Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Everlasting Yeah & Of Arrowe Hill at the Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon Putney May 12th

The Everlasting Yeah at The Half Moon Putney photographed by Paul Slattery
The Everlasting Yeah put in a quite stunning performance at The Half Moon Putney that proved they are one of the best live acts around at the moment. Merging all of the best elements of their previous band That Petrol Emotion, The Everlasting Yeah really are the perfect band for all seasons and all moods. There's something for everyone. After all, TPE were as much influenced by the Soul and Funk of Curtis Mayfield, War and Sly & The Family Stone as they were Punk Rock. They took the avant garde sounds of Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground and Pere Ubu and mixed them all up with the sweet harmonies of the Beach Boys. But whereas That Petrol Emotion could sometimes sound like a compilation of various genres (as you can hear discussed in our recent Retrosonic Podcast with the band) the best thing about The Everlasting Yeah is that cram all of these diverse influences into one vibrant, exciting and totally fresh sound with it's own clear identity.

Raymond Gorman of The Everlasting Yeah at The Half Moon Putney photographed by Paul Slattery
Ciaran McLaughlin of The Everlasting Yeah at The Half Moon Putney photographed by Paul Slattery
Brendan Kelly of The Everlasting Yeah at The Half Moon Putney photographed by Paul Slattery
Damian O'Neill of The Everlasting Yeah at The Half Moon Putney photographed by Paul Slattery
The chemistry between all four members is apparent when they play live, they look like they enjoy each others company and it certainly pays off in their music. Brendan Kelly's bass throbs with a thunderous intent and his understanding with drummer Ciaran McLaughlin is impressive as they lock into a mighty groove. The Everlasting Yeah have added a dash of Krautrock's motorik beats into the mix too which enables the songs to develop nicely at their own natural pace. In fact there are more ideas crammed into one Everlasting Yeah song than most bands manage in a whole album! Raymond Gorman and Damian O'Neill seem to have some sort of psychic thing going on as their guitars weave in and out of each other like Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine at their best. I've always thought that Damian and Raymond were totally underrated as guitarists, they spin out razor sharp shards of spiky and inventive riffs that complement each other perfectly. Like Joey Santiago from the Pixies they take what at first might be familiar melodic lines and twist them to breaking point. You think you know when the pay off is going to come but they surprise you with another unexpected and thought provoking detour. Although Raymond handles most of the lead vocals - ably backed by Ciaran, who takes the spotlight on "Everything Is Beautiful" - there's no front-man as such, TPE's singer Steve Mack having relocated to his hometown Seattle - The Everlasting Yeah are however, a tight-knit gang who present a united front and share some stunning four-part vocals harmonies. 

The Everlasting Yeah at The Half Moon Putney photographed by Paul Slattery
The Everlasting Yeah at The Half Moon Putney photographed by Paul Slattery
The new songs they first played at The Lexington earlier in the year have been tweaked and sharpened up and tonight "Motorbeat City" and in particular a raucous "Dylan '65" both stood out with "hit" stamped all over it them. Here's a sneak preview of "Dylan '65"...



So, the follow-up album looks like it could even give the brilliant debut "Anima Rising" a run for its money judging by the strength of The Everlasting Yeah's new material. Let's hope they get into the studio pretty sharpish as I am already getting impatient to hear these tracks recorded! Opening the night were the brilliant Of Arrowe Hill who also previewed a sizeable chunk of promising new material tonight. New songs such as "You Wish It Was This Easy" closely followed by "Happy Now" prove that it looks like they are going to improve on their last album, which will be no mean feat as "A Conspiracy of Clocks" was an absolute classic. Like The Everlasting Yeah, Of Arrowe Hill can challenge you with their intelligent and thought provoking songs, nothing is predictable or easy to categorize yet both bands never lose sight of the importance of a bloody great tune!

Of Arrowe Hill at The Half Moon Putney photographed by Paul Slattery
Of Arrowe Hill at The Half Moon Putney photographed by Paul Slattery
I'd like to say a huge thank you to both bands, the Half Moon and all who helped in promoting the show and of course all of those that braved a school night and made the effort to come along, it was much appreciated! Don't forget you can check out our Retrosonic Podcast special with The Everlasting Yeah where we chatted to Raymond Gorman, Damian O'Neill and Ciaran McLauglin in the build up to the Half Moon gig. There's a comprehensive look into The Everlasting Yeah's excellent debut album "Anima Rising" and a frank and in-depth journey back through That Petrol Emotion's career and impressive back catalogue. The Podcast is generously sound-tracked with a pick of songs old and new with a couple of surprises thrown in along the way. For more information and up-to-date news on The Everlasting Yeah please check out their official website here. Thanks to Paul Slattery for the photos, you can see more pics from the gig at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here. Give us a "like" if you want to be kept up to date on future gigs, Podcasts and videos.




Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children - The Soundtrack of Our Lives Frontman to play London Gig!


Breaking news! Ebbot Lundberg, the charismatic frontman of two of Sweden's most influential bands The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Union Carbide Productions is back with a new band, The Indigo Children and a brand new album "For The Ages To Come" (Haldern Pop Recordings). We are extremely pleased to announce that Retro Man Blog and Shindig! Magazine will be hosting the band at The Half Moon Putney on June 24th along with special guests The Fallen Leaves and The Galileo 7. Tickets are available now and strictly limited to just 200 so we would recommend booking in advance especially if you are interested in coming along and have to travel. This will not only be The Indigo Children's first ever U.K. show but Ebbot's first gig in London since The Soundtrack of Our Lives last show in 2012. We will be posting up more information along with an interview with Ebbot and review on the new album very soon, but in the meantime here are some important links:



Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Galileo 7 - New Album "Live-O-Graphic", New Single "Cruel Bird" and French Tour - All in one week..!


As I write this The Galileo 7 are setting off on a marathon Tour de France of 10 gigs in 10 days. Well, having said that I just heard on the grapevine that their luxury tour bus has been involved in a little scrape in Folkestone! Hopefully their crew have got it all sorted by now and they are back on the road as they are due to kick off with gig tonight in Caen in Normandy and will then travel all the way down the length of the country to Perpignan in the Pyrenees, a short hop from the Spanish border. They will then wind their merry way back up to Flanders to finish off with a show in Lille on April 09th...En-route they will take in places such as St. Etienne, Grenoble, Toulouse - say goodbye to the town for me will you guys? - sorry for the corny Stranglers related joke there...! For full details of their voyage de Rock 'n' Roll please check out the tour dates and venue information here

The Galileo 7 photographed at last September's Retro Man Blog Night by Paul Slattery
It's certainly been a busy week for the band as they have just released a brand new single and album too. First of all we have the single, "Cruel Bird/Nowhere People" a limited edition (500 copies only) 45rpm 7" vinyl, the first 200 of which will be pressed in translucent purple vinyl. It's only available at State Records here or from the band directly either via their web-site here or at the merch stall at gigs. The proud record company sums it up perfectly..."All the by-now-familiar elements are in place—a thundering Who-like rhythm section, biting fuzz guitar, swirling organ and exquisite 4-part vocal harmonies...it's like a honey-coated punch in the mush!"


Then there's "Live-O-Graphic" which comes hot on the heels of the superb "False Memory Lane, we'll let the band explain: "The “Live-O-Graphic” Session…ten revved up, incendiary, ‘nearly live’ versions of previously released songs! The live backing tracks were burned out by the MK3 line-up of The Galileo 7 in one frantic hour, hemmed in by the mechanical clutter and ephemera of a working lithographic press, ignoring thumping headaches induced by a toxic combination of chemical vapours and extreme volume levels…but high on the alchemic rock’n’roll fumes of a spontaneous, unplanned recording session! These versions crackle with almost uncontainable energy, and outstrip the originals for verve and intensity. The one-take vocals and harmonies were added later in a similarly pressured and time-limited session to preserve the intense feel of the tracking session. This is a red hot ‘Live-O-Graphic’ sampler of some of The Galileo 7’s best songs".

The Galileo 7 photographed at last September's Retro Man Blog Night by Paul Slattery
"Live-O-Graphic" follows up on the idea spawned by the successful "Good Things" album from G7's singer/songwriter/guitarist Allan Crockford's other band Graham Day & The Forefathers, where they plundered the illustrious back catalogue of The Prisoners, The Solarflares and The Prime Movers to re-record a selection of classics live in the studio to document their live set at the time. So this is what we have with "Live-O-Graphic", a snap-shot not just of the sort of songs you can expect when you see The Galileo 7 play live now but more importantly the energy in which they are being played. I have already written about the impact that the line-up change had on the band with Mole switching to drums and Paul Moss joining on bass. The whole dynamic of the band seemed to be ratcheted up a fair few notches and the live shows just got better each time, this is in no small part to Mole's frenetic Keith Moon-style visual and aural blur of an assault on his drum-kit. This is really apparent on the opening track "Never Go Back" from "Are We Having Fun Yet?" which sets the stall out on what is to follow perfectly. Paul Moss also adds a lively energetic presence to the stage and this awesome rhythm section enable keyboardist Viv and Allan to add their magic. Viv's swirling keyboards are more to the fore on "Live-O-Graphic" and she also takes on lead vocals on "Don't Know What I'm Waiting For" with the others chipping in with some nice harmonising. There's a pick from all three studio albums plus a version of the stand-alone single "Modern Love Affair". The old favourites "Anne Hedonia" and "Orangery Lane" are given a right kick up the bracket with Mole's drumming adding another dimension to those much loved studio versions. I think Allan's confidence in fronting the band also seems to have been boosted with the new line-up too as anyone who saw the band put in a stunningly powerful performance at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston recently will testify. His guitar playing also deserves a lot more attention and hopefully "Live-O-Graphic" will address this too, as you only have to check the fuzzed riffing on "Orangery Lane" for an example. So the band are going from strength to strength and judging by the quality of some of the new songs they have been adding to the live set recently let's hope the prolific releases keep on coming!

Check out the The Galileo 7 web-site here for more information, we'll be playing the new single "Cruel Bird" in our next episode of Retrosonic Podcast too so please keep a check on the Blog for news on that. Also, don't forget drummer Mole's excellent State Records for loads of lovely vinyl!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Stranglers "Black And White" at the Brixton Academy and Reading Hexagon (with The Alarm)

The Stranglers - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
There is something slightly unsettling about the The Stranglers "Black And White" album and the atmosphere that pervades it. It’s kind of like watching a particularly effective psychological thriller or horror movie. You know that feeling when, even after leaving the cinema, you are left with a lingering sense of dread and have that irrational urge to check under the bed before you go to sleep. It’s totally unique, a genuinely innovative and ground-breaking album with it's twisted time structures, weird angular guitar riffs and snarling vocals. There's that immensely powerful production and the iconic but weirdly compelling cover art....and that’s before we get to the bass! For "Black And White" must be the ultimate bass album with JJ Burnel in inspired form throughout. Instead of following up the commercially successful "No More Heroes" with more of the same, The Stranglers really went for the jugular with "Black And White". They were miles ahead of most of their contemporaries who were either imploding or churning out punk-by-numbers and produced this timeless album, in fact it's almost like it was beamed down from another planet. There was nothing to prepare you for "Black And White", probably only Wire and Public Image Ltd were making such similarly challenging music. Of course The Stranglers never get paid their dues - let's see how prominently they feature in this year's "40 Years of Punk" nostalgia-fest. Will they be taken seriously in the documentaries, features and exhibitions that are going to be filling our TV screens, media and galleries over the next 12 months or so? I very much doubt it. But then again, would us Stranglers fans have it any other way? The band have always thrived on being outsiders, they have survived the departure of not just one, but two lead vocalists and the semi-retirement of their legendary drummer Jet Black, to play packed out venues across the globe. The decision of the band to embark on an ambitious tour to play the whole of the "Black And White" album start to finish, proved that I wasn't the only one who always believed the album should be lauded up there with some of the greatest albums to have come out of the Punk Rock and indeed Post-Punk scenes.

The Stranglers - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
As the familiar strains of the "Waltz In Black" intro music fill the packed out Brixton Academy auditorium, The Stranglers take the stage and launch straight into the explosive album opener "Tank". We know what's coming but it still takes the breath away. The Stranglers always had a gift for writing evocative songs and "Tank" could not have been better named! Unfortunately, health issues prevent Jet Black from touring with the band, well he is fast approaching 80 years old, and his place behind the drum kit has been taken by Jim MacAuley who at first glance bears a youthful resemblance to Jet! Just as the addition of Baz into the line-up seemed to reinvigorate the band, Jim ups the energy levels even further and I don't think the band have sounded so fresh and exciting for many a year. Next up is "Nice 'n' Sleazy", the only single to be taken from "Black And White", and with it's skewed take on a Reggae rhythm and JJ's iconic leering bass-line it's another perfectly titled track. "Outside Tokyo" is a twisted Baroque styled waltz that slows the pace momentarily before "Hey! (Rise of The Robots)" crashes in. This is probably the closest the band get to sounding like a Punk Rock band; in fact it sounds like something you might have heard in the Roxy in 1976 with its quick-fire Clash-like "1977" guitar riff intro. It then canters along at a fair pace and is all over in two glorious minutes. It's a shame they didn't get a saxophonist on stage to try and replicate Lora Logic's inspired playing from the album itself, which would have been something special.

The Stranglers - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Next comes "Sweden (All Quiet on The Eastern Front)" a song which was inspired by Hugh's time studying at Lund university which must have been boring as he claimed it was the "only country where the clouds are interesting". Although the band did film a humorous video for the song which you can see in the “Video Collection 1977-1982” it was somewhat surprisingly never released as a single over here despite it being one of the band’s, and certainly “Black And White’s” stand-out tracks. So, it remains in my mind the greatest single that never was, but should have been...! Well actually, I lie, a version was released as a 7” single but in Sweden only and it was entitled "Sverige" with yes, you guessed it, Hugh singing entirely in Swedish. Let’s just say that’s one for the die-hard collectors only and Baz wisely opts to stick with the English language album version tonight. "Toiler On The Sea" is again one of those wonderfully evocative songs, an epic seafaring tale made up of different sections similar to "Down in the Sewer" from the band's "Rattus Norvegicus" debut. You can really picture the grey skies bearing down on the rain lashed boat being tossed on dark waves as the metaphorical crew battle against the elements. It's this almost Viking inspired imagery that I can certainly see carried over into "The Raven" album that followed "Black And White" a year later.

The Stranglers - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
"Curfew" is a blistering, paranoid track seething with unsettling riffs, stabs of keyboards and the fear of unwelcome invaders with the power to "turn the day into night..." The next track "Threatened" is in a similar vein to "Curfew" with it's pumping and pulsing heart-beat drumming and it affords the bizarre sight of people all around me joining in singing such choice lines as "man killed by luxury, man killed by falling tree". "In The Shadows" with it's fuzzed beyond recognition bass-line was always the weak link for me on the album and tonight hearing it played live doesn't really change my opinion unfortunately. Dave Greenfield takes over lead vocals for the sinister "Do You Wanna?" which segues into the superb "Death and Night and Blood (Yukio)" and I must say the hairs on the back my neck stand up as the two songs collide. The lyrics point to JJ's fascination with the author and poet Yukio Mishima who committed suicide following a failed attempt to overthrow the Japanese government in 1970. This was another motif he was to carry on to "The Raven" in particular with the album track "Ice" and it's "die like cherry blossom" line and references to the Hagakure, the Samurai's spiritual and moral code. I wasn't sure if they would include “Enough Time” in the set list as it's a difficult enough track to get your head around as a listener let alone as a musician, but they manage the very weird time signatures and off-kilter riffs expertly. As the song slowly winds down the stage lights come on, the stage is suddenly awash in a blaze of colour and the band start the second half of the set with a stomping "(Get a) Grip (on Yourself)".

The Stranglers - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
What follows is an excellent pick of singles, classic tracks and a few surprises including "Walk On By" the cover version of the Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach song that was actually given away as a free seven inch single with the initial copies of "Black And White". There's quite a few tracks from "No More Heroes" including "Dead Ringer", "Something Better Change" and a blistering version of "I Feel Like a Wog" but there's only "Nuclear Device" from "The Raven". The sublime "Always The Sun" is played under a beautiful orange sunset light show and sounds superb tonight and a surprise "Princess of The Streets" from "Rattus" with JJ 's voice on top form. The older more familiar numbers are punctuated by a few songs from the last three Baz-era albums, "Mercury Rising" from the current album "Giants" and then "I've Been Wild" from "Norfolk Coast". One of the highlights is a superb "Relentless" from "Suite XVI" and "A Soldier's Diary" from the same album, which is a bit of a throwaway thrash. For me it wasn't the most inspiring selection of new-ish tracks when you think of the quality of some of the others they could have chosen such as "Unbroken", "Big Thing Coming" or "Barbara", but they seem to go down well with the majority of the crowd. Anyway, with a back catalogue of such diversity and quality as The Stranglers, they could have played for four hours and still people would be complaining they didn't play their favourite song! For the well deserved encores we get treated to "Peaches", "Hanging Around", "Go Buddy Go" and of course "No More Heroes". As I make my way out of the venue I make my mind up to go along to see the band in Reading a few days later as I just had to have another fix of "Black And White".

The Stranglers - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
I managed to make it to Reading Hexagon in time to catch the last half of The Alarm’s support set as unfortunately I completely missed them at the Brixton Academy show due to being trapped in a pub. I remember seeing them a fair few years ago when they released their excellent debut album “Declaration” and they were a blaze of rather large gravity defying back-combed hair-do’s and acoustic guitars. The Alarm nowadays are based around the main singer-songwriter Mike Peters, no other original band members remain but I do notice some familiar faces in the new line-up.

Mike Peters and James Stevenson of The Alarm - Photo copyright Steve Cotton/Art Of The State
On the drums is Smiley who has played with Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros and From The Jam, Guitarist James Stevenson was in Chelsea, Gen X and Gene Loves Jezebel and then on the bass there’s Craig Adams. Blimey, Craig Adams…I remember seeing him at the Electric Ballroom way back in 1984 when he was in The Sisters of Mercy. Craig then went on to form The Mission with his Sisters colleague Wayne Hussey and has played with The Cult and also in later incarnations of Spear of Destiny and Theatre of Hate. There’s also a keyboard player and I’m rather disappointed that I don’t recognise him to complete the full set! Mike Peters still has that trademark back-combed hair and is a passionate and charismatic front-man who really engages with the receptive crowd. To be honest, musically it’s not my thing, but they play tight, anthemic folk-rock songs which to me sound a bit like early Bruce Springsteen and it’s all pretty enjoyable stuff. An extended version of “Spirit of ‘76” really builds up a head of steam and “68 Guns” is still a bloody great sing-along song whatever way you look at it. Mike has been battling lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia since the mid-90's and he explained about his "Love Hope Strength Foundation" charity which will have a stand at all the dates throughout the "Black And White" tour. You can find out more details about their fund raising events at the official web-site here.

The Stranglers at Reading Hexagon - Photo copyright Steve Cotton/Art Of The State
The Stranglers take the stage and run through “Black And White” again and it seems even louder than Brixton with JJ’s bass shaking the Hexagon’s foundations. Tonight there’s more between song banter than at the London show with Baz complaining about Reading’s one-way system and the perils of driving in the town before launching into “Walk On By”. He then attempts to play the TV theme tune to the Snooker and explains “I'm afraid that's what the Hexagon means to me!” and then we get told how bad our football team is too. This slight on Brian McDermott's Blue & White Army elicits a few good natured cat calls in response, “Sorry I can’t understand what you are talking about” he jokes in his strong Sunderland accent before accusing us of being Cockneys in a passable Danny Dyer voice. “OK, this is the bit where you're meant to call me a Northern monkey!” Nobody does, he’s a big scary chap is Baz! It’s hard to believe that he's been in The Stranglers for sixteen years now and I really do think he has played a huge part in the resurgence of the band's popularity.

The Stranglers - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
There's no doubting that Hugh's initial replacement, Paul Roberts, did divide opinion among Stranglers fans (me included!) so when Baz took over and the band reverted to their traditional four-piece line-up, they seemed to rediscover their 'mojo' and have never looked back. It was a bit of a shame that the pick of classic tracks in the second half of tonight's show is exactly the same as at Brixton as I was hoping to hear a few more old favourites. In fact we actually get one less as "Dead Ringer" is replaced by an admittedly brilliant version of “Norfolk Coast”. I'm pretty chuffed though as I think it was probably this one song, when it appeared as the opening track on the 2004 album of the same name, which might well have been the catalyst for a lot of people to start taking an interest in the band again after Hugh’s departure. After all, with that crunching bass intro and the swirling keyboards it has all the hallmarks of that classic and much-loved Stranglers sound that had been missing for quite some time, maybe since “The Raven” album at least. We get "Freedom Is Insane" from "Giants" and "Lost Control" from "Norfolk Coast", I'm much happier with the choice of newer songs tonight. There’s only two encores though, “Go Buddy Go” and “No More Heroes”, which I suppose is more down to the stricter live music curfew at the Hexagon, but nobody is complaining, it’s another superb show and everyone piles out into the cold Reading air with beaming faces and great memories of seeing a band that is, against all the odds, still on top of their game. I’ll keep my fingers crossed in the hope that the band decide to do a similar tour for “The Raven” sometime in the near future, now that would be something really special too.

The Stranglers - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Thanks to Steve Cotton for contributing the excellent photos from the Reading Hexagon as credited above. You can check out more of Steve’s work at his “Art of the State” web-site. For more photos of both the Brixton Academy and Reading Hexagon shows please head on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here for access to the photo albums. While you are there, if you like what you see and want to be kept up to date on future features, news and reviews then please give the page a “Like”. Up to date information on The Stranglers can be found at their official web-site.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band at The Islington Assembly Hall Friday March 04th

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2016
The Islington Assembly Hall is a perfect setting for tonight’s Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band gig, it’s an impressive 1930’s Art Deco venue with a high stage, a seated balcony and excellent sight lines all round. The lighting is good and there’s a large mirror ball casting star-like patterns across the huge Violette Records back-drop. The place seems close to capacity and there's a tangible buzz of anticipation all round as I make my way to the front. The band appear on stage, Mick's wearing a cool Jamie Reid designed ransom-note lettered “God Save the Florrie” T-shirt in support of the historic Liverpool venue The Florence Institute. I haven’t seen him play live for a while and the first thing that I noticed is how healthy he looked. I wasn’t the only person thinking this as someone shouts out a compliment on his youthful appearance. “It’s all that crystal meth” he quips. It’s typical though - he tells us - although he’s fitter than ever, he came down with a dose of the flu just before the gig, his first cold in over 20 years. There’s no denying the flu has taken its toll although he doesn't complain and soldiers on regardless but his voice does crack on occasion. However, in a strange way it makes the gig even better, it might sound weird saying that but everyone rallies around Mick, particularly during "Meant To Be" where he has to leave some of the higher notes dangling only for the crowd to take over and sing along enthusiastically. 

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2016
The Red Elastic Band, as the name may suggest, is a flexible collective of musicians enabling Mick to play gigs in various unusual venues either as a trio accompanied by cello and trumpet, alone with his guitar or in some cases backed by a choir. Tonight, here at the Islington Assembly Hall we get treated to a full-on seven piece line-up comprising Mick on vocals and acoustic guitar, the familiar face of Shack’s bassist Pete Wilkinson to his right, two trumpet players, a cellist, a guitarist and a drummer and all are utterly magnificent throughout. As Mick introduces the musicians he admits “I just found out that we are a ‘Septet’, that’s much easier than to keep writing ‘all of us together’”. He talks about this gig being in “his manor” as he lived in Stoke Newington for a while and throughout the show he regularly name-checks friends who have supported him and acknowledges familiar faces in the crowd. Although this sometimes backfires. “You were at the Glasgow gig weren’t you?” he asks a girl standing at the front of the stage. She shakes her head a bit sheepishly. A couple of songs later and he again looks quizzically at the girl, “are you sure you weren’t at Glasgow?” She shakes her head as though sorry to disappoint him. “Well, if you weren’t there, you have a twin who was!” He seems to thrive on this interaction with the audience and often checks himself, "I can hear my dad's voice saying shut up, get on with it!" However, the interaction bit does get tiresome with people calling out their favourite obscure song titles when Mick is trying to speak. “He’s not an effing jukebox!” someone shouted, obviously more irked than I was. “Hey, that’s a good idea” Mick says “but I’ll have a slot at the front that will only take notes, no coins”. 

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2016
He's remarkably candid throughout the night; the cheerful banter is punctuated by some heartfelt tributes, in particular to his daughter, who is in the crowd tonight. When they play “The Prize” from “The Magical World of The Strands” album, Mick explains that “I wrote this for my daughter, she's over there and I can feel her eyes in the back of my neck. She's the most beautiful person I’ve ever met. You see I'm embarrassing her now, she's crying and her mascara's going to run!”. The song is absolutely wonderful, Pete adds some gorgeous backing vocal harmonies as “The Prize” builds to a superb climax. It’s that utterly compelling music allied with those sudden between-song moments of honesty and humility that makes seeing Mick play live so very special. It’s not just “another gig”, it always means much more than that. During "Something Like You", another stunningly beautiful Strands song, I see grown men cough loudly to relieve that lump in the throat and over-act the yawning to hide the surreptitious welling up. "Ahem, did you see the match mate..!?"

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2016
The set list is a delight too, a perfect mix of new material nestling alongside some familiar (and some not so familiar) Shack and Strands songs. They haven’t tried to replace or replicate John Head’s unique cascading guitars, instead concentrating on the more laid back orchestral numbers from the back catalogue. Actually, I've always thought Mick is underrated guitarist too – often while in Shack he is overshadowed by brother John’s majestic playing and tends to take more of the rhythm role. But tonight he excels, especially on the solo acoustic numbers where he plays a 12 string guitar beautifully, full of impressive Flamenco style strumming. At the end of a stunning "Streets Of Kenny" he drops to his knees for a powerful freak-out. Mick's songs have a real depth to them, they can be as evocative and cinematic as John Barry or Ennio Morricone or can sometimes seem like jaunty sea shanties or charming lullabies. During tonight's gig I pick up on strains of Jazz, Burt Bacharach, Baroque and even the Bossa Nova of Sergio Mendes and then there's The Red Elastic Band's fantastic 7” vinyl single “Velvets In The Dark” which starts off with a guitar motif that reminds me of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” from the “Midnight Cowboy” soundtrack. 

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2016
In the early 90’s Arthur Lee from Love took on Shack to form part of his backing band for some live shows, this must have been a fan’s dream come true for Love are probably one of the biggest influences on Michael Head’s music. This is apparent on “Meant To Be”, which is not only one of the stand-out tracks on the faultless “And Here’s Tom With The Weather” album, but is also a definite highlight of tonight' show. They run out of songs to play so decide on “Newby Street” again but nobody minds, far from it. It might well be one of the most recent songs that Mick has written and they might have opened the show with it but it is already right up there with the classics from the back catalogue. In fact walking to the tube station after the show all we could hear was people around us whistling or humming the trumpet riff to the song. This continued down onto the platform, onto the Victoria Line and then onto the Circle Line all the way to Paddington station – we could still hear that damn catchy riff ringing out. When we finally got all the way back to our home station I was convinced that the inspector at the ticket barrier was whistling “Newby Street” too!

Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - Photo copyright Retro Man Blog 2016
Check out the excellent “Shacknet” web-site which is a superb resource for all Mick related activities. Visit the Michael Head official web-site for info and news on upcoming shows and then don't forget Violette Records for the on-line store. More photos of the gig can be found over at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and you can hear “Newby Street” from Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band in Episode 14 of Retrosonic Podcast, which is up at our Soundcloud site and on iTunes.



Friday, 4 March 2016

The Downliners Sect & The Masonics at The 100 Club February 12th - Exclusive Paul Slattery Photographs

Don Craine of The Downliners Sect photographed by Paul Slattery
The legendary Sixties R'n'B group The Downliners Sect made a rare live appearance with a recent gig at The 100 Club on February 12th along with very special guests The Masonics, and it was great to see two superb purveyors of prime stripped back R'n'B on the same stage. The links between the two bands go back via The Masonics drummer Bruce Brand from when he was in Thee Headcoats Sect, the collaboration with Billy Childish and Thee Headcoats (named after Don Craine's famous deerstalker hat), Don Craine and Keith Grant. Rock Photographer Paul Slattery, who worked with Thee Headcoats, was there to capture the action and here is a selection of his excellent photographs of the night, which included guest appearances from Ludella Black and Johnny Sutton.

The Masonics photographed by Paul Slattery
The Masonics photographed by Paul Slattery
Special Guest Ludella Black photographed by Paul Slattery
Mickey Hampshire photographed by Paul Slattery
The Downliners Sect photographed by Paul Slattery
The Downliners Sect photographed by Paul Slattery
Bruce Brand and Don Craine photographed by Paul Slattery
Here's a video of The Masonics with "Don't Talk To Me" from the night:



Photographer Paul Slattery picks his favourite Downliners Sect track in Episode 21 of Retrosonic Podcast. You can listen/download for free at our Soundcloud site or subscribe for free at iTunes.



All photos courtesy of and copyright Paul Slattery 2016.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The Go Go Cult "Head Hunter" - New Limited Edition 10" Vinyl Mini-Album Out Now!


The Go Go Cult, those mysterious masked voodoo rockin' shamans from errr...Reading...have just released a superb six track mini-album on hot pink 10" Vinyl entitled "Head Hunter" via the Western Star Recording Company. This will be the band's third release on the label and you can order it from here. The sleeve has a great 3D cover and the first 100 copies will include a free pair of 3D glasses, so get in there quick to avoid giving yourself a headache. The hypnotic driving rhythms and tales of Gods, Volcanoes and Head Hunters will transport you Zelig-style to a wealth of old 50's sleazy B-Movies of exotic jungles full of cannibals, creepy crawlies and damsels in distress. The Go Go Cult take all those raw and swampy Blues sounds of The Cramps, The Gun Club and Link Wray and mix them all up with a dose of The Meteors, The Tall Boys and that mid-1980's Psychobilly and Garage Rock scene then distill them into a thoroughly volatile concoction entirely of their own recipe.

The Go Go Cult photographed by Paul Slattery
Check out The Go Go Cult's official web-site here for news on upcoming gigs and future releases. You can also read a review of the band from their gig at The Dome in Tufnell Park supporting The Fuzztones in the Retro Man Blog archive here, along with some photos by legendary Rock Photographer Paul Slattery, who coincidentally photographed The Cramps in their early days too.