Pop Music Lives!
The Graham Norton Show. Girls Aloud. New Single. Love Machine. I roll my eyes at the title. But it’s great, a cracking pop single, with hints of Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz. And, as the chorus powers into view, at the back of my mind, a nagging What Else Does This Sound Like? It only takes a few demented minutes of humming. Step forward The Butterfield Blues Band…
Ok! Hep, Two, Three, Four…
Woodstock Soundtrack, original vinyl, Side Six. The Butterfield Blues Band. Featuring saxophonist “Brother” Gene Dinwiddie. “I got a little somethin’ I’d like to lay on y’all, if you’ll bear with me a minute… please. We’re gonna do a little March right along thru now… It’s a Love March. We don’t carry no guns and things in this army we got. Don’t nobody have to be worried about keepin’ in step, and we ain’t got no uniforms—we’re a poor army. In order to keep our heads above the water and whatnot, we sing to one another, and play to one another and we trying to make each other feel good. Ok! Hep, two, three, four…” On the back of a great Rod Hicks bassline and Phillip Wilson’s martial drumming, Dinwiddie gives his all to the uber-hippie lyrics. As feedback crackles around Buzzy Feiten’s guitar, the horn section (featuring David Sanborn) riff like the most soulful Marching Band ever. And it certainly could be the inspiration for the Girls’ songwriting team, although I doubt it.
John Barry: Licence To Thrill (BBC Four Doc With A Rotten Title…)
I’d totally forgotten his great score for The Ipcress File. It uses one of my favourite instruments, a cimbalom (a kind of hammered dulcimer). One night I was in Budapest at a conference and we were all taken to a Hungarian Folk Dance dinner. It was, hands down, the loudest thing I’ve ever witnessed. The stage floorboards were percussively assaulted by the dancers’ boots and our insides were assaulted by the unholy bass vibrations that this set off. There were two cymbalom players at either side of the stage, hitting seven shades out of their instruments. The pitch of the treble strings as they were struck by the hammers was enough to take the top of your head off. Instant Migraine. Brilliant. I bought the CD.
“Tis The Song, The Sigh Of The Weary, Hard Times, Hard Times, Come Again No More…”
Laura Barton’s wonderful Guardian column, Hail, Hail, Rock & Roll, was one of the inspirations for me to do this blog, so I was sad to read of her hard year in the round-up of favourite moments by Guardian music writers. Here, she talked honestly about the past twelve months, and a rare bright moment. “This was not the happiest of years for me; all through January, on into spring and the summer, I took a slow lesson in falling apart. I could no longer see the beauty in anything—days stood grey and flat, food was flavourless, even music seemed muffled and blunt. By the first Tuesday in March I was experiencing daily panic attacks, and often felt too fearful to leave the house. But that evening Future Islands were playing the Scala in London… They played my favourites of course, and it was one of the finest gigs of my life, but what really made it was the stage invasion—a sudden surge of excitement at the beginning of, I think, Heart Grows Old, and suddenly we were all up there, dancing among the cables and the synths. And I remember in that moment looking down from the edge of the stage, out at all the bright faces and euphoria and glee, and feeling my chest swell with a brief, sweet gulp of long-lost joy.”
R.I.P Fontella Bass
Rescue Me. The best Motown song that was never on Motown, the best Motown bassline that wasn’t a Motown bassline (played by Louis Satterfield). Fontella Bass was a powerful singer, who made some wonderful gospel albums. The one I could find this morning was From The Root To The Source. It has Phillip Wilson, co-writer of Love March (see above) on drums. To further cement the Butterfield link, I found a YouTube clip of Fontella in the 80s, singing Rescue Me on Dave Sanborn & Jools Holland’s fabulous Sunday Night, with Sanborn on sax. In memory, we’ll play some Fontella Bass tonight.