Book Reviews: Jook, Football Disco, Black Meadow

Dave Thompson reviews a biography of glam heroes Jook, a lavish photo-collection of soccer related singles and the latest dark prolusions from the Black Meadow.
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By Dave Thompson

1

Steve Wright
Nobody’s Fools: The Ultimate Guide to Jook
(lulu.com)

Following on from last year’s much-praised Radio Stars biography, author Steve Wright turns his attention now to one of the bands that preceded the Nervous Wreckers in a family tree that could theoretically keep him writing for the rest of time.

From John’s Children to Jet, with sidesteps into English surf (the A-Jaes), California art school (Sparks) and onto a string of recent Martin Gordon solo albums, the chances are that everyone reading this has at least one record in their collection that connects with the theme. Here, though, the focus is on the band that John’s Children drummer Chris Townson and latter-day guitarist Trevor White formed with bassist Ian Hampton and singer Ian Kimmet, under the managerial aegis of another John’s Children alumni, John Hewlett. And, while the band ultimately released just five singles, the back cover blurb’s claim that they were the missing link between the Who and the Jam is not a difficult one to justify.

As with the Radio Stars book, the approach here is as much scrapbook as it is biography, although original interviews with all concerned ensure that, even if you think you know everything about Jook… you probably don’t. Certainly Kimmet’s background as producer for the likes of Mud and Deep Purple spin-off Warhorse adds a whole new branch to the aforementioned family tree, while Townson was the artist behind one of 1970’s most delightful record sleeves, Fresh’s Fresh Today… produced by John’s Children manager Simon Napier Bells, and featuring no less than two-and-a-half Marc Bolan compositions. Bolan, of course, being another former member of the group.

Jook should have been enormous. That much was plain to everyone who heard them at the time, and to all those who’ve climbed aboard since their 1974 demise. The 45s “Alright With Me,” “Shame,” “Oo Oo Rudi,” “King Capp” and “Bish Bash Bosh” were all perfectly attuned to early-mid 1970s glam rock sensibiities, while Jook’s wardrobe offers fashionistas among us a short cut from early Slade to primal Bay City Rollers.

In the end… well, you’ll read about the band’s sad demise herein. But if Jook never made it big, their clothes certainly did. So did their guitarist and bassist, spirited away to join another of manager Hewlett’s clients, Sparks, in 1974. Where they met bassist Martin Gordon, although that’s another story.

Well proportioned at 126 8x11.5-inch pages, with positively oodles of pics (many in color), a full discography and gigography, Nobody’s Fools is available now from lulu.com

2

Pascal Claude
Football Disco: The Unbelievable World of Football Record Covers
(Verlag der Buchhandlung, Walther Konig, Koln)

You’ll need a new bookshelf for this one. Or, at least, a reinforced one. Seven inch square, 424 pages long, full color throughout… the recent fashion for books gathering together the rare and arcane picture sleeves of years and fashions gone by has visited some remarkable vistas over time, but few can hold a candle to what has to be the most specialized of them all. The flood of 45s that have been released over the years, featuring or celebrating soccer teams and players.

Such releases have been a big deal in the UK since forever… the legendary Gracie Fields recorded a soccer song; so did Lonnie Donegan. The England World Cup Squad scored a number one with one in 1970 and, for the next twenty years, barely a year passed without another roomful of players climbing up the British chart, at the same time as reminding us that singing and soccer are not necessarily the most comfortable bedfellows.

Yes, some of these records are truly horrible.

But they are compulsive, as anybody who has ever started collecting them will tell you. Few of us, however, can possibly own a collection to rival this - no less than 900 picture sleeves are gathered from all around the world, to be reproduced, often in actual size, across the pages of a book that surely ranks among the most compulsive browsers of recent times.

Every page tells a story - on p209, Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds’ “Three Lions,” source of the “football’s coming home” line that every England supporter feels duty-bound to repeat immediately before their side crashes out of another major tournament. On page 242, the joys of Bristol City are expounded by the Wurzels, a semi-novelty act best remembered for transforming Melanie’s “Brand New Key” into a brand-new combine harvester, and driving it up the UK charts in the mid-1970s.

Sleeves fly in from every corner of the globe, and if they do start to get samey after a while, then that’s part of the appeal. Sensibly, Claude does bunch the lookalikes together, often four to a page, but study closely and individuality still springs up. And while some of them, assuming you’ve ever paid attention to the topic, will be familiar, most… the majority, in fact…will be new to all but the most dedicated collector.

3

Chris Lambert
The Black Meadow Archive Volume One
(Exiled Publishing)

It’s been a while since we were last beckoned back into the mists of the Black Meadow, that mysterious haunt on the northern English moors where… things happen. And they’re clearly happening again, as the Soulless Party release a new album of Meadow-inspired music, and there’s a new book by the region’s most tireless chronicler, Chris Lambert.

The Archive is, as the title suggests, the result of years spent digging through the meadow’s historical record in search of legends, news stories, rumors, myth; anything, in fact, that might shed a light upon what is really happening on that blasted heath, and what has happened over centuries of rumor, fear and unexplained disappearances. The fact that it is also one of the most enjoyable collections of horror/ghost stories published outside of Black Shuck range of tales is simply an added bonus. Because these ones are true.

Or are they?

There are those, after all, who believe that the Black Meadow is simple oen more manifestation of that peculiar strain of English make-believe that has spawned the similarly intriguing worlds of Scarfolk and Hookland… that the evidence assembled to document its existence is all the product of modern minds, and that even Roger Mullins, the investigator who did so much to uncover these tales in the 1960s and early 1970s, is a figment of the imagination. And maybe he is. But, if that’s the case, answer this. Where did he disappear to, that day on the meadow in 1972?

We’re not going to pick favorites from among the stories here - the early legends fascinate for one reason, the more recent tales for another. The Maiden of the Mist, the Wretched Stranger, the Village under the Lake, the Ghost Plane… the stories are all here, and there’s photographs, too, to further blur the distinction between you wanting to believe this is all one vast fantasy, and the sneaking suspicion that it may not be so.

Because there is something in the mist, and one day, you might discover what it is.

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