Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Retrosonic Podcast with The Gruesomes, Canada's Legendary Tyrants of Teen Trash

For this very special episode of Retrosonic Podcast we caught up with all four members of the legendary Canadian Garage Rock band The Gruesomes as they rehearsed for their upcoming debut London show at Weirdsville on July 2nd, hard to believe this will be the first time the band have ever played the U.K. since forming in Montreal back in 1985. In this comprehensive and thoroughly entertaining show, singers and guitarists Bobby Beaton and Gerry Alvarez, bassist John Davis and drummer John Knoll take us on a wild ride from their formation in 1985 to their split in 1990 and right up to their resurrection and classic comeback album "Cave-In!" in 2000. Along the way we discuss their debut E.P. "Jack The Ripper" and how it became a favourite of The Horrors, along with their first album, the impeccably titled "Tyrants of Teen Trash". We play tracks from each of their albums and their latest single alongside a pick of various influences and favourite songs from The Haunted, The Chords, Kit & The Outlaws, The Prisoners and The Sorrows. We also cover Canadian culture and music including the Montreal scene that spawned The Gruesomes. There's life threatening road accidents, Buddy Ascott's drumming, touring Europe for the first time, why Spain loved The Gruesomes and the band's love of lemon curd! All this and lots, lots more in this teen-trash packed episode of Retrosonic Podcast. You can subscribe to Retrosonic for free at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or direct from SoundCloud below:

The Gruesomes play their first and only UK show at Weirdsville at the Fiddler's Elbow in Chalk Farm on Saturday July 2nd with support from Retro Man Blog favourites The Jack Cades and DJ's Keb Darge, Mr A and Miss A. Psychotronic visuals will be provided by Dave Taylor at Enjoy Yourself. Tickets are available from We Got Tickets here. Don't miss out! For more information on The Gruesomes please check out their official Facebook page here. With sincere thanks to The Gruesomes - Bobby, John, Gerry & John and especially to Grant Fisher.


The Gruesomes "Bikers From Hell"

The Haunted "1-2-5"

The Prisoners "Hurricane"

The Chords "Maybe Tomorrow"

The Gruesomes "Leave My Kitten Alone"

Kit & The Outlaws "Don't Tread On Me"

The Gruesomes "Jack The Ripper"

The Gruesomes "What's Your Problem"

The Gruesomes "Je Cherche"

The Gruesomes "Way Down Below"

The Gruesomes "Hey!"

The Gruesomes "Stop It, Girl"

The Sorrows "No, No, No, No"

The Gruesomes "Make Up Your Mind"

The Gruesomes "Someone Told a Lie"

Friday, 10 June 2022

The Courettes at The Louisiana, Bristol, June 1st 2022

The Courettes at The Louisiana Bristol by Retro Man Blog
The Courettes, probably the hardest working couple in show business, are back again. It doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was down the front of a packed out Lexington in London witnessing another mind-blowing performance from Martin & Flava Couri, the Danish husband/Brazilian wife duo. However, here I am again down the front of another packed out Courettes show, this time at The Louisiana in the fabulous city of Bristol. It’s a music city and there are members of bands and DJ’s all around me. I see Mimi & The Miseries, Ananda and Glauco from AlterModerns and Craig & Alex from the Frathouse among other familiar faces from many Hipsville and Weirdsville events; it’s a very friendly and welcoming crowd to us out of towners. The Courettes seem to be on one never-ending tour, Bristol is the first date of an 18 shows in 18 nights jaunt around England and Scotland following hot on the heels of a phone book length list of dates in Europe and Scandinavia. “We hate days off”, Flavia told me in our thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast special, which ironically, had to be recorded on two separate occasions as they were so busy. 

The Courettes at The Louisiana Bristol by Retro Man Blog
The Courettes at The Louisiana Bristol by Retro Man Blog
It was great to catch up with Flavia and Martin again, after all they are two of the nicest and most positive people you could wish to meet. Of course, they look fabulous too. When we meet for breakfast in a café the next morning, they both appear looking as if they are going to step on stage and they draw admiring, awestruck glances from people tucking into their pastries and cappuccinos around us. Tour van driver, cheerleader and general fixer Patrice Picard of Raw Fun and The Cannibals is also present and he shows off his leather jacket emblazoned with The Courettes logo. Both Martin and Flavia have similar jackets and they presented one to Fabrice as a gift at the start of the tour but underneath his logo Martin had added ‘Cannibal’. A nice touch, and as I help them with their luggage and gear I wonder when I will qualify to wear a leather Courettes jacket? I’m not sure that I would look a fraction as cool though!
The Courettes and Patrice at The Louisiana Bristol by Retro Man Blog

The Courettes at The Louisiana Bristol by Retro Man Blog
So why are they back so soon? Well, they’ve only gone and released another album haven’t they – the stunning collection “Back In Mono: B-Sides and Outtakes”. Most bands stick these kind of records out unheralded, often due to contractual obligations but not The Courettes, no chance, they go and build yet another tour around the release. You thought their wall of sound masterpiece “Back In Mono” was great. Well, yes so did we, as it was Retro Man Blog’s Album of The Year 2021. In fact, it was so great that they had to leave off eight superb songs all now handily collected in yet another beautifully packaged Damaged Goods Records release. There are not many bands I can think of who can release an album of B-Sides and unreleased material of such quality. Swedish Psych-Rockers, The Soundtrack of Our Lives spring to mind and their immense “A Present From The Past” which was far superior even to the record company rush-job “Best of” compilation “Golden Greats Part 1”. After that, I’m struggling. So yes, “Back In Mono: B-Sides and Outtakes” does deserve its own tour. 
The Courettes at The Louisiana Bristol by Retro Man Blog

The Courettes at The Louisiana Bristol by Retro Man Blog
Back to The Louisiana, Martin and Flavia take the stage, unfortunately, the lights don’t seem to be working and it’s apparent after the high-octane opening double hit of “Hoodoo Hop” and “The Boy I Love” that the air-conditioning isn’t working either. It’s like a sauna and they’ve only played two songs. The temperature rises even higher as the hits keep coming, “I’ve Been Walking” and the classic ode to Richard Starkey “R.I.N.G.O” are fantastic. Around me, people are dancing and fanning themselves with T-Shirts at the same time. Patrice asks me if I want a beer from backstage but all I can think about is water. Sweat is dripping off the walls and someone shouts out to the be-suited Martin “take your jacket off!” He declines, always the cool dude. Martin is a superb drummer and the perfect foil for Flavia who leaps into the crowd and revels in the adoration. She encourages the girls to get to come forward and comments that more bands and venues should encourage a safe space at the front. More great tracks crank up the pressure cooker atmosphere such as “Edge of My Nerves” and then the ultimate fuck-it-let’s-dance nihilistic statement “We’re Gonna Die”, which is very apt as I think I am going to die, only from heat exhaustion, not from excessive partying. 

The Courettes at The Louisiana Bristol by Retro Man Blog
The band deliver a faultless set-list crammed full of their classic Phil Spector meets The Cramps meets The Shangri-La’s meets the Ramones nuggets. “Boom Dynamite” and “T-C-H-A-U” are perfect call and response crowd participation party pieces and they end with a blistering “Hop The Twig”, Flavia giving her guitar to a member of the audience to have a bash on. It’s a beautifully chaotic ending to another quite magnificent Courettes show and I would urge you to check the remaining tour dates and get out and see them if you can. Chances are though; if you miss them this time round, I’m damn sure they will be back very soon. Let’s bloody hope so. Check out the official Courettes website here for tour dates, further information and merchandise. “Back In Mono: B-Sides and Outtakes” can be ordered from Damaged Goods Records here. More videos from the show can be found at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here. Finally, don’t forget our special “Retrosonic Podcast presents the Fabulous Courettes” episode, which is available at our archives on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, iTunes and SoundCloud or directly below:

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London Kings Cross, May 26th 2022

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog
At the end of my review of The Limiñanas at the 100 Club back in February 2019 I wrote “I have a feeling that the band will be selling out a much larger venue next time they come to play in London”. So, here we are at the Scala in Kings Cross, the band are finally back again and yes, it is much larger than the 100 Club but it’s still completely packed to the rafters. I also wrote “the most exciting thing of all is that musically The Limiñanas have not set themselves any boundaries, they can evolve in any way they choose. So as a fan, it will be fascinating to continue following them on the journey that lies ahead”. Well, it’s been some journey, that’s for sure. At that 100 Club show they included two new numbers in the set “Dreams” and “The Last Picture Show” and these pointed the way to a busy, creative time for the band. Those two songs ended up as part of a superb new project called L'Épée which included Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the French actress Emmanuelle Seigner. I was lucky enough to see them play in London at the end of 2019, it was another mind-blowing performance and the year belonged to The Limiñanas and L'Épée.

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Then of course came the unexpected two-year horror of the COVID pandemic but it certainly didn’t stop the creative output of Lionel and Marie as they immersed themselves in movie and TV music culminating in the brilliant score for “The World We Knew" along with “The Devil Inside Me” and “The Ballad of Linda L.” collaborations with David Menke. Then with their latest album “De Pelicula”, they have collaborated with the DJ and Producer Laurent Garnier to produce a hypnotic Electro-Techno-Fuzzed-up monster of a record. Moving away from the 60’s Garage Rock and Ye-Ye influences somewhat, this is a thoroughly modern sounding masterpiece that perfectly melds together Dance and Rock cultures. Live, the new songs work extremely well as is immediately apparent with the brilliant opening two song salvo of the single “Saul” and “Je Rentrais Par Le Bois”. To help capture this new direction, the band have recruited Edi Pistolas, the Chilean musician from the Dark Wave/Post-Punk bands Panico and Nova Materia to add his electronic sounds, percussion and half-sung half-rap vocals to the mix. He’s also a compelling and charismatic performer and he ups the visual impact to the max when he takes centre stage. 

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog
We then get treated to a superb set encompassing the new album, old favourites such as “Down Underground” and classic singles like “Dimanche”, “Istanbul Is Sleepy” and “The Gift”. There’s the superb cover of Can’s “Mother Sky” which they have kind of adopted as their own and they even cover Lionel’s old band Beach Bitches “Crank”, a surefire Garage Punk classic that almost blows the roof off the Scala. Talking of which, the sound at the Scala is pretty good from down at the front but the lighting less so. There seems to be a shadow from a monitor or speaker obscuring Marie’s face for most of the set and there’s an extremely low stage for such a size of venue. This means that you’ve got to work hard for good views of all the action, and of course, it’s The Limiñanas so there is certainly plenty of action. I haven’t seen such a compelling and visually exciting live band since The Soundtrack of Our Lives split up in 2012 – well, possibly Oh!Gunquit would qualify – but in terms of sheer overwhelming, jaw-dropping spectacle then The Limiñanas are right up there. 

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Just like The Soundtrack of Our Lives, each member is integral not only to the band’s sound, but also their look and each member brings their own character and personality to the party. Whether, its Lionel hunched over, wringing mind-blowing fuzzed up riffs from his guitar, all wild hair and impressive beard or Marie’s joyful and original drumming – hammering her snare and floor-tom, red hair flailing and glowing in the lights. There’s no cymbals, no high-hat, just a tribal hypnotic and relentless beat. Bassist Mikey Malaga has a unique style with his low-slung black Fender Precision, it's every bit the iconic bass look – he swings and sways with his bass, totally hypnotic. Renaud Picard sings most of the lead vocal parts and adds layers of haunting backing vocals and acoustic guitar. Then, I suppose most great visual bands have to have a quiet member, it’s usually the bassist - The Who’s John Entwistle, the Stones’ Bill Wyman and TSOOL's Kalle Gustafsson spring to mind – just to keep everything balanced and in check. I guess this role falls to Alban Barate who although half-hidden at the back, adds some superb guitar work and keyboards and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked in his contribution to the sound. 

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog
To top it all, I think every great band needs to have an eccentric and enigmatic member and this position is filled by Ivan Telefunken who has become something of a cult hero with fans. He’s totally out there and unique, completely lost in the music, he throws his guitar around wildly before pushing it against his amp to illicit screams of feedback and white noise which he skillfully manipulates to add so much texture and atmosphere to The Limiñanas sound. He also adds keyboards, which are decorated in eye-catching, multi-coloured polka dots. Ivan is to The Limiñanas what Eno was to Roxy Music, Blixa was to the Bad Seeds and Johnny Greenwood was to Radiohead - he fills the role of musical alchemist absolutely perfectly. He also takes over lead vocals on a raucous version of The Undertones “Teenage Kicks” which closes the set and goes down a storm, especially with long-time Limiñanas fan Damian O’Neill, who is in the crowd tonight. 

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog

Damian O'Neill of The Undertones with Marie & Lionel Limiñana at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog
To digress, it was a pleasure to introduce them after the show and be reminded that even your favourite musicians can still be big music fans after all and the mutual appreciation was heart-warming to see. The band return for an encore and this time it's Marie taking on lead vocals for a pulsing version of Suicide’s “Cheree” which morphs into a transcendental mash-up of “Je M’en Vais” and “The Train Creep A-Loopin’”, absolutely stunning! The outpouring of appreciation and affection at the end of the show was quite emotional, the band seemed genuinely as happy as us fans did as they stood there together accepting the acclaim. Well, I said it before but I’ll say it again, I think next time they visit they are going to need a much bigger venue!

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog

The Limiñanas at The Scala, London - Photo by Retro Man Blog
For more information on The Limiñanas, please visit their official web-site here. You can check out our feature on the 100 Club show in the Retro Man Blog archive here and the L'Épée show at EartH in Hackney here. Don't forget the special Retrosonic Podcast Episode 37 entitled "Songs The Limiñanas Taught Us" in which I take a look at the band's history including some of their previous and related bands such as Beach Bitches, Les Bellas, Crank and Hair & The Iotas along with a pick of some of their many and varied cover versions. The episode is still available at our archive if you subscribe for free to Retrosonic Podcast at Soundcloud or Spotify, Amazon Music, iTunes and Apple Podcasts. You can also listen or download below. You will also find some of our original videos of The Limiñanas and L'Épée if you subscribe to our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club London 7th May 2022 - Report & Photographs by Paul Slattery

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery

For me going to see the The Flamin' Groovies is a kind of pilgrimage. I first heard "Teenage Head" at a party in the USA in 1972 and just six years later was taking photographs of them on their UK tour of 1978. I'd collected pretty well all their records by then and had become a huge fan so for me going on the road with them was like some kind of dream for a young photographer and Cyril Jordan and the rest of the band were really good to me. Their encouragement pretty well set me up as a rock photographer and I'm eternally grateful for that opportunity. It was now fifty years since I first heard a Groovies record and 44 years since I first met Cyril but due to various circumstances and of course Covid, I hadn't seen the reformed Groovies and Cyril in five years. Since they reformed I'd seen them in London in 2013, done a mini tour with them in France in 2015, and the last time had been in London in 2017. All these gigs can be found here in the Retro Man Blog archive, plus there's a fab Retrosonic Podcast with Chris Wilson here.

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
I walked into the dressing room at the 100 Club to see Cyril picking away at his iconic Dan Armstrong Plexiglass guitar which looks and sounds so fantastic but does weigh a ton. He's looking pretty good for a 74 year old and I'm only a couple of years behind so here's to old men in rock and roll! Cyril's been using this guitar for more than fifty years now. There we were chatting backstage when who walks in but Sid Griffin from the Long Ryders and Coalporters with a beard like a mountain man. The Long Ryders too are one of my fave bands and you can read all about them and see my photos in the blog archive here. Since the Groovies reformed in 2013 original member George Alexander had quit in 2017 and now Chris Wilson is on "hiatus" so Cyril is now the only original band member left. Chris was such an integral part of the band co-writing with Cyril nearly all of the bands greatest songs, and his guitar duels with Cyril are legendary. So I was wondering what was going to happen with the vocals as Chris was the lead voice of the Groovies for such a long time, but I shouldn't have worried. Chris Von Sneidern who is a legend in his own right has switched from bass to guitar and is a great singer. Tony Sales whose dad also Tony played bass with Iggy Pop and David Bowie has music running through his veins - he does a really spot-on job on the drums AND vocals from behind the kit.  

Chris Von Sneidern, The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery 

Tony Sales, The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
Atom Ellis plays right funky bass lines stalking the stage like AC/DC's Angus Young! "Way Over My Head" kicks off the night with great guitars from Cyril and Chris, then "You Tore Me Down" and "First Plane Home" really get the crowd rocking. A relatively old crowd but a lot of young faces too, young Sem and her friend who are both just in their 20's have come all the way from Zurich to see the gig. Cyril comes on with a posh red jacket which he discards after the first three songs - the place is already getting hot and you've got to be fit in the 100 Club's tropical atmosphere! After being a lifetime smoker Cyril's trying not to inhale these days on the way to packing up the ciggies completely. If he can do it I'll be impressed! I really can't tell you what it's like standing feet away from probably one of your favourite bands of all time listening to great songs like "Slow Death" and "Between The Lines". Cyril and Chris get the jangling guitars riffing away on "I Can't Hide" and I'm in Rock and Roll heaven! "Married Woman" is a belter, as is Chuck Berry's "Around and Around" and the crowd go crazy for "Teenage Head" and of course "Shake Some Action". 
Atom Ellis, The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery

The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
I've always loved the Groovies' "Married Woman" which I first heard on a United Artists EP called "Flamin' Groovies" in 1976. Dave Edmunds produced it at Rockfield in 1972, going on later to produce the legendary "Shake Some Action" album in 1976 when the band were at their absolute Zenith blowing away the Ramones at The Roundhouse. There's a great review of the gig by Max Bell on the Roundhouse site here. Let's not forget the other Dave Edmunds produced album 1978's "Flamin' Groovies Now". It was on my visit to Rockfield Studios on New Year's Day in 1978 that I first met the Groovies so that album is pretty special for me. Atom gets a really funky bass riff going and the band launches into "Way Down Under", a superbly riffy number, followed by David Crosby's "Ladyfriend" and finished off with the title track of the band's '79 album "Jumpin' In The Night". With a sixteen song set-list of greatest hits, the appreciative crowd do not go home disappointed and for me it's a memorable and extremely emotional night. Rock and Roll at its best. I hope I don't have to wait another five years to see Cyril and the band again. I walk up the back stairs of the 100 Club and say my goodbyes to the band as the van is loaded for the next gig in Holland. Such is Rock and Roll!

Cyril Jordan, The Flamin' Groovies at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery

Cyril Jordan and Sid Griffin at The 100 Club - Copyright Paul Slattery
For more info on The Flamin' Groovies please check out their web-site here. Finally, big thanks to Barry Simons, take care and see you soon. - Paul Slattery May 2022.

Groovies, Roundhouse June 1978. L-R Cyril Jordan, David Wright, George Alexander, Mike Wilhelm, Chris Wilson. Copyright Paul Slattery

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Luke Haines & Peter Buck at The 100 Club, April 18th 2022

Luke Haines & Peter Buck at The 100 Club - photo by Retro Man Blog
Well, if ever there was an intriguing collaboration it was that of The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder frontman Luke Haines and the Rickenbacker-toting guitar hero Peter Buck of R.E.M. Apparently, this unlikely pairing came about after Peter bought one of Luke's Lou Reed paintings as seen on the cover of his "New York In The 70's" album. So, once contact had been made, Luke took the opportunity to see if there was any chance they could work together. They did and the result was the excellent album "Beat Poetry For Survivalists" which was released in 2020 by Cherry Red Records. I was thinking, it's been a pretty long time since I first saw The Auteurs supporting Suede at the Windsor Old Trout back in 1992. I only managed to catch the band once more at the ULU in London a year later and that was the very last time I was to see Luke Haines on stage. My first experience of seeing R.E.M. was in 1989 at the Wembley Arena and they'd just hit the big-time worldwide with the release of "Green". I did see them again one more time at the cavernous Olympia in Earl's Court in 1999 but my aversion to stadium or arena shows meant that would be the last time I'd see the band play live. So, to be standing so close to one of my favourite guitarists some 23 years later in the tiny 100 Club basement was a real thrill. 
Luke Haines & Peter Buck at The 100 Club - photo by Retro Man Blog

Luke Haines & Peter Buck at The 100 Club - photo by Retro Man Blog

Luke reminds us that this gig was originally scheduled to go ahead two years ago but thankfully, I'm pleased to report that it was well worth the long wait and disappointments of the various postponements along the way. I'm chuffed to see Scott McCaughey in the line-up on bass tonight, not only due to his contributions to the later years of R.E.M. but mainly as I'm a big fan of his old outfit, The Young Fresh Fellows and of course, the excellent Minus 5. The mightily impressive Drummer Linda Pitmon is also in the Filthy Friends along with Peter, Scott and Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker and then finally, Nick Fowler provides some impressive keyboards and atmospherics. They open with two superb new songs, the Punky rush of "The Commies Are Coming" and the brilliantly titled "British Army on LSD" which Luke tells us were both written well before the current situation in Ukraine. What follows is a mix of new material and all ten songs from the "Beat Poetry For Survivalists" album including the stunning "Jack Parsons" about a Rocket Scientist who accidentally blew himself up. As you would expect from the author of the wonderfully acerbic memoir "Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part In Its Downfall", Luke's lyrics are shot through with vivid phrases and pop culture references as in "The Last of The Legendary Bigfoot Hunters" that name-checks both Liberace and the Ramones with it's sing-along 'Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, Tommy' section. Then there's the slow-burning "Apocalypse Beach" which is undercut by Peter's familiar E-Bow drone and the brilliant lyrics somehow manage to include the Clint Eastwood movie "Play Misty For Me", Folk legend Donovan, the Beach Boys and Maria Callas. 
Luke Haines & Peter Buck at The 100 Club - photo by Retro Man Blog

Luke Haines & Peter Buck at The 100 Club - photo by Retro Man Blog

"Bobby's Wild Years" is a stunning tour de force and the spooky "Witch Tariff" has some beautiful guitar motifs running through it and the earworm "All the black cats know where it's at" refrain. Of course most of the new songs played tonight were written during Lockdown but only "Won't Even Get Out of Bed" makes a direct reference to the trials and tribulations of the pandemic. Before another promising new number "Diary of a Crap Artist", Luke says with a self-deprecating grin that it's up to us to decide if it's autobiographical or not! "Psychedelic Sitar Casuals" is probably my highlight of the night and it really whets the appetite for the next LP which will hopefully be out sometime in October. In the meantime, there will be an April Record Store Day release entitled "Wild Companion" which is all ten songs of "Beat Poetry For Survivalists" remixed and 'reimagined' in Dub, Bass and Beats by Jacknife Lee. Anyway, back to tonight's show, they end the main set with "Ugly Dude Blues" but not before Luke tells us that although we are a beautiful audience, we all must know at least one ugly dude. Let's hear it for the ugly dude! Of course they get called back for a well-deserved encore which includes the atmospheric "Exit Space" and a powerful run through of my favourite song from the "Beat Poetry..." album, the excellent "Andy Warhol Was Not Kind". So, all-in-all it was a thoroughly entertaining night in the company of two unlikely musical bedfellows and I can't wait for the next album.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

The Undertones Live at The Electric Ballroom, the new compilation "Dig What You Need" and other personal ramblings on the importance of the band and their related offspring...

The Undertones at Camden Electric Ballroom - Photo Retro Man Blog

The Undertones have always held a special place in my heart ever since I first saw them on Top of The Pops as an impressionable 13-year-old back in 1979. I was too young to fully appreciate the initial Punk Rock explosion – the Sex Pistols had already split up and their record company were releasing cash-in singles such as “Silly Thing” and “C’mon Everybody”. Punk was already pretty mainstream, New Wave I guess it was called then, but it did mean that some superb singles were gate-crashing the Top 40 and we got to see loads of exciting bands on TOTP every Thursday evening. The Undertones might not have had the surly aggression of The Stranglers nor the spikey peroxide cool of Generation X and they certainly didn’t have the sharp black and white Mod stylings of The Jam or the theatrical fantasy look of Adam & The Ants but they really struck a chord with me and my pals. The band members were cheeky, smiling and clearly enjoying themselves on the tele and with their snorkel parkas, V-necked jumpers, floppy fringes and questionable complexions we could really relate to them. Most importantly, especially in guitarist Damian O’Neill’s case, they didn’t look much older than we did. So, in 1980 when we started up our very first band in the school music room, our guitarist Jeff copied the guitar swinging style of Damian rather than the high-octane leaps and poses of Mick Jones and Paul Weller. We also butchered “Teenage Kicks” as an encore at our very first gig in the school gym, a C-90 cassette tape of which still exists under lock and key somewhere in the attic. To cap it all, soon after that gig The Undertones released a superb new single about a cousin called Kevin. Hey, I even had a cousin called Kevin! 

The Undertones, Belfast 1978 - Photo by Paul Slattery

John & Damian O'Neill at Camden Electric Ballroom - Photo Retro Man Blog

The band’s second album “Hypnotised” became a firm favourite and even to this day, remains in my “all-time top 10 albums of all time” (as Smashey and Nicey would say). After The Undertones split, the O’Neill brothers were to have a similarly invigorating impact on my life with their new outfit That Petrol Emotion and the blistering 1985 singles “Keen” and “V2”. These were followed a year later by their debut album “Manic Pop Thrill”, the title of which summed up their sound better than anything I could ever think up. On their release, I wrote about these records in my old D.I.Y. cut ‘n’ paste fanzine “Out of Step” – the records were ahead of their time, something that could be said for That Petrol Emotion’s career as a whole I guess. So, let’s fast forward to 2014 and Damian was involved in another pivotal musical moment in my life with the release of "Anima Rising" by a new band called The Everlasting Yeah - who just so happened to be the last line-up of That Petrol Emotion minus singer Steve Mack, who had moved back to the States and now fronts the excellent band Stag. "Anima Rising" must surely rank among the greatest debut albums of all time and I was thrilled to get to meet Damian, along with Raymond Gorman and Ciaran McLaughlin from the band around this time to record our comprehensive and thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast special about TEY and TPE (as they can handily be abbreviated). 

Steve, Raymond, Brendan & Damian (That Petrol Emotion) at Stag gig, Islngton

The Everlasting Yeah, Half Moon Putney - Photo Retro Man Blog
This led to me putting on a show for The Everlasting Yeah at one of my Retro Man Blog nights at The Half Moon in Putney, a wonderful night that will live long in the memory. I also then did two more Podcast episodes with Damian about his career in music, including his superb solo album “Refit, Revise, Reprise” and contributions to 5 Billion in Diamonds, a kind of super-group project created by Garbage drummer and producer Butch Vig, James Grillo and Andy Jenks and also featuring our mutual acquaintance Ebbot Lundberg of The Soundtrack of Our Lives. Damian also discusses how he and Billy Doherty got to produce the excellent New York based Power Pop band Baby Shakes. All throughout these encounters, I think I did a reasonable job of holding myself together and not collapsing to the floor in a blubbering fan-boy wreck. At least I hope I did. In the meantime, hopping back to 2003, I’d seen The Undertones at the Brighton Concorde 2 for the first time since the band had got back together with vocalist Paul McLoone stepping in to fill the shoes of Feargal Sharkey and I was blown away. They’d just released a superb album of all new material called “Get What You Need” and yes, this really was just what I needed. 

The Undertones in Brighton, 2003 - Photo Retro Man Blog

The lead single “Thrill Me” gave me goose bumps – it had all the unmistakeable melodies of the classic Undertones with the edgy sonic thrill of That Petrol Emotion. The Undertones were back in my life. They released another mighty fine album called “Dig Yourself Deep” in 2007 that again highlighted the fact that the band were very much of the here and now. Damian and Brian O’Neill’s excellent label Dimple Discs Records have just released “Dig What You Need”, a new compilation of the best of these two albums, re-mixed by Paul Tipler and sequenced by Damian. It also marks the first time on vinyl for the featured tracks and is packed full of great numbers such as “Enough”, “She’s So Sweet” and the brooding “Fight My Corner”, which I always thought sounded like a long lost That Petrol Emotion track. The compilation is not only perfect for those that might have overlooked the Undertones ‘Mark 2’ material but is a must-have for the die-hard fan too. It all sounds so fresh and exciting in a different context, especially when played extremely loud on vinyl. 

Soundcheck at Camden Electric Ballroom - Photo Retro Man Blog
And now, rather like one of those annoying backwards and forwards time-travelling dramas, (insert wavy lines and psychedelic music) I find myself in the present day, standing on the side of the stage at the Electric Ballroom in Camden watching The Undertones sound-check. It’s hard not to avoid the lump in the throat, as I think back to myself as that 13-year-old boy transfixed by seeing the band on Top of The Pops. It’s a dream come true to be standing so close to the band that has meant so much to me over the years. The venue starts to fill up and is soon packed to the rafters and there’s barely room to move as the band take the stage and blast straight into “Family Entertainment”. The atmosphere is amazing – there’s such a wonderful vibe as the band speed their way through a career spanning set of almost thirty songs. Paul pulls out all the stops with his high kicks, jumps and Elvis moves – he’s an engaging frontman that has built up a real rapport with the crowd and live, his voice is really something special. Rather like Baz Warne in The Stranglers, Paul has made the position his own on merit – keeping the integrity of the original delivery intact while retaining his own personality. There’s the usual witty on stage banter, mainly from bassist Mickey Bradley as he reads out requests and dedications between songs. 

The Undertones at Camden Electric Ballroom - Photo Retro Man Blog
Damian and John’s guitars are immensely powerful, swapping rhythm and lead parts effortlessly and Billy’s drums propel everything along at breakneck speed. Mickey jokes, “that’s a record, the quickest we’ve ever played that” after one song. “Hypnotised” and “Tearproof” are personal favourites and of course, the pick of faultless singles such as “Here Comes The Summer”, “You’ve Got My Number”, ”Jimmy Jimmy” and the inevitable “Teenage Kicks” are certainly hard to beat. It’s not just about the singles though, they treat us to a plethora of excellent album cuts and B-Sides like “I Gotta Getta”, “Jump Boys”, “True Confessions” and of course “Male Model”. The Paul McLoone era songs featured on “Dig What You Need” such as “Thrill Me”, “Oh Please” and “Dig Yourself Deep”, sit perfectly alongside all the familiar classics and I particularly enjoyed “Here Comes The Rain”, which sounded superb tonight.

The Undertones at Camden Electric Ballroom - Photo Retro Man Blog

I think it’s rare to see such a band where the only disappointment is that they don’t include more “new” material in the set. Given the quality of the songs highlighted on “Dig What You Need”, it’s a bit of a shame that they haven’t released any new material since the 2013 Record Store Day single “Much Too Late”. The band seem content to spend more time touring rather than being cooped up in a studio these days and I suppose you can’t blame them. When you get the chance to play live in front of frenzied, adoring crowds around the world, you’re not going to turn down the opportunity I guess. Anyway, after such an abysmal couple of years, it’s hard to put into words how wonderful tonight’s show was. It was so great to experience once again the sheer joy and life-affirming power of timeless music played by a band that still clearly enjoy themselves as much as we, the fans do. The crowd - from the very front of the stage to the bars at the back and to the balconies above - all singing along together, almost drowning out the band…bloody marvellous!

At the time of writing, it was announced that drummer Billy Doherty unfortunately had a medical emergency, which meant a show had to be cancelled at the last minute. However, the band have recruited Kevin Sharkey as a deputy and the rest of the advertised dates should be going ahead as advertised, but please double check with the venues. Our very best wishes to Billy for a speedy recovery. “Dig What You Need” is available now from Dimple Discs Records.

Please check out the following highlighted links...

The Undertones - official web-site

Damian O'Neill - official web-site

Retrosonic Podcast - From The Undertones to The Monotones with Damian O'Neill
Michael Bradley Radio Show - BBC Radio Ulster

Paul McLoone Show- Spotify Show/Playlists

Dimple Discs Records - official Bandcamp site

 The Rocking Humdingers Club - The Undertones Fan's Facebook page

That Petrol Emotion - official Facebook page 

 The Everlasting Yeah - official Facebook page

 King Afonso Radio Hour - Raymond Gorman's Podcast

Stag (Steve Mack) - official Facebook page

Baby Shakes - official Facebook page

5 Billion in Diamonds - official Facebook page

Retrosonic Podcast - That Petrol Emotion & The Everlasting Yeah special 
(with Damian O'Neill, Raymond Gorman & Ciaran McLaughlin)

Retrosonic Podcast - with special guest Raymond Gorman
Retrosonic Podcast - with special guests Baby Shakes 
Retrosonic Podcast - with special guests 5 Billion in Diamonds

Retro Man Blog - feature on The Everlasting Yeah at The Half Moon Putney

Retro Man Blog - Good Vibrations movie feature with photos by Paul Slattery
Write Wyatt - Malcolm Wyatt's excellent Blog with lots of Undertones related features

For videos of The Undertones at the Camden Electric Ballroom and more...please check out the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel. Here's a little taster for you...enjoy!