Thursday, 29 October 2009


October is almost over and I’ve not done a playlist. So, more out of obligation than enthusiasm, here is half arsed collection of songs that have made me either happy or sad this month. I’ll spare you the flannel that normally accompanies them.

1. Doc Starkes and the Nightriders – “Women and Cadillacs” (1954)
2. Brenda Holloway – “Hey Fool” (1963)
3. Eddie and the Tropics – “Don’t Monkey With Another Monkey’s Monkey” (1965)
4. Little Anthony and the Imperials – “Hurt So Bad” (1965)
5. The Zombies – “Friends of Mine” (1968)
6. The Kinks – “Days” (1969)
7. The Cramps – “TV Set” (1980)
8. Spiritualized – “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space” (1997)
9. Let’s Wrestle – “Tanks” (2009)
10. Box Elders – “Alice and Friends” (2009)

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Smokey Robinson’s songs have enriched my life and made the world a better place. I absolutely love him but it hasn’t always been that way.

As a twelve year old wannabe punk in the summer of ‘81 I hated him. “Being With You” was number one and the sight of him of Top Of The Tops mincing around that apartment, pretending to sniff flowers, coked off his noggin, and singing like a big girl was too much to take. And a red pool table. Who ever saw such a thing?

By the time of the Christmas school disco I’d switched allegiances to the Mod/2-Tone brigade and had perfected that hopping and kicking from foot to foot dance that all the in-crowd did to Madness records. We’d only dance to them, The Jam, and “Ghost Town”, which wasn’t an easy record to dance to, and sneer at the Adam and the Ants and Duran Duran nonsense.

There was a girl, Janet, that I fancied. We’d had a bit of history in primary school. I’d call for her in the mornings until her Mum started talking to me in Italian. I was so petrified I didn’t dare call again. We’d snog (that’s me and Janet, not me and her Mum) behind the gate in the playground and in the field opposite her house. She wrote me a letter saying how good I was at football and I bought her a necklace from the newsagent for Valentine’s Day. We split up and I tried to woo her back on the last day of school by going through all my copies of Shoot! to tear out all the Arsenal posters for her. It didn’t work. She looked at me like I was some sort of cretin. I can still picture her putting her chair on the table, walking out, and that was that.

We moved to secondary school and were in separate classes but she was at this school disco, stood over the right hand side of stage, and I’d been keeping my beady eye on her. She always looked different to other girls: petite, short boyish hair, red t-shirt with "Paris" on it and wearing a neckerchief – quite a sophisticated continental look for a twelve year old in 1981. The DJ played some smoochy number and I tried rustling up the courage to ask her to dance. I left it too long and thought if he plays another I’ll go for it. Cue that frigging horrible sax solo at the start of “Being With You”. Typical. Still, get in there my son. I asked her. She looked embarrassed and looked at the floor. Then looked at her mate. Then at me. She didn’t say anything. Time slowed right down. By now that cretinous feeling was creeping up on me again. Come on girl. More silence, more sideways glances. Go on. Smokey was hitting his stride, cooing away. Finally, after an eternity, she begrudgingly agreed. We walked to a spot on the dancefloor and the moment I put my arms around her, “Hey you! Don’t watch that, watch this! This is the heavy heavy monster sound, the nuttiest sound around”, comes booming out, “One step beyond!” and I’m swamped in a sea of manic moonstomping and never got my hands on her again.

Twenty eight years later and Smokey is in front of me singing that same bloody song, but I don’t care. He can sing whatever he wants, however he wants. He can even stick a sickly Spanish rap in the middle if he wants, and he does. He is Smokey Robinson. Nuff said.

Saturday, 24 October 2009


If you happen to be feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square between now and March 2010 you might fancy popping in the National Portrait Gallery for five minutes to look at their Twiggy exhibition. I wouldn’t recommend making a special trip for it though.

It’s very small and the only pictures I was interested in were the first few when Twiggs was “The Face of 1966”. What’s striking is how quickly she was moved on from that short haired freckle faced urchin look by the times that were rapidly changing. Will folk be able to look at photography, films, fashion, listen to music from this decade in years to come and identify whether it was 2006, 2007 or 2008? 1966 and 1968 look worlds apart. But you know this. I’m only saying I’ve no interest in what Twiggy did beyond those first 18 months but if you have and want to read her gushing captions about how marvelous and fabulous so-and-so was to work with, then you can also buy the book that accompanies this show.

Twiggy: A Life In Photographs is at the National Portrait Gallery until March 2010, admission free. The book costs £20.

Friday, 23 October 2009


When I mentioned pulling a Kerouac book from the shelf the other day it was no coincidence I mentioned Big Sur first. Written during 1961 it charts the period shortly after the publication of On The Road and how Jack's new found fame accelerated his descent into drunken madness and paranoia with brutal honesty. It’s his last truly great work and very close to my favourite.

So imagine my delight to discover this week has seen the opening of One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur in selected US cinemas. The film uses readings of Kerouac’s text, interviews with some of those featured in the book (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Carolyn Cassady, Joyce Johnson and Michael McClure) and new music and contributions from the likes of Tom Waits and Patti Smith.

No news on UK availability yet, but here’s the trailer:

Thursday, 22 October 2009


Derek Trotter’s judgment was famously suspect but he was right when it came to music. “I don’t care what they say” he said, “you can’t whack The Who”.

Del Boy would enjoy the great exhibition of early ‘Oo photos by Colin Jones, currently showing at the Proud Gallery. Some are established classics - Townshend in his flat with a collection of smashed Rickenbackers on the wall behind him and the pop art outfitted group cover shot for the Observer - but others are less familiar. Most date from the first few weeks of 1966 and show the band at home, in the studio, out shopping, and on the stage. It’s interesting to compare the home shots and how they reinforce their perceived personas: Townshend is serious and frowning, surrounded by recording equipment; Daltrey climbs out of bed as a young lady tends to her morning business with her hat hanging on the dresser; and Entwistle poses uncomfortably with his bass and tuba as his ma darns a cardie. Moon escapes the home visit but Jones catches both the wide-eyed Loon and the lesser-spotted quiet, contemplative Keith as he listens, silently, to a studio playback. If I had any wall space left – that would fill it.

Limited edition, numbered and signed prints are priced between £250 and £1000. Cushdy.

The Who: In The Beginning – Photographs by Colin Jones is at the Proud Central Gallery, 5 Buckingham Street, WC2 until 15 November 2009. Admission free.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


"I wrote the book because we're all gonna die".

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Jack Kerouac.

Raise your glass, stick some Charlie Parker on the turntable, pull Big Sur, The Dharma Bums, On The Road, Desolation Angels or The Subterraneans from the shelf and pay tribute.

Or just watch this. "Go roll your bones".

Monday, 19 October 2009


Twelve years since the Untouchables became the New Untouchables and unlike the Avengers the addition of "New" hasn't spoilt a good thing.

I'll be hauling the record box across town straight from the Smokey Robinson gig on Saturday so expect a few Miracles movers in my sets. That sentence sort of looks like I'm DJing for Smokey. I'll leave it like that.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Rest easy my friend. X

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


There’s a fad at the moment for bands so far past their sell-by date the maggots eating their brains decree to play their “classic” album in its entirety. Only the other day I saw Ned’s Atomic Dustbin are to play their seminal (cough) 1991 album God Fodder in December. In fairness times are tough and if the Brummy binmen can put food on the table by cobbling together a quick run through of their cack to a bunch of stinking grebo inbreds who am I to bitch?

Now, of course, this does not in any way apply to Spiritualized and their revisiting 1997’s spacey-psychedelic-jazz-rock-fuzzed-mournful Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. Not at all. No way. Completely different. For a start, I like it; thus it’s cool and beyond reproach. Plus there’s still some legs left in the band as 2008’s Songs In A&E proved. Also, Ladies and Gentlemen is such a complicated and intricate piece of work (piece of - dare I say - art even) performing it live, and doing it justice, is a logistic nightmare and not something to attempted lightly. So much so there are about 30 people on stage tonight tackling it: the band, a choir, a brass section and a sting section.

And the result? Absolutely amazing. Truly. The extended opening title track blows the original version to kingdom come. “All I want from life is a little bit of love to take the pain away” moans Jason Spaceman, then the choir kicks in and it makes infinite more sense and hits the heart far harder than ever before. And on it goes. You should know the album so I won’t list the tracks. The album highlights are the show’s highlights with the explosive intergalactic garage rock of “Electricity” almost knocking my head clean off with its G-force.

It isn’t much of a visual spectacle unless you watch the choir dancing but Spiritualized always make more sense with your eyes closed anyway. Mr Spaceman sits on a swivel chair sideways to the stage throughout and says nothing before, during or after. The original 70 minute LP is extended to a full 90 minute headfuck and credit to the sound engineer and the RFH as you could pick out every single individual note played by each musician.

One of those “you had to be there” nights. Me, I’m still floating somewhere over the Southbank.

Monday, 12 October 2009


Brenda Holloway’s 1964 debut for Tamla, “Every Little Bit Hurts”, wasn’t the typical Funk Brothers thumper Berry Gordy was using to accumulate hits for his stable of artists, nor was it the swinging Sound of Young America as Holloway smoldered her way through a stirring piano and string drenched outpouring of aching adult soul. She was only 17 years old. The road to such an accomplished performance must’ve started somewhere and this new CD uncovers the road that’s long been dusted over.

Featuring all her pre-Motown material that crept out to little fanfare on a host of tiny West Coast labels plus some previously unreleased tracks, The Early Years reveals a journey that took in R&B duets, girl group pop, nursery rhyme novelties and, most memorably, a handful of tracks sounding the direct precursors of what was to come.

It’s mixed bag then but there’s some notable highlights: “Constant Love” and “Suddenly” have a Mary Wells feel about them; “Hey Fool” with its mid-tempo rolling sound and cutting R&B guitar break sounds made for current dance floors; the crackingly titled duet with Jess Harris “I Never Knew You Looked So Good Until I Quit You” could pass for an Ike and Tina outtake; and the strolling “Gonna Make You Mine” and the bouncing “I Told You Baby” being just couple of others on this well deserved and well put together compilation.

“The Early Years: Rare Recordings 1962-1963” by Brenda Holloway is released by Ace Records.

Sunday, 11 October 2009


It’s long been my opinion that when it came to allocating the soul royalty titles Gladys Knight was scandalously overlooked for the Queen crown. That other woman? Pah.

Now – 48 years after her debut single - she’s touring the UK for the last time, with tonight being the second show in the impersonal barn that is Wembley Arena. With no big time introduction the lights go down and out steps our Gladys and on with the show. And a show it is. From an age and background where performing was a craft, a trade you learnt and worked hard at, Knight immediately transforms the vast soulless - and it must be said half full - arena into her own private party; half church/half Vegas Casino. Wembley Arena is hardly the Harlem Apollo but old habits die hard. She looks terrific with her wig hair on her head, a simple purple Emma Peel inspired trouser suit, and she works the stage: grinning, waving, chatting, dancing, and shaking her butt. Pure class but there’s a warm, down home spirit about her too. Don’t forget, this is the lady with a chain of chicken and waffle restaurants in Georgia to come home to.

But it’s that voice folk have come to hear and it can still send a shiver down the spine. What distinguishes Knight from her peers is she rarely shows off; there’s no need for histrionics, no need to over sell or over soul. She’s surrounded by four backing singers, who do just that, they back, they aren’t there to steal the limelight and they aren’t there to cover any inadequacies or failings in her voice. Put simply – there aren’t any.

Although having fair success at Motown, as one of their second-string acts she’s never been defined by that era in the way the Tops or the Tempts are, and it must’ve been deeply satisfying to stick a polished finger at Gordy when the big hits came after joining Buddah Records in 1973.

The absence of my own favourites (“No One Could Love You More”, “Stop And Get A Hold Of Yourself”, “Make Yours A Happy Home”, “Just Walk In My Shoes”, “Neither One Of Us” etc) is tempered by the inclusion of 1961’s “Every Beat Of My Heart”, and even more by 1962’s “Letter Full Of Tears” (“which only my Mum and Dad bought"). Most of the others you’d expect are present and numbers that have never done much for me in the past are reappraised in my mind: the gorgeous “Part Time Love” being one, and even the dodgy Eighties “License To Kill” won me over and took my mind off the hideous graphics displayed on the stage like early Microsoft screensavers. The only time the screens are put to proper use is during “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” when selections of old photographs of the Pips are flashed up. As for the Pips they’re represented by Gladys’ brother Bubba who joins for some banter and a slickly choreographed routine to give his sis five minutes for a breather and quick costume change.

I wouldn’t chose to end the evening with a Hi-NRG version of “I Will Survive” but boy, pockets of the audience lap it up, and I can see the appropriateness of it. I can’t believe she’ll be hanging up her microphone for good; it’ll be a terrible waste if she does. I’m Backing Gladys: Queen of Soul.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


The debauchery and disorder that engulfed the previous Pork and Beans was wildly disproportionate to the very sensible closing time of 1am. There were beers, shots, drive-by abusers, petty thieving, and siblings whose legs turned to cheese. There was probably some music (I’ve a faint recollection of “Surfin’ Brid”) and possibly some dancing. It’s very vague but it was my birthday. I do recall it being a lively little bar so roll on the next one when I’ll be playing one record after another, many with a monkey theme.

Monday, 5 October 2009


Directed by Jack Bond, Separation is an obscure piece of experimental and highly original British cinema that’s managed to avoid the radar of almost everyone bar hardened film buffs since its release in 1967. The BFI have now released it on DVD.

It’s a difficult film to neatly categorise. Shot in black and white and largely cheerless; yet this is no kitchen sink drama. These characters are far too well-to-do: they eat in fancy restaurants, dress in high end fashions, drive groovy painted cars around the King’s Road, and shop in expensive department stores. Despite all this, plus the sound of Procol Harum and occasional snatch of technicoloured liquid oil projections over naked bodies, it’s not your typical Swinging London film either.

Reviews at the time varied from the Daily Mirror’s blunt “cinema bonkers” to the Observer’s more considered “astonishingly distressing and perceptive”. As is the way, it’s a bit of both but initial reaction veers more to bonkers as it’s tricky to figure out precisely who is who and what the devil is going on. It gradually makes more sense (particularly on second viewing) but its non-linear direction and its is-it-a-dream-or-is-it-not passages leave the viewer as confused and disorientated as the main character Jane (played by Jane Arden, who wrote the screenplay and original story), who dealing with the emotions stirred from the separation from her husband, her relationship with her young lover, and the death of her mother tumbles deeper into mental breakdown.

There are bags of stylistic tics and effects throughout the film, which is so beautifully shot it can be enjoyed purely aesthetically until the story slowly sinks in. The swimming pool sequence alone has to be seen to be believed.

As always with BFI releases the packaging is faultless with a 30 page booklet and many extras including a full-length commentary by Jack Bond who sheds useful light on the film, its background, and his relationship with Arden who took her own life in 1982.

Separation is released by BFI.


For those who missed this on last week's Later With Jools Holland. Incredible.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


I recently bought a signed limited edition print of the above photograph of William Burroughs from the photographer John "Hoppy" Hopkins.

It was taken in the Lower East Side apartment Burroughs was using in New York between Chinatown and the Bowery during 1965. Hoppy was in America to take photos at the Newport Jazz Festival, so went to take some Burroughs pictures while there, some of which were later used in IT. I asked Hoppy what he was like. “He was okay but not one for small talk.”

Although they were not strangers, having previously met in London, the atmosphere was far from comfortable. Bill asked if Hoppy wanted a beer. Yes please, but asked for some ice in it. “You don’t have ice in beer” says Bill. Was he annoyed? “No, not annoyed, it just proved to him how stupid I was”.

John “Hoppy” Hopkins current exhibition “Taking Liberties” is at the Street Level Gallery, Trongate, Glasgow until 7th November 2009.