Five Things, Wednesday 13th August

Don’t hold back, just push things forward
Ithaca Audio’s pertinently titled mashup uses one of the great intros (Shaft) and a bizarre selection of other imagery and soundtracks (Star Wars, Horse/Surf Guinness Ad) to excellent effect. “Shaft” is a Proustian Rush™ thing for me. It always transports me to Tony Blackburn’s (I think) chart rundown show on Sunday evenings, when all the homework – that you should have done on Friday – loomed. The Chart Show as background made it more bearable (though probably not good for the concentration) and occasionally something would issue out of the warm AM fuzz and demand that you stopped what you were doing to listen in wonder and awe. “Shaft” is the track I remember more than any other…

Prestige New Jazz v Esquire
At London Jazz Collector’s blog, a graphic Battle of the Brands: US jazz label Prestige’s covers translated or re-versioned by the UK’s Esquire when they were issued here. I don’t know which I prefer – there’s great work on both sides, as well as the odd duffer. I have the Prestige of Ray Bryant’s Alone With The Blues, but check out the IKEA-like (those ubiquitous piled stones that were done as large prints a few years back) Esquire version…

Royal Blood, Shortlist Interview
The new Morphine (only without the sax)? Not really, but I always like being put in mind of Morphine. Great drummer, wailing saxist and a bassist, Mark Sandman who played 2-string slide bass (!) and created such a unique vibe that you didn’t miss any other instruments. Check these two songs from a French TV show. They sound, if anything, better now, and still as unusual. Sandman died, of a heart attack, way too young… Anyhow, I liked Royal Blood’s answer when they were asked about appearing on US TV: Shortlist: You appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live. What was that like? Mike Kerr:I’d never been to Hollywood, and it’s a very strange place. It’s like a theme park for millionaires. But the show is a very isolated experience. We didn’t meet Jimmy Kimmel or watch the show. It was like turning up to a place in Hollywood and doing a gig to 20 competition winners that were Googling you on the way in.

Paul Anka, on writing “My Way” for Frank Sinatra
In 1967, Frank Sinatra confided over dinner that he’d decided to retire. The Rat Pack was starting to splinter, which made him feel vulnerable, and he was being harassed by the FBI because of his Mob connections. ‘Kid, I’m fed up,’ he said. ‘I’m going to do one more album and I’m out of here.’ Then he lightened up and said: ‘Hey, kid, you never wrote me that song you always promised me. Don’t take too long!’ He’d often joshed with me about writing a song for him, but I’d never got round to it.

A few months later, at home in New York, I couldn’t sleep one night. So I sat at my piano and started playing a French song, “Comme d’habitude”, to which I’d bought the rights. There was a storm brewing and as I played I suddenly sensed myself becoming Frank, tuning into his sense of foreboding. That’s how I got the first line: ‘And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain.’ I thought of him leaving the stage, the lights going out, and started typing like a madman, writing it just the way he talked: ‘Ate it up… spit it out.’ I’d never before written something so chauvinistic, narcissistic, in-your-face and grandiose. Everything in that song was Sinatra.

When I finished, it was 5am. I knew Frank was in Las Vegas, but by then he’d be offstage and at the bar. I called: ‘Frank, I’ve got something interesting – I’m gonna bring it out.’ When I played the song for him, he said: ‘That’s kooky, kid. We’re going in.’ Coming from Mr Cool, that meant he was ecstatic. There was never any question of singing it myself; “My Way” was done Sinatra’s way – and that was unquestionably the right way. Though I do like the way Sid Vicious did it…

I had one of those, honest
On Jeff Gold’s Record Mecca, an autograph book containing The Beatles signatures is priced at $7,500. It’s very similar to my autograph book, which once had the Beatles autographs on a single page, too. It also had The Searchers, Freddie “Parrot Face” Davis and Pete Seeger: they were all guests on Sunday Night at The London Palladium. Our friend, the bassist Lennie Bush, had the gig with the Jack Parnell Orchestra (which was full of great jazzers). Lennie (Sinatra’s go-to bass player on any sessions that Frank did in London) always took my autograph book with him. And then at some point I decided that my friend and colleague, Colin McHenry, was a bigger Beatles fan than me and that he should have that page. Colin, you owe me…

I love that—"To, Martin, keep with it” written by Sinclair Traill, editor of Jazz Journal, who then joked around with Earl and they ended up signing their names as Sinclair Hines and Earl Traill…

I love that—”To, Martin, keep with it” written by Sinclair Traill, editor of Jazz Journal, who then joked around with Earl and they ended up signing their names as Sinclair Hines and Earl Traill…

 

 

 

Five Things, Wednesday 7th August

“She’s all I got is gone”: David Bromberg & Larry Campbell at Bush Hall
After a vivid ride through London on the back of Kevin’s motorbike (a big BMW, as used by the Met, for all you bike fans) we turn up at Bush Hall to see Dylan sidemen from different eras making a joyous noise – two performers who really love playing together, picking songs that they’ve probably played forever. Yes, there are plenty of phenomenal guitarists out there, but often they’re players whose virtuosity is almost a barrier to connection. That’s not the case here. This was a conversation between erudite practitioners who transmuted the pleasure they find in playing into the audience’s unalloyed enjoyment.

LCDB

Towering over all the risqué blues songs (Bromberg’s speciality) and the transposed Irish and Texan fiddle tunes (Larry’s bag) is a performance of “Delia” that is just hypnotic. For ten minutes, Bromberg sings and recounts the origins of the song against honeyed and stately tick-tock fingerpicking, while Campbell embellishes the tune with a swooping, swooning accompaniment on the bottleneck, finding beautiful, piercing melodies for as long as the song takes to wend its way to the last sigh. And every verse ends with the sad and resigned statement above, sing/spoken in the most poignant fashion. I’d a been happy if it had lasted twice as long.

Autopsy: Karen Carpenter, Channel 5
Alternately fascinating and grim (with actors playing Karen, Richard and their parents) as only programmes called Autopsy can be, this peculiarly tragic episode piled up the evidence for a recovery from anorexia, only for her to be failed by a pitifully weakened heart. My friend Andrew and I saw the Carpenters play a midnight show at the London Palladium in 1976 (yes, ’76, the year of Punk). It was in aid of Capital Radio’s Help a London Child, and you had to queue at Capital’s HQ at Euston Tower at seven in the morning. With a soft toy. So we did. The show was great – Richard’s dreadful vaudeville numbers, Karen’s drum solo and all. Tony Pelusi ripped out the classic guitar solo on “Goodbye to Love”, and Karen sang like she always did, trying to keep that melancholy tear at the edge of her voice at bay.

Bolt Dances to The Proclaimers, Hampden Park
And sets off a string of memories: I first saw The Proclaimers, as did most of Britain, when they appeared on The Tube. Our band was on that Friday, too, along with the Psychedelic Furs. We had travelled up to Newcastle, where the studios of Tyne Tees were, on the Quayside, and my day had already been made by the sight of Bobby Charlton being signed in at Reception. I remember two things well from the show. One was talking to Mars Williams, sax player for the Furs, and interesting to me as he had been a member of The Waitresses. They were a band I loved, for its mixture of Patty Donahue’s knowing sarcasm and the NY new wave of Chris Butler’s songs (songs with titles like “They’re All Out Of Liquor, Let’s Find Another Party” and “I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts”). I tended to buy anything that I could find on their label, Ze Records. Among their bizarre acts (Mutant Disco became the quick catch-all for what their releases sounded like) was an early version of Lana Del Ray who went by the name of Cristina (”Is That All There Is?” is still a masterpiece) and the stunning Material (including Bill Laswell and Fred Maher) whose “Busting Out”, with Nona Hendryx singing, you really need to hear. This a nice piece about The WaitressesI Know what Girls like: The Waitresses and the limits of the “Female-Fronted Band by Lindsay Zoladz on Pitchfork.

The other thing I remember was being intrigued by The Proclaimers’ Buddy Holly-like appearance and the closeness of their singing, like one voice with two sides. I told them they were great and would go far, one of the rare occasions that I was right. I loved seeing the Commonwealth Games audience singing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” as Usain Bolt shook down his arms, then threw out the pointed finger a few times before miming walking as the crowd hit the chorus. Then he conducted the spectators for a bit before going into the “Pulp Fiction Eyes”. I’m not sure he would have remained so loose if he’d been about to run his banner event, the 100 metres, but here he allows himself to be enticed by the crowd’s reaction…

Dennis Hopper, The Lost Album, Royal Academy

Hopper


Richard Williams writes so well about this exhibition (and the use of The Band’s “The Weight” here) that I’m not sure that I can add anything much. Oh, except that my problem with exhibitions of photography are often about sizing. 400 10×8 prints is a lot to look at, and there’s too much here that is run-of-the-mill. The good ones deserve better printing to bring out the shadow detail, and sometimes more scale would be a good thing: Double Standard works well as a huge poster at the entrance, but its charms are lessened as a 10×8, where it looks a poor cousin to a Friedlander, Winogrand or Frank shot (above: the blow up/an introductory caption/watching a loop of Easy Rider from the balcony.) By the cafe is a small temporary screening room where Easy Rider and The Last Movie are shown a couple of times a day. I caught the last thirty minutes of Easy Rider, which looks pretty dated but is carried by its fervour – it feels like something that Fonda and Hopper needed to make, and not a studio product. I remembered that a cover version of “The Weight” was used on the soundtrack album, but had forgotten that “It’s Alright, Ma” – a song that eloquently addresses some of the film’s concerns – is used at the end. Sadly it’s a woefully lackluster version by Roger McGuinn, and just proves that it’s one of those Bob songs that should never be covered.

Nice!
Upon leaving the Royal Academy, this “Jazz” sweater caught my eye in Burlington Arcade. The word we’re looking for is “why”.

Jazz Sweater

 

Five Things, Wednesday 30th July

At the Multiplex
Watching Joe, with a great performance from Nic Cage that reminds you of the fact that he’s Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew and therefore should know a good script when he sees one. Pitched somewhere between Winter’s Bone and Mud (and co-starring young Tye Sheridan from that film) it’s really enhanced by a score from David Wingo and Jeff McIlwain that uses unsettling bass drones and atmospheres, with the occasional chorded piano. There’s also a nice Jerry Reed-ish song that tracks the hunt for Joe’s dawg.

At The Royal Academy of Music
With my mother and Yvonne for War Music: Notes from the First World War, a small but perfectly formed exhibition full of gramophones, sheet music (my favourite: “Hello, Central! Give Me No Man’s Land” by Al Jolson) and short films featuring extraordinary scenes of local am-drams preparing shows for the soldiers at the front. I loved this photo of Ivor Novello, and the description of one of his performances. “When he sang, men seemed to drink it in at once and instantly sang the chorus, and as we drove away at the end of the concert in the dark and the rain and the mud, from all parts of the camp one could hear the refrain”.

Novello

 

At The Commonwealth Games
England’s “Jerusalem” is given competition by Kenya’s National Anthem, a strikingly moody piece called “Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu” (O God, of all creation). According to Wikipedia it was originally composed in 1963 by a commission set up for the purpose, and based on a traditional tune sung by Pokomo mothers to their children. “The tune had to be of the right length and quality, yet possessing the necessary dignity. It had to be of such character as to make the writing of suitable words manageable, complicated by being both in Swahili and English. The tune also had to lend itself to appropriate harmonisation and orchestration for performance by a military band, without impairing the original tonality of the melody.” They totally succeeded. It was great to hear it played when Kenya swept the medals in the Women’s 10,000 meters on Day 6. You can judge for yourselves when David Rudisha wins the 800m tonight. [Editors Note, August 1st: this prediction was as accurate as my World Cup ones. Never come to me for betting advice.]

At Caitlin’s House, and my old Bank
Lovely use of a cello shape for storing wine. And for private banking, the less lovely use of a shiny resonator guitar, along with your crystal goblet and Greek bronze to make finance seem somehow, you know, groovy. We’re all rockers at heart, aren’t we? I blame the cover of Brother In Arms.

Wine

At home, finding a great Vanity Fair Questionnaire with Tom Waits
What phrase do you most overuse? “Do as I say and no-one will get hurt”.

Waits

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.

 

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