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.

Friday, 5th June

VISUAL OF THE WEEK: THE REPLACEMENTS, THE ROUNDHOUSE
As the posters in the U.S. said – “Back by Unpopular Demand”. And summed up better than I can by Every Record Tells a Story: “So what of the 2015 version of the band? They can’t continue to be the angry young men they were thirty years ago, surely? So where does that leave them? Difficult also to be a nostalgia act if hardly anyone bought your records or saw you play all those years ago… What the packed audience at The Roundhouse saw last night was a band at the top of its game… there was plenty of good-humoured horseplay and bad cover songs (what better way to subvert one of your best and most powerful songs than to segue neatly into “My Boy Lollipop”?). Westerberg forgot words, messed up songs at will and yet kept a smile on his face. He’s like the punk Eric Morecambe, playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. However, this apparent self-sabotage no longer damages The Replacements’ reputation, as it did in the eighties, but now enhances it.”

Replacements

It was a sustained assault that made you feel like you were watching the best punk band there had ever been, only with stellar added melodies. Westerberg is a force to behold: a cracking guitarist with a real signature sound (the intro music was The Faces – Westerberg would have fitted in with them pretty well); a great lyricist whose songs are still a perfect fit 30 years on; and a fantastic front man, funny and fearless. The heartbeat bass of Tommy Stinson – looking like a scarecrow Sid Vicious – was on the money in every song, and he seemed delirious with the pleasure of having virtually every person in the room singing the songs back at them. And that’s not to mention (no-one does in any of the reviews I’ve found) the sizeable contributions of second guitarist Dave Minehan and drummer Josh Freese, who powers the whole thing with unstinting energy and precision. It was joyful, totally joyful.

SOMETHING I LEARNED 1
Ever wondered where the ubiquitous Nokia Ringtone came from? Mr Hyde (Shortlist magazine’s email newsletter) tells us. It’s at 0:12.

SOMETHING I LEARNED 2
That John May has started a free newspaper in Brighton following on from his success doing the same in Lewes (see fan, L Cohen pictured below). Hats off to a really nice design job by Raphael Whittle, too. John got in touch to find out about Doug Dobell’s short-lived Brighton Record Shop, as I have various photos of it, taken by my dad. I remembered everything I could, then checked with my mum, who revealed that I was wrong on nearly every count. There – that shows you the importance of primary research. John’s CV is extremely impressive, and now that I’ve discovered his blog, The Generalist, I may have to take time off work wondering back through its archive.

Len

LAURA MVULA ON NINA SIMONE (BBC4)
An interesting, but slightly underdeveloped, film – the NS story in 30 minutes? Please! Best section comes when she goes to meet Al Shackman, who played guitar with Simone for years. With Bush Ranger hat and a barely-amped 335, he shares fascinating memories before they tiptoe through Rogers & Hart’s “Little Girl Blue” rather exquisitely. At one point they show the original Bethlehem cover of her first album, with its wonderful tagline: “Jazz as played in an Exclusive Side Street Club” over a photo of Nina in Central Park wrapped in a blanket. Looking for it I found the second album with another photo from the Central Park shoot. “An intimate variety of vocal charm”. You said it, brother.

Nina

AND ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK…
Talking back and forth with my friend Graham, after he had played the Rubaiyats “Omar Khayyam” to open a recent episode of his excellent weekly radio show, The Eclectic Eel (which can be found on Mixcloud), I discover from him that it’s by Allen Toussaint. How many strings can one man have to his bow? If Five Things had a radio show, the Eel would be it – “music and sounds from across genres, eras and continents”.

Friday, May 30th

More Apologies. Helping our friend Bob with an exhibition of his work* crowded writing about music out of my brain for a couple of weeks. It’s slowly coming back…

VISUAL OF THE WEEK (FROM THE WEB)

Spotnicks

The Spotnicks. Crazy, dad. I had never heard of The Spotnicks, but according to Wikipedia, “they are an instrumental rock group from Sweden, who were formed in 1961. Together with the Shadows and the Ventures they are counted as one of the most famous instrumental bands during the 1960s. They were famous for wearing “space suit” costumes on stage, and for their innovative electronic guitar sound. They have since released 42 albums, selling more than 18 million records, and still tour.” Good God, 18 million?

In search of their “innovative sound”, I click more links and find this excellent description, by main man Bo Winberg (and I think Google Translate may be to blame for some of this). “At first I want to put the myth of Fender guitars in common – and particulary the Stratocaster – to death; According to some so called experts are all Fenders, made later than 1965, only rubbish. I do not agree! Once I had a Strata, built in 1961, and that one was really bad. No matter if I changes the strings, it was totally dead. I sold it to a Mexican musician. (!?)

“In my opinion there are only two types of guitars – good and bad ones – and it has nothing to do with year of production or which manufacture it comes from. I am playing on a Fender Stratocaster, made in 1965, which I bought in Hollywood, California, USA. The original color was Sunburst but I didn’t like it so I burnt it off and replaced it with ten layers of varnish. I growed out from galoping echomachines like Binson – squeak and sway – Echolette and Dynachord – distorsion and noice – and all trouble with tape breaks etc. Today I have an echo and delay made by Alesis with 99 different programs. I only use three of them but I would not tell the settings…” Good man, Bo. You have to keep some secrets in this world…

VISUAL OF THE WEEK (FROM REAL LIFE)
Busking below the bit on the South Bank where the ITV studios are, on a balmy, sunny evening, playing “When The Saints…” which seemed perfect. Always a fan of the accordion/trumpet combo, and not everyday you see someone playing a drum in a bag.

Busking

WRITING ABOUT MUSIC THAT I LIKED THIS WEEK (OR SO)…
Sophie Heawood, “I’ve fallen out of love with music”, Guardian Weekend:
“If feelings are a dimmer switch, I turned mine down to low. The victim was music, though for a long time I thought this was because of compressed MP3s on laptops not sounding like lovely old record players. There is some truth in that, but it turns out that music doesn’t work on a hardened heart. A month ago, a friend said he was giving away his functional, unbeautiful 1980s piano, and that it would need tuning, and did anybody want it? I found myself ordering a van the next day, and then finding a teacher. A Frenchman who smells of cigarettes and who plays me Ray Charles and then Handel and tells me how they come from the same place, the same chords. He explained, in my second lesson, that if you play a C and the G above it together, you have created a fifth, and that into that fifth you then bring the note halfway between them – E! – and “Aaaah, the sweetness of this E”, he says. And we sit there in the quiet, listening to it. It is startling. I have reduced music to one note, finally, and I realise that this is the way back in.”

GAMUT (NOT GAMUT)
Zaha Hadid, interviewed in Deluxe (the new Magazine from the Standard – just how degraded the idea of Luxury or Deluxury has become can be measured by this): “My musical taste runs the gamut from Sam Smith to Chris Brown to Adam Levine. It’s the definition of eclectic”. No, it isn’t. It doesn’t run the gamut [a complete range or extent] either…

DISTORSION AND NOICE (THANKS, BO)
Inspired by Bob’s photos of a neglected and rusting bridge in Paddington, I went and recorded the traffic, and then made five pieces of music (loosely) featuring said traffic overlaid with all manner of nonsense. It’s on Soundcloud if you feel the desire to check it out. In contrast to Bo, I would tell the settings… Mexican-made repro ’57 Strat, sunburst (not burned off and replaced with 10 layers of varnish), run through a Blackstone Mosfet Overdrive (no, me neither), and played with an e-bow (sometimes).

AND ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK…
In honour of B.B., a tape given to us by Bob Wray in Muscle Shoals. It’s from the Love Me Tender sessions, the Nashville album that B.B. himself named as one of his favourites. Throughout, Larry Londin, the late, great Nashville drummer, had asked B.B. to play “The Thrill is Gone”, and each time the answer was no. On the last day of the sessions, B.B. had gone around thanking everyone, handing out keyrings and pens emblazoned with his logo. When he got to Larry, he picked up his guitar and launched into Larry’s request. Everyone scrambled to join in, the engineer rolled tape and they played the hell out of it. Londin does some wonderful rolls and cymbal work, but the best comes at the end when the song stumbles to a close and Larry bangs his sticks together, shouting “B.B., B.B., B.B. King, Yeah!” over and over as B.B. dissolves laughing.

* The catalogue can be found here.

One Thing I Saw This Week, post-May 7th

Strapping Cameron speeches onto the chassis of Eminem’s great “Lose Yourself” – casetteboy did this in October last year. You may have already seen it, but it’s sadly more relevant than ever.

Ten Things! Thursday, 7th May

Yes, for one week (or is that two?) only, owing to the non-appearance of Five Things last week, Ten Things Seen and Heard!

ONE: LOOKING FORWARDS
Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Django and Jimmie. Now that sounds interesting – a tribute to jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and “Singing Brakeman” Jimmie Rodgers. Apparently, it contains a sublime interpretation Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”.

TWO: LOOKING BACKWARDS
After Leslie leaves the room, Grace steps in… according to Nishat Baig at The Source, “RCA’s newest singer Grace has joined forces with G-Eazy and Quincy Jones to recreate Lesley Gore’s hit song “You Don’t Own Me.” The original track, released in 1963, was considered one of the first women’s empowerment anthems. Quincy Jones was the original producer, and co-produced the new version as a way to pay homage to Gore before her passing. The 17-year-old singer/songwriter, Grace, is taking the pop-soul world by storm and has been influenced by singers like Smokey Robinson to Janis Joplin, and Shirley Bassey to Amy Winehouse.” Well, we’ve never heard that before, have we? However, to be fair, it’s a pretty fly version.

THREE: I HAD NO IDEA…

Bill
That Citroën made a Citroën Maserati, but they did, and Bill Wyman bought one. The Guardian reported: “The minute I saw the Maserati, I thought – this is it! It looked so beautiful. They showed me that incredible engine and the double headlights…” Wyman lived in Vence in the South of France between 1971 and 1982: “I’d drive it to Keith Richards’ place in Cap Ferrat, to record Exile on Main Street and I’d drive to Paris and back, an eight-hour journey each way.” Wyman recalled zipping over in his Maserati to see his new circle of friends on the Cote d’Azur, people such as the artists Marc Chagall and César and the writer James Baldwin. He also drove the car twice to the Montreux jazz festival where he played with the likes of Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy.”

FOUR: NEWS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE STATE DINNER!
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe: “The partnership between Japan and the United States is simply unparalleled in building the future of Asia and the world. I know everyone here knows that famous song by Diana Ross, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The song goes, “Ain’t no mountain high enough; ain’t no valley low enough, to keep me from you.” (Laughter.) The relationship of Japan and the United States is just like this. (Laughter and applause.)”

FIVE: THANK YOU, SAINSBURYS
For reminding me of Al Green’s sublime Belle album, from which some adland baby-boomer (or, possibly, Hoxton hipster) had extracted “Feels Like Summer”, one of its highlights, to soundtrack their latest advert. It has a simple, funky groove that’s so damned relaxed. After the wonderful thickness of Willie Mitchell productions, Al produced this himself and it has a very different sound – a little more acoustic, a touch more diffuse and airy – but great in its own way. Cut on the cusp of the secular and gospel parts of his career it is both nostalgic and urgent, often in the same song. In “Belle”, which rides on the back of Al’s choppy acoustic strumming, he talks to a woman about his religious feelings – “Belle, the Lord and I been friends for a mighty long time/Belle, leaving him has never really crossed my mind” and “Belle, oh It’s you that I want, but it’s Him that I need…” The push and pull of his calling runs through all its tracks. Check out, too, the lovely “Dream”, a seven minute meditation with Green and James Bass on lead guitars, that’s reminiscent of the kind of songs Bobby Womack was writing on the Poet albums. It’s now firmly on the Summer Playlist – I’d recommend you add it to yours forthwith.

SIX: PRECIOUS

lowell

After last week’s Lowell George DVD, found on YouTube – more of the Bedbugs!

SEVEN: BOTH GEOFF MULDAUR AND HIS AUDIENCE ARE HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME
I’ll write more about this gig in the upstairs room of a pub in Islington, I think, but suffice it to say that it was a total treat [and thanks to Tim for spotting it]. Geoff was introduced by his childhood friend Joe Boyd, who produced several of his albums including the fantastic (and expensive – check out the soul sessionmen credits, the cream-of-the-crop jazzmen and, uh, the Hollywood Orchestra) Geoff Muldaur is having a Wonderful Time. The gig was a masterclass in tale-telling and hypnotic playing. He’s a precise, fastidious guitar player, often in open tuning, and he picks with the lucidity and precision of someone like James Taylor or Richard Thompson – you know, those guitarists whose fingers glide over the strings making complex spiderweb shapes while beautiful melodies issue forth. The thumbpicked rhythm didn’t waver, and his genius for arranging made each song come alive, whether its roots were in the twenties, sixties or nineties. The name-checks ranged from Philippé Wynne of the Spinners – “People were conceived to this guy and nobody knows his name. One of our greatest singers” – to McKinneys Cotton Pickers, via Bobby Charles (“Small Town Talk” and “See You Later Alligator” among many others) and Stravinsky – a testament to Geoff’s great taste.

EIGHT: SYNCHRONICITY
Oddly, I’d been listening to Phillippé Wynne because of Richard Williams’ great post on Boz Scaggs covering, in Richard’s view, a song he shouldn’t have. Read the description of its recording, listen to Wynne sing (especially at the fade) and you’ll be convinced of the truth of both Richard’s and Geoff’s words.

NINE: PLEASE, MRS GLASER…
With the memories of Barney’s new book on Woodstock still circling my mind (Small Town Talk is the story of what happened after Albert and Sally Grossman first came to Woodstock and then, on the advice of their friends Milton and Shirley Glaser, bought an estate that had belonged to comic-strip illustrator John Striebel.” – really, Shirley Glaser is pretty much responsible for the whole Woodstock scene), I walked into a movie poster shop in Marylebone and saw something I’d once tried really hard to find in the early days of the internet, and had then forgotten about: an original of design giant Milton Glaser’s poster, which was included in the sleeve of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits album in 1967. Apparently, some money changed hands and I seem to be the proud owner.

Bobposter

TEN: ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK
A track from Sam Charters’ Folkways LP, Sounds of London. Looking for soundtracks to play at a photography show that we’re helping to organise, we’ve compiled playlists, recorded traffic, made music and disputed the various qualities of John Lennon’s Walls and Bridges and Sonny Rollins’ The Bridge. Sam’s London record, recorded in 1960, has some great moments – Speakers Corner, a pub in Shoreditch, Covent Garden Market at dawn, and this, a marching band recorded from our front room window in Charing Cross Road.

Thursday, April 23rd

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Marina Hyde in the Guardian, attempting to follow Cameron and Boris as they gladhand the (carefully controlled) public: “Anyway, the day was run not so much on a need-to-know basis as a we’ll-decide-who-needs-to-know basis. I don’t want to overegg this remoteness problem, but we did start the day in a facility that describes itself as “the UK’s premier supplier of log cabins”. By Friday we’ll be at the UK’s premier supplier of panic rooms. Cameron has toured so many empty business parks and factories now that he must be totally dislocated, like some infinitely duller version of an arena rock star whose manager has to slap him awake and tell him he’s in Minneapolis.”

RECOMMENDED ONE
Lowell George – Feats First. I stumbled on this DVD on LoveFilm. It’s a must-see for fans of the late-lamented Lowell. Excellent contributions from Bud Scoppa, Barney Hoskyns, George Massenberg and the always interesting Van Dyke Parks, it avoids most of the Rock doc traps. Director Elliot Riddle allows contributors to talk at length, and Lowell’s life story is told with honesty and heart. Martin Kibbee, George’s songwriting partner, recalled two demos by their first band, The Factory, in 1966, with Frank Zappa at the controls. “The Loved One” was based on a movie of the same name from the book by Evelyn Waugh, which we were big fans of! And “Lightning Rod Man” was based on a short story by Herman Melville – Frank was not into all that literary stuff! We recorded at Original Sound, the first 10 track recorder in town and Frank was the most inventive guy in the studio. He tuned the piano and played it with pliers; he doubled up the backbeat with rolled up towels on a piano bench!”

It’s full of great tales – did you know George studied with Ravi Shankar? That he appeared on The Gomer Pyle show with drummer Richie Hayward, as a group called The Bedbugs? There’s a great interview where he delinates the difference between his style of slide playing and Ry Cooder’s – a lot to do with compression and a Sears & Roebuck 11/16ths spark-plug socket wrench.

Most touching are the Massenberg and Parks interviews. Here’s Van Dyke talking: “I was aware of his physical prowess and his intellect – Kant or Nietzsche, great philosophers, Socrates – all these dead white guys spoke to him with their theories about how to live a life that was instructed by principle. Both of us were left of Karl Marx and we were members of the same team, with a Trojan Horse, and we were determined to enter the music business and transform it and bring it good intent. I loved Lowell like a brother”. There follows an anecdote about a Japanese group who turned up at Sunset Sound with a suitcase filled with $100 dollar bills and a desire to be produced by Van Dyke that is just insane.

RECOMMENDED TWO
The Judge is better than I feared it would be – more hard-nosed than Hollywood usually is – and features a nice playlist of songs alongside Thomas Newman’s score: Bon Iver’s “Holocene”, “Reason to Cry” by Lucinda Williams, Fleetwood Mac’s “Storms” and Gram Parson’s We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes (In The Morning)”. And the bonus (?) of Willie Nelson singing a pained version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” over the closing credits.

NOT RECOMMENDED
Later’s line-up this week had Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – yesterday’s haircuts, yesterday’s chords. To almost quote Greil Marcus, “Who buys this shit?” Followed by the Mumfords. Christ, lank hair alert! Hideous Guitary-Guitars in Turbo-Folk Explosion! It sounds like they want to be Counting Crows – nice to see their ambition stretching, eh? Did we fight the Rock Wars of the Seventies so this could happen? My desire for something fresh is at least met by Cheikh N’Digel Lô’s accordion player and his Senagalese/Fado cross, supple and fluid, with a dead-on beat.

ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK
Open Culture: “Five years ago, Kevin Ryan a 30-something music producer from Houston, Texas got a big idea. Why not take his two favourite things – Bob Dylan and Dr. Seuss, of course – and mash them up into one original creation. Hence came Dylan Hears a Who, a mock album that took seven Dr. Seuss classics and put them to the melodies and imitated voice of Mr. Dylan.” While I, as a child, preferred Richard Scarry to Dr Seuss, there is something about the language that Seuss uses that makes this a perfect match. And you can’t argue with the sentiment.

Friday, 17th April

VISUAL OF THE WEEK

DaveWedding reception, Somerset. At the Maverick Festival a few years ago there were lots of well-known names in the, uh, Americana field, but they were all left for dust by Stompin’ Dave, our pick of the weekend. A great Rev. Gary Davis-style ragtime picker, a fine frailin’ banjoist, an excellent flat-foot dancer – Dave does all these things with brio and style. To hear him play as everyone arrived back from the church was a treat.

MY FAVOURITE PIECE OF WRITING ABOUT PERCY SLEDGE THIS WEEK
Mick Brown, in The Daily Telegraph: “But if “When A Man Loves A Woman” was very much a product of its time it was also, magically, a piece of work that transcended the moment and the place in which it was made: a song that seemed to have been circling the heavens, just waiting to be called down to earth. The greatest pop music has a magical capacity to speak to the heart, articulating the inchoate feelings that one can barely articulate oneself: This is how love feels, how love hurts. “When a man loves a woman, can’t keep his mind on nothing else…” You KNOW that’s right. From a small dusty town in northern Alabama, the song reached out to me, a love-struck teenager in South London, a textbook of all the longing I felt for the girl on the dancehall floor, whom I could never tell exactly how I felt, and never would.”

JOE BOYD ON SAM CHARTERS
From his email newsletter, kindly sent on to me by Mick Gold: “When I realized that music was still out there to be discovered and that producing records would be my life, it was, remarkably, that same Sam Charters who gave me the tip that opened the door to my professional career. In the winter of 1965, the night before leaving for Chicago (on business for my then-employer George Wein, producer of the Newport Jazz and Folk festivals), I found myself sharing a table at the Kettle of Fish bar with Sam. We and the other Greenwich Village blues hounds had gathered to hear the first New York performance of the just re-discovered Son House. When in Chicago, Sam urged me not to confine myself to South Side bars in my quest for great blues, but to head to the North Side and check out a mixed-race band under the leadership of Paul Butterfield. I mentioned the tip to my friend Paul Rothchild, newly appointed head of A&R at Elektra Records. He joined me in Chicago, signed Butterfield, added (at my suggestion) Mike Bloomfield on lead guitar. Six months later I had my reward: a job opening Elektra’s London office – on my way at last!”

JIMI: ALL IS BY MY SIDE (SLIGHT RECOMMENTATION)
Why is it that biopics often run out of steam halfway through? For the first 45 minutes this is great – as flighty and diffident-seeming as its title character, nicely shot and beautifully played. Andrew Buckley is great as Chas Chandler, as is André Benjamin as Jimi, and the music score is very clever. Denied any Hendrix tracks, director John Ridley has Waddy Wachtel replicate the sound and feel of both the Curtis Knight band and the Experience, with help from Leland Sklar and Bob Glaub on bass, and Kenny Aronoff on drums. The real star of the show, though, is Imogen Poots as Linda Keith, and it’s when her character becomes less involved that the story starts to sag, losing the vivacity and energy that she brings.

AND ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK…
The Festival of the American South was held at the Royal Festival Hall, about 10 years ago, maybe more. One night was a songwriter’s circle hosted by Charlie Gillett, with Guy Clarke, Allen Toussaint, Vic Chestnutt, and – on this track Dan Penn, with Joe South adding inimitable Tennessee guitar. Probably unrehearsed, with some stumbling rhythm guitar, but a wonderful, wonderful vocal on a track written by Penn with Spooner Oldham and made famous by Percy Sledge.

Five Things Extra! Soho’s Record Stores

If you’re around the area, go and share your memories of any of the legion (it’s up to, unbelievably, 142 at the moment) of record stores that have graced Soho’s streets, from the Harlequin that turned into Our Price to Steve’s Sounds in the basement at Newport Court, via Collets International, Ray’s and Dobell’s. A pop-up jointly curated by Leon Parker of the British Record Store Archive and the Museum of Soho, it was put together at short notice with help from The Museum of London and is located on Berwick Street next door to Gosh! Comics. The weird thing for me was not what I’d remembered, but what I’d forgotten. They have t-shirts for sale, along with records and memorabilia, and it runs ’til Monday.

Letter from Cheapo Cheapo Records confirming availability of Caravan’s first album and Chris Spedding’s The Only Lick I know; John from the Museum of Soho with Leon; Early Dylan and ’Ree sleeves; Hands up who remembers Imhofs?

Letter from Cheapo Cheapo Records confirming availability of Caravan’s first album and Chris Spedding’s The Only Lick I Know; Tony from the Museum of Soho with Leon; Early Dylan and ’Ree sleeves; Hands up who remembers Imhofs?

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