I hear the sirens calling
As the rain is gently falling

The psychedelic elephant in the room

I’ve been looking at old copies of Billboard magazine on Google Books (I owe fellow former Melody Maker journalist Rob Fitzpatrick a shandy for telling me about these) and I’ve been especially enjoying the adverts. The three examples above – for The Who, The Move and Marvin’s Circus, an obscure psychedelic beat band from Ohio who put out two singles on MGM before melting into oblivion – all appear in the 24 June 1967 edition. Click on the images for larger versions and click here for the full magazine.


William Ellis (4th Middlesex Regiment)

Today is Remembrance Day and I’m posting this picture in remembrance of my great-grandfather William Ellis. William was a private in the 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and died at Bagthorpe Military Hospital in Nottingham as a result of gunshot wounds sustained in action near Ypres in Belgium in 1915. He is buried in his home village of Somersham in Huntingdonshire.

For more information about William Ellis, please read my earlier post Along the Menin Road.


Light the fuse on the shoes

Shall we have some Flipron? They’ve just brought out a new album, “Firework Shoes”, so we should, shouldn’t we?

I have been a big fan of Flipron since Rat Scabies played me some of the demo tracks they recorded at The Arch, his studio under Kew Bridge in London, way back in, oh, I guess it must around 1998, and I am amazed more people haven’t cottoned on to what a good band they are. Maybe “Firework Shoes” will do the trick. It’s produced by Rat and has Neville Staples, ex-The Specials and The Fun Boy Three, on a tune called “The Comet Returns”, which sounds like the theme music for “The Magnificent Seven” given the 2-Tone treatment. Ride ’em, rude boy.

Elsewhere, there’s all the musical weirdosity I’ve come to expect from Flipron. There’s psychedelic honky-tonk and fairground rock ‘n’ roll and kaleidoscopic avant-jazz and neo-bubblegum blues. There’s so much colour you’d think they were sponsored by Dulux. There are lots of darkly twisted tales and esoteric musings too, with frontman Jesse Budd out-Tim Burtoning even Tim Burton. “Available for weddings, trials and beheadings / Sporting occasions, autopsies, immolations / We’re low-life seeking elevation,” he sings at one point.

Anyway, we were going to have some Flipron, right? So if you would kindly press the little orange button below, we can listen to “The Big Red Button Must Never Ever Ever Be Pressed”. Lovely.

Flipron photos by John Coles


That’s what I call a home video

So how do you make a music video without a budget? And I mean no budget at all. Not one single penny. Michele Ari – who I first wrote about here – has managed it using little more than a mobile phone and a few odds and ends she dug out from the bottom of her wardrobe. The result is pretty good too. I especially like the bit where she forgets to mime. Her recovery is terrific. The song, by the way, is the mighty catchy “Little Wars” from her “Uncharted Territory” EP.


Another bloke called Push

Yes Or No by PushI’ve been called Push since forever. I won’t bore the details of how I got that nickname. It’s a very dull story. I first used it as a byline when I started writing for Melody Maker in 1985 and I was pretty miffed when Bros titled their first album “Push” a couple of years later. Especially when one or two people asked me if I’d named myself after the Bros record.

Anyway, I’ve just found out that there’s another bloke called Push. I really don’t mind sharing my name with this guy, though. He’s an artist from Los Angeles and he’s been doing his art thing since the mid-1990s, exhibiting across America and also in Europe, Australia and Japan, as well as working for The Seventh Letter, one of the dandiest art and design collectives around.

At the top of the post is a Push triptych entitled Yes Or No (acrylic on wood, 43 feet by 9 feet) and below is Birds Of A Feather, a spray paint mural at the LA Museum of Contemporary Art. Push doesn’t appear to have a website or a blog (which is a pity because I’m sure he would love to have posted something about me), but you can read more about him and see other examples of his work at the website for Known Gallery in LA, where he is currently exhibiting.

Birds Of A Feather by Push


My first record, my first music magazine

Disco 45 T-Rex Special
Jeepster by T-Rex (A-side)
Jeepster by T-Rex (B-side)

The first record I ever bought was “Jeepster” by T-Rex. I’ve still got my original copy. I’ve still got pretty much all my old records. I don’t know how many there are, but they take up an entire room. Unfortunately, I don’t have my copy of the Disco 45 T-Rex Special, which I think I am right in saying was the first music magazine I ever bought.

Disco 45 was a monthly magazine consisting mainly of song lyrics and photos. It was published by a company called Trevor Bolton Partnership and launched as a newsprint title in 1970, but was later a full-colour glossy. Despite stiff competition from magazines like Popswop, It’s Here And Now and Look-InDisco 45 kept going until 1981, when it was finally seen off by the phenomenally successful Smash Hits – as were most of the other 1970s teen magazines.


Cows

I keep thinking I ought get this blog thing going again.

There. That’s it. I’ve gone and said it out loud, so I suppose I’ll have to do it now. I’ll do my best to come up with something vaguely interesting to post here shortly. In the meantime, for no good reason whatsoever, here’s a picture of some cows I took a little while ago.


Electronic magazine

As you may have noticed – you did notice, didn’t you? – I have neglected my blog for the last few months. It’s because I’ve been stupidly busy putting together a new magazine called Electronic. It’s the Special Secret Project I talked about back in May.

Electronic is now available at WHSmiths and all good newsagents throughout the UK. You can also order it online by clicking here. Underworld are on the cover, as I’m sure you’ve already spotted, and there are also articles on The Human League, Detroit techno, Can, Gary Numan, A Guy Called Gerald, Minimal Wave, Silver Apples and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, plus a superb Kraftwerk interview from 1977. There’s a free CD too, featuring the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, OMD, Heaven 17, Devo, Ultrazox, Fad Gadget, The Normal and Yazoo. The magazine is published by Future (the makers of mags like Classic Rock and Prog) and at the moment we are just putting out a one-off pilot issue, but there will be more if the pilot sells well.

Please click here for the magazine’s Facebook page (and don’t forget to hit the “like” button) and here to follow us on Twitter.


Flooring

This is “Two Different Ways” by Factory Floor, who are one of the most exciting bands around right now. They’ve been going since 2005 and have released a couple of corking mini-albums and a number of singles, including “Wooden Box”, which was remixed by New Order drummer Stephen Morris. He described the band’s music as “unsettling disco” in an interview with The Quietus. Factory Floor’s Nik Void recorded an album with Chris & Cosey earlier this year – credited to Carter Tutti Void – and used to be in KaitO, the noisy pop outfit, when she was known as Nikki Colk. I think I read somewhere that she’s from Norwich. Which is a fine city, as I have mentioned before.


The Victorian Gentlemen’s Guide To Group Sex

Pussy – For Cats That Should Know Better

Bitch – It's Bollocks And It's The Dog'sThe Victorian Gentleman's Guide To Group SexI’m working on a Special Secret Project with Mark Wernham. I’d love to tell you all about it, but I can’t. It’s a secret, innit. For the initial stages, we’ve been helped by Steve Appleton and Paul Thompson, for which we’re extremely grateful. Paul’s name isn’t a link because he doesn’t have a website because he thinks he lives in 1942 because he’s round the fucking twist.

I’ve worked with Mark, Steve and Paul many times in the past. Our first Special Secret Project was a book called Pussy – For Cats That Should Know Better, which was a spoof of lad’s magazines like Loaded and Nuts. It was published by Bantam Press in 2004 and it sold quite well, at one point managing to scrape into the Amazon Top 100. Our next Special Secret Project was Bitch – It’s Bollocks And It’s The Dog’s, a follow-up to Pussy, which sold pretty well too. Another of our Special Secret Projects was an utterly genius idea for a book called The Victorian Gentleman’s Guide To Group Sex. That was roundly rejected by every publisher in the known universe.

Our latest Special Secret Project is not a book, as it goes, but I’m obviously hoping it ends up doing a Pussy rather than a Victorian Gentleman’s Guide To Group Sex, if you get my driftI am also hoping that, having tagged this post with the words “Pussy” and “Group Sex”, I get a big uplift in the number of visitors to my blog.


Have you news of my boy Jack?

British troops from the 47th Divison (2nd London) advance towards the German trenches through a cloud of mustard gas on the first day of the Battle of Loos (25 September 1915). The gas had been released by the British themselves, but most of it blew back into their own lines. The event is described in detail by the poet Robert Graves in his war memoir, Goodbye To All That.

The Battle of Loos dragged on until mid-October, with neither side able to claim any sort of victory. The casualties included Rudyard Kipling’s son John, whose body was not found for many years, prompting one of Kipling’s most famous poems, “My Boy Jack”. My great-grandfather, William Ellis, was wounded in a diversionary action north of the main battle site on 4 October and died of his wounds in a military hospital in Nottingham almost three months later.


For One Night Only

The Clash, Penetration, The Killjoys and Mary Monday singlesThere’s some sort of cruel madness gripping Frome FM, my local community radio station. It’s the only explanation for them asking me to present a show. My show is called For One Night Only, because I’m going to dip into a different genre of music each time, and I’ll be on air once a month. The first one is a punk rock extravaganza – I shall be including the above singles by The Clash, Penetration, The Killjoys and the marvellous Mary Monday – and it goes out this Sunday (29 April) at 10.30pm. Do please try to contain your excitement until then.

You can tune in to hear the show live at the Frome FM website – hit the Listen Now button over on the right of the page – or listen to it on demand after Sunday by going to the Programmes Menu, then the Music Menu, then choosing For One Night Only in the list on the left. Easy peasy. And if you can’t stomach the idea of 90 minutes of either (a) punk or (b) me, you’ll find some other mighty splendid programmes in the Music Menu. I’d especially recommend Different Sounds, which is hosted by Mr Ian Leak, and The Jimjam Wigwam Show, which is hosted by Mr Jimjam Wigwam (of course).


Final reminder for Record Store Day

Raves From The Grave (Frome and Warminster)

This is Raves From The Grave in Frome, my local friendly record shop. It opened in 1997 and now, countless revolutions per minute later, there is a second Raves From The Grave in nearby Warminster. The two stores stock an incredible 100,000 titles between them, the Frome branch selling mainly CDs and DVDs, while vinyl fills most of the racks over in Warminster. Both the Raves From The Grave stores are taking part in this Saturday’s Record Store Day, with Bath experimental rockers The Blood Choir playing at the Warminister shop at 11am. The Blood Choir will be performing songs from their forthcoming debut album, “No Windows To The Old World”, which will be out on IRL in the summer. Click here to listen to some of their tracks on Soundcloud. They’ve got some good stuff up there.

More than 200 record shops around the UK are participating in this year’s Record Store Day. Check the store finder here to see if your local shop in one of them.


Life in 1960

The Trieste in Life magazine, 1960Marlon Brando in Life magazine, 1960Democratic National Convention in Life magazine, 1960I was an avid reader of Life as a teenager. There was always a pile of old copies of Life in my school library, which was weird given that it was an American magazine and my school was in a little market town in rural England. I’ve no idea how they came to be in the library. This was in the late 1970s and most of the magazines were from the 1960s, so I guess somebody must have left them there years earlier. They were far from pristine – pages torn, pages missing, spunking cocks drawn over people’s faces – but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for them. Spending study periods flicking through dog-eared copies of Life was one of the things that first made me want to become a magazine journalist.

The three covers above are all from the year 1960. Click on the link to go to the original article at Google Books.

The Trieste bathyscaphe – US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh writes about his remarkable journey in the Trieste bathyscaphe with Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard. They took Trieste to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (near the island of Guam), which is the deepest point of the world’s oceans, reaching a depth of 36,000 feet (roughly seven miles down). The feat had never been repeated until just last month, when film director James Cameron (“The Terminator”, “Aliens” and “Titanic”) made the Jules Verne-esque trip in the Deepsea Challenger.

Marlon Brando – Interviewed on the set of “One-Eyed Jacks”, the only movie Brando directed. “I have no respect for acting,” he harrumphs. “Acting, by and large, is the expression of neurotic impulse. Acting is a bum’s life. You get paid for doing nothing and it means nothing.”

The 1960 Democratic National Convention – The Democratic Party select John F Kennedy as its candidate in the 1960 presidential election. “To nominate its youngest candidate, the party elbowed its elder statesmen, broke several taboos and cut loose from a large part of its past,” read the magazine’s editorial that week. “It now invites the country to do the same.”


Won’t get spooled again

If you bought the NME during the 1980s, you’ll no doubt remember some of the compilation tapes given away free with the paper throughout the decade. I’ve got a tall and wobbly stack of NME tapes sitting on a shelf somewhere, but I haven’t heard any of them for yonks – not least because I don’t own a tape player these days. So I am very pleased to have discovered Press Play And Record, a website with digital rips of many of these superb compilations.

“C86” is perhaps the best known NME tape, its title briefly giving a new name to the jangly guitar music it featured (The Wedding Present, The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Shop Assistants, to name just a few), but my favourite has long been the wildly eclectic “C81”. The highlights include Cabaret Voltaire, The Specials and Robert Wyatt. It’s brilliant to hear the NME‘s jazz, blues and R&B collections again too, especially “Stompin’ At The Savoy”, a neck-jerking assortment of belters and honkers which first appeared on Savoy Records back in the 1940s.

The NME tapes were compiled by journalist Roy Carr, who’s never really got the credit he deserves for these spooled delights. Roy began writing for NME in the late 1960s and put together tapes and later CDs for all the IPC Media music magazines – Melody MakerMuzikVox and Uncut as well as the NME – for around 30 years.


Record Store Day 2012

Record Store Day 2012Record Store Day 2012 is set for Saturday 21 April, with over 200 shops across the UK taking part in the annual celebration of all things round and black (although sometimes other colours) and with a hole in the middle. As in previous years, a number of exclusive releases are planned for the day and these will be available only from participating shops. The releases that have caught my eye include:

  • Battles – The fourth and final part of the “Dross Glop” 12-inch vinyl only remix series (limited edition of 500 copies)
  • Lee “Scratch” Perry – Triple 10-inch box set of Perry’s classic 1973 “Blackboard Jungle Dub” album on red, yellow and green vinyl, plus a large poster of the album artwork
  • David Bowie – Seven-inch picture disc of “Starman” with the previously unreleased “Top Of The Pops” version of the song on the flip
  • Devo – “Live In Seattle 1981” double album recorded during the band’s “New Traditionalists” tour (the original cassette tape of this was found in a shoebox in Bob Casale’s house)
  • The Fall – “Night Of The Humerons” seven-inch, featuring a new track called “Victrola Time” and a live version of “Taking Off” (limited edition of 1,000 copies)
  • T-Rex – “Electric Sevens”, a box set of six seven-inch EPs of tracks from the 1971 “Electric Warrior” album, plus some demo versions and BBC recordings
  • Electronic Anthology Project – Brett Netson reworks nine Dinosaur Jr tracks in a synthpop stylee for “The Electronic Anthology Of Dinosaur Jr” and J Mascis adds new vocals

Click here to visit the Record Store Day website, where you can find out which shops are involved with the event and browse a complete list of this year’s exclusive releases. Now where did I put that 10 shillings record token I got from Auntie Sybil for my birthday…


From a soul classic to a punk rarity

I love this gritty version of The O’Jays’ superb “Back Stabbers” by Soo Catwoman, one of the most famous faces of the early punk days. Soo was the cover star of the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy In The UK fanzine and her distinctive hairstyle was later copied by Keith Flint of The Prodigy. She’s backed on this 1998 cut by one-time Generation X, Empire and Westworld guitarist Derwood Andrews (who also crafted the video) and drummer turned grail hunter Rat Scabies. It was recorded at The Arch, Rat’s studio under Kew Bridge, and I believe I am right in saying it was the first time Soo had committed her vocals to tape. Although the track wasn’t released back then, it’s now available as a download at CD Baby. Click here for Soo Catwoman’s CD Baby artist page and here for her website, where you’ll find some great merchandising on the store page.


Lennon, Rich, Jagger

John Lennon Rickenbacker advert (1965)

Buddy Rich Slingerland advert (1974)Mick Jagger Shure advert (1975)

John Lennon has a mountain of love for the Rickenbacker 1996, aka “The Beatle Backer”, and you can have one for a mere 159 guineas (advert from 1965), Buddy Rich shows off his effortlessly smooth and speedy sticks skills on his Slingerland kit (1974), and Mick Jagger is pretty damn sure about Shure (1975). Click each image for a bigger version.


Just add custard

I’m massively chuffed to have come across a reference to my great-great-great uncle on the internet. The delightfully named Theodore Dawes was a 19th century rhubarb expert from King’s Lynn in Norfolk and is celebrated in all the best fruit and vegetable circles for “raising up” (I’m reliably informed that is the correct technical expression) two strains of rhubarb in the 1890s – the Dawes Champion and the Dawes Challenge.

Uncle Theodore pops up on the website of Brandy Carr Nurseries, a family company in Yorkshire specialising in rhubarb and liquorice plants. There’s nothing on the site about Theodore getting married at the age of 80 to a lady 30 years his junior, but then I guess there’s no reason for them to know about that. It probably isn’t important anyway – unless she was only after him for his rhubarb. The site also doesn’t mention the fact that he lived in a house which he called Rhubarbia. The path leading to the front door used to have rhubarb leaves carved into it. The house is still there, on Wootton Road in King’s Lynn, but it just has a number now. A pity, really.

Photo courtesy of Rainy Day Gal (where you’ll find lots of superb recipes, most of which involve a bit more than just adding custard)

Never mind The Buzzcocks, here’s Joy Division

I saw Joy Division play live once and they really were something special. This was in October 1979, supporting The Buzzcocks at Leeds University. I remember being stupidly excited about seeing them – I’d bought “Unknown Pleasures” when it came out a few months earlier and the vinyl was almost worn out by this point – and I pushed my way down the front to get as good a look as I could. Like most people, I was totally mesmerised by Ian Curtis. He put so much of himself into his performance, it was as though there was a little less of him with each passing moment. By the end of the set, he’d nothing left to give. All that remained was a thin, pale, shivering shadow. I still have a very vivid image of him being helped from the stage by a roadie at the close, the roadie’s arm clamped tightly around his shoulders as he steered him off into the wings.

I’ve been reminded of this after coming across the above review of the gig, which appeared in the following week’s Leeds Student newspaper, in a box of dusty cuttings the other day. I have no idea what happened to Casimir Fouldes (nowt on Google), but I reckon the sub editor ended up at The Guardian. The spelling of “wierd” may be excusable as a missed typo, but an apostrophe in “Hundred’s”? And a hyphen in “them-selves”. Now that’s what I call an atrocity exhibition.