Friday, 29 July 2016


1.  Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – ‘Moanin’’ (1958)
Can’t beat that gospel call-and-response thing between the piano and the horns. Even the original liner notes call it “the quintessence of funk”, and that was in 1958.  

2.  Chet Baker – ‘Born To Be Blue’ (1965)
In the new film of the same name about Chet Baker, his dad – none to impressed with his son’s lifestyle choices – asks why he sang one of his favourite songs, ‘Born To Be Blue’, “like a girl”? And fellow trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie tells him “you know you can’t sing”. Can’t say I’ve ever been much of fan of his voice either but came away from that film appreciating it a touch more.  

3.  The Avons – ‘Since I Met You Baby’ (1968)
Need a lift? A little pick-me-up? A blast of pure unadulterated joy? Step this way folks.

4.  Stellius – ‘What I’d Like’ (1970)
One of the things Stellius would apparently like is to ride a kangaroo. Readers may find it easier to simply ride this fat breakbeat driven groove.

5.  Kobza – ‘Progulka’ (1972)
In a moment of semi-idleness, I typed “Ukrainian Psych” into YouTube and it brought up this. A kind of groovy folksy mash-up making me think of both ‘The Work Song’ and the ‘Theme From Hawaii 5-0’. Result.

6.  O.V. Wright – ‘I’d Rather Be Blind, Crippled and Crazy’ (1973)
There’s always someone who has to take things a step (or two) further. Well, actually Mr. Wright wouldn’t be able to, would he?

7.  The Fingers – ‘Isolation’ (1977)
This prime piece of Pittsburgh punk is stupidly rare in its original Para Dox 45 format due to only 100 copies pressed and few known to survive. A lookalike reissue is more than adequate for those without $4000 in loose nickels and dimes.  
8.  The Tours – ‘Language School’ (1979)
I suppose Kid Jenson and Radio 1 DJs would’ve called this “New Wave” at the time; funny how that description has been dropped from the genre-tagging box nowadays. It’s good though, that’s for sure.  

9.  The Senior Service – ‘Caballo Sin Nombre’ (2016)
From their debut imaginary soundtrack album, The Girl In The Glass Case, this is the scene where a matchstick-sucking Graham Day and co swing open the saloon doors to find a shoot-out between Lee Marvin and Mr Spock.     

10. William Bell – ‘Poison In The Well’ (2016)
Difficult to pick one track from Bell's new Stax album, This Is Where I Live, as there's no duff song and they all belong together but 'Poison In The Well' stood out during his long-awaited and memorable London show this month.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016


Book readings, book signings, whathaveyou - not events to usually racquet up the excitement levels but hold tight Walthamstow Waterstones, Andrew Matheson is swanning into town.

As singer of criminally overlooked, and criminally minded, early 70s glampunk superstars in waiting, the Hollywood Brats, Matheson walked the walk and now following the publication last year of his ludicrously funny and sharply told memoir, Sick On You, and their album now subject of a deluxe edition reissue, he’s continuing to talk the talk. With knobs on.

So grab a tube, bus, scooter or shank’s pony to the Walthamstow Rock & Roll Book Club (yes, there is such a thing) on Saturday 6 August to be regaled in style by a man still on a mission to grab the limelight he so richly deserves. Soon to be subject of a BBC4 documentary, hear the story of the Hollywood Brats in person.

Tickets are free but please book, if you can, so the organisers know how much complimentary wine is needed for lubrication.

From host Mark Hart… “Sick On You by Andrew Matheson is the best rock and roll memoir since Motley Crue's Dirt. Matheson's band, the Hollywood Brats, were London's version of the New York Dolls.  Managed by gangsters, it’s Withnail & I with guitars, brilliantly funny, tremendously evocative and hardly believable.”

Link for full info: Walthamstow Rock 'n' Roll Club

Sunday, 10 July 2016


I’ve wanted to see Stax legend William Bell for years. On the occasions he’d cropped up in recent times – from performing for President Obama at the White House to appearing on Later with Jools Holland (how that for spanning the spectrum? From the sublime…) – he’s looked and sounded like he could still cut the mustard. Having now ticked him off the bucket list I couldn’t be happier to report he was well worth the wait.

At the Union Chapel last night he impressed straight from the start. It’s difficult to hear anyone sing ‘Easy Comin’ Out (Hard Goin’ In)’ without breaking into a smile and that expression was present for the following 90 minutes. ‘Any Other Way’ followed, the first of the real classics, and what a set of pipes this man has - tender yet rock solid assured.

Now aged 77, Bell’s voice was as strong as ever, fit as a flea, and managed to make wearing dark sunglasses in a chapel look like the coolest and more natural thing in the world. What I like in soul artists is when they can still feel contemporary rather than a cheesy old cabaret act. Mavis Staples does this supremely well and Bell does too. Half a dozen tracks from his new This Is Where I Live album underscored he’s not reliant on ancient hits to connect to his audience. ‘The Three of Me’, ‘I Will Take Care of You, ‘Mississippi-Arkansas Bridge’, ‘Poison In The Well’ and the title track all being personal reflections and breathed fresh life into his set and the Stax sound.

Bell kept his band on their toes throughout, and they were up to the not inconsiderable task, by frequently “breaking it down” and going off on a tangent. This could in lesser hands be tiresome but here it worked, not least during an already spectacular ‘Everybody Loves A Winner’ when he stopped to testify with the last of the evening light shining through the stained glass chapel windows.

This Is Where I Live takes Bell full circle, back on Stax, and as he reminded us, he was the label’s first solo male vocalist. ‘You Don’t Miss Your Water’ cut for the fledging label in 1961 and written by Bell when he was 17, “I was an old soul even then”. That Bell is still around, one of the last standing from that era, from the birth of Stax and, with that record, what we now call Southern Soul, is remarkable in itself, that he remains in such shape and voice is nothing short of incredible. There’s no need to make allowances, to overlook any shortcomings, as there are none. Needless to say the song was a highlight.

The Judy Clay role for ‘Private Number’ as taken by Bell’s “attractive lady” backing vocalist whose name I didn’t catch beyond, I think, Suzie. If William really does have her number he’s a lucky dog. ‘Everyday Is A Holiday’, ‘Eloise (Hang On In There)’ and ‘Tryin’ To Love Two’ all got an airing as did ‘I Forgot To Be Your Lover’ and although Bell isn’t a flashy or show-offy soul singer – one of the qualities I most like about him – he did allow himself one moment to hold a note during ‘Lover’ with superb control.

An extended ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, reprised on this new LP – and let’s not forget a lot of these songs Bell at least co-wrote – topped off the evening in a style. Back in ’68 Bell and Booker T wrote ‘Tribute To A King’ for the departed Otis Redding. I’d be hard pressed to think of anyone other than William Bell more worthy of wearing the soul crown today.

Monday, 4 July 2016


“I could be the first pop star pensioner. I’d be happy with that.”

Lawrence’s dream to be rich and famous, to live in a celebrity bubble, remains undiminished with time. Forming Felt at the dawn of 1980, he immediately assumed the status of a star in waiting – no surname necessary – and gallantly swished through the decade, convinced of his genius, releasing ten albums and ten singles before, with immaculate precision, closing the chapter as 1990 approached. Despite occasionally flirting with minor success – ‘Primitive Painters’ topping the independent charts in ’85 and providing Creation with a pop (near) masterpiece in Forever Breathes The Lonely World – their ten year mission to create “an underground/overground thing” was ultimately a commercial disaster.

Going full tilt at what Lawrence imagined would lead to mainstream success with Denim – the 90s viewed through the prism of his 70s childhood – began with being briefly touted as a flagbearer for an emerging Britpop but soon he was passed over once again and would be signing on rather than signing autographs for hysterical fans. After a period of freefall, he’s since settled on more modest ambitions as Go-Kart Mozart, something he describes as “the world’s first b-side band”.

Paul Kelly’s Lawrence of Belgravia, finally released on DVD by Heavenly Films, is a character study of one of music’s nearly-men (if music is judged by fame, and it is here) and plays more as a Channel 4 documentary than a BBC4 music biography. There are no talking heads espousing Lawrence’s influence on music or style; no musicians or colleagues offering a glimpse into his working practices, behaviour or personality; no grainy footage of Felt foppishly treading the boards at the Hammersmith Clarendon or Denim posing on Choppers. Instead the viewer takes a peak at the world through Lawrence’s eyes as he faces eviction from his flat while playing gigs, providing interviews, shopping for hats and creating the 2006 album Go-Kart Mozart On The Hot Dog Streets.

Lawrence, it’s fairly clear, isn’t made for these times. He’s a dedicated student of pop culture – a Lou Reed fanatic - who yearns for gangs of kids to paint his band’s name on the back of their jackets. He’s possesses, on the surface at least, an endearing mixture of naivety and childlike innocence. He’s incredulous when he discovers someone interviewing him doesn’t make money from his website. “Just for the love of it?” he wonders, wide-eyed. “I knew it was crap, the internet,” he says in his soft West Midlands accent. And yet this is someone who sent John Peel such a vitriolic letter Felt were scarcely heard on the radio and his current notebook contains details of small ad entry ‘Looking for love in an intimate relationship’ in which one of the things he is “into” as genital mutilation.

Kelly is sympathetic to his subject and personal issues regarding his finances, criminality, court appearances, drug use and mental health are skirted over, blink and you’ll miss them, as if impolite to pry, although with a noticeable sense of pride Lawrence does confide “I’m legally bonkers, you know” and rueing he wasn’t born in the 16th century when he could’ve had a patron to fund his projects. With a degree of envy, he suggests he would be much better for Kate Moss than Pete Doherty and they could merge their money in a joint account, “She could put in all her millions and I could put in my dole money every two weeks”.

Money is a big issue, mainly because he’s never had any and yet even in poverty he still wears a Vivien Westwood tie and look like a pop star when painting walls. One thing he point blank refuses to entertain, for whatever money, is the idea of a Felt reunion although his reasons aren’t given.

But still Lawrence, keeps his eyes on the prize: craving fame, to be a millionaire and never have to travel by public transport. Whether this’ll happen with Go-Kart Mozart and their synthy 70s TV theme tune style and lyrics about the Queen Mum’s hip operation; drinking Um Bongo; scoring dope; and being “still susceptible to vaginas allure” remains to be seen but Lawrence’s indefatigable spirit will keep him going. Nobody has come this far and failed he notes. Enigmatic to the last, he’s no failure.

Lawrence of Belgravia is out now.