Monday, 30 January 2012


I've not been able to find out anything about this photograph but I guess it speaks for itself.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012


If you only think of Buk as a boozing, gambling, potty mouthed womaniser, this might come as a surprise. I include it below not just on its merit but to show this beautiful 2009 animation by Monika Umba from the Cambridge School of Art.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be

then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do

The Bluebird by Charles Bukowski is published in The Last Night of the Earth Poems and The Pleasure of The Damned.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Some favourites this month.

1. Henry “The Hipster” Gibson – “Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs Murphy’s Ovaltine?” (1944)
Mrs Murphy liked a cup of Ovaltine at night to help her sleep, until one night somebody spiked it with Benzedrine. Things were never quite the same again.

2. Screaming Gospel Chordettes – “I Can’t Believe It” (1958)
The Screaming Gospel Chordettes hurtle along chasing an organ accompaniment and surveying the troubles, wars, bloodshed and even sputniks around them.

3. The Alan Bown Set – “Jeu De Massacre” (1967)
Write a bunch of songs for a soundtrack album and then stich them together to make a single instead. The result is suitably madcap not least for the playground gun-shot sounds.

4. The Lloyd Alexander Real Estate – “Watcha’ Gonna Do (When Your Baby Leaves You)” (1967)
Swinging club soul from the Far East: Hackney.

5. Grahame Bond – “Moving Towards The Light” (1968)
By 1968 Graham had taken an E and in his music was all sunshine and flowers, make love not war. His Love Is The Law album is hippy Age of Aquarius claptrap from start to finish yet curiously engaging.

6. Felt – “I Will Die With My Head In Flames” (1986)
Felt’s ten albums neatly straddle the whole of the 80s; not that I was listening. Now, I hear the past and the future in them.

7. Morrissey – “I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty” (1991)
When the Queen famously accused Morrissey of not being able to sing in 1986 he replied “that’s nothing, you should hear me play piano”. Unbelievers may scoff at the very thought, but here Moz – just backed with a piano – gives the vocal of his life.

8. The Pink Mountaintops – “The Gayest of Sunbeams” (2009)
When I was at school I was accused of making up bands. Whaddya mean you’ve never heard of the Direct Hits? This looks like I’ve made up the band and the song title.

9. Lumerians – “Burning Mirror” (2010)
Hold on tightly, we’re going for a white-knuckle lysergic ride.

10. The Electric Stars – “Between The Streets and The Stars” (2012)
How you view The Electric Stars will depend almost entirely on how you view the Brit-Pop era. “Between The Streets and The Stars” may have got lost in the scrum back then but now it's so out of step it almost sounds subversive. The chorus has most definitely infiltrated my brain.

Saturday, 21 January 2012


To mark the sad passing of Etta James yesterday, here's a lovely picture of her with Muhammad Ali in Zaire during the days before the "Rumble In The Jungle" fight of 1974.
Picture by AP/Horst Faas.

Friday, 20 January 2012


Regular readers will know I like Joe Ridgwell’s work. If I had a friend down the pub who wrote stories and poems, I’d like to think they’d be like Joe’s. This isn’t to say he writes like a gibbering lunatic, just that he writes like a perceptive mate with a bunch of escapades to tell rather than someone who wants to talk about literature all night; and who’d want to be stuck with them?

I finished The Buddha Bar a couple of weeks back but it was only yesterday when reading Jack Kerouac’s recently published The Sea Is My Brother that it properly fell into place. Joe hits the same theme in 2011 as Jack did in 1943. In Jack’s book Bill Everhart meets Wesley Martin on a drunken night out and the next day, on a complete whim, leaves his job as a college lecturer and hitchhikes to catch a ship and become a merchant seaman. “Look what twenty four hours and a moment of determination can do!” he exclaimed. “I think I realize now why the pioneer spirit always guided me in my thinking – it’s because he’s free, Wes, free!”

It’s that same restless spirit and search for freedom that dominates The Buddha Bar: the need to explore and to experience, even if those experiences aren’t always positive. Similar to his debut The Last Days of The Cross, we find a wandering Joe boozing, birding and becoming infatuated with the type of woman your mother maybe warned you about. When the opportunity of investing in a small bar in Thailand is put to him by some crazy local he has the hots for, and has just met, he doesn’t need much persuading in handing over the last of his money. “If you don’t take it you will regret it for the rest of your life. Fuck it, I thought,” and the dream of being a big shot bar owner puffing on a cigar takes shape. Things of course don’t work out the way of dreams, they never do, but there are funny times, sad times, scary times and dreary times, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. And from that, there's no escape.

The Buddha Bar by Joseph Ridgwell is published as a limited edition by Blackheath Books.
The Sea Is My Brother by Jack Kerouac is published by Penguin.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


This performance is taken from the 1932 film The Big Broadcast. It’s an amazing song. Watch out for some nifty (now familiar) dance moves around the 2:25 mark.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


“In view of the national publicity being received by the Detroit sound – may I again request that we register ‘The Detroit Sound’ as a trademark before some 2 bit label does and this humiliates us”. So wrote Al Abrams on a Quicki-Note in the early 60s and stuck it on Berry Gordy’s desk.

That national publicity was due, in part, to the records coming out of Gordy’s Motown factory being pushed by the tireless efforts of Abrams. As an eighteen year old from Detroit, Al became Gordy’s first employee after he impressed by securing radio play for a “god-awful” pre-Motown release in 1959 ("Teenage Sweetheart" by Mike Power if you fancy looking it up). From then until 1966 he worked as a record promoter and publicist for Berry Gordy Jr. Enterprises.

Al diligently kept everything from his time at Hitsville, as can be seen in his recent book Hype & Soul: from his Quicki-Notes; to correspondence with radio and television companies; to press cuttings; photographs; ticket stubs; and exchanges of ideas with his boss. When Berry wrote that the company needed to increase its promotion of Smokey Robinson, it was Al who came up with the famous quote that’s been attributed to Bob Dylan: “Smokey Robinson is America’s greatest living poet”. When Al ran that line past Dylan’s friend and biographer Al Aronowitz asking for permission to use it, Aronowitz reasoned “If Bob sees it in print, he’ll think he said it,” which says as much about Dylan as Smokey, although I’m disappointed it isn’t quite kosher.

That Abrams was a white Jewish kid isn’t significant by today’s standards, nor was it an issue within Motown who used the best people for the job, but reading the old press cuttings race and religion were very much factors back then when newspapers felt the need to end articles with “The administrative staff is about half white and half Negro. Almost all artists are Negro”. One artist who wasn’t Negro was Tommy Good and one of Al’s more audacious publicity stunts involved having Tommy’s placard-carrying friends and family “protest” outside Hitsville demanding the release of a record by Good, in a similar fashion to the on-going civil rights marches; a risky strategy but one which earned the requisite (good humoured) column inches. Race relations and the civil rights struggle are a dominant theme running throughout the book.

Temple Street Publishing have done a beautiful job in presenting Hype & Soul as immaculately as The Temptations stepping out at the Apollo. With nearly 300 glossy colour pages of Al’s memories and memorabilia, it gives a different slant on life within 2648 Grand West Boulevard with loads of new discoveries for even the most well-read Motown fan to enjoy.

Hype & Soul by Al Abrams is published by Temple Street. To order visit

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


The title of this new 3 CD set does most the review but it’s worth adding a few words by way of a recommendation. It’s been a long time since I bought a compilation like this as I’d been under the somewhat arrogant misapprehension I’d discovered all the worthwhile British 60s Mod stuff. That alone – What is Mod stuff? – is a contentious subject and one the accompanying booklet addresses from the start. Here, “a Mod record might actually be any Sixties track with a swing in its step, a groove in its heart and an ability to make you want to dance.” The validity of that is open to debate but should any track not fall within your own modernist parameters, it’ll fall within the easier to interrupt Freakbeat tag or the catch-all Swinging London Nuggets.

But let’s not get bogged down in semantics, this is a fab collection. 80 songs is whooping amount to wade through but the quality tunes are thickly, not thinly, spread. After five complete plays there are only two or three that grate slightly but nothing that gets me dashing to the skip button. As established, there’s a blend of blue eyed club soul, aggressive proto-punk and a handful of tracks that defy easy categorisation. The familiar nestle comfortably with the less familiar and, in the case of The Knave’s suitably entitled Hammond workout “Ace of Clubs”, a handful of previously unreleased cuts which far exceed expectation. What was surprising though, was how fresh the “oldies” sound. By oldies I mean Mulberry Bush-era Spencer Davis Group, John’s Children, The Untamed, etc. The Syndicats “Crawdaddy Simone” sparkles with a clarity I’d not heard before. A far cry from its inclusion on compilations of dubious legality like the English Freakbeat series that sounded like it they were recorded on a cassette recorder from the room next door. That holds for many tracks here which uncover previously obscured layers of vivacity and imagination, not least on the Alan Bown Set’s “Jeu De Massacre” which is mind-boggling in its audacity.

As well as the tracks themselves (thoughtfully sequenced and brilliantly mastered) the booklet manages to avoid ham-fisted and tired Mod images and uses more inspiring period shots. A thoroughly refreshing package all round.

Looking Back is released by RPM/Cherry Red, priced in my local record emporium at £17.99, and includes The Renegades "Thirteen Women" as featured in the previous post.

Friday, 6 January 2012


Although originally from Birmingham The Renegades enjoyed far greater success in Scandinavia. This clip from the Finnish film Topralli sees them turning the flip of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” into a bragging garage classic. The performance by singer Kim Brown is especially memorable. Play loud.

Thursday, 5 January 2012


I didn’t review the Primal Scream and MC5 Meltdown Festival gig at the Royal Festival Hall back in 2008. Not because there wasn’t anything to say, more I didn’t feel equipped to do it justice. It was a rare moment when two bands from different decades and continents not only played consecutively, but simultaneously. In an era when one gig and performance is much the same as another, this was a special night that could only be fully appreciated by those in attendance. Until now. It is finally available as a three disc set: two CDs and a DVD, featuring the entire show.

Primal Scream took a while to get fully loaded. The combination of the early slot and plugging their new LP, Beautiful Future, didn’t help but the final quartet of songs “Shoot Speed Kill Light”, "Swastika Eyes", "Rocks" and "Can't Go Back" threw down the gauntlet to the MC5. Follow that motherfuckers.

With “vintage” acts it’s best to approach with low expectations and take positives rather than dwell on any negatives. With Rob Tyner and Fred “Sonic” Smith no longer with us, it could be argued it’s not really the MC5 anymore. For that reason, I massively respect the remaining members acknowledging this and insisting on being billed as MC5/DKT (for Michael Davis, Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson); not that anyone else calls them that, least of all me, as in my mind this was the MC5 and beyond the inescapable, contained no negatives at all. Brother Wayne Kramer in his white suit, stars and stripes Strat and freaky dancing, led the way. I’m a less-is-more kinda guy when it comes to guitar players but Kramer is a near genius when it comes to keeping Guitar Hero solos rooted in the earthy collective groove rather than flying off in spells of indulgence.

William Duvall from Alice In Chains was ideally cast into Tyner’s shadow: seven feet tall from the top of his afro to the sole of his Cubans and with a stage presence even greater. Not many can out-frontman Bobby Gillespie but Duvall grasped the crowd in his powerful outstretched fist and didn’t let go. After the Scream’s first song Bobby berated the audience with “you don’t need to stay in your seats, this is supposed to be a rock and roll concert,” - there was nobody in their seat now.

All that would’ve been enough but the half hour finale with both bands playing together took it somewhere else altogether. “I Can Only Give You Everything” is a song every garage band cuts their teeth on as they try to pick out that nagging riff. My old band, all those years ago, tried it (unsuccessfully) as we dreamt of being the MC5. You can bet your bottom dollar Bobby has dreamt it too, and there he was living out his fantasy as his flippy-floppy dance went into overdrive. It was fascinating to see the contrasting styles of Gillespie and Duvall go head-to-head as the bands laid down a holy racket around them. They ripped the bollocks out of a further two Scream songs and two Five songs, culminating in a fifteen minute John Sinclair, violin, saxophone, kitchen sink, bomb dropping, sensorial assault on “Black To Comm”. “This is liberation rock and roll,” testified Duvall. “The MC5! MC5! The MC5!” repeated Bobby, barely believing his luck.

I still can't get across how brilliant this was. At least now I don't have to.

Primal Scream/MC5/DKT Black To Comm is released by Easy Action Recordings Ltd