Tuesday, 29 May 2012


I see artists supposedly past their prime on a regular basis and it’s usually a case of focusing on the good parts, glossing over the not so good, and cutting them plenty of slack on account of credit earned in previous lives.  At times it’s even enough to have a few beers in their company as a small payback for the pleasure they’ve given.  Occasionally though, like the New York Dolls, they can still cut the mustard by dipping into their illustrious past yet remaining firmly in the present.  When done well, devoid of showbizzy revivalism, it’s unbeatable.  The Primitives on Friday night, on whatever gig measuring tool one uses, were unbeatable. 

They took ten songs from their past and with beautiful symmetry matched them with ten songs from their present.  The white-knuckle ride of early single “Stop Killing Me” was thrilling and yet near equalled by the tambourine battering given to Suzi Jane Hokom’s “Need All The Help I Can Get”.   The dreamy psychedelic jangle of debut 45 “Thru The Flowers” (which received the loudest cheer of the night) was suitably twinned with their folk pop take on Polly Nile’s “Sunshine In My Rainy Day Mind”.

Most of the current material was taken from their recent 60s girl-sung covers LP Echoes and Rhymes but old favourites, with their baa-ba-ba-ba-bas and their sha-la-la-la-las, sound like girl group covers anyway.  The effervescent “Spacehead” was a prime example, albeit a girl-fronted group covering the Ramones covering a girl group.  Hearing “Spacehead” followed by a powerfully petulant “Sick Of It” was the best back-to-back songs I’ve seen played in a long time.

Tracy Tracy remains a beguiling performer, possibly a more confident one than before, and sparkled from her kitten ears to her glittery toes.  She always, of course, received all the attention (one man on Friday patiently waited at the front of the stage to give her a bunch of red roses, not sure where that fitted on the sliding scale of kind gesture/creepy weirdo) but I always loved the way Paul Court looked on the cover of their second LP, Pure.  He’s still got a decent Barnet and an eye for a nice Chelsea boot, and Tig Williams kept standing behind his petal painted drum kit in shades of Keith Moon, whose picture adorned a vintage lamp stood on Paul Sampson’s bass amp.  The Primitives have lost none of their style and class.  I wonder what they do for day jobs.  They shouldn’t have any. 

There was no reminiscing, no do-you-remember when?, so it didn’t feel like an exercise in nostalgia, it felt like watching a fresh band with a great bunch of songs.  The only reference, and a telling one, came in their introduction to “Crash”, “This is our take on a song from the 80s by a band called the Primitives”.  I remember them, they were good, but these Primitives are blooming marvellous.   

Sunday, 27 May 2012


Berry Gordy missed a trick here letting Brenda Holloway sing something on Shindig! that folk couldn't buy in the shops.  His loss, our gain.

Thursday, 24 May 2012


If ever an excuse was needed to chat about the life and music of mod’s favourite sons The Action, the forthcoming biography of the band In The Lap of The Mods by Ian Hebditch and Jane Shepherd surely provides it.  A decade in the making, the book features contributions from all original band members: Reggie King, Mike Evans, Alan ‘Bam’ King, Pete Watson and Roger Powell; over 200 images including many previously unpublished photographs, flyers, posters and press cuttings; first-hand testimonies from fans and musical contemporaries; a complete guide to their gigs; and an examination of how the band’s mod following at clubs like The Birdcage in Portsmouth and The Marquee in London informed their decision making as a band.  In addition, this year also finally sees the release of an amazing new album on Circle Records of Reggie King’s post-Action demos, Looking For A Dream, recorded with his ex-band mates during the late 60s.

With these hugely exciting projects nearing completion it was a real honour and privilege to be asked by The New Untouchables to share a coffee and croissant with The Action’s drummer Roger Powell.

It was a wonderful surprise to recently see on the In The Lap of The Mods website footage of The Action outside the Royal Albert Hall performing “I’ll Keep Holding On” for the Dick Clark Show.  What do you remember about it?
Not a lot.  It was a bit embarrassing to be honest.  There were all these people throwing paper airplanes and generally just being shitty and we were miming and we used to hate miming.  You couldn’t hear anything and had to pretend you were really getting in to it.  We didn’t really like anything like that; we were pretty anti-social, anti-establishment. 

Do you think that might have been why you didn’t go as far as you could’ve?
Oh yes.  When we played with The Move they were saying you’ve got to do all these outrageous things, tie yourselves to railings and wear outrageous clothes, and we thought that was moving towards show business. 

Did your manager Rikki Farr try to push you into a more commercial market and get a hit? 
Yes, we knew we needed a manager as we needed publicity to get gigs.  We’d built up a really good following on the circuit and could’ve carried on just doing that but Marquee Artists and Rikki obviously wanted to make money and get the right record for us because we were on £100 a night and once you had a hit record you’d be on £500 or more and go to gigs in cars, have roadies and stay in nice hotels.   But none of the records I felt were anything near a hit record or anything edgy enough people would remember.  We never felt comfortable going after a hit even though we went along with it putting records out but they weren’t really doing anything.  I think “I’ll Keep Holding On” got to number 39 in the charts.

Was it disheartening to keep putting records out that didn’t hit?
It wasn’t disheartening because we were there for the music; we weren’t there for the hit record although all the people around us were getting them: The Kinks, The Small Faces, The Who, Spencer Davis Group, Manfred Mann.  It seemed everyone we played with at the Marquee had a hit record except for us.

Why do you think that was?
I think because they were doing original stuff and we were doing covers.  And we never got an original cover.  Something like “Ride Your Pony” would come out in America and someone else would do it in England.  At the time we didn’t consider writing our own songs as there was so many cool records to explore we just enjoyed playing them.  If we’d had an original cover first we might have had a hit record.

“Shadows and Reflections” was a very original cover. 
Yes but it didn’t get played, it didn’t get marketed, no machine behind it.  It was who you know not what you know.  You needed the right contacts, like The Who had with Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp.  They had the contacts, the money, and were right in with all the faces of the time, although I think they would’ve hit anyway.

Having George Martin as your producer must’ve helped.
Being with George at Abbey Road helped but although “I’ll Keep Holding On” was alright and “Never Ever” was okay, you couldn’t do it without the machine behind you.  You needed the publicity, to know people at the BBC to plug it.  And a lot of people bought their records in to the charts.  They’d get a little sniff into the charts, once it was there, the DJs would play it, you’d get on the telly and you’d be away.  So from an initial investment of say ten grand you could make it back.

Mike Evans said when “I’ll Keep Holding On” got to number 39 that was when you needed to start buying up all the records.
At that point there was a bit of a woo-hah about it. Early on you had a list of all the shops they took the chart returns from so you could send boys and girls in to buy a copy of this, two copies of that.  There was many twenty or thirty record shops in London where they took the charts from, so if you knew the shops…

You still managed to get on Ready Steady Go a few times.
I think we did it three times.  We did it with Pete Stringfellow who was bought down from the Mojo Club in Sheffield to compere it and we played a couple of songs live on there.  It was the first time anyone played live on Ready Steady Go and it gave us that appeal for the mods on the circuit and we got a really good following from it.

The book is titled In The Lap of The Mods, is that how it felt?
Someone said it to me that we were in the lap of the mods and I thought it was great, so we used it as the title.  That’s how it felt.  They’d meet us on their scooters and we’d meet them in the pub before the gigs.  We were like mates; there was no differentiation between us and the audience.  We were all regular guys; we didn’t put on any airs and graces.  It was all, “You got any leapers?  Yeah, great”. 

We refer to The Action nowadays as a mod band but did you consider yourselves mods?  Did you think in those terms?
No, I don’t think anybody did.  I don’t think people had this idea early on of being this thing called mod.  It was just smart blokes.  We used to like mohair suits and very smart Italian clothes.  We never really had a concept of what it was.  I would say we were a sort of soul band. 
The Small Faces had accounts the length of Carnaby Street for their clothes, where did yours come from?  Did you buy them yourselves?
Yeah, John Stephens, Carnaby Street, all those.  We bought them ourselves.  There’s a picture of us in the book outside Harry Fenton’s, once we’d put the clothes on and had our photograph taken we had to put the clothes back.  “The Action supplied by Harry Fenton” but they never gave us anything.  It was the same with drums.  If I wanted to play Premier drums I had to buy them, you needed a hit record before they’d give you anything.  Keith Moon got a contract with Premier.

Were you mates with Keith Moon and The Who?
Sort of because we did a lot of gigs with them and used to support them for quite a while so we were sort of friendly but they were always a bunch of piss takers so I didn’t really want to spend too much time around them.  I remember at the press release at the Marquee for “Never Ever” Moonie was throwing peanuts at us.   

Your drum kit had a two bass drum set-up which others also used, where did that idea come from?
A lot of people may tell you otherwise but I was definitely the first person to get two bass drums at the Marquee.  Definitely.  Then Moonie got two, Ginger Baker got two, Mitch Mitchell got two, and then most of the other drummers got two.  So then I took mine away and just had the one.  Buddy Rich had two bass drums and I thought it looked really smart, but it was nice with the tambourine as it gave that off-beat.  We didn’t have someone playing the tambourine so when I was playing I didn’t use the hi-hat, just used the bass drum for the off-beat with the tambourine, which was important for The Action’s sound.  You could do some amazing things with the two.

It gave you that good Motown sound.  Where were you hearing those records?
We got them through Mike’s mum who worked for EMI so she used to get us all these obscure records.  We weren’t really into the mainstream Tamla, we were into Stax and really obscure stuff.  There was also the DJ at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester.  We used to go back to his house after the club to hear them and Guy Stephens used to give us stuff.  That’s where we got a lot of the info.  Then we’d learn them and try to put our own little spin on them. 

When you did the all-nighters how many sets were you playing throughout the night?
Sometimes we’d do three sets.  Three quarters of an hour each and usually you’d be the only band.  They’d be records, we’d do a set, more records, another set. 

There must be a lot of songs you played live but didn’t record.
In the book there is a playlist of every song we ever played.  We didn’t repeat songs in a night.  We might occasionally do one twice if it was really popular.  We wouldn’t repeat “Land of a 1000 Dances” or anything but “Needle In A Haystack” we might do twice or “Heatwave” as people loved that.  We had a good lot of songs and we used to rehearse all the time.

The collector’s edition In The Lap of The Mods includes your audition disc of The Temptations’ “Girl (Why Do You Want To Make Me Blue)” you made for Decca.  What do you remember about that and Decca turning you down?
Nothing!  I remember going in to this big executive office at their studios.  We played three songs but only one was taped which was that one.  Jane bought it on eBay.  Mike knew it was genuine but was saying it wasn’t to put off other bidders.  

Did you stay for the all-nighters after you’d played them?
Yes it wasn’t worth going back. They’d finish at six in the morning and we’d stay up and drive back with a little help so we weren’t falling asleep at the wheel. 

Were you taking many drugs?
We were all on leapers most of the time because we were doing all-nighters and otherwise you just couldn’t keep going.  We got busted at the Birdcage for amphetamines.   We were all in the dressing room when suddenly all these policemen came in.  Everyone was dropping stuff.  I think they found some amphetamines in Mike’s pocket and took him away to the police station so we had to go and try getting him bailed out so we could finish the gig. 

How did LSD enter the scene?
In the early days we were one of the first people to take acid because it had just come over from America and we knew people in Pond Street who had gallons of LSD.  These people came over just to turn on London.   And when we were staying with Nick Jones in Bognor this guy came down to turn us on and that was our first acid trip.  I couldn’t believe it.

Was the trip arranged beforehand?
Yes, it was a party and it was about twelve o’clock and this guy was about to arrive.  We didn’t want to trip with all these people around so we thought we’d better try and get rid of them so we put on a crazy Albert Ayler LP and everyone said “I gotta go now”.  He gave us this stuff, I think it was me and Mike, maybe Bam, but not all the band wanted to take it.  I remember sitting there about half an hour later and looked at Mike and he looked at me and we just started laughing and laughing and laughing.  It made life so funny and so stupid.  We tripped all night and went out to the beach.  To be honest it did destroy people, I know a lot of people who didn’t make it. You needed a strong inner core and need to be comfortable with yourself.  We tripped actually on Ready Steady Go, me and Mike and then got spiked afterwards.   We’d gone back to this guy’s house and were coming down from the trip and he gave us some toast and we started freaking out again wondering what was happening. He’d put more LSD on it.  It was only when he told us that we thought thank goodness for that. 

There seemed such a huge shift from the mod days once 1967 arrived.
By ’67 all the underground stuff started happening in London with the UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road.  A lot of the psychedelic bands were self-indulgent nothing.  I didn’t like Pink Floyd or any of those bands, I couldn’t get into it.  The all-nighters at the Roundhouse people were all over the place.  The drugs had changed.  With the old amphetamines everyone liked a chat, wanted to be your mate, it was brilliant.  When people were taking acid it was totally different.  It’s an important thing drugs and culture, they’re a totally interlinked thing.  I mean, but even if the mods weren’t taking uppers they were very chatty, friendly people.  At the Roundhouse people were isolated in their own heads, doing their own thing.   It was like chalk and cheese.   Mod gigs and the Roundhouse, unbelievable difference.  I didn’t like the Roundhouse, it was too self-indulgent. 

So what was it like when you were then playing one song for 45 minutes?
I wouldn’t call it psychedelic by any means.  It was more jazzy, rock-jazz, but I liked the three minute things.  In the space of half an hour you could get loads of brilliant records rather than one long thing.  We lost touch with the club scene after a while, at the end of The Action, and got a bit disenchanted with it.  The early days of The Action were the most exciting, when we were playing the Birdcage and stuff like that.  That was an incredible time in the clubs.  

When The Action got back together in 1998 it was great it was all original members, which is very unusual.  How did that feel?
It had to be.  We wouldn’t have done it otherwise.  It was exciting and it felt like there was unfinished business, that somehow we hadn’t really closed the circle.  We knew it wasn’t going to be the same as we weren’t twenty anymore, so we knew it was going to be different but it was still worth doing as it was nice for people to see us again.  It was awesome.  I’m really pleased we did it as we got to meet people like Jane and Ian, Rob Bailey, yourself.

On some of the reunion shows you included a sax player and percussion; would you have liked to have had a Hammond player or a sax player back in the day?
I think so, it would have been great.  That’s what I liked about Jimmy James and The Vagabonds; they had a nice big fat sound with an organist and a sax but the vocals were the main thing with The Action. 

Did you help arrange the vocals harmonies? 
Oh no, I wasn’t musical at all.  Reg used to say, “Just shut up and bang the bloody drums!”  People used to call him Reg, and he’d say “Mister King, to you”.

Reggie was quite a character.
Reg was always a bit of wild card.  He just started going funny, a bit out of control, towards the end of The Action days.  We were playing a gig at the Blue Lagoon and all of a sudden Reg started climbing up this palm tree.  The bouncers came up, Reg jumped off the tree, we’re still playing and the bouncers are chasing him around the audience whilst he’s still singing.  “You’ll never play here again!”  Then he got arrested on the M1 at the Blue Boar services.  We’d eaten and had come out and were sitting in the van, ready to go, and it was “Where’s Reg?”  We looked around, couldn’t find him and twenty minutes later this policeman comes up and knocks on the window.  “Do you know Reg King?  He’s just been arrested for threatening someone with a plastic knife”.  I don’t know what it was about, something about where he wanted to eat his egg and chips.  Eventually we just decided, a sort of mutual thing, to move on.  But he got his head together a bit and we worked with him on his album.  The trouble was once we started doing stuff like John Coltrane’s “India” what was he going to do while we played that for half an hour?  Stand there and go “Elephants… Elephants”?     

Did you think Reg leaving would give the band more freedom or did you think that was going to be the end?
No, you just go through a transition you don’t think “oh I’m changing now into something else”.    It was very subtle.  It’s only when you look back in retrospect you realise you’ve changed from A to B.  So it didn’t affect us that much.  After Reg, Rod Stewart was going to join The Action at one point.  We knew him quite well and when Reg didn’t make a gig at the Twisted Wheel Rod sang a few songs with us.  But it didn’t materialise as he then got into the Faces as they’d had some hits and were bigger than we were.  We also tried to get the organist Keith Emerson.  I went round to his flat to ask him if he’d be interested and he said he would’ve been but was just joining The Nice.  We got Ian Whiteman and Martin Stone in and become more of a jazz-funk-jamming band.

How did that go down with your audience?
It depended where we played.  Some people were bored with it; some people sort of liked it.  We got to point where we didn’t know where we were and the audience didn’t know quite what we were doing.  It took us a bit of time to find our direction with Mighty Baby when we started writing our own stuff.

How long did you keep The Action name after Reg left?
About six months I think.  It was a bit of a mess really.  We wanted to somehow change.  Pete Watson left, even when Reg was still with us people would come up to us at gigs and say “Oi, you’re not The Action”, which was fair enough really because we were doing new stuff we’d written and all wearing Granny Takes A Trip suits.  It was a transition period.  We started getting into West Coast, Captain Beefheart, Love.  Things like “Dustbin Full of Rubbish” which Ian Whiteman wrote was still The Action, but it wasn’t The Action.  We didn’t have a new name basically until we went with John Hurd at Head Records and we said we had to change the name and he came up with Mighty Baby, which I wasn’t that keen on as it felt a bit silly but in retrospect it was all right and we did a couple of albums.

Do you look back at the periods of The Action and Mighty Baby differently or is it one continuous thing?
No, as different lives, definitely.  The Action was very exciting.  The whole scene, the music, the atmosphere in the clubs was brilliant. As soon as you walked in those clubs, the Marquee, the Birdcage, you could feel people were really into it.  With Mighty Baby you had to create an atmosphere with the music, you really had to win them over, which was more difficult.  With Mighty Baby we were searching, it was a time of introspection and because we’d all downed massive amounts of LSD what we thought was real wasn’t real.  Once you’d taken acid, tables were like vibrating with energy and flowers were absolutely stunning, you know.  You have to rethink totally who you are and what life’s about.  We became like travelling philosophers.  I was listening to one of the Mighty Baby tracks on the train coming down, “Tasting The Life”, which is all about seeking, searching, holy islands.  Whenever we’d do gigs as Mighty Baby if there was a castle we’d go there, Stonehenge we’d stop there, so we were always seeking some meaning in life through our music.  In Mighty Baby we were analysing life, who we were.  In The Action we weren’t, we were just being the life.  

For other MonkeyPicks interviews with The Action see:

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 is new book by Pat Thomas which explores how the Black Power movement intersected with pop culture; where revolutionaries were considered pop icons and musicians were seen as revolutionaries.

Even without delving into Thomas’s passionate text it’s a striking book.  Nearly 200 colour pages illustrated with record sleeves, posters and handbills  It’s surprising how many LPs Thomas discovered, both from small home grown labels and ones backed with the financial clout of Berry Gordy.  As Michael Torrance from Black Panther vocal group The Lumpen put it, “Some folks don’t read, but everyone listens to music”.  They didn’t even need to do that as the sleeves alone like Rappin’ Black In A White World by The Watts Prophets, with a child holding a machine gun against a deprived neighbourhood backdrop, say it loud without the need to listen or read.  From a design angle alone, Listen, Whitey! is a forceful document of the time.

The author gave a talk at East London’s Rough Trade record shop last week and began by stressing the Panthers were not anti-white, they were pro-black, an important difference.  They were also partly funded by white radicals and looking at Thomas and the thirty people gathered its apparent current interest in the subject (like blues and soul) is largely the preserve of middle aged white men.  These whiteys, at least, are listening.  And for 75 minutes we listened to Thomas discuss and play tracks from his book’s companion LP/CD.  Despite being initially thrown by the lack of an available power-point, thus unable to give his prepared talk, he swiftly adlibbed and got into his groove.

I’d had the CD a while and it’s not an easy listen.  Not only because of the nature of the more militant tracks but because the mix of styles make an uneven compilation: rallying speeches, driving jazz, spirit raising soul, stand-up routines and prototype hip-hop mix with white folkies, that bloke from the Beatles and interviews denouncing Timothy Leary.  The majority work best, and impact harder, when heard in isolation and better still with their story explained.

Thomas warmed noticeably to his theme and sensing on safe ground played a few tracks he’d never played in the 40 similar talks he’d given in America “in case they caused a riot”.  Assessing the only danger here was of someone accidently dropping their china cup of mocha he let loose “Die Nigga!!!” by The Original Last Poets, as powerful a piece of performance poetry as you’ll ever hear.  I have to turn the volume down very low at home for fear of my neighbours hearing the terrifying screams of the title.  If that track turned up the heat, Kain’s brutal “I Ain’t Black”, an extraordinary track featuring a beating rhythm, chants of “you black bastard” and “you white motherfucker” in various vocal styles over a jazz backing, burned the mother down. Well, it didn't really, but we nodded knowingly and smiled politely.

To buy both the book and CD works out the best part of £40, which is a hefty outlay, so it’s a pity the CD wasn’t free with the book, but the book itself leads to so many fascinating and undiscovered treasures the journey, and associated expense, has only just begun.

Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975 by Pat Thomas is published by Fantagraphic Books.  Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1967-1974 by Various Artists is released by Light In The Attic Records.

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Current spins in Monkey Mansions include...

1.  The Combinations – “Voodoo” (1962)
Songs about voodoo – like songs about monkeys and chickens – are always worth investigating and the temptation to play this next to Charles Sheffield’s “It’s Your Voodoo Working” would be strong for many.  By the way, according to voodoo superstition, having a woman visit you first thing on a Monday morning will bring you bad luck all week.  Keep that in mind. 

2.  Mr. Wiggles – “Fat Back (Part 1)” (1965)
Take a half cup of Robert Parker’s “Barefootin’”, cook it in a Famous Flames style, have a young Jimi Hendrix throw some licks (for it was he), and you have yourself a fair club soul treat.   

3.  Pink Floyd “Lucy Leave” (1965)
Bob Klose was still in the band here and what a debut Floyd single this would’ve made.  It doesn’t have the uniqueness of “Arnold Layne” but Barrett rarely, if ever, sang as strongly again and the tough circular garage attack is as good as it gets.     

4.  Verdelle Smith – “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice (Don’t Say Nothin’ At All)” (1966)
It was the later upbeat version by Gia Mateo that had us spinning holes in our soul socks for nights and mornings on end but Verdelle’s slower, Bacharach and David style treatment is beautifully paced and delicately sung.  Gorgeous. 

5.  Lee Hazlewood & Suzi Jane Hokom – “Califia (Stone Rider)” (1969)
Light In The Attic have embarked on a major Hazlewood reissue campaign.  The first release, The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes and Backsides (1968-1971), does more than enough to show there’s more hiding behind that thick tache than “Some Velvet Morning”.  

6.  Action Pact – “Sixites Flix” (1982)
Nearly all my favourite 60s films savagely denigrated in 113 seconds. 

7.  The Very Things – “The Bushes Scream While My Daddy Prunes” (1984)
A memorable song paired with an unforgettable video (See here.)

8.  Two Wounded Birds – “Midnight Wave” (2011)
Two Wounded Birds are top of my To See list.  The souped-up rocking surf rumble of “Midnight Wave” being one reason why.

9.  Spiritualized “So Long You Pretty Thing” (2012)
In Spiritualized word bingo this was very nearly a full house: Help, Lord, Jesus, God, Soul, Tired, Blind and Mind all ticked off.  Only missing Drugs.  So close.  They probably envisaged making “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” but the lighted candle mood, the way the song creeps up and builds, the choir, the big crescendo half way through actually remind me more of a Pop Idol winner’s song.  Still like it a lot though.          

10.  Pony Taylor – “Videogame” (2012)
It's easy to be sniffy about The BritPop Years but a chap said to me the other day he felt he'd missed out, as in his lifetime there hasn't been a movement that "everybody" (his words) was into.  It didn't feel like a movement or particularly special at the time but he's probably got a point and like mods in the 60s or punks in the 70s its only when looking back they can truly see what was happening around them.  Had he been with us in 1995 h would've heard slashing chords and sustained organ every day of the week, so hearing French band Pony Taylor revisit it with aplomb in 2012 should make us both happy.  

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Jack Kerouac would have been 90 this year and is celebrated in the latest issue of Beat Scene with a host articles, mostly exclusive to the magazine. 

Editor Kevin Ring unravels the tangled history of Visions of Cody, as well as recounting a disastrous television appearance; Jim Burns separates the fact from fiction in Maggie Cassady; Olle Thornvall runs with the influence of Jack’s hometown of Lowell and how it shaped Doctor Sax; and there’s a small piece on the until recently lost first novel The Sea is My Brother.   

Kerouac apart, there’s a good look Charles Bukowski’s doddles (or “atomic scribblings” as Abel Debritto calls them) and the usual peak into the more obscure corners of the Beat universe plus the always excellent reviews section. 

64 pages on decent quality paper without a single advertisement and yours for the price of a pint.  For ordering details and more information visit Beat Scene   

Sunday, 13 May 2012


John Peel’s record collection is the stuff of legend.  He’d sit in Peel Acres, listen to his new acquisitions, meticulously catalogue them, create typed index cards, then cherry pick tracks for his show. 

It’s estimated he had 26,000 LPs alone.  Now, thanks to the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts, these are very slowly being drip fed on to a new site called The Space.  Each week, the first 100 albums, in alphabetical order, are put online.  Last week was the A’s; this week has been the B’s.  At that rate, my CSE maths makes a completion date of May 2017.  It’s a well-designed site that looks like a real record collection and it allows sight of the front and back covers, the inner sleeve plus Peel’s own index cards.  My initial excitement has been tempered though by discovering it’s not possible to listen to the actual records.  Where the records are available on Spotify there is a link (okay if you have Spotify) but other than that it’s just looking at record sleeves.  I suppose complicated licensing issues are at the root of this but making a record collection available to look at is a little pointless. Such legalities aren’t usually abided to by the users of YouTube so that’s a good second stop, and where I listened to stuff from the couple of mid-70s soulful disco LPs by Ace Spectrum.  It is also a shame it’s not possible to zoom into the sleeves.  Despite those frustrating grumbles it’s still a way to fritter away hours searching for new music and a reminder of Peel’s anything goes taste. 

Everyone has their listening to John Peel stories; it was a rite of passage.  I began tuning in when I was twelve, on a wrist radio tied to the plank of wood that stopped me falling out the top bunk.  It was called a wrist radio but as this was the early 80s it was the size of a cereal bowl.  I had to keep the volume low so not to wake my little brother, who had yet to discover rock and roll, asleep below.  I dreamed of being a punk, inspired by a gang I’d watch from my bedroom window at night.  They’d sit on the stone boat in the park that backed onto our garden, smoking, drinking, lighting fires and occasionally kicking a ball around.  It looked a great way of life and I still hold them responsible for spraying “The Ruts” on our street sign. 

It was one thing wanting to be a punk, it was quite another to getting to hear the music so Peel was the way in.  One night he announced he was going to play the new single by The Clash.  This was exciting.  I knew who they were but had never heard them.  How would they compare to Never Mind The Bollocks, which my school friend had nicked from his brother to give to me?  I loved that album, even if – and maybe especially because – I had to hide the sleeve from my mum and knock off the sound during the potty-mouthed abortion bit in “Bodies”.  I can’t remember Peel’s introduction but do recall my utter disbelief and disappointment when “This Is Radio Clash” filled the airwaves.  What on earth was this hippity-hoppity New York street funk nonsense supposed to be?  How was this punk? 

Luckily a second wave of punkish upstarts was springing up and it was these short, sharp, shouty and sometimes funny 45s, which captured my imagination far more than those old fogies.  The Ejected’s “Have You Got 10p?” was a played almost nightly; The Addicts “My Baby Got Run Over By A Steamroller” has stayed with me (I taped it and mum asked if it was a infant or a loved one flattened); but my favourite band from that period were Action Pact, whose two sessions had me leaping off my bed to release the pause button on my hi-fi to record.  There are two of their LPs in Peel’s collection, which prompted me to revisit them for the first time in since those boyhood days.  Surprisingly they’ve weathered well, owing much to X-Ray Spex, which I didn’t realise back then.

But many nights would be a test of patience and lasting through from 10pm to midnight was a rarity.  I'd turn the radio up for the talking and down for the music.  His contrariness in deliberately playing outlandish and often diabolical records was a thing to be admired if not listened to.  The internet age has made us more impatient and we can, if we want, click away after the opening bars of some Hungarian electro drone duo or a Congolese folk band but his show made you stick with it or bail out and potentially miss something wonderful.  Coupled with the weekly music press it was the only place a kid like me could discover music outside the charts and peek into other worlds; that was our internet.  As for "This Is Radio Clash", it was an amazing record, so far ahead of its time.  John Peel knew.  

Friday, 11 May 2012


Time to peel back the latest web of sound from Monkey Picks favourites, The Lovely Eggs.  This is the new single, officially released on Monday.  Watch out for me and them in June.  More about that nearer the time.  For now, tuck in.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


In an idea partly inspired by From Desk Til Dawn and Mod Male blogs, I might try using Sundays to round up a few bits and bobs that have caught my eyes and ears throughout the week which don’t make a post of their own but are worth sharing. 

We’ll start with the film The Small World of Sammy Lee.  No, it’s not about the ‘80s scouse footballer of the same name who was famously fat, round and bounced on the ground (and when signed by QPR was, according to the song, “worth a million pounds”), but about a strip club compere who owes a small fortune in gambling debts and has a day to raise the money or he gets done over by the heavies (including one very mod mobster).  Any British film from 1963 that features lots of location footage is of interest purely for that and the opening sequence which sweeps through Soho filled with clip joints, restaurants and coffee bars doesn’t disappoint.  Even better than recognising West End and East End locations, is that it’s a good film in its own right.  Newley is convincing as he tries to keep a clear head as the pressure mounts, and a Who’s Who of mid 60s British film and television: Warren Mitchell, Wilfred Brambell, Roy Kinnear, Julia Foster, Derek Nimmo and others back him superbly.  A new favourite.  

By strange coincidence, on the day I watched that I bought The Lowlife by Alexander Baron, a novel first published in 1963, and, as well as the year, shares many similarities with The Small World of Sammy Lee.  Harryboy Boas is another Jewish East London gambler who is more than content to live his life on his own terms: gambling, dressing up, visiting prostitutes, spending money when he has it, and reading books in his small bedsit.  His sister and her husband try to coax him into settling down with a proper income, suggesting buying property in the slums to “stuff full of niggers”.  It does provide a vivid picture of how Hackney was at the time (Harryboy’s view of immigrants and the local community is far more positive than that previous description) and Soho is identical to the one in Sammy Lee.  I’m only a third of the way through the book and Harryboy is being drawn into the secret lives of his new neighbours in his lodging house and he will soon be dragged into “an underworld where violence and revenge stalk those who can’t come up with the money”.  Excellent stuff so far. 

I’ve been meaning to write about Jeremy Deller’s Joy In People exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London for a while but it ends on 11th May, so gets your skates on if you’re local (or have a nose through the accompanying book).  Deller’s latest creation, Sacrilege, was in the press the other week: a gigantic inflatable Stonehenge plonked overnight in Glasgow Green much to the surprise and delight of locals who started bouncing all over it.  Joy In People contains many other delights and if you like some pop in your art then you’ll appreciate work inspired by and featuring Keith Moon, Manic Street Preachers, Happy Mondays, Neil Young, World of Twist and acid house.  Deller isn’t an “artist” in the sense of here’s a painting, here’s a sculpture kind of way (although there are those), he’s more a curator or instigator of events so they don’t always work, nor were intended, as gallery artefacts, but his more serious studies such as a full scale acted reconstruction of The Battle of Orgreave from the miners’ strike of 1984, or taking the wreckage from a Baghdad car bomb on a tour through America with former American servicemen and Iraqi citizens invite further thought and discussion.             

Saturday, 5 May 2012


If best-selling albums had been books instead, how would they have looked?  Christophe Gowans from The Rockpot has some suggestions including Dylan’s finest LP Blood On The Tracks imagined as a pulp-fiction novel.   I bought it as a postcard the other day but to see it amongst other titles such as Exile On Main Street, Horses and The Stone Roses check out The Record Books.      

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


Seeing how the previous post was such a hit, here's more of Ken White's home footage of The Creation.  This time, they're causing havoc on the water.  Also, a few of you picked me up on referring to them as a "decent enough band" when, of course, they were a great band.  I stand corrected.