Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Ms Sheringham-Boom On New Releases from Billy Childish and Bang Bang Band Girl/Trash Colapso


Wild Billy Childish and CTMF "Poka Hontas"/"True to You" - Spinout Nuggets Records

It is a real coup for the Spinout Nuggets label to finally snag the lesser spotted Mr Childish and his Chatham Forts. I know label boss Grimmers is a huge fan of most things Medway (who isn’t?). Here Billy Childish and CTMF comprising trusty Wolf Howard on drums and wife/bassist/vocalist Julie Hamper, present two ‘re-energised’ tracks from his considerable back catalogue. These tracks were recorded at Ranscombe Studios for Marc Riley’s BBC Radio 6 show in February this year. Instrumental "Poka Hontas" (originally recorded in 1989 by Thee Headcoats) is exactly what I expected it to be and I’m happy to hear it again, but if you’re here looking for something different then you should really know better by now. That is not a criticism in any way, but for someone (i.e. me) who has grown up with and revered Childish in his various guises, it’s no surprise at all. In fact, it is the musical equivalent of putting on a pair of old moccasins (get it?) but nobody said that you can’t dance in them! It’s Garage, it’s Beat, it’s no frills Rock’n’Roll, and its jolly good fun along the lines of "Comanche" by Link Wray (1960) coincidentally also covered by Childish. Backed with the wistful "True to You". This time with Medway compatriot Mr Graham Day (of The Prisoners, Forefathers, Senior Service, Gaolers etc) on organ. Day and Childish having of course previously made beautiful music together in Thee Mighty Caesars and The Buff Medways. Again, no surprises thankfully! (phew, it wasn’t the ‘90s acid-house remix I’d had a nightmare about last night!) At a push I would say that I prefer the original and Thee Headcoatees version, but that’s just my personal taste. I remember a certain Mr Day jesting that Mr Childish only had one song, but what kind of a genius can keep on re-working the same tunes and still be as adored as he is? Possibly because there is no one quite like him, or maybe because he writes the best songs? Is he the antidote to today’s musical detritus? Maybe a budding beat girl or boy of the younger generation will hear this and discover the treasure trove that lies beneath? Whatever the answer, at the time of writing this, the single has already sold out at Spinout HQ. Punk Rock is not dead, thank bloody goodness for Billy Childish.


Bang Bang Band Girl/Trash Calapso "One Foot on Death Road" Split LP - Trash Wax Records

Bang Bang Band Girl - One Lady Band aka Sheri Corleone, has been a presence representing the darker side of Rockabilly, Surf, Garage Punk and Trash Blues for a good few years now and she’s got talent in abundance. Not only does she write, play, sing, and produce most of her own material, she also hosts her very own internet radio show "It’s Monster Meeting Time" with the strapline ‘Whether going or coming from the grave, all monsters welcome!’ (which at the time of writing is on its 172nd show). I’ve much admired her doing her own thing and putting herself out there in a male dominated scene and I’m glad to see that the Trash Wax label have decided to release this split LP with her compatriot, Trash Colapso and his One Man Band. BBBG’s side of the LP opens with "Schizo". Sticking true to her grassroots, this heavy Bluesy number is thick with distortion and riffs. Her breathy vocal style is more ghostly than it is Marilyn Monroe, and she’s very fond of spooky theremin sounds as it reappears on a few of the tracks, but what’s not to be fond of? "Apache", a collaboration with Trash Colapso, is not the cover I was expecting, but it’s certainly got enough fuzz to give Davie Allan a run for his money. "Sweet Talk" is what I imagine a collision between Janis Martin (on acid) and Hasil Adkins would sound like. It’s difficult to pin BBBG down to a genre because she’s diverse within her Roots foundation. There are glimpses of twang, trash, good old Rock ‘n’ Roll, and echoes of bands such as The Birthday Party, Gun Club, The Cramps, Rev Beatman & Sister Nicole Garcia, The Flaming Stars, Bantam Rooster and The Detroit Cobras. All tied up with a David Lynch bow on top. Trash Colapso’s side is, as you would expect, of a similar lo-fi, stripped back sound. His bandcamp page sites his influences as The Stooges, Black Sabbath, Hasil Adkins, Suicide, The Cramps, and Pussy Galore and I definitely get some of those throughout. However, it just doesn’t quite have the same kind of enchantment as BBBG’s side. With songs such as "Snake Woman", "White Trash" and "Alligator Wax" it’s all a bit Americana. "Black Charm Boogie" is probably the most melodic offering and is my favourite from the six. Being a one-person band is something that often works much better live and in front of a crowd, for me at least. But who knows when that will happen again? - Ms Sheringham-Boom, September 2020

Thank you to Ms Sheringham Boom - please click the highlighted links for further information. Ms Sheringham-Boom is the bassist in Edinburgh's premier purveyors of Garage Rock, Thee Girl Fridays. Don't forget our special edition Retrosonic Podcast with Billy Childish is available to listen/download from iTunes/Apple Podcasts, our Soundcloud archive or directly below:


Friday, 4 September 2020

Chris Frantz "Remain In Love: Talking Heads, Tina, Tom Tom Club" Feature on the Excellent New Autobiography Including Exclusive Paul Slattery Photos

Talking Heads at The Lyceum, London 12/07/1978 - copyright Paul Slattery
“Chris, you’re never going to make it in this business, you’re too nice”. Thus, spoke David Johansen of the New York Dolls in an early encounter with Chris Frantz, as the drummer with Talking Heads recounts in his excellent new autbiography "Remain In Love: Talking Heads, Tina, Tom Tom Club". Now, “Nice” might not be a word or indeed an image that Rock bands want to be associated with, but Talking Heads original trio of vocalist and guitarist David Byrne, bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz turned their middle-class, Art School backgrounds into their band’s very essence, and it worked a treat. Their forerunners and contemporaries centred around the dive bars and venues of New York’s Lower East Side wore clothes far more in keeping with the grimy degradation of Manhattan in the mid-70’s. Ramones wore the classic teenage hoodlum uniform of leather jackets, jeans and sneakers and Richard Hell had his ripped and safety-pinned clothes. The New York Dolls used to dress like bricklayers in drag and then Johnny Thunders had his junkie-chic thing going on but the Talking Heads went for a rather preppy look, not too dissimilar to the clothes they were wearing at their Art school, the Rhode Island School of Design. Chris wore the sports casual clothes that his mum tended to buy him for Xmas which he would in turn often lend to David. In fact, the Lacoste polo shirt that the frontman was wearing for that iconic early appearance on the Old Grey Whistle Test TV show was one such garment. Legendary Rock critic Lester Bangs didn’t like the band at first but after seeing them play a few times he eventually admitted to Chris, “now I get it, you guys are so uncool, you’re cool!” This is the fascinating dichotomy of Talking Heads – just how did this unconventional, nerdy looking band create such influentially diverse, challenging, intelligent and downright funky music? I think what shines through in the book is a lot of what made Talking Heads so special is that juxtaposition of David Byrne’s idiosyncratic and unpredictable vocal and performance style against the solid backbone of Tina’s bass and Chris’s drumming. Chris admits that he is not the most flashiest of drummers and that to him it’s all about the groove, I guess it's a case of think more Charlie Watts than Keith Moon. 

But let’s rewind to the beginning. From an early age Chris remembers being enamoured by the music he heard on the radio, in particular Elvis Presley. His parents gave him a portable record player and he worked his way through their vinyl collection which happened to include a lot of Calypso and these exotic rhythms would no doubt have a bearing on his future musical direction. School friends would then get him turned onto Soul and Motown and alongside his taste for Rock ’n’ Roll and the British Beat Invasion acts, he was began devouring music by James Brown, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding and the Four Tops. It’s these influences that would of course make their way into the music of Talking Heads, and later on become even more pronounced with The Tom Tom Club. Chris writes warmly about his almost idyllic early family life; his father was a high-ranking Army officer working at the Pentagon and then later, as a lawyer. Chris starts off learning to play the trumpet until a teacher recommends that he takes up the drums after noticing his keen sense of rhythm. He seems a happy child and teenager, making friends easily despite regularly moving around due to his Dad’s job. He ends up going to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design where he meets the love of his life, Tina Weymouth. The book is as much an open love letter to Tina as it is a story about the music, it’s unashamedly romantic but Chris is also at pains to explain just how important Tina's contributions to the music were throughout their career. They just so happened to share similar family backgrounds, Tina’s dad was an Admiral in the Navy but they both kept quiet about their father’s work due to the strong anti-military mood at the time among the student fraternity due to the conflict in Vietnam.

Copyright Paul Slattery
Chris and Tina loved their time at RISD, not just because of the visual arts but were discovering but they also enjoyed beat poetry and avant-garde composers and musicians such as Philip Glass and La Monte Young. So, you can kind of understand the germination of the Talking Heads sound – the love of Soul and good-time Dance music alongside the more challenging experimental sounds of the avant-garde. Now, here’s another impressive aspect of the book, Chris is either endowed with a quite remarkable photographic memory or he kept detailed diaries and took pictures of everything around him. It’s a truly evocative account, you can almost picture yourself right there in the scenes that Chris vividly brings to life. For example, he recalls his French teacher wearing black silk suits, purple shirts and Beatles boots. Another teacher was androgynous, tall, slim and unusually attractive, dressed in red satin shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. A fellow classmate was lanky and hilarious with a pony tail and beard, wearing a tweed jacket and smoking a briar pipe. Chris embraced all the usual aspects of student life in the 60’s and of course the drugs that went with it. He was “truly frightened of heroin and downers but had no fear of marijuana, hashish, LSD, mescaline or speed”. Err… right Chris! He mentions drugs rather casually throughout the book but he doesn’t sensationalize their use, it’s just something that’s there almost constantly in the background, obviously as a student and later as a member of a successful touring Rock ‘n’ Roll band. However, it’s not until the very last chapters of the book that he admits he was forced to undergo treatment for his addictions.

Copyright Paul Slattery
It’s at the RISD where Chris also meets David Byrne, a classmate who rarely spoke to anyone, wore second hand clothes and had a full-on Rasputin beard. Chris asks a friend about him and gets the rather prophetic reply “oh, that’s just Mad Dave”. Later on, Chris notices that David has bleached his hair blonde which contrasts starkly with his thick dark eyebrows and hairy black arms. Those hairy arms are going to make another appearance a bit later in the story! Together, they formed The Artistics and played covers of The Sonics, The Who, Al Green and The Troggs but when the band splits up, they decide to ask Tina to join on the bass and they choose the name Talking Heads. The three bandmates decide to move to Manhattan and like many artists, students and musicians they end up on the Bowery in the Lower East Side, a haven for creative types with the many half derelict buildings and industrial loft spaces being ideal to squat in or rent dirt cheap. Chris explains that “the history of the Bowery is one of crime, misadventure, debauchery and death. It was a challenging scene for some nice kids from the suburbs like us”. But the area boasted some serious artistic talent – painters, poets, musicians and actors such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Lauren Hutton, Robert Rauschenberg, Ornette Coleman, William Burroughs, Mark Rothko and Willem Dafoe all resided in the area. Chris, Tina and David ended up sharing a large open-plan loft, hanging their clothes on rails for privacy. They crammed in all their musical equipment too, and when they rehearsed the plaster fell from the walls. The loft was also home to mice and roaches and they would have to go to Tina’s brother’s apartment for a shower. One evening, a gunshot shattered their window while they were watching TV, it was certainly a far cry from the safe, warm environments of their family upbringing. 

Copyright Paul Slattery
Chris describes the Lower East Side of the time superbly and you feel like you are right there in the middle of the heatwave. It’s the Summer of Sam, the serial (Psycho) killer that was terrorising the area and all around there are gangland shootings and stabbings. Cars cruise round blaring Salsa music from their windows, passing the pimps and hookers lining the streets while kids play in the water of the open fire hydrants. I would thoroughly recommend getting Chris Stein’s excellent photobook “Point of View: Me, New York City & The Punk Scene” as it’s the perfect visual companion to Frantz’s vivid descriptions of the Bowery. As Chris admits “Debbie Harry and Tina were like roses in a rattlesnake nest”. Looking around the area for venues to play Chris chances upon CBGB’s and popped in to check its suitably, while he is there someone recommended that he should check out the Ramones. At first, he thought they were a Mexican band but was intrigued enough to go and see them and of course, he was in for a shock. Chris becomes a regular at CBGB’s and soon discovers this burgeoning scene and he brilliantly describes the various bands and musicians that he encounters such as Television, Blondie, Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye, The Dead Boys and Wayne County. He managed to get Talking Heads an audition with CBGB’s owner Hilly Kristal and Johnny Ramone happened to see the performance telling Hilly, “yeah they suck, sure they can open for us, they’ll make us look good”. This leads to regular gigs at CBGB’s and Talking Heads soon pick up an impressive list of famous fans including Andy Warhol and Lou Reed. One night, they are invited back to Lou’s apartment and he holds court, giving the starstruck young musicians the benefit of his experience. One such nugget was to give David Byrne some sage advice, “make sure when you go on stage, you’re wearing long sleeves, your arms are way too hairy!” Reed offers them a record deal which at first is flattering but when they look into the details a bit further, they are shocked to discover it would have been a complete rip-off, so they decline. Luckily, another admirer is Seymour Stein of Sire Records who had already snapped up the Ramones, and he offers them a much more satisfactory deal. 

Copyright Paul Slattery
In the meantime, it was decided that they needed to expand the line-up to a four piece to be able to put their musical ideas into practice and approached Jerry Harrison from one of their favourite bands, The Modern Lovers. Unfortunately, Jerry was reeling after the Modern Lovers singer Jonathan Richman suddenly and unexpectedly decided to pull the plug on the band (sounds familiar…) leaving Jerry rather wary. However, he agrees to join the band on the proviso that they have a record deal in place so they contact Seymour Stein and sign on the dotted line, thus securing Jerry’s excellent services on guitar and keyboards. This also facilitates a European tour with Sire label-mates and friends the Ramones in the Spring of 1977 and the chapters on their time touring together along with his descriptions of the Ramones are priceless. Chris recalls the various cities, audience reactions and band performances perfectly and he even notes how many encores they got and occasionally the set-lists too. Chris and Tina are particularly enamoured by Paris, after all, Tina’s mother was French and her brother Yann was involved in designing the Pyramid outside the Louvre and there are even descriptions of their favourite restaurants and stand-out meals too. One thing that comes across well is despite Talking Heads being so unconventional, they always seemed to win everybody over with ease. Even the cynical hard-bitten Punk Rock crowds in difficult to please England took the band to their hearts.

Chris & Tina, The Tom Tom Club, London 19/08/1988 Copyright Paul Slattery
The book goes on to cover all the Talking Heads albums and their ground-breaking concert movie “Stop Making Sense” along with Tina and Chris’s successful side-project Tom Tom Club. So, successful that David Byrne can’t even bring himself to congratulate the couple. There are also entertaining chapters on their production work with Ziggy Marley and the Happy Mondays. The section on the recording of the Mondays “Yes Please” album in Barbados is hilarious and could make for a book in its own right. The band’s talisman Bez, shatters his arm after crashing a jeep just a couple of days after arriving on the island and singer Shaun Ryder is caught selling off studio furniture to raise money for crack. It’s testament to both Chris and Tina that they did eventually manage to get the album finished at all. One strange thing is that Chris completely airbrushes out The Heads, the band formed by him, Tina and Jerry and their superb album “No Talking Just Head”, there’s no mention of it at all. This is a shame as the record is great and featured a starry cast of guest vocalists including the Concrete Blonde vocalist Johnette Napolitano, Michael Hutchence, Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, Andy Partridge from XTC and Shaun Ryder. I was lucky enough to see The Heads play live in a small venue in London in 1997, although sadly none of the special guests made an appearance, Johnette handled all the lead vocals on the night. It was a great show and just a shame that it was such a short-lived project. 


Of course, most people are fascinated by the relationship with David Byrne and his bandmates and Chris doesn’t pull any punches. There is a hint of bitterness but I guess that’s understandable given that as Tina comments, David was “incapable of returning friendship”. The frontman’s conniving with their producer Brian Eno, and the reneging on song-writing credits, let alone the lack of a meaningful dialogue between him and his bandmates makes for uncomfortable reading. Of course, David’s strange decision to stop touring with Talking Heads at the peak of their success in 1984 is covered along with the eventual disbanding of the band completely. But I am sure that for all David Byrne’s faults, including his painful lack of social awareness, these informed his unique stage presence and was a big part of elevating the Talking Heads to another level. There’s a glimmer of hope for a reunion when the Talking Heads do get together to perform at their induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002 but sadly, as we are now very much aware this never materialized. Chris is honest in admitted that him, Jerry and Tina would all be up for a reunion however, the ball is firmly in David Byrne’s court and you’ll just have to buy a copy of this quite brilliant book to judge for yourself if this is ever likely to happen.

You can order "Remain In Love: Talking Heads, Tina, Tom Tom Club" via Amazon here. With many thanks to Paul Slattery for his excellent photographs. All black & white photos strictly copyright Paul Slattery and may not be reproduced without permission. Paul has published three photobooks Joy Division at Strawberry Studios, The Smiths: The Early Years and Oasis: A Year on The Road aswell as having his photos featured on many record covers and in various music papers, magazines and books over the years. He is also a regular contributor to Retro Man Blog and Retrosonic Podcast.