• Good Golly Miss Molly2:06

©  Dung Beetle 2020

©  Goldegg Verlag GmbH 2020/21

© Thunder's Mouth Press 1992

High Hopes

by Frank Sinatra

I can't resist the opportunity to play you JFK's 1960 Presidential campaign song 'High Hopes', by Frank Sinatra. The song had already been a hit for Sinatra in 1959, so a familiar tune with fresh lyrics probably seemed like a winning combination. Sadly I've so far been unable to locate a copy of Nixon's rival campaign song, the snappily-titled 'Click with Dick'...

  • High Hopes1:45

Rush to Judgment

by Mark Lane

Originally published in 1966, this was the first book to scrutinise the Warren Commission report on the assassination of JFK in detail. In it Lane examines the information available to the Commission, and demonstrates how the selective application of the evidence led to a conclusion that most would agree is not supported by the facts. Apparently there have been almost 1000 books written about the JFK assassination, but if you are interested in the subject this is the place to start.

Recent editions include an interesting evaluation of Oliver Stone's compelling film 'JFK' (essentially accurate, with some elements of artistic licence). 

If you like a 'whodunnit' you won't be disappointed!

The Life of Benvenuto Cellini

by Himself

Cellini credited his recovery from a grave illness to the application of more than 20 leeches to his buttocks. However, that's a minor detail in this amazing autobiography, which is a mine of information about life in Renaissance Italy. Cellini's father wanted him to become a musician, but he chose instead to became a goldsmith and sculptor, eventually working for emperors, Popes and princes (including the Medici). His bronze statue of Perseus is one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance. He knew Michaelangelo and other great artists of the time. He fought as a soldier and did not hesitate to defend his honour with physical violence - killing several times as a result of real or imagined affronts. Cellini has been criticised as a braggart, but it might be fairer to say that he knew his own abilities, and didn't suffer fools gladly. Some of his tales might be exaggerated in the telling, or even implausible (summoning legions of demons with a necromancer, for instance), but on the whole this is a vivid account of an extraordinary life and turbulent times. It inspired Berlioz to write his opera 'Benvenuto Cellini' - at the time of writing the ENO is staging a version directed by Terry Gilliam. It can only be a matter of time until Cellini's story is turned in to blockbuster movie (or trilogy, as seems to be obligatory these days), so read it now and have the satisfaction of being able to say: 'It's good, but the book is better...'!

The Life and Times of Little Richard

The Quasar of Rock

by Charles White

Sex! Drugs! Rock'n'roll! Religion! Yes, everything you could want from a music biography is present and correct. Charles White tells Little Richard's story primarily through interviews with the man himself and close associates like 'Bumps' Blackwell, and it's an approach that works well. Richard's charisma shines through and this account of his journey from Macon, Georgia, to stardom and beyond is remarkably candid. The stories of his early days on the road, and the record industry in the 50s are particularly interesting, and there's plenty of wild tales of excess for those of a more prurient nature (I think most readers will see Buddy Holly in a new light after reading this). It's all great fun and thoroughly entertaining, so pick up a copy if you get the chance - and just to whet your appetite, here's a reminder of what all the fuss was about!

© Eureka Entertainment Ltd. 2009

Soul Power

by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte

This has to be one of the best concert films of all time. It's certainly my personal favourite. It documents the 3-day 'Zaire 74' music festival which preceded the Ali-Foreman 'Rumble in the Jungle'. It was created from contemporary footage and captures scenes of downtown Kinshasa, concert preparations (some of which are pure Spinal Tap) and amazing performances. Among many highlights are the best footage of B.B. King I've ever seen - his playing on 'The Thrill is Gone' is outstanding.

Star of the show is James Brown. The World's Godfather of Soul. When he first marches on to stage in his flared jumpsuit you might be a little apprehensive. Is that studded 'GFoS' logo hiding a paunch? Has the Godfather let himself go? Well, maybe a little, but before you know what has hit you the band kick into 'The Payback' while J.B. drops to the floor and pops back up, doing his signature dance moves...

and after that it's a funky good time all the way!

cool fly

Cool fly has buzzed around the block a few times. He's listened to stacks of records and been a fly on the wall at dozens of concerts. He's read hundreds of books and watched far too many movies. And now he's here to recommend some of his favourites to you. Take it away cool fly!

new songs and old records

Laura Dodsworth's 'A State of Fear' is an interesting investigation

of the unprecedented (in peacetime, at least) use of propaganda

by the UK Government. Their intention was to use fear to ensure compliance with the official narrative that Covid was a plague-like threat, which warranted shutting down the economy and consigning healthy people to house arrest. Clearly, the notion that quality of life is more important than length of life is not shared by our politicians. The bizarre aspect of all this is that the measures that were being enforced were so counter-productive that it's hard to believe that they weren't intended to make things worse. The absurdity of the situation is well captured in the Ladybird spoof 'We do lockdown' published by Dung Beetle Ltd (see below for a taster).

As far as I'm aware 'Corona - Fehlalarm?' (False Alarm) was the first book to put the risks of Covid in to perspective and highlight the collateral damage of the insane 'lockdown' policies. It also questions the wisom of injecting the entire popultion with an experimental vaccine when the majority are not at serious risk from the virus. 'False Alarm' was also published in English. The follow-up, which is essentially an update of the first book, is, at the time of writing, only available in German.

Unfortunately, the best book (so far) on the 'pandemic' is also only available in German - Gunter Franck's 'Der Staatsvirus' (The State Virus). It gives a good overview of the medical aspects, but focusses more on the political response and the deliberate exaggeration of the threat by the Government and their advisors.

  • Impeach the President3:26

©  Achgut Edition 2021

©  Laura Dodsworth 2021 

      Published by Pinter & Martin Ltd.

© Momentum Pictures 2003 (packaging)

Standing in the shadows of Motown

Directed by Paul Justman

While we're on the subject of talent behind the scenes, this DVD is really an essential purchase for anyone with an interest in popular music. Motown set the 'gold standard' for quality in pop music, and the Motown house band, known as the Funk Brothers, played an essential part in the creation of the Motown sound. The inspiration for this DVD came from Alan Slutsky's book of the same name, which was principally devoted to the work of the phenominally talented bassist James Jamerson (check out the bass line on Gladys Knight and the Pips version of 'I heard it through the grapevine' for a fine example of his work). The film builds on the book to cover the whole band and it's great to hear them reminisce about life in the hit factory. Even better, the surviving members of the Funk Brothers get together with some contemporary singers to show the youngsters how it should be done!

The Rear View

by Jen-Luc Hennig

Given the continuing media obsession with 'twerking' in particular and curvacious buttocks in general, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is only a recent phenomenon. It isn't, as you'll discover if you read this collection of essays devoted to the subject of bottoms. In some ways it's surprising that there aren't more books on this subject, but as far as I'm aware this is the only one. It's written by a French academic and journalist, Jean-Luc Hennig, and it's much more enjoyable if you read it in a French accent, as the prose seems (in English translation, at least) slightly pretentious. However, the book is full of interesting anecdotes, and some of Hennig's comments are quite memorable. Here he is on the subject of Brigitte Bardot's bottom: "Insolent, sulky, animal buttocks, they turned the heads of all the young people of the time, for whom they represented one of the peaks of creation." Surprisingly, there's not much discussion of fashion in the book, so we'll be posting a selection of hot pants 45s on our Pop Culture page to help fill that gap!

© Pan Books Ltd. 1985

© Abrams 2006

Elvis and the Colonel

by Dirk Vellenga with Mick Farren

We all know how talented Elvis was, but what we don't really understand is why he made so many awful movies, or how his spectacular comeback eventually turned into a repetitive series of one-nighters in obscure sports halls. Above all, those of us in the rest of the world could never understand why Elvis didn't tour outside the USA. The answer turns out to be that 'Colonel' Parker (hint: not his real name) was an illegal immigrant, and didn't have a passport. He also wanted to keep Elvis close, presumably in case the King might speak to someone who could tell him that he was being fleeced by his manager. It's hard to read this without feeling angry or depressed, either because Elvis couldn't or wouldn't get rid of Parker, or because Parker was so ruthless in his exploitation of Elvis. However, you should read it!

More to come!

© Harmony Books 1991

Impeach the President

by The Honey Drippers

This track is obviously about Nixon and the Watergate scandal, but I'm posting it here because I live in in hope that those who have inflicted 2 years of dystopian misery on the world will one day be held to account. Fat chance, but we can all dream!

I liked this track the first time I heard it, so I was dismayed to find out that it's quite a desirable (and pricey) record - the drum pattern has been sampled on lots of hip-hop tracks. Fortunately my considerate kids took pity on their long-suffering dad and chipped in to buy a copy for my birthday - thanks kids! One day all this will be yours...

© Modern Library 2002


The year the world went mad

Anyone with access to a keyboard and a search engine has known since early 2020 that Covid-19 is not, and never was, an existential threat to civilisation - unlike the cruel and unusual punishments inflicted on the long-suffering public by the powers that be. How and why most of the world was swept by an unprecedented wave of mass hysteria will be the subject of endless analysis and speculation. At least, I hope it will be, because if it isn't we will be in danger of repeating the catastrophic mistakes of the last 2 years.

Fortunately, there were a few, mostly independent, scientists and writers who were willing to stick their heads above the parapet and call for an end to the madness. So, here are a few books I can recommend. I'm sure there will be many more!

My Silent War

by Kim Philby

Written by Philby when he was living in exile in Moscow, it is perhaps understandable that this book tells us nothing of how he maintained contact with his Soviet handlers. It also provides few clues as to why Philby spent his entire career in the service of an authoritarian state, when he can hardly have been unaware of the nature of the regime that he was serving. Those caveats aside, this is a compelling account of the world of counter-intelligence, which spans from the Spanish Civil War to the height of the Cold War. Philby is erudite, charming and writes well. His story is compelling, and the chapter on the Volkov case is so well constructed that the reader is almost on the side of the narrator, to the extent that the realisation that Philby's betrayal has sent Volkov to certain death appears quite shocking. Although  first published in 1968, current affairs suggest that this is a story which will remain relevant long in to the future.


by the Dixie Nightingales

And while we're on the subject of JFK, here's the Dixie Nightingales' heartfelt tribute to the 35th President of the USA, recorded for the Stax gospel subsidiary Chalice Records. Released in 1965.

  • Assassination2:54

© Attitude Film Distribution 2014 (packaging)

20 Feet from Stardom

Directed by Morgan Neville

Featuring the likes of Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, Claudia Lennear and Merry Clayton, this is a fascinating look at the backing singers whose voices have been heard on hundreds of hit records, but whose names are largely unknown to the general public. It's more than a little ironic that the real stars of this documentary about unsung talent don't get their names on the cover of the DVD, but don't let that, or the superfluous celebrity endorsements, put you off. Every one of the featured artists could and should be the subject of a film in their own right. If you've ever been to see the latest pop sensation in concert and noticed that the backing singers could blow the 'star' off the stage, then this is for you!

© Phaidon Press 1995

BB's insolent, sulky, animal buttocks on a Solex moped.

© Souvenir Press Ltd. 1995

R. Crumb's


This is a compendium of drawings done by Crumb for a series of trading cards by Yazoo Records. Each drawing has a few notes about the artist represented, and as an added bonus there's a 21-track CD featuring a selection of their recordings. Some of the musicians portrayed are so obscure that Crumb could have invented them and I'd be none the wiser. For example, there's Mumford Bean and his Itawambians, who apparently made one 78rpm record in 1928. They might not be on most people's list of musical heroes, but that's obviously part of their appeal to Crumb. His work is a labour of love, and the best of the individual portraits are much more than a representation of an archive photo - they really seem to capture something of the character of the subject. Terrific work!

© Grafton Books 1989

Unsung Heroes of Rock'n'Roll

by Nick Tosches

If you only want to read one book about the history of popular music, then I'd recommend this one. It's basically a series of short portraits of the people who created the sounds that we now know as rock'n'roll. The writing is well-informed, droll and irreverent. As it should be. Rock stars are not demi-gods. In some cases they are not even great artists. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time when opportunity came knocking. However, most of the musicians profiled in this book were excellent, and created music that will still sound great 50 years from now. People like Louis Jordan and Amos Milburn, Ella Mae Morse and Roy Brown. If you don't know their music you'll want to after reading this!

The author contends that rock'n'roll was dead by 1954, and that everything that came after was just history repeating itself. Hard to accept? Well, he makes a pretty good case, and if life has taught me anything, it's that there's nothing new under the sun. The best that most of us can hope to do is use what we've learned from others to create something fresh and interesting. True originality is a rare thing!