Thursday, 10 November 2022

New Retrosonic Podcast Live Q&A with Damian O'Neill and Music Journalist Ann Scanlon to Promote Damian's New Solo LP "An Crann"

We captured a great evening's entertainment at the Heavenly Social in London on November 6th with Undertones guitarist Damian O'Neill promoting his excellent new LP "An Crann" in a Q&A session hosted by Brian O'Neill of Dimple Discs Records and music journalist Ann Scanlon. As well as the story behind the record and its various influences, Damian also discussed various anecdotes from his time with The Undertones, That Petrol Emotion and The Everlasting Yeah. As well as tales of The Undertones on Top of The Pops, touring with The Clash and news of the forthcoming That Petrol Emotion box-set, we also find out how Damian nearly joined Dexys Midnight Runners and how he should have been a famous footballer! The episode is soundtracked by Damian's personal selection of songs from the new album. You can subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast for free at Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts or direct from our SoundCloud site below.

You can order "An Crann" from the Dimple Discs Records Bandcamp site here. For more information please check out Damian's official web-site here. Photos from the night copyright Retro Man Blog. Thanks to Damian and Viv, Ann Scanlon, Brian O'Neill and Neil Waite from The Undertones Rocking Humdingers Club page. 

Top Photo, Damian with Dimple Discs boss Brian O'Neill. Third Photo, Damian with That Petrol Emotion, The Everlasting Yeah bassist Brendan Kelly. Fourth photo Damian with Ann Scanlon.

Tuesday, 25 October 2022

The Undertones - Videos from their De La Warr Pavilion show & news of Damian O'Neill Q&A to promote his new solo LP "An Crann"

The Undertones played a blinder at the beautiful Art Deco De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea on Saturday, a thirty three song set-list packed full of their melodic Pop nuggets. There was certainly no let up in the intensity as the songs whizzed by and the always amusing Mickey Bradley even commented on the rapid-fire delivery, "You can hold your breath right through to the end of most of our songs" and "we're playing even faster so that Billy can get back to watch Match of The Day". The band are on top form and the wonderful backing vocal harmonies from Damian and Mickey really shine through, although the crowd give them a run for their money as they join in whole-heartedly. Paul's voice and confidence has come on leaps and bounds (in fact he does quite a lot of leaping and bounding on stage) since I first saw one of the early shows after the band got back together. The 'Paul-era' songs so brilliantly collected in the recent Dimple Discs compilation "Dig What You Need" are well represented and in particular "Oh Please", "Thrill Me" and "Dig Yourself Deep" are as good as any of the classics from their impressive back catalogue.


Mickey and James Brown with respective books - photo Retro Man Blog
But yes there's no escaping those classics and of course we get them all, "Here Comes The Summer", "Get Over You", a sublime "Wednesday Week", "Jimmy Jimmy" dedicated to Loaded editor James Brown and "Teenage Kicks" dedicated to the ever-youthful U.K. Subs frontman Charlie Harper, both present at the show. John and Damian's inter-twining guitars are as vibrant as ever and those timeless riffs on "You've Got My Number" and "I Know A Girl" really hit home. It's great that they play some of the less celebrated gems such as my favourite, the heart-tugging "Tearproof" and tracks such as "When Saturday Comes" and "Crisis of Mine". I recently wrote - at some length I know - on the importance and impact of The Undertones (and their various off-shoots) on my life in a feature on their stunning show at the Camden Electric Ballroom back in April so I won't repeat myself here, but needless to say The Undertones treated us to another life-affirming evening's entertainment. Anyway, please do check out my feature here if you would like to know just why they mean so much to me and there are lots of lovely photos if you do get bored with my heartfelt ramblings! 


You can check out more videos from the show at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here.

Damian O'Neill has been busy outside of The Undertones too - the brilliant second album by 5 Billion In Diamonds to which he contributes, has finally been released on vinyl and then Dimple Discs will be putting out his new instrumental solo LP "An Crann" on coloured vinyl and CD. The vinyl pressing of this sounds particularly impressive and there have been advance copies for sale at recent Undertones shows. Before Saturday's show Damian told me he was a bit concerned what die-hard Undertones fans might think of the album seeing as it is all very atmospheric and instrumental, but I think anyone who did invest in a copy at the merchandise stands would be extremely impressed. As we discovered in our thoroughly entertaining career retrospective Retrosonic Podcast with Damian "From The Undertones to The Monotones" - he is no stranger to ambient and instrumental music and "An Crann" is a damn near perfect and satisfying listen. From the absolutely stunning opening track "Mas o Menos", which draws heavily on the Gitanes soaked Gallic atmosphere of Serge Gainsbourg's "Histoire de Melody Nelson" and The Liminanas, we are taken on an evocative journey through eleven beautifully constructed pieces of music. 

"An Crann" is not Folk music and it's not an album of 'ambient soundscapes', or is it? It's very difficult to categorise. It could almost be the soundtrack to an imaginary movie or incidental music from a prime Nordic Noir drama and yet then sometimes I get hints of Anton Karas's "The Third Man" or John Barry's "The Persuaders" theme. Then there are very organic, pastoral pieces that take you right out of your living room and place you deep into the middle of some mysterious fog-bound forest. The album's sound and feel is captured perfectly in Damian's daughter Rosa's stunning cover photography, in fact as the album was mainly recorded at home during lockdown, "An Crann" is something of a family affair. Damian plays most of the instruments throughout and wife Viv, along with Rosa, both add suitably atmospheric and effective vocal harmonies to the proceedings. To promote the album, Dimple Discs have arranged a Q&A session with Damian in conversation with Ann Scanlon at The Social at 5 Little Portland Street in London on Sunday November 6th, doors open at 7pm and tickets can be bought here. Copies of "An Crann" will be available on the night but if you can't make it, you can order from Bandcamp here. Don't forget to check out our Retrosonic Podcasts with Damian, two on his own music and a special on That Petrol Emotion where Damian is joined by Raymond and Ciaran from the band - you can subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast for free at Spotify, iTunes, Apple Podcasts or direct from our SoundCloud site below:

Sunday, 9 October 2022

Paul Simonon "Two Years: London and Mallorca" & Caroline Coon "Love of Place" Art Exhibitions

Caroline Coon at Paul Simonon's exhibition 

We went along to two Clash-related Art exhibitions on one afternoon in London recently. Firstly, it was to the John Martin Gallery to see "Two Years: London and Mallorca" which bought together an excellent collection of oil-colours painted by Paul Simonon during the pandemic from two very contrasting locations. There's the area around Paul's Paddington studio which is dimly lit by street lamps and exudes an almost Victorian-era atmosphere and then S'Estaca, a remote fishing village on the island of Mallorca which Paul has painted not only as the sun-kissed idyll you might expect but also grey and overcast, or bathed in moonlight. Both sets of pantings in their different ways, perfectly capture a slightly ominous sense of solitude and isolation felt during the various lockdowns. There's also a selection of wood carvings, something I've never seen at any of Paul's exhibitions before. By chance I noticed that former Clash manager, Melody Maker journalist, author and artist Caroline Coon was at the gallery too so I said hello and had a brief and pleasant chat. I mentioned that the first book I ever bought about Punk (and still one of my favourites) was her excellent "1988 The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion" although I forgot to ask her just what 1988 had to do with it, given that the book was published in 1982 and most of the action was from 1976 and 1977, anyway, that's a mystery that remains unsolved! Caroline mentioned that she also had a exhibition of her own art at the Stephen Friedman Gallery  just round the corner so we popped in to check that out too. In complete contrast to Paul's paintings of isolation, Caroline's "Love of Place" exhibition is full of huge canvasses packed with people. The paintings are a joyous celebration of the multi-cultural community of Ladbroke Grove in West London, a place also of course synonymous with The Clash and are bursting with vibrant colour. 

For more information, please check out the links below:

John Martin Gallery

Paul Simonon Art 

The Clash official web-site

Stephen Friedman Gallery

Caroline Coon

Paul Simonon with my Retro Man Blog colleague and Clash photographer,
Paul Slattery at the 
Black Market Clash Exhibition

Caroline's "Love of Place" exhibition runs until November 5th. Paul's exhibition has now ended.

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Those 12 Bar Nights - New Book by Mark 'Barnet' Webster with memories from Staff, Performers and Customers of the much-missed 12 Bar Club

"Those 12 Bar Nights" is a suberb, beautifully presented new book by Mark 'Barnet' Webster that features memories, photos and stories from Staff, Performers and Customers of London's much-missed 12 Bar Club. I've heard the 12 Bar described as the best ever dive bar, a Punk Rock Heaven (and haven) and London's answer to CBGB's and it's loss to heartless property developers and culturally clueless money-grabbing local council and Government is still keenly felt. I haven't missed a venue so much since the Hammersmith Clarendon was similarly bulldozed to make way for a monstrosity of a shopping mall. Sure, I also mourn the loss of the Astoria, The Hammersmith Palais, The Old Trout in Windsor, The Marquee and many more - but the 12 Bar was so much more than just another venue. It was the social aspect too, a place where lasting friendships and memories were formed, all right in the heart of London's most famous and historic musical street, Tin Pan Alley or Denmark Street to give it it's rightful name. The book is beautifully illustrated and includes hundreds of photographs of not only some of the bands and people that appeared, but of the character-packed venue itself. Initial copies of the book were individually credited on the cover, signed and included prints, stickers and postcards of various flyers, posters and superb cartoon artwork, the whole package is an absolute delight. Credit to Mark for the painstaking work in compiling the many contributions into a fascinating and nostalgic look back at the 12 Bar Club's history - including my own, as you can see reproduced below...

"I first went to the 12 Bar Club when The Fallen Leaves started their Minimum R'n'B Club nights on a Wednesday and straight away I was hooked. I was so happy to find a spiritual Rock 'n' Roll home right in the heart of London but also angry with myself that I hadn't discovered it sooner. I rarely missed any of the Leaves' residencies, not only were they one of the best live acts I'd seen but they had the habit of choosing excellent support acts and DJ's to make them nights to remember. The only downside was the Wednesday night... as I had to travel into London from out in the sticks and the nights were long and late, I found myself transported back to my youth - rushing out to race across town to catch the last fast train home. As I soon made many good friends and gig acquaintances at the 12 Bar Club, I learned to sneak out secretly as saying goodbye to everyone could take quite a while and the trains would not wait just for me! This soon went by the wayside and I would usually be late and have to cadge a lift back or wait at the station for the bone-shaker slow train. It was always worth it.

It was the friends I made at the 12 Bar that would be equally, if not more important than the great bands I would see there and this will always make it a hugely important part of my life. It also kept me busy with loads of content for Retro Man Blog and Retrosonic Podcast and myself and my colleague, Rock Photographer Paul Slattery, filed loads of reports from memorable gigs at the 12 Bar. There are too many great nights to mention them all, just check out the Blog and you can see what I mean - but I would say one particularly memorable night was Crash '74 who were a one-off band featuring Harley Feinstein, the original drummer of one of my favourite bands Sparks and his wife Michelle on vocals. They were joined by Nicky Forbes from The Revillos, Stevie Savage and friends to deliver a fun-packed singalong of some of their greatest hits and a selection of cover versions. So, I owe the 12 Bar a hell of a lot and I was gutted when I heard it was going to close down. Hopefully, one day in the future we'll see a new 12 Bar appear - we can but dream!"

You can buy the book from the London Callin' web-site here and there's also a Facebook Group with more information here. There may be plans to release a second edition, so if you have any memories, photos or stories from the 12 Bar Club but missed out contributing to this book, then please contact Mark at the Facebook Group. 

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Retrosonic Podcast - Eel Pie Island Museum, The History and Legacy of The Thames Delta 1960's British Beat and R'n'B Explosion

In the latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast, Steve from Retro Man Blog and Buddy Ascott of The Fallen Leaves are on location at the excellent Eel Pie Island Museum in Twickenham in the company of museum curator Michele Whitby and music historian Pete Watt. We discuss the rich musical heritage of what has become known as the Thames Delta and the birthplace of 60's British Beat and R'n'B, focusing on the legendary Eel Pie Island Hotel and some of the famous acts who played there. From it's opening night in 1956 and the Trad Jazz of Acker Bilk, Chris Barber and George Melly to the last show in 1970, the Hotel hosted gigs by many hugely influential bands and artists. There were shows by the leading importers of American Blues and R'n'B such as Alexis Corner, Long John Baldry and John Mayall, the originators Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker and of course, their young acolytes such as the Rolling Stones, The Artwoods and Downliners Sect. That's not to forget Soul acts like Jimmy Cliff and Geno Washington and even the later incarnation when the Hotel was transformed into Colonel Barefoot's Rock Garden and started putting on Heavy Rock and Psychedelic acts such as Deep Purple, Joe Cocker and Black Sabbath. One of the most fascinating aspects is discovering all the now legendary names who made early pre-fame and fortune appearances at the Eel Pie Hotel including David Bowie with The Manish Boys, Jeff Beck with The Tridents, Ian McLagan with The Muleskinners and Eel Pie audience regular, Rod 'The Mod' Stewart with Steampacket. 

Surprisingly, despite Pete Townshend's strong links with Twickenham - after all, his studios and publishing company were named after the Eel Pie Island - The Who only played there once and you might be surprised to find out when. The answer can be found in the episode along with other interesting facts and anecdotes - for example, just how did bands get their equipment to the Hotel before the bridge was built? Did you really need a passport to cross to the Island? Why did The Pretty Things never get to play there? The Hotel was sadly destroyed by fire in 1971 and is now the site of luxury flats but thankfully, the Eel Pie Island Museum is keeping the remarkable legacy of Eel Pie Island alive in such a vibrant and enthusiastic way. To find out more about the Museum and the history of Eel Pie Island, including their mightily impressive list of bands and artists who played at the Hotel, details on visiting, yearly membership, merchandise and much more please check out the official web-site here. If you're going along to the Museum we'd also recommend a visit to the excellent Eel Pie Records, check out the regular live shows at The Eel Pie Club at the Cabbage Patch and of course enjoy a pint or two at the Eel Pie pub. For our report on the recent Don Craine tribute and fund-raising gig at The Half Moon Putney, please check out the feature in our archive here. Retrosonic Podcast Episode 48 features Buddy and Rob Green of The Fallen Leaves discussing the show and there's also an exclusive new song from Thee Headcoats Sect, the band that Billy Childish formed with Don Craine. We'd also recommend the books "British Beat Explosion: Rock 'n' Roll Island" and "Raving Upon Thames: An Untold Story of Sixties London" by Andrew Humphreys for further reference and inspiration. You can subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast for free at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Amazon Music or direct from SoundCloud below:

Here's a few more photos of the Museum and Eel Pie Island itself (copyright Retro Man Blog).

Michele, Pete and Buddy Ascott

The bridge to Eel Pie Island
The site of the old Eel Pie Island Hotel
The impressive list of Eel Pie Island Hotel shows


Downliners Sect "Glendora"

Rolling Stones "I Just Want To Make Love To You"

Rolling Stones "Not Fade Away"

The Artwoods "If I Ever Get My Hands On You"

The Muleskinners "Back Door Man"

The Who "I'm A Boy"

Downliners Sect "Why Don't You Smile Now?"

The Steampacket "Can I Get A Witness?"

Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames "Yeh, Yeh"

Geno Washington "Hold On I'm Comin'"

The Manish Boys "Take My Tip"

With sincere thanks to Michele and Pete at The Eel Pie Island Museum. Eel Pie Island resident Sheba from Bitter & Twisted Cartoons designed the fantastic Eel Pie caricatures picture (as seen below), which can be found on tea towels, posters and postcards in the museum shop.   

Sunday, 4 September 2022

Dennis Morris "Super Perry" - Iconic Images of Lee "Scratch" Perry, Exhibition and Book

Dennis Morris at the Super Perry Exhibition - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog

Yesterday we went along to the Dennis Morris exhibition Super Perry, a selection of superb photos of Lee "Scratch" Perry arranged to coincide with the release of the book Super Perry and timed to commemorate Perry's sad passing in late August last year. Morris has included pictures of the legendary and eccentric Reggae and Dub producer from the late 70's right up to their last photoshoot together out and about in London in 2016. You can also see photos of John Lydon's pre-Public Image Ltd trip to Jamaica and there's even a full size recreation of Perry's Black Art Studio. We were in luck as Dennis was there in the gallery and was happy to chat and explain more of the background to the photos on display. Dennis Morris started off his career in music photography while he was still at school, hanging around a soundcheck waiting for Bob Marley. Marley was impressed and invited Morris on tour with the Wailers and the subsequent photos became famous worldwide and even graced the cover of Melody Maker, all this before Morris was 17 years old. The photos of Marley caught the eye of Reggae fan John Lydon who invited Dennis to take photos of the Sex Pistols when they signed to Virgin Records. These photos are collected together in the excellent book "Destroy" which was published buy Creation Books. When the Pistols split up, Morris continued to work with Lydon and Public Image Ltd, designing their logo and the "Metal Box" packaging. Dennis then worked in A&R for Island Records and joined the Punk band Basement 5. He formed Drum & Bass unit Urban Shakedown, who Paul Weller chose as the first release for his Respond Records label and this was followed by the Hip Hop outfit Boss, who were signed by Virgin. For details on how to buy Dennis Morris prints and books and news on upcoming exhibitions, please check out the official Dennis Morris web-site here. The Super Perry exhibition which is hosted by Gimme 5, is on at 30 Old Burlington Street, London W1 until Thursday September 7th, for more details please check here.

Dennis Morris photo copyright Retro Man Blog

Friday, 26 August 2022

The Playn Jayn - "New" Single from much-missed 80's Psychedelic Popsters to be released by Circle Records

If people ask me which was the best live band I ever saw, I can say at the drop of a hat that The Playn Jayn were definitely one of them. Sadly, the most common response to my answer is "who?" On one hand, it's disappointing that this most special of bands never really "made it" and certainly never received the acclaim they truly deserved. However, on the other hand I can allow myself a wry smile and bask in the knowledge that I was lucky enough to witness The Playn Jayn in their glorious prime. I remember clearly being blown away by the unusual spectacle of two live-wire lead singers and frontmen which added an air of unpredictability to their gigs. The chemistry between Craig Lindsey and Mike Jones and their vocal harmonies were a joy to behold. Behind them, the band featuring Nick Jones on guitars, Erol Suleyman on bass and Clive Francis on the drums were tight, powerful and stripped back, allowing the immense melodies and ringing riffs to shine. They were rooted in the Psychedelic 60's but had that Garage Punk intensity that meant they appealed to a wide cross section of music fans of all the varied underground genres at the time. At the much-missed Hammersmith Clarendon they shared the stage with many diverse bands from The Prisoners and The Adicts to Sunglasses After Dark, The Long Ryders and Twenty Flight Rockers and went down equally well with all of their respective audiences. I can clearly remember one night at the Lyceum where they played with Lords of The New Church and Wall of Voodoo and that still remains one of my favourite all-time gigs to this day.

But I suppose The Playn Jayn will forever be associated with the Marquee, mainly due to their classic 1984 debut album "Friday The 13th at The Marquee Club" which was released by the major label A&M, who took the unusual step of releasing a live album for the band's debut. Unusual yes, but actually this was a smart move as the brilliant production by Vic Maille captured all the band's live energy perfectly - very rare with official live releases. It also meant that the album sounds immense today, fresh and exciting, bursting from the speakers and completely free of all the terrible studio gimmicks and over production of the early to mid-80's that ruined so many great records of the time. This was unfortunately to come next, as the follow up studio album "Five Good Evils" disappointed me after the raw excellence of "Friday The 13th" and I felt that the songs were half-buried under a weak production. A&M obviously didn't have a clue what to do with the band and the album was put out on their "Indie" subsidiary ABC records. 

They released a couple of singles including the excellent "Juliette" but the band sadly called it a day not long after. The Jones brothers continuing as The Jayn and Erol joined The Jazz Butcher. Mike then sang with The Other Side but by the early 90's all of the members had pretty much disappeared from the music scene. They never resurfaced, there was certainly no reunion and then the terribly sad news filtered through a few years ago that Craig had passed away. For a band that blazed such a short lived trail they certainly made a significant impact on those of us lucky enough to have seen them play live - or even those who had just heard the records. The memory of the band has been kept going by the enthusiasm of fans such as Desmond Behan and Julian Leusby and those at the Playn Jayn fan's group on Facebook, which can be found here

But the good news is that long-standing devotion has now been rewarded as Peter Wild at Circle Records has pulled off a remarkable coup by releasing this gem of a 'new' single that will not only be welcomed with open arms by existing fans but will also prove to new listeners just what a special band The Playn Jayn were. The 7" vinyl single will be released on 16th September as a limited edition of 375 individually hand-numbered copies and contains two previously unreleased songs by the group, the last recordings they ever made. There's usually a reason why songs remain unreleased and that is they are generally not good enough, so it's very rare that these two tracks from 37 years ago could well be among the finest the band have recorded and I was blown away by the quality of the songs and the sound of the single. So, a bit of background to the single from Circle Records - The Playn Jayn went into RMS studios in London with producer Andy Le Vien in April 1985 and recorded  two songs for a possible single to hopefully drum up interest following their departure from A&M. They chose the regular show-opener "Cardinal Charlotte's Memorial School" and the slightly newer "It's Not Me". Unreleased after 37 years, rescued by Desmond Behan and mixed by Satch Norton who did live engineering and studio work for the band including the "Friday The 13th" album and the rare white label 7" single "Chamber Door". There's more good news, Circle Records are also looking into the possibility of compiling a selection of rare demos and live recordings for future release, it's not sure yet on which format this will be so I'd recommend subscribing to Circle Records on their social media for updates. Of course, we'll also keep you informed as soon as we have news. To enquire about the new single, please message Circle Records for more information on how to order or check for updates at their eBay page. Otherwise why not drop by and say hello at the Playn Jayn Facebook group here.