Sunday, 28 November 2010
1. Big Sambo and the House Wreckers – “At The Party” (1960)
When flicking through sales boxes certain things will catch the eye, like this. The reward being a honking blast of a party where big fat chicks looking like bears wanna fight. Where’s my invite?
2. Roscoe Shelton – “Question” (1964)
Tuff R&B horn blower perfect those midnight to six hours.
3. Paul Peterson – “Don’t Let It Happen To Us” (1967)
Motown obscurity corner. Not the most talented singer but the Frank Wilson’s song and production are enough.
4. Paul Jones – “The Dog Presides” (1968)
Dogs a-barkin’, Jeff Beck a-riffin’, Paul McCartney a-thumpin’, Paul Jones a-blues wailin’ and Paul Samwell-Smith, er, playing the bass. Marvelous rocks-off madness.
5. The Delfonics – “I’m Sorry” (1968)
Before Thom Bell truly established his Sound of Philadelphia with The O’Jays and Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes he cut his teeth on The Delfonics, lead by the distinctive swooping and soaring vocals of William Hart.
6. Mary Love – “Born To Live With Heartache” (1971)
Not one of Love’s better known singles but a cracker nonetheless. Imagine Shaft strutting his stuff as he leaves a trail of heartbroken ladies in his wake.
7. David Bowie – “A New Career In A New Town” (1977)
“Groovin’ with Mr. Bloe” recorded in outer space - and in the future.
8. Ride – “Chelsea Girl” (1990)
Shame they plunged so rapidly downhill as “Chelsea Girl”, “Drive Blind” and “Like A Daydream” had far bigger balls than their later stuff would suggest.
9. Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Stargazer” (1995)
The Banshees swop monochrome for dazzling Technicolor as they climb aboard their magic swirling ship and dock right next to a collection of Rubbles and British Psychedelic Trip compilations.
10. Pulp – “The Trees” (2001)
They’ve promised to play all the favourites – well, Cocker and co, this is mine and I’ll be waiting.
Friday, 26 November 2010
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Interest on Modculture about The Action has prompted me to start making available on-line the various fanzine interviews in did with them in the mid-90s. I’ll show them in the order they occurred (Reggie King and Mick Evans to follow).
This first one with original lead guitarist, Pete Watson (on the right in the picture), took place in 1993 and appeared in my Something Has Hit Me and also in Bill Luther’s Smashed Blocked. Myself, Pete and Darren Brooker and Richard Merrett from local pop combo The Wilsons were huddled together in Pete’s room not far from Heathrow.
How did you meet the rest of the band?
It all started in Kentish Town. My Mum and Dad had a pub there and that’s where the rest of the band also lived. I used to demonstrate guitar at Sound City in Shaftsbury Avenue on Saturday mornings and they came in to see me. They were already together the four of them, and called The Boys, but they needed a lead guitarist so asked if I wanted to join them. We did a few gigs at the start but weren’t any good so we took a year off. Just practiced and practiced. Originally we started the gigs in ’62 and then started again to do more and more around the end of ’63.
There was that Sandra Barry and The Boys single, were you on that?
Yeah. Sandra Barry, whatever happened to her? “Really Gonna Shake” it was called. We wrote that. Reg King wrote it and we all helped arrange it.
Why did you then change the name to The Acton after The Boys solo single “It Ain’t Fair”?
The Boys wasn’t really the sort of name to put to the music we were playing. The sounded too clean-cut.
The Action had a very strong mod image; was that a deliberate ploy or was it something you were really into?
Oh yeah, we were all really into that. Tamla Motown, soul music. That’s all we were into. We didn’t play any pop chart numbers at all, just soul numbers.
Did you collect soul records?
We used to go down Saville Row where there were these studios that Kenny Lynch worked in. We used to go and raid their library of all the American soul songs. We used to sort through them and pick the ones we liked, then put our own arrangements to.
What ones were you doing in your live set?
Well, “Land of a Thousand Dances”, we were doing that right from the off. That song was really a part of us wherever we went. We used to finish with that one. It used to last about twenty minutes!
What were the gigs like?
Great. We did the university circuit which was good. Before that we did the Goldhawk, as well as the Marquee on every Tuesday night. We took over The Who’s Tuesday night slot. We were their backing group for a time, until we got the sack. Their manager Kit Lambert sacked us for taking too much of the limelight away from The Who. But not long after that they got their record going and left the Marquee, so we stepped in. We used to go back to Keith Moon’s flat in Shepherd’s Bush after playing the Marquee. He was a nutcase, good parties though. And Roger Daltrey still owes me a fiver. Imagine the interest on that now.
What other bands did you play with?
Most of them really. The Small Faces. Rod Stewart used to be in our backing band. Loads of gigs we did with him. Especially up north. Any gig up there and he always seemed to tag along. He was pretty much the same then as he is now. Always said he had no money. We did a Beatles Spectacular show as we had the same recording manager, George Martin.
How did you meet George Martin?
We kept phoning him up. We just wouldn’t leave him alone. In the end he came with his secretary to see us at a gig in this dancehall above a pub in Putney. He listened but said he couldn’t really tell much from that and he would know better once he got us into the studio.
What was he like to work with?
He was great. Lovely fella. You weren’t nervous about going into the studio with him. You’d play the song a couple of time and he’d just say “change that bit” or “try and do it like this”. Then he’d come ins and play the piano as well. Quite a few of those records had him on piano, things like “Since I Lost My Baby”. When The Beatles were recording George used to ring us up and ask if we wanted to come down. So we’d pop down there, have a cup of tea or coffee with them. We’d play cards with Ringo while the others were putting their vocals on. They were a good crowd. The only funny one was John, he was a bit off. You’d never know how to take him; he’d just take the piss basically. The rest of them were great.
Did George Martin alter the sound a lot in the studio or was it pretty much played live?
It was pretty much live, the vocals were double-tracked or whatever. He altered it a bit. Everyone said we were better on stage than on our records. People would say we were twice as good on stage. I don’t know what he did but here’s not enough bass for me. Not enough depth.
Were any of the concerts recorded?
Yeah, there was down at the Marquee. I don’t know whatever happened to it, whether it was for radio or television or what. There were cine cameras there as well. We did these things but I never knew what they were for.
What about television?
We did three Ready Steady Go’s, we did the Beatles Spectacular for television. We did some television up north. One of the Ready Steady Go’s had David and Jonathan, Dusty Springfield, The Mindbenders, us and a couple of others.
Tell us about the album that was recorded. Why didn’t it come out?
We did an album in ‘66/’67 for EMI, and a lot of it was our own songs. “The Place” from the compilation album was going to be on it. We just cut a load of songs and were going to piece it all together after that. I think it was not long after that that we sort of broke up, we didn’t even get as far as giving it a name.
Who picked the covers that got recorded? George Martin?
No, we’d choose them ourselves. George would then listen to it and tell us if he thought it was any good or not. Usually we’d do something and he’d say “that’s not going to be a number one!” t really bucked us up. They were really good days. It’s a pity we didn’t write as well as we played other people’s songs. Really it was only Reg and the bass player Mike who could write songs. I started to try and write but it always seemed too difficult for me. I’d sooner let them get on with it.
Why do you think the records never quite made it chart-wise?
I think mainly because we were playing great gigs all over the country and the public expected us to bring out something “different”, something totally unexpected. If we had recorded something unusual of our own rather than cover versions we might have done a lot better. That’s what we were getting towards near the end. We always tried to be different; we didn’t want to be like anyone else. The Who were playing the same songs but in a more outrageous way, we just did them differently. Also, with the right manager things might have been different.
Why? What did he do?
He just ripped us off. He was the bloke that did that Bob Dylan concert at the Isle of Wight. Took the advance ticket sales and buggered off with it. That’s the sort of bloke he was but we didn’t know it at the time. He ripped us off badly with the money. We only found out after he said he didn’t want to manage us any more, then we discovered all the debts. Every time we went up north it wasn’t just for one night, it was four or five, and we were staying in hotels, we had our own road managers who’d do everything for us. But none of the bills were ever paid. They had writs out against us all over the place. That’s why I left. The others carried on for a while. For about eight months they worked for nothing, just paying back debts. I didn’t want to go through it all again. I was so sick of what he had done to us, and us breaking up. I mean, we were nearly there, we were. We knew all the right people, we knew everyone, we had George Martin, what more could you want? But when that bastard did that to us I just washed my hands of it all. I went back to my Mum and Dad’s pub; just shut myself off from everyone. Watched all the others over the years getting richer and richer while I was getting poorer and poorer. At least I’m not dead though like Moonie. I knew he’d kill himself. He was always into drugs and stuff in excess.
Did any of you lot take anything?
The only time I ever took stuff was in the early days when I drove the van. I took speed to keep awake driving all night. It used to keep me awake and keep me talking. Bleedin’ jaws used to ache! No matter what people were discussing, no matter what subject, you knew about it. You could talk them under the table. Didn’t know what the hell you were saying though. I never went on to the heavier stuff like LSD or anything. Reg did. He fell off the stage one night and we had to pack up and go home.
Going back to The Ultimate Action, what’s your favourite song from it?
Apart from “Land of a Thousand Dances” which is sentimental because it was the first thing we did in the studio with George Martin, my favourite has to be “Since I Lost My Baby”. Everyone used to like that one, it’s always been my favourite. “The Place” is one we wrote for the album because there was this club called The Place that we used to do regular. To me “Hey-Sha-Lo-Ney” is a lot of bleedin’ rubbish. We only did it for a b-side because we didn’t have anything else. A lot of people seem to like it though.
That’s a beautiful Rickenbacker in the corner of the room.
That’s the original guitar on all The Action records. 1962 I bought it. Thirty one years old and I’ve never had to touch it; never had the neck straightened, nothing. It’s a twelve-string but I only use it as a six- string now, just to mess about with. Van Halen wanted it for studio work. Offered me £800 and a brand new Fender on top but I turned it down. It has got too much sentimental value.
Have you kept in touch with any of the band?
I’ve not seen the boys from that day to this. None of them. One of them joined Ace, who were one-hit wonders. Roger the drummer married an American, I don’t know if he went to America or not. Mick went funny, wears one of those funny hats and goes around praying all day. Reg went into record production for a while. I’d love to see them all again. I’ve not seen them for twenty-five years. Maybe I should get Cilla [Black on Surprise, Surprise] to arrange it.
Saturday, 20 November 2010
Isn’t it good when you stumble across something quite by chance? Tucked away on a Shoreditch backstreet is Ever Young a collection of photographs by James Barnor. Barnor took portraits in his studio in Jamestown, Ghana before moving to England in 1959. His earlier photographs of local folk and passing dignitaries are interesting enough but what caught my eye (unsurprisingly) were the Swinging London shots he took for Drum magazine. All the usual backdrops are present and correct: sports cars, bright red postboxes, pigeons in Trafalgar Square, but the use of black models adds another dimension, highlighting London just before it began its rapid (and welcome) shift into the multicultural metropolis it is today, as the 1966 picture of Erlin Ibreck above neatly demonstrates.
Ever Young: James Barnor is at Autograph ABP, Rivington Place, Shoreditch, London EC2 until 27 November 2010, admission free.
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Seeing artists of a certain vintage fall into three categories: the “to be honest they were pretty crap but at least I can say I’ve seen them” category; the “they’re okay and played all their old hits”; and occasionally there’s the “instead of living off former glories they’re still moving forward and producing the goods”. Bob Dylan can straddle all three in a one night and Mavis Staples right now is proudly rooted in the third.
With a set consisting almost exclusively of her new album, You Are Not Alone , she is in commanding form, pushing herself with grace, dignity, infectious humour and fierce determination. For 60 years she’s worked audiences from the churches of Chicago, to civil rights marches, to large rock venues, so an intimate club gig like this is a doddle, yet everything looks so natural and not in the least contrived. There’s plenty of patter with the crowd and a smile and an aura of inspiration that radiates around her - she’s impossible not to love.
Old spirituals like “Creep Along, Moses” and “Wonderful Savior” stand shoulder to shoulder with well chosen covers of Little Milton’s “We’re Gonna Make It” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “I Wrote A Song For Everyone” whilst the fabulous album title track is the song of the year in my book. The Staple Singers had a happy knack of making gospel songs accessible to pop audiences and giving pop songs a gospel grounding and that tradition still holds.
Her band is a simple guitar, bass and drums three piece who subscribe to the less is more style of playing, leaving plenty of space of Mavis and her three backing singers – including Staples Singer sister Yvonne – to do their thing; although it only takes Mavis, a solitary guitar barely brushed, and Randy Newman’s “Losing You” to engulf the place in a reverential hush - apart from one dick at the bar to loudly exclaim “Ten quid for a glass of wine?!”
The only classics are “The Weight” and “I’ll Take You There” but it matters not. It's testament to Mavis I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
My, how the London Film Festival spoilt us this year with not one, but two, Beat Generation themed films. Following William S. Burroughs: A Man Within came Howl, a celebration of Allen Ginsberg’s landmark poem.
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman weave a recreation of the 1955 Six Gallery debut reading (with help from Lawrence Ferlinghetti about how it looked); the obscenity trial court case (with the suave Jon Hamm playing the hip defense lawyer); Ginsberg interviews (nicely underplayed by James Franco); and an animation of the poem (which sounds horrible, well it does to me, but was okay).
All the dialogue is taken verbatim from the original court transcript; Ginsberg’s own interviews and “Howl” itself, which gives a strong documentary feel rather than that of a staged and scripted drama. Without being extremely picky there’s little to fault in it, so I won’t. You might take that for laziness and you might be right but even watching it tired, emotional and more than a little drunk (hence this flimsy - and late - review), I thought it interestingly made and thanks to the different styles and settings moves at a surprisingly brisk pace.
Howl is due for release in cinemas in February 2011.
Monday, 15 November 2010
What a pleasure it was to DJ at the Boiler in Barcelona on Saturday. So refreshing to play to such a packed knowledgeable crowd whose primary instinct was for non-stop dancing. They queued down the street and those lucky enough to get in really went for it. If you ever get the chance – go. It’s a unique experience.
Many, many thanks to the organizers Cristina Alfonso, Alberto Valle and Jordi Duro for inviting me, treating me well and running a well organized club; to the other DJs for being such nice chaps, especially enjoyed Moonwolf’s 50s R&B and Mr. Fine Wine’s wide ranging set including some serious oddball choices that worked a treat; to all the people I met and chatted to from around Europe and beyond; and to Kavel Rafferty from Galleria Kavel for getting us around the city and ensuring I managed to find some tapas that didn’t include cheese.
The Dippers – Goin’ Ape (Diplomacy)
Marion James – I’m The Woman For You (K&J)
Gloria Grey – It’s A Sweet World (Warner Bros)
Dee Dee Sharp – Deep Dark Secret (Cameo)
The Dalton Boys – I’ve Been Cheated (VIP)
Ray Scott and the Scottsmen – Right Now (Decca)
Aretha Franklin – Tighten Up Your Tie Button Up Your Jacket (Columbia)
Grover Pruitt – Little Girl (Salem)
The Gardenias – What’s The Matter With Me (Fairlane)
Lloyd Price – The Chicken and the Bop (KRC)
Bobby Peterson Quintet – Mama Get Your Hammer (V-Tone)
JB Lenior - She Don't Know (Checker)
Sugar Boy Williams – Little Girl (Herald)
Leo Price Band – Hey Now Baby (Up Down)
Eddie Holland – Baby Shake (Motown)
Dorie Williams – Tell Me Everything You Know (635)
Mary Ann Fisher – It’s A Man’s World (Imperial)
Ernie Washington – Lonesome Shack (Chattahoochee)
Dick Jordan – I Want Her Back (Jamie)
Dick Holler – Mooba-Grooba (Comet)
Lonesome Sundown – I Had A Dream Last Night (Excello)
George Cameron – My Heart Tells Me So (Portrait)
The Rollers – Troubles (Bel-Star)
Bob and Earl – The Sissy (Chene)
The Marvelettes – I’ll Keep Holding On (Tamla)
Martha and the Vandellas – In My Lonely Room (Gordy)
James Brown – Good Good Lovin’ (Federal)
Smokey Smothers – I Got My Eyes On You (Gamma)
L. Roy Baimes – Hey L. Roy (BJR)
Friday, 12 November 2010
It’s the opening day of Mick Rock’s retrospective but the man is not kicking back and admiring his work. As the faces of 70s superstars and 60s supernovas stare blankly through altered eyes from the walls, he is snapping the latest collection of wannabes huddled on the floor in a state of calculated dishevelment, seemingly convinced torn and frayed jeans are still a rock and roll statement.
Rock’s more famous subjects had a bit more about them and some of his album covers are as familiar, if not more so, than the music they house. I bet more people recognize the Transformer sleeve than could hum “Vicious” and more identify Raw Power than whistle “Search and Destroy”. Every article ever written about Syd Barrett has been accompanied by one of Rock’s shots and he had something to do with David Bowie but I only think about that in an attempt to obliterate the thought of Queen.
Little Johnny Rotten looks chirpy and The Ramones look like they’re throwing a strop after being forced to wear an inch of make-up for End of the Century. There’s one amusing set of photos from a house party down the Portobello Road where Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck and Ronnie Wood turn up (like they do) and start jamming until two local bobbies turn up: “Do you mind turning the noise down a bit lads?”
There are one or two surprises and more recent portraits but it’s the old classics that keep Rock in dark glasses.
Mick Rock - Rock: Music is at the Idea Generation Gallery, 11 Chance Street, Bethnal Green, London E2 until 16th January 2011. Admission free.
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Keith Richards’ autobiography Life is out now. You know this. I’ve not read it cover to cover yet but have randomly dipped in and out and it’s packed with fascinating details and untold stories told in Keith’s what’s-all-the-fuss-about way. He describes Altamont as “no hairier than getting out of the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool” and “if it hadn’t been for the murder, we’d have thought it a very smooth gig”. Very smooth gig? Brilliant.
One passage that caught my eye was William Burroughs giving Keith advice on how to get off on dope and procure good quality stuff, and then giving him and Gram Parsons a sadistic and ultimately useless drug cure which resulted in Keith and Gram shitting and pissing themselves, sharing a sick bucket, and twitching so hard they kept falling off the bed they were tucked in. “I wondered if it was Bill Burroughs’s joke, to probably send me the worse cure he’d ever had”.
And there’s more. Read it yourself.
Life by Keith Richards is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £20.