Friday, June 14, 2013

Cornershop -- "Brimful of Asha" (1997)

We don't care about no government warnings
'Bout their promotion of a simple life
And the dams they are building

It's much easier to pick winners at the dog track than it is to predict which pop songs will be hits.

Listen to "Brimful of Asha" and ask yourself if it's a record that you would have bet on becoming a big hit single.  

Whether you answered "yes" or "no," you were right.  When the song was initially released in the UK in 1997, it made it only to #60 on the singles chart.  But then Norman Cook -- better known as "Fatboy Slim" -- issued a remix of the song that got a lot of airplay.  The original "Brimful of Asha" was subsequently re-released and went all the way to #1.  Go figure.

Asha Bhosle
"Brimful of Asha" pays tribute to Asha Bhosle and Indian movies.  Unlike Western films, "Bollywood" movies routinely feature song-and-dance numbers.  The singing that ends up on the movie soundtracks is done by "playback singers," who record the songs before the movie is shot.  The actors then lip synch to the recorded music.

Asha Bhosle is the most recorded artists in history according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  (The previous record holder was Bhosle's older sister, Lata Mangeshkar, who also gets a shout-out in "Brimful of Asha.")  Asha is featured on over a thousand movie soundtracks, and has recorded something like 12,000 songs.

Here's a video with brief excerpts of several movie scenes that feature Bhosle's playback singing:

The music of "Brimful of Asha" is pretty loosey-goosey.  So are the lyrics.  (I wanted to start this post by quoting the song's hook -- "Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow" -- but that's only one line, which would leave me one or two lines short of what is required.)

I can only guess that the meaning of the lines quoted at the beginning of the post are that the singer doesn't care about all the stuff the Indian government is doing.  He just wants to lose himself in a Bollywood movie, complete with Asha Bhosle's singing.

Cornershop was formed in 1991 by Anglo-Indian singer-songwriter, Tjader Singh, after he moved to Leicester, England.  The band's name is a reference to an English stereotype: that all the little corner grocery stores in London neighborhoods are owned by Indians.

Cornershop hit it big with its third album, When I Was born for the 7th Time, which included not only "Brimful of Asha" but also a Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono-approved cover of "Norwegian Wood."  

The album was co-produced by Singh and an American hip-hop producer, Daniel Nakamura, who is better known as "Dan the Automator."  Back in the nineties, my older son had a bunch of crazy hip-hop albums that Dan the Automator had a hand in -- including Kool Keith's Dr. Octagonecologyst (which Dan produced) and the truly brilliant "Handsome Boy Modeling School" concept albums (which were collaborations with Prince Paul, another wacko hip-hop producer).

Father Guido Sarducci
The "Handsome Boy Modeling School" albums featured guest appearances by Mike D (Beastie Boys), Sean Lennon, Tim Meadows (Saturday Night Live), John Oates (Hall and Oates), Mike Patton (Faith No More), Cat Power, RZA (Wu-Tang Clan), and -- last but certainly not least -- Don Novello, who created the "Father Guido Sarducci" character on SNL.

To this day, I still do my version of a Father Guido Sarducci skit about the "Last Brunch" whenever I have an excuse (or one too many drinks).  I couldn't find video of the original SNL bit, but I did find this video of an amateur Guido Sarducci imitator doing the it.  I tell the story much better than this guy, and I have a much more convincing Italian accent as well.  (Call me sometime and I'll do the bit over the phone for you -- or you can Skype me.)  But it's better than nothing:

Here's "Brimful of Asha":

Here's the Fatboy Slim remix of "Brimful of Asha":

Click here to buy the original Cornership version of the song from Amazon:

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