Thursday, 27 February 2014


The Action 1967: A very sharp Bam King on the right.
Here’s an unexpected treat, a radio show (now available as a podcast) devoted in its entirety to Action guitarist Bam King.

Nick Black from Australian station 88.3 Southern FM calls Bam at his home in New Zealand for his Purple Haze Archive show. Across two hours they cover Bam’s career from Sandra Barry, The Boys, The Action, Mighty Baby, Ace, right up to his current band Juice On The Loose playing plenty of tracks along the way, not always the most obvious either; it’s wonderful to hear things like “Come Around” and “I’m A Stranger” broadcast on the other side of world.

Bam sounds in fine fettle throughout. Worth a listen, certainly for the first hour at least, here.

I spotted this over at The Mod Generation which often flag up decent stuff.

Sunday, 23 February 2014


The February Playlist...

1.  The London Jazz Quartet – “Fishin’ The Blues” (1959)
The London Jazz Quartet were Tubby Hayes, Alan Branscombe, Tony Crombie and Jack Fallon whose recordings were originally conceived as background music for film and television. Every time I hear “Fishin’ The Blues” I imagine a cute early 60s animation with a little man taking his rod out to the lake. That’s not a euphemism.

2.  Curtis Knight – “Voodoo Woman” (1961)
Like monkeys and chickens, records about voodoo are normally worth a punt and Knight’s creepy bongo and snaky sax led 45 is no exception.

3.  Brenda Holloway – “After All That You’ve Done” (1965)
A new Kent edition of The Artistry of Brenda Holloway features no less than eight previously unreleased cuts from Motown’s vaults. Is there no end to the treasure? It seems not. This Smokey Robinson number is the pick of the bunch and delivered with all of Brenda’s usual class and sophistication although I was disappointed she went back to her cheating boyfriend after seemingly enjoying giving him the brush off for the two previous minutes.

4. Paul Bearer and the Hearsemen - "I've Been Thinking" (1966)
Goodness gracious me, what a blast! Garage-punk in extremis. Fuzzed and turned up to within a whisker of the unsuspecting recording equipment's life. Fantastic name these five lads from Oregon had too. Sadly their only release. 

5.  Duane Eddy – “It Ain’t Me Babe” (1966)
Best and most surprising find record find this month is Duane Eddy Does Bob Dylan, a 1966 LP produced by Lee Hazlewood and released in the UK on Colpix. To quote the liner notes: “Eddy’s guitar romps and soars through Dylan’s brain waves – translated in this album into notes which build and explode into bar lines of enjoyable melodies.” Twangtastic.

6.  The Peep Show – “Your Servant Stephen” (1967)
As pointed out by Pop Junkie, the enigmatic folk-psych Peep Show on more than one occasion sound both lyrically and musically like a template for The Smiths, best exemplified on this Polydor single.

7.  Stanley Unwin – “Goldylodders and the Three Bearloads” (1968)
Now, this also begins once a polly tie tode. If Unwin’s bonkers gobbledygook on Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake isn’t enough then his 1968 LP Rotatey Diskers With Unwin provides more deep joy of a songload in your eardrome. Unwin’s versions of fairy stories are hilarious but the Q&A with a room full of journalists where he regales them completely off the cuff is nothing sort of genius.

8.  John Cameron – “Front Titles” (1969)
From John Cameron's music for Kes. Listening to it away from the film really showcases what an achingly beautiful (and terribly sad) soundtrack he provided. "Front Titles" is possible to hear with fighting back the tears, not so some of the other pieces. 

9.  BB King – “Just Can’t Please You” (1972)
Jimmy Robins’ barnstorming version is the best fifteen quid one will ever spend on a Hard Northern 45 (I might’ve just invented a new genre there). King, as expected, takes it at a more leisurely pace. Still pretty cool though.

10.  Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltrey – “I Keep It To Myself” (2014)
Daltrey starts off like Vic Reeves' club singer but soon settles down and the pair blister through a track first found on Wilko's 1989 Barbed Wire Blues. British R&B doesn't get much more thrilling than this. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014


Here’s a fascinating clip of Pete Townshend’s creative process as he runs through ideas for “Glittering Girl” to Who managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp at his Wardour Street flat before rehearsing it with the band at the Saville Theatre in London during February 1967.

Filmed as part of Edmund Wolf’s documentary “Die Jungen Nachtwandler”, it was broadcast on German television in July 1967. Interesting to hear Lambert talk about Townshend heading up a "mysterious department called Jazz and New Sounds" for his new Track record label. 

A version of "Glittering Girl" was recorded at De Lane Lea Studios around this time but didn't see daylight until 1995 when it appeared as one of the previously unreleased tracks on a remastered edition of The Who Sell Out.

Thanks to Long John McNally for flagging this up.

Sunday, 16 February 2014


William Burroughs

The above extract from Naked Lunch was printed – like that, in capital letters – on the back of Manic Street Preachers single “Motown Junk”. When I bought that record, one snowy Saturday afternoon in January 1991, I knew who William Burroughs but hadn't read him. Those lines perfectly complimented the exhilarating speed rush of this new Welsh punk band I was hearing for the first time. It turned out to be momentous afternoon; I've still not bought a better record and have yet to discover anybody comparable to William Seward Burroughs.

Before the next Manics release I’d ploughed through Burroughs’ Junky, Queer and Naked Lunch. The first two were straight narratives, easy to follow and opened the lid into worlds I was not familiar. The third, well, what the flaming hell was that all about? If there was a “story” I couldn't fathom it – I shouldn't have bothered looking - but individual passages were unlike anything I’d read before. When Richey Edwards later said "Books were just as exciting to us as records," it was clear what he had in mind. 

I found the Manics quote. It was longer than their cut-up version on their sleeve and included a passage about candiru – an eel-like fish – which would “dart up your prick or your asshole or a woman’s cunt” and hold itself there with sharp spines. If candiru were frightening, they were nothing compared to what a mugwump could do to you sat in your local bar. What was based on fact and what was from Burroughs’ disturbed imagination (Jack Kerouac had nightmares after typing Bill’s manuscript pages) was difficult to ascertain but this was incredible stuff. Likewise, it was difficult to tell what was past, present or future. Sections like Hassan’s Rumpus Room, where murderous sex games were played out, were genuinely shocking – I couldn't believe Burroughs got away with this in the 1950s – but other parts were just plain funny. Having a quick flick through it again today that mixture of shock and comedy hasn't diminished. Who else would instigate a scene set in Cunt Lick, Texas?

The more of his books I read the less I seemed to understand – his cut-up books I still struggle with – but as a man he soon became, and firmly remains, a source of endless fascination. At my imaginary dinner party he'd be sat at the top of the table with Keith Richards to his right. We'd pass on the food. There are so many eyeball kicks to be had in his work. Some I “get”, some I haven’t a Scooby what he’s on about but I like the mix of his subversive nature and desert-dry humour. Bill may have been deadly serious about time travel and telepathy and the Ugly Spirit but I can’t help think he was putting us on much of the time; his pursed lips and involuntary twitch giving him away. As Darran Anderson wrote in his excellent piece for The Quietus the other week: “William S. Burroughs was a high modernist and a writer of complete trash; the two are by no means mutually exclusive. He was a genius and a bullshit artist.”

This year marks the William S. Burroughs Centenary (born 5th February 1914 in St. Louis) with events taking place around the world to mark the occasion, co-ordinated by the official Burroughs 100 website. London is well represented with two exhibitions currently showing.

The first is Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs at the Photographers’ Gallery, Ramillies Street, W1 with its title neatly alluding to Bill’s preoccupation with photography, junk and firearms. Photography being the least well known and this is the first exhibition to focus on a previously overlooked area. Burroughs took thousands of photographs but they were a means to an end. He used them to inform his writing, creating characters out of his shots or capturing people and scenes he believed he’d already written about. Time, for Burroughs, didn't run in a chronological order the way it does to you and me, and he’d systematically attempt to jump and cut between time frames. He’d also use his photos for collages, including taking photos of photos and repeating the process until the images were indistinguishable.

For Burroughs, “The collage is like flower arranging,” a subject his mother, Laura Lee Burroughs, knew well and published volumes of books on the subject. Her prim guide “Flower Arranging – A Fascinating Hobby” gives advice on how to keep a modern home stocked with ice-cold Coca-Cola, is displayed feet away from a series of photographs showing Bill’s bed before and after sex. Quite what ma would have made of her son displaying his jizz-stained bed sheets to all and sundry I can’t imagine.

Burroughs' main theme was control and how to fight against agents of control and authority, whoever or whatever they were, and he’d use photography and tape recordings in his arsenal to, according to biographer Barry Miles, "disrupt the space-time continuum and cause change." When in 1972 “the horrible old proprietor, his frizzy-haired wife and slack-jawed son” of London’s first ever espresso bar, the Moka Bar off Shaftsbury Avenue, upset Bill with “outrageous and unprovoked discourtesy and poisonous cheesecake” he would return every few days to record the place and play back the recordings and take more and more photographs.  Two months later the coffee bar closed down and a satisfied Burroughs rubbed his hands with a job well done.

Taking Shots is filled with fascinating artefacts - although a Burroughs novice would struggle to see the relevance of snaps of radio towers, desolate St. Louis streets or unnamed young men hanging around Piccadilly – which reveal more of the man who knew no boundaries. Writer, painter, sculptor, explorer, exterminator, film maker, drug taker, collaborator, photographer, the list goes on: piecing together Burroughs’ life is like assembling a jigsaw with no edges.

One of my favourite Burroughs notions is that words are a virus that get inside us and take over. He’d challenge people to see how long they could go without thinking in words. Try it. Can you fight the words for more than a couple of seconds? With that in mind it was little wonder he’d turn his hand, especially in later life, to non-verbal forms of communication.

Around the corner from the Photographers’ Gallery is the aptly named Riflemaker gallery at 79 Beak Street, W1 and a small selection of Burroughs’ gunshot wooden sculptures, stencil paintings, target practice drawings, photography and illustrations. Burroughs might have been a paranoid, cold-hearted, wife-killing, misanthropist, dope fiend but he loved his cats. His slim book The Cat Inside is so out of character it'd make a lovely present for any Grandmother or cat doting spinster. In one painting at the Riflemaker a sequence of thick black vibrating squiggles becomes lip-quiveringly sad when in the bottom right corner his shaky hand writing reads “The cat who came here to die”. 

William S. Burroughs, rather miraculously, didn't die until 1997; he was 83 years old.

See also Burroughs 100 - The Official Website.
A hardback book to accompany Taking Shots: The Photography of William S. Burroughs is published by Prestel, priced £29.99.
William Burroughs 100 at the Riflemaker

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


Andy's Not Dead. Warhol by Bailey (1965)
The latest exhibition of David Bailey’s work brings together over 250 images from across the whole of his career so far, spanning more than 50 years.

Being Bailey portraits (and they are almost all portraits) one, for the most part, knows what to expect: lots of black and white shots against a plain white background. They are though stunning images and a great leveller; every person looks superb whether they’re Johnny Depp, a local hard-nut off the street, or a tattooed man with multiple piercings in his Prince Albert. Okay, Depp does look better; captured in 1995 he is almost impossibly handsome. I’d happily let Bailey take my portrait. I’m free most evenings and weekends Dave, although can’t do Saturday afternoons if QPR are at home.   

The rooms are arranged in themes. The Rolling Stones are pleased to meet you on entry, including a few colour images: Jagger from Goat’s Head Soup and a grinning Charlie Watts riding a donkey (a different shot to the cover of Get Yer Ya Yas Out!). There are also Black and White Icons (not sure I’d apply the word icon to Phil Collins, Action fan or not); Fashion Icons and Beauty; Hard Men; Box of Pin Ups; East End; and room devoted to his wife, Catherine.

Less familiar are the ones from his travels to Delhi, Papua New Guinea and Naga Hills. A selection taken with a mobile phone only seems to highlight its limitations and aren't especially interesting but Bailey's recent sculptures are. A bronze Dead Andy, with Warhol's sunken face made with baked beans and topped with a shock of white/blue hair rising out of a tin of beans, is pretty funny and more surprising.

It's a steep £14.50 admission but that didn't put off any of the hundreds of people there on a Monday afternoon. 

Bailey's Stardust is at the National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square, WC2 until 1 June 2014.  

Sunday, 9 February 2014


This week I’ve mostly been listening to The Complete Columbia Stanley Brothers featuring the 22 songs Bluegrass duo Ralph and Carter Stanley (banjo and guitar respectively) recorded for the label between 1949 and 1952. Its fantastic old-time Appalachian mountain music: full of death, sorrow, angels and heaven.

This footage of the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys performing “It Takes A Worried Man” (aka “Worried Man Blues”) is from Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest show and was recorded a few months before Carter passed away. The tall chap in the middle who steps forward with his guitar is the wonderfully named George Shuffler. Don Miller is on fiddle and the bass fiddler is James “Chick” Stripling. Take it away boys.   

Monday, 3 February 2014


As a much published writer, Joseph Ridgwell’s novels, short stories and poems have muscled in and roped off a corner of the underground literary scene and claimed it as its own. His latest book of poesy, A Child Of The Jago, finds Ridgwell in nostalgic mood as he returns to his native East London and reflects on family, relationships and a disappearing culture. With his usual bolshiness and bravado turned down a notch this warm collection is probably his best yet.

As a long-time champion of his work here on Monkey Picks I thought it time to collar Mr. Ridgwell for a chinwag about his new book, poetry, the East End and the curse of the drinking classes.  

Who are you? Explain yourself young man.
Ha, who am I? Fuck knows. You know, Monkey, each morning I get up and look in the mirror and this strange, somewhat desperate looking face leers back at me. Maybe I’m the devil’s footman, maybe I don’t even exist? Word on the lit-vine is that I’m the creation of some millionaire author living in Bermuda, who getting sick of writing safe formula mainstream pap, decided to create me to fulfill his or her inner crazy screwball artistic side? A sort of literary Frankenstein if you like. Or could be I’m just a kid from a small council estate in East London who one day decided he wanted to be a writer and my doodlings are a result of such an out of kilter audacity. A careers advisor once suggested floristry as a suitable occupation for someone with a constitution as delicate, sensitive and refined as mine. I remember walking out of that office with a very confused look adorning my boat. 

I can imagine. This new book of yours, A Child Of The Jago, what's it all about?
The Jago is about my childhood growing up in East London in the 1970’s & 80’s and contemporary London, focusing on lost communities, culture, and a certain way of life that has all but disappeared. Where did all the indigenous Cockney’s go? It’s like they’ve been wiped off the face of history.

Actually, what triggered all this Cockney nostalgia and reflections were two incidents that occurred in my life simultaneously. One, I was posted to an office in Commercial Road, in the heart of the old East End and Jack the Ripper territory. The other was that I began dating a young Swedish girl who resided in a squat in Bethnal Green. Thus, after being away from the East End for decades, I was suddenly spending everyday there.

The job I had at the time was a cushy number, I operated like a lone wolf amongst the massed ranks of frosty adults feigning efficiency. Attached to three different locations nobody knew for certain where I was at any given time. Naturally, I took advantage of this anomaly and exploited it mercilessly. I came in late, left early, took entire days off, and took two to three hour lunches on a regular basis, sometimes never even coming back. I’d go to the White Hart in Whitechapel or the Pride of Spitalfields just off Brick lane for my daily constitutionals, and afterwards go to Kossoff’s for a salt beef roll, mustard and sliced gherkin, and take a stroll around the East End. It was during these mellow interludes, why the rest of the mugs were hard at it, that all the memories came rushing back. Visiting Petticoat Lane for apple fritters on a Sunday, trips to Hoxton Market, Manze for Pie & Mash, looking at the animals in Club Row, (there was a lion there once) etc. What struck me was that although the place was almost unrecognisable to how it had been as a child, if you looked carefully signs of the old way of life were all around.

But what the devil is a Jago?
The title for the collection was taken from a novel by Arthur Morrison of the same name. What Arthur thinks of me nicking his title is unknown as he’s long dead and almost forgotten. In Morrison’s novel the Jago is an imaginary area of the East End, close to an old rookery in what was then and still is, Bethnal Green. It you haven’t read it, check it out.

This sojourn in the East End also encouraged me to write a historical novel about the East End called, The Jago, which is a companion to A Child of the Jago. The novel is currently gathering dust in a forgotten drawer so if publishers are reading this and fancy a bit if it, then don’t hesitate to get in contact. Oh, and by the way, it’s only the best book written about the East End ever.

A Child of the Jago is full of poems. Who wants to read poetry? Isn’t that a hard sell?
Poetry, in my opinion, is often unfairly maligned. Think of poet and an image of an effete looking man, wearing a scarf or a cardigan, and sporting a mangy beard springs to mind, (wait up, that’s me) or some mad lesbian with crazed hair. Or all those really boring poems, especially WWI poetry, that we were forced to digest at school. Actually school is the problem, the traumatic experience puts people off for life. Then, there’s all the really bad poetry, for every good poet, there’s a million bad ones. Then there’s mainstream poetry, mostly safe, well written bits of nothingness. So, for any lit fiend looking for something a little different, a little dangerous, a little counter-culture he’s got to do a little bit of digging, a little bit of seeking to unearth anything worth reading. However, if the fiend does take the time to scrape under the surface it can be a worthwhile sometimes life changing experience. Added to this is the fact that poetry can be read fast, a collection easily read in under an hour, and in an age where time is precious poetry should have a far higher profile than is currently does. 

What makes a good poem and what distinguishes it from simply being a few sentences of prose cut into tiny lines?
I think a good poem should leave a lasting imprint on the brain. It has to have one or more killer lines that the reader will not be able to easily forget. Where are the Rebels is a good example, not necessarily the poem but at the very least the title. People might say that anyone can do that, write a line that sticks in the readers mind for years afterward. My answer to that is go on then. Byron's So, We’ll Go No More a Roving; Keats’s La Belle Dames San Merci; Burns’ A Red, Red Rose; Bukowski’s The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hill’s; Li Po’s A Quiet Night Thought; these are all classic examples of what I mean, but there are thousands of others. One of my personal fav’s is Baudelaire’s To A Creole Lady. The line – “Under a canopy of crimson trees” - is unforgettable. Also Swinburn’s Love and Sleep, Bukowski’s I Saw A Tramp Last Night, etc, etc...Keep digging fiends.

One of your earlier collections, you mentioned then, was Where Are The Rebels?, now you're asking where is the rag and bone man, the egg man, the pools man and the Hofmeister Bear. Are you going soft on us?
If anything my life philosophy is hardening. At the moment I’m going through an extreme anti-work phase. I read an essay by US anarchist, Bob Black, the gist of which rails at employment in all forms. Subsequently my latest novel is about work and the misery it creates. Of course I’m sure some work is very rewarding, like say the work of a marine biologist, or a classical conductor, but for the rest of us work is at best tolerable and at worse mind-numbing pointlessness. Unfortunately for those of us, the majority, the only option to being a wage slave is starving to death in the gutter.

And the rebels? Are you still searching for them?
I’m still wondering where they are, for they have to be out there somewhere. At the present time, however, I don’t see many. Life is short, enjoy it while you can. Get drunk, take drugs, be promiscuous, don’t work too hard, go dancing. Retain your inner child. Life makes people hard and they begin to take things way too seriously. Most jobs are utter nonsense so treat them as such.

Your books are published as limited editions by small independent publishers like Blackheath Books and Kilmog Press. They're lovingly and carefully produced; not least Jago with illustrations by your cousin Martin Ridgwell. When will we be able to buy your books at train stations and airports?
I’ve been fortunate enough to be published by a handful of maverick publishers who all produce beautiful artisan craft books. These are books you will never see for sale at train stations or airports. Sometimes I ruminate on why the mainstream has consistently rejected my highly stylised Cockney capers until it is pointed out to me that I never submit my work to any mainstream publishers. Maybe I’ll start doing that and discover that I’m discovered and shortly after this discovery my books, no longer beautiful, but mass produced pulp, will appear for sale in train stations and airports. Realistically though, I fear that I’m going to have to die a tragic death before anyone outside a select circle of sordid lit fiends, takes notice of what I’ve been trying to do for the last fifteen years. 

One of those “sordid lit fiends”, Joe England, editor of litzine PUSH, gives you much credit in encouraging him to launch his mag, to which you contribute each issue. What is your role?
My role, if I had a role, was very small. Mister England got in touch and mentioned that he was thinking of starting a litzine. He then asked what I thought of such an idea. My response was to tell him to, ‘Just go and do it,’ which he took on board and within a couple of weeks the phenomenon that is now Europe’s best-selling litzine was born.

How important in a digital age is it for writers to have their work available in a physical format?
I think it is more important than ever for writers to have their work available in a physical format. I mean, what if we run out of electricity? Where would all those tech geeks be then? Sometimes you have to see the bigger picture and avoid a herd mentality, which is what most people working in today’s media are unable to do.

What kind of soiree have you planned to launch A Child Of The Jago?
No soiree Monkey, this is going to be what can only be described as “a do”. It might bankrupt me financially, but I believe that when embarking on such things, you might as well do them with a bit of style. The evening will feature Joe England, Tim Wells, Pepe Arroyo, Michael Keenaghan and Martin Ridgwell. Alongside readings there will be an art exhibition, book and art sales, and music supplied by Lord Monkey Picks and His Super Sounds. There will also be films of old vaudeville acts and some adult cabaret.  No minors allowed. Canape sized pie and mash, jellied eels, cockles, whelks and winkles from Manze’s Pie and Mash Shop also provided. If anyone reading this is interested the shindig will be held from 7pm on the 20th March 2014 at Orford House Social Club, Walthamstow, E17. 

A Child Of The Jago by Joseph Ridgwell is published by Kilmog Press.  
For more Ridgwell antics see Lost Elation.