Ain’t Nothing But A Houseparty

We got back to the flat on Friday evening, it was the 1980’s we probably watched “The Tube”, a spirited attempt to put “the weekend starts here” energy of popular music back in our TVs. There was a message for us, Tony had rung & left an address for a party in South London that night. Good one, always interested in a party, especially one within walking distance but which of the 2 Tonys of our acquaintance had called?

 

Tony #1 was a Birmingham drug dealer who had crashed with us a couple of years back when he needed to avoid the cops. He became our connection for the best Kashmiri black hash around. Boy that was some Summer, we were very popular among our small circle of friends. Despite smoking more of the stash than we sold & owing money we didn’t have we had parted on good terms. It would be good to see him again, the refreshments would be first class & at least he was not in prison. Tony #2 was a proper acid casualty who stayed at ours when his squats got too weird. He was a freeloader & a little scary for those who didn’t know him but he was harmless, needed help & no-one but us were around to give it. We were no strangers to a squat party, cheap, very cheerful & often a live band rocking out in the basement. Whichever Tony had put us on it, we had no other plans for the night so we were going to a party.

 

 

We showed up, just the 2 of us, on the correct doorstep at around 10.30, suitably hydrated at one of our usual haunts, clutching a bottle of wine, our trusty cassette of “You Dancing ? I’m Asking”, a personal mix of favourites (4 of which are featured here), in a pocket. “We’re with Tony” was a pretty lame opening gambit, inviting “Tony who ?” from the justifiably suspicious woman who had answered the door. Shit, we had not thought this through & a long explanation would not help. We were bailed out when someone we knew bounced up the hallway to  greet us. Oh, it was THAT Tony ! We were in !

 

Tony #3 lived out in Kent & we didn’t see him Uptown much. Always fine company with stories & objects of interest. The only man I have met who has produced a quail’s egg from his coat. While I never told him, his rakishness reminded me of a young Bryan Ferry. I liked him. It was a fine night out, we could do that party guest thing, respectful of the premises, would talk & listen to anyone then drink anything but the wine we had brought. This wasn’t the night that Mitchell woke me up from a very comfortable chair to tell me it was time to go home. I protested that I was having too good a time only to be informed that it was 7.30 in the a.m. & I had been asleep for 3 hours ! This was the night that we were stumbling home on Camberwell’s deserted backstreets & met an equally inebriated Tony #3 looking for our house. He hadn’t said that he needed a place to stay !

 

 

We threw a mean open house ourselves. Of course we spent too much time on the music. 6 hours of all killer no filler takes a lot of planning & heated discussion then guests have the front to talk to each other. Still the big room was always jumping by midnight & not a minute of Sting or the Police to be heard. Our big flat was rammed on a New Year’s Eve when we had only invited those who called us (you didn’t call then no invite) & people we met that night down the pub. We had just cleared the debris when our housemates returned from Amsterdam. We told them we had a few people round but they probably sussed out the runnings when everyone who came around for the next 3 months mentioned that they had missed quite a night.

 

In the late 1980’s the young Irish groovers who I worked with knew of a party most weekends. My new girlfriend was most taken by this raucous company, their all-nighters fuelled by whisky, amphetamine & my mate Scot determined to break on through to the other side. There were some outstanding warehouse parties when we were hanging with Armoury 88, a loose collective of DJs. The best nights were when no-one was playing out & we were back at their flat in Wandsworth, the old Jamaican guys chatting over some dub plates. Come on down it’s dancing time.

 

 

Clive’s parties lasted the whole weekend so I usually reserved a room in his large suburban house. It was at one of these that I last saw Tony #3. He & his lovely Pre-Raphaelite wife (apologies, her name escapes) had arrived early & he had partaken of the available goodies before anyone else had taken off their coats. The kitchen became a no-go area as his impression of a dog, barking & crawling around on all fours, was irksome & embarrassing. The next morning, rather than face the walk of shame he had sharply scarpered back to Sevenoaks & it was some time before anyone saw his cold, wet nose again. Hey that’s what happens when the cocaine is free. I was not too bothered by his antics, there’s always someone who peaks too early & I was glad that this time it wasn’t me because, you know, sometimes it was me ! Anyway, like many of the similarly stupified, his bark was, I’m sure, worse than his bite.

 

OK, where’s your icebox ? Where’s the punch ?

 

 

 

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Random Notes (October 2017)

I’m late with this, the past week has been spent with friends of over 40 years standing & we have stopped counting. Along with the nourishment that comes from hanging with people who know each other so well it was refreshing to step away from the Matrix for some time (I don’t do smartphones & it’s rude to ask for someone else’s password). Returning to the Lincolnshire edgelands & to the e-world, a lot of stuff & even more nonsense, I resolve to keep my distance from everyone’s favourite waste of time. Yeah, that’ll work.

 

An F-book thread marking the 50th anniversary of the release of Love’s LP “Forever Changes”, a noteworthy landmark of our music, was hijacked by the naming of favoured “great” albums. Maybe 40 titles were checked off (I think some people carry their lists with them) & the link was that they were all made by white people. I mean what the actual Eff ! It’s OK, listen to & rate whatever you want to but if you really do think that “Searching For the Young Soul Rebels” by Dexys Midnight Runners is better than Sly & the Family Stone’s “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” then please don’t say it out loud, make an appointment with an otolaryngologist & don’t come around here no more.

 

 

 

What a clip this is. A performance from the Dick Cavett Show prettied up & linked to the stereo recording of “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)”. Has any band looked so good & sounded so great ? It’s unlikely. “Thank You…” is one of a string of megahits from the group at the end of the 1960s. Sly, Sister Rose & Brother Freddie made it a family affair. Bassist Larry Graham. along with Bootsy Collins off of the J.B.’s, was taking the instrument from Soul to Funk while the brass section, Cynthia & Jerry, knew when to blaze like the Memphis boys & when to make the appropriate punctuation. Greg Errico’s drums completed a band that was greater than the sum of its impressive parts. Their intelligent positive songs found a massive audience. Sly & the Family Stone were deservedly a big deal at the time.

 

Related imageMoney, drugs, ego, paranoia, politics, the usual stuff, came with the success. Sly became known for not showing up at gigs, locking himself away in his studio. missing deadlines for an album the record company expected. When that record finally arrived, in November 1971, the bright psychedelic Soul had been ousted by a stoned, ominous, prophetic Funk. “Thank You….” had become “Thank You For Talkin’ To Me Africa”, a fuzzy, even sluggish, righteous groove that could last an hour & not be too long. “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” is Sly’s masterpiece. This month I’ve been listening to a live broadcast of the Family Stone from Dutch radio in 1970. It’s raw, ragged, joyous & the funkiest 30 minutes it’s possible to have.

 

 

On the final day of October I finally got to see Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. I couldn’t make his last two UK visits & I’ve had tickets for this tour since April. I don’t go to many big gigs nowadays & forward planning is not my thing but this was much anticipated & not to be missed. Jason’s last 3 records have been the most played new music round our house, his blend of Roots, Country & American Rock continues a tradition of names that are not to be used lightly (The Band, Neil Young, Springsteen…there I’ve done it!). On this tour his wife, Amanda Shires, was absent & perhaps a little texture & light was lost. What we did get was Southern Rock at its finest by an outstanding band who if  not at the top of their game then watch out !

 

Image result for jason isbell 400 unitThe set included 8 of the 10 tracks from “The Nashville Sound”, a record where Isbell has expanded his lyrical palette, mixing the political with the personal. These are strange, serious times. What can a poor boy do? I’ve spent more time with “Southeastern” & “Something More Than Free” but “The Last of My Kind”, “Tupelo” & “White Man’s World” are certainly starting to hit those same spots. The showstoppers were a powerful, transformed “Cover Me Up” & his Drive-By Truckers classics “Decoration Day” & “Never Gonna Change”. The Birmingham Symphony Hall is as grand as it sounds, a beautiful room with perfect acoustics. It’s maybe not the best place for Rock & Roll but the staff were not too precious about their venue (I’m looking at you, the Barbican in that London) & I had a very, very good time.

 

Image result for tales from the tour busI’m up for anything that Mike Judge puts his name to on my telly or for a bigger screen. I’ve also spent too much time watching Rock documentaries, the good, the bad & the what’s the point of this ? “Mike Judge Presents: Tales From the Tour Bus” hits both these spots, I’m the target audience, at the front of the queue for each 30-minute animated episode. I knew some of these stories about legendary Country crazies. Jerry Lee Lewis’s announcement, having been warned about profanity, at his Grand Ole Opry debut that ” ladies and gentlemen: I am a rock and rollin’, country-and-western, rhythm and blues-singin’ motherfucker!” is well chronicled but it is recounted, like everything else with irreverence & affection. The correct people are interviewed, I found the views of Myra, Jerry Lee’s teenage bride to be particularly interesting.

 

Image result for tales from the tour bus johnny paycheckI knew little about Johnny Paycheck, the subject of the opening episode. Man, he was a mean motor scooter & a bad go-getter, suitcases full of cash & cocaine, the gun in the dashboard glove compartment never far from his hand Johnny P was the worst thing around, “a hillbilly with a hit”. Judge’s “Silicon Valley” is the best of recent US sit-coms & “…Tour Bus” gets another thumbs up from me.