Thursday, 31 December 2009

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

ICKENHAM by BALCONY SHIRTS


Ickenham is an unremarkable small town (or “village” as the locals like to think of it) in the London Borough of Hillingdon. Unless you’ve lived there you’d never have any reason to visit, although Keith Moon would sometimes drink in the Fox and Geese with his chauffeur Dougal Butler. That’s about the most interesting thing about it. I grew up there and in fairness it does have a few plus points: the militant residents association have kept the likes of Tesco and McDonalds away; the library is still open (scene of a some childhood escapades like riding my Commando up and down the aisles, smashing a window with football, and taunting Mr Librarian for his blue suede shoes); and at least it isn’t as scummy as nearby Uxbridge, as inbred as West Drayton or as backward as Hayes. And it has a water pump that’s been there since 1866.

The fine folk at Balcony Shirts have managed to commemorate this fact in t-shirt form by ingeniously marrying the pump to a line from Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. I’m taking a wild stab in the dark there aren’t too many Dylan loving Ickenham residents reading this, but Balcony do have other UK towns and cities available, yet none so cool as this, although I do like “Sexual Ealing”.

Visit Balcony Shirts to see if your town is featured.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

BIRTH OF SOUL: SPECIAL CHICAGO EDITION


Following four volumes of Kent’s Birth of Soul CDs, documenting the gospel, doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and even pop records that lay the foundations for soul, they now turn their attention to just one city: Chicago.

No man is more associated with the soul of Chicago than our old friend Curtis Mayfield and he pops up on at least a third of the tracks as writer, producer or performer with glorious results almost every time. He is here – as a sixteen year old - at the very beginning, on a previously unreleased, intimate 1958 demo of “For Your Precious Love” with that unmistakeable strum of his guitar and the taping of a foot providing the sole instrumentation for Jerry Butler and The Impressions. I’ve never thought the song particularly memorable (I’m always surprised it was such a success as it lacks any hook whatsoever) but Butler betrays his later “Ice Man” tag with a rich, warm vocal.

Mayfield gets to sing the following year for The Impressions on his own “Senorita I Love You” and donates some of the hundreds of songs that flowed effortless from his pen to Jan Bradley (“Behind The Curtains”), Wade Flemons (“At The Party”), Gene Chandler (“Think Nothing About It”), Jerry Butler (the eerie “Isle of Sirens”) and Major Lance (“I’ve Got A Girl” and “Phyllis”) – all stamped with the Mayfield seal of quality.

Elsewhere, Rosco Gordon’s dreamy “Let ‘Em Try” is a world away from his more famous rocking sides of the 50’s, The Accents gliding “Enchanted Garden” is equally as beautiful and one to gently float around the room to, as is “Tell Him” by The Drew-Vels.

The 24-track CD, covering the years 1959-64, doesn’t register too highly on the footstompers or floorshakers but The Radiants “Father Knows Best” gives “Shop Around” a nip around the heels, Don and Bob show The Yardbirds and Rod Stewart how to do “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, Major Lance’s “I’ve Got A Girl” chugs along, and The Kayetts obscure “I’ve Got A Story To Tell You” will have you searching on ebay before the song is over (don't bother - there's isn't one there, and if there was, it'd be mine...).

Dee Clark’s irritating “That’s My Girl” is over-familiar and should have been kept away but the inclusion of Sugar Pie Desanto pouring her heart out to the unreleased “My Baby’s Got Soul” provides more than adequate compensation.

Rating: Seven bananas.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS - "THE JUNKY'S CHRISTMAS"

Every dog with a blog has posted this. I’ve never claimed originality so here it comes again.

William Burroughs reads his heartwarming tale - honest - to a claymation (real word, apparently) of his short story “The Junky’s Christmas” (from Interzone). Wallace and Gromit? Do one.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

CURTIS MAYFIELD - GET DOWN

As you polish off the Baileys and stuff another After Eight in your gob on Boxing Day, spare a thought for the insurpassable soul legend Curtis Mayfield, who died ten years earlier.

I consider myself hugely honoured to have seen Mayfield perform on three occasions; the last only a few months before the tragic accident in August 1990 that paralyzed him from the neck down. It still chokes me.

Here, the dancers on Soul Train in 1971 throw some damn funky shapes to “Get Down”. Don’t try these moves after a second plate of bubble and squeak.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

DECEMBER PLAYLIST


Here goes a fairly random collection of songs. Seek and ye shall find.

1. Roy Brown – “Butcher Pete (Parts 1 & 2)” (1950)
As crazy tales go, this one’s a corker from big voiced Brown. Butcher Pete is “hacking, whacking and smacking” all the women’s meat in town; gets put in the clink where he starts on his cell mate; gets released and a 92 year old woman wants him to chop her meat; goes to church, starts on the pulpit; chops up a ship; gets sent to the electric chair and chops that down too! As Roy concludes, “he’s a maniac”.

2. James Brown – “Chonnie-On-Chon” (1956)
Now children, let’s not forget the 25th of December marks an important day. It’s when – three years ago – Brother James became what he ate: angel dust. Show your respects by getting on the good foot to this lively rocker taken from only his second ever session.

3. King Coleman – “Loo-key, Doo-key” (1960)
This record has been described as a “tittyshaker”. Please, be my guest.

4. Ben E. King – “Ecstasy” (1962)
Take me by the hand and lead me to the land of ecstasy”, begs Mr King. Highly amusing.

5. Yvonne Baker – “You Didn’t Say A Word” (1966)
It’s impossible to be tired of some records. This is one. Listed at number three in the Northern Soul Top 500 book and that intro still brings a rush of excitement and a stampede to the dancefloor.

6. The Disillusioned Younger Generation – “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’” (1967)
The award for best band name goes to these teenage folk rockers who jingle-jangled their way through one 45 before disappearing off the face of the earth.

7. The Velvet Underground – “After Hours” (1969)
I’d not played the Velvets properly for years until last weekend and had completely forgotten this sweet Mo Tucker sung track at the end of their third album. Lovely.

8. Clarence Carter – “Back Door Santa” (1969)
Fuck The X-Factor versus Rage Against The Machine, no festive song can hold a candle to Carter’s greasy claim of making little girls happy as he comes in their back door.

9. Little Richard – “Money Is” (1972)
There’s only one thing that money can’t buy – and that is poverty”. Little Dick’s throbbing super-charged ode to the almighty dollar hits the spot other flare grooves cannot reach.

10. The Cribs – “I’m Alright Me” (2005)
Yes, you are.

Monday, 14 December 2009

VA VA VOOM and NEW UNTOUCHABLES NEW YEAR'S EVE BASH


If, like me, you fancy some stonking soul to banish the thoughts of another year passing, then the joint Va Va Voom and New Untouchables shindig in London Town should do the trick.

The Va Va Voomers will be in Room 1 with their exquisite 60’s Northern and rare soul (their night at the beginning of November was a corker); The New Untouchables take Room 2 for more soul, R&B, Motown and ska (catch me spinning a few in there if you time it right/wrong); and, if you want a change of mood, head to Room 3 for the serious psych and garage clangers.

Unless you have bionic eyes, click on the above flyers to read the details.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Thursday, 10 December 2009

WILLIAM BURROUGHS: NAKED LUNCH@50 and THE ROAD TO INTERZONE


As we approach the end of the 50th anniversary of Naked Lunch it’s time to mention a couple of newish books.

Naked Lunch @ 50: Anniversary Essays has been collated by Oliver Harris and Ian MacFadyen who invited over twenty writers, scholars, musicians and artists for their take on the book and received a collection of essays exploring it from a range of angles and areas of personal interest. It’s testimony to the depth of the original book it can be viewed in so many ways and mean such different things to people.

I tend to avoid scholarly works as my dumbass brain can’t cope but this is palatable enough. The essays are roughly ten pages long so even the academic beard stroking ones causing RSI in reaching for the dictionary were worth persevering as they still unlocked details and insight repeated readings have missed or the relevance not appreciated.

For painstaking research, you’ve got to applaud Michael Stevens for his The Road To Interzone: Reading William S. Burroughs Reading. Stevens sets out to catalogue all the books Burroughs was known to have read, owned and contributed introductions, forewords and blurbs to. The entries are referenced and annotated and although not a book to read cover to cover it’s good to dip in and pull out a nugget, like this 1962 quote from Colin MacInnes, “If a writer like this is a novelist then clearly the word is practically meaningless”.

Naked Lunch @ 50 is edited by Oliver Harris and Ian MacFadyen and published by Southern Illinois University Press, priced $22.95.
The Road To Interzone by Michael Stevens is published by Suicide Press, priced $29.95.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

THE CRIBS at BRIXTON ACADEMY


Adding Johnny Marr to The Cribs line-up didn’t make huge sense in the beginning. His first gigs had him busking rather than adding, but he’s all over Ignore The Ignorant and now has woven his magic into their older songs, throwing his instantly recognisable flourishes into the abrasive commotion of the three Jarman brothers . Whilst the Jarmans launch themselves into every song as if it’s their last – sometimes literally into the crowd - Marr brings some understated style to proceedings: well dressed, legs slightly apart, guitar held at just the correct angle and height, a flick of the wrist, a slight tilt of the head, and a haircut to die for. All important stuff which hasn’t yet rubbed off on Ryan, who stubbornly wears the mum-cut-around-the-pudding-bowl hair “style” which would have caused instant playground bullying when I were a lad.

It’s not all dandy though. Ignore The Ignorant is at best an indifferent album and they play a sizeable chunk of it tonight. The Cribs are at their most striking when they’re full of boisterous bile, mixing punk playing with brusque terrace chants and hooks. If they can fit a “whooah” into a song they will. If they can’t, they’ll make another word sound like a “whooah”. It’s a simple yet effective trick. Many of the newer songs have fluidity but none of the urgency. They’re improved by the live setting but whereas you could hit shuffle on The New Fellas or Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever and be guaranteed a great, the odds are significantly longer on the new album.

However, let’s not be too grumpy because it’s still a set bursting with rollicking highlights: “I’m A Realist”, “Hey Scenesters!”, “Our Bovine Public”, “Mirror Kissers”, “The Wrong Way To Be”, “Men’s Needs” etc from the back catalogue plus “We Share The Same Skies” and “We Were Aborted” the stand out two from the newie. It’s curious the Jam-like “Victim of Mass Production” didn’t make it but this is tempered by the inclusion of “Direction”, which is transformed from filler material from their 2004 debut into a savage beast of a song that rattles the walls and shivers the bones.

Monday, 7 December 2009

BABY, I'M READY TO GO by MELISSA MANN


Public Enemy’s last album was How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? A good question. Another question Chuck D might ponder is how you sell poetry to an uninterested public who don’t even buy books let alone poems by some northern bird they’ve never heard of.

I tell you what you don’t do: you don’t house said poems in an unattractive cover; with a badly staged, ham-fisted photograph; with ugly lettering and font; and a title with the unfortunate side effect of causing involuntary outbreaks of that ghastly song by Republica. Yes, there’s the old cliché about books and covers but come on.

Of course there are thousands of shitty book designs and I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about most of them, I’m only grumbling because whilst screwing my nose up I nearly missed out, and that was despite being familiar with Melissa from her Beat The Dust site. I only succumbed during a rare moment of fumbling around for something to read. And thank goodness, because it’s an engaging, entertaining and often very funny read. As you may have gathered by now, I don’t like to work too hard with poetry. I want it to say what it has to say in a few simple, straight forward, easy to understand words and bugger off. No nonsense. And I want to relate to them; nothing about blackbirds or rocks or whatnot. Mann’s poems are witty and wily and have a ring and a rhythm to them. Her words tumble out and some of the snappy staccato bursts sound like lyrics awaiting music. From tales of Yorkshire youth to London letdowns, from broken hearts to Jimmy Saville, from bus stops to public conveniences, these are our everyday trials and tribulations told without exaggeration or braggado.

The cover isn’t that bad and I’m being especially mean to a small independent publisher without an expensive art department, so for the price of a couple of pints chuck a copy in someone’s Christmas stocking - after you’ve read it yourself of course. And that Public Enemy album is better than you probably think too, so stick that in as well.

Baby, I’m Ready To Go by Melissa Mann is published by Grievous Jones Press, priced £7.
www.beatthedust.com
www.grievousjonespress.com

Sunday, 6 December 2009

LES FERDINAND AS CHE GUEVARA


Football flags. Bit crap usually but the design, subtlety and originality of this one is something else: QPR legend Sir Les Ferdinand as Che Guevara, produced by a chap who goes under the name “The Modfather” on the excellent Loft For Words fansite.

The words come from a QPR song and not – as the officials at Doncaster Rovers assumed – a provocative invitation to meet at the nearest railway station for a bout of fisticuffs.

After yesterday’s embarrassing 5-1 home defeat to Middlesbrough, they could have done with 43 year old Les on the pitch, and the corpse of Guevara might’ve played better than Fitz Hall at centre back.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

GALERIA KAVEL OPENING


That there Kavel Rafferty, she’s great she is. And she’s opening her own gallery shop in Barcelona.

Kavel’s illustrations have appeared all over the globe in publications and shops and I’ll forever be indebted for the brilliant flyers featuring blues and soul stars she produced for Shake!("legendary" East End R&B Club, 2001-2006) for nothing more than a vodka and tonic each month. I’d like to think that leg-up got her where she is today rather than her own hard work and undoubted talent...

Galeria Kavel opens on the 12th of December, displaying and selling prints and products by Kavel and a select band of other new artists from London and Barcelona. My own favourites are the “Saucy” series (one of which is above) and also the collages featuring scantily clad ladies with cats. Also worth a look is the “Pop Pickers” section where you can have the record of your choice drawn to order.

Galeria Kavel is at Napols 309, Barcelona, 08025 or you can visit from the comfort of your keyboard here.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART at the ICA


Well that was a bit disappointing wasn’t it? I guess some bands are better on record and some bands are better on stage. Not much debate about where TPOBPAH sit after their fleeting, largely lacklustre appearance yesterday. I shall wipe it from my memory (not difficult) and get back to playing what still is the album of the year. Ho hum.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

PAUL WELLER - 7 & 3 IS THE STRIKER'S NAME

What has Paul Weller been putting in his tea? Whatever it is give him some more please.

After all those years of flat, conservative, dullard, unimaginative fodder he chanced his arm with 22 Dreams and it’s paid handsome dividends in freeing the creative juices. Helped along by Kevin Shields, here’s the shockingly spooky first single from the next LP. Love it.

Friday, 27 November 2009

SPOTIFY PICK #1: RAMSHACKLE ROAD TO ROCK 'N' ROLL RUIN


Who’s on Spotify? I wasn’t too excited at first as it simply looked another music streaming site. You can’t download but providing you can live with being forced to hear an advert every few songs, there’s about as much (or more) than HMV on Oxford Street at your fingertips, and it’s free.

One benefit though is the ability for users to create playlists and share the link with other Spotify users. So here, for those of you signed up, I proudly present Ramshackle Road To Rock ‘n’ Roll Ruin. Enjoy.

Click here

Thursday, 26 November 2009

COOL AS FUCK, FRIDAY 4th DECEMBER


I’ve been a tinsy touch hard on Hastings, but it must be said that among the hunchbacked Diamond White supping flotsam of this backward seaside town, there are a small number of warm, kind hearted, and generous citizens. I mean, only last time I was there, I wandered straight to the sea, leaned over the railings outside my hotel and was greeted with the unforgettable offer from two carloads of young folk. “Oi! Dirtyman! Suck my Dad’s cock!” I respectfully declined but it was a touching moment.

I might call their bluff next week. Or bring my Dad along to return the favour.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

NOVEMBER PLAYLIST


What’s been hitting the decks in Monkey Mansions this month?

1. The Righteous Brothers – “Little Latin Lupe Lu” (1965)
Forget “Unchained Melody”, this is precisely two minutes of furious frugging that neither Simon Cowell or that slobbered face fuckwit Louis Walsh would ever dream of giving to one of their lobotomized freaks.

2. David John and the Mood – “Bring It To Jerome” (1965)
All the beat bands of the mid-60’s snuck this Bo Diddley song in their set but none quite as snottily as David John and the Mood. Joe Meek helped the recording by using the sound of a bog chain in a biscuit tin. Honest.

3. Eddie and Ernie – “Indication” (1966)
Credited to a mysterious Eddie and Ernie but only one (don’t know which) can be heard here. Whoever it is pleads with their aching soul for an indication their love will come back. Don’t reckon it worked but I’m appreciating their efforts.

4. Albert Ayler – Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe LP (1969)
I can live with any amount of free-form honking jazz baloney. I can even deal with the sound of bagpipes being trampled underfoot by herds of wildebeest marauding majestically across the hillside. But when Al’s old lady starts shrieking happy clappy hippy bullshit over the top, it’s torture like you’ve never heard.

5. Five Thirty – “Psycho Cupid” (1991)
It can be no coincidence that Five Thirty’s premature demise coincided with Paul Bassett’s discovery of the dubious joys of the purple velour catsuit. Thankfully, before disappearing up their arses they left behind a treasure throve of goodies including this modishly punky gem.

6. Pete Molinari – “Indescribably Blue” (2006)
Funny how you can go off people. Molinari’s recent sickly covers EP had me gagging so hard on my own cheesy puke I never managed to get to the end of it. We’ll call it an indulgent blip because listening again to the infinitely more heartstring tugging folk of “Indescribably Blue” I can feel myself softening.

7. Black Crowes – “I Ain’t Hiding” (2009)
Who’s been tampering with the Crowes’ time machine? Stuck on 1973 for 20 years, some mischievous scamp has punched in 1978 forcing them to spend six minutes boogying in a glitzy New York disco.

8. Girls – “Lust For Life” (2009)
Not the Iggy song, and not girls either, but a reassuringly cheapo plug-in-and-go pop combo. The first half of their Album is a joy.

9. Brett Anderson – Slow Attack LP (2009)
There’s a song playing on the radio” sang the arse slapping one during those halcyon Suede days yet there’s little danger of anything from Slow Attack filling the airwaves on the morning show. You’re more likely to hear it at Jemima’s dinner party as she serves up a Dome of Nougatine filled with Creme Brulee with lightly poached apricots.

10. Bob Dylan – “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” (2009)
I swear this is the funniest and greatest Christmas record ever recorded. I bet you can’t even listen to the first five words without pissing yourself. Mr Dylan – you remain an utter genius. I salute you.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

MANIC STREET PREACHERS - RAPIDO, 1992

Take a look at this footage of the Manic Street Preachers from late 1991/early 1992. If we ignore Sean's ludicrously unsuitable winter jacket, the rest is about as perfect as any band could ever be.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

MOTOWN REVUE at HAMMERSMITH APOLLO


I never associate the word “diva” as being a good thing – too many negative connotations - yet someone in their wisdom decided to call last week’s shebang in W6 a “Divas of Motown” night. On my calendar I wrote “Motown Revue” instead. Sounds far more credible.

The set-up was Jack Ashford’s Funk Brothers would play and various guests would come out and do a turn. Like a revue in fact. Ashford is the only original Funk Brother still alive and claims to have appeared on 92 number one singles. I don’t know how he calculated that figure but suffice to say he played on hundreds of Motown releases, shaking his tambourine and plinky plonking his vibes like a good un. From the moment he walked out, tambourine in hand, and said “How you doing?” in his Philadelphian burr, he was coolness personified. He compeered the evening and told a few stories. I doubt he had much to do with putting the band together, but whoever did, did a sterling job. They sounded like a Motown band should. Smokey Robinson take note.

After a run through of “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”, first out was Mable John who signed for Berry Gordy a full fifty years ago. You want pedigree? Recorded for Motown, recorded for Stax, and was a Raelette. Now pushing 80, five foot nothing, Ronald McDonald wig hat on her head, she was a revelation. She didn’t cover herself in glory during her last London visit but here she was totally captivating and held the audience in her tiny palm. Fruity as hell and her bluesy voice showed little sign of age. With the band totally in sync she did “Able Mable”, “Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That”, “Running Out” and “Same Time, Same Place”. Only one Motown release (and three Stax) but what the heck. She wasn’t great in a patronising pat-on-the-head-for-the-mad-old-bird way; she was simply great and thoroughly earned her standing ovation. I was thinking then I could’ve gone home happy. Maybe I should have.

Next, the one I wanted to see, my favourite Motown lady, Brenda Holloway. A difficult one this. She was okay and her voice was fine but she was too offputtingly showbiz. After John’s no bullshit presence and attitude, Holloway didn’t come across as sincere (which is probably doing her a disservice) and her dramatic over-egging the pudding was too distracting. With only a five song set it was disappointing to start with something I can only presume was a 70’s (at earliest) track. Then came “When I’m Gone”, “Every Little Bit Hurts”, “Operator” and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”. I’m being harsh because if anything she was actually trying too hard when she would have been better off just letting her singing do the work. It’s hard to criticize someone for that and I’d definitely go and see her again if she did a full gig.

Chris Clark’s limitations as a singer were exposed next but her self-deprecating manner (“who’d have thought I’d be the poster child for the 90 year old white woman on the comeback trail?”) was undoubtedly the right card to play. She croaked through “Love’s Gone Bad”, “Do Right Baby Do Right”, “I Want To Go Back There Again” and the Motown song most guaranteed to make my eyes roll round the back of head, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)”.

After a break the Funk Brothers played “What’s Going On”, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Heatwave” before “The Supremes”. In truth, they were more accurately introduced as “Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence formerly of the Supremes” (like Bruce and Rick “From The Jam”). Anyway, there were three of them and whereas the evening had previously had an air of Motown Connoisseurs about it, all that changed as the assembled office slags who didn’t know what they were watching or listening to screeched with delight at the Friday night karaoke laid on for them. You could find better singers down the Dog and Duck come closing time than these three howling munters. They murdered four or five Diana Ross-era hits (I was knocking back the Red Stripe to dull the pain so can’t remember which ones) before I bolted for the door and legged it to the tube and the sanctuary of my iPod. I didn’t bother staying for Thelma Houston.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

POETRY PICKS #1: RELICS by ADELLE STRIPE


RELICS

there’s a place
in haworth
called the golliwog shop
(that’s not its real name)
i don’t suppose any black people
go in there

it sells two tone records,
swastika armbands
and every size of golliwog a man could ever need

they hang on the counter from
a rack by the till
on thick silver chains
a nice ‘kids-size’ keyring,
like long forgotten strange fruit
from a bygone age
before all this ‘nonsense’
from the p.c brigade

they make me uncomfortable,
these faces I collected
from robertson’s jam in the nineteen seventies
the playing cards, the children’s badges
thankfully banished
to the boxes in the attic

when i look at the golliwogs
hung in the shop
i think of alf garnett, the national front
pissed gorilla men at lower league matches
waving blow up bananas at all the black players
and i wonder if here, in heathcliff’s manor
if i’m the only minority
in the crowd of white faces
who doesn’t agree with this new
‘retro trend’

i leave the shop
wanting to return with a brick for its window
but coming up here
with my ‘london ways’
I scuttle off, red faced
into the wind
wishing i was a braver woman
wishing i could be confrontational,
and throw a hard punch at the golliwog man
but instead, like the coward that i really am
i walk to my car, switch on the radio
and swear at the windscreen
vowing never
to return
here again.

“Relics” is taken from Adelle’s new limited edition signed and numbered chapbook Cigarettes in Bed, published by Blackheath Books and available for a mere £5 alongside other vibrant underground writing at www.blackheathbooks.org.uk

My thanks to Adelle and to Geraint at Blackheath for their permission to include here.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

PORK AND BEANS, FRIDAY 20th NOVEMBER


The next Pork and Beans is nearly upon us, so if you fancy starting the weekend with a box full of records containing monkey references and harmonica blowing, get yourself along. It’s free. And good. I’ll be the one drinking Bailey’s from a shoe.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A VERSION OF REASON: IN SEARCH OF RICHEY EDWARDS by ROB JOVANOVIC


Guess what? He didn’t find him.

Jovanovic only found a copy of Simon Price’s Manics biography Everything; a pile of yellowing music papers; some YouTube clips, and bundled them together to play amateur sleuth, padding out his weak book with a host of already proven false leads, pointless speculation, and irrelevant filler like what’s scribbled on a shopping list in his copy of Junkie.

With Edwards’ family and friends wisely unwilling to talk and rake over the same painful ground, there is scant new material. Whereas Price’s deep understanding of his subject inspired an intelligent and articulate portrayal, Jovanovic's approach is more akin to a Sunday newspaper hack chasing a lead, sniffing for scandal and outrage. If he can’t find any, he’ll simply throw in some groundless theories. With no actual body ever found you can’t prove Richey is dead, something Jovanovic frequently plays on: he could be in a monastery; he could be abroad; somebody close may have helped him disappear. Maybe he’s in the house next door like the “Canoe Man”.

As a subject for a biography Edwards is perfect material yet Rob Jovanovic isn’t up to the job. Come in Simon Price, come in Jon Savage, your time has come.

A Version of Reason is published by Orion Books, priced £18.99

Monday, 9 November 2009

INTERIORS by JAYNE TAYLOR


Press release:

“NO:ID Gallery hosts this debut solo show for 2009 Photography graduate Jayne Taylor, in association with Photomonth 2009. Interiors is a series of striking portraits captured in stereoscopic 3D.

Jayne Taylor is a visual artist with a special interest in ‘obsolete’ photographic techniques. In her ongoing series Interiors, she revives a spectacular 3D technique last popular in 1950’s America. Her ‘found’ subjects – real people in their own homes – are equally idiosyncratic (and nostalgic). Each has been carefully chosen for their intense affinity with classic 20th century imagery, and their apparent eschewment of current mainstream trends in favour of more lasting and colourful 'vintage' alternatives.

Viewable by only one person at a time (through binocular-like viewers) in exhibition, each little diorama reminds us how magically transporting photography can be when given our full attention. Transgressing time and space, they offer the viewer a brief, personal flight from immediate surroundings to the borderland between vision and imagination.

The portraits themselves are refreshingly playful and have a subtly 'staged' air that heightens the paper-theatre effect of the stereo format. The scenes hover somewhere between image and reality in a way reminiscent of 19th century tableaux vivants (which, in the age of Flickr, is strangely enticing).”

My two penn’orth:

I saw these portraits earlier in the year and not only do they look amazing in 3D, they also demonstrate that amongst all the homogenised grockles there are still people with enough independent savvy to go against the grain; and I’m not just saying that because the above picture features a typical afternoon for Mrs Monkey and her sister at Monkey Mansions. Funny how I’m always the one making the tea when photographers call. Can’t think why.

Interiors by Jayne Taylor is at NO:ID Gallery, 31 Commercial Road, Whitechapel, E1. Friday 13th-Sunday 15th November 2009, 1pm-6pm. Admission free.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

86'd by DAN FANTE


Like most of John Fante’s current readers I discovered him via Charles Bukowski. Buk claimed him as his God, and that’s enough endorsement for anyone. Books like Ask The Dust and The Road To Los Angeles made aspiring writer Arturo Bandini an unforgettable creation: a self-absorbed romantic dreamer thoroughly convinced of his own genius.

Back in 2002 I saw Fante’s son, Dan, give a talk. He spoke about his father, Bukowski, and his own writing. I wasn’t much interested in his own writing until he read the opening pages from Mooch and was converted on the spot. It felt like the passing of the baton. We shared a few words and he wrote in my copy of Mooch “For Mark, I hope you like my new book – It drove out many old demons for me. Best, Dan Fante”. Many old demons, I’m sure, but a stack of novels, plays, poems and short stories later, Fante is still wrestling those demons and fending them off the way he knows best - the only way - with the written word.

86’d follows familiar ground as Fante’s alter-ego Bruno Dante woozes through the streets of LA struggling to keep a limo driving job and the booze at bay. Not a great combination. No sooner he climbs aboard one side of the wagon, than he spectacularly stumbles off the other. But through all his failures, blackouts, mental girlfriends, AA meetings and dumb moves, you’ve got to admire his pig headedness and dogged spirit even through the skuzziest of lows. “My life wasn’t a total shit sandwich”, he says. And it is dead pan lines like that, that make reading Fante such a treat. Also, no one throws abuse with such casual ease. As the pages get darker, and the voices in his head get louder, his fuse gets shorter. From shooting vitriolic insults from the hip, to indignant rage, to psychotic fury, the angrier he becomes the more incisive and funnier the writing.

Much of the story and characters are predictable but that’s hardly the point. 86’d contains a couple of Fante’s most memorable passages, which I won’t spoil here, and overall this may well be his best novel.

86’d by Dan Fante is published by Harper Perennial, priced $13.99.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

ALL THE RIGHT NOISES (1969), MAN OF VIOLENCE (1970) and HEROSTRATUS (1967)


When the BFI/Flipside rescued their latest three British films from cinematic obscurity and gave them a deluxe DVD release, the one that initially looked the most unappealing turned out a real treasure. That was Gerry O’Hara’s 1969 All The Right Noises.

It looked iffy due to the storyline of a 32 year old married man, Len (played by Tom Bell), having an affair with a 15 year old temptress, Val (Olivia Hussey – yes, I know what you’re thinking but I’m not saying it). I expected a heavy handed, sensationalistic shocker, when in fact it’s a thoughtful, well scripted, subtle and engaging drama with convincing performances from Bell and especially Hussey who is brilliantly cast.

When Len and Val meet and start getting fresh, Len is unaware of Val’s age but when he discovers her in her school uniform he protests for, oooh, seconds. And seconds is what he has. He is coldly untroubled by his deceit and brazenness, even getting Val to stay at his flat whilst his wife is away. When we see his missus on her way home early, the tension is so gripping you question why you even care if the dirty dog gets caught or not. Why’s that? I wasn’t counting on getting so involved. Val may have been skipping her homework but director and screenwriter Gerry O’Hara had obviously done his.

1960’s scenes showing smoking on the tube, Leicester Square station, Uxbridge station, Brighton beach, and the River Thames would usually be enough of a recommendation in itself but these are only added bonuses to a film already rich with layers and detail. Shame about Melanie caterwauling on the soundtrack but you can’t have everything.

The other two are Man of Violence (aka Moon) and Herostratus. Man of Violence is a 1970 gangster flick with little to redeem it beyond busty birds whipping off their bras and waddling around in big saggy knickers. I couldn’t follow the plot; the leading man had all the charisma and presence of a tea towel; and at 107 minutes it done me bleedin’ head in. If that weren’t bad enough it comes with a “bonus” film of The Big Switch (1968) which is more of the same except the collars, lapels and sideburns are half an inch narrower.

It’ll be a long time until I can sit through nearly two and half hours of Herostratus (1967) again, but by jingo, what a film. I know jack shit about films or the art of filmmaking but can recognize and appreciate sheer bloody minded passion and dedication when I see it and it pours out of Don Levy’s precise and frequently haunting and surrealistic film. Michael Gothard plays Max, who asks an advertising company to make a spectacle of his suicide, which they agree to with icy detachment, gradually taking more and more control over the one thing Max has left in life. We moan about celebrity culture and media spin nowadays yet this film was started 45 years ago and it was already prevalent then. Gothard’s portrayal of Max is terrifying, no more so than in the early scene where he manically smashes his flat to pieces with an axe. I’m thinking “oh, be careful, you’ll hurt yourself”. The film is spliced with all manner of hellish news footage, bizarre images, strippers, slaughtered cows and Francis Baconesque stills. An extraordinary film. That Don Levy committed suicide in 1987, followed by Michael Gothard in 1992, is no surprise.

www.bfi.org.uk

Thursday, 5 November 2009

BEAT SCENE NUMBER 60


The new season rolls in, and a new Beat Scene rolls off the press. This one is a bit special as it devotes every one of its 64 (advert free) pages to Jack Kerouac.

New articles on Jack’s hometown of Lowell; his brief trip to London; Neal Cassady’s first letter to Jack; an interview with girlfriend, and author of The Awakener, Helen Weaver; reprinted letters to and from John Clellon Holmes and Gary Snyder; a rejection letter for On The Road; reviews of new books and films; and much, much more.

There’s no magazine like it. It deserves your support. Subscribe at www.beatscene.net.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART - "YOUNG ADULT FRICTION"

Until I get my mojo working, here's one of my favourite records this year.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

OCTOBER PLAYLIST


October is almost over and I’ve not done a playlist. So, more out of obligation than enthusiasm, here is half arsed collection of songs that have made me either happy or sad this month. I’ll spare you the flannel that normally accompanies them.

1. Doc Starkes and the Nightriders – “Women and Cadillacs” (1954)
2. Brenda Holloway – “Hey Fool” (1963)
3. Eddie and the Tropics – “Don’t Monkey With Another Monkey’s Monkey” (1965)
4. Little Anthony and the Imperials – “Hurt So Bad” (1965)
5. The Zombies – “Friends of Mine” (1968)
6. The Kinks – “Days” (1969)
7. The Cramps – “TV Set” (1980)
8. Spiritualized – “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” (1997)
9. Let’s Wrestle – “Tanks” (2009)
10. Box Elders – “Alice and Friends” (2009)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

SMOKEY ROBINSON at the ROUNDHOUSE


Smokey Robinson’s songs have enriched my life and made the world a better place. I absolutely love him but it hasn’t always been that way.

As a twelve year old wannabe punk in the summer of ‘81 I hated him. “Being With You” was number one and the sight of him of Top Of The Tops mincing around that apartment, pretending to sniff flowers, coked off his noggin, and singing like a big girl was too much to take. And a red pool table. Who ever saw such a thing?

By the time of the Christmas school disco I’d switched allegiances to the Mod/2-Tone brigade and had perfected that hopping and kicking from foot to foot dance that all the in-crowd did to Madness records. We’d only dance to them, The Jam, and “Ghost Town”, which wasn’t an easy record to dance to, and sneer at the Adam and the Ants and Duran Duran nonsense.

There was a girl, Janet, that I fancied. We’d had a bit of history in primary school. I’d call for her in the mornings until her Mum started talking to me in Italian. I was so petrified I didn’t dare call again. We’d snog (that’s me and Janet, not me and her Mum) behind the gate in the playground and in the field opposite her house. She wrote me a letter saying how good I was at football and I bought her a necklace from the newsagent for Valentine’s Day. We split up and I tried to woo her back on the last day of school by going through all my copies of Shoot! to tear out all the Arsenal posters for her. It didn’t work. She looked at me like I was some sort of cretin. I can still picture her putting her chair on the table, walking out, and that was that.

We moved to secondary school and were in separate classes but she was at this school disco, stood over the right hand side of stage, and I’d been keeping my beady eye on her. She always looked different to other girls: petite, short boyish hair, red t-shirt with "Paris" on it and wearing a neckerchief – quite a sophisticated continental look for a twelve year old in 1981. The DJ played some smoochy number and I tried rustling up the courage to ask her to dance. I left it too long and thought if he plays another I’ll go for it. Cue that frigging horrible sax solo at the start of “Being With You”. Typical. Still, get in there my son. I asked her. She looked embarrassed and looked at the floor. Then looked at her mate. Then at me. She didn’t say anything. Time slowed right down. By now that cretinous feeling was creeping up on me again. Come on girl. More silence, more sideways glances. Go on. Smokey was hitting his stride, cooing away. Finally, after an eternity, she begrudgingly agreed. We walked to a spot on the dancefloor and the moment I put my arms around her, “Hey you! Don’t watch that, watch this! This is the heavy heavy monster sound, the nuttiest sound around”, comes booming out, “One step beyond!” and I’m swamped in a sea of manic moonstomping and never got my hands on her again.

Twenty eight years later and Smokey is in front of me singing that same bloody song, but I don’t care. He can sing whatever he wants, however he wants. He can even stick a sickly Spanish rap in the middle if he wants, and he does. He is Smokey Robinson. Nuff said.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

TWIGGY: A LIFE IN PHOTOGRAPHS


If you happen to be feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square between now and March 2010 you might fancy popping in the National Portrait Gallery for five minutes to look at their Twiggy exhibition. I wouldn’t recommend making a special trip for it though.

It’s very small and the only pictures I was interested in were the first few when Twiggs was “The Face of 1966”. What’s striking is how quickly she was moved on from that short haired freckle faced urchin look by the times that were rapidly changing. Will folk be able to look at photography, films, fashion, listen to music from this decade in years to come and identify whether it was 2006, 2007 or 2008? 1966 and 1968 look worlds apart. But you know this. I’m only saying I’ve no interest in what Twiggy did beyond those first 18 months but if you have and want to read her gushing captions about how marvelous and fabulous so-and-so was to work with, then you can also buy the book that accompanies this show.

Twiggy: A Life In Photographs is at the National Portrait Gallery until March 2010, admission free. The book costs £20.

Friday, 23 October 2009

ONE FAST MOVE OR I'M GONE: KEROUAC'S BIG SUR


When I mentioned pulling a Kerouac book from the shelf the other day it was no coincidence I mentioned Big Sur first. Written during 1961 it charts the period shortly after the publication of On The Road and how Jack's new found fame accelerated his descent into drunken madness and paranoia with brutal honesty. It’s his last truly great work and very close to my favourite.

So imagine my delight to discover this week has seen the opening of One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur in selected US cinemas. The film uses readings of Kerouac’s text, interviews with some of those featured in the book (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Carolyn Cassady, Joyce Johnson and Michael McClure) and new music and contributions from the likes of Tom Waits and Patti Smith.

No news on UK availability yet, but here’s the trailer:


www.kerouacfilms.com

Thursday, 22 October 2009

THE WHO PHOTOGRAPHS by COLIN JONES


Derek Trotter’s judgment was famously suspect but he was right when it came to music. “I don’t care what they say” he said, “you can’t whack The Who”.

Del Boy would enjoy the great exhibition of early ‘Oo photos by Colin Jones, currently showing at the Proud Gallery. Some are established classics - Townshend in his flat with a collection of smashed Rickenbackers on the wall behind him and the pop art outfitted group cover shot for the Observer - but others are less familiar. Most date from the first few weeks of 1966 and show the band at home, in the studio, out shopping, and on the stage. It’s interesting to compare the home shots and how they reinforce their perceived personas: Townshend is serious and frowning, surrounded by recording equipment; Daltrey climbs out of bed as a young lady tends to her morning business with her hat hanging on the dresser; and Entwistle poses uncomfortably with his bass and tuba as his ma darns a cardie. Moon escapes the home visit but Jones catches both the wide-eyed Loon and the lesser-spotted quiet, contemplative Keith as he listens, silently, to a studio playback. If I had any wall space left – that would fill it.

Limited edition, numbered and signed prints are priced between £250 and £1000. Cushdy.

The Who: In The Beginning – Photographs by Colin Jones is at the Proud Central Gallery, 5 Buckingham Street, WC2 until 15 November 2009. Admission free.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

JACK KEROUAC - 21st OCTOBER 1969

"I wrote the book because we're all gonna die".

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Jack Kerouac.

Raise your glass, stick some Charlie Parker on the turntable, pull Big Sur, The Dharma Bums, On The Road, Desolation Angels or The Subterraneans from the shelf and pay tribute.

Or just watch this. "Go roll your bones".

Monday, 19 October 2009

NEW UNTOUCHABLES 12th ANNIVERSARY


Twelve years since the Untouchables became the New Untouchables and unlike the Avengers the addition of "New" hasn't spoilt a good thing.

I'll be hauling the record box across town straight from the Smokey Robinson gig on Saturday so expect a few Miracles movers in my sets. That sentence sort of looks like I'm DJing for Smokey. I'll leave it like that.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

GUY SISSON


Rest easy my friend. X

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

SPIRITUALIZED at the ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL


There’s a fad at the moment for bands so far past their sell-by date the maggots eating their brains decree to play their “classic” album in its entirety. Only the other day I saw Ned’s Atomic Dustbin are to play their seminal (cough) 1991 album God Fodder in December. In fairness times are tough and if the Brummy binmen can put food on the table by cobbling together a quick run through of their cack to a bunch of stinking grebo inbreds who am I to bitch?

Now, of course, this does not in any way apply to Spiritualized and their revisiting 1997’s spacey-psychedelic-jazz-rock-fuzzed-mournful Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. Not at all. No way. Completely different. For a start, I like it; thus it’s cool and beyond reproach. Plus there’s still some legs left in the band as 2008’s Songs In A&E proved. Also, Ladies and Gentlemen is such a complicated and intricate piece of work (piece of - dare I say - art even) performing it live, and doing it justice, is a logistic nightmare and not something to attempted lightly. So much so there are about 30 people on stage tonight tackling it: the band, a choir, a brass section and a sting section.

And the result? Absolutely amazing. Truly. The extended opening title track blows the original version to kingdom come. “All I want from life is a little bit of love to take the pain away” moans Jason Spaceman, then the choir kicks in and it makes infinite more sense and hits the heart far harder than ever before. And on it goes. You should know the album so I won’t list the tracks. The album highlights are the show’s highlights with the explosive intergalactic garage rock of “Electricity” almost knocking my head clean off with its G-force.

It isn’t much of a visual spectacle unless you watch the choir dancing but Spiritualized always make more sense with your eyes closed anyway. Mr Spaceman sits on a swivel chair sideways to the stage throughout and says nothing before, during or after. The original 70 minute LP is extended to a full 90 minute headfuck and credit to the sound engineer and the RFH as you could pick out every single individual note played by each musician.

One of those “you had to be there” nights. Me, I’m still floating somewhere over the Southbank.

Monday, 12 October 2009

BRENDA HOLLOWAY: THE EARLY YEARS. RARE RECORDINGS 1962-1963


Brenda Holloway’s 1964 debut for Tamla, “Every Little Bit Hurts”, wasn’t the typical Funk Brothers thumper Berry Gordy was using to accumulate hits for his stable of artists, nor was it the swinging Sound of Young America as Holloway smoldered her way through a stirring piano and string drenched outpouring of aching adult soul. She was only 17 years old. The road to such an accomplished performance must’ve started somewhere and this new CD uncovers the road that’s long been dusted over.

Featuring all her pre-Motown material that crept out to little fanfare on a host of tiny West Coast labels plus some previously unreleased tracks, The Early Years reveals a journey that took in R&B duets, girl group pop, nursery rhyme novelties and, most memorably, a handful of tracks sounding the direct precursors of what was to come.

It’s mixed bag then but there’s some notable highlights: “Constant Love” and “Suddenly” have a Mary Wells feel about them; “Hey Fool” with its mid-tempo rolling sound and cutting R&B guitar break sounds made for current dance floors; the crackingly titled duet with Jess Harris “I Never Knew You Looked So Good Until I Quit You” could pass for an Ike and Tina outtake; and the strolling “Gonna Make You Mine” and the bouncing “I Told You Baby” being just couple of others on this well deserved and well put together compilation.

“The Early Years: Rare Recordings 1962-1963” by Brenda Holloway is released by Ace Records.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

GLADYS KNIGHT at WEMBLEY ARENA


It’s long been my opinion that when it came to allocating the soul royalty titles Gladys Knight was scandalously overlooked for the Queen crown. That other woman? Pah.

Now – 48 years after her debut single - she’s touring the UK for the last time, with tonight being the second show in the impersonal barn that is Wembley Arena. With no big time introduction the lights go down and out steps our Gladys and on with the show. And a show it is. From an age and background where performing was a craft, a trade you learnt and worked hard at, Knight immediately transforms the vast soulless - and it must be said half full - arena into her own private party; half church/half Vegas Casino. Wembley Arena is hardly the Harlem Apollo but old habits die hard. She looks terrific with her wig hair on her head, a simple purple Emma Peel inspired trouser suit, and she works the stage: grinning, waving, chatting, dancing, and shaking her butt. Pure class but there’s a warm, down home spirit about her too. Don’t forget, this is the lady with a chain of chicken and waffle restaurants in Georgia to come home to.

But it’s that voice folk have come to hear and it can still send a shiver down the spine. What distinguishes Knight from her peers is she rarely shows off; there’s no need for histrionics, no need to over sell or over soul. She’s surrounded by four backing singers, who do just that, they back, they aren’t there to steal the limelight and they aren’t there to cover any inadequacies or failings in her voice. Put simply – there aren’t any.

Although having fair success at Motown, as one of their second-string acts she’s never been defined by that era in the way the Tops or the Tempts are, and it must’ve been deeply satisfying to stick a polished finger at Gordy when the big hits came after joining Buddah Records in 1973.

The absence of my own favourites (“No One Could Love You More”, “Stop And Get A Hold Of Yourself”, “Make Yours A Happy Home”, “Just Walk In My Shoes”, “Neither One Of Us” etc) is tempered by the inclusion of 1961’s “Every Beat Of My Heart”, and even more by 1962’s “Letter Full Of Tears” (“which only my Mum and Dad bought"). Most of the others you’d expect are present and numbers that have never done much for me in the past are reappraised in my mind: the gorgeous “Part Time Love” being one, and even the dodgy Eighties “License To Kill” won me over and took my mind off the hideous graphics displayed on the stage like early Microsoft screensavers. The only time the screens are put to proper use is during “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” when selections of old photographs of the Pips are flashed up. As for the Pips they’re represented by Gladys’ brother Bubba who joins for some banter and a slickly choreographed routine to give his sis five minutes for a breather and quick costume change.

I wouldn’t chose to end the evening with a Hi-NRG version of “I Will Survive” but boy, pockets of the audience lap it up, and I can see the appropriateness of it. I can’t believe she’ll be hanging up her microphone for good; it’ll be a terrible waste if she does. I’m Backing Gladys: Queen of Soul.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

PORK AND BEANS, FRIDAY 16th OCTOBER


The debauchery and disorder that engulfed the previous Pork and Beans was wildly disproportionate to the very sensible closing time of 1am. There were beers, shots, drive-by abusers, petty thieving, and siblings whose legs turned to cheese. There was probably some music (I’ve a faint recollection of “Surfin’ Brid”) and possibly some dancing. It’s very vague but it was my birthday. I do recall it being a lively little bar so roll on the next one when I’ll be playing one record after another, many with a monkey theme.

Monday, 5 October 2009

SEPARATION (1967)


Directed by Jack Bond, Separation is an obscure piece of experimental and highly original British cinema that’s managed to avoid the radar of almost everyone bar hardened film buffs since its release in 1967. The BFI have now released it on DVD.

It’s a difficult film to neatly categorise. Shot in black and white and largely cheerless; yet this is no kitchen sink drama. These characters are far too well-to-do: they eat in fancy restaurants, dress in high end fashions, drive groovy painted cars around the King’s Road, and shop in expensive department stores. Despite all this, plus the sound of Procol Harum and occasional snatch of technicoloured liquid oil projections over naked bodies, it’s not your typical Swinging London film either.

Reviews at the time varied from the Daily Mirror’s blunt “cinema bonkers” to the Observer’s more considered “astonishingly distressing and perceptive”. As is the way, it’s a bit of both but initial reaction veers more to bonkers as it’s tricky to figure out precisely who is who and what the devil is going on. It gradually makes more sense (particularly on second viewing) but its non-linear direction and its is-it-a-dream-or-is-it-not passages leave the viewer as confused and disorientated as the main character Jane (played by Jane Arden, who wrote the screenplay and original story), who dealing with the emotions stirred from the separation from her husband, her relationship with her young lover, and the death of her mother tumbles deeper into mental breakdown.

There are bags of stylistic tics and effects throughout the film, which is so beautifully shot it can be enjoyed purely aesthetically until the story slowly sinks in. The swimming pool sequence alone has to be seen to be believed.

As always with BFI releases the packaging is faultless with a 30 page booklet and many extras including a full-length commentary by Jack Bond who sheds useful light on the film, its background, and his relationship with Arden who took her own life in 1982.

Separation is released by BFI. www.bfi.org.uk

GLADYS KNIGHT - "HELP ME MAKE IT THROUGH THE NIGHT"

For those who missed this on last week's Later With Jools Holland. Incredible.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS AND BEER ETIQUETTE


I recently bought a signed limited edition print of the above photograph of William Burroughs from the photographer John "Hoppy" Hopkins.

It was taken in the Lower East Side apartment Burroughs was using in New York between Chinatown and the Bowery during 1965. Hoppy was in America to take photos at the Newport Jazz Festival, so went to take some Burroughs pictures while there, some of which were later used in IT. I asked Hoppy what he was like. “He was okay but not one for small talk.”

Although they were not strangers, having previously met in London, the atmosphere was far from comfortable. Bill asked if Hoppy wanted a beer. Yes please, but asked for some ice in it. “You don’t have ice in beer” says Bill. Was he annoyed? “No, not annoyed, it just proved to him how stupid I was”.

John “Hoppy” Hopkins current exhibition “Taking Liberties” is at the Street Level Gallery, Trongate, Glasgow until 7th November 2009.

www.hoppy.be

Monday, 28 September 2009

THE FOUR TOPS - BABY I NEED YOUR LOVIN'

There was always an infectious warmth and joy that radiated from Four Tops performances, even when delivering such desperately pleading lines as "Empty nights/ Echo your name" and “This emptiness won't let me live without you/ This loneliness inside me darlin'/ Makes me feel not alive”.

With this being the 50th anniversary of Motown, raise your glasses to Levi Stubbs, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Obie Benson and Lawrence Peyton.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

SEPTEMBER PLAYLIST


Some songs for September.

1. Richard Wylie and His Band – “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1960)
Barrelhouse piano, a crazy mixed up melody, and bendy guitar lick so sneaky it’ll reach deep inside the tightest confines of your pocket and pinch your last dime without you even noticing.

2. Tubby Hayes – “The Late One” (1961)
Tenor virtuosity from the Tubster as he leads his quartet with lightning fingers and a lairy shirt.

3. The Miracles – “I’ll Try Something New” (1962)
Call a doctor, there’s been a severe case of Smokey fever sweeping through Monkey Mansions this month.

4. Dave Berry – “Don’t Gimme Me No Lip Child” (1964)
Berry’s meaty, beaty, big and bouncy bombshell must’ve taken a few teenyboppers by surprise when they flipped over his “Crying Game”.

5. The Byrds – “Why” (1966)
The version on the B side of “Eight Miles High” was recorded a year before the Younger Than Yesterday one, and contains a far groovier wigged out raga bit in the middle.

6. Lou Ragland – “Since You Said You’d Be Mine” (1973)
Paying Our Dues is one of my favourite Kent compilations and as Ady Croasdell perceptively notes on the sleeve the lyric “I’m three times happier than the law allows me to be” is pure class. Remixed by John Cale. That John Cale?

7. Pissed Jeans – “Ashamed Of My Cum” (2005)
Yes, there really is a band called Pissed Jeans, and yes, they really do have a song called “Ashamed Of My Cum”. Not quite X-Factor material unless Simon Cowell sees pound signs in the sound of starving apes trapped in a recording studio taunted by the sight of food waved at the window. Is that a recommendation? Only if you’re thirteen and looking to piss off your parents.

8. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart LP (2009)
Once upon a time, back in the late 80’s, indie meant indie. The girls had bobs and cute button noses and the more astute boys yearned to look like Sterling Morrison. Distorted guitars would wash over Spectoresque drums, waves of sound and melodies would dreamily float in and out the fuzz, and earnest young fanzine writers would sit in their bedrooms armed with cheap typewriters, scissors and Pritt-Stick as John Peel played another Mongolian import. Ah, sweet memories.

9. The Cribs – Ignore The Ignorant LP (2009)
Oh dear, what’s happened to The Cribs? They’ve now all the bite of a dog with its teeth removed. And it probably seemed such a great idea getting Johnny Marr to join. He sprinkles his nice fancy Marrisms over the new album, but if you sprinkle sugar over a turd it’ll still taste of shit.

10. The Lemonheads – “Layin’ Up With Linda” (Live at the Forum, Saturday 19th September 2009)
Yep, they’re still going and last Saturday, with the grungeometer turned to ten, they beat the buggery out of their fabulous back catalogue and threw in some new ones like this cover of GG Allin’s chucklesome tale of killing his girlfriend.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

MOZIPEDIA: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MORRISSEY AND THE SMITHS by SIMON GODDARD


Start handing out the Music Book of the Year awards now. Simon Goddard, I hope you’ve a very large mantelpiece.

Over 600 entries across 532 pages cataloguing in exhaustive detail everything you’d ever need about Morrissey and Smiths songs, plus all the books, films, actors, singers, groups, records and anything else that has lit Mozza’s muse. All the significant people he has worked with, all the places of interest, all the odds and ends that paint the most comprehensive portrait you’ll find of the man. And he’s maybe not quite the man you think he is. Or perhaps he’s more men than you think he is.

Yes, he’s the vegetarian, flower smashing, hearing-aid modeling, James Dean worshipping, master of Wildean wit and withering putdown; he’s also a football watching, boxing following, beer swilling, ecstasy taking, listener of the Cockney Rejects.

Goddard’s pain staking research and the book’s attractive encyclopedic format offers more scope to cover beyond a bog-standard music biography and it does with glorious aplomb.

Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and The Smiths by Simon Goddard is published by Ebury Press, priced £25.

Monday, 21 September 2009

RICHARD HAWLEY - "FOR YOUR LOVER, GIVE SOME TIME"

None of the usual Monday frivolity. Richard Hawley’s new album, Truelove’s Gutter, is out today and here’s a stunning Scottastic track from it.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

LAST DAYS OF THE CROSS by JOSEPH RIDGWELL


When I first came across Joe Ridgwell’s writing a few years back – mainly short stories scattered across the internet - he claimed to be the author of a novel Last Days of the Cross. After searching for it to no avail I put it down to self-mythologising bullshit, but no, here it finally is courtesy of new independent publishers Grievous Jones Press.

Ridgwell delivers straight down the line, no nonsense, no fussing, unpretentious, conversational storytelling where the words fly off the page. In Last Days of the Cross his romantic notion of becoming a poet lands him in Australia, where he assumes wondrous poems will come tumbling forth to critical acclaim and Joseph Ridgwell Appreciation Societies will be founded. That he chose Australia in the first place shows his head ain’t screwed on straight and further evidence of his rash heart-ruling-the-head nature comes when Joe falls for a junkie prostitute who’s just nicked his money.

There are obvious (and acknowledged) influences of both Arturo Bandini’s delusional claims of artistic greatness in John Fante’s Ask The Dust and Henry Chinaski’s need to hustle ridiculous jobs as poetry doesn’t put beer in the fridge from Charles Bukowski’s Factotum. Readers of those will find much to enjoy here as the tale wobbles from self-inflicted heartache to pure comedy on the turn of a page, leading to a cringing will-he/won’t-he dilemma when faced with an unexpected proposition.

Thoroughly recommend this and as good as it is I predict Joe’s next one will be even better. That appreciation society might not be too far away.

Last Days of the Cross by Joseph Ridgwell is published by Grievous Jones Press, priced £10. www.grievousjonespress.com.
In Search of the Lost Elation at www.josephridgwell.blogspot.com

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

SMOKEY ROBINSON COMES TO LONDON


The Godlike Genius that is William “Smokey” Robinson is coming to London to play the Roundhouse as part of the BBC Electric Proms on Saturday 24th October. How bloody exciting is that?

Here's part of the official blurb:

"A true soul legend takes to the Roundhouse stage for a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the birth of Motown records. Smokey Robinson performs his greatest hits plus songs from his new album Time Flies When You're Having Fun.

Smokey Robinson and his band will be joined by the BBC Concert Orchestra. For the first time, BBC Electric Proms has specially commissioned brand new arrangements of these cherished hits for what promises to be a magical performance".

The "new arrangements" part sounds ominous but I'm prepared to swallow that for a paltry £25. If you hear some cockney bellowing on the telly for “If Your Mother Only Knew”, “Whatever Makes You Happy”, "Choosey Beggar" or “A Fork In The Road”, that’ll be me.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

THE WIND OF CHANGE (1961)


I love a good old black and white kitchen sink drama and so, it seems, do Odeon Entertainment as they continue to release forgotten gems of the genre on DVD for the first time, the latest being The Wind Of Change.

Set around Portobello Road and the Notting Hill race riots of ’58, the film stars Johnny Briggs – better known as demented pajama clad knicker boss Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street – as Frank, the leader of a racist Teddy Boy gang who also count a youthful David Hemmings in their ranks. The gang head out looking for “one of them” when they spot a black man with a white girl and proceed to do their business with bike chains and coshs. The couple happens to be Frank’s sister Josie and her new boyfriend.

The film then explores the relationships, attitudes and prejudices within Frank and Josie’s family. The mother sees little wrong in her precious boy, whilst Pops (Donald Pleasence) is more or less the voice of reason; he even keeps a black rabbit with his white rabbits and they get along. Not that it stops Pops, seemingly innocently, naming him Nigger. The racist language throughout would make even Alf Garnett wince and Briggs’ performance is frighteningly convincing in its moronic idiocy.

Hence the reason it’s not likely to be screened on the box. It’s a difficult film to love but as documentary and drama of the time (and probably, unfortunately, not just of it's time) it’s well worth investigating. The DVD comes with an extra film, the 1962 espionage thriller The Traitors. I’m no fan of spy capers so the highlight there was spotting a few Lambrettas on London streets.

The Wind Of Change/The Traitors is released by Odeon Entertainment and sells for £7.98 on Amazon. Other retail outlets are available.

Monday, 14 September 2009

THE FLINTSTONES LIGHT UP

Fred and Barney put up a very convincing case to take up smoking.

Friday, 11 September 2009

BUZZ WITH THE FUZZ, MILAN


If you happen to be flouncing through the streets of Milan in a couple of weeks, you’ll be in time to catch me DJing for those fine folk at Buzz With The Fuzz.

Who am I kidding? I’ll be there supping my espresso and Peroni, you lot won’t. I’m only posting it here to show off.

Ciao bambinos.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

THE CAT INSIDE by WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS


The Cat Inside, first published in 1986, was one of four Burroughs titles reprinted as part of the Penguin Modern Classics series last week, containing anecdotes, diary entries and dreams all about his love of cats and it’s quite unlike anything else in his canon. Bill, then in his early 70s, comes across as a sweet, slightly sentimental, old codger pottering about adopting stray cats and making small talk in the pet food store. It does little for his reputation as a literary outlaw but humanizes him and injects (pun unintentional) some belated warmth into his chilly persona. Here’s a typical entry:

“I don’t remember exactly when Ruski first came into the house. I remember sitting in a chair by the fireplace with the front door open and he saw me from fifty feet away and ran up, giving the special little squeaks I never heard from another cat, and jumped into my lap, nuzzling and purring and putting his little paws up to my face, telling me he wanted me to be my cat.” (Ahhh).

Burroughs is usually utterly distinctive but you’d never recognise him from that cute fluffiness. You’d maybe expect Ruski to then morph into some disease ridden alien life form that tries to fuck you up the arse before snapping your spine but he doesn’t. Bill’s fascination with guns and weapons was deep rooted but here cuddly Bill becomes furious after a badger is shot, goes into apoplexy about fox hunting and bemoans the destruction of rainforests like Swampy’s incensed Grandpa waving his cane.

But the focus is cats. If you’re not a cat person you’ll not get much out of The Cat Inside but if you’re stuck for a present for your feline fancying friend this’ll beat a moggy mug. It might even turn Granny on to Naked Lunch

The Cat Inside (1986), Interzone (1989), Letters 1945-1959 (1993) and My Education: A Book Of Dreams (1995) are all published by Penguin Modern Classics.

Monday, 7 September 2009

GO GO DANCE CONTEST (1970)

Time for your Monday dance treat.

Beats reading about dead poets I'm sure you'll agree. (For Mr. Ridgwell).

Sunday, 6 September 2009

KEROUAC AT BAT by ISAAC GEWIRTZ


Jack Kerouac enthusiasts will be raising their glasses to the publication of Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats by Isaac Gewirtz.

Readers of his biographies will know as a child Jack devised an elaborate world of fantasy sports games (primarily horse racing and baseball); not only inventing the games, with sticks and marbles, but creating tournaments, players, coaches, trainers, betting tips, then recording all the results, stats and news in painstaking detail on scorecards and in his own newspapers.

If the horse racing game was relatively simple and dropped by the age of sixteen, the baseball game was so baffling in its complexity as Jack wrestled to reflect every conceivable outcome of play, that he continued it right through his adult life; a fact he chose to keep from his beat buddies. Think how different On The Road might have been. “Hey Dean, instead of heading to that gloomy Mexican whorehouse, how about we play marbles?” “Wow! Yes Sal! Yes! Yes! Yes! That is of course what we must do. Think of the kicks we’ll have”.

Gewirtz’s book reproduces a mere 5% of the surviving collection of this curious, solitary occupation that reflects not only Jack’s imagination and thirst for recording events but how serious and obsessive he was with writing from an early age. Later he would meticulously log his daily word count and agonize if he hadn’t written enough, and even here as an adolescent he’d fill endless pages with neat penciled handwriting, before moving to the dense blocks of typed text seen in the scroll version of Road.

A curio for the collection but a welcome one.

Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats by Isaac Gewirtz is published by the New York Public Library (www.nypl.org)

Thursday, 3 September 2009

COOL BRIGHTON FILM

Found this great little film of the Brighton rally on YouTube. Dont know who made it but they've captured it just right I reckon. Well done whoever you are.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

BRIGHTON MODERNIST/60S WEEKENDER


After another depressing week of reading the on-line bickering and pronouncements on the Death of the Mod Scene, plus a few balls being taking home in a huff, it was a welcome relief to get to Brighton and find there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.

Friday night at the Smugglers had yard for yard the smartest turnout I’d witnessed for ages and those that fret about ruining their tan suede driving shoes could’ve relaxed as friendly, civilized decorum mixed seamlessly with well mannered hedonism to a soundtrack heavily slanted in the R&B direction.


The Saturday and Sunday allnighters were less civilized (but no less fun) as a sell-out 400/500 crowd packed the Komedia Theatre. It’s increasingly difficult to get an aging scene (with some very notable and welcome exceptions) to run of the mill club nights but they’ll make the effort when presented with something special. From a DJ-ing point of view, it was a real buzz to play to an appreciative and enthusiastic crowd more into dancing than standing around (bit of pot, kettle and black there I admit), and in a venue with not only a cracking PA system but a decent sound engineer too. Also the fact mine and Speed’s sets tended to be next to each over the weekend, me playing R&B/Soul and he British Beat/US Garage, with no discernable difference to the dance floor showed people’s tastes aren’t always as black and white as you could be led to believe.


Sunday daytime saw the scooter ride-out and although numbers were small fry compared to what was happening at the Isle of Wight, they were up on previous years and I’d sooner see Mods on Mod scooters than any number of scooterists (or "trees" for those that are still scarred by the 80s) on whatever bastardized machines they want to inflict on the world. Some footage.

A weekend, as always, to meet old friends and new and rekindle the faith. Next year I’ll finally take the SX.

Here’s my playlist from Saturday (to save on space I'll skip the Sunday ones):

Early Set
Lou Donaldson – The Humpback (Blue Note)
Fred Ford – Blackeyed Rattlesnake (Duke)
Toussaint McCall – The Toussaint Shuffle (Ronn)
Ray Charles – You’re Just About To Lose Your Clown (ABC)
Lloyd Price – Take All (Jad)
BB King – Beautician Blues (Kent)
Jimmy McCracklin – Susie and Pat (Art-Tone)
Big Jack Reynolds – I Had A Little Dog (Hi-Q)
L. Roy Baimes – Hey L. Roy (BJR)
Buddy Lamp – My Tears (Double-L)
Danny Brown – Chewing Gum (Earth)
Anna Belle Caesar – Little Annie (Gladhamp)
Gospel Pearls – Two Little Fishes (Liberty)
Guitar Red – Just You and I (Checker)

Later Set
Leo Price and Band – Hey Now Baby (Up-Down)
Dee Dee Sharp – Deep Dark Secret (Cameo)
Gloria Grey – It’s A Sweet World (Warner Brothers)
Ray Scott – Right Now (Decca)
Aretha Franklin – Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket (Columbia)
Mike Pedecin – Burnt Toast and Black Coffee (Federal)
Grover Pruitt – Little Girl (Salem)
Bobby Peterson Quintet – Mama Get Your Hammer (V-Tone)
Gardenias – What’s The Matter With Me (Fairline)
Lloyd Price – The Chicken and the Bop (KRC)
JB Lenior – She Don’t Know (Checker)
Sugar Boy Williams – Little Girl (Herald)
Banny Price – You Love Me Pretty Baby (Jewel)
Dick Holler – Mooba Grooba (Comet)
Ritchie Barrett – Some Other Guy (Atlantic)
Marv Johnson – Come On and Stop (United Artists)
James Brown – Good Good Lovin’ (Federal)