Saturday, 28 December 2013


This needs to begin with an admission. I, for want of a better word, was a Five Thirty groupie. From their first single for East-West in 1990 I followed them all over the south of England clocking up 24 gigs in little over eighteen months and kept every press cutting I could find. I was totally smitten. Two years later they had imploded but for that brief period they were untouchable.

Their solitary album Bed, released in the summer of ‘91, is now reissued as an expanded edition double CD containing the original album, all the tracks from their five EPs, a BBC Radio 1 session, and – pick me off the floor – six tracks recorded as demos for a never to be completed second album, Another Fresh Corpse.  

Formed in Oxford by Tara Milton (vocals/bass) and Paul Bassett (vocals/guitar), it was the addition of Phil Hooper on drums which added the missing ingredient, and from an inauspicious beginning as a teenage third-rate punky Mod band in the mid-80s, saw them explode like a supernova into the new decade as young men hot-wired with the heady adrenaline rush of Hendrix, The Who, The Jam, The Stone Roses and Pixies. From a band who in 1985 offered a disinterested audience at a Mod charity ball in Walthamstow five quid if they’d dance, to the hottest live band in the capital, their transformation was as phenomenal as it was unlikely. Their souls seemingly sold at the crossroads outside Paddington Station.    

Expanded or deluxe editions are often disappointing, padded out with filler only the dedicated fan would wish to hear more than once but Bed is stuffed to bursting with brilliance. Five Thirty never cut a bad track and the ten on the original vinyl album – as marvellous as they are – can’t be counted as their best ten songs. Throw all twenty four (ignoring the demos for the moment) into the air and whichever dozen lands first would make an album at least equal to it. The sleeve here lists some as “B-Sides”; I prefer to call them EP tracks. They’d make a superb album on their own. The only song  I ever occasionally skip is the cover of “Come Together”. Lennon and McCartney? Pah, give me Milton and Bassett any day.

Five Thirty had style and substance in abundance. They also were graced with two frontmen. The songs were usually credited to Milton/Bassett but they sang on different tracks and unlike the early Libertines to-come weren’t a two-headed beast but distinct individuals each bringing something different. To crudely divide them: Paul Bassett contributed the sharply kaleidoscopic, melodious powerpop (“Psycho Cupid”, “Strange Kind of Urgency”, “Judy Jones”; and Tara Milton brought dark, knotty, funky bass propelled art-punk (“Songs and Paintings”, “Junk Male”, “Coming Up For Air”). One thing that made them so exciting was they had such depth, they covered a lot of musical ground; they could also do reflective (“The Things That Turn You On”, “Slow Train Into The Ocean”), baggy dance (“13th Disciple”, “Something’s Got To Give”) and they could do fucking racket (“Automatons”, “Hate Male”), yet it all worked.

I thought The Jam comparisons in the press were overplayed at the time but I’ll now concede “Abstain” and “Air Conditioned Nightmare” do have the feel of Woking’s finest and there are clear elements of the Stone Roses and Jimi Hendrix on a few tracks. The Stone Roses though never got to sound anything like as muscular as “Mistress Daydream” until they lavished a fortune recording “Love Spreads” for The Second Coming four years later.

It’s often wrote Five Thirty should’ve been massive but were ahead of their time; had they arrived a few years later during Brit-Pop they would’ve cleaned up. This is perhaps true, to a point, but does them a disservice to imply they could’ve benefitted only in the slipstream of Blur and Oasis’s success. Five Thirty did much of the spade work laying the foundations for Brit-Pop with their pop classicism, a touch of decadent glamour, Modish styling (then deeply unfashionable) and an echo of 60s yesteryear but they had enough in them to lead the charge - in any given year - not just pick up crumbs knocked from the top table. 

Manic Street Preachers were also waiting in the wings writing notes and pilfering what they could, as their first NME manifesto from August ’90 attains: “We are the scum factor of the Mondays meets the guitar overload of Five Thirty/Ride while killing Birdland with politics”. (That was me signed up on the spot). The two were frequently bracketed together (I’d notice the same people going to see both bands) but Tara was having little of it, referring to them as the Janet Street Welchers and rather memorably proclaiming “Their trousers are too tight for their fat legs”. When the bands were broadcast live to the nation on Radio 1 at the Marquee a year later in the Battle of the White Levis (okay, the Yahama Band Explosion), the Manics had little answer to Five Thirty’s powerful (expletive ridden, feedback screeching) performance, although they would – eventually – win the war. 

Their gigs were an exhilarating rush of white heat and a wall of wah-wah guitar. They never really headlined anywhere much bigger than to a few hundred people at the Marquee which created sweat drenched imitate affairs, with Tara in particular – already blessed with a face which hung in a permanent pout - never shy about stripping off his shirt. The dynamics of a band trying to contain two frontmen, alternating vocals, vying for the spotlight, is always compelling (Doherty and Barat, were you watching?) and Milton and Bassett jumped and flailed and trashed themselves and their instruments in fierce competition. In a time of motionless shoegazing and hair swinging grunge it was quite a spectacle.

That they were three good looking fellas signed to a major label and full of mouthy arrogance didn’t endear them to the indie snobs. Mind you, that decision to sign to East-West rather than Creation, was a disastrous one. When Bed finally saw the light of day how did they promote it? By asking fans to buy “You” – already on the first EP and then on the album – for a third time. It was the last thing to come out and after finally freeing themselves from the record label the band lost the will to continue.

I never foresaw longevity in a band featuring two such huge talents, with presumably egos to match, so when they did spilt it was no great surprise. And to be honest, after drummer Phil was replaced, the couple of final gigs I saw in 1992 were as disappointing and distressing as the sight of Paul wearing what appeared to be Suzi Quatro's old purple velour catsuit. Milton formed The Nubiles; Bassett, Orange Deluxe. Both had their merit but instead of getting two for the price of one, fans got half for the price of two. The chemistry lost forever.

The newly made Bed sounds far better than my very worn LP, the remastering is excellent (most noticeably on “Air Conditioned Nightmare”), and the six previously unreleased songs show how much more they had to give, they hadn’t even peaked yet. ”Apple Something”, “Barbie Ferrari” and “She’s Got It Bad” all would’ve topped previous singles with their bigger hooks, increased vocal interplay and cocksure confidence.  Listen how the bimbo-baiting “Barbie Ferrari” struts and swaggers like Steve Jones playing T.Rex riffs whilst Tara Milton preens and purrs like a frisky Mick Jagger and tell me this didn’t deserve to be blasting from every radio on every high street in every land.

I’d held back from writing about this release for a few weeks as didn’t want to rush into penning a hyperbolic review based on my initial excitement (“This is the best thing ever”, I wrote on Facebook). Were Five Thirty really as great as I thought? Do they do still stand up? An emphatic yes to both. Only brief moments like the already-too-late-for-baggy “13th Disciple” give a date stamp (if that’s important, which I’m not sure it is) and if a band released stuff like this tomorrow I'd be all over it and so would you. Bed (Expanded Edition) isn’t an exercise in nostalgia, or a ruing of what might have been, but a testament to Five Thirty’s magnificence, whatever the time.

Bed (Deluxe Edition) by Five Thirty is released by 3Loop Music.
For everything you'll ever need to know about Five Thirty visit Lee Rourke's excellent fan site here.

Monday, 23 December 2013


Just a quick word from Diana Dors and I to say thanks for dropping by and to wish you all a Happy Christmas; I can’t believe how quickly the year has gone. An added thank you to those who’ve shared posts and interacted either directly on here or via Twitter, Facebook, email or the good ole face-to-face method and have nodded me in the direction of cool stuff. Keep them coming. It might take some fruitless digging on occasions but there is plenty of bounty – old and new - out there still to discover. Who knows what 2014 will bring? See ya there. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013


Another year, another Beat Generation film. Following Walter Salles’ disappointing adaptation of On The Road, John Krokidas makes his directorial debut with a movie based on the true story of Allen Ginsberg’s first year in New York and the killing by Lucien Carr of David Kammerer.

When young Ginsberg (played by a wide-eyed, round spectacle wearing, boyish Daniel Radcliffe) arrives at Columbia University in 1944 and questions his lecturer’s insistence that poems without rhyme, meter and conceit are like untucked shirts he soon finds himself adopted and in awe of the only other student daring to challenge convention and tradition: the wild, handsome and streetwise Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Possessing verve, a brilliant mind and a strong manipulative streak, Carr was looking for a writer to capture his ideas and in Allen he found the perfect accomplice.

Shy and innocent, Ginsberg’s excitement and confidence grows when encouraged in the pursuit of a literary “New Vision” by Carr (and the sexual tension between them) and the much older William Burroughs (Ben Foster) who is keen to advocate the derangement of the senses and aspiring writer and football playing jock Jack Kerouac (Jack Hudson). Together - all at least ten years away from any work which would make their literary name - they grandly adopt the title “the Libertine Circle” and indulge in practices suitably applicable to their cause.

The central event of Kill Your Darlings – Carr stabbing his long-time stalker and sexual predator David Kammerer with a pocket knife and throwing his body into the river to drown - is well known to Beat readers (Jack, Bill, Allen and others all wrote about it with varying degrees of accuracy) but unlike On The Road there is no sacred text, which makes the transition to film easier. Unlike Salles, who attempted to force a square peg into a round hole, Krokidas’ film stands on its own and works well when taken purely as entertainment. It has characters, a straight forward narrative, and is reasonably well acted. Those who don’t know the Beats from a bar of soap can watch and enjoy it.

There are factual inaccuracies – as in any “based on a true story” film – but I preferred to gloss over those. But, unlike On The Road, this didn’t feel over stylized (the occasional use of modern rock music in a 1940s-set film was jarring, although "Don't Look Back Into The Sun" by The Libertines over the end credits was a nice touch) and for a bunch of cliquey know-it-all university students none of the characters were particularly annoying. As much as they all fascinate me I'm convinced in "real life" - bar Kerouac and Burroughs - the Beat crowd would've annoyed the hell out of me with their pretentiousness. 

Kammerer’s death and the reaction by the others has always intrigued me. Being on the edge of their scene he was well known to all of them (Burroughs and Kammerer had been friends since kids in St Louis) yet Kerouac helped dispose of the dead man’s glasses and Burroughs did little more than shrug and suggest Carr get himself a good lawyer and turn himself in. Both were arrested as accessories to murder. Ginsberg is the only one shown to wrestle with his conscience as Carr requests his help in his trial.

This enjoyable film shows the fledging Beats coming together and Ginsberg, in particular, begin to find his voice. More importantly it makes the Beats - with their thirst for a "New Vision", a new way of writing and living - look like something worth investigating further. Do it.  

Kill Your Darlings is in cinemas now.

Sunday, 15 December 2013


I didn’t think 2013 had been a vintage year for new music but in compiling the now traditional end of year playlist I failed to whittle it down to the intended 20 tracks, eventually settling on 22, so it couldn't have been that bad.

They aren’t necessarily the best 22 as I’ve stuck to songs available on Spotify. Therefore, “I’ve Never Been To California” by Bronco Bullfrog misses out as do the Hidden Masters and Paul Messis, both who would have seen something from their albums included. Kurt Vile’s wonderful “Wakin’ On A Pretty Day” is omitted due to being nine and a half minutes long and as much as I love the Manics’ Rewind The Film album those songs sound better taken as a whole rather than pulling one out to sit alongside the work of others.

The coveted Album of the Year Award goes to Daniel Romano for his country masterpiece Come Cry With Me and Single of the Year is taken by The Higher State who just pip Baby Strange, with a honourable mention to the great comeback 45 by Suede.

Those with Spotify can listen here. Enjoy.

Barrence Whitfield and the Savages – The Corner Man
Suede – It Starts And Ends With You
The Primitives – Lose The Reason
Alfa 9 – Green Grass Grows
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Swim And Sleep (Like A Shark)
The Sufis – No Expression
Baby Strange – Pure Evil
The Higher State – Potentially (Everyone Is Your Enemy)
The Junipers – And In My Dreams
Camera Obscura – Break It To You Gently
Triptides – Night Owl
Bleached – Looking For A Fight
Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs – Things We Be
The Lucid Dream – Glue (Song For Irvine Welsh)
Foxygen – No Destruction
Babyshambles – Picture Me In A Hospital
Midlake – Antiphon
Mary Epworth – September
The See See – Featherman
Daniel Romano – He Lets Her Memory Go (Wild)
The Monks Kitchen – Shake
Mavis Staples – What Are They Doing In Heaven Today

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


Boom! This is what we want.

Blackheath Books have come up trumps with a new poetry chapbook. What sets Keep The Faith apart is the all the poems are born from Londoner Tim Wells’s suedehead passion for soul and reggae. His enthusiasm for his subject is infectious and after turning the last page had me reaching for the nearest Sam Cooke album and a clutch of Trojan releases.  

Wells deftly joins the dots between black American and Jamaican artists in Chicago and Kingston, who created music as their way out of hard times, and how this resonates with British white kids from Dalston who use these sacred records to dance their escape from the drudgery of the working week, dressed in their Saturday night finest.  He captures the excitement of living for the weekend, that moment the needle hits the record, of music as a shared experience, and of being in possession of the secret key which unlocks these joyful moments to those in the know.

The twenty poems are all suitably clean, sharp, smart and to the point. Their direct style and subject matter attractive to folk more likely to be found scouring second-hand record shops than the poetry section of Waterstones.

Published as a very limited, numbered edition of 200, Keep The Faith (surely it’s time for moratorium on those three words and the associated clenched – or rather clichéd - fist) should sell out fast, so get in quick as soon it’ll be easier to find a copy of The Wailers “Diamond Baby” on Coxsone.  Highly recommended for suedeheads, mods, soulies or anyone with a passion for music beyond the midnight hour.

Keep The Faith by Tim Wells is published and available from Blackheath Books, priced £8.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Fear not the Stetson, the dodgy tache, the Nudie-style suit, the fiddles and the pedal steel, Daniel Romano’s Come Cry With Me is my album of 2013.

It’s Romano’s third solo album (previously in Canadian band Attack In Black) and very studiously recreates the warmth of late 60s/early 70s country records. There’s a hint of Gram Parsons here, a dash of George Jones there, a nod to Johnny Cash and so forth.  There are good and bad examples of all musical styles but the country scales tend to weigh heavily in one direction but this is perfect, like an old familiar classic. 

A sign of a truly great album is when it’s impossible to pick a favourite track and the ten here - from weeping ballads of abandonment and death to honky-tonking tales of transvestism and chicken killers – are so beautifully written and performed mine changes on each listen.

Here’s a taste of one song, played in a more stripped down style to the album, recorded for Exclaim TV earlier this year.

Saturday, 7 December 2013


There’s still nothing quite like playing a selection of one’s favourite records in a dark club at ridiculously loud volume and seeing people jump and dance. That’s how it was last Saturday at the Mousetrap in Finsbury Park. These were my sets at 11.40pm and 3.15am.

The Hammond Brothers – Thirty Miles of Railroad Track (Abner)
Clyde McPhatter – Thirty Days (Atlantic)
Rudy & The Reno Bops – Rudy’s Monkey (Tear Drop)
Bobby Marchan – Chickee wah-Wah (Gale)
Sugar & Sweet – You Don’t Have To Cry (Pep)
Gladys Tyler – A Little Bitty Girl (Decca)
Jimmy Nelson – Tell Me Who (Chess)
Hindal Butts – In The Pocket (M-S)
Cecil Garrett – Bear Cat (Calla)
Dorothy Berry – Ain’t That Love (Planetary)
Jean Stanback – If I Ever Needed Love (Peacock)
Smokey Smothers – I Got My Eyes On You (Gamma)
Banny Price – You Love Me Pretty Baby (Jewel)
Chubby Checker – Toot (Columbia)
Toussaint McCall – The Toussaint Shuffle (Ronn)
Prince Conley – I‘m Going Home (Satellite)

Big Maybelle – Do Lord (Brunswick)
The Gardenias – What’s The Matter With Me (Fairline)
Lloyd Price – The Chicken & The Bop (KRC)
Bobby Peterson Quintet – Mama Get The Hammer (V-Tone)
Jessie Mae – Don’t Freeze On Me (Dra)
Harold Atkins – Big Ben (-)
Dick Jordan – I Want Her Back (Jamie)
Grover Pruitt – Little Girl (Salem)
Lou Rawls – Trouble Down Here Below (Capitol)
Big Daddy Rogers – I’m A Big Man (Midas)
Youg Jessie – Big Chief (Mercury)
Dick Holler – Mooba Grooba (Comet)
Marv Johnson – Come On And Stop (United Artists)
Mary Ann Fisher – It’s A Man’s World (Imperial)
Jesse Pearson – I Got A Feelin’ I’m Fallin’ (RCA-Victor)
Billy Young – Glendora (Original Sound)
Frank Minion – How Much Land Does A Man Need (Vik)

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


When Graham Day, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard reunited to play as The Prime Movers at the Blues Kitchen in May – and then tore a whacking great hole through Day’s songbook – it got Day’s juices flowing after a five year absence. What started as a couple of special shows under a previous moniker has now developed into something hopefully more substantial: a new name, a fresh start but - for now at least - familiar songs from The Prisoners, The Prime Movers, The SolarFlares and The Gaolers.

First up though, taking a similarly nostalgic approach to the Forefathers, were 90s Mod scene attractions The Aardvarks. Cherry Red this year issued Sinker, Line & Hook: The Anthology 1987-1999, which by accident or design has prompted the Ealing dandies to rekindle former glories. Always taking from a slighter later sixties period than their closest rivals The Clique, The Aardvarks dusted off their old Wimple Winch, Easybeats, Fleur De Lys/Sharon Tandy and Who covers but these were overshadowed by their own material, especially “Buttermilk Boy” and the Graham Dayesque “I Threw Her A Line”.  

The band may sport a few grey hairs these days - singer Gary is now less Scott Walker and more Roy Walker (please forward all complaints/credit for that remark to Mrs Monkey, I’m in no position to comment...) – but they did enough to bring back memories of their amazing 1995 Barcelona gig which still gets talked about along the length of the Uxbridge Road. There was surprisingly no “Arthur C. Clark”, which I always think of as their signature song, but maybe next time.

The Higher State also look back but not to their own past. Marty and Mole, as half of The Mystreated, played on bills with The Aardvarks at the St John’s Tavern and Boston Arms twenty years ago but now showcase tracks from their fourth album, The Higher State (matching the score of their previous combo). With chiming guitars and three-part harmonies they gained in momentum, switching between unadulterated folk-rock and intelligent garage-punk. By that I mean avoiding the usual “running round town/tryin’ put me down” garages clichés, although as Marty acknowledged when muttering an introduction to “Potentially (Everyone Is Your Enemy)” there is seldom an upbeat message. “Always so negative,” he sniggers.

Watching The Higher State finish off with a blissfully sunny sounding “Song Of The Autumn” was to be transported to Los Angeles in ’66, to the Troubadour, to the Whisky A Go Go – a far cry from a scuzzy, down-at-the-heel East End working men’s club in 2013.

I expected Graham Day & The Forefathers to romp through their collective back catalogue and that’s exactly what they did. The Prime Movers’ “Good Things”, followed by the lesser-spotted Prisoners B-side “Promised Land”.  There were Gaolers songs (“Get Off My Track”) and a handful of SolarFlares numbers (“Mary”  etc.).

The absence of an organ didn’t matter (I could still hear one in my head) as the Medway powerhouse trio drove through in typically hard hitting style. Day, crunching out his riffs, his purple shirt soaked through to the skin, gets top billing but Crockford and Howard’s contribution to that sound should never be underestimated. They crashed, banged and walloped anything and everything within striking distance. It would’ve been easier to bash a hole in a prison wall than find a weakness in these monumentally tough slabs of songs. There was no let up. A quick catch of breath and then BANG, off again.

I wasn’t taking full notes as I didn’t want the distraction but jotted down the Prisoners ones as I knew I’d forget. “Better In Black”, “Creepy Crawlies”, “Whenever I’m Gone”, “Be On Your Way”. They kept coming. “Hurricane”, “Love Me Lies”, “Coming Home”. I only had a small scrap of paper. “I Am The Fisherman”, “Reaching My Head”. Blimey. And then the finale, “Melanie”. Not only were people cheering, they were dancing. At a gig. In London. Is this allowed? Incredible scenes.

Next stop is back to the old Prisoners haunt of the 100 Club on Saturday 8th February. It’ll be great like this was. There’s no immediate rush for new songs as there’s enough oldies to chop and change but on this form it’s a tantalising thought for the future.