Five Things: Wednesday 3rd April

‘January 26, 1962: Passed Dylan on the street, he said to me that he “didn’t know why so many things are happening to me.” I said that he did.’
Michael Gray writes a very nice piece on Izzy Young on the occasion of his 85th birthday. A couple of years ago in Stockholm we sat with Izzy outside his office, the Folklore Centrum, having tea with Sarah Blasko (Izzy is a magnet for any musician of a certain bent who happens to be in town). Here’s a photo of some of Izzy’s files. I’m guessing Irene relates to ‘Goodnight, Irene.’

Izzy's Bookshelf
After we leave, Sam (Charters) tells me that the last time Bob Dylan played in Stockholm, Bob’s people arranged for Izzy to meet him, and he ended up having a chat to Bob by the side of the bus. As they said goodbye, Izzy grabbed Dylan’s cheeks and waggled them, like a Jewish grandfather would do to his grandson. Security! Nobody touches Bob! Bob, however, burst out laughing… Sam said that Bob’s road manager told him it was the only time he saw Bob laugh on the whole tour…

Izzy2

BP Garage, Clapham Common Northside, Thursday
A man in front of me is slowly paying for petrol and weird “garage” shopping: A bottle of wine, Jelly Babies, Screen Wash, Iced Buns…  so I idly pick up the new Bowie CD. He looks at me and says “Dreadful cover,” about Jonathan Barnbrooke’s white square over Heroes. I disagree and say that the fact that it created thousands of memes proves that it worked as one part of Bowie’s brilliant stealth marketing for The Next Day’s release. Who’s been that excited about an album launch in years? He smiles, says fair point, and Exits Garage Left.

We Love Site-Specific Street Signs & Slang!
“Artist Jay Shells channeled his love of hip hop music and his uncanny sign-making skills towards a brand new project: Rap Quotes. For this ongoing project, Shells created official-looking street signs quoting famous rap lyrics that shout out specific street corners and locations. He then installed them at those specific street corners and locations.” More here.

Signs

emusic Find of the Month
Marnie Stern, downloaded because of its title: The Chronicles Of Marnia. She’s a really talented “shredding” (ask the kids) guitarist who seems to have made an album that references Battles and Braids. It’s manic & great & slightly odd—fretboard squalling, swooping vocal whoops and wild drumming… Somehow I was disappointed that the cover wasn’t more like this…

The Voyage of the Dawn Shredder

The Voyage of the Dawn Shredder

 

Reading The Guardian Magazine two weeks after publication, and finding Stephen Collins being brilliant. Again.
Collins

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 9th January

Weird iPod Synchronicity Pt4: Hyde Park Corner, London
As Lana Del Ray sparks into life in my headphones, hitting the chorus of Day At The Races [And I’m off to the races/Cases of Bacardi chasers/Chasing me all over town…] a trap and four outriders, all jodhpurs, riding hats & crops, trots in front of the bus, past Apsley House, and makes their way into Hyde Park.

On The Road Again
Fact Of The Week: At number 17 in the Highest Earning World Tours last year, Leonard Cohen is ahead (at £28.4 million) of Justin Bieber… and at Number 27, The Black Keys are ahead of Celine Dion, having grossed $23.5 million. The Black Keys. $23.5 million. Wow…

emusic Find Of The Month: Menahan Street Band, The Crossing
Recorded in a studio paid for by a Jay Z sample, by some of the musicians behind Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley’s sound, mostly during the night, this instrumental album is wonderful. Some of it is Spaghetti Western, some a kind of handicraft Portishead—try Ivory & Blue: jazz horns, soulful wah-wah guitar, funky Seventies pop drumming. Just the right amount of loose, just the right amount of tight, just the right amount of great.

Jeff Buckey: Three Films In Pipeline…
But the one I’m looking forward to (Brendan Fletcher’s A Pure Drop) is written by the fabulously named Train Houston. You’d have to gravitate towards music in some form with a name like Train Houston.

Bowie Back, Nile Rogers Bio, Letters Of Note
One the evening before David Bowie’s return to PopWorld™ I was reading Nile Rodgers’ very entertaining biography Le Freak, and had reached the part where he talks about recording Let’s Dance with the label-less Bowie.

“As I say to vocalists who are singing a little flat, sharp, or out-of-the-pocket, We’re in the neighbourhood, but we haven’t found the house yet.” David Bowie helped me find the house.

Not long after I arrived in Switzerland, Bowie strolled into my bedroom with a guitar.“Hey, Nile, listen to this, I think it could be a hit.” What followed was was a folksy sketch of a composition with a solid melody: the only problem was it sounded to me like Donovan meets Anthony Newley. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. I’d been mandated to make hits, and could only hear what was missing… I started reworking the song. I soon discovered the diamond in the rough.

[We] asked Claude Nobs, creator of the Montreux Jazz Festival, to round up a handful of local musicians… gone were the strummy chords… I’d replaced them with staccato stabs and a strict harmonic interpretation. I used silence and big open spaces to keep the groove and kept rearranging it on the spot, like I always did with Chic. David quickly got down with the reshaping of his song. We had a lot of fun and laughter in that Swiss studio with those terrific musicians… Laughter is the key to my sessions—the unconditionally loving parent in the room.”

And from Letters Of Note: In November of 1970, a month after signing a five-year publishing deal with Chrys­alis Music, 24-year-old David Bowie wrote the following letter to Bob Grace, the man who signed him, and briefly filled him in on his life so far:

November 17th, 1970
Haddon Hall

Mr. Bob Grace
Chrysalis Music Ltd
388/398 Oxford Street
London W1

Dear Bob
I was born in Brixton and went to some Schools thereabout and studied Art. Then I went into an Advertising Agency which I didn’t like very much. Then I left and joined some Rock ’n’ Roll Bands playing Saxophone and I sang some which nobody liked very much.

As I was already a Beatnik, I had to be a Hippie and I was very heavy and wrote a lot of songs on some beaches and some people liked them. Then I recorded Space Oddity and made some money and spent it which everybody liked.

Now I am 24 and I am married and I am not at all heavy and I’m still writing and my wife is pregnant which I like very much.

LOVE DAVID

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 5th September

Black Tie White Noise
Evening Standard, last week. Bowie disputes claims made in the Observer by the V&A that he is co-curating the [Bowie Costumes] show. “Contrary to recently published reports: I did not participate in any decisions relating to the exhibition. A close friend of mine tells me that I am neither ‘devastated,’ ‘heartbroken,’ nor made ‘uncontrollably furious,’ by this news item.”

Really?
Interview with Kevin McDonald, Director of Touching The Void and Marley: “Q: Why do you think Marley’s music has proved so enduring? A: He wrote incredibly good tunes. Bob wrote more standards than almost anybody else, apart from Lennon and McCartney.” Did he? Standards? I Shot The Sheriff, Redemption Song, One Love, Three Little Birds, No Woman, No Cry, sure, but are his songs covered regularly, in the way that standards are? Marley’s number 211 on the SecondHandSongs database, a pretty comprehensive list of the most-covered songwriters, some way below Ozzy Osbourne and Marvin Gaye.

I Can Hear That Whistle Blowin’
My friend Steve Way on Duquesne Whistle: “Dylan vid weird. Like Bob is doing a phone ad song, and the director is doing a Sundance lo-fi Korean remake.” True say, Steve, but the world may be a better place for having this song in it—the chorus and thick, dirty riff are just joyous. Duquesne is a city along the Monongahela River in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Earl Hines, legendary jazz pianist, was born there. He signed my autograph book once.

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

“Even Cathy Berberian Knows/There’s One Roulade She Can’t Sing.”
The wonderfully titled Berberian Sound Studio featuring Toby Jones opens this week, named for Cathy Berberian, American soprano of the avant-garde. With Umberto Eco she translated works by Jules Feiffer and Woody Allen into Italian. You couldn’t make that sort of detail up. Eco nicknamed her magnificathy. Steely Dan paid their own tribute in the lyric above, from Your Gold Teeth on the Countdown To Ecstacy album.

Musical Marylebone
A few streets separate Joe’s monstrous urban flyover and John’s rather luxe pad. Of course, John’s background was rather more flyover than Joe’s…

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 1st August

Busker, Waterloo Station, 29 July
Playing Jimi Hendrix riffs. Not songs—just riffs. I figure he thinks that the most anyone hears is about 25 seconds, and that he should stick to what he does best, which involves a lot of flashy hand waving and facial grimacing. I gave him £1 for the way he fluttered his hand away from the strings after playing a particularly nice Purple Haze pastiche.

Stand Up For Senegal!
Alone among the national anthems that I’ve heard at this Olympics, the Senegalese song doesn’t have militaristic percussion and brassy horns. It actually has a pretty, pastoral tune, which seemed to float round the stadium rather than bounce off the metal girders, as Uruguay’s did. Senegal went on to float past the Uruguayan defence and win 2-0, playing with ten men for most of the match.

Sounds In Silence
Re-parking the car late the other night. The street is eerily quiet, as is the car, and the radio unexpectedly leaps into life at top volume. Jesus! But it’s only our old friends, Simon and Garfunkel, singing The Sound Of Silence, in the Tom Wilson “Folk Rock Overdub Mix”. I’m not sure that I’ve ever really listened to this but it’s great. Subtly done, albeit in a chart-friendly kind of way, with Bobby Gregg particularly good on drums as he follows Simon’s fingerpicked acoustic. But it’s such a strange notion, isn’t it—to, without the knowledge, cooperation or consent of the act, re-shape the track so radically. And, in the process, reform the act and help to make it huge.

How We Made… The Piano. The Guardian, August 1st
MICHAEL NYMAN Composer/“I had listened to recordings of Holly Hunter, who played Ada, performing Bach and Brahms and thought she’d be best suited to reflective, lyrical music—and useless at the usual Michael Nyman-type stuff. I must have pitched it right because she played with an emotional power that still influences me whenever I perform the score. The soundtrack helped define the feel of the film as it was shooting: Hunter said, as she accepted her Oscar, that it helped her create the character of Ada.”
JANE CAMPION, Director/“The only brief I gave Michael was to compose quite a few pieces that we could choose from. I let him have free rein, but we’d discuss what he’d done and I’d tell him if something could be sadder or happier. When he first visited, I hired a piano thinking he’d want to work through a few ideas, but he sat down, played a couple of notes, and said: Let’s go shopping! I assumed this was a musical genius at work, so decided I’d better go along with it. I trailed him all afternoon, while he bought a shirt and watched some cricket. Finally, I asked if he’d had any thoughts and he said he’d decided to research Scottish folk songs. I knew immediately that this was perfect.”

Bowie: Backsides/Mugshots
Stumbled across two David Bowie artifacts this week: A bootleg of a 1980 TV Show recorded at the Marquee Club, Wardour Street, London, in late October 1973 for the American TV show Midnight Special. I remember that somehow we got tickets and queued down the Soho street for hours to get in. I wasn’t a great Bowie aficionado but I do remember the show, with all its stop/start filming and endless retakes, as being really thrilling. Bowie was backed by the Spiders From Mars, but with Aynsley Dunbar on drums. Luckily, Mick Rock, who was photographing it, wrote about it for Music Scene: “The space in the Marquee is too limited to permit the requisite number of cameras to film simultaneously, so each song had to be reshot from different angles several times. This entailed as many as five or six performances of the same song…. the atmosphere generated by Bowie’s own unique craziness swiftly transformed the clubhouse into something closely resembling a circus ring – Dali style. Throughout Bowie was very patient, very up. He filled in the intervals between takes rapping with the audience, teasing, laughing. After each song he would disappear immediately, reappearing dramatically on cue for the next one in a new costume. He was joined by Marianne Faithfull, in a nun’s cowl and black cape, for the last song, the old Sonny and Cher hit, I Got You Babe. He frolicked about in the true spirit of the song while Marianne watched him, deadpan throughout. During one long break between takes she turned and left the stage, and paraded a pretty bare bottom, as the split in her cape flew open.” I remember that quite vividly.

Secondly, this, the most composed, fashion-forward police mugshot of all time.

“David Bowie, Iggy Pop and two female friends were busted for felony possession of half a pound of marijuana back in March of 1976 at the Americana Hotel in Rochester, N.Y., following a nearby concert. Bowie was held in the Monroe County jail for a few hours before being freed on bail—but this swanky mug shot wasn’t taken until he returned a few days later to face arraignment. The four ended up skating on all charges.”—Joe Robinson, diffuser.fm

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