Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hey, fool: we're renegades of funk

I've been wanting to post this for a while, but there were delays in translating the rap.

For me and many of my ilk, this is a highlight of our clubbing and raving life - I remember first hearing it fully loaded on a nice fresh red dragon at Kemistri, in early November of 1990. Here I was, quite happily tripping away when suddenly the music stops, some cunt screams "Total Confusion" and the whole room erupts in a blur of electrified stabs and Red Indian whoop-whoops. Not only that but then the rest of the party people started whoop-whooping all around me - I was quite possibly under attack. Total and complete madness ensued. My head was fried. It was good. My head was fried good.

At this point of my raving life I still had not fully committed to techno, lots of my friends were still into the indie bands scene so I wasn't getting along to weekly club nights too often - my only exposure to new tracks was through the occasional mixtape, the radio or a monthly rave. I'm not sure how long the track had been out for, but that night obviously a lot more peeps were familiar with it than me. Anyway, a week or so later someone brought a new mixtape to a little Friday night trip party I was at and this track was on it. We played it all night long. It fried my head again and again, but eventually I learnt some of the rap and was even able to recognise that there was a Public Enemy sample buried inside it too. I got a hold of that record asap. Still have it, but it's a little worse for wear these days.

It is of course an early project of Caspar Pound (still a teenager), Marc Williams & Tony Winter - the hippy, homeboy and funky dredd respectively (I think). I remember reading in NME that they spent most of a day in the studio just perfecting the noisy stabs - heavily effected guitar riffs - but they also created one of the finest breakbeats ever put on wax, started a whooping phenomenon, and found a way to include a classic sample from a classic movie: "What are you, people? On dope? " (the elderly teacher, Mr. Hand, in Fast Times At Ridgemont High). Not to mention sampling Public Enemy's "Radio stations I question their blackness; they call themselves black, but we'll see if they'll play this." from 1987's Bring The Noise. Or "Total Confusion" off of short-lived East Coast hip hoppers Original Concept's only album, 1988's Straight From The Basement Of Kooley High!

"Total Confusion" may be one of Melbourne's first real cross over hits from the underground to the club scene. It was a massive tune; maybe equalled by "Vernon's Wonderland", Marmion's "Schöneberg" or "The Age Of Love" - but I don't think so. I'm pretty sure it was still on weekly rotation in house clubs up to a year later but by then the only people still whoop-whooping along to it were drunk nongs, or people making fun of drunk nongs. Despite all this, it is still regarded as a classic, and will always get a good response at an old skool night (and even still fry an unwary head or two). "Vernon's Wonderland" just doesn't compare.

The boys knew they had made something good before it's release, but it wasn't until they took it down to a local club and watched the room go mental that they realised just how good the tune was. Or how big it would be. Caspar Pound made enough money out of it to start Rising High Records.
Yet for all of this, what makes "Total Confusion" truly great is that it was able to pull off the near impossible - putting a rap into techno. This was real hardcore hip-house, not simple or upbeat, but full-on. Marc Williams' relentless rap is surely one of the best recorded - E V E R - maybe only equalled by some of LL Cool J's early work ("Jack The Ripper" comes to mind), yet it is also an enigma because it was never allowed to dominate the mix. Just another component of the proto-hardcore onslaught, the vocals are often clouded by everything else going on around it; true total confusion.

I always thought I had an ok understanding of the rap, but then I went to write it down for this post last week. There was a lot I couldn't decipher so I looked around on the web and everyone seemed as stuck as me in the same places. Yet I persisted and by a day or so ago, I was pretty certain I had it nailed. Except for a line or two. So I found a thread on oldskoolanthemz.com, posted what I had there, and straight away a fine chap named 'spaceface' filled in the last bit... but only Marc Williams knows for sure...
I see you on the streets in yer dashing threads
you're taking in the lyrics like you're smoking incense
you're getting high, wondering why you can't fly
ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies
because the days craze and amaze
so I'll rephrase
I can keep on going for days, days, days, days will turn to years
you'll still be here
and if I get half a chance I'll chop off your ear
because I can taste the music
you come over here, you're going to get your arse kicked
into a hearse and put under a stone cold surface
and when I'm finished that I'm going to jam at you suckers
you're astounded
and you're walking around in circles
and it's a big miracle how you're still going
you're slowing
your battery's running low
you try to pull me back but of course I keep towing you
on and on and on that that's wrong
you should be concentrating on rapping your own song
'cause rapping is an art
but there are many rappers
it takes talent
I got plenty of that
plus the fact that I ain't wack jack
you come over here
you know that you're going to get slapped
back to where you come from
it'll be the front door London
I'll take you all on
Because you choose to mess and jest with the roughness,
Manchester in the house said something,
to blow your mind into the atmosphere
c'mon feel the bass 'cause London's here!

Let the music music move straight through your blood stream
and when you feel the vibe you'll know what I mean
by a place that's taken from the heart
and it's prime time to get started
on the beats that really matter
this is not your average chit-chatter
on the microphone
you're all alone
talking away like it's the Twilight Zone, boy
you wanna change that
rearrange that
find a sucker on the streets and play that
because that's played out
and I'm paid in full
so don't talk that bull
Because you choose to mess and jest with the roughness
Manchester in the house said something,
to blow your mind into the atmosphere
c'mon feel the rhythm 'cause London's here!
While Marc Williams did more raps for the HHFD project, none matched the intensity of the first round - maybe he used up all his good lines for Total Confusion? As far as I can tell, it's a bit of a dis rap between Manchester and London, with London being seen as all shiny and shallow, too willing to follow the latest trends. Manchester is the pacesetter. I suppose it did have the Hacienda so there was some truth to the claim, others may disagree.

Apparently the b-side is all the work of Caspar Pound. There's a reverb heavy "Reprise", which is really just 2 minutes of the breakbeat with some effected vox over the top; I think this is where Cosmic Baby and Kid Paul found the break for Energy 52's "State Of Mind". And there's the "Heavenly Mix", an instrumental, less intense but way trancier (that's trance as in good music to fuck you up on acid, not trance as in stupid arpeggiated chords with some slag wailing on about lost love over the top) - it took a while for us to turn the record over to find this mix, but once we did it got as much play in the underground as the vocal mix. Super. The "Heavenly Mix" has a little phrase repeated through it that is a cut up of the first part of the sample "Hey fool, whatcha say - c'mon" that's been used in just about every funky house track ever made and the spoken outro of Afrika Bambaataa and The Soulsonic Force's "Renegades Of Funk"...

A1   Total Confusion (Confusion Mix)
B1   Total Confusion (Heavenly Mix)
B2   Total Confusion (Reprise)

Vinyl Rip _ 320kbps MP3 ...mediafire

Note: there are lots of rips of this around, but all that I've found are terrible quality. Here, the b-side is taken from my own 12", but I took the a-side off of a CD compilation. 


  1. this track and the white light-secret desire track bring back so many strobe,smoke-filled nights at Sterns 1990. thanks for asll the great downloads on thios site.cheers.I moved from Brighton England but I never new Melbourne was doing the same at the time(1989/1990)cheers Gordo

  2. For your sample spotter benefit: that "Hey fool, watcha say c'mon" sample is originally from Roy Ayers Ubiquity "Hey-Uh What You Say Come On" on his "Everybody Loves The Sunshine" album.

  3. And the Whoop Whoops? Well they 1st appeared on Westbams - Monkey See Monkey Do (Ta to whosampledwho.co.uk) The same Whoop Whoop with its native overtones also made it onto The Gonzo by Lost, or was it vice-versa?!? and around half a dozen other tracks including a remix of Injected by a Poison. Fantastic description of hearing it for the first time BTW.
    My most memorable hearing of it (bearing in mind most of our memories of rave culture is a little er... hazy) was at daybreak at the Happy Daze free festival in Wales 1991. I'll set the scene... A large hilltop plateaux,yet still in in valley of big hills, 2 Huge soundsystems a few hundred metres apart, Spiral Tribe on one side, 2 Old flatbed lorries back to back stacked high with speakers and a DJ booth in some kinda central Mad Max sculpture, DIY, well I cant remember but fucking loud, both sounds had chilled slightly half an hour b4 dawn, and the field/dancefloor was virtually empty, then as the sun popped over the horizon, a loan female raver crossed from one half of the field as a dreadlocked geezer crossed from the other side. Simultaneously both PAs started playing the whoops, then more whoops and it got steadily louder, the raver girl stopped and started to bop like a happy little girl, at which point the dread started to jump around... the whoops got louder and louder then one side broke into Total Confusion and the other The Gonzo I think and off it went for another 24 hours... BLOODY MAGIC!!! Looking back the 2 PAs must have planned it, if not, it was one of those perfect moments of organised chaos, or natural anarchy if you will... I'd gone for a walk to see the sunrise so none of my mates saw it. Safe Sound Secure Sorted!