Public Enemy - Chuck D, DJ Terminator X and Flavor Flav
1988 was a huge year for Public Enemy. That year they released their second record, one of the most important records in history (hip-hop or not), It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and toured all around the world in support of the album, to insanely enthusiastic, packed house crowds.
I saw PE on that tour, and it was like nothing else that I’d ever seen before. Everything about that show was in fact, harder than the hardcore. Love them or hate them, everybody knew who Public Enemy was in 1988. Even in the Netherlands.
During the tour, PE found themselves in Holland and made an appearance on a Dutch music television show called Fa. Onrust. During the show, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, and DJ Terminator X rip through “Night of the Living Baseheads,” “Rebel Without a Pause,” “Bring the Noise,” and “Don’t Believe the Hype.” If that’s not enough for you, Run DMC just happened to be in Holland themselves at exactly the same time, and Joseph Simmons/DJ Run and Darryl “D.M.C.” Matthews joined PE on stage to kick out their 1988 track, “How’d Ya Do It Dee?” from Tougher Than Leather. Damn.
Public Enemy and Run DMC on Dutch television, 1988. Chuck is asking the audience to throw up the “peace sign”
Despite all the good times that you will see in the video below, there is a slightly uncomfortable interview segment with the two (rather clueless) female hosts of the show. The interview was already going off the rails—thanks to the always brutally honest Professor Griff)—but then the always eloquent Chuck D. decides to give a pop quiz his hosts about the Netherlands’ political system, which they obviously don’t know a lot about…
This seems fitting, right? The pastel drawing is by Illma Gore and appropriately titled “Make America Great Again.”
From the artist:
“Make America Great Again” is about the significance we place on our physical selves. One should not feel emasculated by their penis size or vagina, as it does not define who you are. Your genitals do not define your gender, your power, or your status.
Simply put you can be a massive prick, despite what is in your pants.
But Illma, tell us how you really feel about Donald Trump…
What’s that, friend? You say you’re narcotized by modern life, and Cupid’s arrow has lost its sting? Love just doesn’t hurt like it used to do?
If hearing Bret Michaels serenade Rock of Love contestants with his 1988 hit “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” wasn’t painful enough for you, artist Michael Ridge has come up with just the thing to give this hoary old power ballad some spice. With the aid of a contact mike, Ridge has figured out how to play Poison’s hit on his turntable using a branch from a rose bush in place of a stylus arm, and like actual thorns doing the needle’s job.
Remember that one relationship that “really put you through some changes”? It felt just like this sounds. As I type this, I am suffering serious chest pain!
Thanks to Aaron Dilloway and John Olson of Violent Ramp
If you are say, 35 years of age and up, hearing the opening bars of “Doin’ the Do,” the 1990 smash hit single by Betty Boo will probably bring an instant smile of recognition to your face. I could easily “name that tune” with just the very first note, and so can many of you reading this very sentence, I’m pretty sure. If you are younger than 35, however then you probably only know it as that catchy song they always play at LA Fitness during your spinning class.
Betty Boo was the original Spice Girl—it’s fairly well documented that Chris Herbert, one of the music biz managers who originally “manufactured” the Spice Girls was looking for “five Betty Boos”—but this is not to imply that Boo—real name Alison Clarkson—was a pre-fab pop star because she was anything but, not only writing, but producing much of her debut album, the platinum-selling Boomania. She was the real deal, even if this was not widely recognized during her brief fame.
When she was 16 and still in school, Clarkson joined a Salt-n-Pepa influenced rap trio called She Rockers. In a chance encounter in 1988 with Public Enemy’s “Minister of Information” Professor Griff in a McDonald’s in Shepherd’s Bush—incredibly caught on video—the cheeky young Clarkson performed an impromptu rap with Griff’s “beatbox” accompaniment. This led to She Rockers going to New York where Griff produced their debut single “Give it a Rest.” She Rockers also opened for PE during some American tour dates, but Clarkson soon left the group.
Back in London, she attended a course at the Holloway School of Audio Engineering and sang as a guest vocalist on a hit single by the Beatmasters, “Hey DJ / I Can’t Dance (To That Music You’re Playing)” in 1989, which led to her getting signed as a solo artist. With the financial windfall from the Beatmasters collaboration, Clarkson loaded up on audio equipment—samplers, sequencers, keyboards—so Betty Boo could do her own do. Boomania, which spawned three hit singles, was largely self-produced on her own equipment in her own bedroom, and written by Clarkson herself.
When Boomania came out, I played the shit out of that record. Pure pop perfection in a glossy pop art package. What’s not to love? The album’s first single was “Doin’ the Do.” The way she spits out her brassy, sassy rap out here is razor-sharp. Monie Love-level good!
“Doin’ the Do”
If you don’t think that song is absolutely amazing, please stop reading this blog. I hate you.
Annoyingly, she was seldom given full credit for her accomplishments, not even for her own highly original fashion sense!
‘When you’re a girl and you make pop music, it’s assumed you haven’t got a mind of your own. But it was me who wanted the Emma Peel look.’
And she chose her musical style, too, that blend of rap and frothy pop. ‘I like the Beatles, the Monkees. I like dinky sounds. I’d like to sound like the young Michael Jackson - sweet.’ She did a course at the Holloway School of Audio Engineering and co-produces her recordings. She says it sometimes irks her how little credit she gets for that, but she offsets her frustration with the thought that ‘the people who buy my records like the sound of my voice and the tune; they’re not interested in credits’
I met Betty Boo in New York in the summer of 1990. It was in a nightclub where I was working at the time called Mars on the Westside Highway just below 14th street. I think it was her publicist from Sire Records who introduced us. I told her that I really loved Boomania and congratulated her on the clever use of the “morse code” Reparata and the Delrons interpolation (it’s not really a sample) from “Captain of Your Ship” in “Doin’ the Do,” which she seemed quite pleased someone had noticed. Obviously, she was a complete knockout and although she would have only been 20 at the time, she was reserved and serious, giving the impression of being someone who was very much in control of her own destiny. She didn’t in any way act all full of herself, either, as you would expect a young person thrust suddenly into that kind of rockstar fame might behave. I thought she’d go on to become a big star, but her second album, Grrr! It’s Betty Boo—which is excellent, too—sold disappointingly. She was on the verge of signing with Madonna’s newly formed Maverick Records—Madonna has praised Betty Boo several times in interviews—when her mother became terminally ill and she took time off to care for her, and later her grandmother, effectively abandoning her performing career.