top of page

Bra - Cymande

In 1969, Betty's husband, Wally, the kiwi, published "Flushed with Pride" - a light-hearted description the life of Thomas Crapper, who essentially invented the prototype for the lavatory that we use today. The publishing industry, along with the reviewers and the reading public, knowing Wally as a fun-loving rogue, thought the book was a hoax, not believing the possibility that the phrase "to go for a crap" may have originated from the maker's name emblazoned on the porcelain. So when it was proven that the plumber Crapper indeed existed (even though etymologists argued that the word "crap" had existed in its most basic meaning since Anglo Saxon times) Wally's doubters had to eat humble pie. Three years later, in order to eke further revenge on his detractors and make more money, Wally published "Bust-Up: The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Development of the Bra" in which he told the story of two Germans, Otto Titzling and Hans Delving, who together designed and produced the first bra. They quarrelled and Otto beat Hans to the patent office thereby claiming to be the sole inventor of the brassiere and subsequently garnering the accruing fame and income as a result. Not wishing to be caught out and amazingly overlooking the ridiculous schoolboy prankish names of the two protagonists, critics and public alike swallowed this yarn hook, line and sinker, so much so that as recently as 1990 I saw the name "Otto Titzling" named as the answer to the question "Who invented the brassiere?" in the knowledge board game Trivial Pursuits. For the record, the bra was invented by the ancient Greeks.

Also in 1969 two second generation West Indian Londoners joined up with young musicians from all over the Caribbean to form Cymande and in 1970 released their first LP of the same name. Four years and three albums later they disbanded never having achieved much success in record sales but have subsequently achieved almost mythological status as the most sampled UK band ever with stars like Grandmaster Flash, Fugees, Wu-Tang Clan and Raze amongst the samplers. Their music is a mix of jazz, r&b, African rhythms and calypso influences that somehow combine to make them the UK's finest funk band ever.

They reformed in 2014 and brought out a new album the following year but the real gold dust is from their first period where the different influences are layered like geological strata to give their music a deeeeeeeeep and satisfying sound. When I deejay, I seldom play funk, but when I do it's usually this track from the first album. The audience always goes crazy for the bongoes, the trumpet break and the one minute and ten second repeating bass solo with its Tony Grieg grovel bell syncopation that gives new meaning to the definition of music. It was one time, after I'd played this, that Wally's son gave me the undeserved moniker "the Field Marshall of Funk". It's not true, but I'll take it any day.

bottom of page