Monday, 17 September 2018

IT'S TIME FOR... FIVE THIRTY. THE TARA MILTON INTERVIEW (2018)


“Five Thirty are a blissed out, centrifuged guitar pop trio. Every song, and they’ve got more than they know what to do with, rushes at you with hot, sweaty, power.” Sounds, 1990

In Brett Anderson’s recent memoir, Coal Black Mornings, he writes how a fledging Suede attended gigs at the University of London Union to watch “now forgotten, marginal bands like Five Thirty” and “drench ourselves in the giddy world of dry ice and the squeal of feedback, the press of bodies and the thrill of noise”.  One can debate the contradiction of recalling something now forgotten, bristle at Brett’s use of marginal, but his description of Five Thirty as they exploded onto the live music scene in 1990 is on the money.

Placing them at the ULU is significant too as it was there during a Friday afternoon showcase organised by their friend Jon Leslie-Smith, a member of the student union, the band lit the fuse for a record company bidding war. Gary Crowley, then doing A&R for Island, recently said he thought all his Christmases and birthdays had come at once due to the band “sounding like a cross between The Jam and The Stones Roses”.

Island eventually lost out to East-West and during the following 18 months Tara Milton (vocals/bass), Paul Bassett (vocals/guitar) and Phil Hopper (drums/vocals) released five singles (most consider them EPs as the three or four tracks on every 12 inch were essential), an album and played a continuous string of electrifying live shows. A formidable and versatile act, blessed with two gifted songwriters in Tara and Paul, they then shot themselves in the foot by carelessly losing drummer Phil, then hobbled along for the best part of a stuttering and mostly silent year before being quietly to put to sleep. It was a strange end; a band whose star burned so brightly, fading away, almost unnoticed.

Five years before ‘Abstain’, then as The 5:30!, they were a second-tier Mod band. Young and inexperienced they played on a few Mod bills, most notably Clacton Mod Rally and the Mod-Aid Alldayer in Walthamstow and released their ‘Catcher In The Rye’ EP. Few would have predicted of all the Mod bands knocking around in ’85 it would be they who’d subsequently achieve a degree of commercial success and create a collection of recordings that still hold up today. No band has made an album I’ve listened to as often as Bed.

Only Tara Milton remained from that early Mod incarnation but it’s important to note here Tara’s schoolfriend Chris Drew, who tirelessly championed his mates from the start, sending off introductory articles to the network of often unforgiving Modzines and ran the grandly named 5:30 Information Service. Chris remained a constant in the band for the rest of his life: designing record sleeves, logos, backdrops, painting guitars and being a creative confidant.

Fast forward to 2018 and Tara Milton – baker boy cap jauntily placed, vintage Adidas, old Jam badge on his lapel – is sat opposite me in a pub down the road from the Small Faces’ former home in Pimlico talking about releasing his debut solo album, Serpentine Waltz, on Steve Marriott’s birthday. It’s a wonderful record that is quite rightly receiving across-the-board rave reviews. Cinematic, literate, disconcerting; a series of vignettes from the darkest corners of city life. After discussing the record (see piece in Shindig magazine) we turned our attention to Five Thirty.

What follows is an in-depth look at the band; grab a cuppa and a biscuit, make time for it. Enormous thanks to Tara for his patience at my probing – I can’t lie, I was borderline obsessed with Five Thirty, traipsing around the country nearly 25 times, cutting out every mention I’d find the music press – and his thoughtfulness and candidness in his replies. It sometimes felt these were memories that had lay dormant until I came poking around but it’s a story that hasn’t been told before. 

Read the interview at Modculture.

Serpentine Waltz is out now and available from taramilton.co.uk



Friday, 31 August 2018

AUGUST PLAYLIST


1.  Titus Turner – ‘Devilish Women’ (1954)
Featuring the Danny Mendelsohn Orchestra. I particularly like the part when Titus, inexplicably, lets out a yelp, like a tiny dog.

2.  Johnny Little John and Guitar – ‘Johnny’s Jive’ (1966)
An instrumental with words, recorded as if a gang fight with chains, bottles, bricks, rusty blades, dustbins and a kitchen sink inside an old disused Woolworth’s store in Chicago.

3.  Aretha Franklin – ‘Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket (Make For The Door)’ (1966)
Today, in Detroit, Aretha was buried in a 24-karat, gold-plated casket made of solid bronze. The interior finished with champagne velvet, and stitched with her name and her title, Queen of Soul, in gold metallic thread. Way to go sister. 

4.  Jr. Walker & the All-Stars – ‘Right On Brothers and Sisters’ (1971)
Right on Jr.

5.  Gary Chandler – ‘Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)’ (1972)
Trumpeter Chandler cut his teeth in the Motown touring bands of the mid 60s before popping up for his one and only LP, Outlook, released on Eastbound which now gets a vinyl reissue. If you’re after smokin’ soul-jazz with horns, Idris Muhammad popping the beat and Caesar Frazier pumping his organ, then look no further.

6.  The Four Tops - ‘(It Would Almost) Drive Me Out of My Mind’ (1975)
A 1975 B-side might not sound like a tantalising proposition but the Tops edge a tiny toe in the disco storm while keeping their dignity. Wonderful.

7.  Echo & the Bunnymen – ‘The Game’ (1987)
After 30 years of only copping a cursory ear in the direction of the Bunnymen, this month I’ve most been enjoying their first five albums. The production is bit 80s on that fifth one, Echo & The Bunnymen, but it’s the one I’ve listened to the most, possibly due to its similarity with later Manics albums.

8.  Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio – ‘Move On Up' (2018)
Yep, that ‘Move On Up’. Hammond, drums and guitar from Live At Kexp! Someone book these Seattle dudes a flight to the UK.

9.  White Denim – ‘It Might Get Dark’ (2018)
Anything that sounds like an outtake from Muswell Hillbillies is gonna be okay by me.

10.  Tokyo Heavy Industries Inc. – ‘Morning 1’ (2018)
Not for the faint hearted or those of a nervous disposition, this planet vibrating first recording from the factory of Tokyo Heavy Industries Inc. doesn’t so much sound like Morning 1 but the clang of earth’s last orders.  

Sunday, 12 August 2018

CURTIS MAYFIELD ON THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST (1972)


The footage of Curtis Mayfield performing 'We Got To Have Peace' and 'Keep On Keepin' On' on the Old Grey Whistle Test are familiar sights but no so the interview that also took place.

Posted on line this week by Whistle Test Archive is this five minute discussion, originally broadcast on 25 January 1972, with Richard Williams, who on Wednesday wrote on Twitter, "Amazed that this has suddenly turned up. Curtis Mayfield. I loved that man. So wise, so gracious, so forgiving of stupid questions. The next conversation we had, after he'd had his terrible accident, was the most memorable interview anyone ever gave."



Sunday, 29 July 2018

JULY PLAYLIST


1.  B.B. King – ‘Never Trust A Woman’ (1964)
“She'll beg you for clothes and diamonds, Until you're all in hock, And then you'll come home one mornin', And your key won't fit the lock, Don't ever trust a woman, Until she's dead and buried, Well, one day she'll say that she loves you, The next day she'll throw you in the street.”

2.  Donald Byrd – ‘Beale Street’ (1967)
Blue Note coolness from trumpeter Byrd and crew but it’s the underpinning piano of Cedar Walton that gives this is it’s finger clicking mod-jazz snap.

3.  Bobby Bland – ‘Deep In My Soul’ (1967)
One of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland bluest, deepest and most soulful moments. And that’s saying something.

4.  Marva Holiday – ‘It’s Written All Over My Face’ (1968)
From the pop end of the northern soul spectrum, which’ll cheese off the purists, but I really like this.

5.  Lou Bond – ‘Why Must Our Eyes Always Be Turned Backwards’ (1974)
This folky-soul message song is a masterpiece. Lou Bond cataloguing and worrying about the troubles of the world in 1974. Beautifully sung and the arrangement is spot on. Released on Lou’s eponymous album for Stax subsidiary, We Produce. Lou never made another record and disappeared.

6.  Leroy Hutson – ‘All Because of You’ (1975)
Leroy Hutson (pictured above) played the London Barbican the other week and was, quite correctly, feted like the soul superstar he is. His voice remains in fantastic shape and the band were sensational in creating the rich arrangements Hutson originally worked so hard on. This song one of many highlights alongside ‘Cool Out’, ‘Lucky Fellow’, ‘Don’t It Make You Feel Good’, ‘Love The Feeling’, ‘So in Love With You’, ‘Lover’s Holiday’ etc.

7.  Pharoah Sanders – ‘You’ve Got To Have Freedom’ (1987)
Not everyone will get past Sanders’ squawking sax opening but for those who do, hold on tight, this is some ride.

8.  Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – ‘Bad Man Lighter (B.M.L)’ (2018)
Youngest son of Fela Kuti, and using his old band, Seun keeps his father’s afrobeat fire burning by smoking where the hell he wants. “Spark up your righteousness!” From new album, Black Times, which formed the majority of an infectious Walthamstow gig this month.

9.  The Molochs – ‘I Wanna Say To You’ (2018)
LA duo the Molochs go all baggy, like a cross between the Stone Roses and, say, The Dylans. Like it’s 1990 all over again.

10.  The Spitfires – ‘Sick of Hanging Around’ (2018)
Some folk are a bit sniffy about the Spitfires, and they do come across as over-earnest, but I like their spirit and attitude. Lyrically they always want to SAY SOMETHING about the modern world, about the young idea. When they match that to a cracking tune and throw in Dexys-style horns like this on new album Year Zero, what’s not to like?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW: RHYTHM & SOUL REVUE - SUNDAY 29 JULY 2018


A special bonus-ball edition of Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show takes place this Sunday. Narrower in scope than usual, this Rhythm ‘n’ Soul Revue will concentrate on the more uptempo sounds one might hear in clubs. Or clubs I’m DJing at anyway. There’ll be some familiar tunes to get you up, then who knows where the hour will take us?

Get your drinks ready, move the furniture, and hit the below link for a prompt 8.30pm start.

Update: If you missed the show, catch-up here: MWWS Rhythm 'n' Soul Revue

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

BETTY: THEY SAY I'M DIFFERENT (2018)


Betty Davis cut three albums of ground breaking funk between 1973 and ‘75. Never a household name, Betty was too raw, too raunchy, too real, too much for the mainstream who wanted her to be someone else and soon cut her adrift, an outcast in a business where others would take her lead and her reward.

For the best part of 40 years Betty Davis has remained hidden away, a virtual recluse, unwilling to be seen or revisit those days, until the persistence of film maker Phil Cox persuaded her to be interviewed for his film, Betty: They Say I’m Different

Cox didn’t have an easy task creating his film. After years of trying, Betty finally agreed to be interviewed but not to appear directly on camera, instead we see her like the Mystery Guest round on A Question of Sport: an orderly home, a figure sitting on the side of a bed, a hand lighting a stick of incense, a closing of an eye.

With only one sequence of surviving live footage of Betty in hot pants and afro action, and Betty’s enigmatic commentary, the film relies on contributors to provide insight into her story and employs creative animation scenes (a regular occurrence with films like this but these are among the best I’ve seen) to give the music a visual accompaniment.

The resulting hour is deliberately sketchy on facts and figures, instead it paints a broad, poetic portrait of Betty, the viewer left to fill in the gaps best they can, although it does reveal her early days as a songwriter moving from Pittsburgh to New York, her modelling and marriage to Miles Davis in ’68, where she exposed him to the new sounds of Hendrix and Sly and “filled the trash with his suits”, giving his wardrobe a hip makeover and his music a new direction before suffering violence in return. “Every day married to him was a day I earned the name Davis.”

The Betty Davis of today appears one of quiet contemplation, perhaps finally at peace with herself. Betty was different, and this film goes some way to understanding what she’s been through, while dealing with her story sensitively. Best of all, it brings the focus back to those incredible records and will encourage a whole new legion of listeners. Strap yourself in, just don’t expect any new live shows.

Betty: They Say I’m Different is available to (legitimately) stream here, for a limited time, thanks to Lush Productions: http://player.lush.com/channels/gorilla/tv/betty

Sunday, 15 July 2018

POSTER WORKSHOP 1968-1971



It’s been a heck of a few days for protest in the UK, and the invention of new swearwords, with many individual eye-catching homemade placards displayed among the bulk printed ones supplied by various organisations and groups, thanks to Trump’s visit.

If this was still the late 60s, volunteers at the Poster Workshop in Camden Town would’ve been rushed off their radical feet. Inspired by Ateliers Populaires, set up by students and artists in French art school printmaking studios, the Poster Workshop opened at 61 Camden Road in 1968 and operated an open-door policy where people could print their own posters. Volunteers would show them how and collaborate, if required, to design the work. Customers would pay whatever they could afford for materials and the shop survived on donations.

Examples of these posters can be found in Poster Workshop 1968-1971, a new book documenting the struggles and graphic design of that era: everything from the war in Vietnam, apartheid in South Africa, factory closures, industrial disputes and greedy landlords to the boycotting of Californian grapes. Some of the designs are little more than to-the-point basic scrawls, others more impressive, but all display a commitment and fighting spirit for change.

Poster Workshop 1968-1971 is published by Four Corners Irregulars, £10.