Eclectic is the essence

There is a lot of hostility to migrants and movement just now. Sometimes it is cloaked beneath talk of security. Increasingly it is rank bigotry. In the struggle against aggressive nativism, I offer … Sandii and the Sunsetz. Yes, really.

Sandra O’Neale was the child of a Japanese mother and an American father, a Navy man. She grew up in Japan and later Hawaii. There she became passionate about the dance and music of Polynesia. Returning to Japan in the 1970s, she became a DJ and performer, part of the emerging techno scene, collaborating with the likes of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. In a range of bands and under different names she recorded and performed an eclectic mix of styles and traditions.

Sandii

Image via Discogs

It was as Sandii and the Sunsetz that she had her one hit in Australia, “Sticky Music”, in 1983. It probably counts as the first example of J-pop making an impact in the west. Indeed, apart from Yoko Ono, Sandii must be the first Asian woman to enjoy mainstream success here.

It often happens on Planet Vinyl: artists I know only for one or two songs turn out to have unsuspected depth and range. “Sticky Music” is a clever pastiche, full of sly irony. This completely missed me (and, I suspect, almost everyone else) in 1983. It is not representative of Sandii’s work, though – indeed nothing is. Eclectic is the essence. A daughter of different cultures, she borrows from everywhere and anywhere.

Have a listen to this B-side, “The Mirrors Of Eyes”. It is a subtle, low-key mix of percussion, vocals and (guessing here) Japanese stringed instruments. It is mysterious, engaging.

Sandii is still with us, performing and teaching dance. She is witness to the good which comes when people are allowed to travel, to love who they wish to love, to move between cultures, and express themselves freely.

  • Artist: Sandii and the Sunsetz
  • A Side: Sticky Music
  • B Side: The Mirrors Of Eyes
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm, vinyl, stereo
  • Label: Sire
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: 7-259701
  • Year: 1983

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

 

 

No surname necessary

Planet Vinyl welcomes and loves the obscure, the forgotten, the eccentric and the strange. But we do not discriminate. The best-selling female recording artist of all time? She too is welcome here. I speak of Madonna Louise Ciccone, born in the United States in 1958. By the time I was a teenager in the 1980s she was a global icon. Most people didn’t know she had a surname, nor was one necessary. She was loved and imitated from New York to New Deli, via Berlin and San Salvador.

madonna_la_isla_bonita_coverI was not a huge fan, but I always respected her endless capacity for innovation and reinvention. She was not the strongest singer going around. Her image was key, yet she was not especially good looking in conventional terms. But she was brave, and smart. She ransacked the music and iconography of the past, mixed it up with synth and production and dance and made it something new and exciting. It didn’t always work for me, but it sure worked for a lot of others.

0052-labelThis disc is one of the 300 million-odd records she sold over the years. “La Isla Bonita” is, no getting around it, lyrically lightweight, a montage of vaguely Latin, vaguely Caribbean clichés, not all of which make sense. There is reference to “A young girl with eyes like the desert”. Does this mean “huge and mostly empty”? Or perhaps, “full of sand”?

Later we learn that “when the samba played, the sun would set so high.” The sun can set in a range of well-worn ways, but high?

Oh, who cares? On Planet Vinyl there is a space for silly pop songs, and this is one of them, and if you just don’t listen too closely to the words it is a bright, gorgeous dance number.

  • Artist: Madonna
  • Title: La Isla Bonita
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Sire
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: 7-28425
  • Year: 1987

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs