Thursday, 23rd July

VISUAL OF THE WEEK

misty

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

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

eminem

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEEN IN COVENT GARDEN: SHOESIC?

shoesic

Thursday, 16th July

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

MG Tour

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

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

Oxford

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

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

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

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

Oh, and Leon Bridges: Why?

Friday, 10th July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thecolyer2

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

Kengrab

Thursday, 2nd July

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

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

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

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

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

THIS. IS. INSANE.

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

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

CastlesSkateboardersUndercroft, South Bank; The Lukin pub, Fitzrovia

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 19th June

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

VISUAL OF THE WEEK: MILTON GLASER

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

VISUAL OF THE WEEK 2: EDWYN COLLINS

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

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

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

ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK

betterdays

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

Friday, 12th June

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

Calum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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