Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 163
Wed. June 19, 2012
I have a writer’s sleeping pattern, first awake and last to fall asleep. It works out well in our house. As my wife rests— I write. I liken that to my always pondering poetic mind. Last night when I got into bed, my wife whispered “Good night, Angel.” It’s her nickname for me. The thing is, Angel is the term I’ve heard described me—my whole life. My teachers would tell my parents that I was in Angel in class; my Dad’s response—“Yeah, angel with a dirty face.” And that’s me—her imperfect angel.
Last night, when she called me “Angel” something happened. I immediately heard the opening beats to Massive Attack’s song from Mezzanine. It took me back, circa 1998. We would have our green parties, filled with smoky rooms, blunted conversations and lifted faces all grooving to the trip hop sounds of Massive Attack. I always loved how “Angel” grew from the opening beats into this loud guitar orgasm of sound.
Massive Attack was originally formed in Bristol, England 1988. Massive Attack were made originally up of Robert “3D” Del Naja, Grant “Daddy G” Marshall, Andy “Mushroom” Vowles and Tricky; but Mushroom and Tricky left by 1999 leaving 3D and Daddy G to run the Massive Attack sound ship into the 21st Century.
Mezzanine issued a new darker Massive Attack sound V2.0. What 3D and Daddy G do so brilliantly – is create rhythmic atmospheres that melt the darkness and the light. My favorite cut from Mezzanine does this so perfectly and this is because of Jamaican vocalist Horace Andy. Did you know that “Angel” was originally supposed to be Andy crooning a cover of The Clash’s classic “Straight to Hell” but because he’s devotion, and righteously so, to his Rastafarian religion— Andy refused to sing the word “hell?”
3D explained the process of how they scrapped the original cover Clash song idea when he said—“In the space of four hours we stripped all the music away, wrote loads of stuff around it, keeping some of the old melody, putting in Horace’s new melodies, taking the Sex Gang sample away, halving the tempo and adding new words.” So Andy improvised the lyrics of his 1973 reggae song “You Are My Angel” over some beats created by 3D and Daddy G. And the result was the beautiful atmospheric majesty of “Angel”
3D has always disputed the labeling of Mezzanine as “dark music” as he explained to Rob Chapman of Mojo Magazine, in 1998— “But [these songs] don’t make you sad—people say our albums are dark and melancholic, but I say it’s like Radiohead’s OK Computer. It’s quite tragic in places but you don’t leave the album feeling tragic. You feel enlightened.”
3D is right. For the longest time, I put away my copy of Mezzanine. It used to bring me down, echoing those darkly confused places of my confused 30’s, during the nineties and beyond. Now, listening to “Angel” again with seasoned ears, I realize now, there is beauty in the sound shadows. You can’t fear it and that’s why recently I’ve been embracing the darkness of my light. Thank You, Massive Attack and Horace Andy—I’m proud of my many angelically dirty faces.
3D explained the meaning of “Angel” when he said—“As with many of the tracks [on Mezzanine], it deals with relationships: what you expect from a woman and what you actually get back.” 3D is right, something that I learned in my marriage, ask and you shall receive or better yet now, I am heard and finally understood. Priceless is finding someone who get’s not only the “Angel” but also the dark, dirty and blunted Mezzanine side of me too.
So it’s time to take that elevator back to sound-scapes of Mezzanine. Because one thing about Massive Attack, whether you’re going up or down—songs like “Angel” are soundtrack to your next perfect trip. You see no matter where you end up, you’ll feel the lifted rhythms and little more enlightened. Just what the Doctor’s Rx ordered for you—spark up some Mezzanine—you’ll thank me for Massive Attack’s haunted Angelic bliss!