The Art of McCartney
Released last week, an all-star – and I mean all-star – tribute to Sir Paul. Catching the previews of some of the tracks, the overall feel is pretty safe, which is a shame as McCartney’s recent albums have been sonically adventurous. Steve Miller returns the favour that McCartney did him when they co-created “My Dark Hour” in 1969: “There was a big argument and they [the Beatles] all went, leaving me at the studio. Steve Miller happened to be around: ‘Hi, how you doing? Is the studio free?’ I said: ‘Well, it looks like it is now, mate.’ ” To Barry Miles, Paul recalled, “Steve Miller happened to be there recording, late at night, and he just breezed in. ‘[I said] can I drum for you? I just had a fucking unholy argument with the guys there.’ I explained it to him, took ten minutes to get it off my chest. I thrashed everything out on the drums. There’s a surfeit of aggressive drum fills, that’s all I can say about that. I played bass, guitar and drums and sang backing vocals. It’s actually a pretty good track.” The same can’t really be said of Miller’s versions of “Junior’s Farm” and “Hey Jude”. The only comment on its emusic page is this, from Jules Herbert: “And all at once the life, beauty and air of Paul McCartney’s songs are sucked out of the room. Oh dear.” Dylan, as usual, doggedly goes his own way – he just bolts the chassis of “Things We Said Today” to the wheels of “Things Have Changed” and takes it for a spin.
Bill’s send off
We finally get around to scattering my dad’s ashes (the half that wasn’t scattered in his favourite fishing lake in Scotland by his fellow “Sons of the Loch” a couple of years back, in a fittingly raucous celebration that involved, I believe, some whisky and a recalcitrant boat). By the banks of the Crane River in Cranford, there is now a bit that’s forever Bill. It’s near the site of his and Ken’s childhood home, and was the locus around which the Crane River Jazz Band formed, and from where Ken left to go on his extraordinary journey to New Orleans. Now the jets come in to land at Heathrow, so low that you can see the rivets in the wings. We each wore a badge of Bills’ that related to some aspect of his life: one from the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, one from the Rock Island Line, one from the “Sons”, and his Armed Forces’ Veteran badge. In between the roar of the planes we toasted Bill with his latter-day favourite tipple – red wine, 14%, screwtop, preferably 3 bottles for a tenner. Even Gabe, no wine fan, had a memorial swig as we soundtracked it with songs by Ken that featured Bill. Almost my favourite of these early recordings (“K.C. Moan”, “Go Down Old Hannah”, “Midnight Special”) was the song that you can hear in the music player on the right… “Ja Da”. Ken on cornet, John RT Davies on American organ, Bill, wire brushes on a suitcase. A strange, haunting piece of music that sounds for all the world like it belongs in Eraserhead.
Sidney Bechet gets a Blue Plaque
A strange note: Bill was bought home from hospital as a baby to the house that his parents worked at, as cook and chauffeur, which was in Fitzroy Square – by coincidence around the corner from where we currently live. And then today, as we walked up Conway Street, which runs through Fitzroy Square, this plaque, recently put there by the Nubian Jak Community Trust. Wikipedia tells us that, “while in London, Bechet discovered the straight soprano saxophone, and quickly developed a style quite unlike his warm, reedy clarinet tone. His saxophone sound could be described as emotional, reckless, and large.” An excellent description – Bill would be happy. In other Bechet facts, Disneyland’s Tower Of Terror ride features Bechet’s song “When the Sun Sets Down South” as cue music. The ride is a “deserted [since Halloween in 1939] hotel on the dark side of Hollywood”. I kid you not. As Philip Larkin wrote of Bechet… “On me your voice falls as they say love should/Like an enormous yes/My Crescent City/Is where your speech alone is understood/And greeted as the natural noise of good/Scattering long-haired grief and scored pity”. Take it away, Phil.
Amy Jazz Lady
Mosaic by Susan Elliot at the Cube Gallery on Crawford Street. Her work, she says, “is like archiving the cupboards and mantelpieces of a Nation – it’s made out of kitchen tea time crockery, kitsch tourist mementos, novelty mugs, badges, coins, the everyday stuff of domestic living.”
Not A Wonderful World, Strictly Come Dancing, Sunday
First, we have to come to terms with Barry Manilow’s extraordinary visage, like an animated character rather than a human being. Then we have to come to terms with Barry duetting with the dead, who can’t fight back. The victim here was Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World”, projected on a huge oval screen as Barry either slipped his version of the lyrics in between the cracks left by Satch, or, even worse, scatted after. If Jazz isn’t dead it’s not for want of trying.