Ten Things, Friday, March 15th

{ONE} NO MORE AUCTION BLOCK FOR ME
Very few guitars owned by Bob Dylan have ever come up for auction – the last one I can find was his 1963 Martin, played from the late 60s to 1977, most notably at the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. That went for $400,000. This week sees the auction of his Fender XII twelve-string. Sending a press video link to me, Richard points out the hilarious voiceover. For a start, it isn’t a key Dylan guitar at all. Heritage Auctions put up a picture of Dylan playing it in the studio, saying, “the 12-string instrument was used to record the double LP Blonde on Blonde – it is believed to be one of the best albums ever released and may rewrite music history when it crosses the auction block March 16 at Heritage Auctions.” Errr, probably not. Those pictures of Dylan in the studio with the XII are captioned as being from the Highway 61 sessions on Fender’s own website. More important is the fact that no electric 12 string appears on any Dylan tracks from 1965 (unless I just haven’t dug through the 18 CDs of The Cutting Edge forensically enough).

Bob’s mint guitar, in the studio with it, and the 1969 Fender catalogue

The hyperbolic narration ends with… “this piece could very well be the ultimate Dylan guitar – it is definitely one of the most important guitars of the 1960s, and popular music history for that matter…” No, no, and no. It’s not the storied Stratocaster he played at Newport in 1965 (the only other guitar of Bob’s that’s come up for auction, going for $965,000, although that authentication was controversial), which maybe fits the bill. His Greenwich Village Gibson, possibly. His small-bodied Blood on the Tracks Martin, again, maybe. But not this, a Fender publicity opportunity gift, that looks to be in unplayed condition, that may not feature on any of Dylan’s released music.

nb. I’ve always liked this eccentric guitar, probably since seeing Tim Buckley play one (I certainly liked the guitar more than I liked Tim Buckley). The Electric XII used the offset Jazzmaster/Jaguar body allied to what became known as “the hockey stick” headstock. Jimmy Page used his 1965 Electric XII on the arpeggiated rhythm guitar parts in “Stairway to Heaven” and as a drone on “When the Levee Breaks.”

{TWO} THE GEORGE MICHAEL AUCTION
Michael tells me that I should see the show before the auction happens, so I hotfoot it to Christies at St James, arriving at the back of the building to see Damien Hirst’s vitrine of a bull’s carcass pierced by lances (Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, 2007). The piece was too heavy to get into the main exhibition space, so had been left in a loading bay with some disco lights and a music player. It is playing Michael’s rather glossy and antiseptic version of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Suitably off balance, I head round to the front. This is some show, room after room filled with giant blow-ups of George, video screens and mad outfits from video shoots, and George’s collection of the art of the YBA’s (with other artworks also).

The cover image for Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 is projected onto the staircase

The stages of George’s career are rather portentously spelt out in panels around the main staircase – “So, on 24th November 1994, five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, George Michael chose to publicly declare the beginning of a new era of his own…”

The wildly impressive staging…

It is excessive and fun, but diverting too – his taste leans towards the glib and glossy, very surface-driven, but one man’s art and all that… and I guess if you’re rich, like art and have the wall space then this is what you do.

Giant video screen, prop from video shoot

{THREE} THE GREATEST SIDEMAN
When Hal Blain’s third edition of his life story was published in 2010, it carried the fabulous subtitle, The Story of the World’s Most Recorded Musician. In Art Garfunkle’s words, “If music in the second half of the 20th Century were the Empire State Building, Hal Blaine would be the ground floor.” Blaine was an arranger as much as a drummer, and for a gilded period was on more hits than almost any other musician. The book’s a good read, especially where Phil Spector is concerned…

“Phil had a way of holding me back while the band rehearsed. I felt like a racehorse who wants to run as soon as the gate opens and Phil, the jockey, would rein me in until we were coming around the clubhouse turn, heading for the final stretch. When the right take materialized, he would start his incredible gyrations in the booth, running from one side of the glass to the other, looking at key people during crucial moments like Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. He would conduct with one hand asking for loudness, while the other hand was directed at another section calling for quiet. Then he would give me that magical look that meant only one thing – Go! And we would both go crazy, me doing fills that were total lunacy. I would do eighth-note and 16th-note fills during a shuffle, and vice versa!”

“We would rehearse for hours and hours, and no one could even go to the toilet for fear of moving a mic. Finally, after endless run-throughs, Phil would call a “ten” and scream, “Don’t touch the mics!” And no one did. I clearly remember how carefully we would all get up, twisting our bodies and moving delicately. Phil had positioned the mics himself, and the placement was sacred. Like ballet dancers, we would step around the mics and over the cords strewn all over Studio A. The heat was incredible. There was no real air-conditioning in those days… we used to say that the flies buzzing around the Gold Star were getting as large and as famous as us musicians!”

{FOUR} THE LAST BLUESMAN
David Remnick writes a fine portrait of Buddy Guy (cool playlist included, too) in the New Yorker. He’s following Buddy around his house while a Gumbo cooks on the stove: “Guy took me around the house to give the flavours, as he said, time to “get acquainted.” There were countless photographs on the walls: all the musicians one could imagine, family photographs from Louisiana, grip-and-grin pictures from when he was awarded the Medal of Honor in the Bush White House and from the Kennedy Center tributes received during the Obama Administration. (Obama has said that, after Air Force One, the greatest perk of office was that “Buddy Guy comes here all the time to my house with his guitar.”)

An enormous jukebox in the den offered selections from pop, gospel, rock, soul. “I listen to everything,” Guy said. “I’ll hear a lick and it’ll grab you – not even blues, necessarily. It might even be from a speaking voice or something from a gospel record, and then I hope I can get it on my guitar. No music is unsatisfying to me. It’s all got something in it. It’s like that gumbo that’s in that kitchen there. You know how many tastes and meats are in there? I see my music as a gumbo. When you hear me play, there’s everything in there, everything I ever heard and stole from.”

{FIVE} R.I.P., MR PARALLEL FOURTHS…
One of the finest guitar sessioneers ever died recently, the man responsible for some of the greatest fills in Southern Soul – Reggie Young, guitarist at both Muscle Shoals and American Studios in Memphis. From a 2013 interview:
Do you remember the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
“Well, I was listening to this guitar solo on the radio in ’78, and I said to myself, “I can play a better solo than that guy.” Then I realized it was me!
I decided then that I needed to slow down. I was doing two, three, four sessions a day and I’d stay after the sessions were over and overdub harmonies or whatever had to be done. Then I’d be pushed for time to get to the next session…
Have you had any unusual calls?
Steve Jordan (the session drummer) asked if he could give my number to someone. I said, “Sure,” and a couple of days later Steven Segal called me. He was very nice. He kept saying, “My brother” (laughs). Well, he asked if I was interested in doing a benefit and I said I was, then he said I needed to be in Korea on Tuesday (laughs)! I told him that I couldn’t be there, but I gave him Tony Joe White’s number!”

{SIX} A FILM RECOMMENDATION!
I saw a preview at the end of last year (thanks, Hedda!) of Wild Rose, with Jessie Buckley playing a mouthy, car-crash Glasgow girl desperate to get to Nashville to be discovered. It should be a disaster of cringe-worthiness I know, but it neatly sidesteps most of the pitfalls (except for a cameo by Bob Harris that put one in mind of Graham Hill in Grand Prix). A typically excellent performance by Julie Walters helps, as does the fact that Jessie can really sing. She’s backed by a band of grizzled musos – Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham are there, as is Sam Amidon’s drummer, Chris Vatalaro – some decent songs, and a storyline that dials down the fairytale so as to not overshadow the realism. I loved it.

{SEVEN} BREATHLESS, NOT TOPLESS
That New York Herald Tribune knit shirt worn by Jean Seberg in Breathless? Now available here

{EIGHT} IF 5 THINGS HAD A RADIO STATION…
It would sound something like this, but probably not as well-compiled and eclectic: Graham Lovatt’s latest incarnation, at Completely Sound, with the excellent tagline, Music from all directions.

{NINE} IS THIS THE GREATEST…
photo in Jazz History? A quiet Sunday night in 1953. The Dodgers had just won the pennant. J.F.K. and Jacqueline Bouvier had just married. And four titans of bebop came together in a dive bar for a rare jam session. Read it at the New York Times.

{TEN} THE RBP PODCAST
The day ended and began with Giorgio Morodor. Doing some homework on Sigue Sigue Sputnik prior to appearing with Barney and Mark I listened to their hit single from 1985, “Love Missile F1-11”, and found that Moroder produced it, a fact I had not known. Their tagline – “We invented the future” – was never destined to last, and their schtick now looks quaint. And they last updated their website in 2015, so not really covering the “future” bit, lads. Part Adam & the Ants, part Sweet, it’s rockabilly strapped to an Autobahn rhythm. Still, it was fun to talk about their journey from Moroder to Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and then I got to quote Greil Marcus on Curtis Mayfield.

Someone described it as “bedroom dancing” which was a perfect description of the joyous quality it had

Afterwards, I headed to the other side of town, to Oslo in Hackney with Tim for The International Teachers of Pop. Such a fine name that I went not having heard a note. I did read an interview, however, and it told me that “Sheffield has a great history of drawing out these awkward, gangly weirdoes that make a very British, nay eccentric, kind of pop music that stews in the underground for a few years then appears seemingly from nowhere fully formed, like a very peculiar butterfly.” Spot on. They were terrific, a kind of reverse Human League with the two girls not as backing singers, but as strutting frontmen, and a drummer who laid into the beat with such ferocity and metronomic time that we assumed it was all done with computers. Dry Sheffield wit, pointedly political lyrics, and as they say, “a bona fide 125bpm cuddle for the masses!”

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Saturday, 23rd February

{ONE} CROWDFUNDER OF THE WEEK
From Popbitch: “A man in Newhaven has been petitioning his local council to let him build a statue in memory of Eazy-E from NWA. The council, somewhat predictably, have refused – but they have granted him permission to build a Newhaven Eazy-E Memorial Bench if he can rustle up the £2,000 funds. Anything over and above the target will be donated to a Brighton AIDS charity, so it’s got to be worth a punt, surely?” It’s halfway there, and according to one donatee, “It’s what Eazy would have wanted.”

{TWO} EXHIBITION OF THE WEEK – CORITA KING: POWER UP
The House of Illustration has a terrific show dedicated to the joyful posters of Sister Corita, a Roman Catholic nun who, as the HOI say, “challenged the Roman Catholic Church and offered a bold new perspective on misogyny, racism and war. A contemporary of Andy Warhol, admired by Charles and Ray Eames, John Cage and Saul Bass, Corita’s radical Pop Art brought the sublime to bear on the everyday.” Weaving in lyrics by The Beatles and Jefferson Airplane with advertising slogans, she achieves a mash-up effect not disimilar to Dylan’s “It’s Alright, Ma.” And the free screenprinted posters of Corita’s print-room rules repay close attention.

After the private view, I walked around the newly opened Coal Drops Yard and grabbed a bite to eat in Spiritland, home of an extraordinary sound system, but the noise of the diners talking and clattering cutlery reduced the music to a cardboard thud of bass, a smidgen of trebly vocals, and an indistinct murk of chords. It must be frustrating to be the person working the decks, although maybe when the dining ends more attention’s paid. A good wine list, though, and Coal Drops Yard is pretty spectacular at night (and has a Face magazine outdoor exhibition at the moment).

{THREE} CAPSULE FILM REVIEWS
I watched a bunch of films pre-Oscars, and here are my short thoughts on them.

A STAR IS BORN. Cloth-eared. You’d expect no cliche to be left unturned. The title alone is a moving cliche, made four times, with just the one tale. Miche asked who the current equivalent of Bradley Cooper’s countryish singer, the hilariously named Jackson Maine, would be, but it’s so out-of-time that I couldn’t think of anyone big enough. Ideally, they should have made it with R Kelly or Ryan Adams, but the canvas wouldn’t be massive enough for Hollywood. Bradley wanted giant festivals (they filmed at Glastonbury) and arena-sized crowds of rubber-armed fans screaming through his guitar solos. Like never happens at actual gigs.

The songs by Brad and Lukas Nelson are okay, in an ersatz Townes Van Zandt kind of way, but sadly, Gaga is made to sing what sound like very poor pastiches of Lada Gaga songs with added Jess Glynne. However, she’s excellent, especially when she fights her way through Bradley’s wearisome turn as Mumbly Rock Country guy. Best (worst?) moment – a ludicrously polished performance of an unfinished song that LG had warbled a couple of lines from in a supermarket parking lot the night before. Weirdest music reference – Gaga wearing a Roger Dean Yes T-shirt. So if you like the sound of a famous singer who resembles Jeff Bridges (lite version) giving a helping hand to a Suzi Quatro impersonator, this is the movie for you. For its entire two hours 11-minute runtime.

GREEN BOOK. Curate’s Egg, solidly made. You know how this will go from the trailer, although it cleverly wrong-foots a couple of times and manages to be quite moving at the end. Good performances, great soundtrack, especially the sensational “Goodbye, My Lover, Goodbye”, by Robert Mosely. Who Robert Mosely? I’m sure some readers are way more knowledgeable than me on this one. There’s very little on the web about him – he cut this in 1963 and The Searchers and Lulu (with the Dixie Flyers) both covered it, but both slightly miss the strangeness of the arrangement and melody of the original.

LIFE ITSELF. Babel with added Dylan. I seem to be the only person who didn’t like Girl from the North Country. Now I seem to be the only person who likes Life Itself, a film subjected to a terrible critical barrage. It’s far from flawless (“As a young New York City couple goes from college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child, the unexpected twists of their journey create reverberations that echo over continents and through lifetimes” – eeeek!) but it gains points for a strand that runs through the film that asks whether Dylan’s Time Out of Mind is weakened by the inclusion of “To Make You Feel My Love.” That’s quite mad, isn’t it? The first scenes are played out with three of the album’s songs on the soundtrack. I’m not going to précis the plot; it will just seem corny and ridiculous. Watch it and tell me if I’m wrong. I want to know…

CAPSULE CAPSULE REVIEWS. The first two-thirds of “Buster Scruggs” is mad and brilliant, but the last two segments blow it. “Vice” I found strangely uncompelling, mainly because most everyone in the story is ghastly. “BlakkKlansman” is terrific, if a little slapstick, ”The Wife” is dreadful movie-of-the-week tosh. “Roma” didn’t do it for us – if you want black and white and a tough story then “Cold War” is your film. “Can You Ever Forgive Me? is quite fun, in a depressing way. “The Favourite”? Just bonkers – great acting, but in the service of what?

{FOUR} AND THE ACADEMY AWARD GOES TO… MOONLIGHT (R4)
Stepping back a year, Paul Gambaccini (Rolling Stone magazine’s London correspondent in 1970) presented a beautifully rounded programme about an astounding film. It made me realise over again how gorgeous the soundscape and scoring (by Nicholas Britell) are. And also, that apart from Leave No Trace (not even nominated), nothing touched me this year as much as Moonlight did last.

{FIVE} BROTHER RAY IN NASHVILLE
In a Rolling Stone piece on the re-release of Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, David Cantwell talks of Nashville’s response. He mentions the Anita Kerr Singers had Vocal Stylings of “The Genius” in Harmony and says, “The Kerr Singers’ haunted reading of Brother Ray’s “Drown in My Own Tears” feels almost surreal, a slow-motion submersion in depression.” Weirdy sparse and oddly moving, it can be found on YouTube here.

{EXTRA} FROM CURTIS TO SPUTNIK
I was thrilled to be a guest on the rocksbackpages podcast this week. You can listen in iTunes or here and be regaled on the founding of RBP and the book of Five Things.

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Wednesday, January 30th

Much fabulousness in the news that Robbie Williams is blasting neighbour Jimmy Page with the music of Black Sabbath over a basement-swimming-pool-building-issue. This week, BBC4 returns the Friday Night Jukebox (February 1st at 9pm) to our screens, and, as the BBC’s website says, “Phill Jupitus and Clare Grogan want your stories, dedications and memories about a stack of classic BBC Music performances, around the theme of friendship. Check out the clips page, email jukebox@bbc.co.uk and request a song.” Hopefully sweet music can inspire a rapprochement in Holland Park…

{ONE} PROPS TO CARDI B
… For her take on the US Government shutdown: “I know a lot of y’all don’t care cos y’all don’t work for the government, or y’all don’t even have a job, but this shit is really f*cking serious… Our country is in a hell hole right now, all for a f*cking wall. I feel like we need to take some action. I don’t know what type of action, ’cos this is not what I do, but I’m scared. And I feel bad for these b*tches that got to go to f*cking work to not get motherf*cking paid.” Talking of previous government shutdowns, like Obama’s 2013 standoff in the name of universal healthcare, she said they had been for logical and important reasons: “Yeah b*tch!” For health care, so your grandma could check her blood pressure.”

In GQ last year, she revealed that she’s into “political science”, American civics history, and can even name every single American president in order of term. “I love government. I’m obsessed with presidents. I’m obsessed to know how the system works.” Her favourite pres is Franklin D. Roosevelt – “He helped us get over the Depression, all while he was in a wheelchair. Like, this man was suffering from polio at the time of his presidency, and yet all he was worried about was trying to make America great – make America great again for real.”

{TWO} CLASSIC ALBUM SUNDAYS: ARETHA!
Listening to I Never Loved a Man and Lady Soul at CAS’s get together at Brilliant Corners, I was struck most by songs that I would have probably regarded as filler back in the Seventies. Maybe because their edges weren’t blunted by familiarity, it was great to listen to the mighty grooves of “Save Me”, “Niki Hoeky”, “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Come Back Baby”. Of course, really clear and present sound from a £10,000 system helps to up the thrill factor – it was a great way to be reacquainted with the killer combo of Tommy Cogbill and Roger Hawkins on bass and drums. The sheer heft and thump was something to behold, and Cogbill’s syncopation on top of Hawkins’ verve energises these performances. And in the time before the playbacks started, Coleen Murphy played an extraordinary Nina Simone live version of “Young, Gifted and Black” – I was glad to hear someone else say “I’ve never heard that!”, so it wasn’t just me…

And in The Guardian, this street art tribute to Aretha, made by Jim Bachor.
“Inspired to make mosaics after a trip to Italy in the late 90s, Bachor has become the pothole guy, decorating holes in streets with colourful designs ranging from chickens to Aretha Franklin’s face,” wrote Naomi Larsson.

{THREE} DAVY/RONNIE
From a London Jazz Collector piece on British saxophonist, Ronnie Ross. “Apart from leaving behind good music, he also left some good anecdotes, including this story, from a September 2003 Rolling Stone magazine interview with David Bowie, in actuality David Jones, on his formative years in London’s leafy suburb of Bromley [or maybe it’s in Kent; there are many arguments over this fact – ed]

Rolling Stone: Your first instrument was the saxophone. Why the sax?
David Bowie: My brother was a huge jazz fan. He played me way-out stuff like Eric Dolphy and Coltrane. I wanted a baritone, but I got an alto sax.
RS: Did you take lessons?
DB: Ronnie Ross – who was featured in Downbeat as one of the great baritone players – lived locally, so I looked in the telephone book, and I rung him up. I said, “Hi, my name is David Jones, and I’m twelve years old, and I want to play the saxophone. Can you give me lessons?” He sounded like Keith [Richards], and he said no. But I begged until he said, “If you can get yourself over here Saturday morning, I’ll have a look at you.” He was so cool. Much later on, when I was producing Lou Reed, we decided we needed a sax solo on the end of “Walk on the Wild Side.” So I got the agent to book Ronnie Ross. He pulled out a wonderful solo in one take. Afterwards, I said, “Thanks, Ron. Should I come over to your house on Saturday morning?” He said, “I don’t fucking believe it! You are Ziggy Stardust?”

THREE EXTRA This interesting conversation between Phil G and John A from the New York Times on Adams conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the premiere of Glass’s Symphony No. 12, [Lodger], based on Bowie, Eno and Visconti’s album. “The great thing about American music is the total bleed-through of, if you want to call it that, high or low, popular versus art. I think both Philip and I share this. We have very loose filters in terms of classification.”

{FOUR} ACOUSTASONIC?
I’m not convinced that this will have a huge audience, and it may be, as one comment on YouTube put it, “the answer to a question no one asked”, but it is pretty cool…

Moses Sumney, Acoustasonic

{FIVE} GO MARTY!
If you love the Rolling Thunder Tour (as I do), yet find Ronaldo and Clara turgid (as I do), then this is excellent news: “Netflix has confirmed the existence of a new Martin Scorsese-directed Bob Dylan documentary, due to launch on the streaming service later in 2019. Scorsese previously directed 2005’s No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, concerning Dylan’s rise to fame in the early to mid-’60s. According to publicity material, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese captures the troubled spirit of America in 1975 and the joyous music that Dylan performed during the fall of that year. Part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream, Rolling Thunder is a one of a kind experience, from master filmmaker Martin Scorsese.”

{OH!} BEFORE I GO…
This beautiful piece of writing on Sonny Rollins by Liam Noble, which ends with: “I am saying this because he is still alive. I want him to know. There are too many obituaries.”

Wednesday, January 9th

{ONE} BEAT IT!
It’s great, discovering that there are still things to discover, like this great 60s tv show with a fantastic typographic title: The !!!! Beat. It was essentially a black music program out of Dallas Texas, with a white presenter (Nashville DJ “Hoss” Allen) and a house band led by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. There’s a bunch of episodes on YouTube, and so much to enjoy (Freddy King doing a lot with a little, the matching suit and Stratocaster of Louis Jordan’s guitarist) but my favourite performance so far is probably Barbara Lynn. As Clarence fiddles his way to the end of a country song, his band looking like the slickest Uptown Soul Revue, Hoss says “Have mercy, have mercy, thought I was on the wrong show there for a minute, lost my way in the Opry House with “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again”. Well, darlin’s, it’s nice to have Miss Barbara Lynn back with us. She’s got a swinging thing to do for us. Right here, from Beaumont, Texas, Barbara…”

And, looking like Jimi Hendrix’s younger sister, she rocks “You’ll Lose a Good Thing”, her unvarnished rhythm guitar playing and great phrasing leading the band in a Southern Soul classic. Thom Hickey at The Immortal Jukebox wrote about this performance a few years ago, but I must have missed it. Oh, and note the varnish worn down on her blonde Esquire where her wild style with a thumb pick has scraped raw the body above the scratchplate…

{TWO} LIKE EATING A PICTURE OF FOOD
At Marc Myers’ Jazzwax, this fascinating insight into the (as bassist Chuck Israels sees it) limitations of the recording process. Marc: Following my post on trombonist J.J. Johnson’s Broadway Express (1965), Chuck Israels sent along a few observations about J.J.’s Broadway, a show-tune album from 1963… “Hi Marc, I was on some of the sessions for JJ’s Broadway, and they were memorable. The experience demonstrated how inadequately most recordings represent the real sound of music played by fine musicians and experienced by listeners in the same space. Those five great trombonists, JJ, Urbie Green, Lou McGarity, Dick Hixon, and Paul Faulise made an overwhelmingly rich and powerful sound in the studio. We recorded at the old A&R Studio above Jim and Andy’s on 48th Street. It was loud and beautiful, perfectly balanced, in tune and rhythmically coordinated. You not only heard it with your ears, you could feel it on your body.

“But when we heard the playbacks, I was deeply disappointed. Little of the experience carried over into the recording, and the lush, deep and powerful blend of sound, the humanity of it, was rendered thinner and more brassy after being processed through a reverb system that the engineer, Phil Ramone, had installed in the building’s stairwell. When I hear the recording now, I enjoy it. JJ’s arrangements and the performances are all fine. The sound is good by most standards. But it’s a fraction of how the music sounded in the room. My friend, Jerry Rosen, former associate concertmaster and later pianist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, says listening to music on recordings is like getting kissed over the telephone. Another friend, pianist and composer-arranger Bill Dobbins, says it’s like eating a picture of food. I’m still glad we have recordings.”

{THREE} JIM AND ANDY’S SOUNDS THE BUSINESS
“Over the years, Jim & Andy’s became more than just a place for studio guys to relax between sessions. There was a shelf in the back for storing small instruments and upstairs there was room for a couple of drum sets, basses, and guitar amplifiers. There was a coat rack where guys could hang a jacket or a tux for weeks at a time. In fact, I used to leave a topcoat back there from winter to spring, and no one ever bothered it. We could also leave phone messages, letters, packages, even checks with Rocky or Jim. We always knew they’d be delivered to the right person.” – Milt Hinton in his book, Playing the Changes. [photo copyright of Milt Hinton]

{FOUR} 2019: YEAR OF DONEGAN
The Voice’s opening show had a couple of moments that, for all the programme’s set-up narratives, actually worked. The last singer, Nicole Dennis, was a professional (no bar to competing in The Voice), currently singing in the Dreamgirls chorus and understudying the part that sealed Judge Jennifer Hudson’s fame. Cue a stormin’ duet!

The contestant before, Peter Donegan, Lonnie’s son, was trying his luck, and struck gold at the mention of Lonnie’s name – Judge Tom [Jones] had recorded one of Lon’s songs! It was “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”, written by Donegan and his then-guitarist Jimmy Currie, and inspired by a Josh White song, “Wanderin’”.

Although Tom said on the programme that it was written for him, Wikipedia has this to say, quoting Tom: “I did some shows with Lonnie and we became friends… One night he said: ‘Look, I have this song, you’d sing the pants off it. I’ve recorded it, but I can’t really sing it. It’s a sort of a rewrite of a song from the Thirties when the Depression was going on, called “I’m Never Going To Cease My Wandering.” I knew that song because a lot of guys used to sing it in pubs in Wales. I went to his house in Virginia Water, and he got this record out to listen to… With the big chorus on it, it sounded fantastic. He was singing it Lonnie Donegan style, completely different from the way I did, like somebody busking…” So they duly gather ’round the old Joanna and bash it out, not badly.

In Patrick Humphries’ excellent biography of Lonnie, he tells how Elvis heard the song when Jones performed it as part of his Vegas show (which became the model for Elvis’ own return to live performing). “Tom had told Elvis that the song was written by this guy Lonnie Donegan. ‘Oh I know him,’ replied the King, ‘He used to take me on in the charts’. In 1976, at one of his last-ever recording sessions, Elvis finally covered “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”.

Sometime this year the BBC should broadcast Billy Bragg’s documentary on the cultural impact of “Rock Island Line”, directed by George Scott., which is based on Billy’s fine book, Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World.

{FIVE} PROBABLY NOT

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Five Things End of Year Part 2 follows next week.

Five Things End of Year Part 1

The reasons that I don’t write about everything that I see and hear each week are many and various. Sometimes it’s laziness, sometimes I just can’t find the time to do something justice, sometimes I don’t want to be too negative, so I just let the subject slide, and sometimes everyday life gets in the way. So here are some things that slipped through the net in 2018. [All photos enlarge when clicked]

Celeste Boursier-Mougenot’s BEAUTIFUL AVIARY, with birds landing on and triggering electric guitars, and her drum kit played by cherry stones that fell from the ceiling – set off by visitors’ mobile phone signals – were part of the Voyages a Nantes art fair. Nantes is well worth a visit. There’s always something art-related happening, it’s the home of LU Biscuits and Les Machines de L’ile (the giant elephant, among other huge mechanical puppets), the Loire is gorgeous and it’s a quick drive to the seaside town of Monsieur Hulot.

I really loved the BOB DYLAN EXHIBITION at the Halycon Gallery in Bond Street, but not for the exhibits that were the basis of the show, rather lame drawings illustrating selected lyrics, uninterestingly handwritten by Bob. The bookshelf with Bob tomes (above) was an inspired idea, the Steel Gates still look pretty, but the best came on the back wall downstairs – a fantastic art piece in itself: a wall of cards from the Savoy “Subterranean Homesick Blues” shoot by D.A. Pennebaker. And, alongside, a rather good fifteen minute encapsulation of Dylan’s career ran as a film loop.

Oh, and this was a pretty good use of photography, too…

Two brilliantly AMERICAN THINGS that I unaccountably forgot to mention. The 749 song requests that the organist at Fenway Park, Josh Kantor, received this season (and played)! But, as he told one follower, “Your dream of a world where every ballpark has organ instrumentals of Pile songs may be a long-shot at best.” And this beautiful song map of the USA from the brilliant Dorothy (check out their Electronic Music Stamp Set).

In the New Yorker, this extraordinary piece by John Seabrook on STEVE MILLER’S COLLECTION of 450 guitars. “I had two humidified rooms,” he said the other day, during a visit to the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of Musical Instruments. “I had a hidden room next to the studio. I’d say, ‘Open, sesame,’ ” and a door would open, revealing a guitar forest of rare mahoganies and rosewoods…” When he’s asked to be on the board of Jazz at Lincoln Center, “I walked in and said, ‘Jesus, this is a real fuckin’ board. That’s the guy who built the building. That’s the guy who raised the twenty million.’ ” And now there’s the guy who wrote, “Ab-ra-ca-dabra / I wanna reach out and grab ya.”

From JEB LOY NICHOLS’ regular column at Caught By The River, on “As I Don’t Want To Take A Chance” by Wee Willie Walker: “I remember as a child, driving along the Texas coast with my father, listening to the radio, and telling him that the song playing was “the best song ever!” When the next song came on, I dismissed it, saying “this song is awful.” He stopped the car, and we stood on the beach. After a few minutes he said, listen to everything! Who are you to turn up your nose at someone’s hard work? You can’t say that anything is the best. I don’t want to hear that. You can’t dismiss anything. That’s like standing on the beach and saying you got a favourite wave. It’s nonsense. Music, he says, just keeps coming.”

In graphic news, who doesn’t love a piece of data that reveals the most and least “HIP HOP” WORDS? From The Pudding.

Sadly, I didn’t enjoy DEVA MAHAL at St Mary’s Music Hall in Walthamstow – an odd gig in a newish venue under the umbrella of the EFG London Jazz Festival, for no good reason. A noodling piano player, a somewhat robotic drummer, a bass player who seemed to be in a different postcode and a rather ineffectual guitarist, all served up with a muggy sound mix, rendered the soul / RnB of her debut album formless, with her voice just one more murky instrument trying to reach the congregation…

My FAVOURITE TV MOMENT may well have been Trini Lopez on one of those ghastly Andre Rieu broadcasts on Sky Arts from somewhere like Vienna (best city in the world for quality of living for the ninth year in a row, apparently). Trini was sporting his fantastic Gibson Trini Lopez model from 1964. [For Guitar fans only: It’s a 335 with mods, mostly in the form of diamond-shaped f-holes and neck inlays, with a Firebird six-in-line headstock. It’s Dave Grohl’s favourite guitar, which is why his signature Gibson is based on Trini’s]. It was utterly bizarre – an orchestra playing “If I Had a Hammer” featuring a rather frail vocal performance from Trini, Andre fiddling like Rome was burning, and an audience who looked like they were at a young fogey’s convention, going batshit crazy.

I’ll end Part One with a favourite video clip discovered this year. Guitarist FREDDY KOELLA, playing Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief” on guitar, which is a tricky thing to do. But Freddy plays the hell out of it, complete with a lovely breakdown solo. He’s some kind of genius. Part Two later this week…

Monday, December 24th

A Christmas Song for all the readers of Five Things…


The book of Five Things is available from Amazon here.

Front Cover

“He writes with the insight of someone who has inhabited the world of the professional musician but also with the infectious enthusiasm of someone who is a fan like anyone of us. It’s entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.” – from an Amazon review by Zuma

“What a treat! And it has the years before I discovered your blog…” – Dan Franklin, Publisher

“A terrific book, stuffed to the gills with snippets of news items and observations all with a musical theme, pulled together by the watchful eye of Martin Colyer… lovingly compiled, rammed with colour photos and interesting stories. Colyer has a good ear for a tune, an eye for the out-of-ordinary and he can write a bit too.” – Steve Carr, everyrecordtellsastory.com

“I’ve been dipping with huge enjoyment since it arrived” – James Walton, writer and presenter of Radio 4’s books quiz, The Write Stuff, and the R4 pop quiz All the Way from Memphis.

Monday, December 17th

In home news, it’s been good fun watching the ghost of John Redwood turn up in tv studios this week – what a ghastly, low-grade bunch the current Tories are. The week culminated in being at a party where I witnessed a cabinet minister dancing to The Doobie Brothers. It doesn’t get weirder than that… Elsewhere, good to see that a Special Edition of Monopoly commemorating the Trump Presidency has been released. It’s lovely to see Five Thing’s Woodstock correspondent, John Cuneo, on the cover of the December 17th edition of the New Yorker. Congrats, John! I’ve also been vaguely annoyed by the trails for the new series of Soul Music on Radio 4, with a BBC voice telling us that the first episode is Joni Mitchell’s song, “The River”. It’s not “The River”. That’s Springsteen. It’s just “River”. I’ve decided to put all the live reviews that I’ve failed to write into a Five Things Extra! next week (I need that deadline, as you know). Here’s what’s been occurring this week.

{ONE} MUSIC FROM BIG PINK [REDUX]
I now own what seems to be about twelve copies of the Band’s first album – this is possibly the best. A loving essay by David Fricke finds some new things to say and Bob Clearmountain’s mix gives the tracks a new-found presence. It ends with a total gem – the isolated vocal tracks for “I Shall Be Released”. With the heavenly piano, plangent guitar strums and snare-wire beat taken away, the vocal blend is front-and-centre – just exquisite. [Hear on the Music Player to the right].

“It is surely the only rock album of its era and stature that promised a way forward while sounding like it could have been conceived and cut to 78 rpm between world wars. Robertson and Manuel, at that point the Band’s primary composers, wrote like determined modernists with public-domain souls, digging at the previously unmapped common ground of Appalachian folk, old Atlantic R&B 45s, Louisiana Hayride broadcasts, the treble lightning of the mid-sixties Dylan and the grooving spirit of the San Francisco ballrooms.” – from David Fricke’s liner notes.

{TWO} CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
Little Mix, on Graham Norton’s couch, asked to sing a verse one of their hits in Japanese, do so, brilliantly. Obviously set up beforehand and obviously rehearsed, but none the worse for that.

{THREE} JONNY HANNAH EXHIBITION AT VOUT-O-REENEY’S
As usual, a lovely show from Jonny, Fast Cars and Ukeleles. Fine painted uke, with an idea I’ve not seen before – painting the notes on the machine heads. On this night, the show had added DJs – the one I caught was excellent illustrator and teacher, Geoff Grandfield, a man with a passion for rare 45s from Detroit and Chicago (and scratching out the acts to keep them that way). Sadly missed Rob Ryan’s set – another time, Rob.

{FOUR} REMASTERED
“If someone says he’s not his brother’s keeper, then he’s wrong, ’cause he is…” – Johnny Cash.

Netflix’s new series opened with Barbara (Harlan County USA) Kopple and Sara Dosa’s excellent film looking at Cash, a walking mass of contradictions, and his visit to sing “redneck country music songs” at the Nixon White House in Tricky Dick and the Man in Black. It’s 1968, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison has just gone to No1 in the charts and Richard Nixon has just moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It starts and you’re thinking, way to go, Johnny… “I thank God for all the freedoms we’ve got in this country. I cherish them, even the rights to burn the flag. You know, I’m proud of those rights [crowd boos]. But I’ll tell you what, we’ve also got – let me tell you something… shhhh… we’ve also got a right to bear arms, and if you burn my flag, I’ll shoot you! And I’ll shoot you with a lot of love, like a good American…”

It then details the “Southern strategy” that Nixon used to win the ’68 presidential election. “It has been used by every Republican candidate since – dog whistles to racists, dog whistles to conservatives using key phrases like the silent majority”, one contributor points out. John Cash, his son, says of the invite… “My daddy refused to sing the two songs that the President [or maybe H.R. Haldeman, Cash’s biggest fan in the White House] requested…” And someone else says, “Who was going to show up at the White House? Johnny Cash of “Folsom Prison Blues” or the rebel, the guy who was photographed “flipping off the Man” or the God-fearing family man with a baby on the way – the Gospel-singing Johnny Cash?”

There’s a stunning section that follows Eartha Kitt taking LBJ to task when she was an invited performer at the White House, as Carole Feraci (one of the Ray Conniff singers) says, “President Nixon, stop bombing human beings, animals and vegetation” while holding up a placard saying Stop The Killings – there’s a quick cut to Ray Conniff, who, with a terrible grin/grimace on his face agrees with the man who shouts “Throw her outta here…” “All right” says Ray…

And in 1969 came The Johnny Cash Show, a quintessentially American experience, but which famously cast its net wider than country music for its guest performers. As we know, he had Dylan, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Pete Seeger – these were not people who had even really been on national tv before, a brave move at the time. The film is really worth watching, especially for the riveting performance at the White House.

{FIVE} LET’S IGNORE LOW’S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
“If you were born today
We’d kill you by age eight
Never get the chance to say
Joy to the world and
Peace on the earth
Forgive them for they know not what they do”
– from “If You Were Born Today”, on their rather gorgeous Christmas album.

Tuesday, December 4th

I thought that normal service was resumed, but life can be complex sometimes, as Chas and Dave noted in 1975, what with “one fing ’n’ anuvver.” Here’s a quick Five Things, with a promise of various things seen and loved recently (Bill Frisell! Ry Cooder!) being written about soon. WordPress have just changed everything about the blog designing process, so bear with… Oh, and I have two tickets that I (sadly) can’t use for the fascinating Julia Holter at Hackney EartH on December 12th. Email me at martinworkbench@gmail.com if you’re interested.

{ONE} BEST RECENT AUCTION LOT
I love the “Late 20th Century” attribution, but sadly it’s being sold without the fibre optic lights…

{TWO} DANCE ME TO THE END OF… AFRICA?
From Time Out… “Everyone loves ‘Africa’ by Toto. It’s a fact. It’s dance floor catnip, a glorious 4 minutes and 55 seconds of pure 80’s tune-age. Because we just can’t get enough of the ear worm, there’s now a club night where you can hear the nostalgic banger non-stop for a whole four hours. That’s right, Toto’s ‘Africa’ played 53 times on repeat. And if you stay for the whole thing you might finally be able to perfect that weird As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti line.

{THREE} CAROL KAYE WRECKS BASSES…
The legendary “Wrecking Crew” bassist on her chosen instrument…
Reverb: You’ve said the Fender bass wasn’t a great instrument, but it got a certain sound that no other instruments got. Why was it not great?
Carol Kaye: It was a great instrument for recording those kinds of sounds back in the ’60s and ’70s, but it wasn’t great like a Steinway piano or a Gibson L-5. It was a board with four strings on it, but it got the job done; it got the sound and the feel for the music. The first Fender I played was neck heavy and always pointed toward the floor. You had to constantly hold that neck up because it was not balanced, and that is very hard on your neck. I usually bought a new Fender every two years to get new strings. I was working day and night, so I’d run into the music store on my lunch hour, grab a new bass, and sometimes I had to pull the neck off real fast to put a shim in the neck to make it play well.

{FOUR} FROM PRIVATE EYE‘S PSEUDS CORNER. WONDERFUL.
“There was 15 one-way streets and one solitary two-way street where me and my brother got to meet in the middle. Two worlds definitely collided. When two worlds collide, two things happen: destruction or the genesis of new beginnings, and you created water on a new planet.” – Matt Goss on the reformation of Bros, The Sun

{FIVE} JERRY CHRISTMAS…?
A frightening bunch of musical Santas channelling Jerry Garcia at a Garden Centre somewhere in the Home Counties…

If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full Five Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser


The book of Five Things is available from Amazon here.

Front Cover

“He writes with the insight of someone who has inhabited the world of the professional musician but also with the infectious enthusiasm of someone who is a fan like anyone of us. It’s entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.” – from an Amazon review by Zuma

“What a treat! And it has the years before I discovered your blog…” – Dan Franklin, Publisher

“A terrific book, stuffed to the gills with snippets of news items and observations all with a musical theme, pulled together by the watchful eye of Martin Colyer… lovingly compiled, rammed with colour photos and interesting stories. Colyer has a good ear for a tune, an eye for the out-of-ordinary and he can write a bit too.” – Steve Carr, everyrecordtellsastory.com

“I’ve been dipping with huge enjoyment since it arrived” – James Walton, writer and presenter of Radio 4’s b

November 13th. Normal Service Resumed…

ONE RIP TJW
Sad news that a true one-off, Tony Joe White, has passed away at 75. His early albums were rough and ready, gusty and emotional. Listen to “Aspen, Colorado” (covered beautifully by Robert Cray on his recent Hi Rhythm album), or “The Train I’m On” for his simple yet sophisticated storytelling. He was by far the best thing on a Muscle Shoals bill at the Barbican a few years back, leaning back on his chair, accompanied only by his swamp guitar, a small amp and a plaintive harmonica, spinning tales, slowly putting the audience under his spell and sounding only like himself.

Jeb Loy Nichols wrote beautifully at Caught by the River: “In my life as a musician, no one has been more important to me than Tony Joe White. For forty-five years his music has been my soundtrack, my daily touchstone, my reminder, my bedrock. I once asked him who, or what, had been the biggest influence on him; he thought about it for a moment and then, in his quiet drawl, said, the rain.”

TWO IT’S SENSORY MARKETING, BABY!
“Some clients hire Rob Wood [founder and creative director of Music Concierge, a company that chooses background music for businesses] because they want to influence individuals’ behaviour. When the football club Tottenham Hotspur was looking for music for its new training ground complex, Wood was asked to provide playlists for a holistic programme covering every aspect of Spurs’ players’ psychological and physical wellbeing. Others seek to create a certain atmosphere, such as the restaurant German Gymnasium, for which he sourced particular bell sounds that evoked Mitteleuropean cafe culture.” – from Jake Huyler’s fascinating Guardian piece on the “music design” – formerly known as muzak – industry.

THREE INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
John Cooper Clark by Tim Adams, in The Observer. A typically insightful and amusing set of responses from the good Doctor. Among a shout-out to Bill Withers and Busby Berkeley was this answer to a question posed by DJ Lauren Laverne.
Q: What is it that mono can do that stereo can’t?
A: “Hi Lauren. Well, for one thing, mono could produce the Phil Spector “wall of sound”. You couldn’t have that in stereo. That glorious bank of french horns bleeding into a mess of cellos and strings. I tend to live by the dictum “less is more”, but that mono sound proved more can be more. It is also more true to life. If you went to see a band, the Beatles, the Stones, they were up there on the stage; you would naturally expect all the sound to come from their general direction. What do you want to listen to the bass player over your left shoulder for? Stereo is some nerd twiddling his knobs. The only stereo I like is a jukebox: two speakers but both on the same piece of furniture. Phil Spector is obviously out of circulation right now, but I am keeping the faith alive. Stereo, my ass.”

FOUR A RECOMMENDATION…
One of the things that really helps in times where grinding stress is balanced with periods of mind-numbing boredom is a gripping read. Thanks go to Steve Way for giving me three of Mick Herron’s terrific Jackson Lamb series, charting the exploits of a group of MI6 cast-offs, billeted in a run-down office, Slough House, near Barbican Station. This gives them the tag “Slow Horses” among the spooks at Service headquarters – characters half-off the books but too tricky to sack, slowly being bored into resignation.

Herron balances the behind-the-curtain-realism of John Le Carré with a blistering sense of humour and a tuned ear for the way people speak – he’s the first author I’ve read to recognise that people say “gunna” not “gonna”, as in “I’m gunna do something”. He also describes London as it actually is, in all its everyday, grimy glory. And he cleaves to the British Crime Novelist template of “Jazz Lover”. There aren’t many references to music, but this passage creeps into the fourth novel of the series, Spook Street:

“Apart from his fingers he is still, but these move unceasingly, his keyboard pushed aside to better accommodate this, and while an observer would see nothing more than an advanced case of the fidgets, what J.K. Coe is describing on the scuffed surface of his desk is a silent replica of what’s coursing through his head via his iPod: Keith Jarrett’s improvised piano recital from Osaka, 8 November1976, one of the Sun Bear concerts; Coe’s fingers miming the melodies Jarrett discovered on the night, all those miles and years away. It’s a soundless echo of another man’s genius, and it serves a dual purpose: of tamping down Coe’s thoughts, which are dismal, and of drowning out the noises his mind would otherwise entertain: the sound of wet meat dropping to the floor, for instance, or the buzz of an electric carving knife wielded by a naked intruder.”

Someone should make these into a tv series, especially as the weirdly under-cooked The Little Drummer Girl was so short on laughs or thrills.

FIVE AND ANOTHER…
It’s the new podcast from Rock’s Backpages! Yes, I’m biased, but it’s really good. Like eavesdropping on two good friends off on a hike through the foothills of the mountains of rock… hear Mark liken Keith Moon to “the ghastly showoff at school that you just want to thump…” and Barney reminisce about the time they met Wu-Tang’s U-God – “a very bizarre encounter, where Mark and I were waiting at the San Francisco airport, and we suddenly realised that in the departure lounge with us was most of The Wu-Tang Clan – not that I’d ever done a headcount…” And, as Mark would say, “So on and so forth!” Episodes here.

If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full Five Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser


The book of Five Things is available from Amazon here.

Front Cover

He writes with the insight of someone who has inhabited the world of the professional musician but also with the infectious enthusiasm of someone who is a fan like anyone of us. It’s entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.” – from an Amazon review by Zuma

“What a treat! And it has the years before I discovered your blog…” – Dan Franklin, Publisher

“A terrific book, stuffed to the gills with snippets of news items and observations all with a musical theme, pulled together by the watchful eye of Martin Colyer… lovingly compiled, rammed with colour photos and interesting stories. Colyer has a good ear for a tune, an eye for the out-of-ordinary and he can write a bit too.” – Steve Carr, everyrecordtellsastory.com

“I’ve been dipping with huge enjoyment since it arrived” – James Walton, writer and presenter of Radio 4’s books quiz, The Write Stuff, and the R4 pop quiz All the Way from Memphis.

Thursday, October 4th

I’m glad we got the chance to see Charles Aznavour a few years ago, to hear a master at work. Alan Clayson’s choice of ten Aznavour songs in The Guardian was spot on, although ten wasn’t enough to include “It Will Be My Day” and “You’ve Got to Learn”. Find the latter in the music player on the right. In other news this week, the Theremin has reached the mainstream when Graham Norton has a conversation with Ryan Gosling about it, followed by a demonstration, in which Lada Gaga nailed it. Some part of me wants to see Bradley Cooper and Lada Gaga mixin’ it up in A Star is Born. I’m almost tempted to watch Barb and Kris as homework.

Anyway, tonight, thanks to Mark, it’s Vulfpeck. I have no real idea who they are (I think from Brooklyn. No, I’ve checked – Ann Arbor, neighbour to Detroit, Michigan), I’ve heard precisely four minutes of their music (but I liked it a lot, especially the bass player) and I’m looking forward to, uh, getting down in Brixton…

ONE CHARLES AZNAVOUR AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL
From Five Things, 25th November 2015: Charles used the Judas word at the Albert Hall a little while ago, a couple of weeks after Bob was there. Ninety-one, and strutting around the stage like a fit seventy-year-old, he told us stories from his career, rescued “She” from the cawing clutches of Elvis Costello’s Notting Hill cover, and gave a hundred-minute show to an adoring bunch of fans. ‘You know, if you come to be famous, popular, doesn’t matter if you are a singer, actor or politician or anything else, but known – you know what I mean – a money-maker, you’ll find yourself surrounded by an extraordinary entourage of people trying to be helpful in any way – for example, if they found you in bed with their own wives they would pull the cover over you in case you catch cold… [they are] a parasite, until your success begins to decline. So after you have been squeezed like a lemon, the time will come for them to sell you, betray you, to crucify you. I call this song “My Friend, My Judas”.’ What followed was a staggering cross between Barry White and John Barry, with a side order of Bacharach’s Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid soundtrack. Awesome.

TWO GIVE THE DRUMMER SOME…*
How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb? Ten – one to replace it and the other nine to tell you how Steve Gadd would have done it better.

Weckl, Purdie, Gadd, Paice, Starks & Stubblefield, Earl Young, Steve White. Just a few of the drummers featured in Chris Wilson’s new four-part Sky Arts series, The Art of Drumming, as he crosses continents and genres to talk to the greats. It’s beautifully filmed and full of great quotes. Here’s Earl Young, Philly hero, looking sensational at seventy-eight, on powering Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes: “The pumping bass drum was like a signature, but it’s not just the bass drum. See in the studio, this (points to hi-hat) is the most important feel of a song. Most drummers just use it to keep time, and they worry about this (indicates rest of kit). I worry about this (points to hi-hat), because, to me, this is everything – I hear this as a melody…”

It pays proper homage to New Orleans and the rudiments as it takes us from thrash to jazz. Learn what extreme metal guys owe to Louis Bellson, and let Thomas Lang (Boyzone, The Spice Girls!) blow your mind with his eight-pedal kit. Check your prejudices at the door as Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain talks swing and power: “I’m blessed to play with the best bass player in the world in our genre of music… but I got to be honest, it’s getting harder for me to play that kind of style physically. I’m an old man. I got my railcard last week! Ha!” Bill Ward. Bill Ward of Black Sabbath! Riveting! “I play orchestration-ally. I’m not a very good backbeat drummer… when you play loud and slow music at the same time, there’s just this huge sustaining growl… a wall of sound”, which Bill then goes on to demonstrate vocally.

Bette Midler’s drummer, Daniel Glass, is great on Billy Gussak’s snare bombs on Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” and Earl Palmer’s shuffle variation on Little Richard’s “Lucille”, and Fay Milton of Savages, after playing an extraordinary triplet pattern for the song “The Answer”, tells us that basically, she’s “replicating my own version in my head of what I’m hearing from a sampler from a track that I loved 20 years ago!” Chad Smith of The Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Ian Paice was the first drummer I wanted to play like, so much swing! See, I’m ten years old again!” – is illuminating about Ringo, Bill Ward, and pretty much everyone else mentioned in the programme. Watch as they all play along to iconic tracks while explaining both the mechanics and the soul…

*In “Funky Drummer”, James Brown announces the upcoming drum break, with a request to “give the drummer some.” He tells Clyde Stubblefield, “You don’t have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got…” Stubblefield’s eight-bar unaccompanied “solo”, a version of the riff he plays through most of the song, is the result of Brown’s directions; this breakbeat is one of the most sampled recordings in music.

THREE IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Seen on a bus in Stratford. First, do you think they asked for Lionel’s (or Liooel, as he’ll always be to me) permission? And, second, isn’t Muzmatch just the worst app name that you’ve ever heard?

5-lionel

FOUR NETFLIX AND CHILLS
More potentially good television. From the press release: An upcoming Netflix docuseries will investigate some of music’s biggest mysteries, including the 1976 assassination attempt on Bob Marley and the murders of Sam Cooke and Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay.

The eight-episode ReMastered will arrive on the streaming service on October 12th with Who Shot the Sheriff?, a look at the role Jamaican politicians and the CIA played in the attempted assassination of Marley, who suffered gunshot wounds to the arm and chest in the incident. The following month, Harlan County U.S.A. documentarian Barbara Kopple co-directs an examination into Johnny Cash’s tumultuous White House meeting with Richard Nixon in Tricky Dick and the Man in Black.

Netflix will stream one new episode of ReMastered every month through May 2019, with the December 2018 episode focusing on Who Killed Jam Master Jay?, the Run-DMC DJ who was killed in a Queens, New York studio in 2002; despite six witnesses, the murder remains unsolved.

Subsequent months bring an investigation into the murder of three members of the Irish group the Miami Showband during the Troubles in Ireland in 1975, the death of Chilean singer Victor Jara at the hands of the Pinochet regime and, in February, a look into the mysterious shooting death of Sam Cooke. ReMastered’s first season concludes with Devil at the Crossroads, about blues legend Robert Johnson and his apocryphal handshake deal with the Devil, and Lion’s Share, about one man’s journey to South Africa to find the true writers behind the hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” ReMastered was created by Emmy award-winners Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist and lists Irving Azoff and Stu Schreiberg among its executive producers.

FIVE BOB CORNER
I usually like Rich Hall and his take on America (from an exile’s perspective), but this promo for his new tour is almost funny (i.e. not funny enough) and pretty mean-spirited. And plain weird to write off everything Bob’s done since 1988, which kinda proves he’s not listening.

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