As you’ll have read in last week’s instalment, a week’s stay in London for Mrs M meant time for her to do the shoe and fashion thing during the day, but it also gave us the chance to catch up with friends in the evenings. Little did we expect, though, that we would end up seeing one of our favourite bands on one of their rare UK tours.
It’s always a huge pleasure to spend time with Martin and Claire Heaphy, but inevitably it’s in the context of a gig or, whenever we can manage it, the superb Hubba Hubba Club that Martin runs with Irvin Gordon in Euston. I’ve written about the Hubba Hubba before and it’s going strong, maintaining its aim of sticking to rockabilly club and resisting the temptation to widen the playlist into some of the other areas close to the 50s sound – not that there’s anything wrong with any of those closely related genres, but a real roots rockabilly club is a gem to be treasured.
Anyway, the only drawback is that it doesn’t give much opportunity to get into the kind of in-depth conversation that one can only have with friends who have not only lived the rock’n’roll scene since their teenage but have also meticulously researched the music, clothes, books and social history which chart it. We’re now reaching a time when those who actually lived through the 1950s as teenagers can have their memories coloured by the way their own youth is played back to them in the media and popular culture, so original sources become all the more valuable in showing us just what it was like. So it was great to spend an evening over tapas near Kings Cross, deep in debate over such arcane subjects as the genesis and popularisation of the brothel creeper (check out the ones Peter Sellers is wearing as he’s dangled over the railway viaduct parapet in The Ladykillers – I’ve finally managed to find a pair like it!), and the cover art of British pulp paperbacks of the 50s (one of the rare places one can find illustrations of contemporary youth fashions in colour to counter the impression we get from photos of the time that everyone dressed entirely in black and white).
So, a great night of wide-ranging conversation, much of which will, I’m sure, fuel future posts on this blog, but the added surprise bonus was the chance to join them and other friends for a gig by the Sonics on the Thursday evening at the Forum in Kentish Town – one of our favourite original bands, in a venue that we knew well from rockin’ days as the Town and Country, and we hadn’t even realised they were in the UK!
Originally formed in 1960 in Tacoma, Washington, playing rock’n’roll standards, the Sonics really got into their stride in 1964 with their debut single ‘The Witch’, featuring a hard edged guitar, sax and drum sound, with vocals off the meter in recording style that involving ripping the soundproofing off the walls of the studio, helping to coin the literal genre ‘garage’. Two seminal albums followed, ‘Here Are The Sonics’ and ‘Boom’, featuring timeless tracks such as ‘Have Love With Travel’, ‘Boss Hoss’, and the very dark ‘Strychnine’ and ‘Psycho’. They disbanded only a few years later as being pressured into a slicker style of recording coincided with the band members starting to pursue other careers, and that was it apart from a single reunion gig in 1972 until a resurgence of interest in their groundbreaking sound drew three of the original members back together again in 2007, backed by other original musicians from the same scene. They made their first visit to the UK in 2008, playing their first UK gig at the Forum, and have been fairly regular visitors since. When we saw them last year at Koko in Camden, we little thought they’d be back so soon, but the release of their first album in forty years has sent them back on tour – and there we were in the audience for their final UK gig before they headed off to Spain.
From the original mid 60s line up are Gerry Roslie on vocals and keyboards, Larry Parypa on guitar, and Rob Lind on tenor sax. They’re supported by Dusty Watson on drums, and bassist and vocalist Freddie Dennis, whose screaming vocal delivery suits the band perfectly. The playlist switched effortlessly between their new material, which includes some covers of 50s classics, and the tracks from their original albums which, quite frankly, were what the audience were there to hear. Given that the original members must be well into their 70s, there’s no sense that they’re going through the motions – these guys are plainly up on stage because they want to be, enjoying making lots of noise, and making it just as effectively as they made it 50 years ago.
What a week – great music, great friends, and Mrs M all to myself. Time to go off and play a bit of Sonics – and hope the neighbours are out!