Browsing Tag New Untouchables

Crossfire review with the Strypes & the Sorrows

Now in its tenth year Crossfire started back in 2001 bringing together all the different elements of the London 60s scene for a big night of pure vintage underground partying in a 1000 capacity venue in the heart of central London. On 13th October 2012 the packed venue hosted fresh-faced Irish beat sensation, the Strypes, along with 60s beat originals, the Sorrows. Darius Drew reviews this wonderful event for NUTSmag.

So, is the future of music the past? If you were one of the many assembled at Crossfire watching Ireland’s new beat combo sensation, the Strypes, you may well think so–and you might be right.

Most of the greatest bands, from the Stones and The Who through to the Floyd and Procol Harum, started their careers in this way, as did the mighty Dr. Feelgood and Nine Below Zero. But haven’t we moved on in the last few decades largely because of the high benchmark of writing one’s own material set by those very same bands?

On the other hand, says the opposing camp, it’s been 50 years since ‘Love Me Do’, and rock n roll has gone ‘round-the-block several times only to retread old ground. Maybe the only honest thing to do is go back and do exactly that but what more can be done with it? And, more importantly, does anything need to be?

The Strypes, appealing to their own age group as well as several more ‘mature’ ladies who openly expressed a desire to take them home and feed them chocolate (careful, you’ll end up in the papers) are without doubt in the right place at the right time.

Taking songs we are all familiar with (too familiar in some cases) such as ‘Little Queenie’, ‘Got Love If You Want It’, ‘I’m A Man’ and current single ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover’ they turn them into something fresh and engaging. Often, when a front man (the ice cool Ross Ferrelly, in this case) announces: ‘We’re going to take things down a little now,’ before launching into a version of ‘Stormy Monday Blues’, it would be time to go to the bar, but they even manage to nail that to the point where it arguably becomes the highpoint of the set.

Again, playing devil’s avocado for a moment, one does wonder how much of their extensive shared knowledge of R&B is their own, and how much the work of a hidden parental hand: the well-packaged quality of all their approved YouTube footage may suggest the latter, but does that matter? What I witnessed was not Blues Idol, as I cynically joked a while back, but a genuine hot, sweaty, raw, arse-kicking live act with great potential. As long as, that is, some record company executive doesn’t f**k it up. Anyone capable of the sort of brash, cacophonous yet melodic guitar playing I saw from Josh McLorey (also a capable singer and obviously an embryonic Wilko in training) or the already fully accomplished Ox-like bass runs of Pete O Hanlon, the most accomplished of the four in my view, deserves to be allowed to develop naturally, the way their influences did.

Exceptional harmonica dueting and instrument-swopping, displaying a dextrous versatility I have to admit I didn’t expect, two great lead vocalists and several beautifully organic moments of looseness which, if allowed natural organic expression, could eventually verge on the free-form wigout approach so beloved of Cream at their peak.

I thus award the four of them the full thumbs up, but with a firmly attached, ‘let’s wait and see’ caveat: the next 5 years could tell a whole different story. But at the moment they’re loud, fiery, genuine in intent, and they wanna live M.O.D, which is good enough for now.

By comparison, the Sorrows started their career in 1963 playing probably exactly the same covers the Strypes play today: it would be pointless, therefore, to compare the performance of teenagers to men approaching 70, so I won’t. The Coventry freakbeat pioneers played as you would expect a recently reformed band to play, i.e. with an attack that might be considered as ‘belying their ages’ but which to me seemed perfectly natural for an outfit who helped to pioneer this very genre of music in the UK.

Songs including ‘Car-A-Lin’, ‘She’s Got The Action’ and ‘Let the Live Live’ were all powerful enough to reach the back of the hall: the impact was less on mellower numbers like ‘We Should Get Along Fine’ and ‘Come With Me’, but on moving to the front, it still smashed me firmly in the face. Sure, there’s the occasional out of tune vocal or bum note, but there probably was in 1965. In any case, this sort of music has always been more about raw passion (which the band still have plenty of) than technical perfection.

Don Fardon, at almost 7 feet tall, is an imposing figure, and remains the owner of a deep, smouldering bluesy yet quintessentially British voice: he doesn’t move much, but he never did. Fellow founder-member Phil Packham’s bass lines are still incredible, with the chordal thrum permeating everything from ‘No Sad Songs For Me’ through the previously unheard ‘Gonna Find a Cave’ to their best known number, ‘Take a Heart’.

Drummer Nige Lomas isn’t quite as deafeningly loud as he once was but his throbbing, marching tom toms still march and still throb, his cymbals still swing, and the snare still makes the bold, insistent statement that the best beat-group sound always centres around. Brian Wilkins, who joined much later despite being a veteran of the Midland beat scene, fits perfectly. His lead guitar solos are genuinely inspired, his occasional lead vocals more than an adequate replacement for his predecessor.

This last in itself underlies the importance of presenting a cohesive identity, Wilkins may not be an original member, but, apart from the most ardent fan or anorak (OK, me), who would know? Four sexagenarian blokes (and one youngster) in matching band t-shirts and trousers create amply the impression that you’re watching the genuine band, and in all honesty, you are. Anyone who drifted outside or into the soul/ska rooms early on actually missed something a bit special.

In the varying rooms, Crossfire’s impeccable selection of DJs again gave the crowd their value for money: for what it costs, three rooms of varying styles, plus two high-class live acts still represents a better deal than one would find anywhere else. There will always be people who want to hear the same tracks they heard when they first set foot in Mousetrap, but as true lovers of music, rather than just ‘scene faces’, we must never forget that first feeling of scintillating excitement we felt when we heard this stuff for the first time. And no matter how many of us think there’s nothing more to discover, there will always be something else, and long may it continue. With every year that passes a new generation of devotees is born, which brings us back to where we came in.

I believe the social changes that occurred first time round would not happen now, and would thus render the music irrelevant other than as entertainment. But either way, encouraging teenagers to discover the classic bands, and therefore the original Black artists, and move away from the likes of Justin Bieber and Olly Murs, can only be a good thing. While the Strypes may still be in their embryonic stages, we all were at one point, as were the musicians we listened to, and while I can’t see what the future holds, the fact that musicians well under half my age are already out there, taking their first nascent, steps, into the Scene, ensures its existence for at least another 50 years–assuming we live that long.


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Dashing Drewe Shimon

Dashing Darius Drewe Shimon, aka just 'Drewe' 'Druid' or 'The Shim' to his mates, 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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November 26, 2012 By : Category : Bands Beat Front Page Music Reviews Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Sexy Sixties – The ‘Dolce Vita’ Effect

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Sexy Sixties

Sexy Sixties – Part 4, Chapter 1C – The ‘Dolce Vita’ Effect

Yes, that film. That actor cat. What’s his name? Marcello Mastroianni. Hmm. A bit ruthless, in the film. A bad-guy character, indeed. But – God – he’s smart as hell. Went to the movies three months ago and woke up the morning after with a strange feeling. A feeling that I had to dress, walk, behave and act like Mr. Mastroianni. Sure enough, he’s got that somewhat I was always looking for.

1960. “La Dolce Vita”, the new film of Federico Fellini, divides critics and public from day one, but is about to become both a classic and one of the most influential films ever. The film is formed by various episodes, all connected with the late 50s high-life in Rome.

Marcello Rubini is a journalist, writing gossip features but dreaming his immediate future as a proper writer. Life in the mid-late 50s Rome is made of chances and he’s always there to get them. He’s got to aim high, so he embarks in all those adventures that can shorten the distance between himself and his career. Hiring his photographer friend Paparazzo, to take pics of this blooming jet set, no place in and around Rome is too far for his ambitions.

Despite the producer De Laurentiis’ scepticism – he and Fellini argued about the choice of the main actor – La Dolce Vita earned a lot of money in the first two weeks of screening in Italian cinemas, and the sharp characters Marcello and Paparazzo (the latter eventually becoming a common name for any kind of gossip ruthless photographer) set the ethos and the aesthetics of a brand new young and modern man-about-town.

So, here we go. Marcello. Trying one of them well-tailored Italian suits. I have three of ‘em. Got the first one from a Soho spot, that man in his forties, how’s he called? Mario, I think. I popped there one day and told him “I’d like to look like Mastroianni. Can you make a good suit for me? I mean, the works”. And he went, with his very typical Southern Italy accent: “eh, I do wottya like, young man, but you gotta wait a week, so fulla bizinéss to do, diz days…”

And then, the following week I went there again for fittings. He took him sort of one month, which is not that quick, but – oh boy! What a result. I know my name ain’t Marcello, nor I am a fashionable Italian actor, but this is exactly the way I want to look like.

Can you imagine? Very few films have been so influential to early 60s Mod culture as La Dolce Vita. The very expression “Dolce Vita” became synonymous with “high life” and “jet set” , and eventually went to represent a new style for wool jumpers in Italy – dolcevita = turtleneck.


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Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue", "Misty Lane" and “EyePlug”). During the years he realized loads of illustrations, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European clubs and bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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November 22, 2012 By : Category : Articles Essays Europe Fashion Film Front Page Inspiration Media Scene Style Tags:, , , , , , , ,
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Sexy Sixties -Those hedonistic Modernists (1959-1961)

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Sexy Sixties

Sexy Sixties – Chapter 1 Part B 

Those hedonistic Modernists (1959-1961)

The suit is a blue pinstripe model, made by that Italian tailor cat somewhere just behind Charing Cross Road. It looks good. Well, it looks damn right. It has three front pockets, plus one for the hanky, two eight inch side vents and it’s cut like a piece of art. It’s just perfect. Jean Paul Belmondo and Marcello Mastroianni couldn’t have desired anything better than that.

The owner of that suit – and many others – is a seventeen years old boy from Stepney Green. He works, of course, and his job is all about metal sheets to be folded and shaped. Not that it can be called “the best job in the world”, but it’s enough money to make him afford some very good clothes and fuel for his Lambretta Li 150. And some pills, too. “’Cause life’s gotta be brilliant. You have to be brilliant, mate”, he usually answers when someone asks him questions.

Meanwhile, he also invests his wages into the latest jazz imports from the US, exploring all those many microscopic Soho music shops. He spends a lot of his spare time looking at his image in the mirror, and – hey!, he likes a lot what he sees. He meets somewhere in the West End with a few other cats very much into the same music and lifestyle, but he doesn’t consider himself as part of a group. In fact, he’s an individual. He’s a Modernist.

Music and cinema started it all, in the 50s or maybe earlier. American GIs living in UK wanted jazz musicians to play for them. A bunch of sixteen years old boys, bored to death with the too understated, post war-ish national imagery, found themselves tasting a bit of that ‘modern jazz’ thing being imported. And they liked it. In the same time, French and Italian films added new ingredients to the cinema as a form of art, making British films look plain and unexciting, to say the least.

If we add to these two fundamental things a third, no less important one, the mass motorization, with the introduction of brilliantly designed Italian scooters, you should have a complete frame about our boy with the pinstripe suit, or about his attitude and lifestyle. “Being brilliant” as the opposite of “being plain”, “being dull”, “being a post-war number dressed in a boxy, badly cut jacket”. Or, in one word, “being square”.

All of a sudden these hedonistic teenagers didn’t want to be the average English boys anymore, they wanted to be American, French or Italian. And for the first time ever, they had enough money in their pockets to look smart, to buy imported records and to drive a very good looking scooter – a wheeled piece of the most desirable Italian design.

And the boy with the pinstripe suit irons the crease of his trousers to a sharp, razor-like finishing. A light-blue, tab collar shirt is waiting on a hanger, as the ice-white mac, ready to be worn.

“Just stick a good John Coltrane or Wayne Shorter on the record player, before I go. That will give me a kick”. It’s nine o’clock pm, and the night is there, just behind your flat’s door.

The night is yours and it’s full of new sensations.The gathering of a new kind of knights – the Modernists – will take place at the club, all night long.

You only need to read a book, to learn what’s the story. And this book can only be Colin McInnes’ “Absolute Beginners”. It’s all there.


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Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue", "Misty Lane" and “EyePlug”). During the years he realized loads of illustrations, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European clubs and bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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August 8, 2012 By : Category : Articles Essays Europe Fashion Film Front Page Inspiration Media Scene Style Tags:, , ,
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NUTsCast – Dr Robert Prescribes! (2)

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series NUTsCast - Podcast

Dr Robert NUTs Head Honcho and toppermost in demand DJ Prescribes a second in the series of Modernist sonic set of fruity delights, rarities and underground shakers to accompany your Summer days. Have a real good listen and feel free to share it with those you love!


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drrobert

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: newuntouchables.com/rnbrecords for rare vintage vinyl.

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May 22, 2012 By : Category : DJs Front Page Music Picks Podcasts Scene UK Tags:, , ,
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Mousetrap 21st Anniversary Bash

Coming of Age: Mousetrap 21st Anniversary Bash, Orleans Finsbury Park.

As is my custom of a Saturday evening, I like to take my time getting ready for a night out. Treat myself, put on some tunes – maybe some smooth soul, a touch of vintage blues, a couple of up-tempo funk numbers, a bit of psychedelic jazz if the feeling takes me – music I can glide around in my underpants to after a nice relaxing shower/shave combo, as the white twenty-something in me tries in vain to match Curtis Mayfield note for note whilst also pretending that my mum isn’t smirking at me from the other room. And then it’s time for the main event: the outfit. A once tidy abode quickly becomes strewn with multiple pairs of trousers, shirt and tie couplings, loafers/lace-ups/boots; coats collide with knits and roll necks and every colour of sock imaginable until bingo… there it is. From mad technicoloured jumble sale that now comprises my bedroom the winning sartorial combination has majestically presented itself. Or so you would like to think. You know the drill. If you’re going to go narcissist then what’s the point in going half way? And as the music plays out in the background you’re set to go. At least that’s the usual ritual…

But not tonight. Tonight of all nights being a Mousetrap night and with the crucial preparation buffer zone period rolling towards half past 10, I am nowhere near the sanctuary of my bedroom or my wardrobe. I am in fact racing home on the London rail network reeking of beer and tandoori chicken. It’s amazing just how far an impromptu curry with a mate can set you back on a Saturday evening. Combine that with snail paced public transport and you’re practically in no-man’s land.  With our ritual 10-minute train ride to Finsbury Park sailing through the neighbourhood at 20 past 11 and the time all ready 20 to I am compelled to jog at break-sweat speed in a desperate attempt to spare some vital time indoors. All the while I have been turning over potential clothing solutions to my now doomed current attire. Making the most of crisis mode I muster up a winner and grabbing a bottle of beer on the way out hot step it down to the station with 2 minutes to spare. My fellow reveller just manages to get on the train at the next station and then we’re on our way. Finally.

Fast-forward two hours…

Amidst the battling puddles of talc and spilt drinks the proverbial rug is being well and truly cut over the sound of the Five Royales. Within the cramped and sweaty conditions of Orleans basement bar the electric atmosphere of the dancers shines through the overt lack of lighting. Loafers criss-cross and dolly shoes quick step with no intentions of missing a beat. There is the usual throng at the bar waiting with wide eyes to drink from Orlean’s famous disposable cups. The peripheral dancefloor shelves are already littered 3 deep with half drunk Red Stripe and Stella cans though it seems no one really has time to finish them with most people shaking limbs to the driving rhythm and blues beat.

Having been a Mousetrap Regular for nearing 3 years I’ve never known this night to be any different. And rest assured, this time round it is the clubs 21st Anniversary.  Just by scanning the bustling room you could imagine it going for another 21, as long as everyone has their feet left and the fantastic records haven’t been spun smooth. Lest we forget that most of these records have lived through multiple decades delighting the ears and feet of countless people past and present. Tonight’s specials are a winning combination of Northern and Club Soul, vintage R&B, Ska and Boogaloo. From the moment we descend the steps into the thumping subterranean den to the moment we drag ourselves back up to the cruel late-Winter morning, the dancing is ceaseless. Amongst the many immaculate individuals gathered here just looking good is not enough – the inevitable trip to the dry cleaners is a sure fire sign of a sustained stint on the dance floor.

A serious mod jazz vibe is going down as I return from some fresh air an upbeat saxophone spills over a jaunty off beat as shoulders drop to Jolly Jax mod banger ‘’Preciate It’. A few further bangers later and the masterful organ of ‘I’m Longing for You Quick’ by Ann Caudell has the floor alive once more. It’s these little shots of vinyl magic that really transport you to another time. And boy does it get you moving. Alongside hits of classic sax and Hammond sit huge soul dancers ‘Indian Giver’ by the Chantels and ‘Never Learnt to Dance’ by Harvey Averne. Feet don’t fail me now; you could cut the atmosphere with a leather sole.

With spirits running high and being poured the music moves into a Ska section with a bit of Prince Buster. At the encouragement of certain friends some brief and far from mastered ‘Russian dancing’ is momentarily introduced to the floor, of which my trousers and my knee ligaments are lucky to walk away from. Though I will definitely be feeling the results of this the next afternoon.

The rest of the night plays out to prime northern soul and true to form we are sad to have to leave the dance floor. After another fantastic Mousetrap evening all that’s left to be said is a big congratulations to Rob Bailey and the rest of the team on London’s finest underground club night making to full legal adult age (Mousetrap can now drink even in the USA). If the tide is strong enough and we haven’t all been wiped out by nuclear Armageddon 1960’s Cold War style then this one may even make it to free bus pass age.

Arthur Gun over and out.

 


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Arthur Gun

North London son and 23 year old retro-enthusiast freelance aspiring writer/singer/illustrator/anything-goes reporter in the field, Arthur Gun likes to be at the forefront of the revelry on any given night out. After various periods of teenage transgression throughout several scenes he arrived at 'the 60s thing' in the latter half of that mixed-up decade of the so-called Noughties. With an eclectic taste in many things subcultural, it has been the stylistic and musical revolution of the former decade that has captured a permanent corner of his imagination and which continues to live on in the hearts and minds of so many others. Taking a reporter-in-the-field approach to is review writing, Arthur can be seen amongst the thick of the action at New Untouchables events, whilst spending the following days trying to recollect the often incendiary events in the form of words. He hopes that one day words may provide enough income to foot his dry-cleaning bill.

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May 21, 2012 By : Category : Articles Clubs Events Front Page Reviews Scene UK Tags:, , ,
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Le Beat Bespoké 8 – Review

Taking The Beat By The Teeth: Le Beat Bespoké 8

Slap bang wallop! Without even a moments thought April has swung back round again and the Easter Bank Holiday has reared its handsome face. The worker ants of England are assembling with the prospect of a three-day weekend just too hot to handle. Pint arms are winding up and cigarettes jingling in their boxes, while the pub tills are grinning their toothless smiles in wait of the precious pound notes that will soon be jumping eagerly to their alcohol-induced doom.

Some people are choosing their outfits, and a few of them have been choosing more carefully than others. One such member of the few happens to be me, and it’s vintage suede on the outerwear agenda as I walk a walk of walks in repossessed Italian lace-ups and gunmetal strides down Great Portland Street. My consideration has been of due importance as my destination tonight is none other than the all singing all dancing Le Beat Bespoke weekender; the holy grail of modernist and 1960s orientated events on these fair isles.

As I near the end of Great Portland Street the venue looms into view and the scene is awash with psychedelic overtones: floral shirts, formidable sideburns, shaggy mop tops and tight flares, girls in every shade of paisley, cigarette smoke billowing from under Sassoon bobs; the occasional suit a close fit over spindly limbs. This is of course because taking the stage tonight will be three separate counts of psych rock majesty: fabled Ealing group July playing their eponymously titled ’68 album in full; on-stage arson enthusiast and godfather of shock rock Arthur Brown brings his ‘Crazy World of’… album to life track by track; and to cap the nights live music Dartford garage rock icons the Pretty Things will be serving up a helping of personal highlights from their string of Electric Banana albums. So descending the steps into the main hall I swing myself a beer in at the bar and join the steadily amassing crowd as Friday night begins…

A luminously coloured 4-foot dwarf-like monster of sorts is slowly parading across the stage shaking some kind of cosmic African staff when July take the stage, unbeknownst at this point that peculiar costumes and masks will feature steadily throughout the evening and beyond. Kaleidoscopic visuals swirl overhead as the band launch into opener ‘My Clown’, far-off harmonies and organs oscillating above the steady snare beat, with screeching guitars wail throughout ending with a warm applause from the crowd. Four minutes in and things are decidedly acidy already, and it’s all Eastern leaning space rock from here on out. Bongos ripple under driving rhythm guitar on ‘You Missed it All’ and languid sitar drones while distorted solos spiral on ‘The Way’, not to mention a ‘July’ shaped bass appearing in the hands of singer Tom Newman (of which someone tells me he crafted himself). All these elements are combined throughout the on stage reincarnation of the album, and personal favourite ‘Crying Is For Writers’ goes down a storm before the band finishes with classic track ‘Dandelion Seeds’.  Everything technicoloured and dandy so far.

After a brief smoking intermission I re-beer and prepare for Arthur Brown to make his Crazy World live music reality. Though infamous for the insanity of his live shows nobody can quite prepare you for the crew of druid-like figures that walk on stage in bizarre brightly coloured masks and shimmering cloaks. Organs sing out as the imposing frame of Mr Brown takes position at the front and a wild garage drum beat kicks in with quick firing guitar. Brown screeches and the mask is off revealing a black and white painted face that resembles something halfway between a panda and a vampire. As Brown howls his way through opener ‘Prelude/Fanfare’ I’m quite literally taken aback by the wild majesty of his voice; 69 years of living seem meaningless as he bellows maniacally over duelling organs nailing every piercing note. After shaking and shimmying like the proverbial madman through the jazz flute synth mayhem of ‘Fanfare/Fire Poem’, the moment many people have been anticipating takes place. A diminutive LSD-goblin appears from behind the stage carrying the notorious crown of fire, which is subsequently fastened to Arthur Brown’s head and set alight to cries of adulation from the audience. The sacred words of ‘I am the Lord of Hellfire…’ are uttered and the band catapults into that most famous of Hammond electronic organ tunes. A simply unbelievable rendition of his famous cover of Screaming Jay Hawkins track ‘I Put a Spell on You’ follows amidst ritualistic dancing all round and a golden-winged woman joining the caped melee of the band, as the Crazy World of Arthur Brown hurtles towards its brilliant end. For tonight at least.

With Arthur Brown living up to his name with fry…flying colours it seemed even a band as feted as the Pretty Things would have a bit of trouble following on from the wild display just witnessed. Though in their Electric Banana guise, it’s not long before the crowd are once more fully engrossed in the psychedelic buzz. Bright coloured hypnotic projections follow once again and I make a mental note that something similar might be a worthwhile installation in my room at home. Having missed a chance to see the Pretty Things before at the Charlotte Street Blues club before it closed down it doesn’t take me long to start enjoying myself as the cacophony of garage psych and turbo blues spills forward from the stage.  Complete with Go-Go dancers some fine vintage late 60s psych is being played, ‘What’s Good for the Goose’ goes down perfectly with a rum and coke, as well as a favourite of mine ‘It’ll Never Be Me’, and as the set reaches it’s acid drenched crescendo ‘£.S.D’ is fittingly dropped into the mix and there isn’t a single person seen to be standing still.

Shortly after the live entertainment is finished I’m working over my game plan for the weekend over a cigarette. Do break it in gently on the Friday and gradually gather pace towards Sunday’s finale, or just say, “fuck it” and take Le Beat by the teeth and get well and truly weekendered? Knowing that this is now my third Le Beat Bespoke in a row I am aware of the fact that the ‘gently does it’ approach didn’t work the last two times, or in fact rarely ever. As I take the penultimate drag of my cigarette the party gene within is fully expressing itself, and having already made the decision for me I throw any lingering caution rather casually to the wind. As you do.

After the collective madness of tonight’s psychedelic live adventure I decide to delve back into the earlier half of the decade over in the R&B room, with tonight’s tunes supplied by the DJs of renowned Sheffield club night ‘Pow Wow’. As usual there is some fine dance moves on show, young guns and old hands alike in perspiration defying suits, more pristine hair-dos and dresses than you can shake a seven inch single at. Between fast paced R&B belters there’s club soul and boogaloo, cut with rum and ginger ale, and crucial cooling down outside which is making it a bad weekend to quite smoking. Two friends appear out of nowhere shuffling along to some up-tempo latin and remind me that it is in fact my birthday. I agree that it is and after a celebratory shot at the bar it’s dance dance dance non-stop until kicking out time, and after somewhat drunken and unsuccessful attempts to get ourselves some ‘Boris’ bikes Friday night is done and dusted with Saturday already poking it’s nose into view.

Feeling rougher than expected I awake with this years Le Beat soundtrack tune ‘Shake Yourself Down’ by the Checkerlads on repeat in an otherwise vacant mind. I am also horrified to discover that it is 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Thinking so much for making a birthday of it I call my mate to find that he’s gone to 229 to check out the vintage market which serves as one of Le Beat’s daytime features. The clothes obsessive in me is crying but my wallet is relieved. I resolve to get myself together and chip back into town later to catch 60s rock’n’roll Minnesota surfin’ birds the Trashmen who are, rather unbelievably, playing their first ever UK show. Arranging to meet fresh accomplices at a nearby drinking establishment round number two has arrived and Saturday night starts.

We arrive in time to catch the last third of the Screamin’ Vendettas’ set. Following on from Arthur Brown and his bands lead the masks are out again, complete with spooky hoods. Raucous garage rock & roll is blaring from the stage with gravelly vocals that put me in the mind of the John Spencer Blues Explosion all dressed up for Halloween. It’s brash, stripped-down cover stuff with a slight rockabilly lean, which suits tonight’s main room residents The Rock Around. Plenty of quiffs are bobbing in the audience and I even spot a couple of yes-drill-sergeant buzz cuts staring intently at the on-stage spectacle.

Still feeling suspect after last night I steady myself with a beer and when we return to the crowd the Trashmen are taking the stage. Dressed in black and looking understandably more mature than the sleeve of infamous single ‘Surfin’ Bird’, the drummer gibbers wildly into the mic and the band launches into their set, and suddenly the night is feeling very ‘Pulp Fiction’. With this gig decades in the making and also coinciding with the bands 50th anniversary it’s clear that none of the original enthusiasm has waned. Amidst a set of classic songs such as ‘King of the Surf’ and a thrilling rendition of Dick Dale stormer ‘Misirlou’ (that Pulp Fiction banger to anyone who was wondering) there’s a three song Link Wray medley and an interesting surf re-working of classic Spanish folk song ‘Malaguena’, all of which are warmly received by the crowd. Undeniably the set highlight is of course ‘Surfin Bird’, which is by anyone’s estimation and undying staple in the classic rock canon, to which everyone in the crowd has buzzed-up shimmy and a shake to.

Following their departure and having re-found my feet somewhat, I decide to pick up where Friday’s ’68 sound left off. As the rockers and rollers begin to hit the main room floor we saunter through to the Beat Basement where I am met with more congratulatory birthday shots. And all of a sudden the weekend is back into top gear. I spend the best part of the evening swinging between the floppy fedoras and swirly dresses of the psych room and that sharp suited sounds of the R&B room, where guest DJs from Spanish stalwart The Boiler club are laying down some serious vintage black dancers. Everyone and everything seems in fine form with not a sorry face is to be seen.

Finding ourselves back in the psych room ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ blares forth from the speakers and now being well into the run of things drinks-wise I foresee that tomorrow will know less jovial times. But it matters not, because in the words of Lou Reed, ‘tomorrows just some other time’. At that care-free intersection of the evening where the music and people are at fun-induced critical mass I realise that there is only 45 minutes left. Resolving to carry on the party Elsewhere we leave in a taxi to an undisclosed location where the general merriment of the evening spirals into the wee hours in a ceaseless haze of happiness.

At around 8am it slowly dawns on me that there is something important that I am meant to already be awake for. And in the drunken fug I realise that I’m due to meet my own band for a recording session. Feeling a little bit sick and Hastily leaving in a shamble I head for the tube, drawing some very confused, if not concerned looks from various passers by. I suspect it’s either down to the un-dead pallour my skin has taken on or the rather conspicuous fringed suede jacket I’m wearing.

Several hours and countless coffees later I’m beginning to feel a little bit delirious. By half 5 in the afternoon I’m seriously questioning my will to carry on and by the time I leave to get ready for the third and final round I have decided with absolute conviction, that the idea of ‘rock and roll’ people are so often using to categorise a lifestyle of musical and recreational excess is thoroughly overrated. But what else can you do at this point and suck it up and make it to the next inning.

I just about pull my sanity and my body back together after a 2 hour sleep/coma and make it out of the house by 11. For the second time in 24 hours it once again dawns on me that I’ve forgotten something important, in that I missing Sunday’s live finale; the focal point of which will be another New Untouchables live coup- Scotland’s finest freakbeat emissaries The Poets. Lamenting the rickety state of my fragile weekend being I pray there might be another time.

For the third night in a row and my body now about as good as a cardboard cut-out of a former self I arrange to meet with startlingly fresh faced and large numbered group of friends at a flat near Great Portland Street. Everyone is gathered for Sunday’s Crossfire event, the immensely popular oldies night Crossfire. Bar two or three of us present this is the only night most of the assembled group had planned on going to, and a feeling of high spiritedness is unanimous. Having started the weekend as quite the game young buck I’m now feeling approximately twice my age (24) and my state of mind can be compared to that of a homeless Vietnam veteran. As someone sticks on Yvonne Baker behemoth ‘You Didn’t Say a Word’ I drain the content of my predominantly gin-filled glass in one and decide that only Northern Soul can save me now…

This is where the story ends, or rather cuts-out, as most of the hours following our arrival at 229 are a soul-fuelled blur. All I can say is that there was lots of soul, and lots of dancing, and lots of lots of things, all of which I can guarantee… It finally took me till half 7 in the morning at another after party in Elswhereville to declare my self 100% Weekendered. Gold stamp approved. Congratulations as always to Rob Bailey and the New Untouchables team for a thoroughly monumental weekend and roll on the next one. Maybe next year I’ll try the full 3 days without sleep and make things really interesting. Until next time, over and out- like a light.


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Arthur Gun

North London son and 23 year old retro-enthusiast freelance aspiring writer/singer/illustrator/anything-goes reporter in the field, Arthur Gun likes to be at the forefront of the revelry on any given night out. After various periods of teenage transgression throughout several scenes he arrived at 'the 60s thing' in the latter half of that mixed-up decade of the so-called Noughties. With an eclectic taste in many things subcultural, it has been the stylistic and musical revolution of the former decade that has captured a permanent corner of his imagination and which continues to live on in the hearts and minds of so many others. Taking a reporter-in-the-field approach to is review writing, Arthur can be seen amongst the thick of the action at New Untouchables events, whilst spending the following days trying to recollect the often incendiary events in the form of words. He hopes that one day words may provide enough income to foot his dry-cleaning bill.

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May 21, 2012 By : Category : Articles Events Front Page Reviews Scene UK Tags:, , ,
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Masters – The Action (Roger Powell)

This entry is part 9 of 22 in the series Masters

If ever an excuse was needed to chat about the life and music of mod’s favourite sons, the Action, the forthcoming biography of the band ‘In The Lap of The Mods’ by Ian Hebditch and Jane Shepherd surely provides it. A decade in the making, the book features contributions from all original band members: Reggie King, Mike Evans, Alan ‘Bam’ King, Pete Watson and Roger Powell; over 200 images including many previously unpublished photographs, flyers, posters and press cuttings; first-hand testimonials from fans and musical contemporaries; a complete guide to their gigs; and an examination of how the band’s mod following at clubs like the Birdcage in Portsmouth and the Marquee in London influenced their decision making as a band. In addition, this year also finally sees the release of an amazing new album on Circle Records of Reggie King’s post-Action demos, ‘Looking For A Dream,’ recorded with his ex-band mates during the late 60s. With these hugely exciting projects nearing completion it was a real honour and privilege to share a coffee and croissant with the Action’s drummer Roger Powell.

MR: - It was a wonderful surprise to recently see on the ‘In The Lap of The Mods’ website footage of The Action outside the Royal Albert Hall performing “I’ll Keep Holding On” for the Dick Clark Show. What do you remember about it?

RP: - Not a lot. It was a bit embarrassing to be honest. There were all these people throwing paper airplanes and generally just being shitty and we were miming and we used to hate miming. You couldn’t hear anything and had to pretend you were really getting in to it. We didn’t really like anything like that; we were pretty anti-social, anti-establishment.

MR: – Do you think that might have been why you didn’t go as far as you could’ve?

RP: - Oh yes. When we played with the Move they were saying you’ve got to do all these outrageous things, tie yourselves to railings and wear outrageous clothes, and we thought that was moving towards show business.

MR: – Did your manager Rikki Farr try to push you into a more commercial market and get a hit?

RP: - Yes, we knew we needed a manager as we needed publicity to get gigs. We’d built up a really good following on the circuit and could’ve carried on just doing that but Marquee Artists and Rikki obviously wanted to make money and get the right record for us because we were on £100 a night and once you had a hit record you’d be on £500 or more and go to gigs in cars, have roadies and stay in nice hotels. But none of the records I felt were anything near a hit record or anything edgy enough people would remember. We never felt comfortable going after a hit even though we went along with it putting records out but they weren’t really doing anything. I think “I’ll Keep Holding On” got to number 39 in the charts.

MR: – Was it disheartening to keep putting records out that didn’t hit?

RP: -  It wasn’t disheartening because we were there for the music; we weren’t there for the hit record although all the people around us were getting them: the Kinks, the Small Faces, the Who, Spencer Davis Group, Manfred Mann. It seemed everyone we played with at the Marquee had a hit record except for us.

MR: – Why do you think that was?

RP: – I think because they were doing original stuff and we were doing covers. And we never got an original cover. Something like “Ride Your Pony” would come out in America and someone else would do it in England. At the time we didn’t consider writing our own songs as there was so many cool records to explore we just enjoyed playing them. If we’d had an original cover first we might have had a hit record.

MR: – “Shadows and Reflections” was a very original cover.

RP: -  Yes but it didn’t get played, it didn’t get marketed, no machine behind it. It was who you know not what you know. You needed just the right contacts, like the Who had with Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. They had the key contacts, the money, and were right in with all of the faces of the time, although I think they would’ve hit anyway regardless.

MR: – Having George Martin as your producer must’ve helped.

RP: -  Being with George at Abbey Road helped but although “I’ll Keep Holding On” was alright and “Never Ever” was okay, you couldn’t do it without the machine behind you. You really needed the publicity, to know people at the BBC to actually plug it. And a lot of people bought their records in to the charts. They’d get a little sniff into the charts, once it was there, the DJs would play it, you’d get on the telly and you’d be away.  So from an initial investment of say ten grand you could make it back.

MR: – Mike Evans said when “I’ll Keep Holding On” got to number 39 that was when you needed to start buying up all the records.

RP: -  At that point there was a bit of a woo-hah about it. Early on you had a list of all the special shops they took the chart returns from so you could send boys and girls in to buy a copy of this, two copies of that. There were as many as twenty or thirty record shops in London where they took the charts from, so if you knew the right shops…

MR: – You still managed to get on Ready Steady Go a few times.

RP: -  I think we did it three times. We did it with Pete Stringfellow who was brought down from the Mojo Club in Sheffield to compere it and we played a couple of songs live on there. It was the first time anyone played live on Ready Steady Go and it gave us that appeal for the mods on the circuit and we got a really good following from it.

MR: – The book is titled In The Lap of The Mods, is that how it felt?

RP: -  Someone said it to me that we were in the lap of the mods and I thought it was great, so we used it as the title. That’s how it felt. They’d meet us on their scooters and we’d meet them in the pub before the gigs. We were like mates; there was no differentiation between us and the audience. We were all regular guys; we didn’t put on any airs and graces. It was all, “You got any leapers? Yeah, great”.

MR: – We refer to the Action nowadays as a Mod band but did you consider yourselves Mods? Did you think in those terms?

RP: -  No, I don’t think anybody did. I don’t think people had this idea early on of being this thing called mod. It was just smart blokes. We used to like mohair suits and very smart Italian clothes. We never really had a concept of what it was. I would say we were a sort of soul band.

MR: – The Small Faces had accounts the length of Carnaby Street for their clothes, where did yours come from?  Did you buy them yourselves?

RP: - Yeah, John Stephens, Carnaby Street, all those. We bought them ourselves. There’s a picture of us in the book outside Harry Fenton’s, once we’d put the clothes on and had our photograph taken we had to put the clothes back. “The Action supplied by Harry Fenton” but they never gave us anything. It was the same with drums. If I wanted to play Premier drums I had to buy them, you needed a hit record before they’d give you anything. Keith Moon got a contract with Premier.

MR: – Were you mates with Keith Moon and The Who?

RP: – Sort of because we did a lot of gigs with them and used to support them for quite a while so we were sort of friendly but they were always a bunch of piss takers so I didn’t really want to spend too much time around them. I remember at the press release at the Marquee for “Never Ever” Moonie was throwing peanuts at us.

MR: – Your drum kit had a two bass drum set-up which others also used, where did that idea come from?

RP: – A lot of people may tell you otherwise but I was definitely the first person to get two bass drums at the Marquee. Definitely. Then Moonie got two, Ginger Baker got two, Mitch Mitchell got two, and then most of the other drummers got two. So then I took mine away and just had the one. Buddy Rich had two bass drums and I thought it looked really smart, but it was nice with the tambourine as it gave that off-beat. We didn’t have someone playing the tambourine so when I was playing I didn’t use the hi-hat, just used the bass drum for the off-beat with the tambourine, which was important for The Action’s sound. You could do some amazing things with the two.

MR: – It gave you that good Motown sound. Where were you hearing those kinds of records?

RP: - We got them through Mike’s mum who worked for EMI so she used to get us all these obscure records. We weren’t really into the mainstream Tamla, we were into Stax and really obscure stuff. There was also the DJ at the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. We used to go back to his house after the club to hear them and Guy Stephens used to give us stuff. That’s where we got a lot of the info. Then we’d learn them and try to put our own little spin on them.

MR: – When you did the all-nighters how many sets were you playing throughout the night?

RP: - Sometimes we’d do three sets. Three quarters of an hour each and usually you’d be the only band. They’d be records, we’d do a set, more records, then yet another set.

MR: – There must be a lot of songs you played live but didn’t record.

RP: - In the book there is a playlist of every song we ever played. We didn’t repeat songs in a night. We might occasionally do one twice if it was really popular. We wouldn’t repeat “Land of a 1000 Dances” or anything but “Needle in a Haystack” we might do twice or “Heatwave” as people loved that. We had a good lot of songs and we used to rehearse all the time.

MR: – The collector’s edition ‘In The Lap of the Mods’ includes your audition disc of The Temptations’ “Girl (Why Do You Want To Make Me Blue)” you made for Decca. What do you remember about that and Decca turning you down?

RP: - Nothing! I remember going in to this big executive office at their studios. We played three songs but only one was actually taped which was that one. Jane bought it on eBay. Mike knew it was genuine but was saying it wasn’t, so as to put off the other bidders!

MR: – Did you stay for the all-nighters after you’d played them?

RP: - Yes it wasn’t worth going back. They’d finish at six in the morning and we’d stay up and drive back with a little help so we weren’t falling asleep at the wheel.

MR: – Were you taking many drugs?

RP: - We were all on leapers most of the time because we were doing all-nighters and otherwise you just couldn’t keep going. We got busted at the Birdcage for amphetamines. We were all in the dressing room when suddenly all these policemen came in. Everyone was dropping stuff. I think they found some amphetamines in Mike’s pocket and took him away to the police station so we had to go and try getting him bailed out so we could finish the gig.

MR: – How did LSD enter the scene?

RP: - In the early days we were one of the first people to take acid because it had just come over from America and we knew people in Pond Street who had gallons of LSD. These people came over just to turn on London. And when we were staying with Nick Jones in Bognor this guy came down to turn us on and that was our first acid trip. I couldn’t believe it.

MR: – Was the trip arranged beforehand?

RP: - Yes, it was a party and it was about twelve o’clock and this guy was about to arrive.  We didn’t want to trip with all these people around so we thought we’d better try and get rid of them so we put on a crazy Albert Ayler LP and everyone said “I gotta go now”. He gave us this stuff, I think it was me and Mike, maybe Bam, but not all the band wanted to take it. I remember sitting there about half an hour later and looked at Mike and he looked at me and we just started laughing and laughing and laughing.  It made life so funny and so stupid. We tripped all night and went out to the beach. To be honest it did destroy people, I know a lot of people who didn’t make it. You needed a strong inner core and need to be comfortable with yourself.  We tripped actually on Ready Steady Go, me and Mike and then got spiked afterwards. We’d gone back to this guy’s house and were coming down from the trip and he gave us some toast and we started freaking out again wondering what was happening. He’d put more LSD on it. It was only when he told us that we thought thank goodness for that.

MR: – There seemed such a huge shift from the mod days once 1967 arrived.

RP: - By ’67 all the underground stuff started happening in London with the UFO Club in Tottenham Court Road. A lot of the psychedelic bands were self-indulgent nothing.  I didn’t like Pink Floyd or any of those bands, I couldn’t get into it. The all-nighters at the Roundhouse people were all over the place. The drugs had changed. With the old amphetamines everyone liked a chat, wanted to be your mate, it was brilliant. When people were taking acid it was totally different. It’s an important thing drugs and culture, they’re a totally interlinked thing. I mean, but even if the mods weren’t taking uppers they were very chatty, friendly people. At the Roundhouse people were isolated in their own heads, doing their own thing. It was like chalk and cheese. Mod gigs and the Roundhouse, unbelievable difference. I didn’t like the Roundhouse, it was too self-indulgent.

MR: – So what was it like when you were then playing one song for 45 minutes?

RP: - I wouldn’t call it psychedelic by any means. It was more jazzy, rock-jazz, but I liked the three minute things. In the space of half an hour you could get loads of brilliant records rather than one long thing. We lost touch with the club scene after a while, at the end of the Action, and got a bit disenchanted with it. The early days of the Action were the most exciting, when we were playing the Birdcage and stuff like that. That was an incredible time in the clubs.

MR: – When The Action got back together in 1998 it was great it was all original members, which is very unusual. How did that feel?

RP: - It had to be. We wouldn’t have done it otherwise. It was exciting and it felt like there was unfinished business, that somehow we hadn’t really closed the circle.  We knew it wasn’t going to be the same as we weren’t twenty anymore, so we knew it was going to be different but it was still worth doing as it was nice for people to see us again. It was awesome. I’m really pleased we did it as we got to meet people like Jane and Ian, Rob Bailey, yourself.

MR: – On some of the reunion shows you even included a sax player and some percussion; would you have liked to have had a Hammond player or a sax player back in the day?

RP: - I think so, it would have been great. That’s what I liked about Jimmy James and the Vagabonds; they had a nice big fat sound with an organist and a sax but the vocals were the main thing with the Action.

MR: – Did you help arrange the vocals harmonies?

RP: - Oh no, I wasn’t musical at all. Reg used to say, “Just shut up and bang the bloody drums!”  People used to call him Reg, and he’d say “Mister King, to you.”

MR: – Reggie was quite a character.

RP: - Reg was always a bit of wild card. He just started going funny, a bit out of control, towards the end of the Action days. We were playing a gig at the Blue Lagoon and all of a sudden Reg started climbing up this palm tree. The bouncers came up, Reg jumped off the tree, we’re still playing and the bouncers are chasing him around the audience whilst he’s still singing. “You’ll never play here again!” Then he got arrested on the M1 at the Blue Boar services. We’d eaten and had come out and were sitting in the van, ready to go, and it was “Where’s Reg?” We looked around, couldn’t find him and twenty minutes later this policeman comes up and knocks on the window. “Do you know Reg King?  He’s just been arrested for threatening someone with a plastic knife.” I don’t know what it was about, something about where he wanted to eat his egg and chips. Eventually we just decided, a sort of mutual thing, to move on. But he got his head together a bit and we worked with him on his album. The trouble was once we started doing stuff like John Coltrane’s “India” what was he going to do while we played that for half an hour? Stand there and go “Elephants… Elephants”?

MR: – Did you think Reg leaving would give the band more freedom or did you think that was going to be the end?

RP: - No, you just go through a transition you don’t think “Oh I’m changing now into something else.” It was very subtle. It’s only when you look back in retrospect you realise you’ve changed from A to B. So it didn’t affect us that much. After Reg, Rod Stewart was going to join the Action at one point. We knew him quite well and when Reg didn’t make a gig at the Twisted Wheel Rod sang a few songs with us. But it didn’t materialise as he then got into the Faces as they’d had some hits and were bigger than we were.  We also tried to get the organist Keith Emerson. I went round to his flat to ask him if he’d be interested and he said he would’ve been but was just joining the Nice. We got Ian Whiteman and Martin Stone in and became more of a jazz-funk-jamming band.

MR: – How did that go down with your audience?

RP: - It depended where we played. Some people were bored with it; some people sort of liked it. We got to a point where we didn’t know where we were and the audience didn’t know quite what we were doing.  It took us a bit of time to find our direction with Mighty Baby when we started writing our own stuff.

MR: – How long did you keep the Action name after Reg left?

RP: - About six months I think. It was sadly a bit of a mess really. We did want to somehow change. Pete Watson left, even when Reg was still with us people would come up to us at gigs and say “Oi, you’re not the Action!” which was fair enough really because we were doing new stuff we’d written and  we were all wearing Granny Takes A Trip suits. It was a transition period. We started getting into West Coast, Captain Beefheart, Love. Things like “Dustbin Full of Rubbish” which Ian Whiteman wrote was still the Action, but it wasn’t the Action. We didn’t have a new name basically until we went with John Hurd at Head Records and we said we had to change the name and he came up with Mighty Baby, which I wasn’t that keen on as it felt a bit silly but in retrospect it was all right and we then did a couple of albums.

MR: – Do you look back at the periods of the Action and Mighty Baby differently or is it one continuous thing?

RP: - No, as different lives, definitely. The Action was very exciting. The whole scene, the music, the atmosphere in the clubs was brilliant. As soon as you walked in those clubs, the Marquee, the Birdcage, you could feel people were really into it. With Mighty Baby you had to create an atmosphere with the music, you really had to win them over, which was more difficult. With Mighty Baby we were searching, it was a time of introspection and because we’d all downed massive amounts of LSD what we thought was real wasn’t real. Once you’d taken acid, tables were like vibrating with energy and flowers were absolutely stunning, you know. You have to rethink totally who you are and what life’s about. We became like travelling philosophers. I was listening to one of the Mighty Baby tracks on the train coming down, “Tasting The Life”, which is all about seeking, searching, holy islands.  Whenever we’d do gigs as Mighty Baby if there was a castle we’d go there, Stonehenge we’d stop there, so we were always seeking some meaning in life through our music. In Mighty Baby we were analysing life, who we were. In the Action we weren’t, we were just being the life.


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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 monkeypicks.co.uk. I like the poetry of Charles Bukowski and dislike the taste of cheese.

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May 21, 2012 By : Category : Articles Front Page Inspiration Interviews Scene UK Tags:, , , ,
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College Scarves – Via Uppers

The most stylish way to defend your neck from the icy north wind is with a college scarf.

The college scarf is a simplepiece of unisex outdoor wear: made from cloth, it is long and wide, a joy to wrap several times around the neck. Unlike knitted scarves and most cravats, the college scarfeschews dangly tassels, and its simple rectangular shape is a minimalist’s delight. Yet it still carries with it a dandyish charm, consisting of long stripes of colour; each design consisting of at least two, and sometimes up to six, different colours.

It is an item that carries much semantic meaning: it appears at scooter rallies and mod clubs in the winter, but kids still wear them at uniform-obsessed schools (usually of the fee-paying or academically selective variety), and they are sold in university gift shops along with crystal paperweights and tiepins.

Prestige – both social and academic – comes with the wearing of the college scarf, originating as it does from the dreaming spires of Oxbridge (the ancient Medieval university cities of Oxford and Cambridge). According to the company Luke Eyres, manufacturer of scarves for Ede & Ravenscroft, “To our knowledge Mr Hopkins and Mr D Eyres were the instigators of the traditional University scarf. In1938/9 a Mr Hopkins worked for Almonds in Cambridge who used to supply knitted scarves to the Universities. Due to the war, wool was in short supply so they had to find an alternative material to use. Mr Hopkins met Mr D Eyres and they came up with the idea of using woven material in replacement. This woven material was torn into strips and used for the university scarves, thus starting the beginning of the vertical striped scarf. After the war although the knitted scarves were then available most of the Universities decided to stay with the new cloth arrangement. The scarves were mainly produced for the Cambridge Universities and Boat clubs but soon became popular within all the Universities.” The scarf colours are based on each college’s crest, and are also used on the blades of each college’s rowing club oars, as can be seen at the Queens College scarf site.

At Oxbridge, undergraduates are traditionally supposed to wear their gownsto dinner, lectures and exams. This does not seem to have been the tradition at the newer British universities, the ‘redbricks’ established in the 1800’s. Here, gowns were only worn at the tradition-laden graduation ceremony. To identify themselves as students for the rest of their time at university, the college scarf was adopted. As with those from Oxbridge, former redbrick students sometimes wear their scarves when they’re middle aged, just as old men wear their proud regimental ties.

College Scarves

Unlike Oxbridge, the redbricks aren’t (usually) amalgamations of colleges, so at some universities student pride is displayed by the different scarves available for different departments. At my alma mater (lit. trans. ‘soul mother’!), the University of Birmingham, the Arts & Humanities Department scarf is black with blue, purple and yellow stripes, whereas the scarf for the School of Dentistry is mainly green, and there are separate scarves for Engineering and Medicine as well. The colour choice of the departmental scarves is unfathomable. It isn’t only from the university crest, as it is only red, blue and gold. It seems possible that the colours could be influenced by the different colour hoods worn at graduation with the gowns, which are different colours to show the degree. At Birmingham, the BA hood is black and blue-grey, for MBA it’s terracotta and white, for MPhil it’s black and green, and the PhD hood is maroon and mid-green (along with a fantasticHenry VIII-style hat). At Sussex, Bachelors hoods are made from fake fur – well, it is in Brighton.

At some point in the early twentieth century, the college scarf was adopted by schools. Its clean shape is perfect for the neatness required in school uniform and the colour-coding of the stripes could easily incorporate the school colours already used in the tie, blazer and hat. The development of school uniform is oddly fascinating, so I recommend the website mentioned below. It focuses on boys’ uniforms, so I still don’t know why my primary school uniform included a felt hat like an air hostess – not that I minded having to wear it, of course.

This is where problems arise: the very simplicity of the college scarf means that not many colleges, universities and schools need to adopt it before several institutions end up with identical scarves. Here is an example. The scarf for my primary school was 3 navy blue stripes and 2 white stripes (the hat mentioned above was navy blue with a navy blue band zig-zagged with a white stripe). When I reached the sixth form, I considered myself to be a mod and, though I no longer needed to wear school uniform, wore my blue and white scarf from primary school. The History teacher approached me with excitement – “Who do you know who went to UCL? I went there!” And so (thanks to my teacher’s failing eyesight – the UCL scarf colours are actually purple and light blue!), had the identification and camaraderie of the college scarf gone slightly awry. Do not, therefore, be surprised if, when trolling about town in the college scarf you bought at a jumble sale, a random stranger clasps you to their bosom, wanting to reminisce with you their fond memories of their own Rag Week and the ‘fun’ drunken nights at the student union bar.

But why was the college scarf adopted by the mod fraternity? In the 1950’s,beatniks in Britain wore the college scarf with duffle coats (another WW2 innovation, worn by the navy in the North Atlantic. The toggles, instead of buttons, were to make fastening the coat easy with cold-numbed fingers). The beatnik posing intellectualism required a hint of academic background. Perhaps the college scarf shows how, yet again, some aspect of mod evolvedfrom beatnik. But maybe, like the parka, the college scarf was adopted by mods for purely practical reasons. Scootering in Britain, you are at risk from rain, muddy puddles and chill-blains. Whereas the parka – youth cult signifier and whopping cliché – was a way of defending suits from muddy splashes, the college scarf was a neat, sharp item that would keep drafts from freezing exposed necks.

Unlike the schools and universities the college scarf was stolen from, there have never been mod colours prescribed. Yes, how amusing, anyone for red, white and blue? But then, it would be better to make use of the different stripe colours to coordinate smashingly with your outfit.

© Helen Barrell 2003 – 2011
[Published via Uppers 8 September 2003]


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January 30, 2012 By : Category : Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, , , ,
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Female Mod Style – via Uppers

The Three Basics to Female Mod Style

Of course it is impossible to paraphrase mod style into three distinct rules, these rules are merely the basics, the foundation in which to begin…

It is almost impossible to write a comprehensive article on the subject without debate, mods defend their fashion and style ferociously often arguing amongst themselves as to whether one article of clothing or another is mod or not. As with anything the style is individual, there is no strict formula. Despite all of the different interpretations however it is not difficult to spot a mod; you definitely know one when you see one.

In the 1960’s when the subculture began in London, things were a bit more black and white especially for the girls, flipping through old photographs or books such as the Mods book it is plain to see that the female mod had an androgynous look to her, usually short cropped or bobbed hair, minimal makeup, simple almost frumpy clothing, back then their goal was to emulate the boys.

Now more than thirty years later things are quite different, women no longer find it appealing to look like their male counterparts, rather they usually find a particular style of the sixties that they prefer and build on that, they develop their own style, their own interpretations of what is mod. There are some aspects of it that change as frequently as the weather but the underlying basics stay the same. Nowadays there is a looser interpretation of the mod look.

Of course, none of this should be new to anyone who is well acquainted with the mod scene. But just in case you are not, or you want to hear the opinion and taste of someone who has been involved for a long time then read on; I am not about to sit here and preach as to what is or isn’t mod as far as clothing is concerned, but for now I will go over three important yet often unspoken basic rules:

RULE #1 – CONFIDENCE IS THE BEST ACCESSORY
The sharpest mods are the ones who have a cool calm about them, a certain poise. When I was first getting involved in the scene there was a female mod who was, in my opinion, the picture of style and confidence; she had the look just right, she knew she looked the best and she didn’t have to prove it to anyone. She wasn’t conceited, simply self assured.
This confidence, perhaps quiet arrogance comes from experience, from doing your research yet forming your own opinions and style. It is undefined yet ever present. There is no need to explain yourself or defend your look.

RULE #2 – DO IT CORRECTLY OR NOT AT ALL
Have you ever seen someone at a club or show perhaps who just didn’t get it right? Usually those who are new to the mod scene fall victim to this. The clothing is worn wrong or perhaps they mixed fashions from different parts of the decade. I was sitting at the bar at Mod Nite at Kate O’ Brian’s having a coke and whiskey with my best friend Blake when a girl walked in wearing a lovely cocktail dress dating from approximately 1964, the problem was that she didn’t bother finding shoes that at least appeared to be from the period. She wore a pair of stacked chunk heels with a rounded toe. Sounds rather petty, but it defied the entire point and marred the whole look. The same goes for those who don’t bother to tailor their clothes, they wear skirts or dresses that are too tight or hang too loose. Again, why bother then?

RULE #3 – QUALITY IS KEY!
This is quite possibly the most important of the three rules. Quality is definitely key. It is better to spend a large sum of money on one dress or suit that is in good condition and looks good on you than to spend the same amount on an entire truckload of clothing that has small holes, stains that wont come out, torn lining, or generally so far gone that its beyond repair.
This may sound obvious, but quite often you see someone who has the hem of her skirt or dress hanging down or doesn’t seem to notice that stain in the armpit. It is getting more and more difficult finding good quality mod clothing now, smaller boutiques are your best bet however be prepared to pay for it. Another option is to find yourself a good tailor and have clothes made, that way you are certain to have top of the line quality and there isn’t a danger of walking into a club and seeing three other girls with a similar outfit. Tailoring is of course very expensive but becoming more and more of a necessity.

Generally mods are a mysterious group, they stand out of a crowd in a positive way, no other subculture pays such scrupulous attention to authenticity and detail. It takes experience and time to get the look just right, and to build a proper wardrobe. Of course it is impossible to paraphrase mod style into three distinct rules, these rules are merely the basics, the foundation in which to begin. The key is to find your own style while being aware of these basics and remembering the philosophy of the subculture. Look your best, ride the best bike, and conduct yourself with the utmost poise and class.

© Victoria Bowen 1997 – 2011
[Published 2 February 1997]

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January 28, 2012 By : Category : Articles Fashion Front Page Style Tags:, , ,
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Sexy Sixties – Prologue

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Sexy Sixties

The man is walking along the corridor. His expression shows anything but happiness, yet he goes on head strong with a light, almost imperceptible grin on his face. It is not the first time he’s looking at those walls. They’re quite familiar to him; many a time he’s been judged and condemned in that very place. But he’s not concerned about things to come. Not at all. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. The faces of the two guards at his side are indifferent, controlled by years of routine.

“Let the culprit in” – a voice says.

The trial begins.

The corpus delicti is an illustrated magazine, “Folies de Paris et de Hollywood”. It sells very well but some issues are blocked and seized by the police. Needless to say, it’s not the usual magazine that middle class families like to be found at their homes.

Less than fifty minutes later, the defendant is charged with several crimes, all connected with the word ‘decency’.

The year is 1957 and the place is Paris. The man is taken away from the court and arrested but he knows he’s going to be out of jail within three weeks. As a photographer, he considers himself an artist. Taking pictures of naked women – completely naked – is part of his art, part of his talent. How can they expect him to stop using his talent just because they deem it ‘offensive’ to public morality? It’s never going to happen, of course.

The problem is that we are in the Fifties and showing pubic hair in a nude picture is considered a proper crime, according to French law – especially when a lot of the girls depicted look so much more like typical girls-next-door than actual experienced models. This is totally intolerable to the bourgeoisie of Paris, a city ironically well known for decades of licentiousness.

The man grins, thinking about himself appearing in the papers, often described as a ‘subversive’, while his hands are soaked in the photo-processing liquid, lifting the paper from one basin to another and contemplating the images emerging from the white.

Another set of pics, another girl, another issue of “Folies” ready to be printed with its sexy contents. And – probably – another charge with offence to public morality. There’s nothing he can do about it: he loves women and he loves the way he can celebrate their beauty through his very own vision of sexiness – a sexiness often blatantly exhibited but also ironic, suggestive, sometimes even poetic. From time to time he also becomes the subject of his shots, being photographed with his models.

The photographer produces a huge quantity of pics during the years, out of the Fifties, straight into the Sixties, Seventies and so on, a true, original agent provocateur of sensuality, establishing – very much like Russ Meyer – a new direction for erotic imagination. As times get more tolerant, he finds himself less involved with courts and judges – a sort of victory, we’d say.

            Is this the end of the story?

            No, it’s just the beginning.

            And, by the way, did I not mention the man’s name?

            Serge Jacques.


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Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue", "Misty Lane" and “EyePlug”). During the years he realized loads of illustrations, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European clubs and bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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January 26, 2012 By : Category : Articles Essays Front Page Inspiration Literature Style Tags:, , ,
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