Today, I am really pleased to feature the 10 Albums that Influenced My Life by Nick Kemp. A schoolmaster by day and gig goer by night. Many of you will know Nick. In fact, if you’ve been to any psychobilly gigs in the southern half of the UK there’s a good chance that Nick will be there as, like my last guests Richard and Laura, Nick is out at gigs several nights a week. He’s certainly a big supporter of the psychobilly and rockabilly music scene.
As well as several academic publications Nick writes regularly for UK Rock n Roll Magazine and has been published in Mad Music for Bad People. He also has his own book on the go where he writes about the history of psychobilly band, Demented are Go. It is based on interviews with all the surviving band members throughout the years. That’s due to be released early this year entitled ‘Kicked Out of Hell: the history of Demented Are Go’. Of course, I will keep you posted on that.
My 10 Most Influential Albums told by Nick Kemp
- Shakin’ Stevens – ‘Shaky’
I remember it quite vividly I was in the playground of Valley End primary school. It was 1981 and Charlie Thornton, the slightly disabled son of the local vicar started gyrating and singing ‘hot-dog, she’s my baby, hot dog’. What on earth was that? I enquired. It’s a safe song by Shakin’ Stevens, it’s in the charts. Who was the aforementioned Mr Stevens and what were the charts? I wondered. To say that a seed had been germinated in me would be a tremendous understatement a veritable forest of enquiry and an all-encompassing love of music was in full bloom.
My mum provided the next step on my musical journey when she took me to WH Smith in Woking and bought me ‘This Ole House’ on 7″. It wasn’t long after this that I got my hands on my first album – Shaky. How I loved that album and continue to until this very day. The album begins with the absolutely killer guitar riff to Mona Lisa played by Mickey Gee, with Geraint Watkins on piano, this album was chockablock with superb taffeta musicians. That Mr.Stevens also came from my Dad’s hometown of Cardiff somehow made this all seem absolutely perfect for me.
- Madness – ‘One Step Beyond’
I was now a confirmed fan of rock and roll music. I craved a quiff and just didn’t know how to achieve it with my wavy hair. My image was not helped by NHS spectacles, and my desire for a Showaddywaddy style teddy boy suit went unrequited. Alongside my passion for Rock and Roll, I flirted with other genres.
The first outside genre that I dipped my toes in was 2 Tone, thanks to the sublime slice of vinyl that was Madness. ‘One Step Beyond’. Although the album came out in 1979, I didn’t get my copy until about 1983. It was just so inventive and tuneful. Rockin in B # was perhaps my favourite track on the album which is the most rockin’ style track on the platter, though I also loved the title track as well as Night Boat to Cairo.
At the time my brother had got his first pair of Doctor Martens. Unfortunately, my feet were too small for a pair of DMs, so I had to make do with a pair of Monkey boots. But I loved those boots. When I broached the subject of possible skinhead, my mother gave an unambiguous ‘no’. It would be about 25 years before I finally had a skinhead as part of a charity fundraiser that raised about five hundred quid.
When I finally got to see them about ten years ago at Newmarket Racecourse I was hit on the back off the head with a plastic pint vessel, at the precise moment that Suggs sang ‘bang on the head with a plastic cup’ in ‘Baggy Trousers’ – it was marvellous!
- Stray Cats – ‘Stray Cats‘f you lived on my estate or went to my school you were either a Shaky fan or you were into Duran Duran or Adam and the Ants. I was in the distinct minority. But then a new neighbour arrived who also loved Shaky and we got into buying albums including those flogged for about £1.99 in Woolies. My neighbour Lee first introduced me to the Stray Cats in about 1982 and I was immediately hooked.Stray 1 was an absolutely killer album without a duff track on it. I played it to death with personal highlights Ubangi Stomp, Rock This Town and the electrifying version of Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie. It would be some six years before I finally got to see them in 1988, but I was not disappointed.
- Demented Are Go – ‘In Sickness And In Health’
Next Lee heard from boys in his school about a type of music that was basically rock and roll or rockabilly, though it was faster and harder with some swearing in the lyrics. This led us to the ‘Psychobilly’ section of Our Price in Camberley. And we discovered the Stompin at the Klub Foot’ album.
I remember the day that Lee invited me into his house to hear Volume 2′ though he warned me that one band had a strange singer that I might not like. How wrong he was! ‘Put on the dresses and high-heeled shoes, put on the make- up, put on the rouge, look in the mirror what do I see? A goddamn woman with hairy knees’ sang Mr Phillips with the most extraordinary voice that I had ever heard.
It was, however, when my family went to stay with my grandmother in Cardiff in 1985 when in HMV just on the off chance that I might see something by Demented because it was their hometown, I was taken aback when I saw Demented Are Go ‘In Sickness And In Health’ on the racks next to the likes of Spandau Ballet – I almost shat myself with excitement.
Upon placing the platter on the turntable it was a joy to behold – a brilliantly recorded, written and played album that eclipsed everything to my mind, the aforementioned ‘Transvestite Blues’, Holy Hack Jack’, ‘Don’t Go In The Woods”, ‘Frenzied Beat’ and PVC Chair are all truly remarkable and inventive songs. This album set new parameters and made this little 12 year old very happy indeed.
- Demented Are Go – ‘Kicked Out Of Hell’
Three years on from ‘In Sickness and in Health’ I had the idea to ring ID records to ask whether Demented Are Go would be releasing a new album anytime soon. This was, of course, pre-internet where you have almost perfect knowledge of all the band’s life and work at your fingertips. To my amazement, the answer came back that yes, ‘Kicked Out of Hell’ would be released next week. I got my Dad to pick up a copy of the album from Our Price in Reading during his lunch break.
The first thing that struck me was what a bad cover it was. It seemed to be a photograph of Mark’s head covered in latex with a ZX81 Photoshop effect. Once I took the record from its sleeve and put it on the turntable I was immediately struck by how heavy it was. The replacement of Dick with the ‘Boy Wonder’ Lex Luther was undoubtedly significant.
If I am honest I didn’t really like the album on first listen, but boy did it grow on me. Satan’s Rejects is one of my all time favourites and along with Decomposition, Demented illustrated once again how adept they were at innovation. Surf Ride to Oblivion, showcased the wonderful bass playing of the other new, addition Graeme Grant and the positively sublime Shadow Crypt, featuring Simon Cohen on the fiddle, illustrated what a superb songwriter Graeme is too. This is undoubtedly one of the best albums ever produced and the producer Roger Tebbutt worked wonders on the sound.
- The Cramps – ‘Stay sick’
The Cramps ‘Stay Sick’ was not the first of their albums that I bought, I already had ‘Songs the Lord Taught Us’, ‘Psychedelic Jungle’, ‘Off The Bone’, ‘Smell of Female’ and I had purchased the ‘Date With Elvis’ LP during its first week of release, but as a fourteen year old I was unaware that they were touring.
Come 1990, however, I was far more tuned in with things and I saw them play at Brixton Academy and it blew my mind, it was quite possibly the best show that I have ever seen. The coolest drummer to walk the Earth Nick Knox sat absolutely motionless behind his kit and with one arm he played the snare on two and four and the bass drum on one and three and used the other arm to smoke. He was the epitome of economical invention.
They played a large portion of this wonderful record including ‘Muleskinner Blues’, ‘Journey to the Centre of a Girl’, ‘All Women are Bad’, ‘Bikini Girls With Machine Guns, ‘Saddle Up a Buzz Buzz, Bop Pills’ and. ‘The Creature from The Black Leather Lagoon.’ This album still makes me smile today and is my personal Cramps’ favourite.
7. Sex Pistols – ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’
It was 1985 when I became absolutely transfixed by the Sex Pistols having seen them on the telly in the ‘Great Rock, and Roll Swindle’. Shortly thereafter I bought ‘Never Mind the Bollocks and loved every minute of it. Bodies, ‘she was a girl from Birmingham she just had an abortion, she was a case of insanity her name was Pauline she lived in a tree’ quite mad and I loved it, ‘Anarchy in the UK’, ‘God Save the Queen’ and Pretty Vacant’ all illustrate what a superb brand they were, wonderfully tuneful and energetic.
- Queen’s Greatest Hits
This is my left-field love. My brother was a fan and I used to take the piss out of him for it, but I had to listen to it so much that I became very fond of it. For the rockabilly, there is obviously ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love, but it was ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ with a beautiful guitar solo by Brian May which really caught my ear. This, along with ‘Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?’, are my two favourite tracts. It was also the soundtrack to my A Levels and I was desperately saddened to hear that Freddie passed away just after I started university.
- Reverend Horton Heat – Spend A Night n The Box
This album ushered in a fantastic phase in my life, I had just emerged from a serious bout of depression, but I had also got my doctorate and I was doing my PGCE loving it and I had a new girlfriend. The album has more of a country rockabilly flavour than his other albums ‘The Bedroom Again’ is also one of the greatest love songs. But in general, this is just a fabulous up-tempo album played quite magnificently.
- Hillbilly Moon Explosion – With Monsters and Gods
Bringing this right up to date this is a superb album that showcases the writing talents of Oliver Baroni and Emanuela Hutter to tremendous effect. The album has a much darker feel than their previous release, but it also has the incredibly jolly duet of Emanuela and Mark Phillipps doing a smashing ska-infused rendition of ‘Jackson’. But the album as a whole is a masterpiece of inspired songwriting and supreme musicianship. This is my soundtrack to right now.
I’ve got lots more Music Features & Interviews coming soon with musicians, fans, DJs and promoters. In the meantime you might like to read:
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