Friday, 21st August

VISUAL OF THE WEEK (Personal)
Guitars out of Storage!

guitars

VISUAL OF THE WEEK 2 (Public)
Wall of musicians of colour from an fine-looking exhibition, African Industrial Revolution (A.I.R.) by e-studio Luanda, an artist collective and studio complex founded in 2012 in the Angolan capital by Francisco Vidal, Rita GT, António Ole and Nelo Teixeira. Impressed by the range from Ellington to Martina Topley Bird, I was annoyed that I’d managed to miss it.

ex

LORD, WON’T YOU BUY ME A LONNIE HOLLEY TICKET
My habit of buying tickets to gigs I know nothing about continues. Anyone fancy coming to see Lonnie Holley and Alexis Taylor on Monday night at the RFH? Just drop me a line at martinworkbench@gmail.com if your interest is piqued, as mine was, by this paragraph on the Meltdown website:
“Lonnie builds a bridge between Gil Scott-Heron and Alice Coltrane’s Turiya Sings. He approaches both his visual art and his music by reacting to what is in front of him: his music is about the very moment in which it unfolds. Lonnie’s words, on the other hand, are based on his experiences. His endless energy and wild curiosity are capturing hearts and minds in the worlds of both music and fine art.”
I have no idea what that means, but I’m sure as hell up for it. The website also notes that “Lonnie Holley was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1950, the seventh of 27 children, and claims he was traded for a bottle of whiskey when he was four.”

THINGS FOUND ONLINE
St Anthony: Rather wonderful tribute poem/track by Mike Garry & Joe Duddell to Tony Wilson, delivered with the kind of front that only Mancunians seem to have. How much would you love to have this done as a tribute to you after your death?

Demented Bobness: Graham sends a Weird Al Yankovitch Dylan parody, only using all-palindromic lyrics (my favourite is “Lisa Bonet ate no basil”) allied to a creditable Highway 61 pastiche.

The Beatles at Shea Stadium: Mark Myers (again) points the way to something interesting… a little-seen documentary from ’66. “As for me, I was 9 in 1965 and lived in Manhattan. While I didn’t go to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium, I probably would have gone if I had had a sister. What I do remember about that summer was the universal passion among girls and boys for all things British. Like every other preteen, I saw Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady… London, for me, was imagined as a Candyland of the mind… on the radio, British artists such as Petula Clark, Herman’s Hermits, the Rolling Stones, and Tom Jones had hits. I wanted to go downtown to meet Mrs. Brown’s lovely daughter and seek satisfaction, whatever all of that meant.” It’s full of wonderful stuff: nine minutes into the film, the Discotheque dancers take the stage after Murray the K and run through every dance step that is now regularly parodied when people think of 60s dancers. Absolutely hysterical. The voice-over interviews with the lads are terrific – street smart and eloquent in equal measure. I loved the sound guys behind the stage – the film cuts to them at around thirteen minutes, as King Curtis and the Kingpins are playing. As a portrait of the times it’s top-notch.

TITLE OF THE WEEK
News that David Rawlings has a new album, with the great title, Nashville Obsolete, prompts me to listen again to his first under the rubrik of the Dave Rawlings Machine, A Friend of a Friend, especially its most luminous song, “Bells of Harlem”. Here it is in live form – a lovely song, beautifully played. Catch the guitar outro, a fabulous circular melody spinning to a hushed conclusion. For another terrific piece of Rawlings’ guitaring, check out “Ruby” from the same KEXP session, where he plays a flatly stunning solo in the middle, not to mention an beautiful set of harmonics before the last chorus. What I love about him is the fact he’s sui generis – there are obvious bluegrass antecedents, but really he’s created a parched flamboyancy all his own.

Some things from the last couple of weeks, posted on Monday 10th August

VISUAL OF THE WEEK

bike
Funny how “For What It’s Worth” continues to exert its pull on filmakers and advertisers, for uses entirely unrelated to its subject matter, which is the Sunset Strip riots of 1966. Maybe it’s the guitar harmonic that repeats throughout… Here is a rather exquisite matching of the song to a stunning slopestyle mountain bike run (whatever that is – didn’t it used to be BMXing?) with beautifully liquid camera work in one uninterrupted shot. Bike helmets off to Brandon Semenuk on the bike, and Anthill Films for the production and filming.

MARIO WIENERROITHER HAD THE EXCELLENT IDEA…
to remove the music from pop videos, and Lionel Richie’s “Hello” with no music, just reduced to its creepiest parts, is a cracker.

THE B OF THE BANG…
Spookiest sound heard lately? The silence of the 40,000 strong crowd a moment before the 100m final at the Olympic Stadium a couple of weeks ago. Not even one throat-clearing… Usain Bolt’s start was slow but he powered through on a wet track to win in 9.87 seconds. Amused afterwards when he said that he lost focus in the middle of the race. In the middle of a race lasting under ten seconds? Extraordinary.

OR MAYBE THE S OF “SHUT UP…”
I hadn’t realised that all large athletics competitions have a stomping soundtrack throughout. Sometimes it’s groan-worthily obvious: Van Halen’s “Jump” for, well, you can guess. Most of the time it’s just irritating. It set me wondering who makes the music choices. Is there a job title that goes with that? Most of the athletes seem to have bought into the whole “hype up the audience” thing, leading the clapping in the build up to their next attempt. Most blatant offender was the half-bearded (look it up) Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi, although in fairness it did give that competition a slightly hysterical edge which was thoroughly enjoyable.

The organising of the programme is extremely slick and the events run parallel in a really clever way. Our favourite: the North Korea-like synchronicity of the Hurdles prep, with small trucks dispensing assistants (and hurdles) at precise intervals. However, the big screen presentation was lacking. Too many announcements that you couldn’t hear properly over the PA, the huge screens bereft of interesting statistics, with poorly judged replays and focus – why, when Laura Weightman was being interviewed after a fine run (by one of the air-headed personality interviewers – echoes of Smashy and Nicey here) were we treated to a close up of a High Jumper wandering around. Why, when the women’s Triple Jump was happening was the entrance in tracksuits of the men’s 100m finalists deemed more interesting? Dumb.

DYLAN STUFF AND NONSENSE OF THE WEEK
50 years on, it still fascinates. Marc Myers of the Wall Street Journal wrote about the electric Newport ’65 concert on his excellent Jazz Wax blog, and received this missive from Al Kooper, the organist in the band:
“Did it not occur to anyone that the reason people were really upset was that the headliner of the entire festival, the person that most people had traveled a distance to see, the person that they sat through three days of music, only played for 17 minutes? That was the problem, Marc. Journalists turned that around into booing – I only heard people yelling, More! More! More! – and false images of Pete Seeger walking around with a fire ax to cut the sound cables. The fact is someone who shouldn’t have touched the house sound for Dylan’s set did, and did a bad job. Listen to the mono mix on the film versions, as only Bob’s voice and Mike Bloomfield’s guitar can be heard – no drums, no bass, no organ and no piano.”
As for the recording of “Like a Rolling Stone” in June 1965, Al said this:
“Bob didn’t really switch the instrumentation. He just went from 3/4 to 4/4 time. I didn’t think of it as ‘acoustic.’ Bob spent a day (June 15th) working on the 3/4 version and overnight decided to switch to 4/4. Since going electric, he’s always had his 3/4 and 6/8 compositions. “Winterlude” comes to mind. I think the lyric on “Like a Rolling Stone” was more balanced to sing in 4/4 and overnight he came to that conclusion. Some band members were switched, but the instrumentation remained the same until they moved Paul Griffin to piano and changed my life (and instrument).”
And reader Daniel Mainzer added the following…
“Interesting article about Bob Dylan at Newport. I was there. The prevailing mood of the crowd reflected much of our generation’s attitude toward social change as reflected by the music. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane and others lit it up in the late 1960s, and the brief flirtation with folk was over, since it was boring. We wanted to move and dance, not sway like seaweed in a gentle tide. I think Dylan felt this too and wanted to break out, to give the people what they wanted. Seeger’s music, and folk in general, was always about social injustice and a heavy message. While well done, the repetition just killed the music. Not to mention the acoustic guitar with no beat. Boring!!! Dylan knew the effect of a pounding rhythm section and let this loose on us. What a relief! Now we could enjoy Dylan instead of putting him on the back shelf.”

ES MAGAZINE QUESTIONNAIRE: LOUISE BREALEY
The Sherlock actress on the first thing she does when she arrives back in London: “I play London is the Place for Me by Lord Kitchener as I drive down the motorway. My best friend Chris put it on a mixtape for me when I was homesick doing Casualty in Bristol in 2002.” A fine choice – it’s in the Music Player to the right.

Thursday, 23rd July

VISUAL OF THE WEEK

misty

The sound of a saxophone drifts over Drapers Field in Leyton as I head to the Olympic Park. I walk into the playground and sit down nearby as I realise it’s “Misty” that he’s working things out on, looking down at his iPad for the sheet music. After congratulating him I walk off, only for him to start “Danny Boy”, which I have had on a car playlist for the last week, as essayed by the wonderful Ben Webster. Spooky…

EMINEM’S BOX OF WORDS
“I’ve got letters that look like this, and they’re all from crazy people”, says Anderson Cooper to Eminem as he contemplates his crate full of notebooks in a fascinating interview. I like it when Em reads a sheet that Cooper hands to him, and decides not to read it out, as he may “use that…”

eminem

EMERALD STREET FLAGS UP A MUSICAL MUST BUY
“It was meant as an insult. And she’s a theremin player! a friend once said, finishing her dismissal of another woman with venom. In the context of the rest of the speech this somewhat obscure swipe made sense: the theremin player was beautiful in a left-field way, frostily pretentious and given to sleeping with other people’s boyfriends. Her instrument of choice shared the first two traits. So, what is a theremin and what do they have to do with Us Conductors? A theremin is a musical instrument, where the sound is produced by moving your hands through an electric field. It sounds quavering, beautiful and faintly unearthly. Us Conductors by Sean Michaels is roughly based on the instrument’s creator, Lev Termen, a Russian engineer who, acting on the orders of Lenin’s government, took his invention to America in the 1920s. This timeline forms the first part of Us Conductors, remembered by Lev as he travels back to a gulag in his homeland. He addresses himself to Clara, a young American and his ‘one true love’. The American memories are full of starry parties with a Glenn Miller and George Gershwin soundtrack. (Michaels’ background as a music writer really comes through when describing concerts and improvisations.) They shimmer with early love and bootleg liquor, even as the Depression begins to bite. The second half of the novel is written in a simple and spare style, in keeping with its gulag setting. It’s harrowing and we are unsure if Lev’s love for Clara and for science will sustain him.”

THAT’S DOCTOR COOPER CLARKE TO YOU, SIR!
Great advert for the National Trust using a specially-commissioned poem by JCC, Nation’s Ode to the Coast. Listen to the bit where the “That’s where the sea comes in…” line repeats at the end, where he slips a wonderful drawled yeah… in the tiny crack of space between.

A big fat sky and a thousand shrieks / The tide arrives and the timber creaks
A world away from the working week / Ou est la vie nautique?
That’s where the sea comes in…

Dishevelled shells and shovelled sands, / Architecture all unplanned
A spade n bucket wonderland / A golden space, a Frisbee and
The kids and dogs can run and run / And not run in to anyone
Way out! Real gone! / That’s where the sea comes in

Impervious to human speech, idle time and tidal reach / Some memories you can’t impeach
That’s where the sea comes in / A nice cuppa splosh and a round of toast
A cursory glance at the morning post / A pointless walk along the coast
That’s what floats my boat the most / That’s where the sea comes in…
That’s where the sea comes in

ONE THING THAT SLIPPED THE NET
“She’s Got You”, by Rhiannon Giddens at Islington Assembly Hall, a couple of weeks ago. The great Patsy Cline classic, written by Hank Cochran, here stripped back to a choppy acoustic backing with added moaning cello, courtesy of Malcolm Parson. Giddens’ powerful voice is foregrounded, moving through a very straight and precise opening verse before gradually loosening it up. By the end, allowing a little vibrato and a little country sob to creep in, she turns bluesy and, tracked by the cello, brings the song home with a beautiful flourish.

SEEN IN COVENT GARDEN: SHOESIC?

shoesic

Thursday, 16th July

VISUAL OF THE WEEK
The poster for Michael Gray’s next talking tour.

MG Tour

AND THE OSCAR FOR THE BEST USE OF POOR QUALITY PHOTOGRAPHS GOES TO…
When I was at The Observer Magazine, I learned Art Director John Tennant’s great rule (which he may have picked up from Michael Rand and David King from his stint at the Sunday Times Magazine) – the worse the quality of the picture, the bigger you use it. It then becomes something graphic and powerful and always worked for family photos, or amateur snaps of news events. Watching Amy, I was really impressed by the way director Asif Kapadia used the wildly blown-up snaps – all digital jpeg artefacts and smeary colour – so surely. It’s painful to watch the images get sharper and sharper as the picture progresses, mostly created by the paparazzi who circle and hound her.

STREET MUSOS OF THE WEEK
Walking into the tube at Oxford Circus I thought I heard a James Brown track playing somewhere. It turned out to be saxophonist Carl Catron and friends, giving the teeming throngs outside Topshop some gloriously on-the-money jazz funk. I was mostly fascinated by the guitarist’s insouciant precision.

Oxford

RIP CONFREY PHILLIPS
“It was Saturday night, and Ava Gardner had a request. She wanted to hear They Wouldn’t Believe Me. Confrey Phillips knew the song – he knows every song, it seems – so he launched into the number. It wasn’t long before Gardner grabbed the proprietor and said, “Get rid of the band downstairs. They’re a crap band. Confrey should be doing this.” The year was 1952, and Gardner, Clark Gable and Grace Kelly were in London filming Mogambo. They had all come to the club known as Les Ambassadeurs because they didn’t have to work on Sunday. Kelly left early, Gable hung around for awhile, but Gardner stayed until closing time and beyond – 4:30 in the morning. Phillips figured Gardner’s enthusiasm was the champagne talking – Gardner liked her champagne – but the next morning the band was indeed gone and the Confrey Phillips Trio was entertaining in the big room at Les Ambassadeurs.” – Scott Eyman, the Palm Beach Post. More here.

ConfreyWe knew Confrey through his brother Len, father of a great friend of our daughter. Inspired by American big bands heard on Armed Forces Radio beamed into Bangalore, they moved to Clapham in the late 40s. Len had played bass in his brother’s Trio, and both were real characters – enthusiastic and charming – and Confrey really did know every song in The Great American Songbook. He also told fantastic stories of his time playing in London’s grand hotels and moving in Royal circles. My father also got to know Ava Gardner at the time of Mogambo, as she liked drinking in “real” London boozers, and became a regular (!) at a pub off Berkeley Square that Bill drank in. Those were the days, eh?

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL ART…
From The Guardian’s obit of Robin Page, artist who was in the British vanguard of the Fluxus movement in the 1960s: “In 1962, Page engineered his own sub-happening at the Institute of Contemporary Arts’ Festival of Misfits in London, when he kicked his electric guitar off the stage, out of the ICA’s front door and down Dover Street, his audience in gripped pursuit. Another happening, at the Destruction in Art Symposium in 1966, saw him drilling a hole in the floor of the Better Bookshop in Charing Cross Road, managed by the sound poet Bob Cobbing, intent on reaching Australia. The attempt had to be abandoned when Page hit a water main.”

EXTRA: LETTER OF THE WEEK
“Peter Bradshaw rightly refers to Omar Sharif’s appearance in Lawrence of Arabia as “one of the greatest entrances in movie history”. However, that famous scene also has the distinction of being the only one in the history of cinema which features both Blur and Oasis.” Brendan O’Brien, Waterford, Ireland, The Guardian

Oh, and Leon Bridges: Why?

Friday, 10th July

VISUAL OF THE WEEK: IN RBP’S STOCKROOM
Working from the offices of Rock’s Backpages has many pluses – Mark’s espresso machine, bizarre early 80s New York  playlists (Lydia Lunch, brilliant), a fine view of West London – but none outweigh the magazine archive. Everywhere you turn, another gem: a Jim Marshall shot from the Beatles’ last gig at Candlestick Park, Tiger Beat’s Official Monkees Spectacular!, cassette tapes of interviews with Johnny Otis. This shot captures a terrible illustration of Bob, and the days when Roland Kirk was bigger news than the Beatles coming to lunch with the Melody Maker.

RBPROBERT FRANK’S THE AMERICANS
From a terrific New York Times piece by Nicholas Dawidoff, on photographer Robert Frank

“Over the years, The Americans would follow the trajectory of experimental American classics like Moby-Dick and Citizen Kane – works that grew slowly in stature until it was as if they had always been there. To Bruce Springsteen, who keeps copies of The Americans around his home for songwriting motivation, ‘the photographs are still shocking. It created an entire American identity, that single book. To me, it’s Dylan’s Highway 61, the visual equivalent of that record. It’s an 83-picture book that has 27,000 pictures in it. That’s why Highway 61 is powerful. It’s nine songs with 12,000 songs in them. We’re all in the business of catching things. Sometimes we catch something. He just caught all of it.”

CHARLIE “SATCHMO” WATTS
The Rolling Stones – Exhibitionism has been three years in the planning. Jagger said the exhibition would include some “really silly things … and really I mean silly”. Not all band members were able to contribute as much as others: “I’ve got more Louis Armstrong stuff than I have Rolling Stones,” said drummer Charlie Watts.

MITCH! NOOOOOOO!
If you complain bitterly about how you are portrayed in a sensitive, even-handed and rounded documentary, then don’t give interviews where you say things like this: There’s also talk of a full-scale biopic and Mitch already knows who he would like to star. “Lady Gaga has been mooted as Amy,” he told Heat recently. “But I’d definitely have George Clooney play me…”

RONNIE SCOTTS’ INSTRUMENT AMNESTY
A brilliant idea. Give away unplayed instruments. See and hear the results down the line. From Ronnie’s website: “Your instrument will be given a tracking number enabling us to inform you of its ultimate destination. Once the amnesty is over, we will prepare the instruments for delivery and send them to Sistema England in the UK and Music Fund based in Brussels. Sistema England, founded by Julian Lloyd Webber, seeks to transform the lives of children, young people and their communities through the power of music making. It is part of an international movement inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan programme that benefits children and young people through the creation of grass roots orchestras. Overseas, the collected instruments will be given a second life through Music Fund who distributes to projects in international conflict zones from their base in Brussels. Music Fund is a humanitarian project that supports musicians and music schools in conflict areas and developing countries operating in Africa, the Middle East and Central America.” So there goes my black semi-Fender Strat.

Five Things Extra, Monday 6th July: Attack Of The 50 Foot Jazzman!

As we went walking that ribbon of highway that links Covent Garden to Soho, en route to see Amy at the Curzon, most of Great Newport Street was covered in scaffolding. Not such a rare sight in the centre of town these days, with properties being developed at a giddy rate. However, the covering of the scaffolding was – frankly – gob-smacking. A huge 60s-style caricature covered the top half of the four-story high structure, with my uncle Ken flanked by Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger.

thecolyer2

The site of Ken’s old club, the Studio 51, is now a development of 14 luxury apartments and has been branded (drum roll…) The Colyer. No, really. Words fail. The logo has a cornet rather than a trumpet (very good) and the illustration is cute. I knew about The Stones’ residency during 1963, but I hadn’t realised that Clapton had played his first gig there – at least, according to London60sweek.com he did. The developers seem to have the notion that it was like an uptown cabaret club with round tables and crisp white linen and glasses of champagne, but my memories are of a much less salubrious room, with a decided lack of chairs and no alcohol license. Quite what lifelong socialist Ken would make of all this is up for discussion…

Kengrab

Thursday, 2nd July

Still moving, so this week is mainly things that I read and found fascinating…

HUNCH V. DATA: IN THE RED CORNER, JOHN HAMMOND
Kevin drops in a great article from intelligent life, by Ian Leslie: “One February night in 1933, Hammond rapped on an anonymous door on 133rd St. One of his singer friends, Monette Moore, ran a new speakeasy, and he had come to see her perform. As it turned out, she couldn’t make it. Her replacement was a girl called Billie Holiday. Hammond hadn’t heard of her—which meant nobody had—but she took his breath away. Just 17, Holiday was tall, unconventionally beautiful, with an imperious bearing. Her artistry gave Hammond shivers. She sang just behind the beat, her voice wafting languidly over the accompaniment like smoke from a cigarette. She didn’t just sing the songs, she played them with her voice. “I was overwhelmed,” Hammond said.

Nobody had told Hammond to go and see Billie Holiday that night in Harlem. She had no fan base, no manager pressing her claims. Nobody would record her. But the moment he saw Holiday, John Hammond knew she was going to be a star. He just had a feeling about this girl. A hunch.

John Hammond understood jazz through society and vice versa, and he knew that the future of neither was written down (jazz, said the critic Whitney Balliet, is “the sound of surprise”). At the time that he came across Billie Holiday, a vocalist who did not also play an instrument or front a band was not even considered a jazz singer, but Hammond sensed that the world was ready for one. Later, Holiday became one of the first singers to perform regularly in mixed-race jazz clubs, and her popularity cut across the rigid ethnic lines of the day. In Monette Moore’s bar that night, Hammond saw the future of jazz and the future of America at the same time.”

KANYE BELIEVE IT! (© The Sun)
I wanted to write about Kanye West’s performance at Glastonbury, but read this and it caught what I felt so well that I’ll just quote a little: it’s by David Bennun and was on The Economist Magazine’s website.
“The first 45 minutes or so were an act of quite astonishing bravado. One man, apparently dressed as the world’s most fashionable plasterer, all alone in a blazing box of light and smoke, with only that infamous ego and a microphone to satisfy a crowd over 100,000 strong, and millions more watching on live television. Has any Glastonbury headliner ever flown solo and by the seat of his expensively spattered pants for so long? It took extraordinary cojones, especially when you consider that, although he is a brilliant rapper in the studio, he is not a great live MC. His voice doesn’t have the heft and authority to carry all before it like, say, Eminem’s or Chuck D’s… Kanye West is the star who’s never a bore even when he’s boring. The people who profess to hate him can’t tear their eyes away. The joke is emphatically on them, and on their apoplectic, blimpish indignation.”

THIS. IS. INSANE.

AbbeyAs I called the Albert Hall Box Office 15 minutes after the tickets went on sale and found it almost sold out, I realised that it was probably not an April Fools’ Day joke. Yes, on April 1st, 2016 there will be a re-creation, in a huge glass box containing a replica Studio Two, of every note played by The Beatles at Abbey Road – every false start, every incomplete take, every bit of jokey banter between the studio floor and the control room. Overseen by Geoff Emerick, the engineer on many of the sessions, it promises much for the tape-heads, but what it’ll sound like as a concert is beyond guessing. We’re promised that it won’t be a lookalike or tribute show, just… “each song, from the first recording of “Love Me Do” up to “The End” – played exactly as it was recorded – all instrumentation, arrangements and vocals identical to the original recordings. It will be the closest thing to actually being in the studio with John, Paul, George and Ringo.”

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

CastlesSkateboardersUndercroft, South Bank; The Lukin pub, Fitzrovia

SOMETHING I LEARNED
I’d not heard of Bob Bain, legendary session guitarist, but I’d sure enough heard his work – The Peter Gunn theme, M*A*S*H, Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable”. Marc Myers’ excellent blog, JazzWax pointed me towards this, from Fretboard Journal – Bain’s description of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s sessions, along with a lovely video of him now, playing a beautiful small-bodied Martin.

“We did three sessions. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We were packing up and Henry Mancini asked me to stick around. He said, “Go next door to Nickodell’s, get a drink and come back.” He said, “You can pack up everything, but I want a nice, small acoustic guitar sound…” I was thinking, “What is he doing?”

So I had a nice small guitar, a Martin. I just left that guitar out and came back. The studio was empty, kind of dark. There were three guys in the booth: Henry, Blake Edwards the director, and one stagehand. And all of a sudden Audrey Hepburn walked in. Hank [Mancini] introduced me and she was very nice. He said, “We want to record Audrey without the orchestra, because she doesn’t want to sing in front of a big band.” We ran it down — just the two of us. And I said to Henry, “Turn off the mics so you don’t hear us.” She was real nice; a good singer.

“She knew the tune. And I said, “Why don’t we make a take?” I waved at Hank and he turned the mic on. We ran it through once and I said, “What do you think?” She said, “Well, I don’t know.” I said, “Why don’t we do one more and then we’ll go in and listen?” So we did one more take, just guitar and voice. We went in. Henry said, “I loved it.” Blake said, “I loved it.” And they took the second take and that was it!”

…and I really want to thank Steve Hurrell for the Wham-O Super Pro frisbee. Steve worked on a video shoot that we did back in the 80s, but before that was a semi-pro frisbee player. How excellent to have that on your CV.

Friday, 19th June

Necessarily brief this week due to house move! See On The Playlist…

VISUAL OF THE WEEK: MILTON GLASER

Bob NYHaving recently bought the Milton Glaser Dylan poster I was surprised to find this copy of the NYTimes Book Review in a box of old stuff in storage. Excellent punning title, great pieces from Jonathan Lethem and Lucinda Williams and Glaser revisiting his poster for the cover.

VISUAL OF THE WEEK 2: EDWYN COLLINS

EdwynWatching the rather beautiful and uplifting documentary on Edwyn Collins, The Possibilities Are Endless I was struck by a couple of things. One is that I didn’t appreciate how good “A Girl Like You” was – especially the Ernie Isley-like guitar solo. And secondly, a rostrum shot of his post-stroke notebooks, where this intriguing list could be found, namechecking two of James Brown’s worthy constituents, and a Northern Soul star: “…yesterday, Maceo Macks, Tommy Hunt, Fancy a beer this weekend?, Bobby Byrd, Well today, Thank you.”

WHATEVER ONE’S TAKE ON M.I.A.…
… you have to admit that she makes very cool videos. From cars doing wheelies in Persia to the 36,000 students of the world’s largest Martial Arts school (Gener8ion + MIA) you just have to think… what and where next?

FAVOURITE REMINISCENCE OF THE WEEK
The as-told-to-Mick Brown Flashback by Michael Des Barres in the Sunday Telegraph: “It was that cliché of the English rocker falling in love with an American groupie. I am not proselytising for the golden age of rock’n’roll. But it will never be that way again. The streets were paved with velvet in those days; there were polka dots in the air; it was hashish and the Romantic poets, Oscar Wilde playing a Les Paul. I wasn’t thinking about how many sit-ups I could do.” I remember Des Barres’ band, Silverhead, must have seen them three or four or more times at The Marquee. They were unbelievably thin and wasted-looking (“a band that weighed collectively 150lb – the most decadent bunch ever” in Des Barres’ words) and played a kind of sludgy rock & roll that promised more than it delivered – but was always extremely entertaining.

ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK

betterdays

This week, we leave the bright lights of the West End for the big skies of the East End, accompanied by Better Days’ updating of Robert Johnson’s classic “Walking Blues”. It features Paul Butterfield on vocals, electric piano & harp, Ronnie Barron on organ, Geoff Muldaur on slide guitar & vocals, Amos Garrett on guitar, Billy Rich on bass and Christopher Parker on drums. Album cover [one of my Hall of Famers] by Milton Glaser at Push Pin Studios.

Friday, 12th June

VISUAL OF THE WEEK: BIRD TRAMWAY
It seems to be film week here at Five Things. Calum posts on his blog likeahammerinthesink about a film he made on his phone… “as I crossed between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island on the tramway. Then I re-shot the film through a mirrored box that I found one night on the King’s Road in Chelsea. I looked for songs that were exactly the same length as the footage (4’46”) and tried out various combinations. The juxtaposition of “No One is Lost” by Stars (a kind of disco-rock crossover number) with a kaleidoscopic view of New York, the Williamsburg Bridge and the East River worked…”

Calum

He’s then asked to take it down for copyright reasons by Vimeo, so he records caged birds in Tooting’s covered market and uses that as the soundtrack instead. However, should you want, you can start his film on Vimeo at the same time as starting the Stars song on YouTube, and enjoy it as its creator intended, the mirrored box making the images come kaleidoscopically alive.

It took me back to a time when, as students at Chelsea we found tins of 16mm offcuts outside a Wardour Street editing suite and cut them randomly together, playing it back with a soundtrack of equally random records. There are always moments where the sound and picture line up to make something so right that it seems planned. That happens here as the cars emerge out of the ground to perfectly-timed synth throbs, and the struts of the bridge arrive on screen at the same time as the drums recede…

SOMETHING I LEARNED 1
That, having brilliantly embodied MLK in Selma, David Oyelowo is playing Nina Simone’s personal assistant in the troubled biopic, Nina – hey, what other kind of biopic is there? With social media as it stands you can inflame a lot of people, a lot of the time, often over nothing, or nothing that most of them know about. Nina is played by American/Domenican actress Zoe Saldana (whose husband, Marco Perego, took her surname when they got married). “I didn’t think I was right for the part, and I know a lot of people will agree, but then again, I don’t think Elizabeth Taylor was right for Cleopatra either. An artist is colorless, genderless… It’s more complex than just ‘Oh, you chose the Halle Berry look-alike to play a dark, strikingly beautiful, iconic black woman.’ The truth is, they chose an artist who was willing to sacrifice herself. We needed to tell her story because she deserves it.”

SOMETHING I LEARNED 2
That there’s also a new Nina documentary premiering on Netflix on June 24, What Happened, Miss Simone?, directed by Liz Garbus. She made the brilliant Love, Marilyn. She also made the excellent Bobby Fisher Against The World – her titles are always good, as is her production company’s name, Moxie Firecracker. [As an aside, her favorite songs are “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan, “Black Coffee in Bed” by Squeeze, and “Mesmerizing” by Liz Phair].

Her father is the legendary civil rights attorney, Martin Garbus, who represented Daniel Ellsberg and Lenny Bruce among countless others. His book, Tough Talk: How I Fought for Writers, Comics, Bigots, and the American Way sounds a must-read.

Liz Garbus grew up knowing Simone, and the film looks a cracker… Variety’s Scott Foundas: “Garbus limits the third-party talking heads to Simone’s close friends and collaborators (including her longtime guitarist and musical director Al Shackman), but smartly resists turning the movie into a pageant of present-day testimonials about the singer’s influence and legacy. Mostly, she just lets Simone take the stage, reasoning that the best way to understand her is through her songs – performances in which Simone seems to be pouring out every ounce of herself, the music flowing through her like an electric current, her voice echoing forth as if from some place deep inside the earth”. Watch the trailer here.

O, DEATH
Jonny Trunk, Trunk Records: “And let’s all hope today is better than yesterday, with three extraordinary deaths all in row – of people who have certainly shaped my life in one way or another: Christopher Lee, Ron Moody and Ornette Coleman. I remember getting phone calls from Mr Lee when I first issued The Wicker Man. He used to phone up on a regular basis and sing “Tinker Of Rye” down the phone. One day, he phoned and I wasn’t in – these were pre-mobile days. My flat mate answered the phone and told him I was out. He asked, “are you Christopher Lee by any chance?”. “Why, yes”, came the reply – “how did you know it was me?”. Well I recognised your voice Mr Lee, from all those classic horror films you made”. “Horror!”, shouted Mr Lee – “I don’t do horror!” and slammed down the phone. He will be sorely missed, certainly around central London where he used to spook about the place, signing anything he was involved with (posters, soundtracks, you name it). There was (to me) another classic Christopher Lee moment, when he put some of his possessions into a James Bond sale at Christies in the 1990s. He put in a pair of his white Scaramanga loafers – both signed inside in black pen of course. Trouble was, he’d put in two left shoes. Brilliant.

As for Ron Moody, there will be his odd and only LP up for 50p next week, and I will be playing Coleman’s Chappaqua Suite, made for Conran Rook’s Chappaqua film but [judged] “too beautiful to use” on tomorrow’s OST Show.” Watch this mashed-up trailer made for it recently (not using Coleman’s score, but extraordinary nonetheless.

AND ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK…
Various mentions of Mary Margaret O’Hara this week also synchronise with me finding a Canadian musicians’ tribute album to The Band, presented by Garth Hudson (who plays on every track). It came out in 2010 and, I guess like biopics, there’s good and there’s bad. As usual, those who cleave too closely fail, and those who dive in with both feet win. I think this is the best track by far, a forgotten song that was tacked onto the Last Waltz album, a song which pointed ahead to the style that Robbie Robertson would adopt for his first solo album, a glassy atmosphere of synths and chiming guitars. Robbie’s singing had vastly improved from “To Kingdom Come” on Music from Big Pink, but I think MM O’H has more to give the song or – it may be more accurate to say – to drag out of it.

Five Things Extra: Martin Stone

Photograph by Keith Morris

Photograph by Keith Morris

My favourite guitarist in the world is Mark Pringle, obvs, but – for the time he was active in the London scene in the late sixties and early seventies – Martin Stone ran him a close second. Many nights were spent nursing a pint of that horrible seventies’ version of an alcopop, lager & lime, at the Greyhound in Fulham and watching his band, Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers. Not quite as mellow as Bees Make Honey, not quite as rocky as Head, Hands and Feet, not quite as threatening as Kilburn & The High Road, the Peppers were my favourite band of that period – they swung (Pete Thomas was the drummer), they had vim and attack (especially where Martin was concerned), they played great songs and they were funny (frontman Phil Lithman left to rejoin San Francisco avant wackos, The Residents). When he played something particularly wonderful Martin would peer from under his woolly hat and crack a mischievous smile. Now, Martin (who quit the music business and became an antiquarian book seller/scout) is ill and the NHS won’t fund his treatment as he lives in Paris. It’s time to partly pay him back for those nights when the Kings of the Robot Rhythms reigned over Balham’s Bongos – go to the Just Giving site here.

And here’s an excerpt from a vivid piece by Martin that I loved, written in tribute to a book collecting mentor (and I remember that flat in Cannon Street Road, too – Martin shared it with the aforementioned M. Pringle):

“I first met Peter at the Olympia Bookfair in the late 1970s; he had a table of James Joyce in absolutely marvelous condition, many of them inscribed. I stood there hypnotised. I was new to the game, working the coal face of the book trade, a bottom-feeding outsider. I had never seen books like these; a first edition of Joyce’s Dubliners, brand-new in dust-jacket, that had never been tipped out of a sack at five in the morning in Brick Lane market.

Peter peered down at me with avuncular concern. “Stay well away from Joyce,” he said. “He’s a nightmare to buy and sell.”

He said he’d like to see my books and I gave him my address and phone number. He ignored the phone, and sometime after midnight there was a rapping at my window.

“Fuck off,” I yelled. My home was in Whitechapel; bad people sometimes tried to get in under cover of darkness.

“Now, now, Martin, it’s Peter Howard and I’m here to buy your books.”

A fellow member of the 24-hour club. I hid the cocaine and let him in.

He pointed at the far wall of my storeroom. “What are all those?”

“Minor Edwardian and Victorian fiction.”

“There’s no such thing as minor.”

“Er, no, of course not… I mean, I rather like them all really.”

“How much for the wall?”

I was checkmated; it was the first time I’d encountered the omnivore approach to book buying.

“Well, some of them are a bit more but mostly they’re about two pounds each.”

“Why can’t they be more, Martin?”

No book dealer had ever asked me that question, either.”

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