Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gary US Bonds at Ronnie Scott's

Back again for a two night residency at the newly refurbished Ronnie Scott's, Gary US Bonds showed that he's lost none of his enthusiasm and sense of fun. I took my two sons aged 20 and 23 to see him, wondering how they would respond to what must appear to them to be an artist from a prehistoric era, but they enjoyed the show and danced along at the end with the rest of the audience. Gary responded to requests that I called out, including Dear Lady Twist and Seven Day Weekend, but unfortunately his band did not know his early material with the exception of New Orleans and A Quarter to Three. But despite that it was a great rocking show, most unlike most of the rather more sedate jazz usually featured at Ronnie's, with several tracks from his new album and some Springsteen material. What made the show so much fun, though, was Gary's sense of humour. He had a permanent smile on his face and was constantly making funny asides and comments, sometimes to the discomfort of individual members of the audience. If not quite as exciting as his show at the Borderline a couple of years ago, it was nevertheless a great evening. Even my kids thought he was good.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Katrina one year on

It's just about a year since New Orleans was struck down by Katrina. According to everything I've heard and read, including a programme on Radio 4 tonight, the city remains a mess and the politicians have dismally failed to rebuild this great city. Indeed, ethnic cleansing seems to be the name of the game: preventing the poor blacks from returning the aim.
It's 15 years since my second visit to New Orleans Jazzfest. It was then that I saw Barbara George, who died recently, for the first time. Here are some extracts from my diary:
Friday April 26. No Fest because of heavy rain. Made up for it though in the evening. Went on the Creole Queen riverboat - great! Eddie Bo was fantastic, backed by Wayne Bennett and Red Tyler. Irma Thomas was wonderful too. Then on to Muddy Waters for Lil Ed & the Imperials, a lively swivel-eyed young bluesman, Lonnie Brooks - brilliant guitar - a couple of songs from Koko Taylor, and to finish off a great show there was blistering guitar stuff from Kenny Neal.
Saturday April 27. Breakfast at the Clover Inn and then to St Louis Cemetery to find Marie Laveau's tomb - the Witch Queen of New Orleans. Off to Jazzfest and parked my car in a local yard and was offered some crack. Acts included Jean Knight, Marva Wright, Harmonica Red and many others. An evening to remember: went on the Creole Queen again where a very thin crowd watched Ernie K-Doe, Barbara George and Jessie Hill. Ernie was his usual cocky self - I sat next to him later and he seemed rather subdued (pissed probably) off stage. Barbara gave it all she's got and I bought her new album Bad Luck and Trouble on cassette. Jessie Hill did a short but lively set. None of them in their heyday but all of them legends. (And all of them now sadly dead).
Sunday. Acts at Jazzfest included Willie Tee, Ohio Players, Rocking Dopsie, Clarence Frogman Henry (in a wheelchair), John Mooney, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Troy Turner and finally the good Dr John. In the evening to Irma's club. She was fantastic with a string of great deep soul songs. Dave and Mick, who I was with, were very pissed.
Monday. Weather appalling. Dave and Mick were suffering from last night's excess. Mick had stumbled away when I dropped him outside the hotel, fell asleep in the gutter and was robbed of his money, cards etc. I booked into a fleapit hotel on Airline Highway and bought yet more records (I'm going to have to control this addiction). In evening went to piano night at Tipitinas. Highlights were Jon Cleary (from Watford!) and Eddie Bo. Art Neville failed to finish a song. Tommy Ridgeley was also good. Eric Burdon did one number (why?)
To be continued

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Barbara George RIP

Barbara George, who died last week, recorded I Know - one of the all time classic New Orleans R and B records. She had a powerful if untrained voice and some wonderful musicians backing her at the short lived AFO (All For One) label, and later for Sue, yet never capitalised on her initial hit. She faded from the New Orleans music scene but I saw Barbara perform in New Orleans a couple of times in the early 90s - on a riverboat along with other now deceased R and B legends such as Jessie Hill and Ernie K-Doe, and at a club in the French Quarter, but never at Jazzfest. I Know still sounds great today and it's sad that yet another classic New Orleans singer has passed on. There's an obit in today's Independent http://news.independent.co.uk/people/obituaries/article1220842.ece
Articles I've read about Barbara suggest that her last recordings were made for the Seven B label in the late 70s/early 80s. But when I saw her perform at the Toulouse Club in New Orleans in 1991 she was promoting a new record called Bad Luck and Trouble that was only available on tape. I bought a copy, which she signed. It was dated 1990 and produced by Milton Battiste and credited to Barbara and Sunpie (presumably Bruce Sunpie Barnes), Tracks are Bad Luck and Trouble, Whip a Reaux, Something You Got, I Know, Mr Bo Jangles, He Bring Out The best In Me, Everyday I Have The Blues and I Believe My Baby's Cheating On me.

V expensive and V crap

I read today that the V Festival organisers have been criticised for charging £10 for a programme to find out when and where acts were playing and £7 for a burger, that people had to queue for hours to get cash, and that anyone bringing beer or water in had them confiscated, forcing them to buy the overpriced drinks on sale at the venues. What's more, from what I can see of the line-up, the festival was crap as well as expensive.
How different from the top festivals in the US. At New Orleans Jazzfest or Beale Street in Memphis the acts are varied and genuinely top quality, so that there is something for just about anyone. The food is brilliant - at Jazzfest there are rows of booths selling anything from alligator po-boys to crawfish pie - and reasonably priced at just three or five dollars a portion. The beer is relatively cheap (if tasteless) and the facilities are excellent. In Europe too the focus of festivals is on value for money rather than excessive profits.
No wonder I prefer to visit festivals in the States or Europe rather than the UK. In my experience UK music festivals are a rip off: badly organised, unpleasant and uncomfortable and very poor value for money.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Is 80 the new 60?

I was intrigued to hear a comment the other day that 80 is the new 60. That may be true, but it's too early to tell, as they say*, as the baby boomer generation has still got quite a way to go until it reaches the octogenarian stage. What clearly is true - for many baby boomers like me at any rate - is that 60 is the new 40. Not only are many of us far from ready to retire and enjoying our lives to the full, but the icons of our youth are still around and looking fit, if not necessarily youthful in every case. We have Mick Jagger and co doing their thing in the UK yet again and the likes of Cliff Richard, Elton John, David Bowie and Paul McCartney still active (although in Paul's case experiencing something of a mid life crisis). Even the remaining survivors of the first blast of rock and roll, such as Jerry Lee, Chuck, Bo, James Brown and Little Richard, are still performing, even if their acts are shorter and less exciting than in days of old.
What worries me is not what the baby boomers will get up to in their old age. Like me, many of them will no doubt just grow old disgracefully and have a great time as they do so. It's what will become of our kids. Forced to work until they are 70 or beyond only to discover that promises of a decent pension were fraudulent, they may be the work till they drop generation.
* See link to the excellent Too Early To Tell site at bottom of the page

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Classic top tens continued

More of my personal top tens from around this date 1960-65: (new entries marked *)
August 18, 1960: 1. Please help me I'm falling - Hank Lochlin; 2. Only the lonely - Roy Orbison; 3. It ain't gonna be that way - Marv Johnson; 4. I just go for you* - Jimmy Jones; 5. Mission bell - Donnie Brooks; 6. Everybody's somebody's fool - Connie Francis; 7. Walking to New Orleans - Fats Domino; 8. Alley oop - Hollywood Argylls; 9. Wonderful world - Sam Cooke; 10. I love the way you love - Marv Johnson.
August 20, 1961: 1. Baby face - Bobby Vee; 2. Girls - Johnny Burnette; 3. Tell me that you love me* - Marv Johnson; 4. Sea of heartbreak - Don Gibson; 5. Tell me why - Belmonts; 6. A tear* - Gene McDaniels; 7. Te ta te ta ta - Ernie K-Doe; 8. Merry go round* - Marv Johnson; 9. The fish - Bobby Rydell; 10. Cupid - Sam Cooke.
August 25, 1962: 1. Sealed with a kiss - Brian Hyland; 2. Seven day weekend - Gary US Bonds; 3. Cry myself to sleep* - Del Shannon; 4. The locomotion* - Little Eva; 5. She's not you* - Elvis Presley; 6. Teenage idol* - Rick Nelson; 7. Bring it on home to me* - Sam Cooke; 8= Mary's little lamb* - James Darren, Ballad of Paladin* - Duane Eddy, Lipstick traces - Benny Spellman, Palisades Park - Freddy Cannon, and Vacation - Connie Francis.
August 19, 1963: 1. Surf city - Jan & Dean; 2, Come go with me - Dion; 3. Two silhouettes - Del Shannon; 4. Don't say goodnight & mean goodbye - Shirelles; 5. Not me - The Orlons; 6. Shake shake shake* - Jackie Wilson; 7. Blowing in the wind* - Peter Paul & Mary; 8. Twist it up* - Chubby Checker; 9. Just one look* - Doris Troy; 10= Detriot City* - Bobby Bare, and Fingertips - Little Stevie Wonder.
August 24, 1964: 1. I'm into something good* - Earl-Jean; 2. You never can tell* - Chuck Berry; 3. I get around - The Beach Boys; 4. C'mon and swim - Bobby Freeman; 5= Dissatisfied woman - Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and Ain't nothing you can do* - Bobby Bland; 7= Good times - Sam Cooke, Little old lady from Pasadena* - Jan & Dean, Under the Boardwalk - The Drifters; 10= Rag doll* - The Four Seasons, I want to love him so bad - The Jelly Beans, and The best part of breakin' up - The Ronettes.
August 16, 1965: 1. In the midnight hour - Wilson Pickett; 2. Respect - Otis Redding; 3. It's wonderful to be in love - The Ovations; 4. I put a spell on you* - Nine Simone; 5. Ju ju hand* - Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs; 6. I'll never get over you* - Everly Brothers; 7. Ride your pony* - Lee Dorsey; 8. It's an easy question* - Elvis Presley; 9. Papa's got a brand new bag - James Brown; 10= Woman's got soul - The Impressions; Woolly Bully - Sam the Sham, and I can't help myself - Four Tops.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Not much shaking going on

Went to see Jerry Lee Lewis at the Shepherds Bush Empire on Saturday. It's a privilege to see the old boy performing these days because by rights he should have been dead years ago, given the excesses of his lifestyle over the decades. He can still chop those piano chords like no man alive and his voice is holding up well. But I left feeling just a little short changed for my £39 ticket (including booking fee). Jerry Lee was on stage for exactly 40 minutes, scarcely looked at or acknowledged the audience, concentrated on country rather than rock and roll, and left without doing an encore. All of these are of course known traits, but I have seen him put on more of a show when he has been enjoying himself, rather than going through the motions as he appeared to be on Saturday. It was good to see him, but at the rate of a pound a minute it was just a little on the dear side.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Sixties cult TV series

While we're on the subject of 6os lists, how about the 20 best TV series of the decade? It seems strange today, when the only things I watch regularly are the news, football and Coronation Street, that our lives revolved around TV in the 60s when there were only two, and later three, channels to choose from. There were, of course, a great many TV series and regular programmes at that time, but here, just for the hell of it, are my top 20 - again, not in any particular order:
1. The Prisoner (probably the biggest cult series of them all)
2. Danger Man (the Patrick McGoohan spy saga that led to The Prisoner)
3. The Saint (Roger Moore at his most quizzical)
4. Man in a Suitcase (Richard Bradford with his Hillman Imp and a ciggie in the side of his mouth as McGill)
5. A for Andromeda (TV sci-fi at its best, along with the Quatermass series)
6. The Four Just Men (Jack Hawkins, Vittorio de Sica, Dan Dailey and Richard Conte)
7. Dr Who ( William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton - and still going strong)
8. Human Jungle (Herbert Lom as psychiatrist Dr Roger Corder)
9. The Avengers (wonderful fantasy with Patrick McNee, Honor Blackman and of course Diana Rigg as the simply splendid Emma Peel)
10. Cluff (bluff northern detective played by Leslie Sands)
11. Oh Boy! (classic pop show bringing back memories of Eddie and Gene)
12. Ready Steady Go (the weekend really did start there)
13. Coronation Street (now a mere 46 years young and as popular as ever)
14. Star Trek (another true cult - beam me up Scotty)
15. Maverick (James Garner as Bret, Jack Kelly as Bart and, later Roger Moore as Beau - began in the 50s but lasted into the 60s and maybe the last of the great western series)
16. That was the week that was (cutting edge satire with David Frost)
17. Monty Python's Flying Circus (ground breaking comedy - unmissable)
18. Thunderbirds (Gerry Anderson's high point with Jeff Tracy and his five sons, not forgetting Lady Penelope)
19. Department S (and of course the spin-off Jason King with the flamboyant Peter Wyngarde)
20. The Champions (superhuman powers with Stuart Damon, William Gaunt and the gorgeous Alexandra Bastedo - who should have been in my 60s sex symbols list)
It was really hard choosing my top 20 - could easily have been a top 50 - but suggestions and comments again most welcome.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sixties sex symbols

The death of gravel voiced Patrick Allen the other day brought to mind Laya Raki, his gorgeous co-star in Crane. She would definitely feature as one my top sex symbols of the 60s. This got me thinking about who else would make my top 20 list of female sex symbols of the decade and after careful thought I have come up with 20 glamorous women from that era. I am sure I've missed some, but here goes (not in any particular order) :
1. The aforesaid Laya Raki (Crane), 2. Jayne Mansfield, 3. Mamie Van Doren, 4. Marilyn Monroe (three blonde bombshells), 5. Brigitte Bardot, 6. Catherine Deneuve (French sex kittens), 7. Marianne Faithfull (chiefly for her leather outfit in Girl on a Motorcycle), 8. Diana Rigg (fantastic outfits in The Avengers), 9. Raquel Welch ( who can forget One Million Years BC), 10. Monica Vitti, 11. Gina Lollobrigida (Italian sex goddesses), 12 Anita Ekberg (steamy Swedish star of La Dolce Vita), 13. Pamela Green (top nude model of the era), 14, Ursula Andress (emerging from the sea in Dr No), 15. Anita Pallenberg (as the Black Queen in Barbarella - Jane Fonda wasn't bad either), 16. Mary Wells (most glamorous of the Motown stars), 17. Ronnie Spector (and all of the Ronettes in their tight slit skirts), 18. Mandy Rice-Davies (I would say that wouldn't I?), 19. Julie Newmar (Catwoman in the Batman TV series), 20. Nichelle Nichols (Uhura in Star Trek).
Alternative top 20s, or additions, welcome.

Monday, August 07, 2006

More classic top tens

More of my personal top tens - 1960-65:
August 8, 1960: 1. Only the lonely - Roy Orbison; 2. Please help me I'm falling - Hank Lochlin; 3. Girl of my best friend - Elvis Presley; 4. Mission bell - Donnie Brooks; 5. It ain't gonna be that way - Marv Johnson; 6. Mess of blues - Elvis; 7. Alley oop - Hollywood Argylls; 8. Wonderful world - Sam Cooke; 9. When will I be loved - Everly Brothers; 10. I love the way you love - Marv Johnson.
August 5, 1961: 1. Girls - Johnny Burnette; 2= Sea of heartbreak - Don Gibson, and Baby face - Bobby Vee; 4. Tell me why - The Belmonts; 5. Quarter to three- U S Bonds; 6. The fish - Bobby Rydell; 7. How many tears - Bobby Vee; 8. Cupid - Sam Cooke; 9. Let's twist again - Chubby Checker; 10. Te ta te ta ta - Ernie K-Doe.
August 6, 1962: 1= Sealed with a kiss - Brian Hyland, and Lipstick traces - Benny Spellman; 3. Seven day weekend - Gary US Bonds; 4. Palisades Park - Freddy Cannon; 5. Dancing party - Chubby Checker; 6. I'll never dance again - Bobby Rydell; 7. Roses are red - Bobby Vinton; 8. Vacation - Connie Francis; 9. Itty bitty pieces - James Ray; 10. Life's too short - The Lafayettes.
August 7, 1963: 1. Come go with me - Dion; 2. Wipe out - The Surfaris; 3. Not me - The Orlons; 4. Go go go - Chuck Berry; 5. Easier said than done - The Essex; 6. Don't say goodnight and mean goodbye - The Shirelles; 7. Surf city - Jan & Dean; 8. Fingertips - Little Stevie Wonder; 9. Patti baby - Freddy Cannon; 10. One fine day - The Chiffons.
August 10, 1964: 1. I get around - The Beach Boys; 2. The best part of breaking up - The Ronettes; 3. Good times - Sam Cooke; 4. Dissatisfied woman - Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee; 5. I want to love him so bad - The Jelly Beans; 6. High priced woman - John Lee Hooker; 7. C'mon and swim - Bobby Freeman; 8. Soulful dress - Sugar Pie DeSanto; 9. Under the boardwalk - The Drifters; 10= Mockingbird - Inez & Charlie Foxx, Keep on pushing - The Impressions, and Mama keep your big mouth shut - Bo Diddley.
August 8, 1965: 1. It's wonderful to be in love - The Ovations; 2. In the midnight hour - Wilson Pickett; 3. Woman's got soul - The Impressions; 4. Respect - Otis Redding; 5. Woolly Bully - Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs; 6. I can't help myself - The Four Tops; 7. Boomerang - Junior Walker; 8. Papa's got a brand new bag - James Brown; 9. It's the same old song - The Four Tops; 10. Incense - The Anglos.

Vince Eager for more

Congratulations once again to Keith Woods for putting on the Vince Eager gig at the Water Rats. It's a pity that more people didn't turn up but it was a brave effort. Vince's band, which includes two of his sons, were more than competent and it was interesting to see a near forgotten name from the late 50s/early 60s strut his stuff. Despite bordering on a pub singalong at times, it was an entertaining evening and his repertoire of covers was appreciated by the rather sparse crowd. I hope Keith doesn't give up on the TFTW shows, although I could hardly blame him if he did. There are few enough gigs of interest in London these days.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Love dies with Arthur Lee

The Vinyl Word says farewell to Arthur Lee of Love who has died in Memphis at just 61. He led an eventful life, which included a jail sentence for letting off a firearm, and made several comebacks, including visits to the UK, in recent years. Love was one of the leading psychedelic bands of the 60s and as such might be expected to be of little interest to a soul and rock and roll fan like me. But his ethereal voice made Arthur Lee's early records stand out. I still think Forever Changes was one of the best white albums of the 60s and I love the opening track Alone again or. And who could forget his classic line 'When I was in England town the rain fell right down' in She comes in colours? Farewell Arthur.