Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Old Mods Long Awaited Story: The Action "In The Lap Of The Mods" Reviewed

I've been long excited about The Action's "In The Lap Of The Mods" book like it was the second coming.  The Action, along with The Small Faces, The Kinks and David Bowie are my favorite 60's artists.  From their first single as The Boys all the way down to the material cut before they became Mighty Baby (released in the 80's on a mini LP "Speak Louder Than") and even lead singer Reg King's 1971 solo LP I'm all on board as a one man American cheering section. I'm still, 18 years later, slowly wrapping my head around Mighty Baby.

Authored by original 60's Action fans (the late)  Ian Hebditch and his partner Jane Shepherd, it's a solid pleasure from cover to cover. They have done the unimaginable. It is without a doubt the best book I have ever read on a band (coming in just ahead of "Any Day Now: David Bowie The London Years 1947-1974").  No fact or anecdote is left behind.  With input/quotes from all band members, their associates, fans and friends (with a forewords by Sir George Martin who produced all 5 of their Parlophone singles and uber Action fan Phil Collins) there's no shortage of facts or information lacking here at all.

I sprung for the deluxe edition that came in a  slip cover/box with a extra magazine sized book titled "Where The Action Is: Your Chance To Catch The Unbelievable Action" (a day by day account of their gig/recording and TV appearance history chock full of news clippings and 45 label/sleeve scans) and a facsimile one sided acetate of their 1965 Decca audition disc, a cover of The Temptations "Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)".

I learned a lot about the band's history in reading it, if you're an Action freak like me you might find these little facts interesting:

*Lead guitarist Pete Watson played on the band's first single as "The Boys" and was in the band for most of their career. Previous reports had him joining shortly before they became The Action.

*The Boys, NOT The Action, supported The Who during their Tuesday night Marquee Club residency in 1965 and were eventually removed from the bill at the request of Who managers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert because they felt they were "upstaging" The Who.

*The Action gigged with David Bowie and The Buzz, The Syn, The Alan Bown Set, Bluesology, The Syn, The Byrds, The Attack, The Pretty Things, Dantalion's Chariot, The James Mean, The Mike Stuart Span, Timebox,  etc to name but a few!

* For their July 1966 "Ready Steady Go!" appearance  to promote "Baby You Got It" bassist Mike Evans and and drummer Roger Powell were tripping on L.S.D.

*A month after Reggie King left the band they recorded the five tracks released as "Speak Louder Than".

*The band only used the name "Azoth" for a week, switching back to the Action and then, eventually, Mighty Baby.

*The very last gig under The Action moniker was December 27, 1968 at the Oasis Club in Portsmouth.

* Our fave scribe here was the catalyst in the chain of events that led to the band's brief reformation in the late 90's.

I think one of my favorite parts of the book are the in depth looks at the 60's U.K. mod scene (with a particular perspective on the Birdcage, a club in Portsmouth where the band had a hard core mod following).  I especially enjoyed reading various perspectives from original 60's mods who's opinions are both varied and very strong on a variety of subjects included within.  For instance there is a great deal of varying opinions on The Small Faces, some feel they were mods, others feel they were "commercial mods".  The Action fall under similar varying opinions as well, to some the were a "band for mods", for others they were "mods in a band".  Regardless all concerned agree on one thing, live onstage, they were a force to be reckoned with. Oddly there was a great deal of belief that their singles did them no justice and that they were "softened" up to have commercial appeal.  Hmmm. To each his or her own I suppose!  There is also a great deal of attention paid to my favorite period where the band began looking towards "West Coast sounds" from late '66 onward till their metamorphosis into Might Baby. This is a period that has received scant notice in my 30+ year quest for Action information and it was fascinating to read about them. And for the completist there is a list of every song ever performed by the band live (both in the 60's and during their "reunion gigs in the late 90's)!

The book (both by itself or in deluxe edition format) can be ordered by going here, I suggest you do so post haste as the printing is limited to 400 copies.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November's Picks

1. TERRY CALLIER-"Johnny Be Gay If You Can"
We here at "Anorak Thing" were stunned to hear of Terry Callier's passing at the end of last month just as a deadly hurricane battered the shit out of us.  Folks are very often apt to both praise and dig Terry's 70's work. Here at Anorak H.Q. my fave (alongside "Ordinary Joe" and "Look At Me Now") is this stellar cut from his debut which to me sounds like what our hero Oscar Brown Jr. would've sounded like with just an acoustic guitar.

2. THE BUNCH-"You Can't Do This"
U.K. mid/late 60's mod/r&b/blue eyed soul is without a doubt one of my favorite genres of music.  This number from a 1967 CBS B-side lovingly unearthed on one of the newer "Rubble" CD's has all the essential ingredients of the genre: a poppy melody, tight brass punctuations and catchy call and response vocals.

3. THE ACTION-"In My Lonely Room"
No doubt influenced by the load of their music going down here at the moment and in no small part due to my hovering over the new Action book "In The Lap Of The Mods" comes this one. Woah. Ladies and gents I'm gonna own up and go on record and state it's NOT lead singer Reggie King who owns this number but the backing vocalists (Alan "Bam" King and Pete Watson).  The latter are both also responsible for the Rickenbacker (6 and 12 strings respectively) guitar sounds that give this number it's originality and and make it not merely another sad Motown knock off.

4. KALEIDOSCOPE-"Love Song For Annie"
Powerful stuff from Kaleidoscope's (the U.K. 60's sort) second LP "Faintly Blowing", powerful stuff both musically and lyrically with some tasteful, but faint organ, massive guitar/bass/drums backing and poetic lines.
"Come all you believers but leave your books behind, your knowledge is wasted here for love there's always time..."

Formed from the remnants of Aussie 60's punk/r&b legends the Purple Hearts came The Coloured Ball's, a loud yobbo balls up rock n' roll band and darlings of the Downunder 70's youth cult known as the sharpies (more about them here).  I recently stumbled upon a Purple Hearts retrospective on iTunes with some Coloured Balls numbers tacked on, including this bludgeoning of the Steve Miller hit, delivered full speed ahead with a bit where they break into  The Mockingbird's "You Stole My Love" (an Aussie 60's hit for Steve Furber and The Bowery Boys), no doubt fueled by amphetamines and crates of Crown lager......

6. BOB DYLAN-"Lay Lady Lay"
Like most rock n' roll artists I like from the mid 60's 1968 is pretty much the benchmark when things got stale and shitty.  Bob Dylan's career is certainly no different.  I've tried very hard to get my head around "Nashville Skyline" to no avail but this number always gets me.  As a small child I remember my dad playing the crap out of it on the juke at a diner near where we lived in Maine. As an adult I've come to appreciate it's subtle pedal steel and understated grooviness.

The first three Undertones albums automatically propel me back to 1980-1983 and my youth where though it was not all fun and games  there were lots of fun moments, and none better sound tracked by the harmless, poppy, happy sounds of the boys from Derry.

8. GARNETT MIMMS-"As Long As I Have You"
One of my most sought after 45's is a U.K. only live pressing of this track where Mimms is backed by ace U.K. r&b musos The Senate (written and produced by Ben E. King, whom they also backed).  The original version though not as vibrant and rocking, is still amazing and comes from an LP of the same name he cut for United Artists.  The lyrics have always struck me as incredibly 'mod".  How about you?

9. MAKIN' TIME-"I Know What You're Thinking"
Okay show of hands, who here that was a mod in the 80's had a thing for Fay Hallam and was jealous to find out that that jammy bastard Graham Day from The Prisoners was her boyfriend? Our own Brian and Anita.  I too ahile to get into Makin' Time as they were, at times too polished.  Well that didn't last and I came around and played the crap out of this tune from their "No Lumps Or Fat Or Gristle Guaranteed" LP till a cassette arrived in the mail featuring....

My then girlfriend sent me a cassette tape of the new Bam Caruso Pretty Thing's '65-'67 LP compilation "Closed Restaurant Blues" in around late 1986 that opened with this monster changing my life forever and led me to utter "Makin' who?" and turned me onto the post r&b Pretty Things that I was otherwise unfamiliar with!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: The Jam 30 Years Gone

I still can remember it like it was yesterday, 16 year old on a cold boring Friday night in November (or was it December?)stuck home with fuck all else to do laying on my bed staring at the ceiling with my local college radio station WPRB on and the DJ  remarks that he'd just read that Paul Weller announced that The Jam were splitting up.  I wish I could say I was gutted, but I wasn't.  I worshipped The Jam and in a way I wanted them to go on forever but I was honestly so far up my own ass in teen angst that their existence was almost superficial to me.  In retrospect it marked the last contemporary band I devoutly followed in my life. Maybe I was broken up, I honestly don't know, I was more concerned with the usual shit a 16 year old thinks about: chicks, getting into with their parents, hating school and nearly everybody there.

Looking back the post "Sound Affects" Jam wasn't my favorite period, it wasn't then and it still isn't. Honestly I had more important things to listen to in 1982.  I'd fully absorbed nearly all of the 60's tracks The Who had to offer and was buying Small Faces LP comps with a ridiculous practice of obtaining them for a few tracks I didn't have and 60's Bowie was just around the corner as was The pink Floyd and a more in depth look at The Kinks.  When I play "The Gift" or any of the band's output from 1982 I'm left cold about a lot of it, the horn section in my estimation was the first indication it was going horribly wrong.  Certainly there ARE exceptions, The Kink's-ish "Just Who Is the 5 O'clock Hero?", the moody jazziness of "Shopping" (my fave '82 Jam track) or "Running on The Spot". Bands are never the same when you start adding new members or augmenting existing ones. I recoiled in horror the first time I'd heard "Precious" on a black and purple striped 12" maxi single (now there's an 80's anachronism for you).  It was like Pigbag for god's sake.  And that awful dreadful soprano saxophone.  Augh. Maybe it's best The Jam split because well, god knows they'd have gone to record "Long Hot Summer".  I still have the greatest respect for Weller for just walking away from it all, the only way he could've done it better was if maybe he'd walked up to the beach after their final gig in Brighton and kicked his shoes off on the shingle and walked straight into the ocean leaving a pair of loafers behind as the band's legacy.  Of course I'm being dramatic and symbolic, I'm not honestly suggesting Weller should've topped himself but I think you get what I'm driving at.  When an artist ceases to truly be inspired by what they're doing you become Pete Townshend and play the same tired boring shit for 50 years to the numb and dumb. In a way Weller ensured that wasn't happening.  Think about it, The Beatles and The Jam are perhaps only the two hugely successful bands I enjoy who said 'No!" every time the dreaded "reunion" issue was brought up.  I think that in itself speaks for something.  That said it couldn't have been easy for Messrs. Foxton and Buckler to carry on the show after knowing a pink slip awaited them (as evidenced by the "T.O.T.P." clip below where they look well and truly pissed off as Weller practices his soul-less white boy dance moves looking naked without a Rickenbacker to hang onto).

For the past 30 years there's been that ugly topic of Jam reunions.  I think Paul fobbing off suggestions of a Jam reunion are funny given the fact that he was on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" bashing out "Running On The spot" (the number the Jam opened with at the one and only gig I'd ever seen them do, Trenton War Memorial, May 1982) and peppers his sets with Jam tracks, but since he wrote all of them why the fuck not right?  For the longest time I was the world's biggest From The Jam basher. When they were due to come around I watched some live footage of them with some friends and we decided that for $17 it'd be worth it to check them out even if their lead singer is merely a first rate Paul Weller impersonator.  The tour was scrubbed though.....but I'm glad The Jam never reunited.  Band reunions are always spotty affairs that go go a variety of ways, all too often in a route that's not very positive. And I'm glad The Jam aren't on the list like that travesty out there now called The Zombies or one of those joke bands they never quit like the Rolling Stones.  I do feel for people who weren't old enough to see the real Jam or got into them too late or whatever the case may be but between Weller playing a set that's 10% Jam tunes and From The Jam playing at set that's 90% Jam tunes I think you can get an idea.  The Jam's break up wasn't the end of the world, it was a milestone in a way and a millstone for Paul Weller to shake.  Could The Jam have pulled off most of those early Style Council records? Indeed I'm certain, but I'm glad they didn't because I'll gladly take "Precious" (which I've kind of come to enjoy in bits...if I can blot out that Kenny G sax) any day over "The Money Go Round".

You can read about my Style Council experiences here and here and the most recent Weller gig I caught here.