Friday, May 30th

More Apologies. Helping our friend Bob with an exhibition of his work* crowded writing about music out of my brain for a couple of weeks. It’s slowly coming back…

VISUAL OF THE WEEK (FROM THE WEB)

Spotnicks

The Spotnicks. Crazy, dad. I had never heard of The Spotnicks, but according to Wikipedia, “they are an instrumental rock group from Sweden, who were formed in 1961. Together with the Shadows and the Ventures they are counted as one of the most famous instrumental bands during the 1960s. They were famous for wearing “space suit” costumes on stage, and for their innovative electronic guitar sound. They have since released 42 albums, selling more than 18 million records, and still tour.” Good God, 18 million?

In search of their “innovative sound”, I click more links and find this excellent description, by main man Bo Winberg (and I think Google Translate may be to blame for some of this). “At first I want to put the myth of Fender guitars in common – and particulary the Stratocaster – to death; According to some so called experts are all Fenders, made later than 1965, only rubbish. I do not agree! Once I had a Strata, built in 1961, and that one was really bad. No matter if I changes the strings, it was totally dead. I sold it to a Mexican musician. (!?)

“In my opinion there are only two types of guitars – good and bad ones – and it has nothing to do with year of production or which manufacture it comes from. I am playing on a Fender Stratocaster, made in 1965, which I bought in Hollywood, California, USA. The original color was Sunburst but I didn’t like it so I burnt it off and replaced it with ten layers of varnish. I growed out from galoping echomachines like Binson – squeak and sway – Echolette and Dynachord – distorsion and noice – and all trouble with tape breaks etc. Today I have an echo and delay made by Alesis with 99 different programs. I only use three of them but I would not tell the settings…” Good man, Bo. You have to keep some secrets in this world…

VISUAL OF THE WEEK (FROM REAL LIFE)
Busking below the bit on the South Bank where the ITV studios are, on a balmy, sunny evening, playing “When The Saints…” which seemed perfect. Always a fan of the accordion/trumpet combo, and not everyday you see someone playing a drum in a bag.

Busking

WRITING ABOUT MUSIC THAT I LIKED THIS WEEK (OR SO)…
Sophie Heawood, “I’ve fallen out of love with music”, Guardian Weekend:
“If feelings are a dimmer switch, I turned mine down to low. The victim was music, though for a long time I thought this was because of compressed MP3s on laptops not sounding like lovely old record players. There is some truth in that, but it turns out that music doesn’t work on a hardened heart. A month ago, a friend said he was giving away his functional, unbeautiful 1980s piano, and that it would need tuning, and did anybody want it? I found myself ordering a van the next day, and then finding a teacher. A Frenchman who smells of cigarettes and who plays me Ray Charles and then Handel and tells me how they come from the same place, the same chords. He explained, in my second lesson, that if you play a C and the G above it together, you have created a fifth, and that into that fifth you then bring the note halfway between them – E! – and “Aaaah, the sweetness of this E”, he says. And we sit there in the quiet, listening to it. It is startling. I have reduced music to one note, finally, and I realise that this is the way back in.”

GAMUT (NOT GAMUT)
Zaha Hadid, interviewed in Deluxe (the new Magazine from the Standard – just how degraded the idea of Luxury or Deluxury has become can be measured by this): “My musical taste runs the gamut from Sam Smith to Chris Brown to Adam Levine. It’s the definition of eclectic”. No, it isn’t. It doesn’t run the gamut [a complete range or extent] either…

DISTORSION AND NOICE (THANKS, BO)
Inspired by Bob’s photos of a neglected and rusting bridge in Paddington, I went and recorded the traffic, and then made five pieces of music (loosely) featuring said traffic overlaid with all manner of nonsense. It’s on Soundcloud if you feel the desire to check it out. In contrast to Bo, I would tell the settings… Mexican-made repro ’57 Strat, sunburst (not burned off and replaced with 10 layers of varnish), run through a Blackstone Mosfet Overdrive (no, me neither), and played with an e-bow (sometimes).

AND ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK…
In honour of B.B., a tape given to us by Bob Wray in Muscle Shoals. It’s from the Love Me Tender sessions, the Nashville album that B.B. himself named as one of his favourites. Throughout, Larry Londin, the late, great Nashville drummer, had asked B.B. to play “The Thrill is Gone”, and each time the answer was no. On the last day of the sessions, B.B. had gone around thanking everyone, handing out keyrings and pens emblazoned with his logo. When he got to Larry, he picked up his guitar and launched into Larry’s request. Everyone scrambled to join in, the engineer rolled tape and they played the hell out of it. Londin does some wonderful rolls and cymbal work, but the best comes at the end when the song stumbles to a close and Larry bangs his sticks together, shouting “B.B., B.B., B.B. King, Yeah!” over and over as B.B. dissolves laughing.

* The catalogue can be found here.

Comments

  1. Steve Hurrell says:

    Thank you once again Martin, for a good read but particularly for the BB King link to that wonderful track. It took me back, and encouraged me to explore your Hot!House stories from Muscle Shoals. Is that first Hot!House album available anywhere? I did a quick search without luck. I also spotted that you worked with Vaughan and Anthea, whom I worked for as a PA for a while, which was entertaining.
    Another plus was the view of ‘The Bridge”, which I knew well. I used to walk through the wooden door in the wall, at the end of the north side of the bridge, to get to my houseboat on the Paddington cut under the Westway. It was an unique world under there, now all gone, and I love the resulting images he has produced of the upper world. Shame I have missed seeing it in a gallery but the online version is very good.

    • I’m not sure about the first album, Steve… email me on martinworkbench@gmail.com and I can send you an mp3 version. Vaughn and Anthea! Lovely people. I remember going to their producer’s house near World’s End in Chelsea where they showed us Wim Wenders’ book of location photos for Paris, Texas and suggested they build a roadhouse set based on the book. The strange symbols on the wall were on a bar in Texas… https://youtu.be/qfmye1Osp_0. We wondered about the wooden door and assumed it was a maintenance access point. Fascinating place to have lived, It’s now a bit shinier than it must have been back then. Glad you liked Bob’s work. The Bridge House pub, on Little Venice, a few hundred yards from the Bridge has just taken a small selection of the photos if you’re in the area.

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