Wednesday 31 December 2014

"Live at The Brixton Academy: A Riotous Life In The Music Business" by Simon Parkes

“Live at Brixton Academy” is a joyous and highly entertaining romp through the life of Simon Parkes, the man who bought the run-down Brixton Academy in 1982 for just one pound from the Watneys Brewery (there were conditions of course…) and turned it into one of London’s most popular venues. Parkes is, on the surface, a highly unlikely person to be thought of as an important player in the U.K.’s live music scene. Firstly, he doesn’t have those much-coveted working class credentials that seem so vital to so many people in the music industry. Born into a very wealthy family from rural Lincolnshire, he attended Gordonstoun school, Scotland’s equivalent to Eton College, where he was a class-mate of Prince Andrew. He was also born with only one arm due to the thalidomide drug scandal, so at first you do wonder how he was to emerge as a truly innovative maverick in an increasingly sterile music industry. However, first of all there’s no doubt that his background and family name did certainly help him in his business dealings with banks and business contacts. He certainly used his manners and “posh white boy” image to disarm (sometimes quite literally…!) and charm would-be adversaries and doubters, especially in the smouldering ghetto of Brixton, a virtual no-go area following the earlier rioting there. He also grew up with a no-nonsense attitude to his disability and from an early age was encouraged to get stuck in at sports and to defend himself from any verbal or physical attacks from bullies. In other words, this posh boy could look after himself, something that would certainly come in handy during his tenure at the Brixton Academy.

Along with the Academy he inherited a motley crew of experienced ex-roadies, sound engineers and fearsome security guards, a colourful collection of loyal individuals who at first seem more like a gang of mercenaries you might see in movies like “The Dirty Dozen” or the “Seven Samurai”. In fact you can also add “The Alamo” to that list of films, as there are some harrowing scenes where the Academy comes under siege from all angles – whether it is the small fry people trying to bunk in without paying to those who try forcing open doors to get in to far more serious incidents such as gas canisters being thrown into the lobby to being threatened at knife or gun point. There are run-ins with local Yardies and gangsters, Jamaican Reggae promoters and artist’s entourages and then there are the protection rackets, death threats from neo-Nazi gangs and riots to deal with. At one point Parkes is away at a wedding reception but is urgently summoned back to the Academy as a full scale riot is kicking off outside. He arrives amidst scenes of chaos and helps defend the venue dressed in full top hat and tails! There are scenes like this where the story plays out as a bit of a boys-own adventure, and whilst Parkes does not shirk from the dark side of the industry or the criminality he had to deal with, the book is very humorous and up-beat. It’s also very cinematic and in fact, I get the feeling that Parkes probably has one eye on turning this into a movie or TV programme; it would be a great watch that’s for sure. It’s not only the underworld fraternity that are a threat to the Academy, Parkes also has to deal with politicians and various jobsworths at the local council who he treats with as much contempt as he does the criminals. He has a memorable meeting with Margaret Thatcher and despite hosting many left wing rallies and benefit gigs – he soon discovers the hypocrisy in the Champagne Socialists of the Labour party at the time and even amongst the anarchist fringe who rip him off and run amok during “The Gathering of the 5,000” event put on by Crass associates Conflict.

Buzzcocks "Back To Front" one of my favourite Academy gigs. Copyright Steve Worrall
At first, it's difficult to attract Rock bands to Brixton so he starts off promoting Reggae shows and soon builds up a reputation, booking in some of the top stars of the day. This evolves into his involvement with the early Rap and Hip-Hop scenes and culminates in the legendary double bill of The Beastie Boys and Run DMC. Slowly the Rock bands come and eventually he is putting on gigs for most of his musical heroes such as The Clash, Iggy Pop, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones. The Academy hosted U2 and the last ever London gig by The Smiths and the first reunion shows by Pixies. The Pogues held their raucous St Patrick’s Day gigs there and Primal Scream put on their wild all-night raves. There was Britpop, Grunge and Acid House and extravagant rave nights such as Westworld featuring full-size fairground rides; it was a case of anything goes. Eventually, Parkes finds himself losing interest as the quality of live music declines and the rise of X-Factor and manufactured studio based Pop reaches new heights. He has to deal with bankruptcy and sees plans for hosting a U.K. version of Lollapalooza and his own Grunge festival headlined by Nirvana, fall through. Club nights and Superstar DJ’s overtake live music and the long hours accompanied by the constant thud thud thud of dance music beats finally force him to realise he is just not enjoying his job any more. He decides it’s time to get out, and it is a bit disappointing that in the end, Parkes sells the Academy to one of those very same faceless corporations that he claimed to have despised. He agrees at first to stay on as a consultant but it’s the frustrating dealings with the Venue’s new owner’s lawyers and accountants and men in suits, with their total lack of understanding and passion for music that finally forces him to sever all ties with the Academy completely.

This book really struck a chord with me, not just because I have been involved in promoting gigs myself on a D.I.Y. basis with no previous experience - albeit on a much smaller level of course - but I finished reading it just as the news that The 12 Bar Club and the Buffalo Bar, two excellent small venues, were closing due to re-development. So, Simon Parkes story could be seen as a sobering tale of the continuing decline of London's live music scene, as well as sadly reminding us that the days of the true maverick are pretty much over. When I finished the book I was left with the lingering feeling that, just like football, big corporations are squeezing every ounce of creative spirit, individualism and character out of the music scene. In fact there are many parallels with the way football and music are run – stadiums and venues alike are now sponsored and named after companies, fans are treated with contempt as prices soar and the atmosphere gets ever more sterile. Over zealous jobsworth security guards are either forcing you to sit down and shut up or pushing you away from the front of the stage or telling you to get out as soon as the band leave the stage. When the latter starts to happen at reasonably small venues such as the god awful Islington Academy and 229 The Venue at gigs by bands that can hardly be described as famous, with a well behaved and good natured crowd, then you know things are getting somewhat ridiculous. So, old-school terraced football grounds are demolished to make way for yet another brand name supermarket or re-modelled into luxury flats. So, venues are either being re-named or stripped of their souls or being destroyed in the relentless surge of “gentrification” and property redevelopment for yet more shopping malls or coffee shop chains.

Buzzcocks "Back To Front" one of my favourite Academy gigs. Copyright Steve Worrall
Of course this is very much Simon Parkes story and he really plays up to his naïve wide-eyed dreamer role which I think sometimes undermines the undoubted hard work and risks that he took. On occasion I was really hoping for another person's perspective, to see things from a different angle. Don’t expect much in the way of gossip or tales of salacious back-stage shenanigans, apart from the not-exactly-surprising news that Grace Jones is a bit of a diva, this is certainly no “Hammer of The Gods”. Parkes sticks to his Mr. Nice reputation and is very much discretion personified, in fact the book could also have been titled “what happens on the road stays on the road”. There’s no doubt this is a very honourable attitude in a very dishonourable industry, but it might be a little bit disappointing for some readers. So, I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with a passion for music, whether you have been to the Brixton Academy or not, it is a quite remarkable story. It will be interesting to see what Parkes will do next; the music scene certainly needs some mavericks like him more than ever.

You can order the book from Amazon and there's an interesting feature in The Guardian here.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Retrosonic Podcast Episode 16: "Lost & Spaced Out"

Retrosonic Episode 16: "Lost & Spaced Out" is out now and available to download for free from the Retrosonic Soundcloud site or you can now subscribe for free at the iTunes Store. Just to prove it's not all "retro" at Retrosonic, this episode features a recommended selection of all-new releases from contemporary bands that we have enjoyed over the past few months. So, we have a great pick of Mod, Soul, Punk, Psych and Garage Rock for you to enjoy. Please click the highlighted band names in the track-listing below to take you to each featured band's web-site or Facebook page to check out more info and news on upcoming gigs and releases.

The Mobbs "Get Your Hair Cut

The Dustaphonics "Big Smoke London Town"

The Dustaphonics - Photo by Paul Slattery
Stupidity "I'm On Fire"

Nervous Twitch "Somebody Else"

The Lemontops "Holding You Tight"

Suzi Chunk & Groovy Uncle "Barefoot In The Car Park"

Suzi Chunk & Groovy Uncle - Photo by Steve Worrall
The Plastic Pals "Travelling"

The Youth "I'll Call Your Bluff"

The Beatpack "I'm Walking"

The Revox "Jumpin' Around"

Oh!Gunquit "Bad Bad Milk"

Oh!Gunquit - Photo by Steve Worrall
The Teamsters "There's Always Someone"

Mark & The Clouds "Lost and Spaced Out"

Supersiders "En Chico Enfermo"

French Boutik "Mieux Comme Ca"

French Boutik - Photo by Steve Worrall

The Transients "Tube Ride"

Nervous Twitch "Tarantino Hangover

Monday 1 December 2014

Johnny Moped, Ye Nuns & The Fire Dept. Cancer Research Fundraiser at The Shacklewell Arms Dec. 05th + Swell Maps/TV Personalities/Ruts DC DJ sets.

Idle Fret Records have assembled a top line-up for the cancer research and support fundraiser on December 05th at The Shacklewell Arms in Dalston. It features early Punk legends Johnny Moped, the all-female Monks tribute band Ye Nuns (featuring members of Curve, Mambo Taxi, Thee Headcoatees, Gay Dad, The A-Lines, Echobelly, The Phantom Pregnancies & The Priscillas) and The Fire Dept. who Billy Childish declared were the best British group of the 1990’s. There will also be DJ sets by Jowe Head from Swell Maps/Television Personalities and Leigh Heggarty from Ruts DC.
Tickets are just £8.00 in advance or £11.00 on the door, and all proceeds from the show will be donated to Cancer Research UK, Pancreatic Cancer UK and Macmillan.

Retro Man Blog readers can get a FREE download featuring Ye Nuns and The Fire Dept. via the following link:

For more information on running times and to keep a check on any further announcements please visit the Event link at:

Sunday 9 November 2014

Graham Day & The Forefathers, The Fallen Leaves & The Dustaphonics at 229 The Venue October 31st 2014

Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
The Dustaphonics opened tonight’s proceedings although they very nearly didn’t. Just before the gig I heard from the band’s guitarist Yvan that is was touch and go whether they would actually be able to go ahead with the show as singer Hayley had badly injured her knee beforehand. Luckily the show went ahead and Hayley not only put on a brave face, but a great performance too. Despite not being able to stray too far from her supportive microphone stand nobody would have known she was in any sort of discomfort. However, unfortunately the medical problems weren’t to end there as a few songs into their set, drummer Eric suddenly felt faint and had to leave the stage. 

The Dustaphonics by Paul Slattery
There were a few minutes of uncertainty and the three remaining members jammed a bit until Eric reappeared, shaken and a bit stirred but able to continue. So, continue they did and they rallied against the odds to play a fantastic set mainly compiled from their stunning new album “Big Smoke London Town” which has already been reviewed on Retro Man Blog here. On record The Dustaphonics signature sound is one of quite lo-fi guitars but live the band are much more powerful and Yvan’s guitar is considerably higher in the mix. It works a treat and their brand of good time Rockabilly, R’n’B, Soul, Surf and Garage Rock was a perfect way to start the show. My highlights of the set were their debut single "Party Girl", the new album's title track and a storming version of "Don't Let The Devil Drive Your Car" also from the new album. I have to give a special mention to DJ Dave Edwards who played some great tunes in between the bands and I was particularly impressed to hear him give Les Kitschenette’s a spin, he does have great taste!

Hayley Red of The Dustaphonics by Paul Slattery
Next up were The Fallen Leaves and as I am a regular at their “Minimum R’n’B” club nights at the 12 Bar (on the first Wednesday of every month for your information…) I am used to seeing the band crammed onto that venue’s tiny stage. The stage at the 229 however is massive, so it was nice to see the band afforded some space and this suited them down to the ground, giving front-man Rob Green the chance to show off his full repertoire of tricks. Rob is a proper singer, and with his vintage microphone he’s a crooner in the grand old tradition which contrasts perfectly with the visceral attack of Guitarist Rob Symmons instinctive, primal playing style. 

The Fallen Leaves by Paul Slattery
In our Retrosonic Podcast Fallen Leaves special edition, the two Robs explained this juxtaposition of their two very different styles and roles. They both admitted that it would not work in any other way – “If I was singing with anyone else it would just sound weedy and if Rob played guitar with anyone else it would just be a noise, like Joey Ramone and Johnny Ramone”. But despite their admiration for New York’s finest, The Leaves are as English as Terry Thomas or P.G. Wodehouse with their tweed jackets and cravats, pocket watches and smoke rings blown into the air, although nowadays these come from electronic cigarettes. Then there is the curious “tea break” during “Shining” as Singer Rob slowly and deliberately removes his jacket, gets out his thermos flask and sips from a china mug. It’s like a Japanese tea ceremony performed with a junkie’s ritual, the first band that could be sponsored by PG Tips rather than Jack Daniels. 

Rob Green of The Fallen Leaves by Paul Slattery
Rob Symmons stands far left, crashing his fist against his guitar, wringing notes out of it, bending strings and crashing chords, the sheer aggression is off set by his enigmatic smile. Originally he played alongside Vic Godard in Subway Sect and was responsible for such searing riffs as “Ambition” and “Nobody’s Scared” and yet he’s still a criminally underrated guitarist. The Fallen Leaves Bassist Matthew Karas, resplendent in velvet smoking jacket and shades, spins a web of spidery bass runs and adds a blast of harmonica on the superb “Passing By”. Drummer William Lewington is the band’s rough diamond, and every band should have one. He’s a South London Artful Dodger and he adds a huge punch of impressively meaty drums into the equation. I have recovered at least three pairs of Bill’s shattered drumsticks from the floors of various venues after Fallen Leaves gigs. 

The Fallen Leaves - photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2014
Tonight, the band played a short sharp shock of a set made up of their perfectly formed sing-along Garage Beat songs; it’s a set that rarely changes so they have it down to a fine art just like their beloved Ramones. The occasional new song is thrown in every now and then and tonight it’s the turn of “Prodigal Son” and whilst us Leaves regulars might be hoping for a bit of variety to spice things up, there is no doubting that their precise, well honed set always seems to wow first timers and tonight they get a great reception. Oh, by the way, did I mention The Fallen Leaves residency at the 12 Bar, Denmark Street on the first Wednesday of every month? See you there!

Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
But tonight was all about Graham Day & The Forefathers and the official launch of their new album “Good Things” which was being snapped up all night by eager fans from a merchandise table groaning under the weight of State Records goodies. Wolf is positioned right at the front centre stage despite there being a proper drum riser which is unusual for the sort of venues I normally go to. In fact it's not a great venue, it's more of a soul-less school hall with a very high stage, which must be almost 6 foot high. I suppose this is fine to get a view from the back but for a band such as Graham Day & The Forefathers, who have gone on record as saying they prefer more intimate gigs, this is not ideal. Wolf is flanked by Graham and Allan on either side and it looks good, I like it when drummers are pushed to the front, it adds a different dynamic to the proceedings. 

Graham Day & The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
Unsurprisingly we get pretty much all of the track-listing off the new album and they blast off with the only Prime Movers track to make the grade, the title track “Good Things”, which bristles with pure Stooges raw power. Its The Solarflares songs that feature heaviest in the set, which suits me as I think the quality of that period is second to none. We are treated to tracks from each of the Solarflares albums including “Mary”, “You Always Find a Way To Hurt Me” a vicious “Sucking Out My Insides” and “You Want Blood” which are all faultless and go down a storm with the crowd. Such is the quality of The Solarflares material that even a B-Side makes the cut rather than a more well known Prisoners track and we get a storming version of “Open Your Eyes” which was the flip to the 7” single “Reflections”. From The Prisoners it’s tracks from “The Last Fourfathers” album that dominate, “Whenever I’m Gone”, a soaring “Thinking of You (Broken Pieces)” one of the best love songs ever written, and the set closer “I Am The Fisherman”. In between we get a scathing “Be On Your Way” which spits vitriol and proves that the unfairly treated “In From The Cold” album certainly had it’s good points and then there’s “Love Me Lies” from "Wisermiserdemelza".

Wolf Howard & Allan Crockford - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog 2014
Rather like The Soundtrack of Our Lives with their similarly impressive back catalogue, Graham Day knows how to write songs which at first listen might seem to wear their influences quite prominently on their sleeves. But what at first might seem familiar soon grows into something fresh, vital and always contemporary. These are songs that cross genres and generations, they are songs that run the gamut of all emotions and moods. Whether it is the upbeat soul of "Deceiving Eye", the moving and powerful "Mary" or the all out heads-down Garage Punk blast of "Sucking Out My Insides", these are basically classic, timeless songs that deserve to be lauded as much as anything written by those other great British song-writers Weller, Marriott, Davies and Townshend.

Graham Day by Paul Slattery
Unfortunately, I missed the encore as I was in "discussions" with a bouncer as the security company decided to line them up in front of the stage facing us as though it were the last minutes of a football match. It did make it all a bit uncomfortable and a real dampener on the end of the gig for me. As anybody that was there would attest, the crowd were extremely good natured, there wasn’t one hint of aggression – and I am sure that a very large proportion would have had great difficulty in invading the high stage even if they wanted to! I really didn’t understand the security company’s totally unnecessary and negative policy. After hearing of some other people's similarly negative experiences I did write to the promoter who graciously said he would pass on my comments to the security company and I hope they improve their set-up and learn some common sense.

Graham Day, Wolf Howard & Allan Crockford - The Forefathers by Paul Slattery
I’ve written so much about Graham Day & The Forefathers recently that I’m fast running out of superlatives. I have been so all-consumed by the band since they decided to get together to celebrate the back catalogue of Graham Day written material that I find myself quickly losing patience and interest in most other music. It’s getting to feel like an all out addiction and tonight could well be my last glorious fix for some time. After their forthcoming sold out gig in Dublin it’s anybody’s guess what will happen to the band. As much as I'd love this to run and run, I do understand somewhat reluctantly, that there is only so far The Forefathers can go, there’s only so much regular playing of old material that will satisfy band and audience alike. Given that the whole concept of The Forefathers is pretty much a fan’s dream come true, it was somewhat ironic that one of the first questions people asked me when they knew I was going to interview Graham, Allan and Wolf for Retrosonic Podcast was “ask them when they are going to release some new material”. After all, with his last pre-Forefathers outfit The Gaolers, Graham’s song-writing, guitar playing and singing had evolved into something really quite special, and you can only imagine what amazing new songs might be buzzing round his head right now. Allan is singer, songwriter and guitarist in his own superb band The Galileo 7 and he might want to concentrate on this for a while, especially as he has a quite brilliant album “False Memory Lane” to promote. Wolf too is busy with his art and photography and involvement with Billy Childish & The CTMF who are about to release a new album on Damaged Goods Records. I’d like to hope that in the future, regardless of whatever individual paths Graham, Allan and Wolf do take, that The Forefathers could pop up every now and then to give us that fix. But now is the time to just enjoy it while it lasts, to kneel in the presence of these mighty songs, bow down before them and repeat the mantra “we are not worthy…!”

Graham Day by Paul Slattery
Don't forget that our very special edition Retrosonic Podcast with Graham Day & The Forefathers is available to listen to and download below or free of charge from our regular Soundcloud site or you can now subscribe for free at the iTunes store, and keep up to date with all future episodes. With thanks to Paul Slattery for contributing the excellent photos, Paul also did the cover photography for the Forefathers "Good Things" album. You can see more photos by heading on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hitting "Like" if you are not already following the page.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Les BOF! and Oh!Gunquit at Weirdsville Saturday October 25th

Tina Bopper of Oh!Gunquit - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog 2014
In all my years of gig-going I’ve come to realize that being “down the front” can often be fraught with danger. Over the years, I’ve been regularly elbowed in the head by chicken-dancing Psychobillies at Cramps gigs and been knocked unconscious in front of Discharge at the 100 Club. I’ve been crushed underneath Swedish man mountain Ebbot Lundberg of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, been covered in Black Flag singer Henry Rollins’ blood and been half deafened by the Ramones. I’ve had a Goth fall on me from the top of a human pyramid at a Sisters of Mercy gig and nearly been decapitated by the swinging bass of Steve Huggins of The Len Price 3. I’ve been intoxicated by the fumes of spliff smoke at a Brian Jonestown Massacre gig and been hit on the head by a large bottle of water (or at least I think it was water…) at the Reading Festival. I’ve had bruised ribs, cigarette burns and trodden-on toes. I’ve been spat at and had beer thrown on me one minute, then shaving foam and water squirted in my eyes the next; actually come to think of it, those last four were just by bands! I’ve lost count of all the black eyes, bloody noses and bruised knuckles but I can categorically state that I have never been assaulted by a large fluorescent hula-hoop before. Yes, standing at the front of an Oh!Gunquit show brings its own very special kind of danger. Actually, I have to admit it’s not exactly an unpleasant kind of danger, for wielding the hula-hoop is the rather wonderful Tina Bopper – who manages to sing whilst keeping the hoop spinning throughout the duration of the wired Bo Diddley Rockabilly shuffle of "Mentalist Twist".

Simon and Alex of Oh!Gunquit by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
To say Oh!Gunquit are unique is a bit of an understatement, this was the first time I had managed to catch them play live but in every promo photo or video I’ve seen they seem to have a different line-up and different instruments. Tonight the band take the stage as a three piece with lead vocalist Tina, an energetic shock of peroxide blonde hair who only stands still when playing the trumpet or swirling her hula-hoop, which she sometimes does at the same time, it’s an impressive talent! Then to her right there’s the pencil-moustached Simon Wild on guitar, vocals and Kung-Fu moves and then there’s the impressive drumming of Alex. A quick fire hat-trick of superb tracks from the new E.P. "Cindy's Got a Tiger" closely followed by "Bad Bad Milk" and "Lights Out" are as good a sequence of songs as you are likely to hear all year. Half way through the set the band’s glamorous bassist Veronica suddenly gets on stage, plugs in and tunes up as the band rumble along. 

Oh!Gunquit by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
Oh!Gunquit by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
But there’s still something missing. I like a bit of Sax every now and then and indeed some of Oh!Gunquit’s recorded songs remind me of the great Boston band Morphine who, before the untimely death of front-man Mark Sandman in 1999, played stripped-back swampy Blues with their unorthodox line-up of Sax, slide Bass and Drums. So I was a bit disappointed that there was no Saxophone tonight but I suppose it was hardly surprising given my recent experiences of Sax players going AWOL at my own Retro Man Blog gigs. None of the Saxophonists from King Salami & The Cumberland 3, Les Kitschenette’s or The SuperMinx ’70 could make their respective shows for varying reasons, so I am beginning to believe that there must be some kind of weird Voodoo jinx going on between me and Saxophones! Actually, Oh!Gunquit do evoke a kind of swampy Voodoo sound that conjures up The Cramps and The Gun Club and Simon swings his guitar and shreds our ears with loud twanging Surf riffs. The songs are packed full of hooks and tuneful little twists, and there are echoes of early B-52’s at their most humorous and danceable best. Paul from Dirty Water Records is there in the crowd, they’ve just signed up Oh!Gunquit and I’m sure there must have been a queue of suitors with pens and contracts in hand trailing the band. Anyway, hopefully Dirty Water will put out a debut album very soon; it’ll be one hell of a record that’s for sure.

Les BOF! - Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog 2014
I’d generally feel a bit sorry for any band who had to follow that storming set from Oh!Gunquit but luckily it’s Les BOF! and in Laurent Mombel they have a live-wire front man who is even more of a blur of energy than Tina. As the band strike up the chords to the first song "Port St. Louis" the elegantly attired Laurent suddenly appears amongst us in the audience before jumping on a speaker stack and then to a nearby table, encouraging us to clap along and move closer to the stage. Checking that there are no flying hula-hoops nearby I do indeed venture back to the front and all we have to deal with is Laurent jumping into the crowd at regular intervals, bringing microphone stands crashing down on us, ah that’s more like it! At first listen you might think Les BOF! are a French band, from their name to the song titles and the fact that Laurent sings all the songs in French, however the band are based in Edinburgh and only Laurent is from France. 

Laurent Mombel of Les BOF! by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
Laurent even chats to us and introduces the songs is in French so it’s rather amusing at one point to hear the band talk and joke amongst themselves in broad Scottish accents when Angus messes up the intro to a song. Whereas Les Kitschenette’s don’t write their own material but scour the vaults of 1960’s French Freak-beat and Ye-Ye obscurities and make them their own, Les BOF! write songs that sound so authentic it’s as though they could be from the era that Les Kitschenette’s plunder. Les BOF! have that vintage sound down to a tee and infuse their Gallic tinged nuggets with a large helping of bouncing Brit & Mersey Beat. Les BOF! have the songs and the look and the moves. Ex-Thanes guitarist Angus assaults us with some vicious fuzzed up riffs and crunching chords and the great rhythm section of drummer Ross and bassist Colin kick up a beat that gets the dancing going from the very start. Laurent hardly stands still for a second, he is in the crowd again then he’s on his knees playing a mean bluesy harmonica and then he’s bashing away on a large tambourine. 

Les BOF! by Dan Criscuolo copyright 2014
He’s a full on mash-up of James Brown knee drops and spins and the high kicking showmanship of Howlin’ Pelle from The Hives. The band play most of their fabulous debut album “Nous Sommes Les BOF!” with my personal highlights being “Mon Heure”, “P-Club” and "Ils Vont Tuer Le R'n'R". A few choice cover versions are thrown in such as “Jezebel”, Jacques Dutronc’s “Cactus” and a storming version of Plastic Bertrand’s “Ca Plane Pour Moi” which incites an energetic stage invasion. I chatted to Laurent after the show and unfortunately there are no immediate plans for a follow up album any time soon but let’s hope they don’t keep us waiting for too long. Weirsdville is open for business on the last Saturday of every month at the Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden/Chalk Farm. They are in the process of announcing the line-up to Hipsville 2015 and so far they have confirmed Oh!Gunquit and the fantastic Italian Bovver-Boot Glam Punk of Giuda. It’s going to be a great event.

Les BOF! Photo Copyright Retro Man Blog 2014
Oh!Gunquit feature in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast and we pick a great track from Les BOF! in Episode 8. Thanks to Dan Criscuolo from The Fuzillis for contributing the excellent photos.

Thursday 23 October 2014

The Dustaphonics: New Album "Big Smoke London Town"

The launch party for Graham Day & The Forefathers new album “Good Things” at 229 The Venue in London on October 31st is shaping up to be one hell of a Halloween night as The Dustaphonics have now been added to the line-up along with The Fallen Leaves. The Dustaphonics actually have a new record of their own to promote too, the fabulous “Big Smoke London Town” has just been released on Dirty Water Records and is fast becoming one of Retro Man Blog’s favourite albums of the year so far. The lead single and title track “Big Smoke London Town” is a perfect example of the delights that can be found within – it’s an evocative tale of late night London with characters inhabiting seedy nightclubs, afterhours drinking dens and Burlesque clubs. The Dustaphonics could be an ultra-cool gang who are just heading out for a night of, quite possibly illicit, entertainment as most of us are crashed out on the last train home. The titles of the band’s debut album “Party Girl” and single “Burlesque Queen” (Also released on Dirty Water Records) hint where the band are coming from and in fact “Burlesque Queen” was co-written with chesty cult movie star Tura Satana who appeared as the high kicking heroine in Russ Meyer’s trashy 60’s underground classic “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” 

The Dustaphonics - Photo copyright Zig Criscuolo 2014
After various line-up changes The Dustaphonics are now based around guitarist, songwriter, promoter and DJ, Yvan Serrano–Fontova and the stunning flame haired vocalist Hayley Red with a revolving rhythm section of Eric Frajria or Bruce Brand on drums and Dan Whaley or Devid Dell'Aiera on bass. The band are just one big joyful celebration of an eclectic mix of 1950s Rock 'n' Roll, Garage Rock, Soul, Blues and instrumental Surf music, they are equally at home playing a Rock Club or The Jazz Café and have a celebrity fan and occasional lead vocalist in the shape of The Blues Brothers Dan “Elwood” Aykroyd. “Big Smoke London Town”, the album, starts of with a killer trio of up-tempo floor-shakers that will have you up out of your seat as soon as the first chord strikes up, “The Message”, “When You Gonna Learn?” and the title track are all instantly addictive with memorable hooks in abundance. The swinging rhythm section and Yvan’s equally rhythmic scratchy Lo-Fi guitar lay down a hip-shaking groove that allows Hayley’s vocals to shine throughout the album. Suddenly, there’s a brief revving up of engines and it’s into “Grand Prix” which is an effective Dick Dale style Surf instrumental. “Ride On Louisiana Red” is a steamy slice of swampy Blues which is followed by the fat twanging guitar riff intro of the excellent “Rockin’ Boogaloo”. 

Hayley Red & Yvan - Photo Copyright Zig Criscuolo 2014
“Back To Mono” shows that the band can switch easily to great Go-Go’s style guitar pop before spinning out another instrumental “Fire Dance”, with its ominous Link Wray American Indian riffing, reminiscent of “Comanche!”. Next up is one of the album’s highlights “Mojo Yar Bones” with its great sing-along chorus and melodic backing vocals; it’d make a great follow-up single. The last track comes as a surprising but ultimately satisfying twist in the shape of “Flesh & Blood” which calms everything down. It’s the quiet reflective glass of whisky at the end of a full-on night of partying. The song is built solely around a simple repetitive, almost flamenco guitar motif over which Hayley’s sultry vocals float seductively, it’s a perfect ending to a pretty much perfect album.

The Dustaphonics - Photo Copyright Zig Criscuolo 2014
You can order the album “Big Smoke London Town” from the Dirty Water Records on-line store or of course pick up a copy at 229 The Venue on October 31st. For more news on The Dustaphonics including upcoming gigs and tour dates then please check out their Facebook page here. With many thanks to Paul Manchester at Dirty Water Records and to Zig Criscuolo from The WitchDoktors for the excellent photographs. Here's the great video for "Big Smoke London Town".

Monday 20 October 2014

Graham Day & The Forefathers "Good Things" New Album & Launch Gig at 229 The Venue, London October 31st

Graham Day & The Forefathers will play their biggest U.K. show so far at 229 The Venue, Great Portland Street, London on Friday October 31st to launch their brand new album "Good Things". As an additional incentive to book a ticket, copies of the album will be on sale at the gig exclusively prior to the official release date. "Good Things" will be available on vinyl and is packaged together with a CD version of the album plus download code and the band photos on the cover were taken by my Retro Man Blog colleague Paul Slattery. If that's not enough, an impressive line-up has been assembled for the night, with two excellent support acts confirmed, The Dustaphonics and our good pals The Fallen Leaves, so it's sure to be a great gig.

Regular Retro Man Blog readers would have hopefully checked out our recent Retrosonic Podcast special edition where I chat to Graham and his band-mates Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard, about "Good Things" and the reasons for getting The Forefathers together. Basically, those reasons were to simply and unashamedly celebrate past glories, to resurrect a choice selection of Graham Day songs from his four most popular outfits - The Prisoners, The Solarflares, The Prime Movers and The Gaolers – and give them a respectful dusting down. As there are no plans to release any new material under the Forefathers name, “Good Things” is meant to serve purely as a document, a snap-shot of some of the songs that the band have been playing live recently. Given that The Solarflares and Prime Movers were originally three-piece line-ups featuring Graham, Allan and Wolf- it's hardly surprising that most of the songs on "Good Things" are not particularly different from the originals. So don't expect radically unusual re-workings of their "greatest hits" such as Sparks did with "Plagiarism", there are no orchestral versions of "Hurricane" for example, and there are certainly no acoustic takes on "Better In Black”.  This is no "Unplugged" session, far from it; The Forefathers are most certainly plugged in and turned right up to 11, serving up high octane versions of their current set all attacked with a joyful verve and refreshing enthusiasm.

Graham Day & The Forefathers at June's Retro Man Blog Night by Paul Slattery
Of course it's the takes on the three Prisoners tracks that may be more of a curiosity to listeners but don’t worry, they work perfectly well in this stripped back environment. In particular one of my highlights of the album, "Be On Your Way", positively crackles and snaps along with a barely disguised vitriol. Anyway, Allan Crockford’s fluid and soulful bass-lines and sublime backing vocal harmonies easily fill in any gaps caused by that missing trademark organ sound. Graham’s incendiary guitar playing and vocals are, in my mind, better now than ever and there’s a new depth to some of those great Solarflares tracks such as “Mary” and “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind”. Only “You Always Find a Way To Hurt Me” slows the relentless pace somewhat and this allows Wolf’s excellent drumming to shine through. Hopefully, “Good Things” will remind anyone not familiar with the various post-Prisoners line-ups that some of Graham's best song-writing was to follow, and the raw and powerful Stooges style riffing of the title track had me digging out and re-evaluating my long neglected copy of The Prime Movers first album. But there's no point in pontificating on whether these versions are better than the originals or not, you just have to put this on the stereo, turn up the volume and revel in the power of some truly classic and timeless songs.

You can check out the report on our Retro Man Blog Night back in June featuring Graham Day & The Forefathers, The Len Price 3 and Allan’s band Galileo 7, including more Paul Slattery photos by clicking the link here. Also, you can listen to or download our Graham Day & The Forefathers special Podcast which features some exclusive tracks from "Good Things" below.

Tickets for the Album Launch gig at 229 The Venue on October 31st can be booked here and if you can't make it to the gig you can pre-order the album at the Forefathers new web-site here.

Thanks to Jonathan at No Other Publicity

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Retro Man Blog Night with The Len Price 3, Les Kitschenette's and The Past Tense at The Half Moon Putney, September 26th

The Len Price 3 at the Retro Man Blog Night photographed by Paul Slattery
Firstly, I'd like to say a really big thank you to all that came along to September's Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon Putney last Friday - if you were there I'm sure you'd agree that all three bands played fantastic sets, it was a blast! It was especially pleasing to see the great reception given to Les Kitschenette's who we invited over from France for their very first U.K. shows in conjunction with You Got Good Taste who hosted the band at Weirdsville at the Fiddler's Elbow in Camden on the following night. I know the band were blown away by the positive reaction and warmth shown from everyone at both gigs and I am sure they have made lots of new friends. 

Les Kitschenette's photographed by Paul Slattery
So, back to Friday night and kicking off the proceedings were long time Blog favourites The Past Tense, who actually opened our very first Retro Man Blog Night back in 2011. They have recently expanded to a four-piece, adding Buzz on second guitar, and it all worked perfectly. Thankfully, the extra guitar didn't over complicate matters but beefed up their much loved classic three-piece sound and seemed to boost front-man Andy's confidence in the process. It was definitely the best performance I've seen from the band and they delivered a tight and tuneful 40 minute set with a selection of well known tracks from their two excellent albums "Pick 'n' Mix" and "Take Three". However, it was the new songs that turned out to be the highlights of their set for me. 

The Past Tense photographed by Paul Slattery
First of all "Vision" perfectly captured the underlying touch of Soul that the band pack into their three minute Garage Rock nuggets, which is testament to the excellent rhythm section of Ken and Warren. It's bloody marvellous! As is "Just Keep Believing" which shows how well the band are developing, it features some excellent melodic backing vocals. "Heads Held High" reminded me of Eddie & The Hot Rods at their best, a bit of a bovver boy stomper with some nice guitar interplay between Andy and Buzz, it goes down really well with the crowd. "No Apologies" is a Northern Soul tinged singalong that gets people dancing, and I think it would make a great future single. 

Andy from The Past Tense photographed by Paul Slattery
The complex Quadrophenia tribute "Jimmy's Love Song" is now a well established favourite and it ends with Andy scraping his guitar along his microphone stand. This was followed by a sprightly version of the latest single "Remember The Days", which they were selling on the night in a choice of bright red or yellow vinyl. Then "Wolfman" and "Throwing It All Away" end a quite brilliant set from The Past Tense and it makes me look forward to their new album even more. If they can somehow capture the energy of tonight's live performance in a studio it should prove to be a classic album. I think a trip to the Medway's Ranscombe studios is surely beckoning...!

Les Kitschenette's photographed by Paul Slattery
Next up were Les Kitschenette's, who were down to a five piece as Lucille had been advised not to travel due to her forthcoming baby. First of all the four musicians run through the aptly named "Rosbif Attack", Rosbif being the French nickname for us Brits, which is a delightfully weird instrumental from the 1966 movie "Ne nous fachons pas". Singer Ludo takes the stage and apologizes for his partner Lucille's absence, admitting "I am the father, or I hope so...! Welcome to Paris...!" and then they launched into a cover of Nino Ferrer's "Mao & Moa" followed by the Serge Gainsbourg composition "Dents de laits, dents de loup". As this was originally a duet with France Gall, you feel Lucille's absence suddenly but Ludo covers both male and female vocal parts really well. 

Les Kitschenette's - Photo courtesy of PRH Photography
Anyway, the boys did Lucille proud, in particular Ludo and lead guitarist Francis, who threw everything into the performance. Ludo was wearing a vintage military jacket with a huge "Les Kitschenette's Need You!" badge and one black leather glove, I guess in homage to The Music Machine's Sean Bonniwell. He has an easy going charm and a twinkle in his eye, he's like Austin Powers meets Serge Gainsbourg. Francis is all action, a constant blur, one minute dancing away as he plays and the next it's foot on the monitor posing with guitar held high. During "Hide & Seek" he jumps into the crowd, he's a bit of a "roux dieu de la guitare" as the old French saying goes (according to Google translate...!). Amongst the highlights of a perfectly paced set are covers of Les Missiles "Ne pense plus à lui" and Delphine's Yé-yé classic "La Fermeture-Éclair". 

Les Kitschenette's photographed by Paul Slattery
The incredibly youthful looking Claude is a great drummer and with his rhythm section colleague Fred's excellent bass playing, he powers everything along perfectly. Mathieu, the super-cool Mod, alternates between rhythm guitar and organ, sometimes during the same song, and adds tambourine and backing vocals too. Each band member has a unique character and there's a really good chemistry between them all, they seem like a bunch of friends having a great time and this transfers directly into the audience. They get a well deserved encore and play "Où va t'elle?" from their first E.P. which ends the set on a real high. When I first saw them in Paris I was determined to get them over to the U.K. and I am really pleased it all worked out so well for them. 

The Len Price 3 photographed by Paul Slattery
Well, there are not many bands that could follow that, but luckily The Len Price 3 are one of them and as they took the stage and crashed into the stuttering "Words Won't Come" it was clear that they meant business. It was another faultless show from the Medway based three-piece and they crammed in songs from all four albums with those from the latest "Nobody Knows" such as "Preying Mantis" and "Billy Mason" now fitting in seamlessly alongside their well established classics like "Rentacrowd" and "Girl Like You". Tonight was particularly special as they debuted two brand new songs "Nothing I Want" and "Sally Ann" which went down really well. 

The Len Price 3 - Photo courtesy of PRH Photography
In fact, they were so new that the Pubmonkey movie writer Jamie O'Hara had to hold up a lyric sheet in front of Glenn while he tried to sing. Both songs were a bit darker and heavier than usual but were nevertheless still packed with the usual lashings of harmonies and catchy choruses that we have come to expect. "Sally Ann" broke the mold even further as it had a slight twist of Pixies, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Beach Boys all rolled into one surefire future single. A raucous "Pictures" saw the dancing ramped up to the max and the set drew to a close with the crowd favourite "The London Institute". The final joyous encore of "Shirley Crabtree" sparked off the now customary stage invasion and it all descended into glorious, feedback drenched chaos. 

The Len Price 3 photographed by Paul Slattery
I'd like to thank Phil Stradling of the night's sponsor Adaptor Clothing, Eric from King Salami & The Cumberland 3 for designing the superb gig poster, Carrie and staff at The Half Moon and Steven Tagg-Randall for filming the night, you can check out the full sets from all three bands at his YouTube site. Thanks also to Paul Slattery and to Paul at PRH Photography for the excellent photos. You can see more photos of the night by heading on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hitting "Like" (if you are not already following) for access to the exclusive photo album.