Friday, 24 October 2014


1.  Maxine Brown – “The Secret Of Livin’” (1966)
Maxine has at least three indisputable Northern Soul anthems to her name and whilst Wand 45 “The Secret Of Livin’” isn’t one of them it’s a neat overlooked pop-soul gem.

2.  The Beau Brummels – “One Too Many Mornings” (1966)
Anything the Byrds can do with a Dylan song…

3.  Dave Pike – “Blind Man Blind Man” (1966)
The Herbie Mann produced Jazz For The Jet Set for Atlantic Records features an air travelling dollybird in green go-go boots on the sleeve and marimba playing Pike in the grooves. Herbie Hancock makes his debut on organ, Clark Terry lends his trumpet, and the whole album has the air of cool sophistication. 

4.  Peter Walker – “Second Song” (1968)
When Timothy Leary invited folks back to his gaff to turn on, tune in and drop out, he’d often employ guitarist Peter Walker to provide a suitable soundtrack to accompany the evening’s main event. If Peter isn’t available for your next acid party his album Second Poem to Karmela or Gypsies Are Important is as trippy as the title suggests. 

5.  The Supremes – “I Wish I Was Your Mirror” (1970)
The first post-Diana Supremes album,New Ways But Loves Stays, has some fine camp classics on it (“Stoned Love”, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”); some interesting covers (“Come Together”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”); and some straight ahead smooth soul movers like this Frank Wilson tune. The Four Tops did a version too but it’s not as good as this.

6.  Syl Johnson – “Annie Got Hot Pants Power” (1971)
Syl reckoned this would’ve been a hit if it had been called simply “Hot Pants Lady” as in his opinion, “Black women are more sophisticated now. They don’t want nobody calling them Annie”. He’d later release a weaker version under that title and claims it was his song James Brown based his big “Hot Pants” hit on. There can never be enough hot pants or songs about hot pants in my book.

7.  Esther Phillips – “Sweet Touch of Love” (1972)
I always hear one of the opening lines as “Sting your furry toes”. That coupled with Ms Phillips on the back cover ofFrom A Whisper To A Scream with her housecoat undone revealing more than a lady oughta is an unsettling image.

8.  The Primitives – “Secrets” (1989)
The Primitives launched their new Spin-O-Rama LP with a great show at the Garage in Highbury last Saturday. Half new stuff like “Petals” and “Hidden In The Shadows” and half old, and one couldn’t see the join. An oldie they didn’t play was “Secrets” which, bizarrely, was the song I woke up with stuck in my head the following morning. When bands can afford to omit singles like this from their live set you know their cup overfloweth.

9.  Ride – “Twisterella” (1992)
It’s impossible to say when Britpop began but when this came out I clearly remember it marking a noticeably shift for both Ride and the mood of the time. More overtly 60s; clean, chiming Rickenbackers; vocal harmonies; underscored by a black and white video recreating The Who at the Goldhawk Road Social Club. Better than almost everything that came in its wake. 

10.  The Higher State – “Wait For My Love” (2014)
In between Easter Everywhere and Bull of the Woods, the 13th Floor Elevators cut “Wait For My Love”, a poppier than usual track earmarked as their new single. Instead, it languished in the vaults for years. It finally makes it onto a white-vinyl 45 thanks to Elevator acolytes The Higher State’s faithful recording for the covers label Fruits De Mer. The earlier Elevators track “You Don’t Know” takes the flip.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


The Phrogs were a regular fixture as the live attraction in Mod and 60s clubs back in the mid to late 90s. I saw them more times than I can remember and they were easily one of the better bands doing that circuit. They had a fiery British Beat/R&B thing going on and covered things “Leave My Kitten Alone” which sticks in my mind. The other thing I recall, which made them unique, is they had a frontman who didn’t do a great deal other than shake his maracas, blow a bit of harp and sing the occasional song. He did look cool though. The band, from Southend-on-Sea, were centred on the drummer who not only bashed his kit but sang and during a few songs (I think “I’m A Man” was one) played the organ at the same time. Some trick that. Now, they have a 7” single, “Baby I’m Gone”, out on Manchester’s Crocodile Records. Recorded back in 2001 at Toe Rag studios, it’s a right Elevators/Watchband rave-up. There’s also this breathless footage of them filmed at Channel 4 in the same year. If you can avert your eyes from the vest you're in for a treat. The band are still gigging and the single is available now from

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


There’s a moment after the lute solo in “Sucking Out My Insides”, and just before the orchestra and choir come in, when for the first time in his career Graham Days breaks into a beautiful falsetto to deliver the song’s heart-wrenching final verse.

Yeah, right. No, what the listener finds on the first album by Graham Day & The Forefathers are a dozen new versions of songs from Day’s back catalogue (six Solar Flares, three Prisoners, two Gaolers, one Prime Movers) delivered in a reassuringly familiar manner. In fact, they aren’t really what one would call new versions – there’s nothing like Bob Dylan playing Name That Tune with his audience or even Howlin’ Wolf psychedelicizing his blues – Day’s simply got songs out of storage and blasted the dust off with a crate load of Medway TNT. These are brash and boisterous songs performed with super-charged, pent-up energy. It’s like Graham Day of old, only more so. His vocals and wah-wah guitar assaults are the stuff of legend and with Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard’s formidable rhythm section striking everything with extra gusto it’s a heavyweight collection.

If accepted wisdom tells us Dave Davies’s crunching power-chords gave birth to heavy metal then it doesn’t take a DNA test on the Jeremy Kyle Show to show Good Things as one of its errant offspring. It’s such a hard rocking album one can’t help wonder how much of Day’s audience continues to be populated by Mods whose traditional musical preferences lie elsewhere. There is, it seems, space for at least one guitar hero and rock god in everyone’s life. The only time I take my air-guitar off its stand is to play along to Graham Day and I snapped a few strings giving it a workout to Good Things.

Much of Day’s audience though has dipped in and out over the years so some song choices here will be more familiar than others but Good Things is a great leveller. Covering four bands and about twenty five years of song writing it would take an incredibly perceptive ear to distinguish the origins of each track; such is Day’s singular vision to no-nonsense tunes.  

It’s fleetingly tempting to listen to these tracks back-to-back with the originals versions to play better/worse but that’s not the point. Good Things is best enjoyed without drawing direct comparisons with the originals; I’ve pointedly not listened to the versions back-to-back but my hunch is some are slightly improved. Day’s music has never been something to over-analyse, so think of this as a live-in-the-studioBest Of Graham Day album. Stick it on your record player, whack it up as loud as your neighbours will allow, and enjoyGood Things

Good Things by Graham Day & The Forefathers is released on Own Up Records at the band’s gig at the 229 Club in London on Friday 31st October.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


I was bemoaning recently there hasn’t been any great albums released this year; a remark which prompted a host of suggestions that I duly ploughed through. There were some good songs here and there but very few albums which kept my attention for the duration. Of those that did, I’ve not feel suitably inspired to listen again. Much was far too earnest and not a lot of fun. I thought I was becoming easier to please; maybe not. Maybe I’m more of an old stuck in the mud fuddy-duddy than I care to admit.

And then, as if by magic, the shopkeeper appeared with the new long-player from the Primitives. Spin-O-Rama is half an hour of glorious pop classism: the intoxicating blend of old and new; of familiarity and discovery. Why reinvent the wheel when it all it needs is a shiny polish? It’s a record packed with tightly constructed songs by a band still enamoured with 60s girl groups, the Velvet Underground, the Ramones, Blondie and eyes-blinking-in-the-morning-sun psychedelia. It was a heady mix when they made their classic Lovely in 1988 and it’s a combination which remains irresistible. Everything one loved in that LP is present and correct here. It’s the fifth Primitives album but feels like the true successor to their sparkling debut. They know pop music boils down to having a couple of verses, a chorus and/or a hook. There’s no need to dress it up too much, to make it more complicated. Sure, embellish the basic guitar, bass and drums a little but keep things short and sweet (or sometimes sour).  

That isn’t to say, by any means, the Primitives are either lacking in imagination or are attempting to regurgitate their past, even if they echo it. There’s so much crammed into this one record - it whizzes past at such a lick (eleven songs in 28 minutes) it’s difficult take all in at once - it begs, and gets, repeated plays. Whether Tracy Tracy is crooking her little finger at the listener or Paul Court takes off on a giddying space flight the effect is close to bliss. The title track introduces itself like a distant cousin of “Crash” with a similar finger picking guitar motif; “Hidden In The Shadows” romps after it with simple rhymes and pounding rhythms; “Lose The Reason” is a big rolling and tumbling duet; and the ludicrously intoxicating rush of “Petals” surely has to be released as a single so I can set the video recorder to tape them playing it on Top of The Pops. “Working Isn’t Working” - with a hint of the Monkees’ “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)” - has Paul singing “I just want to sit doing nothing”. That Paul took 23 years since the last album of original Primitives songs to make this I’ll take him at his word. It’s a fab track, thank heavens he finally rustled up the enthusiasm and knuckled down to get it together.

That enthusiasm pours from the grooves. Spin-O-Rama is the sound of a band enjoying what they do, with little to prove, free from expectations, free from record company pressure. For all their perceived perkiness they've had their prickly moments (and aren't half as cheery as one might think). Lest we forget after the Prims brush with fame their first single from album number two, Pure, had them stroppily protesting they were “Sick Of It”. Even though Pure (1989) and Galore (1991) were good much of their exuberant spirit dissolved and only fully returned in 2012 with the joyful covers "comeback album" Echoes and Rhymes. They’ve come full circle, Spin-O-Rama, if you will. Back to their beginning, back to the spirit of those early independent singles – “Really Stupid”, “Stop Killing Me” etc - and it suits them perfectly.

Anyone who has ever cared for the Primitives will love this LP, and anyone coming to the band from scratch should start here. Either way, it could be the most enjoyable new music you hear this year.  

Spin-O-Rama by The Primitives is released by Elefant Records on Monday 13th October 2014. They play the Garage, Highbury & Islington, London on Saturday 18th October (the only UK date in support of the LP).

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


It's April 1984 and The Smiths appear on TV-AM's SPLAT riding something called Charlie's Bus. "Where are we going?" asks one of the many children on the bus. "We're all going mad," replies Morrissey. "I thought we were going to Kew Gardens," says the kid. No flies on that young lady.

Off they trot to Kew Gardens and who should turn up but Sandie Shaw to serenade them with "Jeanne", a song about graves and failure.

Thanks to @binkydawkins for sending in this gem.