Bert Weedon - 'Rockin' At The Roundhouse' (1970)

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The early seventies rock ’n’ roll revival threw out some unexpected contributions to the trend, but none more strange than Bert ‘Play in a Day’ Weedon’s Rockin’ At The Roundhouse. The music is a so-so set of instrumentals, covers of Duane Eddy, Johnny Kidd, Elvis, and some originals. Nothing here to get the Roundhouse freaks moving. By way of explanation for this bit of exploitation of the youth scene the cover notes tell us: ‘A few months ago Rock gradually started to come back into the pop scene, and a big Rock Revival show was put on at London’s Roundhouse - the mecca of pop and beat music. All the rock stars were invited to appear, and the concert was a big success, but the hit of the show according to the press was not surprisingly guitar star Bert Weedon.’ At which point Fontana get him to put this album together. Sticking Weedon on the cover would have blown the ruse so they went for this blonde model in a superb Hell’s Angels t-shirt, and a studded leather jacket draped over her shoulders. The bit of dog chain she’s pulling on adds a touch of violent frisson to her display, well that’s the pose anyway: Altamont via The Bath Festival . . .

‘Keef’ gets credit for the photograph and album design. I’m guessing he’s Marcus Keef, aka Keith MacMillan (1947-2007) who was responsible for a slew of Vertigo label albums. See here and here

The album was twice reissued on Contour, once with the original art work and the other time with a moustachioed Bert kicking out the jams – you can see why the original went for the blonde . . .

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In the words of Duane Eddy: ‘Bert is a great guitar man’ but not much of a looker . . .

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I can’t imagine the East London chapter of the Hells Angels would have given their approval to Bert’s Rockin’ at the Roundhouse as they did to Mick Farren album Mona – The Carnivorous Circus, also released in 1970, which featured an incoherent Angel telling it like it is . . .

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While we’re on the subject of East London Angels, it’s time to give this 1973 Paladin edition of Stanley Cohen’s Folk Devils & Moral Panics a showing. Punk DIY ethos on full display here . . . as it is on NEL’s 1971 publication of Chopper by Peter Cave where the biker dress-up box contains your dad’s war souvenirs

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Where’s the original from? Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music, 1970? Isle of Wight? Weeley? Wherever, those are superb homemade patches, 666, 13 & 1%er.

My thanks to Eddie who tipped me off to this album and for the gift of the Cohen book

screen grab from BBC  Man Alive   ‘What’s The Truth About Hell’s Angels and Skinheads’  (Dec. 1969) – smells like teen spirit

screen grab from BBC Man Alive ‘What’s The Truth About Hell’s Angels and Skinheads’ (Dec. 1969) – smells like teen spirit

The Deviants have a Secret to Share

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The third and final Deviants’ album lacked any track or personnel information on the sleeve and came supplied with a chapbook of sorts.

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Accompanying the credits was a short rant from Mick Farren that included a manifesto of a kind:

For the past 13 years Rock & Roll has been the secret language of a generation, despite lapses into gibberish and side-tracks into academic obscurity. Rock & Roll is a secret language that the rulers cannot understand.

Which raises the question of how well kept was that secret?

Scans of the complete text and some background on the album can be found on Richard Morton Jack’s blog, Galactic Ramble . I hope he doesn’t mind me ripping off the three I’ve used.

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Red Lightnin' – blues reissues – J. Edward Barker

letterhead, circa 1972, for Sippen and Shertser family of labels

letterhead, circa 1972, for Sippen and Shertser family of labels

Like the Union Pacific releases (see below), Ian Sippen and Peter Shertser’s collections of postwar blues wore their underground credentials on their sleeves.

I’m guessing the early releases were all unlicensed, certainly the first issue on Red Lightnin’, Buddy Guy’s In the Beginning (RL001), looks like a bootleg with its cheaply printed monotone matt image pasted onto a blank sleeve.

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Later pressing of the label’s early titles were treated to slick upgrades. OZ’s Felix Dennis was responsible for the design of the first four volumes: Little Walter (RL002), John Lee Hooker (RL003) and Albert Collins (RL004). Denise Brownlow was credited for the design work on the five issues released by Syndicate Chapter and for the various artist compilation Blues in D Natural (RL005). The two subsequent Red Lightnin’ releases employed the graphic talent of J. Edward Barker, Mick Farren’s pal and illustrator at large for International Times and Nasty Tales.

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Barker’s design for the label’s 7th release, Junior Well’s In My Younger Days, uses a photograph that looks as if it has been cropped from a minstrel scene in a Hollywood movie, though not one known to me. Whatever its provenance, it pulls in the same direction as the ‘Three Ball Charlie’ image on the front of the Stones’ Exile album. Both albums were released in 1972. The double LP anthology When Girls Do It (R.L.006) also sports a Barker design.

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The three panels are fair summations of his interests and art: the mirrored picture of monks with pasted on devil’s eyes in the gatefold; montaged found images clipped from erotica and porn (lesbian, school girl and a Weimar-era nude) that surround a photograph of the Daughters of the American Revolution (with Abe Lincoln glued over the face of the sitting dowager and the open palm placed like a cockerel’s crown on her head) are in keeping with the aesthetic of the period’s underground publications: male adolescent salaciousness at the apparent service of political satire. On the sleeve’s rear you get a feast of backsides; this 1930s fetishism plays to the album’s title – the posterior posturing as gratuitous as anything on the front. It also echoes figures used on Barker’s sleeve for the Pink Fairies’ What A Bunch of Sweeties, another album from 1972. Fair enough?

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The conjunction of rock’n’ roll revivalism, blues resurrectionism and the freak underground is fascinating in itself, but it also had me searching for some kind of appreciation, book or webpage on J. Edward Barker. I haven’t found much yet. Until then, there is always his and Farren’s Watch Out Kids, also from 1972 (a productive year)

Barker to the left, Farren to the right

Barker to the left, Farren to the right

Raves from the Grave – Blasts from the Past

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A recent bit of deep digging uncovered Transfusion: Rave from the Grave – Blast From the Past Vol.1 (Union Pacific, UP004).  The compilation features the Del Vikings, the two Ronnies – Self and Hawkins – Conway Twitty, Nervous Norvus, Everly Bros, Al Downing, John Greer, and Vince Taylor and the Playboys with ‘Brand New Cadillac’ – a great collection. What sets it apart from, and at odds with, other early 1970s compilations is its sleeve featuring a typically salacious panel from a Robert Crumb comic. No Teddy Boys in the company of a Bardot-like leggy model and a late-sixties styled custom chopper, nor fifties convertible outside a diner, not even a Rock-Ola jukebox. Pasted together in 1972 by Ian Sippen and Peter Shertser, the album connects the period’s rock ’n’ revivalists with the British underground culture of the day as represented by the likes of International Times, Mick Farren and the Pink Fairies.

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Volume 2, Loose Ends (UP005) is an all-instrumental collection bookended by Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and The Fireballs. In between, Duane Eddy battles it out with the Fenderman, Jerry Lee Lewis and a half-dozen other contenders. The sleeve continues the graphic connection with the underground, featuring a tattooed greaser mauling a hot chick in a state of dishabille who threatens to stab him in the ‘puddin’. The panel is given a context of sorts by the incongruous tag-line: ‘Sexism is out! If you like pussy: treat it equal.’ It’s culled from the back page of George DiCaprio and R. Jaccoma’s Greaser Comics (New York: Half Ass Press, 1971), which suggests a transatlantic counter-culture mirroring of interest in rock ’n’ roll.

‘A new exciting label featuring oldies but goodies, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll’

‘A new exciting label featuring oldies but goodies, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll’

Sippen and Shertser were Jewish East End Mods who made a name for themselves on the scene as The Firm. They ran in the same circles as the likes of Miles at Better Books and IT fame, and Dave ‘Boss’ Goodman, later Pink Fairies roadie and manager of Dingwalls dance hall. The Firm were involved in the UFO club, helping Mick Farren to keep out ne’er-do-wells when they weren’t pulling pranks on John Peel. With such connections, and a deep love of American rhythm and blues, the duo helped to produce and distribute The Deviants’ debut album. They sold the LPs’ American rights to Seymour Stein’s newly formed Sire records and then acted as talent scout for him, the results of which included an album they recorded in 1968 in London with Walter ‘Shakey’ Horton and another in 1969 by psych blues rockers Sam Apple Pie.

Shertser is a singular contributor to Jonathan Green’s pop-vox history of the sixties underground, Days in the Life (1988), which is where most of the references to him and Sippen are drawn from, including Clinton Heylin’s Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry (1994). The Firm were responsible for the first tranche of illicit Dylan, Stones and Beatles albums in the UK. The two volumes of rock ’n’ roll obscurities and hits are essentially bootlegs; there is nothing to suggest these tracks were licensed. Other releases on their Union Pacific label included collections of Eddie Cochran, Link Wray and Little Richard rarities.

Ian Sippen went missing, presumed drowned, in Morocco in April 1973. Shertser continued to run Red Lightnin’ and associated labels (Syndicate Chapter), which he and Sippen had set up in 1969.

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You can read Greaser here. The hard-on in the pop corn seen in Barry Levinson’s Diner (1982) gets an earlier recounting. Perhaps, like the filthy lyrics in ‘Louie Louie’, this courtship ritual is part of American teenage folklore.

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Depending on which version you’re looking at, the Pink Fairies debut 1971 album, Never Never Land, has the legend ‘Long Live Rock and Roll’ on either its inside sleeve or on its rear cover. The illustration that adorns the front is about as rock ’n’ roll as Robert Crumb’s fedora.

Trevor Hoyle, 'Rule of Night' (1975)

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‘Come on, let’s drift.’

Despite being republished in 2003, Hoyle’s novel about a Rochdale bovver boy is still little known and even less written about. Originally published as a pulpy paperback by Futura, and though lacking the requisite exploitation imagery used by NEL on their Skinhead series, you would have thought it would have at least rated a mention in Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette’s estimable Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980 (PM Press, 2017). Fact is, Rule of Night is anything but an exploitation title. It is by far the most convincing portrait of disaffected youth I have read; its depiction of working-class school leavers who lurch from one unskilled job to another is nuanced and subtle. Hoyle plots their endless drift around the town, and on excursions to Manchester and Luton, watching them getting drunk and blocked between the chance encounters that give vent, in spasms of gratuitous violence, to their balled-up anger.


Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980

Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980

The central character, Kenny, owes nothing whatsoever to the romantic renderings of teen life essayed in S. E. Hinton or J. D. Salinger novels, and Hoyle shows little interest in the pop sociology approach taken by the authors of Amboy Dukes or Blackboard Jungle. Rule of the Night is devoid of sentimentality, Hoyle never patronises, nor sensationalises, he doesn’t explain motives; he just shows how it is. His teenagers are barely formed, grasping for a maturity that constantly outflanks them, and so search for it in beer, fags, obscenity strewn language and violence:

He says sneeringly into the face of the man, ‘Did you get a good look or do you want a photograph?’ And then says, ‘Cunt’, and goes on repeating, Cunt. Cunt.’

Fucking Jesus, he wants to hit the man. Fucking Cunting Christ, the man’s pale frightened face sickens him so much that nothing would feel better than kneeing him in the bollocks and seeing that awful fear he loves and despises turn into pain.

 And that search for maturity is also there in the kids’ desperate longing:

Skush is the quiet one; he drinks his pint slow and calm and waits for the others to make up their minds. He’s never been out with a girl, never had it . . . and now wonders if it’s possible to get his end away without the acute pain and torture of having to approach a girl, talk to her, make easy conversation while all the time his lips are numb and his throat squeezed tight and dry.

Beyond the rich and varied characterisation, Hoyle makes a number of sharp observations on youth cultures; a small gang of Bury yobbos dressed as figures from Clockwork Orange infiltrate a Rochdale v Blackburn game; away from the terraces greasers and bike boys take their turn to fight with Kenny and his gang. On a trip into Manchester to sell stolen proscription drugs they encounter a motley crew of Teds at the Bier Keller on Charlotte Street, behind the Piccadilly Plaza Hotel:

Down the green steps and into the dark smoky warmth where the Teds are gathered in sullen groups listening to Gene Vincent and Fats Domino and Elvis. . . The three lads don’t respond to this kind of music: to them it seems crude and obvious . . . But there’s a market and a good sale to be had here for blues and black bombers; the Teds won’t touch acid or grass but rely on lager and pills to give them a charge.

A page earlier they are trying to off load their pills at a northern soul night. The momentarily empty dance space is described as ‘a sacred patch of territory which can only be invaded when the time and circumstances are judged right . . :

Almost precisely on the stroke of nine, a boy with short back and sides and dressed in an open-necked shirt, blue and yellow striped pullover, a pair of baggy trousers with turn-ups, and brown leather shoes with hard soles begins to dance alone . . . looking down at his feet, intent on the movements and rhythms, as though what comes next is as much a surprise to him as to the people watching.

That image of the lad in a state of surprise is unsurpassed in writings on northern soul dancing.

Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980

Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980

 

Beatles 'Rock 'n' Roll Music' (1976)

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Illustration by Ignacio Gomez

There’s no doubting the fine rockin’ sounds on this 1976 compilation, though mono is to be preferred to these stereo cuts, but that sleeve is something which would disgrace the cheapest of mid-1970s rock ‘n’ roll compendiums. Apparently the Fab Four hated it, and Lennon even offered to redesign it himself, but Capital in the US and Parlophone in the UK stood firm on a sleeve that said nothing about The Beatles and a great deal about how cliched the 50s into the 70s had become when lit by the tail lights of American Graffiti.

The poster for the album, I quite like, in so much as it looks British, and there is at least some attempt at art direction . . . The expresso machine dominates like an engine block from a hot rod placed on a gallery pedestal. The Rockola jukebox provides warm illumination, and the girl looks like Jordan, if she worked at Let It Rock before Sex. The boy in his leather jacket and pants, knit tie and cigarette, looking directly into the camera, is both surly and camp. Not as cool as The Beatles in leather in Hamburg, but then who is . . .

Addendum: that is Jordan and the story of the shoot can be found here on Paul Gorman’s essential blog

Philip Castle's Airbrushed Retro-fitted 1950s

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1974 Dutch only collection of R ‘n’ R hits on the Arcade label, as seen on TV or ‘Van de Radio en TV-Reklame.’ Clearly an attempt to ride on the back of the American Graffiti phenomenon, which is more than a guess because lead track, side 2, Flash Cadillac’s ‘At The Hop’ is tagged as ‘Featured in the Universal Picture American Graffiti.’ The album’s pulling power is boosted by two commissioned Philip Castle illustrations placed on the inside and the outside of the gatefold.

The originals, unadorned with graphic and track information, are reproduced in his 1980 collection Airflow (Paper Tiger).

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Castle remains best known for the work he did on Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange publicity materials, where his clear affinity with the fetish pieces of Pop artist Allen Jones was put into play [here]. When he wasn’t taking adolescent delight in rendering phallic objects, jets and cars, threatening full penetration with a fifties styled pin-up airbrushed into a hard chrome sheen, he specialised in retro-fitting the decade’s icons, James Dean, Johnny Cash and Elvis, as man-machine conflations for the 1970s. The women, Monroe, Hayworth, Fawcett-Majors, Dolly Parton are offered to the male gaze as android fuck machines.

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Mott the Hoople’s essential 1972 collection of Island era recordings, Rock and Roll Queen, is wrapped in one Castle’s illustrations. The repeating mirror images of Monroe reducing Pop Art iconography to a set of fast-dry, hard, scratch-proof textures that reflects back only its own vacuous surface qualities.

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When the first UK paperback edition of Cohn’s Pop from the Beginning was being readied in 1970, Castle must have looked like the perfect choice to render the flash of the pop moment, five years later with the cover for George Tremlett’s cut n’ paste job, The Who, his work had become all formula.

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This Is Not A Soundtrack (part 6)

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This 1970 German compilation comes close to what I imagine a biker movie soundtrack might be like if its producers had access to Atlantic and Elektra artistes . . . It’s rock ’n’ roll as filtered through Rock, so Clapton, Delaney & Bonnie on a live medley of Little Richard numbers, followed by Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse chugging through de blues, Ray Charles caught in performance with ‘What’d I Say’, and Al Kooper closing the side with another piano led tune. Side 2 gets going in style with the MC5 kicking out the jams, followed by the Stooges telling it like it was in ‘1969.’ The Danish Matadors stay in keeping with the musical theme of R ’n’ R with their cover of Chuck’s ‘Memphis Tennessee’, but they are otherwise out of time with this 1965 recording. The MC5 return with their homage to Richard Penniman on ‘Tutti Frutti.’ Bobby Darin supplies the only genuine slice of fifties sound with ‘Splish Splash’, before Jody Grind get hard ‘n heavy on their cover of ‘Paint It Black.’ I believe this is the only contemporaneous album to feature both the Stooges and The MC5, ain’t that something?

The cover features members of the Nederlands Harley-Davidson Club - rockers to the max. Now you know what I meant about those caps [see Feb 12 entry].

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Good Old Rock 'n Roll

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Various, Good Old Rock ’n Roll (Coral: COPS-6219)

A 1972 German double-album. Each side features Bill Haley, Johnny Burnette, Brenda Lee, Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings and Carl Perkins, and that order is fixed across all four sides. Now that’s what I call the art of curation. Audio is a particularly bad example of reprocessed stereo. But then I didn’t buy this for the music but for its cover art . . .

In the same way UK rock ’n’ roll revival compilations always betray their county of origin, like the ton up boys on the front of Johnnie Burnette’s Tear It Up, Continental comps also say something about their version of America’s 1950s into Europe’s 1970s. The figure in the portrait looks Gallic to me, and the way his hair is piled up on top is rather unique. I like too the hint of a moustache, the ruby and emerald rings, the extra long cig and the gentle way he holds the oversized transistor radio. He looks to me like an aesthete dreaming of Rimbaud channeled through Gene Vincent, or Jim Jarmusch before the colour drained from his hair

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Johnny Burnette & the R ’n’ R Trio - Tear It Up

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Johnnie Burnette, Tear It Up (Coral: CP10, 1969)

Forget the mis-spelling of Johnny, this UK album pulls together for the first time 12 of the 13 masters not used on the band’s album from 1956, which was reissued around this time, only ‘Butterfingers’ remained in storage. No great loss there. An utterly essential compilation that is made all the more irresistible by having a line of ton up boys on the front. Photograph is by Sylvia Pitcher.

The audio on Tear It Up is terrific, MONO!!! And makes for a great pairing with Bear Family’s recent pressing of the first album. You need go nowhere else for a copy. 180gms of the purest rockabilly. Their 1989 cd, one of the first I bought, has 28 tracks, all the masters and three alternates. Cool sleeve notes by Colin Escott and shots of Gene Vincent, on tour with the Trio, with his shirt off and leg in cast. . . not a good look.

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Ian Penman on Mean Streets (Sight and Sound)

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A superb essay from Ian Penman, he captures the film better than any other critic and he’s so good on the music.   Sight and Sound  (April 1993)

A superb essay from Ian Penman, he captures the film better than any other critic and he’s so good on the music.

Sight and Sound (April 1993)

Howard Hampton, is pretty good on the film too, just not as fine as Penman.

NEARLY A QUARTER of a century has passed since Martin Scorsese opened Mean Streets (73) with the fated beat of "Be My Baby." The film stands as the most enduring, not to mention thrilling, union of film and rock sensibilities. It's an infinitely seductive vision of a world where human and musical passions are one, the soundtrack elaborating and intensifying the movie's meanings. . . This was the first film to truly integrate rock into its narrative, transforming Kenneth Anger's iconographic abstractions (which bordered on camp) into a new form of heightened, pop-operatic naturalism. Scorsese's images were extensions of - and commentaries on the music. . . . Mean Streets has a funky city-of-night sheen that echoes rock's synthesis of the mythic and the quotidian; it reinvents film in terms of rock as much as the contemporaneous early works of Bruce Springsteen reimagined rock in terms of Kazan, Dean, and Brando, of West Side Story as Scorpio Rising

Howard Hampton, ‘Rock’n’ Roll Movies’ Film Comment 33:2 (1997)

Mick Gold 'Rock on the Road' 1976

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Mick Gold, Rock on the Road (Futura, 1976)

This oversized paperback, 24 x 18 cm, is something of a forgotten book, it collects together Gold’s reportage and photos of bands on tour, Faces, Slade, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, but if for nothing else it should be recalled for his document of the Feelgoods on the Naughty Rhythm tour in the spring of 1975. Iconic just about sums it up

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Gold and Brilleaux plot the route to the next gig . . .

Gold and Brilleaux plot the route to the next gig . . .

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Responding to a question about the band backing Heinz at the London Rock and Roll Show, Wilko said:

‘Teddy boys convinced us we didn’t want nothing to do with classical rock ’n’ roll.’ Wilko reminisced. ‘It was so mindless . . . it was based on a fiction . . . they wanted to hear a kind of music that never really existed. They thought if you didn’t wear a drape suit, it wasn’t classical rock ’n’ roll., but no singers ever dressed like that. Chuck Berry never wore a drape suit. I used to love playing the old classics, but after a couple of gigs with teds I didn’t want to know. We shied away from calling our music rock ’n’ roll  . . . we called it rhythm and blues instead.’

Budget Line Revivalists

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Three revivalist albums all on the budget Contour label. All examples of the rushed low-cost recording aesthetic that plagued purveyors of the greasy rockin’ beat. You gotta love the hand coloured photograph of the Houseshakers. Only singer Graham Fenton has bothered to turn up in his drape. The others look like they are on loan from some heavy psych-band. Demolition Rock’s track list of covers, which includes Vince Taylor’s ‘Brand New Cadillac’, is the more interesting of the three. Two years after its release, in 1974, Fenton and guitarist Terry Clemson recorded with the Hellraisers and didn’t even get their picture on the sleeve. Remember When?’s track list is miserable, ‘Peggy Sue’, ‘Shakin’ All Over’, ‘Let’s Twist Again’ and so on..

Shakin’ Stevens manager, Paul ‘Legs’ Barrett is scathing about Donny Marchand’s ‘production’ on Rockin’ and Shakin’ . . . He is not wrong.

Budget label Teddy Boy R 'n' Revival

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Two collections from the Contour label drawing on the Philips catalogue, mostly 60s recordings in reprocessed stereo.

The same three Teds are featured on both sleeves - jackets on and off. They have the look of the authentic. No photographer credit.

They are posing in front of a cinema for the Crazy Rock sleeve, Horror of Frankenstein is playing and Abbot & Costello’s In The Navy (1941) is also on the programme. The Hammer horror was released in November 1970, so I’d guess these two discs hit the shops in the following year.

Reader's Digest boxes up the Rock Revival

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Six albums of electronically reprocessed for stereo recordings drawn from the Philips catalogue, circa 1975. looks like a Harley Duo-Glide to me, though I wouldn’t be embarrassed if you told me it was an Electra Glide. I bet the rider is French (or maybe Dutch), something about that cap says he is . . . Sixties pop art lettering and psychedelic ink suggest the designer was more than a little unsure of his signifiers.

Sleeve notes on artistes and songs is by Stan Britt, who I think was a jazz journalist. The set cost £5 inc. shipping courtesy of eBay

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Teddy Boys at The Black Raven (1972)

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A James Gray photograph of the Black Raven pub that is described in the Rolling Stone piece from a previous posting. Below is one of his portraits from 1973, this one features the same geezer who was supping back a pint in Roger Perry’s pic that accompanied Jerry Hopkins observations. He’s got himself a new hair cut . .

The two photos are from this Evening Standard  file

The two photos are from this Evening Standard file

There’s a public Facebook page on the pub here which features lots of snaps. The guys in the banner photograph can all be seen in the 1970 BBC documentary of Gene Vincent’s last tour of the UK having a pop at skinheads, more of which anon.

'Awopbopaloobop: The Teds are back and greased for action' (Rolling Stone 1972)

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Jerry Hopkins, ‘Beatle Loathers Return: Britain’s Teddy Boys’ Rolling Stone (March 2, 1972) gets in on the UK’s Rock’n’ Roil revival scene. Here’s my favorite observation by Elvis’ first rock biographer:

All you can see is hair.

Plumes and cascades and whirlpools of hair, all of it greased and obsidian-black, thumbing its nose at gravity as it stretches four inches from the brow, wobbling, glistening: the classic Elephant’s Trunk; sweeping back in shiny sheets past earringed ears to plunge into a perfect D.A. or splash over the velvet collars in hirsute waterfalls. Towers and arches and walls of hair. This isn’t just extraordinary styling—it’s architecture.

Unless you’ve got good eyesight you might want to check out the piece here, which for reasons known only to the magazine’s on-line editors uses a pic of Teds from 1954 rather than Roger Perry’s photographs

Paul 'Legs' Barrett RIP

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Sadly, Paul ‘Legs’ Barrett died on 20 January 2019, 78 years old. His presence and voice is all over The Sunsets 1969 debut album A Legend (Parlophone, PCS 7112), including a dedication to Karl Marx. It is easily their best sounding disc, Dave Edmunds production gives it a depth and a dynamic that was never matched on their subsequent, rushed, recordings. ‘This album contains what was the most progressive music in the history of recorded sound’ writes Edmunds in his sleeve notes, while fans of Colosseum may dispute this fact, and his use of the past tense qualifies the idea somewhat, 50 years later it still sounds good n’ rockin’ to me.

Pop Pulp: Paul Barrett on Shakin' Stevens

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I’m on a Sunsets kick this morning as Paul Gorman has laid out a great spread on the band and their Let It Rock t-shirts on his blog here.

Paul Barrett with Hilary Hayward, Shakin’ Stevens (Star, 1983).

On cover and format alone this looks to be just another exploitation title, a George Tremlett style cut n’ paste job to capitalise on Shaky’s chart success, but it is so much more than that. The first 3/4 are a first hand account of the Sunsets’ story written by their card-carrying Communist manager, Paul ‘Legs’ Barrett. It is a terrific account of the early 1970s rockin’ scene, the gigs and the band’s high expectations and low returns as they endless tour the UK and Europe taking their message to the people. And if you wanna know why so many of the revivalist discs suck, you’ll get the real dope here - no advance, no royalties, minimal recording time in cheap shit studios, and producers who were good at harvesting a fast buck and hopeless at the task they were paid to carry out.

When the band confront Lionel Burge, head of Contour Records (who released some Sunsets sides and LPs by The Houseshakers and Hellraisers), about getting paid directly rather than their funds being channelled through producer Donny Marchand, he tells them to agree to his way or he’ll get the Hellraisers in to make the album. What could you do? asks Barrett. In the end, the records helped them get gigs and that was where the money was and, eventually, good money too.

After 7 years of playing the circuit the band come to an end, killed not by Shaky jumping ship for the Elvis Musical in 1977 but by a new generation of rockers. Barrett tries to sell the band to Island Records’ A&R man, Richard Williams, but tells him, ‘Sorry I think you’re too old. I’m gonna sign Eddie and the Hot Rods instead.’ He then tries Danny Seconda at Track records, who are excited about having The Heartbreakers (if you don’t stare too long you can kinda see a potential synergy between the two bands), and tells the Sunsets to get some new clothes at the expense of the company. off they go to a King’s Road emporium, reserving themselves suede jackets, cowboy boots and fancy shirts’ and then they wait on the company to stump up. . . it never does. Tapes are made with Charlie Gillett, Vic Maile, and Mike Hurst, none are ever released. By the time Track does do something with Shaky he’s gone solo are the Sunsets are long gone . . . and that synergy with Johnny Thunders no longer looks so good.

Barrett stories are worth the price of admission alone, but it’s his depiction of Shaky that is the real draw. He paints him as naive, vain, semi-literate, overly sensitive and just plain dumb. Payback is a motherfucker, as they say, and Legs gets in a bank vault full. Is he bitter? The book’s final sentence:

To quote Paul Barrett, who has been watching Shaky’s career with the caring, concerned interest of a colleague who has been a friend, ‘he’s got what he always wanted, but he’s almost certainly lost what he had.’