TOA/V: Tutti Frutti

I had heard of Tutti Frutti for years but figured it was lost to the VHS oblivion, but I happened upon a DVD set in an Oxfam shop that was in pristine condition — down to including John Byrne‘s postcards for the characters. Byrne — playwright, artist, father of Tilda Swinton’s twins — brings a freshness to the well-worn idea, a band on the road by giving it a few twists. Robbie Coltrane plays the original lead singer of a band with some 60s fame and his brother who takes over the role after his death. Emma Thompson plays the love interest with a credible Scottish accent. Richard Wilson plays the dodgy manager (a hoot of course).

It starts out going for the wacky humour but after a while the story gets rather dark between the sadness of the clubs they play on their ‘Jubilee Tour’, vicious and violent exes and the squeamishly awful attempts by their ‘sexy’ guitarist Vincent Diver (Maurice Roëves) to hang on to his youth. There’s an absurdist sensibility that never gets lost though between Coltrane’s running commentary on the increasing disasters (the recording session is hilariously painful) and the final concert triumph that flames out spectacularly.

And Thompson looks unbelievably fabulous as a Teddy Boy.

See the roundup of overlooked A/V over at Todd’s, who will be stunned I actually did one of these.

Review: Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

One for the music fans amongst you: you may know Hand’s work from the Cass Neary stories (if you don’t know them yet, waste no time diving into Generation Loss and then jump into Available Dark and Hard Light). While Cass brings a punk sensibility to the rebel photographer’s life, this novella explores the harder edge of alternative folk music in the sixties. Wylding Hall is of course the place where the mystery happens and the narrative unfolds like one of those Behind the Music docos.


After the tragic and mysterious death of one of their founding members, the young musicians in a British acid-folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with its own dark secrets. There they record the classic album that will make their reputation but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again. Now, years later, each of the surviving musicians, their friends and lovers (including a psychic, a photographer, and the band s manager) meets with a young documentary filmmaker to tell his or her own version of what happened during that summer but whose story is the true one? And what really happened to Julian Blake?

Like all of Hand’s books, it cracks right along with indelible images, told through the different voices of the band members and the others who become entwined in the tale. The mystery of what has really happened to Julian deepens as the ‘eye witnesses’ of course don’t agree — and don’t see the same things. There’s a familiarity with the music world that will satisfy fans (showing Hand’s encyclopedic knowledge of the field with such touchstones as Brian Jones’ The Pipes of Pan in Joujouka), a touch of the supernatural (or is there?) and a lot of emotions boiling under the surface of a tight-knit group, as you would expect. All of which makes for great fun.

Some snippets:

On folk songs: ‘It’s a kind of time machine, really, the way you can trace a song from whoever’s singing it now back through the years—Dylan or Johnny Cash, Joanna Newsom or Vashti Bunyan—on through all those nameless folk who kept it alive a thousand years ago’

‘He reminded me of Syd Barrett. Oh god, I thought, another fucking acid casualty.’

“Burna thyn haer yn flamme Tiss wrennas fedyr and thyn hatte blod.”

‘As soon as he opened his mouth and began to sing, the room fell quiet. Not just quiet: dead silent. I’ve never seen anything like it. Like a freeze-frame in a movie. Nobody spoke, nobody moved. Nobody breathed. I know I didn’t, not for half a minute. It sounded as though he were whispering the song into your ear.’

‘Truth is, often Lesley got the fuzzy end of the lollypop. Didn’t get enough credit for the songs she wrote or the arrangements she came up with, didn’t get credit for how much of our live performances she carried.’


Song for a Saturday: Shonen Knife – Cookie Day

To celebrate getting tickets for the autumn tour, here’s a guaranteed feel-good tune for your day. Hey, it’s not all noir!

[Photo credit – Akira Shibata]


Song for a Saturday: Sunny Side Down by Lys Guillorn

Terrific song and a great title: hmmm, might make a good idea for a story too. Check out the full catalogue from a fine indie tunesmith and her band.

Song for a Saturday: Aeroplane by Björk

Björk Guðmundsdóttir

I can not live
peacefully without you
for even a moment
l miss you terribly
when you’re away

he’s away
this ain’t right
I’m alone

I’m taking an aeroplane
across the world
to follow my heart

how come
out of all the people in the world
only one
can make me complete
one word on the phone
makes me happy
but one touch directly
makes me ecstatic

he’s away
this ain’t right
I’m alone
I’m taking an aeroplane
across the world
to follow my heart

Song for a Saturday: Spooky

An obvious choice really, but I’ve loved it since I was a kid. It took me the longest time to learn their name: I always thought ‘Classics IV’ was the album name (yes, I was the kind of youngin’ that worried about the names of groups and albums [and increasingly obsessively so for some groups]).

Halloween-themed songs can border on novelty numbers, but there’s a lot of good spooky songs.

And even spooky logos, intentional or not. Satan’s Sorority is set in 1958 Connecticut: in 1959 UConn’s logo looked like this. Coincidence? You be the judge…

30 Versions of Warm Leatherette by Graham Wynd

Obsession always rewards.


for Marko

Obsession: she understood obsession. He had noticed her a little—sort of goth, sort of emo—but it wasn’t until he knew the depths of her obsessions that he really took an interest. He sat behind her in English where Mr James always laughed that laugh that some of the lads thought hilarious, but most of the girls thought was creepy.

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Review: Guns of Brixton

gunsofbrixtonGUNS OF BRIXTON
Paul. D. Brazill
Byker Books
July 2013


When the simple task of collecting a briefcase from a Northern courier in his London lock-up results in a dead Geordie gangster there’s only one thing that Kenny Rogan can do…dress up in drag and rob a jewellers with ‘Big’ Jim and hope everything turns out okay!

From the pen of Paul D Brazill comes a whole host of larger-than-life characters, a sharp plot and the kind of humour you wouldn’t let your granny read…but don’t just take our word for it.


I was a big fan of the short story this novella sprang from — it may have been one of the first things I read by Brazill, though at this point is difficult to tell as I pretty much read everything Mr B publishes. What can I say? He makes me laugh. And wince at the same time: there’s a lot of blackly comic moments that involve some outlandish violence and horror. Along the way Brazil name checks a plethora of pop culture riffs, everything from cheesy pop songs to well-trod bad jokes and weird-but-true trivia about the Old Smoke. At heart it’s an interlace of heists-gone-wrong with unexpected twists that prove satisfying.

You may want a score card to keep track of the widening cast of characters, but it’s a helluva ride through some fascinating locations with memorable creations who feel implausibly vivid. Gratuitous Bobby Goldsboro, but that’s life.