Archive for January, 2013

08: Carl Perkins – Dixie Fried

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

In the book, I recall one incredible day in Memphis, in 1987, in which – in the morning – I visited Sun Studios before stumbling accidentally into the Lorraine Motel, where Dr Martin Luther King was shot dead in 1968. In the afternoon, after calling lots of people named Carr in the Memphis phone book, I tracked down and interviewed the greatest southern soul singer of them all, presumed lost for years, and then largely forgotten – the mighty James Carr. If that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, after talking to James in the bar of my Memphis Airport hotel… Well, now read on…

I was making my way across the foyer when I noticed a poster by the reception desk, advertising a concert in the hotel’s ballroom. This was turning into some kind of stop-over. Playing that same night, and just a ride down in the lift, three floors from my room, was Carl Perkins and, opening for him, the black-voiced southern soul singer, Tony Joe White.

“Dixie Fried!” I yelled at Carl later that evening, although I didn’t need to shout. Standing alone, right at the front of the low stage, in a gig attended by me, a handful of lonely, out of town businessmen and huddle of airline cabin crew, I might have leaned over and whispered softly my request to the rock & roll originator.

Carl had not, I was thrilled to discover, slipped like so many of his generation into a supper club self-tribute cabaret routine. Fronting a tough little band, he was belting out no-frills rock & roll, without concession to showbiz embellishment. Which probably explained why the place was empty.

“You got it!” he said. And fired off, without a pause, the rabble-rousing, jumping guitar intro.

I caught the lift to my room an hour later, still buzzing on the events of an extraordinary day, and with Carl Perkins having serenaded me personally into insomnia.

“’Rave on, children, I’m with ya! Rave on, cats,’ he cried. ‘It’s almost dawn and the cops are gone, let’s all get Dixie fried!’”

I fell on my bed and wrote up an account of the whole mad day in a letter to Peel. In it, I’m sure I echoed what the incomparable James Carr screams, just before going over the precipice in That’s The Way Love Turned Out For Me: “Say it one more time for Memphis, Tennessee!”

Click on the link, below, for the man himself, on US television (The Tex Ritter Show) in 1957.

Click on the BUY THE BOOK link up there on the top menu bar to get the book, for just £6.29. Treat yourself. Now, 169 five-star reviews on Amazon.

This was first record I bought – a 45 on Polydor, for 30p, from a stall on Oldham Market, in September 1972 – and a rabble-rousing work of impressive loutishness and insolence. (God knows, we could do with a bit of that again in music now). I had to smuggle it into the house under my duffle coat and play it when my parents were out – such was my dad’s hostility to rock & roll. When he did eventually find it, he decided it was an indication of homosexuality. (Yep, work that one out!) But there was then no turning back: my rock & roll proclivities had been outed. I was off… (And I still own the same, original copy).

 

Since Rod Stewart’s departure – around 1975 – into self-caricature, Hollywood, and the attentions of a string of blonde actresses, it’s been all too easy to forget that The Faces were a bloody great band, and that he was a tremendous R&B vocalist (second only, in the UK, to Frankie Miller). The Faces made a strength of being loose but – somehow – tight with it. And, as this track demonstrates, they had an innate capacity not to rock but to boogie. Oh, and my dad hated them for being prime specimens of the “long-haired layabout.” So, what was I waiting for?

 

In this extract from my autobiography (see BUY THE BOOK link on the top menu bar) you join us at Leeds University in 1981, where I am booking all the top bands of the day, and running all the concerts, at what was a major venue – while I was supposed to be doing a Politics degree. Some hopes… 

“Sadly, reggae concerts were always likely to be troublesome. A proportion of the city’s population seemed to think it was their birthright to storm through the front doors without tickets and racist of my stewards to suggest they might care to pay for admission like everyone else.

“Black Uhuru’s concert – the bits of it I caught – was one of the finest performances I saw in the Refec. But it was a nightmare of a gig to run. There were break-ins all over the building. I spent the evening racing, through blood and broken glass, from one emergency to another, all to the menacing muezzin wail of Michael Rose and the live serpent rhythms of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare.

“At one point, I was rushing across the Student Union bar, in the building next door to the Refec. There, sitting at a table, enjoying a pint with a few old buddies, was my dear friend Big John Bisbrowne. To call him Big John was, and still is, to diminish him. But at 24 stones, John looked anorexic alongside his pal, Jon Silsby. The pair had been students, and Ents stalwarts, back in the era of The Who and the Stones. Neither had fully detached himself from the old firm.

“Hugely likeable, with a plummy, booming voice and a thick black beard, Silsby was still living in Leeds and he had an open invitation to be my guest at all the gigs. Big John had moved to Burton on Trent but frequently came up to his old patch for the weekend. He was dating Our Elizabeth and often stayed with us, especially if I was putting on a band of his liking. Black Uhuru was one of them. John is one of the most naturally funny men I have ever met. And one of the sourest.

“Nursing their Tetley’s, and no doubt reflecting that Ents wasn’t what it used to be, the two veterans were on the point of having just one more pint before catching a bit of the band. When I ran in.

“’Ah, great! Boys,’ I said, ‘bit of trouble at the front door. Could do with your help, if you don’t mind.’”

“Big John raised one eyebrow at Silsby. They put down their beers and, as I hared off to the next crisis, they plodded out of the bar.

“About 10 minutes later, I was again tearing through the Refec foyer. In the war zone of the front doors, I spotted Big John in the thick of things. He was holding, in one hand, a wriggling invader fully off the ground. Hurling the guy clean over the barrier, as you and I might fling a bin bag into a skip, he turned to me, inflating with indignation.

“’When you invited me up for the weekend,” he said, “I was expecting an agreeable couple of days with old friends. And a Black Uhuru concert. Not a re-enactment of Rorke’s Drift.'”

Please share this, if you like it. Thanks. A x

Can you imagine the impact these guys had on me in, ahem, Rochdale, in the mid 1970s? Click below to hear utterly sublime Beach Boys perfection. And, below that, is what I have to say about them in my book… 

Chapter 6 – Surfin’ Safari (The Bridlington Option)

“The milieu of the Beach Boys could not have been a more alien environment to a pre-pubescent in land-locked, industrial Rochdale – upon which the sun, when it shone, appeared to do so through Tupperware.

I think it was my school pal – and still my pal – Jonny Barnes, who introduced me to their carefree world of surfing, honey-coloured girls, gleaming teeth, infinite leisure time, blonde crew-cuts, parental wealth, hot-rod cars and recreational road traffic accidents. Jonny probably picked up on the Beach Boys from his mum who, bewilderingly, when Jonny and I were teenagers, appeared to be about 25.

I adored the Beach Boys, for all those sun-kissed temptations and their glorious songs and exquisite harmonies. They seemed to promise gratification on an epic scale, just waiting around the corner in late adolescence which, for a while, persuaded me – a physically underdeveloped specimen, always overlooked or even ridiculed by girls – that to adapt a Beach Boys attitude to a life in Lancashire was my best hope of getting shagged.

To this end, when I was fifteen, I made an attempt at surfing. That I embarked on this foolishness in the freezing breakers of Bridlington, with absolutely no knowledge of what I was doing, and barely able to swim. I nearly drowned and haven’t tried to surf since. However, despite being the cause of my near death, I still love my Beach Boys records.”

Get the book – paperback, Kindle and unabridged audio book, read by me – via the BUY THE BOOK link on the top menu bar above. And if you enjoyed this extract please share it with others who may like it too. Many thanks. A x

The song to which I had my virginity taken. Spookily, I was indeed, as Van sings in this transcendental masterpiece, “conquered in a car seat”. There is a whole chapter in the book about this farcical experience. Don’t worry – it doesn’t get too medical. Joanna (for it was she) and I are, to this day, huge pals. And Van’s Astral Weeks album (about which I could write a whole book) remains in my all-time top ten. Always will do.

In 1981, Elvis Costello stunned many of his followers, and confronted head-on the prejudices of rock music fans, by releasing Almost Blue, an album of pure country, recorded in Nashville with The Attractions and produced by Billy Sherrill.

It was announced, before the album’s release, that he wouldn’t be doing a UK tour to promote it, possibly fearing the LP would not be well received. At Leeds University, where I was booking the bands and organising all the concerts, we were having none of that. Elvis was one of our favourites, and a regular performer in the legendary Refectory. The Costello organisation also trusted us. I phoned Elvis’s manager, Jake Riviera, to try to secure a one-off gig. No chance, said Jake. Over a number of calls, my cash offers kept rising. And on 23 June 1981, Elvis played his only UK concert, around the release of Almost Blue, in the Refec. It also happened to be the day of one of the final exams for the promoter’s Politics degree. The outcome is in the book, available from Amazon via the BUY THE BOOK link on the top menu bar.

Click below to see and hear Elvis sing…