Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Memoirs of Damage & Vom (Misadventures in Doctor and The Medics)

Dicky Damage (Richard Searle) and Mr Vom (Stephen Ritchie) were aboard the fastmoving punk-psych juggernaut that was Doctor and The Medics; a heady roller-coaster ride that famously peaked, when music industry moguls deemed fit to hype the band to Number One in the charts with a version of Norman Greenbaum's classic Spirit In The Sky, in the summer of 1986. 
      This memoir is a re-telling of their story, the rhythm section (Damage on bass, Vom on drums), that started from humble in-crowd nightclub origin, to television saturation, massive shows, and industry infamy.

The two friends parted company at the tale end of the Eighties, Searle went to to join proto Brit- Pop-clothes horses Boys Wonder, later to morph into Acid Jazz funksters Corduroy. Ritchie, having played with punk originators The Boys, eventually settled behind the kit of Germany's stadium rockers, Die Toten Hosen. Circumstance contrived to re-unit the duo some twenty years later, an eclectic low-fi indie rock album was the result, Perfect Crime, released under the moniker Wet Dog, on Ritchie's own Drumming Monkey Records. This collaboration inevitably served to re-stoke the flames of former glories, memories faded from the forgiving mists of alcohol and denial; two years in it's conception, a hundred beer soaked 'memory sessions' later, The Memoirs of Damage & Vom is the result set to ink.

The usual rock n' roll antidotes are present, groupies, substance abuse, lives put in danger etc, plus others that frankly are not for the squeamish, but the overall impression of this collection of funny stories is that of being a 'how to – and how not to succeed - in the music business' manual. The Medics achieved great things during the decade, the book details a route from garage-punk oiks to Top Of The Pops darlings. But their inevitable fall from grace was the result, apparently, of poor decision making and ego.

The humour is dry, and on occasion hilarious. The pace is fast and often bewildering, but if you only read one rock memoir this century, read this one...you might learn something.

Richard Searle – The Memoirs of Damage & Vom (Misadventures in Doctor and The Medics) with Forward by Stephen Ritchie, is out now on ebook and paperback.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Men Of North Country - I'm Com'un Home (In The Morn'un)

Men Of North Country can do no wrong; this epic soul/ mod crossover anthem, originally recorded by Northern Soul legend Lou Pride, shows M.O.N.C at their spectacular best. (See video below.)
       With its psychedelic horn arrangement, pumping rhythm section, infectious instrumentation and effortless vocals of front-man Yashiv Cohen, I’m Com’un Home In The Morn’un is set to become a monster dance-floor essential; if you don't already have it - get it!

The flip side - People of Tomorrow is a dark, anthemic lament on the deterioration of today’s society. Who are these people of tomorrow? Well, they’re much smarter than us; they listen to The Prisoners and Duane Eddy, watch old James Bond films and wear their hearts on their fine tailored sleeves. 
Remixed by Markey Funk, inspired by the cult British children's sci-fi series from the 1970's,The Tomorrow People. The result is eerie cinematic funky psych at its finest.

Truly a band at the top of thier game.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Carl Douglas - Crazy Feeling

Mention the name Carl Douglas and the global chart topper “Kung Fu Fighting” immediately springs to mind. But back in the mid-late 1960s, the Jamaican singer fronted a succession of soul and R&B bands in Swinging London, starting with The Charmers and culminating with the highly revered Big Stampede.

From late 1965 through to early 1967 Douglas cut nearly a dozen unreleased tracks plus a brace of singles, all mod/dance floor classics and collected together for the first time, by Acid Jazz Records, on the compilation you hold in your hands.

Part of the ongoing Rare Mod series, it includes soul staples by Otis Redding- Mr Pitiful, Naomi Neville’s Pain In My Heart, and Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour , plus Carl Douglas originals – Going Out of My Mind, Why Hurt and You Are the One I Love. These gritty, raw recordings comprise the majority of the tracks on this LP and offer a rare glimpse of Douglas’ burgeoning talent.

Carl’s later, and more polished recordings, featuring top session players, guitarist Big Jim Sullivan, organist Harry Stoneham and bass player John Paul Jones (Led Zep) among others, provide the instrumental backing on the singer’s finest outing – the frantic, infectious soul number Crazy Feeling, the title of this release.

Release date late June 2014, on CD and glorious vinyl.
Track listing:
  1. Something For Nothing
  2. You Don’t Know Like I Know
  3. Crazy Feeling 
  4. I Who Have Nothing
  5. Let The Birds Sing 
  6. You Are The One I Love
  7. Mr Pitiful 
  8. Going Out Of My Mind
  9. Keep It To Myself 
  10. In The Midnight Hour 
  11. Pain In My Heart 
  12. Why Hurt 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Matt Berry - Music For Insomniacs

It’s perhaps no surprise, given the glorious restlessness of the critically-acclaimed idiosyncratic folklore pop that formed his previous two records, 2011’s Witchazel and last year’s KillThe Wolf, that Matt Berry’s forever fertile mind has been affecting his sleep. About a year ago, the celebrated actor, comic, writer and musician found himself staring at the ceiling night after night in his London flat, suffering from insomnia. With his creative stimulus in overdrive, however, he turned the deprivation into a new expressive outlet: two long-form musical pieces under the title of Music For Insomniacs.
A huge fan of producer Mike Oldfield, most notably his famous 1973 opus Tubular Bells, Berry places Music For Insomniacs in similarly rarefied air. The 45-minute work twinkles in an outer orbit of isolated space, away from the more explicit themes and earthy locations of his previous musical endeavours, using languid and otherworldly Moog and synthetic sounds to create a feeling of calm. For Berry, who recorded next door to his bedroom in the dead of night when sleeplessness struck, the album’s creation became a therapy of sorts, as he sought to find the balance in the music that could equate to serenity in his mind. “I looked into the kind of music I was listening to during bouts of insomnia and found the ambient minimal pieces were sometimes too uneventful and just kept me awake, but then the pieces that were too hectic ended up having a similar effect too,” he explains.
As such, Music For Insomniacs is constantly changing shape even within its dream-like constancy. Occasionally it breaks the long, sweeping electronic brushes with nursery-rhyme keyboard motifs; at others it brings the listener back into the real world, samples of human voices and whispers drifting through his ethereal constructs. He’s also not afraid to pool layers together to form louder passages, creating dense swells of sound that rise and fall away. In contrast to his previous record, Music For Insomniacs was recorded alone; “insomnia was something I suffered on my own so I wanted the creation of this album to be an equally solitary experience,” he says. “It had to be completely personal so I knew I had to record every note myself.”
After doing this, Berry would listen to every recorded segment backwards and pick out anything that would work as part of the composition by adding to its lucidity; “the results hopefully give the listener the effect of slowing down, moving backwards or stopping and resuming the journey in slow motion,” he says. The onus is very much on personal and the abstract space, leaving any themes as blank as possible so that the listener can form their own images. This way of soundscaping, creating a uniquely vivid but vague tapestry, stems from Berry’s long love of long-form electronic works, of Oldfield’s and also the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre. “The draw of this long form music was that it felt like I was embarking on a journey that I knew was going to continue longer than the usual 2:35 or a bunch of 2:35 songs stopping and starting,” he explains.  “Albums like Tubular Bells and Jarre’s Oxygene hugely affected me as a youngster. I found greater stimulation brought about by the range of different emotions felt by persevering with one side of an album of continuous music.  Not a month passes still that I don't revisit one or both of those records.”
Thankfully for Berry, he has beaten his insomnia, thanks to this project and advice sought from, among others, magician Andy Nyman on inducing sleep. However Music For Insomniacs remains behind, left as an aid to others suffering from the affliction, but also as a beguiling document of his own state of mind during this period, resulting in a wonderfully still 45 minutes of music, set apart from the non-stop bustle of 21st century living.   

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

SATISFACTION - Recently discovered previously unreleased 70s concept album..

As par for the course, in coordinating the Rare Mod series of unreleased or hard to find sixties recordings, I routinely secure clearances with the musicians who played on them, record business stuff; a simple signature on an A4 sheet of paper, permission to release the track. Damian Jones, who sources much of the Rare Mod material, obtained an acetate of Hoochie Coochie Man, the intended debut single that was subsequently shelved, by highly respected sixties blues band The Artwoods; a big deal. I needed an Artwoods moniker quickly.

Damian found the phone number for Artwoods' guitarist Derek Griffiths; I called to discuss the track. Derek said he was happy for us to include Hoochie Coochie Man on our compilation, Rare Mod 4, as he reminisced about bands, the sixties and his reluctance to sort through several old boxes of junk at his partner’s insistence, a house move necessitating the clear out. I joked that I’d be interested in any old records or tapes that he might discover in his boxes. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘there’s a taped version of the Eddie Floyd track Big Bird, but that’s not sixties, its 1970.’ ‘Really,’ I said and booked a session in a mastering studio the following week with Derek and his cardboard box of treasure.

Seven days later, whilst pouring through twenty or so un-marked reel-to-reel tapes in the studio, with the Eddie Floyd track yet to materialise, I noticed a red tape box with blue biro pen scrawled across the back Artist - Satisfaction. Date - 28.4.71. ‘A jazz-rock album,’ Derek explained, ‘a cross between Blood Sweat And Tears and early Chicago but without organ. Hammond organ smothers the horns.’ The studio engineer carefully cued up the forty-year-old quarter-inch tape and pressed play. As we listened, arms goosed, neck hair bristled, we fell silent, it was a trip. Derek endeavoured to shed more light. ‘It’s a concept album, written on the road about the road, but it was never released,’ he said. ‘Do you like it?’

This album is a lost gem, a forgotten chapter from the British Rock Chronicles, a diamond in the rough. As the blues scene, hip bruised from the exaggerated swagger of the swinging sixties, limped into the vagaries of Prog-Rock, Satisfaction sought a loftier path, beautiful in its clarity. Three Ages Of Man marks the three influences fused within the group’s musical DNA. Strong and inventive jazz arrangements, a horn section at its creative peak. The acoustic testament of melodic song writing, hearts rinsed from the treadmill of touring. And finally, a solid rock ’n’ roll foundation that betrays the early blues roots of its players. This album is a journey that ends where it begins, tour madness, ecstatic melancholy and the soaring highs that thrill and counter the heady abstractions and repetition of life on the road. 

History may come to thank Derek Griffiths’ partner, she who insisted that he clear out his box of old tapes. A lost concept album, from the combined talents of some of Britain’s most influential R&B musicians, might arguably elevate that cardboard box to Holy Grail status; only time will tell.

What became of the version of Big Bird? We found it in the same cardboard box; it’s also on Rare Mod 4.

Richard Searle (Acid Jazz Records)