Monday, 30 June 2014

With Music Comes Stories: The New Orleans Report

The New Orleans Report

Back in October I had the good fortune to be invited to DJ at the official opening night of the Ponderosa Stomp Festival in New Orleans. The night is called the Hip Drop and is curated by Brice Nice, a great guy who some of you may have met on his visit to New Zealand a few years back.

This was the 6th Hip Drop and was held at a great bar called DBA on Frenchman St. I had last been in New Orleans in 2008 (I had actually seen Walter “Wolfman” Washington at DBA back then) and my last time in the US was in 2010, so I was really itching to get back there, spin some 45s, catch up with friends, buy records and of course check out the Ponderosa Stomp. The Ponderosa Stomp is a long running festival held traditionally over two nights. This year it was held at a great venue called the Rock N Bowl which is a bowling lane and music venue - great combo - of course the bowling option was closed while the Stomp was on.  

I started this American trip with a 7 hour stopover in San Fran, so I did what any self-respecting vinyl junkie would do in that situation: on-checked my luggage and then hopped a cab to Haight St to buy 45s. It was a Monday so my favorite shop Groove Merchant was closed, but across the street Rooky Ricardo’s was open for business, so I told the taxi to come back for me in 3 hours and set about digging. Made it back to the airport in time for my flight to NOLA with nearly 100 new additions to my record box.

I touched down in NOLA late at night (the Saints won on the flight so the other passengers seemed really excited about that…."Who Dat?" etc). Hopped a cab to the Hotel and tried to familiarize myself with the streets again as I was driven there. I had a couple days until the festival itself started but already a few people were at the official Hotel in readiness. The next morning I got my VIP pack and then went off to hit the Hard Rock CafĂ© for some late breakfast before hitting the Louisiana Music Factory looking for more 45s. LMF is a cool store located right in the heart of the French Quarter and is seen as something of a hub for the local scene. I spent the day there upstairs clearing out around 100 45s and got a heap of great titles for really good prices. I knew I had to get in quick before the rest of the Stomp tourists also hit the record stores (the reason I’d hit town a couple days early to be honest). I paid a visit to Drago’s that night for some of their must-try charbroiled Oysters; always a spot I hit in NOLA, words can’t begin to describe how good the oysters are and this is from a dude who doesn’t usually do shellfish.  

The next day I got up, started to notice some of the famous faces (classic R&B artists) had started to appear at the hotel. Cool. I took a ride to Jim Russell’s Rare records on Magazine, once a legendary record store and a must hit spot; I was saddened to see it closed with a great deal of the stock still sitting inside half covered by tarps, to try to protect it from roof leaks I guess. Realizing I wasn’t going to get anything there I traveled across the other side of the town to Euclid Records, a newer store but a very worthy stop and definitely a must hit spot for records in NOLA. I spent the day there and came away with another 100 or so 45s. They had just put a load of 45s out especially for the Stomp crowd and luckily I was the first to get to them that morning. It was at Euclid that I first ran into Carlos and Elisse, two fellow 45 collectors from Mexico in town for the Stomp too. It was a great day digging and James at Euclid was really helpful and friendly, even coming to check out my set at DBA the next night. That evening a few of my friends had started to roll into town so I got in touch with my friend Miles and we rolled way out to a great restaurant he knew called Jacques Imo’s, beautiful food and a great time.

The day of the Hip Drop saw everyone hit town, there were catch-ups and autograph sessions and photo ops with all sorts of people. Early that evening there was a special screening held of the Muscle Shoals documentary film. A whole bunch of us filed into a local art gallery for this special occasion and we were even treated to Fame/Muscle Shoals recording artist Spencer Wiggins being in the audience.  

Next up the Hip Drop. We all got there in the early evening and there was already a great crowd. The DJ lineup was incredible, some real heavy-hitters and deep collectors of the 45 world. The music policy incorporates Garage, R&B, Soul and Funk, as long as it is off of original 45s. Each DJ (invited from all around the world) has a half-hour set only to move the crowd. This years lineup was: Billy Miller and Miriam Linna from Norton Records in NYC; Miles Tackett from Breakestra/Funky Sole in LA; Beyondadoubt from Portland; Todd-O-Phonic from New Jersey; Pierre Baroni from Soulgroove 66/Soul-A-Go-Go in Melbourne; Kitty B Shake from Paris; Alex LaRotta from Houston; Emma Peel from Melbourne; the Alligator Chomp Chomp crew of Mitch, Matty and Pasta representing New Orleans; and myself from lil ol’ NZ. 

A special mention must be made of Tony Janda, one of the original Hip Drop DJs who sadly passed away recently. This Hip Drop was held in his memory and I have fond memories of talking 45s with Tony over the years, a great guy who had a real love and knowledge for the music. My friends Brice and Eric spun a couple of 45s in his honor and spoke a little about the man. A poignant but nice touch. 

Everyone played killer sets, I’d be hard pressed to choose a winner on the day and it was just incredible to be playing alongside some of these DJs and playing a packed out club jumping to vintage soul 45s again; a killer feeling.

After the high that was the Hip Drop we then had to face another couple days of the Hip Drop concerts, Record Fair and Music Conference. An overload of amazing experiences. I well and truly made out good at the record fair having had my friend Dave in Austin sort a local dealer to bring me a box of awesomeness that I got first hit at. Killer, so many great 45s. I must have grabbed at least nearly 100 more 45s for my collection. 

It was just an amazing few days getting to hang out with great like-minded friends again, trade records, talk 45s like the mega geeks we are and be treated to live performances by R&B royalty. Getting to see artists like Lil Buck, David Batiste, Irving Bannister, The Sonics, Baby Washington, Chris Clark etc. etc. (the list is long) was like a dream come true and then getting to actually meet a lot of them over the few days and chat about their careers etc. was too cool.  

The rest of the time in NOLA was a blur of friends, good food, records (I ended up coming home with 300 new addition 45s for my collection), live music and even karaoke. Hope I get invited back. 

Special thanks to Dr Ike for organizing the Stomp every year, Brice for booking me on the Hip Drop and all my other friends; Miles, Alex, Kim, the other Hip Drop DJs, Ricky, Eric etc. etc.

So many people. Such a time.

Written by Kris Holmes
Picured (R-L): Kris, Miles and Ricky on their last night in New Orleans, all wearing their respective soul night T-shirts.
Kris is NZ's deepest funk and soul 45 collector, and we're delighted to be able to include this piece written about his time in New Orleans. We're hoping to be able to entice Kris to write further stories about his travails overseas digging for black gold. Watch this space!
Also check his blog Greenville And Beyond.

* An edited version of this piece appears in Issue #4 of the Soultearoa Shakedown fanzine. You can read the whole issue, and the back issues, online here.

Monday, 23 June 2014

With Music Comes Stories: The Secret Spot

On a recent Saturday morning, my DJ partner and good friend, Stewart, and I went on a record dig to an old-timey (and self-proclaimed) ‘amusement company’, located somewhere deep in the heart of Texas – or, within a few hours drive from our hometown, Houston. (Excuse the vagueness, as I’m keeping said spot hush-hush – record fiends know the deal!)

Stewart had come here before, and I’d heard of it but was never able to track it down. Stories of rooms filled with stock 45s had caught my attention – “excited” to finally make the trip didn’t quite capture my eagerness. Some hours-long drive later, accompanied by plenty of strawberry-filled kolaches (a uniquely Texas-via-Czech breakfast pastry) we finally arrive, to a place seemingly untouched by the twenty-first century – my kind of joint! Among a heap of gutted, busted, and dusted Wurlitzer-brand jukeboxes and mid-century radios, the stock room contains wall-to-wall 45s, conveniently categorized and alphabetized for the digger’s pleasure. Truly a sight to see. Portable record players in hand, we plunge!

It was a great day of dusty soul singles and fantastic bargains. We’ll definitely be making our way back again, as there was far too much soul on wax for one days’ dig. (Not pictured is another room of bargains 45s where I pulled every Impressions/Curtis Mayfield 45 that I didn’t have yet, among other soulful treasures.) You can catch these favourites below and more at our monthly soul party – A Fistful Of Soul – every third Friday in Houston, Texas.

1. Jackie Hunt – Since You’ve Been Gone b/w Security Of Love (Jetstream, 1963/4?)
Groovy party R&B from my hometown, Houston, Texas! One more notch on completing the Jetsream label discography. Glad to finally track a clean copy. Nice moody soul ballad on the flip makes this a fantastic Texas two-sider. 

2. The Third Guitar – Sad Girl b/w Lovin’ Lies (Rojac, 1968)
Scorching psychedelic soul from Harlem, New York via Miami, Florida – popular on the northern soul scene. 

3. The Boys In The Band – Sumpin’ Heavy b/w The Boys In The Band (Spring, 1970)
Funky-ass instrumental funk! I don’t pick up deep funk 45s as much I used to (nor do I play ‘em out as much), but this here single is a bonafide funk stunner. Highly recommended for the drum heads. (Cheap on eBay, too.)

4. The Icemen – How Can I Get Over A Fox Like You b/w Loogaboo (ABC, 1968)
Exquisite low rider-inspired soul from this relatively obscure duo. The Icemen are best known (in some circles, anyways) for their earlier Shamar label 45, which featured a pre-LSD, Curtis Knight-era Jimi Hendrix on guitar. Haven’t met an Icemen single I didn’t wanna scoop – they’re all pretty damn good. File this little 7” gem under: “Baby-Makin’ Soul.”

5. Willie Hutch – Brother’s Gonna Work It Out b/w I Choose You (Motown, 1973)
Minted up on this smokin’ early-seventies soul 45 – with sides culled from 1973’s The Mack OST – from this storied soul legend. Not a pricey one, but definitely essential. ‘I Choose You’ goes over well as an end-of-the-night closer at A Fistful of Soul, popularly recognized as the primary sample/melody source for ‘International Player’s Anthem (I Choose You)’ – the 2007 hit single from Houston rap legends, UGK. 

Written by Alex LaRotta, who did his Masters Thesis on South/Central Texas Soul. For real.

(* excerpt taken from Issue #4 of the Soultearoa Shakedown fanzine. Read the whole issue - and the back issues - right here.) 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

With Music Comes Stories: Del Jones' Positive Vibes

In the early '90s, Scott and Steve (aka Cheeks), my two close friends from New Orleans, showed up to our bi-annual Austin Record Show (aka ARC) gathering with a magical record.

The tradition since the mid-80s was for a group of like-minded music fiends to spend Friday and Saturday nights in a motel room to play records and catch a buzz. Numbers at these gatherings have ranged from as few as ten to as many as fifty people, there to hear amazing, newly discovered and virtually unknown records. It started as a strictly psychedelic/hard rock music gathering with the odd garage rock record thrown in. It has evolved today into a wide variety of sounds from Disco to Rap to Heavy Metal, etc. etc.

If there is a seminal moment when this gathering became musically integrated, it was when Steve placed the aforementioned magical record, Del Jones Positive Vibes 'Court Is Closed', on the motel room turntable. From the opening notes I was sucked in... hard. This was some shit I had never heard the likes of before. A few of the hard rock/metal guys immediately squawked to take "this crap" off. Being the guy that paid for the room I had the leverage, and that LP stayed on the turntable - for almost three hours. The room slowly emptied until there were maybe five or six dudes that were completely under the spell of Del. None more so than Scott and myself. This record had crawled inside us like an inner city spirit that had travelled a thousand miles and twenty years to find our cracker ass vessels.

Scott grew up in Algiers, a section of New Orleans where survival of the fittest is a game and they talk like Brooklyn Cajun Mafioso. He connected with this Philly ghetto vibe immediately and had listened to it ad infinitum prior to springing it on the rest of us. There was virtually nothing known about this LP in the record world, mainly because there were only three hundred copies ever made and most were distributed in Del's neighbourhood. Once Scott knew I was hooked like him he said "We need to reissue this." And he was right. But I had my doubts it would happen: after all, the first thing we'd have to do was "simply" find a guy named Jones in Philadelphia.

About a week later I got an excited call from Scott, he had spoken to Del, and it just so happened he was going to be in New Orleans a week later - and then Dallas! I called Del and told him how much I dug his LP. He explained that the LP had been released twice. The first was the one we were familiar with. It was his labour of love and a stark portrait of Del's life and his life's work. He explained that his brother worked for a major record label and he told Del the LP wasn't "commercial enough". He took the original tapes to Electric Lady Studios in NYC and had horn-tracks laid over the original songs, really transforming them into something completely different, and a little sterile. Del was thrilled that we liked his version and was looking forward to meeting us.

Del was going to 'Nawlins' and Dallas to give "talks" at local colleges and was travelling with an entourage. Scott went to meet him at the airport and Del was genuinely shocked that he was a "white boy". The combination of the Algiers accent and the fact that he loved Del's LP, had given Del a totally different mental image. He knew what to expect when I met him for breakfast in Dallas. He made sure his entourage didn't see us together. We spent a good three hours discussing a reissue, his life and what he was doing in Dallas. I was so infatuated with this record I wanted to hear the story behind every song. He explained that one side of the LP was the "Anti-Drug" side and the flip was the "Kill Whitey" side. The title track is a mtter-of-fact announcement that even reparations could not square things up; Del was coming for your ass. That fate had already been decided, Court Is Closed.

Del was a militant, there is no other way to describe him, nor would he want you to; but I also found him to be a funny, honest dude who knew what his agenda was, but didn't let it get in the way of his everyday life. The night before he had appeared on local provocateur John Wiley Price's radio show who he described to me as a weak-ass country-somethin'. I asked him what I would see if I attended his speech that night and he immediately advised me not to show up. "I can't guarantee your safety; I get the brothers and sisters riled up". As we parted he gave me a cassette of what he was going to speak on that night, it was called "The American Nigger Factory". I listened to it on the way home and dude was powerful. Del also cared about his community, and walked the walk. His anti-drug crusade was strong but he laughingly related how people would come up to him on the streets years later asking him if he was "clean" having seen him perform his song 'Cold Turkey', the most realistic drug withdrawal song ever recorded.

Del was still in the neighbourhood. He published a monthly newspaper called The War Correspondent. He wrote many books about the inner city atruggle. We released the LP to a mediocre reception. The Funk and Breaks dudes liked the "horn" version better and bought a bootleg version of that instead of the rawer original. I gave the LP to anyone I thought would dig it (thanks Rich and Kris). Like with Scott and I, this record really hit a lot of people really hard and is a unique journey into a place no other record has ever been. A ballsy Gil-Scott Heron, who despises the drugs that destroyed genius. One of my most prized possessions is a letter that Del wrote me which is framed and on my wall. You can see his light in the letter defying the look on his face.

RIP Brother Del.

Written by Rich Haupt, from Rockadelic Records, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Read this great interview with Rich from It's Psychedelic Baby, in which he talks about pretty much every release on his label!
And here's a non-LP track from Del Jones' Positive Vibes to whet your appetite...

* excerpt taken from Issue #4 of the Soultearoa Shakedown fanzine. Read the whole issue - and the back issues - here.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Weird Ways To Buy Vinyl: Murray Cammick

When I was at school my local St Heliers barber was the very hip Brit Barry Earle, who had cool vinyl imports and also managed local band Le Freme. I had joined the Atlantic Soul Appreciation Society in London and could not understand why I couldn't put my bright orange "UPTIGHT AN' OUTASIGHT" (name of fan club) sticker on the back of the family car. Anyway, Barrie put it on the rear window of his ultra cool mini for me.

I was in Melbourne ten years later (circa 1979) and I was informed that their punk label Suicide (that signed Nick Cave's Boys Next Door, but did not sign The Marching Girls, alas) was run by a "Barrie Earle", and I said, "That'll be my barber!" The Aussies said, "No, he's from London." I secretly thought, "No, he's from St Heliers!" That evening Barrie turned up at the Mushroom offices and barely said hello, but communicated: "Still into soul?" and in his low-key 'have I got a deal for you' manner took me to the boot of his car. He had some USA Hi Records pressings of Syl Johnson and O.V. Wright that he wanted to sell, so I paid him cash and we both lived happily ever after, I presume.

Written by Murray Cammick

Read more from Murray over at the excellent Audioculture site.
Listen to Murray's excellent radio show, Land Of The Good Groove, Fridays 1pm on 95bFM.

*this excerpt taken from Issue #4 of the Soultearoa Shakedown fanzine. Check out the whole issue here.

(Pictured is Johnnie Walker, President of the Uptight An' Outasight Fan Club)

EMI Dumped The Last Vinyl Pressing Plant In NZ?

EMI Dumped The Last Vinyl Pressing Plant In Wellington Harbour.


The last vinyl pressing plant in New Zealand closed down in 1987, and, so the story goes, the plant's owners EMI dumped it in Wellington Harbour.

I've heard this story dozens of times from musicians and music fans in recent years, and no one knows the origin of this tale. It's one of those romantic notions that sound like you want it to be true - especially if you're a vinyl fanatic: "Evil corporation destroys local vinyl outlet". But is there any truth in it?

There are several variations on this story - one is that the pressing plant was dumped in Wellington Harbour by a radio station as part of some competition. Another is that EMI dumped it in the harbour to drive up CD sales. Why would a business dump perfectly good equipment in the sea when it was still working and saleable? What really happened?

Frank Douglas worked at EMI for 34 years running their recording studios. He told me that EMI NZ had twelve vinyl presses back in 1987. When the plant closed, the eight newer ones were packed into containers and shipped back to Australia - he saw them being packed - and the older four were stripped for parts. What was left was sold for scrap or auctioned off. EMI Australia wanted a new cassette duplicating setup, and EMI NZ had the best in the world at that time, so that was also shipped to Australia.

Music historian Andrew Miller suggests the most likely reason for the legend: "The Pye pressing plant equipment was dumped in the Manukau Harbour in the mid-'70s after Pye ceased record operations. A former employee who helped with the operation told me this."

Written by Peter McLennan

Read more about this story here, with a massive thanks to Audioculture.
Also check Peter's outstanding blog, DubDotDash.
And listen to him on your radio with 'Ring The Alarm', Saturdays 10am, Base 107.3FM

* this excerpt taken from Issue #4 os the Soultearoa Shakedown fanzine. Check the whole thing out here.