. He storms through the dancefloor over to the decks and proceeds to set up a bar IN one of the speakers and starts mixing up white russian cocktails as only he knows how! Apparently, dismayed at the Pub’s lack of ability to provide him with his favourite tipple he took matters into his own hands.

And so the madness continued. Apparently our antics had endeared us to our hosts and their guests so much that we began a long lasting (kind of stalky) friendship, traipsing round the country to wherever our friends were DJ-ing. Aficionado in Manchester, Bestival on the Isle of Wight (with Strangefruit & PT kicking off what appeared to be the biggest disco beatdown we had ever encountered before being kicked off by security and where Bam Bam basically told their corporate sponsors to “fuck off, we’re playing what we like”, causing a gentle headache for Mudd’s partner Jess who’d arranged it all), the Big Chill, and Muddstock down in Lewes on the south coast (the best little festival I’ve ever been to with Mudd inviting about 100 of his mates to a party in a field, cue Connie Idjut arriving looking suitably dishevelled in a spacemans’ helmet and procceding to play the Carpenters at 2am to a bunch of nutters dancing round a campfire).

It was around this time that Mudd gave us a copy of his first album on CDR called Claremont 56 and it was coming out on Rong music. It was an immediate hit, soundtracking a delightful summer for Andy and I lazing about on Suo-Gan (his houseboat) on the river. I think it was the success of this album, along with some gentle encouragement from Moonboots, Balearic Mike and support from Jess that encouraged Mudd to start a record label and start putting some of his own releases out, along with some guest producers.

Mudd's BeatsInSpace radio mix December 2010:

A number of coincidences later came to light along this merry journey. A very good friend and mentor, Niki had been giving me my musical education and steering me towards an exploration of sound that veered away from the conventional. One of the first records that Niki suggested I might to listen to of his choosing, was a white label bootleg which was available under the counter in the now sadly defunct Vinyl Junkies records. That record turned out to be a 12” pressing of Holger Czukay’s “Hollywood Symphony” backed with “Persian Love”. Long before I had ever heard of Holger and the closest I had gotten to anything Kraut was some Bratwurst, so as you’d imagine, these sounds blew my young mind. I didn’t understand any of it, it couldn’t work on a dancefloor and yet I became addicted to it, playing it to anyone who came within 10 ft of the decks, it became one of those special records. Later, Niki filled me in about the LP “Movies” and told me all about Can. We went to see Damo Suzuki play at Anglia Polytechnic University Bar that was another milestone for me in live music. Of course I trod the path we all do and chased all the Krautrock gods from Gottsching to Moebius and beyond. Imagine my disbelief when I find out that our good friend Mudd is releasing new and old material from Holger Czukay as well as laying down some tracks with him as part of a supergroup Bison all to come out on Claremont 56! Talk about full circle…

It also transpired that Oyvind from Bam Bam used to live with one of my girlfriends’ best mates, which goes to show just how small the world is and confirms the existence of the Balearic Axis of Evil!

On the record label, the first big one that I picked up was Vegetable Square with the Idjuts, “Pab’s got a Big One”. It’s a nigh on 20 minute Balearic odyssey taking the title of the ‘ultimate toilet break/go to the bar/neck another one’ record. So I started the mix with it.

Villa Stavros was the first on the label and later became one of the more tricky to find releases. I remember young Joey having a dreadful time trying to source a copy, even Paul had none left himself; although, it was always the B-side, Dub Stavros, that I ended up playing regularly on our radio show.

One of the more recent favorites of the label that deserves a special mention is the Cantoma CD of which I have bought the most copies of any release I have ever sought, as gifts for others who all reply that it has been one of the best pieces of music they’ve heard that year! It turned into the soundtrack of my summer, on repeat for 2 weeks solid in Menorca as well as round many a festival campfire. Also not forgetting the Originals series, highlighting the exquisite taste and  DJ’ing credentials of the unsung heroes of the underground music scene across the globe – seek out these stunning compilations without fail.

The following records comprise a pictorial tracklist for those found in the mix below:

And here's the Claremont 56 compilation selected by Fred Naked:

Claremont 56 by Village Idiot

1 comment:

  1. jesus! thats an ace read... can't believe i missed this well done and all that :)