Quite rightly, the Jim Jones Revue are now selling out large venues so it was fantastic to see them last night at close quarters once again, in a sweaty low ceiling space within the Royal Festival Hall, as part of the Vintage Festival. They were incredible. I’m struggling to think of a better live band, not just now but ever. These pictures capture it quite well I think; only a lot, lot, quieter.
Sunday, 31 July 2011
Friday, 29 July 2011
This was Eddie Floyd in London on Wednesday night. It was difficult to get a better photograph as he refused to keep still. From one side of the stage to other he stomped, clapped, pointed, danced, wiped sweat from his brow and flicked it out with his fingers; the energy he produced was incredible.
After the Stax house band of Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Lester Snell and Steve Potts had raided the Booker T. & The MGs catalogue, there was a palpable sense of impatience festering in the room. “Melting Pot”, “Green Onions”, “Soul Limbo”, “Hip-Her-Hug”, “Summertime” and others were all decent, even if a deaf ear had to turned to the occasional drum or guitar solo. What makes Steve Cropper so respected is his crisp and economic guitar playing, so when one witnesses him squinty eyed and gurning, pulling an axe solo, it doesn’t warrant much of a soul clap. Not that I blame him after knocking out the same songs for fifty years, but after 45 minutes and when time is tight, it needed fresh impetus.
That came once Cropper introduced Eddie “The Alabama Slammer” Floyd to the stage. 75 years old but in his movement and strength of voice, could’ve been half that. I make allowances for classic acts; they can’t be expected to match their peak years, but if Eddie Floyd was better than this in 1967, then histories need rewriting. Considered a rung below the soul ladder to Otis, the Wicked Pickett, Sam and Dave, his contribution has been unfairly overlooked. As well as his own stormers like “Raise Your Hand”, “Big Bird” and his anthem “Knock On Wood”, he wrote and produced for others and his career at Stax career lasted well into the mid-70s. As one of the last remaining true soul men he went up a few notches in my estimation after this performance. Fingersnapping good.
Monday, 25 July 2011
It’s all right for art school Pete Townshend. He can potter about at home writing new songs. He can plod on with his autobiography. He can blog and blither on about his wife’s music or over-analyse his belly button. He has stuff to fill his time even if his ears are so shot that playing live is a no-no. After the rigmarole of his Unfortunate Incident had died down, he made a concerted effort to get a seat for The Who back on top table, saying he realised what a valuable brand The Who were. Yes, he said brand, not band. Not how I want to think of The Who but he thinks too much, that Peter, the head.
It’s not the same for sheet metal worker Roger Daltrey, the Shepherd’s Bush geezer who wanted everything to be a laugh and got terribly upset when it wasn’t. He gallantly does his Teenage Cancer Trust work but can only throw trout back in the water so many times before they get concussion. He is a singer, one of the boys, the heart. And despite his solo records he is The Singer From The Who; the vehicle for Townshend’s songs. Give him anything else and it doesn’t work, in a way he’s lumbered.
So, it’s Roger that’s out on the road with Tommy in what is billed, pointedly, as Roger Daltrey Performs The Who’s Tommy. The brand dear boy, don’t forget to mention the brand. The band includes Simon Townshend. I’ve often wondered about the Townshends. Simon is the substitute for another guy, his older brother. Pete can’t do it; bring in Simon. Roger is sweet and says he hasn’t got a brother, but if he did have, “it would be Simon Townshend-Daltrey.” Must be hard doing the same job in such shadow. Even in the battle of two bald men fighting over a comb, Pete won.
From the outset last night Roger, with cup of tea in hand, was keen to explain he was nasally due to the “fucking freezing” Norfolk winds blowing in his face two nights earlier. Therefore he did a few numbers to get his voice warmed up before tackling the main event. “I Can See For Miles” and “Pictures of Lily” got the (pin)ball rolling, followed by a chirpy, self-penned, “Days of Light” before talking about the music he listens to at home, how great it was to work with The Chieftains, and how pleased he was that Mumford and Sons were huge. That ominous warning over, he knocked out a couple of fiddly-diddly Irish folk tunes in “Gimme a Stone” and “Freedom Rider”, and subsequently scared off anyone thinking it was time for a new LP.
The introduction to Tommy paid tribute to Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp for believing music was more than just the three minute pop song (hmm, might need to have a word with them about that), and said when The Who had previously performed it, it was more like a circus act and not in its “pure form” like tonight. With that, it was a straight through, start to finish, “Overture” to a climatic “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. True to the album yet meatier and beatier. Listening to the record today it sounds tame by comparison. The fact I’ve gone back to the album tells you almost all you need to know. Tommy’s got it’s knockers but I’m not one of them. Putting “rock” and “opera” together is a hideous concept yet works here, especially when taken as a whole and hearing it live made me appreciate again what an ambitious and, for its time, daring album it was. Back in ’69 it was a tough cookie for a young man to sing and nasally Roger gave it his all, and when occasionally not hitting a note a look of “ah, bollocks, sod it” ran across his face as he lassoed his microphone around his head one more time.
Tommy over, “”Who Are You”, “Behind Blue Eyes”, “Going Mobile” and a cracking “Young Man Blues” and “Baba O’Riley” followed. By now Roger had all but totally unbuttoned his shirt and his still magnificent chest was on show. As he fumbled putting his mic back on its stand he joked “I can’t even get a screw”, to which Mrs. Monkey, to my left, bellowed “I WILL ROG!” much to the amusement of those around us. Luckily for me he was just out of earshot and I got to go home with Mrs. M. If those choices were predictable, a playful Johnny Cash medley wasn't, neither was “Without Love” from McVicar. After a full two and a half hours that flashed by, it looked like the end until there was only Daltrey left on stage to pay a touching tribute to John Entwistle and sing, to everyone’s amazement, “Blue Red and Grey” from The Who By Numbers.
He’s a nation treasure, Roger Daltrey. Someone should bottle him. He’d make a great brand.
Sunday, 24 July 2011
Current spins in Monkey Mansions.
1. Margie Day – “Take Out Your False Teeth Daddy” (1953)
“Take out your false teeth Daddy, your Mommy wants to scratch your gums, Oh you’re gonna feel good after I’ve rubbed them some”. Now, I’ve no degree in bluesology but I’m thinking Margie had something other than her fella’s dental work on her mind.
2. The Martinels – “I Don’t Care” (1962)
This punchy rhythm and soul house shaker was released on Success records out of Des Moines, Iowa. The label proudly boasts of it being an “unbreakable 45 RPM” and fifty years later it’s been as good as its word.
3. Wanda Jackson – “Memory Mountain” (1963)
No need to choose between Wanda’s rockabilly years and her country years; have ‘em both.
4. Jimmy Witherspoon – “Drinking Beer” (1964)
“Let’s have party and drink up lots of beer/ Well, wine is fine but give me lots of beer/ Wanna drink some beer, talk some trash this mornin’/ Let’s drink some beer ‘til the rooster crows at dawnin’/ Well, wine is fine but give me lots of beer.” What he said.
5. Derrick Harriott – “Monkey Ska” (1965)
6. John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – “Snowy White” (1967)
Fear not the white boy blues band. Co-written by Mick Taylor - who plays lead - this Hammond and horns instrumental from the surprising warm Crusade LP is more reminiscent of the Small Faces than Bukka White.
7. The Rolling Stones – “Far Away Eyes” (1978)
Hard not to think of Gram Parsons and, for maybe the last time, hard not to think of Jagger and Richards having a right old laugh writing and recording this.
8. The Stone Roses – “Good Times” (1994)
Striped of context and nostalgia, the more muscular groove of Second Coming has dated far better their first album, and now sounds better than ever.
9. The Horrors – “Sheena Is A Parasite” (2007)
Thorny critic Everett True wrote a scathing piece on the new Horrors album, saying they sound exactly like U2. He over-egged the pudding but there are a couple of tracks where they're more U2 than Q65. Pity by his own admission he’s never heard the majestic tinny dustbin rattle of their debut 45.
10. Yuck – “Holing Out” (2011)
There is something comfortably reassuring about Yuck’s eponymous LP, sounding as it does like an record I would’ve bought in the early 90s next to Dinosaur Jr., Swervedriver, Sugar, The Pixies, Pavement and Teenage Fanclub.
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Sunday, 17 July 2011
This week I’ve been seeking out new bands. It’s been a mixed bag but my favourite so far - thanks to Darren Brooker from Idle Fret Records for the recommendation - is Gross Magic. Taken from the forthcoming debut EP “Teen Jamz", released 8th August on The Sweet Sounds of Nothing label, this is “Sweetest Touch”. Notice I sounded like a radio DJ then. News and weather up next.
Thursday, 14 July 2011
In 1979, in a not uncommon fit of pique, and after an assistant had dare tell him he was out of toilet paper, Brian Duffy (known simply as Duffy) took his negatives and contact sheets in to his back garden and angrily set them on fire, incinerating twenty years of work. Along with contemporaries, competitors and drinking buddies David Bailey and Terence Donovan he had not only documented the Swinging Sixties but, through his innovative style and force of personality, helped shape it too. Bailey has since claimed the only thing the Black Trinity – as they were dubbed by Norman Parkinson – had in common was their working class backgrounds, but looking now at Duffy’s photographs it seems to me he was being more than a tad disingenuous.
That there are enough pictures to fill a new book and have an associated exhibition is down to the efforts of Duffy’s son Chris who has diligently assembled a collection from the archives of publications around the world. Fashion models, pop stars, actors and actresses, designers and gangsters all flaunt a confident, wealthy glamour, and if Duffy can squeeze in a Jaguar E-Type that’s all the better in my book. William Burroughs sitting in his Beat Hotel hovel is one of the few shots that contrast sharply, something that wouldn’t have been lost on either man.
The Idea Generation Gallery continues to show tremendous taste, with one hip exhibition after another; this is the latest in a long line. If you can get there, you should, but not everyone lives around the corner from their East End hideaway so you might need to get hold of the book, “Duffy”. Unfortunately it costs £45.
Duffy: A Visual Record of a Photographic Genius is at the Idea Generation Gallery, Chance Street, Bethnal Green, E2 until 28th August 2011, admission free. “Duffy” edited by Chris Duffy is published by ACC Editions.
Wednesday, 13 July 2011
A couple of readers have recently pulled me up about reviewing gigs they hadn’t known were happening. With that in mind, here’s notice of a special night in London Town. Playing under the banner of simply “Stax”, Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn and Eddie Floyd, plus Lester Snell from Isaac Hayes’s band on Hammond, and Steve Potts – Al Jackson’s replacement in the MGs – on drums, they’ll be playing numbers from their label’s immense back catalogue, so expect all the classics. Even better, it’s in a large dancefloor space rather than the seating venues these things tend to take place in these days (see details on flyer). You’ll spot me at the front shouting for "Things Get Better" and "Melting Pot".
Sunday, 10 July 2011
It's been a slow week so let's chortle at these chaps attempting the art of the northern soul backdrop years before every moustachioed speed freak was doing it in the Wigan Casino.
Listen to Art Freeman's 1966 mover "Slipping Around" here
Listen to Art Freeman's 1966 mover "Slipping Around" here
Monday, 4 July 2011
There was a knock on my door last week. Two women. Do you believe in God? No. They smiled sympathetically. How do you think we were created? Er, biology I guess. Ah, they smiled again, some people do think that. They offered to leave me a booklet to read which I politely declined. To convert a confirmed atheist it was a feeble attempt. Their good Lord alone must know their success rate. Not high I shouldn’t wonder. Now, had they left me with Johnny Cash singing “God Must Have My Fortune Laid Away”, “It Was Jesus” or “When He Reached Down His Hand For Me” they would have stood a better chance.
Does the world need another Johnny Cash collection? Sony Music think they can squeeze out a few more bucks from repackaging his catalogue, and in the case of this new budget priced 3-CD collection, they’re right. What’s on offer is six complete albums: The Fabulous Johnny Cash (1959), Hymns (1959), Songs of Our Soil (1959), - yes, three albums from one year – Ride This Train (1960), Now There Was A Song (1960) and Hymns From The Heart (1962), plus associated bonus material from the period, and a few earlier hits tacked on the end. That’s 88 songs in total and apart from a handful where he adopts an annoying narration approach they are all equally good; featuring loads of unfamiliar tracks. There’s little difference in quality between the two gospel LPs and the four secular ones. There’s no booklet but the packaging is smart and the mastering has the voice of the Big JC booming out.
Sister Ray in Berwick Street has it for a piddling £3.99. A certain on-line retailer has it for less than three quid. If you don’t believe that’s amazing value I pity those ladies if they knock on your door.
The Real… Johnny Cash is released by Columbia/Sony.
Sunday, 3 July 2011
Nothing I write would be as good a use of your time as watching Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, Doctor Ross, JB Lenoir and Shakey Horton cooking up something they call the "Down Home Shake Down" in 1965. This is special. Enjoy.
Friday, 1 July 2011
The early excitement of running a fanzine soon wears off so credit to Double Breasted for keeping their enthusiasm and reaching double figures. As ever it’s neatly put together and covers the current mod scene with an occasional glance over its well-tailored shoulder. Next to the usual reviews are pieces on a new Reading, Steady, Go exhibition in deepest Berkshire, the Terracina Mod Weekender, the London International Ska Festival, band Groovy Uncle, and The Impressions’ classic Young Mods’ Forgotten Story LP. Plus there’s a free five track live CD by Scottish beat combo The Laynes.
Price (including P&P) is £2.75 for UK customers and available by PayPal from firstname.lastname@example.org. Use that address for any other enquiries too.