The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – Shag Times (1989)
I really debated in my head whether this particular release was eligible for the rundown. It was partly to do with the fact that it was a compilation, but the biggest concern was that it would have been maybe 18 months or so after its release before I picked up a copy, which sort of went against the grain that the album had to have bought at the time of its release to qualify for consideration. But in the end, I can most certainly live with myself that it’s here.
I’ve mentioned on more than a few occasions that the period from mid 1987-mid 1989 was a time when I drifted away from music due to what was happening in my personal life. Not only was buying next to nothing, but I no longer had any interest in reading the weekly music papers, and thus was totally out of the loop. There are a few folk to thank for dragging me out of the tailspin, not least Rachel (Mrs VV) and my dear friend and then work colleague, Jacques The Kipper whose regular diet of C90 cassettes filled in many gaps in my knowledge.
I had missed all the fuss about The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu and the shenanigans around their efforts to make dance music that was based around sampling. JtK had kept his eye on the ball and some of the JAMMs songs found their way onto the C90s, which looking back on it seems deliciously ironic.
Here’s a contemporary review of the Shag Times compilation, penned by Mat Snow for Q Magazine in February 1989:-
The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu are King Boy D. (Bill Drummond, doyen of the Liverpool scene that spawned the Bunnymen, Teardrop etc) and Rockman Rock (formerly of Brilliant), and Shag Times would be their greatest hits if the full force of the law hadn’t already decided they probably belonged to the original artists.
Indeed, the track Don’t Take Five (Take What You Want) last saw action on the album 1987 (What The Fuck’s Goin On?), so swiftly suppressed by the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society that rare copies now change hands at silly prices. Indeed, the queue of artists whose most memorable moments have been glued onto a beatbox backing-track stretches all the way back to the 19th century.
Apart from the usual sources-AC/DC, James Brown-this album of already released numbers (plus a remix companion disc) creates some unlikely bedfellows. Wagner and Pet Clarke? Jimi Hendrix and Dave Brubeck? Whitney Houston and so on, ad absurdum. Though hardly new as a technique-Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five’s Adventures On The Wheels Of Steel kicked off the ’80s with a bricolage of Queen, Blondie and Chic-JAMMs’ buccaneering attitude to the laws of creative ownership helped re-open the whole debate and, what often seems neglected in the furore, made a sequence of very amusing juxtapositions, of which The Timelords ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis (included here) is the tamest.
A great party album.
The review gives an indication that the furore around the JAMMs made it difficult to pick up any of their releases. It was mid-1990 when I finally saw a second-hand copy in an Edinburgh shop, which I grabbed with indecent haste. I think I paid £7 for it.
mp3: The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – Candyman
The other great thing about the CD was that it came with an 8-page booklet containing various articles about the band that had appeared in the UK music press from March 1987 to April 1988, which was a huge help in me further filling in the gaps in my knowledge.
Oh, and in doing a bit of research for this post, I had a look at Discogs. £85 is the asking price in the UK for a copy of this CD. Utter madness.