Newbreed – Allah Las

Jenni and Holly had a chat with Pedrum Siadatian, the lead guitarist and vocalist with Allah Las ahead of headline show at Euro YeYe, Spain on Thursday 3 August.

1. Some of you guys met through school and working at Amoeba Records, can you tell us a bit about what brought you to start playing together and how you became The Allah-Las?

Once Spencer and I started getting acquainted at Amoeba, we shared our individual bedroom recording projects with each other and started jamming just for fun. Soon-after, we asked Matt to join us and drum because he was our friend and had similar tastes. Then they asked Miles to sing cause they knew him from high school and none of us wanted to sing.

2. Having worked in a record store prior to the band and all being big music fans, what different musical influences does each member bring to the band? Do you try to get this across in the music?

We have a lot of overlapping tastes but each of us has certain tendencies that the other doesn’t so it kind of balances out- popman, worldman, folkman, caveman.

3. Obviously California is musically one of the richest places to live with so much history and new music, how influenced are you by living there and other music coming from the area?

Bands are products of their environments just like people are, so I think whether we wanted to or not that Los Angeles was gonna come across in our music to some degree. We are really into the Byrds, Love, Seeds, Rain Parade etc.., in terms of paying homage to those influences, we did it best on our second record.

4. You’ve also had a very strong art direction with your artwork and videos, are there other influences outside of music which you draw from?

Yeah – books, movies, art, friends, and conversations. they’re all equally important.

5. Nick Waterhouse took on production duties on Worship the Sun, how did that come about? Do you have plans to work together again in the future? Or indeed are there any other people on your wish list to work with?

it came about cause he helped us with the first record and it seemed like a good move to work with him again. We also spent a lot of time with Dan Horne in the studio doing overdubs and mixing. I’m into the idea of recording ourselves for the next one!

6. Following on from Worship the Sun, Calico Review takes things a bit further and a slightly darker turn. Can you tell us a bit about the writing of the album and recording process for it?

We were just writing songs separately, a continuation of the process that had started with Worship the Sun. When it came time to start working on Calico everyone started showing the rest of the band the songs they had written and we learned em, demoed em, then recorded em proper off-and-on over the course of a year.

7. Your weekly installment of Reverberation Radio has become a bit of an institution for fans, how did that come about?

Miles had a graveyard shift time slot at KXLU every Wednesday from 2-6am and we would all go down to the station, bring records, and hang out. We got kicked off the air for playing too much old stuff, and with the help of our friend Robbie, we turned it into a weekly podcast that’s been going on for about 5 years. The four of us in the band take turns contributing, as well as six of our friends and the occasional guest.

8. What is the 60s underground scene like in LA? Is this something you are involved in as a band?

There is a small one but I don’t feel like that’s our vibe. We never wanted to be a full on 60’s homage group, even though the video for Tell Me contributed to that.

9. It feels like you’ve been touring pretty much nonstop over the past year. You’ve toured extensively across America, Europe and Australia since the release of Calico Review – what have some of the highlights been?

Some of the best shows have been the shows where we didn’t know we had an audience and loads of people came, like Cape Town, Tel Aviv, Budapest, Moscow, Bali.

10. Are you looking forward to playing at Euro Yeye? What can we expect from the set? When you record, are you always thinking about how it will sound live?

Yes, we’re gonna try to do some stuff we’ve never done live. No, that comes after it’s done!

11. As you’ve been spending a lot of time touring, has this given you much time to check out some new (old) music? What’s been your soundtrack on the tour bus over the last few months?

I’ve been listening to my friend Maston’s record that’s gonna be coming out this fall, it’s really great instrumental/soundtrack music. Also, Chris Lucey, the Only Ones, and VU always.

12. Calico Review came out last year, what are your plans for the rest of 2017? Focussing on touring or will you be heading back into the studio?

Yeah we have a short west coast tour in September but otherwise, we’re gonna start working on the next record this winter!

Band Members: Matthew Correia, Spencer Dunham, Miles Michaud, Pedrum Siadatian


Allah-Las (2012)
Worship The Sun (2014)
Calico Review (2016)
“Catamaran”/”Long Journey” – Pres, 2011
“Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind)”/”Sacred Sands” – Innovative Leisure, 2012
“Don’t You Forget It” – Record Store Day split w/Nick Waterhouse, 2012
“Had It All”/”Every Girl” – Innovative Leisure, 2013
“501-415″/”No Werewolf” – Innovative Leisure, 2014
“Famous Phone Figure” – Mexican Summer, 2016
“Could Be You” – Mexican Summer, 2016

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Pip! Pip! Are the Creative Business Engine behind various music based organisations of the cool underground variety. Providing angst, confusion, bewilderment and annoyance in equal amounts. We design/host/manage great sites like this one! Why not hire us one day soon?

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July 17, 2017 By : Category : Articles Bands Beat Europe Front Page Interviews Picks Psych USA Tags:, ,
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UK Tamla Motown singles Part 3

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Collectors Corner 2

“I’ll be doggone! – UK Tamla Motown singles Pt.3: TMG500 Series”


At the end of the second part of our trawl through the near-perfect run of soul classics released in the UK from the USA stable of record labels (Tamla, Motown, Gordy and Soul), boss Berry Gordy had just put pen to paper for EMI in Britain to follow Decca’s lead (with Atlantic the previous year) and launch Tamla Motown as a stand alone label to release the labels hits pouring out of the USA in the UK. With much fanfare, and with a corresponding (and very poorly attended at times) package tour featuring The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, Miracles and the Earl Van Dyke six, March 1965 saw the first six records pressed and released to a British public becoming more and more interested in the soul sounds pouring out of the other side of the Atlantic. TMG 501 was the first release, with its iconic black and silver label, large 45 rpm on the right-hand side, and clad in a beautiful orange / white company sleeve. Things couldn’t have got off to a better start as The Supremes “Stop! in the name of love” hurtled up the charts to number 7, followed swiftly by Martha & The Vandellas “Nowhere to run” which reached #26 at the same time. Thus started a near perfect run of singles, commonly known as the TMG 500 series, which have been avidly collected by record hoarders ever since.

The Supremes quickly established themselves as the labels biggest hitmakers, frequently hitting the top ten throughout the decade, including 500 series favorites “You can’t hurry love” and “You keep me hanging on”. They were soon followed by The Four Tops who hit the charts with “I can’t help myself”, “It’s the same old song” and in 1966, having the first bonafide Tamla Motown UK number one with “Reach out I’ll be there”. Other artists began to have minor hits too, The Miracles “Going to a go-go”, Stevie Wonder’s thumping “Uptight (everything’s alright)”, Marvin Gaye’s “Little darling” and The Temptations “Beauty is only skin deep” all reaching the charts. The same artists also gave us some very sought after rarities too, as they all had flop releases at the same time. The Supremes “Love is like an itching in my heart”, Four Tops “Ask the lonely”, Marvin’s “I’ll be doggone” and The Temptations “Get ready” always fetch good money with collectors, even though they do turn up for sale quite often.

After a great start, the label had more hit & miss luck releasing singles, with 1965 seeing quite a few record releases selling almost nothing then later becoming sought after “lost” classics on the northern soul scene. Early release must haves include Kim Weston’s “I’m still loving you” (TMG511), Brenda Holloway “When I’m gone” (TMG510), Shorty Long’s “Out to get you” (TMG512), The Hit Pack “Never say no to your baby” (TMG514), Choker Campbell “Mickey’s monkey” (TMG517) and The (Detroit) Spinners “Sweet thing” (TMG514). Most of these early singles hit £100+ when they come up for sale, which isn’t very often! The rest of 1965 saw a flurry of good selling releases from label favorites, with The Contours and The Marvelettes also getting in on the action. Four very poor selling releases stand out amongst this run of classics, none of which are easy to find. Billy Eckstine “Had you been around” (TMG533), Dorsey Burnette “Jimmy Brown” (TMG534), The Lewis Sisters “You need me” (TMG536) and Tony Martin “The bigger your heart is” (TMG537) are all sought after, mainly due to rarity as they aren’t amongst the best of the labels’ releases!

As 1966 came around the label continually released great records with varying degrees of success. Joining the artists mentioned above saw releases by Kim Weston, Shorty Long, Gladys Knight & The Pips and, with one of Motown’s greatest ever songs in “This old heart of mine”, The Isley Brothers. Some notable, and scarce releases this year included Kim Weston’s Northern favourite “Helpless” (TMG554), The Contours “Just a little misunderstanding” (TMG564), The Elgins “Heaven must have sent you” (TMG583) and Gladys Knight & The Pips masterpiece “Just walk in my shoes” (TMG576). Hardly a duff release was pressed at all up to TMG599 in March 1967, such was the stellar amount of talent pouring out of Detroit at the time. This is partly why this period of Motown releases is so sought after. Although collecting “the hits” can be done quite cheaply and easily as the label sold tonnes of 45’s in the mid to late 60’s in Britain, completing the set does require quite a fat wallet! Black label stock copies are generally a lot cheaper (though not always easier to find) than the very sought after iconic Red A label demo discs which were pressed in very small numbers and are much cherished by UK soul release connoisseurs. The main exception to this rule is the Spinners “Sweet thing” which is near impossible to find as a stock copy. Monetary value aside, a complete collection is a sight (and sound) to behold, and once complete you’ll be in possession of one of the best ever set of musical releases ever. Happy Motown hunting!

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James Clark

Loves collecting records. My main loves are 50's rock'n'roll, 60's soul and r'n'b, beat, mod and psych and hopefully will be sharing some nuggets with you over the next few months. Apart from being a vinyl junkie I'm a Arsenal obsessive and a hopelessly romantic drunkard, but don't let put you off, we all have our faults.

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July 3, 2017 By : Category : Articles Club Soul Front Page Music Picks Reviews UK USA Tags:, , , ,
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UK Tamla Motown singles Part 2: Stateside

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Collectors Corner 2

“In my lonely room – UK Tamla Motown singles Part 2: Stateside”


After beginning to make bigger leaps into the UK record buying markets in 1963, the Tamla / Motown / Gordy group found themselves under the umbrella of the EMI subsidiary label, Stateside in October of the same year. Stateside was formed in mid 1962 by EMI to release singles under licence from American labels such as Swan, Wand and Vee-Jay in a similar style to Decca records very successful London American imprint. Licensing tracks from many independent USA labels ensured Stateside released a whole slew of great current rhythm’n’blues and soul releases, and the label soon endeared itself to mods and soul fans on this side of the Atlantic. As well as having hits with Freddy Cannon and Gene Pitney, early releases included such stellar names as The Isley Brothers, Jimmy Reed, Chuck Jackson and The Shirelles. When Oriole’s UK contract with Motown ran out the previous month the new distributor launched its first release on Stateside on 11th October 1963 with Martha and the Vandellas all time classic “Heatwave” (SS228). When sales were quite brisk, the label then released three more singles the following month by Little Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye’s fantastic “Can I get a witness” (SS243).


By January 1964 Motown was causing quite a stir on these shores, being regularly name checked by the UK’s biggest pop combo, The Beatles, who took Mary Wells on tour with them and mentioning Motown artists numerous times in interviews. Add to this the burgeoning underground mod and soul club scene which was hungry for the dance floor friendly sounds coming out of Detroit and it wouldn’t be long before Stateside had a bona-fide hit single on their hands. Between January and April 1964, no less than twelve 45’s were released in the UK, including tracks by The Miracles, The Marvelettes and debut UK releases from The Temptations, “The way you do the things you do” (SS278), and the group that would soon hit the top spot, The Supremes “When the lovelight starts shining thru his eyes (SS257). On May 8th 1964 Stateside released a hook laden single written by Smokey Robinson, and it was sung by Motown’s number one lady of the time, Mary Wells, “My Guy” (SS288). Two weeks later, on the 21st May 1964, “My guy” entered the UK charts at number 37, finally hitting the heady heights of number 5 the following month. Berry Gordy’s company had now scored their first of many big hit singles in Britain.


Between May ’64 and March 1965 Stateside issued a further 30 singles, including debuts from The Velvelettes, Earl Van Dyke, Four Tops and Kim Weston. Most of these were steady sellers, with titles by Marvin Gaye, Martha and the Vandellas, Mary Wells and The Temptations all scoring top fifty placings. On 28th August, and eight months after their initial flop, The Supremes “Where did our love go” (SS327) was released to an impressed public, who bought the single in droves, sending it number three in the chart. Less than two months later, and capitalising on the nation’s newfound love with the sounds from Motor City, “Baby love” (SS350) was released and hit the top spot soon after, with the group actually having two songs in the top ten at the same time for one week in October! Unfortunately not all releases were massive hits and some are now hard to find. These always sell for good prices when they appear on the market, especially in mint condition. Martha & The Vandellas “In my lonely room” (SS305), Brenda Holloway “Every little bit hurts” (SS307), The Tempations “Why you wanna make me blue” (SS348), Earl Van Dyke “Soul stomp” (SS357), Kim Weston “A little more love” (SS359), Four Tops “Without the one you love” (SS371), Carolyn Crawford “When someone’s good to you” (SS384) and Tony Martin “Talkin’ to your picture” (SS394) are probably the hardest to find, especially the last two. Also coming with a ridiculous price tag, all the Stateside EMI singles were sent to pluggers and radio DJ’s as red and white label demonstration discs and all are extremely collectable, and valuable too!


EMI was also loved to release EP’s and hundreds of them were released across their labels from the early ’50’s to the late ’60’s. After no EP releases on Fontana or Oriole, Stateside bit the bullet and released no less than five of them in the time they were licensing material. Little Stevie Wonder was afforded the only single artist EP, “I call it pretty music but old people call it the blues” (SE1014) which is ridiculously hard to find. There were also four editions of a cracking new EP series, concentrating on material otherwise unavailable in the UK on 45, “R & B Chartmakers”. The series featured some great tracks, including two stellar previously USA only releases from Eddie Holland, “Just ain’t enough love” and “Leaving here”, all came in amazing picture sleeves too. Although steady sellers they’re hard to find in great condition nowadays, expect to pay between £50-£100 for each of them. By March 1965 the label was as big, if not bigger than Atlantic over here in the UK so it came as no surprise that, with a little help from super fan Dave Godin, Berry Gordy signed an exclusive deal with EMI to set up a brand new record company in Britain, Tamla Motown records. On 19th March 1965, clad in an iconic orange and white company sleeve, record stores took release of a new disc, TMG 501, “Stop! in the name of love” by The Supremes and the rest, as they say, is history.

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James Clark

Loves collecting records. My main loves are 50's rock'n'roll, 60's soul and r'n'b, beat, mod and psych and hopefully will be sharing some nuggets with you over the next few months. Apart from being a vinyl junkie I'm a Arsenal obsessive and a hopelessly romantic drunkard, but don't let put you off, we all have our faults.

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May 4, 2016 By : Category : Articles Club Soul Front Page Music Picks Reviews UK USA Tags:, , , ,
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LSD – A Short Historical Trip

Albert Hofmann, a  devout chemist then working for Sandoz Pharmaceutical, synthesized LSD for the first time around 1938, in Basel, Switzerland, whilst actually searching for a blood stimulant. However, its true  hallucinogenic effects were unknown until 1943 when Hofmann accidentally consumed some LSD via skin absorption. It was later found that an oral dose of as little as 25 micrograms (equal in weight to a just ew grains of salt) is capable of producing vivid  and hallucinations.

The compound was found to have similar aspects to other chemicals and re-actions present in the human brain and LSD was therefore used in experiments by psychiatrists through the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. While the researchers  seemingly failed to discover any medical use for the drug, the free samples supplied by Sandoz Pharmaceuticals for the experiments were distributed broadly, leading to wide use and indeed abuse of this  strange and magical substance.

LSD was then popularized in the 1960s by individuals such as psychologist Timothy Leary, who widely encouraged American students to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” This created an entire counterculture of  this type of drug abuse and thus spread the drug from America to the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. Even today, the use of LSD in the United Kingdom is significantly higher than in other parts of the world.

While the ‘60s counterculture used the drug to escape the pressures of  mundane society, the Western intelligence community (led by the CIA) and the military saw it as a potential chemical weapon. In 1951, these organizations began a series of covert experiments. US researchers noted that LSD “is capable of rendering whole groups of people, including military forces, indifferent to their surroundings and situations, interfering with planning and judgment, and even creating apprehension, uncontrollable confusion and terror.” This a potential new age of warfare could be possible.

Experiments in the possible use of LSD to change the personalities of  certain intelligence targets, and to possibly control whole populations, continued until the United States officially banned the drug in 1967. By this stage the damage was becoming obvious and a  real concern.

Common use of LSD saw a steep decline in the 1980s, but then rose again in the 1990s. For a few years after 1998 LSD had become more widely used at dance clubs and all-night raves by older teens and young adults. Use dropped off significantly after 2000 and became more rare.

Bicycle Day

Three days later, April 19, 1943, Hofmann performed a self-experiment to determine the true effects of LSD, intentionally ingesting 250 micrograms of the substance, an amount he predicted to be a threshold dose (an actual threshold dose is 20 micrograms). Less than an hour later, Hofmann experienced sudden and intense changes in perception. He asked his laboratory assistant to escort him home, and as use of vehicles was prohibited because of wartime restrictions, they had to make the journey on a bicycle. On the way, Hofmann’s condition rapidly deteriorated as he struggled with feelings of anxiety, alternatingly believing the next-door neighbor was a malevolent witch, that he was going insane, and the LSD had poisoned him. When the house doctor arrived, however, he could detect no physical abnormalities, save for a pair of incredibly dilated pupils. Hofmann was reassured, and soon his terror began to give way to a sense of good fortune and enjoyment, as he later wrote …

… little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux …

The events of the first LSD trip, now known as “Bicycle Day”, after the bicycle ride home, proved to Hofmann that he had indeed made a significant discovery. A psychoactive substance with extraordinary potency, capable of causing paradigm shifts of consciousness in incredibly low doses, Hofmann foresaw the drug as a powerful psychiatric tool; because of its intense and introspective nature, he couldn’t imagine anyone using it recreationally.

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Pip! Pip! Are the Creative Business Engine behind various music based organisations of the cool underground variety. Providing angst, confusion, bewilderment and annoyance in equal amounts. We design/host/manage great sites like this one! Why not hire us one day soon?

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May 4, 2016 By : Category : Articles Front Page General Inspiration USA Tags:, , ,
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Roky Erickson Live – Darius Drewe

ROKY ERICKSON plays the music of the 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS

Forum, London

13 April 2016

In “popular” music, most performers, once they pass 50, tend to find themselves tagged into one of several loose categories. There are greats, and there are not-so-greats: there are heroes, there are unsung heroes, and also-rans. And then there are legends.

But what exactly is a legend? And how do you become one? While there are obviously no easy answers to these questions, my own personal estimation would run something like this: any artist, performer or musician who, either by default or design, presaged an entire sea-change in their chosen field, pioneered developments before their widespread popularisation, and whose reputation, irrespective of all later achievements, continues unabated several decades after these events first took place.

In which case, it’s a term that definitely applies to Roky Erickson. The minute he sets foot onstage, white hair cascading over purple suit, the applause that follows can only be likened to the kind usually reserved for a Dimitri Payet goal. Not, of course, that it’s in any way unjustified: as the man who, with the 13th Floor Elevators, was among the very first if not the first to describe his music as “psychedelic”, and who genuinely dragged U.S. rock kicking and screaming from the quiffs of the greasers, the shorts of the surfers and the pop of the preppies into an altogether darker, dirtier and more twisted palace of mind-bending eargasm, he deserves more respect than any white American musician of his era (with the possible exception of Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks and Mike Nesmith) still living. Yet even their greatest works were polite and subdued compared to the Elevators’ output, which (to the relief of those who remember his puzzling, blues-oriented shows at the South Bank six years ago) forms the entirety of Roky’s set tonight: 50 years on, even played by younger musicians (including his eldest son on jug) it still sounds like the incendiary work of frenzied demons, and even the slightly muffled sound, which is soon remedied anyway, can’t stymie the power of Fire Engine , Earthquake or Slip Inside This House (how’s THAT for an opening triumvirate) in all their twanging, spingalanging glory.

Riffs echo, bass lines thud, drums bash: just as the Sonics did a year ago in this very same venue, Erickson and his merry band lay down an 80-minute crash course in the essentials of rock’n’roll, only augmented by the unique floating strains of electric jug rather than honking sax. Unbelievably, there are still some today who complain about the instrument: yet to these ears, it was always the establishing factor in the Elevators’ unique identity, the next logical step in the evolution of American music from the concept of the folk, rag or literal “jug band” to what we now casually refer to on a daily basis as “garage psych”, and, in the absence of any back projections (obviously the budget didn’t quite cover such things) a reassuring pleasure to still see in evidence.  Faced with the relatively prosaic environs of the Forum on a foggy Wednesday, we still need at least one direct line to outer space: besides, without it, Erickson’s music has never been quite the same, and though his “horror songs” of the 70s and 80s were undeniably great, without that hollow, echoing boop, there was always something missing.

By marrying such a unique instrument to screeching feedback that reflected the band’s love of the blues (lest we forget, Texas is officially in the South) and primitive rhythms that took as much influence from Gene Krupa as they did Ringo Starr or Jerry Allison (though the structures and dynamics of the Crickets were inevitably writ large throughout Roky’s songwriting and Stacy Sutherland’s guitar playing) the resultant sound, though undeniably that of a rock’n’roll band, couldn’t fail to be anything but psychedelic in nature. And, five decades on, even with different musicians though during the last 12 months, the actual Elevators have reformed and played back at home it still is. More to the point, so is his voice: sure, towards the end, there are a few sploughs and cutters, but mostly, his banshee-like wail is exactly as you imagine it to be, his unique mixture of eloquence, menace and pained emotion untroubled by the passing years.

She Lives In A Time Of Her Own, I’ve Got Levitation and my own personal favourite Reverberation (how many 90s bands named themselves after these tunes?) are both angry and joyous, uplifting and sultry: depending on which sector of the audience one stands next to (scenester Mods, bowl-bonced Nuggetheads, ageing punks, bearded hipsters, headbangers and my personal favourite at any psych gig, the dreadlocked crustie who dances like a twat, entirely oblivious throughout as to how much of your personal space he’s encroaching on) the reception is exultant for these, yet perhaps more muted for mellower numbers from the underrated Bull Of The Woods. The combined population of all those subcultures, however, are evidently gearing up towards one moment and when it finally arrives, You’re Gonna Miss Me is the thunderous finale of finales, the man himself practically drowned out by the yellings of 1500-odd acolytes who probably thought they’d never see this happen.

I don’t think he can quite believe it either: though the lead guitarist and bassist (again, probably still pinching themselves) do step in with the odd fumbling introduction on his behalf, Erickson’s only non-sung words to the audience throughout have, almost by way of sheer incredulity, been “thankyou”, and like many musicians who’ve spent their entire lives in North America, both he even though this is his third visit now and band are clearly overjoyed to be in London. As a result, they can’t quite leave yet, and so it’s with the screeching proto-metal thrash of Two Headed Dog that they take their exeunt: at least for now it’s final, though as with all musicians of a “certain age”, you hope that you’ll see them again soon and that the next time won’t be the last. Nevertheless, if this does prove to be my sole encounter with Roky Erickson, it’s one that will remain forever imprinted on my memory, regardless of its relatively brief duration: maybe, on reflection, that’s the definition of a legend…

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Darius Drewe

Darius Drewe was born in East London in 1974. As a small child, both parents inflicted their musical tastes, from The Beatles and The Moody Blues to Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis, on him, and he was never the same again. Despite being born and bred a 'Cockney tosser', Drewe actually spent his teenage years in and around Birmingham, attending his first 60s/50s-themed nights there at The Ship Ashore, before "coming home" in 1993 to the South, where, with the exception of three years spent in Glasgow between 2007-2010, he has remianed ever since. In the almost two decades that have passed he has trod a strange meandering path from a shy 60s/70s-obsessed teen with no 'scene' to speak of to a Metalhead, sleaze-glammie, Goth, indie kid, glam-punker, garage-rocker, eventual Mod and psych freak (first attending Mousetrap in 2000) In that time he's also written for Shindig! Britmovie, DarkSide, Black Velvet and Get Ready To Rock, promoted various vintage and veteran acts at Camden Underworld, Glasgow Ivory Blacks and several other venues, DJed everything from psych, garage and soul to Metal at practically every well-known club in central London. Drewe is trying to build a time machine that will enable him to visit any period between 1960 and 1980 but still be able to use a mobile and Facebook. His ambition, aside from directing films and building said machine, is to morph into a cross between Jason King, Timmy Lea, Jerry Cornelius and Richard Hannay, and drift about the ether having adventures in a kipper tie, pinstriped flares and camel hair coat.

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April 27, 2016 By : Category : Front Page Fuzz Garage General Music Psych Reviews USA Tags:,
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Jazz for Modernists 3 – Ornette Coleman (1930-2015) (Part 2)

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series James Thomas on Jazz



August 29, 1965. Croydon. England. Shortly before the Beatles endured relentless screaming at the Hollywood Bowl, the Ornette Coleman Trio greeted a smaller, more ‘listening’ audience at Fairfield Halls, a much-appreciated venue on Greater London’s southern fringes. This was Coleman’s first British date, part of a major European tour lasting until May 1966 (including, later that spring, a four-week residency at Ronnie Scott’s and concerts in other major cities). The trio’s European trip dovetailed with a period of revolutionary experimentation in popular culture, that transitional period when London was in full swing, California was ‘a-dreamin’’, Byrds’ guitarist Jim McGuinn (on ‘Eight Miles High’) imitated John Coltrane and the Beatles transformed themselves from the slightly anxious individuals of Help! to the dandified aural astronauts of Revolver.

jamesjazz_0004_Layer 1

By 1965, Coleman’s freedom-searching, boundary-shifting music was not simply a badge of uber-beatnik identity or confined to the margins of experimental jazz and the classical avant-garde, but had infiltrated the previously ‘straight-ahead’ forms of R & B and folk music. The shift from beat, folk and R & B to psychedelic rock privileges (in addition to pot and LSD) a new awareness of Eastern and Indian music among such luminaries as George Harrison, Brian Jones, David Crosby, Jeff Beck, Donovan, Ray Davies and Jerry Garcia. True. The importance of Indian sounds and imagery is paramount. But not only had Eastern-style modes already featured in jazz (check out John Coltrane’s modal 1961 classic ‘India’, but the ‘free’ music of Coleman, Coltrane, Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler contributed other important elements to the development of psychedelic and ‘progressive’ music from 1965 onwards.

Coleman’s influence on British jazz dates to 1959. Whilst not all his Atlantic LPs were released immediately in Britain, copies of non-UK albums were shared by American GIs, imported by specialist shops and played on more daring European radio stations. Despite hostility to Coleman’s new approach within some modern jazz circles, British jazz from 1960-1965 was familiar with notions of freedom. Joe Harriott, independently of Coleman, recorded Free Form (1961) and Abstract (1963) with other West Indians: Coleridge Goode (bass) and Shake Keane (trumpet, flugelhorn), and British-born Pat Smythe (piano) and Phil Seamen (drums). By 1966, Harriott was also experimenting with Indian music, soon to record Indo-Jazz Fusions I & II with composer and multi-instrumentalist John Mayer. Around 1960, Coleman-loving New Departures poets Peter Brown and Michael Horowitz invited Ronnie Scott’s house rhythm section (including pianist Stan Tracey and bassist Jeff Clyne) to live performances combining spoken word and jazz. These led to the New Departures Quartet, featuring legendary Scottish saxophonist Bobby Wellins, which released an LP in 1964 for Transatlantic Records.


Coleman’s blues-drenched radical music was also an (often overlooked) influence on the emerging British R & B scene, particularly on musicians working with Alexis Korner and Graham Bond. Although partly a reaction to the conservatism of ‘trad jazz’, from the late ’50s British R & B had incorporated modernist and mainstream jazzers. Bond’s alto work with tenorist Don Rendell was compared to Coleman. Though Bond actually preferred Eric Dolphy, Coleman was a major inspiration to the other members of the Graham Bond Organization: bassist Jack Bruce, drummer Ginger Baker and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. Bruce later claimed he and Baker had envisaged Eric Clapton’s role in Cream mirroring Ornette’s in his trio. Bruce, with Heckstall-Smith, future Colosseum drummer John Hiseman and guitarist John McLaughlin, would record the Ornette-inspired Things We Like LP in August 1968, three months before Cream’s final performance at the Albert Hall.

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By August 1965, then, Coleman was a key figure within several interlocking contexts: the New Departures poetry crowd, freer modern jazz, avant-garde improvisational music and the trajectories of various pioneering musicians (Bruce, Baker, Heckstall-Smith, Syd Barrett, proto-Soft Machine) looking to push R & B into unchartered waters. These people shared Ornette’s fluid, egalitarian philosophy of freedom in which each instrument could potentially represent any human voice. The British debut of the Coleman Trio, early in the counter-cultural ‘underground’, was a symbolic opportunity to affect and engage with the experimental zeitgeist. Organized by Michael Horovitz, pioneering improvisational music promoter Victor Schonfield (who’d met Ornette in New York in 1964) and Pete Brown, the Croydon concert was part of Horovitz’ Live New Departures series of multi-media performances, poetry readings, concerts and happenings. Due to unsatisfactory British Musical Union laws, Coleman composed a piece of classical music to qualify him as a ‘serious’ musician and therefore bypass regulations prohibiting performances by American jazz musicians.

The resulting twenty-four-minute ‘Forms and Sounds for Wind Quintet’, performed by the Virtuoso Ensemble, provided an interesting interlude between pianist Mike Taylor’s quartet (featuring John Hiseman, bassist Tony Reeves and sax player Dave Tomlin) and the Coleman Trio. The Trio, with drummer Charles Moffett and bass virtuoso David Izenson, then perform stunning versions of seven tracks including ‘Sadness’ and ‘Doughnut[s]’ from the recently released Town Hall, 1962 LP and the John Cage-inspired ‘Silence’ (where Coleman answers with witty aplomb a heckler requesting Ray Noble’s tricky standard ‘Cherokee’). The Croydon concert, now available on CD, was released in 1967 in Germany as the double box set An Evening with Ornette Coleman (see first photo). An exceptional testimony to Coleman’s unique genius and an intriguing source of future musical adventures in British music, critic Barry McRae called it ‘some of the greatest jazz ever presented in this country’ (“Ornette Coleman – Live”, Jazz Journal ,October 1965).

Some of those adventures up to 1970 can be traced here. In October 1965, Mike Taylor’s quartet recorded Pendulum, one of the rarest items in British jazz. Released on Columbia in June 1966, it reveals Taylor’s huge potential as a pianist somewhere between free jazz and lyrical post bop. Like Pete Brown, Taylor would collaborate with Cream, writing music for ‘Passing the Time’, ‘Pressed Rat and Warthog’ and ‘Those were the Days’ from Wheels of Fire (1968). Jack Bruce would feature on his second LP Trio (1967). A friend of the equally troubled Graham Bond and a heavy user of LSD, Taylor was found drowned in 1969. Another important 1966 release was Challenge (Eyemark Records) by the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, formed by drummer John Stevens and saxophonist Trevor Watts. Recorded in March, the album included two direct tributes to Ornette and Eric Dolphy (‘2.B. Ornette’ and ‘E.D’s message’). SME, who enjoyed a residency at London’s Little Theatre, signed to Island records for their second LP, Karyobin (1968), featuring some of the earliest recordings of leading British alto player Evan Parker.

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An important link between Ornette and British psychedelia was Steve Stollman, brother of Bernard, founder of US avant-garde label ESP-disk, one of whose earliest releases was Coleman’s Town Hall, 1962 LP. Stollman was in London in early ’66 to promote ESP. With Barry Miles and John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, founders of International Times, he helped organize the Spontaneous Underground ‘happenings’ at the Marquee, one of which (Trip, 13 March 1966), featured Pink Floyd Sound and the free improvisation trio AMM. Formed by Eddie Prévost (drums), Lou Gare (saxophone) and Keith Rowe (guitar) and soon to be joined by oboist Lawrence Sheaff and avant-garde composer Cornelius Cardew, AMM were part of Mike Westbrook’s big band before reaching the ears of Victor Schonfield in late 1965. Alongside Donovan, an African vocal group and ESP’s British signings the Peter Lemer Quintet (whose 1967 LP Local Colour featured baritone saxophonist John Surman), AMM played the first Spontaneous Underground event, the so-called ‘Giant Mystery Happening’ (30 January, 1966). Performing with Pink Floyd on several occasions in 1966-7, they inspired the sonic guitar experiments of Syd Barrett, who attended the recording of their debut AMMUSIC (May 1966). Whilst not the only inspirations for Pink Floyd, AMM or any other British improvisational or psychedelic act, Coleman was a key influence on Barrett and organist Rick Wright, while Eddie Prévost remarked in 2002 that ‘the music of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler gave us permission to disobey’ (George McKay, Circular Breathing, 2005, pp. 196).

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This refusal to ‘obey’ musical rules helps explain Coleman’s influence on British music in the late 1960s. The Trio’s 1966 gigs at Ronnie Scott’s and elsewhere divided the jazz world in much the same way as Bob Dylan’s almost contemporary British tour did amongst folkies. Melody Maker’s Benny Green, disparaging of the saxophonist’s chromatic playing and anticipating Withnail and I, remarked: ‘Like a stopped clock, Coleman is right at least twice a day’ (John Fordham, Jazz Man: The Amazing Story of Ronnie Scott and his Club, 1995, p. 121). Disappointingly, Thelonius Monk was another critical attendee at Ronnie Scott’s. However, others left with positive impressions, including future Yes drummer Bill Bruford and a young Ian Dury.

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The boundaries between jazz, rock and improvisational performance were breaking down fast. Coleman’s next London concert in February 1968 (at the Albert Hall) featured Yoko Ono (whom he’d met in Paris) simulating what (in a recorded rehearsal at least) sounds like her nascent passion for John Lennon. The revolutionary atmosphere of 1968 in Britain was probably more suited to incendiary free jazz and improvisation than 1967. In addition to Jack Bruce’s first solo LP, 1968 saw Heckstall-Smith, Hiseman and Tony Reeves appear on John Mayall’s Bare Wires LP and the formation around this trio of Colosseum, arguably the first progressive jazz-rock band. Fusion was also happening within Folk: Ornette was familiar to the groundbreaking acoustic guitarist Davy Graham and future members of Pentangle and Notting Hill’s Third Ear Band (featuring Dave Tomlin on violin). Alongside Coltrane, Ayler, Roland Kirk and Sonny Rollins, by the end of the decade Coleman’s example had not only inspired experimentation, but also cemented the saxophone within ‘progressive’ rock. Among major British players in this field were: George Khan (ex Peter Lemer Quintet, Pete Brown & the Battered Ornaments), Barbara Thompson (Colosseum), Elton Dean and Lyn Dobson (Keith Tippett Group, Soft Machine), Ian McDonald and Mel Collins (King Crimson), David Jackson (Van der Graaf Generator) and Phil Shulman (Gentle Giant).

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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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September 23, 2015 By : Category : Front Page General Inspiration ModJazz Music USA Tags:, , , , , , , ,
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Fashion – The Shift Dress

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Fashion Scene 2

The shift dress might have been simple in design but in fashion terms, the word  ‘shift’ summed up perfectly the big changes taking place in British culture – particularly for women.

This loose comfortable style probably had it roots in the 1920s when the flapper girls wore dresses that didn’t cinch at the waist so they could dance about in them.

The ‘shift’ is the antithesis of the so-called ‘wiggle’ dress of the 40s and 50s, as you can actually walk in it or as Mary Quant was often quoted as saying: “Run for a bus in it!” 

This functional form has it’s roots in the sack dress of the late 50s which was designed by Givenchy. The style at this time was more fitted than it’s 60’s reincarnation. But the main elements were there.

The neck would often have a slash or boat neck. There would be no sleeves and there would be a couple of darts sewn in at the bust. Sometimes it would have a kick-pleat for more freedom of movement.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a beach-side juice bar had also cottoned onto the idea that women needed clothes that were functional as well as fashionable.

Lily Pulitzer was an American socialite living the dream in Palm Beach with her husband Peter who owned a number of orange groves there. She decided to start selling juice from the fruits that they grew to then sell to the tourists.

She asked her dressmaker whether she could run her up something that wouldn’t show up the juice stains. The result was a series of shift dresses in bright colours and patterns that suited the relaxed sunny attitudes of Palm Beach at the time.

Soon Lily was selling more dresses than juice and they became known as ‘Lilly’ dresses. Her designs really took off when Jackie Kennedy was photographed for ‘Life’ magazine featuring one of her outfits. Lilly dresses were suddenly all the rage and a fashion brand (which still exists today) was born as a result.

The early ‘shift’ dress wasn’t as short as its later 60s counterpart. It fell somewhere on the knee. It wasn’t until Mary Quant shorted the dress by 7-8 inches that it took on a new life again.

Quant was influenced by earlier modifications of the dress by iconic 60s designer Andre Courreges, a designer that was heavily influenced by modernist design, Courreges, loved the streamlined look the shift lent itself to and would often use the basic outline shape as a tunic to be worn with trousers.

Towards the mid-60s, the outline of the dress started to become more ‘A-line’ and with a flare-out from the waist and modern fabrics enabled this outline to hold its shape. Variations on the shift dress resulted in the so-called ‘tent’ dress and the ‘trapeze’ dress which was almost triangular in shape and flared out at the sides so it would ‘swing’ as you moved.

Designers began to be more playful with the designs – they introduced cut-out shapes such as circles and key holes or panels with plastic or even metal details. The more space-age and utilitarian the better. As the decade progressed the shift became the subject of bright colour and pattern and ‘op-art’ designs. Block colour panels were also a popular feature such as those on Yves Saint Laurent’s, now iconic, ‘Mondrian’ dress which paid a homage to the bold work of the
modern artist.

It’s no surprise then that the shift dress has endured over the ensuing decades. Not only is it a simple dress to make – it’s also simple to wear. All you need are some well-chosen accessories. But most of all it represents as period of emancipation for women who wanted to express their new found freedoms in a shape that didn’t define their gender and instead allowed them to
define themselves.

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Claire Mahoney

At the age of 13 mod made perfect sense to me. I liked the look and the attitude - but most of all I liked the music. Secret Affair was my entry point, but they were soon playing second fiddle in my affections to The Jam. Paul Weller, of course, proceeded to break mine and many others hearts in 1982, when he put an end to that particular musical roller coaster – but what it meant was that, uninterested in anything else that was happening in music at the time, I had to look back. I was lucky enough to be given two plastic bags full of 60s 45s by my uncle who used to stock the jukeboxes back in the day. Their contents included a number of Stax originals, plus the Who and the Small Faces, as well as Motown classics from The Four Tops and the Supremes. So, when Phil Collins charted in the mid 80s with 'You Can't Hurry Love' it was nice to be able to say: “I've got the original of that!” It became quite an irritating habit of mine over the years. These days I still enjoy discovering new, old music, be it soul, rnb or jazz, as well as witnessing mod taken another turn among today's youth with bands like The Strypes. My day job as a journalist means I am lucky enough to be able to write about music and modernism now and again. Other than that you'll find me mostly on the dance floor or on eBay still looking for that perfect A line dress.

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April 29, 2015 By : Category : Articles Europe Fashion Front Page Style UK USA Tags:, , , , ,
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Masters – The Misunderstood

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Masters2

The Misunderstood are one of the great lost bands of the sixties. Formed in Riverside, California, in 1965, they started out as a tough R&B band modelled on Them and the Yardbirds. At the end of that year though, they began undergoing a dramatic transformation when they were joined by steel guitar player Glenn Campbell. Campbell approached his instrument in a completely new way, using a fuzz pedal and controlled feedback to coax screaming banshee sounds from his amp, or to make it sing like a celestial choir.

Future BBC legend John Peel was a DJ in nearby San Bernardino at the time and was blown away when he saw the band onstage. He encouraged them to move to England where their innovative music might find a more receptive audience. The Misunderstood arrived in London in June 1966 and proceeded to starve until Fontana Records signed them and prepared to launch them as “The New Sound of ’67” placing them firmly on the forefront of the merging new psychedelia. The stunning “I Can Take You to the Sun” single was released in December, but the group was shattered that same month when lead singer Rick Brown was snatched away by the US military draft.

However, although the original Misunderstood were short-lived, the tracks they recorded in London in 1966, including “Children of the Sun” and “I Unseen,” are now regarded as some of the greatest of the era.

Glenn went on to play with the Dirty Blues Band, and a later incarnation of the Misunderstood in 1969 before forming Juicy Lucy and storming the UK charts with their searing version of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”. In more recent years, Campbell has collaborated with San Diego-based freakbeat merchants the Loons, playing on two tracks on their Red Dissolving Rays of Light album, and teaming up with them to recreate the fiery psychedelic sound of the ’66 Misunderstood. Glenn and the Loons are excited to be bringing the Misunderstood’s music to London for the 2015 Le Beat Bespoke festival.

Here he talks to Mike Stax about his ‘60s adventures with the Misunderstood.

NUTs: How did you first meet John Peel?

GC: He heard us playing at the Riverside Mall. That’s how we met, at that shopping mall. It was sort of a Battle of the Bands. He’d just done his radio spot and then he was getting ready to leave and he saw us playing. And that was what he calls his “St Paul on the road to Damascus experience” (laughs) – a bit over the top, but that was the next stop in the Misunderstood saga. That was the extra little kick in the butt we needed to get to England, because we’d already thought about doing that before we met him, and of course when we met him we started probing him to see what it was really like there and how hard it would be and he only tended to encourage us. Of course, he could also show us what to expect by playing us records of more obscure bands that weren’t getting airplay in the States yet, like the Who and things like that.

NUTs: Did he help you get your tickets to London?

GC: Yeah, in a way, because he organized some Battle of the Bands, which we couldn’t have lost if we wanted to, y’know? (laughs) We would’ve won them anyway, because we were pretty popular. Mainly he organized them so there would be money there – like the bands would get x amount of money and so on – and of course we always won ‘em. That went a long way for paying for our fares. Everybody was kind of in on it anyway; all the bands knew what was going on. But then again, nobody else would’ve had the guts to leave. They all wanted to stick around at home. You’d be surprised. People look at success and they think, Oh gee, I’d like to have that. But they don’t really want it. They don’t want to do what they’ve got to do to get it, and that’s where the Misunderstood had the edge, I think, on everyone else. They had that energy and that courage to go ahead and instead of dreaming about something they’d go ahead and try to make it happen. And that’s the other thing: they weren’t afraid to fall flat on their face. If they did, they’d just take off in some other direction, y’know?

NUTs: You arrived in England in June 1966 and struggled for a while. Then your guitar player Greg Treadway returned home and you got Tony Hill to replace him. How did you find him?

GC: At a rehearsal room. We had been rehearsing, and Tony was with another band, I believe, and he heard us and just introduced himself. He goes, “What’s your story?” – obviously he’d heard our American accents and everything – and we told him and he goes, “Well, I’d like to audition for you guys.” I can’t remember if he sat in and played something right there and then or if we held a separate audition. I think he’d just come up to London. He had a real Geordie accent. We could hardly understand him when we first met him, but we liked him. He was very intense about his music. I think he was also studying classical guitar, which helped. It was all stuff we could use. Also, he totally changed the color of the band. Greg was a good rhythm guitar player but Tony could play lead so that just opened up a lot of stuff for us; a lot of interplay between me and him. There was quite a broad range of styles he could do.

NUTs: How many sessions were involved to do those six songs you recorded in England in 1966?

GC: I honestly can’t remember. My rough guess was that there was roughly three sessions, all told. I was pretty out of it. If you look at our photographs of those times, that glazed look we had was basically hunger. Seriously. I mean, we were so hungry you couldn’t believe it. We were just kind of in a daze. I don’t know why nobody ever fed us, but nobody did. I don’t ever remember eating a proper meal during that whole period.

NUTs: When you recorded those six songs, did they realize how unique that was?

GC: Yeah, I think so. There wasn’t anything like it and I think Fontana knew they had something, and since we were so easy to work with. Most of the companies, their biggest fear, was working with the band, and usually they wouldn’t, they’d just work with one person, usually the singer, and the rest of the band would be shuffled off and forgotten about. But you couldn’t do that with this band, because we weren’t just one person, and I think once they worked with us in the studio they thought, “We’ve got a goldmine here. These guys aren’t just gonna disappear overnight.” Because we had plenty of material, we had plenty of ideas, we were hard workers, we were sober, we were eager – we were totally different. And we seemed to catch on: people liked us. We weren’t ‘anger music’ or anything like that. Girls liked it as much as guys did. We seemed to have something to offer everybody. The head of Fontana Records, Jack Baverstock, was even knocked out by it.

NUTs: You must have been gutted when Rick was drafted and the band was ripped apart. What were your feelings when you returned to Riverside in ’67?

GC: A lot of it just got shoved down. You just sort of put it aside and got on with surviving. Actually that’s where (blues singer/harp player) Rod Piazza stepped in. He stopped me from falling down so hard because he always hired me for his bands and stuff. Really Rod sort of kept me going during that period because I was pretty depressed. I had nothing. Coming back was hard too because I think a lot of other musicians were really rooting for us, with the idea that if we could make it then maybe they had a chance too. Everyone was starving for any kind of break.

NUTs: How does it feel to be playing those Misunderstood songs again after all these years?

GC: It feels great! I’m amazed, to be honest, that people are still so obsessed with the Misunderstood, but it feels good to play all these songs again with the Loons. I thought I’d forgotten them, but once I plugged in my steel and started fooling around with them again it all came back to me. I’m really looking forward to being back in England for the first time in almost 40 years.

Many thanks to Mike Stax of the Loons.

See The Misunderstood – LIVE in LONDON – Easter 2015!


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I run The New Untouchables organization and events like the Brighton Mod Weekender, Le Beat Bespoké Festival (and compilation series of the same name) and I co-organize Euro Ye Ye with the Trouble & Tea crew. I have run many clubs over the last 20 years in London, where I live and current nights include Timebox, Zoo Zoo, Crossfire, 100 Club and Mousetrap allnighter which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011. I have been lucky to DJ all over the globe including Japan, Canada, USA and Europe and met some great people on my journey. I run RnB Records to offset my vinyl addiction: for rare vintage vinyl.

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February 4, 2015 By : Category : Bands Front Page Fuzz Garage Interviews Music News USA Tags:, , ,
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Newbreed – The Loons

This entry is part 14 of 22 in the series Newbreed4

Band Members:
Mike Stax (vocals)
Anja Stax (bass,vocals)
Marc Schroeder (guitar)
Chris Marsteller (guitar)
Mike Kamoo (drums)

1998 LP ‘Love’s Dead Leaves’ (Get Hip)
2004 CD ‘Paraphernalia’(UT Records)
2010 LP ‘Red Dissolving Rays of Light’ (Bomp! Records)
2012 7” ‘If You Could Read Your Mind’ (split single with Clinic) (UT Records)
2015 LP ‘Inside Out Your

01. How long have you been active for and how did you get together?

The band first formed in 1996. There were a lot of lineup changes early on. Anja arrived from England in 1999 after leaving the Diaboliks, Marc joined in 2000, Chris around 2002, and Mike Kamoo in 2005, so we’ve had the same lineup now for ten years, which means we’ve developed a genuine bond as friends and chemistry as musicians.

02. What influences do the band members have in common?

Between us, I’m sure thousands of influences can be factored into the equation, but there are many that are common to all of us, primarily the Pretty Things, Love, the Yardbirds, the Who, the Kinks, the Outsiders, Q65, the 13th Floor Elevators, MC5—you know, the GOOD stuff!

03. Are there any other bands you’d recommend from your area? Why?

The Schitzophonics are the best band to emerge from the San Diego area in a long time. They’re like a super high-energy cocktail of early MC5, the Sonics, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Little Richard.
The Neumans from Orange County – archetypal 60s garage, Vox amps and black roll-necks, great music and great people. We love them.

04. What’s the 60’s/underground scene like where you’re from?

The scene in Southern California has been undergoing a resurgence in the last few years with the appearance of bands like the Mystic Braves, the Allah La’s, the Sound Reasons and the aforementioned Schitzophonics and the Neumans as well as the return of the Unclaimed, who kicked off the entire West Coast garage revival scene in 1979-80. There’s also the all-girl garage band the Rosalyns (which includes Anja) and the Diddley Daddies (with Mike on bass). We see a lot more younger people at our shows now, which is really encouraging as it means the scene is regenerating rather than growing stale and grey.
There are also a few DJ clubs but it’s mainly about the bands and live music, a bit different from the European 60s scene. The scene is also a good mix so you have your Garage/Freakbeat people along with Scooterists, Mods and Punk Rock kids wanting a good time.

05. How would you describe the style you play?

Psychotic Beat.

06. What are your live shows like?

Whether we’re playing to five people or 1,500 people, there’s a certain level of intensity we’re trying to bring to every show we play. The goal is to connect with the audience, engage them with our music, and hopefully have them leave the venue with our songs still ringing in their heads. We feel that, along with memorable songs, a band needs to bring some visual excitement to the stage. We’re never going to just stand there staring blankly at the floor, we’re going to be looking sharp, moving around and trying to grab your attention any way we can.

07. What are your main influences in music? Who do/would you play covers by? And who do you despise?

I listed our main influences back in question #2. We do have a few covers that we’ll throw into our set list, according to our mood on the night: “Alexander” and “LSD” by the Pretty Things, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by the 13th Floor Elevators, “My Time” by the Golden Dawn, “All in Your Mind” by Stray, “I Unseen” by the Misunderstood, and even “New Rose” by the Damned, if we’re feeling particularly amped-up and anarchic.
We despise mediocrity in all its forms, bands who spend more time on their ‘look’ than their songs, musicians who use technology as a musical crutch, and people who are always chasing the next trend instead of trying to stake out something original of their own.

08. What are your main influences outside of music?

Mike Stax:”I’m a voracious reader. Kingsley Amis, Graham Greene, Ross Macdonald, John Le Carre, Lawrence Durrell, L.P. Davies, and Phil K. Dick are a few of my favourite writers and a constant source of inspiration.”
Anja: Also reading a ton but as far as other influences go I am always drawn to design and architecture. Obviously fashion, which I still continue to make and work on with my clothes label here in So Cal (I used to be part of Babzotica Boutique back when I lived in the 90s in London). And my friends!
Marc: Family, friends and surfing. Very simple.
Mike: Any art form that inspires and appeals to my senses.
Chris: Which do you mean sex or drugs?  (Sorry.  Spinal Tap moment = Poor attempt at being clever). Well… I suppose the only true answer would be life, right?

09. Who writes your songs and what subjects do you deal with?

All of the band members contribute to the songwriting. Generally, one person will bring a riff, a chord progression or a basic song structure into the practice room; then we all put our heads together and shape it into a full-fledged song. I (Mike) come up with all of the lyrics and most of the vocal melodies. The songs are mostly drawn from personal experiences or observations of the world around us. Sometimes I get inspiration from historical events or personalities. For example, we just wrote a song called “Miss Clara Regrets,” which is all about the 1920s movie actress Clara Bow. It’s going to come out soon on a single on Dirty Water Records.

10. What’s your favorite song in your repertoire currently? What’s your favourite song by another artist?

Mike: “My Desolation” is my current favorite, because it’s a lot of fun to sing live. Favourite song by another artist? “Can’t Stand the Pain” by the Pretty Things – I never tire of that song.
Anja: I like “Miss Clara Regrets” right now; it’s back to the basics and super tribal, really fun to play. Also “My Desolation” for its intensity. By another artist, wow, so many….let’s say top three are MC5 – “Lookin’ At You,” Rupert’s People – “Dream In My Mind” and 13th Floor Elevators – “Slip Inside This House.”
Marc: My favorite song right now from the Loons is “As the Raven Flies”. Probably one of my favorite songs of all time is “Signed DC” by Love. Also “Bo’s Bounce” by Bo Diddley.
Mike: I’m really enjoying ‘Miss Clara Regrets’ at the moment. ‘Dead End Street’ by the Kinks is high on the list currently.
Chris: “Heyday”, and of course, ALL of The Misunderstood set we’re doing with Glenn!  What great songs! What’s your favorite song by another artist? I apologize, but this is an impossible question to answer.  How do you think I fell for music in the first place?

11. How would you describe the current underground scene?  Do you participate?

I think the current underground scene is in a reasonably healthy state at the moment, and, yes, we actively participate whenever possible. Of course the scene is clogged up with a lot of mediocre bands, narcissists and bandwagon jumpers, but that’s always been the case. There are also some great bands who are contributing with some potentially timeless music – I hope we’re one of them. Luckily we have a few great life clubs/club owners here who genuinely support bands for the love of the music.

12. What has been the biggest challenge to date?

It’s always been a challenge getting the media over here in the States to give us any attention. Too often they write us off as some kind of ‘60s revival act, because we dress a certain way and utilize vintage equipment and instruments. It’s only in recent years that they’ve begun to take us seriously and realize we’re creating music that is new and reflective of our own personalities, not some kind of nostalgia trip or historical reenactment.

13. How often do you rehearse? Play live? Record? Anything interesting coming up?

We rehearse about once a week. As we rehearse at Mike Kamoo’s recording studio, Earthling, we can record as often as we want—whenever we feel inspired. Our new album, Inside Out Your Mind will be released on May 27. We play live about twice a month on average. We have a couple of exciting upcoming shows: first our album release party on May 28 in San Diego, then of course our set at Le Beat Bespoke in London on April 3.

14. What do you think of the music coverage in the media?

There’s not an active national music press in the States like there is in the UK, so the only media coverage most bands get is either through zines and blogs or in the local media. It’s only in the last two or three years that the local media has begun give us any significant coverage. We appreciate all we get because it really does make a difference.

15. Do you rate any current mainstream or underground bands?

Mike: Nothing mainstream. But I like quite a lot of underground bands from around the world including the Sadies, the Schitzophonics, the Higher State, the Beat Pack, Los Grys Grys, Clinic, the Flowers of Evil, the Royal Flairs and the Maharajas.
Anja: I really like Clinic, The Sadies, Fogbound, the now defunct Soundtrack Of Our Lives, plus the bands we already mentioned from here in California.
Marc: Graham Day and cohorts Allan and Wolf have continued for 30+ years with a singular vision of quality rock ‘n’ roll. I think they sound about as good today as they ever have. Gives me hope.
Mike: Deerhunter, Tame Impala, Caribou, and Viet Cong
Chris: Another difficult question to answer without proper discussion.  I will say… I’ve always liked The Church.  Not sure if that qualifies as current or mainstream or underground (I think they’ve been all the above), but nevertheless they’ve been making good records for 35+ years.

16. Who/Where would you most like to record with and why?

Mike: I’d like to record with Dave Hassinger at RCA Hollywood in 1966 – with Jack Nitzsche helping out with the arrangements. Why? Aftermath, Between the Buttons, and “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night.”
Anja: For a treat I would love to record with Liam at Toe-Rag again; good times! Jorge from Dr. Explosion is also doing some great work, someone get us back to Spain fast 😉
Marc: I would love to record with Kim Fowley, a great supporter of the Loons. Unfortunately we lost our chance. Liam at Toe-Rag would be cool; I love the sounds from that studio.
Mike: Jorge Explosion – Circo Perrotti. I heard the Fogbound recordings and would like to see what’s going on over there!
Chris: Holy Sh*t!  Is time travel possible?

17. What should we expect from you in the future?  What are your plans and ambitions? What interesting gig dates have you got coming up?

Our goal is to keep getting better – write better songs, make better records, play better gigs, and reach as many people with our music as we possibly can. In the immediate future, we’re looking forward to collaborating again with our friend Glenn Campbell of the Misunderstood, and to bringing our music to London for Le Beat Bespoke.

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I run The New Untouchables organization and events like the Brighton Mod Weekender, Le Beat Bespoké Festival (and compilation series of the same name) and I co-organize Euro Ye Ye with the Trouble & Tea crew. I have run many clubs over the last 20 years in London, where I live and current nights include Timebox, Zoo Zoo, Crossfire, 100 Club and Mousetrap allnighter which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011. I have been lucky to DJ all over the globe including Japan, Canada, USA and Europe and met some great people on my journey. I run RnB Records to offset my vinyl addiction: for rare vintage vinyl.

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February 1, 2015 By : Category : Bands Interviews Music Scene USA Tags:, , ,
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Night Beats (Newbreed)

This entry is part 5 of 22 in the series Newbreed4

The Night Beats are an American psychedelic, garage and soul group based out of Seattle, Washington. The group consists of  Danny Lee Blackwell (Guitars, Vox), James Traeger (Drums) and Tarek Wegner (Bass/Vox). Night Beats incorporate sounds of early R&B, Texas Psychedelic Rock, Blues, Folk and Soul.

2010 – Single ‘H-Bomb’
2011 – LP ‘Night Beats’, Split Single 10” Night Beats/UFO Club
2012 – Split Single 7” Night Beats/TRMRS
2013 – LP ‘Sonic Bloom’

Tour Dates: 
31/07/2014 Spain, Gijon – Euro Ye Ye Festival

Check our Facebook page for all other dates in August & September.

01. How long have you been playing together for and how did you meet?

James and I since we were 14, in grade school. Tarek in Seattle around 2009.

02. Two of you are from Texas originally, which has a rich history of psychedelic music, and Seattle is of course home to the Sonics. How have these, such important places, influenced your music – if at all?

Both places have been influential. From the R’n’B side of things to the freedom heard in a lot of the Texas psych. But our influences range from everywhere. Not to one genre or era, people listening should know this.

03. What are your main musical influences? There’s an obvious love of psychedelic garage shining through in your music, but your name is taken from a Sam Cooke record? Are Soul and R&B as big an influence as psychedelic music to you?

Both are important. So are movies. Places and people. We try not to focus or put things in order of influence.

04. You’re based in Seattle, are there any other bands you’d recommend from your area?

La Luz.

05. What’s the 60’s/underground scene like in Seattle, is there one? Do you feel a part of it?

60s scene? What year is it? We have our place in the underground yes, but it’s hard to see under the dirt and moss so were not sure sometimes.

05. Night Beats have played with some incredible acts… Roky Erikson, The Zombies, The Black Angels, The Black Lips, The Growlers. You are constantly touring, be it on your own tours or playing every psych festival going. What have been some of the highlights for you?  Do you prefer playing live to recording?

You’ve mostly listed them. We went to South Africa and made good friends down there. That was a big highlight. They’re 2 separate things so I can’t say.

06. Are you looking forward to playing Euro YeYe/in Gijon? You’ve toured quite extensively in Spain haven’t you? I hear their crowds can be pretty wild…

Yes. We love Spain.

07. What’s your favourite song in your repertoire currently? Is there anything you really love, or hate playing live?

Some things were tired of playing. So we give it a rest but maybe bring it back.

08. How do you approach the recording process, I can imagine it’s not very technology heavy – do you take a more, I guess, honest approach similar to your garage influences, using analogue equipment? Is it important to you to have a live sound, so you can easily replicate this on stage?

We generally use tape. Sometimes a little digital. We use electricity and some acoustic instruments. We record live. Some overdubs here and there. Not gonna give away any secrets.

09. Your second album, Sonic Bloom was released in Autumn last year, and showed a real progression from your self-titled debut. Have you already started thinking about recording the follow up? Or have any plans for any singles coming soon?

Thank you. Yes. Stay tuned

10. Between your non-stop touring and own releases as Night Beats, you have various collaborations under your belts already… you seem to be the hardest working band around! Danny Lee has put out some releases with Christian Bland of the Black Angels as The UFO Club, and with Curtis Harding and some of the Black Lips as Night Sun. How did these come about? Are there any more collaborations to look out for, or new projects planned? Will there be any more releases from these bands? Are Tarek or James working on anything on the side of Night Beats?

It happened naturally with each of my projects… Friends coming together with mutual respect and desire to collaborate. Night Sun and UFO Club releases coming soon. Also a jazz record. Tarek is working on a solo album as well.

11. Who are Night Beats listening to at the moment? Who are your favourite artists around right now, and who do you always return to listening to?

The new White Fence. The Oh Sees. An old ‘Sounds of Spain’ record I got for 5 cents. Donny Hathaway, Los Saicos, random hip hop, Love.

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Holly Calder

I’m one half of Eyes Wide Open in Glasgow, where we run a club, a label and now the Double Sight Psych & Garage Weekend, which takes place at the start of October. I love psych, garage, freakbeat, popsike, and have even been known to enjoy a wee bit of R&B! Always enjoy travelling to 60s clubs and weekenders around Europe, whether I’m there to DJ or just to mingle and dance!

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July 25, 2014 By : Category : Bands Front Page Interviews Music Psych Scene USA Tags:, , ,
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Masters – The Velvelettes

This entry is part 17 of 20 in the series Masters1

This latest Masters
piece concerns

who were co-founded in 1963 by Bertha Barbee-McNeal and Mildred Gill Arbor, at Western Michigan University, where they were both students. Norma Barbee-Fairhurst (Bertha’s cousin), Caldin Gill Street (aka Carol), Mildred’s younger sister, and Betty Kelley (Cal’s best friend), were asked to join the group. The Velvelettes formed at WMU and performed regularly around WMU’s campus at various dances. After much preparation and rehearsing at Maybee Hall, they entered the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity talent show on campus, and they went on to win first prize!

Berry Gordy’s nephew, Robert Bullock, was also a student at WMU at the time of their performance and first place win in the talent show. Upon seeing the show, he immediately saw merit and he encouraged them to audition for his Uncle’s company, Motown Records, in Detroit. Shortly thereafter, and after some serious persuasion, Millie’s and Cal’s parents, Rev. and Mrs. Gill, agreed the group should go to Detroit to audition for Motown Records. Rev. Gill, along with Cal and Millie’s brother, Charles, drove the group to Detroit in a snow storm. They successfully auditioned at Motown Records, and were eventually signed to the infamous record label, thus beginning their professional singing career.

The Velvelettes recorded numerous hits at Motown’s Hitsville USA, Studio A, located at 2648 W. Grand Boulevard in Detroit, MI. That’s “where it all began!” Their recording career with Motown Records spanned almost a decade (1963-1971). The group’s most notable hits of the early 60s, ‘Needle In A Haystack’, and ‘He Was Really Sayin’ Something’, went to the Top 40 in Cash Box and Billboard international record magazines. These two songs also went on to be Number 1 in several cities and towns across America. The Velvelettes were featured on Motown tours, they worked the “chitlin circuit” (theaters mainly on the east coast) they were also featured on two Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tours in the mid 60s.

How does it feel to be coming back to London again?

It feels especially good to the Velvelettes to be returning to the U.K. We’re looking forward to the engagement in London, as it will actually be our first time performing in London.  We  have been to England several times over the past two decades and often times London based, however, our engagements have taken place in other cities (i.e., Manchester, Lancaster, Nottingham, Clethorpes) to name a few. We have also performed in Wales at the Pontin’s resort.

You are sharing the bill with Brenda Holloway. When was the last time you worked with her?

I vaguely recall working with Brenda back in the mid 60s at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. I have always admired her voice from the very first time I heard her recording, “Every Little Bit Hurts.”

Tamla Motown has always had a reputation of being like a ‘family’. Would you say that family spirit still exists today and if so, why?

Yes. Berry Gordy treated all Motown artists like family. He felt responsible for our success. Motown was a family owned/run business. We were always treated warmly. In April 2013 Mr. Gordy invited several Motown artists, the Velvelettes included, to New York City to see Motown The Musical, that he wrote. It was a wonderful experience and the musical was outstanding! We were made to feel very important, like Motown Royalty, like part of the Motown family.  Mr. Gordy was pleased to see us and we were proud to be there among all the other proud Motown alums. I think the longevity of Motown and the family spirit has lasted up to this day and beyond because over time we all realized that we are a part of music history and something very special. Over the years, the story of Motown has been told and incorporated into music education curriculums for elementary, high school, and college, throughout the U.S.  Motown is part of the fabric that makes America a great!

So many great Afro American singers have come through gospel and the church. Was that the case for you and how important do you think it has been in influencing popular music?

Yes, indeed. I came straight from the church. My father was a Baptist preacher. After he heard me singing along to music on the radio, he started me singing as a very young girl in church, leading the choir and congregation on Sunday morning. He once told me my voice was a gift and that I should use it to sing for the Lord.  Singing in church choirs first was the norm and training ground for most R&B, blues and jazz artists of the late 50s and throughout the 60s. We eventually transitioned to secular music, and mostly with our family’s blessings.

What kinds of songs were in your repertoire when you first got together at WMU and who were your biggest influences?

We sang a lot of 60s girl groups and single female vocalists songs, by the Chantels, Shirelles, Marvelettes, Tina Turner, Baby Washington, Aretha Franklin, to name a few. These artists were some of the biggest influences of that time.

The Motown family would often sit in on each others recording sessions. Are there any un-credited Velvelette contributions that we may not know about?

Yes. We sang on Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips” because the producer wanted to add voice enhancements to give it a fuller sound. It was a great experience, and we’re proud to say we participated in background vocals and with hand claps and foot stomping. There were a few other recordings we participated on, but I can’t remember the titles.

Due to family commitments, you disbanded for a while. How easy was it to transform from World-wide pop stars to wives and mothers?

It was not very difficult because it was considered the normal thing to do for our generation. Young women were expected to sacrifice whatever careers they had to become housewives and mothers.

What inspired you to reform the Velvelettes?

The motivation to reform/continue the Velvelettes was based on the fact that contracts had been signed, sealed and delivered to Motown for engagements six to eight months out. We had to honour the contracts or be sued. Plus, I was a young lady (ages 19-21) and was still filled with desire and excitement to perform! I loved performing!

You first came to the UK in 1987 I believe. Many R&B stars from the USA have been pleasantly surprised by the devoted and knowledgeable fan base here. What is your impression of your UK fans?

I believe it was 1986. We absolutely love and adore our fans in the U.K. We often say it feels like a part of Heaven when we come to England because the fans are so appreciative, enthusiastic and knowledgeable of our music! They revere the Motown sound, and that makes all Motown artists feel very special, indeed.

What was it like being inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2000?

In 2000, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, along with Ruthie Brown of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, Ohio, coordinated a weekend celebration of 13 girl groups of the 60s. Representatives from the Chantels, Shirelles, Supremes, Marvelettes, Crystals, Martha & The Vandellas, Ronettes, Dixie Cups, Angels, Chiffons, Cookies, Velvelettes, and Patti LaBelle & the Blue Bells were all there! This was a wonderful weekend event that was chronicled into Rock Hall’s history. The opportunity to reconnect and bond with seasoned women/sisters of music in singing, dining and sharing stories, was very fulfilling. We all felt blessed and it is a source of great pride for all of us.

What would you say was the Velvelettes proudest achievement?

• Being one of four Motown girl groups, and being the only “original” of those groups to be blessed with longevity and still able to perform today, is paramount to our proudest achievements.
• The success of our single releases, Needle In A Haystack, He Was Really Sayin’ Something, These Things Will Keep Me Loving You, Bird In The Hand, and Lonely Lonely Girl Am I, which gave us recognition for
being  professional entertainers
• being recipients of several lifetime achievement awards
• being recognized by Dick Clark on his the Caravan of Stars tours
• being on Motown Revues
• being recognized at Rock Hall, are indeed, some of our greatest and proudest accomplishments
• being featured in numerous newspapers and magazines
• being invited to perform at several renowned venues throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K, are indeed among some of our proudest achievements in our music careers

(A light-hearted, fun question)
If you could go ‘Back to The Future’ and meet The Velvelettes of 1964, what advice would you give them?

I would advise the young ladies to not give up their music careers, and to devote much time and attention to becoming the absolute best they can be, as I believe that if we had not given up our careers for marriage and starting families, we would have had greater achievements and success in the music industry.

There are a lot of very excited fans who are looking forward to seeing you on Good Friday. What can we expect to see from The Velvelettes?

Our fans can expect an exciting and fun show filled with the music we all love by the Velvelettes. It will be a high energy performance and they will love it as much as we will enjoy singing and performing for our devoted fans. We look forward to seeing and interacting with everyone in the U.K. The love of our English fans and friends will certainly warm our hearts and feed our souls, and we are very grateful and thankful.  It will be a “good Friday,” indeed! God bless.

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Graham Lentz

AKA ‘The Baron’ - Like many of his generation, The Jam started Graham's love affair with all things mod back in 1977. He is the author of 'The Influential Factor - A History Of Mod' which was originally published in 2002. An extract from the book was re-printed in Paolo Hewitt's 'The Sharper Word - revised edition' in 2011. Being a self-confessed 'broad-church' mod, Graham's interests range from Modern Jazz to today's up-coming new bands and everything in between. Although he has a passion for mod history, he also has a passion for the new. Whether it's music, clubs, media of every kind, clothing, scooters or art and photography, Graham supports, promotes and encourages as much as he can, because that's how we keep going. 'Give it a chance' is his motto. If it's not for you, that's cool, at least you tried it.

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April 4, 2014 By : Category : Events Front Page Interviews Music RnB Scene USA Tags:

Masters – Brenda Holloway

This entry is part 16 of 20 in the series Masters1

Beautiful, talented and possessor of one of the most soulful voices to grace the label, Brenda Holloway recorded sultry ballads and powerhouse dancers for Tamla Records between 1964 and 1967. With Brenda’s hugely anticipated appearance at Modstock fast approaching, she chatted to us about her experience of being a West Coast artist signed to the Detroit hit factory.

Are you looking forward to coming over to London for Modstock?

I’m very excited about this trip, I’m really happy, thank you for inviting me. And The Velvelettes, I look forward to being with them. Those are some beautiful sweet women. They were very nice to me when I went over to Motown. I like to do live shows because you can put more feeling in it. When you have a good crowd you can perform better. You feed off your audience, and they love you, so you have to do a good job.

I think British audiences have always taken you to their heart. Have you noticed that?

I have. When British audiences listen to the music it’s just an everyday thing for them but over here they don’t regard it as hit music because it’s not in the charts at that moment, so it’s a totally different feeling you get, like it’s back in the day when you first recorded those songs. They appreciate the artistry and they’re so happy to see us when we come over, it’s a treat for the artist.

Can you tell us how you came to sign to Motown?

I used to sing and was raised in Watts in Los Angeles and I had a group called the Watesians. This was five local girls who went to high school with me, including my sister Patrice, and we used to sing at Record Hops. When Hal Davis heard about the group and came to hear us. He took a liking to me and took me to a disc jockey’s convention in Los Angeles, at Coconut Grove. I had on this gold pantsuit and gold heels and was singing Mary Wells songs from room to room to every DJ. I sang from about ten o’clock until four o’clock and then said to Hal “Look, these heels, and this pantsuit, I’m getting tired”. There was this group of men that came in to the room, listened, and left. So when told Hal I wanted to go home they came back in. This man spoke out and said “I like what I see and I like what I hear and I want to sign you up”. I said “Sign me up to what?” and he said Motown and I was like “Oh my God!” I was so excited and said “Call my mum, call my mum, and tell her to put on her best clothes as I’m going to sign.” I didn’t ask her if I could, I was just going to do it, but I needed her to okay it. She got dressed up, looked so pretty, and I signed with Motown that day. I was seventeen years old. Berry Gordy told me there was one stipulation to this; I needed to graduate at high school before he’d let me put anything out.

The first record Motown put out was “Every Little Bit Hurts” in 1964 and it was a hit. Was that a surprise?

I was walking around in college, nobody ever noticed me before, but then everybody was like “Are you Brenda Holloway?” I said, yeah, I guess. They said “you have a record out”. I didn’t know, they didn’t tell me anything. They didn’t tell me when they were going to release it. It was only when everybody told me I had a record out, and I got all bashful, and everybody was on me at school. I just stopped going to school. I couldn’t study anyway; I was so excited to have a hit record. I did graduate from high school but not from college, but I later went back and got a degree in dental work.

How did you manage to get on the 1965 Beatles tour of the United States?

When the Beatles had their tour I spoke to Jackie DeShannon, who’d been on their tours overseas, and said “Please Jackie, can I get on the tour, I’ll do anything”. And they called me. I used to go to sleep listening to their records like “Eleanor Rigby”. It was so much fun. We had pillow fights in the air. And John would figure out the meals and say we could have whatever we want. See, I came from a family with one parent, my mother, raising us and we never got enough food, so when told I could have whatever I want, it was so wonderful. I had steak, I had string beans and I had mashed potatoes.

How were your performances received? Did the crowd like you or were they just waiting for the Beatles?

Really they were waiting for the Beatles to come on, I was too. But they did accept me, they clapped and they were happy, but you know, it was a Beatles tour. The crowd broke loose and just charged, the audience looked like cattle. We just threw wigs, and guitars, and everything, to get out of their way. We flew with the Beatles to each venue; they were so down to earth, such good guys.

You were a trained musician. Didn’t you play the violin and the flute and other instruments?

I was going to be a concert violinist before Motown invaded my life. I studied professionally. I just loved the violin. For the first twelve, thirteen, fourteen years of my life I was in orchestras and played symphonies. My boyfriend was my violin. I used to practice in the backyard and dogs would bark and people would be “Can you get off that squeaky thing?” My neighbours hated me. I had to practice outside as my Mum didn’t want to hear it either. But I could really play.

Did you play your violin on any of your records?

I played it on one of my albums, The Motown Anthology. A live version of “Summertime” recorded in Detroit in 1966. I played and I sang and it sounded really very well.

Motown got a good deal with you: you were a singer, a musician, a songwriter.

Yes but everyone at Motown was scared I was going to take their boyfriends. I already had a boyfriend in Los Angeles. I don’t like to have boyfriends at work; they just think they have power over you.

Were all the Motown guys hitting on you?

They were talking to me but I was like “Oh no, I don’t do that”. So they kind of left me alone. I went and practiced my violin by myself. Because I was from the West Coast and would fly in and be in a hotel room and they were doing their own thing.

Did it feel different being from the West Coast and then going up to Detroit? Did you feel any separation from the other artists based in Detroit?

They felt like I was another type of star because I didn’t come from their stable. The girls were kind of feeling I was going to be some kind of competition for them. But I just feel like I always had my own slot, you know. But I became very envious of them with their hits when I got there. Say, when I got to Detroit, they’d be cutting a session with me and if Gladys Knight flew in for just one night they’d cut my record on her, and I’d be like where’s my stuff? That would really upset me and disturb me because I wanted to get all my stuff done too. But I was so young and very inexperienced.

What was Smokey Robinson like to work with in the studio?

He was wonderful. He was very relaxed, he knew everything. Knew all the songs, he could sing them and show them to you. He would let you be yourself in the studio. I did “Operator” with him and “When I’m Gone”, which was a good song for me. If only I’d stayed in the studio with Smokey but I ran away.

At Motown some of the ladies had etiquette lessons and guidance from Maxine Powell. Did you have those?

Maxine showed me a lot of things about how to sit and stand but Berry actually sent me to charm school here in California for a whole year and a half. So although Maxine showed me a lot of stuff, because that was her nature, she just wanted you to be a lady at all times, the major stuff I learned out here.

Your clothes caused some comment as they were different, a bit more hip, than some of the other girls. Did you choose your own wardrobe?

I was so fortunate because my mother had a best friend who owned a dress shop so I dressed out of her store. She was able to go get everything I needed, everything to match, all the new stuff. When I went to Motown I had a full wardrobe and a lot of them didn’t, so it was “What is she trying to do?” I was just trying to sing but I had a lot of beautiful clothes.

I read Berry Gordy thought you were too sexy for British audiences which was why he wouldn’t let you tour over here.

For real? Oh my god, there’s no such thing as too sexy! That’s just somebody’s opinion. No such thing. I don’t know, they just labelled me like that but I never saw myself like that in any way. I was just regular. I didn’t think I was anything special, although evidently other people thought I was.

Did you know what songs you’d be recording when you got into the studio? Did you have much time to prepare or were you presented with them there and then to sing?

I don’t know what the other artists did but I liked to live with my songs. I would come in a week ahead and just stay there and go over and over and over the song until I could put me into it. That was why my songs had so much feeling because I lived with them before I ever went in the studio. Day and night, because I didn’t have any children, I didn’t have any connections with people in Detroit, so all I did was stay there and rehearse the tunes over. So if Smokey cut the record, and I cut the record, it would have a Smokey Robinson feel to it and a Brenda Holloway feel to it. I like to study my songs, I’m not Aretha Franklin, I can’t just go in and sing. My sister Patrice could hear something once and sing it but I’ve never been able to do that.

“Reconsider,” is a great song and one which is huge over here yet didn’t see a release at the time. When where you aware that song was so popular on the soul scene?

Oh, I love what you guys did to that. I only knew about it when I came over to the UK for the first time for the Northern Soul shows I was doing, because it had another title – “Think It Over” – in the United States, but you guys made it “Reconsider”. I like “Reconsider” better because that’s what the song was all about. And “Crying Time”, I forgot I ever did that. My nephew found it on YouTube. “Granny, did you cut this?”

My favourite is “Starting The Hurt All Over Again”. Such an adult narrative to that song and your delivery is so strong, so emotional.

Well thank you. I didn’t have a real happy childhood, you know, because my Mum she worked so hard, she was a single parent and my Father he had so many problems, but that was how I released all my energy was through my singing. If I had something to say I could convert it into a melody and sing it, so that’s how I released a lot of stress, even today. It’s good therapy for me.

“You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” was at the end of your time with Motown in 1967 and was a significant hit.

Oh it was a big hit. It sold over four million copies and is still selling. I wrote it with my sister and Frank Wilson, and Berry Gordy was the executive over everything. When I got stuck writing the bridge Frank Wilson was able to put that bridge in there. Berry and I fought in the studio; we were like back and forth. “I don’t want to do it like that Berry”. “You’re gonna do it like that”. The way I wanted to do it was the way Blood Sweat & Tears cut it. I put mine out, it was okay, but Blood, Sweat & Tears somehow got the idea and they really, really did that song justice. I’m really happy but when I go and sing it I have to try and remember how I sang it because theirs is bigger than mine and theirs is more familiar to me.

What prompted you to leave Motown?

Because I was just fed up with not having hits out and everyone around me were having hits. I didn’t have the foresight because I left the company in the middle of a Smokey Robinson session. I could have killed myself. He was cutting all these songs on me and I wanted a hit, like everybody else, but I didn’t have any patience. You know, there’s so much that goes along with the entertainment business backstage. You see a lot of other stuff that goes on that people don’t see and it kind of confuses you. I was a young kid.

After you left Motown what happened to your career?

I just laid it down. I went in the church, married a minister, and just left it and tried to do the best raising my kids but a lot of times we don’t think that if you have a talent you have to use it or it dies out. By me being in the church we have this stereotype of what we think God wants us to do but what he really wants us to do is to use that talent. Then I met this guy in the ‘90s, he was my boyfriend, and he said I needed to be back out there. So I started singing at this high school called Inglewood and then Brenton Wood – the “Oogum Boogum” man – came and he saw me and so I started touring with him. After that I just got back into it and have some friends overseas who were telling me about the Northern Soul and everybody started hooking me up and I did some things for Nightmare Records. So, I’m still singing and thank God I still have a voice and plan to use it as long as I can. It’s really wonderful. I’m just one of the other people until I get over there and I’m a superstar! I love it.

When you look back is there anything that sticks in your memory as highlight: a record, a concert, anything particularly special?

Cutting the album, Every Little Bit Hurts, where I did “I’ve Been Good To You” and “Unchained Melody” and those type of songs, that was one of the highlights, because I did that for my Mother. Then the other highlight was when I first went to Europe in the 1980s and Ian Levine and I wrote a song over the telephone and I really loved it, “Give Me A Little Inspiration”, it turned out so well. And when I first went to Motown and saw snow for the first time in my life and I saw Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Martha & The Vandellas, Diana Ross, Florence Ballad, Holland, Dozier and Holland, Smokey Robinson, Ivy Jo Hunter; that was like being in Disneyland. It was like, if I could just grab you guys and keep you with me. It was such a thrill to see The Temptations, The Four Tops, to see everybody in person. People told me I’d never get on Motown; I was three thousand miles away. When I got to Detroit and I saw the Motown family, it was just too much. It was awesome. So, my life has been beautiful.

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Mark Raison

I've spent three-quarters of my life wandering the mod path with detours down its side streets and dark alleys. From an enthusiastic youth to a still-enthusiastic-but-harder-to-tell grizzled old goat, I've dabbled in all parts of the scene from writing fanzines 'Round Midnight and Something Has Hit Me; to promoting bands; attempting to manage bands; singing in the mighty garage combo The Electric Fayre; putting on indie, psych and soul clubs including Freak Scene, Orange Sunshine, and Shake!; writing liner notes for Reg King releases on Circle Records; and, in fitter times, tucking away the odd goal for the New Untouchables. I still DJ from my box of R&B humdingers but more often you’ll find me tapping away on my blog at I like the poetry of Charles Bukowski and dislike the taste of cheese.

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March 7, 2014 By : Category : Front Page Interviews Music USA Tags:, , , ,
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Motown Spotlights – The Velvelettes

The Velvelettes were co-founded in 1963 by Bertha Barbee-McNeal and Mildred Gill Arbor, at Western Michigan University, where they were both students. Norma Barbee-Fairhurst (Bertha’s cousin), Caldin Gill Street (aka Carol), Mildred’s younger sister, and Betty Kelley (Cal’s best friend), were asked to join the group. The Velvelettes formed at WMU and performed regularly around WMU’s campus at various dances. After much preparation and rehearsing at Maybee Hall, they entered the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity talent show on campus, and they won first prize!

Berry Gordy’s nephew, Robert Bullock, was also a student at WMU at the time of their performance and first place win in the talent show. Upon seeing the show, he immediately saw merit and he encouraged them to audition for his Uncle’s company, Motown Records, in Detroit. Shortly thereafter, and after some serious persuasion, Millie’s and Cal’s parents, Rev. and Mrs. Gill, agreed the group should go to Detroit to audition for Motown Records. Rev. Gill, along with Cal and Millie’s brother, Charles, drove the group to Detroit in a snow storm. A normal 2 hour drive took almost 5 hours in the middle of winter. They successfully auditioned at Motown Records, and were eventually signed to the infamous record label, thus beginning their professional singing career. Motown’s Mrs. Esther Gordy-Edwards had very often referred to the Velvelettes as Motown’s “college girls.”

The Velvelettes recorded numerous hits at Motown’s Hitsville USA, Studio A, located at 2648 W. Grand Boulevard in Detroit, MI. That’s “where it all began!” Their recording career with Motown Records spanned almost a decade (1963-1971). The group’s most notable hits of the early 60s, ‘Needle In A Haystack’, and ‘He Was Really Sayin’ Something’, went to the Top 40 in Cash Box and Billboard international record magazines. These two songs also went on to be Number 1 in several cities and towns across America. The Velvelettes were featured on Motown tours, they worked the “chitlin circuit” (theaters mainly on the east coast) they were also featured on two Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tours in the mid 60s.

After about a year with the Velvelettes, Betty Kelley left the group to join Martha & The Vandellas, at the request of Berry Gordy and Martha Reeves. Betty was asked to fill a vacancy for one of the original Vandellas. Her first gig with the Vandellas was a European Motown Revue tour. The remaining Velvelettes kept performing, and started traveling out of the Detroit area after Cal finished high school. They performed throughout the U.S. and Canada in the mid 60s and early 70s. In the late 60s they took a well deserved break and left the business to marry and start their families.

In 1985 the original members reunited to do a show for an organization Bertha was involved with, the Concerned Black Women’s Roundtable Conference of Southwest Michigan. Since their performance for this event they have been performing together ever since! The Velvelettes have managed to juggle corporate jobs and their professional singing careers for many years, and they continue to answer to the many calls to perform throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. In February 2009, a Velvelettes exhibit was created at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum, located in downtown Kalamazoo. The exhibit showcases the group’s career and takes you on a nostalgic journey with pictures, uniforms, music and various awards. A must see, indeed!

The Velvelettes are revered in Europe, particularly England, where they still maintain a cult like following to this day! The late Amy Winehouse amongst other luminaries was a huge fan and Bananarama had a top 5 hit in the UK with a cover of ‘Really Saying Something’ The group’s hits, ranked them among other notable “60s girl groups” that were honored at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH in 2000! Today, these legendary ladies of Motown still reside in Michigan. The year, 2009, marked Motown’s 50th Anniversary! In November ‘09, the Velvelettes, along with other Motown artists, came together in Detroit to celebrate the magical, timeless sound of Motown.

This group is a true sisterhood and they are often told by fans that they are still “really sayin’ something!”

The Velvelettes next performance is at the Tamla Motown Revue at MODSTOCK (50 years of Mod) on Friday 18 April 2014 @

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I run The New Untouchables organization and events like the Brighton Mod Weekender, Le Beat Bespoké Festival (and compilation series of the same name) and I co-organize Euro Ye Ye with the Trouble & Tea crew. I have run many clubs over the last 20 years in London, where I live and current nights include Timebox, Zoo Zoo, Crossfire, 100 Club and Mousetrap allnighter which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011. I have been lucky to DJ all over the globe including Japan, Canada, USA and Europe and met some great people on my journey. I run RnB Records to offset my vinyl addiction: for rare vintage vinyl.

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November 25, 2013 By : Category : Articles Bands Front Page Music USA Tags:, , , , ,

Motown Spotlights – Brenda Holloway

Born in California on 21 June 1946, Brenda Holloway grew up in Los Angeles and studied the violin at school, as well as singing at the local Church with her younger sister Patrice.

Recording for the first time whilst still a teenager she came to the attention of record shop owner Kent Harris who brought Brenda to the attention of Bob Keane, the head of Del-Fi Records. He was so impressed with the precocious youngster’s talent to have her record ‘Echo’ for the Donna label in 1962.

The same label later released ‘I’ll Find Myself A Guy’ by The Wattesians, an all-girl group put together by Hal Davis and featuring Brenda. The group provided backing vocals to the likes of Johnny Rivers and Ike & Tina Turner when they performed in the Los Angeles area.

The following year (1963) found Brenda virtually ever-present in the studio, recording various songs produced by Hal Davis with the exception of ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’, which was written and produced by Ed Cobb for potential release on Del-Fi but subsequently held back.

It was Hal Davis who helped get Brenda something of an audition for Berry Gordy, at which she sang a version of Mary Wells’ ‘My Guy’. Suitably impressed with her vocal abilities (and, it is said, equally taken by the tight fitting gold outfit she wore), Berry offered a recording contract on the proviso Brenda graduate from high school first. Her first Motown session saw her re-record ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ somewhat differently. The flip side was to be ‘Land Of A Thousand Boys’, a song written by Brenda herself. Released on the Tamla label in 1964, the single would go on to become the biggest West Coast produced single for the Motown group of labels at the time, finally reaching Number 3  in the R&B chart and Number 13 in the Pop chart.

Its progress up the chart was helped by Brenda appearing on the Motortown Revue and Dick Clark’s ‘American Bandstand’, subsequently going out on the road as part of Clark’s ‘Caravan Of Stars’ tour that summer (unbeknown to Brenda, her presence on the tour helped get The Supremes the kick-start their career needed, for so keen had Dick Clark been to get Brenda on board, he accepted Esther Gordy-Edwards imposing The Supremes on the tour as part of the deal). As the tour progressed, so The Supremes’ record ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ moved up the charts and the group moved up the roster, displacing Brenda in the process.

However, the success of ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ had given Brenda a toe-hold on chart material herself, resulting in her similarly Ed Cobb penned follow-up ‘I’ll Always Love You’ also making something of a dent on the Pop chart. Motown also rush released an album, ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ in the wake of this success, with all but one of the twelve tracks being recorded in Los Angeles, the exception being the Clarence Paul production ‘A Favor For A Girl (With A Lovesick Heart)’ that was recorded on Brenda’s first trip to Detroit.

The album followed the then standard Motown formula; a hit or two, a few originals, a few covers from the Jobete catalogue and a couple of standards. Brenda’s voice stood out, particularly on the ballads. Her star was seemingly on the rise, helped by the sudden departure of Mary Wells for a contract with 20th Century; Berry Gordy quickly announced plans to make Brenda Holloway the new female star at Motown.

Gaining access to the same pool of writers and producers who had helped get Mary Wells to the top, including Smokey Robinson, who would write and produce ‘When I’m Gone’, a song originally intended for Miss Wells.

Brenda’s version made it to both the Pop and R&B charts and saw Brenda back on the road again, this time supporting The Beatles on their debut US tour.

The failure of the Berry Gordy penned ‘You Can Cry On My Shoulder’ to make a proper impact, followed by ‘Together ‘Til The End Of Time’ also missing out on the charts convinced Brenda that her career was not exactly as she envisaged, especially when her scheduled second album ‘Hurtin’ & Cryin’ was canned.

In March 1967 Brenda with her sister Patrice began writing work what would go on to become one of the most valuable songs in the company’s catalogue. ‘You’ve Made Me So’ was a very successful 45, returning Brenda to the Top 40, but Brenda had decided she was no longer a priority in the Gordy empire and left Motown. Her name made a return when the UK arm of Motown, Tamla Motown issued a compilation album, ‘The Artistry Of Brenda Holloway’ in October 1968 an LP that would go on to be one of the rarest vinyl LP’s for collectors and has just been released on CD by Ace Records for the very first time.

Brenda would return to the recording studios in 1972 for Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Music Merchant label but again another whole LP of music went unreleased. Brenda was one of several former Motown artists to record for Ian Levine and his Motorcity label. Her most recent recordings saw her perform with Cliff Richard on his ‘Soulicious’ concept album.

Brenda still performs magnificently to this day and we are delighted to have her come to London for the Tamla Motown Revue at Modstock next Easter. More info here:

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I run The New Untouchables organization and events like the Brighton Mod Weekender, Le Beat Bespoké Festival (and compilation series of the same name) and I co-organize Euro Ye Ye with the Trouble & Tea crew. I have run many clubs over the last 20 years in London, where I live and current nights include Timebox, Zoo Zoo, Crossfire, 100 Club and Mousetrap allnighter which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011. I have been lucky to DJ all over the globe including Japan, Canada, USA and Europe and met some great people on my journey. I run RnB Records to offset my vinyl addiction: for rare vintage vinyl.

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November 25, 2013 By : Category : Articles Front Page Music USA Tags:, , , , , , , , ,