Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 30th May

Best Eurovision Moment
After Albania’s rather terrifying sub-Bjork performance, Graham Norton waited a beat, then said: “I’m pretty sure that, if they get her medication right, that need never happen again…”

Pete Doherty Interview by Geoffrey Macnab, The Guardian
Ah, poor Pete, treated badly by everybody as he makes his film debut in Confession of a Child of the Century. Take Charlotte Gainsbourg. She wasn’t “all that happy” about the production, which, he says he knows because he snuck into her room and looked at her journal [!]. She came in “as someone everyone knew but a complete stranger in the immediate environment… you couldn’t be a star.” It was freezing cold on location. Between takes, assistants would “leap on her with loads of blankets and hot-water bottles and I was stood there in 19th-century cotton with lots of holes in it.” And in prison: “It’s horrible, horrible. There are lots of aggressive, money-oriented, very masculine people, but at the same time, there is really nasty homoerotic violence. It’s not the place to be if you are a freethinking man.” And now there’s the film critics! The reviews have been overwhelmingly negative, with Doherty’s own performance deemed “catastrophic” and “calamitous.”

For what it’s worth, I have no great opinion on Doherty’s songwriting talent and I wasn’t impressed by The Libertines, but I saw him play a song at Hal Willner’s Disney night, The Forest of No Return, part of Jarvis Cocker’s Meltdown at the Festival Hall in 2007. With a line-up of luminaries ranging from Nick Cave to Grace Jones (brilliantly terrifying on The Jungle Book’s Trust In Me) Pete took the stage to sing Chim Chim Cheree. We were sitting just behind Kate Moss, Pete’s then-inamorata, who was busy snapping photos. One of the few performers to have memorised the words, strumming a battered acoustic, he totally inhabited the song, and—singing beautifully—essayed a perfect and tender version, rescuing it forever from the clutches of Dick Van Dyke. And that’s no mean feat.

Reissue of the Week
Walked into a guitar shop to discover that Fender have reissued the Kingman, the acoustic played by Elvis, with its classic Fender headstock…

My prized Fender 1968 catalogue

A Night At The Opera
Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. English National Opera. Anthony Minghella’s production. Visually stunning in places. Rousing and expressive music. Awful story, that seems horribly outdated and verging on distasteful. Terrible clunky language which is hard to sing (Pinkerton: “I bought this house for nine hundred and ninety nine years, but with the option, at ev’ry month, to cancel the contract! I must say, in this country, the houses and the contracts are elastic!”). And then sung with seeming disregard for the melodies of the music floating underneath! Interview this week with Emma Rice, director of theatre group Kneehigh: Is there an artform you don’t relate to? “Opera. It’s a dreadful sound. It just doesn’t sound like the human voice.”

Image Of The Week: !Bobama!


Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 23rd May

Modern Family Rocks! Or Is That Soft Rocks?
Haley has been ripped off—her dad gets ready to confront the perpetrator. Phil: “Yeah I got a plan. Either he gives us the money or he gets a private performance from (holds up left fist) England Dan and (right fist) John Ford Coley.” Later, he amends this to “Crosby (left fist), Stills (right fist), Nash (knee), and Young (kicks out his foot).” Baby Boomer scripting par excellence— and Ty Burrell as Phil just gets better and better.

I Missed The Radio Doc About The Missing Bobbie Gentry
Yes, I conspired to miss something I know I’d have loved. I only found out after it broadcast and then—just as my finger was hovering over the play triangle on iPlayer—it disappeared. I can only hope it featured the wonderful Jill Sobule song, Where Is Bobbie Gentry? Set to a clever melody closely modelled on Ode To Billie Jo it tells of a fan’s devotion…

“Out in the desert where the skin slowly cures deep brown
She’s got a little shack, a pickup truck, parked out on the edge of town
It’s just what I imagined, no one knows where’d she be
Maybe she’s in heaven passing black-eyed peas
Where is Bobbie Gentry?

Up in Alaska hauling wood or maybe in Japan
I bet that she’s still beautiful, goes barefoot everywhere she can
Does she still play guitar or write a song or two?
Maybe that was over; she’s got better things to do
Where is Bobbie Gentry?

If I could just find you
Say I love you and then leave you alone
If I could just find you
Say I love you and then leave you alone

1967, Bobbie made it on the Billboard charts
Ten years later, disappeared and broke everybody’s heart
Does she ever go to Chickasaw? Ever go back on that bridge?
Well, I was the baby thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge
Yeah, I was the baby thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge…”

Love that middle eight…

That “Bird On A Wire” Was A Real Cracker Of A Movie, Wasn’t It?
Someone has made a a psychological thriller, due out in a couple of weeks, titled after Leonard Cohen’s A Thousand Kisses Deep, from Ten New Songs. It stars Emilia Fox and Dougray Scott (in a pork pie hat, playing jazz trumpet in the bath). Snap judgment from the trailer? Absolutely preposterous.

Niles ’n’ Miles
Fascinating piece hidden away in the Money section of The Guardian, by the always interesting Nile Rogers, in a regular column called My Greatest Mistake. He tells of the many occasions on which Miles Davis would ask Rodgers to write him a song. Nile: “This is a great man who changed my life—and he wanted me to help change his. I believe he kept asking me for about two years, and all that time I couldn’t believe he was serious… he had a funny coding system for when we spoke on the phone at night, like I was calling the president of the US: I had to ring three times and ask for so-and-so and then he would know it was me. I kept doing jazz fusion demos and whenever Miles heard them he’d say to me: “I can do that myself. I want a motherfucking Good Times.” Miles Davis was 100% clear but I didn’t hear him. He was completely sincere and had opened himself up by asking for my help. If I wasn’t so stupid I might have done it.”

Bob. Dylan. Boot. Leg.
From Bobby Keys’ autobiography Every Night’s a Saturday Night we learn that the feet poking out from the Rolls Royce on Delaney & Bonnie & Friends are Bob’s. And the Rolls? Albert Grossman’s.

Extra! 5 Things Concerning Willis Earl Beal

Declaiming Charles Bukowski at the start…

Tabernacle Testifying

Tabernacle Testifying

“I’m a wizard, not a Musician”: Willis Earl Beal at The Tabernacle


1 The look John Carlos, Mexico City 1968. One black-gloved hand. (On the right hand, though Carlos’s was on the left, but he looks more like Carlos than Smith). Cross that with Aaron Neville in his muscle/t-shirt days. Sunglasses. Tight jeans. Cowboy boots. Occasional wearing of a sheet as a cape. Sheet starts evening covering up AKAI reel-to-reel.

2 Poses With cape, and standing on chair, superhero. Stalking stage with mic: Grace Jones meets Emo Philips. Albequerque-back-porch-stretched-out-almost-horizontal-feet-crossed for one song.

3 Voice Paul Robeson. Tom Waits. The Mavericks’ Raul Malo. Something of James Carr. I’m just trying to give pointers. He doesn’t really sing/sound like any of ’em.

4 Tools Simple. Shaker Simple in comparison to most. Aforementioned reel-to-reel tape recorder (gotta love a performer whose set list is contained on a reel of tape). Open-tuned electric guitar, played on lap with strings fretted by thumb, Richie Havens-style, and amp. Drink that looks like Rum and Coca Cola. Belt, taken off and used to whip chair at one point.

5 Songs Some are no more than a backing track of cheap synth beat overlaid by buzzing insect sound, here mutated into a compelling signal to noise. One of the guitar songs is almost a classic Southern Soul Ballad. I don’t know what their titles are, I’d only heard one track before going, but all are declaimed with a frightening intensity, and as we’re all sitting/standing very close, it’s a little like watching performance art.

I love an act that grabs the evening by the scruff of the neck and, by force of will, carries an audience­—even as they’re trying to get a handle on what the hell’s been put in front of them. And ends it with: “We need you to buy the album, Acousmatic Sorcery…  [long pause] …the action figures [long pause] …the pencils… [long pause] …and if you do I will then personally come to your house and give you benediction.”

The Set Up

The Set Up

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 16th May

Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, Royal Albert Hall, April 15, 1970
In the middle of his set supporting Creedence Clearwater Revival, Tony Joe White stepped up to the mic and introduced his band: two of the Dixie Flyers (Mike Utley on organ and Sammy Creason on drums) and—on bass, ladies and gentlemen—the legendary ‘Duck’ Dunn, Memphis maestro (Booker T, Otis, Eddie, Wilson). Not content with Duck’s luminous, numinous credits, Tony Joe informed the audience that we had a Champion in the house (my memory fails me with the precise details, but it was something like All-State Tennessee Hall of Fame Champion). Yes a Champion of… the YoYo. And there, on the stage of The Royal Albert Hall, ‘Duck’ Walked The Dog… he Hopped The Fence… he went Around The World… he Looped The Loop… and 5,000 people whooped for joy, as they gave him a standing ovation.

Julie Delpy, The Film Programme, R4
In a really entertaining interview by Francine Stock, Delpy talks about her new film in which the action takes place over 48 hours. “I like the unity of time, maybe because I’m not very good at storytelling in time-lapse, and I hate the time-lapse sequence of montage with, like, music. Like the typical one was a nice trendy song of the time, then you have a montage of time passing or whatever (laughs)—I just can’t do that! I like unity of time, like when shit hits the fan it really usually happens on like a very short period of time… In Before Sunset the idea of doing it in real time, hour and a half, came from me…”

A Veteran Vibe
Aimlessly flipping from channel to channel, a great juxtaposition: Charles Aznavour (now 87, about 57 at the time of this recording of She) and Engelbert Humperdinck (formerly Gerry Dorsey, let’s not forget, currently 76). Aznavour sings like a piano player, jamming words together in entirely unnatural fits and starts, cramming then letting one word run long— a European version of gospel’s tension-and-release? Whatever, it’s mesmerising, especially as the camera just holds the same closeup of his face throughout the song. Humperdinck sings Britain’s Song For Europe entry, Love Will Set You Free, and, leaving aside whether the song is derivative or fine—what did you expect?—he gave it some going over. The voice was strong, his pitch was dead-on and he negotiated the tricky key change (a Eurovision must) with aplomb. All the best for Baku, Eng!

Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias
Simon was saying that I should be aware of the Cardiacs, a band I’d entirely missed in the eighties and nineties, and on their Wiki entry I noticed a name from the past—listed as an inspiration—a name you don’t forget. The Albertos were a band I happily watched countless times [mostly, I think, at the Marquee] as they purveyed a wildly cynical take on the music business. It’s hard to describe the shows. Look through the contact sheet of a roll I shot at one of the gigs (it enlarges if you click on it) and you’ll get a sense of what they were like. See drummer Bruce Mitchell—widest shoulders this side of Dick Tracy plus huge wooden nude-girl tie! The worrying balaclava-and-gun look! That alarming codpiece! CP Lee, wearing a Peter Cook-like belted raincoat in the photos and playing a Stars & Stripes guitar, went on to write a great book about Dylan’s infamous ’66 Manchester Free Trade Hall gig, Like The Night. The Albertos were a one-off—they were really good musicians and were also hysterically funny. There’s not many bands you could say that about. [nb: final frame shows my friend Kwok, asleep on my mother’s couch.]

New Sandwich Bar In Town


Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 9th May

Janis Joplin, Get It While You Can, Take Three, July 27th 1970
“Everybody I know is crazy, except President Nixon… and that’s his problem…” This is take three of the Jerry Ragavoy/Mort Shulman song, still not quite polished, but rawer and freer. When they reconvene on September 11th to finally record it, they’re more focused—“brighter”— in producer Paul Rothschild’s words. But take three still has the edge, a more pleading vocal, and a coda of “No No NoNoNo NO…” that is absolutely moving, and missing from the final take.

Alabama Shakes, Electric Brixton, May 3rd
In the sleevenotes to an album by one of Alabama’s greatest musical talents, Eddie Hinton, that fine Memphis journalist Robert Gordon wrote: “If a frayed rope could sing, it would sound like only two people, and since Otis is dead, that leaves Eddie.” And since Eddie is dead, that leaves Brittany Howard. It’s erroneous that Janis is the cheap ’n’ easy invokee—Howard’s models seem more to be those two men, especially when you factor in her tone. First seen when the excellent Laura Barton wrote about a lone YouTube video in The Guardian last year, I’d deliberately avoided listening, but bought tickets to see them. As my daughter Jordan said, that way you’re not just anticipating the couple of songs you know, and not listening properly. So we let it wash over us and tried to ignore the ******* hipsters talking at the bar and the drunks hollering next to us (hard to do in the moodily quiet numbers). Punching her guitar, stomping her boots and seemingly conducting the songs by shakes of her head, Brittany Howard lived up to the hype, and the band are just slick enough to make it work, but not so slick that it sounds mechanical—you just wish you could be watching them at The Lamplighter, outside of Muscle Shoals, instead of here. Oh, one last thing: the name. It’s not easy to do a great band name these days – see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds for example – but this is most excellent, both geographical locator and mission statement.

Black Cobra
Enable the subtitles on your TV, get to see who’s sold their music to Ad Agencies! Cobra beer ad, Black Keys’ Gold On The Ceiling. In two minds whether the lyrics really fit the product – “Gold on the ceiling/I ain’t blind/Just a matter of time/Before you steal it/It’s all right/Ain’t no God in my eye.” I’m not sure that’s on brand.

VanMan SatNav
Driving with my friend Steve Way to a cartoon festival, he was taken with the Irish voice on our car’s SatNav, and started doing the instructions in the style of Van Morrison. Genius! Leaving motorways and approaching roundabouts has never been so entertaining. Googling to see if anyone had already thought of this I could only find one reference, from a thread on Julian Cope’s Modern Antiquarian… “My Van Morrison Sat Nav has caused me to flood my brakes in the slipstream and I’m now stuck between two viaducts. It’s also told me to fuck…” and there, wonderfully, access to the thread ends, as I can’t get on to the site.

Message From Chuck!

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 2nd May

Miles Davis, the “My Funny Valentine” scene, Homeland
Carrie presses play on her music system and Miles’ trumpet entwines round the next five minutes, as the would-be dinner à deux fails to materialize. She puts on lipstick, walks past the painting of a jazz trumpeter on the stairs. Brody’s at the door. Their clothes rustle, the ever present cicadas throb as the background sounds are foregrounded. She pours wine. “Miles Davis!” she barks. “Do you like Jazz?” “I don’t know anything about it.” He tells her why he’s there, he leaves, the double bass climbs, she ditches the wine. As the title melody resurfaces, the camera cuts to Brody getting into his car and staring out the windscreen, then back to Carrie, wretched in her kitchen, then to Saul. He’s the only one who knows about Brody and Carrie’s relationship, has a tangled relationship of his own with Carrie as her mentor, and now he’s staring into a CIA fridge, filled with all the things that office fridges always contain: medicines and mustard and peanut butter… The tune spirals and stretches as Saul walks back to his office and, seen from behind the blinds, sighs as he realizes he’s forgotten a knife. He looks in his desk drawer and pulls out a ruler to spread the peanut butter, and at 5 minutes, 10 seconds, with the song only 50 seconds away from finishing, it cuts into an electronic bass hum/high pitched drone and a child’s drawing in a mansion window, as the next day dawns—and brings with it the fateful surveillance operation in the square.

Freak Out!
In a particularly wide-ranging segment of Jools Holland’s Later, an incandescent Annie Clarke—a refreshingly un-Marina And The Machines-like woman singer, and a considerable guitarist. I was so-so about the song, but the guitar playing! Well, great joy! Not since seeing the latest Chili Peppers guitarist [Josh Klinghoffer] has someone stopped me in my tracks like that. “As of late 2011, her pedal board includes the following: Korg PitchBlack, DBA Interstellar Overdriver Supreme, ZVex Mastotron Fuzz, Eventide Pitchfactor, Eventide Space, BOSS PS-5 Super Shifter, Moog EP-2 Expression Pedal. All her pedals are controlled by a MasterMind MIDI Foot Controller. She usually plays with a 60s Harmony H-15V Bobkat guitar.”—Wikipedia

Olly: Life On Murs
Oh the fabulous poptastic late-night treats continue… I don’t remember the channel, but here’s a programme possibly commissioned for the Title Pun alone. We follow the cheeky chappy (a kind of cut-price Robbie Williams) as he tours. Memorable moment—the backstage huddle just before hitting the stage. Rather than Madonna’s prayer circle, a raucous New Orleans-style number led by the horn players as the band leap around singing “I feel like fuckin’ it up, I feel like fuckin’ it up.” Brilliant.

Nostalgia Time! House Of Oldies
Photographer Nick Sinclair’s mailout this week.

I remember this record shop! I bought Bruce Springsteen bootlegs (Passaic, The Roxy ’78—“All you bootleggers out there in radioland, roll your tapes”) from them in the early Eighties.

Joplin. Grave. Spinning.
Not since I saw a poster in Times Square for Bob Marley Footwear [see picture] has something clothes-based seemed so wrong.

A re-issue of Pearl had this flyer inside: “Made for Pearl is part gypsy rambler, and part cosmic cowgirl… a bit of joyful rebellion. MFP has produced clothing and accessories as enduringly modern, beautiful and timeless as Joplin’s colourful legacy.” Who writes this shit?

And finally…

%d bloggers like this: