Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 11th April

Lionel Richie, What I’ve Learned, Esquire (US), April issue
“If what’s happening now in America had happened in the sixties, we would have protests like you’ve never seen before. But in 2011, people can name every player on the football team, but they can’t tell you how badly they’re being taken advantage of and by whom. They know what Gaga’s doing, but they don’t know what the government’s doing. Everyone’s on Facebook and Myspace and Yourspace and Theirspace and Twitter and Tweeter. Great, fantastic! But anybody paying attention?” From Tuskegee, Alabama, to 1600 Penn Ave—Lionel for Vice Pres 2012!

emusic find of the month
Hayes Carll’s Kmag Yoyo (military acronym, “Kiss My Ass Guys, You’re On Your Own”), which features the beautiful, Willie Nelson-esque Chances Are. “Chances are I took the wrong turn, every time I had a turn to take.” Every so often a classic country song is just what you need. And the title track’s Subterranean Homesick feel is pretty cool, too.

News that Rumer is to cover It Could Be The First Day by Richie Havens sent me back to Stonehenge, one of the albums he made in the late sixties which also featured his great covers of I Started A Joke and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. Richie also features on An Album To Benefit Preservation Hall (2010), which rounds up some usual and unusual suspects (Paolo Nutini, Andrew Bird, Tom Waits, Pete Seeger, Merle Haggard, Dr John, Steve Earle, Amy Lavere) in support of this venerable New Orleans institution, and his track may just be the best thing on it. Trouble In Mind is a totally gorgeous version of a old chestnut—with soft horns, walking bass, sad dobro and sandpaper clarinet underpinning Havens’ stoic vocal.

Girl Talk, Girl Talk
Speaking of muted horns, that song prompted me to find a tape recording I’d made in the late seventies. I had, unfashionably, gone to Ronnie Scott’s with tutor-cum-landlord, Dennis Bailey, to see Panama Francis And His Savoy Sultans. Dennis insisted we see a bit of jazz history, and we weren’t disappointed. To hear a (little) Big Band in a small club is an experience not to be forgotten, but what stayed with me was a glorious take on the torchy Girl Talk, a song composed by Neal Hefti, lyrics by Bobby Troup, written for the 1965 film Harlow, a biopic starring Carroll “Baby Doll” Baker. The song has been described by Michael Feinstein as the “last great male chauvinistic song written in the 60’s,” but hey—an instrumental version = no-one offended! Panama laid out a sifty undertow on his kit, the horns spread out and one of the great melodies took shape. By the time the second chorus comes round they’ve put the burners on and the whole thing is glowing and swinging and Dennis is shouting yes! yes! and we’re laughing with sheer joy, enveloped by the sound of beautifully burnished brass.
nb. Julie London does my favourite vocal version, and it is a staggering chauvinistic lyric…

In A White Room
We were talking about the surviving Abbey Road letters (as seen on the back of the Abbey Road album) that were on the memorabilia and antiques show, Four Rooms, and discussing what item of rock memorabilia we’d most like to own. The Jayne Mansfield cut-out from Sgt Pepper? Brian Wilson’s sandpit? The guitar on the cover of Joan Baez/5? My favourite choice was Simon’s: Nick Drake’s cape/blanket, Way to Blue cover.

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