Five Things: Wednesday, 23rd July

Is it Just Me…
Or are flares and bell bottoms making a comeback? First it was the percussionist with the Brian Jonestown Massacre with his flares, then this week I saw a young hipstery type in Berners Street with what was defiantly a pair of bell bottoms, literally covering his shoes. I know everything comes around in the end, but are these two a fashion-forward tip of the iceberg?

Attempted Fig Leaf for People building Apartments for multimillionaires, Fitzrovia
As we see, dead rocks stars can’t control who takes their name in vain. The estate agent gibberish on this window is chilling.

Fitzroy

Now That’s What I Call A Compilation
And not just because it features Ken Colyer playing “The Red Flag”. From likeahammerinthesink: “Since the beginning of this year I have been making one compilation CD each month. The tracks on each mix come from CDs from charity shops (mostly from my local one) and I exclude music bought elsewhere… that is the only constraint. The mixes tend to be combinations of the popular and the obscure so include jazz, pop, noise and anything else that I like.”

Recommended: Tim’s Vermeer
At the end of this really interesting film about trying to discover why Vermeer’s paintings feel the way they do, the credits roll with, yes, “When I Paint My Masterpiece” playing. Groan. Obvious. But wait, it’s a different Bob version. It’s great. It sounds like the Jesse Ed Davis and Leon Russell session, Dylan’s singing is nasal and ragged and it has a corny, but great, showbizzy ending… apparently Dylan was “very fond” of the film and allowed its use, thus continuing the tradition of giving filmmakers (the Coens, Cameron Crowe) alternate versions for use in their films. nb. Also noticed Damien Tedesco amongst the sound recordists and wondered if he was a relation of Wrecking Crew star Alumni, guitarist Tommy Tedesco…

Not Recommended: YSL
Slightly tedious biopic of Yves Saint Laurent. Very difficult to have as your central character a man who looks at the floor all the time. The early parts are best, before the drug addled tedium of the Seventies. The music during the scene where YSL gets the idea for his Mondrian-inspired dresses is a cracking piece of garage rock, that the credits pin down as The Bossmen from 1966 (Dick Wagner’s first band before The Frost and a career working with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed). It’s called “On The Road” and it’s all you’d want from a mid-Sixties band from Saginaw, Michigan. “I walked a million miles since Sunday/And still I got no place to go”.

Five Things: Wednesday, 16th July

Watching: Amazing Bass Lines
I don’t know whether I admire his stamina or dexterity more. In fact maybe it’s his memory that is the most impressive thing about this…

Watching: Ray Charles sing the hell out of “Sail On Sailor”
Thanks to Grahame for putting me on to this. Fast forward to 9.08. It’s the Beach Boys 25th Anniversary in 1986. It’s in Hawaii. Carl and Brian do a very strange intro, you’re not sure where it’s leading, then suddenly it’s Ray – in an awesome flower-print jacket and garlanded with a Lei.

Finding: A pack of Neil Diamond Playing Cards at a rather desultory Record Fair

Diamond

Watching: A Recreation of The Sopranos’ Credit Sequence in Grand Theft Auto Style
Why Recreate The Sopranos’ Credit Sequence in Grand Theft Auto Style? Because it was there to be done…

Listening to: Lily Allen on Desert Island Discs
“This song was the first dance of mine  and my husband’s… It was really sweet, actually. Sam and I got together the day I played Glastonbury and I remember I had a week off after that, and I hired a yurt and put it up in my dad’s back garden and invited him down. And as we left he gave me this mix CD that he’d made for me, and this was the first song that was on it and it became the song that we danced to at our wedding. We actually flew the guy that sang it, Tommy McLain, who’s in his nineties, all the way from Louisiana with an eleven-piece band and he played this song…” Tommy McLain’s “Grow Too Old” is a great, great cover version, that finds a seam of melancholy in the midst of songwriter Bobby Charles’ swaggering braggadocio. It was originally on a fabulous compilation called Another Saturday Night, a celebration of the sound of South Louisiana made in 1974 by Charlie Gillett for his Oval Records label.

Five Things: Wednesday 9th July

Cloud Lamp. I want.

Lamp
I’ve always loved the sound of thunder or rain on records, and when I saw this I tried to remember some songs that use thunder, but, with the exception of Eminem’s “Stan”, all the ones I thought used thunder, didn’t. But I did stumble across this great piece of audio of The Shangri-Las recording “Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)”, so all was not lost.

Brian Jonestown Massacre
There’s an appropriate smell of patchouli from the row ahead of me, as it’s possibly the first time I’ve watched a band in the Roundhouse since the ZigZag concert of 1974 with Mike Nesmith headlining. Actually, I remember James “Blood” Ulmer there later than that… but that ruins the patchouli reference… anyway – the audience is confronted by a wall of guitarists when the BJM take to the stage. I ask Jack why they have so many and he says, “In case Anton Newcombe fires one during the gig”, and I’m not entirely sure he’s joking. Three guitarists all playing Gibson 335s – one a twelve string – with lead BJM person, Anton Newcombe, playing a Dave Grohl Signature Epiphone, which is 335-like. One or other will occasionally change guitars for a Vox Teardrop, but with no discernable difference to the sound. At one stage the keyboardist gets out a guitar so the count is six including the bass player. Anton himself plays like he’s just mastered Bert Weedon’s Play In A Day and sings in a rather Garth from Wayne’s World voice. The only non-guitarist is the drummer, and he’s the hardest-working man on the stage. Out front is Josh, a languid percussionist, who wears bell bottoms. It’s deeply conservative, but fun, and they indulge in some trippy wig-outs.

Having not knowingly heard a note of their oeuvre I had few preconceptions, but it’s an entirely pleasant noise, as they churn around the chords of “Hey Joe” on one song, “All Along The Watchtower” on another. At some points they even sound like the Dave Clark 5. But what they really sound like is those bands that you see in the dance scene of a late 60s-early 70s movie, Hollywood hippie music shading into dumb frat boy rock. Terrific!

Loudon Wainwright in Uncut
How inconvenient was the “New Bob Dylan” tag: “Both good and bad. Who else was a “new Dylan”? John Prine, Steve Forbert, Elliot Murphy, Bruce. I made a joke about how we’re all in a 12-step programme and we meet in Buenos Aires once a year, or at Bruce’s house, as his is the biggest.”

Summer Exhibition
Seen at the Royal Academy’s Summer Show (the usual insane mix of great and not-great art, and enjoyable for both), this beautiful small felt coat, by Eve Gonzales, called A Coat For My Daughter, and embroidered with great names: Ivor Cutler, Music From Big Pink, Itchycoo Park, Peggy Lee, even the Shangri-Las.

Coat

 

Great Skewering of the absurd Robin Thicke by Peter Robinson in The Guardian
Thicke says that his next album is called Paula in an attempt to win his estranged wife back: “A pop entity more self-aware than Thicke – and that’s all of them except Jessie J – might say: “Fair play, this entire debacle has played out in public but should be salvaged, if indeed it can be salvaged at all, in private.” Not the case for the “Give It 2 U” hit-maker. The announcement came of album’s tracklisting. Opening with “You’re My Fantasy”, Thicke’s opus subsequently delivers, in order, “Get Her Back”, “Still Madly Crazy”, “Lock the Door”, and “Whatever I Want”, which reads less like a romantic gesture and more like a plot to violate a restraining order…”

Five Things, Wednesday 2nd July

This Is Revealing
The Making of Blonde On Blonde. The excellent Oxford American just goes about its way, publishing great piece after great piece: this month it’s Sean Wilentz going behind the scenes of the making of Blonde On Blonde in both New York and Nashville: “The songs are rich meditations on desire, frailty, promises, boredom, hurt, envy, connections, missed connections, paranoia, and transcendent beauty—in short, the lures and snares of love, stock themes of rock and pop music, but written with a powerful literary imagination and played out in a 1960s pop netherworld.” His reconstruction of the feel in the studio is terrific, and chock full of nuggets: “Fewer than twelve hours later, everybody was back in the studio to start in on what Dylan called “Like a Woman”. The lyrics, once again, needed work; on several early takes, Dylan sang disconnected lines and semi-gibberish. He was unsure about what the person described in the song does that is just like a woman, rejecting “shakes,” “wakes,” and “makes mistakes”. The improvisational spirit inspired a weird, double-time fourth take, somewhere between Bo Diddley and Jamaican ska, that on the tape finally disintegrates into a voice in the background admitting, “We lost, man.” If you have any interest in this period of Dylan’s music, read it.

This Is Great
Unlock The World, Avis Advert. Having watched Saving Mr Banks (a gently pointless little tale) it was amusing to see the subject of the film’s emotive centre, “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”, featured in the new Avis Car Rental Ad. Made a refreshing change from the usual dreadful Eurotrash EDM that the current Mercedes and Nissan ads have as their soundtrack. In fact, the juxtaposition of the nostalgic croon of David Tomlinson with the finely shot (and expensive-looking) black & white works really well. I’d love to see which photographers’ books they cribbed the shots from. The stills approach is very interesting, as car ads invariably have endless shots of vehicles moving at speed, and this one only has movement at the end.

This Is Insane
“Perfect”, Rob Cantor. Very inspired, to start with Randy Newman, slightly off on Willie Nelson, but pretty spot on for the rest. I especially loved Ian McKellen, Flipper and the trumpet solo, but the female singers are the best: Billie Holiday, Cher, Shakira, Gwen Stefani, Britney, Bjork and Christina Aguilera.

This Is Sad
The death of Bobby Womack. At one point, early in our career as Hot House, Mark & I must have worn our copy of The Poet II down to the bone. For at least a year, everything that we wrote had its roots, lyrically or musically, in that album. We went to see Womack & Womack play the Shaw Theatre (that’s Bobby’s brother and step-daughter) during their “Love Wars” tour, we saw Bobby somewhere, I can’t remember where, maybe at The Venue or the Town & Country, and sought out his back catalogue (even including BW goes C+W, mainly for the cover). A few years ago, in a period where Mark and I were recording stuff again, Mark sent me a lovely piano and guitar instrumental, with a kind of Southern swing, and I started thinking about Eddie Hinton, a soul brother of Bobby’s, who had a voice like Otis and a playing style that was influenced by, or maybe was an influence on, Womack’s own take on the guitar. I thought about the stuff that Eddie and Bobby played on in Muscle Shoals and wrote a tribute to the both of ’em. It’s in the music player to the right.

This Is Rather Lovely
A London Palladium tea towel. A good week, when you could see both Max Miller and Fats Waller.

Fats

Five Things: Wednesday 25th June

My two favourite bits of ephemera found on the web this week
Roxy Music small ad in the Music Press. Those were the days. I think the pic on the right was an album cover, but I’m not sure. Whatever, top marks!

Roxy
Horseless Headmen, The Harrison

HH

Forty five minutes of improvised fabulousness: with added drummer, Tom Atherton, who imbued proceedings with a mighty roar that still allowed the terrific Nick Cash (regular drummer) to decorate and amplify the noise with bells, bike chains and upturned water dispensers. Guitarist G Painting seemed to be initiating the proceedings this time round, alternating an almost metal attack with delicate and spiky Chinoiserie. Bassist Ivor Kallin was propulsive and gulping, and trombonist Paul Taylor’s organic rasp and great ear for a melody (he’d been playing along to Duke Ellington on the sound system before they started) added to the Headless mix. Sometimes it felt and sounded like they were building the Titanic in a tiny basement; at others, when they stroked a melody tenderly, like a warm bath.

Mavis Staples talking to Elon Green about recording The Weight for The Last Waltz, The New Yorker
Just an excerpt: “The Last Waltz was, as Helm wrote in his memoir, deemed “too lily-white and missing something crucial.” And so, not long after the show, the Staples Singers, a popular gospel group and old friends of the Band, performed “The Weight” on an M.G.M. soundstage in front of an audience of two hundred and fifty people. As the song finishes up, the camera settles on the Staples family—Roebuck (“Pops”), out of focus in the background, and his daughters, Cleotha, Yvonne, and Mavis. Mavis, closest to the camera, throws her head back, leans toward the mic, and says, almost inaudibly, “Beautiful.” Here is Mavis Staples’s memory of that session: “It was so beautiful to me. I was surprised that was caught on tape, you know, because I thought I was whispering. It wasn’t rehearsed to go like that. It was just a feeling that brought that on. The excitement of being with our friends—Levon and Danko and those guys were such good friends of ours—to be singing with them, and knowing that this is going to be on the big screen, the silver screen, it was just a moment in time for me…

Scorsese gave us all a break at one point, and everybody scattered. Levon was on his drums, still drumming. So Pops walked back there. “Hey, Levon!” Levon said, “Hey Roebuck!” And they talked a bit, and all of a sudden Pops realized that Levon was smokin’ two cigarettes. He said, “Levon, man, you’re smoking two cigarettes at a time?” And Levon held one of ’em up and said, “Oooooooh, Roebuck. You gotta try this one!” And that one was marijuana! Pops said, “Man, I don’t want none of that mess.” Daddy was so tickled. We talked about that forever

And I remember everything about it. I remember every moment that we had doing that. Pops said, “Mavis! Baby, you shouldn’t carry it out so long like that,” when I go, “Heeeyyyy yeeeeaaah.” And I said, “Nah, daddy, that’s the good part. That’s what I feel.” He said, “O.K., do what you feel. That’s the best thing. Do what you feel.”

Busking at Clapham, 1980s
Among Bob Mazzer’s pictures of the London underground during the 80s at the Howard Griffin Gallery I was drawn to this as Clapham Common was my local tube station then (this could be Clapham North or South, all three look alike). Doesn’t that seem like a proto-Jack White, down in the tube station at midnight? And I don’t think the guy singing is actually with the band…

Clapham

Bob Dylan by artist Martin Creed, The Guardian
Jeff also gave me tapes, including a bootleg of the Bootleg Tapes (I think they mean the Basement Tapes – ed) that I still play. I have a lot of cassettes from that time and a car that plays tapes, so I still listen to Jeff’s bootleg when I’m driving. I love the Bootleg Series: those funny versions of songs often seem better than the official versions. They haven’t been cleaned up. I got into Bob Dylan, again, because of the 1997 album Time Out of Mind, which seemed like the start of a whole new thing. It’s the most beautiful, peaceful music, but also the funniest, most thoughtful and stupid music I could possibly imagine. It feels like it’s got everything in it, but without necessarily making sense. Things fly in from left, right and centre. There are different ideas, turns of phrase, beautiful pieces of music, catchy bits, but it’s mysterious and I can’t understand it. It doesn’t add up. One song, “Highlands”, is 15 minutes long and sounds as though he’s just making the story up as he goes along. It’s brilliant. It reminds me of something I’m told the painter Gerhard Richter once said: “I want my work to be stupid, like nature.”

Five Things: Wednesday, 18th June

I saw an advert for Steven Seagal’s Blues Band, Clapham Grand, July 25th
Tragically this is not a joke. We all remember Bruce Willis, don’t we? And YouTubing Steve confirms that he has the moolah to hire a good band and buy a bizarre snakeskin coat, and the chops to approximate a grunting blues/rock style allied to a very odd playing technique… but dear God, can you imagine two hours of it?

I learned how to make an EDM track in 5 minutes
Sad, but possibly true…

My ears pricked up…
…during Brazil v Croatia’s halftime break as the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Darlin’ be Home Soon” soundtracked a McDonalds Ad. Seems awful when songs you really like become used to hawk something. Written for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1967 film You’re a Big Boy Now, it’s possibly the only song ever to use the word “dawdled”.

I heard the best Rockabilly Busker ever, Tottenham Court Road Tube
Shaking his booty, chops to die for. As I walked past he seemed to be essaying a bit of Cliff Gallup crossed with Danny Gatton. He really had it all…

Billybusk

I bought Harvey Kubernick’s “Turn Up The Radio” in the gleaming new Foyles
There to hear Mark Kermode talk, it was nice to see a bookseller with faith in the Bricks and Mortar, and it reintroduced me to browsing the racks. It felt like the days when you could only get imported American books in Compendium at Camden Town, and I left with a list of things to go back and buy. Turn Up The Radio is terrific, both in words and pictures, and it sent me back to listen to Skip Battin’s album Skip, as Kim Fowley was the lyricist, and he features heavily in the book (it’s subtitled Rock, Pop, and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972 and is highly recommended for lovers of that time and place). Skip was a record I found in the mid-Seventies at the library in Theobald’s Road, which was obviously stocked by a connoisseur of LA Rock (unless the connoisseur was a customer who just asked the librarian to order in all kinds of strangeness). Whatever, I borrowed this album a lot at the time, mainly for a song I loved, called “The St. Louis Browns”, a strange retelling of the story of the Cleveland Browns baseball team and their relocation to St. Louis. While that still sounds great, the song I liked most as I listened again was the one in the music player on the right, “Captain Video”.

 

 

 

Five Things: Wednesday, 11th June

Lorde, Shepherd’s Bush Empire
It would be an exaggeration to say that one song brought me here, but not by much. That pop masterwork and critique of consumer rapping, “Royals”, is actually joined on the album by other good songs, and they all translate to the stage in a club/dance music fashion, with sub-sonic bass, crashing beats and synth string pads. The lighting is simple but effective and she’s not afraid to be minimal – some songs have very little safety net going on musically behind her. As Kitty Empire said in The Observer, “tonight’s gig sometimes has the atmosphere of a rave in an art gallery”. And even though at times it feels like a PA rather than a proper concert, with the banked backing vocals all flown in by the keyboardist, it’s seventy minutes of really enjoyable noise. Yes, I’m too old to be here among the mid-twenty-something couples that surround me, but what the hell. I actually like gigs where I don’t have a slavish devotion to the music – when I saw Mos Def at the same venue I only really knew the brilliant “Quiet Dog” from the album he was promoting, but it was a terrific show.

Lorde

I was taken aback by how much the audience loved Lorde, howling like religious devotees every time she did her trademark hair toss, and screaming at the end of every song. She couldn’t stop saying how much playing the Empire meant to her (it’s certainly a change from playing to 50,000 people in Lisbon a few days earlier) and seemed genuinely delighted by the response. A nice cover of The Replacements’ “Swingin’ Party” quietens down the mood for a short spell but it soon vibes up again and by the time of “Team”, she’s added a gold cape and cannons fire paper squares (see above) in the air. Then she’s gone, no encore, with the crowd suddenly stilled, all hint of messianic fervor gone as they swarm out of the doors and on to the Green.

From a site Bob G recommends, two lovely 1977 photos
David Byrne, journalist Lisa Robinson, and Ramones manager Danny Fields in Paris, during the Talking Heads/Ramones European tour, 1977 and Iggy Pop photographed by Esther Friedman, The Idiot/Lust For Life era, West Berlin 1977.

Byrne-Iggy

Best Dancing Seen This Week
Sam Herring, Future Islands, “Seasons”, Letterman show. I’m essentially resistant to Future Islands brand of synth pop (I always listen to anything that Laura Barton mentions, but they left me cold). This, however, is kinda great. Patently sincere, equal parts Kevin Eldon, Joaquin Phoenix, and Anthony Hopkins’ Lecter, it elicited this excellent comment on YouTube: “Oh noes! he needs to stop!”

Starbuck
Very funny French Canadian film with a great central performance from Patrick Huard as David, father (by sperm donation) to 200 kids (remade as Delivery Man with Vince Vaughn for the US, apparently unsuccessfully). Recommended.
“David! What are you doing here? I spoke to the psychologist. He said he met you and you’re perfectly normal.”
“I told you so…”
“You’re not normal! I’ve known you 20 years. You’re not normal. How much did you lose in that scheme to import Cuban cigars?”
“The guy seemed like a legit businessman…”
“He walked around in a swimsuit! Who does business with a guy in a swimsuit? Make sure you mention you once paid $500 for one of Hall and Oates’ guitar picks.”
“When they die, it’ll be worth a fortune…”
“That won’t be for another 30 years! Besides, it’s Hall and Oates! They’d do a gig at a kids’ party for $500!”

Imelda May, Later
Catching up with a particularly drab edition of Later (Sharon Van Etten, Wild Beasts and Damien Jurado all vying for title of Dullest Four Minutes Of Music TV, 2014), headlined by Arcade Fire (David Byrne, get your lawyers! Sue Them!) the stand out for me was Imelda May, whose band of wonderfully-faced men created a lovingly noir-lit rockabilly blues to back her on “Gypsy In Me”. Darrell Higham’s guitar introduction was a thing of wonder, from the haunted feedback-and-whammy-bar start to the steely, rust-drenched trilling that set the stage for Imelda to strut upon. So often, this retro stuff just falls flat on its face, but she delivered a ramrod-straight performance that kept the tension up.

 

Five Things: Wednesday 4th June

Jane Bown Exhibition at King’s Place
A very nice, small exhibition of Jane’s work, in which I really liked this indirect portrait of Sinead O’Connor. I remember when I was at the Observer we were doing a piece on U2. To their credit, they asked if Jane could go to Dublin and photograph them. We were only too happy to send her, and she came back with shots of them together on the docks, and individually in a pub nearby. I had worked with Jane a fair bit at that time and I think I was the first person to ask her to try shooting in colour, for a series on estimable women in The Listener (in the interests of full disclosure it wasn’t my idea, but Russell Twisk’s, my editor). Anyway, I laid it out and used the four single shots because I thought that they were far better than the group shots. Jane, however, didn’t, and it took some time to be forgiven…

Jane

Will Birch writes about Nick Lowe’s (What’s so funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
A couple of excerpts: “Tune-wise, Lowe acknowledges the influence of Judee Sill and her ‘ginchy little lick’ in “Jesus Was A Cross Maker.” Never would have spotted that, but now Will mentions it… “In 1992 the song was covered by American musician Curtis Stigers for the soundtrack album to the hit movie The Bodyguard. It became the biggest selling soundtrack recording of all time, consequently earning Lowe considerable royalties, allowing him to work at a more elegant pace, but also enjoy artistic control of his subsequent music and retain his trusty road band. The song is still a permanent fixture in Lowe’s live shows. Sung at a slow tempo to acoustic guitar accompaniment, it has acquired an almost hymn-like quality and his attentive audiences listen in reverence. He recalls the song’s genesis: “I think I’d originally thought of it as being funny, because the old hippie thing, which I’d invested a lot of my time and energy into, had become a load of old bollocks. I had that poetic thing… ‘As I walk this wicked world, searching for light…’ I was doing it tongue in cheek, using those words. I thought it was a fantastic title, I couldn’t believe my luck. As long as that title popped up now and again it didn’t really matter what I sang about in between… ”

Really? No Spindle Trails? Then a bargain, I’d say…

Alexis


I love the, uh, over-the-top listings of some items on ebay (this is heavily edited): “A TRULY STUNNING, 60 YEAR-OLD DISC WITH A FANTASTIC HERITAGE – EVERY COLLECTOR’S DREAM!! Wow!!! Recorded in February 1957 and issued in the UK shortly thereafter, this absolutely incredible LP from ALEX KORNER’S BREAKDOWN GROUP featuring CYRIL DAVIS (sic.) is one of the most important items in the history of British Blues!!! The LP was produced, in a run of just 99 copies in order to avoid liability to UK ‘Purchase Tax’, by the now legendary ‘Dobell’s Jazz Record Shop’ in London’s Soho region and issued on the store’s own 77 Records imprint. The LP finds Korner and Davies attempting to re-create the US Blues of LEADBELLY and MONTANA TAYLOR. As the title suggests, the recordings were captured at London’s Roundhouse; a Blues club established by Korner and Davies in 1956. The session was committed to tape by the late, great JOHN R T DAVIES and the finished sleeve benefits from hugely informative notes courtesy of CHARLES FOX. This incredible, 57 year-old gem came to me almost 20 years ago from DON SOLLASH; the son-in-law of DOUG DOBELL who owned the label!!! So, bid now to win this gem or, after the auction has ended, you can sit back in your chair and wonder how you managed to such a MONSTER BLUES RARITY pass you by!!! The classic dark green and white labels with gold and black print and DEEP RIDGE are in AS NEW condition; absolutely NO wear and NO spindle trails!!!

Lucius
Seeing the Brooklynites on Later, and intrigued by the duo vocals fronting a rough and raucous band – stand up drummer, slightly out-of-control slide guitarist – bought the album. Best when they’re looser, less fun when they’re glossier and more produced, if they make it to album two it could get really good. Standout track to check out: “Go Home”. I like this slower sultrier version recorded at KEXP.

Led Zep advertising, Great Portland Street

Zep

Five Things: Wednesday, 28th May

Hal Blaine
In donating to Denny Tedesco’s Kickstarter campaign to get his Wrecking Crew documentary released, my treat, or reward, is a copy of Hal Blaine’s biography, which is fascinating, if plagued by the weaknesses of a self-published book: terrible proofreading, a fair amount of repetition and the kind of stuff an editor might ask (like – where’s the chapter about recording Bridge Over Troubled Water?). All that notwithstanding, it’s full of interesting detail on the man who, as Richard Williams wrote, “…virtually created a style by himself and became an elder statesman among West Coast session percussionists”. Here’s one of my favorite details: “Phil Spector is the only producer I’ve ever known who always had an extra 2-track recorder running constantly from the beginning of every session. Everything said or played went on tape, and it was quite a trick. Musicians often walk into the studio cold and start warming up in their own way before the tracking begins. They come up with strange riffs, and when asked what they’ve played they never remember. Not so at Phil’s sessions. He would ask, play back the lick and say, ‘Remember that, I want it on the front of the bridge’. Phil would pick out the nuggets he wanted and by playing them back, make them history (so many musicians play incredible warm-ups and never know it).” See the music player on the right for Hal live with S&G.

Eric Yahnker, Sticks & Drones, Paradise Row Gallery, Newman Street
Cactus Guitar/Bizarre Ferlin Husky-Mariah Carey interface/Obama watches Miley on wrecking ball through White House window. (click to enlarge).

Gallery

Daniel Lanois, The Barbican, Monday
From the opening two songs, both played solo on the pedal steel that sits towards the back of the stage, I start to anticipate a great gig. As clouds of distortion weave around the edges of the theatre, parting to reveal a clear shaft of melodic sunlight, I remember what I always loved about Lanois’ sound. Like a curdled, clotted version of Red Rhodes, he’s the master of the almost-resolved filigree, of the blur coming into focus, of a heavenly melody. As the last notes die away in a swoosh and buzz someone in the audience shouts “Turn the volume down!” And it all goes a bit south from there. “I’ll do whatever you want if you come up on stage. Otherwise I’ll see you after the show…” He straps on his gold top Les Paul and, although there are flashes of brilliance, he’s just not a very interesting songwriter and a fairly woeful lyricist. And despite great bass and drums from Steven Nistor and Jim Wilson it doesn’t really catch fire for me, especially when Emmylou Harris comes on to play Wrecking Ball. The problem of playing one album in sequence, especially one that is so locked in to a particular sonic palette is that there’s almost no room for the music to breathe, and it’s not helped by Emmylou’s unvarying approach to each song. I’ve never really warmed to any of her records and I finally realised why – I find her voice unyielding and somehow lacking warmth, warmth that her duet partners, be they Dylan, Earle or Parsons, bring in spades. I felt bad that I didn’t enjoy it more.

From Our Woodstock Correspondent
John Cuneo writes: Having a bunch of colleagues over tomorrow, and they’ll all have to drive through town while this is going on. Such a goofy place this is… “It takes a lot to laugh, it may take seven hours of lip-synching Bob Dylan for Linda Montano to cry. The performance artist, known for her endurance pieces, will be impersonating the former Robert Zimmerman atop a 14-foot lift in front of the Kleinert/James Art Center in Woodstock on May 24 from noon to 7 pm in honor of Dylan’s 73rd birthday. The Dylan endurance outside the Kleinert/James stems from Montano’s realization that her family members look like Bob Dylan. She adopted the Dylan persona in order to “be like my brothers, having always wanted to be a man as a child—knowing that they were always getting the better cultural deal,” she says. Montano’s interest in Dylan, and other historical figures whom she has portrayed, like Mother Theresa, are intricately linked to her investigations of the blurred boundaries and interconnections between art and life: between being, having been, and wanting to be—not be anything at all. Here’s Linda Mary Montano posing as a young Bob Dylan. New York City, 1989.

Linda

Only just caught up with this…
…“Royals” cover in Lorde’s home town. Bruce adds a judicious ”fucking” into “Every song’s like, Gold Teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom…” and changes ”We crave a different kind of buzz” to “kind of love”, Queen Bee to King Bee (nice Muddy Waters link there) and generally gives it a bang-up performance.

 

Five Things: Wednesday 21st May

Happy Valley, BBC1
There’s little music used in Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley that doesn’t come from a car radio, so most of Sarah Lancashire’s performance as police sergeant Catherine Cawood doesn’t have the aid of the emotional lift that is liberally doused over most drama on tv or film. There’s no telegraphing prompts, or swelling string pads but, hey, they’re not required. It’s an astonishing portrayal that holds the centre of this really superior policier. The range of thought that flickers across her face in conversations – talking about one thing, realising something else – make it one of the great performances of recent years and puts most showy big-name stuff to shame. The high level of acting, fantastic script and great direction from Euros Lyn (Welsh director of Sherlock) make this a must see.

And Jake Bugg’s Trouble Town…
…works pretty well as Happy Valley’s theme. There’s a run on Bugg at the moment: British Airways’ current ad uses one of his, as did the coverage of The Great Manchester Run last weekend. “Trouble Town” feels right for the Yorkshire-set series, although it has the problem of all Jake Bugg songs – it sounds entirely unoriginal (this one owes its biggest debt to “The Ballad Of Hollis Brown”).

I catch a half hour of Eurovision
…luckily the bit featuring a favourite actor, Pilou Asbaek, who is one of the hosts. Weird. Imagine Michael Fassbinder or Chiwetel Ejiofor agreeing to host – he’s that kind of actor. He’s terrific in the Danish film, A Hijacking, as the cook aboard a freighter that is boarded by Somalian pirates. It’s the non-Hollywood version of Captain Phillips. Anyway, I turn on in time for his guided tour of the Eurovision Hall Of Fame, a rather great spoof, all appalling costume displays and dry ice, and topped by Ireland’s Johnny Logan pretending to be his own waxwork in a totally Lynchian scene…

Canal Boat Barbeque, Middlesex Filter Beds, Hackney Cut
Walking past a group of boats on the Lea River, an unexpected piece of music wafts from a radio: Henry Mancini’s The Pink Panther Theme. Plas Johnson’s sax sashays through the warm summer air before Shelly Manne’s cymbal and the horn section open it out. Seemed an entirely perfect piece of music to go along with the mellow mood. “Originally played in the key of E minor, it is noted for its quirky, unusual use of chromaticism which is derived from the Hungarian minor scale (gypsy/romani scale) with raised 4th and 7th degrees.” – Wikipedia

Neil Young talks to his mother in heaven about his father, weather forecasting and his missing collaborator, Ben Keith
Recording his latest album, A Letter Home, in Jack White’s Phono-recording booth (see the Jimmy Fallon clips here), Neil prefaces the session with this message. The album is interesting, but I increasingly find a little Neil goes a long way.

Food Song List, Vappiano’s, Bankside

Vap

 

 

 

 

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