Listen/Download – Pizzicato Five – Twiggy Twiggy
The tune I bring you today is by far the latest track I’ve ever featured on Iron Leg, and is a tune that I have loved since I first heard it back in the early 90s.
I don’t recall where I first heard Pizzicato Five, though it’s entirely possible that I read about them, and was interested in them as a concept long before their music ever reached my ears.
Though you’d never know it by reading Iron Leg, I have long been a fan of sample-based pop. It’s one of the few postmodern cultures that I really dig, and it has been a home for some of the most innovative musical minds of the last 35 years (taking it back to the early days of rap).
The concept of musical collage and the re-purposing of elements of previous recordings, sometimes reduced to the shortest drum break or loop, sometimes done with the heaviest and most unimaginative of hands (see Diddy, P), has had far reaching artistic and legal implications and in the right hands has produced some amazing music.
Going back to the original hip hop Djs like Kool Herc, Africa Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, who created on the turntables while cutting breaks, on through any number of non-hip hop artists (like Beck) and again to DJs like DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist the idea of stripping down previously recorded music and employing its component parts to create something new is probably the most important musical idea of the last 40 years.
It goes far beyond the artists mentioned above, and the concept extends beyond actual sampling into a kind of stylistic pastiche, in which some or all of the sampling is accomplished via creation and re-creation of a vibe.
Pizzicato Five, as part of the Japanese Shibuya-kei movement (along with another fave of mine, DJ Towa Tei of Dee Lite) took these ideas and ran with them, mixing it with a remarkable, high-style aesthetic in which the creation extends beyond the sound of the record and well into the performance and packaging.
This was of course nothing new, but Pizzicato Five elevated it to a whole new level.
The roots of Pizzicato Five go back into the early 80s, but I first became aware of them after Matador started to compile and repackage their releases for the US market.
The first song I remember hearing by them was ‘Baby Love Child’, which along with today’s selection appeared on the 1994 ‘Five by Five’ EP, which I originally picked up on CD.
I do recall seeing their videos at the time, which were an indispensable adjunct to the music. Hearing a song like ‘Twiggy Twiggy’ is one thing. Seeing the video that accompanied it (yes, I know, yet another postmodern concept, and a whole new bag as far as processing music goes) is another experience entirely.
In the case of Pizzicato Five, it’s probably necessary to take them in as a complete package, adding yet another iteration of postmodernism.
Using photography, costumes, visual and textual iconography, Pizzicato Five assembled a pastiche of the late 50’s/early 60s Jet Age that is composed entirely of its older component parts – fashion, design, architecture, cinema and of course, music – and yet also entirely new.
‘Twiggy Twiggy’, which samples Lalo Schifrin‘s ‘Man From Thrush’ , Dionne Warwick’s ‘Another Night’ and a snippet of the Ventures’ ‘Hawaii Five O’, is in its own way the ne plus ultra of what might have been had the cocktail/bachelor pad/tiki thing ever fallen into the right hands. I’d say that those hands belonged to the Pizzicato Five, but their catalog is much more than ‘Twiggy Twiggy’ reaching further into pop, soul, disco and electronica.
‘Twiggy Twiggy’ (which is actually a cover/restructuring of a 1981 version of the song by Pizzicato Five singer Maki Nomiya) contains within its four minutes a lightning fast, danceable panorama of the swinging 60s.
It’s like someone took the bossa nova, La Dolce Vita, Op Art, early discotheque culture (the Peppermint Lounge, Regine’s and Arthur), Swinging London, Blow Up, and yes, Twiggy, tossed it all into a blender and hit the frappe setting.
Those of us who had all those bits and pieces floating around in our heads, ‘Twiggy Twiggy’ was a revelation. Had it been more popular, we might all have been spared years of lame Austin Powers-isms, since it would have sucked all of that out of the ether before Mike Myers could have gotten his sticky hands on it.
It’s a mind blower, and I hope you dig it.
*The first time I heard ‘Twiggy Twiggy’ I immediately thought I was hearing a sample of ‘The Cat’ by Jimmy Smith (also written by Lalo Schifrin). There are a number of on-line sources that suggest that this is true, but after listening to them side by side it sounds to me that the piece in question is not in fact taken from the famous version of ‘The Cat’ on Verve. The notes/pitch are different. I don’t know if the similarity is coincidental, or if a musician actually replayed the sample for the recording. If anyone knows for sure, please drop me a line.