This home movie footage was taken by Ken White in 1967 and shows nearly ten minutes of The Creation (Eddie Phillips, Bob Garner, Kim Gardner and Jack Jones) larking around in Hyde Park. They were a decent enough band and the accompanying songs “Nightmares”, “If I Stay Too Long” and “Tom Tom” are okay but it’s the way they’re dressed: the clothes, the shoes, the hair, the shades, that grab the attention. There’s never been a better look than the one captured in late ’66 to mid ’67 by the likes of The Creation, The Action and The Smoke (and the two passers-by at 1:23).
Sunday, 29 April 2012
Friday, 27 April 2012
The last time I saw fewer punters at a gig I was stood on stage in an Archway boozer in 1997 rehashing the Stooges and the Electric Prunes to disastrous effect. Sissy & The Blisters dispense similar garage nuggets to a similarly absent public, although more via a route of early Horrors and Shoreditch than The Lyrics and San Diego. They're considerably more competent and, if their two and half singles and one EP over the previous 18 months is anything to go by, far more ambitious. The Electric Fayre had the far superior and less embarrassing name.
Such sparse gigs are never an easy experience for either band or audience and a Blister apologises for them not being very good tonight but adds their last song will be. Someone shouts “Make sure it is!” One guitarist, the one not wearing gigantic Su Pollard glasses, promises it will and the lanky singer with hair like the ears of a mangy Afghan hound mutters “fucking wanker” to himself. It is a pretty good one, as it goes, but no more so than what preceded it: shouty, doom voiced, two minute blasts of goth-garage with splashes of Seeds organ. Their music is black with orange flashes.
Bass players are the socks to any outfit. No one really cares about them, seemingly useless, and only noticed if they’re missing. Sissy & The Blisters don’t have a bassist, which is a little gimmicky to me, so there’s little depth to their sound and the songs jab rather than land heavy punches. The ones with the sharpest pop hooks – “You Girl” and “We Are The Others” - connect best and “Here Comes Your Man” by The Pixies comes from the blindside.
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Chat, make noise, do what you want, just don’t take photographs was the message from Georgie Fame as he settled behind his battered Hammond for Friday’s late show before easing into a lengthy scene-setting “Flamingo Allnighter” recalling the club he’s synonymous with, it’s owner Rik Gunnell, Speedy Acquaye, Zoot Money, parties on the Cromwell Road, purple hearts, good ganja and ladies of the night. He did a lot of reminiscing, giving the detailed history to songs and colouring them with funny impressions of a grumpy Van Morrison or Bob Dylan.
Considering the time he spends referencing the Flamingo it’s a puzzle why he stubbornly refuses offers from promoters to play a full Blue Flames Flamingo set. His song choices remain fairly constant from year to year: Ray Charles’s “Get On The Right Track Baby”; Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away”; and he can’t get away from “Yeh Yeh”, the song which finally “broke us out of the Flamingo, and out of the country”. His voice is still is good shape, probably thanks to his early decision to sing as if a land owner from banks of the Mississippi, with Jamaican housekeepers, than adopting the persona of a blues shouter more expected from a native of a Lancastrian industrial town.
Another number from that early period was “Preach and Teach”, written by Johnny Burch, whose Quartet the Flames often played alongside at the Flamingo, and was the flip side to “Yeh Yeh”. Fame spoke movingly of Burch (who died in 2006) so after the gig I mentioned to him that Monkey Snr. often saw both groups at the Flamingo (primarily to see Burch) but Georgie wasn’t remotely interested. Not at all. Okay, I’ll grant you it wasn’t the most fascinating piece of news, but one could purchase Mose Allison’s entire back catalogue for what it costs for a night at Ronnie Scott’s so it wouldn’t have hurt to be more courteous. It’s not like he was being harassed whilst out with his family or schmoozing someone else; he was alone near the exit of his own gig. The only other person nearby was a girl who dared to ask to take his photograph, to which he flapped, protested and drafted a contract to be signed in blood promising not to post to the internet. What’s his problem? In fairness though, had I teamed a black silk shirt with bright orange jeans I wouldn’t have wanted it posted either.
Back to the gig and he balanced the old with the new pretty well and his band of Guy Barker (trumpet), Alan Skidmore (tenor), Anthony Kerr (vibes), Tristan Powell (guitar), Alec Dankworth (bass) and James Powell (drums) kept things cooking at an even temperature. “Skiing Blues” though, written after an argument with a girlfriend was supposed to demonstrate it was possible to write a song about anything, but was so terrible lyrically (“I just didn’t get the drift/ When you stayed down by the lift/ And you traded your boots for shoes”) I was scoffing to myself, yet one woman openly laughed out loud. I hope they were deliberately bad, or if not, she didn’t try approaching him afterwards.
When he said they were going to do a Bob Dylan song none immediately sprang to mind, and if asked to guess I’d still be there now as the bluesy rocker “Everything Is Broken” from 1989’s Oh Mercy would’ve been long down my list. If the song choice was surprising, it was nothing compared to Georgie adding his own audience participation refrain of “It’s all fucked up!” Fame’s talent has always been to interrupt other people’s songs in his own style and “Everything Is Broken” proved it’s a talent he’s not completely lost. Shame he’s a bit of an arse.
Sunday, 22 April 2012
1. Rosetta Howard with Harlem Hamfats – “If You’re A Viper” (1937)
From the opening line of “Dreamed about a reefer five feet long”, I’m hooked.
2. Leroy Van Dyke – “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (1965)
The Byrds didn’t have a monopoly on country-rock Dylan covers. Van Dyke got in early and of all the many versions this is my favourite.
3. Tammy McKnight – “Take Away These Chains” (1966)
Tammy recorded two singles for the tiny New Orleans label Tune-Kel and was never heard from again. This was the second and as the title suggests bore more than a passing resemblance to “Unchain My Heart”.
4. The Four Seasons – “Watch The Flowers Grow” (1967)
The Four Seasons weren’t going to let the Summer of Love go past without getting some flower power action. Scott who?
5. Taj Mahal – “She Caught The Katy (And Left Me A Mule To Ride)” (1968)
Since hearing this song in The Blues Brothers as a nipper I thought it started “She’s complicated…” not “She caught the Katy…”. Katy, or M-K-T, apparently stands for Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad. All makes sense now.
6. Parliament – “The Silent Boatman” (1970)
The first Parliament LP, Osmium, is such a crazy mixed up rock-funk-yodelling affair it’s hard to predict what’s coming next, not least on the final track, “The Silent Boatman”. Sounds more like a soul crossed Traffic than Funkadelic and is quite probably the only acceptable recording to ever feature bagpipes. Yes, bagpipes.
7. Bob Dylan – “George Jackson” (1971)
Black Panther George Jackson lived - how shall we say? – a colourful life, and died a bloody death trying to escape San Quentin Prison in 1971. Dylan was quick to record big band and acoustic versions of this which harked back to the topical songs he hadn’t touched for years. The acoustic one is the tops.
8. The Pop Group – “We Are All Prostitutes” (1979)
“Everyone has their price”.
9. Daniel Johnston – “True Love Will Find You In The End” (1990)
I've never bothered listening to any other Johnston songs as can't imagine anything could come close to the raw emotion of this.
10. Kurt Vile – “Jesus Fever” (2011)
I’m not totally sold on Smoke Ring For My Halo but there are loud enough echoes of J Mascis and Neil Young to be worthy of a few listens.
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
If you’ve not heard this before, you’re in for a treat. Brian Wilson wrote it with Russ Titelman for the Beach Boys’ Today LP but then gave it to Campbell as thanks for helping out the band’s live shows in his absence. A master class in how to craft a perfect grown-up pop record.
Sunday, 15 April 2012
He must be old. He’s 73, seeing how you asked, but could be older; not because of his appearance – he still cuts a dash in his light suit and dark shirt – but because “Stand By Me” seems to have been around forever and is everywhere. It’s in the night, the land, the moon, the sky, the mountains and the sea. When Ben E. King with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote it at a piano in New York during 1960 they could’ve had no idea it would remain so omnipresent for much of the following 52 years (and counting).
According to the American performing rights organization, the BMI, it was the fourth most performed song of the 20th century with about 7 million performances. For all the countless versions (Wikipedia says over 400) and its familiarity, hearing it sung in a club by its creator is a surprisingly moving experience. There's something about live music that allows the listener to connect in ways not previously encountered, even on a song as simple and as uncluttered as “Stand By Me”.
What makes it surprising is it comes in an otherwise unremarkable set. King delivers what’s expected rather than what’s hoped, but I don’t blame him too much for giving the majority what they want. After all, he’s playing one of London’s most touristy venues and they don’t give a hoot when he sings Sam Cooke or Wilson Pickett hits at the expense of his own as the smell of burgers and chips waft down from the restaurant. If he was playing a northern soul weekender I’d hope for “Cry No More” or “I Can’t Break The News To Myself” but it still wouldn’t go amiss to heard his wonderful Drifters 45 “I Count The Tears” rather than a plodding version of “How Sweet It Is”.
He only spent two years in The Drifters and the average Joe has no idea which hits he sang on and which ones he didn’t, a fact exploited by King as he covers “Up On The Roof” and “On Broadway”. A recent Monkey Picks investigation discovered that an incredible 72% of black male singers over the age of 30 have at one time performed in a line-up calling themselves The Drifters. Every petrol station, discount book shop and charity shop has a Best of The Drifters CD on sale, all different cheap re-recordings by blokes with wet-look mullets and given a nasty makeover; not dissimilar to the supper club treatment most of the songs get tonight. The band knock out cabaret arrangements and whilst his two backing singers might be a pleasant distraction in other circumstances, here they are too up front, too intrusive and too annoying. The material from what he calls his Disco Years fares better with 1975’s “Supernatural Thing” cutting a rare groove.
For all that, it’s difficult to be harsh on King himself as he is still good. He's retained his natural, unforced baritone and a career spanning seven decades has taught him how to charm an audience. He smiles a big smile, has a twinkle in his eye, exchanges banter with the crowd, and comes across as a lovely fella (especially when he shakes my hand), yet I can’t help think he’s selling himself short. A sympathetic backing and some different material (even jazz and blues standards) would, I expect, be more satisfying for himself - if not the burger munchers of the Jazz Café.
Friday, 13 April 2012
The Mumper was first published in 2007 and is a mainly autobiographical tale by Mark “Bax” Baxter, now taken up by a major publisher to tie-in with a new film.
It tells of Bax and his six mates, whose ages span fifty years, that meet every Sunday in a South London boozer. They rip the piss out of each other, bemoan Millwall’s latest result, talk nonsense, and enjoy each other’s company. Whatever else goes on in their lives, it's put to one side when the notes are chucked in the whip when Sunday comes. Bax (in real life) comes from solid mod stock, who I’ve sometimes said hello as he busies himself in the back room of my tailor George Dyer (Threadneedleman, 187A Walworth Road, SE17 for all your bespoke needs). Although there are the occasional references to mod (and George) they aren’t at the heart of the story.
The story isn’t far off an episode of Only Fools and Horses, or anything else from John Sullivan, with its comic yet loving portrayal of everyday folk, especially when a stranger enters the pub trying to offload a racehorse, which the group buy, name The Mumper, and dress in Millwall colours. “This time next year Rodney…” The story might (or might not) be a predictable one but the fate of The Mumper is secondary to the friendship and bonds that tie these seemingly disparate bunch of blokes.
Away from the pub Bax prints the daily newspapers on Fleet Street, an occupation shared by my own Granpop (who was no doubt one of the “Dad’s Army” referred to). I found those sections – set against the ugly mid-80s trade union dispute with Rupert Murdoch and the eventual sacking of 6000 workers – particularly interesting and dealt with commendably even-handedly.
The Mumper has now been made in to a film, Outside Bet, starring Bob Hoskins, and is released in cinemas on 27 April. The book is a light easy read (although the parts about the father did choke me) and I imagine the film will be a pleasant, quintessentially British affair worth a look (not least because Rita Tushingham and Dudley Sutton make appearances and Paul Weller wrote the title song). The makers are bound to take a few liberties with the story though. For a start, there’s no love interest in The Mumper; there are next to no women at all apart from Bax’s mum, unless you count barmaids. The book is very much a tale of male friendship and the way blokes deal with both happiness and sadness, and when they’ve the balls, how they follow their instincts. I liked it a lot. Go on The Mumper my son!
The Mumper by Mark Baxter and Paolo Hewitt is published by Orion, priced £7.99. Outside Bet is released by Universal Pictures UK on 27 April 2012.
Monday, 9 April 2012
As unbelievable as it seems, back in 1980s Ben Elton was a fresh and seemingly savvy stand-up comedian. His Motormouth LP included a routine railing against audience participation, saying it was the performer’s job to perform and if someone asks you to pull a rabbit from their arse you should tell them to fuck off. “Do I ask you to come and polish my lathe?”
This isn’t an attitude shared by the Jim Jones Revue who request a few hundred people to work the elbow grease on their rock and roll machine. They aren’t even through their first song and Jones is breaking it down, imploring folk to “Let me hear you say YEEEAAAHHH!” He cups his ear. “I can’t hear ya!” he lies, but like his infamous namesake he’s a confident and persuasive leader. They shout “YEEEEEEEAAAAAHHHHH!” just that little bit harder.
Bands are never loud enough in the soulless 229 Club and tonight is no exception but, as always, the JJR put their shoulder to the wheel and furiously work the stage and the crowd: every song a high octane blast of raw power. The Little Richard/MC5 comparison has been done to death but they’re in no danger of shrugging it soon, even if they wanted to. The new songs being worked on for their third album follow the same blueprint as repetitive hammer blows “The Princess and the Frog” and “High Horse”. They might be a one trick pony but it’s a winning trick.
Jones introduces their final song and crowning glory, the magnificently raucous “Elemental”. He teaches the words. “It goes, Elemental… Elemental… Elemental”. His paid co-workers do their job, he gets a raft of free labour, and leaves the club with the most gleaming lathe in the factory. Job done.
Sunday, 8 April 2012
It’s Easter. Here, beneath the static and crackle of an old 78, is Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
Yesterday, a post by Include Me Out prompted suggestions of ways to keep blogs ticking over when the blogger hasn't anything to say. I always stick up a picture of Diana Rigg and noted anything to do with cats will always increase site traffic. Here's Diana and a cat...
Sunday, 1 April 2012
As geezerish cockney Saturdays go, yesterday took some beating. The players of Queen’s Park Rangers finally delivered what they’re paid to do and put in a committed performance resulting in a 2-1 win over in-form Arsenal; and East London band The Rifles provided a knees-up dahn Mile End where the conversation in the pub beforehand and in the Troxy was predominately football related. It was good to chat to blokes who’d been to West Ham (grumbling), Fulham (indifferent) and Rangers (delighted). I often wonder how well The Rifles do outside of the capital as they seem a very London band, albeit from the disappearing "working class" London where everyone is “mate” or “son”, rather than the trendy London of wannabe media types wearing moustaches and red jeans rolled up to their shins.
The band put in a typically workmanlike performance, there's nothing poncified about them. In Alfie, Michael Caine says he wants "proper grub, like Spam" - The Rifles are Spam. The crowd jumped about and heartily sang along to stuff about wanting a little peace and quiet from their bird. Drinks and plastic cups were lobbed in the air (there is even a Rifles branded beer). A stray shoe landed on the stage. My mate got punched in the head and had his glasses broken. It was a good night topping a good day. All that was missing was a bloke flogging cockles.