Wednesday, 28 November 2012


1. Rudy and the Reno Bops – “Rudy’s Monkey” (1964)
Sounds like an early Stax instrumental but Rudy Tee Gonzalez y sus Reno Bops were out of San Antonio, Texas where they recorded this for the Crazy Cajun, Huey P. Meaux, and his Tear Drop Records.

2. James Rivers – “Bird Brain” (1966)
When Ian Whiteman entered the studio to record the first Mighty Baby album producer Guy Stevens turned to him and asked what he had in his hand. “A flute,” said Ian. “I don’t do flutes,” replied Stevens. Taking a hard-line mod approach you can see where Stevens was coming from yet mods down the Scene would've blocked along merrily to "Bird Brain". Rivers takes the standard “Hi-Heeled Sneakers” pattern, adds some blues harp, and then drops in some out of sight funky flute. 

3. Sandie Shaw – “Heaven Knows I’m Missing Him Now” (1969)
So this is where Morrissey got that title. Must acknowledge Tony Fletcher’s excellent A Light That Never Goes Out Smiths biography for bringing it to my attention, not only for Smiths trivia but because it’s the best song I've heard by Sandie. Also, it was only the other day Mrs Monkey and I both simultaneous twigged the name Sandie Shaw is a play on Sandy Shore. In all my days the thought had never crossed my mind. Der!

4. The Mayberry Movement – “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right” (1974)
I don’t know anything about The Mayberry Movement but in my mind’s eye they’re dressed in yellow flared suits with large lapels, chunky Mr Silly shoes, velvet bow ties, have huge afros (apart from a short balding fella on the end), and are doing a clumsy dance routine on Tops of the Pops after being introduced by a kiddie fiddler or sex pest.

5. Tim Maia – “Brother Father Mother Sister” (1976)
Maia was the Brazilian Funk/Soul Godfather who named his first four albums Tim Maia; bought hundreds of hits of acid in London to take back to Brazil to share with friends and unwitting record company employees; converted to a religious sect; only wore white clothes and played white instruments; and waited for a flying saucer to come and rescue him from earth. Find out more about this fruitloop on The Existential Soul of Tim Maia a highly recommended new collection released by Luaka Pop.

6. The Sunchymes – “Revelations In Her Mind” (2009)
Always a good sign when bands use “a garage Y” in their name. This isn’t garagey though; more a bedroom Brian Wilson from their charming long-player Let Your Free Flag Fly

7. Chicros – “Can’t Stand Me Now” (2011)
If only some French musicians would do a doo-wop version of the Libertines song…

8. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – “Driftin’ Back” (2012)
People are given “Be nice to me I gave blood” stickers when they’ve given an armful as it can make them feel a little weak; which brings me to Psychedelic Pill. Old Shakey and his nutty horsemen spend an hour and a half meandering through a mere nine tracks; the first alone, “Driftin’ Back”, clocks up nearly 28 minutes before Neil says he’s going to get himself a hip-hop haircut and disappears. Anyone managing to take the whole pill in one thoroughly exhausting sitting deserves a medal, let alone a sticker. I'm off for a lie down. 

9. DC Fontana – “Pentagram Man (Don Fardon Vocal Version)” (2012)
I wasn’t overly impressed when I saw 60’s freakbeaters The Sorrows recently but did wonder what Don Fardon would sound like given something new to sing. Lo and behold, up he pops lending his lungs to a swirly-soul version of the recent DC Fontana track.      

10. The Lovely Eggs – “The Castle” (2012)
They’ve been edging towards something like this for a while and here it is closing their new - and best so far - LP, Wildlife: a dark droning psychedelic maelstrom tastier than all the sausage rolls in Lancaster.    

Sunday, 25 November 2012


At this time of year Mojo Magazine always ask musicians and industry folk to nominate The Best Thing I’ve Heard This Year. Had I not been out when they called I would’ve replied: Rodriguez.

The real question is why it’s taken me until 2012 and the release of the documentary, Searching For Sugarman, to discover his two albums, Cold Fact (1970) and Coming From Reality (1971). Few outside of South Africa where, completely unbeknown to him, he was huge took much notice of these records on release but the film has done much to change that in the UK as a sell-out show at the grand Royal Festival Hall, sandwiched between shows at the Roundhouse, testifies. The sad truth is had he not been a Mexican called Rodriguez success would surely have been forthcoming a heck of a lot earlier.

As he confirms tonight Sixto Rodriguez was born and raised in Detroit. He recorded his first album there and his second in London both of which were made with background Motowner and Funk Brother Dennis Coffey. His best songs, like “Crucify Your Mind”, set Dylanesque poetry to either sparse arrangements or gentle orchestral ones that recall Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter. I hadn’t given his Dylan influences much thought before this gig but the opener with its refrain of “If I see you again, I’ll just grin”, sung from behind his shades and under his hat, drew an immediate comparison with Bob and “Positively 4th Street”, albeit delivered in warmer and less sardonic manner. I should stress Rodriguez only sounds like Rodriguez and his Bob-bits, although quite frequent, are usually subtle.

The Royal Festival Hall has the best acoustics of all London venues and his voice covered it like well-loved velvet blanket but age has now given it an extra vulnerability that added to his captivating performance. I sat on the edge of my seat, leaning forward, soaking it in. His small band gave the songs an extra rootsy-country feel to the records which worked well, taking more songs from Cold Fact than Coming From Reality. That second album, more fluid than the first, is my favourite so “I Think Of You” was the set’s highpoint for me but “Sugar Man” was the one that received a standing ovation.   

Rodriguez had to be assisted to and from the stage so his eyesight might be failing him but he was all ears when it came to responding to repeated “We love you!” shouts from the audience between songs. For a man who’s spent much of his life as a manual labourer rather than a musician his feet are still firmly on the ground. His best reply was to the wolf whistles that accompanied the removal of his jacket to reveal a fine physique for a man 70 years old. “I know it’s all bullshit but keep talking baby”.

Any slight disappointment he didn’t play the heart-wrenching “Cause” was tempered by the encore of an out-of-character rollicking “Like A Rolling Stone” which came out of the blue yet felt absolutely the right choice. For listeners, it doesn’t matter when we discover music such as that belonging to Rodriguez; it’s timeless. For me, Rodriguez is the star of 2012. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012


Twenty years ago a chance meeting by members of pop dreamers The Wilsons led to us sitting on Pete Watson’s bed in his digs interviewing him about his days in The Action for my fanzine Something Has Hit Me. It was the first time anyone from the band had given their account since they ceased to exist in 1968. In 1992 their story still held an air of mystery, especially to fans such as us too young to have seen them in their mod glory days. We were all chuffed to meet Pete and more so that amongst his few possessions on display was his original 12-string Rickenbacker, such a vital component of their sound.

Buoyed by this discovery fellow interviewer Darren Brooker hatched an idea for us to write a book about The Action. I was always secretly sceptical how we’d achieve this although we did spend a day at the British Library pouring over every issue of the NME and Melody Maker published between 1965 and 1968 for any scrap of information; of which there was precious little. Although we’d set our sights low (a slim John’s Children book and Paolo Hewitt’s Small Faces magazine All Our Yesterdays being our main inspiration) there didn’t appear to be a huge amount to say nor much in the way of a pictorial record to be found. I asked in Something Has Hit Me for contributions which garnered slim pickings but I did receive a nice letter from one Ian Hebditch.

After interviewing Reggie King a year or so later our book idea was quietly shelved. I, for one, had no idea how to proceed with such a project and we weren’t the right people to attempt it. However, those interviews did in a small way plant the seed which led to the reformation of the band for occasional gigs for Rob Bailey and The New Untouchables between 1998 and 2004.

It was at that first reunion gig that Ian Hebditch wandered backstage and enthused how he followed the band at venues like the Birdcage in Portsmouth and the Marquee in the capital. As a friendship developed so did the idea to produce a book. Finally, after a decade of hard work and graft by Ian and Jane Shepherd, The Action: In The Lap of The Mods has been published after a launch party in London last month.

The event was held in two rooms; the first with a bar and DJs and the second with an exhibition of photographs from the book. It was in this room that most of the chat and mingling took place and it was fascinating to hear of people’s introduction to The Action. Some, like Darren's parents Gwyn and Ray, were original mods; others were Ultimate Action post-revival mods and fans; some had journeyed backwards from Mighty Baby and even The Habibiyya; whilst others had their first taste at the reunion shows. It was great to catch up with original members Pete Watson and Roger Powell, and meet for the first time later recruits Ian Whiteman and Martin Stone. Alan King now lives in New Zealand and of course Reggie King and Mike Evans are no longer with us nor, sadly, is Ian Hebditch who died before the completion of the book work leaving Jane to work tirelessly to complete the project.

In The Lap of The Mods is stunning. It looks beautiful and is obviously born out of a deep love and respect for the band. The hardback cover, quality paper and high-end production values are top quality and the design is first class. Flicking through it’s incredible to see so many previously unseen photographs and items of memorabilia. I go dizzy whenever I see a single piece of “new” Action related material; on first look this had my head spinning. The main 176 glossy-paged book is supplemented (in the special edition of 400 individually numbered copies) by a 96 page A4 sized diary compiled by Jane giving details of their gigs and movements and features hundreds of press cuttings. Finally, all housed in clothbound presentation slipcase, is a 7 inch single of the acetate they recorded of The Temptations’ “Girl Why You Wanna Make Me Blue” for their Decca audition on 31st May 1965. This is the earliest known – and previously unreleased - Action recording and although they get off to a wobbly start, once they settle down it gives a clearer idea of how the band would’ve sounded live than their George Martin produced singles that the band have claimed didn’t capture them properly. With Reggie’s vocals, the three-part harmonies and Pete’s 12-string, it’s real hairs on the back of the neck stuff and The Action to a T.

Now, all that would be quite enough. I was bouncing off the walls just holding the thing in my hands but once I got to read the text it took it way beyond a purely visual and audible nicety. I if thought there wasn’t enough to say, I was wrong; if I thought I wasn’t the person to write it, I was right. Ian Hebditch’s narration is superb. He was a mod who saw The Action 40-50 times in their heyday and they couldn’t have asked for a more understanding and articulate biographer. Ian vividly explains how the band’s path was inextricably entwined with the mod movement and how, as they developed in tandem, one subtle shift followed another until they both came to the end of the road. Contributions range from all band members to big names like Pete Townshend (“we were genuine fans of the band”), Sir George Martin (“to this day I am baffled they didn’t achieve superstardom”), Phil Collins (I know, but he has never missed an opportunity to champion the band and there’s no doubting his sincerity) to mods from the clubs but Ian’s own sharp analysis and recounting of prevalent attitudes is the key. His is the best first-hand account by a true mod of the era I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. In addition, Ian's frequent descriptions of The Action playing the clubs are highly evocative and draw a clear distinction between them as a gigging band (who mods adored) and a recording group (who mods ignored).

The issue of the “superstardom” that eluded them – a frequent topic of discussion amongst admirers – is attributed to a combination of the material released; their focus on being a great club band; ineffective management; and the band’s unwillingness to compromise their principles. There was reluctance – a refusal even – to “play the game”. There was nothing contrived about The Action, everything was very natural. Their “image” wasn’t an image, it was who they were. If you look at their clothes, even when they flowed from mod to a more underground scene, there was never any sign of trying too hard and that was how they were as people and that’s how their music comes across; as genuine and honest. They didn't case any bandwagon and didn’t have a succeed-at-all-costs mentality. Ian draws an interesting comparison with The Move. When Tony Secunda failed to overthrow The Action’s management he turned his attention to a fledging Move who, initially, according to Mike Evans “he created in our image” (ever noticed how Carl Wayne nicked Reggie King’s hand-over-the-ear singing technique?) but were happy to do whatever it took, and it paid off commercially.

Over the years we’ve been blessed with so much additional Action material and to bolster the paltry five singles they released at the time: the extra songs Edsel uncovered; the Rolled Gold album; the Uptight and Outasight BBC collection on Circle Records; their live film; archive footage; the reunion concerts etc. Now, with Reggie and Mike’s passing in 2010; presumably no further recordings to discover; and Pete recently selling his beloved Rickenbacker, In The Lap of The Mods feels like the final chapter, but what a chapter it is with loads of new revelations. What a story, what a book, and what a band.  

To order In The Lap of The Mods click here. 
The Action: Reggie King, Mike Evans, Alan King, Pete Watson, Roger Powell
Pete Watson, Monkey, Roger Powell
Ian Whiteman, Monkey, Martin Stone

In keeping with the spirit of The Action - and to keep a few Goldhawk mods dancing - these were the 45s I played at the launch:

Sam & Dave - You Don't Know What You Mean To Me (Atlantic)
Rufus Thomas - Can Your Monkey Do The Dog (Stax)
The Bar-Kays - Knucklehead (Stax)
BB King - The Hurt (ABC-Paramount)
Jackie Wilson & Count Basie - Uptight (Coral)
Bob & Earl - The Sissy (Chene)
The Ronettes - Do I Love You? (Philles)
The Impressions - Meeting Over Yonder (ABC-Paramount)
Marvin Gaye - Baby Don't You Do It (Tamla)
Kim Weston - Take Me In Your Arms (Gordy)
The Action - In My Lonely Room (Parlophone)
Barbara Lynn- Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Going) (Jamie)
Etta James - Pay Back (Argo)
Gene Chandler - Nothing Can Stop Me (Soul City)
Major Lance - The Monkey Time (Okeh)
The Temptations - Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue) (Gordy)
The Impressions - I Love You (Yeah) (HMV)
Maurice & The Radiants - Baby You've Got It (Chess)
The Lownley Crowde - Shadows and Reflections (MGM)
The Action - Since I Lost My Baby (Parlophone)
Marvin Gaye - Pride and Joy (Tamla)
The Spinners - Sweet Thing (Tamla Motown)
Barabara Randolph - I Got A Feeling (Soul)
Kim Weston - Helpless (Gordy)
Isley Brothers - This Old Heart Of Mine (Tamla Motown)
Four Tops - Baby I Need Your Loving (Motown)
Shorty Long _ Out To Get You (Soul)
Sam Cooke - Shake (RCA Victor)

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


A date for London diaries: Thursday 6th December 2012, for the latest installment of the midweek modernist melting pot that is The Sidewinder Club at the Wenlock & Essex down the Angel.

Genial hosts Dave Edward and Gilo are this month joined by yours truly and, taking time out from Paul Weller’s bass duties, ye olde Blow Up man himself, Andy Lewis. Music from small black records containing soul, jazz and blues will fill the air and capture the heart.

Free CD on the night for the first 80 people through the door, courtesy of your hosts. Flyer courtesy of Liam Hughes.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


Apologies for lack of posts this week - got a few things to tell you about but no time to write them down - so in the meantime entertain yourself with the most excellent Stupefaction site. So many interesting things to discover within its pages including this picture which I just had to pinch. Enjoy.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Darrow Fletcher occupies a special place in the hearts of many rare soul fans, in particular to the mod corner that has congregated to the left of the 100 Club stage at 6T’s Allnighters for as long as I can remember. Fletcher’s pair of 1966 thumpers “The Pain Gets A Little Deeper” and “My Young Misery” are super-strength mod dancefloor magnets, with the more traditional northern soul of “What Good Am I Without You” and the classy sophistication of “What Have I Got Now” not far behind.

For Darrow to guest at Kent Records’ 30th Anniversary party was therefore something to savour and an extra week of waiting after his passport was deemed “too scruffy” to travel from Chicago only added to the sense of anticipation. Soul acts can be hit or miss, especially when plonked in front of aficionados after years of inactivity. The night Ray Pollard did a similar performance here in the late 80s will stay with me forever – I’ve never experienced such love and adulation shown to an artist - but others have been less successful although that’s not really the point of these types of event.

Darrow was good, no two ways about it. His voice is understandably a bit rusty and he can’t hit all the notes but he can still hold a tune. I’ve always been amazed that he was only 14 when he recorded “The Pain Gets A Little Deeper” and when he stepped on to the stage it was hard to believe this still youthful man was now 61. Whilst many soul men are all glitz, bling and white suits, Darrow is resolutely “street” wearing nothing more ostentatious than a baggy shirt and pants (that’s American pants by the way). With his tiny stature and small glassy eyes he only needed a hoody and a bike and could’ve passed for a teenage drug runner.

Starting with “Changing By The Minute” he sang nine numbers, each to rapturous applause, including the four mentioned above plus nice 70s ones like “No Limit” and “Secret Weapon” (from his new Kent LP Crossover Records 1975-79: LA Soul Sessions) before returning for an extended “Pain”. It was over far too quickly, which speaks volumes not only for how enjoyable it was but how many great songs like “Infatuation” and “What Is This” were omitted. Kent are putting the finishing touches to a long-overdue collection of Darrow’s 60s material, due out next year; if Darrow can look after his passport they should bring him back.  

Worth a purchase is the excellent CD Kent 30: Best of Kent Northern 1982-2012 which celebrates the label with some old classics and future floor fillers. 

Friday, 9 November 2012


The awe-inspiring Mavis Staples leads her family through “When Will We Be Paid” and “Are You Sure”, live in Ghana on 6th March 1971. Taken from the film Soul To Soul.  

Monday, 5 November 2012


’I’m gonna hang out with the stars in Hollywood, and look at how far I’ve come… I’ll be part of the LA scene.” - Hollywood by Kontiki Suite.

The distance from Kontiki Suite’s Cumbria to their Californian dream is over five thousand miles yet throughout their debut album they effortlessly glide back and forth between autumn leaves of their home and a sun kissed Laurel Canyon. It’s a gentle romanticism that radiates from an album of extraordinary beauty.

For ease of comparison imagine the space between Younger Than Yesterday and The Notorious Byrd Brothers and fill it with an album the Byrds might’ve made with Moby Grape. Any band picking nervously at a twelve-string Rickenbacker has a Byrds reference thrust on them, usually undeserved as they lack anything like their depth and imagination but its valid here. There’s lovely intricate playing - from mild psychedelia to log cabin country - and such care (and presumably expense) taken over the arrangements, the recording and the production. Everything is crisp and crystal clear, and without wishing to come over all What Hi-Fi? sounds even more incredible through headphones when all the delicate little touches can be heard.

I've previously described "Music Man" as “achingly beautiful” – which it is - but it in no way casts a shadow over the other twelve songs, all of which bowled me over with their magnificence. There’s clarity of vision, a confidence and an assurance in their style that makes the songs flow effortless along with no unwelcome interruptions. There’s no wasted moment, no weak song. On Sunset Lake isn’t an album containing great tracks; it’s an album of only great tracks. Most albums are front loaded with the best tracks coming early; not so here, they are all through it, and if anything On Sunset Lake is sequenced more like a gig with songs competing to outshine the preceding one until the climatic (and only long track) “Magic Carpet Ride" and encore of "The Painter". You'll never find a better track 9, 10 and 11 run than "Watching Over Me", "Autumn Fields" and "Music Man". 

I’m struggling to remember when I last fell in love with a record as gorgeous as this. 

To listen and buy On Sunset Lake click here.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in the UK and around the world. The aim of which is to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically testicular cancer and prostate cancer.

I know what we fellas are like: ignore something and hope it’ll go away, but when caught early these things are treatable. I’ve been checked for both recently and I'm among the world's worst for putting things off. The first one ended up with a trip to the hospital to have my knackers gone over with one of those ultrasound thingies, not an unpleasant experience (bit weird I’ll grant you), and as for the prostate exam, well, some folk pay good money to ladies of dubious virtue for that sort of carry-on yet it was free from my GP.

If you wish to sponsor my whisker growth - can't promise a Dali in a month - please use the following link. Thank you.