Five Things: Wednesday 23rd October

Gainsbourg Auction: + 6 citrons, du parmesan, et un pot de crème fraîche, merci…
A bizarre collection of Serge Gainsbourg’s belongings are at auction on October 31. The list of items include four cigarette butts in a cassette case (estimate £425-£600), a pair of his nail clippers (estimate £40-£70), and a telegram to his wife, Jane Birkin, of controversial Number One single “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus” fame. Last year his handwritten shopping lists were sold for £6,540. Said David Richard, a spokesperson for the auction house: “When we sold those we realised there was a great interest in items from his everyday life. Quite a lot of the bidders were women and they were prepared to go quite far but it’s always difficult to know how much people are prepared to pay for these things”. Well, here’s a few of my favourite things (but I think I’ll pass on actually bidding):


From Michael Gray’s Outtakes blog, Mike Bloomfield and Big Joe Williams:
In 1980 Mike Bloomfield published a short memoir, Me and Big Joe, which not only portrayed the difficulties of their relationship very honestly but also, in Peter Narváez’ phrase, illustrated “the cross-cultural triumph of the blues tradition”. Bloomfield wrote: “Joe’s world wasn’t my world, but his music was. It was my life; it would be my life. So playing on was all I could do, and I did it the best that I was able. And the music I played, I knew where it came from; and there was not any way I’d forget.” I really love that sentence, and reading more excerpts discover that the book is compelling, well-written and illustrated by Robert Crumb.


Favourite Story Of The Week
Tony Bennett questionnaire, The Guardian: Q: You must have mixed with them all… I lived for 15 years in Los Angeles and I still can’t believe that the handsomest man in the world, Cary Grant, and the greatest performer in the world, Fred Astaire… were in my home. I celebrated my 50th birthday with them. Unforgettable.

Did any of them do anything in your home that you’ve had to keep secret? No. But once Dean Martin was in his home, having this mad party, and he was trying to study his lines for a television show so he called up the police and said: “I’m Dean Martin’s neighbour and there’s too much noise coming from his house. Have the police come and slow down the party.” And the police came and broke the party up and he got rid of everybody in the house.

A Note On Packaging The Past
I give into temptation. I’ve bought this music on vinyl, in 1972. In its first digital form on CD in the late eighties. On remastered CD in 2000. And here we are, buying it again in 2013, remixed, re-programmed, repackaged. Rock of Ages by The Band, originally in a three-gatefold sleeve of purple with Bob Cato’s enigmatic oriental statue on the front and mysterious pictures by Magnum’s Ernst Haas (the impressionistic colour ones) and John Scheele (the beautiful B&W’s) on the inside. One of the great live albums of the rock era. As Allen Toussaint says: “They dance by a different drummer, all the time. There was nothing stock about them”. But I baulk at the stupidly-priced Venal-Record-Company-Death-Throes Box Set, with its 5.1 Surround Sound DVD version of the tracks and the Sebastian Robertson soundboard mix of the uncut New Year’s Eve night. Come on. How many times can the people who love this music be ripped off? Yes, I know that everything in Heritage Rock World™ has to be a ‘production’. And, yes, it sounds fantastic, remixed by Robertson and the brilliant Bob Clearmountain with a staggering degree of detail. But then, it always did sound fantastic, I just didn’t know it could sound better, and may never have felt I was missing out…

And Also…
Robbie Robertson’s liner notes are less annoying than usual. I love his comments about Rick Danko: “Rick showed something during this period that I still don’t understand. While singing like a bird, he played a fretless bass… in an unorthodox style that worked against reason and normality.” Toussaint again: “Rick Danko – his approach, there’s nothing like it. Some people, you can tell what school of thought they come from on the bass… I don’t know where Rick Danko comes from. I don’t know his source of reference… it was just his very own thing and I think it was perfect”.



  1. Martin
    I have to ask you this. Like you I have all three of the previous incarnations of Rock of Ages and as much as I am a Band completest owning also the two box sets Across The Great Divide and A Musical History cannot make my mind up about this one. Should I really buy the 2 CD version of The Academy or persuade my wife to buy me the box set for Christmas or do non of these things and listen more to what I already own

    • Well. £10.99 gets the remaster. I think the box will be around £60, for which you get a book (but it doesn’t look as good as the Musical History one) the 5.1 surround mix (but what is that anyway? Do you play it on your DVD player through your TV speakers?), and the whole of NYE with chat and gaps. Ten years ago I’d have queued overnight for that! But I think the meat of it is the two CDs, as Clearmountain and Robertson have done a remarkable job.

  2. Simply watch The Last Waltz on DVD with a glass of Jameson. Never fails.

  3. Mick Steels says:

    I thought I was the only one, beside the late Mr Helm, to find Robbie getting progressively more annoying over the years. Autobiography from Garth would be interesting

    • Now Garth’s book would be a Penguin Classic from the outset….

      I think you’re probably joining a long queue regarding Robbie as the prism through which The Band’s history is viewed… although I’m sure anyone outside of The Band doesn’t know the half of what went on, Robbie does seem afflicted with the smugness and faux gravitas of certain 60s musicians…

  4. Martin
    Agree with your comments about being ripped off again. But I’ve been pissed of since “Home Taping was killing music”, and then discovered that cds only cost 50p to produce, at that time I was paying £15+ for cds.
    I’ve had many friendly discussions over the latest issue of The Rock of Ages. Should I, shouldn’t I? The 2cd re-issue has just one extra track- Strawberry Wine. (Amazon had it for sale at £9.98,which seemed a bargain). The original remaster had great sleeve notes from Rob Bowman, this one has comments from Mumford & Sons!
    This remaster sounds great but so did the other versions, including the tracks on A Musical Divide.
    Can’t wait for the Moondance reissue….

    • Well, it’s a total remix, John, not a remaster, so a quantum leap in terms of detail. The unison vocals are now much more present (things that were off-mike before), Richard’s great piano playing is lifted up as is Levon’s cymbal work, and the performances just sound so much richer. I remember Ralph J Gleason’s Rolling Stone review where he said that Danko’s bass was the best sounding recorded Fender bass he’d ever heard (It was an Ampeg fretless, but let’s not split hairs) and here it sounds simply amazing. As for Moondance, I’d take the £12 2CD set over the £59 box. The remastering is great – so warm sounding – and the basic trio track of Into The Mystic is worth the price of admission alone. Van’s rhythm guitar drives the track, the bass and drums really lean into the track and you don’t even miss the horns (I’m not saying this replaces the great album version, but it’s fascinating).

  5. I haven’t the slightest idea why anyone would want to own Serge Gainsbourg’s cigarette butts, shopping lists, or nail-clipper. Sort of like a fetishistic, weirdly tactile alternative to owning a signed record sleeve?

    Love the Tony Bennett interview excerpts, especially the Dean Martin anecdote.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: