Monday, 29 March 2010
Ten songs for the merry month of March.
1. Blind Willie McTell – “This Is Not The Stove To Brown Your Bread” (1929)
March’s sponsored blind bluesman - the Dylan favourite Willie McTell - gets help (whether he wanted it or not) from his woman on this very funny put-down duet.
2. “Baby Face” Willette – “Swingin’ At Sugar Ray’s” (1961)
James Brown would ask if he could “play some organ”. No one was in a position to refuse or even answer, but if they had then they would probably have said “no, Mr Brown you can’t actually play the organ you simply whack your clumsy fat fists over the keys to see what noises come out”. Then they would have been fired. Willette’s Hammond playing on his first album Face To Face reminds me of Brown’s. It’s no bad thing, especially as tenor man Fred Jackson is on hand and if you’re looking for a proto-Acid Jazz album then it’s as good as any.
3. The Yardbirds – “Too Much Monkey Business” (1963)
Oh Mr Clapton, where did it all go wrong?
4. Eric Dolphy – “Hat and Beard” (1964)
Freaky jazz shit. That’s good shit not shit shit. But freaky whichever way you cut it.
5. Tobi Lark – “Happiness Is Here” (1965)
As Tobi Legend she cut “Time Will Pass You By” but it’s these three minutes of unbridled northern soul joy that get me.
6. The Beach Boys – “Help me Rhonda” (1965)
What is it with Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Blue? Sounds like plenty of other horrible 70s solo albums that should be avoided.
7. Another Sunny Day – “You Should All Be Murdered” (1989)
The Smiths “too commercial”? Wanting to up your indie cred? Then try the budget priced Poundstretcher version.
8. Dinosaur Jr. – “We’re Not Alone” (2007)
It’s only the wailing guitar solo that prevents this from passing as The Lemonheads. A compliment to both.
9. Len Price 3 – “After You’re Gone” (2009)
“So Sad About Us” mixed with the chime of The Hollies via the Medway delta for a pocketful of punky powerpop. Great fun. Love it.
10. Dan Sartain – “Atheist Funeral” (2010)
Just the trick to take over Robbie Williams’s “Angels” as the nation’s favourite funeral singalong.
Friday, 26 March 2010
As sensational returns go, this one pretty much took the biscuit, the plate, and the whole flipping table. Seven years since their last gigs and Brett and co were reunited for a Teenage Cancer Trust gig. Those who thought the band might treat this as a gentle lap of honour for old time’s sake were given a furious wake-up call as they tore through their catalogue with such electrifying urgency that it caused poor old Roger Daltrey to complain it was too loud!
Brett Anderson was in incredible shape (I had to put Mrs Monkey’s tongue back in her head), performing as if his life and legacy were riding on this one show. After seeing his recent chilled solo gigs, and recalling the early bum and thigh slapping Suede gigs of 1992, he was a revelation: kicking, jumping, twirling, whirling, shaking, leaping, dancing, throwing himself into the crowd and singing – yes, actually singing - his skinny frame out; this was a master class in frontman-ery that didn’t let up for the full 21 song set.
The energy levels of the first five songs alone (“She”, “Trash”, “Filmstar”, “Animal Nitrate”, “Heroine”) were cranked up so high I was glad for a breather with the welcome surprise of “Pantomime Horse”. That set the tone for the rest of the night: plenty of glorious hits mixed with b-side oddities and album favourites, mostly taken from the lifespan of the first three albums and ignoring the patchier final two. “Killing of a Flashboy” sat next to “The Drowners” with the crowd giving both an equally delirious reception. With seldom more than two seconds between songs there was little time for chat or to catch breath but after an explosive “Metal Mickey” a spontaneous two minute ovation gathered momentum as a grinning Anderson allowed himself to bask in the adoration before they continued apace.
Other honourable mentions to a beautiful “Asphalt World” and Anderson dedicating “He’s Gone” to his recently deceased friend and giving it a suitably dramatic, on-the-knees, delivery. “New Generation” was great too, so was “Can’t Get Enough”, hell, it all was. It was simply one of those unforgettable nights.
“It’s been fun. See you again in another seven years”. Whether it is sooner, we’ll see. The ethereal and pastoral nature of Anderson’s recent albums makes me wonder if there’s enough urban Suedeness left in his bones to produce a worthwhile new album so occasional reminders like this might have to suffice. Suede always meant more than most bands in that early 90s, pre-Brit Pop period, with only the Manics as peers. The pair definitely did a few things to this young man’s head. Incredibly, nearly twenty years later, they’ve shown they still mean so much and might just have played their finest gig, and I might just have run out of superlatives.
Monday, 22 March 2010
You know how it is. You’re sat there watching Deal Or No Deal and Noel is milking the Banker’s offer, so your attention wanders and you ‘ave a butchers around your living room. It’s a nice gaff, all your bits and pieces giving it that homely feel. But then again, maybe what you need to top it off, that finishing touch, that little cherry on top, that little talking point, that piece de resistance, is a portrait of a family of East End psychopaths and murderers. Reggie and Ronnie flanking the lesser spotted Charlie Kray. Set the room off summink lovely that would.
Well, this could be your lucky day sunshine. Get a wriggle on up west to Bonhams and pick one up from that David Bailey. Black and white, 19 and a half inch squared, they’ll bung in the frame, all in including VAT (do it proper like), £70,500. Try and get ‘em to knock off a monkey, call it £70,000.
I was up there today and he’s sold seven already. Do a few runs the length of Bethnal Green Road this week, into the pubs and small businesses, offer your protection services and you’ll have rustled up the readies quicker than you can say “fat poof”.
Of course for the more poncey types there are other snaps. A tab-collared saucepan Mick Jagger (eight sold so far). A massive 42 inch Michael Caine smoking a fag (careful how you interpret that) has only one buyer. Some skinny birds, some scouse gits, some pop artist, a bleedin’ dancer and an old boy with a stick.
Now, who’s got change for the jukebox?
Pure Sixties Pure Bailey is at Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street, London until 7 April 2010, admission free.
Sunday, 21 March 2010
It must be twenty years since I first bought Beat Scene issue 9 – with Charles Bukowski holding one of his cats on the cover – from Compendium Bookshop in Camden Town and have bought every one since. Now up to issue 61 and it keeps getting better. Where else would you find a twelve page piece about William Burroughs in Denmark?
Other articles include Burroughs and Drugs, Eddie Woods remembering Harold Norse and a tribute to Jim Carroll. Among the reviews are books by Dan Fante, Charles Bukowski, Knut Hamsun, and Michael McClure.
Loads of other stuff crammed in its 64 pages. Yours for a mere £4 at Beat Scene.
Friday, 19 March 2010
Billy Childish has made over 100 albums. The ICA has a wall displaying 95. There must be someone, somewhere, who collects them. If you ever stumble across them in the pub, move away. “Fancy coming round to listen to my Billy Childish records?” No, you’re all right thanks. Can you imagine? Like being relentlessly bludgeoned with an old bicycle pump. I prefer to nibble away in more manageable chunks but as this major exhibition shows if you want to gorge on Chatman’s most famous son there’s an enormous feast to be had.
Oil paintings, poems, music, films, novels, woodcuts, homemade publications, placards and a bright yellow suit also celebrate the dogged determination, artistic integrity, single bloody mindedness and – let’s not forget – talent, of a true maverick treasure.
In the quality versus quantity debate it’s clear which camp Billy’s hobnails are in. Which isn’t to say there isn’t quality but there’s a restless air of stick it out there and move on to the next thing, which is part of the charm, even if it’s an often quickly forgotten one.
Billy Childish: Unknowable but Certain is at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Mall, London, SW1 until 18 April 2010, admission free.
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Drug experiences, especially those of a hallucinogenic nature, vary according to the mind, expectation, experiences, surroundings, blah blah blah of the user, with those of an artistic or literary bent seemingly having the most extravagant experiences – or at least being able to articulate them in purple prose beyond “we were off our fucking tits”.
Charles Baudelaire and Théophile Gautier were no exceptions and their early psychedelic explorations are compiled in Hashish, Wine, Opium. The language as you’d expect from mid-nineteenth century decadent French poets is beautiful and romantic and full of phrases and words that have long since fallen from fashion. They took their experiments very seriously and recorded in exquisite detail the highs and lows of their first studies; from the splendours to the horrors. I love this passage from The Opium Pipe, written in 1838. Gautier (that’s him illustrated above) is visited by the vision of a beautiful woman dressed in white who asks his name:
“Without hesitation, I replied that it was Carlotta, which was perfectly true and then she told me she had been a singer and that she died so young that she had known nothing of the pleasures of life and that before plunging forever into a frozen eternity, she wished to enjoy the beauty of the world, intoxicate herself with every pleasure and drown in an ocean of earthly delights, that she felt an unquenchable thirst for life and love.”
Kindly come with me fair maiden. It wasn’t all joyful tripping though as he later recounts in Hashish (1843):
“I became quite mad for an entire hour. All the Pantagruelian fantasies defiled through my imagination: Caprimulges, Coquesgrues, harnessed Oysons, Unicorns, Griffins, Nightmares, the whole menagerie of monstrous dreams trotted, hopped, flew and shrieked through the room: there were trumps terminating in a cloud of foliage, hands opening to become fish fins, heteroclite creatures with feet like chair legs and clock faces foe eyes, enormous noses dancing a cachuca on chicken feet; and as for myself I imagined myself the parrot of the Queen of Sheba , the mistress of the late King Solomon.”
Goodness knows what Caprimulges, Coquesgrues or harnessed Oysons are, but I wouldn’t fancy meeting one in a dark Parisian side street whilst off me trolley. So studious were Gautier, Baudelaire and their ilk in their quest for these new experiences (in the West at least) they formed the Club of Assassins to share experiences. William Burroughs often wrote about Hassan-i Sabbah, The Old Man of The Mountains, who kept his 11th century Persian followers dosed in a garden of hashish so they would conduct murders on his behalf just so they could return there; the word “assassin” deriving, it was claimed, from “hashish”. Incidentally, our intrepid Gallic cousins cooked the hashish paste with butter, pistachio nuts, almonds and honey to form a jam and washed down with coffee before eating an evening meal. Yum.
Charles Baudelaire gets top billing due to his greater fame (all those who studied at the School of Manics, 1991-1995, will know The Flowers of Evil) yet only has one contribution, Wine and Hashish (1851). His somewhat pompous patronising tone is funny at times, but at others you want to give him and his intellectual posturing a slap. He compares wine to hashish. “Wine is for those who work and deserve to drink it”, hashish “is made for wretched idlers”.
The most memorable line in the whole book though, and one remember that was written over 150 years ago, comes again from our man Théophile Gautier, who for a brief moment abandons all literary pretensions and gets down to basics: “I went off my head and started to rave”. Tres bien.
Hashish, Wine, Opium by Charles Baudelaire and Théophile Gautier is published by One World Classics, priced £7.99
Monday, 15 March 2010
Saturday, 13 March 2010
Search back through Monkey Picks and you’ll find me championing the work of Joseph Ridgwell: his books of poetry and his novel Last Days of The Cross, yet it was his short stories that introduced me to him, squirreled away in hidden corners of the internet.
Now, at long last, some of these have been scooped up and published in book form by the ever reliable Blackheath Books. I know we’re in 2010 and internet sites are all well and good but one physical, hold-in-your-hands publication is worth of a hundred of those to me.
What appealed – and still does - about Joe’s writing was primarily the subject matter: beer, sex, drugs, rock and roll, random acts of violence. What’s not to like? Then the style itself: rough and ready, bit dog-eared in places, but with bags of brash wide-boy bonhomie to draw the reader in. The influences are clear enough: Bukowski’s solitary drinking in shithole apartments, both the Fantes (especially the more explicit and un- PC Dan), even a swift nod to Kerouac and Hamsun and but he’s his own man. A bit of a boy really. Bit of a geezer. Sort to spin you a yarn in the boozer and for the most part you can’t quite tell which bits are true and which bits are Bertie Bollocks. I like that. Mind you, there are also imaginative and surreal flights of fancy which mix it up nicely. Prostitutes, transsexuals, orgies, blackouts, cheap tarts, death, life, dwarves and giant talking mice drinking bottles of wine. All in a normal day for Ridgwell and these frequently funny vignettes are the perfect way to get these booze sodden tales of excess down with the minimum of fuss. You can almost taste the warm flat can of beer with fag butts in from the night before; and Joe would still drink the bastard. That what-the-heck spirit predominates throughout.
There are fifteen stories here, plenty I remember reading before. You don’t easily forget some of them (who’d forget Fishy Fanny? The title in no way misleading) and that’s what makes a writer. Others may learn and hone their craft with finesse, decorum and a clear head, sod that boring squaresville man, Joe can write but his strength is his attitude, heart, soul and a big pair of dangling balls, and you can’t buy those things. Well, maybe you can, and Joe would probably know where.
Blackheath books are only printed in very limited editions and you’ll have to go to them direct so look sharp and get on the case. Mine has real tit tassels. You won’t find class like that on Amazon.
Oswald’s Apartment and other Stories by Joseph Ridgwell is published by Blackheath Books, priced £7.50
Thursday, 11 March 2010
The bank holiday is inching nearer and once more you’ll find me wobbling behind the decks in the darkness of the The Venue on Great Portland Street, London Town.
The old Northern Soul vest botherers will be hip to the slippin’ and a-slidin’ in the main room; the more discerning R&B crowd will be up peepin’ and a hidin’ in room 2; and the psychedelic ragamuffins will be doing the dinky doo in room 3.
With very few other DJ gigs coming up if you want to feel the full force of a box of Monkey Magic, then wear your wig-hat on your head, pull on your hi-heel sneakers and come on down. Click on the flyer for the small print.
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Friday, 5 March 2010
This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.
I started to write a quick review of the above and it ended up as a long look at the 90s mod scene. It begins:
"Go grab a cup of tea, pull up a comfy chair or click away now, because you’re about to get a chunk of my life story, wrapped in a history lesson, masquerading as a book review..."
To continue reading the whole epic yarn, see Modculture.co.uk.
I'm off for a lie down.
Thursday, 4 March 2010
That is they did on this very day a mere 43 years ago. That’ll be 1967 for the less mathematical among you.
Plucky third division underdogs came back from 0-2 down at half time against cup holders and first division hot shots West Bromwich Albion to triumph 3-2. Hip hip. I can still hear the distant sound of rattles from Wembley to Shepherd’s Bush hanging in the London air.
That’s old skipper m’lad Mike Keen above. Mike passed away earlier this season and he’ll be remembered this Saturday when the two teams meet again and the surviving Superhoop heroes will be introduced to the Loftus Road crowd (once again). Bet West Brom fans can hardly wait.
I understand none of this is of the remotest interest to any of you but there aren’t many chances I get to use the above picture so kindly humour me.
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Twenty years in the writing and over fifty years since the event, no one can accuse Helen Weaver of being quick to cash in on her short love affair with Jack Kerouac.
Kerouacologists (just made that up) will know Weaver as “Ruth Heaper” in Jack’s Desolation Angels. When Jack turned up on her New York doorstep with Allen Ginsberg in late 1956 looking for a pad to crash, they immediately got together and Jack stayed for a couple of months until his drinking and general disturbance gave her too many sleepless nights. Asking him to find somewhere else to stay during the week so she could get some kip for work in the mornings, Helen hadn’t meant to finish the relationship, but that was the effect as Jack quickly hooked up with Joyce Glassman. For Joyce’s version of events, see Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson (nee Glassman).
According to Jack, he was dumped on the advice of Helen’s analyst, which wasn’t the case. “I rejected him for the same reason America rejected him” she says, “he interfered with our sleep”.
It’s fascinating to read Desolation Angels, Minor Characters and The Awakener side by side to compare accounts. Joyce referred to Helen as “boyish, sloe-eyed and under analysis”, and in turn Helen calls her “a little round blonde person” and with obvious glee reports others coining her “Pudding Face” and “The Unbaked Muffin”. It is far from a bitch-fest though and there’s a touching moment in 1994 when the women embrace at a Beat conference.
Using her diaries, letters and notes she kept, Weaver writes with an engaging, warm style and paints an intimate portrait of Kerouac. With On The Road still a year until publication, he was in bad shape both mentally and physically with his alcoholism apparent for all who cared to look. “I had seen the sadness in his eyes and pretended in was poetry. Now I looked into his eyes and saw not poetry but despair. They were the eyes of a man looking down the road that led nowhere but the grave”.
Their relationship didn’t last long but Helen explains how her attachment has grown over the years as her appreciation of Jack’s writing has increased. The Awakener is a thoughtful tribute to a man who not only awoke Helen Weaver but who helped wake America with his unique poetic style. Not that they thanked him of course, until it was much, much too late.
The Awakener: A Memoir of Jack Kerouac and the Fifties by Helen Weaver is published by City Lights, priced $16.95.