Sunday, 17 June 2018


“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


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. Simply hit the below link for it to explode into life at the slightly later time of 9pm, to allow folks to watch the World Cup first. So, straight after the Brazil match, hit the following link…

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

Tuesday, 12 June 2018


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


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


“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


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 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 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


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


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.

Sunday, 22 April 2018


The sun’s out so the ideal time to enjoy a succession of sultry señoritas with single names, as they belt out Spanish 60s yé- yé sounds packed with perky punch and fiery flamenco rhythms.

Without requisite linguistic skills the ear automatically tunes to other elements, such as the arrangements, which are frequently masterful with no expense spared concocting these teenage symphonies, and vocal styles mostly delivered with full-blooded gusto.

There are translations of familiar numbers – Pet Clark’s ‘Colour My World’ converts to Gelu’s modish ‘Pinta Mi Mundo’ and ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ loosely becomes ‘Aquí En Mi Nube’ by Sonia – but it’s Adriángela’s ‘Nunca Hay Bastante’, Lorella’s ‘Tendrás Que Llorar’, Massiel’s ‘Las Rocas y El Mar’ and Soledad Miranda’s ‘La Verdad’ that stand out for sheer drama while Pic-Nic offer soothing respite with the dreamy ‘El Es Distinto A Ti’. Just as the collection threatens to run out of steam, Conchita Velasco turns up the heat with a crazily camp ‘Calor’.

I hazard very few tracks would’ve been considered ‘cool’ at the time, parts invariably stray into Benidorm straw donkey territory and it can feel like you’re stuck in the heats of the Eurovision Song Contest but, curiously, those aren’t negatives, they simply add to the fun of this collection. Don’t fight it, Viva España!

A version of this review first appeared in Shindig magazine and is based on the 24-track CD; a 14-track vinyl edition is also available now on Ace Records.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018


Graham D and the Medway Group return for another soundtrack inspired instrumental album following their 2016 debut, The Girl In The Glass Case. The Senior Service know their onions and King Cobra is an exceptional case of the sequel overshadowing the original as they serve up an even deadlier concoction.

Graham Day’s DNA is the most instantly recognisable but he’s only the mastermind behind half the escapades, this is the work of a ruthlessly effective quartet. Jonathan Barker, Darryl Hartley and Wolf Howard the other guilty parties.

It’s a dusty road littered with bodies. Sophia Loren rises from her bed, mysterious strangers appear, a barroom brawl, Clint Eastwood chews a match, a funeral procession passes through town. John Barry and Ennio Morricone, heads together in a Kentish lock-up with twang and trumpets, Hammond and harmonies, paint the landscape.

The foundation of choppy riffs, spiralling organ and hammering rhythms the Service are known for remain, but as moods shuffle and wriggle between scenes intricate details of their meticulous planning reveal themselves: horns and shakers, vibes and accordion, rich textures in their armoury.

King Cobra is non-stop action, a soundtrack album with all the boring bits eliminated. You’ll be charmed.

King Cobra by The Senior Service is released by Damaged Goods on Friday 27 April 2018. Available to order here.

Sunday, 8 April 2018


Psych traitors, that’s the Lucid Dream, who this week they released a new one-sided 12-inch single ‘SX1000’.

When posted online it wasn’t greeted with universal acclaim from their fanbase. Devoid of guitars and lyrics, ‘SX1000’ is an unabashed tribute to the acid house era that elicited cries of “Utter pap, sozz but shite”, “Dunno if this is a gimmick type tune or what..”, “Come on boys, WTF is this pish, get back to what your good at” and, my favourite, “How do you go from Bad Texan to this?” Apparently, there were worse, but those comments have been removed. Hence the band’s cheekily knocking up a load of ‘Psych Traitor’ badges to give away.

Those criticisms were, of course, in the minority and on Thursday in East London, through a thick fog of dry ice, they showed, once again, what a remarkable live band they are, showcasing new tracks among a selection of established favourites.

The distance between ‘Bad Texan’, one of the jewels in the band’s recorded crown to date, and ‘SX1000’ isn’t that far at all, as the 2016 track already owed far more to the hypnotic rhymical second Summer of Love than the original flower power one and served as a pointer to where the band were heading next. Let’s not forgot, The Lucid Dream’s take on whatever ‘psych’ is, has incorporated garage rock, dark psychedelia, heavy dub and a Germanic motorik beat.

The other new songs weren’t as extreme as the single and meshed easily into the set which included a broken melodica-free ‘I’m A Star In My Own Right’ and the otherworldly Joy Divisionesque epic finale ‘Epitaph’. Standout moment though came in the shape of penultimate song, ‘Ardency’, which, even on first hearing, would’ve raised the roof of the Hacienda, an instant Madchester classic. Watch out for this when the next album arrives (date tbc).

‘SX1000’ might’ve been a radical move for sluggish bands happy to regurgitate the same style but that’s not The Lucid Dream’s technique. ‘SX1000’ hits a trance inducing, squelchy acid house groove with an unforgettable hook and adds yet another angle to a band already blessed a multitude of dimensions. Try to keep up everyone.

SX1000 is out now on Holy Are You Records. 

Friday, 30 March 2018


1.  Don Patterson with Booker Ervin – ‘Donald Duck’ (1964)
Organists like Don Patterson weren’t universally welcomed in jazz when they started cropping up, in fact there was open hostility, even from reviewers like Walter Catt who, when tasked with writing the sleevenotes for Hip Cake Walk, “put the record on my phonograph to brave what I thought would be an unpleasant experience.” Crazy fool.

2.  The 3 Sounds – ‘Yeh Yeh’ (1966)
From the Blue Note LP, Vibrations, comes this swinging piano/bass/drums version of the ol’ chestnut.

3.  Charlotte Leslie – ‘Les Filles C’est Fait Pour Faire L’Amour’ (1966)
Charlotte takes the Capitols ‘We Got A Thing That’s In The Groove’/‘Cool Jerk’ and dresses it in modish fuzz and French flair.

4.  The Producers – ‘Love Is Amazing’ (1968)
A Gamble-Huff production out of the Philly and typically sleek. Wonderful mix of male and female leads, harmonies by a group of angels, and horns and strings sent from heaven.

5.  Earth, Wind and Fire – ‘Help Somebody’ (1971)
“Reach out your hand and help somebody”. Oh yeah baby, let’s groove tonight. The eponymous debut LP by Earth, Wind and Fire is packed with strutting street funk.

6.  Major Lance – ‘Ain’t No Sweat’ (1972)
Released on Volt, and written by Major’s old buddy Curtis Mayfield, ‘Ain’t No Sweat’ is a mini-under-the-radar masterpiece that’s been overshadowed by ‘Since I Lost My Baby’s Love’ on the flip. Dig that violin!

7.  Katie Love – ‘How Can You Mistreat The One You Love’ (1972)
Even to this day not much is known about Katie Love other than she cut this Hayes-Porter song for Stax down in Muscle Shoals. Curiously has the feel for Stax’s old rivals Holland-Dozier-Holland and the stuff coming out of their Invictus stable.

8.  Neil Young – ‘Hitchhiker’ (1976)
There are many Neil Youngs but the best is Neil Young with an acoustic guitar, bag of Californian grass, bit of coke, sat under a full moon, playing songs. That’s what he did to record The Hitchhiker on 11 August 1976. The collection yielded future classics ‘Pocahontas’, ‘Powderfinger’, ‘Ride My Llama’ and more but the record company weren’t impressed with what they saw as an album of demos so it sat unreleased until 2017. It is, of course, brilliant.

9.  Go-Kart Mozart – ‘We’re Selfish and Lazy and Greedy’ (1999)
The Lexington in London was treated to the rare sight of Go-Kart Mozart last Saturday and what a fabulous gig it was. A brisk 40-minute set mostly featured tracks from new Mozart’s Mini-Mart where songs about depression, poverty, executions on the telly, Brummie prophets, knickers on the line and Crokadile Rokstarz, played in a plinky-plonky manner, took centre stage: modern life seen through Lawrence’s eyes and Lawrence’s eyes don’t miss much. If a group of young uns from wherever-is-hip-this-month were making these records they’d be courted across the land. ‘We’re Selfish…’ was one of the few old tracks Lawrence delved back into his trolley for.

10.  The Traffic – ‘Smack My Pitch Up’ (2016)
On the Australian label, Choi Records, comes two blasting funky reworkings of classics given a fresh makeover. Grandmaster Flash’s ‘White Lines’ on one side, and the Prodigy torn a new one on the other.

Thursday, 29 March 2018


The debut solo album by former Five Thirty man, Tara Milton, has been a long time coming. In the early 90s his cocksure modish three-piece released the classic Brit Pop forerunner, Bed, and appeared on the cusp of making it big but internal fighting split the band in ’92.

Milton now shoulders much of the responsibility. “I just needed a good talking,” he reflects. “There was no one there to do that and I became more and more like crazy Roman Caligula.” Twenty years after disbanding second band the Nubiles, Milton returns to the fray. What took so long?

“I’ve tried to do it before but had a lot of personal problems to deal with after the Nubiles. I’d lost all my confidence, completely, and had to make some decisions about the way I was going to live. One thing I knew was that I love music and I love writing songs. If I was any kind of musician at all I would end up back in the studio doing the things I wanted to do.”

After returning to London from long spells in Japan, “teaching kids music and indoctrinating them with Five Thirty”, and with money scarce, completing the album took time. “The original intention was to do a very quick kind of record with Sean Read from Dexys, who arranges the brass and so forth. It just didn’t pan out like that at all.”

Far from a hastily knocked together record, Serpentine Waltz is lavish, thoughtful production. Some of Milton’s previous problems are meditated upon through its cinematic sweep: dreams and nightmares, twists and turns, characters and scenes blink in and out of view like ghosts. It’s a late-night journey to the dark end of the street, the other side of the tracks.

The extraordinary ‘Double Yellow (Lines 1 & 2)’ begins parodying Bob Dylan’s ‘A Simple Twist of Fate’ with “the intimacy of couple going through a separation. One of the most powerful songs Dylan did and I wanted to do a London take on it.” The sprightly tune then tumbles into a dramatic breakdown, featuring a sample of American writer Henry Miller’s passionate diatribe against the city, set to a freeform Miles Davis style accompaniment.

"Think of an album that blew you away. I felt like that the first time I read Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn. I didn’t know a writer could do that, I thought only musicians could. He lifted a twelve-month depression with two paragraphs of writing. He always wrote from the perspective of the downtrodden individual who simultaneously was on-fire, smoking.”

Serpentine Waltz’s mood is brightened by a folky fingerpicking style and richly embellished with trumpets, strings, piano, mandolins and oude. The sumptuous Beach Boy inspired chorus to ‘Getting It On With The Man In The Moon’ bursts light through the clouds.

"Song writing is still the thing, the big thing, isn’t it? But it’s got to come out of life.”

Tara Milton has seen life from all sides and lived to tell the tale. It’s great to have him back.

This article first appeared in Shindig magazine. Serpentine Waltz by Tara Milton with the Boy and Moon is out now on Boy and Moon Recordings.  Photo by Phil Miller. 
Coming soon: Tara reflects on his time in Five Thirty...

Sunday, 11 March 2018


Brett Anderson doesn’t so much walk into the room but glide. Back straight, no upper body movement and little steps. He could carry a book or his washing on his head, easy. With rakish grace he wafts from the back of an East London pub function room to the stage, where he decants into a large red velvet armchair, slouches back with a decadent air and waves a long bony hand. “Turn this terrible music off” he says, by way of an introduction. That terrible music is Suede’s brilliant, crunching, pirouetting, ‘Killing of a Flash Boy’, a 1994 B-side, that was, as were huge swathes of Suede B-sides up until that point, better than almost everyone else’s A-sides.

This is Brett’s first ever trip on the escalator at the end of the Victoria Line, as guest of Walthamstow’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Book Club, to talk about Coal Black Mornings, published this month by Little Brown. His demeanour is of a man at ease, debonair, sat in an exclusive Mayfair gentleman’s club, regaling tales of his life; only we’re in the shabby-chic E17, and the assembled ears do not belong to crusty old men smoking pipes. “I love women,” he says, fully aware of the response that will provoke, and an audience comprising of least 20 women to every man struggle to disguise reciprocal feelings. No doubt about it, Brett Anderson's a smooth, charming bastard. 

A man behind a tripod filming on a video camera asks why women love him and men hate him. There's no real answer to that, of course, but personal hygiene goes a long way apparently fellas.

Now he’s 50 (but, trust me ladies, looks much, much older...) we won’t find Brett in the gutter, reading Jack Kerouac and drinking bottles of absinthe – “boring, I know” – but instead he goes to dinner parties with his wife where he always finds himself stuck with “The Man” who wants to talk about cars and tyre pressure. I feel his pain, slightly, before finding some comfort in this news. 

But this is all side talk, the main discussion with interviewer Matt Thorne is about Coal Black Mornings, a book written with his young son in mind, he claims, on train journeys as a series of long emails to himself as he couldn’t be bothered to download Word to his computer. However unpromising that sounds the result is wonderful. I seldom read a book in a day but made an exception here (helped by 209 pages with lots of white space). It’s not The Story of Suede but a compelling account of Brett’s life up to the point of Suede signing a record deal, at which point the tale abruptly ends.

With autobiographies and biographies, I’m not usually overly interested in the subject’s early life, what their mum and dad and grandparents did, what their house was like; just cut to the chase, tell me about recording that classic single, tell me how everyone in the band fell out, their descent into My Drug Hell, then the redemption part at the end. But Brett, quite correctly as it turns out, reckons everyone has had their fill of those coke and gold disc stories, didn’t want to rake over that stuff now anyway, and chose to make his book about failure, love and loss, and achieves it magnificently.

It’s eloquently written, full of poetic phrases and evocative scenes of growing up in the 70s and 80s. Our lives are hardly comparable, but it’s strange how many memories it blew the dusty off in my head. Mostly innocuous stuff about being dragged around old churches on holidays and “sitting in soggy National Trust car parks as the rain poured angrily on the car roof” but nice nevertheless. Luckily for the reader if not him, Brett has far more monumental moments than that to share but the detailed descriptions of people and places impress.

Suede were often looked upon with suspicion singing about council estates and lives in the so-called margins, the assumption being they were middle class boys slumming it, adopting “social tourism” but Brett grew up in small council house in Hayward’s Heath with his mum, dad and elder sister. They were, undoubtedly, poor. In one example, Brett makes clear the indignity of having to queue up each day for his school dinner voucher; something that still stings. They were also the local oddball outsiders. Literature loving Mum, with artistic leanings and fond of sunbathing naked in the garden, was of the mend and make do school, making the only clothes that weren’t from jumble sales. Franz Listz obsessed Dad, who worked as an ice cream man, window cleaner, a swimming pool attendant who couldn’t swim, and finally a taxi driver, was, what may politely be called a bit of an eccentric, an Englishman whose home was most certainly his castle. I won’t spoil his foibles here.

Brett is unfailingly polite about those mentioned in the book (including former partners); even when revealing some unpleasantries about his father it’s respectfully done. There’s no sensationalism involved. The only person criticised is Brett himself and the only digs are a couple of handily placed references to the origins Modern Life Is Rubbish and ‘Popscene’ by (an unnamed) Blur plus a poke at 90s “groups of patronising middle-class boys making money by aping the accents and culture of the working classes”. Who can he mean?

Although not predominantly about Suede (and the Suede parts are curiously the least interesting, and I say that as a massive fan who followed every arse-slapping move during their first explosive year in the spotlight and love them still), Coal Black Mornings divulges events that provided inspiration for early songs. I’ve gone back and listened to things like ‘She’s Not Dead’, dealing with the mysterious and shocking death of his aunt, with far greater appreciation.

Coal Black Mornings is a class apart from most music books or memoirs. It’s full of emotion, honesty and revelations; it’s not a string of personal achievements but, as he writes, “about poverty and family and friendship and the scruffy wonders of youth”. There's a lot of death in there too, lump in the throat moments, but also laugh out loud occasions, due as much to Brett’s skilful writing than the incidents themselves. 

Back in the room, Brett is asked by a geek if he's a sci-fi fan (not really); the best Suede song ('The Wild Ones', correct); who he'd invite as a guest to interview at the Rock 'n' Roll Book Club (Lawrence from Felt, again correct); and having previously expressed a fondness for crisps, a group of fans plonk about 75 packets at his feet.

After the talk Brett signs books, natters to fans and poses for photographs, at which point I can confirm he does indeed smell mighty fine. 

Many thanks to Mark Hart of Walthamstow Rock 'n' Roll Book Club @e17RnR_books in rising to the challenge of bringing Brett to Mirth, Marvel & Maud, E17 and, naturally, to Brett Anderson himself. Coal Black Mornings is available now, £16.99.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

THE LUCID DREAM - 'SX1000' (2018)

Holy bananas, check this out. The Lucid Dream return in April with new single, ‘SX1000’, a year after their equipment was stolen at a gig in Paris and fans, eager for the band to continue making music, dug deep to donate £10,000 to get them back working again.

The first recorded return for that faith is a guitar-free, seven-minute banger, driven by the band’s prolonged submersion in Chicago and UK acid house sounds from the late 80s-early 90s. Anyone who has followed The Lucid Dream in their ten-year existence will have seen them grow and develop, continually looking to move on, from drone to dub, psych to rave. They’ve always pursued an independent path, a route that's now put them ahead of any pack. Watch others try to follow.

‘SX1000’ is released on 6 April 2018 as a limited edition single-sided 12 inch on Holy Are You Records. The Lucid Dream play the London Dalston Victoria (Thursday 5 April) and Manchester Band On The Wall (Friday 6 April). Band photo: Danny Payne.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


1.  Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band – ‘You Know You’ll Cry’ (1965)
The self-penned B-side to second single ‘Please Stay’ and one indebted to the rolling New Orleans sound of Allen Toussaint/Lee Dorsey.

2.  The Delicates – ‘Shop Shovin’ Me Around’ (1966)
Challenge Records were set-up by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. Gene had moseyed outta town by the time the Delicates cut this Motown soundalike, arranged by the phenomenally prolific and successful Gene Page.

3. Gela – ‘Pinta Mi Mundo’ (1967)
Swinging Spanish version of Pet Clark’s ‘Colour My World’.

4.  The Kindly Shepherds – ‘Lend Me Your Hand’ (1967)
Who you gonna call? No, not them, Jesus of course. Released on Checker this is happy-clappy gospel magic.

5.  Grant Green – ‘Iron City’ (1967)
It’s Green on guitar, Ben Dixon on drums and, according to the sleeve, Big John Patton on organ although there are plenty who swear it’s Larry Young. Listening closely, they may be right. Either way, this is supreme soul-jazz.

6.  The Impressions – ‘Stop The War’ (1972)
Curtis Mayfield had made way in the Impressions for Leroy Hutson to take over the lead role but still provided the songs and production to Times Have Changed. If Curtis hadn’t been cutting Superfly he would surely have been tempted to keep this for himself.

7.  Candy Opera – ‘Fever Pitch’ (1989)
Their recordings failed to see the light of day back in the mid-80s, only this month released this month as 45 Revolutions Per Minute, but what a revelation Candy Opera are. Although recorded at different stages the sixteen songs from this overlooked Liverpool band hang together as a superb, essential album. Fantastic all the way through, love it. Fans of Aztec Camera, in particular, take note.

8.  Men of North Country – ‘They Don’t Know’ (2016)
"We got some magic beans and we're rounding up the team". A joyous tribute to the secret underground topsy-turvy world of northern soul.

9.  Cabbage – ‘Arms of Pleonexia’ (2018)
Lyrically, musically and politically one of the most stirring bands around now, their 100 Club gig further cemented their reputation as an exciting proposition. The dark vibrating rattle and chant of ‘Arms of Pleonexia’ offers a taste of what’s to come from their first proper album, Nihilistic Glamour Shots, in March. Dictionary at the ready.

10.  Go-Kart Mozart – ‘When You’re Depressed’ (2018)
As gratifying as it is to see the Felt albums from the 80s reissued, don’t let that distract from Lawrence’s new Go-Kart Mozart album, Mozart Mini-Mart. Like music made for 1980s work training videos, here Lawrence deals with depression.

Friday, 23 February 2018


On the long list of things that make the mid-60s such an idyllic fantasyland to young pups such as I is the prominence of the musicians willing to lug a Hammond organ around seven days a week to play tiny pubs and clubs. There’s nothing like it, that sound, played through a Leslie speaker, swirlin’ and a-whirlin’. Bands these days either aren’t interested or can’t be doing with completing out a risk assessment to carry a ten-ton weight up some stairs and down again when smashed out of their skulls on pints of brandy. Only the other week I witnessed Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind disguise their use of a common-or-garden keyboard by quickly constructing a faux wood contraption to give the impression they were rocking an ancient organ. No backbone these bands. Or maybe it’s the old timers like Zoot Money who no longer have one; years of poor manual handling practices taking their toll. 

Some of the hard labours Zoot Money and his Big Roll Band put in are collated in Big Time Operator, a new 4-CD boxset, boasting their entire (original period) recorded output plus gigs and live performances for the BBC.

It’s clear Money comes alive whenever in front of an audience as the ebullient 1966 performance on Live at Klook’s Kleek which opens disc one demonstrates. You can almost feel the sweat of the band, the condensation running down the walls, as the audience soul-clap along to Ray Charles, Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield numbers and go crazy for a throaty James Brown medley. This is an archetypal Hammond and horns stew, London (via Bournemouth) style, yet despite their full-blooded rambunctiousness the occasional use of flute, included on the fabulous instrumental ‘Florence of Arabia’, adds a shade of subtlety. The night closes with ‘Barefootin’’, a song Zoot would frequently take literally and remove not only his shoes but those of as many members of the audience he could, a procedure that invariably turned to chaos as Denson’s and Mary Janes flew through the air.

This colourful showmanship defined Zoot’s shows. You were gonna shout and shimmy, have fun, and Zoot would make you laugh even if it detracted from the band’s musicianship. Georgie Fame exuded an air of stand-offish cool sophistication; Graham Bond and his Organisation were dangerously unhinged madmen loaded with violent virtuosity; Brian Auger was happy to share the spotlight; George Bruno Money, meanwhile, jumped on tables, leaped on cars at festivals, gurned, dropped his trousers and knocked over glasses of whisky and Coke.

Another show from the same year, Live at The Flamingo, the venue where the band took over Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames' residency, features on disc two. The nineteen songs, all different from the Klook’s set, recorded by saxophonist Nick Newall on a Grundig tape recorder with two little plastic microphones barely a foot apart on the stage, are a riot of raucous rhythm and soul. Despite the low-tech recording technique the sound quality is very good and captures the atmosphere superbly as they tear through ‘Oh Mom (Teach Me How To Uncle Willie)’, a rip-roaring ‘Hallelujah I Love Her So’, ‘Hide Nor Hair’, ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ and more. Although the band’s main preoccupation was unearthing American recordings to bring to British audiences they did, with the help of Tony Colton, have a few fine original numbers. ‘Big Time Operator’ the most obvious, gave the band their only chart single; the record buying public weren’t entirely stupid, it was by far the most hit-sounding. The mod-club friendly ‘Train Train’ could’ve been another but sadly was never completed in the studio.

Disc three’s Live At The BBC is wonderful. Eighteen songs (including many not appearing elsewhere in the box – ‘Picture Me Gone’, ‘I Can’t Turn You Loose’, ‘The Morning After’, ‘Cool Jerk’, ‘Ain’t That Love’, ‘You Can’t Sit Down’ etc) with plenty of chat with presenter Brian Matthew. By January 1967, Zoot’s discussing his interest in the emerging psychedelic scene, only to then perform ‘The Star of the Show’, which belongs in the same chicken in a basket cabaret bag as ‘Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear’; even Brian Mathew cheekily ribs Zoot about its chart failure and being ‘best forgotten’. Within months Zoot got with-it, bought a kaftan, the Big Roll Band lost a few wheels, painted their equipment white and rode into the burgeoning underground scene as Dantalion’s Chariot on a wave of LSD.

Back to 1965 and It Should’ve Been Me, the Big Roll Band’s solitary studio album, is placed on the disc four; a typical collection of rhythm and blues tunes with a touch of jazz (John Patton’s ‘Along Came John’ and Jimmy Smith’s ‘The Cat’). Compared to the flat sounding lookalike reissue I’ve had for years it sounds miles better and comes to life in way I’d not expected (vinyl is not always king kids). ‘I’ll Go Crazy’ and ‘Jump Back’ get things off to a storming start and apart from a couple of bluesy numbers that drag it’s enjoyable if seldom catching the personality of the band like the live recordings.

Across the discs are spread the rest of the band’s singles, B-sides, EP tracks and rarities. Housed in a hardback book-style package with Zoot providing a track-by-track commentary plus guitarist Andy Somers/Summers sharing his Flamingo Club memories, the set is the same style as Repertoire’s Graham Bond Organisation: Wade In The Water and makes a welcome companion.

Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band haven't been as well served by the reissue market as their peers so Big Time Operator puts that straight. Nearly five hours of music, over 80 songs (very few repeated), the much-missed Brian Matthew brought back to life, and Zoot and co having the time of their lives, this joyful stuff. With no danger of losing your shoes, getting drinks spilled on your new strides or having a bulky Hammond player land on your head, enjoy Big Time Operator from the safety of your own home now.

Big Time Operator by Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band is out now on Repertoire.

Monday, 19 February 2018


In case you missed Mavis Staples on BBC Radio 6 Music yesterday, here's the link to catch up. Matt Everitt talks to Mavis about the first time she was aware of music, sung with her family, at home, in church, in the studio and much more. 

As you'd expect from anything involving Mavis, it's a joyous hour -with an undercurrent of righteous indignation. Not only is "Bubbles" possessed with an amazing singing voice, she also owns the most captivating talking voice. Oh, and if Matt Everitt doesn't have the above photo framed at home I'd be very disappointed. Shamone.

Saturday, 17 February 2018


Boy Azooga is, according to press blurb, “the psych-flecked musical vehicle for Cardiff’s Davey Newington multifarious musical mission.” ‘Loner Boogie’ is two minutes of restless bees-trapped-in-a-tin garage rock and roll at odds with previous outing, the synthy ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’, which makes Boy Azooga, at this early stage, intriguingly difficult to pin down. Debut album out in the summer.