It was Ian who first suggested hooking up with State Records in late 2009, which lead to the Folkestone based label releasing those records and kicking off the whole Groovy Uncle project. Ian also played drums for Aunt Nelly and Billy Wears Dresses.
In January 2014 Groovy Uncle began work on their 4th album, “Persuaded”. Apart from two songs-“Wet Weekend” and “You Look Good To Me”– all were recorded at Ranscombe Studios, produced by Jim Riley and engineered by Brendan Esmonde. The album features Suzi Chunk and Miss Modus and was released on 6th October 2014 on Groovy Uncle’s own label Trouserphonic (ZIP2-UP). It is available on vinyl, cd and as a download. All songs written by Glenn Prangnell. The intent was to put together an album with a “cinematic” feel. It was great fun to make and it is an album of which I am very proud. I hope you like it too.
Written in 2007, this John Barry inspired piece was already ear marked for the instrumental talents of my good friend and garage legend Bruce Brand. He mainly works as a drummer these days-in fact he thumps the tubs on this track -but I knew he was the man for the guitar work here and he totally “gets it”. A tribute, nod, homage, pastiche (take yer pick) to those tv detective shows of the 1960’s and ’70’s, this tune kicks off the album with the bass playing of Nick Rice setting the mood perfectly. Conjuring up images of shadowy backstreets and uneasy liaisons, the brass section-provided by John Littlefair and Paul Jordanous– adds to the dynamic and creeping sense of menace.
2-Barefoot In The Car Park
The irresistable vocals of Suzi Chunk giving it her all on the tune Stevie Van Zandt named his Song Of The Summer 2014. Catchy, singalong melody and lyrics plus surf guitar and drums courtesy of Mr Brand. Throw in a swinging horn section and a driving bass line and you have a completely unsitdownable single! State Records put it out as a limited edition acetate style vinyl 45 last summer and it has proved to be one the most popular Unc’n’Chunk collaborations so far. “Shindig!” magazine awarded it Single Of The Year 2014.
3-Should Have Been Mine
Producer Jim Riley features on this laid back summer ballad playing a marvellously melodic harmonica part. Glenn takes the lead vocal and guitar work and this time Mole Lambert is behind the drum kit. Miss Modus and Suzi provide backing vocals. This track was inspired by Georgie Fame‘s version of the Billy Stewart song “Sitting In The Park”. I really enjoyed laying down the vocals for this one and love the end result.
4-Your Weight In Gold
Making her lead vocal debut for Groovy Uncle, Miss Modus delivers a stunning vocal performance of this “Bond theme” inspired nugget and there’s no mistaking where we’re at. Reverb heavy, Vic Flick style guitar, the mariachi trumpet of Paul Jordanous and even a tasteful mandolin part from former Singing Loin Rob Shepherd, all contributing to the “cinematic” quality. “You only live once but they told me twice”. Nuff said.
For a long time I had wanted to use a string quartet and having got to know and work with jazz maestro Roan Kearsey-Lawson over the the past couple of years, I asked him if he would write a score for this track. He was more than happy to do so and knew the right musicians to assemble a quartet, two of whom have played with the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra. I knew this was going to be an enjoyable experience and I wasn’t disappointed. Tastefully scored and beautifully played.
6- I Won’t Be Fooled By You
I wanted to write a tune specifically for Miss Modus with a Sandie Shaw feel to it. Something upbeat in the vein of “It’s Not Unusual” would be good (the Tom Jones hit was originally written with Shaw in mind) so I used that as my starting point when I sat down to write something. Punctuated once again by the trumpet playing skills of Mr Jordanous, it is a real high point of the album and a favourite of mine.
This one dates back to the late 1980’s when I was in a band called The Kravin’ A’s. It originally surfaced on the band’s one and only album “Krave On!” (released on Billy Childish‘s Hangman label, 1991) with Jon Barker on lead vocals and in 1994 the song was covered by Holly Golightly on her “Jiggy Jiggy” e.p. I fancied another crack at it because I thought it would suit Suzi’s vocal style and sit nicely on the album. She really belts it out brilliantly and it is up there with the best of her Unc’n’Chunk performances. Jim Riley plays the wailing harmonica.
At the tail end of the “Play Something We Know!” sessions in 2011 we recorded a couple of extra tunes-“Wet Weekend” and “You Look Good To Me”- which didn’t make it on to that record and remained in the vaults until we started work on the “Persuaded” album. Both were recorded at State Records and produced by Mole Lambert. “Wet Weekend” also became the B-side of the “Barefoot In The Car Park” single. It’s a big sounding track that was actually recorded on cassette tape (yes, honestly!). I’m particularly proud of my melodica solo on this which adds to the misty eyed melancholia. Mole plays incredible drums and bass. Ben Jones is on lead guitar.
9-Pocket Of Concern
A straight ahead, melodic, in-yer-face power pop song. Guitars through a Leslie, what’s not to like!?
10-What’s Going On
A cool little duet featuring me and Miss Modus.
11-You Look Good To Me
The second “leftover” from the PSWK sessions is a nice, compact slice of sunshine pop. Ben Jones on keys, Mole on bass, drums and vocal harmonies with me.
Closing the album, Miss Modus nails the vocal version of the title track with a big finish.
After all the tremendous response to the album “Girl From The Neck Down” I thought it about time I composed an open letter to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 12 months and beyond and to all involved in the project. Everyone involved was totally committed to the project from start to finish and there is no way I could have done it without you. My apologies in advance for any glaring ommissions. So, in no particular order….
Suzi Chunk, Bruce Brand, Marty Ratcliffe, Mole Lambert, Nick Rice, Allan Crockford, Ben Jones, Jon Barker, Phil Brown, Peter White, John Littlefair, Paul Moss, Ian Snowball, Jon Abnett, Peter Salmon, Paddy Faulkner, Lois Tozer, Jane Prangnell, Arthole Retrographics, Graham Seamark, Graham Sage, Mike Murray, Bill Kelly, Mark Radcliffe, Stuart Maconie, Lizzie Hoskin, SiriusXM, Stevie Van Zandt, Andrew Loog Oldham, Drew Carey, Kid Leo, Mighty Manfred, Genya Ravan, Jenna Antonacci, “Shindig!” magazine, Medway Eyes, Fizzer’s Radio Show, WOW Medway, Medway Broadside, Jennie and Colin Baillie, David Bash, Phil Moore, “Record Collector” magazine, Terry Lane @ Buzzin’ Media, Hard Rock Memorabilia, Rosemary Edwards, Jason Charles Rogers, Phil Dillon, James Crowther, Kev Wright @ The Sound Of Confusion, Andy Morten, State Records.
To everyone who has bought, downloaded, voted, championed and generally said nice things WE THANK YOU! Have a wonderful, happy, positive 2013. We intend to bring you much more in the coming year!
Before State Recordshad even released the “Play Something We Know!” album in March 2011, I was already looking ahead and thinking about the follow-up Groovy Unclerecord. I certainly had enough songs to choose from and was always writing new material. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted for the next LP but I wascertain about one thing-I didn’t want it to be “more of the same”. Yes, the key elements (catchy, 3-minute songs with memorable hooks and choruses, interesting lyrics etc) would still be there but I wanted a different take on the songs. I liked the idea of bringing in some different instruments and musicians- a horn section, piano, flute and female backing singers would not only add to the sound and feel of the tunes themselves but would also tie in with the concept of GU as an ever changing multifaceted musical beast.
Maybe I could even find a female vocalist to sing lead on a couple of numbers!
I first became aware of Suzi Chunk (for it is she) in 2007 when I spotted her My Space page and heard that distinctive vocal style for the very first time-on the Omega66 track “Celebrity Burn Out”- in all its funking glory! The thing that immediately struck me about her voice was it’s honesty. It’s a good voice, a strong voice but most importantly to me it’s an honest voice with a rare tone that works well in all the varied musical genres she adopts. She has style and restraint and knows exactly what she’s doing. Suzi’s influences are steeped in funk and soul but she can rock too and her musical tastes are as wide as they are long. Frankly, anyone with the surname of Chunk who lists The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band as a major inspiration was always going to get my vote! Suzi’s experience as both a live performer and recording artist is quite impressive having worked with the likes of Monkjack, Tigertailz, The Hindenburgs (taking lead vocal on Led Zep covers!), the late, great Syd Kitchen, Dark Chunk (from where she adopted her name) and even the legendary and much missed John Martyn. In short, I was impressed. She ticked all the boxes so to speak. I could definitely hear that voice singing my songs.
Tomorrow may not be the day….
We became friends but I didn’t ask her straight away if she’d be interested in working with me. I’d leave that until later. Tomorrow perhaps. Or maybe next week. Plenty of time. Well… it took me four years actually. Suzi often revels in reminding me of this fact but I had a few considerations, y’see; I had no band and had yet to hook up with State Recordstherefore no recording projects were on the horizon and obviously live work was out of the question too. Oh, then there was a certain geographical hurdle to consider-I live Kent, Suzi lives in Cardiff. And were my songs really her cup of tea? She’d never go for it, would she? When I did eventually broach the subject early in 2011, Suzi’s response was positive, typical and something along the lines of “I thought you’d never f****** ask!
Back of the net!!
The first couple of songs we demoed were “No Stone Unturned” (the GU version had already appeared on the album) and an unreleased ballad, “Big Screen”. The latter had been written around 2006 and was the tune that initially sparked the idea of finding a female vocalist. I’d always heard it as a “girl song” and that’s why it didn’t make it on to debut LP. I liked this track a lot but needed the right voice to interpret it in the right way and hearing Suzi’s demos for the first time underscored that I’d made a very wise choice indeed. It was a “shivers down the spine” moment. I needed another song for Suzi to record at her first State session so I set myself the task of writing something brand new rather than present her with “here’s one I made earlier”. I didn’t want her to feel as though she was being given my “cast offs”. So it was that the Gilberto/Getz, summer samba-inspired “Probably Normal” became my first bona fide, made-to measure song for Suzi Chunk.
Take another Chunk of psychedelic ….
It didn’t take long for us to realise, during that first recording session in the summer of 2011, that the new Groovy Uncle album was in fact going to be a Suzi Chunk record. I’d written the songs but she’d made them her own and I was more than happy to provide her with more material. At the time of writing this blog entry we are about to return to the studio to add the finishing touches to Suzi’s debut album “Girl From The Neck Down” which will see the light of day later in 2012. I’ll be talking about the making of the album and the songs themselves in more detail at a later date. Meanwhile we have a single recorded and set for release on April 30th! It’s all go, innit!
“Look Back And Laugh”/”Tripwire”
A couple of tracks featured on the album hark back to my musical past. “For The Millionth Time” was a tune I’d written for The Offbeats and “Look Back And Laugh” hailed from my days with “garage legends” (or so I’m told) The Kravin’ A’s. It was at the end of the LBAL session that the State boys informed me they’d like to release Suzi’s version of this K A’s classic as a vinyl single. The original had appeared on the 1991 album “Krave On!”. It’s a mover and a shaker, for sure. Unsitdownable if you will. It wasn’t always so. I wrote it originally with the blues in mind. I imagined a Howlin’ Wolf or a John LeeHooker type thing. Slow and bluesy…ba, ba, ba, ba-BAM! After about 10 minutes I thought “Sod it. Write a pop song!” I always wanted to re- record it. Suzi’s version has soul to it and the harmonies are better on this version and yes it sounds like the A-side of a single. The only condition State hung on its release was that they wanted an exclusive, non- album B-side. This didn’t present too much of a problem for me as there was another K A’s song from that album I’d always wanted to revisit- “Tripwire”.This was the very first song I ever wrote for the band using “Barefootin’” by Robert Parker as a point of reference. It turned out nothing like it of course but I knew I wanted something that would get people on the floor. But how does someone with two left feet come up with a dance tune? Something to fall over to – “Do the tripwire, baby, do the tripwire!”
“Look Back And Laugh”/”Tripwire”(State Records THS 008) by Suzi Chunk out April 30th 2012 on limited edition red vinyl.