Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Buzzcocks Pop-Up Exhibition & News On Their Upcoming Show at The Royal Albert Hall on June 21st

Buzzcocks - John Maher, Steve Diggle & Steve Garvey - Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks marked the 40th anniversary re-issues of the albums "A Different Kind of Tension" and "Singles Going Steady" with a special exhibition and pop-up shop at the Noho Showroom in London last Saturday. The one day only event featured Malcolm Garrett’s original artwork designs for Buzzcocks' record sleeves along with various prints, adverts and posters. There was also a shop selling the albums and the original "Product" carrier bag plus a very limited number of exclusive screen-prints of the original Malcolm Garrett "What Do I Get?" poster. To top it all we had the added bonus of a signing session where Steve Diggle was joined by the 'classic' line-up's rhythm section, John Maher and Steve Garvey who happily chatted with fans and signed albums and prints. Of course, seeing the three bandmates there together you couldn't help but feel extremely sad that Pete Shelley is no longer with us. However, the exhibition also served as a reminder for this Friday June 21st's very special event at The Royal Albert Hall to celebrate Pete's life and music. 

Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
John Maher signes Buddy Ascott's charity drum skin - Retro Man Blog
Buddy Ascott, drummer with The Chords and now The Fallen Leaves, came along wth me and finally managed to get one of his biggest influences, John Maher, to sign the now legendary bass drum skin. John added his autograph alongside such drummimg icons as Clem Burke of Blondie, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and Rick Buckler of The Jam among many others. The drum skin will eventually be auctioned in aid of the Roll Out The Barrel Trust charity which you can hear all about in our special Retrosonic Podcast interview with Buddy here. Buddy and I also pay tribute to Pete Shelley in Retrosonic Episode 33 where Buddy picks his favourite Buzzcocks song and talks about the influence of John Maher on his drumming. I also reminisce about the Buzzcocks 2012 "Back To Front" gig at Brixton Academy, which saw John and Steve Garvey joined by original vocalist Howard Devoto.

Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Royal Albert Hall gig on Friday promises to be another very special, but of course poignant, one-off event and will feature Buzzcocks current line-up, along with Steve Garvey and John Maher and a star-studded cast of guest vocalists. The special guests confirmed so far include Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible, Thurston Moore, Peter Perrett, Richard Jobson, Pauline Murray and Tim Burgess. The impressive support on the night comes from The Skids and Penetration, making this a fitting tribute to Pete Shelley and a night not to be missed. Tickets are available from The Royal Albert Hall ticket office here. Here are a few photos of the exhibition and signing session.

Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Buzzcocks Exhibition & Signing Session, London - Photo Retro Man Blog

There are more photos of the exhibition at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Thee Moot Release New LP "Peel It To Reveal It" and Announce Appearance at Twickenham's High Tide Festival

Thee Moot "Peel It To Reveal It" cover art by Lambo
Retro Man Blog's good pals Thee Moot have released their debut full length LP "Peel It To Reveal It" which comes hot on the heels of the excellent mini-album/EP "Tomorrow's Calling". I know this is going to sound somewhat contradictory but the band are reassuringly familiar yet refreshingly different. They are certainly hard to categorise, that's for sure. I think there should be a new movement for bands such as Thee Moot, The Galileo 7 and Of Arrowe Hill - superb bands that might often get overlooked because they plough their own furrow and don't conform to easy stereotyping. Words like 'taut' and 'lean' spring to mind, you see Thee Moot specialise in perfectly formed guitar pop nuggets that are as stripped back as you can get. Each song is naggingly catchy in the extreme and Dave's memorable ringing, glacial guitar lines are the undoubted star of the "Peel It To Reveal It" show. This might have something to do with the bass being mixed down a bit too low for my taste this time round, but that's probably just a minor gripe from an ex-bassist!

Thee Moot by Thee Moot
Vocalist Nick Stone and bassist Mark Leech were in the 80's Paisley Psych act The Onlookers, whilst drummer Freezer Pinch and guitarist DC were, along with Mark, previously playing in The Transients. In fact, if I think back to The Transients it's probably from their eclectic choice of cover versions that included The Nerves, Small Faces, Rupert's Children, Television, The Only Ones and Radio Birdman - that might give you some idea of where Thee Moot are coming from. If you throw in The Church and The Kinks and even a bit of Bowie, then you will see what a broad palette Thee Moot are painting from. My personal highlight, the fuzzed up funk of "Let Your Hair Down" rides in on a great bubbling bass line before DC's vicious guitar riff slashes through the speakers. It's a welcome moment when Thee Moot let loose a bit and (if you will excuse me...) actually do let their hair down, and they are all the better for it. "My Fixation", a live favourite of mine for some time now, also benefits from a more aggressive approach and this would have made a great choice to release as a single. "Peel It To Reveal It" ends on a real high with "Don't Be Afraid of The Dark" which sees Nick in mighty fine voice and it's a fitting and strong way to finish a thoroughly satisfying album. The band will be appearing at The Eel Pie Pub in Twickenham at around 5:15pm on Saturday 22nd June as part of the High Tide Festival which is curated by the excellent Eel Pie Record Store. Given the area's rich musical history and links to classic British Beat and R'n'B - I can't think of a more apt band to be appearing at the festival than Thee Moot!

Thee Moot at the legendary Hope & Anchor - photo Retro Man Blog
You can order both Thee Moot's releases from their Bandcamp site here. You can also hear a track from the "Peel It To Reveal It" album in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast which you can listen to below or download from our Soundcloud page below or you can subscribe at iTunes.

Duncan Reid & The Big Heads "Kelly's Gone Insane" New Single on Crocodile Records

There are only two people in the entire world who can claim to have played with the Ramones while not actually being tagged with the ‘Ramone’ nom-de-plume. Duncan Reid is one of those people. As singer and bass player of Joey Ramone’s favourite band, The Boys, Duncan rode on the crest of a wave during Punk’s original late-1970s heyday as part of a wider collective of friends and peers that included Sex Pistols, The Clash, Generation X and a host of other power-chord pioneers. The Boys remain one of the best-loved and influential bands of their generation. "Montevideo" from the Big Heads’ debut album "Little Big Head", earned Duncan the keys to the Uruguayan capital with the only other musicians to achieve this being Elton John and Paul McCartney! Following a cornucopia of stellar reviews for "Little Big Head", The Big Heads developed their unique, effortlessly entertaining, melodic brand of harmony laden Pop-Punk with "The Difficult Second Album". Their third album "Bombs Away" was released in 2017 garnering variety of awards and appearing in numerous best album of the year lists and featured fourteen catchy little ditties about life, death, paranoia and Viagra. 2019 sees the Big Heads touring eternally in the UK, France, Belgium, Spain, Japan, Korea and Germany including festival dates at Rebellion, Strummercamp and Scotland Calling. As well as a fourth album being recorded, "Little Big Head" is reissued with previously unreleased bonus tracks and splatter vinyl, while a vinyl single, "Kelly’s Gone Insane" is out on Crocodile Records, also with new bonus tracks. You can check out a review of Duncan Reid & The Big Heads recent show at The 100 Club which features photos and videos, in the Retro Man Blog archive here.

Duncan Reid at The 100 Club - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The "Kelly's Gone Insane" single can be ordered via Crocodile Records and more info on Duncan Reid & The Big Heads can be found at their official web-site here. Words courtesy Crocodile Records.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

The Nika Leeflang Project "The Night Call"

I first became aware of Nika Leeflang when I saw her singing with The Limiñanas at their superb show at London's legendary 100 Club earlier this year. I was inspired to find out more about the band's influences and history which led me on a voyage of discovery into the vibrant music scene of the band's Perpignan hometown. I found out about the pre-Limiñanas bands such as Beach Bitches and Les Bellas and then I checked out the work of the other various band members which would lead me onto Crank, Hair & The Iotas, The Toxic Farmers and then Nika's own music too. I caught up with Nika and asked how she got to know and work with The Limiñanas. "They called me up when they needed a new singer for their promotional tour when they were searching for a label to sign them. I always used to accompany artists on tour and a fellow called Raph Dumas, who was working with Renaud Papillon Paravel, gave them my phone number. I was happy to travel so much and to live the ‘musician’s dream’ - that is to play big stages in many places and to meet people and sweat on stage." I think most people in the U.K. would, like me, have first discovered Nika's own music through her association with The Limiñanas and I was intrigued to find out more about her own background. "My family was based in the Netherlands and my father and mother, thinking they couldn’t have children, began to travel around the Mediterranean coast. One day, they were in the South of France and that’s where I was born so they decided to stay at that place, the place where I still live, Clermont L’Herault. My life is made of many kilometres of travel, but I like my birthplace."

Nika with The Limiñanas at The 100 Club - Photo Retro Man Blog
I asked if music had always been in Nika's blood from an early age. "I remember dancing in my parents room to "One Love" by Bob Marley when I was just five or six years old. I remember some French songs by Jacques Dutronc and also Ray Charles who gave me intense happiness as a child. Then when I was around eleven or twelve I was a big fan of Michael Jackson and James Brown, who taught me how to shake my body to Pop rhythms everywhere and all the time. I made my mom crazy because of the noises on the floor from dancing!" But luckily it seemed as though her parents didn't discourage this interest in music. "When I was a child, my parents took me to local events where I was always dancing and watching the musicians, very close to the stage. I was a little one, but already in love with musicians, and still musicians are people that really impress me. Every story is so different, it’s endless, and for me musicians are like bibles, very precious, enriching and stimulating". So I wondered when did this love of music move Nika enough to start writing her own songs. "My mom was an English teacher in a bilingual school, and for a year, she took me with her, so we had these one hour journeys from home to school and back again. As I was eight years old, these travels seemed so boring that I started to write down my poems, my little stories and then one day, a song. So, I continued that way, to write down my impressions of life, of my feelings and emotions and then the day I held a guitar for the first time, I was already so inspired and naturally started to sing and play the guitar." I asked if there was a particular band or artist that had inspired her. "A few years later, I sat alone in a comfortable chair, listening to the album "Is This Desire" by PJ Harvey and I remember I said to myself, "I wanna be like that girl!" I’m a big big fan of PJ Harvey’s music and career as an artist, she is unstoppable and always amazed me with her classy voice, always changing and evolving and just the way she is and the way she represents herself."

Nika's latest song "The Night Call" is very textured and atmopheric, almost cinematic in it's feel and I could imagine her easily moving into movie soundtrack music. I wondered if was this something that she would consider in the future. "I am actually a very emotional person, and if I get the space I’m very imaginative and creative and my way of inventing my world is just as it seems to have enough rhythm. I really like independent movies, Directors such as Quentin Dupieux and others like David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch. I often discover weird films on French TV channels such as Arte or 5 but generally I still have a lot to discover and rare are the films that don’t bore me. I need action, drama, tears or fun but it has also to be fast-moving or just be weird. I’m also a real lover of short films, court métrages and I like humorous actors." I asked if Nika had any preference between working in the studio or performing live? "I adore recording at my studio, which I share with my guy, we are always exchanging ideas, guitar riffs and stuff. I always take these moments as kind of magic because I can create when I feel like it and not when I have to. But my favorite place is on stage".

I was interested to find out about her songwriting process too. "I always note my thoughts and my little stories since a very long time ago. Sometimes I take my guitar and there it goes, an indescribable flow of automatisms and I let it go, it’s kind of liberating! I used to write for friends and help them to get their experiences into words. I adore giving strength to others. My friend Souflette, a poet, very dear to my heart (M. Rico) wrote me a song years ago called "Horses" which was released on my second E.P. "7 songs". We played some shows together when I was touring my solo set, and we alternated songs and poetry. It was a super cool tour." Nika is currently working on a new LP and I wondered what should we expect? "As my personality is like a kind of chameleon, I will perform and sing up and down, French and English, Pop and Shoe-gazing, Grunge and Glitter! I won’t dare to give just one shade of me, because I waited for too long with my ‘being shy thing’ you know, thinking too much but doing nothing. I think the 8-trax release will be a part of me and then the L.P. will be another part of me. I’m currently looking for partners and labels for promoting and distribution, because although I can do a lot just not as far to have enough contacts to play in Japan, in the U.K. or around Europe. But well, I think every musician is looking for that. As soon as possible I’ll share on Soundcloud, Bandcamp or YouTube and hopefully vinyl and CD will follow".

With sincere thanks to Nika. There's a feature on The Limiñanas stunning show at The 100 Club with photos and videos in the Retro Man Blog archive here. You can find out more about The Nika Leeflang Project at her web-site here or at the official Facebook page here. Then, we also play a great track from the "Hey! Right" EP in the latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast which you can listen to/download below or subscribe at iTunes.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

The Beatpack "Rhymes & Blues" - Ms Sheringham Boom reviews the band's new E.P. out now on Heavy Soul Records

This review is long overdue, and I can only apologise to the band who very kindly sent a copy of their new EP 'Rhymes and Blues', which is out now on Heavy Soul records, up to Edinburgh for me to review. You may not know this, but R&B stalwarts The Beatpack have been around for quite some time, since they were but slips of lads. Okay, the line-up has changed now and then, but in their current format they are a force to be reckoned with. This is their first release since the ferocious 2016 'Back Behind and Infront' EP on State Records, and about time too. ‘Howlin’ Fever Blues’ according to the press release ‘comes on like a late ’67 Texan garageband suffering from an extreme Yardbirds fixation and with fuzz pedals set to destroy’. I can’t disagree with that. But can I add to it? I’ll try my best. A souped up Blues Magoos ‘You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet’ is the first comparison that springs to mind, and yet that doesn’t really cover it. The full-on drama of this track, with it’s use of caesura (pauses) builds anticipation and only gives one enough time to draw quick breath before it descends into fuzzed-out madness. Absolutely phenomenal. ‘Sadie’ isn’t at all what I was expecting. It’s pleasantly mellow, with Zombies-style electric piano. But don’t be fooled - flip it, and both ‘How Come You Sleep So Well?’ and ‘Tumbles Like A Domino’ are full of chunky familiar riffs. Whist it’s clear where the bands influences lie, The Beatpack are by no means copycats. They make their own brand of R&B Garage that is full of passion and energy, and then take it to the next level. If you haven’t seen them live, then I urge you to go and see them asap. And on that subject, you can catch The Beatpack are headlining at Beatwave this year, and they’ll also be heading up to Scotland for a few dates towards the end of the year.

- Ms Sheringham-Boom is the bassist in Edinburgh based Garage Rock band Thee Girl Fridays

You can hear a track from the 'Rhymes and Blues' EP in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Les BOF! "Voila" - Ms Sheringham-Boom reviews the Edinburgh based Francophile's long-awaited second album

The much anticipated second LP from those ferocious francophiles Les BOF! has finally arrived, courtesy of Dirty Water Records, following a break of no less than 8 years. I for one was delighted to hear that news, and being an Edinburgh resident, I’ve been lucky enough to see them play live locally more than a few times over the last couple of years, and of course headline at last year’s Beatwave. 'Voila!' serves up a selection of raw ‘60s beat and garage that is as fine and as pungent as an expensive Fromargerie. There’s a balance of well chosen covers and originals. The opening track is a cover of a much loved rock and roll standard. ‘If ever the Devil’s plan was made to torment men...’, Monsieur Mombel vocally expresses his disdain, it certainly sounds more angry and passionate sung in French. I can almost see him stamping his foot, tossing his head, chin jutting out - he leaves the listener in no doubt that it was indeed you, 'Jezebel'. 'Vie De Chien' is definitely my bag (haha) with to-die-for ‘66 fuzzed-out riffage, as is 'Leberes Moi'. Standouts of the originals are 'Fin Du Monde', 'Drogue & Roll' - not only because it features a Vibraphone and Stylophone, it’s also deliciously Dutronc and a bit genius; and lastly short but sweet instro 'Port St. Louis'. 

Les BOF!
The overall mood is stylish, aloof, smart and very dance-able, all of which encapsulates that distinct Ravencraig Studios magic - the recording has clarity, and the equipment that is, without a doubt utilised here, produces a sound that (no matter what anyone else says) cannot be reproduced using digital equipment. It’s both warm and sharp, authentic, and it’s the NOW sound!! Should you purchase this LP? Yé-Yé! Les BOF! Launch their LP 'Voila!' in Edinburgh on Friday June 7th at La Belle Angele, Edinburgh with support from Thee Girl Fridays (not that I’m biased, but this is going to be a killer show) and you can buy tickets here. Then on Saturday 8th June the band will play The Finsbury, London with support from The Liquorice Experiment and The Cretins, more details here.

Les BOF! at last year's Beatwave - photo Retro Man Blog
Ms Sheringham-Boom is the bassist with Thee Girl Fridays - their debut EP 'Love Witch' is available from Spinout Nuggets. A version of this review was first published in the Muso's Guide.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Retrosonic Podcast Episode 34: Featuring NEW releases from The Night Times, The Jackets, L'Epee, The Fallen Leaves, Das Clamps, The Galileo 7, Nika and much more!

Wanda de Lullabies at Hipsville by Retro Man Blog
Steve from Retro Man Blog presents a selection of superb new releases and the pick of some of the best live bands we've seen over the past few months. From the recent Hipsville Soho-A-Go-Go Weekender there's the brand new single from The Night Times along with Autoramas, Deadly Spirits and Das Clamps. There's two new singles from the Spinout Nuggets label by The Voo-Dooms and Treasures of Mexico and new songs from two bands who will appearing at the Beatwave Weekender - The Galileo 7 and The Beatpack. Then there's reports and music from some of the best shows we've been to over the last few months including The Jackets, Straight Arrows, The Future Shape of Sound, The Fallen Leaves and The Way Out. Then there are more new releases from Nika Leeflang, The Go Go Cult, Thee Moot and the stunning new band called L'Epee formed by Marie and Lionel from The Limiñanas along with Anton Newcombe from The Brian Jonestown Massacre and the French actress Emmanuelle Seigner. Please do support the bands, records labels and events - click the highlighted band/event/label name for the direct link to their official web-sites where you can find out more news and information and more importantly, how to buy the music!

Deadly Spirits "Valley of The Spirits"

Autoramas "Catchy Chorus" from the LP 'Stress, Depressão e Sindrome do Pânico'

Das Clamps "Bad Taste" from the new LP 'Sh*t Music For Sh*t People' on Trashwax Records

The Night Times "Watch Your Step" from the new 7" Single on State Records

The Beatpack "Howlin' Fever Blues" from the new 'Rhymes & Blues' EP

The Galileo 7 "Everything Is Everything Else" from the new LP on Damaged Goods Records

The Future Shape of Sound "The Time Is Now" from the LP 'Shakedown Gospel'

The Jackets "Queen of The Pill" title track of the new LP on Voodoo Rhythm Records

Straight Arrows "21st Century" from the LP 'On Top!'

L'épée "Last Picture Show" from the new 12" Single on A Records/Cargo

Nika Leeflang "Hey! Right" from the EP of the same name

The Way Out "This Working Way" from the new 'Singles & Demos' compilation

The Fallen Leaves "Begin Again" from the new 7" Single on Parliament Records

Treasures of Mexico "The Last Thing" from the new 7" Single on Spinout Nuggets

The Voo-Dooms "Goin' Away Baby" from the new 7" 4-song EP on Spinout Nuggets

The Go Go Cult - "Go Go Beat" from the LP 'Beat of The Go Go Cult

Thee Moot "My Fixation" from the new LP "Peel It To Reveal It"

Deadly Spirits "Try To Get Away"

Retrosonic Podcast holds a current and valid PRS Licence. This Episode's cover star is Wanda de Lullabies, photo by Retro Man Blog. You can listen /download directly below or from our Soundcloud page. Otherwise you can subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast for free on iTunes.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Duncan Reid & The Big Heads, Cyanide Pills & The WitchDoktors - Photos & Videos from The 100 Club London Friday May 24th

Duncan Reid & The Big Heads at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Here are some photos and videos of a thoroughly enjoyable night of Punk Rock at London's iconic 100 Club featuring a top-notch three band line-up. Headliner Duncan Reid & The Big Heads were unfortunately missing regular guitarist Sophie due to illness so Mauro Venegas from The Speedways stepped in at the last minute to cover admirably. Mauro had an immediate chemistry with Duncan and his bandmates, the excellent drummer Karen Jones and impressive lead guitarist Nick Hughes. As promising as they sounded, Duncan didn't make Mauro's job any easier by including a couple of new songs in the set. And what a set it was...packed full of timeless Punk Pop, or Power Pop or whatever you want to call it - that took in the best of his debut solo album and those with The Big Heads including songs such as "Bombs Away", "Let's Skip To The Good Bit" and "Montevideo". Duncan is a non-stop blur of purple clad energy and he barely gives himself time to finish singing a line before he's off jumping around the stage again. Of course there's a pick of classics by The Boys including "First Time", "Brickfield Nights", "TCP" and "Sick On You" which got everyone singing along. Duncan mentions how lucky he was to be in The Boys with such talented songwriters and cheekily comments that's why his new songs are so good! He's not wrong though, as songs such as "Don't Stop" and "C'mon Josephine" certainly match the melodic genius of his previous employers.

Duncan Reid & The Big Heads at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Duncan Reid & The Big Heads at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Duncan Reid & The Big Heads at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Duncan Reid & The Big Heads at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Duncan Reid & The Big Heads at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Duncan Reid & The Big Heads at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog

Leeds band Cyanide Pills put on an all-action show with a set crammed full of their fast and naggingly memorable Punk tunes. Although some of the humourous songs such as "Suicide Bomber", "Mail Order Bride" and "Can't Get It Up" might at first put them firmly in The Toy Dolls and The Dickies camp, the quality of their superb songwriting, particularly on excellent tracks like "Government", "Sit Tight" and "Shallow" for example, prove there is much more depth to the band. A personal highlight of the night was the classic "Johnny Thunders Lived In Leeds" which boasts one of the greatest lines ever - 'I'm a Yorkshireman not a New York junkie'. The merchandise table was bulging with their already impressive back catalogue of multicoloured vinyl singles and if you didn't snap up the lot on the night then you can order them from Damaged Goods Records here

Cyanide Pills at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Cyanide Pills at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Cyanide Pills at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
Cyanide Pills at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog

It's been a while since we last saw The WitchDoktors play and it was refreshing to catch them again after so long and enjoy their whiskey soaked Rock 'n' Roll. The crunching Garage Punk of songs like "I'm Sick" and "No Pain No Gain" are balanced by tuneful favourites such as "Told You To Go", which I always felt was The WitchDoktors very own "Train In Vain". Talking of The Clash, the band don't shy away from their primary influence especially as "Black Bag" segues into a cover of "Guns of Brixton" and there's a sneaky drum attack tribute to "Tommy Gun" along the way too. The band are steeped in the outsider Rock 'n' Roll tradition of bowling shirts and brothel ceepers - Johnny Cash, Ramones, old school Rockabilly and it's all wrapped up in a swampy Voodoo sound perfectly captured in two of the night's highlights, "Neck Tattoo" and "Common Prayer For A Working Man". Great band and great guys. I hope it won't be too long before we see them again.

The WitchDoktors at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
The WitchDoktors at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
The WitchDoktors at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog
The WitchDoktors at The 100 Club - photo Retro Man Blog

For more photos of the gig please check out the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and you can find lots more original videos of all three bands at our YouTube channel here. Please click on the highlighted links to take you to the band's official web-sites for news and more info on upcoming tour dates and how to buy their records. Mauro is also involved with Some Weird Sin promotions who will be putting on the Pump It Up Power Pop weekender at The Lexington on July 27th and 28th which features Duncan Reid & The Big Heads and The Priscillas among others.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Day-Glo: The Poly Styrene Story - A Searingly Honest and Uplifting Biography of the X-Ray Spex Singer by Poly's Daughter Celeste Bell & Music Writer Zoe Howe

As a music fan, I sometimes wonder if it might be better to go through life enjoying an artist or band’s work in naïve and blissful ignorance of the reality behind their public personas. The majority of music biographies might involve various tales of obligatory Rock ‘n’ Roll bad behaviour and excess but that might not particularly come as a shock. However, sometimes you will encounter far darker stories that often seem to lurk behind those façades which you are least expecting. You only have to scratch beneath the surface of The Beach Boys, Abba, Ramones and Fleetwood Mac for example and you will uncover that the truth might not exactly live up to their familiar public image. Some of these eye-opening stories may involve a cast of dysfunctional characters that are caught up in family, relationship or inter-band feuds. There may well be cases of mental and even physical abuse along with nervous breakdowns, drug use, premature deaths and illnesses for our heroes to contend with. There may also be examples of manipulation and mismanagement by shady Svengalis or record companies. Sadly, there’s quite a few of these issues coursing through “Day-Glo: The Poly Styrene Story”. I think back to the moment that I first saw the striking Poly Styrene on Top of The Pops. Exotic, colourful and unconventional, she challenged all the usual pre-conceptions of, not only what a “Punk” should be, but what a Pop Star should be. I certainly had no idea of the demons that were at play behind the cheeky Day-Glo singer that I watched in awe on the TV screen.

This often harrowing and sometimes distressing read certainly does not pull any punches in revealing the true story behind a unique and inspirational talent. However, what stops this book from becoming too bleak is the fact that it has been written by Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell, along with the acclaimed author Zoe Howe and this makes for a unique and intensely personal portrait. The format is based on a series of contemporary interviews with those closest to Poly; family members, friends, journalists, admirers and ex-band members, which I’m guessing are taken from research for the forthcoming “I Am A Cliché” documentary. Don Letts, Neneh Cherry, Tessa Pollitt, Jon Savage, John Robb, Thurston Moore, Kathleen Hanna and many more contributors all share their own personal experiences with Poly. Original X-Ray Spex bassist Paul Dean comes over really well, his down to earth no-nonsense reflections are refreshing and he admits that at the time they were just too young to know how to deal with Poly’s issues. There are archive interviews with Poly herself taken from various sources such as music papers, magazines and TV shows over the years. The book is beautifully illustrated with examples of Poly’s artwork including ideas and sketches of band logos, record covers and posters but what is particularly fascinating is the inclusion of various diary entries, scribbled notes and lyrics, which give a rare insight into Poly’s state of mind.

The main crux of the story is Poly’s struggle with issues of identity, a theme that might be familiar from the lyrics of various X-Ray Spex songs. Being mixed race, her mother was Scottish-Irish and her father Somalian, Poly didn’t easily fit into ether Black or White cultures and she even pretended to be Turkish to avoid bullying from all sides. She did develop a fiercely independent streak, aggressive even, as is proven by the story of her chasing and confronting a mugger. She ran away from home after being attracted to the Hippie movement and fell in love with a posh photographer Falcon Stuart, who would go on to manage X-Ray Spex and who’s excellent early photos illustrate the book. They both saw the Sex Pistols in Hastings and Poly saw the developing Punk scene, with its acceptance of any creative outsider regardless of sex or race, as perfect for her to develop her artistic talents. Initially starting with a clothing and accessory stall, her recycled Day-Glo retro-futuristic designs soon morphed together with her love of music and the formation of X-Ray Spex. However, Poly suffered from hallucinations, insecurity and mental breakdowns and was wrongly diagnosed as schizophrenic but she was in fact bipolar. The saddest thing of all is that nobody really knew how to deal with her meltdowns at the time, everyone was so young and self-absorbed. Anyway, back in the late 70’s and early ‘80’s issues of mental health were undoubtedly nowhere near as understood as they are nowadays. We've certainly come along way in that regard.

Poly soon tired of the aggression surrounding Punk and a harrowing residency at CBGB’s in New York was the final straw. Searching for inner peace and somewhere to feel accepted, Poly got heavily into the Hari Krishna sect but also became disillusioned with the negative side of this cult. She tried to get back into music again with a couple of X-Ray Spex reunions but the first attempt was pretty disastrous. However, later on there was another more successful show at the Roundhouse with original member Paul Dean back on bass; but it was clear that Poly struggled with performing in front of crowds. In 2011, Poly did finally release a critically acclaimed solo album “Generation Indigo”, but she sadly died of breast cancer a month after the release. It’s to Celeste’s great credit that she has been so frank in tackling the story of her mother, writing this book can’t have been an easy journey to embark upon and I doubt you are going to read a more honest, heart-breaking yet ultimately uplifting story for a long time to come. For more information on Zoe Howe’s other books please check out her web site here. Celeste has also co-written and narrated a documentary about Poly called “I Am A Cliché” which is currently in production to be released soon.

With thanks to Debra Geddes at Great Northern PR and to Zoë Howe.You can order the book via Rough Trade here or the deluxe box-set edition (limited to 250 copies) from here. This contains a number of exclusive items, including rare pieces reproduced from Poly’s archive: a specially re-released 7” single ("Identity"/"Let’s Submerge") on pink vinyl, a print of a Pennie Smith photograph, a Poly Styrene tote bag, Poly’s handwritten 'concept of X-Ray Spex' note, an 'Identity' card, Poly’s handwritten lyrics for "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!" and "I Am A Cliche"’, Poly’s handwritten sheet music for "Identity" and "The Day The World Turned Dayglo", three badges, Poly’s hand-drawn draft artwork for the Translucence album cover, Poly’s hand-drawn illustration, with signature, three press releases and two flyers for X-Ray Spex gigs!

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Hipsville Soho-A-Go-Go Margate - Feature with Photos & Videos From The Best Event of The Year

Wanda & Dottie in front of Dave Taylor's lighting - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Hipsville, our favourite musical (and social) event of the year never disappoints and although I probably say this every time, I think this really was one of the best so far. Despite various setbacks with location and venue changes over the years, I believe that the tireless and enthusiastic organisers Andrew, Ade, Alexandra and their team hit on a winning formula that managed to combine all the very best Hipsville elements that we have grown to love. Hipsville is the perfect antidote to all the current greyness, bad news and depression enveloping Brexit Britain – it is a bright and colourful splash of Hawaiian shirts, fez’s and fancy dress. Bands and fans from all over the world congregate to enjoy the music, make new friends and basically, party! After two years at Margate’s vintage Dreamland funfair, Hipsville has relocated to the town’s Cliftonville area to the Lido and the nearby historic Winter Gardens, which once hosted Laurel & Hardy and The Beatles.

The Jack Cades at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
I thought both venues worked perfectly – the suitably scuzzy Lido was ideal for this year’s Soho-A-Go-Go theme with its red upholstery, dark nooks and crannies and sticky carpets – just like an old-school Soho boozer or afterhours drinking den. Dave Taylor from Enjoy Yourself provided stunning lighting and visuals and his impressive oil projections transformed the Lido into a seething multi-coloured Psychedelic dreamworld. This all made for a perfect backdrop for the gorgeous Hipsville Go-Go dancers to strut their stuff - Wanda de Lullabies, Miss Diabolik, Alexandra Beat Girl, Celia Formica, Tina Tuna, Nocturna, and although sadly there was no Miss Ge Veve this year, we did have the welcome return of Dottie Gooseberry. This year saw the official introduction of two Go-Go boys too, Steve and Khalid from The Action Men, who both seemed to thoroughly enjoy the whole experience. The Jack Cades opened up proceedings in the Lido on the Friday evening and despite only just releasing their excellent debut album “Music For Children” on Dirty Water Records last year, they included a few really promising sounding new songs in the set. I sincerely hope this means that there will be more good stuff released by the band very soon indeed.

The Jack cades at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog

The Deadly Spirits from Sweden were great fun and their raw Rock ‘n’ Soul went down really well with the crowd. The band are from Karlstad so it was nice to bump into a couple of them and chat about mutual friends and bands such as Tonbruket, Cat & the Underdogs, Nymphet Noodlers and Mattias Hellberg. The final band, The Anomalys, powered through a set of fast and raucous Punk Rock and then it was over to our favourite Hipsville DJ's who over the weekend included Neil ‘Sick’ Smith, Adam Diddy Wah, Carl Combover and Fritz Buzzsaw who all ensured the party never stopped.

The Deady Spirits at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Mighty Tsar at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
On Saturday afternoon, the Glass Jar hosted the Tiki cocktail Bar and we enjoyed a drink while being serenaded by The Mighty Tsar and theur swampy Skiffle Calypso and some suitably mellow tunes courtesy of DJ Ian Greensmith. We then wanted to see Das Clamps for the first time and just managed to squeeze our way into the superb, but tiny, Fez Bar that was so packed it resembled a Tokyo subway train at rush hour. The duo comprise Miss Tangerine Tassels on guitar and vocals and then there is her sidekick on drums and vocals, Tina Marina who for some reason reminds me of Tina from Oh! Gunquit...anyway, they played foot stomping stripped back Cramps inspired songs from their forthcoming album “Shit Music For Shit People” which is out soon on the excellent Trash Wax Records. Unfortunately, French band The Scaners had to pull out at the last minute due to one of the members breaking their leg, which was really bad news as I was looking forward to seeing them very much. However, the good news was that The Baron Four stepped in at short notice and proved more than capable substitutes with their own brand of upbeat Garage R'n'B.

Das Clamps at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Das Clamps at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Autoramas at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Then it was over to the grand Winter Gardens and there were more excellent visuals from Dave Taylor – movies of Swinging 60’s London and Soho Street signs and the stage had red telephone boxes on either side for the Go-Go girls, boys, and gorillas to dance in. The DJ booth was imaginatively transformed into a seedy sex shop. Tonight’s opening act were the fabulous Autoramas and as regular Blog followers will know, the Brazilian space age retro rockers have fast become one of our favourite bands ever since we first saw them play courtesy of Hipsville back in 2015. Their unique blend of Bubble-gum Garage Rock and B-52’s/Devo style New Wave with crunching bass sound and Gabriel’s trademark vibrato effects pedal was simply mind-blowing. The always glamorous Erika adds keyboards, Theremin and guitar and dances non-stop, even getting down to dance with the audience too. They are a fantastic band, one of those that you really have to try to see play live and such lovely people too.

Autoramas at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Night Times with Celia & Wanda at Hipsville - Photo Retro Man Blog
Next up it’s the U.K. debut for the hotly tipped Californian band The Night Times who wowed the crowd with their traditional nuggets era Psych. They have a superb drummer who was a blur of hair as she thrashed away behind her kit and the lead vocalist/bassist was throwing himself about so much that his bass kept going out of tune. They were such a great live act and there was a tangible buzz about them throughout the whole weekend. Next on stage it was the turn of MFC Chicken who played a thoroughly entertaining set of Fabulous Wailers songs that had everyone dancing along. Classics like “Mashi” and “Out of Our Tree” went down a storm and they even made the perennial classic “Louie Louie” sound fresh. There was also a surprise appearance by Elsa from The Jack Cades who joined the band to wow everyone with a soulful vocal performance.

The Night Times at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
MFC Chicken at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Action Men entertained us with an amusing dance routine, which featured a cameo from Mr A, and then the winners of the fancy dress competition were announced. In the sad absence of Davros and his Deep Space Deviants, this year saw The Stags put in a hilarious performance with a Mary Whitehouse lookalike on vocals and a band comprising Policemen in a uniform of helmets, tunics and suspenders. What a perfect ending to a fabulous day. On Sunday, it was back to the Fez Bar to be serenaded by Professor Baba and His Invisible Band who bewitched us with some entertaining Voodoo Blues and general mumbo jumbo. I thought it was strange how the Professor reminded me of Simon from Oh! Gunquit – that band must have many lookalikes running around Margate. We made it into the Lido just as Spanish band Los Wilds were finishing their set and the wild-eyed frontman was down to his underpants and cowboy boots. A normal Sunday afternoon at Hipsville then.

Professor Baba at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Night Times at Hipsville - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Next came The Day Tymes, the not-so-subtle alter ego of The Night Times who blew the Lido apart with their ‘secret’ show. During a wild version of “Gloria” the singer put his bass down and jumped into the crowd for the duration of the song prompting David Arnold of The Stags to take over on bass duties, he should have quickly tuned it up while he was about it. The good news is that the band are hanging around in the UK for a couple more weeks and as I write they are in North Down Sound Studios with Lois and Mole from State Records recording songs for a new single. They will also be playing Brighton on May 17th and Weirdsville in London on Saturday May 18th so if you missed Hipsville be sure to catch them play if you can, you will not be disappointed. The Hipsville team could finally relax and let their hair down at the Sunday night after show party at the Cinque Ports pub – they had invited legendary DJ Mike Gunn (himself no stranger to a bit of sleaze) over from L.A. to close the weekend in his inimitable style. We all kept our eyes on our wallets and our whisky and ensured that no Go-Go dancer was left unchaperoned in the presence of the lascivious titan of the turntable! What a great weekend, I just cannot wait to do it all again next year.

DJ Neil 'Sick' Smith & Hipsville Organiser Mr A
Hipsville organiser Ade, or is it Mike Gunn...with Dave Taylor
Please take the time to click on the highlighted links throughout the feature to check out more information on the relevant bands. You can find more photos of the Hipsvile Soho-A-Go-Go weekend at our Facebook page here and more videos over here at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel. Check the Blog archive for lots of features on previous Hipsville weekenders and Weirdsville club nights. We have also played tracks by many Hipsville/Weirdsville related bands in our Retrosonic Podcast and all episodes are available to listen to or download from our Soundcloud site here.

The Night Times at Hipsville - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
The Hipsville Go-Go Dancers
For news and announcements on future Weirdsville and Hipsville shows please keep an eye on the You Got Good Taste web site. Dave Taylor runs the Enjoy Yourself club nights in Swanage and more information on this and his lighting can be found here. Finally, once again huge thanks to Andrew, Ade and Alexandra and their team of helpers for once again putting on such a fantastic event.