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 Humphrey’s 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

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.

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?

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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.

Thursday, September 27th

It’s Thursday, and Teresa May is currently redefining the word awkward. Donald Trump is on some quest to recalibrate all norms of human behaviour, and The Bodyguard has thankfully finished (hands down, the worst series that I have ever watched right to the end). However, this week’s Five Things was written in the cool Dark Mode of MacOS Mohave, while listening to a bootleg of the demos for the White Album mostly recorded at George Harrison’s house in Esher. They’re possibly on the new boxset to be released in November.

I like Paul McCartney’s take on it: “We had left Sgt. Pepper’s band to play in his sunny Elysian Fields and were now striding out in new directions without a map.” Ah, musicians in the act of creating something, before it gets nailed down, still loose enough for a certain amount of fun. In a sense, this is their Basement Tapes, and it’s interesting to hear “Back in the USSR” sounding much more Beach-Boys-y, and “Child of Nature” before its melody became re-purposed as “Jealous Guy”.

I wish I were at The Village Trip in New York this week. Congratulations are due to Liz Thompson for having the determination to pull the whole thing together. Starting with a photo exhibition featuring the work of David Gahr, it features a free concert in Washington Square Park with Susanne Vega headling and ends with a gig, Talkin’ New York Folk Revival, at The Bitter End featuring David Amram and Happy Traum. Liz hopes this will be the first year of many celebrating the importance of Greenwich Village in America’s music history.

ONE DAVID & SYD
Writing a profile of my first boss, David Driver, for Eye magazine, I ended up with much material that had to be excised. Here’s David’s recollection of Syd Barrett at the Cambridge School of Art: “Roger ‘Syd’ Barrett was also at the college. He formed Pink Floyd and played at our Christmas parties. I remember going to Syd’s home a few times, and he had a huge collection of singles. There was a mountain of them on the floor. Incredible. He was very clever. But I think he was quite limited in what he could do. He wasn’t a brilliant musician.”
But an interesting all-rounder – did you ever see him post-college?

“Yes. I did. But he was a bit strange around that time. Very sad. You wouldn’t have expected it. When he was at college Syd and Roger Waters were just so desperately keen to pick your brains, they were like magpies. They were a good two or three years below us and, they’d come and scour the place and talk to older students during lunchtime.”

TWO WHENEVER BLUE TEARDROPS ARE FALLING…
I wouldn’t really recommend pulling into Ostend on a Sunday night – there was something menacing about its silent, deserted streets, only punctuated by music belting out of overlit pizza joints that seemed to be filled with over-oiled patrons. I’m sure it looks way better midweek, or on market day. Hotel located we headed to the seafront promenade to find something to eat, passing concert halls and galleries.

There’s a lot of music going on in Ostend, and it embraces its part in the Marvin Gaye story with this: “14 February 1981. Marvin Gaye arrives by ferry in Ostend, together with his little boy, Bubby. It marks the start of a fascinating story about Ostend, Marvin Gaye and the relationship between the two. This documentary walk through the city tells you everything about his comeback and how the monster hit song “Sexual Healing” came to life.” Sadly we won’t be taking that tour, or witnessing this…

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THREE IT MUST BE BOOTLEG WEEK…
…as bobdylan.com announces the Blood on the Tracks entry to the Bootleg Series. So we’re at Volume 14 with More Blood, More Tracks. “The 6CD full-length deluxe version includes the complete New York sessions in chronological order including outtakes, false starts and studio banter. The album’s producers have worked from the best sources available, in most cases utilising the original multi-track session tapes.” Two thoughts. How staggering is it to reach number 14 in a multi-disc series using mainly just your unreleased masters and alternate takes. And, secondly, I could fill a week just listening to the 18 CDs in The Cutting Edge box set. Trouble is, I don’t have a week to devote to it, or worse, the desire. When is too much enough?

FOUR JUNK PARTNERS…
The reason I was listening to the Beatles bootleg, above, was to find out more about the song that titles Hailey Tuck’s first album, “Junk”. I feel slightly guilty for liking the record as much as I do, but as with all of Larry Klein’s productions the musicianship is so damned musicianly and the songs so well-chosen it’s hard to resist. Dean Parks is all over it, and Jay Bellerose on drums gives his usual masterly best – check out his accented playing on “My Chemical Life”.

The song is very cute, spun off a quote by W. H. Auden. “He said that in order to wake up, he would drink coffee, down a shot of whiskey, and take whatever drugs would get him into the mood of writing and he called it his chemical life. So the song’s about a suburban wife who is addicted to drugs kind of try to escape the banality of her wifey existence.” – Hailey Tuck, talking to Charles Waring of SoulandJazzandFunk. “Speedballs and cappuccino / My mother called from San Marino / Where Lambourghinis float down soft suburban streets / And gardeners keep the rhododendrons nice and neat”.

Other songs include Pulp’s “Underwear” (“If fashion is your trade, then when you’re naked / I guess you must be unemployed…”) and The Kinks’ “Alcohol” (“Barleywine, pink gin / He’ll drink anything…”), and the rather lovely version of McCartney’s “Junk” that started this.

FIVE SEEN AT A VINTAGE FAIR AT WALTHAMSTOW ASSEMBLY HALL

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EXTRA LET’S FINISH WITH THIS!
If you haven’t seen it… The Band of the Welsh Guards played Aretha Franklin’s “R.E.S.P.E.C.T” on the day of her funeral, on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. 

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.

 

 

 

Tuesday, September 11th

Finishing the book [see below] and the whole Summer thing took my eye off the ball, but Five Things will return refreshed next week. In the meantime here are a few notes…

IN THE NEWS…
So they’re finally making the Dusty Springfield movie, with Gemma Arterton starring. “I’ve been an admirer of Dusty Springfield since I was a teenager. Her effortless, husky voice, the way she conveyed emotion through music, how she helped bring Motown to the UK… She was generous, witty, mercurial, shy, extrovert and a true English eccentric. I simply cannot wait to play her.” Now, this is where it gets interesting: the narrative will focus on a pivotal time in Springfield’s career – the 1968 recording of Dusty in Memphis, which gave birth to top 10 hit, “Son of a Preacher Man” recorded after Aretha Franklin passed on it.

As Paul Sexton wrote on udiscovermusic.com earlier this year, “Recordings got underway with Wexler, Dowd and Mardin all in the control room at American, and with the great session players known collectively as the Memphis Cats adding their studio expertise. But for all her vocal greatness, Springfield’s insecurities, and a certain uneasiness in these new surroundings made the Memphis sessions difficult for all concerned. Notwithstanding the authentic Southern flavour of the tracks, the album’s title belied the fact that Dusty’s final vocals for it were recorded at later sessions in New York.”

LISTENING TO…
“Todo Homem”. An aching falsetto, a feather bed of Rhodes, a beguiling melody, a fingerprint of bass and nylon-string guitar, some whistling. Fleet Foxes may be a lazy touchpoint, or Bon Iver, maybe*. I just haven’t heard anything as mesmeric as this for a while… Tom Veloso with his family, Caetano Veloso, Moreno Veloso & Zeca Veloso. 

WATCHING…
Drinkers Like Me – Adrian Chiles (BBC Two). A thoughtful and fascinating programme, but there seemed to be a gaping hole where liking or appreciating the pleasures of the taste of wine and beer, or the combination of food and drink, was missing. Directed by Laurence Turnbull, it used short selections from a cool array of music. Early in the programme a soupcon of Alabama Shakes’ “Sound & Color” made me listen more closely. Here’s what else was used, handily listed on the BBC website.

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The Bodyguard, generator of an absurd amount of press. Really? It’s quite poor. Nobody’s told Richard Madden that staring isn’t acting, and every character is made from the thinnest cardboard. There’s no hinterland here. I don’t mind suspending disbelief, but there has to be something to suspend it from. Mind, I never liked Jed Mecurio’s Line of Duty – characters speaking in cliches and wearing way too much makeup for the 9 to 5.

READING…
Just finished First Time Ever, Peggy Seeger’s memoir of her life as Pete Seeger’s younger sister and Ewan McColl’s second wife (and the subject of McColl’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”). I’ve never really been a fan of her brand of folk, but the book’s unflinching and extraordinary style makes for a compelling read. An excerpt: “You reveal yourself the minute you go on stage. You present who you are, who you have been and how you want to be thought of. Your behaviour on and off stage tells all to the practised eye – if you have one persona on stage and another off, that can be tricky, for if these two entities do not work well together they will either trudge on like a tired marriage or one will begin to dominate… The audience is cannier than you think. They will only be fooled if they want to be fooled. But sometimes they may not know that they’ve been led down this or that path until it opens up into a clearing where we can all sit down and have the picnic…” There’s an excellent review of it here, and thanks, Tim, for loaning it to me.

IN PICTURES…


Klaus Voormann’s bass for sale.

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So Long: Marianne’s Leonard artefacts auctioned at Christie’s.
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Bob Gumpert brings a bottle of Heaven’s Door Double Barrel Whiskey to us!

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Clay Risen in The New York Times said: “More restrained than its stablemates, the Double Barrel – in which different whiskeys have been blended and further aged together in another cask – smells of cake batter, fresh berries and children’s cough syrup; as it develops in the glass, its nose turns darker and woodier, with a hint of sweet fortified wine lurking in the background. It tastes surprisingly astringent and medicinal, given the nose, with a thin mouthfeel and notes of tobacco, allspice and wood smoke, resolving in ground pepper.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves. Amanda Petrusich wrote a lovely piece about trying the range in The New Yorker here.

*I admit laziness here.


If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 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

 

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