Friday, 31 May 2013


Across a mammoth thirty seven pages in the new issue of Flashback, Richard Morton Jack recounts how mod superheroes The Action evolved into bearded underground spiritualists, Mighty Baby. Picking up the story in 1967 with The Action's introduction of Ian Whiteman and Martin Stone; on to the Rolled Gold period; the departure of Reggie King; the making of their wiggy psychedelic Mighty Baby album; the mellower A Jug of Love; and finally how their religious believes became incompatible with their lives as gigging “rock” musicians.

Members of the band are interviewed as are some who worked with them and the article features rare photographs and press cuttings. It’s the first time, to my knowledge, Mighty Baby have been covered in depth and it’s long overdue. Covering the changing mood of time well there’s also good little snippets of information that’s new to me such as Marc Bolan’s reaction when Ian Whiteman played him the Action Speak Louder Than... tracks. “So what? I can do better than that.”

The Mighty Baby piece is the big selling point and I wouldn’t have forked out £9.99 without it but Flashback and an impressive publication. At 210 glossy colour pages with in-depth articles (Malcolm Jones on producing Syd Barrett and Pete Brown on the recent Graham Bond box-set being another two highlights) plus incisive and honest reviews it feels more like a book to keep than a disposable magazine. 

For more information and ordering details visit Flashback.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Ten favourites for the merry month of May.

1.  Mahalia Jackson – “I’m On My Way” (1958)
Barbara Dane’s version was the big R&B club hit a while back but Jackson’s vocal on this and the rest of her Live at the Newport Festival performance is on another plane.

2.  The Rivingtons – “Old Time Love” (1962)
We have The Rivingtons’ “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” and “The Bird’s The Word” to thank/blame for giving us The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” but this honking, big voiced doo-wop stomper is their finest moment.

3.  Lee Hazlewood and Duane Eddy with his Orchestra – “The Girl On Death Row” (1960)
The first single issued under Hazlewood’s name and such an eerie record.  Written for a film which had its title changed on release to Why Must I Die?

4.  The Supremes – “A Breathing Taking Guy” (1963)
If you’re looking for a salacious Motown book Mark Ribowsky’s gossipy The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success and Betrayal should satisfy. Which Supreme had to be talked out of installing a mirror on their bedroom ceiling by Berry Gordy?  

5.  Clydie King – “Missin’ My Baby” (1965)
If Clydie’s unbelievably sexy voice doesn’t melt you then you must have a heart of stone.

6.  Little Richard – “Get Down With It” (1967)
An irresistible thumping R&B shouter from the shy and retiring Mr. Penniman.  

7.  Orchestra Harlow – “Freak Off” (1967)
Reminds me of a Latin Boogaloo version of “The Work Song”, which doesn’t sound like a hugely enticing prospect I’ll grant you, but this is worth hearing.

8.  Bob Dylan – “If Dogs Run Free” (1970)
I’ve been playing all Bob Dylan’s studio albums in order, one per day. It’s been interesting to hear them in that way – through all the peaks and troughs. Most I know like the back of my hand but the lesser played ones have thrown up some interesting moments (and some excruciating ones) like this crazy beat poetry jazz number on New Morning.

9.  Billy Paul – “Magic Carpet Ride” (1971)
An suitably uplifting soul-jazz workout of the Steppenwolf single. The full-length version on Going East is the one to get.     

10.  Paul Messis – “I Hate The World Around Me” (2013)
Much dirty water has flowed since I last heard and enjoyed an album of such authentic angsty teen-garage punk as Messis’s Case Closed. Out now on State Records. 

Saturday, 25 May 2013


Today saw the annual Buckingham Palace Rideout organised by the New Untouchables and Bar Italia Scooter Club. After gathering in Carnaby Street an estimated 400+ scooters cruised the West End, went up The Mall, past Buckingham Palace, through Westminster, along the Embankment and eventually ended up in Shoreditch for chat, music and refreshments.

It was difficult to take photos that gave a sense of the amount so this is just a small selection of individual scooters. My preference is for them to look more-or-less unadorned but as you can see that’s not a view shared by everyone. In case you’re wondering, my is the green SX150 in the final photograph.

This was the first rideout I’ve done for years and really enjoyed the buzz of creating such a spectacle in the capital. With hundreds of Mods and Scooterists plus thousands of German football fans over for the Champions League Final there was a good atmosphere in town. Even the weather wasn’t too bad. Thanks to the organisers and marshals who did a sterling job in keeping everything running so smoothly. No easy task I’m sure.

Thursday, 23 May 2013


Jay Bulger climbs into the seat of his car after conducting the last interview with the subject of his film. Ginger Baker, mad-eyed and screaming, is doing his pieces, jabbing the heavy silver handle of his walking cane through the open window. “Are you really going to hit me with your stick?” asks Bulger nervously but with a hint of a come-on. “I fucking am! I’m gonna put you in fucking hospital!” WHACK. Blood streams for the bridge of his nose.

If it can ever be considered lucky to get walloped in the face by a crazed pensioner Jay Bulger struck lucky there as it gave a handy framework to his film and underscored (should it need underscoring) what an unpleasant individual Ginger Baker is. The sign at the entrance to his South African home - “Beware of Mr Baker” - was no idle threat.

When Ginger was four his dad died in war but left him a letter to be opened when he reached fourteen. In it he advised, “Be a man at all times. Your fists are your best pals”. As Beware of Mr. Baker unravels (the title taken from the sign that greets visitors to Baker’s South African home) it appears to be the only advice Ginger has ever taken.     

The story of his colourful life is mostly told - often begrudgingly - by Ginger himself; propped up in his armchair, shaking smoking and swearing like a thirsty Father Jack Hackett. A raft of famous musicians chip in about what an incredible talent he is whilst a host of family members talk about what a dreadful man he is. His first wife (four and counting) and children deserve credit for telling their parts with such good humour considering the awful episodes he put them through.

Beware of Mr. Baker is no Searching For Sugar Man; no heart-warming tale. It is, however, frequently funny due to Ginger being, how shall I put it, a bit of a character. When Bulger asks a question he doesn’t like he quickly snaps. When recounting his early days in the jazz clubs with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated he mentions “Graham”. Bulger asks him to clarify, for the sake of the film, who Graham was. An exasperated Baker replies through gritted teeth and thinks of the money, “Graham Bond was a fat guy”. It is left to the likes of Jack Bruce and a debonair Charlie Watts to fill in the gaps.

Blues Incorporated, Graham Bond Organisation, Cream, Blind Faith, Airforce and his later musical excursions get covered as does his restless wanderings and lunatic capers in Hawaii, Jamaica, Nigeria, America, Italy and South Africa where the only things he gave a toss about were his polo horses, his dogs and his drums.  

Cream - we are told by a succession of rock star drummers - were the first progressive band, the first super group, the first band to play big arenas, the first band to play long jams, the first band to break away from the chains of pop, the band instrumental in giving birth to heavy metal and Ginger was the pioneer of the rock drummer. If that’s not a terrible rap sheet I don’t know what is.

But do not, under any circumstances, refer to Ginger as a “rock drummer”. He is, he insists, a “jazz drummer” and claims his gods are Phil Seamen, Max Roach, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones who are now dear friends who are “worth more to me than anything in the world”. I doubt his son - who Baker told he didn’t care what happened to him - would contradict that statement. The footage of Ginger playing drums alongside those fellas is brilliant and maybe, just maybe, he is almost as great as he thinks he is. “It’s a gift from God. You’ve either got it or you haven’t; and I had it.”

I disliked Baker after reading his autobiography Hellraiser and there’s little here to change my opinion but as an entertaining subject for a film, he’s box-office gold.

Beware of Mr. Baker, written and directed by Jay Bulger, is in selected cinemas or can be watched on-line (£10) at Curzon Home Cinema.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


Following Total Destruction To Your Mind (1970) and Rat On! (1971), two more reissues from Alive Records bring the spotlight back on the inimitable Swamp Dogg.

Gag a Maggott (that extra ‘t’ is annoying) was Swamp’s fourth album  and after the previous sleeves depicting him wearing orange shorts sitting on a dump truck and riding a giant white rat, this one sees our hero inside a garbage can with maggots on his face. The cover he says “was designed to make you puke and possibly shit yourself.” Swamp Dogg wasn’t your average 70s soul man. 

Once again, in between sessions of hard partying, he cut an album of soulful funk infused with his offbeat humour and natty way with words. “Wife Sitter” is a prime example and one of his best songs as he chortles away at his antics of taking care of other men’s wives. “Don’t worry about your kids, I’ll treat them kind, after all, half of them are mine”  His infectious laugh makes such behaviour almost sound commendable.

“I Couldn’t Pay For What I Got Last Night” is another in-the-pocket groove (Little Beaver on guitar) which give credence to Swamp’s claim that “the album is so funky it’ll gag a maggot” and his rearrangement of “Midnight Hour” breathes fresh life into the original album’s only cover. Maggott isn’t quite up to the standard of the previous albums and has one horrible calypso track - “T T” - but it still shows Swampy as a unique talent, perhaps only now getting his dues. As his says in his new liner notes, “Hell, I was great back then, but I was the only one who knew it or gave a goddam”.

The vinyl reissue is faithful to the LP and the CD version features two extra live tracks, “Mama’s Baby, Daddy’s Maybe” and the Stones’s “Honky Tonk Woman”.
In addition to his own releases Swamp cut records on others; Doris Duke perhaps the best example (if you’ve not heard her I’m A Loser LP, get on it), and in 1973 he produced and wrote most of an album for Irma Thomas, In Between Tears; her first LP since her glory (such as they were) days at Imperial in ’66.

Gritty and strident, Thomas is in strong voice throughout. Some tracks, like “You’re The Dog (I Do The Barking Myself)” sound like a Swamp Dogg album with a different vocalist but the way she pours heart and soul into the extended raw blues version of her old hit “Wish Someone Would Care” is totally her own and the result spectacular. “Turn My World Around” is more danceable (reminiscent of Duke’s killer “I Can’t Do Without You”) and ends the record on an upbeat note. The cover artwork though is more ghastly than anything ever to adorn Mr. Dogg’s work.

This reissue also features a couple of bonus cuts on the CD and a story from Dogg how he and his band kept an eye on Irma whilst making the record. No wonder when he bumped into her years later she made out she didn’t know who he was. You’ll have to buy the CD to find out more… 

Sunday, 19 May 2013


Daft Punk are this week top of the hit parade with their funky disco number "Get Lucky". Hope you noticed my Tony Blackburn voice there. It’s not a bad song but why it has caught the imagination in the way it seems to have done I don’t know. Maybe it’s the lack of competition but we’re talking a huge omnipresent hit, like Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” in 2006. It features Nile Rodgers laying down a typically Chic guitar riff, which is pretty cool I guess.

Anyway, it made me think of this record by Stex which included Johnny Marr adding some Rodgersesque guitar licks (similar to the ones he employed on "Barbarism Begins At Home"). I absolutely loved this at the time, was convinced it was going to be a smash, and told everyone I thought might be interested about it. “Still Feel TheRain” limped to number 63 and disappeared without trace. I’ve always had an ear for these things.

Over twenty years since last hearing it I’m pleasantly surprised how well it has weathered the ravages of time, especially for an early 90s “dance” record (which of course it still sounds like). To Stex’s credit they avoided inserting an awful rap break two-thirds in which was almost de rigour for this type of track. Since playing it yesterday I’ve had it lodged in my brain once again. 

Thursday, 16 May 2013


Dobell’s Jazz Record Shop began in May 1946 when Doug Dobell’s father made space in the corner of the family antiquarian bookshop at 77 Charing Cross Road for his son to sell from a couple of cardboard boxes. Opening with stock consisting of just sixty records from Doug’s collection, trade increased steadily until 1955 when it became a dedicated record shop after his father’s retirement. The business would continue (moving in 1981 to 21 Tower Street) until 1992 when it went into liquidation.

An exhibition at Chelsea Space, curated by Donald Smith and Leon Parker, pays tribute to the shop which acted as a magnet for all British fans and musicians of jazz, folk and blues in addition to attracting all the big (and small) name visitors from America where their imported records could be found. Hipsters would hang out at "The Record Shop with the Club Atmosphere", discover music in the listening booths and find out what else was happening in town.

In 1957, Doug Dobell with Brian Harvey and John RT Davies formed their own label – 77 Records - to issue limited editions (99 copies) of LPs, EPs and 78s of emerging artists they liked such as Alexis Korner, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Lightnin’ Hopkins. 1963 saw a young Bobby Dylan record in their basement as Blind Boy Grunt on Richard Farina and Eric Von Schmidt’s self-titled album, released on Dobell’s Folklore off-shoot and is proudly displayed here (safely beneath glass).

Also on show are photographs of the exterior and interior (some great ones by Val Wilmer), the shop’s carrier bags, records, posters and even the original shop sign, opening hours sign and a record rack. One cabinet features a series of 25 photographs taken by David Redfern at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival which were commissioned by Dobell’s and sold as a box set, Jazz Photo 67. 

David Redfern was there last night and gave a talk about his incredible career. He’s taken photographs of all the rock and roll “greats” but it was very apparent his real love is jazz as he treated us to a hour of his pictures and funny anecdotes about rioting trad jazz fans versus modernists, Louis Armstrong, Gene Vincent, Ike & Tina Turner, Marianne Faithful, Beatles, Stones, Nina Simone, Ronnie Scott, Buddy Rich, Miles Davis, James Brown, Jimmy Smith, Thelonious Monk, Dexter Gordon, BB King, Frank Sinatra, John Lee Hooker and dozens of others, right up to the present day. Still working hard David only last week returned from New Orleans after taking photographs of 83 artists in ten days.

Although reluctantly moving from film to digital photography old habits die hard with Redfern, pouring scorn on those who take 300-400 images in quick succession. “That’s not photography" he said, "that’s button pushing”. 

For more about Dobell’s – including a Spotify playlist with tracks from all the albums shown on their carrier bags (I'm sure I remember Monkey Snr bringing home plenty of these when I was a nipper) – plus loads of other stuff about old record shops see Leon Parker's British Record Shop ArchiveDavid Redfern’s The Unclosed Eye, a collection of his photography spanning four and half decades is available hereDobell’s Jazz Folk Blues at CHELSEA space, 16 John Islip Street, SW1P 4JU until Saturday 18th May 2013. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013


I’ve featured the Jim Jones Revue plenty of times so there’s no need to say much here beyond reiterating what a phenomenal live band they are.

The current album, The Savage Heart, is a slight departure and has shed most of their ear shredding distortion but on stage they remain an unstoppable force of nature. Mr Jim Jones, with his primal balls-to-the-wall scream, is the master of ceremonies and chief whip cracker but this is a Revue who ALL go at it hammer and tongs. Live performances don’t get more exhilarating than when they set about punching the living daylights out of “Elemental” and “The Princess and the Frog”. Even newer material which doesn’t leave much of an impression on record was transformed into urgent, attention demanding, impossible to refuse commandments.

This was the final show of their special Seabright Sessions – four nights in an intimate 150-capacity venue to promote new single “7 Times Around The Sun” – and for an encore were joined by Hollie Cook and Annie Bea. Together they delivered the most impassioned cover of “Tin Soldier” I’ve ever witnessed. Steve Marriott himself would’ve been proud and us four Mod types stood at the back of a sea of greasy Rockers and nodded approvingly.      

Sunday, 12 May 2013


When worn without a tie, should the top shirt button be done up or left undone? It’s a sartorial choice – the simple act of opening or closing a single button – which can transform a look.

Gert Jonkers and Jop van Bennekom - editors of fashion magazine Fantastic Man - have given it plenty of thought and Buttoned-Up explores and celebrates the practice of buttoning-up one’s shirt. It forms part of a series of Penguin paperbacks marking 150 years of the London Underground, each book using a different tube line as its inspiration. This one is for the recently extended East London Line which now takes in a new station, Shoreditch High Street, a hotspot, the authors claim, for the capital’s buttoned-up gentlemen. And it’s true. I live in the area and the last time I saw a shirt unbuttoned at the neck was in 2006; around the last time I witnessed a chap without tattoos, glasses and a beard.

I’m a fairly recent convert to (sometimes) buttoning-up shirts (Smedleys and polos should always be done up) but it does depend on the whole outfit: what is worn and how. One thing I will say is the very act of buttoning-up always displays a deliberate choice, an obvious awareness and consideration of a look rather than a possible haphazard thoughtlessness. It’s possible living in Shoreditch/Brick Lane/Broadway Market territory has subconsciously influenced my decision making as previously I thought it far too 80s, conjuring visions of wedge-haired pop groups playing big guitars too close to their chins or of Rik Mayall in The Young Ones.

There’s both an 80s slant and a Mod angle within the book’s six short essays. Neil Tennant talks about a gay club, Benjys, in Bethnal Green where the entire crowd were Mod’s arch foes at the time: casuals (although I’m amazed the interviewer, a fashion editor, didn’t know what a cagoule was). Even as a staunch proponent of buttoning-up Tennant admits it gives a rather repressed look and he would’ve reconsidered if cursed with a fat neck.

Gert Jonkers thinks Ray Davies “kind of invented the look” and Simon Reynolds is the latest writer to ruminate on Mod. He claims Mod’s propensity to violence was also inherent in their style, “the neurotic fastidiousness of dress and grooming was a sort of voluntarily worn straightjacket, a near-masochistic set of constraints and rules” and a rejection of the class system. “Mods displaced and exceeded this by an invented and freely chosen class system based on style: one that allowed for even greater snobbery, a superiority complex founded on esoteric knowledge and the masterly of subtle stylistic rules that changed by the week.”  I can dig that.

Whether you read Buttoned-Up sitting on the tube or at home it’ll make you think twice the next time you pull a shirt from the wardrobe. 

Buttoned-Up by Fantastic Man is published by Penguin, priced £4.99.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


I last saw Graham Day in 2008 promoting the second Graham Day & the Gaolers album Triple Distilled at the 100 Club. Since then, nothing, an uncharacteristic silence. So an out-of-the-blue reappearance of The Prime Movers, alongside Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard, was cause for considerable excitement last week.

“Where did you lot all come from?” queried Day as he surveyed the squash in front of him before hurtling into “Good Things” and “No R.E.S.P.E.C.T” from their first album, Sins of the Fourfathers, dusted off for the first time in nearly 25 years. I’ve seen Day more times than any other performer and yet the sight of him sloshing his low slung Epiphone around and the sound of his menacing whiskey and fags growl still gives me a kick.

The Blues Kitchen is a mixed blessing of a venue as it puts on some decent bands for free but is also on the Camden tourist beer trial and therefore one is required to rub shoulders with those not knowing or caring their Wolf Howard from their Howlin’ Wolf. The vast majority at the stage end of the room were there specifically (including a car load who’d driven all the way from Middlesbrough) so the raucous reception given after the first couple of songs was such that it prompted one bemused young fella next to me to turn to his mate and say “They must’ve been famous”.  

If they didn’t know who they were watching Allan Crockford suffered a similar identity crisis after “Mary” from The Solarflares Psychedelic Tantrum.  “Who are we supposed to be? The Prime Movers? The Solarflares?”  

As the set progressed it became apparent this wasn’t strictly a Prime Movers gig. Some might argue without Fay Hallam it wasn’t the Prime Movers anyway but she wasn’t in the original line-up and as much as I loved Makin’ Time I struggle nowadays with her flat foghorn voice so she wasn’t missed by me, especially when the set provided an almost complete overview of Graham Day’s career throwing in surprises with songs by The Prisoners and The Gaolers to add to the Movers and Flares.

Like his counterpart Billy Childish, Day has resolutely stuck to his well-practiced song writing formula. Childish is the spiky abrasive garage punk left arm of the Medway scene; Day is the sturdy brickshithouse garage rock right arm, exemplified by the “Hendrix for dummies” version of “Freedom”. Such is Day’s trademark style – and those of Wolf and Crockford – that any randomly gathered songs from his/their back catalogue don’t sound out of place next to each other.

The Prisoners will always hold extra magic for me. I’m always sceptical when people claim to have worn records out (it’s not that easy) but the closest I’ve ever came is as a teenager playing The Last Fourfathers over and over and over. Hearing “I Am Fisherman” again was – still – a great thrill, as was “Love Me Lies” and "Be On Your Way".

The band’s name wasn’t important, what mattered was hearing a selection from Graham Day’s mighty songbook and seeing him back playing live. Hopefully this’ll give him a taste for it once more. Despite the assumption of those youngsters earlier he has never been “famous” and I doubt he gives a shit these days, but during “Begging You” he demands “Treat me with the respect I deserve”. That’s the very least he’s owed.  

Set list was something like this: Good Things, No R.E.S.P.E.C.T, Mary, Freedom, You Don’t Want Me, I’m Alive, Be On Your Way, Alone In This House, Living In My Own Nightmare, You Always Find A Way To Hurt Me, I Don’t Care, Sucking Out My Insides, Get Off My Track, Can’t Get You Off My Mind. First encore: Sitar Spangled Banner, Love Me Lies. Second encore: Begging You, I Am The Fisherman.