Friday 31 July 2009


There was something of a New York thing going on in the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (which can be downloaded for free here). The trouble is round our way when anyone mentions New York is has to be the imagined New York that comes from watching Downtown '81 too many times. Well, partly that. But more from being a kid and trying to piece together a New York read about in magazines and heard through music. And that music would be from the New York cauldron of the turn of the '80s.
And that's why it's no surprise that the cover of our ninth issue was of an 8 Eyed Spy record, where Lydia Lunch would front a back-to-basics outfit that supposedly was Creedence meets Al Green but sounded like nothing on earth. This followed hot on the heels of her LP for Ze, Queen of Siam, that twisted jazz noir masterpiece with its gorgeous cover. And that was the point because it all got very confusing trying to unravel who was recording with whom for whom. That mess was part of the attraction. A brief snippet on Cristina here. A page on Lydia there. Something on Rosa Yemen or Lizzie Mercier Descloux somewhere. Something on August Darnell somewhere else. A few paras on James White. A few paras on James Chance.

Of course things got more fragmented. Members of the Contortions popped up in 8 Eyed Spy. George Scott would start up the Raybeats with more ex-Contortions. he would tragically die, but his vision woud be seen through. And The Raybeats would go on to make some wonderful instrumental recordings that evoked both the spirit of surfing and exotica but hint at the future with some experiemntation with electronic rhythms. Their records are surely ripe for rediscovery.

In the meantime as our own London songs project continues it's very appropriate that a New York songs project should get underway to complement it. The latest post is a particular delight as it features a video for the Bush Tetras' Too Many Creeps, one of our very favourite songs, which oh yes features another ex-Contortion Pat Place doing some very special things on guitar. That actually provides the perfect opportunity to share more Bush Tetras footage ...

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Ambition still calls our every tune ...

Continuing with the literary theme of the ninth issue of Your Heart Out, which can be downloaded for free in the legendary library on your left, hearty shouts of approval were given to Nick Tosches' Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll. One of our very favourite music books, it consists of a number of pithy pen portraits of the pioneers who shaped what would become r'n'r but somehow didn't get their dues. Written at a time when hardly anyone gave two hoots about the likes of Wanda Jackson, Johnny Ace, Ella Mae Morse, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and so on, it's irreverent and argumentative and captures something much more about the spirit of r'n'r, the immediacy, the urgency, than any number of scholarly books ever could.

Of course the world of journalism and music publications has changed a lot since the early '80s when Tosches wrote the articles that make up Unsung Heroes. Now there almost seems to be a natural career progression, a defined trajectory to follow. Get a degree. Start out somehow, somewhere with a blog or an independent publication, graduate to the music monthlies, the broadsheets, get contacts, get a publishing deal, stick some vague thoughts together, and hey presto your mates will give you some good reviews and you'll do a signing session with some friends DJing. Pah!

Do you mind if I get personal for a moment? Drop the old royal we thing? Years ago now, many years ago, I did a fanzine. I wrote it because I felt I needed to. Needed to communicate how strongly I felt about certain groups who were not getting written about elsewhere, or who perhaps were being written about in a way that would put their own mums off them. I wasn't looking for fame or recognition. I just needed to say certain things. The great thing was these fanzines reached far and wide (nigh on impossible in the digital age ...erm?) and people started getting in touch who seemed to feel the same way, seemed to feel as desperate as me. Among those people were two kids who were I think at college in Bristol or was one in Sheffield? Their names were Mark and Matt. They were crazy about Hurrah! and the Jasmine Minks. They loved what I was writing and wrote long, wonderful letters. In time they started a fanzine called Are You Scared To Get Happy? It became a real success, though we lost touch, moving in quite different musical directions. I only ever met them once. Appropriately it was at a Creation/Kitchenware night at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. The Jasmines were scary that night. Adam had his kilt on, fastened with a Ramones badge. Jim had his hair cropped, and went mad at a heckler. Anyway I remember Matt and Mark saying they felt like country bumpkins among the London hipsters, which I never understood.

A lot happened. Matt ran the Sarah label with Clare. He later put together the wonderful London mag Smoke, with Jude whose career trajectory subsequently followed quite orthodox paths. Matt meanwhile as far as I know is not a best selling author. He may write under a pseudonym as a romantic novelist selling millions worldwide. I hope so. But I doubt it. Nevertheless, despite differences in taste, I was always a huge fan of his way with words, and his wit, but instead of being able to enjoy his writing we instead are subjected to the kind of idiot who graduates from a blog to The Wire or New Statesman or Mojo or The Observer. And don't worry I'm not bitter and twisted. I've been lucky in a way. People have been exceptionally kind. I just wish more of them would tell the world about Your Heart Out. Sometimes you feel like someone standing on a corner trying to give away fivers. Sometimes you wonder if it's worth carrying on.

Nick Tosches thankfully did carry on writing, becoming the Peter Ackroyd of rock and the rackets. Among his books is a biography of The Killer, which gives us an excuse to upload this. Just watch those mod girls dig Jerry Lee ...

Saturday 25 July 2009

Pledging My Love

There was a bit of a literary bent to the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (which is available free for all to download in our legendary library on your left. Always on the left ...). Naturally for folks who, in the immortal words of John Miles, have music as their first love there was a bit of an inclination towards books related to pop culture.

One of the delights of life for those of us without many brass farthings to rub together is chancing upon inexpensive books and falling totally in love with them perhaps unexpectedly. I found a copy of Tove Jannson's A Winter Book for £1.50 yesterday. And The Holiday by Stevie Smith last week for the same price in the same charity shop. Bet they came in together!

And one recent discovery was Suze Rotolo's A Freewheelin' Time. Now at a higher price I might suggest the last thing the world needs is another Dylan book. I would have been wrong. It's a lovely book. Perfectly complements Chronicles. And while I'm not the world's most manic Bob fan, I do believe the world would have been a far worse place without him. All that stuff about Donovan over Dylan. Do me a favour!

What I particularly like about Suze's book (apart from the gorgeously atmospheric photos) was the sense of searching. The hunger to discover. Music, books, films, theatre, politics, whatever. To absorb everything. To tap into the knowledge that's around them. And as the quest Bobby and Suze seemed to be on was so special and far reaching and necessary people seem prepared to share what they knew.

So, okay, that story is about the New York of the early '60s. But it's one that's easy to identify with, regardless of where we grew up, or when. And to me the essence of life is about continuing that quest. I don't give two hoots about religion, but this is as close as I'll come to spirituality. The searching. It's why we keep scouring the junk shops, searching the internet, adding arcane nonsense which just might change our world to our store of knowledge.

And the image to take away from Suze's writing is that of her and Bob privately dancing to all sorts of music in the privacy of their apartment. Then it's easy to make the leap to Bob's Theme Time Radio Hour series which kept us entranced with its charm and wisdom, and such a wonderful mixture of sounds of every possible variety. It certainly set me off down some strange roads I'd not previously explored, like western swing and the blues. Now I worry that with these shows disappeared from our airwaves, the powers-that-be are resting more comfortably, being able to go back to their cosy pigeon holing, and keeping everything neat and tidy within their schedules. But the archives of Theme Time Radio Hour are out there still to entertain and educate us. And I'm grateful to the wonderful Dusty Sevens for pointing us in the right direction.

One of the songs Suze makes particular reference to in her book is Johnny Ace's Pledging My Love, and as it's such a beautiful song I'll dedicate it to anyone who supports Your Heart Out's continued resistance ...

Wednesday 22 July 2009


The ninth issue of Your Heart Out is now available to download for free in our library on your left (£12 for a music mag? You'd have to be loopy!). Among the central themes of A Restorative (as it's affectionately known) are the acts of reclaiming and returning from exile. The Concise Oxford Dictionary used to have words for such things.

Now, while some inspirational sounds continue to be reclaimed or welcomed back from the dead (thank god!) others remain forgotten. That's stating the obvious. But it did at least offer an opportunity to focus on The Decorators, a lost group of the early '80s, mainly active in London and never quite fitting in despite being well ahead of the game with their beautiful big guitars, quiffs and shades. Their output was fairly weighty, but they're still waiting for their time to arrive. Singer Mick Bevan had a way with words, and an unusual way of phrasing, and a knack for knocking together haunted, dramatic, twisted torch songs.

If you like the Saints' Prehistoric Sounds and the OJs' third LP then The Decorators will tickle your fancy. While they remain ripe for rediscovery, here is an introduction to their irregular ballads and romantic gestures, including Red Sky Over Wembley, the number that precipitated our London songs project ...

Thursday 16 July 2009

Tending to restore ...

A Restorative is the ninth issue of Your Heart Out and can be downloaded for free in our library. This particular excursion takes in The Decorators and Dylan, Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, Raybeats and 8 Eyed Spy, Arthur Verocai and Joyce, Carla Bley and Charlie Haden, Barry Gifford and Nick Tosches, and many places of interest and intrigue along the way. So print it off, pack it in your tote bag, head off to your favourite cafe or park, and lose yourself. And then please tell the world all about us. It's good to share ... and don't forget to visit our companion site at

The front cover, by the way, this time around is one of Neville Brody's fantastic Fetish creations, and as 8 Eyed Spy are particular favourites, and there seems to be something of a noir theme going on, it had to be used. Abbey Lincoln with Max Roach's combo is on the back cover in a still from one of surprisingly several clips of performances from We Insist!

Tuesday 14 July 2009

My Canary's Got Circles Under Its Eyes ...

We couldn't possibly bid a bientot to the elegant eighth issue of Your Heart Out (which oh yes you can download for free in the library on the left) without sharing this little story.

There was at the end a bit of a Dennis Potter thing going on, with references to Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective, the music of the dancebands of the '30s, Al Bowlly, Lew Stone, and all that. Well, it's spooky how these happen. No sooner had the virtual presses begun to roll than we came across the excellent blog, Another Nickel In The Machine, which is officially our favourite place on the web, and a superbly timely post relating to the death of Al Bowlly where Mr Nickel In The Machine admits to a fascination with Bowlly that originated with the Potter plays. But that's not the 'alf of it.

On the day YHO8 hit the streets I was on a train into town when at Falconwood a group of senior gents got on. All very dapper, if a little red in the face. Judging by the black ties and bulging collars they were coming from the crematorium. They had obviously had a drink or two. They sat down near me. And before you knew it they had burst into song. On The Sunny Side Of The Street. Very nice singing too. A nice bit of harmonising. Even a touch of scat. Apologising for disturbing the peace, one of the party explained they'd just been seeing an old colleague off, and that he loved that song. Then before I could say anything they were off again. Singing something about a canary with circles under its eyes.

So just as things start to get surreal the train pulls into Kidbrooke and a young girl with an accordian and Eastern European gypsy get-up gets on. And oh yes my good companions can't believe their luck. "Come 'ere darling. Come and sit by us and give us a nice tune ..." She is not sure whether to be scared stiff or thank her lucky stars. But she soon realises they are genuine, and so she smiles a lot, plays a few sad old folk tunes while the old codgers wipe tears from their eyes. Then it's Lewisham, and she's off, several pounds richer.

The old boys incidentally were all ex-Thames river boat captains, and yes there really is a song called My Canary's Got Circles Under Its Eyes. Al Bowlly is among those that sang it, of course. And given the theme of this story here's an appropriate clip ...

Sunday 12 July 2009

Big deal I'm still alone ...

It doesn't get better than this does it?

In the aching eighth issue of Your Heart Out (which can be downloaded for free in our library on the left) there was definitely a bit of a Johnny Thunders thing going on. It was all Bobby Gillespie's fault, mentioning an old edition of Zigzag with Johnny on the cover which came out around the time So Alone and the exquisite You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory came out late '78ish.

I loved that record. The only other Johnny Thunders record I have loved anywhere near as much is Copy Cats which he made with Patti Palladin. Patti is one of the greats. And it's nothing short of criminal that her work as one half of Snatch remains out of circulation. About all that is freely available is this clip.

But at least there is a promo video of Patti and Johnny doing Crawfish ...

Friday 10 July 2009

Put the needle on the record ...

There was a bit of a culture of dusty old vinyl thing going on in the enticing eighth issue of Your Heart Out (The Historical Romance, which can be downloaded for free in the library to your left, printed off, packed in your bag and taken down the park to read in the sun). Not just the Solesides crew heading off en masse to dig in the crates of a hidden record store, but a perfect excuse to heap more praise on Luscious Jackson who still do not get enough credit for being the best group of the '90s and there's no question about that when you see performances like this.

One of the great things about Luscious Jackson was that they'd received their education when the mythical NYC downtown thing was at its peak and all the sounds were getting mixed up, with the punk, reggae, disco, early hip hop, african sounds, whatever getting mixed up, and that all came out in their sound at a time when you could get some pretty strange looks in the street for mentioning the Delta 5, Ze, Bush Tetras, On-U Sound.

The whole thing of the Solesides crew taking their portable turntable down to the basement of the store with them while they were crate digging conjures up a lovely image. It makes you think of old issues of Grand Royal when they'd have pages of old portable record players, and you'd be drooling. It also makes me think of the video for the LJs' Jill Cunniff and her shoulda been a massive hit Lazy Girls where she's got her turntable and takes it for a spin on the subway and then down to the beach which I take it is the one at Coney Island which she'd ben campaigning for. The whole City Beach is quite lovely too in a mixed up way if you like a bit of bossa, a bit of Janis Ian or Laura Nyro and some of the more adventurous contemporary r 'n' b sounds that never seem to make the charts like this classic from Sunshine Anderson ...

Tuesday 7 July 2009

What does your soul look like ...

During the perambulations that were part of putting together the edifying eighth issue of Your Heart Out (The Historical Romance, which you can download for free here), there was definitely something of a Mo' Wax thing going on. And why wouldn't there be?

This particular diversion was prompted by re-reading Jeff Chang's excellent Can't Stop Won't Stop 'dub history' of the hip hop generation. And being aware of Chang's part in the Solesides scene with the Blackalicious guys, the Shadow, Latyrx, and all that, it seemed too tempting not to make the connection to the central role those guys played in the Mo' Wax years.

That stuff really stands the test of time too. The Dan Dan the Automator Man stuff too. And in particular the Dr Octagon stuff with Kool Keith, like Blue Flowers. Not a track you hear every day on the radio, but the world would be a better place if it were heard more often.

But twist my arm and force me to pick just one Mo' Wax release then I guess I would go for Nia by Blackalicious which in terms of the label's timeline is supposedly when it was past its best efore date but forget that. Nia is one of the best hip hop records, full stop. Great cover. You see why Blackalicious worked so well was the balance between a love for the music, having something to say, and a gift for putting all the elements together in a vital way. That ain't easy ...

Saturday 4 July 2009

Picture me gone

There was a bit of a Chip Taylor thing going on in the engaging eighth issue of Your Heart Out, The Historical Romance (which can be downloaded for free in our library on your left). What I hadn't realised at the time was that in the very near future the good people at Ace would be releasing a round-up of Chip Taylor songs as part of their essential songwriters/producers series. That will definitely be worth getting hold of.

In the meantime there is an excellent interview with Chip at the Spectropop site, which makes for great reading. And don't all those photos of the original 45s just make you drool. It was particularly pleasing to see a mention of Kathy McCord, Billy Vera's sister. Seems Kathy was the one who just might have got to record Angel of the Morning first. And they say Evie Sands was unlucky ... And if you haven't a spare $100 you might want to check out the CTI Never Sleeps page on the LP she made for the label. Beautiful record. Maybe we should petition Rev-ola to release it. And it should be made a capital offence for any record to be described as acid folk!

I don't think there are any unexpected videos of Kathy McCord on YouTube but there are a number of wonderful performances by the godlike Evie Sands. Like this piece of pure punk rock ... But before we go, a question for you. One of Chip Taylor's songwriting and production partners was Ted Darryl ... what can you tell me about him?

Wednesday 1 July 2009

You busted my mind ...

So somehow in the erudite eighth issue of Your Heart Out, known to its betters as The Historical Romance and available to download for free in the library on your left) we made the jump from The Remains performing Don't Look Back to Billy Vera talking about singers' singers and how being a bit of a cult can rankle. He referred explicitly to his partnership with the great Judy Clay, one of my all-time favourite singers.

I first came across Judy in her own right (sans William Bell) via some of the early Kent Records compilations. It may have been Dancing Till Dawn, one of my particular favourites, where Judy sings You Busted My Mind. Sings? She scared the hell outta me. And as I accumulated Kent compilations over the years it was always a joy to come across a Judy Clay cut.

So to celebrate Judy's special talent it seemed like a fun idea to put together a bit of a mix of those Kent collected cuts. With a couple of Billy Vera related tracks to boot. This collection is not be missed ... But in case you need any inducement here's THAT track ...