Sunday, 24 May 2015

Glory Boys Radio's Alan May undertakes the PHK Movers & Shakers Interview

PHK: When did you first get involved in the Mod scene?

AM: It was when I was at school in the late 1970's, I was 14, it was 1979....Thatcher had raised her ugly head and the country was in turmoil, we need change and it was 'time for action'….  

PHK: What was it about Mod that most attracted you?

AM: Clothes, music, attitude etc.? My brother in law had told me about his time in London as a mod in the 60's, and when I baby sat I used to play all his 45's like the who, small faces, creation, Tamla  etc. from his collection, I loved it ...then a couple of years later the revival was happening - I was hooked. 

PHK: What were the earliest clothes that you had that you considered to be Mod? What was your favoured style back then?

AM: For knocking around in I'd wear Levis jeans always 501 and a Fred Perry T shirt with a Harrington jacket and desert boots, if I was dressing up then it was a smart brown suit, 3 button slim fit with a ben Sherman pink shirt with burgundy tie and jam shoes usually. As a statement we always wore the parka m51 even if it was 25 degrees outside (sometimes we would take the white lining out so not to over-heat ! other clobber I owned were boating blazers and Sta-prest trousers and different coloured button downed shirts as well as printed T shirts like the chords or the roundel mod target . I had a phase of deck shoes with bleached jeans for a while in about 1980....  

PHK: Which clubs and rallies did you first frequent within the scene?

AM: My father was in the RAF so we moved with his posting to a market town in Cambridgeshire called St Ives - not much happened here except the radio Caroline roadshows for the rockers  and the St Ives soul club, which wed go to as 13/14 year olds at the burgess hall at the local recreation centre. For live bands sometimes the youth centre on broad leas would have a band on - the 1st band I saw there was the hasting's mod outfit The Teen beats with Huggy Leaver. they nearly didn’t make the gig due to adverse weather conditions but finally rolled in at 10.45 pm for an hour set to an anxious crowd of teenagers who didn’t know that the local rockers were waiting outside for a small ruck once it had finished and we got kicked out at the curfew time of 12 midnight - the funniest and oddest thing was the youth centre faced opposite the local nick - though I recall it was closed for the night! and the fight went on for about 30 minutes with kids running amok everywhere.... other than that we would have to travel to London or Cambridge to see the bigger acts - I went to Ipswich once with Mick white to see the chords - £1.75 pre booked and slept on the train station in our parkas until the 1st train home in the morning....worth every minute as we got to meet the band and came away with buddy's sticks and some signed memorabilia. My 1st scooter rally was to great Yarmouth in the rain. We used to ride to Peterborough quite a bit to the Wirrina centre and the fleet for soul all-nighters, often met up with Grinner. 

PHK: What type of music/records did you listen to in the beginning and who were your favourite bands then?

AM: I had a bit of a head start by listening to my brother-in-laws records but as I was a teenager in the late 1970's I grew up listening to punk and enjoyed bands like the Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, Skids, Buzzcock's, Sham and The Undertones along with a whole host of other punk/new wave bands. Which led me nicely into the mod revival movement as I was always a big jam fan, with the obvious crossover I was listening to bands like The Chords , Purple Hearts, Lambretta's, Squire, Merton Parkas, Beggar, Directions, The Circles , Small Hours and my favourite of them all Secret Affair with my all-time favourite record of theirs being I'm not free (but I'm cheap). 
PHK: How has that evolved over the years?
AM: I would say that I believe a lot of the music has stood the test of time and with the revival going underground C1982 this led to a second revival in the mid 80's with bands like The Prisoners, Making Time, The Moment, The Gents etc. The obvious sound was the same apart from there being additional brass sections in the groups which gave a Style Council’esk stroke soul vibe. Following on from that there wasn’t really anything until the brit pop era with bands such as Oasis cottoning on to the mod banner. 
PHK: How has Mod changed during the years that you have been involved?

AM: It continually keeps evolving and even today is as popular as it was in 1979 or even 1964.                                                          

PHK: What scooters have you had and what are you currently riding?

AM: I first started with a Vespa 50 special at 16 which I bought on HP from I think Graham Jenkins scooters in Cambridge. Then following the successful passing of my test for the full license I bought a Vespa PX 150 then moved on to a Lambretta SX 225 stage 4 tuned in 1982/3 since then I have owned a whole host of different scooters including two GP 225 ts1's, 2 li 150's, a Vespa PX 200 disc, a 1986 Douglas Vespa p150, a 2004 PX 166 and I’m currently riding a Lambretta 1959 series 2 li150 (with a 200 block) all mod style - plenty of bling. 

PHK: Do you have your suits/jackets made bespoke and who do you use for this? 

AM: Yes of course - I have used George (Kristofer's which is named after George’s son) in Leeds mainly (PHK: Yes, me too), he's a top bloke and has a lot of patterns from back in the day. After George, I am quite happy to source off the peg items from shops like Adams, jump the gun, Dirty Harry's (in Brighton) mod clothing or buying items from independent shops and creating my own style.   

PHK: What’s your normal weekly schedule of clubs/gigs/shopping?

AM: I try to go and see as many bands as possible usually once a week or once a fort night anywhere in the UK with my friends Neil, Mick, Mandy and Lucky.  

PHK: What are your key memories and highlights from the Mod scene over the years?

AM: Well where do you start? I obviously have a lot of memories from the revival period but its more about today and living for the moment especially hardworking bands still on the circuit as Dennis greave's is 9 below zero and the unstoppable, irrepressible, wonderful Secret Affair. Other highlights for me are going to events like the modernist weekend in Brighton and sadly no more mod event at the sound bar in Birmingham which were always suburb.                                                         

PHK: What do you consider to be the best gig that you have ever been to?

AM: Recently I went to see the rage do a one off reform gig at the 100 club at Oxford Street which was absolutely awesome, also for about the 40th time I saw 9 below zero play a small WMC in Shipley west Yorkshire and I believe this was there tightest performance and the most enjoyable gig to date. It is very difficult as I have seen so many bands but again a couple of weeks ago I went to Liverpool to watch 3 bands at the IPO Festival, who were The Men from Sweden, The Theme from South London and RAF from Portland Oregon USA and all 3 acts, though slightly different, raised the bar and blew the doors off at the cavern.  

PHK: What one record would you choose as your Desert Island disc?

AM: One song that epitomises the mod scene for me would be Tommy Tucker’s ‘Hi Heel Sneakers’.   

PHK: You are currently a well-known Mod Radio DJ. How did you get involved with Glory Boys Radio and how long have you been hosting your show now?

AM: It started in 2011 with my friend from Stoke-on-Trent Rob Ledgar asking me to fill a slot on the timetable as a presenter as 6 towns radio was being created. I did say I’d love to help him out but just for 3 months however 4 and a half years later I'm still at it!!!     

PHK: Do you still enjoy doing the show as much as you did when you first started?

AM: Yes I do! What is important for me is the opportunity to mix all the wonderful genres from our scene and increasingly give airplay to unsigned acts which obviously gives them the opportunity for some radio air time if I can do my small bit to promote the mod scene and keep it alive that has to make me happy. The show has grown enormously in popularity over the years and continues to do so.  

PHK: You are known for championing Mod revival and current bands but what records and artists do you enjoy within the Modern Jazz, R&B, Soul and Ska genres?

AM: I am not a massive Ska fan though I do like Prince Buster, The Selecter and The Beat somewhat. For modern jazz I like Dave Pike Set and Glenn Miller’s ‘It gets me in the mood’ lol, but most importantly if a tune has a smooth rhythm and plenty of swing then it has to be liked. I do like northern soul but only really the floor fillers and the soul/R&B from the mid 60's is always good to dance to.                                                                                                                                                                                     
PHK: What other areas of the Mod media do you get involved in?

AM: Apart from helping with March of the mods at various venues and promoting that, nothing really. Mick the Mod and I do have a roadshow which we call ' shake it easy' which keeps us busy sometimes  

PHK: Which contemporary bands do you currently admire and are there any new bands you have seen that you are tipping for greater things in the future?

AM: I'm a real big Who and Kinks fan as I admire the song writing power of both Ray Davies and Pete Townshend; they are both musical geniuses and legends. For the moment, I'm really blown away with South London Band, The Theme, who give a jaw dropping live performance   

PHK: Which events/clubs do you most enjoy at the current time?

AM: In recent times I've DJ'd in London at the Dublin Castle and some other venues which has been fun but you can’t beat a northern venue - only joking, I will play anywhere as long as people enjoy the tunes. I helped at a few march of the mods events this year like Chippenham, Nottingham, Stoke-on-Trent and will do it again for the worthwhile charity event. I've recently DJ'd at the dance set in Scarborough which was nice and intimate with a decent crowd. On the band circuit I'll go where the action is and if I can afford to. I do enjoy the Half Moon gigs in Putney (hosted by Steve Worrall) and also the Alley Club in Cambridge do some good nights. 

PHK: What’s currently top of your playlist?

AM: Well there are so many tracks that I love but if I were to choose 10 for now in no particular order these would be in it: -   

1, The Face, The Power  

2, The Moment, One two they fly  

3, The Found, Find a place  

4, Squire, My mind goes round in circles  

5, Secret Affair, I'm not free but I'm cheap  

6, Nine Below Zero, Doghouse  

7, Yellowstone, Melanie Paxton  

8, Thee Jenerators, Gotta move on  

9, The Scene, Stop go!  

10, Purple Hearts, I've been away  

PHK: Which forthcoming release are you most looking forward to?

AM: The Moment have been working on a new project cd album which should be out in June 2015. I hope it’s as good if not better than Mod Gods!! 

PHK: Are there any other projects that you are currently working on for the future?

AM: Not at the moment apart from organising the live acts for Stoke on Trent's 2016 march of the mods - we've got 8 confirmed and waiting on the headliner, which will be the icing on the cake if it comes off.      

PHK: How strong do you think the current Mod scene is?

AM: It’s massive at the moment and because so it’s getting a slating by certain areas of the public. Mainly because its 2nd time around for most of us and were sort of reliving our youth in one respect, on the other hand I'd sooner see 50 year old mods on scooters listening to some great retro music than the non- descript nonsense which fills the charts and main time television. I think the word Mod has become a brand which is a shame but at least it’s out there. I say let people be what they want to be even if they make poor choices – let’s embrace our subculture and promote it to keep it going for as long as we can!  

PHK: What do you think it is about the Mod sub-culture that has kept it alive and relevant for so many decades?

AM: In a nut shell - it's cool ….the music is so diverse, the clothes can be smart or casual and of course there's the scooters and the mini....I don’t know about the drugs!!
Glory Boys Radio at on Sunday’s from 7pm till 9pm

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