Tuesday, 30 October 2012


I wish the first gig I went to was The Jam on their farewell tour in December ’82. For years that’s what I told people but in fact it was The Truth at the Marquee the following year. It should’ve been The Jam but by the time Monkey Snr drove to Wembley Arena they’d sold out. If that wasn’t disappointing enough a group of lads from school went, most of who had previously shown no interest in the band, whereas I’d been a die-hard fan for, ooh, over a whole year. It was so unfair.

In those days all the cool kids “turned” something: be it mod, skinhead, psychobilly, soulie or slightly later, heaven forbid, casual - our football team was full of bloody casuals. It wasn’t uncommon for kids to switch sides on a whim but I eased my way into mod gradually. Following The Jam over that year (more about it here) got me interested, especially after a two-page feature in Smash Hits where Paul Weller discussed his favourite things: sunglasses, cufflinks, the Small Faces and so on. That was a big influence, as was my mate Lee, the goalkeeper in our Sunday football team, who was a young (thirteen/fourteen year old) mod. After training one Saturday Lee sold me a parka. It was gigantic, the pocket was hanging off and it whiffed of Rothmans. My mum wasn’t too impressed when I sheepishly stepped through the front door. “You’re not going out in that. We don’t pay good money for nice clothes for you to look like a tramp.” Mum had a fair point (not that I thought so at the time) but I wondered if she was concerned I was getting myself mixed up with yobbish mods.

This meant I hid the parka in a bin liner over the park that backed onto our house. On the way to school I’d rescue it from inside the tree it was hidden in and return it on my way home. I added some Jam badges to it including a good “Funeral Pyre” and a Who one in a target. This worked fine until the first time in living memory the London Borough of Hillingdon chopped down the trees, gaining themselves a tatty parka in the process. 

School uniform consisted of Fred Perry jumpers, sta-press, tassel-loafers or DM shoes, and the tie tied with the skinny side showing and the kipper tucked inside the shirt, so it wasn’t a huge leap to mod it up a bit, especially with the parka. Out of school the clincher - to seal allegiance to the cause - came with the purchase of my black and white Jam shoes. The badger ones, in leather rather than the more popular suede. That spring of ’83 I proudly wore them to my uncle’s wedding. “Why are you wearing your football boots?” he asked.

With The Jam out of the way, by accident or design (and the timing did seem fortuitous) Dennis Greaves abandoned the pub R&B of Nine Below Zero and moved into modish pop-soul territory with his new group The Truth. Their debut “Confusion (Hits Us Every Time)” entered the charts in early ’83 (bearing more than a passing resemblance to “Beat Surrender”) and was followed by “A Step In The Right Direction”. For us kids too young to really have had The Jam as our own, we had The Truth. It suited both parties for a while; we had a band and The Truth had an eager young audience.

The chance to see them, to go to my first gig, came on Saturday 24th September 1983 on their Sounds Like The Truth tour. They played an under 16s matinee show sponsored by music paper Sounds who printed a 50p-off voucher which I cut out and took along. I went with Lee The Goalie who, in every respect, lived across the tracks from me. I rode round to his house in Ruislip Gardens on my Commando (at fourteen too young for a scooter and, quite frankly, too old for a Commando but it was a couple of miles from Ickenham). I was wearing a dark blue short-sleeved Brutus shirt, blue sta-press and, of course, my Jam shoes. With my wardrobe having not caught up with my new found ideology I still hadn’t a decent jacket so wore this rather plain reversible zip-up blouson. It was grey, or if turned inside out, blue. I had it the blue side.

My discomfort at this outfit wasn’t helped when I turned up at Lee’s only for a load of his mates I didn’t know to already be there and kitted out far smarter than I. I sat quietly on the settee until one of the lads turned to me and said “You can’t wear those.” Those what? “Those shoes. Jam shoes, they won’t let ya.” Eh? “Takes the piss, don’t it? Jam shoes, when they’re The Truff.” You’re joking. Aren’t you? Lee wasn’t a great help, “It’s true, they said in Smash Hits none of their fans wear parkas or Jam shoes”. So what am I supposed to do? “Just have to leave them in the cloakroom.” Oh great, going to watch my first gig stood in white towelling socks.

We eventually got the Central Line into town and after knocking about Carnaby Street went to the gig on Wardour Street. The band were hanging out in the foyer meeting us fans. I had my 50p-off voucher signed by singer/guitarist Dennis Greaves, bassist Brian Bethell and Hammond man Chris Skornia. The gig itself was hot and sweaty as we all leapt around like little mod loons. At some point during the day I’d acquired a navy boating blazer with thin mauve and sky blue stripes. As boating blazers went it was tasteful but meant I was wearing it with that bloody blouson thing tied around my waist. Not a good look but at least I wasn’t required to remove my shoes. I was impressed the band put everything in their performance even though they had an evening show directly after it. Like The Jam before them they didn’t act like pop stars and they didn’t treat us like kids. We all went home in very high spirits.

My next gig, and first grown up one, was also by The Truth (being an archetypical Virgo I created lists of everything including gigs, see above), this time at the 100 Club when they recorded their Five Live EP. The Jam shoes had been replaced by white bowling shoes and I had my mum sew a large patch “The Truth – A Step In The Right Direction” on the back of my green flight jacket. “This will be like having your name on your coat,” she said, “if you get in any trouble you’ll easily be identified.” That was another great gig, as were a few more but they were backpedalling hard to get away from being associated with mods and it created an increasingly acrimonious atmosphere between the two camps.

That was that until last Friday when celebrating their 30th anniversary The Truth were back on stage at the Borderline, only a few street away from the old Marquee, with their original pre-“Confusion” line-up. On the rare occasions I’ve tried to listen to their records since the mid-80s I’ve winced at how of-the-time they sound but hearing them played live again they sounded so much better, much fuller. “Love A Go Go” was pure sing-along Marquee memories; I’ll always associate “Nothing’s Too Good For My Baby” with The Truth rather than Stevie Wonder; “I’m In Tune” was another rollicking Hammond workout; “Just Can’t Seem To Stop” had Greaves – still big on audience participation – engaging in some call and response with the crowd, not all who’d seen them back in the day. It was a nostalgia show but far more enjoyable than I’d expected with most songs sounded fresh and full of life. They were having fun but had obviously put in a lot of rehearsal hours. “Not bad for old cunts,” said Greaves. Not bad at all. Oh, I suppose you're gonna ask: APC black corduroy Nehru jacket, Peckham Rye scarf, bespoke dogtooth trousers and black Chelsea boots.   

Sunday, 28 October 2012


Popular spins in Monkey Mansions this month include:

1. Grant Green – “Have You Ever Had The Blues?” (1963)
Guitarist Green may have had top billing but Big John Patton’s Hammond takes centre stage. Taken from the excellent Blues For Lou LP which incredibly had to wait 36 years before release.   

2. The Action – “Why Do You Wanna Make Me Blue” (1965)
Talk about unearthed treasure. This was the audition disc The Action cut for Decca on 31st May 1965 and the earliest evidence of their brilliance. They attack The Temptations at quite a lick but once they settle down it has everything we’d come to know and love from our Kings of Kentish Town: Reggie King’s passionate vocal, the three-part harmonies and the chiming guitars. Only available as part of the deluxe edition of the In The Lap of The Mods book which is utterly essential. Full review to follow.

3. Clarence Carter – “Snatching It Back” (1969)
The sound of Muscle Shoals. The whole Testifyin’ album is a bristling soul cracker.  

4. Tony Joe White – “The Daddy” (1971)
Can’t help but think of Stanley Road era Paul Weller. But don’t let that put you off.

5. James Brown – “It’s A New Day” (1970)
“Hair is the first thing. And teeth the second. Hair and teeth. A man got those two things he’s got it all.” – James Brown.

6. The High Llamas – “Checking In, Checking Out” (1993)
With the vogue for bands marking anniversaries by performing “classic” albums, I’m hopeful The High Llamas will play Gideon Gaye next year, for it’s an album worthy of such an accolade.    

7. Andy Lewis featuring Keni Burke – “(Love Is) Alive In My Heart” (2005)
The best soul-pop song The Style Council never made.

8. Tame Impala – “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” (2012)
Second album Lonerism works best as a whole rather than piecemeal but the revolving psychedelic glitterball of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is a typical of its giddy feel.

9. The Urges – “Fire Burning” (2012)
Irish bowlheads add a touch of brass to this frantic and infectious Whiskey-A-Go-Go-esque club shaker.

10. Andre Williams – “Stuck In The Middle” (2012)
Since the mid-50s Williams has been around the musical block and in some dark alleys but he’s back in Detroit and in good shape on his new LP, Life. Opener “Stuck In The Middle” is the best track with Andre’s trademark laconic vocals set against a bar-band Funkadelic groove.      

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Having read On The Road half a dozen times the odds were stacked against liking the new film adaptation, and the bookies are seldom wrong. Director Walter Salles had a difficult task capturing Jack Kerouac’s poetic prose, so didn’t bother, instead he went for a stylised fashion-shoot/drinks commercial/pop video look and threw in some extra tits and arse.   

I don’t know how Sam Riley gets these parts; someone must think he’s kinda cute. He was okay as Ian Curtis in Control but as menacing as a bag of greasy chips as Pinkie in Brighton Rock, and here as Sal Paradise (Kerouac's pseudonym) his whole shtick is to look vacant and watery eyed. Jack might’ve been shy but was keen-eyed, even when drunk or stoned, famously logging everything in his prodigious memory. Whenever he’s a bit off his head in the film Salle shakes the camera, just to make it clear. Genius. Riley, I’m told, didn’t bother to read the novel and neither it seems did he listen to how Jack spoke, choosing to adopt a flat, generic American accent. His opposite number Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriaty (real life Neal Cassady) was better - faint praise - but where was the drive, the burn-burn-burn? Kirsten Dunst was well cast as Camille and Viggo Mortensen got the easy but entertaining role of Old Bull Lee.

It makes no real difference what the film’s like, there’ll always be the book, but the worse thing is it won’t encourage many to read Kerouac. There was one short scene when Sal receives Carlo Marx’s (Allen Ginsberg’s) poem Denver Doldrums. He reads the lines, they appear on the screen, and it came alive. People will now be discovering Ginsberg; will they pick up On The Road or Visions of Cody? The film adaptations of William Burroughs's Naked Lunch and Allen Ginsberg's Howl worked as they used the classic Beat Generation texts to create something new and interesting. Salles only creates a poor imitation. 

Jack’s novel has shifted in meaning for me over the years. When I first read it I honed in on the energy, the excitement, the free-wheeling search for kicks. It’s like the opening scene in Easy Rider when Peter Fonda throws his watch to the ground and kick-starts his bike. It’s not the destination; it’s the journey, the experience. On The Road reads much sadder and gloomier nowadays. Jack’s lonely quest for love and belonging in a world “where we’re all going to die anyway” rises closer to the surface.

The original manuscript of On The Road is currently on display in the British Library and is amazing to see. According to legend, Jack wrote it in one three-week spontaneous burst of inspiration and perspiration at his kitchen table to tell his new wife about his travels. To negate the need to interrupt his flow he taped together sheets of tracing paper, loaded up the typewriter and off he went, fuelled on coffee and Benzedrine. When he unravelled the 120 foot long scroll for his publisher he was told where to go and had to wait another six years and make many changes before it finally saw publication. The truth isn’t quite as dramatic as research now shows On The Road was worked on for years until he typed that version. Although punctuated it’s written as one solid block of text with no paragraphs which makes it difficult to read within the special glass case in the library; it was nigh impossible for my eye to follow the next line. Made it like reading a Burroughs cut-up.

Howard Cunnell, editor of On The Road – The Original Scroll (published in 2007) gave a very persuasive lecture at the British Library the other weekend when he argued the exaggerated myth Jack created around his spontaneous prose technique harmed him as it enabled critics to easily dismiss him and his style. Truman Capote’s put-down “That’s not writing, that’s typing” is almost as well-known as any of Jack’s lines. However, the main thrust of Cunnell’s hour-long talk was to champion Visions of Cody as “the real On The Road” and as Kerouac’s masterpiece. The link between the two – both centred on Neal Cassady and covering much of the same ground but in a different style - is complicated so I won’t recount it here but will read Cody again. When I read it 20 years ago I didn’t get it at all – thought it was a mess - and remains the only main Kerouac book I’ve read just once. Salles’s film didn’t inspire but the British Library has.

On The Road: Jack Kerouac’s manuscript scroll is on display at the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB until Thursday 27th December 2012. Admission free. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Side One. The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, Bethnal Green.

Fade in.

Two chairs on a stage in front of a projection reading “Will Hodgkinson in conversation with Pete Townshend”. Hundreds of chairs squashed together facing them. Please welcome, Pete Townshend. Pete talks. Feedback screeches. And again. Hodgkinson makes same auto-destructive art gag twice. Not a conversation, more a monologue. Will, wearing nice brown suede boots, and audience occasionally interject but otherwise it’s all Pete for over an hour promoting his autobiography Who I Am. Throw him a crumb and he’ll bake you a cake. Lots about being an art student in 1961. Drifted into pop music. Had to leave pretty college girls to his mate Barney - Richard Barnes - whilst he did gigs and waited for the fight to start. Wrote early songs directly for his mod audience. Was easy as mods were all the same. Now his audience are old and complicated he can’t write for them. As the male mods got more effeminate the female mods got more masculine, no Bridget Bardot glamour: short hair, dark straight shirts. Wrote songs as demos to play to the Who whereas John came in with the music for “Whiskey Man” and “Boris The Spider” written out. Keith and John preferred the lighter songs like “Happy Jack” and dressing up in silly clothes. Roger would complain songs weren’t working class enough. Has no favourite songs from his solo catalogue and doesn’t think of them as separate from his other writing. Doesn’t mind doing gigs but doesn’t love them either even though he says he is great at them. Love for the Rolling Stones. Even when they are crap, Jagger is incredible. Brian Jones gets a bad press but was always nice to Pete and was a musicologist. All of them were cool to hang out with. The Beatles were okay but came from a slightly earlier showbiz tradition and then bridged into the younger generation. More art school reminisces. Lecturer said in 1961 everyone would have computers by 1965. Sly and the Family Stone brilliant at Woodstock. They repeated the refrain “I Wanna Take Your Higher” over and over until the slumbering crowd woke up and got into it. The Who repeated trick with “Listening To You”. Keith had a great way with words and said two girls “were attached” to him and John in van before Woodstock. Pop music is a vehicle for a communal experience for the audience to lose themselves in a crowd and become one. They aren’t there for Bono, they are there for themselves. Can never have a conversation with Bob Dylan. Dylan likes the ladies and happy to chat away with Pete’s partner Rachel. Does impression of Bob talking to Rachel. Tried to attract his attention. Bob eventually looks up and says “Where’s Roger?”

Hundreds queue for book signing. Military operation. Staff open book, bung it in front of Pete, flicks his pen, pick up your book, move on, next. No signing anything except book, no posing for photos. Can you put ‘To Mark and Paula’? Too late. “No, but you look very stylish the pair of you. Really great." Okay, thanks, that’s even better. Said same thing to friends David Edwards and Claudia Elliott moments earlier. Shake hands. Looks older close up Paula and her sister Karen ask for a hug. “No, but I take it back about mod girls, you've got in down pat. You’re both very sharp”.

Side Two. The Golden Heart, Commercial Street, Spitalfields.

Arrange to meet Moonie’s loyal assistant and Full Moon author Dougal Butler in the pub. Off we strut – a procession of mods and Who glitterati - including Richard Barnes and Doug Sandon, drummer from The Detours. Dougal and Barney regale the mod corner with their tales. Dougal tells of he and Moonie nicking jackets from two sleeping policemen, find car keys in the pockets and take it for a spin, sirens blaring, and return before they woke. Does a little dance and sings "We are the mods". People on Facebook ask him random stuff like where Keith bought that jacket he was wearing in photo from 1971. How the fuck should he know? Talking of random questions, where did Keith get his elephant’s foot table? The one in the picture with him playing records wearing crushed velvet trousers, wife Kim in red tights and daughter Mandy playing? It wasn’t a table it was a planter and Dougal still has it. Bought in Mombasa. Keith and Kim also bought a smaller one with a lid for John and Alison Entwistle’s wedding present. Alison recently gave it to Dougal. Full Moon doing well and getting good press in America. Rumours Roger Daltrey has been offered a huge advance to write his autobiography.

Barney signs my copy of his Mods! book. The Bible since I was thirteen. Surprised the pages aren’t falling out. They are. The Scene club had the most discerning mods. Goldhawk Road and his own Railway Hotel were just for locals. Guy Stevens had the most amazing record collection. Calls Dave Edwards the new Guy Stevens. The footage of the High Numbers at the Railway Hotel on the Amazing Journey DVD made him think they were better than he gave them credit for at the time. Didn’t think mods would like them at The Scene as they were so loud and mods would sooner listen to James Brown but they did. The Action were good but The Small Faces were the other great ones, especially for Steve Marriott’s voice. The photos in Mods! and Pete’s book of The Who dancing at The Scene, were they staged or genuine? Genuine. Who was the best dancer? Pete, as coming from a showbiz family didn’t mind making a fool of himself. Roger was too stiff back then and basically a rocker. Pete the only one that really connected with mod. Pete can change like that. Click. Barney's voice sound similar to Pete's.

Landlady chirps in with how she knew Kenney Jones. Been in East End all her life and lived on same street, Watney Street in Stepney, as him. Got lost together in Hampton Court maze. Buddy Ascot from The Chords with us. Nice fella. He’s surprised people are still interested in the mod revival period. I'm not but loved his band The Rage back in ’84-’85. Man approaches to tell us about a Simon Townshend gig. Buddy forced to reveal what band he is in. Man’s face drops. Mouth wide open. Frozen. Still frozen. Oh. My. God. Utter disbelief. The Chords are my favourite band after The Who he says. Mine too says Buddy. Move away. Man says he went off band when they changed logo and put the “o” in Chords into a square. Stumble from pub. Newspaper reports of Kray twins on chip paper.

Fade out.

Many thanks to Claudia Elliott for photographs of Pete Townshend, Richard Barnes and Dougal Butler. 

Friday, 19 October 2012


Footballers. Dontcha just hate them? If only they still looked like these stylish young men posing with their motors for The Topical Times Football Book 1968-69. I'll even excuse the hideous West London clubs a couple played for.

Monday, 15 October 2012


It’s not often my jaw hits the roll of my button-down but it did watching The Strypes at Crossfire. On the face of it four Irish lads, average age fifteen, playing R&B covers is about as appealing as an after school detention but whilst other kids have been doing whatever other kids do, these lads have been studying The Yardbirds at the Crawdaddy Club. The result was nothing short of incredible. They weren’t incredible for their age; they were incredible, full stop.

I’ve never seen R&B played with such contagious energy and excitement. It’s one thing doing rave-ups of “You Can’t Judge A Book By Looking At The Cover”, “I’m A Man”, “Got Love If You Want It” and “I Wish You Would” but they even breathed fresh life into drab old standards like “Stormy Monday Blues” and “See See Rider”. They’ve done away with the dull old man blues part and replaced it with young man fiery reds. There was stacks of both smoke and lighting coming off that stage. Their playing was phenomenal. One can only assume they sold their souls at the tuck shop.

The lead singer was slightly overshadowed by his band mates but he’ll grow in confidence and add an edge soon enough. The cockiness of the others, especially the young Keith Richards-looking guitarist, was fully justified. They know how good they are.

The Strypes aren’t the run of the mill young group fumbling around; they’re obviously being groomed for the big time. I hope the two or three songs I didn’t recognise at the beginning of their set were originals [they weren't] as their next test is to channel their unquestionable talent into something of their own.  Once they do, they’ll be the ones with imitators.       

Sunday, 14 October 2012


It’s lucky phone boxes are almost a thing of the past because I’d think twice about ever stepping inside one again after watching this disturbing 34 minute film by Antonio Mercero about a man trapped inside a cabina. It’s in Spanish but features hardly any dialogue and none you need to know. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Friday night at the London Palladium. As a venue to spin a few sounds goes, it takes some beating. To give you an idea how posh the Val Parnell Room is, I had a private en-suite bathroom next to the DJ decks and the offer of a face massage by the Palladium’s in-house beautician. Danny from Heavenly Records, also DJing, had one and said it felt weird but oddly relaxing. I gave it a miss. Nice offer though. The main room was beautiful: all white pillars, ornate domed skylight, plush carpet, and framed posters of old Palladium bills hung on the walls. Bruce Forsyth's 1973 "One Man Laughter Show" gazed down on me (surely it was funnier than that). A fantastic and imaginative scoop by promoters Idle Fret. 

I’ve done a few Idle Fret gigs now and always enjoy them as being a bit out of touch these days I get to hear bands I wouldn’t normally know about. First on were Giant Burger. As they began I raised a foot to step nearer and they started to sing. Well, not actually sing, more go ARRGHOOAOOOAHH! really loudly and accompany it with the sound of dustbins full of marbles tumbling down a metal staircase. My foot recoiled in mid-air moonwalk horror. Take a seat Grandad. From a distance my tender ears acclimatised, to a degr Burgers weren't to my taste. I’d investigated Shrag the day before and from the odds and sods on YouTube I felt I’d either like them a lot or find them bloody annoying. I liked them a lot. Main singer Helen does a stroppy teenager routine: one moment bouncing excitedly up and down in her stocking feet, the next throwing herself to the floor in a moody tantrum. Other girl and boy voices criss-crossing a fat rolling riot grrrl groove added to a very watchable, very listenable set. Hell, I was so impressed I bought the album, Canines, and look forward to seeing them again.

Long time favourites The Lovely Eggs were top of the bill. I don’t know whether it was the venue, the dry ice, the extravagant light show, the PA, the beer, or a combination of it all, but they rocked like mothertruckers. Seriously, their grunge punk onslaught sounded so much heavier than usual and the in-between song northern humour cut to a minimum. A couple of newies from the forthcoming Wildlife LP fortunately didn’t reveal any drastic change of direction from the previous few singles and when they slowed it down for “Fuck It” scarves emblazoned with its name were held aloft. (I flipping well forgot to buy a blue and white one. Fuck it.) A barnstorming, sausage roll crumbling finale of “Don’t Look At Me” had Tommy Trinder’s poster shaking in its frame.

Below are the songs, mainly punk and garage, I played. Was a new experience to use CDs (no record decks available) but I muddled through, only ballsed up a couple of times, but I bet the Palladium has never heard "Spazz" by The Elastik Band before. The first set was early doors, the second between Shrag and The Lovely Eggs, and the third had a few dancing after the Eggs until closing time. Fab.

The What Four – I’m Gonna Destroy That Boy (1966)
Orange Juice – The Artisans (1984)
The Seeds – Evil Hoodoo (1966)
The Prisoners – Better In Black (1982)
Wild Billy Childish & The MBE – Joe Strummer’s Grave (2006)
The Black Angels – Telephone (2010)
Belle & Sebastian – Legal Man (2000)
Dale Hawkins – LA Memphis Tyler Texas (1969)
Bo Diddley – If The Bible’s Right (1970)
Two Wounded Birds – Together Forever (2012)
The Primitives – Turn Off The Moon (2012)
Swinging Medallions – Double Shot of My Baby’s Love (1966)
Mysterious Monks – The Moneylender (2012)
The Elastik Band – Spazz (1967)
The Untamed – It’s Not True (1965)
The Artwoods – If I Ever Get My Hands On You (1965)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe – This Train (1939)
Johnny Cash – Devil’s Right Hand (2003)
Crystal Stilts – Through The Floor (2011)
The Tomboys – I’d Rather Fight Than Switch (1964)

Sham 69 – Hurry Up Harry (1978)
The Buzzcocks – Oh Shit (1978)
The High Numbers – Leaving Here (1964)
The Remains – Why Do I Cry? (1965)
Siouxsie & The Banshees – Hong Kong Garden (1978)
Elastica – Vaseline (1995)
Love – My Flash On You (1966)
The Damned – New Rose (1976)
The Renegades – Thirteen Women (1966)
Vince Taylor – Brand New Cadillac (1959)

Art Brut – Formed A Band (2004)
The Libertines – What A Waster (2002)
The Flies – I’m Not Your Stepping Stone (1966)
The Monks – Higgledy Piggledy (1966)
The Seeds – Pushin’ Too Hard (1966)
Captain Beefheart – Zig Zag Wanderer (1967)
The Rakes – 22 Grand Job (2006)
Suede – Animal Nitrate (1993)
The Clash – Train In Vain (1979)
Dinosaur Jr – Freak Scene (1988)
Camera Obscura – Hey Lloyd I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken (2006)
Super Furry Animals – God Show Me Magic (1996)
The 13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me (1966)
The Sonics – Have Love Will Travel (1965)
Tommy Hunt – The Pretty Part Of You (1964)
The Action – I’ll Keep On Holding On (1966)
The Electric Fayre – You’re No Good (1996)
Manic Street Preachers – PCP (1993)
The Specials – Monkey Man (1979)

Sunday, 7 October 2012


I can’t overstate the importance The Jam. It seems melodramatic to say they changed my life - seeing as I was only twelve when I first heard them – but they shaped it to such a degree I can’t imagine what it would’ve held had they not existed. As I glance at my record collection, my books, my clothes, even Mrs Monkey, I can trace them all back to watching Top of the Pops on 22 October 1981.

I only became interested in pop music that year and began to buy hits of the day, be they Adam & The Ants, Japan, Siouxsie & The Banshees or – just to demonstrate my taste was still developing – Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks”. I remember chatting to a school friend in chemistry class and him asking if I liked The Jam. I said of course, but in truth had never heard them. He sung a bit of “That’s Entertainment” and I acknowledged it was a great song. Love that one, I lied. This must’ve been September ’81 so I don’t know how I completely missed “Funeral Pyre” in June (maybe because it was the school holidays and I was too busy playing football over the park) but come that Thursday in October when The Jam were due to mime “Absolute Beginners”, I was ready. I wanted to like them.

On first hearing I wasn’t sure. There didn’t seem any discernible chorus or hook, just a bit of a jumble for little more than two and a half minutes and then it was over. Paul Weller though looked brilliant in his dark denim jacket, shades and great hair. Two days later they were on Swop Swap doing “Absolute Beginners” and it’s B-side “Tales from The Riverbank”. By the afternoon I’d been to WH Smiths in Uxbridge and bought it and, incidentally, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by The Police. That would be the only time I’d buy a Police record but soon set about finding further Jam records. I played both sides of the one I owned repeatedly and studied the picture of them on the back of the sleeve gazing through an iron gate. Through The Jam I discovered mods, the sixties, soul music and they even stirred a political consciousness. The lyrics to “Town Called Malice”, soon to be pulled from the pages of Smash Hits were stuck on my wardrobe door, said all I needed to know about the country I was growing up in. They had honesty, integrity and it felt like a grown-up following a band with important things to say.

After they played "Malice" and “Precious” on Top of the Pops in January, Ma Monkey offered to blow dry my hair in what she called “a mod style”, an approximation of Weller’s Marriott curtains for school the next day. I think I only kept it for a day or two as felt a bit silly and self-conscious. Fourteen months from my introduction they were no more but I was up and running. Paul Weller breaking up the band at the height of their success to be true to himself, because his heart wasn’t in, wanting to quit at the top, plus his refusal to entertain the idea of cashing in on a reformation for the same reasons, has been a massive inspiration to me ever since. The Style Council continued as a guiding light, then I’d find my own path but all roads trace back to the suitably titled “Absolute Beginners” and that early autumn evening lying in front of the telly.

My story is far from unique as this new book Thick As Thieves shows. There are hundreds of testimonies from fans across over 200 pages saying similar things. It tells of The Jam through the memories of those there at the time. Those fans were incredibly young but I’ve never met anyone embarrassed about liking them as a kid and people are still proud of their association with them (fair to say some probably haven’t moved on too much from those times). The occasions I’ve had blokes (always blokes) collar me in pubs and ask me if I like The Jam and then stand there as they tell about when they saw them at Wembley or Brighton or the Rainbow, or how they witnessed a sound check, or bumped into the band shopping in Mellandi on Carnaby Street. This book is by those people, for those people, told broadly chronologically with their records used as stepping stones. There are also brief recollections from Weller, Bruce Foxton, Rick Butler, people who worked with them and some great unseen photographs and items of memorabilia. I especially like the programme from the Sheerwater Youth Club Summer Fete dated 15th June 1974. Amongst the attractions that afternoon were weight lifting, bowling for a pig, win a goldfish, raffle, clowns, score a goal, roll and penny and Jam in concert at 3.30, sandwiched between a karate display and children’s races.

Good music books make the reader return to, or discover, the music it writes about. For the first time in years I’ve now played all The Jam albums and can’t pick my favourite: it used to be Setting Sons, and then it was Sound Affects, now it might be The Gift. But All Mod Cons is pretty special too. They were - and remain - a special band for many people and Thick As Thieves is a fine tribute, mixed with nostalgia, to them and their enduring legacy.

Thick As Thieves: Personal Situations with The Jam by Ian Snowball and Stuart Deabill is published by Marshall Cavendish, priced £12.99.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


So, who are the band of Coventry musicians known as the Mysterious Monks? Judging by this - the only known footage - we aren't searching for any young whippersnappers. Perhaps clues can be found in the release of their recordings entitled Nil Desperandum, including this song "The Moneylender," out now on Sonar Records.