Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Dustaphonics: New Album "Big Smoke London Town"

The launch party for Graham Day & The Forefathers new album “Good Things” at 229 The Venue in London on October 31st is shaping up to be one hell of a Halloween night as The Dustaphonics have now been added to the line-up along with The Fallen Leaves. The Dustaphonics actually have a new record of their own to promote too, the fabulous “Big Smoke London Town” has just been released on Dirty Water Records and is fast becoming one of Retro Man Blog’s favourite albums of the year so far. The lead single and title track “Big Smoke London Town” is a perfect example of the delights that can be found within – it’s an evocative tale of late night London with characters inhabiting seedy nightclubs, afterhours drinking dens and Burlesque clubs. The Dustaphonics could be an ultra-cool gang who are just heading out for a night of, quite possibly illicit, entertainment as most of us are crashed out on the last train home. The titles of the band’s debut album “Party Girl” and single “Burlesque Queen” (Also released on Dirty Water Records) hint where the band are coming from and in fact “Burlesque Queen” was co-written with chesty cult movie star Tura Satana who appeared as the high kicking heroine in Russ Meyer’s trashy 60’s underground classic “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” 

The Dustaphonics - Photo copyright Zig Criscuolo 2014
After various line-up changes The Dustaphonics are now based around guitarist, songwriter, promoter and DJ, Yvan Serrano–Fontova and the stunning flame haired vocalist Hayley Red with a revolving rhythm section of Eric Frajria or Bruce Brand on drums and Dan Whaley or Devid Dell'Aiera on bass. The band are just one big joyful celebration of an eclectic mix of 1950s Rock 'n' Roll, Garage Rock, Soul, Blues and instrumental Surf music, they are equally at home playing a Rock Club or The Jazz Café and have a celebrity fan and occasional lead vocalist in the shape of The Blues Brothers Dan “Elwood” Aykroyd. “Big Smoke London Town”, the album, starts of with a killer trio of up-tempo floor-shakers that will have you up out of your seat as soon as the first chord strikes up, “The Message”, “When You Gonna Learn?” and the title track are all instantly addictive with memorable hooks in abundance. The swinging rhythm section and Yvan’s equally rhythmic scratchy Lo-Fi guitar lay down a hip-shaking groove that allows Hayley’s vocals to shine throughout the album. Suddenly, there’s a brief revving up of engines and it’s into “Grand Prix” which is an effective Dick Dale style Surf instrumental. “Ride On Louisiana Red” is a steamy slice of swampy Blues which is followed by the fat twanging guitar riff intro of the excellent “Rockin’ Boogaloo”. 

Hayley Red & Yvan - Photo Copyright Zig Criscuolo 2014
“Back To Mono” shows that the band can switch easily to great Go-Go’s style guitar pop before spinning out another instrumental “Fire Dance”, with its ominous Link Wray American Indian riffing, reminiscent of “Comanche!”. Next up is one of the album’s highlights “Mojo Yar Bones” with its great sing-along chorus and melodic backing vocals; it’d make a great follow-up single. The last track comes as a surprising but ultimately satisfying twist in the shape of “Flesh & Blood” which calms everything down. It’s the quiet reflective glass of whisky at the end of a full-on night of partying. The song is built solely around a simple repetitive, almost flamenco guitar motif over which Hayley’s sultry vocals float seductively, it’s a perfect ending to a pretty much perfect album.

The Dustaphonics - Photo Copyright Zig Criscuolo 2014
You can order the album “Big Smoke London Town” from the Dirty Water Records on-line store or of course pick up a copy at 229 The Venue on October 31st. For more news on The Dustaphonics including upcoming gigs and tour dates then please check out their Facebook page here. With many thanks to Paul Manchester at Dirty Water Records and to Zig Criscuolo from The WitchDoktors for the excellent photographs. Here's the great video for "Big Smoke London Town".

Monday, 20 October 2014

Graham Day & The Forefathers "Good Things" New Album & Launch Gig at 229 The Venue, London October 31st

Graham Day & The Forefathers will play their biggest U.K. show so far at 229 The Venue, Great Portland Street, London on Friday October 31st to launch their brand new album "Good Things". As an additional incentive to book a ticket, copies of the album will be on sale at the gig exclusively prior to the official release date. "Good Things" will be available on vinyl and is packaged together with a CD version of the album plus download code and the band photos on the cover were taken by my Retro Man Blog colleague Paul Slattery. If that's not enough, an impressive line-up has been assembled for the night, with two excellent support acts confirmed, The Dustaphonics and our good pals The Fallen Leaves, so it's sure to be a great gig.

Regular Retro Man Blog readers would have hopefully checked out our recent Retrosonic Podcast special edition where I chat to Graham and his band-mates Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard, about "Good Things" and the reasons for getting The Forefathers together. Basically, those reasons were to simply and unashamedly celebrate past glories, to resurrect a choice selection of Graham Day songs from his four most popular outfits - The Prisoners, The Solarflares, The Prime Movers and The Gaolers – and give them a respectful dusting down. As there are no plans to release any new material under the Forefathers name, “Good Things” is meant to serve purely as a document, a snap-shot of some of the songs that the band have been playing live recently. Given that The Solarflares and Prime Movers were originally three-piece line-ups featuring Graham, Allan and Wolf- it's hardly surprising that most of the songs on "Good Things" are not particularly different from the originals. So don't expect radically unusual re-workings of their "greatest hits" such as Sparks did with "Plagiarism", there are no orchestral versions of "Hurricane" for example, and there are certainly no acoustic takes on "Better In Black”.  This is no "Unplugged" session, far from it; The Forefathers are most certainly plugged in and turned right up to 11, serving up high octane versions of their current set all attacked with a joyful verve and refreshing enthusiasm.

Graham Day & The Forefathers at June's Retro Man Blog Night by Paul Slattery
Of course it's the takes on the three Prisoners tracks that may be more of a curiosity to listeners but don’t worry, they work perfectly well in this stripped back environment. In particular one of my highlights of the album, "Be On Your Way", positively crackles and snaps along with a barely disguised vitriol. Anyway, Allan Crockford’s fluid and soulful bass-lines and sublime backing vocal harmonies easily fill in any gaps caused by that missing trademark organ sound. Graham’s incendiary guitar playing and vocals are, in my mind, better now than ever and there’s a new depth to some of those great Solarflares tracks such as “Mary” and “Can’t Get You Out of My Mind”. Only “You Always Find a Way To Hurt Me” slows the relentless pace somewhat and this allows Wolf’s excellent drumming to shine through. Hopefully, “Good Things” will remind anyone not familiar with the various post-Prisoners line-ups that some of Graham's best song-writing was to follow, and the raw and powerful Stooges style riffing of the title track had me digging out and re-evaluating my long neglected copy of The Prime Movers first album. But there's no point in pontificating on whether these versions are better than the originals or not, you just have to put this on the stereo, turn up the volume and revel in the power of some truly classic and timeless songs.

You can check out the report on our Retro Man Blog Night back in June featuring Graham Day & The Forefathers, The Len Price 3 and Allan’s band Galileo 7, including more Paul Slattery photos by clicking the link here. Also, you can listen to or download our Graham Day & The Forefathers special Podcast which features some exclusive tracks from "Good Things" below.

Tickets for the Album Launch gig at 229 The Venue on October 31st can be booked here and if you can't make it to the gig you can pre-order the album at the Forefathers new web-site here.

Thanks to Jonathan at No Other Publicity

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Retro Man Blog Night with The Len Price 3, Les Kitschenette's and The Past Tense at The Half Moon Putney, September 26th

The Len Price 3 at the Retro Man Blog Night photographed by Paul Slattery
Firstly, I'd like to say a really big thank you to all that came along to September's Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon Putney last Friday - if you were there I'm sure you'd agree that all three bands played fantastic sets, it was a blast! It was especially pleasing to see the great reception given to Les Kitschenette's who we invited over from France for their very first U.K. shows in conjunction with You Got Good Taste who hosted the band at Weirdsville at the Fiddler's Elbow in Camden on the following night. I know the band were blown away by the positive reaction and warmth shown from everyone at both gigs and I am sure they have made lots of new friends. 

Les Kitschenette's photographed by Paul Slattery
So, back to Friday night and kicking off the proceedings were long time Blog favourites The Past Tense, who actually opened our very first Retro Man Blog Night back in 2011. They have recently expanded to a four-piece, adding Buzz on second guitar, and it all worked perfectly. Thankfully, the extra guitar didn't over complicate matters but beefed up their much loved classic three-piece sound and seemed to boost front-man Andy's confidence in the process. It was definitely the best performance I've seen from the band and they delivered a tight and tuneful 40 minute set with a selection of well known tracks from their two excellent albums "Pick 'n' Mix" and "Take Three". However, it was the new songs that turned out to be the highlights of their set for me. 

The Past Tense photographed by Paul Slattery
First of all "Vision" perfectly captured the underlying touch of Soul that the band pack into their three minute Garage Rock nuggets, which is testament to the excellent rhythm section of Ken and Warren. It's bloody marvellous! As is "Just Keep Believing" which shows how well the band are developing, it features some excellent melodic backing vocals. "Heads Held High" reminded me of Eddie & The Hot Rods at their best, a bit of a bovver boy stomper with some nice guitar interplay between Andy and Buzz, it goes down really well with the crowd. "No Apologies" is a Northern Soul tinged singalong that gets people dancing, and I think it would make a great future single. 

Andy from The Past Tense photographed by Paul Slattery
The complex Quadrophenia tribute "Jimmy's Love Song" is now a well established favourite and it ends with Andy scraping his guitar along his microphone stand. This was followed by a sprightly version of the latest single "Remember The Days", which they were selling on the night in a choice of bright red or yellow vinyl. Then "Wolfman" and "Throwing It All Away" end a quite brilliant set from The Past Tense and it makes me look forward to their new album even more. If they can somehow capture the energy of tonight's live performance in a studio it should prove to be a classic album. I think a trip to the Medway's Ranscombe studios is surely beckoning...!

Les Kitschenette's photographed by Paul Slattery
Next up were Les Kitschenette's, who were down to a five piece as Lucille had been advised not to travel due to her forthcoming baby. First of all the four musicians run through the aptly named "Rosbif Attack", Rosbif being the French nickname for us Brits, which is a delightfully weird instrumental from the 1966 movie "Ne nous fachons pas". Singer Ludo takes the stage and apologizes for his partner Lucille's absence, admitting "I am the father, or I hope so...! Welcome to Paris...!" and then they launched into a cover of Nino Ferrer's "Mao & Moa" followed by the Serge Gainsbourg composition "Dents de laits, dents de loup". As this was originally a duet with France Gall, you feel Lucille's absence suddenly but Ludo covers both male and female vocal parts really well. 

Les Kitschenette's - Photo courtesy of PRH Photography
Anyway, the boys did Lucille proud, in particular Ludo and lead guitarist Francis, who threw everything into the performance. Ludo was wearing a vintage military jacket with a huge "Les Kitschenette's Need You!" badge and one black leather glove, I guess in homage to The Music Machine's Sean Bonniwell. He has an easy going charm and a twinkle in his eye, he's like Austin Powers meets Serge Gainsbourg. Francis is all action, a constant blur, one minute dancing away as he plays and the next it's foot on the monitor posing with guitar held high. During "Hide & Seek" he jumps into the crowd, he's a bit of a "roux dieu de la guitare" as the old French saying goes (according to Google translate...!). Amongst the highlights of a perfectly paced set are covers of Les Missiles "Ne pense plus à lui" and Delphine's Yé-yé classic "La Fermeture-Éclair". 

Les Kitschenette's photographed by Paul Slattery
The incredibly youthful looking Claude is a great drummer and with his rhythm section colleague Fred's excellent bass playing, he powers everything along perfectly. Mathieu, the super-cool Mod, alternates between rhythm guitar and organ, sometimes during the same song, and adds tambourine and backing vocals too. Each band member has a unique character and there's a really good chemistry between them all, they seem like a bunch of friends having a great time and this transfers directly into the audience. They get a well deserved encore and play "Où va t'elle?" from their first E.P. which ends the set on a real high. When I first saw them in Paris I was determined to get them over to the U.K. and I am really pleased it all worked out so well for them. 

The Len Price 3 photographed by Paul Slattery
Well, there are not many bands that could follow that, but luckily The Len Price 3 are one of them and as they took the stage and crashed into the stuttering "Words Won't Come" it was clear that they meant business. It was another faultless show from the Medway based three-piece and they crammed in songs from all four albums with those from the latest "Nobody Knows" such as "Preying Mantis" and "Billy Mason" now fitting in seamlessly alongside their well established classics like "Rentacrowd" and "Girl Like You". Tonight was particularly special as they debuted two brand new songs "Nothing I Want" and "Sally Ann" which went down really well. 

The Len Price 3 - Photo courtesy of PRH Photography
In fact, they were so new that the Pubmonkey movie writer Jamie O'Hara had to hold up a lyric sheet in front of Glenn while he tried to sing. Both songs were a bit darker and heavier than usual but were nevertheless still packed with the usual lashings of harmonies and catchy choruses that we have come to expect. "Sally Ann" broke the mold even further as it had a slight twist of Pixies, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Beach Boys all rolled into one surefire future single. A raucous "Pictures" saw the dancing ramped up to the max and the set drew to a close with the crowd favourite "The London Institute". The final joyous encore of "Shirley Crabtree" sparked off the now customary stage invasion and it all descended into glorious, feedback drenched chaos. 

The Len Price 3 photographed by Paul Slattery
I'd like to thank Phil Stradling of the night's sponsor Adaptor Clothing, Eric from King Salami & The Cumberland 3 for designing the superb gig poster, Carrie and staff at The Half Moon and Steven Tagg-Randall for filming the night, you can check out the full sets from all three bands at his YouTube site. Thanks also to Paul Slattery and to Paul at PRH Photography for the excellent photos. You can see more photos of the night by heading on over to the Retro Man Blog Facebook page and hitting "Like" (if you are not already following) for access to the exclusive photo album. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Retrosonic Podcast: Graham Day & The Forefathers

Graham Day & The Forefathers were formed to “crank out choice cuts from four Graham Day-fronted bands - The Prisoners, The Prime Movers, The Solarflares and The Gaolers - distilling 30-odd years of high quality song writing, lo-fi production and high energy performance to their stripped down Garage-Rock essence”. Steve from Retro Man Blog meets up with Graham and his long-time bandmates Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard to discuss their forthcoming album “Good Things”, which sees them finally coming to terms with an outstanding musical legacy. They candidly talk us through their fascinating history and pick out a few favourite songs from each of the line-ups. Along the way we also discuss and play some of the other bands and artists they have worked with over the years, such as The James Taylor Quartet, Billy Childish, The Daggermen, The Spartan Dreggs, The Galileo 7 and Planet. Generously sound-tracked by a hand-picked selection of over twenty songs from the trio’s varied career, including some exclusive tracks from the new album “Good Things”, this Podcast is a must-have for every die-hard fan and a perfect taster for those newcomers wanting an introduction to one of Britain’s best ever songwriters.

Graham, Wolf & Allan on stage at June's Retro Man Blog Night
Graham Day & The Forefathers will play 229 The Venue in London on October 31st and you will be able to pick up copies of the new album at the gig exclusively prior to it’s official release. You can book advance tickets to the show here at the AGMP web-site. Wolf Howard is currently playing with Billy Childish in The CTMF and Damaged Goods Records have just released their new single “Punk Rock Enough For Me”. Allan Crockford’s excellent band The Galileo 7  have a fantastic new album “False Memory Lane” out now and you can get more information on this and forthcoming gigs at their official web-site. So, pour yourself a Whisky, sit back and enjoy...!

You might also be interested in these Retrosonic episodes with Billy Childish, Ian Ballard from Damaged Goods Records and the Pubmonkey special with the movie’s writer Jamie O’Hara and Glenn Page from The Len Price 3, who provide the soundtrack. All episodes are free to listen to and download at the Retrosonic Podcast Soundcloud site and don’t forget to check out the Blog archive for more information, photos and features including a report on our gig with Graham Day & The Forefathers at the Half Moon Putney back in June. Our next Retro Man Blog Night featuring The Len Price 3 is at The Half Moon Putney on Friday September 26th, for advance tickets and more information please check out the link here. With sincere thanks to Graham, Allan and Wolf.

The "Good Things"  album cover photography and Podcast cover copyright Paul Slattery 2014.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Keith Levene: "I Was a Teenage Guitarist 4 The Clash"

Photo courtesy of Keith Levene
Keith Levene, the hugely influential guitarist with The Clash and Public Image Ltd has just released a brand new book entitled “I was a Teenage Guitarist 4 The Clash”. These customized hand made books are all unique and are available in Prototype and Standard issue, hand printed and put together by Keith himself and he will also sign them to order at your request. If you are interested in ordering a copy then check out the gallery and store on the official web-site to get an idea of what will be coming your way. With regard to the book’s content, Keith says “This is a story about the beginning of The Clash…the only band that matters according to some. The alternative original punk choice to The Sex Pistols, another band that mattered. Join Keith as he takes you along his teen ride through real life. This is not an autobiography but it is a true story. It will put in the time at the place. The only place that mattered? Well maybe to some. Take a ride through The Hippest Scene in London in 75/76 and witness how it really came together”. 

Keith & Mick Jones pre-Clash
At 17, the skateboarding/pin-ball playing/guitar virtuoso Keith Levene met his future Clash co-founder Mick Jones in West London against the backdrop of the then-developing Punk scene. Thereafter, the two young men decided to launch The Clash - the band that was second in importance on the burgeoning punk scene only to the Sex Pistols in the mid-1970s. In “I Was a Teenage Guitarist 4 the Clash” Levene recounts the early days of Punk and his love of skateboarding and playing guitar. True to the original punk ethos, Levene is self-publishing his book and the original custom covers that come with each one. “This is not unlike my experience in distributing my original “Commercial Zone” LP back in 1983-84. I created the custom covers, pressed the albums myself, and distributed them to various record shops around Manhattan – on my skateboard!”. Levene laughs as he recounts the dangers of dodging busy NYC traffic while maneuvering boxes of LPs on his beloved red wheeled skateboard.  “Later when I was with PiL and recording “Metal Box” the record company took the wheels off my board because they were afraid I might fall and break my arm,” he smiles. In his book, Levene details his encounters with other central figures in the classic first wave of British punk, including Sid Vicious, John Lydon, Billy Idol, Viv Albertine, Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes. “It was a very exciting time,” recalls Levene. “There was a very young, very fresh, very exuberant feeling in the air – like anything was possible", Levene recalls. “And not just for those of us involved in music. It wasn’t just about expressing oneself through music although the music was certainly very important. If you had a viewpoint you wanted to express – whether the vehicle was through fashion, art, the written word, or even how you presented yourself to the world – the emerging scene in West London welcomed you,” he explains. “The feeling I want to relate to those who read this book is that they are accompanying me on a magical mystery tour of West London during those incredibly exciting early days of punk” Levene says.

Keith (Centre) with Tommy, Dee Dee, Paul Simonon & Johnny - Photo by Danny Fields
Although it might appear that once he had left Public Image Ltd Keith had disappeared from the musical landscape, he has actually been involved in various projects over the years. For example he has produced demos for the debut Red Hot Chili Peppers album and worked together with DJ Matt Dike, experimenting with sampling and hip-hop. He released his first solo album “Violent Opposition” which featured members of the Chili Peppers and contributed to industrial rock super group Pigface's album “Easy Listening”. He’s also been involved in soundtrack and computer work and has released several other solo records, among which was the “Killer in the Crowd” EP in 2004. In 2010 Levene got back together with his former colleague in Public Image Ltd, bassist Jah Wobble and collaborated on the album “Psychic Life” and later on the pair released an album “Yin & Yang” as well as performing “Metal Box In Dub” on stage. This was great news to fans of Public Image Ltd as Keith had rarely played live since he left the band in 1982.

One of the new book's custom covers
It was towards the end of 1982 and the band were planning on releasing a mini-album entitled “You Are Now Entering A Commercial Zone” and a single “Blue Water”. However, against Keith’s wishes this was all scrapped and the band went back to the studio to start work on a full length album that would go on to be released as “This Is What You Want...This Is What You Get”. Before the new version was released Keith Levene took the unfinished “Commercial Zone” tapes and did his own mix. He then tried to persuade Virgin Records to release this version under the album’s original working title to no avail. Snubbed by his own band and record label, Keith paid for a limited pressing of the album and distributed it himself in America on his own PiL Records Inc. However, Virgin Records took out legal action to prevent Keith re-pressing any more copies of the album and that was the end of that. With the "Teenage Guitarist" book he has put to good use the lessons he learned from the self distribution and promotion of "Commercial Zone" and is now producing what is sure to be a piece of work that will delight fans and collectors alike. Here's Keith himself explaining more about the new book. All photos above courtesy of Keith Levene.

Subscribe to Keith’s YouTube channel where he will be doing readings from “I was a Teenage Guitarist 4 The Clash” and showing viewers some of the various customized options that are available. He also has a Twitter account which you can follow to receive regular updates and news.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Dead End Streets: The Kinks Landmarks Under Threat

Little Green "Dead End" Street
I was up in Kentish Town sampling some fine ales in The Pineapple and The Southampton Arms and suddenly remembered there was one location that I'd missed off my last Kinks North London walking tour. Luckily it just happened to be handily situated right between both pubs. Little Green Street was the location for one of the first ever music promo videos, “Dead End Street”, which The Kinks filmed to promote the single back in 1966. The short black and white film is packed full of black humour, intercut with various scenes of slums and poverty, it has the band hamming it up dressed as undertakers trying to carry a coffin under the railway bridge along the cobbled street and into the doorway of number 4. The street has hardly changed at all, it’s a small and beautiful row of unspoilt Grade II listed Georgian terrace houses with bow windows and colourful doors, just off the main Highgate Road, it looks far less depressing in real life than it did in the video.

The street is still cobbled, well, apart from the terrible eye-sore of a huge blotch of tarmac put down by some council contractor with a total lack of regard for the street’s character or history. I was bemoaning this fact when I noticed a large colourful banner and some posters hanging in resident’s windows declaring that the street's future was in danger due to a new property development. When I got home I checked out the web-site address on the banner to find out more and discovered the depressing, but not unfamiliar, news that the residents have been fighting a long battle with Camden Council in opposition to plans to build a gated development of 30 luxury homes with an underground car park. So, this lovely little street, that survived the Blitz, may not yet survive the property developer’s bulldozers and our Government’s obsession with smashing a wrecking ball through any last traces of individualism, local history and heritage. So, please do try and check out the “Save Little Green Street” campaign’s excellent web-site and share it around to help raise awareness and show some support to the residents.

Sadly, Denmark Street, or Tin Pan Alley as it is more commonly known, is another famous musical London landmark with a Kinks connection that finds itself under threat from property developers.

“Down the way from the Tottenham Court Road
Just round the corner from old Soho
There's a place where the publishers go
If you don't know which way to go
Just open your ears and follow your nose
'Cos the street is shakin' from the tapping of toes”

That brilliantly evocative verse is taken from The Kinks’ track “Denmark Street” which featured on the 1970 album “Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One”. It was also performed in a stunning scene in the “Sunny Afternoon” musical which we saw at the Hampstead Theatre and previously reviewed on the Blog here. The Kinks recorded some early demos at Denmark Street's Regent Sound Studios in 1963 including “You Really Got Me”, and some of those demos can be found on “The Great Lost Kinks Album” compilation. The studio, which was situated at number 4 Denmark Street, is long since gone and is now home to a guitar shop at street level and the Alleycat Club in the basement. As well as The Kinks, many iconic bands and artists such as The Who, Mott The Hoople, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and The Yardbirds recorded at Regent Sound Studios throughout the 1960’s and 70’s. Ray Davies’ lyrics to “Denmark Street” allude to the Music Publishers that were crammed into the Street and as it was rare at the time for singers or bands to write their own material they all flocked to Denmark Street to hustle for the best available songs to record. Of course this influx of some of the brightest musical talent around made it a magnet for Agents, Managers and Promoters all trying to snap up “Clients” that would hopefully make them a fortune in the charts. One of the main meeting points for all these movers and shakers was the Gioconda Café at number 9, which is now also sadly closed after a re-birth as the Giaconda Dining Rooms an there is now a Blue Plaque above the doorway highlighting the importance of the place. 

The Blue Plaque in Denmark Street
However, Denmark Street’s history and relationship with music goes back way further than The Kinks of course. This small side street, located in the parish of St. Giles, was once home to a leper colony and then became a slum area called the Rookery with stocks and gallows for public executions. There were some good times though, for example in 1687 the street was improved so much so that it was described as “a fair, broad street, with good houses, and well inhabited by gentry” and there are still eight properties on the street that date back to that time. Due to it’s proximity to  Soho's many theatres, Denmark Street became a prime location for printing companies specialising in the publication of broadside lyric sheets which then developed into the sheet music trade. In 1926 the composer and publisher Lawrence Wright started the music newspaper Melody Maker from his offices on Denmark Street and as the music related activity increased the nickname Tin Pan Alley, borrowed from Manhattan, started to appear. In the 1950’s the New Musical Express opened its offices on Denmark Street and the first recording studios appeared in the 60’s. The Sex Pistols recorded some early demos at Number 6 and there’s still some rather amusing graffiti preserved on the walls as can be seen in the DVD extras in Julien Temple’s “There’ll Always Be an England” movie. Denmark Passage is also home to Enterprise Studios where many well known bands have rehearsed over the years, in fact I have just seen it mentioned in Viv Albertine’s new autobiography "Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys".

The 12 Bar Club Denmark Street
So, this historic and atmospheric street is also under threat from property developers and the Cross Rail work that has already seen destruction of The Astoria, the Metro Club, the LA2 and the St. Martin's College of Art where the Sex Pistols once played an early gig. Why we need yet more identikit soul-less shopping malls packed with chain coffee stores and restaurants I will never understand, it is a disgrace. Most depressingly of all though, Retro Man Blog’s favourite London club, The 12 Bar, is one of the buildings under most threat and it will be a crying shame to lose this truly independent venue which promotes and supports unsigned bands 7 nights a week. As regular readers will know, the 12 bar has been the scene of some truly memorable gigs, and I’m sure you will be familiar with the neon bull-horn logo and the old forge behind the stage from many photos featured in the Blog. The Fallen Leaves legendary “Minimum R’n’B” club nights on the first Wednesday of every month are always highlighted in the diary and have become a fantastic social event for musicians and fans alike to relax, mingle and enjoy the great line-ups that The Leaves put on. The main room of the 12 Bar is a historic building in it's own right and as you can see from the two pictures below hardly anything has changed since the top photo was taken 100 years ago!

The Medhurst company forge photographed in 1914
The Fallen Leaves on stage in the forge room, 12 Bar Club 2014 - Copyright Paul Slattery
The producer, writer and DJ, Henry Scott-Irvine has started up a “Don’t Bin Tin Pan Alley” petition on in the hope of gathering enough signatures to force the Council to think again about allowing planning permission for the re-development of the area. He told Mojo Magazine “This should be stopped. Denmark Street and the surrounding St. Giles area should be given full heritage status like Covent Garden Market, Hatton Garden, and Savile Row.” At the moment the numbers signed up in opposition stand at just over an impressive 11,000 and only 4,000 more are needed to reach the required target. You can add your support to the campaign by signing the petition at the link here and we would encourage anyone to please kindly share both Henry's campaign and the “Save Little Green Street” details to help raise awareness and support. Please remember this is not just for fans of Rock music, it’s for anyone who values our culture, history, architecture and heritage and wants to continue to enjoy some sense of individuality on our streets and in our towns.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Les Kitschenette's new E.P. "2e étage: lingerie pour hommes" out now on 10" Blue Vinyl and news on their first U.K. Gig...!

The fabulous French Yé-yé group Les Kitschenette's have just released their latest E.P. "2e étage: lingerie pour hommes" on Soundflat Records which takes you right back to the stylish France of the '60's. Six incredible new tunes of French Freakbeat are just waiting to be played loudly and danced to at your groovy parties! The new 10" vinyl E.P. is called "2e Etage: Lingerie Pour Hommes" and is the second of a series of three releases on coloured vinyl; the first one was on red vinyl, this one in blue and the upcoming one will be released on white vinyl, altogether forming the colours of the French flag. It consists of cover versions of well-chosen nuggets from the 60s; all of which the band interpret with their usual dose of melodic organ, a shakin' beat, a hint of sax and flute, fuzz riffs, a stylophone and brilliantly elegant female as well as male vocals. If you like French 60's Garage-Beat, Les Kitschenette's are a must-see band, and you will be able to see them make their very first U.K. appearance at the next Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon Putney on September 26th. at their first! Check out the video to "J'ai l'air de Quoi" from the brand new E.P. here...

We are very pleased to announce that, in conjunction with Adaptor Clothing, the next Retro Man Blog Night will be on Friday September 26th at The Half Moon Putney where we will be presenting an Anglo-French battle of three of the best Beat Combos around. We have the splendid adrenaline fuelled Medway Delta Pop of The Len Price 3 headlining along with the rather spiffing Garage Mod-upon-Thames sounds of The Past Tense. To complete the line-up we sail up the estuary to extend a very hearty cross-Channel welcome to the exceptionnel French Yé-yé FreakBeat band Les Kitschenette's for their very first U.K. gig. Zut alors, à bientôt chums...!

Order the E.P. direct from the band's Bandcamp page, or better still come along to see the band play live at the Half Moon on September 26th and pick up a copy at the gig! You can read a review with photos and videos of when we saw Les Kitschenette's in Paris last year here, here's the band performing a cover of The Castaways classic 60's track "Liar,  Liar" from that show. Enjoy!

Les Kitschenette's, Paris 2013 - photo copyright Retro Man Blog
Advance Tickets for the Retro Man Blog Night with The Len Price 3, Les Kitschenette's and The Past Tense at the Half Moon on September 26th can be ordered at the bargain price of £8.00 here.