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Top Ten Tunes

Mike Bennie

Wine Writer

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! A BIG Two Paddocks Dayglo hand please! A big Dayglo welcome - for one of the certified Good Guys in the Wine Biz. Funnier than a fight at your fiancée's Hen's Night, more erudite than your average major German philosopher circa 1913, more accomplished a writer by far than the great Ernie Malley himself, more entertaining than your average Ingmar Bergman movie, more moody and magnificent that Marlon Brando at his moodiest magnificentest bestest ... Oh, the superlatives are running away with us ... look, lets allow Bennie to speak about Bennie in his own Bennieish Bennie words -- come up, Mike! Here he is...yes, that'll do down the back, we recognize the Aussie vowels, and SHUT UP ... Chrissakes, he's one of yours! Mike -- take the mike -- in your own words please -- tell us about Mike, Mike...

Mike Bennie is a freelance wine and drinks writer and journalist, wine judge and presenter based in Sydney, Australia. Mike is a feature writer for the benchmark wine publication Australian Gourmet Traveler Wine Magazine. He is also the Editor-At-Large and contributor to the highly-respected online wine commentary website His work has also appeared as wine/drinks editor in delicious magazine and he contributes to Time Out Magazine Sydney and Melbourne, Sydney Morning Herald's Good Living section, Men's Style magazine, Meininger's Wine Business International magazine, amongst other publications. Mike is also an active wine judge and a graduate of the prestigious Len Evans Tutorial. He is a prolific online media personality, a regular presenter at corporate and industry events, and between travels to exotic vineyards around the world, enjoys long walks on the beach with a bottle of wine in his hand.

Erm. Um. Well that went well. Where did everyone go? Hey come back in. NOW! Here's Mike Bennie. Brilliant DJ; you will gasp at the brilliance of his playlist. You will wince at the dance moves, flinch at the light show (Warning, Mike is never seen in public without strobe lighting). Here he is. Arguably the hippest of all the hip DJs we've had here in The House, the one and only, utterly unique, a credit to both the International World of Wine and the Australian Education system our friend and yours (well, not yours Nick Ryan) the completely marvelous, if slightly underdressed, MR MIKE BENNIE!

  1. Chase The Devil - Max Romeo

    In no particular order, because, aside from my personal space, I don't like order.

  2. Tomorrow Never Knows - The Beatles

    Chill roots. You feel that vibe deep as the rolling wave of Max Romeo's hypnotic incantation lolls over the brogue of Lee Scratch Perry's house band, The Upsetters. This original version was thrown down on the epic album ‘War Ina Babylon', and many have supped at the cup for samples -- none more so interesting than the Prodigy's 1992 ‘Out Of Space', a serious near-contender for me on this list. The mesh of Romeo's ‘Chase The Devil' lyrics with Kool Keith's punchy, high-pitched, staccato, robotic imperative ‘I'll take your brain to another dimension, pay close attention' certainly grabbed me, but the original ‘Chase The Devil', blasted out of a Jamaican Soundsystem, preferably, is the best reggae track I know.

  3. Lovely Day - Bill Withers

    The final track on the ‘tipping point' album, Revolver, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows' rarely finds a slot on a ‘best-of' list, even if The Beatles are the theme. The tape loops, the use of a Leslie speaker cabinet, the sitar and tambura, the psychedelic feel, the alien-like space noises and the wicked break beat, all conspire with Lennon's Timothy Leary-et-al inspired lyrics. That the song is a precursor to sampling in modern music and a studio-driven track, which would become a blueprint for modern music, shouldn't be lost on a listener.

  4. Paid In Full - (Seven Minutes Of Madness -- the Coldcut Remix) - Eric B & Rakim

    One of those tracks that makes you reach for the volume as soon as the first bass-heavy refrains kick in. Best be loud as Bill drops ‘When I wake up in the morning, love, And the sunlight hurts my eyes…', you know you want to hear that right up in the top of your skull. Upbeat as the track is, one of the marvels is in the sustain of ‘daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy' by Bill, for just shy of 20 seconds. Amazing. Anyway, for me, this is as feel good as feel good songs get.

  5. Just Dropped In - (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) - Kenny Rogers and The First Edition

    Epic, wildly complex, funky as hip hop gets and a marvel of mixology and sampling, ‘Paid In Full' by Eric B & Rakim was brilliant in its first 1987 incarnation of all three minutes and 50 seconds, but was taken to the next, impossibly cool level by English dance music duo Coldcut with their 1988 extension. The addition of the hypnotic vocals from Israeli singer Ofra Haza punched this hip-hop cross-over through the stratosphere. This is the full flex of studio reworking, but offering the DNA of one of hip hop's greatest releases. Head nodding and toe tapping is reflex action.

  6. Express Yourself - NWA

    When I first heard this track I assumed it was some acid-taking, long haired, bearded psychos going long on the booze and drugs to get the sound and feel of the song right, all the while incanting and encouraging the consumption of psychedelics. I was kind of right, but just didn't picture the bearded psycho being the cuddly-feeling Kenny Rogers. The song stands far apart from the hokey country music I mostly associate with Kenny, which opens a line into some question marks about Kenny's less cuddly days and nights. Oh, and that raspy guitar solo, so good.

  7. Unfinished Sympathy - Massive Attack

    There was a generation of pimply, gangly, white boys, me included, who cut their teeth on NWA as a gateway drug to the depths of the world of hip hop. Though NWA might feature somewhere in a hip hop top ten, it's probable they'd shun the inclusion of the party-vibe and almost cuss-word free ‘Express Yourself' as a lightweight track from the OG Compton rappers album ‘Straight Outta Compton'. Instead, one would likely see the more aggressively-set ‘Fuck The Police', the ‘rap-a-long' ‘Gangsta, Gangsta' or the blockbuster ‘100 Miles and Runnin', included. I'm hooked by the funky bass riffs and party-style chorus of ‘Express Yourself'. It's so damn infectious. Better yet, this is a hip hop track encouraging free expression, straight from the heart of the ghetto, and yet famously used by Australian radio station Triple J as a protest against censorship, by playing the track on continuous loop for 24 hours. Any way you look at it, its got a pulse and rhythm, and captures the zeitgeist of NWA at their finest.

  8. Blow Your Head - Fred Wesley & The JB's

    Emotional. Be it uplifted or squirreling away tears. Massive Attack can jerk a head, bring a tempo down, fill a slow groove, help you dim the lights and get a little sexy, but nothing works the palpable emotions like ‘Unfinished Sympathy'. Trip hop beats, a nod in the direction of Massive Attack's group member's hip hop history and then the full blown orchestral scoring woven through -- it's a huge track, building through to its ebbing instrumental conclusion. It's another song to be played insanely loud, filling a room, spilling out into the neighbourhood.

  9. Themes For Great Cities - Simple Minds

    That squealing, squelching synthesizer! The world's greatest jazz trombonist! That raw, hard bass line and pant-tearing break beat! Knit this all together with James Brown's backing band, The JB's, and you've got neck-snapping funk of the highest, most insane order. ‘Pass The Peas', ‘Doing It To Death' and ‘Gimme Some More' had some serious groove, but nothing had this sound. Arguably a segue to disco music too. While Fred Wesley blows his head off on the ‘bone, the synthesizer takes it to the next level, and then again, another level. Hold onto your hats!

  10. Feel Alright - Steve Earle

    It's a track that likely set alight the dawn DJ sessions in every beachside party town the world over, sun rising over ocean, but sits equally as good, for me, played with windows down, driving at twilight through the remote outback areas of Australia as eerily-lit, ancient, alien-visions flash by. I did that over and over exploring far away places. Part sci-fi dance, part uplifting sound scape, part trance-like minimalism, the rolling synthesized landscape of this track is as vast as it is thrilling. The kind of song you hit repeat on and blare again just to feel it take you away.

Thanks Mike. You, my man, are the Best. What a cool cool set. Now go and slip into something more comfortable. Please. Back soon, Bennie!

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