Saturday Night: Don't take my word. Ask Eric Clapton

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Indy Lifestyle Online
You know the feeling. Sometimes the whole world is deaf, except for you and Eric Clapton. When it was first released last summer, Beautiful People's debut album, If '60s Were '90s, arrived like a lightning bolt. Along with Bjork's Debut and Orbital's untitled record, it was one of 1993's best releases - as I informed anyone who would listen.

But did they buy it? Of course not. It became pop's private pleasure, enjoyed by a few converts from Goa to San Francisco. This week it is re-released, giving the world a second chance to fall in love with it and, more importantly, to prove me and Eric Clapton right.

As the title suggests, If '60s Were '90s is essentially a Jimi Hendrix album, but not one you would recognise. Its nine 'original' songs are a miracle of technology, fusing sampled guitars

and vocals by Hendrix with rhythm tracks and backing vocals by Beautiful People, a five-piece band based half-way between Guildford and London. What makes it so remarkable is the skill with which Beautiful People have reworked Hendrix's finest moments. The house and techno rhythms on this record, contrary to expectations, actually highlight the range and versatility of Hendrix's technique. But don't take my word for it: ask Clapton.

Nearly four years ago, Clapton stumbled across the test pressing of a track called 'The Experience'. It featured samples from Hendrix's 'Voodoo Chile', over a pumping house beat, interspersed with spoken phrases stolen from a South Bank Show on Hendrix. On New Year's Eve 1990, Duncan

Kane, vocalist and guitarist for Beautiful People, was put in touch with Clapton, who wanted to know who was behind this resurrection of Hendrix, and why. Kane explained that he had got into Hendrix via the psychedelic side of the rave scene.

'There were obvious parallels between the Ecstasy 'rave' scene of the late Eighties and the LSD festival scene of the late Sixties,' says Kane. 'Both generations found a kind of drug-inspired philosophy of love and peace through large communal gatherings at music events. But at that point, the 'E generation' didn't have any guitars in their music.'

Kane and cohorts were in nappies, or unborn, when Hendrix popped his clogs. But they had heard his name mentioned at the various house clubs and parties they were involved in running at the time. Eventually one of them made the time-honoured trip up to attic, rifled through a box of records his parents had collected in a previous life, and emerged with a battered copy of Axis: Bold as Love.

Back in the Sixties, aspiring musicians would spend months in their bedrooms with a Dansette and a pile of Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry discs, learning to play like the greats. But the children of the revolution have it so

much easier. Beautiful People merely loaded several bars of prime Hendrix into an Akai sampler, pressed the start button and there was Hendrix, wailing away in their midst, playing the riff they wanted, over and over again.

They started jamming along, and a few weeks later cut the demo disc that eventually found its way to Clapton. 'I made a point of asking him (Clapton) what he thought of the track,' says Kane, 'He said, 'I think it's fantastic'. Those were his words.'

Through Clapton's management, Kane got in touch with Alan Douglas, executor of the Hendrix estate and guardian of the original recordings. To Kane's surprise, Douglas liked Beautiful People's work so much that he suggested they record an

entire dance album based on Hendrix samples. In order to accomplish this, he granted them access to the complete back catalogue. Kane and the band identified the samples they wanted to use, and Douglas sent them a DAT tape of the relevant guitar or vocal track. And so, painstakingly, If '60s Were '90s was realised over a period of 18 months.

'Alan's attitude was 'What would Jimi do? Was this a direction that he might have explored?',' says Kane. 'He believed, like us, that if he were alive Jimi would have experimented with all the technology available, and would have still been working at the cutting edge of pop music. And that means house, dance, or techno, whatever you want to call it.'

For live work, the band uses an A-DAT eight-track digital sampler in order to reproduce Hendrix's slithering solos and volcanic power-chords, but Kane is keen to stress that Beautiful People is a real band, rather than an electronic studio outfit, or a bunch of DJs.

'It's still a surprise for many people to find out that we can actually play,' he says. 'OK, so we got into it a rather unconventional way, but if you listen to the album, there are nine songs there. They're not just dance grooves.'

Meanwhile, Beautiful People will be playing at small venues and, hopefully, a couple of festival dates this summer, to promote their re-released album. I suggest you buy it, or go and see them, or both, if only to compare your hearing with mine and Clapton's.

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