Saturday, 12 July 2008



(A Novel of 124,000 words)




Rebels at the End of Time. Insurrectionists of Earth’s Final Days. But are they the unwitting agents of the coming chaos - or the force that will provide ultimate salvation? They must journey to the lost Lunar City Of The Dead to discover the truth... about themselves, and about their doomed ‘Cluster’ of worlds...

BEAST OF THE COMING DARKNESS is a vividly detailed richly imagined Science Fantasy in the tradition of Michael Moorcock’s Elric sagas, Robert Silverberg’s epic ‘Majipoor Chronicles’, and Jack Vance’s ‘Dying Earth’ novels

BEAST OF THE COMING DARKNESS is a novel of the third millennium. Yet it is also one that makes real the mythopoeic dreams of Science Fiction’s lost worlds.

The novel stands alone as a single volume, complete in itself: but also forms the first third of a trilogy of self-contained but interconnected novels.

When, as an adolescent, I first began reading Science Fiction, I was seduced by rich poetic imaginings set in a Solar System that the advancing blade of science and the technological magic of long-range space-probes has laid to waste. The beauty of Mars as envisaged by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Stanley G Weinbaum, and Leigh Brackett - an ancient world of dead sea bottoms, planet-wide canals and fantastic cities, has receded further into impossibility. Just as the jewelled jungles, volcanic flame-belts and bizarre civilisations of Venus have been inexorably extinguished by the same process. Even asteroids and the tiny Martian moons once harboured a surrealist phantasmagoria of fictional life-forms...

As JURASSIC PARK resurrected dinosaurs, scientific potential now makes it possible to recreate the Solar System’s lost worlds...

With BEAST OF THE COMING DARKNESS I have written to the expectations of the third millennium...

The framework of The Cluster, its Last Empire, and its history, is internally consistent. It is grounded in science-based speculation and not fantasy (while drawing on the symbolism that gives fantasy its psychological lure). But the concept of The Cluster validates an unobtrusive sampling of the Science Fiction image-banks by setting various stages of the novels on worlds as mysteriously beautiful, as magical, and from the same continuity as those that seduced my adolescence.

Hence this first novel reaches its conclusion on the kind of Lunar surface that H.G. Wells’ protagonists of ‘THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON’ would not find unfamiliar. The second novel uses the asteroid Ceres and a Mars reverted by future Terraforming to the conditions imagined for it by Nineteenth Century Astronomers like Percival Lowell, as its location. The third novel visits Venus before returning to Earth for the final confrontation.

...excerpts from ‘BEAST OF THE COMING DARKNESS’ have already appeared as works-in-progress and short stories in various magazines, while related short stories drawn from the same continuum continue to appear...


...with the aid of ARTANIS VAS KRATZ, GRENAMAN TAAD realises the significance of his, and ANSOR A-HYLCA’s journey through the TIME MARSHES. That significance lies not in their fragmentary and confusing conversations with the ‘Waterlords’, but in the things they saw and experienced during their journey. All of which are ‘clues’.
...ANSOR A-HYLCA is being held in the NAWS TENRAB Hold, where WAR CHAO finds himself increasingly repelled by the methods used by the ELECTOR OF MARS to extend CHLOREL ET-SNAAR’s life.
...DYESPAAR is using NAWS TENRAB’s experiments to infiltrate ‘FORTUNATES’ into BAAL-SHADAAM in preparation for a coup.
...meanwhile, MAREEH is contacted by TENGIZ MKHEDRIONI, former leader or her insurrectionist group - and former lover. Deprived of the signature drug imprisoning her in the corrupt imperial city of ASHIRI her memory returns, but such deprivation will also kill her.
...far from being the important revolutionary figure he has intimated himself to be ANSOR A-HYLCA was deliberately seduced and recruited - on MKHEDRIONI’s specific instructions, with the single objective of using his family connections to bring about the assassination of A-HYLCA’s father, who supplies narcotics for the routine interrogation, torture and control practised by the SPIRIT DOMAIN.
...rather than face death through drug-deprivation MAREEH absorbs through TERMINAL CONTACT into the ASHIRIAN OMPHALOS, where she is able to influence WAR CHAO through the COMMUNICATION GLOBE to release A-HYLCA (and GRENAMAN TAAD who is also, by now, NAWS TENRAB’s prisoner) in an attempt to destroy the ELECTOR OF MARS’ project.
...released from his duties in BAAL-SHADAAM by the destruction of his rival (NAWS TENRAB), ARTANIS VAS KRATZ carries ANSOR A-HYLCA and GRENAMAN TAAD to Luna, where - using the ‘clues’ from the TIME MARSHES, and DYESPAAR as ‘Trancer’, they discover the truth about themselves, and intimations of the imminent FINAL CHAOS.
...GRENAMAN TAAD decides at last to join ANSOR A-HYLCA in the continuing insurrection against the LAST EMPIRE as the AGE OF COMING DARKNESS begins...

‘BEAST OF THE COMING DARKNESS’ is a novel for the third millennium. Yet it is also one that makes real the mythopoeic dreams of Science Fiction’s Lost Worlds.

(Syd Barrett, original Pink Floyd frontman, retired from life,
an acid casualty, March 1968. Died 2006)

under jade sky
planets swarm through the
arches of Stoneferry bridge,
eyes nictating in a frost
of asteroids and tides
of delicious terror

freshly thefted magazines bulge
mustard-pvc jacket-pockets,
‘Nebula’, ‘Authentic SF’,
and ‘Science Fantasy’, their
hallucinations leak through
pvc-weld seams, spill into
late-September ’67 Hull,
storming over cold metal
drabness, and…

“hey !!!”,
Transit van docking manoeuvre’s
through persistent lime parallels
at the road margin, asking
“which way to
the skyline…?”

eyes nictate in tides
of delicious terror while
saucers spin, quasars throb

“through the bridge,
down past the lights,
‘Skyline Ballroom’,
first on the right”

“thanks man”
planets jerk from Transit exhaust
in rippling bursts of iridescence,
acceleration building towards
escape velocity

tie-die spirals ripple on van walls
‘PINK FLOYD’, vibrating day-glo,
head retracts, curls dripping pulsars
into the gutter where they squirm
and devour each other

I shock awake,
but too late

Transit recedes
under jade sky
strobing through
arches towards
the skyline…

and I almost met
Syd Barrett

(This story is true. But it was written from memory, some time after the event. Subsequently I've managed to trace the exact date it happened to Thursday, 28th September 1967 when the Pink Floyd played 'The Skyline Ballroom' in Hull, and I was in town for college. I used the comprehensive Floyd chronology appendix to 'Madcap' by Tim Willis to do this -, my only qualification now is that it might not have been a Transit van, it might have been in the days before Transits were generally available for bands to use, possibly it was a Thames van...?)

Published in:-
‘COKEFISH July/Aug’ (USA – August 1991)
‘WORKS no.9’ (UK – February 1993)
‘CHRONICLES OF DISORDER no.2’ (UK – December 1995)
‘CHANTICLEER MAGAZINE ISSUE 16 (1960’s Theme Issue)’ (UK – March 2007)

Album Review of:-
(From or

Robyn Hitchcock dreams of train. Roy Cropper in ‘Coronation Street’ collects vinyl albums of steam-train sounds. Billy Pryce comes over all wistfully melancholy about a signal box and a post-Beeching rail-track. But in truth, Pryce’s concerns are more with the sweet poignancy of passing time, which has always been muse for romantic poets and folkie troubadours. To Billy, the ‘waiting rooms with fading paint’, the disused tunnels and ‘oil-soaked timbers still marking the trail’ of extinct railways is social archaeology that crystallises a lost way of life. An England – or, in Billy’s case, a Scotland that no longer exists, but has left its traces all around us, in ‘the sound of a ghost, a chill drifting down through the years, its echo still whispering here’. He sees that, after ‘all the old inspectors died / some say they lost their lives / in a cost-cutting exercise’, we’re adrift in a more transient world of “Spontaneous Acts Of Sorrow” where flowers mark roadside graves ‘lit by the light of souls’, in temporary ‘rites of sorrow’ that fade, and are gone. Not that the album’s a Luddite tunnel-visioned thing, far from it, within the album’s continuity his songs stray as far back as Australopithecus, our primeval cousins who nature conspired to defeat, to the deceptively cosy domestic vignette of “Cat’s Contentment”, via the medieval minstrelsy story-telling of “Mother Tongue”, and even a thoughtful reading of Dylan’s “I Want You”. ‘Songs From A Box’ was recorded at Inverkip’s Primrose Hill studios, or simply with ‘beer and good companionship’ at home in his front room, and while the production-level of some more high-profile chart records seem to be inversely proportional to the strength of the material, the sound-quality here is never less than equal to the inventive writing. Far from a bare-bones affair, he contrives shimmering atmospherics, cutting electric guitar lines, and uses girl-voice choruses in the way that Leonard Cohen uses them, particularly on “Flies”. Here, the memories are more personal, a ‘look back in laughter’ to when ‘flies sang love-songs with their wings’. Not sure about that image, but then again, as he points out, ‘I won’t have to explain the chemical reactions in my brain’ – and carries the line on a shivering ripple of reverb. True, there’s harmonica on “I Ride The Blues Train” – but it’s more a metaphor than an actual train this time. According to his Bebo page Billy plays clubs with poets and friends, while working as a signalman – maybe that’s a PR scam or maybe it’s true, whatever, it adds another level of meaning to his album title. And – Roy Cropper-wise, “The Old Railway” comes complete with neat flourishes of authentic train noises.


This is another favourite interview I did which got lost in a publication
extinction-event, and never actually got to see print. But I enjoyed doing
it, and felt a real affection - as well as respect, for Sam Moore.
So I'm putting in here to share my pleasure with you.
Sam Moore - the ‘Sam’ of SAM & DAVE, is the great survivor of a lost era 
of Sweet Soul Music. Except it’s not quite lost. Because they eventually
found - and released, his ‘Great Lost Solo Album’ ‘Plenty Good Lovin’.
Here, Sam tells the full story, plus his legends of heroin addiction,
an ‘unnecessary’ wife-shooting, the low-down on how his Mama’s
warning failed to stop him fathering  twelve children,
and how Lulu swallowed up “Soul Man” ... 

Across the late 1960’s Sam & Dave were the Twin Towers of Soul Power. You know their hits even if you don’t know the names. “Soul Man”, “Hold On, I’m Coming”, “Soul Sister, Brown Sugar” and the rest. If Otis Redding wrote the ‘Complete And Unbelievable Dictionary Of Soul’ then Sam (Moore) & Dave (Prater) did it all in Double-Entry Book-Keeping. Now, ‘Sam’ of Sam & Dave, is the great survivor of that lost era of Sweet Soul Music. Except it’s not quite lost. Because they found - and eventually released, ‘Plenty Good Lovin’ (Swing Cafe 001). The Great Lost Atlantic Album. The one intended to launch Sam Moore as a solo artist. It meant everything to him. And it vanished. Ten pristine tracks recorded across late 1970 into early ‘71 under the watchful production eye of Soul legend King Curtis, plussed out with star sidemen of the collectible calibre of hit-maker Donny Hathaway, bassist Chuck Rainey, Cornelius Dupree, drummer Bernard Prudie, the Sweet Inspirations - and Aretha Franklin! Yet the tracks got filed away and lost in the confusing chaos of record label politics and artistic narcotic complications. There was murder too. With King Curtis shot to death by an unknown assailant soon after the session’s end. Then the tapes were feared torched in a massive storage depot inferno. But no. They survived. Only to be rediscovered by diligent fan archaeology initiated through researching a Sam & Dave ‘Beg Scream & Shout’ retro box-set for Rhino, and by Sam’s determinedly strong-willed wife Joyce.
Now it’s the twenty-first century, and I’m sat here, telling Sam Moore that – on its release, that long-delayed solo debut album was named ‘Observer’ CD of the week (on Sunday, 13th January 2002), scoring high over all the then-current crop of Rap, Nu-metal, Dance and guitar bands. “Ah - you’re kidding? That’s amazing, isn’t it? WOW!!!” Sure it’s 100% incredible, for an album originally recorded way back in 1970! “Yes, but that’s when it was. That’s when it all happened. And I would suppose, you now have to believe that it has stood the test of time. So that’s - that’s, that’s - ah, that’s so good to hear Yeah.”
But what does that rapturous reception say about the R&B and the Soul on the radio, and seen on MTV today? How does it compare? “Ah - I wouldn’t say there’s any comparison with all the stuff that is being done today, Andy” he’s careful to inclusively use my name with impressive frequency. “And as regards the music that you see on the Telly today? I really don’t know. Some of it is good. Some of it is questionable. With some of it you go - OOOOH-OK !!! But nowadays, it’s all about how you market the stuff. If you are marketing music towards the younger CD-buyers or whatnot, then they’re going to buy the stuff they hear today. But, if you’re marketing stuff familiar to my generation - people who were with music from up to thirty years ago, then you’re not gonna really get that much of a young audience to listen to that stuff. That’s the way I look at it.”
But isn’t that Aretha Franklin playing churchy piano on the doomy 6:23-minute album highlight “Part Time Love”? “Ah - yes, that’s ‘Ree playing on “Part Time Love”. We call her ‘Ree’. And I don’t think I could have been in better company. Yeah.” But Hip-Hop regularly samples James Brown and George Clinton. It respects ‘Ree’ Franklin. So why not Sam Moore? “Well, y’know, I’ll tell you Andy,” that seductive intimacy again. “Ah - I think what happens there is that they’re looking beyond time - and rightfully so. They’re looking at her talent, as a singer. When she got with Atlantic and she had all those hits, everything that she put out came through that instrument inside of her body. And everybody had to reckon with that, and go ‘Wow! She can really sing!’ You know? So if you were to put me in that same category I would imagine that - I would guess they would look at me that way. I don’t know.”
Three of the album’s titles were lifted for single release (Swing 002) - headed by Sam’s own composition “Plenty Good Lovin’”, a lustfully bragging ‘Shoo-doo-wah Doo-wha-doo’ Soul swagger that first demands ‘now listen to me’ then proclaims ‘I never met a girl I couldn’t satisfy... Yeah!!’ The easy-swinging “Hi Di Hi” follows - also from Sam’s pen, and then there’s an impassioned reading of Allan Toussaint’s “Get Out My Life Woman” - laden beneath ‘heartaches by the pound’, to complete this gem of a single. But to me, the album’s stand-out is the aforementioned “Part Time Love”, an ‘Every Little But Hurts’ or a ‘Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart’, with Aretha’s sympathetic piano illuminating a lyrical scenario so doomily emotive it envies the dead. ‘If you don’t mind’ he heartbreaks, ‘I’m so tired and weary, I just wanna moan a little while, I wanna say - Mmmmmmmmm’. If I’d been around here in 1971, and if it’d been issued then - when it should have emerged, I’d have loved it. But as it is, the album remains a marvellous trip, one that extends from the cool groove of “I Can’t Stand It” to a warped Country “Tennessee Waltz” so punch-full of riffing horns it’s impossible to waltz to. A track that skirts into Joe Tex, or possibly Solomon Burke territory, but is uniquely Sam Moore...

Of course, Soul Music is mannered and theatrical. It always was. But check out ‘Soul Man’ on the ‘Blues Brothers’ movie soundtrack. Soul’s excesses are validated by its authentic emotional truth. These are artists who Gut-wrench and Soul-storm their songs to within an inch of their life. And the Memphis-based Stax label where Sam & Dave did their greatest work, specialised in a rawer more full-on Soul than the smoother production-line variant peddled from Detroit. Stax was a more auteur operation with its tight house-band nucleus of Booker T & The MG’s propelled by the hard-riffing Memphis Horns, with session add-ons supplied by whatever drop-in Southern Soulsters happened to be around, and that could mean Aretha, Isaac Hayes (who co-wrote most of Sam & Dave’s biggest hits), Donny Hathaway... Otis Redding.
But to contradict the supposed Motown / Stax rivalry, Otis recorded Smokie Robinson’s “My Girl”, and now here is Sam Moore doing a gutsy full-blooded version of the Miracles smooth early hit “Shop Around”. A very different version to the original, punched out with ‘Mr Pitiful’-style brass. “Ah - the ‘Shop Around’ thing. Yes, I’ve always tried to interpret the way I felt like I could do it. It’s all about interpretation. In the approach that we take with the song. And over the years I’ve heard Gladys, Aretha, all these people - from Jackie Wilson, to Sam Cooke, the Willie Johns, the Bullmoose Jackson’s - erm, and these are people that I totally - totally admire. And the way that they approach a song. I’m talking ‘Singer’s Singers’ here. And I’ve always been like that. That’s where it is with me. If you want to call me a ‘Singer’s Singer’ then OK, I appreciate that, that’s fine. But it doesn’t always work to my advantage. That’s true too. But if I was working with a person that I respected, like Isaac Hayes or Tom Dowd, or people of that highest calibre, I would listen to them - not interpret, but I would probably listen to the way they wanted me to approach a song. If Tom Dowd asked me to push it in a certain way, yeah. If Isaac asked me to push it in a certain way. He’d maybe not just want me to start singing my brains out right away, but just to - as Isaac used to say, ‘build a pyramid’. Build the song brick by brick towards the highest point. And I would listen. But if I ran into a person where I didn’t know their work, or that it’s not so much that I disrespected their work, but just that I wasn’t familiar with their work, and they were there trying to call themselves ‘producers’ producing me... then I probably wouldn’t. Because not everybody can produce. Not everyone can do it. Not everyone can produce an Aretha. Not everybody can produce a Gladys Knight.”
The “Shop Around” track opens with Sam’s spoken voice-over about his Mama giving one of those awkward ‘birds-and-the-bees’ pep-talks to his young pubescent self, ‘Sam, c’mon here, sit down son, let Mama talk to you for a minute’ before she delivers the timely message that when it comes to girls ‘all that shines is not gold’. “On the record, that was Smokie Robinson writing” points out Sam. Yes, but did your Mama REALLY give you advice about girls? A guffaw from Sam. “Did my Mama ever give me advice about girls? Yes she did, Andy - yes, she did. But...” a perfectly calculated pause, “twelve children later - I didn’t listen to her did I? She did, I have to tell you, she tried to talk to me about girls - bless her pea-picking heart, she tried to help me, but it just didn’t get through to this brain of mine.”


There are long pauses. There are long ‘ah-ah-ah-ah-ah’s as he orders his thoughts, or searches for the right word. He moves from the garden - the back yard, to his front room, where his latest daughter - Tullulah looks on curiously. His giant jovial warmth fills the room. While wife Joyce is on the ‘phone in the background talking sharply to someone else, explaining forcefully ‘that’s not Sam’s problem, he just wants to make a little money. It’s your problem if you’re so stoooopid. Which is dangerous...’
While I’m remembering that in December 1967 Otis Redding’s pall-bearers were Joe Tex, Joe Simon, Johnnie Taylor, Solomon Burke, Percy Sledge, Don Covay - and this guy, Sam Moore. Sam has known hard times. But things really began to fall apart when Sam & Dave got artistically stranded by Stax losing its distribution deal with Atlantic. Then Dave shot his wife in the head in a domestic spat - a shooting that Sam, with breathtaking understatement, described as ‘unnecessary’ (on TV’s ‘Top Ten Sixties Soul’). Dave escaped prosecution, but the incident poisoned what was already a fraught partnership. “I put myself up as judge, jury and executioner” he explains now, “but if you ask me if I would do that again - I would probably say ‘yes’.” Out of the personal and professional chaos of this period, in which the tapes for ‘Plenty Good Lovin’ got lost, Sam - the dominant lead voice of the Grammy-winning duo they called ‘Double Dynamite’, got deeper into heroin. Money disappeared. There were Sam & Dave reunions, with new recordings for the UA label, and bizarre support slots on US tours with Clash and the Undertones! But famously they kept working together, and drifting apart, on and off, for a further ten years, without once speaking to each other! Until Dave’s death in an auto-accident on the 9th April 1988 placed the final punctuation on the story.
Yet at their peak Sam & Dave had been an integral part of the 1967 European Stax-Volt tour, an all-star package also boasting Otis, Eddie Floyd, Carla Thomas, and Booker T & the MG’s. A tour which did much to open up Soul Music to European audiences. “Yah - I remember that, back in nineteen-sixty-er...whatever, at the Hammerstein Theatre” - he means the Hammersmith Odeon! “That’s where I tore my knees up real bad!” ‘They don’t just sing’ enthused journalist Alan Smith at the time, ‘they dance and scorch-up the stage like Soul ended tonight’ (‘NME’ 1st November 1967). “Yeah, that’s also where I heard about “Soul Man” being stopped from reaching no.1 on the U.S. chart. It had already got to no.1 on the R&B charts, but it stopped at no.2 on the national Pop chart because Lulu - bless her little heart... you’re laughing now” and indeed it’s true, his unique narrative style has me laughing out loud. “But yes, her “To Sir With Love” just swallowed up “Soul Man”. But that’s OK. I approve of just how far that song did go.”
Chart-topper or not, the razor-cut couplets of “Soul Man” stand out as a classic of Sixties Soul. “Yeah” he admits, unconvinced. “‘Soul Man’ has been a blessing - and an albatross. It has been good and bad for me for many many years. In fact, to be honest - I never understood what it was about ‘Soul Man’ that made it so big. And I asked someone that time while I was England, ‘what is it about ‘Soul Man’? And he said to me ‘Sam, it’s a HAPPY song. People walk out of the place and they’re either humming or singing it, or they’re dancing and clapping their hands’. They relate to that song better than anything in the world. And that is something to hear, my friend.”
What Sam now perceives as the problem is his status as - what Eric Morecambe used to call the phenomenon of being ‘half a star’. His name permanently linked with the other 50% of a high-profile double-act. Hopefully, the long-overdue reception of ‘Plenty Good Lovin’ helped to shift that perception some and establish the Sam Moore name as a brand in its own right, although in every other way his career seems to be enjoying a long-overdue resurgence anyway. He talks of the (eventually unfounded) rumours of his maybe participating in the UK’s Golden Jubilee hoopla concerts alongside Brian Wilson - who will always be ‘former Beach-Boys’, regardless of whatever else he achieves. So - if that had happened, would you have done ‘Soul Man’ for the Queen? “I guess so. Because, if I’m singing - I can do anything else that I want to do in a performance, on stage or whatever, but I HAVE to do that one. And I tell you, a while ago, I was doing a TV show in New York called ‘Voices’, and I was doing “Part Time Love”, and we had to do it over and over and over and over. And at the end of the night, I’ll tell you, people were standing up out of the audience and screaming and shouting ‘yeah, that’s good, but what about ‘Soul Man’...?’ And if I hadn’t have done it...?!? I think I would have had serious PROBLEMS!!! So I had to do ‘Soul Man’.”
You did it with Dan Ackroyd at the 1988 Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Show. And you did it for a movie soundtrack with Lou Reed. “I did. I did it with Lou Reed. And since then I did it with... Pat Boone too.” Now that must be something to hear. But meanwhile, there’s a wealth of great music in the Sam Moore back-catalogue. “Well, thank you sir. Thank you very much,” and surely being remembered as half of Soul’s biggest-ever duo - Sam & Dave, can be no bad thing? Some things are so deeply rooted in Pop mythology that they stay inescapable.


The Syndicats – a Pop group in search of a Hit.
Joe Meek – a Record Producer haunted by his own Dark Side.
Part fact, part fiction, these are incidents that culminate in one
helluva strange record - a lowly ‘B’-side completely out of step
with everything else happening musically in 1965 Britain.
The Syndicats’ “Crawdaddy Simone” has what makes great music
so great - that unquantifiable something locked down in a sense
of time and place. And pure adrenalin….  But is this
the strange end to one of the strangest tales in Rock history?
Andrew Darlington & David Kerekes try to factoid the verdict

“Cheating was his trade, a seller of lies,
a heart so cold, he seemed to hypnotize…”
(‘Crawdaddy Simone’ by the Syndicats )

“Joe?” The sound filters toward him — the bare skeleton of a voice, it’s flesh stripped by the latticework of bedsheets and egg boxes draped over walls and ceiling. The sensation of dead sound once intrigued him, now it just sounds dead. And trapped. He listens, lowering his eyes to the bank of dials and switches on the table before him.
“Joe?” At first he’s unsure. The voice calls from a place outside the confines of this room. But he can’t determine where. He looks up, moving only his eyes. They’ll not catch him out like that.
“Joe? How was that?” Then everything slips into focus and he’s back in the here-and-now; the real world. Joe Meek, record producer.
“Yes,” Joe responds, his voice swallowed by the walls. He depresses a switch and the reel-to-reel tape machine stops dead; the dials become static. “That was a take.”
Pulling himself up out of his chair, Joe strolls over to the door and out the room. The trail of magnetic EMI-tape caught around his foot trails out with him…


“Sin.” Johnny Lamb inhales the light. “If we drop the ‘-indicats’, and become ‘Syn’.”
“Yes.” From Jeff, sitting in three-quarter profile to him in the tiny café off the wide black Holloway Road. Just down from the arch of the tube station. His voice riding up over the hiss and clink around them.
“What. Call the group ‘Yes’?”
“No, shit-head. Syn sounds good.”
“That is, ‘sin’ – with the inference of dark deviance. Original sin. Sins of Omission. But softened with a ‘y’ – like the Byrds, into Syn.”
“Great. But I think we should stick with the Syndicats, and we should stick with Joe. At least for now. At least for this one record. We should see it through. After all, he did it for the Tornados, he did it for the Honeycombs, he could do it for us yet. So we do this one more single, if that doesn’t work out we’ll try something else. All we’ve got to do is work up some kind of ‘B’-side…”
We’re halfway through 1965. They’re re-making the decade all around us. We want a piece of it. Before the Doctor Strangelove ICBM’s arc in on their terminal parabolas and snuff it all out…

“he always walks alone, Crawdaddy Simone...”
(‘Crawdaddy Simone’ by the Syndicats )

When I was a little girl, says Joe, I would be a dancer. And I would dance for my brothers. They didn’t understand. They weren’t like me. But they would watch. They were infected by my magic, despite themselves, just as I was. I would tuck my little penis tight into my underpants to minimize the bulge, and swathe myself in my mother’s silks. Her underwear. Her nightdress. I’d rouge my cheeks. I’d put shadow beneath my eyes. I’d blush my lips. And then I would dance. And when I danced I would no longer be myself, I became beauty, I became grace.
I was dancing the night they blitz London. When the sky is black with Luftwaffe and the searchlights hit out at the shapes of stars crashing down from their orbits. With huge tripod war machines stilting over the rubble and ugly gouges of smoke crawling over the pulped bodies, twisted mangled and mutilated, with lights pulsing and sirens banshee-howling. I was eleven, coming up to twelve. And I dance as they pass over our village and the Newent buildings vibrate to the sound of their passing. I close my eyes, and listen to the sky. I dance as they drone above the Forest of Dean, setting a sea of leaves sympathetically trembling, dancing so hard as if - by dancing, I could stop it all from happening. As though, through the sheer intensity and grace of my dance, I can magic the huge black death machines into swarms of vivid dragonflies on turquoise and ultramarine wings of gauze, and the falling incendiaries will transfigure into spirals of gossamer seed to silt over the ruins of London in a perfect snow of soft whiteness, just as I cover over the sharp hard angles of my maleness with smooth silks.
But even as I dance my ears are choking on the screaming of the dead. So I dance faster, and faster, whirling my gowns of silk until it goes away… for a while.
All the way to Madras Place…

“He had no axe to grind, you never saw him smile,
but his look was good, he always dressed in style…”
(‘Crawdaddy Simone’ by the Syndicats )

‘Stingray’. Anything can happen in the next half-hour.
This night, after leaving the restaurant, instead of heading back for Holloway Road, Joe takes a lazy stroll down through Islington towards the green square of Madras Place…
No reason. No particular place to go. But when I get there, I will know. My narrow-cut high double-breasted suit is Saville Row. My hair by a gentleman’s barber in Mayfair. The hand-painted tie is deep turquoise silk. They’re matched to an expensive watch and cuff-links, yet I’m navigating by using a lure to tawdriness fixed deep in the nervous tissue. Driven on dark compulsions, the vile obsessions that can’t be denied. It’s always this way. The restless hunger for grubby encounters. And the stuff in my head that won’t resolve itself. Glenda Collins. Bobby Rio & The Revelles. A ‘B’-side to concoct for the Syndicats. A single for the Tornados, two sides lifted from the current Gerry Anderson TV ‘Supermarianation’ series….
I fist some pills. Uppers. Purples. And after walking for a while I pause here, on the corner between the off-license and the laundromat. Across the road there’s a Gent’s Lavatory on a patch of scrubby grass. One I’ve not noticed before. It must have been here. Obviously. Just that I’ve not noticed it until now. So I take a furtive glance this way, and then that. It’s become a luminous gateway. A flesh-red portal to an underworld of dark deviance. And I slope inside. Down three wet-slippery steps. It’s a small pissoir – just four urinals backed up by two graffiti’d cubicles. But it’s dark. Someone has deliberately extracted the soiled incandescent bulb from its wire cage. Promising. Just that foul smell to orientate by, urine, stale semen and the drip-drip-drip of disinfectant. The sweetly clinging stench of a drab ceramic cave, with gloomy tiles and foul washbasins. But there are two shapes. Two men. I slide into the space between them as my eyes become used to the gloom, the cold sweat of anticipation slicking my shirt to my shoulders. As it always does. I can tell that only one of the men is worth having. A labouring type, slight, with a cropped haircut, and – as far as I can tell, he’s wearing tight jeans and a dark pvc coat. My mouth is dry.
There’s still time for you to get out. You can get out now, and stay clean. You came in for a piss, didn’t you? Nothing more...
The other man is already moving away, not out of the place altogether, but back up against the wall. In the gloom he looks about thirty, aristocratic. He’s exhaling on a cigarette and, by the glowing end, watching. A choreography, as though it’s rehearsed. The floor is quivering. We don’t have Earth tremors in Madras Place, surely? No, it’s just this sick anticipation. That familiar ticking in the scrotum, the familiar tightening of the glutei. Stood next to the labourer. My breath stopped. Reaching down into his groin. That agony of uncertainty. But he’s responding, a catch in his breathing, his hand reaching down to play with me. I unbutton the top of my pants to give him free rein. The other guy moving in, easing his hands roughly down the back of my trousers, his hot breath on my neck, the smell of his cigarette curling around my nostrils. The heady excitement of blood pounding in my veins. Nobody moves. It is dark. Just a little spill of light into the place from the street, not enough to see by. We are not faces. Not individuals. We are only need expressed in gushes of pure wildness. Radioactive cocks, pulsing and throbbing in warm meat sockets. Feeding on each other. Merging together. Melting the very core of your being.
The little pissoir dissolves into scenes of frenzied saturnalia, in stale odors caught in a blur of motion, a physical violence in throbbing darkness. While no more that two feet away the good citizens of Islington are moving about their ordinary business. I come, squirting jism-jets – one, two, three, into the labourer’s eager mouth and quickly pull up my pants, clammy now. Scared again. As they switch their attentions on each other I turn to get out. The urgency to escape suddenly so strong it’s overwhelming. But framed against the door, up against the streetlights, the way is blocked by a man. Tall. Slouch-hat. Black, with moonstruck eyes. But why does his face escape me? And there’s something odd… something not quite right about him.
Special Branch? Oh shit, please no.
But he’s there. Clear. Real. Then he’s gone. Turning back, they’re too busy with each other’s bodies to have noticed anything. And the interior has shape-shifted into an amniotic sub-aquatic scene where squid and seal-like creatures coil around each other voraciously, tentacles and grotesquely inflated genitals plunging like hands, gorging on mutually devoured flesh. And there, emerging from the right-side cubicle, is the black figure. And he’s holding a javelin of ice. No, it’s glass. A long shard of shattered, blitz-salvaged plate-glass. I’m in a cold sweat of terror. They can’t see him. They’re too engrossed in each other. He’s standing over them. Looks deliberately at me. And stamps down hard on the aristo-type’s head. So hard his jaws clamp down, abruptly severing the stiff penis in his mouth. Crawling and rearing up, the howl of agonized terror is slashed short as the glass blade arcs once, twice, three times, severing the labourer-type’s jugular vein. This is sick. This is obscene. I can’t watch. But I watch. Blood fountains, piss, spewing intestines start to unravel in foul scribbling coils. Flowers of blood growing into gaudy blossoms of blood. Blooming blood-flowers. Stars of blood, swirling into galaxies of random constellation. The reek of busted bowels and pools of vile mucoid bile-emissions…
I force my eyes away from the gore-splattered slice and dice. Pulling my collar up, slip-sliding up the three moist steps I’m suddenly back onto the street. Nothing. No-one. And I’m walking as fast as I can, fast – but not too fast to draw attention. I have to walk all the way back. Very tired. More than a little scared, all the way back to 304.

“He ain’t got no friends…”
(‘Crawdaddy Simone’ by the Syndicats )

Let me set the scene…
He creaks up the stairs of 304 Holloway Road, North London, two at a time, onto the landing of the flat above the leather goods store. Careful not to alert the radar-attentions of Mrs Violet Shenton. She’s the landlady, a large wheezing woman who has difficulty climbing stairs. And there’s the awkward issue of unpaid rent to avoid. But once safely past her ground-floor diligence zone, you’re emerging into fantasia. Into a confusion of blades and whirligigs, of sleek rounded units with handles and wires gaffa-taped into sequence. A scruffy studio, with egg-box sound-proofing and bits of carpet thumb-tacked across the walls. Electrical coils that snake across the floor, jack-leads, spools, curly cables, winker bulbs, valves, plug sockets, dials like a ‘Quatermass’ control-board, and a ceaseless drumming thunder that reverberates from every reflective surface. Primal technology. It’s also something of a death-trap.
There are stories. Where Joe’s concerned, there are always stories. Bits of ceiling plaster fall onto the equipment when volume-levels peak. And leaning against the wall, at a precise angle, there’s a shotgun. It belongs to Heinz, Tornados bass-player, and Joe’s sometime lover. He’d left it there, meant to pick it up, never got round to it. It’s the same shotgun Joe had leveled at this guy Mitch Mitchell – later of the Hendrix Experience, threatening to ‘blow his fucking head off’ if he doesn’t drum the way he wants him to drum – which is ‘properly’. And every so often it’s necessary to stop recording when the sound of a heavy truck driving by outside is picked up by the slow-spooling yellow-brown magnetic-tape.
It’s cramped here too. Mike Rossi of the Spectres tells how he’s tuning his guitar, raising the neck to make fine-adjustments, when accidentally it contacts Roger Lavern’s un-earthed electric keyboard, the resulting sparking-arc of blue-flash shocks him clear across the studio floor, blacking him out and numbing his arm dead for the remainder of the session. But he plays - as you will play - ‘cos this is Joe’s studio. And this is serious stuff…
Watch the uncanny stillness of his manner as Joe works. The impression he gives of barely moving his lips. You’re inclined to think he’s some kind of brilliant ventriloquist. An illusionist. Which – of course, he is. Until he explodes into petulance, temper tantrums and sullen sulks. Until he throws a piano stool or an open-top tape recorder at someone who has dared criticize or disagree with him. “He has a very violent temper” shrugs session-drummer Clem expansively, “and he’s never wrong. Never.”
But Joe has a way of ironing out the wrinkles. After all, he’s got three-hundred songs to his credit, three-hundred and counting. After all, here is a man who gets hit singles using bicycle clips to hold microphones in place. ‘Music. I don’t WRITE music’ he’d said. ‘Geoff Goddard can write it down. I hear it. I record it. Create it. Shape it. But I don’t do notes on paper…’

“Baby some black day, Crawdaddy will show…”
(‘Crawdaddy Simone’ by the Syndicats)

“Explain? I can’t explain.” If Geoff Goddard can’t explain this, no-one can. Geoff knows things, intuits things others can’t. “To reiterate what you’ve told me, this strange-walking man is haunting you, you think blackmail? You keep seeing him, but he’s never approached you direct, he’s made no demands, no threats?”
From Joe, only a stupid nod. And a voice scarcely audible above the background radio. “It’s not a lot, I know. But it’s scary Geoff. It’s spooking me.”
“So what do you think he wants?”
“You tell me. No – I really mean it, you tell me. Do your talking-to-spirits thing. Find out what he wants.”
“I’ve already done some Joe. The ‘cottage’ you visited that night, the first place you ever saw him, the place you could never find again…”
“Yes, yes. What about it?” Yes, I constructed a ‘Borrower’s’-style scale-model London in my head, the kind of miniature village you pay 6d admission at seaside resorts, to walk through and squint into. The kind that cranky obsessives painstakingly construct in their back-gardens. And I stalk its imaginary streets like a Rock ‘n Roll Gulliver, trying to retrace my steps that night, and here’s the street and here’s the Laundromat and the off-license. But no public Gent’s. It’s not there. Perhaps it only existed then, coming into existence – for my exclusive benefit, on that precise night as I approached?
“I have a strong hunch. Think about the blitz. The sky black with Luftwaffe and the searchlights hitting out at the shapes of stars crashing down from their orbits. With huge tripod war machines stilting over the rubble and ugly gouges of smoke crawling over the pulped bodies, twisted mangled and mutilated, with lights pulsing and sirens banshee-howling.”
“Yes. I know. I was eleven, coming up to twelve. I was… dancing. What’s that got to do with it?”
“That area you describe, the place where you did that illicit cottaging, it was smashed that night of the blitz. It used to be a run-down residential area, terraced houses, rooming houses, that sort of thing. But after that night, nothing survived but rubble. There were families there. Families who died. Families who died as you danced. And him? He was there too. Only now he inhabits other voices, other shadows, other sounds. And you know, Joe, we tune in through our psychic senses, through our electronic distortions here are RGM, and it all combines to distort time and space and set up sympathetic echoes across time. From here… back to then.”
I know it. On a deep subliminal level. Me? I was born with poison running in my veins. A damning virus that prompts my trips into taboo. My gravitational attraction to the dark swirling undercurrents of evil glamour. Into forbidden territories. That’s how I know it’s possible to love the body, but not the soul. And at times I’m completely in the power of sexual compulsions I can’t control. It invades me and takes over my body and uses it for its own purposes. I am compelled to carry out its grubby demeaning wishes, and yet all the time I’m fully aware of what I am doing. Even as I’m resenting myself for doing it. ‘To hear is to obey, oh master’. Perhaps he’s part of that too? This makes sense. “Those families. What were their names? Do you know?”
“I get one name strongly. Perhaps Italian extraction – via New Orleans, I don’t know. Does it mean anything to you? ‘Simone. Crawdaddy Simone’.”
“That’s it. That’s the one. That’s him… so how do I get rid of him?”
“It was we who attracted him, Joe. You were trance-dancing as he died. That forged the first psychic connection. Then there’s the transcendental sexual energies you generated exactly on the spot he died, that set up the second connection. The rest we did here. For people who die in those circumstances, their after-life becomes weird, they turn to stone or ice, to fire or – in his case, electricity. And we have been drawing on spirit-world forces through the sympathetic powers of the music we conjure. So now we must exorcise him. Give him the peace he craves. And the way we must do it is to use electronics. Valves. Circuit boards. Sound distortion. We free him through a ritual of sound we will create here, sound evoking his name. And by doing so, we free you…”
‘Free me? Yes – it’s not my fault that I don’t belong, and have never belonged. It’s the world around me that’s gone all wrong. I change my mind every week. I have storms of miserable hot rage aimed at an intolerant and frustrating world. It’s like being buried alive in hatred. Free me from that, too, Geoff, if you can….’
A silence, interrupted only by the radio. Then an abrupt switch. “I tried to warn him, you know?”
“Warn who?” Geoff is taken unawares by the unexpected turn.
A vague wave towards the transistor. Buddy Holly. ‘Baby, I Don’t Care’.
“What do you mean?” His voice translating up out of the humming silence.
“Buddy Holly. I attended one of his final London dates. I went backstage. Naturally, the staff - they knew me. He was there. And I told him. Warned him about the plane. The crash. He looked me straight in the eyes, through those famous glasses. And he thanked me. Thanked me as though I’d just told him I liked the shade of his shirt. Thanked me as though I’d said I liked the clavioline on his solo record ‘Everyday’. He thanked me. Then turned away to talk to someone else.”
“Perhaps he didn’t hear you right. Or understand what you were telling him.”
“Perhaps. But I didn’t get through to him. He ignored what I said. And because of that, inside the year he was dead. You know the date – 3rd February 1959.”

“If he comes your way, Man you better blow,
Just leave him alone, Crawdaddy Simone…”
(‘Crawdaddy Simone’ by the Syndicats )

It’s mid-morning. And Joe is thinking ‘my ears fill with the sound of frogs and toads trapped inside the plumbing. It’s been raining heavily for days. The sounds I’m hearing must be the gutters and the overflows filling, the water levels swelling, and the frogs are drowning. Can frogs drown…?’ And of course, the flat is bugged. There are concealed microphones, hidden behind the plaster, sensitive to every sound. They’re thieving my ideas. My unique genius. It’s obvious. The new breed of record producers, Andrew Loog-Oldham, Shel Talmy. Brian Epstein’s pretty leather boys. And even Spector too. They must be sucking it all in even now...
Oblivious to this subterfuge, the Syndicats arrive. Jeff Williams glances up to where the shopfront reads ‘A. H. SHENTON - TRAVEL GOODS: HANDBAGS: LEATHER & GRINDERY’. This is the place. It always amuses him. Leather and grindery. But this is where they make hit records. So they file upstairs, one by one. Joe’s already there, tetchily telling everyone to mind the cables and wires on the floor. ‘Don’t step on them, it’ll spoil things.’ But wires and cables are everywhere – it’s impossible not to stop on them, unless you’re forced to play perfectly rooted to the spot. Finding a little space to gear up, to record this ‘Crawdaddy Simone’, this strange title suggested by Joe. A song intended to be the ‘B’-side to ‘On The Horizon’, a Ben E King cover. A safe bet.
Now each Syndicat in turn runs through musical phrases and patterns so that Joe, perfectly tuned in a crisp suit, can adjust the dials on his desk accordingly. But Joe seems perhaps a little more distracted than usual? Spaced-out, even. Indeed he is. Uppers, downers too. He’d been like this when they’d recorded ‘On The Horizon’ – after all, that’s when guitarist Steve Howe quit the band. He’d said all that stuff about ‘believing there’s a sense of doom’ over the place. And over Joe. Ray Fenwick was hastily drafted in to replace him. Still feeling his way. He’d been with The Excels, until he’d answered that small-ad in the local paper. But today Joe’s even worse. Perhaps Steve was right? He wants everything right, even more than usual, for this song he calls ‘Crawdaddy Simone’. Conceding “that’s fine,” grudgingly. Except there’s no depth, no conviction to Joe’s words. No one in the room really believes it is fine, but then Joe has a way of ironing out the wrinkles.
Then he sets the tape rolling. You start by picking out some opening chords from Berry Gordy’s ‘Money’, overlaid with some moist squelchy electro-shocks. Ray Fenwick’s guitar emits a curt distorted rasp. And when he plays his guitar that way, Joe smiles - it’s his first smile of this very long day. He asks Ray to play again. It’s a killer sound. Turning the dials on his console, he makes the sound - the song, louder.
This is the way it works. Johnny Lamb - the singer, goes in the bathroom, adjacent to the toilet pedestal, the better to achieve echo. Leading in with a bratty Jagger vocal slur, matched to a storm of frantic drum-kicks. The drummer – we don’t need a drummer. We generate the beat ourselves. We use Clem. Or else we thump on the floor here, not there – but here, precisely. It sets up exactly the correct seismic deep-resonance sound-level we require. Joe is transfixed - not on the band or music, necessarily, just transfixed. Perhaps he notices the needles on his console all flicking into the red when Johnny growls the opening line, ‘Cheating was his trade’. Perhaps he doesn’t. But that’s where the needles stay for the duration of the track - not dropping, not registering any sign of activity. Just locked up there high. And the Syndicats go into orbit, banging out ‘Crawdaddy Simone’ with an energy borne of excitement and frustration. And the energy levels peak when Ray kicks in with a guitar solo that isn’t quite what it should be in this day and age. Something strange has got into the machinery. Into a ‘Wooly Bully’ shuffle-rhythm with tortured glissade up and down the guitar-neck. “Here we go again - Go, Go, Go…!” The compression so high it near melts the speakers. Then Joe treats it. Then he channels it through the mixing desk, bounces it, distorts it, shapes it. A deranged cut-up guitar like a storm of silver locusts as it disintegrates into the slithery fade of beautifully guilt-ridden notes. All done on two tracks. But that’s all Joe needs. It’s alchemy. But it’s an alchemy that works. See the gold discs? He gets no.1 hits this way. And he’s the only alchemist who can do it. He’s the illusionist. The magician. This is a shaman’s room, and he has magic at his fingertips…
The last distorted chords fade into silence. At his table, Joe remains focused, unmoving.
“Joe? How was that?” Everything slips into focus and he’s in the real world once again. Joe Meek, the record producer.
Playing the track back, Ray’s guitar isn’t the only thing that’s distorted - the whole recording has clearly over-peaked. But no-one says anything, lest it offends Joe. His methods are seldom questioned, an offended Joe is liable to have a tantrum and start throwing things around. Or worse...
It will take some time, a couple of decades, for the resultant track to transcend its humble ‘B’-side status and lodge itself firmly onto the landscape that is Musical Legend. But that’s what ‘Crawdaddy Simone’ does. The brightest shining example of what is commonly termed British Freakbeat, with original vinyl copies fetching up to £300. Reflecting on ‘Crawdaddy Simone’ a quarter of a century later, John McCready would write: “This is not really a record — more a static filled thunderstorm...”


Now, while Mrs Violet Shenton is creak-creaking up the stairs towards Joe’s flat, determined to ‘have it out once and for all’ with her troublesome tenant, unable to sleep with his nocturnal audio-experimenting. His thump-thump-thumpings on the floor. And the space noises. He owes rent too. Why can’t she get a normal tenant? Violet. A large woman, who wheezes breathily. For her, it’s bad timing. The music industry is conspiring against him. He’s just heard that EMI have rejected his latest batch of tapes. The “Telstar” royalties, long locked up in litigation, will not be resolved for at least another year. For Joe has always been a better record producer than he is an accountant, and now, as his personal problems and tangled financial affairs are worsening towards melt-down, his mixed-up delusions are intensifying.
In his head, when he’d danced as a child, he became beauty, he became grace. Even as he dances now there is still some part of him that is no longer himself, yet his ears are choking on the screaming of the dead. It’s the exact anniversary of Buddy Holly’s plane-crash death, on the 3rd February 1959. And, despite the ‘electronic exorcism’, he’s still seeing the strange-walking man. Crawdaddy Simone. So I dance faster, and faster, whirling my gowns of silk until it goes away… for a while. Only this time, it won’t go away. The spectre of death lurks behind the pursuit of tainted pleasures. It’s impossible to indulge one without eventually surrendering to the other. Anonymous gutter-sex is a willing submersion in chaos. A flirtation with the agents of death. Now I hear all these sirens. And I think ‘what’s going on out there in the street?’ Until I realize the sirens are all inside my head. I’m freaking. But footsteps on the stairs? They’re real. Lips tight with paranoia, eyes harshly shadowed, depressed and in a state of pill-heightened panic. LSD too.
He seizes the shotgun. Heinz’ shotgun… the door is opening. After a couple of endless ticks he snaps out of his freeze… and eases the trigger, empties the chamber into… her. His body spasms with recoil. His quiff vibrates. It’s Mrs Violet Shenton. She staggers back. Over the landing, head-over-heeling down the stairs. Strange it should assume her outward appearance.
Exorcism. There’s one thing left to do to complete the ritual. He calmly reloads. Puts the barrel up against the roof of his mouth, and blows the top off his own head too. Joe is thirty-eight years old.


“…So now we call the group Syn.” Johnny Lamb is standing outside 304 Holloway Road, Islington, eating the heat. It’s 3rd February 1967. Mid-morning. “We drop the ‘-indicats’, and become ‘Syn’.”
“Yes.” Jeff Williams glances across to where the shopfront reads ‘A. H. SHENTON - TRAVEL GOODS: HANDBAGS: LEATHER & GRINDERY’. It amuses him. Leather and grindery.
“Syn sounds good. We stuck with Joe. At least for that last record. We saw it through. He’d done it for the Tornados, he’d done it for the Honeycombs. He might have been able to do it for us. So we did that one last single. And we got to do some kind of weird ‘B’-side. We did that, and it was a great record. Whatever it meant to Joe. It got to no.22 on the ‘Radio London’ chart. That’s good too. But it’s not great. So now, I guess, we’ll try something else…”
But I swear that sometimes, when the mist is rising and the rain is falling and the wind is blowing cold across the moor, I still hear the sound of that record…


Around 1965 The Syndicats are an aspiring upwardly-mobile North London R&B group with a line-up including Steve Howe, Tom Ladd, P. Driscoll and Kevin Driscoll. Some-time mid-1965 guitarist Steve Howe quits to join the In-Crowd (who then metamorphasise into Tomorrow) leaving John Melton and guitar-replacement Ray Fenwick, and – as members come and go, Pete Banks (guitar) and Chris Squire (bass) join the five-piece Syndicats…
Their three singles, produced at Joe Meek’s legendary ‘Meeksville Sound’ RGM studios, are:-
“Maybelline” c/w “True To Me” (Columbia DB 7238) – March 1964. Chuck Berry song.
“Howlin’ For My Baby” c/w “What To Do” (Columbia DB 7441) – January 1965. Howlin’ Wolf song.
“On The Horizon” c/w “Crawdaddy Simone” (Columbia DB 7686) – September 1965. Reaches a high of no.22 on the ‘Radio London’ Top 40 (10th October). Steve Howe plays on the ‘A’-side, replaced by Ray Fenwick for the flip. Rest of the group at this point – playing a residency at ‘The Plug Hole’ club on Tottenham Court Road, is keyboard-player Jeff Williams (who co-wrote ‘Crawdaddy Simone’ with Fenwick), John Truelove (drums), Kevin Driscoll (guitar), Johnny Lamb (vocals & harmonica), Paul Holm (drums on ‘Crawdaddy Simone’)
Name-changing to The Syn, the group – now including Chris Squire and Pete Banks (who replaces Ray Fenwick), leave the Joe Meek stable, and re-sign to the Deram ‘flower-family’ for:-
“Created By Clive” c/w “Grounded” (Deram DM 130) – June 1967. ‘A’-side is competing for air-time with a rival version by The Attack.
“Flowerman” c/w “Fourteen-Hour Technicolour Dream” (Deram DM 145) – September 1967. ‘B’-side is dedicated to the Alexandra Palace Festival, excerpts from which – featuring John’s Children, Pink Floyd and Creation, gets screen-time on BBC2.
Pete Banks and Chris Squire then join Jon Anderson to form Yes, opening Cream’s farewell concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 26th November 1968. By March 1970 Banks is replaced by Steve Howe… and they go on to become ludicrously huge…


Concert review of THE RAMONES at
‘Leeds University’ (August 1980)

‘Johnny, Joey, Dee, good times’
(‘The Things That Dreams Are Made of’ Human League)

‘Gabba Gabba Hey! Gabba Gabba Hey…!!!’ Smithereening the complacent veneer of Leeds University the Ramones fracture the ‘Fresher’s Hop’ into a Blitzkrieg Bop. A ‘Creeee-tin Hop’ of relentless riffery, mind-numbing minimalism, and hypnotic repetition. A Uni all symmetrical concrete and glass, a postal date-stamp proclaiming it centre of the ‘Motorway City Of The Seventies’, and through its twisting motor-congealed vindaloo-smeared back-alleys the bizarre misfits and chic underachievers, the curious and the converted, are queuing across a cascade of steps, hustling for tickets. While, deadpan, inflectionless, Joey Ramone leans into the microphone, and ‘it’s good to be in Leeds agen’, perhaps he even means it. The show sold out. Earlier they’d played forty-five minutes at ‘The Rainbow’, now they come back for three – maybe four encores, seguing into ninety minutes, on and on in cyclic permutations of the same inevitable fistful of riffs/chords. See Joey sway, see him jump up and down, poke his finger into the undulating pogoing front row… ‘First rule – IS!’ see Johnny snarl and grimace almost like a REAL punk, ‘Second rule – IS!’ see Dee Dee neatly catch the arcing lager-can, see him hurl it back into the audience, not even noticeably missing a bass-line. ‘Third rule – IS!’ see the hail of ritual gob – marvel that, one hour into the set, not only can they still generate saliva, but also achieve a quite respectable trajectory angling into the lights in silver constellations. Walk on crushed cans, foam exploding and ejaculating as you twitch on sticky sucking-tiles… But wait – first up there’s some old-school support band, a competent Rock set half-audible thrumming reverberating down corridors to the Bar. Then the stage plunges black but for a formation of gleaming amp-lights and the shadowy backdrop, and when the lights slam back the first chunks of “Rockaway Beach” are already chewing out rhythms in solid waves of noise, and just as it dissolves into howls and farts of speaker-protest Dee Dee is already counting one-two-three-four into “Teenage Lobotomy”, and relentlessly, without a break it extends, hurling through “Commando”, “Judy Is A Punk”, “I Remember You”, “I Don’t Care”, and “Don’t Come Close”. The first words on the first track of the Beatles’ first LP were ‘One-two-three-four’. The Ramones are five albums in, plus a spin-off of singles. Joey, pants-knees carefully ragged, contrived shambling aggression – though we all know he’d be pushed to beat on any brat with or without baseball bat! He’s more the school skinny-kid who got stomped on at recess-time. Joey’s hair’s too long and Dee Dee’s pudding-bowl cut too retro to conform to Punk’s year-zero. They sniff carbona and glue because they can’t afford Chinese Rocks. Wear torn sneakers ‘cos charity shops don’t do labels. Formed their own street-gang just to have something to do, because they weren’t cool enough to join anyone else’s street-gang, even though they don’t agree and don’t even like each other much. It’s the same geek-revenge fantasy as Eddie Cochran who couldn’t take the car ‘cos he didn’t work late. If Bakunin wanted to torch the planet, Dee Dee’s just out to incinerate cerebellum. It’s a guise – more blatantly so since Tommy ‘Ramone’ came out from behind leather jacket to become Tommy Erdelyi, and Marky ‘Ramone’ stepped into the aforesaid discarded garment. It’s a ripped fanzine guise frozen around the first tactile ripples of what they spawned as ‘Punk’ when the Ramones first left home, signed with Danny ‘16’ Fields – circa late 1975, when they flunked outta the Pistols legendary first UK tour double-header, but went on to fry ‘The Roundhouse’ instead alongside the equally exquisite Flamin’ Groovies in ’76… all long before Roger Corman’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” movie, before the wimpy Top Ten hit lifted off the Phil Spector-produced album, before ‘The End Of The Century’ when it all corrupted and soured… Sure, it’s a guise, a graffiti cartoon, but a hellishly effective one. A retard’s manifesto pared to the conceptual bone. Viral riff, energy, attitude, hook, haiku-bare dumb/smart lyric – ‘I don’t care/ about that girl/ about this world’, title, and total lyric. What is it they don’t care about? Like Brando in ‘The Wild Ones’, ‘what have you got?’ Surely such postmodern precision couldn’t happen without design, any more than their predecessors the Shangri-Las or New York Dolls could have? But to admit to design would be to blow it. Like with Wagner operas you only need to ‘suspend disbelief’ and ride with it. There’s no single moment of looseness in the entire set, only super-tight, hyper-fast, razored two-to-three minute song-shrapnel ramming at you from the speakers like the kick-start of a 750cc Harley Davidson. Then into the encores with a strangely out-of-phase “Needles And Pins” – too lyrical, too melodic, a long(ish) jaggedy dumb-psychedelic “Surfin’ Bird”, a rousing “D’ya Wanna Dance” from the nerd-gang no-one’d really wanna dance with anyway, and a penultimate euphoric “Pinhead”-chantalong that veers and vibrates, smithereening and spiking into every corner of the hall. Then they’re gone, leaving only retinal after-flashes and audial tinnitus reverberations of a great great gig. Eternal, transcendental, timeless Rock ‘n’ Roll as it’s meant to be done…
Published in:-
‘PEEPING TOM no.6’ (August 1980 – UK)