Browsing Tag The Stairs

LBB11 Review

LBB11 – Thursday

The Stairs, Graham Day & The Forefathers, The Wicked Whispers

Cor, blimey, Le Beat Bespoke ELEVEN? It only seems five minutes since the last one: what’s more, it only seems like yesterday I was musing on exactly the same thoughts. Wherever do our lives go?

This year is decidedly a bold step for the New Untouchables: for the first time, there is not one band or artist gracing the bill whose career predates the early-80s. THE WICKED WHISPERS, who like tonight’s headliners hail from equatorial Merseyside. Whilst I’ve never heard them before, their sound and appearance seem strangely familiar: (they twang their Rickenbackers and Telecasters with youthful fervour and exuberance, know their way round an eerie melody, and recall the Toytown stylings of Factory and Kaleidoscope as much as the West Coast hallucinogens of the Byrds, Charlatans and Music Machine, whose standout tune The People In Me they end with) their early 90s indie influences, by now an inevitable facet of any psych revival act, give them a defiantly British identity far more refreshing than many of their contemporaries’.

By contrast, GRAHAM DAY and his arse-kicking beat combo THE FOREFATHERS have always known where they want to be (in a word, Medway, where they’ve always been) and they revel in it. Sandwiched between two quintessentially North-Western acts, they couldn’t be more “Sahf Eastern” if they tried: whereas mate and mentor Billy Childish has spent half his career soaking up primal Americanisms, Day and long-term colleague Allan Crockford have always sounded, despite sharing the exact same blues, garage and RnR influences, like the bunch of Kents they are. This, of course, is why all their former bands were brilliant, and why they’re great. Thrashing through the tracks from their 2014 longplayer “Good Things” ( a mixture of Prisoners, Gaolers, Solar Flares and Prime Movers numbers re-recorded the way Day always envisaged them) they’re essentially, though they won’t thank me for this, the Mod or psych-garage-head’s equivalent to Motorhead, AC/DC or early Quo: rock’n’roll at its most undiluted and wilfully uncommercial, yet ironically featuring Beatles/Kinksesque hooks and melodies that could batter most so-called “mainstream” artists into oblivion.

And though something’s clearly up with Day’s guitar (thus robbing Love Me Lies and Begging You of about 30 percent of their overdrive) and Crockford’s allegedly brought the “wrong setlist”, these distractions only determine the trio further to grind such gremlins underfoot. Following a slight lull in pace, Sucking Out My Insides revives proceedings with incendiary aggression: the encore of Joe South’s/Deep Purple’s Hush is an arguably unnecessary adjunct to their own, far superior I Drink The Ocean, but one supposes every rock’n’roller must pay respect to his influences sometime and this has been in the set list on and off since the Prisoners days. The question is, will Day ever again channel his inherent Purpleness into performing selections from the Prime Movers’ Earth Church or Arc albums? What do you mean, “piss off”?

To mark their first London appearance in over 20 years, THE STAIRS have seemingly brought along an entire Scouse Mafioso of devotees and even if some of them do spend the entire set complaining about the volume (try not talking over everything, duckie, and you’ll hear it) the awe and reverence in which we all still hold them “dahn ere” obviously still pales into insignificance compared to their Godlike status up the ‘Pool. And so it should: without Edgar Summertyme-Jones and crew’s early 90s efforts, half the subsequent psych, R’n’B and indie acts that followed in their wake simply wouldn’t have followed. The Coral? Had they never heard “Mexican R’n’B”, they’d probably all be stacking shelves in the Hoylake branch of Tescos right now. Truly, the Stairs were, and are, that important so, now they’ve finally returned to show the pretenders how to do it properly, will they live up to the legend?

From the opening blues-pummel of Mary Joanna and Flying Machine, it would definitely seem (even if lead guitarist Ged Lynn’s distortion pedal doesn’t appear to be plugged in) that this is the case: When It All Goes Wrong and Mundane Monday have much the same (if more refined and textured) impact, although Russian Spy & I bumps the energy levels back to party proportions.

Woman Gone & Say Goodbye, Mr Window Pane and the evergreen Right In The Back Of Your Mind are as swaggeringly cocksure as any triumvirate of tunes can be, hitting the assembled fans (many of whom, including me, never saw ‘em first time round) in all the designated places. Conversely, just as many are bemused by both sides of the new single A Thousand Miles Away/Shit Town, the former sounding like extreme Canterbury prog fed through Robin Trower’s blues blender and the latter like the Swell Maps or TV Personalities on harder drugs than either ever took, but I personally find their uncompromising experimentalism encouraging after all, do you really want your favourite band to reform 20-odd years on having not developed in any way whatsoever? The Stairs have never danced to anyone’s tune but their own, and that’s what makes them special. And, somehow or other, I don’t see things changing. The final song of the set is Skin Up and the encore is (what else) Weed Bus. The Stairs represent the embodiment of everything New Untouchables has ever been about. Welcome back gentlemen.

LBB11 – Saturday

Jim Jones & The Rightous Mind plus Little Barrie and The Dustaphonics

Having sadly forgone Friday’s shenanigans, Saturday promised to be undoubtedly the most “rock n roll” of all four nights: definitely the most radical departure from the original NUTs template since the days of Circulus, albeit louder.

My apologies to the DUSTAPHONICS, who I was unable to see due to a family engagement in not-so-sunny West Kensington: having heard positive things about them, I was keen to catch at least some of their set, but after a while, it became apparent this wasn’t going to happen, something which also became increasingly true of LITTLE BARRIE as the hours wore on.

Nonetheless, the two songs I did catch were superb, full of bottom-heavy, fuzz-bass groove, and (though comparisons must be wearing thin by now) worthy of Zep at their best. Even from those eight minutes alone, it was evident that LB are not only light years ahead of any other band on the UK “vintage” scene, but any worldwide combo currently lauded as saviours of veteran heavy rock. Sadly, because of Barrie’s commitments (Morrissey, Primal Scream) they’ll possibly never be as big as the goddam should be. General sensors of opinion was that this was the show of the weekend

JIM JONES and the Righeous Mind mix the best elements of all three of Jones prior aggregations through a demonic, disjointed blender: it still rocks out, particularly on the thrudding grandeur of Base Is Loaded, Hold Up and Walk It Out, but there are more than three chords now, and it’s more angular, uncompromising. More Beefheart than Berry, more Red Krayola than Otis Redding, more King Crimson than King Curtis, more Sun Ra than Sun Studios. Unfortunately, this also means several quieter, blues’n’ jazz-tinged interludes, which a fair percentage of the crowd opt to natter over: whether this is down to the Mind being the most unusual Le Beat headliner yet or simply the unfamiliarity of the material is unclear, but there are definitely less transfixed attendees at the back than at the front. Once the album’s out and fully ingrained in their collective consciousness, though, they’re bound to pay more attention: with closing numbers as powerful as Alpha Shit, it looks as if they won’t have any choice in the matter anyway, and even Boil Yer Blood, which I have to admit I was resolutely unimpressed by on first hearing, is transformed into a stomping monster live, the dirtbox rhythms of drummer Lee Martini smashing thin air whilst Jones lurches and struts like some unhinged hybrid of Lee Brilleaux and Bill Hicks. Such a thunderous climax can’t fail to make impact, and by the closing chords, everyone’s been won over.


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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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May 4, 2016 By : Category : Bands Clubs DJs Events Front Page Music Reviews Tags:, , , , ,
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Masters – The Stairs

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Masters3

The Stairs were truly one of the great lost bands of the early Nineties, championed by Elvis Costello, Paul Weller and many other luminaries, they influenced (along with the La’s), a whole new generation of musicians including The Coral & The Zutons).

We are delighted to have The Stairs headline at Le Beat Bespoke, London, on Thursday 24 March. See full details HERE!

Mark Raison caught up with drummer Paul Maguire  & vocalist and bassist Edgar “Summertyme” Jones.

01. The Stairs first came to most people’s notice after you signed to Go! Discs and released “Weed Bus” in 1991. Can you tell us a bit about the formation of the band and your history up to that point?

Edgar: We were just psychedelically attached friends having a laugh really in bedrooms and bedsits with acoustic guitars banging ashtrays etc . Eventually we were borrowing the only spare time in my bro’s pracky room with a friend Pete Baker (the sleeping mexican on LP sleeve) on bass and me on guitar. Pete didn’t really take to the bass so things were slow. We gradually gained some momentum when I joined in Ian McCulloch’s group on bass (mid 89) and took over the bass duties in the group. Also now we were able to afford are own room and gear.

It wasn’t till we played and handful of our songs at a ridiculously rammed new years eve party (1990) at Mike Mooneys house that we realised that we were capable of pleasing anyone other than ourselves. We got a fortnightly residency at the Cosmos club playing covers & originals. Marc Riley was often in attendance & Alan Duffy from imaginary records came to check us and plans were formulated to record our 1st Ep (later sold on to Go Discs) with them.

Paul: Me and Edgar met on a youth music scheme around 89, we had a similar music interest of 60s garage punk. Ed had a few tunes he had written including weed bus, which we jammed and me and him started there. Ed knew Ged who was on the same music scheme so we roped him in . We skinned up and we got it together. We had our own night every Friday in the cosmos club where we played a set of covers, then we’d dj then we would play our numbers.

02. The first couple of EP sleeves and the shows around that time featured a fourth member, Jason. What was his role and what happened to him?

Edgar: Jason was a friend whose role was originally in his words as personal manager but eventually we managed to Coax him on-stage to play percussion, gob iron & keys as required. I don’t think he really took to the role as he would come & go frequently from the group. The comparisons to Bez & Eric Idle didn’t really help I suppose.

Paul: Jason was meant to be our manager in the beginning, but he wasn’t any good at that stuff. So we gave him a harmonica and maracas which he played. Haven’t seen him for years.

03. Go! Discs seemed to understand where the Stairs were at: recording in mono, strong 60s artwork etc. How was your relationship with them and why did it come to an end? What was their expectation of the band you signed?

Edgar: Thanks to being well-managed at the time by Pam Young we went to them with a strong vision of how we wanted things to look and I think they had fun what with it being a little different from their norm at the time. Our A+R man initially was Carl Smith (chas smash) from Madness. We were his first signing and he was very accommodating and enthusiastic. Unfortunately Madness reformed shortly a few months after our LP came out. With no key man clause in contract that was were our troubles began.

Paul: With go discs we were signed by Carl smith (chas smash from madness) who really loved our band. He got us the deal, liked all the artwork and the mono deal. He understood our band and was good dealing with us.
Then he decided to leave go discs. When Carl left there was no one there who understood the band. They thought we were a bit of a joke and didn’t know what to do with us. We left them pretty soon after.

The Stairs

04. Mexican R’n’B is, quite rightly, regarded is a classic LP. How did you feel about it when it came out and how do you view it now?

Edgar: Why thank you sir! How I felt at the time is a complex affair I’d need Sigmund Freud and couch and a few hours to get to the bottom of that. I’m definitely happier now as it seems to have stood the test of time. We definitely created a little slice of the 60’s in the early 90’s there.

Paul: I loved that album then and I still love it now. I’m very proud to have been involved and made Mexican. We were still all learning our instruments and grooves and singing when we recorded it. I thought at the time and I still think it now that Edgar is a genius. His songs and playing were so fucking cool. We were recording this at a time most of the world was getting into acid house. We wanted to give the general public something else to listen to. Get them on the Weed bus so to speak.

05. People often refer to your marijuana singles – ‘Weed Bus’, ‘Mary Joanna’ – but I’ve always noticed the preoccupation with rain on Mexican R’n’B, at least three songs mention it. Any correlation?

Edgar: I was probably because I was spending too much time in Manchester as their retrogressive shopping experience has always been far superior to ours despite the constant rain!

Paul: Well you’d have to ask Edgar that. Personally I like rain, except when it gets me spliff wet at the bus stop.

06. After being released from Go! Discs you were still gigging, recording and exploring different styles. How were the band developing at that time and why didn’t a second album materialise?

Edgar: Looking back I think we were too eager to move on from the Mexican R’n’B sound (we should have made another 3 of those really) and with having no one at Go to recognise this (not that we’d have listened) and with the copious amounts of weed being smoked I think we just wanted our music to be more mad really both structurally and sonically. The fact that I was just starting wholeheartedly to discover Soul music too just confused matters. We we’re constantly demoing but Go weren’t prepared to let us start a new LP as such. This went on for about 2 yrs and then we left the Label.

Paul: We started to sound a bit heavier, and we got better at playing. We loved touring always a good laugh. But it was hard to get any backing , we weren’t being taken seriously by any record company or music papers. We spent all our money recording the second album, so at the end no one wanted to release it.

The Stairs

07. Viper Records eventually released Who Is This Is. What are your thoughts on that? Is that how you’d envisaged the second album?

Edgar: After leaving Go we thought it a good idea to record the LP ourselves. A long-winded complicated affair with members coming & going. By the time it was done we’d about run out of speed hence it not seeing the light of day till Viper’s release.

Paul: I’m glad we did it, for me it has some great moments. But looking back it also sounds confused,which I suppose we were also at the time.

08. How did you feel about the reaction from your reunion gig in Liverpool? Had you kept in touch? Is it something you’d thought about over the years?

Edgar: Absolutely smashing! We’d all kept in touch but our paths only ever brought us together sporadically but usually only 2 of us in same room at same time. The first rehearsal was great when we kicked into Mary Jo it was more like we’d had 2 weeks off rather than 20+yrs. It was great to see the 2 tiers in our fan base that night. Those who were older and were coming back to see us again and the younguns who were there to witness the legend that got created by word of mouth in the past 20 yrs. The crowd reaction was fantastic I don’t think either tier felt let down.

Paul: The reunion gig was magik, the reaction was just overwhelming for all of us I think. Incredible, old fans , new fans. They knew all the words ha ha. I’ve always bumped into Ed round town when I’m there as I live in Reykjavik. I hadn’t seen Ged for years. We all moved in slightly different circles. I’d been hoping we could do at least one gig for a few years. And when Mike from the Wicked Whispers called me up, it felt exactly right. With the amount of toss that goes by the name of music nowadays, I think you need the stairs in your life.

The Stairs

09. What are the plans for the band now? Will you be recording new material? Any old material we’ve not heard before be resurrected from your archives or will you write from scratch?

Paul: We’re not sure just yet. Anything can happen in the next half hour.

10. There’s a new Stairs collection The Great Lemonade Machine In The Sky out now. Tell us about what’s on that.

Edgar: I’d recently found a suitcase full of cassettes in the loft at my mum’s that I thought had been thrown out when I’d left home way back. The previous Viper comp had come from the collections of friends and colleagues with my own thought lost at the time. So the idea was to create a second volume of ‘right in the back’ . I spent a fair bit of time trawling through them (lots were mix tapes etc.) and mixing down the 4 tracks where available and it was a real nice touch that it all came together in time the reforming of the group.

Paul: I left my copy in Liverpool so I haven’t listed to it yet. But I think it’s old demo tapes and some live tracks.

11. ‘Shit Town’ is a pretty mad single taken from it and might come as a bit of surprise to people who only know Mexican R’n’B. What was the story behind it and is it about anywhere in particular?

Edgar: It’s primarily about Liverpool if I’m right (Ged?). It was definitely one of the finest finds of the suitcase trawling. It was recorded during 2nd LP sessions. What you’re listening to is a remastered monitor mix. It was mixed with the others as Ged had left the group by that point.

Paul: You’d have to ask Ged, It’s obviously about Liverpool. The city was a lot different from it is now. On the other hand…

12. Which are your favourite three Stairs songs and why?

Edgar:

Weed Bus will always be big in my heart as it was my first song written in the Stairs style as such. Although it’s not our song I’ve always been proud of our arrangement of’ You Don’t Love Me. I guess to pick a third from the rest it’d be Right in the Back of Your Mind as its pretty kick ass and stress free to play out live (well for me anyhow?)

Paul:

1. Woman gone said goodbye. It’s just the best of us. Growly, beaty,
big and bouncy.

2. Mundane Monday. I think it’s such cool little groove, and we sing about rain.

3. Skin up. I love playing this live, but it’s a bit tricky to skin up and play the drums at the same time. I used to do it back in the days.

 

Photos: Mark McNulty

Website: www.markmcnulty.co.uk
Blog: www.rivercool.co.uk


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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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March 2, 2016 By : Category : Bands Events Front Page Interviews Music News Tags:, , , ,
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