Sunday, 31 January 2010


A fabulous new Georgie Fame collection, Mod Classics: 1964-1966, was released on Monday and Monkey Mansions has swung to little else all week. To read my gushing review, see over at Modculture. Rather than repeat it here, let’s instead watch the man at the NME Poll Winners Party, Wembley in 1965. You’ll have to grit your teeth to get past Jimmy Saville but it’ll be worth it.

Georgie Fame – Mod Classics: 1964-1966 is released by BGP.

Friday, 29 January 2010


What a long month that was. These have kept the spirits up.

1. Hank Mobley – “Three Way Spilt” (1963)
A Blue Note LP No Room For Squares – with Hank donning the shades and balancing an inch of ash off the end of his fag – is always going to look the business casually (yet oh-so-deliberately) positioned on view in any sophisticated hipster abode. Sounds alright an’ all.

2. Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames – “Monkeying Around” (1965)
Fame’s new Mod Classics collection contains not one but two monkey related songs. Would have been a stewards enquiry if he’d failed to make this month’s picks.

3. Dusty Springfield – “I’ve Been Wrong Before” (1965)
If we ignore the ugly blemish of “La Bamba”, Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty is a beautiful album. Difficult to pick one track but this gets the nod for its Scott Walkeresque arrangement and production.

4. The Chocolate Watchband – “Don’t Need Your Lovin’” (1967)
The Watchband out stone the Stones with this snarling one-fingered garage salute. I met Dave Aguilar, singer and writer of this once. He was backstage after a gig and I asked him all sheepishly if he wouldn’t mind signing a record. “Yeah man, just give me a minute will ya?” He was a bit off. He was stood in his underpants.

5. Lou Donaldson – “Snake Bone” (1968)
After using the ultra-modish Peggy Moffitt for his cover star on previous albums, Lou played the Black Power card next and stuck a couple of right-on sisters on the front of Say It Loud. Not one of his most inspired LPs but the title track and “Snake Bones” cut an acceptable soul-jazz rug.

6. Keith Jarrett – “Mortgage For My Soul (Wah Wah)” (1972)
This is what we want: freaky duelling horns and what sounds like Rolf Harris’s wobble board played through a wah wah pedal.

7. Primal Scream – “Silent Spring” (1987)
The Scream’s Sonic Flower Groove always strikes me as the younger sugar spun sister of the first Stone Roses album. Of the two, I’d date Bobby’s mob.

8. Sonic Youth – “Mary-Christ” (1990)
Back in my Indie DJ days of the early 90s I never played this. I hereby apologise to the regulars at Freak Scene, Sticky Wicket and Club Skinny for such an appalling oversight. Would’ve sounded the business next to The Pixies’ “Debaser”.

9. Suede – “She’s In Fashion” (1999)
Time to borrow your sister’s blouse once more, Suede are back. Bernard won’t be there swishing his mane but plenty of Brett’s clunky couplets (“She’s employed where the sun don’t set/ She’s the shape of a cigarette”) will be, as will I. Note to Suede: Please do “To The Birds”. I thank you.

10. The Jim Jones Revue – “Elemental” (2009)
The Jim Jones Revue don’t simply raise the rock ‘n’ roll bar but incinerate it.

Thursday, 28 January 2010


Writer, piss drinker and recluse, J. D. Salinger, died yesterday aged 91.

I've read The Catcher In The Rye so many times the pages practically turn themselves. That's my copy above. No way was that Penguin going on the fire.

For a proper obituary, check the New York Times

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Ten years ago I co-ran a psychedelic club - Orange Sunshine - in Shoreditch and we received an email from Nat Finkelstein. He said he was coming to London, staying at such-and-such hotel, and wouldn’t it be good to meet up. I already had his book Andy Warhol: The Factory Years 1964-1967, so knew of his time photographing the collected freaks from there, but fearing one of those so-what-do-we-talk-about-now-I’m-trapped-with-no-where-to-go-looking-at-my-watch-and-feet moments, I made up some excuse.

Looking again at his pictures, this time at the Idea Generation Gallery, five minutes from my old club, I’m having one of those you-stupid-plonker-what-an-opportunity-wasted moments. This – as we see - was a man who clicked away as Warhol met Dylan, who took pictures of the Velvet Underground, of Nico, of Edie Sedgwick, of Marcel Duchamp even. Who was a political activist closely associated with the Black Panthers, a drug addict wanted by the authorities, who fled the country in fear for his life. And I was worried we’d have nothing to talk about.

There are some later works but the bulk here are his grainy black and white images from the Factory era. Nat studied photography under the art director at Harper’s Bazaar, so knew his onions, but with subjects like these it was hard for him to go wrong, at least as far as the pictures were concerned. In his book he pulled no punches and there wasn’t much love lost between him and some of Andy's Superstars by the time his stint ended there. He wrote:

“They thought they were special; that was their delusion. They thought they were unique; that was their conceit. They thought they were indistinguishable; that was their downfall. Like creatures from a horror flick they emerged from the swamps of middle America crying the infectious cry of the mutant, “I need creatures who resemble me.””

Finkelstein died last October, aged 76. The mutants are on display until 14th February.

Nat Finkelstein: From One Extreme To The Other is at the Idea Generation Gallery, 11 Chance Street, London E2 until 14th February 2010. Admission free.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


The movers and shakers from the underground writing scene were out in force on Thursday for Billy Childish’s reading and book burning (see last Sunday’s post). Was good to meet the likes of Joseph Ridgwell, Jenni Fagan and Vic Templar, and reassuring they all appeared to have wandered straight from the pages of their books.

Billy was in charismatically jovial mood, wondering between poems what 19 year old Paul Weller would think of a 52 year old Paul Weller, what 19 year old Billy Childish would think of Billy Childish now, whether Charles Bukowski was a softie for moaning about working at the post office, and tales of fake moustaches and being the only punk in shorts.

Micheal from L-13 had chosen the pieces from Selected Poems for Billy to read, which meant a few different ones to those Billy usually picks. I’d had a few beers but I think he read: your golden hair, a sad donky and a fat man smiling, where the tiger prowls stripped and unseen, monkys in space, only poets piss in sinks, a mad noise like birds, fat nature, the snow, the bitter cup, hear i stand, the billy childish.

Then came the burning. L-13 did a fantastic job in making Selected Poems look totally like an authentic Penguin classic (managed to rescue one) so was sad to see them wasted. Penguin should have been proud to be associated with Billy’s work. But then, where’s the fun in that?

Thursday, 21 January 2010


It’s no secret the Action are my favourite band, the one that mean more to me than any other. A giant framed photograph of them hangs over my bed and is my most treasured possession. So it’s with genuine regret to report bass player Michael Evans died last week, aged 64.

There was something magical about discovering the band through the Ultimate Action compilation in the early 80s. Paul Weller wrote the sleevenotes - which was the royal seal of approval for a new mod generation – beyond that, I and other instant devotees knew very little beyond the handful of photographs on the inner sleeve. They looked immaculate and sounded magnificent. American soul covers by British pop groups usually ends in disaster, but with producer George Martin they took the essence of the originals and rearranged them with a crisp freshness their contemporaries couldn’t manage. Just play “I’ll Keep On Holding On”, “In My Lonely Room” or the sublime “Since I Lost My Baby”. For the past twenty-five years I’ve not gone more than a few weeks without listening in awe to their records.

Their relative obscurity back then added to the mysterious air that surrounded them. Stories circulated that singer Reggie King had died falling down some stairs. He hadn’t. As the years went by, their story gradually unfolded. Each new photograph or the uncovering of a mention in a faded copy of Record Mirror would be akin to finding the golden ticket. In time, we’d even get to see a few minutes of film (although their Ready, Steady, Go appearance is seemingly lost forever) and hear some unreleased material. Even today there are few things I’ll get more excited about than a new snippet of Action related memorabilia.

By the 90s I’d started my fanzine and simply had to name it after an Action track. With Shadows and Reflections already taken, Something Has Hit Me was born. I started by interviewing guitarist Pete Watson who’d not seen any of the band since 1967. A few years later I interviewed Reggie for Shindig! and he’d not seen anyone either, and later I’d interview Mick Evans (unpublished). When called by a promoter looking to reform the band I wasn’t keen. I didn’t want their sacred status tarnished by embarrassing old-bloke performances. Those gigs started in 1998 and ended in 2004. I saw all the London shows and we partied together in Spain. They weren’t brilliant but there was something special about seeing all five original members back together, playing and enjoying themselves. It stopped me being too precious about these things and saw what was more important. Talking to them they realised how lucky they were to be doing it and renewing old friendships. It wasn’t for financial reward; it was for the love of it. That love went from band to audience and audience to band. Michael was the one that with little fuss held it together. In my eyes, they kept their reputation intact.

Evans’s playing and performing throughout his career was never showy or flash but he’d anchor bands with his fluid groove and leave space for others to take the limelight, especially when the Action morphed into psych-folk luminaries Mighty Baby and their incredible musicianship came to the fore. It was, Mike told me, the Mighty Baby period that he looked back on most fondly.

I only knew Mike on a vague personal level but he struck me as quiet soul and had an aura of soothing calmness around him. The joy those Action records bring are today tinged with sadness. My heartfelt condolences go to all his family and friends.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Last weekend I watched Julie Christie in Fahrenheit 451, the 1966 film of Ray Bradbury’s novel where books are banned and burned by the authorities.

It’s not a stance you’d expect from a book publisher but that’s the one being taken by Penguin over Billy Childish’s Selected Poems. The ungrateful suits have been none too amused by Billy’s contribution to L-13’s Infiltrations series. Copies of his book were produced in the style of an old Penguin paperback, given DH Lawrence’s ISBN number, and were to be snuck onto bookshop shelves. How did Penguin react to this generous act of homage and free advertising? By ordering their destruction, that’s how.

This Thursday you can witness Billy giving a send-off reading before the burning ceremony at the L-13 Gallery in Clerkenwell (click on flyer above). A limited, hand bound, Tangerine Press edition of Uncorrected Poems will rise from the flames.

L-13 Light Industrial Workshop and Private Ladies and Gentlemen's Club for Art, Leisure and the Disruptive Betterment of Culture

Tangerine Press

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Oh, I thought you said William Burroughs had no soul.

Burroughs famously lived at 222 Bowery on New York City’s Lower East Side from roughly 1974 to 1981 in what he called “The Bunker”, a windowless, partially converted YMCA gym. When I went to have a look in 2004 I was quite surprised it was still a gym (or looked like one) and although much of New York is probably unrecognizable from when Bill shuffled his feet along the sidewalks, that little part, with CPGBs across the street and a general air of unpleasantness, was strangely familiar and comforting. What I didn’t realise was that beneath my feet, Burroughs’s lair stood largely untouched and preserved by his friend, the poet, John Giorno.

Photographer Peter Ross has now taken some shots of items that remain and caught his interest (like Bill’s shoes above) and is interviewed in today’s edition of The Morning News (click here) by Nicole Pasulka, along with a link to see more pictures.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


With only two weeks left of the Beatles To Bowie: The 60s Exposed at the National Portrait Gallery, if you’re thinking of going, you’d better get your ice-skates on. But is it any good? Is it worth it? Yes and no. Or rather, sort of and maybe not.

What’s on offer are photographic portraits (and they are all portraits) of British hit makers, shown a year at a time, from scrubbed pop starlets of 1960 through to dishevelled rock stars of 1969. This gives an opportunity to check the swift changes in fashion and photography through the decade. Not that you and I, dear MonkeyPicker, need this, and the exhibition is clearly not aimed at those who’d prefer to see the Action outside the Buttery or the Smoke on The Beat Club. So, by and large, it is the portraits you’d expect in a major gallery, accompanied by a bargain bucket of cheapo memorabilia tacked to each year. If you’re going to pick one “iconic” (hate that word) shot of the Who, which would it be? Probably the Observer Union Jack jacket shot by Colin Jones. Marianne Faithfull? Draped over the seats in the Salisbury pub by Gered Mankowitz. Jagger? Fur hood by David Bailey. They’re all here. Which begs the question what is being “exposed” that’s not already frequently on the surface? Not much, but I’m happy enough to gaze at Dusty, Sandie, Julie, and admire the shoes of Steampacket, the Manfreds, Animals, Yardbirds (above by Mankowitz) etc; like I’d be happy enough to hear “Tin Soldier” on the pub jukebox. If I wanted something deeper I wouldn’t go the NPG or the pub.

Whether you consider it “worth it” depends on the value you put on eleven pounds. To pay eleven quid to see stuff for the umpteenth time is steep. For the less initiated it is reasonable(ish) value for the size of it (for them there London prices like). I was heartened by a girl of around seven correctly identifying The Kinks being played in the background, and a young mum and daughter getting excited by the sheet music to “Pictures of Lily”. Sod the National History Museum; this is the way to bring up kids.

What did get my goat was being asked to donate to the purchase of two Robert Whitaker photographs of the Beatles used in the exhibition. Hang on, you just lightened my pocket by over a tenner. Don’t the National Portrait Gallery have enough Beatles crap already? What about Mr Whitaker donating his precious fucking pictures to a public gallery, the tight shit?

Beatles To Bowie: The 60s Exposed is at the National Portrait Gallery until 24 January 2010, admission £11. Should you want the book, it’ll set you back another £30.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


Willie Mitchell died on Tuesday. He was 81 and many thought he already dead, so let’s shed no tears. He’s most fondly remembered for those stomping Northern Soul instrumentals like “The Champion” and “That Driving Beat”, and for his production work at Hi Records for the likes of Al Green. Personally, I’m a big fan of the records he made with Ann Peebles: lean, mean, tight production with that snappy Memphis funk. Here’s a good example from 1972, “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home”.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Gimme Shelter follows the 1969 Rolling Stones tour from New York to California and the shocking events that would lead to Altamont and the killing of at least two giant rattlesnakes to make Keith Richard’s boots. Those boots wiggle to a studio playback of “Wild Horses”, scuff against a stool as Mick and Keef perform “Prodigal Son”, and out of shot they look on in bemusement as a dog wanders across the makeshift stage in a dusty hellhole as drug crazed dingbrains beat the living daylights out of each other. They are the most magnificent boots in rock ‘n’ roll history, and their story is now available on a must-have DVD.

Of course, in glorious hindsight the whole Altamont fiasco is jaw dropping in its naive lunacy, but following Hyde Park and Woodstock it seemed like a good idea at the time. If that was today the poor bugger from Health and Safety would have kittens and be in desperate need of a new clipboard and pencil. It does though provide us with some important lessons. Like, if you give acid to a field of 300,000 of the great unwashed it’ll be the fat ugly hippies striping off and lumbering around rather than the beautiful flower children; although it’s some job trying to spot anyone vaguely beautiful in this rotting pile of filth.

The Hells Angels copped a load of grief for their antics, not least for the killing of Meredith Hunter but he was flashing a gun around just feet from the boots, so he had to go. And the Angels were mighty pissed off by then. They’d turned up to a free concert with their pool cues, made their way to the front, only to discover no pool tables had been laid on for them. I mean, with no eight-ball to hit, what’s a guy supposed to do?

The DVD has a clutch of extras to entice an upgrade from your worn video tape: twenty minutes of outtakes including “Prodigal Son” (mentioned above) and performances of “Little Queenie” and “Carol”, Mick hanging out backstage with Ike and Tina Turner (would you have the balls to take Ike’s guitar and play it in front of him?); an audio commentary from three of the film makers focusing on the practicalities and technicalities of making the film; and frustratingly brief excerpts from a radio broadcast the day after Altamont with eye witnesses phoning in with their experiences (“bad acid and bad vibrations from the start”).

I’m off to Dolcis.

Friday, 1 January 2010


Here’s what I played last night/this morning at the New Untouchables do at the 229 Club, once I’d removed Milton from my record box. New Year’s Eve isn’t the time to be too clever or take too many risks, was just a case of whacking on crowd favourites to keep the floor packed. And besides, it was so bloody dark in there I was struggling to see what was in the box anyway. Hope those that went enjoyed it.

King Curtis – Do The Monkey (Capitol)
King Coleman – Black Bottom Blues (Philips)
Pop Corn and The Mohawks – Shimmy Gully (Motown)
The Drifters – If You Don’t Come Back (Atlantic)
Harold Atkins – Big Ben (Vinyl Carver)
Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Brown Sugar (Warner Bros)
The Gospel Pearls – Two Little Fishes (Liberty)
The Impressions – Can’t Satisfy (ABC) (for Curtis Turnham’s 1st birthday)
Sugar and Sweet – You Don’t Have To Cry (Pep)
Pearl Woods – Don’t Tell It All (Crackerjack)

Leo Price and Band – Hey Now Baby (Up Down)
Grover Pruitt – Little Girl (Salem)
Sugar “Boy” Williams – Little Girl (Herald)
Freddy King – Now I’ve Got A Woman (Federal)
Eddie Bo – Dinky Doo (Ric)
Connie Christmas – Big Chief (Checker)
Big Daddy Rogers – I’m A Big Man (Midas)
BB King – Heartbreaker (Bluesway)
The Righteous Brothers – Little Latin Lupe Lu (Moonglow)
Marv Johnson – Come On And Stop (United Artists)
Kim Weston – Helpless (Gordy)
Barbara Randolph – I Got A Feeling (Soul)
The Isley Brothers – This Old Heart Of Mine (Tamla Motown)
Charles Sheffield – It’s Your Voodoo Working (Excello)
BB King – Think It Over (HMV)
Banny Price – You Love Me Pretty Baby (Jewel)