Saturday 22 August 2015

The Jam "About The Young Idea" & "Golden Faces 1977-80" Exhibitions plus Rick Buckler "That's Entertainment: My Life In The Jam" Autobiography

Recently, it’s been a good time to be a fan of The Jam, what with two major London exhibitions about the band and the publication of Rick Buckler’s "That's Entertainment: My Life In The Jam", surprisingly the very first official autobiography from any ex-member since "The Jam, Our Story" which was co-written by Rick, Bruce and Alex Ogg. The superb exhibition at Somerset House, "The Jam: About the Young Idea", curated by Tory Turk, Russell Reader, DJ and long-time fan Gary Crowley, music memorabilia collector Den Davis and Paul Weller’s sister Nicky (who used to run The Jam’s fan-club), has just had its stay extended to September 27th. I must say that this has to be the most impressive exhibition of any band’s memorabilia I have ever seen, and I doubt even the most difficult-to-please die-hard Jam fan will leave here disappointed. After all, it is the first time that such a comprehensive collection of personal items from all three members of the band, have been displayed together. The Jam are one of very few bands that, despite achieving huge commercial success, still managed to retain their artistic integrity and popularity amongst their impressively devoted hard-core fan base. Eighteen Top 40 Hits and four U.K. Number 1 Singles and yet they were, and are to this very day, still cool; how many bands can claim such a similar legacy?  

Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2015
In part this was probably down to Paul Weller's sudden and surprising decision to split the band at the height of their success. They have remained frozen in time at what might well have been their peak. We’ll never know if they could have gone on to scale even greater heights. The next album might have flopped; the band may have imploded or just slowly fizzled out in a disappointing run of lacklustre gigs and releases. Either way Paul Weller wasn’t willing to risk tarnishing the legacy of this great band and in calling it a day in a rather abrupt, and some might say callous way, he did at least ensure that their awesome reputation remained intact. To be honest, I was hoping to discover more about Weller’s sudden and unexpected decision and its effect on his loyal and long-serving band-mates in Rick Buckler's new Omnibus Press autobiography "That's Entertainment".

Unfortunately, anyone expecting an answer is going to be disappointed. It's well documented that the decision probably came as much as a shock to Bruce and Rick as it did to the band's fans. Rick cannot shed much light on Paul's real motives apart from those already published at the time. OK he might have wanted a clean slate, to get away from the confines of a band but to end it with such finality; to cut out Rick and Bruce from his life personally, as well as musically, still seems harsh and unnecessary. After all, in The Jam, Weller was respected and acknowledged as the main song-writer, often lauded as one of England’s finest, and Rick and Bruce were, on the surface at least, the perfect band-mates. They were musically competent loyal and long-time school friends with their own individual styles and input that enabled the band to grow and progress yet never threatened to encroach on or restrict Weller’s role as the main man. I am a big believer in chemistry amongst bands and it's always a shame when court cases about song-writing and publishing raise their ugly heads. I mean Rick and Bruce were without a doubt integral to The Jam's sound, who's to say they would have made it without them? Adrian Thrills wrote in the sleeve notes to "The Jam at The BBC" about this when he visited the band in the studio while they were recording "Going Underground", that the "process was very much a group effort with Rick and Bruce shaping the song's texture as much as Paul". Plus with Paul taking a more rhythmic approach to guitar, rather like one of his influences Wilko Johnson, The Jam's sound was often built around Bruce's excellent bass lines and Rick's economical but effective military style quick-fire drumming. 

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Are you trying to tell me Rick and Bruce’s contributions to "Funeral Pyre" weren’t a worthy input into the song's success? Bruce's melodic backing vocals and stage presence were also a vital ingredient - so it is always a pity to have things split down to whose contribution was more important. At no point in the book does Rick let on that there were any serious personal issues between the three of them. In fact the lingering feeling after finishing the book is that Rick seems to be hedging his bets. It’s almost as though deep down he is hoping for that reunion, if not a full-on Jam one then at the very least a personal acknowledgement from his old school friend. The book is at it’s best when Rick drops his guard, particularly in a somewhat moving section where he explains the aftermath of the band’s split, the shock of suddenly being unemployed and the sad and hurtful snubs he received from Weller. At one point during a gig on their farewell tour he finds himself looking at his set-list and realising that it will be the last time he will play these great songs. 

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However, there's no mention at all of the court case to recoup unpaid royalties nor is there any criticism of John Weller for his handling of the band’s business accounts, something that was cited in the court case. There’s also nothing about the rumours that he left From The Jam because Bruce and Paul made up and he was still left in the cold. He doesn’t want to dish any dirt, an admirable trait I suppose. It could be construed as refreshing that he wants to keep his counsel but I guess deep down we all like the odd bit of salacious Rock 'n' Roll gossip and back-biting now and then, but you won't get that here. You kind of want Rick to be spitting in anger at Weller’s treatment of him, at the fact that despite those four Number 1 singles he ends up working as a drum roadie and restoring furniture to make a living but Rick has apparently drawn a line under it all. Rick comes over as I had always imagined him, a decent down to earth bloke who you could have a pint with, someone who has a real love and pride of the Jam's legacy and the importance it had on the band's fans. “That’s Entertainment” might not offer much in the way of on-the-road excess but it is certainly a must-read for any Jam fan, particularly for the insight on the band’s early years. It has been co-written by Ian Snowball who was also involved in the Medway Punk book "The Kids Are All Square" and both him and Rick have been touring the U.K. giving talks and Q&A sessions at various venues so please check out their Facebook page for news on future appearances near you.

Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2015
Anyway, back to the Somerset House exhibition and on arrival, you are greeted by large colourful screen-prints featuring some well known slogans from lyrics such as "And What You Give Is What You Get!" and "To Be Someone Must Be a Wonderful Thing" and then there is a wall covered in gig fly-posters. You then enter a dark room which has a full stage set up as if ready for a performance, with Rick’s white Premier drum-kit with his large custom tom-toms, full back-line with a bass and guitar resting on stands. In fact there is a way the exhibition could have been better - Paul, Rick and Bruce could be there on the stage to greet you with a song or two! No such luck, instead there is a large video wall on a backdrop behind the drums showing a live performance of the band in their prime. Then you move into the main exhibition and you are confronted by a bewildering display of material donated from the band and their families very own personal archives spread over 6 or 7 different rooms each concentrating on a particular period in the band’s history.

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So we get some very personal displays from the early and mid 70’s such as the ten year old Paul Weller's school reports, where he only manages to score a C in Music, exercise books covered with slogans, logos, doodles of bands and cartoons of "Paul the Mod". Then the early years of the band forming at Sheerwater County Secondary School in Woking including amusing pics of the four piece Jam with guitarist Steve Brookes, their long centre-parted hair, flares and kipper ties and set lists of the time showing a huge catalogue of popular cover versions such as "Proud Mary", "Roll Over Beethoven", "Be Bob A Lula" and "Long Tall Sally". There’s a nice section dedicated to Paul’s late father John who managed the band right to the time they disbanded and a family Dansette with a selection of 7” vinyl singles from their record collection. The exhibition then moves on to the period where Paul gets influenced by the burgeoning London Punk scene and they ditch the flares and tighten up, throwing out many cover versions and introducing original Weller songs into the set.

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Deciding on a smart black and white look at odds with the rest of the Punk fashion they streamline everything – from the drainpipe trousers to slimming down to a three-piece line-up. So we have a tiled wall spray-painted with the logo, actual “Burtons” suits and bowling shoes and outtake photos of the debut album cover. There are early press cuttings including a yellowed and frayed NME interview from 1977 where a contrary Paul claims they are going to vote Conservative in the next election. Paul's Rickenbacker with a sticker of The Boys, Bruce's black Fender Precision and Rickenbacker basses. The Roy Lichtenstein "Whaam!" Rickenbacker guitar and one with the Punkishly nihilistic "I Am Nobody" crudely scratched into the sunburst body. There are stage outfits, jumpers with Mod targets and boating blazers all familiar from various promo videos and TV appearances.

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One piece that stood out was a copy of The Eton College Chronicle magazine where Paul is interviewed by a well informed Eton pupil about the lyrics of "Eton Rifles" and Paul appears worried in case they are all angry about the song at the College. "No”, says the interviewer “they are buying the single in droves!" and he goes on to praise Paul’s lyrics, despite the singer admitting he’d never even visited Eton, apparently he did capture the daily routine of the college pretty well as the interviewer admitted that "Beer, Tea, Slough, Rugby and rain stopping play are all part of life at Eton College". There are album and single sleeves displayed in chronological order as well as a selection of backstage tour laminates and button badges. All around the exhibition rooms, every spare bit of space is covered in gig posters and photographs, there really isn't anything you can think of that isn't included. As I mentioned at the start, the exhibition has been extended to September 27th due to public demand, and I would certainly recommend making the effort to go along.

Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2015
I also popped along to the always excellent Snap Gallery in the rather posh and ornate surroundings of Piccadilly Arcade as they were hosting "Golden Faces: Photographs of The Jam 1977-80" by Martyn Goddard, alongside "The Kinks, Photographs and Artefacts" exhibition at the same time. Unfortunately this exhibition has now ended but a selection of Goddard's photographs also appear in the Somerset House summer 2015 exhibition "The Jam: About The Young Idea", and in his new book "Growing Up…With The Jam" which you can buy at Somerset House.

Some of Martyn Goddard's prints at Snap Gallery
Here's a bit of blurb: Martyn Goddard’s images played a key part in defining The Jam’s image on record sleeves. He shot the cover for their first album, "In the City", and continued to work with them creating images that would appear on the sleeves of many of their singles: "All Around The World", "The Modern World", "News of the World", "David Watts", "Down In The Tube At Midnight", and "Strange Town". His final project with the band was to shoot the images that would appear on the cover of their fifth studio album, "Sound Affects", in 1980. In addition to his sleeve assignments, Goddard photographed the band in the studio for press and promotion purposes.

Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2015
For tickets and information on the exhibition visit the Somerset House web-site here. To buy copies of Rick's autobiography and other merchandise please check out For more photographs of both exhibitions please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit "Like", if you are not already following, for access to the exclusive photo albums.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

THE JACKETS: New Album "Shadows of Sound" & Video Campaign Announced

THE JACKETS have just announced details of their third record "Shadows Of Sound" which features eleven brand new original tracks recorded by Jorge Explosion at Estudios Circo Perrotti studio. The album will be released on Voodoo Rhythm Records later this year but if you can't wait, the LP and/or CD are included in the perks on offer when you donate to help the band produce their new video "Keep Yourself Alive". Check out this link to the Indiegogo pledge campaign to find out how you can get involved. The band's next U.K. appearance will be at The Trip Out Festival in Bedford on September 6th. THE JACKETS are one of the best live bands we have seen in years, check out a feature on their superb Weirdsville show with photos and links to videos in the Blog Archive here.

Let's hand things over to the band themselves for a special report from their underground bunker.

For more information on THE JACKETS please check out their official web-site.

Sunday 2 August 2015

The Flamin' Groovies in Paris & Blois, France by Rock Photographer Paul Slattery

The Flamin' Groovies by Paul Slattery
My association with The Flamin’ Groovies goes back more than forty years now to the summer of ’72 when I first heard “Teenage Head” blasting out of this pair of massive speakers at a garden party in Cape Cod. I went out and bought the album (which I still have) and became a huge Groovies fan. I picked up bits and pieces of recorded material over the next few years. I got hold of Skydog’s “Grease” EP with the amazing version of “Let me Rock” recorded in Cyril Jordan’s front room in 1973, and then the “Slow Death” EP recorded at Rockfield with Dave Edmunds the same year. But I wouldn’t meet the band until 1976 when they were back at Rockfield with Edmunds recording their first full length LP “Shake Some Action”. Well I couldn’t believe my luck because as a young rock photographer I chanced up at Rockfield on January 1st 1978 and met my long – time heroes for the first time and photographed a lot of their spring tour that year promoting their next album “Now”. 

Victor and Cyril photographed by Paul Slattery
George & Chris photographed by Paul Slattery
I thought this would be the start of a long relationship with the band which it has subsequently turned out to be – what I didn’t know at the time is that I wouldn’t see them play a gig after that ’78 tour for 35 years!  Finally seeing them play a storming gig at the Scala in London was like a dream for me, the songs I had in my mind all those years finally played live again. Well I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity of seeing them play again so last month I spent a few days in France with the band on their European tour and had the Rock and Roll time of my life! Blois is a Loire Chateau town in the middle of an excellent wine area which produces the original Sauvignon Blanc, you don’t immediately think Rock and Roll, but the Maison Begon just on the edge of town is a fantastic venue promoted by local friends. Joe Peckman singer and guitarist of support band The Sharpers is trying to convince me over a glass or two of the local Cheverny that Blois is more Rock than you might imagine which proves to be the case when they come out on stage and on fire with “Rockabilly Tavern” and then straight into the superb “Doctor, Doctor” from their latest album “Number 4”. Steeped in Pub–Rock for more than twenty years, this is a really great band, Joe belts out the vocals backed up by a solid Xavier L. on drums and a very lively Simon J on bass. 

The Sharpers photographed by Paul Slattery
The Sharpers photographed by Paul Slattery
The intensity just increases with “Alligator Moona”, “King Super Rock” and “Django Meets Big Bill” also from the latest album and the crowd rise to support their local heroes with the superb “Mister Green”. What a great show! I hope this lot can get their Gallic backsides over to the U.K. in the not too distant future and show the Brits how to play Pub –Rock because they do it right. I can’t wait to see them again. You can get a copy of The Sharpers new album, which is entitled “Number Four” and check them out at their official web-site here or visit their official Facebook page.

The Sharpers photographed by Paul Slattery
I run into Groovies' drummer Victor Penalosa first and he tells me over more cold Cheverny that the European gigs and crowds to date have been superb, and being a native Spanish speaker himself he felt right at home in Spain. The rest of the band arrive later, tired after a 400 mile drive from their gig in Montpellier (supported by the superb Les Grys Grys) the previous night but mad keen to play this wonderful venue. Backstage there’s a balcony overlooked by a warm setting sun, a superb place to chill out before the gig. Cyril, Chris and George are in fine spirits and tell me it’s been great to finally get back on the road in Europe and they're playing tighter and better than ever. The Byrds’ “Feel a Whole Lot Better” is a Groovies standard now but what a song to begin with, Cyril plays those jangly bits to perfection with his finger nails, on the same Dan Armstrong plexiglass guitar that’s on the front cover of “Teenage Head”.  Then it’s into the melodic “You Tore Me Down” and “I Can’t Hide” with superb harmonies from Cyril and Chris, West Coast Pop at its best. 

Cyril Jordan & Chris Wilson photographed by Paul Slattery
Victor Penalosa of The Flamin' Groovies photographed by Paul Slattery
The pair of them get into duelling guitars at the end of the song and what looks like a crowd who are probably not all died-in-the–wool Groovies fans are starting to get appreciative and lively. “Please Please Girl” is another great harmonic song with Cyril’s guitar now sounding just a touch heavier, starting to show those flourishes that mark him as one of the great guitarists and Chris’s lead vocals soar to new heights on “Yes I Am” – the gig is really beginning to warm up now and the crowd are really starting to love it. Talking of heavy guitars, that Dan Armstrong weighs a ton! But this is a rock and roll band of the first order and “Tallahassee Lassie”, “St. Louis Blues”, and “Don’t You Lie To Me” show the crowd just what rock and roll is all about, then George, apart from bouncing all over the stage with his superb bass lines gets the vocals on “Married Woman” which is  an amazing number anchored by Victor’s fine drumming and giving Cyril and Chris all the time in the world to get guitar sparring which they do outrageously and brilliantly! 

The Flamin' Groovies photographed by Paul Slattery
George Alexander of The Flamin' Groovies photographed by Paul Slattery
I’m having trouble taking photos down the front now, there’s no pit and the crowd are dancing all over me, so I have to dance with them AND take photos, but for me being down the front of a Groovies’ gig is probably the only place I want to be right now, and the atmosphere is electric  as the band crank into three of their greatest songs to finish the show “Between The Lines” , “Slow Death”, and “Shake Some Action” which makes the crowd go crazy. It’s like those thirty years of not playing together have made no difference, this band has such a great desire to play, and they play utterly unselfishly. Victor and George anchor the whole thing and give Cyril and Chris the space to show off their truly exceptional guitar work. They come back to great cheers and encore with the menacing “Teenage Head” and a simply great “Let me Rock”. What a gig, I’m knackered but elated and the drinks flow backstage, what a great night. I party long and late with Sharpers, the Groovies are beat and retire early but they are all smiling from ear to ear. 

The Flamin' Groovies photographed by Paul Slattery
Chris Wilson of The Flamin' Groovies photographed by Paul Slattery
The next night I’m in Paris at Le Trabendo on the outskirts of the city in the Parc De La Villette with Mona Soyoc, the legendary chanteuse and guitarist of French “Coldwave” band Kas Product. She’s just played a gig in a prison in Nancy that afternoon and raced to get to Paris in time for the Groovies gig. Kas Product have recently re-released a remastered “Try Out”, their first album from 1982 and if you have never heard it you should do as it is quite extraordinary. I really can’t better Mick Mercer’s piece about their first two albums: “the gorgeously provocative duo of Mona Soyoc and Spatsz who released a couple of singles on their own punk label, then signed to RCA which seemed a remarkably odd union, but which produced two blindingly brilliant albums, 'Try Out' and 'Bypass' that found the haunting, mad vocals hemmed in by and stretched out over the alternately boiling/icy keyboards, and the shattering chatter of arching/dive bombing guitar and stabbing electronic rhythms.” Mona and Spatsz will be back in the studio doing some new recording this summer, I can’t wait to have a listen to their new stuff and I certainly can’t wait to get back to France. I’ve known Mona for thirty years and there’s one of my photos on the cover of Kas Product’s 1989 album “Black & Noir”.

The Flamin' Groovies photographed by Paul Slattery
The Flamin' Groovies photographed by Paul Slattery
I invited Mona along to the The Flamin' Groovies gig, but it’s not really a happy sight in the tiny cramped shoebox of a dressing room full of the band’s stuff. The promoter has still to find them somewhere decent to stay and they are not happy. I don’t like this place quite frankly; there are loads of classic old venues in Paris they should have played one of them. If the surroundings aren’t really what the doctor ordered the crowd certainly are because right from the word go they know all the songs and jump around like a bunch of punks. It’s the same set list from the previous night in Blois, and I have to hide in this tiny space between the edge of the stage and George’s monitor but it’s a hell of a place to be quite honestly! If it was intense at the end of the gig in Blois it’s at least that intense at the start of this gig and the band just use all of their experience, suck up the vibe from the crowd and spit it back in spades. All I want to do is take photos and let the songs drift through me, those great songs which I’ve listened to for thirty or forty years. I’m in my rock and roll heaven right here, as close to the band as you can possible be and in that privileged no mans land between band and crowd. The crowd go potty after “Married Woman” and  the band just open right up, Victor’s drum flourishes just get better, and George, Chris and Cyril get together in a threesome, during “Between The Lines”  and the guitar interplay on “Shake Some Action” is mind-blowing.  

The Flamin' Groovies photographed by Paul Slattery
Mona Soyoc of Kas Product with Cyril Jordan photographed by Paul Slattery
This gig is a rock and roll masterclass. What a privilege to be here. “Let me Rock” is simply a storming end to a brilliant gig. Mona and I share a few drinks with the band after the gig and I take a photo of Mona and Cyril, the French American guitar duo! It’s au revoir to The Groovies, they are tired and happy and they've finally got somewhere decent to stay. I hope the next gig will be in the not too distant future. I’ve still not had my quotient of Flamin' Groovies gigs over the last 35 years and need to get some more under the belt. In the meantime the band have been in Joel Jaffe’s superb Studio D in Sausalito recording some new songs. Cyril tells me that they have finally cut a finished version of “Let Me Rock”, I really cannot wait to hear it – I’ve been listening to that tinny (albeit great) Skydog version for FORTY years! - Paul Slattery July 2015

The Flamin' Groovies photographed by Paul Slattery
With many thanks to Paul Slattery for the excellent feature and photographs. You can hear Paul talking about his experiences with the Groovies in our brand new Retrosonic Podcast Episode 19 which also includes songs by The Flamin’ Groovies, The Sharpers and Kas Product amongst others.

For more of Paul’s photos of The Flamin' Groovies from the 1970’s right up to their reunion please check out the Flamin’ Groovies label in the Retro Man Blog Archive. Please head on over to our Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hit “like” for access to our gig photography archive. We also have a very special Retrosonic Podcast edition with Chris Wilson, where he talks us through his long and varied career and picks out some of his favourite songs.

For up-to-date news on The Flamin' Groovies please check out their official facebook page here.

"Specialized Calling - Combat Cancer" a New Compilation of Clash Cover Versions In Aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust

One of Retro Man Blog's favourite bands, French Boutik, contacted us to let us know all about a new compilation that they are involved with in aid of the The Teenage Cancer Trust. The band are big supporters of the charity having already travelled over to the U.K. earlier this year to appear at the London leg of the yearly fund-raising March Of The Mods campaign, which you can read about in the Blog archive here. The Specialized Project has announced that The Clash will be the focus of their fourth annual campaign in aid of The Teenage Cancer Trust. Specialized Four will be a four disc, 70 song compilation entitled "Combat Cancer" featuring 70 Clash cover versions donated from bands around the world. The project is the accumulation of work of over 400 musicians, engineers and producers and includes guest performances from Mick Jones (The Clash), Horace Panter & Lynval Golding (The Specials), Dreadzone, Dennis Bovell, Rat Scabies (The Damned), Jona Lewie and Big Jim Paterson (Dexy's Midnight Runners). All of the tracks will be exclusive to the Combat Cancer album and all have been recorded in 2015 specifically to appear on the album. You can pre-order "Combat Cancer" from the Specialized Project web-site on-line store here. All funds raised from this album will go to The Teenage Cancer Trust and the National Foundation for Youth Music.

Here's a video explaining a bit more about the Specialized Project and Teenage Cancer Trust.

And here's a video to French Boutik's contribution, a cover of The Clash's "City of the Dead".