Stompers… shoes with Soul!

Against a midnight mohair backdrop, hanging to air on the wardrobe door, in the half-light shadows like a voyeur, the disc drops. Gathering speed as the arm swings out before lowering itself, like a practiced lover, gently into the groove. That moment’s promise is there. The great suggestion that we are about to receive something so pure; so vital, like life itself.

A fine crackle like a lightning storm at the very edge of your hearing, teases the senses. Momentum achieved, the orange Duke label spins so I can no longer read either title or artist, but after the first hi-hat rise and bass note chasing the chiming scales downwards I’m in familiar territory and the anticipation of the sweetest voice, like chocolate, like velvet, like the greatest of riches, all you could ever want for…

I pick up the soft cloth; dipping a corner into the waiting cup of warm-water. Letting its warmth invade the cloth enough to add to the polish as the mixture is placed upon the leather and small circular caresses gliding ever outwards as that voice hits the very core of me. Not merely Bobby Bland, but Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland… with a voice that hits those; oh-so-rare, bluest of notes. The ones that set the hairs on the back of your neck quivering in recognition – the seduction complete, the idle circles, smooth and effortless like leather soles on a wooden sprung-dance floor. Like a lover’s fingers; deft, sensual, keen, earnest and yearning, sweet… so very sweet…

Two-minutes and forty-five seconds later and in the dream-state it’s a blink of an eye and it’s a lifetime all the same. The shoes are dull and matt with small wispy clouds of polish. I set the shoes down and click the replay switch. A quick check that the coast is clear and I drop a couple of bombers as the mechanical clunks and whirrs ready themselves for another pull at the very core of me. The cloth is switched to the dry end and I start to press harder, buffing the leather, like a spinning dancer, gathering pace as the tune reaches its imploring crescendo.

The harsh clicks and whirrs a distant memory, so discordant after the emotive swell of soul, now replaced by the silence that screams through the room. The only sound the vague monotone buzz from the Dansette, matching the one from the Durophet. I inspect my handiwork. The shoes catch the light, shining, and glistening. I roll them slowly, devouring the glossy radiance. Yes! They’re ready! I’m ready! I lower them gently into the waiting mouth of my bag. Open like a lover’s arms.

Satiated, I light a cigarette, breathing out slowly, watching the neon-blue smoke chasing its myriad tails, tumbling blindly, before climbing leisurely towards the ceiling, consigned to history and memory – but who needs memories? It’s the promise to come that’s important, not even tomorrow; it’s the promise of tonight that’s essential – vital as life itself!

Stompers… shoes with Soul!


Everything’s coming up Dusty

It has been widely acknowledged the part that The Beatles and The Stones played in gaining a wider audience for Soul and R&B artists in the UK. Their early albums are awash with covers of music of artists of black origin. The intoxicating and hypnotic rhythms captivated young (mainly white) audiences opening both ears and minds in the process. That spiritual connection between the black struggle and white working classes oppression has remained ever since.

However, there was another recording artist who should also be remembered for their part in not just embracing black music but actively promoting it and in the process becoming one of the greatest exponents of what became termed blue-eyed-soul. Born Mary O’Brien in London just before the outbreak of World War Two; Dusty Springfield as she became known professionally started her singing career in a couple of pop-folk acts; The Lana Sisters and even had a top 10 hit with The Springfields before launching her solo career in late 1963.

Her first single I Only Want to Be with You married a Phil Spectre Wall of Sound production, awash with luscious layers of strings to a Shirelles pop/soul style melody (one of her big influences). It matched her glamorous excess of smoky heavily made-up eyes, her towering peroxide bee-hive and her flowing floor-length gowns. It was a huge hit and went on to sell a million copies.

1964 was a defining year for Dusty. Hot on the heels of two more massive selling singles, the Bacharach penned Wishin’ and Hopin’ and the emotive (and career defining, musically at least) I Just Don’t Know what to do with Myself Dusty toured South Africa with her group The Echoes. The tour was controversially terminated and resulted in her deportation for playing to an integrated audience at a theatre in Cape Town which was against the then government’s apartheid segregation policy. Dusty’s contract went on to become one of the first to exclude segregated audiences. She often appeared as the only white artist in black-artist reviews.

1965 and with her star still in its ascendancy Dusty, who was already good friends with producer Vicki Wickham (who co-wrote the English lyrics to one of Dusty’s biggest hits; ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me) was especially chosen to host the country’s leading music show; Ready Steady Go’s Sound of Motown Special. After covering many of their tunes it was of particular pleasure to Dusty to facilitate the first UK TV appearances for The Supremes, The Miracles, The Temptations and Stevie Wonder. Recorded live Springfield opened each half of the show accompanied by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas backed by the incomparable Motown in-house band, The Funk Brothers.

Its exposure gave the associated touring Tamla-Motown Revue featuring many of the same artists a much-needed shot in the arm and there was a huge uplift in interest at both the shows and on record. What was once the preserve of a few clued-up Mods and music-fans was now a national passion. The charts across the latter half of ’65 and ’66 are awash with Tamla tunes. Even Dusty’s singles from the period like Stuck in The Middle and Little by Little carry a certain Motown swagger.

Dusty had always had an vulnerable emotive feel to her singing; an air of loneliness and longing about it. In ’67 and in the capable hands of Burt Bacharach and Hal David that longing practically became lust. The smokiness of her eyes matched the sultriness of her sensual voice and earned her another sizeable hit both here and in America with what can only be described as a bona fide classic The Look of Love.

Sadly, with the progressive counter culture pulling away from her now ‘unfashionable’ classic-pop stylings and with perhaps some poorly advised sojourns into orchestrated jazz Dusty’s latter sixties output was a little hit and miss. That is, until she revisited her more soulful roots and decided to sign for her idol, Aretha Franklin’s record label Atlantic Records and to record her next album in Memphis at the renown American Sound Studios. Producers’ Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd recognised her natural soul voice and dispensed of the all-too-often saccharine orchestration in favour of back-up vocal group the Sweet Inspirations and seasoned Soul musicians’ The Memphis Cats. Despite its critical successes (Dusty in Memphis received excellent reviews both sides of the pond) it failed to translate into sales, even with the comparative top-ten success of Son of a Preacher Man. Latterly of course the song and the album have both been lauded as the classic and essential listens that they are.

Dusty was perhaps the finest female white soul singer of her era. She was a remarkable panda-eyed performer whose emotional resonance was matched only by her strong principles. She had few contemporaries capable of matching the flawless vulnerable heartbreak or sultry whispered intimacy in her voice. She was the very definition of blue-eyed soul.

Ska Wars – The feud between Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan

Little in Jamaican music is clear. Smoke and mirrors doesn’t begin to cover it. Any fans of Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae will be well versed in multiple releases of the same song, by the same artist on differing labels. Then, to cap it all, those that played the records often scratched the labels off so that those listening in for rival sound-system would be unable to identify the most popular records on the dancefloor. Underhand deals, backstabbing (sometimes literally) and clashes were common. The most famous of these ‘musical wars’ in Jamaican music of the early sixties was between Cecil Bustamente Campbell, better known as Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan dubbed ‘The Ska King’.

Prince Buster hewn from the mean streets of downtown Kingston was a real life Rude boy, a street fighting tough whose pugilistic talents were utilised at Coxsone Dodd’s Downbeat Sound System at dances. Never one to shy away from confrontation he left Coxsone’s stable in 1961 and established his own Sound System; The Voice of The People, with the aim of dethroning the three recognised leaders in the sound system business at the time; Coxsone, Duke Reid (The Trojan) and King Edward The Giant.

Amid the faint whiff of corruption, he so very nearly fell at the first hurdle when immigration stopped his attempt to buy American records via the Farm Work Programme to play on his system. His competitors knew he would have been a serious threat to them, so perhaps ‘interference’ was inevitable. Buster if nothing else was a fighter, so he moved into recording and producing and created his own music to play; producing successful hits for not just himself but Eric ‘Monty’ Morris, Owen Grey and his soon to be arch-rival Derrick Morgan.

Derrick Morgan was a couple of years younger than Buster and after a modest but comfortable upbringing and schooling (compared to Campbell at least) he went on to win several talent shows with his singing leading to a success in the late 50’s on a couple of discs recorded with Duke Reid. Not long after these recordings Derrick met Prince Buster and excited by Buster’s fledgling outfit seized on the opportunity to record Shake A Leg and Come On Over with the Prince, however, shortly after Derrick decided to move to aspiring Jamaican-Chinese producer Leslie Kong who at $20 a song was paying twice as much as Campbell at his Beverley’s studio not 100 yards further along Orange Street, a move that infuriated Buster and led to a bitter feud between the pair. The acrimony exploded when Morgan recorded a hugely successful record for Kong called Forward March, with Buster accusing him of plagiarising the saxophone solo.

Buster lit the touch paper on Blackhead Chineyman in no uncertain terms within the stinging lyrics “you stole my belongings and give them to your Chineyman; God in heaven knows you are wrong; Are you a Chineyman or are you a black man?”

Clearly stung Morgan responded vehemently with Blazing Fire (which allegedly starts with the phrase ‘Shut Up Fool’ spoken in Chinese) “You said it, I am a blazing fire, you said it, I am a blackhead Chineyman, but when I was with you, I was like a bull in a pen. Live and let others live and your days will be much longer”.

The musical spat continued with Buster responding with Praise Without Raise in which he sung “All you’re getting is praise, but the Chineyman banking the raise. Watch out blackhead you’re getting praise without raise”

Morgan hit back again immediately with ‘No Raise No Praise’ stressing “You also said I’m getting praise and no raise. Don’t conceal it friend to tell the public I was singing for you and I neither get praise, much less raise”.

It wasn’t just the two artists that were getting involved – rival gangs of Rude boys were getting on board (no doubt goaded on by the main protagonists) and actual pitched battles were taking place at the Sound System jump ups and even politicians were starting to get involved in the unedifying spectacle.

There were a few more exchanges such as Buster’s 30 pieces of Silver but it wasn’t until Buster threatened to release a song called Chinese Jacket which explicitly named Morgan, that Morgan warned Buster that should he proceed, he would release one with the lyrics “Buster while you were at sea, I was alone with B (Blossom Buster’s wife) and all your children have the mark of the Blackhead Chinaman”.

Getting pressure from at home and now the newly formed Jamaican Government as disputes between rival fans had grown to such seriousness that they were forced to intervene in the feud and cease the rivalry. They arranged for both men to be pictured together in a friendly manner and publicly declare that despite the rhetoric in the songs the two were actually best of friends.

Whatever the reason the musical war quietened down and the exchanges thereafter were more humorous in tone. Morgan’s Rude Boy in court tune Tougher Than Tough was followed by Buster’s smash-hit Judge Dread “You tell me Rude Boy never fear?” echoing a line in Tougher Than Tough… before summarily sentencing him to 400 years. Morgan responded with Judge Long Sentence, before Buster got the last words in with the conciliatory The Appeal and then finally Barrister Pardon.

In later years, it was said that this musical war was just a friendly one designed to generate interest in their recordings and boost record sales through the controversy that it triggered, but with the vitriol of the early exchanges it seems unlikely, but like much in Jamaican music it is hard to know where the truth lies. What is true though is that Derrick Morgan went on to record many more tunes for Prince Buster’s labels after the cessation of hostilities. What is also true is that both men have left an amazing legacy of tunes and the tunes involved aresome of the finest of the early Ska era.

The tunes that defined the ‘musical war’:

Derrick Morgan – Forward March

Prince Buster – Blackhead Chineyman

Derrick Morgan – Blazing Fire

Prince Buster – Praise Without Raise

Derrick Morgan – No Raise No Praise

Prince Buster – 30 Pieces of Silver

Derrick Morgan – Tougher Than Tough

Prince Buster – Judge Dread

Derrick Morgan – Judge Long Sentence

Prince Buster – The Appeal

Prince Buster – Barrister Pardon

Strike on Stamford Hill

Town Magazine September 1962 and three young men from Stamford Hill; Mark Feld, Peter Sugar and Mickey Simmons appear in an article called Faces without Shadows. It is the first article about Mods (not that they are named as such in the article itself) to appear in the Media. Across the 6-page article amid the stunning Don McCullen photos they pass judgement on a raft of subjects from politics to scooters but mostly clothes; especially tailored clothes. Mark Feld, of course went on to become 70’s superstar Marc Bolan via proto art-popsters John’s Children. It’s probably one of the reason’s that copies of the magazine now change hands for several hundreds of pounds.

The article is very much geared to where these young Princes see themselves going. Their self-assuredness is absolute. What is not really touched on is their Stamford Hill home which has given them this self-belief. All three were young Jewish boys whose clothes obsessiveness was well served within its tight-knit community and not least by its tailors who were more likely to entertain the ‘eccentricities’ of the young dandies than a more traditional West End tailor. Bedecked in bespoke clothing at 12 and 13 years of age, making them feel head and shoulders above their peers. Their group also contained the likes of Henry Moss, Gerry Goldstein, Barrie Milner and perhaps more famously (Sir) Alan Sugar of TV show The Apprentice and Michael Abraham Levy whose charms have raised tens of millions of pounds for the Labour Party. At an age where they were too young to congregate in pubs (which no doubt they would have considered beneath them) there chief hangout was the Bowling Alley. The first that was opened in the UK.

Britain’s first Bowling Alley was opened to great fanfare with special guest Henry Cooper on hand in 1960 in a converted cinema in Stamford Hill. It quickly became the place to be for the relatively wealthy Jewish youths and the place to show off their latest sartorial finery. It was certainly far cooler than their previous hangout the Amusement Arcade (commonly known as the schtip) and the they would meet up and over American Cola discuss matters both sartorial and recreational. Would they be going to The Downbeat Club in nearby Finsbury Park or further afield up the Seven Sisters Road to the Club Noriek in Tottenham? A Bowling Club craze exploded across the early part of the sixties and was a massive lure for the young.

Hanging out in bowling clubs and often being too young for scooters and thus reliant on pushbikes its probably no coincidence that one of Mods greatest tricks was its appropriation of sports wear as leisure items. The Fred Perry cotton-pique tennis shirt with its three-button placket and split hem was (and remains so) an essential part of the young Modernists wardrobe. It’s laurel wreath logo on the breast was a badge of pride and no other polo shirt would do. Cycling shirts were another item that were seized upon. The bold coloured knitted tops with a zip-up neck offered an instant European élan to the young stylists. They came in a vast array of colours and designs so they could retain that oh so essential sense of individualism.

Sports shoes also became popular – a flick through the ‘bible’ Mods by Richard Barnes shoes as many kids in ‘sneakers’ as desert boots and hush-puppies. Famously Mickey Tenner wore hockey boots with the little studs removed on Ready Steady Go. Boxing boots and cycling shoes also made appearances as kids sought that one item that would make them a Face in the eyes of their peers. Naturally this gets a mention in the ‘Bible’ by the man who should have been credited as its co-author; Johnny Moke. ‘We went to a bowling alley wearing some old plimsolls. We hired a brand-new pair of bowling shoes and afterwards I walked out with mine. That weekend we went to Clacton. It was the weekend of the first trouble. I’d taken off the big number 8 that was stuck on the back was the only guy walking ‘round Clacton with bowling shoes on. When I went to Brighton about six weeks later, half the kids had bowling shoes.’

Johnny Moke went on to be a famous shoe maker, who at one point denounced trainers but at the height of the Mod years he knew that a shoe could be both casual and stylish. The bowling shoe has continued to be a staple part of a Mods wardrobe ever since. No doubt Mark Feld, Peter Sugar and Michael Simmons were also admiring their style in Britain’s first bowling alley, if they weren’t probably getting their shoes hand-made at the time. Truly they were Faces without Shadows.

Ladies SKA Soul Shoes Spring 2018

Shoes in the video above

The Strike Bowling Shoes By Modshoes

The Strike Bowling Shoes By Modshoes

These Bowling shoes have been developed to get as close as possible to the ones we used to have back in the day. Notice they are a lot slimmer than other bowling shoes that have previously been available.

The main reason that we had these made is that we were asked for them loads, in fact it was one of the 1st requests we had ! We like to listen to our customers and bring back the styles they would like to see again.

The leather used on these is proper soft leather and requires little wearing in. On the sole we have added a black grip to the front, so you shouldn’t be slipping either.

In terms of outfits, casual with jeans. We are thinking they look smarter than a trainer, but less formal than conventional shoes, so great on the scooter or just out for a pint.

Modshoes Mens Spring Summer 2018

Here we have our new Mens collection for this season.

Dont Forget FREE P&P In The UK

Modshoes Mens Spring Summer Collection 2018

Here we have our new Mens collection for this season.

Dont Forget FREE P&P In The UK

Number One in Our Hearts – Going Underground The Jam

By anyone’s yardstick Going Underground is a stunning single. Pre-sales alone ensured it debuted at number one (a trick The Jam pulled off twice more before taking their bow). It is probably the most overt political record EVER to top the charts. It’s a measure of its quality (and a general failure of society) that it still stands up today as a chilling warning of Kidney machines being replaced by Rockets and Guns; nearly 40 years after its initial release we’re still greeting the new boss… same as the old boss.

It is also the very moment that is maybe the beginning of the end of The Jam. Going Underground was the pinnacle of the Jam sound. That taut slashing art-guitar pop over a driving drum heart-beat and nimble bass, runs from Tubestation some 18 months earlier, through a brace of non-album tunes Strange Town and When You’re Young and the biting Eton Rifles before culminating in the stabbing guitar intro to Going Underground.

It’s catchy, key-climbing chorus and its rumble of boots hooks of ‘Ho! La La La La! and an air-punching ‘Pound! Pound! Pound!’ made it a ready fan favourite in its live setting and its transition to vinyl (again single-only) lost none of its power. It was however, pencilled as a double A side until a French pressing plant error made it the A-side with the slightly-delic and heavily paranoid Dreams of Children on the flip. Sadly, Dreams’ live intensity (check out the blistering version on Dig the New Breed) failed to translate to the vinyl press and so to the radio pluggers it was no contest and Going Underground was championed and heralded as the group’s first Number One.

Interestingly enough the B-side is a huge indication of where an uncomfortable Weller was at and taking the band next. Lyrically it is more poetically oblique than anything penned before and sets the tone for much of Sound Affects. At a gig in Newcastle earlier is the year, a clearly edgy Weller is already bemoaning his gold-fish bowl existence. The slightly unhinged lyrics ‘waking up sweating’, choking and cracking on his dreams draw a direct line into Dream Time where he was so ‘scared dear that my love comes in frozen packs bought in a supermarket’. The bells are beginning to toll.

Having strived so hard to get to number one though, Weller wasn’t prepared to give up on The Jam without a fight. All those early gigs to half empty rooms, the transit van tour years, the occasional critical mauling, the lost period between Modern World and subsequent triumphant return of All Mod Cons before honing their sound and image until its peak with Going Underground in both sound and vision.

Watching the video again now you are struck by just how sharp the band looks. A besuited Rick sporting the famous black and white Gibsons that flash up as part of the pop-art intro. Bruce as ever looking sharp in his tight fitted suit adorned by the monochrome skinny tie that so defines the era and his Jam/Badger shoes that made many a young Mod (myself included) hot foot it to Shelleys. Sharpest of all is Weller with his pop-art sheriffs badge and gold and burgundy Tootal scarf – its been a staple of the Modernist wardrobe ever since.

The rush to embrace the band and the image though added weight to already young shoulders. Realising its self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s no wonder Weller preferred the B-side, taking the Revolver era Beatle template into a modern post-punk angular guitar spark onwards to (second number one) Start and the astonishing Tales from The Riverbank.

Whatever way he turned he was feeling hemmed in, unable to move without his every word being picked over as ‘spokesman for a generation’. The NME polls from 80 and 81 are wall-to-wall Number Ones for The Group in every category. Fearing that the youth were no longer listening he even looked to some Soul salvation over their final year before calling it a day on October 30th 1982. It was only later in The Style Council he rediscovered his joie de vivre, but that’s another story.

It is something that many Jam fans never forgave Weller for, but he had warned everybody if you were listening ‘I don’t get what this society wants…’