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 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 7th May

Friedlander & Hinton
Beautiful photographs, flagged up by Bob Gumpert. The Milt Hinton shot of the jazz banjoist Danny Barker and Dizzy Gillespie, asleep while travelling, is just wondrous, and the framing of Louis Keppard by Lee Friedlander in front of a ruched curtain is terrific. And I’m certain that the tall guy on the right, holding the umbrella, in the Young Tuxedo Brass Band 1959 photo is Sam Charters. Some of Friedlander’s shots appeared in Like A One Eyed Cat (title courtesy of Big Joe Turner’s signature song “Shake, Rattle and Roll”). Now to find my copy…

Young Tuxedo Brass Band, 1959

Money doesn’t talk. When it comes to “transformative rock anthems”, it swears…
Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics to “Like A Rolling Stone” are set to be auctioned off this summer. As Rolling Stone reports, Sotheby’s are expecting to receive bids of more than $1 million when the handwritten draft of the words to Dylan’s 1965 track go on sale on June 24. Sotheby’s described the item as “the only known surviving draft of the final lyrics for this transformative rock anthem”, and revealed that the papers also include other possible lyrics which Dylan did not include in the final version of the song. The letter includes the phrase “Dry vermouth/You’ll tell the truth” and also has the name of notorious gangster Al Capone scribbled in the margin. Lyrics from Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” will also go under the hammer as part of the auction, and are expected to sell for between $400,000 and $600,000.

Check it out…
Ace Records has released Let The Music Play: Black America Sings Bacharach and David. “This 24-track compilation follows similar releases for Lennon and McCartney, Bob Dylan, and Otis Redding, and draws from the halcyon period between 1962 and 1975. For much of that period, Bacharach and David’s songs were rarely far from the top of the pop and R&B charts. As per Ace’s custom, the set includes both the familiar hits (few) and the lesser-known tracks (many). Let the Music Play features a 20-page booklet with lavish illustrations and detailed track-by-track notes from compiler/producer Tony Rounce. Duncan Cowell has superbly remastered all 24 songs.”

Swamp this and swamp that: Tony Joe White news
Watching a celebration of Muscle Shoals at the Barbican some years back, an under-rehearsed and sorta sketchy affair was lent some heft by the appearance of Tony Joe, playing his signature swamp rock blues, mostly solo. I’ve written before about his 1971 Albert Hall show (“In the middle of his set supporting Creedence Clearwater Revival, Tony Joe White stepped up to the mic and introduced his band: two of the Dixie Flyers (Mike Utley on organ and Sammy Creason on drums) and – on bass, ladies and gentlemen – the legendary ‘Duck’ Dunn, Memphis maestro (Booker T, Otis, Eddie, Wilson). Not content with Duck’s luminous, numinous credits, Tony Joe informed the audience that we had a Champion in the house (my memory fails me with the precise details, but it was something like All-State Tennessee Hall of Fame Champion). Yes a Champion of… the YoYo. And there, on the stage of The Royal Albert Hall, ‘Duck’ Walked The Dog… he Hopped The Fence… he went Around The World… he Looped The Loop… and 5,000 people whooped for joy, as they gave him a standing ovation.”)

Now, it seems, a show on that tour was taped. Rhino Records press release: “Before his song “Polk Salad Annie” went Top 10 in 1969, Tony Joe White learned to how to put on a good show as a survival skill while paying his dues in some of Texas and Louisiana’s roughest honky-tonks. His hit led to a U.S. tour where unsuspecting audiences were mesmerized by the guitarist’s fiery performances and his frenzied command of the whomper stomper (aka wah-wah pedal). Rhino Handmade preserves an unreleased 1971 live album with That On The Road Look, which finds White locked in watertight with his longtime drummer Sammy Creason and keyboardist Michael Utley along with legendary bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn. Thought to be a rumor for the longest time, not much is known about this unreleased treasure, including the exact location where it was recorded. Writing in the album’s liner notes, Ben Vaughn says: “What we have here is Exhibit A, proof that the self-named Swamp Fox was a bona fide barnstormer. Or barnburner. Or both. When you cue up this disc, Tony Joe and his three-piece band are already in fourth gear. Later for that lazy, laid-back vibe. What we have here is a sense of purpose.” As for the origin of the album, White believes it could have been recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in London. White recalls the tour vividly in the liner notes: “Creedence tried to burn us down and we tried to burn them down, ’cause they were goin’ around, “Swamp this and swamp that”, and ol’ Duck and me was real tight – we were fishin’ buddies and we got talkin’ one night, and he told ’em, ‘You know, Fogerty, there ain’t no alligators in Berkeley.’ From then on, it was war every night onstage.”

Love Marilyn
Had no great hopes for an HBO Monroe film created from recently found journals, but it’s riveting. Well directed by Liz Garbus, the idea of having actors read and act the quotations actually comes off. Oliver Platt is especially good reading Billy Wilder, and among many others Jennifer Ehle (remember The Camomile Lawn?) is excellent reading MM’s journal excerpts. Really strong library interviews are counterpointed with Monroe’s viewpoint and the picture and film research are really strong. The incidental music (take a bow, Bonnie Greenberg) is nicely chosen and the film draws to an end with a bewitching and gauzy version of “All Of Me” by, unexpectedly, Ani DiFranco. Bizarrely, the whole film is on YouTube, with the song at around 1hr 36.

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

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