My Occasional Blog About the Music I’m Listening To – Part One: Sly & the Family Stone

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I annoyed a friend on Facebook with my blog about Swansea City, it was the person who had asked me if I was bitter about the Bluebirds win on Sunday – I had taken it in the way it was meant i.e. jokingly but having seen the link to my blog she didn’t accept that and got a bit cross with me. So today I’m going to keep it safe and blog about some music.

I say keep it safe but the truth is when it comes to music the word subjectivity goes out of the window, arguments ensue, families don’t talk to each other, friendships dissolve and wars are fought over such divisive issues as who should be considered as the Fifth Beatle.* 

I won’t offering critiques of bands albums or their oeuvre as a whole but rather I’ll be talking about stuff I’m listening to, why I like it and possibly how I got into it and there will be some examples of my favourite songs by them – if you like it you like it, if not then that’s fine – I won’t hold it against you. 

I can remember the first single I bought, it was David Soul’s Silver Lady and I got it in a little record shop on the High Street in Cowbridge – my previous purchase there had been an album of songs and stories from the Mr Men TV show narrated by Arthur Lowe. I still have both records and I still love both of them  – Silver Lady is a quality song, a good tune, lots of sumptuous strings – two of the things that I still like in the pop music I listen to.

I do go through phases in my music when I listen to a band obsessively for a bit – I say for a bit, it get sot the point where my wife has to ask me to stop playing certain bands as she’s had enough of them and at the moment I’m listening at lot to Sly and the Family Stone. 

The first time I heard of them was when I got the Happy Mondays Lasyitis single on 12” vinyl in 1989 – the credits of the song mentioned Sylvester Stewart and reading a review of the single it seemed that the Mondays had  – ahem – borrowed some lyrics and melody from Family Affair – I liked the tune so got a copy of the There’s a Riot Going On album and I can’t honestly say that it changed me life or anything – it’s such a dark record that for a teenage indie kid in the late 80s early 90s kid it took a long, long time to get into but it was an album that I kept coming back to thoughout my days at college.

When his albums got reissued in 2007 I bought them all and as the boxset of them only came out in the US I bought that online and to avoid importation tax (VAT and and an £8 administration charge – Royal Mail, you’re having a laugh.) got them sent to me via friends in America who marked them as a gift and then forwarded them on – no importation tax – hooray! 

Sometimes I just like the sound of a tight band who make me want to dance and sing or just make my body move when I’m furiously tapping my foot to a funky rhythm and Sly and the Family Stone are my top band for all those things. There are great pop tunes, funky workouts, incredible vocal performances and they look cool, seriously cool. To put it bluntly I love them and in my humble opinion they are one of the best bands of the sixties and early seventies.

Sly and the Family Stone are a band who were incredibly important, they were a band of mixed races signed to a major record label at a time when that didn’t happen simply because of where America was at the time in relation to race relations and integration. All that mattered to Sly was that he had the best musicians to enable him to make the music that he needed to make. It didn’t matter if they were black or white – he just wanted them to play stuff like this:

And this:

How can you not like it?!? 

If you don’t want to be like me and buy a complete selection of Sly and the Family Stone albums then worry not – their greatest hits album:

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Has been called one of the best party records ever** and it is, every single song on it is a winner and so cheap on Amazon that it would be a crime for you not to get a copy.

I love Sly and the Family Stone. 

*Obviously it’s George Martin

** I read it somewhere but can’t be bothered to look for a link to back the statement up

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