Friday, 30 September 2011
A selection of tunes from Monkey Mansions.
1. Champion Jack Dupree – “Drunk Again” (1954)
He might’ve been the one sounding sloshed and high but it was Jack’s woman who - with a face like an old sea hag - was so drunk from December to July she couldn’t remember a thing.
2. Jimmy Merchant – “Skin The Cat” (1965)
“Go skin a cat – hit it with a bat. Meow!” It’s a good job our cat is deaf.
3. The Zombies – “What More Can I Do” (1965)
There’s more to the Zombies than Odyssey and Oracle. Check out Rod Argent pre-dating a Ray Manzarek style keyboard solo on this from the terrific Live at The BBC collection.
4. Jimmy Witherspoon – “I Gotta Girl (Who Lives On The Hill)” (1966)
The Spoon backed by the crème of UK jazzers (Morrissey, South, Seamen and Bates), dishes up a dollop of Joe Turner’s staple tune with, according to the sleeve notes on Spoon Sings ‘n’ Swings, “a smoking hot freshness”. Monkey Snr was there at the Bull’s Head on the night this was recorded. I can feel the breeze of his nodding head at the bar and faint echoes of “Oh yeah” ripple through my speakers.
5. Jake Thackray – “Lah-Di-Dah” (1967)
I’ve picked this before but with my wedding tomorrow it sprung to mind again. I should stress that all of Mrs Monkey’s family are lovely folk.
6. B.J. Thomas – “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” (1969)
An all-time favourite.
7. Bobby Charles – “I Must Be In A Good Place Now” (1972)
If you wish there were more albums by The Band, check out Bobby’s eponymous debut which has them moonlighting throughout.
8. Little Beaver – “Listen To My Heartbeat” (1976)
When the flat is otherwise empty, in the privacy of the front room, with the curtains drawn, I like to hook up the glitterball and get down to some funky camp disco. Not a sight for the fainthearted.
9. Five Thirty – “Automatons” (1991)
Five Thirty’s Bed is now twenty years old. Where’s the deluxe double CD plus DVD set? Where’s the two hour radio documentary? Where’s the glossy collector’s edition of Mojo or Q? It sounded brilliant then and sounds equally brilliant now. In my top 5 LPs. Robbed they were, robbed.
10. The Flaming Lips – “Race For The Prize” (1999)
The Flaming Lips have a new song out. It is six hours long. That time could better be spent be playing “Race For The Prize” 84 times.
Sunday, 25 September 2011
Despite having the whole history of recorded music at my fingertips there are moments when I don’t know what to listen to. Those moments are inevitably filled by sticking on The Rifles 2006 debut No Love Lost. Not because it’s the best album ever made but its snappy bursts of mid-period Jam wears its heart on its sleeve, gets the head nodding and invites an exaggerated cockney sing-along whilst doing the washing up or pottering around the flat. ‘Andsome. The follow-up Great Escape didn’t quite match that standard but it’s still a decent album, strong on melodies and hooks, and now we come to Freedom Run.
On first play I was so bored it was a feat of endurance to last the course. For something so innocuous it was riling me. I’ve never heard a Snow Patrol album but this trudge through mediocrity is exactly how I imagine one; a stodgy production cloaking a lack of ideas. In the interests of fairness and loyalty I’ve played it another three times. That’s three hours of my life gone. The “Shout to the Top” style strings on the single “Tangled Up In Love” raise it an inch above the others and “Love Is A Key” (terrible title) will translate well in a live setting, but that's all and not good news for a band who’ve built their live shows around a geezerish, beer chucking audience. I’m not suggesting success is measured by the amount of wasted Stella but they’ll be plenty of uncomfortable periods at gigs now when punters are desperate to jump about to oldies rather than stand around arms folded.
The artwork is a giveaway: all moody photographs of mountains and desert highways, which fits the sense of nothingness these tracks evoke but The Rifles aren’t at home driving through Death Valley; their natural habitat is in Walthamstow pubs telling their mates about the latest argument with the girlfriend or their shitty day at work or how West Ham got beat again. To pretend otherwise fools no one and frankly makes them look a bit desperate.
There’s nothing strong enough on Freedom Run to give them the breakthrough hit and win them a legion of new fans; but there’s plenty weak enough to lose them a lot. They could shortly find they do have freedom, only not the kind they were searching for.
Thursday, 22 September 2011
Sorry to neglect you gentle reader but I've been busy, so here's another picture of Diana Rigg. Gotta be better than me slagging off the new Manics single or Rifles LP hasn't it? Not that either are outta the woods yet...
Thursday, 15 September 2011
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
It’s been a while since I’ve been behind the decks, so with a clutch of new purchases adding strength to the box and competition for places, I’m raring to go once again.
First game of the new season is next week thanks to the Rhythm and Blue Beat Club in Camden Town. I’ll be in the team alongside Smart Phil, Southern Sam and Si Cheeba spinning sweet smelling dusty old records for hipsters to dance, drink and listen to. Between us covering R&B, Rhythm and Soul, Mod Jazz, Popcorn, Hammond Grooves and Latin Boogaloo, and if anyone creates a hip new genre by then with its roots in the blues, we’ll maybe play that too. I might even take along Monkey Snr’s copy of Georgie Fame's Rhythm and Blue Beat EP – which is in much nicer condition than the one pictured above.
You’ll find us upstairs in a room away from the oi polloi at the Camden Head, 100 Camden High Street, London, NW1 from 9pm-3am. £5 entry.
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Spread across three CDs Jumping The Shuffle Blues compiles records spun by Jamaican sound systems after the second world war until 1960; which isn’t to say they were Jamaican in origin. If the well-to-do of Kingston could patronise exclusive clubs to hear live orchestras, the rest made do with sound systems rigged up in rooms to play 78s imported from America. In a practice later familiar in northern soul circles, the DJs – or selectors – would be fiercely competitive, disguising their finds by scratching off the titles of popular plays or even conjuring up new titles and claiming them as their own.
Some of the songs and artists here (Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris, Roy Brown, Lloyd Price, Lowell Fulsom, Etta James etc) have been featured on hundreds of collections but only those well versed in jump blues, shuffle blues, call it would you will, will know anything close to all 85 tracks. An infectious rhythm tied to a catchy ballin’, brawlin’ or boozin’ lyric is always irresistible and whacking up the volume to “Too Many Women”, “No More Doggin’”, “But Officer”, “Hey Bartender”, “Bloodshot Eyes” and “Drunk” worked for sound systems, juke joints and house parties then and still bring a smile to the face and an itch to the feet now.
Of the three CDs the second one covering the years 1951-1954 is the most raucous and therefore best but the whole collection, with accompanying 24 page booklet, makes a novel way of a repackaging honking stateside R&B and providing something of a Jamaican history lesson along the way.
Jumping The Shuffle Blues is released by Fantastic Voyage, priced around £8.
Thursday, 8 September 2011
If you’re of an age to remember The Primitives, news they are back will bring two thoughts. Initial excitement swiftly chased by wondering what Tracy Tracy now looks like. That shouldn’t be relevant of course but - and I’m digging myself an even more precarious hole here – who doesn’t look at Debbie Harry and grimace ever so slightly. Richey Edwards missed an opportunity not spray painting William Burroughs’s “Beauty is always doomed” on his big girl’s blouse.
Back in ’88 at the Town and Country Club in Kentish Town, cute as a button Tracy – our Nico fronting her own Midlands mopheaded Velvets - looked me dead in the eye. I’ve forgotten more gigs that I can remember but those two seconds are beautifully frozen in time. As I pogoed frantically to the bubble gum blitz of “Spacehead” she was captivated by my sweaty face and unruly bowlcut. She wanted me. Oh yes. I was too young to realise bands actually pity or loathe most of their audience.
Despite not being able to capitalise on this encounter, I followed them through all three albums, even if they lost most of their sparkle by the end the early 90s when they spilt. I’m the first one to mock old bands reforming and mock even harder any one that takes any notice, but I did get a copy of their recent Never Kill A Secret EP, which has been out a few months but escaped my notice until now. It sounds exactly like it should, only better. “Rattle My Cage” puts a killer hook to a fuzzy riff and garage chug; when an acid dropping Peter Fonda turns up at the inevitable go-go party scene, Lee Hazlewood's “Need All The Help I Can Get” would be playing; the dreamy folk rock jangle of “Never Kill A Secret” brings the sunshine through the flowers; and Toni Basil's northern soul “Breakaway” swings and shimmers in all the right places. Only one track falls the wrong side of three minutes and there’s no picking a favourite; they’re all equally good and, amazingly, improve the overall quality of their output. I’ve had it on constant repeat for over a week and prefer it to almost all their original records, the majority past the first couple of years now sound hollow and joyless.
If they were a new indiepop band they’d be my favourite new band; as it is, they’ve my new favourite old band. As for Tracy Tracy, on the strength of this it wouldn’t matter if she was now right fugly. She isn't.
Never Kill A Secret is released by Fortuna Pop!
Sunday, 4 September 2011
Saturday, 3 September 2011
Every quarter Beat Scene magazine turns up at my door, more like a groovy uncle than a foxy new girlfriend, but it’s fiercely loyal, dependable, and I always put the kettle on to enjoy a few hours in its company.
It brings me news and tells tales of days of yore. For example, it reports there will presently be two film adaptations of, in my opinion, Jack Kerouac’s best two books: On The Road and Big Sur. I’m fairly ambivalent about these types of projects. Whether good or bad, they’ll come out and disappear, most won’t even notice, but a handful of observers will go back to Jack himself and possibly the Beats in general. They need all the help they can get these days. When Jack needed help he didn’t get much. As far back as 1959, Beat Scene editor Kevin Ring observes in his thorough account of Jack’s relationship with his agent Stirling Lord, “Jack was disappointed that film adaptations of his books seemed slow in materialising”. Jack, at the time his star shone brightest, already needed the money; ten years later in near poverty and tatters, he drunk himself to death. Ring’s account is close to a classic be-careful-what-you-wish-for story.
Happier news comes in the shape of an excerpt from a forthcoming Charles Bukowksi collection; lots of book reviews; articles about Ed Sanders, Gary Snyder, Janine Pommy Vega and more; and, especially for David Beckham, a 1987 interview with Allen Ginsberg.
A bumper 68 A4 page edition for a four pounds sterling. I’ll drink to that. Find ordering details at beatscene.net
Friday, 2 September 2011
Although no Joey Barton I quite like David Beckham, but here we see him displaying what appears to be a severe case of Ramones T-shirtitis.
I may be doing him a disservice. He and the missus might sit on their monogramed thrones chucking Allen Ginsberg references at each other for a laugh. Victoria says “Oi Goldenballs, ain’t it time you put your queer shoulder to the wheel and got on with the washing up?”, before he mumbles something about preferring to sweeten the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset.
Whether David will strip to conduct his next post-match interview with his undercrackers on his head remains to be seen.
For a nearly daily dose of everything Ginsberg related go to the excellent Allen Ginsberg Project; from where I pinched this photo.