Saturday, 26 February 2011


I wonder what playwright Joe Orton would’ve made of the current plans to close our libraries.

Exactly two months before lover Kenneth Halliwell smashed in his skull with a hammer in August 1967, Orton told The Evening News “Libraries might as well not exist; they’ve got endless shelves of rubbish and hardly any space for good books.” Whether it their disgruntlement at the available reading material or their natural flair for mischief, Orton and Halliwell’s relationship with the libraries of Islington and Hampstead played an intriguing role in their lives pre-Orton’s success with Entertaining Mr. Sloane and Loot on the London stage.

Joe and Kenneth began stealing library books in 1959 and continued until their arrest in 1962. They doctored dust jackets with simple collages and placed them back on the shelves to watch people’s reaction as they’d pull out The Collins Guide To Roses and wonder why an open mouthed gorilla was staring at them or if Emlyn Williams really did write plays entitled “Knickers Must Fall” or “Fucked By Monty”. Both of these examples of their handiwork, and four others, have been displayed in the Ancient and Modern Gallery this week. Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys is decorated with a cutesy cats getting married and the author Richard G. Stern has his portrait replaced with that of a prim looking woman.

As well as “improving” books, they also removed 1,653 plates from art books which they used to create a collage across the walls of their Noel Road flat (something I studiously copied for my teenage bedroom - but from legit sources). For this terrible crime of theft and criminal damage totaling £262 they received a sentence of – wait for it – six months imprisonment, starting off in Wormwood Scrubs.

Adam Gillam, Joe Orton/Kenneth Halliwell at the Ancient and Modern Gallery, 210 Whitecross Street, London, EC1 until 26 February 2011.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Myself and Mrs. Monkey are finally gonna get married. Here to celebrate the happy news are Mr. and Mrs. Ike and Tina Turner.

Sunday, 20 February 2011


Not heard too much great new stuff this month so a more classic feel to February's listening.

1. The Astors – “In The Twilight Zone” (1965)
There aren’t that many Stax records with a strong northern soul flavour but this – with Curtis Johnson’s lead vocal and cool group harmonies – is one. It’s predecessor “Candy” being another.

2. The Seeds – “Falling Off The Edge Of My Mind” (1967)
Acid Bluegrass anyone?

3. Desmond Dekker and the Aces – “You’ve Got Your Troubles” (1967)
I always think DD is going to sing “Do you take me for fooking fooking child”. He never does, only in my head.

4. West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – “Until The Poorest of People Have Money To Spend” (1968)
Sitar bothering hippies get all righteous.

5. The Meters – “Sophisticated Sissy” (1969)
The Meters lay down the tightest funk without breaking into a cold sweat.

6. The Flying Burrito Brothers – “Hot Burrito #1” (1969)

7. Brook Benton – “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (1970)
One of Dylan’s most masterly putdowns is turned on its head by Benton who sounds like a favourite jovial uncle sitting by a log fire chuckling and eating Werther’s Originals.

8. The Prisoners – “Deceiving Eye” (1986)
Liam Gallagher would’ve been better off naming his new band after this fuzzed up cruncher than John Lennon’s dribbling knob.

9. Primal Scream – “Blood Money” (2000)
Mani’s menacing, claustrophobic bass leads the Scream Arkestra on an exhilarating journey through the darkest outer reaches of space aged spy ring super funk.

10. The Lovely Eggs – “Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion?” (2009)
Only The Lovely Eggs could (or rather would) rhyme Richard Brautigan with beef bourguignon.

Monday, 14 February 2011


Bob Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady of The Lowlands" had a mercury mouth and warehouse eyes; The Lovely Eggs have washing line smiles and sausage roll thumbs. Pure bloody brilliance.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


This is Ali McKenzie last night fronting his new version of The Birds.

Saturday, 12 February 2011


It should be a doddle making a film about The Doors: a charismatic and provocative singer; controversy; riots; arrests; drink; drugs; sex; success; death; and – lest we forget – a catalogue of era defining music. What is proving difficult is making a film that does them justice. No doubt about it, they have an image problem - their hipness stolen by shoddy artists painting Jim Morrison’s portrait on coffee shop walls and the sartorially challenged wearing tie-dyed t-shirts when their dope smoking pope one gets an annual wash.

Oliver Stone’s hammy and discredited dramatization in 1991 did them no favours, so the only actor Tom DiCillo employs is Johnny Depp, who stays off screen and provides the commentary. Depp is a man of wealth and taste but did he not baulk at the script? He reads out the band’s potted history as if addressing a class of school children. Jim the “rock and roll poet” did this, Ray did that, John left then came back the next day. “Jim takes control of his own image – he picks out all his own clothes”. It offers nothing – other than a patronizing tone – that a quick skim of Wikipedia doesn’t provide.

With the voiceover removed DiCillo would have a far better film. All the footage is taken from 1966-1971 so even when impersonating David Bellamy they cut a dash (with a special mention to John Densmore for sporting the best L-shaped sideburns of his generation). But the music takes centre stage, especially their captivating live shows with Morrison’s unpredictable behaviour inciting crowds and mini-riots one night and hardly able to stand another. “Sometimes the drinking helps Morrison, sometimes it doesn’t, the band become adept at keeping him alive on stage”. They sure do and their brilliant improvisational chops and also the way they locked into a hypnotic groove could turn “Light My Fire” or “The End” into sensational twenty minute rollercoaster rides.

Huge success from the very start had them touted as America’s answer to the Rolling Stones and the parallels are clear; the authorities felt sufficiently threatened to publically clip their wings but the on-stage arrests and the infamous trumped-up allegation of Jimbo whipping out his lizard king only served to increase their teenage appeal and accelerate Morrison’s drink and drug intake, which had obvious repercussions within the group.

The Doors had their own sound, wrote much of the rock ‘n’ roll manual, and had integrity and intellect. Yeah they could be pompous and slightly pretentious but the brooding menace of their debut LP or the bluesy brawn of Morrison Hotel or LA Woman over ride that any day. The music wins out but with The Doors it always has to wrestle guff like: “To some, Jim was a poet, his soul trapped between heaven and hell. To others, he was just another rock star who crashed and burned. But this much is true; you can’t burn out if you’re not on fire”. Cue the corniest shot you can image: a candle being blown out.

A film that manages to get inside the workings of the band, to explore the four personalities within it, is still to be made but When You’re Strange undoes much of the cartoonish aspect of Stone’s film and - although with some unwanted distractions - directs the viewer back to the records.

When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors is available now on DVD by Universal.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Sunday, 6 February 2011


The following interview with Michael Evans, bass player of The Action and Mighty Baby, was conducted circa 2000 and has not been published until now.

My intention, after in-depth chats with Reggie King and Pete Watson about the core years of The Action, was to cover for Shindig! fanzine the lesser documented period after the final Action single through to their metamorphosis into Mighty Baby. My preference would have been for a chinwag over a pint or a cup of tea but Mike wanted to do the interview via email. Unfortunately, in my view, I only received brief answers which then needed following up and expanding upon, so we went back and forth until I pieced together what you read now. However, I was never satisfied with the result and therefore did not submit it.

Understandably Mike wasn’t best pleased and looking back now maybe I should have persevered a little longer. Sadly, with his passing last year, it’ll never be finished but I hope this serves as a small belated tribute.

I want to start from the last Action single, “Shadows and Reflections”. Reg King said George Martin made it clear that if that wasn’t a hit, he’d have to let the band go. Is that how you recall it?
I remember meeting with George sometime after the release. He had heard our demos and we tired one or two out with him in the studio. It was then that he decided to call it a day.

Did he give you any actual reasons for calling it a day?
As I remember, it was simply an economic reason. His company Air had financed all our recordings up to then and we weren’t having any hits.

When the single didn’t do as well as hoped, and your time with George ended, what was the spirit and attitude of the band like? Was there a temptation to call it a day?
No, we were not tempted to quit. The pressure to make it commercially was from the record companies. The spirit and attitude of the band was (although disappointed to have to break from George) great because we were developing our playing and writing.

Can you tell me how Ian Whiteman and Martin Stone came to join the Action? I presume this was post-“Shadows and Reflections”. Was a decision made to recruit some fresh ideas into the band, or did it happen more by chance?
We felt we were a good rhythm section with voices but we wanted to have a lead instrument. We placed an advert in Melody Maker for a Hammond organist, and found Ian who was a multi-instrumentalist; which was a bonus. We had previously played a gig with Savoy Blues Band and had been impressed by Martin. At around the time Ian left temporarily we bumped into Martin and asked him if he would like to play.

Why did Ian leave temporarily?
To be totally accurate you would have to ask him.

What did Ian and Martin bring to the band: both musically and personally?
Apart from their brilliant talent, they were remarkable people. They helped to reshape the band musically and to take it into a new direction. They were both great musicians, you can hear that for yourself, and both jolly nice chaps to boot.

How did Georgio Gomelsky, at Marmalade records, become involved? I understand that the recordings that have subsequently been released as both Brain: The Lost Recordings and Rolled Gold were made for Marmalade.
When we broke from our previous management, Georgio provided a base for our activities. Rolled Gold was made for George Martin in the first instance but no one was very interested at the time.

Those Rolled Gold songs were markedly different from the soul covers period Action. What new things were influencing you?
We had always listened to a lot of varied music: from mod jazz, R&B, blues, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and later Grateful Dead, The Band etc.

All those songs were recorded in, what is now seen as a fairly short period of time. “Shadows and Reflections” being released in July 1967, and by early 1968 you had an album’s worth of demos. Were these songs written in the studio or did people come in with the bulk of the song written?
We were living together at the time and playing every day and recording at demo studios a lot. It was a very intense time, so ideas, riffs, were given time to develop into the stage of the demo. We never considered them complete and Rolled Gold would never have been released by us. The issue was forced by the issue of Brain which was so sub standard that we felt obliged to release what we had. Some of the songs are very Reg, for example “Little Boy”, “Come Around” and “Climbing Up The Wall”, but the band defined them. The rest are collaborations.

Where was the place you were all living? How long were you there for?
We lived in a house in Chelsea. I think we were there for most of 1968.

Can you describe a typical day during this time?
Midday: Wake up. Answer door. Rick Gretsh from Family returns my bass which he’d borrowed for a gig the night before.
1pm: Ronnie Lane arrives to listen to our Rolled Gold demos.
2pm: After Ronnie leaves pop around to Family house for tea and biscuits and a smoke.
4pm: Run through some songs with Reg and Bam.
5pm: Fortnum and Mason deliver a food hamper courtesy of Ronnie. What a gent.
7pm: Pete Brown turns up to borrow my bass for a session.
8pm: Still running through ideas with Reg and Bam.
9pm: Location caterers are parked outside for a film unit shooting up the street, so we pretend to be extras and eat for free.
11pm: Some Swedish girls turn up who we had met at a gig previously. Good night all.

“In My Dreams” was mooted as a single but never appeared. It’s been said Gomelsky ultimately turned that down, and the album worth of demos, because he couldn’t hear a hit single there. Looking back, do you think that’s fair comment?
There may have been some potential there, I really do not know. If we had been able to do more work on them, maybe, but times were changing rapidly.

The press reported that the Action had changed their name to Azoth. Who came up with that name, what does it mean and how did you then become known as Mighty Baby?
Martin came up with the name. It is an arcane name for the One Thing. The “A” and “Z” relate to the Greek Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the end. When Reg left, the Action was really finished. The band had changed from a rhythm section with voices to a playing band; experimental and rooted in R&B and blues, fusing mod jazz ideas. The alchemy was complete and Mighty Baby was born.

What reasons did Reg give you for leaving? What effect did his leaving have?
Reg left to develop his own ideas in song writing and producing. The effect was to accelerate the growth of Mighty Baby.

Can you explain how Mighty Baby got their recording deal. Did you have to record more demos to sell yourself or were you offered a deal straight out?
John Curd who ran Head Records was an ex-roadie of the Action. After Gomelsky we were based at Blackhill who ran the Hyde Park concerts. They also had Marc Bolan on their books at the time. This proved rather short lived and we joined with Head Records because we knew John. There was nothing to prove.

What was the reaction to the debut Mighty Baby album? Its fluid, almost jazzy feel, seems slightly at odds with the blues-rock sound that was happening then.
The album for Head was produced over a few months, in part by Guy Stevens, and by the band. It was a mixture of our influences at the time. It was received very well: mostly by the student audience. The lyrics were mostly surreal and occult derived as a result of our massive reading intake at the time. We were almost a mobile study group as well as a band.

Can you give some examples of the books you were reading as part of this “study group”?
Everything you can imagine. From Bhavagad Gita to Gurdjef to Ouspensky etc.

How much touring and live shows did you do? Both albums sound like they lent themselves to some elongated jamming.
Colleges and Universities were where most of our gigs came from. We also worked on the continent, Holland, Germany etc. We did love to jam and we tried to develop this side of playing at gigs. It could be hit or miss. It demanded a lot of the audience but we were up for it if they were.

The photograph of Martin Stone on the first LP has him dressed in what looks like a wizard’s cape. Reg King said when he left things were getting weird: people having to face East in the recording studio for example. I think he was joking but how much were you and the other band members interested in magick, Aleister Crowley etc?
Martin is a bit of wizard on the guitar as well. We revelled in eccentricity at the time and being normal was weird to us. Crowley and the occult were stops along the way. I always think it better to try and understand a little about something than remain totally ignorant. Too many belief systems are demonised by society.

Crowley hardly seems the “wickedest man” he was painted. Any particular thoughts about him?
A human being, just like us.

You said about revelling in eccentricity. What form did this eccentricity take?
It was more inward than outward.

Your second album A Jug of Love was releases on Blue Horizon in October 1971. How would you compare this album to the first?
For me, it is a culmination of all the work that went before it. It is calmer but has an underlying intensity in the playing that comes from the experience of improvising and playing together for so long. The lyrics are real life autobiographical. In comparison to the first album it is more refined musically and has more time space. The first Head album really is in your head.

How and why did Mighty Baby disband?
Because it was not perceived that the band could continue at the same time as other personal and spiritual goals were being achieved. Possibly this was regrettable. Misguided even.

Which period do you look back on with most fondness?
I enjoyed all of it but the Mighty Baby period was a bit special.

Which of your records are you most proud of and why?
The Mighty Baby recordings because of the development and the bravery.

For Reggie King interview see here.
For Pete Watson interview see here.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


If you’ve exhausted the list of William Burroughs material on Amazon you could try Ken Lopez Bookseller who has:

“A substantial archive of manuscript material, correspondence, and books and printed matter, mostly signed. The manuscript material comprises some hundreds of pages, mostly from the 1950s to the 1980s, much of it unpublished [….] Most of this material never appeared in print, or appeared in markedly different form… It is likely that this is one of the largest collections of original Burroughs material still in private hands; outside of that which James Grauerholz (Burroughs's longtime assistant) has, it may be that this is the single most extensive archive that is yet to be institutionalized. For the time being, it is being offered only as a single lot, but serious inquiries for significant portions of it are invited.”

It's currently on hold for $260,000. You can view the collection here but please don’t try to outbid me. Cheers.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


On February 1st, 1995, Richey Edwards sloped out of The Embassy Hotel in London and was never seen again. When I stood on platform two of Baker Street station reading about his disappearance in the NME shortly afterwards I wasn’t unduly concerned. I thought – not for the first time - he'd copied a Joe Strummer move and done a bunk for a while. Strummer lasted a few weeks and turned up in Paris; Edwards has now been gone sixteen years.

Here are Richey and Nicky Wire in typical interview mode from 1993. Listen and learn kids, listen and learn.