Friday, 13th February

OH GOD, NOT THAT AGAIN…
I’m going to tell you, until you all go and see him: Blake Mills played a two-hour set at the wonderful place that is the Union Chapel, with Jesca Hoop as his support act and duet partner. Her minimal, unusual guitar playing and swooping voice were brilliantly suited to the stunning acoustics of the Chapel during her three songs, before Mills joined her to play “Murder of Birds”, a song I knew but had no idea he was the guitarist on. Joined by the band they essayed the kind of performance that would thrill any lover of the musics of the American West, South or East over the last sixty years. I can’t add much to what I wrote about October’s show at Bush Hall. Subtly different, but just as good. Opening song “If I’m Unworthy” has assumed such gigantic proportions of feedback and emptiness, I remember thinking most acts would be thrilled to save that as their last song to ensure an encore…

SOMETHING I LEARNED 1
From Mark Kermode’s Observer interview with Paul Thomas Anderson: “Some years ago, when we were doing an on-stage interview in London, Anderson told me that he sometimes felt his movies were best viewed as musicals. In a now iconic scene from Magnolia, the disparate cast are seen spontaneously singing along to Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up…”

“Well,” he says, “those movies you mention are musicals in the sense that the music is woven so strongly inside them. I think that’s probably true of There Will Be Blood too. But starting with The Master, I was working on things that had a little more dialogue. You know, there’s music in there, but the film isn’t structured like a musical. This was more a matter of just driving to the set each day and listening to some stuff Jonny had sent me, or listening to Can, or Neil Young [both feature on the soundtrack] over and over. That’s what we were trying to do – to make a movie that felt like a Neil Young song, that has that sweet sadness to it.” For all its anarchic sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, Inherent Vice does indeed possess a “sweet sadness”, a quality enhanced by the fact that Anderson’s partner, the actor and comedian Maya Rudolph, makes a small but significant appearance. “Maya and I don’t avoid working together,” Anderson says, “but there just hasn’t been much opportunity before. So we squeezed her in here. And you know that we’ve got her mom [the late Minnie Riperton] singing in Inherent Vice, too? It’s a moment that makes me well up every time – as we’re looking at Maya, you hear her mom singing this song, “Les Fleurs…” it makes me so warm and fuzzy.”

Always nice to be reminded of the great “Wise Up” scene (and of the great Melora Walters, an actress who doesn’t get cast in nearly enough good movies), but just as cool to be sent back to the astonishing Minnie. “Les Fleurs” is  basically a descending chord sequence (courtesy of Ramsey Lewis) above a funky laid-back beat provided by Maurice White (of EW&F fame), topped off with shimmering layers of vocals and horns that keep peaking and waning through the whole of the song in an incredible arrangement by producer Charles Stepney. Interestingly, her most famous song was written for her daughter: “[Perfect Angel Producer Stevie] Wonder felt that one more song was needed to meet the industry standard of a 40-minute album. He asked Riperton and songwriter-husband Richard Rudolph to come up with a tune that they considered to be their “most embarrassing song”. With hesitation, Riperton did mention a lullaby she sang to her daughter Maya to put her to sleep at night so that she and Rudolph could spend “grown-up time”. With Rudolph’s help, Riperton came up with “Lovin’ You” – which was quickly recorded with Wonder on electric piano and synthesizers, whilst Rudolph supplied the chirping birds from a sound effects reel.” – Wikipedia

SOMETHING I LEARNED 2
An interesting tributary that emerged owing to my lack of knowledge re: Enoch Light. John Walters at Eye sends me a great site that details Light’s record label, Command Records, and its commissioning of Bauhaus legend Josef Albers for the cover art.

Obsessed by “experimentation in the realm of stereophonic sound, he went to great lengths to achieve his vision. His sessions used the best available recording studios, musicians, and equipment. He also experimented with the arrangement of musicians during recording to create interesting effects. To achieve the sound he was looking for, Light mastered the first three records 39 times until he got it right. The records came with extensive liner notes, detailing the minute details of the recording process and crediting all of the musicians involved. Each track was also annotated on the packaging, describing the way it would test the home stereo equipment… a sample of his rendition of “Autumn Leaves”… became the theme for the AMC hit drama Mad Men. A very appropriate choice given the television show’s focus on the shifting consumer culture and its influencers of the 1960s. And to add another layer to all this is the fact that the original version of Autumn Leaves was written by Joseph Kosma, who was related to László Moholy-Nagy, another legendary Bauhaus figure and a colleague of Albers there.”

Albers

 

VISUAL OF THE WEEK: Selfridges Window Display: “Bright Old Things” featuring Roger Miles
Roger Miles worked for 32 years as a chartered accountant for Deloitte, and was a senior partner for 20 years. In 2009, he hung up his abacus and went to Chelsea College of Arts, being awarded a BA in Fine Art with 1st class honours. Roger’s final College show in 2014 was an immersive experience that focused on the interaction between visitor and artist. The installation recreated a ’70s record store in a mobile library, with most of the contents coming from his previous art residency at a recycling centre.
This isn’t the first time you have worked at Selfridges? “No it isn’t. During Christmas in 1975, I worked for four weeks in the bedspread department. I had just started my accounting degree, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was at number 1 and punk music was just around the corner. I was working hard to convince customers to convert from bedspreads to the new fangled duvet from Scandinavia. Almost 40 years later, I have returned as an artist – just don’t ask me about tog values…”

Selfridges

ADVICE TO FOLLOW…
David Byrne, The Proust Questionnaire, Vanity Fair
What is your favourite journey? From the barroom to the bedroom… that’s not really true – it just popped into my head, but, wow, it sounds like a song waiting to be written! Maybe a song for someone else, I think. My favorite journey is the journey that an idea takes when taken all the way to its logical conclusion–  which usually ends up being a place that is surreal and ridiculous. Logic and rationality taken all the way to the end are irrational and nonsensical.”

SONG OF THE WEEK
“Stonemilker” by Bjork. Entirely written, played and produced by Bjork. The Max Richter-like orchestration. The ebb and flow. The percussion from the Beach Boys’ “Diamond Head”.  The way she sings “juxtaposition”.

IF I WERE ON TWITTER, I’D FOLLOW: Maureen Van Zandt

Maureen

AND ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK…
Isn’t it odd when you haven’t thought about a musician in years and then, in the space of a few days their name comes up. Recently, designing a novel for Sam Charters, this was quoted at the start: “In the olden days they called them fables/But they’re nothing but doggone lies…” Old minstrel show song recorded by Jesse Fuller, “The Lone Cat.”  A lovely post by Thom Hickey, dreaming of being the Smithsonian’s Director sends me back to Jesse’s “San Francisco Bay Blues” (which you’ll find on the music player to your right). Here’s the nice story of the inspiration for his homemade foot-operated bass/percussion instrument, the Fotdeller: “It took me a whole week one time when I wasn’t doing anything, and I made the thing I call the Fotdella in my back room. I just got the idea lyin’ in my bed one night, just like I write songs… I thought about doin’ something like that (the Fotdella) so that I could have something to go along with me and help me out instead of another fellow. I just took some Masonite, heated some wood in hot water and rounded it off around a wheel. I learned that in the barrel factory where I used to work – that the way they do the staves. I tried to use bass fiddle strings, but they don’t sound so good, they stretch out of tune so I use piano strings”.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 30th January

What In Music’s Name Is This?:
Marcel’s Miller/Moptops Mayhem

A small package arrived in the post. Square, the size of a CD. It was a ESD* and was covered in writing. There was no mystery who it was from, as it was signed, but it had an air of mystery around it.
“Martin, follow these five simple steps to nausea and amazement. 1. Log on to http://forgottenalbums.com/albums/?p=59. 2. Bask in a warm nostalgic glow as you enjoy the album cover. 3. Read the blog, remembering that this guy is not making this album up. 4. Play the CD 5. Ask yourself ‘Why?’ P.S. The guitar solo on Let It Be is THE FINEST thing I’ve ever heard x Marcel.”

Marcel

From:      Martin Colyer
Date:       24 January 2013 07:56:31 GMT
To:           Marcel Ashby
Subject:   Has a song not benefited from the…
Glenn Miller treatment more than Something? God Almighty, that’s horrific! Oh, hold on, I’ve just listened to Michelle. Still trying to locate the original melody. Let It Be? Let It Stop, more like. I’m thinking you shortened it by one track (that great Beatles classic, Bird Cage Walk) just out of the kindness of your heart. I must lie down now.

At least they spent some money on the cover

At least they spent some money on the cover

Oh, and don’t get me started on that guitar solo in Let It Be, which seems to actually be playing a different song. It’s as if there was a surf guitarist walking past the studio door playing, and they grabbed him, hit record and didn’t miss a beat. The fact it has nothing to do with the tune of Let It Be, or, indeed, any tune, is neither here nor there. And the last two notes are to die for. Or something.

*Evil Silver Disc, according to vinyl obsessives.

In Bob News This Week
First impressions, Inside Llewyn Davis Trailer
1) They’ve captured the look of 1962 New York rather well.
2) It’s nice that a lesser-known Bobsong soundtracks this teaser.
3) Looks like Carey Mulligan has some good lines.
4) Bob-strokes-cat a little earlier than Guy Peellaert would have us believe (although the character of Llewyn Davis could equally be based on Dave Van Ronk).
5) John Goodman will have plenty of raucous lines, and his will be the haircut of the film.
6) Fresh from Homeland, F Murray Abraham as the owner of the Gate of Horn Nightclub in Chicago. Which makes him Albert Grossman in this scenario.
7) Oscar Isaac’s teeth are in way-too-good condition for 1962.

Uh Huh—It Was The Manfreds
From Tom McGuinness’ sleeve notes for the Manfred Mann Ages Of Mann compilation CD:
“Bob Dylan’s Mighty Quinn was our third number One. Al Grossman, Dylan’s manager, played us the song.“Why does Dylan get such a useless vocalist to sing his demos?” Manfred asked. “That’s Bob singing”, said Al.”
Oh, and I never knew that Jack Bruce was in Manfred Mann. He plays bass on the great Pretty Flamingo. Or, indeed, that Klaus Voormann replaced Bruce when he left.

Aimee Mann, Ghost World, RFH, Jan 28th
My favourite moment at Aimee’s concert (thanks, Barney!) was her performance of the best post-school/pre-life song ever written. Prompted by a twitter request, this rarely-played (and unknown by the rest of the band) gem stood out. Named for, and inspired by, Daniel Clowes’ great graphic novel, every glorious line rang clear, sat on the cushion of Aimee’s patented J45 strum—“Finals blew, I barely knew/My graduation speech/And with college out of reach/If I can’t find a job it’s down to dad/And Myrtle Beach”—joined by bassist Paul (Mountain Man) Bryan’s harmonies and the trippy off-the-cuff keys of Jebin (Freak Flag) Bruni, all carnival swirl and hum. And by coincidence, watching Community the following night (your next must-rent boxset) and having Jeff and Pierce’s hysterical Spanish Project performance acted out to Aimee’s Wise Up.

Dateline: New Orleans. Brett Mielke Reporting…
“Well, the record shop I first went to and bought Ken’s records back in 2003 survived Katrina and the slow death of record stores! Had a visit and bought a wealth of KC music. Also had a long chat with the clerk who was about my age and knew an unbelievable amount about the music. Fear not, relatives of all generations, the Ken Colyer legacy is still alive and well in the Crescent City…”

NO

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 19th September

Oh, Lighten Up Man!
Wynton Marsalis, responding to Mojo’s
Questionnaire, in their November issue:
[I’ve cut this to just the opening of each answer]
What, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favourite album?
I don’t have a favourite album.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Bought? I don’t think I’ve ever bought a record.
Which musician, other than yourself, have you ever wanted to be?
I’ve never wanted to be another musician.
What do you sing in the shower?
I never sing in the shower.
What is your favourite Saturday night record?
I don’t think I’ve ever played a record on a Saturday night—I’ve played a gig almost every Saturday night since I was 13.

To be fair, the rest of the answer to Which musician, other than yourself, have you ever wanted to be? is interesting: “You have no idea what they’ve had to deal with. The person I rate for something musical might have had an endless headache, or a back pain. Every person has something you can’t imagine to deal with.”

Classified Ad Mann
So I’ve just filed an interview with Aimee Mann to Rock’s Backpages and it has this reference to a movie that she’s going to make:
“I’m actually doing a little indie movie. Joe Henry is involved in it and his brother, I think, wrote the screenplay. It’s based on a This American Life episode [TAL is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations, usually centering around a theme that tells stories from everyday life] about this journalist who thinks: suppose she got a bunch of musicians from Craig’s List, just kind of randomly posting, Looking for musicians, and forms a band and puts them in a studio for a day—what would that look like? So I’m playing that woman. And Joe Henry’s going to be in it, and John Doe is going to be in it and Loudon Wainwright… and Joe is doing the music for it. So it sounds interesting, right? Too bad I don’t know to act…”

The next day I get a mailer from a website I like that runs a weekly Mystery Song competition, and (click to enlarge):

The actual version of Rocket Man is, uh, quite interesting…

From the Hammersmith Odeon To Lillehammer: Steven Van Zandt

Van Zandt’s extraordinary profile, seen to great effect in The Sopranos and, this week, Lillyhammer, reminded me of the extraordinary first night at Hammersmith Odeon in 1975, picture captured here by courtesy of the battered Chelsea School of Art photographic department black Pentax, on Tri-X.

Why They Invented The Internet, And Why It’s Come Time To Shut It Down…

Yes, A Bob Dylan Tempest Commonplace, crowd-sourcing the sources of the lyrics on Tempest. They don’t want to read what Bob said about the plagiarism issue in Rolling Stone…

Harry Smith: A Postscript
Esteemed writer and documentary maker Mick Gold emails about the Conference: “Harry Smith conference had good stuff. Very detailed history of Moonshiners Dance Part One from Anthology, which was funny history of Minneapolis/St Paul. Rani Singh (director of Harry Smith archives) said that when they were reissuing the Anthology in 1997, they asked Alan Lomax for a comment. Lomax’s reply was dismissive, similar to Charters—Smith was a nasty piece of work, his Anthology wasn’t that important, he ripped people off. Clearly there are political tensions in how this old music was presented historically, and the message it conveyed. Remember that when Irwin Silber got involved in running Folkways in 1960s, he changed the Anthology cover, substituting a Ben Shahn FSA (Farm Security Administration) shot of a poor farmer for Fludd’s celestial monochord. Perhaps Alchemical versus Popular Front perspective.” Mick had earlier told me that in his opinion, Greil Marcus “created Harry Smith the Magus. Why? Because Harry offered Greil a completely different narrative on the uncovering & collecting of traditional songs & blues from the “voice of the people,” oppressed blacks, Lomax popular front orthodoxy. Harry offered alchemy, esoteric magic, mystification, and he came from the West, all big pluses in the eyes of Greil. Hence Invisible Republic.”

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 22nd August

Garner-A-Go-Go! “This is Jim Rockford; at the tone leave your name and message…”
Talking to Aimee Mann about her new album, she mentioned being drawn to analogue synthesizers and gnarly guitars after revisiting some classics from the early eighties pop-synth era. Among the more obvious markers like the Cars and Blondie, it was great to hear her namecheck the terrific theme to The Rockford Files by Mike Post… and to hear her quote it at the end of the title track of Charmers.

Bits Of Bob
As excerpts of Tempest (not The Tempest—that’s Mr Shakespeare’s, according to Bob himself) filter out, we hear Early Roman Kings (fabulous title, no?) soundtracking some dreary looking US tv series, Strike Back… The song itself is a default Dylan accordion-led 12-bar that gives the band little room to move. Now that Charlie Sexton is back this is disappointing: at Hammersmith last year he showboated so much it could have been called The Charlie Sexton Show, featuring Bob Dylan, as he fired riff after riff into every available space, absolutely thrillingly…

Lyle Lovett, What I’ve Learned, US Esquire, February 2012 (yes, I’ve only just got round to reading it…)
“The inspiration and excitement that you get from being amazed when you give a vague direction to a guitar player like Dean Parks—“Make it sound a little more purple”—and then hear him play exactly the right thing.”

And Talking Of Purple: Fashion Forward Drummer, South Bank, Last Friday Evening

Never seen a drum kit this particular colour. Apparently it’s very… this season.

 

Photographers on Music: Brilliant!
The advent of blogging has revealed that photographers are a) really thoughtful and smart about their work, the world, the price of coffee, etc, and b) can really write. Here’s two I came across by chance this week. Firstly, Chris Floyd, on his blog Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances, writing about a complex quick-turnaround portrait of Olympic Cycling Gold Medallist Laura Trott:

“I close my eyes and I think of the canon. The canon are the photographers I draw on in times of doubt. They give me comfort, solace and inspiration. They include Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Bruce Weber, Lee Friedlander, Sally Mann, Corrine Day, Glen Luchford, Erwin Blumenfeld, Harry Callahan and, in this case, Irving Penn… I go through the rolodex in my head thinking of them all until I find the one that instinctively feels like the inspirational match for the task at hand. That’s not to say I set about slavishly ripping them off. I use them as my starting point… They are my photographic moral compass. They show me the light, guide the way and keep me company. Once I push off and get underway I’m then going forward under my own steam. By the time I get to the other side I will have, hopefully, added enough of my own ingredients to the dish for it to taste new and different. To understand what I mean then check this out:

Bad Penny Blues by Humphrey Lyttleton (1956).

then this:

Lady Madonna by The Beatles (1968).

Each of them are great but one was a jumping off point for the other. I love it. You can hear the lineage right there.”

I also stumbled (is there a better way, internet-wise, to say this?) via the Black Eyewear blog, across the Secret Diary of Perou (photographer to the stars) and amongst factory-and-dog-related-posts read this fantastic account of his experience of seeing Elizabeth (Cocteau Twins) Fraser at Meltdown. If only more music writing was this good, or this well laid out:

“i am sitting on my own due to a late ticket purchase.
but i’m three rows from the stage.

we all make the mistake of sitting through 30 minutes of support act: four people doing acapella, harmonised, medieval chanting.
all songs sound exactly the same.
unexpectedly, it makes me want to punch someone: almost certainly not what this music was designed for.

elizabeth arrives on stage: a demure, grey haired lady with the voice of an angel.
during the second song: a reworking of a cocteau twins track, i feel tears on my face and i’m glad i’m sitting on my own.
i have crazy tingles over my spine.

but then…

behind elizabeth i notice the bald keyboard player who looks like richard o’brien in the crystal maze, wearing a sparkly, tinsel, double-width, pointed shoulder-padded outfit, postulating between two stacks of keyboards like a prog-rock nightmare.
he is more than a little distracting.
and begins the downfall of my evening’s entertainment.

the audience are annoying.
in between songs, old men shout out ‘we love you liz’. ‘marry me’ and ‘where have you been?’

there is a lesbian couple in front of me who try to dance though seated through all the cocteau twins songs.
one of these women also keeps trying to take photos of elizabeth on an iphone and keeps getting told by the ushers ‘NO PHOTOS’

i am no longer able to enjoy the performance when a girl arrives four songs before the end of the show to take her empty seat next to mine.

she is wearing an overpowering fragrance that smells like a combination of mountain pine fresh toilet duck and lemon fresh toilet duck.
i don’t know if she bathed in it pre-show or if she’s been drinking it, but i am unable think about anything else now.

i am concerned my nasal passages will be permanently damaged by sitting next to this person.

there are two standing ovations.
i sit through the first one
i stand through the second so that i am able to leave swiftly.

for the second encore elizabeth does a version of one of my favourite songs: ‘song to the siren’ which she did with ‘this mortal coil’ (a tim buckley cover)
and it is not so good.
i leave the royal festival hall a little disappointed.

sarah texts from the train station.
she’d left with steve before the first encore “…the memories were better.”

Genius.

%d bloggers like this: