Episode 3.5: Raw Like Sushi

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Raw Like Sushi – Neneh Cherry – Virgin – 1989

By 1989, 25-year-old Neneh Cherry had already lived multiple vibrant lives. The child of bohemians (her mother, artist Moki Cherry, and her step-father, jazz musician Don Cherry). The 14-year-old high school dropout-turned-downtown-club-kid. The 16-year-old touring the UK with The Slits. The lead singer of post-punk band Rip Rig + Panic. Wife and mother. Divorced single mother, lover, and collaborator. All of these eclectic experiences and identities shape the 10 tracks of Cherry’s debut solo album Raw Like Sushi. Like Cherry, the album is impossible to pin down as one thing; it’s feisty and assertive, using a melting pot of influences from rap to funk to dance pop to convey a young woman’s truths without waiting for permission to do so.

Though the album is nearly 30 years old, it’s one we have found ourselves listening to often in recent months, marveling at its prescience and continued relevancy. Not only do we hear 2018 ring in its girl power-inspiring anthems, assertions of female sexuality, or rebuking of Men Behaving Badly. We hear its decade-defining production reflected in current artists attempting to recreate specific dated sounds of the past — and use this album as a reminder that we need to understand where we have been to know where we are going.

In this episode, we unpack the layers of this album’s lasting sonic influence, discuss and debate the ways its topics remain relevant in today’s cultural and political climate, and salute Neneh Cherry’s prolific unfuckwithable baddiness.

Listen to Raw Like Sushi: iTunesSpotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hey, hi, hello! Our apologies for our lengthy absence, but this is our side hustle and our real lives got lowkey busy, but we’re back!
  • This album is only two years older than us. Is that weird?
  • Shoutout to Viv Albertine and her dope 2014 memoir for turning us on to Neneh Cherry.
  • Peep our further watching links below to see Neneh performing with the Slits.
  • Okay but like… you could live under a rock and still have likely heard “Buffalo Stance”
    • Let’s get this bread.
    • Who knew the word “buffalo” had so many different connotations?
    • “We went over [to America] with our funny little posse from London. And in the black department, [“Buffalo Stance”] wasn’t black enough, and in the white department, it was too black. So it was just this weird middle satellite, floating around.” — Neneh Cherry, Pitchfork, 2014
    • Check out our further watching links to see that iconic Top of the Pops performance. SHOUTOUT TO BADDASS WOMEN WHO GET SHIT DONE.
  • Rolling our eyes forever at the manboys and scumbros of the world.
    • Here’s a CliffsNotes guide to the Nicki Minaj – Cardi B. beef, if you’re curious about how they approach diss tracks like this.
  • Why are teens so scary???
  • Okay but “Kisses On The Wind” brings up such a complicated discussion about girls acting older than they are and the ramifications, false (or maybe not!) confidences, and power dynamics involved. We could talk all day about this stuff; hit us up if you have thoughts.
  • Shoutout to New York City, the greatest worst city in the world!!! Love you and hate you so much!!!
  • “The Next Generation” is pre-woke, don’t @ us.
  • While we’re randomly talking about Paula Abdul, please enjoy this, the single greatest video on the internet.
  • “Phoney Ladies” is also pre-woke!
    • Susan Collins: Resign, bitch.
    • There’s a special 🙂 place 🙂 in 🙂 hell 🙂 for 🙂 women 🙂 who 🙂 don’t 🙂 help 🙂 other 🙂 women 🙂
  • We’re both super into this weird current music trend we’ve been in for a couple of years now with bops throwing it back to ‘80s production techniques. (Hi Jack Antonoff! Hi Rostam! Hi Dev Hynes!)
  • We could spend a longgggg time talking about how many artists Neneh Cherry has inspired, but to save space, we’ll just direct you to our massive Spotify master playlist for a bunch of recommended listening.
  • After an 18-year absence, Neneh Cherry is back on her game, making great music for our times. Her latest release, this month’s Broken Politics, is no exception.
  • As always, find and follow us on Facebook and Twitter if you don’t already.

Favorite track(s): Buffalo Stance and Inna City Mama (Carly) | Buffalo Stance and Heart (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Love Ghetto (Carly) | Inna City Mamma (Carrie)

Album credits:

  • Neneh Cherry — Vocals, programming
  • Sandy McLelland — Background vocals
  • Chandra Armstead — Background vocals
  • Cameron “Booga Bear” McVey — Background vocals, executive producer, mixing, beats
  • Phil Chill — Programming, beats, background vocals
  • Claudia Fontaine — Background vocals
  • Nellee Hooper — Vibraphone
  • Jerod — Guitar
  • Alvin Moody — Bass
  • Nick Plytas — Programming
  • Jeff Scantlebury — Conga
  • John Sharp — Programming
  • Tim Simenon — Beats
  • Dynamik Duo — Beats
  • Mark Saunders — Multi-instruments, beats
  • Wil Malone — Conductor, programming, string arrangements
  • Gordon Dukes — Background vocals
  • Mushroom — Programming

Further watching:
Montreux Jazz Festival interview | 2012
Performance + Interview on Arsenio Hall | 1993
“Manchild” live on Top of the Pops | 1989
”Buffalo Stance” live on Top of the Pops | 1988
The Slits – The Man Next Door live | 1981

Further reading:
Neneh Cherry Never Stopped Taking Risks. Now She’s Making Politics Personal | New York Times (October 2018)
Neneh Cherry Is Back and More Fashionable Than Ever | Vogue (August 2018)
Raw Like Sushi Sunday Review | Pitchfork (April 2018)  
Neneh Cherry Will Get an Overdue New York Debut | New York Times (January 2015)
Disorienting Eclecticism: Neneh Cherry’s Raw Like Sushi Revisited | The Quietus (May 2014)
Raw Like Sushi review | BBC (2009)
Neneh Cherry: Homestyle | Rolling Stone (February 1993)

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Emphasizing musicians’ gender is an increasingly debatable practice. After all, “female” isn’t a genre. Still, though, we here at ’77 Music Club believe that women have made incredible contributions to music that, for too long, have lingered in the shadows of their male peers. We’ve strived to have a hand in the telling of musical stories from a different perspective in all of our episodes; often, that means gravitating towards telling stories about other women.

Earlier this year, we celebrated International Women’s Day with an excessively long Twitter thread lauding some of our many favorite women who have made (and continue to make) music that has shaped our world. Today, we’re back to soundtrack IWD’s sister holiday, International Day of the Girl. We rounded up our favorite episodes featuring women who have challenged the status quo and let the world know that you don’t need to be a generic white dude to make some goddamn great music. These women have inspired countless girls to pick up guitars or basses or microphones and speak their truths. Tune in, turn it up, and join our musical girl gang. If we get enough people, we’re getting jackets.

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Episode 1: Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks

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Episode 2: Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different

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Episode 4: Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club

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Episode 13: Grace Jones – Nightclubbing

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Episode 15: Carole King – Music 

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Episode 2.4: Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night

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Episode 2.5: Blondie – Parallel Lines

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Episode 2.6: Joni Mitchell – “River”

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Episode 2.7: Patti Smith – Easter

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Episode 2.10: Siouxsie and the Banshees – Juju

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Episode 3.1: Laura Nyro – Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

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Episode 3.2: Viv Albertine discusses The Slits, Dionne Warwick, feminism, and more

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Episode 3.4: Nico – The Marble Index

Episode 3.2: Viv Albertine talks Dionne Warwick, the Slits, feminism, and more

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The Slits now-iconic 1979 debut Cut is an unusual, but delightful, melting pot of sounds: strains of UK punk mix with Jamaican reggae, girlish chants dance with abrasive DIY noise. Slipping between the grooves and finding a home within the mix — perhaps most indecipherably, or even curiously, to the casual listener — is the influence of the early-60s pop standards of Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach.

Growing up in post-war Britain in the 1960s, Slits guitarist Viv Albertine heard plenty of Warwick’s hits while listening to pop radio. Later, as a scrappy young woman running around London with next to no money and not much to do in the early-to-mid ‘70s, she came across a compilation album — Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part One — in a used record shop with her bandmates. It became not just an album that they spent countless hours listening to together, playing it front-to-back over and over again, but one they — particularly Viv and lead singer Ari Up — would study, dissecting songs to their individual parts and taking note of the details, attempting to learn how to emulate Warwick and Bacharach in their own unique way.

For the past 40 years, the Slits have served as touchstones for female musicians, often cited for blazing a necessary trail for the coming riot grrrl movement and beyond. Today, we have the privilege of being able to look to Viv Albertine, and the Slits as a whole, for inspiration and empowerment, and are finally beginning to see their important role in history recognized in more mainstream circles. But in their formative years, female role models, particularly musicians, were much harder to come by; Dionne Warwick was one of them.

In this very special episode, we are so pleased to discuss Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part One with Viv Albertine herself. Join us for a wide-ranging conversation that touches upon Warwick, Bacharach, and Hal David’s influence on the Slits’ music, as well as their own lives as young women in late-70s and early-80s London, the importance of representation, and so much more.

Listen to Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part OneSpotify | YouTube
Listen to the Slits’ Cut: iTunesSpotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes
(and while you’re there, rate and review us in the iTunes store)

Read the full transcript of our interview with Viv Albertine here

Episode notes and postscript corrections

First and foremost: We’ve said this a million times, but we truly cannot recommend Viv’s books more or praise them highly enough. Both have had a tremendous impact on us, and we have yet to meet anyone who has read either and cannot say the same.

Support your local small bookstore or check them out here:
To Throw Away Unopened | 2018
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. | 2014 

Follow our master playlist on Spotify to hear every song we discussed today
Follow Viv Albertine on Facebook and Twitter 

Follow ’77 Music Club on Facebook and Twitter or shoot us an email if you have thoughts

Further watching:
Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits documentary trailer | 2017
Viv Albertine in conversation at British Library | 2016
The Culture Show: Girls Will Be Girls (BBC women in punk documentary) | 2014
“Typical Girls” music video | 1979
The Slits live performance and interview | 1970s; specific year unknown

Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach: Live at the Rainbow Room | 1996
Burt Bacharach… This Is Now
(BBC documentary) | 1996
“Walk On By”
live
| 1965
“Don’t Make Me Over” live | 1963

Further reading: 
On Viv and the Slits
New Doc on The Slits Questions Why These Pioneering Punks Have Been Overlooked | Paper (May 2018)
Viv Albertine Has Used Her Rage to Write Herself into Punk History | Noisey (April 2018)
The Slits Are Refusing to be Written Out of Music History | Noisey (October 2017)
The Slits’ Viv Albertine Defaces Male-Focused Punk Exhibition | Pitchfork (July 2016) ed note: HYFR, BAMF move.
How we made Cut | The Guardian (June 2013)
Like Choosing a Lover: Viv Albertine’s Favorite Albums | The Quietus (April 2013)
Girls Unconditional: The story of the Slits, told exclusively by the Slits | Loud and Quiet (July 2009)
Cut re-release album review | Pitchfork (February 2005)

On Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, and Hal David
Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music (Burt Bacharach’s memoir) | 2014
My Life, as I See It  (Dionne Warwick’s memoir) | 2010

50 Essential Albums of 1967: Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part 1 | Rolling Stone (September 2017)
Burt Bacharach interview: what was it all about? | The Telegraph (June 2013)
Dionne Warwick: ‘I refused a couple of Bacharach and David songs’ | The Guardian (November 2012)
Dionne Warwick sings Hal David’s last lyrics | CNN (September 2012)
Music And Lyrics: Burt Bacharach and Hal David | NPR (May 2010)
Bacharach and David: Reconciled and Honored | LA Times (May 1993)
Singers: Spreading the Faith | Time (July 1967)

 

Episode Credits:
Creator and co-host: Carly Jordan

Co-host, editor, producer: Carrie Courogen
Special thanks to: Becky Kraemer and Viv Albertine

Viv Albertine talks Dionne Warwick, the Slits, feminism, and more (full transcript)

The following phone interview conversation took place on June 24, 2018. It has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Carly Jordan: Thank you so much for talking to us for the show. I was really psyched that you wanted to talk about Dionne Warwick.

Viv Albertine: Oh, Dionne Warwick, yes! You don’t think that was a weird one?

CJ: No, I didn’t think that was weird at all.

Carrie Courogen: No.

CJ: We didn’t think that was weird.

CC: We thought it was really interesting.

CJ: Because in your first book, I remember reading about all of the different artists that influenced you when you were coming up in the ‘70s, and none of them were what I thought they were gonna be, and they were so varied and so interesting. So, I was not at all surprised that you chose Dionne Warwick.

VA: Oh, good! [laughs]

CJ: So, when did Dionne Warwick first come to your attention and what about her voice stuck out to you in particular?

VA: Well, I think I first probably heard Dionne Warwick in the ‘60s when I was just listening to chart music, because she had a couple of hits, but the reason I chose the album was because it was one of about four albums we had within the Slits, when we all sort of lived together and shared everything and had to go everywhere together because just the way we dressed enacted — we were being attacked all the time, so we spent so much time together and we just sort of pulled the few things we had. And, back in those days, you know you had a few albums ‘cause they cost so much. We got Dionne Warwick, I think, Golden Hits, Part One, which is her singing the Burt Bacharach – Hal David songs, from the record exchange shop, so, it was a used copy. And we absolutely sort of studied it, you know?

Continue reading “Viv Albertine talks Dionne Warwick, the Slits, feminism, and more (full transcript)”