VIVIEN GOLDMAN: A TRANS-ATLANTIC “RESOLUTIONARY” FROM LADBROKE GROVE TO BROADWAY. PORTRAIT taken in 1979 by David Corio
There was a little wave of anticipation and excitement in NYC last week over the official launch of two long-cherished projects from my good friend Vivien Goldman. First up is ‘Cherchez La Femme – The Musical’ which she co-wrote with the ever sartorially elegant August Darnell aka Kid Creole. The production which is on at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club is set in both NYC and somewhere in the Caribbean in the 80s. It features the music from Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band and Kid Creole & The Coconuts plus a few new compositions. August Darnell originally hails from the Bronx and his musical offerings are rooted in those classic musicals of the Fifties and Sixties like Guys & Dolls, South Pacific and West Side Story. Darnell is an one-off and I still have vivid memories of the hi-energy – beyond all expectations – show that I witnessed at the Lyceum to promote that first Kid Creole album. The combination of August Darnell, Vivien Goldman and musical director,Angie Kristicis, sounds like a winning combination to me.
So, for a deeper insight into ’Cherchez La Femme – The Musical’ check out this piece by esteemed NY Times journo John Pareles here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/theater/dapper-as-ever-kid-creole-dresses-up-his-songs-for-a-new-musical.html?smid=tw-nytimesmusic&smtyp=cur&_r=0.
The second project of Vivien Goldman’s is a compilation of her songs on an CD entitled ‘Resolutionary’ that Staubgold Records have released. It’s nice to have all these songs on one CD and in the context of today’s increasingly eclectic musical scene they still sound remarkably fresh and relevant. I’m still the proud owner of the ‘Private Armies’/’Launderette’ 12″ single, which had a photo story cover featuring Viv and Archie Pool (check the classic movie Babylon) taken by my co-p at that time, Jean Bernard Sohiez and , for me, what Viv’s music represents is the uninhibited creative reality of that time. People were militant. Barriers had been broken down. Don Lett’s had introduced an alternative soundtrack via the Roxy, John Lydon identified with Dr Alimantado’s ‘Born For a Purpose’, Rock against Racism was on the rise and a host of UK reggae artists like Aswad, Cimarons, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Black Slate, Matumbi, Steel Pulse and Misty In Roots took to the road. In ’76 Carnival kicked off massively. Vivien was (is) a Ladbroke Grove-ite, a regular at Weasel’s shebeen, a journo who was immersed in the punk and reggae scene and all things beyond. She conversed with, and was friends with, late great modern master musicians like Bob Marley, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman and Fela Kuti and as a woman she had unique and very strong bonds with other strong women on the scene like The Slits, Chrissie Hynde, Rip Rig & Panic’s Andi Oliver and Neneh Cherry.
A scan of those involved in the making of the songs on ‘Resolutionary’ reveals the cross pollination taking place on the music scene at that time. It was John Lydon who helped set the ball rolling by bank rolling ‘Private Armies’ and ‘Lauderette’. The latter is pure bass-line, percussion with shades of Velvet Underground. Viv rides the ridim and tells her tale. Basically, it’s wayward avante-garde pop – edgy but sweet! ‘Private Armies’ still sounds good me with those early drum machine licks and George Oban’s bass line underpinning classic lyrics like… “Sat in the Mini while skinheads beat the shit out of a person on the pavement”… “blood everywhere”. Adrian Sherwood’s dubbed out production is one of his finest moments.
The Flying Lizards tracks on the CD offer a fresh, playful, free-style energy and add another musical dimension to that period of time in London. Joining The Raincoats’ violinist, Vicky Aspinall, are the pure improvising duo of David Toop and Steve Beresford – both well known for their toy instruments. Be not deceived by these two musicians – they were also the force behind the excellent and eclectic Collusions magazine which ran the very first UK reports on electro and hip hop. A visit their place in Stoke Newington revealed an incredible collection of global music – stacked floor to ceiling on cassettes (which are strangely back in fashion!) . The Flying Lizards were offbeat and on it and don’t be surprised to find Robert Wyatt in the mix. The haunting PIL produced ‘Windows’ is pure bass, percussion and harmonies.
Post Flying Lizards came Chantage which unites Vivien and her Afro-Parisian spar Eve Blouin. Over three songs we find them in 80’s Euro-mode bouncing off a meltdown of post colonial British and French influences. This was the dawn of the ‘World Music’ era and Paris – thanks to Martin Messonier and Radio Nova – was awash with Soukous, Zouk and Haitian Compas. Fusion was in the air. ‘Same Thing Twice’ is a twist on a Robert Nesta Marley classic with steel pan, acoustic guitar and rowdy, uplifting Yard style horns. ‘It’s Only Money’ has that bouncy Latin Kid Creole feel combined with melancholy klezmer violin and steel pan, and it’s all pushed along by plucked bass and their breathy vocals.
Following last year’s ‘Professor of Punk’ tour and her current foray into the world of musicals it would be fascinating to see what Vivien and her friends would come up with today. And that might just happen as Vivien is adamant that, “Music is strong in me. I intend to do more.”
BELOW: A 2006 track that’s not on the the album – ‘Seven Days’ from the COS “Girl Monster” Compilation.