Monday, 28 June 2010
Some stuff that has taken my mind off the football…
1. Ernie Tucker – “Can She Give You Fever” (1960)
Thumping R&B throat ripper out of New York City. Fifteen quid well spent.
2. The Ones – “You Haven’t Seen My Love” (1967)
Tucked between the smashes Motown was having in ’67 was this curious blue-eyed soul release from Midwestern teenagers The Ones. An organ led ballad that both The Tempts and The Zombies would’ve been proud of.
3. James Carr – “I Sowed Love and Reaped A Heartache” (1968)
Look, it’s James Carr and a song called “I Sowed Love and Reaped A Heartache”. Marriages are seldom as perfect.
4. Public Image Ltd. – “Banging The Door” (1981)
The Flowers of Romance is one of the more challenging records in the collection. There’s a very fine line being trod here.
5. The Prisoners – “I Am The Fisherman” (1985)
I spent most of 1985 hunched over a ZX Spectrum playing countless games of Chuckie Egg and Manic Miner whilst listening repeatedly to The Last Fourfathers. Computer games have come on somewhat but there have been few better albums.
6. The Field Mice – “September’s Not So Far Away” (1991)
The Field Mice didn’t jingle-jangle as frequently as their reputation suggests which is a shame because when they did, they did it well.
7. Harlem – “Psychedelic Tits” (2008)
Not the best track from their Free Drugs ;-) album but how can you resist that title? Bit like an early White Stripes with the miserable blues shit replaced with fun pop hooks recorded in a biscuit tin by a bunch of doolally druggie slackers.
8. Teenage Fanclub – “Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe In Anything” (2010)
Two albums in ten years. What do Teenage Fanclub do with their time? Sit around the house twiddling their thumbs? Serve pints of McEwan’s in their local boozer? It doesn’t sound like they spend time honing their craft - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
9. Pete Molinari – “Minus Me” (2010)
Molinari borrows more from Presley than Dylan on his new album but “Minus Me” is close enough to “You’re A Big Girl Now” to make up for it (but it doesn't forgive his cheesy videos that almost makes me never want to listen to him again).
10. Frankie & the Heartstrings – “Tender” (2010)
Looking for a new indie hope to hang your straw trilby on? Then you’ll do worse than get behind this Sunderland quintet drawing from the white poppy, vaguely northern soul spirit of Dexys, Aztec Camera and even The Housemartins. Nice video too.
Sunday, 27 June 2010
I like a bit of art, don’t mind an occasional poem, like well placed swearing, like scooters and dislike coffee drinkers. So dig the new additional to the walls of Monkey Mansions featuring the Drive-By Abuser character from the Modern Toss comics (click on it to read). It’s just one of many brilliant potty-mouthed creations from the inspired minds of Mick Bunnage and John Link.
It’s not often you hear laughter in galleries but that’s what you get at this exhibition, featuring alongside our Drive-By Abuser: Mr Tourette the Master Signwriter; Alan the sociopathic scribble; the small talk stalling Cheese and Wine blokes; ridiculous work scenarios; pointless arguments in space; giant flies and all manner of social commentary battened down with a liberal sprinkling of swear words.
Limited edition signed and numbered prints start from £35 and one-off originals for more. Got that, yeah?
The Modern Toss London Museum of Urban Shit-Naks Exhibition is at the Maverik Showroom, 68-72 Redchurch St, London E2 until 4th July 2010. Admission free.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
The Kinks’ remarkable job in keeping its original members alive sadly came to an end with the passing of Pete Quaife this week. I cross Waterloo Bridge and walk along the Embankment most days and often run through his rumbling bass opening to “Waterloo Sunset” in my head. Thanks Pete.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
The Clash’s London Calling is a classic case of an album being spoiled by carrying too much flab, excess baggage and a suffering from a puffed out sense of its own importance. Move “Train In Vain” to side one, drop “Jimmy Jazz”, bin sides 3 and 4 completely and hey presto – they’d have had a decent record.
The sleeve though can stay. Designed by Ray Lowry and using Pennie Smith’s blurry photo of Paul Simonon it’s as good an album artwork as you’ll find. Using that as a starting point, 30 artists, performers, writers and assorted odd bods have donated new works to be auctioned to raise money for the Ray Lowry Foundation which provides funding to aspiring art students.
John Squire goes for a numbered cube painting, Tracey Emin describes first hearing the album, Harry Hill displays a hitherto unseen artistic flair with a large oil painting of The Clash bedded in the earth, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon offer pieces, Clash road manager Johnny Green pens a personal tribute (see above), Ian Wright’s (not that one) torn paper collage is a highlight as is Lennie Payne’s version of the cover produced on – wait for it - twelve slices of toast.
Ray Lowry died in 2008 and many examples of his inky sketches for the NME and the others are exhibited and offered for sale (they don't do anything for me mind). You’ve until 1st July to bid for the others.
Ray Lowry: London Calling is at the Idea Generation Gallery, 11 Chance Street, Bethnal Green, London E2 until 4th July 2010, admission free.
Sunday, 20 June 2010
Friday, 18 June 2010
As an encore Bettye LaVette is singing – no, not singing, singing doesn’t do it justice, she is wringing every last drop of soul out of - “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got”. A cappella. Her voice has the whole room spellbound . It is something to behold. A moment to enjoy, savour and remember. And it’s just one of a number of similar moments in this performance by a lady who in a stuttering career stretching back to her first single in 1962 has only since 2005’s I’ve Got My Own Hell To Raise got the credit she richly deserves.
Her three albums in the last five years have been lavished with critical acclaim (Grammy nominations), she’s performed for Presidents, and has established herself as a contemporary artist rather than simply a soul survivor on the revival circuit. I last saw her twenty years ago at a northern soul weekender near Great Yarmouth. I can remember the wind rattling the shabby caravan site. I can remember falling over on the gravel outside and dancing with bleeding hands. I can remember some excitement that Bettye was on site and, I think, that there were some drawings of Bettye available to buy for her to sign. To my shame I can’t remember a thing about her performance but I guess she popped up to knock out northern soul staples including “I Feel Good All Over”, “Let Me Down Easy” and maybe “Witchcraft In The Air”.
Back to now and she opens with “The Word”. There’s no denying she is great but she isn’t helped by her band: straight out of Rock School, bass tucked between chin and belly and that jutting head and pursed lips combo that fat beardy session bass players seem to specialize in, plus the capped, grimacing guitarist doing his squinty eyed nonsense. LaVette has the lungs to top them but it doesn’t do her proper justice. It takes a striped away version of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity” to do that and what an incredible tearjerker it is.
That more or less set the pattern. A couple of medium paced songs followed by a slow one and the slow ones, putting Bettye centre stage, trump the funkier, rockier ones. There’s a questionable song selection on her latest album Interpretations: The British Rock Songboook which she is promoting. She transforms “I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” but “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” has never done anything for me and even Bettye cannot freshen a turd as stinky as “Nights In White Satin”. Yet give her a decent song like The Who’s “Love Reign O’er Me”, a suitably sympathetic arrangement, and let her cracked, street fighting rasp penetrate deep into your very soul. When she does, the drama and the raw emotions are draining to watch. It seems like a lost art these days but it’s one that after 48 years LaVette has perfected with stunning results.
As much as the torch burners are the indisputable highlights the rockier workouts are livened by Bettye’s graft: working the stage, shaking and writhing her tiny toned frame atop four inch heels like a more dignified Tina Turner. And there are the little things like always saying “we thank you” instead of “I thank you”; of remembering people like Ady Croasdell who’ve helped support her through the tough times; thanking the sound and light technicians – when did you last hear that?; and there’s a moment when she knocks a plastic cup off a chair at the side of the stage with a tiny drop of water in it, instead of leaving it she stoops to pick it up and carefully puts it back on the chair. Somehow that sort of thing impresses me.
The opening bars of her 1965 classic “Let Me Down Easy” gets a massive roar and a massive rendition in return. When too many older artists are happy to saunter along and trade off former glories it’s a real pleasure to watch a performer put her whole being into a show like this. And guess what? She played another show an hour later. Ask me in twenty years if I remember this, and I swear I will.
Monday, 14 June 2010
I wasn’t going to share this in case you lot push the price up and scupper my bid but Christie’s in New York is auctioning Jack Kerouac’s last typewriter on 22 June 2010. As you can instantly tell, it’s a Hermes 3000 manual typewriter (model no. 3337316) and comes in its original protective case, with cleaning implements, and is in good working condition. It sells itself but if you need convincing here’s some auctioneering guff:
“Kerouac’s last typewriter, which he used from 1966 until his death in 1969. He announces its arrival in a 29 August 1966 letter to his agent, Sterling Lord: "How do you like my new typewriter?" The new machine "was necessary," he explains, "as the old one broke in two, but, and that's what broke my budget, and now it'll be taxes." Lord received many letters from this machine about Kerouac's money problems: "Where are the ROAD royalties to 6/30/66," he asks on 18 January 1967, "and same royalties (6/30/66) for SUR... Great time of stress. Need money to fence-in magnificent part wooded yard." He also hoped to build a study "where I'll be writing VANITY OF DULUOZ in month of March after Greek Orthodox Church wedding in February" (to Stella Sampas). Vanity was published in 1968. It would be the last novel published in his lifetime. His novella Pic would appear in 1971. This typewriter had to make a visit to the repairman in January 1969. The repairman's receipt for $22.83 (which survives in the Kerouac Papers), diagnoses the problem as "Dropped." The Kerouac Papers also contain the Hermes operating manual for this typewriter.”
The estimated sale price is $20,000-$30,000 but I’d bet my old rucksack it goes for way more than that. Christie’s have a few other pieces including a rather splendid 1959 painting Jack produced of Cardinal Montini (later Pope Paul VI) which hung in his (Jack’s not the Pope’s) house. I don’t know the circumstances to the auction but I’m guessing it’s going to further feather the Sampas family nest.
I’m off to rummage down the back of the sofa for chump change.
Sunday, 13 June 2010
When the reissued Exile On Main Street made number one on the album charts the other week it restored a little faith in the dwindling music buying public. I’m guessing the average Stones fan has a few quid in their pocket and they’ll need a few bob if thinking of purchasing any of the photographs on display at the Scream Gallery. Using the old adage that if you have to ask how much something is you can’t afford it then I’m assuming they’re out of my price range.
That aside, purely from an exhibition point of view, they are well worth a look as they - according to the geezer in the gallery who may have been stretching the truth - consist entirely of previously unseen pictures taken between 1964 and 1971 and there are some real crackers. Robert Rosen caught them in ‘64 all taking a piss in the scuzzy lavs at Victoria train station and David Montgomery snapped them scoffing fish and chips down the Kings Road and in various states of undress for Sticky Fingers promotion. But the best picture is the image above (taken on my phone) by Bob Bonis showing Brian and Keith larking by the pool in 1965. The sign above Brian’s head reads “You’re Welcome To Swim”.
The Rolling Stones: Against The Wall is at Scream, 34a Bruton Street, London W1 until 3 July 2010, admission free.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
As Mrs Monkey has vetoed my plan to drape a gigantic St George’s flag from our bedroom window and paint the cat’s face I shall – despite my loathing for most of the players and pathological hatred for others - pledge my allegiance to “the lads” here. As much as I’d love to see match winner Peter Crouch robot dancing in the Johannesburg sunshine with the trophy under his bony arm come the 11th of July as Cristiano Ronaldo sits slumped crying his piggy eyes out, the reality is a Wayne Rooney sending off and my dreams fading faster than his rage. With that in mind I shall also be cheering for Spain, Argentina, Mexico and South Africa.
Altogether now: “Forty four years of hurt…”
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Whenever I hear “Can I get a skinny latte?” I summon all my powers of restraint to prevent myself pummeling the head of said speaker against the counter time and time and time again. Fortunately it doesn’t happen often as I’d sooner drink my piss from an old tin cup than enter a coffee shop but it niggles away at the back of my brain with frightening regularity. So, not for the first time, I let out a little cheer and raised a fist in solidarity when Joseph Ridgwell writes “I hated coffee drinkers nearly as much as I was beginning to hate Juliette’s constant criticisms, walking around with their stupid paper cups like toddlers with comfort blankets”. Ahem, brother.
Ridgwell’s typically bolshy “Jim Morrison’s Grave” is one of ten short pieces and three interviews originally published on The Beat website and now collected in the latest book from Blackheath Press. Many of the writers I’ve championed in the past and they again come up with the goods. I like Melissa Mann’s detail in “Beetroot”, the muggy air and detachment in Jenni Fagan’s “The Acid Burn No Face Man” and the flouncing gracefulness in Andrew Gallix’s “Sweet Fanny Adams”. They all have strong individual voices expressed in completely different (and entertaining) ways.
Others skillfully scribing a few pages: Lee Rourke, Susan Tomaselli, Ben Myers, Steve Finbow, Chris Killen, Sean McGahey, Darran Anderson, and U.V. Ray.
The Beat Anthology 2006-2009 Edited by Sean McGahey is published by Blackheath Books, priced £7.50 (or limited edition with spoken word CD £10).
Sunday, 6 June 2010
Before my thoughts, here are extracts from the IMT press release:
“Dead Fingers Talk is an exhibition presenting two unreleased tape experiments by William Burroughs from the mid 1960s alongside responses by 23 artists, musicians, writers, composers and curators.
Few writers have exerted as great an influence over such a diverse range of art forms as William Burroughs. Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine and Junky, continues to be regularly referenced in music, visual art, sound art, film, web-based practice and literature. One typically overlooked, yet critically important, manifestation of his radical ideas about manipulation, technology and society is found in his extensive experiments with tape recorders in the 1960s and ’70s. Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs is the first exhibition to truly demonstrate the diversity of resonance in the arts of Burroughs’ theories of sound.
Inspired by the expelled Surrealist painter Brion Gysin, and yet never meant as art but as a pseudo-scientific investigation of sounds and our relationship to technology and material, the experiments provide early examples of interactions which are essential listening for artists working in the digital age.
In the case of the work in the exhibition the contributors were asked to provide a “recording” in response to Burroughs’ tape experiments. The works, which vary significantly in media and focus, demonstrate the diversity of attitudes to such a groundbreaking period of investigation.”
Got that? Now, it would make sense to have the Burroughs recordings at the beginning and then to see/hear the replies afterwards but that isn’t how it is. His two tape experiments are near the end amidst a bunch of the replies playing one after another so you need a degree of patience to get to them. There is no information displayed: nothing about how and where they were made but I’ll presume they were made at the Beat Hotel in Paris with Ian Sommerville and Brion Gysin but Burroughs would conduct tape experiments until the late 70s – chopping up the order of his texts, playing parts backwards, making new words, and creating a hypnotic and disorienting effect on the listener that he believed could be used as a weapon of control.
The responses range from mildly interesting to downright pathetic. One is a blank monitor screen. Yeah, clever. Another is two black buckets of water. Get over yourself. The rapid cut multiple spilt screen video images by o.blaat with a slurping soundtrack has a Burroughsian effect and a hanging sculpture by David Burrows and Simon O'Sullivan (Plastique Fanstastique “Yage-Cat-Demon Shrine”) at least has a bit of thought and effort but the majority of exhibits simply expose smug self-satisfaction and a sorry lack of imagination - an accusation that could never be leveled at Burroughs himself.
Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs is at the IMT Gallery, Unit 2, 210 Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 9NQ, Thursday-Sunday 1200-1800 until 18th July 2010, admission free.