Saturday, 30 April 2011
With a game to spare, Queen's Park Rangers this afternoon won the Championship. The last time I witnessed this was in 1983 so I am very excited but not quite as excited as Patrick Agyemang (centre) appears in this photo by taken by defender Peter Ramage.
Thursday, 28 April 2011
The issue of rampaging urban foxes causing death and destruction around here in Hackney was big news last year after nine month old twins were attacked in their cots. The media couldn’t get enough of the story with folk like Ali Bradwell, a victim of a fox attack, stepping forward to dramatically declare "Today rather like hoodies they hang around in groups of four to six on street corners." Smoking crack. Pleas for Londoners not to feed the foxes appear to have fallen on deaf ears judging by this monster I spotted on Waterloo Bridge yesterday.
Click here for Clarence Carter's 1968 thumper for Atlantic Records, “Looking For A Fox”.
Tuesday, 26 April 2011
I’d religiously bought all the BFI/Flipside series of weird and wonderful British films from the 60s and early 70s but stopped with the all-too-familiar Bronco Bullfrog and Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, which also altered the packaging and screwed the symmetry of the DVD shelf. All that is now forgiven thanks to Duffer, number 15 in the series and one of the best. Wonderful wouldn’t be the right word but weird most certainly is.
The title character (played by young Martin Freeman lookalike Kit Gleave) is a sensitive youth who divides his time between the dominating Louis Jack, who in his grubby hovel tortures him, buggers him, stars him in dodgy home made films, sticks worms over him and even attempts to get him pregnant; and a cuddly prostitute, Your Gracie, who offers him candlelit bangers and mash and warm protection in her flouncy sheets and jelly breasts. The parent-less Duffer narrates the film throughout and the relationship with his older companions is, as he says, “one for you with your psychology books”. Of Your Gracie he unconvincing offers “My mother and I never had sex together, it never entered our heads” and whilst Louis Jack performs one disturbing routine after another on Duffer he doesn't leave him. “He needed me. I knew it was important to have human sympathy for other people. I had to let him do what he liked to me because it gave him so much pleasure. Who was I to deny him his little pleasures?”
Duffer knows he can’t be pregnant yet his stomach swells (possibly down to being force fed endless jars of apricots). When the “birth” turns out to be a phantom pregnancy, events spiral out of control as a disturbed and confused Duffer struggles to separate fact from fiction, seeking refuge by Hammersmith Bridge where “Louis Jack was a dream, not a reality at all”.
Duffer was made by directors Joseph Despins and William Dumaresq for only £2,500 and shot to a Galt MacDermot (Hair) piano accompaniment in grainy black and white throughout crumbling West London streets inhabited by shady stalking characters and feuding couples. It’s not comfortable viewing but totally absorbing and unlike anything else I’ve seen. Many period details stick out: the deliberate placing of a box of Omo washing powder in Louis Jack’s flat gave me a childish titter; as did the billboard poster “Talk Him In To A New Gas Cooker”; whilst I’d completely forgotten about open air urinals at the side of roads.
The set includes another Despins/Dumaresq film, The Moon Over The Alley (1975), which far from being a tacked on “extra” is worthy of its own billing. Centered around the lives of the multicultural residents in a Notting Hill boarding house it looks and feels like a kitchen sink drama from ten years earlier, albeit one where the characters occasionally sing their stories. That sounds like a terrible concept but mercifully doesn’t detract too much from a warm yet ultimately depressing tale.
Duffer/The Moon Over The Alley is released as a combined DVD/Blu-Ray set by BFI/Flipside.
Sunday, 24 April 2011
1. Carl Perkins – “Put Your Cat Clothes On” (1957)
Cos yer gonna need something to go with those blue suede shoes.
2. Jerry Butler – “Giving Up On Love” (1964)
When The Iceman jumped from The Impressions he created a wonderful two-for-the-price-of-one deal with both acts lavishing us with treasures. This stunning ballad will stop you in your tracks, especially when Jerry delivers the line “I’m giving up on love, before love gives up on me”. Listen out also for the “My Lovely Horse” sax solo.
3. The Granville Williams Orchestra – “Honky Tonk Ska” (1965)
The title only tells half the story. Jazz and soul tell the other half. Works though.
4. Manfred Mann – “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” (1965)
Years before anyone got to hear Dylan’s original the Manfreds slayed it with this high speed version.
5. Nina Simone – “Don’t You Pay Them No Mind” (1967)
From her modestly titled High Priestess of Soul LP. It sacrilege in some circles but her warbling style often grates with me, but I’ll give her this one.
6. Swamp Dogg – “Total Destruction To Your Mind” (1970)
Jerry Williams is best known in northern soul circles for his crusty 1966 classic “If You Ask Me” yet when he reinvented himself in 1970 as a giant rat riding Swamp Dogg he came up with something altogether more interesting. Swamp’s first LP runs through seriously good southern soul which belies his nutty persona, and lowdown psychedelic funk like this title track.
7. Link Wray – “Fire and Brimstone” (1971)
Sanctified country soul isn’t what Wray is best known for, but it’s what he delivers throughout his terrific eponymous ’71 album recorded in a chicken shack on his farm. If you ever end up round Bobby Gillespie’s gaff after a night on the razz, I’ll bet you’ll find him sticking this on and doing his demented pterodactyl dance.
8. Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers – “Born To Lose” (1977)
Remember Vaughan Toulouse from Department S? Try listening to this without singing “Vaughan Toulouse, Baby I’m Vaughan Toulouse” on the chorus.
9. Senseless Things – “Too Much Kissing” (1989)
During the great indie long-sleeved t-shirt wars of the late 80s/early 90s the Senseless Things’ own Pop Kid creation - a star shaped mod target – was, relatively speaking, a design classic. They were at their best as a full throttle bash-bash-bash live act but had a few memorable tunes as “Too Much Kissing” shows.
10. Cat’s Eyes – “I Knew It Was Over” (2011)
Saturday, 23 April 2011
Have you ever thought about the greatest five minutes of your life? I have, and nothing even comes close to the five sensational minutes Eric Burdon and Chris Farlowe spent on Ready Steady Go singing the shit out of Sam Cooke’s “Shake!” with Otis Redding to an audience of London’s sharpest raving mods. I mean, life cannot get any better than that.
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Steve Marriott died twenty years ago today after tragically demonstrating the dangers of drinking, smoking and poor fire safety awareness.
I clearly remember seeing Paul Weller at Brixton Academy that night and being told of Marriott's death outside the venue beforehand. It felt more a rumour than fact and Weller opening his set with "Tin Soldier" (which he often played anyway) only added to the nagging was he/wasn't he feeling.
At the time I thought, as much as I loved the Small Faces, he was ancient yet he was only 44, which makes his death more upsetting for me today than it did in 1991. Rest easy little fella.
Sunday, 17 April 2011
This is a public service announcement rather than a review. It ain’t no use to sit wonder why babe, if you don’t know by now. A recording discovered in 2009 and previously only available as a box set bonus disc, Brandeis University 1963 now gets a merited stand-alone release.
Saturday 10th May 1963 and Dylan had one album in the shops, which scarcely hinted at what was to come two weeks later with Freewheelin’, when he’d enter the public consciousness in dramatic fashion. Here, low down the bill in a university folk festival, Bob has the audience hanging on every masterfully annunciated word. Within two short sets you’d think he’d be eager to showcase “Blowin’ In the Wind” or “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” but, luckily for us now, he opts for “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” and “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues”, songs that wouldn’t even feature on future studio albums such was the pace and quality of songs flowing from his pencil.
“Ballad of Hollis Brown” and “Masters of War” is heavy, hypnotic Bob, but elsewhere it's jokey, playful Bob providing plenty of laughs, illustrating his songs with witty surreal adventures delivered with perfect comic timing. The aforementioned “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” tells of a New York boat trip that was cancelled after too many people turned up and the boat started to sink. In Bob’s fanciful version of a real event, he gets washed ashore where his arms and legs are busted, stomach cracked, feet splintered, he couldn’t walk, talk, see or smell, feel, touch, crawl, “I was bald, I was naked. Quite lucky to be alive though”.
Seven songs, over 38 minutes, less than five quid. Announcement ends.
Bob Dylan In Concert – Brandeis University 1963 is released by Columbia Records.
Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Much as there is to commend Etta James’s honking 50s recordings, it’s her later time at Chess that produced her greatest work and those most synonymous with her name. Even when she was locked in the arms of bad men, heroin addiction, cashing bad cheques with partner in crime Esther Phillips (if you’re gonna be ripped off…) and jail, Leonard Chess ensured she had a roof over her head and kept her from starving; even if he, in Etta’s own words “ripped off copyrights” and “fucked you on royalties”. She counted herself lucky and paid him back by always cutting the mustard in the studio.
Who’s Blue? collates 24 tracks recorded between 1961 and 1976: a smattering are well known but the majority - on CD for the first time – will be fresh listening to many an ear. Two thirds were cut in the 60s and they range from string laden ballads, danceable rhythm and soul, and stabbing funk. They aren’t sequenced chronologically but are more or less batched together by style.
Her personality is striking on her best records and is evident here too as she pours herself in to the songs with that unmistakable phrasing of hers that swings between her overlooked vulnerability and often mentioned toughness. James Brown sang “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I’ll Get It Myself)”; Etta James would open that door herself.
It’s pushing it to call “Seven Day Fool”, “Fire” or even “Street of Tears” rare to anyone with a few Etta singles in their box but it certainly applies to “Can’t Shake It” – a previously unissued girl group dancer from 1964 which had it been available as a single would now be as instantly recognisable in R&B clubs as “Mellow Fellow” or “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” (neither included here). Album track “Do Right” is another in the same club friendly vein. The pair would make a killer 45.
Not every track over the 70 minutes is essential; I still wish comps consisted of a maximum of sixteen tracks but the occasional boring one towards the end is excusable. Kent Records have, as always, packaged it with loving care: great sound and a super illustrated booklet. Now, if only someone would do the same and put out a quality "Best of" to counteract all those poor quality CDs that litter bookshops and garages and do an artist of her magnitude a disservice.
Who’s Blue: Rare Chess Recordings From The 60s and 70s by Etta James is released by Kent Records.
Sunday, 10 April 2011
Thursday, 7 April 2011
Monday, 4 April 2011
Warm hearted Liam Gallagher was reportedly the brains behind this benefit gig for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. He personally organised it. "Paul, wanna do a gig for them people in Japan?" Grunt. "Sound." And we’re off…
First up were The Coral. They chimed their Rickenbackers in unison to tracks from Butterfly House and earlier. The lush Wirral West Coast harmonies of “1000 Years” one minute and the heavier Fillmore wig-out of “North Parade” the next. They played their biggie “Dreaming of You” and even did “Ticket To Ride”. It seemed a shame to waste their stage time with that, which dragged like they were pulling the rotting carcass of Merseybeat around with them, when their own stuff is better. I wondered if Liam had stipulated everyone had to play a Beatles song. I braced myself. As performers, The Coral offer nothing beyond their songs and musicianship - there’s more movement in George Harrison’s slippers - but they put down a solid marker for the evening and this morning I’ve been listening to them again.
Graham Coxon was the most surprising name on Liam’s wish list and what he made of Coxon’s set is anyone’s guess. From the start he promised/warned he was going to play some old songs and some new songs. Old songs would mean old solo songs, not old “Coffee and TV” songs. He kicked off with something akin to a child’s messy bedroom. There was stuff jumbled all over the place. “Confusing, weren’t it?” he acknowledged. He continued in this vein like an angry teenager playing his New York CBGBs punk records in one room and his Buzzcocks, Jam and Clash records in another down the phone to his mate in Seattle at top volume to annoy his parents. His wasn’t a singalong set, even “Standing On My Own Again” and “Freakin’ Out” seemed obscure to most, but he went down well. I mean, it’s the geezer from Blur innit?
I hadn’t expected The Coral to be on first so it made the running order a fun guessing game. Not many guessed Paul Weller. The last time I saw him was twenty years ago, stood on the same spot, with one Japanese issued solo album to his name but I’ve kept tabs on him. I can trace almost every twig and branch on my musical tree back to the acorn planted when I bought The Jam’s “Absolute Beginners” as boy breaking into mod and spots. With his grey Uncle Bulgaria mullet, tonight Lord Welly clears up. He struts his slim line frame and kicks out a flared trouser leg and juts his head like a startled tortoise. Set wise he plays thirteen songs: three Jam songs, including “Art School” which somehow now requires three guitars and a feisty “Eton Rifles”, solo stuff, but unfortunately nothing from the Style Council era. If I never hear the likes of “Whirlpool’s End” or “The Changingman” again it’ll be too soon but it doesn’t detract from the performance and his commanding presence. He is an absolute class act, no doubt, and in the bonkers “Fast Car, Slow Traffic” can still joyfully rub against the grain. “From The Floorboards Up” and “Come On/ Let’s Go” burned brightly but my eyes rolled to the back of my head for the next Beatles karaoke moment, “Come Together”. Argh.
Kelly Jones is from a band called The Stereophonics. He played three songs on a guitar. Wayne Rooney has a Stereophonics tattoo.
Of all the acts, Primal Scream are the one I’ve seen most down the years. Usually they’re good, sometimes great, although the last time, off the back of the glittery disco balls-up Beautiful Future, they were going through the motions and frankly rubbish. From the thundering opening of “Accelerator” they were in the mood, and some. At first I thought Mani had been replaced on bass by David Hasselhoff before realizing it was Glen Matlock. Phew. Anyway, the Scream totally smashed the place, with Bobby Gillespie, still wearing that red silk shirt from 1991, pulling out all the stops - all flailing limbs and hair. “Movin’ On Up” will always be a winner, “Loaded” still sounded fresh, “Country Girl” was blistering, and I’ve never heard them do “Rocks” with such conviction. Beatles cover? Do me a favour. For them it was a grubby Stoogesy version of Billy Boy Arnold’s “I Wish You Would” leading into Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”. Like I say, totally smashed it.
Richard Ashcroft’s three song acoustic spot allowed some breathing space. In the days of indoor smoking “Sonnet” and “Lucky Man” would’ve bought a sea of lighters to the air as everyone swayed along. He did a new one which sounded like an old one and was gone. He was in fine voice but didn’t do “The Drugs Don’t Work”. The bastard.
I’ve tried listening to Beady Eye’s album but haven’t yet made it until the end. It’s predictable, overlong, but not – if I’m being generous - especially terrible (although there are some songs which are precisely that). If released in 1997 it would’ve been the third best Oasis LP. The problem they have is following four hours packed with classic moments and memories from people’s lives with only their tepidly received album. So when Liam sings “I’m gonna stand the test of time like the Beatles and Stones”, you feel like patting him on his head. He of course prowls around like a gibbon in an oversized parka and still hasn’t cottoned on that if he actually touched the mic stand he could raise it a couple of inches so he didn’t need to bend his knees and tilt his head to sing. Bless. “Four Letter Word” and “Bring The Light” are brash and ballsy and work well but any (relative) subtlety in more thoughtful tracks like “Millionaire” are bludgeoned out of them by the thick wall of noise and constant thump-thump-thumping. Liam, just because you turn it up, it doesn’t make it sound any better and flashing lots of bright lights won't distract us for long. After a while it gets so damn monotonous and a test of endurance that beats many as they head to the door with ears ringing. Those who sneaked off missed a cover of the Beatles "Across The Universe".
Over £150,000 was raised for the British Red Cross to help the people of Japan.