Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Skids - Part 1: Exclusive Paul Slattery Photos from 1865 Club Southampton + The Skids at The Roundhouse Review

The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
I know there is a school of thought that believes "Punk died when the Roxy closed down" but for me it only really began in 1978 when as an impressionable 13 year old I sat open mouthed in front of Top of The Pops and got smacked round the face by what I thought was Punk Rock. Little did I know that many purists would be sneeringly calling this "New Wave" but to me it was unbelievably exciting to be watching bands such as The Jam and The Stranglers strut their angry and energetic stuff on this mainstream Pop show. The next couple of years got even better and for me this was the golden age of the 7" single - bands such as the UK Subs, Generation X, The Ruts, The Specials, The Beat, Buzzcocks and The Undertones were producing stone cold classics that still sound as fresh and vital today as they ever did. Of course one of these bands were The Skids and I still have my copies of "Into The Valley" and the brilliant "Masquerade", my name written in biro on the back cover to make sure I got it back when we all swapped records in the classroom. Once a week after lessons there was a record club and we would often end up with bruised shins and toes from accidentally kicking chairs and desks trying to copy The Skids vocalist Richard Jobson's idiosyncratic dance moves. It would seem kids all over the country were doing the same thing as before tonight's Roundhouse show I was chatting to a pal who told me he had once broken his glasses during a strenuous "Jobson" routine. So, yes indeed there was a fair sense of nostalgia whizzing around the packed venue.

Richard Jobson of The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
The Skids disbanded in 1982 after which Richard Jobson formed the short-lived but excellent Armoury Show and Stuart Adamson went on to huge commercial success with Big Country. Adamson sadly committed suicide in 2001 and as his guitar work and songwriting abilities were such an integral part of The Skids it seemed unlikely that the band could ever consider re-forming. It wasn't until 2007 that a new line-up of The Skids appeared to commemorate the untimely death of Stuart Adamson and to celebrate their 30th anniversary. However, they never played outside Scotland, and no UK tours and no new material in 35 years meant that the existing loyal fan-base hadn’t really been augmented by that many younger fans over the years as has happened with Buzzcocks, The Damned, The Undertones and The Stranglers with their constant touring, new releases and subsequent promotional activity. In addition there has always been the frustrating and downright annoying fact that The Skids rarely get a mention in the numerous music press retrospectives or documentaries looking back on Punk Rock. In fact I always felt that they have been unfairly air-brushed out of music history. I don’t know why. After all they were always innovative and often challenging musically, stretching the boundaries of Punk in the same way that their more critically acclaimed contemporaries such as Wire or Magazine did. Stuart Adamson deserves to be placed alongside Bruce Gilbert from Wire, John McGeogh from Magazine, Keith Levene from PiL and Paul Fox of The Ruts as one of the truly great individual and inspirational guitarists to have come out of Punk. So I must admit to being a bit unsure of what to expect as I headed off to The Roundhouse, but I soon realised I needn't have had any concerns at all...

Jamie & Bruce Watson of The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
The choice of Bruce Watson to replace Stuart Adamson was inspired, after all Bruce did play in Big Country alongside Stuart so not only was there a personal connection but their guitar sounds were always so closely entwined that he was the perfect fit. The addition of Bruce’s son Jamie on second guitar was also a coup as they made a great double act on stage, trading licks and poses together. Jamie, the “Ed Sheeran lookalike” as Richard introduced him, also added some impressive backing vocals and it was nice to see he was very much part of the line-up, not just stuck at the back like a session musician. Richard Jobson led us in a round of applause for Stuart and the situation was perfectly handled, it wasn’t overly sentimental or maudlin and I didn’t hear anyone complaining about Bruce or Jamie’s roles. In fact, truth be told, the band sounded amazing, bursting with a seething energy that proved they were up for this as much as the adoring Roundhouse crowd. Richard Jobson looked remarkably fit and muscular, he didn’t stop moving throughout the whole show and the familiar high kicks and shadow boxing are all present or as he jokingly comments "moving from leg to another". He laughs that he is flattered when someone calls it dancing, but then adds “I don’t care, the music is joyous and takes over” and you just have to admire him. His voice is fantastically rich and powerful too and you realise that he is an extremely underrated singer that certainly deserves a hell of lot more credit than he currently gets.

Richard Jobson of The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
We are treated to a near perfect set-list featuring all those classic hits that I once saw on Top Of The Pops as a teenager and a great selection of album tracks too. I say ‘near perfect’ as for some reason they omit one of my favourite tracks “Sweet Suburbia” which I still remember hearing for the first time on the brilliant compilation album “Twenty of Another Kind” but I guess you can't have everything. From the debut album “Scared To Dance” the vicious “Melancholy Soldiers” is a fist pumping singalong classic and “Of One Skin” is so good it gets played twice. Debut single “Charles” with its nightmarish vision of a factory worker slowly merging into his machine was a sinister delight and of course we get the truly anthemic “The Saints Are Coming” which sees Jobson paying tribute to the firefighters and emergency services who battled so courageously with the Grenfell Tower tragedy. He chats about the band’s early days “the thing about being one of the first Scottish Punk bands was that we got to support all the big names like Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, The Damned and we were better than all of them! Nah, I’m lying, that was just fake news!” 

The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
Original Bassist Bill Simpson looked cool in his shades and his iconic, thunderous intro to “Into The Valley” sent a shiver down the spine, inciting a huge joyous roar from the crowd. Richard tells the story of his audition for The Skids back in 1977 and confesses that afterwards Bill had told Stuart “he can’t sing, he can’t dance” and Stuart replied “that's fantastic!” The tracks from "Days In Europa" are stunning and there's a real thrill when those instantly recognisable bubbling sequencers and synth motifs that herald “Working For The Yankee Dollar” and “Animation” fizz out of the speakers. “Masquerade”, “Charade” there's so many great songs and such depth of material. More stunning tracks from the album such as “Thanatos”, “'Dulce et Decorum Est” and “The Olympian” prove that they could have easily extended their impressive run of hit singles if they had been chosen. Talking of strength of material, “Out of Town” one of my personal favourites on the night was originally just a B-side to the stand-alone release “Masquerade” and I thought most bands would kill to have a single as good as “Out of Town” let alone a B-side!

Mike Baillie of The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
I couldn’t see much of drummer Mike Baillie as he was hidden behind his cymbals but his drumming was mightily impressive. Mike joined the band in time to play on their most commercially successful album “The Absolute Game” and from that we got a scorching “Circus Games” which was one of the highlights of the night. I wasn’t so keen on this album when it originally came out, particularly the singles “Hurry On Boys” and “Woman In Winter”, but tonight they were outstanding as Richard turned them both into huge emotionally charged singalongs, encouraging everyone to join in on backing vocals. He thanks us for being the only crowd on the tour so far who haven’t shouted out for “TV Stars”, the “worst song we ever wrote”, but of course they play it anyway…after all the chance to scream “Albert Tatlock!” at the top of your voice was never going to be passed up. The good news is that the future looks bright for The Skids too as for the final encore they played a promising new song from their forthcoming album “Burning Skies” and I sincerely hope that this will be successful in enticing another generation of music fans to check out The Skids.

The Skids photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
Eagle-eyed Skids fans might notice that although my review is from The Roundhouse in London, Paul Slattery’s photos are from the gig in Southampton. It’s rare that we attend different shows but I’m sure you would much rather see Paul’s excellent pictures than mine! Anyway I can recommend those of you who were at Southampton to check out Ged Babey’s superb review in “Louder Than War” if you want your photos and feature in sync. The forthcoming Skids album “Burning Skies” is available to pre-order via a Pledgemusic campaign here and you can also order a live CD of the Roundhouse show here. Paul Slattery has a book of his early Skids photos entitled "Scared To Dance: The Skids 1979-80" published by Hanging Around Books which is run by the music journalist, and long-time Skids supporter, Ronnie Gurr. You can see some videos of The Skids and support act The Vapors at The Roundhouse over at our YouTube channel here. For up-to-date news and details of future tour dates please check out the official Skids web-site here.

Richard Jobson photographed in Southampton by Paul Slattery
With thanks to Paul Slattery for the excellent pictures. All photos copyright Paul Slattery 2017.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Stompin' Riff Raffs at Club Three Shimokitazawa Tokyo

The Stompin' Riff Raffs at Club Three Tokyo
It was great news to see that The Stompin' Riff Raffs were playing a gig in Tokyo while I was there and the chance to see them in a small basement club in Shimokitazawa was too good an opportunity to pass up. After all they do rank up there among the best live acts I've ever seen and any band that can make a theremin sexy has got my vote! I first saw them play at last year's Hipsville Weekender where the enthusiastic organizers Mr A, Alex and Ade can be relied on to scour all corners of the planet to bring us unbelievably good Garage Rock bands. I've been introduced to bands from Mexico such as Los Sustos, the fabulous Autoramas from Brazil, Messer Chups from Russia and The Jackets from Switzerland to name a few. But they really surpassed themselves with The Stompin' Riff Raffs. Getting them over from Japan can't have been easy and the band were hit by technical problems on the day which unfortunately put paid to Miku's keyboards. However the young Tokyo based band continued to put in a stunningly energetic performance, Miku endearing herself to the crowd by still going through the motions of playing her broken keyboard just in case it miraculously burst in life!

Miku of The Stompin' Riff Raffs at Club Three Tokyo
Rie of The Stompin' Riff Raffs at Club Three Tokyo
So, back to the present and I'm down the front at Club Three eagerly awaiting my second experience of The Stompin' Riff Raffs. They burst onto the stage and crash straight into the Surf-Psych instrumental "Parabellum". Three girls and a guy. The girls dressed identically in sparkling 1930's style flapper dresses and Green Hornet face masks. Miku plays her theremin as though it were a guitar, twisting ear-bustingly weird yet wonderful noises from it. Drummer Saori is all smiles behind her kit and super-cool bassist Rie looks great while adding harmonies and backing vocals. Singer and guitarist Nao is a truly charismatic front-man as he throws everything into his performance. The Sonics' "The Witch" gets a good Stompin' and "Surfside Date" sounds amazing. There are elements of Link Wray, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Cramps and the Ramones in their quick-fire no pause for breath approach. One of my highlights of the night is the penultimate killer track "Horror Show", which you can hear in Episode 22 of Retrosonic Podcast here

Saori of The Stompin' Riff Raffs at Club Three Tokyo
Nao of The Stompin' Riff Raffs at Club Three Tokyo
The band are all smiles and their enthusiasm is infection as the crowd go wild, there's a real sense of fun and abandonment with The Stompin' Riff Raffs. The set draws to a crazed end with another theremin-led instrumental "Ghost Train" during which all hell breaks loose on stage and everything falls apart in glorious chaos! What a show and what a band! My only complaint was that due to time restraints there was no encore so I didn't get to hear my favourite track "Linda" but I was more than satisfied. Let's hope they come back to the U.K. again very soon. You can check out more 'up close and personal' videos of the band at the Club Three Shimokitazawa and Hipsville 2016 over at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here. Here's a little taster...

For more info on The Stompin' Riff Raffs check out their official Facebook page here.

Lester Square "Carcass" - New Solo Album from The ex-Monochrome Set & Adam & The Ants Guitarist

Lester Square photographed by Paul Slattery at our Retro Man Blog Night back in 2014
Lester Square, the original guitarist in Adam & The Ants and co-founder of The Monochrome Set has just released a new solo album entitled "Carcass". The title track features Lester's trademark twanging riffs that will of course be familiar to fans of The Monochrome Set. It's a great opener, like Dick Dale or Link Wray performing the soundtrack to an Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western movie. Another personal highlight is "Time Flies" which is a beautifully pastoral song with vocals from The Chefs' Helen McCookerybook that reminds me of Goldfrapp's "Seventh Tree" album and it wouldn't have been out of place on the soundtrack to "The Wicker Man". Although by the end the peaceful landscape seems to get shattered and polluted by the sound of screaming fighter jets. The rest of the album features a diverse set of evocative and mainly instrumental songs that range from pulsing funky brass to baroque orchestral pieces. There's even some Gaelic Pipe Folk rubbing shoulders with organ driven tracks that touch on The Senior Service or James Taylor Quartet's output. But of course it's Lester's instantly recognisable and inventive, yet still seriously underrated, guitar work that is the star of the show. As well as recording eleven studio albums with The Monochrome Set, Lester has also recorded with The Invisible, Jesus Couldn’t Drum, ...And The Native Hipsters, Victory Through Sound and Helen McCookerybook. The official description of the album goes something like this: "Carcass, is a product of its times; a collection, if you will, of protest instrumentals; sound poems to chart these extraordinary times. Whether imagining the insect winners of a post nuclear winter, or the secrets of the Trump penthouse, these works are in equal measure poignant, sarcastic, angry and hopeful. It has been said that revolution today has no soundtrack in the same way that the anti-Vietnam draft resistance of the sixties did. For what its worth the redress starts here". You can order the CD of "Carcass" from Lester's Bandcamp page here.

Lester will be re-joining The Monochrome Set for two very special gigs at The Lexington in Islington to celebrate 40 years since The Monochrome Set formed. The band will be playing their first two albums "Strange Boutique" and "Love Zombies" in their entirety and a set of favourites, over two nights, Saturday 10th February and Sunday 11th February next year. The gig is being promoted by Bizarro and support on both nights comes from The Would-Be-Goods Two who feature Jessica Griffin and Peter Momtchiloff of the original WBG's playing a stripped down set of songs old and new. You can order tickets in advance from We Got Tickets here. There's no news yet if Lester will be playing any solo gigs to promote the release of "Carcass" but in the meantime here's the title track.

Lester Square photo copyright Paul Slattery. You can see a feature, including more of Paul's excellent photos of our Retro Man Blog Night featuring The Monochrome Set and The Fallen Leaves back in May 2014 at the Retro Man Blog archive here

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Oh! Gunquit - New Album "Lightning Likes Me" & Weirdsville Headline Show on June 24th

Oh! Gunquit have released a new album "Lightning Likes Me" on Decapitator Records, it features four tracks originally released last year on their "Hot Cross Fun" limited edition cassette only E.P. recorded with Jim Diamond and six superb brand new songs. The album also introduces new saxophonist Chuchi who has previously played with King Salami & The Cumberland 3 and I'm sure he's going to add another dimension to the band's already exceptional live shows. The album is packed full of Oh! Gunquit's strongest material to date, so if you are already aware of the band's previous releases then you'll get some idea of just how good this record is. Oh! Gunquit don't just straddle various genres but gleefully kick them to pieces as you might gather by this description from Dirty Water Records, who released the band's debut album: "Oh! Gunquit are a Rumble-Bop, Surf-Punk Band who concoct a brew of Raw R&R, Wild Garage Rock and Twisted Freak-a-Billy" - try finding that in the record store racks! Their blend of eminently danceable swampy, voodoo-touched Exotica will get even us old-timers bouncing around the room. The album is packed full of clever riffs and twists and turns that defy any categorization and the abundant melodies are nicely underpinned by some welcome off-kilter touches that on occasion remind me of Gallon Drunk meeting the B-52's. My personal highlight off the album has to be "Greasy Moves" which distills the essence of Oh! Gunquit into four lip-smackingly lascivious minutes. You can hear another highlight from the album, the stunning "Fireballs" in our Retrosonic Podcast Episode 25 here.

You can order the "Lightning Likes Me" album direct from the Oh! Gunquit Bandcamp site here. One track from the album "Nomads of The Lost" was released as a limited edition green vinyl single on  Trash Wax Records and it's well worth getting from the label here, now enjoy the video!

Oh! Gunquit will headline the always excellent Weirdsville club night at the Fiddler's Elbow in Camden on Saturday June 24th with support from Emptifish and DJ's until 3am. It's sure to be a busy night so better make sure you book your tickets in advance from Weirdsville at the link here.

Oh! Gunquit photographed by Paul Slattery
For more info check out the Oh! Gunquit Facebook page here. Colour photo copyright Paul Slattery.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Stupidity - "10 Years of Stupidity" New Greatest Hits Collection from the Swedish R'n'B Garage Rockers

Stupidity Photographed in Camden, London by Paul Slattery
The Stockholm based raw R'n'B & Garage Rock band Stupidity celebrate ten years of impressive recorded history by releasing a superb "best of" compilation entitled "10 Years of Stupidity" on Go Fast Records. With tracks selected and remastered from all of their four albums along with the 2015 single "Get Up" and a previously unreleased track "OK", it's the perfect collection for fans old and new. The band have been busy recently, gathering yet more support from Little Steven's Underground Garage, playing live with Duncan Reid & The Big Heads and drummer Tommy has recently been interviewed for Mighty Manfred's radio show which you can listen to at Soundcloud.

You can order the album directly from the band's official Stupidity web-site store here. Here's a video of one of the tracks that appears on the album, this is "Baby It's You" filmed by Retro Man Blog at a Garageland Club night in at The Unicorn in Camden back in 2015. Photo copyright Paul Slattery.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Ian Person - New Solo Album, Movie Soundtrack and Side Project from the ex-Soundtrack of Our Lives & Union Carbide Productions Guitarist

Ian Person, formerly guitarist with The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Union Carbide Productions, has certainly been busy recently. First of all Welfare Sounds & Records will release his brand new solo album "Exit: Highway Of Light" on June 09th and it features thirteen cracking guitar based Rock 'n' Roll tracks. It's a long time coming, following on some eleven years after his excellent debut solo/TV soundtrack album "Diamonds In The Rough" and it's available to pre-order from Bengans. Ian has also composed the soundtrack (along with his ex-TSOOL colleague Kalle Gustafsson Jerneholm) to a new movie featuring Sidse Babett Knudsen from "Borgen" and "Westworld" entitled "Ikitie". If that's not enough he has now teamed up with Per Stålberg from Division of Laura Lee to form a scorching Punk Rock outfit called Pablo Matisse. The Gothenburg based band, who also feature Samuel Järpvik and Mikael Björklund, have just released a six track E.P. "Deep In Guilt" on Startracks Records and it's a vicious blast of tuneful hardcore Punk that I'm sure will appeal to fans of Husker Du and Black Flag and of course Ian's old band Union Carbide Productions. The E.P. includes a rip-roaring take on Fugazi's piano ballad "I'm So Tired" that will blow you away! You can check out the album and find out more details on the band at their official Facebook page here.

Here's a track from Ian's new solo album "Exit: Highway of Light" entitled "Yo-Yo".

We've featured Ian's various projects extensively here at Retro Man Blog and also at Retrosonic Podcast, so please feel free check out our archives for various features and interviews from his time with The Soundtrack of Our Lives to his solo work, his album with Swedish Rock & Roll legend Jerry Williams and even his movie soundtrack work including his amazing score from the "Fotbollens Sista Proletärer" documentary about IFK Göteborg where we spoke to the film's directors and Swedish footballer Glenn Hysén. Here's a great interview with Ian and his ex-TSOOL colleague Fredrik Sandsten which sheds an honest and amusing light on their musical careers.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Baron Four - New Album "Silvaticus" Launch Party Gig at The Lexington on June 16th

The Baron Four at last November's Retro Man Blog Night Photographed by Paul Slattery
The Baron Four celebrate the release of their long-awaited second album "Silvaticus" with a launch party gig at The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, London on Friday June 16th. Support comes from The Teamsters and Elsa from The Missing Souls will be DJ'ing in the downstairs bar until the early hours. You'll be able to buy copies of the album on CD or vinyl on the night prior to the official release date of June 30th. If you order tickets in advance you'll be in with the chance of snagging a limited edition numbered CD featuring an instrumental version of "Just How You Want To Be". You can get tickets at the bargain price of £4.95 from here

"Silvaticus" is being released on Get Hip Recordings and here's some more info from the label..."ten new, original songs by singer/bassist Mike Whittaker jostle for space with two covers: the recently unearthed "Wild Angel" by James Bond & The Agents from 1967, and a radical reworking of the Bo Diddley classic "I Can Tell" featuring relative newcomer CK Smith on some of the dirtiest blues harp you’re likely to hear this year! Elsewhere, Mr. Smith lays down some killer guitar parts, deft and assured, with just the right amount of grit, complementing fellow axe-man Joe Eakins’ relentless rhythm. There’s even a 12-string in there! Set for release on Friday June 30th, the album will be available on Opaque Orange color vinyl (limited to 300), classic black vinyl (limited to 200), CD and digital. All LP’s include a complimentary download coupon".

Here's the band filmed at our Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon night last November.

For more information and up-to-date news on the band please check out their Facebook page here.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Retrosonic Podcast Special Edition with Buddy Ascott of The Chords & The Fallen Leaves & News of His Charity Quest...

Buddy Ascott with Clem Burke from Blondie - Photo copyright Peter Stevens
Legendary drummer Buddy Ascott of The Chords and currently The Fallen Leaves, chats to Retro Man Blog about his life in music in this latest special edition Retrosonic Podcast. From being inspired by The Who's Keith Moon and Quadrophenia and witnessing the early Punk Rock explosion to playing the Roxy. There's encounters with The Undertones, Paul Weller and Jimmy Pursey and of course the story centres around his time with The Chords at the height of the Mod Revival. Buddy also explains about his theory of why drummers are the goalkeepers of Rock 'n' Roll and tells us of his involvement with an intriguing charity event. This honest and amusing account might just change your preconceptions about drummers! The Podcast is sound-tracked with music by some of Buddy's various (and many...) bands including The Chords, The Fallen Leaves, The Rage, The Moment, The Red Away Tops, The Way Out and we have an exclusive track from Speakeasy's forthcoming album. More details of the Roll Out The Barrel "Drummers on top of the O2" charity event - including the chance to bid for the signed bass drum skin as shown in the photos below - can be found here. Photographer Peter Stevens has been on hand to capture Buddy's quest to get this drum skin signed by an impressive list of drumming royalty such as Clem Burke from Blondie, Nick Mason from Pink Floyd, Dylan Howe from the Wilko Johnson band, John Coghlan from Status Quo, Mick Avory from The Kinks and many more...We'll keep you updated as the drum skin gets filled in with more names!

Buddy Ascott with Nick Mason of Pink Floyd - Photo copyright Peter Stevens
Buddy Ascott with Dylan Howe of the Wilko Johnson band - Photo copyright Peter Stevens
Buddy Ascott with Steve White of The Style Council - Photo copyright Peter Stevens
You can listen to or download the Podcast directly from our Retrosonic Podcast Soundcloud link below or subscribe on iTunes or Mixcloud. Buddy will be talking about his experience of playing the 100 Club in the next episode of Retrosonic Podcast so please keep an eye out for the release date.

With thanks to Peter Stevens for the excellent photos, you can check out his web-site with more examples of his superb work here. All photos copyright Peter Stevens.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

The Stranglers & Ruts DC at Guildford G-Live March 21st 2017 with Photos by Derek D'Souza

The Stranglers - Photographed at Guildford G-Live by Derek D'Souza
The Stranglers story started here in Guildford, indeed there was a far from subtle clue in their original choice of name – The Guildford Stranglers. Thankfully they ditched the prefix pretty quickly, I mean it doesn’t quite have the same Rock’n’Roll ring to it as say, The New York Dolls or Hanoi Rocks does it? It’s hard to believe that this green and pleasant area of Surrey could spawn a band that would become arguably one of the most challenging, violent and unpredictable bands of all their so-called Punk peers. The typically English picture postcard idyll of Chiddingfold, Bramley Village Hall and the Scout Hut in Shalford sound more like locations from an episode of Midsomer Murders rather than important landmarks in The Stranglers story. But just like a plot from the unlikely crime series there was something dark lurking beneath the veneer of suburban commuter belt respectability. But the inner cities don’t have it all and probably Paul Weller’s line “I know I come from Woking and you say I’m a fraud” came the closet, not just geographically (Woking is less than 10 miles away from Guildford) but also philosophically to prove that the "uncool" suburbs can also be a hotbed of seething, righteous anger and creativity.

JJ Burnel of The Stranglers - Photographed at Guildford G-Live by Derek D'Souza
The Stranglers played their first ever gig in Guildford and were initially buoyed by Jet Black’s local ice cream and off-licence businesses but the band seem to have maintained a rather ambivalent attitude to the town over the years. After all none of the members were born there and tonight there’s none of the usual trappings of a “hometown” gig as such. Indeed during the early years tensions seemed to be fraught between the band and the town and somewhat ironically, tonight's venue, the G-Live was built on the site of the old Civic Hall from which The Stranglers were once banned by the local council. Just down the road from here nearly 40 years ago, The Stranglers walked off stage half way through a gig being filmed for the BBC's "Rock Goes To College" with the parting shot "Guildford University never represented Guildford, we hate playing to elitist audiences so f**k off!" Unsurprisingly, the BBC never televised the show. Luckily nowadays there’s no such animosity between The Stranglers, the town and its local audience and the band are playing to a loyal and enthusiastic crowd where elitism couldn’t be further from anyone’s mind.

The Stranglers - Photographed at Guildford G-Live by Derek D'Souza
There’s nothing quite like that sense of anticipation when the lights go down and the familiar strains of the "Waltzinblack" intro boom out of the PA system. I still get shivers up and down my spine even now. The band takes the stage and they launch straight into "The Raven" which is the perfect opening number with its lengthy, pulsating intro. After last year’s stunning “Black And White” tour tonight, the emphasis is back on the "Greatest Hits". There is a twist though in that we don’t get "Duchess" or "Nuclear Device" but instead we do get "Who Wants The World" and "Bear Cage". These two tracks always seemed to be hiding under the considerable shadows of the band’s more commercially successful singles but tonight both sound unbelievable, particularly “Who Wants The World” which is transformed into a massive terrace chant with it’s slamming singalong chorus. Anyway, with such a huge back catalogue they are always going to miss out a few of your favourites but the one and a half hour show is packed with enough of the old familiar crowd pleasers to keep everyone happy. "(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)", "Nice ‘n’ Sleazy", "Peaches", "Hanging Around" and "Something Better Change" all sounding as fresh and vital as ever. There’s also the occasional album track thrown into the mix, “Never To Look Back” proves that despite “10’s” weak and dated production and its somewhat pedestrian cover versions, there were a few moments of sheer class to be found on the album. From the debut we get “Sometimes” and from the latest album “Giants” we get “Freedom Is Insane” and “15 Steps” which highlights Baz’s excellent guitar work.

Baz Warne of The Stranglers - Photographed at Guildford G-Live by Derek D'Souza
Baz certainly relishes his role and he’s got the balance just right - he can croon “Golden Brown” in his impressive baritone but also exudes that necessary Stranglers menace. He has a great rapport, not only with his band-mates, but also with the fans. I was reading some comments on Facebook after one recent show and someone mentioned that they thought Baz had 'saved' The Stranglers. You know, I think they might have a point in a way, he definitely re-energised and enthused both the band and many of those fans disillusioned with Hugh's departure and the Paul Roberts era. The band certainly look like they are enjoying themselves, at no point do you get the feeling that they are going through the motions despite JJ and Dave performing with the band for over 40 years. JJ has hardly changed over the years and his bass still sounds like a Triumph Bonneville revving up. He makes eye contact with members of the crowd, acknowledging some familiar faces with a grin here and a wink there and tries to upstage the serious tone of “Golden Brown” with some neat ballet pirouettes behind Baz’s back. Dave Greenfield takes a swig of drink while playing one of his trademark keyboard runs one-handed and takes over the lead vocals on “Genetix”. Now this track does your head in just listening to it on record so I’m not sure how they can play it live. With its weird time signatures it’s not exactly what you would call a dance number, well unless you’ve had a few pints and “have your feet the wrong way round” as Graham Day once sang. Although he is still considered part of the band Jet no longer performs live due to health issues and has been replaced full-time by the excellent drummer Jim MacAulay, who even resembles a young Jet! It’s a shame that Jet can’t make an appearance tonight here in the town were he somehow assembled the band from such an unlikely and disparate bunch of people. I bet during those early rehearsals in the Shalford Scout Hut they would never have imagined some 40 years later that they'd still be playing to sold out venues all over the world. So, thank you Guildford!

Segs of Ruts DC - Photographed at Guildford G-Live by Derek D'Souza
You certainly get value for money when you go to see The Stranglers - as support they have had acts of the calibre of Wilko Johnson and The Alarm and on this tour Ruts DC have been invited along to open the shows. Ruts DC, just like The Stranglers, are still producing superb new music and are riding high on a wave of positivity with the release of their excellent new album "Music Must Destroy". Following the "Rhythm Collison Vol. 2" Reggae and Dub orientated collaboration, the new album sees them stripped back to a more guitar based 'Rock' sound. The band have also pared down accordingly to a three-piece featuring the original Ruts rhythm section of bassist Segs Jennings and drummer Dave Ruffy with Leigh Heggarty on guitar. Such is the strength of the new material that it comprises a large chunk of the night's well received set, "Kill The Pain" has a soaring memorable chorus and "Psychic Attack" is an absolute belter, spitting vitriol with a blistering energy that belies the band's age. You can hear what I mean in Episode 24 of our Retrosonic Podcast. Segs is looking dapper in his suit and trilby, he shows us a bright blue plaster on his finger and jokes "I’m struggling, me and JJ had a bit of a fight backstage but I think I got off quite lightly". It didn’t affect his bass playing noticeably! He handles most of the vocals and has a suitably gruff voice which is ideal when you think back to Malcolm Owen's trademark growl.

Dave Ruffy of Ruts DC - Photographed at Guildford G-Live by Retro Man Blog
Talking of gruff vocals, on the album itself Henry Rollins provides the backing vocals on the title track "Music Must Destroy", it's a slower paced yet heavy number which played tonight is another stand-out. The quality of the new songs and the fact that they are much rawer means that they fit in seamlessly alongside the familiar classics such as "In A Rut", "Staring at the Rude Boys" and "West One (Shine on Me)". Segs and Ruffy have sometimes been labelled the "Sly & Robbie of Punk", they even appeared in the BBC's "Story of Reggae" documentary. Tonight "Mighty Soldier" and a peerless "Jah War" remind us that they always had an instinctive love and grasp of Reggae that informed, but never overpowered The Ruts sound. It's a treat to watch Dave Ruffy drumming on these tracks. Of course we are treated to "Babylon’s Burning" and they even manage to squeeze in the manic two minute blast of "Society" before leaving the stage to warm and rowdy applause. You can check out some photos and see our feature on the now legendary Paul Fox benefit show at the Islington Academy back in 2007 here. The gig was sadly one of Paul's last ever live appearances with the band and featured some impressive special guests including Henry Rollins, The Damned, TV Smith, UK Subs, Misty In Roots and many more. Leigh Heggarty writes a humorous Blog about his exploits as a touring musician called "Leigh's Mad World of Guitars" and its well worth checking out.

Leigh Heggarty of Ruts DC - Photographed at Guildford G-Live by Derek D'Souza
Thanks to Derek D’Souza for the excellent photographs, you can check out more of Derek’s portfolio at his blinkandyoumissit web-site. Derek spoke to us about his new book on The Jam, "In Echoed Steps: The Jam and a Vision of The Albion" in our latest Retrosonic Podcast. You can listen to or download the episode below or subscribe for free on iTunes or Mixcloud. You can read more about the band’s Guildford connections in Malcolm Wyatt’s interview with JJ in his superb Write Wyatt Blog here and check out more photos of the gig at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here. For our feature on The Stranglers "Black And White" at Brixton Academy and Reading Hexagon last year please check the Retro Man Blog archive here.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The Fallen Leaves: Paul Slattery Photos from the New Album Launch Party at The Hope & Anchor with The Killer B's & The Nu Vandals

The Fallen Leaves at The Hope & Anchor photographed by Paul Slattery
Hot on the desert-booted heels of their "Best of" compilation "Punk Rock For Gentlemen", The Fallen Leaves have just released an album of all new material entitled "What We've All Been Waiting For" on their own Parliament Records. The band put on an excellent launch party as part of their residency at the legendary Hope & Anchor venue in Islington where copies of the album were on sale for the first time. It's on CD only for now and if we get any news of a vinyl release of course we will let you know. Some of the new songs have featured in the band's set over the past couple of years now and have become firm favourites alongside all those much-loved classics. New titles including "Motorcycle Girl", "All That Glitters", "Lavender Girl" and "Prodigal Son" are particularly impressive. We've played exclusive pre-release versions of a couple of the new songs in various episodes of Retrosonic Podcast and you can hear the brilliant "Funny World" in our latest Episode 26 here. The band had just got back from a mini-tour of the UK, taking in Manchester and another Marc Riley session and gigs in Glasgow and Middlesbrough and tonight they were on top form. Vocalist Rob Green pulls out all the stops and props - the cool shades, the flask of tea, the maracas, the blowing of smoke rings and even gunning down the crowd with a walking stick! Bassist Matthew Karas looks cool with his cravat and velvet smoking jacket, a bemused Cheshire Cat grin playing on his lips. Rob Symmons' assault on his guitar is still one of the most exciting visual treats you will see at any gig and Buddy Ascott's mightily impressive drumming once again proving that there's much more to these "Simple songs for complex people". Here's some great photographs from Paul Slattery...

The Fallen Leaves at The Hope & Anchor photographed by Paul Slattery
Rob Green of The Fallen Leaves at The Hope & Anchor photographed by Paul Slattery
Rob Symmons of The Fallen Leaves at The Hope & Anchor photographed by Paul Slattery
Buddy Ascott of The Fallen Leaves at The Hope & Anchor photographed by Paul Slattery
Matthew Karas of The Fallen Leaves at The Hope & Anchor photographed by Paul Slattery
The night started off with some down and dirty good time Rock 'n' Roll from The Nu Vandals which certainly put a smile on everyone's faces. A Punky cover of "The Harder They Come" was ambitious but they pulled it off thanks to some great drumming from Richard Grealish and impressive sax work from Natalie Lane. Vocals are shared between guitarist Alan Blizzard, who oozes Keith Richards style and imposing bassist Dale Senior who looks like he's stepped out of a Martin Scorsese movie. In fact the band do bring a touch of that New York Johnny Thunders Lower East Side Manhattan to Islington. One of my favourite songs was the short, sharp Ramones tribute "Ask Me No Questions" but "Feeling Good About Feeling Bad", "Have You Seen My Mama" & "My City" are all great tracks and I would thoroughly recommend catching The Nu Vandals play as soon as you can.

The Nu Vandals photographed by Paul Slattery
The Nu Vandals photographed by Paul Slattery
Next up it was the welcome return of The Killer B's who's raw, hypnotic R'n'B really went down well on the night. There's a slightly off-kilter twist to their take on the Blues to keep things interesting particularly on "You Don't Bug Me". It was when Chris Thompson started off that stuttering, scratchy Wilko Johnson style guitar on the superb "Unforgiven" that it reminded me of his old band The Screaming Blue Messiahs. I knew bassist Ricky McGuire had been in The Men They Couldn't Hang and I just found out he had also been in the early 80's Punk band The Fits, if I'd have known that I would have taken along my old "Last Laugh E.P." for him to sign...! He's a great bass player and both him and his rhythm section colleague, the dapper and laid back drummer David Morgan Mathias, keep things effortlessly in check. They don't play any songs at all from their only album "Love Is a Cadillac Death Is a Ford" so I'm hoping they will get round to recording some of this excellent new material very soon and not forgetting getting out there and playing some more gigs too.

The Killer B's photographed by Paul Slattery
The Killer B's photographed by Paul Slattery
The Killer B's photographed by Paul Slattery
The Killer B's photographed by Paul Slattery
Thanks to Paul Slattery for the excellent photos (copyright Paul Slattery 2017). Paul started off taking early photos of his heroes Dr. Feelgood and Link Wray and was inspired by Lemmy of Motorhead to dive head first into the music world. Over the years he's produced iconic shots of The Flamin' Groovies, Ramones, The Clash, The Fall, Joy Division, Manic Street Preachers, The Stone Roses and many more besides. Paul has had two books published "The Smiths: The Early Years" and "Oasis: A Year On The Road" which are available from Amazon. For more photos of the album launch party please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit "Like" to sign-up and check out the exclusive photo albums. You can see some videos of all three bands filmed on the night too at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here. You can order copies of The Fallen Leaves new album  "What We've All Been Waiting For" from band's web-site here and don't forget our very special Fallen Leaves Podcasts where the two Robs talk us through their fascinating history and play a pick of some of their influences and favourite Fallen Leaves songs along the way. Episode 1 is here...

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Jam - New Book "In Echoed Steps: The Jam and a Vision of The Albion" by Derek D'Souza, Paul Skellett & Simon Wells

The Jam photographed at Chiswick House by Derek D'Souza
"In Echoed Steps, The Jam and a Vision Of The Albion" revisits Britain in the early 1980s through the words and pictures of The Jam. Using Derek D’Souza’s estate of rare and largely unpublished photographs, designed by Paul Skellett and written by Simon Wells this 12" square book will sit nicely inside a hard slip case and can be stored alongside your vinyl (or book) collection. Deluxe editions of the book come with exclusive prints, each photograph measuring 11×11 inches is printed using the revolutionary high definition LumeJet print system. The five curated images in each folio feature an embossed watermark of authentication, and they are presented in a uniquely designed commemorative LP album slipcase. Each folio comes with a certificate of authenticity, signed by Derek, Paul and Simon and the sets are numbered 1-150. Photographer Derek D'Souza spoke to us about the book and his work with The Jam in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast which you can listen to or download below from our Soundcloud site or subscribe at iTunes or Mixcloud.

By 1981, The Jam was undoubtedly Britain’s most popular band. With a string of top ten singles and albums and a fan base that was measured in the hundreds of thousands, the loyalty shown to them by their fans was akin to what the previous generation had bestowed on The Beatles. Nonetheless, the group’s lead singer and writer Paul Weller, was not in a hurry to sit back on his laurels. A sharp observer of the inequalities of life, through his songs he’d noted the appalling and dire state of Britain in the early 1980s. Weller’s observations, told of a nation depressed and despondent – the opportunities for the young seemingly ring-fenced to a select few. Hailing from a working-class background, he’d escaped the predictability of a mundane existence and had followed his dream – and yet he never left the world he came from behind. Despite the dismal and unforgiving landscape, the poet within Weller was receptive to the beauty within the country he evidently loved.

In the early 1980s, he’d read and adored Geoffrey Ashe’s extraordinary book, “Camelot and a Vision of The Albion”. Ashe’s book looked at how King Arthur’s wondrous and magical template for Britain – loaded with truth, honesty and integrity – was being eroded. The ever inventive and receptive Weller saw a parallel with Arthur’s quest of embodying chivalry and integrity, qualities patently missing from the Britain of the early 1980s. Weller’s lyrics on The Jam’s Sound Affects album echoed heavily with his observations. With tracks such as “Set The House Ablaze” and “Man In The Corner Shop” Weller’s writing was elevated to a new level. Soon after would come “Absolute Beginners”, “Tales From The Riverbank” and “Funeral Pyre” – remarkable and precise dispatches from a broken Britain at street level. In 1981, few were expressing the decaying state of Britain – not least the pitiful organs of the mainstream press.

The Jam photographed at Chiswick House by Derek D'Souza
As a result, it was left to the likes of the NME & Morning Star to voice the disquiet. But it was the fanzine writers and artists who depicted better than anyone what was really going on in the country. Naturally, Weller was in tune with this mood of dissent, and he had established Riot Stories a small publishing outfit that would give voice to the many who shared his viewpoint. While The Jam weren’t the only band really communicating the disquiet, they were clearly the most outspoken group to occupy the top end of the charts, and their clarity of truth swept up legions of fans across the nation. On the group’s frequent concert tours of the UK, Weller took a sharp view of the landscape of Britain – especially beyond Watford where the so called beautiful South dissolved into the monochrome of the neglected and largely abandoned North of England.

What he, and many others witnessed, was a truly broken and divided country. While the ruling classes put on a grubby show of decadence and unbridled wealth, the reality of over 3 million unemployed back-dropped by a diminishing industrial landscape, was a more than apparent nightmare for many. “In Echoed Steps, The Jam and a Vision Of The Albion” revisits Britain in the early 1980s through the words and pictures of The Jam. Using Derek D’Souza’s estate of rare and largely unpublished photographs, it’s a remarkable journey back to a remarkable time.

Paul Weller photographed at Chiswick House by Derek D'Souza
Please check out the various options available at the Pledgemusic site here and for regular updates and news on the book then please check out the Facebook page here. Words from "In Echoed Steps" publicity. All photos copyright Derek D'Souza, you can check out more of Derek's excellent portfolio of photography at his Blinkandyoumissit web-site here and don't forget our Podcast with Derek!