|“One of things I never get”, says Gary Lammin, “Is when people release a solo record, and it still sounds exactly the same as what they’re doing with their band”. Needless to say, then, The Bermondsey Joyriders guitarist’s own impending solo debut – the simply titled ‘Gary Guitar Lammin’, which is released on 24th February 2017 via Requestone Records – confirms Lammin's idea of a ‘solo’ album.
With a career history that reads like a Roxy Club listings bill (he’s recorded with Joe Strummer, toured with Public Image’s Jah Wobble and Generation X’s Mark Laff, plus currently plays with Johnny Thunders drummer Chris Musto in punk-rock-blues merchants the Joyriders), Lammin has always been known first and foremost as a punk rocker.
‘Gary Guitar Lammin’ may be about to put a spin on that impression though, which is fitting for an album whose lyrics grapple with notions of identity, duality and self-perception. Set these philosophical musings to a free-flowing, shape-shifting blend of 60s psychedelia, progressive rock elements, and tripped out delta blues, and we will see you all on Alder Boran.
Lammin’s unexpected guide on this detour from more familiar paths was late, great producer Dave Goodman; a man revered for his pre-Bollocks Sex Pistols recordings, which have been much celebrated for their rawer live sound, and, controversially, much bootlegged, often with Goodman’s blessing. Lammin had the opportunity to watch Goodman at work in his Mandala Studios in London’s Gipsy Hill around the turn of the millennium, when he was recording as a guest guitarist for several different bands. Soon, he was hatching plans for a collaboration with Goodman, a proposal the producer agreed to on one condition. “He asked me, ‘Do we really need another straight down the line punk record, Gary?”, adding, “I’ve got punk coming out of my ears!”, Lammin remembers. Goodman laid down a challenge; “Get out of your comfort zone man, try ANYTHING and then, then I will really produce you”. Lammin therefore, who would often describe himself by saying "I do a bit punk rock via Chuck Berry” was about to set sail on a very, very different ship.
The bulk of the recording took place at Mandala between 2000 and 2003, a few years before Goodman’s tragic death from heart failure in 2005. Shortly before his passing, the producer moved to Malta, with intentions of escaping the endless parade of colourful characters and chaotic parties which continually passed through Mandala Studios. At the time of the recording though, this lively backdrop was still a rich source of inspiration, and not yet a dangerous distraction. Much of the album’s thoughtful, introspective lyrical content was derived from late night conversations between Lammin and Goodman, while further inspiration was drawn from the Mick Jagger film ‘Performance’, and its exploration of dual identities.
Musically, Lammin says the record was structured to recreate the arc of a psychedelic experience, with Goodman’s contributions on sitar, tabla and Tibetan flute serving to complement Lammin's shimmering slide guitar parts and the overall trippy ambience. Building slowly from hazy ripples of melody on the esoterically-flavoured instrumental ‘Silver White Shadow’, the album then moves through the eerie, mystical blues of extended dream sequence ‘Last Night I Dreamt I Met My Enemy’, and finally floats back down to earth, minus a few brain cells, with a reprise of the atmospheric intro track ‘All Opinion Will Eventually Change’.
Among many highlights are the haunting break-up song and lead single ‘Value’ (out on 17th February), on which Goodman plays drums and bass, and its raucous b-side ‘Hey! Mr John Sinclair!’; a collaboration with the titular MC5 manager, performance poet, White Panthers founder and cannabis activist, and a pair of south London gospel singers, whose soulful backing vocals contrast with Sinclair’s own spoken word parts, creating a spirited hymn to a counterculture icon.
Alongside ‘Performance’’s influence on the lyrics, the opinion dividing Stones album ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ is cited as providing a partial template for the music, and this is perhaps most in evidence on two of the tracks where the vocal was finished after Goodman’s death; ‘Take More Care’, and ‘Is That Alright By You?’, which were completed at Dirty Strangers frontman Alan Clayton’s studio in Shepherd’s Bush.
After Goodman’s death, Lammin shelved the album for several years, revisiting it only occasionally to remember the fun of working with Dave, but never considering a release until he received the endorsement of Mat Sergeant, of the punk band Chelsea and curator of an online tribute to Goodman. Mat Sergeant’s encouragement saw Lammin contact Dave's widow Kathy, who then advised him to release it, stating "Gary, it’s a beautiful album, and a brilliant testament to Dave’s studio skills."
The album is a true ‘buried treasure’ release, which immortalises Goodman’s talents as a producer, while revealing an unexpected new side to Lammin’s songwriting skills. Whilst the starting point and the overall sound are considerably different to Lammin’s previous ventures, the spirit remains the same... The spirit of the street...still in there kicking...even if it’s drenched in mushroom tea.