Monday 23 December 2013

‘I was born in Bethlehem’ claims Jesus of Cool

Once seen, particularly in America, as the feather-ruffling arch cove of New Wave; king of the uber clever song lyric; the fastest-livin’, hardest-drinkin’ gorblimey Limey who rocked with Rockpile - jolly-japing and pillaging from coast to coast, Nick Lowe is the last modern vocalist one would expect to deliver ‘a Christmas album’. Unless, of course, one has been paying attention to his musical continuum since 1994’s The Impossible Bird

With the release of each new album – which occurs about as frequently as a leap year - Nick’s musical settings have become progressively more mellow, his rhythms slightly less ‘rocking’ (although, of course, they swing like mad), and his lyrics, crucially, less cynical. And looking back over his lengthy recording career, he is simply doing what he has always done – the unexpected.

Quality Street sees Lowe taking a break from his regular gig. Think of it as a holiday. In the words of his old buddy Huey Lewis, it’s hip to be square, although the record is anything but ‘L7’. As Christmas albums go, it’s a turkey-free zone that pulls together some rarely heard or forgotten songs; a few traditional items given a seasonal makeover, and brand new compositions from Nick and some estimable associates.

The rarely heard or forgotten variety of song includes Roger Miller’s father and son-friendly Old Toy Trains, in which dad urges son to go to bed so dad can don the Santa costume and make a delivery. Christmas Can’t Be Far Away, made popular by country star Eddy Arnold, and written by Boudleaux Bryant, observes the changes in peoples’ moods as the season of goodwill approaches. In particular, Bryant fingers ‘old tight wad’, who is ‘buying candy to pass out to the neighbour kids at play’.

The best known of the traditional songs, alongside I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day (the Wizzard song, which could almost be said to be traditional), is Silent Night, delivered here upbeat, with brass. The opening Children Go Where I Send Thee sets the biblical vibe, as does Rise Up Shepherd, with skiffle rhythm and gospel treatment.

In the ‘new’ category are A Dollar Short Of Happy, a co-write with Ry Cooder, and Hooves On The Roof, a truly surreal vision from the great Ron Sexsmith. Story goes - seeing as it’s Christmas and games are in vogue - when Nick and Ron tour together, the endless miles are eaten up by ‘Funny/Not Funny’, in which participants are asked to contrast two well-known entertainers, as in: ‘Ozzy, funny; Sharon, not funny’ (this example courtesy of Lowe’s sound producer, Neil Brockbank).

Christmas At The Airport, its melody sailing dangerously close to A Good Year For The Roses, finds its narrator stranded in an air terminal that’s in shutdown mode due to winter weather – ‘now the doors are locked and bolted; let the festivities begin!’ What is there to do? Think Mr Bean in Toys R Us around midnight…

The author’s lyrical powers are at their height in I Was Born In Bethlehem, with its vocal up close and confidential (as in Basing Street or The Beast In Me). Speaking as the son of God, as yet unborn, he reports his family’s search for an empty bed in downtown Bethlehem. ‘It was cold, I was late, and we stood outside the locked gate at the inn… where my sweet mother, meek and mild, and herself only a child, gave her best then took her rest…’ It is a song that should see fans returning to this record, one that pays unexpected dividends with each listening. Whether or not he is ‘Britain’s greatest living songwriter’ (as he is described on The Brentford Trilogy CD set) is a highly subjective matter, but if not, who you gonna call?

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Wednesday 20 November 2013

Stalking Graham Parker

Graham Parker is one of the greatest British songwriters of the last 40 years. The evidence:

White Honey, Soul Shoes, Howlin’ Wind, Don’t Ask Me Questions, Back To Schooldays, Hotel Chambermaid, Fools’ Gold,  Pourin’ It All Out, Thunder And Rain, Watch The Moon Come Down, Discovering Japan, Local Girls, You Can’t Be Too Strong, Nobody Hurts You, Protection, Endless Night, Stupefaction, Temporary Beauty, Mighty Rivers, Get Started Start A Fire, Under The Mask Of Happiness, She Wants So Many Things, The Kid With The Butterfly Net, Dark Days, I’ll Never Play Jacksonville Again, High Horse, Blue Horizon, I Discovered America, Broken Skin, Snowgun, Stop Crying About The Rain, Snake Oil Capital Of The World, Long Emotional Ride…

I’m very fortunate to have occasionally found myself close-ish to the GP action, often like some mad fan, but hopefully minus the anorak and clipboard. Here, for the lost souls that may care about such things, is my list of some Graham Parker shoulder rubs…

The Marquee June 1976. My evening starts at The Ship in Wardour Street, where I espy a dark-circle-eyed Mick Jones of emerging punk rock group ‘Clash’ (surely not present to attend ‘pub rock’ event GP/Rumour nearby?) Yes, Mick is there. After the show I bump into Nick Lowe at the bar and remark how much I love Brinsley’s guitar solo on Back Door Love, a track Nick has produced for the Heat Treatment LP.

1978 – My group The Records are backing Rachel Sweet on the Be Stiff tour – it traverses the UK by rail - and GP turns up in, I think, Plymouth, to join us on stage for B-A-B-Y. Graham is on the train with us to London the following morning, presumably to continue recording Squeezing Out Sparks (in my imagination).

9 August 1980 – Graham marries Jolie - I’m not actually there, due to overseas touring commitments and the fact I haven't been invited, but I know it happens because here is some evidence:

Summer 1983 – I find myself writing songs with Brinsleys/ Rumour keyboard wizard Bob Andrews. He needs lyrics and boy do I have them! We demo a number of songs, quite good, including Wedding Dress and Child Psychology, both as yet un-exposed to public scrutiny. Bob later plays keyboards on a record I am co-producing in NYC, and proves the ideal companion on the then mean streets of SoHo. We jog most mornings.

The Marquee July 1986 – Graham plays this London venue roughly 10 years after I first saw him there, promoting his latest LP - Steady Nerves. Brinsley on guitar, or was that at Hammersmith Odeon a few years earlier?

1995 – 3 July – Graham is in town and I am writing a piece for Mojo about ‘pub rock’. I meet Graham at his PR’s office in Camden and he admires my newfangled DAT-recorder – ‘hi-tech!’ He tells me his life story. It takes weeks to transcribe, and some of it appears in No Sleep Till Canvey Island.

2007 or thereabouts and Nick Lowe tells me that ‘an American chap is making a film about Graham Parker’; we're slightly sceptical, but when it emerges that it is Michael Gramaglia, creator of the noteworthy Ramones film End Of The Century, it makes sense, and of course everyone loves Graham. A film about Graham Parker?! Bring it forward.

Around 2010 – I am flattered to be asked to participate in Gramaglia’s project and dutifully film my contribution (twice) – clich├ęs from me of course, but I do end up in the cut (alongside, among others, Bruce Springsteen). Hotcha!

October 2010 - a bunch of musicians, namely Bob Andrews, Martin Belmont, and Steve Goulding announce that they are playing NYC’s Lakeside Lounge as (nudge) ‘The Kippington Lodge Social Club’. I sense a rare sighting of GP with some of his former band mates and immediately re-inspect my Virgin Atlantic air miles. This unusual show – at which GP does make an appearance - happens to coincide with Nick Lowe’s three night stand at the City Winery, and – who would have guessed – a screening of Michael Gramaglia’s Don’t Ask Me Questions at a 57th Street preview theatre! Colour me there.

Kippington Lodge Social Club at Lakeside Lounge

2011 - Parker and the Rumour reconvene after 30+ years to record a new album, Three Chords Good. Then, amazingly, Graham lands a part in Judd Apatow’s new movie, This Is 40, to include live performances with The Rumour. I call Mojo – ‘can I contribute a piece on Parker?’ Yes, it would seem, I can.

2012 – Graham Parker and The Rumour announce live dates – but the tour is confined to the USA. The bastards! There is only a handful of defunct bands whose re-formation I would fly six-thousand miles to see… Graham Parker and The Rumour head the list. LA calls, and I catch an exhilarating show at The Roxy in Hollywood (and share a table with Pete and Judy Thomas), plus gain entry to the premiere of This Is 40 and after show party. Thanks Judd!

2013 – Against all odds, GP/Rumour play London and it’s a sold out show at the Empire Shepherd’s Bush. It rocks. And not long after I am chatting with GP and Martin Belmont about the upcoming live bootleg box set, for which I will be writing some liner notes. It’s a charmed life for someone, to be sure.

2015 update - seeing this post linked on Graham Parker - Sharpening Axes (Facebook group) today reminded me that once again I failed to avoid GP/Rumour on a recent US vacation. Last night of a trip that took in Chicago, Memphis, and Nashville, I'm in NYC and by complete coincidence they are playing the High Line Ballroom in support of the Mystery Glue album. I shared a booth with some old friends, and very much enjoyed the show. Where next?

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Wednesday 23 October 2013

Gypie Mayo 1951-2013, guitar strangler extraordinaire

Photo: Sandra Henningsson

There is no doubt that the British rhythm and blues combo Dr Feelgood was as much a hot house for great guitarists as were The Yardbirds (Clapton, Beck, Page...), or that Wilko Johnson created the template on which the Feelgoods’ sound was built. And so, when in 1977 Wilko departed the band he lovingly formed with Lee Brilleaux, Sparko and The Big Figure, it left an impossible void.

For a moment, the Feelgoods’ considered seasoned pro Henry McCullough (Wings), and others, to step up to the plate. Not to ‘dis’ such capable musicians, but sometimes it takes more than musical chops to complement an existing combo and help drive it into a future it deserves. It was therefore major good fortune that brought the Feelgoods’ attention to one John Philip Cawthra, born London, 1951.

They ‘found’ him (and nearly didn’t) in Harlow, Essex. He was living in a squat with a guitar, an amp, and a stack of blues LPs. The Big Figure was sent to kidnap him, gangland style. He was told that his name was ‘a bit of a mouthful’, and so a telephone directory was slung in his direction, with the command, ‘pick yourself a name out of there’. The pages fell open at M, and ‘Mayo’ jumped out. When Lee Brilleaux observed that their new guitarist always seemed to have some medical complaint – ‘the gyp’ – ‘Gypie Mayo’ was born.

It was a tough challenge to follow the great Wilko Johnson, bur Gypie managed, and introduced into the Feelgood mix a broader musical palate. The sounds of Stax, Motown, and even Beatles-baked riffs suddenly fell at the group’s disposal. Mayo had listened to it all, absorbed it, and poured it out through every sinew of his dextrous chord-shaping fingers. Needless to say, Brilleaux was impressed.

It fell to Nick Lowe to fashion a whole album’s worth of material from a band that was still reeling from the departure of its major songwriter, Wilko. ‘I felt my job was to help them get a foot in the door,’ says Nick. ‘I used to go down to Canvey to their rehearsals, and helped to bring the songs together in a collaborative way. Gypie was a fantastic guitarist and he was perfect for them.’

Be Seeing You

The resulting album was Be Seeing You, and the following year Lowe was again called in to assist with a song for the next Dr Feelgood LP, Private Practice. ‘I think I might have been in bed when they called. I went over to Eden. I can’t remember if they had the title Milk And Alcohol, but we were talking about an experience we’d had in the States a few years earlier, when I was a Dr Feelgood roadie.’

Milk And Alcohol, based on a guitar riff by Gypie, became the Feelgoods’ biggest hit single. They had also scored with a cover of Mickey Jupp’s Down At The Doctors, and it was the success of these records in 1978/79 that fuelled the Feelgoods’ bankability on the live circuit throughout the turn of the next decade.

But by 1980 Gypie had become tired of being part of a relentless touring machine, not that he disliked the music, the great album A Case Of The Shakes was testament to the musical excitement he helped create. But the constant strain of being pulled away from his young family was too much, He had also fallen victim to drug abuse, as he openly admitted to me earlier this year. ‘We worked ourselves a little bit too hard,’ he said. ‘There were two reasons I quit; one was domestic, and the other was that we simply didn't have time to work on the music. We were burnt out and it was down to me to be the creative one and come up with ideas. I felt I wasn't able to fill that role. I’m not proud of the fact I became addicted, but I’m not deeply, deeply ashamed either.’

Many years passed before Gypie settled into his next name band, the re-formed Yardbirds. To fill the shoes of their legendary players like Clapton and Beck was a doddle for Gypie. He had it all down, a master player, and a true gentleman. In more recent times Gypie travelled to Japan with former surviving Feelgoods colleagues Sparko and Figure as ‘The Lone Sharks’, and also became a guitar teacher in Bath.

A DVD set of Dr Feelgood from ‘Rockpalast’ 1980 is due soon from Repertoire Records.
The totality of Gypie’s recorded work with Dr Feelgood can be found on the luxury box set ‘Taking No Prisoners’.

Taking No Prisoners

Sunday 6 October 2013

A root and branch operation

ZigZag was probably the UK’s first nationally-distributed rock fanzine, launched in April 1969 with Sandy Denny on the cover, price two shillings. It was the brainchild of Pete Frame, a fan of early rock’n’roll and folk-based rock’n’protest, and featured musicians too left-field for the mainstream music press to cover in depth, for example Phil Ochs, or Captain Beefheart (whose song Zig Zag Wanderer provided Frame with his title). Never enjoying a massive circulation, but retaining a steady readership of a few thousand obsessive fans, ZigZag was kept afloat by Frame for several years as he overcame the financial challenge of getting an issue out more or less monthly. Following the Frame years, ZigZag continued under the editorship of Kris Needs, but folded in 1986. The title was briefly re-launched in 1990 by new owners EMAP, publishers of Q, but survived only one issue.

It was in ZigZag #14 that Frame published his prototype ‘Rock Family Tree’ (to illustrate the ever-changing line-up of The Byrds). It was drawn in bar-graph style, but his formidable research and draftsmanship would soon come together to create the ‘rock family tree’ format we know and love.

ZigZag #14

Above the desk at which I scribble hangs the ‘framed’ artwork of ‘The Southend Scene’, which appeared in ZigZag #56 and details the evolution of Procol Harum, Mickey Jupp’s Legend, Dr Feelgood, and the Kursaal Flyers. Pete very graciously gifted this to me some years back. I am also the proud owner of ‘Pub Rock Afterglow’ and ‘Flying Burrito Brothers’, both awaiting framing.

'The Southend Scene'

A recent exhibition at London’s Barbican Centre collected together a number of Pete’s Rock Family Trees and memorabilia, including the first draft of an unfinished Lonnie Donegan tree. I had to check with Pete that his Lonnie tree has never seen the light of print, because so many of his trees have, in various books and magazines, that it might have been easy to miss. But the tree has never been completed, which is surprising considering Lonnie’s crucial influence on the early UK rock scene, and Pete’s interest in that era.

'Lonnie Donegan - the man who changed our world'

I do recall that Pete and I visited Lonnie in December 2000 at his London apartment. I was researching a feature for Mojo and Pete, I guess, was gathering material for his definitive history of early British rock’n’roll, The Restless Generation. Lonnie was the perfect host, warm, informative and funny in equal measure, and rather charmingly provided a luxury sandwich selection from M&S and a nice bottle of rose. We got the stories we were after and left happy.


For a great deal of information about Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees visit

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Salty Dogs and Rotten Worms

As 1966 was staring 1967 in the face, and boys were about to become men, the moustache became a ubiquitous symbol of maturity and musical depth. Briefly sported by Eric Clapton, then neatly lifted by The Beatles, a dormouse on one's boat was de rigueur. And as marijuana replaced light ale and Beat begat Rock, R&B combo of distinction The Paramounts morphed into the much moustachioed Procol Harum.

Having spurned an offer to join The Spencer Davis Group (to replace the departing Stevie Winwood), ex-Paramounts singer and pianist Gary Brooker hooked up with wigged-out wordsmith Keith Reid, borrowed from Bach and created A Whiter Shade Of Pale. The song has served its creators well, as in: Brooker enters his local. Barman enquires: 'What game are you in then Mr Brooker?' Brooker replies: 'I wrote a song.'

Procol (to you), recorded 10 original LPs in the decade commencing 1967, and an eleventh after re-forming in 1991. Despite significant sales in the USA and mainland Europe, the group was never really embraced as an 'albums act' in their homeland. Perhaps it was the enormity of The Hit, perhaps it was the moustache, perhaps Procol Harum were simply too good. Admittedly their catalogue is erratic, with the odd musical dead end, but it's also dotted with records of outstanding natural beauty.

Procol Harum (1968)
Issued in the USA as A Whiter Shade Of Pale, the group's hastily-recorded debut contains the early fruits of the Brooker / Reid collaboration, including the original studio version of Conquistador, later a hit in live form. At the time, a quite unique sound.

Shine On Brightly (1968)
In his sleeve-note for the group's second album, noted US critic and founder of Crawdaddy magazine Paul Williams wrote: 'Have you noticed how much the first Procol album (which was so influenced by Blonde On Blonde) influenced Music From Big Pink?' Well ... Williams has a point. Like The Band, Procol came from the R&B tradition, strongly influenced by Ray Charles and Bobby Bland. Both groups' sound was founded on a bedrock of piano and organ, and Procol lyricist Reid had certainly caught the 'mid-period Dylan' bug. Although encumbered by the weighty In Held 'Twas In I song cycle, occupying much of side two, Shine On Brightly is a wonderfully entertaining record, with Matthew Fisher's organ sound well to the fore and Robin Trower's heavy-blues guitar at its most potent. High points: Quite Rightly So, Shine On Brightly, Rambling On.

A Salty Dog (1969)
Much more of a 'group effort', Fisher and Trower now contributing heavily, and nautical but nice in flavour,A Salty Dog is perhaps Procol's finest 40 minutes. The title track – a Brooker / Reid masterpiece which, astonishingly, was only a minor hit on 45 – is a romantic yarn of shipwrecks and seadogs, replete with lush orchestral arrangement. From there, the programme is rich and varied, sometimes whimsical, often hard blues-rocking. Standout songs: A Salty Dog, The Devil Came From Kansas, Boredom, All This And More.

Home (1970)
As commercial disappointment sets in, the mood becomes dark and bitter and the sleeve's board game graphics belie the record's sombre tones. Opening with Trower's killer riff, the rocking Whiskey Train recalls the verve of The Paramounts' live sound. From there, it's a tortured and twisted journey through such tales as The Dead Man's Dream, Still There'll Be More, About To Die (quite Band-like) and Whaling Stories, but the songs always retain that R&B edge. Not surprising, as the group now comprises an all ex-Paramounts line-up, plus the poetic Reid: 'I'll blacken your Christmas and piss on your door ...'

Broken Barricades (1971)
As is often the case, it is the songwriting credits of creative groups that tell the real story; they can be a mini-biography in their own right. On Broken Barricades, Trower scores a whopping three (out of eight) co-writes, all with Reid, further tilting the balance away from Brooker's early dominance. Not a very strong song collection, the sound of the group nevertheless starts to mature, though Trower soon quits to work with Frankie Miller in the short-lived Jude. Great drumming from B J Wilson throughout. Nuggets: Simple Sister and the title track.

Live With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (1972)
Much buoyed by ongoing success in overseas markets, Procol reinforce their considerable live reputation with the full Sir Malcolm Sargent. While it was this manoeuvre which may have given the group's detractors fresh ammunition (and unfairly dumped Procol in with Deep Purple and ELP), much of the material herein is eminently suited to the big treatment, and in the days before synthesized strings it did of course allow the group to perform A Salty Dog in all its orchestral glory. Also contains Conquistador, the hit.

Grand Hotel (1973)
After many years' touring and, one imagines, exposure to the sumptuous and historic hotels of the great European capitals, Keith Reid lets his imagination go crazy (again) while Gary Brooker delivers great sweeping melodies of operatic proportions. Sounds horrible, but Grand Hotel is actually a strangely moving record. Strong cuts: the title track, A Rum Tale, T V Caesar and For Liquorice John, inspired by the death of Dave Mundy, a friend from the old days who had recently fallen to his death from a Southend tower block. It should have been the big one.

Exotic Birds and Fruit (1974)
Side one is sensational, its four songs being among Procol's best. Toughly produced by Chris Thomas,Exotic Birds really is an overlooked gem and due for imminent reissue on CD. Those four killers: Nothing But The Truth, Beyond The Pale, As Strong As Samson (they come no better), and The Idol.

Procol's Ninth (1975)
Produced by songwriting legends Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, surely heroes of Brooker's, this is a slick though fairly unsatisfying work containing, for the first time, cover versions (Chuck Jackson's I Keep Forgetting and The Beatles' Eight Days A Week). But, once again, a surprise hit is included – Pandora's Box – perhaps justifying the more commercial production approach.

Something Magic (1977)
Actually something quite awful. If ever there was a good reason for punk, it's a record like this. The sound is tired, uninspired, and general hard work. Not only that, but all of side two is occupied by The Worm And The Tree, a weak sequel to Shine On Brightly's In Held 'Twas In I. Still, can't be easy after 10 years, can it? Following the commercial failure of this LP the group quietly suspends trading and Brooker goes fishing.

Prodigal Stranger (1991)
Procol re-form, though they never broke up! Full of modern drum sounds and digital effects, otherwise the traditional Procol sound. Robin Trower returns to contribute his trademark bluesy tones and the lyrical content is weighty. Disappointing sales-wise, though to be fair it received scant promotion, one hopes that Procol are not deterred from further recording activity.

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Read Henry Scott-Irvine's definitive biography of Procol Harum

This piece first appeared in Mojo

Saturday 24 August 2013

The 99th Floor of my Block

I recently revisited the Rolling Stones CD singles mini box sets that I purchased in a trio of panic attacks about 10 years ago. These dinky collections paired each ‘ABKCO’ single with its b-side, and it’s murder to have to keep jumping up and changing each disc, but they put it all into context. The monster graphics – big upper/lower case titles laid upon intense photo studies from David Bailey, or Gered Mankowitz, forecast the big sounds recorded in aircraft hangar studios in Chicago or Los Angeles that gave rise to the bold manifestos of 1965 and 1966, the years when the world forever changed, as young people built their confidence upon soundtracks furnished by the Stones, and Bob Dylan, and The Who.

The photographs, often camera shake outtakes, mostly featuring Mick Jagger’s famous lips, Keith Richards’ enormous ears, or Brian Jones’ cool seersucker jackets, are the previously unseen bonus prints that make these sets so appealing.

There are three such sets of CD singles. The first – ‘1963-1965’ – opens with the Stones’ superior take on Come On, relegating Chuck Berry’s original to demo status. From there the urgent, scratchy I Wanna Be Your Man (one of the very first ever covers for Lennon/ McCartney); the early EPs that allowed the Stones to pay homage to their R&B roots; and their breakthrough songwriting moment, The Last Time, a song that doesn’t really stand up to live performance, but nevertheless put the Stones on the international stage and established Jagger’s provocative hand-clapping and scissor-kicking self.

The second set – ‘1965-1967’ – kicks off with (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, the Stones’ most famous song. Even the BBC’s John Humphrys has heard of it. Whereas the UK single paired it with The Spider And The Fly – a snarky remake of the knowing I’m A King Bee – the import 45 that dominated the jukebox in the particular coffee bar I frequented in the summer of 65 paired it with The Under Assistant West Coast Promotions Man, a 12-bar shuffle that saw Jagger ‘waiting at a bus stop in downtown LA’, when he would much rather be ‘on a boardwalk (er?) on Broadway’. See… eer.  sucker… suit, indeed. This box also contains the Stones’ ultimate dark trilogy – Paint It (,!!) Black, Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown, and Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow? 

The third and final box – ‘1968-1971’ – sees the Stones mutate into ‘the greatest rock and roll band in the world’, with tracks that weren’t so much ‘singles’ as milestones in British history - Jumping Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man, Honky Tonk Women, Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, Sympathy For The Devil - each easily as great as any Turner that hangs in the Tate. 

So, these expensive little box sets were an indulgence by both record company and consumer, but it is a joy to finger through the individual mini-jackets and get up from one’s chair to reload the CD player every six or seven minutes or so. I would not be without them.

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Friday 9 August 2013

Having a Rave Up with The Strypes

courtesy Daily Telegraph

I know I’m a bit late for this bus, but I finally caught it last night when The Strypes played Canvey Island’s Oysterfleet Hotel. They were joined on stage for two numbers by their ‘musical heroes’ Wilko Johnson and John B Sparkes, both late of local template makers, Dr Feelgood. Or is that The Yardbirds… or The Kinks… or even the Downliners Sect?

Their show was peppered with many of those 1960s beat group staples, including Slim Harpo’s Got Love If You Want It (dipping into The High Numbers’ I’m The Face), Jessie Hill’s Ooh Poo Pah Doo, and of course, Route 66. For a more contemporary edge they cover Nick Lowe’s Heart Of The City. They've also got some home-baked songs, notably Blue Collar Jane and What A Shame, and boast an astonishingly tight rhythm section; a child prodigy on electric guitar, and a singer in whom the ferocity of Brilleaux meets the onstage bashfulness of Joey Ramone. And most importantly, in my mind, they've got the look.

With a combined age a little lower than that of the youngest member of the Rolling Stones, and a musical power that channels the Jeff Beck Group on steroids, the precocious Strypes are surely the most exciting new musical prospect in years for lovers of old school rhythm and blues. Handled with care, as they seem to be judging by their mentally muscular entourage, they could become a national phenomenon. And, if this is what they can do at – close your eyes and you won’t believe it – 15, they may one day take the world, or that little part of it that is still populated by rock and roll nuts.