Five Things: Wednesday 22nd January

c.c. Phil Spector, John Eastman
Dave sends this great letter from Paul McCartney to Alan Klein.


Lorde, Everybody Wants To Rule The World
From the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. Things I don’t like about this version: The way Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor sings the word Rule. Things I do like: Everything else.

“Hey, Supe, pick up on this, man… all highway patrol sections. Suspect vehicle: 1970 Dodge Challenger, white in colour!”
Vanishing Point: It’s got night, neon and narcotics, and that wonderful ingredient of Seventies movies: it looks like it’s shot by a photojournalist. Beautiful stills of road vistas, strip towns, old lined faces, the angles of gas stations and wells. It sounds fantastic, the throb of a muscle car engine on heat haze roads, or cutting arcs in the Nevada Desert to tremolo’d guitar. Banjos frail and sirens wail. It’s got Cleavon Little, two years before Blazing Saddles, playing a blind DJ in full flight (The Big Bopper was the model, and Cleavon’s performance undoubtedly an influence on Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam). It’s got Delaney & Bonnie as a Christian rock band at a desert festival. It’s got implacable Barry Newman, here reminiscent of James Gandolfini. It’s got a race with a customised E-Type Jag, soundtracked by squalling guitars and hi-hats… For two-thirds it’s a great film (the flashbacks and hallucinations, not so much). If you liked Two Lane Blacktop and Serpico, check it out.

Dallas Buyers club trailer, Empire Leicester Square
In the smallest cinema known to man – around twenty seats – and at a bizarre angle to the way-too-close screen, we see two trailers using music to different effect. The Monuments Men, a film set in the Second World War, features crashing r’n’b/hip hop to try to convince a younger audience that George Clooney and Matt Damon are worth taking a punt on even if, hey, it’s all old-fashioned looking and about saving paintings. The Dallas Buyers Club, on the other hand, goes for the stamp of authenticity (if not accuracy – it’s set in 1985), using the raw emotion of the Alabama Shakes “You Ain’t Alone” to spill between cuts of Matthew McConaughey giving what looks like his best performance yet. And, dammit, it works.

‘Blue Moon’ in Blue Jasmine
Woody Allen’s music editor must wince every time they start a new film. “Shall I go and get the King Oliver, Mr Allen?” This anachronistic schtick, classic jazz in the present day, got old about twenty years ago – now it’s just bizarre, a stylistic tic that means nothing. Yes, I get that Jasmine is a character out of time, Blanche Dubois in a Bernie Madoff world, played by Cate B, acting with a capital A. But bleating on about “Blue Moon” – playing when she met her beau – to a succession of uninterested people is just weird. Added to which, I can’t get the image of Woody Allen sitting in his room writing a character who leaves his wife for a teenage au pair out of my head.

FTIS&HTW: Wednesday 13th March

Alabama Shakes, Always Alright
Best moment in the very ho-hum Silver Linings Playbook (a film fatally scuppered by having Robert de Niro play the father, so the whole thing just reminds you of Meet The Whatevers, but with a less likeable male lead). Jennifer Lawrence is great – the Juliette Lewis du nos jours, but the film less than the sum of its parts. Always Alright, however, is a keeper. Great lyrics, great vocal, a driving Stax-like beat topped with a bendy guitar riff, and I think that it’s still a free download at the Shakes site.

Bill Frisell: Two Hands, A Guitar, Minimal Amplification, Just Like A Woman
Don’t you wish that you could play guitar like Bill Frisell? I know I do, every time I see him. There’s just something so human about his playing. I always think of him halfway along a scale from Joe Pass to Derek Bailey. Here he is, on a small platform, could be an arts centre. There’s the door to the toilets just behind him. The crowd sounds small, maybe fifty people. Cars go by outside on rainy streets. He plays the song, taking his time, taking the melody through a series of thoughtful stages. There’s always a little Reggie Young in his playing, rooting him in the Southern musics – here there’s a little Wayne Moss or Joe South, too, whichever of the two Blond On Blonde guitarists it was that invented the lovely filagree’d guitar figure that breaks the verses of the Nashville original of Just Like A Woman.

One Night In Nashville (Just Off Carnaby Street)
…or, two hours in the company of some great folks from Nashville, promoting the Opry and the Country Music Hall Of Fame (one of my most favourite museums). Steve and I learn that there are few country songs about – or references to – cats (unless you count Nashville Cats and Kitty Wells, of course), that the glorious Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue was inspired by songwriter Richard Leigh’s dog, and that Vince Gill is officially the nicest man in Nashville, as well as a killer musician and singer.

Reich & Glass Removals
Alexis Petridis on Steve Reich, The Guardian: “Well, I take the Chuck Berry approach,” he smiles. “Any old way you use it. In other words, music has to have legs. You could walk into a coffee shop and hear the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto. Well, it’s perfect for just sitting down and having your coffee and making the atmosphere more pleasant. But you could take that same music home and play it on your headphones and take out your score and say: ‘My God, this is the most unbelievable counterpoint I’ve ever seen in my life.’ Anywhere you put it, any way you orchestrate it –Wendy Carlos, Glenn Gould, you name it – if the notes are right, the rhythms are right, it works.’ After completing his studies in composition at Julliard in his native New York and then at California’s Mills College, Reich famously declined to continue in academia, preferring to support himself via a series of blue-collar jobs: at one point, he and Philip Glass started their own furniture removal business, which these days sounds less like something that might actually have happened than the basis of a particularly weird Vic Reeves sketch.

Just As We Move Our Office from Edgware Road…
An interesting-looking exhibition about to open around the corner at Lisson Grove. Pedro Reyes. Musical instruments made from illegal weaponry.


Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 9th May

Janis Joplin, Get It While You Can, Take Three, July 27th 1970
“Everybody I know is crazy, except President Nixon… and that’s his problem…” This is take three of the Jerry Ragavoy/Mort Shulman song, still not quite polished, but rawer and freer. When they reconvene on September 11th to finally record it, they’re more focused—“brighter”— in producer Paul Rothschild’s words. But take three still has the edge, a more pleading vocal, and a coda of “No No NoNoNo NO…” that is absolutely moving, and missing from the final take.

Alabama Shakes, Electric Brixton, May 3rd
In the sleevenotes to an album by one of Alabama’s greatest musical talents, Eddie Hinton, that fine Memphis journalist Robert Gordon wrote: “If a frayed rope could sing, it would sound like only two people, and since Otis is dead, that leaves Eddie.” And since Eddie is dead, that leaves Brittany Howard. It’s erroneous that Janis is the cheap ’n’ easy invokee—Howard’s models seem more to be those two men, especially when you factor in her tone. First seen when the excellent Laura Barton wrote about a lone YouTube video in The Guardian last year, I’d deliberately avoided listening, but bought tickets to see them. As my daughter Jordan said, that way you’re not just anticipating the couple of songs you know, and not listening properly. So we let it wash over us and tried to ignore the ******* hipsters talking at the bar and the drunks hollering next to us (hard to do in the moodily quiet numbers). Punching her guitar, stomping her boots and seemingly conducting the songs by shakes of her head, Brittany Howard lived up to the hype, and the band are just slick enough to make it work, but not so slick that it sounds mechanical—you just wish you could be watching them at The Lamplighter, outside of Muscle Shoals, instead of here. Oh, one last thing: the name. It’s not easy to do a great band name these days – see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds for example – but this is most excellent, both geographical locator and mission statement.

Black Cobra
Enable the subtitles on your TV, get to see who’s sold their music to Ad Agencies! Cobra beer ad, Black Keys’ Gold On The Ceiling. In two minds whether the lyrics really fit the product – “Gold on the ceiling/I ain’t blind/Just a matter of time/Before you steal it/It’s all right/Ain’t no God in my eye.” I’m not sure that’s on brand.

VanMan SatNav
Driving with my friend Steve Way to a cartoon festival, he was taken with the Irish voice on our car’s SatNav, and started doing the instructions in the style of Van Morrison. Genius! Leaving motorways and approaching roundabouts has never been so entertaining. Googling to see if anyone had already thought of this I could only find one reference, from a thread on Julian Cope’s Modern Antiquarian… “My Van Morrison Sat Nav has caused me to flood my brakes in the slipstream and I’m now stuck between two viaducts. It’s also told me to fuck…” and there, wonderfully, access to the thread ends, as I can’t get on to the site.

Message From Chuck!

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