Tuesday, 28 November 2017

NOVEMBER PLAYLIST


1.  The Lon-Genes – ‘Dream Girl’ (1964)
Featured on Kent’s new Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities Volume 6 which is an utterly essential purchase – best soul comp I’ve heard in a long time. This bunch of army lads cut this lovely ballad for Romark in Los Angeles.

2.  Alton Ellis – ‘Black Man’s Pride’ (1971)
Title track from a new Soul Jazz Records compilation “from the transitory phase in reggae at the start of the 1970s, after the exhilaration of Ska and following the cooling down of Rocksteady.”

3.  John Gary Williams – ‘The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy’ (1973)
Williams recorded for Stax with the Mad Lads, served in Vietnam, then returned to Memphis. This is what he found. 

4.  Bottom and Company – ‘Gonna Find A True Love’ (1974)
Bottom and Company? Really? Bottom and Company Gonna Find A True Love? Was that the best name they could find? Fab stab of crossover Motown regardless.

5.  Bob Dylan – ‘Saved’ (1980)
Just don’t go near that Born Again Christian stuff was the refrain when I first found Bob Dylan. Was reasonable advice to a young novice but Trouble No More, the latest instalment of The Bootleg Series, shows what a rousing period that was. This live version of ‘Saved’ would’ve had them rejoicing in the aisles.

6. Daniel Romano – ‘There’s The Door’ (2013)
Just watch Romano sing this George Jones hit. Go on.

7.  The Pretty Things – ‘The Same Sun’ (2015)
Released a couple of years ago on their clunkily titled but impressive The Sweet Pretty Things (Are In Bed Now, Of Course…), this gets a 7 inch EP release in January on Fruit de Mer Records along with their version of ‘Renaissance Fair’ plus two late-60’s live cuts: ‘She Said Good Morning’ and ‘Alexander’.

8.  The Galileo 7 – ‘Live For Yesterday’ (2017)
“Today is just tomorrow’s nostalgia,” sings Allan Crockford. As someone who’s played to packed venues by dusting off memories in reformed Prisoners, Prime Movers, Solar Flares and cranks out oldies in Graham Day and the Forefathers you know where Allan’s coming from and wonder if in years to come his current band will achieve similar better-in-retrospect acclaim. Based on the Galileo 7’s new pop-psych offering Tear Your Minds Wide Open it’s a distinct possibility. Crockford has now cracked this song writing lark and with the Mighty Atom, Mole, moved to his rightful place behind the drumkit, the whole thing swings with justified confidence. Don’t wait until 2040, check them out now.

9.  The Lovely Eggs – ‘Dickhead’ (2017)
Donning their new magical cloaks, The Lovely Eggs were on tour this month. Two things became apparent: they have so many great singles they can afford to drop ‘Don’t Look At Me’ without it being unduly missed and new songs featured from forthcoming album This Is Eggland, including the supersonic, drive-by abusing, ‘Dickhead’ will only add to that impressive score.

10.  Mavis Staples – ‘If All I Was Was Black’ (2017)
Mavis tells us she’s got love to give. She sure has. Oh God, this is wonderful.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

THE GENIUS OF DANIEL ROMANO at the BORDERLINE, LONDON


When Daniel Romano released Modern Pressure earlier this year I phoned my local record emporium to ask if they had it in stock. Sister Ray has been in Soho for decades and have furnished me with countless new independent releases. “Never heard of him,” was the snotty reply. “What is he?” Well, in fairness, this was a reasonable question as record shops like to file goods in easy-to-manage categories but not an easy one to answer. I muttered something about he used to be country (which I knew was gonna conjure hideous visions in the already dismissive mind of said employee. I know it’s offensive to use the C-word in polite company but stay with me, think of Hank, Merle, Gram) but is now more, er, rocky.  Tap-tap-tap into his little computer and “Did he have an album called Mosey?” Yeah, that’s him. “Right. I can see why we’re not stocking him, we didn’t sell a single copy of that.” Oh.

I share this story, dear reader, so you don’t feel bad if Daniel Romano isn’t as familiar a name around your family dinner table as it is mine. If “hip” London record shops are largely ignorant to his oeuvre, and if on a Saturday night in the West End one can rock up to pay a mere ten quid on the door to witness his act in the intimate surroundings of the Borderline, then a six-page feature in Mojo magazine and an appearance on Later With Jools Holland are still , unjustly, some way off.

A brief history: From Welland, Ontario, Romano was in Canadian punk band Attack In Black (I still haven’t listened to them), and has released eight albums since 2009. He began on a folky-country path, went full-on pedal steel and fiddle country, then swerved into a sprawling hotchpotch of styles he calls “Mosey”, incorporating elements of Stonesy rock, Americana, new wave, psychedelia, piano ballads, a mariachi namecheck to Valerie Leon, strings, horns and, if that wasn’t enough, Romano also trades under Ancient Shapes, his punk offshoot. Oh, and he plays almost everything on his records, he’s a talented artist, a leather tooler and can no doubt replace the steering column in a ’57 Chevy while reciting Les Fleurs du mal by Baudelaire.

Last year I saw him play two gigs in one night. Joined by a second guitarist, they sat on stools and played a breath-taking acoustic set where you could’ve heard a pin drop, then a couple of hours later across town a rock and roll set with almost every song from an album nobody had heard. For punters (like me) expecting pedal-steel weepers it was audacious and brass-necked. Brilliantly so. Newport ’65 had nothing on this.

Which moves us along the dictionary to the D-word. As well as the obvious musical influences, from Freewheelin’ to Highway 61 Revisited to Street Legal, Romano’s willingness to change horses midstream, to defy expectation, to change image (he’s had more looks than Carlos The Jackal, and currently appears to be wearing a pair of his old sunglasses), and for his songs to remain living entities in that can be played in a variety of ways, makes him comparable to Bob Dylan. As a Dylan completist that’s not something I’d say lightly. A squiz at YouTube will throw up loads of different versions of songs and, such is Romano’s prolific nature, loads of unreleased songs as his two labels can’t kept pace. For example, ‘Fearless Death Tomorrow’, released on the Ancient Shapes album as a dirty punk thrash is, months later, played acoustically with tinkling piano and double bass.

The Borderline gig last weekend was his last show of the year and executed with the passion of the last show of his life. Opening with “Modern Pressure”, in which Romano unleashed a blood curdling primal scream, he was in scarily blistering form. Not one for looking back, the set was mostly tracks released in little more than a year, yet the manner they were performed was astounding. The album Modern Pressure has a springy, elasticated feel, yet here they were played as heavy, tight rockers with a furious intensity peak Clash or White Stripes might’ve managed. It felt like a skin-shedding, cathartic exercise with songs from the latest album (‘Sucking The Old World Dry’, ‘Impossible Dream’, ‘When I Learned Your Name’ etc), and a few from Mosey including a spirit-raising ‘Dead Medium’, all given a similar treatment. ‘(Gone Is) A Quarry of Stone’ was transformed from a mournful ballad into a terrifying exorcism complete with a guitar solo, effortlessly tossed in, that made my eyes widen and brow arch in admiration. The foot was taken off the gas fleetingly. ‘Roya’, is the most beautiful song of 2017, and in a rare delve into the past (2013 is several Romano lifetimes ago) the tear jerking ‘A New Love (Can Be Found)’ sent shivers down the spine.

Billed as Daniel Romano and Jazz Police (his band featured bass, drums and Farfisa organ), there was zero jazz in a pulverising set (no chat, nary a pause), but should Romano one day pull a trumpet out of his backside to play a few Chet Baker numbers no one will die of shock. Where he’s heading next is a fun game to play and one new song had a 60s garage vibe which then segued into the final verse of The Who’s ‘My Generation’. Perhaps a cheesy choice but the power was up there with anything those Shepherd’s Bush geezers ever did and was about as far from a Porter Wagoner cover Romano could’ve found.

It’s difficult to gage how successful he is back home in Canada, and I’d love to know the reaction of purist country fans to recent developments, but the UK needs to wake up to the mastery of Daniel Romano. As the master of all trades and jack of none, the man is a damn genius. 
Thanks to Michelle Raison for the photos and thanks to Daniel for allowing us to gate crash his dressing room. A few faces of Daniel Romano below. Enjoy.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

THE SEX PISTOLS 1977: THE BOLLOCKS DIARIES (2017)


“Suddenly it was like the whole world hated us. Which I was perfectly fine with, it meant we were doing something right.” John Lydon

As public enemy number one – attacked in the streets, arrested, vilified in the press, banned from venues, banned in shops, banned from the radio, bouncing between record labels, heroin addiction, hepatitis, at war with McLaren – 1977 was, to put it mildly, a tumultuous year for the Sex Pistols.

The Sex Pistols 1977: The Bollocks Diaries recounts the events, blow-by-blow, in a hard-back album-sized new book published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Never Mind The Bollocks.

Starting the year with the Grundy, “You dirty fucker”, incident still reverberating from December and Glen Matlock soon replaced by Sid Vicious, and ending flying to the US for a tour that’ll see Rotten, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”, spilt the band two weeks into ’78, there’s rarely a dull moment.

Told through photographs, cuttings, memorabilia and interviews with the band and their entourage, it’s a chaotic tale of no fun. For all the uproar and agitation they caused – deliberately and inadvertently – at the heart of the Sex Pistols was a band, and Lydon in particular, who wanted to make music. The distractions and hullabaloo meant even surviving the year and recording Bollocks was something of an achievement, that it still sounds today like a tremendous “grinding juggernaut” is a minor miracle.

Film and television documentaries, CD box sets, reunion gigs, mugs, lanyards, coffee table books and whatever else might not be “punk”, and the Sex Pistols have been systematically homogenised, but sticking on that near-perfect album and reading through The Bollocks Diaries is a welcome reminder of when – and setting aside all the lasting cultural influence for a moment – the simple act of being in a band was dangerous, thrilling, challenging and a right pain in the bollocks for everyone.

The Sex Pistols 1977: The Bollocks Diaries as told by the Sex Pistols, is published by Cassell Illustrated. Out now.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW - SUNDAY 19 NOVEMBER

Apologies for the late postponement a couple of weeks ago but the fine folk at Fusion have juggled the schedule so, if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, Monkey's Wandering Wireless Show will return to the airwaves this Sunday.

As usual it'll be an hour of great music (mostly but not exclusively from the 60s) interrupted on occasion by a barely coherent Bailey's-soaked gibbon.

If that sounds like your idea of fun then tune in. Hit the link below in time for a 8.30pm lift off. And if you fancy it, sign up to Mixlr beforehand or during to join the chat throughout the show with fellow Fusion comrades.

See ya there.

CATCH UP HERE: http://mixlr.com/fusion-on-air/showreel/monkeys-wandering-wireless-show-14/



Saturday, 11 November 2017

JIM JONES & THE RIGHTEOUS MIND and THE FUTURE SHAPE OF SOUND at the MIRTH, MARVEL & MAUD, WALTHAMSTOW

Jim Jones & the Righteous Mind, E17, 10 November 2017
If a ten-piece rock and roll gospel group can’t lift yer spirits, especially when it’s The Future Shape of Sound, then the musical component of your soul is sorely malfunctioning. The sight alone – five sleek and stylish ladies and five dapper hatted gentlemen– is heavenly and their testifying, boogie blues for Jesus, with titles such as ‘Joy’ and ‘Rise Up’ soar and keep lifting higher and higher. A corner of East London transformed into a Louisiana chapel. Good God almighty.

It’s been a gradual process, but Jim Jones & the Righteous Mind are becoming sufficiently distanced from their predecessors, the Jim Jones Revue. The bands aren’t a million miles apart, more like neighbouring towns, but their method of attack differs. The Revue would slash and burn, inflict wounds with razor sharp knives; whereas the Righteous Mind bludgeon using a relentless rhythmic assault with sticks and stones. The Revue meshed the MC5’s manifesto with Jerry Lee Lewis’s great balls of fire; the Mind conjure gothic spells, summon witches and dark spirits, boil your blood, shake chicken bones and rabbits’ feet.

Jim Jones, like in all his previous bands, commands every nook and cranny of the stage, the audience, the room and your blackened soul. This is a man calls, “Let me hear you say yeah!” boarding a number 48 bus and passengers respond "YEAH!" automatically. It's a gift. Tracks from recent debut album Super Natural - ‘No Fool’ ‘Aldecide’, ‘Heavy Lounge, Part 1’, ‘Til It’s All Gone’ - with Jim’s throaty demonic howl and chanting Minds, cook up a spicy gumbo stew greedily devoured by the congregation locked in a foot stomping and hand clapping voodoo trance.

Two bands - one shining a light, the other flicking it off – making a believer in the Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll outta me.
The Future Shape of Sound, E17, 10 November 2017

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

I KNOW THAT I GOT A HEAVY SOUL - VOLUME THREE (2017)


The latest Heavy Soul collection brings together acts from its own label and other combos loosely inhabiting the edges of the Mod universe.

Originality isn’t the name of the game but those expecting Rickenbacker bashing and songs about kids looking for a direction will be disappointed or delighted to hear next to nothing along those lines. The bands fall broadly into two camps: shiny, blue-eyed soul popsters and slightly down at the Cuban heel, grubby beat merchants.

The abysmally named Cow redeem themselves by kicking off proceedings with ‘Hit Me Inside’, a gloriously sunny northern soul style gem to warm the heart. The Sha La Las sing from a similar hymn sheet to Stone Foundation with the mellow soul groove of ‘Leave The Hurtin’ Inside’; less gloss and polish than their more illustrious peers which is no bad thing. Aunt Nelly pounds her funky organ to bring back BritPop memories of the Charlatans and Kula Shaker mixed with Marsha Hunt on ‘Move On’ while King Mojo’s recruitment of Graham Day on production duties is an indication of where they’re coming from (stylistically that is; geographically they’re from North Yorkshire) and the rollicking ‘Glad!’, with the ol’ blues harp accompaniment, adds to their feverish R&B. Four songs in, all using Hammond organ, all very good.

The continental flair of French Boutik’s ‘Le Casse’ is no less a treat and a fine entry point for those unfamiliar with 2016’s Front Pop. As for The Deep 6, it’s not the song so much as the recording quality that lets ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ down. Some bands suit a cheap, recorded-in-the-shed-on-a-4-track lo-fi sound whereas The Deep 6’s Freddie & the Dreamers/Herman’s Hermits pop could do with a more punchier production. Even without knowing anything about The Lost Boys it’s apparent these are a product of a later generation than the rest of side one. ‘China In The Sink’ isn’t a political observation on assertive state capitalism driven by Beijing but a fusing of Oasis and Arctic Monkeys influences.

Side two is more beaty and Logan’s Close more (early to mid-period) Beatles than anyone else here with ‘Listen To Your Mother’, who, I guess, should know. The Pacers caveman stomp their way to ‘A&E’ and The See No Evils get their jangles out for ‘The Love Has Gone Away’. The Beatpack head to the Ealing Club/Eel Pie Island for ‘I’ll Dance’ and The Mourning After follow a similar route with the maraca shaking noise of ‘Cross My Heart’. Best of this bruising bunch is The Chessmen who, despite choosing a title (‘Cunning Linguist’) amusing to only 15-year-old boys, hurtle through their punky adrenaline-soaked romp spouting indecipherable gibberish at unsuspecting passers-by. The Galileo 7’s broadly pop-psych ‘Cold Hearted Stowaway’, is the hardest track to pin down due to not wearing its influences so obviously; perhaps no coincidence it’s the strongest track on side two and among the best tracks the band have done so far.

Listeners will pick their favourites - there’s nothing I particularly dislike here, no tracks requiring a leap from the settee to skip - and while the majority of the bands seem comfortable occupying their own little niche a few offer more ambition. The personnel across the volume is peppered with familiar names from bands stretching back to the 80s and 90s (The Prisoners, Makin’ Time, The Threads, The Clique, The Mystreated etc), reflecting an aging scene, so it’s a pity Heavy Soul’s prodigious young talent, the prolific Paul Orwell, is conspicuous by only providing the artwork.

A short version of this review appears in the current issue of Shindig! magazine. I Know That I Got A Heavy Soul Volume 3 is available on LP and CD (with six extra tracks) from Heavy Soul Records.

Monday, 6 November 2017

FAB RARE SWINGING LONDON FOOTAGE


Wow, look at these. Short and silent film rushes from Swingin’ London: The West End, Carnaby Street, King’s Road.

These have recently been made available by The Kinolibrary, an independent agency specialising in archive footage from around the world. How brilliant everyone and everything looks. See for yourself.


Thursday, 2 November 2017

NHS 1000 MUSICIANS CAMPAIGN


Clockwise from top: Paul Weller (Style Council), Zoot (The Z), Tim Burgess (Charlatans), Paul Orwell
Jerry Dammers (The Special AKA), Simone Marie Butler (Primal Scream), Jazzie B (Soul II Soul), The Lucid Dream
Musicians, your help is required. Not in this case to enrich our culture and lives with your creativity and artistic flair but to add support to the NHS1000Musicians campaign. The project has been run with a series of NHS fundraisers and aims to promote the wider issues around the NHS.

Initiated by music journalist Lois Wilson, whose contributions to Mojo I always gravitate to first, the premise is simple: musicians take a photo of themselves with a sign in support of the NHS. It can be something personal or something simple like #OurNHS. The plan is to get 1000 musicians taking part and is currently 200 from reaching the target. You don’t need to be a household name like Paul Weller, Jerry Dammers, the Lucid Dream or Tara from Five Thirty, only a musician of any kind with a wish to publicly demonstrate your support of the NHS.

There will be the cynical and sceptical amongst you but to my mind any small thing to keep the NHS in the public eye and to demonstrate solidarity with its workers can only be a good thing.

The Twitter account to send pictures to is @NHS1000Maestros or, if not on The Twitter, I can pass them on. Please feel free to share this post. Thank you.
Rachel Jean Harris, Mick Talbot (Merton Parkas), Cabbage, Diane Shaw
Richard Hawley (Longpigs), Vic Godard (Subway Sect), Tara Milton (Five Thirty), Rhys Webb (Horrors)
Johnny Marr (Electronic), Edgar Summertyme (The Stairs), Katie Pooh Stick, Debbie Smith (Echobelly)

Sunday, 29 October 2017

OCTOBER PLAYLIST


1.  Roy Milton – ‘Big Fat Mama’ (1947)
Roy wants a big fat mama, big and round, who can really go to town, a fine butterbowl, plenty mama to hold, who knows just what to do. I dare say he didn’t go short of offers after this.

2.  Gladys Knight & the Pips – ‘In My Heart I Know It’s Right’ (1966)
Of yes! Unreleased uptempo Gladys from 1966! That’s gotta be right!

3.  Eddie Gale – ‘Black Rhythm Happening’ (1969)
Imagine if the kids who lived Sesame Street joined forces with the Black Panthers and called on trumpeter Eddie Gale to lead the party.

4.  Hugh Masekela – ‘Gettin’ It On’ (1969)
Slipping and a’sliding funk bomb. If ya can’t get on this groove you’re beyond help my friend.

5.  PP Arnold – ‘Born’ (1970)
Languishing in the vaults all this time, PP Arnold’s The Turning Tide album was released this month and sounds fresh as a daisy. Written and produced Barry Gibb, ‘Born’ steps out of church with a Stonesy swagger.

6.  Leroy Hutson – ‘Could This Be Love’ (1974)
Out now on Acid Jazz, the double LP Anthology 1972-84 offers a superb introduction into the slick soul moves of The Man, Leroy Hutson.

7.  Girls At Our Best! – ‘Getting Nowhere Fast’ (1980)
“I am pretty smart, I don't do what they want me to/ I don't and nor do you, that's what the general public do”. Proper old post-punk indie classic.

8.  Manic Street Preachers – ‘No Surface All Feeling’ (1996)
With nothing to promote it’s been a quiet period for the Manics so thought their Q Awards show last week might be a little lacklustre but far from going through the motions they played a blinder with Nicky Wire is fine spirits (usually a gage to Manics performances). Could quibble with song choices but hearing this, and ‘Everything Must Go’, always brings a lump to the throat and ‘A Song For Departure’ from Lifeblood was a welcome surprise. Oh, and Sleaford Mods were tremendous fun.

9.  The Solar Flares – ‘Moonshine of Your Love’ (2004)
The two special shows by the Solar Flares this month highlighted how unjustly they fell through the gaps – particularly the second half of their tenure. ‘Moonshine of Your Love’ from the overlooked Laughing Suns mixes pulsating Deep Purplesque rock, sci-fi theme tunes and Memphis-style horns.

10.  The Lovely Eggs – ‘I Shouldn’t Have Said That’ (2017)
Holly and David Egg’s style of apology is to batter the ears with a two-minutes of gobbing, gobby fuzz mayhem.  You are forgiven.  

Thursday, 26 October 2017

SOUL OF A NATION: ART IN THE AGE OF BLACK POWER at the TATE MODERN


Barkley L. Hendricks - Icon for My Man Superman
(Superman Never Saved any Black People - Bobby Seale) 1969
A major exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, closed last week. Looking at the two decades from 1963 it explored how black artists responded to and reflected the civil rights struggle, the Black Power movement and political and cultural changes in America. It was a soul stirring collection from both an aesthetic angle of the art displayed and the background to the work and artists which invited further investigation. Photography was tolerated in the gallery so I took a few pictures and spent several days afterwards digging around.

Romare Bearden - The Street and The Dove (both 1964)
The opening exhibits in Soul of a Nation were from 1963 - the year of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech – and focussed on Spiral, a group of artists in New York looking to produce work within the wider context of the Civil Rights Movement. One of the founders, Romare Bearden, born in 1911 and an experienced artist, writer, poet, musician and social worker, suggested the group produce collaborative collages. The idea was rejected but Bearden went ahead and produced a series alone. As a lover of collage, particularly photo-montage, the exhibition couldn’t have got off to a better start for me than with a half a dozen of Bearden’s pieces including the bustling Harlem scenes portrayed The Street and The Dove.

Emory Douglas – All Power To The People (1969)
As Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas helped design the party’s newspaper and provided a series of posters for the back page as an effective way of distilling and taking concerns of the party to the streets. Douglas’s comic book style was as instantly recognisable as the Panthers themselves who knew a thing or two about image and branding. “Revolutionary art, like the Party, is for the whole community and deals with all its problems. It gives the people the correct picture of our struggle whereas the revolutionary ideology gives the people the correct political understanding of our struggle,” wrote Douglas. There were far more striking examples of Douglas’s work – lot of firearms and Pigs - displayed but such was the scrum of people around them this was the only snap I took. For more, see Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas, published in 2007.

Dana C. Chandler – Fred Hampton’s Door 2 (1975)
Within a year of joining the Black Panthers in Chicago, Fred Hampton rose to the rank of national deputy chairman and was instrumental in creating the Rainbow Coalition, working with local gangs of various ethnicities to reduce crime and violence which Hampton saw as self-defeating and detrimental to the plight of all the poor and oppressed people. Hampton’s influence both inside and outside the black community made him especially dangerous in the eyes of the FBI.

In 1967 Hampton allegedly assisted a group of schoolkids to help themselves to $71 dollars’ worth of tasty treats from a Good Humor ice cream van while he restrained the driver. The judge didn’t see the funny side and sentenced Hampton to a brain freezing two to five years. On bail, in December 1969, at home sleeping, Hampton was killed/murdered/executed by the Chicago police who fired nearly a hundred shots threw his door and throughout the flat – without return - in the raid, including two straight to the head from point blank range.

David Hammons – Injustice Case (1970)
Bobby Seale, co-founder the Black Panther Party, and was one of the “Chicago Eight” arrested and charged with conspiracy and inciting a riot during protests at 1968 Chicago Democratic Nominating Convention. The only black man on trial – the rest were white activists, anti-Vietnam protesters and Yippies including Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin – Seale’s request the trial be postponed as his lawyer was undergoing gall bladder surgery was refused, as was Seale’s subsequent request to represent himself. Throughout the early weeks of the trial Seale repeatedly interrupted the court to express his constitutional rights were being denied. Judge Julius H. Hoffman ordered court marshals to chain Seale to a chair with a gag in his mouth and tie his jaw shut with a strip of cloth wrapped from the bottom of his chin to the top of his head. This continued for several days until Hoffman found Seale guilty of 16 acts of contempt of court and sentenced him to four years in prison. The 1987 television film Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 is excellent and well watching.

Hammons’ piece looks like an x-ray but was made by rubbing himself in margarine then pressing his body against the paper before sprinkling black powder on the grease to reveal the image. The American flag has been cut away and a man is boxed in, bound and gagged. As for Bobby Seale, in 1970 he published Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton and in 1987 wrote Barbeque'n with Bobby Seale: Hickory & Mesquite Recipes. “I've developed my own contemporary southern-style, hickory-smoked barbeque recipes that have delighted the taste buds and appetites of politicians, writers, community activists, movie stars, family and friends, and thousands more at numerous barbeque fund-raisers.”

Benny Andrews – Did the Bear Sit Under the Tree? (1969)
Using the ‘rough collage’ style Andrews favoured, this is an oil on canvas painting given an extra dimension by the rolled-up fabric stars and stripes and the man’s mouth made from a zipper (unzipped). The man is waving his fists but doesn’t look threatening or angry to me; more scared and weakly defensive. Andrews explained he is “shaking his fist at the very thing that is supposed to be protecting him and that he’s operating under.”

Wadsworth Jarrell – Black Prince (1971) and Liberation Soldiers (1972)
AfriCOBRA – African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists – were a Chicago artists’ collective and these paintings were made for their exhibitions. AfriCOBRA’s images would, according to their manifesto, embody “the expressive awesomeness that one experiences in African art and life in the U.S.A” and have an emphasis on “Color color Color color that shines, that is free or rules and regulations”. The bright Kool Aid acid colours used here would make eye-catching posters.

Malcolm X in The Prince is largely depicted using the letter B for Black, Bad and Beautiful and if you look closely at Liberation Soldiers, the figure of Huey Newton on the left has ‘Badest Mothefucker Alive’ coming straight out his head. Stick that on yer wall.

A double-album, Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power, featuring Gil Scott-Heron, Joe Henderson, Roy Ayers, Doug Carn and many more is available on Soul Jazz and a book of the exhibition is published by Tate. Both highly recommended.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

THE PLACE I LOVE by FRENCH BOUTIK (2017)


French Boutik have a new single coming out, a rather elegant version of The Jam’s ‘The Place I Love’. Taken from Gifted, a 4-CD set of Jam covers by bands from 14 countries, it comes as a gatefold sleeve 45 split single with an enchanting ‘Tonight at Noon’ by their keys man and artist in his own right, Popincourt, on the flip.  

All profits from the single and compilation go to Specialized, a musical community concept created in 2012 to raise funds to improve the lives of teens and young adults with cancer or who are living in difficult circumstances. Since 2012, Specialized has released tribute albums celebrating The Specials, The Beat, Madness, The Clash, Bob Marley and now The Jam to provide funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Available to pre-order now from Copasetic Records. 
Gifted: A Tribute to The Jam available from Specialized.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

THE BRITISH UNDERGROUND PRESS OF THE SIXTIES - EXHIBITION AND BOOK


International Times began publishing in October 1966. Taking inspiration from US titles including Village Voice, Los Angeles Free Press and East Village Other, based in London IT was Europe’s first underground newspaper and central hub for the expanding counterculture.

The brainwave of Barry Miles and John Hopkins - Miles and Hoppy - IT provided communication channels to service the growing “creative, underground, grass-roots free-thinking communities”. Music, sex, drugs, police activities, corrupt businesses and political protest all featured heavily and in its first six months alone, outside of domestic concerns, featured literary contributions from Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Jean-Paul Sartre and Ezra Pound.

Poking the The Man was never going to pass without the authorities becoming hostile so when IT quoted comedian, civil rights activist and candidate for Chicago mayor, Dick Gregory, using the word ‘Motherfucker’ in a Q&A, they were promptly and gleefully raided. On 11 March 1967 their offices were completely stripped: back copies, files, address books, everything removed and replaced with the threat of costly court action. Six months later, with no charges and after failure to close IT down, their stuff was returned, all chucked back in at the bottom of the stairs.

After IT led the way, others – most notably Oz – followed suit; increasingly creative with their design and provocative with their content. An exhibition to coincide with the publication of The British Underground Press of the Sixties, edited by Barry Miles and James Birch, runs at the A22 Gallery in Clerkenwell, London until 4 November 2017.

For the first time, every issue of all the most significant underground papers – IT, Oz, Gandalf’s Garden, Black Dwarf, Friends, Frendz, Ink, Nasty Tales and cOZmic Comsic – plus posters and paraphernalia from the period are on display. Space restrictions mean it’s not possible to view the cover of every edition (many are folded over or overlap), but they’re all included in the book alongside commentary from Miles.

British Underground Press of the Sixties, edited by Barry Miles and James Perch, is published by Rocket 88 and out now.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

THE Z - PEOPLE OF THE MIRROR WORLD (2017)


“Slaves to consumerism, the world’s population exists in a zombie-like state of constant connectivity, their only music corporate sponsored pop pap.”

But fear not dear earthlings, from a galaxy far far away, come The Z to lead us by the hand to a place free from the shackles of the modern world. For the Z are People of the Mirror World, a reflection of music not as the soundtrack to supermarket shopping but as a lifeforce, powered up to the mains, pumping energy back into weary hearts and sapping souls.

It’s pop music Captain, but not as we know it, at least not these days. The Z go back to the future, plug in to their analogue docking station, and slip ten capsules of intergalactic new age boogie dreams straight under our collective tongue. It’s a trip, higher than the sun, where space is the place.

Personnel details and background information is scant and with the most unsearchable name on the internet deliberately so. No one ever said it was gonna be easy. The crew are fronted by Zoot, an Italian practicing high priestess, who channels elements of Grace Slick, Julie Driscoll and even Siouxsie Sioux; Gabrielle Drake in a purple wig in UFO. With Zoot’s co-pilots, The Z travel the spaceways, navigate magical swirling seas, shower excess glitter on glam stomps, cast spells with black magic queens and ask to be saved, all in little more than half an hour and with a spring in their step and twinkle in their eye. It’s music for the mind and body, free your mind and your ass will follow.

People of The Mirror World by The Z is due to land on earth, 1 November 2017, via Detour Records.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

THE SOLARFLARES at the WATER RATS, LONDON


Before Noel Fielding bothered cakes for money he played Vince Noir, zookeeper and King of the Mods, in The Mighty Boosh. In the ‘Jungle’ episode Vince comes face to face with Rudi, a jazz fusion guitarist with the Bongo Brothers and High Priest of the Psychedelic Monks who, with a tiny guitar and door in his afro, says with the air of studied mysticism, “I go by many names. Some call me Shatoon, Bringer of Corn; others call me Mickey Nine, the Dream Weaver; some call me Photoshop; others call me Trinew, The Boiler…”. This scene goes on and on, you get the picture.

Some call Graham Day, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard, the Prime Movers, Escapee Prisoners; others call them Graham Day and the Forefathers, Partytime Songbookers; this weekend, for the first time in well over a decade, they are the SolarFlares, the Great Returners.

With three of the five SolarFlares albums (four proper ones and an odds and sods comp) recently reissued on Damaged Goods they entered the Water Rats’ Zooniverse, incidentally the building that hosted the Prisoners – complete with Star Trek outfits – for Channel 4’s The Tube in 1984 which introduced them to so many.

Taking back to that stage on Friday, sporting the same hair style and similar guitar, Graham welcomed back Parsley, who joined the band after a couple of LPs, on Hammond adding “apart from that, it’ll be the same old shit” suggesting a more recent Forefathers set, drawing from their various incarnations, was in store but they stayed in character and stuck to the script, keeping to Flares songs.

They began with the opening track from their 1999 debut Psychedelic Tantrums, a tribute to Graham Day’s mum, ‘Mary’. “Mary, do you approve of the things you see? Mary, can you hear me?” I’ve no idea if the late Mrs Day was a fan of ballsy late 60s styled melodic rock but she probably could hear them and if looking down, at the first of two shows that sold out before even the posters had been designed, and heard the rapturous response to every track she would be a proud lady.

Both Graham and Allan have spoken fondly about the music they made as the SolarFlares. Graham being of the view he wrote some of his best songs then and, in his words, “learnt how to sing properly”. There was much rejoicing when, after the Prime Movers disbanded circa 1993 in a sea of prog-rock noodling and members embarked on separate projects, the SolarFlares appeared and focused on their strengths: snappy songs with rollicking elements traceable back to the Small Faces/Who/Kinks (okay, and sounding close to the Prisoners) and scattered them with groovy go-go instrumentals from would-be spy and sci-fi films.

Hearing a full set of those songs underlined those opinions, a fact overlooked by many at the time (including, I hold my hands up here, myself) whose interest in the band quickly dwindled after the initial excitement died away. It’s difficult to say why, maybe it was timing, (I was fixated on R&B during the early 00’s and wasn’t seeing bands) but there were rich pickings to be had to latecomers and diehard returnees alike.

‘Medway’, ‘Cant’ Get You Out of My Mind’, ‘Laughing Sun’, ‘Hold On’, all zipped by with considerable groove . I’m rubbish at remembering titles of instrumentals but pretty sure there were four including Parsley let loose on ‘Angel Interceptor’ and ‘Girl In A Briefcase’ plus the ‘Hush’-recalling ‘Moonshine of Your Love’. ‘Miles Away’ and 'It's Alright' from 2000's That Was Then... So Is This stood out as superb slices of catchy 60s pop and ‘Sucking Out My Insides’ as blood curdling as the title suggests.

Graham was concerned the supercharged, 100mph encore ‘Out of Our Minds’ would give them a heart attack but as Allan said, with the world reportedly due to end in two days, “we’ll give it a go”. They fortunately survived and egged on by promoter Steve Worrall of Retro Man Blog they came back to plunder Wimple Winch’s freakbeat classic ‘Save My Soul’.

There were a few quips about this show being the rehearsal for the Saturday night but, as magnificent as that would certainly be, it could surely only be equal – not greater – than this. The SolarFlares, they go by many names, on this form I call them Bloody Brilliant.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

BLACK TEETH AND A BRILLIANT SMILE by ADELLE STRIPE (2017)


Andrea Dunbar is best known for writing Rita, Sue and Bob Too, a play depicting the relationship between an older man and his two babysitters, made into a film by Alan Clarke in 1987.

Andrea was far from the stereotypical playwright. Growing up on the notorious Buttershaw Estate – reputedly the toughest part of Bradford’s toughest area – Andrea’s exceptional writing talent, particularly for dialogue, brought her to the attention of Max Stafford-Clark, who put her first play – The Arbor, written in green biro at the age of 15 – on at the Royal Court theatre in London’s West End. After three plays, all drawn from lives around her estate, Andrea died in 1990, aged 29, from a brain haemorrhage in her local pub.

Andrea’s story is now the inspiration for Adelle Stripe’s debut novel, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile. The introduction insists it’s a work of fiction – populated by real and imagined characters – but this exceptional book is clearly biographical, the main events undoubtedly true.

It’s a tale of contrasts: acts of brutality and occasional kindness, of rich and poor, belief and doubt, north and south, even stage and screen. That Andrea’s life story – punctuated by sex, domestic violence and alcoholism – mirrors her work is no surprise but she deals with even the worst events with stoicism. There are though, fear not, moments of humour - both in Dunbar and Stripe's telling.

Although dimly aware of the film adaptation, and the furore that surrounded it, Andrea Dunbar’s name meant nothing to me. I’ve not seen the plays, read them or watched the film. I bought Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile because I’ve always enjoyed Adelle Stripe’s writing and poetry for the independent press and trust her judgement. Such faith did not go unrewarded. Not only is this Adelle’s best work to date - it’s a tremendous stand-alone “piece of kitchen sink noir” – it also serves as a very welcome introduction to the life and work of Andrea Dunbar.

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe is published by Wrecking Ball Press.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

THE LIMINANAS at OSLO, HACKNEY


A little over a week ago, I’d never heard of The Limiṅanas, now they’re my favourite new band. Only they aren’t new, having been around since 2009 and with a handful of albums under their belt, I’m just slow off the mark.

After being tipped-off they were playing their first ever London show, which would be “one of the gigs of the year”, a crash course ensued. What revealed itself was The Limiṅanas, from Perpignan, are French couple, Lionel and Marie Limiṅana, who I’m told rarely play outside France/north-east Spain. Marie sings and drums, Lionel sings and plays the other stuff. They don’t fit in one tidy box: they can caress with dreamy pop, the vocals can be his or hers, sung in whispered French or English, they can hit the fuzz, they can take you down the Velvet Underground Says route, whip ya with the Mary Chain, invoke spaghetti westerns, spy movies, La Nouvelle Vague, sitar stylings and, by French law, the smoke of Serge and Jane frequently wafts across the senses. Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre provides guest vocals on rattling new single, ‘Istanbul Is Sleepy’, and Peter Hook lent a very Peter Hook bassline to last year’s ‘Garden of Love’ on their Malamore LP.

The thought of watching yet another guitar/drums duo didn’t appeal yet I didn’t know how they’d transfer to a live setting; whether they’d use backing tapes or be accompanied on the extra instrumentation that give their records the extra, sometimes exotic, flavour.

What appeared on stage on Thursday night was seven-piece band - four at the front, three at the back – who for 75 minutes rocked the living daylights out of a corner of Hackney. Neither Lionel or Marie sang; those duties were handled by a tambourine punishing Monica Vitti lookalike and a curly haired bloke on guitar. Big hipster-bearded Lionel led with his guitar scrunching, propelling songs until a climax when he’d shoot a look to Marie who’d cease proceedings with a sharp emergency break. Marie, positioned stage-left, was the heartbeat. Playing a small drum kit –bass, snare and tom, no cymbals or hi-hat – she struck, with Moe Tucker simplicity, a thumping beat, so effective it made other drummers look silly with all that fancy darting around their kits, crashing cymbals and playing elaborate fills.

The sheer power was astonishing, especially as their records can sound sparse and airy. Tough guy opener ‘Malamore’ - “I’m Robert Mitchum, I’m Bob Duvall” – stomped hard as they asserted “Sit yourself down, and shut your mouth”. ‘Down Underground’ followed (which would’ve fitted nicely on the last Primitives LP) and destroyed the recorded version. Even lighter songs ‘El Beach’ and ‘Garden of Love’ were electrifying.

The further down the line it got the more I was sucked into a hypnotic, wah-wah pedalling, head spinning, metronomic trance; the heel on my right boot worn down to the leather as it hit the floor BANG-BANG-BANG.

Beyond Lionel’s occasional ‘thank you’, they didn’t say anything; they didn’t need to. It was one of the gigs of the year as I’d been promised.

With thanks to man in the know, Grover.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

SUBBACULTURE - ISSUE SIX - OUT NOW


The new issue of Subbaculture hit the doormats of discerning readers this morning with a welcome thwack and, as I probably say each time, it’s the best one yet, packed with sounds and styles from the street.

As ever, the writing and design is a class above your average ‘zine and there’s plenty of substance in the articles too as they drift to encompass various strands of thought and subject matter.

What continues to amaze is how each issue has so many “that’s me!” moments. Editor Mark Hynds and contributors including Peter Jachimiak with uncanny regularity blow dust off teenage memories and tie-in references which concur with my own tastes. Mark recalls playground transactions involving the Quadrophenia albums, I sold the soundtrack one at school to fund my new found interest in Northern Soul; Mark also, in a piece about punk in Norwich, says his favourite Jamie Reid artwork is the Nowhere buses image, a print of which hangs in my hall; and on the same page, Peter revisits the Manic Street Preachers’ early New Art Riot EP and their first venture into London wearing “mod-style jackets with prison arrows sewn on”, a period which made as lasting an impression on me in my early 20s as discovering The Jam did as a kid.

On that theme, there’s a moving account of the relationship between Paul and John Weller with reference to their working class roots; Kevin Pearce tells a wonderful tale about the healing power of soul music; Tony Beesley discusses his books covering mod and punk scenes, with a focus on experiences outside London; Jason Disley provides a poem; the “gorgeous, oblique shuffle” of Trojan records are reflected upon, and where else are you gonna find a five-page spread charting the history of the Harrington jacket?

Copies are limited to 250 so, in keeping with Subbaculture’s ethos, look sharp…

Friday, 29 September 2017

SEPTEMBER PLAYLIST


1.  Claude Huey – ‘Feel Good All Over’ (1966)
On the flip of this sparse but effective soul shuffler is ‘The Worst Thing A Man Can Do’ which, according to Claude, is taking the love of a good woman for granted which displays a disappointing lack of imagination. Still, I’ll forgive him for ‘Feel Good All Over’.

2.  The Wrongh Black Bag – ‘Shake Me, Wake Me’ (1968)
A frantic version of Al Kooper’s Blues Project song and released as 4a 5 on Mainstream Records. On their way to the studio the band were involved in a car crash and the session cancelled, never to be rescheduled. Most unfortunate.

3.  The Lloyd McNeill Quartet – ‘Dig Where Dat’s At’ (1969)
Self-released in 1969, Asha has recently been reissued by the ever-dependable Soul Jazz Records. They refer to it as deep jazz and spiritual jazz, and it is, but it also includes this sprightly flute-led groover.

4.  Young Ladies – ‘I’m Tired of Running Around’ (1969)
Oh, Young Ladies, this is beautiful to groove to on a sunny afternoon.

5.  Curtiss Maldoon – ‘Man From Afghanistan’ (1971)
As I’ve said elsewhere, considering most of the tracks on a new 3-CD set, One Way Glass: Dancefloor Prog, Brit Jazz and Funky Folk 1968-1975, were made by blokes who thought teaming a vest with sandals as the height of dressing up, it’s one of the most rewarding collections I’ve heard for a long time. This track was a fairly arbitrary pick but when I checked the booklet for more info was delighted to discover the Curtiss Maldoon LP it came from featured most of Mighty Baby.

6.  James Brown – ‘Time Is Running Out Fast’ (1973)
From The Payback, this thirteen minutes of heavy rhythms sounds like JB attempting to outdo Fela Kuti at his own game. Irresistible. Check out the lyrics.

7.  Roy Ayers – ‘Aragon’ (1973)
From the soundtrack to Coffy, which stars Pam Grier as a nurse who murders a string of drug dealers in revenge for her sister getting hooked. "They call her 'Coffy' and she'll cream you!"

8.  Supergrass – ‘Richard III’ (1997)
The other day I bought The Best of Supergrass for the bargain price of one English pound. ‘Richard III’ may or may not have been about that bloke they found buried in a Leicester car park.

9.  The Oscillation – ‘Waste of Day’ (2015)
Bug-eyed Floydian psychedelic stew with a bassline that gets under the skin. A few trips around the mind to this is no waste of time.

10.  The Limianas featuring Anton Newcombe – ‘Istanbul Is Sleepy’ (2017)
Moody French couple and the Massacre man wake ya from your dreams with a relentless vibrating noise to rattle the bed.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

JOHN 'HOPPY' HOPKINS - HOPPY REMEMBERED WITH NEW SITE


LSD meets CND. Hoppy in London.
In the 2015 obituary for his friend, John Hopkins, John Boyd wrote the “counterculture took much of its inspiration from him, and he was the closest thing the movement ever had to a leader.”

Hoppy was central to so much of the 60s underground scene, his restless energy pivotal to sell-out poetry readings at the Royal Albert Hall; the creation of underground newspaper, International Times; the ground-breaking psychedelic all-nighter, the UFO Club; the 14 Hour Technicolour Dream at the Alexandra Palace; and even sowing seeds for the Notting Hill carnival. Hoppy was a scene-maker, creator and pied-piper, clearing a path for others to follow. The authorities were less enamoured with his activities, raiding his flat for a small amount of Mary Jane, they threw him in jail, calling him a “menace to society”.

Before all this took up his time Hopkins was primarily a photographer, with his focus on political protest, social issues and music, appearing in, amongst others, Peace News, The Sunday Times and Melody Maker.

Now, I’m delighted to see a website, HoppyX, has recently appeared dedicated to Hoppy, his life and achievements. The image gallery is stunning and the recollections from his friends are delightful and inspiring in equal measure.

“Hoppy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2007, around the time of his 70th birthday. The decline is slow but inexorable. Hoppy remains active in his chosen pursuits until his physical faculties fail him, graciously allowing himself to be interviewed many times by younger generations as they gradually discover his historical significance.”

I can vouch for this. After publication in 2008 of From The Hip: Photographs of John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins 1960-66 by Damiani, I went to Hoppy’s flat to collect a copy of the book. I expected to simply go there, pick it up and come away but was invited in, made a cup of tea, and we spent a long time going through the book, page by page, with Hoppy providing generous commentary to anything I paused on. I’d later purchase a print of a suitably steely-looking William Burroughs taken in New York.

After that, and with his health obviously deteriorating, I’d still frequently see Hoppy attending various exhibitions, talks and readings around London. That I’d see him more than any other person at these events always struck me as how deeply rooted and supportive he was – still - in the more marginal elements of the arts and society. He never gave it up.

Before you go to explore Hoppy’s site, the last word to the man himself whose inscription in my copy of From The Hip reads: “To Mark & Paula, Be happy for no reason, Best wishes, Hoppy.”

William Burroughs in New York. Photo by Hoppy.
Blues Inc. Alexis Korner, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Cyril Davies at the Marquee. Photo by Hoppy.

CND Fence Rest. Photo by Hoppy.
Allen Ginsberg point to the Royal Albert Hall. Photo by Hoppy.