Thursday, 29 May 2014


Okay my little chickadees, a sample of what’s been rocking Monkey Mansions this month.

1.  Plas Johnson – “Downstairs” (1959)
Tenor man Johnson is all over hundreds of R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll recordings, including hits by the Coasters, BB King, Larry Williams, Young Jessie, Duane Eddy, Johnny Otis, Gene Vincent, The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye and more, but most famously it’s him playing the lead on “The Pink Panther Theme” in 1963. “Downstairs” is super cool and hard hitting; like the soundtrack to a detective series set in smoky basement strip clubs.   

2.  Lou Rawls – “The House Next Door” (1964)
With the greatest respect to Long John Baldry, when I heard him do this my immediate thought was I bet there’s a great original version somewhere. And here it is; almost as recognisable as Lou’s voice is H.B. Barnum’s kitchen-sink orchestral arrangement.   

3.  Fenwyck – “Mindrocker” (1967)
Much like The Factory’s “Path Through The Forest” when I first heard this slightly trippy folk-rock jangler in the early 90s I thought - thanks to the Stone Roses influence still hanging in the air - it was a new record.

4.  Bob Thiele and Gabor Szabo – “Eight Miles High” (1967)
Wowsers, this is so flipping groovy I’m in half a mind to remove my clothes, paint my body and go skipping down Walthamstow High Street handing out flowers. And that’s before I’ve digested my body weight in industrial strength LSD. Psychedelic big band jazz score with massive Eastern knobs on. Bob and Gabor should’ve retitled it “Eighty Miles High”.

5.  Grant Green – “Hurt So Bad” (1969)
Smooth yet funky jazz rendition of the old Little Anthony and the Imperials hit from Green’s splendid Blue Note LP, Carryin’ On.

6.  The Saints – “(I’m) Stranded” (1976)
The Damned claim they fell about laughing when they heard the first Sex Pistols single, saying it was so slow, an accusation they couldn’t have held against Australian band The Saints with their debut 45. It gives “New Rose” a run – make that sprint - for its money and beat it to release by a month.   

7.  Pigbag – “Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag” (1981)
On Saturday, for the first time in my life and only the second time in their history, Queen’s Park Rangers won a final at Wembley. I can’t think of a more dramatic way to win any game than to do it with ten men and for a substitute to score with ten seconds of the 90 minutes left. To do it in the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final, to secure promotion to the Premier League, in front of nearly 40 thousand QPR fans, at Wembley, was truly unbelievable. Usually after a QPR goal the fans give a quick cheer and then follow with a blast of the Pigbag tune. When Bobby Zamora curled in that shot with his left foot, Pigbag, for once, was forgotten amid total pandemonium and frenzy. I’ve no idea now what I yelled, it wasn’t anything recognisable, simply a bellowing, guttural noise. In 32 years supporting QPR through thick and thin, this was the greatest moment, the pay back, and a memory to treasure forever.

8.  Laxton’s Superb – “Coming Round” (1996)
Laxton’s Superb got lost in a sea of Britpop wannabes but they did have one good song in them, this sweeping gem which although now sounds very-TFI Friday retains an ebullient charm.

9.  Joanna Gruesome – “Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers” (2013)
Indie like back in the olden days when it was, you know, indie. One for old duffers and young whippersnappers alike. 

10.  Brian Jonestown Massacre – “Vad Hande Med Dem?” (2014)
The pulsating opening track from the new LP, Revelation. I’ve long given up trying to understand what Anton Newcombe and company are on about (let alone on) so best not try to analysis what they do and just go with it. Not everything works (and they can go on a bit) but when they hit the spot they’re worth persevering with.    

Monday, 26 May 2014


The Wednesday Play ran on BBC Television between 1965 and 1969. Ken Loach directed ten in total, including perhaps the two most talked about and memorable: Up The Junction in 1965 and Cathy Come Home the following year. These thought-provoking documentary style dramas helped establish Loach as a filmmaker (they didn’t look like plays in the traditional sense) bringing social issues – including abortion, poverty, unemployment and homelessness – to greater prominence and generating further debate. Three Clear Sundays (1965) looked at capital punishment and In Two Minds (1967) dealt with schizophrenia and mental health. These four plays and more are available, in their entirety, on YouTube posted by Ken Loach Films and – like, of course, Poor Cow and Kes - are essential viewing; still powerful after all this time.  

However, tucked amongst these is The End Of Arthur’s Marriage. Written by Christopher Logue and Stanley Myers, filmed in May and June of 1965 and broadcast on 17 November (two weeks after Up The Junction, incidentally much grittier and bearing little resemblance to the film version which came later) it’s something of a curio in Loach’s collection. Although it pokes a stick at the class divide, the generation gap and consumerism, it’s more light-hearted in manner and tone and mixes narration, music, realism and fantasy to create an engaging film. Loach would later suggest the result was “a total cock up” but it was an adventurous project and if for nothing else other than to record some of the best footage of Mods I’ve seen, it was nothing short of a success.

The story centres on Arthur (played by Ken Jones, best known as Ives in Porridge) whose in-laws hand over their life savings of four hundred pounds to put a deposit on a house for him, his wife Mavis and daughter Emmy. When Arthur fails to secure the property he treats his Emmy to a day of extravagance in London, swanning around the West End buying everything she wants; beginning with sweets and ending with something far larger.

There are three notable “Mod scenes”, starting with Arthur’s elderly in-laws sat in front of the television watching young Mods dancing to a Long John Baldry song on a Ready, Steady, Go! type programme. Dad can’t work his new Japanese “armchair channel selector” so they are lumbered but their loss is our gain as these sharp dressed individuals show off their clothes, shoes, hair and dance moves. It’s a brilliant sequence of Mods at arguably their peak; looking young, fresh, stylish, carefree and modern; in contrast to the old order and values enshrined by Arthur’s in-laws who scrimped and saved, never setting foot abroad or even visiting the cinema. Later, Arthur and Emmy, in a rather random scene in an abandoned gas works, encounter a Mod couple on a GS playing “Kinky Dolly” by Samantha Jones on a portable radio and towards the end a whole herd of Mods appear on scooters and foot to party with Arthur and Emmy on a boat winding through East London on the Regent’s Canal.

Mods or no Mods it’s an interesting watch with lots of sharp satire and social commentary but for all Mr. Loach’s passionate work in championing the working class, the underdog, the downtrodden, who doesn’t get a kick out of kids embracing continental styling and riding around on Lambrettas?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


Seconds out, round one. King Salami and the Cumberland Three were in exhilarating form at the Borderline on Saturday. One quarter Caribbean, Spanish, French and Japanese they launched a smash and grab raid of blistering, larger than life, greasy rockabilly and roll that fried and crackled the eyes and ears. King Salami shook the Diddley out of his maracas, twisted his elasticated body into unlikely shapes, and stared with crazy bug-eyes at the audience. On an unusually hot night in the capital he asked, “It was meant to be minus 10 degrees today but it’s plus 23. Is that because of the weatherman or because of rock ‘n’ rooooooll?”

The Cumberland Three were packed tight and pinged and ricocheted around the stage and demanded “Less Bone… More Meat” and put on feather headdresses for the Zulu stomp of “Big Chief”. They ripped up a version of “Troubles” by The Rollers and shook up something about a pineapple. Their show was one of exaggerated Frat Shackish cartoon entertainment - brilliant fun -but they’ve got the licks to back it up too, notably from the fabulous Telecaster and Vox AC30 combo cooked by guitarist T.Bone Sanchez; which owed as much to Wilko Johnson as Link Wray. They’ve released a string of sausage flavoured cuts since 2006 (new EP “Howlin’ For My Woman” is out soon) but the best way to taste King Salami & The Cumberland Three is in the flesh. When Salami asked the crowd to kneel before The King, they obediently complied. He, and they, was irresistible.

It was going to take a mighty effort to follow that display and Bostonian Barrence Whitfield was up for the challenge, laying down an opening jab with “Ramblin’ Rose”. “The Corner Man” and “Willie Meehan” were both boxing related blasts of in-the-red rockin’ R&B and whilst King Salami had speed and agility, Barrence used brute force and staying power, his punches given extra oomph from the Savages’ fat, round sound led by a honking sax. With thirty years since their debut album these gentlemen knew how to work the ropes and the longer they played the stronger they got. “Ship Sailed At Six”, “Blackjack” and “Bloody Mary” were all were powerhouse numbers rasped and barked Rufus Thomas-style by Barrence, who repeatedly wrung the sweat from his drenched shirt, until finally unbuttoning it to display his full fighting weight.

To mix it up, there were a couple of slower, more straight-soul covers. Lee Moses’ “I’m Sad About It” from the recent Dig Thy Savage Soul album and Johnny Sayles’ “You Told A Lie” saw Barrence take a leaf out of James Brown’s manual, dropping to his knees, sobbing (not entirely convincingly), only for his band to come to his aid and pat him on the back, encouraging him to his feet. Breath caught, it was back on the counter attack once more. Unlike the majority of the set, firmly rooted in the late 50’s/early 60s, “Oscar Levant” sounded like a New York Dolls take on that era and almost landed the knockout blow.

Two encores, the second started by bassist Phil Lenker, showed neither the squashed to capacity Borderline crowd nor band wanted this last date of their UK tour to end. Full credit to the promoter Not The Same Old Blues Crap for putting on such a tremendous double-bill. This judge’s decision? A tie. 

Thursday, 15 May 2014


Watching the new video from Paul Orwell & The Night Falls three things spring to mind. In order: good hair, good footwear, good tune. That’s always a winning hat-trick in my book especially if I can hear elements of both The Animals and Paul Revere & The Raiders.

London based Orwell writes, plays, records and produces his own material which has yet to be released in any physical format but if "Tell Me Tell Me" and his earlier "Little Reason" are anything to go by, it won't be long before an enterprising label sticks his stuff out. It should be worth waiting for.

Sunday, 11 May 2014


The Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend will soon be upon us with a good day in store for the Saturday in London. The annual Buckingham Palace scooter ride-out kick starts from Carnaby Street around 2pm and leaves a trail of two-stroke through the capital before riders dismount in Shoreditch.

Last year saw over 400 scooters so even if you're not riding yourself it's worth coming along for a look. A few photos from 2013 here. Once settled in East London at the Strongroom there's a BBQ and music with DJs and a live set from Medway power-poppers the Len Price 3. Free admission and the night continues until 3am. I'll be DJing (mainly R&B with a few beat numbers thrown in) during the evening, so come and say hello. Depending how Queen's Park Rangers get on at Wembley during the Play-Off Final that afternoon I'll either buy you a drink or you may need to buy me one...

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


In principal, Record Store Day is an incentive to get behind. Anything which supports and creates income for the rapidly dwindling collection of independent record shops is surely a good thing. It does though every year throw up plenty of gripes and dissatisfaction: from the cost of items, the barrel scrapping and standard of unissued material, the constant repackaging of others, the distribution, the black market it creates and the unscrupulous practices of some dealers.

Demon/Edsel Records were crafty in their advertising of the latest repackaging of their Action catalogue. By releasing The Singles Boxset on Record Store Day, 19th April 2014, as a limited edition they created instant demand (I can’t honestly criticise that too strongly, it makes good business sense). Shops ordered in a few copies each and in most cases sold out within hours which meant 48 hours after going on sale for around £60, one was sold on eBay £138. The eBay sellers always get castigated for queuing up at the crack of dawn to hoover up the in-demand items and flog them at inflated prices meaning the genuine fan misses out. Record Store Day then gets a reputation of being “just for people to make money on eBay” but that’s no different from concert tickets or anything where demand outstrips supply. And this is my beef here. Demon/Edsel did not, to my knowledge, say in what quantity these boxsets have been produced. If 300 then yes, that’s going to make them difficult to acquire, 3000 would still be limited but a big difference and whilst still desirable wouldn’t have seen the panic buying of desperate collectors lining the pockets of the eBay sellers.

I’m always more than interested in anything to do with The Action but there was no way I was either going to queue up outside Rough Trade East at stupid o’clock in the morning nor was I willing to pay over the odds for what, when all said and done, is a collection of songs I already own in a multitude of different formats and editions: original singles, reissue singles, LP, CDs, even ripped to my laptop and on my phone. Three weeks since the release and copies this new edition are still obtainable from shops that have restocked or from major online retailers.

The Action don’t need any introduction from me here - you know the songs as well as I do - so it’s not the songs anybody is paying for here, it’s the packaging. Seventeen tracks spread across eight 7 inch records, a 28-page booklet promising unseen and rare photos and memorabilia, an A2 double-sided poster, sticker and a download card. Curiously Amazon have copies listed as including a 40-page booklet and boasting “a replication of the note from super-fan Paul Weller” and The Action stub ticket. These are either the figment of someone’s imagination, items Demon intended to include and pulled, or I’ve been short-changed.

The singles are housed in individual picture sleeves made from nice thick card (it’s come to this, reviewing the thickness of paper). The five 45s The Action originally released in the UK only came in green and white Parlophone company sleeves so the art department at Demon have used a mixture of picture sleeves that crept out in various corners of the globe or have designed new ones. I would’ve preferred straight reproductions where possible but here we just get the front cover – with a big Edsel logo plastered on it – and the back sleeves are in a basic, unimaginative, uniform design. More importantly, the mastering of the vinyl is good. I went straight to “Since I Lost My Baby” and it does have the lovely warm feel of the originals and of the Ultimate Action LP (which later CD versions stripped away).

The booklet features Dean Rudland’s potted history of the band cribbed from Ian Hebditch and Jane Shepherd’s flawless In The Lap Of The Mods book although I don’t suppose Jane will be best pleased to see her name spelt wrong here. It’s an attractive book, especially the colour photos, but features only one image I’ve not seen before: a different shot from the Scotch of St James session, this time with Mike Evans holding a dog lead attached to Bam King’s wrist!

The poster is a two-sided reproduction of the one with Reggie King’s silhouetted face which was used to advertise Action gigs in clubs, and the sticker names The Action as Marquee Artists. Nothing wrong with either but I would’ve preferred a badge, preferably enamel - there was a fab one in a Yardbirds boxset about 20 years ago which I still wear regularly – but plain old button-badge would’ve done. Maybe I’ll run up a side-line in Action badges.

And there you have it. I don’t regret buying it. It’s a lovely thing to have but it was very much a gratuitous purchase. It’ll sit on the sleeve now as an ornament and rarely get touched. Music is to be played, to be enjoyed. Record collecting for collecting sake is rather pointless and there’s a significant part of me that feels a bit grubby and used by throwing money at stuff “just to have it” when I could’ve bought other music. I've been suckered, partially against my will. But ultimately, it’s The Action, and if there’s one band I’d give my last pound to, it’s them.

The Action – The Singles Boxset is out now (in an unknown quantity) on Demon/Edsel Records.