Sunday, 11 March 2018


Brett Anderson doesn’t so much walk into the room but glide. Back straight, no upper body movement and little steps. He could carry a book or his washing on his head, easy. With rakish grace he wafts from the back of an East London pub function room to the stage, where he decants into a large red velvet armchair, slouches back with a decadent air and waves a long bony hand. “Turn this terrible music off” he says, by way of an introduction. That terrible music is Suede’s brilliant, crunching, pirouetting, ‘Killing of a Flash Boy’, a 1994 B-side, that was, as were huge swathes of Suede B-sides up until that point, better than almost everyone else’s A-sides.

This is Brett’s first ever trip on the escalator at the end of the Victoria Line, as guest of Walthamstow’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Book Club, to talk about Coal Black Mornings, published this month by Little Brown. His demeanour is of a man at ease, debonair, sat in an exclusive Mayfair gentleman’s club, regaling tales of his life; only we’re in the shabby-chic E17, and the assembled ears do not belong to crusty old men smoking pipes. “I love women,” he says, fully aware of the response that will provoke, and an audience comprising of least 20 women to every man struggle to disguise reciprocal feelings. No doubt about it, Brett Anderson's a smooth, charming bastard. 

A man behind a tripod filming on a video camera asks why women love him and men hate him. There's no real answer to that, of course, but personal hygiene goes a long way apparently fellas.

Now he’s 50 (but, trust me ladies, looks much, much older...) we won’t find Brett in the gutter, reading Jack Kerouac and drinking bottles of absinthe – “boring, I know” – but instead he goes to dinner parties with his wife where he always finds himself stuck with “The Man” who wants to talk about cars and tyre pressure. I feel his pain, slightly, before finding some comfort in this news. 

But this is all side talk, the main discussion with interviewer Matt Thorne is about Coal Black Mornings, a book written with his young son in mind, he claims, on train journeys as a series of long emails to himself as he couldn’t be bothered to download Word to his computer. However unpromising that sounds the result is wonderful. I seldom read a book in a day but made an exception here (helped by 209 pages with lots of white space). It’s not The Story of Suede but a compelling account of Brett’s life up to the point of Suede signing a record deal, at which point the tale abruptly ends.

With autobiographies and biographies, I’m not usually overly interested in the subject’s early life, what their mum and dad and grandparents did, what their house was like; just cut to the chase, tell me about recording that classic single, tell me how everyone in the band fell out, their descent into My Drug Hell, then the redemption part at the end. But Brett, quite correctly as it turns out, reckons everyone has had their fill of those coke and gold disc stories, didn’t want to rake over that stuff now anyway, and chose to make his book about failure, love and loss, and achieves it magnificently.

It’s eloquently written, full of poetic phrases and evocative scenes of growing up in the 70s and 80s. Our lives are hardly comparable, but it’s strange how many memories it blew the dusty off in my head. Mostly innocuous stuff about being dragged around old churches on holidays and “sitting in soggy National Trust car parks as the rain poured angrily on the car roof” but nice nevertheless. Luckily for the reader if not him, Brett has far more monumental moments than that to share but the detailed descriptions of people and places impress.

Suede were often looked upon with suspicion singing about council estates and lives in the so-called margins, the assumption being they were middle class boys slumming it, adopting “social tourism” but Brett grew up in small council house in Hayward’s Heath with his mum, dad and elder sister. They were, undoubtedly, poor. In one example, Brett makes clear the indignity of having to queue up each day for his school dinner voucher; something that still stings. They were also the local oddball outsiders. Literature loving Mum, with artistic leanings and fond of sunbathing naked in the garden, was of the mend and make do school, making the only clothes that weren’t from jumble sales. Franz Listz obsessed Dad, who worked as an ice cream man, window cleaner, a swimming pool attendant who couldn’t swim, and finally a taxi driver, was, what may politely be called a bit of an eccentric, an Englishman whose home was most certainly his castle. I won’t spoil his foibles here.

Brett is unfailingly polite about those mentioned in the book (including former partners); even when revealing some unpleasantries about his father it’s respectfully done. There’s no sensationalism involved. The only person criticised is Brett himself and the only digs are a couple of handily placed references to the origins Modern Life Is Rubbish and ‘Popscene’ by (an unnamed) Blur plus a poke at 90s “groups of patronising middle-class boys making money by aping the accents and culture of the working classes”. Who can he mean?

Although not predominantly about Suede (and the Suede parts are curiously the least interesting, and I say that as a massive fan who followed every arse-slapping move during their first explosive year in the spotlight and love them still), Coal Black Mornings divulges events that provided inspiration for early songs. I’ve gone back and listened to things like ‘She’s Not Dead’, dealing with the mysterious and shocking death of his aunt, with far greater appreciation.

Coal Black Mornings is a class apart from most music books or memoirs. It’s full of emotion, honesty and revelations; it’s not a string of personal achievements but, as he writes, “about poverty and family and friendship and the scruffy wonders of youth”. There's a lot of death in there too, lump in the throat moments, but also laugh out loud occasions, due as much to Brett’s skilful writing than the incidents themselves. 

Back in the room, Brett is asked by a geek if he's a sci-fi fan (not really); the best Suede song ('The Wild Ones', correct); who he'd invite as a guest to interview at the Rock 'n' Roll Book Club (Lawrence from Felt, again correct); and having previously expressed a fondness for crisps, a group of fans plonk about 75 packets at his feet.

After the talk Brett signs books, natters to fans and poses for photographs, at which point I can confirm he does indeed smell mighty fine. 

Many thanks to Mark Hart of Walthamstow Rock 'n' Roll Book Club @e17RnR_books in rising to the challenge of bringing Brett to Mirth, Marvel & Maud, E17 and, naturally, to Brett Anderson himself. Coal Black Mornings is available now, £16.99.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

THE LUCID DREAM - 'SX1000' (2018)

Holy bananas, check this out. The Lucid Dream return in April with new single, ‘SX1000’, a year after their equipment was stolen at a gig in Paris and fans, eager for the band to continue making music, dug deep to donate £10,000 to get them back working again.

The first recorded return for that faith is a guitar-free, seven-minute banger, driven by the band’s prolonged submersion in Chicago and UK acid house sounds from the late 80s-early 90s. Anyone who has followed The Lucid Dream in their ten-year existence will have seen them grow and develop, continually looking to move on, from drone to dub, psych to rave. They’ve always pursued an independent path, a route that's now put them ahead of any pack. Watch others try to follow.

‘SX1000’ is released on 6 April 2018 as a limited edition single-sided 12 inch on Holy Are You Records. The Lucid Dream play the London Dalston Victoria (Thursday 5 April) and Manchester Band On The Wall (Friday 6 April). Band photo: Danny Payne.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


1.  Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band – ‘You Know You’ll Cry’ (1965)
The self-penned B-side to second single ‘Please Stay’ and one indebted to the rolling New Orleans sound of Allen Toussaint/Lee Dorsey.

2.  The Delicates – ‘Shop Shovin’ Me Around’ (1966)
Challenge Records were set-up by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. Gene had moseyed outta town by the time the Delicates cut this Motown soundalike, arranged by the phenomenally prolific and successful Gene Page.

3. Gela – ‘Pinta Mi Mundo’ (1967)
Swinging Spanish version of Pet Clark’s ‘Colour My World’.

4.  The Kindly Shepherds – ‘Lend Me Your Hand’ (1967)
Who you gonna call? No, not them, Jesus of course. Released on Checker this is happy-clappy gospel magic.

5.  Grant Green – ‘Iron City’ (1967)
It’s Green on guitar, Ben Dixon on drums and, according to the sleeve, Big John Patton on organ although there are plenty who swear it’s Larry Young. Listening closely, they may be right. Either way, this is supreme soul-jazz.

6.  The Impressions – ‘Stop The War’ (1972)
Curtis Mayfield had made way in the Impressions for Leroy Hutson to take over the lead role but still provided the songs and production to Times Have Changed. If Curtis hadn’t been cutting Superfly he would surely have been tempted to keep this for himself.

7.  Candy Opera – ‘Fever Pitch’ (1989)
Their recordings failed to see the light of day back in the mid-80s, only this month released this month as 45 Revolutions Per Minute, but what a revelation Candy Opera are. Although recorded at different stages the sixteen songs from this overlooked Liverpool band hang together as a superb, essential album. Fantastic all the way through, love it. Fans of Aztec Camera, in particular, take note.

8.  Men of North Country – ‘They Don’t Know’ (2016)
"We got some magic beans and we're rounding up the team". A joyous tribute to the secret underground topsy-turvy world of northern soul.

9.  Cabbage – ‘Arms of Pleonexia’ (2018)
Lyrically, musically and politically one of the most stirring bands around now, their 100 Club gig further cemented their reputation as an exciting proposition. The dark vibrating rattle and chant of ‘Arms of Pleonexia’ offers a taste of what’s to come from their first proper album, Nihilistic Glamour Shots, in March. Dictionary at the ready.

10.  Go-Kart Mozart – ‘When You’re Depressed’ (2018)
As gratifying as it is to see the Felt albums from the 80s reissued, don’t let that distract from Lawrence’s new Go-Kart Mozart album, Mozart Mini-Mart. Like music made for 1980s work training videos, here Lawrence deals with depression.

Friday, 23 February 2018


On the long list of things that make the mid-60s such an idyllic fantasyland to young pups such as I is the prominence of the musicians willing to lug a Hammond organ around seven days a week to play tiny pubs and clubs. There’s nothing like it, that sound, played through a Leslie speaker, swirlin’ and a-whirlin’. Bands these days either aren’t interested or can’t be doing with completing out a risk assessment to carry a ten-ton weight up some stairs and down again when smashed out of their skulls on pints of brandy. Only the other week I witnessed Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind disguise their use of a common-or-garden keyboard by quickly constructing a faux wood contraption to give the impression they were rocking an ancient organ. No backbone these bands. Or maybe it’s the old timers like Zoot Money who no longer have one; years of poor manual handling practices taking their toll. 

Some of the hard labours Zoot Money and his Big Roll Band put in are collated in Big Time Operator, a new 4-CD boxset, boasting their entire (original period) recorded output plus gigs and live performances for the BBC.

It’s clear Money comes alive whenever in front of an audience as the ebullient 1966 performance on Live at Klook’s Kleek which opens disc one demonstrates. You can almost feel the sweat of the band, the condensation running down the walls, as the audience soul-clap along to Ray Charles, Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield numbers and go crazy for a throaty James Brown medley. This is an archetypal Hammond and horns stew, London (via Bournemouth) style, yet despite their full-blooded rambunctiousness the occasional use of flute, included on the fabulous instrumental ‘Florence of Arabia’, adds a shade of subtlety. The night closes with ‘Barefootin’’, a song Zoot would frequently take literally and remove not only his shoes but those of as many members of the audience he could, a procedure that invariably turned to chaos as Denson’s and Mary Janes flew through the air.

This colourful showmanship defined Zoot’s shows. You were gonna shout and shimmy, have fun, and Zoot would make you laugh even if it detracted from the band’s musicianship. Georgie Fame exuded an air of stand-offish cool sophistication; Graham Bond and his Organisation were dangerously unhinged madmen loaded with violent virtuosity; Brian Auger was happy to share the spotlight; George Bruno Money, meanwhile, jumped on tables, leaped on cars at festivals, gurned, dropped his trousers and knocked over glasses of whisky and Coke.

Another show from the same year, Live at The Flamingo, the venue where the band took over Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames' residency, features on disc two. The nineteen songs, all different from the Klook’s set, recorded by saxophonist Nick Newall on a Grundig tape recorder with two little plastic microphones barely a foot apart on the stage, are a riot of raucous rhythm and soul. Despite the low-tech recording technique the sound quality is very good and captures the atmosphere superbly as they tear through ‘Oh Mom (Teach Me How To Uncle Willie)’, a rip-roaring ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’, ‘Hide Nor Hair’, ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ and more. Although the band’s main preoccupation was unearthing American recordings to bring to British audiences they did, with the help of Tony Colton, have a few fine original numbers. ‘Big Time Operator’ the most obvious, gave the band their only chart single; the record buying public weren’t entirely stupid, it was by far the most hit-sounding. The mod-club friendly ‘Train Train’ could’ve been another but sadly was never completed in the studio.

Disc three’s Live At The BBC is wonderful. Eighteen songs (including many not appearing elsewhere in the box – ‘Picture Me Gone’, ‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’, ‘The Morning After’, ‘Cool Jerk’, ‘Ain’t That Love’, ‘You Can’t Sit Down’ etc) with plenty of chat with presenter Brian Matthew. By January 1967, Zoot’s discussing his interest in the emerging psychedelic scene, only to then perform ‘The Star of the Show’, which belongs in the same chicken in a basket cabaret bag as ‘Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear’; even Brian Mathew cheekily ribs Zoot about its chart failure and being ‘best forgotten’. Within months Zoot got with-it, bought a kaftan, the Big Roll Band lost a few wheels, painted their equipment white and rode into the burgeoning underground scene as Dantalion’s Chariot on a wave of LSD.

Back to 1965 and It Should’ve Been Me, the Big Roll Band’s solitary studio album, is placed on the disc four; a typical collection of rhythm and blues tunes with a touch of jazz (John Patton’s ‘Along Came John’ and Jimmy Smith’s ‘The Cat’). Compared to the flat sounding lookalike reissue I’ve had for years it sounds miles better and comes to life in way I’d not expected (vinyl is not always king kids). ‘I’ll Go Crazy’ and ‘Jump Back’ get things off to a storming start and apart from a couple of bluesy numbers that drag it’s enjoyable if seldom catching the personality of the band like the live recordings.

Across the discs are spread the rest of the band’s singles, B-sides, EP tracks and rarities. Housed in a hardback book-style package with Zoot providing a track-by-track commentary plus guitarist Andy Somers/Summers sharing his Flamingo Club memories, the set is the same style as Repertoire’s Graham Bond Organisation: Wade In The Water and makes a welcome companion.

Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band haven't been as well served by the reissue market as their peers so Big Time Operator puts that straight. Nearly five hours of music, over 80 songs (very few repeated), the much-missed Brian Matthew brought back to life, and Zoot and co having the time of their lives, this joyful stuff. With no danger of losing your shoes, getting drinks spilled on your new strides or having a bulky Hammond player land on your head, enjoy Big Time Operator from the safety of your own home now.

Big Time Operator by Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band is out now on Repertoire.

Monday, 19 February 2018


In case you missed Mavis Staples on BBC Radio 6 Music yesterday, here's the link to catch up. Matt Everitt talks to Mavis about the first time she was aware of music, sung with her family, at home, in church, in the studio and much more. 

As you'd expect from anything involving Mavis, it's a joyous hour -with an undercurrent of righteous indignation. Not only is "Bubbles" possessed with an amazing singing voice, she also owns the most captivating talking voice. Oh, and if Matt Everitt doesn't have the above photo framed at home I'd be very disappointed. Shamone.

Saturday, 17 February 2018


Boy Azooga is, according to press blurb, “the psych-flecked musical vehicle for Cardiff’s Davey Newington multifarious musical mission.” ‘Loner Boogie’ is two minutes of restless bees-trapped-in-a-tin garage rock and roll at odds with previous outing, the synthy ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’, which makes Boy Azooga, at this early stage, intriguingly difficult to pin down. Debut album out in the summer.


Dressed in intergalactic superhero cloaks, made with some old curtains and a glue gun, and with faces adorned with stars and glitter, the Lovely Eggs last night transported the 100 Club to the centre of their cranky universe with a stupendous launch for new 45 ‘Wiggy Giggy’. Already destined to be one of the songs of 2018 it’s taken from the relentlessly brilliant This Is Eggland, officially released this week.