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 clich├ęd 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.