Sunday, 29 March 2015

MARCH PLAYLIST


1.  Wynonie Harris – “Keep On Churnin’ (Til The Butter Comes)” (1952)
“First comes the milk/ then comes the cream/ takes good butter to make your daddy scream/
Keep on churnin’ ‘till the butter comes…” shouts Mr. Harris.

2.  Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated – “Preachin’ The Blues” (1965)
Adapted from Robert Johnson’s 1936 recording, Korner plays a bouzouki by sliding a door key along the strings and Phil Seamen adds “African-style” drumming. Mississippi blues goes Greek via Ealing. Album (above) kindly donated to the cause by Monkey Snr. 

3.  The Answer – “I’ll Be In” (1965)
The Answer were from Berkeley High School, California and the snappy garage-twang of “I’ll Be In” plus the moody blues with a hooky chorus flip “Why You Smile” made this a great double-sider for White Whale records.

4.  Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery – “Night Train” (1966)
All aboard! From their album The Dynamic Duo, Jimmy and Wes are joined by a swinging 16 piece big band. James Brown would’ve loved the result.

5.  The Byrds – “You’re Still On My Mind” (1968)
The recruitment of Gram Parsons turned into only a short-lived affair but only eight months after The Notorious Byrd Brothers, the Byrds displayed their massive bollocks in releasing the full-on country album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, to a 1968 market. “You’re Still On My Mind” was written and released by Luke McDaniel in 1959, and with lyrics about honky tonk jukeboxes, “an empty bottle, a broken heart, and you’re still on my mind” was surely an influence on Merle Haggard whose “Life In Prison” is also covered on the record.

6.  Steve Stills & Al Kooper – “Season Of The Witch” (1968)
The Super Session album credited to Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills is slightly misleading as not all three played together. On side one Kooper and band are joined by Bloomfield; and on side two it’s Kooper and Stills. Both are great but Stills nicks it on points thanks to making Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” sound like Buffalo Springfield meets the Monkees; the phasing frenzy on “You Don’t Love Me”; and then this eleven minute epic in which Donovan invents the jam session. Especially love the bit when the (over-dubbed) horns come in.

7.  MC5 – “The American Ruse” (1970)
If ever there was an album which failed to capture the essence of a band, it’s the MC5’s Back In The USA; scorn of their thrilling sonic power as a live act it’s bafflingly thin sounding record. That said, taken on its own merits, I do still like it as a Chuck Berryesque rock and roll record and “The American Ruse” hinted at what the band were truly like.  

8.  The Last Poets – “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution” (1970)
Warning: Care should be taken when playing The Last Poets eponymous LP as the liberal use of the N-word (and F-word) could cause misunderstanding with neighbours. Three angry voices of East Harlem, symbolically formed on what would've been Malcolm X's birthday and led here by Omar Ben Hassen, taunt and call the bluff of their people.

9.  Leon Spencer – “Give Me Your Love” (1973)
Organist Leon Spencer’s Where I’m Coming From album for Prestige features two original compositions plus dead on the heavy funk versions of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, Four Tops’ “Keeper of the Castle”, Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” and this rumbling take on Curtis Mayfield‘s Superfly classic.

10.  New Order – “Weirdo” (1986)
New Order’s 1989 Technique is one of my very favourite albums. So much so I’ve always felt their others records noticeably inferior but after digging out Brotherhood the other day it’s not as far off as I remember. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

THE WHO HITS 50 at the O2 ARENA, LONDON


The buzz of riding a Lambretta is one of life’s great pleasures. It doesn’t matter where it is but I always get an extra kick when cruising through the streets of Shepherd’s Bush and specifically along the Goldhawk Road. In my little semi-fantasy world it is still the mid-1960s, this is the heart of Mod territory, and local band The Who are playing later for the umpteenth time at the Goldhawk Social Club. Although The Who are known as a Shepherd’s Bush band, Roger Daltrey was the only one who genuinely lived there. In The Who documentary, Amazing Journey, Pete Townshend called him “the king of the neighbourhood”.

This scruffy stretch of the capital has, as far as I can tell, remained- until now - largely unchanged. Cooke’s Pie and Mash Shop – the one in Quadrophenia - has clung on since 1934; the interior of Zippy CafĂ© a couple of doors down is every inch an abandoned Wimpy bar; Goldhawk Road tube station remains little more than a rickety shack; and, best of all, the Goldhawk Social Club has only tweaked its name slightly to the Shepherd’s Bush Club and now displays a blue Heritage Foundation plaque honouring The Who. With the likes of Cooke’s now sold to developers of Shepherd’s Bush market these are the last knockings of the area as it currently stands.

I rode past the Goldhawk again this weekend, exactly fifty years from when The Who walked through the hanging plastic drapes in the club to play a gig on Saturday 20th March 1965 after hot-footing it from attending the opening show of the Tamla Motown Revue at the Finsbury Park Astoria. I know, what a night, lucky bleeders. I wasn’t there rabbiting amongst the West London Mods from the Bush, Acton, Notting Hill, West Drayton, Paddington and so on but I did, honestly, see The Who yesterday.

The O2 Arena in Greenwich is less than fifteen miles from the Goldhawk but they could be on different planets and as gig experiences go they couldn’t be much more different. No chance of bumping into Pete Townshend having a piss here in this soulless corporate "village". The O2 is a 20,000 capacity venue and not one of those people, as far as I could tell, was blocked on amphetamines.  Prescription drugs, now that’s different. When folk scuffled to the loo, they rattled. Unlike Keith Moon and John Entwistle, not everyone died before they got old I’m pleased to say.

Of course, I wouldn’t usually dream of attending one of these huge cavernous monstrosities, but then again I can probably only count on my thumbs the bands I like who’d be able to fill somewhere like this, The Who being one. This was part of their The Who Hits 50 tour; supposedly their last extended jaunt around the globe. They’ve said this before so I won’t hold them to it. Half a century gone and it’s still too early to say farewell.

For over two hours straight Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and some other blokes put on hugely enjoyable show. Roger and Pete were in a relaxed mood; jovial and offered plenty of expletive-ridden between-song banter creating an almost intimate atmosphere despite the grand scale. Roger played the affable, one-of-the-lads role and Pete switched from serious artist to money-accumulating rock star. When Roger thanked everyone for coming, “It woulda been really boring without ya”, Pete quips back “And we’d be a lot poorer”. He also said we’d paid three thousand pound a ticket, which wasn’t too far off.

They earned their dough though, playing a mostly predictable set with a few surprises chucked in. Pete mentions it’s supposed to be a hits show. “All four of them,” he says, “plus the three from CSI, and two rock operas”. That “I Can See For Miles” wasn’t a huge hit - “it’s a great song” - obviously still rankles and it’s plain to hear way. Some of the other earlier singles like “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute”, as much as they made brilliant records, sounded slightly plodding in comparison the more complex later material.

“Love Reign O’er Me” was emotional; the mini-Tommy brilliant, still to my mind The Who’s pinnacle; the double whammy of “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is as good as big venue music gets. “Slip Kid” was unexpected; as was “So Sad About Us”; and “A Quick One, Whilst He’s Away” a welcome knee-trembler.

They’ve got to pace themselves these days so Roger’s microphone twirling was kept to minimum and Pete’s feet didn’t leave the floor although there was plenty of windmill action. Roger, bless him, couldn’t always hit the notes (it’s an unforgiving occupation being a lead singer in a shouty rock band; no one’s gonna notice a few bum chords or missed timings elsewhere) and he mentions the set list is a challenge emotionally as well as having to remember all Townshend’s lyrics. “Why couldn’t you write some easier songs?” he asks Pete. “Because I’m an intellectual,” came the reply, “you fucking cunt.”

The staging behind the band was superb. I always roll my eyes when people start talking about what a band’s backdrop and graphics and lighting was like – so bloody what? – but in this environment draping a union jack over a Marshall stack ain’t really gonna cut it, so hat’s off: these were a stylish and imaginative series of animations that complimented the songs. Some were very fancy and expensive looking yet the funniest was the simplest.  After Townshend gave his account of writing “Pictures of Lily” about wanking to old Lily Langtry postcards, the song is performed in front of a giant Keith Moon dressed in a wig and black bra. Should also say Zak Starkey’s “vision of ginger” behind the drums didn’t go unnoticed either. A nice touch.

After a closing “Magic Bus”, Roger apologised for a few gremlins throughout the show. For all the high-tech nature he appeared a touch put out he’d been given a B harmonica instead of a B Flat for “Baba O’Riley” and then suffered unwanted feedback with his harp during the last song. “But who gives a shit?” He’s fooling no-one this time. Roger Daltrey loves The Who and is fiercely proud of them. I love them too; they’re the kings of any neighbourhood. 
205 Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

MODERNISTS: A DECADE OF RHYTHM & SOUL DEDICATION (2015)


The 1965 cover image on Kent Records' new 24-track Modernists compilation features a quintet of young mods hanging around a coffee bar near Manchester's Twisted Wheel club which pounded to the happening new sound of soul and rhythm and blues. But as Ady Croasdell and Dean Rudland observe in their liner notes, the majority of records spun for mods throughout the country in the mid-60s came only via tracks given a UK release on labels such as London-American, Stateside, Sue and Pye International's R&B Series; imports from the US were few and far between. Modernists imagines which other singles might've made club playlists had they been more readily available.   

The two opening tracks, from 1967, set the tone. "Soul Jerk It, Baby" by Jeb Stuart and Lewis Clark's "Dog (Ain't A Man's Best Friend)" both could break into a burst of "Land Of A 1000 Dances" at the snap of a well executed soul clap. Although Kent reference their collection as "rhythm and soul", it's more what is usually known these days as "club soul", and I think there's subtle difference: "club soul" being the traditional Atlantic/Stax-a-like soul that has fallen out of favour for new breed modernists who are even less keen to shingaling, jerk or pony than their ancestors, preferring the shuffle of heavier blues-based or popcorn numbers (age and stamina of the club goer might have something to do with that...). Therefore those who, like me, purchase CDs with an ear on finding potential new 45s for their DJ sets might come away with slim pickings to energise a current dancefloor (although the tracks by at least Clifford Curry, Lil Bob and Gene Burks have already done so) but there's still plenty to enjoy in an imaginary 60s haunt of wide-eyed chatterboxes.

Robert Moore's "Harlem Shuffle" is a corking alterative version which would get the shoes scuffed in any dark basement and Bessie Banks' "(You Should Have Been A) Doctor" fits exactly the rhythm and soul description with it's uptempo beat and soulful vocals. Songwriters back then didn't fear lawsuits against copyright infringement - as they damn well now in light of the Thicke/William vs Gaye case - so many tunes, if not the songs themselves, are familiar. Clifford Curry's "Good Humour Man" bears more than a passing resemblance to Jimmy Hughes's "Neighbor, Neighbor"; Oliver Morgan's "Hold Your Dog" is a barely concealed thief of Rufus Thomas's "Walking The Dog"; Little Eva attempts to go all "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" on "Dynamite"; and Timmy Wilson's previously unreleased "Long Ways To Go" offers the chance to do the Block a la "Long Tall Shorty".

Lil Bob's "I Got Loaded" is something I spun out regularly ten years ago and with its jumpy Louisianan rhythm is a perfect record when crossing over from soul and R&B into Jamaican 45s or, as it does here into more 50s swing territory with John Fred and the Playboys' "Shirley". Also, although recorded in circa '65, Clarence Daniels & Obie Jessie's "Got A Good Thing Going On" which - although I'm a big fan of Young Jessie -  would've sounded very dated had it been aired at the Twisted Wheel.  

The Pac-Keys "Stone Fox" is at the classier end of the scale with the ostracised Packy Axton showing his ma and uncle at Stax he could still cut a cool mod jazz R&B instrumentals without their help; and "Cat Dance" by The In Crowd similarly offers a cut that could nicely curl up at home on Kent's sister Mod Jazz series; as would Paul & Rick's organ blues "After Hours". In addition to the aforementioned foxes and cats, there's a veritable soul-zoo of animal magic here: three dogs, a cat, a crow and two monkeys. Chickens notable by their absence.

The standout track though is "Tingling" by Eddie Giles from 1968: slower, brooding, and more in keeping with the atmospheric club feel of today it sounds a little out of place on Modernists, which demonstrates that although there's a core mod club sound it's one which, over fifty years on, is still gently evolving.

Modernists: A Decade of Rhythm & Soul Dedication is released on CD by Kent Records. Out now. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

MR DYNAMITE: THE RISE OF JAMES BROWN (2014)

Sat in front of the gogglebox last night, imagine my surprise and delight when BBC2 screened Alex Gibney's 2014 documentary, Mr Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown. What a brilliant film. Loads of rare footage (I regular scour the internet and there was plenty new to me), archive and new interviews, band members doing funny impressions of their leader, insight, context, the lot. If you missed it, or want to watch The Hardest Working Man In Show & Business repeatedly, it's available on the BBC iPlayer for the next month. Get up, get into it, get involved.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

FEBRUARY PLAYLIST

Gene McDaniels. Over the moon at making the February Playlist.
1.  Billy Fury - "Don't Jump" (1962)
In Tony O'Neill's latest book, the brilliant Black Neon, one of the main characters - a half Haitian, one-armed, murdering, thieving, junkie, black magic practicing, lesbian (it's that kind of book) - states "This is undoubtedly the best rock 'n' roll song about someone thinking of throwing themselves off a cliff ever recorded". Don't argue with the nice lady.

2.  Dean Jones - "Women (Ska-Da-La-De-Da)" (1964)
Don't let the word Ska throw you, Dean Jones is a white TV actor and star of the film The Love Bug but somehow cut this storming Latin/popcorn dancefloor filler.

3.  Gene McDaniels - "Hang On (Just A Little Bit Longer)" (1965)
Marvellous, although surprisingly not one of McDaniels' big hits. Can only assume Scott Walker/The Walker Brothers didn't hear it or else they'd have been all over it and would've had a smash on their hands.

4.  Donald Byrd - "Brother Isaac" (1965)
Byrd's I'm Tryin' To Get Home LP was released under the title Donald Byrd Brass With Voices, for that's what it was. The voices are used rhythmically - there's no actual words, just what I suppose is scat singing. Sounds a terrible idea but works a treat, especially on the opening soul-church jamboree. Should add there are musicians of neither brass nor voice as a stellar line-up including Freddie Roach (organ), Herbie Hancock (piano) and Grant Green (guitar) testifies.

5.  Steve Cropper, Albert King and Pops Staples - "Big Bird" (1969)
In May 1969 Stax released something like 27 different albums and I've yet to hear one which isn't great (makes note to collect all 27). On Jammed Together the three guitarists all compliment each other, allowing the listener to clearly identify their distinctive styles. 

6.  Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy - "Fire (She Need Water)" (1970)
Light In The Attic Records last year released a lovely limited edition orange-vinyl version of the Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy album. Jamaican-Canadian McGhie - Studio One veteran and Jackie Mittoo band mate - warmly blends reggae, soul and funk.

7.  Jerry Reed - "500 Miles Away From Home" (1972)
Bobby Bare's 1963 country hit given a more low-down swampy feel by Jerry Reed who's "feeling dirty" apparently.

8.  Four Tops - "Are You Man Enough?" (1973)
Spend a day watching Shaft, Shaft's Big Score and Shaft In Africa. This was the used over the opening credits to the final film and demonstrates how even post-Motown the Tops could still deliver. Their LP for Dunhill, Main Street People, is jammed with other equally great tracks - "I Just Can't Get You Out Of My Mind", "It Won't Be The First Time", "Sweet Understanding Love", "Am I My Brother's Keeper" etc. Co-produced by Brian Potter. Pre-Phoenix Nights I guess. 

9.  The Style Council - "Big Boss Groove" (1984)
After seeing the Style Councillors at the 100 Club on Thursday I've slightly altered my opinion about tribute acts, or at least am prepared to make an exception in this case. Done with meticulous attention to detail I thoroughly enjoyed them. Largely centred around the '83-'85 period it highlighted what a purple patch it was in Paul Weller's career; such a range of styles although with a strong soul influence. The Councillors well chosen set even included covers the Council only did live - The Impressions "Meeting Over Yonder" and Chairmen of the Board's "Hanging On To A Memory" - which was indicative of where songs like "Big Boss Groove" came from; a track I'd clean forgotten about until hearing it played live the other night. "Get on up."

10.  Hookworms - "Radio Tokyo" (2014)
The rocking organ intro sounds like the greatest few seconds the Inspiral Carpets never made before the pained screeching vocals take it some place else. Some scary, noisy, but exciting place.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

THE LUCID DREAM - THE LUCID DREAM (2015)


It wasn't so long along Italian Vogue declared Dalston "the coolest place on earth". Such is the way of these things that title will have passed on to the next faddiest part of town by now. Not that the vagaries of fashion are of much concern to The Lucid Dream who rocked up on a visit to East London on Tuesday and took the stage wearing four different Carlisle United football shirts; a garish colour clash even the most psychedelic imagination would have trouble conjuring. It's symptomatic of their uncompromising and willfully outsiderish nature.

They've already released about half a dozen singles and an album, 2013's Songs Of Lies And Deceit, yet with their eyes always looking ahead they played almost exclusively from their forthcoming album, The Lucid Dream, which isn't out for another month. It's a cracking album which opens with two almighty tracks. "Mona Lisa" sets the tone, an eight and a half minute instrumental of Kraut rock rhythms, pirouetting guitar shapes, a wall of white noise, phasing and supersonic (boom) space travel. "Cold Killer" follows in a similar style, with vocals this time plus stabs of jagged guitar piercing the skin, and two tracks in I'm already thinking this could be the best UK guitar album since I don't know when. Brain meltingly good.    

The opening moments of "The Darkest Day/Head Musik" offer respite from the full bodied attack but with a thump-thumping rhythm it doesn't take long for more guitar to increase the pace and off into its slipstream the listener is pulled again before it explodes into a frenzy of feedback with squealing sax a la Stooges Fun House. "Moonstruck", with its pulsating keyboard lead, was a single that received some radio play although don't take that as any lessening of the intensity. "Unchained Dub" is all dubby squiggles with use of a melodica offsetting the dark industrial metallic scariness. "Unchained" is closer to slightly straighter pop (all things being relative of course). "Morning Breeze" shows these are hardened northern lads. Their breeze feels to me like the iciest wind that would strip the skin off even an Eskimo's face, but after that initial shiver the track settles down and recalls the gliding levitation Verve did so well on early singles like "Gravity Grave". Finally "You And I" is almost a sweet 60s Phil Spector girl group song (okay, via the Mary Chain) before the almost inevitable feedback finale.

The more I listen to The Lucid Dream the more impressed I become. Hearing it live it one swoop perhaps some of the nuances were lost a little but as these tracks become more familiar that'll soon change, although by then they'll have moved on again. Keep up if you can. 

The Lucid Dream by The Lucid Dream is released by Holy Are You Recordings on 30 March 2015. LP and CD. 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

HAND JOB ZINE: WHAT MUSIC ARE YOU INTO?


Hand Job Zine is a UK literary mag run by Jim Gibson and Sophie Pitchford with contributions from a range of writers, poets and artists from the margins. With six issues already to its name it's uncompromising in content whilst its design harks back to the punk DIY aesthetic of scissors and glue and a borrowed photocopier. Unlike fellow zines PUSH and Paper & Ink which focus almost exclusively on the physical page, Hand Job compliment their mag with (in contrast to its print form) a neatly presented web version featuring different content.

Jim contacted me recently to see if I'd be up for writing something about my "music philosophy", how important music was to me and my general attitude to it. I'm not usually keen on writing stuff to order but gave it a bash and the result was posted on the Hand Job Zine site last week. It generated a considerable amount of comment over the next few days, far more than my usual offerings, so I'll reprint it here. Details of how to get hold of a Hand Job can be found at the foot of the page. Take a look.
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What type of music are you into? On the face of it a simple enough question but the answer is inevitably more complicated.

Back when I hit my teenage years in the early to mid 80s it was easier. We had clear lines of demarcation: mod, punk, psychobilly, goth, heavy metal, soul, new romantic, etc. The lines were so clear, the battle dress immediately evident, the question rarely needed to be asked. You could see the answer. Today, with the noticeable absence of defined "tribes", a common response is "oh, I like a bit of everything" which, when you get down to it, really means most people aren't passionate about any of it. Music is there in the background, stuck on in the car, added to an iTunes account. For me though, it's dead centre of my existence. It's an obsession, definitely. An addiction, most likely. It occupies nearly every spare moment I have. Outside of the drab, dead-end, un-music related job that gets in the way for 41 hours a week, it's music, music, music: not as a creator, but as a consumer. 

It's partly hereditary. Like most young girls at the time my mum took an interest in pop music and loved going out dancing but my dad was hooked on modern jazz, on be-bop, after his parents took him shopping as a kid in Hounslow and he came home with the Sonny Stitt Quartet album Personal Appearance in 1957 because something about the sleeve - a sharp looking Stitt fixing a slightly menacing stare into middle distance with his sax poised near his lips - connected with him. My mum hates jazz. That she married a man who could, and still does, merrily listen to the most out-there, way-out jazz he can find every waking hour is one of those mysteries of young romance. Dad's attempts at playing Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman or Sun Ra in the family home - to this day - are futile attempts which only last long enough for mum to cotton on and make him put his headphones on. As kids, me and my sister would scream, "Daaaad, they're just making this up as they go along!" To which he'd answer, "And what's wrong with that?" Of course, in the way we all become our parents, I now drink real ale and recently bought a 1969 album by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, which is the epitome of making stuff up as four men run around a recording studio crashing, bashing, blowing and plucking as many disparate instruments as they could lay their hands on. And what's wrong with that?

My Sonny Stitt moment, the record that everything leads back to is the Jam's single "Absolute Beginners". Purchased from WH Smith's in Uxbridge, Saturday afternoon, October 1981, a couple of hours after they'd performed both sides of the record on Swop Swap on BBC1. I wouldn't claim it's a brilliant record, it's not even one of the Jam's best, but although I'd bought a few records already this was when it became serious. I'm fairly confident I can trace a line from almost everything I've bought or enjoyed since back to that record. That's one of the fascinating and rewarding things about music: how one song leads to another and how the tree grows branches and twigs.

The Jam gave me an initial interest in all things "Mod". I was twelve years old and via them there were new off-shoots to gradually explore: the obvious 60's Mod-related groups; well known 60's hitmakers; no-hit beat combos; US psychedelia and garage punk; UK pop-pysch; the catalogues of Motown/Stax/Atlantic; northern soul; rhythm and blues; blues; jazz; gospel; folk; as well as punk, new wave and small independent guitar-totting bands. That's building on a strong foundation. And for every artist thrown up in this haul it begs the question, who were they influenced by and who subsequently carried the flame? 

Quite how I was ever going to discover all this music, frustratingly out of reach, was a big problem. It still is, but the internet and the ability to hear almost anything immediately is a blessing. After leaving school I started work around the corner from the big HMV by Bond Street tube. Most days I'd go in there and marvel at the records and buy as much as I could. Flicking through the albums, if I wanted to know what The Doors' Morrison Hotel or James Brown's Live At The Apollo sounded like, I'd have to buy them. There was no other way. I remember thinking if I could have one wish it would be to have every record in the shop. In some ways the internet has provided that. Mum soon spotted me coming home regularly with something new. "You should be saving, not wasting all your money on records". Wasting? I resorted to stuffing them inside my coat when entering the house and quickly making a dash to my bedroom to unload the loot. One advantage of paying for music is it encourages repeated listens. Clicking around the internet today if a song doesn't connect within the first 20 seconds it's missed its chance. That's a terrible thing really, especially as the more immediate a song is, the less longevity I find it has. It's revealed its hand too quickly.

Songs and records were practically one and the same thing then. Although less the case now it's still my preferred way to experience music: in the format they were made for. To root around a record shop or market stall and travel back on the tube - in the same way I did with "Absolute Beginners" - with albums or singles in a carrier bag is a massive buzz. There's no real need to buy things without hearing them anymore but I still enjoy that leap into the unknown, that anticipation, that ritual of carefully removing it from the sleeve, of the smell, of the pop and crackle of old records. What's this going to sound like? There's a name of a previous owner neatly written on the cover or record label. What was their story? They must've loved this when they took it to that party in 1966 or 1976 or 1986.

Old records have a history. Each copy has had a life of its own, quite separate from any life of those involved in its creation may have had. Of all the records in my collection, it's the obscure R&B records that contain the most magic. Made by individuals I know nothing about. I could look them up these days, do a bit of research. Sometimes I do but mostly I like the mystery. Pulling a few randomly off the shelf now: "Rudy's Monkey" by Rudy and the Reno Bops; "Hey L. Roy" by L. Roy Baimes; "When Things Get A Little Better" by Oscar Boyd; "Son-In-Law" by Louise Brown; "Who's Over Yonder" by the Garden State Choir. Who were these people that made these 45s 50-60 years ago for small American labels? Doubtful many of the people responsible are here now but they've left something for us to discover. They've made their mark. Achieved something. Make a record and you live forever.

Each day is a fresh search to discover something brilliant I've not heard before and as time marches on there's that acceptance I'm never going to be able to capture it all. Ain't that fantastic? If I only liked mod or punk or country or soul, I'd have had this licked long ago. There's plenty of okay stuff out there but it's the big what-if-I'd-never-heard-this-in-my-life fish that's I'm always looking to catch. And what are those songs? I've been trying to think if there's a common thread between all my favourite records. They've got to have soul, I guess. By that I mean truth. They've got to be believable. In Bob Dylan's MusiCare's Person of The Year acceptance speech last week he quoted Sam Cooke as saying "Voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth." That's the key. It's only possible to have a true emotional connection if one believes what they're being told. Three chords, or more, and the truth.

When Gram Parsons recounts the death of his bride-to-be in "$1000 Wedding", I believe him. When Jerry Butler, after one more heartache, moans he's "Giving Up On Love", I believe him. When the Action sing about crying all night and the sun feeling cold in "Since I Lost My Baby", I believe them. When Howlin' Wolf growls knowingly about little girls understanding in "Back Door Man", I believe him. When Big Daddy Rogers insists he's got a lot of meat and is hard to beat in "I'm A Big Man", I believe him. When The Byrds "Feel A Whole Lot Better" when you're gone, I believe them. When Manic Street Preachers fire a barely decipherable assault throughout "Motown Junk" I don't quite know what they're saying but I believe they mean it. When Bob Dylan, Mavis Staples, Curtis Mayfield, Chuck D sing, I believe them.

So, tell me, what music are you into?

For more details please visit: Hand Job Zine