Wednesday, 30 March 2016


1.  Big John Patton – ‘Fat Judy’ (1965)
A classic and one of the templates for Acid Jazz. I hadn’t heard the complete album it came from, Oh Baby, until recently and if, like me, you like Hammond grooves you’ll love it.

2.  Bobby Bland – ‘I Ain’t Myself Anymore’ (1966)
Another sensational Bland (pictured above) track to add to the list with one record dealer describing it far better than I could: “A cocktail of understated horns, his controlled gravel-coated throat, purrs the lyrics out, like a sun-basking lion, in wait for the kill.”

3.  The Lovers – ‘Whatcha Gonna Do Baby’ (1966)
Formed by a group of serving officers at the Deal Air Force base in Northern California as the Emotions, a name change to the Lovers saw one 45 in 1965, ‘Do This To Me’. A beautiful, Impressions-like follow-up featuring ‘Whatcha Gonna Do Baby’ failed to happen and languished in the vaults for 50 years until Kent rescued in this month for their Harmony of the Soul comp.

4.  The Gaylads – ‘Sounds of Silence’ (1967)
Tis brave to attempt a Simon and Garfunkel song but Jamaican vocal group The Gaylads do so with some style, giving it a graceful rocksteady overhaul.

5.  Baby Huey – ‘Listen To Me’ (1970)
Within the space of a month in 1970 Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Baby Huey all checked out, with Huey (James Ramey to his folks) not even making it to 27, falling short by a year. His Curtis Mayfield produced album The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend was released posthumously and opens with this fat funker.

6.  The 8th Day – ‘You’ve Got To Crawl (Before You Walk)’ (1971)
The full refrain being “You’ve got to crawl before you walk back into these arms of mine”. Storming early 70s soul from Holland, Dozier & Holland’s Invictus label.

7.  William De Vaughn – ‘Be Thankful For What You Got’ (1974)
It was hearing Arthur Lee and Love’s 1975 cover that got me interested in this song and then by complete coincidence, 25 years after it was released, I finally got around to listening to Massive Attack’s Blue Lines and it was on there too. All versions are good but De Vaughn’s cool and unhurried soulful vibe is sheer class.

8.  Neil Young – ‘Barstool Blues’ (1975)
Suitably woozy, boozy and ragged; a strong contender for my favourite Neil Young song.   

9.  Altered Images – ‘A Day’s Wait’ (1981)
‘Happy Birthday’ was a big bouncy pop hit but not typical of what lay on the rest of that album. Produced by Siouxsie & the Banshees’ Steve Severin it’s not too far removed from the Banshees own JuJu, out at the time; obviously not as terrifyingly dark (what is?) but the guitars and drums are very similar in places. 

10.  The Coral – ‘Million Eyes’ (2016)
I’m usually fairly tepid towards the Coral but they put on a great show at the Kentish Town Forum this month with heavy-hitter ‘Million Eyes’ from new LP Distance Inbetween rocking like a late 60s Fillmore gig with an eyeball shredding lightshow to match. 

Thursday, 24 March 2016


Not only is Easter Sunday the day we reflect on baby Jesus being reborn in a chocolate egg delivered by fluffy yellow chicks but it’s also when Monkey’s Wandering Wireless Show returns to the airwaves.

Yes indeed, for on Sunday there’ll be maximum singing and minimal sermonizing as I attempt to squeeze as many spirit lifting songs as possible into an hour’s broadcast on the hippest station on the dial, Fusion.

Sundays on Fusion is always the place to be so thanks to them for trusting me to lead the flock this week. There’ll be things you know and maybe one or two you don’t but it’ll all - R&B, soul, garage punk and more - be great.

Click on the link below in time for a prompt 8.30pm start. If you wanna join up on Mixlr beforehand you’ll be able to chat with the congregation, otherwise just tune in. See ya there. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016


Unfortunately I bring you no hobnobbing tales of rock ‘n’ roll hedonism, no backstage stories of toking on an intergalactic joint with George Clinton, of snorting ashes of dead relatives with Keith Richards or even drinking Hennessey with Morrissey. No, today’s cultural snippet comes from a far more innocent place, although does involve coming face to face with a true legend. An iconic figure of BBC children’s television who, unusually, remains completely above suspicion of scandal or wrongdoing.  

For on Sunday, Mrs Monkey and I bumped into the most important, the most beautiful, the most magical, saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world. Bagpuss. There he was - the original one - in the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, same slightly gormless look on his face, mouth half-open, eyes widened in incredulous surprise at whatever had been brought before him. In this case, us: Mrs Monk fighting back tears of joy whilst simultaneously trying to mastermind a manoeuvre to remove him from his cushion and give him an enormous hug, and me trying to capture the moment on film and keeping an eye out for security. We were foiled by his pesky glass case. 

All Bagpuss’s old friends were there too. The mice on the mouse-organ woke up and stretched, Madeleine the rag doll sat in her chair, Gabriel the toad picked a folky tune on his banjo, and Professor Yaffle climbed down off his bookend. None of them looked a day older than they did in 1974.

Idealistic romantics Manic Street Preachers promised to spilt up after their debut album but Bagpuss, after one series of 13 episodes, was genuinely 4 Real and quit at the peak of his success in a manner Paul Weller would emulate eight years later when calling time on The Jam. And like Woking’s finest and The Smiths, Bagpuss never got the gang back together to create inferior new material, keeping an immaculate back catalogue.

Made by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin for their Smallfilms company, Bagpuss and Co. are joined in the museum by other stars from their creations: all the Clangers including the Soup Dragon and the Iron Chicken, plus filming notes, drawings and equipment from Noggin The Nod, Ivor The Engine and more. There’s even an x-ray of a Clanger so you can see his insides made of, whisper it, Meccano and wood.

I usually roll my eyes at conversations that start “Do you remember Barnaby The Bear? Do you remember Spangles?” but I’ll admit to getting a little buzz out of meeting these characters from my childhood because, aged 6, like his owner Emily, young Monkey loved Bagpuss.

Clangers, Bagpuss & Co. is at the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood, E2 until 9 October 2016, admission free. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016


The Stairs (Ged, Edgar, Paul). Photo by Mark McNulty
After a 20 year absence, The Stairs surprised many last November by reforming for a hometown gig at Liverpool’s Kazimier Club. The night saw a triumphant return to the stage for cryogenically frozen Edgar Summertyme, Ged Lynn and Paul Maguire who blew away the assembled masses with a set of their frazzled beat classics and a couple of new additions as if it were yesteryear. Such was the success of that night they’ve been inspired to play a few more shows, starting next Thursday 24 March when they headline the first night of Le Beat Bespoke festival in London. Also appearing that night will be the added attraction of Graham Day & the Forefathers, so it promises to be a great night.

Le Beat Bespoke organisers, The New Untouchables, asked me to attempt to interview the band for their Nutsmag. Despite being told singer/bassist Edgar was “harder to pin down than Giant Haystacks” both he and drummer Paul Maguire kindly took the time answer a few questions.

The Stairs first came to most people’s notice after you signed to Go! Discs and released ‘Weed Bus’ in 1991. Can you tell us a bit about the formation of the band and your history up to that point?

Paul: Me and Edgar met on a youth music scheme around ‘89, we had a similar music interest of ‘60s garage punk. Ed had a few tunes he had written including ‘Weed Bus’, which we jammed and me and him started there. Ed knew Ged who was on the same music scheme so we roped him in. We skinned up and we got it together. We had our own night every Friday in the Cosmos club where we played a set of covers, then we’d DJ, then we would play our numbers.

Edgar: We were just psychedelically attached friends having a laugh really in bedrooms and bedsits with acoustic guitars banging ashtrays etc. Eventually we were borrowing the only spare time in my bro’s pracky room with a friend Pete Baker (the sleeping Mexican on LP sleeve) on bass and me on guitar. Pete didn’t really take to the bass so things were slow. We gradually gained some momentum when I joined in Ian McCulloch’s group on bass (mid ‘89) and took over the bass duties in the group. It wasn’t till we played and handful of our songs at a ridiculously rammed New Year’s Eve party (1990) at Mike Mooney’s house that we realised that we were capable of pleasing anyone other than ourselves. Marc Riley was often in attendance at the Cosmos club and Alan Duffy from Imaginary records came to check us and plans were formulated to record our first EP (later sold on to Go! Discs) with them.

The first couple of EP sleeves and the shows around that time featured a fourth member, Jason. What was his role and what happened to him?

Edgar: Jason was a friend whose role was originally, in his words, as ‘personal manager’ but eventually we managed to coax him on-stage to play percussion, gob iron and keys as required. I don’t think he really took to the role as he would come and go frequently from the group. The comparisons to Bez and Eric Idle didn’t really help I suppose.

Paul: Jason was meant to be our manager in the beginning, but he wasn’t any good at that stuff. So we gave him a harmonica and maracas which he played. Haven’t seen him for years.  

Go! Discs seemed to understand where the Stairs were at: recording in mono, strong 60s artwork etc. How was your relationship with them and why did it come to an end? What was their expectation of the band you signed?

Edgar: Thanks to being well-managed at the time by Pam Young we went to them with a strong vision of how we wanted things to look and I think they had fun what with it being a little different from their norm at the time. Our A&R man initially was Carl Smyth (Chas Smash from Madness). We were his first signing and he was very accommodating and enthusiastic. Unfortunately Madness reformed shortly a few months after our LP came out. With no key man clause in contract that was where our troubles began.

Paul: Carl really loved our band. He got us the deal, liked all the artwork and the mono deal. He understood our band and was good dealing with us. When Carl left there was no one there who understood the band. They thought we were a bit of a joke and didn’t know what to do with us.

Mexican R’n’B is, quite rightly, regarded is a classic LP. How did you feel about it when it came out and how do you view it now?

Edgar: Why thank you sir! How I felt at the time is a complex affair I’d need Sigmund Freud and couch and a few hours to get to the bottom of that. I’m definitely happier now as it seems to have stood the test of time. We definitely created a little slice of the 60’s in the early 90’s there.

Paul: I loved that album then and I still love it now. I’m very proud to have been involved and made Mexican. We were still all learning our instruments and grooves and singing when we recorded it. I thought at the time and I still think it now that Edgar is a genius. His songs and playing were so fucking cool. We were recording this at a time most of the world was getting into acid house. We wanted to give the general public something else to listen to. Get them on the ‘Weed Bus’ so to speak.

Talking of which, people often refer to your marijuana singles – ‘Weed Bus’, ‘Mary Joanna’ – but I’ve always noticed the preoccupation with rain on Mexican R’n’B, at least three songs mention it. Any correlation?

Paul: Well you’d have to ask Edgar that. Personally I like rain, except when it gets me spliff wet at the bus stop.

Edgar: I was probably because I was spending too much time in Manchester as their retrogressive shopping experience has always been far superior to ours despite the constant rain!

After being released from Go! Discs you were still gigging, recording and exploring different styles. How was the band developing at that time and why didn’t a second album materialise?

Edgar: Looking back I think we were too eager to move on from the Mexican R’n’B sound, we should have made another three of those really, and with having no one at Go! to recognise this - not that we’d have listened- and with the copious amounts of weed being smoked I think we just wanted our music to be more mad really both structurally and sonically. The fact that I was just starting wholeheartedly to discover soul music too just confused matters. We we’re constantly demoing but Go! weren’t prepared to let us start a new LP as such. This went on for about two years and then we left the label.

Paul: We started to sound a bit heavier, and we got better at playing. We loved touring always a good laugh. But it was hard to get any backing; we weren’t being taken seriously by any record company or music papers. We spent all our money recording the second album, so at the end no one wanted to release it.

Viper Records eventually released Who Is This Is. What are your thoughts on that? Is that how you’d envisaged the second album?

Edgar: After leaving Go! we thought it a good idea to record the LP ourselves. A long-winded complicated affair with members coming and going. By the time it was done we’d about run out of speed hence it not seeing the light of day till Viper’s release.

Paul: I’m glad we did it, for me it has some great moments. But looking back it also sounds confused, which I suppose we were also at the time.

How did you feel about the reaction from your reunion gig in Liverpool? Had you kept in touch? Is it something you’d thought about over the years?

Edgar: Absolutely smashing! We’d all kept in touch but our paths only ever brought us together sporadically but usually only two of us in same room at same time. The first rehearsal was great when we kicked into ‘Mary Jo’ it was more like we’d had two weeks off rather than 20+ years. It was great to see the two tiers in our fan base that night: those who were older and were coming back to see us again and the young uns who were there to witness the legend that got created by word of mouth in the past 20 years. The crowd reaction was fantastic; I don’t think either tier felt let down.

Paul: The reunion gig was magik, the reaction was just overwhelming for all of us I think. Incredible, old fans, new fans. They knew all the words, ha ha. I’ve always bumped into Ed round town when I’m there as I live in Reykjavik. I hadn’t seen Ged for years. We all moved in slightly different circles. I’d been hoping we could do at least one gig for a few years. And when Mike from the Wicked Whispers called me up, it felt exactly right. With the amount of toss that goes by the name of music nowadays, I think you need the Stairs in your life.
The Stairs, Kazimier, November 2015
What are the plans for the band now? Will you be recording new material?

Paul: We’re not sure just yet. Anything can happen in the next half hour.

There’s a new Stairs collection, The Great Lemonade Machine In The Sky, out now. Tell us about what’s on that.

Edgar: I’d recently found a suitcase full of cassettes in the loft at my mum’s that I thought had been thrown out when I’d left home way back. The previous Viper comp had come from the collections of friends and colleagues with my own thought lost at the time. So the idea was to create a second volume of Right In The Back Of Your Mind [2007 odds and sods compilation]. I spent a fair bit of time trawling through them (lots were mix tapes etc.) and mixing down the 4-tracks where available and it was a real nice touch that it all came together in time for the reforming of the group.

‘Shit Town’ is a pretty mad single taken from it and might come as a bit of surprise to people who only know Mexican R’n’B. What was the story behind it and is it about anywhere in particular?

Paul: You’d have to ask Ged. It’s obviously about Liverpool. The city was a lot different from it is now. On the other hand…

Edgar: It’s primarily about Liverpool if I’m right, Ged? It was definitely one of the finest finds of the suitcase trawling. It was recorded during second LP sessions. What you’re listening to is a remastered monitor mix. It was mixed with the others as Ged had left the group by that point.

Which are your favourite three Stairs songs and why?

Edgar: ‘Weed Bus’ will always be big in my heart as it was my first song written in the Stairs style as such. Although it’s not our song I’ve always been proud of our arrangement of [Bo Diddley's]‘You Don’t Love Me’. I guess to pick a third from the rest it’d be ‘Right In The Back Of Your Mind’ as it’s pretty kick ass and stress free to play out live, well for me anyhow.

Paul: ‘Woman Gone and Say Goodbye’. It’s just the best of us: growly, beaty, big and bouncy. ‘Mundane Monday’ I think it’s such cool little groove, and we sing about rain. ‘Skin Up’. I love playing this live, but it’s a bit tricky to skin up and play the drums at the same time. I used to do it back in the days.

Follow The Stairs on Twitter and Facebook. See the original unedited version of the above interview at Nutsmag. Full Le Beat Bespoke details, including a Saturday night gig by another Monkey Picks favourite Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind, here. For archive 1994 Monkey Picks/Something Has Hit Me interview with The Stairs see here. 

Friday, 11 March 2016


James Brown, Ready Steady Go, 11 March 1966 (Photo David Redfern)
“There we were watching James Brown, the Famous Flames urging him back, his cloak laid on his back as he’s dragged to the centre of the stage– screaming, screeching, and we thought that this was it. Anything else was a distraction. We were bonded into a sweaty, sound drenched, sanctified brotherhood of S..O..U..L.”

Fifty years ago, on Saturday 12 March 1966, Barry Coidan witnessed the first ever UK concert by James Brown, a night forever etched in his memory and recounted on his . This historic occasion didn’t occur, as one might imagine, in a Central London venue but on the very outskirts of the capital in Walthamstow, E17, which had only merged into a London borough from Essex the previous year and accessibility via the Tube network was at least another 18 months away. Barry and his school friends - bonded in soul brother and sisterhood – who drove 80 miles from Brighton in a Ford Anglia to the Granada Cinema can be forgiven in feeling they were venturing into unknown territory, but even Adele T and her friend, who set off in a Mini (as in car definitely, skirt possibly), from north-west London had never heard of Walthamstow either.

“I know we drove through the West End to get to Walthamstow – no sat navs then – and somehow arrived at the Granada – buzzing with excitement and what a show – it was unbelievable,” recalls Adele. “I especially remember the end of the concert. James Brown on stage, his vocal group behind him, holding his gold and red cloak, trying to put the cloak on his back to lead him off stage – James Brown, kneeling on stage, not wanting to leave – the cloak thrown off, then put on again, then taken off again. The band playing – ‘You Don’t Have To Go’ - the group singing the words – James Brown kneeling yet again, then finally, after repeating this riff several times, the cloak finally around his shoulders and he walked off stage, only to return for another verse of the song – the climax of a wonderful performance - pure theatre, it was superb!”

The self-styled Mr Dynamite was in an explosive run of form when he hit the UK. Nearly ten years into his recording career ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ began to rewrite the rules of song construction – changing the beat, stripping away chord changes and melody, creating funk - and gave Brown his first US Top 10 “Pop” (as opposed to “R&B”) hit and his first UK Top 30 hit in September ’65. ‘I Got You (I Feel Good)’ followed and was on the chart as Brown, Bobby Byrd, the Famous Flames, his 18-piece orchestra and entourage stepped off the plane at Heathrow on 9 March to be greeted by half a dozen fans with albums to sign and a gaggle of press photographers. Although ‘I Got You’ would only climb as high as number 29 his reputation and standing amongst those who dug a little deeper – especially the Mods – was sky high.
James Brown arrives at Heathrow, 9 March 1966
The Walthamstow appearance, in which Doris Troy also appeared on the bill, was preceded the night before by a special performance on Rediffusion TV’s Ready Steady Go! Always a huge supporter of visiting American artists, editor Vicki Wickham pulled out the stops for Brown and handed over the entire show (the 137th edition, fact fans) to their guest and his revue, the only time such an honour was afforded a single artist. A similar Otis Redding special in September included appearances from Chris Farlowe and Eric Burdon; whilst The Who only occupied the second half of their Ready Steady Who edition in October (Georgie Fame and Lee Dorsey filling the first half). 

Regretfully no footage of Brown as he muscled into living rooms across the nation as the youth started their weekend has survived although at least one JB collector claims to own an audio recording (my enquiries so far have been met with stony silence). RSG’s director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, explained the loss to The Guardian: "Most of the shows were wiped because tape was so expensive, so stuff like the James Brown special and The Who special are gone forever. I took home £37 a week but, every so often, I'd buy a video tape and preserve it. It cost me £1 a minute, but the only reason any shows survive is because I did that."  

Prior to the show Brown gave the producers some twitchy moments. Vicki Wickham: “Michael Lindsay Hogg and I went to meet him at his hotel where he adamantly told us he didn’t rehearse.  He said it would like asking a footballer to play the game before game time! He came to the studio and we were nervous but once Michael showed him the stage and the surface of the stage we’d built so that he could dance and do his routines his attitude changed and the sound-check was seamless and they ran through most of the show.  It turned out that he had done a BBC show the night before and they had him on a small riser and he was angry that he couldn’t dance or move.”

Not that Brown’s broadcast, which hit television screens at 6.08pm on Friday 11 March, was received with anything like universal acclaim as one review quoted in Jon Savage’s 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded makes clear. “If you have a taste for old-fashioned entertainment (primitive screaming and emotional kidology) done every bit as top-priced African witch doctors and the most famous minstrel shows, then don’t miss the Wild Man of Harlem.”
"Wild Man of Harlem", London, March 1966 (Photo by Harry Goodwin)
More surprising, although without the racist undertones, was the view of Ready Steady Go! presenter Cathy McGowan who laid it on thick for BBC’s The Story of Pop.  "When he came here he was hailed as the great James Brown – and the show was awful. I mean he just couldn't produce the sound. It was terrible. I mean it was really awful. It was a bad, bad show. A disaster. And the only reason that they devoted the whole show to Brown was because of the following that he'd got here built up because of the hysteria on the part of the Mods. You know, it was like everything else. It was like everybody's-gotta- say-you-like-James-Brown-week. So, of course, the demand for James Brown records was such that everyone was writing into the programme saying James Brown. Every Mod you asked would say James Brown. And the worst thing of all was that when he actually did his numbers the Mods didn't like him. The music and the records were so fantastic, but when they actually came there to the studio to do it live... something went."

It’s worth reading Brown scholar Cliff White’s eloquent rebuttal to McGowan and detractors in full but in part he writes, “Brown didn't so much appear on RSG as dominate an hour of television that just happened to fill the program's regular spot. He strutted and stamped and screamed, he sweated and grunted and fell on his knees (and screamed), he danced across the stage like he had skates on and then charged around the studio, through the audience, and back again (screaming). In short, he was quite uncontrollable, and he kept it up for the entire show, pouring out barely intelligible lyrics while his bloody great band hit chords that fractured nerves and hammered relentless riffs without mercy. All in all, he was quite magnificent.”

As White added, James Brown was neither Helen Shapiro nor “simply another harmless jigaboo with a trendy kind of rhythm and a humble smile”. This was indeed a new bag. So new it left audiences confused, especially by Brown’s famous cloak routine during ‘Please Please Please’ which, according to the popular press, left scores of television viewers appalled by his “disgusting behaviour”. The Daily Mirror leading the charge the next day claiming ‘Pop Singer’s Mock “Fits” Shock Viewers’. Epileptic seizures and religious reawakening were difficult to tell apart in 1966.

David London shared White’s assessment. “I worked on many of the RSG shows as a studio floor manager. My everlasting memory was of the then unknown great James Brown taking over the whole show and just leaving everybody absolutely speechless! Great memories.”

College friends of a Mod persuasion of one Walthamstow witness, Geoff, had another take. “I saw him when he first toured in the 60s, at Walthamstow Granada, absolutely brilliant, so good went back for the second performance, got in the second row from the front, I think the seats cost 30 shillings or something similar. His performance was magnificent, never seen anything quite like it, so well-rehearsed. At the time I attended day release at the London School of Printing at Elephant & Castle, and all the others in my class slagged off his appearance on Ready Steady Go! (which was very similar to his live show) as too rehearsed, lacking spontaneity, etc. But then they raved over the Action doing ‘I'll Keep Holding On’, so what did they know about soul music?”

For local Mods like Steve Ellis, singer with Tottenham band the Soul Survivors, the impact of witnessing Brown up close had a profound effect as he recounted in Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson’s 2013 book, Mods: The New Religion. “Our manager, Sid Bacon, was forever telling us to go and see live bands. He got us tickets to see James Brown & the Famous Flames at the Walthamstow Granada. That night James Brown was fucking unbelievable. He absolutely blew my socks off. I came out after that gig and I just thought, ‘I’ve got to be like that. My God that’s how good I’ve got to be and that’s what I’ve got to do with this band’”. With his band’s name switched to Love Affair, Ellis scored a UK number in 1968 with ‘Everlasting Love’.

Eddy Grant from another North London band in attendance, the Equals, would similarly hit the top of the charts in ‘68 with his song ‘Baby, Come Back’. Eddy had no hesitation when asked in 2008 about the most memorable gig he’d attended. “That is quite easy. James Brown, live at the Walthamstow Granada in 1966. Nothing has beaten that since.”
Programme for Walthamstow & Brixton Granadas 
Although I rather unfairly implied the Walthamstow Granada was out in the back of beyond it did play host to most of the major acts in the 60s – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Small Faces, the Who etc – and had a long history dating back to the late nineteenth century when it served as a performing arts venue. In 1930 it was bought and modernised by Granada Theatres who turned it into a 2,697 capacity cinema that later also doubled as a concert hall but it took the boldness of promoter Arthur Howes to travel to the US and bring Brown to the Granada theatres (JB played Brixton the day after Walthamstow before heading to Paris) after bosses at rivals Top Rank ran scared.

“I’m always surprised by the staying power of old cinemas,” wrote Barry Coidan on his As I Was Saying To My Friend The Other Day blog. “Besides the massive trauma of James Brown’s brass, the old Walthamstow cinema shuddered to the sound of our unrestrained teenage voices, stomping feet and generalised sexual energy. The Scala, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, the Hammersmith Apollo, the Forum – lovely old cinemas – now unflinchingly absorb the kinetic energy of our age.”

After over a decade of sitting unused, and after tireless campaigning by local residents, the old Granada (EMD) Cinema building at 186 Hoe Street is open again. The former foyer now utilised as a pop-up bar, under the title Mirth, Marvel and Maud, whilst the rest of the Grade 2 listed building, including the auditorium where Brother James repeatedly smashed to his knees, is being developed to breathe new life into the burgeoning local arts community.

I was in there two weeks ago listening to DJs bang out old soul and funk records and it already looks gorgeous, mercifully keeping the character and much of the d├ęcor of the past. It was impossible to not think about James Brown and how fifty years previously Record Mirror had described gig goers exiting into the cold air with “ears ringing and apparently not working properly; eyes definitely out of focus; legs a trifle shaky”. I too suffered from some of those symptoms but not, unfortunately, due to the Godfather of Soul conquering new territory during one weekend in 1966.


After publishing the above yesterday I received the following addition from Merric Davidson who runs the great Top 10 music site Toppermost. Not only did Merric attend the Walthamstow show but kept a press cutting too. Thanks a lot for sharing Merric.

"JB at Walthamstow Granada, Saturday 12 March 1966. Four of us travelled up from Bournemouth and afterwards took in a Les Cousins all-niter (another story). Certainly an event, much planning involved, we wore James Brown armbands made out of mauve corduroy if memory serves, and sauntered up Carnaby Street beforehand giving it some! It was an extraordinary evening, sitting in a cinema, quite a few rows back, and as soon as the band struck up we were all out of our seats and down the front, or as close to the front as we could get. I reckon it was a similar show "The TAMI Show" but the rapture took over right from the first note so it's hazy. Anyway here's Stan Laundon writing in The Independent (local paper, where based?) on 18 March 1966:

JAMES BROWN HITS THE GRANADA FANS BY STORM - When American rhythm and blues star James Brown appeared at Walthamstow Granada Theatre, Hoe Street, on Saturday, manager Mr Ralph Papworth, had full houses - and a night he will never forget. Brown, a brilliant showman and the biggest rage on the rhythm and blues scene for many years, spoke to me in his dressing room before the show: "My kind of show is different from the rest. I have something to offer and when I give it, I give it from my heart - I like to express my feelings." When James Brown walked on to the stage, the audience went wild. As the atmosphere in the auditorium mounted, Brown ran through a list of his well-known hits, including his latest disc, "I Got You, I Feel Good" - probably unheard by the screamers. Almost every agent in London had booked seats for their own artistes to watch the show, among them Dusty Springfield, Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon, Millie and many others who either entered the show late to avoid suspicion or in disguise. Fans stood in the aisles, climbed on the seats and even tried to rush the stage just to get a glimpse of the famous James Brown and his group, the Famous Flames. Brown, 32, was slammed by the nation's newspapers for doing a "fit" on the Granada stage, purely for a little extra showmanship. The remainder of the bill was the Mike Cotton Sound, the Marionettes, Doris Troy, and compere Keith Fordyce."

Can't remember any of that first half with those guys and I'm glad I can't remember Keith's "urgings" but the second half from the great man, a memory for life!"