One for Friday: Big Audio Dynamite, “James Brown”


When I arrived at my college radio station, in the fall of 1988, we still played records. There was a CD player there, shiny and new and forbidding. It was a relatively new technology (commercial stations that had moved their music libraries over to nothing but CDs used the fact as an on-air promotional point), and many of the labels and servicing agencies weren’t bothering to distribute music in that format to college radio stations. Though the added durability of CDs was an undeniable boon (records in a college radio station pick up a lot of skips), I didn’t have a much of a preference of one format over the other at the time. There were exceptions to that, one of which was Megatop Phoenix, the 1989 album from Big Audio Dynamite.

The band started by Mick Jones after his involuntary exit from the Clash had already enjoyed significantly success on the college charts, so the arrival of Megatop Phoenix stirred some excitement. Our station only received a vinyl copy, and that’s where the challenge arose. The different tracks on the album were sequenced together in an incredibly tight fashion, meaning the grooves between songs, usually nice and clear, were infinitesimally thin. Trying to cue up a song in the middle of a side was extremely difficult, and started to approach torturous as the song on the next turntable over spun ever closer to its end point. There were many shifts that I tried to find the beginning of a certain cut for several minutes, only to give up in the nick of time and set the needle into place at the beginning of side, seeking the only certainty available to me.

Luckily, the opening track on Side 2 was the song most people at the station wanted to play anyway. “James Brown” was the album’s lead single and solid standout. If I was going to retreat from thwarted ambition, at least it was to a catchy safe place.

Listen or download –> Big Audio Dynamite, “James Brown”

(Disclaimer: I already forecast that this feature would be sticking with the summer and fall of 1989 for some time. To the best of my shaky determination, a sizable chunk of the Big Audio Dynamite catalog is currently out of print, at least as physical objects that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said store and the original artist. This track is shared with the belief that it does not unduly damage fair commerce. That typed, I will gladly remove it from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)