The Whereabouts

Came across this gem of a tune today. TheWhereabouts have only been together for around a year but are already delivering ballsy rhythm and blues that  puts you in mind of bands like The Yardbirds and The Bluesbreakers.  Definitely one to watch.

Paul "Smiler" Anderson - Mods The New Religion

There's little doubt that this will soon be gracing the more discerning coffee tables across the globe.  Mods - The New Religion, by Paul "Smiler" Anderson, promises to be one of the definitive accounts of the sixties incarnation of the cult that became Mod.  Packed with pictures, flyers and anecdotes from those who were there, the book has been painstakingly created by a writer who has been immersed in the music, the clothes and the all-nighters since the renewal in 1979.  From a glance at the first few pages on Amazon, it looks stunning, a perfect accompaniment to Richard Barnes' seminal classic, Mods.  An essential purchase in anyone's book.

The Spitfires - I'm Holdin' On

It starts with an infectious bassline, interspersed with the thud of a drum and accompanied by a tasselled loafer tapped in tune with the rhythm.  And then, faster than a ricocheting pinball, comes that guitar crashing in, and the band launch into a cocktail of adrenalin, anger and impassioned self-belief.

Recorded at Paul Weller's Black Barn studios, I'm Holdin' On delivers a heartfelt assault on mediocrity, smugness and the self-righteous.  It confirms The Spitfires as a band who are not afraid to take their influences and reinvent them for the twenty first century, angry young men who are speaking for their generation and producing authentic social commentary on life in modern Britain.  And don't forget the sharp, clean clobber.  As with all the important bands, it's an integral part of what they are about.

You can pre-order the single from their website.  The cd and download are released on 3 March, with the vinyl available later in the month.

The See No Evils - Secrets In Me

Leeds band The See No Evils have a new ep, We Are Strangers, out now on Heavy Soul. This tune is taken from it - and it rocks.

The Studio 68!

On the face of it, there wasn't much to shout about in mid-eighties Britain.  The economy was in dire straits, the national football team had given up winning and the charts were full of uninspiring dross.  Sound familar?  There was, of course, another side.  If you dug a little deeper, as the clued up always do, you would find a healthy underground scene.  There were bands like The Moment, Makin' Time and Prisoners, who had their own vision of how life could be.  Those bands should have been huge.  And in a world that valued quality, they would have been huge.

There is another name to add to that list.  The Studio 68! were equally one of the torch bearers, lighting up the musical and sartorial skies in Camden and beyond in the years around 87-88.  Led by soon-to-be-Britpop-chronicler, Paul Moody (and inspired by the events in Paris in May 1968 - hence the name) they were purveyors of full-on rhythm and soul, delivered with nonchalance, panache and a social eye that took few prisoners.  Tunes such as Closer Than Close and The Next Time ("where will you, where will you be?") observed life as it was lived, with the sharpness and reality of kitchen sink drama put to the hammered chords of a Rickenbacker and the soulful vibe of a Hammond.

I remember a particular show they played at an underground club in Brussels in November 1987.  They blew the night away.  Paris Mods, Brussels Mods, London Mods alike.  It was a true trans-Europe party. A roller-coaster to a cross-cultural melting pot of Tamla beats, sta-prest strides and dancefloor-friendly loafers.  A true vision of how the world could be if it was looking - and moving - in the same direction.

Then the inevitable happened.  The band moved on.  Retaining the dynamic partnership of originals Moody and drummer Simon Castell, they revised, regrouped and re-wrote.  The old songs left the playlist.  New ones were added.  And then, in 1992, they recorded their debut album.

The fact that it has taken over two decades for Portabellohello to be released, says a lot about populist priorities.  Like their contemporaries, the band should have been massive and this album should have been on every stereo in Britain.

But its with us at last and for that we have thank the Paisley Archive imprint of Detour Records.  First impressions are of an assured debut, one that brought together all the influences of their formative years and blended them in a way that anticipated the mood that was, in a couple of short years, to be known as Britpop.  You could say they invented Britpop, in fact, if you wanted to.

There are nods towards psychedelia here, with inspirational guitar patterns (Windfall), punk rock anger (Pop Star's Mansion), and socially-observant pop (Afternoon Sun/Portabellohello/Doubledeckerbus).  Then there is the issue of identity and the yearning for independence (The Other Me/Get Out Of My Hair), the bittersweet relationship (Goodbye Baby And Amen), and the intriguingly androgynous title (He's My Sister).  And their ability to deliver a perfect cover should not go unmentioned - in their early days, they played a full-on rendition of The Spencer Davies Group's Gimme Some Lovin', here the choice of Python Lee Jackson's In A Broken Dream is equally inspired.  It is all delivered amongst a maelstrom of Hammond-soaked beauty, which interplays with hard-edged guitar, no more so than on the closing tune, How To Succeed In The Music Business.

Portabellohello is a fusion of youth, anger and belief, combined with an innate understanding of the importance of the pop record and how it can reflect contemporary life.  Ray Davies meets Holland-Dozier-Holland, after a pint with Pete Meaden, perhaps.  And then there is the urgency.  The fact that it was recorded in just two short weeks adds to the potency and the power of the album.

This is a modern classic - and an essential purchase. The Studio 68! invented Britpop, after all.

The 45s - Devil Of A Woman

This is the other side of the brand new 45s single on Heavy Soul. It is a perfect companion to It Ain't Over and confirms their status as one of the hottest young bands on the planet right now. Once again, the advice is to play it as loud as you can get away with.

The 45s

It arrived on Friday. I'd been checking the post every day for the last week, to see if it was here. And on Friday it came. And it went straight on my turntable and its dulcet tones blasted round the house, with volume cranked up high, a little bit like a brand new Small Faces single in 1965. This record, it's that good.

The 45s are from Carlisle and are blasting out those rhythm and blues like there's no tomorrow. The band's label is an apt description of the quality and approach - Heavy Soul - with an emphasis on both elements. James Green (vocals), Tom Hamilton (guitar), Joe Wyatt (bass) and Bailey Claringbold (drums) are delivering hard hitting, dirty blues, with a passion that emanates from every chord and every syllable.

Influences? As well as the aforementioned Small Faces, they cite the likes of Wilko Johnson (with whom they recently shared a stage) Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Booker T, Jimi Hendrix and a whole lot more. And they've got style as well, those boys. Just check the video of It Ain't Over to see how they can walk the walk, just as well as they talk the talk. Turn it up.

Kill Your Darlings

This film looks promising. Kill Your Darlings focuses on the early days of Allen Ginsberg and beat generation muse Lucien Carr. From everything I've seen so far, including the reviews, it seems to cover the period admirably, including the pair's meeting with Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, and the formation of the legendary group of writers and poets. There is passion here, youthful exuberance and the story of one of the most notorious incidents of the group, one that has become the stuff of beat mythology, and which formed the basis for Kerouac and Burroughs' novel And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks.

The performances by Daniel Radcliffe (Ginsberg) and Dane DeHaan (Carr) have drawn positive reviews to date. There is also Facebook page devoted to the film.

And this is a taster


Quadrophenia - A Fan's View

I have to say that I found this short video rather inspirational. Quadrophenia - initially the album and then the film - has been a passion of mine for a very long time. It was enlightening to see two fellow fans - freelance sound mixer Kieran McAleer and writer Simon Wells - discussing the subject with knowledge and insight. The film is  put together by Emma-Rosa Das for Afro-Mic Productions, who made the recent documentary Faces In The Crowd. There are opinions, background and a genuine passion for the film that comes through loud and clear, all against a backdrop of the wonderful setting of Alredo's cafe.  For anyone with an interest in Quadrophenia, this is well worth watching.

Favourite line?  "I've got a great black and white version dubbed into French". Priceless.

The French New Wave - an introduction

A Bout De Souffle
Gauloises cigarettes, stylish girls in cafes on the Champs Elysees, three friends running through the Louvre, or over a bridge. These are images that embody a genre of filmmaking that made a considerable impact half a century ago. Its influence continues to resonate today.

The roots of the French new wave - or nouvelle vague - can be found in Paris in the early fifties. A group of young film connoisseurs came together to work on the magazine Cahiers Du Cinema. At the heart of this group were figures such as Jean Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol and Louis Malle.

The group developed their own philosophy of cinema, rejecting the conventional “cinema de qualite“, which they cited as old fashioned “cinema de papa“, and substituting a concentration on the modern. Costume drama was replaced with social realism and contemporary attitudes and settings. Of equal importance was the role of the director. They promoted the concept of the "auteur", where the director was the creator of the film, which bore his vision and trademark style.

The first new wave films were shorts. Truffaut’s Les Mistons (1957) and Rohmer’s The Girl At The Monceau Bakery (1963) are typical. Filmed in grainy black and white, these are the equivalent of cinematic short stories, with clearly defined characters, neatly devised plots and of course, stylised settings.

Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge (1958) is often cited as the first full length nouvelle vague film. Starring Jean-Claude Brialy and Gerard Blain, it was influenced by Hitchcock and covers themes such as guilt and redemption. Shortly after this came Alan Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), starring Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada, which focuses on the lives of two lovers over a 36 hour period and is revolutionary for how it addresses the passage of time.

Then came Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959). Starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, its theme is the life of the eleven year old Antoine Doinel, which draws heavily from Truffaut’s own experiences in Paris. It won the Palme d‘Or at Cannes in 1959 and was the first of a sequence of films directed by Truffaut and starring Leaud, in which he played the character of Doinel, taking his story up to adulthood. Others in the series include Antoine And Colette (made for the 1962 anthology Love At Twenty), Stolen Kisses (1968) Bed and Board (1970) and Love On The Run (1979).

Perhaps the film that is most identified with the nouvelle vague is Godard’s A Bout De Souffle (or Breathless). Starring Jean Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, it follows a chancer and his on-off lover on the run from the police. The settings in Paris are exquisite, the Miles Davis theme is magnificent and the words “New York Herald Tribune” are unforgettable. Why? It is worth watching the film to find out.

Bande A Part
There is not room here to chronicle every nouvelle vague film. But there are some that deserve special mention. Godard's output was spectacular. Bande A Part (1964) tells the story of three outsiders. It stars Godard’s wife Anna Karina, Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur. The race through the Louvre is a celebrated cinematic moment, as is The Madison Scene - a dance routine in a café. Masculin Feminine (1966) is a semi-documentary, starring Chantal Goya and Jean-Pierre Leaud and exploring the attitudes of what Godard called "the generation of Marx and Coca Cola“. It is interesting to reflect that this was made two years before the May 1968 uprising. Alphaville (1965), starring Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina, follows detective Lemmy Caution and his investigation in a distant space city. It was typical of the nouvelle vague that Godard used contemporary Paris for the setting rather than create a new city.

Truffaut’s Jules Et Jim (1962) may, at first sight, seem an unlikely nouvelle vague film, since its timeframe is not contemporary but the early part of the twentieth century. But the themes of the film tell another story. Truffaut was inspired to make it when he came across, by accident, a book written by Henri-Pierre Roche which recounts a menage a trois involving the author, writer Frank Hessel and his wife Helen Grund. Truffaut made a film of this relationship - with the main characters depicted as Jules (Oskar Werner), Jim (Henri Serre) and Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) - with the approval of the book’s author. Its themes of free love and open relationships were ahead of their time. And it includes that scene on the bridge.

Other notable new wave films include Malle’s thriller Lift To The Scaffold (1958), starring Jeanne Moreau and with another memorable theme from Miles Davis, Rivette’s Paris Nous Apartment (1958), Alan Resnais’ dreamlike Last Year At Marienbad (1961) and Godard’s Made In The USA (1966). But there are so many great films I am bound to have missed many out.

Jules Et Jim
Of crucial importance to the nouvelle vague was technique. These directors use hand held cameras, with impromptu locations on Paris streets. Jump cuts were used most notably in A Bout De Souffle, which one scene cutting instantly to another, which gave an instantaneous, dramatic effect. Tracking shots - long single takes - were introduced, perhaps the most well-known being in Godard‘s later work, Weekend (1967), which includes a seven minute take of a traffic jam.

Strictly speaking, the nouvelle vague lasted from 1958 to 1964. But many of the films made by these directors stem from after this period. Godard’s work with The Rolling Stones produced the excellent Sympathy For The Devil (1968) documentary. Pierrot Le Fou (1965) is considered one of his greatest works and, as described above, films such as Weekend and Masculin Feminin are from later.

Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales series (which includes early shorts) and Comedies And Proverbs are particularly worthy of mention, tastefully analysing the internal workings of romantic relationships and attracting a devoted, cult fanbase. My personal favourites include My Night At Maud’s (1969), Pauline At The Beach (1983) and La Collectionuse (1967) (look out for a shot of the cover of The Stones’ Aftermath album in the latter). Claire’s Knee (1970) was widely admired and was described by American film critic Vincent Canby as “something close to a perfect film“.

The influence of the nouvelle vague was widespread, almost immediately. Early modernists would watch A Bout De Souffle with the aim of studying how to walk like Jean Paul Belmondo, or copying Jean Seberg’s haircut. Filmmakers have ever since been inspired by the concepts and techniques. For example, The Devil Probably (1977), a later film by new wave fellow traveller Robert Bresson, incorporates the themes of the movement. And the nouvelle vague directly influenced the German new wave of filmmakers such as Wim Wenders.

More recent examples of nouvelle vague influence can be found in Quentin Tarantino‘s dance scene with Uma Therman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, which is a direct interpretation of the scene in Bande A Part. Set in the student uprising of May 1968, Bernardo Bertolucci‘s The Dreamers (2003) (with a screenplay by Gilbert Adair and starring Michael Pitt, Eva Green and Louis Garrel) is, in part, a tribute to the new wave, with a cameo appearance from Jean-Pierre Doinel and a recreation of the run through the Louvre in Bande A Part. Christophe Honore‘s Dans Paris (2006), also starring Garrel, references the new wave and Michael Haneke‘s masterpiece Hidden (2005) starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, makes use of long takes throughout the whole work.

Overall, the nouvelle vague is all around us, in style, attitude and filmmaking. The auteurs were creators of short stories, which they brought to life on film. There is no better way of getting to the heart of what the movement was all about than going back to the originals. For a start, why not get hold of a copy of A Bout De Souffle and spend an evening in the company Godard, Belmondo and Seberg. It will be an evening that you will not quickly forget.

Soul On A Summer's Day - a short story

There's me and Sid and we're doing our usual and sitting in the Corner Cafe, watching it all pass us by out of the window. He's waxing lyrical about a new soulboy label he found on the web and I'm sipping my double espresso and nodding my approval and thinking about stuff, like I do. He turns to me with his blue eyes piercing, as he smooths his hand over his blonde suedehead crop. He has that look on his face. The one he saves for when he wants something.

"You gonna take some pics, then", he says.

I roll my eyes. For a moment I almost believed that he wanted something important. Instead it’s a social media fetish. Sid wants his Facebook profile pic taken every day. It's the way he is.

"Yeah, why not", I say. "You can take some of me as well". My profile hasn’t been updated for a week or so, there’s no time like the present to make a start.

"Go on then", he says.

We finish our coffees and get up to leave. Sid stands and talks loudly, making sure that everyone can hear him, to the annoyance of a snooty looking woman, who's all keeping up with the Joneses and mind your p's and q's, who looks up at him and asks him if he can take his conversation elsewhere. I know as soon as she's asked the question that it was a mistake and, from the look on her face, I think she does as well. Sid stands there, staring at her, with the steely look he has when he gets angry.

"Listen", he says. "I shall finish what I'm saying and then I shall go. If that's all right. With you. Darlin'".

She looks at him and he looks at me. He nods towards the door.

"Come on", he says.

I follow him and he leaves the cafe and starts to laugh to himself as he walks out onto the street. A gleaming, bright red Vespa wizzes by, its owner decked out in his Summer finery.

"Wouldn't mind that", I say.

He ignores me and keeps on walking. I smile at him and put my hands in my pockets and we head across town towards its more bohemian quarter, where there are pockets of sartorial splendour and some outlets selling a variety of Stax and Tamla long players, all of which we are destined to grace with our presence on afternoons such as this. But, for the moment, Sid has just one thing on his mind.

He walks up to a lamp post and leans against it. I don’t know if he realises, but one of the music shops is behind him, emblazoned with the legend “Ace Records”.
“Come on then”, he says. “Get your phone out. Take a couple of pics”.

I laugh at the boy.

“Why not”, I say.

He stands and poses and puts his hands into his tight jeans pockets. If I wasn’t mistaken, he’s sucking his cheeks in, but I don’t say that. I just keep my thoughts to myself. I take a few pictures on my mobile phone - making sure that the sign of the record shop is right there - and go across to let him see.

"Have a look", I say.

He concentrates as I flick through the pictures, trying to see in the sharp sunlight. He waits a few moments as he looks at one.

"Yeah", he says. "That will do'".

“This one?”.

He nods.

Then he turns and walks across the street, instinctively in the direction that I was planning to head in myself. There are sounds emanating from Ace Records. Soulful sounds. With a kick.

He pushes open the door and we wander in. It’s light in here, and airy, a cooling breeze blowing through the shop. We have been known to visit this little emporium on our travels. The boy behind the counter nods at us.

We wander across to the records and start to flick through, independently of each other. The music coming from the speakers is loud and uplifting. The bass is funky, the horns are strong, the voice is smooth enough to warm the coldest Winter afternoon, let alone one as hot as this one. I smile as I check out the old Motown records, Marvin and Stevie and the rest, and then hone in on a classic from the Impressions. I’m always partial to a little Curtis and am tempted by this little beauty. Then I check the price and gulp. Perhaps I’ll buy it another day.

Sid has finished his check of the records and is standing behind me, ready to leave. I’m a little disappointed because I wouldn’t have minded have a look at the northern selection, or maybe something more up to date, like Daptone records. But those pleasures elude me. When Sid wants to go, you go.

We head out of the door and onto the street.

"So what now?", I ask.

"I'm going to love you and leave you", he says. "I need to get home and get ready. See you later".

"Yeah", I say. "See you in the Dog And Duck".

"Is the lovely Samantha going to be there?".

"Don't know. I think I‘m seeing her in the club".

"See you".

“You will”.

“Is that band on tonight. The one you did that photoshoot for?”.

“Of course”.

He turns and walks off down the street, never looking back. Let me explain. In my spare time, of which there is a lot at the moment in view of the current economic situation and resultant lack of employment prospects, I have a little side project. I was left a little money a couple of years back, courtesy of a late uncle, and, rather than fritter it away, I decided to use it for an investment. That investment was a choice digital camera, one which I use to indulge my favourite hobby with a little photography work and make a few pounds on the side. I don’t carry my camera around with me. It’s too valuable to risk losing as a result of casual theft. So I only take it out when I need it, hence the use of my mobile phone for the pictures with Sid.

I specialise in music. There are a fair number of bands around at the moment and I offer my services to them, for a fee. I was quite partial to the last lot who I photographed, at the weekend, round town. They were called The Shots and have a strong sound, full of distorted guitar and with energy. And they’ve got the look to go with it - polo shirts and straight legged jeans and harrington jackets and boating blazers. They looked a collection of proper dandies on the day of the shoot. They’re playing tonight.

All of which leads to some additional income. See, last night I met up with the bass player and he handed me a cheque as payment for my services, in return for a disc packed with pictures of the boys in the Square, the park, a café. I have to say they turned out well and the quality of the selection I took was such as to render the transaction a bargain. No matter. I set my price when I make the arrangement and there’s no need to complain later.

I paid the cheque into the bank when I came to meet Sid.

I hang round town for a while, but not for too long. I’ve been here a while and I’m ready to get home. So I make my way through the city, across the Square, and away from the heart of the activity. I head out of town, away from the masses and past the University. A tram trundles by, taking more into the city. I did think about taking a bus of a tram but decided against it. It's fresher on foot, in my opinion, taking in the highways and byways of this town as a veritable flaneur. Why would I want to be cooped up with the townfolk in a tram? It's better to enjoy what the day has to offer, out here on the street.

As I’m going, I walk past the Job Centre, which brings me down after the afternoon‘s fun and games. I mean, there are no jobs are there, so there's no point in looking. Not now. Not really. Not ever, if things stay as they are, round here. It’s been going round a lot in my mind recently that no one has ever given us a chance. Not us lot.

All this sort of stuff hits me at the times when I go to that other place, the ordinary world. The people there are weird, it's the way they look at you. They all think I'm a wet behind the ears nobody with a head full of dreams. I'll tell you something for nothing, they're right about one thing. My head is full of more dreams than they could ever imagine, in technicolor, with things going on that would make them go a darker shade of crimson. See, they haven't got me at all, which is just the way I like it. But wet behind the ears? Who are they trying to kid. And nobody? They can keep it.

You see, I'm a work of art. We all are, me and Sid, and those like us. But you need eyes to see it. X-ray eyes, x-ray vision. You need to understand poetry to get it, the photos we take, the clothes we wear, the philosophy we quote.
This is all the stuff that’s going through my mind as I walk.

In a few minutes, I'm at my manor. I walk up through the door and into the hallway and the slightly musty smell that greets me. I head up the stairs to my first floor bedsit. The walls need a coat of paint, they need it badly. But it's not my responsibility. It's down to our illustrious landlord, who we never see, and who our only contact with is through an agency. I smile as I get to the top of the stairs and enter my pad.

It's just how I left it when I went to meet Sid this morning. How could it be otherwise? The duvet is tossed on the bed and there’s a cd sitting in the stereo. The shirt I wore last night is hanging on a home made line over the sink. It’s drip dried and ready to be taken down and ironed. I think I’ll get round to that tomorrow.

I go over to the stereo and put on the cd. It’s Rebirth, the new album from reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. I don’t believe in heroes, but it I did, Jimmy would be one of them. He was one of the pioneers who brought reggae to these shoes back in the seventies with some superb tunes such as The Harder The Come and for that he deserves a medal. He’s got a new record out right now and, if I’m truthful, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But I thought I’d give it a go. And my belief is rewarded when those drums come through the speakers and the tune starts. The man may be in his sixties but, on this record, he sounds about nineteen. It’s proof that age counts for nothing. You’re just as likely to come out worth a classic later on in life as you are at the start.

I have to explain that my favored medium for music is, of course, vinyl. There’s something more real about putting on that piece of black plastic and placing the stylus at the start of the record. As with the record shop today, I spend many an hour chasing 45s and LPs and trying to find a bargain. My vintage Dansette that sits in the corner of my bedsit is testimony to that. I would have bought Jimmy’s new album on vinyl if I could have found it. Sadly, I couldn’t.

I fall down onto the bed and look around. It’s not a large bedsit, estate agents would call “bijou”. But it will do me, for now. There’s no such thing as cheap housing these days, in the world where location counts and everyone wants to be a home owner, but, if there was, this would be it. See, it doesn’t sit in the most fashionable part of the town, which bothers me not one jot. As far as I’m concerned, your space is precisely that - your space to do with what you wish. If you wish to live a life of bohemia in the four corners that you call home, wherever that happens to be, then it becomes bohemia. Because bohemia isn’t a place, it’s state of mind.

Jimmy’s singing about World Is Upside Down and I’m sitting back and relaxing, when there’s a knock. I get up and open the door, to be greeted by Frankie, my neighbour. He’s come down for a chat. He stands statuesquely at the door and asks, in that fey manner that he has, whether I’m going to let him in, or make him stand on the landing all evening “like a spare part”. I smile at him and say that he can, of course, join me. He proceeds to stride into my bedsit and sit straight down on the bed, lighting a cigarette and tossing one to me.

Frankie is a part time model. He’s not yet, to my knowledge, graced the catwalks of Milan or Paris but that doesn’t stop him believing that one day he will. For now, he poses for a few art house pictures in local style magazines and makes up his income by serving in places such as The Dog And Duck.

“So who are we listening to”, he asks, blowing smoke deliberately into the air and tossing his mop of hair back. “Darling”.

I tell him about Jimmy and his new album and he stares at me coldly and says “delightful” three times.

“Anyway“, he continues. “I don’t know what your plans are for the early part of the evening”.

“None”, I say. “I’ll be meeting Sid later. But, for now, all I need to do is have some food and that’s all”.

“Then why don’t you join me?”.

“Join you?”.

“Yes, why not. For dinner. For a little soul food, if you wish”.

Frankie proceeds to explain that he’s cooked up a nice selection of red beans and rice, or chilli, or whatever the culinary delight that he’s created. See, in addition to his other talents, Frankie is something of a bedsit gourmet, a King of the wok or frying pan. Rustling up any manner of wonders for his dinner party guest list.

So I tell him that I’m more than happy to accompany him back to his pad for some grub. He laughs and suggests that I bring the Jimmy cd with me, because he’s become “quite attached” to the vibe that’s emanating from my stereo. I also take a couple of bottles of the finest supermarket beer, ice cold of course, from the fridge, which will serve as my offering to the meal. It seems only polite.

We head upstairs and into Frankie‘s domain. He’s got one of the larger bedsit rooms in the house, for which I have no doubt he pays a little more than me. It’s furnished neatly, “minimalist” is what the style magazines would call it. In my eyes, it indicates a tidy attitude of mind. Frankie knows what he wants and isn’t concerned with any baggage that isn’t needed. It’s an attitude that we could all learn from.

The first thing that hits me is the aroma. The culinary delight that we are about to enjoy is going to be hot and spicy and strong. He’s clearly been working on it for some time because all the indications are that it’s ready for serving.

“Sit down”, he says, pointing me at a chair next to a small table by the wall.

“Hold on a minute”, I say. “Didn’t you want to hear this?”. I hold up the Jimmy Cliff cd.

“Yeah, of course”, he says. “Put it on. And open the beers”.

I put the cd in the stereo and, for the second time tonight, hear those drums and the dulcet tones of Jimmy cascade around a bedsitting room. Frankie nods his head in time to the music. I pick up the bottle opener that he has put on the side and take the tops off the beers. I hand him one and he takes a swig.
“Just what you need after a long day”, he says, laughing. “When you have done precisely - nothing”.

I empathise with the boy’s sentiment and sit down and have a drink myself. The days first taste of cold lager is always the best.

“Here you are”, he says, putting a plate in front of me.

“Nice one”, I say.

I take a mouthful. It is indeed spicy and very hot. He hasn’t held back on the Tabasco sauce. I take another swig to quieten it down.

“Yeah”, I say. “Very nice”.

The description red beans and rice is probably an accurate one. Frankie is a veggie. I admire him in that, it takes guts to stick to your principles. And it’s even better if you’re not holier than thou about it - which he isn’t - and have the ability to serve something up that is worth tasting, especially when it’s all done on a tight budget.

“This meal”, he says. “Cost me next to nothing. It’s what you have to do when there are no jobs about. I got it all from the market, the veg, the rice, the lot. The sauces as well. Put them together and this is the result.”

“I like it”.

“So what are you up to tonight?”, he asks.

“Off out. Meeting Sid”.


“Dog And Duck”.

“Might see you there. I’m doing a stint behind the bar. You need a little cash, don’t you. To keep body and soul together”.

“You do, indeed”, I reply.

And we sit and exchange views on life and love and enjoy our meal.

Sid’s waiting for me when I arrive, sitting by the window of the Dog And Duck, watching the world go by. He’s wearing his wine harrington tonight and the suggestion of taking a photo of him in it cannot be too far away. I say nothing on the subject. I won’t until it’s broached.

“You took your time”, he says.

“Now, now”, I say. “Just because you were early”.

“Well, you can make up for it and get me a beer”.

“Go on then”.

I walk over to the bar. Frankie’s not here yet. He’s doing the late shift. It’s probably better that way. As I’m waiting, the door opens and a gang of locals walk in. The word on the street is that there has been a spate of attacks on students, hipsters and gays recently - more or less anyone who seems a little bit different from the norm - and this lot look as if they could be in the mood for some fun and games of that nature. My legs start to feel like jelly as they give me a look but then they turn their attention elsewhere. I think about leaving but decide that it would be too obvious so stand my ground and order a couple of beers and take them back to Sid.

“Have a look at this”, he says, laughing.

I have a quick glance behind me. They’re huddled in a corner debating something. There’s no attention focused on either of us.

He passes me his mobile phone, which is showing his Facebook profile. He has a new picture, one I took this afternoon

I look at the picture. I think I did well. The composition is good. Sid's standing, with the Ace Records sign behind, hands in pockets, shoulders hunched, looking sharp. He has already got five "likes" from various females he knows.
I hand the phone back and take sip of my Bud. The gang of youths have finished their conversation and are roaming round the bar.

" Do you know them?".

"Nah ", he says. "Seen them around".

"And me. They look trouble".

"Dunno. They seem all right".

I drink my beer quickly. Sid follows suit, just to keep up. The voices from the bar are louder, feeling like they're directed our way. I stare straight ahead. Sid's talking, asking me about the band on tonight. I tell him about The Shots, that they're sharp and great lyrically. The voices from the gang start to fade as they move away.

A record comes on. It's not our scene, there’s no soul, just a slice of populist drivel. I look at Sid and he raises his eyebrows. My Bud’s nearly finished and I drink the final remnants. I put it down on the table.

“Shall we go?”, he says.

“Why not”, I say. I glance round briefly as I get up to see what the gang is doing. I breathe a little less nervously when it’s obvious they’re not taking any notice of us. They’ve started another conversation, standing in a tight knit group round the bar. I lead the way quickly out of the back door of the pub. When we’re on the street, I start walking as fast as I can.

“What’s the rush”, says Sid.

“Aah, nothing”, I say.

“Can’t wait to see Samantha?”

“Something like that”.

We walk along the concrete path that leads past the shopping centre and cross the bridge over the canal, into town. On our way, we pass the disused warehouses and boarded up shops. In ten minutes, we’re in our favoured territory, not far from where I took the photo today.

“Going for another before the club?”, asks Sid.

“Don’t think so”, I say. “Don’t know what time the band are on”.

“All right”.

We head down the back streets to a narrow alleyway where there’s a door open and a few people waiting outside. The doorman is standing, in a sharp suit, staring ahead. The boom of bass is emanating from the door. It sounds like the band have started.

We join the queue and stand, hands in our pockets, looking nonchalantly into the distance. The doorman nods the others in and we follow them. We head up the stairs to where there’s a girl, sitting at a table, taking money. We pay our entrance fee and we’re through the door.

I spot her immediately. Sam’s leaning against the bar when I walk in. She’s looking good, I have to say. Her long blonde hair is hanging loose over her shoulders and her blue eyes are alive. She doesn’t spot me for a moment and Sid and me hang around a little way from the stage. The Shots are hitting out a full on blast of adrenalin-soaked rhythm and soul. The singer with the black bob is holding onto the microphone, yelling discordant lyrics over a distorted guitar that is very loud.

I turn away and glance at Sam. She sees me and smiles. I smile back. There are times I wish things had worked out between us.

Then again, that doesn't stop me.

I leave Sid to watch the band and go over to her. She tosses her hair back as I approach.

“You’re late”, she says. “The band came on ages ago”.

“Oh well”, I say. “That’s life”.

“Suppose so”. She stands and watches the band.

"Where's Ben", I ask.

“Ben? Who’s Ben?”, she says, sarcastically.

“Oh come on Sam, don’t be like that”.

“Well, you were late”, she says.

“Yeah. All right”.

“Ben’s not here”, she says.

“I can see that”.

“And he won’t be here all night”.

“Why not?”.

“He just won’t be”.

“Where is he?”,

"Somewhere else". I look at her.

“And where”, I ask. “Is somewhere else”.

“Somewhere that’s not here”.

“I see”.


“Why what?”.

“Why do you ask?”.

“I was just interested, that’s all”.

The Shots have started a new tune, which is even more manic than the last one. I look round the bar and see Sid near the sage talking to a group of girls who he knows. He won’t need me interrupting him.

“Why were you interested in where Ben is?”, she asks.

“I don‘t know“, I say. “I just was. I take it you‘re still seeing him?”.

“Yes“, she says. “I am still seeing him“.

“Right“, I say.

No one says anything for a moment

“Want a drink?”, I ask.

“Don’t mind if I do”.

I don’t need to ask what she wants. I look at the barman who comes over.

“What will it be?”.

“Bottle of Bud and a vodka and coke”.

“No problem”.

I look at him and smile. Why do people have to say “no problem” all the time. Let’s put it this way. I’m the punter, I’ve got the cash, and I’m asking to be served. Or, if you want to look at it like this, you’ve got the goods and I’m asking to pay you for them, for a lot more money than you paid originally. Why would there be any problem?

But I keep it to myself.

I pay for the drinks and Sam takes hers and has a sip. The Shots are coming to the end of their set and there’s a riot of anarchic feedback and chaos towards the front of the stage. We stand and watch as the band complete the show and leave the instruments, thrown randomly on the stage. Some of the kids in the audience call for more but the sound of Bowie coming through the speakers with Heroes indicates that the clubbing part of the night has resumed.

“Want to sit down?”, I ask.

“Yeah, why not” says Sam.

We walk across to a table some way from the dancefloor and sit down. I have a sip of my beer and put the bottle on the table.

“So”, I say. “What have you got to tell me?”.

“Oh”, she says. “I’ve got lots to tell you”.


“Yes. I don’t know what to begin with”. She sighs.

“Try me”.

“Oh, how do I start?”.

“I’ve no idea”.

I sit back and put my foot on the chair and drink my beer. I look at her and she looks down. Her hair falls over her face. She throws it back again, quickly.

“There’s no way to make it easy”, she says.




“I’m going away”.

She looks me in the eye, sharply.

“There”, she says. “I’ve told you”.

There’s silence.

“You’re going away?”, I ask, as if to confirm it.

“Yes, I’m going away”.

“Where are you going?”.

“I’m going with Ben”.

Once again, no one says anything,

“The thing is”, she says. “Ben’s been offered a job in America. And he’s asked me to go with him. And I’ve said yes”.


She looks at me again.

“Look, don’t be like that”.

“I’m not being like anything”.

“You rejected me. Remember”.

“Yes, I know”.

“So don’t make out it’s all me. What did you expect me to do, wait around for you?”

“Of course not. That would have been unreasonable”.

And I wouldn’t want to be unreasonable, would I? Of course not. Unreasonable. That is the last thing I would have wanted to be.

“When are you going?”.

“Soon. That’s where Ben is tonight, he’s sorting it out”.

“I see”.

I’m sitting on a bench, overlooking the shopping centre. The canal is running past, below. I can hear voices in the distance, faint voices. They’re getting close but that doesn’t matter right now. I’m staring into space, smoking a cigarette, sometimes watching what’s going on down there. I’m inhaling the smoke deep, blowing it out. Watching it float in the still of the balmy night air. The sounds of music penetrate the mood momentarily, catching my attention from the town or a car that passes on the road a few feet away from here.

You know how it is. Sometimes you have to do it, sit here, watching the canal flow past. It’s like life, really. Moving slowly, then quickly, then in a way you didn’t expect.

The voices are getting close now. There are two lads and a girl. They’ve been out, drinking, partying, doing their thing. They give me a look as they pass. I avert my attention from them. They carry on talking, loudly. The news is there’s been trouble round here. Someone’s been hurt, “this gay bloke”, one of the boys says.

I toss the cigarette butt over the railing in front of me and watch it fall to the ground, sparks flying off it, next to the shopping centre. I take the packet out of my pocket and light another one. I bought the cigarettes from a corner shop on the way home from the club. There was a man serving, a middle aged man, who wanted to engage me in conversation. I wasn’t in the mood. I just took the packet and left.

That's when I came down here, by the canal. I’ve been sitting here for an hour, just watching the water flowing past, without reference to anyone or anything, just letting the world get on with its concerns. I’ve been looking for a leaf, keeping my eye on it, watching its progress down the river. In and out, always with the flow. That’s not like me. I don’t go with the flow. I never have. Not now or ever.

There are some long boats moored at the side of the bank, further down the canal. I want to go over and get it one, take it off somewhere, to a place I don’t know. That would be a life. Just travelling round. Ending up where the water takes you.
I wonder what happened to Sid, tonight. I lost touch with him in the club. I’ll have to call him, see what he’s up to, if he wants to meet. He will. He’ll want me to take his picture.

It’s started to rain now, gently at first, although it’s getting heavier. I’m just sitting here, letting it soak into me. My cigarette is still alight and I guard it with my hand, like you do in the wind. The rain is wetting my hair and is starting to trickle down my neck. I watch the rain drops fall on the canal, like they’re dancing in time to the music in my head.

I’ll have to go in a minute. It’s time for bed. I suppose that’s the best thing. Forget the evening, move on. Go to new places, where you’re not known, where you haven’t tried anything.

I get up and throw the butt to the ground and stamp it with my foot, let the rain soak it. I walk down the path.

One thing’s certain. I’m buying that Impressions record in the morning.

© Rob Massey 2013

French Boutik live

Great piece of live footage from French Boutik, playing Facile (Easy) from their new double 7" "Ici Paris".  The record is available on vinyl or cd.  This was flmed at Combustibles in Paris. I love the whole vibe of this, from the keyboards to the vocals to the look. Well worth keeping an eye open for future releases.  Check them out at their Facebook page.  

Plastic Pop Showcase

The Dublin Castle in Camden Town has attained legendary status over recent decades, featuring a fine array of artists and attaining a unique place in the movement that became known as Britpop. On 19 October, it played host to a showcase of the bands on Plastic Pop Records, comprising some of the best talent currently around. The bands playing were The Moment, Marmalade Sky, The Ace, The Ganders and Robby Allen. DJ Dave Edwards spun the 45s.

Run by Tony Clark, Dexter Cullen and Jason Claydon, Plastic Pop is a quality independent label, with the ethos and authenticity of the greats like Rough Trade, Factory and Acid Jazz. These bands are all producing fine contemporary tunes that are set firmly in the twenty first century but with a nod to the great music of the past.

This is one of the bands who played that day. Marmalade Sky with their anthemic Last Ethical Hooligan.

Les Mods - French tv 1965

Just come across this gem of a clip from French tv in 1965. It contains some great interviews, including with Kit Lambert. Plus some classic, archive footage of The Who. Well worth a look.

The Astaires - Circles

Brand new tune from Las Vegas boys The Astaires. It's raw, hard and exudes that recorded-in-a-lift-shaft sound that always works perfectly. I love this. Let's have more.

The Strypes - preview

It's only a few days until The Strypes' debut album hits the streets.  But if you can't wait that long, they've uploaded a track by track preview, which can be found here.  Sounds top drawer, to me.  And I love the silence of Mr Farrelly.  Class.

French Boutik

A band that have impressed me of late are Parisian soul stylists French Boutik. They describe their music as "La Nouvelle pop Moderniste" and have a brand new pair of 45's out on 6 September entitled Ici Paris. The tunes in question are released on copaseDisques and capture a pop sensibility mixed with a Gallic charm that grows on you with each play. I can hear elements of northern soul and classic British beat, combined with Gainsbourg-esque songwriting and a deftness of delivery. The band - Zelda, Serge, Elian, Iky, Gabs - have produced a promo video that oozes with quality and Parisian cool. It's just what you need to put you in the mood for catching the Eurostar and checking out the Left Bank.

Check out their Facebook for more.

More French brilliance to come in the next few days. Watch this space.

The Moment - brand new ep

To paraphrase Roger Daltrey at the start of Live At Leeds, this is my first blog entry for a very long time. So what better way to start the new term? Where else than with those favourites of this blog The Moment. We've featured them many times before but special mention needs to go to their recent release on Plastic Pop. It's a four track ep boasting all brand new Adrian Holder compositions that are rammed full of soulful harmonies, infectious grooves and crashing guitar - as the band so accurately put it "the only truth is music". The tunes are You Are Free, Be My Lady, Minor Emergency and Daisy Chain. This is the foot stomping, floor filing, flame burning prowess of Minor Emergency.

Nervous Twitch - This Modern World ep - Plastic Pop

The second new release on Plastic Pop we're featuring is from Nervous Twitch. The tunes on here have a very 1976 feel, with full on vocals, a hundred mile an hour pace and a definite attitude. There's relentless guitar, passionate angry vocals, courtesy of Erin Van Rumble, hard and thudding bass. All the tunes - This Modern World, Baby I’m Bored, Ask Me Why and Stuck In The Mud - come at you hard and strong, with themes of youth and frustration and alienation. They describe their influences are seventies punk and sixties girl groups - The Ramones meet The Ronettes - which is spot on. Get your copy from the Plastic Pop website.

The Ganders on Plastic Pop

Some great new releases on Plastic Pop right now. West Midland boys The Ganders have a three track ep, which features their hard-edged brand of soulful blues, forged from a musical lineage that goes right back to the late sixties, yet still manages to sound contemporary and vital. There are three tunes on the ep - Slipping In, Dirty Soul and Feeling - all of which boast tough riffs, bluesy vocals and straight ahead bass and drums. The band is made up of Daz Jordan, Dan Hickman and Paul Byrne and, on this evidence, they are well worth watching. Get your copy from the Plastic Pop website.

More tomorrow.

The Spitfires - Tell Me

Almost a year ago, we said that "The Spitfires are about to launch an incendiary blast to the portals of complacent, contemporary Britain".  Events since then have confirmed that view.  We trailed the new single Tell Me last week and this is the video, directed and filmed by the award winning Joanne Postlewaite, which is brimming with passion, anger and commitment.  Forget the reunions and revivals, this a band who are talking for - and to - the clued up elements in the Britain of today.  The sartorial touch is spot on as well.  And we do like those tassle loafers.

The Riot Squad - I'm Waiting For My Man

That enigmatic icon Mr David Bowie has been in the news a good deal recently.  First there was The Next Day and then, at the weekend, the brand new documentary on BBC2.  Now comes the news that Acid Jazz have discovered some almost-forgotten recordings from his pre-fame days, back in the sixties.

In 1967, Bowie was briefly in a band called The Riot Squad. Five of their tunes are to be released by Acid Jazz on 24 June.  The record is entitled The Toy Soldier ep and consists of Toy Soldier, Silly Boy Blue, I'm Waiting For My Man, Silver Treetop School and For Boys.

The version of I'm Waiting For My Man preceded the Velvet Underground recording and it adds some interesting insight into both Bowie's development as a singer and how the song evolved.  It's stunning, in my view, and has been played constantly since I discovered it.  Can't wait until the ep is released.

Find out more at the Acid Jazz website and Facebook page.

The Spitfires - new single

The Spitfires have a brand new single released on 17 June as a follow up to the excellent Spark To Start/Sirens.  It's another double A side - Tell Me/Words To Say - and the band have released a video teaser of the former.  There's clearly not enough here to give a full picture but, if the opening moments are anything to go by, the indications are promising.  Check it out at their website and Facebook page and wait for more information in advance of the official release.

The Strypes - Hometown Girls

Great new single from The Strypes. Another full on performance, with plenty of attitude and style. Looking forward to the album.

Reggimental featuring Matt Henshaw

It's new album time. Following on from the groundbreaking The Deepest Cellar, Reggimental featuring Matt Henshaw have recently released a new selection of tunes. Entitled Coming Around, the album features the latest in their trademark B-Boy soul, with the smoothest vocals you've heard since Marvin was the hippest young gunslinger on the block,combined with a gritty delivery and inspired choice of samples. All in all, an uplifting set, perfect for those Summer afternoons and night time revelry alike. Recommended.

This is the video for Coming Around.

Get it here


West Of The Sun

Camden band West Of Then Sun's new ep Fountains Of Fire showcases a psychedelic sound that could be equally at home in the first Summer of Love and the beaches of the Balearics. Influences range from Jefferson Airplane to the Arctic Monkeys and Primal Scream. The band met at Derby University in 2008 and started out as indie-rock band The Insight.  They have developed into a talented six piece, purveyors of what they call "neo-psych".

The band is:
Luke Ward, Vocals
Joe Stratton, Guitar/Vocals
Michael Howes, Guitar/Vocals
Kieran Callinan, Bass
Darren Stuart-Neal, Drums
Jonathan Gordge, Keyboards

You can download the album from i-tunes.  Here's a taster - the excellent Thrillseekers.


The Moment - Be My Lady

Another taster from The Moment.  They are releasing a four track ep on Plastic Pop later this year with the following track list - Be My Lady, Daisy Chain, Emergency and Free To Love.  This is a sample from the first tune on the ep.

The Mannequins

The latest release from Plastic Pop records is the debut album by The Mannequins, a record that threatens to blast into the nation's consciousness like a fired-up Rickenbacker on heat.  From the moment the power chords which introduce Shiver come through the speakers, we're treated to full on assault of rock and roll mayhem.

The vocal delivery is strong and bluesy, perhaps a little reminiscent of the great Paul Rogers from Free, especially on a tune such as Dance With Me.  There are classic, highly danceable, rock vibes throughout the the album, showcased on tunes like Remember The Time and Heart's On The March.  Head Screwed On is a slice of straight-ahead adrenalin, of which the likes of Humble Pie would have been proud.

Grain Of Sand slows things down a little with a neat acoustic introduction and poignant lyrics. Stop Signs, the wonderfully titled Can You Hear Bang Bang! and 4 Feet are all packed with strong hooks and riffs.  There is some impressive guitar on Machine, one of two live tunes that close the album.  The other, Much Ado About Nothing, is particularly catchy.

Check them out at their Reverbnation page.  Their album is available at Plastic Pop - links are at the bottom of this page.

This is the video of Head Screwed On.

Plastic Pop Records website
Plastic Pop Records Facebook page
Plastic Pop Records shop

The Moment - Goodbye Tuesday

As indicated previously, eighties mod legends The Moment are back.  We understand that they will have new music released in the Spring.

For now, Adrian Holder and co have put some tasters on the web of the sort of thing we can expect.  This is the first.  A few years back, Adrian recorded a tune entitled Goodbye Tuesday, which was included on the Biff Bang Pow compilation Shimmy.

The Moment have re-recorded the song, which will be released shortly on Heavy Soul.  This is a sample.  It's classic blue eyed soulful pop, in my view.  If you can prevent your feet from moving to this you need a medal.  Pure class.

The Ace

The Ace come with a substantial musical pedigree, having grown from various Leeds and South Yorkshire bands of the last few years, most notably "The Mighty" Uptight, Freebooting Profiteers and The Lost 45's.  The current line up boasts "Dynamite Daz Lee" Parkinson on drums, Nige "B-Side" Spencer on bass and Jonny "Magus" Wilson on guitar.  The band cite their influences as "Bubblegum R'n'B Garage Fizzing Pop from The Searchers to The Standells to The Stairs".

Their tunes certainly live up to the description.  They have an album out right now entitled "Next Time Around" which showcases their influences of classic garage, freakbeat and straight ahead pop-tinged rock and roll.  You can find out more about the album, along with their three track ep, at their blog We Dig The Ace.  Their Facebook page  gives additional information.  And you can hear a selection of their tunes at Reverbnation and Soundcloud.

The great news is that The Ace have signed to our favourite brand new record label Plastic Pop and will be releasing a new set of tunes shortly.

For now, this is one of my favourite tunes from The Ace.  It is called Go Go Girl and it rocks.

The Next Day - first impressions

The new Bowie is finding its way into my subconscious. It has been played on rotation all week, on the way to town, on the way home from town, when I wake up in the morning.   So what's the verdict?

The first indications were inspiring, of course. It hardly need to be said that Where Are We Now is sublime. It has grown since it was unveiled on that January morning into a classic that digs into the soul. Another poignant ballad is the sweeping You Feel So Lonely You Could Die. The voice and phrasing remind me of his golden period in the seventies.

There are plenty of other tunes that start running through the mind when you least expect it. The tough introduction of the title track, for example, and the sleazy feel of Dirty Boys - All The Young Dudes meets Fashion. The closing tune of the album proper, Heat, could have followed The Bewlay Brothers on Hunky Dory. Valentines Day is a catchy slice of pop that would have been at home on his early work and I love the fifties kitsch pastiche of the chorus on How Does The Grass Grow. Other highlights include Dancing In Outer Space, You Will Set The World On Fire and the anti-militarist I'd Rather Be High.

The Next Day is a confident, inspired album. And where does rank among Bowie's back catalogue? It's probably too soon to say for definite - there's a lot more listening to be done, to reveal all its treasures. But, right now, it would take a near miracle to hit the heights of Ziggy, Hunky Dory or Low.  But it's not far behind and is certainly ahead of Lodger and Let's Dance. In short, it's brilliant.

The Penny Arcade - Lesson Learned ep

Think of an English Summer that never ends. Of beat combos in Chelsea boots with groove in their souls. Of jangly guitars and wah wah pedals and feedback.  Of ice lollies and days in the park and boats on the river. Of an England that was safe and sure and confident. Where you could dream your bohemian dreams and believe. Decked out in the finest John Stephen attire, of course.

Fast forward forty years and put a cd in your stereo. It comes from a band who formed in 1982 as Solid State, back then comprising Nic Jarvis, Andy Kettle and Mark Lester.  In the intervening years, there were name changes and line up changes.  Solid State became Penny Arcade in the late eighties, with Kieron Chatten, Ian Coulson and Ian Mounteney joining Jarvis and Lester.  Then, in the early nineties came Imperial, comprising Jarvis, Chatten, Coulson and Kelly Pardoe.

They toured extensively, with the likes of Ocean Colour Scene, and picked up plaudits from indie connoisseurs such as Steve Lamacq.  They released two singles on YE GODS - Drunk On Josephine in 1995 and Pretty Head in 1996.

But so much for history.  Let’s put it like this.  In 1996, the band produced a selection of the finest English pop to grace your stereo.  There was the psychedelic vibe of Lesson Learned, the instant pop of All Around Her Head, the classic melodies of Staring At The Sun.  Then there was the perfect song structure of  Girl On A Bike, the harmonies of Summer Song and the slower, poignant finale of Cry Away.

The influences ranged from Madchester and Britpop, to Simon & Garfunkel and The Byrds, along with other, home grown icons.  It was all delivered with a Stones-like swagger and nonchalance that came through loud and very clear indeed.

It still does, in fact.  It’s strange to think that these songs were confined to the shelves for seventeen years. Then, brand new label, Plastic Pop records, appears out of nowhere.  The half forgotten lost classic from 96 is revived and issued.  You put the label’s first release in your stereo and are back in the world of wah wah and harmonies and jingle jangle mornings.  Take it in and smile and let your rock and roll dreams live.  With the Lesson Learned ep there’s no doubt that Penny Arcade are back.

Forget austerity, lets dance.

The PennyArcade Facebook page
Plastic Pop Records website
Plastic Pop Records Facebook page
Plastic Pop Records shop

Satsuma Elephants

This one looks a little bit interesting.  Satsuma Elephants are a new band comprising singer/guitarist Matt Henshaw and drummer Chris Goring.  Some may remember them from their first incarnation, Censored, who created some of the most memorable rhythm and soul tunes of the last decade.  Since then, they have pursued other musical interests, such as Henshaw's B Boy soul in collaboration with Reggimental.

Early indications are that Satsuma Elephants are pushing the boundaries in the direction at which they excelled previously.  Psychedelic blues rock is where they are going and that is very good news indeed.  If anything, Henshaw's vocals sound more soulful, his guitar playing harder and Goring's drums more rampant.  Information about their upcoming gigs will be available on their Facebook page and also their website.

Here's a taster of their new tune 707.  Look out for Satsuma Elephants - and remember where you read about them first.

The Moment at Plastic Pop

There some interesting things happening right now. This is one of the most exciting. Watch this space.

Plastic Pop Records and Marmalade Sky

Plastic Pop Records are an upcoming label to watch. With the aim of "starting a rock and roll revolution", they retains the credentials and attitude of the classic indie labels, bringing it all up to date for the twenty first century. They are already amassing a roster of great, flamboyant bands, who are destined to bring real music back into peoples' lives in the not too distant future.

One such band is the excellent Marmalade Sky. We have featured them here previously and they always get the adrenalin pumping and feet moving. This is a tune from a while back which comes with this great little video.

This is the Plastic Pop Facebook page. And this is the same for Marmalade Sky.

The Moment

Sometimes it's worth reminding yourself of how uplifting music can be. How about this monster from the eighties, with crashing guitars, poignant lyrics and heartfelt vocals. The Work Gets Done has stood the test of time well. Turn it up.

Reg Presley RIP

Sad to hear that Reg Presley, of the Troggs, has passed away. What better tribute to the man than this. It's an inspirational record that many a sixteen year old budding guitar player - myself included - has played through a cranked up practice amp in his bedroom. An absolute classic.

Psycho - The Sonics

This was recently recommended to me as an example of early, proto-punk. I totally agree. It's an early sixties recording and the unrestrianed pent up anger and testosterone-fuelled passion come through loud and clear. An absolute scorcher. And I love the key change towards the end. Play it loud.

The Confusion

Liking this tune from The Confusion, a five piece from Dublin. They're coming through as one of the bands to look out for this year. This is a strong slice of rock and roll, with a bluesy edge. Well worth checking out.

The band is:

Lewis Kenny - vocals
David Bellew - Lead Guitar
Michael Treacy - Rhythm Guitar
Lynchie - Drums
Dean Glennon - Bass

This is Street Literature. I'm looking forward to hearing more.

Interview with Darron J Connett

Darrron J Connett emerged a few years ago as a solo artist and singer in his band Connett. He now fronts the excellent Last Of The Troubadours, whose tunes include "Who's Gonna Love Us Now", "Audacity Of Hope" and "Till Tomorrow". We put some questions to him about the band, his influences and where he see the future heading.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Shepherds Bush West London, went to school in Notting Hill but now reside in S W London not far from Wimbledon.

When did you start playing in bands?

I've always been obsessed with music as my mum, aunties, uncles and cousins all blared out their tastes from their rooms growing up which was lots of Elvis, Beatles, Small Faces, The Who, lots of Trojan ska, soul, but I always had my ears open to the sounds on the radio, like all people you get into shit stuff and learn by your mistakes, I was truly awakened by the whole dare I say it Britpop era. But I've been making my own music in some shape or form since school and got a record deal soon as I left.

Which artists have influenced your musical direction?
I've been influenced by everyone I've heard really, its no secret of my mod influences as i am proudly one but I've never been one to lean to the obvious, I love a lot of obscure pop,love people like Nillson, Bowie, Scott Walker etc I adore Richard Hawley and to surprise people Glen Campbells Witchita Lineman is my all time favourite record and John Holt's probably my favourite singer.

You came to the fore as a solo artist a few years ago.  Tell me a bit about that.

I've always been a solo artist but formed bands in between, the modernists who are into Weller, Oasis etc really got behind me and only yesterday I was asked if "Just A Boy" could go on a compilation album of course I said yes its a fucking great song. Around that time I forged a bit of a following even people from far flung places message me to say they dig my tunes, that always blows me away but I guess I felt I lost my way and needed to move on and the scooter & target side of mod frightens me a bit and I felt I was getting dragged in to a place I didn't want to be. Don't get me wrong I love all that stuff but I didn't want get stuck as ambition for me hold no limits and as all artist should think I wanted the world as I've said before aim for the stars & I might hit my head on the ceiling.

Your band Connett released an album Waging War On The Obvious in 2009.  What are your thoughts on that album.

When I formed CONNETT... it felt like a new chapter ,we had some outstanding times together ones that will stay with me forever and more importantly we made some great music, "Waging War On The Obvious" was our debut and that opened a few doors for us, Paul weller said he loved it and personally invited us to Black Barn to record which was ridiculous as the man I idolised was now saying if I keep writing songs like that I would go all the way,and he was very complimentary on my voice too, not one to name drop but that's happened loads of times by various know musicians & singers, I look over my shoulder as they can't surely be talking about me!!!! But like all decent frontmen I have my alter ego and mine thinks he's God's Dad haha. So it's alway nice. That then gave us the opportunity to record our 2nd album "Love & Curses" in Chicago America at Colorama studios, truely a magical time we recorded music, played music, laughed all day, we really got treated like Gods out there, great times...then we signed with 208 records who released both our albums (still available) we gigged a lot but started treading water so I put us on hiatus, will we reform and play again? I hope so theyre great musicians & top people so never say never. But not sure anyone wants us to anyway haha.

When did The Last Of The Troubadours form?

Summer 2011 I formed the Last Of The Troubadours with Joel Rogers, firstly as a acoustic duo our first gig was supporting the Real People, a band we both love so it was happy days from then on. Luke Jeffries joined on drums then Rob Pyne from the rifles joined us on bass then TLOTT was off! Me and Joel are at the helm writing the songs but Lukes an all rounder and a bit of a studio boffin so he with our help arranges the songs. I'm much more relaxed as I'm not shouldered with all the responsability as its 50/50 for Connett/Rogers my control freak side does have to bite his tongue sometimes but as my names not exclusivly above the door I can step back unless i need to do otherwise but we never argue or fall out as they they agree with all I say haha no not at all. Joel knows his stuff and together were writing great songs and basically singing from the same song sheet if you pardon the pun. Our debut ep "Sooner The Better" came out Spring 2012 on itunes and cd via Delicious Junction records we've had great gigs at places like the 100 Club supporting bands like Athlete, Mark Morris from the Bluetones, done a video for "Whos Gonna Love Us Now" which went down well,got lots of airplay on xfm & 6 Music etc were also about to record the next 5 track ep working title "Dont Stand On Shadows" hopefully were go on to the next level and keep growing as the new songs are sounding really cool so exciting times lets see where it takes us?

You are often seen in pictures and videos sporting quality scarves.  Do you have a favourite label?

Glad you like the scarves, well hands up I love style and love being seen as stylish I've done quite a lot of modeling over the years face of ikon shoes some of the mod readers might know,we have also done both "all in good time mags" for Delicious Junction shoes. I'm really into Gibson London suits and tweeds at the moment coupled by Nicholson Walcot scarves & pocket hankies. I think style is essential some bands these days look like they've rolled out of Wetherspoons in chavsville and stopped off at JJBs fucking awful man, have some self respect.  Not so long ago you could tell who was in a band and who wasn't not at the minute though, although bands like The Strypes, Miles Kane, Eugene McGuinness make an effort which I really love, even when Oasis wore the anoraks they still looked cool, it's important even if I'm a one man campaign scruffy herberts should fix up and look sharp!

Finally, in a addition to the ep, what are you plans for the current year?

This year the Last Of The Troubadours will gig, tour uk & europe, record more get up in everyones grill till they take notice and realise were bringing something new to the table, it's going well and people seemed to like what weve done so far so were let it run its coarse and hopefully it'll run & run and were keep evolving, I'm enjoying it at the moment so all good. I'll record a avant gardish type solo effort some where down the round but probably not till 2014 I write many songs not right for TLOTT more Scott Walker/early Bowie type vibe its purely for me but hopefully when it comes it'll go down well but it'll only be available on key fobs by then haha...cheers Rob

The Astaires - I Want It Now

Following our interview with The Astaires last week, they have a new tune online. I Want It Now sounds like a band on fire, with its hard-as-nails guitar refrain, no nonsense rhythm section and recorded in a lift shaft vocal brilliance. This is pure adrenalin fuelled mayhem.  A gem.  Listen to it here.

Interview With The Astaires

Another new band who are creating a buzz is The Astaires.  They recently recorded a tune, Mail Your Love, which is guaranteed to get the pulses racing with its strong garage rock sound.  We caught up with their singer, Cromm Fallon, and put some questions to him.

Who is in The Astaires?

The Astaires are made up of Cromm Fallon, Jonny Catchings, and Ron Paul Gavino.

Where are you based?

We are based out of Las Vegas, NV.

Tell me a little about your local music scene.

The music scene out here is shit. Very few venues to play at and the majority of kids out here listen to hardcore screamo music.

When did you form?

We formed like a month ago... maybe.

How did the band get together?

I've actually been friends with Ron Paul since 7th grade, so we've been jamming ever since then. We eventually got serious and started the band Acton Town. After playing for 2 years, the bass player, who we also knew since 7th grade, decided to leave the band, so I got my good friend Jonny to join since we're pretty much brothers.

You were formerly known as Acton Town. Why the name change?

The bass player left so we felt as if it was a good idea for a fresh start.

Which bands/artists would you say have been a particular influence on you?

Lots of 60's garage/psychedelic rock such as The Seeds, The Sonics, The Kinks, etc. Plus bands such as Oasis, The Dandy Warhols, Louis XIV, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Horrors. There's a lot more too haha

Are there any other cultural influences that you would say are important?

The mod scene for sure. It's about looking good, showing up at the right events, and having a damn good time while looking fucking good haha.

You uploaded a tune recently, Mail Your Love. Who wrote the song and what is it about?

I (Cromm) wrote the song about a year ago, and it's pretty much about wanting a chick to come over to my place for the night haha.

Mail Your Love has a strong garage rock feel. Were you aiming for that sound?

Oh yea definitely. I loving having my music raw. Check out my solo stuff it was pretty much recorded with one mic. I wanted to capture that 1965 loud mod sound but even more aggressive, and I was extremely happy with the results. Keep in mind, this is all home recorded!

Who played keyboards on the tune?

The keys were done on a vintage farfisa organ by Zach Flynn who is a good friend of Dakota McCullough who recorded us. He occasionally plays keys for Dakota's band called The Remedies.

Are you planning to release more tunes in the near future?

Yea we plan on having an EP released at least by next month.

Can we expect a similar sound?

Expect more of a heavier guitar sound from the recording of Mail Your Love. We recorded our song 'I Want it Now' a few days ago, and damn, it sounds powerful. We got some harmonica on the track too. The farfisa will also be back for more songs.

If you were shipwrecked on a Desert Island, and could take one album with you, which one would you choose?

I would have to say Odessey and Oracle by The Zombies. Just a beautiful, brilliant album.

What are your future plans?

Well from what I hear, Mail Your Love is going to be put on a compilation from Royale Records! We also plan to have our EP finished within a month. Over the summer we hope to tour the west coast of America. I'll be out in London playing with my dad John Fallon in his set for Psych-Fest Alldayer June 29th. I'm hoping to bring the band with me so we can do some shows for The Uprising Tour while we're out there.

Interview With The Novatones

There seems to be a buzz around right now, where great new guitar bands are coming to the fore (see below).  The Novatones exemplify that spirit.  They were part of the Uprising Tour 2012 and we featured their single Living For The Weekend a week or so ago.  It seemed an appropriate moment to put a few questions to them.

When did The Novatones form?

The band started in 2010 with a slightly different line up. We played three or four shows (with our first gig at The Joiners being a sell out and all) before our guitarist, Sid at the time, quit on stage after an incident at the Railway Inn in Winchester. Tony joined the band after that. 

Who’s who in the band?

Anthony Pittman is the lead singer and guitarist
Stewart Page is the bassist
Sean Swift is the Drummer
Tony Smith is the Guitarist and vocals

Where are you from?

We're all originally from Eastleigh in Southampton. We all went to school with each other, Ant was in the year above and was good mates with Stew. Me and Sean were good mates in school. After school none of us really spoke for 5 years or so then Stew came up to me on the checkout in Sommerfields, where I worked, and asked me if I played guitar still and if I fancied joining his and ant's band. I belled Swift up cause we played in a band together before hand and then it started from there. 

What is your local music scene like?

The music scene in Southampton is mint right now. Not only the quality of music is good but people are going to more gigs than previous years. at least it feels that way. The good thing about Southampton as well is it seems we're producing real music and not just this pretentious indie stuff made by college kids with skinny jeans and rolling tobacco.

You uploaded a tune Living For The Weekend recently.  Tell us a little about it.

Living for the weekend was our first 'single' if you like. We made a video and all with our mates and photographer, Josh Kell. The response from that song has been really good and it's had some really good radio play. It was on BBC Introducing and it still gets loads of plays now, in fact it's made loads of chart listings recently. It's got like 8k views on You Tube, which is brilliant. The more people we subject to our ugly mugs the better. It's just a feel good song that everyone can dance along with you know.

Who wrote the song?  Do you have a main songwriter?

Ant wrote the bulk of 'Living For The Weekend' then we all chipped in with our little twists and that. - That's the way it normally works, someone brings a song to practise and we all make it sound like us if that makes sense. If we had to pin point a main songwriter it would be Ant and Stew in terms or lyrics but I'm sure Stew would moan Ant never uses his lyrics anyway. Ant normally just makes them up for the first couple of run throughs then whatever sticks sticks. Stew and Sean sometimes go into a separate room and just smash out some bass and drums, whilst me and Ant practise some harmonies and guitar parts - good knows we need the practise.

Can we expect new tunes in the near future?

We've just recorded a new EP called 'For Monies Sake' so we have some new songs from that coming out soon but that's just a follow on almost from 'Begging At The Bunhouse' our first EP. we just had so many songs we wanted to record we didn't want to wait too long to do it. 'Avenue Road' is a big one we've got coming out soon. it's a bit of an anthem. We have finally started recording the video now and we will have it out end of January (or there abouts). We did put them up online for download but we've just agreed a publishing deal so everything has been suspended for the time being.

Are there any tunes in particular we should look out for?

Got a bit ahead of myself in the previous question maybe haha, just look out for The Novatones - the plan is to get the songs out like the clappers. there's lots of poppy songs to look forward to, like 'She's Out' and 'Avenue Road' but then we've still got our more 'us' songs in 'The Dream Is Over' and 'Guns and Dynamite. We've even got a ska song with sax and all called 'Top of the Class' We'll probably have another list of songs to keep an eye out for in 3 months or so, we're constantly trying to write new stuff.

Do you play any covers?

We used to play 'My Generation' at the end of every set and we still do on the rare occasion but that's mainly only when we play locally in Southampton.   I mean, we know a few covers and that but we'd rather play our own songs. Even when we play the occasional cover you can tell it's us playing it. the scrappy guitar is usually a dead give away.

You were a part of the Uprising Tour 2012.  That must have been a great experience.  Tell us more

Yeah it was really good, We've spent the last year just touring non stop pretty much. It does take it's toll from time to time you know. there's only so long you can spend in the back of a cramped ford escort with your amp digging it your back and Stew's guitar smashing you in the head after he takes a sharp corner way too fast. People have been left behind in strange towns after barnies have got a bit heated but it's all part of the fun and we're always friends again after a few drinks. 

There seems to be a buzz around at the moment, with strong guitar music coming to the fore again, and bands starting to come through from the grass roots.  Are you excited by that trend?

Yeah, fingers crossed 2013 is the year for good music, The Novatones especially. you can see it's making a come back that's for sure. It is exciting but even if it wasn't speculated to be the year for guitar music that wouldn't change anything. We're just going to keep going, keep plugging away and keep doing what we're doing until we don't want to do it anymore. We've just signed a new management deal and we've got loads in the pipeline for 2013 so it's going to be our year definitely. If our mates can come along for the ride then that's even better.

Who are your major influences, musically and culturally?

We've all got really different tastes in music to some degree but at the same time we will listen to anything. Stew's really into The Beatles and could pretty much recite you the track listings for every album they've ever done. Sean likes some terrible music and Ant's into almost everything. If we had to name a few bands you'd see the likes of The Kinks, The Who, The Stones, The Specials, Oasis, Stone Roses, i guess, probably some less credible acts and all but I wont go into them. It's always a hard question to answer that. Culturally, I'd say we are all influenced my the mod scene and the style but we've grown up in a different time so it's got a twist on it you know. Scooters, parkas and harringtons are three things that will all ways be cool though. 

Is there one record you would pick out as particularly important?

Do you mean out of our songs or anyones?... If it was the latter I couldn't say for the whole band but I'd imagine 'My Generation' would be up there. What better song to sum up a jilted youth. In terms of our songs, i'd say 'III' has had the biggest impact, that was when it became real for us. I remember we played it for the first time at 'The Joiners' in Southampton and it sounded like nothing we've ever played before. People didn't really know what to say after that, it was a sign of us growing as a band I think, people just stepped back and said 'these boys could do it' you know. Plus the bass line sounds like it should be in Football Factory or something. 

What can we expect next?

We've got a UK tour on the cards next year supporting a well known band, so keep your eyes peeled for that. We're also in the Red Bull studio sometime over February so will have some new songs and probably a few rereleases coming out over summer. Other than that we're hoping we can take that step from unsigned to signed and make this our main job you know... if not, our managers not getting paid aye.