Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Kinky Afro

Band: Happy Mondays
Album: Pills ’N’ Thrills And Bellyaches
Year: 1990
Label: Factory Records
Status: Still going
Kinky Afro acts like a manifesto of intent to kick off the Happy Mondays’ platinum album.
  • Baggy beats, funk and languid drums? Check.
  • Cocky swagger? Check.
  • Party calls? Check.
  • Self-centred lyrics? Check.
  • Laid-back delivery? Check.
Hey, that’s The Happy Mondays in a nutshell, brother.

The song is a conversation between a bad dad and his estranged son. Reconciliation is impossible: the dad won’t hear what the son says. Once, twice, say it again: he never will. Words are a barrier that can’t be passed as they stand across a gulf of difference. Tony Wilson described it as “the greatest poem about parenthood since Yeats”. Shaun Ryder, Bard of Salford.
Kinky Afro was one of the Happy’s biggest hits, in both the US and UK. It was also a tipping point, signalling a switch in the Manchester sound from dance to baggy. The mix of laid-back indie-pop rock fused with funk electronica and northern soul changed music forever. Baggy had one foot in the hippy peace and love camp. Why fight when you can indulge?

The album’s name is all sex, drugs and rock and roll, but with a hint of recognition of the comedown after the indulgence is over. A mix of the high life and the low life. That fine line between satisfaction and going too far, overindulgence that leaves you tetchy, flaking at the seams, having to put on a front to scare off the vultures that prey on the dying. Life and death in there (hey, it’s Grandbag’s Funeral they tell us, skin up on both sides of the line).


And so this band of excess, discovered by Tony Wilson during one of The Ha├žienda’s battle of the bands nights, became one of the most influential UK bands of the early 1990s. At that time Paul McCartney said they reminded him of the Beatles. It’s no surprise that The Happy Mondays helped pave the way for the successes of The Stone Roses, The Charlatans, even Oasis, as we’ll see later.




Extract from page 144 of 2000 Tunes: A History of Manchester Music by M. H. Rees; used with permission. Read the whole series (25 extracts) here; or my summary post. Readers might be interested in my forthcoming novel about a man obsessed with Manchester music - confusingly, it is also called 2000 Tunes!
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