Sunday 16 June 2013

This Way To The Speakeasy

Co-managers of Speakeasy Roy Flynn and Mike Carey with female friends, 1967

Recently, I found this NME article from May 1967 about Swinging London club Speakeasy.  It was a regular hangout for the musicians of the era. The club, located at 48 Margaret Street, opened in the late 1966, and soon became what Tony Bacon describes in his book London Live as Handy new watering hole, a prime early hours jamming post, and altogether useful hanging-out kind of place (p 101). The decor of the club was inspired by prohibition-era American speakeasies - it even had a fake 'front' - an undertaker's parlour. Another prominent feature of the venue was a portrait of Al Capone painted by Barry Fantoni.

NME article by Norrie Drummond (click to enlarge)

Managers Roy Flynn said in the NME interview:We want The Speakeasy to be a club which people really like to go to rather than the one which people go to, because it's the done thing. Soon, however Speakeasy would become absolutely out of bounds for ordinary people. As Tony Bacon writes:  It became legendary as the club to which entrance was easy only for those with at least one hit record that week. 'Hard to get into? No , nearly impossible if you're not a member' wrote Penny Valentine in Disc, "and even harder because it's so full. Therefore try to latch on to a happy-hippie scene goer who belongs" (p 103). 
Apart from being a rock stars' hangout, The Speakeasy was also, an uber-exclusive gig venue. In the article, The Soft Machine are described as 'resident group' and are pictured jamming with Jimi Hendrix. A stream of good bands performed at the Speak - wrote Tony Bacon - Hendrix's Experience was among the first in January 1967. Marianne Faithfull said that when she went there to see the great guitarist with Mick Jagger, Mr. Jimi tried to seduce her, whispering: 'What are you doing with this jerk, anyway?'. Cream appeared in August, just before jetting off for their first US tour with compere Frank Zappa introducing them as 'dandy little combo' (...) 
 Interior of the Speakeasy

 The Speakeasy was also the key place to go if you fancied a jam.'There was a lot of blowing at the Speak', Charlie Whitney of Family agrees.'People like Ritchie Blackmore would just get up. Hendrix was always blowing there. Couldn't get him off! He didn't care what he played, either: guitar, bass, anything he'd be there. And with anybody. It was definitely the after-hours musician's place. Chris Welch from Melody Maker had another theory for the Speakeasy's popularity.'(It was) because of the tireless patience of the head waiter and the staff, who didn't seem to mind too much when Mr. Moon appeared naked letting off fire extinguishers, or Ginger Baker hurled the odd dinner at some rival who displeased him'. For some, however, it was all a bit too much. Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt, for example:'Rock groups meeting in expensive clubs that are difficult to get into? What's all that crap? (p 104).

Hendrix and entourage at the Speakeasy, 1967

Speakeasy aside, on the same page of NME as the Speakeasy article, there are two ads - one for cool clothing outlet Harry Fenton, and one for Lambretta.

Although it's hard to find any information about Harry Fenton, the ad is certainly impressive - it pictures a hip young man in double-breasted jacket - a dedicated follower of fashion, whom you'd expect to see on the streets of London in 1967.

The Lambretta ad looks, by comparison, pretty dated. Yes, the font at the top hints at 'flower-power', but the drawing of  a mod and his female companions belongs more to 1965 rather than 1967 (apparently, in 1967 scooter sales in Britain had fallen dramatically, forcing Vespa and Lambretta to do aggressive ad campaigns. Vespa even tried to launch a trend for 'flower-power scooters' with psychedelic patters. Luckily, it didn't catch on).

Sources: NME magazine, issue from (week ending) 20 May, 1967
Tony Bacon, London Live, Balafon Books, London, 1999

Sunday 9 June 2013

Small Faces - 1960's Peacock Style Icons

Small Faces photographed by Gered Mankowitz in 1968

For some reason, I've never devoted much space to Small Faces in here, so it's about time I did a little post about them. Not only they were one of the best British bands of the 1960's, but they were also one of the best dressed bands of that era. Although undoubtedly the mod icons - Steve Marriott deserves a nickname 'Modfather' much more than Paul Weller - they remained a great-looking band even after Mod style went out of fashion. It is rumoured that during their existence, the band would spend roughly about £12.000 on clothes each year. Although this figure  simply must be an exaggeration - £12.000 in the mid-Sixties was an equivalent of around £270.000 today - Small Faces certainly were very frequent visitors to Carnaby Street and King's Road. Here, I've put up some of my favourite photos of Small Faces as well as some original ads and articles from 1966 - 1968 period, when Marriott and co. abandoned Mod fashions and 'went psychedelic'. 

Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane shopping in Carnaby Street during last days of Mod in 1966

Covers of Rave magazine from 1966-1967 featuring Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane and female friends

Kenney Jones circa 1966

Ronnie Lane in 1966. I love that double-breasted jacket he's wearing..

Shot from FAB 208 magazine, April 1967
Small Faces poster in Record Mirror, 1967

Small Faces in Jackie, 1967

TV performance, 1967

Small Faces in Top Pops, 1967. I love Ian McLagan's shirt.

Press ad for Small Faces' first album
NME article about Small faces shared house in Pimlico, 1966

Small Faces performing 'Tin Soldier' on German TV show The Beat Club in 1967. I love Steve Marriott's frilly shirt..
Small Faces in their psychedelic gear, 1967

Marriott and Lane onstage, 1967

Happiness is a Small Face - article on Small Faces in Mirabelle, 1967

Pop Romance - Article in Rave magazine about Steve Marriott's short-lived affair with Chrissie Shrimpton - younger and prettier sister of Jean (and Mick Jagger's ex), 1967.

Steve Marriott and Chrissie Shrimpton, 1967

During a photoshoot for a cover of There Are But Four Small Faces, 1967

Press ad for There Are But Four Small Faces, 1967

Ronnie Lane, 1967

Steve Marriott, 1967

Ian McLagan marries Ready Steady Go dancer Sandy Sargent, 1968

Small Faces on the cover of NME during the release of the single 'Lazy Sunday', April 1968

Steve Marriott's Diary.....

Small Faces photographed by Gered Mankowitz, 1968

I'll end with my favourite Small Faces song - 'Understanding'. It's an ultimate 'feelgood' song. There's so much power in Steve Marriott's vocals...why was this song only a B-Side to 'All Or Nothing', I will never understand..

Source of the photos:  Paolo Hewitt, Small Faces - The Young Mods' Forgotten Story,London, Acid Jazz, 1995
 Uncut Magazine, Mojo Magazine

Friday 7 June 2013

A Dandy On Tumblr

Since everybody else seems to be doing it,  I started tumblr page. Basically, It's just like this blog, but without a text. At least for now. I've spent a lot of time this week putting up all the best images from here on tumblr and adding some which aren't here, but definitely should be...

Saturday 1 June 2013

"Groupie" By Jenny Fabian

I finally got round to reading Groupie by Jenny Fabian and Johnny Byrne. This book, first published in 1969 quickly achieved cult status for more than one reason. Not only it was the first detailed insight into the groupie phenomenon and the world of sex, drugs and Rock n' Roll, but it was also the first  time the quintessential sixties slang was used in English literature. As Jonathon Green wrote in the preface to the 1997 edition: "Groupie" gets 22 citations in the Oxford English Dictionary from "downer" to "trippy" and "spliff" to "uptight", a mini-lexicon of Sixties-speak (p. iv).
The book itself is a fictionalised account of London's sixties underground music scene by  real-life groupie Jenny Fabian. I say 'fictionalised', but there's very little actual fiction in the novel - the names of bands, members, places,etc. are probably the only departure from reality. And everybody knew who the musicians in the novel were, anyway...Here's a list of the names in the book and their real life equivalents...

Satin Odyssey = Pink Floyd (Ben = Syd Barrett)
Big Sound Bank = Zoot Money's Big Roll Band
The Transfer Project = Dantalian's Chariot (Davey = Andy Summers)
The Savage = Eric Burdon & The Animals
The Dream Battery = The Soft Machine
Jubal Early Blowback = Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation
Relation = Family (Joe = Ric Grech, Grant = Family's manager Tony Gourvish)
The Elevation = The Nice (Andy = David O'List)
The Shadow Cabinet = The Spooky Tooth
The New York Sound And Touch = The Fugs
The Jacklin H. Event = The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Sam = Mitch Mitchell)

Unlike Pamela Des Barres's I'm With The Band, which was written from a perspective of a few decades, Groupie was written and published within few months in 1969. It can be seen as an advantage - all the events were still fresh in author's memory. But it can also be a disadvantage. The book is almost like a diary - there is not much of a story developing here, and the plot does not progress towards any sort of conclusion. It is strictly an account of what Katie (Jenny Fabian, obviously) does, without much of an introduction or ending. The book does not end - it cuts off, more like. Still, it provides a great insight into psychedelic underground of Swinging London. Most of the events in the book take place in 1968. It starts off with a graphic description of Katie's one night-stand with Ben of Satin Odyssey - Syd Barrett, literally days before his departure from Pink Floyd, who was already in a very bad mental state. Throughout the book, Katie has many one night-stands with various musicians, but she also has three 'regular' boyfriends - first it's Davey (Andy Summers), and then, when she moves in with Relation (Family) she has a love triangle with Joe (Ric Gretch) and Grant (family's manager Tony Gourvish). Some of the musicians are portrayed by Fabian in a quite a positive light, others less so. She was clearly infatuated with Andy Summers (Davey in the novel) - and she describes their affair as happy and harmonious.

 Andy Summers circa 1968

1968 was a busy year for Andy Summers. He played guitar for Zoot Money's Big Roll Band and their psychedelic side project, Dantalian's Chariot, with whom he scored a small underground hit, 'Madman Running Through The Fields'.

Dantalian's Chariot, 1968

Around the summer 1968, Andy Summers joined The Soft Machine as a touring guitarist, and went with them to America, which put an end to his relationship with Jenny Fabian (although he was writing her passionate love letters). After the tour ended, he stayed in America,where he briefly joined late incarnation of The Animals. He reappears at the end of the book - him (Davey) and Jenny (Katie) decide to stay friends and he contemplates quitting music and going to acting school (which didn't happen - he stuck to music, eventually achieving stardom in the late 1970's as the guitarist of The Police).

After Davey's departure to America, Katie starts a relationship with Joe from Relation (Family's Ric Gretch). Now, if there's a villain in the book, it's Joe. Fabian portrays him as misogynistic, manipulative and generally rather nasty (and at the same time weak-willed and rather insecure).

Jenny Fabian (left) and Ric Gretch (centre), circa 1968

  She dumps him for Relation's manager, Grant - probably the most complex of all the characters. Very masculine, dominating and also quite misogynistic, yet at the same time with a surprising soft side. Him and Katie have a pretty complicated relationship (which doesn't stop Katie from her pastime as a groupie).

Although she gets mistreated by a lot of men, surprisingly, you never hear Katie moaning about how rubbish men are - in fact, she enjoys mind games, which clearly shows in her relationship with Grant. Still, a lot of things written in the book indicated that sexual liberation and free love did not work as well as young people wished.

Katie is also quick to mention that she is not just a groupie - throughout all the time she works - first as a journalist, and then as booking agent/door girl for the hip club The Other Kingdom - Middle Earth, in real life.

Logo and poster for a gig at Middle Earth, 1968

Middle Earth was a club in Covent Garden, famous for the psychedelic light projections. Anybody who was anybody played/was seen there between 1967 and 1968.  In Groupie, Jenny Fabian provided some interesting insight into how the club operated. 

 In 1968, Middle Earth moved from Covent Garden to a bigger venue - Roundhouse in Camden. There, it hosted even more high profile gigs - here's a poster for Doors/Jefferson Airplane concert, which Jenny Fabian mentions in the book - exceptionally using real band names.

Poster by Alan Aldridge for Led Zeppelin's gig at Middle Earth

Poster by Michael English for an event at Middle Earth, 1968

Jenny Fabian was also involved in organising the ill-fated International Pop Festival in Rome,  about which she talks extensively in Groupie.

Poster for International Pop Festival in Rome by Michael English, 1968.
Jenny Fabian in 1968

All in all, Groupie makes an enjoyable reading, especially to those who are into 1960's. It gives a fascinating insight into the scene, the music and the language of 1960's Swinging London. What struck me most about it was how clear the divisions between 'us' and 'them' were. You could tell  (as Katie in the book often does) almost instantly by somebody's clothes, language which category a newly met person was falling into. It was a kind of generational unity which does not seem to exist today. What a shame...

Dutch edition of Groupie, that's what I call a cool cover..

Source of the images: London Live by Tony Bacon, London Grip,tumblr, The Groupie website, Magic Mac