Journey Through The Past No. 2
Before the web, if you liked something, you ripped it out of the magazine and filed it away. And then twenty years later, you find it again. Letter to The New York Times from the late, great Jerry Wexler… [click to enlarge].
I Always Like to Hear How Things Get Named
Fun fact: How did Just Seventeen get its name? Founding editor David Hepworth says: It’s always funny to reflect on the names that magazines could have had. Steve Bush, the art director, wanted to call it ‘Sasha’. We had to call it Seventeen because that was the right title for a magazine for 14-year-olds. The publishers of the American magazine of the same name made legal noises and so we had to come up with an alternative. Peter Strong, the publisher, suggested adding the word ‘just’. It wasn’t until years later I realised he must have got that idea from the Beatles song “I Saw Her Standing There”.
A Couple Of Things I Read This Week Concerning John Coltrane
Recalling the crucial year he turned 20 in MOJO’s 20th Anniversary issue, David Crosby tells of his time as an itinerant troubadour, playing coffee houses in New York, Miami, Omaha and Chicago. It was there that he saw a performance that would profoundly affect him: “During my Chicago stint, I had one of the best experiences I ever had in my life! I was living in an apartment with an English guy called Clem Floyd. His girlfriend was a little German hooker who was about four and a half feet tall. One day she said to us, ‘Do you wanna hear some real music? John Coltrane is playing on the South Side.’ So this attractive little German girl took Clem and I down to McKee’s—163rd and Cottage Grove, way South. We were the only white people in the room.
The way ’Trane played then was that the band would come out and the set was one song which would start out with ensemble playing. ’Trane would warm up by blowing a little to get going, and they all took their time because they figured their set would be an hour-long so they had time [to stretch out]. He’d play for a bit and walk off still blowing. Then McCoy Tyner would play…
Now, with McCoy Tyner, I’d never heard anybody play piano like that. At that point ’Trane had two bass players, Jimmy Garrison and Reggie Workman. They had a conversation that was stellar, and then it was Elvin Jones’s turn. Now, I will admit to being higher than three kites hooked up in series. I was so high, I was hunting geese with a rake. I was blitzed. Elvin Jones is a pretty intense drummer. I think that’s understating the case, don’t you? [His playing] pushed me up from the table and up against the back wall of the room! I’m standing there trying to hold on and I ducked into the men’s room.
So I’m in the men’s room, I’m trying to come down just enough to stay on this planet, and I’ve got my face pressed against this tile. I can still remember the colour of this filthy, light puke-green tile. I’m leaning against it because it’s cool. And–blam!–someone kicks the door in and it’s ’Trane. [Makes shrieking jazz noises, as if playing a sax] He’s doing that and by this point he’s burning! Burr-ning! [Makes more squalling jazz-orientated noises]. Skee-sa-wee-eek-swark! And I’m up against the wall. He doesn’t even know this little fake kid’s in there. He’s playing in there because it’s a good sound. And at that point my mind ran out of my nose in a puddle on the floor!”
It really affected me,” he says. “I realized that there were levels that I could never get to but, suddenly, I could see what direction I wanted to go in. There were things that jazz musicians could do that I could never hope to do. I’d listen to the chords McCoy Tyner played and they weren’t in my world. I had never heard those chords. I had listened to Gerry Mulligan and those kind of people, but I hadn’t seen the intensity level of those guys with ’Trane. I knew that somehow I wanted to reach for more. I wanted to move from [Broadway standard-turned-folk tune] “They Called The Wind Maria” to ’Trane playing “My Favorite Things”. Now, I feel I had a direction.”
Matthew Carter, brilliant type designer, from a profile in the New Yorker that I ripped out years ago: In 1960, Carter travelled to New York where, he says, “I was made abruptly and forcefully to realize that I knew nothing.” He felt that he was faced with two choices: to slink home, or resolve to stay. “The cowardly part of me could have gone back to England and pretended I hadn’t seen all of this design”. In the spring of 1960, the John Coltrane Quartet played its first engagement. Carter was in the audience. Over several weeks he heard them three or four times. “Sometimes they played the same songs in the second set as they played in the first, not because they were lazy, but because they wanted to surpass themselves, or find something in the music that they hadn’t found earlier in the evening. They were that acute.” Listening to them, he decided that he owed it to himself to try and stay in New York. “Their seriousness of purpose was a lesson. I could have been dishonest enough to return to England and say I hadn’t seen great design. But I couldn’t somehow pretend that I hadn’t heard the John Coltrane Quartet.”
Indulged Rock Star Gibberish of the Week
“The Oslo hotel where you can sleep with your favourite rock star [Projected onto the bedsheet next to you]” blah’d The Guardian… “The idea came from A-ha’s Magne Furuholmen, Coldplay’s Guy Berryman, Mew singer Jonas Bjerre and producer Martin Terefe, who together make up the pan-European supergroup Apparatjik. They were given carte blanche to decorate The Thief hotel.” Then comes the gibberish: “We started by going around tacky gift shops trying to find things to make the room as kitsch as we could and create a sort of ‘disco combat’ feel,” explains Furuholmen. “We found pixelated carpets, retro fabrics, lots of vinyl, and something every hotel room needs: a disco ball for the bathroom.” Furuholmen and his band mates took these treasures and created Apparatjik World, an eclectic mix of art, video, music and installations – including projections of band members dressed as semi-nude muscle men with bulging silver posing pouches (“we like a costume: it gives us freedom,” says Furuholmen). The result? “Quirky … with a touch of insanity,” is how Stordalen describes his new suite.”
Oh, those buzz words that rock musos so love… Quirky, tacky, kitsch, retro… reaching a nadir with that deathly phrase ‘disco combat feel’. I mean, how dated is that. Didn’t U2 give us that about twenty years ago? Oh, and mention of Bono reminds me of the upcoming attractions at the Soho Theatre… Go, Jane…
Is This A Good Idea? Will The Mumfords Be Involved? (I Think We Know The Answer)
“Bob Dylan’s music publishing company recently discovered lyrics Dylan wrote in 1967 for informal sessions with members of The Band that later became known as The Basement Tapes. Dylan has entrusted T-Bone Burnett with these lyrics, and early next year—nearly 47 years since the legendary original sessions [ed’s note: love a good “nearly 47” anniversary]—Burnett will assemble a select group of contemporary recording artists in the famed Capitol Studios to complete the songs and record them as a band. Fans will experience this historic creative collaboration through an album release, as well as a documentary film and book of photography by award-winning filmmaker and photographer Sam Jones (The Wilco documentary, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, and his interview show, Off Camera with Sam Jones).—prnewswire