Hollie Cook is British rock & roll royalty, a punk princess who’s Dad Paul is the drummer of the Sex Pistols. Her godfather is Boy George, Mum Jeni was a backing vocalist for the Cultured Clubber. Hollie tells stories of being baby-sat by David Bowie which are true & are better stories than mine…& yours. Blimey…she was in the Slits when they reformed in 2006 for an EP (ask your folks). In 2011 she released an eponymous LP which sounded absolutely fantastic.
The record was made with Mike Pelanconi who, as Prince Fatty, is at the controls of a reggae revival here in the UK. When it comes to reggae me, Althea & Donna a strictly roots. I think that Prince Fatty is too. Jamaican music of the 1970s has never gotten old for me. The logic & beauty of the rhythms continue to delight & enchant. the reggaefication of pop hits the brain-melting stoned dub of King Tubby (no relation to the Prince). “Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist”, indeed.
“Hollie Cook” & the subsequent “Prince Fatty Presents Hollie Cook In Dub” recalls some tasty Studio One distillation. Her sweet voice evokes the classic female vocalists of Lovers Rock but the tunes are no slavish facsimile of back in the day. The deal is that freshness & imagination is obligatory. There is big respect for the tradition so a cover of the Shangri-Las “Walking In The Sand” is not forced & fits right in. Studio toaster-in-residence Horseman does chat in the style of the Old Masters, Big Youth, Dillinger, the Princes, Allah & Mohammed because y’know, that is the way it’s done. I hope that there is more to come from the Hollie/Fatty partnership because this stuff is easy on the ear &, as you can see, Hollie is easy on the eye too.
Fatty got some of the old Reggae gang back together. I’m sure that there are plenty of Jamaican veterans eager to step into a 21st century studio with a young producer who gets it & wants to do the right thing. Prince Fatty chose his team well for “Survival of the Fattest” (2007) & “Supersize” (2010). Little Roy, Winston Francis & Dennis Alcapone were all prolific in the early 70s. Roy’s “Bongo Nyah” was in the front line of Rasta lyrics while Alcapone is a big influence on those great DJs named above. Once again there is a fresh, jump-up feel to the whole thing whether standards are being revived & invigorated or hip-hop tunes are getting the fatty treatment. This new version of Little Roy’s “Christopher Columbus”, a single in 2010, just sparkles. Seriously a Top 10 tune of this century for me.
There are more LPs from the posse Prince Fatty has assembled & here is a 10 minute clip of a radio session which will raise the lowest of spirits…guaranteed. Reggae has been part of British music for over 40 years now. My favourite music from the trip-hoppers, the electro boppers, the trance dancers all had reggae elements. It is such a good thing to hear how Fatty ignoring the jiggery-pokery, the production tricks & playing this music straight.
So…purely in the interests of research you understand…I checked for Hollie Cook’s rather attractive keyboard player. Marcia Richards is part of the Skints, school friends from up Woodford Green way & a new favourite band. Their 2012 LP “Part & Parcel” was funded through Pledgemusic & produced by our soundboy Prince Fatty. It is a pretty irresistible collection which does throw a lot of their influences at you but, with the Prince’s trademark, it is all done properly. They just need to avoid that cheeky, cheery, modern Cockney, knees-up Lily Allen thing. The LP & the videos for the singles are worth checking. The band are gigging a lot in the near future &, I’m sure, will be tearing it up at a summer festival near you. This home made video of a 5 star version of Dennis Brown’s first hit “Lips of Wine” proves that they know what they are about. More of this please & big luck to the Skints.
In 1959 the Royal Cinema, you know it, on Gilliatt St, near my Nana’s, stopped showing films because everyone was at home watching TV. I think it was that year that my family rented our first set. I wonder what we pointed our furniture at before that. The Royal became the Star Bingo Club, a new thing allowed by an Act of Parliament which liberalised gambling. There were lots of new things at the beginning of the decade… a Labour Government, the Twist, bouffant hairdos (well, ding dong !). Philip Larkin knew the score…
” Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP”. (Annus Mirabilis)
Yeah Man ! The Mersey Beatles, they certainly felt like a big new sexy noise for a big new post-war baby boom teenage bulge. That’s why a queue sinuated around the Star Bingo Club on a Saturday afternoon waiting for the “Teen Beat” music session to start. Live bands, records & soft drinks for the under 18’s. All down the line the juveniles, delinquent or otherwise, were chatting about the previous night’s TV programme which brought the best of the new British Beat to a living room near you.
“Ready Steady Go !” began in August 1963. The Stones first single “Come On” was still in the Top 30, the Beatles released “She Loves You”. The commercial & creative surge in British music had not been well served by the 2 TV channels (really !). Groups were shoe-horned awkwardly into light entertainment shows between the juggler & the mother-in-law jokes. The BBC’s flagship music show played records at a “Juke Box Jury” of 4 know-nothings who decided “hit” or “miss” &…erm…that’s all. RSG surrounded the music with its young, fashionable audience, capturing some of the excitement & informality that a TV studio/schedule still often deflates. This stuff caught on. The Fab Four appeared in October (Paul judged a miming contest !) & the show got its highest audience when they took over the show in March 1964. This clip has received a sound upgrade but “You Can’t Do That” is so good it should be heard at its best. John’s finest Arthur Alexander style songwriting , George’s shiny new Rickenbacker 360 Deluxe 12-string…a B-side as well.
I missed all of this. The vagaries of regional scheduling meant that, in my provincial backwater, the early Friday evening show did not come around until after 10.30 & that was…after my bedtime…hours after! These new bands from that London, the Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, the Kinks, playing the Thames Delta Blues, I would not get to see them until they made the charts. The BBC opted for quantity over quality with a new music show based on sales. The discourse on the concourse about “5-4-3-2-1”, the theme tune, or about that group who smash their instruments (the what ? The Who !) sounded so exciting, proof that the real fun only started when the kids were asleep. Something was happening in 1964, the RSG crew had a handle on what it was. The young production staff ditched the lip-synch & ran with a new national early evening slot which meant that I could finally see the thing.
The first young Modernist magpies about town favoured Italian fashion, New World rhythms, French cigarettes & philosophy. By 1964 Mod was more about dressing sharp, looking good on the dancefloor & while knocking over the local chemist looking for the pharmaceutical amphetamine or giving a rocker a kicking on a Bank Holiday, your getaway scooter waiting. The symbols of the next big youth movement were in place…you’ve seen “Quadrophenia”. “Ready Steady Go !” made the move from Mersey Beat to Mod giving impetus to its spread out of London up the new motorway system to the rest of the UK. I know, those original Mods viewed this dilution & subsequent commercialisation as the end of it all but, in the mid-60s, provincial British youth were better dressed, with better haircuts, than they had ever been.
RSG’s dance lessons & fashion tips were stiff & lame but there was just so much exciting new music around & whoever was booking the turns or picking the sounds was making plenty of good decisions. In March/April 1965 a roster of Tamla Motown artists had toured the UK to sparse audiences. RSG, prompted by producer & fan Vickie Wickham, filmed an hour long special “The Sound of Motown” featuring Martha & the Vandellas, the Miracles, 14 year old Stevie Wonder, the Temptations &, Motown’s only UK Top 20 act, the Supremes. Wickham’s best friend Dusty Springfield hosted the show. Dusty had been in a faux-folk trio, recorded overdramatic Euro-pop ballads but she had a heart full of soul & she was sheer class. The show was a blast of energy, a blur of hand clapping, foot stomping, funky butt Detroit Soul. We were able to match some faces to some tunes. Tamla Motown was here to stay.
This wonderful clip, Dusty getting some help on “Wishin’ & Hopin'”, her Bacharach & David US Top 10 hit, from Martha Reeves & the Vandellas is what live music TV can be & rarely is. Dusty & Martha seem to have been left to work it out for themselves & are liking what they have done. The gospel boost to finish makes for a unique performance by the Righteous Sisters.
The groups at “Teen Beat” was the first live music I saw. I think that I was a little underwhelmed at first, it was hardly the Swinging Blue Jeans was it ? Now I remember them as good bands from around the North of England who were ahead of those Top 20 fans. The reference point was the first LP by the Rolling Stones, released in April 64 (May in the US as “England’s Newest Hit Makers”). They all played approximate versions of “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, “You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” & surprisingly the soul-jazz groove of Phil Upchurch’s “You Can’t Sit Down”. Y’know if you saw a young bar band playing these songs tonight you would be impressed with their good taste. That was then, 1966 was Now ! & every group was expected to play some new songs.
“Knock On Wood”, “Hold On I’m Coming”, “Mr Pitiful”, this was the new canon. Motown was perhaps a touch too much what with the harmonies & the choreography…at the same time. The music made at Stax Records was raw, even more basic when there was no horn section, just 4 young energetic kids could fill the dance floor with these tunes. In September 1966 RSG handed over the show to the label’s figurehead Otis Redding. It was a case of light the blue touch paper & retire to a safe distance as Otis, backed by the Bar-Kays, made a compelling case to be considered as the most exciting act in music. Blue-eyed soul Brits, Chris Farlowe & the great Eric Burdon were invited along & joined in this clip of the closing “Shake”, Sam Cooke’s soul stormer. Eric never looked happier & rightly so. Years later I carried a video tape of this show around, ready to share the greatest 30 minutes of music TV ever. When Stax brought their tour to the UK there were full houses everywhere because people wanted a bit of what they had seen on RSG.
Then, in December 1966, the plug was pulled. Mod probably was past its sell-by-date, the Beat Boom was over but British music was as vibrant in 1967 as it had ever been. The commercial TV network were having none of it, having cancelled the other music show “Thank Your Lucky Stars” in June. Just 2 weeks before RSG ended the UK TV debut of Jimi Hendrix tore up the rule book & knocked us sideways. I had seen the Byrds, the Lovin’ Spoonful, for the first time on the show, I was going to have to dig a bit deeper to see the Doors or Jefferson Airplane because ITV would be not be helping. I would too, no longer get my weekly fix of Cathy McGowan, the Mod Dolly Bird next door who so successfully replaced the stiff DJs for hire with a naturalness, an enthusiasm & well, take a look, we were all a little in love with Cathy.
Strangeways here we are ! A crowd was gathering outside Manchester’s Victorian prison getting ready to Rock Against Racism, to “Stop The Nazis”. If you had been to other rallies/marches like this, had spent any time on a picket line, you knew that an amount of “hanging about” was a part of the day. It would not be cool for leftist groups to embrace the organizational efficiency characteristic of those bastards we wanted out of here. Stuff will get done…eventually. Now where did I leave that petition ? I liked it like that.
We were showing out for the Northern Carnival Against the Nazis, a quickly organized complement to the momentous day out & concert in London. Rock Against Racism & their allies the Anti Nazi League found they were able to engage & mobilize surprising numbers of the youth by hooking them up with a chance to have a punky reggae party in a park. It’s modern to view political commitment in terms of social pathology. Man, that neo-con bullshit, like trickle down economics, was just as wrong the last time they tried to put it on us. Manchester has a significant tradition of radicalism reaching back to the Luddism of early industrialization. The 40,000 people who rallied, marched then danced knew they were part of it & were adding to it.The kids are alright.
The Buzzcocks are, undoubtedly, punk legends. They are remembered for singles which linked a lyrical romanticism to minimalist punk power chords. Pete Shelley & co-founder Howard Devoto were not just early adopters they were on point for the Sex Pistols when it was more about the fury than the filth, fixing up 2 momentous, celebrated Manchester gigs for the new sensations. They trailblazed with the independent release of their climacterical debut EP “Spiral Scratch”, following up with “Orgasm Addict” & “What Do I Get ?”. Triple Wallop right there. Two LPs & 5 singles in a busy 1978 made them the pride of Manchester. This was a hometown gig , “Love You More” was the current record & the band just rocked Alexandra Park.
Steel Pulse, Handsworth Revolutionaries, had played at the London rally in April. We had watched their set from the sound desk, perched above the packed,rippling, excited crowd. On this day I found Pulse’s soundman Horace, an old friend, before the band’s set. His dreads were coming along. I remember the Michael Jackson ‘fro. He was not long back from a European tour with the Wailers, not sure what day it was & would have to guess what town we were in. Still, if you are not smoking the best weed on a Bob Marley tour then I don’t know where you would be. I left Horace to his job. I had spent all day in the company of 4 women, skanking with the sorority, bubbling to a Brummie band of brothers was the very thing to make a good day great.
The band had always hit the spot. “Handsworth Revolution” is a fine debut LP, remember that 12″ of “Ku Klux Klan” ? I guess that we had always seen them as straight out of Handsworth Wood Boys School, local youth made good.Those big support gigs had pushed them along & here was a more assured, confident, mature combo.Those impressive songs stretched & flowed seamlessly into serious dub versions. This was the day we discovered that Steel Pulse were about to go international & that felt right.
My wife wandered off to explore the grounds of the inner city park & returned with the cherry on the icing on the day’s Bakewell tart. Our 85 mile journey North from Birmingham had been sweet & dandy, a cheap ticket on a well organized fleet of coaches. My 19 year old kid brother & his girlfriend had made rather more effort to hitch hike the 100 miles West. Good one ! It’s a family affair, fighting the good fight together, Rick & Marlene doing exactly the same stupid shit that we did when we were teenagers. We were proud of them. They met our friends, we fed them, got them high, slipped them a few quid & wished them luck on their journey home. ( They did not have it, they slept on the platform of a railway station ).
I was in London in May 1977, staying with friends, looking at the results of the local council elections. The right-wing party of the day (there’s always one), the National Front, had attracted a disturbing amount of votes. This would not stand, it was time for action, time to shut these fuckers down. In August 1977 anti-fascists & local youth confronted a march in London at the “Battle of Lewisham”. There were injuries on both sides, the NF’s police protectors used riot shields outside of Northern Ireland for the first time. This seemed to us to be the way forward. Our own involvement was through the workplace, trades union & community groups, now the racist right must be confronted, challenged & denied at every opportunity. What can a poor boy do ?
For the next 2 years the Anti Nazi League & Rock Against Racism worked effectively alongside each other. The showpiece concerts were the largest political gatherings of the time. Across the UK the best gigs in town were organised by R.A.R. The punk/reggae mix of the music reflected the multicultural ideology which reached precisely the same young people the NF hoped to influence. The 1979 election was a disaster for the far right. Thatcher’s Tories invaded their heartland with shifts in immigration policies (a tactic being used in the present day). An egotistical display of hubris by the National Front produced 300 candidates, all of whom got their arses kicked. It is, luckily, a characteristic of these fantasists that if you give them enough rope they do tend to hang themselves. I am biased but I do think that it was the harassment & challenge of the anti-fascist opposition, denying credibility to their actions & their policies, which kept them out of mainstream politics.
The Front were reduced to a bankrupt, squabbling rump. In the West Midlands stronghold an MI5 controlled organiser tipped off the ANL about activities hoping that the resulting punch ups would generate at least some publicity. It is the nature of single issue pressure groups that perceived success can lead to a loss of support. The ANL, a group run by the Socialist Workers Party, attracted mass appeal. The essentially exploitative nature of the division of labour within a capitalist economy…that’s a harder sell. In the next decade it was the Thatcher government which pursued policies which were anti-worker, anti-immigrant, even, in her own words, anti-society. An extra-parliamentary movement with a wider view than fighting fascism, banning the bomb & who knew how to organize a good party, could have been useful. Rock Against Racism seized the time & did the right thing at the right time. The amount of support it received created a grass roots energy for direct action. It incorporated the punk do-it-yourself attitude & made going to a gig into a political act. As my favourite Marxist said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”, but in this case I was happy to make an exception.
We are just a week into the new year & I’m bumping into brand new music already. I am keeping my powder dry on the Sky Ferreira/Ariel Pink collaboration. It may be a sparky glam collision or a 3 day wonder or they may try to make Ms Ferreira go to rehab…we shall see. One thing we can be sure of is that the Gatefolds first gig of 2014, at Sandinos in Derry last Saturday, was a bloody good night out.
Once again Derry’s devoted documentarist, Jim Cunningham, was in attendance to capture the three bands & the audience. For myself it’s a real buzz to see such recent photographs of friends I have known for 25 years & others who only made contact in 2013. If you have any interest in current Irish music (if an artist comes to Derry, Jim will be pointing a camera at them) then get yourself to Jim’s Y-tube channel (jcee) which has become an impressive audio-visual anthology of what’s going on in the second city.
“Cupcakes” by our boys certainly helps to shake off any post Winter Festival languor. It’s great to see drummer Sean sitting upright after 10 days passed out on the sofa ! I really do like the ‘Folds’ pop with a punch. It feels like it is a continuation of an established Derry musical timeline. The bam-bam guitars have undertones of a petrol emotion & that is a good thing…you get me.
In 2013 a CD, “Six Strings & Stigma” featured 14 bands from the Derry music scene. Produced & curated by Ruairi O’Doherty the original & varied songs were concerned with mental health & any funds raised supported Northern Irish organizations working in that field. It really is a cracking listen, the Gatefolds contribute a belter, “The Last To Speak” & there is a solid quality throughout. I have a copy, if you would like one for yourself then the Facebook page will point you in the right direction. One of the highlights of “6 Strings” is “Waiting On A Rainbow”, a self-written song by Jeanette Hutton with a lovely Celtic strength & the assured restraint of music more concerned with emotion than with display.
Jeanette (” a gem… one hell of a voice” said a correspondent) has been a fixture on the Derry music scene for some time & on Saturday her new band Lady J played out at Sandinos. Ms Hutton has traded her acoustic guitar for a Telecaster & on “Turn Me Over”, things are looking nothing but good for the band. Providing drums & a most impressive beard for the band is the aforementioned Mr O’Doherty. Jeanette is lucky enough to be marrying Ruairi in the summer so let’s hope that their year is filled with luck, love & music. I like Lady J.
Well all right ! There was big love for “Volts & Watts”, the set closer on Saturday night. Deservedly so…the tune has great attack. I know that at least a couple of the band do have lysergic musical leanings. I’m sometimes surprised (relieved ?…I’m joking) when Fergal & Jason resist the attraction of the space opera & keep it tight because that psychotomimetic thing is certainly hanging around..oh yes. Our cameraman was probably beating the rush to the bar so this clip is from October when the Gatefolds launched their single on Nervous Pulse Records.
It’s almost a year now since the first tracks by the band turned up on Bandcamp. There has been good music to discover & Mr Cunningham has allowed me to check for the gigs. It’s nothing but a pleasure to hear the new tracks & to help spread the word about the Gatefolds. These 2 tunes need to be sorted & recorded, more live sets to be played. If I made a list of stuff that I look forward to in 2014 (I don’t, I’m not that lame) then hearing from the Gatefolds & the fine musicians in Derry, is up there with 3 points on a Saturday & other good things.
Finally, Joe Brown waves his arms in the air, waves them like he just don’t care. What was he thinking ?
At around 9 p.m. on December 3rd 1978 an already groovy day was about to get go-go . A lazy Sunday afternoon with good food, good friends & similar dope (lots of Lebanese hash around in 78/79, they had a war to finance) had been a more than pleasant overture to the evening’s main event. I was dancing in the stalls of the Manchester Apollo, with my best gal by my side, grinning like a shot fox (ee-yew !). Peter Tosh, the star of the night’s show, had opened his set with the double whammy of “400 Years” & “Stepping Razor”. A thought occurred that if the day was to end right here, right now then it had been a fine time. 30 minutes later Tosh graced us with a run of “African”, “Burial” & “Equal Rights”. The night had gone into orbit…sent to outer space to find another race. “Them want I, them want I, Com’a them funeral”…Oh yeah !
Peter Tosh, the tall one in the Wailers was also the natural musician of the trio. He taught & inspired the others to play, The man who tutored Bob Marley in the guitar. The young band of brothers’ progress from wailin’ rude boys to Rasta natural mystics was not always easy. Bob left for the USA, Bunny did a stretch at the Richmond Farm Prison but these guys were on a mission from Jah, driven to improve & succeed, the sum of their three characters being greater than the parts. Their ambition for recognition outside of Jamaica meant that deals had to be made with Babylon, the music was changed by commercial pressure not artistic progress. Bunny was the first to go, reluctant to leave Jamaica &, like Peter, who did not hang around much longer, confused just how his group had become Bob’s backing band. Man, I am lucky to have seen that “Catch A Fire” tour. That is a lot of talent on one stage.
In 1976 we were blessed with “Blackheart Man” by Bunny, Bob’s “Rastaman Vibration” & Peter’s debut LP “Legalize It”. Pick one, go on, just one. Can’t be done, no point anyway, those are 3 terrific records. Tosh’s title track is an international anthem for the international herb.While he is regarded as the most directly militant of the Trenchtown trinity this record is no polemic. Tosh often expressed his anger & dread about colonialism & injustice but the last track he recorded with his group, “One Foundation”, is a melodic call for birds of a feather to come together. “Legalize It” collects similarly straightforward, steadfast songs. “Igziabeher” & “Ketchy Shuby” capture the sacred & profane of Jamaican life, “Brand New Second Hand” sounds like a hit record & “Why Must I Cry” is as good as this…
“Legalize It” is a conscious, infectious work of art, guaranteed to cheer. Next year’s “Equal Rights” is 8 tracks of serious, glorious business, guaranteed to stir. Peter saved his version of “Get Up Stand Up”, recorded by all three Wailers, for this set. When he picked which side he was on the man assertively & eloquently let you know the score. The band played 4 of these tracks that night, any 4 from 8 would have been the thing. This is “African”.
Peter had an international reputation, ambitions for this muscular, tough music. His band, Word,Sound & Power, picked from the studios of Jamaica, were absolutely up to the job. Drummer Sly Dunbar & bassist Robbie Shakespeare had played with the Upsetters round at Lee Perry’s yard, Black Ark. They were with the Revolutionaries over at Channel One while round at Bunny Lee’s studio they were with the Aggrovaters. (I’m not sure how the Roots Radics coped without them). They were reggae legends before they toured with Tosh, ready to be heard, ready for the love they deserved. Mikey “Mao” Chung knew what a reggae rhythm guitarist did & knew how important it was to the sound…a master. Skully Simms & Sticky Thompson would have got the job because of their appreciable nicknames though they were crackerjack percussionists. I’m not the biggest fan of extended guitar solos in what is primarily a rhythmic music (I strictly Roots) but this was Reggae Rock, looking for an audience big enough to fill a stadium. Al Anderson was the lead guitarist of choice for both Peter Tosh & Bob Marley at this time.
We got to see a world class band give a world class show that night. It’s ridiculous how many accomplished musicians emerged in Jamaica at this time. Peter Tosh had 2 classic LPs, his new release, “Bush Doctor”, was on Rolling Stones Records. He strutted around the front of the stage like it was his time, like the star he was. Man, he was nobody’s sideman but we knew this anyway. I’ve been to some memorable reggae concerts which turned into outstanding parties but seeing these artists at the top of their game could not be better. We stepped out into the night & the world seemed a better place.
You saw the same people at these Manchester reggae gigs. That very young kid with the stoned, supercilious smile & the ginger dreadlocks always seemed to be a bit of a prick. I guess we owe the world an apology because he grew up to be the lead singer of Simply Red & we did nothing to stop that terrible Hucknall happening…sorry.