Arrived Friday teatime and bumped into The Pretty Things' lead singer Phil May who informed me that they had planned to bring along the Ronnie Lane Mobile recording unit but were told they couldn't due to some bureaucratic something or other. I then spent a very enjoyable dinner in the canteen with the mighty July on their lead singer, acoustic guitarist, and home-made sitar-guitarist Tom Newman's meal voucher as he had to speed off to get a replacement amp for the fast-approaching show. It should be said that the reason I was able to breeze smoothly into their company to begin with is that my good friend Alisdair Mitchell, former four-string swinger with Bangtwister, currently with the highly-rated Glasgow-based Hidden Masters group is the band's new bassist. Then followed a great sound check that gave a taste of what was to come; where Tom played his home-made July logo-shaped "guisitar". The Horrors' Rhys Webb, a good July friend, was on board to make sure the out front mix desk could punch in echo to approximate the tremelo fx the group used across the record.
As they took to the stage for the gig itself spacey music filled the air and a strange apparition resplendent in ancient weird head mask - the original design as seen on their lone '68 Major Minor LP "July". Said apparition carried with her a wooden staff hung with bells which was intermittently banged down on the stage floor as her ritual slowly and deliberately commenced.
July Photo by Holly Calder
Stunning doesn't really cover how the group executed the whole of that fabulous collection; complete in all its searing and disquieting majesty. Pete Cook, their original pre-LP sessions lead guitarist and chief songwriter is easily one of the very best psych-era git players around! Those heavy, searing fuzz notes and incandescent lead runs were, quite simply put, astonishing. Pete also supplied all the little keyboard touches that helped the set ebb and flow throughout. They even dressed up a little too. Tom as the "gentle king" a sort of pre-raphaelite shamanic pop storyteller. Pete in white top strung with hippie beads, and it didn't look at all contrived. Tom's son Jim is the group's second lead guitarist, a truly gifted partnership, keeping chunky yet deft rhythmic moves on the go. And he too can also let fly with an abundance of super-screech upper register solos as required. And the bass work of AM just slots in so perfectly you would've easily thought he'd been a July man long before just the last month or two that he's been rehearsing with them. A very young, fellow Glaswegian called Danny (who joined at the same auditions as Alisdair) produced some spot on, and thoroughly great drumming too.
Mystical, deafening, disquieting, top ho joyous, and truly UFO descendingly psychedelic. July are all that and more in this real-life 2012 "Eight Hour Technicolour Dream" bill, a group very much alive on stage in this smokey pokey world thrilling all in attendance with mad glad sad and exquisite songs like 'Hallo To Me', 'A Bird Lived', 'Move On Sweet Flower', 'Jolly Mary' and of course the rather legendary pair, 'Dandelion Seeds' and 'My Clown'. Two of the major triumphs that serve to illuminate the creative strength of pop's UK '67-'68 era. Group of the night for me without a shadow of doubt and a definite high water-mark of the whole weekend.
Next on was The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and I must admit I didn't catch all of the set but what I did see and hear was by turns quite enjoyable,but also for me and a few others - a little bit boring and plodding. I have the original album, and like it a lot, although I've not played it in quite some time now. But I thought some of this staged show of the LP played in its entirety had too much of a "revue" kind of atmosphere to it.
Not spontaneous enough? But maybe I just wasn't paying it enough attention after the magnificent July. Organist Lucie was especially enthusiastic though and gave them a bit of drive. You couldn't fault the effort put into all the weird and lavishly colourful costumes on display and the make-up and trippy visuals...and of course - Arthur's soaring vocal histrionics that are still as strong as ever.
Led by the true legends that are lead vocalist Phil May and lead guitarist Dick Taylor, The Pretty Things were here again (they played 'S.F. Sorrow' two or three years back) to play all the material they recorded under their mad '67-'68 'Electric Banana' alter-ego. Annoyingly I missed the opening song which is among the group's best creations from that time, 'Alexander'. One of the highlights of the set was hearing them do the never-before heard live, unissued at the time except for a BBC session rendition, decades-long absolute blistering fave-rave 'Turn My Head'.
Not part of any of the de Wolfe label samplers the EB material appeared on, but nevertheless critical to them and that era. Outrageous! It looked like they really enjoyed doing this one too, and it sounded brilliant; the psych-style visuals were just right too. 'Blow Your Mind' was a bit weird, and with both 'Eagle's Son' and the psych-crown 45 flipside 'Walking Through My Dreams' a bit more practise is needed to extract extra nuance, and get the missing vocal parts, but hey, I'm not sure anyone could name a band that are as far down their particular lifespan avenue that are still as full-on as the magnificent 'Things still are.
With Frank Holland aiding and abetting Taylor in the six-string zone, and George Perez's thumping bass pronunciations and upfront visual presence they flew victoriously through the likes of 'It'll Never Be Me', 'Danger Signs', 'Street Girl', the kooky film-theme that shouldn't-work-but-does 'What's Good For The Goose' and the EB/'S.F.Sorrow' LP crossover 'I See You'. Fans of their earlier period were not left out either as they furnished us with a great 'Get The Picture' and 'LSD' before bowing out with another Sorrow wonder 'Old Man Going'.
Many hours of dancing to garage favourites and some freakbeat winners too, followed in the adjoining room; including a great Poets spot specially spun by the Rhys, which us fans, as it happened some of us having made the trip down from Scotland were particularly chuffed to hear. Rhys you see has recently bought a real original copy of that super-rare Poets Decca 45 'Wooden Spoon' / 'In Your Tower' and he played both sides. Sounded thoroughly superb I must say!
Saturday afternoon’s proceedings was a Dirty Water event in the smaller of the two halls. First up were Thee Vicars, England's smartly-attired young champions of basic r'n'beat-punk but here with a few new add-ons to their palette that even includes a nod or two to a slightly more bluesy, indeed almost soul-struttin' style.
With their new, third album about to come out, 'I Wanna Be Your Vicar' and a couple of new 45s already out, 'Everyday' that was even flipped with a cover of The Sorrows' 'Don't Wanna Be Free'. Another on the US decades-spanning Get Hip label featuring the great 'Can't You See' and 'I'll Do You Wrong', two new blasts of Telecaster-buzzin' beat action, alongside hoof-hoppin'ly wild instro 'The Dirty Dog', the group have much to be pleased about.
Girl drummer Alex has been with them eighteen months or so now, and takes a basic no-nonsense approach to the kit that fits really well with the group's already stripped-down beat template. Although now happening perhaps fewer times than before, the group can still evoke moments of early Who meeting The Milkshakes for a scrap in Hamburg's Star Club. Mike and Chris as always share lead vocals, the former with great projection, especially on the newer material. Chris’s lead guitar is definitely becoming more prominent; ear-shredding too with the overall song structures and general playing seeing a more proficient sounding group than ever.
Nonetheless they can still end in a pile-up of flailing limbs and feedback-drenched, mic-stand scraping sounds and optimum energy is for sure being expended. The crowd could've been more up for it but maybe it was still too early in the day, given that most folks had a pretty hectic, not to mention, a pretty late night.
Madrid's Hollywood Sinners followed this with a fine display of amped-up rock'n'roll sounds. They play in a teenage-spirited Sonics-style zone; only heavier with less fundamental melody to impart. They then throw in some MC5-styled shapes but, significantly, without any of the protracted lead soloing, or mutated avant-jazzisms. Edu "Gone Sinner Gone" on Burns guitar leads his cohorts thru' a tasty barrage of numbers from past singles and debut LP plus a few more recently-penned items propelled by wild sing-a-longs and plenty garage riff-a-rama.
This paved the way nicely for a group whose name is a serious contender for one of the best beat-era groups of all time, Coventry's The Sorrows. Fronted by the 60s giant, figuratively and literally, who is also equally legendary singer, Don Fardon. The group also includes original bassist Phil Packham, who wore a very wide smile almost the whole time they were playing. This recently re-constituted combo seriously ripped and tore their way thru almost all of their astounding 1965 'Take A Heart' LP and also some of their incredible single sides. Included in the set were rollicking, gasp out loud-inducing interpretations of 'Baby', 'Let Me In', 'Don't Sing No Sad Songs For Me', 'Let The Live Live' and 'Come With Me'. They really made the audience jump and shout! Later, as if we hadn't had enough, they also gave us 'Gonna Find A Cave' plus the wildest versions of 'Lucille' and 'Teenage Letter'.
Sorrows photo by Lenny Helsing
Drummer was Nigel Lomas who's been a Sorrow off and on since 1970; and who also played with The Eggy (the superb 'You're Still Mine'/'Hookey' 45 from '69 on Spark that foretold the sound of The Sweet and Queen). The rhythm guitar/occasional vocalist ('No No No No' and 'You've Got What I Want') was another smiler called Brian Wilkins and blasting out on coruscatingly brilliant lead guitar was seventeen year old prodigy Marcus Webb. There's not much more to say, except that not many groups coming back from the 60s have ever sounded as good as these guys did.
Along with July, The Sorrows were the real stars of le Beat Bespoke 8.
OK, just who are The Screamin' Vendettas? Does anyone really know, well whoever this surreal nun-styled be-masked, smartly dressed-in-black combo are - they have themselves a great grooving sound with live-wire lead playing and a mean bass pummel. Not to mention a good line in some dry humour. They came across as very English too which was quite refreshing and they really did the beat business on a brace of cool teen-garage swingers. Some of their choice covers included the likes of Texas faves Larry and the Blue Notes' 'Night Of The Sadist' and Joe Meek-groomed Heinz's killer chicken-scratch git beater 'Movin' In'.
I had been swithering whether to traipse across town to watch pals Les Bof! at the Drop in Stoke Newington or to stay put and give The Trashmen another chance. I'd seen them once before when the group I drum for, The Wildebeests, played on the same bill in Las Vegas in 1999. I didn't think too much of them at that gig but decided I wanted to catch them again. They were pre-figured by a Spanish film about their importance and influence on groups like The Neanderthals and Waaarrgghh & Los Aaaarggghhh's that was shown on the onstage screen. Once over, it was onto the real deal, live in person.
It was almost all the original line-up with Dal Winslow on rhythm, Bob Reed on bass, his son Rob(?) on drums, introduced as "the first Trash-kid", and of course there was lead vocalist and lead-guitar tingler Tony Andreason. Tony handled most of the lead vocals, and Rob did stuff like 'Bird Bath' and other assorted aviaryations when required. I'm sure everybody then thought Rob would be the one doing 'Surfin' Bird' but it was actually Tony doing the main vocal there and pretty neat neat neat it was too.
All in all I'd say they treated us to a mostly superb collection culled from their recordings from almost half-a-century ago. Let's see, we got 'Kuk', 'My Woodie', Buddy Holly's 'It's So Easy', 'Malaguena', a nicely put together medley for their old pal Link Wray, 'A-Bone', 'King Of The Surf', and of course the one everybody and their parrot knows...pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-oo-mow-mow-pa-pa-oo-mow-mow. One or two little confusing moments of timing and rhythm, but they were probably invisible to the majority of the capacity crowd, and the amp of Dal "the master of disaster" Winslow sputtered a bit early on, but, alas, didn't die.
So, hey yeah baby, it's The Trashmen in excellent concert delivery.