Five Things: Wednesday 28th August

Simmy Richman interview with Stephen Stills, The Independent
Is it true that you play percussion on the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing”?
We were in the studio next door making a CSN album and David was all full of himself and saying this is going to be the album of the year. I went, “No it’s not, that’s being recorded across the hall,” cos I’d heard some of that Saturday Night Fever stuff and I knew it was totally unique and going to be a monster. So I played timbales and for a long time that was my only platinum single.

You have a reputation for sometimes being short with journalists…
I had a torturous day in New York one time where someone had fed a writer this thing that I had tried out for the Monkees and failed. The truth was that I wanted to sell my songs to a hit TV show to make money. The thought of being a pretend Beatle on TV was so appalling that I couldn’t imagine it, but I went down and said I know a kid, and I sent them Peter Tork. This journalist kept saying, “But they turned you down right?” I was like, “You’re not getting the point.” So I ended up going fuck you! Often the journalist has already written the piece and all they’re looking for you to do is to confirm their obnoxious preconceptions. There’s a point where you just go – fuck fame, fuck being famous, fuck being a celebrity, fuck this. I’m a fucking musician. Take my picture and make it up.

Thanks for not being like that with me. That was an absolute pleasure.
It was. I love that I talked about all the things you were warned not to talk to me about. High fives on that!

Bruce Springsteen I
Daughter sends link to this very sweet blog entry, and while I have issues with the design aesthetics, the tale itself is funny and heartwarming.

Bruce Springsteen II
Then my inbox pops up with: “Springsteen: Saint In The City – this book covers the year from Springsteen’s birth to 1974,  the year before his breakthrough album Born To Run”. Personally, I like the ‘about the author’ bit: “Craig Statham has an MA in History from the University of Edinburgh. He currently works for East Lothian Council and has previously published four successful books on local Scottish history. The author believes that to fully understand Springsteen’s recorded work it is necessary to understand the formative years that shaped him. It covers: The genealogy of the Springsteen family from earliest times; his relationships with his managers – how whenever success beckoned he would move in a new direction; the development of his drive to sound like Van Morrison and Joe Cocker (in the Bruce Springsteen Band); the fight to get support from Columbia Records and how the musicians changed the rules to all-night Monopoly sessions”.

Heard And Seen at the at the Zoological Museum
Artist in museums. Not sure that they really work, and feel they’re always overshadowed by the exhibits. So poor Sam Risley Billingham is onto a hiding to nothing with his “Structurally amassed beat-mix soundscape” when up against A Jar Of Moles.


Guardian Fashion


Can anyone explain this particular bit of fashion to me? And why poor Anastasia has been forced to a) stand like that, and b) wear ‘cute’ animal ears. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to the Gil Scott Heron one.

Five Things: Wednesday 21st August

Booker T Jones, Ronnie Scott’s Q&A, Saturday Afternoon
I ask how come Booker T played bass on “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”. He replied [spoken in the soft but strong voice of a man who thinks before he speaks]: “In my community, out in Malibu, musicians would very often stop by, and one of them was Bob Dylan. He would come, and bring an acoustic guitar or play one of mine and play his songs… try out his songs on me. In my little studio. Bring his electric guitar, plug it into my tape recorder, which I never thought to turn on (as he says this his eyes widen slightly and he smiles to himself – the audience cracks up). Anyway, he was working on this movie with Jason Robards and Sam Peckinpah and thought to ask me to come play bass with him on that song, late one… late… early one morning, so we went out to Burbank and recorded that. I was a bass player from the beginning – that was how I made my living. I started out at the Flamingo Rooms. I was known around Memphis as a bass player, just happened to play the Hammond because of “Green Onions” at Stax. At heart, I still have my bass”.

Bob Dylan, “Went To See The Gypsy”, Another Self Portrait
Streamed by The Guardian, and the only track I’ve heard so far, this demo version of an (imagined?) visit to see Elvis in Vegas is like a stunning precursor to “Blind Willie McTell”. Dylan doesn’t seem to have yet fixed the melody in his mind but the passion of the performance carries it to a wonderful outro where the guitar accompaniment (David Bromberg, I’m guessing) is fantastic, like Robbie Robertson on “Dirge” or Mark Knopfler on “Blind Willie”.

The Conventions Will Apply
That awful blight of current TV programmes – they spend the first ten minutes telling you what the other 50 will consist of – reached a nadir with the documentary on Fairport Convention. A series of talking heads said “they changed English Folk Music” fourteen different ways, as did Frank Skinner on the voiceover (and over). None of the unthrilling footage of the current band trundling around in coaches and playing was doing the job, so they must have figured we’d better tell the viewer how great and influential they were. What turned out to be an interesting programme with some neat footage was ill-served by the turgid and off-putting start. Film makers don’t do that kind of thing. They generally trust the audience. It has to be the dead hand of the commissioners.

An Olympic Night
Evening Standard: “A former London recording studio where everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Spice Girls made albums is to return to its original life as a cinema. Olympic Studios in Church Road, Barnes, will reopen on October 14 with two screens, a café and dining room and a members’ club, after local businessman Stephen Burdge stepped in to save it. One recording studio will remain in the basement.”

In the 70s, Tony’s mum’s friend says that he runs Olympic Studios. We’re 16 years old. We believe him. Why would he say it if it wasn’t true? So we go along one evening and he lets us in. I have a very vague recollection of creeping around on a balmy night, trying not to be conspicuous. I email Tony and ask him who we saw recording and he says: “Colin Skeith let us in. He claimed he ran the place but was, in fact, merely the raging alcoholic janitor. We saw Rod Stewart, Pete Townsend and a very angry Leslie West!” Tony is unforthcoming on why Leslie West was so angry. If you don’t remember Leslie West, he was a great ‘Rock Guitarist’, most famously in Mountain, with Felix Pappalardi on Gibson EB-1 violin bass. Check out their version of Jack Bruce’s “Theme From An Imaginary Western” on the Woodstock 2 soundtrack. Still sounds great.

As Seen On Twitter: Don’t Diss Vanilla Fudge


Five Things: Wednesday 14th August

Nice Promo For The Blind Boys Of Alabama
Their new album, produced by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) sounds pretty good from the clips. Listen out for Shara Worden singing “I’ll Find A Way”, written by Motown guitarist Ted Lucas (no, me neither) that in the short clip sounds just great. Vernon has taste in female singers – his cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” testifies to that – and I’ll give him the benefit on his hyperbole about Worden. There’s a touching moment where Shara plays the finished item for Ted’s widow and rushes for the tissue box.

True Say, Will!
“Sometimes a band arrives and becomes extremely popular without good reason. Who are the million people who bought the debut album by White Lies, the trio from Ealing in West London? And who are the ever-growing hordes piling into arenas to hear their polished but unremarkable pop-rock? What do they hear in White Lies that can’t be heard from any number of Eighties-influenced bands, or indeed on albums by actual bands from the Eighties? Perhaps the answer is in White Lies’ ability to make euphoric, reverb-drenched, large-scale music that hints at dark edges but doesn’t actually have any, thereby making the listener feel they might be exploring hidden depths without running the risk of being exposed to anything challenging or depressing… and lyrics that suggest something meaningful without containing too many specifics that might alienate potential listeners.” Will Hodginson, The Times.

Urban Proms, BBC/Coolio’s Cash
The Urban Proms was pretty good musically, although most of what I saw cleaved to the Coolio template of “Gansta’s Paradise”, namely hip hop/rap/grime/whatevs with, er, a string section. But the between-songs links were crucifyingly embarrassing. I Name and Shame: Sarah-Jane Crawford (BBC Radio 3) and Charlie Sloth (BBC Radio 1Xtra). Unbelievably bad, with Sloth a kind of lightweight, unfunny James Corden. I know. Imagine that. By the way, if you want to profit from “Gansta’s Paradise” go to the Royalty Exchange where $140,000 will get you a cut of Coolio’s copyrights. I seem to remember this idea not panning out so well for David Bowie’s investors a while back.

Karen Black, RIP
I’ll always treasure her Rayette in Five Easy Pieces, loving Tammy Wynette with all her heart. First seen as a late teen in a Stockholm Cinema in the afternoon, told by friends that it couldn’t be missed, and they were dead-on. Even now ”Stand By Your Man” gets me, with its strangely off-beat army of acoustic guitars punching home the chorus. Ryan Gilbey, in his Guardian obit, wrote well:

“These parts were strikingly different from one another, but they had in common Black’s knack for conveying her characters’ rich and troubled inner lives, their cramped or thwarted dreams. The consummate example could be found in her Oscar-nominated performance as Rayette, the Tammy Wynette-loving girlfriend to Nicholson’s discontented antihero Bobby Dupea, in Five Easy Pieces. There was a comical but achingly sad intellectual gap between the two. Bobby resented her. Crucially, the audience never did. “I dig Rayette, she’s not dumb, she’s just not into thinking,” said Black in 1970. “I didn’t have to know anybody like her to play her. I mean, I’m like her, in ways. Rayette enjoys things as she sees them, she doesn’t have to add significances. She can just love the dog, love the cat. See? There are many things she does not know, but that’s cool; she doesn’t intrude on anybody else’s trip. And she’s going to survive.”

Wonderfully nuanced use of sound in this slightly pointless mass-murderer tale. The amped up folk band in the nightime town square are all bass and a tiny bit of vocals, Otis and James Carr on the car stereo sound exactly right, the metal band in a bar is as muffled and chaotic as it would be in life. Bass thrash, guitar blur, gruff vox. The Pretenders’ “Brass In Pocket” in the pub makes you remember what a great and unusual song that is.

“Got brass in pocket
Got bottle, I’m gonna use it
Intention, I feel inventive
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice

Got motion, restrained emotion
Been driving, Detroit leaning
No reason, just seems so pleasing,
Gonna make you, make you, make you notice”

Extra: Deke’s Car. Sunday. Definition of Rock (abilly) ’n’ Roll


Five Things: Wednesday 7th August

Selfridges Shoe Department
Blue suede shoes by Jeffery West, with the deathly “Please allow me to introduce myself…” line that we can’t seem to avoid, engraved on the sole. And don’t you step on my blue leopardskin shoes, either. {fyi: Both remained unbought.}

Blue SuedeFavourite Song Of The Summer (so far)
Lana Del Rey has covered Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s 1967 track ‘Summer Wine’, (“Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring/My summer wine is really made from all these things”) with, appropriately, her boyfriend – Barrie-James O’Neill of Scottish rockers Kassidy – stepping into Lee Hazlewood’s cowboy boots. It’s bass-heavy and groovy, with gloriously woozy backing vox. It ends with a distant peal of thunder, a snatch of Billie Holiday, some chattering and some beachside noises. In a great piece of iPhone synchronicity it merges into the start of Kevin Ayers “Song From The Bottom Of A Well” with its treated guitars and booming noises (sounding exactly like the song’s title) static-ing between the speakers like some early version of Scott Walker’s Drift.

Underneath Putney Bridge, Sunday

FormbyUkelele practising/busking.
We do a quick duet on
”I’ll See You In My Dreams,”
the Isham Jones/Gus Kahn
tune from 1924 that
Joe Brown played to close
the George Harrison tribute
concert in 2002.


Missive from Tim, RE: The Alleycat
”Just to let you know the Iko’s New Orleans Music Shop at the Alleycat is fab. The excellent house band played tunes by Champion Jack Dupree, Professor Longhair,  Jelly Roll Morton, the Band (”Ophelia“) and more. The jam session that followed was of an amazingly high standard and the vibe was all-inclusive, everyone from twentysomethings to pensioners, dreads to suits. I had to drag myself away at midnight to catch the tube, though apparently they carry on to 2am…“ From the venue website: The Alleycat sits just beneath the fabled Regent Sound Studios which was set up at 4 Denmark Street in 1963. With the Rolling Stones recording their first album here, The Kinks recording ”You Really Got Me”, Black Sabbath recording “Paranoid” as well as many other seminal moments of music history, the studio took off as the place to be seen to be making music.

Late Afternoon, Tottenham Court Road
Have Mercy

Taxi advertising my friend MJ Paranzino’s choir, quite possibly a first in choral advertising, swiftly followed by a roller-derby flash mob gyrating to “Disco Inferno”, blasting from a tricycle with giant speakers. We once worked with the co-writer of DI, Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey, cutting a version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” in LA. Ron was fabulously louche, feet on the control board as he lazily played the bassline on a synthesiser, gassing and joking with his engineer, the wonderfully named Hill Swimmer. My memories of the session are of Mark playing the most beautiful Reggie Young-like parallel fourths to the general amazement of the studio gatherees, and Ron asking where the hell he’d learned to play like that, and if he was available for sessions. And of sitting against the wall of the recording room as Alex Brown (Ron’s partner and genius vocal arranger/songwriter for the likes of Anita Baker and Whitney) and her girls sang the backing vocals. What on the record sounds sweet and swooping was delivered to the microphones at an ear-bending volume and hair-raising power. Heather and I stepped back into the control room, emotional and speechless. Ron then had an acetate cut and took us to his local bar, where he would play stuff he was working on to the patrons, for feedback! I can see him there, sipping a gin and tonic through a thin black straw, laughing, enjoying their bemused reaction.

Five Things: Wednesday 31st July

Everyday I Have The Blues…
Or everyday that Richard posts, anyway. And in a good way. Not to be bossy or anything, but you really should all be following thebluemoment, for the way Richard Williams illuminates popular (and some other kinds of) music with a lucidity that shines out of the computer screen. This week, one of the things that propelled him to the keys was Frances Ha. “It’s not often I want to get up and dance in the aisles of a cinema, but that’s how I felt halfway through Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha the other night, when David Bowie’s “Modern Love” erupted out of the speakers. I’ve never been keen on Bowie (although I admire the stuff from his Berlin period), but “Modern Love” is one of those tracks — like Boffalongo’s “Dancing in the Moonlight”, Danny Wilson’s “Mary’s Prayer” or the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give” — that automatically quicken the heartbeat and turn the world’s colours up a shade. It doesn’t matter who it’s by. Listen without prejudice, as someone once suggested.”

Last Night I Had A Dream…
…in which Bill Nighy suggests I listen to the music of GT Moore and the Reggae Guitars. Strange.

Neil, hung
NeilHanging Henry Diltz’s beautiful photo of NY at Balboa Stadium in 1969 (bought at a strikingly strange auction after a showing of Legends Of The Canyon), I put iTunes on a random Neil Young playlist and it threw up something I had never heard (let alone knowingly owned). It’s from the Citizen Kane Junior Blues bootleg recorded at the Bottom Line in New York in May, 1974. Young was there to see Ry Cooder – and was so inspired that, when Ry had finished, he got up on the stage and played for an hour. Most of the material was unknown to the audience, being from the as-yet unreleased On The Beach. “Greensleeves was my heart of gold” sings Neil, before talking amusingly about depressing folksingers… Hear it in the music player to your right.

Now That’s a Record Cover
H HawesFrom London Jazz Collector’s blog, the moody Hampton Hawes, caught in a great sepia mood. And look at its recording venue: Live at the Police Academy, Chavez Ravine, June 28, 1955, Los Angeles, CA. In related news; if you can, look up a copy of Ry Cooder’s Chavez Ravine, a concept album which tells the story of the Mexican-American community demolished in the 1950s in order to build public housing, which, this being LA, was never built. Eventually the Brooklyn Dodgers built a stadium on the site as part of their move to Los Angeles. Fantastic music, especially good on hot summer days, with fine guest vocalists and astonishing percussion.

Best. Busker. Ever.
Donovan (“Sunny Goodge Street”) meets Arthur Brown (“Fire”)  at twilight by the American Church.


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