Freewheeling through time and space, Kris Needs continues his adventures in sound. This month: Eleanor Grant’s ‘(I Am Ready) Sexual Healing’
The craze for New York dance radio station recordings sweeping Ladbroke Grove around core maniacs Youth, Alex Paterson and yours truly, had reached a raging peak by Christmas 1982, with anyone visiting the US commanded to fill C90s with the revolutionary mastermixes broadcast on KISS-FM, WBLS and WKTU.
As an early convert and evangelist, The Clash’s Mick Jones liked to turn tapes he’d made into little works of art. After a festive fry-up at the legendary Mike’s Cafe, he smiled, “Happy Christmas”, and pressed one into my palm. Hand-decorated with a dollar sign skyline, Mick called it ‘NY Hits!’.
Scooting back to the Ladbroke Grove flat I shared with Youth, the cassette presented a mesmerising taste of cutting-edge electronic dance music, including Marvin Gaye’s exquisite, quiet storm, rumpo masterpiece ‘Sexual Healing’. Youth and I loved that already, marvelling at the complex tiptoeing 909 drum machine pattern, always finding it hard to resist donning antlers nicked from some house party, sequined jockstraps and silk robes as the song worked its lurve-god spell.
Astonishingly, the track on Mick’s tape was cut with a female answer version, giving the lady’s retort to Marvin’s angel-voiced exhortations, rapping, “I’m wide awake / Oh for heaven’s sake…” or singing, “I’m yours just for the asking / Oh baby just ask me”, over the song’s familiar evocative throb, now bolstered by wah-wah guitar and keening new synth melody.
As usual, I had to find this tune (along with everything else on the tape) and there it was at Soho’s Groove Records emporium. Released on South Carolina R&B imprint Catawba, the singer was Eleanor Grant, who issued several gems throughout the 80s. Blessed with a lovely, lilting voice with expressive range, for Marvin’s classic she was produced by former 60s Detroit songwriter George Kerr, and Reggie Griffin (about to strike the electro market with Technofunk), mixed by hotshot studio duo Sergio Munzibai and John Morales, and engineered by Bob Blank, suggesting it’d been recorded at his Blank Tapes studio. The eight-minute dub reared as a captivating space-hump gonad-soaper. Rummaging for obscure nuggets for this column, there it was again, battered from many a session but still playable, and still magical.
Finally, ‘Babble On An’ Ting: Alex Paterson’s Incredible Journey Beyond The Ultraworld With The Orb’ is out this month. I feel like a corked-up water buffalo allowed to evacuate his bulging bowels after the year-long wait since its completion. Hope you like it!