Monday, 17 September 2018

IT'S TIME FOR... FIVE THIRTY. THE TARA MILTON INTERVIEW (2018)


“Five Thirty are a blissed out, centrifuged guitar pop trio. Every song, and they’ve got more than they know what to do with, rushes at you with hot, sweaty, power.” Sounds, 1990

In Brett Anderson’s recent memoir, Coal Black Mornings, he writes how a fledging Suede attended gigs at the University of London Union to watch “now forgotten, marginal bands like Five Thirty” and “drench ourselves in the giddy world of dry ice and the squeal of feedback, the press of bodies and the thrill of noise”.  One can debate the contradiction of recalling something now forgotten, bristle at Brett’s use of marginal, but his description of Five Thirty as they exploded onto the live music scene in 1990 is on the money.

Placing them at the ULU is significant too as it was there during a Friday afternoon showcase organised by their friend Jon Leslie-Smith, a member of the student union, the band lit the fuse for a record company bidding war. Gary Crowley, then doing A&R for Island, recently said he thought all his Christmases and birthdays had come at once due to the band “sounding like a cross between The Jam and The Stones Roses”.

Island eventually lost out to East-West and during the following 18 months Tara Milton (vocals/bass), Paul Bassett (vocals/guitar) and Phil Hopper (drums/vocals) released five singles (most consider them EPs as the three or four tracks on every 12 inch were essential), an album and played a continuous string of electrifying live shows. A formidable and versatile act, blessed with two gifted songwriters in Tara and Paul, they then shot themselves in the foot by carelessly losing drummer Phil, then hobbled along for the best part of a stuttering and mostly silent year before being quietly to put to sleep. It was a strange end; a band whose star burned so brightly, fading away, almost unnoticed.

Five years before ‘Abstain’, then as The 5:30!, they were a second-tier Mod band. Young and inexperienced they played on a few Mod bills, most notably Clacton Mod Rally and the Mod-Aid Alldayer in Walthamstow and released their ‘Catcher In The Rye’ EP. Few would have predicted of all the Mod bands knocking around in ’85 it would be they who’d subsequently achieve a degree of commercial success and create a collection of recordings that still hold up today. No band has made an album I’ve listened to as often as Bed.

Only Tara Milton remained from that early Mod incarnation but it’s important to note here Tara’s schoolfriend Chris Drew, who tirelessly championed his mates from the start, sending off introductory articles to the network of often unforgiving Modzines and ran the grandly named 5:30 Information Service. Chris remained a constant in the band for the rest of his life: designing record sleeves, logos, backdrops, painting guitars and being a creative confidant.

Fast forward to 2018 and Tara Milton – baker boy cap jauntily placed, vintage Adidas, old Jam badge on his lapel – is sat opposite me in a pub down the road from the Small Faces’ former home in Pimlico talking about releasing his debut solo album, Serpentine Waltz, on Steve Marriott’s birthday. It’s a wonderful record that is quite rightly receiving across-the-board rave reviews. Cinematic, literate, disconcerting; a series of vignettes from the darkest corners of city life. After discussing the record (see piece in Shindig magazine) we turned our attention to Five Thirty.

What follows is an in-depth look at the band; grab a cuppa and a biscuit, make time for it. Enormous thanks to Tara for his patience at my probing – I can’t lie, I was borderline obsessed with Five Thirty, traipsing around the country nearly 25 times, cutting out every mention I’d find the music press – and his thoughtfulness and candidness in his replies. It sometimes felt these were memories that had lay dormant until I came poking around but it’s a story that hasn’t been told before. 

Read the interview at Modculture.

Serpentine Waltz is out now and available from taramilton.co.uk



Friday, 31 August 2018

AUGUST PLAYLIST


1.  Titus Turner – ‘Devilish Women’ (1954)
Featuring the Danny Mendelsohn Orchestra. I particularly like the part when Titus, inexplicably, lets out a yelp, like a tiny dog.

2.  Johnny Little John and Guitar – ‘Johnny’s Jive’ (1966)
An instrumental with words, recorded as if a gang fight with chains, bottles, bricks, rusty blades, dustbins and a kitchen sink inside an old disused Woolworth’s store in Chicago.

3.  Aretha Franklin – ‘Tighten Up Your Tie, Button Up Your Jacket (Make For The Door)’ (1966)
Today, in Detroit, Aretha was buried in a 24-karat, gold-plated casket made of solid bronze. The interior finished with champagne velvet, and stitched with her name and her title, Queen of Soul, in gold metallic thread. Way to go sister. 

4.  Jr. Walker & the All-Stars – ‘Right On Brothers and Sisters’ (1971)
Right on Jr.

5.  Gary Chandler – ‘Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)’ (1972)
Trumpeter Chandler cut his teeth in the Motown touring bands of the mid 60s before popping up for his one and only LP, Outlook, released on Eastbound which now gets a vinyl reissue. If you’re after smokin’ soul-jazz with horns, Idris Muhammad popping the beat and Caesar Frazier pumping his organ, then look no further.

6.  The Four Tops - ‘(It Would Almost) Drive Me Out of My Mind’ (1975)
A 1975 B-side might not sound like a tantalising proposition but the Tops edge a tiny toe in the disco storm while keeping their dignity. Wonderful.

7.  Echo & the Bunnymen – ‘The Game’ (1987)
After 30 years of only copping a cursory ear in the direction of the Bunnymen, this month I’ve most been enjoying their first five albums. The production is bit 80s on that fifth one, Echo & The Bunnymen, but it’s the one I’ve listened to the most, possibly due to its similarity with later Manics albums.

8.  Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio – ‘Move On Up' (2018)
Yep, that ‘Move On Up’. Hammond, drums and guitar from Live At Kexp! Someone book these Seattle dudes a flight to the UK.

9.  White Denim – ‘It Might Get Dark’ (2018)
Anything that sounds like an outtake from Muswell Hillbillies is gonna be okay by me.

10.  Tokyo Heavy Industries Inc. – ‘Morning 1’ (2018)
Not for the faint hearted or those of a nervous disposition, this planet vibrating first recording from the factory of Tokyo Heavy Industries Inc. doesn’t so much sound like Morning 1 but the clang of earth’s last orders.  

Sunday, 12 August 2018

CURTIS MAYFIELD ON THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST (1972)


The footage of Curtis Mayfield performing 'We Got To Have Peace' and 'Keep On Keepin' On' on the Old Grey Whistle Test are familiar sights but no so the interview that also took place.

Posted on line this week by Whistle Test Archive is this five minute discussion, originally broadcast on 25 January 1972, with Richard Williams, who on Wednesday wrote on Twitter, "Amazed that this has suddenly turned up. Curtis Mayfield. I loved that man. So wise, so gracious, so forgiving of stupid questions. The next conversation we had, after he'd had his terrible accident, was the most memorable interview anyone ever gave."



Sunday, 29 July 2018

JULY PLAYLIST


1.  B.B. King – ‘Never Trust A Woman’ (1964)
“She'll beg you for clothes and diamonds, Until you're all in hock, And then you'll come home one mornin', And your key won't fit the lock, Don't ever trust a woman, Until she's dead and buried, Well, one day she'll say that she loves you, The next day she'll throw you in the street.”

2.  Donald Byrd – ‘Beale Street’ (1967)
Blue Note coolness from trumpeter Byrd and crew but it’s the underpinning piano of Cedar Walton that gives this is it’s finger clicking mod-jazz snap.

3.  Bobby Bland – ‘Deep In My Soul’ (1967)
One of Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland bluest, deepest and most soulful moments. And that’s saying something.

4.  Marva Holiday – ‘It’s Written All Over My Face’ (1968)
From the pop end of the northern soul spectrum, which’ll cheese off the purists, but I really like this.

5.  Lou Bond – ‘Why Must Our Eyes Always Be Turned Backwards’ (1974)
This folky-soul message song is a masterpiece. Lou Bond cataloguing and worrying about the troubles of the world in 1974. Beautifully sung and the arrangement is spot on. Released on Lou’s eponymous album for Stax subsidiary, We Produce. Lou never made another record and disappeared.

6.  Leroy Hutson – ‘All Because of You’ (1975)
Leroy Hutson (pictured above) played the London Barbican the other week and was, quite correctly, feted like the soul superstar he is. His voice remains in fantastic shape and the band were sensational in creating the rich arrangements Hutson originally worked so hard on. This song one of many highlights alongside ‘Cool Out’, ‘Lucky Fellow’, ‘Don’t It Make You Feel Good’, ‘Love The Feeling’, ‘So in Love With You’, ‘Lover’s Holiday’ etc.

7.  Pharoah Sanders – ‘You’ve Got To Have Freedom’ (1987)
Not everyone will get past Sanders’ squawking sax opening but for those who do, hold on tight, this is some ride.

8.  Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – ‘Bad Man Lighter (B.M.L)’ (2018)
Youngest son of Fela Kuti, and using his old band, Seun keeps his father’s afrobeat fire burning by smoking where the hell he wants. “Spark up your righteousness!” From new album, Black Times, which formed the majority of an infectious Walthamstow gig this month.

9.  The Molochs – ‘I Wanna Say To You’ (2018)
LA duo the Molochs go all baggy, like a cross between the Stone Roses and, say, The Dylans. Like it’s 1990 all over again.

10.  The Spitfires – ‘Sick of Hanging Around’ (2018)
Some folk are a bit sniffy about the Spitfires, and they do come across as over-earnest, but I like their spirit and attitude. Lyrically they always want to SAY SOMETHING about the modern world, about the young idea. When they match that to a cracking tune and throw in Dexys-style horns like this on new album Year Zero, what’s not to like?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW: RHYTHM & SOUL REVUE - SUNDAY 29 JULY 2018


A special bonus-ball edition of Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show takes place this Sunday. Narrower in scope than usual, this Rhythm ‘n’ Soul Revue will concentrate on the more uptempo sounds one might hear in clubs. Or clubs I’m DJing at anyway. There’ll be some familiar tunes to get you up, then who knows where the hour will take us?

Get your drinks ready, move the furniture, and hit the below link for a prompt 8.30pm start.

Update: If you missed the show, catch-up here: MWWS Rhythm 'n' Soul Revue

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

BETTY: THEY SAY I'M DIFFERENT (2018)


Betty Davis cut three albums of ground breaking funk between 1973 and ‘75. Never a household name, Betty was too raw, too raunchy, too real, too much for the mainstream who wanted her to be someone else and soon cut her adrift, an outcast in a business where others would take her lead and her reward.

For the best part of 40 years Betty Davis has remained hidden away, a virtual recluse, unwilling to be seen or revisit those days, until the persistence of film maker Phil Cox persuaded her to be interviewed for his film, Betty: They Say I’m Different

Cox didn’t have an easy task creating his film. After years of trying, Betty finally agreed to be interviewed but not to appear directly on camera, instead we see her like the Mystery Guest round on A Question of Sport: an orderly home, a figure sitting on the side of a bed, a hand lighting a stick of incense, a closing of an eye.

With only one sequence of surviving live footage of Betty in hot pants and afro action, and Betty’s enigmatic commentary, the film relies on contributors to provide insight into her story and employs creative animation scenes (a regular occurrence with films like this but these are among the best I’ve seen) to give the music a visual accompaniment.

The resulting hour is deliberately sketchy on facts and figures, instead it paints a broad, poetic portrait of Betty, the viewer left to fill in the gaps best they can, although it does reveal her early days as a songwriter moving from Pittsburgh to New York, her modelling and marriage to Miles Davis in ’68, where she exposed him to the new sounds of Hendrix and Sly and “filled the trash with his suits”, giving his wardrobe a hip makeover and his music a new direction before suffering violence in return. “Every day married to him was a day I earned the name Davis.”

The Betty Davis of today appears one of quiet contemplation, perhaps finally at peace with herself. Betty was different, and this film goes some way to understanding what she’s been through, while dealing with her story sensitively. Best of all, it brings the focus back to those incredible records and will encourage a whole new legion of listeners. Strap yourself in, just don’t expect any new live shows.

Betty: They Say I’m Different is available to (legitimately) stream here, for a limited time, thanks to Lush Productions: http://player.lush.com/channels/gorilla/tv/betty

Sunday, 15 July 2018

POSTER WORKSHOP 1968-1971



It’s been a heck of a few days for protest in the UK, and the invention of new swearwords, with many individual eye-catching homemade placards displayed among the bulk printed ones supplied by various organisations and groups, thanks to Trump’s visit.

If this was still the late 60s, volunteers at the Poster Workshop in Camden Town would’ve been rushed off their radical feet. Inspired by Ateliers Populaires, set up by students and artists in French art school printmaking studios, the Poster Workshop opened at 61 Camden Road in 1968 and operated an open-door policy where people could print their own posters. Volunteers would show them how and collaborate, if required, to design the work. Customers would pay whatever they could afford for materials and the shop survived on donations.

Examples of these posters can be found in Poster Workshop 1968-1971, a new book documenting the struggles and graphic design of that era: everything from the war in Vietnam, apartheid in South Africa, factory closures, industrial disputes and greedy landlords to the boycotting of Californian grapes. Some of the designs are little more than to-the-point basic scrawls, others more impressive, but all display a commitment and fighting spirit for change.

Poster Workshop 1968-1971 is published by Four Corners Irregulars, £10. 






Friday, 6 July 2018

THE PRIMITIVES at the 100 CLUB, LONDON


Tracy Tracy is, unusually, perched on a stool singing a three-song interlude as the Primitives drop a gear from their usual high speed throttle. “And I'll be there just with my eyes, And that’s the way it is, And I don't want anything to change.”

‘Don’t Want Anything To Change’, featured on the Prims breakthrough LP, Lovely, being commemorated with a series of shows to mark its 30th anniversary. Unlike five years ago in the same venue, it’s not being played beginning-to-end in its entirety, but most of the tracks get an airing, taking up roughly half the set.

Some things have changed, like the introduction of a mid-set sit-down, but not many. They rattle through, they hit a groove, there’s a roughness that echoes their pre-major label success and the rusty chainsaw scuzz of their early indie days. I’d love to say I saw them playing to ten grebos and a dog in Coventry flophouse, flogging singles out the boot of a car, but that’s not the case. They were already at their commercial peak when I first saw them, selling 3000 tickets for two nights at London’s Town and Country Club at the end of ’87. 

My main memory of that night, apart from me impersonating a leaping salmon at the front of the stage to ‘Spacehead’ and ‘Nothing Left’, is those eyes Tracy sings about. She didn’t move about all that much, an opening of a hand, a bend of the knees, but would seduce the audience with a look. Lure them in, then chew them up and spit them out like a bad taste. 

As a teenager then, the thought of still seeing the Prims 30 years later would’ve seemed ridiculous. Can you imagine how shit they’d be? Bunch of embarrassing old codgers. Yet, mercifully, they’ve retained their sense of style and haven’t forgotten what made them so great in the first place: tasty sweet and sour pop nuggets. 

Tracy’s a far friendly proposition these days and a more confident performer. All eyes remain on her as she spins and sashays around the stage. Forever the star, in a glittering dress so dazzling drummer Tig requires sunglasses as he cracks the snare with increasing ferocity to the opening gunshots of ‘Sick of It’. “Don't say you're having fun, There's no fire in your sun, There's nothing here that is real, Nothing that I'd stay here for, Nothing I'd like to steal, And I'm sick of it all,” she sings.

Au contraire Tracy, au contraire mon petits pois… We are most certainly having fun, mon petits pois. With each song the decibel level of audience reaction moves up a notch to near frenzy level. I’ve seen many Primitives shows since their 2009 reunion but tonight’s atmosphere is extra special. Even Tracy confesses to being emotional. Not only are favourites from Lovely greeted as old returning heroes but recent releases - the dizzying, sped-up Monkees-style ‘Petals’ and the barnstorming ‘I’ll Trust The Wind’ – are embraced with the same passionate response. The Primitives, and their followers, remember the past but aren't stuck there, they celebrate the now. 

'Crash' will forever be The Biggie. In 'Crash', so the song goes, people aren't listening anymore, they've had enough to last a lifetime through. None of those folks are in the 100 Club.  


EPILOGUE

One additional thing that made the night for me was the opportunity to play some 45s around The Primitives and support band Young Romance (who’ve taken up the mantle of fuzzy and snappy two-minute hook laden pop tunes, check out their fab single ‘Pale’). Huge thanks to the Prims and promotors AGMP and all those who kindly took the trouble to say hello, say nice things and ask for great records (none of which I had with me but demonstrated fine taste…). Here’s the list for those who like lists…



Comet Gain – An Arcade From The Warm Rain That Falls
Huggy Bear – Her Jazz

The Liminanas – Garden of Love
Psychic TV – Godstar
Rolling Stones – Dandelion
Jim Doval & the Gauchos – Mama Keep Your Big Mouth Shut
The Duals – Shift Stick
Richard Berry& the Pharaohs – Have Love Will Travel
The Stooges – Down On The Street
Primal Scream – Ivy Ivy Ivy
Birdland – Hollow Heart
Shop Assistants – Safety Net
Buzzcocks – Promises
The Velvet Underground – Foggy Notion

Young Romance

The Arrows – Blues Theme
Mouse & The Traps – Cryin’ Inside
The Byrds – Feel A Whole Lot Better
Brenda Lee – What’d I Say
The Shirelles – Boys
Shadows of Knight – Shake
Ann-Margret – It’s A Nice World To Visit (But Not To Live In)
Little Ann – Who Are You Trying To Fool
Big Maybelle – 96 Tears
Ann Sexton – You’ve Been Gone Too Long
Madeline Bell – Don’t Cross Over To My Side of the Street
Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & the Trinity – A Kind of Love In
The Kinks – She’s Got Everything
Love – 7 and 7 Is
The Lornettes – Something To Remember Me By
The Marvelettes – Locking Up My Heart
The Marvelettes – I’ll Keep Holding On

The Primitives

Ramones – I Don’t’ Care
Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers – Chinese Rocks
Hollywood Brats – Sick On You
13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me
Hamilton Streetcar – Invisible People
The Left Banke – I Haven’t Got The Nerve
The Who – Dogs
Billy Young – Glendora
Dee Dee Sharp – Deep Dark Secret
Gloria Grey – It’s A Sweet World
Martha & the Vandellas – In My Lonely Room
The Choir – It’s Cold Outside
Mark Markham & the Jesters – Marlboro Country
The Masters Apprentices – War or Hands of Time
The Stairs – Flying Machine
Felt – Rain of Crystal Spires

Monday, 25 June 2018

JUNE PLAYLIST


1.  The Shirelles – ‘Everybody’s Goin’ Mad’ (1963)
“What is this world coming to, with all the crazy things folks do?” What a lovely world it must’ve been when all the Shirelles had to worry about was girls in wigs, boys wearing sunglasses after dark, beatniks rejecting conversation and diplomats doing the Twist.

2.  Kenny Wells – ‘Isn’t It Just A Shame’ (1966)
The use of space and silence within this utterly exquisite soul record is sheer perfection.

3.  Ann-Margret – ‘It’s A Nice World To Visit (But Not To Live In)’ (1969)
Ann-Margret in angry, stamping, fuzzed up punk mode. Lee Hazlewood mans the controls.

4.  Paula – Mi Habitación (1970)
Portuguese songstress Paula Ribas sings in Spanish on this opening cut to fantastico new compilation and summer soundtrack, Desafinado: Spanish Bossa Nova 1963/1975, out now on Adarce Records.

5.  Neil Young – ‘Mellow My Mind’ (1973)
We’ve been blessed with a couple of essential Neil Young releases from the vaults in recent months. First the acoustic The Hitchhiker and now the plugged-in Roxy: Tonight's the Night Live, recorded in September ’73.

6.  Millie Jackson – ‘Tell Her It’s Over’ (1975)
Its predecessor, the love-tanged Caught Up, spawned Millie Jackson a deserved R&B Grammy nomination the previous year for her version of ‘If Loving You Is Wrong I Don't Want To Be Right’ and Still Caught Up follows the same template, an even split of songs sung from the point of view of a wife and mistress. Soap operas are seldom as enthralling as this.

7.  Ann Sexton – ‘I’m His Wife (You’re Just A Friend)’ (1977)
I’ve been on a massive Ann Sexton high after her incredible show in London this month and have hammered The Beginning, Ann’s second and, to date, last album. Criminal she’s not made more records.

8. The Higsons – ‘Conspiracy’ (1982)
So many questions pale into insignificance next to “Who stole my bongos?”

9.  Tracyanne and Danny – ‘Alabama’ (2018)
Tracyanne Campbell’s voice makes me melt at the best of times but here remembering her Camera Obscura bandmate and friend, Carey Lander, who died in 2015, it’s difficult not to well up. “When I’m an old lady I’ll still miss you like crazy”. Heartbreaking.

10.  Starcrawler – ‘I Love LA’ (2018)
These young Americans know how to put on a show. Guitarist Henri Cash throws the shapes of Wayne Kramer and Jack White while singer Arrow de Wilde, a scrawny pile of bones wrapped in muslin and blood, staggers around zombified like Carrie after her prom. At the Garage in Highbury last week they riffed and chugged their way through a bunch of two-minute dumb ass glam rockers before ending the gig playing on the shoulders of the audience. Pure theatre. Hurrah!

Sunday, 17 June 2018

ANN SEXTON at the 229 CLUB, LONDON

“You’ve Been Gone Too Long!” shouts a fella in front of the stage filming Ann Sexton on his iPad. He does it after every song. To my knowledge this is the first time Ann has sung in London, so you’d think Poundland Martin Scorsese could wait more patiently. “You know I’m gonna do that one,” replies Ann, “I couldn’t get out here alive if I didn’t.” She knows it, we know it.

The song in question, co-written by Ann and her husband Melvin Burton, and originally the 1971 B-side to a now mostly forgotten ‘You’re Letting Me Down’, is one of Northern Soul’s defining anthems. It’s not though especially “Northern” in the traditional 4x4 Motownesque stomp, but a funkier new dawn warning about what happens when a man doesn’t take care of his woman, there’s always a Jody waiting in the wings to move in.

When Ann plays the song, as her encore, the room goes bananas, and mateyboy finally gets the money shot he’s been waiting for. It’s a spine tingling moment but not one which overshadows the previous hour, which was a one of the funkiest, most badass, sets of ball squeezing soul music one could ever wish to see. Ann Sexton is simply brilliant. Her voice astonishing. Add a band who blatantly understand, and can achieve, the guttural power and snap of funk and are flexible enough to follow Ann’s lead is a match made in heaven. Mr YouTuber’s tiresome shouting, quite frankly, disrespectful to an artist pouring her very being into her set, leaving nothing behind. Ann isn't dialling this shit in. 

All too often audiences are presented with “heritage acts” who are a shadow of their former self. Despite their best efforts they’ve either lost what they had through the ravages of time, or neglect, and each song is like riding a wave: one moment reaching a quick peak, then sinking down again. Allowances are made and, even with tepid backing bands, they provide a nice night out and an opportunity to give something back, to say thank you for those wonderful records that have enriched our lives.

Ann Sexton is different. No allowances need to be made. This is as good as it gets. Ever. Caught in a crossfire hurricane, she shimmies around the stage, dancing from side to side, and as unlikely as it seems, I can’t imagine her voice has ever been in better shape nor a band, who by their own admission were under rehearsed, give as much oomph.

‘You’re Losing Me’, the second most popular song in her repertoire, is a sheer dynamite. The bomb. She gives the trumpeter some, then the organist, teasingly toys with the drummer. People are dancing and it’s rare to see a London audience dance like this. ‘I Still Love You’ tears the roof off the mother, as does ‘It’s All Over But The Shouting’, before diving into the swampy funk waters of ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’.

‘Come Back Home’ is slower, cards on the table stuff. How anyone could’ve left Ann in the first place blows my mind. It makes the original recorded version, as great as it is, seem innocuous. By the time Ann is through, she’s wiping real tears away and apologising for getting emotional. This isn’t theatre. This is from the heart. The soul. I wrack my brain to recall being in a room with a voice as moving. Maybe never. ‘I’m His Wife (You’re Just A Friend)’ from 1977’s The Beginning is another winner, equal to anything the marvellous Millie Jackson was doing at her peak.

The sweaty 'Rising Up', an irresistible mix of the church brought to the clubs, before Ann exits the stage only to return for the world's most predictable encore. A truly unforgettable night.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

MONKEY'S WANDERING WIRELESS SHOW - SUNDAY 17 JUNE 2018 at 9.00PM


After one of its infamous breaks, Fusion returned to the airwaves last Sunday for its weekly slot on Mixlr Internet Radio with a tremendous Funk-Up-Your-Soul show hosted by Paul Orwell. If you missed it, I urge you to catch-up pronto on the Fusion Showreel

This weekend, Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show is back for the first time since January. In keeping with its title it’ll be crammed with old stuff, new stuff, dancers, smoochers, nutty instrumentals, rarities, classics and heaven knows what, spanning approximately 60 years in 60 minutes. It would be mighty fine if you can tune in.

If you want to log into the chatroom and say hello during the show, it takes seconds to sign up, that’ll be great but if you wanna just listen that’s equally cool. 

UPDATE: NOW AVAILABLE TO CATCH-UP HERE: 
http://mixlr.com/fusion-on-air/showreel/monkeys-wandering-wireless-show-16/

If you've missed previous shows, or want to listen again, here are a few to enjoy.


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

IT'S JUST BEGUN by THE JIMMY CASTOR BUNCH (1972)


Jimmy Castor’s second album, It’s Just Begun, the first of two in 1972, represents his group’s commercial and arguably artistic peak.

Containing two big hits, both subsequently extensively sampled, it’s a bona fide classic. The stabbing horns, wah-wah guitar, squalling sax, percussive breaks and pulsating bass of the title track is a pure definition of funk and the thumping, chest-beating, madcap march of ‘Troglodyte (Cave Man)’ fulfils Castor’s “I’ll sock it to you” promise.

Such was multi-instrumentalist Castor’s strength, his nickname The Everything Man well deserved, those pair don’t unduly overshadow the rest as the Bunch pack Latin rhythms, fuzzy psychedelic rock, jazz, doo-wop, breezy pop and orchestral movements into a varied and fun packed set. The occasional jokey moments, including the introduction of Big Butt Bertha, don’t detract from a man serious about hitting the grooviest groove.

Now available as a limited edition red vinyl release by TidalWavesMusic.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

AS LONG AS I HAVE YOU by ROGER DALTREY (2018)


It’s difficult to decide the more eyebrow raising claim: Roger Daltrey’s assertion his first solo album in 26 years is a return to when the High Numbers were a soul band playing in church halls or Pete Townshend’s touching tribute this new record shows his old mate at the height of his powers. Mind you, while not quite taking the mantel of the Morrissey of Mod, Daltrey’s recent interviews have suggested rather than dying before he gets old, he’s living up to the theory people become more right-wing as it becomes harder for them to get around, so let’s stick to his less controversial outpourings.

There is a definite soul flavour in As Long As I Have You but next to nothing young mods would’ve heard down the Goldhawk Road Social Club and the expensive sounding production by Dave Eringa (of long-term Manics knob twiddling fame) is a far cry from the fumbling of a fledging R&B band. The result however is pleasingly better than a causal jaunt through tired 60s soul songs and we should be grateful 74-year-old Roger hasn’t gone down the Great American Songbook route favoured by so many of his generation.

Tackling the title track, Garnet Mimms’ thumping rhythm and soul classic, came as a surprise when it first received plays on the wireless, dangerously overblown in a Tom Jones manner, but after a couple of listens it settles down and powers along with just the right degree of ferocity to – in the unlikely scenario it was ever heard there - lightly splinter the pews of any cosy local chapel.

Pete Townshend contributes over-dubbed guitar to seven of the eleven tracks but it’s only on ‘How Far’ where he battles Roger for the spotlight, picking and licking like a Who’s Next outtake. A comparison I don’t use casually. ‘Where’s A Man To Go’ is a slower soulful blues and one of a number of songs with a gospel backing. Parliament’s ‘Get On Out The Rain’ is a righteous, marching, Primal Scream style rocker with Mick Talbot (a presence on nearly all tracks) laying down churchy chords as guitars wail and saxes honk and squall. Fantastic stuff and adds an extra something to the original. Whether it’s enough to warrant Roger appending his name to the writing credit, as he’s done, is something I’ll leave to Parliament’s legal department.

‘I’ve Got Your Love’ sways to a sea of lighters in the air before a reading of Nick Cave’s ‘Into Your Arms’. Although not doing anything radical it encroaches firmly into late period Johnny Cash territory and could induce a tear in sensitive listeners. It would be remiss not to mention Roger now has a slight lisp and it’s most noticeable on this track and on quieter moments throughout the album. It would have been a simple job to have cleaned/edited in the production so credit to Daltrey for leaving it untouched and offering honest performance full of raw emotional wisdom.

'You Haven’t Done Nothing’ plods along without the nimbleness of Stevie Wonder’s version and ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ is believable storytelling and a vocal highlight. Joe Tex’s ‘The Love You Save’ and the self-penned ‘Certified Rose’ portray Roger as the old romantic devil, the horns recalling Van Morrison, while the closer, a Daltrey co-write, ‘Always Heading Home’, with piano and cello accompaniment, is another delicate moment like ‘Into My Arms’.

There are at least three different Roger Daltreys at play on this album: the microphone lassoing rock star, sensitive balladeer and tender soul man. He can still do the first well but it’s the second and third which impress most, along with the well-chosen, unobvious material.

Going back to those claims by The Two, although full of PR exaggeration and hugely debatable, perhaps they weren’t as preposterous as first appeared. As Long As I Have You exceeds expectations, should delight fans of The Who, and although the competition isn’t strong (Roger’s Going Back Home with Wilko Johnson the only serious contender), is the most satisfying thing either have done for decades.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

THE HUNTERS IN THE SNOW by RW HEDGES (2018)


“You may look at me and think the Lord employed a fool” opines West London troubadour RW Hedges as the introductory line to his first properly released album. By the end of this enchanting record nothing could be further from the truth.

Hedges’ vintage sounding songs, sturdily crafted with memorable melodies, are mined from similar ground to the best of Richard Hawley, leaving collaborator Luca Nieri from labelmates The Monks Kitchen, free to adorn them with glimmering accompaniment and a gorgeous production recalling the first Fleet Foxes album.

These woody outdoor lullabies twinkle in the stars as references to sea and sailors, booze and opium, give a gently woozy and hallucinatory effect. ‘Signal Man’, based on a spooky Dickensian story, echoes down the line with the ghost of Glen Campbell and ‘Best Laid Plans’ waltzes like a tipsy Ray Davies in reflective mood.

Full of understated grandeur, The Hunters In The Snow, is a magical collection.

This review first appeared in Shindig magazine. The Hunters In The Snow is released by Wonderful Sound, out now. 

Sunday, 27 May 2018

MAY PLAYLIST


1.  Mary Lou Williams – ‘Praise The Lord’ (1964)
Oh, everybody clap your hands with Mary Lou (pictured above). This is an amazing amalgamation of the sacred church and the smoky jazz/R&B juke joint in perfect harmony.

2.  Johnny Alf – ‘Samba Sem Balanco’ (1965)
His name might make you think of a 1950s East End bin man, but Brazilian Johnny Alf is known as the Father of Bossa Nova in certain circles. His eponymous 1965 LP was a purely speculative purchase from Fopp this month for the risk-free sum of £3; the sun immediately came out.

3.  Patrice Holloway – ‘The Thrill of Romance’ (1966)
The classic Kent comp On The Soul Side has now been released on CD with ten bonus cuts. Some are familiar but this, from the same session as ‘Stolen Hours’, is previously unissued. How and why is nothing short of a mystery. Wow.

4.  Jack McDuff – ‘The Boiler’ (1972)
Rather confusingly McDuff made two albums called The Heatin’ System – one in 1994 and the one we’re interested in, for Cadet, in 1972 which is a steamy, bluesy, funky, proto-Acid Jazz affair. Every track a Hammond and horns scorcher.

5.  The Soul Children – ‘It Ain’t Always What You Do (It’s Who You Let See You Do It)’ (1973)
Gritty singalong from members of the Stax family.

6.  Spiritualized – ‘Smiles’ (1992) 
The version on the first Spiritualized album, Lazer Guided Melodies is good but the five and half minute intergalactic flight on the ‘Medication’ single is the one to hear. Will Carruthers recounts his days in the band, and Spacemen 3, in wonderful prose in Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands, not only one of the funniest music books I’ve read for a while but one which refreshingly (and through necessity) places music and musicians as a countercultural force rather than a business. 

7.  The Schizophonics – ‘Make It Last’ (2017)
Got a stubborn lump of wax stuck in yer lughole? Let San Diego’s the Schizophonics dislodge it with their bone shaking brand of MC5/Stooges rawk and roll. The dial doesn’t go up to eleven; that’s where it starts. Blimey.

8.  Spinn – ‘Who You Are’ (2018)
A pleasant, gently jangling, pop tune from new young Liverpool beat combo.

9.  The Coral – ‘Sweet Release’ (2018)
The Coral seem to be defying the odds and are actually getting better. This rubbery new single could be classic Super Furry Animals. Praise indeed.

10.  Kamasi Washington – ‘Fists of Fury’ (2018)
After witnessing the current poster boy of jazz in a small arts centre last year I wondered how he’d make the transition to a larger “rock venue” such as the Camden Roundhouse. I needn’t have worried, Kamasi and his band – with a new set – were even more spectacular. For the Jackie Chan inspired ‘Fists of Fury’, Kamasi welcomed London saxophonist, Shabaka Hutchings, to the stage. A nice touch and an awe inspiring gig.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

THE PRIMITIVES - LOVELY 30th ANNIVERSARY TOUR


The Primitives hit the road in June, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Lovely, the album which featured the ‘Crash’ and transformed them from cult Coventry indie combo to shiny nationwide pop stars; not that they were entirely comfortable in their new-found celebrity status as appearances on Saturday morning telly proved.

Dripping with sniffy contempt at being asked inane questions by Micheala Strachan at some ungodly hour, a marvellously mardy Tracy Tracy told millions of kids her favourite food was hamsters, and, on another occasion, they signed out of a show with an impromptu live version of the Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. Seems kinda incredible now, in this age of tedious cookery shows showing you fifteen things to do with asparagus, that folk could get away with such glorious freewheelin’ on live mainstream telly.

As for Lovely, it was in no way over shadowed by ‘Crash’ (I tend to miss it out when listening nowadays), instead it’s packed with beauties. From clatter and fuzz to jingle and jangle to fizz and buzz to dreamy flower power, it’s all there. It sounded great 30 years ago, sounds great today and will sound great in 30 years’ time.

If all that wasn’t enough, The Primitives are currently making some of the best music of their lives. Before you scoff, listen below to 2017’s ‘I’ll Trust The Wind’.

Tickets available for all shows now. Attendees at the 100 Club show will also have the added “bonus” of witnessing yours truly playing some of my favourite records, in my favourite venue, for one of my favourite bands. Lovely jubbly. 

Saturday, 12 May 2018

JOHN SIMONS: A MODERNIST (2018)



John Simons has never been a major retailer, only ever running one small London shop after another but his influence is immeasurable. Mods, skinheads, suedeheads and gentlemen of a discerning nature with an appreciation of American Ivy League and European styles have made the pilgrimages to his shops in search of corduroy coats, soft shoulder seersucker jackets, madras shirts, loafers and wing-tipped brogues. If you wonder how much sway a single outlet could have made then one only has to mention the word Harrington. Universally understood, it was John Simons who nicknamed the Baracuta G9 sports jacket after the character Rodney Harrington, who wore one in the 60s soap opera Peyton Place. The rest, as they say… But mass market acceptance has never been Simons’ goal, it’s been about doing the little things well.

Now subject of a new hour-long documentary, John Simons: A Modernist, it’s only right a man whose life is driven by the inexorably linked holy trinity of music, art and clothes is celebrated by filmmakers Lee Cogswell and Mark Baxter, following their similar projects about Tubby Hayes and Sir Peter Blake, and written by Jason Jules after the relief on finding John Simons hadn’t, as per rumour, died.

The film is tightly edited with, as clichéd as it sounds, a modernist eye for detail: all contributors add something to the overall effect, nothing is wasted and everything is in its place like a well ordered sock drawer. Whether famous names such as Paul Weller, Kevin Rowland, Suggs, Paul Smith, the ever-effusive Robert Elms or regular customers from Simons’ shops, they all compliment the look, although none are captioned as coolly as the mysterious David Rosen, “Space Agent”.

They, and John Simons himself, give a fascinating account of humble beginnings under the Hackney Empire and on Walthamstow Market; to the move to the suburban blues delta of Richmond in ’64; then the Squire Shop in Soho in ’67; Covent Garden in ’82 and on to it’s current location in Marylebone.

As noted by Robert Elms, Simons was taking stock originally made for American advertising agents but once adopted on the street here they didn’t look like American advertising agents but “well dressed English street urchins.”  A point underscored by Simons, “They were Jack The Lads, no way were they Harvard graduates, let me tell you that”.

You may never have shopped in a Simons shop, you may find the look overly conservative - I used to pop into the J. Simons shop when it was in Covent Garden but at a time I wanted to look like The Stones in Green Park or The Smoke on Beat Club so I found everything too ‘old man’, a position, for some reason, I’ve reconsidered in recent years… - but that’s not central to appreciating this inspiring film.

John Simons: A Modernist is about an unswerving passion and an unshakable belief. The clothes Simons has sold for over half a century have remained true to his devotion to Ivy League style, modern jazz and the beat generation. A place where clothes, music and the arts converge in harmony outside the vagaries of passing trends. It’s a philosophy best described by Paul Weller, who with customary bluntness says, “He’s never diverted from what his passion is, this is what he loves and what he’s into. If you don’t like it, don’t fucking come”. From the mouth of one modernist to another.

John Simons: A Modernist, a Mono Media Films/Garmsville production, is out now and available from John Simons online.  

Sunday, 29 April 2018

APRIL PLAYLIST


1.  The Drifters – ‘I Gotta Get Myself A Woman’ (1956)
Johnny Moore on lead vocals is desperate for a woman he can call his own. “Doesn’t matter if she’s young or old, if she knows to do the things she’s told, and stay in beside me night and day…” You’ve been warned ladies.

2.  Larry Williams – ‘Little School Girl’ (1960)
Larry Williams (above) led, according to his Wikipedia entry, a “life mixed tremendous success with violence and drug addiction”. And that’s underplaying it. Personal stuff apart, his records packed a punch that reverberates to this day.

3.  Buddy Miles Express – ’69 Freedom Special’ (1969)
Get on board this rolling instrumental produced by Jiminy Hendrix (mercifully free on guitar mangling).

4.  J.J. Jackson – ‘Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?’ (1970)
Tired of New York’s boogaloo beat and noticing “the only difference between me and last week’s ‘soul star’ was 100 pounds and which words got emphasised in ‘Can you feel it?’” Jackson hit it and quit to London where he hooked up again with some of the British jazzers with whom he’d recorded his ‘But It’s Alright’ hit but took a more progressive path on J.J. Jackson’s Dilemma.

5.  C.C.S – ‘Sunrise’ (1970)
Alexis Korner’s bluesy big band project where given an extra dimension by having classically trained John Cameron (he of ‘Kes’ fame) arrange their debut LP. C.C.S still for the most part kick arse but Cameron is unmistakable on the woodwind parts of this.

6.  George Duke – ‘Au Right’ (1971)
Opening track from The Inner Source and the Duke is getting frisky on his Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer electric piano. Do you feel au right? Yes George.

7.  CAN – ‘I’m So Green’ (1972)
Make these proto-baggy greens part of your five-a-day.

8.  Jimmy Castor Bunch – ‘It’s Just Begun’ (1972)
Stone cold funk classic from the big butt loving bunch.

9.  Bettye LaVette – ‘Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight’ (2018)
On Things Have Changed Bettye LaVette braves the treacherous waters of the Bob Dylan cover where previous washed up failures lay broken on the rocks. LaVette makes a fair fist of it and occasionally, like on this from Infidels, reveals the greatness that hid beneath the original’s terrible 80s production. “Maybe I could’ve done some good in the world instead of burning every bridge I cross”.

10.  RW Hedges – ‘Signalman’ (2018)
Released last Friday, The Hunters In The Snow is an enchanting delight from beginning to end with not one tiny morsel of fat or waste. The spooky ‘Signalman’ feels like an ancient classic chiming with the distant echo of ‘Wichita Lineman’.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

SHAKEDOWN GOSPEL by THE FUTURE SHAPE OF SOUND (2018)


An organ stirs. Light beams through a crack in the chapel ceiling. Up above my head I hear music. “I’ll take you down to the river, I ain’t no preacher but come follow me, I’ll help a neighbour with a heavy load, down at the church of rock and roll.” Then – boom! - it’s a tambourine shaking, hand clapping, foot stomping, gospel jamboree. The track is called ‘Joy’ and it sure is.

The Future Shape of Sound are a ten-strong congregation of rock and roll believers led by guitar toting Captain Future, the horn of Stu ‘Lodekka’ Dace and the sultry elegance of lead vocalist Suri Sumatra, who graciously shares the pulpit with a travelling circus of passing waifs and strays, welcomed into their parish: Jim Jones, Sister Cookie, Big Joe Louis, Amani Z, Son of Dave, Janet Kumah and more all testify.    

The aforementioned ‘Joy’ – or its irresistible sister track ‘Rise Up’ with its fat horns, honky tonk piano and gospel choir - would’ve made the ideal opening track to Shakedown Gospel, setting out its stool, but as this motley crew of London based bluesbreakers know, Sunday morning worshippers are Saturday night fish fryers, and for every sanctified moment of praise there’s the flip. Both angels and demons at play.

The album therefore opens with the loose, bottle neck boogie chillun, end of evening lament, ‘Gone All Wrong’, its darkness lifted by the arrival of the Future’s choir promising to make it all right. The soul is pulled again on ‘I’m On A Roll’ following the call of swampy Louisianan blues footsteps. The keys to the highway are provided on the sensational ‘Joy’ and ‘Rise Up’, lead vocals by Janet Kumah and Sister Cookie respectively, with the Futures on a mission from God, bourbon laid down, cartwheeling down the aisle.

‘Number One’ is back beating a woozy rhythm on the late-night barroom table tops: all rattlesnake eyes darting around, jockeying for position, Tom Waits wipes away spillage as the midnight special rumbles past. “People What You Done” is a snaky, jazzy blues moaner, like you’d hear in a Blaxploitation movie after the protagonist’s loved one meets their maker. Following that theme, “The Time Is Now” scuttles along in a hurry, propelled by a duelling Vox Continental and tenor, and frantic backing galloping along as the curtains twitch in a “one horse town with the shutters down”.

Big Boy Bloater menacing Wolfman warning on “Toe The Line” is souped-up John Lee Hooker, a hip shakin’ Slim Harpo, an all down the line exiled Stones with Bobby Keys in hot pursuit. ‘Shakedown Gospel’ is a righteous organ and sax led instrumental, shaking the fragile timber structure of the chapel, before a campfire ‘No Friend of Mine’ passes round the moonshine to any survivors.

It’s a heck of a journey down to the river and it zips by in little over 35 minutes. The Future Shape of Sound have, in their church of rock and roll, studied hard. Their own glorious hymns on Shakedown Gospel are guaranteed to lift the spirit and shake the tail feather of saints and sinners alike.

Shakedown Gospel by The Future Shape of Sound is released on Gypsy Hotel Records on 27 April 2018. The album launch party takes place on Saturday 5 April at What’s Cookin’ (Ex-Servicemen’s Club), 2 Harvey Road, Leytonstone, E11. Admission free.