Five Things: Wednesday 11th September

Another Self Portrait Deluxe Edition: An Accountancy Issue
I – yes, yes, a Dylan Nutter™ – go for the one with the extra two discs and a couple of books. But wait! A 3-CD set of this ilk (we’ll ignore the remastered ‘Original Self Portrait’ Disc) would probably retail at about £19.99, say £23.99 if we’re being generous, with a fair sized book and box. We have to ignore the fact that I’d lazily thought it included a film of the Isle Of Wight Performance (not sure where I got that idea – I do have some video somewhere of a few songs). So then I’m thinking “Well, at least I have handsome books with wonderful liner notes and essays”. And one of the books has those things, by Michael Simmonds and Greil Marcus, and it holds the discs as well. But the other book is a bizarre hotch-potch of photo sessions from this period mixed with press clippings and foreign single covers. John Cohen is a good photographer (his Young Bob book is terrific, as is There Is No Eye), but his work is ill-served by reproducing repetitive and poorly-focused shots of a one-expression Bob. The reproduction looks cheap – flat and badly balanced –and Al Clayton’s Nashville black and whites really suffer. The proofreading is appalling – Jack Keroac, anyone? The guilty man is Bob’s house designer, Geoff Gans, a man who wouldn’t know a smart quote if it hit him. The production copyright credit reads: ©2013 Perceived Value Publications. I feel wound up – it works out that this extra book has set me back around £55. Can I Have My Money Back, Please Sir, as Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty once sang.

See the music player for a couple of versions that didn’t make the cut, but should have…

Hurry, Hurry, Buy Your Bob Dylan ’66 Tour Treggings Now!
Into Marks & Spencer, past the embalmed-looking Annie Leibovitz portraits of Britain’s great and good women (someone should be reprimanded for making the riverboat Helen Mirren look like she’s stepped out of Are You Being Served?, what with that jaunty cap and scarf). My gaze alights on a rack of these. The Dylan ’66 Houndstooth! As created by the Hawks’ favourite tailor in Toronto! If only they were for men (and came with a jacket) then my fashion decisions for Bob at the RAH in November would be sorted… Oh, and Treggings? A cross between trousers and leggings, obviously.

Bob Treggings

Ken Colyer visits Eddie Condon’s club, NYC, early 50’s
A great selection of Jazz photos from the 50s in colour, by Nat Singerman, runs in the New York Times Magazine. One of them shows Eddie Condon’s band.

Condon and Band by Nat; A table card that Ken had  autographed by Condon.

Condon and Band by Nat Singerman; A table card that Ken had autographed by Condon.

Around 1950, my uncle Ken was in the Merch and visited Condon’s club. He paints a vivid picture:
“I got washed and changed, once again forgetting that nightlife doesn’t start ’til later this side of the ocean. I shined my shoes and I was ready to go with my sub in my pocket. There were still four dollars to the pound. I had read about Eddie Condon’s club and heard their once-a-month town hall concerts on the BBC at home. I had no idea where the club was. New York is a big place. I saw a news-stand and asked if they had a Downbeat. “No, don’t you know it’s not due out ’til next week?” I didn’t know about the New Yorker then, which has an excellent section devoted to nightlife with Whitney Balliett’s pithy descriptions of each place and its style of entertainment. I walked on until I saw a cabby tinkering under the bonnet of his cab. “Do you know Eddie Condon’s club?”

“Hop in; I’ll be with you in a minute.” He didn’t want to lose a fare. I got in the cab. It had seen better days, in fact it was a wreck. But I didn’t mind as long as it got me there. I was sure I would find the place like a homing pigeon finds his home. The cabbie finally got the engine going and we started cruising.

“What was the name of that place?” I told him. “What sort of musicians play there?” “Jazz musicians.” “Who’s playing beside Condon?”

He’d got me there. I didn’t know Eddie’s present lineup. I mentioned a few names, then Pee Wee Russell. “Pee Wee, he’s a friend of mine, know him well. I took him for his medical when he got drafted. He told me to wait; he was only gone ten minutes. They threw him out because he was seventy proof. Now I’ve got an idea it might be the old Howdy Club. Used to be a burlesque joint, they’ve got these marvellous old dolls in the chorus line, not one under sixty. Want me to try there?” he asked, eyeing the clock.

“Go ahead,” I said. We drove into Greenwich Village, turned a corner and there was the ‘mutton chop’ sign David Stone Martin designed for Eddie hanging over the entrance. I was elated. I gave the cabbie a generous tip. He told me not to forget the address: West Third Street. Before he pulled away he called: “Don’t forget to tell Pee Wee his old friend Al brought you here. So long, pal.”

There was a commissionaire in livery standing by the door looking dignified. He saw me reading the board. “Are all these people playing tonight?” “Yes, but it’s a little early yet. They don’t start playing ’til nine. Why don’t you go to that little bar down the road and have a drink. Come back about eight-thirty and you’ll get a seat right by the band.”

I said, “Thanks, I will.” He was no hustler. I found out later that Eddie wouldn’t allow it. He had played enough clip joints himself and also considered it was important to encourage youngsters to listen to the music. And they turned a blind eye if you were obviously under age.

On each table was a small green card. On one side it gave the personnel: Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Wild Bill Davison, cornet; George Brunis, trombone; Gene Schroeder, piano; Sid Weiss, bass; Maurey Feld, drums; Eddie Condon, guitar, and Joe Sullivan, intermission piano. On the other it proclaimed: “Jazz in its finest flower,” a quote from my favourite critic, Whitney Balliett.

As I sipped a beer the band turned up. George oiled his slide with an elaborate flourish, then the band kicked off. Within a couple of numbers they were playing with a power, swing and tonal quality I would not have believed possible. It struck me for the first time that the gramophone record is badly misleading when it comes to jazz. No recording could ever completely capture the greatness of this music. As each number got rocking I seemed to be suspended, just sitting on air. And when the music finished I flopped back on my chair as though physically exhausted.

The sensation I got from hearing Wild Bill for the first time was a sort of numb joy that such a man lived and played. If Louis Armstrong was better in person, then it was beyond my imagination. His teaming with Brunis heightened this reaction. When Edmond Hall took over from Pee Wee, playing his cutting electric phrases, it was almost more than I could bear.

Brunis was entertaining to watch. While playing excellent trombone, he constantly screwed his body into the most awkward-looking positions, sometimes jamming one leg against the piano. If there was a drunk in the room he would play snatches of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, or something equally appropriate, in the most syrupy manner, during the breaks, then crack back in with glorious golden-toned tail-gate.

Pee Wee, with his broken comb moustache and a slightly distant look in his eyes, was also entertaining. I was told he had a select band of fans, who follow him mainly to watch his weird expressions that contort his face while he plays. Also he is a little eccentric and difficult to get to know, but if you knew anything about poodles, he would open up and be friendly.

As nightclub prices go in New York, Eddie’s were very reasonable. But I still had to make every beer last as long as I could. The waiters didn’t like this too much. The first night I left comparatively early. I felt a little sick but hadn’t drunk very much. It was the emotional impact that was making me feel groggy. The old Negro toilet attendant was sympathetic and understanding. That’s OK, son, I know how it is.

David Bailey Names Exhibition After His Favourite Song, ”Stardust“.
I work my way through all the versions I own. Top of the pops: Larry Adler’s fabulous harmonica, alternately shuddering and gliding over the timeless Hoagy Carmichael melody. And of course, the fantastic scene in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories where he eats breakfast as Louis Armstrong plays his giddily great take. As the instrumental first half unwinds, Sandy, played by Allen, talks: “It was one of those great spring days, and you knew summer would be coming soon… We came back to the apartment , we were just sitting around and I put on a record of Louis Armstrong, which is music that I grew up loving, and it was very, very pretty, and I happened to glance over and I saw Dorrie sitting there… and, I dunno, I guess it was the combination of everything – the sound of the music, and the breeze and how beautiful Dorrie looked to me and for one brief moment everything seemed to come together perfectly and I felt happy, almost indestructible, in a way…” and Charlotte Rampling fixes the camera with one of cinema’s greatest stares, as Armstrong’s vocal comes in, singing and scatting Mitchell Parish’s words, giving the merest approximation of the actual lyrics. And then it cuts to the cinema audience watching it, split between a woman saying, “That was so beautiful”, and another shouting, “Why do all comedians turn out to be sentimental bores!”

Rock Murals: Are They Ever A Good Thing?
Seen near our new offices, off Carnaby Street

Carnaby

Five Things: Wednesday 17th July

Oh, Yeezus…
​You know when pop stars ​used to re-record their latest hits in the language of another market – say, Germany or France – before the world was totally consumed by the language of Amerenglish pop? Bowie did it, Dusty did it. I wish we could bring it back, and Kanye West would re-record Yeezus in a language I don’t understand. Then I’d be happier when I listened to it. Because the words on Yeezus are f***ing unlistenable. As if written by a seriously misogynistic asshole with self-aggrandisement issues. You wouldn’t want to be his wife. And it’s a drag, because the music, the beats, the soundscape, the whatever… is utterly, utterly, utterly great. Just out-of-the-park brilliant. Here’s Laughing Lou Reed on the talkhouse: “The guy really, really, really is talented. He’s… trying to raise the bar. No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet. If you like sound, listen to what he’s giving you. Majestic and inspiring”. Lou also had an issue with the words and talks interestingly about that – it’s worth checking the full review out).

Oh, and $120 will buy you this Kanye West white T-Shirt. Dazzling.

Kanye

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) is set to cover some interesting, if maligned, years. The complete IOW performance from August 31, 1969, a personal favourite (even in really bad audience-taped quality) with Dylan and the Band alternating a sweet, woody country sound with ragged roadhouse rip ’em ups. Also some great New Morning alternate versions (a piano-based “Went To See The Gypsy” and “Sign On The Window” with a string section should be particularly good if real bootlegs from the past are anything to go by). And finally, some cleaned up/stripped down Self Portrait tracks accompanied (amusingly) by liner notes courtesy of Greil Marcus, writer of the famous SP review in Rolling Stone with the deathly opening line, “What is this shit?”.

May need to start a Ken Colyer Corner in Five Things
Two more letters about The Stones, The Guardian:
• Messrs Gilbert and Blundell, prepare to eat dirt (Letters, 6 July). I saw the Stones at the Ken Colyer Jazz Club (It was actually called Studio 51, but was generally known as Ken’s Club) in Leicester Square in June 1963. “Come On” was slowly climbing the charts. It was the first date I ever went on. I was 16. The cellar venue was stifling with condensation and we drew CND signs in it on the low ceiling. The Stones looked like cavemen and sang every great rock number, including “Poison Ivy”, “Johnny B Goode” and “Route 66”. My date and I caught the last train back – the 12:42 from Victoria to Bromley South. When we arrived at Shortlands Station, my father was on the platform to meet us. “Just checking,” he said and walked off. My boyfriend lasted less than 50 days, but the Stones – well, you all know the rest. Susan Castles, Wem, Shropshire
• How about 1962 in the small cellar Studio 51, Great Newport Street, W1? Chatting with all of them every Sunday at the bar during the break. Two sessions, 4pm and 6pm. Signed pre-first record release photo to prove it, with a note from Bill on the back apologising for no news of first “disc”. Anybody else who was there? Gerry Montague, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

FYI: The Beatles visited the Rolling Stones on September 10th, 1963 as they rehearsed at the 51. They presented them with a new, unfinished song, “I Wanna Be Your Man”. On  hearing that the Stones liked the song, John and Paul went into Ken’s office and completed it, thus giving the Stones their first hit with a new song rather than a cover.

The Americans awakens a long-buried love for post-Peter Green Mac
The 80s-tastic Russian/US spy series features a cracking soundtrack from my least-liked decade. “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac in episode 1 sends me to the remastered album – as recommended, months ago, by Tom at work. It’s amazingly odd for a mainstream Californian rock record (and amazingly good, though I didn’t listen in 1979) and nothing’s stranger than “Tusk” itself, with the tribal percussion, the mumbling/chanting and the most eccentric drum rolls in pop’s history.

Bob Gumpert sends me this, An Alan Lomax Gallery…with this sensational contact sheet. This is Stavin Chain playing guitar, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934. The movement in that top triptych is just stunning. More here.

Lomax

Five Things: Wednesday 10th July

Robert Christgau on the Louis Armstrong House Museum, msn.com
“Armstrong never made the money he should have – Glaser kept most of it. But he could have afforded a far grander place, and that he chose not to says something telling about a genius who never aspired to rise above a common station except in the notes he played. Within the limits he laid out for himself, however, Armstrong didn’t stint. Reading about the mirrored bathroom, gold-plated toilet fixtures, cheetah-print stair carpet, and aquamarine everything, you may fear the house is pretentious or embarrassing, but it’s not at all, at least not to someone who grew up in Queens when Armstrong lived there. On the contrary, it’s an object lesson in limited luxury. With its careful period authenticity – even the air conditioners are very 1970, although their guts have been replaced – the museum is a vivid reminder of how much more acquisitive, pretentious, and would-be hip wealth has become since the days of the affluent society.”

This reminded me of something that Rupert Everett, the actor, said in an interview to coincide with the release of his second book, the brittle and fascinating vanished years. “If you look at books of Hollywood homes in the 70s, it’s just amazing how humble they are; they’re like little beach shanty houses with bric-a-brac furniture. Now the smallest fucking brainless Hollywood producer lives in an Earth Wind & Fire Egyptian Palace. It’s just… become so tasteless, I suppose.”

Starry-eyed an’ laughing
I swear I don’t try to shoehorn Bob into every post, but visiting Mayfair’s (and, quite possibly, the World’s) greatest wine store, Hedonism, the record on the deck (they have a ridiculously high-end system, somewhat matching the drink selection) is Another Side Of… and track four, side one plays as I wander around, window shopping. Later, around the corner, I pass this plaque on the wall of the building that used to be home to The Robert Stigwood Organisation…

BeeGees

Two letters about The Stones, The Guardian
• In 1963 or 1964* I went to Ken Colyer’s jazz club with other members of High Wycombe YCND. A note on the door said that the usual Dixieland wouldn’t be playing: instead, “a young rhythm and blues band, the Rolling Stones”. Not impressed, we spent the evening in the pub.
Jo Russell, Stoke-on-Trent
• I remember seeing the Stones about 1964 at the Empress Ballroom in Wigan (Later to become the Wigan Casino, home of Northern Soul). During their performance, Jagger threw his sweaty shirt into the audience. I and another girl caught it. She ended up with one sleeve and I won the rest of it. I stored it carefully in one of my drawers at home, where my mother found it and, seeing it was damaged, tore it up and used it for dusters.
Marie Blundell, Wigan

* I think it may have been ’62, but certainly not ’64…

Busker, Euston Station
The summer heat brings an unusual sight and sound: a black guy, possibly blind, Bizet’s Carmen blasted through an amp hanging from his neck, playing the top line (tone courtesy of Paul Butterfield) on a crunchily amplified harmonica. Orchestral Harp vs Blues Harp. No contest.

Rickie Lee Jones, On My Playlist, Metro. Eloquent.
• “On The Road Again” Canned Heat
Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, the harmonica player, plays so lyrically, I often quip and hoot to myself as I listen.
• “Linden Arden Stole The Highlights” Van Morrison
The lyric on this is so wild. Van is a master. This is timeless, uplifting and healing, and is a transporter to some other realm.*
• “John Barleycorn Must Die” Traffic
This song was very influential: the sound of the recording, the sweet voices and the English accents were all very interesting to me when I was 16.
• “Into White” Cat Stevens
Like Van, Cat seemed to be familiar to me, as if his musical language emanated from a home I shared.
• “Voodoo Chile” Jimi Hendrix
This is live and crazy good. Avoid the new remastering – it’s like a graffiti artist smudging the Mona Lisa. The original mixes were perfect. Delicate, loud, sexy and otherworldly. And Jimi’s rather silly-sounding voice is not silly at all. as told to Zena Alkayat

* Helped along by a stunning piece of fretless bass playing by David Hayes.

EXTRA: Yasiin Bay (Mos Def as was) undergoing Guantánamo Bay force-feeding procedure.
Watch it and weep.

Five Things: Wednesday 5th June

Daft. Not Punk.
So I ask Mark what he thinks of the new Daft Punk album and he says “Rubbish,” and I think 50 million people and all the broadsheet critics can’t be wrong. So I listen. I put it on Spotify when Summer arrives for a day and we have a barbecue. I play it when I’m walking around the house, or making tea. And guess what. Mark is right. Everyone else is wrong. And I love disco, and I love session musicians, but this is just… for instance, one track sounds like wonky, rubbish version of a Police song. The nadir is reached with  the Paul Williams tune, which sounds like a lame copy of something from Joss Whedon’s genius Buffy musical. It’s a cute idea to work with Williams (who wrote some of the Carpenters hits) but it just sounds… rubbish. So why is everyone so invested in saying it’s great. Is it because half of them seem to be creative partners in some promotional campaign (stand up, Pitchfork), or have got special access and an interview? The sell is clever, and it’s smart to get their collaborators to act as shills for them, but I’ll leave you with three words: Emperor’s New Clothes (or in this case, Motorbike Helmets).

Pink

The Blues, a film.
Sam Charters showed us this, his brilliant, little seen, 1962 film, as he was on his way to Scotland to spend time with Document Records remastering it. Shot as he and Ann Charters travelled through the South recording bluesmen who had had their moment in the sun in the 20s and 30s, it is 22 minutes of poetry and poverty. From a host of riveting performances, a favourite moment: Pink Anderson and his sweet-faced boy, Little Pink, playing Leadbelly’s Cottonfields. Hopefully the DVD will see the light of day later in the year.

Go Away You Bomb?
Bob Bomb
Hand-typed [as opposed to...?] lyrics to a Bob Dylan song which he never recorded are expected to sell for £35,000 when they go up for auction at Christies in London next month. Dylan’s lyric sheet for “Go Away You Bomb” will go under the hammer at Christie’s in London on June 26. Israel ‘Izzy’ Young: “I was compiling a book of songs against the atom bomb and asked Dylan to contribute; he gave me this song the very next day. I have never sold anything important to me until now and the funds raised will help to keep the Folklore Center in Stockholm going. I have always had a passion for folk music and I have collected books and music since I was a kid. I produced my first catalogue of folk books in 1955, comprised of books that nobody had ever heard of – this was the beginning of the interest in American folk music. Bob Dylan used to hang around the store and would look through every single book and listen to every single record I had. Since opening the Folklore center I have organised over 700 concerts with some of the biggest names in this music world. I’m a fun-loving Jewish boy who loves folk music and never gave up – that’s why I’m still alive.”

Cerys Matthews on Bob.
From The Guardian: “By 2008, her marriage was over and she was back in the UK. By now, she had a low-key solo career up and running, made an unexpected appearance on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! and was starting to present shows on BBC 6 Music. A year later, she married her manager, Steve Abbott. The couple met when she recorded a duet with one of Abbott’s other clients, Aled Jones. “We just clicked. We had very similar taste in music, right down to the line between liking Bob Dylan and not really liking Tom Petty.” She smiles. “That kind of thing is important to me. I’m very opinionated about music. So is he.” Exactly right, Cerys! People always assume that you’ll like Tom Petty because you like Bob. And it’s just not true.

You Really Couldn’t Make This Up…
Cabin
The sisters Mamet [daughters of David, band name The Cabin Sisters] introduce their [in their own words] unique brand of folk via body percussion, banjo and harmonies. This will be their first music video. “This music video for Bleak Love is our chance to realize through the visual artistry of some very talented people the universal feeling of un-requited love. Your support for this project will be the backbone to a body of excited filmmakers, producers and musicians all making something from nothing. we have a wonderful concept from a bright young director that includes, beautiful gowns, statues, a large opulent loft space, extensive make-up, saturated tones needing anamorphic lens (for those technically inclined). We also have those folks who are good enough to work for free that we are trying to travel and feed. It is an expensive proposition when all is said and done, but we have a realistic budget that we know we can make work. So, please please join us in the fight against heartbreak!” Apart from the hazy punctuation and capitalisation, wtf? Listen to Zosia’s stumbling and half-assed reasons why you should back her in the begging video. Well-paid, well-connected actresses using Kickstarter for vanity projects? I’m betting that, for your $8,000, the director styled chair is not cutting it.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 6th February

From The Blog Of Photographer Heather Harris
“The first four words of vocabulary we learned in Synthesizer 101 class at UCLA (circa 1972, so we’re talking monophonic ARP 2600s) were the descriptions of all musical sound notes: attack, sustain, decay, release. How fitting to the lifeworks of creative types.” Wow. Attack. Sustain. Decay. Release. That’s a manifesto right there, and a great title for a project…

Martin Carthy on Bob Dylan on Desert Island Discs
“The influence of British folk music shows in his later work—he started writing these really anthemic tunes… he was a great performer, a wonderful performer. I don’t believe that anybody who saw his first performance at the King and Queen down in Foley Street would be able to say he gave a bad performance. He stood up, did three songs, absolutely knocked everybody flat. People loved him.”

Is it right that you used to share a flat together?

“No [exasperated exhale]. This story started going round that he stayed with me when he came to London—no, he didn’t. But we did actually chop up a piano. The piano was a wreck, half the keys were missing and it was a very, very cold winter and my wife and I decided to chop up the piano so we took it bit by bit. And by the time Bob came along we were down to the frame. And I’d been given, for my birthday, a Samurai sword and Bob came round to have a cup of tea, and Dorothy—my then wife—said, “Make a fire, Mart,” so I got the sword, and he stood between me and the piano and said, “You can’t do that, it’s a musical instrument!” I said It’s a piece of junk and went to swing at it and before I could swing at it he was whispering in my ear, Can I have a go?

The London Jazz Collector Thinks (A Regular Feature On His Wonderful Site)
“A bent piece of metal pipe with holes called the saxophone transforms human breath into a voice, drums extend the pulse of the heart beat, a piano exchanges ten for eighty-eight fingers, while the bass is the feet on which music walks. Instruments are physical extensions of human form and function that transform man into musician, the ultimate analogue source. Whilst the vocal singing voice can be beautiful, (though often, not) how does it compare with a stream of triplets and sixteenths soaring from Charlie Parker’s alto? It strikes me that not only are records the new antiques, they are works of art, the equal of art framed on gallery walls. You are not just a mere record collector, a figure of fun and pity, poking around in dusty crates. You are, in that immortal expression of Charles Saatchi, an artaholic, in need of a life-sustaining drink.”

This Fabulous Photograph Of John Lee Hooker Explaining It All
John Lee

“I’m not getting any younger, but I’m not feeling very old, Not shoutin’ for my cemetery tomb soon, I’m gonna wait ’til John Lee Hooker makes room…”
Garland Jeffreys, ’Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me, from his latest album (can we still say that?) The King Of Inbetween, where, with the help of the great Larry Campbell, he continues to plow a furrow of his own making, never beaten down, a streetwise NYC poet, part Lou Reed, part Doo-Wop, part John Lee, still a ghost writer with 35mm dreams.

And From Next Week…
For you loyal seventeen followers—or Seventeen Spurious Widows, as an unreleased Bob Dylan song would have it—after one year or 52 posts, and prompted by a great time spent helping out Richard Williams on his new blog (thebluemoment.com, go there now!), a redesign—and to kick it off, a special issue devoted to Bob Dylan and Bette Midler’s hilarious and fascinating Buckets Of Rain session.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 30th January

What In Music’s Name Is This?:
Marcel’s Miller/Moptops Mayhem

A small package arrived in the post. Square, the size of a CD. It was a ESD* and was covered in writing. There was no mystery who it was from, as it was signed, but it had an air of mystery around it.
“Martin, follow these five simple steps to nausea and amazement. 1. Log on to http://forgottenalbums.com/albums/?p=59. 2. Bask in a warm nostalgic glow as you enjoy the album cover. 3. Read the blog, remembering that this guy is not making this album up. 4. Play the CD 5. Ask yourself ‘Why?’ P.S. The guitar solo on Let It Be is THE FINEST thing I’ve ever heard x Marcel.”

Marcel

From:      Martin Colyer
Date:       24 January 2013 07:56:31 GMT
To:           Marcel Ashby
Subject:   Has a song not benefited from the…
Glenn Miller treatment more than Something? God Almighty, that’s horrific! Oh, hold on, I’ve just listened to Michelle. Still trying to locate the original melody. Let It Be? Let It Stop, more like. I’m thinking you shortened it by one track (that great Beatles classic, Bird Cage Walk) just out of the kindness of your heart. I must lie down now.

At least they spent some money on the cover

At least they spent some money on the cover

Oh, and don’t get me started on that guitar solo in Let It Be, which seems to actually be playing a different song. It’s as if there was a surf guitarist walking past the studio door playing, and they grabbed him, hit record and didn’t miss a beat. The fact it has nothing to do with the tune of Let It Be, or, indeed, any tune, is neither here nor there. And the last two notes are to die for. Or something.

*Evil Silver Disc, according to vinyl obsessives.

In Bob News This Week
First impressions, Inside Llewyn Davis Trailer
1) They’ve captured the look of 1962 New York rather well.
2) It’s nice that a lesser-known Bobsong soundtracks this teaser.
3) Looks like Carey Mulligan has some good lines.
4) Bob-strokes-cat a little earlier than Guy Peellaert would have us believe (although the character of Llewyn Davis could equally be based on Dave Van Ronk).
5) John Goodman will have plenty of raucous lines, and his will be the haircut of the film.
6) Fresh from Homeland, F Murray Abraham as the owner of the Gate of Horn Nightclub in Chicago. Which makes him Albert Grossman in this scenario.
7) Oscar Isaac’s teeth are in way-too-good condition for 1962.

Uh Huh—It Was The Manfreds
From Tom McGuinness’ sleeve notes for the Manfred Mann Ages Of Mann compilation CD:
“Bob Dylan’s Mighty Quinn was our third number One. Al Grossman, Dylan’s manager, played us the song.“Why does Dylan get such a useless vocalist to sing his demos?” Manfred asked. “That’s Bob singing”, said Al.”
Oh, and I never knew that Jack Bruce was in Manfred Mann. He plays bass on the great Pretty Flamingo. Or, indeed, that Klaus Voormann replaced Bruce when he left.

Aimee Mann, Ghost World, RFH, Jan 28th
My favourite moment at Aimee’s concert (thanks, Barney!) was her performance of the best post-school/pre-life song ever written. Prompted by a twitter request, this rarely-played (and unknown by the rest of the band) gem stood out. Named for, and inspired by, Daniel Clowes’ great graphic novel, every glorious line rang clear, sat on the cushion of Aimee’s patented J45 strum—“Finals blew, I barely knew/My graduation speech/And with college out of reach/If I can’t find a job it’s down to dad/And Myrtle Beach”—joined by bassist Paul (Mountain Man) Bryan’s harmonies and the trippy off-the-cuff keys of Jebin (Freak Flag) Bruni, all carnival swirl and hum. And by coincidence, watching Community the following night (your next must-rent boxset) and having Jeff and Pierce’s hysterical Spanish Project performance acted out to Aimee’s Wise Up.

Dateline: New Orleans. Brett Mielke Reporting…
“Well, the record shop I first went to and bought Ken’s records back in 2003 survived Katrina and the slow death of record stores! Had a visit and bought a wealth of KC music. Also had a long chat with the clerk who was about my age and knew an unbelievable amount about the music. Fear not, relatives of all generations, the Ken Colyer legacy is still alive and well in the Crescent City…”

NO

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 16th January

Marianne Faithfull interview, The Guardian
The Guardian: There’s a fantastic YouTube clip of you in 1973, wearing a nun’s outfit, singing with David Bowie at the Marquee club. It’s like watching an early Lady Gaga.
Marianne Faithfull: “I’ve known that ever since Lady Gaga came along­—I did it much better and long before you! Working with David Bowie was very interesting, but I couldn’t surrender to it. I should have let him produce a record for me, but I’m very perverse in some ways. He’s brilliant, but the entourage were rather daunting.” It’s amazing how large the Marquee looks in this clip. It was a tiny place, but the US tv crew filming this special in ’73 have made it seem much more expansive. I remember the band looming over the audience. And the costumes. I remember the costumes. But very little else, so it was great to see the space-rock Sonny & Cher again, and to hear the lovely guitar obbligato from Mick Ronson.

I Should Have Known…
“What is the Obscurometer? Simply put, it’s a tool to measure just how obscure the music you listen to is.” And with that, people who are—or were—in bands, typed their bandnames into the dialogue box and hit return. And, I’m guessing, got a similar result percentage-wise…

Obscureometer

Excellent David Bailey quote
I once saw the world’s grumpiest photographer give a lecture at the Marble Arch Odeon in London. Everyone before him had done lavish slide shows with overviews of their ouevre. Bailey handed a polaroid to a person in the first row and asked them to pass it along. So it was passed along, row by row, as he talked brilliantly about his career, cameras, lenses, models… In the Guardian Weekend Questionnaire he was asked Which living person do you most admire?, and answered: Bob Dylan, because he is like a singing Picasso.

Motörhead: “Down. Down. Stop! Up, Up, A Little Bit, A Bit More—Great, That’s It!”
Lemmy has launched a line of Motörhead branded headphones in the United States. Specifically made for listening to rock music, the all-metal headphones are called Motörheadphönes. “People say we’ve never sold out. No one ever approached us,” said Lemmy, at the US launch earlier this week. I didn’t realise until recently that I saw a very early Motörhead gig (their eleventh), supporting Blue Oyster Cult at the Hammersmith [remember No Sleep ’til Hammersmith?] Odeon. We had gone because BOC had a kind of rock-crit cachet as being “intellegent” hard rock. My lasting memory was of Larry Wallis trying to tune his guitar between songs without turning off his fuzz box (ah, loved those pre-electric tuner days) and getting helped by the audience, as illustrated by the headline…

This Guitar, British Heart Foundation Charity Shop, £25
Made in Valencia by the firm of Vicente Tatay Tomás—not top of the line— with a huge crack along back held down by sellotape (but hey, hasn’t Wille Nelson proved that extra holes in guitars have no effect on the tone…)

Guitar

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 28th November

The Return Of Scott Walker
Exciting news for us Scott fans! In a relatively revealing Guardian interview as his new album, Bish Bosch, is launched, Scott talks about his fear of performing, as well as saying that no promoter would put him on anyway, as they’re only interested in money. But Scott could tour cultural festivals, not rock arenas, if he chose. In 2008, for instance, The Barbican put on Drifting and Tilting—The Songs of Scott Walker. It was more opera than rock. Scott, eyes hidden beneath baseball cap, stood at the mixing desk conducting his collaborator Peter Walsh. It was all I could do to drag my eyes away and back to the stage, which teemed with extraordinary visions. The most arresting image? Possibly a boxer using a pig’s carcass as a percussion instrument. Or maybe Gavin Friday as Elvis (“It casts its ruins in shadows/Under Memphis moonlight”), perched on a stool, singing to his stillborn twin Jesse, while a bequiffed and backlit figure strode  from the back of the stage until he assumed gigantic proportions, looming over the whole theatre. Whichever, it was an evening that lives on in the memory. Long may Scott run.

Amy’s Blues
The National Portrait Gallery in London buys a portrait by Marlene Dumas of the late Amy Winehouse, and  the curator says: “Dumas said that she had been very moved by the news of Winehouse’s death.” Which sort of begs the question: why not be moved by something useful like her talent or her voice—while she was alive. What’s “moving” about her death? “Dumas, who is based in Amsterdam, sought out images of Winehouse online for the work which draws the viewer in to the singer’s distinctive eyes and eye liner.” Yes, you read that right. In Art Speak, she sought out images of Amy online. And then copied some of the photos she found, quite badly. So, basically, this mediocre fan painting was co-created by Google Image Search (79,600,000 results).

Kermit The Frog, Meet Miles Davis & Louis Malle & Jeanne Moreau
Genius overlay of Davis’ session (filmed by Malle) recording the soundtrack to Lift To The Scaffold, the great French noir from ’58, with LCD Soundsystem’s New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down. The film of Davis playing to a huge projection of Moreau walking the streets of Paris at night is just stunning. That’s cut with Kermit on a rock across the river from midtown, and in Times Square. Hats off to Alessandro Grespan for his inspired and crazy jamming together of these two videos. The despairing mood of both pieces is eloquently summed up in James Murphy’s brilliant couplet “There’s a ton of the twist, but we’re fresh out of shout…”

Is It Rolling, Keith?
My favourite moment so far in Crossfire Hurricane, the Stones doc, is the extraordinary stage invasion footage. Keith: “It started, man, on the first tour. Half way through things started to get crazy [here the on-stage cameras filming the concert record a group of young besuited guys pushing the Stones over, singing into Jagger’s mic, attempting to pull Brian Jones’ guitar off, as the soundtrack becomes phased and fragmented]… we didn’t play a show after that, that was ever completed, for three years… we’d take bets on how long a show would last—you’re on, 10 minutes…”

Christies Pop Culture Auction Preview, South Kensington
A random sampling of the 20th Century, from chairs that were part of the set of Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, via Harrison Ford’s bullwhip from Raiders to the ‘Iron Maiden’ from Ken Russell’s Tommy (a snip if it goes for its estimate of £1000). I was there to gaze upon Mitch Mitchell’s snare drum (as featured on Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, Hey Joe etc) and Andy Warhol’s mock-up of an unpublished book of the Stones ’75 tour. Favourite item? Hibbing High School Yearbook, 1958, signed, “Dear Jerry, Well the year’s almost all over now, huh. Remember the “sessions” down at Colliers. Keep practicing the guitar and maybe someday you’ll be great! A friend, Bob Zimmerman”

Jerry’s Yearbook, Hibbing High School, 1958

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 31st October

Danny Baker, Shortlist Questionnaire
Who’s the most overrated band of your lifetime? “Queen. A dreadful group. They were neither Led Zeppelin nor Bowie and they played that middle ground in between. Punk rock didn’t come around because of prog rock or anything like that, it came around because of Queen. Abba, Queen and ELO—that was what people were trying to move away from. You can find everything Queen did better elsewhere.”

Bob Dylan & The Poetry Of The Blues
Michael Gray, my favourite writer on Bob Dylan, gives a talk in Canterbury, close enough to drive to. Mick Gold comes with me, supplying an excellent compilation CD and fascinating conversation for our tiny road trip. Michael’s presentation is terrific—funny and revelatory. Over a meal afterwards we talk about the fact that Freddy Koella is both Michael and my favourite Dylan guitarslinger. Mick reveals that the night before, Freddy had guested for two songs at Bob’s Santa Barbara gig—the first time since he was a member of the Never-Ending Tour Band in 2004.
Michael on Freddy: “Freddy was Dylan’s best-ever lead electric guitarist (and just might be the best electric guitarist altogether since the heyday of Hubert Sumlin). Robbie Robertson was near sublime—the next best, a very close second—but Freddy was better. And in The Band all the other musicians were crucial too, whereas in Dylan’s band Freddy had to carry the whole front line. Of course you could say Mike Bloomfield was right up there, but he was, though a virtuoso, essentially more limited (Dylan had to tell him, for Like A Rolling Stone, to play ‘none of that B.B. King shit’); and G.E. Smith was terrific, but safe. You never wondered excitedly what he might do next. Whereas Freddy played by living on the edge, like Bob, fusing Django Reinhardt and Carl Perkins and playing as if it were 1957 now. He was the electric lead guitarist Dylan himself would have been, had Dylan ever bothered to master the instrument.” That line is fantastic, and spot on—“Playing as if it were 1957 now…”

Papa Nez’s Blues
To the Queen Elizabeth Hall with my mum to see her old fave, Mike Nesmith (The First & Second National Band stuff, not The Monkees, just so’s you know). I seem to be making it a point lately to see only Senior Citizens Of Rock™ but it’s just coincidental. It’s instructive to compare and contrast the approaches, however.
Leonard “Ladies’ Man” Cohen, 78, 4 years into his latest group of tours, is in fantastic voice, playing three-and-a half-hour shows with some of the finest musicians on God’s earth and playing versions of his songs that make the original tracks seem pale shadows. It is, in all senses, not just another show. It’s a summation of a life’s work.
Ian “Mott To Trot” Hunter, 73, belts out his impressive and rockin’ back catalogue with ferocious intent, fronting a hell-for-leather combo, The Rant Band. On lead guitar, Mark Bosch is a passionate and note/feel-perfect Seventies/Eighties Noo Yawk (think Leslie West or Mike Rathke) player, matching Hunter every step of the way. His tribute to Mick Ronson, Michael Picasso, is really moving, and the sense of community between him and his fans something to feel.
Mike “Papa Nez” Nesmith, 70, hasn’t played London since 1975, and makes a rather terrible decision. Sold to the audience as cutting edge technology by Nesmith, the three musicians on stage play along with pre-recorded tracks (mostly triggered by the keyboardist), which a) makes the sound terrible, all clunky Casio drums and booming sound effects, and b) forces everyone into a rather tight and metronomic way of playing—an already fairly predictable bass player becomes almost immobile, and the music has no sway or grace. This seems a real shame, as Nesmith’s use of soundscapes on tracks like Nevada Fighter, Bonaparte’s Retreat or Beyond The Blue Horizon were really innovative, especially in a country rock context. There are some beautiful songs here, from Joanne to The Grand Ennui to Rio, and Nesmith has the fine idea of setting up each song with a short piece of fiction contextualising the events that have (supposedly) led up to the song. But the bad sound, the gloopy and excessive synth string playing, the hopeless beats and Nesmith’s out of practice and strained voice leaves us feeling underwhelmed.

www.bullettmedia.com/article/music-journalism-cliches-that-need-to-be-retired-today/
Well, this brilliant broadside by Luke O’Neil makes rock journalism just that bit more difficult (but—hey—upside… potentially better!)

Not So Lucky, Lucky, Lucky
“I love all the PWL stuff slowed down, it sounds great.” says Kylie talking about The Abbey Road Sessions, where she re-records her pop hits of the eighties. I remember when the band I was part of (who NME saw as the antithesis of Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s PWL stuff—Rick Astley, Kylie, Jason Donovan etc.) decided to record a slow version of Kylie’s I Should Be So Lucky for a radio session. Sounded great when Mark roughed it out on piano with Heather, but someone somewhere hit the Irony Alert! button and thought better of it…

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 17th October

Rock Me, Davy!
1972, Fulham. Tony Cane Honeysett calls me over to his record player. Listen to this! he says. The 45 starts with a snarly riff, before going into a moody, groovy blues, with snappy drums and hooky fuzz guitars. The singer sounds both pop and familiar. After a few minutes I tumble. It’s David Cassidy, essaying a new, more grown-up direction, trying to move on from teen fandom to a kind of rock/blues. In May of ’72 he’ll pose nearly naked for Annie Leibovitz in Rolling Stone. This week in 2012, four of Cassidy’s albums from this period are re-released. Not sure I’ll check them out, but for old times sake (Hey, Tone!) I re-listen to Rock Me Baby, and it’s great. The Wrecking Crew rhythm section—Hal Blaine on drums and Joe Osbourne on bass—get down while Mike Melvoin (father of Wendy) prowls around the edges on piano. In the centre of the soundstage Larry Carlton and Dean Parks strut and fret, combining to brew up a nasty Southern Rock snarl. It’s just great, and I’m back in Anselm Road with Tony…

Seamus Ryan Sings ‘Liverpool Lou’
We had 12 minutes to photograph Billy Connolly in a room in a painfully Boutique Hotel™ this week. Photographer [to the stars] Seamus breaks the ice and makes a connection by revealing that he’s Dominic Behan’s godson, and Billy, famously, once decked Dominic in a bar, a fight broken up by Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners. Billy remembers the incident in detail, including the fact that he apologized the next morning to Dominic (sober throughout the whole fracas). At one point in the twelve minutes Seamus sings a few bars of Liverpool Lou, one of his godfather’s most famous songs [he also wrote The Patriot Game], very prettily. On a recent Desert Island Discs, Yoko Ono selected Liverpool Lou as one of her choices, remembering that her husband had sung it to their son as a lullaby. Oh, and Seamus delivered, as always.

Now This Sounds Intriguing…
The Coen brothers’ next film is Inside Llewyn Davis, about a struggling folk musician in the Village at the height of the 1960s folk scene. Apparently, the film’s title character is based on Dave Van Ronk. Bob Sheldon called him The Mayor of MacDougal Street [the name of Van Ronk’s autobiography, written with Elijah Wald] and everyone who went through Greenwich Village at that time seems to owe him a debt, most famously Dylan. John Goodman was interviewed in US Esquire this month by Scott Raab, and talked about it:
Raab: What are you shooting in New York?
Goodman: Inside Llewyn Davis. I’m playing a junkie jazz musician for Joel and Ethan Coen. I haven’t worked with them since O Brother, Where Art Thou?—15 years. Boy, it’s great to be back with them again. We have a real good comfort zone. I just adore being with those guys. It’s like hanging around with high school guys or something.
Raab: I’ve heard the film is based on folk singer Dave Van Ronk’s life. So it’s set in Greenwich Village in the ’60s?
Goodman: Right on the cusp of Dylan’s big explosion.
Raab: I’m probably one of the few people who’s seen Masked and Anonymous, the movie you were in with Dylan, half a dozen times. It’s such a strange movie, and it has so many moving parts. It’s a fascinating film. How was Dylan on set?
Goodman: Being around Bob was a trip. I just hung back and watched him. When the cats had downtime, they’d go somewhere and play together. And I’d listen to that. The film got a god-awful reception at Sundance. There were a lot of walkouts, but who cares? It was kind of an absurdist, futurist piece. It was fun. And I got to work with Jeff Bridges again. I got to stand next to the fabulous Penélope Cruz for a little while. That was worth the price of admission. Senorita Cruz.”

Mortification Corner
1>
“Diana Krall has collaborated with Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood and acclaimed photographer Mark Seliger to create a series of beautiful and striking images for Krall’s new album, Glad Rag Doll. They are inspired by Alfred Cheney Johnston’s pictures of the girls of the Ziegfeld Follies taken during the 1920s.” Well, if you say so…
2> Pity poor Art Garfunkel as he sits on the sofa being interviewed by the One Show dolts whilst they implore the Mrs Robinson’s in their audience to text photos of themselves, preferably with toyboys. Art tried to modify the disdain in his expression, but didn’t quite succeed…

King Harvest (Has Surely Come): Hyde Park, Saturday

“Corn in the field, listen to the cars when they cross Hyde Park Corner…”

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