Thursday, 21st July

ONE MY FAVOURITE PARAGRAPH FROM KIM GORDON’S “GIRL IN A BAND”…
In an honest and strangely fascinating book, it’s this one: “In 1980 New York was near bankruptcy, with garbage strikes every month it seemed, and a crumbling weedy infrastructure. These days it gleams and towers in ways most people I know hate and can’t understand. Hugging the parkway in the West Sixties and Seventies is an ugly sheet of Trump buildings, a monument to urban corruption, soft money, and natives – who should have taken to the streets – saying nothing. Farther down the island, joggers, baby strollers and blue and red bikes flow alongside a fluted, flower-filled river walkway alongside once-scary, now-forgotten docks, where gay men once met up in the dark for dates, hookups, and hookers in mink coats and high boots worked the nights until sunrise and breakfast.”

TWO OH GIVE ME A HOME, WHERE THE TAPE OPS DO ROAM…
This week’s newsletter from WowHaus (for all your modernist property needs worldwide, people) has not one but two houses with attached recording studios. One is Frank Zappa’s, on Woodrow Wilson Drive, LA.

zappa“This is what the agent describes as the ultimate Artists’ retreat, complete with the famed Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. The house also has the kind of quirks you would expect for a Zappa house too, such as porthole windows and doors salvaged from vintage submarines.” Yours for $5.5 mil.

houseThe other, with a more discreet seller, is St Ann’s Court in Surrey. “Moving on to the Coach House; that’s laid out over a single floor, currently used as a creative working and living space. A good amount of that is used as a recording space, originally built by Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera (a previous owner) and used by the likes of Paul Weller, Robert Wyatt and David Gilmour. It has since been redesigned and now has a ‘large live room and a spectacular control room’.” Yours for around £9 mil. Well, not yours – or mine – obviously.

THREE RULE BRITANNIA IS OUT OF BOUNDS!
At daughter’s party at Battersea Arts Centre, Alan finds an old upright in a corridor. He – with the aid of Google and an iPhone – calls up the chords and lyrics for great pop songs like “Five Years” and “We Are the Champions” which he then proceeds to play, rather fabulously, in the style of Chas and Dave.*

alan

FOUR A GUITAR PLANS CHEST, YOU SAY, VINCE?
I’m not even sure how I stumbled across this, but Vince Gill’s guitar collection is a treasure trove. He’s even had a custom built set of drawers to cushion and protect them, although (rather endearingly) he clunks two extremely rare Martin acoustics together at one point.

vince

FIVE STEVE’S ON THE BOULEVARD, MIXING UP THE DR. PH. MARTENS INKS
From his desk in Paris, I receive Steve Way’s next cartoon for the William De’Ath column (a majorly eccentric column at that) in The Oldie, which he said he’d been waiting to do for years

steve

* for those who don’t know of them, Chas and Dave are “an English pop rock duo, most notable as creators and performers of a musical style labelled “rockney” (a portmanteau of rock and cockney), which mixes pub singalong, music-hall humour, boogie-woogie piano and pre-Beatles rock ’n’ roll.”

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Thursday, 7th July

ONE THE WORLD IS IN AN UPROAR, THE DANGER ZONE IS EVERYWHERE
And this tweet brilliantly summed up recent job losses…

Spice

TWO FOUND IN THE VAULTS OF ROCK’S BACKPAGES…
This series of ads and subscription offers from a very early copy of Paul Williams’ Crawdaddy. “I know you need the bread!”, “About everything in life except June-moon-croon!” “Because Nyro is Nyro!”

crawdaddy

THREE THE THINGS YOU LEARN
Sent on a small Bill Withers journey by The Immortal Jukebox, I came across the interesting tale of his first album on the mix site, written by Barbara Schultz. There’s the fascinating story of Wally Heider’s studio in the piece, which is basically an interview with the great engineer Bill Halverson. And how many articles about recording studios feature the word “soffit”? “Withers was eventually signed to Sussex Records, and the great Booker T. Jones was enlisted to produce the new artist’s debut album, Just as I Am in 1971. Also on the session were two members of the MGs – drummer Al Jackson and bass player Donald “Duck” Dunn – plus singer/songwriter Stephen Stills on guitar. The recordings were made in Wally Heider’s Studio 3, then situated in L.A. at the corner of Cahuenga and Selma. The engineer was Bill Halverson, whose credits at that point included such essential records as Crosby Stills and Nash’s massive self-titled debut, Cream’s Badge, Tom Jones Sings She’s a Lady and CSNY’s Déjà Vu.

“It was Stephen Stills’ studio time that we were using,” Halverson recalls by phone from his home in Nashville. “I was working with Stephen on his first solo record, and he came to me a couple nights before this and said, ‘I’ve got this guy who needs a night of studio time.’ Stephen was hanging with Rita Coolidge, and Booker was marrying [Rita Coolidge’s sister] Priscilla Coolidge, and somehow Booker asked Stephen for some studio time. We just spent the one night.” On Withers’ session, Halverson placed Jackson’s kit near the control room glass, under an overhanging soffit – again, an emulation of United Western 3 – that held the studio playback speakers. “If you tucked the drums as close as you could under that overhang of the big speakers, you were out in the room but you had really good isolation,” Halverson says.

“When Bill Withers showed up,” Halverson says, “he comes walking in with his guitar and a straight-back chair, like a dining room chair, and asks, ‘Where do I set up?’ I showed him right in the middle of the room, and then he left and he came back in with this platform, a kind of wooden box that didn’t have a bottom. It was about four inches tall, and was maybe 3 foot by 4 foot; it was a fairly large platform, and he set it down in the middle of the room. Then he put his chair on it and got his guitar out, and he’s sitting on top of this box. So I miked him and I miked his guitar, and then I was doing other things – getting sounds together. But then he calls me over and he points down to the box and says, ‘You gotta mike the box.’ Well, the way I was trained, you serve the artist, whatever the artist needs. So I got a couple other mics and I miked the box, the place down near the floor, next to this platform.
 
“And now, when you listen to “Ain’t No Sunshine,” you know that all that tapping that goes on [while Withers sings] ‘I know I know I know’ all through it, actually, that’s him tapping his feet on the box, which is actually more intricate than the guitar on that track. He had evidently rehearsed that in his living room, maybe for years.”

I found the great documentary, Still Bill, directed by Damani Baker and Alex Vlack, complete on YouTube. I wrote a little about it in 2012. If you haven’t seen it, rectify that omission soon. Oh, and check out the Cornell Dupree version of “Grandma’s Hands” at 1 hr 6 minutes.

FOUR AT WIMBLEDON, A NICE JUXTAPOSITION OF WORDS

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Words that sent me back to Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines, on trumpet and piano, playing “Weather Bird”, one of the marvels of 20th Century music. It’s in the Music Player on the right.

FIVE MUSIC SOFTWARE AND THE INTERNET LEAD TO SOME MOST-STRANGE BEDFELLOWS…
Such as Auctioneers and Hip Hop. Clever and hypnotic.

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Tuesday, June 28th

ONE THE MOST TIMELY QUESTION IS, WHY?

beatlesFrom this month’s issue of Vanity Fair, the maestro Beatles watch. Aesthetically a complete non-starter, this is what you get: “The 13 Beatles’ album titles are written all around the bespoke dial, with a special “Help” index at 4 o’clock which recalls the cover of the iconic album released in 1965. The silver galvanic dial matches the polished steel bracelet. It features the official Beatles logo and a date window at 3 o’clock. This unique timepiece paying tribute to the legendary Fab Four is limited to 3,000 pieces.” A “Help” index?You can join the discussion at #RWThe Beatles.” What discussion? Who’s discussing this? “It retails at around £950.” I know, I know, we can’t wait ’til we get to the shop… “Each maestro Beatles will be presented with a dedicated watch case celebrating the music icons. An impressive drum with the official Beatles logo decorates the top of the box.” Believe me, the drum box is not impressive…

TWO THIS IS WHAT THEY WERE LISTENING TO FIFTY YEARS AGO IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA…! KHJ29June66.jpg

THREE THE QUIETEST MUSIC VIDEO EVER
Greenpeace: “Through his music, acclaimed Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi has added his voice to those of eight million people from across the world demanding protection for the Arctic. Einaudi performed one of his own compositions on a floating platform in the middle of the Ocean, against the backdrop of the Wahlenbergbreen glacier (in Svalbard, Norway).”

 

FOUR CRUISING UP PARK LANE AT NIGHT IN A DROP-TOP MERC…
…with Joan Armatrading’s “Love & Affection” and “Down to Zero” on the sound system. An enjoyably bonkers Chelsea School of Art reunion/event ended up with a lift in Kwok’s new car with a suitably late-seventies soundtrack. I was recently reminded of her odd, stern, almost solemn voice when I watched current act Rationale on Later… with Jools Holland. And those songs still sound unusual as pop hits…

FIVE SNAP SHOT!
Loving the groovy table at Snap Gallery – the place for all your Rock music photographic needs. I remember Guy’s first gallery in the Custard Factory in Birmingham, which, if memory serves me well, featured Daniel Kramer’s photos as its opening exhibition.

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And now Dan Kramer returns to Snap in Piccadilly Arcade for A Year and a Day: “Daniel Kramer first photographed bob Dylan on 27 August 1964 in Woodstock, and his final photographs of Bob Dylan were taken on 28 August 1965, just over a year later. Dan was in the studio when Bob Dylan recorded Bringing It All Back Home, and took the Grammy-nominated cover photograph for that album, and its follow up Highway 61 Revisited. He photographed Dylan live in many guises – solo, duetting with Joan Baez (triptych, below), and in his final session, electrified with The Hawks at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium – and behind the scenes, relaxing off stage with friends.”

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AND ON THE MUSIC PLAYER…
to the right, from last week’s post, hear Van Morrison and the Caledonia Soul Orchestra awesomely funk up “Sweet Thing” as John Platania’s guitar and David Hayes’ bass burn up the Rainbow. From the recently released It’s Too Late To Stop Now, Volumes II, III and IV.

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Tuesday, 21st June

ONE I THINK WE’VE REACHED PEAK ROCK ’N’ ROLL…

brides

Complete with a David Bowie tribute (why?) a drugstore guide (wrong kind of drug reference, no?) and, from the glorious inside pages, a typical R ’n’ R Bride pull quote.

TWO CHIPS MOMAN, R.I.P.
At the turn of the millennium Chips Moman sold some of his astonishing guitar collection at Christies. My pal Mark went along, said Hi to Chips, didn’t bid, gave me the catalogue. Here is the jewel of the collection, although for me it was given a run for its money by the Coral Sitar, as featured on From Elvis in Memphis (where it was played by the sublime Reggie Young) and on “Cry Like a Baby” by The Box Tops.

scotty

The price realised by the 1956 Gibson Super 400 CES was a staggering £67,550, but as the man says, “This guitar is believed to have been used on more hit records than any other comparable instrument in pop history.” Originally purchased by Scotty Moore, the guitarist with Elvis Presley’s backing band, it became known by other musicians and fans as “the blonde Elvis guitar.” Among the Presley records on which Scotty Moore used the guitar were All Shook Up, Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, King Creole and One Night. In addition, Scotty is seen playing the guitar in the Elvis Presley feature films Loving You and Jailhouse Rock. According to Chips, Moore would get annoyed with Elvis for playing around with the guitar he described as “his pride and joy.” Scotty: “In 1963, I was working at Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, TN. We needed some equipment for the studio for which funds were not available. Chips Moman owned his studio in Memphis, American, and he had the set of vibes which we needed. I had recently acquired a new guitar and had the old one available, which Chips wanted for the historical value. The guitar was traded for one set of vibes, a small classic guitar, and $80.00 cash.” Was that ever a bargain…

Chips regularly used the guitar during his own recording sessions, both as a player and a producer. It was used on literally hundreds of sessions between 1963 and the early 70s, appearing on several hundred hit records, including Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman” and “Never Loved A Man” and Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally.” Session guitarist Reggie Young played the guitar on Elvis’s 1969 sessions in Memphis, which produced the hit singles “Suspicious Minds” and “In The Ghetto.”

THREE SOUND OF THE WEEK
Working with French photographer Lionel Derimais on a book project about his time living in China, he shows me this: flocks of pigeons in Beijing, with whistles attached to their tail feathers.

FOUR WHILE I’M HAPPY TO HAVE MORE FROM THE VAN VAULTS…
…in the shape of It’s Too Late To Stop Now Volumes II, III and IV, I’ve got to say that the packaging sucks. There are seventeen photos of Van (yes, I counted them), all essentially variations of the same shot, but none of the wonderful Caledonian Soul Orchestra (unless you count a couple of fuzzy B&W’s of saxophonist Jack Shroer). Why downgrade the input of one of the great bands in rock? Also, there’s just a perfunctory liner note, but no context-setting essay, no reminiscences – in short, no great effort. I still have to watch the DVD of the Rainbow show, but hey – poor work, Sony Legacy. In the music player to the right, hear the Orchestra awesomely funk up “Sweet Thing” as John Platania’s guitar and David Hayes’ bass burn up the Rainbow.

FIVE BOB FINALLY PLAYS A REQUEST SHOUTED OUT FROM THE AUDIENCE!
It’s just not for one of his songs
In other Bob news, this sent by Bob G: Mikael Wood in the LA Times site on Dylan at the Shrine: “What a treat it was to hear someone at this stage in his career playing what excites him now rather than what excited him 3 million years ago.”

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Friday, June 17th

ONE AT HENDRIX AND HANDEL’S…
…where the launch for The Last Great Event (Volume 2 of When the World Came to the Isle of Wight by Ray Foulk) took place. Since it opened in February I’ve meant to go, so it was good to finally get there.

hendrix

In the photos: A poor cut out on the greeting poster, that loses half a Stratocaster – took me back to the great old days of letterpress block cutters; A wall featuring some of Jimi’s record collection (good to see Sam’s first recording of Lightnin’ Hopkins after re-discovering him); The nicely done record bins where each record is listed alongside little stories and anecdotes; Some guests having their picture taken in the recreated bedroom; Cute plate as plaque, yours for £42.50 (£2.82 in 1970’s cash).

TWO THE BAND IN LANDYLAND
A show at Camden Proud that sadly didn’t feature an appearance by Elliot Landy (I’d taken my copy of Woodstock Vision in quest of an autograph) or enough material to sate the thirst of people who are excited by the idea of a show of photos of The Band. A disappointingly un-curated take on a fascinating period, with no real context (such as the story of Robbie Robertson, fed up with being told their album cover could be shot by the best that New York had to offer, Penn or Avedon, replying “Who’s the worst photographer…” and Grossman saying “I don’t know if he’s the worst but he keeps bugging me” and gave the job to Landy. Where were the photos of The Band playing American football remembered from the sheet music book of The Band album, where was Hudson (Garth) on a Hudson (automobile) by the Hudson (River)? Ah well, write this off as the moanings of a boring fan. Here is my favourite unseen photo, Richard Manuel as Warren Beatty.

landyband

THREE HEAR THE ICELAND FANS ROCK SAINT-ÉTIENNE

FOUR FAVOURITE CORRECTION OF THE WEEK
Corrections and clarifications, The Guardian: “A column (How we made… The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds, 7 June, page 19, G2) featured interviews with the Orb’s Alex Paterson and Youth. The accompanying photograph, however, did not show Paterson with Youth, as the caption said, but with another member of the Orb lineup, Thrash.
 

FIVE HERE’S A SONG FOR THE SUMMER: “SEALED WITH A KISS”
As I was recording this I read that jazz guitarist John Etheridge was doing a version in his live sets so I deliberately avoided searching for his version until I’d completed mine. Then, of course, I YouTubed his: the melody lends itself to his approach, on top of the Steely Dan-ish organ chords and I really like Mark Kircher’s drumming in the intro.

I’d heard the song for the first time in years on one of the last episodes of Mad Men and the melody nagged away at me. One one hand it’s an over-ripe teen anthem, on the other a singular melody that doesn’t sound like a “pop” tune at all. Anyhow, joined by talented, proper musicians – Mark Pringle on guitar and structure, Paul Taylor on trombone and arrangement, I give to you, on the music player to your right, my take on Brian Hyland’s summer smash, “Sealed With a Kiss”. As always, play it loud. When the music player is updated and the song is no longer there, you can find it here.

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Friday, June 10th

ONE LAST SECOND

 

My dear friend, cartoonist Steve Way (he of Punch and Van Morrison SatNav fame) once put together a compilation of all the between-song moments from every live album he could find, which ended up as a very unsettling soundscape, with a weird repeating flow of gratified applause giving way to hushed anticipation. In the same vein comes this: the last second from every AC/DC song, courtesy of Mark & Neanderpaul. How great an idea – it sounds even better than you’d imagine. I’m just speaking for myself, obvs.

TWO GRAHAM FACTS
I mention Theodore Bikel in last week’s Amanda Palmer & Father review, and Gray [Eclectic Eel] Lovatt  asks: “What, dramatically speaking, connects Johnny Cash and Theodore Bikel?” I have no idea. “They both played murderers on Columbo! The Johnny Cash one is particularly good”, says Gray. My question is… was the Johnny Cash episode set in Reno, where I believe Johnny shot a man just to watch him die?

NO THIRD TERM HOW WEIRD IS THIS? OR, HOW COOL IS THIS?

obama

FOUR FOUR TWO
The opening ceremony for the Euros plumbed new depths (saying that, a few days later the parade along the Mall for the Queen’s 90th birthday managed to lower the bar again). A shockingly bad Can-can on what looked like a giant child’s play mat to a disco version of “La Vie En Rose” was followed by the dreadful David Guetta punching the air and pretending to listen in his cans for the next cue. He did a tip-top job of trying to look like a busy man, although really all he had to do was to press play at the beginning of the nonsense. I know I always moan about this but who handed all large public events (from the cycling at 6 Day London, to the poor dear’s 90th) to people who seem to think the only place we all want to be is in a foam-filled disco in Ibiza or Las Vegas?

OBVIOUSLY FIVE BELIEVERS BOUGHT IN PARIS: A FATHER’S DAY GIFT FOR THE DYLAN FAN IN YOUR LIFE?

dylanplaybookAs Amazon says: “This is the ultimate collector’s activity-book to be approached with glue, scissors and coloring pencils.”

For the full 5 Things experience, please click on the Date Headline of the page in the email and you will go to the proper site (which allows you to see the Music Player). Also all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Friday, June 3rd

ONE BOBBY CHARLES ROLLS ON AT THE EE STORE!

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TWO WE WATCH VICTORIA
Shot in one real-time take, be immersed in a young Spanish woman’s night out gone wrong. It’s breathless and brutal and has a terrific score by Nils Frahm. “We were given unusual creative freedom by approaching the movie together with [director] Sebastian Schipper, who was keeping the production and direction to one single team. The score was recorded in a special location, the former GDR broadcasting production facilities that today host Studio P4. We simply put a big screen in the middle of the room, filled it with microphones and instruments, set the movie on loop and kept improvising on top of it together – my good friends and I.” Frahm had wondered if such a unique film even needed music, but his score becomes a compelling part of the whole experience. Afterwards, we sat asking each other questions – how did the cinematographer avoid getting any of the crew in shot? how scripted was the dialogue? would a traffic jam stop them reaching their next set of marks? I’d watch it again tomorrow.

THREE PAY DONNIE HERRON HIS DUES, REVIEWERS!
I don’t think I’ve seen more than a cursory mention of Donnie Herron in the Fallen Angels Dylan album reviews (or, for that matter, in those for Shadows in the Night) but his pedal steel playing on both records takes the instrument in new orchestral directions. It’s never over-sweet or brash – it’s luscious, swooning and widescreen. Too often the discussion of Dylan centres on his voice (or lyrics) to the exclusion of truckloads of great, inspired musicianship. I was pointed to this great article by legendary engineer Al Schmitt on the recording of Shadows in the Night, where he talks eloquently about the process of recording live: “At one point Schmitt did suggest some kind of mixing process, but Dylan had other ideas. “We wanted everything to sound like it was done at the same time in the same room,” the engineer recalls. “I rode the fader on his vocals, and I panned everything pretty much as it was in the room, apart from the electric guitar, which I panned to the left, opposite the pedal steel. I placed the bass where I felt it should be, which was not too loud. At end of the session we listened back to the final takes, and that was it. Dylan decided which take of each song he liked best, and that one would immediately be locked as the master. When I mentioned mixing Dylan said: ‘No, I love the way this sounds.’  …It really was just the way records were made in the old days! In those days you could not edit or fix things, and so you had to do the take when things were emotionally right. And you chose the take that had the feel on it. This is why so many records from back then are so much more emotional and touch you so much more deeply. Today everything is perfect, and in many places we have taken the emotions out of records.”

FOUR FOUND IN A FLEA MARKET, RIGHT UP CALUM*’S STREET…

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A box of 16 singles from the 50s/60s. Ranging from the Red Army to Mahalia Jackson. Mine for 10 Euros. *Calum blogs about sound, provocatively, at likeahammerinthesink.

FIVE IN A DRESS MADE FROM CURTAINS!
I liked the excellently psychedelic video for Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”. Familiar ground lyrically, of course, but a real earworm of a tune. Like the song, Patrick Daughters’ video doesn’t really build or go anywhere, but it’s a pleasant Bollywood-esqe ride. And a strong look, no?

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EXTRA ON THE MUSIC PLAYER
In a recent interview, Elvis Costello said that Prince was right about everything to do with the rights of artists, the music industry and the Internet. But Melanie Safka got there first… “Well you know that I’m not a gambler / But I’m being gambled on / They put in a nickel and I sing a little song / They’re only putting in a nickel and / They want a dollar song…”

Friday, May 20th

lakestreetONE LAKE STREET DIVE: A DAUGHTER SPEAKS
In the half cinema-half club that is the Scala we see Lake Street Dive. Afterwards I asked J about it.

Dad What did you think?
Daughter They were constantly surprising – there were ballads, 60s style pop, country, jazz – it really felt like being at a roadside bar, and the only thing missing was the cigarette smoke! Vaping doesn’t feel the same! 

D I thought they really looked like they were having a good time.
D Yes! They had a great rapport with the audience, and with each other. You really felt they were four friends making great music together, who just happened to be giving a concert – to another bunch of friends! In sitcom terms, Bridget the bass player looked kooky and fun, Rachael the singer was the glamorous one, one boy a little serious and studious (the guitarist), the other a little showy (the Italian drummer). He did an excellent solo on a rented kit (coincidentally painted in the colours of the Italian flag!).

D Did you have a favourite song? Had you actually heard much before we went?
D I only knew a couple, but I think “Saving all my Sinning” was my favourite live – it had a great intro about growing older and saving up all your bad decisions for a party night. And I thought the cover they did of the Kinks “Lola” was a perfect fit for their sound. I really like their sound, it’s very rich, considering there are only three instruments. Oh, apart from when the guitarist plays trumpet, but that still makes three, as he puts down the guitar!

D I think the fullness is down to subtle percussion and really nicely worked-out guitar parts…
D Yes, but I think the bassist is the key to their sound. On one song it was just Bridget behind Rachael for the first half and there didn’t seem to be anything missing…

D I thought the first encore was terrific, all of them clustered round one mic doing “Nobody Knows What I’m Doin’ Here”. I tried to video it, but I held the phone the wrong way up…
D Typical! That was great, but the song that touched me the most was “So Long”, dedicated to Prince – the sound of longing really stayed with me…

TWO ON TOM HANKS’ FASCINATING DESERT ISLAND DISCS THERE WAS…
Hands up who’s never heard Dusty Springfield’s “Doodlin’”. I can’t be the only one, surely. How did I miss it? Whoa, my knowledge has such enormous holes in it. Whatever, what a track, with its lovely slinky drumming and psychedelic strings. Oh, yes, and a spectacular lyric! Starting with “Usin’ the phone booth/makin’ a few calls/Doodlin’ weird things/usin’ the booth walls – yeah!” It continues in a restaurant: “Later the waiter/had me arrested/took me to Bellvue/where I was tested…” and at the hospital with the doctor… “Showed him hidden thoughts that linger/find an outlet through your finger”. I head over to Wikipedia to find that “Doodlin’” is a composition by Horace Silver, with lyrics added by Jon Hendricks (of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross). It has become a jazz standard. Reviewer Bill Kirchner suggests, “Take a simple riff, rhythmically displace it several times over D-flat blues harmonies, resolve it with a staccato, quasi-humorous phrase, and you have “Doodlin’”. Thanks, Bill. Time to listen to it once more, while chuckling at Hanks’ calling David Byrne “Weird Dave” as he chooses Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime”.

THREE ROBBIE FULKS HAS A NEW RECORD OUT
I hope it matches his description of his new, redesigned, website: “The new look – from the Russian Tea Room to the Trump Tower! What a snazzy makeover we’ve gotten here at the worldwide. The friendly navigational tools are sure to make blog-reading and record-shopping like falling off a log. The magnificent (except for the subject) photos taken by Andy Goodwin provide an environmental hue so warm and deep and cosy, you’ll be tempted to bring your business partners here to butter them up and shoot them. Many thanks to Mike Sosin of the fledgling Bloodshot record label of Chicago, Ill. for bringing this website to life and ignoring all helpful input. Be sure to let us know what you think! We can’t wait to ignore you.”

FOUR SUTTON HOUSE
As the oldest Tudor House in London, Sutton House is fascinating, but when you get to the room upstairs, time periods co-exist. Over time the house had fallen into disuse, and it was squatted in the 1980s by a local group who wanted to turn it into a community centre and neighbourhood hub, but they were moved on after several months. Their aim survived, though – the National Trust took it over and it’s now used for local events as well as being a window into the past. What’s nice is that the squatters are paid tribute to by an approximation of how the room looked when they were there.

sutton

And the caption tells us that “this eye was painted by an anonymous squatter in 1985. It is said to be the emblem of the rock group PSI”. That may be Psi Com, Perry Farrell’s first group but I can’t find that image anywhere. I can tell you that the record on the deck is by the Thompson Twins.

FIVE MICK VS MILES
My friend Mick Gold had kindly invited me to a screening of “Miles Ahead” and I having said yes excitedly, sadly had to cancel. The next day, Mick sends his thoughts. “Aaargh! You didn’t miss much. For a start, the script is awful, Ewan MacGregor is totally unbelievable as a Rolling Stone journalist with a Scottish accent who knows nothing about music, there is an evil record producer who is a cardboard villain, and the whole thing is orchestrated by blaxploitation guns & car chase clichés that don’t even work.
“But I think it’s weirder than that. I don’t think it’s cynical. I think it’s a labour of love gone wrong. Maybe it reveals that Don Cheadle is a fine actor but has no taste and no writing ability. I understand he spent nine years getting the movie made – he wrote it, produced it, starred in it, directed it, crowdfunded it, and poured his own money into it. This was not some cynical quickie movie.
“The sad thing is I think Cheadle is striking as Miles: he looks good, he does the voice well. Only problem is its farrago of bad Superfly and tortured genius cliches. Not everyone was as miserable as me. There was laughter and applause at BAFTA, and I sat next to two editor friends who said to me afterwards, That was great. When I said, That was awful, their faces fell.” 

In other news, it’s BobWeek on rocksbackpages, and full of wonderful writing on the Iron Range’s favourite son, so head on over and get a subscription now… [end of marketing plug].

Tuesday, May 10th

AL GREEN NITE!
A chance stumbling across a Bee Gees concert the other night while my mother was staying with us led to an across-the-board agreement that the Bros Gibb wrote some crackers, which then led on to an Al Green YouTube-athon, Al being one of my mother’s favourite singers. I said “You have to see this!” and lined up Al in 1973 doing the Robin and Barry Gibb classic “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (which I have previously mentioned here). That led on to many delights, but it was the Soul Train version of “Take Me to the River” that took the biscuit. With a horn intro that I’d swear was sampled by Gil Scott Heron for “B Movie”, the drummer starts working a storm up behind Al. Al whips his arm around in the air like he’s lassoing the band to join him in the river itself. The drummer holds back his fills ’til the last moment each time around. He’s playing a space age kit with bowl drums – I’ve never seen one like it before. Once you’ve spotted Homer Simpson’s face in those bowls, it’s hard not to keep seeing it. Make sure to play this loud – as Don Cornelius says at the end, it’s a Stone Gas…

CRAFT BEER LABELS REALLY PUSHING WORDPLAY TO NEW LEVEL
Peter, Pale and Mary, anyone?

!beer

A BONUS OF OCCASIONAL LECTURING…
…is that, apart from spending a day with a really nice engaged group of people, you get a poster done for your visit, and in the case of working at Southampton for Chris Arran and Jonny Hanmsotonnah, a hand-crafted CD (Songs from the Mermaid Café , in association with Trunk Records, to tie in with Jonny’s exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park).It has now accompanied me on a few trips and is a fluid mixture of things known and unknown. We’ve long thrilled to the calypso stylings of Robert Mitchum, but were not au fait with Pinky Winters, whose “Cool Sazerac” is a highlight. My favourite track is not the title music to Kes, or even the beat-driven “Comin’ Home Baby”, by The Velvet Fog, Mr Mel Tormé, apparently a Northern Soul classic, and totally terrific. No, it’s the beautiful “Melodie Pour Les Radio Taxis”, played by Barney Wilen, Kenny Clarke, Kenny Dorham, Paul Rovere and Duke Jordan, from the soundtrack to Un Témoin Dans La Ville – totally unknown to me, but found by Jonny in the Trunk Record archives. Hear it in the music player to the right…
From a site devoted to Wilen: “The main character of his playing continues to lie in his even trajectory. His solos have a serene assurance which eschews dynamic shifts in favor of a single flowing line. With his tone still exceptionally bright and refined, it grants his playing a rare, persuasive power.”
And Jonny’s own liner notes are a treat: “The trunk itself has more than a touch of the Tardis about it. Once you open the lid, you soon find yourself diving in headlong, ’til only your loafers are seen popping out. And once the rummaging begins, there’s no possible way to stop. And why would you want to? This particular record shop, above us in the great internet wen, is far more interesting than anything you’ll find on most high streets…”

AN EXCERPT FROM TOM JONES’ “OVER THE TOP AND BACK”
Dip into Tom’s book anywhere and you’ll be rewarded with a pithy take on his career at that point…
“And then an opportunity opens up for me to become a recording artist at the home of the world’s most notorious gangsta rap label… Tom Jones at Interscope. It couldn’t seem less likely. Of all the records companies in all the world, at this point in time. So suddenly my world is now Jimmy Iovine’s phonebook And Jimmy Iovone’s phone book is not short of numbers. Furthermore, during the making of the album we happily sign up for, he seems ready to use every single one of them…
Teddy Riley from the Backstreet Boys, the king of new jack swing, gets asked to produce some tracks. So does Jeff Lynne. So does Trevor Horn. So does Flood, who has worked with U2 and Nine Inch Nails. So does Youth, the techno and dub producer. So, for all I know, do any number of other people who aren’t too fussy about having a surname in 1994.
As the album comes together, Jimmy gets in touch. ‘I’ve been listening to everything , and it’s great,’ he says. ‘But I’m just trying to think of the track my mother is going to like.’ Seriously? Even now, at Interscope, with lethal rap acts down the hall and armed guards on the door, with money flying around to bring in the hippest producers and writers known to man, we’re still wondering how to please Jimmy Iovine’s mother?
Nothing against Jimmy Iovine’s mother, obviously.”
It’s a cracking read, poor proofreading notwithstanding (Porter Wagner? Shell Talmay?). And the CD that was released to tie in with the publication, Long Lost Suitcase, is a nice evocation of 50s music of all stripes, with one standout track – a version of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ “Elvis Presley Blues”. It was a strong song when it appeared on Time (The Revelator), but here it’s given depth by an arrangement brilliant in its simplicity – the only backing is producer Ethan Johns’ guitar over-amped and tremolo’d to the point of feedback, throbbing from left to right in the speakers, providing a bluesy plaincloth for Jones to sing over, just the right amount of unpolished. And Tom has something to give the song; after all, he knew Presley as peer and friend, and the lyric stares him in the face – “I was thinking that night about Elvis / Day that he died, day that he died/ He was all alone in a long decline…”

WHAT DID YOU DO AT WORK TODAY, DARLING…
“Well, I played my clarinet, I mean I held my clarinet, through two holes, um, in a sound stage and lifted it, you know, miming, when the clarinet section played… no, I couldn’t play it, it was just my arms through the stage, I had no way of blowing, just my arms, I couldn’t see anything, the floorboards were very close to my nose…”

Marc Myers at JazzWax posts this incredibly weird clip: Ann Miller, tap dancing like a champion,while a disembodied orchestra plays…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, and in a non-music-related way, this, by Charles Pierce for US Esquire, is worth reading…

 

Thursday, April 28th

Well, it seems that I should rename this Five Things I Saw & Heard This Month as I’ve been beyond tardy in keeping to a weekly schedule. No excuses. Here’s a few things I saw and heard recently…

THIS I READ…
Here’s a favourite passage from Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, which is, I’m certain, the first novel about Lev Termen, otherwise known as Léon Theremin – creator of that instrument, among many other extraordinary inventions.
“Here is the way you play a theremin:
You turn it on. Then you wait.
You wait for several reasons. You wait to give the tubes the chance to warm, like creatures taking their first baths, You wait in order to heighten the audience’s suspense. And, finally, you wait to magnify your own anticipation. It is a thrill and a terror. You stand before a cabinet and two antennas and immediately the space is activated, the room is charged, the atmosphere is alive. What was potential is potent. You imagines sparks, embers, tiny lightning flecks balanced in the vacant air.”
You raise your hands…”

THIS I SAID…
Old man from the East End shares memory of Prince: a 30-minute conversation with a chatty journalist from the Standard discussing Prince’s first London concert in 1981 leads on to the experience working with Prince collaborators (saxophonist Eric Leeds and engineer/producer Susan Rogers). And the result? This…

standard

THIS NEEDED TO BE SAID…
The genius of Cassetteboy strikes again… Nightmare Health Secretary is what NHS stands for…” 

THIS NEEDS NO WORDS…
Interest piqued by a review of Anna Meredith live by Maddy Costa in The Guardian and attempting to understand its reference to “hypotrochid spirals” I listen to a bunch of very interesting stuff and chance upon this, from the 2012 Proms. Pretty cool.

THIS NEEDS WORDS…
Photographer Nadav Kandar’s short ad spot boasts powerful interface of sound and vision…

 

AND FINALLY: PRINCE’S PARTY PLAYLIST
How interesting to find two songs from Allen Toussaint’s wonderful Southern Nights album – a fantastic record – here, as well as The (Detroit) Spinners, who were well represented on our car playlist when we were in the States recently.princeplist

 

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