Sunday 25 September 2022

Those 12 Bar Nights - New Book by Mark 'Barnet' Webster with memories from Staff, Performers and Customers of the much-missed 12 Bar Club

"Those 12 Bar Nights" is a suberb, beautifully presented new book by Mark 'Barnet' Webster that features memories, photos and stories from Staff, Performers and Customers of London's much-missed 12 Bar Club. I've heard the 12 Bar described as the best ever dive bar, a Punk Rock Heaven (and haven) and London's answer to CBGB's and it's loss to heartless property developers and culturally clueless money-grabbing local council and Government is still keenly felt. I haven't missed a venue so much since the Hammersmith Clarendon was similarly bulldozed to make way for a monstrosity of a shopping mall. Sure, I also mourn the loss of the Astoria, The Hammersmith Palais, The Old Trout in Windsor, The Marquee and many more - but the 12 Bar was so much more than just another venue. It was the social aspect too, a place where lasting friendships and memories were formed, all right in the heart of London's most famous and historic musical street, Tin Pan Alley or Denmark Street to give it it's rightful name. The book is beautifully illustrated and includes hundreds of photographs of not only some of the bands and people that appeared, but of the character-packed venue itself. Initial copies of the book were individually credited on the cover, signed and included prints, stickers and postcards of various flyers, posters and superb cartoon artwork, the whole package is an absolute delight. Credit to Mark for the painstaking work in compiling the many contributions into a fascinating and nostalgic look back at the 12 Bar Club's history - including my own, as you can see reproduced below...

"I first went to the 12 Bar Club when The Fallen Leaves started their Minimum R'n'B Club nights on a Wednesday and straight away I was hooked. I was so happy to find a spiritual Rock 'n' Roll home right in the heart of London but also angry with myself that I hadn't discovered it sooner. I rarely missed any of the Leaves' residencies, not only were they one of the best live acts I'd seen but they had the habit of choosing excellent support acts and DJ's to make them nights to remember. The only downside was the Wednesday night... as I had to travel into London from out in the sticks and the nights were long and late, I found myself transported back to my youth - rushing out to race across town to catch the last fast train home. As I soon made many good friends and gig acquaintances at the 12 Bar Club, I learned to sneak out secretly as saying goodbye to everyone could take quite a while and the trains would not wait just for me! This soon went by the wayside and I would usually be late and have to cadge a lift back or wait at the station for the bone-shaker slow train. It was always worth it.

It was the friends I made at the 12 Bar that would be equally, if not more important than the great bands I would see there and this will always make it a hugely important part of my life. It also kept me busy with loads of content for Retro Man Blog and Retrosonic Podcast and myself and my colleague, Rock Photographer Paul Slattery, filed loads of reports from memorable gigs at the 12 Bar. There are too many great nights to mention them all, just check out the Blog and you can see what I mean - but I would say one particularly memorable night was Crash '74 who were a one-off band featuring Harley Feinstein, the original drummer of one of my favourite bands Sparks and his wife Michelle on vocals. They were joined by Nicky Forbes from The Revillos, Stevie Savage and friends to deliver a fun-packed singalong of some of their greatest hits and a selection of cover versions. So, I owe the 12 Bar a hell of a lot and I was gutted when I heard it was going to close down. Hopefully, one day in the future we'll see a new 12 Bar appear - we can but dream!"

You can buy the book from the London Callin' web-site here and there's also a Facebook Group with more information here. There may be plans to release a second edition, so if you have any memories, photos or stories from the 12 Bar Club but missed out contributing to this book, then please contact Mark at the Facebook Group. 

Thursday 8 September 2022

Retrosonic Podcast - Eel Pie Island Museum, The History and Legacy of The Thames Delta 1960's British Beat and R'n'B Explosion

In the latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast, Steve from Retro Man Blog and Buddy Ascott of The Fallen Leaves are on location at the excellent Eel Pie Island Museum in Twickenham in the company of museum curator Michele Whitby and music historian Pete Watt. We discuss the rich musical heritage of what has become known as the Thames Delta and the birthplace of 60's British Beat and R'n'B, focusing on the legendary Eel Pie Island Hotel and some of the famous acts who played there. From it's opening night in 1956 and the Trad Jazz of Acker Bilk, Chris Barber and George Melly to the last show in 1970, the Hotel hosted gigs by many hugely influential bands and artists. There were shows by the leading importers of American Blues and R'n'B such as Alexis Corner, Long John Baldry and John Mayall, the originators Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker and of course, their young acolytes such as the Rolling Stones, The Artwoods and Downliners Sect. That's not to forget Soul acts like Jimmy Cliff and Geno Washington and even the later incarnation when the Hotel was transformed into Colonel Barefoot's Rock Garden and started putting on Heavy Rock and Psychedelic acts such as Deep Purple, Joe Cocker and Black Sabbath. One of the most fascinating aspects is discovering all the now legendary names who made early pre-fame and fortune appearances at the Eel Pie Hotel including David Bowie with The Manish Boys, Jeff Beck with The Tridents, Ian McLagan with The Muleskinners and Eel Pie audience regular, Rod 'The Mod' Stewart with Steampacket. 

Surprisingly, despite Pete Townshend's strong links with Twickenham - after all, his studios and publishing company were named after the Eel Pie Island - The Who only played there once and you might be surprised to find out when. The answer can be found in the episode along with other interesting facts and anecdotes - for example, just how did bands get their equipment to the Hotel before the bridge was built? Did you really need a passport to cross to the Island? Why did The Pretty Things never get to play there? The Hotel was sadly destroyed by fire in 1971 and is now the site of luxury flats but thankfully, the Eel Pie Island Museum is keeping the remarkable legacy of Eel Pie Island alive in such a vibrant and enthusiastic way. To find out more about the Museum and the history of Eel Pie Island, including their mightily impressive list of bands and artists who played at the Hotel, details on visiting, yearly membership, merchandise and much more please check out the official web-site here. If you're going along to the Museum we'd also recommend a visit to the excellent Eel Pie Records, check out the regular live shows at The Eel Pie Club at the Cabbage Patch and of course enjoy a pint or two at the Eel Pie pub. For our report on the recent Don Craine tribute and fund-raising gig at The Half Moon Putney, please check out the feature in our archive here. Retrosonic Podcast Episode 48 features Buddy and Rob Green of The Fallen Leaves discussing the show and there's also an exclusive new song from Thee Headcoats Sect, the band that Billy Childish formed with Don Craine. We'd also recommend the books "British Beat Explosion: Rock 'n' Roll Island" and "Raving Upon Thames: An Untold Story of Sixties London" by Andrew Humphreys for further reference and inspiration. You can subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast for free at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Amazon Music or direct from SoundCloud below:

Here's a few more photos of the Museum and Eel Pie Island itself (copyright Retro Man Blog).

Michele, Pete and Buddy Ascott

The bridge to Eel Pie Island
The site of the old Eel Pie Island Hotel
The impressive list of Eel Pie Island Hotel shows


Downliners Sect "Glendora"

Rolling Stones "I Just Want To Make Love To You"

Rolling Stones "Not Fade Away"

The Artwoods "If I Ever Get My Hands On You"

The Muleskinners "Back Door Man"

The Who "I'm A Boy"

Downliners Sect "Why Don't You Smile Now?"

The Steampacket "Can I Get A Witness?"

Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames "Yeh, Yeh"

Geno Washington "Hold On I'm Comin'"

The Manish Boys "Take My Tip"

With sincere thanks to Michele and Pete at The Eel Pie Island Museum. Eel Pie Island resident Sheba from Bitter & Twisted Cartoons designed the fantastic Eel Pie caricatures picture (as seen below), which can be found on tea towels, posters and postcards in the museum shop.   

Sunday 4 September 2022

Dennis Morris "Super Perry" - Iconic Images of Lee "Scratch" Perry, Exhibition and Book

Dennis Morris at the Super Perry Exhibition - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog

Yesterday we went along to the Dennis Morris exhibition Super Perry, a selection of superb photos of Lee "Scratch" Perry arranged to coincide with the release of the book Super Perry and timed to commemorate Perry's sad passing in late August last year. Morris has included pictures of the legendary and eccentric Reggae and Dub producer from the late 70's right up to their last photoshoot together out and about in London in 2016. You can also see photos of John Lydon's pre-Public Image Ltd trip to Jamaica and there's even a full size recreation of Perry's Black Art Studio. We were in luck as Dennis was there in the gallery and was happy to chat and explain more of the background to the photos on display. Dennis Morris started off his career in music photography while he was still at school, hanging around a soundcheck waiting for Bob Marley. Marley was impressed and invited Morris on tour with the Wailers and the subsequent photos became famous worldwide and even graced the cover of Melody Maker, all this before Morris was 17 years old. The photos of Marley caught the eye of Reggae fan John Lydon who invited Dennis to take photos of the Sex Pistols when they signed to Virgin Records. These photos are collected together in the excellent book "Destroy" which was published buy Creation Books. When the Pistols split up, Morris continued to work with Lydon and Public Image Ltd, designing their logo and the "Metal Box" packaging. Dennis then worked in A&R for Island Records and joined the Punk band Basement 5. He formed Drum & Bass unit Urban Shakedown, who Paul Weller chose as the first release for his Respond Records label and this was followed by the Hip Hop outfit Boss, who were signed by Virgin. For details on how to buy Dennis Morris prints and books and news on upcoming exhibitions, please check out the official Dennis Morris web-site here. The Super Perry exhibition which is hosted by Gimme 5, is on at 30 Old Burlington Street, London W1 until Thursday September 7th, for more details please check here.

Dennis Morris photo copyright Retro Man Blog