Monday, 31 March 2014

19 March 2014 Dr Sketchy Set List

/ Showtime for the 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).

/ 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.

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.

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

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! 

/ 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

/ 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

Thursday, 13 March 2014

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

/ 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.

/ 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.

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.

/ 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

/ 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).

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