Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Joy Division at Strawberry Studios - Photography by Paul Slattery: New Book of Iconic Photos Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of "Unknown Pleasures"

Joy Divison at Strawberry Studios - Photography by Paul Slattery
To mark the fortieth anniversary of Joy Division’s seminal album "Unknown Pleasures", Paul Slattery, the celebrated rock photographer (and my Retro Man Blog colleague...) travels back in time to Saturday 28th July 1979. His new book, published by Legends Publishing, features the iconic images of the photo session of the band which he took on the streets around Strawberry Studios in Stockport (where the band recorded the album) and later that day at the legendary "Stuff The Superstars" gig at The Mayflower Club in Gorton. This is the first time all the images have been published in one volume. Paul also shares his memories of the day and the photographic locations, along with some never-before-published images. The limited edition author-signed copies of the book come with three postcard sized prints and an exclusive Joy Division badge – while stocks last and not sold separately. Please note, the official book launch will take place on Saturday 27th at the Stockport Museum and books will be posted out on or around that date. Overseas purchases are possible but extra postage charges will apply – the publisher will advise details after an order has been made. You can order the book directly from Legends Publishing here.

Joy Divison at Strawberry Studios - Photography by Paul Slattery
Paul was invited to give a talk about his Joy Division photos at the Stockport Museum during their "I Am In Love" exhibition back in December 2017, you can read a report on the event, along with an interview with Paul by Lee McFadden of ATV, in the Blog archive here
- All photos copyright Paul Slattery.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Ranking Roger “I Just Can’t Stop It: My Life in The Beat” co-written with Daniel Rachel and published by Omnibus Press - Feature Including Exclusive Paul Slattery Photos


I went along to the launch party for Ranking Roger’s autobiography “I Just Can’t Stop It: My Life In The Beat” at the Heavenly Social recently. Of course, it was a very poignant affair as sadly Roger passed away before he could see the book published. Co-writer Daniel Rachel took part in an entertaining interview and Q & A session and did a great job in what must have been difficult circumstances. Daniel has already had books published on subjects that include Rock Against Racism, Britpop, 2 Tone and Red Wedge so he was a good choice to work with Roger on his autobiography. The book was available for sale on the night prior to publication so I picked up a copy and have just finished reading it. First of all I must say, that there are some fantastic photos throughout and it was great to see a couple of my Retro Man Blog colleague Paul Slattery’s pics inside, including the famous one of Roger with Joe Strummer backstage at the Mogador Theatre in Paris. Here, Paul shares two of his own favourite photos and gives us some background behind them.

Ranking Roger - Photo copyright Paul Slattery
“I took this backstage photo of Ranking Roger with his top hat after a gig in late 1979 at The Subscription Rooms in Stroud. He was still only 16 at the time but for a young man he was loaded with charisma, good looks and a lot of talent. Although the gig was nearly forty years ago, I’ll never forget it. A cold winter’s night was turned into a cauldron of heat in the upstairs room of the Subs and I felt the floor bounce up and down with the rhythm of the dancing. Ranking Roger was a smiling genius, his toasting on such numbers as “Tears of a Clown”, “Whine and Grine” and “Big Shot” was a real treat – he certainly earnt his “Ranking” moniker in my opinion, comparing with the likes of Ranking Trevor and Ranking Joe. The Beat were certainly one of the best and most exciting bands I have ever seen and Roger’s toasting, along with the legendary Saxa, added a real slice of Jamaica to what was an incredible live act. The second photo is of Rog, still only 17 years old, and Dave Wakeling blowing the crowd away at the Hammersmith Palais in the spring of 1980”.

The Beat - Photo copyright Paul Slattery
Thank you Paul. The book starts with Roger on stage with The Beat. He stops the band three songs into their set to confront a gang of skinheads in the crowd who are sieg-heiling and shouting National Front slogans. Roger gets the crowd to chant “Black and White Unite” until the offending Nazis disappear and the show goes on. The NME ran a review of the gig in which the writer noted that Roger was “almost hysterical with rage and emotion”. Roger’s no-nonsense attitude towards racism and his mantra of “Love, Peace & Unity” are at the heart of this thoroughly entertaining memoir. Gigs in the late 70’s and early 80’s were a hotbed of violence, a fact that we discussed with Buddy Ascott of The Chords in our special Retrosonic Podcast where he reminisces about the time that skinheads disrupted one of their shows with The Undertones. Sadly, a lot of this violence was of a racist nature. There are similar themes explored in “Day-Glo”, the recent emotionally charged biography of Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, which we reviewed in the Blog here. Whereas Roger had the character that could deal with the situation head on, Poly had her own mental health issues, which saw her struggle with the violence and racism of the time. However, both saw in Punk a scene where individuals/outsiders could thrive creatively regardless of their sex or colour. 

Ranking Roger - Photo copyright Steve White
Roger Charlery was born and raised in Birmingham, quite literally in the heartland of the National Front. Their Headquarters were close to his family home and he would often run outside to abuse the regular marches that passed his house. Roger’s parents had come over from St. Lucia, which was a French speaking Catholic country and I’m sure this background must have had some bearing on his open-minded attitude. He mixed easily and enjoyed playing cricket and football with kids from Asian, White and Black backgrounds. He developed a love of music, inspired by his musician father who had a big record collection that encompassed an eclectic mix such as James Brown, Motown, Manfred Mann and even Country & Western. Roger is also exposed to the sounds of Calypso and Ska from various house parties and later on, shebeens and sound systems. Roger talks about MC’s such as Big Youth and U-Roy and the impact of hearing John Lydon talking about Reggae on the radio. He starts to frequent local pubs and venues popular with Punks and at Barbarella’s in Birmingham he gets friendly with the DJ who allows him to toast over Punk records including, rather bizarrely, Angelic Upstarts “I’m An Upstart”. He gets an early taste for toasting in a live environment when he grabs a mic during a stage invasion at a Specials gig. Roger joins a band called Unity as their drummer and later The Dum Dum Boyz, who like many other Birmingham bands at the time, were multi-racial. Soon, another local multi-racial band were bugging The Dum Dum Boyz for a support slot – this band was called The Beat and Roger finds himself drawn to their more Punky take on Reggae, Ska and Soul. He goes to see them support The Au-Pairs and just can’t stop himself from getting on stage to toast during one song. There's an immediate chemistry between Roger and The Beat and soon afterwards he gladly accepts the offer to join the band, but not before turning down a similar offer from UB40. It’s all go from there, Jerry Dammers snaps up the new Beat line-up for his 2 Tone record label and within nine whirlwind months of joining, Roger finds himself on Top of The Pops performing their debut single “Tears of a Clown”. 


What follows is a conversational, unpretentious and honest autobiography where Roger not only takes us on his journey with The Beat, but also throws in many of his observations on the prevailing attitudes towards racism, sexism and the politics of the time. He talks warmly about John Peel, R.E.M and of touring with Talking Heads and The Police and you might be surprised which of the peroxide haired three-piece was the least friendly. However, The Clash really make an impact. He talks in depth about the band and their 8-night residency with them at the Mogador theatre in Paris, which Roger claims were among the best gigs the Beat ever played. The later chapters suddenly take a slightly darker turn and Roger discusses drugs and groupies. He also admits that the fame and adulation, particularly in America, did start to go to his and Dave Wakeling’s heads. He is particularly honest and open about the reasons for the break-up of The Beat but you will just have to buy the book to find out the whole story. Following the split, Andy Cox and David Steele went on to form Fine Young Cannibals with Roland Gift who commercially outstripped The Beat with two superb LPs. Roger and Dave formed General Public, initially with Mick Jones who had left The Clash. They were both persuaded some years later to get back together for a Beat reunion show at The Royal Festival Hall. This was followed by a couple of ill-fated gigs but things didn’t work out too well between them and Dave went back to live in California where he continued playing gigs as The English Beat. Roger carried on with the Beat name over here with his daughter Saffren and son Matthew, otherwise known as Ranking Junior, joining the line-up. The book ends sadly with Roger saying how much he still loved performing with The Beat “The only things that would make me stop are illness or war, it’s a compulsion, I just can’t stop it”. Sadly just days after finishing those lines, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away on March 26th 2019, aged only 56. Despite the ultimately tragic outcome hanging over the book, it still manages to be a hugely uplifting and positive read. You can feel the warmth of Roger’s huge smile radiating through each page. 
- RIP Ranking Roger. Love, Peace and Unity.

Ranking Roger - Photo copyright Steve White
“I Just Can’t Stop It” is available as a regular paperback here and as a special limited edition, which you can ordered from Rough Trade here. Daniel Rachel’s other books can be ordered here. With thanks to Paul Slattery and Steve White for the excellent photos. Paul is currently working on a book and exhibition of his early Joy Division photographs and we will be sure to give you more details in due course. Please do check out Steve’s Flickr page for his superb archive of live music photography and you can see more examples for his work in our feature on the recent Buzzcocks and Guests tribute gig to Pete Shelley at the Royal Albert Hall here

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Buzzcocks, The Skids, Penetration & Special Guests - A Celebration of Pete Shelley's Life at The Royal Albert Hall June 21st - Feature with Photos by Steve White

Buzzcocks and guests at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
“From the Roxy to the Royal Albert Hall..!” Penetration’s lead vocalist, Pauline Murray, sounded incredulous as she gazed out at the beautiful auditorium. I doubt many of the bands who played at the legendary Roxy club over 40 years ago would, at the time, have imagined that they would one day get to play at such a bastion of the musical establishment – home of the Proms. Penetration were the opening act of this very special event to celebrate the life and music of Pete Shelley and they were a great choice to get everyone warmed up for the evening’s entertainment. After all, they did take the unusual step of including a version of Buzzcocks “Nostalgia” on their 1978 debut album “Moving Targets” and it’s rare for someone to record a cover by one of their contemporaries and turn it into something special, but Penetration did just that. 

Penetration at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Penetration at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Penetration open the show with “Nostalgia” and tonight it sets the scene for an evening that was packed full of emotional appreciation of Pete Shelley's consummate and enduring song writing. Sadly, they only had time for a short sharp shock of a set that included just the eight songs, taking in “Come Into The Open” and “Shout Above The Noise” from their second album “Coming Up For Air” along with a pick from their debut. The double hit of “Silent Community” and the classic single “Don’t Dictate” went down a storm and lifted the good-natured enthusiasm a notch higher. The whole band really were superb, Pauline Murray particularly so, she discards her wide-brimmed hat to reveal a shock of peroxide blonde hair; she looks great and is in mighty fine voice too. They end their set with “Beat Goes On”, a song from their current must-have LP “Resolution” and the fact that it’s one of the highlights of the night speaks volumes for what a good place the band are in right now. No need for nostalgia when the age to come looks so promising.

Penetration at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
The Skids at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
I've never really liked the Royal Albert Hall as a venue for a Rock gig and although Penetration's sound suffered accordingly, I have to admit that The Skids suited the Royal Albert Hall down to a tee and their familiar anthemic songs filled the place perfectly. The band were passionate and heartfelt and like Penetration before them, seemed to be revelling in playing live and were bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Talking of energy, Richard Jobson in particular didn't stop moving, treating us to his whole repertoire of unique dance moves – part aerobics, part high-kicking karate and part dad-dancing - I was exhausted just watching him. At least he can laugh about it too as he mentions he saw a guy outside the venue who asked him if he was going to do some of his weird dancing tonight, “too right!” Jobbo says “and I hope he lost his ticket!” Jobson is humorous and sincere and he paid tribute to Pete Shelley before reminding us that his band had also suffered their own sad loss with the suicide of guitar genius Stuart Adamson. 

The Skids at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
The Skids at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
“TV Stars” may well be ‘the worse song The Skids ever wrote’, as Jobbo informs us tonight, but to see a huge crowd screaming “Albert Tatlock!” at the top of their voices is a sight and sound to behold. I reckon if you did a poll at the end of the night you might find a huge percentage voted “TV Stars” as their best song. Big Country’s Bruce Watson and his son Jamie take on the guitar duties and they are both bursting with a sheer infectious joy as they leap about the stage and throw shapes, doing justice to Stuart Adamson’s unique guitar sound, in particular on an atmospheric “Scared To Dance”. The great songs keep on coming “The Saints Are Coming”, “Of One Skin” and all those fabulous hits that wowed me on Top of The Pops when I was a kid – “Animation”, “Charade”, “Working For The Yankee Dollar” and of course “Masquerade” are all superb. Even two of my least favourite tracks, “Woman In Winter” and “Hurry On Boys” from their “Absolute Game” album are transformed into emotionally charged sing-alongs that send a shiver down my spine. Willie Simpson’s thunderous bass intro to “Into The Valley” may well be one of those iconic musical moments from any era or genre but like Penetration it’s not all about nostalgia. The Skids have an excellent new album out now called “Burning Cities” and they play a track from it tonight called “Kings of The New World Order” which shows that all those vital elements of the band that we have loved over the years are still very much alive and (high) kicking!

Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Captain Sensible with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Buzzcocks had actually booked this show at The Royal Albert Hall before the unexpected and sad death of Pete Shelley last December. It was decided that the show must go on as a tribute to Pete and his legacy with the Buzzcocks. Original manager Richard Boon introduced the show and from then on, it was compèred by Paul Morley – whose first piece of music journalism was to write about the band for the NME. There is a nicely worded video message from Howard Devoto played over the big screen and he gives us an exclusive play of a rare track by Buzzkunst, the project he put together with Pete Shelley. It’s a nice touch despite the disappointment of realising that Howard would not be making an appearance. Buzzcocks appear on stage - Steve Diggle and the current bassist Chris Remington and drummer Danny Farrant along with guitarist Noko, who played in the re-formed Magazine and Luxuria with Howard Devoto, taking on Pete’s guitar parts.

Steve Garvey of Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Dave Vanian with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
It dawns on me just how vital Pete’s guitar parts were to Buzzcocks; it wasn’t just his instantly recognisable voice, Pete added a touch of the avant-garde that was a perfect counter balance to Steve Diggle’s more straight ahead Rock ‘n’ Roll Power chords. Shelley was an extremely underrated guitar player. “Fast Cars” is followed by “Promises” and then Diggle’s own “Why She’s a Girl From The Chainstore”. Much to everyone’s delight the ‘classic rhythm section’ of bassist Steve Garvey and drummer John Maher join in too and they were both superb and occasionally, there were times when the two drummers and two bassists were on stage together. We saw Steve Garvey and John at the Malcolm Garrett exhibition the week before where they joined Steve Diggle for a signing session. Buddy Ascott from The Chords finally managed to get John Maher to sign his bass drum skin, which he is going to auction off for the Roll out the Barrel Trust charity. You can read more about the exhibition and signing session at the Blog feature here

John Maher of Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Tim Burgess with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Next up come the guest vocalists although I think it’s a bit strange as Steve Diggle stays centre stage and the singers are shunted to one side. Captain Sensible comes on and fishes a lyric sheet out of a plastic bag before singing "Boredom" in his usual audience baiting style. His colleague Dave Vanian hadn’t even learned the words to “What Do I Get?” but luckily, 5,000 people knew the words all too well. Thurston Moore added a much-needed shot of manic guitar energy to “Time’s Up” and aptly enough, “Noise Annoys” and his appearance was a real highlight. Pauline Murray and Richard Jobson returned to the stage and sang “Love You More” and “Fiction Romance” respectively but for me the highlights were Peter Perret of The Only Ones who performed “Why Can’t I Touch It?” and Tim Burgess of The Charlatans on “Sixteen Again” and “You Say You Don’t Love Me”. Maybe it was because their voices were more similar to Pete’s – but it just seemed to work and they both seemed thoroughly appreciative to be part of the show. 

Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Thurston Moore with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
At the end of the set, Pete’s widow Greta takes the stage to thank everybody but her appearance is overshadowed by a music journalist interrupting her with a drunken rant that leaves Greta standing there unsure of what to do next. It’s awkward and quite a few members of the crowd voice their displeasure at the situation in no uncertain words. It didn’t seem to show much respect for Greta or the occasion. Anyway, it was a small blip on an otherwise very special and emotional night and I hope that this will be the perfect opportunity to see the dignified closing of the Buzzcocks name. 
- RIP Pete Shelley 1955-2018.
Peter Perrett with Buzzcocks at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Buzzcocks & Friends at The Royal Albert Hall - Photo copyright by Steve White
Photos copyright and courtesy of Steve White. Thank you Steve. I hope that I will be able to include more of his excellent photography in the Blog in future and I would recommend checking out his Flickr page to see his stunning portfolio of live music photography. Some more photos (although not as good as Steve’s…) can be found at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and there are videos of all the bands and most of the Guest vocalists at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here. Fans of The Skids might like to check out our past features on the band at the archive link here. They include many superb Paul Slattery photos from 1979 and his "Scared To Dance" photo book and also from The Skids stunning 2017 reunion shows, including a trip down Dunfermline's memory lane with Richard Jobson. 

Friday, 28 June 2019

The Galileo 7 "There Is Only Now" - Ms Sheringham-Boom in praise of the band's latest LP

The Galileo 7 "There Is Only Now" - Cover by Darryl Hartley
Album number 6 indeed, and I’ll be honest, I have only recently been introduced to The Galileo 7. I’ve been a fan of Crockford and Lambert’s many other bands for a long time, but it was their live performances that really turned me on, so to speak. I was lucky to catch them twice last year; at full velocity at the Fratcave in Hastings, and then at The Lexington in December supporting their mates Graham Day & The Gaolers. They blew me away both times, and I’m happy to say that they are no longer a band on the periphery of my awareness or musical tastes. I was also pleased to hear keyboardist Viv Bonsels taking the lead vocals for their single "Too Late" released in April this year; which is also included on this LP. It’s great to hear Viv adding much more than melodic backing vocals and adept keyboard skills (I remember her singing a brilliant cover of Shocking Blue’s "Send Me A Postcard" in Hastings). In fact the whole band have a shot taking lead vocals over the course of the LP (and not one of them a dud!) the multi-tasking bunch that they are. What I really like about this album is that they produce unselfconscious and unashamedly uplifting ‘60s power pop psych. The songs are all well thought out and multi-layered. There are, upon first listen, overtones of XTC/The Dukes of Stratosphere, the whimsy of early Pink Floyd, The Beatles circa ‘66/’67, possibly lazy comparisons on my part. However they also have a solid underpinning of ‘60s rock driving them forward. Every track is like an injection of sunshine, followed swiftly by a punch. Knockout. 
- Ms Sheringham-Boom, June 2019

The Galileo 7 photographed at The Half Moon Putney by Paul Slattery
Ms Sheringham-Boom is the bassist in Edinburgh based Garage Rock band Thee Girl Fridays. "There Is Only Now" is out now on Damaged Goods Records. You can hear a track from the LP in the latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast which is available on iTunes or directly below.



Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Buzzcocks Pop-Up Exhibition & News On Their Upcoming Show at The Royal Albert Hall on June 21st

Buzzcocks - John Maher, Steve Diggle & Steve Garvey - Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks marked the 40th anniversary re-issues of the albums "A Different Kind of Tension" and "Singles Going Steady" with a special exhibition and pop-up shop at the Noho Showroom in London last Saturday. The one day only event featured Malcolm Garrett’s original artwork designs for Buzzcocks' record sleeves along with various prints, adverts and posters. There was also a shop selling the albums and the original "Product" carrier bag plus a very limited number of exclusive screen-prints of the original Malcolm Garrett "What Do I Get?" poster. To top it all we had the added bonus of a signing session where Steve Diggle was joined by the 'classic' line-up's rhythm section, John Maher and Steve Garvey who happily chatted with fans and signed albums and prints. Of course, seeing the three bandmates there together you couldn't help but feel extremely sad that Pete Shelley is no longer with us. However, the exhibition also served as a reminder for this Friday June 21st's very special event at The Royal Albert Hall to celebrate Pete's life and music. 

Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
John Maher signes Buddy Ascott's charity drum skin - Retro Man Blog
Buddy Ascott, drummer with The Chords and now The Fallen Leaves, came along wth me and finally managed to get one of his biggest influences, John Maher, to sign the now legendary bass drum skin. John added his autograph alongside such drummimg icons as Clem Burke of Blondie, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and Rick Buckler of The Jam among many others. The drum skin will eventually be auctioned in aid of the Roll Out The Barrel Trust charity which you can hear all about in our special Retrosonic Podcast interview with Buddy here. Buddy and I also pay tribute to Pete Shelley in Retrosonic Episode 33 where Buddy picks his favourite Buzzcocks song and talks about the influence of John Maher on his drumming. I also reminisce about the Buzzcocks 2012 "Back To Front" gig at Brixton Academy, which saw John and Steve Garvey joined by original vocalist Howard Devoto.

Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Royal Albert Hall gig on Friday promises to be another very special, but of course poignant, one-off event and will feature Buzzcocks current line-up, along with Steve Garvey and John Maher and a star-studded cast of guest vocalists. The special guests confirmed so far include Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Thurston Moore, Peter Perrett, Richard Jobson, Pauline Murray and Tim Burgess. The impressive support on the night comes from The Skids and Penetration, making this a fitting tribute to Pete Shelley and a night not to be missed. Tickets are available from The Royal Albert Hall ticket office here. Here are a few photos of the exhibition and signing session.

Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog

There are more photos of the exhibition at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Thee Moot Release New LP "Peel It To Reveal It" and Announce Appearance at Twickenham's High Tide Festival

Thee Moot "Peel It To Reveal It" cover art by Lambo
Retro Man Blog's good pals Thee Moot have released their debut full length LP "Peel It To Reveal It" which comes hot on the heels of the excellent mini-album/EP "Tomorrow's Calling". I know this is going to sound somewhat contradictory but the band are reassuringly familiar yet refreshingly different. They are certainly hard to categorise, that's for sure. I think there should be a new movement for bands such as Thee Moot, The Galileo 7 and Of Arrowe Hill - superb bands that might often get overlooked because they plough their own furrow and don't conform to easy stereotyping. Words like 'taut' and 'lean' spring to mind, you see Thee Moot specialise in perfectly formed guitar pop nuggets that are as stripped back as you can get. Each song is naggingly catchy in the extreme and Dave's memorable ringing, glacial guitar lines are the undoubted star of the "Peel It To Reveal It" show. This might have something to do with the bass being mixed down a bit too low for my taste this time round, but that's probably just a minor gripe from an ex-bassist!

Thee Moot by Thee Moot
Vocalist Nick Stone and bassist Mark Leech were in the 80's Paisley Psych act The Onlookers, whilst drummer Freezer Pinch and guitarist DC were, along with Mark, previously playing in The Transients. In fact, if I think back to The Transients it's probably from their eclectic choice of cover versions that included The Nerves, Small Faces, Rupert's Children, Television, The Only Ones and Radio Birdman - that might give you some idea of where Thee Moot are coming from. If you throw in The Church and The Kinks and even a bit of Bowie, then you will see what a broad palette Thee Moot are painting from. My personal highlight, the fuzzed up funk of "Let Your Hair Down" rides in on a great bubbling bass line before DC's vicious guitar riff slashes through the speakers. It's a welcome moment when Thee Moot let loose a bit and (if you will excuse me...) actually do let their hair down, and they are all the better for it. "My Fixation", a live favourite of mine for some time now, also benefits from a more aggressive approach and this would have made a great choice to release as a single. "Peel It To Reveal It" ends on a real high with "Don't Be Afraid of The Dark" which sees Nick in mighty fine voice and it's a fitting and strong way to finish a thoroughly satisfying album. The band will be appearing at The Eel Pie Pub in Twickenham at around 5:15pm on Saturday 22nd June as part of the High Tide Festival which is curated by the excellent Eel Pie Record Store. Given the area's rich musical history and links to classic British Beat and R'n'B - I can't think of a more apt band to be appearing at the festival than Thee Moot!

Thee Moot at the legendary Hope & Anchor - photo Retro Man Blog
You can order both Thee Moot's releases from their Bandcamp site here. You can also hear a track from the "Peel It To Reveal It" album in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast which you can listen to below or download from our Soundcloud page below or you can subscribe at iTunes.



Duncan Reid & The Big Heads "Kelly's Gone Insane" New Single on Crocodile Records


There are only two people in the entire world who can claim to have played with the Ramones while not actually being tagged with the ‘Ramone’ nom-de-plume. Duncan Reid is one of those people. As singer and bass player of Joey Ramone’s favourite band, The Boys, Duncan rode on the crest of a wave during Punk’s original late-1970s heyday as part of a wider collective of friends and peers that included Sex Pistols, The Clash, Generation X and a host of other power-chord pioneers. The Boys remain one of the best-loved and influential bands of their generation. "Montevideo" from the Big Heads’ debut album "Little Big Head", earned Duncan the keys to the Uruguayan capital with the only other musicians to achieve this being Elton John and Paul McCartney! Following a cornucopia of stellar reviews for "Little Big Head", The Big Heads developed their unique, effortlessly entertaining, melodic brand of harmony laden Pop-Punk with "The Difficult Second Album". Their third album "Bombs Away" was released in 2017 garnering variety of awards and appearing in numerous best album of the year lists and featured fourteen catchy little ditties about life, death, paranoia and Viagra. 2019 sees the Big Heads touring eternally in the UK, France, Belgium, Spain, Japan, Korea and Germany including festival dates at Rebellion, Strummercamp and Scotland Calling. As well as a fourth album being recorded, "Little Big Head" is reissued with previously unreleased bonus tracks and splatter vinyl, while a vinyl single, "Kelly’s Gone Insane" is out on Crocodile Records, also with new bonus tracks. You can check out a review of Duncan Reid & The Big Heads recent show at The 100 Club which features photos and videos, in the Retro Man Blog archive here.

Duncan Reid at The 100 Club - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The "Kelly's Gone Insane" single can be ordered via Crocodile Records and more info on Duncan Reid & The Big Heads can be found at their official web-site here. Words courtesy Crocodile Records.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

The Nika Leeflang Project "The Night Call"


I first became aware of Nika Leeflang when I saw her singing with The Limiñanas at their superb show at London's legendary 100 Club earlier this year. I was inspired to find out more about the band's influences and history which led me on a voyage of discovery into the vibrant music scene of the band's Perpignan hometown. I found out about the pre-Limiñanas bands such as Beach Bitches and Les Bellas and then I checked out the work of the other various band members which would lead me onto Crank, Hair & The Iotas, The Toxic Farmers and then Nika's own music too. I caught up with Nika and asked how she got to know and work with The Limiñanas. "They called me up when they needed a new singer for their promotional tour when they were searching for a label to sign them. I always used to accompany artists on tour and a fellow called Raph Dumas, who was working with Renaud Papillon Paravel, gave them my phone number. I was happy to travel so much and to live the ‘musician’s dream’ - that is to play big stages in many places and to meet people and sweat on stage." I think most people in the U.K. would, like me, have first discovered Nika's own music through her association with The Limiñanas and I was intrigued to find out more about her own background. "My family was based in the Netherlands and my father and mother, thinking they couldn’t have children, began to travel around the Mediterranean coast. One day, they were in the South of France and that’s where I was born so they decided to stay at that place, the place where I still live, Clermont L’Herault. My life is made of many kilometres of travel, but I like my birthplace."

Nika with The Limiñanas at The 100 Club - Photo Retro Man Blog
I asked if music had always been in Nika's blood from an early age. "I remember dancing in my parents room to "One Love" by Bob Marley when I was just five or six years old. I remember some French songs by Jacques Dutronc and also Ray Charles who gave me intense happiness as a child. Then when I was around eleven or twelve I was a big fan of Michael Jackson and James Brown, who taught me how to shake my body to Pop rhythms everywhere and all the time. I made my mom crazy because of the noises on the floor from dancing!" But luckily it seemed as though her parents didn't discourage this interest in music. "When I was a child, my parents took me to local events where I was always dancing and watching the musicians, very close to the stage. I was a little one, but already in love with musicians, and still musicians are people that really impress me. Every story is so different, it’s endless, and for me musicians are like bibles, very precious, enriching and stimulating". So I wondered when did this love of music move Nika enough to start writing her own songs. "My mom was an English teacher in a bilingual school, and for a year, she took me with her, so we had these one hour journeys from home to school and back again. As I was eight years old, these travels seemed so boring that I started to write down my poems, my little stories and then one day, a song. So, I continued that way, to write down my impressions of life, of my feelings and emotions and then the day I held a guitar for the first time, I was already so inspired and naturally started to sing and play the guitar." I asked if there was a particular band or artist that had inspired her. "A few years later, I sat alone in a comfortable chair, listening to the album "Is This Desire" by PJ Harvey and I remember I said to myself, "I wanna be like that girl!" I’m a big big fan of PJ Harvey’s music and career as an artist, she is unstoppable and always amazed me with her classy voice, always changing and evolving and just the way she is and the way she represents herself."



Nika's latest song "The Night Call" is very textured and atmopheric, almost cinematic in it's feel and I could imagine her easily moving into movie soundtrack music. I wondered if was this something that she would consider in the future. "I am actually a very emotional person, and if I get the space I’m very imaginative and creative and my way of inventing my world is just as it seems to have enough rhythm. I really like independent movies, Directors such as Quentin Dupieux and others like David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch. I often discover weird films on French TV channels such as Arte or 5 but generally I still have a lot to discover and rare are the films that don’t bore me. I need action, drama, tears or fun but it has also to be fast-moving or just be weird. I’m also a real lover of short films, court métrages and I like humorous actors." I asked if Nika had any preference between working in the studio or performing live? "I adore recording at my studio, which I share with my guy, we are always exchanging ideas, guitar riffs and stuff. I always take these moments as kind of magic because I can create when I feel like it and not when I have to. But my favorite place is on stage".


I was interested to find out about her songwriting process too. "I always note my thoughts and my little stories since a very long time ago. Sometimes I take my guitar and there it goes, an indescribable flow of automatisms and I let it go, it’s kind of liberating! I used to write for friends and help them to get their experiences into words. I adore giving strength to others. My friend Souflette, a poet, very dear to my heart (M. Rico) wrote me a song years ago called "Horses" which was released on my second E.P. "7 songs". We played some shows together when I was touring my solo set, and we alternated songs and poetry. It was a super cool tour." Nika is currently working on a new LP and I wondered what should we expect? "As my personality is like a kind of chameleon, I will perform and sing up and down, French and English, Pop and Shoe-gazing, Grunge and Glitter! I won’t dare to give just one shade of me, because I waited for too long with my ‘being shy thing’ you know, thinking too much but doing nothing. I think the 8-trax release will be a part of me and then the L.P. will be another part of me. I’m currently looking for partners and labels for promoting and distribution, because although I can do a lot just not as far to have enough contacts to play in Japan, in the U.K. or around Europe. But well, I think every musician is looking for that. As soon as possible I’ll share on Soundcloud, Bandcamp or YouTube and hopefully vinyl and CD will follow".


With sincere thanks to Nika. There's a feature on The Limiñanas stunning show at The 100 Club with photos and videos in the Retro Man Blog archive here. You can find out more about The Nika Leeflang Project at her web-site here or at the official Facebook page here. Then, we also play a great track from the "Hey! Right" EP in the latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast which you can listen to/download below or subscribe at iTunes.



Thursday, 6 June 2019

The Beatpack "Rhymes & Blues" - Ms Sheringham Boom reviews the band's new E.P. out now on Heavy Soul Records


This review is long overdue, and I can only apologise to the band who very kindly sent a copy of their new EP 'Rhymes and Blues', which is out now on Heavy Soul records, up to Edinburgh for me to review. You may not know this, but R&B stalwarts The Beatpack have been around for quite some time, since they were but slips of lads. Okay, the line-up has changed now and then, but in their current format they are a force to be reckoned with. This is their first release since the ferocious 2016 'Back Behind and Infront' EP on State Records, and about time too. ‘Howlin’ Fever Blues’ according to the press release ‘comes on like a late ’67 Texan garageband suffering from an extreme Yardbirds fixation and with fuzz pedals set to destroy’. I can’t disagree with that. But can I add to it? I’ll try my best. A souped up Blues Magoos ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ is the first comparison that springs to mind, and yet that doesn’t really cover it. The full-on drama of this track, with it’s use of caesura (pauses) builds anticipation and only gives one enough time to draw quick breath before it descends into fuzzed-out madness. Absolutely phenomenal. ‘Sadie’ isn’t at all what I was expecting. It’s pleasantly mellow, with Zombies-style electric piano. But don’t be fooled - flip it, and both ‘How Come You Sleep So Well?’ and ‘Tumbles Like A Domino’ are full of chunky familiar riffs. Whist it’s clear where the bands influences lie, The Beatpack are by no means copycats. They make their own brand of R&B Garage that is full of passion and energy, and then take it to the next level. If you haven’t seen them live, then I urge you to go and see them asap. And on that subject, you can catch The Beatpack are headlining at Beatwave this year, and they’ll also be heading up to Scotland for a few dates towards the end of the year.

- Ms Sheringham-Boom is the bassist in Edinburgh based Garage Rock band Thee Girl Fridays

You can hear a track from the 'Rhymes and Blues' EP in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast.