Sunday, 30 June 2013


Mary Love, Kent 25th Anniversary, London, October 2007
1.  The StanTracey Trio – “Free” (1959)
Tracey swops his piano for cool vibes, Kenny Napper plays an incessant bass but it’s the Afro-rhythms and snaps of Phil Seamen – at once ancient and modern - which really catch the ear. Sounds far out even now. 

2.  Derrick Harriott- “Monkey Ska” (1965)
A song about a ska dancing monkey released on the Gay Disc label, what’s not to love?

3.  Mary Love – “Let Me Know” (1966)
Both Bobby Bland and Mary Love checked into Blues and Soul Heaven this month and were introduced to thousands of us youngsters via their inclusion on numerous early Kent compilations. It was tempting to pick Mary’s “You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet” but instead I’ve gone for this equally gorgeously sung 45 for Modern Records.

4.  Rodriguez – “Cause” (1971)
Rodriguez’s Glastonbury set yesterday was like riding a very rickety roller coaster: moments of heart in mouth beauty (“Sugar Man”) and others (most of the bizarre covers) of terrifying horror. One listen today of Coming From Reality has restored the equilibrium.

5.  Kevin Ayers – “Shouting In A Bucket Blues” (1973)
Footage of Ayers doing this on The Old Grey Whistle Test cropped up on BBC4 the other Friday night and had me adding Bananamour to my to-get list. 

6.  Siouxsie and the Banshees – “Spellbound” (1981)
Was very lucky to see one of Siouxsie’s two gigs for the Meltdown Festival this month performing the entire Banshees’ 1980 Kaleidoscope LP, followed by a Hits and More set, followed by two encores of which “Spellbound” was the final song. Two hours long and the crowd stood from the first note to the last, which I’ve never seen in the Royal Festival Hall before. 

7.  The Pale Fountains – “Jean’s Not Happening” (1984)
It’s quite incredible how this wasn’t a massive mid-80s hit. Or even a minor one.

8.  BMX Bandits – “Serious Drugs” (1993)
Teenage Fanclub’s Thirteen reached number 14 on the UK charts in 1993 yet their Glaswegian label mates and cousins in BMX Bandits struggled to give away Life Goes On, an album every bit as good as anything the Fannies ever made. And I don’t say that lightly. One listen to “Serious Drugs” and you’ll be hooked.

9.  Hidden Masters – “She Broke The Clock Of The Long Now” (2013)
Some achievement by the Hidden Masters here as they’ve condensed the best parts of the 20-album Rubble series of late 60s UK psychedelic rock into one track. Of This & Other Worlds is an impressive album: a mix of close harmonies and tightly woven inventive playing and song writing.

10.  Mavis Staples – “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind On Jesus)” (2013)
Mavis’s new album One True Vine is perfect Sunday morning music. Hallelujah. 

Saturday, 29 June 2013


Damo Suzuki, 25 June 2013 by Jim Donnelly
In my preview I wrote Damo Suzuki’s gig for Idle Fret at the Heavenly Social was impossible to predict; could be brilliant, could be a disaster. It turned neither but the pendulum definitely swung in favour of the former.

Damo’s “Sound Carriers” for this sold out night were bands Toy and Listing Ships. Neither had met, neither had met former Can vocalist Damo, and nothing was prepared. The bands played simultaneously, facing each other, with Damo in the centre and improvised their way through a solid 75-minute lump of thick, claustrophobic psychedelia with Can-like rhythms and synth squiggles whilst Damo added his vocals. It was difficult to tell in which language, or even if it was a known language, maybe it was totally improvised sounds, or the sound of a small yelping dog. What was impressive was how it actually worked and how the musicians instinctively fed off each other. If the promoters hadn’t wrapped it up they’d still be playing now. Special mention to Toy drummer Charlie Salvidge, he appeared to be the one propelling it along with such gusto.   

It wasn’t something I’d particularly want to listen to again, even if I were able, but that’s the whole point; it was about experiencing a unique moment.

It was great to be asked to play a few records early in the evening. I adopted a scatter-gun approach, everything from Blue Note jazz, to garage punk, to heavy funk and Rodney Marsh inspired psychedelic football 45s. Luke Insect was far more organised and came prepared with solely German records, Idle Fret’s Darren Brooker played a great track ("In Your Mind" by Stray) in his set but the star of the show was, of course, Andrew Weatherall whose hour of dub and Krautrock ebbed and flowed like one fluid piece of music. A whole different league to my put-one-record-on-after-another style.

Best of all, and most importantly, the night raised over £1000 for Cancer Research UK and MacMillan Cancer Support. Well done everyone. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


Tracy Tracy/The Primitives
Nick Kent could spend three sleepless nights out of his eyes in the company of Keith Richards or Iggy Pop and still remember every second and pull together an article and verbatim interview for the NME. I am not Nick Kent and neither is Long John yet we’re in the pub preparing to cover the launch party gig for Cherry Red’s new 5-CD box set Scared To Get Happy: A Story of Indie Pop 1980-1989. Long John is writing his first piece for a website and thanks to a space on the guest list freed by pop culture site Electric Roulette I’m doing it for here. John pulls out a brand new notebook which he has headed the first ten pages with the names of the bands on the bill on the assumption he’ll forget the whole night by the time he gets home; a scenario I know only too well. I suggest it’ll be easier writing notes on his phone.

The 229 Club is set out in two rooms: a large ballroom/hall and a more intimate back room. Most of the bands we’re interested in seeing are in the main room but we arrive too late for The Wolfhounds but in time for Mighty Mighty. I’ve only been aware of them since the recent Pop Can: The Definitive Collection 1986 to 1988 but am looking forward to seeing them. They appear on stage and having seen them I decide I’m looking forward to hearing them instead. Singer Hugh McGuinness was never many people’s idea of a heartthrob but I still want to see bands make some kind of effort, not look like they’re about to give you a quote for replacing a carburettor or give you good deal on a topside of beef.

As the 36 tracks on Pop Can show, Mighty Mighty almost have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to snappy pop tunes like “Throwaway” that sound 60s influenced without sounding like anything that actually came from that decade, a trick performed by many bands of the era. In the mid-90s my girlfriend at the time and I were both big 60s heads, I came from a Mod background and she an IndiePop one; she’d forever try to convince me how 60s that scene was. I didn’t take much notice but she’d say “The Sea Urchins – dead 60s; The Field Mice – dead 60s; Mighty Mighty – dead 60s; early Primal Scream – dead 60s” and if I heard the story about her picking up a wasted Bobby Gillespie from the side of the Leicestershire road and giving him a lift in her mini once, I heard it a million times. Not for the first or last time it has taken me a long time to cotton on and admit a girlfriend was correct all along.

McGuinness has trouble reaching some notes and some of the guitar tuning is out but Mighty Mighty have enough Brummie bonhomie for it not to matter. The rolling and tumbling “Little Wonder” is typical of their lyrical prowess which often comes with Morrisseyesque humour ,“What’s an inch between friends?” he sings. “Settle Down” and “Touch of the Sun” are more downbeat (the latter ends with “We’d like to claim the prize for the most MOR song of the evening”) but things pick up again with “Maisonette”; a swift shift up the gears to “Is There Anyone Out There?”; the scratchy funk of “Everybody Knows The Monkey” and “Law” (from the infamous C-86 cassette), and after regular requests from the crowd the suitably robust “Built Like A Car”.

When Mighty Mighty go back to work and tell their butcher, baker and candlestick maker colleagues they’ve played a gig to 1000 people they are unlikely to be believed. The same probably isn’t true of the Brilliant Corners as Davey Woodward as the look of someone who used to be in a band (albeit one who now runs a bar in Tenerife). Lean, tanned, good looking and strumming an acoustic guitar he leads his band through a 45 minute set of toe tapping pop nuggets for the first time in 20 years. Someone shouts out and asks “Where are your green flares?” I’ve no idea what this refers to but am impressed how Davey points out “They aren’t a normal shade of green, they are peppermint green, an important detail.” Very important. “Meet Me On Tuesdays” has a sharper bite than some of their others whilst “Growing Up Absurd” chugs along to a Velvet Underground rhythm and the use of a trumpet a number of songs adds something extra.

I watched the video to the insanely catchy “Why Do You Have To Go Out With Him, When You Could Go Out With Me?” this morning and wondered what Amelia Fletcher (ex-Talulah Gosh) who was on that record looked like now; she joins them on stage looking exactly the same. “Brian Rix” is their most famous song but a bit annoying and too student disco, not that it prevents a group of girls with bobs and flowerly dresses next to me from jumping around singing about pulling their trousers down. All rather strange and I’m still none the wiser as to who Brian Rix was or is.
The Brilliant Corners
We go into the small room to catch some of Blue Orchids. When I reviewed them previously one reader said it was the laziest review he’d ever seen. He might need to reconsider if he reads this one. We hear “Bad Education” and “Disney Boys” but they don’t seem as animated or as entertaining as before and our concentration wanders and argue over whose round it is. It’s mine. No, it’s mine, you bought the last one. John’s notes are getting harder to decipher and my texting looks like a code white-coated boffins at GCHQ would struggle to crack.

Bridget Duffy of the Sea Urchins (their “Solace” is on the Scared To Get Happy boxset)  is there, although to me she is Bridget Duffy from vintage clothes shop What The Butler Wore, and I ask how come Mighty Mighty mentioned her earlier. She was on the cover of their first single and they wanted her to join them on stage to play tambourine but was too sober at the time and now would jump at the chance. Confirming what my ex said, Bridget reckons the Sea Urchins wanted to be Buffalo Springfield and when she moved to London was shocked how divided the Indie-Pop and mod/60s scenes were.  

Back in the main room and the BMX Bandits have already started. Duglas T. Stewart lives in a gingerbread house, with a dozen cats, a Mr Man teapot sat on an embroidered tablecloth, and tells and acts out amazing stories with hand puppets to incredulous children as fluffy bunnies run around his garden. He wears a purple suit, red braces, and has a purse with the head of fox around his neck. A plastic purse, not a real fox. His songs like “So Many Colours” and "Disco Girl" have an effortless, graceful, romantic beauty to them. He tells about young Gareth on keyboards and how when Gareth’s parents met “The Day Before Tomorrow” was playing, making him partially responsible for Gareth. Gareth nods to confirm this. I guess Stewart is responsible for many children.

Duglas reveals how Dan Treacy of the Television Personalities sent him “Girl At The Bus Stop” telling him to destroy the tape and say it is a BMX Bandits song. And it is. Again, sweeter than Winnie The Pooh’s honey. They don’t do “Serious Drugs” (or I miss it) but I can’t feel bad about it. How could anyone feel bad about the BMX Bandits?

At the bar a drunk bloke, even drunker than us, grabs Long John and sings along to Billy Bragg. “I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for a New England, I just looking for another guuuurrl”. The only girl John is interested in looking for is Tracy Tracy. He rubs his hands together excitedly as he says her name. Dirty boy.

The other three in The Primitives kick off the rockabilly fuzz of “Buzz Buzz Buzz” and Tracy joins them. They are the only band tonight who look the way a band should. They understand pop music is about more than music but they also have substance to go with style. It’s a winning formula. There is no messing about. This is fun yet serious. Quite simply, they are brilliant.

Old favourites “Spacehead”, “Thru The Flowers”, “Way Behind Me”, "Sick of It" and “Nothing Else” sit next to recent singles “Turn Off The Moon” and “Lose The Reason” without so much as a noticeable join. Tracy Tracy oozes confidence, as well she should. Still beautiful yet still completely out of reach she dangles the crowd on a string as they follow her every move. “Stop Killing Me” and “Really Stupid” are as urgent and vibrant as they were when recorded in the mid-80s, not dating a jot. John’s abandoned any note taking and is pogoing as if we were in the Town and Country Club, 1988.

Naturally “Crash” gets a big reception but the band is far too cool to mention Lovely gets released in deluxe format this week and such is The Primitives’ nerve they don’t end the set with it but with the far less familiar early B-side “We Found A Way To The Sun”. It gently broods, then builds, then builds further, then almost runs out of steam before coming back stronger, faster, harder and explodes in a climax of white noise. Tracy collects a bunch of red roses from a man whose been waiting patiently at the front of the stage for four hours and then they’re gone. Incredible.

Outside we join a debate about the best band of the night. We only saw a bit of Blue Orchids but they are mentioned by some, as are The Wolfhounds who we missed, same for The Pop Guns, The June Brides, 14 Iced Bears and Yeah Yeah Noh. John has made some notes on his phone and as he checks it, he deletes them. So much for technology, so much for my advice.

I’ve been reappraising the 1980s recently and am gradually coming around to thinking it wasn’t anywhere near as dreadful musically as I’d always thought, I just need to dig deeper and Scared To Get Happy is the next spade I’m going to use.

Scared To Get Happy is released by Cherry Red Records. Available here.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


In last week's post Beats, Beatniks and the Beaulieu Jazz Riot I mentioned a riot by jazz fans in Hackney's Victoria Park. I couldn't find out much more about it at the time but Monkey Snr's investigative skills are greater than mine and he turned up this report of bobbies versus ruffians in - of all places - The Miami News on 31 May 1960. I love the headline: Dogs Rout "Cats".

"London bobbies last night used snarling dogs to scare 2,500 rioting jazz fans into order at an East London park.

The dogs, growling and tugging at their leashes, routed teen-age ruffians who for 90 minutes had been belting law officers with fists, chairs and bottles.

Nineteen persons eventually were rounded up in darkness-shrouded Victoria Park and taken into custody. Seven policemen suffered cuts and bruises.

A police spokesman said later the dogs – most German shepherds – could not have been loose on the rioters or “they would have torn them to pieces.”

“It is enough of a psychological impact to keep them on a chain,” he said. “People are not anxious to be mauled by fierce dogs.”

The teenagers had gathered in the park for a jazz concert by Chris Barber, one of England’s leading popular band leaders.

It was not clear how the riot started. Bobbies had been circulating in the crowd on a tip that two rival gangs were planning to start “trouble” but it also was possible some the fans were angered at being turned away from the performance because of limited seating capacity.

The first scuffles broke out near the bandstand and quickly spread throughout the park

Officials declined to say how many dogs were used but added it was not unusual for them to be employed to deal with “unmanageable crowds.”"

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


If there’s something soul fans like more than heartache, misery and pain, it is heartache, misery and pain followed by survival and reward. No wonder Charles Bradley has been taken to our collective heart.

As Poull O’Brein’s fly-on-the-wall documentary, Charles Bradley: Soul of America, shows (and by the way, that was just dust in my eye, okay), Charles had to wait until he was 62 to release his first album, No Time For Dreaming, in 2011. He also suffered the murder of his brother, nearly died himself, lived hand-to-mouth in the tough housing projects of Brooklyn earning money as a James Brown impersonator, until hooking up with - and being gently nurtured by - Daptone Records who helped reveal his true self, previously hidden beneath the supportive crutch of a JB wig and cape. The film ends with his debut album being acclaimed as one the best 50 of the year by Rolling Stone magazine.

This heart-warming back story would only stretch so far if Bradley couldn’t take care of business. His second LP, the recent Victim of Love, is an improvement on the first – more assured, more natural, more cohesive - and to a sold out Assembly Hall he sho’ nuff TCB. Backed by an excellent young band (billed as The Extraordinaires but looked to me like the Menahan Street Band who played on his records) he delivered a performance with all the trappings of classic soul show.

The band hit a couple of instrumental warm-up numbers (including a funky version of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City”) before Charles was given a ratchet-raising introduction: “Ladies and gentlemen…The Screaming Eagle of Soul… Miiiister… Chaaarles…  Braaaaaadley!” Out he strode in a white and glitter suit, black shirt, and straight into “Love Bug Blues”, one of the more overtly early-mid 70s James Brown work outs with a few moves thrown in straight from the Godfather’s manual.

Bradley has two main styles: the James Brown one used on “Confusion” and “Where Do We From Here” and a deeper, bluesier one (used more often) on “Through The Storm” and “How Long”. To his credit CB uses the JB moves sparingly. They are still there but he’s his own man and adopts them no more than his more illustrious predecessors in the soul and funk field who also copped plenty from Brown and Jackie Wilson.

There’s a couple of costume changes (nice take on Del Shannon’s “Runaway” in the meantime); some rather off-putting moments when he does a luurveman routine licking his finger and putting it to his sizzling bare belly; a far more impressive move where he flaps his arms gracefully like an eagle coming in to land; and during “You Put The Flame On It” he demonstrated so many dances and off-the-wall shapes in quick succession I thought I was watching David Brent auditioning for Berry Gordy.

No soul show would be complete without being asked “Do you want to go to church?” and the tear-jerking ballad “Crying In The Chapel” was immense. He hasn’t got a perfect voice (thankfully); it’s less whisper to a scream, more yell to a strain, but the roughness brings raw soul straight from his massive heart. 

Friday, 14 June 2013


The People (1960)
If I were a young man on 7th August 1960 and not already a jazz loving beatnik, the Sunday paper The People would’ve had me scurrying to Dobell’s record shop for Mingus Ah Um and searching backstreet bookshops for an under-the-counter copy of The Naked Lunch quicker than one could say “Straight from the fridge, Dad”.

“Blame these 4 men for the Beatnik horror” exclaimed Peter Forbes, as shocked Britain learnt how a great unwashed army of beatniks had been driven to violence by a group of American writers and poets, culminating in a riot at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival. Exciting stuff.

Organised by Lord Montagu and held on the lawns of his Palace House in the New Forest, the Beaulieu Jazz Festival was in its fifth year when it achieved notoriety due to the behaviour of fans from both ends of the jazz spectrum: the traditionalists rooted in sounds of 1920’s Dixieland and the modernists building on a bebop template. According to photographer David Redfern both sides complained not enough of “their” type of jazz was being performed before things came to a head when increasingly drunk youths pulled down lighting rigs, set fire to a building and destroyed the stage. The BBC, broadcasting the event live on television, abruptly ended their coverage ahead of schedule with a typically understated comment, “Things are getting quite out of hand”.

The People told its readers, “The outbreak of violence that wrecked Lord Montagu’s jazz festival at Beaulieu last week must be blamed on the cult of despair preached by four strange men”. Those four strange men identified like names on a wanted poster as Jack “The Hobos’ Prophet” Kerouac; Allen “The Hate Merchant” Ginsberg; William “The Ex-Drug Addict” Burroughs and Gregory “The Crank Poet” Corso.

“These four beatnik “prophets” do not themselves preach violence. But they do infect their followers with indifference or outright hostility to established codes of conduct. Nothing matters to the beatnik save the “kicks” or thrills to be enjoyed by throwing off inhibitions. If you feel any urge, no matter how outrageous, indulge in it. If the beat of jazz whips up violent emotions, why not give way to them?”

That was the strength of the Beat Generation Quartet’s link to Beaulieu but it gave the paper enough to feed into the moral panic surrounding the nation’s latest youth menace and expand upon their exposĂ© from a fortnight earlier; a double-page spread “The Beatnik Horror” that warned how thousands of young Americans hooked on this beat craze became “drug addicts and peddlers, degenerates who specialize in obscene orgies… and outright thugs and hoodlums”.

To illustrate how this cult was manifesting itself on Britain’s streets they visited Gambier Terrace in Liverpool to show a group of residents sitting in “unbelievable squalor” with their friend who’d dropped by to “listen to some jazz”. The property shown was shared at the time by John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, and the bearded chap in the photo was Allan Williams, owner of local coffee bar The Jacaranda and manager of the then Silver Beatles, just about to head to Hamburg for the first time.
Gambier Terrace, Liverpool (1960)
It’s doubtful any of the “prophets” saw the article in a British tabloid - I couldn’t find any reference in their correspondence or journals – but it’s interesting to speculate on their differing reactions. Kerouac – likely the only name some more enlightened readers may have vaguely been familiar with - the People conceded, was a talented writer who unfortunately “devoted his great gift to exalting the bums and jazz-maniacs of the New York jive cellars” but he would’ve been hurt and upset as he frequently was in the backlash following the success of On The Road when held up as the avatar of, in his words, “beatniks, beats, jazzniks, bopniks and bugniks”.

Kerouac copped much of the blame for the beatniks but they were a media creation - step forward Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle - which bastardised Kerouac’s experiences and vision of a spiritual beatific Beat Generation into a cartoonish band of beret wearing poets and jive talking bongo beaters. The American College Dictionary wrote to Jack in ’59 for his definition. He wrote: “Beat Generation: Members of the generation that came after World War II-Korean War who join in relaxation of social and sexual tensions and espouse anti-regimentation, mystic-disaffiliation and material-simplicity values, supposedly as a result of Cold War disillusionment. Coined by Jack Kerouac”.      

In 1958, only a year after On The Road’s publication, Jack already weary from the attention and trivialization of his writing wrote to Ginsberg, “I don’t want no more frantic nights, association with hepcats and queers and Village types, far less mad trips to unholy Frisco, I just wanta stay home and write”. Whilst rampaging youths at Beaulieu grabbed a microphone from the stage to demand “Free beer for the working man!” Jack was attempting to kick his alcoholism by detoxing in California. He failed but it did provide the material for one of his best books, Big Sur.

Ginsberg however tended to welcome any publicity for himself or his friends. He’d already seen his signature work Howl dragged screaming through the courts on obscenity charges yet Burroughs’s Naked Lunch still had that to come. In 1960 it had only recently been published in Paris by Olympia Press who were known to intrepid travellers and customs officials as purveyors of hard-core pornography and therefore all their titles were banned in the U.K. Copies were smuggled into the country down the shirts of returning visitors and placed in all the best bohemian pads where they were read aloud to fits of stoned laughter. Counterculture activist and beat chronicler Barry Miles, who acquired his copy that year, wrote in Naked Lunch@50,The Naked Lunch was the hippest, coolest book ever written, and for a seventeen-year-old art student, that was quite something to have on the shelf”. For all their sensationalism The People were reasonably quick off the mark in Britain’s mainstream press to give coverage to Burroughs and also Gregory Corso.
William Burroughs, The Beat Hotel, Paris by Duffy (1960)
Already ancient at 46, Burroughs was far from a crazy beatnik – none of the original beats, except maybe Ginsberg, much fitted the profile – but he had at least one important similarity as far as the People were concerned: they were all filthy soap dodgers. The paper relished partially quoting Burroughs on the effect his junk habit had on his personal hygiene. “I had not taken a bath in a year nor changed my clothes [or removed them] except to stick a needle [every hour] in the fibrous grey wooded flesh [of heroin addiction]”.

It was a recurring theme in the media regarding beatniks. The film Beat Girl in cinemas at that year followed coffee bar and jazz club dwelling Jenny; described as “the mad one” by a fellow St Martin’s art student for being a beatnik. When Jenny’s stepmother pressed the student to elaborate, she’s told, “It’s a craze from America. Hopeless and soapless”. Even the left-leaning Observer reported the rarefied grounds of Palace House were “packed solidly with unkempt humanity” and quoted a hotelkeeper as saying “I wouldn’t mind so much if they washed now and then”. The paper agreed, “Certainly one could see his point as the jazz fans turned up in their standard uniform of rumpled jeans and T-shirts, sandals and haircuts that must have wrung the hearts of the two former Irish Guards sergeants who were running the campsite behind the car park”.

On the same bank holiday weekend as Beaulieu (held in those days on the first Monday in August), Alan Whicker reported for the BBC’s Tonight programme. Councillors in Newquay had written to all shopkeepers, cafĂ© owners and bar managers urging them not to serve beatniks visiting the Cornish town over the summer and for restaurateurs and hoteliers to refuse them jobs as washer-uppers. Their hair and beards were just about tolerated but their stink was more than the council could stand. “A man owes it to society to keep himself clean,” according to one pub landlord. Such claims were refuted by local long-hair Eric who told Whicker he washed at least every two days.
When Gregory Corso read his poem “Bomb” (the text cleverly arranged to form the shape of an atomic mushroom cloud) to New College, Oxford in 1958 members of CND present were not amused. Rather than an easy Ban The Bomb message, Corso’s poem humourlessly accepts of the inescapable presence of the bomb and that we’re all going to die anyway. Ginsberg attempted to explain his friend’s meaning and pacify the hecklers but that didn’t work so, after dodging shoes thrown at them, he summoned all his poetic powers and reportedly called them assholes before sheepishly leaving. It’s not too surprising the gathered campaigners had trouble comprehending the lengthy poem on first hearing but a little ironic two members of the Beat Generation faced such hostility a bunch of peaceniks. 

What the People didn’t make clear is which side of the trad/modern divide the rioting beatniks were on. Jack Kerouac’s writing style (and some of Ginsberg’s) was directly shaped in the 40s and 50s by the new rhythms of bebop, of Lester Young, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, of the modern jazz they were hearing as they discovered and created their own artistic voice. It would therefore follow British beatniks, like their American counterparts, would also adopt this music yet large swathes of them backed the wrong horse and used trad (and folk music) as their soundtrack. As the duffle-coated, sandal wearing, middle-class, beatnik brigade marched to Aldermaston in bowler hats with the CND symbol taped to the front in honour of Acker Bilk it was to the accompaniment of trad bands (in fairness, it was a far easier music to play whilst marching).
Beaulieu Jazz Riot by David Redfern (1960)
Bilk, whose set at Beaulieu was wrapped up in the ensuing chaos, thought, “They were phoney imitation beatniks. Real ones may be weird, untidy and excitable but they're not hooligans”. Duncan Heining’s book Trad Dads, Dirty Boppers and Free Fusioneers: British Jazz 1960-1975 provides much fascinating sociological context and suggests although the division between jazz fans was real (worse trouble occurred along similar lines in Hackney’s Victoria Park that summer), some attendees claim the trouble was primarily the work of local Teddy Boy hooligans rather than an ideological riot over jazz (which is rather disappointing).

The unnamed narrator in Colin MacInnes’s Absolute Beginners (1959) believed anyone over 20 didn’t “give a lump of cat’s shit for the bomb” and gives wonderful descriptions of his associates Dean Swift and the Misery Kid, who didn’t like to mix in public on account of Dean being “a sharp modern jazz creation” and the Kid having “horrible leanings to the trad thing”. The forward-thinking modernists, with their sharp European and Ivy League styling, were quick to pour scorn on Misery Kid for admiring backdated “groups that play what is supposed to be the authentic music of New Orleans, i.e. combos of booking-office clerks and quantity-surveyors’ assistants who’ve been handed their cards, and dedicated themselves to blowing what they believe to be the same note as the wonderful Creoles who invented the whole thing, when it all long ago began”.

To the likes of Barry Miles, the Beats and modern jazz went together. He wrote how The Naked Lunch was difficult to get hold of in the early 60s and “was a shorthand way of saying you were cool, which in those days meant you listened to Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk; you appreciated the work of Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon, and Mark Rothko; you smoked marijuana and hash when you could get it; you read Beat Generation writers”.

From here it’s only a short step from modernist to mod. In my profile on this page I’ve always described myself, slightly tongue-in-cheek, as a Beatnik Modernist. I did receive one testy response telling me it was a contradiction in terms but I’m not sure it is. I like this quote from an original mod, Steve Sparks, in Jonathan Green’s Days In The Life, “Mod has been much misunderstood… Mod before it was commercialized was essentially an extension of the beatniks. It comes from “modernist”, it was to do with modern jazz and to do with Sartre. It was to do with existentialism, the working-class reaction to existentialism”.

For a little evidence how some of Britain's sharpest Mod Faces of the mid-60s came from a beatnik background, take a close look at this CND badge wearing, guitar carrying, shaggy haired fella from North London making his way to the last Beaulieu Jazz Festival in 1961. I give you, Rod The Beatnik Mod.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


Watch, listen and marvel as The Who make a big, brilliant racket to a bunch of screaming young mod girls on Saturday 9th July 1966. Filmed for a Canadian television special "British Pop Groups" it was broadcast that October and features excerpts from "Substitute", "Baby Don't You Do It", "My Generation" and a trample over “See See Rider”. It doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, 10 June 2013


Bibliophiles of work by Joseph Ridgwell – and of the small independent press in general - will need to add Joe's new The Famous Ice-Cream Run to their collection.

This short story is a “lost chapter” from his novel The Buddha Bar, published by Blackheath Books back in 2011. New readers don’t need to know that book (although I recommend you read it anyway) as this mad breathless dash from boredom stands on its own and typifies much of Joe’s best writing.

It is only a few pages in length but attractively produced by 3:AM Press and available exclusively from Galley Beggar Press, priced £5. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013


The latest issue of Beat Scene is out now and, as always, a must for readers of the Beat Generation.

Not surprisingly with the recent attention brought by the film adaptation of On The Road - and being Beat poster-boy - Jack Kerouac features heavily but there are also plenty of other articles and reviews including a look at “The Last Beat” Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg’s Heavy Soul Jell Roll recordings, and a beautiful piece on Carolyn Cassady. Inextricably linked to the Beats via her marriage to Neal Cassady and relationship with Kerouac Carolyn is still around. Resident in the UK for the past 30 years Alan Wilkinson’s article shows she’s now Anglicised to at least the degree of watching snooker on the telly and criticizing the England football team, “They don’t seem to move together”. 

For ordering details and more news visit Beat Scene. 

Friday, 7 June 2013


I’ve praised Idle Fret before for their interesting club/gig line-ups but the one in a couple of weeks really promises something out of the ordinary.

Damo Suzuki, former vocalist of Krautrock legends Can, is the main attraction. Damo travels the globe performing with his “sound carriers”: namely, sympathetic artists in the local area who he joins on stage to perform an improvised set, making each show totally unique.

His sound carriers this time are Heavenly Records’ psychedelic shoegazers TOY and the nautically themed instrumental quartet Listing Ships who mix “guitar histrionics, electronica and jazz rhythms”. What all of those artists playing together will sound like I have no idea. Could be brilliant, could be a disaster, but it will certainly be an experience.

If that wasn’t enough, the mighty Andrew Weatherall is the main DJ for the evening, supported by renowned illustrator Luke Insect (that’s his handiwork above), Idle Fret's Darren Brooker, and myself. In keeping with the unpredictable nature of this event I haven’t a clue what sort of set to bring to the party.

Tickets are available in advance for a tenner from We Got Tickets, or come along on the night to The Heavenly Social, Little Portland Street, W1 for £12.50. 7pm until midnight.  

Monday, 3 June 2013


Proving a picture paints a thousand words is this photo of a sockless Eddie Argos taken by Darren Brooker (@IdleFret) last Wednesday. Tells most of what you need to know and saves me writing yet another Art Brut live review.   

The band were celebrating their tenth birthday with a sell-out show and the release of their career spanning collection, Top of The Pops. As you can see it was a boisterous affair. 

For all Argos’s insistence Art Brut are now a “classic rock band” they remain perennial pop dreamers. Music and being in a band is to them something magical: dreaming of being on Top of The Pops, of playing huge arenas, having school kids on buses singing their songs. It’s at the core of pop bands; even shouty slightly daft ones.

They've made four albums cataloguing drunken escapades, fumbled sex and, of course, the love of pop music but it’s their live shows where they excel with their infectious wholehearted delivery. I’ve maybe seen them ten times and every single time they’ve played as if it was their first and last gig and were having the most fun known to mankind. By the end Argos implored everyone to form a band. “I can’t sing, Jasper Future can’t play guitar, just form a band! Promise me you’ll form a band!” If you believe the show of hands there is nobody at the Scala now not in a band. It did seem like a good idea.

(For previous - and far less lazy - Monkey Picks Art Brut gig reviews see Electric Ballroom or  Bull and Gate).

Sunday, 2 June 2013


London After Dark by Fred Millett (1968) 
A current exhibition at the London Transport Museum commemorates 150 years of London Underground by showcasing 150 posters commissioned throughout the past 100 years. Their first commissioned poster was in 1908 if you’re wondering about the disparity between dates.

Selected from an archive of thousands the posters they differ in emphasis. Some celebrate the bright lights, culture and major events in the capital; others encourage passengers to venture out to the (then) leafy suburbs; etiquette advice is given to travellers; and more than a few suggest using the Underground is an experience in itself (that’s true enough).

As well as showcasing London and travel, the art demonstrates the graphic styles of the eras they were designed. It will come as no surprise some my favourites shown here are either from the '60s or from the '20s (which strongly influenced the '60s style).

Uxbridge by Charles Paine (1921)
Art Today by Hans Unger (1966)
Hearing The Riches of London by Frederick Charles Herrick (1927)
Poster Art 150 is an exhibition within the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden until 27 October 2013. Entry to the museum costs £15 for unlimited visits for a year. The complete poster archive can be viewed on-line here.