Monday, 29 August 2011


The very long-awaited book by Ian Hebditch and Jane Shepherd telling the story of The Action is finally inching towards daylight, with publication now due in early 2012.

The previously mooted narrow title of The Sound of the Birdcage has thankfully been replaced with the more encompassing In The Lap of The Mods and promises contributions from all members of the band – Reggie King, Mike Evans, Pete Watson, Alan King, Roger Powell, Ian Whiteman and Martin Stone; rare informal and promotional photographs and memorabilia; recollections from former club regulars at the Marquee, Watford Trade, the Goldhawk, the Cavern and Portsmouth’s Birdcage; foreword by Sir George Martin; and, a comprehensive chronology of the band including events, gigs played and details of recording sessions at Abbey Road.

If that wasn’t exciting enough, in addition to the standard softback there’s a limited edition hardback including the single “(Girl) Why You Wanna Make Me Blue” – the previously unreleased track cut for a (failed) 1965 audition for Decca Records.

More news and ordering details can be found, from 1st November, at

Saturday, 27 August 2011


By way of compensation for yesterday’s football related post, here is something everyone can enjoy. Take it away Freddie…

Friday, 26 August 2011


There are many reasons to dislike Joey Barton but at least three to think him not all bad. In reverse order:

3. When Frank Lampard refused to sit next to him on England duty, Barton reportedly said “It’s alright, I’m not going to steal your breakfast, you fat prick”.

2. For a footballer, he has surprisingly acceptable music taste. His Twitter profile quotes lyrics from "Still Ill" by The Smiths.

1. Today he signed for Queen’s Park Rangers.

Gonna be fun. Good luck Joey. Good luck QPR.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Today would be Keith Moon’s 65th birthday, so a perfect opportunity to share what I believe are previously unseen pictures.

I bought them some years back from a chap who had a box of photographs taken backstage at various mid 70’s gigs in America. He couldn’t be any more specific but Keith wore a series of motor racing tops during 1975 so safe to say these are from then.

As they show another other side of Moon The Loon, I love them. Here's to you dear boy.

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Current favourites in Monkey Mansions.

1. Billie Holiday – “Gloomy Sunday” (1941)
A declaration to commit suicide would take the shine off anyone’s weekend.

2. Etta James – “Tough Lover” (1956)
As if she hadn’t lived an incredible enough life already, Etta seemingly managed to rise from the dead this month. A false report of her death saw obituaries and RIP messages swamp the internet. She’s tough and will go when she’s ready, not when any damn fool tells her.

3. Ann Cole – “I’ve Got Nothing Working Now” (1957)
Hands up who thought “I’ve Got My Mojo Working” was by Muddy Waters? I did, but no, Muddy heard Cole perform the song and then wrote his version around it. This follow-up, although not as good, stuck to the formula.

4. Don Gibson – “Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles” (1959)
The excellent new Gibson compilation in the Complete Country series is titled Lonesome Singer Songwriter With Rockabilly Flair. What it lacks in snappiness it makes up for in accuracy.

5. Guitar Crusher – “The Monkey” (1962)
There are never enough monkey songs. This exuberant swinger shows why.

6. Kenny Lynch – “Movin’ Away” (1967)
You bet. Orchestra conducted by Johnny Harris. No idea who Johnny was but I love his arrangement.

7. James Brown – “Why Did You Take Your Love Away From Me” (1968)
James Brown, like Bob Dylan, is a one-man genre but that doesn’t stop him bullishly shouting and shimmying into northern soul territory.

8. The Slickers – “Johnny Too Bad” (1970)
The still relevant sounding early reggae classic featured in The Harder They Come.

9. Pentangle – “So Clear” (1971)
I usually give a wide-berth to the Aran sweater folk brigade but in a moment of self-flagellation I bought Pentangle’s Reflection. When Jacqui McShee concentrates on stirring her cauldron and leaves the vocals to others it’s not entirely dreadful.

10. Nirvana – “Molly’s Lips” (1991)
Easy to forget that once upon a time Nirvana could bash out two minute pop nugget covers just for fun. Yes, fun.

Monday, 15 August 2011


By chance I happened upon a record fair on Saturday at the Shepherd’s Bush Village Hall. Much of it was overpriced tat but in a green plastic crate marked “Soul/Disco”, and nestled next to Lionel Richie, War and 1980s Motown LPs with garish artwork, was The Impressions Big Sixteen. Sixteen lessons in understated lilting soul music as immaculate as the cut of Curtis, Sam and Fred’s one-button suits, released on His Master’s Voice in the UK in 1965; all of which I already own at least once, most as singles, but not on this actual album. It was on sale for the not unreasonable sum of £20, but in these austere times and with no new music on offer, expensive enough.

Its condition was only marred by the black biro of one Jeremy Pearce. I recall, many moons ago, mentioning to my mother the practice of writing names on record labels and record sleeves. I was shocked people would deface them in such a way. She explained her friends did it in the 60s when taking records to parties at friends’ houses. Jeremy had gone further than that, not only writing his name but adding “This is my most valued possession. Respect it as such please”. I liked Jeremy immediately. Being hip to The Impressions in mid 60s London marked him as a man of discerning taste and referring to their LP as his most valued possession, well, he would’ve been the one of the faces in my book. My first thought was he’d given it to a girlfriend as a dramatic romantic gesture but the testiness of the message makes the party option more likely.

I thought about buying it. Not only because it’s a marvellous record but because of Jeremy. It felt sad to see something he loved abandoned in a village hall sharing a crate that also had a section marked “Depeche Mode/Erasure/Pet Shop Boys”. But I was on my way to QPR around the corner and if you’ve ever experienced the cramped conditions at Loftus Road you’ll know they aren’t conducive to taking care of anything valuable, plus I was hoping for moments of wild celebration as QPR scored their first goal back in the top flight of English football after a 15 year absence.

Watching the game I kept thinking about that record and its history. Being born a mile away I’m biased, but I’ve always considered Shepherd’s Bush as Mod's birthplace. A short walk from the village hall, across the green, stood the Goldhawk Road Social Club (it’s still there, now renamed the Shepherd’s Bush Club), the legendary haunt where local boys The Who cut their teeth on soul and R&B covers, and where Ready Steady Go recruited 100 Faces to showcase the latest mod dances and fashions to the nation early every Friday evening. In the mid-80s on the corner of the green was Sneakers, now regarded by many as the mod club of that generation, which I went to a couple of times as a wide-eyed teenager. Jeremy would have gone to the Goldhawk and one night after seeing The Action cover “Meeting Over Yonder”, “People Get Ready” and other Impressions songs there, he nipped home on his Lambretta en route to a party down the Kitchener Road, and picked up the original versions on Big Sixteen. He liked The Action better than other groups but preferred to go directly to the source. His fellow mods duly treated the LP with sufficient reverence if its current condition is anything to go by: no scratches, no finger prints, no bends, only tiny surface marks where it has been carefully removed countless times from the inner sleeve.

By this stage, having created a whole life for Jeremy, I felt terrible for not rescuing his record. The fair ended at five o’clock and the match was due to end about five to. I’d never make it. Now, the only upside in seeing QPR get thrashed 4-0 at home by Bolton Wanderers was it meant I could slip away a few minutes early. I ran through the streets, huffing and puffing, giving myself a stitch, but got there in time and the LP is now mine. I can’t help but wonder what happened to Jeremy Pearce and how he became parted from his most treasured possession. If you’re reading this Jeremy I’d love to reunite you with Big Sixteen but if not, I promise to look after and respect it the way you wished.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


And now for something completely different. You mess around with Loretta's fella, and you'll end up in Fist City. Take it away...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


As my Hackney, and others areas in London and beyond, yesterday further descended into anarchy and lawlessness with rioting gangs looting, burning and mugging, scenes from William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, first published in 1959, came to mind as I navigated myself away from chaotic and ugly streets to eerily deserted ones. What made these "disturbances" different from the usual ones was their undiscriminating nature. Storming the Bank of England or putting through the windows of McDonalds might pass for political protest but attacking family businesses and destroying homes? There are a number of appropriate passages but I’ll share this, as in typical Burroughs style it mixes horror with dry humour.

“From the roof of the R.C. we survey a scene of unparalleled horror. INDs stand around in front of the cafĂ© tables, long streamers of saliva hanging off their chins, stomachs noisily churning, others ejaculate at the sight of women. Latahs imitate the passers-by with monkey-like obscenity. Junkies have looted the drugstores and fix on every street corner… Catatonics decorate the parks… Agitated schizophrenics rush through the streets with mangled inhuman cries.
“Gentle reader, the ugliness of that spectacle buggers description. Who can be a cringing pissing coward, yet vicious as a purple-assed mandrill, alternating these deplorable conditions like vaudeville skits? Who can shit on a fallen adversary who, dying, eats the shit and screams with joy? Who can hang a weak passive and catch his sperm in his mouth like a vicious dog? Gentle reader, I fain would spare you this, but my pen hath its will like the Ancient Mariner. Oh Christ what a scene is this! Can tongue or pen accommodate these scandals?”

Naked Lunch: The Restored Text by William Burroughs is published by Fourth Estate, priced £9.99.

Sunday, 7 August 2011


In 1964, Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters clambered on their freshly painted psychedelic bus to travel across America loaded on LSD. Destination: Furthur.

Already immortalised in Thomas Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, 100 hours of previously unseen home movie footage have now been edited into a new film, Magic Trip, by directors Alex Gibney and Allison Ellwood. Released stateside last Friday, here’s the trailer. Look out for Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


The Vintage Soul Revue, as part of the Vintage Festival within the Royal Festival Hall, was the live equivalent of purchasing a cheap soul compilation from a service station or corner shop: some popular hits to attract the passing punter; a bunch of middling filler tracks nobody really wants; the occasional unexpected highlight; and, most frightening, the small print tucked in the bottom corner reading “some of these songs have been re-recorded by at least one member of the original artists”.

Backed by a fourteen piece orchestra, a variety of acts trotted out to do a few numbers each. Joe Harris of The Undisputed Truth wasn’t a name to set many pulses racing but his version of The Impressions’ “I’ve Been Tryin’”, with sweeping strings and soaring vocals, and the Truth’s 1971 hit “Smiling Faces Sometimes” set the bar sufficiently high it wouldn’t be troubled too often for the rest of the night. Jimmy James was okay in a pedestrian, end of the pier, way. I hadn’t realised “I’ll Go Where Your Music Takes Me” was his. Hearing that, “Red, Red Wine”, and seeing mums and dads, boys and girls, half-heartedly clapping along only added to his Seaside Special vibe.

The audience was a strange mix and by the very nature of the event not a connoisseur crowd so many were unfamiliar with The Flirtations. Even curator of the event Wayne Hemingway forgot to mention them in his introduction. Having seen them a few times I’d say this was their best yet, thanks to the grand backing of the orchestra. From their out of synch dancing, to their out of key vocals, to their dodgy wigs, they’re ropey but there’s something endearing about the way they don’t take themselves too seriously. They knocked out half a dozen songs including “Nothing But A Heartache”, “Little Darling”, “Stronger Than Her Love” and threw in a new song. If I never hear any version of “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” ever, ever, ever again I’ll be delighted, so to be trapped with their caterwauling was frankly torturous. Sorry ladies, not entirely your fault.

Gwen Dickey, of Rose Royce, had to be helped to the stage and her stool. Now, although I've watched The Royal I’m no doctor, but her legs/hips seemed right royally fucked. Obviously knowing everyone was wondering she explained it was due to falling from a ladder. “Ladies, when your man says he’ll do something tomorrow, let him, don’t do it yourself”. She sure could sing and got a rousing reception for “Is It Love You’re After”, “Wishing On A Star”, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” and especially “Car Wash”. I’ve never thought of that song as anything other than hen night fodder, but it is pure unadulterated Norman Whitfield. Had the Temptations or the Undisputed Truth tucked it on a B-side in 1974 it’d be listened to totally differently. Again, a word about the orchestra who bought it to life in a way I’d not noticed before. Every bugger got out of their seats and started “dancing”, which forced me to stand uncomfortably and very slightly sway and bob my head. Arms folded.

Out next came Hamish Stuart from the Average White Band. Someone in the audience shouted for him to play something lively. He didn’t. After Dickey upping the atmosphere he came across as far too earnest and let’s face it, who wants a scary bearded Scotsman playing something from his 1980 Brazilian influenced album? Not me and not many others. I amused myself with the old game of thinking of different names for AWB. Acute Wanking Ballache was rubbish, technically a dubious entry, but still won and took my mind off the stage.

Percy Sledge entered the fray wearing a tuxedo and what looked like a scouse calm down-calm down wig. If Eddie Floyd earlier in the week made a mockery of his passing years, fellow Alabaman Sledge had no qualms about playing the elder Soul Man. “People ask me, Percy Sledge, how come you talk so much when you used to just burn it up on stage. Well, I tell ‘em, I need to get my breath back”. He flashes that famous gap toothed grin of his and gets away with anything, including a bizarre, and very funny, Ride Your Pony type dance to one song. I can’t believe though he ever burned it up on stage even as a young man. The churchy chord changes to his Muscle Shoals ballads had a different quality, dramatically described by Gerri Hirshey in Nowhere To Run as “his voice sliced through stone, bronze and petrochemical ages of human love”. Time has eroded some of the edge but he was sweet and “Take Time To Know Her” and “Dark End of The Street” were great to hear. “Nights in bloody White Satin” less so, but “When A Man Loves A Woman” was the big money shot and didn’t disappoint. Never have I seen a man fall so gingerly to his knees. He clambered up, did a false exit, milked the standing ovation, and was gone.

With Booker T scheduled next, the house lights suddenly came on. There was no announcement and confusion reigned. The stage crew began packing away. Was that it? The advertising more than eluded to Booker T performing with an orchestra, which was the draw for me, at considerable expense. The cheapest tickets, at the back of the circle, were £75, and went up to £100 (due to a kindly tip-off and a half-truth I paid half-price). That did give access to other things at Vintage, mainly lobbies in the Royal Festival Hall masquerading as themed clubs, but meant there were lots of empty seats. There were three people in my row. With the orchestra packed away Hemingway introduced “Booker T. & The MGs”. They were no such thing as the drummer pointedly remarked. They were his current touring band (drums, bass and guitar). With the earlier momentum killed and the stage in almost darkness, Booker and co set about their standard set which I’d seen last year (see here). In a way it was an admirable stance to stick to their guns and do their own thing but it sat awkwardly with the revivalist natural of what preceded it. “Green Onions” was the second song to get it over with and if I thought Steve Cropper had overplayed when I saw his Stax show on Wednesday then he was positively the model of restraint after the sub-Hendrix fiddley-diddley wankathon of this guitarist. I read somebody tried to steal his effects pedals after the show; pity he wasn’t successful beforehand. Also, on Wednesday I heard “Soul Limbo” with a lengthy drum solo, this time around not only did it have a drum solo but the drummer rapped through it too. Oh man. Admittedly not in the Bob Dylan Name That Tune league of reinvention but unwelcome nonetheless. The other two people in my row had gone by now, as had many others, and when Booker T swopped his organ for a guitar and started singing “Take Me To The River” I left him to it.