Thursday, 30 August 2012

AUGUST PLAYLIST



1.  Woody Guthrie – “Talkin’ Fishing Blues” (1944)
Young Bob Dylan’s song writing pencil was low on lead after studying songs like this.  

2.  Roland Kirk – “The Monkey Thing” (1963)
This comes courtesy of Monkey Snr and is suitably bonkers. Recorded live in Copenhagen, Kirk’s party piece was to play many instruments at once; here he sings and moans, lays waste to a flute, some saxophones, blows a nose flute (really), whilst still finding time to trades riffs with Sonny Boy Williamson who joins on harmonica. Awesome.

3.  The Martinis – “Holiday Cheer” (1966)
After hard partying Charles “Packy” Axton left the Mar-Keys and his mum and uncle’s Stax label he cut a bunch of similarly tough instrumentals for a variety of companies including this doorbell-ringin’, glass-clinkin’, boozy swinger for USA Records up in Chicago.  

4.  The Electric Prunes – “Long Day’s Flight” (1967)
The psychedelic hubble and bubble which closes their Underground LP sounds as much Elevators as Prunes, which is no bad thing.

5.  Frank Beverly and the Butlers – “Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)” (1968)
From the first soul nights I attended, right up until this month’s 100 Club allnighter, I’ve danced to Beverly’s “If That’s What You Wanted”, completely unaware of this beauty – reminiscent of the Temptations’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You” with extra breakbeats - tucked away on the flipside.

6.  Rodriguez – “Cause” (1971)
Second playlist in a row for my latest obsession. The string arrangement is like Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter but the voice and lyrics are pure Rodriguez.

7.  Ann Peebles – “(You Keep Me) Hangin’ On” (1974)
From the I Can’t Stand The Rain LP with that unmistakeable Willie Mitchell production and Ann’s, as always, beautiful vocal.  

8.  Public Image Ltd – “Chant” (1979)
Yesterday, for the first time, I managed to play Metal Box (or to be strictly accurate, Second Edition) all the way through in one sitting. It felt like an achievement, like triumphing in a Man Versus Food challenge. Wouldn't want to do it every day though. 

9.  Munly and the Lee Lewis Harlots – “Cassius Castrato The She-Male Of The Men’s Prison” (2004)
Er...    

10.  Brain Washington – “LSD” (2012)
One could take LSD to gently conjure dazzling visions of ancient Aztec temples or, alternatively, like Brain Washington, to set yourself on fire and ride a Harley at top whack into a brick wall laughing like a maniac. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

BRIGHTON MOD RALLY SCOOTER RIDE OUT, 26 AUGUST 2012


August Bank Holiday and the Mods descended on Brighton once again for the New Untouchables rally. Sunday afternoon's scooter ride out used to be something of a minor element of the weekend but has grown steadily; yesterday's one - organised with the Bar Italia Scooter Club - had the highest turn out in modern times. My footage of riders gratefully escaping the rancid stench emanating from the Volk’s Tavern toilets won’t win any cinematography awards but if you want to count hundreds of Lambrettas and Vespas as they putt-putt past, fill yer desert boots.   

Saturday, 25 August 2012

“I AM AN ARCHITECT”: THE NIGHT I MET JAMES DEAN BRADFIELD


"Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps" - Public Enemy, Fight The Power.

On Tuesday I went to the launch of Stealing Sheep’s Into The Diamond Sun album at Madame JoJo’s in Soho.  There were a few people milling around outside and a short queue. As I tried to work out which was which I heard a familiar Welsh accent to my left.  James Dean Bradfield, dressed head to toe in black, was stood against the wall chatting to, what I assumed by James’s verbosity, a friend. I’ll admit I went a little dizzy. What an opportunity to meet him. But what could I say? My mind went blank with nervous excitement. Should I just say hello? That’s a bit weird though. Is it acceptable to intrude? I had no witty one-liners up my sleeve and briefly thought about ignored him like everyone else. But everyone else doesn’t listen to the Manic Street Preachers on a near daily basis; doesn’t consider The Holy Bible the greatest album ever made; “Motown Junk” the most thrilling single ever made; hasn’t seen countless Manics’ gigs over a 21 year period; and doesn’t have a mild Richey Edwards obsession. You get the idea. I had to bite the bullet. It doesn’t matter what line of business you’re in, everyone likes to be appreciated and Bradfield is intelligent enough to know when it’s genuine and not bullshit. I only wanted to say “Thanks” anyway, so eventually stuttered “Sorry to interrupt” – I hadn’t interrupted, there was a break in their conversation – “I just wanted to shake your hand.” Ah, thanks, he said and nearly broke my fingers. I mumbled something about thanking him for all the music and the gigs and stuff. He seemed quite chuffed and asked my name. That was nice. I debated whether to say Monkey or Mark. My friend Gemma once got his autograph for me when she worked at Fred Perry. It says “To Monkey, James Dean Bradfield”. He wouldn’t remember so I plumped for Mark. It seemed easier.

I told him the Manics are responsible for two of my all-time favourite gigs, both from 1991: The After Dark Club in Reading and the Diorama off Great Portland Street. “Fuck, you must be as old as me”.  He remembered the Reading gig as being rough and a lot of trouble. It was. Apart from a dozen of us slipping around in the beer at the front of the stage the rest of the venue gave them loads of abuse, constantly chucked stuff at them, and the antagonism worked both ways. It was brilliant. They survived around twenty minutes and fled. James said they got into a fight afterwards as well. “That was the first time I got proper bottled. Still got the scar on my head,” he felt for the mark, “and that’s one of your favourites? Thanks for that!” It was exciting though. The Diorama was only a few months later and when they sang “You Love Us” it had moved from irony to a statement of fact. “That was the first – no, second – time we met Traci Lords.” I told him I remembered seeing him around the back with her. I meant of the venue. “Whoah, steady!” It was a memorable night but not that memorable.

James asked what I did. Hmm, what do I do? I listen to music; write a blog; go to QPR, nothing that competes with being a Manic Street Preacher. I don’t like talking about jobs at the best of times and certainly didn’t want to talk about myself. “Oh, nothing much, it’s a bit boring”. He pressed me harder. Did he really want to know about producing a risk assessment for working in a hypoxic environment? Subconsciously I must’ve thought about the song “Faster” and muttered his opening line, “I am an architect.” Why did I say that? Too late. “Wow, you call that boring? Are you freelance?” Oh fuck. Yeah. “What you working on?” I’d really dug myself a hole now, I don't know a thing about architecture. I said I didn’t want to talk about work on a night off. “Come on, I know my Le Corbusier.” Oh crikey. Le Corbusier. I’ve read him on a Manics’ record sleeve. I’ve studied those quotes, learnt from them for years and now the time I’m tested I couldn’t remember the first thing about it, even what record it was from. Massive fail. (It was “Design For Life” which I’m glad about. Had it been 1991-94 I’d be quite cut up about it). “I’d sooner talk about rock and roll, although I realise that’s talking about your work.” After a bit more ribbing he let it drop.   

Moving on, James asked if I was going to see Stealing Sheep. Yes, I like how it’s difficult to predict what’s coming next in their songs. He’d heard one of their tracks and couldn’t work them out but thought they were interesting. “Are they folk? Are they indie? I can’t work it out.” He hadn’t been to any gigs for a while as the Manics had been doing festival shows abroad (he looked fit and tanned) and now – aged 43 – has his first child, nine months old. I said I’d managed to avoid children. Was it hard work? He said I should do it and joked we could get vitamins to keep our strength up. I told him I saw their big 02 gig last year. I said this mainly to show unlike most of their early followers I’d stuck with them all these years. Not that that’s been any hardship. I thought about asking if the band were working on any new material or what had happened to seemingly make them change their mind about calling a day last year, but thought it might sound like I was interviewing him so left it.

He was very relaxed (unlike me) and good fun. It was him leading most of the chat. There was no sign of the furrowed brow and closed-eyes grimace he does in television interviews although he did go a bit squinty when trying to recall the last time he came to Madame JoJo’s. I considered asking for a photo together but it would’ve interrupted the flow of the conversation and, more importantly, I’d been up since five AM, had grey stubble, it had been a hot day and I was acutely aware my hair looked shit.

By then some of his old Heavenly Records cronies had steamrolled their way between us and I’d reached the doorway into the club so turned around to say goodbye and to have a good night. “See ya Markie,” he shouted. See ya Markie? See ya Markie!  I’ve never heard him sound so good. Never meet your heroes? Sod that. James Dean Bradfield, you’re an absolute diamond geezer. Thanks. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

STEALING SHEEP - "SHUT EYE" (2012)


Blimey, Stealing Sheep's new Into The Diamond Sun LP is a madcap psych-folk corker and Album of the Year contender. "Shut Eye" gives a taste. The rest is in a similar vein and listen out for the glorious new single "Genevieve".

Thursday, 16 August 2012

RAISE YOUR HAND FOR PETER NORMAN: SALUTE (2008)



Missing the Olympics? Then here’s a quiz question: Name the white 200m silver medallist who stood with Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they conducted their Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico games. If you were watching the BBC before Thursday’s 200m final you’ll know the answer is Peter Norman. By coincidence that was the day I watched Salute, a timely new DVD telling of the events that led to that historic moment and of the repercussions. 

The current marketing of Salute (originally released in Australia in 2008) implies it’s a film about the three men and although all give extensive interviews, together and separately, and have an unshakeable historic and personal bond, it was made by Matt Norman and its focus is on the often overlooked one, his uncle Peter. Rather than Peter Norman being an unwitting accompanist in events, it’s Carlos’s belief that it was God’s will to put them all on earth for that moment. “It was destined to be me” said Peter.

Amid the violent civil rights struggle of 1968, black American athletes threatened to boycott the games as advocated by the Olympic Project For Human Rights. White America gladly allowed these athletes to represent their country – and win medals for them - but not eat in their restaurants and use their washrooms.  As Norman notes, boycotting the games would’ve taken away the platform the athletes had to raise awareness. Also if they hadn’t competed the media and public would have accused them of being un-American and of turning their back on a challenge. Mexico itself had witnessed student riots in the weeks before the games; reporting had been minimal but Carlos now believes 2000 people were killed.  With that tension in the air athletes were told not to make any political protest and given warnings of death threats against anyone considering one.

After the fastest 200m race in history, Smith and Carlos planned their black glove protest but when Carlos left his gloves back in the village it was Norman who suggested they wore one each. He in turn wore an Olympic Project For Human Rights badge on his tracksuit in solidarity. Behind Peter Norman, Tommie Smith took a deep breath, bowed his head, raised his fist and John Carlos followed to the stunned silence of 80,000 people in the stadium and the watching world. 

Smith and Carlos were banned from the Olympics for life. Destitute, Smith washed cars and Carlos’s first wife tragically took her own life under the pressure. When Norman qualified for the 1972 games, and was ranked fifth in the world, Australia decided – for the first and only time – not to send any sprinters to the Olympic Games. Even when Sydney hosted the Olympics in 2000, Norman was the only Australian Olympian not invited to represent his country in any official capacity. It beggars belief. Incidentally, his 1968 silver medal time would have been enough to secure gold in 2000. 

Peter Norman called Smith and Carlos heroes in sacrificing personal glory for the good of the cause. He himself wanted to be thought of as "an interesting old guy". When he died in 2006 Smith and Carlos both read moving eulogies (“My friend, Peter Norman, the humanitarian, who believed right can never be wrong”) and carried his coffin.  

Salute by Matt Norman is released on DVD by Arrow Films.   

Monday, 13 August 2012

SAY IT LOUD (REPRISE)


So that’s London 2012 over and the new sense of national pride from the opening ceremony (Say It Loud) thankfully carried over for the rest of the tournament. Yesterday I went to the men's marathon (with young friend of MonkeyPicks Ruby T pictured above) and although that was the only event I witnessed live it was a great to stand with spectators of many nationalities cheering on all the athletes. Well done to gold medalist Stephen Kiprotich from Uganda who whooshed past me after 5, 13 and 21 miles. Most days though were spent in Victoria Park near the Olympic Village, watching sports I'd usually have no interest in on big screens; bouncing on Jeremy Deller's inflatable Stonehenge; being chasing by hungry dinosaurs; witnessing blokes in y-fronts escape from straight-jackets; or sitting on the grass, pint in hand, listening to bands on the music stage. Geno Washington relished his stint and his infectious personality and frequent references to dipping into his soul pot won me over; Soul II Soul had me briefly indulging in a spot of appropriate 80s style dancing - I was a bit tipsy and still giddy with excitement from Mo Farah smashing the 10,000m; Courtney Pine was too keen on audience participation for my liking but played a track that sounded like mating foxes which I nodded sagely to; and Natty Congeroo and the Flames of Rhythm swung nicely as families inadvertently sang along to tales of scoring opium from China Town. After last year’s riots Britain was never the hellhole it was painted and these Olympics haven’t made it heaven but the majority seemed to embrace it (many to their surprise) and draw inspiration (or at least admiration) from the hard graft and dedication of the athletes.

Whether London 2012 leaves any enduring legacy or how long the current feel-good factor lasts remains to be seen (I could feel it draining away through the closing ceremony until The Who finally ended it on a high). The love many of us feel now may turn out to be nothing more than a holiday romance, but if that’s the case, it has been the best holiday romance ever.     

Saturday, 11 August 2012

FREE PUSSY RIOT by JAMIE REID (2012)



Who better to lend an artistic hand in support of Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova from Russian punk protest group Pussy Riot than the great Jamie Reid?

For the background to their story, the latest on their trial and for ways to show your support, please visit Amnesty International. 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG...


Come on, you don't really expect me to write stuff whilst London 2012 is going on in my back garden do you?

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Thursday, 2 August 2012

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012)



The less you know about the Mexican Detroit musician Rodriguez before you watch Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching For Sugar Man the better. The people of South Africa didn’t know anything about him either yet his 1970 album Cold Fact was massive there.  In America his record company suggest it sold six copies but to the hip South African white kids he was an inspiration: bigger than the Stones, bigger than Elvis, selling around half a million dodgy copies after a girl brought it into the country to play to her friends who made copies and their friends made copies.  Despite that he remained a mystery. There was no information available other than he was believed dead. The circumstances depended on who was telling the story: from a plain and simple drug death, to setting himself on fire, to shooting himself in the head on stage.

Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching For Sugar Man tracks the search for Sixto Rodriguez. I’m not going to write much more other than to urge you to see this film. His beautiful, poetic music alone will blow you away (he stands toe-to-toe with period Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Arthur Lee, Nick Drake) but as his story unravels Rodriguez becomes even more remarkable. Don’t research him first, just watch the film. Those of an emotional nature may wish to have a hanky handy; I can’t listen to “I Wonder” now without welling-up. If you aren’t a fan already, I promise you will be.  

Searching For Sugar Man, directed by Malik Bendjelloul, is in cinemas now.