Ten Things: Wednesday 16th April/Wednesday 23rd April

Keith Haynes Exhibition, Charlotte Street

Going Underground
Knew Donovan’s “Sunny Goodge Street”, which features in another of Keith Haynes vinyl artworks, but didn’t know “Sunny South Kensington”. Listening to it on YouTube, I decided on balance I’d not missed a lot:
“Come loon soon down Cromwell Road, man/You got to spread your wings/A-flip out, skip out, trip-out, and a-make your stand, folks, to dig me as I sing/Jean-Paul Belmondo and-a Mary Quant got Stoned to say the least/Ginsberg, he ended up-a dry and so he a-took a trip out East.”

I Left My Heart in San Francisco
Reminded when Bob sends this: “Here I am again in the cafe for my morning coffee and read. I like this place because it is a good mix of working class, tech and the poor. Like myself, I guess. Anyway, they again have turned the music selection to Pandora… Motown and related music is in the air, the customers are about to burst into dance. It feels like a Bollywood movie. What a great way to start the day. I exit to BB and the thrill is gone. Bob/Sent from my iPhone

Allen Toussaint…
may be the man to call if you need a Silent Film Pianist. His evocation of childhood piano lessons, being taught “Chopsticks”, segues into a cracking romp through his favourite classical pieces and culminates with Rhapsody in Blue, via a car chase, a Hurricane and some pratfalls. His version of “St James infirmary” with a soupcon of moody “Summertime” is also a highlight. But he saves the best ’til last. Richard leans over as he finishes his set and asks what he’ll play for an encore, but I’m still hypnotised by the 20-minute long nostalgiafest of “Southern Nights” with its evocation of Allen’s childhood visits to his Creole grandparents in the bayou (“My father would take us there, to show us where we came from, so we would know where we were going… we didn’t care much about the philosophy… but we liked the ride”). I can’t think, but Richard says, quizzically, “On Your Way Down”? “Freedom For The Stallion”? And I say it’s unlikely that he’ll do the former… and then he does. It’s the moment of the night (read about it here).

Talk to Me of Mendocino
Finally catching up with the Gene Clark documentary, The Byrd Who Flew Alone made me want to a) check out Roadmaster, and b) move to Mendocino: beaches, trees, backroads, wine.

King, Springs

Palm
Seen on WowHaus: The Palm Springs estate Elvis and Priscilla Presley honeymooned at in 1966 is on the market for US$9.5 million. The house at 1350 Ladera Circle is “designed in four perfect circles, on three levels, incorporating glass and peanut brittle stonework for indoor-outdoor living.” Boasting art deco design and furnishings throughout, the four-bedroom, five-bath estate was recently “restored to is 1960s splendor” and includes a pool, private garden, tennis court, fruit orchard and – because this was the King’s castle – a stage. It’s nestled at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, with ‘the honeymoon suite’ offering a panoramic view of the Santa Rosa Mountains & the Coachella Valley.” Peanut brittle stonework?

Brilliant Shelving Exhibition, Martino Gampler at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery
I know, a shelving exhibition! But it’s fantastic, not only for the iconic shelving systems, but for the witty way that they are dressed. This is the most music related, but the weakest of the exhibits. Go see the century brought to life through tiny things on shelves.

ShelvesThe Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie
I don’t feel qualified to even comment on this extaraordinary piece from John Jeremiah Sullivan for The New York Times. If this is a subject you’re interested in, just read it. And watch the beautifully made films accompanying it (Photographs and video by Leslye Davis, production by Tom Giratikanon). And at the bottom, listen to the songs. And finally hear the Kronos Quartet’s version, scored by Jacob Garchik, to hear another setting of a melody so singular, so strange and so unique.

Jesse Winchester
A lovely tribute from Allen T, who had produced one of his albums, led me to this: the poise and perfection of both guitar and voice are really affecting.

A List to Argue Over
They’re wrong about five of them, I reckon.

Farfisa Organ, Steptoes & Son Scrap Yard, Peckham.
“Yours for £150, or £80 if you take it now, as I’m closing and then I won’t have to take it in…”

Farfisa

 

 

 

Five Things: Wednesday 9th April [This is late, too]

I Got Those Ol’ Subcomittee Blues Again
“As thousands take their seats Thursday night at New York’s Barclays Center to watch Kiss, Cat Stevens and other artists be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”, writes Marc Myers in the Wall Street Journal, “Cecil ‘Big Jay’ McNeely will be preparing dinner in his one-bedroom apartment in the Baldwin Hills section of central Los Angeles. In the late 1940s and early ’50s, Mr. McNeely helped pioneer rock ’n’ roll. His wailing blues saxophone and feverish R&B concerts set new showmanship standards for many rockers who followed—including Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and James Brown. He also helped integrate R&B, paving the way for rock’s mass-market ascendancy in the second half of the 1950s… “Having more early R&B artists inducted would be great, but ultimately it’s the decision of the subcommittee,” said Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation president and CEO Joel Peresman. “Then their recommendation needs to garner enough votes among nominating-committee members to get on the ballot.” That last sentence on Big Jay McNeely’s omission from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame makes you question the very notion of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, doesn’t it?

“And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox, too”
Bob G. sends me a link to a site where eloquent strippers talk about music and politics, and one of the choices leads me to this discovery about Lester Maddox. As Wikipedia says: “Maddox’s name appears in the opening lines of Randy Newman’s song “Rednecks” in allusion to his appearance on The Dick Cavett Show:
“Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show/With some smart-ass New York Jew/And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox/And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too.
Well, he may be a fool but he’s our fool/If they think they’re better than him they’re wrong/So I went to the park and I took some paper along/And that’s where I made this song.”
He was a populist Democrat, and a staunch segregationist, refusing to serve black customers in his Atlanta restaurant in defiance of the Civil Rights Act. Amazingly, Maddox was the 75th Governor of Georgia (from ’67 to ’71). After his 1974 gubernatorial bid, and with his political career seemingly over and with massive debts, Maddox began a short-lived nightclub comedy career in 1977 with an African-American musician, Bobby Lee Sears, who had worked as a busboy in his restaurant. Sears had served time in prison for a drug offense before Maddox, as lieutenant governor, was able to assist him in obtaining a pardon. Calling themselves The Governor and the Dishwasher, the duo performed comedy bits built around musical numbers with Maddox on harmonica and Sears on guitar.” Truth, truly stranger than fiction, as this newspaper clipping from the time attests.

Maddox

 

Duke Fakir, Four Tops singer, How We Made “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”, The Guardian
“We were all in the studio one day when Holland-Dozier-Holland said they wanted to try something experimental. They had this thumping backing track played by the Funk Brothers – it had an amazing drum beat created by timpani mallets hitting a tambourine. The sound was fabulous, but then Eddie said they wanted Levi Stubbs [the Four Tops’ lead singer] to do Bob Dylan-type singing over it. Levi was uncomfortable at first. He said: “I’m a singer. I don’t talk or shout.” But we worked on it for a couple of hours, recording it in pieces, talking part after talking part. Eddie realised that when Levi hit the top of his vocal range, it sounded like someone hurting, so he made him sing right up there. Levi complained, but we knew he loved it. Every time they thought he was at the top, he would reach a little further until you could hear the tears in his voice. The line “Just look over your shoulder” was something he threw in spontaneously. Levi was very creative like that, always adding something extra from the heart. The finished song didn’t sound like the Four Tops. We just assumed it was some experimental thing that would go on an album. A few weeks later, Motown boss Berry Gordy sent us a memo: “Make sure your taxes are taken care of – because we’re going to release the biggest record you’ve ever had.” He called us into his office, and I remember one of us asking: “So when are we going to record this great song?” He said: “You already have.” We’re all thinking: “Huh? Then he played “Reach Out” and we said: “Hold on, Berry, we were just experimenting. Please don’t release that as a single. It’s not us. It has a nice rhythm to it but if you release that we’ll be on the charts with an anchor.” He laughed, but we left the meeting feeling very upset, almost angry. I was out driving when I heard the song on the radio for the first time. It hit me like a lead pipe. I turned my car round and drove right back to Berry’s office. He was in a meeting but I opened the door and just said: “Berry, don’t ever talk to us about what you’re releasing. Just do what you do. Bye.”

Mistaken Wall Painting. Don’t Hold Front Page.
Waiting in the car, the sunlight drew me to something on the wall at the end of our street. And in one of those “doesn’t that look like the face of Jesus in my burnt tortilla?” moments, I thought it was a version of the cover of The Band. I know – mad. What it actually is: the number £29,000. Which in itself is quite strange…

Band

Ronnie Scott’s Jook Joint
Reading A London Year (a compilation of diary entries for each day drawn from myriad sources) I come upon this, written on the 27 march, 1776 by Edward Oxnard.

“In the evening went to Drury Lane to hear the Oratorio of the Messiah composed by Handel. It is impossible for me to express the pleasure I received. My mind was elevated to that degree, that I could almost imagine that I was being wafted to the mansions of the blest. There were more than a hundred performers, the best in England.”

I knew how he felt as I sat in the best seat of the house (thanks H+E!) and listened to Ronnie’s super-talented MD James Pearson lead his house band through a soul-heavy set that was flatly astonishing. If you’d asked me beforehand if I wanted to hear “Proud Mary”, I’d have politely declined. What could anyone bring to that karaoke warhorse, written by John Fogarty and pummeled into the ground by Tina Turner? I reckoned without Michelle Jones and a band who played everything with taste and feeling. It’s hard to know where to start… The first half had been the Alex Garnett quartet with Dave Jones on bass, fleet fingered but mountainously funky, Pearson on keys and Elliot Henshaw on drums, moving from the twenties to the seventies, jazz-wise, with ease. The same musicians became the nucleus of the band for the second set, joined by a five piece horn section featuring, joy of joys, a baritone sax. They also added three terrific singers and the sensational Adam Goldsmith, fresh from essaying every guitar style known to man in The Voice house band. A medley of Cop Theme Tunes was followed by a perfect “Night Train”, hot horns to the fore. There was so much to enjoy here, especially Goldsmith’s Curtis Mayfield-style licks wrapping around Polly Gibbon’s sultry vocal on Ray Charles “What Would I Do Without You?” and his angry soloing on “I’d Rather Go Blind”, counterpointing Michelle Jones.

I could have watched Elliot Henshaw all night. I had to go up to him afterwards and tell him that he was one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen. In the quartet it was “Big Noise From Winnetka” (expansive and dynamic Krupa-esque tom thumping) one moment, Mr Magic-era Harvey Mason (a model of funk precision) the next. His cymbal playing behind the soloists was hair-raisingly good, every intonation wieghted and propulsive. In the R ’n’ B/Soul second half, where they were reading charts for unfamiliar arrangements, he was just as jaw-dropping. Not a missed turnaround, not a bridge or chorus that didn’t lift higher than the one before. Hugely recommended, the Jook Joint’s on Sundays, once a month, with a shifting cast of great musicians.

Five Things: Wednesday 2nd April [Late]

Oxfam Remembers The Great Skip James, Marylebone High Street

Oxfam

 

Jesse Winchester: Not Dark Yet
…although news travelled around that it was. Looked out his great first album, on Ampex (a tape manufacturers’ short-lived attempt to run a record label), and listened again to a fine set of songs, helped along by Robbie Robertson’s light-handed production. And what now seems an envelope-pushing fold out sleeve…

Jesse

 

Loved this Patti Smith Questionnaire
Favourite song That No One Else Has Heard Of: “The… song that I think of is “If I Can’t Have You” by Etta & Harvey. Etta James used to sing with Harvey Fuqua and it’s an awesome song. No one knows about it – I’ve asked a million people, do you know this song by Etta & Harvey? And there’s just something so… it’s a very sensual… it’s a badass song!” Check the elongated “I” just before a minute in, from Etta, and the “Well-a-hooo” that Harvey follows with. Sensational. And in the week that my sister-in-law gives birth to a baby girl called Etta, most appropriate.

Lunch With Sammy & Louise Rimington

Sammy

 

1970 Jazz Fest poster, bass drum in the basement (with a calfskin head that Sammy had fitted, Sammy playing his 1982 Fender Telecaster Elite (a commercial unsuccessful attempt to do a Fender version of a Gibson Les Paul Recording model) and the mandolin that Sammy will take to this year’s Jazz Fest for his string band with Sava Venet.

George Harrison Selfie, Taj Mahal, sometime in the Sixties. Cool wide-angle.

George

 

Five Things: Wednesday 26th March

It’s Album Week at 5 Things! New Album Display
These may be my favourite two album covers, ever. Jimmy Reed’s a study in perfect 50s still-life, and Blind Blake (or rather, Blake Alphonso Higgs, not Blind Blake the bluesman) looks like some proto-Neville Brody illustration (if you remember his illustrated 12-inch singles from the 80s, that is). The guitar neck and peghead is fantastic, and the fingers are a little like Robert Johnson…

Blake

Check out the wonderfully-named Dust & Grooves
I really like Jeff Gold and there’s much to enjoy here. Dig Jimi’s personal album collection, the Rolling Stones eponymous debut album – “the first pop album with no type on the cover, thanks to their innovative manager, Andrew Loog Oldham” – and the great see-through Faust album, which I remember owning (and liking for the cover more than the music), but can no longer find!

Faust

I Read this Guardian piece, titled “Is this the first post-internet album?”
And then I read it again. And both times I didn’t understand a word of it. I didn’t understand the subject and I certainly didn’t get a sense of what it may possibly sound like. So I find the first track, “Satellites” online and there’s some industrial noise, the words “open the satellites” repeated a lot, some beats and a haircut. And nothing that sounds remotely new, post-internet or like a musical version of a William Gibson book.

From the blog, Just A Hint of Mayhem
“Don’t you just love Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets” from his 1973 double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? I certainly do. I knew that it wasn’t a live recording but the applause included on the track makes it sound as though it is. Did you know that the applause wasn’t even recorded at an Elton gig? In fact it is drawn from recordings of the audience clapping and shouting at Jimi Hendrix’s Isle Of Wight festival set in 1970. I know of another occasion where that kind of thing has happened too. The sound of the crowd used on the title track of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album is actually the applause taken from a live album by the Faces… Can any of you offer any similar gems?”

A Little More Llewyn Davis
Llewyn Davis has become our background music of choice over the last few months. I’m not sure why, as the album is not consistently good (in fact, I think the best thing on it are Dave Van Ronk’s “Green Green Rocky Road” and Dylan’s “Farewell”, the only original tracks) but it creates a great mood. So a few more ILD bits:

1> Annie Charters I wanted to know what Annie thought of the film and was pleased that both she and Sam loved it, while realising that it, of necessity, played loose with the truth of actual life in the village in 1962. Sam produced Inside Dave Van Ronk for Prestige, (apparently the cat was only there for a couple of frames as the cover was shot, but it was enough for the Coens), with Blue Note legend Rudy Van Gelder as engineer, which I hadn’t known. Annie took the lovely pic of Terri and Dave on a Village rooftop. She said that she and Sam were both mouth-agape at the re-creation of Moe Asch’s office (where he offers Llewyn Davis a coat instead of royalties). Apparently the walls really were covered with terrible paintings that Moe was convinced were priceless, and he left some to Sam and Ann in his will.

12-Inside
2> Oscar Isaac: “Here’s a crazy story. I was doing this really small movie and there was this guy in the scene, he was an extra, he’s in his sixties and he’s playing a drunk in a bar. There was this guitar just sitting there on the set and in between takes he picked it up and started playing. So I asked him what his story was, and he said that he was a guitar player from New York. So I told him that I had this audition coming up and that the part was based a little bit on Dave Van Ronk. So he says that he played with Dave Van Ronk. And then he told me to come by his place, and I asked him where that was and he told me that he lived above the Gaslight on MacDougal Street and that he’d lived there since the ’70s. It was like this time capsule. He had these stacks of records and guitars all over the place. And he doesn’t start playing Dave Van Ronk, he starts playing the stuff that Dave Van Ronk was listening to, like the Reverend Gary Davis and Lightnin’ Hopkins. And then he introduced me to Dave Van Ronk’s widow. And this was all before the audition. So I felt this has to happen. It was meant to be. So then I started playing with him. I’d go along to coffee houses and open up for him and we would share the basket. And that really immersed me in the whole scene and allowed an organic folk sound to come out.”
3> Richard Williams: “I’ve seen it a couple of times and was impressed by the faithful portrayal of the Greenwich Village folk scene as it prepared for the transition from Pete Seeger to Bob Dylan (although, as a friend pointed out, nobody tied a scarf with a loop in the way Oscar Isaac, who plays Davis, does until about 10 years ago).”

Extra! Goodbye Card from Dan Mitchell…
… as I leave my job. Thanks, Dan!

Good Luck

Five Things: Wednesday 19th March

Sammy Rimington, Martin Wheatley, Cuff Billett, Vic Pitt, Chris Barber, Kenny Milne, Camberley Cricket Club

Sammy&Chris

An unprepossessing room, but a great evening, with music ranging from New Orleans to St Louis and New York, via Hawaii (for Martin Wheatley’s cracking solo performance of “Laughing Rag”). Hadn’t seen Chris play for years, but nice to get a chance to thank him for his contributions to British & American music. And lovely to make the acquaintance of Martin, too modest to tell me that he was part of the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, but keen to share a love of Hawaiian guitarists in general and Roy Smeck, the “Wizard of the Strings”, in particular.

The Whistle Test 70s California Special
Two highlights (apart from the obvious ones, Little Feat’s “Rock ’n’ Roll Doctor” and James Taylor’s pellucid, almost weightless, guitar playing): JD Souther doing “Doolin-Dalton” with the accompaniment of a bass player who switched to piano for the bridge and coda, playing beautifully… just a shame that JD wasn’t handsome enough to join the Eagles. And Ry Cooder’s fantastic take on Sleepy John Estes “Goin’ To Brownsville” with quite the most violent mandolin playing ever committed to video.

Avicii, DJ, creator of the biggest hits on the planet, by Simon Mills, ES Magazine
“Bergling is on his computer. An Apple laptop screen illuminates the tired-looking but puckishly pretty-boy face (which Ralph Lauren chose to front its Denim & Supply jeans ads). His concentration is trance-like as his fingers move across the keyboard at the warp speed of a jonesing IT man. ‘Sorry. If you can wait a minute… I just have this tune in my head and I need to get it down before I forget.’ Avicii, who has worked with Madonna and Lenny Kravitz, the geeky Swede whom not even One Direction could knock off the number one spot last summer, is writing his next hit song. Right in front of me.

The melody coming from the mini speakers sounds plinky-plonky, almost puerile, but Bergling keeps trimming and honing, adding notes and beat-matching, turning the laptop to show me the Tetris visuals of the FL Studio programme. After five minutes, something approaching the top line of a hit emerges.
It’s impressive but somehow all too easy, too convenient to be what the old fart in me would call ‘real music’. ‘Listen,’ he says. ‘I don’t consider myself “a musician”. Yes, I can play guitar, I can play piano; in fact, I play almost every instrument. I was never good enough to perform with a band… but I always knew about melody. I could vision for how I wanted things to sound. And I don’t think you can say that what I do, what DJ producers do, is not “real music”… it’s electronic music. You are drawing the melodies, drawing the chord progressions. You are making music. Mozart wrote everything down on a piece of paper. DJs write on computers. I really don’t see any difference.’

There’s a pause. ‘I’m not comparing myself to Mozart, by the way…’

You just did.”

My New Favourite Blog: My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection
“Alex and I have lived together for 9 years. In those 9 years we have packed up, moved and unpacked his record collection 5 times. It’s about 15 boxes, about 1500 hundred records, “that includes the singles and stuff, which you’re also going to have to review.” Is what Alex just said to me from the other room.

This project was my idea, inspired by maybe one too many glasses of wine last weekend, when I was in charge of changing the music. So here we are. Alex’s taste in music could probably be best described as eclectic on the snobbier side. My taste in music has changed from the early beginnings of Disney musicals to Dave Matthews Band, to discovering the Pixies in college. I’ve never been ahead of the curve with music, but my taste could probably also be described as eclectic on the snobbier side too – just in a much more clueless way. Alex said reading a reaction from a person like me, rather than a person who knows about the history of what I might be listening to, who has been listening to the same stuff for decades and has the vocabulary to talk about it, will be funny, sincere and maybe even thought-provoking. Maybe? I don’t know, I guess we’ll see. Here are the rules I’ve set for my self. Start with the A’s. Listen to the entire thing even if I really hate it. And make sure to comment on the cover art. Are you with me? Let’s see how far I can go.”

Two excerpts: “There is an article by Ralph J. Gleason on the back cover of this album called Perspectives: The Death of Albert Ayler which is very good and making me wish I liked this music more. Maybe it’s an acquired taste. While I already knew that this type of jazz existed, this is probably my first time listening to an entire album of it all the way through and intentionally.”

“I really love these liner notes.  For the song “We all Love Peanut Butter” by the One Way Streets (which is also very good) it says: “One hot summer day in 1966, two mom-driven station wagons pulled up outside Sunrise Studios in Hamilton, Ohio and out piled 4 insane teens. While their moms set up a table on the lawn outside and played bridge and drank lemonade, the One Way Streets were inside the studio shredding their way through 2 songs they felt would create a major disturbance. As a finishing touch to their wild afternoon, they ripped off an eighty dollar mike on their way out the door and haven’t been heard of since.” Every single detail about that anecdote makes me very, very happy.”

Hate Is A Strong Word, Tim Chipping, Holy Moly, Thursday 13th March
“Just when you thought New Zealand singing teenager Lorde could do no wrong, she goes and upsets reggae fans. Lorde somewhat confusingly wrote on her blog: “I hate Reggae, Reggae makes me feel like am late for something.” She’s not welcome at the offices of newspaper The Jamaica Star. Their resident gossip columnist has put the “Royals” singer firmly in her place, roots-style. Writing in the paper’s Roun’ Up section, columnist Keisha says: “International artiste Lorde say she hate reggae music. Everybody nuh haffi like everything but HATE is a very strong word. Lorde, you always look like smeagol from Lord of the Rings. You always look like you a have seizure when you deh pon stage a try move you crawny body. If you need fi HATE anything, you need fi HATE you age paper. A nuh our fault say you a 17 and look like 3 million. A nuh our fault say you caan sing live. Gwaan from ya, Miss One Hit Wonder.”

Would anyone mind if we spent the rest of the day saying gwaan from ya?”

Five Things Photo Extra

Bob&Manny

Five Things: Wednesday 12th March

Photographers’ Gallery: Poor Andy Warhol Exhibition
Negligible photos badly printed. This was the only one I liked, mainly for John Oates’ T-Shirt.

12-Warhol H&O

Jazz Names
In a pile of things, I find the launch issue of The Rocking Vicar, Mark Ellen’s pre-Word “magazine”, which grew out of an early email newsletter. My favourite nugget is David Quantick’s Jazz Names: adding your dad’s nickname to the place you live. Mine at this time? Bilco Fitzrovia. Send in more!

Nothing about the Music Business ever changes
March 1, 2014: David Palmer, who sang lead for Steely Dan in the early days, is suing his old band. In a suit filed in Los Angeles Palmer claims that he is owed money as a result of royalties earned via satellite and streaming services. Palmer is contractually listed as a founding member of the group, and therefore entitled to one-sixth of all royalties earned from songs on which he performed. – Hollywood Reporter. Palmer sang on five songs on Steely Dan’s 1972 debut, Can’t Buy a Thrill, including the lead on “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)” and the hit “Dirty Work”, and background vocals on several songs on 1974’s Countdown to Ecstasy. Back then, he also sang lead in concert because Donald Fagen was not yet comfortable singing lead. Palmer was fired in April 1973 due to, as reported in Brian Sweet’s bio Steely Dan: Reelin’ in the Years, concerns about both his ability to interpret the songs and his habit of performing under the influence of alcohol. The lawsuit may have resulted in the song “Dirty Work” being left off the CD release of the American Hustle soundtrack. Apparently Steely Dan refused to allow “Dirty Work” on the OST CD whereas all the other ’70s acts did.– Ultimateclassicrock.com

Carla Jean Whitney Calls…
and she’s writing a book on Muscle Shoals, and she’s found a picture that I took of the sign, “Welcome To Muscle Shoals, Hit Recording Capital of the World”. Looking for images for her, I find my favourite picture, of Heather and great bass player Bob Wray, recording at 1000 Alabama Avenue, and this business card that I didn’t know I had.

ShoalsBH

Rewatching the film on BBC4 I found myself wishing for less of the Singing River stuff, waaaaay less of Bono (he ever record there? No. His music influenced much by what was recorded there? No.) and much more music. What was there was fantastic, especially the Wilson Pickett sessions (love the look on Roger Hawkins’ face when he recalls Pickett complimenting him on his drumming) and, of course, Spooner at the Wurlitzer playing those immortal chords…

Sad (or maybe not) Site Of The Week: Forgotify

Forgotify

Five Things: Wednesday 5th March

What’s Not to Love? Or Kill?
Looking for I don’t know, some picture of something, I noticed a few really interesting images come up in my google search, and that they belonged to a blog, Murder Ballad Monday. I’ve only just begun to delve into it, but if the post devoted to Norah Jones’ “Miriam” is anything to go by, it’s riveting. Highly recommended. A few weeks ago I caught NJ doing the revenge songs from the album this song was on, produced by Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, on Sky Arts’ Live From The Artists Den. Standing at the keys she had an intensity at odds with her rep and a terrific band to boot.

The Grit Stays in the Picture
Why do so few documentary makers retouch or clean up or adjust the exposure of the photographs they use? Studio City, a really likeable doc about the Van Nuys, Los Angeles studio where Buckingham Nicks met Fleetwood Mac and Nirvana recorded Nevermind  is particularly bad on the loRes/Overexposed/Scratch scale. I understand if you can’t source the originals easily, but the amount of “shit on the blanket” (as the printers used to say) was catastrophic. I could barely concentrate on the talking heads for exclaiming each time another 80s promo pic or candid studio Polaroid covered in gunk was lovingly panned over.

Accent – Up There With Meryl Streep!
Andre Benjamin catches Jimi’s voice amazingly well in All Is By My Side. And I’m not ashamed to say I’m really looking forward to this.

One paragraph from a lovely post on Robbie Fulks’ website about flying/snow/grandfathers/children/rock clubs and Fats Waller
“I must admit that I have had it with rock clubs. Airports have their hassles and troublesome personnel. But after navigating through them, something definite happens: you get from one place to another. After navigating the shoals of silliness at a rock club, you’re right where you started: obscure, penniless, and a little sad. It seems to me that the daily operational grind of these places – wiping down last night’s spilled drinks and body fluids with strong bleach, stocking the bar, transporting in the sound man and one dozen other miserably paid mortals, hauling in the drums and other big pieces, setting up hospitality, sound-checking, and so on up to load-out – is not commensurate to the social value of the service, which is to let young people exhibit their talents (usually imaginary) to an audience (also known as a handful of acquaintances cajoled and shamed into coming) in a professional production environment (!), so that the act can ultimately gain enough of a toehold, through multiple appearances in these disreputable sick wards, to climb to a height in the music firmament from which it can create artistic works in financial security and perform for acres of ecstatic consumers, forevermore, amen (and for this pipe-dream, there is no number of parenthesized exclamation points equal to the author’s derision).”

And on the anniversary of Richard Manuel’s death (March 4, 1986)…

Band

…a contact sheet from The Band at the Royal Albert Hall, June 1971 shot by my English teacher, John Cooke

Five Things: Wednesday 26th February

Of Time And The City
I caught twenty minutes of Terence Davies’ great half doc/half memoir, his love letter to Liverpool. From the Korean War footage, overlaid by the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” – a mixture that shouldn’t work, but does – through Terry’s hilariously voiced-over Yeah Yeah Yeahs when the Beatles come on-screen, to the stunning slum clearance/building of the tower-blocks sequence set to Peggy Lee singing “The Folks Who Live On The Hill”, it never fails to move. If you’ve not seen it, you can watch that scene here.

Jason Wood: The film shows you a Liverpool beyond The Beatles and football, which is what people tend to think about when they think about the city. Your narration is very significant. It lends character because it is so impassioned.

Terence Davies: What was odd was that I was writing this commentary as I was doing it and recording it as a rough guide. We got someone to do part of the narration, but it just didn’t work and the producers said, No, you must do it. I was worried that when you hear your own voice, it can sound a bit like the Queen Mother after she died. All my films have strong Liverpool accents. It always makes me feel a bit embarrassed… At one point they asked me to put in how I lost my accent and I said, “You can’t be serious? You really can’t be serious? I’m not doing that.” I was worried and I was staying with my sister Maisie and I said, “When did I lose my accent?” and she said, “You never had one!”

I have no illusions about my work but I must add I have no illusions about anybody else’s either. I am very strict with myself and I think, “no, that could have been improved”. It was what I thought was right at the time – and you have to stand by that. And if it completely fails, you have got to say, “But that is what I meant at the time.” There’s a line by Vaughan Williams, I think it’s on his Sixth Symphony, when he says, “I don’t know whether I like it, but it is what I meant.” And that’s a wonderful thing to say upon your own work.

Tim Sends This Link
…to Postmodern Jukebox’s rather lovely twenties-styled version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, perhaps inspired by Bryan Ferry’s take on his back catalogue. “My goal with Postmodern Jukebox is to get my audience to think of songs not as rigid, ephemeral objects, but like malleable globs of silly putty. Songs can be twisted, shaped, and altered without losing their identities – just as we grow, age, and expire without losing ours – and it is through this exploration that the gap between “high” and “low” art can be bridged most readily.” – Scott Bradlee, founder. Well, OK, Scott! File alongside The Ukelele Orchestra Of Great Britain and Pink Martini. Oh, and the Sad-Faced-Clown version of “Royals” rocks, too. Are you listening, Michael B?

A Quote I Really Liked
Laura Barton talking to Willy Vlautin, singer/guitarist with Richmond Fontaine: We’re sitting in an empty London pub, where the clipped twang of Vlautin’s Nevada accent seems to lift the gloom. Though he now lives in Oregon, he grew up in Reno, his father leaving home when he was four. His mother was left alone to raise their two sons. Although Vlautin was “so shy that I could barely go to school”, he was a diligent student who never seemed to be paid back with good grades. He lived largely inside his own head. “I’ve used escapism as a crutch my whole life,” he says. “I hated being a kid, so I escaped. But I never thought of myself as a rich guy driving a Cadillac hanging with James Bond. I was pragmatic. My big dream was to have an uncle that owned a wrecking yard and then I could just work there, and he’d actually like me and he’d make me dinner. And I would live in that fantasy world. I’d wake up every morning and check in.” …he’d actually like me and he’d make me dinner… That’s a line that could make you cry.

Live Music Extra:
1. Dotter scolds me for not mentioning her ‘awesome’ wedding band

And it’s true. I was so tired after the wedding I could barely think what to say. The band was put together by Mike Pointon, who I collaborated with on Ken’s book, alongside Ray Smith. It was made up of musicians who had played with Ken Colyer (Mike, since he was nineteen) supported by sons of Ken’s peers on drums and bass. They really swung. One guest, bowled over, assumed they’d been together for years, and at the end asked Mike how long “The Lavender Hill Mob” (the venue was on said hill) had played as a unit, and Mike answered “About three hours.” The acoustics were great, the sound of the musicians tight and warm, and the repertoire wide-ranging. Even when they were playing softly during the meal, people were applauding the solos. I’ve never seen that happen at a wedding before.

2. Jaz Delorean at The Alleycat

Alleycat
At the Iko’s Record Shop night, it was Lee Dorsey time, the highlight of which was Dom Pipkin’s wonderful re-imagining of “Working In A Coalmine”, in which he left the rhythm section behind and proceeded to conjure up all sorts in a trance-like meditation. I heard Scott Walker, Stravinsky, Booker, and Dr John before he got back on the straight and narrow… The evenings are always fairly ramshackle, with misses and hits, but there’s usually something like this to treasure. Jaz Delorean delivered my favourite band performance with a terrific take on Louis Prima’s medley of “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” on the crowded, tiny stage, featuring fabulously sleazy horns and a winning vocal from the guitarist (with the crowd on the chorus). Anyone trying to get to the women’s bathroom had to run the gauntlet of the four horn players (and an accordionist) who couldn’t actually fit on the stage.

3. Avant-improv at The Harrison
Mark and Tom describe their band, Throttling Tommy, as “the unlistenable in pursuit of the unplayable. A blues-rock power trio without the Marshall stacks and the bass player, who hasn’t turned up. And who have forgotten how to play blues. Or rock. Or anything else, for that matter. Allergic to songs”. A pretty succinct description, if you ask me, and their first gig doesn’t disappoint. I’m a sucker for funk drumming and trem-bar harmonics/histrionics, and they sound wonderful together in this blanket-covered de-mobbed bunkhouse, playing forty minutes without a safety net. Tom has a lovely line in, er, tom/cymbal interfacing, and it’s always fun listening to Mark trying to avoid anything as shocking as a melody. Video here.

Mark

Headliners Horseless Headmen were tight and fascinating. Stand up, G. Painting (guitar, effects king), Paul Taylor (trombone, fabulous tone), Nick Cash (drum kit and percussion, check out the upside-down water bottle) and Ivor Kallin (fretless bass guitar and chopsticks in beard). I love a gig that almost ends when an audience member shouts as an improvisation closes, “That was brilliant! You’ll never top that!” and the band actually have a discussion about whether playing another number (which there’s time for) is a hostage to fortune…

HH2

From our Woodstock Correspondent, John C
“Saw Prince a few times myself. Once in Denver he came out while Vanity 6 was setting up, sat down at a piano to the side of the stage and played for a half an hour. No mic, just for himself. The most mind-boggling stuff. We were up front and close enough to hear. If memory serves, I believe The Time came up after Vanity and before Prince. One of the funkiest nights of my life. I was levitating.”

Five Things: Wednesday 19th February

After last week’s scheduled interruption…

A gift from Bob & Sandy, in which stunning clay figures mash the Day Of The Dead with celebrity icons
Name all six, Win A Prize!

MexicoPrince’s plectrum from his first visit to London, 1981
As Prince plays small gigs in the capital, from front rooms in Leyton to the offices of The Guardian, a look back… I knew of Prince because my friend Mick had given me Prince, the album. I was working in my first  job at the Radio Times and went to the Lyceum  show with two friends from work, Sue and Ruby. I remember it being virtually empty as there hadn’t been much publicity. It was the Dirty Mind band of Andre Cymone on bass, Lisa Coleman and Matt Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z on drums and Dez Dickerson on guitar. The keyboardists were disguised (Matt Fink had some kind of radiation suit on) and the frontline wore underwear and trenchcoats. Quite mad. It was a spectacular show, with Prince’s guitar playing  outstanding, and they went down a storm with the few hundred people there (mostly music-biz types, I think). I was right at the front (well, the whole audience were, actually) and close enough to catch Prince’s plectrum.

Prince

I have a memory of Prince being bad-tempered, not with the audience, but at the empty hall. He stomped off at the end throwing his pick rather petulantly… and cancelled the rest of the tour. I recently read the brilliant Ian Penman on this gig. He hated it. Really, really hated it. See for yourself in this cut-down excerpt (I know I shouldn’t but it is pretty long: “For a wolverine habituee of the sharper clubs and bars of our capital such as myself, this tawdry ‘gig’ was something like a step into the horrors of Hieronymous Bosch from the accustomed gilt-edged decadent sumptuousness of Klimt! The dry ice and fright lights – whose calculated effect is undermined and rendered pretty pathetic by way of the Lyceum’s half-emptiness – turn out to be a good index of the Prince live repertoire’s ancient grasp of sub-cultural subtlety: the plot doesn’t thicken, it keeps its consistency. Heavy, stodgy, overdone, tasteless, lacking in spice or space – you get the picture? ‘Outfront’, Prince prances in unison with his two guitar cohorts – they walk it like they talk it, as the saying goes, every song split down the middle or battered to bed with the tedious exaggeration of third-rate Heavy Metal. Someone remarked to me the next day that oh, you know what these young chaps are like with their Hendrix fixations. Hendrix? It never began to shimmer with a hint of the historical avant-shapelessness or spirited slipstreams or sexual harangues of a Hendrix! This was calculated – Madison Square Garden here we come! – coldly choreographed strut rut muzak, in which context Prince’s thigh flashes and camp come-hither persona is stretched pretty thin. My two fellow funkateers and I unanimously elected to wander away from the endlessly guitar wrenching spectacle after about half an hour – we didn’t really even ‘walk out’; it was more of an embarrassed shuffle.”

I, on the other hand, was obviously taken in by the dry ice and the third-rate Heavy Metal. I still am – see the music player on the right…

Annie Clark review, from our French Correspondent, Steve Way
“St Vincent was awesome at Le Cigalle – small theatre venue, great fun – she has the arty moves, channeling  a deranged Barbie rock android. Did the whole gig, including climbing steps, on high heel strappy black pixie boots. Fiona most impressed.”

Tip Jar in Attendant, a Victorian Men’s urinal turned cafe in Foley Street. Highly recommended for Ironwork, and coffee

Tipjar…and on the playlist as we ate breakfast, The Tallest Man On Earth. Rather great, all in all.

Oh, and I thought I might write about the soul-sapping Brits…
but every record tells a story does it better. Except he fails to mention the strange absence of any discernible talent in Ellie Goulding, Kate Moss’s voice (don’t speak, don’t break the illusion), the pitiful MasterCard plinth, Pharell’s Club Tropicana trousers (I said he’d look back in six months and rue the day, but Miche pointed out that six hours might be more accurate), and the absurd bigging-up of host James Corden by most of the bands (why? He was so poor). OK, that’s it.

Five Things: Wednesday 5th February

Cello/Ship, Excellent Window Display, Selfridges

Cello

Jody Rosen on the Dylan-Chrysler-Superbowl-Halftime-Ad
“So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone… we will build your car.” In the era of globalisation let’s not forget that Chrysler is an Italian-owned car company. I was pleased to discover Jody Rosen’s blog on New York Magazine’s website. He was terrific on the Grammies, and great on this: “As Dylan, age 72, moves into the twilight, he can see the boldface obituaries, rearing up on the horizon: Bob Dylan, America’s Great Protest Singer, Dead. There is clearly nothing on earth that irks Bob Dylan more than the specter of those wrongheaded and inevitable headlines. Dylan hasn’t recorded a protest song in decades, but make no mistake: The car ad and the yogurt ad, they’re protests.” Of course, lots of people thought this a ridiculous and untenable position, and Conan O’Brien did a very funny uncut version. And, visually slapdash as the ad is, I like the way that, as Dylan says cool, it runs into the motorcycle revving along the highway.

“As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden/The wounded flowers were dangling from the vine”
Hugh sends a link to a great blog: Gardening With Bob Dylan. “Written by a working gardener, with regular updates, easy ideas and thinking aloud. I have a garden of my own in Kent on clay soil and in a droughty area. I have recently acquired another, in Piemonte, Italy, higher and more continental in climate. I’m female and not very young. Other enthusiasms are garden literature and Bob Dylan. He has something to say about everything, even gardening.”
From the about page: “I’m no kind of aesthetic theoretician. But I have always believed that a successful piece of art will finger the synapses of your brain and your emotions together, setting up sparks between them. With luck you get a multiplicity of resonances, bouncing around, throwing light on both the world and yourself in it. For me, that is what Dylan does; it’s not just music and singing, it’s an open act of creation which you, the listener, have a hand in and a responsibility for. You have to listen. You have to concentrate. You develop meaning together with the singer and your own understanding of the world. To be more prosaic, you need new thoughts as you work in a garden; otherwise you’re going round and round the yearly practices, the endlessly repeated nuggets of advice. I like those thoughts to open and widen the vista in the mind, to go beyond the plant or the material, or the practice. To join things up, to express something beyond themselves, to be part of life. Let me out of the fenced enclave, however beautiful! Dylan’s songs will always lead me somewhere. They’ll connect me up, charm or amuse me, and lead me back to myself again, to what I’m doing, or what I care about. So I write my posts carefully, sticking to one song each time and enjoying the challenge of tying the song to a gardening preoccupation, or the lessons I have learnt in many years of making gardens.”

Bob by Allen
Mick Gold sends this, one of a series of portraits of Dylan taken in 1990 by Allen Ginsberg. Interesting clothing.

Bob by Ginsberg

“Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact…”
Levon Helm, singing “Atlantic City”, in Ain’t In It For My Health, a documentary where mortality weighs heavy as we follow Levon going to a variety of specialists for invasive procedures as he puts together his final album, Electric Dirt.

Some thoughts:

  • It’s fascinating to see Larry Campbell struggle with Levon’s anger. “I would go out on that Grammy night if they could tell me what good it’s gonna do for Rick and Richard… they never wanted to do a thing for ’em when they’se around.”
  • A fine version of Randy Newman’s “Kingfish” with Levon on funky acoustic rhythm guitar.
  • As eloquent as summation of The Band as I’ve ever heard, from Barney Hoskyns.
  • Levon’s Woodstock memories: “Fortunately I’d taken some of that brown acid!” he cackles.
  • Does anyone else remember Jesus, thinner-than-thin with long straight hair? Always shedding his clothes to dance at the Marquee or Reading or the free concerts in the park? More often than not, he was there. And appearing here, in some Wembley ’74 footage of The Band playing “Chest Fever”.
  • “In the Pines”, played to his new grandchild. Starting as a lullaby, it gets more and more intense as it goes on. As Levon plays his Gibson mandolin, a montage plays of him drumming through the ages. “The best seat in the house” he’d say, as he tub thumps behind Ronnie Hawkins in the Hawks, behind Dylan in ’65 and 74, and in The Band. The baby’s mother, Levon’s daughter Amy, can’t stop herself from joining in.
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