Wednesday, 26 August 2009


I know you lie awake wondering what I’ve been listening to. Wonder no more.

1. The Horace Silver Quintet – “Blowing The Blues Away” (1959)
Rule of thumb dictates jazz numbers with “blues” in the title should be avoided unless you fancy a eight minute nap. Silver demolishes that rule, leading his quintet with an almighty bash on the ole joanna in half the time and with twice the energy.

2. Roberta Daye – “I’m Never Gonna Cry Again” (1960)
John Manship has this neat popcorn 45 on sale for the frankly ludicrous sum of £150, which made the addition of it to the DJ box for £20 all the sweeter. Where do these prices come from?

3. Danny Brown – “Chewing Gum” (1962)
More piano pounding, this time on a R&B mover that’s begging for dance floor action. And will get it.

4. The Impressions – “Can’t Satisfy” (1966)
Take your pick. For some reason the new Impressions comp has a live version of this instead of the single version. It matters not.

5. The Hollies – “Look Through Any Window” (1966)
There’s no need to fear the Hollies, kids.

6. George Harrison – “Let It Down” (1970)
Oh Christ on a tangerine bike, the Beatles are coming. Again. Batten down the hatches, September is gonna be a ‘mare as their albums are re-re-re-re-re-launched and some poxy computer game gets hyped to kingdom come. I’m taking refuge in Harrison’s triple LP All Things Must Pass to avoid anything John fucking Lennon related.

7. Bobby Womack – “Harry Hippie” (1972)
It’s lyrically naff and Womack makes Harry sound more like a tramp than a hippie but it’s a beautiful record nonetheless, helped by Bobby laying off his Mr Lurve Man growl for once.

8. Menace – “G.L.C.” (1977)
There’s nothing like a well constructed, well crafted, thought out, clever, intelligent, insightful lyric laden with meaning, mystery and depth. Take it away, Menace: “GLC GLC, GLC GLC, You’re full of shit, shit, shit shit shit”. Er, yeah.

9. The Milkshakes – “Love Can Lose” (1984)
He may not appear to play it often but there’s more than one string to Billy Childish’s musical bow, as this twangy reworking of The Who’s “Circles” testifies.

10. New Order – “All The Way” (1989)
History now decrees The Stone Roses as the defining album of 1989 yet it was New Order’s Technique that provided the soundtrack to that summer, with the Roses only truly catching on come November with “Fools Gold” and the Alexandra Palace gig, which although keenly anticipated, was a huge let down. Only two overtly acid-house numbers seriously date Technique, the rest is pure bliss, and to my ears still the album of ’89. But then I’m a willfully contrary so and so.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


It’s the stuff of legend: Roky Erickson, front man for the first self-proclaimed psychedelic rock band, the 13th Floor Elevators, took over 300 acid trips, was busted for a small amount of pot, pleaded insanity to avoid jail, wound up in a Rusk secure prison for the criminally insane, diagnosed schizophrenic, treated with electroshock therapy, drugged to the eyeballs with Thorazine, formed a prison band with a bunch of child killers, became a reverend, was released three years later when ruled sane enough not to harm himself or others, was convinced he was a Martian and wanted to call his child Alien before settling on R2-D2 for a year. That’s far from the whole story, for that see Paul Drummond’s heroic telling of the whole incredible saga in his exhaustive biography Eye Mind.

For readers of Eye Mind, and especially viewers of Keven McAlester’s 2005 film You’re Gonna Miss Me, it’s an astounding achievement that Roky is back performing at all but his reluctance to play 13th Floor Elevators songs mean “Splash 1” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me” are tucked away at the end of his set. How enjoyable the preceding hour is depends, to a degree, on your tolerance for ghoulish heavy metalish ruminations on two headed dogs, demons, Lucifer, vampires, zombies, bloody hammers and men with atom brains.

Whatever, and however, he played would be enough for those simply wanting to pay their respects and offer encouragement to a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer who suffered for his art, and paid the price, more than most. Yet Erickson, although uncommunicative (not even a hello or thank you) and rooted to the spot in an eerie autopilot mode, is in fine performing fettle; playing sturdy rhythm guitar and his voice – that much imitated demonic Texan garage rock drawl – in such great shape there’s no need for the devil’s sympathy vote.

There are occasional stodgy moments but the playing of his sympathetic band is largely sprightly for such dark material. “Starry Eyes” adds a beam of light and “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer” sounds swiped from the Stones right under the nose of Primal Scream.

As Roky leaves to loving and rapturous applause he gently raises his fists and a glimmer of a well earned smile peeks through the mass of hair and scraggy Father Christmas beard.

An edited version of this review first appeared for Shindig! magazine

Monday, 24 August 2009


No dance class this week, simply the magnificent Sister Rosetta Tharpe giving it some serious testifying. Love the guitar break in the middle.


Sunday, 23 August 2009


Hip music magazine Shindig! has received a welcome wash and shave, and for the first time in ages thankfully doesn’t feature anyone with a beard on the cover; instead going for the immeasurably more pleasing features of Julie Driscoll, who is covered in-depth.

Among the things I like about Shindig! is the mix of lengthy features and snappy, to-the-point, reviews; plus coverage of bands like, in this issue, Wimple Winch and Spirit, neither I’ve listened to for yonks yet am now keen to rediscover. Also, an amusing encounter with Question Mark of ? & The Mysterians and an interview with Kim Fowley: “If it’s a soloist I want to hear a teardrop in the voice. If it’s fast I want to see teenagers hurling themselves through the air”.

Despite being rooted in the past, the free CD of 20 current bands looking backwards to look forwards is not only surprising in depth but quality too, and puts to shame all the bin botherers Mojo dishes out.

Available from “all good record shops” but there’s more chance of finding a copy of “Desdemona” in the local charity shop than one of those on your high street, so best subscribe from

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


Promising never before seen footage, with narration by Peter Weller and music by Sonic Youth, William S. Burroughs: A Man Within is a new feature-length film from Bullet Proof Films by director Yony Leyser, due for release at the end of the year. Part of their pitch reads:

“William Burroughs was one of the first to cross the dangerous boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950s, and write about his experiences. Eventually he was hailed the godfather of the beat generation and influenced artists for generations to come. However, his friends were left wondering, did William ever find happiness? This extremely personal documentary breaks the surface of the troubled and brilliant world of one of the greatest authors of all time.”

The film’s website includes a tasty trailer at

Monday, 17 August 2009


This week's dance lesson comes from 1963 courtesy of Mr Jack Leroy Wilson Jr. from Detroit, Michigan.

After a steady start Jackie hits his stride with a couple of deft backdrops and a bizarre backward bunnyhop. Word of warning if adopting these moves: unlike Mr Wilson you are not a rhythm and blues superstar and will, in all probability, look a right plum.


Sunday, 16 August 2009


Unbeknownst to him, Billy Childish has been advertised as giving a poetry reading followed by a live set with the Musicians of the British Empire. He’s not best pleased. “I don’t like to mix it with my rock ‘n’ roll”, he says. “This young lady over here wanted to ask me what poets wear. All poets are vermin, that’s all you need to know”. But ever the honourable gentleman, if that’s what people have come for, that’s what they’ll get. Unprepared he only has his latest book of poems with him that he’d bought along to sell – not read. He doesn’t know them off by heart and doesn’t much fancy reading them, explaining that due to his dyslexia unless he’s read something hundreds of times he never knows the next line. “I can remember other people’s words; just not my own”. Not that it matters, Childish is such a charismatic raconteur that the poems read are in fact less entertaining than the chit-chat surrounding them, railing – comically - against everything from the Guardian, the Edinburgh Festival, promoters and audiences to poets.

One poem mentions a Walkman which Billy notes “really should be one of those, whatyoucallits, iPods. See, I know all the gear” he says with a grin and mischievous twinkle in his eye. He plays the role of man out of time wonderfully well and discloses that although he doesn’t own a mobile phone nor iPod, his wife Nurse Julie does and on Sundays whilst painting he has Beethoven playing from one. “Anyone listen to Ludwig van Beethoven?” Stony silence. “You should. One of the advantages of Beethoven is there’s no words to learn yet plenty of banging about”.

Along with Julie on bass and Wolf on drums it’s the banging about of MBEs that comes next. Being a relaxed afternoon session the band are in civvies rather than their normal battle dress with Childish sporting a 1940’s docker spruced up for an evening on the town look. With the safety net of his lyrics on the floor they set about crashing through a short, sweet yet predictable set. For someone with a back catalogue of over a 100 albums he repeatly draws from a small pool of songs and there’s inevitability about the set: “Misty Water”, “Joe Strummer’s Grave”, “A Quick One”, “Troubled Mind”, “Punk Rock Ist Nicht Tot” and “Fire”. Nurse Julie gets a ribbing for forgetting how to play “Troubled Mind”. “She’s got her pregnancy brain on. I might not remember words but I can remember chord sequences”. Such slap dash musicianship is part of the charm as the songs crudely crackle along fueled by their pure, honest and determined punk rock spirit.

Archive from 1959: the Billy Childish Story, a double CD set of 51 tracks spanning over thirty years is out now on Damaged Goods.

Saturday, 15 August 2009


Two weeks until the bank holiday weekend so those that haven’t sorted themselves out should get a wriggle on and book digs in Brighton unless you fancy sleeping on the beach. And trust me, I’ve done it, and it ain’t clever and leaves pebbled imprints on your face and body for hours meaning you walk around not only aching to buggery but looking like Quasimodo in crumpled hipsters. Not a good look.

The New Untouchables have laid on a club night, two all-nighters, a couple of daytime dos, some bands, a scooter cruise and sundry other items for those of a modernist or 60s bent. Providing the weather is good, chewing the cud outside the Volk's Tavern nursing a sore head, a tub of cockles, a pint of Stella and a bottle of Desperado as a few scooters splutter into view is as good a way as any to spend an afternoon.

If all that isn’t incentive enough, you can also catch me DJing in the evenings. Rest assured it’ll be strictly R&B movers with a smattering of soulful groovers. If I whack on The Smiths it surely will be a case of hang the DJ.

See for full info.

Thursday, 13 August 2009


It’s always a joyous moment each season when the latest Beat Scene hits the doormat. The summer edition is out now and stuffed with news and features on all your beat related characters and their literary and literal offspring.

Issue 59 includes big hitters Burroughs and Bukowski mixing it with less familiar names Kay Johnson and Allen Deloach; amongst the book reviews is Jan Kerouac: A Life In Memory which should make a fascinating read following the recent court case; an interview with my old goldfish’s namesake Herbert Huncke who talks candidly about drug addiction, prison and hooking up with the New York beat crowd; and much more.

I’ve one spare issue to give away to the first person who sticks their hand up. The rest head to

Monday, 10 August 2009


For no other reason than to ease the Monday blues, here are the Flamingos (featuring Tommy Hunt) from 1959 doing "Jump Children".

The song is great but the dancing - especially when two Flamingos are bounced as basketballs - is truly amazing.


Sunday, 9 August 2009


Blackheath Books’ reputation as discerning independent publishers climbs another notch with a bruising first collection of poems by Jenni Fagan.

The back cover is proudly stamped with words from the Chairman of Edinburgh & Midlothian Young Offenders Report 1993: “Miss Fagan is a considerable danger, both to herself and to all of society.” In a Bart Simpson way, I’m thinking “cool”; except it’s not cool. Fagan’s accounts of abuse, violence and prostitution in childhood are far too real and unsettling to get off on some vicarious kick.

You can feel the danger throughout Urchin Belle as the fizzing tension and pressure builds like a can of Tennent’s booted down the stairs, ready to explode. It’s not all doom and gloom though; there are moments of snatched tenderness and the end poem about nicking lights from police cars provides a defiant, funny, and triumphant two-fingered finale.

Urchin Belle is published as a strictly limited edition (numbered and signed) by Blackheath Books priced £5.

Friday, 7 August 2009


Here’s some exciting news of a film due later this year. I’ve lifted the below straight from the website of the filmmakers at I’m sure they won’t mind. And there’s a tantalising trailer too.

The Beat Hotel, a new film by Documentary Arts goes deep into the legacy of the American Beats in Paris during the heady years between 1957 and 1963, when Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso fled the obscenity trials in the United States surrounding the publication of Ginsberg’s poem Howl. They took refuge in a cheap no-name hotel they had heard about at 9, Rue Git le Coeur and were soon joined by William Burroughs, Ian Somerville, Brion Gysin, and others from England and elsewhere in Europe, seeking out the “freedom” that the Latin Quarter of Paris might provide.

The Beat Hotel, as it came to be called, was a sanctuary of creativity, but was also, as British photographer Harold Chapman recalls, “an entire community of complete oddballs, bizarre, strange people, poets, writers, artists, musicians, pimps, prostitutes, policemen, and everybody you could imagine.” And in this environment, Burroughs finished his controversial book Naked Lunch; Ian Somerville and Brion Gysin invented the Dream Machine; Corso wrote some of his greatest poems; and Harold Norse, in his own cut-up experiments, wrote the novella, aptly called The Beat Hotel.

The film tracks down Harold Chapman in the small seaside town of Deal in Kent England. Chapman’s photographs are iconic of a time and place when Ginsberg, Orlovsky, Corso, Burroughs, Gysin, Somerville and Norse were just beginning to establish themselves on the international scene. Chapman lived in the attic of the hotel, and according to Ginsberg “didn’t say a word for two years” because he wanted to be “invisible” and to document the scene as it actually happened.

In the film, Chapman’s photographs and stylized dramatic recreations of his stories meld with the recollections of Elliot Rudie, a Scottish artist, whose drawings of his time in the hotel offer a poignant and sometimes humorous counterpoint. The memories of Chapman and Rudie interweave with the insights of French artist Jean-Jacques Lebel, author Barry Miles, Danish filmmaker Lars Movin, and the first hand accounts of Oliver Harris, Regina Weinrich, Patrick Amie, Eddie Woods, and 95 year old George Whitman, among others, to evoke a portrait of Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso and the oddities of the Beat Hotel that is at once unexpected and revealing.

The Beat Hotel is currently in production and is scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2009.

Watch the trailer here

Thursday, 6 August 2009


A 60-track Curtis Mayfield penned collection out this week featuring 30 A sides on one CD and their respective flips on another, selling for less than ten quid. No duff years, no iffy periods, just one glorious, graceful touch of heavenly soul after another. Sheer brilliance from beginning to end.

Curtis Mayfield. The closest agnostics get to God.