Sunday, 28 February 2010


From the year nineteen hundred and sixty four, this is Howlin' Wolf.

Saturday, 27 February 2010


This month we’ll let the artists speak for themselves. Some do it better than others.

1. Blind Willie Johnson – “You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond” (1930)
“Now its way after midnight, when death come a-creepin' in your room / You're gonna need somebody on your bond.”

2. Baron Lee and the Mills Blue Rhythm Band – “Reefer Man” (1932)
“Oh, have you ever met that funny reefer man? / Have you ever met that funny reefer man?/ If he trades you dimes for nickels / And calls watermelons pickles / Then you know you’re talking to that reefer man.”

3. Sonny Clark – “Cool Struttin’” (1958)
Pop goes the weasel.

4. Bob Dylan – “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” (1962)
“Six thousand people tryin' t' kill each other / Dogs a-barkin', cats a-meowin' / Women screamin', fists a-flyin', babies cryin', / Cops a-comin', me a-runnin'. / Maybe we just better call off the picnic.”

5. Funkadelic – “Mommy, What’s A Funkadelic?” (1970)
“If you will suck my soul / I will lick your funky emotions.”

6. Swamp Dogg – “Sam Stone” (1972)
“There’s a hole in Daddy’s arm, where all the money goes.”

7. Johnny Thunders – “Subway Train” (1978)
“I can’t ever understand / Why my life’s been cursed, poisoned, condemned.”

8. The Cure – “Inbetween Days” (1985)
“Yesterday I got so old, I felt like I could die / Yesterday I got so old, it made me want to cry.”

9. The Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder – “She Looks Good In The Sun” (2009)
“Fifteen sides of orange paper, covered in red ink / It looks good but, it sure is hard to read”.

10. Gil Scott-Heron – “I’m New Here” (2010)
“Met a woman in a bar / Told her I was hard to get to know / And near impossible to forget / She said I had an ego on me / The size of Texas.”

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


“Someday, everything is gonna be diff’rent, When I paint my masterpiece”.
– Bob Dylan, When I Paint My Masterpiece, 1971.

How does one separate art from the artist? Is it even possible or can art only be judged objectively (whatever “art” and “judge” mean) if seen or heard with no preloaded prejudices or preconceptions; if experienced totally new? Or do you need the back story? If given a tape of a bloke fumbling with a guitar and howling excruciatingly, and told it is Syd Barrett, Skip Spence or Roky Erickson it’ll be given some context and assessed accordingly. Given the same tape and told it’s by Joe Scroggins from Scunthorpe, it may simply be dismissed as shit. And what if you swop them over like the old switch trick of giving experts finger paintings by children and monkeys?

Bob Dylan’s paintings present this problem. If hung in a seaside B&B they may at best not be given a second thought, and at worst dismissed as gaudy cack knocked up by the senile cat-loving owner harbouring artistic pretentions. Hanging in a prestigious Mayfair gallery with his practised signature in the bottom corner they’re looked at through very different eyes. I mean, these are Bob Dylan’s paintings. Would I hang one on my wall? If I had a Mediterranean villa perhaps it would look nice, but mainly for what it is; for the possession, not for much else. Hmm, maybe this separation thing isn’t so hard after all.

Bobcats will be eager to interpret the work and pack meaning into them. Bob’s nobody’s fool and doesn’t reveal much. The pieces entitled “Train Tracks” display an obvious theme, stretching back to his self-mythologising days of being a Woody Guthrie lonesome hobo, scuffling along dusty railroads in one-horse towns, jumping passing freight trains. Even without that association they are the most interesting works but their very Bobness is reflected in the price. Yours for £450,000. Yep, half a million quid. How does it arrive at that price? Does Bob pluck a number from under the red sky? Does Johnny Ball? Do the gallery? Or if a Ronnie Wood abomination goes for X, a Dylan must be worth X times Y?

Other pieces depict a truck stop outside a diner, a fat woman in a pub, two ladies on a bed, a cafe, some flowers, and a view from a window. Stylistically they’ve been compared - according to the Halcyon Gallery spiel - to Toulouse Lautrec and Edgar Degas. If squinting in a poor light through your fingers whilst wearing sunglasses after a heavy night out, they do a bit.

The value, artistically and monetary, of “art” is been philosophised and debated by far bigger brains than mine. Bob Dylan has no equal in popular music, his Chronicles was beautifully written, his Theme Time Radio Hour is the best thing on the wireless, and he even managed the near-impossible feat of making a decent Christmas album. He’s got everything he needs, he’s an artist, but he has yet to paint his masterpiece. For us mere mortals, it’s good to know even he has limits.

Bob Dylan On Canvas is at the Halcyon Gallery, 24 Bruton Street, London, W1 until 10th April 2010. Admission is free but they won’t let you in if dressed like a hobo.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


This is as good a James Brown television appearance as you’ll ever see. The last minute and a half of JB and Maceo Parker going head-to-head is incredible. Enjoy.

Friday, 19 February 2010


Joe Ridgwell’s Lost Elation is an object of such outrageous beauty one feels it should be handled with felt gloves, sat on a pillow of the finest Egyptian silk and have the pages turned by the breath from a soft sigh.

Kilmog Press are responsible for taking a collection of grubby impoverished waifs and strays from London’s battle scarred East End (and New Zealand) and rehousing them within such elegant and luxurious splendour: hand printed pages and unique dust jacket, hardback cover and limited to the criminally minuscule number of 50.

Beauty is not only page deep either, as whilst Joe’s poems or characters don’t fit the conventional stereotype, his art and skill is to reveal beauty lurking in unlikely places: a confused woman in park of drunks; in doomed kids playing football on council estates; in the triumphant aftermath of bloody encounters; and in two lovers shagging beneath the scream of midnight (yes, I'm thinking The Jam's "That's Entertainment" here). It’s in these places Joe’s search for the lost elation bears richly rewarding fruit. Seek and ye shall find.

Lost Elation by Joseph Ridgwell is published by Kilmog Press. Write to them at for details.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010


- They turn up then?
- Yep.
- What state was Peter in?
- Not bad. Fully functioning but in no mood for banter. Didn’t speak all night.
- Were they any good?
- Were okay. They’ve played better and been worse; and played worse and been better. Was a middling one.
- What did they do?
- Opened with What Katie Did; You Talk; Baddie’s Boogie; then a couple of newies.
- What were they like?
- Promising on first hearing. One was something about a stranger and had a sparkly Orange Juice feel and the other was a short scratchy punky blast almost like Public Image Limited.
- Blimey.
- Quite. Then was There She Goes.
- Oh, I like that one: “I caught a glimpse of your white plimsolls/ Twisting and turning to Northern Soul”.
- Yeah. Delivery got a few heads bobbing; Back From The Dead; a spiralling newie; Time For Heroes.
- “Did you see the stylish kids in the riot/ Shuffled up like mods/ Set the night on fire”. Cool. Were the kids rioting? Pete lose his hat?
- No, they were pretty subdued. Hat remained in place. I’m not sure that’s how that song goes anyway.
- Sounds like it to me. The rest of the band?
- Drew and Adam did a sterling job as usual, particularly Adam who had the shits all day. Mik looked like shit.
- What next?
- Unbilotitled; Carry On Up The Morning; Side Of The Road; Unstookietitled; Beg, Steal or Borrow; Killamangiro.
- “Ooh-oh-oh-Ohoooowoooh”.
- That’s the baby. Then Albion and another new one – a slowie – to finish.
- Right. How’d you remember all that?
- Was texting myself notes.
- Bit sad innit?
- Yeah, was gonna write a review.
- Why didn’t you?
- Watch it sunshine.

Monday, 15 February 2010


Not for the first time, alto-sax legend Lou Donaldson has to put up with a couple of off-their-head geezers gate crashing his dressing room. He’s just finished the last of his stint at Ronnie Scott’s with a Friday midnight show and at 83 you’d think could do with some well earned rest but, as ever, is the perfect gentleman, happy to slouch back in his chair and field slurred gibberish from two imbeciles as his band look on with wry amusement. Or it may be pity.

The last time in London he had Dr Lonnie Smith on Hammond and they served up a soul-jazz “Alligator Boogaloo” style set. Tonight he’s in a more bebop kind of mood but it makes little odds. The man is phenomenal. My heart sinks initially when he starts with the old standard “Summertime” but he and his excellent combo (organ, guitar, drums) soon cook up an irresistible groove. I’m not qualified to get all technical about jazz playing but there’s something about Donaldson’s records and his live shows that get me like no other. And with his hangdog face and neat line in crackly patter, he has charisma oozing out his pores and the crowd eating out of what must be a sweaty hand.

I don’t know all the numbers (and the grain and the grape have wiped some of it) but recognise the ballad “Laura” and am delighted to hear “Gravy Train” as I have that CD with me which Lou graciously signs before we leave him in peace. If you come back to London Lou, we’ll be back too. You have been warned my friend.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Stuck for something to watch? Here’s a new DVD of a seldom seen film that’s well worth a look.

Ginnie (played by Sylvia Sims) and Billa (June Ritchie) are two nightclub hostesses (nudge, nudge) in this black and white kitchen sink drama set in early 60’s London (that’s me sold then). They share a flat and a friendship that is tested by jealousies as Ginnie becomes involved with rich married businessman Bob (Edward Judd) and Billa falls pregnant and has the strain of forcing her schoolmaster father (William Hartnell) to open his eyes to her lifestyle.

All of the main cast are good but Sims is particularly convincing as the unpredictable Ginnie. “I want out. Out!” she says early in the film. “Out where?” Billa asks. She hasn’t got an answer so huffs exasperatedly and changes her mind every two minutes about her relationship with Bob and what she does want. The film is centred on the girls’ relationship and none of the male characters come out with much credit. Bob leaves his wife for “a tart”; his father offers Ginnie a job “entertaining” his business partners; Billa’s father calls his daughter “trash”; the doctor has a dirty glint in his eye as he rubs Billa’s shoulder; and the only other men are the fat lecherous types pawing over girls in Soho nightclubs. “They’re not worth it. None of them” says Billa. “Damn them all” they agree.

There’s a surprising moment near the end that caught me unawares and you’re left with a feeling there’s a bit more to the girls relationship than shown on screen. Elsewhere there are loads of London street scenes (always welcome) and period detail that adds to the overall enjoyment of a well made film.

The World Ten Times Over is released on DVD by Studio Canal/Optimum Classic.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Tesco's, Hackney Road, 11.04am.

Rumani: Good morning sir, how are you?
Monkey: I feel like shit.
Rumani: That's good, do you have a clubcard?
Monkey: No.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


In my head, all right minded folk know the work of Charles Bukowski, recognise a Smiths lyric, and can tell you the result of the latest QPR game. I’m kidding myself of course (although the last one is easy to guess) but The Pleasures of the Damned offers a quick leg-up for those slouching in the Bukowski stakes. I always think a bookcase without Bukowski is a bar with no beer, so now's a good time for some of you to stock up.

First published by Ecco in 2007 as a classy looking hardback, the 2010 Canongate paperback gets a scowling, fag butt smoking Bukowski on the cover with sloppy “punk” lettering. Yeah man, cos that’s what he was like yeah. Crazy punk, didn’t give a fuck. Well, as it happens, boys and girls, he cared a great deal how his books were published and presented and I don’t expect he’d have been too chuffed with this one. But yeah, maybe for a lot of crappy pointless other stuff, he didn't give a fuck.

John Martin, his editor and publisher, a man so convinced of Hank’s talent he promised him money for the rest of his life if he quit his job at the post office, has selected the 250 poems to create a “Best of” collection. With thousands to choose from everybody will have their own choices but I immediately thought of five - and four of those are here, so that’s a decent percentage. Plus I only had to wait until the sixth entry for my absolute favourite, The Last Days Of The Suicide Kid. I know reading 250 poems sounds like some sadistic punishment dished out at school for fighting in the corridor but bear with me.

Even those with a cursory knowledge of our man will think of him drinking, shagging, and betting on horses. All reasonable stuff but he goes deeper than that. Although frequent topics, his work was seldom about those things as Martin is obviously at pains to show: his selections spread across five decades have the effect of watering down Hank’s more contemptuous nature found in individual volumes of his work. He played the tough guy role well but he had heart, he had soul, he had a strong sense of morality and decency (admittedly harder to spot after too much sauce) and he could be a big softie (just count the number of poems about his cats). “I do have feelings, you know”, he confirms, aware it’s not always noticeable in The Angel Who Pushed His Wheelchair. Those feelings and compassion was especially acute for the outsider, the underdog, the lost, the lonely, the homeless, the drunk, the foolish and increasingly before his death in 1994, the sick and the elderly. To Hank, skid row bums would rise in the haze of a drunken hour “like millionaires” and have “the most beautiful faces in town”. This would be romantic balderdash in less knowing hands than Bukowski’s.

He could also be very funny, usually at his own expense, and sensitive, as the poems reflecting on the death of Jane Cooney Baker who he’d enjoyed/endured a fifteen year on-off relationship show.

The poems aren’t presented in chronological order but they hang nicely together in little thematic batches. They aren’t dated either so you have to guess when they were written by flicking to the back to see what book they came from, and then turn to the front to see what year that was published. It’s difficult to date a lot of them anyway as they would sometimes sit with John Martin for years before being issued; decades, in the case of some posthumously published ones. If I wasn’t such a precious fusspot I’d annotate the pages in pencil. With over 500 pages it’s better to forget it and concentrate on the words.

I’m guessing most would start with Bukowski’s novels and short stories but fear not the poetry. These are only like shorter stories anyway. Everything he wrote was in his deceptively simple style. He told it just like it was. If it was shit stained, he'd tell it. It looks so easy he spawned a million imitators but few can get the line down with such little fuss and get straight to the truth, however uncomfortable it might be. Back in the 1960s in Notes of A Dirty Old Man he wrote, “An artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way”. There you go, I rest my case.

The Pleasures Of The Damned: Poems, 1951-1993 by Charles Bukowski is published by Canongate, priced £14.99.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


In case yesterday's post wasn't loud and clear enough, here are the Jim Jones Revue with their latest single "Elemental".

Saturday, 6 February 2010


Phil Alexander’s introductory testimony - “Please welcome the greatest rock and roll band in the world right now: The Jim Jones Revue” - has a ring of hyperbole about it, but after witnessing what comes next I challenge you to find a more exhilarating show than the one put on by these manic grizzled preachers.

Full throttle, foot to the floor, unrelenting, incendiary rock and roll to the max. And some. And a bit more. They don’t so much hit you with great balls of fire as knock your head clean off with the entire force of the sun dropping from the sky.

Had there been room to shake my moneymaker, I would’ve. Brilliant. That’s it.

Friday, 5 February 2010


“I’m not anticipating any trouble – because I don’t like violence”. So says our old mucker William Burroughs in this well funny clip after demonstrating all types of handy tools he has just happens to have stashed around his Bunker.

Bill somehow lived to the ripe old age of 83. Had he defied logic and nature to even greater extremes, today would be his 96th birthday. Now, where did I put that spring blackjack? Stand back...

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


“Fante was my god”. As the rule states no mention of John Fante is allowed without Bukowski’s quote, I’ll get it out the way now.

Fante’s 1939 Ask The Dust was one of those books that as soon as I read it I couldn’t spread the word quick enough. Every person I told or I bought a copy for loved it immediately and hunted out his other books, particularly those starring his alter-ego Arturo Bandini.

He was blind and nearly seventy by the time Ben Pleasants interviewed him in the late 1970s. Those interviews have remained unpublished, except for a small segment released last week as a Beat Scene Press chapbook, John Fante - A Conversation with Ben Pleasants. Naturally enough he talks about Ask The Dust, as well as reminiscing about his pal Willam Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s handshake. There are no earth shattering revelations but it’s a nice little collectable addition to the Fante shelf.

John Fante – A Conversation with Ben Pleasants is published in an edition of 125 numbered copies by Beat Scene Press, priced £5.95 at beatscene