Friday 28 October 2011

Ranscombe Studios Rochester - Home of The famous "Medway Sound"

I spent a wonderful day at Ranscombe Studios recently. The studios were so good that I thought I'd give them a little plug in their own right. Not only has it hosted Graham Day, James Taylor Quartet, Billy Childish and Pete Molinari but The Len Price 3 have recorded all three of their excellent albums there. Head Engineer Jim Riley and 2nd Engineer Brendan Eamonde were very friendly and made us feel welcome, here's some info on the studio and some photos I took during the day.
The relaxing room - Photo by Steve Worrall

Established in 1999, Ranscombe Studios has gained an outstanding reputation. It is located in Rochester which is easily accessible from London and the South East. The proprietor and Recording Engineer, Jim Riley is well known for his recording excellence and also as a member of local bands.
The Control Room - Photo by Steve Worrall

Jim says "analogue production sounds ‘warmer’ than the more clinical sound of digital production, digital is manipulative and can make anybody sound good, rather than capturing the sound of a band as a raw talent and capturing the essence.
I would rather do ten takes of something until it is right than rely on a computer and software to manipulate an artist. Digital has its limitations and is a representation of the sound".
Jim at the Controls - Photo by Steve Worrall

The Main Recording Room - Photo by Steve Worrall
The studio has a warm, lived in, comfortable feel (once you get past the chill atmosphere and ghosts in the outer area). Jim provides an excellent environment for creativity and is always there to help with the sound and the production and bring out the best in anyone. He will always jump in and help out with guitar and harmonica if required, giving 100% every time.
The Studio walls are adorned with hundreds of posters, adverts and record sleeves - Photo by Steve Worrall

Check the web-site here for up to date information on equipment at the Studio.

Ranscombe Studios are located at the Royal Function Rooms, 13 Star Hill, Rochester, Kent ME1 1XB 
Tel: 01634 580 332 Mbl: 07932 554 712

Thursday 27 October 2011

My Favourite Records Part 1: 7" Vinyl From The Singles Box

Inspired by the great Art of Pete McKee and Morgan Howell at SuperSizeArt, I sifted through my 7" vinyl and you know what, they are works of Art! Something about the beauty of a 7" Single, the touch and smell of the thing - even before you get round to the music itself. I thought I'd scan some of my record collection, just to show the kids today what they might be missing with their MP3s...!

The Beat A-Side "Hands Off She's Mine" AA-side "Twist & Crawl" Go-Feet Records 1980.
An absolute belter of a single, a real Double A-Side with the perfect sleeve too - and a logo that I think I actually had a crush on...! The Beat are often overlooked amongst all the (justified) acclaim heaped upon The Specials and Madness, but to be honest I thought The Beat were far the best of all the Post-Punk Ska Mod and 2-Tone bands!

Small Faces "Lazy Sunday" Immediate Records 1968.
Not my original purchase of course - I was only 3 when it was released...but I had to track down a Small Faces Immediate 7" Single. I paid a bit more than the 60p you can see written on the sleeve that's for sure! I think a few bands might dispute the claim of the record industry being the "industry of human happiness" though!

Madness A-Side "The Prince" B-Side "Madness" 2-Tone Records 1979.
The Classic 2-Tone sleeve, probably the coolest logo and image of all the record labels I think - Stiff, Trojan, Go-Feet, yeah all great, but this is the top dog!

Public Image Ltd "Public Image" Virgin Records 1978.
A bit embarrassing that I'd written my name on this...but I had to stop it getting nicked by my schoolfriends! It was in great demand for a "borrow", it blew us youngsters away, probably far more shocking musically than anything the Pistols ever did...Pure genius music and hard to believe that The Sex Pistols had finished and John Lydon had got round to releasing this by 1978.

Elephant Stone Live at The Lexington London October 18th

Here's some photos of the wonderful Elephant Stone at The Lexington on October 18th. 
Led by Rishi Dhir, previously with The Datsons, with their extremely underated album "See!" and then the excellent High Dials, Elephant Stone actually eclipse both bands with their exotic and sublime music. Rishi switches effortlessly between guitar, bass and most importantly, the Sitar! It's a wonderful sight and sound to behold, especially on the perfect hypnotic layers of the raga freak-out "Don't You Know".
Rishi Dhir of Elephant Stone - Photo by Steve Worrall
It's not all about Rishi though, as the whole band are superb, especially Gab Lambert and Greg Paquet's inventive, chiming guitars - each song is packed full of riffs, textures and surprises along the way. Bobby Fraser's keyboards add an underlying atmosphere and it's all driven along by Jules Pampena's excellent drumming and harmonic backing vocals.

The set is way too short, not through any fault of the band, and just as they are building up a head of steam it's all over due to the 11pm curfew. It's frustrating as I could have watched and listened to the band all night, However, they did play wonderful versions of my two favourite songs "How Long" and new single "Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin" so I can't have too many complaints, I guess!

Elephant Stone at The Lexington - All Photos by Steve Worrall
Unfortunately, the U.K. Tour is nearly over but you can catch the band at Stereo in York Thursday October 27th and then finally at the Dulcimer in Manchester on Friday October 28th. I would thoroughly recommend you going along if you have chance as you might regret missing them.
Check their website and Facebook pages for future tour and record news, I for one, am looking forward to their return already!

Tuesday 25 October 2011

New Untouchables Presents: Mousetrap R'n'B Allnighter Saturday Nov 05th

Saturday 5 Nov
Expect the very best in vintage afro American dance music from the golden age of late 50's and 60's on 100% vintage vinyl from Resident DJs Chris Dale & Rob Bailey plus special guests AXEL DERIE (Riverside-Antwerp) & Callum Simpson (Pow Wow-Sheffield)
@ Orleans, 259 Seven Sisters Rd, Finsbury Park, London N4 7DD
1 min walk from Finsbury Park bus/tube/train (Victoria/Piccadilly lines)
Tel: 07740 290 992

Monday 24 October 2011

Harlem's Apollo Theatre - An Interview with historian and curator Billy Mitchell by Jim Emery

"Welcome to the Apollo Theatre!"
Billy Mitchell delivers the history of Harlem's legendary venue for the umpteenth time but you would never guess from his enthusiastically youthful delivery. The aluminium walking stick he leans on from time to time belies this sparky demeanour and he is unstoppable.
At the end of our time together I notice he has been holding court for over two hours. Not only has he given the official Apollo tour to a group of thirty tourists from five different countries, he has also been juggling many calls to his Blackberry, selling his book, giving private extended tours and dealing with his nephew who has dropped by but is happy to join the tour and listen to his uncle in full flow. Billy has seemingly inherited the title of the Hardest Working Man in Show-business from his friend and sponsor James Brown.
Fortunately for me the coach of German sightseers expected is late giving me a golden opportunity to roam the legendary stage and breathe in its history. It is a moment I have thought about for many years and the shivers did not stop racing up and down my spine for the duration. The seating and the stage may have all been replaced just ten years ago but the gold friezes and cut glass chandeliers are dripping with songs and stories, many stretching back nearly a century.

Billy Mitchell
Starting out as a burlesque house in 1914 it took a further twenty years to become the place where the cities black talent would brave the boos of their brothers and sisters every Wednesday for Amateur Night. The advent of this key decision was decisive in the theatre's fortunes but Billy was keen to put it in the correct historical perspective.
"Harlem was a Dutch and Irish neighbourhood at the turn of the century," he said in unusually sombre mode. "My African brothers built Manhattan and these slaves lived around Wall Street and what is now the financial district. They were buried there too. Thankfully their bodies got repatriated to their homeland."

Over the next few decades the majority of Harlem's inhabitants would be black and it was their Renaissance that helped lift this grand theatre above its rivals. Soon enough the household names that emanate from our stereo and iPod speakers today filled the Apollo with the sound of their first nervous footsteps in the entertainment world up the steps and onto the stage.
The smile returns to Billy's face as he reels off a list of the early winners of the Amateur Night: Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett, Frankie Lymon, The Isley Brothers, Bobby Darin and Dionne Warwick. Each name is accompanied by Billy singing a snippet of one of their best known songs in a beautifully understated tenor and when he says the name possibly most associated with the theatre, James Brown, he also does a little funky shuffle before steadying himself with his walking stick.

Our host joins the story in 1965. "I started out as an errand boy running around getting anything the acts wanted; sandwiches, dry cleaning, you name it." it was soon after he started that he met the two stars that would change his life in more ways than one. Marvin Gaye and James Brown paid for the young gofer to go to college. He must have made some impact on the Godfather of Soul as Mr. Brown supplemented Billy's income for the rest of his life.
"I don't tell too many people that. He was a kind, kind man. He was a real friend." Billy says in a hushed voice.

Another legend in Billy's circle is his best friend Denzel Washington. Friends since childhood this revelation comes as no surprise since he has already shown me a picture taken on his ever present Blackberry of him with his arm around the current First Lady. “She’s a real nice lady, so sincere." Billy beams.
With such regular access and interaction with the world's most famous people it is rare for Billy to ever get starstruck but it does happen. The last time was last December when Sir Paul McCartney played here as part of his unofficial never ending tour of famous venues (100 Club) and once in a lifetime gigs (The White House).
"He asked me to introduce him on stage. He took a real interest in the history of the place and he wanted me rather than his regular introduction."
There is an eternal modesty about 'Mr. Apollo' that is undeniable.
"He asked me to pray with him before the show and then I went on the stage that I love and introduced Paul McCartney. Man, what a night."
As he talked about 'Mick and the boys' and how he was with Maxine Brown 'two weeks ago' and then casually remarked that American radio legend Hal Jackson is his daughter's godfather the myth that well connected people live the life too was shattered.

McCartney, Sting & Springsteen autographs
Billy doesn't struggle now like he did as a kid when he had rocks hurled at his head and endured the racial abuse that was so common on the streets of America then, but he is still not living the life he thinks he deserves. It's not down to ego, it's down to politics.
"Affordable housing? That's just a phrase dreamed up by the bureaucrats." Once more the smile disappears and the walking stick trembles slightly in a disillusioned hand. "Sure it's affordable to somebody. Everything's affordable to someone but affordable housing ain't affordable to those that in reality are going to live in those brownstones in Harlem." And that includes Billy after a fashion. Sure, he can afford to live in Harlem if he and his wife are willing to downsize (studios start at around 1700 dollars a month) but he would rather have the nice home outside of the neighbourhood he loves so much. That is the paradox of New York City.

However, people still flock to the Apollo from Harlem as well as farther afield as the current management team will not let the Nationally Registered building fall from its pedestal and continues it's Amateur Night every Wednesday (they were setting up the stage for one the day I was there among some loud hip hop hip beats punctuated by the odd profanity). It also draws the top names in the music industry who want to tick it off their bucket list. Recent performers that have also scribbled their name on the walls back stage are Bruce Springsteen, Sting and a returning Stevie Wonder.

The Tree of Hope
Another part of the ritual is the rubbing of the Tree of Hope, a portion of tree trunk mounted on a small column that every act has helped rub smooth with nervous sweat for luck before stepping out under the spotlights. I spent a good two minutes stroking its surface that has been touched by everyone from the first female winner back in the mid-thirties, Ella Fitzgerald to the unknowns of a network pilot being filmed the night before my visit.
The Apollo still does all it can to help talent from all areas of the arts. If it's deemed too underground for the big stage they use an area backstage six months a year to showcase these acts. Seats are fifteen dollars and the place heaves with appreciative audiences warming to the originality during the winter months in freezing New York City.

If you can make it go along to one, or if you're up for a night in the main auditorium Billy recommends the first three rows in the centre section on the upper mezzanine.
"The cheap seats, the bleachers. Man, they have the best time in these seats. I can get you tickets if you want."
Would that I could but I am flying back to London that night. I will wait to see them playing the half time show at the Superbowl in the not too distant future.
"Well you are welcome any time brother." Billy reassures me.
And so are you. Get in touch, he'll look after you and he'll gladly tell you everything he told me and more. And it'll sound like the first time he's ever told anybody.

Jim Emery 2011

Many thanks to Jim for contributing the great feature and photos.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Pete McKee "Great Moments In Popular Music" Exhibition at Snap Galleries, Piccadilly Arcade, London - Ends Oct 29th

Great Labels in Popular Music No 1 - Pete McKee
Hurry! Exhibition Ends 29th October 2011

I was lucky enough to catch the fantastic "Great Moments In Popular Music" exhibition by Sheffield artist Pete McKee before it closes on October 29th. If you're in London before it finishes I can't recommend this highly enough. It is being held at the Snap Galleries in Piccadilly Arcade, London SW1Y 6NH.

There are three floors of Pete's stunningly colourful and humorous paintings and a selection of sketches too. I love the way they don't go for the obvious scenes, sometimes you think "what's that about?" but then it clicks and you can't help but smile. A perfect example would be the Jimi Hendrix painting - instead of a copy of the famous scene of Hendrix on his knees on stage fanning the flames of his burning guitar you see him before the show in a typical local hardware store buying lighter fuel!  "The Beatles Get a Haircut" is also superb, picking the moment that the band dispensed with their rock 'n' roll quiffs and got the trademark mop-tops as a defining moment in their evolution. Here is a bit more information from the Gallery:

"Welcome to our latest exhibition: Great Moments in Popular Music, as seen through the eyes of incredibly talented Sheffield based artist, Pete McKee. The ”Great Moments” exhibition is an exciting one for us as it marks the start of a broader approach for the gallery to popular culture beyond photography. This show is a wry look at the events in rock ’n’ roll that shaped lives and inspired generations to form rock ‘n’ roll bands and make history. As well as retelling tales of vinyl gods and goddesses, the exhibition also takes a look at fandom – the clothes, the hairstyles – all done with the wit and reverence that are Pete McKee’s trademarks.

Snap Galleries - Photo by Steve Worrall

If you are not familiar with Pete’s style then you’re in for a treat. Emotions are often conveyed in a single brushstroke, and while many of his paintings show off his natural wit and sense of fun, he is not afraid to deal with difficult subjects; the death of Buddy Holly is the focus of one of the paintings in the show, the haunting ‘Winter Dance Party’.

The Village Green Preservation Society - Pete McKee
For Pete, the destination isn’t as important as the journey. He explains: “What interests me more is not that the Rolling Stones are the biggest rock ’n’ roll band in the world, but that, once, they were spotty teenagers with greasy hair and a dream.” It’s how Pete’s imagination works that is the point here, and how he applies his trademark wit to the subjects we know and love, reminding us to expect the unexpected. That’s a theme that runs through the work on show.

Pete continues: “Coming up with a title for the show, I went through a number of puns and clever references. I settled on “Great Moments in Popular Music” as it’s very grand and to the point but it also allows me to be cheeky with my choice of subject matter. A great moment in music is a totally subjective point: Is it your first record? Is it the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl?”

Black and Blue - Pete Mckee

The exhibition takes up all three floors of the gallery. Visitors will see 28 original paintings on the ground floor and downstairs, while upstairs features a selection of 11 original pencil drawings and handpulled screenprints."

8 Piccadilly Arcade 
London SW1Y 6NH 
Tel: 0207 493 1152

I think one of my favourites is actually one of the simplest, its called "In Search of The Holy Grail" and features boxes of vinyl albums in what could be a local charity shop. Peeking from the central box is a copy of The Clash's first album and the description in the exhibition catalogue reads "Sure you could go on eBay and buy it online, but where's the fun of the hunt?" I think that sums up perfectly the romance and thrill of being a music fan that is somehow getting lost in the digital age. Long may Pete McKee keep producing such stunning work to remind us of those magical emotions!

In Search Of The Holy Grail - Pete McKee
With grateful thanks to Guy White, the Director of Snap Galleries, for allowing use of the images.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Retroman Promotions night, Yes, it's almost here...Friday 14th from 8pm at The Half Moon in Putney!

The Len Price 3 - Photographed by Paul Slattery
Just a quick reminder about the first Retroman Promotions night at the Half Moon in Putney tomorrow night, Friday October 14th, featuring The Len Price 3, The Jetsonics and The Past Tense.
Doors to the venue open at 8pm, music will finish by 11pm with the bar open until midnight.

Please note the Pub is under refurbishment and is only open from 7pm, no food is being served.

Closest Tube is Putney Bridge and Main-Line is Putney, both within about 10-15 minutes walk.

The Half Moon
93 Lower Richmond Road
London SW15 1EU
Tel: 0208 780 9383

Look forward to seeing you there!

Also, I'd like to pass on "A Big Thank You" Part 2 to the following for their much appreciated help and support in various ways...this in addition to the sterling work already applauded in "A Big Thank You" Part 1 here.

Carrie at The Half Moon, Alex Gold at Word Magazine, Mondo & Piley at Podrophenia/Planet Mondo, Hannah and my chums at The Word Massive, Rick.N.Baker of The Ice Cream Man Blog.

These sites and stores all plugged or let us stick flyers everywhere and are well worth checking out:

Ice Cream Man Blog
Sherry's Mod Clothing
Vive Le Rock Magazine
Club For Losers at St. Moritz
Rough Trade East
Reckless Records
Intoxica Records
Sister Ray Records

Radio Podrophenia and Planet Mondo Blog

A big "Thank You" to Mondo and Piley from Podrophenia Radio Show and the Planet Mondo Blog for their fantastic support for the Retro Man Promotions gig at the Half Moon in Putney on Friday October 14th. Not only have they put up the flyer on the Planet Mondo Blog, but they have also given us a plug on their excellent Podrophenia Radio shows two weeks running AND played The Len Price 3's "Mr. Grey" single...great stuff and really appreciated..!!

The Planet Mondo Blog is a big favourite and was one of the sites that got me wanting to get involved in starting up a music Blog myself. It's a humorous mixed bag of music and pop culture and well worth following, especially for the inspired regular "look-a-likes" features.

Radio Podrophenia is broadcast every Tuesday between 9pm-10:30pm on Chance Radio and features various musical themed programmes - there's also a live chat board where you can contribute to the show as it goes along.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

The Jetsonics - The Second Extended Player E.P. out now!

The Jetsonics have now released their second E.P. cunningly titled "Second Extended Player", or The Brown Sauce E.P. as it has become known. It features four superb brand new songs all played at their recent gig at the Grey Horse in Kingston, and they went down a storm with the crowd.

Tracks are 1. "Never Meet Your Heroes" 2. "On Your Case" 3. "1977 Again" and 4. "New Romance".

The band will be selling copies of  this and their "Extended Player Number One" (The Mustard E.P.) at the Retro Man Promotions gig (along with The Jetsonics and The Past Tense) at the Half Moon in Putney on Friday October 14th so be sure to check out the merchandise stall.

If you can't make it along to the gig you can buy both E.P.s via Amazon here.

Monday 10 October 2011

Stanley Road - Live at The Man On The Moon Cambridge October 15th

Stanley Road, the Spanish Mod band, will be over in the U.K. to play a gig with Small World at The Man On The Moon in Cambridge on Saturday October 15th. They will also hopefully be in attendance at the Retro Man Promotions gig the night before at The Half Moon in Putney on Friday October 14th, so please make them feel welcome! Copies of their new 7" Vinyl E.P. "Clash City Cooters" will be on sale on both nights.

Check out this track from the E.P. 

Button Badges Part 9 - Paul Slattery

Here is an excellent collection of assorted badges from Rock Photographer Paul Slattery, including many rare promo badges. Having such access to bands, gigs and festivals plus working for major music papers enabled Paul to amass an impressive box full of badges. 
Many thanks to Paul for sharing his collection with us. 
One his many photos of The Manic Street Preachers can be seen on the cover of the latest NME and the new issue of Vive le Rock magazine features his superb cover shot of The Specials.

Some classic late 70's early 80's political badges along with Undertones, Simple Minds, Lurkers, Blockheads and more
Assortment of band and promo badges
Badge mania - Stiff Little Fingers, Wayne County, UK Subs, Thee Milkshakes plus lots more
Ramones, The Beat, Dexys, The Cramps, The Skids, John Cooper Clarke etc
Rezillos, The Pirates, Buzzcocks, Spizz, The Damned, Adam &The Ants, Grateful Dead and more
Ian Dury & The Blockheads badge collection

Stiff Records Collection