Wednesday, 24 August 2016


Standing In The Shadows: Little Ann
1.  Big Jay McNeely and his Band – ‘Psycho Serenade’ (1959)
On the appropriately named Swingin’ label, Little Sonny Warner takes the lead vocal and battles against creaking doors, laughing gibbons, general nuttiness and jittery rhythms on this madcap 45.

2.  Little Ann – ‘Deep Shadows’ (1967)
Sounds like in was recorded in a Detroit tin shack but Little Ann’s truly stunning vocal will stop you in your tracks and tear straight to your heart. Phenomenal and rightly something of a belated classic.

3.  Art Butler – ‘Soul Brother’ (1968)
The name might not be familiar but Artie Butler had a hand in a humongous number of hits from ‘Leader Of The Pack’, ‘Chapel Of Love’, ‘Solitary Man’ to ‘What A Wonderful Life’ and beyond. Here he lets loose on the Hammond for surely the funkiest, grooviest go-go few minutes of his career.

4.  Slim Harpo – ‘The Hippy Song’ (1969)
Let me tell you something, long hair don’t make you bad”. Check out old Slim here rooting for the hippies and sticking it to the high society moneymen shortly before he died.  “It’s wasn’t those long-haired hippies who killed the president”. Go Slim!

5.  Kim Fowley – ‘Animal Man’ (1968)
A white-knuckle magic carpet ride over a zoo of lunatics. From Fowley’s Outrageous LP.

6.  Lee Hazlewood – ‘Wait and See’ (1968)
The way Hazlewood sings “It’s gonna be all right, wait and see” must rank as one of the most soothing examples of the recorded voice ever made.

7.  Alice Clark – ‘Charms of the Arms of Love’ (1972)
The pulse of time makes a terrible noise”, unlike the noise Ms Clark makes on this marvellous, strident slab of jazzy soul. (Note: if searching on Spotify it’s marked up incorrectly, so you'll need the one tagged as ‘Hard Hard Promises’).

8.  Julius Brockington – ‘Forty-Nine Reasons’ (1973)
Brockington was the hip organist but it’s Steve Turner’s funky flute that steals the show on the spacey closing track on The United Chair.

9.  Felt – ‘Ballad of the Band’ (1986)
Lawrence goes full-on ‘Positively 4th Street’ Dylan/Al Kooper on this smash miss single from 1986.

10.  The Greek Theatre – ‘Stray Dog Blues’ (2016)
From a new three-track 7-inch EP by Swedish combo who caused gentle ripples of delight from sensitive souls with Lost Out At Sea a couple of years ago. 'Paper Moon' is the lead track but it's this one which does it for me. Not so much stray dog blues but sleeping cat curled under the shade of the tree with a butterfly circling its head. Delicate, warm and beautiful. Available as part of Sunstone Records super-limited 150 Series. Get in quick.   

Thursday, 18 August 2016


The organ bursting into flames depicted on Paul Orwell Presents Organized Blues won’t win any award for design but amply illustrates what’s inside the sleeve of Orwell’s latest album; the dozen tracks baked to the heavy vinyl of his second LP will singe the ears and limbs of unprepared listeners.

Last year’s spectacular debut Blowing Your Mind Away covered much ground – from Spectoresque pop to freakbeat phantoms – but here Orwell, mindful of his claim to be an artist rather than genre, takes a different approach and serves up a whole LP of fiery instrumentals.

When creating an album of instrumentals there can be a temptation to make it like an imaginary film soundtrack with different moods conjuring open-top sports cars coasting around the alps, a love scene, a chase, a fight and the obligatory club scene. Not so here as Orwell goes straight to the club scene and keeps the dancefloor packed for the duration. It’s breathless stuff, played at a frenetic pace, causing old studio engineers in white lab coats to pull out what remains of their hair as Orwell records everything into the red. More organ! Louder! More!

‘Don’t Do As I Do (Just Do As I Say)’ sets the pace, teetering on the very edge of distortion until a guitar solo sears through the track; ‘The Wild Walk’ is the sound of go-go dancers jiggling down the street; ‘Grave Robber’ is ‘C.C. Rider’ rode on the fastest horse out of town; ‘Ten Pieces of Ice’ could be the Prisoners playing ‘In The Midnight Hour’ after mainlining amphetamines; ‘Stiletto’ might’ve been how Booker T. & the MGs would’ve played with pointy heels stamping on their toes; and ‘Action’ is Memphis Soul Stew brought to the boil. And that’s simply half of it.

Like a budding Alan Hawkshaw, Paul Orwell has created the soundtrack to the hottest, most swingin’ party imaginable. Warning: please ensure all combustible material is stored in a safe place for the duration of this record. Paul Orwell’s on fire.

Paul Orwell Presents Organized Blues is out now on Heavy Soul Records. Vinyl only. Very few copies left so be quick!

Friday, 12 August 2016


In the introduction to Sick On You, Andrew Matheson’s account of the trials and tribulations of The Hollywood Brats, his early 70s band who in poverty and cocktail dresses flirted with success only for success to ungraciously slam the door on their lipstick smeared faces, he outlines, on the very first page, the unbreakable rules for a rock ‘n’ roll band.

In summary, (1) The band should have four or five members; (2) The singer sings. “That’s it. If the singer can’t think what to do with himself during a bandmate’s solo he should consider a career as a bank teller”; (3) This is an important one. “Great hair, straight hair, is a must and is non-negotiable. If a member starts going thin on top put an ad in Melody Maker immediately”; (4) No facial hair. “Jerry Garcia is no sane, recently showered girl’s idea of a pin-up”; and (5) No girlfriends. “Two words: Yoko and Ono”.

This was 1971 but those rules should still be adhered to. I bristle with discomfort every time Shindig! magazine feature a beard on their front cover, which is all too frequently. So, naturally, I felt a huge sense of kinship with the Brats and Matheson’s ideals which increased throughout the book when he envisaged the band thus: “The sound we hear in our joint 45rpm cerebral cortex is a guitar with six Vietnamese razor-wire strings played by a great-looking madman whipped on by a rhythm section playing at blitzkrieg speed behind a mouthy vocal screeching the gospel.” Sign these boys up!

Only no one did sign them up. Well, that’s not entirely true, they were signed but not to a record company headed by their hero Andrew Loog Oldham’s mate as they thought - contracts? Pah! Who reads those? – but to a production company who although got the band recording an album at Olympic Studios, following in the Stones’ snakeskin boot-steps with photographs by Gered Mankowitz to match, were in fact a business run on behalf the Krays whose incarceration was a mere inconvenience. A fact which scared any and every prospective record label in the land to say no quicker than if they’d been asked if they’d called Ronnie a fat poofter.

Not that the total lack of success (if you discount the 563 copies of their LP which belatedly limped out in Norway after the band had disintegrated) makes Matheson’s book any less engaging. Far from it: the disasters and mishaps; the eels and the rats; the broken teeth and broken locks; the Detol and the dogs; and the shoulder rubbing with a motley crew of friends and foes only adds to the frankly ludicrous story. Oh, I nearly forgot, The Hollywood Brats’ music did, on occasion, like their anthem-that-never-was ‘Sick On You’, deliver everything they dreamed about. Seething, searing, rock ‘n’ roll that grabs ya by the balls and gives them an almighty squeeze.

The Walthamstow Rock & Roll Book Club is a marvellous thing. It’s not a traditional book club in the sense people read a nominated work and then sit around in a knitting circle dissecting it, rather it’s run by Mark Hart, a Fall fanatic and local music nut, who takes it upon himself to lure authors to travel to the end of the tube network to talk about their creation. Recent guests have included Stuart Cosgrove, Luke Haines, David Hepworth, Bob Stanley and Kevin Cummins. It’s held upstairs in Waterstone’s bookshop but bafflingly they do very little, if anything, to promote it. There’s not even a chalkboard mention outside or felt-tip scrawled poster Sellotaped to the window. By the time the events begin the shop is shut and those who haven’t been previously are put through an initiation test whereby they have to peer through the locked glass-door and give the last remaining member of staff, Simon, a discreet raised eyebrow and slight nod of the head before he unlocks the castle and escorts them up the stairs where chairs are set up, plastic cups of wine issued, and badges freely distributed.

As well as being master of ceremonies and gregarious interviewer Mark always asks for suggestions for who he should invite into the fold. My brilliant idea, a few months back, was Andrew Matheson and despite Mark, like the vast majority of the population, having heard of neither the author or his band, read the book and was similarly convinced Andrew would make an entertaining visitor. A spot of skulduggery and jiggery-pokery later and with a deluxe two-CD edition of the Hollywood Brats recordings issued by Cherry Red and a new edition of the paperback out on Ebury (both entitled Sick On You) needlessly cluttering shop shelves, Andrew was back in the ‘Stow for the first time since the Brats rehearsed here in ‘73 and watched the New York Dolls (“philosophical allies aligned against all the dinosaurs of this world”) on the Old Grey Whistle Test in a nearby tower block.

For over an hour Andrew chatted to Mark, who made a grand job of keeping him more or less under control, and then answered audience questions. Andrew was every bit as funny, opinionated, stylish, roguishly charming and spotlight-hungry as readers of his book would expect. You can watch for yourself below as the story of unfolds of working in the Canadian mines, coming back to Britain, boshing Freddie Mercury in his knashers, and linking the Andrew Loog Oldham Immediate Records period to the Malcolm McLaren and Sex Pistols/Clash one. “Malcolm said ‘Sick On You’ and t-shirts were the future. I underestimated him.” Andrew had little praise for any band other than the Kinks and remains true to his original template. When asked what he thought of the MC5 he shouted for security to remove the questioner. “The hair! The perm! Remember the rules: straight hair!”

Afterwards Andrew signed some books, had photographs taken - “let me put my sunglasses back on first” - and even joined most of the audience over the pub (the pub the Krays firm hot-footed it to, eager to get off their own manor, straight after the murder of George Cornell in Whitechapel, there's no escape Andrew...) for a beer and natter about Shadows of Knight LPs and Vox teardrop guitars before his driver, circling the mean streets of E17 in a two-year old Merc, collected him and whisked him home. Quite what Matheson has been doing for most of the in-between years, apart from carpentry, building a house and writing the soundtrack for a trucking movie circa 1980, he kept close to his chest.

A natural raconteur and utter gentleman throughout, it was noticeable how Andrew made a point of personally introducing himself and saying goodbye to everyone individually, and one obviously enjoying every second of this fresh, unexpected wind of discovery. Rock and roll missed out on a great character in the 70s but with a BBC documentary and major film to come (“It’ll be shit,” stated Mark Hart to the general agreement of everybody present) the Hollywood Brats’ time is perhaps still to come. During discussion in the pub about a reformation he was fairly non-committal, saying they’d turned down lucrative offers. It would have to be good I suggested. “No, it’d have to be better than good. My standards are up here…” said Andrew, raising an extravagantly lacy and over-sized shirt cuff to the ceiling.
For details of the Walthamstow Rock & Roll Book Club follow them on Twitter or find them on Facebook.

See also this Andrew Matheson interview by my good mate Long John McNally for Eye Plug.

Many thanks to Mark Hart and, of course, Andrew Matheson.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016


Just Like A Woman was Robert Fuest’s debut as a film director, sandwiched between his work on The Avengers where, as an employee of ABC, he worked as a production designer from 1961 before returning after his film to direct eight episodes starring Linda Thorson as Steed’s latest partner to arrival seconds too late to prevent a string of bizarre murders.

Just Like A Woman - starring future Butterfly, Wendy Craig, and soon-to-be voice of Captain Scarlett, Francis Matthews, as a sparring television industry couple whose marriage has broken down - with its art deco and pop art design, cutting edge architecture, cusp of mod-into-swirly fashions, loopy characters and directorial quirks it couldn’t be more height of ‘66 if it tried; like the world didn’t exist before and wouldn’t after. Fuest wrote the screenplay, directed it and even wrote song lyrics for the film, released to minimum acclaim in early '67.

This recognisable style of Fuest’s was later apparent in The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971), with a suitably over-the-top Vincent Price out for revenge on a string of doctors who failed to save his wife’s life (very-Avengers storyline), but a better film and one with even more Avengers-related credits (screenplay by Brian Clemens and Terry Nation, produced by Albert Fennell and Terry Nation, music by Laurie Johnson, directed by Fuest) is And Soon The Darkness (1970). Stripped of garish sets and light-hearted fun, this straight, minimalist thriller is set in rural France where two holidaying girls on bicycles are followed by a mysterious French mod bloke on a Lambretta SX150, when one girl (Frank Spencer’s Betty, Michelle Dotrice) disappears…

Back to Just Like A Woman, it’s not the greatest film you’ll ever watch but visually it’s a treat and packed with fab little scenes and details. See full film below.

Many thanks to Melissa from In With The In Crowd shop for tipping me the wink.

Friday, 29 July 2016


1.  Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – ‘Moanin’’ (1958)
Can’t beat that gospel call-and-response thing between the piano and the horns. Even the original liner notes call it “the quintessence of funk”, and that was in 1958.  

2.  Chet Baker – ‘Born To Be Blue’ (1965)
In the new film of the same name about Chet Baker, his dad – none to impressed with his son’s lifestyle choices – asks why he sang one of his favourite songs, ‘Born To Be Blue’, “like a girl”? And fellow trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie tells him “you know you can’t sing”. Can’t say I’ve ever been much of fan of his voice either but came away from that film appreciating it a touch more.  

3.  The Avons – ‘Since I Met You Baby’ (1968)
Need a lift? A little pick-me-up? A blast of pure unadulterated joy? Step this way folks.

4.  Stellius – ‘What I’d Like’ (1970)
One of the things Stellius would apparently like is to ride a kangaroo. Readers may find it easier to simply ride this fat breakbeat driven groove.

5.  Kobza – ‘Progulka’ (1972)
In a moment of semi-idleness, I typed “Ukrainian Psych” into YouTube and it brought up this. A kind of groovy folksy mash-up making me think of both ‘The Work Song’ and the ‘Theme From Hawaii 5-0’. Result.

6.  O.V. Wright – ‘I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy’ (1973)
There’s always someone who has to take things a step (or two) further. Well, actually Mr. Wright wouldn’t be able to, would he?

7.  The Fingers – ‘Isolation’ (1977)
This prime piece of Pittsburgh punk is stupidly rare in its original Para Dox 45 format due to only 100 copies pressed and few known to survive. A lookalike reissue is more than adequate for those without $4000 in loose nickels and dimes.  
8.  The Tours – ‘Language School’ (1979)
I suppose Kid Jenson and Radio 1 DJs would’ve called this “New Wave” at the time; funny how that description has been dropped from the genre-tagging box nowadays. It’s good though, that’s for sure.  

9.  The Senior Service – ‘Caballo Sin Nombre’ (2016)
From their debut imaginary soundtrack album, The Girl In The Glass Case, this is the scene where a matchstick-sucking Graham Day and co swing open the saloon doors to find a shoot-out between Lee Marvin and Mr Spock.     

10. William Bell – ‘Poison In The Well’ (2016)
Difficult to pick one track from Bell's new Stax album, This Is Where I Live, as there's no duff song and they all belong together but 'Poison In The Well' stood out during his long-awaited and memorable London show this month.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


Book readings, book signings, whathaveyou - not events to usually racquet up the excitement levels but hold tight Walthamstow Waterstones, Andrew Matheson is swanning into town.

As singer of criminally overlooked, and criminally minded, early 70s glampunk superstars in waiting, the Hollywood Brats, Matheson walked the walk and now following the publication last year of his ludicrously funny and sharply told memoir, Sick On You, and their album now subject of a deluxe edition reissue, he’s continuing to talk the talk. With knobs on.

So grab a tube, bus, scooter or shank’s pony to the Walthamstow Rock & Roll Book Club (yes, there is such a thing) on Saturday 6 August to be regaled in style by a man still on a mission to grab the limelight he so richly deserves. Soon to be subject of a BBC4 documentary, hear the story of the Hollywood Brats in person.

Tickets are free but please book, if you can, so the organisers know how much complimentary wine is needed for lubrication.

From host Mark Hart… “Sick On You by Andrew Matheson is the best rock and roll memoir since Motley Crue's Dirt. Matheson's band, the Hollywood Brats, were London's version of the New York Dolls.  Managed by gangsters, it’s Withnail & I with guitars, brilliantly funny, tremendously evocative and hardly believable.”

Link for full info: Walthamstow Rock 'n' Roll Club

Sunday, 10 July 2016


I’ve wanted to see Stax legend William Bell for years. On the occasions he’d cropped up in recent times – from performing for President Obama at the White House to appearing on Later with Jools Holland (how that for spanning the spectrum? From the sublime…) – he’s looked and sounded like he could still cut the mustard. Having now ticked him off the bucket list I couldn’t be happier to report he was well worth the wait.

At the Union Chapel last night he impressed straight from the start. It’s difficult to hear anyone sing ‘Easy Comin’ Out (Hard Goin’ In)’ without breaking into a smile and that expression was present for the following 90 minutes. ‘Any Other Way’ followed, the first of the real classics, and what a set of pipes this man has - tender yet rock solid assured.

Now aged 77, Bell’s voice was as strong as ever, fit as a flea, and managed to make wearing dark sunglasses in a chapel look like the coolest and more natural thing in the world. What I like in soul artists is when they can still feel contemporary rather than a cheesy old cabaret act. Mavis Staples does this supremely well and Bell does too. Half a dozen tracks from his new This Is Where I Live album underscored he’s not reliant on ancient hits to connect to his audience. ‘The Three of Me’, ‘I Will Take Care of You, ‘Mississippi-Arkansas Bridge’, ‘Poison In The Well’ and the title track all being personal reflections and breathed fresh life into his set and the Stax sound.

Bell kept his band on their toes throughout, and they were up to the not inconsiderable task, by frequently “breaking it down” and going off on a tangent. This could in lesser hands be tiresome but here it worked, not least during an already spectacular ‘Everybody Loves A Winner’ when he stopped to testify with the last of the evening light shining through the stained glass chapel windows.

This Is Where I Live takes Bell full circle, back on Stax, and as he reminded us, he was the label’s first solo male vocalist. ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’ cut for the fledging label in 1961 and written by Bell when he was 17, “I was an old soul even then”. That Bell is still around, one of the last standing from that era, from the birth of Stax and, with that record, what we now call Southern Soul, is remarkable in itself, that he remains in such shape and voice is nothing short of incredible. There’s no need to make allowances, to overlook any shortcomings, as there are none. Needless to say the song was a highlight.

The Judy Clay role for ‘Private Number’ as taken by Bell’s “attractive lady” backing vocalist whose name I didn’t catch beyond, I think, Suzie. If William really does have her number he’s a lucky dog. ‘Everyday Is A Holiday’, ‘Eloise (Hang On In There)’ and ‘Tryin’ To Love Two’ all got an airing as did ‘I Forgot To Be Your Lover’ and although Bell isn’t a flashy or show-offy soul singer – one of the qualities I most like about him – he did allow himself one moment to hold a note during ‘Lover’ with superb control.

An extended ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, reprised on this new LP – and let’s not forget a lot of these songs Bell at least co-wrote – topped off the evening in a style. Back in ’68 Bell and Booker T wrote ‘Tribute To A King’ for the departed Otis Redding. I’d be hard pressed to think of anyone other than William Bell more worthy of wearing the soul crown today.