Tuesday 24 December 2013

An Xmas Gift...Retrosonic Podcast Episode 12 "But If It Thrills Me, Then That's Alright..." Free Download...


Welcome to Episode 12 of this bumper end of year Retrosonic Podcast! Over the two parts, Steve from Retro Man Blog, Adam from The Jetsonics and Rock Photographer Paul Slattery dig up some Psych, Garage Rock, Power Pop and Punk obscurities, favourites and other weird stuff. There’s an emphasis on French bands and artists, old and new, such as Marie Modiano, Stinky Toys, Little Bob Story, Metal Urbain, Les Kitschenettes and er…Julie Delpy. We uncover a one-off 1977 Punk rarity from The Rings and there’s Freakbeat from Fleur de Lys and Sharon Tandy. How about some overlooked Power Pop from The Incredible Kidda Band and The Modernettes or way-out Sixties Psych from The Outcasts, Simon Dupree & The Big Sound, The Haunted and The Tidal Wave. There’s a fine piece of contemporary Punk Rock from Cyanide Pills, a Garage Rock floor-shaker from The Woggles and some smooth Blues from the honey-voiced Slim Harpo. Then we pay tribute to our Gig Of The Year: Graham Day & The Forefathers at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club with tracks from The Solarflares, The Aardvarks and The Higher State. All this plus chat about The Jetsonics first venture outside the M25, nods to some of our other favourite gigs of 2013, Retro Man Blog’s trip to Paris and the usual waffle and rambling...
Episode 12 Part 1...

Episode 12 Part 2...

I'd like to take this opportunity to say Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to all the Retro Man Blog readers, Retrosonic Podcast listeners and all those that came along to our Retro Man Blog gigs at The Half Moon in Putney and The Railway in Southend-on-Sea. I really appreciate all the kind comments, support and feedback, it really does make it worthwhile. Huge thanks to my Blog colleagues Adam Donovan, Paul Slattery and Mayumi and all the contributors over the past year. Also, very best wishes to those that have helped me in promoting the gigs for The Len Price 3, The Fallen Leaves, Thee Spivs, TV Smith, Eight Rounds Rapid, The Past Tense and The Travellers. Special thanks to Alan May at Glory Boy Radio, Wayne Lundqvist-Ford at Ice Cream Man, Rob at Mister Suave, Warren Peace at We Are The Mods, Ian Pile and Dave Collins at Podrophenia, Steve Pegrum at Southend Punk, Fi and Dave at The Railway, Carrie at The Half Moon, Shindig! Magazine and Ian at Damaged Goods Records.
Retro Man Blog's Gig of The Year 2013: Graham Day & The Forefathers at
Bethnal Green Working Men's Club November 29th.
Of course this Blog is purely driven by a passion for music and it's great that there are so many fantastic bands out there who inspire us to keep on doing this, long may this continue into 2014 and beyond! Please do keep the comments, requests and contributions coming in. Many thanks and all the best! Graham Day & The Forefathers photos copyright Paul Slattery 2013.

Thursday 19 December 2013

The Soundtrack of Our Lives "Rest In Piece 1994-2012"

The Soundtrack of Our Lives Stockholm December 2012 by Steve Worrall
It’s hard to believe that exactly one year ago today I saw my very last gig by The Soundtrack of Our Lives. As 2012 drew to a close so did the band with six consecutive sold-out nights at Stockholm’s beautiful Södra Teatern. Each night saw them playing one of their albums in chronological order, played in it’s entirety along with relevant B-Sides and encores comprising a selection of singles and obscure tracks. I went to the first three nights only, not just because the first three albums are my favourites, but mainly down to the fact that the cost of such a long stay in Sweden is prohibitive to say the least. It meant I had to accept that I wouldn’t be present at the very last show ever, but so be it, something I have to live with! So, first of all December 17th was the night of the classic debut album “Welcome To The Infant Freebase”, then on the 18th we were treated to the Psychedelic masterpiece “Extended Revelations…” and on the 19th it was the turn of their commercial break-through, the faultless “Behind The Music”. Rewinding to the beginning of 2012 it all started off quite promising for fans of TSOOL as the band released a new album “Throw It To The Universe” which followed on from the creative and critically acclaimed double album “Communion”. 

The Soundtrack of Our Lives Stockholm December 2012 by Steve Worrall
However this great news was somewhat marred by the accompanying press release stating it was to be the band’s very last album. The band then toured extensively to give the fans a last chance to catch them play live but as the dates were ticked off, the realisation started to set in. The “last ever” London show at the Scala was closely followed by the “last ever” Slussens Pensionat show. Then “the last ever” Gothenburg show at Pustervik was followed by the final stand in Stockholm, the “last ever” shows full stop. Then that was it, it was all over. But to me TSOOL were more than just a band, they were an inspiration. Indeed they rekindled my passion for music and I looked back to my old 80’s fanzine days and decided to start up Retro Man Blog. In fact the very name “Retro Man” comes from my favourite TSOOL song and not just because I am a miserable old git always looking back to the past…although some might agree with that last bit..! For someone such as me who had become jaded and cynical about the music industry and tired of the dull Indie scene, seeing TSOOL for the first time just blew me away. They were a riot of energy, colour and showmanship with songs that stuck in your head for weeks after. In my youth, despite being a musician and a huge music lover in general, I had never really been a real “fan” of any band as such, even as a teenager I’d never joined a fan-club, never bothered about collecting records and later, as the days of the internet dawned I certainly never entered the murky world of the internet fan-forum. But all that was about to change, after seeing that very first TSOOL show I wanted to find out all I could about this bunch of mysterious Swedes. 

The Soundtrack of Our Lives Stockholm December 2012 by Steve Worrall
I just had to track down each and every song they had ever recorded and had to make sure I would know when I could see them play again at the next earliest opportunity. So began an adventure full of wonderful experiences, travel and discovery. Sure there were the occasional frustrations and disappointments along the way but generally great fun was had, a lot of alcohol was consumed and great lasting friendships were formed. But of course, above all there was the music. Timeless music. I have never known a modern band with such an impressive back catalogue of high quality song-writing – drawing as they did from many aspects of Rock history. Love, The Damned, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks, The Who, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, sometimes sailing a bit close to the wind with their influences if truth be told, but usually managing to stamp their own unique footprint on well trodden paths. My investigations led me to two of the previous bands that formed the nucleus of TSOOL, and they were the stunning Union Carbide Productions and The Nymphet Noodlers. Then there were also the various spin-offs and the side-projects, not to mention the solo music too. 

The Soundtrack of Our Lives Stockholm December 2012 by Steve Worrall
The Soundtrack of Our Lives were a band made up of very distinct characters; a fact that was noted by the acclaimed Swedish artist and author, David Liljemark, who created the “Cartoon Animals” comic book based on the band. Each member certainly injected their own character, persona and sound into the TSOOL mix. In the beginning there was the enigmatic Björn Olsson and his coastal influenced soundscapes playing off against his ex-Union Carbide Productions colleague, guitarist Ian Person’s raw power riffing. The classically trained keyboard player Martin Hederos could spin out Sixties Psych Hammond organ nuggets or play beautifully minimalist Erik Satie style ballads. His ex-Nymphet Noodlers band-mate Mattias Bärjed, who replaced Björn Olsson, brought in a heavier classic rock influence and with his Pete Townsend Union Jack jacket and unashamed guitar-hero theatrics upped the visuals of the band’s full-on live assault. Drummer Fredrik Sandsten was a blur of energy of Keith Moon proportions, certainly the best drummer I have ever seen. Bassist Kalle was the quiet one, and his songs brought an eclectic and cinematic aspect to the band, somewhat reminiscent of John Barry meeting Serge Gainsbourg, in fact he even drafted in Jane Birkin to guest on the song “Midnight Children”. Then up front was man mountain Ebbot, a kaftan clad force of nature, bursting with unpredictability, a mischievous glint in his eye and a voice that could switch suddenly from a rich baritone to a howl of rage. A man who revelled in confrontation and reaction, in fact a passive audience to Ebbot was like a red rag to a bull. 

The Soundtrack of Our Lives Stockholm December 2012 by Steve Worrall
I have seen many gigs over the years but I have never seen a better live act – the perfectly plotted set-lists and the sense of dynamics all shot through with an underlying air of unpredictability. Following 2008’s decidedly uncommercial yet critically acclaimed double album, “Communion”, things were looking up, the band seemed happy, the fans certainly were so the news that the follow up, “Throw It To The Universe”, was to be the band’s last album came as a shock. It was a crying shame (quite literally for some people in the crowd at the Södra Teatern) that TSOOL were going to call it a day. But that was it, the band said they wanted to go out with a bang, to end at the right time in a positive light and they certainly did that. Those final shows at the Södra Teatern last December, although tinged with a certain sadness, were a joyous and emotional celebration of a truly remarkable band. So what happened next? Well throughout TSOOL’s career each band member was often away doing something or other, whether with side projects, soundtrack music for high profile TV and films or in demand as guest musicians or producers. So it’s no surprise that already 2013 has offered us the excellent debut album “Power & Volume” by Mattias Bärjed’s new band Free Fall, where he teams up with ex-Nymphet Noodlers bassist Jan Martens, singer Kim Fransson and ex-International Noise Conspiracy drummer Ludwig Dahlberg. The band played a quite brilliant debut London gig at Camden Dingwalls back in February, which you can read about here

Mattias also wrote the score for the critically acclaimed Mikael Marcimain movie “Call Girl” starring Ruth Vega Fernandez. Martin Hederos was busy with the latest Tonbruket album “Nubium Swimtrip” as well as appearing on albums by artists such as Ane Brun and Marie Modiano. Kalle continued his production and engineering duties at Svenska Grammofon Studion and Fredrik took up a post as a cultural ambassador for the city of Gothenburg. Ebbot featured on great records by La Fleur Fatale and Caviare Days as well as resurrecting The New Alchemy with Per Svensson for a new album “The Other Side of Light”. Ebbot is also becoming a bit of a celebrity on mainstream Swedish TV with his part in the music reality show “Så Mycket Bättre” which is being aired on TV4.

I heard from guitarist Ian Person recently and he too is busy. “My plans for next year, well, me and Kalle are writing music for a new TV drama series called “Viva Hate”, from the screenwriter Peter Birro, the same guy who wrote “Upp Till Kamp”. It's about a band in Gothenburg in the early 90's, young kids. No, not Union Carbide Productions - could have been - but Peter was more into The Smiths than anything else. So it’s an imaginary band from that time sounding like something in-between Broder Daniel and the sound of Gothenburg. So we are writing the music for the band and most of the score. So far I've done the most writing, and we are also going to work with the actors to make them look as real as possible. I’m, also working on my album as well. Trying to get a good team together and hopefully everything will fall into place in the spring and the album will be out after summer next year.”

The Soundtrack of Our Lives Stockholm December 2012 by Steve Worrall
Parlophone Records will release a 38 track double CD “best of” compilation entitled “Rest In Piece 1994-2012” on January 22nd 2014. It seems a bit of a cynical move from the label to cash in on Ebbot’s current high profile, after all it’s not long since the band released the compilation “Golden Greats No. 1”. But it would appear the track-list has been hand-picked by Ebbot himself and I guess if it generates more interest in the band and increases the clamour for the band to get back together, then job done!

Mattias of The Soundtrack of Our Lives Stockholm December 2012 by Steve Worrall
Of course we will keep you updated on any other Soundtrack of Our Lives related news – in the meantime you can search the Blog archive for various features, photos (including some fantastic exclusive Paul Slattery shots), Podcasts and videos. Please click the highlighted links to take you directly to reports on the last ever Slussens Pensionat show, the last London gig at The Scala and background to Mattias Bärjed’s soundtracks to “Upp Till Kamp” and “Call Girl”. There’s also Ian Person’s score to the IFK Göteborg movie “Fotbollens Sista Proletärer” and we even have a special Retrosonic Podcast with the movie’s directors and the ex-Liverpool and IFK footballing legend Glenn Hysén. There are special Podcasts with Mattias Bärjed and Ian Person and a fascinating episode with Nymphet Noodlers singer and long time TSOOL friend and collaborator Mattias Hellberg. There are pieces on TSOOL-linked bands  who all have new records out now, such as Caviare Days, La Fleur Fatale, The Movements, Mattias Hellberg and Side Effects too. So there is still plenty of great music to check out if you are missing your fix

Please do try and take the time to click on the highlighted links and discover lots more good stuff hidden away. I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to Ebbot, Ian, Mattias, Kalle, Fredrik and Martin. Not forgetting Robert and Vibeke at Slussens Pensionat, Mattias Hellberg, Kim Fransson, Ludwig Dahlberg, David Liljemark, Daniel Eriksson, Wayne Lundqvist-Ford, Anders Magnusson, Hans and Liselott Selander and all the great TSOOL stalkers, fans and Slussenistas I have had the very great pleasure to meet along the way.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

TV Smith and Eight Rounds Rapid at The Railway Hotel Southend-on-Sea December 07th

TV Smith and admirer - Photo by Paul Hughes
It’s no wonder that TV Smith has gone on record as saying Southend-on-Sea’s Railway Hotel is one of his favourite venues in the U.K. to play. They are a great match, both without huge (if any) financial backing but both tirelessly fighting their respective creative corners as true individuals in a sea of soulless branded chain venues and an equally soulless music industry. The Railway’s managers, Fi and Dave, put on a bewildering array of eclectic musical acts of all genres, along with film screenings and parties, often free or with a minimal cover-the-costs entrance fee such as this gig’s bargain ticket price of just £3.00. Tonight is a perfect example of what they offer, downstairs in the bar, Steve Hooker is entertaining the drinkers with his raw Rockabilly songs, augmented by a snare drummer, double bass and harmonica, it creates a lively buzz and is a perfect warm up for the night’s main event. This event is actually another joint get together with Retro Man Blog, Podrophenia DJ’s Piley & Mondo and Steve Pegrum’s excellent Southend Punk web-site for a night of great live music, DJ sets and of course a severe bout of boozing and socialising. 

Eight Rounds Rapid by Paul Hughes
I was really pleased that we could get local band Eight Rounds Rapid to open the show, I have been really impressed with what I have heard from them, and we received quite a few glowing comments after we played their last single “Channel Swimmer” in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 7. They have also started to get much wider recognition from respected BBC DJ’s Gideon Coe, Steve Lamacq and also David Quantick amongst others as well as some high profile shows supporting Wilko Johnson at London’s Koko. Now, here’s the thing. It’s very difficult to talk about Eight Rounds Rapid without mentioning Wilko Johnson, not just because they are both based in Southend but mainly due to the fact that guitarist Simon is Wilko’ s son. It might not be so apparent when listening to their recorded work, but live, Simon’s hugely impressive staccato guitar playing and his onstage mannerisms, although not quite as wired as Wilko’s, are cut from the same black-suited cloth. 

Eight Rounds Rapid by Paul Hughes
It’s also nice to see Wilko in the crowd tonight and he catches up with TV Smith and Steve Hooker, who he has recorded with in the past, as well as politely and patiently chatting to lots of awestruck punters. But despite that, Eight Rounds Rapid have forged their own idiosyncratic sound and are refreshingly very difficult to pin down – it’s a style that I guess could be said to almost divide opinion. With front man David’s deadpan delivery and half-spoken vocals, which are firmly rooted in A-House, Art Brut, Blue Aeroplanes territory, they challenge the expected norms of what a “Rock” band should be. They also occasionally remind me of Wire’s art project approach to being in a band, where they push the boundaries and limits between melody and noise, of what’s pleasantly catchy and what can grate and challenge the listener. It’s not to be filed under easy listening that’s for sure. But live they truly excel tonight, and Eight Rounds Rapid conjure up a powerfully hypnotic force on their slightly sinister little gems such as “Dostoevsky”, “Steve” and “Channel Swimmer”. 

Wilko Johnson and son Simon from Eight Rounds Rapid by Paul Hughes
The superb rhythm section of drummer Lee and bassist Jules lock in together perfectly and it’s nice to see a real onstage chemistry. It’s only on the swaggering bluesy beast of "My Mate" and a new song “I Want a Drink”, where that legendary rough Thames Estuary R’n’B sound comes to the fore and bassist Jules’ fluid runs bring to mind Norman Watt-Roy. They are called back for a well deserved encore and power through the new single “Writeabout” which was very generously part funded by tonight’s Radio Podrophenia DJ team of Dave Collins and Ian Pile, long-time staunch supporters of the band and evidently men of great taste! 

TV Smith by Paul Hughes
And then it’s time for TV Smith to take the stage to a warm reception from his loyal Southend fans. Armed only with his acoustic guitar he has emerged as a kind of Punk Rock folk troubadour in the grand tradition. He is a globe-trotting story-teller with topical protest songs full of a barbed yet humorous satire on modern life. It’s a life fraught with the issues of Globalisation, Surveillance, Corruption, Capitalism and well…the perils of Xmas…! For TV Smith’s sometime cynical and world-weary tales are not just aimless diatribes against “the Man” but often moving and perfectly drawn personal observations that many people can easily relate to. It’s politics of the individual, he’s not bashing you around the head with a “down with this sort of thing” placard, but he is opening eyes and ears to various issues that mean a lot to him. 

There are various dimensions to his approach too, he can use humour in different guises to make his point, whether it’s the less-than-subtle laugh out loud attack on festive consumerism in “Xmas Bloody Xmas” or on the clever wordplay of “It’s Expensive Being Poor”. On songs like “The Day We Caught the Big Fish” and “Generation Y” subjects such as nuclear submarines accidently sinking fishing vessels and the recent trend for youthful apathy towards politics, are  wrapped up in sublime melancholic songs that force you to think as you sing along. There’s Punky aggression on “Coming Into Land” and of course a rich back catalogue of songs to be plundered such as “We Who Wait”, “New Church” and “No Time To Be 21”. Promising new songs from the next album are also aired, and these include tonight’s set opener “The First One To Sign Up", "Replay" and a song that turns out to be one of my highlights of the set and a sure-fire future classic called “I Delete”. 

TV Smith at The Railway by Paul Hughes
We get the hilarious “Complaints Department”, the moving “The Lion and The Lamb” and a superb version of one of my favourite songs “You Saved My Life Then Ruined It” and it just goes to show the depth of TV Smith's song-writing. At one point he snaps a string on his guitar and then launches into an off-the-cuff performance of Cheap's “My String Will Snap" which goes down really well. For the encore we are treated to three classic Adverts songs “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes”, “Bored Teenagers” and a raucous “One Chord Wonders” – where TV invites The Railway’s soundman Duncan up on stage to join him on vocals. Duncan sings in local band Swindle and although he looks a bit bashful for, oh all of 10 seconds, he soon throws himself into the task with a huge grin while the now traditional Railway stage invasion takes place around him. It’s all over and time for TV to relax and chat to fans by his merchandise stall, a time that he always seems to relish. Then we retire back down to the bar to enjoy DJ’s Piley and Mondo’s excellent music and soak up the atmosphere of another great night at The Railway. I’d like to thank Tim, Eight Rounds Rapid, Fi, Dave, Heather, Duncan and the staff at The Railway, Steve Pegrum from Southend Punk, Dave and Ian from Podrophenia and to Paul Hughes for the excellent photos. Of course a huge “thank you” to all who came along and for all the encouragement and support. Cheers! 

Soundman Duncan with TV Smith by Paul Hughes
TV Smith has a brand new album “The Acoustic Sessions Volume 1” out now along with volume four of his highly entertaining Tour Diaries  entitled “To Heligoland and Beyond”. Eight Rounds Rapid new single “Writeabout” is available on Podrophenia Records as a limited edition 7” vinyl. Check out Podrophenia for their regular radio shows and Podcasts. Southend Punk is an excellent archive and resource and forthcoming events at The Railway Hotel can be found here

TV Smith and Wilko Johnson by Paul Hughes
Podrophenia DJ Mondo entertains the packed Railway bar by Paul Hughes
Eight Rounds Rapid by Paul Hughes
Piley in the pulpit - DJ Ian Pile by Steve Worrall
The customary Railway stage invasion - Photp by Paul Hughes
More of Paul Hughes’ excellent photos can be found at his Flickr site. More videos of Eight Rounds Rapid and TV Smith from the night are up on the Retro Man Blog You Tube channel now. 

Finally, don't forget our Retrosonic Podcast special edition with TV Smith which includes an in-depth interview and exclusive acoustic session featuring four classic songs.

Monday 9 December 2013

Roddy Frame: Aztec Camera's "High Land, Hard Rain" at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane Sunday December 01st

Roddy Frame at Theatre Royal Drury Lane - Photo by Steve Worrall
I never really liked Aztec Camera, I remember seeing them on Top Of The Pops once, and Roddy Frame was all fringe, floppy hair and tasselled jacket. It was too sugary sweet and pop for me, too much of that awful 80’s production and drum sound and far, far too cheerful and upbeat for an angst ridden Punk Rocker. A quick look at my gig diary at the time of the release of their debut album “High Land, Hard Rain” in 1983 tells me that if I wasn’t getting knocked unconscious (unintentionally) at a Discharge gig in a dangerously hot and sweaty 100 Club or seeing a man hit himself over the head with a metal tray in a band called Pogue Mahone I was either getting elbowed in the head by chicken dancing Psychobillies at King Kurt shows (unintentionally) or being chased from my own band’s gigs by chair-leg wielding skinheads (very much intentionally!). It wasn’t until hearing Roddy Frame’s duet with Mick Jones on the Big Audio Dynamite sound-alike “Good Morning Britain” in 1990 that I took a bit of interest and was a bit surprised to find out that Frame was a big Clash fan. Later on I was more impressed with his debut solo album “The North Star” in 1998 than I was by any of the Aztec Camera albums; it was a great record with some cracking songs such as “Reason For Living”. Then seeing Roddy Frame play a great gig at the LA2 and later a low-key acoustic show at the intimate Borderline around the time of his “Surf” album, hearing those Aztec Camera songs stripped of the distracting 80’s production, it dawned on me just how great they were. It wasn’t just the songs though but also his virtuoso guitar playing, humorous storytelling and easy going banter with the crowd that made me a convert to the cause. 

So tonight is the first date in a small tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of Aztec Camera’s debut album "High Land, Hard Rain", and it’s a far cry from the Borderline, it’s the Theatre Royal Drury Lane no less. We are way up in the Grand Circle and considering the majority of men in the crowd are somewhat folically challenged I have to sit behind a giant with the most frizzed up frightening hair I have seen for some time. For a theatre it’s a poor view and I spend most of the gig ducking around, craning my neck trying to get a good vantage point and it meant that photo opportunities were quite limited. The show starts promptly at 8pm, the house lights dim and Roddy appears alone with his acoustic guitar and launches straight into a beautiful run through of “The Birth of The True” from the “Knife” album. “So what have you been doing for the last thirty years?” Roddy asks and plays “How Men Are”. This is followed by a sublime “Spanish Horses”, dedicated to the city of Barcelona; it highlights Roddy’s quite stunning guitar work, the flamenco rhythm driving the song along. “Small World” is beautiful tonight and Roddy explains that it was picked by Craig Cash to be used for the sit-com “Early Doors”. Then he introduces a drummer and bassist and tells us he is going to play some songs from his early East Kilbride period that didn’t quite make the cut for “High Land”. There is a bit of banter about the fact that there was probably a good reason why they didn’t make the album, but in reality the songs are excellent, “Green Jacket Grey” and “Orchid Girl” are both excellent. In between the songs the bass player whispers something to Roddy, who in turn confesses to us. “Our bassist is such a polite Austrian gentleman, he’s just told me his monitors are missing, and I mean actually missing”. Sure enough they were not even set up on stage so we have to endure the sight of a roadie bending over to set them up during “Orchid Girl” but luckily it doesn’t detract too much from the song itself. “Well we never had monitors at our early gigs back in the day, so that’s one for the purists”. Then suddenly, that’s it, it is interval time and I feel a bit short changed, people were just getting into it and it feels as though the rug has been pulled from under my feet. Then it turns out the interval drags on for way over twenty minutes, it’s a bit disappointing. But never mind, people can buy luxury ice cream from authentic usherette trays…“Rock ‘n’ Roll!”

Photo by Steve Worrall
Luckily the second half of the set makes up for it as Roddy returns with the band augmented by a keyboard player and another guitarist, and then it’s into the album itself. They finish a wonderfully upbeat “Oblivious” and as the rapturous applause dies down Roddy exclaims “Oh, I quite like this classic album thing, I’ll have to write another one!” He could make it as a stand-up comedian I’m sure as the self-deprecating comments and witty one-liners flow as fast and furious as his nimble fingers along the fret-board.  “I need a different plectrum for this one, for your information it’s 1 mm, I know these things can be important” and “Apparently the venue said there are no photos tonight, usually I don’t like people taking photos either but tonight I’ll make an exception. I don’t mind, do what you want, this gig is for you. You can even sit and paint a watercolour of the show and put it up on your Blog if you want”. He taps into the demographic of the crowd perfectly, despite still looking quite annoyingly young, fresh-faced and healthy. “I am not sure about this classic album thing, but you look like you’ve been to a few, sitting there with your £7 glass of Rioja, some of you look like you’ve even been to one of those fake Pink Floyd tribute classic album shows. I bet you don’t know what’s coming next, don’t worry, I do!” 

Photo by Steve Worrall
There’s one bit where a member of the crowd hisses a loud “shhhh!” as some idiots are chattering away while Roddy is talking, in fact even during some of the quieter acoustic intros some people seem to be more intent on catching up with the latest gossip rather than concentrating on the show. I don’t get this modern phenomenon of people paying money to go to gigs just to talk through them. It would appear neither does Roddy, the irate punter’s plea for some respect seemed to have worked. “Listen, can you hear that? No neither can I, I love the sound of silence”. There are, however some nice bits of crowd banter, “is that the same old guitar?” someone shouts as Roddy straps on a beautiful gold Gibson ES295 semi-acoustic. Roddy laughs, “What? Is this like an impromptu Q & A session now? Do you really want to hear a bit of background to the songs?” “YES!” the crowd cries. He explains the guitar is a replica of the model that Scotty Moore used during the Sun Studio sessions with Elvis, gives us a quick blast of Scotty style guitar and finishes off with an Elvis swing of the hips. He talks about moving down to Acton in London and even gives us the address and directions “you can all go on one of those music heritage location tours, you come out at the tube, right by the police station then run past the estate.” There’s more banter about his guitar technician/roadie, who I am quite surprised to notice is the bassist in the excellent Power Pop Punk band Cyanide Pills, “I need a different guitar for each song so my guitar roadie is going to be the busiest man in London tonight”. Then there is this chestnut, “There’s only one thing worse than tuning guitars, it’s listening to other people tuning them”. So, of course no surprises, we get the whole album faithfully reproduced, unfortunately it’s so faithful that we also get a thumpingly intrusive and unsubtle snare drum sound that irritates in places. However, it all falls into place on a quite stunning “We Could Send Letters” which sends shivers down the spine, a truly memorable moment. Another highlight is “Lost Outside The Tunnel" which Roddy goes on to explain was influenced by the Liverpool Post-Punk Psychedelic scene of Teardrop Explodes and Echo & The Bunnymen. He also tells us how Aztec Camera supported The Teardrops on the day Ian Curtis died. The gig draws to a close and again he homes in on “the middle-aged Rock Fan dilemma” (sounds like a song by The Fall…) “I put out on Twitter that the gig will end at 10pm, we’re running a bit late and now I feel guilty as I know most of you will have to get back to your baby-sitters.” He ends off with a lovely version of “Killermont Street”, an uplifting “Bigger, Better, Brighter” and of course “Somewhere In My Heart”, and the crowd respond with a rousing standing ovation. The encore is short but he leaves us with the good news that there will be a brand new solo album to be released sometime in 2014.

Photo by Steve Worrall

Thursday 5 December 2013

Graham Day & The Forefathers at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club November 29th with The Aardvarks & Higher State

Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
Tonight's gig at the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club was promoted by Phil Moore from Shindig! Magazine and his Sweet But Deadly Promotions. Phil was also the DJ for the night and he played some cool sounds to get everyone in the mood for what would turn out to be the undoubted gig of the year. The opening act, The Aardvarks, were one of the leading lights of the mid to late Eighties London "Paisley Underground" scene along with The Onlookers and The Playn Jayn, and regulars at the sorely missed Hammersmith Clarendon. The band recently got back together to promote the release of an excellent anthology CD on Cherry Red Records called "Sinker, Line and Hook". The line-up of the Pietronave brothers, Gary on lead vocals and Mark on guitar, drummer Ian O'Sullivan (who, before this reunion was playing in Retro Man Blog favourite's The Fallen Leaves) and bassist Jason Hobart are augmented by ex-Solarflares keyboard player Parsley and they played a well received set of tracks from the album interspersed by some well chosen cover versions.

The Aardvarks by Paul Slattery
My highlights were "The Office Number 1", the powerful blast of "Buttermilk Boy" and the funky riffing of the Sharon Tandy/Fleur de Lys classic "Hold On". They have a sound more akin to the Bluesy Sixties sound of bands such as The Creation, The Yardbirds and The Sorrows and you can close your eyes and almost be transported back in time to Eel Pie Island. They close with covers of Wimple Winch's "Save My Soul" and The Easybeats "Sorry" and get a great round of applause. It's not clear yet how much longer the band are going to continue with their reunion but on tonight's evidence it would be a shame if they were to call it a day for a second time.

The Higher State by Paul Slattery
Next up are The Higher State, a band made up of members of some top quality outfits such as The Mystreated, The Embrooks and Groovy Uncle. There's also Paul Messis on bass, an accomplished singer songwriter in his own right (and another ex-member of those Fallen Leaves). They play an authentic brand of jangly Rickenbacker West Coast folk rock which has echoes of the Byrds and The Flamin' Groovies. Unfortunately the poor sound from the P.A. doesn't do the vocals or complexities of the songs justice and I don't really connect with the band until quite late in their set with the excellent "Know That You Know", which has a melody that has stuck in head for days. Still, I have since checked out some of the bands records which have really impressed me, and I will definitely try and get to see them play again as soon as possible.
Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
There's often a dilemma for prolific songwriters where they want their audience to appreciate their new music and not be distracted by past achievements, or maybe they just get sick and tired of playing the same songs over and over. I can sort of understand how a songwriter must feel if they are trying to promote something new that they are really passionate about, only to get constantly badgered about the past, it must grate somewhat. But of course, as a music fan I also want to hear all my old favourites at gigs and often the dreaded phrase "now for some new songs" is the chance to sneak off for a pee or get a pint. The music journalist Mark Ellen once told of his favourite audience heckle where a band (I can't remember which) were boring their audience rigid with a set of new material and someone right at the front kept shouting out loudly "Play some old!"

Graham Day by Paul Slattery
But tonight there were certainly no hang-ups about acknowledging former glories, far from it, the set list was a veritable fan's dream. After all, Graham Day's latest band The Forefathers, are basically set up, not just to celebrate and enjoy the past as much as to drag it screaming and brutally revitalized into the present. Seeing Graham Day take the stage to a packed-to-the-rafters Bethnal Green Working Men's Club and fire straight into The Prime Movers "The Good Things", with it's raw power down on the streets Stooges riff, it's hard to believe that he was rumoured to have sold off his guitars and packed in music all together. The Forefathers are a trio, with Graham joined by his long time colleagues Allan Crockford on bass and Wolf Howard on drums. Away from The Forefathers Allan takes centre stage in his own mighty fine Psychedelic Garage Rock band Galileo 7, where he is singer, songwriter and guitarist. Tonight, his fluid bass lines cover for the lack of familiar organ riffs and drummer Wolf propels the songs along at a breakneck pace.

Wolf Howard and Allan Crockford by Paul Slattery
I wasn't a huge fan of The Prime Movers and in fact "The Good Things" is the only track from that period, but for me (as any regular listeners to Retrosonic Podcast will know) the sheer quality of The Solarflares output  almost eclipsed The Prisoners in it's brilliance. So, it's no surprise that the majority of the set is crammed with Prisoners and Solarflares songs. In fact the mood in the crowd becomes almost transcendental as classic song after classic song is blasted out one after the other. "Better In Black" and "Creepy Crawlies" from The Prisoners debut album "A Taste of Pink!" get the crowd pumped up and then a crunching take of The Solarflares "You Want Blood" ratchets up the atmosphere even more. Things momentarily calm down for the excellent "You Always Find a Way To Hurt", before the classic "Whenever I'm Gone" is greeted by a huge cheer. The Small Faces influence shines through on "Be On Your Way" and then it's the mighty "Hurricane", the first track of the night from the faultless "The Wisermiserdemelza" album. But it's an adrenaline-fuelled fuzzed up "Sucking Out My Insides" that is one of my highlights of the set, quite brilliant.

Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
The set ends with an absolutely blazing "Get Off My Track" by The Gaolers, it's so powerful that it prompts Past Tense vocalist Andy to leap onto the stage and attempt, what must be the politest stage dive in history. I thought Graham might belt Andy with his guitar but instead a smile flickers across his face. Rock photographer, Paul Slattery who witnessed and photographed many early Prisoners gigs just looks amazed, shaking his head and mouthing "fantastic!" at me. Right through the set The Aardvark's organ remains tantalisingly untouched at the side of the stage until Parsley, now decked out in what looks like a bacofoil spacesuit, gets up and takes the controls for a blistering run through of The Gaolers instrumental "Sitar Spangled Banner".

Face In the Crowd - Graham Day by Paul Slattery
Hoping the organ will get a bit more use, people around me scream out for The Prisoners "Reaching My Head" but Graham shoots them down, "Just 'cos we got an organ on stage, don't get stupid" Parsley steps down and the trio slam into "Coming Home" which is followed by the wonderfully melodic "I Am The Fisherman". Then there is a nice off-the-cuff touch as Graham disregards the set-list and gives us "Reaching My Head" after all. The set is bought to a climatic end with a punked-up "Melanie" which lifts the roof off the BGWMC and as we sadly realize that's the lot, a sea of smiling satisfied faces make their way to the exit. There was quite a tangible buzz in the air as friends hug each other on the way out and strangers exchange glances and excited chatter about what a truly special gig they'd just witnessed.

Ian, Gary & Jason of The Aardarks by Paul Slattery
Parsley by Paul Slattery
Mark Pietronave of The Aardvarks by Paul Slattery
The Higher State by Paul Slattery
The Higher State by Paul Slattery
Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
All photos strictly copyright Paul Slattery 2013 and may not be shared or used without prior consent.

For more photos of the gig please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit "Like" for access to the gig Photo Album. Here's a video of Graham Day & The Forefathers with "Get Off My Track", for lots more videos of the night check out the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here.

We've also played lots of Graham Day tracks, along with The Aardvarks, Galileo 7 and loads more similar acts in various episodes of Retrosonic Podcast, they are free to download too...! Check out our Soundcloud site and have a trawl through the archives, hope you enjoy!

Wednesday 4 December 2013

The Travellers, Les Kitschenettes & French Boutik at Le Bus Palladium Paris November 23rd

Les Kitschenettes - Photo by Steve Worrall
So, here we are at the legendary Parisian venue Le Bus Palladium, which oozes music history from it's walls. Located in Pigalle, an area of the city that immediately conjures up a certain decadence, it was originally opened in 1965 at the height of the swinging Yé-yé scene. Once frequented by the Beatles, Stones, Johnny Hallyday, Salvador Dali and Serge Gainsbourg (who even mentioned it in song), it was relaunched in the 1980's and is now a multi-functional venue, night club and restaurant that reminded me a bit of the excellent White Trash in Berlin. Tonight's show was promoted by Olivier Bétard at Black Boots Management under the banner "Back To The 60's" and featured a great line-up of bands, each one influenced by the music of the Sixties but with their own individual style. We had the Modernist Pop of the Paris based French Boutik along with the Northern Soul tinges of The Travellers and their St. Malo compatriots Les Kitschenettes, who take more of the Garage Psych Rock approach. Each band was different enough to make it a well balanced and varied bill, and with the DJ's spinning some suitably cool sounds, it was a really excellent night's entertainment.

The Travellers - Photo by Steve Worrall
The Travellers opened the show at our recent Retro Man Blog night at the Half Moon in Putney, playing as an acoustic duo with vocalist Gemma accompanied by guitarist Robert. The performance highlighted the fact that The Travellers are master songwriters, each track stood up perfectly well in these stripped back arrangements. Tonight they open the show too but this time with their full band line-up of Gemma on vocals and keyboards, Robert on guitar, Fred on the bass and Moses on drums. They are back to a four piece following the departure of rhythm guitarist Gildas, which in a way was a bit of a shame as I thought he added a nice bit of extra depth and muscle to their sound when I saw them at The Lexington earlier this year. Starting off strongly with the brilliant "74 Times" which is followed closely by it's Double A-Side partner "Summer With No Sun", certainly one of the best 7" singles of recent years, with Robert's catchy fuzzed up guitar riff adding a welcome bit of edge. "Miss You Babe" with it's thumping Northern Soul beat leads into the new single B-Side "Don't Look For Me", in which Gemma puts in a great vocal performance. 

The Travellers - Photo by Steve Worrall
I was impressed with the powerful "I'll Be There" but then comes a slight blip in proceedings with "One Day", where the band are seemingly playing two different songs at the same time, it reminded me of the old Morecambe and Wise joke,  "I'm playing the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order", it's a bit of a mess at first but the band pick it up and put it back on track half way through. They then redeem matters with the superb sultry sounds of "I Can't Stop Loving You", which is one of my highlights of their set tonight. Next up is a cover of Martha & The Vandellas "Heat Wave" which gets more people dancing and then it is the brand new single "Stay". This is another classic song and it's been getting a lot of air-play on various radio shows and podcasts recently, plus to make things even better it's available on lovely 7" green vinyl too. That was the last song and The Travellers are called back for a deserved encore, and in a brave move they play a new song live for the very first time called "Your Love Is Like a Flame".

Gemma from The Travellers - Photo by Steve Worrall
Next up are Les Kitschenettes, I'd never seen them before and only had a few songs from a "Ballroom Bash" compilation so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. Well, I was in for an unexpected treat and tonight they blew me away with their colourful, energetic live show. I have seen some great gigs this year and this set will be surely up there with the best of them. Les Kitschenettes are like a French version of Retro Man Blog's favourite covers band, The Transients, except they trawl the Sixties French music archive to pick some often obscure delights.

Les Kitschenettes - Photo by Steve Worrall
With the exception of a great version of The Castaways' "Liar Liar", it's Francais all the way and even when they cover the Kinks "A Well Respected Man" they attack it via Petula Clark's French version "Un Jeune Homme Bien", it's bloody marvellous! There are only a few tracks that I recognize such as superb covers of Delphine's "La Fermeture Éclair" and the Serge Gainsbourg, France Gall duet "Dents de Lait, Dents de Loup", but I am non-plussed by most of the selection, and like The Transients you are often wondering if they are the band's own songs as they sound so fresh and modern. I've had a lot of fun since their gig tracking down as many of the originals as possible, quite a task as the set varied from weird soundtrack music such as "Rosbif Attack" from the movie "Ne Nous Fachons Pas", to songs by artists I've never heard of such as Guy Skornik and bands like Les Missiles.

Les Kitschenettes - Photo by Steve Worrall
The band are a visual delight, singer Ludo resplendent in black glove and flowing cape struts around the stage while Lucille who shares vocals and adds sax and flute, dances away energetically throughout. The duets work superbly well, particularly on "Shu Ba Du Ba Loo Ba" from Gainsbourg's "Initials B.B." album with Ludo as Serge and Lucille as Brigitte Bardot, and I particularly enjoyed their take on Monique Thubert's "Avec les Oreilles". The band around the live-wire front two are also excellent, a familiar looking bassist, yes it's Fred from The Travellers putting in an impressive double shift, drummer Claude, guitarist Francis and then Mathieu on guitars and keyboards. The already psyched up crowd are sent into a frenzy of dancing as Les Kitschenettes close their set with a wild and crazy version of Rita Pavone's "Il Geghegè". Everyone around me is grinning from ear to ear and calling for more songs, it was one of those very special feel-good shows that will live on long in the memory. A truly great band indeed.

Les Kitschenettes - Photo by Steve Worrall
French Boutik took the stage as headliners and the crowd calmed down a bit to enjoy their slick Modernist Pop. Singer Gabriela is a cool presence up front and she bashes her tambourine and shows off some nifty dance moves, while the band, comprising Serge on guitars, Iky on keyboards, Terry on bass and rather bright suit and drummer Gontrand look like they are enjoying playing their perfectly constructed pop-soul songs. My highlights of their set are the excellent "Chats de Gouttiere" from their first E.P. and the wonderful "Facile", which lifts the atmosphere and gets the audience moving. 

French Boutik - Photo by Steve Worrall
They end with a cover of Georgie Fame's "In The Meantime" and a song called "Kazimir" which although is naggingly familiar, I can't quite place, Gabriela explained later that it was a Ska re-working of Madness "Bed & Breakfast Man",  they kept the melody but changed the bridge totally and the words too and rewrote the lyrics about a bar near their rehearsal studio called the Kazimir. 

French Boutik - Photo by Steve Worrall
So overall it was an excellent night, the venue was great with superb lighting and sound and all three bands complimented each other perfectly. For more photos of the gig, go to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit "Like" for access to the exclusive Photo Album. Here's a video of each of the bands, to see more videos from the night along with many other bands featured on Retro Man Blog please head on over to the Retro Man Blog YouTube Channel.