Saturday 22 July 2017

The Skids - Part 3: Rock Photographer Paul Slattery & Richard Jobson Re-Trace Their Dunfermline Steps 38 Years Later...

Richard Jobson at Fire Station Arts Creative, Dunfermline photographed by Paul Slattery
Rock Photographer Paul Slattery was so blown away by seeing The Skids in Southampton during their 40th Anniversary Tour that he trekked up to Dunfermline to catch the last night of the tour in their home-town. While he was there he met up with Richard Jobson to visit the "Scared To Dance" exhibition (which includes some of Paul's excellent early Skids prints) and to re-trace their steps some 38 years on from his first Scottish photo-session with the band. Over to you Paul: "On a warm night in April 1978 I went to see The Skids for the second time at The Red Cow in Hammersmith. Just a week before I’d been impressed with this band at the nearby Nashville and on this particularly hot night The Skids, stripped to the waist, gave it everything a band possibly could. The guitarist was an ace and the front-man threw himself around like no-one I’d seen before. I liked them a lot and a year later, just soon after they signed to Virgin Records, I photographed them in Dunfermline and in North Queensferry by the Forth Bridge. One of the photographs was used on the front cover of Sounds magazine in March 1979 with "Skid Row" on the cover. 

The Skids, Glen Pavilion Dunfermline photographed by Paul Slattery
Just thirty eight years later here I am down the front of a Skids gig again in Dunfermline! I’d finally seen the reformed band in Southampton (photos on the Blog here) the previous week and was so blown away that I decided to come up to Dunfermline and see their home-town gig. It was like the wheel had turned full circle. During the afternoon walking through the town I spotted many Skids fans who were not only from all over the country but all over Europe as well. They have an unbelievably dedicated fan-base and they paid back that dedication in spades by paying a truly stupendous gig at the Glen Pavilion here. The musicianship, the charisma, the passion and the energy is all there, The Skids have so many great songs to choose from and the set list just a dream. Read Steve’s report in the blog from the Roundhouse gig here and you’ll get the picture. 

Richard Jobson, Glen Pavilion Dunfermline photographed by Paul Slattery
This was a great night to remember and a truly remarkable performance from a band who had only recently got back together.
 The next morning I met Richard Robson at The Fire Station Creative where I had Skids photographs on display in the "Scared To Dance" exhibition curated by himself and Ronnie Gurr. We chatted over a coffee in between Richard signing things for fans and went for a walk round the town retracing the steps I had taken with the Skids back in 1979. There were still loads of Skids fans in town and Richard spent a good part of our walk chatting to them and doing more signing. The landmarks were still there but of course health and safety prevented us from climbing into the Abbey as the band had done 38 years before! 

Richard Jobson photographed in Dunfermline, 2017 by Paul Slattery
The Skids photographed in Dunfermline, 1979 by Paul Slattery
Richard Jobson photographed in Dunfermline, 2017 by Paul Slattery
The Skids photographed in Dunfermline, 1979 by Paul Slattery
There’s a huge buzz about the band at the moment, they will be playing more gigs this year and have already pencilled in dates for next year. Go and see them! Here are some of the new and old photos together, all the old ones can be found in my new book "Scared To Dance – The Skids 1979/80" published by Hanging Around books and available to buy from here."

The Skids, Glen Pavilion Dunfermline photographed by Paul Slattery
The Crowd at Glen Pavilion Dunfermline photographed by Paul Slattery
Paul talks more about his experiences with The Skids and picks a couple of his favourite tracks in our brand new Episode 27 of Retrosonic Podcast, you can listen/download for free below:

Saturday 15 July 2017

French Boutik - Water Rats London July 14th, Bastille Day with the Paris based Pop-Modernisters

French Boutik - Photo ©Retromanblog 2017
The wonderful Paris-based Modernist Pop band French Boutik headlined a most enjoyable evening put on by SBD Promotions at the Water Rats in Kings Cross last night. It was fitting to help them celebrate Bastille Day and they put on a superb show which proved that the band are on top form right now. Indeed with each release and each gig that I see the band just seem to get better and better. The release of their long-awaited debut album "Front Pop", the new "Essential" compilation on Detour Records and their regular trips over here have rightly earned them a growing army of admirers on this side of the channel, I remember they went down a storm at our first Retro Man Blog Night of 2016 supporting The Senior Service. Tonight's excellent set is packed full of their super-cool sounds that merge together classic Sixties Soul and the cinematic influences of film-noir and spy movie soundtracks and mix them all up with French Ye-Ye, Mod and a nice edge of New Wave.

French Boutik - Photo ©Retromanblog 2017
French Boutik - Photo ©Retromanblog 2017
The current line-up, tonight expanded to a six-piece, is also superb and there is a great chemistry between all the band-members that lifts everyone in the room and creates a really warm and enjoyable atmosphere. Vocalist Gabriela is a charismatic focal point and she has a fine soulful voice that really comes into it's own on stage. Guitarist Serge is French cool personified and his impressive Rickenbacker work adds a nice edge to the sound. He takes over lead vocals on a couple of tracks including the stand-out "Mieux Comme Ca" backed by Gabriela and the quite wonderful vocal melodies of drummer Zelda. Bassist Jean-Marc in his sharp suit also spins out some impressive riffs on his Rickenbacker and at one point keyboard player Olivier Popincourt stops to admire his colleague. Olivier adds some excellent Hammond organ to proceedings and as I have done on the Blog before, I must recommend you check out his own album "A New Dimension To Modern Love".

French Boutik - Photo ©Retromanblog 2017
French Boutik - Photo ©Retromanblog 2017
Added to this is Graham Lentz on percussion and acoustic guitar who seems to be having the time of his life at the back. I'm sure he'd be in the crowd down the front of the stage if he wasn't in the band! They played a great selection of songs including some personal highlights such as "Je Regarde Les Tigres" and "La Vie en Colouers" and encored with my favourite track "Les Chats de Gouttière". They will now head off to Manchester and Shrewsbury, where they will play with The Backbeat Three on Sunday July 16th and they also have a gig at Les Disquaires in Paris with The Sha La-La's on September 02nd. For more information on their tour dates and how to order "Front Pop" please check out their web-site here. We've played lots of French Boutik in various episodes of Retrosonic Podcast too which you can search in the archive here. Here's a video of one of my favourite tracks from the new album entitled "Le Casse" filmed at the show.

You can also see more photos of the gig over at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here.

French Boutik - Photo ©Retromanblog 2017

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Oh! Gunquit - Photos from Weirdsville June 24th 2017

Tina from Oh! Gunquit - Photo ©Retromanblog 2017
Oh! Gunquit headlined another great night at Weirdsville on Saturday June 24th hot on the heels of the release of their stunning second album "Lightning Likes Me". It was the first time I've seen them since saxophonist Chuchi joined the line-up and he added even more dynamism and character to a band already bursting at the seams with all these qualities. During "Caves" Tina crawled off the stage and through the crowd's legs and during the encore she treated us to her trademark of hula-hooping while playing the trumpet. It was a great set packed full of songs from both albums but it's the new numbers that made their mark tonight, with tracks like "Fireballs", "Suzy Don't Stop" and the Punky thrash of "Captain of The Creeps" really standing out. As on the new album "Greasy Moves" was a nicely sleazy delight and you realise the band are full of surprises, energy, fun and colour but most importantly they now have a set bursting with fantastic songs. If you get chance please get out and see the band play, you certainly won't regret it! I featured the album on the Blog a couple of weeks ago here and you can see the review and a video of "Nomads of The Lost" here.


Oh! Gunquit at Weirdsville - All Photos ©Retromanblog 2017
For more photos of the gig please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here.

Monday 3 July 2017

The Magical World of Papa-san & Friends, The Songs of Michael Head in Japan + Desolation Row Music Bar

Papa-san & Friends "The Kitchen Sessions CD"
Japan is the land of the "otaku", which some people might disparagingly translate as "anorak" or "nerd" but I like to think of it as a knowledgeable and slightly obsessive fan. So, whatever your "thing" is it's thanks to these otaku people that I’m pretty damn sure you’ll find a bar, restaurant, club or store and an enthusiastic owner celebrating it somewhere in Japan. For example, I’ve been to Gothic bars decorated with cobwebs, coffins and plastic bats and a Punk bar covered in vintage posters and memorabilia. We discovered a Mod & Skinhead store with West Ham scarves hanging from the ceiling and I've seen bands play in a Garage Rock venue that was the dead-ringer for London’s Weirdsville. We've stumbled across a tiny Yakitori bar called Ramone and on entrance were confronted by a small counter and walls covered in posters of Ramones, The Who and the Sex Pistols and yes we've even found a bar in a quiet residential suburb of Tokyo dedicated to that very English genius songwriter Michael Head, yes he of Shack, The Pale Fountains and The Strands.

Papa-san & Friends
The bar is intriguingly named "Sheep's Horns and Dragon's Whiskers" (Hitsuji no Tsuno to Ryū No Hige) and it's located in a unassuming back-street not far from Nishi-Magome station in Tokyo. From this bar operates a collective of musicians known as Papa-san & Friends formed initially by DJ and musician Hiro Monstera. Hiro surely must be Mick Head's biggest fan, he first saw The Pale Fountains on their Japanese tour back in the mid-80's and a few years ago enlisted the bar's owner Papa-san and a collection of regulars and friends to start a band with the intention of playing cover versions of songs from throughout Mick's career. However, they are certainly not your average tribute band as the songs are performed on acoustic guitars, ukulele, cajón and concertina. I'd been in touch with Hiro after he saw some of my recent features on Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band gigs and as we were in Tokyo he invited us along to see the band play. On arrival we are greeted by professional looking personalised gig posters that proclaim "Welcome!" The bar’s owner Papa-san is cool in his shades puffing away on a cigarette and later on as he gets surrounded by the girls for a photo opportunity he suddenly reminds me of Tokyo's answer to Serge Gainsbourg.

Papa-san ©Retro Man Blog
Papa-san & Friends ©Retro Man Blog
Inside the small unassuming bar is a large communal table and counter and around the walls are hung an impressive collection of Michael Head posters and memorabilia, some of which are rare and many designed by Pascal Blua, who’s excellent work you can see on Michael Head and The Red Elastic Band’s recent releases and posters. I notice that lots of the items have been personally signed by Mick Head too and Hiro is rightly proud as he shows us his collection. On one side of the bar, there's a record and CD player, a rack of CD's and vinyl and there's a very cool Violette Records bag and once we’ve checked all the memorabilia we are invited to sit at the large communal table. We enjoy a great meal cooked by Papa-san and loads of delicious ice cold Japanese beers, followed by sparkling wine which is in turn followed by some fine sake.

Papa-san & Friends Yoshito, Rie & Hiro - Photo ©Retro Man Blog
Personalised Gig Poster outside the Bar
We chat and make friends with some other locals before the music starts. Hiro sings lead vocals on most of the songs and has a very cool looking ukulele. Rie expertly coaxes melodies from her concertina and adds some beautiful harmonies and backing vocals and Yoshito sits on a box like cajón, a Peruvian percussion instrument which he plays wonderfully. We each have a go on the cajón and it’s certainly a lot more difficult to master than it first looks. They proceed to lead us through a superb set of Mick Head songs including The Pale Fountain's "Thank You" and "Jean's Not Happening" with the occasional track by U2, The Smiths and Fairground Attraction thrown in along the way. Papa-san joins in on acoustic guitar for his favourite track Shack’s “Comedy” and then sings two excellent Japanese Blues songs, one of which he is hoping to release as a single.

Some music to go with your beer..?
Hiro & Rie of Papa-san & Friends - Photo ©Retro Man Blog
My friend Kurt, Tokyo resident, musician and Tokyo BGM Blog editor gets persuaded to serenade us with some songs including The Cure’s “In Between Days” and The Replacements "If Only You Were Lonely", everyone joins in and sings along. Kurt and I muddle our way through R.E.M.'s "Driver 8" as best we can but quickly hand back to the experts and enjoy a final singalong before we reluctantly have to leave to catch the last train. We had a thoroughly magical evening with Hiro, Papa-san & Friends, something we will never forget and if you are ever in Tokyo and fancy a great night of music, chat, food and beers then please head along to "The Sheep's Horns & The Dragon's Whiskers". You don't even have to be a Mick Head fan...but it will sure help!

Some of Hiro's Michael Head Memorabilia
"...from Across the Kitchen Table to Desolation Row..."

Desolation Row Bar in Hida-Takayama
In the beautiful historic town of Hida Takayama nestling in the valleys of the Japanese Alps we also discovered “Desolation Row”. You would never know it was there – a tiny sign that's barely visible hangs over a door and that's about it. The name seems somewhat incongruous in such a charming picture perfect location, there’s certainly not much desolation on view in Hida Takayama that’s for sure! Ken, the bar’s genial and very cool owner is a huge Bob Dylan fan, hence taking the title of the “Highway 61 Revisited” album track as the name of his establishment. Inside there’s a counter and a few seats – there’s hardly any room to move and that’s probably because the first thing you notice is that most of the space is taken up by racks of vinyl albums. Ken welcomes you in and invites you to sit at the counter and chat to other visitors.

Desolation Row Bar in Hida-Takayama
Desolation Row Bar in Hida-Takayama
The talk quickly turns to music and Ken has an album on hand to soundtrack any conversation - for talk about the Rolling Stones we get “Exile on Main Street” and for the Sex Pistols we get somewhat surprisingly "Sid Sings". Of course there is Bob Dylan - lots and lots of Bob Dylan - including rare live recordings and bootlegs alongside the more familiar classics. Ken digs out a scrapbook to show us an article with a Japanese newspaper who contacted him to give some expert analysis in the build up to Dylan’s last Japanese tour. We enjoy ourselves so much that we go back again the next night and proceed to get very, very drunk. Desolation Row, 30 Asahimachi, Hida Takayama, Gifu, Japan.

Ken at Desolation Row, Hida Takayama
Papa-san at Sheep's Horn & Dragon's Whiskers, Nishi-Magome, Tokyo
It’s great to see guys like Ken and Papa-san content and doing something they're passionate about after long and stressful careers as Japanese “salarymen”. Long may they welcome people, encourage friendship, play their music and of course, open another bottle of beer! With sincere thanks to Hiro, Rie, Yoshito, Tacchan the Chameleon King, Chika, Mr & Mrs Matsunaga, the regulars at "Sheep's Horn and Dragon's Whiskers" and of course the one and only Papa-san! You can see lots of videos of their kitchen session gigs at Hiro's YouTube channel here.

Some of Hiro's Michael Head Memorabilia
Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band currently have a new digital jingle “Josephine” out now as a taster for their forthcoming album “Adios Senor Pussycat” which will be released in September on Violette Records. For more information on how to obtain these please check the excellent Violette Records web-site. For up-to-date news and information on upcoming Red Elastic Band live shows please check the Michael Head official site. There's also the superb Shacknet for a wealth of Mick Head related archive material going back to The Pale Fountains.