Sunday 19 December 2021

The Shoebox Files #9: Bobby Darin


If you are feeling low, can I point you in the direction of The Shoebox Selections Vol. 7 and ‘My Baby Needs Me’, Bobby Darin’s burst of 1960s soul which just might get you dancing around like you haven’t a care in the world. Yeah, yeah, we all think we know Bobby Darin, but trust me, this is wonderful. ‘My Baby Needs Me’ is actually a bit of a mystery, and I like that. I can tell you hardly anything about its origins, except that it was recorded for Atlantic in 1967. It seems to be an anomaly, the only out-and-out soul number Bobby made in the 1960s, as far as I can tell. I do know it’s a Van McCoy composition, quite possibly the original recording, and I like it even more than the Yvonne Baker version, though I realise I risk having my aged Kent enamel badge confiscated.

Friday 3 December 2021

The Shoebox Files #8: Oscar Peña


This is about a singer called Oscar Peña and his astonishingly addictive and supremely funky track ‘La Inflación de Ofelia’ about which I can tell you pretty much nothing at all, except that it is one of the most glorious and life-affirming recordings ever made and it appears on Vol. 9 of The Shoebox Selections series of mixes. I feel a bit of a fraud even talking about this track, but I guess you can’t know everything. We all have areas of expertise and we all have areas of occasional and casual interest. There’s not enough time, and not enough money, so you end up being a dabbler, a dilettante, feeling guilty for bingeing on certain sorts of music only when the mood takes you. But then, I guess, many of us go through such phases and stages.

Sunday 14 November 2021

The Shoebox Files #7: Irene Kral


The very final mix in The Shoebox Selections series starts with the jazz singer Irene Kral and her revivifying 1965 recording of ‘Is it Over Baby?’.  It is one of those songs guaranteed to put a smile on my face and get these tired old feet doing stylish little sidesteps and spins. I have no idea if this song has ever been played at a Northern Soul event. I don’t know if it would fit in. I’m not even sure I care. It makes me dance, and it’s a song I want to share, for all sorts of therapeutic reasons.

Thursday 28 October 2021

The Shoebox Files #6: Billy Fury


‘Things Are Changing’ by Billy Fury is a highlight of the seventh mix in the series of Shoebox Selections. It’s so good, with a lovely off-kilter Northern Soul feel, punchy horns, and the great man himself in fantastic moody form, especially where his voice drops down and he warns: “You’ll be lonely and you’ll cry”. This, here, however, is more a celebration of the decidedly dodgy compilation I first heard the track on. For, let’s face it, we all have a few desperately wrong cash-in collections we are ridiculously fond of despite what logic tells us.

Friday 8 October 2021

The Shoebox Files #5: The Zombies


This is about The Zombies’ ‘Leave Me Be’, and about how memories won’t leave us be. The song itself appears towards the end of the fifth mix in the The Shoebox Selections series, bookended by The Sea and Cake’s ‘The Ravine’ and Jimmy Holiday’s ‘Would You Like to Love Me’, which is about as good as it can get. It is a quite impossibly beautiful sequence, and if anyone ever asks what I achieved in life or what good I did in the darkest days of 2021, then it would be more than reasonable to point to this holy trinity of softness, yearning and melodic bliss.

Monday 27 September 2021

The Shoebox Files #4: Carleen Anderson


Carleen Anderson’s soul soothing ‘Peace in the Valley’ opens the eighth mix in the Shoebox Selections series. Do you, by any chance, believe in fate, in the sense that you hear something at precisely the right time? For this was a song (well, let’s call it a prayer!) which I had completely forgotten about until sorting through some old CDs, but it was so very much meant for me at that moment. There’s something in Carleen’s composition, and the way she sings it, that really connects deep inside, and I am not ashamed to say that it got me through a (to put it mildly) difficult time. Even now I cannot listen to this song all the way through without clenching my teeth and fists, digging my nails into my palms, while looking up to the heavens and, through tears, asking: “Why?”.

Thursday 9 September 2021

The Shoebox Files #3: Kenny Carter


Remarkably, Showdown, the Kent CD of Kenny Carter’s complete recordings for RCA in 1966, is the label’s finest moment, which is an incredible achievement after almost 40 years in business. During that time Ady Croasdell and his colleagues have made so much wonderful music available, and have consistently released records in such an aesthetically pleasing way, but it seems like they were simply preparing us for this Kenny Carter collection.

Friday 4 June 2021

The Shoebox Files #2: Wah! Heat


Perhaps a little unexpectedly Wah! Heat’s ‘Better Scream’ is one of the songs that has had the most emotional impact on me while selecting lost treasures for The Shoebox Selections series of mixes. Originally the band’s debut 45, it now opens The Handy Wah! Whole, a 2CD collection issued on Castle in 2000, and it still sounds wonderful, from the opening chiming guitars, as captivating as those on Love’s 1st LP, waiting for the bass to come in with all the majesty of Joy Division’s menace and melody, and then Wylie singing over the bank of guitars, crooning here. It is really a one-off in the Wah! canon, and a rare example of anyone getting balances so right between darkness and light.

Saturday 22 May 2021

The Shoebox Files #1: Bobby Cole


The Shoebox Selections is a series of mixes available at, each around the length of one side of a C90 cassette. That was the idea really: to try and capture the feeling of when you would fill up a blank tape with a selection of your favourite things, tracks that you thought a friend or loved one needed to hear.