Thursday, 31 December 2009

Wednesday, 30 December 2009


Ickenham is an unremarkable small town (or “village” as the locals like to think of it) in the London Borough of Hillingdon. Unless you’ve lived there you’d never have any reason to visit, although Keith Moon would sometimes drink in the Fox and Geese with his chauffeur Dougal Butler. That’s about the most interesting thing about it. I grew up there and in fairness it does have a few plus points: the militant residents association have kept the likes of Tesco and McDonalds away; the library is still open (scene of a some childhood escapades like riding my Commando up and down the aisles, smashing a window with football, and taunting Mr Librarian for his blue suede shoes); and at least it isn’t as scummy as nearby Uxbridge, as inbred as West Drayton or as backward as Hayes. And it has a water pump that’s been there since 1866.

The fine folk at Balcony Shirts have managed to commemorate this fact in t-shirt form by ingeniously marrying the pump to a line from Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”. I’m taking a wild stab in the dark there aren’t too many Dylan loving Ickenham residents reading this, but Balcony do have other UK towns and cities available, yet none so cool as this, although I do like “Sexual Ealing”.

Visit Balcony Shirts to see if your town is featured.

Sunday, 27 December 2009


Following four volumes of Kent’s Birth of Soul CDs, documenting the gospel, doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and even pop records that lay the foundations for soul, they now turn their attention to just one city: Chicago.

No man is more associated with the soul of Chicago than our old friend Curtis Mayfield and he pops up on at least a third of the tracks as writer, producer or performer with glorious results almost every time. He is here – as a sixteen year old - at the very beginning, on a previously unreleased, intimate 1958 demo of “For Your Precious Love” with that unmistakeable strum of his guitar and the taping of a foot providing the sole instrumentation for Jerry Butler and The Impressions. I’ve never thought the song particularly memorable (I’m always surprised it was such a success as it lacks any hook whatsoever) but Butler betrays his later “Ice Man” tag with a rich, warm vocal.

Mayfield gets to sing the following year for The Impressions on his own “Senorita I Love You” and donates some of the hundreds of songs that flowed effortless from his pen to Jan Bradley (“Behind The Curtains”), Wade Flemons (“At The Party”), Gene Chandler (“Think Nothing About It”), Jerry Butler (the eerie “Isle of Sirens”) and Major Lance (“I’ve Got A Girl” and “Phyllis”) – all stamped with the Mayfield seal of quality.

Elsewhere, Rosco Gordon’s dreamy “Let ‘Em Try” is a world away from his more famous rocking sides of the 50’s, The Accents gliding “Enchanted Garden” is equally as beautiful and one to gently float around the room to, as is “Tell Him” by The Drew-Vels.

The 24-track CD, covering the years 1959-64, doesn’t register too highly on the footstompers or floorshakers but The Radiants “Father Knows Best” gives “Shop Around” a nip around the heels, Don and Bob show The Yardbirds and Rod Stewart how to do “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”, Major Lance’s “I’ve Got A Girl” chugs along, and The Kayetts obscure “I’ve Got A Story To Tell You” will have you searching on ebay before the song is over (don't bother - there's isn't one there, and if there was, it'd be mine...).

Dee Clark’s irritating “That’s My Girl” is over-familiar and should have been kept away but the inclusion of Sugar Pie Desanto pouring her heart out to the unreleased “My Baby’s Got Soul” provides more than adequate compensation.

Rating: Seven bananas.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


Every dog with a blog has posted this. I’ve never claimed originality so here it comes again.

William Burroughs reads his heartwarming tale - honest - to a claymation (real word, apparently) of his short story “The Junky’s Christmas” (from Interzone). Wallace and Gromit? Do one.

Sunday, 20 December 2009


As you polish off the Baileys and stuff another After Eight in your gob on Boxing Day, spare a thought for the insurpassable soul legend Curtis Mayfield, who died ten years earlier.

I consider myself hugely honoured to have seen Mayfield perform on three occasions; the last only a few months before the tragic accident in August 1990 that paralyzed him from the neck down. It still chokes me.

Here, the dancers on Soul Train in 1971 throw some damn funky shapes to “Get Down”. Don’t try these moves after a second plate of bubble and squeak.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Here goes a fairly random collection of songs. Seek and ye shall find.

1. Roy Brown – “Butcher Pete (Parts 1 & 2)” (1950)
As crazy tales go, this one’s a corker from big voiced Brown. Butcher Pete is “hacking, whacking and smacking” all the women’s meat in town; gets put in the clink where he starts on his cell mate; gets released and a 92 year old woman wants him to chop her meat; goes to church, starts on the pulpit; chops up a ship; gets sent to the electric chair and chops that down too! As Roy concludes, “he’s a maniac”.

2. James Brown – “Chonnie-On-Chon” (1956)
Now children, let’s not forget the 25th of December marks an important day. It’s when – three years ago – Brother James became what he ate: angel dust. Show your respects by getting on the good foot to this lively rocker taken from only his second ever session.

3. King Coleman – “Loo-key, Doo-key” (1960)
This record has been described as a “tittyshaker”. Please, be my guest.

4. Ben E. King – “Ecstasy” (1962)
Take me by the hand and lead me to the land of ecstasy”, begs Mr King. Highly amusing.

5. Yvonne Baker – “You Didn’t Say A Word” (1966)
It’s impossible to be tired of some records. This is one. Listed at number three in the Northern Soul Top 500 book and that intro still brings a rush of excitement and a stampede to the dancefloor.

6. The Disillusioned Younger Generation – “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’” (1967)
The award for best band name goes to these teenage folk rockers who jingle-jangled their way through one 45 before disappearing off the face of the earth.

7. The Velvet Underground – “After Hours” (1969)
I’d not played the Velvets properly for years until last weekend and had completely forgotten this sweet Mo Tucker sung track at the end of their third album. Lovely.

8. Clarence Carter – “Back Door Santa” (1969)
Fuck The X-Factor versus Rage Against The Machine, no festive song can hold a candle to Carter’s greasy claim of making little girls happy as he comes in their back door.

9. Little Richard – “Money Is” (1972)
There’s only one thing that money can’t buy – and that is poverty”. Little Dick’s throbbing super-charged ode to the almighty dollar hits the spot other flare grooves cannot reach.

10. The Cribs – “I’m Alright Me” (2005)
Yes, you are.

Monday, 14 December 2009


If, like me, you fancy some stonking soul to banish the thoughts of another year passing, then the joint Va Va Voom and New Untouchables shindig in London Town should do the trick.

The Va Va Voomers will be in Room 1 with their exquisite 60’s Northern and rare soul (their night at the beginning of November was a corker); The New Untouchables take Room 2 for more soul, R&B, Motown and ska (catch me spinning a few in there if you time it right/wrong); and, if you want a change of mood, head to Room 3 for the serious psych and garage clangers.

Unless you have bionic eyes, click on the above flyers to read the details.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Thursday, 10 December 2009


As we approach the end of the 50th anniversary of Naked Lunch it’s time to mention a couple of newish books.

Naked Lunch @ 50: Anniversary Essays has been collated by Oliver Harris and Ian MacFadyen who invited over twenty writers, scholars, musicians and artists for their take on the book and received a collection of essays exploring it from a range of angles and areas of personal interest. It’s testimony to the depth of the original book it can be viewed in so many ways and mean such different things to people.

I tend to avoid scholarly works as my dumbass brain can’t cope but this is palatable enough. The essays are roughly ten pages long so even the academic beard stroking ones causing RSI in reaching for the dictionary were worth persevering as they still unlocked details and insight repeated readings have missed or the relevance not appreciated.

For painstaking research, you’ve got to applaud Michael Stevens for his The Road To Interzone: Reading William S. Burroughs Reading. Stevens sets out to catalogue all the books Burroughs was known to have read, owned and contributed introductions, forewords and blurbs to. The entries are referenced and annotated and although not a book to read cover to cover it’s good to dip in and pull out a nugget, like this 1962 quote from Colin MacInnes, “If a writer like this is a novelist then clearly the word is practically meaningless”.

Naked Lunch @ 50 is edited by Oliver Harris and Ian MacFadyen and published by Southern Illinois University Press, priced $22.95.
The Road To Interzone by Michael Stevens is published by Suicide Press, priced $29.95.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Adding Johnny Marr to The Cribs line-up didn’t make huge sense in the beginning. His first gigs had him busking rather than adding, but he’s all over Ignore The Ignorant and now has woven his magic into their older songs, throwing his instantly recognisable flourishes into the abrasive commotion of the three Jarman brothers . Whilst the Jarmans launch themselves into every song as if it’s their last – sometimes literally into the crowd - Marr brings some understated style to proceedings: well dressed, legs slightly apart, guitar held at just the correct angle and height, a flick of the wrist, a slight tilt of the head, and a haircut to die for. All important stuff which hasn’t yet rubbed off on Ryan, who stubbornly wears the mum-cut-around-the-pudding-bowl hair “style” which would have caused instant playground bullying when I were a lad.

It’s not all dandy though. Ignore The Ignorant is at best an indifferent album and they play a sizeable chunk of it tonight. The Cribs are at their most striking when they’re full of boisterous bile, mixing punk playing with brusque terrace chants and hooks. If they can fit a “whooah” into a song they will. If they can’t, they’ll make another word sound like a “whooah”. It’s a simple yet effective trick. Many of the newer songs have fluidity but none of the urgency. They’re improved by the live setting but whereas you could hit shuffle on The New Fellas or Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever and be guaranteed a great, the odds are significantly longer on the new album.

However, let’s not be too grumpy because it’s still a set bursting with rollicking highlights: “I’m A Realist”, “Hey Scenesters!”, “Our Bovine Public”, “Mirror Kissers”, “The Wrong Way To Be”, “Men’s Needs” etc from the back catalogue plus “We Share The Same Skies” and “We Were Aborted” the stand out two from the newie. It’s curious the Jam-like “Victim of Mass Production” didn’t make it but this is tempered by the inclusion of “Direction”, which is transformed from filler material from their 2004 debut into a savage beast of a song that rattles the walls and shivers the bones.

Monday, 7 December 2009


Public Enemy’s last album was How You Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? A good question. Another question Chuck D might ponder is how you sell poetry to an uninterested public who don’t even buy books let alone poems by some northern bird they’ve never heard of.

I tell you what you don’t do: you don’t house said poems in an unattractive cover; with a badly staged, ham-fisted photograph; with ugly lettering and font; and a title with the unfortunate side effect of causing involuntary outbreaks of that ghastly song by Republica. Yes, there’s the old cliché about books and covers but come on.

Of course there are thousands of shitty book designs and I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about most of them, I’m only grumbling because whilst screwing my nose up I nearly missed out, and that was despite being familiar with Melissa from her Beat The Dust site. I only succumbed during a rare moment of fumbling around for something to read. And thank goodness, because it’s an engaging, entertaining and often very funny read. As you may have gathered by now, I don’t like to work too hard with poetry. I want it to say what it has to say in a few simple, straight forward, easy to understand words and bugger off. No nonsense. And I want to relate to them; nothing about blackbirds or rocks or whatnot. Mann’s poems are witty and wily and have a ring and a rhythm to them. Her words tumble out and some of the snappy staccato bursts sound like lyrics awaiting music. From tales of Yorkshire youth to London letdowns, from broken hearts to Jimmy Saville, from bus stops to public conveniences, these are our everyday trials and tribulations told without exaggeration or braggado.

The cover isn’t that bad and I’m being especially mean to a small independent publisher without an expensive art department, so for the price of a couple of pints chuck a copy in someone’s Christmas stocking - after you’ve read it yourself of course. And that Public Enemy album is better than you probably think too, so stick that in as well.

Baby, I’m Ready To Go by Melissa Mann is published by Grievous Jones Press, priced £7.

Sunday, 6 December 2009


Football flags. Bit crap usually but the design, subtlety and originality of this one is something else: QPR legend Sir Les Ferdinand as Che Guevara, produced by a chap who goes under the name “The Modfather” on the excellent Loft For Words fansite.

The words come from a QPR song and not – as the officials at Doncaster Rovers assumed – a provocative invitation to meet at the nearest railway station for a bout of fisticuffs.

After yesterday’s embarrassing 5-1 home defeat to Middlesbrough, they could have done with 43 year old Les on the pitch, and the corpse of Guevara might’ve played better than Fitz Hall at centre back.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


That there Kavel Rafferty, she’s great she is. And she’s opening her own gallery shop in Barcelona.

Kavel’s illustrations have appeared all over the globe in publications and shops and I’ll forever be indebted for the brilliant flyers featuring blues and soul stars she produced for Shake!("legendary" East End R&B Club, 2001-2006) for nothing more than a vodka and tonic each month. I’d like to think that leg-up got her where she is today rather than her own hard work and undoubted talent...

Galeria Kavel opens on the 12th of December, displaying and selling prints and products by Kavel and a select band of other new artists from London and Barcelona. My own favourites are the “Saucy” series (one of which is above) and also the collages featuring scantily clad ladies with cats. Also worth a look is the “Pop Pickers” section where you can have the record of your choice drawn to order.

Galeria Kavel is at Napols 309, Barcelona, 08025 or you can visit from the comfort of your keyboard here.