Thursday, 11 April 2019

Budstock - A Celebration of Buddy Ascott's 60th Birthday at The 100 Club April 6th

Buddy Ascott on stage at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Budstock “One ginormous ego-trip” to celebrate the 60th birthday of Brett ‘Buddy’ Ascott (his words, not mine I hasten to add…) was an idea 10 years in the making. Originally mooted for his 50th birthday, the plan was to get together some of the bands he had drummed with over the years for a one-off gig. Unfortunately, for various reasons, it never got off the ground at the time but the idea remained dormant until it came round to the planning for Buddy’s 60th birthday. The plan was rekindled, he would gather together six acts - The Rage, The Way Out, Speakeasy, The Moment, his current employers The Fallen Leaves and of course the band for which he is best known, The Chords, or The Chords OK as they were dubbed on the night.

Birthday Boy Buddy Ascott at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
So, on April 6th we gathered at London’s iconic 100 Club to pay tribute to one of “the nicest men in Rock” (they may also be his words…) and witness the ceremonial handing over of the bus pass to our hero. He’s a popular chap is Buddy, selling out The 100 Club quicker than most bands is no mean feat and the demand for tickets would have freaked out even the most hardened black market ticket tout. Drummer with numerous bands, wearer of silly hats and connoisseur of exotic shirts, Buddy is indeed a man of many talents and all three were on display tonight. He took his place behind the drum kit wearing a different hat and a different shirt for each of the six bands performing for our pleasure. Six bands in one night is tiring enough even if you’re just there watching but to drum with six bands in one night is madness, surely! I probably wasn’t the only person to tell him he was crazy when I heard about the idea. He would be exhausted, I told him, he wouldn’t have time to talk to anyone or enjoy the party I moaned. He’d have to start early in the afternoon to fit everything in, and I warned, you’re not 50 anymore you know etc. etc.

The Way Out at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Speakeasy at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
However, I’m bloody glad he didn’t listen to the advice as it turned out to be one of those special one-off events that will be talked about for years to come. Although, it was Buddy’s birthday, we were the ones getting all the treats. In addition to the six bands there were free exclusive CD’s featuring rare tracks from his various bands, Budstock badges and birthday cake. The Rage opened proceedings, then The Way Out who impressed with their catchy Power Pop. There was the Mod Revival ‘super group’ Speakeasy and then we had the excellent Moment.

The Moment  at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
The Fallen Leaves at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Buddy’s current employers, and Retro Man Blog regulars The Fallen Leaves were next with their two bassists line-up. Current bass player Matthew Karas playing harmonica before taking over the bass from his predecessor Gaz Evans. The Leaves put in their usual entertaining set of Pop Punk perfection, or was it Punk Pop perfection? To top it all there were the headliners The Chords OK. The excellent guitarist Simon Stebbing from The Purple Hearts joined Buddy, Kip and Martin from The Chords and they crashed through a selection of their classic tracks such as “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Something’s Missing”. Just before their set, I bumped into Damian O’Neill from The Undertones and The Everlasting Yeah, strangely enough in exactly the same spot as when I last saw him at The Limiñanas 100 Club gig back in February. “Are you getting on stage as a special Guest?” I asked him, adding “It would have been great if Billy had come over from Japan for this” and I noticed something in Damian’s eyes that told me this might not just be an idle dream.

The Chords OK at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
The Chords OK at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Damian then made his way to the stage for the encore and was joined by another familiar face. Yes! It was indeed Billy Hassett, original singer with The Chords, what a great surprise! They kicked into The Undertones classic “Teenage Kicks” and the crowd went nuts. An awesome blast of The Chords debut 1979 single “Now It’s Gone” raised the roof with the added volume of the crowd singing along. Unfortunately, Buddy was exhausted, out on his feet and signalled that he just couldn’t do any more encores otherwise we would have kept him there drumming all night. It was a bit of a shame that Billy couldn’t have done a couple more numbers but everyone understood that Buddy needed a well-deserved break, after all, he is 60! Huge congratulations to Buddy and his team of helpers behind the scenes who made this a unique and special night for all of us lucky to be there, it will not be forgotten. They also raised a lot of money for Buddy’s various chosen charities Battersea Dog's Home, The Samaritans, St. Christopher's Hospice, Crisis and Roll Out The Barrel Trust and it’s still not too late to donate if you feel inclined.

Some more videos can be found at our YouTube channel here and there are more photos at the Retro Man Facebook page here. I spoke to Buddy a few weeks before the gig in Episode 33 of Retrosonic Podcast, which you can listen to/download at our Soundcloud site here. Don’t forget he also has his very own special Retrosonic Episode in which he takes us on thoroughly entertaining romp through his musical career and you check this out below.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Hipsville Soho-A-Go!-Go! Bank Holiday Weekend May 3rd, 4th & 5th Margate - Full Details Announced!

Hipsville, always Retro Man Blog's event of the year, is back in Margate over the May 3rd-5th Bank Holiday weekend and this time they are taking the mean streets of Soho to the seaside town. Check out the Hipsville web-site here for full details on the line-up of bands, DJ's, Go-Go dancers and happenings over the weekend along with info on tickets and venues. Let's hand you over to organisers Alex, Mr A and Ade for the lowdown on what you can expect. "Shady ladies! Spivs! After-hours nightclubs! Neon! All-night coffee drinking! Underground drinking dens! Dirty magazines! Held in the magical, old-school seaside town of Margate, the UK’s biggest trash party is set to celebrate seven years of mayhem by channeling the spirit of London’s seediest neighbourhood – this year’s theme is SOHO! Join us in the dark, neon-lit streets for a bold, brazen, bizarre and wild weekend amid the gangsters and good time girls that frequent the area’s late night clubs and coffee shops. ‘Ello darlin’! Garage, titty twisting' rock’n’roll, tiki, punk and hot slop! fans descend annually on the south east of the UK for a wild, riotous weekend of bands, Go-Go girls, gorillas and DJs for 3 days of crazed partying through the night and into the morning. Each year Hipsville has a theme; previous years have seen partygoers dress up for jungle, space, horror and carny parties, and this year’s Soho theme is set to be sleazier than ever – our guests really do put the world’s most jaw-dropping costumes together! This year’s travelling revue will take in Margate’s most incredible venues and showcase some of the world’s finest rock and roll bands, just look what we've got planned for you!"

This year one of our favourite bands Autoramas will be returning to Hipsville and they will be joined by a top selection of international Garage Psych Trash Tiki Punk bands such as Das Clamps, The Jack Cades, The Night Times, The Scaners, The Stags, MFC Chicken, Mighty Tsar, The Deadly Spirits and The Anomalys and more - check out the Hipsville event page here for links and info. Check the Blog archive for Hipsville and you can uncover features on previous Hipsville weekends over the years including loads of reviews and photos. The Retro Man Blog YouTube channel has loads of original 'down the front' action packed videos and various episodes of our Retrosonic Podcast include a host of Hipsville and Weirdsville related bands and too. Here's an episode from 2018.

It's going to be tough to beat last year's mind-blowing Hipsville (read our feature here) but every year I say that and they always do manage it! Here's the superb Schizophoncs from last year's show.

Get your advance tickets now, see you there!

Friday, 5 April 2019

This Day In Music's Guide To The Clash by Malcolm Wyatt - One of the most essential and rewarding books published on The Clash so far

If I were going to be stranded on a desert island and had to take one book on The Clash with me then I would grab my copy of Malcolm Wyatt's superb new book This Day In Music’s Guide To The Clash. In fact, thinking about it, if I was going to be stranded on a desert island and had to choose between a box of matches, a machete, a how-to-build-a-raft manual, Bear Grylls or a copy of "This Day In Music" then I'd still reach for the latter any day. Don’t be put off by the slightly disappointing choice of cover photo or the title that hints at one of those lazy day-by-day chronologies of the band, as I feel they both do the content a disservice. Get past these admittedly minor gripes and you will discover one of the most essential and rewarding books published on The Clash so far. This is a masterclass in research from a fan who wanted to collate all the disparate, and often contradictory, stories about The Clash together in one place. Malcolm makes his intentions clear from the start and although there are no new interviews with surviving band members, you are constantly being surprised by some snippet of information or other. Did Robin Crocker really knock out the producer Sandy Pearlman when he tried to get backstage after a gig? Why did the band never record a John Peel session and was it true that Vince White was forced to change his name, as Paul couldn't face being in a band with someone called Greg!

Paul Simonon and my Retro Man Blog colleague, photographer Paul Slattery at the Black Market Clash opening night - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Malcolm’s writing comes into its own in the excellent retrospective reviews of each of the albums, where it is his own voice and opinions that are being heard. He writes with an infectious enthusiasm that will have you constantly putting the book down to reach for all those classic records. Personally, I can identify with Malcolm’s relationship with The Clash, as we are both just too young (how nice to be able to say that...) to have been there from the start. Our entry point was the band's second LP "Give 'em Enough Rope", which was one of the very first albums I bought with my own pocket money and, like Malcolm, I never understood the critical bashing it took. In fact when I bought the debut album shortly after being blown away by "Rope", I remember being disappointed as I thought it sounded pretty weak and tinny in comparison to the full-on power of Sandy Pearlman’s guitar heavy production. I was also especially pleased that Malcolm highlighted a small but crucial moment that left an indelible mark on me. That moment was seeing the band play “Complete Control” in the movie “Rude Boy”. The way the audience sings along almost as one with the band causes goose bumps even to this day and I must have watched it 100 times or more.

Clash memorabilia at the Joe Strummer 001 exhibition - Photo by Retro Man Blog
The book is split into different sections which cover all the bases from the pre-Clash days right up to last year’s stunning Joe Strummer 001 retrospective box set. It all kicks off with a thoroughly entertaining foreword by Damian O'Neill who gleefully recounts his experiences with The Undertones who were special guests on The Clash's Take The Fifth US tour. The book can be read cover to cover but is also a perfect reference book that you can dip into at any time. It is especially refreshing to see the healthy nod to the pre-Clash years too, in particular the importance and influence of The 101'ers. The second section “Classic Clash” takes us on the journey from the band’s formation to the bitter end and the book doesn’t ignore their often contradictory and confused politics. In hindsight, some of the self-mythologizing backfired, after all, stealing pillows from a Hotel, shooting pigeons with air rifles or trying (and failing) to set light to a car during the Notting Hill riots were not exactly going to cause the authorities any sleepless nights. Yes, Joe’s well-intentioned but naïve political statements could be contradictory but the band were inquisitive and most of all they cared so you can understand why they had such a huge impact on people’s lives.

Clash memorabilia at the Joe Strummer 001 exhibition - Photo by Retro Man Blog
The Clash’s open-minded attitude to multi-culturalism and willingness to embrace outside influences, in particular the importance of Reggae on their music is highlighted. This also leads on to an interesting feature about the legendary Rock Against Racism festival and the background to the organisation itself, inspired as it was by Eric Clapton’s mindless on-stage racist rant and the worrying rise of the National Front. The book does not shy away from the rather messy and dispiriting ending of The Clash and Malcolm isn’t afraid to tackle the much-maligned final Clash LP “Cut The Crap”, which is often airbrushed out of books and documentaries completely. The thought of Joe, the guy who wrote "Complete Control", ceding so much artistic control to Bernie Rhodes at this point in their career is baffling and somewhat depressing. With Mick sacked from the band prior to the album’s release, it seemed that Joe and Paul had just lost all enthusiasm for The Clash and I think the results were probably worthy of the airbrush treatment after all.

Joe's mix-tapes at the Joe Strummer 001 exhibition - Photo by Retro Man Blog
The later sections of the book boast an excellent in-depth look at all the post-Clash music too including Big Audio Dynamite and The Mescaleros. In the chapter “The Clash’s 50 finest” Malcolm eloquently argues the case for his 50 favourite Clash songs and I’m sure that this will cause some debate among fellow Clash fans. There is a comprehensive Discography and a Clash Timeline, which lists notable dates throughout the band’s career and beyond including birthdays, gigs, record releases and events right up to the release of last year’s “Joe Strummer 001” box set. Next up is a chapter that highlights the impressive legacy and the various bands and artists that have been influenced by The Clash over the years. Then there is a look at selected key London locations, which is handy if you want to set off on your own Clash related sightseeing tour. Through Malcolm's excellent writewyatt web site and his work for The Lancashire Post, he has interviewed many other musicians and The Clash often seem to pop up in conversation. This has enabled him to collate some fascinating first-hand tributes and stories about the band from artists such as Belinda Carlisle, Richard Jobson, Roland Gift and Peter Hook for the chapter “Still Talking about the Clash”.

Mick Jones at the Joe Strummer mural unveiling - Photo by Retro Man Blog
There’s also a selection of the best quotes from the mouths of the band themselves and from various high-profile fans. In one of the only completely new and unpublished sections of the book, Malcolm includes an original interview he conducted last year with Joe’s widow Lucinda and Clash archivist Robert Gordon McHarg. The chapter “They Also Served: Clash Conspirators” features potted biographies on all the additional musicians who played with The Clash over the years. From the more familiar early band members such as Terry Chimes and Keith Levene to the final “Cut The Crap” era line-up along with other contributors including Mikey Dread, Norman Watt-Roy, Ellen Foley and more. There’s also detailed information on the various movers and shakers behind the scenes such as the management, roadies, moviemakers and notable producers and engineers.

Clash memorabilia at The Black Market Clash exhibition - Photo by Retro Man Blog
I hope this feature gives you an idea of the depth of material crammed into This Day In Music’s Guide To The Clash, the book is bursting with as much energy and passion as The Clash themselves and I can’t say fairer than that. I am sincerely hoping that if he's not still too exhausted from all this research, Malcolm can turn his hand at a completely new subject in the near future; maybe he can tackle another of our shared passions, The Undertones for example!

Clash memorabilia at The Black Market Clash exhibition - Photo by Retro Man Blog
You can check out Malcolm's thoroughly recommended writewyatt web-site here. If you'd like a personalised, signed copy of the book at £12.00 plus £3 p&p (UK), you can send the author a private message via the WriteWyattUK page on Facebook, his writewyatt website or by email at The book can also be ordered from Amazon here or from other bookstores with good taste. Damian O'Neill is still touring with The Undertones as well as playing guitar with his former That Petrol Emotion colleagues in the superb band The Everlasting Yeah and has recently released an excellent debut solo album "Refit Revise Reprise".