Wednesday, 14 June 2017


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


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


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 - - 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:

Thursday, 1 June 2017


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


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


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.  

Sunday, 7 May 2017


I once asked Paul Court what he did when not occupied with Primitives business. Paul’s a quiet man of few words anyway but he appeared particularly stumped by this question and I didn’t get a straight answer, more a feeling that he didn’t actually do anything if he could help it.

"I like to sit around” he sang tellingly on the Primitives ‘Working Isn’t Working’ from their 2014 Spin-O-Rama album, “I just want to sit doing nothing”.

It’s a theme the former Lazy recording artists continue on ‘I’ll Trust The Wind’ the storming lead track from their brand new 10-inch EP, New Thrills. ‘I think that I’ll just trust the wind, it might seem aimless but I’ll get there in the end”, sings Tracy Tracy before bursting into a typical buoyant Prims do-do-do-doo hook. Led by one of Paul’s sharpest razor guitar riffs and a thumping rhythm section ‘I’ll Trust The Wind’ will blow a gapping hole through many people’s Top 5 Primitives songs. It’s two and a half minutes of infectious fizzy, fuzzy fun. An instant classic.

'Squeak ‘n’ Squawk’ follows in the same manner and is sure to be a highlight in their live sets; Paul gets his usual quarter of lead vocal duties on the gently rocking ‘Oh Honey Sweet’; and ‘Same Stuff’ is Tracy back with a bang and a sugary twang.

Whatever Paul Court and the Primitives method of working, or not, it is working for me. This EP is as good as anything they’ve done. The only slight disappointment is this is an EP and not the first four songs on an album but who knows how long that would take so let’s not quibble about being gifted these ten minutes of new thrills.

New Thrills is out now on Elefant Records. The Primitives play the 229 Club, London on Friday 26 May 2017.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


1.  Los Aragon – ‘Zoologico Negro’ (1963)
No dancefloor should be without a touch of Mexican exotica with animal and monkey noises.

2.  Human Expression – ‘I Don’t Need Nobody’ (1967)
A messy production but haunting vocals from Jim Quarles and guitar playing that tears through to the soul with a million cuts prove here that garage punk doesn’t have to yell about putting-me-down. Their Manicsesque titled ‘Sweet Child of Nothingness’ covers similar moody territory on the flipside of an amazing double-sider.

3.  Paul Gayten – ‘For You My Love’ (1956)
Paul Gayten’s song was first cut on Larry Darnell in 1949 and as good as that is it’s his own pots and pans piano clattering New Orleans’ R&B that most excites. Unissued until Jukebox Jam stuck it out as a bogus Argo repro in recent years.

4.  Sonny Rollins – ‘Who Cares?’ (1958)
Who indeed? From the LP Brass/Trio, this Gershwin standard is the opening cut and the first recorded example of Rollins blowing with a large orchestral backing. The trio side of the LP is good but the brass side is great.

5.  Cleveland Robinson Jr – ‘A Man Goes Out’ (1965)
Robinson made a few singles for his local Cleveland label, Nosnibor Records, the best known being the superb and super-rare yet wonky ‘Love Is A Trap’ (feels like being on an unsteady ship whenever dancing to it). I’m also very partial to the smooth soul of ‘Mr Wishing Well’, which can be picked up for peanuts, and this one, the jazzy ‘A Man Goes Out’, the first release on the label.

6.  The Hygrades – ‘Rough Rider’ (1971)
Nigerian Afro-funk led by guitarist and producer Goddy Oku. Just check those mean licks and that taut sound on this irresistible instrumental groover.

7.  Fela Kuti & Africa 70 – ‘Expensive Shit’ (1975)
When cops planted a stick of marijuana on the self-styled Black President he swallowed it and the ‘evidence’ was only retrieved after Kuti had passed it through his bowels and the sample sent to the lab. On examination, it came back clean. Clever stuff.

8.  Five Thirty – ‘Barbie Ferrari’ (1992)
I'm confident Five Thirty’s Bed is the album I’ve played more than any other. For over 25 years it’s been a constant. Whenever stuck for something to listen to, on it goes and like a trusty friend it never lets me down. Modish power pop, throbbing sleazy blues, technicolour wah-wah, heavyweight looping drums, even one part that sounds like the Hovis advert; it’s got the lot. Album number two never got finished and the strength of this demo, which saw light of day on the 2013 reissue of Bed, we’ve all been robbed.

9.  Stone Foundation featuring Bettye LaVette – ‘Season of Change’ (2017)
It’s a fair bet Stone Foundation have in Street Rituals made the album many Weller watchers less than enamoured with his recent squiggly experimentalism will have wished him to make under his own name. The influence and contribution of Paul is dominant throughout (appearing on all tracks), echoing the laid-back soul groove of his debut solo album and peak Council meetings. ‘Season of Change’ hands the lead vocal to Bettye LaVette whose earthy rasp adds a welcome smudge to the polish.

10.  Kamasi Washington – ‘Truth’ (2017)
At well over 13 minutes the new Washington single isn’t going to be available on 7 inch any time soon. Despite the title this is no angry sermon but a breezy then soaring, heavenly journey from the acclaimed saxophonist.

Sunday, 23 April 2017


It’s difficult to keep up with Daniel Romano. Every few months he’s shifted style and image.

Romano’s latest album (following two last year alone), Modern Pressure, is released on 19 May and promises to be a long way from his country phase. New wave new single ‘When I Learned Your Name’ channels late 70s Costello/Lowe mixed with a Shot of Love Dylan. Like almost everything Romano touches, it’s fantastic.

Previous single ‘Roya’ is slower burner but even better and the live track, the unreleased ‘You’d Think, I’d Think, I Had Enough But Something Keeps Me Coming Back For More’, was probably something Daniel cooked up for breakfast that morning.

These three only touch the surface from a prolific period; check out also the pedal steel treatment given to his punk phase 'I Wanna Put My Tears Back In' and the super stylish video for 'I Had To Hide Your Poem (In A Song)' filmed on the Queen Mary II.  

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


Photographs by Neil Kenlock
One of the rewarding things about having a mooch around Tate Britain – apart from having a gander at the various pieces by Bacon, Blake, Tilson, Riley and the rest - is it throws up unexpected temporary mini-exhibitions tucked away within the more permanent works.

A case in point is the current BP Spotlight sponsored Stan Firm inna Inglan: Black Diaspora in London, 1960-1970s, its title taken from the poem ‘'It Dread inna Inglan' by Linton Kwesi Johnson, which selects work by eight photographers who documented black communities in London during those years.

Neil Kenlock, along with Linton Kwesi Johnson and Darcus Howe, who died this month, was a member of the British Black Panthers, loosely modelled on their more illustrious American counterparts. These London Panthers existed between 1968 and 1972 and Kenlock adopted the role of official photographer, documenting their meetings, marches and members as well as the hostility faced by new immigrants in the UK as exemplified in his ‘Keep Britain White’ Graffiti, Balham image. 

When Saffiyah Khan calmly smiled in the ugly faces of the EDL last Saturday while wearing a Specials t-shirt, an image since 'gone viral', it recalled the Rock Against Racism campaign of the late 70s. Syd Shelton documented that fight against the National Front via demonstrations, carnivals and gigs and, by chance, a fertile period in youth movements with rude boys, skinheads, punks and mods embroiled in Britain’s political turmoil.

Colin Jones is best known around these parts for his 60s photos of The Who but his series The Black House, commissioned by The Sunday Times, features the conditions of Islington Council’s project Harambee, a halfway house for vulnerable young people. Despite daubing ‘Black Power’ on the outside of the property these people, according to Jones, “weren’t interested in politics – it was the black middle class who tried to get them involved in black power – they were too busy trying to survive from day to day.” Even with that struggle it’s impossible to miss how visually striking they were, as Jones told Time Out in 2007, “Style came naturally to them. They would look good in anything. The women loved clothes and all borrowed each other’s dresses, although they were too proud to accept hand-me-downs – especially from white people. They liked being photographed as it gave them a feeling of importance and broke up the monotony of the day.”

Dennis Morris captures Hackney and Dalston when they were still desolate areas, a far cry from their recent gentrification. Less overtly political, James Barnor’s portraits for Ghana’s Drum magazine show African culture embracing Swinging London (psychedelic fabrics, red pillar boxes, pigeons in Leicester Square); Raphael Albert depicts beauty contests and the glamour of everyday folk; Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi photographs include integrated couples enjoying the hospitality of a Whitechapel nightclub; and Al Vandenberg scoured the streets looking for interesting people to photograph.

Stan Firm Inna Inglan: Black Diaspora In London, 1960-1970s is at Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RQ until 19 November 2017, admission free.
Top left & right by Syd Shelton
Bottom left & right by Raphael Albert
Photo by Colin Jones

Monday, 3 April 2017


The names Timothy Scully and Nicholas Sand might not be at the tip of your tongue but if you’d taken acid in the late 60s then their brand, Orange Sunshine, possibly would’ve been.

Cosmo Feilding-Mellen’s documentary (and with a name like that I’m guessing Cosmo’s parents were no strangers to recreational drugs) tells how the pair attempted to change the world via lysergic acid diethylamide. Scully and Sand possessed a heady mix of idealism and ambition believing if they, as patriotic American citizens, “could turn on everyone in the world then maybe we could have a new world of peace and love”.

Having served as apprentices under Timothy Leary and Owsley Stanley, when LSD became illegal in California in ’66, Scully and Sand set up their own factory in Denver and proceeded to manufacture 3-4 million doses of their market leader, Orange Sunshine. As they witnessed a psychedelic nation expanding around them they estimated – based on little more than intuition - three-quarters of a billion people would be willing to take a trip and it might take a couple of years to reach them.

Their distribution network was run by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, the so-called hippie mafia, who according their leader, Mike Randall, ruled by love rather than fear. These previous stickup men allegedly turned in their guns to instead smuggle mind altering substances throughout America, Europe, India, Afghanistan and beyond. Randall, who even now you'd be wary of accepting a glass of water from, looking back says, “You have to break some eggs to make an omelette; you’re gonna have to break some laws to make a revolution”.

The real stars though are Tim Scully and Nick Sand – both thankfully still alive to tell their story – who make an odd partnership. Scully is a shy, bookish, nerdy, scientific genius with a touch of Asperger’s, who lived for 30 years on a diet of white spaghetti and white cheese until medically unsafe to continue while Sand is all New York hustle, bold and bullish, a stirrer of the pot, a ‘madman psychedelic commando’ who wanted to become The King of LSD and is happy to let it all hang out and practice yoga, naked, in front of the camera.

They weren’t driven by financial profit but by the sheer idealism. Scully wanted to give all their product away for free; Sand was less keen although his main motivation wasn’t money either, saying he heard a voice while tripping, “Your job on this planet is to make psychedelics and turn on the world”.

Centred around new interviews with Scully, Sand, plus their former girlfriends, associates and even the drug cops looking to bust their sorry asses for the degradation of mankind, The Sunshine Makers is a well-made and engaging film with a cracking soundtrack (Charles Sheffield, Slim Harpo, Cymande, Joubert Singers etc). With the protagonists now able to view their escapades with a mixture of mild embarrassment (Scully) and pride (Sand) this is a look at a different innocent age.

Running a huge scale drug production factory is morally open for debate but these outlaw chemists, with charming 60s naivety, genuinely believed they could change the consciousness of the world in a positive way, create a revolution of the mind, that people would become gentler and the planet would not be destroyed through recklessness and war. You’ve got to admire that.

The Sunshine Makers is available on Netflix.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


1.  Chuck Jackson – ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ (1962)
So many versions – far too many for me to trawl through – but Chuck’s smoky, late night cabaret effort must be among the best.

2.  Link Wray and the Ray Men – ‘Girl From The North Country’ (1965)
Chain rattling, looping, woozy harp version of the Dylan song. Bob, for his part, adopted the melody after hearing Martin Carthy’s arrangement of (pre-Paul Simon) ‘Scarborough Fair’ and releases 30 new covers this Friday on his Triplicate triple album.

3.  The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One – ‘The Monkey Time’ (1965)
The Curtis Mayfield's Major Lance song given a swinging party feel and driven along by the vibes of Joe De Aguero and piano of Bill Henderson. Think Ramsey Lewis, Young-Holt Unlimited or even, a bit, MJQ.

4.  Angelica Maria – ‘Cansada De Esperar’ (1965)
Mexican ‘Tired of Waiting’. Sounds like it was recorded in a kitchen. If, like me, you’ve never heard of Angelica Maria she’s apparently such a humongous star of stage, screen and music that when she married Venezuelan singer/comedian Raúl Vale in 1975 it was the first wedding to be televised in Mexico. They divorced in 1988. None of this is relevant. Enjoy the song.

5.  The Soul Mates – ‘Too Late To Say You’re Sorry’ (1965)
Not a cover but as Darlene Love cut a version around the same time it sounds like one. When released on Chicago’s Marina Records the label proudly boasted ‘Recorded in Great Britain’ and ‘With Orchestra Conducted by Norman Smith’, he later of The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn fame. It’s all very British, very Dusty Springfield and very good.

6.  Joe Williams – ‘How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)’ (1966)
As his early albums show Marvin Gaye always fancied himself as a jazz crooner so I can imagine he’d have approved of the big band treatment afforded here on Presenting Joe Williams and Thad Jones with the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra. ‘Woman’s Got Soul’, ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’ and ‘Get Out My Life Woman’ and more also tackled the same way.

7.  Downliners Sect – ‘Glendora’ (1966)
The Sect brutalise poor old Perry Como behind the lingerie department. That said, I do love Como’s original and it’s even more bizarre hearing him sing about falling in love with a shop mannequin. Check out also the Billy Young version which came between these two.

8.  Eddie Jefferson – ‘Filthy McNasty’ (1968)
It’s been hammered in clubs so much over the years I’d happily never listen to ‘Psychedelic Sally’ again. The rest of Jefferson’s Body and Soul is more than worth investigating as he adds his elasticated vocalese to numbers better known as instrumentals, including ‘So What’ and this Horace Silver classic given a humorous makeover.

9.  Lloyd Price – ‘Feeling Good’ (1969)
Lloyd goes for a funky calypso tinged version of the Nina Simone standard.

10.  Terry Callier – ‘And I Love Her’ (2004)
So intimate it feels like intruding just listening. Breath-taking.

Monday, 20 March 2017


Eddie Argos sings in the mildly popular punk-beat combo Art Brut. Ed does other stuff too, like writing and painting, which is fortunate as the last Brut album, Brilliant! Tragic!, came out in 2011.

Late last year, Eddie started to accept commissions to paint peoples’ favourite album sleeves. Anything they wanted – even the Stone Roses or REM - he’d do and listen to the album whilst working on it. Once completed, Ed would write his thoughts on the record.

I requested The Who’s 1965 debut My Generation. Not only is it one of my favourite albums but also one of my favourite sleeves. That was in November. Today it arrived and I’m chuffed to bits.

Not only am I delighted with the art, which means there's now an Argos hanging in four rooms of Monkey Mansions, but with Eddie’s response to the album as it – and The Who in general – was something he’d never previously taken an interest in. Here’s what he had to say.

“Wow! What a great album. I’ve never really thought about the lyrics to My Generation before they are punk as fuck, ditto for The Kids Are Alright. I’d just sort of filed The Who away as ‘classic rock’ and not investigated it properly. This is much harder and sexier than I imagined. I’d always seen Daltrey as a pretty boy with no charisma, the only band where the lead singer is the least interesting member, but here he sounds awesome and like someone I’d like to get drunk and hang about with. I never realised that The Who were an awesome punk rock Nuggets style garage band. I feel like an idiot. THIS IS GREAT.

I played it over and over even after I’d finished the painting, I’ve tried really hard but still can’t imagine Roger Daltrey being that cool. So I imagine a totally different person being the front man. Makes it easier.

I can totally see this becoming one of my favourite albums too. Thanks for introducing me to it.

Eddie Argos x”

Find out more at The Eddie Argos Resource. or @EddieArgos on Twitter. And if you've not listened to Art Brut start with their debut Bang Bang Rock & Roll and work through.

Saturday, 4 March 2017


This week was shaping up nicely for Cumbrian psychedelic pioneers The Lucid Dream. On Wednesday, they played to a full and appreciative London audience at the Victoria in Dalston before heading to Paris the following night. After the Paris gig (pre-match photo above), the next morning the band posted an emotional message on their social media accounts.

"Our van was broken into in Paris through the night. Every last piece of equipment has been stolen. We are sorry for those travelling from Britain for the shows but we have nothing. We are in bits and may be the last you see of us. We've lost equipment we've had since 14 years old. For us it is irreplaceable. We are fucking devastated. Anybody that knows us knows we are a hard-working, grounded band, who self-finance everything.”

Since 2012 I've regularly championed the band here, interviewing them in October, and they’ve always struck me as a straight-ahead bunch so, like many others, was absolutely gutted for them. Some bright spark quickly set up a Crowdfunder page to help them get back on the feet and keep making music. “As everyone knows music is what we live for and it breaks our hearts to think of letting the band suffer because of the act of some ignorant thieves.”

If you wish to donate anything at all I’m sure the band will be extremely grateful. Compulsion Songs was one the albums of 2016 and the Lucid Dream’s gigs go from strength to strength. They can’t stop now. Good luck.

The Lucid Dream: Crowdfunder account

Sunday, 26 February 2017


1.  The Sinceres – ‘Please Don’t Cheat On Me’ (1961)
Prolonged exposure to doowop can make me feel like I’m trapped in an episode of Happy Days with only Ralph and Potsie as company but it’s worth slinging a dime in Arnold’s jukebox occasionally. 

2.  The Emperor’s – ‘I Want My Woman’ (1965)
The Emperor’s what? Sore throat? This growling garage prototype stalks menacingly for two and half minutes while said woman presumably hides in a cave.

3.  The Grass Roots – ‘Heaven Knows’ (1969)
Difficult to not sing parts of the Box Tops’ ‘Soul Deep’ through this equally infectious ray of sunshine.

4.  Manfred Mann Chapter Three – ‘One Way Glass’ (1969)
Anyone encountering Manfred Mann Chapter Three on a night out expecting to hear ‘Pretty Flamingo’ would’ve been in a rude awakening. Mann and Mike Hugg led this line-up down a progressive jazz route and there are plenty of freaky, squalling moments on their eponymous debut LP. The trippy, horn laden ‘One Way Glass’ isn’t at the extreme end and makes for an ideal psych club tune. Both their albums worth investigating.

5.  Grant Green – ‘Jan Jan’ (1971)
Blue Note had so many Grant Green recordings they ended up with a backlog of stuff that either never got released or had to wait many years, as in the case of Live At Club Mozambique. Recorded in January 1971, but only issued in 2006, Houston Person (tenor), Clarence Thomas (tenor/soprano), Ronnie Foster (organ) and Idris Muhammad (drums) join guitarist Green (pictured above) for a thrilling club set.

6. Richard Caiton – ‘I Like To Get Near You’ (1969)
Sweeping soul out of New Orleans from local lad Caiton.

7.  Frederick Hymes III – ‘Time Ain’t Gonna Do Me No Favor’ (1970)
Only available from Hymes at his gigs this super-collectable 45 is a gem. ‘Tighten Up’ style guitars, funky drumming, punchy horns and a fantastic vocal.

8.  El Michels Affair featuring The Shacks – ‘Strange Boy’ (2016)
Wow! Love this collaboration between two acts on New York’s Big Crown Records: the instrumental funk band El Michels Affair and the breathy boy-girl duo The Shacks. Absolutely gorgeous and more than a touch of Camera Obscura about it.

9.  Paul Orwell – ‘Loaded Street Syrup’ (2017)
I presume the four tracks on Paul Orwell Presents Hard Shakes were leftovers from Paul’s Organized Blues phase. Like the tracks on that LP these are short, in-your-face, fuzz and Farfisa instrumental nibbles. All good fun but merely a tasty snack before the more substantial offerings of Paul’s The Shoots project – coming soon - and his second ‘proper’ solo album. Trust me, I’ve had sneaky preview, these are gonna be the real deal.

10.  Pasapogas Hammond Quartet – ‘Modern Hall’ (2017)
Pasapogas Hammond Quartet are Ángel Soriano - Hammond Organ, Jero Colomina - guitar, Santiago Vilella - drums, Riard Chumillas - tenor sax and flute, J.M. Maldo – percussion, and what these Spaniards lack in arithmetic they make up for in slick soul-jazz. With three very stylish EPs to their name (check the artwork), Modern Hall the lead track from their latest. Fans of JTQ and even early Style Council form a queue.

Thursday, 23 February 2017


“It’s taken a long time, a real long time, but we made it.” When Betty Harris retired from performing in 1970 she could have had no inkling nearly 50 years later she’d be headlining a sell-out London show.

Buoyed by the upturn in interest since last year’s Soul Jazz Records’ The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul, which gathered 17 tracks issued between 1965 and 1969 for Sansu under the direction of the legendary Allen Toussaint, Betty was afforded one of those hero receptions UK soul audiences are renown for.

As that collection showed, Betty was equally adept at R&B dancers, soul ballads and the lolloping New Orleans rhythms intrinsic to music from Louisiana’s Crescent City. Although despite Soul Jazz’s crown, Betty was not from nor ever lived in New Orleans, she was flown in from Florida to record. But that's splitting a beignet.

Shaky opening numbers ‘Mean Man’ and ’12 Red Roses’ indicated this might be a gig where fans were simply glad to be in the rare presence of someone whose records they’ve enjoyed over the years. As Betty told us, these were songs she recorded when she was 19-20 (born in 1939 she was older but you didn't hear that from me) and hasn’t sung some since, but come the third song, a rollicking ‘I Don’t Wanna Hear It’, Betty loosened up, that soulful rasp was to the fore, and we were cooking from there on in.

Backed by the Disposable Breaks, doing their best attempt at hitting the funk of the Meters, ‘Trouble With My Lover’, ‘Bad Luck’ and ‘Close To Me’ caught a groove and Betty’s slower take on Solomon Burke’s ‘Cry To Me’ – the closest she came to a real hit in 1963 – carried real emotion and experience.

Whilst fans were there to give something back, Betty, resplendent in glamourous gown and wearing her best hair, also had her own giving to do. Of her three backing singers, two were young teenage girls who’d not had the best start in life but had been offered a chance to come to the UK and sing. Betty acknowledged they found her intimidating but countered nobody was there to help guide her early in her career. Apologies for not catching the girls’ names but they should be proud of the job they did especially when handed the entire lead for ‘Can’t Last Much Longer’. The baton was passed.

Few people recorded a better version of ‘Ride Your Pony’ and after that irresistible mover Betty was brought back for a well-earned encore with the heavy funk bomb ‘There’s A Break In The Road’.

A cackling, engaging presence throughout, it was a joy to spend an hour in Betty’s company and this gig was everything, if not more, anyone could’ve hoped for. Betty was correct, it did take a long time but she made it.

Saturday, 18 February 2017


Contenders for coolest band on the planet, Spain’s The Limboos, have a new album, Limbootica! out on 31 March. Here’s the super stylish video for ‘I Don’t Buy It’. Album to be released on Penniman Records. They might not buy it but I will.

And for good measure here’s ‘Big Chef’ from their 2014 album Space Mambo.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017


Wilson Pickett was one the biggest soul stars of the 60s yet is often overlooked and taken for granted. I’ve a bunch of his singles, from early sides on Double L (‘Baby Call On Me’) and Verve (‘Let Me Be Your Boy’) to the humongous hits for Atlantic (you know the ones) but rarely pay him much mind. There’s probably an element of unconscious soul snobbery at work here; Wilson wasn’t an obscure and underappreciated talent and he didn’t die with early promise unfulfilled; instead, he worked his way up, hit it big then floundered through the decades with decreasing artistic reward. Pickett also inadvertently provided fodder for karaoke nights and wedding bands everywhere and while ‘Land of 1000 Dances’ still packs an almighty punch I never want to hear ‘Mustang Sally’ again.

Tony Fletcher’s new biography, In The Midnight Hour, succeeds in turning the spotlight back to Wilson Pickett y’all. Although the first Pickett biography his story reads a familiar one as with unerring predictability his life plays out as the archetypal 60s soul star. If reads like a work of unoriginal fiction and a cliché, it was Pickett, more than most, who established it as he walked toe-to-toe with the progression of black American music during a sizable chunk of the second half of the 20th century.

From growing up poor in Prattville, Alabama, to Pickett’s father moving to work in the motor trade in Detroit, to young Wilson singing gospel, joining the more R&B-focussed Falcons in Detroit, recording in New York, sessions at Stax in Memphis and Muscle Shoals back in Alabama, huge success with the trappings that bought, to helping switch attention to the soul of Philadelphia, to performing in Africa, Pickett carried the flame. Then came the downward spiral. Pickett struggled to find a place in the music business when soul shifted from hitting hard in the guts and deep in the heart to the disco era, skittering across emotions and dancefloors.

As Pickett’s star waned his descent into drink, drugs and increased violence escalated alarmingly and stays in prison beckoned. “It’s very difficult to get somebody who’s been to the top of mountain to accept that they’ve living on the hillside,” offers Jon Tiven who attempted to help get Pickett back on track in the 90s. 

As always with Tony Fletcher, he put the miles in to interview as many associates as possible to compile a thorough account of his subject. There are plenty of anecdotes telling of Pickett’s greatness: his dynamic stage presence, the way he commanded the studio, his artistry, charisma and humour. And, of course, that voice and that scream. Jerry Wexler said James Brown screamed but Wilson Pickett screamed in tune.

On the other side of the coin was The Wicked Pickett, a nickname earned from pinching the mini-skirted behinds of secretaries in the Atlantic Records offices. If we recoil at such practices nowadays it was small fry compared to what was to come. Fletcher asserts “for most southern blacks of the era, harsh physical discipline was accepted as a rite of passage” and harsh physical discipline was something Pickett took from his childhood and delivered in adult life. It makes grim reading and when added to beating women and his children, pulling a gun on his brother, serving up a saucer of cocaine to his 14-year-old son and a bunch of other assholery it’s hard not to feel when his bass player rips a towel rail off a wall to smash Pickett in the head, breaking the bone behind his left eye, that he didn’t have it coming. If this was a movie a little cheer may've gone up in the cinema.

If such passages make uncomfortable reading, Fletcher’s analysis and descriptions of Pickett’s music are enthralling and redress the balance. Such is Fletcher’s enthusiasm he does what any good music biographer should, and sends the reader back to the records. For my part I bought the first five Wilson Pickett albums (check out the Original Album Series, five CDs for little more than a tenner) and have listened with fresh, excited ears. I like him more now and although still not the biggest fan of that sock-it-to-me chuggy-chugging brand of soul, gems aplenty have surfaced. ‘Jealous Love’ and ‘I’ve Come A Long Way’ alone from 1967’s excellent I’m In Love are new favourites and have, at last, given me a fuller and fairer assessment of the Wicked (sometimes very wicked) Pickett. Oh yeah, he also turned 'Hey Jude' into a decent record so he definitely wasn't all bad.

In The Midnight Hour: The Life and Soul of Wilson Pickett by Tony Fletcher is out now, published by Oxford University Press.

Saturday, 11 February 2017


Apologies for lack of posts recently, should have a couple to go this week. In the meantime, as a thank you for popping by, here's Diana Rigg walking in the park (looks like Embankment Gardens to me). See ya soon.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


Hold tight comrades, Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show returns for an hour this Sunday on Fusion.

If you’ve not listened before it’s simply me playing records and intermittently interrupting them to provide information and half-truths. If you’ve never listening before, give it a go – Fusion only broadcasts for one hour a week and whoever is in the chair makes it an unmissable part of the weekend – and if you have, don’t let that put you off, I’m hopefully slowly getting the hang of this broadcasting lark. The music will cover a few bases but if you’re a reader of Monkey Picks you’ll dig it.

You can join up to to chat and comment throughout the show, or just sit back and tune in. Either way, hope to catch you there, it'll be fun. Honest. The station crackles into life at 8.30pm prompt.

Now available to catch-up on the Fusion Showreel: Monkey's Wandering Wireless Show.

Sunday, 29 January 2017


1.  The Byrds – ‘My Back Pages (alternative version)’ (1967)
Oh wow, how have I only now heard this version with spooky, spacey organ? Was already a brilliant track, now even better.

2.  Helene Smith – ‘You Got To Be A Man’ (1969)
Liberally stealing from JB’s ‘Out of Sight’, ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ and ‘It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World’, Helene’s 45 is almost a cheeky medley. Produced by Little Beaver, which isn’t especially relevant but I just wanted to write it.

3.  Dee Clark – ’24 Hours of Loneliness’ (1970)
A far superior and more atmospheric version of the Dennis Yost & The Classics' hit and a 45 which almost makes me forgive Clark for subjecting me to countless hearings of the abomination that is ‘That’s My Girl’. One slight quibble is it fades out too quickly; not something I usually complain about.

4.  Geraldo Pino – ‘Heavy, Heavy, Heavy’ (1970)
Sierra Leone’s afro-funk legend Geraldo Pino’s woman is heavy, heavy, heavy. Think that’s a compliment.

5.  O. V. Wright – ‘Ace of Spades’ (1970)
Super southern soul man Wright didn’t – for some unfathomable reason – trouble the charts much despite a long career (although imprisonment for drug offences didn’t help). ‘Ace of Spades’, a mean funky stew, hit number 54 on the US Pop Chart and was his most successful 45.

6.  Colin Blunstone – ‘Misty Roses’ (1971)
After a shaky start to his 100 Club gig last week Colin Blunstone put on an enjoyable show for the best part of two hours with only three Zombies songs and the rest taken from his solo records. When the band dropped back to allow Colin’s voice air to breathe, such as on Tim Hardin’s ‘Misty Roses’, the results were spellbinding; you could’ve heard a pin drop.

7.  Oscar Brown Jr – ‘A Dime Away From A Hot Dog’ (1972)
Laid-back deep funk from the ever-poetic Oscar on this opening cut from his Movin’ On LP. A killer band featuring David ‘Fathead’ Newman offer breaks a-plenty.

8.  Georgie Fame – ‘Thanking Heaven’ (1976)
Don’t let the year and that this was a B-side put you off, this is Georgie in swinging soul mood complete with Memphis-style horns.

9.  Otis Clay – ‘Wild Horses’ (1997)
The arrangement sticks close to the Stones and the Burritos but Clay’s vocal is all him.

10.  Conor Oberst – ‘A Little Uncanny’ (2017)
The first great track of 2017 goes to Conor Oberst for this Jane Fonda and Sylvia Path referencing woozy, bluesy, barroom rocker. The video is worth a look too.  

Thursday, 26 January 2017


This rather wonderful Georgie Fame single, performed here in Offenbach, Germany, reached a respectable number 15 in the UK singles chart in March 1967. Written by Georgie and John Shakespeare, I’m unable to ascertain with any certainty who penned the immortal line, “You look so good, I’m touching wood”. Whoever it was, take a bow.

Sunday, 22 January 2017


Curtis Mayfield sits at the top table of my musical heroes, next to Bob Dylan, basked in heavenly light. Curtis’s carefully considered, softly spoken voice, gentle soul and vast catalogue of cajoling civil rights’ anthems, tender love songs, stirring soundtracks and state of the nation addresses have granted him saintly status.

But what do we really know about Curtis, the man? Written by Todd Mayfield, Curtis’s second-eldest son, with Travis Atria, this new and long overdue biography paints the fullest picture to date: detailing both his genius and sides of his personality hitherto unknown to fans such as I.

The first thing to note is this biography hasn’t been authorized – nor endorsed - by the estate of Curtis Mayfield. Mayfield had ten children and following his death one can only imagine the bunfight over control of his estate. It’s a shame this book isn’t officially recognised – there’s no mention of it on the Curtis Mayfield website – as it’s a respectful, considered, articulate and loving portrait. It’s abundantly apparent how proud Todd is of his father, particularly how his music is indelibly entwined with the civil rights movement. It does however reveal elements of Curtis’s character that smudge his clean reputation. While nothing too extreme, when compared to many other soul superstars, among his considerable strengths he – like anyone – had weaknesses.

Growing up in Chicago, poor, a quiet and solitary child, insecure of his looks, beaten at school, shackled him with the classroom nickname Smut – a dark stain or blot – music offered a chance to be somebody and control his destiny. In music and business, Curtis was a quick learner. In 1958, and at the tender age of 15 he was in the Impressions, with a hit record under his belt, and on stage at the Apollo; by 18, he’d already formed his own publishing company, something relatively unheard of for young black performers bar Sam Cooke, and soon settled on a mantra of “own yourself”. Curtis Mayfield possessed an intense need for control in all areas. He was also shrewd, determined, talented and blessed with both a distinctive voice and unique guitar tuning. Some combination.

Mayfield’s prolific work rate was superhuman. Not only writing and performing for the Impressions throughout the entire 1960s (and to an unfaltering standard, there is no bad Impressions period during that decade, if you can find me any other group to do that, I'm all ears) he was racking up hits for Major Lance, Billy Butler, Gene Chandler and other artists for Okeh Records; for Jerry Butler at Vee-Jay; and providing material for acts such as the Five Stairsteps and the Fascinations on his own Windy C and Mayfield labels. Come the 1970s, he’d left the Impressions yet continued to work with them and in the first seven years of going solo wrote fifteen studio albums for himself and others. That he sustained such high quality-control for so long is nothing short of miraculous.

Beyond the music, Todd Mayfield reveals a man of surprising contradictions. Curtis made a phenomenal amount of records yet scarcely listened to others’ music; he helped soundtrack the civil rights movement and was ‘socially conscious’ yet never voted; wrote songs containing deep spirituality yet wasn’t particularly religious. He was relaxed and easy going with musicians yet a borderline recluse at home, more comfortable locked in his room than socialising with friends and family.

Then there are those weaknesses, and it’s likely the exposure of these have rattled the cage of Mayfield’s estate. Curtis, possibly understandably considering his formative years, never learnt to keep it in his trousers once opportunities presented themselves. There are some drug issues; I wouldn’t expect otherwise. Harder and sadder to read are the temperamental outbursts of violence towards his partners. Todd doesn’t shy away from these issues and credit to him for that although he frequently appears to excuse his father’s less savoury and divided side on him being a Gemini, which is handy to know if you’re born within that star sign.

The final chapter in Curtis’s story is, of course, one of utter tragedy. I had to brace myself simply to read it, so goodness knows what it took to write. At an open-air show in Brooklyn on 13 August 1990, Curtis Mayfield was introduced to the audience. He walked across the stage, guitar strapped across his body, and then “Hell paid him a visit”. It was the last time he walked or felt his guitar. Gusts of wind sent lighting rigs crashing into the back of Curtis’s neck. He was 48 and spent the rest of his life a quadriplegic. The longest living quadriplegic on record survived ten years. Curtis lasted, often in sheer agony, for nine, never succumbing to self-pity or asking – aloud at least – ‘Why me?’

Traveling Soul is essential reading, packed with revelations and puts Mayfield's music in context of the times. Todd’s assessments of his father’s albums are even-handed and his insight into his character illuminating. It contains a mix of thorough research and personal experience. He tells it like it was, sugar coating nothing. It’s real, it feels like the truth, from the heart. Perhaps Todd occasionally overplays Curtis’s influence and legacy but that’s understandable, it’s his dad after all. For me, after reading this, Curtis Mayfield might not have been a saint but his heavenly light shines brighter than ever.

Traveling Soul: The Life of Curtis Mayfield by Todd Mayfield with Travis Atria is published by Chicago Review Press, out now.
Todd and Curtis Mayfield

Monday, 16 January 2017


Foxygen's new album, Hang, is released this Friday. From the sound of recent single, Follow The Leader, they've come a long way from their Stones/Velvets/Dylan obsessed days of yore. Absolutely love it.

Thursday, 5 January 2017


Jason Disley is a poet and writer heavily influenced by the Beat Generation writers of the late 50s and early 60s; an influence he wears proudly on his immaculately tailored sleeve. Although stylistically and spiritually schooled in the old coffee houses and cold water apartments of San Francisco and New York, Disley is planted in the modernist here and now of the UK. His latest collection – Beat, Blues and the Rhythm of Fools – depicts jazz, blues and the escape music provides from the humdrum and horrors of everyday life, switching rhythms and thoughts, experiencing fulfilment and bewilderment. Hitting that middle ground between beatnik and modernist, Disley is a man after my own heart so thought it only right to crack open the Benzedrine inhalers to see if, like Jack Kerouac, he was “mad to talk”. He was.

Hello Jason, how are you? You’ve been described as a beat poet. Beat poets and beatniks have always been subject to ridicule yet you’ve embraced the term. What’s the appeal?
Hi Mark, yes I'm well thank you. The Beats have been a constant source of inspiration since my teens. I read Jack Kerouac's On The Road, and like many a young person trying to find themselves and their own identity, I was taken by this drive and passion for both experience, knowledge and some form of enlightenment. I likened the whole Beat thing with my own generation. Who were disillusioned with Thatcher's Britain and were searching for kicks and escapism. I was reading everything I could find about the Beats; not just the principles - Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs - but their associates, muses and writers that were like minded. Writers such as John Clellon Holmes, Amiri Baraka, Herbert Huncke, Gregory Corso and Gary Snyder. The appeal was that these people were identifiable, and real. Their stories, and poetry may have been full of surreal moments but were somehow grounded, gritty and pulled no punches. Yet at the same time could reveal romantic tapestries that could've been created by Byron and Shelley. Plus there was an almost effortless cool. The lives they lived although hard and tormented at times, experienced the coolness of being at great performances by jazz musicians. They didn't believe in segregation, both racially and sexually. They believed in both experience as well as personal growth. Things that I still admire today.

Tell me about Beat, Blues and the Rhythm of Fools: its themes, the writing process, timescale, publishing etc.
Beat, Blues and the Rhythm of Fools came about from a creative flurry after my Jazz Poetry book came out.  It was also at that period when the nation was leading up to Brexit, and the immediate aftermath. My initial plan, as with the Jazz book was to write a collection associated with Blues music, and also the subject matter of great blues songs. The idea for The Rhythm of Fools was also about the mistakes we both as individuals and collectively make. Again could easily be made into blues songs themselves. The book came together in a matter of weeks. A story in the news, or a song would inspire me and I'd just write.  I think the whole process took about three months, maybe a bit less.  As for publishing. My poetry I publish through a print on demand publisher. It allows me to get my work out there without huge overheads, and is a satisfactory way to self-publish if you haven't got a lot of money. I should think Jack Kerouac and co would've taken full advantage of such a publisher if they had been around in the digital age. I like the whole punk/mod ethos of getting off your backside and doing it yourself.

It’s quite a different collection to your previous Jazz Poetry – Improvisations In Language which felt like series of love letters to jazz yet there’s a far greater feeling of unrest and bewilderment now. In the introduction and afterword you worry about the degree of maudlin. They didn’t come across to me like that.
I suppose I mention the maudlin aspect because for me at a personal level - things I see around me are somewhat disturbing and sad. Society doesn't seem to have learned a lot from the past. Racism is still rife - innocents are being killed in seemingly pointless wars - there is a return to the whole east versus west with people becoming wary of their neighbours due to what is being spoon fed by the media. Real talent is being pushed underground again - which is in some ways isn't a bad thing as when they are discovered they seem more relevant - but at the same time there isn't enough of a voice from the current generation making itself heard. The period of style and music tribes which I grew up with is becoming less noticeable. I suppose another reason why I like the Beats is because they were considered anti- establishment. For me being anti- establishment you have more freedom of expression, and can be more artistic.

Many pieces in the latest book, to me, sounded quite loud, if that’s makes sense. I instantly imagined them being read/performed out loud in public. Is that how you envisaged them?
Not initially. I have always written in a more natural conversational way - so can see why other people have come to that way of thinking. I initially wrote them just to be read but have often read them out loud in the comfort of my own home. It wasn't until November 5th 2016 that the whole idea of performance and reading out loud to an audience came about. The Vinyl Avengers – Ian and Jade - a pair of local Mod DJ's put on an event called the Big Bang. French Boutik were headlining and it was an event that I was happy to attend as it was raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Ian and Jade invited me on to their online radio show to talk about my books a few days before the event and I was invited to bring my books to the event to sell on the night. It was then on the night that the very lovely and elegant Gabriela Giacoman - the female lead of French Boutik approached me and asked if I would join the band on stage and read one of my poems. Naturally I was both honoured and a little nervous at this opportunity - but took my chance and did as she asked. Taking to the stage a little while later, with Serge Hoffman on guitar, and Zelda Aquil lightly brushing the skins using their tune ‘Hitch A Ride’ I read my poem ‘Fabric’ to an audience of around 150 or so Mods. Gabriela stood to one side nodding her head and clicking her fingers in time on the stage. It was a wonderful personal moment that really made me feel that indeed my poetry is worthy of being performed. From this moment new opportunities are arising, and like some of the original Beats - performance is becoming part of what I do.
Jason Disley with French Boutik, November 2016 (Photo by Kev Walsh)
Some sections felt – particularly some of the rhymes –  they’d been written quickly using Kerouac’s spontaneous prose technique. Kerouac wrote about “first thought, best thought”, would you subscribe to that viewpoint?
Totally!  The spontaneous approach is what I am all about. I do very little in the way of editing when I write. I want it to be raw and real. I don't do much in the way of planning, apart from obviously reading other writers and listening to music - when I sit down to write I just let it come naturally. When I re-read I may swap a stanza round or change a word here and there but on the whole my writing is pretty much as I wrote it the first time. Hence sometimes rhythmically my writing may stutter in flow and go on a tangent like when a jazz musician improvises and takes a tune in a different direction.

Poetry is a hard sell. How should people approach it? What do you look for in poetry and how does is differ from standard prose?
For me poetry has to resonate personally on some level. Once you have written something it becomes its own creature. Like all art its subjective. What it means to you can be something else to someone else. It never ceases to amaze me when someone who has read what you have written and perceives something different from what you thought you intended. It opens your eyes to the way people think, but also as to how you also see things. As for how to approach it? Don't be afraid to have a go. Just do it.  Try not to be held to a particular style. Rhyming poetry can be fun but is often forced. I may use the odd rhyming couplet for rhythm's sake but will often leave that style as my train of thought takes me elsewhere. I will make an observation or statement that takes me away from the obvious. It’s about the thought process and emotions I feel at the time. I often return to themes that mean a lot to me - such as escape, and the feelings that both music and dance convey.

What about songs? It’s apparent how important music is to you. Do you see any of your work as drafts for songs? Have you been in bands, made music?
I've not been in any bands, my singing voice isn't the most tuneful. Although I've flirted with trumpet, guitar and keyboards - I am far from being an accomplished musician.  A friend of mine once "borrowed" a poem called ‘The Party is Over’ which is the last poem in my book The New Beat Generation and Other Spontaneous Verse. Unbeknownst to me I went to a local bar to see him and his band play. He suddenly introduced halfway through his set a song that was a new song written by a close friend, and then went into a tune that had my lyrics! I was flattered and found it a little bit surreal having my own words being sung to me. As for making music - I will leave that to musicians - lyrics on the other hand - I don't mind having a go - or being approached with regards to some of my poems being turned into songs.

Tell me about ‘The Misfortune of a Buddhist Mod’. That dichotomy between the Buddhist philosophy of craving contributing to suffering (or unhappiness) and the materialistic nature of Mod is something I’ve thought about often so was good to see you try to tackle the question.
I wouldn't say I am particularly religious, but Buddhism - I find very interesting. It’s that whole personal thing of finding yourself and becoming enlightened that fascinates me. Being both a Mod and Buddhist seems a contradiction because of the materialistic nature of being a Mod. Having been interested in the whole Mod thing since my early teens at the same time as reading the Beats - I have often had conflicted emotions. I can be selfish at times, and can feel guilty - then at other times, helpful and selfless. It’s just human nature -  ‘The Misfortune of a Buddhist Mod’ is again a look at my own life and being able to come to terms with the way I am. So although not really a Buddhist, I recognize that my own personal spirituality lends its way to that train of thought. I have my own ying and yang to contend with and will always try to find that harmony that brings about happiness.

Another poem I liked was ‘Cut Up Blues’ where you’d borrowed William Burroughs’s cut-up technique. Tell me about this one. How random was it, as to my mind it’s the most beautiful poem in the book?
Thank you. It’s funny how turning to someone else's words and rearranging them can be satisfying. I love this poem too - just because how random it was. I took lines from various books and in no particular order put them together. My one mistake is that I didn't list the various books I took the lines from. I know there is some Shakespeare, and Shelley juxtaposed with Dashiell Hammett in there. For some reason it works. It tells a story of unrequited love and loss - or at least that is how I see it.

What have you got planned for 2017?
Well 2017 is set to be a very exciting twelve months.  At the end of February I hope to self-publish a new collection called Runaway Soul that initially was going to be related to soul music. But as I have written it - it has become more about escapism and searching for pleasure. Society is again brought into it, and how we live our lives in these seemingly manufactured times. Then in March, on the 24th to be precise - I will be at Blow Up! at the St Moritz Club in London. I will be reading some poetry again with both bands that night: French Boutik and Dr Bird. Then it’s a quick return to Devon to once again grace the stage at Torbay's March of the Mods on the 25th which is being hosted by The Vinyl Avengers at Murphy's in Paignton. In between all this I am also in the process of getting together a spoken word album with someone who used to work for Acid Jazz records. At this point I won't name him until things are a little more concrete. But let's just say this project is very exciting as original music is being written to go with selected poems. Once the music has been written and the final track list is decided - I will be making my debut in a recording studio to record the vocals. So watch this space as that develops. Then the other thing I want to shout from the rooftops is the publication of a novel I have written called Seven Day Fool. It’s a pulp/noir set in Manchester during 1965. This will be published by Jason Brummell's recent venture, Suave Collective Publishing. His publishing company has recently published the fantastic Ready Steady Girls book compiled by Mark Baxter, Ian Snowball and himself. Plus his own novels, which I am a big fan of - All About My Girl and All Or Nothing.  Prior to RSG he also published a book by Pete McKenna - Maradona good, Pele better, George Best. Another very interesting read. So to be associated with these writers is a great honour indeed. Having my first novel published is a dream come true.  So 2017 is going to busy, eventful and will give rise to other amazing opportunities I am sure. For now I am keeping on like I have for the last couple of years. Doing what I love most which is writing.

Jason's books are available from huge online retailers or, better still, get in touch directly by looking him up on Facebook or Twitter (@disleyrascal)