Five Things: Wednesday 26th June

L. Ron Mellotron
On a walking tour of Fitzrovia, a whole host of music references, from the squat where Boy George and Jon Moss wrote “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” to the mansion flat that Robert Nesta Marley lived in for a year in 1972. Bob’s flat was in the rectangular block of streets between Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street, which is technically Fitzrovia, but in a no-man’s-land between it and Bloomsbury, known as the Gower Peninsular. We proceed to the original location of Cranks, first organic cafe in London, where Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious worked – washing up – for a short time. My favourite moment comes as we pass a large grand house on Fitzroy Street, and someone says, That’s where L Ron Hubbard lived. And I overhear a man talking to his partner, saying I was down in East Grinstead for work and we passed Saint Hill Manor [Scientology’s national headquarters, a huge brick temple with visitor’s centre] and we were given a tour by a slightly scary woman, and I got to play L Ron Hubbard’s mellotron. I ask him what he played, as the mellotron songbook is not huge. Strawberry Fields Forever, he says.

I loved this photo…

…of jazz guitarist Johnny Smith, playing in a Tucson music store in the late 1970s. It ran with the New York Times obit. It’s partly for the faded Kodachrome, partly for the light, partly for the clothes, partly for the wonderful selection of guitars. A lovely quote stood out: “He accomplished everything he ever wanted,” his daughter, Kim Smith Stewart, said. “He played with the best musicians in the world, he went deep sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, he was a great father.”

Jazz 625 from the early 60s, George Lewis with Acker Bilk’s band, The Marquee
At the end of the song, Humphrey Lyttleton says “Every great jazz musician has one number that is his one-way ticket to immortality, and that surely is George Lewis’s – Burgundy Street Blues. Simon emails: “It may have been the extra-widescreen TV I was watching on, but George Lewis, in the 625 film, had the longest ET-like fingers, specially designed for the clarinet – I’m still reeling…” George’s performance is lovely, swooping and poised, and as he and the band finish, Acker says Yeah… softly and clasps him on the arm.

More Jazz
Reviewing Jazz. New York in the Roaring Twenties by Robert Nippoldt, Hans-Jürgen Schaal, for Eye magazine, my favourite brace of spreads are these, featuring the waveforms of the 20 songs from the enclosed CD, along with a timing graph. Only “Rhapsody In Blue”, commissioned by Paul Whiteman from George Gershwin, is over 3 minutes 20 seconds, and continues by itself onto the second spread.


Illustrator Greg Clarke put this lovely illustration on his blog

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  1. […] that exemplified modernism. The Novachord was a keyboard that can be seen as a precursor to the Mellotron, the essential element of so many psychedelic recordings in the late 1960s. It was designed by the […]

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