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.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW - SUNDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2017


Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show returns to Fusion for an hour this Sunday and, as you can see above, my team are working hard to find as many gems to squeeze into the show as possible - under strict instructions for nothing the wrong side of three minutes.

You should know the score by now: an hour of brilliant music – anchored in the 60s but drifting into other decades – with me occasionally interrupting to say what you’re listening to. That’s about it. Nothing too complicated. If you can listen live then that’s greatly appreciated, if you want to join in the chat even better, but if not convenient then the show will be available to catch-up whenever convenient.

If you’ve never listened before, give it a go. If you have, then I trust you'll come back...




Wednesday, 30 August 2017

AUGUST PLAYLIST


1.  Max Roach – ‘Freedom Day’ (1960)
Freedom Day, it's Freedom Day. Throw those shackle n' chains away.” With lyrics by Oscar Brown Jr, sung by Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach’s We insist! Freedom Now Suite is a potent, unflinching album fuelled by the civil rights movement.

2.  Ken Jones – ‘Chicken Pot Pie’ (1963)
The label credit reads Ken Jones, His Piano and Orchestra but you can add Kitchen Sink to that list as Jones cooks up a swinging OTT instrumental feast of go-go goodness.

3.  Darlene McCrea – ‘My Heart’s Not In It’ (1964)
Darlene sang with the Cookies but this Gerry Goffin/Russ Titelman song and production tops anything they did.

4.  Him - 'It's A Man Down There' (1966)
He was Doug Sham and this featured on the first Sir Douglas Quintet LP but curiously was released as a 45 under the more mysterious name. Either way it's swampy Texan blues to get down to.

5.  Jimmy McGriff – ‘Miss Poopie’ (1969)
When Starsky and Hutch busted some badass pimps in a New York strip joint, the band played on.

6.  Frumpy – ‘Indian Rope Man’ (1970)
Worst band name ever and although teetering on the brink of proggy, German rockers Frumpy knock out a pretty groovy version of the Richie Havens via Brian Auger/Julie Driscoll classic.

7.  The Supremes – ‘Life Beats’ (1970)
Earmarked for their first post-Ms Ross single, only for it to be ousted at the last moment for ‘Up The Ladder To The Roof’, it showed there was still plenty of life in the Supremes.

8.  The Deep Six – ‘Heading For A Fall’ (2017)
Makin’ Time were one of the shining lights in the mid-80s Mod scene so it’s good to hear from co-singer Mark McGounden again. New album with new band, Introducing The Deep Six, doesn’t have the gloss of his illustrious past – sounds like it was recorded on a tight budget – but Mark’s knack for breezy 60s toetappers remains with ‘Heading For A Fall’ the pick of the bunch.

9.  Childhood – ‘Californian Light’ (2017)
My thanks to Ian Pople of The Acoustic Egg Box for repeatedly nudging me about Childhood who’ve transformed themselves into a sleek modern soul band – part MGMT, part Isley Brothers - all top down, arm out the window, cruising the coast of Santa Cruz via the mean streets of South London.

10.  Len Price 3 – ‘Telegraph Hill’ (2017)
Forthcoming Kentish Longtails (out 15 September) is currently in pole position for the Monkey Picks album of the year, it's that good. The usual bish-bash rowdy singalongs remain, as do the mod-pop Townshend windmilling anthems, and while they’ve done subtler songs before (‘Medway Sun’ for example) they’ve truly up their game here with a handful of soft-centred corkers. ‘Telegraph Hill’ is truly beautiful: full of tea-and-biscuits romanticism, with echoes of the old Hovis advert and Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag. Bonus points for “The hurly-burly and the hullabaloo, won’t stop us doing all the things we want to do, before we get much older”. Song of the year for sure.

Monday, 28 August 2017

BRIGHTON SCOOTER RIDE-OUT, SUNDAY 27 AUGUST 2017


Such was the success of The New Untouchables returning the Mods to Brighton for August Bank Holidays back in the late 90s, the town now hosts a multitude of events across the weekend put on by various promoters to cover the overspill and cater for differing tastes. The NUTs scooter rideout on Sunday remains the focal point and the largest congregation of Mods in all their dominations come together outside the Volks Tavern. Such were the numbers it took ten whole minutes for the procession of Lambrettas and Vespas to pootle off. Here they are...

Friday, 18 August 2017

GEORGIE FAME – THE TWO FACES OF FAME: THE COMPLETE 1967 RECORDINGS (DELUXE 2CD EDITION) (2017)


Georgie Fame’s back catalogue has been well served recently with 2015’s five-disc The Whole World’s Shaking: Complete Recordings 1963-1966 and last year’s Survival: A Career Anthology six-disc set. This latest addition, a more modest two-CD package, picks up where The Whole World’s Shaking left off to focus on Georgie’s first album for CBS, following a high-profile switch from Columbia, plus everything else he recorded during 1967.

The original The Two Faces of Fame, split between live and studio recordings, backed by a mix of big band sessions and his post-Blue Flames combo, is presented here in stereo and mono versions. Some folk might get the horn comparing the two, fill yer boots, I’ve no strong preference but what’s noticeable is both sound far punchier than the original LP. Yes, I know we’re all supposed to have a vinyl fetish – my penchant too – but it doesn’t always make the audio better.

As for the album, I’d always been lukewarm towards it. ‘Great Back Dollar Bill’ is a smart opener and ‘El Pussy Cat’ a fun instrumental but while the Harry South Big Band, rolling over from Fame’s previous Sound Venture, swing with a Who’s Who of British jazzers – Tubby Hayes, Dick Morrissey, Ronnie Scott, Pete King etc - Georgie tackling three Great American Songbook standards would then, and now, have many feeling underwhelmed. I can tolerate Bob Dylan’s recent attempts at crooning his way through these standards in his twilight years but Georgie was 23 years old. In ’67 Brian Auger had cannily teamed up with hip priestess Julie Driscoll, Zoot Money was running like a psychedelic madman in his kaftan with Dantalian’s Chariot and Graham Bond’s extreme nature was pushing the boundaries of tolerance for him and his music. Georgie Fame meanwhile was doing supper club jazz with ‘It Could Happen To You’ a hit for Bing Crosby in the 1940s. There’s a slight perversity I can appreciate now but it’s taken a long time. Listening repeatedly to The Two Faces of Fame again I’ve warmed to it. It’s not a classic but it’s better than I remember and helps I don’t expect everything to be ‘The Monkey Time’ anymore.

I wouldn’t unreservedly recommend purchasing the album on its own but this deluxe edition features an additional 24 tracks (seven previously unissued) and, as Nick Rossi suggests in his thorough liner notes, when taken as a whole, 1967 was as strong a year for Georgie as any and makes this a must-buy.

There’s so much to take in. A-sides, B-sides, EPs, storming instrumentals, swinging pop, up-tempo soul, sensitive ballads, a kitsch chart-topper (kitsch being polite, if I never hear ‘The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde’ again it’ll be too soon), Italian translations and even an International Pop Song Festival entry released for the Brazilian market.

A few highlights: the improved audio quality gives a massive boost to the Georgie Fame EP which originally sounded flat but now brings ‘Knock On Wood’ and ‘Close The Door’ to soul stomping life; ‘Roadrunner’ (the Bo Diddley one) is everything you’d imagine and was new to me; ‘Because I Love You’ and the dreamy ‘Try My World’ were excellent singles; ‘A Waiting Time’ a planned but dropped 45 – leaning towards an increased MOR style yet showing it could be done gracefully – remained unreleased until Survival and deserves repeating here for a wider audience; ‘Celebration’ is pop competition fun; the seven unreleased tracks show Georgie’s quality was consistently high – the version of ‘Tell It Like It Is’ is gorgeous; ‘Jumpin’ The Gun’ is in a similar vein to the old Hammond and horns fave ‘Beware of the Dog’; and – the length of this list tells you something - ‘Respoken’ and ‘Conquistador’ are class new discoveries for everyone.

One new discovery to me is ‘No Thanks’, the flip to ‘Try My World’. I can hear many of you now scoffing incredulously, “What? You’ve never heard it before? They played it every week down the Purple Bubblegum Curiosity Shop club in Camden on Thursday nights in the 90s when we were wearing bootcut cords and buzzing off our tits on cheap speed and Mad Dog 20/20”. I’m sure you did and quite right too. It includes every club classic ingredient and lands perfectly in the swirly/soul crossover dancefloor dynamite box, much like the later ‘Somebody Stole My Thunder’ which you’d only have to step outside your front door to hear throughout the Brit-Pop years.

This reissue (although it’s much more than simply that) is well packaged and, thanks to the abundance of bonus tracks, is bursting with great music. In 1967 alone Georgie proved he had more than two faces and, whichever one he showed, he did so with style.

The Two Faces of Fame is out now on RPM/Cherry Red.
A heavily edited version of this review appears in latest issue of Shindig magazine.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

I CALLED HIM MORGAN (2016)


On a snowy evening in 1972, trumpeter Lee Morgan was shot dead between sets in the New York club, Slug’s, where he was playing. Morgan was 33.

Kasper Collin’s recent documentary looks at the life, and especially death, of one the stars of the Blue Note stable. It’s established from the opening scenes that Lee’s wife, Helen Morgan, fired the shots which killed him, the film then retraces the route to that point using interviews with friends, fellow musicians and, crucially, Helen herself, who finally gave an interview in 1996 to Larry Reni Thomas - a jazz fan, radio announcer and fellow high school teacher – years after he first requested it and only a month before she died. This revealing taped conversation is central to the film.

Those wanting a blow by blow account of Lee Morgan’s music career will perhaps be disappointed. This isn’t one of those type of films. Yes, we hear how he was a confident star in Dizzy Gillespie’s band at a young age and how he played with Art Blakey but there’s precious little else. There are snatches of music of course (all untitled on screen) but viewers wishing a full insight into his musicianship, recording sessions, legacy and landmark recordings will need to look elsewhere. His classic, The Sidewinder, one of the most recognisable jazz numbers of the 60s, which unexpectedly dented the pop charts, and a “gateway” track for many (one of the first proper jazz records I liked: bluesy, soulful, with an understated finger-snapping funk; and by “proper” I mean without a Hammond organ, that always felt like cheating) isn’t even get mentioned. In fact, almost no individual tracks are mentioned and only a few covers of the dozens of albums he made briefly appear on screen.

I Called Him Morgan is instead a portrait of two people: Lee and Helen, who both lived fascinating lives and conscious of its focus, it’s simply told. There’s no voice over narration or, like so many music documentaries these days, gimmicky animation to flesh out the lack of artist footage (not that there’s much of that here either) nor mercifully, unlike recent movies based on fellow trumpeters Miles Davis and Chet Baker, will you cringe at hammy acting or clunky dialogue. This sensitive study examines what led to the tragedy in Slug’s and gently tries to make sense of it through the reminiscing of uniformly engaging interviewees. It’s almost like a murder mystery except there’s no mystery over whodunnit and, without spoiling it, the New York cops hardly needed to give Columbo a call to discover the motive.

I Called Him Morgan draws attention to Lee Morgan once again. We know what happened in the end, the fun part now for new listeners is discovering all the music he left behind (there's a lot). Oh Lee, just one more thing, where did you get that amazing coat?

I Called Him Morgan is now available on Netflix.

Friday, 28 July 2017

JULY PLAYLIST


1.  Harmonica Slim – ‘Hard Times’ (1960)
A wickedly funky workout from Travis Leonard Blaylock. Despite the raw harp style this, to me, sounds a bit later than 1960.

2.  Dion – ‘Two Ton Feather’ (1965)
Dion’s lost 1965 album Kickin’ Child has finally been released this month and it’s a cracker of Dylanesque folk-rock in the style of Bringing It All Back Home. Some of the tracks did see light of day at the time, including this playful romp.

3.  The Temptations – ‘You’re Not An Ordinary Girl’ (1965)
No mistaking the hand of Smokey Robinson here but the track is credited to all the Miracles. The flip of ‘Beauty Is Only Skin Deep’, with lead vocal by Eddie Kendricks, the backing track hints at the way forward for the Showstoppers’ ‘Ain’t Nothing But A Houseparty’.

4.  Fortson & Scott – ‘Sweet Lover’ (1968)
Sweetest soul on the Pzazz label (“Put some pzazz in your jazz!”) outta Hollywood. Fabulous. Nothing more to say.

5.  Guitar Ray – ‘You’re Gonna Wreck My Life’ (1970)
Talking of record labels, this one’s on Shagg, something Guitar Ray doesn’t seem to be getting much of listening to his beautifully sung soulful blues. No money, no place to go, old and grey, his woman can’t stand him no more. Still, he cut this 45 and so it wasn’t all in vain. Cheers Ray.

6.  Martha Reeves and the Vandellas – ‘I Should Be Proud’ (1970)
Martha’s Vietnam protest song doesn’t pull any punches as she tells how Johnny died not for her but “fighting for the evils of society”. Reeves believed the government put heat on radio stations not to play it and Berry Gordy to withdraw it. The other side of the record features the far less controversial, and more well known, ‘Love Guess Who’.

7.  Jr Walker & the All Stars – ‘Way Back Home’ (1971)
This down home countrified soul was blown in my direction care of Zyd Hockey’s recent Motown show on Fusion and has been a regular spin ever since. As I said at time, and think every play, this would have suited The Faces down to the ground.

8.  Spacemen 3 – ‘Rollercoaster’ (1986)
From their debut Sound of Confusion, Spacemen 3 set their aim higher than the sun with a thoroughly convincing bug-eyed interpretation of the 13th Floor Elevators classic.

9.  Redskins – ‘A Plateful of Hateful’ (1986)
It’s a pity the Redskins never made a second album. ‘A Plateful of Hateful’ featured on their final single, ‘It Can Be Done’, and hit a Brit-funk groove falling between The Jam’s ‘Precious’ and Pigbag’s ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag’.

10.  Benjamin Booker – ‘Witness’ (2017)
Booker’s sings about seeing a crime but Mavis Staples steals the show, no surprise there, witnessing something far more holy. Oh, by the way, Mavis’s show at the Union Chapel this month was, as always, sensational. Being in her presence is to experience very magical joy and happiness. And wow, can that lady still sing.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

THE REDSKINS - A FLAME THAT CAN'T BE DIMMED


“Inspired by The Clash and militant soul music the Redskins burnt brightly in the 1980s. They raged against capitalism with fire, passion and revolutionary politics. The 1984-5 miners’ strike was the pinnacle of their power, playing benefit gigs, appearing on TV and raising support for the strikers. This ten-minute tribute brings together the best of their songs, videos and interviews. The Redskins are gone but their legacy lives on with a message much needed today. Radical culture is a crucial component for any movement for mass social change. Thanks and solidarity to all the musicians and filmmakers who made this tribute possible. Take no heroes – only inspiration.”

By Open Eye Film and Revolting Films.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW - SUNDAY 16 JULY 2017


The Fusion DJ roulette has landed on my number so I’ll be back in the chair again this Sunday to host Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show.

I’ve said it before but that one-hour slot every Sunday is one the highlights of the week no matter who’s entrusted to pick the records; there’s been a run of particularly brilliant shows in recent weeks. There’s always top-notch music and if you can listen live and join in the chat throughout the show it adds to the little Fusion family community vibe.

As usual the Wireless Show will be 60s-based but not tied to the decade, feature some classics, some semi-obscurities, some surprises maybe, and tracks will inevitably be followed by me saying how great they are or, to mix it up, saying they are great they are before playing them. I'm versatile like that.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

SIDEWALK SOCIETY - STRANGE ROADS: THE SONGS OF ROLLED GOLD (2017)


When The Action’s album’s worth of 1968 demos first sneaked out in the late 90s it offered an insight into their progression from exemplary covers band to a unit finally concentrating on their own material. With Reggie King still at the helm for a little longer, the songs were short and snappy, retaining elements of soul and incorporating a West Coast flavour influenced by The Byrds and The Association.

The Rolled Gold material was a work in progress with the audio quality less than pristine so, despite the obvious quality, there’s always been an element of ‘what if?’. What if the songs had been completed and recorded properly? What if it had been afforded a decent production? Would it sound more like The Notorious Byrd Brothers or Traffic’s second LP?

Sidewalk Society have taken up the challenge of rerecording the album. There’s no escaping this is the work of a Californian powerpop band (some of the cymbals crash a little loudly and there’s an occasional Who chord in the guitars) yet they’ve balanced being faithful to the originals and infusing them with extra touches: piano more prominent in the mix, a touch of brass here, a stirring of strings there. Few can sing like Reggie King so Dan Lawrence’s vocals are distracting at first but the ear gradually adapts and the songs are, even to a rabid Action fan, given a fresh sparkle with some of the original muddiness removed.

The Action were bold in their covers – Kentish Town lads take on The Temptations and The Marvelettes – and Sidewalk Society have been here, like the Action they’ve put themselves into the music. The brass and strings are highly effective, not too overpowering but enough to add extra layers so these recordings feel like the finished rather than simply copied versions.

Being an Action nut, I was sceptical about this project. My initial reaction was to expect one listen and to question the point but sustained plays has altered that view. It offers a greater appreciation how incredible The Action were during this phase before they morphed into a far looser incarnation as Mighty Baby. Such is the standard of material it serves to strengthen the bewilderment as to how such a set of musicians achieved so little commercial success. Strange Roads should escalate – if that’s possible – the esteem The Action are held in and does no harm to Sidewalk Society either. That’s got to be considered a success.

Strange Roads by Sidewalk Society is released by Fruits de Mer Records.
An edited version of this review appears in Shindig magazine.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

JUNE PLAYLIST


Marshall Allen, Sun Ra Arkestra, Jazz Café, Camden, June 2017
1.  Sonny Rollins – ‘Saint Thomas’ (1956)
The opening track from Saxophone Colossus and from Rollins’ first notes instantly recognisable to me from Monkey Snr playing it countless times as I was growing up. Each play would have been swiftly followed by the shout of “Headphones!” from Ma Monkey so it’s only now I’ve heard the whole track.

2.  Sun Ra and his Myth Science Arkestra – ‘Angels and Demons at Play’ (1960)
Sun Ra reckoned his music could transform the world by the joy it would bring. Last week at the Jazz Café in Camden his Arkestra, now led by 93 year young “originator of avant-garde saxophone” Marshall Allen, which for at least the duration of their performance, banished the blues of the city and put beaming smiles on the faces of all those in attendance. It was a sight and sound to behold and, as impenetrable and intimidating the universe of Ra can seem, was far more inviting and accommodating in a live setting than the mountain of recordings and intergalactic gobbledegook may lead you to believe.

3.  Lula Reed – ‘What Makes You So Cold’ (1961)
Cracking R&B shuffler and just dig that twang. Honourable mention to the other side of this Federal 45 which wins Song Title of The Month: ‘Ain’t No Cotton Pickin’ Chicken (Gonna Break This Chicken Heart of Mine)’.

4.  Don Charles – ‘The Hermit of Misty Mountain’ (1962)
It’s songs like this – with Joe Meek’s superb production – that make me miss Brian Matthew and Sounds of the 60s on a Saturday morning.

5.  Madeline Bell – ‘Don’t Cross Over (To My Side Of The Street)’ (1964)
Ms Bell makes an appearance on the new Paul Weller album but from the other end of her career is this fabulous clippity-cloppity soulful pop from the flip of her debut 45.

6.  Tony Hestor – ‘Just Can’t Leave You’ (1966)
Detroit soul of the highest order by a man who managed to turn down the allure of Motown, not wishing to be tied down to a long contract. Released on the Karate label and includes the label credit ‘Features Mike Terry and his Adored Baritone Sax’. There’s nothing here to not adore.

7.  David Ruffin - 'I Could Never Be President' (1969)
Take David's advice, know your limits.

8.  The Dramatics – ‘The Devil Is Dope’ (1971)
More from the pen of Tony Hestor who knew at first-hand the dangers of the pusherman writing this and ‘Beware Of The Man (With The Candy In His Hand) for the Dramatics. Hestor was tragically robbed and slain on the streets of Detroit, aged 34.

9.  Thousand Yard Stare – ‘0-0 After Extra Time’ (1991)
Thousand Yard Stare seemed like such nice unassuming lads back in the day when they were the perennial local support act for bigger names passing through The Old Trout in Windsor in the early 90s. After seeing them at the 100 Club this month I can’t even dare to imagine what horrors have fallen upon them in the intervening years such was the air of dark unpleasantness they now emanate. Still, I did enjoy hearing this again.

10.  Cabbage - 'A Celebration of a Disease' (2017)
With the political bite of Dead Kennedys and the groove of Happy Mondays, Cabbage are the best band around at the moment.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

THE IMPRESSIONS at the UNION CHAPEL, ISLINGTON


I’ve not experienced emotion like it at a gig before. After a stunning rendition of ‘Choice of Colors’, a song banned by radio stations for daring to challenge racial prejudice, the audience rose as one for a standing ovation so long and heartfelt it reduced Impressions Fred Cash and then Sam Gooden to tears.

After 59 years “the most iconic soul group all time”, as described in their introduction and with no argument for me, are calling it a day and played London last night for the final time. It’ll be an evening no one in attendance will ever forget.

There is something truly magical about The Impressions. Not only the life-affirming, galvanising nature of their music but in the personalities of the group. Curtis Mayfield quite rightly takes the bulk of the plaudits but even without him on lead vocals, wingmen Fred and Sam amply demonstrated their vital contributions.

Young Jermaine Purifory was entrusted with the Curtis role, after long time Impression Reggie Torian died last year, and did it well but from the opening number, ‘It’s All Right’, the way Fred and Sam exuded sheer uncontrollable joy quite literally brought a tear to the eye. With their kind, beaming faces, gently rocking their shoulders and clapping their hands they looked like the two happiest men on earth, as if they’d hit the jackpot of life. Matched with Mayfield’s songs of comfort and hope and the result was soul stirring. Even the way the pair provided the gentle harmonies on ‘Gypsy Woman’, not even needing words, was spine tingling.

The set was packed with the irresistible dancers: ‘Woman’s Got Soul’, ‘I Need You’, ‘Can’t Satisfy’ ‘You Ought To Be In Heaven’ and ‘Stay Close To Me’ all sounding more Motownesque than on record while ‘You’ve Been Cheatin’’, with Fred handling the lead, brought the house down and another standing ovation, an occurrence which punctuated the show at regular intervals. The ballads including ‘I’ve Been Trying’ were no less affecting and let Purifory showcase his talent; there was a touch of Marvin Gaye about the way he soared on ‘I’m So Proud’.

The venue, the Union Chapel, was the perfect setting and the way a single purple spotlight shone down on Fred Cash at close of ‘People Get Ready’, when he sang the closing line “You just thank the Lord”, with his finger pointing skyward, moved even the sternness nonbeliever.

Before the close, on a count of one-two-three led by Purifory, another thunderous ovation. Grown men and women were weeping - on stage and, heaven help them, standing on the chapel pews. The finale of ‘Move On Up’ caught the band and group out of synch but it was understandable with emotions running so high.

No more tears do we cry and we have finally dried our eyes” they sang on ‘We’re A Winner’. I’m not sure that’s true yet, I’m welling up again just writing this. The Impressions - with your inspirational music, your message, your soul, your spirit - you’re winners. We might not see you again but you’ll live on forever. Thank you for everything.

Thanks to Glen Manners @Mamaroux78 for the photo.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

"I DON'T KNOW" by THE SHOOTS (2017)


After months of teasing The Shoots finally release their debut single.

The band are, in effect, the latest Paul Orwell project with lead vocal duties handed to Lord Essien.

‘I Don’t Know’ is two breathless minutes of the good Lord grabbing ya by the short and curlies as the combo snap and snarl like rabid dogs before Orwell unleashes the wildest onslaught of manic freakbeat guitar. On the flip they ‘Do The Jerk’ which could be very dangerous if you’re in close proximity.

Available only as a 7-inch single, with painstakingly period detail, on Heavy Soul Records. Limited to 300 copies, get ‘em while they’re hot. Out today.

Friday, 2 June 2017

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW - SUNDAY 4 JUNE 2017

After a few months of gremlins, Fusion are back on-line with their weekly Sunday night hour slot of fantastic music selected and increasingly presented by their listeners.

After Mick's flagship Kitchen Boogie show last week, Monkey's Wandering Wireless Show is back this Sunday. If you've listened before you'll know the format by now: loads of brilliant records from across the decades (admittedly heavy on the 60s) interrupted occasionally by me trying to speak in complete sentences with varying degrees of success. It'll be fun, trust me.

To tune in just hit this link - mixlr.com/fusion-on-air - in time for your wireless (okay, laptop/tablet/phone) to burst into sound at 8.30pm on the dot.

If you want to join in the chit-chat as the show goes on you'll made to feel more than welcome by the lovely folk in the Mixlr chatroom but if you just wanna sit back and relax that's equally cool. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Catch-up link: http://mixlr.com/fusion-on-air/showreel/monkeys-wandering-wireless-show-11/

Thursday, 1 June 2017

MAY PLAYLIST

Balls, ran outta time in May but this is a quick round up of some of the things spun in Monkey Mansions the last month. Healthy amount of new releases which is great. Check 'em.

1.  The King-Beats – ‘Same Way Every Day’ (1966)
Gloriously sunny pop from The King-Beats and featured on a terrific comp, German Measles: Sun Came Out At Seven: ‘60s Mod, Pop and Freakbeat from Germany.

2.  Eden Kane – ‘Gotta Get Through To You’ (1967)
An Australian only 45 from Kane now included on a 3-CD set from Cherry Red, Night Comes Down: 60’s British Mod, R&B, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets. One of many highlights.

3.  Orange Deluxe – ‘Anti-Gravity Blues’ (1995)
I never really forgave Orange Deluxe (or the Nubiles) for not being Five Thirty but listening back to Necking it has more in common wit Paul Bassett’s previous band than I’d been willing to concede.

4.  The Bongolian – ‘Londinium Calling’ (2016)
Spend last Saturday afternoon down in Margate watching the Bongolian beat out funky jazzy instrumentals. Never been particularly sold on their records but unreservedly recommended as a live act.

5.  Paul Weller – ‘The Cranes Are Back’ (2017)
Ditched much of the squiggles and audio doodling (not that I’m adverse to those) A Kind Revolution is ten songs strong on melody. Forty years down the line and Paul Weller makes one of his best albums.

6.  Don Bryant – ‘I Got To Know’ (2017)
Don's still taking it to church.

7.  Daniel Romano - 'Roya' (2017)
The stand out tender moment from genre dodging Romano’s new Modern Pressure. Track of the month.

8.  The Primitives – ‘I’ll Trust The Wind’ (2017)
The Prims were on their usual sugar and spice form at the 229 Club on Friday. Super to hear a couple of tracks from their new EP, New Thrills, including this blockbuster.

9.  The Limboos – ‘Been A Whole Lot of Time’ (2017)
Exotic rhythm and blues from Spain and the Limboos’ second album, Limbootica. Simultaneously cool and hot. I'm desperate to see this lot live.

10.  BMX Bandits – ‘Saveoursmiles’ (2017)
Even though heartbreak and sadness permeate BMX Bandits’ world it always strikes me as a gentler and kinder place to live than this other world. From the wonderful BMX Bandits Forever.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

DON BRYANT - 'HOW DO I GET THERE?' (2017)


Here, straight outta Memphis, Tennessee, is Don Bryant with your Sunday sermon, ‘How Do I Get There?’

Don has cut a phenomenal amount of records – dating back to the late 50s with Willie Mitchell, to his soul sides for Hi Records in the 60s, before taking a backseat as a staff writer for the label in the 70s where his benefactors included Otis Clay and wife-to-be Ann Peebles.

This month, aged 75, Don has a new album, Don’t Give Up On Love, out on Fat Possum Records and it should rejuvenate his career in much the same way as fellow soul survivor William Bell's This I Where I Live did last year. It's an album in that bracket and that's praise.

Many thanks to congregation member @IanPople1 for bringing this home.

Monday, 8 May 2017

THE TRUTH at the 100 CLUB, LONDON



With a face like a bowl of mixed fruit Dennis Greaves was few teenager’s idea of a pop star but in 1983 there he was, kicking balloons skyward on Top of the Pops and splashed across the pages of Smash Hits as The Truth infiltrated the charts with their first two singles, ‘Confusion (Hits Us Every Time)’ and ‘A Step In The Right Direction’.

In the summer of ‘83 The Truth played an under-16s matinee show at the Marquee on Wardour Street. It was the first gig I ever attended. Not only was it a great gig, with the band giving it everything they had even though they had a ‘grown up’ show to do after, but the way they mingled and signed autographs for us kids beforehand left a lasting impression.

Despite Greaves’ claim “You won’t find our audience wearing parkas or Jam shoes” that’s precisely what you would have found them wearing. With a following born from the cooling ashes of the mod revival or, as I like to think of it, the lit match of a new post-Jam modernist movement, The Truth found favour with a young fan base searching for a fresh band to pin to their lapels. Ill plead not guilty to the parka, guilty to the Jam shoes.

After that initial success, they unfortunately released the limp ‘No Stone Unturned’, deservedly a flop in ‘84. Dropped from their label, increasingly keen to distance themselves from anything mod, they lost their way and their audience. By the time debut album, Playground, was released in ’85 it was too little, too late. The production was flat, there was no spark, the songs sounded tired and the bright happy faces of their early days had given way to the dark, cold, miserable looking scowls that adorned an uninviting album sleeve. Things then got really shit but let’s not go there.

Instead, let’s go back to 1984 and the second gig I ever went to, The Truth at the 100 Club on the night they recorded their Five Live EP, with a new rhythm section and where, a mere 33 years later, the band returned at the weekend. It’s a risky business, this nostalgia. Some things are best left in the past, memories intact, untainted by retrospective analysis, but this was reaffirmed everything I felt as boy. I didn’t get everything right but The Truth were, then and now, superb.

Their live shows always far outshone their records and they’d lost none of it. Swirling, snappy, bobbing and weaving Brit-Soul played from the heart. I’d love a new band like this to exist now. The Truth didn’t studiously examine Motown records and attempt to recreate them in sterile, laboratory-like conditions; they had a crack at them – both through covers and originals – in their own style, infusing them with vibrancy and earthy, geezerish charm; their frequent call and response exchanges less Detroit church and more London terrace.

The set was strikingly similar to those old shows – ‘From The Heart’, ‘Exception of Love’, ‘Second Time Lucky’, ‘Nothing’s Too Good For My Baby’, ‘Is There A Solution’, with a few later additions such as ‘Playground’ and ‘Spread A Little Sunshine’ thrown in. Plus the hits of course. No new songs. Dennis Greaves and Mick Lister led from the front, trading harmonies, keeping energy levels high, keen on audience participation. ‘I’m In Tune’, ‘Ain’t Nothing But A Houseparty’, ‘I Just Can’t Seem To Stop’, and ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’ were always big frenzied favourites but the more measured ‘You Play With My Emotions’ was stunning. Perhaps because it wasn’t one to jump around to I’d never fully appreciated how good that song is, real depth, and Dennis’s vocals packing a mighty punch.

The audience were less exuberant than 30-something years ago but despite not leaping around in a seething mass of sweaty teenage boys I enjoyed this just as much as I did as a pizza-faced 15-year-old in Jam shoes.