Friday, 3 July 2015

HOOTON TENNIS CLUB - "KATHLEEN SAT ON THE ARM OF HER FAVOURITE CHAIR" (2015)


New Record Of The Week: This is the latest single from the Wirral band Hooton Tennis Club. Released by Heavenly on Monday it sounds like a load of good stuff we've heard before but are more than happy to hear again. I've played it again and again and again this morning...

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

JUNE PLAYLIST

The Wild Magnolias in full bloom. 
1.  BB King – “Sixteen Tons” (1956)
Fare thee well Blues Boy. “Sixteen Tons” – like “Wade In The Water” – is one of those songs where it’s hard to find a version I don’t like. This one I love.

2.  The Avons – “When The Boy That You Love (Is Loving You)” (1967)
Super sweet and sexy girl group soul from Nashville based the Avons. Written, arranged and produced by Bob Holmes this wonderful track has only now seen the light of day thanks to opening Volume 5 of Kent Records’ Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities series. Worth the 48 year wait.

3.  Roland Al and Beverly’s All Stars – “The Cat” (1967)
Rare inclusion of a Jamaican track in the playlist but tenor saxophonist Roland Alphonso and gang cut a mean version of this.

4.  Marvelettes – “So I Can Love You” (1970)
After a decade spell, their final release, the album The Return of The Marvelettes, was a slight of hand from Motown. The group had disbanded leaving only Wanda Young who recorded some tracks with Smokey Robinson for what she thought would be her solo album. The powers that be thought the Marvelettes’ name carried more weight than Young’s so was released with under the group name, upsetting everyone in the process. None of this should detract from a classy soul album (albeit one packed out – as was Motown’s way – with familiar titles).

5.  Buddy Guy and Junior Wells – “A Man Of Many Words” (1972)
The album title, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play The Blues, only hints at what’s on offer. Yes it’s the blues but it’s a funky, full, warm sounding blues made by a couple of old Chicago buddies who don’t sound like they have a care in the world. Everyone gotta dig those blues. 

6.  The Wild Magnolias – “Handa Wanda” (1974)
New Orleans Mardi Gras group the Wild Magnolias supplemented their vocals and percussion tools with the cream of New Orleans musicians including Willie “Walking Up A One Way Street” Tee and Snooks “Richard Barnes’ Mods book” Eaglin on keyboards and guitar respectively. Together they created an album impossible to keep still to.

7.  Suede – “Moving” (1992)
Who saw Suede’s Glastonbury set at the weekend? Mr. Anderson was working it like a spotlight-starved maniac from start to sweaty finish. Absolutely brilliant. It’ll be online somewhere.

8.  Wooden Shjips – “Back To Land” (2013)
Folk who enjoyed Paul Weller’s recent apostrophe burning Saturns Pattern might enjoy the Wooden Shjips long-player Back To Land.

9.  The Sonics – “The Hard Way” (2015)
The Sonics still sound like The Sonics but with hints here of returning the favour to the Jim Jones Revue and the Dead Kennedys.

10.  Sarah Cracknell and Nicky Wire – “Nothing Left To Talk About” (2015)
Crackers returns with a pedal-steeled summery pop winner that even Wire singing, as always, like a deaf man vocals can’t spoil. Lovely. 

Friday, 26 June 2015

THE JAM: ABOUT THE YOUNG IDEA. LAUNCH PARTY at SOMERSET HOUSE

Paul Weller and Martin Freeman
The Jam: About The Young Idea is a new comprehensive exhibition dedicated to one of Britain’s best loved bands. Or, in the words of Paul Weller’s father which greet entrants painted in huge letters, “The best fucking band in the world.” 

Whichever way you slice it, during their five-year and six-album recording career, The Jam achieved that rare balance of attaining huge commercial success whilst maintaining their integrity. Much has been written and said about Weller’s decision to split the band in 1982 but to have continued without his heart in it would have made a mockery of the band’s honesty and openness. It was the right thing to do and in keeping with their/his ethical code.

That doesn’t mean it’s not nice to have a little reminisce now and again this exhibition provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on those days. It also offers a look at what young Britain was like for many during the 1970s and early 80s. With the entire band and the Weller family opening their archive plus items from collector Den Davis, and curated by Nicky Weller, Tory Turk and Russell Reader it’s packed with memories.

The launch party was last night and thanks to Mrs Monkey’s contacts and the kindness of photographer Martyn Goddard and his wife Bev, we were in for an early view and to hobnob with an array of obvious and less-obvious guests. After passing Bar Italia Scooter Club’s line-up at the gates we wandered into the courtyard of Somerset House and a quick scan revealed, among others: Mick Talbot, Martin Freeman, Paul Cook, Glen Matlock, the Strypes, Gem Archer, Mark Powell, Jeremy Vine, Steve Craddock, Paul Whitehouse, Mark Lamaar, Matt Berry, the grey haired bloke out of Phoneshop, some Mods, the occasional female and, wait for it, Trevor & Simon.

Yet the very first person we spotted was Bruce Foxton and naturally we nabbed him for a photo and asked what he thought of the exhibition. He still hadn’t been in to see it. Bruce, probably wary he was going to get accosted all night, wasn’t very chatty and appeared slightly disorientated so we left him alone before I could ask him to explain that “Freak” single. As a kid I always thought he was quite tall but he’s not, he just jumped high.

After a few glasses of champagne it was time to mooch around the exhibition. It had everything you’d expect: items of clothing (boating blazers, Union Jack jackets, suits, bowling shoes, “Eton Rifles” jacket, boxing boots etc); instruments (row of Rickenbackers including the Wham!, the red one with “I Am Nobody” scratched into the body, the black one, Bruce Foxton’s white bass from “Town Called Malice”, Rick Buckler's drum kit etc); posters, fanzines and music press front covers; photos, badges etc.

All well and good but the real treasure came in the early rooms (think there were six in total) which had gone through Paul Weller’s teenage drawers and uncovered his early dreams and schemes. Like many (guilty) he’d drawn himself in cartoon format (“The Adventures of Paul The Mod”); designed early ideas for imaginary single and album covers (guilty); sketched a row of Black Power fists (“Right On Brothers”); and made attempts at poetry and songs. These were circa 1972-3, when Weller was about fourteen. He had it all worked out but unlike most of us dreamers had the steely determination to see it through. The family photos and pictures of a kipper-tied Jam attempting to entertain working men's clubs are a treat too.  

Martyn Goddard was a photographer for Polydor (starting with Queen in 1973, luckily he moved onto better things...) and worked with The Jam all the way from In The City to Sound Affects and chatted us through some of his work: the picture of Bond Street tube station at midnight, the In The City wall, strolling down Carnaby Street, his own jukebox on the sleeve of Sound Affects which he still has and uses. Martyn said he knew right from the start the band were special as they had something about them and everything came directly from them. They weren’t controlled by managers or external forces, it was simply them and they knew what they wanted. Although Martyn saw them progress from new band with a debut record to a having records enter the charts at number one he didn’t really see a change in them as people. It was noticeable in Martyn’s images that although Weller was the creative driving force the photographs were always of the three of them. They – Paul, Bruce, Rick – were a band. Martyn suggested Paul felt strongly tied to the fact they were a band and that was a contributing factor in splitting to allow him greater freedom, unencumbered (my word, not Martyn’s) by the other two. I don't think there's any argument in that. More of his work can be seen in a separate exhibition, Golden Faces: Photographs of The Jam 1977-80 by Martyn Goddard at Snap Galleries and in a new book, Growing Up With The Jam.

I wouldn’t have put much money on Paul Weller attending the launch do but he was there. There were scores of Wellers in fact. Getting access to him was nigh on impossible though as he was scuttled in and then out by security. He did grab a few folk for a hug, a couple of photos, a photo opportunity with Martin Freeman - who rather than prepare for his forthcoming role as Steve Marriott had come as Max Headroom - and then off to a secret hideaway away from pestering acolytes desperate to touch the hem of his garment. Not sure about the blue lensed shades but he looked fit and well. I cannot answer Mrs Monkey’s query as to whether he uses a spray tan with any great authority.

Back outside and on to the free beer we had a good chat with Paul Cook about the Sex Pistols and their contribution to Britain’s history; working with Edywn Collins; and getting the Professionals back together (Cook and Steve Jones, not Bodie and Doyle). Author and man-about-town Mark Baxter and I chewed on the idea of an equivalent Style Council retrospective, something I put to Mick Talbot shortly afterwards (I can work fast sometimes).

Mick didn’t really think there would be much call for a Style Council exhibition in this country but Italy or Japan might be more accommodating. Ever the Internationalists the Style Council. Like Paul Cook, Mick wasn’t a hoarder of stuff but did have a few pieces knocking around. “Haven’t you got a pair of your old espadrilles in the bottom of a wardrobe?” Mick couldn’t confirm that. I should say this was the third time I’ve spoken with Mick and he’s always been interesting and good fun. He also spoke about playing on The Jam’s version of “Heatwave” (I love that version) and memories of joining the band at the Lyceum to do it live. He sounded like a Jam fan, just like the rest of us.

The Jam: About The Young Idea is at Somerset House, London. Open daily until 31 August 2015, admission £9.50.

Golden Faces: Photographs of The Jam 1977-80 by Martyn Goddard at Snap Galleries, 12 Piccadilly Arcade, SW1 from 1 July to 8 August 2015 (Tuesday to Saturday), admission free.

Details of Growing Up With… The Jam can be found here.   
From The Jam. Bruce Foxton's attempt at reforming the band aren't going to plan...

Thursday, 25 June 2015

SWINGING SIXTIES LONDON at FOAM, AMSTERDAM


So, spent a few days in Amsterdam last week and guess what the very first thing I saw when stepping off the bus outside my hotel? No, not that – there were plenty of unhuman looking creatures comprised of 40% silicone elsewhere (in fairness the city’s more notorious elements are mainly restricted to a couple of streets) – but the welcome sight of Twiggy photographed by Terence Donovan in 1966 in front of a Union Jack advertising a local exhibition “Swinging Sixites London – Photography in the Capital of Cool”.

Did seem slightly odd to travel from London for a break and then within an hour be wandering around a gallery depicting my city but obviously it had to be done. And very good it was too, loads to see. Most of the exhibits were familiar but welcome nonetheless. The photographers, models and groovy set all present, correct and looking fab: Terence Donovan, Brian Duffy, Norman Parkinson, Philip Townsend, John Cowan, Eric Swayne, Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, Jane Birkin, Grace Coddington, Celia Hammond, Jean Kennington, Julie Christie, Sarah Miles, Terence Stamp, Michael Caine, the Rolling Stones, you know the ones.

In addition it was good to see John “Hoppy” Hopkins representing a different side of the era with political protests, skirmishes on the streets of Ruislip and scraggy haired poets waving accusatory fingers in the Royal Albert Hall; and James Barnor offering a contrast by using black models in conjunction with famous London sights.

Although fashion photography changed dramatically during the period the accompanying exhibition booklet acknowledges the concept of “Swinging London” was little more than a myth and “many Londoners still lived in poverty and vast swaths of the city were still in ruin”. True but it was a city teeming with possibilities and opportunities that weren’t previously available.

Swinging Sixties London is at Foam Fotografiemuseum , Keizersgracht 609, Amsterdam. Open every day until 2 September 2015. Admission 10 Euros.

Whilst on the subject of Amsterdam, it’s worth mentioning how many good record shops there are if you’re visiting. The best I discovered was the smart Waxwell Records. My jaw nearly hit the floor at the wall display alone and the stock of rare quality LPs – especially soul and jazz – was incredible and fairly priced. Their “Black Interest” section alone contained albums featuring Malcom X, The Last Poets, Elijah Muhammad, Martin Luther King and Richard Pryor. I only had time to scratch the surface but quickly swiped The Return of the Marvelettes on Tamla (the ladies riding into town on horseback) and Free At Last, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on Gordy. What I left behind doesn’t bear thinking about.

Waxwell Records, Gasthuismolensteeg 8, Amsterdam. Open daily from 1200. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

BRENDA HOLLOWAY ON AMERICAN BANDSTAND (1967)

Here’s a treat, recently discovered footage of the lovely – and modish- Brenda Holloway appearing on American Bandstand, 6 May 1967. Not only does she mime to “Just Look What You’ve Done” but there’s a short interview afterwards to enjoy. “Where did you get those wild shoes?”

And in case you missed it, a plug for the Monkey Picks interview with Brenda from last year (here). Also, on the right hand side of the blog you should now see a “Popular Labels” list which includes categories such as interviews and playlists to make it easier to look back through the archive. Don’t think his’ll show up on phones though. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

PAUL ORWELL DISCUSSES HIS DEBUT LP “BLOWING YOUR MIND AWAY” (2015)


As we reach the halfway mark, Paul Orwell has stumped a ruddy great stake in the ground to waltz off with many people’s Album Of The Year choice following the release this month of Blowing Your Mind Away.

Such has been the buzz generated by this young songsmith, after two singles (“Little Reason” and “You’re Nothing Special”) were snapped up by frenzied record hounds, the LP sold out before it even hit its release date on pre-orders alone. It didn’t even see the inside of a shop record rack. Five hundred copies gone in an instant; without anyone hearing it. Those savvy enough to have been paying attention and who got in quick have been duly rewarded with a stunning collection to proudly sit alongside the classic 60s records which so inform Blowing Your Mind Away. There’s no one dominant influence as Orwell fills his pick and mix bag with goodies from all over the shop: some wild freakbeat guitar breaks; bit of the Eyes riffing here; Blues Magoos organ there; a hint of Between The Buttons; some Hollies; the Animals; Syd Barrett; is that a Jacques Dutronc fuzz guitar line? A touch of first album Horrors?

Monkey Picks had a word with Paul and tried to pin him down on his biggest influences. “The Beatles, Stones, Phil Spector, Joe Meek,” he says, “the usuals really”. The mention of Phil Spector and Joe Meek are most telling and give the biggest indication of where Paul’s coming from, especially the DIY/record at home ethic of Joe Meek. All the tracks on the album were written, produced and played by Paul (with the exception of the drums) and recorded in his bedroom. Not that it sounds like it and not that finding a release was initially uppermost in Paul’s mind.

“I wrote and produced a series of tracks, never really intended to see the light of day. My best friend Michael [Parrett], who is the band now, heard it and said I should release it. So I continued to try and make something where each track could be an A side single release. I'm not too sure how many tracks I wrote, but I kept cutting and changing until the best fourteen where finished.”

Those eventual fourteen – all short and without an inch of wasted fat – don’t contain a single duff track among them – the benchmark of a great album rather than a very good one. Even on first play it sounds like a Greatest Hits collection. It’s that immediate. “Very kind of you, this is what I really hoped to achieve. So for you to say that really means a lot.”

With the record already a sought-after collector’s item I wonder if Paul’s sold himself short by only releasing a limited edition vinyl LP. “As a vinyl collector it made sense to have a real release. I couldn't really see the point of releasing MP3 or CDs without a big promotional campaign behind it.” Any plans for a repress or to make it more widely available? “If a big label or good indie label had the funds to do it justice then I could go with the flow. A repress would be good, especially to get it around the world more and into shops.”

With a sold out album, promotional gigs hardly seem necessary but Paul’s keen to get back out playing. “I’m auditioning members at the moment. All I wanna do is play again. It’d be great to play “Fangz”, “Bad Blood” and “Here and Now” live and raw.  It's frustrating to have to rely on other people to do shows and things. I sometimes wish I’d started an acoustic album so I could just be the loner I am.”  

There’s another issue to sort. “I really want a publishing deal; I am song writer more than anything else. I would like to get into writing more and more. I have hundreds of songs I’ve started in different genres; I’ve hoarded stuff for far too long. So hopefully I’ll get it all out before I’m gone.”

I’m sensing a very determined individual. “I am," Paul confirms, "and anyone who stands in my way or holds me back can just do one.”

Blowing Your Mind Away by Paul Orwell is released on Heavy Soul Records. Tape it off a friend. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

DETROIT '67: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED SOUL by STUART COSGROVE (2015)


It’s difficult to think of a subject I’d sooner read about than events in the city of Detroit during 1967 and having now read Stuart Cosgrove’s new book, Detroit 67, I also can’t think of anyone I’d sooner have it written by. From January to December, Cosgrove provides a month-by-month, blow-by-blow account of a turbulent year, weaving three predominant strands: soul music from Berry Gordy’s Motown empire; civil unrest, racial disharmony and rioting; white radicals and rock revolutionaries spearheaded by John Sinclair and soundtracked by the MC5.

The so-called Summer of Love underway on the West Coast, things couldn’t have been more different in the north. Detroit was under siege. Riots had taken hold. Building burnt and businesses went up in smoke. Tanks patrolled the streets during the curfew hours. Trigger-happy policemen killed innocent citizens, most tragically in the case of four-year-old Tanya Blanding whose uncle’s lit cigarette was mistaken as sniper fire to which the National Guards responded with a hail of bullets ripping through the family’s apartment. Tanya’s death is but one tragedy in a book populated with disastrous events and fatalities but credit to Stuart Cosgrove for handling each with an unscrupulously even hand.

The messy extraction of Florence Ballard from the Supremes is a central story told in great detail yet Cosgrove doesn’t follow the familiar line of a ruthless Berry Gordy simply sacking her. In Cosgrove’s telling it was the last resort and even then it’s not entirely clear how it happened. Gordy is painted as man who chose to avoid confrontation and didn’t act decisively. He also comes across as a man more interested in the music than the general perception of him as primarily a hardnosed businessman. How Gordy did business came under extreme scrutiny amid a raft of litigation from disgruntled Motown employees unhappy with their lot, and feelings they were being ripped-off, but the Gordy family were far more knowledgeable than kids coming up through the tough streets of Detroit who couldn’t even understand why they had to pay taxes, let alone how Motown was putting money aside for them to do that very thing. How Ballard went from one-third of the most successful girl group the world has ever known to dying in poverty ten years later is a terrible story but those looking to apportion “blame” need to be aware of the business decisions – disastrous ones – Flo made herself and were made for her by ill-judged and poor advice outside of Motown.

Tammi Terrell’s death, aged just 24, is heart-breaking. Collapsing on stage whilst performing with Marvin Gaye in October ’67 Tammi was diagnosed with a brain tumour and died three years later. Her relationship with the Temptations' David Ruffin – which followed a horrific one with James Brown, there’s one particular event which beggars belief – has been the subject of much conjecture. Ruffin’s violence towards Tammi has been said to have caused her death but whatever faults Ruffin had – and there were plenty – the type of tumour Tammi had could not have been caused by being knocked down the stairs, hit with a hammer or a motorcycle helmet. Again, Cosgrove is fair in his reporting of Ruffin and tries to explain how and why he might have been the way he was (in a word, cocaine) not simply that he was an awful individual.  

I could go on listing more. The events at the Algiers Hotel when police beat and murdered black folk, including members and friends of upcoming soul group the Dramatics; Motown staff member and writer of “You’re My Everything”, “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)” and “I Wish It Would Rain” Roger Penzabene shooting himself through the head; Martha Reeves’s breakdown; Holland-Dozier-Holland’s downing of tools. The list goes on and Cosgrove devotes time not only to those in the music industry but also those from the wider Detroit community and how events shaped the city and led to the mass evacuation of the area ever since.

I realise I’ve probably made Detroit ’67 sound like a harrowing read. There’s no getting away from the fact that frequently it is. It’s also 600 pages long. But there are plenty of nice little nuggets to be found for the soul fan too; the background to records like Joe L’s “(I’m Not Gonna Be) Worried” and Saxie Russells’ “Psychedelic Soul” among them (a more comprehensive index would've been handy). More importantly it’s also thought-provoking (especially when it comes to divisions of race), balanced and provides lots of detail about a city which, as well as the horrors, has provided some of the greatest music the world has ever heard. Essential reading.

Detroit ’67 by Stuart Cosgrove is published by Carlton, priced £18.