Sunday, 29 March 2015


1.  Wynonie Harris – “Keep On Churnin’ (Til The Butter Comes)” (1952)
“First comes the milk/ then comes the cream/ takes good butter to make your daddy scream/
Keep on churnin’ ‘till the butter comes…” shouts Mr. Harris.

2.  Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated – “Preachin’ The Blues” (1965)
Adapted from Robert Johnson’s 1936 recording, Korner plays a bouzouki by sliding a door key along the strings and Phil Seamen adds “African-style” drumming. Mississippi blues goes Greek via Ealing. Album (above) kindly donated to the cause by Monkey Snr. 

3.  The Answer – “I’ll Be In” (1965)
The Answer were from Berkeley High School, California and the snappy garage-twang of “I’ll Be In” plus the moody blues with a hooky chorus flip “Why You Smile” made this a great double-sider for White Whale records.

4.  Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery – “Night Train” (1966)
All aboard! From their album The Dynamic Duo, Jimmy and Wes are joined by a swinging 16 piece big band. James Brown would’ve loved the result.

5.  The Byrds – “You’re Still On My Mind” (1968)
The recruitment of Gram Parsons turned into only a short-lived affair but only eight months after The Notorious Byrd Brothers, the Byrds displayed their massive bollocks in releasing the full-on country album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, to a 1968 market. “You’re Still On My Mind” was written and released by Luke McDaniel in 1959, and with lyrics about honky tonk jukeboxes, “an empty bottle, a broken heart, and you’re still on my mind” was surely an influence on Merle Haggard whose “Life In Prison” is also covered on the record.

6.  Steve Stills & Al Kooper – “Season Of The Witch” (1968)
The Super Session album credited to Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills is slightly misleading as not all three played together. On side one Kooper and band are joined by Bloomfield; and on side two it’s Kooper and Stills. Both are great but Stills nicks it on points thanks to making Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” sound like Buffalo Springfield meets the Monkees; the phasing frenzy on “You Don’t Love Me”; and then this eleven minute epic in which Donovan invents the jam session. Especially love the bit when the (over-dubbed) horns come in.

7.  MC5 – “The American Ruse” (1970)
If ever there was an album which failed to capture the essence of a band, it’s the MC5’s Back In The USA; scorn of their thrilling sonic power as a live act it’s bafflingly thin sounding record. That said, taken on its own merits, I do still like it as a Chuck Berryesque rock and roll record and “The American Ruse” hinted at what the band were truly like.  

8.  The Last Poets – “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution” (1970)
Warning: Care should be taken when playing The Last Poets eponymous LP as the liberal use of the N-word (and F-word) could cause misunderstanding with neighbours. Three angry voices of East Harlem, symbolically formed on what would've been Malcolm X's birthday and led here by Omar Ben Hassen, taunt and call the bluff of their people.

9.  Leon Spencer – “Give Me Your Love” (1973)
Organist Leon Spencer’s Where I’m Coming From album for Prestige features two original compositions plus dead on the heavy funk versions of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, Four Tops’ “Keeper of the Castle”, Marvin Gaye’s “Trouble Man” and this rumbling take on Curtis Mayfield‘s Superfly classic.

10.  New Order – “Weirdo” (1986)
New Order’s 1989 Technique is one of my very favourite albums. So much so I’ve always felt their others records noticeably inferior but after digging out Brotherhood the other day it’s not as far off as I remember. 

Monday, 23 March 2015


The buzz of riding a Lambretta is one of life’s great pleasures. It doesn’t matter where it is but I always get an extra kick when cruising through the streets of Shepherd’s Bush and specifically along the Goldhawk Road. In my little semi-fantasy world it is still the mid-1960s, this is the heart of Mod territory, and local band The Who are playing later for the umpteenth time at the Goldhawk Social Club. Although The Who are known as a Shepherd’s Bush band, Roger Daltrey was the only one who genuinely lived there. In The Who documentary, Amazing Journey, Pete Townshend called him “the king of the neighbourhood”.

This scruffy stretch of the capital has, as far as I can tell, remained- until now - largely unchanged. Cooke’s Pie and Mash Shop – the one in Quadrophenia - has clung on since 1934; the interior of Zippy CafĂ© a couple of doors down is every inch an abandoned Wimpy bar; Goldhawk Road tube station remains little more than a rickety shack; and, best of all, the Goldhawk Social Club has only tweaked its name slightly to the Shepherd’s Bush Club and now displays a blue Heritage Foundation plaque honouring The Who. With the likes of Cooke’s now sold to developers of Shepherd’s Bush market these are the last knockings of the area as it currently stands.

I rode past the Goldhawk again this weekend, exactly fifty years from when The Who walked through the hanging plastic drapes in the club to play a gig on Saturday 20th March 1965 after hot-footing it from attending the opening show of the Tamla Motown Revue at the Finsbury Park Astoria. I know, what a night, lucky bleeders. I wasn’t there rabbiting amongst the West London Mods from the Bush, Acton, Notting Hill, West Drayton, Paddington and so on but I did, honestly, see The Who yesterday.

The O2 Arena in Greenwich is less than fifteen miles from the Goldhawk but they could be on different planets and as gig experiences go they couldn’t be much more different. No chance of bumping into Pete Townshend having a piss here in this soulless corporate "village". The O2 is a 20,000 capacity venue and not one of those people, as far as I could tell, was blocked on amphetamines.  Prescription drugs, now that’s different. When folk scuffled to the loo, they rattled. Unlike Keith Moon and John Entwistle, not everyone died before they got old I’m pleased to say.

Of course, I wouldn’t usually dream of attending one of these huge cavernous monstrosities, but then again I can probably only count on my thumbs the bands I like who’d be able to fill somewhere like this, The Who being one. This was part of their The Who Hits 50 tour; supposedly their last extended jaunt around the globe. They’ve said this before so I won’t hold them to it. Half a century gone and it’s still too early to say farewell.

For over two hours straight Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and some other blokes put on hugely enjoyable show. Roger and Pete were in a relaxed mood; jovial and offered plenty of expletive-ridden between-song banter creating an almost intimate atmosphere despite the grand scale. Roger played the affable, one-of-the-lads role and Pete switched from serious artist to money-accumulating rock star. When Roger thanked everyone for coming, “It woulda been really boring without ya”, Pete quips back “And we’d be a lot poorer”. He also said we’d paid three thousand pound a ticket, which wasn’t too far off.

They earned their dough though, playing a mostly predictable set with a few surprises chucked in. Pete mentions it’s supposed to be a hits show. “All four of them,” he says, “plus the three from CSI, and two rock operas”. That “I Can See For Miles” wasn’t a huge hit - “it’s a great song” - obviously still rankles and it’s plain to hear way. Some of the other earlier singles like “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute”, as much as they made brilliant records, sounded slightly plodding in comparison the more complex later material.

“Love Reign O’er Me” was emotional; the mini-Tommy brilliant, still to my mind The Who’s pinnacle; the double whammy of “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is as good as big venue music gets. “Slip Kid” was unexpected; as was “So Sad About Us”; and “A Quick One, Whilst He’s Away” a welcome knee-trembler.

They’ve got to pace themselves these days so Roger’s microphone twirling was kept to minimum and Pete’s feet didn’t leave the floor although there was plenty of windmill action. Roger, bless him, couldn’t always hit the notes (it’s an unforgiving occupation being a lead singer in a shouty rock band; no one’s gonna notice a few bum chords or missed timings elsewhere) and he mentions the set list is a challenge emotionally as well as having to remember all Townshend’s lyrics. “Why couldn’t you write some easier songs?” he asks Pete. “Because I’m an intellectual,” came the reply, “you fucking cunt.”

The staging behind the band was superb. I always roll my eyes when people start talking about what a band’s backdrop and graphics and lighting was like – so bloody what? – but in this environment draping a union jack over a Marshall stack ain’t really gonna cut it, so hat’s off: these were a stylish and imaginative series of animations that complimented the songs. Some were very fancy and expensive looking yet the funniest was the simplest.  After Townshend gave his account of writing “Pictures of Lily” about wanking to old Lily Langtry postcards, the song is performed in front of a giant Keith Moon dressed in a wig and black bra. Should also say Zak Starkey’s “vision of ginger” behind the drums didn’t go unnoticed either. A nice touch.

After a closing “Magic Bus”, Roger apologised for a few gremlins throughout the show. For all the high-tech nature he appeared a touch put out he’d been given a B harmonica instead of a B Flat for “Baba O’Riley” and then suffered unwanted feedback with his harp during the last song. “But who gives a shit?” He’s fooling no-one this time. Roger Daltrey loves The Who and is fiercely proud of them. I love them too; they’re the kings of any neighbourhood. 
205 Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


The 1965 cover image on Kent Records' new 24-track Modernists compilation features a quintet of young mods hanging around a coffee bar near Manchester's Twisted Wheel club which pounded to the happening new sound of soul and rhythm and blues. But as Ady Croasdell and Dean Rudland observe in their liner notes, the majority of records spun for mods throughout the country in the mid-60s came only via tracks given a UK release on labels such as London-American, Stateside, Sue and Pye International's R&B Series; imports from the US were few and far between. Modernists imagines which other singles might've made club playlists had they been more readily available.   

The two opening tracks, from 1967, set the tone. "Soul Jerk It, Baby" by Jeb Stuart and Lewis Clark's "Dog (Ain't A Man's Best Friend)" both could break into a burst of "Land Of A 1000 Dances" at the snap of a well executed soul clap. Although Kent reference their collection as "rhythm and soul", it's more what is usually known these days as "club soul", and I think there's subtle difference: "club soul" being the traditional Atlantic/Stax-a-like soul that has fallen out of favour for new breed modernists who are even less keen to shingaling, jerk or pony than their ancestors, preferring the shuffle of heavier blues-based or popcorn numbers (age and stamina of the club goer might have something to do with that...). Therefore those who, like me, purchase CDs with an ear on finding potential new 45s for their DJ sets might come away with slim pickings to energise a current dancefloor (although the tracks by at least Clifford Curry, Lil Bob and Gene Burks have already done so) but there's still plenty to enjoy in an imaginary 60s haunt of wide-eyed chatterboxes.

Robert Moore's "Harlem Shuffle" is a corking alterative version which would get the shoes scuffed in any dark basement and Bessie Banks' "(You Should Have Been A) Doctor" fits exactly the rhythm and soul description with it's uptempo beat and soulful vocals. Songwriters back then didn't fear lawsuits against copyright infringement - as they damn well now in light of the Thicke/William vs Gaye case - so many tunes, if not the songs themselves, are familiar. Clifford Curry's "Good Humour Man" bears more than a passing resemblance to Jimmy Hughes's "Neighbor, Neighbor"; Oliver Morgan's "Hold Your Dog" is a barely concealed thief of Rufus Thomas's "Walking The Dog"; Little Eva attempts to go all "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" on "Dynamite"; and Timmy Wilson's previously unreleased "Long Ways To Go" offers the chance to do the Block a la "Long Tall Shorty".

Lil Bob's "I Got Loaded" is something I spun out regularly ten years ago and with its jumpy Louisianan rhythm is a perfect record when crossing over from soul and R&B into Jamaican 45s or, as it does here into more 50s swing territory with John Fred and the Playboys' "Shirley". Also, although recorded in circa '65, Clarence Daniels & Obie Jessie's "Got A Good Thing Going On" which - although I'm a big fan of Young Jessie -  would've sounded very dated had it been aired at the Twisted Wheel.  

The Pac-Keys "Stone Fox" is at the classier end of the scale with the ostracised Packy Axton showing his ma and uncle at Stax he could still cut a cool mod jazz R&B instrumentals without their help; and "Cat Dance" by The In Crowd similarly offers a cut that could nicely curl up at home on Kent's sister Mod Jazz series; as would Paul & Rick's organ blues "After Hours". In addition to the aforementioned foxes and cats, there's a veritable soul-zoo of animal magic here: three dogs, a cat, a crow and two monkeys. Chickens notable by their absence.

The standout track though is "Tingling" by Eddie Giles from 1968: slower, brooding, and more in keeping with the atmospheric club feel of today it sounds a little out of place on Modernists, which demonstrates that although there's a core mod club sound it's one which, over fifty years on, is still gently evolving.

Modernists: A Decade of Rhythm & Soul Dedication is released on CD by Kent Records. Out now. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015


Sat in front of the gogglebox last night, imagine my surprise and delight when BBC2 screened Alex Gibney's 2014 documentary, Mr Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown. What a brilliant film. Loads of rare footage (I regular scour the internet and there was plenty new to me), archive and new interviews, band members doing funny impressions of their leader, insight, context, the lot. If you missed it, or want to watch The Hardest Working Man In Show & Business repeatedly, it's available on the BBC iPlayer for the next month. Get up, get into it, get involved.