Wednesday, September 28th

len

ONE “A MILLION CANDLES BURNING FOR THE LOVE THAT NEVER CAME…”
As he leans out of a frame with a glowing cigarette, Len lets life (or the Lord) have it with both barrels in the first song released from his new album, You Want it Darker. “If you are the dealer, I’m out of the game / If you are the healer, I’m broken and lame / If Thine is the Glory, mine must be the shame / if you want it darker, we kill the flame.” Carrying on from the sound of Popular Problems, riding on a disco bass and a ticking hi-hat and underpinned by a synagogue choir, Len’s as compelling as ever.

TWO THE DRUM THING
From Dierdre O’Callaghan’s new book, The Drum Thing, excerpted in Guardian Weekend. “Each is photographed in their private rehearsal space – from studios, bedrooms and basements to garages and gardens.” Here’s Bobbye Hall, percussionist extraordinaire: “I would be lulled to sleep by listening to the blues. I knew that instead of using words I wanted to play and, being an only child, I had a chance to do that… I came to Hollywood on 15 January 1970. I had a 30-day ticket: either I make it or I’m gone. And I’m still here. I stayed at a residence for women in the industry. I had a friend, and I would come home and she would ask: “How was your session?” And I would say: “Well, I was working for this group, they call ’em the Doors, I think.” And she’d go: “Oh my God, you’re kidding me.” I had not a clue. When you play, there is a place you go. It’s not something you do: it happens to you. It’s almost like abduction: you came back and you looked at your watch and it was a different time.”

THREE GUITAR OF THE WEEK

guyatone

Courtesy of Drowning in Guitars, a 1966 Japanese Guyatone with a pickup that rotates. “This guitar reminds me of the old pinball machines, because when you banged on them and tried to manipulate the trajectory of the ball, a sensor inside the machine would recognize your caveman attempt and stop play with a lighted “TILT.” But this guitar might have been the first to encourage the “tilt” by offering a moveable pickup. In fact, this Guyatone may have been the first solid body electric guitar to offer this novel idea.”

FOUR THERE IS A FOOTBALL STADIUM…
that has been the ruin of many a poor fan, and, for me, it’s Leyton Orient’s at Brisbane Road. Last week at half-time the tannoys blared out The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”, when it should, of course, have been the same band’s “We Gotta Get Outta this Place”, such was the abject ineptitude of the current team.

leyton

No tactics, an inability to pass with any precision, the hoofed-upfield-ball straight to the opposition – there was no end to the misery, which culminated in the home team being booed off, the victorious away team applauded, and a group of supporters bellowing their displeasure at the Director’s Gallery. Still, always optimistic about the next game, eh?

FIVE LOVE THE DESIGN…
Of these Afropunk festival posters, from last week’s event, and their excellent rules.

afropunk2016

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Tuesday, September 20th

ONE MOGWAI GO ATOMIC
Kindly gifted tickets – thanks, R! – to Mogwai playing a live soundtrack to Mark Cousins’ documentary Atomic (which is edited together from “Duck and Cover”-type films and documentaries on the Cold War, Chernobyl and Faslane) at the Barbican, I was looking forward to some crepuscular soundscapes filled with creeping dread. Their music for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, bleeding into the frames of the film between the crowd noises and the shouts of the players was beautifully atmospheric. Hunting for someone who’d like the other ticket revealed that Mogwai like volume – one person said that he and his daughter, both fans, had left a gig earlier this year as the eardrum-shredding levels of sound had made it too uncomfortable to stay. I like noise and volume, and it was at the rather restrained Barbican – how loud could it get? Answer, very.

mogwaiMy problem wasn’t the volume, but rather the ordinariness of both the film and music. Atomic was put together with little visual panache, poor graphics and illiterate subtitles. Nuclear Power, it told us, seemed to be one of two things – Good in Medical Hands (possibly)! Bad in Government Hands (definitely)! The score consisted of way too much use of the “Cathedral Organ” setting on the synth, and a general “It’s about Atom bombs and reactors blowing up, so we’d better play lots of loud bombastic rock” approach. This feeling was not helped by the guitarist stage left. His rail-thin legs in authentic rock posture, he leaned back and violently thrummed his guitar, creating a wall of sound that was impressive at points, but unrelenting to the point of boredom. I was very much in a minority when they ended with the guitars left on the stage feeding back until a roadie walked around turning amps off one by one. The audience leapt to their feet cheering and clapping. I was sorry that I didn’t feel the same…

TWO FOUND IN FRANCE
A bench in Cognac, celebrating the bare feet of Levester “Big Lucky” Carter, a Memphis-based blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, who recorded for the Sun, Savoy and Hi labels in the 50’s; the soles of Ray Charles’ shoes, in 2000; and the feet of Dana Gillespie, big-voiced blues diva. Then, from nearby Angoulême, home of the Bande Dessinee Festival, this wall-sized Robert Crumb at the very chic International Cartoon Museum.

franceApparently, Dana Gillespie organises an annual Blues festival at Basil’s Bar on Mustique in the Caribbean. Wikipedia tells me that many blues artists have appeared there through the years. Among the list: Ronnie Wood, Donald Fagen and Rolf Harris.

THREE GROWIN’ UP
From the interesting but poorly written cover story in Vanity Fair it looks like Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography will be the real deal, although the writer of the profile, David Kamp, seems a little presumptuous (and way too pleased with himself) when he tells Bruce what “Born to Run” is really all about…

FOUR MAYBE THE WHOLE CRAFT BEER/ROCK ’N’ ROLL INTERFACE HAS RUN ITS COURSE…
Quite why a grapefruit infused IPA is called Elvis Juice is not explained, although it contains some nicely named hops – Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic.

beer

FIVE A COUPLE OF RANDOM TV RECOMMENDATIONS
People Just Do Nothing is wonderful, reinvigorating the tired mocumentary format by being painfully accurate about the level of the music business that’s three degrees below success. The world of Garage and Grime is played out in lockups and recording studios, where time is money and money is short, but the lure of Jean-Claude Van Damme YouTube clips proves too distracting… Also on the iPlayer (and BBC2, late at night) is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s fearless, filthy and ultimately tragic Fleabag. It’s like the first time you watched Green Wing or Peep Show or Flowers – the cobwebs of the sitcom are blown away by strange, often melancholy stories that actually reflect a more accurate view of the lives people live than in the marquee dramas that win the Baftas.

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

Friday, September 9th


louisstewart.jpg
ONE RIP LOUIS STEWART
Sweet-toned Irish jazz guitarist, and a kind and gentle man, at whose feet I sat a few times in the late 70s. It was usually at the Jazz Centre Society in Covent Garden, as I attempted to figure out how a camera worked. Nikkormat FT-N, 35mm lens, Tri-x pushed to 1600 ASA.

TWO THAT MAN BISCHOFF AGAIN
The most fascinating figure in the recent Bowie Prom for me was the arranger and bassist Jherek Bischoff, and in investigating his oeuvre, I discovered a couple of interesting things. His 2012 release, Composed, featuring nine orchestral pieces, with different vocalists, was first written on a ukulele. “This record was recorded with one microphone, an Mbox and a laptop. I recorded each individual musician of the ‘orchestra’ in their very own living rooms. I then layered each instrument (sometimes one violinist playing one part twenty times for instance) until it was the size of a huge orchestra. I spent the summer bike riding from house to house recording each musician.”

Now, that’s an interesting approach. Pitchfork wrote that listening to the album whilst being aware of the process “is like imagining someone filling an Olympic-sized pool with an eye dropper: the mind balks, both at the enormity of the undertaking and at the disposition of the person behind it.”

For his next one, he almost did that: “Bischoff began recording the album Cistern in an empty two million gallon underground water tank under Fort Worden in Port Townsend, Washington. The size of the space was a huge factor in the development of the album. In an interview Bischoff described how “the vast emptiness of the cistern generates a reverb decay that lasts 45 seconds. That means, if you snap your fingers, the sound lasts 45 seconds. That amount of reverberation is an absolutely wild environment to try to create music in.He was bought up on a sailboat, which sort of explains the ukelele…

Oh, and he played a very gorgeous bass guitar at the Proms, a kind of glammed-up version of McCartney’s Hofner violin bass. He also played chords on it at various points, a sound I love. Hear his arrangement of “Ashes to Ashes” in the music player on the right.

THREE ANOTHER GREAT DAY IN HARLEM
Bob G sends me a link to this fascinating interactive piece in the Daily News, which shows just how many backgrounds and genres within Jazz that extraordinary amalgamation contained. Click on any musician to hear a performance clip. Hats off to Art Director/Photographer Art Kane.

FOUR JONNY TRUNK’S FRIDAY 50p MAILER IS ALWAYS FUN…
“Also this week I got sent this ace film about The Mellotron by someone on the mailing list. It’s great and stars Richard Nixon, who used to have a magic show on the TV – his able assistant at the time was the divine Anita Harris, who possibly still opens the Barnes Jumble Sale twice a year. Let’s hope she does…” The clip is terrific, until David Nixon – not Richard, sadly, as the Richard Nixon Magic Show has a great ring about it, especially as his nickname was ‘Tricky Dick’ – actually plays. Obviously none of the members of King Crimson or the Moody Blues actually saw this Pathe demonstration or they would never have bought Mellotrons in the first place. There’s a fascinating shot of the tape loops inside the cabinet, followed by a professional pianist playing, who is actually worse than David Nixon.

FIVE RIP PRINCE BUSTER
Richard Williams wrote a very nice piece on thebluemoment about the Prince – and just check out the bassline on this baby…

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

Extra: An Update on “The Colyer”

thecolyer2

In July last year I wrote: “As we went walking that ribbon of highway that links Covent Garden to Soho, en route to see Amy at the Curzon, most of Great Newport Street was covered in scaffolding. Not such a rare sight in the centre of town these days, with properties being developed at a giddy rate. However, the covering of the scaffolding was – frankly – gob-smacking. A huge 60s-style caricature covered the top half of the four-story high structure, with my uncle Ken flanked by Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger.”

Now, an update, prompted by a comment on that 5 Things post by Californian legend Peter Asher, OBE, (“Just happened to see this. I went to all the Stones gigs at Studio 51 and was also a Ken Colyer fan. And when I later went on the road myself (as one half of Peter & Gordon) our tour manager was Keith “Avo” Avison who used to play trombone in Ken’s band! – Peter Asher).

In brief, the redevelopment of a site on Great Newport Street (at which there was a jazz club called Studio 51, which became known as the “Ken Colyer Club”) was branded (love those branding ideas!) by calling it The Colyer. Without asking Ken’s son. I quickly found out that there was nothing to stop the developers (an enormous Insurance multinational) from using Ken’s image or name. I wonder how that would have played out if they’d called it The Jagger? Anyhow, I made enquiries as to whether they would like to make a donation to Help Musicians UK (previously the Musician’s Benevolent Fund) who I knew had helped some of the members of Ken’s various bands when they had, as musicians do, money troubles. But the Large Insurance Multinational plc™ declined. Which sadly came as no surprise. A World Without Love, indeed.

The Heritage plaque affixed to the building by Westminster Council, is still there – Ken Colyer Played New Orleans Jazz here in the basement “Studio 51” 1950-1973. There’s a discreet nameplate with the apartment intercoms and the entrance hall carpet has a cornet woven into it. Two-bedroom apartments available now at £1,750,000.

thecolyernow

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Tuesday, August 24th

Untitled-4ONE LAWRENCE OF ARABIA’S SCARF, OR JOHN LENNON’S CUFFLINKS?
Or, hell, the Parliamentary robe of Lord “Lucky” Lucan. Your choice. They’re in a particularly weird auction at Christies called Out of the Ordinary. Accurately, I’d say. 14th September, 2016. Add it to your diary.

TWO LIZA WITH A Z, STREISAND WITH AN S
In urgent breaking news, Barbra Streisand told NPR: “Siri pronounces my name wrong. [It’s] Streisand with a soft S, like sand on the beach. I’ve been saying this for my whole career. And so what did I do? I called the head of Apple, Tim Cook, and he delightfully agreed to have Siri change the pronunciation of my name, finally, with the next update on 30 September. So let’s see if that happens because I will be thrilled.” Much simpler than writing and recording a song about it, as Liza Minnelli did – “Liza with a Z, not Lisa with an S…” I tried to get Siri to pronounce “Liza Minnelli”, but she just kept asking me if I meant Liz Kent, a friend. Siri then sent me to a site on the web where people have recorded their own pronunciations of famous names. It asks you to rate their efforts. Really, we don’t deserve to survive Climate Change.

THREE THE MUSIC IN THE MIMICRY
There’s something extraordinary watching as an impressionist performs his sleight-of-voice to suddenly inhabit another person’s sound. At the top of this video on The Guardian’s website, Alistair McGowan’s Dara Ó Briain is astonishing, as is the sight of Rory Bremner and McGowan essaying their Boris Johnson’s, pointing out the “ooeeew” sound, which is all you can notice when it cuts to the clip of Boris himself. Nailing George Galloway with “Tainted Love” and Nigel Farage with “My Way” is very neat, too.

FOUR HAVE YOU HEARD THE BRISTOL HUM?

bristolhum.jpg

This is a fascinating short on the BBC Futures site – we’re deep into the world of Fortean Times here… secret government low-frequency radio waves or tinnitus or your body telling you that you’re run down? “It sounds to me the sound of a speaker where the volume’s been left up but there’s no music playing…

FIVE DIDN’T THINK WE’D GET OUT OF HERE WITHOUT SOMETHING ON BOB, DID WE?
I met the wonderfully named Colton Huelle at a memorial celebration of Sam Charters’ life in Connecticut early this spring. Colton is Kelsey’s boyfriend, and she’d grown up next door to the Charters’ and at the end of the day, somehow the topic turned to Dylan. I promised to send him a compilation that I made years ago of unreleased Bob songs, lost his address, found it again and sent it. He wrote a really thoughtful email back – here’s a bit where he talks about Bob: “Your package arrived just a few days before Kelsey and I saw Dylan in New Hampshire. During the concert, two things happened:
1) He forgot the words to the “She lit the burner on the stove” verse of “Tangled Up In Blue.” So he mumbled and mumbled until he finally sang (without losing the tune, somehow): “What are these lines? / I guess I don’t even know these lines/ …from me to you… Tangled up in blue.” It was both very sad and very delightful.
2) While Dylan was singing one of the songs from his Sinatra cover album, someone in the audience yelled “JUDAS.” Can you believe it? Kelsey and I spent a lot of the car ride home debating the motivations for shouting that. Was he just trying to make a funny reference? Was there malice behind it? And how often have jokers like that pulled the same stunt since the RAH concert in 66?”

ON THE MUSIC PLAYER
A tape made in 1975 of Paul Simon on the BBC featuring the legendary, and sadly late, Toots Thielemans. It’s also on YouTube here, in a much better quality version.


If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page
for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

 

Friday, August 12th

 

ONE IF YOU’VE NOT SEEN THIS…
If you’re resident outside Britain you may not have. But you should. Three minutes of wonderment made in an unfeasibly short space of time. “We wanted to illustrate that someone brushing their teeth can be as superhuman as someone who plays wheelchair rugby,” says We’re the Superhumans’ director Dougal Wilson. “When I was writing the treatment, I was looking for a link between sport and non-sport and started thinking that music could provide this connection. One of the first people I met while working on the ad was Mark Goffeney, AKA Big Toe, who plays the guitar with his feet. From there I started searching for a ‘band’ and we managed to find lots of other musicians who were overcoming their disability by playing music.”

paralympics.jpg

It required casting an array of musicians, athletes, dancers and extras. More than 140 people with disabilities star in the advert, so finding the right people meant eschewing traditional ways of casting. ays Alice. “Thank god for the internet and our team of researchers because we found some amazing people just by trawling through hundreds of YouTube clips and Facebook videos. I love that these talented people don’t have agents, we’re giving people a chance to shine on their own and giving them a platform they didn’t have before,” says Alice Tonge, creative director at 4Creative.

TWO THE BOWIE PROM
Jude Rogers gets to the point in The Guardian: “Six months and three weeks after David Bowie died, musicians still feel compelled to give their tributes, to sing those songs that shaped their lives. It was almost unsurprising when the Bowie prom was announced, promising Bowie with a twist – but who really wants Bowie with a twist? Bowie was the twist: the wayward Bromley boy who turned himself into a peculiar pop art project, perfectly.” Her view was that too few people took risks, and I think she was right. Of the performances that I saw, Anna Calvi and Laura Mvulu were the ones who did. Also, are instrumental versions of Bowie songs ever anything more than, well, slightly tame instrumental versions of Bowie songs? Update – I’ve watched it all now, and I think there are some fine rearrangements, especially those by Jherek Bischoff and Anna Meredith (who did the two Marc Almond numbers). Oh, and lovely to be reminded of the beautiful instrument that is Paul Buchanan’s voice.

THREE MICK GOLD IS WEIRDLY SYNCHRONOUS
“I’m still grooving on the revelation I came across that Milton Glaser based his ‘iconic’ poster of Dylan on Duchamp’s self portrait, dated variously from 1957 to 1959,” Mick emails just as I was reading a book that features Glaser for a review that I’m writing for Eye magazine. Mick continues… “I came under Duchamp’s spell when I made a film about Dada and Surrealism way back in the 1970s, Europe After the Rain. His sensibility seemed to inflect everything he touched. He created a relatively small body of work, and 99% of it ended up in Philadelphia! When Bowie released Darkstar at the moment of his death, I thought of Duchamp making his final work, Etant Donnes, in secret and then allowing news of it seep out after he had died. Even though I found it a rather dubious work when I finally saw it in Philadelphia, the ideas and preparatory works behind it are still haunting and beautiful.”

FOUR SUMMER BREEZE MAKES ME FEEL FINE
Quite excited to read about the arrival soon of “The Great Lost Isley Brothers Album”. In 1980 they wanted to record a live album, but instead of the usual mobile truck at a concert venue they cut Groove with You… Live! at Bearsville Sound in Woodstock (where The Band recorded Cahoots). Apparently it “had all of the incendiary thrills of a live show in pristine studio fidelity.” The band then overdubbed an audience’s frenzied reception and the energetic introduction of MC “Gorgeous” George Odell. Mad.With a ten-minute version of “Summer Breeze” I’m there… It reminded me of a great interview with Ernie Isley that I read a while back. Here’s some of it:

The HUB: Your soaring guitar work on “That Lady” put rock guitar sounds in the spotlight – and that was pretty revolutionary for soul-inflected music at at the time. How did you get that sustain-drenched sound?
Ernie Isley: We were working with the same engineers Stevie Wonder was using on what would become Innervisions. We were working on the record that became 3+3. There was a fuzz box and a phase shifter by Maestro, and that was pretty much it.
The HUB: That solo had a huge influence on ’70s guitar sounds in several genres.
Ernie Isley: We cut it before the lyrics had been finished, and there was a strong rhythmic guitar part that tied in with the congas – very funky, very rhythmic. But when I plugged in for the solo and hit that first note, the track went from black and white to 3D technicolor! Recording it, there were two takes; the second take is what’s on the record. On the first take I was playing all over the place. My eldest brother, Kelly, was looking at me through the glass; he did not blink for like 25 minutes. The engineers were going nuts, and I was going nuts. When I got done, they said play it again to fit in with the vocals. I was really ticked off that we had to do a take two.

FIVE BONNIE RAITT FOR PRESIDENT!
A very nice interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS covers a lot of ground in its 25 minutes, from the death of her brother to the current Election. An intelligent warm interviewer, an interesting and modest subject – what’s not to like?

bonnie.jpg

ON THE MUSIC PLAYER
Reading Malcolm Jack’s Guardian review of Tom Jones live show in Glasgow, I see that Tom finished his set with an apposite cover: Sister Rosetta’s jumping “Strange Things Happening Every Day.” Hear it in the Music Player to the right.

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

Monday, August 1st

ONE A BAZ IDEA? OR A GOOD ONE?
Baz Luhrmann explores the birth of hip-hop in his upcoming Netflix series, The Get Down. US Esquire asks, pertinently, “but didn’t announcing a 13-part drama series about hip-hop make you feel really… white?” to met by “Well, sure, there’s that. What kind of an idiot would do that? …the truth is, I could have made several things, but a large-scale work in which the leads are five unknown African-American and Puerto Rican actors? You can’t get that done. I was in a position where I could…”

getdown

Here’s the trailer, a slightly gaudy mixture of Saturday Night Fever, West Side Story and, worryingly, Can’t Stop the Music, the Village People movie notorious for being the first winner of the Worst Picture Golden Raspberry Award. It’s a movie I remember well, as I watched it on a lurching ferry to somewhere, at ten in the morning, always a good time to watch a movie set in nightclubs. As it happens, it was shown in the ferry’s excuse for a disco – a DJ booth, 5 coloured lights and a glossy floor. Quickly re-named Please Stop the Music! by its audience of fifteen, I absolutely loved it, mostly for the hilariously camp script; as the barely-formed group are about to hit the stage for their debut appearance, one of the characters (it may have been the Cop, or the Construction Worker, I can’t be sure) turns to another and asks how he’s feeling, to which comes the deathly reply – “Leathermen don’t get nervous!”

The intro to the trailer is tracked by a whispered version of Garland Jeffreys’ “Wild in the Street” before it busts out into the hip and the hop. I think there’s probably a great movie in the birth of hip-hop – but the jury is out on this one at the moment, although I’m hoping for the best…

TWO A NETFLIX RECOMMENDATION
Bloodlines is a story of everyday Florida Keys folk, centred around the toxic return to home of the wayward son, now a man. The damaged Danny Rayburn is a fantastic turn from Ben Mendelsohn, and the script is sharp and believable. I mostly love the series for its fantastic swearing. In some scenes “fuck” is uttered every other word, sometimes bitterly, sometimes woundedly, sometimes viciously – but always brilliantly, telling you all you need to know about that character at that point. Brother Kevin (played by the wonderfully-named Norbert Leo Butz) is constantly making bad decisions – and his is the swearing that hits rare heights.

THREE WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE DAMN DRUM SOUND?
Clearing out some stuff I found a US Esquire “What I’ve Learned…” interview with Jimmy Iovine. I found this interesting: “Bruce Springsteen’s manager, Jon Landau, hired me to do Born to Run. They had a lot of faith in me. I was twenty-one at the time and the album was really successful. And so they hired me for the follow-up album, which was Darkness on the Edge of Town, and we go in and we start recording the drums. We get this drum sound – but then we move studios, and we can’t get the drum sound back. It’s weeks on the same boom-boom on one drum. And Bruce keeps saying, “I can hear the stick.” And I would look at him and say, “It is a stick,” you know?

At some point, Little Steven says he knows this guy in New Jersey that can help get the drum sound. I get mortified and insulted, and I go see Landau in the hotel. I said, “Jon, I quit. Fuck this.” And Landau said, “Let’s just talk for a second. I’m going to try to teach you something now, at what could be a crossroads in your career.” He said, “This is not about you. This is about Bruce’s album and making the best album we possibly can.” And he stopped me in my tracks and said, “I want you to go in there and I want you to say to Bruce, I’m going to support you no matter what. Bruce will remain your ally throughout the rest of your career. You don’t just walk out because you think someone has insulted you and your pride has been hurt.”

So I listened to him, because I was always good at learning. I could hear people and the messages they were sending. We got the drum sound somehow, and six weeks later Bruce gave me “Because the Night” to record with Patti Smith, which really launched my career. And that just was like ink on a shirt. You know, it just took. The rest of my career I approached like that. I just take a step back, don’t buy my own bullshit. Just look at the work. That lesson is the most powerful lesson I ever learned. It goes against human instinct.”

FOUR ACCORDIONS AT DUSK
Walking down Villiers Street on the way to seeing Mark Kermode in 3D at the BFI with guests Hadley Freeman and David Arnold, I see a young accordionist busking whilst another, older, accordionist looks on. I’m not sure whether the older man likes the other’s playing but as I pass he crosses the road. I turn back to see what transpires – the young guy seems a little wary of hearing the older guy’s opinion – and quickly take a few pictures, before the scene resolves with a smile and a handshake.

busk

FIVE A READER WRITES
I’m totally with my old friend Bruce Millar, responding to a recent post:
I clearly haven’t got the hang of the digital present, because here I am responding to a post of yours from several weeks ago. Oh well, here goes… Your quote from Al Schmitt – “It really was just the way records were made in the old days! In those days you could not edit or fix things, and so you had to do the take when things were emotionally right. And you chose the take that had the feel on it. This is why so many records from back then are so much more emotional and touch you so much more deeply. Today everything is perfect, and in many places we have taken the emotions out of records” – rang a bell.

A couple of weeks before I had seen Fritz Lang’s Rancho Notorious with Nick at the BFI, and was struck by how the less important linking scenes, in particular, were clearly polished off in one take, whether or not timings were slightly off or the acting slightly ragged. Interestingly, instead of making the film less convincing or ‘realistic’, this somehow made it more so. For two reasons, perhaps: first, ‘real life’ is not smooth and seamless anyway, and we recognise that instinctively; second, Lang isn’t trying to emulate reality, he’s striving to dramatise events and characters, to express things. After all, this is a Western shot almost entirely in a studio.

Contrast this with contemporary films, which tend to mix smooth and apparently seamless Vraisemblance with absolutely preposterous action, leaving me completely cold. To adapt Schmitt: – “Today everything is perfect, and in many places we have taken the emotions out of films.”

For the full 5 Things experience, please click on the Date Headline of the page in the email and you will go to the proper site (which allows you to see the Music Player). Also all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Thursday, 21st July

ONE MY FAVOURITE PARAGRAPH FROM KIM GORDON’S “GIRL IN A BAND”…
In an honest and strangely fascinating book, it’s this one: “In 1980 New York was near bankruptcy, with garbage strikes every month it seemed, and a crumbling weedy infrastructure. These days it gleams and towers in ways most people I know hate and can’t understand. Hugging the parkway in the West Sixties and Seventies is an ugly sheet of Trump buildings, a monument to urban corruption, soft money, and natives – who should have taken to the streets – saying nothing. Farther down the island, joggers, baby strollers and blue and red bikes flow alongside a fluted, flower-filled river walkway alongside once-scary, now-forgotten docks, where gay men once met up in the dark for dates, hookups, and hookers in mink coats and high boots worked the nights until sunrise and breakfast.”

TWO OH GIVE ME A HOME, WHERE THE TAPE OPS DO ROAM…
This week’s newsletter from WowHaus (for all your modernist property needs worldwide, people) has not one but two houses with attached recording studios. One is Frank Zappa’s, on Woodrow Wilson Drive, LA.

zappa“This is what the agent describes as the ultimate Artists’ retreat, complete with the famed Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. The house also has the kind of quirks you would expect for a Zappa house too, such as porthole windows and doors salvaged from vintage submarines.” Yours for $5.5 mil.

houseThe other, with a more discreet seller, is St Ann’s Court in Surrey. “Moving on to the Coach House; that’s laid out over a single floor, currently used as a creative working and living space. A good amount of that is used as a recording space, originally built by Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera (a previous owner) and used by the likes of Paul Weller, Robert Wyatt and David Gilmour. It has since been redesigned and now has a ‘large live room and a spectacular control room’.” Yours for around £9 mil. Well, not yours – or mine – obviously.

THREE RULE BRITANNIA IS OUT OF BOUNDS!
At daughter’s party at Battersea Arts Centre, Alan finds an old upright in a corridor. He – with the aid of Google and an iPhone – calls up the chords and lyrics for great pop songs like “Five Years” and “We Are the Champions” which he then proceeds to play, rather fabulously, in the style of Chas and Dave.*

alan

FOUR A GUITAR PLANS CHEST, YOU SAY, VINCE?
I’m not even sure how I stumbled across this, but Vince Gill’s guitar collection is a treasure trove. He’s even had a custom built set of drawers to cushion and protect them, although (rather endearingly) he clunks two extremely rare Martin acoustics together at one point.

vince

FIVE STEVE’S ON THE BOULEVARD, MIXING UP THE DR. PH. MARTENS INKS
From his desk in Paris, I receive Steve Way’s next cartoon for the William De’Ath column (a majorly eccentric column at that) in The Oldie, which he said he’d been waiting to do for years

steve

* for those who don’t know of them, Chas and Dave are “an English pop rock duo, most notable as creators and performers of a musical style labelled “rockney” (a portmanteau of rock and cockney), which mixes pub singalong, music-hall humour, boogie-woogie piano and pre-Beatles rock ’n’ roll.”

For the full 5 Things experience, please click on the Date Headline of the page in the email and you will go to the proper site (which allows you to see the Music Player). Also all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Thursday, 7th July

ONE THE WORLD IS IN AN UPROAR, THE DANGER ZONE IS EVERYWHERE
And this tweet brilliantly summed up recent job losses…

Spice

TWO FOUND IN THE VAULTS OF ROCK’S BACKPAGES…
This series of ads and subscription offers from a very early copy of Paul Williams’ Crawdaddy. “I know you need the bread!”, “About everything in life except June-moon-croon!” “Because Nyro is Nyro!”

crawdaddy

THREE THE THINGS YOU LEARN
Sent on a small Bill Withers journey by The Immortal Jukebox, I came across the interesting tale of his first album on the mix site, written by Barbara Schultz. There’s the fascinating story of Wally Heider’s studio in the piece, which is basically an interview with the great engineer Bill Halverson. And how many articles about recording studios feature the word “soffit”? “Withers was eventually signed to Sussex Records, and the great Booker T. Jones was enlisted to produce the new artist’s debut album, Just as I Am in 1971. Also on the session were two members of the MGs – drummer Al Jackson and bass player Donald “Duck” Dunn – plus singer/songwriter Stephen Stills on guitar. The recordings were made in Wally Heider’s Studio 3, then situated in L.A. at the corner of Cahuenga and Selma. The engineer was Bill Halverson, whose credits at that point included such essential records as Crosby Stills and Nash’s massive self-titled debut, Cream’s Badge, Tom Jones Sings She’s a Lady and CSNY’s Déjà Vu.

“It was Stephen Stills’ studio time that we were using,” Halverson recalls by phone from his home in Nashville. “I was working with Stephen on his first solo record, and he came to me a couple nights before this and said, ‘I’ve got this guy who needs a night of studio time.’ Stephen was hanging with Rita Coolidge, and Booker was marrying [Rita Coolidge’s sister] Priscilla Coolidge, and somehow Booker asked Stephen for some studio time. We just spent the one night.” On Withers’ session, Halverson placed Jackson’s kit near the control room glass, under an overhanging soffit – again, an emulation of United Western 3 – that held the studio playback speakers. “If you tucked the drums as close as you could under that overhang of the big speakers, you were out in the room but you had really good isolation,” Halverson says.

“When Bill Withers showed up,” Halverson says, “he comes walking in with his guitar and a straight-back chair, like a dining room chair, and asks, ‘Where do I set up?’ I showed him right in the middle of the room, and then he left and he came back in with this platform, a kind of wooden box that didn’t have a bottom. It was about four inches tall, and was maybe 3 foot by 4 foot; it was a fairly large platform, and he set it down in the middle of the room. Then he put his chair on it and got his guitar out, and he’s sitting on top of this box. So I miked him and I miked his guitar, and then I was doing other things – getting sounds together. But then he calls me over and he points down to the box and says, ‘You gotta mike the box.’ Well, the way I was trained, you serve the artist, whatever the artist needs. So I got a couple other mics and I miked the box, the place down near the floor, next to this platform.
 
“And now, when you listen to “Ain’t No Sunshine,” you know that all that tapping that goes on [while Withers sings] ‘I know I know I know’ all through it, actually, that’s him tapping his feet on the box, which is actually more intricate than the guitar on that track. He had evidently rehearsed that in his living room, maybe for years.”

I found the great documentary, Still Bill, directed by Damani Baker and Alex Vlack, complete on YouTube. I wrote a little about it in 2012. If you haven’t seen it, rectify that omission soon. Oh, and check out the Cornell Dupree version of “Grandma’s Hands” at 1 hr 6 minutes.

FOUR AT WIMBLEDON, A NICE JUXTAPOSITION OF WORDS

! cornetkeys
Words that sent me back to Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines, on trumpet and piano, playing “Weather Bird”, one of the marvels of 20th Century music. It’s in the Music Player on the right.

FIVE MUSIC SOFTWARE AND THE INTERNET LEAD TO SOME MOST-STRANGE BEDFELLOWS…
Such as Auctioneers and Hip Hop. Clever and hypnotic.

For the full 5 Things experience, please click on the Date Headline of the page in the email and you will go to the proper site (which allows you to see the Music Player). Also all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Tuesday, June 28th

ONE THE MOST TIMELY QUESTION IS, WHY?

beatlesFrom this month’s issue of Vanity Fair, the maestro Beatles watch. Aesthetically a complete non-starter, this is what you get: “The 13 Beatles’ album titles are written all around the bespoke dial, with a special “Help” index at 4 o’clock which recalls the cover of the iconic album released in 1965. The silver galvanic dial matches the polished steel bracelet. It features the official Beatles logo and a date window at 3 o’clock. This unique timepiece paying tribute to the legendary Fab Four is limited to 3,000 pieces.” A “Help” index?You can join the discussion at #RWThe Beatles.” What discussion? Who’s discussing this? “It retails at around £950.” I know, I know, we can’t wait ’til we get to the shop… “Each maestro Beatles will be presented with a dedicated watch case celebrating the music icons. An impressive drum with the official Beatles logo decorates the top of the box.” Believe me, the drum box is not impressive…

TWO THIS IS WHAT THEY WERE LISTENING TO FIFTY YEARS AGO IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA…! KHJ29June66.jpg

THREE THE QUIETEST MUSIC VIDEO EVER
Greenpeace: “Through his music, acclaimed Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi has added his voice to those of eight million people from across the world demanding protection for the Arctic. Einaudi performed one of his own compositions on a floating platform in the middle of the Ocean, against the backdrop of the Wahlenbergbreen glacier (in Svalbard, Norway).”

 

FOUR CRUISING UP PARK LANE AT NIGHT IN A DROP-TOP MERC…
…with Joan Armatrading’s “Love & Affection” and “Down to Zero” on the sound system. An enjoyably bonkers Chelsea School of Art reunion/event ended up with a lift in Kwok’s new car with a suitably late-seventies soundtrack. I was recently reminded of her odd, stern, almost solemn voice when I watched current act Rationale on Later… with Jools Holland. And those songs still sound unusual as pop hits…

FIVE SNAP SHOT!
Loving the groovy table at Snap Gallery – the place for all your Rock music photographic needs. I remember Guy’s first gallery in the Custard Factory in Birmingham, which, if memory serves me well, featured Daniel Kramer’s photos as its opening exhibition.

! snapdesk

And now Dan Kramer returns to Snap in Piccadilly Arcade for A Year and a Day: “Daniel Kramer first photographed bob Dylan on 27 August 1964 in Woodstock, and his final photographs of Bob Dylan were taken on 28 August 1965, just over a year later. Dan was in the studio when Bob Dylan recorded Bringing It All Back Home, and took the Grammy-nominated cover photograph for that album, and its follow up Highway 61 Revisited. He photographed Dylan live in many guises – solo, duetting with Joan Baez (triptych, below), and in his final session, electrified with The Hawks at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium – and behind the scenes, relaxing off stage with friends.”

! snapdylan

AND ON THE MUSIC PLAYER…
to the right, from last week’s post, hear Van Morrison and the Caledonia Soul Orchestra awesomely funk up “Sweet Thing” as John Platania’s guitar and David Hayes’ bass burn up the Rainbow. From the recently released It’s Too Late To Stop Now, Volumes II, III and IV.

For the full 5 Things experience, please click on the Date Headline of the page in the email and you will go to the proper site (which allows you to see the Music Player). Also all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

%d bloggers like this: