Sunday, 20 April 2014

John Waters Filth Fest DJ Set List 29 March 2014

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/ The great Liz Renay as Muffy St Jacques in Desperate Living (1977) /
Amy Grimehouse Presents: John Waters Filth Fest
Could you be the filthiest person alive? Then this is your church: a 12-hour mass in praise of the Pope of Trash. Brought to you by anarchic promoters Amy Grimehouse, it promises all the camp hysteria and debauchery you'll find in Waters's celebrated movies – obscenity and health and safety laws permitting. As well as a marathon Waters screening session (including an Odorama version of Polyester), expect cabaret and live music performances, a Hairspray-like ball (featuring Corny Collins dance lessons), bizarre competitions, trampolining, an "eat your makeup" stall and a "tea bagging booth" (we're not sure either). Dressing up is compulsory, but be warned: not even Divine could stay looking like Divine for 12 hours. 
From The Guardian 

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/ Official Filth Fest poster /

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/ The cast of Pink Flamingos (1972) /

My slavish reverence for the oeuvre of cinema’s sleaze John Waters is pretty well-documented. (Interviewing him in 2010 was the pinnacle of my journalism career. My semi-regular club night Lobotomy Room is virtually a tribute to Waters). So as well as being honoured to be asked in the first place, DJ’ing at the triumphant mondo trasho John Waters Filth Fest (organised by immersive cult cinema / arts club organisers Amy Grimehouse) fit me like a tight (wet) t-shirt.

Talented photographer Elissa Cray was in attendance taking portraits of the clubbers all night. She took this glamour shot of me early on. (The Jayne Mansfield cheesecake pose was her idea) /

Divine make-over at the John Waters Filth Fest on 29 March 2014 /

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/ The Girl Can't Help It: Divine as Babs Johnson in Pink Flamingos (1972) / 

Described as a celebration of all things John Waters, the Filth Fest inevitably included screenings of beloved Waters trash masturpieces (sic) (including Crybaby, Desperate Living, Multiple Maniacs, Serial Mom and Polyester, complete with scratch’n’sniff Odorama cards). But it also incorporated live music (the band Oh! Gunquit), performance art, vibrator racing, an “eat your make-up” stall, Corny Collins Show-style dance classes and the crème de la crème of London’s hippest drag queens emceeing and cavorting in various stages of undress (they truly are the progeny of Divine).  Sadly, the tea bagging booth didn't seem to happen – I would have been up for that!

/ I call this Christophina Makes a New Friend: My friend (aka "Christopher") with a slut dropping Baby Lame. Note the underwear with skid marks and used tampon decorations - an elegant touch /

/ Christophina Makes a New Friend, Part 2: He gets acquainted with Jacqui Potato /

/ Baby Lame (covered in dog food. Oh, god - I hope it's dog food) and Pal. (You can barely see it, but Pal's wearing a Pink Flamingos t-shirt he made himself) /

/ John Sizzle (in costume as Lobstora from Multiple Maniacs) and I. The first words out of his mouth were, "I'm going to rape you!" /

/ High performance art: Baby Lame and Moan Crawful. Photo by Alex Menace / 

Proceedings reached a sordid climax with the Filthiest Person Alive competition. I missed whole chunks of it because I was in the other room (the Fudge Pit, in fact) sorting out last minute audio issues with the sound engineer but I could see it through the window and it was a truly eye-popping Fellini-esque spectacle. Recall the Cavalcade of Perversions carnival tent in Waters’ 1970 film Multiple Maniacs (vomit eaters, bicycle seat lickers, “men kissing on the lips like lovers”) and you’re on the right track. I can definitely confirm copious nudity was involved. At one point I caught a vivid snatch of performance artist Mouse splashing stark naked in a children’s paddling pool, stuffing dog food into her orifices. An exhibitionistic obese guy with moobs who could suck his own nipples ultimately won. (The choice may have been controversial: the fierce Divine lookalike standing next to me shook his head in silent disapproval). I think the winner’s name was Timothy. At the end of the night, when I had packed my DJ bag and was leaving Timothy was standing outside. He approached and asked if he could come home with me. When I politely declined he asked if I could find him “a special friend.”

/ Contestants in the Filthiest Person competition. Photo by Alex Menace /

/ Contestants in the Filthiest Person competition. Photo by Alex Menace. Note woman in foreground clutching can of Tyskie. Her costume is the most loving reproduction of what Mole McHenry wears in her guise as female wrestler Wrasslin' Rita in Desperate Living (1977). I was in awe. Just look at that lovingly detailed vagina. Also visible: Moan Crawful in Leigh Bowery-esque leopard skin all-in-one /

/ Baby Lame and the winner of the Filthiest Person competition. I think his name was Timothy. As far as I could tell, his primary talent was self nipple-sucking. Photo by Alex Menace /

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/ Susan Walsh as Chiclet in Female Trouble (1974) /

I DJ’d between 11:30 pm – 2:00 am (then superstar DJ John Sizzle took over). I’m officially spoiled now – I only want to DJ while scantily-clad drag queens do stripper squats and slut drops. And if only every crowd was so wild, freaky, trashy and appreciative: being surrounded by Divine lookalikes (and a few brilliant Mink Stole-as-Connie Marble-in-Pink Flamingos lookalikes) sure is inspiring. (So is swigging from cans of Tyskie). Obviously I seized this as an opportunity to wallow in deep vintage musical sleaze. I alternated tracks from John Waters’ best soundtracks (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble – there was never an official soundtrack but I pieced it together - Cry-baby, A Dirty Shame) with songs that sound like they could be from John Waters films, incorporating punk, juvenile delinquent rockabilly, surf and greasy rhythm and blues (Waters shares my boundless love for the turbulent Ike and Tina Turner). Playing some Cramps felt pretty compulsory (interesting bit of trivia: The Cramps were approached to provide music for the Cry-baby soundtrack, but none of it was used).

/ "I'm a thief and shit kicker and - uh - I'd like to be famous." Unsurprisingly, there were multiple Divine lookalikes at the Filth Fest. This one was my favourite /

/ I only want to DJ with drag queens doing stripper squats and slut drops from now on. (That's Jacqui Potato in the fuchsia wig) /

/ Jacqui Potato doing a classic young Tina Turner / Ikettes wig toss. Note Christophina in foreground /

/ View from the DJ booth /

/ Dance floor action. By this point Jacqui Potato had stripped down to a jockstrap and was lying on the floor bicycling his legs in the air. This is the only shot I managed of the Mink Stole as Connie Marble in Pink Flamingos lookalike /

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/ Punk Granny Edith Massey /

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/ Pin-up shot of Edith Massey /

A few numbers by Waters leading ladies Edith Massey and Divine were also de rigueur. I love their abrasive, nasty voices which are somehow alluring and repellent. I always remember someone describing infamous novelty singer Mrs Miller’s voice as sounding like “roaches scurrying across a trash can lid.” How beautiful! What could be more punk than that? It’s a quality that both Divine and Edie share –as does Wayne / Jayne County (punk’s Venus with a penis) or Kembra Pfahler, frontwoman of New York’s Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. (I played “Pillowcase” by the latter. The snarled chorus of “painted lips, false eyelashes, dyed hair” always makes me think of John Waters films).  “Edie Conquers Godzilla” is banging techno music overlaid with samples of Massey’s dialogue from various Waters films (“I’m in a heavenly mood today!” she squawks as Cuddles in Polyester). “Punks Get off the Grass” dates from when Massey good naturedly jumped on the punk bandwagon, donning her black leather dominatrix outfit from Female Trouble and hitting the road backed by a New Wave band.  Hog Princess Divine ultimately saved my ass: at one point I was bursting for a slash – every DJ’s nightmare. Rockabilly and punk songs rarely last more than two minutes. I stuck on Divine’s six minute rancid hi-NRG disco version of Sam Cooke’s "Twistin’ the Night Away". I could actually hear her lecherous raspy voice booming from the urinal, so I knew I had time to rush back.

/ Grab life by the boobs: John Sizzle having his tits groped by an admirer /

/ Nice rack! John Sizzle in action. How many nipples can you count? /

/ Nice brief glimpse of the raunchy goings-on at the Filth Fest /

Postscript: Last weekend I re-visited the John Waters’ mid-period trash masterpiece Polyester (1981). I have it on DVD but hadn't watched it in years. It was screened at midnight at the Filth Fest but by then I was deep into DJ’ing in the Fudge Pit. Think of it as a transitional work between Desperate Living (1977) and Hairspray (1988). It represents Waters’ tribute to two of his key influences – William Castle and Douglas Sirk – and as the long-suffering suburban housewife Francine Fishpaw, features one of Divine’s best and most sympathetic performances. It also represents the last screen performance by the ultimate “outsider actress” Massey (1918-1984) as Francine’s friend Cuddles in a Waters film. For me, Massey and Divine together is one of the great comedic partnerships – like Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz for freaks, queers and punks.

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/ Divine as alcoholic suburban housewife Francine Fishpaw in Polyester (1981) /

Further postscript: The Filth Fest was such a success it looks likely to become an annual event.

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/ Above and below: Divine as defiant bad girl and career criminal Dawn Davenport in Female Trouble (1974) /

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Final postscript: The international sin set has been waiting - and the first Lobotomy Room of 2014 is Saturday 31 May 2014 in the subterranean basement lair of Ryan's Bar in Stoke Newington (or "outer Dalston", as I prefer).

Lobotomy Room – a punkabilly beer blast! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk Cretin Hops! Kitsch! Exotica! Curiosities and other Weird Shit! Think John Waters soundtracks, or Songs The Cramps Taught Us, hosted by Graham Russell (fresh fromThe Amy Grimehouse’s triumphant Filth Fest, regular DJ at Dr. Sketchy London and Cockabilly). Expect desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle! Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock!

Admission is gratuit (that’s French for FREE!!). If you're working that night -- call in sick. If you're in prison -- BREAK OUT! A sordid and tawdry good time guaranteed!

Read about previous Lobotomy Rooms hereherehereherehere and here

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Blue Kat - Chuck Rio and The Originals (Female Trouble)
Edie Conquers Godzilla - Edith Massey
Female Trouble - The Melvins
Fuck Off - Wayne County and The Electric Chairs
Pillowcase - The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black
Punks Get Off the Grass - Edith Massey
Peter Gunn Twist - The Jesters
Peter Gunn Locomotion - The Delmonas
Let's Twist Again - Johnny Hallyday
Twistin' the Night Away - Divine
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks (Pink Flamingos)
Chicken Walk - Hasil Adkins
Chicken - The Cramps
Let's Go Sexin' - James Intveld (A Dirty Shame)
The Swag - Link Wray (Pink Flamingos)
Pussycat Song - Connie Vannett (A Dirty Shame)
Sweet Little Pussycat - Andre Williams
Can Your Pussy Do the Dog? The Cramps
Rock Around the Clock - The Sex Pistols
Breathless - X
Funnel of Love - Wanda Jackson
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard (Pink Flamingos)
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Fools Rush In - Ricky Nelson
Devil in Disguise - Elvis Presley
Wipe-Out - The Surfaris
Cry-baby - The Honey Sisters (Cry-baby)
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
Welfare Cheese - Emanuel Laskey
He's The One - Ike and Tina Turner
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Whistle Bait - The Collins Kids
Little Girl - Jackie and Johnny
C'mon Everybody - Sid Vicious
Sweetie Pie - Eddie Cochran
Boss - The Rumblers
Dance with Me Henry - Ann-Margret
Beat Party - Ritchie and The Squires
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
Surfin' Bird - The Trashmen (Pink Flamingos)
Bombora - The Original Surfaris
Intoxica - The Centurions (Pink Flamingos)
Contact - Brigitte Bardot
53rd & 3rd - The Ramones
Rock-a-Bop - Sparkle Moore
Kruschev Twist - Melvin Gayle
Margaya - The Fender 4
How Much Is That Doggie in the Window? Patti Page (Pink Flamingos)
Go Motherfucker Go - Nashville Pussy
Johnny Hit and Run Pauline - X

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Friday, 4 April 2014

Cockabilly at The George and Dragon 28 March 2014 DJ Set List

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This installment of Cockabilly (London’s monthly punkabilly beer blast at The George and Dragon in Shoreditch) was notable for a bittersweet reunion with my old friend Lisa Cunningham. I spent much of the 1990s propping up various bars with this crazy psychobilly chick (More than Vegas at The St Moritz on Wardour Street, the tough-as-nails Elephant’s Head in Camden Town when it was still scary good fun, assorted Frat Shacks and El Vez gigs). She’s splitting London soon to start a new life near Wales with her husband. Much as I am excited for Lisa, I sure will miss her pretty face! (And props as well to my friends Eric and Sarah who also came this time.)

/ Lisa and I at the 28 March 2014 Cockabilly at The George and Dragon in Shoreditch /

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/ Punk pin-up: glamorous kiss-curled Lisa in the 1990s - very much what she looked like when I first met her in the rockabilly fleshpots of London /

As always, it was a blast to guest DJ alongside Mal Nicholson and Elma Wolf, playing my most fetid vintage musical sleaze offerings at blistering volume to a heaving, sexy crowd at The George and Dragon, and the lager was a-flowing. (I was DJ’ing the next night at the mondo 12-hour John Waters-inspired Filth Fest. When I was trying to rouse myself Saturday I definitely regretted the lager had flowed quite so freely. Rest assured the triumphant Filth Fest will be a whole separate blog soon).

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/ It's so important to get your turn-ups just right /

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/ Prime chicken: Star of Pink Narcissus Bobby Kendall. Judging by his lush-lipped, dark-eyed good looks he's got a little Mediterranean or Mexican in him. I've had a little Mediterranean and Mexican in me, too /

Now: to raise the tone - a bit of art. I’d argue Pink Narcissus (1971) is one of the essential homoerotic classicks (sic) of underground cinema (alongside Jean Genet’s Un chant d’amour, Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising and Warhol’s My Hustler) all homosexualists should see at least once. I recently revisited Pink Narcissus for the first time in over twenty years. (I’d only seen it once before - at the now-defunct, much-missed Scala Cinema in London, which shut in 1993). Simultaneously avant-garde and kitsch, it’s as trippy, weird and sexy as I remembered. For director James Bidgood, Pink Narcissus was an obsessive labour of love: made on a shoe-string budget, seven years in production (from 1963 to 1970), all filmed entirely within his own compact Manhattan apartment (even the “exterior” street scenes). The hot neon shocking pink and blue-hued photography is exquisite (Pierre et Gilles swiped this whole style for their own camp sensibility). Beauteous leading man Bobby Kendall (a teenage runaway when Bidgood scooped him up; he never made another film) has the greatest, noblest and most poetic male ass ever captured on film (perhaps second only to Joe Dallesandro’s). (You can watch a reasonably OK version of Pink Narcissus here. Warning - it's a porn site!)

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Let's Have a Party - Wanda Jackson
Bottle to the Baby - Charlie Feathers
Dragon Walk - The Noblemen
Tina's Dilemma - Ike and Tina Turner
Woo Hoo - The Rock-A-Teens
Rip It Up - Little Richard
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
Boss - The Rumblers
Jim Dandy - Ann-Margret
I Got Stung - Elvis Presley
Chicken Walk - Hasil Adkins
Shortnin' Bread - The Ready Men
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Surfin' Bird - The Trashmen
Little Girl - John and Jackie
Batman Theme - Link Wray
Whistle Bait - The Collins Kids
Somethin' Else - Sid Vicious
Elle est terrible - Johnny Hallyday
Rock-A-Bop - Sparkle Moore
I Stubbed My Toe - Bryan "Legs" Walker
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Little Queenie - The Bill Black Combo
Lover Boy - Gene Wyatt
Intoxica - The Centurions
The Big Bounce - Shirley Caddell
People Ain't No Good - The Cramps
Contact - Brigitte Bardot
We're a Happy Family - The Ramones
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield

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/ If you've read down this far, you're rewarded with a bonus vintage homoerotic nudie cutie. Who doesn't love a natural blond? Via /

Further reading:

Read about previous Cockabilly nights hereherehereherehereherehereherehere and here

If you don't already, follow my squalid and tawdry tumblr page

Monday, 31 March 2014

19 March 2014 Dr Sketchy Set List

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/ Showtime for Rita Hayworth of Burlesque, the regal Tempest Storm /

For the 19 March 2014 Dr Sketchy at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, eternally naughty emcee Ophelia Bitz kicked off proceedings with the musical number “Red Riding Hood” by the late Brit drag legend Danny La Rue (her spiritual show biz father).  Bad girl of cabaret Ophelia was feeling particularly juicy this night. Indicating her sparkly red showgirl dress, she declared, “I’m dressed as Mae West’s vagina.”  After featured burlesque artiste Bettsie Bon Bon departed the stage stripped down to g-string and pasties, Ophelia picked up Bettsie’s discarded bra from the floor, held it to her face and inhaled deep (think Dennis Hopper and his gas mask in Blue Velvet).

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/ Ophelia's lingerie-sniffing was reminiscent of this, too: Shelley Winters in What's the Matter with Helen? (1971). Via /

The two featured guest performers and models this time were the pretty damn dazzling Bon Bon and Amelie Soeil. (I hadn't seen Ms Bon Bon since Bestival 2012). I was struck by what seasoned pros both of them are. In both of their acts, things went wrong – it was impressive how they rolled with it without breaking stride. Poor Bettsie Bon Bon suffered a wardrobe malfunction – she couldn't get her corset off. Eventually she managed to virtually wrestle herself out of it - and injure herself in the process. (“I made myself bleed trying to get my tits out for you,” she later informed the audience). Soleil, meanwhile, did an eye-watering act that involved eating razor blades. Yikes! Freaky! It was like something out of an old school carnival sideshow. I’m one squeamish mofo and I had to watch bits of it between my fingers. At one point Soleil whipped out a cigarette lighter or some matches (I forget which) to apparently do some fire-eating but they wouldn't light because of the onstage fans. She swiftly abandoned that idea and continued to blow our minds with the razor blade-eating.

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Last month I posted a photo of Korla Pandit (1921-1998) with Yma Sumac. Here he is with Poison Ivy and Lux Interior of The Cramps, looking suitably reverent to be in his presence /

It probably sounds perverse, but my favourite part of DJ’ing at a Dr Sketchy at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is early on, just as people start arriving, I’m am playing tinkly exotica lounge music and the venue is darkened and lit just by candles (once Dr Sketchy properly starts, the house lights come up so that people can see their drawings!). My new ritual is opening with a track by the turbaned high potentate of exotica, the enigmatic Korla Pandit.  From there, I went in a swirling Middle Eastern belly dancer direction (obviously playing “Uska Dara” by Miss Eartha Kitt was obligatory). “Taita Inty (Virgin of The Sun God)” by high priestess of exotica Yma Sumac ends with the sound of a gong being struck. Martin Denny’s “Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish” begins with the sound of a gong – playing them back-to-back segued seamlessly! I always play the Marilyn Monroe-Jane Russell duet “A Little Girl from Little Rock” from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes when two women model together – maybe a bit predictable, but it always gets a laugh. Everyone loves that film.

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Love Song of the Nile - Korla Pandit
Taita Inty (Virgin of the Sun God) - Yma Sumac
Girlfriend of the Whirling Dervish - Martin Denny
The Maharajah of Megador - The Blue Echoes
Uska Dara - Eartha Kitt
Kizmiaz - The Cramps
Tonight You Belong to Me - Patience and Prudence
Some of These Days - The Kordt Sisters with Swing Accompaniment
Mama's Place - Bing Day
Fever - Edith Massey
Ain't That Good? George Kelly and Orchestra
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
I'm Blue - The Ikettes
Night Walk - The Swingers
I Ain't in the Mood - Helen Humes
Long Distance - Garnell Cooper and The Kinfolk
Where's My Money? Willie Jones
Don't Blame It On Me - Ike and Tina Turner
Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Uptown to Harlem - Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin
I Live the Life I Love - Esquerita
Night Scene - The Rumblers
Handclapping Time - The Fabulous Raiders
Catwalk - Jack Constanzo
Aged and Mellow - Little Esther
Willow Weep for Me - The Whistling Artistry of Muzzy Marcellino
Basin Street Blues - Julie London
Where Flamingos Fly - Linda Lawson
Lazy - The Nuns
Beat Party - Ritchie and The Squires
Little Queenie - Bill Black's Combo
Mama Looka Boo Boo - Robert Mitchum
Rum and Coca Cola - Wanda Jackson
Go Calypso - Mamie Van Doren
Delilah Jones - The Thunderbirds
Lovin' Spree - Ann-Margret
My Pussy Belongs to Daddy - Faye Richmonde
Champagne Taste - Eartha Kitt
Give Me Love - Lena Horne
L'eau a la bouche - Serge Gainsbourg
A Little Girl from Little Rock - Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell
Hiasmina - Jean Seberg
Hot Licks - The Rendells
Sexe - Line Renaud
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
Dragon Walk - The Noblemen
I Got Stung - Elvis Presley
Scorpion - The Carnations
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
One Monkey Don't Stop No Show - Big Maybelle
Wipe Out - The Surfaris
Last Call for Whiskey - Choker Campbell
Hit The Road Jack - Ray Charles

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Cockabilly 28 February 2014 DJ Set List

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The last Friday of the month can only mean one thing: gay greasers uniting to rock around the cock at Cockabilly (London’s only regular queer rockabilly night) at the ultra-Bohemian George and Dragon in Shoreditch.

The triumphant January Cockabilly definitely started 2014 on a high. Happily, the February one continued the trend. The sole glitch: the projector wasn't working – so no Teaserama burlesque footage of Bettie Page or Tempest Storm bumping, grinding and pouting on the big screen this time.

During my hour-long slot, I didn't feel quite as in control as I would've liked. I think my set list looks messy and disjointed! It felt a bit rushed and chaotic this time, but most importantly the heaving crowd was genuinely wild, enthusiastic and dancing. My priority was to keep them dancing so I brazenly stuck to crowd-pleasing good-natured kitsch (think frantic twist music, punk, surf, greasy rhythm and blues, rock’n’roll. They even loved the hillbilly stuff).

Roll, on March Cockabilly! (For anyone London-based, it’s Friday 28 March 2014). It’ll be divoon! 

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/ Could these two be more Cockabilly? /

Batman Theme - Link Wray
Margaya - The Fender Four
That's Why I'm Asking - Carl Dobkins Jr
I Want Your Love - The Enchanters
I Got a Rocket in My Pocket - Jimmy Lloyd
Lonesome Me - Johnny Cash
Funnel of Love - Wanda Jackson
Breathless - Arlie Neaville
Year 1 - X
Heartbreak Hotel - Buddy Love
Little Lil - Mel Dorsey
Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Heartbreakin' Special - Duke Larson
Willie Joe - The Mystery Trio
Beat Party - Ritchie and The Squires
He's the One - Ike and Tina Turner
Party Lights - Claudine Clark
Where's My Money? Willie Jones
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks
Dance with Me, Henry - Ann-Margret
Big Bounce - Shirley Caddell
How Come You Do Me? Junior Thompson
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Rock Around the Clock - The Sex Pistols
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
My Baby Does the Hanky Panky - Rita Chao and The Quests
Viens danser le twist - Johnny Hallyday
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s

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/ If you've read down this far, you get a bonus vintage beefcake pin-up. Have you ever seen a more delicious young juvenile delinquent? Now that's what I call a "pleasure trail" /

Further reading: If you like the shot above, boldly explore the shadowy, forbidden world of my tumblr page. A world people talk about in whispers and in words not used in polite conversation. Hidden shames. Furtive pleasures. Strange passions. Some may find it shocking. Some may find it sensational. But no one who visits it will ever forget it. (NSFW).

Read about previous Cockabilly nights herehereherehereherehereherehere and here

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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Ronnie Spector: Beyond the Beehive at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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/ The Ronettes in 1964: Nedra, Ronnie and Estelle /

1960s girl group survivor (and definitive hair hopper role model) Ronnie Spector brought her Beyond the Beehive revue to London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on Sunday (9 March 2014). I’d never seen the former Ronettes front-woman perform before, so I leapt at the chance.

While it was bound to be fascinating, I went with lowered expectations: I remembered reading a review of her London appearance in 2008, where an apparently ailing Spector was forced to sing while seated throughout and her voice was reportedly shot. It’s gratifying to report, then, that 70-year old Spector (introduced as “the rose from Spanish Harlem”) was a torrent of energy and raw emotion and on majestic and miraculously rejuvenated form. In brief: mondo teased haystack of bouffant hair, mondo cleavage and most importantly – mondo raspy soaring heartbreaking voice.

The show alternated between songs (Spector’s powerful backing band nicely evoked her 1960s records’ signature lush wall of sound) and audiovisual autobiographical segments. During the latter, Spector reminisced about her tumultuous marriage with deranged musical genius Phil Spector (unsurprisingly, tales of her vengeful ex-husband – the man who made her and then did his damnedest to break her – dominated), her years with the Ronettes, legal woes and her chronically thwarted solo career (Spector is pop’s ultimate heartbreak kid), illustrated with slideshows and videos projected on a giant screen behind her. If you've read Spector’s autobiography Be My Baby you’re probably familiar with many of her anws and videos projected on a screen behind her.  career (Spector is pop'ulto be fascinatecdotes. But the book came out in the early nineties: since then, Phil Spector has been imprisoned for murder, the Ronettes were belatedly inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and co-Ronette (and Ronnie’s sister) Estelle died.

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/ Beehive with a Voice: Ronnie Spector photographed by Dennis Hopper (yes, that Dennis Hopper) in the 1960s, while husband/producer Phil Spector glowers in the background /

Opening with “Walking in the Rain”, the musical part of the night was pretty damn sublime. The Ronettes’ best-loved hits “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You” were reserved for the encore. Spector slayed me when she sang The Ramones’ “She Talks to Rainbows” (Joey Ramone was her biggest champion. The punks always got her).  Then she made me cry with “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” by Johnny Thunders. Mostly for Spector's wrenching interpretation, but also the bittersweet visual accompaniment: grainy old Super 8 home movies of the very young Ronettes cavorting and laughing, so beautiful and full of hope.

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Hearing her tear through her back catalogue made me think about the lineage of Ronnie Spector's yearning urgent voice: it connects 1950s doo wop (she’s cited Frankie Lymon of The Teenagers as her primary influence) to 1960s girl groups to the Beach Boys (Brian Wilson wrote “Don't Worry Baby” with her in mind; Phil Spector refused to let the Ronettes record it) to Johnny Thunders, The Ramones, Blondie and Jesus and Mary Chain (the “Be My Baby” drum beat), to the girlish helium coo of early Madonna (who said at the beginning of her career, “I like to look the way Ronnie Spector sounded: sexy, hungry, totally trashy”) and Holly Golightly and Amy Winehouse (for one of her encores Ronnie sang a heartfelt "Back to Black", probably more beautifully than Winehouse herself usually managed). 

Ronnie Spector’s (white frosted) lipstick traces are all over pop history. It was wonderful to see the present-day quintessential 1960s bad girl transformed into an exultant, wise and serene earth mother, exuding joie de vivre.

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/ Photography was forbidden at the concert, but my friend Vivien managed to snatch this /

Read The Guardian's five star review of Ronnie Spector's Beyond the Beehive concert here

/ Below: I recommend you crank this up LOUD /

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

22 February 2014 Dr Sketchy Set List

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/ Behind the Candelabra: Insanely beautiful young Catherine Deneuve /

Saturday 22 February was a gloriously sunny early spring day in London. I spent the whole afternoon of it inside a darkened windowless boozer (the sublimely seedy Royal Vauxhall Tavern, to be precise) playing a putrid assortment of vintage musical sleaze and necking pints of lager. (I find inspiration in liquid form). While women took their clothes off onstage.

The reason for the daytime drinking was a Saturday afternoon Dr Sketchy. The first Dr Sketchy of 2014 was a triumph – and this one pretty much matched it. We’re on freaking fire at the moment! Dr Sketchy has most definitely got its mojo back.

It helped that toilet-mouthed bad girl of cabaret Ophelia Bitz was emceeing again and in filthy “blue” mode (she made a great “fanny fart” joke – you really had to be there). The audience (including a hen party) were raucous and up for a laugh. (In fact, I stuck around DJ'ing for longer than I strictly needed to because the crowd was so fun and appreciative). And the two guest burlesque performers were top-notch. Showgirl deluxe Annette Bette did a vivacious bunny girl routine: she entered to Bugs Bunny intro music clad in a white old-school Playboy Bunny outfit complete with powder puff rabbit tail, wielding a carrot. At a climactic moment she invited a guy from the front row to unfasten her corset– and received the most stony-faced and mortified reaction to audience participation I've ever seen at a Dr Sketchy! (Like Jayne Mansfield with her Chihuahua, Annette was accompanied by her adorable little dog Dorothy. She’s a real scene-stealer: at one point, while Ophelia was speaking, Dorothy poked her head through the curtains and the entire audience ooohed and aaahed).

The glamorous Amelia Kallman made her Dr Sketchy London debut at this one. She did an elaborate and spectacular Bride of Frankenstein act. I was sweating bullets over her ultra-detailed stage directions, with nerve-wracking music and lighting cues. (One cue was to kill the stage lights as soon as the Frankenstein puppet reached for her crotch!). The scale for things going wrong was huge and there was no time to rehearse it beforehand – but it came off seamlessly! All the 1950s and 60s macabre Halloween novelty -style tracks were for her pose (I didn't even know about her number beforehand – it’s just sheer luck I like ghoulish graveyard rock music and had it packed in my DJ bag already. My only regret is I didn't have any songs by Tarantula Ghoul handy).

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Intermezzo - Korla Pandit
Chuncho (The Forest Creatures) - Yma Sumac
Quiet Village - Martin Denny
La-ba c'est naturel - Serge Gainsbourg
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Church Key - The Revels
Not Me - Robert Mitchum
Accentuate the Positive - The Bill Black Combo
Beat Generation - Mamie Van Doren
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
I Can't Sleep - Tini Williams and The Skyliners
Chop Suey Rock - The Instrumentals
Fujiyama Mama - Annisteen Allen
Uptown to Harlem - Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin
Little Miss Understood - Connie Stevens
Intoxica - The Centurions
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
Beat Girl - Adam Faith (Beat Girl soundtrack)
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
Night Scene - The Rumblers
That's a Pretty Good Love - Big Maybelle
Tall Cool One - The Wailers
Cadillac Jack - Andre Williams
Fever - Nancy Sit
Drums A-Go Go - The Hollywood Persuaders
Bop Pills - Macy "Skip" Skipper
I Was Born to Cry - Dion
Train to Nowhere - The Champs
Caterpillar Crawl - The Strangers
Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby? Ann Richards
Where Flamingos Fly - Linda Lawson
Let Me Entertain You - Ann-Margret
Petite Fleur - Chet Baker
Do It Again - Eartha Kitt
Some Small Chance - Serge Gainsbourg (Strip-tease soundtrack)
Little Queenie - Bill Black's Combo
Party Lights - Claudine Clark
Welfare Cheese - Emanuel Lanskey
No Good Lover - Mickey and Sylvia
What Do You Think I Am? Ike and Tina Turner
She's My Witch - The Earls of Suave
Rockin' in the Graveyard - Jackie Morningstar
Goo Goo Muck - Ronnie and The Gaylads
Blood Shot - The String Kings
Rigor Mortis - The Gravestone Four
Alligator Wine - Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin
Hiasmina - Jean Seberg
A Little Girl from Little Rock - Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell
Torture Rock - Rockin' Belmarx
Summertime - Little Esther
Begin the Beguine - Billy Fury
La Javanaise - Juliette Greco
Work Song - Nina Simone
I Love the Life I Live - Esquerita
Sweetie Pie - Eddie Cochran
L'appareil a sous - Brigitte Bardot
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Hit the Road, Jack - Ray Charles
Roll with Me, Henry - Etta James
Fools Rush In - Ricky Nelson
Devil in Disguise - Elvis Presley
Rock'n'Roll Waltz - Ann-Margret
Jim Dandy - LaVerne Baker
I Would if I Could - Ruth Brown

Monday, 24 February 2014

19 February 2014 Dr Sketchy DJ Set List

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/ She's a brick ... house /

The first Dr Sketchy of the New Year was quite simply one of the best ever. In fact last Wednesday night at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern felt like Dr Sketchy being plunged back to its classic golden age (or age d’or, if you prefer).

First of all, hostess with the mostest (or should that be “moistest”?), emcee Ophelia Bitz was back in charge of proceedings and on raunchy form. Think of her as the toilet-mouthed and debauched Tallulah Bankhead du nos jours. Bad girl of cabaret Ophelia and her boyfriend upped sticks and re-located to Bristol a while back, so this was a rare London appearance (I’m pretty sure I hadn't seen her since Bestival 2012).  Boy, do we miss her at Dr Sketchy. Resplendent in gold sequins, at one point she apologised to the crowd for not having washed beforehand and explained Febreeze is the patron saint of cabaret. Later, circulating through the crowd and glancing at their drawings, she stopped at one, exclaimed, “That’s disgusting!” and gave a filthy cackle.

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/ Filthiest Woman Alive? Ophelia Bitz channeling Divine in Pink Flamingos /

Both of the night’s guest performers / models, Amelie Soleil and Fancy Chance, were cabaret crème de la crème and Dr Sketchy doyennes who hadn't performed for us in ages. I’d only ever seen “Britain’s Tiniest Tease” Soleil once before (at the May 2012 Dr Sketchy at The Old Queen’s Head) and didn't recognise her at first at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern: she’s since shuttled from blonde to Ann-Margret not-found-in-nature red. (Needless to say I slipped in an Ann-Margret track while Soleil modeled – not that I need much excuse).

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/ Totally gratuitous cheesecake bathing suit “glamour shot” of Fancy Chance at Bestival 2012 – just for the hell of it /

Like with Ophelia, I hadn't seen maverick burlesque comedienne Fancy Chance since Dr Sketchy and Time for Tease at Bestival 2012.  Chance’s routine was certainly au courant: Prince has been causing a sensation in London lately, playing tiny intimate gigs that instantly sell out.  The savvy Chance dusted off her Prince tribute act (she howls along and strips to “Kiss”) and was probably far more entertaining than the genuine article himself these days. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I don’t have any Prince tracks in my collection. But figuring Chance in male drag (with her tousled pompadour bouffant wig and pencil-line pimp mustache) looked just as much like Little Richard, Esquerita or Masaaki Hirao as Prince, I cranked-up songs by them during her poses instead.

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/ Sadly, we never seem to get people taking and submitting photos at Dr Sketchy anymore, but to give you a flavour, here is the sublime Fancy Chance doing her Prince act at the Time for Tease tent at Bestival 2012 /

Musically, as usual at Dr Sketchy I sought to induce a sleazy atomic era nightclub ambiance (DJ’ing at an old-school darkened cabaret venue with red velvet curtains and candles on the tables is certainly inspiring) via greasy rhythm and blues (Ike and Tina, Big Maybelle), bump’n’grind titty shaker instrumentals, cooing sex kittens (Eartha, Jayne, Ann-Margret) songs swiped from John Waters, Kenneth Anger and David Lynch soundtracks, discordant post-punk death-jazz skronk (Lydia Lunch) and just plain weird shit (Edith Massey slaughtering “Fever”).

Of course primitive, pagan and taboo exotica lounge music will always hold a special place in my heart. Whether it’s Dr Sketchy or my own night Lobotomy Room, I like to ease into things early on by playing atmospheric and eerie exotica by the likes of Martin Denny and Les Baxter just as people are arriving, probably making them wonder, “Where the hell am I?” I've written before about my admiration for the mesmerising and enigmatic Korla Pandit, but only just recently started incorporating his weird and wonderful music into my sets. He is the high emperor of exotica to Peruvian diva Yma Sumac’s high empress. Playing two tracks back-to-back by these two is spine-tingling and intoxicating.

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/ Historic Encounter Between Exotica High Royalty: Yma Sumac (1922-2008) and Korla Pandit (1921-1998) crossing paths in the early 1980s. We are not worthy ... / 

/ Korla Pandit (and a very pretty Asian male dancer) in action in his 1950s prime. Look deep into his eyes /

Love Song of the Nile - Korla Pandit
Ataypura (High Andes) - Yma Sumac
Voodoo Dreams / Voodoo - Les Baxter
Kizmiaz - The Cramps
Cafe Bohemian - The Enchanters
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Mamma's Place - Bing Day
Fever - Edith Massey
One Monkey Don't Stop No Show - Big Maybelle
Ain't That Good? George Kelly and Orchestra
Night Scene - The Rumblers
A Cruise to the Moon - Lydia Lunch
One Mint Julep - Sarah Vaughan
Not Me - Robert Mitchum
Go Calypso - Mamie Van Doren
The Coo - Wayne Cochran
I'm a Bad, Bad Girl - Little Esther
Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Mambo Baby - Ruth Brown
She Wants to Mambo - Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin
Little Darlin' - Masaaki Hirao
Love Letters - Ike and Tina Turner
Blue Velvet - Bobby Vinton
Bombora - The Original Surfaris
Nobody Taught Me - Eartha Kitt
Where Flamingos Fly - Linda Lawson
Dream Lover - The Paris Sisters
Shangri-la - Spike Jones New Band
You're My Thrill - Dolores Gray
The Stripper - John Barry (Beat Girl soundtrack)
Heartbreak Hotel - Ann-Margret
Black Tarantula - Jody Reynolds
Slow Walk - Sil Austin
The Flirt - Shirley and Lee
Welfare Cheese - Emanuel Lanskey
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
Kruschev Twist - Melvin Gayle
Margaya - The Fender Four
Jaguar - The Jaguars
Esquerita and The Voola - Esquerita
Jailhouse Rock - Masaaki Hirao
Lucille - Little Richard
My Boy Lollipop - Sakura and the Quests
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Hiasmina - Jean Seberg
Crazy Vibrations - The Bikinis
Sexe - Line Renaud
Je t'aime moi non plus ... Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot
Begin the Beguine - Lynn Rockwell
Mack the Knife - Hildegard Knef
Kool Kat Walk - Julee Cruise
Intoxica - The Revels
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks
Cry-baby - The Honey Sisters
Roll with Me, Henry - Etta James
Tina's Dilemma - Ike and Tina Turner
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Bossa Nova Baby - Elvis Presley
Moi je joue - Brigitte Bardot