Sunday, 28 April 2013


It’s Sunday and time for some gospel. The Jubalaires, led by the wonderfully named Caleb Ginyard, made hundreds of recordings, beginning in the early 1940s, and appeared in a number of films including Ebony Parade (1947), The Joint Is Jumpin’ (1949) and The Duchess of Idaho (1950).

This footage was made as a "soundie" - an early music video viewed via coin operated machines in bars, nightclubs and amusement halls - in 1946. Caleb Ginyard is stood on the left of the screen but my favourite part is the segement sung by Ted Brooks which starts at 1:32.

Friday, 26 April 2013


 The i-D Bible: Every Victim’s Ultimate Handbook, published in 1987, contained “essential fashion information” and was “an indispensable guide to the Eighties”. It is fascinating book and not as dated as one might imagine although it wasn’t really a guide to Eighties more a snapshot of 1987.

A section called Style Wars about "tribal Britain"  featured classic looks of the time adopted by Skinheads, Punks, Rockers, Teds, Hippies, Goths, Pimps, Rockabillies, Psychedelics, Preppies, B-Boys, Gents and of course Mods. “Classic looks aren’t static looks,” they wrote, “but customised by new generations and adapted to modern needs.”

Mods have rarely been covered well by outsiders but this four-page spread with photographs by Nick Knight and Simon Fleury did them justice and was an accurate reflection of where the scene was at the time. Many insist the mid-80s Mods were smarter than their 60s counterparts and this article gives weight to their argument.  

“Forget Carnaby Street, as most serious Mods tend to have their own tailors; trouble is, most of them get quite secretive when you quiz them about where they go, as originality is the name of the game here. Mods look to the Sixties for inspiration, not the trash of the Eighties. Emphasis is very much on the small details in which true Mods take pride, and if your tailor is any good he should be able to accommodate you in this quest for perfection”.

There’s not much more to it. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


April, come she will...

1.  Nookie Boy – “I Got A Feelin’” (1961)
Nookie Boy was known to his parents as Oliver Morgan and he cut this atmospheric, early hours’ dancer in New Orleans where he lived until his home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Oliver passed away a couple of years later. 

2.  Don Patterson with Booker Ervin – “Sister Ruth” (1964)
Organist Don Patterson leads the way, Billy James keeps a steady rhythm, but it’s the driving bop of tenor man Erin Booker that steals the show here. From the most excellent Acid Jazz template LP, Hip Cake Walk.  

3.  Rod Stewart – “The Day Will Come” (1965)
The massive Spectoresque production on his second 45 is built higher than Rod The Mod’s gravity defying bouffant.

4.  The Goatdancers – “Eat Me Alive” (1967)
Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter what the record is like, a band from Memphis called the Goatdancers is always gonna be a shoe-in for this list. As it happens “Eat Me Alive” is a suitably tasty plate of cheapo garage fayre.  

5.  Black Merda – “Cynthy-Ruth” (1970)
Detroit’s Black Merda are claimed by some as the first all-black rock band and this low down groove is from the helpfully titled The Psych Funk of Black Merda. Before they let their freak flag fly, they were The Impacts and then The Soul Agents who cut a bunch of records with Edwin Starr including “Agent Double-O Soul”, “Twenty Five Miles” and “War”.

6.  Mighty Mighty – “Sulk” (1988)
Coming out of the mid-80s Midlands indiepop/C86 scene there are traces of Orange Juice, the soul skiffle of Humberside contemporaries The Housemartins, a touch of Morrissey in the vocal phrasing, and yet what’s most surprising about the new Mighty Mighty  Pop Can: The Definitive Collection 1986-1988 is how many really good songs they made in such a short space of time. Out of 36 tracks there are hardly any duds. “Sulk” gets extra kudos for the lyric “It shouldn’t need a Willie Mitchell production to convince you I’m living for you” and the band an extra point for naming themselves after “Mighty Mighty, Spade and Whitey” by The Impressions.

7.  The Cramps – “Naked Girl Falling Down The Stairs” (1994)
An example of only needing a great title to let the record make itself.

8.  Foxygen – “No Destruction” (2013)
I’m guessing Foxygen bought a clutch of albums from their local record exchange: The Velvet Underground, Aftermath, Blonde On Blonde, Black Monk Time, Odyssey and Oracle, Fun House , Congratulations and a compilation called The Summer of Love - then made a musical collage out of them called We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic. It’s a recording process I approve of.  

9.  Edwyn Collins – “Down The Line” (2013)  
The focus is usually on his northern soul stompers – and there are some again on Understated – but Collins is far more effective here as he leads us through an elegant, watery-eyed waltz.   

10.  The Electric Soft Parade – “Brother, You Must Walk Your Path Alone” (2013)
From their forthcoming long-player IDIOTS, this is lovely. Have a listen.

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Reggie King is the gift who keeps on giving. Whenever it seems everything has been seen or heard, something new crops up, like these two never released recordings he made in 1970 with BB Blunder for Brian Matthew’s Top of The Pops show on BBC Radio 1. Huge thanks to Pete Bonner (psychotron9) for posting them on YouTube.

BB Blunder was formed in 1970 from the ashes of the Blossom Toes - who made two albums We Are Ever So Clean (1967) and If Only For A Moment (1969) - and consisted of ex-Blossies Brian Godding (guitar), Brian Belshaw (bass) and Kevin Westlake (drums). Blunder would release one album, Workers’ Playtime, in 1971 and worked around the same time with Reggie as he pieced together his Reg King album using a mixture of them and his old Action colleagues to make the record. When BB Blunder began to play gigs Reggie was drafted in and for a short time was part of their set-up.  

The YouTube clips date these BBC sessions as 1970 and Brian Matthew said they formed part of the band’s live act. For that reason I’m inclined to believe they were more likely from 1971 but I’m happy to be corrected if anyone can confirm the transmission date. The soulful "You Go Have Yourself A Good Time” was one of Reggie’s best songs on his album, albeit in a slightly different form and using Mighty Baby rather than BB Blunder, whilst the heavy rocker “Sticky Living” was written by Brian Godding and was the opening track - with added horns - on Workers’ Playtime (which only featured an inaudible Reg on one song, “New Day”).

In 2005 when working on the liner notes for the Circle Records reissue of Reg King I spent an enjoyable Sunday afternoon at Brian Godding’s house chatting about his time with Reggie. I'd previously sent him a few questions to start things off and this is what Brian wrote back about that period.

Can you remember when and where you first met Reggie and what your first impressions of him were?
I first met Reg in the late 60's when he was with the Action, I didn't get to know him personally then but was very impressed with the band and of course his voice and vocal style, great phrasing and feel coupled with superb pitch control. 

Can you give some idea how you started working together?
We stared to get to know each other and think about working together with the advent of the Sahara music venture (1970?) Us with the BB Blunder project and Reg being given the opportunity to make his first solo album. BB Blunder basically started by helping him - along with the guys from The Action - to demo his material.

How did Reg end up joining BB Blunder and what material were you doing: his own songs or yours?
Reg did sort of join Blunder, or you could say we sort of joined him! It was a short lived collaboration (1970-71) and the loose idea was promote his music and ours so the material was a mixture plus some things we wrote together. It seemed to me, at the time, a good idea as I wanted to concentrate on the guitar and Reg was a bloody sight better singer than I was.

BB Blunder backed Reggie on some of the tracks on Reg King and The Action/Mighty Baby did the others. Was there any real reason for this or just who was available at the time?
Reg had been given total control over the making of his album by Peter Swales from Sahara which was not really a good idea in retrospect. There was a good deal of confusion as to who was doing what and when so it ended up as a bit of a barmy cooperative with Reg doing rather a lot of versions of his songs with a lot of different musicians and costing Sahara a bloody fortune in the process.

What was Reg like to work?  Was he open to suggestions or did he have a firm idea how the songs should sound?
Reg was great fun generally to work with but at the time, totally disorganized and a bit prone to the drink and other things so we did waste a lot of time (and more importantly, money) in the studio. It was really easy to lose the plot. But in fairness, most people at that time were recording in this loose and spontaneous way but they had rather larger budgets than us. I think in the case of the Reggie album it would have benefited greatly with a George Martin type producer slamming down the iron fist of reason in large doses.   

What were the expectations for Reggie’s LP?  Did he think he'd break through with it?
I don't personally know what the expectations of the finished album were by either Reg or Sahara at the time as we BB Blunder were more tied up with Worker’s Playtime and replacing Kevin Westlake on drums who'd had enough. I think that by the time the album was going to press, Reg had lost the plot in a big way and Sahara was effectively bankrupt. To me, the great thing about Reg and his music was the obvious potential and the sad thing is it was never quite realised.

What do you recall of Peter Swales and Sahara Records?
I recall a great deal about Peter, the company and this period of time. Peter (who was an old friend of Kevin Westlake from his home town of Haverford West in North Wales) was working in PR in the Rolling Stones organisation. Peter really wanted to start a company to help us lot and various other artists to carry on making records so he managed to blag a substantial amount of money from the Stones to fund Sahara. An extremely bright and energetic guy who gave it his best shot.

“Little Boy”/“10000 Miles” was released as a single and credited to Reg King & BB Blunder.  What did you think of it?  Did it receive any attention?
These are probably my favourite and most finished/ accomplished cuts from the bunch. I like them but cannot remember what attention they may have received at the time but there was little or no money left for promotion of anything. We weren't directly involved with the promotion of Reg's album but we did play most of the songs in one way or another during the short space in time we worked together.

What are your favourite memories of working with Reg?
As I've already said, I always believed that Reg was potentially up there with the likes of Rod Stewart, Lennon, McCartney etc  as a singer and was definitely at his best in the Action days (kept in his place by Bam, Mike and Roger). I remember him with a lot of affection as he was an extremely funny guy who was sadly losing it by the time we were working together. I remember one moment during a gig at the Country Club in London when during one of my guitar solos a whirring sound started up from the side of the stage - Reg had found a hover and proceeded to hoover all the dog ends up for the next ten minutes. Happy days!

On your website, Lotsawatts you mention Reggie going “into the local nuthouse”.  Can you explain this a bit further? 
Reg was basically heading for a nervous breakdown and it's not for me to speculate as to the whys and wherefores but I’m sure drink and drugs played a big part in this process. As I've said Reg was always really outgoing and generally a lot of fun to be with but he was in retrospect clearly hiding a lot of serious personal problems which would end up in him having to receive a prolonged period of mental care and supervision which was very, very sad. A huge talent nearly but not totally wasted.
How and when did you lose touch with Reg?
In the years after his breakdown Reg was, I believe, under close supervision  and moved out of London but I did hear from him about a year ago when the Action reformed. I really wish him well.

Don't forget Reggie King's Looking For A Dream LP/CD is out now as well as Ian Hebditch and Jane Shepherd's beautiful book The Action: In The Lap of the Mods. I can't recommend either of these highly enough.   

Friday, 19 April 2013


In a crowd of pretenders adopting the pose of outsider-chic, u.v. ray is the real deal. Published across the tracks from the literary chattering classes for 20 years, his new book We Are Glass features seventeen short stories that demand attention; grabbing the balls and nailing them to the nearest bar stool. u.v. ray picks up the baton for the underdog, the junky, the freak, the weirdo and the whore, forcing the reader to glimpse the unforgiving brutality of life through their fingers. It’s a bruising encounter yet it flickers with compassion and is the best short story collection I’ve read since Dan Fante’s Corksucker back in 2005.

Monkey Picks unscrewed a bottle with u.v. 

Who are you? Explain yourself.
Take away the writing and I don’t know who I am. Without the writing I have no identity.  The rest of my life exists only in the background to my writing. I don’t believe I will live a long life because soon I won’t have anything left to give the world. And I think people fade away when they don’t have anything left to give. I never felt part of anything. I have always lived in emotional and psychological isolation. It seems natural that neither am I part of any literary clique. I stand apart from them. I have no desire for literary camaraderie or to amass awards. My work is an act of suicide, as if I have written it in my own blood. It is born of the scars I have amassed in life. And I have scars all over me.

But I have changed my views vastly over the last couple of years. I consider myself a pacifist these days. I do not advocate violence. Live and let live, that’s what I say. There is only one thorn in my flesh. John Cooper Clarke. He’s not a punk poet; he’s the Cliff Richard of the poetry world and if he comes near me I’ll break every one of his fingers.

What is We Are Glass?
We Are Glass essentially explores alienation and neurosis in the lives of people living in the city. I don’t hold with this bullshit that a story should have a beginning, middle and an end – all tied up neatly with a bow. At least not in the contrived, conventional sense. I have no time for that sort of contrived, two-dimensional fiction.

Fuck those post-modernist airy-fairy literary types with their PHDs. Most of them know all there is to know about technique; and they harp on about form and contrast all the time – but they can’t write for shit. More now than ever we need writers willing to take matters back into their own hands. Right now is where we create our own history. For how long are people willing to sit back and let these pretentious ponces – those I refer to as the Frilly Knickers Brigade - peddle their crapola in the literary market place? We don’t need creative writing tutors. I award myself the title of Dr. I do not believe in being a lily-livered, panty-waisted pussy. I do not seek their approval or camaraderie. I exhale whisky fumes and write fast and write hard. All the way through. Hammer the bastard into submission with scant regard for plot or reason. That is my method.

Everything is too sanitised now. It’s a symptom of society. And writers, once the last bastion of rebellion, have followed like little lapdogs. I think governments and corporations are close to victory, it is the rout of civilisation as I understand it. All passion and creativity is being stamped out in their vituperative pursuit of a socially engineered populace. These days people are happy to look to corporations and buy their identities off the peg. Such is the reason for the title of the story in We Are Glass – Where Are the Assassins? I am not really referring to killers; I am talking about those who assassinate mediocre thought. There can be no profit in aligning one’s self with a society that has become clinical and soulless. The stories aren’t just dark, they are as black as black. I’m not pretending to be something. My work is a direct result of my inability to find acceptance amongst humanity. And this is not to make myself appear interesting to others. I have experienced alienation to the point that it is painful, I have therefore retreated into my own work. All I’ve done is turn that alienation into characters in stories. Author Richard Godwin called We Are Glass: A dark, suggestive rebellion, a challenge to the status quo. That is what I hope We Are Glass is.

Kids growing up wanting to be footballers or pop stars, not writers. What went wrong?
Well, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a footballer. Football is modern theatre for the working classes. The emotion involved for fans is unbelievable. I have nothing against that. I’d love it. As I have said many times, if I were a footballer my goal celebration would be to run up and stand before the opposing fans, thrusting my crotch at them in a sexual manner with my tongue hanging out.

Pop stars gyrate suggestively, nigh on naked, for the entertainment of screaming thirteen year olds. Let’s not fucking go there.

How'd you rate your chances against Henry Chinaski in a fight?
If I got him on an empty stomach I would be in with a chance. But if he’d eaten a sandwich... that might be a different kettle of fish.

What happened to The Queen Mother Slags? I'd like to see them. Reckon they might reform?
The drummer, Guss – aka Mister Magoo – popped his clogs of a drugs overdose. The band never really got off the ground in the first place and there was no future for us after that. But that’s ok because you know what? I have no ambitions to do anything at all. I spent a good two decades in a drug and alcohol induced haze and I’m proud of it.

We Are Glass by u.v. ray is published by Murder Slim Press and available here.

u.v. ray is also featured in the issue two of PUSH litzine alongside Joe England, Joseph Ridgwell, Michael Keenaghan and others. For further details try Joe England Books.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


Richard Weight’s new book, Mod: A Very British Style, has received plenty of reviews in the national press over the last few weeks but only one from within the Mod Scene: a critical piece by Paul Hooper-Keeley on his Modernist Society blog - also posted on Amazon with one star - which garnered a chorus of approving comments from those vowing not to read the book and stopping just short of a book burning session on Brighton beach. I hadn’t planned to comment but after a prompt on the Modculture forum for a second opinion, here it is. 

The first thing to say is Mod: A Very British Style is not directly about the Mod Scene, so the events, bands, people, politics and intricacies of what could be called the core Mod Scene are of little interest here and largely ignored. What Weight’s book is, is an exploration into how the original Mod movement drew their influences from American, European and Afro-American styles in music, art, fashion, architecture and design and how those strands have been absorbed into the British mainstream. It examines attitudes towards class, consumerism, race, sexuality and countless other topics. It is a story of how a cult became a culture.

That the author is unknown within Mod circles and has spent more time studying history at Trinity College than off his nut in R&B clubs or drunk at scooter rally dos has drawn a few Get Orf My Land comments but it’s refreshing for Mod to be viewed with a more critical and dispassionate eye. 

In the introduction he writes he “may offend purists seeking a book that illustrates and reaffirms the strict codes they adhere to”. This is not a How-To guide. Those looking to discover the preferred colour of watch straps worn at the Scene Club, the best place in London to buy purple hearts, and which Smokey Robinson & The Miracles single got the best dancefloor reaction will be disappointed. I’m hopeful Paul “Smiler” Anderson’s forthcoming Mods - The New Religion will answer important questions like these. 

Weight is a historian looking to place Mod in a historical and sociological context, so his book more closely resembles the exhaustive academic style of Dominic Sandbrook’s White Heat than the quick snap of Richard Barnes’s Mods!  It is therefore written in a fashion I found heavy going, especially the introduction when I had to reach for the dictionary after reading “simulacrum” for the second time. Four hundred pages of text densely packed with facts, figures, quotations and statistics doesn’t make for an easy flowing narrative.

Part One deals with the original development of Mod and how as its profile grew during the 1960s the mainstream both unconsciously and, from a marketing perspective, cynically tagged everything even vaguely new, hip and happening as Mod. It is that quest for newness, for modernity, which Weight seeks and which, for him, is at the core of Mod. The problem is how to differentiate Mod from simply mod(ern), and this is what makes his task difficult and ties the book in a tangle, unwittingly dragging the reader in to play the old Mod/Not Mod game.

In Part Two, the parent Mod spawns an array of children which adopted, through accident or design, some of its characteristics. On some, the heritage is obvious: suedeheads, northern soulers, the Mod revival kids, Acid Jazzers and Brit-Poppers; whilst on others, glam rockers, punks, casuals, ravers it isn’t. All these secondary subcultures and more are explored and to those of us who have been around the block a few times there isn’t much new of significance but to an outsider with little previous knowledge Weight provides a comprehensive introduction. 

That Mod is firmly entrenched within the very fabric of Britain can be spotted every day but on occasions, for example the section on techno - “the last British youth culture of the 20th century to be shaped by Mod’s European outlook” - the links and parallels Weight draws to Mod are tenuous and stretch the bounds of credibility. He even tries to link the UK riots of 2011 to Mods as their “narcissistic obsession with style had created the consumer society”. Pete Meaden, I hereby hold you responsible for the looting of Footlocker.

I have little doubt Weight expected some hostility from within the Mod ranks as he lands a few pre-emptive digs to the more stubbornly conservative areas of Mod that are still weighed down with nostalgia. For example he calls the Mod Revival of 1979-82 “one of the oddest episodes in the history of British youth culture… they demonstrated how thin the wall was between a subculture being imaginatively reconfigured for a contemporary audience, and one that was merely being copied as an escape from the present”. I didn’t give it much thought as a fledging young Mod but I’ll side with Weight here, it was a retrogressive step out of keeping with Mod’s original progressive path.

Mod appealed to me precisely as a form of rejection and exclusion from the 1980s. Everything in the 1960s seemed infinitely cooler than the world around me so the more accurately that period could be recreated the better. I was a young kid out enjoying myself, I didn’t give a hoot whether I was doing anything new from a cultural perspective; it was fresh to me and it was bloody exciting. 

But a host of rules were in place about what could be worn, what could be listened to, that eventually it became stifling and restrictive. Those with a bit about them built upon it and used it as a catalyst to open up a whole range of interests that on the face of it aren’t Mod but can be followed through the family tree back to the parent. For the others, well, you still see them knocking around, presumably happy to be stuck where they are and they get short thrift from Weight who threads this theme throughout.

As others have already pointed out, there are inaccuracies. Some are repeated falsehoods (“Zoot Suit” by the High Numbers being based on The Showmen’s “Country Fool” always drives me mad) and some are sloppy errors but the breadth of research and associations are so extensive a few slips here and there are almost inevitable. Let he who is without sin cast the first reference to Mod being about attention to detail. In fact, one of the problems here is there is too much irrelevant detail which makes it seem fussy and show-offish rather than neat and understated. Each page a competition to see how many disparate references can be sewn together.

Mod: A Very British Style has its faults but it is not without merit. Mod has long warranted a serious and intelligent study and this is one. Richard Weight should be commended for undertaking an ambitious project rather than taking the easy option in putting out another embarrassing This Is A Lambretta, This Is A Fred Perry book we see knocking around which only cements the perception of Mods as a bunch of immoveable cultural retards rather than the forward thinking individuals he believes they were, and should be. 

Mod: A Very British Style by Richard Weight is published by Bodley Head, priced £25. This review was written for, and first appeared at, Modculture on Friday 11 April 2013. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


On 30 May 1987 this hopeful Blow Monkeys single featuring Curtis Mayfield reached number 52 in the UK charts. Two weeks later Margaret Thatcher led the Conservatives to a third consecutive election victory and any celebration by Dr. Robert, Curtis and a bunch of northern soul spinning dancers was put on hold.

So, that's Mrs Thatch gone yesterday, Curtis sadly gone, but the Blow Monkeys - you may be surprised to learn - are still around. Their new single, "Oh My" is here. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013


After years of being so far off the radar that many people believed he’d died, The Action’s Reggie King was spotted in 1994 by a member of the band Dog in their local pub. They told omnipresent mod about town Dave Edwards (who now writes the Aggravation Place blog) who phoned me with news of this mind blowing discovery. The process of then trying to interview Reggie for my Action-titled fanzine, Something Has Hit Me, began. Reggie didn’t own a telephone so the approach and arrangements were conducted by letter, which was slight pain at the time but now I’m thankful as I received two name dropping letters from him, the first shared here (I can’t find the other at the moment). If you click on the pages they should become readable.

It’s a revealing little insight into "Reginald King" and even these few words captures his personality well. When I finally got to visit him at his flat we spent an hour and a half chatting before he was itching to get to the pub across the road. He was good value and I'm still pleased with how the interview turned out  (here if you've not read it before), although we didn’t discuss his claim to have discovered Jimi Hendrix. 

It’s a terrible shame Reggie isn’t here today as he’d be chuffed with how the recent collection of his unreleased recordings Looking For A Dream has been received to universal acclaim. If you’ve not yet got it, do so. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013


Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein (1963)

Featuring 125 items, mostly paintings but some sculptures, Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is a huge exhibition charting the career of one of the most instantly recognisable and imitated pop artists. We’re forever seeing copies of Lichtenstein’s comic book style so it’s good to see the real things close up. Not that Roy could complain about plagiarism as his breakthrough moment as an artist came with a 1961 painting of a Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck illustration from his young son’s book and his famous Whaam! (1963) was lifted straight from the pages of a DC comic published the previous year, which he - in my opinion - improved upon and offered in a completely different setting. Some may take umbrage to this pilfering (the original artists for a start) but I’m okay with it, in the same way I don’t mind Bob Dylan reworking Woody Guthrie or even (as much as I loathe them) Led Zeppelin plundering the work of blues artists. All of Roy’s most familiar pieces appear in Room 4 titled War and Romance: Whaam!, Drowning Girl, Torpedo Los!  (all 1963), Oh, Jeff (1964) and a host of others . They’re great to see, as are his Brushstrokes series which came during the following couple of years; their thick black outlines against dots have a startling 3-D effect. After those it’s a bit here and there, rarely veering too far from his trademark style apart from the art deco influenced brass sculptures from 1966/67 which feel out of place. 1991’s huge scale Interior With Waterlilies again has a 3-D aspect not apparent in printed (or screen) versions - the bed looks like it comes out into the room inviting the viewer to sit on it - and the Chinese landscapes from the mid-90s are good but the rest isn’t so impressive. The Late Nudes in Room 11 (of 13) were a bit too young looking for my eyes. After a while, due to the sheer scale of the exhibition, it becomes a little like wading through a 6-CD box set when a Greatest Hits collection would’ve sufficed but as a career retrospective it’s hard to beat.

Lichtenstein: A Retrospective is at the Tate Modern, London Southbank until 27 May 2013, admission £14. 
Panel from All American Men of War by  Irv Novick and Bob Kanigher (1962)