Got my FRock On! – Talkin Motown Revolutions….

November 23rd, 2009

No, I did not get to sing w legendary Jack Ashford’s Funk Bros on 9th Nov, down The Borderline.  However, I am Superstar Sub for a Day on the mighty Family of Rock blog – 2DAY.   Check me out & MO on the link below:

I hear a rumour that Thee Jack Ashford is in town, playin at the Borderline – and there might even be an open mic sesh too!  Miracle of Miracles, when Smokey’s in your eyes!! …. well, you can take the grrrl outta the country… Nope, that part never happened, but who cares, I’d still go back for Jack to do it again.  Am I crying?  I should be.  I didn’t want it to end.  The neo-Funk Bros kinda snuck up onstage, whilst we were all swayin round, trancelike, to the pre-show, canned Motown soundtrack of our lives, & treated us to a jam that would tease us mercilessly…  Lineup included 2 guitarists – one RAWK virtuoso, the other, Mike Fango, made sounds that might force me to chuck my Pro-Tools out the window, and Man what a drummer!  Brendan Calhoun (The Tito Jackson Band) seemed to hypnotise the bassist, Jacomo, a UK stand-in, and was perfectly synched up to Felix Hernandez on congos & chimes.  Baritone saxophonist, the trombonist & trumpeter Carmello Argentini Scapin all gave good horn.  The keyboardist was simply sublime.  We were introduced to them solely by the music they made & they defo did not disappoint.

Blowing down the house
Blowing down the house

 A plummy guy named Chris put a mic to his lips (is that what I’d mistaken for an open mic?) and introduced the true star of the show:  the legend himself, Jack Ashford.  He parted the crowd like Moses and mounted the stage like Ali to give us a soul symposium that would silence any backchat.  2 Grammies, a lifetime achievement award and, next year, a Star in Hollywood’s Graumans Chinese Theatre are all matched by his colossal stage presence; though equally balanced by a real artist’s humility:  “The greatest achievement is to share success.  Success for one person gets stale” and “You are the reason for my success.  I just made you happy.”

Ashford seems to perceive himself solely as conduit between the past and future hope of Motown.  When he arrived “… back when my hair was dark, before I became a clean cut caveman…”, he asked God to make him special.  Ask and ye shall receive.  On the stage before us, he spun a winding tale of intrigue involving other legends such as Sherrie Payne (The Supremes); Joyce Vincent (Tony Orlando & Dawn) – “ ‘Oh Jack, you taught me so much’ ”; and Berry Gordy himself, whom he credits as the reason he is here today and why’s he’s married.  (Had to love it when his wife heckled him from the audience, at that point!)  Motown was a “VERY close family”, maybe too close.  Studios were referred to as ‘the snake pit’:  “When the sniping was over, the hits were made”.

Snakepit 21st century style
Snakepit 21st century style

 He made quite a point about the anti-star system of Motown – “Berry did NOT put all those musicians together.” and “Smokey Robinson didn’t even own a car!” – describing it as a musical pilgrimage to Detroit, Michigan by “different faces and different races”:  “We did not know we were making history.” He also explained why Motown cannot be recreated in our contemporary cult of celebrity:  “Imagine Beyonce, JayZ and Bootsy Collins together in the snake pit.  There’d be no one left standing.”  Perhaps a rare insight into why he would moonlight.  Since his work was never credited at Motown, he simply shadowed its modus operandus outside its boundaries. He cranked out some hits for Stax Records and even Sesame Street, but would fly the nest in the mid 60s, with other such notables as Mike Terry & Joe Hunter, to sign a $25m recording contract with RCA as Pied Piper Productions– the mighty (snarrff) Giant holding a torch for Northern Soul enthusiasts everywhere, even as I write.  I never realized he’d co-written a neat little hit and title track for the film ‘You only live Twice’ for Lorraine Chandler (whatever, Nancy!).

The first time Jack Ashford graced the UK, he tells us, was in that tour organised by Brian Epstein in 1963, with Kim Weston, The Kinks and Marianne Faithfull which was cancelled whilst he and Kim were en route, mid-air.  Nevertheless he did make it back in 65, in a tour organised by Bobby Shafto (Radio Caroline), which would introduce Motown to the UK officially.  Someone in the audience whispered in my ear that the show was broadcast live from the goodship lollypop, Radio Caroline, but I dunno, did that ever happen?  Where do I download?  ….. answers on a postcard, please. My head was about to spin.  Jack Ashford told us so many stories, gave us so much, so much belly laughter.  Hell, we were only halfway through the showand we hadn’t even heard the singers, whom he soon introduced as Janine Marie, Valencia “Baby Girl” Robinson & Art Madison as they took the stage.  When he struck up the band and exited the stage, I could have died happy really.  They launched into the 1st choon, ‘Ain’t too proud to beg’, I was in a double-digit figure female herd that rushed the stage and danced like banshees.  The set-list went a little something like this:

Ain’t too Proud to Beg
Heard it through the Grapevine as Marvin (Art) vs Aretha (Baby Girl) mashup
Signed Sealed Delivered
Papa was a Rollin Stone
What’s Goin On
My Girl
Losin You
I Wish

All very competent ….. with few exceptions.   I mean there were some fluffed lines and frankly should the singers be singin from a hymn sheet?  Some of them have been on this tour for yonx. I wanted to see some soul shapes bein thrown around – show us how it’s done from the stage ya know?  Kinda brought me down.

At one point thee Jack Ashford did grab the mic from offstage left, where he was sneakily playing his tambourine like back in the day, and paused the show to deliver a sermon – “Once I was the teacher, now I’m the preacher” – for his dearly departed collaborators and conspirators from the snake pit, including Johnny Ripper, Joe Henderson, Earl van Dyke, James Jamerson.  It was moving, in spite of the cheesy keyboard and chime accompaniment.  I’ll write it again, Jack Ashford is the star of this show.  See ya in church!

TripleTrouble w Baroness - much better

Country Dirt on Radio Joy tonight

November 22nd, 2009

Wow, far as I’m concerned, Country Dirt’s arrived – on Radio Joy! Right now they’re playing PussyWhip – earlier it was Sadie & Black Velvet Heart. I’m so psyched. Thanks a trill, Johny Brown & Inga
Back in london on Madness bus

We’re doing Children in Need on Friday, Catherine Saint???? on Sunday The Big Issue – tunes at the Folgate

No clue what we’re doing with the Big Issue

What’s the complication w Madness

Roddick seen some guy got out of prison in NYC when he first sold it. He was saying that he got oout of prison it was only like a one off one or 2 pages – som ebody got Dickensian about it. Something like he reminds me of a Clerkenwell broker. I bought a tale of two cities recently. I was staying in this hotel and I was reading a couple of pages of it. Paper money and willy nilly and the man was held hostage in l.ondon and whoring and sleeping on the streets. Just before ai rang I was thinking nothing’s changed really since then. Poverty exists within the working classes. People shrug it off.

Fantastic year for Madness – 1st decade of the 21st C who woulda thought it

I’d put money on it being a fantastic year for Madness. The fact that we’re still alive as a band and still operating, says it all really. Crosby said, If you ‘re alive when you’re 50 and you’re still playing, it’s a done deal then. People come and go….

If I’d have put money on it, yes I would. When we played Benny???? Castle a few years ago. Getting messages from my jewellers? and their mates that they really dug it. We’ve got a good bunch of songs we’re a good live act, and just like in Chess, if you make the right moves, you’re in. If you make the right moves to get in front of the public, then it’s their choice. b ut with a bunch of songs like ours and still the sort of quirky, proverbial passion that we’ve got
Stage presence – story behind that – Chris Foreman out of the band any tensions within the band you keep together.
It’s a quirky thing. Mark has decided that he wants to quit the tour and have a rest. There’s a space for him to do that and there’s a mutual respect and love for him to do that. And also a concern that he’s OK. We’re friends first Political tensions are always there. It doesnt’ seem to ther’s some underlying respect there, and that’s part of a sort of checks and balances, I suppose. Chris drives me nuts and viceversa, but at the same time there’s a mutual passion underlying our beliefs.
We look like a band mostly, but sometimes we look like a bunch of people in group therapy and as in all familiies some people evolve, some don’t and some are in the process of it. I can always fall back on. With art there’s always going to be some kind of conflict, there has to be and with 7 people in our band there are 21 decisions to be made. In that environment, there’s an air of compromise – we have to give space to each other. I’m quite tense about going into rehearsals over 2 particular band members that’s OK, fIf yhou go into the boxing ring too cocky you get knocked out. I don’t mind that tensikon it comes with the package and it keeps you on your toes keeps you aware. It’s a a funny, strange beast – a band – you know

Were the roles that you play quite defined, when you were a bass player in the Invaders?

Peoples’ natures are all part of the alchemical process of what adds up to a band. From my band members’ commitment and determination to detail have been great.

Encouraging turning up to rehearsals and arrangements of songs

Timelined account

In the beginning it was very ganglike in the band -with seven members a similar dynamic to The Spice Girls. The A&R boss and soap opera beginning, the gang sort of thing – very similar to their situation or The Osmonds or The Partridge Family. It was a bit of gang before it became a band – each person had their own sort of tags.
Liberty in Folgate in long gestation – decades old some of the songs. Great songs, moves story along. Title track journey

Myself and Suggs spent many years talking about London and burning down/ scrubbing lONdon called “Vanishing London”. We were in the Crown and Goose in Camden talking about this book “The Worse Street in North London”. It dates back to when they were buildin the Roundhouse in London and when George Bernard Shaw was putting the first public toilet in Parkway and we came across the Liberty ?????? judges ?????that was just really interesting that there could have been an environment in London which drew artists to it, and once there a summons couldn’t even have been served on you. You were outside the law. That time would be a great thing to place with Madness. There’s an expression “Act global, think local” and the songs sort of evolve from that interest. A matter that we were passionate about and interested in. The songs evolve from a piece that Suggs had, and he’d worked with a piece from Mike and I’d brought in some music for the blackheads. So it sort of grew. The whole record took awhile because we never move very quickly. There are 2 batches of songs – the current stuff and the ones that we’ve had for awhile, which was Clive Langor produced and we just wanted to clear the decks you know? The whole process was about 2 or 3 years. 18 months it sort of grew.
The fear of the immigrant at the end – was derived from being in London and being Irish – you know “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish”. Through travelling, and seeing the perpetual scapegoat in every society, you develop an understanding that here’s always someone to blame whether it’s the Americans blaming the Pollocks or the Dutch blaming the Belgians. There’s always someone doing it. Heard a conversation a few years ago. Someone was discussing where would London be in 50 years, a few years ago. The guy said, I’m from Trinidad, but London’s a melting pot. I don’t want to bring my culture here. I want my culture to be assimilated here. I found that really interesting. The plight of the “immigrant” is a contemporary issue – whether it’s the Northern Ireland situation or in London or the Somalians,and feeling the basis of a lot of things like racism and violence etc
Another song – been to Ibitha advent of actual fascists in Britain in political power – you’ve experienced on a street level

It’s back to the fear thing – 79 was the recession and here we are again – people fighting for their future and want comforting. There’s a crack for the ne’er do wells and the fascist idiots to play on people’s fears. They’ve been doing it for years – taking our jobs our homes our countries. It’s v strange because on the one side the government encourages influx of cheap labour and yet they do nothing to protect people from the hatred it brings. People come here from Somalia, yet they’re reducing services that those people might need to survive. It’s the same with the old Italiam lombards – when things are tough this is when they recruit these people. I’ve always been more wary of those in the background – the faceless ones in drawing rooms and nice offices who are actually carrying that sort of hate.

The mad in madness – I always thought of myself as embodying the spirit of Madness. Me and Suggs share a bit of that. It’s a great privilege bein in the band and I don’t know where we’re heading or if age is taking over. One thinks abnout age and youth and I feel I was much more radical when I was younger – involved in the CND and Greenpeace and it’s funny how things change. I think that many of these things are designed to distract the populace from what they reallay should be worrying about. I don’t know if I’m radical anymore, I’m more family orientated. I mean you can’t even smoke in your house anymore. I worry about our liberty bein taken away. TAking liberties.

Pricing out ?????? The train takes you from one terminal to the other – they call it a free service but they defo charge.
Lee’s a bit of a poet. He works alot with Mike and Mike creates the lyrics for many of the songs.

Mrs Hutchinson is about Mike’s mum’s battle with Cancer. I felt a sort of pathos for Lee, looking at him when he was young. It always comes through in the songs. He’s a natural actor. I always thought he should have been an actor. I think he’s got it.

Many moons ago when we reformed back in ????? people asked if we thought we could pull it off. I always believed we’d be fine. We’re a band that cares and we’re a really good live band. We give a lot. I’ll be 52 this time. It’s something I’m prepared to do. It’s part of the show. We played at the Lee fest in Australia and a coupla bands like Elbow and ?????? watched from the side of the stage. From the day we supported the Pretenders at the Lyceum and blew them off the stage and we’re still feelin now 30 years later and we’re playing to 100s of 1,000s of people in Australia, it’s good to have that feeling – makes you work harder. It’s born of a very old fashioned band We’re a livin cliche – we hired a van and toured to the North to Manchester and didin’t have a record deal. We just did it ourselves Like a comedian in a working man’s club, it’s a bit of a baptism of fire.

BAss player to dancer to shouter to horn player…. – It’s partly a well-oiled machine – every gig we do we have a chat about what worked and what didn’t in the set We’ve never lost that attitude. Yes it has grown – like a family vibe where you can be yourself to an extent.
I loved that gig with Oasis in France. We’d had for a couple of months – Oasis didn’t want to follow us on the mainstage, so we endured playing the second stage. We just said, “Fuck it, we don’t care”, then Oasis split up. The promoter came up to us and said, “Will you play? We’ve got no one, we’ve got no one” and we said, “Of course we’ll play”. We did 3 nights at Whiskey-a-go-go in LA 2 shows a night. That feeling of the underdog was very motivating – it was a real buzz – and it made us better. I think Madness feeds off of that energy.

If you’re not there today, try later on the archives

Twin powers ACTIVATE!

Twin powers ACTIVATE!

A night of Holy Joy @ The Buffalo Bar

November 22nd, 2009

“They’re in the basement!…”

Country Dirt  had what I’d recall as our 1st London gig – ie proper audience of chinstrokers’ anonymous.  Great set, great night out – dark & rainy as it was.  Gavin Martin shined his countenance upon us, and we were truly blessed on a night of Holy Joy underground at The Buffalo Bar.

“What a night with excellent live music from Jamie Jamieson (12 Dirty Bullets)  doing an acoustic set and Country Dirt fronted by the sensational Marianne Hyatt (I am biased but thats what other people said too!).”

He also had us jumpin round the joint, with diy shakers, to his fab punk-n-soul revival set, and again I had to be edumucated bout my home state all the way across the pond and how many years later?  By way of walk-on music to Country Dirt’s performance, Gavin introduced the crowd to a track by a li’l ol band from San Antonio, Texas called the Sir Douglas Quintet, with a tune entitled “She’s About a Mover”.  Never heard of em before last night, now I just gotta have mo.  Fellow DJ Dele Fadele spun out some amazing Moroccan grooves, Slavonic line dance choons, hell even Siouxie Sioux was on the menu – I mean whaddaya got, Mr?  Our hosts Johny & Inga from the mighty Band of Holy Joy gave us a set of  beautiful obscurity in nearly every genre – love it when I can’t figure out why the music moves me, quite literally – where I don’t recognise a song but it immediately resonates and I gotta throw shapes?  However, I could pick out a few sophisticated classics when they played “Je T’aime” and Nina Simone’s “I Think it’s Gonna Rain Today”.  Just …. swooney!

But that was just the launch.  It’ll be on a monthly loop.  Y’all come back now ya here?

The Buffalo Bar, 259 Upper St  N1 (1st thang you see exitin Highbury & Islington tube, right beneath  Famous Cock)

8pm,Saturday 21 Nov – Country [email protected] Buffalo Bar, Islington – free guestlist!

November 20th, 2009

Radio Joy hosts a sparkling Saturday night’s musical entertainment at The Buffalo Bar, Islington

Lineup:  Johny Brown & Inga, legendary Band of Holy Joy – + Jamie Jamieson, 12 Dirty Bullets – +  Country Dirt –

Country Dirt - Sing out Sistah!

Country Dirt - Sing out Sistah!


DJs:  Gavin Martin, Del Fadele, Nick Halsted & Chris Carr

8pm-3am, £5 less’n ya comment below for the free guestlist

Buffalo Bar, 259 Upper Street  N1 1RU  020 7359 6191 (nr Highbury & Islington tube, below The Cock)

And finally the 1st final – FRock RAWKS!!

November 19th, 2009

Got some special mention on Gavin Martin’s FRock Blog for the big quiz finals – based on Pete Frame’s legendary Rock Family Trees – Wednesday 18th November at the historic Elgin pub in Ladbroke Grove. Thanks a trill, Gavin!


And to close the evening came the amazing Country Dirt. I’m biased, of course. But they are great AND they got people dancing.


So  great was the music and so good the chat afterwards that I ALMOST could forgive The Elgin ipod for –  not once but twice! –  breaking the cardinal rule of ANY venue with its eyes set  on rock glory – NO COLDPLAY ON THE SOUNDSYSTEM.

Still a good time was had by All (All Green that is, brother of Al).

Lets do it agin, y’all.

Country Dirt play Family of ROCK Quiz Finals-The Elgin, Ladbroke Grove – 18 Nov 19.30

November 16th, 2009


Yes, it's the real me!

Yes, it's the real me!

 Big Guitar

Q: Where did Strummer set up his London club night whilst in the the “101’s”?

A: The Elgin, Ladbroke Grove

Q: This Weds, where will COUNTRY DIRT play the song which kicked off the Clash’s Shea Stadium gig?

A: The Elgin, Ladbroke Grove

Q: What was that song?

A: If you don’t know smarten up this Weds 19.30 at the Family of Rock Quiz Finale

THE ELGIN, 96 Ladbroke Grove, London W11 1PY

Hint: Do you hear that?! (3 boots to 2 the rear) THAT’S opportunity knockin!!!

Don’t let the Nun go down on Me!

November 10th, 2009

Fer £4 Country Dirt(Alt Psyche-Cuntronica)play EasyCome – 11th Nov 9pm


EasyCome – London’s longest running acoustic club for 17 years

EasyCome, Old Nun’s Head, Nunhead Lane London SE15 3QQ

[email protected]

WHAT A WEEK by Gavin Martin, The Family of Rock – 11 October

November 4th, 2009

'While the poor people sleeping...'Pic: Gavin Martin

‘While the poor people sleeping…’Pic: Gavin Martin

Wednesday  7th  Down south of the river to The Old Nun’s Head Nunhead where Andy Hankdog Williams hosts London’s longest standing acoustic session, electrified tonight  by Country Dirt the recently assembled band featuring Patmo ex of Big Self (one of the best but largely unsung bands of Belfast’s post punk late 70s era) and Marianne Hyatt  – opera trained,Choctaw Texan actress, model, songwriter  adding aural shooting stars and neon fire to the roadhouse vibe.

Last time I saw Patmo was 30 years ago , left his flat in the Fitzroy Avenue of V Morrison’s Madame George’s fame and , maybe because of something I smoked (like Van said M George does in the song), I went into  a dream.

Waking up 30 years later – Rip Van Winkle alike – in the Nun I was bowled over by Patmo’s new original, honky tonk classic Big Guitar.

Not only was it an expression of the character I fondly recalled from  30 years ago but also a tune that accounted for  last 3 decades of performing  his  music for small financial reward but a whole lotta love.

The appeal of a  Big Guitar?

“Its like driving a car…at 90 miles and hour.”

Will the circle be unbroken?