Five Things: Wednesday 26th March

It’s Album Week at 5 Things! New Album Display
These may be my favourite two album covers, ever. Jimmy Reed’s a study in perfect 50s still-life, and Blind Blake (or rather, Blake Alphonso Higgs, not Blind Blake the bluesman) looks like some proto-Neville Brody illustration (if you remember his illustrated 12-inch singles from the 80s, that is). The guitar neck and peghead is fantastic, and the fingers are a little like Robert Johnson…

Blake

Check out the wonderfully-named Dust & Grooves
I really like Jeff Gold and there’s much to enjoy here. Dig Jimi’s personal album collection, the Rolling Stones eponymous debut album – “the first pop album with no type on the cover, thanks to their innovative manager, Andrew Loog Oldham” – and the great see-through Faust album, which I remember owning (and liking for the cover more than the music), but can no longer find!

Faust

I Read this Guardian piece, titled “Is this the first post-internet album?”
And then I read it again. And both times I didn’t understand a word of it. I didn’t understand the subject and I certainly didn’t get a sense of what it may possibly sound like. So I find the first track, “Satellites” online and there’s some industrial noise, the words “open the satellites” repeated a lot, some beats and a haircut. And nothing that sounds remotely new, post-internet or like a musical version of a William Gibson book.

From the blog, Just A Hint of Mayhem
“Don’t you just love Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets” from his 1973 double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? I certainly do. I knew that it wasn’t a live recording but the applause included on the track makes it sound as though it is. Did you know that the applause wasn’t even recorded at an Elton gig? In fact it is drawn from recordings of the audience clapping and shouting at Jimi Hendrix’s Isle Of Wight festival set in 1970. I know of another occasion where that kind of thing has happened too. The sound of the crowd used on the title track of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album is actually the applause taken from a live album by the Faces… Can any of you offer any similar gems?”

A Little More Llewyn Davis
Llewyn Davis has become our background music of choice over the last few months. I’m not sure why, as the album is not consistently good (in fact, I think the best thing on it are Dave Van Ronk’s “Green Green Rocky Road” and Dylan’s “Farewell”, the only original tracks) but it creates a great mood. So a few more ILD bits:

1> Annie Charters I wanted to know what Annie thought of the film and was pleased that both she and Sam loved it, while realising that it, of necessity, played loose with the truth of actual life in the village in 1962. Sam produced Inside Dave Van Ronk for Prestige, (apparently the cat was only there for a couple of frames as the cover was shot, but it was enough for the Coens), with Blue Note legend Rudy Van Gelder as engineer, which I hadn’t known. Annie took the lovely pic of Terri and Dave on a Village rooftop. She said that she and Sam were both mouth-agape at the re-creation of Moe Asch’s office (where he offers Llewyn Davis a coat instead of royalties). Apparently the walls really were covered with terrible paintings that Moe was convinced were priceless, and he left some to Sam and Ann in his will.

12-Inside
2> Oscar Isaac: “Here’s a crazy story. I was doing this really small movie and there was this guy in the scene, he was an extra, he’s in his sixties and he’s playing a drunk in a bar. There was this guitar just sitting there on the set and in between takes he picked it up and started playing. So I asked him what his story was, and he said that he was a guitar player from New York. So I told him that I had this audition coming up and that the part was based a little bit on Dave Van Ronk. So he says that he played with Dave Van Ronk. And then he told me to come by his place, and I asked him where that was and he told me that he lived above the Gaslight on MacDougal Street and that he’d lived there since the ’70s. It was like this time capsule. He had these stacks of records and guitars all over the place. And he doesn’t start playing Dave Van Ronk, he starts playing the stuff that Dave Van Ronk was listening to, like the Reverend Gary Davis and Lightnin’ Hopkins. And then he introduced me to Dave Van Ronk’s widow. And this was all before the audition. So I felt this has to happen. It was meant to be. So then I started playing with him. I’d go along to coffee houses and open up for him and we would share the basket. And that really immersed me in the whole scene and allowed an organic folk sound to come out.”
3> Richard Williams: “I’ve seen it a couple of times and was impressed by the faithful portrayal of the Greenwich Village folk scene as it prepared for the transition from Pete Seeger to Bob Dylan (although, as a friend pointed out, nobody tied a scarf with a loop in the way Oscar Isaac, who plays Davis, does until about 10 years ago).”

Extra! Goodbye Card from Dan Mitchell…
… as I leave my job. Thanks, Dan!

Good Luck

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 5th December

This is the West, Sir. When the legend
becomes fact, print the legend.”
James Stewart as Maxwell Scott, in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. As I read Mojo’s obit of Terry Callier, the folk-jazz-soul singer songwriter, my heart sinks as the oft-retold story of his first album is reprinted—yet again. Lois Wilson writes: “The following year saw him team with Prestige producer Samuel Charters. The New Folk Sound should have seated him next to Gil Scott-Heron and Nina Simone, such was its innovative cross-fertilization of jazz, folk, soul, blues and civil rights, but it finally arrived without fanfare in 1968, after Charters went AWOL with the tapes to Mexico.”
Here’s Wikipedia: “He met Samuel Charters of Prestige Records in 1964, and the following year they recorded his debut album. Charters then took the tapes away with him into the Mexican desert, and the album was eventually released in 1968 as The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier.”
From The Guardian, Callier interviewed by Will Hodgkinson: “Callier recorded his album, The New Folk Sound, under the influence of Coltrane, using two upright basses and two acoustic guitars to create a unique sound. The record would probably have been a hit but for the fact that its producer, Samuel Charters, took the tapes of The New Folk Sound on a voyage of self-discovery into the North American desert, where he lived with the Yaki Indians for the next three years.”

I decide to do the journalistic thing and ask someone who was there.
Sam Charters: “There’s been so much confusion there’s no quick answer. I was doing a lot of Chicago folk artists for Prestige, and I heard Terry at a folk club. I talked to him about recording and then I went to his family’s apartment in one of the project buildings one evening and he sang his songs. Sweet family, and he was a very pleasant young guy.

When we came to the studio he had new ideas, and there were two bass players; one on either side of him but with wide distances between. Then he wanted to record in the dark. When we had to turn on the lights between takes to do adjustments I was sure the basses were creeping up on me. Then I did the usual editing and we had the usual Friday afternoon sales meeting at Prestige—the only time we saw Bob Weinstock [owner of Prestige], if he even turned up—and the sales manager said we had to sell it as protest song album, since he was a black folk singer. So that was the promotion pitch, but otherwise it was just another of the Chicago albums I did that didn’t sell a lot, because he didn’t have much of a club audience.

I didn’t think about it again until the stories began circulating that I’d stolen the tapes and taken them to Mexico and that was why the album didn’t come out for two years and was a flop. I was fired about the time the record came out and Annie and I did drive to Mexico and California, but we were back in New York in April for the world premiere of Ives’ 4th Symphony, with Stokowski conducting [Leopold Stokowski conducted it with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on April 26, 1965].

When the stories started about me and the stolen tapes in Terry’s interviews I regarded it as just one of those weird things. I tried to correct it when there was an article in the New York Times, but the journalist was in love with the story and wouldn’t give it up. Fantasy had the old Prestige album and some sort of recording rights and Bill Belmont called and asked if I’d like to produce a new album and I said very quickly no. Terry did appear in Stockholm a year later and told the same story and I thought of calling him and then I decided—why? His story was much better and he felt good with it and it didn’t matter to me one way or another. I’d produced a lot of records for Prestige that didn’t sell and I’m sure the artists have some equally colorful story.”

Quote Of The Week
Peter Doherty interview, Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian.
Another French royal whose path he crossed was Carla Bruni, when he was invited to some music sessions at the house she shared with Nicolas Sarkozy, then president.Her house was “a really strange scene, where you’ve got a guy with a submachine gun on each door.” Did he meet Sarkozy? “You’re joking, aren’t you?” he laughs, blaming his bad reputation. “She told me she took him to see Bob Dylan. She had the harmonica that Dylan gave her, and apparently he was like: I don’t want to meet this guy, who is he anyway?”

Bold As Joan Osborne
Another Day, Another Cover, but a sweet one: From Joan Osborne’s album earlier this year, mostly singing songs written by black songwriters, her cover of Jimi’s Bold As Love stands out. Hendrix is rarely covered, especially by non-guitarists, with the notable exception of Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois (This Must Be Love on Wrecking Ball). Great Melodies, wonderful changes and sweet, tremulous, touching lyrics are all present in a joyous stew. Osborne’s a great singer—check out her performance of What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted in Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, especially the breakdown halfway through when the Tell Me! Call & Response starts happening…

Title Fight
Adam Ant’s new album title—Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter—made me vaguely curious as to the longest album title. It turns out to be this 865 character cracker from Chumbawumba in 2008:
The Boy Bands Have Won, and All the Copyists and the Tribute Bands and the TV Talent Show Producers Have Won, If We Allow Our Culture to Be Shaped by Mimicry, Whether from Lack of Ideas or From Exaggerated Respect. You Should Never Try to Freeze Culture. What You Can Do Is Recycle That Culture. Take Your Older Brother’s Hand-Me-Down Jacket and Re-Style It, Re-Fashion It to the Point Where It Becomes Your Own. But Don’t Just Regurgitate Creative History, or Hold Art and Music and Literature as Fixed, Untouchable and Kept Under Glass. The People Who Try to ‘Guard’ Any Particular Form of Music Are, Like the Copyists and Manufactured Bands, Doing It the Worst Disservice, Because the Only Thing That You Can Do to Music That Will Damage It Is Not Change It, Not Make It Your Own. Because Then It Dies, Then It’s Over, Then It’s Done, and the Boy Bands Have Won. Soon to be re-released on Syco Records, apparently.

Liooel Riihie?
Found during iPhoto cull. Travelling in California last year, accidentally turning on the subtitling on the motel’s TV during Lionel Richie’s Who Do You Think You Are? programme.

Lionel

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 12th September

When Harry Met Sammy
I don’t normally like to these posts to be long, but as a piece of writing this is too good to edit down. This reminded me again that things are rarely as they seem, rarely as simple as outsiders perceive—those at the centre of events always have a much more complex perspective. And also it reminded me of the importance of primary recollections…

It started when Barney let me know a couple of months ago about an upcoming Harry Smith Conference, America Changed Through Music: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music at 60, a one-day conference this Saturday September 15th. It’s hosted by the University of East Anglia’s School of American Studies at UEA London, and will explore the impact and ongoing legacy of an extraordinary cultural artefact—whew! I emailed one of the co-directors, Thomas Ruys Smith, as I’d been talking to Sam & Ann Charters about their time with Moe Asch at Folkways Records, and offered to put him in touch. He said he’d be delighted in Sam’s view. And then Sam emailed me with his view, which is brilliant (if off-message…)

“I’ve had a long, complicated relationship with Harry’s set. I first heard it in New Orleans in 1952 just after it first came out—a folk singer named Billy Faier in the French Quarter had it—then when Annie and I first began living together in 1957 the first thing we bought together was the Harry Smith set. $35 dollars—a lot of money for us. I liked some of it—some of it I already knew—and it all seemed to be to be just part of what had been going on with the reissues of old jazz and blues recordings since the 1930s. Fred Ramsey was doing a twelve volume LP reissue for Moe Asch of the history of jazz at the same time and his volume 1 had a lot of the same kinds of material. When I began working with Moe he said that he had been helping support Harry and they both were junking old 78s on 6th Avenue, just around the corner from the Folkways office. All the records in the collection were up in the office and half of the records that went into the set were his. He said that he and Harry had talked a lot about what they wanted from the set and of course it followed the outlines that the Lomaxes had set up in their folk song anthologies. The LPs were fine and fun—but no big deal.

But—for all those sixties teenagers the world began with Bob Dylan, and if he listened to the set it had to be the roots of everything that ever happened in America. Harry was living in the Chelsea Hotel all this time and in all my experiences with him he was a genuine horse’s ass. I had to shut him up sometimes when I was trying to record people in the Village and he kept drifting into Moe’s office begging for money. All his films were there as well, but I had seen a lot of experimental film and I didn’t think these were very exciting. His great things seemed to be the collection of painted Russian Easter Eggs in his hotel room, and his unending repertoire of string games. I edited an album of Allen Ginsberg’s readings and singing from tapes that Harry made in the hotel room, and at least he got a decent sound.

He made some scrawled notes for a Volume 4 and I was given the luckless task of trying to figure out what he wanted to include from his list—which drew down upon my head the wrath of everyone whose lives had begun with the original three volumes. Harry finally couldn’t pay his hotel bill, so Allen moved him in and supported him, which meant that Harry now became an iconic figure, since Allen always made it known that he only hung out with important figures. Before he died Allen set up in his will a legacy to pay for promotion of the Harry Smith legend. The woman who had the job was a fire-eater who often expressed her dislike for me, but I always felt that she was just doing what she was paid to do. There was eventually a Harry Smith celebration at the St. Marks Church on the Lower East Side where Harry was presented as the only person anyone knew who was probably at least as important as Jesus.

So that’s me and Harry—I wish some of these people could somehow see that what happened in the 1950s was just a continuation of the gathering and collecting of vernacular music in the South that had been going on for nearly a century. Everything I learned was from what people like Fred Ramsey and Bill Russell had done in New Orleans and the South in the 1930s—their recordings of musicians like Leadbelly and Bunk Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton—the books and articles and eventually LPs and films. Why does Harry get the credit for something that was much larger than his set? I dunnow.

I did a radio interview yesterday with someone in America who had just read The Country Blues and he wasn’t really aware that these things could have happened so long ago. At least the people obsessed with the blues don’t go on about Harry—they want to talk about the Stones and the other Brits. I try always to talk about other things, but there is always a silence. At least he didn’t ask me about Dylan.

You can certainly pass this on to Tom—a small muted protest.”

Thankfully, Tom felt that it was “a priceless perspective to get on things—a rich account from a significant individual.” As it is. My dad used to include a couple of the tracks when he did record recitals around the country in the late fifties. I found these notes he made about Richard “Rabbit” Brown’s James Alley Blues.

Bill Colyer Record Recital rough notes

Art Garfunkel: Walking/Singing interface
Reports MSN Music: We did not know that Art Garfunkel has been walking as part of his therapy. He’s currently walking across Greece, en route to Istanbul, a journey that began in Ireland and has continued in 100-mile installments over the past 10 years. He tells us: “I am singing while I walk! I sing because I need to find my voice—I’ve had trouble with it over the last two years—and I can’t live without singing.”

Duquesne by Bob Gumpert
Following last week’s mention of Duquesne, Bob sends these fantastic photos.

1986: Duquesne, PA. The abandoned Duquesne Steel Works, and a view of the dying steel town. Photographs by Robert Gumpert

On My iPod, Danny O’Donoghue, Metro
Fire and Rain by James Taylor. “This is such an emotional song and without doubt one of his best. It’s about the time he spent with junkies, in particular a girl called Suzanne.” Ah, Danny, with his simple, inaccurate view of the world…
The song actually chronicled Taylor’s experiences in mental institutions, such as McLean Hospital in Massachusetts as a senior in high school and his battle with drug addiction (The fire in the title refers to his shock therapy). “Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you,” refers to Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend of his who committed suicide while he was away in London recording his first album for Apple Records. Friends at home, concerned that it might distract Taylor from his big break, kept the news from him, and he only found out six months later.

Where’s My Harmonica, Albert? Why, In Beak Street, Bob, At Your Pop-Up Shop…
…just around the corner from Carnaby Street. Underwhelming. I bump into Mark Ellen, whose two-time-listen opinion of Tempest is “Five good songs.” Dead on. Or as my friend Lloyd said, “It’s like one of his theme time radio shows—but just him…”

Bobstore; Cinema downstairs, desultory Don’t Look Back showing; Shop floor and harp.


Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 27th June

Hall & Quotes (ouch!)
Rebecca Hall interview, Stylist. There’s a rumour you’re a total music geek… “Yes, that’s true. This is how much of a music geek I am; if I have a day with nothing to do, one of my favourite things is to just sit at my computer and make playlists of pretty much anything. If I could be a musician, I’d do it. I love singing.”
Is there one song you think everyone should listen to?
“That’s a really tough question. Do you mean the song or the version? I always go back to Ella Fitzgerald singing My Man at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1977. It’s not necessarily the song, and it’s not even necessarily her, it’s that particular recording. For some reason, it always gets to me. And I’ve got a bunch of those but that’s the first that comes off the top of my head.”

I’m a sucker for actually bothering to listen to things that people recommend (in all those My Playlist, or Favourite Saturday Night/Sunday Morning Record magazine features), and that’s an interesting response: The song or the version? Sometimes there are particular versions of songs that just work for you. For instance, Rick Danko singing Unfaithful Servant (part of last week’s post). That’s not the version I’d play anyone if I were trying to convince them of the brilliance of the song (that would be the original Band version, if you’re interested). It’s not even the second version I’d play them (that’s Rock Of Ages if you’re still interested). But it is the one that moves me now and makes me hear the song anew.

Anyway: I go to iTunes to get Ella’s Montreux version and find this:

Do explicit songs get a 20p surcharge? No, cause I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart apparently doesn’t have swearing and is 99p. WHAT IS THIS SWEARING? So I buy it. My Man is lovely, throaty and intense (the last time through Ella hits the title phrase like a tenor sax), starting with a deep breath as Tommy Flanagan picks out the intro. It has all her signatures, and a beautiful virtuoso ending. I can see why Rebecca Hall loves it. I’ve listened to Come Rain and damned if I can find any @#%&*! swearing. If anything, Ella sings like she has a broad smile for the whole song (for me this song is owned by Ray Charles’ glacial take). So, unlike Ella’s My Man, it’s not a version for the ages. Just a version with a 20p surcharge.

The Wide, Wide World Of Sport (And Music)
From Sport Magazine, June 22: BEATS BY DR DRE PRO HEADPHONES: What Modern sportsman doesn’t carry round a hefty pair of cans? “They are noise-cancelling, so great before a big race, and for travelling,” he explains. “I like all kinds of music, from Jay Z to Michael Jackson.”—Team GB swimmer Lian Tancock.

Pot. Kettle. Black.
“After a day with Bono, she might want to put herself back under house arrest.”—Bob Geldof on Aung San Suu Kyi.

Tin Pan Alley, Stefan Grossman, Sound Techniques
Sound Techniques was a studio housed in an old dairy building between Chelsea Embankment and the King’s Road. I was thinking about it because I walked past one of the guitar shops on Denmark Street and idly glanced at a beautiful inlaid Martin acoustic. I looked closer and realised it was a Stefan Grossman signature model. Stefan was, and is, an extremely brilliant  guitarist. I had been talking about him with Sam Charters, who was tasked in the mid-seventies with making a mainstream Grossman record by Transatlantic Records’ Nat Joseph. To this end he hired Alan White, Danny Thompson and Richard Thompson to play. When Sam was in town producing I would hang around the studio after work or college, just enjoying watching the creative process and soaking up the atmosphere (Nick Drake’s albums were recorded at ST), looking down from the control booth to the live room below. I have two memories of those particular sessions: One is watching Sam and Stefan patiently making the curly-headed Richard Thompson overdub one electric guitar part for hour after hour, trying to get him to play it more aggressively. Difference between a session man and an artist in his own right—a session man will say, “You want this? Or this? Or how about this?” Richard just tried to play it better each time. And the other memory was of picking up a comic that was lying in Alan White’s Drum Case and being given very short shrift by the Plastic Ono Band drummer for not asking first…

Maltese Diamond Position Inlays. £4,179.

Best Coast
Always nice to see a relative on stage, even if they are second cousins (did I get that right? Or is it first cousins twice-removed? Or not even cousins but something else?) Whatever, Brett is my cousin Nickie’s son. And bass & guitar player for Best Coast on tour. A grand night had by all!

Best Coast, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 20th June. Brett and Bethany Cosentino

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 20th June

School’s Out (For Ever?)
“Baby taking her GCSE’s. Passing of time is wonderful. Means never again I will hear a school choir sing I Believe I Can Fly. Thank Christ.”—Alison Moyet on Twitter. Amusing that R. Kelly has written the modern school anthem of positivity & inspiration—may I humbly suggest that all schools now switch to R. Kelly’s Relief. Great, great tune, beautifully covered by Sam Amidon as a folk ballad, has that anthem thing going on, teeming with hope, if not quite actualité.

“The storm is over, and I’m so glad the sun is shining
Confusion everywhere, without a clue on how to make things better
A toast to the man upstairs, ’cause he puts the pieces back together
Now let’s step to a new tune, ’cause everything is o.k.
You’re alright, and I’m alright, well, let’s celebrate.
What a relief to know that—we are one
What a relief to know that—the war is over
What a relief to know that—there is an angel in the sky
What a relief to know that—love is still alive”

Imagine a hundred ten-year-olds singing that.

Nostalgia Time 1. Mixing Buddy Guy And Junior Wells, Vanguard Studios, NYC, 1968
Sam Charters has been staying with us and I managed to find some pictures, among them this gem—a Three Track Machine (cutting edge, apparently), a vacant studio in Midtown, a twelve year old wannabe engineer.

The Poetry Of Aaron Copland
Came across this great piece I’d ripped out of the New Yorker years ago, by Alex Ross: “There is an affecting recording of the elderly Copland rehearsing Appalachian Spring with the Columbia Chamber Ensemble. When he reaches the ending, an evocation of the American frontier in ageless majesty, his reedy, confident Brooklyn voice turns sweet and sentimental: ‘Softer, sul tasto, misterioso, great mood here… That’s my favourite place in the whole piece… Organlike. It should have a very special quality, as if you weren’t moving your bows… That sounds too timid. It should sound rounder and more satisfying. Not distant. Quietly present. No diminuendos, like an organ sound. Take it freshly again, like an Amen.’ Copland conjures a perfect American Sunday in which the music of all peoples stems from the open doors of a white-steepled church that does not yet exist.”

For Emily, Wherever They May Find Her
From thetrichordist: Recently Emily White, an intern at NPR All Songs Considered wrote a post on the NPR blog in which she acknowledged that while she had 11,000 songs in her music library, she’s only paid for 15 CDs in her life. Our intention is not to embarrass or shame her. We believe young people like Emily White who are fully engaged in the music scene are the artist’s biggest allies. We also believe–for reasons we’ll get into–that she has been been badly misinformed by the Free Culture movement. We only ask the opportunity to present a countervailing viewpoint.
David Lowery [Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker] wrote this open letter. It’s worth reading
. Here’s an excerpt:

“The existential questions that your generation gets to answer are these:
• Why do we value the network and hardware that delivers music but not the music itself?
• Why are we willing to pay for computers, iPods, smartphones, data plans, and high speed internet access but not the music itself?
• Why do we gladly give our money to some of the largest richest corporations in the world but not the companies and individuals who create and sell music?

This is a bit of hyperbole to emphasize the point. But it’s as if:
Networks: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!
Hardware: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!
Artists: 99.9 % lower middle class. Screw you, you greedy bastards!

Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians!”

Nostalgia Time 2. Sid Vicious Stole My Corgi Toys
Nah he didn’t. But the Punk Britannia series on BBC4 put me in mind of Simon, as I knew himJohn Simon Ritchie—an extremely nice playmate. My mother’s friend Rene was Anne Beverly’s sister and was often called on to help a fairly troubled woman navigate her messy life. We lived in the same block as Rene and her son David, and Simon—a shy kid— spent time there, when the need arose. I remember long afternoons spent on our hands and knees with Corgi cars in David’s tiny bedroom… At some point he stopped coming round to play and we all moved on to other things. I saw Simon twice more. Once on Shaftesbury Avenue, looking in the window of a music shop, long greatcoat, hair cut like Bowie, fidgeting, mumbling, smiling. And then as Sid, on a tube train—summer of 77 I’m guessing, definitely a member of the Pistols—leather and chains, when I felt too intimidated to say anything, but we exchanged a glance and sort-of-knew that in some previous life we had known each other.

John Simon Ritchie, School Photo

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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