The Runaways

Film Four showed the Runaways bio-pic over the weekend. Despite my trepidations about Kristin Stewart of Twiglet fame playing Joan Jett it wasn’t too bad a movie about the all girl band that the Svengali like figure of Kim Fowley put together in mid 70s LA. What I thought was missing though was a nod to the band’s 1976 UK tour, right when punk was kicking off over here. UK punk was a big influence on Jett and the only reference to this in the film was Kristin Stewart spray painting Sex Pistols on a T-Shirt to a blast of Pretty Vacant.

I was at the Runaways’s first London gig in October 1976 at London’s Roundhouse, back when it was a regular sweaty fleapit rather than a poncy venue with a cocktail bar. It cost us all of £1.90 to get in, which was a whole 40p more than the regular three band Sunday Roundhouse gig and a far cry from today’s outrageous ticket prices. Me and my mates were all pretty excited as we queued outside waiting for the doors to open. There was a tremendous buzz about punk gigs in the UK around 19756/76, partially because of the music and fashion, but mostly because the massive overreaction to the punk scene by much of the media, teachers, parents and other authority figures had made it all seem so terribly subversive.

Support was a bunch of idiots called the Suburban Studs, who just tried too hard to look deviant by basing their costume and makeup on a Clockwork Orange. Problem was like a lot of bands from that era they were all image and no songs. The Runaways were pretty good as I recall, but then we were all 17 and pumped full of rampaging teenage boy sex hormones as Cherie Curry pranced across the stage in stockings and suspenders. What was exciting about the band though was that they could play their instruments and write their own material, something that was pretty rare for women in rock n’ roll at the time.

Legend has it that Joan wrote the band’s signature tune Cherry Bomb with Kim Fowley at Cherie Currie’s audition, it’s not a great quality recording but at least it’s the real thing and Twiglet free.

Going back to the movie, what I did think a bit puzzling was the bit at the end where they did the old Cherrie Curry went on to be…. bit, but only for Chrrie, Joan and Kim Fowley and ignored the rest of the band. Granted the film was mostly about Cherrie and Joan’s relationship, but guitarist Lita Ford did go on to sell an awful lot of records and even duet with Ozzy Osbourne as a solo artist.

Five Live Yardbirds

There are times when life throws the oddest little coincidences at you. When I took part in the RSPB Great Garden Birdwatch over last weekend what do you think had found its way to the top of my to play CD pile by the computer?


1 Live Back Yardbird Blackbird

No it wasn’t the latest epic from Chreyl Cole or Miley Cyrus, but some real music in the shape of The Very Best of the Yardbirds. I’m not going to bore you with a cut and paste biog. lifted from Wikipedia (you can just read that here) but at some time three of rock’s greatest guitar slingers passed through the band, namely Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

2 Live Back Yardbirds Wood Pigeon

2 Live Back Yardbirds Wood Pigeon

Now I’m going to break with the received wisdom of the rock pundit here. While I enjoy listening to the band playing the blues, I think I actually prefer the hit singles like For Your Love and Heart Full of Soul

and especially Evil Hearted You, all of which were written by Graham Goouldman who was a bit of one man hit factory in the 1960s before becoming part of 10cc. What I like about these records, aside from them being consummate catchy pop songs is the experimentation with other forms of music like Gregorian Chant (see Still I’m Sad)

and Indian raga that creep in to the mix. Sort of sums up the whole adventure of 60s psychedelia that was about to morph into prog and metal in the 70s.

3 Live Back Yardbirds Chaffinch

3 Live Back Yardbirds Chaffinch

Naturally I took this happy coincidence as yet another shameless opportunity to post some pictures of my back yard birds, conflate that with the title of the band’s live album,

4 Live Back Yardbirds Rewing

4 Live Back Yardbirds Redwing

and add some videos of some of my favourite bits of music. Now one of the Yardbird’s live favourites was the old Tiny Bradshaw, Howard Kay, and Lois Mann jump blues number Train Kept A-Rollin When the band imploded in 1968 Jimmy Page formed Led Zeppelin and although Zeppelin never recorded the song it was the very first number they ever performed live. It was also a staple of Motorhead‘s early set list and has been covered by loads of other artists including Aerosmith and Imelda May. I think this one is pretty cool from Metallica‘s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (hence the suits), with some extra special guests including Ron Wood, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.

Great solo from Jeff Beck, but doesn’t Page just look the Rock’ n Roll business?

5 Live Back Yardbirds Green Woodpecker

5 Live Back Yardbirds Green Woodpecker

Night of the Demon – Kate Bush

Way back in May I wrote about one of my favourite films Night of the Demon, (see here) based upon the MR James story Casting the Runes. curiously a recent post on the Classic Horror Campaign website reminded me that Kate Bush sampled Maurice Denham’s line from the film “it’s in the trees, it’s coming!” in the song Hounds of Love.

Here’s a pretty little video mash-up of the song and film.

Screaming Lord Sutch

When we got home last night BBC 2 were showing Telstar, the biopic of 1960’s record producer and manager Joe Meek, while Telstar’s primary story concerned Meek’s relationship with Tornado’s bass player and teen idol Heinz, it also touched upon Screaming Lord Sutch, who is probably better known today as the founder of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

In my opinion Sutch was a Rock’n’roll pioneer. His theatrical shows combined the raw excitement of this new subversive music with a sense of theatre derived from music hall and the Gothic Horror films produced by Hammer at the turn of the 1950s and 60s. Without Sutch we would never have had The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Alice Cooper or the Rocky Horror Show.

The only time I ever saw Sutch perform live was in 1983. It was a fundraiser for the Monster Raving Loony Party’s election campaign for the 1983 general election at London’s Marquee Club in Wardour Street. Teddy Boy pall bearers carried Sutch on to the stage in a coffin, before he rose to perform numbers like All Black and Hairy and Murder in the Graveyard. We had guessed it wasn’t going to be any ordinary night, when we noticed the brazier backstage, but I don’t think anybody expected Sutch to launch himself of the stage into the audience wielding a white-hot flaming branding iron. It was like the Red Sea parting, I have never seen people move so fast in my life.

Shortly afterwards Sutch stood against the evil Thatcher in her Finchley constituency polling several hundred votes. The political elite used this as an excuse to raise the cost of a constituency deposit to discourage “frivolous candidates” thereby keeping their happy little monopoly on power and stifling the UK’s democracy even further.

Edinburgh – Bring on the Jubilee with Hawkwind, Curry and Beer

While most of the UK seemed to be drowning over the Jubilee weekend we were enjoying the sunshine in Edinburgh. After checking in to Dr Jekyll’s Travelodge (Dr Caligari’s was booked out) it was off to the Mosque Kitchen for their amazing £10 all you can eat buffet before the evening’s main event.

I first saw Hawkwind at the Reading Festival in 1975, when they played to 50,000 people. Queen’s Hall Edinburgh on Saturday night was a bit more intimate, in fact it must be the smallest venue I have ever seen the band play in. It was built as Hope Park Chapel in 1823, but converted to a music venue in 1979. We nabbed a position on the raised seating area to the left of the stage and settled in for the night.

Syren, a predominantly female band that had its origins in Rockbitch opened the evening. They held their own, but it was Hawkwind’s primal trance inducing beat the audience was waiting for. I honestly can’t remember how many times I have seen this band and while they did have a bit of an off moment in the mid to late 70s, they have seldom failed to to provide anything less than a great night out with their lightshow and dancers. Saturday was no exception.

Opening with You’d Better Believe It, it was almost as if they had read my mind as to what I’d like to hear them perform, Assault and Battery/the Golden Void, Sonic Attack and a ripping Assassins of Allah were all trotted out before closing the set with Damnation Alley

An encore of Psychedelic Warlords and Silver Machine finished things off nicely.

Now despite it being 10.30, it still wasn’t completely dark out on Edinburgh’s streets as we headed for the Auld Hoose in St Leonard’s Street, for a few beers over a discussion on the most pressing item of the day. Namely what instrument should a T.Rex play? Given his stubby little arms’ it was agreed that a trombone would be out of the question and that he could never emulate Lemmy on bass. Perhaps a ukulele? I like the Auld Hoose, it has a Goth, Rock and Metal jukebox and Staropramen on draft.

I liked the Queen’s Hall too. It’s a nice venue, the people who work there are very friendly and the bar is very reasonable, in fact with lager at £3 a pint it’s cheaper than most local pubs. The videos of Hawkwind are not the present line up.

Thames Delta – Southend-on-Sea

Seeing that Belfast has George Best Airport and Liverpool has John Lennon Airport, last year I started a campaign to have Southend’s Airport named after the late great Dr Feelgood vocalist Lee Brilleaux.

Dr Feelgood painted by former Kursaal Flyer Paul Shuttleworth

Coincidentally Thames Delta which opened on Saturday at Southend’s Focal Point Gallery is an exhibition all about the south east Essex music scene that gave birth to such bands as the Feelgoods, Eddie and the Hotrods, Procul Harum, Depeche Mode and the Kursaal Flyers.

One of the artists involved with the project, Lucy Harrison, has  put together an installation of called The Feelgood Collection made up of handmade tributes to the band ranging from tattoos (photographs of not the actual skin!) to the poster she designed for the Lee Brilleaux Airport Airport campaign, so I was delighted to accept Lucy’s invitation to come along to the shows launch.

Me with Lucy Harrison - campaign poster designer

Thames Delta will run up to 30 June, so if you are in the Southend area please go and have a look. The Focal Point Gallery can be found at Southend Central Library which is just around the corner from Southend Victoria railway station in Victoria Avenue .

In conclusion here are Dr Feelgood in their prime from 1975 from a show called the Geordie Scene, believe me once you get past the cake wielding idiot it’s worth it.

Enjoy the Silence

We have just got home after three days in Estonia’s capital Tallinn. We stayed in a really wonderful little hotel just outside the Viru Gate called the Hotel Bern (Aia 10, 10111 Tallinn). It was relatively cheap at £50 a night including a substantial breakfast, the rooms were comfortable and clean and it was really convenient for sightseeing around Tallinn’s old town. The reception staff were really helpful and friendly and when they discovered one of our party had celebrated his birthday a bottle of Cava and a card were left in his room. I think that deserves some praise, so if you are going to Estonia stay there!

My only beef was the cool jazz soundtrack for breakfast, not my scene at all, let’s face it if you have to cover Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence do it like this.

Adventures in Tallinn’s snowy wonderworld to follow soon.

Lego Trees, Tapas and a Big Chill – Edinburgh Frost Fair

It’s become a bit of a tradition in the Cook’s household, that the weekend before Christmas takes us to Edinburgh. So 9am Saturday we wandered into London’s St Pancras Station for our breakfast to behold this.

Lego Tree St Pancras Station

Well what’s so special about a Christmas  tree at this time of year I hear you ask? Well it turns out that this particular item is made out of Lego bricks, trunk, branch, needles and decs, not only that it’s also the biggest Lego tree in the world.

Up Close Under the Tree

Now the trains to Edinburgh go from Kings Cross, which is the station next door to St Pancras, but (top traveler tip) St Pancras has better places to eat, a branch of Foyles and free to pee toilets, which makes it a much more civilised place to start our journey.  The more eagle eyed of you may also have noticed the Olympic rings by the clock at St Pancras, this is to remind Londoners that they will be paying for the 2012  Games for many years to come.

I enjoy the train journey to Edinburgh much more than flying. From home to the city centre it takes about the same amount of time, but it’s much more pleasant without all the palaver that accompanies air travel. At this time of year the countryside is often quite magical with scatterings of snow and white horses breaking on the Northumbrian coastline on the stretch between Newcastle and Berwick upon Tweed.

One of the highlights of my journey this time was just as we left York, where we saw The Dominion of New Zealand getting up some steam just outside the National Railway Museum. The Dominion of New Zealand was one of five A4 Pacific Class locos, similar to the streamlined world speed record holder Mallard, that were designated Coronation Pacific Class for the crowning of Edward VIII that was due to take place in 1937 had Edward not chosen Wallace Simpson over the crown. The loco is now in the heritage train business hauling luxury trips up and down the UK and we noticed her in the sidings outside Kings cross on the way back on Sunday.

The Dome Done up for Christmas

Bags dumped at Dr Caligari’s, we met up with the daughter and headed for The Dome in the New Town hoping to get a Christmas cocktail, only to find the queue out of the door. Instead we paid a visit to the Parish Church of St Andrew’s and St George’s opposite.

Back in the 18th century Captain Andrew Frazer and Robert Kay designed, what was then, St Andrew’s and the building was completed in 1784. It was the first church in Britain to be built to an elliptical plan and in 1843 it earned a place in Scottish history, when it held the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. A third of the ministers present, alarmed at what they saw as civil meddling in church affairs, walked out to constitute the Free Church of Scotland. This became known as the Disruption. In 1964 the congregation of the Church of St George’s joined St Andrew’s. The original building of St George’s Church is now used by the National Archives of Scotland.

Douglas Strachan Window

St Andrew’s and St George’s has some fine stained glass windows including works by Alfred Webster and Douglas Strachan although these are much later than the church itself.

Edinburgh’s Frost Fair takes place in Princes Street Gardens. It’s funny to think that at one time Princes Street Gardens was Nor Loch, a foul stinking lake filled with the sewage and effluent run off from Edinburgh Old Town’s tanneries and slaughter houses. It was only at the beginning of the 19th century that Nor Loch was drained.

Edinburgh's Winter Wonderland

In the run up to Christmas the place is transformed into Edinburgh’s Winter Wonderland, with a funfair, skating rink and German market. It was packed solid, especially around the stalls serving mulled wines fortified with liquors.

More fun than you can shake a Santa on a stick at

Maybe that was because it was also freezing cold, so I was ready for some tasty tapas by the time we reached Alba Flamenca for our evening meal. The Alba Flamenca dance studio is tucked away in East Cross Causeway, not quite the centre of town, but well worth seeking out. Adjoining the studio, and also used by the dancers and performers is El Bar. For my money this is the best Spanish joint in Edinburgh, the food may not be quite as fine as Barioja, but El Bar more than makes up for that in atmosphere and value. Many of the waiting staff also perform so if you are lucky you might get some improvised Flamenco singing and dancing for free.

We settled into the sofas around our table and tucked into Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, olives, Patatas Bravas, Albondigas a la Jardinera (meatballs in a vegetable stew) , fried chorizo in wine, Escalivada ( cold roasted peppers, aubergine and onion in olive oil), spinach cooked with pine nuts, garlic and raisins and chicken croquettes, followed by churros and chocolate, washed down with Spanish beer and wine and a nightcap of Sol Y Sombre (brandy and anis,the Sun being the clear anis the shadow being the dark Spanish brandy).  Absolutely delicious and only £110 for the five of us.

It was all we could do to waddle back to our hotel!

Rename Southend Airport – Lee Brilleaux Dr Feelgood Airport

Liverpool has John Lennon Airport, Belfast has one named after football hero George Best. Recently low cost carrier easyJet announced that it would be setting up a new base at Southend’s Airport near the Essex coast. What with Southend’s easy access to east London for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, I think it’s time the airport’s owners thought about rebranding it as Lee Brilleaux Dr Feelgood Airport, after local hero, the late great Dr Feelgood frontman Lee Brilleaux.

I first saw Dr Feelgood on a teatime music show called The Geordie Scene back in 1974. I must have been15 at the time and for a youth steeped in prog-rock and glam they blew my mind. Solid back line of the Big Figure and Sparko on drums and bass, lunatic guitarist Wilko Johnson careering around the stage, but at the front the brilliant Mr Lee Brilleaux. I think it’s probably fair to say this band had more influence over the emerging UK punk scene than any other British band and they were from Oil City, as Canvey Island was known, next door to Southend.

Sadly Lee died from cancer in 1994 so I think it would be a fitting memorial to rename Southend’s airport after him.

Join the campaign here

Sisters of Mercy – London Roundhouse

We just went to see the Sisters (honest we are not a Goth band) at the Roundhouse in London’s Chalk Farm. Last time we saw them I was a bit disappointed, but they played well tonight.

Opening with First and Last and Always a selection of songs including Alice, Marian, A Rock and Hard Place followed, before things went a bit mad with Dominion and This Corrosion from the Floodland album. There was also some newer stuff (well post 1990’s Vision Thing anyway) , that I’m not so familiar with as it has never been released.

The first encore included predictably More, while the second hit us with Lucretia and a storming full on metal Vision Thing before closing with Temple of Love.

One thing that does bother me about the present line up is that they rely too much on computers for backing the guitars and Andrew Eldritch’s voice, I’d like to see a proper bass player back in the band. I’d also like to see some new material officially released too.

Anyhow here they are from the good old days when nobody minded being a Goth with Wayne Hussey and the underrated guitarist Gary Marx, who went on to form Ghostdance with Anne Marie Hurst from the Skeletal Family.

And a nice one from the Patricia Morrison days shot in Jordan’s fantastic lost city of  Petra

So are they Goths, well a lot of their fans are and I don’t understand why Andrew Eldritch seems so bothered by the label.

Now while I enjoyed the gig it’s a shame the same can’t be said for the audience, while many were just out for a fun night and they were absolutely fine, some of them were right wankers, thinking nothing of pushing people about with no regard for their size or age, just so they could to get to the front, what a bunch of twats. And the Roundhouse seriously needs to sort out the problems with its exits before they end up with mass fatalities on the stairs.