Five Things: Wednesday 10th July

Robert Christgau on the Louis Armstrong House Museum,
“Armstrong never made the money he should have – Glaser kept most of it. But he could have afforded a far grander place, and that he chose not to says something telling about a genius who never aspired to rise above a common station except in the notes he played. Within the limits he laid out for himself, however, Armstrong didn’t stint. Reading about the mirrored bathroom, gold-plated toilet fixtures, cheetah-print stair carpet, and aquamarine everything, you may fear the house is pretentious or embarrassing, but it’s not at all, at least not to someone who grew up in Queens when Armstrong lived there. On the contrary, it’s an object lesson in limited luxury. With its careful period authenticity – even the air conditioners are very 1970, although their guts have been replaced – the museum is a vivid reminder of how much more acquisitive, pretentious, and would-be hip wealth has become since the days of the affluent society.”

This reminded me of something that Rupert Everett, the actor, said in an interview to coincide with the release of his second book, the brittle and fascinating vanished years. “If you look at books of Hollywood homes in the 70s, it’s just amazing how humble they are; they’re like little beach shanty houses with bric-a-brac furniture. Now the smallest fucking brainless Hollywood producer lives in an Earth Wind & Fire Egyptian Palace. It’s just… become so tasteless, I suppose.”

Starry-eyed an’ laughing
I swear I don’t try to shoehorn Bob into every post, but visiting Mayfair’s (and, quite possibly, the World’s) greatest wine store, Hedonism, the record on the deck (they have a ridiculously high-end system, somewhat matching the drink selection) is Another Side Of… and track four, side one plays as I wander around, window shopping. Later, around the corner, I pass this plaque on the wall of the building that used to be home to The Robert Stigwood Organisation…


Two letters about The Stones, The Guardian
• In 1963 or 1964* I went to Ken Colyer’s jazz club with other members of High Wycombe YCND. A note on the door said that the usual Dixieland wouldn’t be playing: instead, “a young rhythm and blues band, the Rolling Stones”. Not impressed, we spent the evening in the pub.
Jo Russell, Stoke-on-Trent
• I remember seeing the Stones about 1964 at the Empress Ballroom in Wigan (Later to become the Wigan Casino, home of Northern Soul). During their performance, Jagger threw his sweaty shirt into the audience. I and another girl caught it. She ended up with one sleeve and I won the rest of it. I stored it carefully in one of my drawers at home, where my mother found it and, seeing it was damaged, tore it up and used it for dusters.
Marie Blundell, Wigan

* I think it may have been ’62, but certainly not ’64…

Busker, Euston Station
The summer heat brings an unusual sight and sound: a black guy, possibly blind, Bizet’s Carmen blasted through an amp hanging from his neck, playing the top line (tone courtesy of Paul Butterfield) on a crunchily amplified harmonica. Orchestral Harp vs Blues Harp. No contest.

Rickie Lee Jones, On My Playlist, Metro. Eloquent.
• “On The Road Again” Canned Heat
Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, the harmonica player, plays so lyrically, I often quip and hoot to myself as I listen.
• “Linden Arden Stole The Highlights” Van Morrison
The lyric on this is so wild. Van is a master. This is timeless, uplifting and healing, and is a transporter to some other realm.*
• “John Barleycorn Must Die” Traffic
This song was very influential: the sound of the recording, the sweet voices and the English accents were all very interesting to me when I was 16.
• “Into White” Cat Stevens
Like Van, Cat seemed to be familiar to me, as if his musical language emanated from a home I shared.
• “Voodoo Chile” Jimi Hendrix
This is live and crazy good. Avoid the new remastering – it’s like a graffiti artist smudging the Mona Lisa. The original mixes were perfect. Delicate, loud, sexy and otherworldly. And Jimi’s rather silly-sounding voice is not silly at all. as told to Zena Alkayat

* Helped along by a stunning piece of fretless bass playing by David Hayes.

EXTRA: Yasiin Bay (Mos Def as was) undergoing Guantánamo Bay force-feeding procedure.
Watch it and weep.

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