Five Things: Wednesday 11th September

Another Self Portrait Deluxe Edition: An Accountancy Issue
I – yes, yes, a Dylan Nutter™ – go for the one with the extra two discs and a couple of books. But wait! A 3-CD set of this ilk (we’ll ignore the remastered ‘Original Self Portrait’ Disc) would probably retail at about £19.99, say £23.99 if we’re being generous, with a fair sized book and box. We have to ignore the fact that I’d lazily thought it included a film of the Isle Of Wight Performance (not sure where I got that idea – I do have some video somewhere of a few songs). So then I’m thinking “Well, at least I have handsome books with wonderful liner notes and essays”. And one of the books has those things, by Michael Simmonds and Greil Marcus, and it holds the discs as well. But the other book is a bizarre hotch-potch of photo sessions from this period mixed with press clippings and foreign single covers. John Cohen is a good photographer (his Young Bob book is terrific, as is There Is No Eye), but his work is ill-served by reproducing repetitive and poorly-focused shots of a one-expression Bob. The reproduction looks cheap – flat and badly balanced –and Al Clayton’s Nashville black and whites really suffer. The proofreading is appalling – Jack Keroac, anyone? The guilty man is Bob’s house designer, Geoff Gans, a man who wouldn’t know a smart quote if it hit him. The production copyright credit reads: ©2013 Perceived Value Publications. I feel wound up – it works out that this extra book has set me back around £55. Can I Have My Money Back, Please Sir, as Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty once sang.

See the music player for a couple of versions that didn’t make the cut, but should have…

Hurry, Hurry, Buy Your Bob Dylan ’66 Tour Treggings Now!
Into Marks & Spencer, past the embalmed-looking Annie Leibovitz portraits of Britain’s great and good women (someone should be reprimanded for making the riverboat Helen Mirren look like she’s stepped out of Are You Being Served?, what with that jaunty cap and scarf). My gaze alights on a rack of these. The Dylan ’66 Houndstooth! As created by the Hawks’ favourite tailor in Toronto! If only they were for men (and came with a jacket) then my fashion decisions for Bob at the RAH in November would be sorted… Oh, and Treggings? A cross between trousers and leggings, obviously.

Bob Treggings

Ken Colyer visits Eddie Condon’s club, NYC, early 50’s
A great selection of Jazz photos from the 50s in colour, by Nat Singerman, runs in the New York Times Magazine. One of them shows Eddie Condon’s band.

Condon and Band by Nat; A table card that Ken had  autographed by Condon.

Condon and Band by Nat Singerman; A table card that Ken had autographed by Condon.

Around 1950, my uncle Ken was in the Merch and visited Condon’s club. He paints a vivid picture:
“I got washed and changed, once again forgetting that nightlife doesn’t start ’til later this side of the ocean. I shined my shoes and I was ready to go with my sub in my pocket. There were still four dollars to the pound. I had read about Eddie Condon’s club and heard their once-a-month town hall concerts on the BBC at home. I had no idea where the club was. New York is a big place. I saw a news-stand and asked if they had a Downbeat. “No, don’t you know it’s not due out ’til next week?” I didn’t know about the New Yorker then, which has an excellent section devoted to nightlife with Whitney Balliett’s pithy descriptions of each place and its style of entertainment. I walked on until I saw a cabby tinkering under the bonnet of his cab. “Do you know Eddie Condon’s club?”

“Hop in; I’ll be with you in a minute.” He didn’t want to lose a fare. I got in the cab. It had seen better days, in fact it was a wreck. But I didn’t mind as long as it got me there. I was sure I would find the place like a homing pigeon finds his home. The cabbie finally got the engine going and we started cruising.

“What was the name of that place?” I told him. “What sort of musicians play there?” “Jazz musicians.” “Who’s playing beside Condon?”

He’d got me there. I didn’t know Eddie’s present lineup. I mentioned a few names, then Pee Wee Russell. “Pee Wee, he’s a friend of mine, know him well. I took him for his medical when he got drafted. He told me to wait; he was only gone ten minutes. They threw him out because he was seventy proof. Now I’ve got an idea it might be the old Howdy Club. Used to be a burlesque joint, they’ve got these marvellous old dolls in the chorus line, not one under sixty. Want me to try there?” he asked, eyeing the clock.

“Go ahead,” I said. We drove into Greenwich Village, turned a corner and there was the ‘mutton chop’ sign David Stone Martin designed for Eddie hanging over the entrance. I was elated. I gave the cabbie a generous tip. He told me not to forget the address: West Third Street. Before he pulled away he called: “Don’t forget to tell Pee Wee his old friend Al brought you here. So long, pal.”

There was a commissionaire in livery standing by the door looking dignified. He saw me reading the board. “Are all these people playing tonight?” “Yes, but it’s a little early yet. They don’t start playing ’til nine. Why don’t you go to that little bar down the road and have a drink. Come back about eight-thirty and you’ll get a seat right by the band.”

I said, “Thanks, I will.” He was no hustler. I found out later that Eddie wouldn’t allow it. He had played enough clip joints himself and also considered it was important to encourage youngsters to listen to the music. And they turned a blind eye if you were obviously under age.

On each table was a small green card. On one side it gave the personnel: Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Wild Bill Davison, cornet; George Brunis, trombone; Gene Schroeder, piano; Sid Weiss, bass; Maurey Feld, drums; Eddie Condon, guitar, and Joe Sullivan, intermission piano. On the other it proclaimed: “Jazz in its finest flower,” a quote from my favourite critic, Whitney Balliett.

As I sipped a beer the band turned up. George oiled his slide with an elaborate flourish, then the band kicked off. Within a couple of numbers they were playing with a power, swing and tonal quality I would not have believed possible. It struck me for the first time that the gramophone record is badly misleading when it comes to jazz. No recording could ever completely capture the greatness of this music. As each number got rocking I seemed to be suspended, just sitting on air. And when the music finished I flopped back on my chair as though physically exhausted.

The sensation I got from hearing Wild Bill for the first time was a sort of numb joy that such a man lived and played. If Louis Armstrong was better in person, then it was beyond my imagination. His teaming with Brunis heightened this reaction. When Edmond Hall took over from Pee Wee, playing his cutting electric phrases, it was almost more than I could bear.

Brunis was entertaining to watch. While playing excellent trombone, he constantly screwed his body into the most awkward-looking positions, sometimes jamming one leg against the piano. If there was a drunk in the room he would play snatches of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, or something equally appropriate, in the most syrupy manner, during the breaks, then crack back in with glorious golden-toned tail-gate.

Pee Wee, with his broken comb moustache and a slightly distant look in his eyes, was also entertaining. I was told he had a select band of fans, who follow him mainly to watch his weird expressions that contort his face while he plays. Also he is a little eccentric and difficult to get to know, but if you knew anything about poodles, he would open up and be friendly.

As nightclub prices go in New York, Eddie’s were very reasonable. But I still had to make every beer last as long as I could. The waiters didn’t like this too much. The first night I left comparatively early. I felt a little sick but hadn’t drunk very much. It was the emotional impact that was making me feel groggy. The old Negro toilet attendant was sympathetic and understanding. That’s OK, son, I know how it is.

David Bailey Names Exhibition After His Favourite Song, ”Stardust“.
I work my way through all the versions I own. Top of the pops: Larry Adler’s fabulous harmonica, alternately shuddering and gliding over the timeless Hoagy Carmichael melody. And of course, the fantastic scene in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories where he eats breakfast as Louis Armstrong plays his giddily great take. As the instrumental first half unwinds, Sandy, played by Allen, talks: “It was one of those great spring days, and you knew summer would be coming soon… We came back to the apartment , we were just sitting around and I put on a record of Louis Armstrong, which is music that I grew up loving, and it was very, very pretty, and I happened to glance over and I saw Dorrie sitting there… and, I dunno, I guess it was the combination of everything – the sound of the music, and the breeze and how beautiful Dorrie looked to me and for one brief moment everything seemed to come together perfectly and I felt happy, almost indestructible, in a way…” and Charlotte Rampling fixes the camera with one of cinema’s greatest stares, as Armstrong’s vocal comes in, singing and scatting Mitchell Parish’s words, giving the merest approximation of the actual lyrics. And then it cuts to the cinema audience watching it, split between a woman saying, “That was so beautiful”, and another shouting, “Why do all comedians turn out to be sentimental bores!”

Rock Murals: Are They Ever A Good Thing?
Seen near our new offices, off Carnaby Street

Carnaby

Comments

  1. antonioolmos says:

    You know I dont understand the whole thing around Self Portrait. Maybe it would have been a shock to listen to it when it came out. ( well it would have been in my case because I was 5, living in Mexico and vaguely listening to the Osmonds and Jackson 5..but I digress)…. I got the whole shebang of Anpther Self Portrait…musically its worth it for Pretty Saro alone. But the original self Portrait is nowhere near his worst album and if it is he surely is a god. I blame the opening track “All The Tired Horses” which is kinda stupid but then its followed by “Alberta” which is just so good.I went with the £10.99 download and skipped all the art work box set goodies…..

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