Saturday 30 November 2019



give me this chair
where the sunset light falls,
give me loud guitars
in my earbuds,
give me new poems,
give me the soft warmth
of this woman’s skin

to live extremes
crushes the world,
we burn and maim,
leave victims in
bitterness and pain,
I’m beyond that,
don’t need that any more
don’t want to hurt,
or be hurt

give me this ouzo,
this music,
give me this chair
in the corner
where sunset light falls,
give me this
moment of peace

Friday 29 November 2019

New Wave SF: Graham Charnock's 'First And Last Words'


 His new book – ‘LAST WORDS’, is a collection of highly idiosyncratic 
poetry. But Graham Charnock began as part of the ‘New Worlds’ 
 New Wave SF revolution, and recorded with 
 Michael Moorcock’s Deep Fix

 ‘Come on, climb into my web, and toast eternity with me 
 as time tick ticks out. Let’s have one last dance together’ 
 (“A Night On Bare Mountain”) 

The deep maroon cover of ‘New Worlds no.184’ (November 1968) is straplined ‘SPECIAL ALL-NEW WRITERS ISSUE’, and it features Graham Charnock’s “Crim”. At just twenty-one, he was the youngest contributor, but of course, he’d already been writing for some time. In his early teens he recalls submitting tyro-texts to the magazine’s previous editor, EJ ‘Ted’ Carnell. ‘There was “Decline And Fall”, a three-hundred-word plotless vignette, which came back with the note, ‘so sorry, our minimum is three-thousand words’. I promptly shot off a three-thousand-worder. That came back too, on a bare slip this time…’ Then Michael Moorcock’s editorial regime set the controls for the heart of change, innovation, and new blood. Robert Holdstock was there, alongside M John Harrison… as well as names such as Brian Vickers who made his mark, then moved on. Yet within a short space of months, Graham Charnock would be co-editing his own ‘New Worlds’ issues.

Born 18 November 1946, after spending time at Greenford Grammar School, Graham was living in Alperton, Middlesex, working as an executive ‘with a large West End advertising agency’. A setting that provides ‘much of the experience and conflict’ for “Crim”, reconfigured into exaggerated metaphor. In accordance with New Wave dictates there are no spaceships or alien worlds, the medium itself is now the message. JG Ballard sets the tone, with less plot or characterisation and more stream-of-consciousness innovative literary experiment. ‘CRIM is a button that somebody pushed and then buried the button. CRIM is an igloo that too many people have crawled into. CRIM looks after its employees and all that shit.’ There are detonations of image grenades that soak the narrator’s body in sepia auras, as tactile as putty. And explosions of wild invention. The coffee-machine is plotting to poison the staff, perpetrating a crime against humanity. Velma Vonay is still having orgasms caused by an illicit air-strike of heat-seeking Sex-film Warheads. In a Total Warfare Area they plan a campaign to counter ‘Pain’, a suicidal religious cult, using military-assault terminology. There is a drop-in paragraph with characters called A and B. In shock-phrases of sexual violence, a Chinese girl has hung herself on a monkey-puzzle tree, ‘Jones fires off a burst at the young corpse. The soft ammunition explodes in the body, pulverizing it into rainbow iridescence.’ Although the story ends in hope, its rhythm is downbeat.

Then, collected into ‘Best SF Stories From New Worlds 8’ (Panther, 1974), “The Erogenous Zone” forms one of what are announced as ‘ten voyages beyond the far reaches of speculation’, yet seems to occupy elements of the same “Crim” continuum. Originally featured as his fourth ‘New Worlds’ appearance – in no.192 (July 1969), the ciphers A and B reappear, but as Craven Image drives his automatic towards Media Assault Limited’s Co-ordination Centre he hits and kills an idiot-kid ‘with hydrocephalic forehead and glazed eyes.’ The text is rifted with confrontation, in ways that twenty-first-century sensitivities might find offensive. The Dresden bombing was an atrocity. In a war against fascism, there were anti-Semitic taunts among the allies. Taken through sense-distorting clouds of hallucinogenic mist to a strange National Hospital, Image has sex with ex-stripper nurse Hedy. ‘Hedy was an automaton whose fingers were scalpels. Her private parts were choked with rust and he could feel nothing for her. She held up a portion of his gut and said, ‘see, I told you I could do it.’

By then, Graham had established the parameters of his continuum. “The Death Layout” (in ‘New Worlds no.188’, March 1969) is another fragmented hand-out from the same campaign, using its William Burroughs cut-up textual techniques. The various fragments compile into sections of a continuous novel, a single work in instalments. It is next level. There were no Spin-Doctors back then, but they were spinning. There were Focus Groups, although they didn’t call them Focus Groups. Compared to today, media was in a state of relative infancy. But Graham was ahead of the curve. ‘Vance’ might have been Vance Packard who delineated the subliminal role of ‘The Hidden Persuaders’ (1957). Marshall McLuhan was furnishing the Global Village with electro-interconnections. ‘This is a TV camera. It writes the history of now. Its moving finger comprises the elementary particles. The mosaic of its cathode ray image is a jigsaw puzzle with an infinite numbers of solutions.’ That reality is not so much fixed, as determined by malleable degrees of perception. 

The steady drip-drip-drip of Fake News creates a society in which truth is negotiable. While this is the new frontier that Graham was already charting in 1969, ‘not yesterday’s environment, but the reality of this minute, this second, this nanosecond.’ It has even greater currency now, when Graham tells me ‘the sophistication and ease of modern CGI has a lot to answer for, I fear, when it can seamlessly reconstruct old footage of dead stars such as Audrey Hepburn for chocolate adverts. Soon reality won’t count for much. We will believe anything we see, no matter how unlikely, and our TV myths will go down for future generations as ‘reality’ and ‘actuality’. It might even be possible to reconstruct Donald Trump as a Humanitarian Saviour!’

Is this the fitting subject for SF under its revised guise of Speculative Fiction? Older readers were less convinced. Where is the First Contact encounter with tentacular life-forms on lost asteroids? Oldsters were also less enthused about the seemingly gratuitous loveless sex. But wasn’t there supposed to be a new evolving morality fuelled on contraception, sexual revolution and the expanded possibilities of repealed censorship? Awash with testosterone perhaps, unaware that female-empowerment may have gender-agendas other than as three-hole sex-toys. Yet it’s difficult not to enjoy the passage about ‘her nursing slip was torn over one huge pendulous breast which trembled, recording the MAL bombardment like a fleshy seismograph.’

Pop-culture references are scattered, the Beatles “And Your Bird Can Sing” in “Crim”. Hendrix in “Sub-Entropic Evening” (in ‘New Worlds no.191’, June 1969), and a guitar ‘whereby cells, like crystals, could be made to resonate. The guitar broadcasts a special signal that affects the cells in the visual cortex of the brain in this way.’ Langdon Jones editorialises about Michael Moorcock’s fiction technique as utilised in his ‘Jerry Cornelius’ tales, with ‘his method of construction as being closer in many ways to musical composition… stories are conceived in terms of tone, repeated images, quotes from his own earlier work and the work of others.’ This is also true of Graham’s contributions. The basement dialogue between Jones and Dragon in “Sub-Entropic Evening” has a more conventional structure, although Velma – traumatised and incapable of speech following her father’s repeated reprimands, works for CRIM, and endures a strange interlude with a paunchy over-jowled man who mistakes her for a prostitute. There is an atrocity Arena, Cap-Sul-ads, lizard visions… and the Pain cult.

For the inner coterie of ‘New Worlds’ writers it was an intoxicating year-zero insurrection, subverting and reinventing texts, perpetrating intellectual games in experimental prose and poetry bewildering to outsider non-initiates. Over the decade event horizon, the January 1970 issue no.197 includes Graham’s “The Suicide Machines” set amid an Oxford heatwave, with recognisable characters Velma, Dragon and Jones, plus Felix Apropos engaged in a dialogue about pornography. It is ‘art with none of this capital letter shit… that’s true art, the art of reality.’ Apropos returns to the small dusty room which had been his student squat, there are the names of previous occupants scrawled on the wall – including his own tight controlled hand. As he leaves, he casually tosses a grenade into the room and destroys it. The past exists only to be obliterated. There are unexplained ‘Feedies’, which only the issue’s editorial reveals as ‘totally subservient, humanised robots’.

Beyond stories in ‘New Writings In SF’, Damon Knight’s ‘Orbit’ and the ‘Other Edens’ anthologies, the ‘New Worlds’ connection continues, into its later reincarnation as a thick paperback series edited by David Garnett. The teasing conundrum “On The Shores Of A Fractal Sea” (in ‘New Worlds no.3’) draws on Graham’s close encounters with Rock music, via his contributions to Michael Moorcock’s Deep Fix. The fictional deceased Rock-star narrator persists in a virtual Lagoona where ‘the beach goes on forever’, and where he works on his concept-cycle triple-album. Maybe being dead means he’s unaware that Hawkwind’s seventh studio album is also called ‘Quark, Strangeness And Charm’ (Charisma, June 1977)! He talks to shape-changing French, to whom his reality exists as ‘a fragment of cloned tissue… awash with oxy-infused saline.’

Next, “Harringay” (in no.4, 1994) is a curiously ingenious piece featuring a cloned Andy Warhol in a world where viable DNA-relics of historical characters are traded in hard-copy print-outs of ‘Clone And Mart’ (and there is still a BHS store!). Andy shops at a new Tesco, and muses about resurrection-cloned buildings. Then, in “A Night On Bare Mountain” (in the August 1997 edition), Venn addresses Gance in rambling discourse, recalling memories and incidents they’ve shared, allowing the reader in only gradually. ‘The world ends at midnight, Gance. Have you heard?’ as fundamentalist missiles fly overhead. A second speeding gonzo section is both satirical and satyrical, it shifts to a kind of post-apocalypse bayou fuelled on the rush of cyberpunk, with Athene who has needles grafted beneath her cuticles into ‘a walking acupuncture’. There are clever lines such as ‘our history lesson for today is how history lessens,’ and music-savvy fake-news about ‘you heard how Elvis landed on the Moon, right? One small step for a man, one giant leap for King Creole.’ It closes with a neat Arthur C Clarke inversion ‘one by one the stars were coming on.’ Although Venn’s quiz-question about movie versions of Richard Matheson’s ‘I Am Legend’ obviously precedes the 2007 Will Smith remake!

 Garnett also brings readers up to date with Grahams subsequent ‘proto-Goth group Smackhead’ and three solo albums of ‘country swamp jazz’ on his own Drop label, presaging his YouTube presence nailing “King Of Stupid”, set to acoustic Blues guitar. As well as ‘Mutant Surgery’, his ‘bi-monthly fetish magazine devoted to body piercing and scarification.’

When questioned about the wide spread of his work, Graham tells me ‘I think I understand you perfectly. I can only say I’ve never been interested in being a one-trick pony, and have always felt strangely sorry for my many successful friends who have knuckled down to one discipline and become very adept at it. In just the way I am not. Like I feel sorry for classically trained musicians who can never step outside the boundaries of their discipline and training. I have classically trained pianists as friends who simply do not understand me when I talk about improvising or free-form music. I have never been bothered by lack of professional success. I have toiled in the book industry most of my working life and it has kept body and soul together for both me and my family, leaving me free to flit from artistic flower to artistic flower in true dilettante fashion. I have no complaints.’

For his ‘Last Words’ (2019) collection, poetry is the language – and weapon, of choice. His poems are songs that become poems or poems that become songs, or simply songs that ‘got ideas above their station’. They’re a dialogue with his neglected guitar about daring to disturb long silences, with plectrums and pencils, but they’re also image grenades, spiky with contrarian indiscretions. A shock-confrontational “Jo Cox” seen through the warped mindset of the Labour politician’s deranged assassin. Stark about Srebrenica ‘ethic cleansing’. Or junkie Elvis overdosing in Tehachapi exile. Words explode like a match bursting into flame, written in napalm image-gel. Spitting phrases like machine-gun bullets. Sometimes they unfashionably rhyme, as songs do, sometimes they are scatological, but they don’t care. They don’t conform to anyone’s preconceptions, and are better because of it.

“Creatures Of The Night” observes ‘what all you humans do’, while “Northern Soul” compares kids dancing in Manchester clubs, those young men who ‘collapse in gutters, and rest their heads on kerbstones’, to salmon ‘singing along to Aretha’ while ‘flaying their bodies through scouring rocks’, Graham finds in favour of the ‘dancing silver of fish.’ Each line is touch-papered with fissionable material, barbed with the stubborn curmudgeonly humour of his ‘Facebook’ posts. Perhaps pretending a fake normality, from dementia, bereavement, and the beach at Dunkirk lost in the endless unfurl of years, where ‘new time lies like a crust on the mantle of the earth’, to the biography of “My Friend Kong” who ‘had anger issues’. Savage with tenderness, twisting hard shapes out of softness. Until the extinction-event asteroid comes. Disclaiming ‘this is what happens when you let rabble words run wild without supervision.’

‘I don’t need any of you any more, but I still love you.’ Graham once said ‘a cynic still has beliefs. He’s a disappointed romantic’. It seems that’s still true.


May 1966 – first issue of fanzine ‘Phile’, edited and produced by Graham Charnock. It survives for seven issues until 1968

January 1967 – published letter in ‘Speculation no.15’, a fanzine edited by Peter R Weston

February 1968 – ‘Vector no.48’ book review of Kit Reed’s ‘Mister Da V And Other Stories’ 

November 1968 – ‘New Worlds no.184’ edited by Michael Moorcock and James Sallis. Includes “Crim”

March 1969 – ‘New Worlds no.188’ edited by Michael Moorcock and Charles Platt. Includes “The Death Layout”

June 1969 – ‘New Worlds no.191’ edited by Langdon Jones. Includes “Sub-Entropic Evening”

July 1969 – ‘New Worlds no.192’ edited by Langdon Jones. Includes “The Erogenous Zone”, collected into ‘Best SF Stories From New Worlds 8’ edited by Michael Moorcock (Panther, March 1974)

November 1969 – ‘New Worlds no.195’ edited by Graham Charnock and Charles Platt

December 1969 – ‘New Worlds no.196’ edited by Graham Charnock and Graham Hall

January 1970 – ‘New Worlds no.197’ edited by Charles Platt, features “The Suicide Machines”

December 1970 – ‘Orbit 8’ edited by Damon Knight, includes “The Chinese Boxes”

July 1974 – Pat Charnock produces first 46-page issue of fanzine ‘Wrinkled Shrew’, drawing on members of Ratfandom group. The title survives for eight thick issues, the last dated April 1979

December 1974 – ‘Tree Rot Too’ fanzine edited by Leroy Kettle, includes “The Mind Pebbles”

1975 – ‘New Writings In SF no.27’ edited by Kenneth Bulmer, includes “The Observer” polished crafted prose, even on perfectly worldscaped Jocaster, Klien is uneasy, ‘vast beauty was paid for with vast ugliness’, brutal love-making and the ritual suicide of native forest-people. Graham Charnock recalls that ‘Ken was a good and kind man and supportive of the young writers that we were. I sold him my story and he printed it, but afterwards he confessed to me he didn’t have the foggiest idea what it was about. Well, that made two of us!’

March 1975 – LP ‘The New World’s Fair’ by Michael Moorcock And The Deep Fix (United Artists UAG 29732). Graham writes “You’re A Hero”, “Come To The Fair” and “In The Name Of Rock And Roll”, he also plays guitar and provides vocals. Reissued as CD by Esoteric Recordings ECLEC2026, in 2008

August 1975 – first issue of six-page fanzine ‘Vibrator’ edited and produced by Graham Charnock. No.2 September. No.3 October. No.4 ten-page issue January 1976. No.5 March 1976. No.6 eight-pages, March 1977. No.7 revived as eight-page issue April 2003, with four-page no.8. Relaunched with a vol.2 no.1 September 2013

August 1979 – ‘Seacon ’79 Programme Book’ edited by Graham Charnock, free handout for attendees at the Thirty-Seventh World SF Convention at Brighton, with Brian Aldiss and Bob Shaw fiction plus essays by Harlan Ellison and James White

December 1980 – “Dodgem Dude” c/w “Starcruiser” (Flicknife Records FLS200) by Michael Moorcock’s Deep Fix, with Graham playing bass. Single release of Deep Fix original demo

July 1987 – ‘Other Edens’ edited by Christopher Evans and Robert Holdstock, includes Graham’s “Fullwood’s Web”

November 1988 – ‘Other Edens 2’ edited by Christopher Evans and Robert Holdstock, includes “She Shall Have Music”

September 1993 – ‘New Worlds no.3’ new series edited by David Garnett, includes “On The Shores Of A Fractal Sea” (vol.62 no.219)

November 1994 – ‘New Worlds no.4’ edited by David Garnett, includes “Harringay”

August 1997 – ‘New Worlds’ anthology from White Wolf Publishing, listed as no.222, edited by David Garnett, includes “A Night On Bare Mountain”

November 2017 – ‘Running Amok In The Fun Factory’ (Ansible Editions), UK Con Reports Collected by Graham Charnock who also writes the introduction and five ‘reports’

April 2018 – ‘The Mysterious Affair At The Hanover Hinckley’ (Wrinkled Shrew Books ISBN 978-1365633225) ‘Two Gentlemen explorers go in search for the ultimate recipes for Wemblesham Pie and other Modern Wonders, little knowing it will lead them to an ultimate confrontation with the Evil Horned Spook’ 98pp

June 2018 – ‘Lost Children’ (Shrew Books), a collection of fourteen short stories, plus three novellas, 302pp 

August 2019 – ‘Graham Charnock Lyrics’ (Lulu Product ID 24217893) ‘a lifetime of inane perceptions condense into a whole volume’, 270pp

September 2019 – ‘Last Words: A Collection’ poems by Graham Charnock (Lulu ISBN 5-800136-006205)

Thursday 28 November 2019

CD Review: 808 STATE


 Album Review of: 
by 808 STATE 
(ZTT/ Salvo SALVOMDCD051 Element 20, 2011) 

‘We are the Music-Makers and the Dreamer of Dreams…’ 

There was a time, and not so very long ago, when a band could be something other than a commercial brand for merchandising product. They could be musicians doing interesting things. It doesn’t really matter what 808 State look like. They could do the massive dance-floor things when the fancy took them. But they’d be highly unlikely candidates for the ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ house. The original Manchester trio was Graham Massey (the only consistent member), with Martin Price (owner of ‘Eastern Bloc Records’) and ‘A Guy Called Gerald’ Simpson. The latter two later replaced by Andrew Barker and Darren Partington. They were faster-than-a-neutrino at picking up on the first implications of Chicago House, and fusing it to avant-electronica. Thus creating a zone where prehensile pulses shimmer, warp and quake in and out of sharp-edged beat-scapes.

 Theirs were industrial-funk grooves pioneering acid strategies – or blueprints, to be decoded and developed by other techno-head experimentalists such as Aphex Twin, Orbital, Chemical Brothers or Prodigy. Here, their debut dance-floor-filler “Flow Coma” comes as a slip-slithering Aphex Twin 2001 remix, with strangulated treated-voices lost in harshly abrasive shoot-‘em-up game-machine acid bleeps. Followed by further contributions from Simian, a Brian Eno Radio Mix, Manic James Dean Bradfield (with a 1996 EP-collaboration on the ethereal “Lopez” with Nicky Wire lyrics), plus lazy-voiced guest-vocals from Elbow-&-XFM presenter Guy Garvey on “Lemonsoul”, and ZTT (Zang Tuum Tumb)’s Trevor Horn on the opulent movie-stretch “Plan Nine”. Bjork collaborates with her usual spooky distinctiveness on the 1991 “Qmart”. 

Dance used to be singles stuff. Dance didn’t do albums. A music-biz truism, until 808 State, and an elite of other trail-blazers skewed the rules. They were game-changers. They pioneered the ‘radio edit’ as a seven-inch cross-over tool to do it. “Flow Coma” was originally launched on their own Creed label while they were still operating as Club DJ’s, and I well-recall some of those nights, with the Hacienda’s yellow-and-black hazard-striped décor and ecstasy-fuelled dancefloor sweat-monkeys in loved-up trance. OK, I was only there three, maybe four times (I was more east of the Pennines in Sheffield’s ‘Leadmill’ or the Leeds ‘Warehouse’), but there was a definite sense of being in on the cusp of something. A year-zero vibe where change was happening and future-music was being invented.

The record was picked up and reissued soon after as a twelve-inch promo on Richard (Aphex Twin) James’ Rephlex label. Its reception led to seven albums spaced across two decades – from ‘Newbuild’ in 1988, (on Rephlex 080), to ‘Outpost Transmission’ in 2002. Although this high-energy career-spanning compilation dips into each, what they’ve found is titivated and re-treated. The blue cover-art techno-print sets the tone, showing the circuit-board of the Roland TR-808 drum-machine – from which the group-name is derived. With an uncompromising depth of construction this well-dressed overview is less ‘Greatest Hits’ as greatest bits. It shares nine of its seventeen cuts with the earlier ‘808: 88: 98’ (ZTT, June 1998), but it roves beyond that album’s singles remit – accurately announcing itself as the best in not only ‘psycho-ecstatic, trance-inducing groove-riding,’ but the ‘techno-funkalogical’ too.

BBC’s Rob Hughes calls the trio the ‘wizards of wibbly’, yet they produced the placid blissed-out exotica of “Pacific State” (no.10 in November 1989), adding cheesy lounge-core sax and bird-tweets to the busy chopped-up rhythms of the Dance vocabulary. Then classic single “Cübik” (no.10 in November 1990), here in a dirty-groove Monkey Mafia rare remix form with Jon Carter’s cut-up vocal looped, and other voices warped and corrupted to nonsense. And – at their rawest, a revisited revision of “In Yer Face” (no.9 in February 1991), with its swaying full-frontal soundtrack spliced with a sampled news-commentary of ‘conflict between the generations’, of ‘the bomb’, the population explosion, and the pollution of air and water. But they have other gears. The snappy “Olympic” was the theme for Channel 4’s engagingly rowdy ‘The Word’, and the ‘B’-side of “Cübik”. The relentlessly urgent turbo-rave hyper-brutalism of “Timebomb” – predicting Prodigy, is lifted from their ‘808 Tape Mix’, and its ‘B’-side “Nimbus” appears in a tunefully obscure alternate version.

As the superstar-DJ thing began hitting its stride, 808 State were already moving off into other more ambient realms of the chill-out suite. And again, others would follow. So, from such a breadth of abstract hard-core kinetic thumps and pulsing breakbeats, what to include? What to exclude? The hits “Open Your Mind” (no.38 in August 1991) and “One In Ten” (no.17 in December 1992) are not here. Replaced maybe by two previously unavailable tracks, “Spanish Ice” and “Metaluna”, a radical mash-up of hard-to-find earlier piece “Hear You Soon”, retitled to reference SF movie-classic ‘This Island Earth’, seguing into “Compulsion” which closed their 1988 debut LP ‘Newbuild’, in a neat closed-circuit back to the beginning. Can Dance-music be subversive? Or is it strictly functional? Jazz was once dance-music. Dance is a democratising medium in which the individual is subsumed into the rhythm. It can be a collective transcendental ritual, a trance-inducing route to oneness. It can be lots of other things too. A fad. A trip. A groove. As serious as cancer. The great social leveller. But from a time when Dance-music was a vital step more than just a commercial brand for merchandising product, 808 State dared to be musicians doing interesting things.

 Originally featured on website:
(UK – November 2011)

Wednesday 27 November 2019



Book Review of: 
(Sterling) ISBN 978-1-4549-2052-6 Hardcover. 264 pages

For those of a certain right-wing bent, this is the year that saw moral laxity, free-love promiscuity, drugs and student riots. To some, it’s the year that Rock lost its way as sharp tight Mod beat-groups grow their hair, and start wearing bells and kaftans. To others it’s the pinnacle of Rock evolution that runs a direct line all the way from Sun studios to ‘Sgt Pepper’, the final flourish before it all fragments into country-Rock, Prog, jazz-fusion, garage, Psychedelia, Heavy Metal, Glitter and Glam… before Punk presses the Reset button and returns it all to factory settings. 1967 is the lurch from singles into albums, from overground into underground, from Purple Hearts to LSD. The complacent American music industry, slammed off its axis and still reeling from the British invasion, suddenly has to find ways of dealing with the Mothers Of Invention, the Dionysian Lizard King and the mesmerising beauty of Grace Slick’s Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers!!!. Fifty years ago today it’s the most written-about, analysed and anthologised year since forever. So what can this visually colourful large-format tome do that the others don’t? I have my own system for determining the depth of research, which is to search up Electric Prunes in the index… and no, they’re not there, but wait – phew, they are included in the essential playlist. While the trippy month-by-month chapters are art-rich with lavish photo-spreads, posters, quote sidebars and atmospheric memorabilia. Destination: Groovy!

Published in:
‘R’N’R’ Vol.2 No.64 July-August
(UK – July 2017)




Review of: 
With Victor Henry, Susan George, Jack Shepherd and Clare 
Kelly (Miron Films 1968, DVD Studio Canal 2014 

She’s ‘usually typed as sexpot’ snipes sniffy film critic Leslie Halliwell, about Susan Melody George. But she was only twelve-years-old when she made her TV debut, as ‘Kitty Walker’ in the BBC series adapted from Arthur Ransome’s ‘Swallows And Amazons’ (1962). It was later, with her long blonde hair and sub-Bardot pout that she became the go-to dolly-bird with Boris Karloff in ‘The Sorcerers’ (1967), with Denholm Elliott in TV’s ‘Dracula’ (1968), and supporting Suzy Kendall in ‘Up The Junction’ (1968). ‘All Neat In Black Stockings’ is a very minor entry in the Swinging Sixties movie-genre that does her no great favours, but by the same token it’s a light amusing romp with shots at many of the tropes that distinguish the sub-genre. Based on a sex-comedy novel by fantasy writer Jane Gaskell, better known for her ‘Atlan’ (1965) saga set in prehistoric South America and mythical Atlantis, it spreads its passing glance from kitchen-sink drama to lowbrow psychedelic art-house romp. So there’s predictable wackiness to come. When Ginger’s aerosol runs out of shaving foam, he improvises by using a froth of toothpaste. Lying in bed, he pours salt into his navel, the better to season the boiled egg he dips into it, before eating. And he orders his pub ‘black and tan’ shaken, not stirred. A Bond-reference that at least had the excuse of being reasonably current in 1968!

Window-cleaner Ginger (Victor Henry) is amoral. But the supposedly permissive times were meant to be amoral. Girls are ‘it’, or ‘something’ to be shared with his best scruff-mate Dwyer. ‘Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Jack the Ripper’ he sweet-talks a promising new bird, but once in bed she proves tediously over-talkative. So he sneakily pours cola beneath the sheets to discomfort her, until she gets up and leaves in a strop. But haven’t we been here before? Sure we have, in Michael Winner’s ‘The System’ (1964), where opportunistic ne’er-do-well teen-louts ‘grockle’ holidaying crumpet, then pass them round on a rota basis. And, of course, there’s Michael Caine’s chauvinistic womaniser ‘Alfie’ (1966) too.

The strap-line calls this film ‘A Provocative Modern Story Of Loving And Living’, in which ‘he falls in love, and lived to regret it,’ while ‘she learned about love, but left it too late.’ And maybe it tries to be all that. But if the title hints at a mild kinkiness, the prurient moviegoer would be disappointed, and largely un-titillated. The black stockings in question – Susan George’s (Jill’s), are first encountered by Ginger as he crawls across the pub floor to emerge from beneath the table where she’s sitting. But this early take on the more ribald ‘Confessions Of A Window Cleaner’ hinges on the central wheeze of his temporarily gaining access to a lavish palace of a house.

In the opening sequence he’s distracted from cleaning hospital windows by an attractive nurse, but before the Ward Sister has ‘this young thug’ escorted out he meets up with one of the patients, Old Gunge (Terence De Marney). This unkempt eccentric is concerned about how his menagerie of pets will survive while he’s hospitalised with gallstones. Naturally, heart-of-gold Ginger offers to help. He’s sharing a rundown rooming-house with Dwyer, so once he enters Gunge’s house – through a concealed entrance between giant billboard hoardings, he realises its potential. And moves in. By now he’s taken a more serious fancy to mini-skirted Jill, trading in his van for a £149 white MG sports car to impress her, with the house as the ideal back-up crash-pad. Unfortunately his dissolute brother-in-law Issur (Harry Towb) – who sleeps on the floor in a rolled-up carpet, decides to move his family in too, not only pregnant sister Cicely (Anna Cropper) but also his bit-on-the-side Jocasta (Nita Lorraine)!

There’s a Supremes poster on Ginger’s wall, even though the soundtrack consists of swinging caper-jazz, cool sax (provided by luminaries Tony Coe and Kenny Wheeler) and snazzy drums. Filmed in and around Wandsworth, the film’s grittiness-content probably comes down to Ginger’s diatribe about global overpopulation, that ‘abortion is man’s answer to the desecration of the world.’ While, like girl-getter Oliver ‘Tinker’ Reed in the effortlessly-superior ‘The System’, Ginger’s sexual double-standards kick in when the hunter gets captured by the prey. As Tinker falls for posh totty Nichola, so Jill becomes the exception to ‘an obvious plonker like’ Ginger. She’s special, he doesn’t want to take advantage, so she stays ‘untouched by human hand’, despite the unsubtle urging of the pub-name ‘The Ram Inn’. Until the situation goes into meltdown when Issur throws a wild party that near-wrecks the house. Ginger throws out the revellers by wielding a medieval halbert, while Jill is conforming to their supposed free-love ethos by having it off with Dwyer. ‘She’s a fair piece and no mistake about it’ he comments approvingly. And when she falls pregnant it’s Dwyer – ‘share and share about, that’s our motto’, who’s responsible. ‘We’d best get married, I suppose’ concedes Ginger bitterly, ‘that’s the usual procedure.’

Despite some amusing distractions, including Dwyer pulling scams to raise funds for a projected jaunt to Jersey – expanded in some bonus ‘deleted scenes’, the film spirals into a downbeat note. They honeymoon in a Herne Bay B&B. She goes into labour during an embarrassing lecture from a trendy vicar. He wants to get their own apartment, she prefers they move in with her widowed Mum. After picking a fight in a pub he lurches home drunk – as in ‘A Kind Of Loving’ (1962), but actually winds up romancing himself into disapproving Mum’s favour. And they fall into a kind of begrudging domesticity. Finally, back on his window-cleaning round he calls off at a café where he flicks a mental gear and starts flirting with the waitress, who is all neat in black stockings. He’s regained his mojo, at the price, we suspect, of his precarious marriage!

Victor Henry also shares a role with Susan George in ‘The Sorcerers’, and while he was a TV bit-part regular, he can also be seen with Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones in his shot for movie celebrity ‘Privilege’ (1967). But tragically, whatever acting promise he showed was never to be realized. The pedestrian victim of a random auto-accident he died after being in a vegetative comatose state for seventeen years, in November 1985. While, a decorative sexpot addition to any screen part, and never less than adequate, probably Susan George’s most high-profile role was as Amy Sumners, Dustin Hoffman’s doubly-raped wife in the disturbing psychological thriller ‘Straw Dogs’ (1971), then the counter-culture road movie ‘Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry’ (1974) with Peter Fonda.

While at best ‘All Neat In Black Stockings’ is a vaguely atmospheric period piece from a decade of British cinema that still attracts nostalgic attention.


(1968, Miron Films, Anglo Amalgamated Films) Producer: Leon Clore with credit ‘Nat Cohen Presents…’. Director: Christopher Morahan. Based on the novel by Jane Gaskell. With Victor Henry (as Ginger), Susan George (as Jill), Jack Shepherd (as Dwyer), Clare Kelly (Mother), Anna Cropper (Ginger’s sister Cicely), Harry Towb (Ginger’s brother-in-law Issur), Vanessa Forsyth (Carole), Terence De Marney (Old Gunge), Jasmina Hilton (Babette), John Woodnutt (Vicar), Nita Lorraine (Jocasta), Deirdre Costello and Rosalind Elliot (as new Birds), Andre Dakar (Man with Parrot). Music: composed by Bob Cornford, with soloists Tony Coe and Kenny Wheeler.
Plus an April 1969 single by Jon Mark – “All Neat In Black Stockings” c/w “Run To Me” from the soundtrack as Philips BF1772. (DVD, Studio Canal 2014) 95:26 minutes

 Featured on website:
‘VIDEOVISTA’ (August 2014 – UK)

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Jackie DeShannon: When She Walks In The Roon


 Album Reviews of: 
(2015, BGO RECORDS) 

When “Bette Davis Eyes” topped global charts in 1981 the one-time screen siren excitedly phoned singer Kim Carnes to express her thanks, whereas the credit really should have been directed at songwriter Jackie DeShannon. John Tobler’s liner-notes term her Rock’s first notable female singer-songwriter – which neatly overlooks Carole King, and Jackie’s occasional co-writer Sharon Sheeley (they wrote Brenda Lee’s hit “Dum Dum” together), but it’s close enough. Although she wrote “When You Walk In The Room” for the Searchers and “Come And Stay With Me” for Marianne Faithfull, ironically her own breakthrough hit came with the syrupy tuneful “What The World Needs Now Is Love” – a ‘Billboard’ no.7 in June 1965, from the tired old Bacharach-David duo, until her co-written “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” took her up to no.4 in July 1969.

On a 1964 ‘American Bandstand’ interview Dick Clark asks a mini-skirted Jackie which is most important to her, writing or performing, and she tells him ‘I started as a singer, and singing is my whole life. But I don’t know how I would choose because writing is so much a part of me. When it came right to the nitty-gritty, I take singing.’ Which is unfortunate. She has a great light and expressive voice, but great voices are not uncommon in Pop-Rock. Fine original songs are the real gold-dust. And if this two-CD package is padded out with too many covers – who really needs another “Puff The Magic Dragon” or Petula Clark’s cheery “Call Me”? there are four full LPs here – ‘In The Wind’ (1965), ‘Are You Ready For This?’ (1967), ‘New Image’ (1967) and ‘What The World Needs Now’ (1968) – forty-eight tracks, so even after a little judicious whittling it’s wonderful value whichever. Kentucky-born Jackie starts out long hair ablowing acoustic-Folkie with three Dylan songs (including rare Broadside “Walkin’ Down The Line”), some tasty twelve-string, and her own exquisite “Don’t Turn Your Back On Me” which is the best hit the Searchers never had. But the timbre of her high pure voice excels even on the mediocre later material drenched in Bacharach orchestration.

‘Variety is something that everyone thrives on’ she told ‘Melody Maker’. ‘I’m gospel at my roots, but then I fall into Folk, and then I’ll do “Don’t Think Twice”, and suddenly I’ll feel soul. I’ll do a gig that’s all acoustic, then one with heavy R-and-B content, then into very light, very mellow things. Laid back days can be good too’ (22 July 1972).

And her original songs are exquisite.


21 August 1944, ‘Jackie DeShannon’ is born as Sharon Lee Myers in Hazel, Kentucky

1956 – debut single as by ‘Sherry Lee’, “I’m Crazy Darling” c/w “Baby Honey”

1957 – single as by ‘Jackie Dee’, “I’ll Be True’ c/w “How Wrong I Was”

1958 – single as by ‘Jackie Dee’, “Buddy” c/w “Strolypso Dance”, later collected onto November 1980 LP ‘Imperial Rockabillies Vol.3’ (Liberty-United UAG 30312)

1958 – single as by ‘Jackie Shannon’, “Just Another Lie” c/w “Cajun Blues”

June 1961 – Brenda Lee’s version of Jackie DeShannon-Sharon Sheeley’s song “Dum Dun” (Brunswick 05854) reaches no.4 in the US, and no.22 in the UK

1961 – Brenda Lee cuts Sharon Sheeley-Jackie DeShannon’s “So Deep”. Jackie’s songs are notated as sheet-music by David Gates. Issued as ‘B’-side of January 1962 single ‘Break It To Me Gently’

1963 – The Crickets “Right Or Wrong” DeShannon-Sharon Sheeley’s song ‘A’-side (Liberty LIB10113)

April 1963 – Helen Shapiro single “Woe Is Me” (Columbia DB7026) by DeShannon-Sheeley

1963 – DeShannon-Sharon Sheeley’s song “You Won’t Forget Me’ on Bobby Vee’s LP ‘The Night Has A Thousand Eyes

November 1963 – Jackie DeShanon single “Till’ You Say You’ll Be Mine” c/w “When You Walk In The Room” (US Liberty 55645). The Searchers cover of “When You Walk In The Room” (Pye 7N 15694) is a no.3 UK hit and no.35 US hit. There are later versions by Paul Carrack in 1987 and ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog in 2004. Jackie’s original ‘When You Walk In The Room’ featured on 1970 compilation ‘More From The Vaults’ (Liberty LBS 83377)

1964 – original version of DeShannon-Sheeley’s “Breakaway” by Irma Thomas as ‘B’-side of hit ‘Wish Someone Would Care’, but later becomes a no.4 UK hit in its own right for Tracey Ullman in 1983

August 1964 – the Beatles second American tour, with support acts the Righteous Brothers, and Jackie DeShannon after her ‘Needles And Pins’ catches the ear of Brian Epstein

1964 – Darlene Paul ‘B’-side “A Little Bit Of Heaven” (Capitol CL 15344) by DeShannon-Sharon Sheeley. ‘A’-side is ‘Act Like Nothing Happened’

February 1965 – Marianne Faithfull gets a UK no.4 hit with Jackie’s “Come And Stay With Me” (Decca F12075)

1965 – Jackie DeShannon LP ‘In The Wind’ (Imperial mono 9296) with Jackies own ‘Don’t Turn Your Back On Me’, her arrangement of the Trad ‘Oh Sweet Chariot’, three by Bob Dylan (‘Blowin’ In The Wind’, ‘Walkin’ Down The Line’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’, plus Eric Von Schmidt’s ‘Baby, Let Me Follow You Down’ as featured on ‘Bob Dylan’ 1962 LP), Pete Seeger’s ‘If I Had A Hammer’, Bobby Darin’s ‘Jailer, Bring Me Water’, Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono’s ‘Needles And Pins’, Trevor Peacock’s ‘Little Yellow Roses’ (by the TV actor from ‘The Vicar Of Dibley’), Hedy West’s ‘Five Hundred Miles’ and Peter Paul And Mary’s hit ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’

June 1965 – Jackie DeShannon single “What The World Need Now Is Love” (US Imperial 66110) hits US ‘Billboard’ no.7

June 1965 – the Byrds debut LP ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ (UK CBS SBPG 62571) includes Jackie’s “Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe”

November 1965 – The Fourmost LP ‘First And Fourmost’ (Parlophone PMC1259) leads off with Jackie DeShannon’s ‘Till You Say You’ll Be Mine’

December 1966 – Jackie visits London with husband Bud Dain. Married 29 January 1966, and annulled in 1967, she later dated young session guitarist Jimmy Page, and Bryan MacLean of Love

1966 – Jackie DeShannon LP ‘Are You Ready For This’ (Liberty LBY 3085) ‘Record Mirror’ says ‘she really is marvellous, this girl. One of the most expressive, near-jazz, voices in the business – a tremendously powerful influence on the industry… yet still virtually unheralded here’, ‘NME’ says ‘using several gimmicky effects, Jackie manages to make this a restless sounding LP, with plenty of rocking backing in the background.’ With Jackie’s own ‘Are You Ready For This’, ‘To Be Myself’, ‘Love Is Leading Me’ and ‘Find Me Love, plus Bacharach-David ‘Windows And Doors’, ‘So Long Johnny’ and ‘To Wait For Love’, plus ‘Call Me’ (Tony Hatch). ‘I Can Make It With You’ (Chip Taylor), ‘Music And Memories’ (Bert Keys, Charles Singleton), ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ (Goffin-King), ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ (Dusty Springfield’s hit)

1967 – movie ‘C’Mon, Let’s Live A Little’ (All-Star Pictures, Paramount), directed by David Butler, stars Bobby Vee and Jackie DeShannon (as Judy Grant)… and also Kim Carnes. Thirteen years later Jackie will co-write “Bette Davis Eyes” with Donna Weiss, a hit for that same Kim Carnes!

September 1967 – “Come On Down (From The Top Of That Hill)” c/w “Find Me Love” (Liberty 66224), both sides are Jackie’s own compositions

1967 – Jackie DeShannon LP ‘New Image’ (Imperial LP-9344), with Jackie’s own ‘Where Does The Sun Go?’ and ‘That’s The Name Of The Game’, plus ‘Come On Down (From The Top Of That Hill)’, ‘The Carnival Is Closed Today’, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’, ‘A Sunday Kind Of Love’, ‘The Wishing Doll’, ‘Night And Day’, ‘I Haven’t Got Anything Better To Do’, ‘Time’, ‘A Proper Girl’, ‘Poor Someone’

1968 – LP ‘Jackie DeShannon: Great Performances’ (Liberty LBS 83117E) a compilation including ‘When You Walk In The Room’, ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’, ‘Needles And Pins’, ‘NME’ says ‘her talents are undeniably recognised Stateside and all she needs is a publicity boost and I’m sure she will make many new fans here’

1968 – Jackie DeShannon LP ‘What The World Need Now Is Love’ (Imperial LP 12404) with only ‘Where Does The Sun Go?’ by Jackie herself, plus Burt Bacharach-Hal David title song, ‘So Long Johnny’, ‘Windows And Doors’, ‘A Lifetime Of Loneliness’ and ‘To Wait For Love’, plus ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’, ‘It’s All In The Game’, ‘Changin’ My Mind’, Bob Crewe-Gary Knight’s ‘Everything Under The Sun’, ‘Little Yellow Roses’ and Petula Clark’s hit ‘Call Me’

1968 – LP ‘Lonely Girl’ by Jackie DeShannon (SLS 0039) compilation including ‘Needles And Pins’, ‘Take Me Away’, ‘Should I Cry’, ‘I Remember The Boy’

February 1969 – Jackie DeShannon LP ‘Me About You’ (Liberty 831486) with her own songs ‘Splendour In The Grass’ and ‘Nicole’ plus eleven others

1969 – “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” (US Imperial 66385) written by Jackie with her brother Randy Myers, with Jimmy Holiday. Her chart breakthrough, reaching no.4 on the US Hot Hundred. The song is later recorded by Annie Lennox with Al Green, the Dave Clark Five, Andy Williams, Cilla Black, Dolly Parton… and Leonard Nimoy

November 1969 – Jackie DeShannon LP ‘Put A Little Love In Your Heart’ (Liberty LBF 15238) with ‘I Can Make It With You’ a Chip Taylor song covered in US by Pozo Seco Singers and in UK by Rob And Dean Douglas (c/w ‘Phone Me’ Deram DM132)

December 1969 – Jackie DeShannon single “Love Will Find A Way” (Imperial 66419) reaches US ‘Billboard’ no.40

February 1970 – “What The World Needs Now” (Burt Bacharach-Hal David) sung in Robert Culp-Natalie Wood wife-swapping movie ‘Bob And Carol And Ted And Alice’

1971 – Jackie DeShannon produces six tracks, ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’, ‘Liverpool Lou’ and Jackie’s own ‘You Have No Choice’ (with three other tracks produced by Leon Russell) for the LP ‘Genesis’ by Delaney And Bonnie’ (GNP Crescendo GNPS2054), a cash-in collection of early material by the duo

1972 – Jackie’s single “Vanilla O’Lay” c/w “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (Neil Young song) from LP ‘Jackie’ (Atlantic SD7231) with ‘Paradise’ (John Prine), ‘Would You Like To Learn To Dance’ (Steve Goodman), ‘I Wanna Roo You’ (Van Morrison) plus original songs ‘Laid Back Days’, ‘Peaceful In My Soul’ and ‘Anna Karina’. ‘Melody Maker’ says ‘on this Memphis-recorded set, she proves again what a distinctive voice she has, and how she can really drive a song along. It’s the nervous intensity of her vocals that gives songs a special flavour’

1974 – ‘Jackie DeShannon LP ‘Your Baby Is A Lady’ (Atlantic SD 7303), the title track written by Jackie with Donna Weiss, and ‘You’ve Changed’ by Jackie with Vini Poncia. Musicians include Steve Gadd (drums), Richard Tee (keyboards), Cornell Dupree and Hugh McCracken (guitar), with Cissy Houston, Judy Clay and Gwen Guthrie vocals

September 1975 – ‘New Arrangement’ (CBS), with single “Let The Sailors Dance” (Randy Edelman-DeShannon) c/w “Boat To Sail”, soft-rock, mid-tempo piano, with musicians Larry Knechtel (keyboards, John Kahn (bass), Ron Tutt (drums), Jesse Ed Davis, Michael Stewart, Mike Deasy, Waddy Wachtel (guitars) Joe Clayton (conga, cymbal) with guests Brian Wilson, Kenny Rankin, Buddy Emmons, Leland Sklar

1977 – ‘You’re The Only Dancer’ Jackie DeShannon LP (Amherst Records AMH 1010) with her own songs ‘Don’t Let The Flame Burn Out’, ‘I Don’t Think I Can Wait’, ‘You’re The Only Dancer’ and ‘Tonight You’re Doin’ It Right’ plus ‘Just To Feel This Love From You’ and ‘Your Love Has Got A Hold On Me’ (both with Dean MacDougall). Musicians include Randy Edelman, to whom Jackie was married 3 June 1976

1978 Van Morrison’s LP ‘Wavelength’ (Warner Bros) features his “Santa Fe/ Beautiful Obsession” co-written with Jackie DeShannon. Jackie adds guest-vocals to Van’s tracks ‘Warm Love’ and the title-song for ‘Hard Nose The Highway’ (1973)

May 1981 – Kim Carnes hits a UK no.10 with Jackie’s “Bette Davis Eyes” (EMI America EA121), but is no.1 for nine weeks on US ‘Billboard’ chart. She’d allegedly hawked the song around for seven years before placing it with Kim Carnes

17 June 2010 – inducted into the ‘Songwriters Hall Of Fame’. She also broadcasts as entertainments correspondent for Sirius XM Satellite Radio on the Beatles and related topics

Expanded version of review published in:
‘R2: ROCK ‘N’ REEL Vol.2 No.52’
(UK – July/August 2015)