Roky Erickson – 13th Floor Elevators

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The 13th Floor Elevators had so much going for them – an amazing hit in their own state, Texas, a great singer with a piercing voice (reminiscent of Buddy Holy in places) and novelty with their ‘electric jug’ (this consisted of a jug partly filled with water and air blown into it producing a fast oscillating sound.) This coupled with a psychedelic image shown to great effect on their first album, The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators, made them the first genuine psychedelic group, beating even the San Fransisco bands to embracing the new LSD music culture.

Their guitar and drums sound was drenched in reverb – this enhanced the psychedelic sounds and made the voice of lead singer, Roky Erickson, shine through. The songs are played with tough, punk abandon on songs like You’re Gonna Miss Me and with gentle spirituality on others like Kingdom of Heaven. Their laissez faire attitude coupled with the mind-bending images and lyrics led them into trouble with the law. Erickson pleaded insanity (under advice from his lawyer) in 1969 when arrested for drug use and was hospitalised, receiving electric shock treatments and psycho-active drug therapy. This left the band without a powerful front man and they never really recovered from that.

Erickson carried on making music in bouts after his release from hospital in 1972 and on various recordings (live and studio) available since then his voice sounds as intense as it always did. His lyrical themes vary from Vampires and Satan to conspiracy theories about Bermuda and Aliens thrown in – great stuff.

I can’t remember where I first heard Roky’s amazing voice – Big Mick (who has been making me mixtapes since 1983) is the most likely candidate. He has inserted not just 13th Floor Elevators songs into his compilations since day one but also several tapes (and more recently CDs) of recorded and live Roky performaces. Another workmate from around that time, a plumber and long-time pal called Budgie (who eventually made a vocal cameo appearance on our Poptones album Popartglory), made me cassettes of 13th Floor Elevators stuff, recorded and live. Bobby Gillespie and the rest of Primal Scream were also big fans and would play their songs (13th Floor Elevators second album, Easter Everywhere, was a favourite of theirs) when we went up to visit them in their HQ at Byres Road, Glasgow. The club in Glasgow they helped to run was named after a 13th Floor Elevators song, Splash 1.

We did attempt to cover 13th Floor Elevators songs but they would descend into noise once we got past a verse and chorus. One version in particular was of Levitation live in Reims, France where we murdered the song and droned on without purpose for a long time – the crowd loved it of course…

 

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Children of the Revolution

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Marc Bolan with his aloof coolness and pop-folk-blues music was one of the few 70’s superstars to survive the Punk Rock explosion with his reputation intact. His songs were pop music with tough guitars and drums which never descended into musical showing off. Lou Reed once said that titles were the most important part of writing a song – well Bolan had them in droves – Salamanda Palaganda, Rip Off, Metal Guru, Left Hand Luke, Jitterbug Love, Dandy In The Underworld. T. Rex singles were as good as pop records ever got – Ride A White Swan, Jeepster, The Groover, Children Of The Revolution, 20th Century Boy and Telegram Sam are unsurpassed in pop music for me – all big guitars and strings and delicious choruses.

The singles get talked about still to this day but Bolan’s albums were extraordinary too – from My People Were Fair and Had Sky In Their Hair (I had this as a double LP package with Prophets Seers and Sages), Electric Warrior (I used to have the poster up on my wall) and The Slider to Zinc Alloy and Futuristic Dragons. And his final T. Rex album Dandy In The Underworld – an amazing album and maybe his best – how many artists finish their career with that kind of quality?

Bolan’s voice, part Presley and Orbison but with Bolan’s distinctive warble was enhanced by the original lyrics and that sexy half-American, half-English accent he sung them in. The lyrical themes are fantasy novel-speak, cars and dances with pseudo Beat poetry thrown all over them. I love Bolan’s imagery – I’m not sure if the lyrics make sense – I don’t even think they need to make sense. The sound of the words alone or the descriptive names like Buick MacKane, Electric Slim, Spaceball Ricochet and the rhymes like

“I drive a Rolls Royce ’cause it’s good For my voice”

“Debora, always dressed like a conjurer”

always do it for me, especially if it has a howl or grunt at the end of the line. By the time of punk rock I had met lifelong pal and artist, Les Clark. I remember going round to Les’s house and just staring in admiration at the wall with the huge painting he had on it of Bowie and Bolan. Les has done an enormous amount of work in designing covers for Bolan/T.Rex records and t-shirts for Easy Action Records and the Official Marc Bolan Merchandising and his knowledge in this area is encyclopedic.

By the beginning of the 1980’s I was discovering the old Tyrannosaurus Rex albums and digging them too. They sound much lighter sonically with (mainly) acoustic guitar and bongos – but they have that same voice warble and the same fantasy lyrics and American car references. I never did see Marc Bolan perform live but I do remember hurrying home from school in 1977 to hear him performing on his TV show Marc which showcased bands such as The Jam and The Damned. The final show for the series was recorded two days before Bolan died and included a duet with his old pal, David Bowie. A few years later when I was working on building sites in west London I would often drive past the tree that Marc and his wife, Gloria, hit on that fateful night. It was on the edge of Barnes Common, and sometimes out of my way, but I felt an attachment seeing it and thinking about what an amazing talent that was lost to us – and at the age of 29 he seemed far too young. There was usually a ribbon or two tied around it.

With The Jasmine Minks, Bolan is there whenever I pick up an electric guitar. Songs like The 30-Second Set-Up and What’s Gone Wrong have that T. Rex feel. I go back to T. Rex regularly and nowadays I hear the infectious rhythms standing out more than ever. I also notice a hint of that Sun Records echo in the vocal effects…

Pushin’ Too Hard – The Seeds

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The Seeds with their singer, Sky Saxon (has there ever been a better singer’s name?) were one of the simplest of the pop-punk sounds coming out of the west coast of the US in the mid-sixties. Two-chord songs on keyboards, thumping drumming and guitars and vocals sounding like a punk Buddy Holly. I first heard them when Tom, Minks drummer/ singer, bought a live album of theirs (actually a studio album with added crowd sounds to make it sound like it was a live concert recording!) It was like The Doors but with simpler songs and to-the-point lyrics and melodies. I loved it – the electric piano squeaking in its brightness and reverb, the occasional bursts of fuzz guitar which roars like a Harley Davidson pulling up in your driveway unannounced. And Sky Saxon – there seems to be some angst at not getting what he wants and some anger at having to please the grown-ups too much. Altogether a perfect pop package. No Escape, Mr. Farmer, Can’t Seem To Make You Mine and, their pinnacle of pop, Pushin’ Too Hard.

When Dave Musker joined The Jasmine Minks from The Television Personalities – he added that 60’s energy which flows from fingers through simple electronic circuits and switches to valve amplifiers and speakers to create an array of sounds from warm oscillations to vitalising screeches. Dave had an eye-catching Farfisa organ with the black keys where the white keys normally are and vice versa – it stood on a tubular stainless steel stand. Unfortunately it ended up smashed to pieces in transit after a gig in Germany (Dave is still trying to repair it after all these years). In recent gigs Dave has been trying to recreate that sound and brought along a wonderful old organ to our gig in York with BMX Bandits. I was absolutely delighted to hear that familiar screech again and hope to hear more of it at future Minks gigs. I can’t stop thinking about The Seeds since…

Absolutely Sweet Bobby Dylan

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Dylan’s double album Blonde On Blonde was an album that I used to see in the shops and wonder whether it was one of Dylan’s good ones or not – these were the days when you bought albums blind having maybe heard a single from it or been lucky enough to have heard it from a friend – Dylan’s albums varied hugely in quality. I had Highway 61 Revisited on cassette when I was a kid (given to me as part of a huge pile of 7″ singles and cassettes my mum got me – she got them from one of her workmates, who’s boyfriend had died). It was pretty bleak listening for a 12 year-old but I liked the opening and end tracks, Like A Rolling Stone and Desolation Row. The only other Dylan songs I knew were the occasional old singles you’d hear on BBC Radio 1.

Fast forward to 1983-84 and I was working on the new Roehampton Burns Unit construction site. Kevin Clark (a good mate to this day) was there and a few pals I kept in touch with for years. But the biggest influence on me was an enthusiastic music fan (and musician) called Terry Feeney. We worked together in the loft space above the hospital laying pipes. We’d work pretty hard then take extended breaks chatting and laughing. Terry introduced me to lots of new stuff including Leonard Cohen, who he insisted was the music needed on Sunday morning come-downs. But more of Cohen another day. What amazed me most was the way Terry would ask if I had heard a song and then, if I said no, would proceed to sing it all in his gravelly voice. He knew every word on the Blonde On Blonde album and would treat me to the songs over and over. So much so that when I bought the double album I knew most of it already without ever having heard it!

I would play it loads getting to know the tunes and getting in deeper to the rock n roll guitar, the organ wash and the constant of Dylan’s sarcastic/fantasy commentary. Dylan’s vocal technique was to sing more or less in tune then slur off at the end each line as if he was too cool – or just couldn’t be bothered keeping up the effort to please anyone with such niceties as singing a whole line without a sneer. The effect was mesmerising – I had the British tour film from around that time (Don’t Look Back) recorded onto VHS and loved the quickness of wit and sheer disdain Dylan had for journalists – and how he created an aura of being his own self, of not bowing to what was expected of him.

The songs on Blonde On Blonde are masterpieces in grim pop mockery with a backing band so cool and laid-back they make most other bands sound like uptight father-in-laws, yet they sound exciting, rarely boring. Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat, Obviously 5 Believers, Stuck Inside Mobile With Thee, One Of Us Must Know – all songs I regularly go back to when I need a kick up the arse and start getting too fancy about the way I’m playing music on stage or when writing. When Ed de Vlam (Minks’ guitarist from 1987 to 1990) and I would play the pubs in London to earn some extra cash we’d dip into Blonde On Blonde extensively in our cover versions. For The Jasmine Minks there were too many Dylan copyists for me ever to attempt that sarcastic drawl but there are definite songs where that sarcasm gets ‘borrowed’ – Summer Where and Still Waiting come to mind. Add our eternal organ sounds from Dave Musker/ Paul Cooper and our anti-80’s guitar sounds stance and you could say Dylan and The Band played a big part of our sound…

 

Aussie Rules – Radio Birdman, Died Pretty etc.

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The Australian scene of the 70’s and 80’s was something I had dipped into with bands like The Saints and The Go-Betweens (see earlier blog). The Saints were a glorious mess, all roughly hewn guitar sounds with an invigorating pop-sung drawl. I didn’t see them in Aberdeen when they played in 1977 at the Students Union but I heard that they had a short set and had to play their fantastic single, I’m Stranded, three times to please the hungry crowd. I had their first album on cassette and I played it loads, particularly their punk cover of Elvis’s Kissing Cousins with its nod to Brill Building pop while keeping their feet firmly on punk rock terra firma.

By late 1983 Big Mick started mixing in lots of Australian music into the cassettes he was making me. The Screaming Tribesmen, The Lime Spiders, Angie Pepper were on some of those early tapes. But the ones I really fell in love with were Radio Birdman, Died Pretty, The Sunnyboys, Hoodoo Gurus and The Celibate Rifles. The Celibate Rifles (their name an obvious parody of The Sex Pistols) were Punk Rock with powerful, anti-boredom lyrics. Radio Birdman were the Australian Stooges but with that quirky, surfing edge to them – they would do some heavy guitar pop and then do a cover of Hawaii Five-0 just to show that they had some fun in amongst that heavy pop. Hoodoo Gurus came along for me at the perfect time – their album Stoneage Romeos had the opening track (Let’s All Turn On) with all those song titles quoted in it – I remember thinking, ‘these guys are into exactly the same stuff as me!’. Died Pretty had a great 12″ single, Out Of The Unknown, with a Freebird-like riff but, somehow, it sounded completely up to date and modern – Iggy Pop influence again but with a gliding slide guitar and organ based sound. I saw them at London ULU and they were a very special band to me in the 80’s. The Sunnyboys were more straightforward guitar pop and probably most like The Jasmine Minks but, like lots of Australian bands, there was a quirkiness there, either in their use of guitars as psychedelic instruments or with some off the wall artwork like their album, Individuals, where their faces appear in a field of sunflowers on the front cover.

There are some good compilations out – Do The Pop! has lots of good Australian bands from the early 80’s and Born Out Of Time cover 1979-88 with lots of songs on it that Big Mick put onto those cassettes all those years ago.

I say these bands were an influence – they definitely were, but at the same time, we had the same references in Jasmine Minks music – 60’s Psychedelia, Flamin Groovies, Punk Rock, so maybe we were just tuning in to the same group of sounds but from the other side of the world? I definitely wanted that Died Pretty sound on my guitar on Ballad Of Johnny Eye and a rockier sound around the time of What’s Happening and Forces Network. We use to do a cover version of Radio Birdman’s Anglo Girl Desire and even recorded it for the b-side of Cut Me Deep, but the single never came out. I’m gonna choose a rocker of a song to accompany the blog – the absolute punishing punk rock tune, Lipstick, by The Fun Things – if this doesn’t blow the cobwebs away, nothing will!

Big Sister – The British Folk Scene 60’s-70’s

 

The British folk scene of the 60’s and early 70’s may seem like a surprising influence on The Jasmine Minks. But I was immersed in it from a very young age. My sister, Sandra, is 8 years older than me and was more maternal than sister-like to me in many ways. As a young child we moved around a lot – we stayed in Jasmine Terrace at three locations and times were tough. At one point the two of us slept in a boiler room at the back of a hotel with a makeshift bed. I remember Sandra singing to me as I went to sleep – pop songs of the day – Groovy Kind Of Love and Simon and Garfunkel songs. She has a beautiful voice. She was going along to the burgeoning folk club scene (one in particular was in my Auntie Race’s place, Highland Hotel, just off Union Street in Aberdeen). Sandra would regularly take me along to folk clubs and festivals. The smaller clubs had fantastic musicians and singers who would just get up and sing unaccompanied (Sandra occasionally got up and sang) – and there is nothing more emotional than a lone singing voice. I can’t pretend that I liked all of the music she took me too – I was young and easily distracted and it took a while to get used to the music which was nothing like what I was used to hearing on BBC Radio 1. She tells the story of going to the Inverness folk festival where Martin Carthy, Christy Moore, Barbara Dickson, Billy Connolly and others were playing and Billy Connolly letting her and her pals sleep on his hotel room floor instead of spending another night freezing in a snow-covered campsite.

Sandra would buy and lend me records by Steeleye Span, Planxty, Nic Jones, Bert Jansch, Pentangle, Lindisfarne, The Humblebums, Magna Carta, Fairport Convention. Rock music had been around for a few years, so it wasn’t surprising that it was finding its way into folk music too with drums and electric guitars in some of the music, although the folk clubs were still strictly acoustic in my experience. Rock had changed drastically in those few years, from basic garage punk through to grand stadium rock with jazz and classical influences. But the back to basics attitude lived on in folk and folk-rock music – it might have been a bit more adult-oriented but it was still accessible music that sometimes grooved and rarely bred snobbery.

When Sandra was 16 and 17, she spent summers working and going to folk clubs in and around Harrogate, and soon moved to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne where she eventually studied French and Spanish. Every summer I would go and visit her and she would take me along to folk concerts and festivals. She started teaching me guitar – and the main picking style she taught me is the one that I still use to this day. Her boyfriend at that time, Steve, was an amazing guitarist and would pick away all day and sing in his Nick Drake style whisper – he would play at some of the folk clubs. I remember one night we went for dinner to a friend of hers, Stefan, who lived above the museum that was then in the castle keep near the railway and looking onto the Tyne Bridge. There were guitars, dulcimers and mandolins lying around – all made by Stefan – I was amazed that someone could be so talented to make these beautiful instruments. At home in Aberdeen, gradually, these tunes were becoming a part of me – they were never cool for a kid like the Glam Rock and Pop music that I mostly listened to, but I still loved them. Guitarists like Bert Jansch and Richard Thompson sounded amazing to me and it wasn’t until I’d been playing for years that I realised that they played hard and whacked those string to get those amazing sounds – they weren’t gentle guitar players by anyone’s standards.

You don’t need to go far to hear how the picking styles of those great guitarists have been emulated in Jasmine Minks songs. When Where The Traffic Goes single was released we did a busking tour of London with acoustic guitars proving that our songs worked without the amplified sound – songs like Work For Nothing, You Got Me Wrong, Summer Where, Reaching Out have guitar picking highlighted in them. By the 90’s, I was mainly listening to folk music, blues and electronic music. When me made Popartglory for Alan McGee’s Poptones record label, we were mixing rock, folk and electronica. Sandra sang the Blackwaterside melody solo and we added some pretty scary synths and beats to it.

I wouldn’t know where to start when choosing a song to accompany this blog. I love the guitar playing of John Martyn, Bert Jansch and Richard Thompson and the vocals of Jacqui McShee, Sandy Denny, Anne Briggs, Christy Moore and Maddy Prior to name a few. This song is one of my all-time favourites…

 

I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night – Nuggets/ Garage Punk of the 60’s

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Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968 was a double album of 60’s underground hits compiled by Lenny Kaye (who became guitarist for Patti Smith). The title suggests historical significance, and indeed it has – the Nuggets compilation was a marvelous idea – repackaging a series of one-hit wonders and reminding us that Rock is more than just a place where you hear superstars – it is somewhere you can delve deeper and find some nourishing seeds of raw power. By the mid 80’s there were lots of garage music archaeologists putting out compilations with titles like Pebbles, Back From The Grave and Acid Dreams. We’ve come to expect these forays into rare musical territories now – you can find compilations of 60’s and 70’s garage bands from Brazil, Thailand, India and Africa – and they sound amazing.

Nuggets had guitar groups with short pop songs with The Rolling Stones’ early singles and Them’s Gloria as their starting point. The album included Count Five – Psychotic Reaction, The Barbarians – Moulty (a true story about a one-handed drummer), The Remains – Don’t Look Back, The Seeds – Pushin’ Too Hard, The 13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me, all absolute classics and some of these groups deserve more than just passing mentions. But the idea was generic in some ways and totally original in others – I love that paradox – they seemed like groups who had more attitude than aptitude, cool dress sense and a sneer. That 1965-68 period where the best way to say Fuck Off to The Man was to have a good time, spend a few weeks learning how to play guitar, drums or sing, join a band, rehearse in a garage, play live concerts and record a single. And from that came a ‘garage’ sound – the three chords of Gloria or Louie Louie. But also the move forward in electronic sound where feedback played a part and invitations to be more open in your thinking was encouraged.

 

I first met Big Mick on a building site in London in 1983 – he was a Painter and Decorator and I was an Electrician. We chatted and quickly became pals – soon we were going to gigs together. He started making cassette compilations for me (from then until this day I still receive compilations from him, although they are on CD now.) He’d take great care picking out songs from albums for me, typing out the track-lists on an old typewriter and adding coloured pen and highlights onto the cassette covers. The first ones had some of the above tracks from The Nuggets and other Garage compilations – tracks deeply ingrained in me now. Then I got more and more – lots of Garage compilations, but also oldies such as Hank Williams and Nancy Sinatra, and tons of great 80’s Australian bands (a blog will follow on this topic) and many, many others over the years. He started coming along to see The Jasmine Minks and before long some of the songs we played live were because I was hearing them on his tapes. Adam had already suggested we have a go at Love’s Seven and Seven Is – mentioned in a live review in the NME by Pete Astor who said “legend has it that it it took Love 50 times to get it right and The Jasmine Minks almost got it right first time.” But after playing Big Mick’s cassettes I began taking some of those songs along to rehearsals. We introduced Greenfuz’s Greenfuz to our set and did a faithful version of We The People’s In The Past – a song we did for years.

 

I became totally immersed in that garage sound – I thought the songs were great and the rhythms addictive. I started writing songs with bits of these aspects in them – groovy minor chord songs such as You Take My Freedom where the back beat is prominent, hints of psychedelia in The 30 Second Set-Up. Tom was adding more 60’s influenced beats and using tambourine a lot more in our recordings and we added Dave Musker on Farfisa Organ to our live group after he had played so brilliantly on our recordings. All this added up to a heady mix in our sound – our own 80’s style of guitar pop music using the recording techniques of the time (gated drums and other new effects) but rejecting the blunter synth and drum machine sounds (I hated the generic Yamaha DX7 which was a staple keyboard in every studio) and keeping that Garage band element of Blues rhythm and valve-amplified guitars. I used a fuzz-box pedal too, adding sustain and distortion when needed.

I’m sure I’ll have lots more to write about Sky Saxon’s Seeds, Roky Erikson’s 13th Floor Elevators and other Greats from that time – but for now I’ll leave you with one of my favourite garage punk songs…

 

Guitars v. Conservatism – The Byrds

 

 

The Byrds were the perfect group for me – I loved all the voices in the group, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and Gene Clarke, all had their amazing and individual sound. The songs were bright, short and had catchy guitar riffs, harmonies and a mix of original imagery and, often, philosophical lyrics, even anti-war lyrics later on when David Crosby could get away with it. The songs as a whole were the most complete of any of the 60’s guitar-pop groups. Nothing was lacking, from the swooping bass lines and shuffling beats to the excellent harmonies (for once NOT sounding like a run-of-the-mill folk group) to the most memorable parts, the 12-string electric guitar riffs, played with skill and originality – the guitar defines their sound as much as anything and has been the most copied style in guitar pop. Their singles were played regularly on the radio when I was growing up – Mr. Tambourine Man, All I Really Want To Do, Eight Miles High, Turn Turn Turn, Chestnut Mare, So You Want To Be A Rock n Roll Star.

In the early 1980’s, there was a budget LP out called Byrds Original Singles 1965-67. It was a life-changing record for me. I borrowed it from Beckenham Public Library and recorded it onto a C-90. It was played over and over and over on my portable cassette player in the kitchen in my flat in Penge. I fell in love with it. It had the first eight Byrds singles and the b-sides. The quality of the b-sides alone were phenomenal, Feel A Whole Lot Better, She Don’t Care About Time and Everybody’s Been Burned to name a few, all songs which any other band would give their eye teeth to have as their a-sides. By default Columbia Records had created one of the best albums ever put together. Many years before this compilation The Byrds, of course, produced some great original albums, The Notorious Byrds Brothers, Sweetheart of the Rodeo (with Gram Parsons) and Untitled are my favourites. It was a credit to McGuinn and bassist Chris Hillman that they managed to carry on making quality records even without the voices and high quality songwriting of Gene Clarke and David Crosby. The huge biography, Timeless Flight (which is comprehensive enough to have survived several popular revisions) is worth a read, both for The Byrds as a unit and for Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, Gram Parsons and David Crosby in their post-Byrds releases.

Because of the wonderful sound McGuinn got, I saved up for a 12-string guitar. I bought an Ovation electro-acoustic from the famous Andy’s Guitar Workshop in Denmark St. just off The Charing Cross Road. I still have it today – one of the few posessions I’ve held onto after all these years. I started writing songs which utilised it – both songs on our second single, Where The Traffic Goes (written to Adam’s powerful lyrics) and Mr. Magic started with 12 string guitar riffs, not quite up to the McGuinn standard, but with distinctive intros nevertheless. When Wattie joined the Minks, he saved up for a Rickenbacker 12-string and that gave the group a sound which went even closer to The Byrds. His tone on Cut Me Deep is an 80’s update of that McGuinn sound and it defines The Jasmine Minks to many – our best-known song outside the Indie scene. I hired a black 12-string Rickenbacker to use on some of the songs on Another Age album, trying to keep that sound alive. Our current set of concerts where we play the Another Age album, uses Wattie’s 12-string Rickenbacker sound to the full…

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Kinks in the Armour

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The Kinks were, and still are, one of my favourite groups. I listened to them a lot about the time of writing and recording our album Another Age. The story about how Dave Davies got his distorted sound on their first single You Really Got Me by sticking knitting needles through his guitar amplifier speakers is legendary and one that made an impression on hungry young guitar players the world over. Their 1960’s and early 1970’s singles have some of the most evocative music and stories (because that’s what Ray Davies songs often are – short stories built around real people) and make for repeated listening over the years, something most records just don’t have. Lola, Terry and Julie, the people on Dead End Street, but also the sneers of I’m Not Like Everybody Else (which I took the idea for the beginning of Veronica from) and the sarcasm of Mr. Pleasant and Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

When I first moved down to London at the tender age of 18, I worked on the building sites. I made many friends, some I’m still in touch with to this day. I was a bit naive and never got on very well with the gaffers on the sites at first, seeing them as uptight. The first guy who treated me well was a lovely man called Alex from Epsom in Surrey. We got on great and he put up with my lateness and my bad attitude to work because we got on so well. He told me about following The Kinks around in the 60’s and how he loved their songs and their look – he thought the red hunting jackets were very smart. He was into the new music of the time, Beatles, Dylan etc. and he said it was hard going because his family, including his brother, thought this new music was rubbish compared to Frank Sinatra and the other crooners and that it wouldn’t last! He told me that by the 80’s his brother was a collector of all things Beatles – people come around eventually eh! I was very impressed and started to look deeper into The Kinks. Their raunchier, early singles were excellent of course, but I began to realise that there were great albums by them too. You couldn’t split a hair between such greats as: Something Else, The Village Green Preservation Society (probably my favourite), Powerman and The Moneygoround, Muswell Hillbillies (which I’m listening to as I write this) to name a few!

When Wattie joined the Jasmine Minks, we were doing extended versions of Where The Traffic Goes and I’d sing Tired Of Waiting in the quiet bits, emulating that bobbing rhythm. In fact, I’m sure I sung it on the live ep Pure Jasmine Minks which Kevin Pearce put out on his Esurient label around that time. When Dave Arnold played guitar for us, we’d muck around in rehearsals with Sittin’ On My Sofa. I really want to cover You Really Got Me with The Jasmine Minks – I think it would be perfect for us.

Quite often in bands there has been a songwriter who doesn’t get the credit as much – George Harrison, Colin Moulding. Dave Davies is one of those. So in support of all the un-heralded songwriters out there, I’m gonna choose a song by the fantastic brother of Ray, Dave – his beautiful call to spirituality – Strangers…
“Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two we are one ”

Three Before Eight – Northern Soul

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Northern Soul was a strange scene – peculiar to the UK. I first came across it when I was about 14 or 15 years-old, in my last year at school. Some of the kids who hung about in my street would be telling everyone about these coach trips they were taking to the north of England, to the Wigan Casino and other venues to hear DJs playing classic and rare soul singles from the 1960s. They would get the coach back right after that and sleep for the 8 hour journey home. The kids I knew started bringing boxes of 7″ vinyl singles out to the street and showing off their rare finds – a big part of the scene was buying and swapping singles. A change was happening to the kids outside as they became entranced by the clothes and I saw more and more wide flared trousers with pleats at the top and flat-soled brogues shined to maximum luminosity (the flat soles were easier to dance with and a sharp contrast to the platform-soled shoes still in fashion). The night bags with the sew-on patches of the various Northern Soul venues and mementos of particular nights where there were Golden Oldies nights playing songs from record labels like Tamla-Motown and Okeh.
I was getting into punk at the time, so I didn’t quite get this desire to hark back to the past for music when there was fresh music all around the country, also cultish, but with some similarities – both strongly working class, both off the radar of daytime radio. But the similarities meant that in local youth clubs there would be kids who would bring along records to play that were difficult to hear elsewhere. In Aberdeen, in the city centre, the 62 club was such a place. We’d have nights where we had to share the dance floor with the Northern Soul kids. You’d hear a song like Landslide by Tony Clark or Breakout by Mitch Ryder and Detroit Wheels with all these kids doing twists and turns, always clapping to the correct parts in unison (they knew the songs inside out), then the next song there’d be bunch of punks scrambling randomly about around the dance floor to The Damned’s New Rose.
I left school at 15 and got an apprenticeship Electrician job, which meant going to Technical College for 6 week blocks. It was here that I befriended a guy who was a mad Northern Soul fan. He started making me compilation cassettes, mixing up classic Tamla-Motown and rare soul singles, some of which he’d paid a lot of money for at the All-nighters. I loved those tapes and quickly became a fan. This was my introduction to Black music – although there was a Funk music fan at work who would let me hear loads of the American cuts from the 70’s – ironically, the Funk-Soul fans were into newer grooves and went to All-dayers, almost the opposite to the Northern Soul scene!
Northern Soul melodies and grooves found their way into Jasmine Minks songs early on with the Soul-stomp of Where The Traffic Goes right through to the songs on our electronic-pop album Popartglory – where I sampled Northern Soul songs and played over them, singing new melodies. Recording our first full album in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, we had a trumpet player, Derek Christie – he was playing on loads of our new songs. Me and Iain Slater (who recorded the album for us) would hum trumpet parts for Derek to play, while he was in the next room, headphones on. When the tape was running he’d replicate those melodies, adding his own amazing ones too. Painting/Arguing in particular owes a lot to Northern Soul – the coda in that song with the trumpet fading out in a pure-rare-soul groove.
Too much to choose from for a song to accompany this blog, but I’ve gone for a personal favourite and one that brings back strong memories – Open The Door To Your Heart.
Feel free to post your own favourites…