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

David Whitaker
The death, at 81, of the man responsible for the strings that were sampled by The Verve for Bittersweet Symphony brought forth this excellent little nugget, recounted by Bob Stanley in his Guardian obit: “He spent much of his time in Paris working with the cream of the country’s “yé-yé” scene, including Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Vartan, Claude François, France Gall and Serge Gainsbourg.  Gainsbourg’s song Comic Strip was recorded in London, with Brigitte Bardot providing back-up vocals. Whitaker later explained how they decided where they worked: “If Serge wanted some new clothes, we recorded in London, and if I wanted some we recorded in Paris.” Ha! There are, by the way, excellent waxworks of both Johnny and Serge in the Musée Grévin in Paris.

Liza with a What?
News comes via Andy Schwartz on the rocksbackpages blog of an album cut by Liza Minelli at Muscle Shoals. Aside from the fact that that we need much more information on this, it make you wonder about any other weird combos that may come out of the woodwork, from a long-gone time when no talent mix was too strange to consider. Prime runners?  The lost Doris Day at Stax album, or the rumoured Mae West: Gettin’ Down & Dirty with Little Beaver Miami masterwork?

Do You Remember The Tyla Gang?
At lunch with friends on Sunday it turns out that Weston’s brother Mike was the drummer in The Tyla Gang. We had a fine time reminiscing about The Nashville Rooms & Bees Make Honey and the London music scene of the early seventies, and Mike had great stories to tell of his times with Brian Eno and Sean Tyla. I saw Ducks Deluxe, Tyla’s band before The Gang, many times at The Fulham Greyhound. Most of my memories of Fulham Palace Road are pretty fuzzy, centering around Nazareth and Head, Hands & Feet.  Oh, and being shouted at by Ian Dury: “Oi, Four Eyes… get your beer off my fucking amp…”

It’s Bill Withers’ World: we just live in it… the Wonderful Still Bill
Everyone is hereby urged to see this fine, fine piece of work, less a music documentary than a meditation on how to live a life. Best human moment: Bill’s visit to an educational project helping kids who stutter (Withers did until the age of 28). Best musical moment: a toss-up between Raul Midón and Bill on the telephone, and at a tribute concert, Bill watching Cornell Dupree glide ’n’ slide through Grandma’s Hands, talent undimmed by illness (even though he has an oxygen tube on). Bill steps onto the stage and sings a verse, but then, as Barney Hoskyns’ wrote: “as if concerned not to upstage the ailing but grinning Dupree—one of soul music’s greatest guitar players—he almost immediately sat down beside him, continuing to sing but deferring to Dupree.” And with his hand resting on Cornell’s knee.

A Strange Englishness
A beautifully compiled curio: Tyneham House, a 14 track CD, beautifully packaged in a Gocco-printed card box with booklet and a ‘bonus’ cassette tape, all illustrated by award-winning artist Frances Castle (a Jarvis Cocker favourite) of Clay Pipe Music. The subject is the Dorset village  requisitioned by the government for ‘training purposes’ by the British Government in the lead-up to WWII. The music itself is by regular conributors to the label’s releases, but all anonymous here, with a mixture of new and archive performances. Perfect English Summer listening. Now we just need the Summer.

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