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…”

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 25th April

The First Time I Ever Heard The Band
was when Sam Charters came through London in 1969, leaving America behind. He gave me his five favourite albums, one of which was Music From Big Pink

Levon…
always reminded me of my dad. Wiry. Ornery. Absolutely lived for music and drink-fueled good times. A great turn of phrase. The man who made the party happen—wherever he was. So whenever I watch any footage of Levon, I’m always put in mind of Bill.

The Song That Meant The Most
“The melody—too beautiful and out of reach for any words I have—spins the chorus into the pastoral with a feel for nature that is really hedonistic—

Corn in the field
Listen to the rice as the wind blows cross the water
King Harvest has surely come

—and a desperate, ominous rhythm slams the verses back to the slum streets that harbour the refugees of the pastoral disaster.”
—Greil Marcus, Mystery Train

“King Harvest was one of his greatest, most intuitive performances, and the sound of his kit more than did it justice. “King Harvest was one track where I got my drums sounding the way I always wanted them. There’s enough wood in the sound, and you could hear the stick and the bell of the cymbal.” Jon Carroll wrote that Levon was “the only drummer who can make you cry,” and listening to him on King Harvest—the anguished fills and rolls, the perfect ride cymbal figure accompanying the line Scarecrow and a yellow moon, pretty soon a carnival on the edge of town—it’s hard to disagree.”
—Barney Hoskyns, Across The Great Divide: The Band & America

Two Bits A Shot
In the nineties, in the early days of rocksbackpages, Barney and a group of us were pitching ideas to Malcolm Gerrie (creator of The Tube) for magazine tv shows about music. My most unlikely idea was to almost fetishistically examine great musicians’ instruments… and of course the opening feature would have been Levon’s wood rimmed kit, with the harvest scene painted on the bass drum, filmed from the inside out…

Levon Helm, Thank You Kindly
“They took me out to the location, and it was like going back in time: The film crew had rebuilt Butcher Hollow, Loretta’s hometown… We started work late in February and filmed for about six weeks, until old Ted Webb [Loretta’s father, whom Levon was playing] passes away… I was sad when my character died and my part of the movie was over. I didn’t really want to get in the coffin for the big wake scene, but I also didn’t want to be thought of as superstitious or “difficult.” So I told Michael Apted he’d have to get in first to show me how to look. So he kind of warmed the thing up for me, good sport that he is. As the “mourners” gathered around to sing Amazing Grace, I had to sit bolt upright. It was like coming back to life.

Cut!

“It’s my funeral,” I told them, “and if you’re gonna sing Amazing Grace, it’s gotta be the old-fashioned, traditional way.” And I taught ’em in my dead man’s makeup how to do it shape-note style like they would’ve back in the holler in those days. Some of the ladies they’d hired as extras turned out to be church choir singers, so once we’d got it off the ground it didn’t sound too bad. We rehearsed it a few times, then I got back in the coffin, and we shot the scene.”
—Levon Helm (with Stephen Davis) in his biography, This Wheel’s On Fire

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