Tuesday, 29 December 2015

DECEMBER PLAYLIST


1.  The Staple Singers – “It Rained Children” (1953)
I’m guessing Pops took a stylistic approach when omitting the comma between rained and children; and that’s fine by me as offspring Mavis, Pervis and Cleotha join their father on one of the family’s very first recordings with Evelyn Gay accompanying on piano. Mavis, incredibly when you hear her sing, had only recently turned 14 years old.

2.  Ricky Nelson – “Lonesome Town” (1958)
This caught my ear in the pub recently and having never really paid Nelson much attention I looked him up. Quite a colourful life, with this line in his Wikipedia entry capturing some of the flavour:  “In 1980, Nelson met Helen Blair, a part-time model and exotic animal trainer, in Las Vegas.”  Who wouldn’t want their Wiki page to include stuff like that?

3.  Horace Silver Quintet – “Filthy McNasty” (1961)
Opening track from the killer Blue Note LP Doin’ The Thing, live at the Village Gate, New York City, in which Silver introduces the evening by suggesting the audience might wish to clap their hands, nod their heads and tap their feet. Try not doing those things.

4.  Wallace Brothers – “Woman, Hang Your Head In Shame” (1969)
Funky, horny, Clarence Carter/Muscle Shoals vibe to the penultimate single from these Atlanta cousins (not brothers).

5.  Chuck Cockerham – “Have I Got A Right” (1969)
Gotta love a man called Chuck Cockerham, gotta love this gorgeous slice of sweeping soul.

6.  Spooner Oldham – “Julie Brown’s Forest” (1972)
Don’t go walking in Julie Brown’s forest,” warns Spooner. Dunno who Julie was but it sounds like good advice. From the rather cool Pot Luck LP, recently reissued by Light In The Attic.  

7.  Kris Kristofferson – “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” (1970)
Any song that begins with “Well, I woke up Sunday morning/ With no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt/ And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad/ So I had one more for dessert” is okay with me.

8.  Ride – “Grasshopper” (1992)
Kinda surprised how much I like this. In truth it’s little more than a lengthy instrumental jam to pad out the extra tracks on a 12 inch (remember those?) – in this case Ride’s “Leave Them All Behind” single.  That said I’ve played it about half a dozen times over the last couple of days which is five more than I did in 1992.

9.  Mr Ray’s Wig World – “Faster Kittykat Play Play” (1992)
Can’t remember much about this band other than they were from Liverpool and, I think, named after a shop there. Huge wash of distortion and wah-wah, as was the way in the early 90s (see Ride above), on the lead track of an EP which was possibly their only release. The other tracks indicate much madcap potential, sadly unrealised.

10.  The Holmes Brothers – “There’s A Train” (1997)
I only stumbled across the Holmes Brothers recently, just in time to discover two-thirds of this soulful gospel blues trio passed away in 2015. This was the first song I heard. Love it. 

Monday, 28 December 2015

MASTERTAPES: GEORGIE FAME & THE BLUE FLAMES - RHYTHM & BLUES AT THE FLAMINGO


A couple of months ago Monkey Snr and I were fortunate to witness the recording of BBC Radio 4’s Mastertapes programme in which Georgie Fame discussed and played tracks from his classic 1963 Rhythm & Blues at the Flamingo LP.

It was a great afternoon, skilfully hosted by John Wilson, with chat surrounding the album, the Flamingo Club itself, the performance of six songs and the reunion of former Blue Flames Colin Green, Mick Eve and Eddie ‘Tan Tan’ Thornton plus the Flamingo’s John Gunnell reprising his introduction to the band.

The recording is now available on-line in two half hour shows and any disappointment the listener may feel in the editing of the music will surely be offset by scene-stealing contributions from Monkey Snr and I in the second show. 


Thursday, 24 December 2015

SEASON'S GREETINGS


Just a quick note to wish you all a merry Christmas, whatever you're doing. Thanks for popping over and for your comments on here and via social media throughout the year. Hope you've found some bits and pieces to take away. See ya in a few days for more of the same. Cheers people. Take care.

Friday, 18 December 2015

PARTY SEVEN on FUSION - SUNDAY 20 DECEMBER


Roll out the barrel, this Sunday three regular Fusion radio shows will attempt to present a joint party: Party 7.

Fusion head honcho, broadcasting legend and kitchen boogie enthusiast Mick Collins will open up his house; Dr Gonzo will come supplied to the back teeth with goodies freely dished out from his magical medicine bag; and I’ll be doing whatever it is I do on the wireless, play records and talk gibberish. There’ll be no deep soul treasures this time, no country weepers, no Mongolian nose flute music, just each of us bringing along seven big old party tunes for a special seasonal knees-up.

Please join us for a hour from 8.30pm at the following link to hear if we manage to pull it off: http://mixlr.com/fusion-on-air/ 

AVAILABLE TO CATCH-UP NOW: http://mixlr.com/fusion-on-air/showreel/party-7/

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

THE FOUR TOPS ON SESAME STREET

If ever any further evidence was needed to the fabulousness of the Four Tops - and there really wasn’t - check these 1980s performances on Sesame Street. Levi, Duke, Obie and Lawrence urging kids to be careful crossing the street and another song about waiting at a bus stop. Only the most lovable group in musical history could make these kids’ songs sound so brilliant. Can’t get them out of my mind now. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

THE TUBBY HAYES REVIVAL KEEPS ON BLOWIN'

It’s been a remarkable year for the rise in profile of Tubby Hayes. Mark Baxter and Lee Cogswell’s film A Man In A Hurry received rave reviews and saw Tubby featured across a range of media outlets, not all previously known for a predilection in British jazz, and encouraged a whole new army of listeners, many who weren’t born when The Little Giant drew his last breath in 1973, aged 38.  

Simon Spillett’s biography The Long Shadow of the Little Giant: The Life, Work and Legacy of Tubby Hayes was published earlier in the year by Equinox and although received far less attention is the ideal next stop for anyone wishing to find out more. It’s a comprehensive account, written with obvious love of the subject but very even handed, offering different viewpoints. In addition to the engrossing central story, the portrayal of Britain and its jazz scene(s) from the late 50s is equally fascinating, as is how it changed with the emergence of the Beatles. It’s an often overlooked period of music in this country. Spillett has an admirably inclusive writing style: making the narrative accessible and informative to the jazz novice whilst, as an award-winning saxophonist, his discussion of the musicianship throughout Hayes’ career provides deeper analysis for the more seasoned jazz buff. It's an excellent book, meticulously researched yet still readable, which works both as a straight biography and for anyone wishing to learn more about jazz in general. It even opened my cloth ears to hearing things differently.

And now, once you’ve watched the film, listened to the albums, read the book, you might fancy hanging some art on your wall. Darren Draws (known on occasion as Darren Riley or Ballad) has produced a couple of interpretations of Hayes album sleeves: The Tubby Hayes Quintet’s 1962 LP Down In The Village, recorded live at Ronnie Scotts, and the 1958 Jazz Couriers’ LP, The Couriers of Jazz. Available as 12" x 12" giclee print on matt-finish smooth rag paper in a limited edition of twenty, each print is signed and numbered. Yours for thirty quid. More info at Stuff Darren Draws.

Monday, 30 November 2015

THE STAIRS at the KAZIMIER, LIVERPOOL


After months of eager anticipation The Stairs were back on Thursday night for their first gig in over twenty years. It was, without a shadow of doubt, a brilliant night. Nearly 500 people from all over the country squashed into a sold out Kazimier club in Liverpool, a stone’s throw from where Edgar Jones, Ged Lynn and Paul Maguire established The Stairs at the beginning of the 1990s.

Reformations can be dicey affairs with bands returning without original members, their motives questionable, looking a bit old and shit, and removed from their original period can appear out of date and, at worst, even cabaret. Certain bands are defined by their era and sit uncomfortably once extracted but The Stairs were always out of time; harking back to the 60s beat boom when the prevailing musical trends were an assortment of post-baggy, grunge and shoegazing. The Stairs weren’t the only ones going back to mono and recycling British R&B, US garage and Dutch Nederbeat but they were by far the best: more gifted, confident and charismatic than the rest and possessed an off-kilter humour. Who else concluded songs by asking “What do you think of Tarzan undies? Do they scare ya?”  

From the opening seconds of ‘Mary Joanna’ - Ged’s opening riff, Paul’s thumping drums and Edgar’s thunderous bass and exaggerated Jagger howl – it was immediately apparent this was going to be good. When that was followed by ‘Flying Machine’, from their first EP, my excitement built incrementally with each passing song. The last times I saw the band, ’93-’94, they’d progressed into a heavier psychedelic rock band than beat combo, and whilst still excellent hearing sets of unfamiliar, experimental material was a different experience to two years previously. They’d moved on. I vividly recall The Stairs play a Mod Rally at the Isle of Wight in 1993 and the stunned reaction of the assembled Mods who didn’t know what to make of it all. Well, they did, but frankly that was their loss.

From ‘Flying Machine’, a perfect set unravelled, nineteen songs whooshed past. The majority of the classic (and it is that) Mexican R’n’B including ‘My Window Pane’, ‘Mundane Mundae’, ‘Sweet Thing’, ‘Woman Gone and Say Goodbye’, ‘Out In The Country’ all sounded box fresh, as did the double-whammy of ‘Fall Down The Rain’ and ‘Right In The Back Of Your Mind’ which nearly reduced the Kazimier to rubble ahead of its forthcoming demolition by developers. There were some choice EP tracks, ‘When It All Goes Wrong’, ‘You Don’t Love Me’ and ‘Russian Spy and I’; a couple of the later songs in ‘Skin Up’ and ‘Stop Messin’’; the nutjob “new” found-under-bed single ‘Shit Town’ sung by Ged; and even a brand new number ‘1000 Miles Away’ thrown in for good measure. 

Everything was delivered with supercharged power, as if The Stairs had spent twenty years with all this energy suppressed, waiting to explode. The longer they played, the more they locked into each other. If all that wasn’t impressive enough what was bewildering was how the band had remained cryogenically frozen. Edgar looked like he’d walked straight off his record sleeves without a hair out of place and it took me a while to work out he wasn’t wearing the same pink and white paisley shirt from the Bass Clef in ’94 (that had a penny collar, this one pointed…); Ged has kept the same cut-by-himself-in-the-mirror curtains/bob affair and those bug eyes still bulge and his mouth still falls open as he plays guitar; it’s only a few flicks of grey in Paul’s still curly bonce that give any indication we’re now in a different millennium. Like I said, and call me shallow if you will, this stuff is important in bands. Imagine, if you dare, the horror of witnessing a bald Birdland or a fat Five Thirty. They were accompanied on acoustic/electric guitar and organ by Austin Murphy from Edgar’s band The Jones. For what it’s worth, he looked like a young David Hepworth.

There was little chat between songs, certainly no emotional milking of the situation: the music, the audience’s dolally reception, and the smiles of the band said it all. After a pounding ‘Skin Up’ they went off to quickly do that (possibly) before returning for the anthemic  ‘Weed Bus’, given a bizarre cowboy style intro by Edgar about the joys of Liverpool’s public transportation system. With that fantastic finale about knowing you’re in heaven, they were gone.

Apart from missing their old talisman Jason shaking his maracas one more time this gig had it all; any misgivings about spoiling their memory banished. Where The Stairs go from here remains to be seen – and I doubt they’ll want to keep treading old ground for long - but this night, this monumental night, this little piece of history, was nothing short of triumphant and, if anything, elevated their already treasured status for anyone fortunate enough to have witnessed it.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

NOVEMBER PLAYLIST

The Standells

1.  Mark Murphy – “Li’l Darlin’” (1961)
Ace Records this month issued a new comp, Georgie Fame Heard Them Here First, featuring 25 tracks covered by our Georgie. Such was the vast array of tracks to pick from, this, from Murphy’s Rah, didn’t make the cut.

2.  Brian Auger – “Blues Three Four” (1961)
Pre-Hammond Auger, here demonstrating his jazz chops on the piano. It’s the opening track on a new Brian Auger anthology Back To The Beginning. Unfortunately the collection is let down by poor liner notes which don’t supply details of where this track was taken, so I’ve guessed the year. Possibly recorded with Dave Morse? Answers to the usual address.

3.  The Wanderers – “After He Breaks Your Heart” (1963)
Led by Ray Pollard, the Wanderers had already recorded for a decade before they cut this typically clean New York slice of Big City Soul for United Artists. Now included on the superb new Lost Without You: The Best Of Kent Ballads 2 compilation for Kent.

4.  The Pirates – “Cuttin’ Out” (1965)
Tough switchblade slashing rockabilly punk from a Texan combo who left behind a couple of 45s, this being their highlight.

5.  Jimmy Witherspoon – “Man Don’t Cry” (1965)
From Jimmy’s swinging Spoon In London which attempted to place him in a slightly more pop-soul setting. That said, “Man Don’t Cry” is a haunting, big voiced, big band creeper.

6.  David Bowie – “Let Me Sleep Beside You” (1967)
Recorded on 1 September 1967 for Deram, “Let Me Sleep Beside You” was the first Bowie single produced by Tony Visconti who sat a neat bass and drum rhythm on top of a sweep of strings. I'm generally indifferent to Bowie but like this. 

7.  The Standells – “Looking At Tomorrow” (1967)
The Standells production team went to town on this, creating a clanging echo drenched protest number with composer Larry Tamblyn taking lead vocals and putting his organ high in the mix. That’s not a euphemism.

8.  Miles Davis - "Bitches Brew" (1970)
On any given day the same piece of music (and I'm primarily talking jazz here) can either enthral or infuriate. Depending on one's mood, 27 minutes of this one track could easily do either.

9.  Hollywood Brats – “Sick On You” (1973)
After my effusive praise for Andrew Matheson’s recent memoir, Sick On You, it was little surprise to see Mojo magazine crown it Book of the Year. The song of the same name should’ve similarly won accolades in the year of its completion.    

10.  The Stairs – “Flying Machine” (1991)
From side two of their first EP and the second song played at Thursday’s reunion gig in Liverpool, setting the tone for what was a triumphant return, exceeding all expectations. More about this later.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

“HAVE YOU EVER TRIED RUNNING FOR YOUR LIFE IN A TOP HAT AND CLOGS?" SICK ON YOU by ANDREW MATHESON (2015)


It’s 1971 and Andrew Matheson, 18, leaves his job in the mines, armed with a tatty suitcase, five LPs (Kinks, Shadows of Knight, Beatles and two Stones), a black Vox Mark VI teardrop guitar and moves to London with a head full of ideas and a template to create the perfect rock ‘n’ roll band stuffed in his pocket.

Cut to 1975 and that band, the Hollywood Brats, have disintegrated, their solitary album, Grown Up Wrong, sneaking out, belatedly, in, of all places, Norway, selling a meagre 563 copies. It was an inglorious conclusion to a band that should’ve been – and actually were, for the blink of eye – contenders.

What happened in between is told with style and panache in Sick On You. Matheson’s creation, the Brats, a mess of eyeliner and spray paint, strutted and preened their way around London without a penny to their name but as that lost album, especially the searing, slash and burn ‘Chez Maximes’ (“We don’t care what you say…”) and the magnificent proto-punk single-that-never-was ‘Sick On You’ testify, they had, way before the class of ’76, the razor sharp, adrenaline fuelled tunes to back their ballsy attitude and they got to the Phil Spector girl group songbook before the Ramones; The Crystals' 'Then He Kissed Me' provocatively left without switching gender. 

Glamourous boys in women’s clothing sashaying around pubs and clubs, indulging in petty crime, in dank early 70s Britain didn’t endear them to many – a kicking was seldom far away - but Matheson’s mouthy prose sparkles on every page, glitter sprinkled on the grime. One line in particular encapsulates life as a Hollywood Brat, “Have you ever tried running for your life in a top hat and clogs?”

Whether you’ve heard of his band or not, and the chances are not, Andrew Matheson has written the best music memoir I’ve ever read, it’s brilliantly told with an array of funny cameos from individuals as diverse as Keith Moon, Freddie Mercury, Malcolm McLaren, Cliff Richard and the Krays. He talks it the way he surely walked it, reducing the opposition to the role of boring dullards. Despite being tantalisingly close to the edge of success – recording at Olympic studios, photos by Gered Mankowitz, limos to film premieres - The Hollywood Brats never “made it” but from the evidence now available they should at least be held in the same esteem as the New York Dolls, who hit on the same idea almost simultaneously Stateside. And in Andrew Matheson it’s impossible not to rue the fact rock ‘n’ roll missed out on potentially one of its greatest, gobbiest frontmen.

Sick On You by Andrew Matheson is published by Ebury Press, out now. 
The Hollywood Brats (photo by Gered Mankowitz)

Friday, 20 November 2015

IF I'VE ONLY ONE TIME ASKIN' by DANIEL ROMANO (2015)


I raved about Daniel Romano’s Come Cry With Me back in 2013, making it my album of the year (for whatever that’s worth), and his latest LP If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ is another stone-cold country classic following the lineage from Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Gram Parsons.

The man’s a story telling genius, totally out-of-time, this is stuff from a bygone era, but a genius nonetheless. I love his rubbery vocals which bend and stretch and then go slack and deep and pull on the heartstrings. Canadian Romano can do one man, a guitar and a bar stool and, as you’ll hear on this surprising new video to the album’s opening track, animated by Chad VanGaalen, he can stand up front backed by huge sweeping orchestration.

The vinyl edition of If I’ve Only One Time Askin’, released by New West Records, is housed in a beautifully authentic thick card sleeve. Out now.
And here's a stripped back version of "The One That Got Away (Came Back Today)" from the same album.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

SUBBACULTURE - ISSUE 4


The latest issue of Subbaculture doesn’t need much of a pitch from me as unless your little fingers move fast all 200 numbered copies will already have homes, and rightly so.

Intelligently written articles on various facets of “street style” housed in a smartly designed A5 ‘zine with Jesse Hector’s feathercut and Hammersmith Gorilla sideburns adorning the front cover. Subbaculture is the hippest zine around and this its best issue so far.

Details, heaps of fascinating photos and more can be found at the Subbaculture site. Look sharp. Always. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

UNDERCURRENT OF BLUE NOTE JAZZ FOR SUEDE?


There are no flies on Monkey Picks’ jazz correspondent, Monkey Snr, who following yesterday’s review of Suede's Night Thoughts première spotted a striking similarity between their new album’s artwork and that of Undercurrent, a 1962 release on Blue Note by pianist Bill Evans and guitarist Jim Hall.

The original photograph, entitled Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida was taken by Tom Frissell in 1947. The Suede image is from Roger Sargent's new Night Thoughts film.  

Sunday, 15 November 2015

SUEDE at the ROUNDHOUSE, CAMDEN


Suede unveiled their forthcoming album, Night Thoughts, on Friday with a global première at the Roundhouse in Camden. From behind a giant screen they played it live in its entirety as Roger Sargent’s accompanying film provided a loose visual representation.

As one song bled seamlessly in to the next, the film changed scenes: a haunted man walking out into the sea; lovers embracing; kids in hoodies on housing estates; people taking drugs; overdosing; having sex; loving; fighting; brandishing guns; screaming; being desperate and alone. You know, all the usual Suede themes. There were cars so there would’ve been fumes too. To be honest I found it a bit distracting and would’ve preferred to simply see the band play, although a whole album of unheard material isn’t the most entertaining thing in the world. It reminded me of when The Style Council played their Jerusalem film at the Royal Albert Hall gigs and my mates headed to the bar grumbling loudly about “pretentious bollocks”. Suede fans however are far more tolerant of such grandiose artistic gestures.

The album itself sounded big and bold and dramatic. From only one hearing I’m not going to make any final assessment but I’d venture it’s a step up from the previous Bloodsports, and that was good. After the final track they disappeared (not that they could be seen very clearly beforehand) and had their half time orange before returning in the second half for what they promised would be a “Hits and Treats” set.

I don’t know what Suede did during their lost years to come back such a phenomenal live act but that’s what they are. The best there is. I saw them a dozen times when they first started, those early gigs at the South Africa Centre, the Rough Trade shop, the 100 Club, even suffering the ignominy of supporting such doggerel as Kingmaker and they weren’t like anybody else then but the flouncing, foppish, arse slapping Brett Anderson has been transformed.

Brett Anderson is a beast. A beautiful beast. A beautiful, lean, mean, fighting machine, rock star beast. Fitter than an army of fleas in a scuzzy mattress, Brett bounces up and down, leaps off monitors, shouts and does the “come on then, let’s have it” fingers, shakes his head, lassoes his microphone lead a la Daltrey and works the band and crowd into a frenzy. He is magnificent in this role, pulling out all the stops, and Suede have the knockout material to back all his showboating. Big hit singles, album tracks, obscure B-sides ('Darkest Days' had previously passed me, thanks for drawing it to my attention), all relentless in their majestic swagger. Even “The Living Dead”, a delicate lament, is transformed into a joyous lullaby with Anderson leaving much of singing to the audience. “Where’s all the money gone? I’m talking to you, all up the hole in your arm” they chant like it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. A clean Brett grins like a cat with a never ending supply of cream.

They departed for a phony encore with Anderson telling the crowd to wait a minute. They do, naturally, and after beginning the evening with their newest recordings they end with their oldest, all three tracks from their 1992 debut single: ‘The Drowners’, ‘My Insatiable One’ and ‘To The Birds’. Incredible. Where do the years go? ‘To The Birds’ my absolute favourite Suede song – and I have many – what a treat. What a band.

Set 1: When You Are Young, Outsiders, No Tomorrow, Pale Show, I Don’t Know How To Reach You, What I’m Trying To Tell You, Tightrope, Learning To Be, Like Kids, I Can’t Give Her What She Wants When You Were Young, The Fur & The Feathers

Set 2: Moving, Killing Of A Flash Boy, Trash, Animal Nitrate, We Are The Pigs, Heroine, Pantomime Horse, The Living Dead, Darkest Days, New Generation, So Young, Metal Mickey, Beautiful Ones, The Drowners, My Insatiable One, To The Birds

Night Thoughts is released 22 January 2016.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW - SUNDAY 15 NOVEMBER 2015


Those kind folk at Fusion On Air are handing over the reigns again tomorrow for another edition of Monkey's Wandering Wireless Show.

For an hour I'll be treating the listener (or listeners, hopefully) to a load of brilliant music, obviously, and interrupting only occasionally with words of few syllables. Simple concept really, you don't want to miss it. Set the alarm on your phone or something for 8.30pm Sunday and then hit the link below. 

Those who log in to Fusion can congratulate/abuse me on my taste in the chatbox thingy during the show, or don't bother with that and just sit back with a beer or three and enjoy. 


UPDATE: If you missed this it's now available on the Fusion Showreel.
http://mixlr.com/fusion-on-air/showreel/monkeys-wandering-wireless-show-4/

Thursday, 12 November 2015

GET YER SKINS TOGETHER, THE STAIRS ARE BACK ON THE BUS!


The Stairs, Isle of Wight, August 1993: Ged Lynn, Paul Maguire, Edgar Jones
The Stairs are back. On 26 November, over twenty years since their last performance, Edgar Jones (then Summertyme), Ged Lynn and Paul Maguire play a hometown reunion gig at the Kazimier in Liverpool. For a brief moment in the early 90s it appeared their big boss beat might crossover into the mainstream and whilst debut single ‘Weed Bus’ became something of a classic and their LP Mexican R’n’B sounds as good today as it did then, they fizzled out of the public eye after label Go Discs short-sightedly released them.

In early 1994 I interviewed Edgar for issue three of my fanzine, Something Has Hit Me, and it caught them at an experimental and ambitious time, excited by the possibilities of where their music could take them and what they could achieve. Unfortunately, they didn’t release another record during their lifetime and folded not long after. A second album Who Is This Is, which featured much of the material Edgar mentioned and was part of their live set at that time, quietly sneaked out on Viper many years after their demise. The same label this month releases a new odds and sods compilation, The Great Lemonade Machine In The Sky, including demos, live songs and alternative versions. Also, a limited edition 45, the Beefheartesque bonkers 'Shit Town' is pulled from the album. 

With drummer Paul now based in Iceland don’t expect The Stairs to return full time so any chance you get to see them, grab it. In the meantime, let’s go back to ’94, that fanzine article and enjoy a few previously unseen photos…

Something Has Hit Me: In 1991/1992, The Stairs released four great EPs and an outstanding LP, Mexican R’n’B. Everything they did was geared to being as authentically 60s sounding as possible, right down to having Go Discs release their records in mono only. Their sound was an accurate blend of Pretty Things, Chocolate Watchband and early Stones, anything modern was frowned upon Hand in hand with this was their well-documented love and use of dope, with two of their singles, ‘Weed Bus’ and ‘Mary Joanna’, being less than subtle in sentiment. Even their t-shirts bore the legend “Superstars of Smoking”.

The last eighteen or so months have seen an almost complete silence from the band, only popping up occasionally for the odd low key gig. Now in 1994, they’ve started to gig more regularly again. Something Has Hit Me talked to singer and chief songwriter, Edgar Summertyme.

You did a live session for GLR (Greater London Radio) this morning. How was it?
It was sound. Boss like. A good buzz getting up early in the morning and going down and playing. It was a good room to play in, as it was the first time I’ve heard everyone in the band properly for ages. We did two new songs that went out live, ‘Skin Up For Me Baby’ and ‘It Was Alright’. We’re trying out a few different bags at the moment. Like the way we’re playing and getting into different things. One of those songs is quite heavy and the other is more Tamla. We’re just trying to see what fits best, cos since we’ve left Go Discs we’ve become a different band really.

So you’ve left Go Discs then? Is that why you’ve been so quiet?
Yeah, that’s right. The fella that signed us left the company and then we had a big patch with no money coming in and that.

Have you gone anywhere and signed with someone else?
We’re not gone anywhere, we’ve looking at the moment. Tonight’s our first sort of showcase (at the Bass Clef in Hoxton). We’ve still got the publishing deal with Warner Chappell though, that’s important. They even had ‘Russian Spy and I’. They actually own that song but had to phone Holland and go through all their old records to check they owned it.

I thought the promotion you got from Go Discs was quite good.
Yeah it was quite reasonable like. They put us about a bit and all that. But the head man there now just isn’t into our bag. He’s just into pop records. We were getting harder and heavier and generally better and better at playing, but he isn’t a man that listens to the rhythm section or a record, he just listens for the twee lead singer. He likes twee lead singers and I could never sing like that.

You said about getting into different things, I saw you’re at the Isle of Wight last August (1993) and your sound was quite different, heavier in places and it seemed some was improvised.
Yeah, it was the San Franciscan thing really, that we got into. We’re trying to take that sound and modernize it. The thing is today, there’s a lot of good bands around but they’re not playing with real good taste. But I think that you can do something with modern music and make it tasty. I mean, there’s the occasional moments of Lenny Kravitz that are alright, you know what I mean, but he hasn’t the je ne sais quoi to quite pull it off. People will just have to wait for us. We just want to see a British band that’s as good as say the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and things like that. They’re quite good but they’ve got such a shit singer.

So it’s not just a case of recreating that 60s sounds anymore?
No, we want to take it further now. Because as musicians we’d just die, we’d be cabaret and that’s not a good place to be. I’ve got all the respect in the world for bands like The Aardvarks and that, who are carrying on doing that, bit I just don’t think it’s for us to carry on in that vein forever. Although, having said that, I’m looking back a bit further as well as looking forward. Listening to Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, there’s more of that to be learnt. Captain Beefheart-isms. There’s a lot of ways to go. You don’t have to be Led Zep to take your music into the future. Things like Little Richard. There’s a lot to Little Richard than you realise because of all those 70s bands doing versions of his songs. But if you listen they sound like a lot of those early Stax records from the late 50s, if you listen closely.

Do you listen to a lot of soul music?
Yeah, you can learn a lot from that. The way the bands played together. The way they make room for someone to do something. I’ve learnt so much from that. I’ve always liked Motown and stuff but recently I’ve been playing Willie Mitchell, Garland Green, Jimmy McGriff and early James Brown instrumentals, things like that.

Have you recorded any new material?
We’re recorded a few demos and that but we’re looking to record some more when we get the money. We’ve got so much material to get through. We’re about a year behind my writing now, so we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Will those songs just get left behind?
Yeah a lot of it will but songs go through rebirths. Sometime they go through very big changes. If I decide I don’t like the arrangement or something I’ll do a “tribute” arrangement. Like on ‘No One Knows’, I hated the arrangement so we did a bit of an Easybeats tribute, 1966 style. So, you’ve always got all that to choose from. Having said what I did earlier, we’ll always bring up things from the past, but we’ll try to present them with the modern person in mind, because we want to reach as vast an audience as possible. If anything, we’d like to teach them and then give them weirdness. Get ‘em into that. Plus it would be good for the other bands as well because no one is reaching across that barrier at the moment. We want to break down that barrier.

You recorded an album of cover versions that didn’t come out, how come?
The label, Imaginary, folded. So we were unable to release it. One of the tracks that might have ended up on it was featured on a compilation. We did ‘Moonchild’ by Beefheart. It was a pretty spot on copy. It’s on 1965 Through The Looking Glass but I haven’t got a copy of it myself yet.

What about putting something out yourself?
Yeah, we’re thinking of doing a single ourselves. We’re trying out a few new ways of recording. I can’t really go into it cos someone might rob the idea but basically it’s a way of getting a modern sound that sounds like an old sound that sounds like a modern sound. Also, there’s a lot more range to this band that you don’t know about. Left Banke kinda stuff that you’ll never hear live, but they will eventually come out on albums. I love that big production stuff.

Brian Wilson?
Yeah, I was a big Smile freak for about two years. When I was 19-20 I wrote a load of soft songs. We can’t play any of them live. We were going to do an album under a different name and call it Wet Sounds but had to abandon the idea cos Go Discs weren’t into us going under a different name. We loved those songs, all nice lightweight 1966 pop songs. I was great to write those.

(There was a load of general chat here about bands having loads of great unreleased material and conversation turned back to the Easybeats).
I met George Young of the Easybeats a couple of years ago because we wanted him to produce us. But he came to tell me he didn’t produce anymore. He sat me down and gave me a two hour talk on how to look after myself in the music business, which was amazing. Because basically he’d fucked up badly. There was unreleased material of theirs left, right and centre. Albums cancelled and stuff. He just told me how to compose myself and to smoke a lot less of that stuff. Cos he used to be on it all the time and now he’s the most together man in the world. He’s just into looking after his family, which is really nice. He just told me to never forget my family.

So there you have it. A definite mellowing in The Stairs camp. Don’t worry about talk about getting modern sounding, as having heard some of the new songs live a few times I can tell you there are some real crackers there. ‘It Was Alright’ is as good a track as they’ve done previously and would have easily on Mexican R’n’B. As for some of their more experimental stuff, well, it’s simply brilliant. It may take some time before any of it sees a proper release, so make sure you go and see them live, they’ll knock yer socks off! 
The Stairs at the Bass Clef, Hoxton, 1994
Something Has Hit Me, Issue 3, April 1994

Sunday, 8 November 2015

JULIE DRISCOLL in SEASON OF THE WITCH (1970)


This is a rehash of a previous post but as Desmond McCarthy and Johnny Byrne's BBC Wednesday Play, Season Of The Witch, first broadcast 7 January 1970, is available (for now) on YouTube it's worth flagging up again.

Made in the summer of ’69, Season of the Witch stars Julie Driscoll in her debut acting performance as Mel, who runs away from London, her parents, and her job and heads to Brighton. There she meets various “beats” (interestingly there are plenty of references to beats and beatniks – no one is a freak or hippie) and they mooch about doing very little.

Mel takes tips on scavenging for food (get a skinny dog and plead with the butcher for meat) and sleeps on the beach before hitch hiking to Cornwall, traipsing back to London for a demo, getting arrested, and hanging out with drifters Jake (Paul Nicholas) and Shaun (Robert Powell). 

With plentiful location shots, unscripted segments of dialogue, a few state-of-kids-today moments mixed with real-life interviews and footage (greasy bespectacled longhairs arguing half cocked political idealism and watching drug education films at a youth drop-in centre, filmed in a Ken Loach docudrama style), Season of the Witch is as much sympathetic coming of age documentary as it is "Beat Girl On The Road". As such, it’s aged well, it attitude at least. Da yoof may not say “scenes” and “pads” anymore but the spirit and searching for a sense of belonging can’t be much different.

Julie Driscoll is a far better singer than actress - and isn't helped by having to deliver some clumsy dialogue - she's good to watch. The best line comes from Mel’s Dad (Glynn Edwards), who in a long rant about drugs, coffee shops, long-haired layabouts and the state of young people wanting to look conspicuous says “I saw one of ‘em the other day wearing a cowboy hat. In ‘arrow. There ain’t any cowboys in ‘arrow”. Director Desmond McCarthy has since explained all the lines in that monologue were taken from a real Panorama documentary. He's also confirmed the sign in a B&B window of “We reserve the right to refuse beatniks and other undesirables” was also genuine. 

A soundtrack by Brian Auger and the Trinity and a bit of Blind Faith in Hyde Park adds to the enjoyable. And despite the title it's mercifully Donovan-free.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

TUBBY HAYES: A MAN IN A HURRY (2015)


In the late 1950s, with Ronnie Scott, Londoner Tubby Hayes led the Jazz Couriers, exciting new British proponents of modern jazz who made their debut at the opening of the Flamingo Club; in the early 60s he was a household name, a regular on television, had his own series, made numerous film appearances, and was untouchable in the music press annual jazz polls. By 1973, drink and drugs and a dodgy ticker had seen him off, dead at the age of 38.

Mark Baxter and Lee Cogswell’s new hour-long film, A Man In A Hurry, tells the story of the short life a man who “burned the candle at both ends… then started on the middle”. More than that, the documentary seeks to place Hayes alongside the greats of jazz – Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and company.

Edward Brian “Tubby” Hayes was prodigiously talented, receiving his first tenor sax at 12 years old, he formed his first band at 14 and was a professional jazz musician at 15; his headmaster making an exception to the school’s dress code by allowing him to wear a “Boston haircut”, something of a requirement to conduct his night time trade. He mastered the tenor, flute (allegedly playing it at gigs days after first picking it up) and vibraphone and took his talent to America to prove his worth amongst the “big boys”.

British jazz then, as now, was often derided as the parochial poor relation to the America version. To quote Benny Green’s liner notes from the 1961 Tubbs, “Its only conceivable handicap from a sales point of view that I can think of is the fact it was recorded within hailing distance of Marble Arch”. Such a snobbish attitude did a disservice to Hayes who, we hear, was at least anyone’s equal, irrespective of nationality or location. 

Martin Freeman provides the narration and contributing talking heads describe Tubby’s life in a simple yet snappy and engaging way, intercut with snippets of music and archive footage. The film is made in such a way, and Tubby's life was interesting enough, that even if one doesn't care much for jazz, it's an engrossing story. The most enlightening contributions come from Hayes biographer and saxophonist Simon Spillett and people (including his son) who knew and witnessed Tubby in action. Poet Michael Horowitz speaks, as one would expect, with wonderful eruditeness.

DJ Patrick Forge recounts how he first heard Tubby on the Jazz Club series of LPs in the mid-80s, on the track “A Pint Of Bitter”, and how the title reinforced, in his mind, the unfortunate perception of British jazz being the preserve of middle-aged men with beards dressed in corduroy drinking real ale out of pint jugs (hang on a mo, that’s me now, shit, what happened?) rather than the sharp dressed hipsters depicted on Blue Note sleeves. “A Pint Of Bitter” by Tubby Hayes; just doesn’t sound cool does it? Perhaps to counter this, broadcaster Robert Elms and Acid Jazz’s Eddie Piller attempt to place Hayes in a “Mod” context. I’m not entirely convinced this section was necessary - is it not enough for Tubby to be the greatest jazz musician this country has produced but has to be a founding Modfather as well? – but knowing the Mod background of the film makers and many contributors it’s understandable.

I’ve bought a few Tubby Hayes LPs over the years (and have had a lifetime of Monkey Snr speaking of him with deep reverence) but two viewings of A Man In Hurry has given me a greater appreciation of the man and a determination to hear more of his music. What more could one ask of a film? 

For more info see Tubby Hayes: A Man In A Hurry. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

OCTOBER PLAYLIST


These babies have been getting a lot of love this month...

1.  Roy Brown – “Shake ‘Em Up Baby” (1955)
Jitterbugging and lindy hopping his way through monkeys, coconut trees, rabbits, shotguns, alley cats, hound dogs, roosters and chickens, Roy really does shake ‘em up.

2.  Sonny Rollins – “I’m An Old Cowhand” (1957)
From Way Out West, with Sonny on tenor and dressed as a cowboy, Ray Brown on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. As Rollins explains on the sleevenotes, he wanted a “loping along in the saddle feeling… I want the cat out on the range all the way”, and on this hokey old tune (see Bing Crosby’s 1936 version) he gets it and it makes me smile every time.

3.  Roosevelt Nettles – “Heartaches and Troubles” (1961)
How could a record titled “Heartaches and Troubles” by someone called Roosevelt Nettles fail? It couldn’t. A right moody atmospheric barstool bastard. 

4.  Jill Harris – “Baby, Won’t You Try Me” (1964)
I heard Nick Beckett play this on his Dr Gonzo’s Medicine Show on Fusion the other Sunday and it blew my mind. Jill Harris leads the raucous call and response with Dee Dee Warwick, Cissy Houston, and Sylvia Shemwell on backing vocals on a track which has hands clapping in the church and feet stomping on the dancefloor. 

5.  The Seeds – “You Can’t Be Trusted” (1965)
This previously unreleased take, recorded on 20 July 1965, finally sees the light of day on a new limited edition Record Collector 45 and, especially when heard in isolation, highlights how utterly unique and ground breaking Sky Saxon’s wonderfully warped version of the blues really was at the time. They’d have garage imitators by the thousands but The Seeds were originators.  

6.  Ken Boothe – “Moving Away” (1968)
Being largely ignorant to rocksteady I was only familiar with Kenny Lynch’s version but must hand it to Kenneth, this is fabulous.

7.  Roberta Flack featuring Donny Hathaway – “God Don’t Like Ugly” (1979)
This caught my ear in the pub the other night so had to investigate. I actually thought it was a later release due to the production but the vocals are great and the melody stayed in my head, even after six pints of ruby ale and a couple of Southern Comforts.  

8.  Guy Hamper Trio – “Polygraph Test” (2009)
The Guy Hamper Trio – Billy Childish, Nurse Julie, Wolf Howard – are joined by James Taylor for a rollicking slab of garage-punk-jazz, the likes of which haven’t been heard since Mr Taylor’s earliest forays with his own quartet.

9.  Bob Dylan – “The Night We Called It A Day” (2015)
Bobby was in good form at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday. A few things struck me: (a), almost everything was post 1997’s Time Out Of Mind; (b), because the set is therefore mostly what could be called “new” material (notwithstanding some is now nearly 20 years old) Bob doesn’t feel the need to wildly reinterpret them; (c), both these things are very welcome; and (d), the half dozen tracks from his recent Shadows In The Night LP – songs previously made famous by Frank Sinatra given a pedal-steel arrangement – provided many of the highlights, with the style suiting Bob who put notable effort into his singing. As I’ve said before, there’s Bob Dylan, then there’s everyone else.

10.  The Higher State – “(Consider It) A Debt Repaid” (2015)
Folkestone’s folk-stoned garage combo in typically disaffected mood on their new two-minute 45, complete with acidic tongue, swirly organ and a jangle so sharp it’ll cut ya soon as look at ya. Released, I’m sure to their delight, on 13 O’Clock Records out of Austin, Texas.  

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

FIRST STEPS OF THE FACES: THE KENNEY JONES INTERVIEW


The new issue of Shindig! has landed so, in case you missed the previous one, here's my cover story and interview with Kenney Jones about the early days of The Faces. Grab yourself a long drink and pull up a stool...

“The Faces were really boozy, yeah, shit. Brandy and cokes, brandy and ginger, brandy and anything. It had to be Rémy Martin though. We were the Rémy band. Simultaneously we all came up with the idea to put a bar on stage. We’d dress up our roadie in a black suit, white shirt, and he’d be our barman. So when we wanted a drink he’d put it on a tray, towel over his arm, and bring it over. If anyone wanted a sit down during a gig they could go over to the bar and sit there. God knows how we got through a show. We went on slightly merry and came off absolutely fucking rat-arsed.”

Today Kenney Jones, owner of the finest drumstool CV in Britain, is sober but looking forward to a quiet pint later. “I like being straight, I like the idea of being straight, but when the Faces came along, forget it. It got to a point where I enjoyed a day off drinking. I was like wow, I’m straight, what a buzz this is.” Immaculately dressed in a blue three-piece suit with velvet collar and Italian shoes, I suggest his old Modness is still in evidence. “It never leaves you,” he says. As Kenney finishes signing posters for a new CD boxset of Small Faces Decca material he is, with his easy going Cockney charm, quietly excited about getting together with his Faces pals Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood for a charity fundraiser at his polo club. With a Faces 5-disc boxset, You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything hitting the shops I'm here to quiz him about the transition from the swinging Small Faces to the swaying Faces.    

By mid-1968 the Small Faces had long broken from the strict stuffiness of Decca and were settled into the more liberating environment of Immediate Records and provided the label with their masterpiece, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake. Released in May, the album spent six weeks at number one, although not, as the band had hoped, as a result of shedding their young audience and finding a more fulfilling acceptance of their musical advancement but due, in part, to the success of their knockabout knees-up novelty ‘Lazy Sunday’.

“We were desperate to lose our teenybopper image, desperate,” remembers Kenney. “We only did ‘Lazy Sunday’ for a laugh; the last thing we wanted was for Andrew Oldham and Immediate to release that as a single. It was really commercial, not at all us. So there it was; another nail in our coffin. It drove Steve Marriott nuts - it drove all of us nuts - but he just couldn’t take it anymore and he was off.”

With tensions increasingly fraught with Marriott on one side and Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones on the other, Marriott, desperate to play with Herd guitarist/singer Peter Frampton in whatever band possible, chucked down his guitar during a New Year’s Eve show at the Alexandra Palace and announced he was leaving. The Small Faces soldiered on, fulfilling contractual obligations to the gigs they had lined up, until they bowed out in inglorious circumstances at the Springfield Theatre in Jersey on March 8, 1969. ‘Tin Solder’ ended the set before Marriott jumped straight back into the fire by signing his Humble Pie, officially unveiled weeks later, straight to the label from which he’d seen little previous money. For the remaining Small Faces, the future was uncertain.

“After Marriott walked out we – me, Mac and Ronnie – were like lost. It was like losing a member of the family. So we just got together once a week in the Rolling Stones rehearsal space in Bermondsey Street, just to have a jam and so we could be together. Not knowing what we were going to do, where we were going to go, but we enjoyed doing it.”

On hearing of the spilt Ronnie Wood, then on bass duty in the Jeff Beck Group, phoned Lane to express his shock about Marriott’s actions. The Small Faces, he said, were his and fellow Beck employee Rod Stewart’s favourite group. Wood was invited to jam and was quickly integrated into the loose Bermondsey set up.

Their paths had only briefly crossed previously but Wood first made an impression on Jones and Lane after the pair had left school and were working in Selmer’s music shop in Holborn testing amplifiers. “One day the Birds, with Ronnie, came up there; we were exactly the same age. I remember looking at him like that [mimes big hair and wide-eyed disbelief]. We didn’t say boo to a goose to each other.”

The Birds, out to the west of London were a popular live attraction with their soulful yet ballsy R&B attack and strong Mod image. Their debut single, written by Wood, ‘You’re On My Mind’ came out in November 1964 and with a television appearance already under their belt were seen by the fledgling Small Faces as kindred spirits. Mention of the Birds has Kenney follow up with memories of another band cut from the same Prince of Wales cloth.  

“One of the bands I really loved from that time were the Action. I thought they were fucking excellent. They should have been the biggest thing since sliced bread. I kick myself every day and question why they weren’t. Because they were so good, their music was good enough, they were better than most people and they had a great name.”  

By 1969, the Action were in a similar situation to the Small Faces. Singer Reggie King had left and the remaining members forged on without him. With Reggie then without a band or recording deal it’s interesting to speculate how he might have filled the slot vacated by Marriott. I idly suggest Kenney could’ve asked King to join. “Humph, yeah, that’s right, we could have done,” he replies without conviction, humouring my flight of fancy.

But of course Rod Stewart proved to be the perfect choice. “After a couple of weeks Ronnie Wood bought down his mate, which was Rod Stewart. Rod sat there on the amps watching for a few weeks. He loved it.”  Like Wood, Rod had paid his dues around the live circuit, and had the Mod pedigree after stints with Steampacket, Shotgun Express, Jeff Beck Group and even deputising on occasion for an absent King in the Action. Woody knew this when inviting his buddy along but the pair played it cool with Rod watching Lane, McLagan and Wood’s half-hearted attempts at singing.

“One thing that was apparent was Steve’s powerful voice was not there. We were playing good enough music but the vocals were very polite. I kept thinking there’s a fucking great singer sat over there so I took the bull by the horns. We’d have a break in the evening and go over to the pub, drank loads and loads of brandy and cokes, shit like that, quite pissed, so I took Rod to one side and said ‘Do you fancy joining the band?’ He said ‘Yeah, do you think everyone would let me?’ He really did jump at it.”

Rod didn’t put himself forward? “No, Rod’s very careful in the way he approaches things. Rod and Woody’s wages in the Jeff Beck Group was sixty pound each, which was a lot of money in those days, but this was an opportunity to get away from them. That evening Alvin Lee of Ten Years After was having drinks round at his mews house, so I said to everybody there ‘Look, I’ve just asked Rod to join the band’ and all I got was ‘Oh no, we don’t want another prima donna, someone that’s gonna walk out on us’. But they were totally different personalities. Steve was like a little bigmouth, the Artful Dodger who turned us all into little Artful Dodgers, but Rod was Rod The Mod, he had a great personality, he was a right pisstaker and he taught us all how to be even more pisstaking.”

With the new band starting to take shape a couple of extra ingredients found themselves dipping into the mix. Woody’s brother Art, previously of the Artwoods, and Kim Gardner, formerly of Pop-Art hopefuls the Creation begin a short-lived association which saw them join forces to stagger out of the Stones’ basement and on to the stage.

“We were in there for weeks and Art said ‘Look we’ve got to get some gigs’. He got us these gigs but we never had a name because we never for once considered we’d call ourselves the Small Faces, or the Faces, or anything like that. To us it was a completely new entity and that’s what we wanted it to be, so a name would come much later. So Art went out and booked us under the name Quiet Melon. A stupid name, but we were stupid anyway. He got the name out of the air. I think he looked at a melon and said ‘That melon’s quiet’. Typical.”

A couple of tracks from this period were finally released in 1994. Kenney doesn’t recall the songs. “I don’t even remember doing it”. They offer a snapshot to those rehearsals and sound like what they are, the formative Faces – easily identifiable – but with Art Wood taking lead vocals with Rod providing backup. Unfortunately for Art, as it was through him the tracks got recorded, it’s his harsh vocal which distracts from any potential contained in ‘Diamond Joe’ and ‘Engine 4444’. With no takers for the material and after a few low-key gigs Art and Gardner’s involvement ended which left the others looking to get started in earnest.

“When it came to doing something more formal, one day we were down the Speakeasy and I bumped into Billy Gaff, who was working for Robert Stigwood at the time. We all still thought we were signed to Immediate Records. So I told Billy and he said ‘I can get you out of that, no problem’ and sure enough he did. That’s how Billy became our manager; we thought the sun shone out of his arse for that. But what we didn’t know was we were already out of it.”

What Billy Gaff failed to mention was the Small Faces contract with Immediate had already expired in June 1968, but with nothing more than a gentlemen’s handshake he set about securing a record deal. “Ian Ralfini was taking over as head of Warner’s UK. He wanted to sign us so we said great. It was only when it came to signing the contracts we went ‘Hold on a minute, it says Small Faces, we’re not the Small Faces’. They said if we didn’t have a name like Small Faces nobody knew us, so they’re signing the Small Faces. We went ‘Nah, no way’. So we had a big hoo-ha. Eventually they said they’d sign us but we wouldn’t get the money, which was to be a thirty grand advance. So between us we came to a decision that we’d sign the first album as the Small Faces – so we’d get the bloody money – and thereafter we’d be known as the Faces, as there was nothing small about us anymore. It couldn’t have been better in a sense. It saved us the bother of trying to find a name anyway and I was so pleased to get away from being called Quiet Melon”.

Preceded by the single ‘Flying’ (“A fucking great track,” says Kenney) and recorded in De Lane Lea Studios in Queensway between August ’69 and January ’70, First Step was released in March 1970, its title downplaying expectations. They needn’t have worried as the ten tracks laid the blueprint which only required fine tuning for the rest of their days: rocking and rolling, bluesy boogieing, folksy reflections and soulful instrumental grooves. The LP closed with a number inspired by the Soul Brothers Six minor 1967 hit for Atlantic, ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’, and crystalized the Faces signature sound of a rumbustious rhythm and booze house party. 

“There’s some nice songs on there,” thinks Kenney. “It’s a very honest album. What you hear on the album is what we had at the time. ‘Devotion’, that’s lovely; ‘Around The Plnyth” was one we used to play a lot on stage; ‘Stone’ was typical Ronnie Lane – ‘Once I was a stone…’ but it’s a fucking great song. With the release of the album it felt like we had a new lease of life, a breath of fresh air and we realised it wasn’t all over and we had a future. We didn’t really think about any expectations. We knew we had to make an album but we didn’t know what direction we were going in. We were finding ourselves because it was that early. We just were what we were and that’s what people loved about us. Slightly dishevelled but each one of us were fucking great competent musicians.”

First Step, which spent only one week on the UK chart (number 45 with a mullet), included two instrumentals in a Booker T & the MGs vein which ramped up the soul quota, such a strong influence running through all the Faces. “That’s right and there was in the Small Faces but we could never play it on stage because everyone wanted our hits. But when we played together in the studio we were jamming all that stuff. Loved it but then we had to go and do the dinky-dinky-dink. ‘Looking Out The Window’ was really just an instrumental jam but ‘Pineapple and the Monkey’ was more based on a Booker T kind of influence with a bit of ‘Cissy Strut’ by the Meters in there. I loved the Meters.” Kenney proceeds to play some mean funky air-drums and human beat box which this writer sadly cannot adequately do justice with the written word. 

It was the rich blend of soul and blues and the Faces approximation of it – with Rod’s sandpaper rasp, the locked-in rhythm section, the warm organ, and Woody’s country picking and bottleneck slide – which marked them out from the straight blues, heavy rock, or more progressive bands of the era. They swung. Or, as Kenney puts it, they had feel.

“The Small Faces had real telepathy. No one told me what to play and I didn’t tell them what to play. We just knew. It was almost a similar thing in the Faces but in a more ragged way. Why it worked with the Faces was because of the feel. Just feel. You played with your emotions. That’s what a musician is, that’s why we’re all sensitive people, you know. You can really upset us easily. You play you, you play what you feel. It’s no good if you feel lousy. People say to me it must be great being a drummer, you can take out all your aggression on your drums. Now, if I’m angry I don’t go anywhere near my drum kit. I play my drum kit and I respect my drum kit, I don’t take it out on my drum kit.”

As for the band name, the album was credited to Small Faces in America and, more accurately, Faces in the UK. Not that the identity crisis - which saw them billed throughout 1970 as variously Small Faces, Faces, Small Faces with Rod Stewart, Faces featuring Rod Stewart and, in a forecast of what was to come, Rod Stewart and Small Faces -  caused much confusion with few expecting to hear Rod sing ‘Tin Soldier’ or ‘Rollin’ Over’. “The Small Faces didn’t hit it off in America so the Small Faces to them were this [the Faces]. I can’t remember there being any confusion about it over here. People knew straight away it was a new band.”
 The album cover, shot by Martin Cook at designer and Ronnie Lane’s fellow Meher Baba devotee Michael McInnerney’s flat in Richmond, graphically displayed the changing times. The days of high-end Carnaby Street fashions, of dressing to adorn posters for teen mags, were behind them as they embraced the prevalent mood and strove to be judged only on the music and not an image. From today’s vantage point the Faces, in that photograph, look magnificent in an understated way. Sat on the sofa, drunk on homemade punch, their fabulous exaggerated Mod hair and couldn’t-care-less attitude is still used as a template by bands today albeit with a calculated knowingness rather than a genuine off-the-cuff stance. The honesty of the Faces music matched here by their garb.  

“I remember the picture being taken because none of us knew what to wear because we didn’t have an image. The Small Faces became very much about the image. In the Faces image didn’t come into it, it was take it or leave it. We just wore what we wanted. We didn’t even care about it that much. So we tried to look respectable and Rod was sort of Rod, because in those days he had holes in his shoes, stuff like that. He had cardboard in his shoes in this picture. And Ronnie Wood being the arty person had the book. We didn’t know what the album was going to be called. It was only after Ronnie picked up this First Step, how-to-play-guitar book, that we called it that.”

Whether the state of Rod’s dilapidated footwear was symptomatic of the band still waiting to cash their thirty grand advance or of his notorious stinginess, Kenney doesn’t say. In fact, Rod was doing okay for himself as he’d already signed a solo deal with Mercury Records prior to penning the Faces contract. “We didn’t know Rod had signed to Mercury for a solo album,” claims Kenney, “he didn’t tell us. He only signed it because they gave him an advance and there was enough to buy a Marcos sports car but then he had to do albums.”

Rod’s An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down – complete with grubby tramp in a dirty mac chasing small children across a field as the choice of cover photograph – beat First Step to the shops in the UK and the US (where it was retitled The Rod Stewart Album and had with the dubious artwork replaced) and was followed later in 1970 by Gasoline Alley, both featuring contributions from his band mates, as Rod sought to ride two interlocking careers in tandem. In time this proved unmanageable as his solo success went stratospheric but initially it worked fine.

“Joe Moss at Warner’s and the head of Mercury Records were close friends, that’s how we worked out a deal to maintain it,” explains Kenney. “Rod should’ve been with the Faces but found he had to deliver an album, so he did. So they worked out, Mercury were sly bastards, that they released Rod’s records at the same time so we were promoting his album as much as ours. They were pushing him big time. In the end I thought it was quite a good thing, the way it worked. We both benefitted.”

The band’s schedule now increased as they gigged to promote their record, and Rod’s, especially in America. “It was amazing to tour America because we never went there with the Small Faces. We did all these clubs. The first time one we played was in Detroit with the MC5. Everyone loved us and by the time we got to Boston, or the next place, the word of mouth had gotten out, that’s how it travelled then. In those days, we’d do a gig, right from day dot, and invite the audience back to the hotel to have a party. And they came. That stayed with us all the time. That’s why we became this fun loving party band. The audience got pissed with us and we got pissed with them. And then we played music with each other, like one big family.”

That accessibility endeared them all the more to their fans. They were a proper people’s band, all sharing the same good times.  As their success escalated, so the Faces partying increased as boozing, groupies and rearranging hotels became outlets to relieve on tour boredom, proudly earning a ban from every Holiday Inn in America. “We had more fun really in the Faces than we did in the Small Faces. We could be more rebellious.” The more innocent japes would begin on the Atlantic crossing. “You wouldn’t want to fall asleep with the Faces on board. You could smoke on the plane in those days, so anyone who fell asleep would have cigarettes on them, butter, custard, anything. Butter was a great one. You’d put it on their head and it would slowly melt and go down their face and then you’d put ash in their hair.”

Even during performances nobody was safe. “You never knew what was going to happen with the Faces on stage. I think it was at Kilburn, behind the stage door was a pub, right on the corner. So, I started the drum solo off to ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You’ and I soon realised something was different, I couldn’t see them watching me anymore. All of a sudden there was no one there. I played away a bit longer. Where the fuck are they? After about twenty minutes they came back in. They’d been in the pub. I don’t even like drum solos.”

The Faces spent their days and nights in a near permanent sloshed state in a way which differed from the Small Faces. “I didn’t really drink back then and the Small Faces were more into the drugs, except me, which was why I couldn’t live with them in Westmoreland Terrace in Pimlico. All on speed, and LSD, you fucking name it. I could never do that. The most I’d have would be some uppers maybe, some blues. Moonie got me into those a bit. He’d just pick up handfuls, and I’d go ‘I’ll just take one’. I was like a bag of nerves. I could never do cocaine although I tried it. I’d be playing away like this [mimes huge rush of energy] and then all of a sudden you’d go whoop [deflating noise], it would just leave you, that buzz would just go. And then it’d come back again out of nowhere. Forget it.”

After the package tours, screaming fans and 20 minute sets the Small Faces endured only a few years earlier, playing to audiences who wanted to listen, and being in a band able to extend themselves came as blessed relief to the Faces.

“The Small Faces always wanted to be known for our musicianship as we were getting better and we wanted to lose the teenybopper image, so with the Faces it was very different, I felt like I was finally being appreciated as a drummer. I think everyone felt a little like that in the band. We were playing more meaningful stuff. We could play lovely blues, stuff like that, and not ‘Lazy Sunday’. That’s what we wanted to be and why Marriott and Humble Pie got the head start on us, got to American before us, but we overtook them and it happened really quickly.”

It certainly did. 1971 was an incredible year for the Faces, far outstripping any expectations. The band released two more albums, Long Player and A Nod’s As Good As A Wink… To A Blind Horse, plus Rod’s Every Picture Tells A Story went to number one simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic with the single ‘Maggie May’ inescapable. They were now major league box office and until they spilt in 1975 enjoyed all the trappings that brought. “For a while we were more successful than the Stones, believe it or not,” says Kenney.

I ask Kenney if he wishes to sum up his days with the Faces but it’s clear he has no intention of ringing last orders just yet. “No, not really. I’m still having a good time.” Raise your glasses, to the Faces.

This article first appeared in the 50th Birthday Issue of Shindig!, published 11 September 2015

Friday, 16 October 2015

JIM JONES AND THE RIGHTEOUS MIND at OSLO, HACKNEY


For whatever reasons, and I don’t know what they were, contenders for the most exhilarating live band to fill my ears and eyes, the glorious Jim Jones Revue, disbanded a year ago; now Jim’s back in town to show he still really knock ‘em down.  

The set falls into three sections. The first is a clattering cauldron of percussive voodoo rhythms and guttural chanting to summon the spirits and stir the soul. Jim leads the mantra "Give Everything, Take Everything" before the blood curdling debut single 'Boil Yer Blood' mixes up the medicine with three parts Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and one part a torn-off half-riff scrap of ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’.

Jones is the master of ceremonies, as always, but he keeps Gavin Jay on bass from the Revue and the pair are flanked by a Marilyn Manson lookalike keyboard player and pedal-steel player who lays on the ghoulish effects. Behind them, sitting in on drums, is the unmistakable bearded figure of Bad Seed and Grinderman Jim Sclavunos; who fits like a black glove with the gothic nature of proceedings. My red shirt being a rare splash of colour in the blackest of seas.

In keeping with the apparent intention to create a new distinct identity away from Jim’s previous bands (add Thee Hypnotics and Black Moses to the list), there’s a notable lack of guitar wailing and a slow three song segment with Jay playing what to my ignoramus mind is a double bass with a bow, plus Jim singing in a lower, softer register cements this. In a live setting some of the subtleties of these more cinematic, almost Tom Waits tinged songs, probably get lost and ‘1000 Miles From Sure’ benefits from listening to the recorded version.

After this interlude, Jay straps his bass on again, bashing away at his knees like all great bassists, and the pedal-steel makes way for another guitar. From here on in we’re back on familiar ground, albeit with unfamiliar songs. No matter, they’re instant adrenaline rushes. Two guitars held out front and the Righteous Mind are rocking the joint. The two encore songs – one making me think of a bastardized offspring of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Big Legs, Tight Skirt’ – bring the already smouldering pot of bone crunching gumbo stew to the boil.