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Okay, I’ve been pretty rubbish at posting on here of late, I’m truly sorry. To make up for it I thought I’d share an intimate and embarrassing confession with you…….. I sing incessantly. It’s a problem; anyone who has ever worked with me or lived with me knows my terrible affliction intimately. It’s a compulsion, a curse, a terrible burden. Although I’m aware of how incredibly annoying it must be to try and work beside me whilst belt out prince numbers all day, I am unable to control myself.
In my line of work pulling an all nighter is common practice, in the delirious scramble of trying to get a project done, music is probably the most important tool at my disposal, without it the 4 o’clock void would swallow me whole. The night shift is a dark and lonely place, the project you are working on has to be delivered at 9 am and the possibility of not getting it done looms over you like a disappointed mother. Wracked with self-doubt and uncertainty, the only things to keep you company is your music and your own deranged singing. With this in mind its important to keep those spirits up, and for me there’s nothing more uplifting than funk and Disco.
A younger Gary would have insisted that ‘mood is everything’ and that ‘setting the tone was paramount to a projects success, dark and moody projects deserve a dark and moody soundtracks.’ This is of course rubbish. Nowadays I’d take Whitney over The Tinder Sticks every time. Choosing 10 songs that I listen to while working is an impossible task since I listen to about 8 hours of music a day, so for this list I’ve chosen tracks that I know so well I can recite them like poetry; here I present a collection of tracks that I like singing whilst I work.
1 Luther Vandross – Never Too Much.
One of the most important things music must not do whilst I’m working is distract me, so I can’t have anything too heavy or full on, It must instead float past me leaving very little lasting impression. Because of this I work to a lot of 80’s ‘naff soul’, Alexander O’Neal, Lionel Richie and Luther Vandross. It’s also important that I know the songs really well. I know ‘Never Too Much’ very well for one completely ridiculous reason. To prove a point. Luther sings the verses of this song really quickly, in this singy/rappy kind of way and all in one breath. When my sister and I were kids my dad bet us that we couldn’t sing the verses at the same rate as Luther. I accepted my father’s challenge and learned the whole song off by heart. I still sing this song with a kind of self-satisfied defiance.
2. The Gap Band – Burn Rubber On Me.
I lied before by the way, I don’t actually know all the lyrics to this song, in fact I can hardly hear what this man is saying. I’ve been listening to this song for years and yet I have no idea what he is going on about, but funk songs rarely need to make much sense, that’s half of their appeal, when I’m drawing or painting my brain is free to run around unsupervised, thinking lots of odd little mental skits, for example, the request here of somebody to burn rubber on them can lead to a wonderful ‘brain ramble’, the idea itself is both confusing and little distressing. What is she doing to him? I get the feeling a woman has somehow done him wrong. So why is HE being punished with the burnt rubber? The rest of his vocals are barely audible, I tend to meow my way through this song. This is what I do when I don’t know lyrics, another very annoying habit I have whilst working.
3. O’jays – Backstabbers.
Backstabbers is another good example of a track makes me go off into a little brain adventure when I’m drawing. What kind of person is the protagonist? Who ever he is he needs to relax. The song is about a guy who is terrified that all his mates are queuing outside his girlfriend’s house to have sex with her. It makes me laugh every time, I mean come on, give your girlfriend some credit! To assume she would just go along with all these advances is a tad unfair, personally I think she should dump this weirdo. Great impassioned vocals through out though; who’d have thought hysterical paranoia could be so catchy.
4 Stevie Wonder – Don’t You Worry About A Thing.
I was brought up with Stevie Wonder songs so he has a special place in my heart, He’s very helpful for my all night work sessions because he is so unrelentingly jolly. This is probably the most uplifting song he’s ever written, perfect for a 5 am sing-along-pick-me-up. Even the title is reassuring, like he’s cheering me on.
There’s a bit where Stevie sings this drawn out vocal – ‘when you check it oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooout. When you get Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooff your trip’. I like to imagine here that Stevie is falling down a Well.
5 Cameo – She’s Strange
This one sends my mental skits into over drive, The person they are singing about is supposed to be a fascinating mystery woman, by the way they describe her, she’s not just strange, she a total bloody lunatic. At one point they compare her to Al Capone! This conjures up a hilarious image, I mean, she must be hideous! I should really draw this woman. The vocal delivery of all Cameo songs are particularly entertaining, the best funk tracks are delivered in this erratic half camp, half pimp voice, Cameo were masters of this.
6 Bobby Brown – My Prerogative
This is a vengeful ’fuck you, I’m going to do what I want!’ song, Bobby here, is just fed up of being bossed around and wants to crack on with things he feels are important. Fair enough, right on, me too, ‘you’ll get my bloody proposal when I’m finished with it and not a moment before!’ fantastically ego affirming, until the track stops and realize how completely unreasonable you’re being.
7 Ike and Tina Turner – Nutbush City Limits
My Tina impersonation is pretty impressive, particularly after 7 cans of Red Bull. I’m not sure what Ike and Tina are getting at here, it’s not really a critique of Nutbush, more a review of the town, maybe Ike was working for the Nutbush tourist board at the time.
8 Rufus and Chaka Khan – Tell Me Something Good
I love Chaka. She’s so confident, ‘I’m every woman”? That’s a pretty bold statement. Here she is presenting a very persuasive argument as to why we should all date her. It’s nice to feel wanted, its also nice that Rolf Harris pops along to provide a little vocal cameo before the chorus kicks in. Have a listen, you’ll get what I mean.
9 The Beginning Of The End – Funky Nassau
I despise the word ‘funky.’ It’s a word boring people use to describe something interesting or unexpected. ‘‘That’s a funky pair of glasses you have’. Augh! In spite of this I really like singing to ‘Funky Nassau. For years I thought this guy was singing about the American space program. Lots of questions would swirl around my head about what this might entail. How is NASA funky exactly? If they were so pre-occupied with funkiness how did they ever find the time to get any work done? Is that why they haven’t sent anyone back to the moon since 1972?’. I have to admit I was pretty disappointed when I learned they were actually singing about the capital of the Bahamas. I still play out the idea of the funky space program in my head.
10 Prince, I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
Choosing a song that expresses my all-consuming devotion to Prince was agonizing. A bit like ‘Sophie’s Choice’ I would imagine. The mans body of work is so ingrained in my system I can burst into a prince song at any given moment, to the surprise of myself and anyone around me, like some kind of spontaneous prince song combustion. In fact my head is so clogged with Prince lyrics they probably take up 3 quarters of my brain.
Remember that bit in Shawshank Redemption when they lock Tim Robin’s in solitary confinement for a month? When he comes out he says, ‘I had Mozart to keep me company’. See, Mozart wasn’t actually in the cell with him, no, he just knew his work so well he could play the music inside his head, that’s how I am with this song, every note, total clarity, I could sing you the entire guitar solo right now actually. If you’re ever around hackney central, pop round my studio, I’ll prove it to you.