Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 11th July

Poliça/Dark Star
Reasons to Hate: Huge amounts of reverb. Achingly trendy/Hipster friendly. Arty Double tracked female vocal. Iconic Grateful Dead title. [Dangerous to pilfer Iconic Grateful Dead titles]. Reasons To Love: Wonderful live drumming with a huge open-room sound. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a pummeling four-on-the-floor (hey, even Take That’s Shine has a fabulous drum track, all Rak Studios, circa Mickie Most). Cracking tune. And the arty double-tracked vocal really works, weaving in and out of unison. It reminds me of Al Green singing around and off himself in How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? Add all this to some great twanging bass and slightly out-of-focus horns and it’s a winner. Granted, this could end up wearing thin over more than a few tracks, but Dark Star and Lay Your Cards Out (for another great melody and truly insane drumming) are absolutely terrific.

Seven Is The Magic Number
A review of a new version of Sophocles’ Antigone by Anne Carson (Antigonick) in the New Yorker printed this fine single-verse version of the siege of Thebes: “Seven gates/and in each gate a man/and in each man a death/at the seventh gate.” Seven is a very lyrical number— especially in country blues. There’s Muddy Waters, singing Willie Dixon’s Hoochie Coochie Man: “On the seventh hour/On the seventh day/On the seventh month/The seven doctors say/He was born for good luck/And that you’ll see/I got seven hundred dollars/Don’t you mess with me.” Or Dylan’s Ballad Of Hollis Brown: “There’s seven breezes a-blowin’/All around the cabin door/Seven shots sound out/Like the ocean’s pounding roar/There’s seven people dead/On a south Dakota farm/Somewhere in the distance/There’s seven new people born.”

Nora Ephron (and Susan Edmiston) interview Bob Dylan, Albert Grossman’s office, late summer, 1965
But negro rhythm and blues has been around underground for at least twelve years. What brought it out now?
The English did that. They brought it out. They hipped everybody. You read an interview asking who the Beatles’ favourite singer was and they say Chuck Berry. You never used to hear Chuck Berry records on the radio—hard blues. The English did that. England is great and beautiful, though in other ways kinda messy. Though not outside London…”
In what way messy?
There’s a snobbishness. What you see people doing to other people. It’s not only class. It’s not that simple. It’s a kind of Queen kind of thing. Some people are royalty and some are not.” Plus ça change…

Best Thing I Read About The Gracelands Controversy
Following Stuart Jeffries’ Guardian review of the 25th anniversary documentary, where he concluded that Paul Simon should have left the music alone:—“it gave the chance to hear unsullied the South African music that thrilled Simon 25 years ago. How lovely to hear, for instance, accordionist Forere Motloheloa laying down a groove without Paul Simon singing over it. If only it had remained the music Simon loved, rather than the music he, having loved, used.”*

Widlow, on the Guardian’s blog, answered with this: “Paul Simon clearly was a politically naive, contrary, slightly obsessive, perfectionist artist, who may have thought himself above such things as needing permission from the ANC. But what he produced was akin to Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics: a body of work that incarnated the exact opposite of the Apartheid philosophy, that sang out “Mixing cultures is good”, that proclaimed “These musicians are virtuosos and their culture is vibrant”, that put Black and White people into the same studio and had them eating and drinking together and using the same toilets and calling each other Brother…”

*This footage of the original 1985 sessions was extraordinary. There were children and babies sitting on the studio floor as the guitarists danced around the backing singers, vaulting their legs over their guitars (!) with the monumental bass and accordian lines of what became Boy In The Bubble booming out…

Leaving On A Jet Plane
Photo found in PA Photos: Britain in the 60s. British pop groups, bound for the USA on a tour which will yield half a million dollars. They are the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Alan Price Set and Eire Apparent. Eire Apparent?

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