Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday's Music Moment: Sightsee MC by Big Audio Dynamite

I just got back from a week in London where I attended the Online Information conference. It was an exciting week to be there, not just because I was able to stay up to date on the bookies' odds of which designer will get the nod to make Kate Middleton's wedding dress, but also because the country was in the grips of a major weather disaster (or as we native Rochesterians like to call it, "winter.") Two inches of snow on the ground and some subzero temperatures, and the next thing you know the morning television news programs are completely dominated by Skype interviews with 10-month pregnant ladies in villages like Essingshire and Little Wopping where the commentators ask repeatedly, "So, if the baby comes, your neighbor will be bringing the midwife to you on a tractor, you say?"

Even with all that excitement to contend with, the most memorable part of the trip was an afternoon I spent on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, completely entranced by a public art project. Portobello Road ReCollection, which was installed in October, is a 100 meter long, supersize record collection. Designers Teresa Crawley and Natasha Mason, with input from DJs, musicians, record labels, and the local community around the Portobello Road area, came up with music that has influenced the neighborhood - "the DNA of Portobello Road." Then they blew up the record sleeves to supersize and lined the road with them. The result is not just arresting colorfully and graphically, but causes bypassers (or me, anyway) to slow down, cock their heads 90 degrees, and start reading.
Portobello Road ReCollection

To give you an idea of the musical diversity of this area of London, the categories in which suggestions were sought include Punk, Blues, Dance, Folk, Jazz, Pop, Prog Rock, Rock Steady, Dub, Ska, Gospel, Reggae, and Soul / Funk. I ended up whipping out my little green notebook and pen to write down a bunch of music to explore or revisit now that I'm home, everything from Sufjan Stevens to Delroy Washington to Tom Waits to the Slits.

Maybe Joe Strummer of the Clash said it best with a quote posted on the project site: “There’s a brick wall in Notting Hill near Portobello market that I would rather look at for hours than go to Madame Tussaud’s and it’s totally free and full of history.” So in his honor I'm posting a Big Audio Dynamite video today, Sightsee MC, directed by Jim Jarmusch. I'd love to see this project catch on in other places, an exploration of both the history and the preferences that make neighborhoods unique. And as we go into the weekend (mercifully predicted to be snow-free in England:)

"London town is ours tonight
Well it's over to you and bye from me
I'm your guide for the ride Sightsee M.C!"


  1. I would like to see that -- the picture is intriguing.

  2. Good way to kill an afternoon for sure. And right at the end is Honest Johns's vinyl record store - that guy must be making a killing, as you walk inside completely spinning with ideas for albums you never heard of or forgot you loved.

    Fiona which Mescaleros do you recommend?

  3. Definitely a sightsee over the wax dummies . . . tks for the music.


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