Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all our readers. Let's see out 2012 with a reminder of how it should be done. Here's to keeping the faith in 2013.

The Novatones

More great new music. These are The Novatones from Southampton. Band members are Anthony Pittman (guitar, lead vocals), Tony Smith (rhythm/lead guitar, backing vocals, Sean Swift (drums, percussion) and Stewart Page (bass guitar,backing vocals).

They are described as "having a sound and energy reminiscent of The Buzzcocks", with other influences cited as The Clash and The Ramones. Find out more at their Facebook page.

They have been part of the Uprising Tour 2012 and, if this is anything to go by, I would hazard a guess that we might be hearing more from them in the not too distant future.

The Astaires

Second in our list promising new bands come The Astaires, who are delivering a brew of garage rock, hard-edged soul and pure attitude. Made up of Cromm Fallon, Johnny Catchings and Paul Gavino, they are undoubtedly ones to watch for in 2013. This is their Facebook page. And this is the excellent Mail Your Love.

The Repeat Offenders

Now that the festive build up is over, it is time to look ahead to the new year. There is plenty of great music out there - new, original sounds being made by bands with soul, flare and imagination. This seems an appropriate moment to feature a few of them.

To start off with, how about a listen to The Repeat Offenders. They hail from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire and band members are Andrew Ruddick (vocals,guitar), Graham Holmes (bass), Steve Knock (drums) and Newt Putt (lead guitar). Their tunes include future anthems Dirty Stop Out, Fade Away and Perplexed Mind.

You can find their website here, their My Space here - and, of course, they rock.

Two sad departures

Sadly, it's a moment to say goodbye to two people who, in different ways, influenced my childhood and adolescence.

First of all, came the news of the death of Gerry Anderson, whose work was a key element in my formative years. From Supercar through Fireball XL5, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, UFO, and Space 1999, his visions of the future were inspirational. He died over Christmas at the age of 83. This is arguably his most successful creation, and the one for which he is best known.

Second, when I graduated to musical inspiration, and discovered the sweet sounds of soul, Rescue Me was a song that could be relied upon to get my feet moving. It is one of the most uplifting tunes ever recorded, in my book. So it is with sadness that I read that Fontella Bass is no longer with us, having gone to the great dancefloor in the sky at the age of 72. This is the tune in question.

The Festive Twenty Five

It's time to put the Festive Twenty Five to bed. For the record, the tunes selected in the run up to Christmas, in honour of the late, great John Peel, were these:

1 December - In The City - The Jam
2 December - Police And Thieves - Junior Murivn
3 December - No Time To Be Shy - Wideboy Generation
4 December - The Contessa - DC Fontana
5 December - Time For Action - Secret Affair
6 December - Superfly - Curtis Mayfield
7 December - Baby I Need Your Loving - Four Tops
8 December - Maybe Tomorrow - The Chords
9 December - Twisted Beginnings - Illegal Notes
10 December - Stay With Me - The Faces
11 December - Hurricane - The Prisoners
12 December - Baltimore Is The New Brooklyn - J C Brooks And The Uptown Sound
13 December - Biff Bang Pow - The Creation
14 December - Into Tomorrow - Paul Weller
15 December - Love Will Keep Us Together - James Taylor Quartet
16 December - The Jean Genie - David Bowie
17 December - All Or Nothing - Small Faces
18 December - Spark To Start - The Spitfires
19 December - Get It On - T Rex
20 December - Millions Like Us - Purple Hearts
21 December - All The Young Dudes - Mott The Hoople
22 December - Keep On Keepin On - Nolan Porter
23 December - Blue Collar Jane - The Strypes
24 December - I Can't Explain - The Who
25 December - Happy Xmas War Is Over - John Lennon

The Strypes - Blue Collar Jane

New single from The Strypes. This is their first self-penned release and, if this is the sort of material they're writing, the future looks very bright indeed. They performed the tune on last Friday's Late Late Show. This is Blue Collar Jane.

Charlie Is My Darling

There's another Stones film around that looks as if it's well worth watching.  Charlie Is My Darling was filmed by Peter Whitehead on the band's tour of Ireland in 1965 and, by all accounts, presents a unique insight into the band both on and offstage, capturing their world view perfectly for posterity.  It is said to include the oldest archive material that still exists and, like Crossfire Hurricane - with which there appears to be some overlap - this footage seems remarkable for its authenticity.  I've not seen it all yet, just the trailer and some clips. But, from what is available online, it appears well worth keeping a look out for.

The Sons - Collage For Companions

Another cracking tune from The Sons. This one is an instrumental, with definite art rock overtones and a seriously funky edge that will get you dancing round the kitchen. I love it when the horn section kicks in, evoking memories of bands like 23 Skidoo, Stimulin and A Certain Ratio at their finest.  A tune to turn  up loud.

Crossfire Hurricane

It was premièred last month and the first part was screened on BBC2 at the weekend (the second part is this Saturday).

Crossfire Hurricane was directed by Brett Morgan and tells the story of The Rolling Stones from their incarnation to the present day. There is commentary from the surviving members of the band, along with Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, as well as archive fly on the wall footage that is informative, amusing and intimate. The clips from the Brian Jones era are particularly impressive.

It may be fifty years since they emerged to capture the imagination of a generation but, as this documentary reminds you, that fact doesn't matter in the slightest. The attitude, demeanour and swagger demonstrated here is timeless. As is the music, of course. And the release of the new compilation Grrr! is turning the new breed onto the band's prowess.

Essential viewing for anyone with the slightest interest in The Rolling Stones.

The Sons

I'm liking what I'm hearing of these boys at the moment. They're called The Sons and they're from London. This little gem, from earlier this year, is available on I-tunes and Spotify. This is their Tumblr page. This is their Facebook page. And this is Down By The U-V Lights.

The Spitfires - Spark To Start video

More from The Spitfires. The video for the new single Spark To Start is now available to view. It was shot by Paolo Sedazzari on the roof of the old Cannon Street police station and features a great view over the capital. The clobber is also pretty spot on.

The band's website is worth checking, along with their page at the Fred Perry Subculture website.

Spark To Start/Sirens is the most exciting pair of tunes I've heard from a new band for some time. And the video more than does it justice. Here it is.

The Spitfires - new video

I reviewed The Spitfires' new single Spark To Start/Sirens a few days ago.  They've since posted a video, featuring footage of the band and lead singer/guitarist Billy Sullivan talking about the two tunes.  It's well worth a look to get an insight into the clued up "Sound Of Young Watford".  There's a genuine buzz growing around this band.  Definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Secret Affair - Soho Dreams

They're back, with new music. Secret Affair, one of the great bands from the uprising of 79, released Soho Dreams last month.  There's a class picture of Ian Page and Dave Cairns on the cover, against a neon background, which sets the scene neatly for what is inside.

First impressions are that it boasts a harder sound than some of their earlier material. That doesn't surprise me.  When I caught them a couple of years back, playing at the Pulse festival in Nottingham, they certainly packed a punch.  That is the mood that greets you here.

The title track gives a strong indication of the album's direction with a solid slice of rhythm and soul and Ian Page's urban poetry about life, youthful innocence and the city's underbelly. Walk Away is a song that grows on you with every play, complete with some top notch brass.  And the r&b classic, I Don't Need No Doctor, which was covered by Humble Pie amongst others, is given a full on treatment.  The ending is particularly strong, showcasing an on fire slice of Dave Cairns guitar - which is a feature of the album - and some top drawer Hammond.

Turn Me On and Land Of Hope find the band firing on all cylinders, while one of my favourite tunes here, Soul Of The City, has a smoky edge that drags you into its enclave.  In My Time, with its vintage Cairns lyric,  is one of the album's stand outs.  I have seen comparisons mentioned with the Quadrophenia album and I can understand why.  But that shouldn't take anything away from the originality of the tune, which is tough, thoughtful and gritty, and a great example of a band on form.

Soho Dreams is a lot more than the return of one of my favourite eighties bands. It is a fresh, original album in its own right, with songs that have something new to say about contemporary Britain.   In short, it is one of the soundtrack albums for the latter half of 2012.  I hope there's more to come.

Terry Callier RIP

Very sad news.  This is pure genius. A beautiful, inspirational and uplifting tune.  RIP the legend of Terry Callier - you will be missed.

Don Fardon - Belfast Boy

Following yesterday's review of the DC Fontana album, it seems fitting to include a tribute to Don Fardon - and also to the legend that was George Best,

DC Fontana - Pentagram Man

It's time for brand new music from the excellent DC Fontana. Over the last year, the band has undergone a line up change, with Louise Turner replacing Karla Milton as vocalist and doing so admirably, as this ep testifies.

Pentagram Man is a collection of six tunes, all of which demonstrate a development of the group's sound. The strong sixties influence remains but it has become more sophisticated, with a nod to 1966 rather than 1964. It features layers of musical textures that get inside your mind and start the feet moving in equal measure. A prime example is the title track.  Check how the guitar and Hammond intertwine with the pop flavoured vocals.  And I love that outro.

Then there's the Tamla Motown style introduction of Devil Angel, which leads into a captivating torch singer vocal from Turner.  It works perfectly and is perhaps my favourite tune on the album.  What Would It Take is a entrancing ballad which has a folky, Summery feel, with picked acoustic guitar and strings and other musical delicacies in the background.

Satisfied (Part One) is a stylised re-working of one of the most memorable tunes from their first album Six Against Eight.  I'm pleased they explored it again because the result, featuring stripped down instrumental arrangement and a vocal from Scott Riley, who wrote the song, is an impressive piece of bluesy soul.  It is followed by Sighed DC, an eight minute psychedelic extravaganza, featuring spoken samples, rhythmic patterns, a harp and other delights.

The final tune is a reprise of the title track, this time sung by sixties icon Don Fardon.  It is a fitting conclusion, combining the influences that make up the album and adding another perspective to the tune.

Of additional interest are the sleeve notes on all things psychedelic, penned by Peter Daltrey of Kaleidoscope. They are apt because Pentagram Man is a tour de force of psychedelia.  Well worth adding to your collection, in fact.

Pentagram Man is available from http://www.dcfontana.com/shop/.  It can also be downloaded from iTunes.  We're also told that a 7" single from the ep will be released on Heavy Soul VERY shortly!!!

The Spitfires - Spark To Start

There's the thud of a bass line, followed by a touch of Hammond and then the drums and choppy guitar kick in.  A couple of bars later, the vocals come through, loud and strong and clear, telling us that "by now you should know what's right/by now you should know what's wrong".  They are lyrics that ring out with truth and passion, a clarion call for a fired-up generation.

They call it "the sound of young Britain" and, right now, that description seems apt.  This is a band who know where they're going, what they want.  They speak for an age that is staring the economic scrap heap in the face, yet refuses to be bowed.  Like their cultural predecessors, their minds are focussed and their attitudes are intact.  And they're doing it all as sharply as the creases in their neatly pressed strides.

In short, The Spitfires' brand new single breathes fresh air into a stagnant musical landscape, at the same time sneering at societal conformity and negativity.  Frontman Billy Sullivan delivers his social commentary on both tunes with feeling, attacking his guitar with venom, backed admirably by Sam Long on bass and Matt Johnson on drums.  There's a little bit of ska in there, some rock and roll anger, and more than a little soul.  All in all, there's a strong heritage in the mix, delivered with a style that is all their own.

There's also a video on the way soon, which should be well worth a look, if the photos that have emerged of the filming are anything to go by.  Like the great bands before them, this is one that takes sartorial excellence as serious as musical, which is evident from a feature in style blog Daisy Do's.  It features a photoshoot from the filming of the video. Check the Fred Perry, the loafers, the boating blazer, the harrington.  Seriously great clobber from where I'm sitting.

On this evidence, The Spitfires could be your new favourite band. They are mine.

Spark To Start /Sirens was recorded at Paul Weller's Black Barn studio, produced by Charles Rees, and mixed at RAK studios. It is released on 12 November, with a limited run of cds available from the band's website.  It will be available to download on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.

Jake Bugg

This post is a little bit belated but I wanted to do its subject justice. I’ve been living with the debut album from Jake Bugg for a week now. In that time, it has gone straight to the top of the album chart, beating off more populist rivals. The man has also received accolades from rock and roll luminaries and has been the feature of a photoshoot for FHM. I’ve listened to each of his self-penned tunes many times. So what’s the verdict?

Let’s step back a bit, to when Jake Bugg first came to our attention. His was a voice that sounded raw, alive and young, and very bluesy, as if it came from the Mississippi Delta, not the Midlands. And there were more than a few traces of the young Bob Dylan in the phrasing and tone. The lyrics dealt with personal, common place events, suggesting a maturity that could perhaps take the format of the three minute pop song and create something a little bit new with it.

Those early tunes are, of course, contained in this selection. The opener, Lightning Bolt, will be well known to aficionados. Lyrically it is so personal that its appeal is universal and the straight ahead approach works perfectly. Taste It describes that unique transition of adolescence, where the future opens up, with all the possibilities it entails, yet is tinged with bittersweet regret. Country Song is slower, revealing a more plaintive mood, whilst Trouble Town documents graphically Britain from the underside. Like the voice, it could almost have come from the deep south in the twenties - but it’s totally contemporary. Country blues meets broken Britain, with a kick.

The elements that made those earlier songs so memorable are here right across the album - the social commentary on tunes such as Ballad of Mr Jones and Seen It All, the lyrical virtuosity on Simple As This and the sensitivity of slower songs such as Broken and Slide. Note To Self is a lesson in personal belief, of definite relevance in an increasingly competitive world, and I love the solo, almost reggae, touches of the closing song, Fire.

The theme of escape from the past is strong here, particularly on Trouble Town and also on my personal favourite, the last single, Two Fingers. It‘s there in the same way as it was on Definitely Maybe, in the film Cemetery Junction, or at the end of Absolute Beginners. Casting off, starting again, moving off down the road that will lead you towards a new vision. But not forgetting everything, or everyone - “the best people I could ever have met”.

Jake Bugg has produced an album that chronicles Britain today, warts and all. But he does so in a way that adds hope to the mix, a route map to follow your dreams. He might just be the poet laureate of the new wave of British guitar music. I, for one, hope this album is just the beginning.

The Rolling Stones - Doom And Gloom

You have to admit that you're not sure what to expect. Seven years after their last record, The Stones are back with a new tune. Recorded in Paris and produced by Don Was, it is the lead single from Grrrr!, a compilation which will be released later this year. The post on Facebook says the song will be played for the first time on air on Chris Evans at 8.15 on Thursday morning. It will be available on i-tunes immediately afterwards.

Can they still cut it? That's what you're asking yourself as you come downstairs, put on some toast, make a strong coffee. You're checking out your phone, trying to tune in to Radio 2. You haven't listened to morning radio since those fabulous Gallagher boys were releasing their first tunes back in the nineties and you're pretty sure you need to download an app. What happened to simply turning on the radio? You kick yourself for being so unashamedly last-century. But none of that matters because, in a few seconds, the app is downloaded and you're listening to Mr Evans' dulcet tones, just as you did all those years ago.

But who cares about that. All you're thinking about right now is the band who used to be called Little Boy Blue And The Blue Boys, many decades ago. The veterans of the Crawdaddy, the ones who played that legendary show at Hyde Park in 1969, who worked their magic at Villa Nellcote in 1971. Is it possible that these sixties survivors have made a record that sounds contemporary, relevant and powerful?

Sometimes you know from a song's first moments that it's going to be good. Some strong, slightly distorted, chords come straight at you out of the speaker. Then Jagger starts to tell a story of a dream he had and how "all around is doom and gloom". It's a bit like the news every night on the television, you think to yourself, the downbeat mood you feel on the street. Paint It Black for the twenty first century. But with a sneer, a swagger and a twinkle in the eye that says, in no uncertain terms - forget depression, lets dance.

And that's what you're doing now. Grooving round the kitchen, first thing in the morning, with a coffee in your hand and a slice of pure, unadulterated bluesy rock and roll in your head, your soul and your beating heart. One that beats just that little bit faster than it did a a minute ago.

Who'd have thought it, after all these decades. Put it this way. Imagine you're in 1976. Someone tells you that, in 2012, The Stones will produce a tune that is powerful, raw, with lyrics that have contemporary resonance. And, at the same time, Johnny Rotten will be advertising butter. Would you have believed them? Me neither.

If Street Fighting Man and Gimme Shelter summed up the world of 1968/69, Doom and Gloom does the same for 2012. It all sounds totally of now. It shows that Mick and the boys have their fingers very much on the pulse. In short, it's a bolt out of the blue and a breath of fresh air at the same time. And all you want, right now, is to hear those chords blast out of your stereo. Let's play it again.

Nolan Porter With Stone Foundation - Live At The 100 Club, 7 July 2012

On 7 July, northern soul legend Nolan Porter appeared onstage at the 100 Club with Stone Foundation. Soon afterwards, reports began to circulate about the quality of the performance that night. The footage that emerged on the web supported the fact that the show was a little bit special. I featured a clip of Fe Fi Fo Fum back in July, from a forthcoming documentary.

Since then, the performance has found its way onto cd and a limited edition of 500 copies were released on ebay. I don't know how many copies are left but it is still listed. If you haven't got a copy, and have an opportunity to get one, my recommendation is to jump at the chance. It has to go down as one of the best live albums ever made. The quality of the playing from Stone Foundation is inspirational, while Nolan Porter demonstrates that he still has everything that made him a star back in the seventies.

From the opening bars of To Find The Spirit, the vibe is uplifting. The classics are all there - Keep On Keeping On, If I Could Only Be Sure, the aforementioned Fe Fi Fo Fum. Then there great tunes such as Somebody (Somewhere)Needs You and Crazy Love. And the version of the Stone Foundation's own Tracing Paper is spot on.

Sometimes, a particular show gains legendary status, gaining a reputation beyond the immediate vicinity of the night in question, forging its own musical territory and influencing a whole generation of connoisseurs. Bob Marley at the Rainbow comes to mind, as does the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Nolan Porter with Stone Foundation at the 100 Club may well be another such example. Get hold of this cd to hear the evidence for yourself.

The Strypes - I'm Shakin'

What was I just saying about a new generation of clued up bands? I've featured The Strypes on here before and this is a new video from them.

As guitarist Josh Mclorey explains at the outset, it is their cover of Jack White's cover of a Little Willie John song. It also features another great video from talented young film maker, Finn Keenan. The video comes in the wake of what was, by all accounts, a triumphant, star-studded show at Ronnie Scotts recently.

The Strypes are taking R&B classics and giving them a very strong, contemporary edge. As has been said before, they have a huge future ahead of them. It looks like it might be starting to kick off for them, which is very good news indeed.

Jake Bugg - Two Fingers

You sometimes get a feeling that there's a new wave of music beginning to emerge, of a new generation, who just instinctively get it. Nottingham boy Jake Bugg is a case in point. There are Bob Dylan comparisons, which are well documented, but to my ears he sings like a delta blues man.

He has a photoshoot in FHM this month where he dons his harrington and his impeccable street style. Equally importantly, he has a new album out soon, along with a single Two Fingers. This is the unofficial video. Top drawer, in my book.

Last Minute Glory

There's nothing like a brand new, well-crafted song, delivered by tunesmiths who sound like they have fire in their bellies, to take you through the day.  Goodbye Sunday by Last Minute Glory is a case in point.

Last Minute Glory are a promising young band from Edinburgh. Comprising Michael Byrne, Chris Karpacz, Lee Brown and Daniel Shearer, they are producing a raft of strong, contemporary pop tunes. Goodbye Sunday opens with some powerful chords, building into an infectious slice of guitar-fuelled pop, with lyrics that sound personal yet have a universal appeal. It's a song that you could very easily find yourself putting on repeat. And I love that bit of feedback at the end.

There are various clips of live performances by the band on You Tube which are worth a look. You can hear Goodbye Sunday at their Soundcloud page and download it from their Facebook page.

China Rats - N.O.M.O.N.E.Y

Following on from yesterday's post, this is expected to be the forthcoming single from China Rats. There are more than a few touches of the vibe of 1977/8 here. A little Buzzcocks, Ramones and Automatics, perhaps, but with a definite contemporary feel and a vibe that exudes optimism, in spite of the tune's serious subject matter. It's a record that I, for one, find genuinely exciting.  Time to play it again and start pogoing round the kitchen.


China Rats

Thanks to those nice people at Mod Generation for putting me onto this one. China Rats are an extremely promising new band from Leeds, with a musical sensibility that stretches right back to the masters, yet, at the same time, pushes forward into a technicolor, poptastic future. Check out this little gem To Be Like I. That guitar, those harmonies, the general confidence that is exuded. Definitely a band to watch out for.


Here Comes The Nice - Jeremy Reed

Imagine that you're living in a dystopian near-future London, when the effects from the imperialist adventures of the first decades of the twenty first century are beginning to be felt. By way of contrast, you're emersing yourself in a more congenial decade, working on a book about sixties fashion guru John Stephen. Then, in the course of your daily routine. you meet a character who calls himself The Face and claims to be from 1964. He has a look that appears authentic, that might just have come out of a glossy magazine from the time. He also has knowledge, a deep understanding of the era, that sounds too convincing to be fake.

In Here Comes The Nice, Jeremy Reed traverses the two disparate time frames with skill. The elements in the near-future setting are ingenious, combining the development of technology, the emergence of the underground post-military Blackjacks and the effects of global warming being felt in the capital.

Contrast this with the mod world, centred around the The Scene club in Ham Yard. The descriptions are detailed, containing large amounts of information about Rolling Stones' early shows at The Scene, John Stephen's concept of "The Look" and Carnaby Street and the sartorial preferences of the original Faces. It is to his credit that Reed includes elements of the gay aspect of the early mod scene - certainly the one evoked here - which can often be overlooked in the contemporary retrospective of the period. I particularly  like the recognition of the different strata within the mod movement, from Faces to tickets, which is illustrated in some detail.  Then there are the behavioural points, from how to stand in Ham Yard outside the Scene, to what this particular Face does with a drink and a straw when on the edge of the dancefloor.

I also love the fact that Reed takes a particular open air show in 1969 as marking the end of the sixties. The way he describes the audience that day, their clothes, their attitudes, and how this is contrasted with the descriptions of the early sixties, is masterful.  It illustrates perfectly how the decade moved by quickly,  times changing with hardly anyone seeming to notice - apart from The Face, that is.

The issues that stay with you after reading the book are universal ones.  What is the nature of time? Do some eras live forever? Are some influences so strong that they bypass the linear process? It is no coincidence that JG Ballard, himself no stranger to dystopian and time-related fiction, was one writer who endorsed the book.  He was right to do so.  There are a raft of questions that emerge from this fascinating novel.  And, quite apart from that, it is an entertaining read in its own right, especially if you have an interest in the sixties.

Little Night Terrors - Young Lion

So, you go to Ibiza for two weeks and what greets you when you get back? A brand new tune from Little Night Terrors, that's what. It's called Young Lion and is a definite slice of edgy pop. Check out that solid keyboard signature, the anthemic tune and infectious vocals.  This Leicester trio are acquiring a solid fanbase and it's not hard to understand why.  From where we're sitting they have a raft of classic pop tunes under their belt, ready for a waiting world to devour.  This is the official video and, as ever, you can find out more on their Facebook page.


Apathy For The Devil, A 1970's Memoir - Nick Kent

To music devotees of a certain generation, Nick Kent is a name that has almost legendary status. Each Thursday morning, a crisp new copy of the NME would fall through the letterbox, containing pieces penned by him, accompanied by a picture of the article's subject, taken by Pennie Smith. According to legend - and confirmed here - one such afficionado was the teenage Morrissey, who would correspond with him on a regular basis. As one who also fell under Kent's journalistic spell, it was with some interest that I picked up this book.

Each chapter in the book deals with a separate year of the seventies. These detail Kent's emergence from precocious middle class schoolboy (from London, via Wales and back again) to NME journo and beyond. We're told how he developed his writing style, to be at the forefront of "new rock journalism", under the tutelage of Lester Bangs. The style is inspired by the Hunter S Thompson gonzo technique, the writer emersing himself in the environment around the music, taking in the vibe and sharing the thrills. Along the way he would hang out with the likes of the Stones (who he had met initially at a gig when twelve years old), Iggy Pop and Led Zeppelin, as well as briefly playing guitar in an early incarnation of what was to become the Sex Pistols.

Kent also dated Chrissie Hynde and one of the most memorable passages is an account of how they connected through a mutual love of the Stooges. As Kent correctly states at one part of the book, he was flying the flag for the punk ethic from the early seventies - long before Joe Strummer or Malcolm McLaren had moved in that direction.

But not all in the garden was destined to be rosy. There is much about Kent's drug addiction and how he descended into virtual squalour as the decade progressed. He also became something of punk's whipping boy, most infamously at the 100 Club in 1976 when he was attacked with a chain by Sid Vicious. The impact of that period plays a significant part in this story.

To his credit, Kent writes about his darker days openly, candidly and, at times, with some humour. His world view comes across as a positive one, without overbearing nonchalance or regret. And the anecdotes are legendary. I particulary like the one about Keih Moon, which chimes with a description of a particular incident in Tony Fletcher's biography Dear Boy.

Apathy For The Devil is, in parts tragic, in others uplifting and inspirational. It must have taken a lot of guts to get all this down on paper for the world to read - the result is one of rock's more memorable memoirs. It is recommended for anyone who remembers Nick Kent, was listening to music in the seventies, or who has an interest in the period. The next stage will be to dig out his collected works - The Dark Stuff - which includes his seminal pieces on Nick Drake, Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson. That is what I intend to do imminently.

The Wicked Whispers

Liverpool band The Wicked Whispers have been receiving a fair amount of attention of late and, from this video, it's not hard to see why. Dandelion Eyes has a strong psychedelic sound and an edginess that is refreshing in the current musical climate. Haight Ashbury 1966, perhaps. Or, at least what you imagine it might have been like.

The tune is available as a limited edition 7 inch from 27 August. It is available here.

The video, was shot by Liverpool film maker Mark McNulty and is well worth a look.  And those Roger McGuinn fringes are perfection itself.

Check out the band here.


Fred Perry - Generation To Generation

This is another video from the Fred Perry competition that I particularly liked.  It is called Generation To Generation and is from Germany.  The tune "Get High" is from Ralf Luebke of Monkeeman fame.  The video tells a story that anyone who has experienced the passion for the music over the years can relate to.  Plus the brilliance of wearing a Fred Perry, of course.


Fred Perry - Your Videos

Following their "Tell Us Your Story" project, Fred Perry are running a new "Your Video" competition. They have teamed up with film maker Don Letts to produce "six short documentaries that will track the unique relationship Fred Perry has developed with British street style and Subcultures".

The first stage is for videos to be submitted - "your original archive film or footage from 1952 onwards".

The videos so far been submitted posted are on the Fred Perry site. Ranging from short clips in clubs to recent mini-dramas, all have something to say about the brand, the culture and how it inspires subsequent generations.

This is one clip that caught my eye. It is called Recall - Spirit Of The 60's and was produced and directed by Nikki Stevens. It stars Welcome Pariah frontman John Waghorn and music from his band.


Pete McKee and Bradley Wiggins

The work of Sheffield artist Pete McKee has been featured here before. Now, Pete has a new picture, a rather inspired one of mod cycling legend Bradley Wiggins called Bellboy. Brilliant, in my view. Find out more about Pete McKee here.

The Hobbes Fanclub

It's been a while since my interest has been whetted by a band playing classic indie-pop. That was, until I discovered The Hobbes Fanclub, who I found by chance on a random surf of of the world wide web.

The band hail from Bradford and their website says they are made up of Leon on guitar and vocals, Louise on bass and vocals and Adam on drums. They describe their influences as Ride, Phil Spector, The Jesus And Mary Chain and Teenage Fanclub.    They also remind me a little of Belle And Sebastian and The Wedding Present.

I love the exuberance of their tunes, the passion, the wistful feel of the vocals. Like the memory of eating candy floss on a beach, with the wind in your hair, and the sound of a guitar in the distance. Find out more about them at their Facebook page.  Who says the internet is killing music.

This is The Boy From Outer Space.


Paul Weller Live At The 100 Club

That was an unexpected pleasure. I get home from work tonight and check my Facebook updates. Someone has posted a link to a live stream of Paul Weller's show at the 100 Club courtesy of those nice people at Converse Represent.

So I tune in at 10.05 and am treated to a top drawer performance of tunes from right across Weller's career, from the very first single with The Jam, In The City (I've still got a copy with a battered pic sleeve from 77), through to That Dangerous Age from this year's album Sonik Kicks.

It was a confident set, with the whole band  fired up for the occasion.  Recent albums were well represented, with tunes including Wake up The Nation, Fast Car/Slow Traffic, When Your Garden's Overgrown and The Attic.  Early to mid period Jam songs included a version of Art School from the first album, with vocals shared with Andy Crofts (whose keyboards deserve a particular mention) and the number one single, Start.  And his earlier solo career was represented by very strong versions of Into Tomorrow and Foot Of The Mountain.

All in all, possibly the best live stream I've watched. And the congratulations for Bradley Wiggins' gold medal today was a nice touch.  I hope Weller will be doing a tour soon because, if this was anything to go by, he will be on top form.  The Converse Represent site is worth checking  for news of future shows.

Jimmy Cliff - Rebirth

Jimmy Cliff is one of the legends of reggae.  Along with Desmond Decker and Bob Marley, he was one of the artists who brought the genre to these shores back in the seventies - in Cliff's case in 1972, with the seminal film The Harder They Come.  The accompanying album included classics in the form of the title track, You Can Get it If You Really Want, Many Rivers To Cross and Sitting In Limbo.  It also helped to promote artists such as The Slickers and The Melodians.  Keith Richards and Paul Simenon, along with many others, were influenced by the album.

Forty years later and Jimmy Cliff is back.  He has released an album that takes the vibe of his earlier  work and updates it for the twenty first century.  Produced by Tim Armstrong, who also plays guitar on the record, Rebirth has that strong, roots feel that so defined seventies reggae.   The mood is upbeat and danceable, with some songs containing lyrics of social commentary that put me in mind of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On.  Tunes such as World Upside Down and Children's Bread are cases in point.  "They took the children's bread", give it to the dogs, making so many peoples' lives so hard".

The single One More will get you on your feet, however hard you try to resist.  Reggae Music looks back to 1962 and beyond and Outsider is a celebration of the music and attitude that defines the genre we love in this blog.  And the version of The Clash's Guns Of Brixton is quite simply one of the most original and inspired covers I have ever heard.

It all goes round doesn't it, music.  Jimmy Cliff inspires a teenage Paul Simenon to pick up the bass guitar and then, all these years later, Simenon's classic tune from London Calling inspires Cliff to produce this cover.   Wonderful.

The album is out now and is available at all good record stores and the usual online places.  You can, for a time, hear a streamed version at Rdio. This is the Facebook page.

Jimmy Cliff is one of the greats.  This album confirms it.

Stone Foundation And Nolan Porter

The northern soul legend that is Nolan Porter - whose classic tunes include Keep On Keepin On and If I Could Only Be Sure - recently teamed up with the Midlands' excellent Stone Foundation.  There is a documentary due out fairly soon about their collaboration and this is a taster from it, complete with interview with Nolan Porter where he tells Paolo Hewitt a little about the tune, Fe Fi Fo Fum.

Stone Foundation, of course, have a new album out right now, The Three Shades Of Stone Foundation.  Find out more on their website or their Facebook page.

 Take a look at this fantastic performance.

The Spitfires - Beat To The Retreat

Another from the Spitfires. This is Beat To The Retreat, recorded, as the poster behind the band indicates, at the Fiddler's Elbow. Class.


Inspirational Moments in Absolute Beginners - Buckingham Palace Road

It's strange to think that it's over fifty years since Colin McInnes wrote the classic novel Absolute Beginners. It nailed a certain outlook perfectly, one which encapsulated the mindset of breaking out of conformity and moving into a new, classless age.

Nowhere in the book do we see the dichotomy between the old world and the new so vividly portrayed as in the scene where the unnamed narrator is on Buckingham Palace road and contrasts the "glamour people" at the air terminal on one side with the "peasant masses" on the other - "all flat feet and fair shares and you in your small-corner-and-I-in-mine".  And then along come a "troop of toy soldiers", marching down the middle of the road "and playing that prissy little pipe music like a bird making wind".

And our narrator stands and watches and thinks "how horrible this country is, how dreary, how lifeless, how blind and busy over trifles".

That contrast between the two groups is key. Note he refers to the travelling group as "glamour people", not "the rich", or "privileged", nor by an approximation of that horrible phrase of thirty years later "upwardly mobile". It doesn't matter where they're from or where they're going (or even that in a couple of decades his cultural successors would be off on similar journeys to the Balearics and beyond). Neither does it matter what age they are.

This scene sums up for me the changes that were happening in the late fifties, where the world was growing smaller and the old order was getting left behind. Because the whole outlook that MacInnes' character described is classless, rootless and ageless. That's its essence.

Twisted Wheel Are Back

They've got a new line up, an album coming out, a tour and a new single. Frontman Jonny Brown is joined by Stephen Evans on bass and Eoghan Clifford on drums.  You can put a cross on your calendar for the album - Do It Again - and the tour, which are both happening in September. The single - Ride - is out right now and what's more, you can get a free download.  Go over to the website and there you go. On a first hearing it's quality. The return of Twisted Wheel is an exciting development. Find our more on their Facebook page.

Jon Lord RIP

Keyboard player, Jon Lord, was crucial to the Deep Purple sound of the late sixties to mid seventies.  Born in Leicester, he had studied classical music - a passion he retained all his life - but became inspired by the music that was coming out of America in the fifties by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and jazz organists Jimmy Smith and Jimmy McGriff.

Lord developed his style to incorporate blues and jazz and played with bands such as The Artwoods, led by Art Wood, Ronnie's brother, in the early sixties.  He also worked as a session musician, appearing on records such as The Kinks' classic You Really Got me in 1964.

He formed Deep Purple in 1968 with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, singer Rod Evans, bass player Nick Simper and drummer Ian Paice.  With this line up, the band had a hit with a cover of Joe South's Hush in 1968 and produced three albums - Shades Of Deep Purple, The Book Of Taliesyn and Deep Purple.   Evans and Simper left the band in 1969 and were replaced by vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover.

This was the line up that achieved its international early seventies success with albums such as Deep Purple In Rock, Fireball and Machine Head.  Lord's trademark keyboard style was crucial to the band's sound, combining his classical roots with blues and jazz flourishes, giving them an edge in comparison with others of the heavy rock genre.  He retained his interest in classical music, composing his Concerto For Group And Orchestra in 1969, which the band performed at the Royal Albert Hall with the London Philharmonic.

Jon Lord sadly passed away today.  His influence is considerable.  This is Child In Time from 1970.

Bob Babbitt RIP

He was one of the legendary Funk Brothers, adding bass lines to some of Tamla Motown's greatest records. Bob Babbitt played at Motown from the sixties through to 1972, when Berry Gordy moved the label to LA.

Babbitt was born Robert Kreinar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied classical music and double bass as a child but found his true musical home in the Detroit of soul and R&B, where he moved in the late 1950's. He played in clubs and formed The Royaltones, playing live and in the studio with Del Shannon and Stevie Wonder.

He started playing for Motown in 1967. He contributed stellar bass lines to tunes such as Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Wonder, Tears Of A Clown for Smokey Robinson, Midnight Train To Georgia for Gladys Knight and on Marvin Gaye's seminal 1971 album What's Going On. He also played on this powerful anti-Vietnam classic for Edwin Starr.

Bob Babbitt sadly passed away today. His legacy is huge.


Paul Weller and Miles Kane

Those tastefully attired fellows, Messrs Weller and Kane, have teamed up for a photoshoot for John Varvatos.  The pictures were taken outside a pawn shop in New York City.  What is more, there's a video to accompany the shoot, to the soundtrack of That Dangerous Age.  Rather well done, we'd say, with some style, panache and not a little humour.


The Who - My Generation

There’s aggression in the air. The cover says it all. Four Shepherds Bush mods hanging around oil drums in Surrey Docks staring up at the camera. They excude style, menace and attitude, which is amply supported by the music. From the moment that Pete Townshend’s solo guitar chords blast out of the speakers and Roger Daltrey growls “out in the street”, you know that it’s a full on assault.

Produced by Shel Talmy , The Who’s debut album was recorded, reputedly in seven days, in the Autumn of 1965. The original record showcased early Townshend compositions along with the essential elements of the live R&B set they had honed into shape with residences at venues as disparate as The Marquee in Wardour Street and the Railway Hotel in Harrow. Some of the arrangements have dated, especially the non-originals, the harmonies in particular are of the era. But underneath there is the same raw energy that was to characterise punk a decade later.

There are three R&B covers. “I Don’t Mind” and “Please Please Please” are hard edged versions of James Brown songs, belted out with all the passion that you know they must have had when played live. Daltrey’s over the top vocals on Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man” have been much discussed. Less often trumpeted is the use Townshend makes of the song as a vehicle for feedback.

One of the highlights is the drumming of the young Keith Moon, which on every track is superlative. Moon hammers his way through, drum roll after drum roll, attacking his kit with venom. He is augmented perfectly by one of the great bassists, John Entwistle, whose playing drives the sound forward. And then there is Nicky Hopkins, who adds his own brand of aggressive piano to the mix.

Talmy had already made his mark on the mid-sixties music scene by his production of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”. He was the perfect producer for The Who, possessing an instinctive ability to capture the raw sound rather than attempting to smooth it out. This is particularly effective on the originals. There are three total Who classics on this album. If Townshend’s reputation rested with “The Kids Are All Right” and the stuttering anthem “My Generation”, it would be assured. Not bad for a night’s work – both of these songs were recorded in a single graveyard session on 13 October. Add to this “A Legal Matter”, on which Townshend takes vocals and shows a youthful awareness of the responsibilities of the adult male which he would return to a decade later on The Who By Numbers.

But there are other, less well-known, gems. Daltrey sneers his way through “The Goods Gone”, an end of relationship song par excellence. Townshend’s guitar never sounded so angry, adding brittle chords which attack the mix and drive it through. “Out in The Street”, “Lies” and “Much too Much” are similarly hard. “Its Not True” is one of Townshend’s great lyrics. “You say I’ve been in prison, you say I’ve got a wife, you say I’ve had help doing everything throughout my life”. Rumours and lies. The bane of the urban male.

“The Ox” is proto hard rock. Driven by Entwistle’s bass, it is his finest moment on this album, giving an instrumental showcase for the band to let rip. It is a spectacular achievement. The conclusion, “Circles”, is another highlight, bringing an effective chord progression together with a delivery that works perfectly. I imagine it must have been excellent live.

Could this be The Who’s greatest album? It certainly has a strong claim. This unique band fused the foppishness of the urban English dandy with attitude and aggression. They never did so as effectively as on this album. It is essential.

Note - this article originally appeared some years ago on sohostrut.  It seems timely to reproduce it here.

Papa Bill Records - new release

We featured Papa Bill Records of Modtreal a while back.  They've got a new release which is very strong indeed.  It's by Kashmira & The Soul Distributors and is called Respect A Good Man.  The vibe is summery and danceable and uplifting, just the way we like it.

The description of the record is: "A funky drivin' soul tune to kick off summer! Here The Soul Distributors lay down a fantastic groove for the lovely and elegant Kasmira to butter up with that sweet voice of hers."

We agree with that completely. Find out more on Facebook.


The Spitfires

This lot sound a bit tasty. If the evidence is anything to go by, The Spitfires are about to launch an incendiary blast to the portals of complacent, contemporary Britain.

Their strapline is "supplying the urgent voice and sound of today and tomorrow" and you wouldn't argue with that sentiment one jot. The band hail from Watford with the line up of songwriter Billy Sullivan on guitar and vocals, Sam Harrington on bass and Henry Frakes on drums. Influences include the likes of The Jam, The Specials, Small Faces, Motown and The Who. Find out more about them at their Facebook and My Space pages.

I love this tune from last years's debut ep "From Cradle To Grave".  There's the jagged guitar introduction,  the very danceable dub section and lyrics that are spot on, working on the level of both the personal and as a commentary on current society in its wider context. But more than anything it's the energy, the raw power, the heartfelt anger that comes through loud and clear. This band are definitely one to watch.


Interview with Dougal Butler at Monkey Picks

For anyone with even a vague interest in Keith Moon, this is a treat. Mark Raison at the excellent Monkey Picks blog has landed an interview with Keith's co-conspirator, Dougal Butler. The result is informative, amusing and illuminating - well worth a look, in short.

The new print of the book looks excellent as well - perfect holiday reading methinks!


Pete McKee - new collection

For some time, Pete McKee has been one of my favourite contemporary artists.   His pictures have a unique, yet familiar, quality, drawing on quintessentially British subculture, from mod, through two tone and casual, to contemporary indie.

My favourites include the one where a group of mods hang around outside the venue at The Jam's last ever gig in Brighton in 1982 and "Booty And The Beat", where a young Beatles fan polishes his Chelsea boots.  Then there are those which celebrate great moments in Sheffield music history, from Phil Oakey getting his trademark haircut, to a young Alex Turner and his mates musing after a kick around at a local park that they should form a band.  His gallery, "A Month Of Sundays", in his native Sheffield, is well worth a visit.

In the wake of the Stone Roses' triumphant return, he has two new pictures for sale.  One is an eighties bedroom, where a teenage fan relaxes to the debut album.  The other is a portrait of the band as they are now, but with the clever twist that all are donning their eighties clothing.  Ian Brown, in particular, wears that top - the one that was such a familiar part of the band's overall look.

Find out more about McKee and his work here.


Fred Perry Subculture - Soulboys

The next in the Fred Perry Subculture series of short films covers soulboys.  Don Letts' film looks at the genre in the UK through the seventies and beyond, drawing a definite line between the tradition and fashion of northern soul and its contemporary southern cousin.   It clearly expresses the passion of its devotees, the obsession, the love of obscure 45's  - in short, keeping the faith.

Features contributions from Robert Elms, Paul Gorman, Norman Jay, Peter York, Russ Winstanley, Lynval Golding, Wayne Hemingway, Eddie Piller and Steve Mason.  In picking up British youth culture with authenticity and respect, this series is turning out to be something of a nugget. Recommended.


Blur - Under The Westway

Last night, Blur premiered two new tunes, via a weblink on a rooftop in London. They were the electronic-influened The Puritan and the more melancholy and wistful Under The Westway. On a couple of listens, the latter is easily my favourite, with echoes of This Is A Low and The Universal coming through.  It sounds like a return to form, to me. It is available to download on itunes.


The Lost Boys - Flowers

This is another tune from Southampton's Lost Boys. Also written by singer/songwriter Daniel Ash, they say that it's summery. That may well be the case. From where I'm sitting, with its jangly guitar and great melody, it's rather good as well.


Fred Perry Subculture - Skinhead

Following on from the Fred Perry Subculture short about mods, here comes another about the original skinhead movement. It is also produced by Don Letts and gives an illuminating glimpse into the emergence of the genre, from the days before the media gave it its label.

There are some great tunes in here and archive footage, along with interviews with Kevin Rowland Pauline Black, Lynval Golding, Viv Albertine and more. Well worth a look.


Quadrophenia - thoughts on the BBC4 Documentary

Iconic is an over-used word. It should be reserved for only the most culturally significant. Bobby Moore holding the World Cup, Andy Warhol's picture of Marilyn Monroe, The Sex Pistols at the 100 club. You can add to that list The Who's 1973 Quadrophenia double album.

I got my copy more Christmases ago than I dare remember and I still have it, battered, after years of use. It would not be overstating the case to say that it is one of the key albums of my life - and that it still sounds as good today as it did back then, in fact, if anything it has grown in stature and resonance over the years. Its existential portrayal of a sixties mod, fuelled by adrenalin and purple hearts, confused by the world around him, has a universal potency that each new generation can lock into. A little like On The Road, or The Catcher In The Rye, or Absolute Beginners.

So I had high expectations of Friday night's programme on BBC4. I wasn't disappointed. The new documentary took you through the album - its conception, creation, execution - through the eyes of its auteur, Pete Townshend. There were contributions from, amongst others, the man whose vocals never sounded better than on this record, Roger Daltrey, Who aficionado, Mark Kermode, Ace Face and legendary Who fan, Irish Jack Lyons, Townshend's former flatmate and author of the book "Mods", Richard Barnes, and manager Bill Curbishley. The input from recording engineer Ron Nevison, writer Howie Edelson and photographer Ethan Russell (who took those timeless pictures that accompanied the album) was particularly illuminating. And the inclusion of Maxine Isenman and Julie Emson - the mod girls who appeared in those photographs - was genius itself.

Sadly, Terry Kennett - the "mod kid played by Chad" - could not be represented in person, as he passed away in 2011. His presence in those photographs was central. But there was a significant degree of commentary on his behalf, in particular from Isenman, Emson and Russell. The documentary told us how he was discovered by Townshend, a little bit of his background and how he was almost forced to be elsewhere during the shooting. He "stole a bus", as Russell explained, along with a description of how his commitments with The Who led to him being let off at his subsequent court appearance.

Among the points of interest were the fact that the first piece created for the Quadrophenia project was the short story that appeared on the cover of the album, which Townshend wrote one afternoon at his home by the river. I always thought that short story augmented the double album perfectly and set the scene neatly for the music that was to follow. It was interesting to hear about the personal interaction within the band, as well as the isolated vocals and instrumental parts, a good example of which is the riff of 5.15 in its naked form, with the horns (that were such an important part of the overall feel of the album) stripped away. And the conversation about the mod scene involving Lyons, Barnes and Townshend was invaluable, as was Lyons' visit to the legendary Goldhawk, where the band played many of their early shows.

Then there was the tomfoolery of a certain Mr Moon, along with a priceless anecdote about the invoicing arrangements for his Rolls Royce. "What was Keith Moon like in 1973?", asked Daltrey.  "A little bit more drunk than in 1972".   He added that Moon was "at the top of his game" in 1973/4. Few Who fans would argue with that.

Overall, the documentary is well worth watching for both Who devotees like me and anyone who has an interest in the album. It is available for a period on the BBC iplayer, here:


 I've watched it twice. Now it's time to watch it again.

 "Zoot suit, white jacket with side vents....".

The Riots

I know nothing about The Riots, except they're from Russia, look sharp and make great music. This is called Tomorrow and, if it's anything to go by, I'm going to be checking out more from them as soon as possible.


The Knickerbockers

Another slice of mid-sixties garage comes from The Knickerbockers. They came from Bergenfield, New Jersey, and the classic line up consisted of Beau Charles (guitar/vocals), John Charles (bass/vocals), Bobby Randell (vocals/sax) and Jimmy Walker (drums). "Lies" was a hit from 1966, in spite of being seen by many as reminiscent of The Beatles (not unusual at that time). Whatever, I think this tune has stood the test of time and was featured on the original Nuggets album.


The Cigarettes - All We Want Is Your Money

Featured a late seventies gem from The Cigarettes a while back.  Here's another classic from 1979.  They were tight, they were sharp, they were hard-edged.  A band with a legacy that is well worth revisiting.


When Quadrophenia opened at Pretty Green

Getting in the mood already for Friday's Quadrophenia documentary.  Let's remind ourselves of when Pretty Green played host to Quadrophenia towards the end of last year.  Complete with THAT tune.


Towerbrown - Let's Paint It Brown

There are times when you just need something to put a smile back on the face and help you forget those Euro 2012 woes.  You don't have to look a lot further than this little beauty from last year.  Put the soul shoes on.


Quadrophenia - BBC4

Looks like Friday 29 June will be another when the tv should be tuned to BBC4.

As well as a screening of the film from 1979 and The Who Live At The Electric Proms, there is a new documentary.

This is what it says on the BBC4 site:

"In his home studio and revisiting old haunts in Shepherds Bush and Battersea, Pete Townshend opens his heart and his personal archive to revisit 'the last great album the Who ever made', one that took the Who full circle back to their earliest days via the adventures of a pill-popping mod on an epic journey of self-discovery.

But in 1973 Quadrophenia was an album that almost never was. Beset by money problems, a studio in construction, heroin-taking managers, a lunatic drummer and a culture of heavy drinking, Townshend took on an album that nearly broke him and one that within a year the band had turned their back on and would ignore for nearly three decades.

With unseen archive and in-depth interviews from Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, John Entwistle and those in the studio and behind the lens who made the album and thirty page photo booklet. Contributors include: Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Ethan Russell, Ron Nevison, Richard Barnes, Irish Jack Lyons, Bill Curbishley, John Woolf, Howie Edelson, Mark Kermode and Georgiana Steele Waller."

Set your sky plus now.

Bowie on BBC4

Interesting Friday night watching a set of programmes about David Bowie on BBC4.  My favourite was the first, David Bowie And The Story Of Ziggy Stardust, a documentary presented by Jarvis Cocker, on the influences behind Ziggy, featuring input from Woody Woodmansy and Trevor Bolder of the Spiders From Mars, along with keyboard player Mike Garson - whose work on Aladdin Sane was so memorable - mime artist Lindsay Kemp, Mick Ronson's widow Suzi Ronson and Elton John.  Other contributors included Gary Kemp, Dylan Jones, Marc Almond and Steve Harley.

The documentary covered Bowie's Anthony Newley influenced background, through his first solo album on Deram, then Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory.   Bowie's involvement with artists such as Mott The Hoople, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop in the seventies was also covered.  There was a good selection of archive footage from throughout his career and comment on his significant influence on future generations.

The other programmes started with The Genius Of David Bowie - a selection of clips from the seventies onward, such as Space Oddity, Queen Bitch and Rebel Rebel, along with performances from those Bowie-influenced artists like Mott The Hoople and Lou Reed.  Then there was Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, the legendary film of the farewell Ziggy performance at Hammersmith Odeon on 1973, and David Bowie At The BBC, a concert recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre.

All in all, well worth a look while the programmes are still available on the iplayer.

Birthday - Paul Weller

Happy Birthday Sir Paul McCartney.  70 today.  And, to mark the occasion, Paul Weller has recorded a rather good version of the White Album classic, Birthday.  It's available to download from Itunes today, for one day only. This is the tune.


High Numbers at The Railway Hotel

This piece of footage was released a few years back as part of The Who's Amazing Journey DVD. It is of the band in their High Numbers days playing at the Railway Hotel in Harrow. Some of the film is recognisable from the I Can't Explain video which was featured a while back.

The story behind the footage is explained at the outset. Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp were looking for a band to appear in a film they were making on the London mod scene. They happened upon the Railway Hotel one night and caught the band in its early R&B glory. They didn't have to look any further for the band they were seeking - though they did suggest a return to their previous name - The Who - after the brief excursion to the Pete Meaden inspired High Numbers.

The tunes are Jesse Hill's Ooh Pooh Pah Doo and Smoky Robinson and The Miracles' I Got To Dance To Keep From Crying, both of which were by all accounts key mod tunes of the day. There's also a brief shot of the venue itself early on in this footage, which appeared on the gatefold sleeve of the 1971 compilation Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy.  I can't believe this was lost for forty years. I find it inspirational.


Jake Bugg

It's good to see that Nottingham singer/songwriter Jake Bugg is breaking through to achieve national recognition, as his recent appearance on Jools Holland demonstrates.  Jake writes tunes that combine melody and incisive social commentary about life in modern Britain, kitchen sink pop songs for the twenty first century, if you like. They're delivered with a wry, observant eye, that could be seen as reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan, had he come from the East Midlands. Phrasing is original, blending an intonation that reminds me of old blues masters with something altogether more contemporary.  You can find out more about him on his website and his Facebook page. This is his new single, Lightning Bolt.


On The Road - trailer

Following the posting of the piece on The Original Scroll yesterday, this is the trailer for the film, which is released later this year.  Sam Riley plays Sal ParadiseJack Kerouac, Garrett Hedlund - Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassidy and Kristen Stewart - Marylou/Luanne Henderson.

It looks like most of the important quotes are in there, including the opening line and the "the only people for me are the mad ones....".  It also seems to capture the mood well, in particular that specific era in jazz history, "somewhere between its Charlie Parker Ornithology period and another period that began with Miles Davis".

Only a full viewing will prove whether Kerouac's most famous novel has survived its transition to film.  It is out in September.


On The Road - The Original Scroll

I’ve recently been reading “On The Road - The Original Scroll”. For Kerouac afficionados, its publication of in 2007 was an moment off some importance. For the first time, it was possible to read the uncorrected manuscript, as Kerouac first wrote it, on a single scroll, in those three mad weeks over half a century ago.

When you first open the book, the first thing that hits you is that the manuscript is a single paragraph, with very little conventional punctuation. More importantly from the perspective of the history of the novel, the characters are there with their real names. So, instead of Dean Moriarty, we have Neal Cassidy, and rather than Carlo Marx, there is Allen Ginsberg.

There are also significant differences in the text. Contrary to legend surrounding the non-editing of spontaneous prose poetry, Kerouac clearly made changes (such as adding paragraphs) to ensure publication. As an example of textual alterations, compare the first lines. In the traditionally published version, this reads:

“I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split up and my feeling that everything was dead”.

The original scroll, on the other hand, reads:

“I first met Neal not long after my father died…I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about except that it really had something to do with my father’s death and the awful feeling that everything was dead”.

I also love editor, Howard Cunnell’s, description, in the “Note On The Text“, of the opening line suggesting the “sound of a car misfiring before starting up for a long journey”.

I find “On The Road - The Original Scroll” to be fresher, more immediate and having a greater clarity than the traditional published version. As the New York Times put it (quoted in the blurb on the back cover) “the sparse and unassuming scroll is the living version for our time”. I cannot recommend it more highly. It is available in paperback at the usual places.

Note - wrote this a couple of years back and it appeared at various places on the web. Re-posted here in view of the release of the film of On The Road this year.


The sun's come out briefly and is starting to push minds towards warmer climes.  It's just the moment to put on something with a groove that seems to be made for long Summer nights, watching the sun set on a distant ocean.  Take a step back to the halcyon days of Acid Jazz, when a band called Corduroy (brothers Scott and Ben Addison, Richard Searle and Simon Nelson-Smith) released the defining album of the genre with Dad Man Cat. This tune is Skirt Alert.

The Ray - Go Go Go

I featured A Little Bit Of Sunshine by The Ray last week. Hot on the heels, they've released this monster. Go Go Go has that nice and dirty garage feel all over it. I love the guitar sound they've captured, and the organ in the background. Not to mention the lazy vocal drawl that fits the tune and its lyrics perfectly. A tune that was made to be turned up very loud indeed.


Little Night Terrors - Witches

Following on from the post about Little Night Terrors, this is their first single Witches. I love the straight ahead, no nonsense feel on this one, and the guitar sound is spot on.  The video is, of course, packed with references.  How many can you spot?


Fred Perry Subculture - Mods

Interesting short film that was on Channel 4 last night. It's part of the Fred Perry Subculture season and is about Mods. Contains comment from Eddie Piller, Jeff Dexter, Wayne Hemingway, Peter York, Norman Jay. Worth checking.


Four Tops

No particular reason for posting this. Simply that The Four Tops were one of Motown's finest, that this is my favourite of their tunes, and that I love this vid. They've got the look and the moves off perfectly here. Hence the need to post. Enjoy.


Little Night Terrors

Little Night Terrors are the latest promising band to come out of the fair city of Leicester. They have been formed by brothers Andy Stone (guitar/vocals) and James Stone (drums), who have teamed up with Dan Holyoak (bass).  The Stone brothers were half of local legends The Displacements a few years back, who's single Frontline Hearts was released as a limited edition on Stiff records.  1000 copies were pressed which promptly sold out.

But we're not talking here about past glories.  Little Night Terrors are very much of the present and are  keeping the rock and roll tradition alive with an infectious, full on sound that combines perfect pop sensibility and straight ahead guitar-fuelled adrenalin - and which is more than capable of blasting through the sea of dross that surrounds us.  They've just completed a tour and are busy planning the next.  Upcoming dates include Sheffield Tramlines Festival on 21 July and Leicester's Summer Sundae on 18 August.  They've also released a couple of top notch singles - Pocket Rocket (Where The Light Is) and The Witches - and are working on another with producer Simon Barnicott.

Find out more on their website and their Facebook page.  This is their immensely catchy single Pocket Rocket (Where The Light Is).


The Strypes - Route 66

Just come across this little belter. It's those Strypes boys again, with their version of Route 66. It was again filmed at the Imperial, Cavan, by gig chronicler extraordinaire, Finn Keenan. Shades of the Goldhawk, I think.  Turn it up.


The Standells

More mid-sixties American garage rock.  The Standells have legendary status amongst aficionados of the genre.  Hailing from LA, they went through various personnel changes, before arriving at their classic line up  of Larry Tamblyn (keyboards), Tony Valentino (guitar), Gary Lane (bass) and Dick Dodd (drums/vocals).  Minor points of interest are that Tamblyn's brother was actor Russ and that original drummer - Gary Leeds - went on to play under his original name of Gary Walker for The Walker Brothers.

The Standells are best known for their tune Dirty Water, which charted in the US in 1966.  It also has the honour of appearing on the original Nuggets album of 1972.  With its dirty, in you face, vocals, forged in the gutter feel and incessant riff, this is timeless class.


John Peel - The Space

For many of us growing up in England in years past, John Peel was an institution. The arrival of ten o'clock, on a week night, would mean the end of homework and entry into an exclusive, bohemian world of underground music. The variety of the playlist was vast. Obscure reggae, punk, folk, complemented by the routine appearance of his favourite artists, whether it be Ivor Cutler or The Fall, and, of course, accompanied by John's trademark drawl.

Born John Ravenscroft, Peel went to the States in the sixties and managed to sell his DJ credentials by Liverpudlian roots that were much sought after in the wake of Beatlemania. He presented shows in Dallas and California before returning to England to work for Radio London and then Radio One. In the early seventies, he promoted artists such as Marc Bolan and The Faces, famously appearing on one of Rod "The Mod" Stewart's appearances on Top Of The Pops, playing mandolin, during the five week reign of Maggie May at the top of the British singles charts.

Peel was an original hippy who kept to his ideals and made sure his mind was forever open. He championed punk and gave the new genre an outlet that was invaluable as it broke through mainstream indifference. Would there have been such phenomenal success for his favourite tune, Teenage Kicks by The Undertones, without John? Or Joy Division? Or The Gang Of Four? Let alone The Clash or The Ramones.

With all that in mind, it's excellent to see that Peel's legacy is preserved online. The Space hosts content which covers various aspects of his life and career, such as Peel Sessions, photos, radio shows and his record collection. It is being added to all the time. I had a highly enjoyable look round and recommend it to anyone with an interest in Peel - and a recollection of those late night shows.

Censored - Johnny Boy

Lets have a blast from the recent past.  In the latter half of the last decade, Ilkeston's Censored were a live band of some stature.  Matt Henshaw (guitar/vocals), Nathan Clarke - later Chris Owen (bass) and Chris Goring (drums) showcased a selection of rhythm and soul that was second to none.  They hosted some top notch club nights as well, at Nottingham's Junction 7, which has now sadly closed.  This was the tune that first put me onto the band the first time I saw them live, way back in 2005, and it still stands up well today.

"Perry boys waltzing down Bath Street".  Still love that line.

The Ray

I'm in garage rock mode right now. And for tunes that meet that particular description perfectly, you don't have to look any further than this three piece.

A few weeks ago, we featured Papa Bill Records, from Montreal, who had put together their very own piece of twenty first century northern soul.  It turns out that the man behind Papa Bill, Benjamin H Shulman, is also guitarist and vocalist in a garage band called The Ray.

Along with Benjamin, the band also comprises Jesse Michaels on bass and Jeff Gallant on drums. They've got a five track ep, You Hear The Coolest Things, for download at their bandcamp page, a selection of videos on their You Tube page and more information about the band on Facebook.

The Ray have a classic garage sound that works perfectly, taking you back to the golden days of the genre, back in the sixties.  For a taste, this is the lead tune on their ep which is called  A Little Bit Of Sunshine.

The Rogues

Following on from the last post, this is the only single from the band that was to become The Squires, when they were known as The Rogues.  Another gem, in my view.


The Squires

Another brilliant American garage rock band from the sixties. The Squires were from Bristol, Connecticut and were originally known as The Rogues.  They had a single called It's The Same All Over The World, before changing their name.

They were formed in 1965 and Michael Bouyea was the vocalist, with Thomas Flanigan on guitar, Kurt Robinson on organ and John Folcik on bass. They sadly broke up when Bouyea was drafted and sent to Vietnam.

This was their only single under the name The Squires - and from where I'm sitting it still sounds great.


The Swagger

I have to admit that the first thing about this new band that caught my attention was the name The Swagger.  Inspired, in my view.  And it made me head off over to their Facebook page to check them out.

They're "an English 4 piece indie, mod, rock band from North London".  With influences ranging from The Kinks and Oasis, through The Yardbirds and The Jam, it struck me that they were definitely worth more than a cursory listen.  I wasn't wrong.  The live videos I watched, one of which is a rather good version of The Beatles' Norwegian Wood, reveal a  professional band with a knack for producing engaging melodic rock.

The band is made up of brothers Lee and Paul Stevens (rhythm/lead guitar and vocals) who are joined by Will O'Connell (bass) and Tim Desmond (drums). They have an ep out soon entitled Carnaby's Treat which, by all accounts, will be worth waiting for.

You can find the two videos on their Facebook page, which were recorded at the Hornsey Tavern. They are also on My Space.

The Town

I like the sound of this lot.  They're called The Town and they are a three piece from Wolverhampton who are delivering their own brand of straight ahead mod inspired  indie/rock.  The band is made up of front man Jack Fletcher on vocals and guitar, Clayton Cross on bass and Tom Stanforth on drums.  According to their Facebook page upcoming gigs include a support slot with Steve Craddock in Southampton on 24 July. This is their tune Circles.


Joe Strummer - Let The Good Times Roll

This has to be one of the most memorable parts of The Clash's Rude Boy.  It was at the height of their greatness and the sadly now departed Joe Strummer decided to leave his guitar for a moment and take to the ivories, allowing the film's lead, Ray Gange, to engage in the footwork.  The result is this classic moment.

American Psycho

Note:  contains spoilers

We've all seen the creative writing challenge.  Take a well known classic and re-write it for the modern day.  On re-reading American Psycho, I couldn't help wondering whether that was what had happened here.  Did Bret Easton Ellis set out to update Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for late nineteen eighties Wall Street?  In the end, it is probably irrelevant.  But it's a thought, nonetheless.

It's probably irrelevant because, however Easton Ellis approached the project more than two decades ago, he produced a character who, in his own right, is as notorious as any in English spoken fiction.  Patrick Bateman is a psychopath.  He goes round murdering people.  That fact is well known.  His place in contemporary fictional folklore is assured, for a few decades to come, at least.  He is almost as famous as Norman Bates - but on a more repugnant scale.

It is almost impossible to read American Psycho without being shocked at the murders and the graphic descriptions of them - and some episodes are shocking in their own right in view of the location and nature of the victims (as a result, they are the ones where gratuitous description of detail is least necessary).  But, if physical violence was all that the novel is about, it would probably have disappeared without trace.  The most macabre scenes shock - heavily - but do nothing else and, in that sense, provide little more insight than a third rate horror film.  You need rather more in terms of environment, character development and internal thought processes to create a work of fiction that lasts.

Of course, graphic violence is not what is at the heart of American Psycho.  What sets the novel apart is its context.  We are here looking at a world which was (in theory at least) at the height of western sophistication.   There is wealth, privilege, glamour.  All the men (apart from the "bums" begging for money on the street, who are seen as barely human, rather like the proles in Orwells 1984) are  handsome and the women are beautiful.   Bateman comes from a wealthy family, went to Harvard lives in the same apartments as Tom Cruise and is, on the surface, charming and witty.  He has a girlfriend, Evelyn and a secretary, Jean, "who is in love with me".  It is the contrast between this world, and the depravity the exists alongside it, that is truly shocking (and gives the Jekyll and Hyde connotations).

It hardly needs stating  that American Psycho is a satire.  What Easton Ellis is really saying is that it is this sophisticated yuppie world itself that is depraved at heart.  The striking element on reading the opening of the book is the repetition.  Businessmen sit in an endlesss stream of fashionable restaurants, in designer clothing, the labels of which are repeated on every page by Bateman, who can instantly tell whether a colleague is wearing a suit by Armani or a tie by Brooks Brothers.  And none of the characters, who will wave a dollar bill at a beggar for fun, pay a second thought to their impact on society.  There is more than a hint that, as an expert in mergers and acquistions, it is Bateman's actions that have made the bums he sees on the streets, and so despises, homeless.

There are themes that occur constantly throughout the book.  He becomes obsessed by a fictional talk show, The Patty Winters Show, which discusses sensationalist topics such as "dwarf tossing" and "UFOs that kill".  He is always taking (gruesome) video tapes back to the shop where he looks with disdain at the sales staff because they are not wearing designer clothing.  None of the characters remember who each other are - the habit for mistaking names becomes a recurring joke.  His musical taste, which is revealed through chapters dedicated to reviews of his favourite music, is bland to say the least, concentrating on the "brilliance" of bands such as Genesis and Huey Lewis And The News.

At heart, American Psycho is all about consumerism and the victory of blandness over substance and the vacuity of the individual in the face of that blandness  Clothes are not seen here as beautiful things. They are possessions, given value by the name on the label and nothing else.  And it is no coincidence that so many of the victims are as vacuous as Bateman himself.  You get the sense, although it is never fully spelt out, that this is the reason they have been selected.

This all leads to one thing. Alienation.  You know that not all is rosy when Batemen cannot obtain a table in a particularly fashionable restaurant, where Sylvestor Stallone eats, in contrast to his brother Sean (who, incidentally, also appears in Easton Ellis' earlier novel The Rules Of Attraction).  In the face of the meaningless farce that his life has become, he starts to decline and becomes increasingly out of touch with his world.  It is possible to read American Psycho as a graphic description of one man's descent into madness.

It would also be a major fault to dismiss the humour.  Much of American Psycho is tongue in cheek and deliberately banal, from the subjects of the discussions on the Patty Winters Show to the mistaken song  names in Bateman's reviews of music.  In one episode, Bateman and his friends go to a U2 gig in (which they hate) and someone shouts "the drummer might be The Ledge".  And the severity of the violence is such as to be ridiculous, itself a humorous point.

All this leads to the inevitable question.  Is it all in his mind?  At times, reading the book, I was certain that he was imagining it all.  At others, I was sure it was all real.  Batemans's lawyer tells him towards the end that he has had dinner in London with one of his victims.  But is that a reliable story, in view of the fact that the characters always get names wrong?  And what do we make of the scene where the said victim's flat is being re-let, adorned with bouquets of roses?  In the end, it boils down to the view of the individual.  The biggest clue to this analysis is the scene early on when Bateman kicks over a beggar's polystyrene cup of loose change.  Did he do it deliberately?  He asks the reader directly to decide for himself.

In a sense, it doesn't matter whether the violence is imagined or not.  There is corporate violence being done to individuals as a result of Bateman's legitimate day job.  The taunting of beggars is not against the law.  The graphic murders can be seen simply as an extension of this legal activity.

And what about the world as it is now?  It may be no coincidence that recently, on Twitter, Easton Ellis has talked about reviving Batemen and writing a sequel to American Psycho.  In a world of bankers bonuses, endless electronic gadgets appearing every few months, and growing numbers of unemployed and homeless, it seems timely to do so.  It would seem that one thing is exactly as it was twenty five years ago.  For western consumerism, "THIS IS NOT AN EXIT".