Exile On New Street (Sex Pistols)

Carl has been a friend of mine for over 40 years since he would hang around my flat while playing truant from school. We have shared many adventures & he has featured in the stories I have told here on the blog. Now, for the first time, he has a story of his own to tell & it’s a good one. Over to you Carl.

 

The alarm went off at 7:30 a.m. I had a wash, dressed in my work uniform, quick cup of tea & jogged slowly down the hill to catch the bus. So far so “Groundhog Day”. The 20th of October 1976 was a day that changed my life but first I had to get to work  then through work. It was a Wednesday & tonight was training night…a long day. I was an apprentice hairdresser. I had quit on my miserable secondary school in May, before sitting any exams now I was learning how to cut women’s hair. You’ve seen Warren Beatty in “Shampoo”…nothing like that !

 

The salon (really !) was in Birmingham’s city centre near to “Pizza Corner”, one of the country’s first pizzerias. I was there getting the lunches, ordered the food, went upstairs to the gents for a piss & a smoke. The toilet was empty except for a couple of guys who were shocked to be discovered preparing to shoot-up ! I don’t know who jumped the highest with surprise. Now music was my thing, still is. I recognised Johnny Thunders & Walter Lure, half of The Heartbreakers, Johnny a former New York Doll. My fledging Early Punk Rock threads were a dead giveaway, they knew that I knew who they were. I played it cool, had a jimmy, passed on the smoke & left them to their doings…an intense 2 minutes. That evening we caught the band at Rebecca’s nightclub (Severn St, off John Bright St…you know it). Whatever they were on did the trick. they were fucking great !

 

Right…training night could not end quickly enough because tonight I was going to see the Sex Pistols.  This was before “The Filth & the Fury” headlines were gobbed over the front pages of the tabloids, when the Pistols were the best unrecorded band in Britain. There had been a small flyer on the door of Bogarts since Monday   I met my friend Gary & we went straight there. Bogarts was a biker Hard Rock/Metal bar, a windowless upstairs room that felt like a basement. It wasn’t so bad, they might play Todd Rundgren’s Utopia but never Rick Wakeman. It mostly just, you know, rocked. We got to the club at about 8.45  but there was no sign of the band.

 

No drum kit, no bass head & speaker unit, nor the Fender Twin Reverb amp which I had checked in the N.M.E. Where was Steve Jones’ white Gibson Les Paul with the 3 gold-plated pick-ups  “allegedly” nicked off  Mick Ronson at Bowie’s Ziggy Breaks Up The Band gig at the Hammersmith Odeon. Straight from under the noses of the Spiders’ road crew, in the afternoon pre-gig hubbub. What a rotter ! The prevailing thought was “they’re never gonna arrive now. are they ?” when, at almost 10 o’clock, their crew, two roadies & another couple (McLaren & Vivienne maybe ?) traipsed through the pub to the postage stamp stage in front of the DJ booth with guitars & amps. Their “management” must have thought that it was nightclub hours, this weren’t no Speakeasy this was the provinces & closing time was quickly coming round. The Quinton biker locals helped with the load-in, pushing through the crowded “dancefloor”. “Mind  ya backs ! Hot Soup! Coming through”, polite lads. The Sex Pistols are here but it’s got to be 2 songs tops & finito, innit ? Oh no, for the next 45 minutes this was the best place to be.

 

At around 10.15 “Anarchy in the UK” came to scythe us down, hitting a spot untouched since the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. This original line-up, no Sid Vicious yet, assembled by Malcolm McLaren over the past 12 months were, relatively speaking, musically astute. Glen Matlock was & still is a proper musician with an understanding of song structure & all that boring stuff. He was an asset in those early days, a fine bassist, he & Paul Cook were as tight as…insert your own tight thing analogy HERE! Steve Jones & the pasty boy singer, Johnny Rotten, had the drive & confidence of people who knew they were on to something good, something better than the rest. They played “I Wanna Be Me”, a motherfucker version of “Substitute”, “No Feelings”, “No Fun”, the old Monkees’ hit “Stepping Stone, an hilarious “17” (a.k.a. “I’m a Lazy Sod”), “Pretty Vacant”, “Satellite” & “Liar”. A set list to be committed to memory, cherished like the names of your team that won the European Cup…that big !

 

We were buzzing & bouncing on the journey home. I was 16 years old & music was everything. There had been musical heroes before the Pistols but these boys, short, sharp & shocking, not much older than me, were surely the way forward. The band I was in played Bad Company, Status Quo covers, it got us gigs. That would have to stop for a start.

 

 

Things escalated quickly after that. A very funny TV interview put the Sex Pistols on the front page & caused a moral panic. The shits hit the fans by banning them from many venues & it was December 1977 before I saw S.P.O.T.S (Sex Pistols On Tour Secretly) at 2 gigs at the Lafayette nightclub in Wolverhampton.These nights were a different kind of tension. Kids all over the country had safety pins stuck in their shirts.They all wanted to see the most notorious band in the land. Matlock had been replaced by Sid Vicious who was turned down in the mix. It was an unviable option to let him be heard above 2 (It’s important, I play bass). He was Johnny’s mate & McLaren chose style over substance. “Anarchy in the UK” is the best debut single ever but the Great Rock & Roll Swindle was on. Sex Pistols’ gigs were skirmishes in Malcolm’s campaign of outrage rather than a chance to hear the best band in the world.

 

It’s my own hindsight that moans about the part-time Punks, the gobbing, the violence (I got enough of that on the terraces thanks). In 1977 I did a lot of crazy things, saw & heard some great music & it all revolved around Punk. The chaos was part of the creativity. There was nothing better than seeing the Sex Pistols play live. God save ’em, they were our boys.

 

 

                              
                                                      

Another Good Friday In Derry

 

My good friends The Gatefolds, I only used to know the bass player but now I’ve had the pleasure of meeting those other 3, took their place on the bill at Sandinos regular “The Long Good Friday” shindig which, for 10 years now, kicks off Derry’s Easter musical weekend. The ‘Folds ended 2015 on a high, playing before their biggest audience yet when supporting hometown heroes the Undertones on their Xmas return to the city.

 

 

 

I’m told that Sandinos, a friendly, funky rock & roll bar, an essential pit-stop if you are ever lucky enough to visit Derry, was rammed for the evening. “Reason” is a new song, more punchy pop-psyche, great guitar/vocal interplay from Jason & Fergal  with drummer Sean giving it plenty. In the Gatefolds’ style the song is tight, energetic, no fol-de-rol or gasconade (that’s a real word !). I’m loving it. Thanks again to documentarist Jim Cunningham for pointing his camera in the right direction.The band have been busy in the studio finessing a new CD single. I have an early version of the 2 songs which sounds fine but if you’re gonna do it, do it right, they hope to have it available in mid-April. I receive regular musical care packages from the guys & if the next one includes a demo of “Reason” then that would be a lovely bonus.

 

 

Headlining “The Long Good Friday” were the Bonnevilles, a guitar/drums duo from 70 miles up the road in Lurgan. Andrew McGibbon (voice/guitar) & Chris McMullan (drums) make a mighty Garage Blues noise. This month sees the release of their 3rd LP, “Arrow Pierce My Heart”, their first for 4 years. Alive Records have made 4 tracks available on the Y-tube (a tough call which to feature here) but be careful, if you give any of them a listen then you will have to hit up the Bonnevilles’ website to find out how to buy the whole thing. It’s inevitable that their line-up invites comparison with the Black Keys. If that’s got to be done then it’s the early Keys, y’know, when they were good. Myself I’m hearing the rawness & drive of those 90s Fat Possum LPs from R L Burnside with added power & drama. The Bonnevilles are sure to be gigging far & wide in support of “Arrow…”. If you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time then you will know about it.

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/157999567″>Kick Out The Jams: Lady J</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/northernvisions”>Northern Visions NvTv</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

Now this is another drop of the good stuff. In 2015 Lady J released an LP that is still played regularly around here. In September I caught the band playing live & it wasn’t just the guitar, bass & drums, turned up to 11, that shook the walls of the club. Singer Jeanette Hutton is a rocker through & true. She thrives on having that big noise behind her & has the power to ensure that she is heard over it. Earlier this month 3 of the 4 members of the band visited Northern Visions TV in Belfast to record an acoustic session. Drummer Little Hooks switched instruments to provide, with Marty McGill, a double guitar accompaniment to 5 of the songs from the record. It’s a pleasure to have such a high quality capture of the set. The songs are strong enough to be stripped back & even though Jeanette is seated she still delivers her lyrics with impressive power. Unplugged ? I don’t think so.

 

I’m back in Derry at the end of April for more musical adventures, meeting up with new & old friends. It’s Gonna Happen…can’t wait.

Only One Place This Pair Could Work-Knees Up Country (1986)

Al had created a nice little earner for himself from just one bright idea. He bought a van & made local deliveries, cheaper than the Royal Mail, for the many small London book companies. Yeah, it could be a pain negotiating a suburban bottleneck for just one package but the mail must get through & anyway, up in the city’s glittering West End, Charing Cross Road was rammed with bookshops. He could park up & make his day’s money in a couple of hours. The other bits & pieces were all gravy. Al had a couple of vehicles on the road & was doing alright thanks.

 

Our place was his last pick up of the day before he headed back south of the river, my part of London. The journey home was usually a jammed, sullen, armpit-infused Northern Line train so I started to blag a ride along with Al. It was in the right direction & he was good company. He was expert at avoiding the rush hour snarl-ups & could roll a joint one-handed before we hit Blackfriars Bridge, an admirable & hospitable skill. Al operated out of a lock-up unit in Peckham, all very “Minder” & “Only Fools & Horses”, the biggest TV shows, both concerning Cockney chancers, entrepreneurial London under Thatcher. If I had a quiet night ahead I’d stick around to give him a hand sorting the loads for the following day. We would roll a couple more, stick some tunes on his boombox, get him finished early then his last drop of the day was me…right outside my house. It was 1986, here’s one that was sure to have come around…

 

 

1986 was the Year of Prince, 4 great singles from the “Parade” LP but The Artist doesn’t do the Interwebs so not one of those then. Instead it’s a bright red codpiece & W-O-R-D UP ! Cameo were a decade & 11 LPs along with plenty of US R&B hits before this single went worldwide. They had started out as a horn-heavy, deep-funk big band influenced by Parliament & the Ohio Players. Through the 80s leader Larry Blackmon, the fine figure of a man with the scarlet crotch, had downsized & changed the group’s style with the times. It was 1984’s “She’s Strange” which began the crossover & “Word Up”, an assertive, steamroller of a song won Cameo, now a trio, all sorts of awards. When this Pop Hip-Hop is done right then, as the Fugees & Outkast found out, you sell a lot of records to a lot of people.

 

 Al’s operation was expanding. He was getting another vehicle, needed a driver & I knew the very man for the job. The 3 of us met after work at my place, I played the genial host, refreshments were provided & I withdrew, leaving the pair to the business at hand. 45 minutes later I interrupted their circular, stoned conversation demanding to know the outcome. Mitchell had got the job. He said that it was the first time he had got high at a job interview. Great…we had a van ! Getting around London & further had suddenly got easier.
Colourbox released their first album in 1985. Early copies came with a free bonus LP. a lot of music, all we needed for our trips up the M1/M6 (the M40 if we fancied the pretty way) to Birmingham. Colourbox was mostly the Young Brothers, Martyn & Steven. Before rave, techno & trip-hop their electro-beats, reggae inclinations & a wide range of popular culture samples was imaginative, energetic & exciting. It sounded like the music from the future & it flipping well turned out to be just that.They recruited singer Lorita Grahame, recorded 2 great reggae covers, including the fantastic Naggo Morris’ “Say You”, & brought an effervescence & playfulness to everything they released. Colourbox rarely appeared live (just one grand clip on the Y-tube ). In 1987 they worked with 4AD labelmates AR Kane as M/A/R/R/S & had a #1 UK hit. We are still waiting for the follow-up. Colourbox, a class act, check them out.
     Mitchell & I had lived, worked or played out together for some time. Our musical tastes were similar, we both liked the stuff that was good. I guess that it was around 1984 that we started to listen to more dance music. London’s pirate radio stations played this new Hip-Hop, electro-soul alongside the poppier hits (Dread Broadcasting took care of the reggae) & it was livelier than those serious sixth-formers whose Mum had bought them a synthesizer (got the Human League in to advise her). First Horizon then Solar then Kiss FM, which was everywhere, provided the daily soundtrack & at the weekend we found clubs around the city that played this music. We had a short-lived anarchist radio station operating out of our flat until The Man with his repressive jackboots appeared one Friday. The pirates were great but a little flaky. Mitch won a prize on a phone-in one night & they never sent the whatever it was…Bastards !
      The van came in very handy for social occasions. We could meet up, pile in & know that Mitchell would get us to the gig faster, cheaper & more reliably than London Transport. I had left the book company but was still in touch with Al. We were friends, he confided in me about the sequence of bad luck that had caused him to serve a prison stretch for illegally importing 7 kilos of hashish from Holland to the UK. He bitched about the taxman’s punitive reaction to coming clean about his ducking & diving years when he was trying to do the right thing. When he bought a brand new motor on the day the new plates were issued (he was doing alright for himself) we cruised the Saturday South London streets where they appreciate a bit of conspicuous consumption. So, when we needed a favour I went round to see him.
      We wanted to do the Glastonbury Festival right in 1987. Days off work had been arranged but transport &, Jah forbid, tents had not (we once took a 2-man for the 4 of us !). A van, Mitchell’s van would be just the ticket. I pointed this out to Al & he noticed that he would not only need an agency bloke to drive but a replacement hire van for 2 days. I agreed that this was the case & he only went along with the plan. Top Man ! We acquired some underlay & carpet from outside a shop in Pimlico, made things nice & the festival began just when Mitchell started the engine. What a time we had. I’d tell you more but…
In 1986 Janet Jackson was taking control, Anita Baker made some sweet MOR R&B while a couple of Roxannes (real or otherwise)  were the noisy new kids. One of my favourite singles of the year was by a woman who had made her first record in 1966 when she was 12. Out of Miami, Betty Wright had a major hit in 1971 with the classic “Clean Up Woman”, charmed us out of our socks in 1975 with “Shoorah Shoorah” & through the years made some fine music. Her LP “Sevens” was written & co-produced by Ms Wright. “Pain”, the 12″ of course (this was the mid-80s), has all the hallmarks of the time, synth keyboards, slap bass  robot drums. What marks this strong, mature song is the trademark Miami guitar groove of George Terry who drew the biggest names in music to Florida to get some of his good stuff on their records. I still play this one by Betty a lot.
       Mitchell got sick of breathing in London’s exhaust fumes, of the daily irritations of traffic & handed the van back to the boss. I lost touch with Al which was a shame as the coolest book collection (that would be mine) was boxed & stashed in his Peckham lock-up. No matter, it was only stuff & it was just the sort of place a dodgy geezer (that would be me) should be familiar with. I’ve not seen Mitchell for some time either but he’s around my computer, he will read this & he’s a friend for Life. I’ll probably see him sometime soon.

Covers Of The Rolling Stones (Beggars Banquet)

In December 1968 the Rolling Stones released “Beggars Banquet”, their 7th LP. A new record from the group was always a big deal but this was an important time for them. Exactly a year earlier their preceding LP, “Their Satanic Majesties Request”,  met with less critical acclaim & commercial success than was customary. Now tracks such as the baroque “She’s A Rainbow”& the cosmic “2000 Light Years From Home” are essential to your Best of the Stones playlist but in 1967 all new music was judged against the seismic “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The Stones, dealing with drug busts, drug use, a lack of focus & productivity in the studio which saw Andrew Loog Oldham check out on his producer/manager duties, undoubtedly reacted to this Beatle blast with an increase of experimentation & added psychedelia. The group had always been leaders in rock & roll innovation, there were plenty of followers of the Fab Four already & the Stones had always been tougher than the rest.

 

We were still processing the 30 tracks on the Beatles new “White Album”, released 2 weeks before, when “Beggars…” came around. The signs were good. In the summer “Jumping Jack Flash” had enough gas, gas, gas to propel it to the top of the world’s charts. The classic 45 was the first with new producer Jimmy Miller whose work with Stevie Winwood in the Spencer Davis Group & Traffic had caught the ear. The outer wrapping of the LP was almost as plain as the other lot’s after cover art showing a graffiti covered toilet was rejected. The important stuff, the music, hit the spot from the very first track.

 

 

“Sympathy For the Devil” Woo-Woo ! Everybody knows it. Mick Jagger’s lyrics, a collision of Baudelaire, Bulgakov & Dylan on the enduring, alluring nature of evil set to an hypnotic samba groove. Film maker Jean Luc Godard was at Olympic Studios to capture the creative process, the construction of an intense, instantly iconic piece of Art. The final version convinced many that the group had fallen in with a bad lot. In the early 1970s we met an American girl (raised on promises ?) who believed that Jagger was the Devil. It would have disappointed her if we had passed on our opinion that he was just a bloke from Dartford with a very acute way with words.

 

The Attack were around from 1966 to 68 just as the Mods turned psychedelic. They released 4 singles on Decca which pinged about from Freakbeat to camp whimsy. A combination of bad timing (Mickie Most nicked “Hi Ho Silver Lining” from them for Jeff Beck), a revolving door line up & the lack of a consistent style on record conspired to deny them success. Guitarist David O’List had left to join the Nice before this cover, replaced by John Du Cann, later of Atomic Rooster. It’s a no-frills version, the vocal lacking Jagger’s menace & malice, the muscular backing giving it plenty. This track was remained unreleased until 2006, the Attack had had their shot. A pity because it’s a fine example of the British Beat in 1968.

 

“Sympathy…” has been much covered since then. Laibach released a whole LP of versions. In 1969 shoeless songstress Sandie Shaw, her credibility severely battered by winning the lame Eurovision Song Contest with a lamer song, gave it a good go in 1969. In the same year Arif Mardin, Vice President of Atlantic Records, included the song on a solo album. It would take finer tuned ears than mine to explain the attraction of Bryan Ferry’s  1973 version (I’m sure I will get that explanation).

 

“Street Fighting Man” had been a US single, though not in the UK, in the Autumn. It was not a big hit because in 1968 rock & roll was still considered to be subversive & radio stations were reluctant to air what seemed to be an exhortation, an invitation across the nation, to rioting in the street. The incendiary, ambiguous lyrics are matched by a marching, charging Keith Richards riff, thunderous drums from Charlie Watts & Brian Jones’ tamboura drone. Events in Paris, Prague & Chicago, even “sleepy London town”, had widened the generation gap & shaken governments. The Rolling Stones captured this energy & confusion in a pop song just over  3 minutes long. It was expected that a commentary on a changing world would be provided by musicians. It seemed a more reliable way of getting information than most. A great song from different times.

 

When Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood left the Jeff Beck Group to link with the 3 remaining Small Faces their rambunctious, uplifting take on rock & roll had an instant appeal. The Stones, the Who & Led Zeppelin were conquering the world leaving Faces to claim the title of best live band in the UK. Rod’s solo LP “An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down” was already in the shops before the band’s debut. This arrangement worked fine until his 3rd album “Every Picture Tells a Story” went stratospheric & his colleagues were not inclined to be his backing band. “Street Fighting Man” seemed a risky choice to open that 1st record but one of the most appealing facets of those early releases was Rod’s astute selection of songs to cover. Another was that despite Rod having made his reputation in both the Rhythm & the Blues there was always a place for Folk music in his heart.This version is less portentous than the original though drummer Micky Waller drives it along. There’s sterling contributions from Facemates Ronnie Wood, on guitar & bass & Ian McLagan on keyboards. Rod Stewart’s early LPs are to be ranked with the best British music of the time.

 

 

“Beggars Banquet” is a return to what the Rolling Stones knew, Blues-based music. It wasn’t a retreat from psychedelia, nor giving the people what they wanted, it was what they did better than anyone else. The record is a springboard & a template for their run of LPs that established them as “the greatest Rock & Roll band in the world”, music that fans still want to hear when they show out to see the Stones almost 50 years along. “Salt of the Earth”, the closing track, is a proletarian anthem to the “uncounted heads”. It’s a simple song filled out with a gospel choir, Nicky Hopkins’ piano & the sure hand of producer Jimmy Miller who was to stick around for the next 5 LPs.

 

Johnny Adams was from New Orleans. He had worked with Dr John & Eddie Bo before having a peripatetic career throughout the 1960s. By 1971 he was with staff producers Dave Crawford & Brad Shapiro at Atlantic Records. There was no LP, just 4 singles one of which was “Salt of the Earth”. What a terrific version it is too, great Blues-Soul vocals, classic horns & who can resist that sitar-guitar ? I’m sure that Keith Richards approves of such a sympathetic take on one of his songs.

 

The Rolling Stones were not entirely back on track with the release of “Beggars…”. In the same week they filmed “The Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus”, a TV special where a tired performance (particularly on a self-conscious “Salt of the Earth”) was eclipsed by supporting acts including the Who & Taj Mahal. It would be 1996 before ringmaster Jagger invited us to see the show. There were increasing concerns about Brian Jones.The founder of the Stones had first become isolated by the developing songwriting partnership of Mick & Keith. His musical imagination & multi-instrumental talent added texture to many of their songs but his contributions were becoming sporadic, his behaviour made more erratic by drug use & emotional problems. The estrangement was complete when a projected tour was complicated by his legal problems & his health. In June 1969 Brian was fired from his group & just a month later was unfortunately found dead in the swimming pool at his home in Sussex. The Stones rolled on.

 

 

 

 

Perfect Imperfection (Lowell George/Little Feat)

One day, one year, it was in the 1980s I remember that, I was listening to Little Feat’s “The Last Record Album” with a friend. I made the blindingly obvious statement that Track 3, “Long Distance Love”, is as good as a song as any I had heard. “Yeah”, said my friend, “I was in the studio when they recorded it”. What the….! In 1975 Clive’s musician brother was preparing a live LP that would sell by the lorry load, the best selling record of 1976 in the USA. He got to see some Rock & Roll places, do some Rock & Roll things so he was probably telling the truth. If he was making the story up then that’s OK. Go big or go home, a day in a studio with Little Feat back then was as big & as good as it gets.

 

 

“The Last Record Album” is the 5th LP by Little Feat, formed by guitarist Lowell George & keyboard player Bill Payne in 1970. It’s an album I love. Back in the winter of 1976 I took a month off work for rest, recuperation & hibernation. Every afternoon, my house husband duties done, I lit one up & listened to this record. It’s not Little Feat at their very best, individual talents demanded & deserved a greater in-band democracy at the expense of the slitherine, swampy rhythms of their earlier work. The ominous funk of the final 2 tracks, “Somebody’s Leavin'” & “Mercenary Territory”, really tie the album together & they still chill. Lowell George, the predominant songwriter, contributed only 3 songs of the 8. The poignant life-on-the-road, almost-country ballad “Long Distance Love” has a simplicity & an instant attraction. Lowell had previous. One of the delights of any Little Feat LP was his quieter, reflective, emotionally honest songs which needed little more than his affecting slide guitar as embellishment.

 

 

Back in Hollywood in 1970 Lowell, already with a rep as a fine slide guitarist, was a member of the Mothers of Invention. He presented Frank Zappa with his song “Willin'”, a trucker/stoner anthem. “Give me weed, whites & wine & you show me a sign, I’ll be willin'”, you know it. Frank wasn’t about to record a song about dope & Lowell was shown the door. More likely “Willin'”, a song so good that Little Feat recorded it twice, indicated that it was time for Lowell to get his very own thing. The original Little Feat quartet had an idiosyncratic take on the Blues with a little country & rock & roll seasoning. Along with “Willin'” the regretful “I’ve Been the One”, made more plaintive by the lonesome pedal steel of Sneaky Pete Kleinow, cooled down the sometimes hectic pace & marked the arrival of a deft, precise songwriter.

 

The 2nd record “Sailing Shoes”, added a little more West Coast polish to their sound. It was a critical success (because it’s a stunning record) but I guess that if you make one of the great opening tracks to an LP, the storming “Easy To Slip”, throw in lyrics concerning marijuana psychosis, then you have no complaint when it becomes one more song the radio won’t play. The narcotic title track, a reworked “Willin'” & the remarkable, accurate, funny even surreal “Trouble” are of a piece on this LP. “The footprints on your ceiling are almost gone”…what a line & where did that come from ? Robert Palmer, with the help of some of Feat & the Meters funked the song up & some of the subtlety was lost. The later version by Lowell’s daughter Inara & Bill Payne is a stab of beauty.

 

 

For “Dixie Chicken” the group was remodelled into a sextet. A new bass player, an extra guitarist & some congas provided an injection of funk & made Little Feat a killer live band. Individually they had the imagination & ingenuity of a jam band, collectively their insinuating, infectious rhythms were irresistible. Lowell took the lead on “Dixie Chicken” with a collection of fine songs. The quiet one, “Roll Um Easy”, was sweetened up by Glen Campbell & a good job he made of it too. 1974’s “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” was missing one of his solo efforts but no matter. Here was the sound of a band at its peak, the whole greater than the sum of its parts, a consolidation aiming to boogie your sneakers away & succeeding.

 

I spent the summer of 1979 on a Greek island. Back then the homogenised Eurotrash holiday “culture” was yet to reach our isolated retreat. There was a small club, we once heard Ian Dury being played, breaking the chain of Bee Gees hits, but they were, you know, not our kind of people (a-hem !). I loved the place but there was no music, bouzouki on the radio, the Walkman hit the shops while we were away. There had always been a soundtrack to my life it was strange not having one around. One night in a beachside taverna I was talking to a young Scandinavian who read the British music press but not between the lines. I told him that, out of it all, I missed Little Feat & Steely Dan the most. He told me that Lowell George had died 6 weeks ago. It should not have been too much of a surprise. His rock & roll habits were taking a toll, obviously out of shape, his contributions to the band he formed diminished. After over 15 years of obsessive listening, of paying too much attention to the minutiae of Rock’s Rich Tapestry, the shock was more just how long this bad news had taken to reach me. Man, I had never been so far out of the loop.

 

 

On returning to England I found punk’s little brother Two Tone all over Top of the Pops. The bloody Police too (not on my watch mister). The end of the year was marked by “Fear of Music” & “London Calling” & there was a new Lowell George solo LP in the shops. “Thanks I’ll Eat It Here” was released just days before his death. It’s a record that covers the many fields of his varied musical interest & as such can take its time to reveal the concordance between the cover versions, a re-recorded Feat classic, the experiments & the extensive personnel. It is though a lovely piece of work marked by the charm, humour, talent & personality of its creator. Thank goodness it is because it’s the only solo LP we were going to get. It includes the last great Lowell George song. “Twenty Million Things”, another of his short, oh so sweet anthems for the lovelorn slacker. A little beauty & we all need some of that.

 

Little Feat completed an album after Lowell’s death & then stopped for 10 years. He, of course, died too young, just 34, but heroin is the meanest drug I know & it’ll get you if you’re not more careful. The music he made with his bandmates across the 1970s is everything I want from rock music. It’s greasy & groovy, it surprises, it’s not too serious, it’s for the head, heart & the hips. Little Feat still don’t fail me now & Lowell George’s songs, whether rocking out or quietly reflecting, still hit the spot.

I’m Gonna Cool You Cooks To Something (Joe Tex)

Joe Tex (Joseph Arrington Jr from down in Texas) was a sweet talking guy & he sure could sing. It took him 10 years of making records before his first big hit. “Hold  What You’ve Got” (1964) features 2 recitations, one to men, the other to women, with some down-to-earth advice about appreciating what’s at home. Joe was ready, there were 11 Top 20 R&B hits in the next 2 years. For the rest of the 1960s his music incorporated the changing styles & sounds of Soul music alongside his distinctive vocals & his good-humoured, congenial lyrics.

 

 

That first million seller was recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where the Southern Soul sound was being forged. It was a smart move by label owner-producer Buddy Killen & so was hitching his Dial Records to a distribution deal with Atlantic Records. Joe’s records were in the shops & his name linked with the other members of the soul clan on that emerging major. He could write & perform those loquacious, folksy but never preaching,  ballads as well as anyone. Check “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show”, that’s a great one. “The Love You Save” (see above) is the track chosen by Butterfly from a very cool jukebox in QT’s “Death Proof”. Joe could go with the flow, the swinging “S.Y.S.L.J.F.M.” recalls the Wicked Wilson’s “634-5789”, “Papa Was Too” takes it’s cue from King Otis & Queen Carla’s (Lowell Fulson’s ?) “Tramp”. His songwriting nous & brightness ensured that he kept it fresh.

 

Joe’s first release of 1967 missed the R&B Top 20. “Show Me” is a dancefloor ripper, the most basic of his songs. Along with “Knock On Wood” it was in the repertoire of every  bar & youth club band in the UK. Not a one of them was as tight as the opening number of the Joe Tex Show. Here’s the evidence…

 

 

1967 ended with Joe Tex’s 2nd million seller. “Skinny Legs & All” was from “Live & Lively”, a faux-live LP recorded at American Studio, Memphis. The added novelty element brought a crossover to the mainstream. Joe was a big deal with a reputation for a dynamic, hit-filled live show. It was 1969 before he crossed the Atlantic with his 9-piece band. Both Spanish & Swedish TV pointed cameras at the them &, while there may not be the electricity of the earlier Stax/Volt European tours, they preserved a pretty good record of a 1960s soul revue.

 

Joe was a big enough deal to continue a public feud with James Brown. Back in 1955 they were both on the King label & their paths often crossed. If it wasn’t a dispute about writing credits it was women or the stealing of stage moves by one or the other. When JB adopted the title “Soul Brother #1”, Joe called him out. In 1955 that title was held by Little Willie John & Joe saw no reason to recognise the new contender. In 1966 he became involved with The Soul Clan, initiated by Solomon Burke as an attempt to build an autonomous African-American business concern. The project lost impetus with the death of Otis Redding & Atlantic wanted hit records not to bankroll real estate deals. By the time any recordings were released Tex, Burke, Don Covay, Arthur Conley & Ben E King were not that close.

 

 

Joe recorded at all 3 points of the Southern music triangle. In 1968 he was in Nashville for his “Soul Country” LP. There’s just one of his own songs & some of the covers are a little uninspired. “Buying a Book” (1969) is more like it. A brilliant slice of Southern Country Soul, my personal choice of all his tracks & I wish I still had that Soul mixtape it was on.

 

In 1970 Joe was standing on the verge with getting it on with the Funk & George Clinton was listening to the groove of “You’re Right Ray Charles”, a song about the advice Brother Ray gave him back then. His final LP on the Dial/Atlantic deal was 1971’s “From the Roots Came the Rapper”, before roots & rappers were even invented. “I Gotcha” an Isley Brothers inflected slab of a song which made the “Reservoir Dogs” soundtrack, found him at #2 on the pop charts, dancing up a storm with a girl & a microphone stand on “Soul Train”.

 

 

Then Joe abruptly quit the music business. He had embraced Islam, following the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, adopting the name Yusuf Hazziez. He returned to the studio with Buddy Killen after the death of Elijah &, in 1976, enjoyed a disco hit with “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)”. I don’t know the 1978 LP “He Who Is Without Funk Cast the First Stone” (1978) but that’s a good title. In 1980 there was an ill-planned reunion of the Soul Clan & unfortunately the next clan gathering was at Joe Tex’s funeral after a fatal heart attack in 1982, aged just 47.

 

Joe Tex was more than just the Clown Prince of Soul. His conversational, quick-witted singles sounded great on the radio at a time when there was a lot of fine Soul music around. His collected work, there are 25 on “The All Time Greatest Hits”, he wrote 24 of them, reflect the fast-changing times & taste of the audience. In a business which uses up & wears out the talent from 1965 to 1972 & then some more Joe was always around, always current & down with his bad self.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Family Album)

Aseneth Imogene Allen McIntyre

You really think I’d leave my mommy out of this little party? Strap in. Nothing I write below could have been found via Google or from a book, and my brain is flooding with things I can say about my mom—it’s overwhelming & it might get rambly… but strap in nonetheless.

"Aseneth Imogene Allen McIntyre You really think I’d leave my mommy out of this little party?  Strap in.  Nothing I write below could have been found via google or from a book, and my brain is flooding with things I can say about my mom—it’s overwhelming & it might get rambly...  but strap in nonetheless.  Mom always begins the story the same way:  “You were on the veranda still in your night shirt eating something in a cup, and you were crying…”  I watched my mother get into a car that morning when I was two years old, and I wouldn’t see her again until I was almost six.  At that point, in an unfamiliar place, looking at a confusingly familiar face, in the back of my mind I knew she was mom, but I also remembered her as the nice lady who would send me little cottony dresses with alligators on them, [other ones too, but the Izods were my favorites] really neat coloring books and dollies from America.  Leaving me then was a pang that haunts her until today.  I didn’t miss a thing tho, in theory… had my 6 siblings, my Aunt Lu who quickly filled the mom role when she came up  to help manage the household, our two 'helpers’ [basically, our maids… relax, everybody in Jamaica has helpers… helpers have helpers!] my pet goat & my ridgeback, named of all things 'Ridgie' [no, I did NOT have a hand in the naming] my cat Frowzie [nor that one] and my handsome & awesome daddy!  He was my best friend... It was four years, and that's not really a long time in the grand scheme, but for a toddler maybe it was... not sure... My mother left a country where things were hard, yes, but she was… trying not to use a cliché term here… but yeah, a ‘queen’ in her community—respected, cherished, honored… to come to a hostile alien place she had to navigate like walking on shards of glass, cleaning people’s homes, taking care of their snotty children-- MY mother, almost alone… and you wonder, WHY?  so does she sometimes, when we’re f*ing up—‘why oh why did I bring you children to this place??’ (I’ve heard that a lot! ha!) first thing that comes to mind:  Opportunity, the American Dream.  It’s an intoxicating thing, this Dream. Honestly, if my mom hadn’t been married and had eight children, [yes, if you're paying attention, the math isn't adding up-- there was one more, but that's another story, another day... perhaps] had actually completed school, you’d be reading books about her.  Physics, music, art, chemistry… those things are all rolling around that practical head of hers, and not in the formal, learned, syllabus-engineered way, but more rudimentary, organic even - different means, but the same results… she’s not boisterous, she’s rather reserved & thoughtful… wow, this is hard – I have so many things in my head!  I once saw a video of a Japanese artist who, when you’re watching him speed paint you’re wondering to yourself, what’s this fool doing??  It looks insane… is it abstract? is it surreal?? he whips thru the thing, then he flips it upside down, and it’s a spot-on, scarily perfect rendering of Bruce Lee, and your mind is reeling, but everything falls into place.  That’s mom with a plan, and at the same time trying to keep us sharp.   She’s also perceptive to the point of something that seems to be a 6th sense.   Keep nothing from this woman. She will find out.  I’m not sure about my siblings, but I happily share that with her— sometimes I choose to ignore stuff, but when I’m quiet, things get ‘interesting’ haha...  After the death of my father, mom and I got closer.  I think perhaps because I look like him so much, and have so many of  his personality traits [remember, he was my favorite] & she misses this man who was her husband for 50 years… and because I’m a little different from my sibs in the way I was raised, things I was exposed to in the US rather than JA, but still aware of the JA things, I have a unique perspective on alot—I go in with fresh eyes in a way, and she appreciates that. I’ve gotten to really know my mom, and I now see what the others see—I wish I’d seen it sooner! but nothing's ever too late. This year mom will be 89, and while her joints are getting a bit more creaky, and she’s getting a bit more forgetful, and doesn’t get to see her children as often as she’d like since everyone is scattered about the country-- leaving her lonely at times, but we still have her, and every moment of her life is golden. There's so much more... there's always more! but that's all ya get!! besides, knowing her, she'd be quite peeved at me for putting her business on blast. When I was @ 18 or so I had a really freaky dream starring my mom.  We were on a scooter of some kind… not a bike & not a proper motorcycle…  the kind you see in old Italian or French movies, I’m sitting behind her with my arms around her waist and we’re going down a mountain at top speed! back tire spitting rocks as we make each turn and I’m freaking out… I’m yelling, 'mom!  mom!  I’m scared!  why are we going so fast??'  But she’s smiling, and very calm, maneuvering everything with grace & skill…  and we’re winding down & down & down, and I’m gripping her tight, ‘come on mom, it’s too fast!’ and just as I convince myself that my mother & I, this very day, will perish on a mountain, she turns her head and whispers ‘don’t worry Georgie, it’s just a dream’ and when I see her face, she’s my age! or maybe a little older... Her hair’s long & thick & indigo black, whipping in my face with the wind and she is glowing, and her eyes…. her eyes are filled with fire & joy…  then I relax, and we almost seem to hover over the road as we careen down, laughing all the way– then I wake up, in my room, in bed tucked in safely, but I see her again, still 20ish, still wearing what she had on during the scooter 'operation'…  she's at the door, and grinning, she turns her head & winks at me, ‘told you it was just a dream’ and she whips out of my room, like on air—and then I REALLY wake up, heart in my throat, but laughing at the same time. This quote is something mom says alot these days... she turns on the patois full force for this one to make it adorable-- it's simple, but resonates: "yu is mi lass’ likkle baby...""Mom always begins the story the same way: “You were on the veranda still in your night shirt eating something in a cup, and you were crying…” I watched my mother get into a car that morning when I was two years old, and I wouldn’t see her again until I was almost six. At that point, in an unfamiliar place, looking at a confusingly familiar face, in the back of my mind I knew she was mom, but I also remembered her as the nice lady who would send me little cottony dresses with alligators on them, [other ones too, but the Izods were my favorites] really neat coloring books and dollies from America. Leaving me then was a pang that haunts her until today. I didn’t miss a thing tho, in theory… had my 6 siblings, my Aunt Lu who quickly filled the mom role when she came up to help manage the household, our two ‘helpers’ [basically, our maids… relax, everybody in Jamaica has helpers… helpers have helpers!] my pet goat & my ridgeback, named of all things ‘Ridgie’ [no, I did NOT have a hand in the naming] my cat Frowzie [nor that one] and my handsome & awesome daddy! He was my best friend… It was four years, and that’s not really a long time in the grand scheme, but for a toddler maybe it was… not sure… My mother left a country where things were hard, yes, but she was… trying not to use a cliché term here… but yeah, a ‘queen’ in her community—respected, cherished, honored… to come to a hostile alien place she had to navigate like walking on shards of glass, cleaning people’s homes, taking care of their snotty children– MY mother, almost alone… and you wonder, WHY? so does she sometimes, when we’re f*ing up—‘why oh why did I bring you children to this place??’ (I’ve heard that a lot! ha!) first thing that comes to mind: Opportunity, the American Dream. It’s an intoxicating thing, this Dream.

 

Honestly, if my mom hadn’t been married and had eight children, [yes, if you’re paying attention, the math isn’t adding up– there was one more, but that’s another story, another day… perhaps] had actually completed school, you’d be reading books about her. Physics, music, art, chemistry… those things are all rolling around that practical head of hers, and not in the formal, learned, syllabus-engineered way, but more rudimentary, organic even – different means, but the same results… she’s not boisterous, she’s rather reserved & thoughtful… wow, this is hard – I have so many things in my head! I once saw a video of a Japanese artist who, when you’re watching him speed paint you’re wondering to yourself, what’s this fool doing?? It looks insane… is it abstract? is it surreal?? he whips thru the thing, then he flips it upside down, and it’s a spot-on, scarily perfect rendering of Bruce Lee, and your mind is reeling, but everything falls into place. That’s mom with a plan, and at the same time trying to keep us sharp. She’s also perceptive to the point of something that seems to be a 6th sense. Keep nothing from this woman. She will find out. I’m not sure about my siblings, but I happily share that with her— sometimes I choose to ignore stuff, but when I’m quiet, things get ‘interesting’ haha… After the death of my father, mom and I got closer. I think perhaps because I look like him so much, and have so many of his personality traits [remember, he was my favorite] & she misses this man who was her husband for 50 years… and because I’m a little different from my sibs in the way I was raised, things I was exposed to in the US rather than JA, but still aware of the JA things, I have a unique perspective on alot—I go in with fresh eyes in a way, and she appreciates that. I’ve gotten to really know my mom, and I now see what the others see—I wish I’d seen it sooner! but nothing’s ever too late. This year mom will be 89, and while her joints are getting a bit more creaky, and she’s getting a bit more forgetful, and doesn’t get to see her children as often as she’d like since everyone is scattered about the country– leaving her lonely at times, but we still have her, and every moment of her life is golden. There’s so much more… there’s always more! but that’s all ya get!! besides, knowing her, she’d be quite peeved at me for putting her business on blast.

 

When I was @ 18 or so I had a really freaky dream starring my mom. We were on a scooter of some kind… not a bike & not a proper motorcycle… the kind you see in old Italian or French movies, I’m sitting behind her with my arms around her waist and we’re going down a mountain at top speed! back tire spitting rocks as we make each turn and I’m freaking out… I’m yelling, ‘mom! mom! I’m scared! why are we going so fast??’ But she’s smiling, and very calm, maneuvering everything with grace & skill… and we’re winding down & down & down, and I’m gripping her tight, ‘come on mom, it’s too fast!’ and just as I convince myself that my mother & I, this very day, will perish on a mountain, she turns her head and whispers ‘don’t worry Georgie, it’s just a dream’ and when I see her face, she’s my age! or maybe a little older… Her hair’s long & thick & indigo black, whipping in my face with the wind and she is glowing, and her eyes…. her eyes are filled with fire & joy… then I relax, and we almost seem to hover over the road as we careen down, laughing all the way– then I wake up, in my room, in bed tucked in safely, but I see her again, still 20ish, still wearing what she had on during the scooter ‘operation’… she’s at the door, and grinning, she turns her head & winks at me, ‘told you it was just a dream’ and she whips out of my room, like on air—and then I REALLY wake up, heart in my throat, but laughing at the same time.

 

This quote is something mom says alot these days… she turns on the patois full force for this one to make it adorable– it’s simple, but resonates:

“yu is mi lass’ likkle baby…”

 

 

Hurray for leap years! one more day! and I’m making myself the last Cool Black Chick in my little indulgent series… well of course I would! because…. I’m a [reasonably] cool black chick!

You guys don’t want a long belabored profile thingy do you? meh, I’m here… life is life, whacha gonna do? et voilaaaaa…

[btw, this is my attempt at the disastrous ‘Seflie’ of which I normally find myself in the middle, attempting to impersonate a gargoyle… I was all set to do a whole fencing photographic series– utter fail… my jacket’s too big, my helmet made me look like a serial killer, and…. feh…. haha I’m getting slightly better at the selfie thing tho [maybe it’s my sister’s phone]]