Friday, 16 September 2016


The Locarno Dance Hall on Streatham Hill, South London was opened by band leader and former footballer, fighter pilot and bus driver, Billy Cotton in 1929. It was Britain’s first purpose-build ballroom and held 1500 people. Like Cotton, the ballroom saw many changes over the years - from hosting appearances from Charlie Chaplin to Miss World to cage fighting - but it remained a nightclub, of sorts, until finally knocked down in 2015.

I remember it as Caesar’s nightclub from when circumstances dictated a short-lived residency the wrong side of the river during the late 90s. Its fa├žade featured a Roman chariot with four horses protruding above its sign in bold red letters. Needless to say I never passed through its doors. In 1969 it was rebranded and refurbished from the Locarno to The Cat’s Whiskers, where gangsters and suedeheads rubbed shoulders as the stage revolved and one band would magically be replaced by another while the DJ played ‘Time Is Tight’.

The footage below shows the Locarno in 1967 playing host to a Saturday morning club for teens and pre-teens. These kids are all dressed up in their finery and dance - either awkwardly or enthusiastically - to records and young (presumably) local band The Reaction, drink Coca-Cola, eye each other up and partake in a bike race around the hall. Unfortunately, the ten-minute sequence is silent (if you want sound you’ll have to pay Huntley Film Archives) but even so it’s a wonderfully evocative piece of film.

Ice creams on their way to Rich Turnham and the soul children of Epping for tipping Monkey Picks the nod to this treasure.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


UPDATE: To catch up with this show, and to hear Paul Orwell's exclusive and incredible track recorded especially for the show, go here: MWWS on FUSION.

“When are you next doing your radio show?” you’ve both asked. Thanks Mum, thanks Dad. Well, the wait is nearly over as this Sunday, Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show returns to the airwaves of the hippest station on the dial, Fusion.

If you’ve listened before don’t let that put you off and if you’ve not done so it’s one hour of songs you know and songs you might not all thrown into a big aural pot of monkey magic. Spanning about 60 years and they’ll all be great of course.

I’m still finalizing the playlist but fans and admirers of Paul Orwell should definitely tune in… 

Ensure you click on for an 8.30pm sharp start. If you want to join Mixlr beforehand to join the chat/abuse with the Fusion family as the show goes on help yourself but not essential to listen. See ya there comrades.

Fusion runs every Sunday night 8.30-9.30pm with different listeners selecting a playlist. An essential, and great fun, end to the weekend.

Saturday, 10 September 2016


In Miles Davis’s autobiography, Miles, he calls ex-wife, Betty (Davis nee Mabry) ‘a talented motherfucker’; it’s the highest form of accolade given by a man not known to freely dish out the superlatives.

In May 1969, approximately halfway through their year-long marriage, with a band assembled by Miles featuring Mitch Mitchell, Harvey Brooks, Billy Cox, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Larry Young and John McLaughlin, Betty Davis recorded a session for Columbia Records in New York with producer Teo Macero. Unheard since, not even known to bootleggers, The Columbia Years finally reveals not only the roots of Betty’s raunchy funk - she’d wait another four years to unleash the first of her four super-funky albums – but also Miles tentatively exploring the jazz-fusion groove that he’d begun with In a Silent Way and would soon manifest in Bitches Brew.

A couple of points to note. Most importantly, this was not, as it could appear, a husband using his influence and clout with his record company to cut a deal for a wife of limited abilities. Betty had already cut a few singles and seen her songs used by others. She had (motherfucking) talent, looks, attitude, knew her own mind and was also the one who, still in her early 20s, hipped Miles (by then, virtually ancient, in his 40s) to the psychedelic rock stew of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and James Brown’s latest bag and kitted him out in the latest with-it clobber. The second point is if you consider Bitches Brew an instrument of torture, don’t let that put you off here as the results are far more accessible.

Why Columbia passed on the result is a mystery on this evidence. The playing – jazzy R&B with a funk twist – cooks and Betty’s vocals are sassy as hell yet less abrasive than they’d become. Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival are covered by ‘Politician Man’ and ‘Born of the Bayou’ respectively but mostly Betty brings her originals to an exuberant party and the snatches of conversation between Betty and Miles demonstrate they both brought ideas into a shared creative process. These were only demos, and only enough for one side of an album, but it’s abundantly clear how much fun everyone had in the studio. Miles at one point asking, “What’s Jimi Hendrix drummer’s name? The one they call Mitch…” before falling into a fit of wheezing cackling laughter.

Three 1968 Hugh Masekela backed numbers, including a footstomping ‘My Soul Is Tired’, round things off in a more traditional full 60s soul style. As always with Light In The Attic releases it’s well packaged with interviews and commentary in the accompanying booklet. Stripped of historical interest this is an engaging half hour; with it, utterly compelling.

The Columbia Years is released by Light In The Attic Records on LP and CD.
An edited version of his review appears in the current issue of Shindig! magazine.

Friday, 2 September 2016


Last night saw the latest instalment of Dave Edwards and Giles Plumpton’s Sidewinder Club in Islington. For over five years the first Thursday of the month has seen the backroom of the Wenlock and Essex has swung to the R&B, Blues, Soul, Ska, Jazz elements of the modernist palate.

Many thanks to Dave and Gilo for asking me back to spin a few 45s, always enjoyable, and cheers to those who cut a rug or took the time to say nice things about the sets; it goes a long way, so thanks. A few folk asked about certain records and if they’re anything like me they will have forgotten within five minutes so the sets are listed below to jog memories. The raw blues of Smokey Smothers appeared particularly popular, and rightly so.

Also guesting was London Mod DJ institution and exuberant ball of boundless energy, Ian Jackson, and original DJ from the old Ricky Tick clubs in the 60s, Martin Fuggles. Before fairly recently being coaxed back to the decks Martin’s DJing ended in 1967 and, very evocatively, now plays the exact singles he did between sets by Georgie Fame, Geno Washington, John Mayall, Zoot Money and the rest back in the day. Martin's sets are listed below and also see his comments at the foot of this. One difference now being these are transported in a proper record box rather than the small suitcase he used to tie to his scooter or stick in the back of his mini. In addition to being a lovely chap there are a couple of other things I like about Martin. (1) He always starts his sets with The Impressions, it’s his little tradition and a mighty fine one, and (2) the way he’d sticker his records with his name on – a common enough practice when taking hard earned treasures out of the house – and also add the date he bought them. For someone as equally nerdy about lists and dates this is especially endearing (see picture of Len Barry 45 above).

Anyway, all great fun. Remember, first Thursday of the month at the Wenlock & Essex, Essex Road, Islington, N1. Free admission.

2100-2130 Monkey Set 1
The Hammond Brothers – Thirty Miles of Railroad Track (Abner)
Lowell Fulsom – Talkin’ Woman (Kent)
Bobby Bland – Dust Got In Daddy’s Eyes (Duke)
Dick Holler – Mooba Grooba (Comet)
Marv Johnson – Come On and Stop (United Artists)
The Downbeats – Request of a Fool (Tamla)
Lloyd Price – Take All (Jade)
The Garden State Choir – Who’s Over Yonder (Simpson)
Hindal Butts – In The Pocket (M-S)
Cecil Garrett – Bearcat
Jimmy Nelson – Tell Me Who (Chess)
Ronnie Milsap – A Thousand Miles From Nowhere (Scepter)

2130-2200 Martin Fuggles Set 1
Impressions - It's Alright
Sam and Dave - Soul Man
Drifters - Sweets for my Sweet
Spinners - Sweet Thing
Temptations - Why you wanna make me blue
Slim Harpo - I'm a king bee
Googie Rene Combo - Smokey Joe's La La
Marvin Gaye - You're a Wonderful One
Blendells - La La La La La
Martha & the Vandellas - Heat Wave
Capitols - Cool Jerk
Brenton Wood - Gimme little sign

2200-2230 Monkey Set 2
Big Maybelle – Do Lord (Brunswick)
Artie Golden – Look Out (Sunshine)
Lonesome Sundown – I Had A Dream Last Night (Excello)
Grover Pruitt – Little Girl (Salem)
Lester Young – Wobble Time (Chase)
Lowell Fulsom – Love Grows Cold (Chess)
Smokey Smothers – I Got My Eyes On You (Gamma)
John Lee Hooker – Dimples (Vee-Jay)
Slim Harpo – I Need Money (Excello)
Freddy King – Now I’ve Got A Woman (Federal)
Dean Jones – Women (Valiant)
Chuck Reed – Females (Minaret)
Dick Jordan – I Want Her Back (Jamie)
Robert Moore – Harlem Shuffle (Hollywood)

2230-onwards Martin Fuggles Set 2
Impressions - You've been cheatin
Sam and Dave - You don't know like I know
Four Tops - Something about you
Junior Walker & All Stars - Shake and Fingerpop
Marvellettes Too many fish in the Sea
Ramsey Lewis Wade in the Water
Donnie Elbert - Little piece of leather
Chuck Wood - Seven days too long
C.O.D's - Michael
Soul Brothers Six - Some kind of wonderful
Wilson Pickett - In the Midnight Hour
Elgins - Heaven must have sent you
Darrell Banks - Open the door to your heart
Sugar Pie Desanto - Soulful Dress
Booker T & the MGs - Green Onions
Desmond Dekker & the Aces - 007
Temptations - The way you do the things you do
Gene Chandler - Nothing can stop me
Edwin Starr - Stop her on Sight (SOS)
Prince Buster - Madness
Kim Weston - Helpless
Isley Brothers - This old heart of mine
Len Barry - 1-2-3
Mar-kets - Surfers Stomp

Tuesday, 30 August 2016


A treat for fans of early Primal Scream, a complete live show from ULU around the time of their debut album, the marvellous Sonic Flower Groove. Showcasing most of that record, plus a Shadows of Knight cover, Bobby Gillespie and co flippity-flop behind their fringes in full-on Byrdsian mode complete with John Martin employed to bash a tambourine large enough for a warbling young Boaby to use as a hula-hoop, if he'd the strength.

The footage has been posted by Primal Scream Preservation Project who’ve also added some later Scream gigs.

With a nod of the bowlcut to Carl Anton Leopold Wessely whose Facebook post alerted me to this treasure.

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!