Rodney Matthews Vortex cover

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I found this the other day, Vortex #2 from February 1976. Lovely Rodney Matthews cover and there’s a 5 page interview with him inside as well as short stories from Michael Moorcock and others. The pages are all watermarked and the cover was filthy with all sorts of grime stuck to it, I’d wager that it had been skinned up on many a time over the years. Still a thing of beauty and I love that Vortex typeface.

The Dragons in Shindig! magazine #49

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My article on The Dragons is in issue #49 of Shindig! Magazine – out now, 6 pages too. New interviews with Doug & Dennis Dragon plus Donn Landee who produced their BFI album. After their recent publisher troubles the mag is back and as good as ever, you should be able to find it in most WH Smiths and decent record shops. If the article piques your interest and you want to hear the music they made then Ninja Tune still has digital and CDs in stock although the vinyl is long gone.
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Look-In magazine covers

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Painted covers for the UK weekly magazine/comic Look-In from a huge online collection over at Comic Vine.
I used to get this in the late 70s and early 80s although I’m not sure I had many of these issues. The mag was full of tie-ins with TV, film and music with features, comic strips, interviews and posters. They sure had favourites as well, Steve Austin – The Six Million Dollar Man was on so many covers and DJ Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart seemed to rule for a period in the 70s (check for two of him inside the gallery below).

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The NME goes free

ABC NME cover '81

After the news that the NME was going to be free as of September yesterday I dug out these old covers from over 30 years ago. I never read it until the late 80s and 90s but have since gone back and waded through years of issues for various research purposes and the breath of subjects covered, the writing, the photography and even the design sometimes, was taken for granted on a weekly basis. Barney Bubbles designed the logo seen on these covers too. Check the Sly & Robbie feature below for the skewed design and the Frank Sinatra wraparound cover which seems apt after the news.
Along with the Melody Maker, Sounds and Record Mirror (four weekly music mags!) it was the only one to survive, having weathered the storm since 1952. This latest move – this ‘last throw of the dice’ as someone called it – seems to indicate that we’re another step down the road, another nail in the coffin, where the worth of others’ creativity is reduced to practically zero. Rockin’ in the Free World.

BEF NME cover '82

Sly & Robbie NME feature '81 Girlschool NME cover '81 Sinatra, NME Jan '85

Posted in Design, Magazines, Music. | 2 Comments |

Simon Reynolds on Ambient from 1993

img_0419Music Journalist Simon Reynolds – author of Rip it Up & Start Again, Retromania, Energy Flash and more – has put some articles up that he wrote about the Ambient scene in the UK for Melody Maker in 1993 on his blog. The reason I’m including them here is because this was the first proper interview I ever did for a music publication and I love Reynolds’ writing in general (despite his need to define and compartmentalise micro scenes before they’ve fully evolved all the time). An interesting look back but I think he was shoe-horning what we were doing into his collection of interviewees and possibly using us as a link the other bands to the Ambient/Chill Out scene at the time.

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Found In Sounds #7 (Old School Hip Hop special)

Electro Funk cover Sounds 14.04.84

An Old School special this time round with vintage cuttings from early 80s copies of the weekly UK music paper, Sounds. Traditionally a Rock and Heavy Metal-biased magazine, they still found time to cover some of the bigger stars from the emerging New York scene. They went all out in 1984 with an Electro Funk special issue (above).
Below is an early Bambaataa chart – check #10. An early UK rap gig at the Comedy Store is reviewed and Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Bam, the Sugarhill Gang and more are interviewed.

I like looking back on images and articles like this from a time when I was too young to know that this was even happening, you see a less revisionist history as the movement and artists are in the midst or even before their peak years. Details that have been lost in time are revealed and a few oddities pop up that make you re-evaluate accepted norms. Click on each image for the full size.

Rap chart Sounds 1984 Rap review Comedy Store Kurtis Blow Sounds 15.08.81 GMFlash Sounds 18.09.82 GMFlash Sounds 11.12.82 Afrika Bam SOUNDS_19.02.83 Rapping 2 Sounds 13.03.82 Rapping 3 Sounds 13.03.82

Shindig magazine takeover and rebranding

Shindig47There’s something going on that I feel I need to share with readers of this blog as it involves a magazine that I’m very fond of and, of late, have had dealings with. Shindig! is one of the only music magazines I regularly read, possibly the most informative about certain areas of music I’m particularly interested in, but also one that has recently been the subject of a sudden takeover by their publisher.

A little history: Shindig! started out as a fanzine, edited by Jon ‘Mojo’ Mills and Andrew Morten, specialising in Psych, Garage, Beat, Powerpop, Soul and Folk. Volcano Publishing started working with them in 2007, initially publishing six times a year and getting them into record stores and newsagents, inc. WH Smiths. The mag then went monthly and, despite heavily focusing on 60s and 70s artists, also embraced the new and covered many new bands making music in these styles which is what initially drew me to it in 2013 when they featured Broadcast, Ghost Box, Giallo soundtracks and more.

Earlier this week news started to filter out that the next issue (original cover above) had been doctored by the publisher without the editor’s consent and rebranded as ‘Kaleidoscope’ (incorporating Shindig!). Relations between the mag and the publisher had been rocky for some time and things had come to a head to the effect that Volcano Publishing had taken control of the mag, re-titling it as they don’t own the name Shindig!, cutting off email addresses and re-routing Shindig’s website address to their new ‘Kaleidoscope’ pages. See their own statement of intent and events here.

Jon Mills posted on the Shindig Facebook page on April 8th, “there is bad shit going on in Shindigland. Our old publisher is rebranding without Andy or I (who I think everyone knows ARE Shindig!) This new Kaleidoscope title is not Shindig!, although the first issue contains elements of what would and should have been Shindig! #47. It’s a sham and something I know our readers will not be happy about. The editorial policy is not ours. We as editors are not responsible and are as shocked by this as you. A full statement will follow. In the meantime we are working on means and ways to continue Shindig! in the format we all cherish. Our site is no longer functional so please watch this space. More soon.”

Since then there has been a more detailed statement from Andy which you can be read here. There seem to be allusions to the Shindig twitter account being censored so they have set up a new one here. It’s all pretty depressing sounding stuff and I can only feel for them after spending years building up the magazine to a point where the music they were covering and the new musical landscape were in perfect synch. I’d previously pegged the mag as another Mojo but it’s far more than that, focusing on lesser-known, more underground bands as well the more leftfield of the old guard. No endless rehashes of Beatles, Stones or Dylan features year in year out, which, let’s face it, have been examined to within an inch of their lives in other publications now. On a purely personal note it’s galling for me for a number of reasons, mainly because I’d found a magazine that covered many areas of music sadly lacking from other print media that now seems to be being co-opted into something else. I’ve not seen the new rebrand but the cover above is from a pdf of the pre-doctored version so it will be interesting to compare the two come Record Store Day, two days after ‘Kaleidoscope’ has cannily been slated for release. (Side note: I wonder if the new mag is aware of the Italian ‘visual culture’ ‘Kaleidoscope’?)

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Two other reasons to be gutted by these events: I had a letter printed in the next issue, it’s in the version at the top (which won’t see print as is) but whether it will appear in the new ‘Kaleidoscope’ variant remains to be seen (oh the irony of that name too). The letter was praising the mag and its current direction whilst offering suggestions for future inclusions and in light of these recent changes it will unfortunately leave a bad taste in the mouth if they run it. The other pisser is that I was just finishing my first feature for Shindig! as I heard the news – an examination of The Dragons‘ history and the tale of issuing their lost ‘B.F.I.’ LP alongside new interviews with the brothers. It may yet see print as Jon and Andy are taking steps to relaunch but these events are still unfolding so I’ll try to update this as more info emerges.

You can follow their progress at the Shindig Facebook page and Twitter accounts, if you’re a fan of the mag and didn’t know about these events then I urge you to read their posts as it’s quite eye-opening. If you never saw an issue before but are curious about this kind of music and more then investigate Shindig! if you get the chance, it’s the kind of mag that some record stores have back issues of. I’m confident that Jon and Andy will come back in full control of their title because they have a loyal fan base but many will see a new magazine called ‘Kaleidoscope’ in the racks of their record shops on April 18th and not know the background to how it came into existence.

This is a perfectly-timed move for a new title to launch with the artificially-swelled ranks of the RSD audience in the right place at the right time to form a new readership, something I’d bet the publisher is counting on. I only hope that Jon and Andy can recover from this hijacking quickly, keep their team of writers onside and come back doing what they do best. I’d wager that there will only be room for one publication of music of this ilk (although wouldn’t it be nice to be proved wrong – no matter the circumstances of their coming into existence?) Hopefully this split will be for the best for both and even give Shindig! some extra publicity.

*UPDATE: Jon and Andy have a new website up now with their statement about the whole affair on it – visit: www.shindig-mag.com and read what they have to say.

They have a new podcast too with messages and songs of support from all over the world plus that statement again.

Shindig! Broadcast #15 by Jon Mills on Mixcloud

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Savage Pencil Slam City Skates advertising

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Several items from my collection of Savage Pencil / SavX aka Edwin Pouncey‘s advertising for the Slam City Skates shop. (Above) A rare Slam City Skates bag from 1990, the reverse had a similar image but advertised the Rough Trade record shops, one of which had a space in the basement below SCS’s Covent Garden branch.
(Below) Several adverts by Savage Pencil for the Slam City Skates shop from 1986, 1984 and 1987. The 1976 – 1986 flyer is a Battle Of The Eyes production by SavX and Chris Long.
SAVX_SCS1 SavX_SCSad2SavX_SCS_RTad   SavXSCSad87

Retro Synth Ads highlights

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Trawling through the Retro Synth Ads site, looking for info on the Arp Omni flexi disc I posted in the Flexibition, I found all manner of great adverts from the 70’s, a time when designers played with the format a bit more. Here are my pick of the ones I came across although there’s over 5 years worth of posts to go through so I probably missed some. The Arp poster above is my favourite, would love one of those framed, there’s also some beautiful typefaces on display too.

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vibronics_maraprCont Keyboard1976p37ck

Top 10 DJ Food Kraftwerk covers from Tsugi magazine

Back at the end of 2014 the French magazine Tsugi devoted an issue entirely to Kraftwerk. They gave me a 4 page feature where I was asked to choose my top 10 Kraftwerk cover versions and I promised to post an English language version of the text here in the new year. Seeing as the magazine should have been and gone from the shelves by now, here it is.
Tsugi Kraftwerk cover
The questions from Tsugi magazine:

When and how did you discover Kraftwerk ?

When I was 11 in early 1982 ‘The Model’ became a no.1 hit in the UK and I was suddenly aware of this ‘new’ electronic group from Germany in the charts alongside The Human League, Depeche Mode and Gary Numan. As a result EMI reissued most of their back catalogue and I bought Man Machine, Computer World and Trans Europe Express on cassette which I loved.

What do you like in Kraftwerk ?
The melodies first and foremost but also the electronic drums and percussion, I just find the songs very pure, simple and timeless. Plus they were singing about the future, robots, spaceships, computers etc. and that appealed to me rather than love songs at that age even though they wrote those too.

Do you have a special story related to yourself and Kraftwerk ?
I actually first heard them when I was about 5 years old on a tape my dad had recorded from the radio although I didn’t realise it was them until much later. The song was ‘Autobahn’ and I always remember liking it when it came on the tape but was a bit scared of the breakdown part with the motorway sounds as it reminded me of the Cybermen in Dr Who. When I bought the reissues of their albums later on I realised that I already knew ‘Autobahn’ although it was a very edited radio version, not the long LP one.

Why are you so passionate about Krafwerk’s covers ?
Being a fan of the band was difficult because they didn’t release anything new for so long so I began to seek out cover versions as a way to fill the gap they had left. It happens with many artists who don’t release new music regularly these days – Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin are just two examples. Fans show their love of an artist by covering their songs.

Do you think that sometimes covers are better than originals ones ?
Occasionally they can be, when someone takes the song into a new style or territory and these are the ones I primarily look for. I don’t see much point in recreating a techno version of a Kraftwerk song although people have done it very well. For me the most interesting ones are those that transpose the songs into a new style but still retain the essence or ones that take the song to an extreme that becomes comedic.

How many covers have you ?
Of Kraftwerk, probably about 300 but there are many more out there, for every cover I hear and like I probably hear another two techno / electro / house versions that I discard because they are just poor copies of the originals.
Tsugi KraftwerkFoodspread1
What are your 10 favorites cover records and for each, could you explain me why?

Gaudi & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Dil Da Rog Muka Ja Mahi (KKK vol.7)
An Indian version of ‘The Model’ but only just, I’m not sure how I found this, possibly on a now discontinued blog of cover versions of various artists. I think the blogger listed 70 different versions of The Model alone.

Makoto Inoue – Europe Endless/Neon Lights (KKK vol. 1 & 3)
Beautiful Gamelan versions of these rarely covered songs, this cover really takes it to another genre entirely, transposing the melodies to sound like an ancient tribe is playing the songs. Nothing electronic about it at all, in fact a lot of my favourite covers are ones that take Kraftwerk’s songs into other genres of sound altogether.

Das Erste Wiener Gemueseorchester (First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra) – Radio Activity (KKK vol.2)
The whole thing is played on vegetables, I’m not kidding and it’s as mad as it sounds but you can heard the song in amongst all the weird sounds. One of the weirdest Kraftwerk covers I’ve ever heard.

Miladojka Youneed – Pocket Calculator (live) (KKK vol.2)
A rawkus almost country version with saxophone and harmony singing. you can almost see the stetsons on their heads. This sounds as if the group has learnt the song from reading the notes and lyrics in a book but never heard the original but they sound like they’re having such a great time playing it.

Satoru Wono feat. Meiwa Denki – Dentaku (KKK vol.2)
A Japanese version with very busy percussion and woodwind instruments, very odd but works perfectly. The vocals still sound robotic but there are spoken in Japanese making this even more alien, the playing is very mechanical and precise despite the organic sounds of the instruments.

Alenia – Home Computer (KKK vol.4)
Quite a straight electronic version but I brings something to the original I can’t put my finger on, maybe this is one of those covers that makes the song perfect for today’s clubs, it’s a bit heavier than the original but still quirky.

6Blocc – Digits (KKK vol.5)
A very detailed dubstep version that updates ‘Numbers’ for the dance floor, it cleverly re-edits the drums and bassline into a half time skank and just about keeps everything from falling down.

Case Managers – Autobahn (KKK vol.5)
Absolutely bonkers Australian version, sounds like it was recorded live at the BBQ after many beers had been consumed, very funny. The singers (all male) seem to get drunker and drunker as the song progresses, the absolute opposite of what Kraftwerk are on record.

Menschmaschine – Spacelab (KKK vol.8) Beautiful jazz version, just stunning, the whole build up of the intro had me from the first listen and I’d say this is probably one of my favourite Kraftwerk covers ever. In fact I recommend the whole Menschmaschine album of jazz cover versions of Kraftwerk’s music

Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Das Modell (KKK vol.8)
‘The Model’ is the most covered song in the band’s catalogue but this one is by a female choir from Belgium. Again another example of a version where there are no electronics and the song is easily carried by the melody and lyrics across to another genre.

You can find all my Kraftwerk Kover Kollection mixes so far here:

Tsugi KraftwerkFoodspread2

Shindig! magazine no.42 with free Cherrystones CD

Can’t say enough good things about Shindig! magazine, a decent blend of well-written articles and reviews on as much new as old music in the psyche, prog, rock and experimental vein.

Not as dry and repetitive as Record Collector and digging a bit further underground than Mojo. This month’s issue contains a Rocket Recordings mix CD by Cherrystones too.

Four Four Fatherhood article

I took part in an article about parenting and DJing, talking about my experience playing at the Big Fish Little Fish party. It’s over on Inverted Audio and it’s actually part 4 of a series with lots of other DJs talking about their take on partying after parenthood. Talking of BFLF, I’ll be taking to the decks for a second time with them this coming autumn in South London, announcement soon…

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‘Giant’ 12″ plug and ‘Soul Mining’ Q&A

Nice to run across a little plug for The The’s ‘GIANT’ 12″ I share billing with in the latest issue of Classic Pop magazine (issue 11, Kate Bush cover). For all those who remember Smash Hits from back in the day and yearn to break free of the endless rehashing of the Beatles/Stones/Who/Dylan/Zeppelin pop/rock mafia in the other music monthlies – this is the mag for you. Not as lightweight as Smash Hits but not as nerdy as Record Collector, it finds a fine balance between in-depth interviews, retrospective pieces, current reviews and where are they now and what have they been up to news.

In other The The news (try saying that when pissed) it’s only 3 weeks until I get to quiz Matt Johnson about the making of ‘Soul Mining’ over at Rough Trade East on June 30th. The same day sees the release of the 30th anniversary edition of the album of the same name. You can find out more info here.

Found In Sounds #3

In last weeks ‘Found in Sounds’ the PIL riot in New York is covered first hand with a great cover quote and photo of Lydon. Irmin Schmidt is quizzed about working with Bruno Spoerri and witnessing Cage’s ‘4’33″‘ for the first time. There are vintage film listings from London’s Leicester Square cinemas, Garry Bushell declares his love of Adam Ant‘s music (finally) and The Sweet talk about touring with ‘monster dicks’.

Bushell Sweet web

Found In Sounds #2

Fantastic Mod cover design from a 1979 issue of Sounds. Below, Soft Cell reveal that they’re doing ‘a Northern Soul number’ in their live set, Savage Pencil then and now (check out the Battle of the Eyes exhibition at Orbital Comics at the moment), Tommy Vance on John Lydon, an advert for the Boy store, a Blondie gig has some very cool guests and reviews of Prince live in NYC and at his first gig in the UK at the Lyceum in 1981.

Found In Sounds #1

Last year I purchased a huge pile of Sounds newspapers from a seller on eBay covering the years 1980-1983. I’m slowly going through them day by day and either scanning or snapping things that I find interesting. This can be news items, adverts, interview snippets, comics, covers or other trivia that has become more interesting with the passing of time. Sounds was a weekly music paper along the lines of the NME and Melody Maker in the UK, all three published on a Wednesday and all now defunct except for the NME, which is recognisable in name only from its 80’s heyday.

Sounds was always known for favouring Rock, Heavy Metal and Punk, with a straighter, less arty bias to groups. They didn’t have the Paul Morleys, Ian Penmans, Nick Kents or Simon Reynolds‘ writing for them, instead they had Garry Bushell who championed the Oi movement with its dodgy skinhead bootboy overtones. During the period that these issues cover, the ‘Futurist’ movement is emerging, what’s now known as ‘Post Punk’ or ‘Synth Pop’ but back then was a product of digital technology becoming more affordable mixed with the Blitz-era nightlife and the ‘New Romantic’ scenes.

I’ve been posting images daily on my Facebook account but will do weekly round ups here if I can as the material can be illuminating with the benefit of 30+ years of hindsight. What smacks most is that nothing really changes much, bands are still built up and lauded only to be ridiculed and knocked down once they’re successful. You can spot the hype from the hope and certain names crop up again and again, week on week, clearly getting the preferential treatment afforded by friendships with certain journalists regardless of their merits. The industry is always on a downturn with profits threatened by some new format, this time it’s the cassette that’s killing music with just the first hints of the CD revolution to come. Albums and singles, now considered bonafide classics, are savaged in the review columns and information on forgotten or lost bands is ripe for rediscovery via the all-knowing web.

All in all I find it a fascinating weekly soap opera and I’ll be sharing the highlights here.

First up, a ‘Futurist’ chart followed by photos from a Futurist ‘summit’ interview where members of The Human League, Throbbing Gristle, Non, Nurse With Wound and Lemon Kittens largely argued against being labeled with the term.

Next, ‘Cassettes: Is this the Future of Rock’n’Roll?’ with Island Records‘ 1+1 tapes causing a stir because they feature an album on one side and a blank side for recording your own sounds on the other. Then, as the ‘tape war’ hots up, labels are too busy scrambling to notice a certain ‘laser disc’ quietly arriving on the scene.

The cassette hoo-ha was one that was largely antagonised by Malcolm McLaren, who was an open advocate of home taping and used it as a gimmick to sell the band he was managing, Bow Wow Wow. It was a lucky coincidence that the fashion of the day was a swashbuckling pirate look and the combination of that and the term ‘pirate’ being someone who made bootleg items was too good to resist.

Record prices rise shock! Vinyl goes up from 99p to £1.20 and labels want the shops to bear the brunt. In other news, heavy band get banned from working mens clubs for being too loud and not packing away fast enough. Rock n Roll. Lastly, as he’s been in the news this week for playing live in London, Prince’s first gig in the UK, advertised at the back of the paper amongst all the other concerts that week, only £3.00 on the door.

Kraftwerk and ‘The Cold Wave’ in Sounds 26.11.77

The now defunct weekly UK music paper, Sounds, had a reputation for championing Rock and Heavy Metal above everything else. Writers Garry Bushell and Jon Savage raved and wrote about Oi and Punk respectively but there was more to the paper. 1977: The Queen’s Jubilee and the height of Punk in the media, right? Not by late November in Sounds it wasn’t, this was also the year ‘Trans Europe Express’ was released.

A stark cover featured Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider photographed on the banks of the Rhine in their hometown of Dusseldorf by Caroline Coon, a two page interview leading the first part of a look at ‘New Musick: The Cold Wave’. Interviews or pieces on Eno, Throbbing Gristle, The Residents and Devo all appear by Savage, Jane Suck and Hal Synthetic (love these writing pseudonyms). Not very Rock or Punk.

The Kraftwerk interview is fascinating, with Florian almost adding as much as Hutter and the two finishing each other’s sentences. Hutter mentions the term ‘Electronic Body Music’ and they talk about putting together comics detailing the themes of their music, I wonder what happened to them? Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flur aren’t even mentioned although they do appear in at least one of the photos in the piece. It’s interesting to note that Ralf and Florian picked the journalist up from the airport and showed him about the city before the interview was conducted inside their Kling Klang studios. That certainly wouldn’t happen today. See more photos from the shoot, including a smiling Ralf & Florian that were not featured in the article, here.

The Eno piece is typical, well… Eno, he talks and talks about his ideas, just as he always does, with his sideways looks at subjects ranging from dub reggae to Eskimos engineering US Air Force jets in Alaska. There’s no attempt at cross examination and the ‘interview’ is distilled from five hours of chat into two Eno’s: the non-musician and the theorist. Along with Throbbing Gristle refusing to issue forth any kind of manifesto but the paper giving their ‘2nd Annual Report’ a 5 star review and a fairly scathing feature on the Residents, it’s an odd collection. The rest of the paper features things like ads for The Damned’s second album, Kiss’ ‘Kiss Alive II’ and the new Rick Wakeman LP, live reviews of The Jam, Richard Hell and Blondie sit with articles on Pub Rock and The Eaters (no, me neither) and a very early Savage Pencil episode of ‘Rock & Roll Zoo’.