Sunday 19 May 2024

The Return of The Prisoners - New Book "A Taste of Ink", New Album "Morning Star" and Reunion Gig at The Roundhouse in London...

It's certainly a good time to be a fan of The Prisoners - this week sees their biggest gig since the band's reunion - a huge show at London's legendary Roundhouse on Friday May 24th featuring the original line-up of Graham Day, James Taylor, Allan Crockford and Johnny Symons with support from Inspiral Carpets and DJ Steve Lamacq. Talking of huge... there's been a loud thud on the doormats of many households around the world in the past few days (orders have been received from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, UK and USA) as the Postman has been delivering the fantastic new book "A Taste of Ink: The Prisoners Sentenced By Their Fans" lovingly compiled and edited by Elinor Crockford, Jeremy Stride, Michael Langer and Thomas Buch. I've just received my huge hardback labour of love and all 385 pages are bursting with every scrap of information you could wish for on the history of the Medway Garage Rock legends. It's mainly a chronological collection of various fan's experiences with the band over the years right up to the recent reunion shows but along the way, there are also hundreds of flyers, adverts, posters, press cuttings, fanzine features, fan's own original photos, illustrations and official promo pics crammed into each page.


There's also a comprehensive gig list and a timeline with a family tree showing the many branches to have sprouted from The Prisoners - the various side projects and new bands that the members of the band embarked on after the initial split. I have an extensive music book library and I can honestly say that I haven't seen many better books on a band than "A Taste of Ink", what with it's wealth of archive material and first hand experiences - it's a fan's dream, and that's basically because it's been compiled by and contributed to by the fans themselves. A fantastic effort and well done to all involved, they must be very proud of the work of art they have produced. I know, I'm very honoured to have some of my photos included and it's great to see them alongside so many familiar names and faces from fellow Prisoners fans that I have got to meet and know since my first Graham Day & The Forefathers Retro Man Blog Night some ten years ago now. 

The Prisoners reunion in Rochester December 2022   



My old Ramones Gig Ticket - The Prisoners as support

My first recollection of seeing The Prisoners was on the classic TV music show The Tube in 1984 and I was hooked ever since - however due to geographical difficulties, I only saw them play live a couple of times back in the day at the much-missed Hammersmith Clarendon and supporting Ramones at the Hammersmith Palais. Fast forward some 30 years and I must admit to having a lump in my throat when I walked backstage at the Half Moon Putney before one of my shows for Graham Day & The Forefathers, and saw the Star Trek outfits hanging up in the dressing room. It made a special event even more special than I could have imagined and I'll never forget it.

Photos above Graham Day & The Forefathers at Retro Man Blog Night

I would go on to put on gigs for The Solarflares, Senior Service and The Galileo 7 and then was in the crowd to finally witness a superb Prisoners reunion show in Rochester in 2022 (which you can read about here), something I never thought would happen. But not only is there the upcoming Prisoners gig at The Roundhouse to look forward to, there's also the superb new album "Morning Star" which is out now on Own Up Records and is a remarkably strong set of brand new material that distills all of those trademark Prisoners elements you love. The stomping Motown beats, immense Hammond organ, fuzzed up guitars, melodic bass lines and instantly memorable, bittersweet harmonies. There's also one of the very best Gerry Anderson TV show instrumental themes that never was in "The Green Meteor" and nods to all the band's influences along the way, some more unsuspecting than you might think such as The Who on "Going Back" and Ramones and Phil Spector on "Go To Him" (I hope they play this on Friday...), it's a surefire classic that will live up to all your expectations.


 You can order "A Taste of Ink" via the book's own official Facebook page here.

Friday 17 May 2024

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Live at EartH Hackney with Keyside


I make no apologies for yet another glowing feature on Michael Head and The Red Elastic Band and before you ask, no I don't work for their PR department. My only worry is that I am in danger of constantly repeating myself in banging on and on about just how vitally important Mick is as one of our generation's greatest ever songwriters and live performers. He's on tour to promote the new album "Loophole" which promises to build on the huge success of the stunning "Dear Scott" - an album that finally garnered Mick the acclaim he has so rightly deserved over the years and it's also nice that we don't have to keep referring to him as "underrated" anymore. Tonight's set is made up mainly of songs from "Loophole" and it's a bit of a shame that the album's release was delayed - not only because copies weren't available for sale during the tour, especially at the record store appearances/signings - but also because we couldn't familiarise with the new material properly, other than the tracks that have been released as on-line singles or from hearing them played at previous gigs. 


 

Of the new songs, my favourites are "Shirl's Ghost", the instrumental version of which teased us at the end of "Dear Scott" and the unashamedly romantic "You Smiled At Me", a sunny Burt Bacarach Bossa Nova-tinged jaunt. Mick explains it was inspired by the real-life stories found in the Metro newspaper of passenger's chance, often unrequited romantic encounters on public transport. It's a future classic that's for sure. I also love "Human Race" as it cranks up the volume and tempo and "Ciao Ciao Bambino", which is a Love (the band) inspired masterpiece. These news songs all promise that "Loophole" is going to give "Dear Scott" a run for its money. Of course, we get a fair chunk of the last album too including superb versions of "Gino and Rico", "Kismet" and "Pretty Child" and a sublime "Broken Beauty" with Mick telling us how it was co-written by daughter Allie who unfortunately couldn't be at the show. However,  we did witness her taking the stage for the very first time in Tokyo last year to add backing vocals to the truly beautiful song - it was certainly emotional and you can see a video of it at our YouTube channel here. From the Shack years we are treated to superb versions of "Strangers", "Comedy" and the crowd favourite "Meant To Be" but it's the brooding Psychedelia of "Streets of Kenny" that blows everyone's minds tonight. 


 

Of course, I'm a huge Shack fan but with the core of musicians Mick has assembled around him - guitarist Nathaniel Laurence, bassist Tom Powell, drummer Phil Murphy and the one-man brass section (and enthusiastic dancer) Martin Smith - The Red Elastic Band more than make up for the fact that with the sad and untimely passing of drummer Iain 'Tempo' Templeton it's highly unlikely that Mick would try and re-form Shack anytime in the near future. However, talking of which, another of tonight's highlights (yes, there are more...) sees Shack bassist Pete Wilkinson taking a break from his own musical project Aviator, and indeed his birthday celebrations, to take the stage for the wonderful "Merry-Go-Round". 


 

Mick wishes his friend and former colleague happy birthday and explains how he was staying in Pete's flat about 15 years ago, when he heard Pete playing around with a guitar riff that caught his attention and they ending up co-writing "Merry-Go-Round" and after all these years, it's finally made it onto an album. It's a superb song, built around a hypnotic, circular guitar riff that really tugs at the heartstrings. Another transcendental night of music in the company of Mick and The Red Elastic Band draws to a close with a raucous encore of Love's "A House Is Not A Motel" and that's it, sadly it's all over until the next time I get chance to write yet another glowing feature. 



 

I must also mention the fantastic Keyside, fellow Liverpudlians specially picked by Mick for their very first London show. They were one of those well chosen and well suited acts that really set the crowd up nicely for the main act to follow, similar to Karma Sheen supporting Elephant Stone last week. Frontman Daniel Parker reminded me of (a young) Neil Finn...well, from a distance and without my glasses...and Keyside certainly have Crowded House's unabashed pop sensibilities. Daniel sounds like a cross between Lee Mavers and Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys as he bounces around the stage with a huge grin, his good humour and obvious delight at playing such a big venue is as infectious as Keyside's perfectly formed songs and they get a really warm reception from the crowd. 



I don't know what it is about the Merseyside musical conveyor belt that constantly produces so many interesting melodic bands and although their songs are rooted in the classic Liverpool sound, excellent guitarist Ben Cassidy takes the occasional detour to Manchester for his crystal clear guitar riffs, reminiscent of Johnny Marr. I have to mention the impressive rhythm section of drummer Oisin McAvoy and bassist Max Gibson too and there's a nice chemistry apparent between all four members. Of course they undoubtedly have influences from lots of young and contemporary bands that an old git like me has never heard of, but I can pick up strains of Cast and The Coral at their most melodic, think "In The Morning" and "Jacqueline" rather than their Captain Beefheart and Psychedelic side. Keyside's songs are instantly memorable - "Angeline", "Paris To Marseille", "Nikita" and in particular a new song which I think is called "I Can't Get Enough", will stick with you for days to follow and I'm eager to find out more about this very promising young band.

 

Check out our archive for loads more Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band related features, photos and videos including our special report on their stunning and emotional Tokyo show last year. There are also lots of Mick-related live videos at our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here, subscribe for free to access. I must also say that it was great to meet up with Red Elastic Band bassist Tom Powell again for the first time since our thoroughly entertaining Retrosonic Podcast about his stunning side project Def.fo and their self-titled debut, which was our favourite Album of 2023. You can check out the Episode at Spotify or direct from our SoundCloud site below.

Mick's daughter Allie had her debut novel "Between It All" published to critical acclaim and it's been making its way to major bookshops too but you can order online too. In more news, John Johnson, the photographer responsible for the superb photos on the covers of "Dear Scott" and "Adiós Señor Pussycat", also has a photo-book of Liverpool nightlife, "In Concert" out now, for more info please check out John's web-site herePlease click on the highlighted links throughout the feature for more information. All photos and videos copyright Retro Man Blog 2024.

Sunday 5 May 2024

Elephant Stone & Karma Sheen - A night of Sitar heavy Psychedelia at The Lexington London May 3rd 2024


Friday night, saw the triumphant return of the Montreal based Elephant Stone to London to treat a packed out Lexington to their very own emotive and exotic brand of Eastern-tinged Psychedelia, all thanks to the excellent Bad Vibrations Promotions. We've followed band frontman, Sitar maestro Rishi Dhir since we first saw him and guitarist Robbie MacArthur in their previous incarnation, The High Dials at the Metro Club in London way back in 2004 and were there at Elephant Stone's London unveiling, here at the Lexington in 2011. Then there was a stunnng show by Rishi's side-project MIEN at the Moth Club too - a superb band featuring Alex Maas from The Black Angels and Tom Furse of The Horrors. All of this, not to mention Rishi's guest appearances with some of our favourite bands such as The Soundtrack of Our Lives and The Brian Jonestown Massacre for example, means he has achieved an almost godlike status in the Retro Man Blog household! 




 
 
This was the last night of the short U.K. leg of a European tour mainly to promote their excellent new album "Back Into The Dream" which is almost nailed on as album of the year already and it's only just into May. However, for me the only downside with the record (as excellent as it is), was that I thought it lacked enough of Rishi's trademark Sitar - concentrating instead on atmospheric layers of guitars and keyboards. However, no such worries for the gig tonight - Rishi takes the stage and sits cross-legged on his elephant blanket with Sitar very much present and opens with a raga that leads into the brilliant "Heavy Moon". Robbie's guitar playing is immense, coaxing transcendental sounds and textures from his array of foot pedals - just sublime, but when it comes down to it he is also a master of a damn catchy riff, the kind that sticks in your head for days after. Drummer Miles Dupire-Gagnon and the multi-instrumentalist Jason Kent, who handles keyboards, guitar, bass and backing vocals are both excellent and help to bring the often intricate songs on record to life and there's a nice chemistry between all four members.




 
 
It's a superb set and my personal highlights included The Who-like mini-Rock-opera "The Imajinary Everybody Nameless In The World" which condenses "Tommy", "Quadrophenia" and "A Quick One" into one fantastic, mind-bending eight minute masterpiece and Rishi's bass is worthy of The Ox himself. With a lot of the emphasis on Rishi's sitar playing, it's easy to overlook just what a fantastic bassist he is and this musical tour-de-force proves it. There's even another little nod to The Who with a sneaky reference to "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand" in the fantastic "Going Underground". I was blown away by a superb medley of the Sitar led groove of "Sally Goes Round The Sun" from their self-titled album which snakes into "Darker Time Darker Space", "The Court and Jury" and "Land of The Dead" from the excellent "Hollow" LP. The Teenage Fanclub and Big Star influence, which first became apparent on the 2012 track "Hold Onto Yr Soul", is still present on the latest album with the heart-breakingly gorgeous "On Our Own" which tonight is absolutely sublime. Another one of my highlights was the French language "La Fusée du Chagrin" which rockets along at some pace, powered by a driving bassline and some stunning duelling guitar between Robbie and Jason. There's so much to take in during the eclectic set, there are strains of the melancholic Baroque sound of The Left Banke, the pastoral melodies of The Zombies "Odessey & Oracle", 60's Psychedelia and Fuzzed up Garage Rock Nuggets. But there's also the World Music element along with the British 90's Indie Rock, Shoegaze and Dream Pop movements - In fact, Elephant Stone could have an album in pretty much any genre of your record collection. 
 


 
 
I have to mention the support act Karma Sheen, who were the perfect warm-up to Elephant Stone, an eye-catchingly colourful and exotic mash-up of King Khan & The Shrines and Jimi Hendrix with their groove laden Hindustani infused Prog-Psychedelia. Led by the charismatic frontman Sameer Khan who alternates between some wicked guitar playing and an Indian Selecta Harmonium, their danceable, hypnotic songs went down a storm with the crowd. They also have an impressive multi-instrumentalist in their ranks who played a small scale sitar like a guitar along with keyboards and theremin. Definitely a band to keep an eye on and I'd certainly recommend catching them play live if you get chance - certainly a joyful and uplifting experience. 



 
 
For more videos of the show please subscribe to our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel. Please do kindly check out the highlighted links throughout the feature for further information to support the bands. All photos and videos copyright Retro Man Blog 2024.

Thursday 25 April 2024

Lenny Kaye & Friends play Nuggets at The 100 Club London, Thursday April 4th 2024

Lenny Kaye with Marty Love on drums
Lenny Kaye, the New York based musical historian, journalist, author and of course, guitarist with the Patti Smith Group for an impressive 50 years, has another equally impressive entry on his CV, and that’s as the compiler of what must be one of the most influential albums of all time. "Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968" released on Elektra Records in 1972, was Lenny’s painstaking labour of love, a compilation of obscure 60's American Garage Rock and Psych bands. Often these teen trash bands were one local hit wonders that might have only just made it out from their garage rehearsal to a nearby recording studio or High School gig before disappearing from view for good. However, some of the featured bands would end up clicking with lovers of raw power Rock ‘n Roll for generations to follow. The Seeds, The Sonics and The Music Machine to name but three, inspired countless Garage Punk bands all over the world. The influence of the California based Love in particular, would resonant hugely with the city of Liverpool, not just back in the 80’s with Liverpudlian Post Punk bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes but on into the 90’s when songwriting genius Mick Head’s Shack ended up as Arthur Lee’s backing band on his UK tour and then later still with local bands such as The Coral. Well over half the bands I've featured on Retro Man Blog and Retrosonic Podcast owe a huge debt to Nuggets in some way or other - just check out some of our favourite contemporary acts from all over the globe such as Las Aspiradoras from Spain, The Satelliters from Germany, The Hangees from Sardinia, Vic & The Sect from Mexico, Frowning Clouds from Australia, Stompin’ Riff Raffs from Japan and The In-Fuzzed from France are just some great examples.
 
Lenny Kaye with Jim Jones

Lenny Kaye with Jon King from Gang of Four

Lenny with Moana Santana & Helene de Joie
Lenny decided to play some shows in America to celebrate the belated 50th anniversary of the release of “Nuggets”, gathering together a stellar cast of musicians such as Peter Buck from R.E.M., Peter Zaremba from The Fleshtones, Kathy Valentine from The Go-Go's along with surviving members of some of the original bands like The Seeds, The Electric Prunes, The Leaves, The Chocolate Watchband and Johnny Echols of Love. Then came the announcement of a London show and Lenny, together with promoter Joe De Lorenzo, assembled an equally impressive Transatlantic cast for a night at the legendary 100 Club on Thursday April 4th. Due to the huge demand, a second date on Friday 5th was quickly added and that too sold out in lightning time, so we were grateful for the quick action in securing tickets for the Thursday, it was something I just could not have missed as the line-up looked amazing. Lenny took centre stage on guitar and vocals and it struck me that it looks like he's barely changed over the years, he’s relaxed and cheerful and looks genuinely chuffed to bits to be able to share his passion for good time Rock & Roll with us. There’s a core band backing Lenny, featuring bassist Dave Treganna of Sham 69 and Lords of The New Church, Jim Jones of Thee Hypnotics and Jim Jones All Stars on guitars and vocals, drumming duties were shared between Rat Scabies of The Damned and Marty Love of Wingmen and the Johnny Moped Band. The other ever presents were Derek Cruz from the Jesse Malin band on Guitars, Harmonica and Percussion and Greg Rice on the keyboards who both did a superb job considering they were in for the long haul. 

Lenny Kaye with Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys

Rat Scabies of The Damned

Lenny with Clive Jackson from Dr & The Medics

 
 
Various special guest vocalists joined in the fun - Clive 'The Doctor' Jackson of Dr. & The Medics, Jon King from Gang of Four, Alan Clayton of The Dirty Strangers, Peter Coyne of The Godfathers and Anita Chellamah from Cherry Bombz. They were joined buy the UK based New Yorker Roxanne Fontana and the New York based Amanda Cross who both have new records of their own out now. Then we had the guest guitarists, Cheetah Chrome from CBGB's legends Dead Boys, Japanese guitarist Tsuyoshi Kitagawa otherwise known as Go Ohgami, Brian James of The Damned, Billy Shinbone from The Sinclairs and Guy Griffin of The Quireboys. If that wasn't enough, former Clash compatriot DJ Barry 'Scratchy' Myers warmed up the crowd perfectly and Go-Go dancers Moana Santana and Helene de Joie provided some suitably 60's style atmosphere. We certainly got our ticket money's worth. The only disappointment was that Dave Vanian, Paul Gray and Captain Sensible of The Damned had to pull out as did Deb O'Nair, the original organ player with The Fuzztones. It was a big shame as both bands were pivotal in introducing me to Nuggets and The Fuzztones classic "Lysergic Emanations" is still one of my all-time favourites albums. I was hoping that we would see half of Naz Nomad reunited along with that classic Black Album/Strawberries (and praise be, also the current…) line-up of The Damned.

Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys

Rat Scabies, Jim Jones, Helene de Joie & Derek Cruz

Lenny with Alan Clayton of Dirty Strangers

Personally, I first got drawn to 60’s Nuggets mainly thanks to The Damned’s alter-ego Naz Nomad & The Nightmares and their soundtrack to an imaginary Swinging 60’s teen exploitation movie “Give Daddy the Knife Cindy”, which featured covers of prime Nuggets material. The 60's Garage Psych influence on the Damned’s superb "Strawberries" album was apparent and in the mid-80’s I could see The Fuzztones and Dr & The Medics thanks to The Damned inviting them on tour as support bands. Around that time, I also saw Australia's Scientists and Hoodoo Gurus and lapped up the Trash scene of the Klub Foot at The Clarendon in Hammersmith where The Prisoners with their Hammond organ (pretty rare at the time) conjured up not only Small Faces but Question Mark & The Mysterians iconic "96 Tears". The Tall Boys, Milkshakes, and my favourites The Playn Jayn, all mined the 60's Garage Rock and Psych sound and 1984-86 was an absolute blast of groovy sounds, yeah baby! In fact, I interviewed Dr & The Medics for my fanzine Out of Step just before they themselves became one-hit wonders and topped the charts with the now ubiquitous "Spirit in the Sky". However, before this brush with the mainstream, they were a pretty cool band, a superb live act and were responsible for running the Alice in Wonderland nightclub in London. Check out their early releases and demos, they are well worth a listen. But the disappointment of Dave, Paul, the Captain, and Deb not being able to make it was soon put to one side when you consider the quality of the assembled special guests who did appear.

Dave Treganna of Sham 69, The Doctor & Moana Santana

Peter Coyne of The Godfathers, Rat Scabies, Jim Jones & Derek Cruz

Lenny with Rat Scabies

 
 
In an immense set that stretched to well over two hours, the packed out 100 Club crowd were treated to an astonishing 33 songs including such Nuggets classics as “Dirty Water”, “Little Red Book”, “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White”, “Pushing Too Hard”, “The Witch” and “Strychnine” , “Action Woman”, “Nobody But Me”, “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, “Wooly Bully” and of course “Louie Louie”. Lenny also made the decision to include some non-Nuggets crowd favourites to suit the guests and keep it varied and there were so many highlights, it’s hard and probably a bit unfair to pick out specific moments. But if pushed I must mention Peter Coyne’s visceral attack on The Creation’s “How Does It Feel To Feel” which took me back to the blistering early days of The Godfathers. Billy Shinbone’s extraordinary guitar wig-out on Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” even had Lenny staring open-mouthed in awe. Roxanne Fontana in a fetching mask and outfit took on Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs” and Alan Clayton’s Bluesy swagger on the Small Faces “Whatcha Gonna Do About It” was ace. Amanda Cross put in a stunning performance of Bo Diddley’s “Roadrunner” and Jim Jones in bug-eyed shades was the epitome of Rock ‘n’ Roll cool personified and his version of “99th Floor” by The Moving Sidewalks was superb.

Dave Treganna, Roxanne Fontana, Marty Love & Lenny Kaye

Anita Chellamah & Helen de Joie

Lenny Kaye with Clive Jackson of Dr & The Medics

 

The Doctor took to the stage to croon through Love’s “My Little Red Book” and The Sonics “Strychnine”, which saw the crowd going crazy. Then there was Lenny Kaye’s own obscure Nugget, a great Garage Country Rock track “Crazy Like A Fox” from his pre-Patti Smith days in Link Cromwell & The Zoo. Everyone played their part – credit to Dave Treganna on bass as he had to play on all the songs throughout the evening and he kept everything ticking over perfectly. Behind the drums, Rat Scabies was immense as was Martin ‘Marty Love’ Parrott from Wingmen, another one of our favourite surprise collaborations. Things got wild towards the end of the set with the introduction of Cheetah Chrome from The Dead Boys and Brian James of The Damned – and they powered their way through MC5’s “Looking At You” and “Kick Out The Jams” before Lenny took off his shirt and announced “I’m gonna do this Iggy style” and I unconsciously sucked my stomach in as he was so fit and lean, putting me to shame, he looks amazing for 77! The familiar guitar riff to “I Wanna Be Your Dog” started off, and in true Iggy style, Lenny dives headlong off the stage for some crowd-surfing action, it’s a great moment. For the last song, all the special guests take to the stage for a massive singalong of “Gloria” and it’s over. What an amazing night, this will live long in the memory for sure. Massive congratulations to Joe De Lorenzo and whoever else helped to make this happen – a truly special Rock ‘n’ Roll happening that sums up the wonderful power of unabashed joyful music played by people who were having as much of a good time  on the stage as we were in the crowd.

Lenny takes a break to read a passage from his excellent book "Lightning Striking" before chanelling his inner-Iggy!

Check out our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel for more videos from the show. Also, please do take the time to click on the highlighted links throughout the feature to discover what else the wonderful special guests are up to! All photos and videos copyright Retro Man Blog.

 
 
Here's some pages from Issue 4 of my old fanzine Out of Step published in September 1985...