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".  

The Lost Boys

They've been endorsed by the likes of Paul Weller, Tom Robinson and Andy Crofts. And, as soon as you start to listen to their tunes, it's not hard to understand why. Southampton's The Lost Boys produce guitar based pop that is adorned with singer Daniel Ash's wit and charm and have the sort of infectious melodies that will stick in your head all day. You could do far worse that check out their ep Not 'Arf It's The Lost Boys. And have a look at their Facebook page as well. You'll be glad you did.

The Strypes - You Can't Judge A Book by The Cover

"Hottest new R&B band on the planet". That's what it says at Heavy Soul Records and you wouldn't argue. I've featured them on here before and I will again. This is the vid of another from their ep Young Gifted And Blue. Perfection.


Anders Peterson - Soho

There was a fascinating article in Sunday's Observer about Swedish photographer Anders Peterson and a new book "Soho".  It is the result of a three week period of shooting in May 2011, at the invitation of Photographer's Gallery in London.  Peterson chronicles night owls drawing edgy, intimate images  of that legendary part of the capital.  It is, he observes, different, cleaner and more fashionable than it was in the 1970s, though with traces of the old Soho still remaining.

After studying photography in Stockholm in the sixties, Peterson published his first book, Cafe Lehmitz in 1978, which detailed the bohemian life of a bar on Hamburg's Reeperbahn.  It was followed by other works such as French Kiss and Back Home.

The article gives more detail and can be found here.  The book is available from Mack books here.

Donald "Duck" Dunn

Just heard the news that Donald "Duck" Dunn,  bass player in Booker T And The MGs, died in his sleep earlier today. Another legend is with us no more. His discography was immense, playing with artists such as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Mavis Staples, Albert King and Richie Havens to name but five. But there's only one tune we could post as a tribute.


Marmalade Sky - Work til' I Die

Bristol band Marmalade Sky were featured here a few weeks ago. They're at the forefront of a new wave of underground bands who are producing intelligent, guitar fuelled social commentary about life in Britain today. This is the brand new video for their tune Work til' I Die, a rather tasty anthem. Check out their Facebook page for information on how to download the tune.


Wideboy Generation - No Time To Be Shy - the video

The album was featured the other day.  Wideboy Generation have now released a video for the title track.  And here it is.

The Third Class Ticket

"Push back the coffee table and get ready cos here I come".  That's what it says at the top of The Third Class Ticket's Facebook page.  If you're in the mood to have a groove around the living room, you could do far worse than to tune into his online radio show.  It's run by DJ Tommy Clark and he spins a quality selection of soul, beat and ska to satisfy all tastes.

As he puts it "spinning tunes from the 50's to the present day.  tap your around the place....and prepare to sing your heart out".

The Third Class Ticket playlist includes tunes from the sixties, through the revival, to the contemporary underground scene.  Check out the Band Special show, broadcast on 9 May, when Tommy played classics from the likes of Secret Affair and The Chords, along with bands such as Monkeeman and The Shotguns.  He is keen to feature new bands on his show and can be contacted via his Facebook page.

This is The Third Class Ticket page on Speaker radio.   He can also be found at Mesi Radio.

The Moons - English Summer

Could be Moons overkill.  But they've just previewed the video for English Summer - the b-side of Double Vision Love. And you can't beat a first listen to a new tune, especially when it's as good as this.

The Moons, Slade and The Lovin' Spoonful

More from The Moons. This cover of The Lovin' Spoonful's Darling Be Home Soon apparently started as a home recording. The result is here and impressive it is, in my book, complete with a video of the Andy Warhol screen test, featuring the wonderful Edie Sedgwick.


I have to confess that my introduction to this tune was not with the original, but the version that Slade released on Slade Alive. Both covers nail it in my view.


 And it wouldn't seem right to leave without the original.


The Universal - Is This England

This is a little bit special. Great tune from The Universal. It's got a top guitar signature and is crammed full of observations on contemporary Britain.   "Whatever happened to those better days?", sings Terry Shaughnessy, in a timely backlash against current cultural norms, and we're "just slaves in a bland karaoke age".

We all know the feeling.  But you can't beat a classic three minute tune to kick away the banality and underline the joy of being alive.  This is such a tune.

Check them out on their Facebook page.


The Saints

One of the early punk classics, Aussie band The Saints' I'm Stranded still sounds great. I love that recorded in a cellar feel that many would imitate but few would equal.  Not seen this for ages.

Wideboy Generation - No Time To Be Shy

Let's have some rock and roll. Dirty and loud and oozing with attitude, just the way we like it. Wideboy Generation are releasing their debut album on 16 July. Produced by John Cornfield (Stone Roses, Oasis, Cast, Muse, The Verve), it's the sort of straight ahead set of tunes we've come to expect of these boys over recent years.

Distorted guitar chords drive out of the speakers direct and hard, along with spiky, cheeky vocals by Joe Finnegan. Bass and drums, courtesy of Aiden Eggenton and Jamie Wilsden, blast like a rollercoaster, at the same time providing a solid backbeat. Lyrics of personal and social observation adorn each tune on the album, songs like Typical Blonde, Get Up Get Out and DIY, and the singles Sylvia and Looters.

Wideboy Generation are three hip young gunslingers who have consistently produced the goods. No Time To Be Shy confirms their potential. They've got attitude, swagger, confidence. And a penchant for producing incendiary, three minute anthems.  Get this album, stick it on the stereo and play it loud. That's the way it has to be heard.

Their website is here. And this is Sylvia.


The Moons - Double Vision Love

Two years after their excellent debut album, Life On Earth, The Moons are back.  Andy Crofts' band release a new single on 25 May, in advance of their new album.  Double Vision Love is danceable, catchy and edgy. It will be available on 7" (part of a collectors set to coincide with the release of the album) and download. You can find more information here and more on the band here. And this is the tune.


The A to Z Of Mod

It's arrived. You get home from work and there's a brown Amazon package waiting.  It can only be one thing.  You rip it open and it's sitting there, in its pristine glory, a cover of red, white and blue with pictures of Twiggy and Cathy Macowan and a harrington jacket and a Motown record and bass weejun loafers and many more.  It's the long awaited A to Z Of Mod by Paolo Hewitt and Mark Baxter, with a foreword by Martin Freeman.

They've certainly kept you on tenterhooks, Amazon that is, not the authors.  The appetite was whetted some months ago when it was advertised on the web.  You received a text the other day, saying it was on the way and you've been checking the post ever since, like you did as a child, when the next edition of Goal or Shoot or TV21 was expected.  But that doesn't matter now.  Take the cellophane wrapping off and open it up.  Was it worth the wait?  That's all you're bothered about.

First of all you have a flick through.  It's nicely laid out, with some great pics.  Pete Meaden is one that jumps out, and Berry Gordy, and Georgie Fame.  Then you start scanning the text.  There are pieces on clubs (old and new), northern soul, Motown.  Britpop, cinema, Stax. The Who, The Small Faces, The Creation, The Action. And a whole host of others.

You go back to the beginning.  To Martin Freeman's forword, which nails it perfectly (the last two lines  send shivers, they are so apt).  Then there's Paolo Hewitt's piece and Mark Baxter's.  Each covers its subject matter uniquely, but also with a shared purpose.  What hits you in the eye like a Pete Townshend power chord is that this book looks at mod in its widest sense.  The story doesn't stop in 1965, or 1980, or even 1997.  It recognises that the mod ethos is timeless and its fascination passes down to the more clued up members of every generation that comes along, each of which offers its own take and adds something new to the process.

So, we have here the influence of the internet, Britpop, the Revival. Along with more traditional sources.  One significant point is that mod can be found in less obvious places (Freeman in part defines mod as the "rejection of the obvious") like hip hop and areas of contemporary American film and literature.  Hewitt talks about Bret Easton Ellis as a mod writer, which is spot on.  And areas such as glam rock, fanzines and acid jazz are covered.

All of which emphasises the point that the whole mod thing is an ongoing and evolving process.  It's not constantly re-living past glories, or stuck somewhere in a long forgotten age, like certain other so-called "youth cults" you could mention.  It has its icons - and all of them are here - but they're not icons because of what happened in the past.  Jean Luc Godard and Colin MacInnes and Miles Davis, to name but three, are icons because they still remain relevant, say something to current generations, make a creative, cultural or social point that is timeless.  And, as such, their work remains a key part of the mod mindset.

You're going to read this book from cover to cover over the next few days.  But its more than that, so much more.  It's a reference point, one that you will be going back to frequently over the coming years.  Of course, it will need to be updated as each new incarnation of mod emerges but you can do that mentally.  The mod world and its influences, as its stands in May 2012, is all here in its many splendored glory.

All of which leads back to the original question.   Was it worth the wait?  You bet it was.

Adam Yauch

Sad to hear of the death of Adam Yauch (aka MCA and Nathaniel Hornblower) from cancer.

The Beastie Boys' Licenced To Ill album was never far from my turntable in the mid to late eighties when the clubs were constantly playing that distinctive hip hop beat. What I didn't know was that he was a practising Buddhist nor that he was a leading light in the Tibetan independence movement.

This is my favourite tune from Licensed To Ill. It always put a smile on my face back then and still does today. It is dedicated to MCA.


Charles Bradley And The Extraordinaires - Later With Jools Holland

Good to see one of Daptone Records finest on Later With Jools Holland.

Charles Bradley has certainly paid his dues. Legend has it that he saw James Brown at the age of ten and, thereafter, he worked in clubs under the name of "Black Velvet". From then on, his course was set. After an early life of hitchhiking across the US, doing odd jobs and playing in clubs, he was eventually spotted by Gabriel Roth who signed him to Daptone.

From the appearance on Jools, you can see why he's dubbed "The Screaming Eagle Of Soul". This is a brilliant performance. A great tune, a top band and a a full on delivery. You really know he means it when he blasts out those lyrics. And those Otis Redding comparisons have more than a ring of truth about them.

Papa Bill Records

A big thank you to Patrick Foisy at the excellent Parka Avenue blog for putting me onto Papa Bill Records. It's a label founded by Benjamin H Shulman, a young soul afficionado from Montreal, who had a dream about making great soul music for our time and decided to go out there and do just that.

He has put together a band called  Black Joe Lewis With The Soul Distributors and they have produced a slice of twenty first century soul, "Boogaloo On Clark Street".  Pat and Ben have also coined the word "Modtreal", which seems more than a little inspired and, as such, gets the thumbs up from me.

There's a lot more information about the label, how to order the record and an interview with Ben here. This is the song.

The Strypes - Got Love If You Want It

Another great tune from The Strypes, this time a version of the Slim Harpo classic. This is recorded live at the Imperial in Cavan. Both the performance and the film - which was made by Finn Keenan - are stunning in my view. Full on and perfectly delivered. This tune is on their ep "Young, Gifted And Blue" which you can download from i-tunes.


JC Brooks And The Uptown Sound - Baltimore Is The New Brooklyn

Following on from last week's posting, I checked out again the tune that first got me into J C Brooks And The Uptown Sound. It's amazing to think it was released way back when Bush was in the White House. Which is presumably why "nobody really wants to be down in Washington DC". Whatever, it sounds just as good now as it did back then. And the video of them on Chic-a-Go-Go is still spot on.