1989 – Three Feet High And Rising – De La Soul

1989B - De La Soul

The idea of a ‘slacker’s revolution’ is that you don’t have to be violent and confrontational to be subversive. Whilst N.W.A. were creating Gangsta Rap on “Straight Outta Compton” and Public Enemy were telling us, “Yo! Bum Rush The Show”, De La Soul were taking intelligent samples from everywhere and anywhere and using them along with raps that advocated peace, harmony and a return to the “D.A.I.S.Y. Age”. It wasn’t all hippy nonsense though, just a more chilled out call to arms for those who didn’t like the increasingly misogynistic attitudes being touted on most rap and hip hop records at the time. The drum beats and bass lines were no less funky and there was still some swearing, but it wasn’t angry and that made a massive difference. Rather than being hammered home, the hooks eased their way into your brain and stayed there awhile. There was the whistling on “Eye Know”, the guitar line on “Say No Go” and they even used the phrase, “Ecoutez et repetez” from the Longman Audio-Visual French language lab that Robert and I had used in one of our Short Supply songs. Perhaps what sums up the mood of “Three Feet High and Rising” most is when, on “Me, Myself and I”, they say that if someone is really getting on their nerves they’ll, “Calmly punch them on the Fourth of July”. Different drugs from N.W.A.?
I took up my post as deputy head teacher at Roughwood and within weeks, the head told me she’d been invited to attend a six week course during which time she was not allowed any contact with school whatsoever. That meant I was to be acting head for six weeks and I’d only just got the job as deputy! She gave me a list of instructions and things I should do and when I should do them and off she went. As a class teacher you’re used to doing a million things all at once and never really stopping all day. As a head it’s different. I’d been told that the office post came on a Monday lunchtime and I should leave the afternoon free to read it and deal with anything that needed dealing with. Well, by about ten past one on my first Monday, I’d read the post, dealt with it and sat there thinking, so, what do I do now for the next two and a half hours? I had a realisation then that you don’t always get paid more for doing more, rather for what might happen and being ultimately responsible for it. I also realised that actually, given the choice between sitting in a meeting with ninety other head teachers or being in a classroom with thirty or so children, I’d take the class full of children any day. Every head’s meeting I went to, I would look around the room and think, I have nothing in common with these people. They probably had holidays in caravans touring the wine-growing regions of France, I had holidays sitting in seedy Spanish bars with a load of nutters playing ‘Heel’. They probably spent Saturday evenings having dinner parties discussing the latest educational philosophies while I was out playing rock ‘n’ roll in some grubby Working Men’s Club. Hmm, not much in common really.
Our band, “Special Mix” had come to an end when Grahame and Jean separated but we’d already hatched a plan.The Blues Brothers had a song in the charts that had suddenly caught on. “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” was being played everywhere and gave Grahame and me an idea. Justin and Scott (who’d played Danny in the school production of ‘Grease’) had just left school and were dead keen to keep singing, so jumped at the chance of putting together a Blues Brothers style of band to play in the Working Men’s Clubs and make a bit of money. Nicola, who’d played the part of Sandy in ‘Grease’, also had a good voice and wanted to join too, as a backing singer. I’d put together some backing tapes with drums and bass on, so in the summer holidays we all got together in the school hall and knocked out a set: Blues Brothers songs, Motown and Soul classics and a few more recent pop tunes. Nicola proved to be an ace tambourine player too, so we kept that in the act. Justin and I kept recording at every available opportunity and, from somewhere, between us came up with the name for the new band – The Holy Rollers. It felt right, the rest of the band loved it, the music sounded great and we knew we were onto something. All we needed were a few more rehearsals to get things polished and we’d be ready.

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