Thursday, 18 December 2014

HERE IS BARBARA LYNN (1968)


After hitting big with the smoky "You'll Lose A Good Thing" in 1962 and having the Stones famously cover her "Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Going") in 1964, Texan singer, songwriter and guitarist Barbara Lynn signed to Atlantic Records where they announced her arrival with the album Here Is Barbara Lynn.

Now lavishly reissued for the first time courtesy of Light In The Attic Records, it's been fully remastered from the original tapes, pressed on 180 gram vinyl, housed in a sturdy gatefold sleeve and includes a colour insert with photographs and an interview with Barbara. More importantly than all that, it's a superb album of classy, understated soul music. It's topped and tailed with two of her most well known songs - "You'll Lose A Good Thing" and "This Is The Thanks I Get" - with everything in between of comparable quality.

There's no need for raving or over-singing, just sit firmly on the groove and simmer until cooked to perfection. "Take Your Love And Run" and "Mix It Up Baby" knock the tempo up a touch but it's the ballads and mid-tempo numbers which excel with Barbara's self-penned "(Until Then) I'll Suffer" a real stop-you-in-your-tracks moment. 

The release of Here Is Barbara Lynn coincided with Aretha Franklin's most successful period at Atlantic (Lady Soul and Aretha Now both charted in the top 3 in '68) so it's doubtful this record or Barbara got the attention they deserved. The fact "(Until Then) I'll Suffer" didn't make it to a single until '71 rather underlines this, but this reissue goes some way to deservedly bringing Barbara Lynn - still out there playing live - back into view. 

Here Is Barbara Lynn is released by Light In The Attic Records.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

THE WEDNESDAY PLAY: THE GOLDEN VISION (1968)


The Golden Vision is another Ken Loach directed gem from the BBC's The Wednesday Play series and a must-see for anyone interested in football in those pre-Sky Premiership days or working class life in the late 60s.  

In Loach's familiar style of the time he blends drama, set around a group of Evertonians, superbly acted by a cast including Bill Dean and Ken Jones, who travel down to London to watch their side play Arsenal, and documentary sequences centered around Everton Football Club and their Scottish striker hero Alex Young, nicknamed The Golden Vision.

Written by broadcaster/newsreader Gordon Honeycombe (that name's a blast from the past) it's the interviews with, and attitudes of, the players which are especially enlightening with a revelations they don't enjoy the 90 minutes on a Saturday due to the pressure and alternatively have to relive the boredom during the week by drinking endless cups of tea. Such innocence. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

IN MEMORY OF IAN McLAGAN


You will have heard by now about the passing of Ian McLagan yesterday. My Facebook timeline is packed today with heartfelt, and in many cases genuinely tearful, tributes to a man none of us really knew although a significant amount had briefly met. There's photo after photo of Mac grinning away and sharing a drink and a laugh with a complete stranger. 

Mrs Monkey and I met him a couple of times and he was as lovely a geezer as you could wish to find. The first was a brief encounter with Kenney Jones at a signing session in HMV and the second was down the pub when Mrs M got him in the headlock she only usually employs on her best mates (see above). He might have been a famous rock and roll star but Ian McLagan felt like one of us rather than one of them.

And where did we all fall in love with the sound of a Hammond B3? It wasn't from Jimmy Smith or even Booker T. Jones but from Ian McLagan and the Small Faces, especially on those instrumental a go-go numbers "Grow Your Own" and "Almost Grown". Now it's up the wooden hills to join Stevie and Plonk. Thanks Mac. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

JUKEBOX 7"s PLAYLIST - NOVEMBER 2014


Was great fun to play a few records alongside Long John and Miles at Jukebox 72s down at Biddle Bros bar in Clapton on Saturday. Friendly crowd and bar staff and free reign to dig out a few old singles that haven't seen light of day for a while. These were my sets.

Barbara Lynn - This Is The Thanks I Get
Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman
The Doors - Touch Me
The Clash - Know Your Rights
Adam Faith - Watch Your Step
The Masters Apprentices - War Or Hands Of Time
The Who - Anyway Anyhow Anywhere
Elastica - Vaseline
Manic Street Preachers - Stay Beautiful
Super Furry Animals - God! Show Me Magic
Dave Clark Five - Concentration Baby

John Lee Hooker - Money
Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers - Slow Down
Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames - In The Meantime
James Brown & The Famous Flames - Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
The Specials - Nite Klub
The Ruts - Babylon's Burning
These Animal Men - Speeed King
Art Brut - Emily Kane
Powder - Afrodisiac
Menswear - I'll Manage Somehow
Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone
The Byrds - Feel A Whole Lot Better

Jan & Dean - Surf City
The Rolling Stones - 19th Nervous Breakdown
Gene - Sick, Sober and Sorry
The Smiths - This Charming Man
The Primitives - Really Stupid
Ramones - Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
The Damned - Neat Neat Neat
Sham 69 - Hurry Up Harry
Chas and Dave - Rabbit
The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird
Chubby Checker - Karate Monkey
Suede - Metal Mickey

Sunday, 30 November 2014

PUSH The Best of the First 10 Issues - EDITED BY JOE ENGLAND (2014)


Not much more than eighteen months ago literary fanzine PUSH was launched onto an unsuspecting public. I liked it immediately and wrote here suggesting "Amalgamating pop culture, drug paranoia, rushed sex, football hooligans and the threat of violence, it is just one glance away from a character in a John King novel". And so it continued.

These things can be a flash in the pan and soon fizzle out but editor Joe England has pumped out the issues - thirteen and counting - whilst keeping the standard exceptionally high. So much so East London Press have published PUSH Best of the First 10 Issues as a smart paperback book. Not only that but John King himself has written a glowing foreword (see, I must occasionally know what I'm on about/throw enough shit at the wall...).

King draws the comparison with these unfamiliar working class writers - all outside the established literary circle and clique - and a similar scene in the 1990s when his The Football Factory and Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting were published and "there was similar talk, an amazement among commentators that the common folk could read - let alone read such books".

The problem is finding this stuff. I don't read that many books as it's difficult to know where to find work that connects. As King correctly attests, "The truth is that many people are not interested in contemporary fiction because there is nothing that remotely relates to their lives". Spot on. I was unceremoniously dumped out of my English Literature O Level studies as the teacher believed there was no way I'd pass the exam. He was probably right. Not to diss old Billy Shakespeare but I couldn't make head nor tail of Richard II; was bored stiff by Silas bloody Marner; and didn't give a hoot whether some boy John went to sea or not. I don't know what's on the school curricular these days but it's a wonder I ever picked up a book again. In fairness unless it was about football or music I wouldn't have been interested anyway. Luckily I'd later discover the Beats but even they can be impenetrable much of the time. But Joe England has found enough writers for the likes of me to fill his fanzine every six weeks and edit what one hopes will be a succession of Best Of editions.

Reading these pieces again I'm struck once more how great and perceptive the writing is. Some passages make me wince in horror, some choke me up, some are angry, some downright funny and some are written by right cankerous bastards. Whether short stories, poems (yes, poems for Christ sake), interviews or artwork, I get it. It makes sense. It's alive. It talks my language. I'm not going to single out individuals as I'd have to list too many. It's all good.

Fanzines are fabulous things, born out of the passion and the need to share of the editor, and they're the labour of love of one person who often ploughs a lonely furrow. I'm chuffed and indeed weirdly proud of Joe England for seeing his baby - so far limited to blink-and-you-miss-it print runs sold on the street outside West Ham games (football fans read something other than tabloids or mags with soap actresses in various states of undress? What an audacious assumption on England's part) - recognised by East London Press. East London Press aren't Penguin Books - they are still a tiny independent press - but this feels like vindication of Joe's vision. It's not really, the words of these talented writers were already valid no matter what the format, but in its small way it's a victory, a triumph, for everyone involved. It'll reach more people, it's a step forward. PUSH Best of the First 10 Issues now sits on the bookshelf next to John King, Irvine Welsh, Dan Fante, Tony O'Neill etc. as an essential volume of modern day underground literature.

PUSH Best of the First 10 Issues is available from East London Press, priced £7.99.
For more about PUSH see Joe England Books.
A launch party with readings, music and debauchery takes place at the Orford House Social Club, Orford Road, Walthamstow, E17 on Saturday 6th December. 7pm. Free. Cheap bar.  

Sunday, 23 November 2014

NOVEMBER PLAYLIST


This month I have mostly been diggin'...

1.  Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers - "Slow Down" (1964)
The Larry Williams chestnut given a fat soul club sound indicative of their live reputation.  

2.  The Master's Apprentices - "War Or Hands Of Time" (1966)
This rollicking garage-punk single, with its A-side "Undecided", is the greatest thing Australia has ever given the world.

3.  Paul Jones - "Sonny Boy Williamson" (1966)
Paul Jones and Jack Bruce wrote and recorded this tribute to the man who made such an impact on the British R&B boom after this death the previous year. Tucked away as a B-side, featuring only Jones on vocals and harmonica and Bruce on bass, its simplicity is a far cry from the bombastic (and let's be honest, rather naff) "I've Been A Bad, Bad Boy" on the A-side.

4.  Bob Dylan & The Band - "Blowin' In The Wind" (1967)
There's a heck of a lot to take in - almost too much, if that were possible - in the 6-CD The Basement Tapes Complete but it's great to drop in for short spells to earwig Bobby and the boys having a sing-song. The woozy, bar room band take of "Blowin' In The Wind" is an immediate favourite.

5.  Percy Sledge - "True Love Travels On A Gravel Road" (1969)
Countrified Muscle Shoals soul. From the title, to the pedal steel, to the horns, to Sledge's rootsy vocal, everything here is simply magnificent. If you only investigate one song from this list, make it this.

6.  Kelly Gordon - "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" (1969)
I love the Hollies classic but check out the outstanding original version. Gordon's almost unbearably raw emotion gives it the kind of gravitas the lyrics deserve.

7.  The Stovall Sisters - "Yes To The Lord" (1970)
Lillian, Netta and Joyce Stovall began singing in the 1950s as gospel group God's Little Wonders aged just 5, 7 and 2 respectively. By the time of their only album the sisters had embraced elements of rock and roll into their repertoire and here, in a reversal of the more common practice, take a secular song ("My Baby Loves Me" by Martha & the Vandellas) and give it a glorious religious make-over.

8.  Archie Shepp - "Attica Blues" (1972)
Two weeks after George Jackson was killed in San Quentin, 43 people died during riots in New York's Attica Prison. The title track of saxophonist Shepp's Attica Blues is a righteous, defiant, fist-raising soul stirrer. With Henry Hull on lead vocals, it's as funky as hell.

9.  Five Thirty - "Out To Get In" (1991)
Last month I included Ride and they've subsequently reformed. Gonna try and repeat the trick with their superior Oxford neighbours Five Thirty whose 12 inch extra tracks were better than most band's singles. 

10.  John Sinclair - "Straight No Chaser" (2014)
Best known as MC5 manager, White Panther Party founder and counter-culture pot stirrer, Sinclair is also a poet, journalist, performer and major jazz head (check out It's All Good - A John Sinclair Reader for a good sample of his work) . On latest album Mohawk he raps beat poetry in an evangelical manner, backed by a small jazz combo, about Bird. Monk and Dizzy. It's passionate, warm and inspiring; part history lesson, part heartfelt tribute.  

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

JUKEBOX 7"S - SATURDAY 29th NOVEMBER

I admit this is a very niche post even, by MonkeyPicks standards, but if you're within touching distance of Clapton, East London on Saturday 29th November (unlikely I know), you are cordially invited to join Long John, Miles and myself for the latest edition of Jukebox 7"s.

Biddle Brothers is a cool bar and always a good friendly atmosphere in there with us three (and Reggie the Parrot) playing records in a haphazard higgledy piggledy manner, meaning you could get anything from James Brown to the Byrds to Elastica to Ramsey Lewis to Jilted John to the Masters Apprentices.

Shake yer tail feather Reggie!