Saturday 20 July 2024

Tours - "Language School" / "Foreign Girls" - 7" Vinyl Reissue of Classic Power Pop / New Wave Single

Bachelor Records have just re-issued one of the greatest Power Pop singles of all time "Language School" backed with "Foreign Girls" by the sadly short-lived Tours which is available as a limited edition of 500 copies and comes with a four page booklet with liner notes and rare photos. It's a classic pairing that sums up all the very best of 1979, that golden year for melodic guitar Pop. It was a huge favourite of John Peel who played "Language School" on his BBC Radio 1 show for 50 consecutive nights, claiming it was runner up only to his beloved "Teenage Kicks" by The Undertones as one of his all time favourite single. Joint singer-songwriters Ronnie Mayor and Richard Mazda were dubbed the 'Lennon & McCartney' of Punk and Richard Branson signed them up to Virgin Records. Unfortunately, the band only managed to release one more single, the equally excellent "Tourist Information" before they split up. As regular listeners to our Retrosonic Podcast will know, my co-host and colleague, the Rock Photographer Paul Slattery, has banged on about how great Tours were for ages and we've played many songs by the band in various episodes. Paul took some great photos of Tours back in their early years and was chuffed to bits when they decided to re-form in 2018 for a gig in their native Poole, so he hot-footed it down to the south coast with camera in hand to capture rehearsals and the gig itself.

Tours "Language School" heard live again for the first time in almost 40 years! I went down to Poole with writer Dave McCullough back in 1979 to photograph the band Tours for a feature in Sounds magazine. They were unusual because there were two songwriters and two lead singers, Richard Mazda singing his own songs and Ronnie Mayor singing his. However unusual, they were a really excellent band with great tunes and a fantastic sound. - Paul Slattery

You can order the new "Language School" vinyl single and download from the Bachelor Records Bandcamp site here or from 14th Floor Music Distribution here.


You can read all about Paul's visit to Tours reunion rehearsals here and the gig at the King Charles in Poole here, both features include excellent photos by Paul, old and new. Don't forget Retrosonic Podcast Episode 47 where Paul Slattery discussed "Retrospectively Yours", the excellent compilation from Ronnie Mayor of Tours, the criminally underrated, short-lived Power Pop/New Wave band who Paul first photographed and championed way back in 1979. There's a special feature on the album which highlights Ronnie's songwriting skills with The Tours and Da Biz and we pick a selection of songs from both bands.


Wednesday 10 July 2024

Ruts DC "Electracoustic Vol. 3"

Ruts DC have just released the third volume in their inspired Electracoustic series, where they revisit and reimagine, not only the old classics, but many of the hidden gems, B-Sides and album tracks from The Ruts and Ruts DC impressive back catalogue. “Electracoustic Vol. 3” is slightly different from the previous volumes, in that it also includes a brand new as yet unreleased track entitled "Bound In Blood”, that proves that the band are continuing in their rich vein of form. The Electracoustic series works on all levels, probably because as the title suggests, these are not just the usual bland acoustic versions that some bands and artists put out as filler or a quick, cost-effective and easy release. Not at all. Often, these are complete re-workings of the songs we have come to know and love, and adding in electric guitars and bass allows them to experiment with the arrangements and add a real texture and variety to proceedings. Hearing the familiar tracks in such a different context also makes you re-evaluate the songs themselves and highlights just what superb songwriters The Ruts were, and more importantly that Ruts DC still are. 

I have written before about Ruts DC and how difficult it must have been for Segs to follow on from Malcolm Owen’s unique vocal delivery, and later for Leigh Heggarty to follow Paul Fox’s unbelievable and singular guitar playing and of course, anyone who has seen them play live in their current guise will understand just how remarkable both have done. So, the Electracoustic sessions are also a chance for both Segs and Leigh to add their own skills and personalities to the old Ruts songs and this gives a totally fresh and invigorating listening experience. I guess first of all, most people will be intrigued as to how they are going to tackle the more straight-ahead Punk Rock songs of the early Ruts and on Vol. 3 you get three great examples, well, three if you get the CD version. The vinyl album ends with “Human Punk” and the bonus tracks on the CD include “Criminal Mind” and “Society”. “Criminal Mind” gets twisted into a blistering Rockabilly shuffle complete with handclaps and drummer Dave Ruffy’s fantastic brush work. “Society” gets filtered down to a sprightly acoustic Folk-Punk classic with an electric blast of guitar from Leigh and Segs’ voice doesn’t lose any of the latent aggression of the original, that most of us only heard as a chaotic live recording. 

“Pretty Lunatics” from the last album “CounterCulture?” is the closest they get to an all-out acoustic number and here it’s a stunningly emotional tug at the heartstrings. Some tracks are not that dissimilar to the originals - the take on the Punky Reggae classic “Jah War” for example but “Dope For Guns” slows down and strips the familiar song back to highlight the mightily impressive bubbling bass line and it really takes on a new life of its own. For me, it’s the tracks from the post-Malcolm Ruts DC albums “Formula Eyes” from “Animal Now” and a brilliant laid-back version of “Whatever We Do” from “Rhythm Collision Vol. 1” that really hit the spot, and dare I say, could well improve on the originals. So, please don’t hesitate in adding this fantastic album to your Ruts collection, if you think you might have heard it all before, then think again and give it a try. You won’t regret it and it’ll have you listening to that almighty back catalogue with fresh ears.  

“Electracoustic Vol. 3” comes in blue vinyl and as mentioned, the CD has three bonus tracks, and both are available to order, along with new merchandise, from the band’s official website here. Don’t forget Volumes 1 and 2 while you’re at it! Ruts DC are also out on a U.K. Electracoustic tour at the moment, culminating in a show at the legendary 100 Club in London on Sunday July 28th so please check the band’s site for the full list of tour dates and how to buy tickets. You can check previous reviews of Ruts DC shows in our Retro Man Blog archive and also original live videos at our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here. Finally, don't forget our thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast with Ruts DC guitarist Leigh Heggarty.


Friday 5 July 2024

VIVA Strange Boutique - Tokyo's Post-Punk, New Wave & Indie Store

VIVA Strange Boutique is a fantastic store located near Okusawa station in the south-west of Tokyo close to Jiyugaoka and its packed with vintage Post-Punk and Indie posters, badges, records, music magazines and memorabilia. The emphasis is very much on U.K. Post-Punk and Indie with prominent displays of the more avant-garde and DIY acts such as Alternative TV, Television Personalities, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Store owner Minami, who also sings and plays guitar with her own band, She Talks Silence, designs and produces original, officially authorised merchandise for some of her favourite bands and artists such as Felt, A Certain Ratio, The Raincoats, Durutti Column, David J, The Vaselines, Primal Scream, Sparks and the Japanese band Plastics who were a kind of cross between The B-52's, Wall of Voodoo and early Talking Heads. She's had some well known visitors too, DJ Don Letts and Devo's frontman Mark Mothersbaugh have popped in to visit the store. 

You can check out the VIVA Strange Boutique online store here for the full list of merchandise, as they also offer shipping worldwide. Of course, you can probably guess from the store's name, that Minami is a huge fan of The Monochrome Set and they recently invited the band over to Tokyo to headline a sold-out gig at the WWWX venue in Shibuya to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the store's opening. 

There's also an exhibition space in the basement and luckily we were able to catch an exhibtion of stunning photos by the music photographer Toshi Yajima who also just so happened to be in the store, so we could have a nice chat about this work and career as a UK based correspondent sharing his photos to various publications back in Japan. He took very early photos of the Sex Pistols in their Denmark Street rehearsal room in 1976 and would go on to photograph all the musical greats such as The Clash, The Jam, David Bowie, XTC, Iggy Pop, The Damned, Japan, Morrissey, The B-52's, Devo, Paul Weller, The Specials and Kraftwerk among many others - all are featured in an excellent book entitled "Each & Every One" which was actually published by VIVA Strange Boutique. Hopefully, we will be doing a more in-depth feature on his superb pictures sometime in the future.

With thanks to Minami and Toshi Yajima. For more information on VIVA Strange Boutique please check out their web-site here and Facebook page here, they are also on Instagram.

Monday 27 May 2024

The Prisoners - Live at The Roundhouse London, Friday May 24th, New Album "Morning Star" and New Book "A Taste of Ink!"

It's hard to believe it's 40 years since my first introduction to The Prisoners courtesy of the anarchic Friday evening music TV show The Tube - it was a short film on the Trash and Garage band scene with The Milkshakes, The Tall Boys, The Stingrays and closing the feature were a band dressed in Star Trek outfits, this band were The Prisoners and the song was "Reaching My Head" with swirling Eastern sounding organ, a manic Keith Moon style drummer pulling faces at the camera, a cool looking frontman and I can still remember the way the song suddenly dropped out half way through and a wicked bass riff took over. So, I kind of came to the band from the 60's Nuggets, Psych angle as I was into The Playn Jayn, The Fuzztones and Punk so I didn't really see them as a Mod band as such, although they would of course, be embraced by Mods and Scooterists. I bought their current album at the time which I found out was their second full-length release with a suitably Psychedelic title, "The Wisermiserdemelza" and the raucous Garage Punk rushes of "Hurricane" and "Somewhere" became my new favourite songs - then there were superb tracks like the B-Side "Tomorrow (She Said)" and the now classic anthem "Melanie" from the brilliant "Electric Fit" E.P.  Due to age and geography, I only got to see the band a couple of times back in the day - at the much-missed Clarendon in Hammersmith (I think Australian band The Scientists were also on the bill...) and then supporting the Ramones at the Hammersmith Palais and I dearly wished I'd seen them play more.

Fast forward 30 years and thanks to the Medway based band The Len Price 3, who had appeared at a few of my Retro Man Blog Nights at The Half Moon Putney, introducing me to Graham Day & Allan Crockford - I was honoured to be able to get their latest project, Graham Day & The Forefathers booked in for a gig. We would go on to do three successful, sold out Forefathers shows at The Half Moon - including one which nearly brought me to tears when I went backstage before the show to see Star Trek outfits hanging up in the dressing room. I continued branching out to include shows for Allan's new band The Galileo 7, Graham's instrumental project The Senior Service and two sold-out reunion shows for The Solarflares at the Water Rats in Kings Cross, which in a nice piece of synchronicity, was actually the location of that very feature for The Tube back in 1984, although the venue was called The Pindar of Wakefield at the time. It was an absolute pleasure as a fan to get to work with Graham and Allan but I don't think there was ever any inkling that The Prisoners would get back together again. Then, all of a sudden in 2021 the four original members, Graham Day, James Taylor, Allan Crockford and Johnny Symons made an impromptu appearance at the Billabong Club in Rochester playing a short set at an Auntie Vegetable reunion gig. This was followed in 2022 with another low key appearance although unfortunately in far more sombre circumstances - a memorial show celebrating the lives of three Medway locals including Allan's Dad, John Crockford who sadly passed away over the COVID pandemic. There is a lovely dedication in the foreward of the excellent new book "A Taste of Ink! The Prisoners Sentenced By Their Fans" to the important role that John Crockford played in the story of The Prisoners, especially in their formative years. As Allan writes..."without Dad's boundless support, encouragement, enthusiasm and patience, The Prisoners might never have escaped the garage and made it onto a stage". 

Then came the news that the band were to 'officially' re-form to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their debut album "A Taste of Pink" with two local shows at the Royal Function Rooms in Rochester - sadly the venue and building which also housed Jim Riley's legendary Ranscombe Studios - was due for 're-development', so it seemed a very apt place to host the shows. The demand for tickets was phenomenal and the two nights quickly expanded to four sold out shows and we were lucky enough to experience one of them, which you can read all about here. Although celebrating an album some forty years old is basically an exercise in nostalgia - the band all looked and sounded so fresh and energetic with an undeniable and infectious chemistry fizzing between the old friends on stage. It wowed the audience and all the talk afterwards was that surely, this is too good to stop, they must write some new material. And so it was that we got our wish. This year we were treated to a brand new album "Morning Star" which is packed full of so many great, immediate songs that it has already established itself as a bit of a classic. It's a masterclass in how to do a 'come-back' album - there's no hint of cynicism or tiredness - it sounds bloody marvellous, probably due in part to the music being recorded at Abbey Road studios and of course the quality of the songwriting and performances, all four members are at the top of their game. There's a feeling that this album is as much for Graham, Allan, James and Johnny themselves as for their fans or a wider audience as there's such an unabashed joy, running through the songs. Similar to my other 'favourite band', The Soundtrack of Our Lives, they unashamedly plunder all the good bits from their many and varied influences but add their own twist, whether its surfing in on an "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" riff with opening number "This Road Is Too Long", the pulsing synth intro, blitzkrieg drums, dexterous bass runs and windmilling guitar dynamics of The Who on "Going Back" or the punky Ramones-Phil Spector-Girl Group mash-up "Go To Him" with it's punch the air "just go, just go, just go" chant of a chorus. 

Somehow the band have managed to perfectly capture what it feels like to be a young fresh-faced band once again, back in the garage running through covers of their favourite songs before realizing their own songs are even better. Of course we get the pounding Motown beats, nods to Small Faces, Hendrix, John Barry, The Pretty Things, The Stranglers, Georgie Fame and Deep Purple, there are fuzzed up guitars, soaring backing vocals and harmonies, bittersweet lyrics and of course a trademark Barry Gray style instrumental "The Green Meteor", that could have graced any Gerry Anderson series. James Taylor not only impresses hugely with his peerless Hammond organ throughout but he also adds vocals to the brilliant tracks "My Wife" and "Break This Chain". Allan and Johnny cement themselves as one of the best rhythm sections since, well Moon and Entwistle of course, and Graham must be in the form of his musical life as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. Personally, I think "Something Better" and "If I Had Been Drinking" are up there with the very best things they have ever produced and the uplifting "Winter In June" is a work of musical art that could rival "Whenever I'm Gone" as their "should have been a Number 1 hit single if there was any justice in this world". At the end they even manage to sneak in a cheeky self-reference as the familiar melody line to "Thinking Of You (Broken Pieces)" plays with your senses. Yes, you might get the idea that I rather like this album and I find myself hoping that they play the whole bloody lot at the Roundhouse show. That's rare - usually a band announcing "now we've got some new songs for you..." sees a mass exodus for the bar - but not tonight. I'm very pleased to quickly discover I'm not alone - I'm right down the front and all around me people are singing along, they already know all the words to the new songs and there are a lot of them, most of "Morning Star" is delivered perfectly and nobody runs to the bar. I want to video "Go To Him" but all I get is 30 seconds worth of footage before I am thrown this way and that like a rag doll by the middle-aged mosh pit. It's testament to the quality of a new song when, not only do the crowd know all the words, but they go absolutely ape-shit crazy as soon as the first chords ring out. 

It's pretty mad down the front, the Roundhouse is packed, sure there were a few empty spaces on the balcony but I guess that was more a case of people vacating their seats to get down the front of the impressive but cavernous legendary venue. It's the band's biggest show - probably just pips the capacity of the Kentish Town Forum from the mid-90's reunion shows. I think I wasn't the only one to worry that the venue might be that little bit too big but people came out in their droves to be there for the experience. I heard Scottish, Irish, Geordie and Scouse accents - there were people from all over the place including Germany, Jersey, Sweden and Australia amongst other places I'm sure - I encountered loads of musicians, music journalists, DJ's, fanzine and blog writers - not there to work, just there as fans. There were people who had been with band from the very beginning to those that never got the chance to see The Prisoners play at all. It was also great to see so many familiar faces, lots of people who I got to know through my Retro Man Blog Nights for Graham Day & The Forefathers, Senior Service, The Solarflares and The Galileo 7 - lots of friends made just through our mutual admiration of The Prisoners. So, there was no need to have worried about the size of the Roundhouse and the added bonus of The Inspiral Carpets and long-time fan, DJ Steve Lamacq made sure the crowd were nicely warmed up for the main attraction. The band didn't seem out of place on the big stage and the perfectly plotted set-list along with that all important chemistry and sense of dynamics helped fill every nook and cranny of the Roundhouse's huge dome. 

The Inspiral Carpets

James Taylor, probably the one with the most experience of playing larger venues, played cheerleader, encouraging the crowd to clap and sing along, even though we didn't need much encouragement. Everyone was primed and ready to embrace this reunion - I've rarely felt such a palpable sense of excitement and adrenaline prior to a gig and the streets of Camden and Chalk Farm were positively buzzing with laughter and chatter beforehand. Then as the band took to the stage to huge cheers and blasted straight into "Hurricane" there was this huge release, an outpouring of adoration for this great band - justification for all those years of being labelled with words such as cult, underrated, unappreciated - and one in the eye for all those acts that plundered The Prisoners sound and made far more commercial in-roads - this was sweet. The band fed off the crowd's enthusiasm and treated us to a superb set that spanned their career from the early (now rare) single "There's a Time" to "Deceiving Eye" from their final 1986 album "In From The Cold" and then beyond to the afore-mentioned new album "Morning Star" - it was a great song selection. There were far too many highlights to mention but OK I'll try... a crunching "Better In Black", the slew of instrumentals including "Come To The Mushroom", "Night of The Nazgul" and "Explosion On Uranus", the emotional singlong of "Thinking of You (Broken Pieces)" and of course my old favourites "Melanie" and "Reaching My Head". They end the encore with "Hush" and the house lights go up but the crowd demand more so we get the added bonus of "Don't Call My Name" and then it's sadly all over and we file out into the night happy and satisfied, all wondering what might come next. I guess this could now go one of two ways, either a perfect full stop, a memorable and very special ending to be proud of, or it could well be just the start of another exciting chapter. I'm hoping for the latter...

Before the gig, it was nice to meet up with Elinor, Jeremy, Thomas and Michael, the editors and compilers of the superb new book "A Taste of Ink! The Prisoners Sentenced By Their Fans" which really is a must-have purchase for any Prisoners fan. The hardback version is a huge 385 page labour of love over three years in the making that collates pretty much every known photo, flyer, poster of the band from their schoolday origins right up to the December 2023 reunion show in Herne Bay. Based around contributions and memories from fans, long-time friends, other local musicians such as Billy Childish, Bruce Brand, Nitin Sawhney, Ian Greensmith, Wolf Howard and Sexton Ming all sharing their experiences - there are also set-lists, gig-listings, a musical family tree, timelines, old reviews and features and memorabilia scattered throughout this quite wonderful book. What makes the book even more special however, is the involvement of Allan's sister Elinor, as she was there quite literally at the very beginning of the band as a 13 year old experiencing the first rehearsals and line-up changes - tagging along with her dad as he ferried the band to their very first shows. Her diary entries and witty insights along with her invaluable collection of early photos and snapshots, make the book very special indeed. "A Taste of Ink!" has actually sold out so if you are interested, please do get in touch with them via their official Facebook page here and I'm sure there will be enough demand for another print run very soon.

Don't forget in our Retrosonic Podcast archive you can still enjoy the interview special with Graham, Allan and Wolf where they talk about the idea behind Graham Day & The Forefathers and we chat and play loads of great music that they have been involved with over the years. 

Check the Blog archive links on the right for all our Medway music related reviews and features and you can subscribe to our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here for free for loads of original videos of Graham, Allan and Medway related shows and bands too. All photos copyright Retro Man Blog, please click the highlighted links throughout the feature for more information.

Sunday 19 May 2024

The Return of The Prisoners - New Book "A Taste of Ink", New Album "Morning Star" and Reunion Gig at The Roundhouse in London...

It's certainly a good time to be a fan of The Prisoners - this week sees their biggest gig since the band's reunion - a huge show at London's legendary Roundhouse on Friday May 24th featuring the original line-up of Graham Day, James Taylor, Allan Crockford and Johnny Symons with support from Inspiral Carpets and DJ Steve Lamacq. Talking of huge... there's been a loud thud on the doormats of many households around the world in the past few days (orders have been received from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, UK and USA) as the Postman has been delivering the fantastic new book "A Taste of Ink: The Prisoners Sentenced By Their Fans" lovingly compiled and edited by Elinor Crockford, Jeremy Stride, Michael Langer and Thomas Buch. I've just received my huge hardback labour of love and all 385 pages are bursting with every scrap of information you could wish for on the history of the Medway Garage Rock legends. It's mainly a chronological collection of various fan's experiences with the band over the years right up to the recent reunion shows but along the way, there are also hundreds of flyers, adverts, posters, press cuttings, fanzine features, fan's own original photos, illustrations and official promo pics crammed into each page.

There's also a comprehensive gig list and a timeline with a family tree showing the many branches to have sprouted from The Prisoners - the various side projects and new bands that the members of the band embarked on after the initial split. I have an extensive music book library and I can honestly say that I haven't seen many better books on a band than "A Taste of Ink", what with it's wealth of archive material and first hand experiences - it's a fan's dream, and that's basically because it's been compiled by and contributed to by the fans themselves. A fantastic effort and well done to all involved, they must be very proud of the work of art they have produced. I know, I'm very honoured to have some of my photos included and it's great to see them alongside so many familiar names and faces from fellow Prisoners fans that I have got to meet and know since my first Graham Day & The Forefathers Retro Man Blog Night some ten years ago now. 

The Prisoners reunion in Rochester December 2022   

My old Ramones Gig Ticket - The Prisoners as support

My first recollection of seeing The Prisoners was on the classic TV music show The Tube in 1984 and I was hooked ever since - however due to geographical difficulties, I only saw them play live a couple of times back in the day at the much-missed Hammersmith Clarendon and supporting Ramones at the Hammersmith Palais. Fast forward some 30 years and I must admit to having a lump in my throat when I walked backstage at the Half Moon Putney before one of my shows for Graham Day & The Forefathers, and saw the Star Trek outfits hanging up in the dressing room. It made a special event even more special than I could have imagined and I'll never forget it.

Photos above Graham Day & The Forefathers at Retro Man Blog Night

I would go on to put on gigs for The Solarflares, Senior Service and The Galileo 7 and then was in the crowd to finally witness a superb Prisoners reunion show in Rochester in 2022 (which you can read about here), something I never thought would happen. But not only is there the upcoming Prisoners gig at The Roundhouse to look forward to, there's also the superb new album "Morning Star" which is out now on Own Up Records and is a remarkably strong set of brand new material that distills all of those trademark Prisoners elements you love. The stomping Motown beats, immense Hammond organ, fuzzed up guitars, melodic bass lines and instantly memorable, bittersweet harmonies. There's also one of the very best Gerry Anderson TV show instrumental themes that never was in "The Green Meteor" and nods to all the band's influences along the way, some more unsuspecting than you might think such as The Who on "Going Back" and Ramones and Phil Spector on "Go To Him" (I hope they play this on Friday...), it's a surefire classic that will live up to all your expectations.

 You can order "A Taste of Ink" via the book's own official Facebook page here.

Friday 17 May 2024

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Live at EartH Hackney with Keyside

I make no apologies for yet another glowing feature on Michael Head and The Red Elastic Band and before you ask, no I don't work for their PR department. My only worry is that I am in danger of constantly repeating myself in banging on and on about just how vitally important Mick is as one of our generation's greatest ever songwriters and live performers. He's on tour to promote the new album "Loophole" which promises to build on the huge success of the stunning "Dear Scott" - an album that finally garnered Mick the acclaim he has so rightly deserved over the years and it's also nice that we don't have to keep referring to him as "underrated" anymore. Tonight's set is made up mainly of songs from "Loophole" and it's a bit of a shame that the album's release was delayed - not only because copies weren't available for sale during the tour, especially at the record store appearances/signings - but also because we couldn't familiarise with the new material properly, other than the tracks that have been released as on-line singles or from hearing them played at previous gigs. 


Of the new songs, my favourites are "Shirl's Ghost", the instrumental version of which teased us at the end of "Dear Scott" and the unashamedly romantic "You Smiled At Me", a sunny Burt Bacarach Bossa Nova-tinged jaunt. Mick explains it was inspired by the real-life stories found in the Metro newspaper of passenger's chance, often unrequited romantic encounters on public transport. It's a future classic that's for sure. I also love "Human Race" as it cranks up the volume and tempo and "Ciao Ciao Bambino", which is a Love (the band) inspired masterpiece. These news songs all promise that "Loophole" is going to give "Dear Scott" a run for its money. Of course, we get a fair chunk of the last album too including superb versions of "Gino and Rico", "Kismet" and "Pretty Child" and a sublime "Broken Beauty" with Mick telling us how it was co-written by daughter Allie who unfortunately couldn't be at the show. However,  we did witness her taking the stage for the very first time in Tokyo last year to add backing vocals to the truly beautiful song - it was certainly emotional and you can see a video of it at our YouTube channel here. From the Shack years we are treated to superb versions of "Strangers", "Comedy" and the crowd favourite "Meant To Be" but it's the brooding Psychedelia of "Streets of Kenny" that blows everyone's minds tonight. 


Of course, I'm a huge Shack fan but with the core of musicians Mick has assembled around him - guitarist Nathaniel Laurence, bassist Tom Powell, drummer Phil Murphy and the one-man brass section (and enthusiastic dancer) Martin Smith - The Red Elastic Band more than make up for the fact that with the sad and untimely passing of drummer Iain 'Tempo' Templeton it's highly unlikely that Mick would try and re-form Shack anytime in the near future. However, talking of which, another of tonight's highlights (yes, there are more...) sees Shack bassist Pete Wilkinson taking a break from his own musical project Aviator, and indeed his birthday celebrations, to take the stage for the wonderful "Merry-Go-Round". 


Mick wishes his friend and former colleague happy birthday and explains how he was staying in Pete's flat about 15 years ago, when he heard Pete playing around with a guitar riff that caught his attention and they ending up co-writing "Merry-Go-Round" and after all these years, it's finally made it onto an album. It's a superb song, built around a hypnotic, circular guitar riff that really tugs at the heartstrings. Another transcendental night of music in the company of Mick and The Red Elastic Band draws to a close with a raucous encore of Love's "A House Is Not A Motel" and that's it, sadly it's all over until the next time I get chance to write yet another glowing feature. 


I must also mention the fantastic Keyside, fellow Liverpudlians specially picked by Mick for their very first London show. They were one of those well chosen and well suited acts that really set the crowd up nicely for the main act to follow, similar to Karma Sheen supporting Elephant Stone last week. Frontman Daniel Parker reminded me of (a young) Neil Finn...well, from a distance and without my glasses...and Keyside certainly have Crowded House's unabashed pop sensibilities. Daniel sounds like a cross between Lee Mavers and Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys as he bounces around the stage with a huge grin, his good humour and obvious delight at playing such a big venue is as infectious as Keyside's perfectly formed songs and they get a really warm reception from the crowd. 

I don't know what it is about the Merseyside musical conveyor belt that constantly produces so many interesting melodic bands and although their songs are rooted in the classic Liverpool sound, excellent guitarist Ben Cassidy takes the occasional detour to Manchester for his crystal clear guitar riffs, reminiscent of Johnny Marr. I have to mention the impressive rhythm section of drummer Oisin McAvoy and bassist Max Gibson too and there's a nice chemistry apparent between all four members. Of course they undoubtedly have influences from lots of young and contemporary bands that an old git like me has never heard of, but I can pick up strains of Cast and The Coral at their most melodic, think "In The Morning" and "Jacqueline" rather than their Captain Beefheart and Psychedelic side. Keyside's songs are instantly memorable - "Angeline", "Paris To Marseille", "Nikita" and in particular a new song which I think is called "I Can't Get Enough", will stick with you for days to follow and I'm eager to find out more about this very promising young band.


Check out our archive for loads more Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band related features, photos and videos including our special report on their stunning and emotional Tokyo show last year. There are also lots of Mick-related live videos at our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here, subscribe for free to access. I must also say that it was great to meet up with Red Elastic Band bassist Tom Powell again for the first time since our thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast about his stunning side project and their self-titled debut, which was our favourite Album of 2023. You can check out the Episode at Spotify or direct from our SoundCloud site below.

Mick's daughter Allie had her debut novel "Between It All" published to critical acclaim and it's been making its way to major bookshops too but you can order online too. In more news, John Johnson, the photographer responsible for the superb photos on the covers of "Dear Scott" and "Adiós Señor Pussycat", also has a photo-book of Liverpool nightlife, "In Concert" out now, for more info please check out John's web-site herePlease click on the highlighted links throughout the feature for more information. All photos and videos copyright Retro Man Blog 2024.