Saturday, 26 September 2020

Retrosonic Podcast Episode 40: "A Primitive Psychosis" New Release Special incl. The Damned, Wire, The Go-Go's, The Limiñanas, The Speedways, Draculina, The Fleshtones, Billy Childish, BMX Bandits and More...!


To celebrate our 40th Episode here's a special "non-retro" Retrosonic Podcast where Steve from Retro Man Blog selects 22 brand NEW releases from some of his favourite new international bands and artists alongside some superb fresh material from a few old favourites such as The Damned, Wire, The Go-Go's and The Fleshtones. There's great music from BMX Bandits, Or Arrowe Hill, Cult Figures and The Sensible Gray Cells, there's Power Pop and New Wave from The Speedways, The Vapors, Treasures of Mexico and Phil Hendriks, Medway Garage Rock from Wild Billy Childish & CTMF and The High Span, French grooves from The Limiñanas, Ian Kay and Popincourt, Psychedelia from Melody Fields and Grandad Pants, Punk Rock from The Lurkers and we top it all off with some atmospheric Surf-Noir from Draculina. Retrosonic Podcast has a valid PRS licence. Retrosonic theme by Adam Donovan. This episode's cover star: Polina from Draculina.

Here's the full track-listing, please click on the highlighted links below for further information.

BMX Bandits feat. Anton Newcombe "Razorblades & Honey" (Hifi Sean Re-Mix)
The Limiñanas "Calentita"
The Damned "Manipulator"
Ian Kay "Little Granadin"
Popincourt "Always Back (Like The Morning Dew)"
Melody Fields "Broken Horse"
Grandad Pants "On My Street"
The High Span "Dynamik 73" 
The Treasures of Mexico "Stick With You"
X "Alphabetland"
The Fleshtones "You Gotta Love Love"
The Go-Go's "Club Zero"
Wire "The Art of Persistence"
The Lurkers "Fits You Like A Glove"
The Vapors "Crazy"
Phil Hendriks "Radio Calling S.O.S.
The Speedways "Daydreaming"
Cult Figures "Camping In The Rain"
Of Arrowe Hill "All Roads Lead To Quinns"
Draculina "Taboo" 

Record Label/Merchandise Spotlight
Migas 2000 (The Limiñanas Store)
 
Please kindly support the featured bands, artists and record labels - thank you!

You can listen/download/stream directly below or via our main Retrosonic archive on Soundcloud or subscribe for free on iTunes/Apple Podcasts so you don't miss an episode! 

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.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Eight Rounds Rapid Release Their Third Album "Love Your Work" (Tapete Records) a Blistering, Visceral Attack on The Senses


Eight Rounds Rapid have just released their third album "Love Your Work" on the excellent German label Tapete (Robert Forster, Monochrome Set etc) and it shows the band taking a big leap forward, broadening their sound and horizons quite impressively. They've seemingly taken the feel of "Johnnie Ray" and "Reverse" from previous album "Objet D'Art" as the template for this new set of songs and while there's undoubtedly less of the full-on cranked-up R&B of their previous releases, it doesn't mean the band have smoothed out any of their edges. Not a chance. If anything "Love Your Work" is more challenging and spiky than ever before. But don't worry, while the album will no doubt appeal to a much wider audience, there's still plenty of those classic trademark ERR sounds to keep all you existing fans more than satisfied. "Love Your Work" is visceral and hypnotic and is packed full of David Alexander's wry observations on the state of our nation. He has the knack of elevating the mundane minutiae of life in Brexit Britain superbly and it's difficult to say where lyrics stop and poetry starts. Opening track "You Wait" sets a scene that's full of simmering aggression and tension and it's this theme that runs throughout the entire album. The song's protagonist seems to be trapped in one of those endless call centre scenarios, waiting impatiently, trying to get through, stuck on hold probably listening to awful piped music "he's in a meeting, can I take a message?" You can feel him gradually unravelling as the "you just wait" mantra twists into the ominous threat of "you just wait!". The threat of violence permeates "Love Your Work" and nowhere is this more apparent than in "Passive Agressive". This is what I would call a classic Eight Rounds Rapid song in that it distils all that is great about the band into a two and a half minute adrenaline-fuelled blast. It places you squarely in the heart of a low-life low-rent criminal fraternity and you can visualize small time drug deals with fidgety thugs in pub toilets - "don't look at me funny, I gave you the money". It's driven along on a blistering guitar riff before the song breaks down into a frantic argument - "there's no negotiation, there's no fucking money you slimy little prick". It's one of the best songs the band have written. Luckily the tension lifts a bit with the next song "Love Don't" which is pretty much a Bluesy swing number with Simon Johnson's guitar whizzing all over the place, floating above Jools Cooper's fluid basslines and Lee Watkins superb jazzy drumming. It proves my theory that they are among the best rhythm sections around at the moment.

Eight Rounds Rapid - Photo by Paul Hughes
The switch of styles throughout the album is really what sets it apart - quite a few of the songs are almost like atmospheric mini-movie soundtracks, initially based around the foundation of the drums and bass with Simon's inventive playing setting the scene for David Alexander's evocative lyrics/poetry. Then you get something like "Retro Band" with it's clicking drum machine and unsettling background noises that is as unusual as it is addictive. David Quantick compared the band to Sleaford Mods in a recent review for Classic Rock magazine and after listening to this track I can kind of see his point. It's not just the backing track they use in "Retro Band" but the way both acts are using their local vernacular to shine a spotlight on the current state of our nation, warts and all. Another example of this shift in sound would be the hilarious "Onesie" which near as damn it, nails today's popular so-called culture succintly with it's simple mantra of "I took a selfie in my onesie". It's a jittery avant-garde Jazz blast with some wicked sax from George Cleghorn that reminds me of the late 70's New York No-Wave scene. "Letter" is one of my favourites on the album, a slow burning song with some great choppy ryhthm guitar. Is it a love song for the Coronavirus times? At first I thought so - "when this is over, when this is through, I'm gonna write a letter to you, I'm gonna make it better for you". However, this is Eight Rounds after all and the sampled atmospheric strings and creepy voice in the background makes you wonder if it's actually something slightly more sinister. "Future Estates" is an absolute classic where David Alexander's idiosyncratic half-spoken vocal delivery of his stunning street poetry clicks perfectly with the musical soundtrack. It's so evocative. You're immediately transported to kicking-out time on a Friday night in provincial Brexit-Britain, waiting in a taxi rank in the pissing rain trying to avoid the seething aggression from the "ragamuffin street urchin toerags" all around you. It conjures up images of dodgy tattoo parlours, botox and nail bars and raucous hen and stag parties - "ticket tout lash out lip pout fell out..." Not only does the song boast what I think are David's best lines yet, it also features some unbelievable guitar from Simon - he mangles the strings just like Pixies' Joey Santiago, cranking up the tension almost to breaking point. What a song. "Tricks" is a return to the old-school ERR sound of rough and ready Canvey Island R&B that you've come to expect from the band. It's topped off with a superb harmonica solo and is probably the closest the album gets to what you might call a traditional Rock & Roll song. However, "Mirror" changes the feel again with its lovely shimmering guitar textures reminiscent of Wire's Bruce Gilbert around the "A Bell Is a Cup Until It Is Struck" period.


There aren't really any other contemporary bands I can think of like Eight Rounds Rapid, they're impossible to pin down or categorize. I mean, their uniform of black suits, white shirts and skinny black ties harks back to classic late 70's/early 80's Power Pop, that most innocuous and feelgood of musical genres. But there's certainly nothing innocuous about Eight Rounds Rapid and not a lot of feelgood (excuse the pun) if truth be told. After all, the band look more like a bunch of bouncers outside a local neon-lit boozer than some frothy New Wave band. It's not easy-listening that's for sure. Their music is challenging and thought-provoking and sometimes it can drive you to distraction just like the best Krautrock and Post-Punk bands have the tendency to do. Sure, there are bits of The Fall, early Talking Heads, Can and Public Image Ltd, maybe not musically, but in the way they push the listener to the edge of their comfort zone. However, when you get it you really get it and it's ultimately rewarding. I sometimes wonder if there's a grand plan behind Eight Rounds Rapid. Some of their press releases and statements are challenging, sarcastic almost, are they taking the piss or what? Are they a parody, some kind of Anti-Rock art statement or are they just four Essex blokes who like to get together and kick up a goddamn almighty racket? A bit of all I suspect. But in the end you can do all the theorizing and pontificiating you like, the bottom line is it's music that hits you in the guts, smacks you in the nose but then makes you wonder just what the hell is coming next from Eight Rounds Rapid. I have no idea but I'm certainly looking forward to finding out.

You can hear "Passive Agressive" from "Love Your Work" in Episode 39 of Retrosonic Podcast.


Useful Links: For more information on Eight Rounds Rapid check out their web-site here or their Facebook page here. "Love Your Work" is available to buy here from Tapete Records. Thanks to David Alexander. Thanks to Sidewinder DJ David Edwards for being the first to tip me off about the band at the very start. Thanks to Mondo & Piley at Radio Podrophenia. They released the band's debut single "Writeabout" on their own label. Hello to all at The Railway Hotel, Southend-on-Sea. One of the U.K.'s best independent Pub Venues where Eight Rounds Rapid played as part of one of our joint Retro Man Blog/Podrophenia Nights. Band photo by Paul Hughes.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Ms Sheringham-Boom with a Round-Up of New Releases from Fleur, The Voo-Dooms and Surf Muscle


The Voo-Dooms "Step Inside The Doom!" Mini-LP on Spinout Nuggets - Following 2018's debut "Destination Doomsville" LP on Trash Wax Records, last year's "And It Goes Like This…" EP on Spinout Nuggets, and many gigs later, The Voo-Dooms are back from the grave, if you will. Not that they have been dormant for that long, but I have been looking forward to hearing this new offering and have been following the recording progress from Ranscombe Studios in Kent (thanks to social media). I must admit, a large part of the excitement was because I had heard that the Doomettes, Mary Tee and Jo-Jo A Go-Go, were to be involved. "Step Inside The Doom" opens with "Stop Haunting Me" which is SO darn catchy it catapults me right back to my early teens when I was hearing Garage, Beat and/or Trash (as it was called back then, yes I’m old...) for the first time.

Ah, that life changing moment, if only it could be bottled. Well maybe it has been? The theme continues with "She's Gonna Cry Tonight" a song about dumping a girlfriend, but he does not care and he’s gonna let her know - no no no no no NO! Ouch. "If I Can’t Have You" is a short but melodious affair which could tie in with the aforementioned track and there’s more 'No's' than you can shake a stick at, but this time the track has the added deliciousness of the Doomettes which undeniably elevates their sound. "She Wouldn’t Harm A Fly" is segued in with a voice clip from the 1960 film Psycho, which aptly sets the scene for the closing track "Is She (Dead Or Alive)?". It has that haunting "Johnny Remember Me" feel to it, furnished with Theremin from Jo-Jo A Go-Go. This is a monstrous (in the affirmative) record, and I expected no less. The Voo-Dooms are who they intrinsically are; song-makers, performers, enamoured by vintage horrors and writers of lyrics that evoke a knowing and wicked smile. One cannot deny their clearly overt (thanks again social media) influences. The overall sound pays homage to bands such as The X-Men, The Clapham South Escalators and The Sting-Rays to name but a few. Those and the thousands of musicians who recorded the most horrible hidden gems during the mid-century. My only slight disappointment was that I would have liked to have heard more of the Doomettes integrated in these six tracks. Maybe it’s time to start their own band, what do you think?

Surf Muscle "Theme from Surf Muscle" b/w "Hall of The Mountain King" (Sonido Polifonico) - Surf Muscle present their second single, a follow up to 2018’s "Revenge of The Pencil Necks" entitled "Theme from Surf Muscle" which is a quirky, mid-tempo instrumental offering from Sheffield’s, nay, Earth’s finest Surf band. This is available as a limited-edition lathe cut on clear vinyl, of which I have very generously been gifted No 13 out of 57. Lucky for me! It is always such a pleasure to receive their records because they are DIY in the truest sense. The front sleeve art conjures up cute '60s B-Movie terrors from beneath the sea, whilst the back features the band in an '80s video game. All artwork lovingly created by Guitar Muscle himself aka Oliver Allchin. "Theme From…" whisks me away to a swinging sorority beach party circa 1964. Cut to the resident band in their matching striped regalia, who carry on playing as a groaning monster staggers heavily out of the water draped in seaweed towards the bikini wearing girls, knocking over the rum laced punch and swiping at the incompetent Frat boys. Who can save the teens from this deep-sea terror? The band of course! Drum Muscle beats the monster with her sticks, Bass Muscle mesmerises him with hypnotic pulsations, and Guitar Muscle finishes him off with brain-frazzling reverb. "Hall of The Mountain King" is an instantly familiar tune and synonymous with the video game but the Muscle’s take on it is double the fun because they mix it up with another recognisable melody. Since their first release, the band have gigged around the UK and Drum Muscle, aka Katherine, also has a Garage Punk band with Missy Tassels of The Sleazoids called The Mean Girls Club, go check them out too at their Bandcamp site here. They also run a night in Sheffield called The Green Slime, a club for greasy finks and fiends serving Garage, Surf and trashy Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

Fleur - "Petit Homme De Papier" b/w "La Reine Des Abeilles" (Bickerton Records) - "Petit Homme De Papier", in English "Little Man of Paper", is a very welcome follow up to Fleur’s excellent debut single of 2019 "Mon Ami Martien". It is just as sweet, sultry, swinging and seductive as it’s predecessor. Quintessentially Yé-Yé "Petit Homme De Papier" is full of sunshine and flowers, tinged only with a little sadness et voila! It’s the kind of pop perfection that could have been lifted straight from the Eurovision Song Contest circa 1966. Do check out the dreamy video for this single below which features our chanteuse and her familiar looking paper lover. Sigh, we’ve all been there. The more garage-y of the tracks "La Reine Des Abeilles" (Queen Bee) is my favourite of the two. It is buzzing with fuzz and like the life of a bee it is short but meaningful with a sharp sting if aggravated. All tracks were written, recorded, and produced authentically by Arjan Spies & Dave Von Raven (both of Les Robots) at Studio Teepdek, which may give you an idea of the quality you can expect here.



You can also hear a track from Fleur and her other band The Colour Collection in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 39. Please click on the highlighted links for infomation on the bands and how to buy the featured records. Ms Sheringham-Boom is the bassist in Edinburgh's premier purveyors of Garage Rock, Thee Girl Fridays.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

The Stranglers - The Early Days in Guildford, Location and Landmark Tour

The Star Inn on Quarry Street, Guildford
The Stranglers have been on my mind even more than usual recently. I'd been talking to Ian Person the guitarist with two of Sweden's most influential bands, The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Union Carbide Productions for our latest Retrosonic Podcast when he told me that "The Raven" was the first record he ever bought. We both enjoyed revisiting the album and he picked his favourite track to include in the episode. Then, just as we finished the interview by coincidence I noticed that The Stranglers had announced the re-arranged dates for their final tour, of course now due to go ahead sadly without keyboard genius Dave Greenfield who passed away suddenly in May. Like all Stranglers fans I was devastated by this terrible news, after all, the band have been in my life for over 40 years now. I vividly remember "No More Heroes" being part of the soundtrack to my youth and when I was old enough to really get into buying records, "Duchess" and "Nuclear Device" were among the first on my list. So, I decided it was time to pay homage to one of my all time favourite bands and in a little tribute to Dave, I finally got round to doing a D.I.Y. tour of Stranglers related locations in and around Guildford, something I've been meaning to do for ages.

Guildford is where The Stranglers were formed back in 1974, it gave them their original name The Guildford Stranglers and I guess it's the band's spiritual home despite none of the members actually coming from the town. After all, Hugh Cornwell and JJ Burnel were born in London, Jet Black in Essex and Dave Greenfield comes from Brighton. Despite the band's fearsome reputation I was surprised to discover that most of the locations involved are surprisingly posh. Guildford itself boasts an attractive High Street that thankfully still retains a bit of character, rare in most of England's generic town centres these days. Then there's Chiddingfold, Bramley, Shalford, Godalming - even the names conjure up images of cricket on the village green and afternoon tea - hardly the high-rise council flats along The Clash's Westway or riot hit Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove. It's certainly all a far cry from the working class streets of Joy Division's Macclesfield or Salford and the polar opposite to 1970's Lower East Side of New York's legendary CBGB's scene either. But, I guess this suits The Stranglers down to the ground - I mean they were always outsiders - unfairly derided in the music press as being too old, too clever or too musical to be "real" Punks and often airbrushed out of trendy Punk retrospectives and exhibitions. However, despite the leafy suburban commuter belt area that saw the band's formation, The Stranglers always had far more menace, danger and genuine Punk attitude than the majority of their safety-pinned, dyed-haired contemporaries. Music journalists, fellow musicians, record companies and sometimes even their own audiences felt the wrath of their seething anger and distrust. 

Guildford High Street
Bramley Village Hall, an early rehearsal room
Hugh moved to Guildford after studying Biochemistry at Lund University in Sweden where he had also formed a band called Johnny Sox. The idea was that he and the guitarist/keyboard player Hans Wärmling should relocate and try their luck with the U.K.'s music scene. They advertised for like-minded individuals and JJ and Jet joined after seeing an advert in the music press. JJ's parents had moved from London to Godalming, a small town just outside Guildford where his Dad Roger, ran a French restaurant called La Chaumiere. Searches for details on the restaurant are sketchy as one result led me to the English Heritage directory of listed Grade II buildings and it comes up as Gomshall Lane in nearby Shere, currently the site of Kingham's Restaurant. However, I've also just had information from Gill at the Proud To Be a Stranglers Fan group that La Chaumiere was on Meadrow in Godalming which actually burnt down and the site is now a row of houses called Little Thatch. Malcolm Wyatt from the excellent WriteWyatt Blog corroborates this and adds that JJ's Mum ran the front of house and JJ also used to help out around the Restaurant too. Godalming was also home to the Gin Mill, a popular venue and nightclub inside The Angel Hotel on Angel Court that hosted gigs by bands such as Free and Fleetwood Mac. One night out here would go on to inspire the lyrics to "Go Buddy Go". Sadly, the Angel Hotel has since been redeveloped and there is a web-site asking for people to contribute their memories and stories. JJ attended the Royal Grammar School in Guildford and it's claimed that one of his schooltime experiences would go on to contribute the idea for "Choosey Susie", probably best not to delve too deeply into that!

Royal Grammar School, Guildford
The site of Jet's old Off-licence The Jackpot
Meanwhile, Jet Black was something of a local entrepreneur, a former Jazz drummer he was now running a large off-licence called The Jackpot which was also the base for his Ice Cream company. Here I also ran into some problems trying to find the exact location of The Jackpot as in most features about the band's early days the address mentioned is 61 Woodbridge Road. However, Malcolm from WriteWyatt tells me "(it) was nearer the railway station, on Park Street, not far from what's now the Academy of Contemporary Music, where incidentally Hugh Cornwell's current bandmates both lecture". If anyone else has memories or information on The Jackpot please do get in touch. In the early days, The Stranglers used one of Jet's fleet of Ice Cream vans as their 'tour bus' for a good couple of years, even making it over to the Continent to play some gigs. Now with things looking more serious for his new band, Jet bought a new drumkit from Anderton's music shop, a long established and well respected store that at the time was located in the North Street area of the town which relocated to 58-59 Woodbridge Road in 1990. Back to the band, and they decided to change their name from Johnny Sox to The Guildford Stranglers, but soon dropped the 'Guildford' prefix probably due to the reasons stated above that Guildford is hardly very 'Rock & Roll' and certainly didn't have quite the same credentials as say, The New York Dolls. However, Hans gave up on the band and returned to his native Gothenburg to be replaced by Dave Greenfield on the keyboards and with the new classic line-up and name in place they were ready to go.

Anderton's Music Store (new location)
The band's house in Chiddingfold
The band had been living and rehearsing above Jet's off-licence and songs such as "Sometimes" came from this period, but when the premises were earmarked for redevelopment, Jet sold up and rented a large cottage on Coxcombe Lane in Chiddingfold, an idyllic English village a few miles south of Guildford. They weren't made to feel very welcome by their new neighbours or even their own landlord for that matter, who at one stage even tried to evict them, changing the locks in the hope of forcing them out. Unfortunately for the locals, this didn't stop the band and they continued squatting at the property for a while afterwards. Hugh has since stated in interviews that he enjoyed his time at Chiddingfold, he was lucky to have the best room in the house which was conducive to songwriting and he liked to sit in the garden relaxing while JJ played acoustic guitar and songs like "Goodbye Toulouse" and "(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)" were written here. 

Chiddingfold, village green preservation society!
The Crown Inn, Chiddingfold
They were pretty poor at the time and Hugh admitted in one interview that they used to go to the Crown Inn, an historic pub on the nearby village green to consume pints of Guinness and packets of mixed nuts and raisins as it was all they could afford and they thought this would constitute a healthy balanced diet! The band even performed under the hilarious name, The Chiddingfold Chokers so the village had an undoubted place in their hearts! Hugh actually returned to Chiddingfold in October 2000 to play a show at the since demolished Chiddingfold Live Music Club around the release of his "Hi-Fi" album. The Stranglers also held early rehearsals in Bramley Village Hall and in the highly unlikely location of the Shalford Scouts Hut, which still stands to this day.

Shalford Scout Hut
The Royal Hotel Stoughton, now the Beijing Restaurant
In December 1974, they played their first ever gig at The Star Inn in Quarry Street right in the centre of the town and also secured a residency at the Royal Hotel in Stoughton on Worplesdon Road, which is now the Beijing Chinese Restaurant. Fast forward forty five years later to January 2019 and the PRS Music For Heritage 'Plaque-in-Black' on the outside of The Star Inn was officially unveiled by JJ, Jet, Dave and Baz Warne alongside the Mayor of Guildford and I'm sure the irony wasn't lost on the band that day. After all, this was the council that not only banned The Stranglers from the Civic Hall but also any other Punk Rock gigs in the town. In fact, I'm just reading the excellent new autobiography "Remain In Love" by Chris Frantz and he mentions that the Ramones & Talking Heads show scheduled in Guildford was pulled at the last minute thanks to this ban. 

G-Live Guildford, built on the site of the old Civic Hall
The Stranglers on stage at G-Live Guildford, 2013
Talking of being banned...G-Live, Guildford's largest music venue and now a regular stop on Stranglers tour itineraries is located on the site of the old Civic Hall - scene of a riot at one of the band's early gigs that, as alluded to above, saw them getting banned by the local Council. Then there was the infamous gig at the University of Surrey in 1978 that was being filmed for the "Rock Goes To College" TV series. The band were angry that their request to offer tickets to local fans, not just for students was being ignored but they kept quiet right up until the fifth song in their set "Hanging Around" after which Hugh slagged off the crowd and the University and walked off stage. Following this, the Student Union decided to ban The Stranglers too - leaving them nowhere left to play in Guildford. I think you can safely say that this was when the love/hate relationship between The Stranglers and their adopted hometown of Guildford turned into strictly a hate/hate relationship for a pretty long time after!

"Guildford University never represented Guildford, we hate playing to elitist audiences so f**k off..."



All photos copyright Retro Man Blog. Please do get in touch if there are any glaring inaccuracies and I'd also love to hear from anyone with personal memories and stories relating to their own experiences with The Stranglers and Guildford which may be included in a follow-up feature. With thanks to Malcolm Wyatt from WriteWyatt Blog for filling in some of the blanks. Here's some recommended reading..."No Mercy" by David Buckley, "Stranglers Song by Song" by Hugh Cornwell & Jim Drury, "A Multitude of Sins" by Hugh Cornwell, "Peaches: A Chronicle 1974-1990" by Robert Endeacott. Further online reading can be found at the following places: The Stranglers official web-site, Hugh Cornwell official web-site, WriteWyatt Blog, Strangled web-site, FamilyInBlack Facebook Group, Burning Up Time Facebook Group, Proud To Be a Stranglers Fan Facebook Group, SIS Japan Facebook Group.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Alvin Gibbs "Diminished Responsibility: My Life as a U.K. Sub and Other Strange Stories" (Tome & Metre Publishing)

Diminished Responsibility cover
This excellent new book from U.K. Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs "Diminished Responsibility: My Life as a U.K. Sub and Other Strange Stories" (the first from those good folks at Time & Matter) works on all levels – whether it be as an evocative autobiography, travelogue and tour diary or a thoughtful take on the various machinations of the music industry over the years. Take your pick, Alvin has all bas(s)es superbly covered within these fast-turning pages. Starting off with a foreword by Henry Rollins, we are soon plunged into Alvin’s earliest childhood memories and his first love, surprisingly not music but football, both as a handy player and then as a passionate supporter of his local team Crystal Palace. He soon gets hooked by the music bug though and inspired by Glam Rock he forms various bands with school friends and ends up striking up an unlikely friendship with Guy Stevens, the inspired, if somewhat erratic, producer of Mott The Hoople and The Clash’s “London Calling”. Alvin then gets sucked into the burgeoning London Punk scene, seeing early bands in legendary venues like the Roxy but it’s experiencing the Ramones play at the Croydon Greyhound that really seals the deal and he joins Cambridge based Punks The Users. He then lands playing bass for Brian James who had just left The Damned to form his own band, The Brains, later to become The Hellions and there are some hilarious tales of Brian’s less than benevolent handling of the tour expenses. Alvin then recalls his audition with the U.K. Subs which would be the first encounter of an on-off relationship that endures to this very day and, as we are about to discover, would go on to provide so many experiences that he will soon be publishing Volume 2 of these memoirs.

Alvin Gibbs onstage with the U.K. Subs - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Alvin’s recollections are shot through with a conscience which may be one reason why he re-wrote his (initially rather discreet) first book about touring with Iggy Pop. He mentions that he struggled against expected social conventions of the time such as pressure from family versus becoming an all-out Rock ’n’ Roll monster. But therein lies the charm of the story. For example, this paradox leads him to get married at an early age because he felt it was the right thing to do but it only causes him sleepless nights, in more ways than one, when he can’t stop himself from succumbing to the pleasures of being on tour. It’s these frank, soul searching elements that elevate the book to another level and prevents it being much more than just another lurid Rock ’n’ Roll memoir. Don’t get me wrong, there are enough amusing, sometimes eye-opening vignettes of on-the-road bad behaviour, particularly when the Anti-Nowhere League and Hanoi Rocks are also involved. But despite his honest recollections of these wild adventures, Alvin comes across as a likeable and thoughtful person who manages to find the time to discover the joys of foreign travel amongst the hectic tour schedules and after-show carousing. For example, his vivid portrayal of New York and his evident passion for places as diverse as Florence in Italy and Austin in Texas are really evocative and you can understand why he now resides in France, seemingly someone totally at ease with different cultures thanks, I’m sure to his globe-trotting experiences as a touring musician. It’s not all seen through rose-tinted glasses though as is evident in the hair-raising encounters with right wing factions in Germany, a sobering visit to the Dachau concentration camp and even run-ins with Rednecks and Hell’s Angels in the States, which he compares to the movie Easy Rider. 

Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants "Ghost Train"
However, it’s in his description of the U.K. Subs ground-breaking but ultimately ill-fated tour of Poland in 1983 where his writing really hits its stride. The Subs were the first Punk band to play there and they experienced not only their largest crowds and biggest venues but the intense, claustrophobic atmosphere of life behind the Iron Curtain as the Solidarity movement gained momentum. But let’s rewind a bit and I’ll let you in on a selection of other goodies that you will encounter as we accompany Alvin on his literary tour bus. There are encounters with John Lydon, Billy Idol and Arturo Vega in New York, there’s The Cramps, The Police and Thin Lizzy and some less than pleasant experiences with Adam Ant and Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. There’s loads of interesting snippets of information and gossip for U.K. Subs fans and various vignettes that could come straight from the movies “Almost Famous” and “Spinal Tap”, from death defying air journeys to Drummer Steve Roberts spectacular ego-driven meltdown. There are backstage punch-ups and the reasons for original rhythm section Paul Slack and Pete Davies leaving the band. We discover the secret behind the ‘live’ album “Crash Course” and how their stint at Jacobs studio in rural Farnham inspired the Guns n’ Roses favourite “Down on The Farm”. We learn how the Subs’ press photos for “Keep On Running” caused a furore amongst the Hardcore Year Zero Punk fraternity and find out how the band got scrubbed from Top of The Pops. It’s all here and more…! 

Alvin Gibbs onstage with the U.K. Subs - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Obviously, Alvin opens up on the relationships with his various band-mates but I was a bit surprised that guitarist Nicky Garratt remains an elusive figure throughout the book. Nicky, it seems generally preferred to do his own thing on tour, not partaking in the usual on the road chaos around him, and in fact even gets labelled a Boy Scout at one point. However, it’s not until the very last chapter where Alvin explains the unexpected twist regarding the band’s split in 1983 that he expands on the importance of Garratt’s role. Admitting that Garratt played a major part in bringing Charlie’s somewhat sketchy ideas for songs to life and how he tried his best in the studio to rescue the disappointing “Diminished Responsibility” LP, not forgetting his incendiary live performances. Yes, the way the band ended here comes as a bit of a surprise, not what I was expecting at all and I won’t go into the details here, you’ll just have to buy yourself a copy to find out! The book is the first to be published by Time & Matter Recordings new publishing wing Tome & Metre and can be ordered directly from here. Keep an eye on their site for news on the forthcoming Volume 2.


You can hear my colleague Paul Slattery's favourite Subs track and a song from Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 32 (see below). Paul photographed the U.K. Subs for various single and album covers such as "Stranglehold" and "Original Punks, Original Hits".



Useful links - Please click on the highlighted links below for further information

Time & Matter Recordings - Official web-site
Time & Matter Recordings - Facebook page
Alvin Gibbs - Some Weird Sin: On Tour With Iggy Pop
U.K. Subs - Official web-site
Retrosonic Podcast - with Leigh Heggarty from the Disobedient Servants & Ruts DC
Retro Man Blog - Alvin Gibbs archive features