Five Things Extra: A Few Of My Favourite Things

Words and Music, Box, Cox & Roberts
Found when moving, ukulele sheet music. Ghost Riders on the trail of the Lonesome Pine, before fetching up in Woodstock…


Michael Douglas as Liberace in Behind The Candelabra, the single most vivid Hollywood performance of last year.
“Why do I love you? I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I’m with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for ignoring the possibilities of the fool in me, and for accepting the possibilities of the good in me. Why do I love you? I love you for closing your eyes to the discords in me, and for adding to the music in me by worshipful listening.”

Donald Fagen, Subterranean in Gestation, Eminent Hipsters
“I must have been about 8 years old when my father, like so many second-generation American dads, decided to get his family the hell out of the city and make a run at upward mobility in the suburbs. After a couple of false starts, we finally settled into a ranch-style home nestled among hundreds of its near-identical brothers in Kendall Park, N.J., a typical housing development circa 1957. The development was not very fully developed. I was not amused. Sawdust still hung in the air. To walk out of the sliding glass doors onto the slab of concrete that was the patio and gaze across an ocean of mud at one’s doppelganger neighbors was, well, awesome. My parents, gazing out the window of  the kitchen of the future, delighted in the open space, the gently curving streets and the streamlined look of the cream Olds Dynamic 88 all cosy in its carport. But for me, a subterranean in gestation with a real nasty case of otherness, it was a prison. I’d been framed and sentenced me to a long stretch at hard labor in Squaresville.”

Fascinating stuff about The Boswell Sisters (check out “We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye”) and Henry Mancini, and I’m only a third of the way in.

Favourite Songs Of The Year
Lorde, “Royals”
Synth bass. Beats. No other instruments, just a punchy lead and great backing vox. A top melody. And pop-star skewering lyrics to die for:
“I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh/I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies/And I’m not proud of my address/In a torn-up town, no postcode envy…
But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom/blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,
But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece/jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash…”
followed by her curtly dismissive: “We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.” Thrilling.

Dan Penn, Zero Willpower
The Muscle Shoals documentary made me listen again to Dan Penn’s Do Right Man from 1994. Writer of “Dark End Of The Street” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” among others, the album was recorded in the Shoals and features many of the town’s greats. This track was always a favourite, and listening again to the perfectly weighted rhythm section of Roger Hawkins and David Hood – like the suspension on a bridge – to the stately horns and organ, to the helicopter-like tremolo of Reggie Young’s guitar, I’m struck by its perfection. Nobody plays more than the song needs, or less than it deserves.

Robbie Fulks, “That’s Where I’m From”
Bob Dylan said in 1990, There’s enough songs in the world. The world don’t need any more songs…  and I knew what he meant. Bob weakened his case, of course, by writing “Love Sick”, “High Water (For Charley Patton)” and “Sugar Baby” a few years later. In some genres, you may as well give up, modern Country, especially. As the Country mainstream does the thing it does every decade or so and flirts with AOR, and the alt-end just gets more singer-songwritery (i.e. like smooth-sounding versions of Lucinda Williams) I didn’t expect to find a new Fulks album so moving. Do I need another acoustic bluegrass ’n’ country album? Well, yes. Especially one recorded in three days by Steve Albini in Chicago. Ken Tucker, writing for npr, puts it perfectly: “With Gone Away Backward, Fulks has made an album that feints in the direction of nostalgia while grappling very much with the here and now. Even for a singer-songwriter known for his clever twists and turns, it’s a considerable achievement. It partakes of folk, country, bluegrass and honky-tonk even as the shape of the songs and the content of the lyrics close off much chance of any one of these genres claiming the music as its own.”

Fulks had recorded “That’s Where I’m From…” a few years back in a more traditional arrangement with a full band and pedal steel, and it’s interesting to compare and see how much deeper the song’s become, supported this time round with a couple of guitars, bass and mandolin. A sound that’s totally naked – you could be sitting in a room with them. Every note perfectly placed. And a lyric that summons the fantastic ‘Cosmopolitan Country’ of the late 60s, of Tom T Hall and Tammy and George, as it limns the thoughts of a man far from his past:
“Back in the driveway/The end of the workday/How fast that world disappears
A fresh lawn, a pine tree/A neighbor just like me/Who’s worked all his life to get here…”
And he thinks back on…
“Dad doing battle/With dirt hard as gravel/And summers the crops never came
We’d shoot down a pheasant in flight/And sing songs about Jesus all night…”
And the chorus kicks in…
“That’s where I’m from/Where time passes slower/That’s where I’m from/Where it’s yes ma’am and no sir
You can’t tell I’m country/Just you look closer/It’s deep in my blood
A white collar, a necktie/That’s where I’ve come/Half-naked in the moonshine/That’s where I’m from…”
Then, after a glorious interlude of guitar interplay, the killer couplet: “If you’ve ever heard Hank Williams sing/Then, brother, you know the whole blessed thing…”

Five Things: Wednesday 25th December

Cover Girl: Julie London
Michele’s request for a Julie London Christmas album hits a snag. She never did one. But with a little internetting and some Indesign, Julie’s Miss December (from her album, Calender Girl) becomes a fully-fledged seasonal treat.


“Oh the shark has pearly Teeth, Dear…”
Michael Gray on Bobby Darin: “Bobby Darin’s singles were part of my adolescence, and all these decades later I’m still impressed by his work, the multiplicity of his talent and his human decency. He was a songwriter, singer, actor, pianist, guitarist and mentor to RogerMcGuinn; he conquered the pop charts and then dinner-jacket showbiz, yet came to see that turbulent times called for songs of social conscience. As a person he was gracious, articulate, sharp and funny. He was a talented actor, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1963.

As for his records, well OK, not “Splish Splash”, but “Dream Lover”, produced by the Erteguns, was one of the most shimmering records of 1960 – and was followed, very surprisingly, by the best version of “Mack the Knife”, with Darin unarguably the master of this radically different genre. Then came “Beyond the Sea”, a more than worthy successor that didn’t try to replace the Charles Trenet original (“La Mer”, a timeless track blemished only by the ridiculously over-hearty male voice choir at the end). I still love it. I loved a number of his later records too, though often preferring the B-sides. Neil Young said this of him: “I used to be pissed off at Bobby Darin because he changed styles so much. Now I look at him and think he was a genius.”

He sang duets on TV with an extraordinary range of people from Stevie Wonder to Judy Garland, from Dinah Shore to Clyde McPhatter and from Linda Ronstadt to Jimmy Durante. He sang “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” with Judy Collins in 1969; he could sing “Cry Me A River” and “Lonesome Whistle Blues”; he could play bluesy harmonica and convincing drum solos; and do fine imitations of Hollywood stars.”

Lovely, and true. Check the version of “Lonesome Whistle Blues”. In a week where I watched Mumford & Sons and The Old Crow Medicine Show’s self-regarding documentary, Big Easy Express, (loosely inspired by Festival Express), the ability to inhabit a Hank Williams song is not to be sneezed at. Darin’s really there, the young pretenders not even in the same State.

Thinking of Bobby Darin, I remembered that Mad Magazine’s opinion of him was less complimentary
Somewhere I have this issue, but found what I was looking for on “In Oct. 1961, the pop culture magazine Mad introduced a feature entitled “Celebrities Wallets.” It was drawn by George Woodbridge and written by Arnie Kogen. The Magazine stated “With this article, MAD introduces a new feature, based on the proposition that you can tell an awful lot about a person by the scraps of paper and cards and bills and photographs and money he carries around in his wallet. Since we are all basically nosey, we thought it would be exciting to see what famous people carried around in their wallets. So we sent out a special research team to pick some famous pockets…”. Bobby Darin was their first subject.


Emil & The Detectives, National Theatre
I know it’s a kids’ show, but I was one once, and this – well, this was my favourite book. My copy, foxed with age and with its black and white line drawings badly coloured in, is a treasured possession. I was not let down, especially by the extraordinary Expressionist set design and the Weimar-esque pit band, led by Kevin Amos. Their verve, and the wonderful score by Paul Englishby, added immeasurably to the experience. The choreographing of the children, the commuters and the cycling is really clever, and the use of light to create a city and its sewers, breathtaking. If you’re around, find an excuse to go…

On the way to and from Emil, great busking…
In sheet rain, almost vertical, turning the Hungerford footbridge across the Thames into a swimming pool: Tuba and Melodica, playing “Winter Wonderland”. Tuba. Melodica. Now that’s a combination. Then a clarinettist, playing only the sax solo from Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”, but looping it and using the echo to play around himself. Fabulous. I don’t know if we were paying them for their inspired choices or their fortitude…

Well, that’s a hundred posts reached. Whew! All best to every one of you reading, and have a sterling seasonal sojourn. Back, in some form, in 2014.

5 Things: Wednesday 18th December

I’d never heard of Diana Davies, but came across her by chance
…and found these really interesting collections at the Smithsonian. Great early Newport Folk Fest, and lovely NYC folk scene. Here’s a few favourites, Butterfield, Mother Maybelle, Howlin’ Wolf, Son House, Phil Ochs & Eric Andersen, Bob n’ Don…


From photographer George Lange’s Blog, Last Ten Minutes
“I photographed BB King a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore. At the end of the shooting, he called me over, and as I kneeled next to his chair, he said, “That was the most enjoyable photo shoot I have ever done.” He then said, “When you go home, kiss Jackson for me.” I had talked about my boys a lot during the shooting, and told BB that he could kiss Jackson (my 5-year-old) himself when he played Red Rocks in two weeks.

This past week, Stephie and I took Jackson and his grandmother Janet to Red Rocks. First up was a visit in the fancy touring bus. Jackson went right back to BB holding court in the back and gave him five. “BB”, Jackson asked. “Call him Mr. King” Stephie corrected. “We are musicians,” BB said. “There are no formalities.” Then Jackson stood right in front of BB and said, “KING! I have some jokes for you.” Jackson then told the one about what do you call a woman in the middle of a tennis court? Annette! A couple of knock knock jokes. We were all hysterical. When I tried to politely slip out, BB asked us to stay longer. He then whispered to me, “Do you see the way Jackson is standing there, poised and talking to me directly? My mother died when I was 9½ and I never learned that.”

We then headed over to the stage. This was Jackson’s first real concert. We walked up the ramps through the great backstage at Red Rocks where everyone from the Beatles to Sinatra to our friend Mac Miller walked the halls. Got into our seats up front. I had a pass to shoot after they cleared the other photographers out, and thought Jackson might like being so close, so he joined me. BB’s second song, “You Are My Sunshine” seemed like a very strange choice, but was so much fun, since Jackson knew the lyrics. On “The Thrill is Gone”, BB spotted Jackson in the audience. From the stage he said, “There is my friend Jackson, we hung together before the show.” He then reached in his pocket and tossed a pendant from the stage through the air, which Jackson caught (thanks to a lot of Little League practice this summer). Later, after the set, Jackson was showing his pendant to everyone and said, “I will never forget this night.”

At the 100 Club
With Hugh to the last lunchtime gig put on by Tony Leppard, one of the redoubtable mainstays of the Ken Colyer Trust. Live New Orleans Jazz sounds great, especially at lunchtime in a dark basement. Hand-hewn, there’s something so emotionally warm about the entwining horns and the grainy, sifty rhythms that within seconds you’re caught up, and May-to-September couples start jiving behind you… Mike Pointon drolly mc’s, adds great trombone, and picks a fine set of songs – “The Glory Of Love”, “Lady Be Good”, some Bunk Johnson blues – and everything swings beautifully. Favourite moments: when drummer Emile Martyn plays the fire extinguisher, on the wall behind him, to punctuate a chorus. And when Adrian Cox on clarinet goes up a gear near the end of his solo on “Lady Be Good” and raises the roof.


For my birthday, Dotter gives me Shaun Usher’s wonderful “Letters Of Note”
An excerpt from a proposal by Steve Albini [recorder extraordinaire] to Nirvana. This is not in the book, but is one of my favorites on the site.

#5: Dough. I explained this to Kurt but I thought I’d better reiterate it here. I do not want and will not take a royalty on any record I record. No points. Period. I think paying a royalty to a producer or engineer is ethically indefensible. The band write the songs. The band play the music. It’s the band’s fans who buy the records. The band is responsible for whether it’s a great record or a horrible record. Royalties belong to the band. I would like to be paid like a plumber: I do the job and you pay me what it’s worth. The record company will expect me to ask for a point or a point and a half. If we assume three million sales, that works out to 400,000 dollars or so. There’s no fucking way I would ever take that much money. I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

I have to be comfortable with the amount of money you pay me, but it’s your money, and I insist that you be comfortable with it as well. Kurt suggested paying me a chunk which I would consider full payment, and then if you really thought I deserved more, paying me another chunk after you’d had a chance to live with the album for a while. That would be fine, but probably more organizational trouble than it’s worth.

Whatever. I trust you guys to be fair to me and I know you must be familiar with what a regular industry goon would want. I will let you make the final decision about what I’m going to be paid. How much you choose to pay me will not affect my enthusiasm for the record. Some people in my position would expect an increase in business after being associated with your band. I, however, already have more work than I can handle, and frankly, the kind of people such superficialities will attract are not people I want to work with. Please don’t consider that an issue.

And on another Shaun Usher site, some fine examples of musician’s letterheads


5 Things: Wednesday 11th December

Mastermind Specialist Subject: Janis Joplin
My score, 5. Competitor’s score, 12. He was good…

Martin Sharp 1942 – 2013
William Yardley, New York Times: “He painted Marilyn Monroe blooming in a Van Gogh vase, devoted decades to documenting the cultural significance of Tiny Tim and was sentenced to prison for breaking obscenity laws in his native Australia. Martin Sharp, who died on Sunday, pursued his distinctive Pop Art for half a century without much concern for whether it was popular. But for a brief period in the late 1960s, his muse helped shape the imagery of rock music. It started with a beer at a bar in London in 1967. Mr. Sharp had arrived the year before to start London Oz, an extension of the irreverent Australian magazine Oz, for which he had been artistic director. At the Speakeasy Club on Margaret Street, he befriended two musicians. When Mr. Sharp mentioned that he had written a poem that might make a good song, one of the musicians said he had just come up with new music but needed lyrics. Mr. Sharp scratched out his poem and his address on a napkin. A couple of weeks later, the musician dropped by and gave him a 45 r.p.m. record. He was a guitar player for a band called Cream. His name was Eric Clapton. On the A side of the 45 was “Strange Brew.” On the B side was Mr. Sharp’s poem put to music, “Tales of Brave Ulysses.”

Bonnie Raitt, BBC4 Sessions
Bonnie, wine bottleneck slide on finger, shubb capo at the second fret, calling up the ghost of Lowell George. What I first thought was a ridiculous manicure was, in fact, a set of white plastic fingerpicks. Every solo was a thing of controlled emotion and dexterity in the service of soul and beauty. She also had Mike Finnigan on keys (who played on Electric Ladyland and toured in Maria Muldaur’s astonishing band in 1975—see below). “I always think of John Lee Hooker when we do this,” she says, as they launch into John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love” and then plays a wonderful intro before the song becomes a pretty boring chug-a-long. But every time the bottleneck hits the strings it zings. My friend Mark was there and said they all seemed a little tired, and the production team kept asking for retakes, but certain things really worked on TV. Hutch Hutchinson’s use of a small travel bass on “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was great, there was a tremendous “Million Miles”, where she articulated the words way better than Bob, and Finnegan got all Mose Allison on its ass… (not that I much care about articulation, but the song seemed all the more desperate for it). And “Love Has No Pride” nailed you to the wall. Against simpatico bass and pump organ, Raitt played her 1972 classic and bought forty more years of a life lived to it. All X Factor contestants should be forced to watch this performance.

Midnight At The Oasis (Soho Branch)
Reminded of Maria Muldaur at Ronnie Scott’s, a gig I failed to get into, I look up some reviews on rocksbackpages. I remember that I spent a week hassling Barbara Charone in the Warner Brothers press office trying to get an interview with Amos Garrett. I don’t know why. I was at art school and had no journalistic credentials. I think I just wanted to tell Amos how great I thought he was. Karl Dallas in Melody Maker: “She is backed – if that is an adequate word for so brilliant an aggregation – with quite the tightest, most talented little six-piece band any singer was ever blessed with, which came out from behind her and featured pianist Mike Finnigan as singer once in each set. Everything about this band is a joy – from the cool, right-on drumming of Earl Palmer, to the twin guitars of David Wilcox and Amos Garrett, so contrasting and yet so complementary.” Earl Palmer! Rock & Roll History right there. However, neither this review or Charles Sharr Murray’s in NME mentioned the fact that the bassist was James Jamerson, which is bizarre. How could you not mention James Jamerson! (Murray also found the performance bland beyond belief, but then he sneered about Springsteen at the Hammersmith Odeon, and he was wrong there, too.)

Braids XOYO
At sea in a roomful of hipster beards and square rimmed glasses. Of course, there’s no obligation to like the music made by relatives or friends, but there’s nothing nicer than when you do, here in the shape of the ferociously talented Austin, Taylor and Raffaele. Down to a trio from a four-piece, what before was impressive loop-driven modern ambient music has now become thrillingly visceral and really emotional. They were aided by the best sound I have ever heard in a club, or maybe in any venue. Their soundman, John, puts drums, keyboards and guitars through the PA, using no amps (he previously worked for the legendary Clare Bros, leaders in the field). It was whisper-quiet – something I’ve literally never heard before – and it allowed the music to form, in pinsharp detail, in front of your ears. Each mallet stroke or snare lick or signal-processed synth effect or treated vocal sat exactly where it should in the mix, allowing the performance to build to a fantastic climax. Incredible.


Five Things: Wednesday, December 4th

Favourite Kickstarter Pledge Reward Of The Week
I can’t get enough of documentaries on the musicians behind some of the finest pop music ever made. Motown’s Funk Brothers in Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, The Swampers in Muscle Shoals, Booker T and the MGs in Respect Yourself – The Stax Story, and now the The Wrecking Crew. This is, to quote Danny Tedesco, son of the great guitarist, Tommy Tedesco, and director of the film, “a documentary about an elite group of studio session musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960’s who played on hits for the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Jan & Dean, The Monkees, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Mamas and Papas, 5th Dimension, Tijuana Brass, Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Johnny Rivers and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, and that’s just a few! The amount of work in which they were involved was tremendous.” Here’s a clip of the musicians talking about the session for “Good Vibrations”. Love that Brian Wilson/Carol Kaye bass line! You have til December 21 to help them, and a thousand bucks will get you legendary Wrecking Crew Pianist/Arranger Don Randi’s services for a recording session – and he’ll buy you lunch as well.

Researching a piece on Queen’s Roger Taylor, Google throws up… This Week–Three Top-Name Attractions!
The Jet Set somehow don’t sound like the right support group, do they?


Fanfarlo, Water Rats
What are the chances of stumbling across a really good band in a London pub? One in a hundred? One in a thousand? Whatever, Fanfarlo are terrific (apart from their name, possibly). A band with a cracking drummer, two keyboardists who double on violin and trumpet, a frontman with a beautifully pared-down guitar style and a bass player who looks like a bass player should. The band have described their current sound as “Space Opera meets Spaghetti Western”. I can’t do any better than that. They also cover (on their website) one of my most favourite songs ever, “Witchi Tai To”, written by jazz saxophonist Jim Pepper and based on a Native American chant. The hit version was by Harper’s Bizarre, purveyors of Baroque Pop, produced by Van Dyke Parks, and with the Wrecking Crew aboard by the sound of it.

Come Gather Round, People…
Shortlist’s emailer Mr Hyde sends me to this review that really captures the spirit of the Coen Bros’ Inside Llewyn Davis and should whet the appetite of those who have a soft spot for either the Coens or Greenwich Village in the 60s.

Big Bill Broonzy: The Man Who Bought The Blues to Britain, BBC4
“I met some big shot and I was ready to make a record. I wrote a guitar solo called “House Rent Stomp” about those rent parties, no words, just pickin’ those old guitar strings, making the first two, E & B, cry, making the G & D talk, and the A & E moan”. That may be the best description of blues guitar I’ve ever heard.

Five Things Extra: Hatch Show Print


I approached Jim Sherraden, the man who saved Nashville’s Hatch Show Print, with some trepidation. I felt guilty. In the late 80s, having discovered the wonderful world of Show Prints (posters, often printed on card, that would be nailed to telegraph poles, placed in barbershop windows, pinned to noticeboards) I’d decided to get some printed for a 12-inch single cover. I’d seen some of the famous Hatch prints (Elvis and Hank) but had thought they were no longer a going concern. The only contact I could find for a Poster Shop was in a magazine article about Tribune Show Print, of Earl Park, Indiana. So I wrote them, and they sent me a set of forms to fill in. I sent them back with an International Money Order and waited. Three weeks later, a package of 25 posters arrived, on the “Rainbow” card that I’d requested, a favorite of mine from a Mighty Clouds of Joy poster that was on a wall at Muscle Shoals Sound.


Our single didn’t sell, but about six months later, Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever came out with a faux version that just leaves you thinking, Why not go the whole hog and get the real thing?

Jim saved a great American institution, coining the phrase Preservation Through Production. He writes excellent lyrics to songs by Jonas Feld, a Norwegian national treasure (and at various times musical partner to Eric Anderson and Rick Danko). He signed my loved copy (rather brilliantly, as he spoke to me, telling me not to feel guilty, Tribune were great and still going strong) of the book about Hatch that came out a bunch of years ago. He told my mother a funny story about Levon Helm, and kissed her on both cheeks, making her, and my, evening. A hero.


The exhibition is on for another twelve days, and the wall of posters is something to see.

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