Wednesday, December 31, 2014

There goes 2014....

I’m not really one for year-end round ups. Generally I’m glad to see the back of any old year but there have been some fine times had over the course of this one. Those responsible know who they are (I hope) and I banish all evil considerations agin those who I expected to act with a little more decorum. They presumably know who they are too. Whether they give a hoot or not is not this guy's concern at this point. Disappointment is second nature around these parts particularly during the festering season.
So let’s turn to the subject of music and the outright, never failing to shimmer debut by the first lady of Norton, MIRIAM (Linna). "Nobody’s Baby". Less than a year after hearing the single in the confines of their HQ, a whole album and even shows came to pass. An utter revelation from start to finish. The song selection, the performance and Sam Elwitt’s genius piecing together of the whole puzzle made for a truly uplifting release. Even although the subject matter largely dwells on the negative, I put it to you that if you don’t get very excited when listening to this then you clearly need assistance. I hope that these kids catch a break soon and that the performance aspect will be brought to this side of the “big watter” over the course of this coming year.
Someone that I will be seeing soon came back with "The Fox, The Hunter and Hello Saferide" in September. Annika Norlin never fails to deliver the very tops in pop. She takes all of this at her own pace and whether the world catches up with this exquisite music doesn’t seem to mither her. I hope that she might venture beyond Sweden again at some point but until then the mountain is all to happy to go to Mohammed (are you still allowed to say that?) I shall see her in Malmo at the end of February and very much look forward to that.
Best "new to me" combo was the Brazilian sensation known as Autoramas, they turned out to be far from the standard garage rock racket I might have expected.  You can listen to "Música Crocante" here and even watch their Funtastic antics also. After seeing them I was almost feart to listen to a recording but they’ve caught that off centre buzz buzz buzz on this latest recording just fine.
Keeping up the Portuguese twist, circumstances prevail that I never got around to putting anything up here about the latest Rita Redshoes album "Life Is A Second Of Love". Rightly lauded in her homeland, Rita's fare is just about as far away from what passes as the mainstream as it could be. That’s not to say that it’s not commercial. If you exposed the audiences of however many nights Kate Bush did in Hammersmith to this gal's oeuvre then I’m sure many would be smitten. But in some ways, that may be like expecting Eagles fans to like The Skeletons or NRBQ. There can be no accounting for taste.
To tell the truth, once you got past the outfits, I never warmed to Kate’s music. And Rita could never be tarred as being remotely prog. Her ability to create atmosphere lends itself better to film scoring in the proper sense. Anyway, that’s by the by. Like Annika, this girl has a singular vision and she deserves your indulgence.
As does her other half – The Legendary Tigerman – who also released a new full length entitled “True”. It was supposed to get a UK release but I’m not sure that happened yet. I ought to check.
Pantones "¿Quién quiere Primavera?" and The Singles “Look How Fast A Heart Can Break” are the outright pop smash hits of the past 12 months. Cheetah Chrome’s EP on Plowboy took care of the Americana aspect of things. “East Side Story” is an example of a New York song that harks back to when that town still had a soul instead of the odd outpost here and there.
At this point, I semi-promise to be a bit more active starting tomorrow when I’ll maybe haver about a few records that may have gone un-noticed this past wee while. You’ll no doubt have bigger fish to fry but there’s no hurry. I'm not about to leave the bunker until the coast is clear, January 3rd at the earliest.
I don't blame you if you think that it'll all go by the wayside but at this point I have a little faith that it could happen.

Monday, December 22, 2014

This Year's Big Festive Smash!

Merry Christmas from the Weeping Willows (with the one and only Annika Norlin)

Happenings Over Seven Days Time Ago...


Hardly seems like a couple of days since "The London” schlep never mind over a week. I’ve made it to the holidaze though and the plan is to seldom venture from the midden heid. There are a couple of exceptions but the hatches are as good as battened down.

I should have reported all this by now but I had a wee problem with blogger. It logged me out and it took a couple spins of the block to get back in here. I’ve no idea what happened. It was like getting locked out of the house. Something else that presented itself when I managed to throw my keys into the recycling bin this past Friday, possibly as a result of having made it to the aforementioned finish line. So let’s go back in time a bit to Thursday 11th December and Wreckless Eric’s pitstop in Glasgow.

The battle-weary players gave it their all to a sadly depleted audience and were rewarded with having to spend the night in a certain guest house in Renfrew Street. Easily the best ticket in town that night, I guess the festive revelry didn't extend to hearing some rather exceptional music. This made it doubly worse that there was no Elvis Booth session that night.

However, I managed to haul ass to the train and the “weather bomb” that had threatened to upset travel earlier in the week never came to pass. The journey down was damn smooth. A bit like the couple of pints partaken of in The Queens Head prior to heading for Dalston. I made it to the Shacklewell Arms in time for soundcheck.

The room seemed smaller than I remembered it, perhaps it’s these new varifocals but it was sure grand to see those Fleshtones. Due to some long-overdue socialising, I managed to miss both support acts but that happens sometimes although on this occasion it wasn’t a cobbled together bill. DWC don’t play that.

A rammed Shack’ got well and truly super-rocked and reinforced that the wrong of the band never having been to Scotland for 31 years + needs to be righted. A plan is in motion to rectify this over the course of 2015 and I’ll keep you posted on this front. Visiting US dignitary, Brother Scott Cornish took the Fleshtones pictures that accompany this missive.

He was also present at the 100 Club on Saturday night where the Wreckless sleigh made its penultimate stop of this semester, a grand triumph in front of a sizeable crowd even although it took place absurdly early., almost to the extent of being a matinee. I don't mind an early start but I believe such a thing is a problem for prospective attendees. Whatever the pros and cons of that, it’s a real treat to see him with a band and I've had the pleasure of seeing this three times over the course of 2014. There was a little glam Creedence seepage this time around that just bolstered the full-blooded renditions of material from his recently revitalised portfolio. "Kilburn Road" was particularly robust in these conditions. I think this was the best Christmas show I’ve seen since The Sensational Alex Harvey Band used to take over the Glasgow Apollo all those moons ago.

Santa Goulden made the scene for the encore to perform the recently-recorded festive paen, "Christmas on the M62". A cautionary tale if ever there was one.

100 club pictures by Me with my ropey phone.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Monday, December 08, 2014

Fresh Festive Cuts 1

LOLA DUTRONIC'S CHRISTMAS DISCO is accepting bookings now...

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Monday, December 01, 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014


A little over a quarter century ago, I had the privilege of putting out the debut album by Girl Trouble entitled “Hit It or Quit It” here in Europe. This kicked off a lifelong camaraderie that found all of us together in Benidorm, Spain of all places. In a giant UFO, that doubles as a venue for the biggest annual outright rock’n’roll party in Christendom.

And I finally got to see Isaac Olsen’s “STRICTLY SACRED”, a documentary film that explains exactly why the whole world should care about this crew from Tacoma, WA. Watching it, even on a TV screen and one of those pull-down screen contraptions in a resort pub, was an emotional experience. Here were people that I’ve only ever met a few times but they feel like family. Always did, always will.
Hopefully the flick will get to play in a few places over the coming months ahead of its eventual release with a ton of additional material on DVD in the not so distant future. Ideally it would be shown alongside a performance but ain’t there always logistical hiccups actually doing that. Not least with what it might cost irrespective of the outcome being the most valuable commodity on earth. So anyway, I’m on a mission. I want to be able to hang out with my Pacific Northwest crew again so maybe you know people or have connections to a film festival, or a pop-up cinema or any damn thing that can get this great work of art out to the people who need it.
Which is pretty much everybody, as the world trundles toward hell in the proverbial handbasket.
If you do, then please contact me and together we can maybe bring a little joy to folks ahead of the conflagration. There’s a line in the film that states, “every once in a while, we do land a good gig” or words to that effect. As we ponder the UFO gig after they raised the rafters, that is THEE proverbial understatement. Viva T-Town and then some.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

IX Funtastic Dracula Hallowe'en Party - Benidorm 2014

On the spot report and photos by TRH Lenny Helsing.

Lord Rochester pic by @missrockinrolla
I was thrilled to be attending this year's Funtastic as The Wildebeests were added to the bill as a replacement for young USA fuzz 'n squeal combo The Neumans! Arrived lunch time Friday 31st October in tow with fellow 'Beest Russ Wilkins, as he and his good Lady Muck, as Lord Rochester were slated to perform just a few hours after our arrival. So we missed the opening Thursday night but heard from folks around that it was a top night with Spain's Medway style showcase Loss Cesareas and Autoramas (from Brazil) singled out for praise! And so after driver Sam brought us in from Alicante airport to the Pierre et Vacances hotel / timeshare apartment style facility booked for us we had a wee relax and then headed downtown to see what was happening.
The "being knocked on the head with a hammer over 'n' over again" style of one man band King Cayman was already ringing out when we arrived at RockStar, a bar on one of the numerous "hello is this little England I thought it was Spain" type streets that litter this sun-trap bolthole city... After a beer we await the arrival of Lord Rochester's drummer for the day, the very dapper Jorge from Dr Explosion and head janitor at Estudios Circo Perrotti. Plagued by a few pre-gig sound problems but we were soon on the way with Lord Roch's larger than life Bo Diddley-itis show which was of course proved a surefire winner with the swelling crowd, "Deadly Daddy", "Seven Steps To Heaven" and the utterly infectious strains of "Lucy Lou" gave way to their tasteful cover of Los Mockers' "My Baby" with Jorge out front on harmonica and yours truly behind the traps. They ended with an alternately stomping/hushed Bo Diddley, with your humble scribe adding vocals to "Cadillac" and finally a frantic romp through "Boys". They've plenty of forty-five fayre out on Spanish label Saturno so there's no excuse for including them in your next lil' soirée.
The main party venue for all the evening shenanigans is Ku, which kinda looks like a giant spaceship. You go inside to the main hall with the stage and a few drinks bars and then you step outside but you're still sort of inside; everything bathed in ultra-violet light with more bars, plastic booths etc. This was where all the record and clothes stalls were dotted throughout. Hey, being Hallowe'en there were some pretty weird 'n wonderful costumes to spy too such as the telephone box man, the half-a-tomb with fairy lights inside and a cross on top guy, not to mention a mega plethora of Monster Club style patrons, oh yeah and some giant sex organs who were wandering nonchalantly about. That night's live group action included such as the howling, thumping tones of Cyclops from USA, a one man/one woman apparition of swampy and trashy sounds played out in basic fashion on guitar and drums and a barrage of caterwauling vocals.
Then came The Limboos, a new-ish Spanish group that includes lead guitarist Roi and lead vocalist Marky from The Phantom Keys - one of the saving graces in the Spanish-grown r'n'b garage stakes these last few years. The Keys also used to have former Thanes Mal Kergan in their ranks - just thought I'd mention that ... So anyway yeah, the Limboos - well I dug the more basic stuff they played in the beginning of the set but as soon as they started to get a bit tricksy and almost kinda too clever etc and then bringing in the brass section and ... well it's all a bit too soul revue and polite for my more primal rock'n'roll tastes but a lot of the kids seemed to dig it so who am I to criticise? Except that I do prefer the less is more approach.
For me the absolutely best group of the evening, without a shadow of doubt, were The No-Talents. Of French origin, they are a punk-style group who's wild thriving pizzazz, goose-bumping levels of whirling energy and pure rock'n'roll drive was always gonna put most other groups to shame; guitarist Lili Zeller is one of the best adverts for ever wanting to pick up a guitar and play, while the frantic, whirling dervish moves and vehement sounding, spat-out and hollered vocals of Cecilia are perfect for such a group as this - hers is a name synonymous with many action-packed garage beat and punk projects over the years: Wild Wild Records, the Loud Mufflers, and various other groups to which her first name has been affixed, and more recently, of course, there was the similarly absorbing Operation X.
Anyway, The No-Talents take the fierce spirit of punk rock when it was still great, with just a pinch of the early Slits and Kleenex (cliche I know but it's still what comes through in Cecilia and Lili's shrill staccato vocal outpourings) and the beat and melodic tuneage of some 60s garage beat essence, and they stomp and writhe and jump and shout like the world's about to explode any minute. As I've said all this bluster and frenzy is matched up to wildly absorbing garage sounds, their teetering on the brink assaults jaggedly appealing and seriously good fun, yet still with an edgy pop sass and nous which is what carries them beyond mere regurgitation or blank xerox mo-chines: bassist Ivan le Terrible and drummer and schooled rock'n'roll scribe Laurent Bigot (Ugly Things...) are also thoroughly integral pieces that so enable the group's furiously rhythmic, strident approach By the end of the set everyone was spent, the players as well as the recipients of the onslaught. Outrageous and punk-rockingly great! Was great hanging out with them and Jacko again too. Also great to bump into old pals like Tony "the Tyger" Sanchez who I've not seen for many years!
Following that was always gonna be a tough spot, irrespective of might, brawn, rock credo etc ... Jorge introduced me to a couple of folks I'd never met before like Ana (At First Sight) and Jake from Austin's The Black Angels and so we had a good yakkety yak about all the great 60s TX punk bands, Ana spinning some cool discs in the process and she told me about this book she's just put out all about Tonto & The Renegades, of "Little Boy Blue" infamy. It's the first in a series called "Still Spinning Around at 45 rpm". Wow, not only that she then gave me a copy so I can review it ... so I'm looking forward to sharing that soon probably in Shindig or Ugly Things or...
I missed The Dragtones so I had another wander around the different stalls just taking it all in and then I had a nightcap. It didn't take too much more for my brain to say ya know what I've almost had it for live groups tonight, although I first tried a little of famed US combo New Bomb Turks. Truth is though I never really liked much of what I heard on record from them, too heavy? Hmmm so maybe it was a given that I wasn't gonna be swayed by their live show. There's just something that's way too - I dunno - is it like hardcore sounding or something? For me it's altogether too grungy and rawk for my delicate or discerning tastes. My main gripe is that I find it really difficult to locate any real tunes or hooks that if they are there then must be buried under the mounds of cranked distortion bludgeoning bass and drums and phlegm-coated vocal growl that seems to inform much of their oeuvre! Anyway don't wanna slag them off too much seeing as I didn't watch the show and hundreds did and seemed to be really enjoying them. I really needed to get some beauty sleep and preserve the energies as our lot, we Wildebeests were gonna be playing a set in less than 24 hours.
Saturday's afternoon session didn't start the way it might have as someone forgot to bring the Girl Trouble movie/documentary DVD so some of us sat around awhile and wondered when this would happen. I left to go to soundcheck around 2 O'clock and it still hadn't appeared but I am reliably informed that it did eventually get shown and was apparently really good. I'll need to get a look see at that someday. Set up done'n'dusted, we went in search of food then came back to RS for a few cool beers before dispersing to prepare for that night's live entertainment etc.
The UFO was again full to the gunnels by the time I got there. First group I saw anything of was Magnetix who we've shared stages with a few times, I like what they do most of the time but tonight I only caught little snatches as we were busy preparing our set list, having a drink and blether with the Dirty Water Gang - Paul Manchester ever so keen to show off his precious (empty) merch box he'd been trailing around with him all day. I do recall Magnetix having quite a full on thing going with some abrasive, clipped drum bashing, blustery incoherent (to me) vocals and some fairly nasty sounding guitar.
Portuguese lot TT Syndicate were up next and put on an energetic show with a few cool, uncluttered showings but, like the Limboos the previous night, went for the big soul/r'n'b revue style approach after awhile and flung in some cheesy "popcorn" which was all fluffy and a bit too sugary and kinda hurt my teeth a little ... not salty enough I guess? But, again, they seemed to go down well with the by now well-lubricated party-goers.
I can't say too much about the next band because I play drums and provide some of the vocals but I will say it was great party atmosphere for The Wildebeests to play at and I think we rose to the occasion in our commando pirate get-ups ... Paul Revere RIP and off we went blazing through "Just Like Me", some of our tunes - it was great to see/hear people singing along to "One Minute's Time" and "Lucinda" - and a load of punk r'n'b shenanigans the likes of "Mongoloid", "Diddy Wah Diddy", "Clarabella" and "Action Time Vision". It got pretty hot in the costumes and Russ had to use a Vox Phantom-style guitar once or twice as he kept on bustin' strings; two or three drumsticks went the same way too. We encored with "Suzy Is A Headbanger" and we were done! The best compliment amongst many was that "we brought it back again".
US combo Danny and the Darleans took to the stage next and were really pretty cool although it took a little while for some people to realise they might be missing something so they better amble back in smartish ... Danny himself (former Gories string breaker) does a pretty good beat / garage turn and the bass and drums held together well. The drummer is one of these top breed loons in the finest Moon/Prince fashion. "You Drive Me Insane" was a highlight although some of the other songs they played were pretty exciting in that sloppy/not-sloppy garage beat vein.
I wasn't sure I was still even gonna be around for last group of the night / morning as Russ, Saskia and I were gonna have to be up and out before half-eight Sunday morning to make our 11am flight back to Edinburgh ... but seeing as it was Tacoma Washington's mighty Girl Trouble I thought I would at least make a valiant effort to catch the start. I'm glad I stayed and at least caught their first few numbers, as after the warm up and intro piece they burst into a kickin' version of the Shadows Of Knight's great n groovy "Gospel Zone". And by the time I managed to snake my way through the heaving throng, taking in a couple of minutes to say some buenos noche's to stray pals etc I could still hear Girl Trouble's "crappy garage" noise echoing all around... but it was now time to make my way out and along the short walk back to hotel and Zzzzzz!
Thank you Paloma, thank you friends and assorted noise-makers for a great first visit to what was the ninth Funtastic Dracula Carnival. Brilliant rock'n'roll fun and good night Benidorm! Cheers!!!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

So by now you know how sceptical I am. Stories of the Funtastic Dracula Carnival over the years have entered into the annals of legend. Some of them may or may not have been picked up and been given urban myth status. The blurry reality of the situation is that, as an event, what might be considered hype is actually 150% for real. You really have to be there because it’s about the big picture, the people perhaps even more than the bands. So it came to pass that I actually got to attend. Some of the crew were unable to get there this year but I did my very best to represent those that were missing in action for whatever reason.
The FDC is exquisite and the fact that there just happen to be some great bands and stellar DJ action to be had is just the icing on a particularly yummilicious big sticky cake. I’d never been to Benidorm before and it must be utter hell in the summer but the balance of elderly retirees and the rock’n’roll folks makes for a pretty damn good chemistry. Like some kind of Mediterranean Blackpool.
And let’s be clear about this, it is rock’n’roll. Of all persuasions. You might not like all of the bands , all of the time but when that happens you just step out on to the patio where there’s always music in the air. When the bus that’s going to town is carrying kids wearing Ramones and Hellacopters t-shirts then you realise you’ve made it to the right spot.
The venue was something else I’d heard about but took some time to get to grips with just how unique it is. Between this and the curation, there’s no way this could not be something else entirely. I think it sort of blew my mind and I just wandered around wide-eyed for an hour or three. The scepticism transfusion was complete by the wee small hours and I didn’t feel like an interloper anymore. By the time The Autoramas came on I was fully integrated into the vibe and they were fantastic. I don’t know what I expected of them but it sure wasn’t what I got. Of all the combos I saw over the days, these kids from Brazil could go furthest. They have the chemistry and the shapes to send of the Food Fechters scurrying back under the stone where they belong. If only there was a commodity along the lines of justice. Maybe a drawback is that there aren’t too many songs in English but like in all good music, lyrics can become an instrument irrespective of language.  Their swinging pummel is utterly contagious.

To tell the truth, I was a little afraid to hear them on record after this account but can happily report that they have captured whatever the heck it is their peddling sonically. To see Flavia and to check out Bacalhau’s wee dance though, you’ll have to go to a show and I can report that they’re playing Hipsville this coming May here in the UK.
Day two started at Rockstar a downtown bar with several aperatifs and the very wonderful Lord Rochester who dignified and diddley-fied us with their presence. The assembled throng loved them and they set the bar very high way before teatime.
Frannie and Ruth, being the foremost host and hostess took me along for some tutti frutti ice cream on the beach front in Villajoyosa. It was fitting that there was some TF in this episode as it took me back to the Blue Whale speeding toward Madrid city limits with the Quattros in 2008.
Now that I was acclimatised it was time to get down to the business of socialising. And due to the efforts of Steven Tagg-Randall, I can keep the gig gab to the minimum and you can sample the musical goods at leisure. All of the sets presented in glorious FUNTASTOVISION black and white and colour for all you’re wishing you were there pleasure.

I’ll tackle the GT movie as a separate entity in due course. It piqued the excitement of getting to see them for the first time in, I think, 18 years. Kurt maintains that the gig we saw in San Francisco was awful but my memory serves me different. My defence is that Girl Trouble could never be less than monumental but you know how these artistic types are. By the time they were ready to go on stage I was wound up like a kid at Christmas. By the time they were done, I was covered in and coughing up glitter in addition to being somewhat out off puff. As I remarked to Bon earlier in the evening, I would have been happy just to keel over in such hallowed company.
Exhaustive coverage of the event can be found at MagicPopcat.  This in conjunction with Steven’s excellent videos would provide a fine Christmas getaway should you feel the urge to escape to another world for a bit. Just hop on board the UFO that Ms Paloma and Snr Varo curated.
“Spanish jetlag” is a known condition that is not caused by actual time difference in relation to the regular body clock. SJ comes as a result of special powers that manifest themselves as soon as you hit whatever city in Spain you happen to be visiting. My previous bouts have been of the Wurlitzer strain, a particularly agreeable way to run oneself into the ground. FDC is likewise a place that would not be unlike my idea of heaven. Not one obnoxious blowhard or drunk in sight, just kids of all ages raging against the all-enveloping tide of shite that they have to deal with in everyday life rather than the light.
Doctors should fucking prescribe this as a treatment but be warned, it’s not for lightweight. I have the added bonus of looking like one of the retirees I mentioned earlier that cut about like The Banana Splits but by night, the mutant stamina kicks in and it’s away we go. I like to think that Ralph Kramden would be proud.
So now I’ve been bitten then I pledge allegiance to the frat. Resistance is utterly futile.

The Excitements returned to the daftest wee country in the world a couple of weeks ago. I’d missed them earlier in the year. This isn’t an act that should be consigned to a Sauchiehall Street basement. This is a big show that requires a stage that is at least 4 times as high as this one. They would appeal to a wide swathe of people if those individuals actually knew they existed.

It’s difficult to get people out to shows but this is surely compounded when there’s no visible sign of posters. Are we to assume that everybody checks websites? Er, that would be a major ASS-umption that is literally not happening. But the criminally underattended show didn’t hamper the energy level and I’m pretty sure that word of mouth – and maybe a Friday or Saturday – show should determine a bigger audience next time.
Anyway, them Excitement types more than live up to their name. Utterly unphased that the joint wasn’t exactly jumping in terms of bodies it sure was by the time they hit their stride. Barcelona’s primo R’n’B powerhouse tore it up in a fashion of a true showband. If it hadn’t been for the Alvin brothers hitting town the next day then I would have gone to the Edinburgh show too.  
In keeping with the notion of the road going on forever, and maybe a wee bit beyond that, the last few weeks have presented several revisitations of my past. All of them good. It makes me feel pretty damn fortunate despite what you might read from my actual fizzog.
30 + years ago, I met Dave and Phil Alvin when Art Fein was managing The Blasters and also The Cramps. I’m happy to say that it’s a friendship that has endured the years and seeing them back together with The Guilty Ones on a stage in Glasgow was nothing short of phenomenal. I completely plotzed during the encore. It was like the roadhouse in Twin Peaks. When they broke into the instrumental section that was “So Long Baby Goodbye” it was like time froze and before I knew it tears were streaming down my face. No drink or any other substance was taken. It was like watching a stop motion film. When all the instruments blew back in, it kind of jarred me back to pretending I had something in my eye. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t kidding anyone at that point. I can’t say what a privilege it is to see something like this. So many acts just go through the motions but this was fiercely life-affirming and heartbreaking in equal measure.
Between needing to be up to go to the salt mine early the next morning and heading for Spain at stupid o’ clock the day after, I didn’t see them afterwards. I had also been through the emotional wringer but I don’t think I would have had it any other way. We’d all witnessed one of the greatest sets played by anyone ever. It was even better than the Opry show and the venue was excellent too. Dave reckons they could do with some ramps to get the gear on stage but apart from that...

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Maybe a future generation could be a salvation after all... (via Andy Shernoff's fb post)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I’m still a little fried from the longest trip away that I've taken in years. The fact you're reading this means I survived. Madrid > El Escorial > Madrid > Castellon > Barcelona. in case you wonder, It does often occur to me that I'm too fucking old to be doing this but the necessity shows no sign of abating. This missive is shorter than it might have been for the reason that will become apparent in due course.
Arrived in Madrid early doors on September 25th. Good move because it allowed me to settle rather than dump the bag and head for the show as is usually the case. Hostal Aguilar is a great spot if you ever get to the city. Perfect location and I'm certain that my nocturnal movements cause amusement to the reception folks that have to buzz me in the wee small hours.

First up was the 8th Annual Wurlitzer Ballroom birthday smorgasbord and The Tripwires closed Thursday night. Flat out the best pub rock band in America or maybe anywhere at this point. Maybe we need to adapt the genre to gastropub rock? Much imbibing took place afterward resulting in a wee small hours leaving time that meant I was up about 26 hours. Friday was The Mockers, that Robbie Rist can sure blaze.
Saturday was relatively sedate compared to the two previous nights. I saw the excellent PeaWees and a bit of Belgian stalwarts, The Kids before taking a wee wander up to Weirdo. The idea at the back of my mind was that it might be an early night as I was heading for El Escorial - an hour or so north in the mountains - by train fairly early on Sunday. Quality hanging time was had in a beautiful part of the world that allows the gears to drop a bit.
Back to town on Tuesday for more socialising and Wednesday over ran due to some late arrivals at Wurli before the 100+ years of rock'n'roll circus hit El Sol. The expected after show carnage took place and it was 4 hours between getting back to the Agui and having to meet for the train. What I saw of the journey was cracking. Trouble was I just slipped in and out of consciousness. I was a bit more alert at the changeover in Valencia. Maybe.
Hotel room was very fancy by my standards with a terrace. A couple more days to scope it out would have been good. The venue called The Four Seasons is another of those places that are scattered throughout Spain. The Teenarama Powerpop kids visited from Murcia and it was nice to meet these hallowed tipsters. That’s tipsters not hipsters, if these folks flag something up then you should take notice. Next day was Barcelona and everything started off swimmingly until we got there and some arse left his cell phone in the taxi. I prefer to look at it like this, had it been my passport things would have been way worse.
It did curtail the BCN action a tad but the show was nothing short of miraculous. Good as the other two were this was on steroids with a very active dance formation troupe down front at all times. The Quattros, my first time seeing them with young Curly Q on drums, flew straight out of the traps. I never fail to be proud of them and I never forget that it is entirely their doing that my love affair with Spain even happened. The Yum Yums played a blinding set of wall to wall hits and of course I miss Vibeke and Andre but they’re hitting a stride now that I could never have expected. The Surfin’ Lungs were even bigger and brighter this evening too and well, what can anyone say about The Rubinoos. There wasn’t a dry seat left in the house. The maxxed out the energy level and then some. Circumstances dictated that the big end of the triple wasn't celebrated en mass but some mighty fun was had over the week or so.
And of course the best bit is to see my extended family and to meet new amigos and amigettes, my deepest appreciation to all for taking time out to provide such primo company. Such a visit always humbles me and I look forward now to seeing those Nomads this weekend and taking in a new Spanish destination at the end of this month.
As I type my notes for this, there's a party going on at Barbara Ann bar that will be every bit as splendiferous as the Apolo 2 but reality beckoned. Temporary reality though. The fun is set to resume soon. That's what I need to repeat as a mantra to abate any tendency to whine.
It’s the sixth anniversary of my obsession with España this very weekend (October 19th). Hoping that they're not glad to see me go because I’m less than happy with being gone in the proximity sense.
Less than a week later I’m down “the London” for The Nomads and Sator and it’s all kicking into place again. Well worth the 12 hour train round trip to experience another evening of what life is largely all about. A key figure or two might have been unable to make it but those folks were there in spirit alright. I’m pretty sure all of this happened because there’s a recording of it and I sure felt like I’d been through the mill when I had to get up for work the next day.
I had some crew from Finland and Spain here this past week and there are another few shows locally over the next wee while but next up is my first Funtastic Dracula Festival where I will be reunited with the one and only Girl Trouble after what seems like a lifetime.
Bring it the bloody fuck on.

Links, etc. will follow... he typed optimistically...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It’s been a rollicking week or two and I know I haven’t logged the Spanish adventure yet but there hasn’t been time.
Since I got back, Lou Whitney left us and that is way more important than any of my blah could ever be. Still can’t quite get my head around the notion that I’ll never see him again.
Then just  Saturday/Sunday there was The Nomads/Sator double header. Quite a few rock’n’roll miles on the clock and I’m fighting against the all-enveloping lurghi. The amount of coughing, spluttering, sneezing and worse that I’ve come into contact with in past days has made me consider getting a flu jab. This time next week we’ll be looking forward to the clocks going back on the 26th.
I do like me that extra hour.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


In the winter of 1981, I was living a life of quiet desperation as a freelance paste-up artist in South Jersey. I was divorced with a five-year-old son and at the wise old age of twenty-five decided I would never have a career as a musician or songwriter. I liked a zillion styles of music and I was writing songs in those styles but most of the people I played music with were convinced that the only way to make it was to choose one genre and adhere to it right down to the appropriate wardrobe and musical gear. I must have believed it too because I ultimately chose to opt out altogether. To say I was discouraged would be an understatement. I wasn't even showing my songs to anybody anymore. In my mind it was over. The dream was dead. Then I met Lou Whitney...

Lou's band the Symptoms were performing in New York at the old Peppermint Lounge on 45th Street, opening for a popular new wave band. I'd driven two hours to catch their show because Lou wanted to meet me. A friend of mine had released a 45 of the Symptoms’ recording of “Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)” and I cobbled together a picture sleeve for it that Lou really liked. It wasn't much more than a photo of the Viscounts' sax player playing a car transmission instead of a horn but Lou loved it and sent word that I would be on the guest list. Their version of the Swingin' Medallions’ tune sounded great and I had never been on a guest list before so I hopped in my heat-challenged '65 Rambler and made my way up the New Jersey Turnpike.

The place was packed with new wave hipsters. You could feel the electricity. The New York club scene was really happening in the early '80s. After a long wait, the stage lights came on and the most normal band in the world came walking out. They looked like they had just finished working on their cars. There wasn't one single trendy thing about them. These days it's hard to believe how unusual that was but back then it was astounding. Lou kicked off the first song and they were off and running. And run they did.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. It was a revelation. They played country, blues, rockabilly, swing, garage rock, girl group stuff, surf instrumentals, you name it. And they were smiling! They were (dare I say it?) being themselves.

When I found Lou and introduced myself he shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, "Subaru, right?" It took me aback until I realized he was talking about the car transmission on the record sleeve. "Yep," I replied. "I knew it!" he said, and laughed out loud. I told him how much I loved their show and began rattling off my favorite moments until he stopped me and asked if I was a musician. "Actually, I'm more of a songwriter." "Really?" he said. "Send us a tape. We need songs. We're too lazy to write our own. Right, Donnie?" I looked behind him and D. Clinton Thompson nodded in the affirmative. Just as I was leaving Lou handed me a piece of paper with his address scribbled on it: "I'm serious. Send us your stuff." Wow. I had no trouble staying awake on my drive back down the turnpike that night. The next day I put together a cassette of song demos and mailed it to the address in Springfield, MO.

About a week later I got a phone call from Lou. "We just worked up five of your tunes and the audiences love them. Send more!" To say "and the rest is history" is hackneyed for sure but in my case it's true. I had touched the hem of the garment. Lou had anointed me. Everything changed for me after that. Lou told everyone he knew that I was good and because Lou told them they were ready to hear my songs -- which has led to a long career of doing exactly what I want musically. And it all started that night in 1981 when I met Lou Whitney.

Thanks, Lou, and good night. Wherever you are.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Goodbye Louis B. Whitney, So Long!

I think it was 1980 that I first heard The Skeletons. In those days, it was customary to write to an act that floored you and I duly ordered a box of 45s to spread around people that I figured would like them. This was the first time I came into contact with the force of nature that was Lou Whitney. Recipients of these 45s included Lux and Ivy who subsequently name checked the band in ZigZag as a result.

When it came to the point of getting the chance to start a label, the band was the obvious choice. To my mind they should have been bigger than something like The Eagles. A+R people loved them but they didn’t know what to do with something so pure. So somehow, Lou granted me the wish of compiling the singles plus other tracks for “Rockin’ Bones” which was later followed by their debut “proper” album, “In The Flesh”.
In August 1992 I made the pilgrimage to Column One in Springfield, Mo. I clearly recall Randy and Donna dropping me off for the adventure that would entail travelling with them to shows in the Chicago area including a memorable night in DeKalb, Illinois. I stayed with Lou and Kay during those days and enjoyed their wonderful hospitality.
The Heartbreak Hotel in Malmo played host to the Dave Alvin/Scott Kempner/Skeletons ensemble during the Skeledanavia 1992 was like a dream come true. The guys from Uncle Tupelo were there that night also and somewhere I have a tape.
We kept in touch over the years and I always hoped I’d get out to see him again. Never imagining that there would come a day when that wouldn’t be possible. Last time I spoke to Lou was when Mary McBride made a pit stop in Glasgow with the Rt. Hon Joe Terry and she graciously called him.
Then there’s the music that he and the guys made. They should have been a household name. Their chemistry made them utterly unique and that’s why other great artists gravitated toward the buckle on the bible belt.  Listening to Ben Vaughn’s “I’m Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” the other day, it was if he was channelling the big guy and it made me plotz.
To tell the truth, I’m finding it difficult to process the fact that he’s taken the final taxi. The music he made with the band and with others will live for all eternity. Lou’s alt-Wrecking Crew was always ready to work up their magic when the need arose.
They broke the mould after this one popped out and we’ll never see his like again. Hey may not have been rich in monetary terms but the guy was a veritable gazillionaire in terms of being a wonderful human being. It was impossible not to love Lou Whitney. Lou inspired everyone that he ever came into contact, being the archetypal gentlemen in every sense of the word.
The big fella never compromised his integrity for one second over the years and it is an utter privilege to have been able to call him my friend.  A world without Lou in it is a daunting prospect. His wisdom and forthright manner gave him a quality that made him a natural leader. He was someone you could believe in and someone you could believe. He made his mark alright.
My condolences to Kay and his immediate family, to his compadres -  Lloyd, Joe, Donnie, Dave, Andy, Scott, Eric, Amy, Ben, Robbie and Syd and everyone else that will miss the hell out of the guy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Monday, October 06, 2014

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The result was disappointing, not entirely a surprise but still. At the outset I was a staunch no and I remember telling BB Quattro and whoever else that it wouldn’t happen. Then I got to thinking and after the shenanigans of how things are going within this sceptic isle, I decided it was more than worth a shot. Partly down to devilment but I felt a genuine undercurrent that might effect change eventually. Unlikely it would happen in my lifetime but maybe a generation or three down the pike.

Hearing the smug, rent-a-quote pish that's flowing from the “victors” is nauseating. Once I got to grips that this wasn't  about Wee Soapy, and especially not about wanting to disown England or 99% of the people who reside there. Maybe if there had been inclusion of Scots who were located elsewhere, those that might have returned to try and hoist the country up by its bootstraps had a yes vote been successful? Alas we’ll never know but still, there were only 400,000 votes in it, that in itself is hardly a landslide for the fearties.

Broon in particular gives me the collywobbles and he has the most to gain in the long run although I hope that Scottish labour are hobbled enough for people not to look to this shyster. He sold the family silver and as a reborn maggot, he’ll lead the charge – er, not flippin likely but he’s got a fair share of the gullible believing him. I’m hoping that his leading the death rattle will have the desired effect on what’s left of what used to be Labour.

Anyway, there’s no point in raking it over. The damage is done and there’s much limitation to consider. How it all pans out in the next season taking us to May 2015 is potentially alarming. Every figment of the lying, conniving puppets that made up the No corner are entirely guilty of sowing the seeds for something altogether more nasty, those that are working the Camerons of this world.

So it looks like it’ll take longer than was envisioned, ain’t it always the way. I just hope that what happened in George Square and the surrounding area on Friday night will not be symptomatic of the immediate to mid-future. We’ve all been cheated, both sides. The upcoming general election has to be used to even the score, to set the scene for another crack at getting the fuck out of Dodge.

The roof may well have come in by that time, this country – the UK - is bankrupt in a multitude of ways. If you thought pulling together to try and make things work might be impossible, wait ‘til you get a load of what’s in store.

I've hit a wee bit of a snag that means that I'll need to scan the old NBT pages again. Particularly on the early issues. Playing with these scans, I've been reading some of those early attempts at stringing a sentence together, It's not pretty to the point of toe-curling. Maybe a little like starting a band without being able to play. But anyway, I'll just have to suck that up and let my yeah be yeah.

So stick with us. Simon has done a great job. It's good that the process of invigorating this thing is finally underway. I feel that the word "energised" has hit the wall as a casualty of the farce that went down on Thursday. Anyway, let's not go over all that now. You're likely sick to your stomach of it. I know that I am however this time next week I shall be in a far, far better place.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Hey, mi amigo Simon is helping me revamp this beastie. Actually he's doing all the brain melting stuff so please bear with us. He also has to put up with my plodding so Rome is unlikely to be built in a day. This has been a public service announcement.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Monday, September 08, 2014

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Evoking pulp, sparks, roxy music and the soundtrack to carnival of souls re-imagined by tangerine dream. Producer Christian Gabel used to be in Bob Hund and that’s the direction this orbits to a degree. I guess it’s what might be referred to as “minimal”. As opposed to orchestral maybe. But this quibbling never dampens the bigger cinematic picture. I used lower case on those band names back there because the evocation is spiritual rather than sonic.
“I Forgot About Songs” recalls “I Wonder Who Is Like This One”, quiet, understated and all the better for a faulty electrical connection. “The Crawler” made me wonder if Annika ever heard Ivor Cutler. Probably (possibly) but you never know, and why would she have? Anyway, the point I’m struggling to make is that this is prose as opposed to mere song. The dialect of her voice is as much an instrument as any other employed to give this material the form that we can hear. I’m not sure if that explains anything at all but I know what I mean. “Raspberry Lips” is reminiscent of Suicide’s “Surrender” and I plan to test the suitability of a segue for any future dj stint down the road.
Closing opus, “This Body” is like an astral cousin to Lou Reed’s Berlin with Christian G playing the part of Bob Ezrin. There’s a song on here called “Berlin” too but I think that’s just a coincidence. Anyway, the strings are equally as chilling as “Sad Song”, channelling a similar, spare, forlorn oddness.
No-one not nowhere is making music that is as beguiling as this. It provides an outpost in which to get gone from the mundane, far, far away from any flavour of the minute. This latest diary entry indicates that there’s no end in sight to the magic that this girl has been weaving for the best part of a decade now.  Maybe, just maybe, the world will catch on to this extraordinary catalogue that has been spooning my sad little heart over these past years.
Further direct evidence of the lady in question being “good with words” can be found in “Texter” a book of lyrics that has just come out via Teg Publishing. It resembles a bible of sorts with its red edged pages and it contains everything but the contents of på engelska for some reason. It’s mostly in Swedish with the exception of the Hello Saferide lyrics but completists will need to grab a copy anyway. 
Hearing the stream was one thing but I urge you to seek out the physical release. This is a rare occasion when rare high expectations were actually met and raised. That seldom if ever happens. At least not with me.
This is soul music. Maybe not as you know it but that's what Hello Saferide is. On the Razzia imprint where they know about such things.