Sunday, 30 March 2014


The Studio 68! only released two records in their lifetime: a five and half minute single “Doubledeckerbus” in 1991 and a 12 inch “Smash” EP the following year. Both were great records, full of swirling Prisoners organ, big Small Faces chords, a splash of The Creation’s red with purple flashes, and topped with a sprinkling of the Nazz.

In August 1992 they recorded their intended debut album, Portobellohello, only for Sussex constabulary to seize the tapes after a raid on the band’s accountant for financial irregularities. That, combined with the young band self-destructing on their mythology and a lifestyle more in keeping with 70s rock stars than a group playing to a handful of people in the Camden Falcon, plus main man Paul Moody taking a job writing for the NME meant their career was short lived.

Listening, finally, to that album thanks to a rescue mission by Paisley Archive Records it’s a pity events transpired against them. Although recorded in the era of Seattle grunge and Berkshire shoegazing, The Studio 68! were one of a number of bands – Five Thirty, Spitfire, The Revs, The Stairs, The Dylans - who, with their pilfering from the past, would do the spadework for a future breed of flag waving British popular beat combos.

From today’s position, few would claim Studio 68! were anything but a mod band (white jeans, desert boots, Tootal scarves, sunglasses, good hair) but in the early 90s it wasn’t wise to closely associate with a movement that was dead on its arse and viewed with ridicule from the outside. I didn’t think of The Studio 68! as card-carrying mods back then, more as people (and there were a lot of us) who’d been teenage mods and taken that foundation and built upon it. It was good period, horizons were now wider than Peter Meaden’s labels, the strict modernist scripture thrown away, and an interest in the 60s underground, International Times, the Oz trails, beat writers, Joe Orton, pop art, Parisian riots, Black Panthers, psychedelia, garage rock, Deep Purple, the Stooges, biker movies, Peter Fonda, Aleister Crowley and Funkadelic blossomed and sat comfortably next to The Who and traditional mod icons.

This is where The Studio 68! were coming from and what informs the ten songs on Portobellohello and the six bonus tracks. As stated earlier, The Prisoners and, to a lesser extent, the Small Faces are the two most obvious influences (although Moody lacks the vocal prowess of either Day or Marriott) but they’re their own band. There’s a real drive, a strange kind of urgency, to the mod-rock of “Goodbye Baby and Amen”, “Afternoon Sun”, “He’s My Sister” and “Pop Star’s Country Mansion” which scorch their way into the consciousness, hammered home by Will Beaven’s incessant Hammond. The occasional druggy references are a little obvious but elsewhere there’s a healthy dose of cynicism in the lyrics. The one cover, an instrumental version of Python Lee Jackson’s “In A Broken Dream”, is their impressively played, acid drenched, “Maggot Brain” wig-out moment.

Kula Shaker’s first album would be another four years coming but The Studio 68! had it all here – without the faux Eastern mysticism shtick. Don’t let the Kula Shaker reference put you off, I know we’re not allowed to like them but I’ve just dug out K to double-check what it sounds like and it’s mostly rather good and remarkably similar in scope to Portobellohello (Shaker organist Jay Darlington travelled the same roads The 68). It just shows, once again, how the music business dice roll more favourably for some than others.

Portobellohello by Studio 68! is released by Paisley Archive/Detour Records. Out now. Available here.

Thursday, 27 March 2014


Issue 38 of Shindig! is out in newsagents today, containing  - amongst many other things - welcome features on Nigel Waymouth, Mary Love and John Sinclair. It also includes my review of Wilko and Daltrey’s gig from last month. Their album, Going Back Home, was released on Monday and sounds exactly as it should.

I don’t know if Wilko Johnson created a bucket list but making a new album with Roger Daltrey for Chess Records would be an audacious dream for most yet for Wilko, he simply got on and did it without any fuss. Tick, job done.

Ahead of release they’re in Shepherd’s Bush showcasing Going Back Home – a collection of new recordings of Dr. Feelgood songs, Wilko solo songs and a Dylan cover - for the first time. Accompanied by Norman Watt-Roy on bass and Dylan Howe on drums, for thirty minutes Wilko juts from side to side, chops at his guitar strings with his open hand and machine-guns his audience, belying the doctor who gave him an expiry date of four months earlier. As engaging as ‘All Right’, ‘Barbed Wire Blues’ and a drawn out ‘Roxette’ are, it’s impossible not to feel the expectation hanging heavy in the air awaiting Daltrey’s appearance.

One street and fifty years from where Daltrey fronted a fiery British R&B band at the Goldhawk Road Social Club led by a uniquely styled song writing guitarist, he’s back doing it again. With the addition of Daltrey, the always welcome sight of Merton Mick Talbot on keys, and Steve Weston blowing a mean blues harp, the sextet breathe new life and power into Wilko’s songs.

It’s an ideal combination, Wilko does what he does best – cutting razor sharp shapes and sounds - and Daltrey, at last, gets to wrap his vocal chords around fresh material. Stripped from the security of The Who, his familiar moves, his microphone twirling, Daltrey is out of his comfort zone but gamely throws himself centre stage, dancing like a slightly awkward fella at a wedding. His voice is still strong and any ragged edges are far better suited here to the blues-based ‘Going Back Home’, ‘Some Kind Of Hero’, ‘Sneaking Suspicion’ and ‘Ice On The Motorway’ than anything the theatrical Townshend may now throw at him.

They make a natural pair, full of down the boozer geezerness and old rogue charm. If Daltrey fluffs some lyrics, then so what? “This is a lot of shit to remember at my age,” he jokes, “you fucking come up here and try to do it”. When Daltrey asks if they can slow down so he can catch his breath he nods towards Wilko and says “Fucking cancer, it speeds him up, gives him energy”.

Whatever gives Wilko energy – determination, bloody-mindedness, luck, the stars – it rubs off all around him, from the band to the squashed, over-capacity crowd. It’s an emotional night but the overriding emotion is joy, as shown in the huge grin worn on Wilko’s face throughout as he looks across his left shoulder to see his bandmate, that bloke from The ‘Oo, belting out his own songs and a pandemonium inducing version of ‘I Can’t Explain’.

An encore gives a second airing to the rip-roaring ‘I Keep It To Myself’ before, without any fuss or sentimentality, a quick wave and dignified exit. Tick, job done.  

Sunday, 23 March 2014


A very groove laden month. Enjoy.

1.  Larry Young – “Young Blues” (1960)
“Young Blues is the second in a series of underground test explosions of nuclear funkiness by the Larry Young Quartet”. So reads the liner notes to organist Young’s second LP. Of course it’s nowhere near as good as that (imagine if it was) but a nice example of early soul-jazz all the same.

2.  Johnny Young & His Chicago Blues Band – “Slam Hammer” (1966)
Johnny Young takes top billing but it is James Cotton in the small print whose dirty, in-the-red, harmonica makes this a crunching slab of extreme blueswailin’.

3.  The Rubaiyats – “Omar Khayyam” (1966)
From the dynamite compilation New Orleans Funk 3 and written by Allen Toussaint, The Rubaiyats (featuring Allen) joyously promise to get out in the street and indulge in wine, women and song the whole night through. Sounds like one heck of a party. God, I wish I was back in New Orleans.

4.  Santa Barbara Machine Head – “Rubber Monkey” (1967)
Santa Barbara Machine Head only existed for a few months in 1967, just long enough for Jon Lord (keyboards), Ronnie Wood (guitar), Kim Gardner (bass) and Twink (drums) to cut three instrumentals for Immediate. The Hammond-heavy workout of “Rubber Monkey” gave notice of Lord’s next project: Deep Purple. 

5.  Blue’s Men – “If I Were A Carpenter” (1968)
There are hundreds of versions of this but Argentinian beat combo Blue’s Men turn in one of the most bizarre. Brilliantly bonkers.

6.  Albert King – “Hound Dog” (1969)
Best record shopping find this month is Albert King’s LP, King, Does The King’s Things, a 1969 Stax release of songs made famous by Elvis. Backed by the MGs and the Memphis Horns it’s a smokin’ blues funk of a beast although quite what King did to upset the art department at Stax remains a mystery.

7.  The Friends of Distinction – “Grazing In The Grass” (1969)
In reverse of the more common situation, The Friends of Distinction took Hugh Masekela’s instrumental hit and added their own lyrics. They also added four extra layers of cheery Californian sunshine.

8.  Houston Person – “Hey Driver!” (1969)
A chant of the track’s title over an irresistible Hammond and horns groove from the excellent long-player Goodness!

9.  Blood Hollins – “Don’t Give It Up” (1976)
Everett “Blood” Hollins’ second release on his Strange Fruit label was this disco driven number. Had Paul Weller heard this in 1987 during The Cost Of Loving-era he and Dee C. Lee would surely have been tempted to cover it for The Style Council. Be grateful he presumably didn’t.

10.  Real Estate – “Primitive” (2014)
A quarter of the way through the year and the best album so far belongs to New Jersey’s Real Estate for Atlas. Melancholic melodies entwine with beautiful crisp guitar lines which weave their way through the whole record. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014


One of the best Rolling Stones B-sides is “Child Of The Moon”, tucked on the flip of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. I’ve never understood why it was hidden away there and didn’t feature on an album.

I was playing it the other day and then rather hopefully searched for any footage on YouTube. Amazingly, and unbeknown to me, on 11 May 1968 the Stones made a promotional video for the song. Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg and starring a demonic looking band spooking out actress Eileen Atkins, it’s a real treasure.

Attempting to find out more I saw Andrew Male had written a piece last month for Mojo. Read it here.

Thursday, 13 March 2014


On my way to see The Impressions on Sunday I tried to think of something I’d sooner have been doing. I couldn’t. Two hours later when Sam Godden, Fred Cash and Reggie Torian strode on to the stage, with their beaming smiles, and began “Gypsy Woman” with their simply choreographed moves and synchronised handclaps, there was no doubt about it: this was the only place to be. 

Three times I’ve been fortunate enough to see them now (equally my Curtis Mayfield score) and each time I’ve been blown away. There is something very magical which radiates from them. Their voices hit deep into the most joyous part of the soul but it’s their whole demeanour which elevates them into a truly special place. Sam and Fred, in particular, possess the kindest, sweetest faces one could wish to see. They look like the happiest men alive and it transmits to the audience. For 75 minutes all the woes and troubles of the world melt away.

The Impressions respect their material, their fans and the memory of Curtis (who receives heartfelt applause). Nearly everything is done true to the original versions. There’s no need to mess with them and they don’t. All the biggies are present and correct and whilst their amount of hits means one or two personal favourites could be absent any set containing “You’ve Been Cheatin’”, “This Is My Country”, “We’re A Winner”, “Choice of Colors” and “I’m So Proud” can never be knocked. Even their one new recording “Rhythm!” - a recent single for Daptone - is an old Mayfield number previously cut by Major Lance and fits, complete with Johnny Pate horn arrangement, seamlessly. It also replaced the rather superfluous “Superfly” which I’d seen on the other occasions, making it a welcome switch.

Although Sam and Fred naturally receive the lion’s share of affection for being members of the classic Impressions line-up, Reggie Torian (a mere pup, having first joined the group in 1973) deserves huge credit for his role as lead singer. He’s no Mayfield imitator but his voice is close enough to suit the songs – excelling on the ballads - and his gregarious personality adds much to the show. When during “People Get Ready” – the only song to noticeably deviate from the 45 – Reggie gives an oration about checking in your baggage before boarding the train to join God, it’s done with such a skilful blend of humour and conviction it’s enough make even the most committed atheists doubt themselves. This was surely heaven.

After an encore of “Move On Up”, ever the gentlemen, Sam, Fred and Reggie make themselves available to meet the fans. It’s always difficult in these situations to say anything too much but to able to shake the hands of these people – these legends, these idols – to touch the hem of their garments, as it were, and tell them face to face how much their music means is something which makes an already incredible evening perfect.

Setlist: Gypsy Woman, It's Alright, Talkin' About My Baby, I'm So Proud, Keep On Pushin', I've Been Tryin', Woman's Got Soul, People Get Ready, You've Been Cheatin', Nothing Can Stop Me, We're A Winner, I Loved And I Lost, This Is My Country, Choice of Colors, Rhythm!, Mighty Mighty Space and Whitey, Move On Up. 
The Impressions: Fred Cash, Reggie Torian, Sam Godden

Friday, 7 March 2014


Beautiful, talented and possessor of one of the most soulful voices to grace the label, Brenda Holloway recorded sultry ballads and powerhouse dancers for Tamla Records between 1964 and 1967. With Brenda’s hugely anticipated appearance on a double-bill with The Velvelettes in London for Modstock 2014 fast approaching (18th April at the 229 Club), it was a real thrill to chat to my favourite Motown lady on the 'phone about her experience of being a West Coast artist signed to the Detroit hit factory.

Are you looking forward to coming over to London for Modstock?
I’m very excited about this trip, I’m really happy, thank you for inviting me. And The Velvelettes, I look forward to being with them. Those are some beautiful sweet women. They were very nice to me when I went over to Motown. I like to do live shows because you can put more feeling in it. When you have a good crowd you can perform better. You feed off your audience, and they love you, so you have to do a good job.

I think British audiences have always taken you to their heart. Have you noticed that?
I have. When British audiences listen to the music it’s just an everyday thing for them but over here they don’t regard it as hit music because it’s not in the charts at that moment, so it’s a totally different feeling you get, like it’s back in the day when you first recorded those songs. They appreciate the artistry and they’re so happy to see us when we come over, it’s a treat for the artist.

Can you tell us how you came to sign to Motown?
I used to sing and was raised in Watts in Los Angeles and I had a group called the Watesians. This was five local girls who went to high school with me, including my sister Patrice, and we used to sing at Record Hops. When Hal Davis heard about the group and came to hear us. He took a liking to me and took me to a disc jockey’s convention in Los Angeles, at Coconut Grove. I had on this gold pantsuit and gold heels and was singing Mary Wells songs from room to room to every DJ. I sang from about ten o’clock until four o’clock and then said to Hal “Look, these heels, and this pantsuit, I’m getting tired”. There was this group of men that came in to the room, listened, and left. So when told Hal I wanted to go home they came back in. This man spoke out and said “I like what I see and I like what I hear and I want to sign you up”. I said “Sign me up to what?” and he said Motown and I was like “Oh my God!” I was so excited and said “Call my mum, call my mum, and tell her to put on her best clothes as I’m going to sign.” I didn’t ask her if I could, I was just going to do it, but I needed her to okay it. She got dressed up, looked so pretty, and I signed with Motown that day. I was seventeen years old. Berry Gordy told me there was one stipulation to this; I needed to graduate at high school before he’d let me put anything out.

The first record Motown put out was “Every Little Bit Hurts” in 1964 and it was a hit. Was that a surprise?
I was walking around in college, nobody ever noticed me before, but then everybody was like “Are you Brenda Holloway?” I said, yeah, I guess. They said “you have a record out”. I didn’t know, they didn’t tell me anything. They didn’t tell me when they were going to release it. It was only when everybody told me I had a record out, and I got all bashful, and everybody was on me at school. I just stopped going to school. I couldn’t study anyway; I was so excited to have a hit record. I did graduate from high school but not from college, but I later went back and got a degree in dental work.

How did you manage to get on the 1965 Beatles tour of the United States?
When the Beatles had their tour I spoke to Jackie DeShannon, who’d been on their tours overseas, and said “Please Jackie, can I get on the tour, I’ll do anything”. And they called me. I used to go to sleep listening to their records like “Eleanor Rigby”. It was so much fun. We had pillow fights in the air. And John would figure out the meals and say we could have whatever we want. See, I came from a family with one parent, my mother, raising us and we never got enough food, so when told I could have whatever I want, it was so wonderful. I had steak, I had string beans and I had mashed potatoes.

How were your performances received? Did the crowd like you or were they just waiting for the Beatles?
Really they were waiting for the Beatles to come on, I was too. But they did accept me, they clapped and they were happy, but you know, it was a Beatles tour. The crowd broke loose and just charged, the audience looked like cattle. We just threw wigs, and guitars, and everything, to get out of their way. We flew with the Beatles to each venue; they were so down to earth, such good guys.

You were a trained musician. Didn’t you play the violin and the flute and other instruments?
I was going to be a concert violinist before Motown invaded my life. I studied professionally. I just loved the violin. For the first twelve, thirteen, fourteen years of my life I was in orchestras and played symphonies. My boyfriend was my violin. I used to practice in the backyard and dogs would bark and people would be “Can you get off that squeaky thing?” My neighbours hated me. I had to practice outside as my mum didn’t want to hear it either. But I could really play.

Did you play your violin on any of your records?
I played it on one of my albums, The Motown Anthology. A live version of “Summertime” recorded in Detroit in 1966. I played and I sang and it sounded really very well.

Motown got a good deal with you: you were a singer, a musician, a songwriter.
Yes but everyone at Motown was scared I was going to take their boyfriends. I already had a boyfriend in Los Angeles. I don’t like to have boyfriends at work; they just think they have power over you.

Were all the Motown guys hitting on you?
They were talking to me but I was like “Oh no, I don’t do that”. So they kind of left me alone. I went and practiced my violin by myself. Because I was from the West Coast and would fly in and be in a hotel room and they were doing their own thing.

Did it feel different being from the West Coast and then going up to Detroit? Did you feel any separation from the other artists based in Detroit?
They felt like I was another type of star because I didn’t come from their stable. The girls were kind of feeling I was going to be some kind of competition for them. But I just feel like I always had my own slot, you know. But I became very envious of them with their hits when I got there. Say, when I got to Detroit, they’d be cutting a session with me and if Gladys Knight flew in for just one night they’d cut my record on her, and I’d be like where’s my stuff? That would really upset me and disturb me because I wanted to get my stuff done too.  But I was young and inexperienced.

What was Smokey Robinson like to work with in the studio?
He was wonderful. He was very relaxed, he knew everything. Knew all the songs, he could sing them and show them to you. He would let you be yourself in the studio. I did “Operator” with him and “When I’m Gone”, which was a good song for me. If only I’d stayed in the studio with Smokey but I ran away.

At Motown some of the ladies had etiquette lessons and guidance from Maxine Powell. Did you have those?
Maxine showed me a lot of things about how to sit and stand but Berry actually sent me to charm school here in California for a whole year and a half. So although Maxine showed me a lot of stuff, because that was her nature, she just wanted you to be a lady at all times, the major stuff I learned out here.

Your clothes caused some comment as they were different, a bit more hip, than some of the other girls. Did you choose your own wardrobe?
I was so fortunate because my mother had a best friend who owned a dress shop so I dressed out of her store. She was able to go get everything I needed, everything to match, all the new stuff. When I went to Motown I had a full wardrobe and a lot of them didn’t, so it was “What is she trying to do?” I was just trying to sing but I had a lot of beautiful clothes.

I read Berry Gordy thought you were too sexy for British audiences which was why he wouldn’t let you tour over here.
For real? Oh my god, there’s no such thing as too sexy! That’s just somebody’s opinion. No such thing. I don’t know, they just labelled me like that but I never saw myself like that in any way. I was just regular. I didn’t think I was anything special, although evidently other people thought I was.

Did you know what songs you’d be recording when you got into the studio? Did you have much time to prepare or were you presented with them there and then to sing?
I don’t know what the other artists did but I liked to live with my songs. I would come in a week ahead and just stay there and go over and over and over the song until I could put me into it. That was why my songs had so much feeling because I lived with them before I ever went in the studio. Day and night, because I didn’t have any children, I didn’t have any connections with people in Detroit, so all I did was stay there and rehearse the tunes over. So if Smokey cut the record, and I cut the record, it would have a Smokey Robinson feel to it and a Brenda Holloway feel to it. I like to study my songs, I’m not Aretha Franklin, I can’t just go in and sing. My sister Patrice could hear something once and sing it but I’ve never been able to do that.

“Reconsider,” is a great song and one which is huge over here nowadays yet didn’t see a release at the time. When where you aware that song was so popular on the soul scene?
Oh, I love what you guys did to that. I only knew about it when I came over to the UK for the first time for the Northern Soul shows I was doing, because it had another title – “Think It Over” - in the United States, but you guys made it “Reconsider”. I like “Reconsider” better because that’s what the song was all about. And “Crying Time”, I forgot I ever did that. My nephew found it on YouTube. “Granny, did you cut this?”

My favourite is “Starting The Hurt All Over Again”. Such an adult narrative to that song and your delivery is so strong, so emotional.
Well thank you. I didn’t have a real happy childhood, you know, because my mum she worked so hard, she was a single parent and my father he had so many problems, but that was how I released all my energy was through my singing. If I had something to say I could convert it into a melody and sing it, so that’s how I released a lot of stress, even today. It’s good therapy for me.

“You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” was at the end of your time with Motown in 1967 and was a significant hit.
Oh it was a big hit. It sold over four million copies and is still selling. I wrote it with my sister and Frank Wilson, and Berry Gordy was the executive over everything. When I got stuck writing the bridge Frank Wilson was able to put that bridge in there. Berry and I fought in the studio; we were like back and forth. “I don’t want to do it like that Berry”. “You’re gonna do it like that”. The way I wanted to do it was the way Blood Sweat & Tears cut it. I put mine out, it was okay, but Blood, Sweat & Tears somehow got the idea and they really, really did that song justice. I’m really happy but when I go and sing it I have to try and remember how I sang it because theirs is bigger than mine and theirs is more familiar to me.

What prompted you to leave Motown?
Because I was just fed up with not having hits out and everyone around me were having hits. I didn’t have the foresight because I left the company in the middle of a Smokey Robinson session. I could have killed myself. He was cutting all these songs on me and I wanted a hit, like everybody else, but I didn’t have any patience. You know, there’s so much that goes along with the entertainment business backstage. You see a lot of other stuff that goes on that people don’t see and it kind of confuses you. I was a young kid.

After you left Motown what happened to your career?
I just laid it down. I went in the church, married a minister, and just left it and tried to do the best raising my kids but a lot of times we don’t think that if you have a talent you have to use it or it dies out. By me being in the church we have this stereotype of what we think God wants us to do but what he really wants us to do is to use that talent. Then I met this guy in the ‘90s, he was my boyfriend, and he said I needed to be back out there. So I started singing at this high school called Inglewood and then Brenton Wood – the “Oogum Boogum” man - came and he saw me and so I started touring with him. After that I just got back into it and have some friends overseas who were telling me about the Northern Soul and everybody started hooking me up and I did some things for Nightmare Records. So, I’m still singing and thank God I still have a voice and plan to use it as long as I can. It’s really wonderful. I’m just one of the other people until I get over there and I’m a superstar! I love it.

When you look back is there anything that sticks in your memory as highlight: a record, a concert, anything particularly special?
Cutting the album, Every Little Bit Hurts, where I did “I’ve Been Good To You” and “Unchained Melody” and those type of songs, that was one of the highlights, because I did that for my mother. Then the other highlight was when I first went to Europe in the 1980s and Ian Levine and I wrote a song over the telephone and I really loved it, “Give Me A Little Inspiration”, it turned out so well. And when I first went to Motown and saw snow for the first time in my life and I saw Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Martha & The Vandellas, Diana Ross, Florence Ballad, Holland, Dozier and Holland, Smokey Robinson, Ivy Jo Hunter; that was like being in Disneyland. It was like, if I could just grab you guys and keep you with me. It was such a thrill to see The Temptations, The Four Tops, to see everybody in person. People told me I’d never get on Motown; I was three thousand miles away. When I got to Detroit and I saw the Motown family, it was just too much. It was awesome. So, my life has been beautiful.

The above interview was conducted for Nutsmag - many thanks to Rob Bailey for asking me to do it - and originally appeared here.
Brenda Holloway and The Velvelettes play Modstock 2014, celebrating 50 years of mod culture, on Friday 18th April 2014. Info and tickets here. 
The Artistic Of Brenda Holloway, the classic 1968 Brenda compilation, is now available on Kent/Ace Records with eight previously unreleased cuts from the Motown vaults, available here.

Thursday, 6 March 2014


People of the capital, the East London Renaisance’s A Child Of The Jago event is almost upon us. Thursday 20th March 2014 is the date. Put it in your diary, scrawl it on the kitchen calendar, key  a reminder in your phone, insert a new page in your Filofax, tattoo it to the forehead of a family pet, just don’t forget it.

The Orford House Social Club in Walthamstow will be transformed into a hotbed of underground culture including poetry, art, music, dancing and jellied eels.

There’ll be readings for ears by local boy made good/bad/ugly, Joseph Ridgwell, launching his new A Child Of The Jago collection; soul poet Tim Wells will testify from his Keep The Faith; editor of PUSH Joe England will stir the word pot; and one of the most exciting literary talents out there, Michael Kennaghan, will twist your melon. Your eyes will be agog at art work by Martin Ridgwell, Jose Arroyo and Lisa Crudduck; glamorous retro adult cabaret and vaudeville films. Your gastronomic senses will burst at a cockney buffet supplied by the legendary Manze's Pie and Mash Shop (now given listed-status on Walthamstow High Street where its stood – almost untouched by the modern world – since 1929) and, of course, there is a bar stocked with booze at social club prices. And finally, Lord Monkey Picks and His Super Sounds (that’ll be me then) will be spinning the platters the matter to add some soulful strut to proceedings.

All this gaiety starts at 7pm. Get down there as early as you can as I think most of the “event” kinda stuff is scheduled for the first half of the evening before the night descends into total debauchery. Disregard the flyer where it says admission is four quid, it's FREE.

It'll be a literary event like no other. Don't forget.  

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


As any Mod worth their salt will tell you, it’s all about the detail, and Jason Brummell’s second book, All Or Nothing, is all about the detail.

The plot centres on an unnamed photographer (shades of Absolute Beginners from the off) who returns to London in 1966 against the backdrop of the World Cup after three years in Milan and through investigating the death of his friend becomes embroiled in a cops and robbers tale involving murder and a gold bullion robbery. The chapters, all named after famous songs of the period, are narrated through the eyes of our sharp but shifty snapper; a criminal lynch-pin Terry Rankin; and a Glaswegian Detective Sergeant Alex Dixon-Brown.

Brummell, by his own admission, writes with caper movies like The Italian Job and Gambit in mind and this come across; All Or Nothing reads like a neat little Pan paperback movie tie-in picked up from the local charity shop.

I was less interested in the actual story than how Brummell manages to demonstrate his keen eye for period detail and especially the changes which occurred the three years the main protagonist was out of the country. The changes in fashions are dealt with superbly, with a commercialized uniformity mixed with contrived outlandishness replacing the subtle discreet touches of 1963. It’s very much a “Mod novel” but done skilfully enough to include obvious reference points (scooters, John Lee Hooker, drugs, tailoring) in a more imaginative way than “picked up a suit from the tailors, hopped on the GS and collected a handful of purple hearts inside the doorway of the Scene Club”.

Brummell’s appreciation and love of original Mod ethos shine through the chapters narrated by his hero (which are the ones which work best). “Mod was so serious then. It was a religion. It still is for me. Black music was like our hymns and the DJ booth was our alter delivering its nightly sermons direct to our souls.” I’m a sucker for prose like that. Cameo appearances from Pete Meaden, Jeff Dexter, Mark Feld, Lord Lucan, the Krays and many others populate the pages, adding colour and a knowing nod. Details, it's all about the details.

All Or Nothing is the sequel to All About My Girl (set in 1963) which I’ve not read yet but on this showing is also going to be worthy of investigation.

All Or Nothing by Jason Brummell is published by The House of Suave and available for £5 (including P&P)  from Suave Collective.