Sunday 28 June 2015

Vic Godard & Subway Sect at Green Door Store & ABC Art Exhibition with Gaye Black, Billy Chainsaw & David Apps

Vic Godard & Subway Sect - Photo by Retro Man Blog
I haven’t been to Brighton for years but always fancied a return visit, so when I saw that the closing party for the ABC Art Exhibition at Gallery 40 was being held on a day that coincided with Oh! Gunquit playing at Stay Sick, I didn’t need any convincing to get the train tickets booked, grab my bucket and spade and head on down to the seaside. The exhibition featured a selection of artwork from three Punk inspired artists, Billy Chainsaw, David Apps and Gaye Black, or Gaye Advert as she might be remembered from the legendary early Punk band The Adverts. There was a really good turn-out and a last chance to see an impressive cross section of all three Artist’s work. Billy Chainsaw’s bold red and white ceramics and prints featuring Mexican wrestlers and superheroes really caught my eye. Regular Blog readers will know we are already big fans of David Apps and Gaye’s artwork and have reported on Gaye’s excellent Beyond Punk Art exhibitions and have even released a Retrosonic Podcast where we talk to David about his art and photography. 

Gaye Black, Billy Chainsaw & David Apps - Photo by Retro Man Blog
As Stay Sick is more of a nightclub with a live band it wasn’t due to open until 11pm which meant we had time to go along to see Vic Godard & Subway Sect who were playing at The Green Door Store by the station. We walked past the Prince Albert with its impressive and colourful mural of various music, movie and sports icons from John Peel, Jimi Hendrix and Ian Dury to George Best, Keith Moon and Oliver Reed. We got into the venue as Vic was just starting the set and bumped into ATV’s guitarist Lee McFadden. He told us that we had missed both support acts, Asbo Derek and then his own performance with The Unreliable Witnesses. Subway Sect have had a change of line-up since I last saw them, bassist Paul Myers and drummer Paul Cook have departed, rumour has it that this was due to a possible re-forming of The Professionals with Steve Jones. Ian Holford has taken over on drums and from the last line-up I recognized Kevin Younger on keyboards and guitar and Mark Braby, who has switched from guitar to bass. There’s a slightly chaotic feel to proceedings, some songs have to be re-started in a different key and there’s quite a bit of re-tuning.

Vic Godard & Subway Sect - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Vic Godard & Subway Sect - Photo by Retro Man Blog
At one point I was reminded of the classic Eric Morecambe line “I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order…” but to be honest it doesn’t really matter, it’s all part of the charm. Vic is an engaging and self-deprecating front-man who chats away to the good natured crowd between songs. Anyway, when they do get going there’s something irresistible about their unique brand of fractured angular guitar allied to the Northern Soul beats of songs such as “You Bring Out The Demon In Me” and “Holiday Hymn”. We get treated to a cross section of tracks from all throughout his long and varied career with songs such as “Best Album” from my favourite album “We Come As Aliens” and the superb “Caught In Midstream” from their latest release, the rather excellent “1979 Now!” Of course there are also the frantic, and much underrated, early Subway Sect Punk classics “Nobody’s Scared” and “Ambition” which go down a storm. Unfortunately, it’s a rather short set which was a shame, but that gave us plenty of time to walk down to the Stay Sick Club to see Oh! Gunquit which you can read all about in the previous Blog feature here.

Vic Godard & Subway Sect - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Vic Godard & Subway Sect - Photo by Retro Man Blog
For more photographs of the ABC exhibition, Vic Godard & Subway Sect at the Green Door and Oh! Gunquit at Stay Sick then please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and, if you are not already following, hit “Like” for access to the photo album. There are also videos of Subway Sect and Oh! Gunquit filmed up on the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel now. Also, please do check out the excellent official Vic Godard web-site which features a stunningly comprehensive archive.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Oh! Gunquit at Stay Sick Brighton Saturday June 13th

Oh! Gunquit at Stay Sick - Photo by Retro Man Blog
I found out about Stay Sick when I saw the Club’s genial hosts Chris and Neil DJing at the very first Hipsville Weekender back in May 2013. I really enjoyed their choice of music and it turned out that they often linked up with Mr A from Hipsville and Weirdsville to offer gigs in both Brighton and London to those bands coming from overseas. It's similar to what we did last year with Les Kitschenette's playing the Retro Man Blog night on the Friday and then Weirdsville on the Saturday. It’s certainly a mutually beneficial set-up that helps to secure shows for a lot of the best foreign Garage Rock bands such as Kinoco Hotel from Japan as a recent example.

Neil Sick at the controls - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Chris Sick and his Happy Birthday tribute - Photo by Retro Man Blog
As I have only just reviewed Oh! Gunquit recently you probably don’t need me to tell you again how great they are do you? You do..? Well if you insist…Tonight’s show just reinforced why Oh! Gunquit are one of the best live acts around. The new unrecorded songs, particularly "Fireballs" and "Nomads Of The Lost", are already as familiar as the songs from the “Eat Yuppies and Dance” album, released on the excellent Dirty Water Records, and that’s testament to the band’s song-writing skills. 

Oh! Gunquit at Stay Sick - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Oh! Gunquit at Stay Sick - Photo by Retro Man Blog
It looks like I will get my wish too, in my last Blog feature about the band I commented that considering “Eat Yuppies…” has only just been released it might be some time to get to hear these new tracks recorded, which would be a shame. But the good news is that Oh! Gunquit have plans to head to the studio very soon so we will keep you updated on the outcome as soon as we have some information. Tonight’s show is superb, the band compensate for the lack of Kieran and his saxophone by ramping up their already considerable energy levels even higher. At one point Simon Wild ends up playing guitar sprawled on the floor while Tina hula hoops above him and as usual the rhythm section of Veronica on bass and drummer Alex keep the manic sizzling energy just about in check. It’s Chris’s birthday so Tina gets him up on stage and plays Happy Birthday on her trumpet and we all join in singing along as she gives him a present which appears to be a demonic looking red blow-up sheep! When the band finishes there’s still plenty of dancing going on to the cool Stay Sick sounds of classic Rockabilly, Garage Rock and Psych but we beat a retreat, exhausted but satisfied by the day’s activities. For news on future Stay Sick events please “like” them on Facebook, you can sign up here. They are doing great stuff that really deserves supporting.

Oh! Gunquit at Stay Sick - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Oh! Gunquit at Stay Sick - Photo by Retro Man Blog
For more photographs of our day in Brighton, the ABC exhibition, Vic Godard & Subway Sect at the Green Door and Oh! Gunquit at Stay Sick then please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and, if you are not already following, hit “Like” for access to the photo album. There are also videos of Oh! Gunquit filmed at the show up on the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel now.

Thursday 25 June 2015

Gaspard Royant - New Album "10 Hit Wonder" Out Now

Calling your debut album “Ten Hit Wonder” might well appear to be a bit presumptuous, arrogant even, but from what I have seen and heard of the French Singer Songwriter Gaspard Royant he doesn’t seem to be lacking in confidence. He certainly has the style and the classically cool look of someone who could appear in an episode of “Mad Men” and not need any makeover or costume change. Anyway, I suppose if he had called the album “Ten Songs That Are Strong Enough To Be Released As Stand Alone Singles In Their Own Right And In An Ideal World Might Well Be Hits” it might well be more self-effacing but probably a little bit too long winded to be practical. However, that’s what the album is; it’s a compilation of songs that have previously been released as 7” vinyl singles and all are extremely well written, timeless retro Pop Soul tracks that would slot into any mainstream radio show’s play-list perfectly. Although he is French, you wouldn’t know it from listening to the album as there is an undoubted 1950’s and 60’s American Rock ‘n’ Roll, Doo Wop and Motown influence on the sound. With his impressively rich crooning voice the overall sound is certainly more Chris Isaak and Roy Orbison than Jacques Dutronc or Serge Gainsbourg.

My favourite two tracks are ironically the two which are interesting diversions from the main thrust of the album, mainly the superb “Marty McFly” which is veering into Power Pop territory and strangely enough conjures up the melodic Liverpool sound of The La’s. The opening track “Back To Where We Aim” reminds me of Aztec Camera and Roddy Frame’s solo work with it's nice acoustic undercurrent. But overall the emphasis here is on pounding Motown beats with horns galore and a finger-snapping “Heatwave” style swing. I have to say that I’m really enjoying the album as a cheerful no-nonsense slice of easy-listening Rock ‘n’ Soul. There’s no doubting these sassy, swinging songs herald a bright future for Gaspard Royant and he might well get those ten hits after all.

With thanks to David Barat. For up to date information on tour dates and how to buy the album then please check out the Gaspard Royant official web-site here.

Monday 22 June 2015

Spiders at Camden Underworld, London, Tuesday June 9th

Spiders at Camden Underworld - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Spiders were back in the U.K. for a rare show, this time supporting Black Moth at the Camden Underworld and it was great to see the band in action again. The last time I saw Spiders coincided with them signing a major record deal with Universal just before the release of their second album “Shake Electric” and they are now getting a pretty high profile in Scandinavia and around the rest of Europe. When I saw them for the very first time a few years back I commented that I had rarely seen a support band get such a good reaction from a London crowd and this trend continued at their next gigs in the capital. Tonight is no exception, what at first seemed a sparse Tuesday night gathering soon increased quite remarkably once the band took the stage and guitarist John Hoyles hit the Motorhead sized riff to “Hang Man”. Seguing straight into one of my favourite Spiders songs “High Society” was a great touch as both tracks highlight different facets to the band’s sound.

Spiders at Camden Underworld - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Spiders at Camden Underworld - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Spiders are on the surface I guess what could be termed a Heavy Rock act, a genre with which I know precious little about. However, as I have written on the Blog previously about Spiders, they have an innate groove and soul to their sound that elevates them far above many Heavy Metal or Rock bands; you can actually dance to Spiders, not just bang your head and pump your fists in the air. There are maracas and harmonicas and tambourines and melodies that stick in your head. John is certainly a great guitarist but thankfully, for my tastes at least, he’s not excessive. There’s no unnecessary meandering fretwork meaning the songs are short and punchy and perfectly formed. One of my highlights of the “Shake Electric” album is ironically what might be the biggest departure for the band so far, the soulful ballad of “Hard Times” and when it’s played tonight Ann-Sofie’s voice comes into its own and sends shivers up the spine. Strangely enough Suzi Quatro’s “Can The Can” has just come on the radio as I am typing and there’s certainly a touch of the leather clad legend’s influence on Spiders although I think they are probably growing out of the Shocking Blue, Runaways Glam-tinged sound of their earlier releases to something slightly more polished.

Spiders at Camden Underworld - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Spiders at Camden Underworld - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
That's not to say the band are losing their edge, there's still no doubting the live energy of Spiders and Ann-Sofie is a great focal point. She's an energetic blur of flailing hair and she now plays rhythm guitar on a couple of tracks too which just adds to the power. Drummer Ricard and bassist Olle are an important factor in the equation, they are not the typical bombastic Heavy Rock rhythm section, but add the light and shade needed to do the songs justice particularly tonight on a brilliant “Love Me", which is another stand-out track. Let’s hope it’s not too long until Spiders return to the U.K. and surely next time it’ll be as headliners in their own right.

Spiders at Camden Underworld - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Spiders at Camden Underworld - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
For more photographs of the gig then please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and, if you are not already following, hit “Like” for access to the photo album. There's also a video featuring two songs from the show up at the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel now. Finally, there's a brief interview with Ann-Sofie and a selection of Spiders tracks played in our Swedish Music Special Retrosonic Podcast which is available to listen to or download for free from Soundcloud or iTunes.

Please note the Podcast above is from the archive, so any news will be well out of date by now...! For current news on tour dates and all other information please check out Spiders official web-site.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Stupidity at Garageland, The Unicorn Camden June 12th

Stupidity photographed by Paul Slattery
Despite the somewhat bizarre coincidence surrounding my first encounter with Stupidity drummer and all round nice guy Tommy Sjöström, actually it was outside the ladies toilets in the Galeries Lafayette department store in Nice of all places ('s a long story...) this was the very first time I had seen the band play. Noting on the venue web-site that the live music curfew was 11pm I thought it was worth heading out on the long trek up to London to The Unicorn in Camden as I didn’t want to miss this rare visit of the Stockholm based Stupidity to our shores. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the band didn’t take the stage until just before 11pm which means that I can't review the whole gig as I had to rush off to catch the last train home. The late start was particularly annoying as the crowd had noticeably thinned out and I think Stupidity deserved much more. Anyway, the 30 or so minutes I did manage to see made it all worthwhile in the end, even more so as entrance to the Garageland Club night was free which is always a very welcome bonus.

Stupidity photographed by Paul Slattery
Stupidity have been getting a lot of support from Little Steven van Zandt and his Underground Garage radio show in the States which also led to them being featured in the TV series “Lilyhammer”, as Little Steven not only stars in the show but is the music director too. Stupidity are also good mates with The Fleshtones and guitarist Keith Streng has appeared on the band’s album "Move". Thinking about it, they have a lot in common with The Fleshtones as they both have that raw R’n’B tinged Garage Rock sound, although Stupidity have a bit more of a harder and Punkier edge. I’m pleased to say that tonight it was confirmed that the emphasis on live performance and the importance of putting on a great show is also something that is shared by both bands.

Tommy from Stupidity photographed by Paul Slattery
Stupidity photographed by Paul Slattery
First of all Tommy and bassist Miss Anna appear and start playing, then a guitar suddenly rings out from behind me and guitarist PA and vocalist Erniz push through the audience, take the stage and they all burst into the Stooges style riffing of the brilliant "On Fire" from the new album "Fore", it’s quite an entrance. Erniz is a great front-man, clutching his microphone stand he leans right out into the audience; his voice is impressively raw as though he’s just swallowed a handful of razor blades, smoked a pack of Gauloises and then gargled with a beaker of Jack Daniels. PA’s stuttering Fender Stratocaster reminds me a bit of Wilko Johnson in places and the rhythm section of Tommy (dubbed Sweden’s Clem Burke…) and Miss Anna, with her cool Flying V bass, are tight and powerful. "Girl Named Moe" with it's crunching stop-start chords is one of the highlights along with the sinister "Baby It's You". I'm pleased I get to hear the tuneful "Rum and Gone" and "City Boy" played live as they are two of my favourite Stupidity tracks, but then I have to make a dash for the exit. Unfortunately, I missed the encore which featured Mike Spenser from The Cannibals and Count Bishops joining the band on stage for a cover of The Standells’ classic “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White”. Ah well, next time I’ll make sure I stay in town so I don’t miss a beat.

Stupidity photographed by Paul Slattery
Miss Anna Palmer from Stupidity photographed by Paul Slattery
With thanks to Paul Slattery for the excellent photographs. For more pics of the gig then please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and if you are not already following, hit “Like” for access to the photo album. There are videos of two songs filmed at the gig up now at the Retro Man Blog YouTube channel too. If that's not enough then Stupidity also feature in a couple of episodes of our Retrosonic Podcast such as Episode 15 below. Our archive is available to listen to or download for free from Soundcloud or you can subscribe for free at the iTunes strore.

Friday 19 June 2015

Ian Person: The ex-Soundtrack of Our Lives and Union Carbide Productions Guitarist Returns...

Following the split of The Soundtrack of Our Lives in 2012, things went a bit quiet for guitarist Ian Person for a while. However, the quiet is about to be shattered as Ian is back with a bang in the shape of two new major projects. Firstly, he has started up a Pledge Music campaign to help fund his debut solo album, if you sign up to add your support there will be various packages all at different prices available. From signed advance copies of the finished album on CD or vinyl to the chance to spend a day in the studio with Ian or indeed have him perform an exclusive set in your own front room...there's something on offer for everyone. There are also opportunities to bid on rare memorabilia too including TSOOL tour jackets and Ian's own Yamaha acoustic guitar. Along the way Ian will also be posting clips from the recording sessions, sharing rough mixes, artwork for the album, videos from rehearsals before the tour and all sorts of other goodies. As a taster here's a brand new song entitled "The Infinite Sea". Sign up for the Pledge Music Campaign here.

The second project sees Ian Person take on the role of producer and arranger for the forthcoming album by Swedish Rock & Roll legend Jerry Williams. The album is called "Ghost Rider" and is a kind of Johnny Cash style re-invention, giving the 73 year old singer some unlikely and challenging covers to tackle. A pulsing version of Suicide's electro-drone classic "Ghost Rider" has been released as a single with the album of the same name to follow in September. The record features Ian's ex-Soundtrack of Our Lives colleagues Fredrik Sandsten on drums and Kalle Gustafsson Jerneholm on bass and was recorded at Kalle's Gothenburg based Svenska Grammofon Studion. The album also includes a wonderful duet with Anna Ternheim on "Far From Any Road", the theme tune to "True Detective", which oozes a dark cinematic and claustrophobic atmosphere.

There are certainly some unexpected choices picked from acts such as Danzig and there is a pretty faithful and powerful version of The Stooges "Gimme Danger" that picks up on Iggy's talent for crooning. Elsewhere Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" gets mutated into a surprisingly twisted Murder Ballad, and I have a feeling that you'll never listen to the original in the same way again...! Ian will be appearing on stage with Jerry Williams and his eight-piece band at an upcoming residency at Kajskjul 8 in Gothenburg which starts on September 18th and then on each Thursday, Friday and Saturday until December 18th. You can order tickets for the shows at the link here. The release date for the "Ghost Rider album is currently scheduled for September 11th and you can pre-order copies on CD and limited edition vinyl at the Jerry Williams site here

Additionally, Ian also wrote the soundtrack to a major Swedish TV series called "Viva Hate" by the "Upp Till Kamp" writer Peter Birro. This was a three part mini-series based around a young band starting out in the underground Indie Rock scene of early 90's Gothenburg. Ian not only wrote the original score and songs for the fictional band, but using his own experiences he was perfectly placed to advise the actors on the finer points of life as an aspiring musician. The Soundtrack of Our Lives' ex-vocalist Ebbot Lundberg makes an amusing cameo appearance in the series playing the role of a music journalist. There is talk going on about releasing an edited version of "Viva Hate" on DVD with English subtitles so we will keep an eye out for news on that. Unfortunately, there are no plans to release the soundtrack as a separate album as yet, but it is available to stream on Spotify.

We interviewed Ian and Fredrik Sandsten for a very special episode of Retrosonic Podcast where they both talk candidly about working with Jerry Williams and of course their experiences with The Soundtrack of Our Lives. Ian also explains in more detail about the Pledge Music campaign for his solo album. You can listen/download for free below or subscribe for free at the iTunes store too.

With many thanks to Ian Person and Fredrik Sandsten. The Retro Man Blog archive is packed full of exclusive Soundtrack of Our Lives features, photographs and videos along with information on what each band member has been up to since the split. All have been involved in various solo projects, new bands, movie soundtracks and much more, so if you’ve been missing The Soundtrack of Our Lives then please feel free to check out the relevant labels in the archive list. We also do the TSOOL fans group on Facebook so please check it out and join in here to share your memories.

Monday 15 June 2015

John Lydon "Anger Is An Energy" Q&A at The 100 Club

John Lydon at the 100 Club by Kevin Shepherd
This was a rare chance to see John Lydon up close and in conversation at the legendary 100 Club, a venue with which he will always be associated.  The event was a Q&A session, hosted by the TV presenter and journalist Miranda Sawyer, designed to promote Lydon’s latest autobiography “Anger Is An Energy”. John takes the stage looking remarkably healthy and youthful with a shock of spiky blonde hair and it’s apparent from the start that he is in good humour as he greets the crowd warmly. He’s surprised by the amount of people crammed into the hot and humid 100 Club, “there’s more people here than when the Sex Pistols played!” he quipped. John talks honestly about his childhood and what it was like growing up in a working class Irish family in a Finsbury Park council flat. Although he learnt to read and write at a very early age, the nuns at his strict Catholic school made him feel inferior just because he was left-handed and that shaped his attitude towards religion and authority in general. He then starts to talk about the time that he contracted meningitis at seven years old and fell into a year long coma. John suddenly breaks off as if he’s aware it’s getting a bit serious and announces that he’d rather not talk but would prefer to just get drunk with all of us and play bingo instead! Miranda expertly steers him back on course and he returns to the time he spent in hospital, scared and confused, subject to hallucinations, not sure of who the strangers were who came to visit his bedside. As he recovered and slowly regained his memory he realised that he had to rely on the words of adults and to this day, trust and honesty are vitally important to him. He jokes that when he started to regain his speech, the words would come out in an unintelligible splurge “it was 1234 blah blah blah, rather like the Ramones first album, that explains Punk!” With so much to catch up on he immersed himself in books again and admitted that libraries are his high church. Initially he dreamt of becoming a writer but then he discovered music and realised that the added dimension of sound can portray a situation or the ideas in his head far more accurately. He tells us that the meningitis made him lonely and isolated and even today he is still surprised that so many are here and interested in what he had to say.

John Lydon with Miranda Sawyer - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
After an interval, Miranda passes John a box packed full of cards and asks him to join in on a little game of “lucky-dip”. Each card had a question on it submitted in advance by members of the audience. John really got into the spirit of things, picking out cards at random and addressing each person who sent in the questions, joking and gently taking the mickey out of some. Someone asks what he thinks about the 100 Club, surprisingly the Sex Pistols only played here once and it was very early in their short-lived career. “Everyone in the world said they were there at that gig and it became legendary. It was a nutty gig; the first thing you’re looking at from the stage is that pillar, that’s all you can see.  You think “I’ve made the big time now” and you’re right in front of a pillar – you might as well be in prison, a cell would be bigger. You can imagine what it would be like if there was a mirror on the pillar!” He moaned about not having any monitors on stage at those early Pistols gigs as he had no idea what he actually sounded like, “what I imagined was quite different, when someone plays back a recording, its soul destroying”.

John Lydon at the 100 Club by Kevin Shepherd
On one question card is a list of notable names from the early Punk scene and he is asked for his opinion on them…Johnny Thunders was dismissed as “just a Junkie…” although he admired his guitar playing, “the New York Dolls just ripped off British Glam Rock, we did it far better…” He compares Jimmy Pursey to Freddie Mercury for “trying to bring ballet to Punk” and following Viv Albertine’s expose in her recent autobiography he claims not to like gossip and “anyway she could have said worse”. On Siouxsie Sioux he turns the tables and asks us a question “Do you like her new Bacofoil outfits? She looks like a rack of lamb!” Although he admitted that the early Banshees made great records and she was “brave and beautiful” in the beginning before “it all got a bit like a Stephen King novel”. John is clearly enjoying the joking around now and is really warming to the crowd, “there’s a nice family vibe going on, a trailer park family though…”

He talks passionately about music and tells us that he collects records from all genres; he said he’d always had an open mind from when he was young. He could never understand that year zero attitude created by the media during the early days of Punk Rock, the “bizarre nonsense that said you weren’t allowed to listen to other people’s efforts if they were outside a certain agenda – that’s not Punk”.  Asked what he thought of his own recordings, he replied “every now and then I’ll put on a Pistols or a PiL record and I’m pleasantly surprised. For a moment I think oh, I’d like to be him, and then I realise I am him!” We learn that Alvin Stardust once auditioned for the Pistols before him and the song that he would like to cover would be “Devil Woman” by Cliff Richard.

Although, as I mentioned earlier, he is in a jovial mood, it wouldn’t be quite right without some withering comments and today these are directed mainly at organized Religion and the associated abuse and hypocrisy. The BBC also get both barrels, and he wonders how ridiculous it must seem to people nowadays that they banned the Sex Pistols on the grounds of bad taste when you stop to think what they were letting Jimmy Saville get away with at the time. The rise of racism and UKIP are also discussed, “what’s that new party? Sounds like the dog in Dr Who, Kpax or something…?” Someone asks “how did being London Irish form your character?” and he responds, “We can all yack on about being London Irish but you go back to Ireland and they don’t wanna know. I’m a Londoner, we’re multi-cultural, all shapes and sizes. We are London”. It goes without saying that a few poisonous barbs are aimed at Malcolm McLaren and when he was asked if he could have done more to stop Sid Vicious using drugs, he puts the blame squarely on Sid’s mum “Sid was doomed. When you have a registered heroin addict for a mother, someone who gives you heroin on your 16th birthday, you’re doomed; it drove me mad for years after Sid’s death”.

Some more topics that were covered included his acting role in the movie “Cop Killer” alongside Harvey Keitel and the doomed attempt to resurrect (If you pardon the pun…) Jesus Christ Superstar, “I would have made a great King Herod” he joked. The musical was on in London when the Sex Pistols started and he was always intrigued by how they got away with the show against the wishes of the moral majority. Of course his support of Arsenal Football Club is mentioned and he confesses to missing the standing on the terraces and the sense of community, “as a nipper it’s important to support your local team, you’re affiliated, other kids knew where you came from, it’s a rite of passage”. There are the inevitable questions about his appearances in the Anchor Butter commercial, “I’ll take money from anyone!” and someone asks if agreeing to appear in the TV programme “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” was some sort of mid-life crisis. “Everything in life is a crisis; “I’m a Celebrity…” did wonders for me, now housewives love me. Just be yourself, don’t be so precious, one of the most poisonous things I heard when I was young was “act your age”. I can’t act; you’ve seen me in a film!” 

So, overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining evening spent in the company of one of the few truly iconic figures from British music history. Lydon seems content and happy nowadays but obviously he has not lost that righteous anger at life’s indignities and injustice, and long may that continue. I have to say that Miranda Sawyer also deserves great credit for hosting the Q&A session perfectly. “Anger Is An Energy”, is published by Simon & Schuster and written in conjunction with the renown music journalist Andrew Perry, is out now.  

John Lydon & Miranda Sawyer photo by Kevin Shepherd
Q: What advice would you give the young John?
A: “There’s no point in looking back, hindsight did me no good. If you’ve made a mistake, deal with it apologize and move forward. Actually, writing the book I found out that the young Johnny Rotten hurt me a bit and that fucker’s got to apologize to me!”

With thanks to Kevin Shepherd for the photographs. For more information on what John is up to please check out the John Lydon official web-site here. Public Image Ltd head out on tour in September, for details on dates and tickets please check out the PiL official site here. You can order "Anger Is An Energy" via Simon & Schuster or from all all good book-stores. For more photos of the event please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit "Like" and "Get Notifications" if you are not already following for access to the photo album.

Thursday 11 June 2015

The Past Tense: New Album "Heads Held High" Out Now...

It's been a very busy time for The Past Tense, not content with releasing an outstanding album of brand new material entitled "Heads Held High", they have also put out "Six Live Special", a mini-album comprising six classic tracks brilliantly recorded by Steven Tagg-Randall at our own Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon Putney last September. Talking of The Half Moon, the band played a blinding set at the Fruits de Mer and Mega DoDo Records "Games in May" event, where they had yet another record up for grabs, this time "What's The Past Tense of Pipe", a collection of old tracks from their previous incarnation, Pipe, along with early Past Tense demos. The gig at "Games In May", which also featured enjoyable sets from Mark & The Clouds and Crystal Jacqueline & The Honey Pot, was undoubtedly the best performance I have seen from the band, and I've seen a few over the years! New(ish) recruit Buzz (for he was actually previously in Pipe...) is fully embedded in the band and he now plays organ as well as lead guitar. Actually, this was the first time for me to see the band play with the addition of keyboards and I must say it works a treat.

The Past Tense at the Retro Man Blog Night September 2014 photographed by Paul Slattery
So, onto the new album "Heads Held High" and it really is a cracker, much more diverse than their two previous official releases "Pick 'n' Mix" and "Take Three", it highlights the band's different musical backgrounds and interests perfectly. The Past Tense take great pride in what they put out and this is no exception - the album has great cover art and an insert with background notes on each song, which us music fans just love don't we...! The band do everything themselves and they do it very well, I'm thinking in particular of their last official release "Remember The Days", the split 7" single with their mates The Loop, which was issued on different coloured vinyl, it was a real work of art. "Heads Held High" kicks off with "Top Of The World", which could well be the best song the band have written so far. It has a great chorus and melodic verses that I can imagine Pete Shelley would have been proud to have written. There's also a cheeky little nod to The Stranglers in there too, which makes it even better in my book! "Throwing It All Away" sees Andy's vocals on top form, seething with disgust at the current political climate. "Vision From Another World" has some groovy organ bubbling away underneath and is one of those superb little Garage Rock nuggets that The Past Tense excel in like their early live favorites such as "Wolfman" and "My Baby". 

Paul Osborn with The Past Tense at The Putney Club
The next two tracks are to me pivotal in the band's progression and point to a very bright future. Rather like Thee Spivs did on their third album "The Crowds and The Sounds", The Past Tense are also throwing off the somewhat limited Mod Revival/Garage Rock shackles and, whilst not losing touch with their roots, they are really stretching their sound and showing a real maturity in their song-writing. "Won't Miss Next Time" is one of the stand-out tracks on the album, it starts off with acoustic strumming before exploding into an emotional piece featuring some superb guitar work. Strangely enough it kind of reminds me of Dinosaur Jr. or Buffalo Tom which is certainly a new reference point. Next up is the brilliant "Crying" which features lead vocals by Paul Osborn from The SuperMinx'70 and again it's an acoustic guitar driven tracks that sounds a bit like Cockney Rebel. We saw the band last week at The Putney Club and Paul joined the band on-stage for a superb rendition of the song which went down really well with the crowd. "No Apologies" is an uptempo unabashed Motown inspired stomper with a brass section adding to the overall feelgood factor. 

The Past Tense at "Games In May"
The single "Remember The Days" will be familiar to fans of The Past Tense already and it sounds great amongst the track-listing here. "Another Putney Sunrise" is again an unexpected departure, it's a beautifully laid back and evocative song that's part Belle & Sebastian part Style Council, it really conjures up a bright and sunny early morning walk along the River Thames. "Just Keep Believing" is another positive call to action with some nice chiming guitar work, "Music Is The Key" is driven along by some more of those great keyboards and again like the previous track, it's sending out a positive message this time about the pleasures of being in a band. "What's Coming Next" starts off with "A Town Called Malice" style drumming and bass before cracking into a powerful little singalong. The album closes with "Putney Reprise" a whimsical little piece of Psychedelia that really brings the curtain down perfectly on a thoroughly satisfying album. With all the work the band have put into producing and promoting the album they deserve to be really proud of "Heads Held High". You can order the album from the band's web-site here.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Oh! Gunquit - "Eat Yuppies and Dance" New Album Out Now on Dirty Water Records + Live at Hipsville & Dirty Water Club

Oh!Gunquit photographed at the Dirty Water Club by Paul Slattery
One of the highlights of the whole Hipsville weekend for me was getting to see Oh! Gunquit again, and this time with their complete line-up. When I first saw them play at one of Mr A’s Weirdsville club nights at the Fiddler's Elbow, which was reviewed on the Blog here, the band started off the gig as just a three piece. Vocalist Tina, Guitarist Simon and Drummer Alex took the stage with Bassist Veronica joining in half way through the set. This time round they had the full complement from the start with Kieran on Sax and I was really looking forward to seeing the band in all their glory. As this year’s Hipsville was “Horror” themed, Oh! Gunquit appeared decked out in Addams Family fancy dress, Tina’s familiar shock of multi-coloured hair was covered by a black Morticia Addams wig and drummer Alex was completely hidden by a long “Cousin It” wig and shades. Simon had spooky white skull-like face paint and Veronica was dressed up as Wednesday Addams which all added to the excellent party atmosphere that is so typical of the Hipsville Weekenders.

Oh! Gunquit at Hipsville - Photo by Steve Worrall
Despite Oh! Gunquit only just releasing their excellent debut album “Eat Yuppies and Dance” on Dirty Water Records, the sets at both Hipsville and the Dirty Water Club gig the following Saturday night, featured quite a few new and as yet unreleased songs. All of them point to an exciting follow-up, particularly "Fireball" with its slinky, sassy Spy movie theme riffing. "Nomads of The Lost" was another number that could easily be in the running as a potential new single, but anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. “Eat Yuppies and Dance” is definitely my favourite album of the year so far, it’s one of those perfectly conceived albums where everything from the cover artwork to the production to the track-listing to the songs themselves are damn well faultless. It’s probably the diversity in the album that is most impressive, something that might not be so apparent from their live show, where it’s probably the colourful full-on visual assault that hits you hardest. However, on the album the songs really come into their own and deliver in impressive style.

Oh! Gunquit photographed at the Dirty Water Club by Paul Slattery
The refreshing thing about Oh! Gunquit is that despite the odd reference points such as The Cramps, The B-52’s or the swampy Voodoo Blues of The Gun Club, these are only fleetingly touched on and then they are gone, nothing is laboured and nothing is predictable. There’s also an extremely danceable edginess to their sound that conjures up early Talking Heads and the lo-fi Post-Punk funk of The Au-Pairs, The Slits and The Raincoats but basically, it all just sounds so incredibly fresh and dynamic. There really is nothing else quite like Oh! Gunquit. The opening song at both shows is a new one "Smiling Snake" that starts off with some great tribal drumming by Alex. Another non-album track "Cindy's Got a Tiger" with it's audience participation hand-clapping makes an appearance too but of course most of the stand-out tracks from "Eat Yuppies..." are all present and correct. "Bad Bad Milk" is a sublime stomper with Simon and Tina sharing lead vocals.

Oh! Gunquit photographed at the Dirty Water Club by Paul Slattery
Tina is all-action, she’s a unique performer and not just because she’s the only person I’ve seen to play the trumpet and hula-hoop at the same time, she also happens to have one of the best voices around. What I really like about the Weirdsville and Hipsville gigs I’ve been to recently is that they often feature bands with a really strong, charismatic female presence. I’m thinking of acts that I’ve seen in the past couple of months such as The Jackets, Autoramas, Kinoco Hotel and Thee Jezebels for example just off the top of my head. There’s a real diversity that reminds me of the early Punk days of The Slits, Poly Styrene, Gaye Advert, Fay Fife and Siouxsie. I love Simon’s trebly, spindly cinematic guitar riffs and there’s a great chemistry between him and Tina particularly when they trade vocals. Kieran’s sax playing, augmented by Tina’s trumpet on a few numbers, adds another dimension, while the rhythm section of Veronica and Alex keep it all rumbling along perfectly.

Tina from Oh! Gunquit photographed at the Dirty Water Club by Paul Slattery
Oh! Gunquit will be appearing at “Stay Sick” in Brighton on Saturday June 13th, for more details please check this link. “Eat Yuppies And Dance” is out on Vinyl, CD or download and is available from the Dirty Water Records store here. Thanks to Paul at Dirty Water Records and to Paul Slattery for the photos. For more photos of Hipsville and the Dirty Water Club gig please head on over to the Retro Man Facebook page and, if you're not already following, hit "Like" and "Get Notifications" for access to the photo albums. There are videos at the Retro Man Blog YouTube Channel too.

Oh! Gunquit photographed at the Dirty Water Club by Paul Slattery