Wednesday 29th October

Classic Album Sundays ‘New’ Basement Tapes preview at the Bag O’ Nails
Appropriately set in a basement private members club in Soho (where Paul met Linda, and Jimi played his first gig, for those taking notes at the back), Coleen Murphy talked to Sid Griffin about the upcoming Basements release. Sid is expansive and all-knowing, Coleen is bubbly, the sound system stunning, the vinyl the best they can make and the audience refreshed by the limitless free wine and canapes. I had not expected this when I bought my £10 ticket. I take it as a sign that even Sony know they have vastly overcharged for the complete six-CD set and are trying to make amends. Steve and I were told off for talking – about the fact that Rick Danko is the key to nearly all the Basement Tapes’ melodies – by those sitting next to us (we apologise and they graciously accept – we hadn’t quite got into the whole Listen To An Album In Silence In Public thing.) We loved it, though, and we’ll be looking for Classic Album Sundays’ upcoming treats.

Laura Barnett interviews Kander and Dench about Cabaret in The Guardian
John Kander: “The first thing I did was listen to all the German jazz of the 1920s that I could find, believing that somehow the music would seep into my body. I’ve done that several times since: when we were writing Zorba, I listened to lots of Greek music; with Chicago, it was American jazz. It’s like sitting on a pile of books, hoping that the information will sneak up into your body without you having to think about it. And it does. Cabaret went down quite well in New York, but it was with the London production that things got really interesting. Lila Kedrova – a wonderful actress but wrong, I felt, for the part of Fraülein Schneider – got rave reviews. And Judi Dench, who was without question the best Sally Bowles I’ve ever seen in my life, got bad reviews. She filled out the character in a way we have never seen, before or since. She was innocent and knowing, vulnerable and tough. I remember working with her on the song “Cabaret”. Judi hadn’t sung that much in the theatre, and she was having a problem with the ending, which is one long, held note. I was showing her ways to cheat, but she stopped and said: ‘What a minute – what do you want? What do you really want?’ I said: ‘Well, I’d like it the way I wrote it.’ And she said: ‘That’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get.’ How could you not fall in love with somebody like that?”

Judi Dench: “In the audition, I told Hal [Prince, producer]: ‘I’m not a singer at all.’ And Hal said: ‘Remember that in a musical, you’re not to speak in one voice and sing in another. If that’s the voice you speak in, that’s the voice you sing in.’ It was such an empowering thing to say: I’ve since passed it on to lots of people. I got hold of Goodbye to Berlin, the book by Christopher Isherwood that it’s based on, and kept it on my dressing-room table – open at the page about Sally being just a middle-class girl from Cheltenham. She couldn’t sing at all, but there was something about her you couldn’t stop watching, something mesmerising. I read that passage over every single night. My dressing-room was underground, so I could hear what people were saying as they walked past, which could be quite unnerving. After one matinee, I heard a woman say to her husband: ‘Oh, you told me it was all about nuns and children.’ I think she was rather disappointed…”

Graham goes to the The Art of the Brick Exhibition, sends these

LEGO Janis Bob

Janis and Bob, immortalised in Lego.

We go to Frieze Masters
…which, in contrast to our anticipation that Frieze London would be inventive and now! and Frieze Masters would be old and dull, was exactly the reverse. FL showed that most contemporary art has dug its head in the sand, avoiding saying anything about the world around us, in a kind of petulant and feeble-minded way. Whereas FM covers everything from Italian church sculptures from the 16th century (just unbelievable) up to the year 2000. Great photographs from Frank and Horst, a clutch of Picassos, and some lovely stuff from the painters in each movement who weren’t the leading lights, but did great work none the less. Musically speaking, there were a few good things.

Frieze2

Here’s the one I found most intriguing, mainly because “Dink’s Blues” was a 78 my dad had, and I played it one day and thought it the most extraordinary thing I’d heard in my life. At first I laughed, finding it amusing that someone so barely competent had ever been recorded. But as I played it again (and again) the weird stop/start thing going on, the grunted, mumbled vocalising and the crashing creshendos of Dink’s ten fingers – I think it came to influence everything I feel about music. I haven’t heard it since about 1975 (my dad sold most of his American Musics when he was short of funds) and my attempts a while back didn’t turn a copy up. I even wonder if it could possibly match my remembered version. Anyway, it was great to be reminded of it here in The Barry Thorpe Collection of 20th Century American Music by Allen Ruppersberg, 2014 (Vol.1), an imagined collection in itself… And it didn’t hurt that the pegboard was so reminiscent of old playback booths…

Harry Dean Stanton interviewed by Sean O’Hagan last year (I’ve only just run across it)
“Singing and acting are actually very similar things,” says Stanton when I ask him about his other talent, having seen him perform about 15 years ago with his Tex-Mex band in the Mint Bar in Los Angeles. “Anyone can sing and anyone can be a film actor. All you have to do is learn. I learned to sing when I was a child. I had a babysitter named Thelma. She was 18, I was six, and I was in love with her. I used to sing her an old Jimmie Rodgers song, “T for Texas”. Closing his eyes, he breaks into song: “T for Texas, T for Tennessee, T for Thelma, that girl made a wreck out of me.” He smiles. “I was singing the blues when I was six. Kind of sad, eh?”

St Vincent, Roundhouse
My crusade of going to see concerts by musicians I have barely heard reaches a slight impasse with Annie Clark. The Roundhouse is fabulous and Michael is telling me great stories of nearly being run over, aged seven, by George Harrison’s Ford Anglia (John leant out and apologised). I loved his great answer to the question, asked recently at a party, of what music he liked: “Music that sounds like it comes from somewhere”. I think that nails it. Anyway, here are my iPhone jottings on SV: Stunning opening/ Performance art/huge shadow shape-making on the bkdrop/klieg lights flashing/So composed sure and happy in her performance/Great, great hair/[At one point] she lays down, then slowly falls off a stage riser, in the glare of halogen lights/Robert Johnson fingers shredding like Marnie Stern/Weirdly mesmerising, almost metal guitar playing/Great hair. That was the first 45 minutes. Then my notes end as the law of diminishing returns set in and I drift to the bar and then to the exit.

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