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A Spy In The House Of Loud: Chris Stamey tells us nothing about sex and drugs, plenty about rock’n’roll

A Spy In The House Of Loud – New York Songs and Stories

Chris Stamey

University Of Texas Press (2018)

This may be a first: a modest autobiography. But then as Stamey himself notes, this book is more about his songs than his life, the diametric opposite of the rock’n’roll tell all. So we learn a lot about how some wonderful records were made, many released on Stamey’s Car Records. Stamey is responsible for so many of my favourite singles including (I Thought You) Wanted To Know, Big Black Truck, I Am The Cosmos, Bangkok, Angels, My Baby Wears Her Hairdo Long, Big Brown Eyes and Bad Reputation. Wandering in and out of the narrative are Television, R.E.M., Big Star Third, Ray Davies (that memorable Barbican show from 2012), Jack Bruce, Alex Chilton and a cast of New York luminaries from 1977 – 1992.

Stamey comes across as thoughtful and articulate and his insights into songwriting and recording are fascinating. Only once does the book topple into muso speak: non-musicians can skip the Appendix completely.

Stamey’s longest musical relationship is with Peter Holsapple, his co-writer in the dB’s. Strangely the book is named after a Holsapple song, recorded after Stamey (amicably) left the band. Holsapple and names such as Mitch Easter and Richard Lloyd do recur, indicating loyalty as another one of Stamey’s virtues.

I loved this book. You might love it too if you were active in popular music between punk and The Spice Girls. I suspect this is a book with selective appeal (to parapharase Ian The Manager from Spinal Tap). Plus as a hardback it costs $27. Despite this I would recommend it to anyone who ever wondered how bands form, how songs are written and how records are made. And go here for the soundtrack.


Upbeat Live At The Half Moon, Putney 25.03.18

The walls of the Half Moon bear witness to the Stones, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush and the other musical greats who have played here. This Sunday afternoon it is the turn of Upbeat, where the tiniest of children are taught to rock out – a real life School Of Rock. After an excellent Sunday lunch of cauliflower cheese and roasties we saw five bands over a two hour period. Divided into Bronze, Silver and Gold (depending on age), each band performed three or four covers from a pleasingly eclectic list. Not only did everyone perform really well but they all changed instruments at the end of each song, showing amazing versatility. There was a smidgeon of adult-played rhythm guitar and tambourine for the Bronzes but by the time we reached Gold the training wheels were most definitely off.

Musical highspots for me were Burning Down The House (Talking Heads), London Calling (the Clash, “I live by the river”indeed), Wicked Game (Chris Isaak) and best of all Hazy Shade Of Winter (Simon and Garfunkel via The Bangles). The energy and enthusiasm on display made for a great afternoon, Upbeat are highly recommended.



The attic continues to yield further treasures…

Rock’n’roll all nite! Or not. Note addressed to Mr J. Whimble, aka Jane Wimble. I can’t believe we played ’til 1230 – with a 32 minute set we would have to play it around 9 times.


Onstage at the NCFT, Weybridge 4/11/77. Notice rare sighting of roadie Geoff Horne stage right.


The review that Nick Duckett managed to get into the NME by pretending his garage was a nightclub called The Garage. Such underhand deception meant that Nick was obviously destined for a career in the music industry, and so it has proved.

Simon Was A Beever

“Heh Heh We’re The Beevers”

Nick Duckett’s parties at his club The Garage in Caversham Heights were legendary for excess and all round Bad Behaviour. The Garage was actually the garage in Nick’s shared house, later to find national fame when Trash played there and Nick blagged a review of the gig into NME. However on this occasion The Beevers were the featured attraction, featuring a very young Simon Wright on sub-Moe Tucker drums. “Yes I’m Miming” was nicked off the Bonzos  and my drums were festooned with rice, which fountained attractively into the air when hit. The guitar on the left has a £5 note tucked into its strings. Photo courtesy of Rich Linton

Fifty Years Later: Justin Hopper’s 50th Birthday Bash

Vaseline + DJ, Saturday 17th February

The Balham Bowls Club doesn’t seem to have much bowling going on tonight. It is however a splendid venue for an old-school bash, fairy lights barely illuminating a proper dance floor and a mound of chocolate brownies from Salt and Pepper.

The occasion is Justin’s 50th, and people have come from as far away as Germany, Sweden and Southfields to demand that he makes a Knight of it.

First up are Vaseline, a 4 piece band who might be from Birmingham and who play meaty covers of punk and ska songs.

After some initial hesitation amongst us ageing hipsters in the audience they go down really well. The undisputed set highlight is Justin’s appearance in chain mail to front a version of Swords Of A Thousand Men.

Vaseline are very slick.

My DJ set then follows, including a dub version of John I’m Only Dancing (sorry Wendy). Justin had pre-selected a number of tracks, thus guaranteeing me an enthusiastic audience of at least one. Sadly I am unable to respond to further audience requests for either James Brown or Guns ‘n’ Roses on the grounds that I do not own any of their records (other DJs with wider musical tastes are available). My playlist is here.

A midnight curfew encourages the last few stray punters into the bar downstairs which is full of large dogs having their pictures taken. Carriages at One, ours has a radio aerial that glows  neon blue for no discernible reason.

What a swell party this is. Thank you Justin and Jill for all your hard work in making it happen and I hope you had fun.


DJ Playlist – Balham Bowls Club, Saturday 17th February

Supporting Vaseline


Changes – David Bowie

Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon

How Soon Is Now? – Smiths

Loaded – Primal Scream

(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais – Clash

I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass – Nick Lowe

Girls & Boys – Blur

1999 – Prince

Heart Of Glass – Blondie

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – Ian Dury

Too Much Too Young – Specials

John I’m Only Dancing – David Bowie

School’s Out  – Alice Cooper

Start Me Up – Rolling Stones

Lola – Kinks

All The Young Dudes – Mott The Hoople

Handbags & Gladrags – Rod Stewart

Kiss – Prince

Brass In Pocket – Pretenders

Rock The Casbah – Clash

I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down – Elvis Costello

The Sound Of The Suburbs – Members

Roadrunner Once – Jonathan Richman

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) – REM

Sound Of The Suburbs

Featuring The 49ers and me

February 3rd, 2018, The Portico Gallery, West Norwood

Onstage The 49ers look like they are really concentrating on playing well and putting on a good show for a hall full of fans. Or at least the female 3/5 of the band does. Suzi exhibits Tina Weymouth-style “my bass is bigger than me so I must really focus” cool. Lead singer Emma comes over as bit stern but delivers some good strong vocals and less than intelligible stage announcements, although her request for two more gin and tonics came through loud and clear. Cleo – introduced as “our Ginger Spice” – generates some impressive keyboard sounds during Walk Like An Egyptian, which also featured some carefully shared vocals. The male 2/5 is a bit more extrovert with Dave doing a bit of Les Paul posing and cool titfer wearing and Steve The Drummer gurning in a way that would definitely put me off my vegan curry.

The 49ers play songs their audience will know and they play them well it’s a good mix of material and nothing jars or feels out of place. I loved Pyscho Killer and their version of the evenings theme song. The audience responded by bopping feverishly, with the more youthful members playing some sort of chase game which lasted for most of the evening and did for the monitors at one point. Feverish calls for an encore brought two, finishing with an augmented version of Too Much Too Young.  After the 49ers finished DJ Zero took over, playing some funky sounds for serious dancing.

The Portico is a well-used space in the heart of West Norwood where all manner of community-based stuff happens.  Tonight is a benefit for West Norwood Wonder, a cause I still don’t understand even though it was explained to me twice. Before the 49ers I had fun playing a punky 76-77 DJ set (see playlist here). I also dressed in the clothes I wore during those two fine years – bumper boots, Levis, plain T shirt, denim jacket. In other words what I wear now, though these days we say Converse rather than bumper boot.  And I had so many badges on my jacket because that was A Thing back then, when slogans included “How Dare You Presume I Am Not A Lesbian?” and “Wearing Badges Is Not Enough”. My current fave is “Is There Life After Youth?”, found at the V&A when we went for the Bowie exhibition.

I had a great time and I think if you went to see the 49ers you would have a great time too. They are a bit like the film Paddington 2 – it is impossible to envisage any sane person not enjoying them.

My thanks to Steve The Drummer for inviting me and Zero for the loan of his decks.