Friday, 19 November 2021

Retrosonic Podcast Special Episode "Presenting The Fabulous Courettes"

Photo by Steven Tagg-Randall

Welcome to the brand new Retrosonic Podcast "Presenting The Fabulous Courettes". In this comprehensive and highly entertaining episode, I talk to Flavia and Martin of The Courettes as they reflect on their hugely successful seventeen date U.K. tour and the amazing reaction to their latest album "Back In Mono". In part one, backstage at The Lexington, we cover the pressures of dealing with the lockdown, livestreams, the story behind their own Starr Sounds studio, the influence of a fifteen year old singer in Japan and why the album was mixed in Tokyo and the hunt for that elusive wall of sound. In part two I catch up with the couple just after their return home to Denmark and we reflect on the U.K. tour and dealing with COVID restrictions and Brexit. We discuss their favourite shows and crowds, the people who helped them along the way, working with Damaged Goods Records, their stunning artwork and design and imaginative, humorous (and sometimes bizarre...) merchandise, their songwriting process and how personal tragedy has informed the emotional depth of "Back In Mono" and finally, there's the Courettes' Rock 'n' Roll High School! If all that wasn't enough...the episode is generously sound-tracked by wonderful songs from "Back In Mono" and a personal selection of some key tracks in The Courettes career. So, pour yourself a drink, flick the switch to mono, sit back and enjoy the fabulous Courettes!

Please check out the feature at Retro Man Blog here for a full report on the Lexington show, backstage interview, review of "Back In Mono" and exclusive photographs.

Podcast Track-listing

R.I.N.G.O. from "Back In Mono" & 7" Single

Twinkle Heart by Soleil from "Soleil In Stereo"

Hop The Twig from "Back In Mono" & 7" Single

Trash Can Honey from "Back In Mono"

Want You! Like a Cigarette from "Back In Mono" & 7" Single

Edge of My Nerves from "Back In Mono"

Night Time (The Boy of Mine) from "Back In Mono"

I've Been Walking from "Here Are The Courettes!"

I Wanna Be Your Yoko Ono "Here Are The Courettes!"

The Boy I Love "Here Are The Courettes!"

I Can Hardly Wait from "Back In Mono"

Too Late To Say I'm Sorry from "Back In Mono"

Hey Boy from "Back In Mono"

Misfits & Freaks from "Back In Mono" & Forthcoming 7" Single

With sincere thanks to Flavia and Martin Couri. Podcover Photo by Steven Tagg-Randall, the Archivist of London. For full video of The Courettes at The Lexington please check out the Archivist of London YouTube channel here. For more information on The Courettes please check out their official web-site here. Records and merchandise can also be bought on-line at their official Bandcamp site here. Please also visit Damaged Goods Records for their wonderful Courettes releases and news on the new single. Retrosonic Podcast is on Soundcloud, Spotify, Mixcloud, Amazon Music and Apple Podcasts/iTunes. Subscribe now at your favourite platform so you don't miss an episode!

Saturday, 13 November 2021

SuperSizeArt & Tunetables - SuperSize Soho Exhibition

Morgan Howell & Rob Chappelhow - Photo Retro Man Blog

It's hard to believe that it's ten years ago since I first encountered Morgan Howell's fantastic SuperSizeArt thanks to a feature in Mark Ellen and David Hepworth's much-missed Word Magazine. I did a small feature in Retro Man Blog here back in 2011 and then also reported on Morgan's exhibition at Snap Gallery Piccadilly in 2013 which you can also still check out in our archive here. Ever since then I've followed his career with interest and of course, his reputation has gone from strength-to-strength with famous musicians, radio stations and celebrities among Morgan's many happy customers. The extra special thing about Morgan's bespoke commissioned artwork is that they are not purely copies of the cover art of 45rpm singles but faithful reproductions of the actual record itself, creases, price labels, stains, rips and all. For example, if I had my very first single immortalised by Morgan it would be (rather embarrassingly) "Crazy Horses" by The Osmonds complete with my juvenile handwriting of the band's line-up scrawled in biro on the blue and gold MGM sleeve. It's these bespoke touches that make the artwork so evocative and personal. Of course there are various other options - I have a set of four small size versions of The Clash's "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" in different coloured sleeves and there have been postcards and prints available too. In the gallery I saw a guitar case which was adorned with a familiar signature so I asked Morgan about it and he explained that Johnny Marr swapped his guitar for one of his SuperSize singles. Morgan has also released a beautiful book "Morgan Howell at 45rpm" which features explanations and images of one hundred of his pieces and this is available for sale at the exhibition with Morgan more than happy to sign a copy for you. Of course, you can also order the book on-line at the SuperSizeArt web-site or all the usual on-line retailers and in all good bookshops too. I just wish I'd invested in a large SuperSizeArt 45 rpm ten years ago!

Morgan Howell of SuperSizeArt - Photo by Retro Man Blog

Rob Chappelhow of Tunetables - Photo by Retro Man Blog

Sharing the exhibition space was Rob Chappelhow from Tunetables, another great idea for music lovers who also appreciate great design. If like me, you once ditched your CD's following the resurgence of vinyl and were left with crates of the unloved discs in your loft - well you can now turn them into an artistic centrepiece which also serves equally as good as a practical storage solution. I spoke to designer Rob Chappelhow and told him that his work reminded me of the wonderful display of Joe Strummer's cassette tape collection at the "Joe Strummer 001" box-set exhibition back in 2018 - where Joe's lovingly hand-written and coloured covers were on show in a display case. They were visually stunning even before you took the time to see how Joe had individually tailor-made each cover to reflect on the content and genre of these unique compilation tapes. I was pleasantly surprised when Rob told me that was actually one of the inspirations behind the idea of Tunetables, and even more so when he took out his mobile phone to show me a folder of photos of the very same Joe Strummer cassette display. 

Joe Strummer's Tapes - Photo by Retro Man Blog

Rob Chappelhow of Tunetables - Photo by Retro Man Blog

Of course, like any like-minded music fan would do...I couldn't resist taking a good look at the CD's that were in the mightily impressive flight-case coffee table and Rob's collection was packed full of a great selection of Retro Man Blog favourites such as The Specials, The Beat, The Charlatans, The Jam, Pixies, The Smiths and - as the case holds 500 CD's - many, many more! Tunetables also have options for vinyl LP's and Cassettes and are available as classic flight-cases (designed to also satisfy your inner Roadie...) or in a wooden finish and can even be personalised with your initials and date of birth. The exhibition itself is located in a pop-up gallery at 45 Beak Street in Soho close by to Carnaby Street and the Third Man Records London store recently opened by Jack White himself, which is also well worth a visit. The exhibition runs until November 21st so there's still time to visit, enjoy the stunning artwork and design on display and of course, buy a stylish Xmas present or two.

Please click on the highlighted links below for further information.

SuperSizeArt - Official Web-site, Facebook, Instagram

Tunetables - Official Web-site, Facebook, Instagram


Tuesday, 26 October 2021

The Courettes - Special Feature on New LP "Back In Mono", Live at The Lexington Tuesday October 19th, Interview & Exclusive Photos

The Courettes - Photo copyright Steven-Tagg Randall - Archivist of London
Well for my first full-on gig in London for bloody ages I certainly picked a great night to get back into the swing of things. The Courettes were playing at The Lexington in Islington as part of a nationwide tour to promote their third album “Back In Mono” which has just been released by our good friends over at Damaged Goods Records. I first saw the husband-and-wife duo of Flavia and Martin Couri at an unforgettable show at one of the Weirdsville Club nights at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden some time ago and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. The superb new LP has barely been off the turntable since the postman delivered it bang on the release date of October 15th so I thought I’d write a few words in appreciation of the record along with my impressions of their sold-out show at The Lexington. I also managed to catch up with Martin and Flavia backstage before the gig so I’ve included the interview at the end of the feature.


The first thing that strikes you when you see the cover of “Back In Mono” is that the trademark black, white and red visuals have gone. Flavia has also forsaken her usual black and white Mary Quant style outfits for a sky-blue dress as seen on the “…Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes” album cover. It’s a great tribute and hints that there might well be a slight departure from what’s come before, a new direction maybe? Now, when you hear that about a band you sometimes fear the worse but don’t worry this is more a refinement of The Courettes sound than a departure from all the things you know and love about the band. “Back In Mono” bursts out of the confines of the Garage Rock genre and delivers on all levels. It’s one of those all too rare albums where everything just works - from the stunning cover art, the production to the perfectly sequenced track-listing. You certainly won’t need to get up and lift the needle on the stereo to skip to the next track as this is made to be listened to in one hit – just like all those great albums from the past. Plus, the bottom line is there are no songs you’d even consider skipping. That’s because most of all “Back In Mono” impresses with the sheer quality of the song-writing as every track could be a single in its own right – in fact they’ve already released four as stand-alone 45’s if you count the ‘de-seasonalized’ (if there is such a word) version of the Xmas single “Christmas (I Can Hardly Wait)” here re-recorded and re-titled as simply “I Can Hardly Wait”. With its rolling timpani, glockenspiel, castanets and fuzzed up guitar riff, this version is for me probably the defining moment of The Courettes search for that elusive wall of sound – well, the good news is that the search is over, they have managed to nail it with this masterpiece of a song.

Flavia of The Courettes - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog

Throughout the album, the additional instrumentation by Soren Christiansen - who layers on sublime Piano, Organ, Mellotron, Glockenspiel and vintage 1960’s Philicorda - adds a wonderful depth to the sound and binds everything together perfectly. I think it’s the new single that comes closest to capturing the very essence of The Courettes, “R.I.N.G.O.” is an insanely melodic ode to The Beatles’ drummer with Flavia nailing her colours to the percussive mast – we already know she appreciates drummers (after all, she married one) but it’s the underrated Ringo that gets her Beatles fan club vote here. “Forget John Lennon, George well he’s OK, I’m done with McCartney, I want Richard Starkey”. It’s all wrapped up in the catchiest chorus I’ve heard in years; believe me you’ll be singing this out loud for days to come. The single also boasts superb cover art and Damaged Goods must be commended on making sure the design and visual side of things does not let down the quality of the music in the slightest.

“Too Late To Say I’m Sorry” is also classic wall of sound, a quite remarkable and heartfelt song. “Trash Can Honey” is a Garage Mod stomper that reminds me of The Who’s “I Can’t Explain” with some great guitar and a brief break into some sublime Beach Boys harmonies (a favourite of Keith Moon of course) and it shifts gears suddenly with a crunching chord change. With “Won’t Let You Go” the band have built on the New York Dolls style Doo-wop and Girl Group harmonies and elsewhere there’s reminders of those other well-known Phil Spector fans the Ramones, who fused the melodies of Bubble-gum Pop along with buzzsaw guitars. Sure, The Courettes are unashamedly retro but like some of my other favourite bands, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, The Limiñanas and The Brian Jonestown Massacre - they all assimilate their influences and favourite music of the past, allowing it to infuse their sound rather than simply imitate it. They all have their own unique identity; you know immediately who you are listening to and yet it still manages to sound fresh and contemporary. Well, as I write it’s fast approaching November and I am already thinking about Retro Man Blog’s albums of 2021. I had pencilled in “Back In Mono” as Album of The Year, but I suppose I might as well get the biro out as I can’t see how anyone is going to beat this masterpiece now, I really can’t.

The Courettes - Photo copyright Steven-Tagg Randall - Archivist of London
But all you Garage Rock freaks don’t have to worry that the band have become too polished or lost any of their trademark energy, far from it. As the band take to the stage at the sold-out Lexington in Islington it’s immediately apparent from the opening blast of “Hoodoo Hop” and the quite brilliant “The Boy I Love”, that The Courettes haven’t forsaken their all-out fuzzed-up sonic attack. Flavia bounces around the stage, machine gunning the crowd with her guitar, hair flailing in her wake. She almost bursts with the unabashed enthusiasm of someone leaping around their bedroom playing along to their favourite record. Immediately a smile plays across my lips and doesn’t budge until the final chord rings out over the satisfied crowd and I realise it’s all over. “What a pleasure to see you in the real world” Flavia announces before launching into the classic “I’ve Been Walking”. Martin introduces “R.I.N.G.O.” as a tribute to “the second-best drummer in the world”, now I wonder who the first might be? Talking of which, Martin is a superb, powerful drummer. Whether he’s hunched over his kit, bashing a tambourine on the floor tom or providing backing harmonies and call and response vocals with Flavia - he’s a busy blur of energy. He also tries his hardest to rouse the appreciative but polite London crowd, “we know you’re too cool for school but let’s forget it’s a Tuesday night” and you can’t argue when he says “You’ve been sitting down for one and half years, come on!” 

Martin Couri - copyright Steven-Tagg Randall, Archivist of London
He’s the perfect foil to Flavia and of course it goes without saying that the chemistry between the two of them crackles like lightning bolts. The show is packed full of so many amazing tunes and again, you can’t argue when Martin announces “Here’s another song from The Courettes hit machine!” as they crash into “Night Time (The Boy of Mine)” from the new album. In fact, the songs from “Back In Mono” really do work in their stripped back live element. The atmospheric “Until You’re Mine” with its slinky fuzzed-up guitar riff is reminiscent of the wonderful Fabienne Delsol, who just so happens to be in attendance at the Lexington tonight. The new album’s more all-out Rock ‘n’ Roll songs go down a storm, “Trash Can Honey” is a highlight and in particular, the primitive grunge of “Edge of My Nerves” with its apt opening line of “Hey, Caveman!” thunders along at breakneck speed. The Damaged Goods Records single “Want You! Like a Cigarette” condenses all of those familiar teen-angst anthems beloved of The Shangri-Las into a two-minute masterpiece. Then there’s the superb follow up 45 “Hop The Twig” with its rumbling Link Wray guitar riff intro proving that Flavia is one hell of a mean guitarist. There’s a great mix of old and new material in the set with familiar numbers such as “Boom! Dynamite!” and “T-C-H-a-U” ramping up the energy to bursting point and The Sonics guitar riffing of “Voodoo Doll” finally bringing the show to a close in some style. If you thought a duo might not be the most visual or exciting of stage acts then just go out and see The Courettes and you will have your mind changed for good.

Flavia Couri - Photo copyright Steven Tagg-Randall, Archivist of London

I managed to catch up with Martin and Flavia for a quick chat backstage before the show.

So here you are, bang in the middle of a full-on tour of the U.K.

Flavia: Just like the good old days! Seventeen days back-to-back with no days off, we hate days off.

How have you found it going from the confines of the lockdown to suddenly performing to packed out crowds with no restrictions whatsoever?

Martin: Surreal, I must say. All this was planned during the pandemic and it was a crazy time because we didn’t know with the lockdown if we were ever going to play again. There was no future all of a sudden – which venues were going to be left and then what about all the underground culture and all these lovely places and were they going to survive? So, it’s been a very unsecure world, hard times.

Flavia: As musicians it was a really tough time and I think we were lucky to do some shows in 2020 as many bands didn’t have a chance. Denmark opened up a little bit in the Summer and we did some things outside. We played Germany in October for example; I mean people were sitting down which was so boring because they couldn’t dance. And we had to do two sets, like 90 people in and they sit down and then they go out and in comes another 90 people because of the capacity. So, we had to do two shows for the same money, so yeah, it was really different. But now, it’s like touring as we said, just like the good old days.

Martin Couri - copyright Steven-Tagg Randall, Archivist of London
It must have been frustrating because you as a band really feed off the interaction and energy of the crowd, it’s a big part of a Courettes show, how did you cope without the buzz of playing live?

Flavia: Another weird experience of the lockdown was this livestream thing. You know we just did a livestream from our studio – we were sweaty and playing and having fun and then it’s all over. There’s no interacting, selling merch, talking to people “ah, it was a good show”, having a beer… so we were just there looking at each other saying, what are we going to do now? We’re all adrenalized but we just went home. Yeah, we hate livestreams, I mean it was not fun at all to do that. It took a whole week trying to find out all the technical stuff to make it work but it was important to keep people connected at some point. It’s like when you’re on Facebook you’ll stumble across a livestream here and there but it’s a format that easily got old.

Martin: It became extremely boring because so many musicians were just sitting on their couches, I missed going to a venue and having a good time.

Flavia: But we actually used the time to make our new record. We’ve got our own studio, StarrSound, so were in the studio producing new stuff, we were writing songs and working on arrangements, so that was fun.

I guess having your own studio was a huge bonus during the pandemic, tell us about StarrSound Studios.

Martin: You know it’s crazy, in 2019 we spent literally all the money we own in building the studio. Our big dream was that we knew we wanted to do the “Back In Mono” record so then we wanted to have this vintage 1960’s studio so we spent everything we had because we thought 2020 was looking very good, our best year so far. We thought we can turn around the whole economy, we could afford to live off playing and all our investments in the studio were going to recoup and then in March comes this big slap in the face. But hey, we do have this killer studio.

Flavia Couri - copyright Steven-Tagg Randall, Archivist of London
Your previous LPs seemed to concentrate on capturing the live energy of The Courettes but the new one has definitely expanded the sound.

Martin: We had this big dream of saying, you know we want to dive deep in the Phil Spector, Bert Burns wall of sound – that Larry Levine Gold Star sound.

Flavia: I think we just wanted to use the studio as an instrument as before we were always worried – OK, we cannot put so many overdubs because we want to play as just the two of us. So, if we have a piano part which is amazing, that’s leading the song then we cannot do that live. For example, if it has a guitar too, I can’t play both instruments at the same time. So, we were always worried, can I put backing vocals, can I put this here and can I do that live? But then we thought it’s OK to do some overdubs because the songs still work with only the two of us. Now people are asking us, how are you going to play “Back In Mono” live? I mean, we’re playing I think seven or eight songs off the record live tonight. It’s the toughest test of song-writing, if the song is good, it works with just playing a guitar on the beach. In the studio we can always add a piano, percussion – we add this and that’s the studio work. We cannot reproduce it live, that’s not going to happen but we just play the songs and they sound really good with drums and guitar too.

Martin: Any of the girl group bands with the Phil Spector wall of sound, no one did this live.

Flavia: No, they had their live set and they had their studio set.

Martin: There’s the difference, you know, we wanted this massive record because after Phil Spector and Larry Levine I don’t think anyone has succeeded in doing a real “wall of sound” and I think we’re one of the first to actually manage to have an authentic wall of sound.

Flavia: And now having our studio is another freedom we have so I think it was so much fun to experiment. Should we do this backing vocal, should we put a mellotron, shall we put some piano. So, we are OK with overdubs now and I think that’s what you can hear on the new album.

The Courettes - copyright Steven-Tagg Randall, Archivist of London
"Back In Mono” was actually mixed in Japan, how did that happen?

Martin: I don’t remember where but it was a top 10, top 15 list of the best Christmas songs, I mean we did a Christmas song “Christmas (I Can Hardly Wait)” and the only song we heard on the list was by a girl called Soleil.

Flavia: Yes, she had a song before us on the list called “Twinkle Heart”.

Martin: When we heard it, it was like, “Boom!” because we were already doing the recordings but we didn’t know anyone who could mix it. Different guys and different mixes.

Flavia: We tried our best with the Christmas single but it was not actually there and after we heard Soleil, we were so jealous of her and Martin was really disappointed for weeks after – “look at this, that’s what we want to do, that’s the sound!”

Martin: I was literally pissed; I think I was actually screaming. I was extremely annoyed because, fucking hell, that’s the sound we wanted.

Flavia: And she was a 15-year-old girl in Japan doing that!

Martin: Then, via Tokyo’s Coolest Sounds, a Japanese music Blog they knew who had mixed it and they had the contact to Seiki Sato at Catchball Studio who’s the guy who ended up mixing our record there in Tokyo. It’s fantastic, it’s a great story, he doesn’t speak English but he has a really cool assistant Yono.

Flavia: He saved us with the communications you know.

Martin: And the thing is they did a really good sound, it’s massive but you know, it still sounds modern. Then we have a really nerdy mastering guy in Copenhagen called Valentin so we were sitting with him for two days really capturing the sound of The Crystals, The Shangri-La’s and all these girl groups, the Ronettes obviously, trying to get the same tone of the whole stuff.

Have you ever been to Japan? I think you would go down a storm over there.

Martin: No, we’ve never been but it would be great to go and record with Seiki and tour there.

Flavia: We would love to, we just have to know how this pandemic is going to develop and of course it has to make sense, we do sell a lot of records through our Bandcamp site to Japan. It’s an expensive trip but now we have a good reason for going there.

At this point we had to finish the interview as Los Pepes were taking the stage for their superb set. 

Flavia Couri - Photo copyright Steven Tagg-Randall, Archivist of London
Check out The Courettes official web-site for the remaining tour dates and hopefully you can catch them live, you certainly won’t regret it. Damaged Goods have re-released The Courettes first two albums “Here Are The Courettes” on cream vinyl and “We Are The Courettes” on red vinyl and also compiled both together on one handy CD called “Here We Are The Courettes”. Check out the Damaged Goods Records web-site for details on how you can order these essential records. I must also mention how much I enjoyed the superb support act Los Pepes who put in a thoroughly energetic set of catchy, melodic Power Pop and Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll. I’ve liked the band since getting their first single “No S.O.S.” on lovely yellow vinyl a few years back but this was the first time I’d managed to see them play live somehow. I wasn’t disappointed, they were right up my street and I picked up their latest single on Black Wax Records “Want You Back” this time on blue vinyl, so expect to hear a track or two from the band in the next Retrosonic Podcast. I did manage to film their cover of The Dictators “Stay With Me” which you can see over at the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here, along with three songs from The Courettes show. Also, it was nice to catch up with DJ Adam Diddy Wah and hear his usual eclectic mix of tunes and I’d recommend checking out his show on NTS Radio and Mixcloud


Thanks to The Archivist of London, Steven Tagg-Randall for the excellent photos. You can find his video of the complete Courettes show at The Lexington over at the Archivist of London YouTube channel here.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Retrosonic Podcast Episode 44 "Sonic Love" - New Release Special Including The Limiñanas, The Stranglers, Autoramas, Subway Sect, Killer Kin, Ben Edge, The Shadracks & More...

Killer Kin photographed by Justin D. Joffe

Welcome to "Sonic Love" Episode 44 of Retrosonic Podcast, which is another decidedly 'non-retro' show featuring a selection of superb brand new international Rock 'n' Soul, Punk, Indie, Fuzzed-up Garage Rock, Psych and Power Pop releases from France, Sweden, Brazil, Japan, USA and the UK. Listen in and celebrate the creative talents and spirit of some of our favourite musicians, record companies and artists who are producing such fantastic music in these difficult times. I really hope you like this stunning collection of new sounds and I would kindly recommend clicking on the highlighted links below for more information on how you can buy the featured records and support these wonderful Bands, Artists and Record labels. Turn up the volume, sit back and enjoy!

 

The Limiñanas - "The Fuzz Theme"

Subway Sect - "Commercial Suicide Man"

Autoramas - "Sem Tempo" (feat. Rodrigo of Dead Fish)

The Sound Station - "Down To The City"

The Shadracks - "Pray"

The Limiñanas - "The Pale Moonlight"

Channel Three - "This Is London" (feat. Bobby Tarlton of Dr. Bird)

Ben Edge - "Tell Me Anyway"

Sounds Incarcerated - "The Porpoise Song"

The Jack Cades - "Once Before"

Killer Kin - "Sonic Love"

Ian Person - "Army of Freaks"

Pablo Matisse - "Trying To Survive"

The Stompin' Riff-Raffs - "Whatever"

The Sellwoods - "Volcano Girl" 

The Membranes - "Borders Blurred"

The Glorias - "Magic Money Tree"

The DeRellas - "Emergency 2020"

Channel Three - "Small Flat by the Sea" (feat. Gabriela of French Boutik)

Slogan - "Brigitte Bardot vs. Aya Nakamura vs. Arctic Monkeys"

The Stranglers - "This Song"

Additional Recommended Links:

Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast Facebook

Retro Man Blog & Retrosonic Podcast Instagram

Retro Man Blog YouTube Channel

Sounds of The Suburbs Record Store, Ruislip

Static Wax Records

Spinout Nuggets Records

Damaged Goods Records

Pigbaby Records

Bella Union Records

The Museum of British Folklore

Justin D. Joffe Photography

Hipsville-A-Go-Go  

The Galileo 7

The Soundtrack of Our Lives Information Service & Fan's Group

Louder Than War

 Girlsville - The Story of The Delmonas & Thee Headcoatees by Saskia Holling

Cover Stars: Killer Kin photographed by Justin D. Joffe. Retrosonic Podcast is now available to subscribe for free at all major platforms - Spotify, SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Apple Podcasts and now Amazon Music, so please kindly subscribe, follow, give us a like and most importantly, share to all your friends to spread some of this fantastic Sonic Love! Retrosonic has a valid PRS Licence. 

This Episode is dedicated to the memory of Dave Greenfield.


Saturday, 14 August 2021

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band at Liverpool Arts Club August 7th with Previously Unseen John Johnson Photos

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

One of the very last gigs we went to back in February 2020, just before the onset of COVID and the impending troubles of the pandemic, was seeing a superb show by Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band at EartH in Hackney. It was one of only five shows we managed to attend in that terrible year which saw the live music scene completely decimated but I guess, if you’re going to be without live music for a while, what better way to wind down than with a Michael Head show. So, it was fitting that some eighteen months later, our very first post-lockdown venture to a proper sold-out, all standing, no social distancing gig would be to see Mick play again, this time back in his Liverpool home-town. Despite a worrying postponement of the original date, due to the lockdown deadline being extended, we finally turned up at the doors of a live music venue once again. We went along on the Saturday night; the second of two full-to-the-rafters shows at The Arts Club on Seel Street. I was a bit worried at first when I saw it was part of the O2 Academy group as I haven’t had good experiences with this chain in the past, but it really was a great venue, despite the two large columns blocking the view of the stage somewhat. The staff were friendly and our COVID vaccination ‘passports’ were checked on the door, but I must admit it did feel a bit uneasy at first as the crowd swelled around me. However, that trepidation was soon replaced by the overwhelming and much-missed feeling of excitement and anticipation that makes you remember just how special live music can be. And yes, this turned out to be very special indeed. 

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

The band take the stage and as always, the self-effacing singer looks genuinely chuffed with the level of love and admiration pouring forth from the crowd. What follows is a masterclass in exceptional song-writing with a set that is crammed full of nuggets from all aspects of Mick’s musical career from The Pale Fountains, Shack, The Strands and then bang up-to-date with new and unreleased songs from the forthcoming Red Elastic Band album, the wittily titled “New Brighton Rock”. The Red Elastic Band has always had, if you pardon the terrible pun, a flexible line-up but now Mick seems to have settled on a quite magnificent band that do full justice to his songs and I think this was the best I’ve seen them play so far. Brothers Phil on drums and Danny on guitar are joined by their colleague Nathaniel from the impressive Liverpool based Indie-Pop band The Peach Fuzz, also on guitar. Nathaniel is actually The Peach Fuzz’s frontman so he has that extra touch of charisma that really adds something to The Red Elastic Band’s energetic live show. Supercool bassist Tom Powell grooves away at the back and there’s the crowd favourite, Martin Smith on trumpet. After seeing the Red Elastic Band play shows at seated venues like the Liverpool St. George’s Hall and then Union Chapel, EartH Hackney and the solo acoustic show at the Social in London, it was nice to see the band in a proper “Rock ‘n’ Roll” standing venue again and overall, I think it probably just about topped the similarly stunning show at the Islington Assembly Hall back in March 2016. (Click the highlighted venue names for previous features)

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

The set-list is in particular, a Shack fan’s dream especially if like me, "HMS Fable" is your favourite album as we are treated to a fair chunk of it. The immensely moving “Comedy” scores a direct hit, straight to the hearts of the adoring crowd. Then, there’s a storming full-on version of “Pull Together” and an almost transcendental “Natalie’s Party”, both quite superb. Mick’s sister Joanne takes the stage for the haunting “Daniella” and we also get a rare outing of “Oscar” with the crowd singing along to Martin Smith’s insistent trumpet riff.  Mick is capable of writing such heartfelt, emotionally charged music, there’s real beauty inside that tough looking Liverpudlian. I must confess to a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye on occasion, especially when the crowd sing along and shout their encouragement. Sometimes there are terrace chant sing-alongs in-between songs and I was pleasantly surprised to see a group of youngsters enthusiastically jumping about at the front of the stage, singing along to all the words. The kids are alright...!

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

There’s “Reach” from The Pale Fountains which sends the crowd into raptures and “The Prize” from the fantastic Michael Head & The Strands album. Only one recorded Red Elastic Band track gets an airing tonight and of course it just has to be the classic upbeat bounce of “Newby Street”. The new songs all sounded excellent and promise much from the new LP. “Grace and Eddie”, “Broken Beauty” and “American Kid” all captured the imagination. There’s an acoustic interlude with Mick delivering “As Long as I’ve Got You” and “Byrds Turn to Stone” from “Here’s Tom with The Weather” and then cranked-up versions of “Cup of Tea” and “Al’s Vacation” are both warmly received. However, it’s the mini-symphony of “Meant to Be” that is one of the night’s undoubted highlights, and I suddenly get ‘something in my eye’ during the Love-like trumpet refrain. The Psychedelic rocker “Up” almost lifts the roof off the Arts Club but the really pleasant surprise was the inclusion of “Sgt. Major” from that classic album “Waterpistol”. Hearing this was a cathartic experience, all the stress and hardships of the previous eighteen months of COVID, lockdown, bad news after bad news and the lack of live music – just seemed to disappear for the four minutes or so of this quite brilliant song. Tonight though, was much more than just a long-awaited return to seeing a gig, this was an experience that I won’t forget, this was emotional. 

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

With sincere thanks to John Johnson for his photos. John has been documenting The Red Elastic Band from the start and is responsible for the superb cover to their debut album “Adios Señor Pussycat”. You can check out his official web-site here for limited edition prints and further examples of his photography. John also co-owns the great bar The Angus Tap & Grind at 83-85 Dale Street, Liverpool L2 2HT, we went along the evening before the gig and not only were they playing some fantastic music, we were also treated to an acoustic live set by a very good singer-songwriter. Finally, John has also started up a clothing range called Sound and Fury and one of their first ventures includes a limited-edition Mick Head T-Shirt which you can check out at the web-site here

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - copyright John Johnson

For more news on Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band please check out their official web-site, their Facebook page or their Instagram page. The Peach Fuzz are also well worth investigating at their official Facebook page here. There's also a fantastic Pale Fountains Facebook group here, which covers all of Mick's musical career. Thanks again to John Johnson and Ana for the pic of the set-list and "hello, wish you were there" to Mick's biggest fans out in Japan - Hiro, Rie, Kaz & Kurt!

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Retrosonic Podcast - Gary Crowley "Lost 80's Volume 2: 1980-1986" Live Talk and Q&A from Sounds of The Suburbs Records

Last Sunday (August 1st) we went along to our favourite record store Sounds of The Suburbs in Ruislip to see Gary Crowley, the legendary DJ, TV and Radio show presenter, A&R man, schoolboy music journalist and former receptionist at the NME - give a talk and Q&A session to promote his excellent new compilation "Lost 80's Volume 2: 1980-1986". This has just been released via Demon Records as a beautifully packaged 65 track 4 CD deluxe edition all housed in a hardback cover including a lavishly illustrated booklet packed full of photos, notes and background information. The tracklist itself features an eclectic mix of hidden gems and unusual choices from some familiar and not-so familiar names. Gary's picks certainly highlight the diverse musical styles that made the early to mid-80's such an exciting time - from Post-Punk, jangly Indie-Pop, Ska and Reggae, Jazz and Soul to Rap and Electronica - this compilation covers all the bases. So, in the discussion you're about to hear, which was introduced by singer-songwriter John Donegan, Gary not only talks about the compilation itself but we were also treated to a thoroughly entertaining romp through his life in music. Along the way we find out who he interviewed for his school magazine (wearing his school uniform), which soon-to-be pop star he had a secret crush on, who were the nicest stars he's interviewed (and the worse...), who he wished he'd seen play live, why The Jam just shaded The Clash as his favourite band and why he dreams of a fifth ginger Beatle! To compliment the chat, the Podcast features clips of great music from Big Audio Dynamite, Altered Images, Style Council, Theatre of Hate, Working Week, Bananarama, Paul Blake & Blood Fire Posse and Leisure Process.

Gary Crowley with Tony Smith at Sounds of The Suburbs, Ruislip

"Lost 80's Volume 2" is out now from all the usual outlets but it'll sound even better if you pop along to Ruislip and buy yourself a copy from Sounds of The Suburbs Records. You can listen or download directly below or subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast at Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Soundcloud.

This Podcast has been kindly authorised by Gary Crowley. Sincere thanks to Gary, Tony Smith at Sounds of The Suburbs and John Donegan. 


Sounds of The Suburbs Records, 110 Victoria Road, Ruislip HA4 0AL (open Thu, Fri & Sat)

Friday, 30 July 2021

Channel Three "This Is London/Small Flat by the Sea" - A New Collaboration by French Boutik & Dr Bird Out Now on Static Wax Records

 
One of the things I miss about not being able to get out to gigs since the pandemic, is that every now and then you could be lucky enough to witness a very special musical moment that really sticks in the memory. One such happening occurred during a pleasant Sunday afternoon session at The Pelton Arms in Greenwich back in the summer of 2019. Serge Hoffman and Gabriela Giacoman from French Boutik were over on holiday from Paris and they teamed up with Bobby Tarlton from Dr Bird, Toby Kinder from Tiny Flaws and the DJ and percussionist Graham Lentz to entertain the crowd with a set of beautifully laid-back music. One of the undoubted highlights was Bobby's take on the French Boutik classic "Ici Paris" and in the true spirit of entente cordiale, he had re-written the lyrics as "This Is London" and turned it into a poignant, bittersweet tale of the gentrification of his beloved home-town. Luckily, I had my wits about me and recorded the performance, capturing it for posterity. I liked this version so much that during our special Retrosonic Podcast Episode with Serge, Gabriela and Bobby a few days after the show, I press-ganged the trio into playing it. Actually, looking back now I suppose that Podcast was the very first interview with what would be become Channel Three. For this is the name of the new collaboration that have just released a 7" vinyl single on Static Wax Records. It's a Double-A Side featuring Bobby's version of "This Is London" with Serge on guitars and haunting backing vocals from Gabriela and some lovely flute and organ floating effortlessly over this quite wonderful song. Then it's Gabriela's turn on the flip-side as she sings lead on her take of the evocative Dr Bird song "Small Flat By The Sea". If you've seen the trio play live together or listened to our Podcast for that matter, you can probably tell that the chemistry between them is so natural and warm, and this translates perfectly into the grooves of the new single. There's just one question left hanging though...could Channel Three treat us to a full length album one day in the future? On the evidence of this cracking debut single, I certainly hope so!

Here's a bit more info from Static Wax: "This collaboration combines the forces of Parisian "Pop Moderniste" style with a very English take on Mod Pop Soul to get results that should produce a rare point of agreement and delight ears from both sides of the channel. "This is London" combines a superb melody from French Boutik's Serge Hoffman, with lyrics decrying the gentrification of London from East End native son Bobby Tarlton (Dr Bird), featuring a melancholic flute, groovy organ, and a dance floor perfect rhythm provided by Brian Gosling on drums. "Small Flat By The Sea" sees French Boutik's Franco-American singer Gabriela Giacoman providing her hallmark vocals for a beautifully fresh and simple take on Bobby's original song, a Dr Bird favourite, originally released in 2018, once again ably assisted by Serge and Brian".

Bobby, Toby, Gabriela, Graham & Serge at The Pelton Arms in 2019
 
You can order the 7" Vinyl Single from Static Wax Records here and we'll be playing both sides in the next Retrosonic Podcast. Talking of which, don't forget the thoroughly entertaining special episode where I chat to Serge, Gabriela and Bobby about their influences, favourite songs and musical histories. Along the way we talk about the impact of Punk Rock and New Wave, the Mod Revival and Britpop - of political Pop songs, music genres, the differences between Paris and London's live music scenes and much more besides. Not only is there a pick of their own band's material but the episode is soundtracked by some great music from Tiny Flaws, The Stranglers, The Style Council, Charles Trenet, Nick Lowe, Popincourt, Billy Bragg, Etta James, The Kinks, Fay Hallam, Makin' Time, Supergrass, The Jam & The Prisoners and of course, the live debut of "This Is London"! Listen in below, or subscribe at Apple Podcasts or Spotify.