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



  1. Dewi Williams says:

    Just discovered your blog, via The Blue Moment, it’s very interesting and enjoyable – many thanks!

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