Thursday, 12th March


SaxesJust one window of Phil Parker’s extraordinary new brass and woodwinds store at the start of Hampstead Road.

The courage of my convictions gets a little weaker each time I read another review of Whiplash. This excellent, despairing, New Yorker review of how jazz is treated in the movies, by Richard Brody, points out, after retelling a much more accurate version of the Jo Jones v Charlie Parker incident: “Here’s what Parker didn’t do in the intervening year: sit alone in his room and work on making his fingers go faster. He played music, thought music, lived music. In Whiplash, the young musicians don’t play much music. Andrew isn’t in a band or a combo, doesn’t get together with his fellow-students and jam—not in a park, not in a subway station, not in a café, not even in a basement.” And Brody ends with this – “There’s nothing in the film to indicate that Andrew has any originality in his music. What he has, and what he ultimately expresses, is chutzpah. That may be very helpful in readying Andrew for a job on television. Whiplash honors neither jazz nor cinema; it’s a work of petty didacticism that shows off petty mastery, and it feeds the sort of minor celebrity that Andrew aspires to. Buddy Rich. Buddy fucking Rich.”

The BBC Timeshift programme, When Eating Out Went Exotic had a segment on Pizza Express and its relationship to music. When Peter Boizot wanted to change the use of a basement, he turned to his friend, designer Enzo Appicella: “He said, Enzo, I have this basement in Dean Street, can you design for me a nice jazz club? I said, How much do you want to spend. He said, Not much. I said, Do you have the money to spend on five gallons of black paint? He said, Yes, that’s ok. And that was the decor – almost like it still is now! I said, Peter, don’t pay me, but you must make a huge big party!”

Found in M, the Performing Rights Society’s magazine, the story of Steve Miller and “The Joker”: “I remember it was late at night and I was at an open-air party, sitting on the hood of a Pontiac GTO convertible with my back against the windshield. I had a Martin D-28 guitar in my hands and I was playing around with a bassline. The lyric Some people call me the space cowboy just popped into my head and from there it only took me about an hour to finally come up with the chorus. When I took it to the band, there wasn’t much of a reaction. At the time we were cutting rhythm tracks with John King on drums and Gerald Johnson on bass and this was just one song out of nine we were recording that day. It was very simple, so no one thought it was a hit song – we got the basic track down in one take so the song you hear is actually the demo.

The whole thing was recorded at Capitol Records, Hollywood, in Studio B. I played the Martin D-28 six-string acoustic guitar with Gerald on a Fender bass and John on drums. Then I sang the lead vocal and added the second part harmony. The final part was done by playing a slide guitar solo on a Fender Strat through a Mannys overdrive pedal and a Leslie speaker set on the chorus effect. The whole song took about 30 minutes to do!

There was one line in “The Joker” that caused me grief. Ahmet Ertegun [respected media mogul and founder of Atlantic Records] somehow stopped the payment of all my royalties for the song. I called to ask why and he told me that Eddie Curtis [who had originally written the song “Lovey Dovey”] was threatening him over the “Lovey Dovey” reference I’d used within the song.

I explained to Ahmet it was a tribute to The Coasters [who recorded a version of “Lovey Dovey” in 1964] and not part of the lyrics of the song. Considering all the writing credits he’d had with his own artists, I told him he was being duplicitous. He agreed and said he was sorry. He also said he was going to sue me anyway, so I had to give him and Eddie Curtis a percentage of my song to get the block on my royalties removed.”

There is a whole Wikipedia entry discussing Steve Miller’s use of the word, Pompatus, in “The Joker”. The line “Some people call me Maurice/’Cause I speak of the pompatus of love”, was written after Miller heard the song “The Letter” by The Medallions. In it, writer Vernon Green made up the word puppetutes, ‘to mean a secret paper-doll fantasy figure, who would be my everything and bear my children’(!) However, Miller misheard the word and wrote pompatus instead. In the Latin language, pompatus is an actual word meaning done with pomp or splendor. However, it is stressed on the second syllable, whereas the nonce word is stressed on the first”. For a made up (“nonce”) word, it’s truly excellent that it has such a life beyond the song. A list of places where the word has turned up is great – apart from a 1996 film titled The Pompatus of Love starring Jon Cryer (featuring four men discussing a number of assorted topics, including attempts to determine the meaning of the phrase), we learn that Michael Ondaatje used it in his book Anil’s Ghost.


“This is called Mystery Kids…” says Garland Jeffreys, and the carousel-like intro trills out from the guitar and keyboards, then they hit the first verse, plunging us all into Scorsese’s Mean Streets, as Garland lays it out: “Marcellino Casanova/Little Angel from Laslow Street/Cinderella, she’s a crossover/She got no father in her history…” As the band chorus, Who are the Mystery Kids? they suddenly pull back and Garland starts to recite over a ticking beat…

“I climb six flights/To the tenement heights/And there ain’t no lights/It’s the darkest of nights/And the piss-stench smell/In the black stairwell/With the William Tell Overture…”
– and Bosch plays descending chorused chords, arpeggiating into the distance over the shivery hush from the keyboard –
“– in the background/And across the floor/I see two big rats/In a world like that/Can’t take anymore…”
And Jeffreys talks of his father “My father worked every day that he could find a way to work…”
– here Bosch plays sweet chiming guitar, very quietly –
“He worked up in Harlem, grew up in Harlem, and he was a tough father, very tough. He didn’t really have to hesitate to slap you across the face if you didn’t mind what you said. Growing up like that was frightening sometimes… I would start waiting around five, knowing that he’d be home around six. You could go to the back of my house, which was really my grandmother’s house, and you could see the trains, the subway cars, go by. And I would always be looking to see…’
– Bosch scrapes the strings and makes the noise of wheels on rails –
“Is he on that train. Is he on this train?”

Hear the rest on the audio player to the right

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 14th November

Steely Dan Sang, “Call Me Deacon Blue…”
Steve Miller sang, “Some people call me the Space Cowboy, some call me the Gangster Of Love.” Carly Rae Jepsen sang Call Me Maybe. Blondie and Al Green just sang “Call Me…” Beth Orton, on her new album Sugaring Time, sings “Call Me The Breeze.” And it’s wonderful. It sits on a groove that doesn’t quit—the great jazzist Brian Blade drums, with Sebastian Steinberg on bass, and a loopy Nick Drakesque folk guitar—and builds on the interplay between the dead-on bass pulse and Blade’s drums skipping and punctuating the 4/4, keeping it off-kilter enough to really hook you in. Atop this sit wonderful entwining vocals and a glorious organ solo that creeps up out of the track, attempting to wrest it away from the massed ranks of Beth. Beth just about wins. Interestingly, I can barely find a reference to this song in any review that I’ve read. It doesn’t fall into the “mournful serious intense thang” that all reviewers seem to need in female singer songwriters, like only those type of songs have any heft. Go figure.

Is There A “Boutique Festival” Setting?

My brother-in-law has a brilliant new stereo set-up in his house, and his new Yamaha amp offers to model the sound of your tracks for you—giving them the vibe and atmos of a Viennese Concert Hall, say, or a Cellar Club. At the rock end it offers two clubs from the Seventies, The Roxy in Los Angeles, and The Bottom Line in New York. If you buy a more expensive model, it gives you the Village Vanguard (“Nice!”) or a Warehouse loft (how bad does that sound, I wonder). Sadly, there’s no Boutique Festival, where the music is drowned out by the clatter of glasses and middle-class chatter. We decide the sound is kind of great with no modelling at all.

Shaken, Not Stirred. Credit Sequence, Skyfall
Yes, Adele’s song is very nice, all Bassey-isms present and correct, and it insinuates itself into your head really efficiently, but oh my, the film… Following an Istanbul-set opening sequence that isn’t a patch on Taken 2’s Istanbul-set chase sequences (and let’s not forget that Taken 2 is a B picture photocopied from another B picture, albeit a great one) the credits are unbelievably cheesy. Incoherent and naff images glide by with no stylistic consistency at all and it just makes you fearful of the next two hours. Rightly, as it turns out. Has Sam Mendes not seen The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?

Trey Songz’ Rhythm Section, Later, Friday
Trey sings his glassy, glossy pop hit, Simply Amazing, his schtick a little out of place on Later, and it’s all pretty groovy and pleasant enough until about a minute and a half in, when you’re not listening to Trey at all, you’re just listening for what Nate Jones on bass will do next—adding little filigree high-register melodies, dropping back to the root notes on his way deep 5 string, totally in the pocket of the groove. About a minute from the end they drop into a breakdown section, and that’s when drummer Antwan “Amadeus” Thompson and Jones decide to have a party on the tune. An outrageous series of rolls and hi-hat snaps are followed by Nate giving it the full Level 42, bass jutted out in front of him like he was Chuck Berry. At the end Trey does a boxer’s shuffle and feint to the bassist, which I fondly think is to honour an exceptional performance.

The Crop Marks & Arrows Of Outrageous Fortune
The International Herald Tribune, celebrating its 125th anniversary, has an auction of pictures from its archives on Monday 19 November. Looking through the catalogue, I’m mostly struck by the pictures of musicians, especially the ones that have compositors marks and instructions and arrows on, showing how the photo will be cropped, focusing on who the editors deemed the important part of the story…

Bennie Goodman clowning with Steve Allen; The Stones in Paris (only Brian Jones escapes a wax pencil cross); Dylan press release shot for The Times They Are A Changin’; Jane Birkin with Serge Gainsbourg; Lionel Hampton clowning around with Elsie Smith; notice how Jazz musicians always seem forced to ‘clown around’…

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 13th June

Rick Danko, Unfaithful Servant, LA, 1979: “Easy with him, he’s a human…”
As Eric Andersen wrote, in a farewell letter to Rick: “Your singing remains one of the everlasting glories of American music.” And, though it’s ragged and rough, this is as glorious as it gets. A sweaty club, a febrile atmosphere (it’s not beautifully recorded, but the room fairly crackles—I’ve rarely heard something sound so present). Blondie Chaplin, ex-Beach Boy, is on piano, Rick just singing, not playing bass, someone loosely slapping a tambourine. The crowd is rowdy, and inappropriate for such a heartfelt song. There’s an Elvis-like foldback on the vocal mike, almost sounding like it’s hitting the back wall and touring the room. From Caledonian Mission to It Makes No Difference Rick defined a way of ballad singing that’s unique—a high, white, hilltop soul man, singing American music. Here, he leans in hard, perhaps as a response to the low-down, boozed-up crowd. He fumbles some lyrics, oversings others, but it’s fantastic. Just after he sings “Farewell to my other side, Well, I’d best just take it in stride” he makes the above plea to the crowd, but doesn’t miss a beat. The crowd whistles & whoops and Rick turns it on until the words run out and Paul Butterfield steps up to take the song home with a searing harp solo.

Jo Stafford, Paul Weston, Jonathan and Darlene Edwards
Flicking through an illustrated biography of Frank Sinatra I came across a reference to Jo Stafford (the No 1 singer of the ‘pre-rock’ era, apparently). I’ve got various tracks by her, including a great version of You Belong To Me—a wonderful song nicely covered by Bob Dylan and included on the soundtrack of Natural Born Killers. The book mentioned that she recorded several albums with her husband Paul Weston, spoof records that grew out of a party turn, where he would play bad cocktail piano and she would sing high and out-of-tune. Proustian rush time! These albums were a favourite of my parents, alongside others by Jonathan Winters and Bob Newhart. My dad also had a 78 of Red Ingle & His (Un)Natural Seven’s Tim-Tay-Shun (a spoof of Perry Como’s Temptation). And who is the female vocalist on Tim Tay Shun? Jo Stafford. And they still sound pretty great.

Weird iPod Synchronicity Pt2: June 12th, Victoria Station, London
A song I don’t recognise starts playing, a kind-of bluesy shufflin’ riff with slight Beatles-y overtones in its swirling guitars, as I turn to the G2 section of The Guardian. Steve Miller starts singing: “Way down in Alabama there’s a girl just a waitin’ for me, She don’t have to worry, she don’t have to hurry, Lord, I keep her so happy, she’s my…” And at this point I read the cover line: THIS DRUG RUINS LIVES: HOW SUGAR BECAME A LETHAL ADDICTION by Jacques Peretti. And Steve sings: “Sugar baby, Sugar, sugar baby, Sugar baby, Sugar, sugar baby…”

World’s Richest DJs:
#10: Moby Net Worth $28 million
#9: Daft Punk Net Worth – $30 million each
#8: Pete Tong Net Worth – $30 million
#7: Judge Jules Net Worth – $40 million
#6: Sasha (DJ) Net Worth – $40 million
#5: Armin Van Buuren Net Worth – $40 million
#4: John Digweed Net Worth – $45 million
#3: Paul van Dyk Net Worth – $50 million
#2: Paul Oakenfold Net Worth – $55 million
#1: DJ Tiesto Net Worth – $65 million

Really 2?

Black and Grey Mesh Eye Logo Trucker Cap, thanks. Oh, on second thoughts…


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