Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas songs... don't ya just love'em!

Christmas comes but once a year... and with the same regularity does a plethora of past Christmas 'hits'. And if there's one thing guaranteed to make me scream 'Bah, Humbug!' it's a cliché-ridden festive toon!!!

I play this annual game with myself; on what date do I first hear Noddy Holder screaming 'It's Christmas'? First released in 1973, it has been a Yule-tide fixture ever since, but like Xmas sales it's played earlier every year. As soon as I hear it the radio goes off. Until January.

And let’s face it, if anybody out there doesn’t know its Christmas from the number of times you hear Band Aid then you're probably a Hindu living on Mars ...

It's kind of depressing; always the same old rotation. Chris Rea ('Driving Home this Christmas'), Wham ('Last Christmas'), Wings ('Wonderful Christmastime'); Johnny Mathis ('When a Child s Born'), Pogues ('Fairytale of New York'), Cliff Richard ('Mistletoe and Wine') and (just to show how universal rock is) José Feliciano ('Feliz Navidad'). Oh, and I mustn't forget Wizard (I wish it Could be Xmas Everyday'). Personally, no, I don't. But I do feel sorry for Roy Wood, songwriter extraordinaire, being remembered only for this lame sing-along favourite.

I've nothing against Christmas songs per se (excepting Bowie's biggest mistake), but wouldn't it be nice to reprise a few less-known ones? My votes would go to The Zombies ('Christmas for the Free'), U2 ('Christmas, Baby Please Come Home'), The Waitresses (Christmas Wrapping', The Sensational Alex Harvey Band ('There's No Lights on the Chrotmas Tree')and David Essex (Winter’s Tale').

Any other suggestions before Christmas 2012 (DJs request all entries to be in by August, please, as they want to be in before Slade ...).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not too many Indonesians expected in 2012

Amongst the 53 nationalities taking the rock tour this year were fans from some pretty surprising countries, proving rock's global appeal. Among the English-speakers, Latin Americans, and sundry Europeans were Russians, Indians, Syrians, Taiwanese and Malays! Remember, up to a relatively few years ago, rock was either banned or severly frowned on in many of these countries.

But while most of us across rock's globe can now listen openly to virtually uncensored rock, wear t-shirts advertising our heroes, and even dress to reflect our chosen genre, spare a thought for those who can't and for whom listening, or adopting a particular dress code is still an act of defiance - just as it was in those early years of rock.

Take Indonesia, for example. It's reported that police raided a punk rock festival in the city of Banda Acha this last weekend. Traditional drug raid? Alas no; it was a much more fundamental attack on rock. Attendees were rounded up and those with Mohawks, or similar punk hair styles, had their heads forcibly shaved. Body-pierced jewellery was yanked out, and some fans were literally thrown into nearby rivers and ponds for a spot of 'spiritual cleansing'.

On the one hand, it's somewhat reassuring that rock still has the power to frighten establishments, and to 'kick against the pricks'. I often fear the blandness of Coldplay is a reflection of where our beloved rock n roll is in this 21st century, but maybe, to paraphrase Zappa, rock ain't dead (at least not everywhere), it just smells funny.

On the other hand, we need to spare a thought for the youth of Indonesia in their fight against such stupid reactionalism and crack-downs such as these. Solidarity is required! Rock on, Banda Ache.

We had a couple of Indonesians on the tour this year, but given the current over-reaction Indonesian authorities have exhibited, we must doubt there will be too many Indonesians on our nationality list for 2012!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Keef Hartley dead. Who?

Behind every publicly-acclaimed rock 'great', be it an individual or band, there are scores, if not hundreds, of others who never quite made it, despite their talents. I was reminded of this when reading of the death of the Lancashire-born drummer and band leader, Keef Hartley, last week (November 29th). Hands up, who recognises the name? He took over from Ringo in 'Rory Storm's Hurricanes' when Ringo joined the Beatles, went on to be one of John Mayall's troupe, played with 'The Artwoods' (band of Ronnie Wood's brother Art), formed his own 'Keef Harley Band' who... wait for it... played at Woodstock.

Woodstock? And you never heard of him?

And there's the rub. Keef Hartley could have, perhaps should have, been one of the drumming giants; his passing recognised by all rather than his slipping gently into that good night. Arguably Hartley missed his main chance because he's not actually in the Woodstock film. Why? Because he asked for money upfront, which was not forthcoming, so the performance was not filmed and didn't make Scorsese's edit. A legend was not born.

How many others made that one decision that robbed them of real fame and fortune? Terry Reid turning down the Led Zep vocals job? The Kinks missing out on US glory by falling out with the Teamsters Union? The Zombies who quit before what would have been their 'Time of the Season'. Can't even begin to count the number who simply shouldn't have taken that last drink, spliff or hit... bad decisions all. But the same could have happened to those that made it but for the grace of God and a little luck. If Rod Stwart had been just that bit better at football he might have signed for Brentford and his singing career been confined to the terraces in later years!

But back to Hartley. While the man may have gone, his music hasn't and it's not too late to get into it. Amazon inevitably has a range of his CDs including the great 'Battle of North West Six', 'Lancashire Hustler' and 'Dog Soldier'. RIP Keef Hartley.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UFO reunion for March 2012 is shaping up

The UFO was an itinerant 'underground' club which briefly dominated the scene of '67. A good argument can be made for it being the cradle of the British psychedelic scene as it featured bands such as Pink Floyd, the Bonzo Dog Doh Dah Band, Arthur Brown, the Pretty Things, Procul Harem and Soft Machine. It was certainly (with OZ magazine) at the epicenter of the counter-culture, 'hippy' movement that came out of the London suburb of Nottinghill Gate.

It existed in part to fund the counter-culture newspaper IT, which perennially needed cash not only to ensure it came out regularly but to fight the numerous attempts of the 'establishment' to close it down.

Around the UFO gathered any number of now semi-legendary names of the British underground; Joe Boyd (Floyd's first producer), John 'Hoppy' Hopkins, artists Michael English and Nigel Weymouth (famed as 'Hapshash and the Coloured Coat'), poet Michael Horovitz and poet and lyricist, Pete Brown (check out Cream's 'Disrali Gears').

UFO gigs were 'happenings' in the true sense of the word; little was planned, anything could happen including mild chaos. A Beatle might turn up,and did, ad so might the 'fuzz' - and did! Naturally, as a hippy movement, they lost money but club nights at the Blarney on Tottenham Court Road, All Saints Church, Nottinghill, Chalk Farm's Roundhouse and the '14-Hour Technicolour Dream' at the Ally Pally, left an indelible mark on London’s musical heritage. The influence of the UFO cannot be understated.

One scene regular, ex-roadie legend, Mouse O'Brien, has had the brilliant idea of a UFO 'reunion'; a 'happening' for 2012 with three bands full of legendary 'musos', an original oil-lamp light-show projection, magic, art, Jeff 'Isle of Wight' Dexter as MC/DJ, an exhibition of original IT and UFO artwork, and what ever else transpires... he has already lined up all sorts of interesting performers, and many of the old 'faces and heads' have confirmed they'll be along.

It's not often that you get advance notice of a 'happening'. Generally there's a press report, and maybe a TV arts show, and you're left thinking 'Jeez, I'd like to have been there! How come these things are always only for those 'in the know?’ So, take a note of he date and place; March 24th, the Tabernacle, Nottinghill Gate. There will be a website 'Zeigeist' and look out ofr collectable publicity materials appearing as the event approaches. You read about it here first!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Freddie's 20th Anniversary 24th November 2011

Touching scenes outside of Garden Lodge yesterday as people came to his last home to pay their respects to the memory of Freddie Mercury, dead now 20 years. There was a steady stream of individuals all day, many laying flowers or sticking affectionate notes to the Perspex sheets that now prevent graffiti from soiling the walls of Logan Place.

In some ways it was like an international fan club meeting. In the short time I was there, I talked with Brazilian, Argentinean, Japanese, American, French and British fans. There atmosphere was subdued rather than somber with fans swapping Freddie memories, some sporting classic tour T shirts, others carrying mementos.

The media has naturally been full of biographies of the man. Most portraits were flattering, but also many truthfully including 'warts and all' assessment of his character.

The amount of attention will no doubt attract a new generation of fans, previously unaware of Mercury or even Queen. It may sound surprising and even unlikely to long-term Queen fans that there can be people out there who don't know the band. I had a group of 30 plus French students (from Brittany) out for the day and probably less than 20% had any real knowledge of the band. A couple of weeks back I was helping Bebe Contemponi of Argentinean Canal 11 for a documentary. We were filming at Freddie's Felltham family home, now lived in by an Estonian immigrant. She had been completely unaware of the house's history, or even of Queen, until the TV cameras pitched up outside her door!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Abbey Road saved on its 80th Anniversary?

One wonders how long Abbey Road can last as a recording studio? One the one hand, it is great news that its 'mothership', EMI, has been bought back from the bankers by the French-owned, Universal Music Group (tinged with a bit of sadness that there was no British company able to buy the company). On the other hand, what place has a traditional studio in the scheme of things when recordings can now so easily be made in bedrooms and mixed on mobile phones?

To date it has been great to be able to visit the studio (or at least the location as you can't get inside unless using it professionally) and to talk not only about its 80-year history and place in rock's pantheon, but also its current activities. It's a buzz to see the artists wondering in and out, and occasionally to see a real star (hats off to Taylor Swift incidentally, who came out of the studio to meet her fans earlier this year, creating crowd scenes last seen during its Beatle heyday).

But technology is evolving, as it has throughout the history of recording. Abbey Road was arguably the world's first purpose built studio (arguably as there may have been a few already in Italy) but its pre-eminence was constantly challenged by rivals acquring more advanced equipment. EMI artists might have preferred going to other facilities to record (as indeed the Beatles famously did on occasion) had they not been tied by their recording company to using the studios.

The days of a music company tying bands to its own studio are long gone. To survive in the modern world, a studio needs to offer a combination of the greatest technology, affordability, and that certain intangible 'something' that somehow feeds the artistic muse.

Abbey Road can fulfill the last criteria in spades; everyone wants to 'feel' that Beatle or Pink Floyd magic. Kate Bush might be an exception to this ... she liked Abbey Road because it is apparently situated on leylines. So much for technology. Maybe the studio doe shave a future and that would be magic indeed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jimmy Saville RIP

So farewell, then, Jimmy.
You fixed it for everybody in your time,
Except me, that is.
I never had a Number One hit.

Of course, being able to sing,
play a guitar, or been a paraplegic might have helped.
My Mother loved you too,
Which shows how old you must have been.

I always wondered why;
you wore track-suits without a Nike badge
you didn't advertise Domestos bleach
and no one knew the brand of cigar you smoked.

I suppose that's why you remained an enigma.
But, batty as you obviously were, we all loved you, anyway.

Apologies to. E J Thribb

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Original Band or Tribute Act?

I went to see one of my favourite early ‘70s bands, ‘Canterbury sound’ legends, Caravan, at the Shepherds Bush 02. They don’t tour that much now; getting on a bit I suppose, and only a couple of original members are still in the line-up (though founder Pye Hastings is still the rock on which Caravan park).

Great night of memories; girls growing plump in the land of the grey and pink, so to speak. Musically as strong as ever (though the sound mix left something to be desired) with Hasting managing to get most of the required vocal notes. But if left me wondering; how many changes in line-up can a band perform with and still legitimately call itself the original band? Especially when they make a virtue of playing the band’s ‘seminal’ music made 40-plus years ago.

Sharing the bill with Caravan was another progressive rock legend, Curved Air, stalwarts of the student union, who produced three memorable top-twenty albums (one being the first picture disc issued), and half a dozen stand-out tracks (Back Street Love and It Happened Today). Initially, Sonja Kristina was on vocal, the wonderfully named Florian Pilkinton-Miksa on drums, the amazing Darryl Way on violin, and on guitar, maestro Francis Monkman. The band admittedly had many changes over the years (including soon-to-be Police drummer Stuart Copeland) but the sole survivors at Shepherds Bush were Kristina and Pilkington-Miksa.

OK, you can’t expect to be seeing exactly the same line-up (or even the majority) as those playing in those dim dark day; time and excess inevitably thin the ranks. But when the ‘band’ is down to a single representative surrounded by newly acquired band members young enough to be the survivor’s grandchildren, then claiming the original name is perhaps disingenuous.

Would I have gone to see two newly-named bands, one featuring Hastings and the other Kristina? Probably not. It was the original branding of Caravan and Curved Air that attracted me. On the night I came away happy but was I listening to the originals or superior tribute acts, I wonder?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Did You Experience the Troubadour?

What a great night! Again. The weekend of 17/18 September has turned into an annual commemoration of Jimi Hendrix's impact on London, and London's impact on Hendrix.

The date marks the anniversary of Hendrix's death in the city in 1970. It's truly remarkable that 41-years on Hendrix can still sell out Earls Court's Troubadour Club; at least he can in the guise of Are You Experienced, undoubtedly the UK's top Hendrix tribute band, admirably lead by the incomparable John Campbell.

The Troubadour Club is the ideal venue. It's a small, basement club, not much changed since Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Nick Drake and other folk-rock luminaries launched their careers there. The low ceilings, alcoves and almost claustrophobic atmosphere engendered by 120 or so howling Hendrix acolytes send shivers up (and down!) your spine.

And Campbell knows how to manipulate his audience; with Purple Haze he give just enough pause for 120 voices to get to 'scuse me while I kiss the sky (this guy)' before he does, and everyone gets to 'where you going with that gun in your hand' that planned fraction early. It's a perfect, crowd-pleasing performance. But not just populist; AYE's rendition of Machine Gun is delivered every bit as meaningfully now in these current war-torn times as it was during the Vietnam years. Drummer, Kevin O'Grady, keeps time like an M16, and Mark 'I Blame it on Rio' lays base notes down like well-placed mortar rounds.

A good percentage of the crowd were 'Rhodes Rockers'; guys enjoying a reunion weekend having met at the Lindos Rock Festival (check it out: A fair number had gone to the bother of 'fancy dress' and it made for a colourful crowd in more ways than one.

Great night. Nice also to some regular faces, not just the Lindos crowd but 'authentics' like Mouse O'Brien who was a roadie at the gig where Hendrix jammed with Cream at the Regent's Street Poly. 'Good gig', said Mouse. 'Yeah, didn't Clapton walk off stage in tears?'. 'No, not that one. This one.' Praise indeed.

If you were there, please post a photo or two as your blogger was too into the band to take any!

Roll on Sept 17th 2012.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Macca names the day - well almost!

So, we're on watch... sometime over the next couple of weeks Sir Paul is to marry again, with a ceremony at Westminster City Hall in London's Marylebone, where he and Linda tied the knot in 1969.

This latest Beatle bride to be is another American, Nancy Shevell.

The news emerged when Paul posted 'the banns' there. It's a legal neccessity to do so, so it's not something that can be kept quiet. Though the exact date is still unknown, the event has to take place within 16-days of the posting, which was on the 14th. If it does get out we can be sure that there'll be a lot of well-wishers lining the local streets to catch a glimpse of Mrs McCartney's little boy, as there was on the first occasion.

It will actually be the third Beatle marriage to take place there, it was George's preferred venue.

We're not expecting an invitation, but as the morning rock tour passes the City Hall maybe we'll catch a glimse!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Boys were Back in Town

The boys were back in town last weekend for Dublin’s Phil Lynott exhibition and birthday commemoration. It was a terrific weekend; not too much whiskey in the jar, but a lot of Guinness in the glass! Dublin on a Saturday night can be Live and Dangerous, especially when packed out with visiting French Rugby fans, but thankfully it was a peaceful and respectful commemoration with little need of any Sunday Jailbreak!

Enough of the clichés.

A good exhibition should keep the visitor both entertained and interested with the right balance of visual and audio presentations, and catch the eye with unique, preferably exclusive memorabilia. A visitor should leave with a feeling that they have learned more than they knew, and with a warm glow of affection for the subject. Get it right and the visitor should also leave with some merchandise tucked firmly under the arm, or at least a new tee-shirt. Dublin’s Lynott exhibition successfully fulfilled the above criteria.

Over 10 rooms or so, the exhibition traces Lynott’s story from Manchester birth, Dublin childhood and formative teens, through his glory years of Thin Lizzy success to the climax of his sad all-too-early end in London. Personal early photos and school reports were thankfully kept as a brief introduction to the man, with the bulk of the exhibition material concentrating on his musical career. Set lists, tour accounts, advertising posters, tour programmes, candid photos and personal letters home built up a picture of this complex man, following his rise from teenage band member to international headliner. DVD presentations of concert footage (including his Top of the Pops appearance), the reminisces of fellow-band members, and collections of his personal effects, put flesh on the man.

The ‘wow’ factor was provided by his Fender Precision bass, stage clothing and Manchester United jacket!

The pity is that it was a temporary exhibition as it would have been great addition to Dublin’s more permanent rock-heritage attractions. There was one well-known photo I half-expected to see; it’s of Lynott casually posing with Gary Moore and George Best in a local pub. It wasn’t there, but in a way that was as it should be. When the exhibition is over at least this bit of Dublin’s Lynott will still be there to discover for anyone taking a Guinness at O'Donohue's pub on Merrion Row.

And what did I learn? That Thin Lizzy's first London gig was upstairs at Ronnie Scotts Club; that Phil was a rampant Man Utd fan; that £40 was a considered quite a good fee at the begining of their career; that Tim Booth of Dr Strangely Strange (who I once met and can thank for turning me on to Paul Brady) designed the 'Thin Lizzy' type face; that the same money that bought you a Lizzy LP in 1976 buys you less than a third of a pint of Guinness in Dublin now; and that my mate Geoff, a normally fantastically talented photographer, forgets to activate his flash when over-awed by the presence of the famous! More of the last in my next post...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

London's Burning!

We've found ourselves playing some real classic songs as the soundtrack for our recent tours. It's amazing how appropriate lyrics written some 30 years ago are now. The Clash captured the disturbances and civil disobedience of the late 70s and early 80s on their first eponymous album; though the Nottinhghill area which saw the 70s violence was virtually unscathed this time as, thankfully, were all areas covered on our rock tours. Along with the descriptive 'London's Burning', Joe Strummer and his band cohorts also called for a 'White Riot, white riot, a riot of my own'. The classic 'Police and Thieves' (from the same album though originally written by Junior Murvin) contains the lines 'And all the crowd come in, day by day, no one stop it anyway' and this certainly described the early days of the disturbances when an over-whelmed and under-prepared police failed to meet the initial challenge. In truth, we could have done with a few more scenes such as grace the reverse picture from that Clash album; truncheon-weilding police, chasing rioters, ready and willing to dole out a bruising.

One tour client suggested the Stones 'Street Fighting Man' as an appropriate inclusion to our soundtrack. It's not; that was written in response to anti-Vietnam political riots and doesn't apply to the current looting mob. This was a cowardly lot who'd soon disappear if they were really faced with street fighting rather than the softly-softly and measured restraint approach shown by our London Met police.

The Jam's 'Town Called Malice' definitely makes the soundtrack cut though. As does Kaiser Chiefs 'I predict a riot'.

The Beatles inevitably have a comment; 'When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads'. Well, England's famed climate and 16,000 coppers on the streets seems to have dampened looter activity over the past few evenings.

Putting aside our flippancy, the real sadness is the damage and disruption caused, and the impact these events have and will have on so many innocent Londoners. And it could have a real impact on rock music. One event in the last few days was the burning down of Sony's Warehouse in the neighbourhood of Enfield. The fire reportedly destroyed the entire stock of CDs and vinyl of more than 100 small independent labels (including XL Recordings whose office we visit on our tours). Although some of the short-term problems of supplying product from the like of Artic Monkeys and Adele may be overcome, there's talk of the warehouse also having contained masters and and hard drives. If so, that may mean some recordings could be lost forever. It's also going to mean hard times for the indie labels themselves, along with their roster of artists and staff.

Whatever the causes of the misnamed 'riots' - social revolution, unemployed boredom, summertime blues, or simply mindless greed and hooliganism - most Londoners agreed with Lennon's sentiments, 'When you talk about destruction, don't you know you can just count me out'.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Boys Are Back in Town! Lynott returns to Dublin

Rock fans never need a reason to visit Dublin. For one thing there's always good live music to be had somewhere. For another the city has some tremendous record shops. And the third; it's one of the few cities (outside of perhaps Memphis and Liverpool) that really exploit their rock heritage.

One of the city's most famed sons was Phil Lynott, best known for his band 'Thin Lizzy'. Though born in the UK's West Midlands, Lynott's mother is a Dubliner and Lynott was brought up in the city and is buried there at St. Fintan's cemetery in Sutton, northeast Dublin. There's a fine permanent statue of the man just off Grafton Street, but over the next month the city also hosts a fantastic temporary exhibition, at St Stephen's Green Shopping Center, dedicated to the musician's life and times. Amongst a heap of memorabilia on display is Lynott's 1972 diary, containing hand-written lyrics to some of Lizzy's most memorable songs.

Lynott's birthday, on August 20th, is to be commemorated when a special pageant is planned for the city. Costumes have produced in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and will no doubt bring the colour and exuberance of Brazilian carnival to the streets of Dublin. Incidentally, one myth that has recently been exploded (by his mother, Philomena) is that Lynott's father was Brazilian; he was actaully British-Guyanian.

Unfortunately, the exhibition only runs until August 31st so it’s a case of getting your skates on if you want to be one of 'the boys back in town'.

Recommended accommodation: St Stephen’s on the Green. Not as pricey or as noisy as the Temple Bar hotels but just as conveniently situated for all Dublin’s attractions.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Memories are Made of This

I was overjoyed recently to discover, on-line inevitably, some memorabilia that evoked long-forgotten personal memories. And it reminded me that preserving rock heritage very much includes ensuring that ephemera, even apparently the inconsequential, is saved. The history of the rock age will not be told and interpreted through the 'concrete' artifacts of buildings, stage gear and instruments. The real stuff of history will be the ticket stubs, handbills and posters that contextualise the personalities and performances.

On a recent ‘Classic Rock’ tour we stood outside Finsbury Park's Rainbow Theatre (nee the Astoria and now a Brazilian church). I did my best to bring the building to life with tales of Zappa's misfortunes there, Pink Floyd's seminal performance of Dark Side of the Moon, Hendrix's first guitar burning, The Who's 'Tommy' show, Van Morrison's historic BBC live broadcast, Clapton's return gig, and Bob Marley's triumph. But the thing that really brought the whole thing to life for tour participants was holding a facsimile ticket for the Beatles first fan club show, held in this very building, December 1964; a facsimile copied from an original to be found for sale on the MEM Cinema & Music Memorabilia site (

Palpable shivers were brought to collective spines as each in turn was presented their own 'ticket to ride'. So much history in such a little bit of paper. And to think that the original holder of this ticket would have paid just 8/6d for it. (Here's one for the historians; when did scalpers first appear?). In 'modern' money that's about 44p (75 US$ cents, half a €uro, less than one Brazilian Real). That's what a rock (pop) show was then worth; even for the biggest band.

Fantastic isn't it? McCartney's show in Hyde Park cost about £90 last year. How times have changed. But it is by examining such ephemera that historians begin to understand rock's changing position in our social history. It's not just so called 'valuable' memorabiliia that's the key. For a few months (perhaps years) Amy Whitehouse (RIP) material will now fetch a premium, but will it ever illustrate anything other than the story of yet another poor, troubled kid caught up in, and beliveing, the rock'n' roll dream'? Historians wil have plenty of examples to choose from. The key is to preserve the generic, not the specific. A poster for the Crawdaddy in Richmond will be worth a thousand autographed Stones LPs (especially since the vandals who now own the building have erased all memories of its illustrious rock past.

Me? My emphemera will only interest a limited audience. It's not the real stuff of history. My purchases from MEM’s site were a programme for Frank Zappa's 1972 Oval show (with Jeff Beck and Welsh band, Man, among the supports - and what a show!), and an original handbill for one of the first formal concerts I ever went to; a package tour with Gene Pitney headlining. But the real reason for going? To see my then 'fav' band, Amen Corner, who were also on the bill. It seemed a lot at the time (and a significant percentage of my weekly pocket money), but I'd wager the ticket was not more then 5s (anyone got one?). Happy days, happy memories, and two pieces of rock history that I'm now proud to own.

What your favourite piece of memorabilia? Will it broadly inform future generations or just be something for the grandkids to wonder at?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Be There or Be Square!

London 60s Week is just around the corner.

This is a great event celebrating all things 60s. Think of it as a kind of 'Edinburgh Festival' , but in London and focusing on th 60s! Music, dance, cinema, talks etc., etc.

London 60s Week is organised by a collection of people who were actually 'there'. Perhaps surprisingly, they remember it! The beauty is that with every event you get authenticity not some cheap commerical rip off. The idea of 60s Week is very simple: connect today's youth with yesterday's creativity and see where the combination takes us.

One event to get into your diary if you're in London on Friday, July 29th, is the '60s Shake'n' at the GARAGE, Highbury Corner. There's a packed night's entertainment; three bands, retro DJs, GO-Go Dancers (yeh!). But for me the pride of place is taken by the tribute band 'Small Fakers'. They are great. I was lucky enough to have seen the Small Faces in their heyday and this is the nearest you'll get to recreating those mad, bad, Mod nights! And at just £7.50 a head it's a bit of a give-away.

Tickets are available through

Groovy, man!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rockin' All Over the World

Thirty-nine nationalities and counting... Here we are early July, with nearly six months left of the year to run, and we've just recorded our 39th nationality aboard the London Rock Tour. Phenomenal. We carried 39 different nationalities in total last year (not counting Scottish and Welsh who we count as UK), so there's a good chance we'll top this in 2011.

The reach of rock is simply amazing. Its power and social impact immeasurable. A trivial force, think some, though (near) future historians will recognise its impact on things like anti-war and social change movements, fashion and even education. Rock has shrunken our planet; The Beatles, Led Zep, Hendrix, Queen et al, stand beside global brands like Coca Cola, Microsoft, F.C. Barcelona and Disney.

McCartney told a funny story illustrative of rock's reach, at his Hard Rock Calling, Hyde Park concert last year. As he looked out over the assembled masses, flags of all nationalities waving above our heads, he reflected, without false pride, on how Beatles lyrics had been used around the world to teach the English language - another globalising factor. The first time he was 'Back in the USSR' he was asked to say 'hi' to a senior member of the Russian government who had apparently learned his English from Beatle songs; 'Hello', said Macca, by way of an opening. ‘Goodbye', answered the Minister! But Russian politicians did learn that 'All You Need is Love' and the 'iron curtain' was drawn back.

Happily, we already count Russians amongst this year nationality crop, but perhaps more surprising are the Puerto Ricans, Maltese, Lebanese and Syrian rockers ('power to the people' there, too) who've stepped aboard the 'Magic Bus'.

Latin American is well represented with Ecuador, Chile and Peru in addition to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, but inevitable the big three to date are the UK, the USA and Australia.

What we're now interested to see is which will be the 40th country... Outer Mongolia, perhaps, or Malawi? I wouldn't bet against either as we're truly rockin' all over the world!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Young Jagger

London's National Portrait Gallery has a fascinating display of portraits of a very young Mick J on show until November. It includes previously unseen shots taken by Gered Mankowitz, who was just 18 when appointed the Stones 'official' photographer.

And what age-defining images Mankowitz created in that London epicentre of '60s counter-culture, Mason Yard. In his studio, right next door to the Scotch of St James club and the Indica Art Gallery, not only was the Stones image moulded, but also that of the new-to-London Hendrix.

Inevitably, there's not a plaque to be seen recording the history made in any of these buildings.

Arguably, two of his best Stones shots are those that graced the covers of 'Between the Buttons' and 'Out of Our Heads'. The latter looks like Mason's Yard might have been the location. It captures that 'bad boy' menace so important to the band's early market poitioning! What a truly great rock photo.

If you're felling flush then you can aquire limited edition copies of Mankowitz's photo's from Jill Furmanovsky's There's a great book, too; 'Hendrix at Mason's Yard', currently on Amazon for £18. If you're really loaded (or think it's a good investment) you can get an authographed copy for £330 from Snap Galleries, where they are exhibiting Mankowitz's work until November.

The cheapest way to view Mankowitz's art though is at The National Gallery; that's free!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rock Museum in Barcelona

You'd perhaps not immediately put 'rock' and 'Barcelona' into the same sentence. I suspect that Anglo-Saxons would have a hard time naming a single Spanish rock musician; Anglo-Saxons have a hard time naming any rock musician outside of the English-speaking world. 'If it ain't in English, it ain't worth listening to' being the rather narrow-minded feeling. Barcelona would perhaps normally be paired with bull fights, the Nou Camp, Gaudi or San Miguel.

Spanish rock fans are not so culturally or linguistically hidebound, however, and the new museum illustrates this. Somewhat ironically, for Anglo-Saxon visitors, it is situated in the old bull ring, on the 4th floor of the new shopping centre Las Arenas at Plaça d'Espanya.

The museum houses a number of small galleries, some being permanent (inevitably those being Beatles, Stones, Punk and national music sections), while a couple of others are temporary. Queen fittingly in this their 40th year, take centre stage in the largest temporary gallery.

Inevitably perhaps, the range of exhibits is not as extensive as you'd find in the BME at London's O2. I doubt too many rock musicians have donated a chunk of their past here (perhaps they were never asked?). But it has some interesting local exhibits; posters advertising local gigs, local record sleeves and photographs. There's also a session room where local acts give shows, and a 'studio' where visitors can play out their rock dreams on a variety of instruments. Next door to their smallish merchandise outlet is an excellent rock-themed restaurant. Its size, food price and relative simplicity make it an interesting alternative to the Barcelona Hard Rock Cafe (one of the 135 world-wide...).

Add this new attraction to the more established Barcelona rock treat - a street of record and musical instrument shops, situated in the old town, just off La Rampla – and you have a great day out!

The records shops, by the way, are an Aladdin’s cave of delights. The selection of bootleg CDs and old vinyl spread over half a dozen shops is fantastic. Stuff you struggle to find elsewhere, especially the live performance bootlegs. What caught my eye on a recent visit was a new CD boxed package from the Godfather label; Pink Floyd's 1972 Rainbow Theatre appearance. The package consists of 4 discs, poster and facsimile ticket of what was basically the test launch of 'Dark Side of the Moon'. Given the historical importance of this particular performance, it’s probably a must-buy for Floyd fans, even at the hefy 89€ price tag.

And Spanish rock? Worth a listen are Héroes del Silencio. And check out flamenco-rock; a fusion of flamenco with progressive rock. Some of the most well-known examples of this scene from its 1970s heyday are the bands Smash and Crack.

Rock on Barcelona!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Big in Brazil?

Purely by accident, we ran into a film crew from ESPM Brazil outside Abbey Road a couple of weeks back. This resulting clip was aired on their coverage of the Champions League Final (Manchester United v Barcelona). I guess it's a small compensation for the fact that Manyoo were turned over!

If you're reading this in Argentina, keep you eyes open for a show on Canal 13 hosted by Bebe Contepomi featuring an interview with Roger Waters... it may include a little piece about our Pink Floyd Cambridge and London tour as we're taking the crew on a special tour of discovery. We'd love to hear if we make it onto Argentinean TV!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Queen's 'We Will Rock You!' Discount tickets

It's in its 8th year so that must say something about how good it is. I know at least three people who have seen the show above six times! Honestly, I can't review it myself yet as, almost unbelievably, I've yet to see it ...

Anyway, a night at the Dominion theatre is a worthwile complement to one of our London Rock Tours. Not only would you be celebrating Queen's 40th, and 20-years since Freddie' untimely death, but see the theatre where it can be argued that rock fenzy first surfaced in London! In February 1957, Bill Haley travelled to England, the first rock 'n' roll star to tour abroad. He was mobbed when his train arrived in London and there were rabid scenes of fan mania when he performed at the Dominion.

Not much in the Dominion to record this, which is a bit remiss of them, but they do have a great Queen photo exhibition.

We have discount tickets fro tose who want to see the show; £30 for the best seats available, Monday to Thursday. Just ask the guide on your tour or let us know in advance when booking your Rock legends tour.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Does Tap Dance have a place in Rock? Lofgren in High Wycombe

Somewhat self-indulgently perhaps, Keef Richards has heeded Nils Lofgren’s 1973 plea ‘Keith, Please Don’t Go’, though it’s a reminder of how long that eternal survivor Richards has seemed on the edge of self-destruction, even to his adoring peers.

Lofgren is himself another survivor. Patently, he hasn’t gone in for the same rock’n’roll lifestyle as the older Stone. Forty-three years ‘on the road’ and he still bounces around the stage (though the trampoline is long gone) with youth-like flexibility and athleticism. Lofgren looks like he’s the man who invented most of the rock-God guitar poses, arching his back as he sends notes soaring to the roof, roaming the stage like he’s checking territorial boundaries, or hunching over his axe like a demon goblin with fingers flying at impossible speed over the fret.

Though physically diminutive, Lofgren commands the stage like a giant. On this current UK tour he shares it with ‘the band’; the truly excellent Greg Varlotta who accompanies Nils on piano, guitar, trumpet or tap dance when required. Yes, tap dance. Lofgren was always one for the showmanship. Concerts have featured one-handed playing (‘I learned how to drink beer and play at the same time when on my first tour of the UK with Neil Young’, he confides), the occasional bow to Hendrix’s teeth-playing trick, and of course the famed trampoline, graphically immortalised as the front cover of 'Flip'.

He needs no gimmicks to electrify his audience though. They just give a man already in sharp 3D an extra dimension; tongue-in-cheek crowd pleasers. And God forbid the tap element should be considered ‘gimmick’. It was an integral part of the show; Varlotta’s tap rhythm to Lofgren’s powerfully strummed ‘Cry Tough’ was quite extraordinary. Lofgren is a virtuoso musician - and teacher - whether on electric or acoustic guitar, piano, harp (not often you hear the harp in a rock tune …), or executing a tap dance himself, as he did on ‘I Came to Dance’.

On the evidence of the Bruce Springsteen E Street Band T shirts at this High Wycombe gig, there were several fans of the Boss who’d obviously come to see a solo Lofgren out of curiosity. Playing over two hours of his own, rich, back catalogue material, and featuring ‘hits’ like ‘Going Back’, 'Here Comes the Night’ and ‘Back it Up Like Rain’, will have demonstrated that however important to the E Street band, he’s no simple side-man. The entire audience (and nowhere as big as Lofgren deserves) came out on a high, buzzing and giddy with adrenaline.

Overall, the show gets my ‘best of the year’ so far. Unmissable, if you’re reading this before the tour is through. And it’s nice when a musician of Lofgren’s stature comes out to meet fans and sign merchandise after a show. On the way into the venue Lofgren had been cheerily greeted by local character, the street-dwelling ‘Ed the Oracle’. ‘Are you coming to the show?’ asked Lofgren apparently. ‘No; can’t afford it’, sighed Ed. Lofgren reappeared 10 minutes later, personally, with a free ticket –unasked, unexpected and certainly not expecting this random act of generosity to be reported. That’s even nicer.

Forty-three years on it’s perhaps time someone wrote a homage to Lofgren; ‘Nils, please don’t go’ might be appropriate.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Zombies walk the Earth!

If Zombies are lifeless creatures, existing trance-like in a state of limbo, then it has to be the most inappropriate name for the band started 50-years ago by Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Chris White and Hugh Gundy. These Zombies have the essential life force in them, not only performing at the highest standard but still producing fresh-sounding new material.

I well remember Saturday shopping expeditions forty-five year ago, and the excitement of finding Zombies singles for 6d – which was about all I could then afford out of my weekly pocket money. Fortunately, for me if not for the band, they were never very popular and their singles ended up (along with Pink Floyd’s early offerings, believe it or not) in the Woolworth ‘deleted and remainders’ bin. Lucky me; those singles are now worth about £40 apiece and the legendary original ‘Odessy and Oracle’ (which I bought full price at the then enormous price of 32s 6d) over £400!

I never saw them live in that early incarnation. They disbanded before I was old enough to be allowed by my parents to go to a gig. I never imagined that they’d still be around when I had money in my pockets, and was well old enough to choose how late I stay out!

Going to a Zombies show now is rather like going to one of the package tours that they’d have themselves taken part in during the early 60s. In those days the band would have been one amongst many, sandwiched between a couple of other ‘groups’, each playing their three of four most well-known numbers. Now with 50-years of material, various off-shoots and solo careers, this set-up has come full circle and provide the complete package themselves with career highlights and hits from The Zombies, Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent, and the 70s progressive band Argent. Separate acts but all connected by an unseen umbilical cord to the original Zombies.

Highlights of their 50th year anniversary show at London’s Shepherds Bush Empire included Zombies numbers like ‘Sticks n Stones’, ‘Tell her No’ and half a dozen from the aforesaid ’lost’ classic, 'Odessey and Oracle'. The four remaining original members of the band performed together for the latter. Half a dozen tracks from their latest CD, 'Breath in, Breath out' fitted seemlessly into the set. Blunstone contributed numbers from his solo career; ‘What becomes of the Broken Hearted’ and ‘I don’t Believe in Miracles’ were reminders of what a truly great voice he has. We were also reminded of just how good Argent were with an extended version of ‘Hold Your Head High’ and ‘God gave Rock’n’ Roll to you’, with the legendary Jim Rodford (Kinks) from the original band on bass.

Inevitably, it was everyone on stage for the most famed of Zombies numbers, ‘She’s Not There’. No one in the audience minded that they played it twice as an encore. What a night. What a band. What a history.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Moment of Rock History

Almost miraculously there he was taking his rightful place on top of The Wall. It only took the audience a few seconds to realize that the figure silhouetted by the broad shaft of back-projected, white light was Gilmour, recreating the iconic image first captured 30 years ago in Jill Furmanovsky’s photograph. A mighty roar from the auditorium almost drowned out the opening notes of ‘Comfortably Numb’. Gilmour and Waters were reunited. May 12th, 2011, The 02, London.

There had been the inevitable rumours and Twitterings that Gilmour would join Waters for one night; just one, somewhere on this European tour of The Wall. I don’t think anyone really thought they’d see it. And there was no speculation over the possibility of Mason being involve. But there he was, albeit swapping a drum kit for a tambourine. Mason, Gilmour, Waters and the 11-strong band, all standing front stage for the closing number, performed in front of the physical wreckage of the torn down Wall almost as an encore. Three members of Pink Floyd on stage together. May 12, 2011, The 02 London.

And Waters, hugging his old adversaries, making a public confession that during the Wall’s first outing at Earls Court 29 years and 329 days previously, he had been a grumpy, argumentative man, disaffected with both rock audiences and his colleagues. Gilmour nodded agreement. ‘But I’m a changed man now’. Gilmour nodded at that, too.

And what of The Wall itself? From the opening moments, when a large model plane crossed the audience to explode in a ball of fire stage right of a photo of Water’s own dead father, you knew you were in for something even greater than the normally memorable Water’s production. Seat belts on and prepare to have your senses bombarded.

From little acorns do mighty oaks grow. Waters has come a long way from performing at the UFO and Nottinghill’s All Saints church hall in front of patterns of coloured oil projected onto a loosely hung sheet behind the band. The visual effects were an absolute triumph of both creativity and technology. The Wall itself, slowly erected during the first half of the show, became the projection screen, filled with ever-changing kaleidoscopic colours and evocative images. Water’s anti-war and anti-corporatism message, and the Wall’s central story of ‘Pink’ the disaffected, alienated rock star, were rammed home, sometimes perhaps to audience discomfort - depending on political standpoint. Giant and grotesque puppets danced, pigs flew and familiar, though still shocking images from the film, like the trial scene, seamlessly complemented the familiar audio.

And lest it be said that the visual triumphed at the expense of the aural, that audio was an equal partner in this feast for eyes and ears. The band was tight and Waters individual performance amazing.

It was breath-taking. It was stunning. The Wall was both literally and metaphorically torn down. It will probably not be repeated; surely Gilmour’s appearance was a one-off and Waters can’t keep on touring (he is 67 after all).

This was truly a moment in rock history: 12th May, 2100, the 02 London. And I was there.

Jill Furmanovsky’s photograph:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

'Are You Experienced' in Brazil

Just back from an amazing week in Brazil with 'Are You Experienced'. The band were invited to play at the launch in Rio de Janeiro of the film, 'Hey Hendrix', made by Pedro Paulo Caneiro and Roberto Lamourier during our commemorative weekend last September.

In amongst very many memorable experienced was a jam session the band did with Brazilian guitarist, Pepeu Gomes, at George Israel's studio for broadcast on MTV. Gomes was voted top Latin American rock guitarist by the prestigious Guitar Player magazine and he showed us why, trading Hendrix licks and tricks with John Campbell for an hour or so.

Alas, unless you live in Brazil you probably wont get to see the show but there's a strong possibility that Gomes will tour the UK later this year, and hopefully play with AYE somewhere.

Pedro Paulo and Roberto's film, incidentally, will be screened in the UK at film festivals later this year too. Watch this space for details of both events!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Get that Ealing Feeling!

I wonder how many times the teenagers of 50 or so years ago had their father’s tell them ‘It’s rubbish this rock and roll. Rubbish. It won’t last’. I’d hazard a guess that everyone who fought to squeeze a ‘pop’ record onto the family gramophone between Dad’s Pat Boone and Grandma’s Doris Day heard it. Yet as Cliff Richard sang in his first 1958 hit, Move it, ‘They say it’s gonna die but let’s face it, they just don’t know what’s a going to replace it’ and the ensuing years have proven that rock’n’roll is, as more than one singer has screamed into his mic ‘here to stay’!

2012 marks a host of rock anniversaries with three big 50th celebrations; the Rolling Stones, the Beatles (yes, they were of course around before, but not with Ringo), and the legendary Ealing Blues Club.

The last is probably least well-known, yet in the annuls of rock history the Ealing Blues Club ranks right up there with the Marquee, Cavern and the Crawdaddy. Formed as a breakaway from the original Marquee by Alexis Korner, the club, its damp soaked walls giving it the better-known sobriquet the ‘Moist Hoist’, gave many a fledging artist their first opportunity of live performance. Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Charlie Watts, Graham Bond, Long John Baldry, Rod Stewart, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Paul Jones, Manfred Mann all played here; the list is endless. It was also where Jagger, Richards and Jones came together for the first time.

Unusually, the actual basement club is still there, occasionally even functioning as a nightclub. Needless to say, there’s no plaque recognition of the place’s history – despite Ealing borough council having spent zillions over the years in vain attempts to attract a tourist market. Thank God then for the guys who promote and run the annual Ealing Jazz and Blues Festival – itself celebrating 25 years in 2012 – who are working hard to get some form of official recognition for club site in time for the big 50th. There’s talk of some musicians who played at the original club playing at the annual festival, and of an appeal to locals for memorabilia with an exhibition in mind.

Meanwhile, just down the road, another Ealing landmark is disappearing. I doubt that many of its latter day hamburger-munching, chip-eating clients knew of its rock history but the West Ealing Wimpy Bar on Uxbridge Road was a post-gig, late night hang out for 1960’s bands. How do I know? Because Doug Sandom, original pre-Keith Moon Who drummer, told me while we were spending a memorable day scouting old Who sites around the borough.

More on the Ealing festival, exhibition and Doug’s memories in laer blogs but at least we go a picture of the Wimpey Bar before it was torn asunder!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Final Rio Despatch (for now!) CARNIVAL OVER

So that's it. The Carnival is over. Although the main part is just 4-days in length, Rio's carnival holiday stretches over a good 8-days. This year saw the welcome return of the free street carnivals 'blocs' that were so popular of old. And they were back with a vengence with some 340 all over the city!

In theory, these street parties are meant for the locals of a particular block or neighbourhood. Each one has its own special carnival band featuring massed drumming, banjos, 'cavaquinhos' (similar to a ukelele and trumpets. A voclaist leads the chorus as the bloc winds its way through the neighbourhood with a long trail of happy, drunken, singing dancers in its wake. The music is a mix of samba and typical 'marchinhas de carnival' songs. Some blocs have a reputation and attract huge crowds. The 'Bala Preto' (black ball) and 'Mono-bloco' attracted somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 each onto the streets. It's an experience you don't forget!

This year saw the launch of a new bloc: 'Sargent Pimenta'. Fifty drums of various sizes, eleven guitars and some odds and sods of wind playing Beatle songs, carnival style. The bloc was held in a street in Botafogo, a neighbourhood of Rio. About 100,000 attended. I tried but could get no nearer than 80 metres to the band, who wisely substituted a stage for the traditional 'parade'. I could just about hear them, though. And it sounded fantastic!

The Beatles are just amazingly popular here. Every Brazilian artist of note covers Beatle numbers at some time. The shops are full of Bealte merchandise. The bookshops stock a great range of publications. Beatle tee shirts abound. The number of people trying to groove to Sgt Pimenta, a first-time bloc band testifies to the continuing popularity of the Fab Four.

Thankfully, the better bloc bands have a life throughout the year, with some even touring overseas. Imagine Sgt Pimenta playing at Liverpool's annual Matthews Street Festival! They's be a bit too big to fit on the Cavern Club stage but St George's Square might just about hold 'em! I can't wait to see it!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Syd Barrett Exhibition

There´s a very time-limited exhibition on in London this month (and until early April) that´s a must for Pink Floyd fans.

Celebrating Syd Barrett’s creative output as a visual artist, the exhibition brings together the largest and most comprehensive collection of his artwork and photos to date. Revealing a lesser known side of Syd’s creativity, the original artworks will be exhibited alongside previously unseen photos of Syd and his band mates and the letters he wrote to his first loves Libby and Jenny.

It´s open from the 18th March until 10th April at The Idea Generation Gallery, 11 Chance Street, E2 7JB.

Walking Bossa Nova History

Followers of this blog will be well aware of our ´mission´ at Access All Areas; to identity, preserve, protect and promote world-wide rock heritage. You´ll also be aware of our antipathy towards politicians and administrators who either willfully ignore their local heritage or do little to protect or promote it. It is gratifying to see that the Rio de Janeiro ´Prefectura´ are wise to their musical heritage, and its potential for generating tourism visits and jobs.

Rio is the cradle of many musical styles but perhaps the most famed (and alas perhaps under-appreciated) is bossa nova. Bossa Nova grew out of samba in the 1950s. It was a distinct musical revolution which may have had an even greater impact outside of its birthplace had not the ´beat-boom´ of the early 60s taken place. What makes boss nova so uniquely attractive is not only the gentle, summer-invoking rhythms (Rio boasts of being the city that invented summer´) but the lyrics. Early bossa was basically poetry set to music.

Some of the bossa names and tunes are of course known world-wide; Tom Jobin and Vinicius de Moraes with ´The Girl from Ipanema´, and Óne Note Samba´, Sergio Mendez, João Gilberto, Luiz Bonfá, and the vocals of Elis Regina. Sinatra, Bennett and a host of others paid homage by covering Brazilian-written songs. Inevitably, given it was usually sung in Portuguese, many more composers and performers never made it big on the international stage.

A visit to Rio can now include an ´education´ and an enjoyable voyage of discovery through Bossa Nova history (and discovery of contemporary sounds) as buildings and sites important in bossa heritage are having plaques erected on them (with more promised). Most visitors here manage to find the Ipanema bar where Jobin famously wrote ´The Girl´ but other sites, especially in Copacabana, were in danger of disappearing so well done Rio.

If you take a very short ´plaque trail´ walk (to the rear of the Copacabana Palace, you past clubs, homes, and an excellent music specialist shop. The photo,above, of the plaque identifying the legendary street of clubs, ´Bottle Alley´, is the shop location. Nearby, there is the Baden Powell theatre (not the BP or the boy scouts, but a legendary bossa/sama musician, named after him ) where you can hear music nightly for a pittance. And on Coapacabana beach front there´s a statue to another great, Danilo Caymmi.

It´s forward thinking by a city that´s gearing up to host the World Cup and Olympics. What a pity the good burghers of other cities with musical heritage don´t have the same forward-thinking approach.

Death of a Long-serving Friend ...

And everywhere it’s the same; the forced closure of great record shops due to the ‘download revolution’.

Modern Sounds in Copacabana was an institution. As a retail outlet for CDs, old vinyl and even second-hand hi-fi, it was incomparable. It was a treasure trove; a light, spacious ground floor with case upon case of Brazilian and international music covering every genre, and a part-hidden vinyl basement to set the pulses racing! Add to the mix knowledgeable staff, headphone listening points and a fantastic café that regularly featured artists launching new product – with free attendance – and you get one of the world’s greatest ‘record stores’.

It’s no wonder that visiting stars from Madonna to Page would make Modern Sounds one of their first stops when in town.

And it has shut. Just like that. It was here in December, but it ain’t now. There should at least have been a wake.

RIP Modern Sounds, another victim to modern sound distribution chan

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Andy Summers plays Rio

The history of collaborations between Latin and particularly Anglo-Saxon musicians goes way back to Carmen Miranda (she-of–the-fruit-headress), but it took off in the late 50s and early 60s with the advent of bossa nova and the incomparable Tom Jobim. In the early 70s London became the temporary home of ‘Tropicalia’ exiles Gilbeto Gill and Caetano Veloso, both influencing and being influenced by the exploding rock culture. And look out for interesting 80’s collaborations between Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music) and Sergio Dias (Os Mutantes) on 1990´s album, ´Mato Grosso, and Manzanera produced the highly acclaimed album Severino from the Brazilian rock band Os Paralamas do Sucesso, which included a participation by Brian May. In more modern times rock’s aristocracy have turned up on Brazilian shores seeking inspiration, with many taking up part-time residence; amongst them Jimmy Page, the late Jim Capaldi, Wayne Hussey (The Mission), and Andy Summers of The Police.

A couple of nights ago I ventured out to catch the last in concert with one of Brazil’s greatest living bossa nova exponents, Roberto Mensecal. The gig was in a comparatively new venue here; the placa de mauai, a renovated warehouse in the somewhat threatening area of Rio’s docks, Unexpectedly, they were joined by the fantastic Marcus Valle and other well-know local musicians.

This was bossa-rock fusion of the most interesting kind. Imagine, if you will, ‘Roxanne’ and ‘Message in a Bottle’ done in bossa-nova style with just Summers on guitar accompanying vocalist Cris Delanno. And then imagine Summers as part of a three-man guitar line up with Valle and Menescal, performing bossa classics like Tom Jobin’s ‘Garota de Ipanema’ (Girl from Ipanema) and Chega de Saudade, Menescal’s own classic, ’Barquinho’ (Little Boat), and Valle’s Samba de Verao (Summer Samba).

Summers struggled with the heat and with his Portuguese but not with the music. His passion for the style, and respect of the history, was evident. The locals’ passion for The Police was equally evidenced by enthusiastic singing, and despite their being a relatively small crowd of approximately 250 souls, he was given a rousing ovation when the whole band encored with Every Breath you Take.

Actually, it’s one of the advantages of this town; you get to see bands and musicians cheaper and in much more intimate surroundings than you’d ever do ‘at home’. Worth the airfare, I’d say!

Bossa Nova affectionados, or simply the curios, will find it worthwhile investing in the DVD that this concert launched; ‘United Kingdom of Ipanema, Roberto Menescal convida Andy Summers’.

Monday, February 14, 2011

ROCK´n´ GOOOOOAL! Even Rio celebrates Rooney

The return of footballing superstar, Ronaldinho, from Barcelona to Flamengo (the Man U of Brasil) has dominated the headlines here recently in ‘Beckam-esque’ fashion. However, the sports pages for Sunday 13th January are full of Wayne Rooney’s wonder goal that proved the difference between Manchester United and Manchester City yesterday.

Perhaps the biggest praise is that of Lance, the daily football paper (yes, there is a paper dedicated solely to the beautiful game). The game reviewer plunders the lyrics of Jorge Ben’s ‘Filho Maravilha’ to find his superlatives. The original is in praise of Flamego´s 70´s wizz João Batista de Sales. Jorge celebrates a particular goal as being ´foi um gol de classe´ (was a goal of class), ´celestial em gooool´, a celestial goal, straight off the sweet-spot , a ´gol de placa´.

Jorge Ben has been one of Brazil’s greatest and most popular musicians for at least 50 years, writing in the process some of the country’s instantly recognizable songs. Infectious is perhaps the best word to describe his style. Two bars in at any concert and everybody is on their feet, and if possible on the stage with him. And I do mean two bars and everybody, as I once witnessed a bemused set of security men discover at London’s Barbican. Rod Stewart ‘nicked’ one of his toons, covering it inadequately as ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’.

Only in Brazil could a musician get away with making a complete album dedicated to football and its heroes – and it being an accepted classic. Rooney will probably remain blissfully unaware of the importance of this particular accolade. Que pena.

Check out the original on youtube:

Monday, February 7, 2011

RIP Gary Moore

Fifty-eight is not old. It´s the prime of life. And Gary Moore was definitely in the prime of his life with, we would have hoped, many years of performance and recording ahead. It just goes to show that you should ´catch ´em while you can´.

I had the opportunity of seeing Moore play a few times. The last was about three years ago in Oxford. I may have first seen him as a member of Skid Row or Thin Lizzy. Time takes the edge off the memory and you forget the individual line-up of bands seen through a ´high´, whether natural or chemically induced.

I do, however, vividly remember having a mild ´punch-up´ with Gary Moore in Manchester circa 1973. At my instigation, we´d hired his power trio band of the time to play at our college football team´s end-of-season, money-raiser. ´Disco, live band, late bar!´, as our homemade posters proclaimed. We were later to agree that the addition of a live band has been both unneccessary and a mistake.

Having arrived late, Moore and fellow members had to tune up and check their PA with the venue already half-full of people drinking and waiting for the disco to begin. Moore was patently ´out of his head´ and his tune-up consisted of his trade-marked feedback, blasted through speakers at the highest volume. It was truly excruitiating. With complaints building it fell to me to approach the stage area and shout at Moore to turn it down a bit. I was ignored at first but eventually, following an increasingly heated exchange, got them to leave the stage.

Scene two followed ninety minutes or so later when I had to go their ´dressing room´ to give them their ´on stage in 10´ warning. Their dressing room doubled as our college magazine editorial and print room, with our much valued print machine in one corner. To my absolute horror and fury I entered the room to find Moore, by now totally away with the fairies, pissing over the machine.

I´m afraid I lost it. Blows were exchanged. Luckily, we were pulled apart by wiser heads and, although late, the band went on.

Moore had his revenge. After what can only be called an hour of ear-bursting white noise, with people leaving in droves and an increasing portion demanding money back, Gary Moore and his electricity supply had to be parted.

It was a ruined evening, leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. I felt doubly bad not only having been the one to suggest hiring the band, but feeling personally let down by someone I held in high esteem. It took me many years before I could forget this episode and appreciate Gary Moore the musician again. About 35 in fact...

I am fortunate in having seem him at Oxford and to have a more positive memory of an undoubtedly great blues and rock guitar player.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spot the difference: a dispatch from Rio

January 11th, Hammersmith, London. Charity concert in aid of Killing Cancer, five acts headlined by The Who and Jeff Beck, average cost of ticket £100, programme, t-shirt and other slickly produced merchandise, extra.

January 27th Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Charity concert to support relief work in nearby towns devastated by the recent flooding (over 1000 dead, 30,000 homeless, with mediaeval diseases making an unwelcome return amongst survivors), ten top acts covering the gamut of Brazilian popular music. Cost of ticket? Three litres of water or two kilos of rice or flour paid at the door. No t-shirts, programme or ticket stub to collect. I’m lucky enough to be in Brazil for a few weeks and to get to the event - and to compare the two.

One event represented the way of the developed world, the other the developing. One was aimed at longer term investment needs, the other the immediate relief of those affected by natural disaster. The Rio event delivered direct, immediate action; goods to be distributed, no cash to be siphoned off in admin fees. Geldoff would surely approve.

Fundicao Progresso is a 2000 capacity venue under the breathtaking arches that make Rio’s downtown Lapa so exciting, distinctive and memorable. Crowds gather outside mixing with beer-sellers and makeshift food stalls. There’s a slightly chaotic feel to it. And not a ticket tout in sight. The venue is deceivingly big. You enter through a colonial period frontage behind which is a sprawling series of performance spaces. The main stage area is like a Brixton Academy but twice the size and without the sophistication (sic). There’s no seating and the vast majority of the crowd cram in front of the stage, like all Brazilian audiences ready for dance and involvement. It’s packed. There’s no air conditioning, and with summer night temperatures in the late twenties you sweat. Profusely.

The atmosphere is electric. The swaying, pulsating, expectant crowd can’t keep still. A warm-up DJ has them moving. Exotic creatures beside me move their feet and ‘shake their booty’ in the manner only a Brazilian manages. The acoustics are surprisingly good for such a venue with mix and the volume just right. Unusually, the event kicks off almost on time at eighty-thirty, much earlier than is the norm here. First on is crowd-pleasing local hero, Leandro Sapucai. Suddenly your feet take on a life of their own. No point in having seating; no one is going to sit it out.

Various acts follow, each doing a couple of numbers. The styles are eclectic. Although the audience is relatively young they both know and respect the traditional artists so veteran samba queen, Elza Soares, get’s a huge roar. She might be 74, require help walking to stage front but boy, her voice is undiminished! We’re also treated to other legendary artists, crossing genres: Alcione, Sandra de Sa, Jorge Vercilio. Inevitably, being just a few weeks before carnival, the great beats, humorous lyrics and easy to sing-a-long melodies of traditional carnival songs get the crowd really jumping.

The non-Brazilian spectator can tell the relative fame of the act on stage by the number of digital cameras held high during particular performances. From my rear back position the superb Zelia Duncan appears framed by hundreds of tiny screens held aloft. The younger Fernanda Abreu gets the same adulation.

The show climaxes first with George Israel, one of the countries best-known singers and song-writers. He has been the instigator of the event so says a few words. A heart-felt appeal and reminder why we are here is kept short but made poignantly. A few crowd-pleasers and then, graciously, he allows current rock sensation Lenine to wrap it up. This guy is great. But so are all of the acts. They may not be household names outside of Brazil but to the 200 million here they are all deservedly superstars.

It has passed in a flash. Three and a half hours without any pause, with musical styles switching easily between samba, funk, MPB, rap and rock. The exuberant rhythm that dominates Brazilian music has provided continuity. One act introduces the following, and with a shared backing band there’s no time wasted in equipment change or sound-checking.

Dripping with sweat, feet aching but totally exhilarated, I make my way out, leaving most of the audience there to continue the DJ-led party to whatever time. God knows when they sleep here.

Two weeks ago I walked out of the Hammersmith Odeon with the Who’s future on my mind and the intention of buying some more Jeff Beck CDs. I walked out of the Fundicao Progresso, past impressively high mountains of plastic bottles and bags of staple food, intent on giving further help. Charity events should inspire; to everyone’s credit, this one did.

Monday, January 17, 2011

News Flashes!

Summer Festival

Where could you see AC/DC. Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Santana, Pink Floyd, ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin all on the same bill in 2011?

Dream on... or maybe not!

A line up like this is beyond the wildest imagination even if only because several of the bands are now only playing the great gig in the sky. However, the next best thing is probably the Rhodes Rock festival, held annually on the Greek Island of the same name.

UK based tour company, Classic Rock Tours, hit on the innovative idea of holding a festival featuring the best of the tribute bands a couple of years back and the popularity of the festival unsuprisingly grows year-by-year. Close your eyes under the Mediterranean sun and imagine ... let's face it, this is the nearest we'll all going to get to experiencing the dream festival line up!

The festival is to be held between June 8-15 this year. Check out their website Just the thought of it brightens up a cold January day!

And Now For Something Completely Different...!

If Greece is out in these recessionary times, maybe taking a self-guided rock tour of Manchester is one cheaper alternative?!

'The Manchester Musical History Tour' book by seasoned authors Phill Gatenby ('Morrisey's Manchester') and Craig Gill ('Inspiral Carpets'), comes out on February 3rd it can be bought and pre ordered from for £6 UK orders, £7 overseas, free postage. It's a great way to explore the musical heritage of one of the UK's richest rock cities.

The first 30 people to order the book can also join a free Manchester Music walking tour on the afternoon of Saturday February 19th @ 3pm, followed at 6pm by a signing session launch party at the legendary Dry 201.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Who Are You? The BEST, that's what!

Charity concerts have a special feel of their own. You get an eclectic and often unlikely combination of acts performing with a low-key, 'pally', informality. It's professional but not produced, and if it comes off you kind of feel you've been part of an event rather than just a spectator. When they don't come off it's a complete embarrassment, and you feel you just parted with the hard-earned a bit too readily.

Last night saw The 'Orrible 'Oo back in their old west London stamping ground at the Hammersmith Apollo, headlining a benefit for 'Killing Cancer' a charity promoting non-invasive therapy. It was an opportunity of catching what may turn out be their last outing, with rumours flying around that Townsend's hearing problem may preclude them taking 'Quadrophenia' on the road later this year as initialy projected.

The 'strange bed-fellows' for this mighty night were Richard Ashcroft of The Verve (wisely perhaps steering clear of performing 'The Drugs Don't Work' given the objective of the benefit!), Bryan Adams, Blondie, Jeff Beck and natch, The Who.

Ashcroft kicked off. He has a sound and a swagger that is pure 1990s Manchester even if he's from Wigan. Great solo stuff. Daltry then came out, bantered a bit with the audience, nodded to his own past history at the Apollo (which included seeing 1950's Saturday morning film legend 'Hop Along' Cassidy on stage here, with horse!)and with band played some typical Daltry solo-stuff. Thankfully his voice threatening throat-nodules appear to have been successfully removed. The three numbers laid the foundations for Bryan Adams to stroll on next and get everyone singing along to 'Run to You'. Alas, Adams spot was too short (particularly disappointing the lad from Kyrgyzstan sitting behind me and there specially to see him).

It was hairs-up-on-back-of-neck time next; Jeff Beck launched into Beck's Bolero, before playing an amazing version of the Beatles' 'Day in the Life' (available on Beck at Ronnie Scotts). Then out of the wings came the unmistakable Blondie to join Beck on 'Heart of Glass' and a couple of her other hits. Beck and Blondie? It worked. Blondie still looked good from where I sat... though it was a fair way back!

Then Daltry and Beck did their duet, paying homage to the Chicago blues that underpinned the birth of British metal in the early to mid 60's. Daltry's voice and Beck's guitar, throwing them back 50-years to their own beginings around the mean streets of west London; aka 'The Thames Delta'!

The heart-stopping, throat drying, nostalgia-tear provoking synth opening of Baba O'Reilly announced the main men. Oh, Christ! 30 seconds in and you KNOW you're watching one of the all time greatest bands. Daltry doesn't hurl his mic quite as high, or swing it quite as far from his body as of old (after all he does wear glasses onstage now...) and Townsend's trademarked kicks, jumps and windmilling seem to be executed with an eye on balance. But there's no aging process at work with the delivery of the musical material. Ringo's lad, Zac, flails Moon-like at the drum kit, underpinning his dad's pals in their faultless renditions of 'Who Are You' and an all too quick final number, 'Wont Get Fooled Again'.

That's the downside and danger of the charity gig. Just that little bit unfocused and there's just that chance of feeling you've have been fooled again. But not this time. With all and sundry (apart from a mysterious disappearance of Ascroft) on stage to belt out 'Join together in the Band' it was the perfect crowd-pleasing finale - even if Bryan Adams seemed less than familiar with the lyrics! It might have been an expensive ticket but if it turns out that this was the last Who performace then it may prove to hve been a ticket beyond price.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hendrix Film

Our weekend commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's death last September was recorded for posterity and is part of a Brazilian film looking at Jimi's time in London.

The film will be shown on national Brazilian TV and has been entered for at least 5 film international festivals, including several in Europe

You can see a trailer for it, recently posted by the producers, here:

Most non-Brazilians watching this will not appreciate that the musicians being interviewed represent the cream of Brazil’s rock talent. The film is to be officially launched in March with a concert featuring many of these stars playing Jimi's music.

Working in London with the Brazilian TV crew, and rock star Pitty, was 'interesting' to say the least, and there's a great back-story to the making of this film. But that's for another time... The picture accompanying this blog is of Pitty with the legendary John McCoy, trying on one of Hendrix's stage jackets inadvertantly left at John Teeside club in 1967.

The Hendrix weekend was so well-received, by the way, that we'll be repeating it this year with John Campbell’s 'Are You Experienced' playing at the Troubadour on the night of September 17th. It'll be the next best thing for those who can't be in Rio for the film launch!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

RIP Gerry Rafferty

It has to be the most memorable sax line in rock. You don't need to hear many bars to know you're listening to 'Baker Street'. We play it on our rock legends tour, just as we turn into this major London thoroughfare. Gerry wrote the number while living with friends here.

There's no doubt that despite associations with Sherlock Holmes, the Apple boutique and writer H G Wells, the musical soundtrack to this street will always be Gerry Rafferty's.

Glasgow born Gerry died of alcohol-related issues on Jan 04th, aged 63. Rock music has lost a great singer-songwriter whose potential was never fully realised.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Battle for 9 Madryn Street

To the Liverpool councilors and council officials who might be reading this blog, a New Year quiz for you; rearrange the following words into a well-known phrase or saying ; Noses own your can't beyond see you.

Liverpool Council have apparently decided that Ringo's childhood home in Liverpool's Dingle district is 'beyond economic repair' and should be bulldozed along with the rest of the street. Thankfully, Grant Shapps, the British coalition government housing minister, has stepped in to ensure this dreadfully short-sighted action is further thought through.

'fer Christ’s sake! Here's a simple math question for the good burghers of Liverpool; How much would it cost to completely rebuild a two-up, two down Victorian working class brick terrace? Now, based on an entrance fee of say £5 per person, how many people would have to visit it to repay the rebuild costs in just one year, and let’s discount the next 20-years worth of tourist visits?

Now add a few immeasurables; what message are you sending to the world when you refuse to protect and preserve so important a part of global heritage? How many additional people would be attracted to visit Liverpool if there was another Beatles site on the 'Magical Mystery Tour' circuit? But conversely how many may start to say, 'sod you, Liverpool, if you can't be bothered to look after World heritage site'? And is their no benefit to the pride the locals of the deprived Dingle might feel in having a bit of their somewhat sparse history preserved?

Still worried about the economic cost? How many Beatle fans might be prepared to sponsor the rebuild by donating a nominal £1 a brick (donator's names to be inscribbed for posterity)? And if Ringo, with his well-known antipathy to his physical roots, might not be prepared to donate a bob or two in these economically straightened times, would not big-hearted Paul?

Save 9 Madryn Street! Liverpool councilors and officials your economical analysis is completely flawed. Think instead of the cost of NOT saving this piece of global rock heritage. And just in case your English skills are equally as challenged as your economics, the well-know phrase you were asked to rearrange was 'you can't see beyond your own noses'!