Chemical Brothers & Biological Brothers

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The Olympics isn’t something I take any interest in. The fact that Britain (or Team GB as the press nowadays insist on repeatedly calling it) is winning medals by the bucketload doesn’t fill me with much national pride, instead it makes me suspect that doping in sports here must be far more widespread than most British sports pundits would ever like to admit.

I just can’t get remotely excited about some guy winning a gold who has missed drugs tests and been trained by someone with a track record in cheating, likewise my excitement levels fail to rise while watching some twenty stone muscle man freak bursting several blood vessels in his neck as he attempts to lift some monumentally heavy weight above his head for a few seconds. Even taking anabolic steroid abuse out of the equation, that’s not sport, that’s sheer bampottery.

Anyway, by chance, while I was doing my best to ignore all this sport, I decided to stick The Work of Director Spike Jonze on my Blu-ray player and I have to say, I did enjoy once again seeing his promo for Elektrobank by The Chemical Brothers, which is the one with the gymnastics competition featuring Spike Jonze’s future missus, Sofia Coppola.

Elektrobank is nowhere near my favourite track by the band but this has to be one of the best videos made during what was the most innovative decade in the relatively short history of the music video – the 1990s.

Coppola’s turn as a young hopeful it has to be said is far more convincing than she was ever was in the disappointing The Godfather Part III, where she played Michael Corleone’s daughter, Mary, a role that saw her ‘awarded’ with a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress.

The coach in the vid is, incidentally, based on Béla Károlyi, who once upon a time the moulded the career of Nadia Comăneci, the sensation of the 1976 Montreal games, which come to think of it, was likely the last time I really paid much attention to anything Olympic related. Later he defected from Romania to America, where he remains controversial for the fear-inducing methods he used in an attempt to instill discipline in the young athletes under his supervision, although the coach in the promo doesn’t appear too creepy.

I doubt Jonze was too severe with Coppola during the shoot as they married a few years later. She was, though, apparently put through the mill by her then boyfriend, made to learn and rehearse gymnastic and dance routines such as that section where she performs some ribbonwork. Each night she would come home exhausted, bruised and with aching limbs. Whether her body double suffered in any similar way, I really could only guess.

Taken from the album Dig Your Own Hole, this is Elektrobank:


In 1999, Jonze went on to make his groundbreaking magic-realist comedy, Being John Malkovich, while Sofia Coppola also made her debut feature in that same year, The Virgin Suicides. They divorced four years later.

Like her ex, Coppola has continued to make movies, although she is infuriatingly inconsistent – have you ever watched Somewhere?

On the plus side, she does always include some inspired musical choices on her soundtracks. Even on The Bling Ring, a movie aimed squarely at the generation who actually know and care about Snapchat, she managed to sneak in some Can and Klaus Schulze; on Marie Antoinette she introduced to the world Siouxsie and The Banshees’ Hong Kong Garden with that great strings intro and in Lost in Translation she used Kevin Shields and Air, not for the first or last time.

On the minus side, I’m not too keen on the karaoke version of God Save the Queen in that latter named film – and that’s the Pistols’ GSTQ I’m talking about rather than the one being heard any time a British athlete takes gold in Rio.

Here’s the original video for Just Like Honey, a track that appears memorably on Lost in Translation and provides that poignant and impressionistic (near) romance film with the perfect musical ending.


And finally, I should probably mention that the Mary Chain later went on to perform at their Coachella reunion with Lost in Translation co-star Scarlett Johansson supplying some backing vocals. Lucky fellas.

That Sinking Feeling

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Writer/Director: Bill Forsyth

Cast: Robert Buchanan, Billy Greenlees, John Hughes, Gordon Sinclair

Running time: 93 mins

Original UK Release: 29th August 1979

A neglected city dominated by high-rise flats and blackened tenements. Graffitied brick walls stand half-demolished with rubble strewn around them. The majority of the young people living here seem to be unemployed and crime is commonplace. This is an environment so grim that the closest some of these alienated teenagers get to fun is sitting in an abandoned car in some waste ground and discussing the best way to kill yourself or clustering together in a bedroom to sing Holidays in the Sun by The Sex Pistols.

When one of these young men asks his pals what their hometown is famous for, he receives three different answers.

‘Drunks?’, ‘Muggers?’ and ‘Multiple social deprivation?’

Okay I’m being deliberately misleading here, just as Bill Forsyth was when he included a title card during the film’s opening credits with the following disclaimer: ‘The action of this film takes place in a fictitious town called GLASGOW. Any resemblance to a real town called GLASGOW is purely coincidental.’

The film, in case you don’t know, is an absurdist comedy with a whimsical heart.

That Sinking Feeling BFI

While myself and some pals were living down south in 1981, there was a robbery at the hotel where we worked. The police interviewed us collectively. You can imagine the line of questioning, mainly did we have alibis for the night before? For once none of us had went out on the randan, instead we’d stayed in to watch That Sinking Feeling, which was being shown on TV for the first time. We told the cops this and they hadn’t heard of the film, so asked us to describe the plot, which we quickly ran through for their benefit.

Initially they thought we were winding them up. ‘You watched a film about some young Scottish thieves who carry out a robbery?’

Even taking the burglary out of the equation, this, it would have to be admitted, was a pretty big coincidence. Back then films set in Glasgow with local casts were non existent. That’s obviously changed. Think Small Faces, Red Road, Orphans, The Angels’ Share (another heist comedy featuring a group of young losers), Ratcatcher and even Under the Skin with a lead performance from one of the world’s most recognizable stars but three and a half decades ago, the only thing more unlikely than a film set in Glasgow was probably a film set in some place like Cumbernauld.

The main production company involved in making the movie was even named Minor Miracle Film Cooperative.

Parallels could even be drawn to the local independent music labels that were springing up at the time such as Fast and Postcard. That Sinking Feeling – the Falling and Laughing of Scottish cinema?

Well, not exactly, although like, say, Orange Juice, who railed against the macho Glaswegian rock acts of the era, That Sinking Feeling struck many as a reaction to the Peter McDougall style of social realist Play for Todays.

Nowadays anybody with the determination can have a go at making a microbudget guerilla film but back then, making a feature length movie required a helluva lot more enthusiasm, planning and financial risk than putting out a few hundred singles on your own DIY label – albeit Forsyth’s film was a real shoestring (and independent) operation, the director funding it largely by contacting local businesses and trade unions and asking for donations. Described in the 1979 Edinburgh International Film Festival programme notes as ‘Scotland’s first no-budget feature film’, its £2000 cost even earned it a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the cheapest feature then released theatrically in Britain.

It did certainly point the way for others, its comparative success making similar celluloid ventures suddenly seem more achievable.

Forsyth’s pal Charlie Gormley made Living Apart Together (1982) and Heavenly Pursuits (1985), while that same year Michael Hoffman’s Restless Natives and Cary Parker’s The Girl in the Picture were both Forsyth influenced films set in Scotland.

I didn’t get the chance to watch That Sinking Feeling again for many, many years after that TV debut.

At one point the film was released in a version with a re-recorded audio track (with different actors!) to make it easier for American audiences to understand. Generic mid-80s tracks were also added added to replace the film’s incidental music. I’ve never seen this version and have no intention of ever seeking it out. Unless maybe for a laugh.

Then, I did manage to see the film in a cinema for the first time, when in 2008, Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian selected it to be screened one night at the Glasgow Film Theatre as part of the Monorail Film Club, the film being followed by a very entertaining Q&A with Robert Buchanan who played criminal (non) mastermind, Ronnie, a hapless and helpless figure that, like most of the cast, looks like he’s just stepped out from 1972.

Remarkably I remembered pretty much every scene in the entire film although my mind somehow swapped two of the characters around – I was sure that John Gordon Sinclair had played the part of the character that cross-dresses in order to lure the night watchman away from his duties.

I’ve just watched Forsyth’s debut again, this time on Blu-ray, and would definitely recommend it. It’s out on the BFI Flipside series with some early shorts and documentaries with a Forsyth connection.

Bill Forsyth went on to make the much loved Gregory’s Girl before Local Hero established him as the kind of director that Hollywood took a keen interest in.

Being Human, which starred Robin Williams was an awful film and 1999’s Gregory’s 2 Girls was even worse and must be a contender for any top ten rotten sequels out there – and from what I’ve heard, it was far from the fun shoot of That Sinking Feeling.

 
While writing this it just occurred to me after all this time that the alibi mentioned earlier of watching the film on TV should maybe have been further investigated. After all, we could have watched the film at some place like the GFT on its release, remembered the plot and relayed it to the cops convincingly enough.

Strangely enough too, when filming his heist at a local plumbing supplies warehouse, Forsyth was trusted with the keys, with no presence of anybody from the firm keeping an eye on him while he completed his footage over the course of a weekend. So, as Forsyth discusses with Mark Kermode on the film’s commentary track, his cast and crew could have used the filmmaking idea as an elaborate ploy to steal the sinks, which if sold, could have probably financed the film.

For more on the BFI re-release of That Sinking Feeling click here.

Unseen Joe Strummer & Ari Up

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This week something a little bit different. A couple of previously unseen photos of two absolute punk legends: Joe Strummer of The Clash and Ari Up of The Slits sent in by Les Clark, who rather modestly claims that: ‘These are not photographs, just snapshots of time – leave the photos to the professionals.’

The shot of Strummer was taken on the night of The Clash’s second visit to Aberdeen, this being in July 1978 when they played at the Music Hall and were famously supported by Suicide – and here I should say, RIP Alan Vega, who passed away over the weekend. A true pioneer.

Joe Strummer (Aberdeen) - Les Clark

If you watch the docudrama Rude Boy, you’ll see clips of a couple of Clash tracks, The Prisoner and White Riot, belted out that evening and if you want to read Les’s account of the night – or least the part of the night that he didn’t spend in A&E receiving stitches on his head at a local hospital after being hit with a ripped out theatre seat during Suicide’s set – click here.

Around this time Les was starting out his career in graphic design, producing posters for events around town for local promoters. Unfortunately he didn’t own a camera when he first saw The Clash at Aberdeen Uni on the first date they performed on Scottish soil as part of their White Riot tour in May 1977.

He did, though, later get to photograph another one of the acts on the White Riot bill, Ari Up of The Slits, on a visit that her unique and unruly band made to Aberdeen Ruffles, a venue that also played host to the likes of The Radio Stars, Rich Kids, Revillos, The Specials and The Stranglers and which, according to Les, was later burnt down, the site now being a car park.

Ari Up (Aberdeen) by Les Clark

Today Les is still based in the North East of Scotland, where he regularly designs CD and vinyl covers for a number of acts including some of my all-time favourites and we’re talking here the likes of The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Dexys Midnight Runners, The Yardbirds and The Stooges.

Here’s a couple of his seven inch vinyl single designs, one sleeve signed by former Damned guitarist, Brian James, the other his Okeh inspired cover for a reissue of Northern Soul stomper Tainted Love.

Brian James - Walkin' Round Naked  Tainted Love - Gloria Jones

And here’s a pair of album covers, again designed for British Rock ‘n’ Roll label, Easy Action. Two iconic New Yorkers this time, firstly Johnny Thunders with In Cold Blood, the second Lou Reed’s American Poet.

Johnny Thunders - In Cold Blood Lou Reed American Poet (Les Clark cover)

For more on Easy Action click here.

Goodbye, Robin Hardy

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This year there will be no Wickerman Festival. Without Robin Hardy, who directed cult classic The Wicker Man towards the end of 1972,  there would never have been a festival in the first place.

The Wicker Man was not a success on release but this magical and intriguing film has grown in stature ever since to the point where, in addition to the festival named in its honour, there’s been a novelization by Hardy and Anthony Shaffer (who wrote the screenplay), a Hollywood remake starring Nicolas Cage (which I haven’t seen and have no real intention of ever seeing), a number of books on the making of the movie, fanzines, conferences and conventions, film location tours, a stage version and a number of documentaries. Even the recent animated video of Radiohead’s Burn the Witch paid homage to the film that has been described as ‘the Citizen Kane of horror movies’.

The genre of horror experienced a golden age in Britain in the 1970s. Obviously there was Hammer, while studios catering for a similar audience such as Amicus and Tigon thrived too; a post-Hammer ‘new wave of horror’ emerged in the middle of the decade with directors like Norman J. Warren and Pete Walker and there was also the big budget international hit, The Omen. The highpoint of horror in that decade though was The Wicker Man, a film that found no favour with distributors until it was brutally cut in length and relegated to a slot as the support film in a double feature with Don’t Look Now, back when your local picture house provided paying punters with a bit of value.

At times, when I began watching The Wicker Man myself for the first time as part of the BBC’s Moviedrome strand during the ’80s, I didn’t really know whether I liked it or not. Probably because it was utterly unique. I seem to remember it initially striking me as a macabre comedy with bizarre musical interludes such as the bawdy bar song, The Landlord’s Daughter, in praise of Willow (Britt Ekland) and May Pole, which resembled a surreal take on children’s TV of the period – Magpie meets The Incredible String Band.

By the time of Willow’s Song, though, I knew one thing: I wasn’t going to be switching it off until the final credits had rolled – and not just because of a naked Britt Ekland (well a naked Britt and her body double I should say) although I’ll happily admit that I would’ve been in Willow’s bedroom myself quicker than you could say Usain Bolt after that peculiar invitation.

In the unlikely case of you not knowing anything about the plot, Sergeant Howie, played by Edward Woodward, is a pious and pompous Christian with a particularly closed mind who is sent to the pagan community of Summerisle to investigate the alleged disappearance of a twelve year old schoolgirl called Rowan Morrison.

One of the unusual though great things about the film is that it is possible to dislike the priggish hero, a man so repressed he cannot even utter the word sex and who’s offended at every turn by the behaviour of the Bacchanalian islanders. Then there’s that unconventional ending, one of the most memorable scenes of any British film, horror or otherwise, which Robin Hardy shot magnificently.

Hardy really worked wonders on The Wicker Man, to the extent of making Dumfries and Galloway in November resemble May Day and the days leading up to it – at times there was snow on the hills and, while outside, extras had to chew ice cubes so their breath wouldn’t be shown on camera while actors had directional heaters aimed at their waists while they delivered their lines. It’s remarkable that Hardy coaxed so many fine performances from the stars of the film.

‘Hardy was a natural at directing actors,’ Edward Woodward recalled in Allan Brown’s Inside The Wicker Man. ‘He wasn’t easy to work with but I mean that as a compliment. He didn’t let you get away with something just because you’d flash him a charming look, he made you do things differently.’

By coincidence, as someone who is attempting to actively avoid watching any of Euro 2016, I looked out my four disc Final Cut DVD yesterday and watched a couple of the documentaries spread across its four discs, intending to watch the so-called Director’s Cut while Germany faced Italy last night.

Before I got to chance to do so, it sadly emerged that Robin Hardy had died the day before.

~

In addition to his crucial role in The Wicker Man, Hardy also directed a number of other films including the similarly themed The Wicker Tree (2011), which was an adaptation of his novel Cowboys for Christ.

Robin Hardy had planned to make a third Wicker Man film as a tribute to his great friend Christopher Lee, who died himself last year. It really is a pity that Hardy didn’t get the chance to complete his trilogy.

Robin Hardy. 2 October 1929 – 1 July 2016.

Here Comes Johnny Yen Again

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Iggy Pop: Lust For Life

British cinema wasn’t in a good place in the mid 1990s. D’you remember highly touted films like Sarah and Jack? Blue Juice? Shopping? Just imagine, a time of such utter mediocrity that some critics actually hailed Sadie Frost as the country’s most promising young actress.

Or what about The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain? It was still officially a hill by the time I’d fled the Glasgow Film Theatre and hotfooted it to the nearest bar, believe me.

Then along came Trainspotting and, what’s more, not a dreary social realist version of what remains Irvine Welsh’s finest novel but an inventive, stylish, visceral and fantastically funny take on it.

You watched Ken Loach’s Ladybird, Ladybird feeling equally bored and depressed but you stepped out of Trainspotting, feeling, well, a lust for life.

Trainspotting is here

One of the best things about the movie was, of course, its soundtrack.

Like Tarantino and Scorcese, Danny Boyle is one of those directors that possess a near perfect knack of combining sound and visuals perfectly to lift a movie.

Just think of that frenetic opening of Trainspotting. Renton and Spud being chased down Edinburgh’s Princes Street by a couple of security guards while we hear the famous ‘Choose Life’ voice-over, accompanied by Iggy Pop’s searing uber-classic Lust For Life.

Renton and Spud on Princes Street

I’d read snippets of Welsh’s novel in several of the Scottish litzines that began springing up in the first half of the 1990s and Scream, If You Want To Go Faster, the ninth installment of the annual New Writing Scotland anthology series. I obviously read the novel too when it was first published and, later, went to see Welsh give a reading at the Paisley Arts Centre. I was also lucky enough to nab a ticket for Harry Gibson’s adaptation at the Citizens Theatre in the Gorbals.

Guess what? I dearly wanted the movie to succeed and by the time Boyle freeze-framed on Renton as he a grins at the horrified man who has just run him over, I was confident that this would be the single most exciting Scottish film I had ever seen. And we were only thirty seconds into the action.

I still can’t hear Lust For Life without thinking of that scene, the combination of the two, in all likelihood, will always be indelibly linked in my head, although usually that hyperactive opening rather than the 5-a-side match, the cooking up and injecting the junk in Mother Superior’s or the friends and family decrying heroin while Iggy’s song surges on, still sounding sensational.

From the album Lust For Life, here it is, one of the very finest tracks ever recorded, with the single greatest drum intro ever, ever, ever – the equivalent of a pitbull on steroids straining at a particularly tight leash – and those pounding, primal drums brilliantly balanced by a stunning, stalking Motown bassline from Tony Sales and some itchy yet glistening guitar work from the genuis that is Carlos Alomar and Scotland’s very own Ricky Gardiner. Not forgetting James Newell Osterberg, Jr crooning his Burroughs inspired badass surrealism and his pal David Robert Jones helping out with the backing vocals:


Instead of putting out Lust For Life on 45, RCA in Britain decided to choose Success, another track from the album. With The Passenger somehow relegated to B-side status.

The reasoning behind this decision remains a mystery to me. Not as big a mystery as why around 100,000 folks thought it was a good idea to watch Chris Martin and his bed wetting brethren in Coldplay headline the main stage of Glastonbury on Sunday night, but a mystery all the same.

I obviously didn’t bother watching this myself but it sounds like it just might have been the cosiest ever moment in rock history, the polar opposite of the days when the Ig would goad biker gangs in his audience, snort angel dust and lacerate his bare chest with broken bottles.* I’m sure the numpty readers of Heat and OK! would have lapped up Martin’s antics though. OMG! Apple & Moses r up onstage @ Glasto 2 sing! Awesome!

~

Iggy has recently released another album, Post Pop Depression, which the New York Times has claimed: ‘picks up where Lust For Life left off.’ I wouldn’t go that far myself but it really is worth seeking out. From it, this is American Valhalla.


For more on Iggy: http://iggypop.com/

* Okay, none of these things are in reality very big or very clever but you’ll see where I’m coming from.

Afterglow & Yr Guts

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Mt. Doubt - In Awe of Nothing Artwork

Back in February I featured Edinburgh act Mt. Doubt, describing them as ‘sonically intriguing’ and since then they’ve made an appearance in the Sunday Herald’s Guide to Scotland’s Best Up-and-Coming Bands and been selected for a spot on the T Break stage at T in the Park on Saturday 9th July.

A second album, titled In Awe of Nothing is released today on CD, digital download and 12″ vinyl and very good it is too with my favourite tracks being To a Cusp and Soak.

As singer/guitarist/songwriter Leo Bargery says: ‘The music coming out of Scotland is, as ever, prolific and incredibly exciting. We’re very grateful to be part of it all!’ I get the feeling that Mt. Doubt will be an increasingly large part of the music scene here for a long time to come. Oh and this time next year expect a SAY Award nomination for In Awe of Nothing.

The album will be launched with a live set tonight at The Mash House in Edinburgh with A Sudden Burst of Colour and Hamish Hawk supporting. And if you like indie beer as much as you like indie music then you might want to try one of the limited edition Mt. Doubt pale ales available for £2 on the night or free if you buy a copy of the album on CD or vinyl. If it tastes as good as the music sounds, you’re in for a real treat.

This slice of highly assured songwriting is current single Afterglow:


For more on Mt. Doubt:

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Breakfast MUFF are a new band to me, in fact, I only heard them the first time on Monday night on Radio Scotland when Halina Rifai, sitting in for Vic Galloway, played a track of theirs called Satan. What I have now discovered is that they are a Glasgow based trio, signed to local label Fuzzkill Records, who like ‘pizza and writing songs and dancing’, although my detective skills in uncovering these facts would hardly put Sherlock Holmes to shame.

The band have been playing a bunch of Glasgow venues such as the Old Hairdressers, Nice n Sleazys and the Glad Cafe over the past year or so. Their album, Rainbow Yawn, was released towards the end of 2015 and a few months later they were chosen as a Louder Than War New Band of the Day.

According to The Digital Fix, their music ‘skilfully blends the glam punk of New York Dolls with the melodic tones of Orange Juice’ although Satan, they claim comes ‘across as My Bloody Valentine fronted by Iggy Pop.’

Now I do like I like Breakfast MUFF’s contagious punky energy but nothing could ever be quite as amazing as an Iggy-led My Bloody Valentine, could it? Okay, maybe this time last year I’d have said an Iggy-led My Bloody Valentine with David Bowie on backing vocals.

Anyway, there’s no video for Satan but here’s one for Yr Guts instead:


Breakfast MUFF will be session guests on the Vic Galloway show on Monday (20. June). For more on the band:

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Young Soul Rebels by Stuart Cosgrove

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Young Soul Rebels

Readers of this blog from Scotland will likely know Stuart Cosgrove as one half of the team behind BBC Radio Scotland’s weekly football chat programme Off the Ball, which advertises itself as ‘petty and ill-informed’ and sets out to have a laugh rather than to forensically analyse topics like zonal marking that will forever remain unfathomable to me. I occasionally listen in myself even though I couldn’t name a single current St Johnstone or Motherwell player.

His previous book Detroit 67 was one of my favourite reads of last year and he’s just published another, Young Soul Rebels: A Personal History of Northern Soul.

Ever since youthful nights spent dancing at the Perth City Soul Club, Stuart Cosgrove has remained a Northern Soul fanatic – the word fan wouldn’t do his passion justice. He’s a purist too, unlike your reviewer here, who it would have to be admitted is definitely more of a tourist.

Like Detroit 67, there’s a cover that will surely catch the eye of any soulie (and many non soulies) featuring award winning dancer Steve Cootes, a painter and decorator from Penicuik. Unlike Detroit 67, this time round Stuart doesn’t start with a description of the weather (Elmore Leonard would be pleased). Instead he begins: ‘Nothing will ever compare to the amphetamine rush of my young life and the night I was nearly buggered by my girlfriend’s uncle in the Potteries.’

Throughout the book’s 279 pages, Cosgrove traces the history of the movement, exploring the world of tailor made cash-ins and cover-ups; stompers and dobbers and even Do-Dos and blueys but I like his writing best when he describes his own journey from the golden age of Wigan Casino and the Blackpool Mecca (a venue that he dubs ‘the Harvard of Northern Soul), through to the era of Cleethorpes, Stafford and Allanton all-nighters and beyond – yes, cataloguing the country’s top soul clubs across the decades can read like a list of Britain’s least fashionable towns.

Originally issued on the OKeh label, this is a favourite of Stuart’s, Sandi Sheldon with the sublime You’re Gonna Make Me Love You:


Unlike many books focussing on the subject, Cosgrove connects contemporary issues with the sounds, so as well as discussions on labels such as Okeh and Ric-Tic and DJs like Ian Levine and Richard Searling we get his thoughts on subjects such as amphetamine abuse, the Yorkshire Ripper murders and the miner’s strike, the villians of the piece being God’s cop James Anderton, Peter Sutcliffe and Margaret Thatcher.

He’s particularly good on Anderton, a Christian zealot in charge of the policing of Greater Manchester (an area that included Wigan) who embarked on a mission to stop the sanctity of the Sabbath being disturbed by young dance-goers attending all-nighters with the intention of having a good time. Interestingly, his teenage daughter was a rare soul fan but one who was obviously banned from going to all-nighters.

Again, unlike much writing on Northern Soul, Cosgrove doesn’t sanitise the scene. Here he is on Mr M’s, a club within a club at Wigan Casino: ‘It was ferociously hot, like a colonial jail, and was accessed by a small corridor about which many had anxieties. Like the men’s toilets downstairs, it was an intimidating place where rip-off merchants and drug gangs operated.’

Cosgrove peppers his tale with snippets of information that I probably should have known already: one of the reasons behind the Casino’s popularity was the fact that the town possessed two railway stations which made it accessible within a couple of hours from Motherwell to the north and from Rugby in the south; he also explains the reason why soul fans usually found a warmer welcome in seaside resorts than in cities. The rise in package holidays and subsequent economic downturn in coastal towns, in case you’re wondering.

There’s some fantastic photos here too. It’s amazing just how ordinary or even dingy these legendary venues looked – the Golden Torch was a former fleapit cinema in Tunstall, its facade lacking any vague hint of glamour or excitement. There’s also dozens of flyers and posters reproduced and plenty of pictures of records, performers and punters.

Here’s a 1973 track ‘of such earthy modernity it forced a change in dancing styles and brought about the shuffling modern northern era’. This is The Carstairs with It Really Hurts Me Girl:


Throughout the book, I was reminded why I would never have lasted long on the scene before falling foul of some soul Ayatollah or other. My musical loves are simply too wide-ranging and there’s as much chance of Stuart’s beloved St Johnstone swooping to sign Christiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale during the Euros as me ever being able to commit exclusively to one genre (or subgenre) of music for life.

‘Eclectic tastes were rarely tolerated on the northern soul scene, which by the mid seventies was hardening into a zealous sect with its own strict rules.’

When he later dared to join the staff of NME, his pal Keb Darge advised him: ‘Make sure you don’t wank yourself to death listening to the Smiths.’ This was apparently said in jest but it’s easy to imagine some degree of disapproval in the quip too. ‘Fuck off and write about Bono,’ he was later told at a 100 Club soul do.

Young Soul Rebels can be very funny, Stuart and others fuming at a Perth soul DJ for including some David Bowie in his set struck me as absurdly comical, yet there’s tragedy too, such as when he gets stuck on the London Underground for an hour on the way to a soul night. The next day he discovered the reason for the irritating delay – an IRA bomb had ripped through Harrods. And among the dead was one of his cousins.

Stuart clearly possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of his subject matter  – he even chose to study at Washington D.C.’s Howard University due to it having recently awarded an honorary doctorate to Stevie Wonder and its previous alumni including several soul stars (together with the superb crate digging opportunities the city offered) – but he does get punk slightly wrong. The Sex Pistols did often venture out of London in their early days, visiting the likes of Northallerton, Scarborough, Leeds, Middlesborough, Sheffield and even Dundee, and Sniffin’ Glue is generally accepted as the first British punk fanzine rather than Anarchy in the UK.

Young Soul Rebels concludes by bringing us up to date with films like Soul Boy and Northern Soul, Paul Mason’s Culture Show documentary, Northern sets on Mixcloud and YouTube sensation Levanna McLean, before Cosgrove meets up again with some old pals at a Perth City Soul Club reunion, where afterwards he is ‘unable to fully rationalise why a scene that should have died years before was in such rude and uncompromising health.’

Hopefully, this state of affairs continues.

To state the obvious, anybody with a love of Northern Soul should buy a copy of Young Soul Rebels (and tourists too). And it’s safe to say it will very likely be making its way on to my Best of the Year book list in around six month’s time.

Stuart is on Twitter as @Detroit67Book. He’ll be signing copies at Love Vinyl in London on Wednesday 22 June between 6-8pm, where he’ll also be spinning some tracks featured in the book. He’s also just announced an appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Friday 26 August.

For more on the book click here.

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