Friday, 27 June 2014

FALSE MEMORY LANE: THE ALLAN CROCKFORD INTERVIEW


Bass players - stood on the side of the stage, doing their job, rarely seeking attention, allowing the limelight to shine on others to take the plaudits. That’s the natural order of things but on occasions, for one reason or another, the bassist forgets their place and decides they want a bit more attention. They want to write songs, they want to sing, they want to be the focal point. The results, should anyone bother to listen, are seldom welcome: Bill Wyman’s “Je Suis Un Rock Star”; Bruce Foxton’s “Freak”; John Entwistle’s “Too Late The Hero”; anything to do with Peter Hook; you get the idea. All of which makes Allan Crockford’s successful switch from bedrock of multiple Medway beat combos including the Prisoners, the James Taylor Quartet, the Prime Movers and the Solarflares, to become the mastermind behind the Galileo 7 all the more of a welcome surprise.

Following Are We Having Fun Yet? (2010) and Staring At The Sound (2012) the new Galileo 7 album, False Memory Lane is their best yet. Crockford on vocals and guitar - with Viv Bonsels (organ), Mole (bass) and Russ Baxter (drums) - hasn’t been content to stay on familiar ground and regurgitate versions of his previous bands; instead he offers a fresh perspective on his talent. There’s little of the crash-bang-wallop Medway punk ethos in evidence; replaced with a more considered and thoughtful approach to both the writing and recording. The default position, such as there is one – as shown on previous Galileo outings – is of a bouncy English pop-psych band. There’s a strong 60s feel but on this new album in particular there’s an ear for at least the following three decades to stop it sounding like a pastiche or overly contrived. “Tide’s Rising”, “Don’t Follow Me”, “My Cover Is Blown” and “Don’t Want To Know” are business-as-usual, mixing fuzz guitars and organ, and whilst not truly psychedelic there are spacey sci-fi touches with brightness and colour throughout. But where False Memory Lane excels is when it deviates from the template, and it does so with admirable frequency.

The healthy scope of styles indicates Crockford’s willingness to experiment and a growing confidence in his writing. The title track is the most obvious example with Allan’s vocal backed only by a mellotron, handclaps and a finger-picking acoustic guitar reminiscent of Pete Townshend. Even better is the superb “Fools” which transports Strawberry Fields to Rochester High Street. “Don’t Know What I’m Waiting For” is sung by Viv and sounds like a new wave band mercifully cropping up to save an edition of Top Of The Pops in the late 70s and then covered by The Primitives (“Viv wanted a Primitives type song to sing, so I wrote one,” says Allan). “You’re Not Dreaming” has a spiralling melody and is more sinister sounding yet “Nobody Told You” manages to joyfully mix a clippity-clop Syd Barrett rhythm with a bubble gum ba-ba-ba-ba-ba chorus, vocal harmonies and a hint of the Left Banke. No mean feat. “Little By Little” is the heaviest psych-trip on show and had this been on young whippersnappers Temples’ album it’d be on hipper radio stations’ playlists quicker than you could say Their Satanic Majesties Request. Personal favourite is “I’m Still Here” which ties sepia-tinged lyrics to a magnificent melody and almost Big Star guitars in a way I’ve not heard done as well since Bronco Bullfrog’s albums of the late 90s. “I’m still here,” Allan sings, “saying the things that you don’t want to hear.” Au contraire Mr. Crockford, au contraire, on this evidence I want to hear much more. A terrific album by anyone’s standards.

With that in mind, Monkey Picks collared Allan to quiz him about the Galileo 7; revisiting his back catalogue with Graham Day & The Forefathers; and, of course, gently bend his ear about a couple of his old bands.

Give us a little background to the Galileo 7.
It started as me making demos at home and putting them on-line for whoever stumbled on them. I didn’t want to put them under my own name so I invented a band name. The Galileo Seven is an episode from the original Star Trek series and I always thought it sounded like a band. There was another episode called The Cloudminders that I liked as well. Sometimes I wish I’d chosen that one, because ‘Galileo’ is a bit difficult for some people to say. Having said that, Galileo was a good man for many reasons so he got the vote.

What's the fascination with Star Trek?
I liked it when I was a nipper, and any TV or music you grow up with stays with you pretty much forever. It's the power of emotional nostalgia, not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the thing you're remembering. There was a good few years when it wasn't shown on British TV and its reputation grew during the time we couldn't see it. The power of absence. I'm a big fan of Laurel and Hardy as well, and there was also a time when we couldn't see them on British TV for copyright reasons, so all we had was memories of how great these programmes were. And of course they get better the longer you go without seeing them. Like a good footballer who has a long term injury whose reputation grows in his absence while the team struggles. It's the old excitement of digging out records that you've only heard about, or heard fleetingly on the radio a long time ago. It's not an experience that people younger than us really have any more, because everything is so easy to find nowadays. I like the fact that I can now get hold of any piece of music, TV programme, film or whatever instantly, but I also miss that surge of excitement we used to get when we'd come across something long lost, buried, forgotten or unknown. I'm glad that I had that experience. As you can tell, I'm quite interested in the truth or otherwise of memory.

That’s all right then. With your band’s name and The Prisoners appearing on Channel 4 in Star Trek outfits I was worried you were a Trekkie…
No, I'm not a Trekkie! The uniforms on The Tube weren't my idea. I hate dressing up. But there's no doubt at all that it was a good idea, because everyone remembers us, and it did look good. The shirts were hand made by, I think, Johnny Symon's girlfriend and finished off in the van going up to the recording by someone else's girlfriend. I don't go to conventions or speak Klingon.

After all the bands you’ve been in, the Galileo 7 is the first time you’ve taken centre-stage. Was writing something you’d always wanted to do?
I wanted to try it because I’d started writing songs relatively late in my musical life. I’d been playing in bands for twenty years or more before I wrote my first song. I had no idea whether I could do it. I started writing during my time in The Stabilisers but it was more to do with mucking about making home demos than thinking I was ‘writing’. I didn’t really have any inclination before that at all. I thought it was a dark art and that I hadn’t been blessed. That’s why I was always the one in the bands who did all the practical stuff. I thought I had to make up for being uncreative.

Was there ever any frustration in always playing other peoples’ songs – predominately those of Graham Day?
I never felt frustration as such. Why should I feel frustrated playing Graham’s songs? They were mostly great, and he is one of the best singers of the last 30 years, and even up there with some of the recognised ‘superstars’.

Were you nervous about singing?
Not nervous as such but very aware of my limitations. Maybe too aware and self-critical. I’m not the best singer in the world – I’m not even the best singer in the band - and I’ve been in bands with some great singers so I was always on a loser if anyone compared me to them. But I believe in the songs and I had no alternative at that point. And I wanted the challenge. Being out of one’s comfort zone is good for the soul, although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, especially when my throat is gone after five songs. I’ve got no technique!

Did you have to find a vocal style you were comfortable with?
I haven’t got a style, I’m just trying to remember the words and sing roughly in tune. It’s a kind of artless style if anything. Maybe kind of close to Syd Barrett. Not as good as him but kind of deadpan and underplayed. There’s no point in trying to develop a style at my age. It would be me doing a poor impersonation of someone else. You can do that when you’re young and still developing because most people end up sounding like something different and unique by mistake. At my age I’d rather just get better by doing it more.

What’s it been like trying to get your own band heard? I guess the recent formation of Graham Day & the Forefathers has helped raise the profile of the Galileo 7?
Well it hasn’t hurt. I’ve never been under any illusions about the amount of people who might be interested in our stuff just because I was in the Prisoners and all the other bands. Musically it’s not a million miles away, but I’m trying to do something a little different. A lot of Prisoners fans are very, very focused on just that band and Graham, and are really not that interested about what I’m doing. I accept that and I’d be the same if the bass player in a band I liked starting his own band playing guitar. It’s always the singer and songwriter that keeps the fans, and rightly so. But the Forefathers starting playing has maybe reminded a few people that I’m doing my own stuff and the more open minded ones have given us a listen.

Did Graham Day & the Forefathers come as a surprise or had you felt Graham itching to get out there again?
I don’t think Graham was particularly itching to start playing again, but it sounded like a bit of laugh when we discussed it down the pub. After the first few gigs it was obvious that we were still good, and more importantly, it was fun, especially picking and choosing whatever songs from whatever band we’ve been in together. It’s a big catalogue of songs and playing the Prisoners stuff was bound to get people interested. But it’s also good to remind people of how well the Solarflares stuff stands up next to it and good for me to play some of the Gaolers songs. They’re all new to me and it brings a bit of freshness to the set.

How does it feel trying to push new material with the Galileo 7 and then seeing peoples’ enthusiasm about Graham Day & the Forefathers playing old material?
Completely understandable, as I said before. I know how much those songs mean to people: they mean a lot to me as well. It’s the acceptable face of nostalgia, as long we deliver them with some attitude and aggression then it works. And it’s nice to feel that we’re stirring emotions in people.
Graham Day & the Forefathers: Day, Wolf Howard, Allan Crockford
Talking of nostalgia, the title track on False Memory Lane contains the line “nostalgia’s not what it was” and talks about rewriting old events. Have you seen this with regard to your career? I’m thinking predominately about the Prisoners who in some ways have taken on a life of their own.
Well, the song is about the way we fool ourselves about our motives and actions when we look back, and sometimes adjust the recollection to suit what has happened since, or build a narrative arc onto our lives as if we weren’t just bumbling along making it up at the time. I don’t know if it applies to the Prisoners, although I’ve told the story of the band so many times that it does seem to have a plot line now, and I can no longer be sure what anyone’s motives were for what we did and didn’t do during that time. I usually now say that we did things because we were young, stupid, lazy or drunk rather than through any master plan or rugged independence of thought. I may be downplaying our intelligence at the time but I think that’s more honest from this distance.

We always read how the Prisoners were such an influence on bands like the Charlatans, Inspiral Carpets, Kula Shaker etc. How does that make you feel? Proud? Guilty? Cheated?
It’s hard sometimes not to feel that we missed out a little bit on some substantial success somehow, but on the other hand that means very little now. The fact that we slipped under the radar many times adds a bit of romance to the band. I’m happy with what we did and glad that we didn’t get sucked into the industry too much.

You got sucked in a bit. The end of the Prisoners came with the acrimonious relationship with Countdown records and all the trouble (fan base, outside producer etc) that brought. After the experiences with Big Beat making Thewisermiserdemelza with an outside producer why did you make what appeared to be similar mistakes again?
Our relationship with Big Beat wasn’t acrimonious at all so I don’t think we imagined that we were repeating any mistakes by signing to Countdown. With Big Beat we felt that we’d tried the record company thing and just fancied doing the next record ourselves. We never fell out with them. Countdown was another matter. We sort of knew what we were letting ourselves in for but it was a last roll of the dice to take the band a bit further. We were warned by various ex-Stiff artistes that it wouldn’t be straight forward and that we would have to relinquish control of many aspects of our sound. But I remember that we had the contract looked over by a solicitor and he said it wasn’t great, but if we were going to sign it we had to throw ourselves into it to make it work. We never did and battle lines were drawn pretty early in the relationship. It was a little bit glamorous at first, with Stiff being a proper famous label, in a posh building with Island Records, but it quickly soured when we were saddled with a producer who hadn’t even seen the band.

If you’d carried on putting out your own records would the Prisoners have lasted longer?
If we’d carried on making our own records we might have made one more, but I think we were all a bit knackered by the end. We didn’t have the energy or enthusiasm for the whole thing. We needed a rest and we took one.

You've put your new album out yourself, is that a method you'd recommend for young bands starting out, to keep as much control as possible?
It's born out of necessity. If someone actually offered to release our album as we recorded it and promised to work hard selling it, then I'd take that option. It's really hard work. I used to be the person who didn't write songs but did all the boring stuff like promoting and selling and essentially managing the band. Nowadays I still do that, but I've added writing all the songs, singing them, recording and producing the music as well. And managing all the processes of actually getting the product available; I think I've gone wrong somewhere. But it is my thing and somehow I have more time and energy to take on the responsibility than the others in the band. As it happens a label has offered to licence the next album and press it up and do all the boring but necessary stuff. If the offer still stands when we've actually recorded some new material next year, I might well take them up on it. As for young bands starting out, it's always a good idea to do a self-release if they're prepared to work really hard to get people to buy it. Making the music is the easy and fun part. The bit that makes it possible to carry on doing it is actually selling a few copies. But make sure everyone in the band does their share if possible.

After the Prisoners came the James Taylor Quartet. I’ve been playing those first few records again recently and they still sound fresh and exciting. Would I be right in thinking that was probably the time you were in the most commercially successful band?
I like the early JTQ stuff. It was an exciting time because it happened quite quickly. I think the early JTQ gigs picked up a lot of the Prisoners fans as it wasn’t that long after the split. Gigs were pretty packed almost immediately and stayed that way. I suppose it seemed like success in comparison to what went before but it wasn’t commercial success. We were making the records we wanted to make and they were selling okay. That’s about as good as it gets at our level of the business.

For a band central to the appearance of “Acid Jazz” you weren’t especially jazzy.
It’s got an innocence about it and it’s got nothing to do with jazz. Just some Medway herberts having a go at being Booker T and the MGs and coming up with some sort of garage version. As soon as funk reared its head I knew I wouldn’t last long in the band. I’m not that kind of bass player and our efforts didn’t sound too convincing or funky. I don’t really like a lot of what the band has done since. It’s just not my sort of music, although I occasionally hear the odd song that sounds like a throwback to what we were doing in my time in the band.

With all your bands - Prisoners, JTQ, Prime Movers, Solarflares, Goodchilde, Phaze, Stabilisers, Galileo 7, Forefathers - you’ve made a lot of records. Do you keep count? Have you kept copies of everything? Kept a scrapbook?
I haven’t counted recently but it must be around 35 albums or so. I’ve got copies of most of them, but I’m not really anal about keeping or collecting memorabilia. Sometimes I wish I had kept stuff, especially when people keep putting stuff up on Facebook that I’ve forgotten about. But I’m always more interested in moving on to the next thing.

What is the next thing? What have you got planned for the Galileo 7 and Graham Day & the Forefathers?
Plans don’t really exist, we just do what we fancy if circumstances allow. If we sell enough copies of the new Galileo 7 album then we’ll do another one. It’s not cheap to put out a physical product and difficult to sell them. But we’ve had an offer from a label to license our next album so maybe we’ll do that next year. The Forefathers will put out a live-ish album in a few months; recordings of songs we do in the set, done power trio style with no frills, in our rehearsal room. And both bands would like to play more gigs, but we’re up against the realities of life, family, work and middle age.

What are your interests away from music?
I'm not really sure. I like reading when I get a chance, but the opportunity for the kind of concentrated, head in a book for hours on end type of reading I like only happens for a couple of weeks a year on holiday. I always feel my brain waking up again after a couple of days of concentrated reading; taking in other people's words, ideas, philosophies, science. I usually get a few ideas for songs on holiday. Keeping fit-ish takes a bit of time but mostly my head is full of music or thoughts revolving around selling our album, wondering about making another one. I really should get a hobby unconnected with music. I'm kind of into history, philosophy and science but it only goes as far as reading lots of popular books on those subjects and watching lots of documentaries. Time to go back to school...

Huge thanks to Allan for his time and his music. For further info, to listen, and to buy from the Galileo 7 shop, visit the Galileo 7 website. 


Thursday, 26 June 2014

JUNE PLAYLIST


Some tunes to tuck into between World Cup matches. Come on Colombia!

1. The Blenders – “Don’t Fuck Around With Love” (1953)
Whilst recording their strolling doo-wop "Don't Play Around With Love” single for Jay-Dee, The Blenders cut an X-rated under-the-counter version which, unsurprisingly, didn’t see the light of day until 1971. 

2. Elmore James – “Stranger Blues” (1962)
“Shake Your Moneymaker” is up there with the most danceable blues records ever committed to vinyl and “Stranger Blues”, full of fizz and raw energy, ain’t far behind.

3. Johnny Kidd and the Pirates – “I Want That” (1962)
Kidd and his Pirates take Crash Craddock’s rather pedestrian US hit and shake it all over with a shot of early UK rhythm and blues. Damn good.

4. Les McCann Ltd – “Fake Out” (1967)
Few things in mod clubs get my goat as much as Latin Boogaloo. I don’t get it what it’s there for and it’s always the same five records. In the privacy of my own home I’m far more tolerate as the purchase of pianist Les McCann’s whole album of his take on the stuff, Bucket O’ Grease, demonstrates. Admittedly some of the attraction was the cool sleeve with three young ladies hanging out by cheap diner. 

5. The End – “You Better Believe It, Baby” (1966)
The recent feature in Shindig! magazine had me scurrying back to my End records. They really were a class act. If you can get hold of In The Beginning, a compilation that came out in 1996, with loads of their early stuff you’ll be well rewarded. “You Better Believe It, Baby” was a Joe Tex cover given a modish fuzz guitar overhaul for a Spanish single release.

6. Pinkerton’s – “Duke’s Jetty” (1968)
Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours dropped a word from their name on successive releases until they were left with only Pinkerton’s for their slightly schmaltzy blue-eyed soul of “There’s Nobody I’d Sooner Love” 45. Much better is “Duke’s Jetty” on the flip with its Mulberry Bush/Spencer Davis Group/Traffic vibe.

7. The Pazant Brothers – “Skunk Juice” (1968)
Don’t know about being brothers, it sounds more like the Pazants were total strangers who bumped into each other on a New York street carrying instruments and cut a crazy funk record there on the spot. More folk should try it.

8. The Violinaires – “Groovin’ With Jesus” (1973)
Oh yeah, over in Vietnam they’re groovin’ with Jesus, and Jesus has the biggest, fattest, meanest funk groove this side of Funkadelic.

9. The Damned – “Anti-Pope” (1979)
I only own one Damned album – Machine Gun Etiquette. Can’t imagine they made a better one.

10. Graham Day & The Forefathers - "Love Me Lies" (2014)
Former Prisoners out on release revisit an old memory, strangle it in wah-wah, and bash the remains to a bloody pulp with riffs of rock. Aided and abetted (on production duty) by someone with the unlikely name of Franc Localdork. These men are still dangerous. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

DYLAN'S GOSPEL by THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS (1969)


As per most months, I was handing over a sizable chunk of my hard-earned to the Sounds Of The Universe record emporium in Soho the other day, when I became aware of a belting gospel song being played in the shop.  “There are many here among us, who feel life is but a joke”, I found myself singing along to a familiar song. This is cool, I thought, but couldn’t immediately place it. “What is this, pray tell, dear storekeeper?”  I enquired. Swiftly into my eager outstretched hand was placed a new heavyweight vinyl reissue of Dylan’s Gospel by The Brothers and Sisters. Oh yeah, of course, “All Along The Watchtower”. Originally released, I was told, in 1969 on Ode Records and produced by Lou Adler; all ten tracks are gospel versions of Bob Dylan songs. “Please place this on my pile forthwith”. And so he did.

For Bobcats with a penchant for big voices in little churches this truly is heaven sent. Adler collected together all the best backing singers in LA and recorded them in a specially set-up studio. He did a remarkably job as the production is fantastic; with a small rhythm section of bass, drums, organ and piano these sound pure backwater church not Hollywood studio at all. A quick squizz down the list of brothers and sisters in this choir reveals some familiar names: Merry Clayton, Clydie King, Gloria Jones, Patrice Holloway, Billy Storm and many more.

Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan, they say, and it’s true but I bet he was knocked out when he heard the treatment his songs were given here. I can’t pick favourites here, it’s all magnificent beatific Bobness.

Dylan’s Gospel by The Brothers And Sisters is out now on Light In The Attic Records. Here's a short film about the album.  

Saturday, 21 June 2014

THE ACTION - ISLE OF WIGHT SETLIST


After a break of thirty years The Action reformed – with all five original members – in 1998 to play two shows at the Ryde Theatre in the Isle of Wight for the New Untouchables August Bank Holiday Mod Rally.

“We weren’t quite sure what to expect and the place was jam-packed! The queues were going both ways from the box office around the whole building.” – Reggie King from In The Lap Of The Mods by Ian Hebditch and Jane Shepherd.

This set list from the afternoon show, when they added "Cool Jerk", is a nice piece of memorabilia obtained by DJ Lee Miller (before winding its to me) and was written out by Reggie King and signed by the entire band: Reggie, Alan King, Mike Evans, Roger Powell and Pete Watson. It's interesting to note how they focused on the songs they performed in their original club days rather than those recorded for Parlophone; only six out of the eighteen appeared on the seminal collection, The Ultimate Action, and the young Mod crowd had to wait until song nine to hear one. A bold move. What I'd give for George Martin produced recordings of The Impressions' "Meeting Over Yonder" and "People Get Ready" to turn up one day. I can hear them in my head already. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

HUSH FOR AN INTERVIEW WITH DEEP PURPLE'S NICK SIMPER

Deep Purple 1968. Nick Simper top left. 
People have their preferences for which was the best line-up of Deep Purple but for me there’s only one, the first one. Rod Evans (vocals), Jon Lord (organ), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Ian Paice (drums) and Nick Simper (bass) made three albums at the end of the 60s including Shades Of Deep Purple which, with its rocking riffs and rollicking organ, was a significant influence on The Prisoners in the mid-80s who regularly included “Hush” in their live set. It was this which first piqued my interest in the band. Once Graham Day formed The Prime Movers they recorded both “Hush” and “Mandrake Root” from the Purple's debut album. I dug it out the other day for the first time in ages and there’s some really great stuff on it.

The following interview with Nick Simper is an old one which was conducted in a West London pub many moons ago (circa 1993) for issue three of Something Has Hit Me fanzine. There’s more to Nick than just Deep Purple and it reads like an archetypal 60s pop star story which zooms through Shadows covers, package tours, tragedy, success, Hollywood, missing money and acrimony.   

What was the first group you were in?
The first group that were any good were The Delta Five. I mean, we could play without getting booed off. We played the ballroom circuit, juts doing current pop hits. Around this time I met Cliff Barton, who played with Georgie Fame, and he was one of the best bassists around. He said “Get rid of all that Shadows crap, come to my place and I’ll show you what’s really going down.” He had all the American records that I’d never heard of: Barrett Strong “Money”; Ray Charles “Sticks and Stones”; all that R&B stuff, I couldn’t believe it. I told him The Delta Five were looking for a rhythm guitarist. I played lead at the time. “What do you want a rhythm guitarist for? All the best bands don’t have one.” He told me I had to see Buddy Britton and the Regents and Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. I went and was knocked out that just a guitar, bass and drums could make such a wall of sound. They really were the first trios in the country and became my idols at the time. This caused a bit of friction with The Delta Five as they wanted to play Cliff Richard while I wanted Chuck Berry. So I left and tried to form my own band but I couldn’t find a bass player. Every kid had a guitar and most were better than me, so I thought sod this and bought a bass and the first Marshall 4 x 12 amp from Jim Marshall’s little shop. Six months later Jim’s son Terry phoned me and asked if I wanted a pro job that paid £25 a week, which was big dough.

What was the band?
Buddy Britton and the Regents.  I couldn’t believe it. I toured with Buddy all through 1964 and the early part of ’65. Made two singles that flopped. They were what were called turntable hits, everybody played them, but nobody bought them. Buddy got this residency in Soho but I wanted to stay on the road, so I left. Knocked about a bit, playing with a few bands here and there. Did a few gigs with The Birds.

You then joined your other idols, Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, right?
Yeah, that was basically Buddy Britton’s old backing band that became the Pirates when Johnny started to relaunch his career again. Made one single with them, “Send For That Girl”, toured with them for about nine months until we had the car crash that killed Johnny. October 8th 1966. I tried to keep it going with the Pirates but it wasn’t the same and didn’t really work out. And I couldn’t really work for a while because I was a bit smashed up from the crash. Everyone always asks about Deep Purple but for me being in Johnny Kidd and the Pirates was the best time.

After working with Billie Davis and then Screaming Lord Sutch you got involved with The Flowerpot Men. How did that come about?
Well, John Carter and Ken Lewis were a pair of songwriters, and they became The Ivy League. Lewis was a diabetic and couldn’t really go on tour so got heavily into recording and they came up with the song “Let’s Go To California”. They put it out as The Flowerpot Men using the singers from The Ivy League. Suddenly it was a big hit but there wasn’t really a group so we that were Billie Davis’s band went out on the road with it. Made an absolute fortune for about a year. It was the very last theatre tour I think in the country, where you’d get about fifteen bands on the bill. Traffic were top of the bill, The Flowerpot Men second, Keith West and Tomorrow, Art who became Spooky Tooth were there, Mickey Finn, and about third from the bottom were an American band called Vanilla Fudge. I’ve never seen them credited for it but without Vanilla Fudge there would have been no Deep Purple. They were amazing. They’d come out with their short college boy haircuts and really attack their instruments, play twice as loud as everyone else and play songs that went on for ten minutes. For which they were kicked off the tour. But I’d never seen anything like it, never been so excited by anyone.

Was Jon Lord in The Flowerpot Men with you?
Yeah, The Artwoods had spilt by then and he was in The Flowerpot Men with me. We were getting a bit fed up and one day Jon said if we had the chance to do our own thing, like the Fudge, would I be interested. And that’s really how the Deep Purple thing came about.

How did Deep Purple get together? Weren’t you originally called Roundabout?
No, Roundabout never existed, that always annoys me when I read that. Chris Curtis, who had just left The Searchers, knew this wealthy businessman called Tony Edwards and he was talked into investing in the pop business. Edwards talked to a few guys he knew and they all put in five grand to put behind a pop group. Chris formed this band, getting myself and Jon, and I knew Ritchie Blackmore from my Lord Sutch days and he was one of the best guitarists around. Chris, who was the drummer, wanted to sing but he wasn’t really any good so the whole idea fell apart. A while later Tony Edwards came back to me and Jon and said if we still wanted to form a band he’d put up the money. So, it was Jon, Ritchie, myself and Bobby Woodman on drums. The management rented this old farmhouse near Borehamwood, a real spooky old joint, and we auditioned just about every singer in the world. Eventually we got Rod Evans and he was a knockout. Bobby Woodman didn’t really want to create anything new and kept pouring cold water on our ideas, so he was fired. That’s when Ian Paice, also from Rod’s old band The Maze, joined like a shot. But we didn’t have a name. Every time we’d come up with one, somebody he already registered it. Our manager kept saying “Why don’t you call it The Magic Roundabout” and we said “Don’t be stupid, that’s a kids’ programme.” He was obsessed with it but there’s no way we were ever going to be called it. People have got the idea we gigged with that name but we never did. Then Ritchie says “What about that song ‘Deep Purple’ by Nino Temple and April Stevens? That would make a good name.” We were a bit embarrassed by it at first.

How did the record deal for Deep Purple happen?
It was a lot of luck really. One day this producer of sorts, Derek Lawrence, knocked on the door and says he’d got this deal going with America, a brand new record company just formed and owned by Bill Cosby. He said there was megabucks, millions of dollars to spend, and all they needed was a band, but it had to be an English band as their first signing. He reckoned whoever it was, they’d be enormous. The label was called Tetragrammaton. Six weeks later we had “Hush” bombing up the American charts.

Tell us about recording the first album, Shades of Deep Purple.
We had just come back from doing about ten dates in Denmark and they said we had to record an album the next day. “Right, how long have we got?” we asked. “Two days.” Recorded the whole thing in two days. Sounds like it as well. Went in, did nearly everything first take, bang-bang, four track machine, hardly any overdubs. Rod came in the next day, put all the vocals on, mixed it in about five minutes, sold about ten million copies to date. Amazing.

And “Hush” went to number four in the States, didn’t it?
It went to number two on a few charts, but it averaged out at about number four. The LP went top ten. So after leaving The Flowerpot Men in March ’68, we were touring all over America as Deep Purple by September. Hardly knew how to play together really.

Why wasn’t it a hit in Great Britain?
A combination of things really. The record scene here was all down to payola, it was so crooked. The charts were totally rigged. A lot of it depended on buying records in the chart return shops and everyone knows about Brian Epstein and his garage full of Beatles records. This went on all the time. The record companies would find out the chart return shops and send people in to buy loads of copies. Also, we were out of the country most of the time so people didn’t really know who we were, they thought we were an American band. We had a publicist who was on £50 a week, which was a bloody good wage, and he wasn’t worth tuppance. He didn’t get us any press at all, and there could have been so much made out of the bands we’d be in before and the success in the States.

There were quite a lot of cover versions on the first couple of albums, was that influenced by the first Vanilla Fudge album?
Oh yeah but sometimes we’d hear a song like “River Deep Mountain High” and really want to do something with it. That one I don’t think really came off actually but the way we did “Help” did. John Lennon said that he wishes he’d thought of doing it like that but it never crossed his mind. The single of “River Deep Mountain High” in America was embarrassing. It was about ten minutes on the album but they edited it down to two and half and you can hear the joins. It was awful. We said you can’t do that and the record company said they already had and it was in the charts. It’s then you realise you’re just total puppets. The follow-up, Neil Diamond’s “Kentucky Woman”, was bloody good though. A lot of the covers come down to pressure to record from the record company. They’d tell us they’d booked the studio and we were supposed to record the next day but quite honestly we’d be sitting there at ten o’clock the night before wondering what we were going to do. We didn’t know, so we’d go “let’s do a Beatles song” or something.

The second album, Book of Taliesyn, came out in ’68, swiftly after the first one.
It was the usual thing of being a conveyor belt. Never had any time. A lot of people say to me about Deep Purple In Rock and how it sounds more alive than the first few albums but you have to realise we made albums in eighteen hours; Deep Purple In Rock took six months. But what you get on those early records are performances, spontaneous performances. You were nervous as hell because if you made a mistake everyone had to start again. We were using four track machines so all my bass parts were recorded on the drum track. If I wanted a bit more guts in the bass they’d say they couldn’t turn it up because then the drums would be too loud. It was pretty hit and miss. The third album, Deep Purple, took longer.

When you got to San Francisco with Deep Purple was it like the Flowerpot Men song?
It’s funny because when we left the Flowerpot Men there was a lot of friction. Me and Jon Lord found them really good replacements, wrote out all the music, everything, but they didn’t want to know. They more or less told us to pee off, it was quite nasty. So, when we got to San Francisco airport Jon says “I’ve a good mind to send them a postcard saying we’re here, where are you?” but he never did. America could be a funny place, especially down south. Kids were growing their hair and stuff and trying to avoid being drafted. So to some people if you had long hair like we did, you were draft dodgers. And if you were a draft dodger, you were a communist. And if you were a communist, you must be gay. People would come up screaming “You draft dodging communist queers!” and start attacking us with bar stools. They were normally all right once they discovered we were English. One day we were at The Holiday Inn and The Association were staying there and they all had these really short haircuts. “What’s with the haircuts guys?” I asked, and they said they were going down south the next day.

Who did you play with in America?
Initially we started supporting Cream but after three nights we got booted off the tour as we were going down too well. They had a massive following but a lot of people considered we blew them off stage. I was a bit overawed actually because Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were two of my idols. They were the best but they never came over and said hello to us or anything. Two English bands six thousand miles from home, you’d think they’d get together and have a beer or something, but we never saw them. One of the best bands we played with were Santana, who were unknown then. They supported us and we thought “Gee, how are we going to follow that?” They were amazing. We worked a lot with It’s A Beautiful Day, The Turtles were fabulous guys, Canned Heat were a great bunch. Credence Clearwater Revival were actually the most unfriendly bunch of guys you could ever meet.
Deep Purple, October 1968 on American television
 Deep Purple seemed to fall apart around the time of the third album. What was happening?
Tetragrammaton were spending our money like water, thinking it would never dry up. By the time of the third album we’d had five hit singles in America and Tetragrammaton were enormous on the strength of us. They then started signing up almost everyone in the whole of America I think. None of them did anything, they all flopped, the only people that were selling records were Deep Purple. All the money they made, which was our money, was invested in this movie called Picasso Summer which was the biggest disaster in the history of Hollywood. Bill Cosby pulled out and the company collapsed overnight. Meanwhile, we’d been sitting on Malibu beach being told by our manager that we’d never have to work again, that we were dollar millionaires. We could do what we wanted, go where we wanted, spend what we wanted. But when the company collapsed, from our million dollars each, we got forty thousand dollars. That was all that was left. We had gold records, hit records, we were bigger than The Who, commanding more money than them. We weren’t quite as big as Hendrix and Cream but we were well on our way.  

So that was the end of Deep Purple Mark I?
Yeah. Rod Evans married some rich American woman and decided he wanted to be a movie star, so he quit. There was such a lot of friction at the time about money and musical policy. The others wanted to get Ian Gillan in to replace Rod. I’d actually offered him the job originally, before Rod joined. I knew him from Episode Six but at the time he didn’t want to know, he said “Ah, you’ll never make it. Episode Six are going to be big!” He was pretty pleased to be asked the second time.  But he wouldn’t join without his best mate (and bassist) Roger Glover. They were a writing team. So I just quit.

What did you do then?
Worked with Marsha Hunt. That was good, not so good musically though. Mick Jagger got her pregnant and that was the end of that. The band carried on under the name of Warhorse and made a couple of albums which are worth a lot of money these days but I wouldn't give you a fiver for them now. 
(You've got to watch this crazy footage!)

Saturday, 14 June 2014

JUKEBOX 7"s PLAYLIST - FRIDAY 13th JUNE 2014

Miles and Reggie (photo Hannah Svensson Macleod)
There’s always a degree of trepidation when DJing in a venue for the first time - especially when inflicting records on a largely unsuspecting public on London’s infamous Murder Mile in Clapton – but last night’s instalment of Long John McNally’s Jukebox 7”s at Biddle Bros was a cracker. Great pop-art style bar, friendly staff and locals, and a parrot named Reggie who was obviously no fan of Lulu as he swooped down on the decks to take the needle off the record when she was on. Oh yeah, and free beer all night for the DJs: Long John, Miles Macleod and myself. Not sure the owners quite realised how many pints of Staropramen the three of us could knock back in five hours. Here, through an alcoholic haze, is what I played…

Big Maybelle – 96 Tears (1967)
Aretha Franklin – The Weight (1969)
Ronnie Lane – How Come (1973)
The Chilterns – Roadside Memorials (2013)
The Lemonheads – It’s About Time (1993)
The Impressions – Rhythm (2013)
Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators – If This Ain’t Love (2007)
Barbara Lewis – I Remember The Feeling (1966)
Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey – Going Back Home (2014)
The Jim Jones Revue – 7 Times Around The Sun (2012)
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers – Chinese Rocks (1977)

Manic Street Preachers – Motown Junk (1991)
Shrag – Rabbit Kids (2010)
Buzzcocks – Promises (1978)
Thee Mighty Caesars – Cowboys Are Square (1990)
Sex Pistols – Holidays In The Sun (1977)
John Lee Hooker – Money (1966)
Freddy King – Now I’ve Got A Woman (1964)
Billy Harner – Homicide Dresser (1967)
Spencer Davis Group – I’m A Man (1967)
Rufus Thomas – Turn Your Damper Down (1969)
The Lovely Eggs – Food (2012)
The Divine Comedy – Something For The Weekend (1996)
Gene – Sick, Sober and Sorry (1994)

The Byrds – Feel A Whole Lot Better (1965)
Dorian Gray – Move On (1968)
Little Leon Payne – Hard Row To Hoe (1966)
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset (1967)
The Temptations – Ain’t Too Proud To Beg (1966)
Frank Beverley & The Butlers – If That’s What You Wanted (1967)
Edwin Starr – Stop Her On Sight (1966)
Aztec Camera – Oblivious (1983)
Pulp – Lipgloss (1993)
Suede – Metal Mickey (1992)
The Kinks – She’s Got Everything (1968)
Shadows Of Knight – Shake (1969)
The Stranglers – No More Heroes (1977)
Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)
The Damned – Neat Neat Neat (1977)
Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up (1970)
Four Tops – Something About You (1965)
The Who – Pictures Of Lily (1967)
Five Thirty – Abstain (1990)
The Jam – Heatwave (1979)
The Impressions – Can’t Satisfy (1966)
The Marvelettes – I’ll Keep Holding On (1965)
The Style Council – Money-Go-Round (1983)
Marvin Gaye – Can I Get A Witness (1963)
Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames – Green Onions (1964)
Billy Fury – Nothin’ Shakin’ (1964)
13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me (1966)
Inspiral Carpets featuring Mark E. Smith – I Want You (1994)
Blur – Chemical World (1993)
Small Faces – Rollin’ Over (1968)
The Creation – Making Time (1966)
Them – Baby Please Don’t Go (1964)
James Brown – Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag (1965)
Dave & Ansil Collins - Double Barrel (1970)

Biddle Bros is at 88 Lower Clapton Road, E5

Thursday, 12 June 2014

SPIRAL OUT by U.V. RAY (2013)


“We are all trapped inside the shell of ourselves. That’s how it is, and I don’t care if anyone else disagrees with me because that simply indicates that they are wrong and I am right. It’s all about voids. Voids in the universe. Voids within ourselves.” – Spiral Out by u.v. ray

Mark Karzoso in u.v. ray’s latest novella (that’s a 100 page paperback to you and I) fills the void with drink, drugs and sex. Through ray’s writing it’s easy to see why. They offer, if not an escape, then at the least occasional relief and a protective cocoon. Which is fine until Karzoso kills a man.

Those who recall this interview last year will remember u.v. ray isn’t one to sugarcoat or tread softly; his words delivered like powerful blows of hammer on anvil. Spiral Out is less a work of outsider fiction and more a state of the nation address. It’s not a pretty sight and not only because it’s set in late 1980s Birmingham inhabited by Birdland. Karzoso is no respecter of political correctness. He’ll say what’s on his mind, speak his truth. It’s a brutal, horrible, meaningless world out there with the only genuine truth being that we all die.   

In lesser hands this could be awful angst-ridden drivel but ray’s writing saves it. He’s poetic without being showy. Each sentence is tough and unbreakable but keenly observed and snatches of gallows’ humour peek through. More than that, ray is believable and bloody enjoyable. I read Spiral Out once then turned back to page one to tumble out of control again - from the safety of my armchair.  

Spiral Out by u.v. ray is published by Murder Slim Press. Limited to 200 copies.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

THE JIM JONES REVUE - THE LAST HURRAH

The Jim Jones Revue live at The Vintage Festival, 2011
On Sunday I received a call to review The Jim Jones Revue for The Blues magazine. I didn’t need asking twice. On every occasion I’ve seen them – about ten times so far  – I’ve come away thinking they’re the greatest live band in the world. Certainly the best I’ve been fortunate enough to witness. They're near perfect as a rock and roll band: loud, energetic, born performers, no weak members and they look like a gang. They’re a model of what a band should be. Kids - look, listen and learn. Not every song is a killer but the lesser ones still knock seven shades of shit of anyone else’s thanks to their delivery. It’s a bit of clichĂ© now but imagine a honky Little Richard fronting the MC5 and you’re half way there.

Anyway, Sunday night was no exception. It was a low-key nothing to promote night in a small venue (new Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch) but I stood there jaw slightly agog and came away excited once again and began raving to anyone who’d listen. This continued into the Monday when I posted on Facebook about how much I loved The Jim Jones Revue and if they ever needed a tambourine player, I’m their man. It was then I was informed they’re splitting up. They can’t be, I saw them last time, they were brilliant. But they are.

The band’s statement gave no reason, saying only “The Jim Jones Revue will cease playing live and recording in October 2014”. Let the speculation begin. One tiny crumb of consolation is they’re embarking on a Last Hurrah European tour culminating in a show at Forum in London on Saturday 4th October. That is gonna be one hell of a night.

For tour dates and tickets see The Jim Jones Revue.   

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

SUBBACULTURE - ISSUE 2


“In my final years at school in the early eighties it seemed everyone was a – something. A Mod, a rocker, a teddy boy, a rockabilly, a rudeboy, a break dancer, a punk, a participant in any one of a number of street revivals”. The further we get from that period the most fascinating it becomes and it’s what informs one of my favourite websites, the nicely nostalgic yet inspiring Subbaculture, and its spin-off fanzine.

Neatly designed and intelligently written, issue two includes – amongst other things - the birth of Acid Jazz; the film Faces In The Crowd centred on the Glasgow Mod Weekender; Skins and the Melbourne Sharpie scene (who knew what Sharpies were?); early 80’s indie; and a smart appraisal of the first years of the Style Council and Paul Weller's "pure Mod thinking" which contains this memorable passage: “The word pretentious began to be bandied around to describe the Style Council. In response Weller simply shrugged his shoulders, draped a sorbet coloured piece of fine knitwear around them and began singing in French”.

Subbaculture Issue 2, 36 x A5 pages, limited to 200 copies. £3 including P&P from Subbaculture.

MODERNIST REVIVAL by JONATHAN MORTIMER (2014)


This is an odd one. Published by Café Royal Books, Modernist Revival is a series of black and white photographs by Jonathan Mortimer with no accompanying text. No names, no years, no places.

It’s only because I recognise many friends and places I’m able to tell you most were taken in Gijon in Spain, the Isle of Wight and Brighton. Putting a year on them is more difficult as although I was probably there that period is now a hazy mush but I’d say circa 1998. A few of the photos are interesting to see what the Mod Scene looked like at that (undisclosed) time but most are fairly routine and unremarkable snaps. The cover image is particularly terrifying and a bizarre choice.

Modernist Revival, 28 x A5 pages (some blank), limited to 150 copies. £5 plus P&P from Cafe Royal Books.

PUSH - ISSUE 11


The latest edition of Joe England’s energetic literary zine comes up with the goods again with another bumper issue. I like the widening of content these days with the usual underground fiction (yes, don’t fret, Michael Keenaghan is still here)  and poetry supplemented  by artwork, an interview with Keith Levene of Public Image Limited and a vivid account of the recent East London Renaissance evening which launched Joseph Ridgwell's latest book. Yours truly is featured in that piece (“legendary cool hipster,” no less) where I’m implicated in a debate about the ownership of a funky bra with holes in. I’m saying no more, you’ll have to buy it.

Steve Finbow’s trial as a kid for Brentford FC compensates for having to read a poem about snooker.

PUSH Issue 11, 60 x A5 pages, limited edition. £3 includes P&P from Joe England Books. 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

TIMEBOX SETLIST - SATURDAY 24th MAY 2014


Last weekend was a Bank Holiday and after a rainy afternoon scooter rideout organised by the New Untouchables and Bar Italia Scooter Club there was the Timebox all-dayer at the Strongrooms in Shoreditch.  I was otherwise engaged at Wembley (did I mention QPR’s last minute winner? Oh man, you shoulda seen it…) but made it for the evening and played a couple of sets.

The original plan was to mix it up with a mixture of R&B and soul plus some beat and garage tunes but Alex (billed as "from The Embrooks" even though that was such a loooong time ago) was DJing either side of me and had the “white” side excellently covered, so I stuck predominately with the “black” side. Was a mixed crowd (this was Saturday night Shoreditch remember) but they got stuck in and from about eleven the dancefloor stayed packed. Made the second set a doddle and a pleasure (although I stuck to tried and tested floorfillers) and the earlier first set - when still filling up - allowed for more diverse choices including a couple of singles I’d picked up recently after being introduced to them via The Sidewinder Club in Islington. I’d never played Johnny Young’s “Slam Hammer” in a club before and as much as the dirty harmonica is wonderfully over the top, hearing it as such loud volume shredded the ear drums of many; won’t be doing that again, sorry Johnny.

The Dippers – Goin’ Ape (Diplomacy)
Lester Young – Wobble Time (Chase)
Afro Blues Quintet Plus One – La La La La La (Mira)
Eddie Holland – Baby Shake (Motown)
Hindal Butts – In The Pocket (M-S)
Cecil Garrett – Bearcat (Calla)
Tommy Ridgley – I Want Some Money Baby (Johen)
Brian Auger & The Trinity – Tiger (Marmalade)
The Action – Never Ever (Parlophone)
Mouse & The Traps – Cryin’ Inside (President)
Earl Stanley – Fish Eyes (Pitassy)
Johnny Wyatt – Any Kind Of Love (Challenge)
Pete Mayes – Peace (Ovide)
Young Jessie – You Were Meant For Me (Mercury)
The Hammond Brothers – Thirty Miles Of Railroad Track (Amber)
Slim Harpo – Little Queen Bee (Excello)
Johnny Young – Slam Hammer (Arhoolie)
Lowell Fulsom – Love Grows Cold (Checker)
BB King – Beautician Blues (Kent)

Big Daddy Rogers – I’m A Big Man (Midas)
Young Jessie – Big Chief (Mercury)
Chubby Checker – Karate Monkey (Parkway)
The Gardenias – What’s The Matter With Me (Fairline)
Lloyd Price – The Chicken And The Bop (KRC)
JB Lenoir – She Don’t Know (Checker)
Charles Sheffield – It’s Your Voodoo Working (Excello)
Mike Pedecin – Burnt Toast And Black Coffee (Federal)
Grover Pruitt – Little Girl (Salem)
Curtis Lee – Is She In Your Town (Mira)
Lonnie Lester – You Can’t Go (Nu-Tone)
Kim Weston – Helpless (Gordy)
Barbara Randolph – I Got A Feeling (Soul)
Isley Brothers – This Old Heart Of Mine (Tamla Motown)
Marv Johnson – Come On And Stop (United Artitsts)
Leo Price Band – Hey Now Baby (Up-Down)