Friday, 27 April 2018

Of Lame and Pregnant Ducks: Donovan's UCS Benefit Concert at Green's Playhouse, 1972

Forty six years ago, almost to the day, I went to my first concert: a 1972 benefit gig for Upper Clyde
Shipbuilders, headlined by Donovan, at Green's Playhouse in Glasgow.

At the time I was only vaguely aware of the reasons behind the fundraising. The UCS consortium had gone into receivership in 1971 when the Conservative Government refused to allow them any further credit; in response they had organised not a sit-in but a "work-in" to complete existing orders, shop steward Jimmy Reid declaring: "There will be no hooliganism. There will be no vandalism. There will be no bevvying ... because the world is watching us."

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Pre-Flamingos recording of Dream of a Lifetime

If you have already read about the Flamingos' early sides (list of posts here) you may not be
aware of a postscript recently added to the piece about Dream of a Lifetime. The group recorded it in July 1954 for Parrot Records and remade it a couple of years later during their time at Chess.

I lazily presumed the number was written around the time of their first recording but in fact there is a 1947 disc credited to Bill Johnson and His Musical Notes with "Vocal refrain by Gus Gordon and Trio." The composition is credited only to "Gene Rowland", however; Mack Kemp's name does not appear on the record label.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Spencer's Risk by Andy Greenhalgh

I don't normally review fiction on this blog but I'm going to make an exception for Spencer's Risk, a hugely enjoyable first novel by the actor Andy Greenhalgh. An essentially comic tale of a man on the run to escape a gambling debt, this is no heartless romp, more an accidental voyage of discovery for its self-destructive hero with many unexpected twists and turns en route to keep the reader guessing right till the last page. It is also rich in descriptive detail, creating a convincing world: those with a toe in drama teaching will surely recognise Greenhalgh's hilarious account of its indignities, anxieties and infrequent triumphs.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman documentary and books

I have just watched AKA Doc Pomus, a documentary about the songwriter best known for his partnership with Mort Shuman in the late 50s and early 60s. The mix of images, interviews and the obvious taking of pains has resulted in a compelling and satisfying account which feels like the last word: we see, for example, not only footage of Pomus's wedding but also the song ideas he scrawled on the backs of unused wedding invites - including the one which was to result in Save The Last Dance For Me, one of Ben E King's finest moments as well as its writers.

And if that isn't enough Pomus's wife, the addressee of the song, is on hand to talk, with understandable emotion, about her response when first hearing it - although here and elsewhere you never feel the director is exploiting the situation, merely recording the depth of feeling which these songs and their creator evoked in so many.

No one important, it seems, spurned the invitation to participate. There is plentiful archive footage of Pomus himself as well as interviews with family members, not to mention a high calibre of other talking heads including Dave Marsh and Peter Guralnick. This telling doesn't focus on the Brill Building glory years of the late fifties and early sixties to the exclusion of all else: we get a lot about his childhood, the polio which was to affect the rest of his life, and the epiphany of hearing Big Joe Turner's 1944 recording of Piney Brown Blues, bookended by the information that Pomus actively helped Turner and other artists in later life by chasing up payments on their behalf. He was even aggrieved enough to call in a fake bomb warning to a club one night when the celebrated singer, well past the first flush of youth, was being forced to play a third show on the same night to maximise their profits. Turner's Decca recording had inspired Pomus to become a blues shouter himself, and he never forgot his debt.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Ian Whitcomb and Jim Dawson back on LuxuriaMusic

It has been some time since the writer, singer and all-round force of nature Ian Whitcomb was mentioned in this blog, so this is to alert readers to the happy news is that Ian, along with his pal Jim Dawson, is currently presenting a weekly show on internet radio station LuxuriaMusic which can be downloaded as two one hour podcasts; at the time of writing (March 2018) eight shows have been archived for your listening pleasure and you can help sponsor the show by buying a book or CD via the show's online store here. They are trying to raise enough money to ensure the station continues on air for another year.

Those who have followed Mr Whitcomb's fortunes in recent years will understand why his voice may be a little depleted on these broadcasts; be assured, however, that his passion for popular music in all its many forms still rings out loud and clear. Where else can you find Bill Haley (with his Saddlemen, not the Comets) rubbing shoulders with Noel Coward and Ken Dodd? Not to mention the Flamingos, the Dominoes and the Ravens ...

Friday, 23 March 2018

More about John Watt and Davey Stewart

After rediscovering the parody of Jennifer Juniper mentioned in the previous post, I looked around to see what else could be found out about its perpetrators, John Watt and Davey Stewart, on the internet, and tried to recall more about the concert in which they featured at the McLellan Galleries in Glasgow around 1976.

Jennifer - I mean, Annabelle Rosabelle - was sung acapella by Davey Stewart at the gig, as far as I recall, though written by Watt; it had quite an effect because there was no preamble, no coy reference to its origins: we were suddenly hit with it - I recall Davey Stewart being very close to the audience - and it spoke for itself, with no need for hammy facial contortions or gestures to reinforce the comic aspect. Stewart lived in the 60s in Maryhill, where Donovan spent his earliest days, so there is a logic to his singing it. As far as I know Donovan's publishing company never pressed for compensation, which I'd like to think was a conscious choice by Mr Leitch. Assuming he even knew about it.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Wine + Meat and Two Veg + Trapped Wind = The Berries, Juniperwise

A few days ago, surfing the net in a rare moment of relaxation, I came across a Fairport Convention parody from 2013 by John Watterson, aka Jake Thackray tribute act Fake Thackray. The "refreshed" lyrics make friendly mockery of the toping habits of individual members of the group, with whom he has performed:
In desperation Simon might
Have to resort to Diamond White ...

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Ken Dodd

I was saddened to hear of the death of Ken Dodd, who contributed a generous and funny introduction to Funny Bones, the book I wrote with Freddie Davies; he can be seen, above, with Freddie in a photograph taken for the book at one of Ken's Good Turns charity functions in his beloved (the attraction was mutual) Liverpool.

In the chapter entitled Surviving in the Clubs Freddie talks of the inspiration which Ken's act provided when the younger comedian was still trying to find his way:

Friday, 9 February 2018

Does 1973 McCartney song date back to Beatle days?

Paul McCartney fans may be interested to learn that one of the songs from the Red Rose Speedway album may actually date from Beatle days. McCartney has yet to confirm the story, disclosed to a British newspaper this week by an anonymous source "formerly involved with the Beatles",  but it seems that a photostat of a sheet from one of the exercise books in which Paul used to jot down song ideas has recently come to light - though the precise circumstances of the discovery have not been revealed - and the page contains what is clearly an embryonic version of the song Single Pigeon.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Cheapo Cheapo Records Memories

Oh Lord, Rupert Street 1975. Cheapo Cheapo Records would have been just there on the left, chock full of gold & wonder. I'd give a kidney to get into that pic right now.
Having shared my own feelings about Cheapo in the previous post, here are some extracts from pieces and discussions found online in order to fill out the story.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Cheapo Cheapo Records - the complete story

It's now almost eight years since the death of Phil Cording, owner of Soho's Cheapo Cheapo Records, on the 29th of January, 2009; two months later the shop was closed once for all.

Cheapo had been a kind of haven since I first came to London in 1985: many a Saturday evening had been spent within its doors, ferreting through a mix of tat and marvels. Others have praised its stock of Northern Soul, but for me just about everything had an appeal, possibly because my musical tastes were shaped jointly by David Essex and Hubert Gregg. The film That'll Be The Day started me on a lifelong exploration of rock'n'roll just as Gregg's radio shows were painlessly educating me about the music of the thirties and forties. Cheapo had no shortage of either decade; finding the same LPs I had loved as a teenager in its cramped and dingy surroundings made it a home from home in the middle of the metropolis.

A few months after discovering that Cheapo was no more I began to explore my feelings in this blog, writing about going through through "a kind of mini-grief process", aware of that how ridiculous that sounded. I didn't know then that Phil's death had been the cause; I was mourning the loss of the shop itself and its significance in my life.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Eric, Ernie and Me by Neil Forsyth & Morecambe and Wise's Home Movies

Another Christmas, another Morecambe and Wise drama and/or documentary ...