Sunday, 29 October 2017


1.  Roy Milton – ‘Big Fat Mama’ (1947)
Roy wants a big fat mama, big and round, who can really go to town, a fine butterbowl, plenty mama to hold, who knows just what to do. I dare say he didn’t go short of offers after this.

2.  Gladys Knight & the Pips – ‘In My Heart I Know It’s Right’ (1966)
Of yes! Unreleased uptempo Gladys from 1966! That’s gotta be right!

3.  Eddie Gale – ‘Black Rhythm Happening’ (1969)
Imagine if the kids who lived Sesame Street joined forces with the Black Panthers and called on trumpeter Eddie Gale to lead the party.

4.  Hugh Masekela – ‘Gettin’ It On’ (1969)
Slipping and a’sliding funk bomb. If ya can’t get on this groove you’re beyond help my friend.

5.  PP Arnold – ‘Born’ (1970)
Languishing in the vaults all this time, PP Arnold’s The Turning Tide album was released this month and sounds fresh as a daisy. Written and produced Barry Gibb, ‘Born’ steps out of church with a Stonesy swagger.

6.  Leroy Hutson – ‘Could This Be Love’ (1974)
Out now on Acid Jazz, the double LP Anthology 1972-84 offers a superb introduction into the slick soul moves of The Man, Leroy Hutson.

7.  Girls At Our Best! – ‘Getting Nowhere Fast’ (1980)
“I am pretty smart, I don't do what they want me to/ I don't and nor do you, that's what the general public do”. Proper old post-punk indie classic.

8.  Manic Street Preachers – ‘No Surface All Feeling’ (1996)
With nothing to promote it’s been a quiet period for the Manics so thought their Q Awards show last week might be a little lacklustre but far from going through the motions they played a blinder with Nicky Wire is fine spirits (usually a gage to Manics performances). Could quibble with song choices but hearing this, and ‘Everything Must Go’, always brings a lump to the throat and ‘A Song For Departure’ from Lifeblood was a welcome surprise. Oh, and Sleaford Mods were tremendous fun.

9.  The Solar Flares – ‘Moonshine of Your Love’ (2004)
The two special shows by the Solar Flares this month highlighted how unjustly they fell through the gaps – particularly the second half of their tenure. ‘Moonshine of Your Love’ from the overlooked Laughing Suns mixes pulsating Deep Purplesque rock, sci-fi theme tunes and Memphis-style horns.

10.  The Lovely Eggs – ‘I Shouldn’t Have Said That’ (2017)
Holly and David Egg’s style of apology is to batter the ears with a two-minutes of gobbing, gobby fuzz mayhem.  You are forgiven.  

Thursday, 26 October 2017


Barkley L. Hendricks - Icon for My Man Superman
(Superman Never Saved any Black People - Bobby Seale) 1969
A major exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, closed last week. Looking at the two decades from 1963 it explored how black artists responded to and reflected the civil rights struggle, the Black Power movement and political and cultural changes in America. It was a soul stirring collection from both an aesthetic angle of the art displayed and the background to the work and artists which invited further investigation. Photography was tolerated in the gallery so I took a few pictures and spent several days afterwards digging around.

Romare Bearden - The Street and The Dove (both 1964)
The opening exhibits in Soul of a Nation were from 1963 - the year of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech – and focussed on Spiral, a group of artists in New York looking to produce work within the wider context of the Civil Rights Movement. One of the founders, Romare Bearden, born in 1911 and an experienced artist, writer, poet, musician and social worker, suggested the group produce collaborative collages. The idea was rejected but Bearden went ahead and produced a series alone. As a lover of collage, particularly photo-montage, the exhibition couldn’t have got off to a better start for me than with a half a dozen of Bearden’s pieces including the bustling Harlem scenes portrayed The Street and The Dove.

Emory Douglas – All Power To The People (1969)
As Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas helped design the party’s newspaper and provided a series of posters for the back page as an effective way of distilling and taking concerns of the party to the streets. Douglas’s comic book style was as instantly recognisable as the Panthers themselves who knew a thing or two about image and branding. “Revolutionary art, like the Party, is for the whole community and deals with all its problems. It gives the people the correct picture of our struggle whereas the revolutionary ideology gives the people the correct political understanding of our struggle,” wrote Douglas. There were far more striking examples of Douglas’s work – lot of firearms and Pigs - displayed but such was the scrum of people around them this was the only snap I took. For more, see Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas, published in 2007.

Dana C. Chandler – Fred Hampton’s Door 2 (1975)
Within a year of joining the Black Panthers in Chicago, Fred Hampton rose to the rank of national deputy chairman and was instrumental in creating the Rainbow Coalition, working with local gangs of various ethnicities to reduce crime and violence which Hampton saw as self-defeating and detrimental to the plight of all the poor and oppressed people. Hampton’s influence both inside and outside the black community made him especially dangerous in the eyes of the FBI.

In 1967 Hampton allegedly assisted a group of schoolkids to help themselves to $71 dollars’ worth of tasty treats from a Good Humor ice cream van while he restrained the driver. The judge didn’t see the funny side and sentenced Hampton to a brain freezing two to five years. On bail, in December 1969, at home sleeping, Hampton was killed/murdered/executed by the Chicago police who fired nearly a hundred shots threw his door and throughout the flat – without return - in the raid, including two straight to the head from point blank range.

David Hammons – Injustice Case (1970)
Bobby Seale, co-founder the Black Panther Party, and was one of the “Chicago Eight” arrested and charged with conspiracy and inciting a riot during protests at 1968 Chicago Democratic Nominating Convention. The only black man on trial – the rest were white activists, anti-Vietnam protesters and Yippies including Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin – Seale’s request the trial be postponed as his lawyer was undergoing gall bladder surgery was refused, as was Seale’s subsequent request to represent himself. Throughout the early weeks of the trial Seale repeatedly interrupted the court to express his constitutional rights were being denied. Judge Julius H. Hoffman ordered court marshals to chain Seale to a chair with a gag in his mouth and tie his jaw shut with a strip of cloth wrapped from the bottom of his chin to the top of his head. This continued for several days until Hoffman found Seale guilty of 16 acts of contempt of court and sentenced him to four years in prison. The 1987 television film Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8 is excellent and well watching.

Hammons’ piece looks like an x-ray but was made by rubbing himself in margarine then pressing his body against the paper before sprinkling black powder on the grease to reveal the image. The American flag has been cut away and a man is boxed in, bound and gagged. As for Bobby Seale, in 1970 he published Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton and in 1987 wrote Barbeque'n with Bobby Seale: Hickory & Mesquite Recipes. “I've developed my own contemporary southern-style, hickory-smoked barbeque recipes that have delighted the taste buds and appetites of politicians, writers, community activists, movie stars, family and friends, and thousands more at numerous barbeque fund-raisers.”

Benny Andrews – Did the Bear Sit Under the Tree? (1969)
Using the ‘rough collage’ style Andrews favoured, this is an oil on canvas painting given an extra dimension by the rolled-up fabric stars and stripes and the man’s mouth made from a zipper (unzipped). The man is waving his fists but doesn’t look threatening or angry to me; more scared and weakly defensive. Andrews explained he is “shaking his fist at the very thing that is supposed to be protecting him and that he’s operating under.”

Wadsworth Jarrell – Black Prince (1971) and Liberation Soldiers (1972)
AfriCOBRA – African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists – were a Chicago artists’ collective and these paintings were made for their exhibitions. AfriCOBRA’s images would, according to their manifesto, embody “the expressive awesomeness that one experiences in African art and life in the U.S.A” and have an emphasis on “Color color Color color that shines, that is free or rules and regulations”. The bright Kool Aid acid colours used here would make eye-catching posters.

Malcolm X in The Prince is largely depicted using the letter B for Black, Bad and Beautiful and if you look closely at Liberation Soldiers, the figure of Huey Newton on the left has ‘Badest Mothefucker Alive’ coming straight out his head. Stick that on yer wall.

A double-album, Soul of a Nation: Afro-Centric Visions in the Age of Black Power, featuring Gil Scott-Heron, Joe Henderson, Roy Ayers, Doug Carn and many more is available on Soul Jazz and a book of the exhibition is published by Tate. Both highly recommended.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017


French Boutik have a new single coming out, a rather elegant version of The Jam’s ‘The Place I Love’. Taken from Gifted, a 4-CD set of Jam covers by bands from 14 countries, it comes as a gatefold sleeve 45 split single with an enchanting ‘Tonight at Noon’ by their keys man and artist in his own right, Popincourt, on the flip.  

All profits from the single and compilation go to Specialized, a musical community concept created in 2012 to raise funds to improve the lives of teens and young adults with cancer or who are living in difficult circumstances. Since 2012, Specialized has released tribute albums celebrating The Specials, The Beat, Madness, The Clash, Bob Marley and now The Jam to provide funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Available to pre-order now from Copasetic Records. 
Gifted: A Tribute to The Jam available from Specialized.

Sunday, 22 October 2017


International Times began publishing in October 1966. Taking inspiration from US titles including Village Voice, Los Angeles Free Press and East Village Other, based in London IT was Europe’s first underground newspaper and central hub for the expanding counterculture.

The brainwave of Barry Miles and John Hopkins - Miles and Hoppy - IT provided communication channels to service the growing “creative, underground, grass-roots free-thinking communities”. Music, sex, drugs, police activities, corrupt businesses and political protest all featured heavily and in its first six months alone, outside of domestic concerns, featured literary contributions from Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Jean-Paul Sartre and Ezra Pound.

Poking the The Man was never going to pass without the authorities becoming hostile so when IT quoted comedian, civil rights activist and candidate for Chicago mayor, Dick Gregory, using the word ‘Motherfucker’ in a Q&A, they were promptly and gleefully raided. On 11 March 1967 their offices were completely stripped: back copies, files, address books, everything removed and replaced with the threat of costly court action. Six months later, with no charges and after failure to close IT down, their stuff was returned, all chucked back in at the bottom of the stairs.

After IT led the way, others – most notably Oz – followed suit; increasingly creative with their design and provocative with their content. An exhibition to coincide with the publication of The British Underground Press of the Sixties, edited by Barry Miles and James Birch, runs at the A22 Gallery in Clerkenwell, London until 4 November 2017.

For the first time, every issue of all the most significant underground papers – IT, Oz, Gandalf’s Garden, Black Dwarf, Friends, Frendz, Ink, Nasty Tales and cOZmic Comsic – plus posters and paraphernalia from the period are on display. Space restrictions mean it’s not possible to view the cover of every edition (many are folded over or overlap), but they’re all included in the book alongside commentary from Miles.

British Underground Press of the Sixties, edited by Barry Miles and James Perch, is published by Rocket 88 and out now.

Thursday, 19 October 2017


“Slaves to consumerism, the world’s population exists in a zombie-like state of constant connectivity, their only music corporate sponsored pop pap.”

But fear not dear earthlings, from a galaxy far far away, come The Z to lead us by the hand to a place free from the shackles of the modern world. For the Z are People of the Mirror World, a reflection of music not as the soundtrack to supermarket shopping but as a lifeforce, powered up to the mains, pumping energy back into weary hearts and sapping souls.

It’s pop music Captain, but not as we know it, at least not these days. The Z go back to the future, plug in to their analogue docking station, and slip ten capsules of intergalactic new age boogie dreams straight under our collective tongue. It’s a trip, higher than the sun, where space is the place.

Personnel details and background information is scant and with the most unsearchable name on the internet deliberately so. No one ever said it was gonna be easy. The crew are fronted by Zoot, an Italian practicing high priestess, who channels elements of Grace Slick, Julie Driscoll and even Siouxsie Sioux; Gabrielle Drake in a purple wig in UFO. With Zoot’s co-pilots, The Z travel the spaceways, navigate magical swirling seas, shower excess glitter on glam stomps, cast spells with black magic queens and ask to be saved, all in little more than half an hour and with a spring in their step and twinkle in their eye. It’s music for the mind and body, free your mind and your ass will follow.

People of The Mirror World by The Z is due to land on earth, 1 November 2017, via Detour Records.

Saturday, 14 October 2017


Before Noel Fielding bothered cakes for money he played Vince Noir, zookeeper and King of the Mods, in The Mighty Boosh. In the ‘Jungle’ episode Vince comes face to face with Rudi, a jazz fusion guitarist with the Bongo Brothers and High Priest of the Psychedelic Monks who, with a tiny guitar and door in his afro, says with the air of studied mysticism, “I go by many names. Some call me Shatoon, Bringer of Corn; others call me Mickey Nine, the Dream Weaver; some call me Photoshop; others call me Trinew, The Boiler…”. This scene goes on and on, you get the picture.

Some call Graham Day, Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard, the Prime Movers, Escapee Prisoners; others call them Graham Day and the Forefathers, Partytime Songbookers; this weekend, for the first time in well over a decade, they are the SolarFlares, the Great Returners.

With three of the five SolarFlares albums (four proper ones and an odds and sods comp) recently reissued on Damaged Goods they entered the Water Rats’ Zooniverse, incidentally the building that hosted the Prisoners – complete with Star Trek outfits – for Channel 4’s The Tube in 1984 which introduced them to so many.

Taking back to that stage on Friday, sporting the same hair style and similar guitar, Graham welcomed back Parsley, who joined the band after a couple of LPs, on Hammond adding “apart from that, it’ll be the same old shit” suggesting a more recent Forefathers set, drawing from their various incarnations, was in store but they stayed in character and stuck to the script, keeping to Flares songs.

They began with the opening track from their 1999 debut Psychedelic Tantrums, a tribute to Graham Day’s mum, ‘Mary’. “Mary, do you approve of the things you see? Mary, can you hear me?” I’ve no idea if the late Mrs Day was a fan of ballsy late 60s styled melodic rock but she probably could hear them and if looking down, at the first of two shows that sold out before even the posters had been designed, and heard the rapturous response to every track she would be a proud lady.

Both Graham and Allan have spoken fondly about the music they made as the SolarFlares. Graham being of the view he wrote some of his best songs then and, in his words, “learnt how to sing properly”. There was much rejoicing when, after the Prime Movers disbanded circa 1993 in a sea of prog-rock noodling and members embarked on separate projects, the SolarFlares appeared and focused on their strengths: snappy songs with rollicking elements traceable back to the Small Faces/Who/Kinks (okay, and sounding close to the Prisoners) and scattered them with groovy go-go instrumentals from would-be spy and sci-fi films.

Hearing a full set of those songs underlined those opinions, a fact overlooked by many at the time (including, I hold my hands up here, myself) whose interest in the band quickly dwindled after the initial excitement died away. It’s difficult to say why, maybe it was timing, (I was fixated on R&B during the early 00’s and wasn’t seeing bands) but there were rich pickings to be had to latecomers and diehard returnees alike.

‘Medway’, ‘Cant’ Get You Out of My Mind’, ‘Laughing Sun’, ‘Hold On’, all zipped by with considerable groove . I’m rubbish at remembering titles of instrumentals but pretty sure there were four including Parsley let loose on ‘Angel Interceptor’ and ‘Girl In A Briefcase’ plus the ‘Hush’-recalling ‘Moonshine of Your Love’. ‘Miles Away’ and 'It's Alright' from 2000's That Was Then... So Is This stood out as superb slices of catchy 60s pop and ‘Sucking Out My Insides’ as blood curdling as the title suggests.

Graham was concerned the supercharged, 100mph encore ‘Out of Our Minds’ would give them a heart attack but as Allan said, with the world reportedly due to end in two days, “we’ll give it a go”. They fortunately survived and egged on by promoter Steve Worrall of Retro Man Blog they came back to plunder Wimple Winch’s freakbeat classic ‘Save My Soul’.

There were a few quips about this show being the rehearsal for the Saturday night but, as magnificent as that would certainly be, it could surely only be equal – not greater – than this. The SolarFlares, they go by many names, on this form I call them Bloody Brilliant.

Thursday, 12 October 2017


Andrea Dunbar is best known for writing Rita, Sue and Bob Too, a play depicting the relationship between an older man and his two babysitters, made into a film by Alan Clarke in 1987.

Andrea was far from the stereotypical playwright. Growing up on the notorious Buttershaw Estate – reputedly the toughest part of Bradford’s toughest area – Andrea’s exceptional writing talent, particularly for dialogue, brought her to the attention of Max Stafford-Clark, who put her first play – The Arbor, written in green biro at the age of 15 – on at the Royal Court theatre in London’s West End. After three plays, all drawn from lives around her estate, Andrea died in 1990, aged 29, from a brain haemorrhage in her local pub.

Andrea’s story is now the inspiration for Adelle Stripe’s debut novel, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile. The introduction insists it’s a work of fiction – populated by real and imagined characters – but this exceptional book is clearly biographical, the main events undoubtedly true.

It’s a tale of contrasts: acts of brutality and occasional kindness, of rich and poor, belief and doubt, north and south, even stage and screen. That Andrea’s life story – punctuated by sex, domestic violence and alcoholism – mirrors her work is no surprise but she deals with even the worst events with stoicism. There are though, fear not, moments of humour - both in Dunbar and Stripe's telling.

Although dimly aware of the film adaptation, and the furore that surrounded it, Andrea Dunbar’s name meant nothing to me. I’ve not seen the plays, read them or watched the film. I bought Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile because I’ve always enjoyed Adelle Stripe’s writing and poetry for the independent press and trust her judgement. Such faith did not go unrewarded. Not only is this Adelle’s best work to date - it’s a tremendous stand-alone “piece of kitchen sink noir” – it also serves as a very welcome introduction to the life and work of Andrea Dunbar.

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe is published by Wrecking Ball Press.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017


A little over a week ago, I’d never heard of The Limiṅanas, now they’re my favourite new band. Only they aren’t new, having been around since 2009 and with a handful of albums under their belt, I’m just slow off the mark.

After being tipped-off they were playing their first ever London show, which would be “one of the gigs of the year”, a crash course ensued. What revealed itself was The Limiṅanas, from Perpignan, are French couple, Lionel and Marie Limiṅana, who I’m told rarely play outside France/north-east Spain. Marie sings and drums, Lionel sings and plays the other stuff. They don’t fit in one tidy box: they can caress with dreamy pop, the vocals can be his or hers, sung in whispered French or English, they can hit the fuzz, they can take you down the Velvet Underground Says route, whip ya with the Mary Chain, invoke spaghetti westerns, spy movies, La Nouvelle Vague, sitar stylings and, by French law, the smoke of Serge and Jane frequently wafts across the senses. Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre provides guest vocals on rattling new single, ‘Istanbul Is Sleepy’, and Peter Hook lent a very Peter Hook bassline to last year’s ‘Garden of Love’ on their Malamore LP.

The thought of watching yet another guitar/drums duo didn’t appeal yet I didn’t know how they’d transfer to a live setting; whether they’d use backing tapes or be accompanied on the extra instrumentation that give their records the extra, sometimes exotic, flavour.

What appeared on stage on Thursday night was seven-piece band - four at the front, three at the back – who for 75 minutes rocked the living daylights out of a corner of Hackney. Neither Lionel or Marie sang; those duties were handled by a tambourine punishing Monica Vitti lookalike and a curly haired bloke on guitar. Big hipster-bearded Lionel led with his guitar scrunching, propelling songs until a climax when he’d shoot a look to Marie who’d cease proceedings with a sharp emergency break. Marie, positioned stage-left, was the heartbeat. Playing a small drum kit –bass, snare and tom, no cymbals or hi-hat – she struck, with Moe Tucker simplicity, a thumping beat, so effective it made other drummers look silly with all that fancy darting around their kits, crashing cymbals and playing elaborate fills.

The sheer power was astonishing, especially as their records can sound sparse and airy. Tough guy opener ‘Malamore’ - “I’m Robert Mitchum, I’m Bob Duvall” – stomped hard as they asserted “Sit yourself down, and shut your mouth”. ‘Down Underground’ followed (which would’ve fitted nicely on the last Primitives LP) and destroyed the recorded version. Even lighter songs ‘El Beach’ and ‘Garden of Love’ were electrifying.

The further down the line it got the more I was sucked into a hypnotic, wah-wah pedalling, head spinning, metronomic trance; the heel on my right boot worn down to the leather as it hit the floor BANG-BANG-BANG.

Beyond Lionel’s occasional ‘thank you’, they didn’t say anything; they didn’t need to. It was one of the gigs of the year as I’d been promised.

With thanks to man in the know, Grover.

Thursday, 5 October 2017


The new issue of Subbaculture hit the doormats of discerning readers this morning with a welcome thwack and, as I probably say each time, it’s the best one yet, packed with sounds and styles from the street.

As ever, the writing and design is a class above your average ‘zine and there’s plenty of substance in the articles too as they drift to encompass various strands of thought and subject matter.

What continues to amaze is how each issue has so many “that’s me!” moments. Editor Mark Hynds and contributors including Peter Jachimiak with uncanny regularity blow dust off teenage memories and tie-in references which concur with my own tastes. Mark recalls playground transactions involving the Quadrophenia albums, I sold the soundtrack one at school to fund my new found interest in Northern Soul; Mark also, in a piece about punk in Norwich, says his favourite Jamie Reid artwork is the Nowhere buses image, a print of which hangs in my hall; and on the same page, Peter revisits the Manic Street Preachers’ early New Art Riot EP and their first venture into London wearing “mod-style jackets with prison arrows sewn on”, a period which made as lasting an impression on me in my early 20s as discovering The Jam did as a kid.

On that theme, there’s a moving account of the relationship between Paul and John Weller with reference to their working class roots; Kevin Pearce tells a wonderful tale about the healing power of soul music; Tony Beesley discusses his books covering mod and punk scenes, with a focus on experiences outside London; Jason Disley provides a poem; the “gorgeous, oblique shuffle” of Trojan records are reflected upon, and where else are you gonna find a five-page spread charting the history of the Harrington jacket?

Copies are limited to 250 so, in keeping with Subbaculture’s ethos, look sharp…