Five Things: Wednesday 25th September

I Liked This Painting


Glanced through the window of the Riflemaker’s Gallery – once the Indica Gallery where Yoko Ono’s show in November 1966 had one J.Lennon as a visitor – a rather lovely painting with stylistic echoes of John Currin. Take the Night off (Laura Marling) by Stuart Pearson Wright [oil on canvas, 2013, 60 x 40 cm].

I Liked This Email
From Our Woodstock Correspondent, John Cuneo:
“I thought of you after reading that lovely Springsteen/burger story on your blog, and then 20 minutes later when I went out for a walk and said hello to a passing David Sancious  (he of the early E Street Band, and, I gather, just back from the road touring with Sting). We were about  mile out from downtown, across the street from the Bear Cafe  (the restaurant that Albert Grossman opened) and right at the bottom of Striebel Rd (where Dylan had his bike spill). I’ve never spoken a word to the guy before, but there was no one else around and it would have been awkward to not acknowledge each other, so I smiled and blurted out a “Hello David”, as if we see each other every day. Being from Jersey, I feel it’s my inherited geographical privilege to refer to all the E St. members by their first name ( I plan to go with just “Steve”, not Little Steven, if the opportunity presents itself).

I Liked This Poem
Bob Johnson, at the end of the Another Self Portrait Short Documentary.
“Down the kerb and around the bend he came and
It’ll never end now because he’s been on this rollercoaster ride ever since he left Minnesota.
He’s been brutalised, sunrised, baptised in the waters of the Village.
Still it goes on, from Soho to Moscow to Oslo.
They speak of this trip, this battleship, who sailed in the harbour of Tin Pan Alley and sank it with his Subterranean Homesick Blues.
There isn’t but one Bob Dylan.”

BobAnd now Bob,
metalwork artist,
is Cold Irons Bound
(or, as the Guardian
would have it,
singing “Ballad of
a Tin Man“).

I Liked Seeing Jimmy Nail On ’Later’
Just after the Kings Of Leon had vied for the title of World’s Most Unexciting Rock Band (they looked to be boring themselves to death with the sludge coming out of their amps), it was excellent to spy Jimmy Nail (Spender!) singing backing vox for Sting, looking in great shape. I remember our friend Sarah doing the costumes on Spender, and saying that she was off to work with Jimmy again on a “Country-singing-Newcastle-Boy-goes-to-Nashville“ story and that they were searching for an American actress who could sing. I remembered “Too Close”, sung beautifully by Amy Madigan on Ry Cooder’s Alamo Bay soundtrack and gave Sarah the record to play to the director and producer. Lo, they hired her! I hadn’t realised (’til a quick search told me) that Amy had form: throughout the late 1970s she played keyboard, percussion, and vocals behind Steve Goodman on tour. Sting’s luxury brand of Steely Dan Light™ came dripping with expensive guitar playing, like so many Swarovsky crystals flung over a bolt of minor ninths and flattened fifths. It was the aural equivalent of a Gucci Ad. For songs about the shipworkers of Newcastle, that’s sort of weird.

I Liked Zigaboo Modeliste At The 100 Club
A party in the summer of ’75 in Kennington. My friend Mick Gardner commandeers the deck and puts on the newly released album by the Meters, Fire On The Bayou. The evening had been a whirl of great funk records but this topped them all, and I recall thinking I would never in my life hear something funkier than this. I thought of that night on Sunday, listening, or rather feeling, the viscerally thrilling drumming of Joseph Modeliste, the Meters drummer. It was a terrific show, presented with avuncular charm (should that be afunkular?) by a master. Mark pointed out that the band were obviously inspired by the girls joyfully dancing at the foot of the stage, rather than the less-well coordinated gaggle of middle-aged white men behind, offering a variety of dance styles that covered the waterfront. To be fair, it was impossible not to dance, such was the floor-shaking power of Zig’s snare and hi-hat. Most things that you wanted to hear were played (“Africa”, “Just Kissed My Baby”, “People Say”, “Hey Pocky Way”), each better than the last.

Five Things: Wednesday 11th September

Another Self Portrait Deluxe Edition: An Accountancy Issue
I – yes, yes, a Dylan Nutter™ – go for the one with the extra two discs and a couple of books. But wait! A 3-CD set of this ilk (we’ll ignore the remastered ‘Original Self Portrait’ Disc) would probably retail at about £19.99, say £23.99 if we’re being generous, with a fair sized book and box. We have to ignore the fact that I’d lazily thought it included a film of the Isle Of Wight Performance (not sure where I got that idea – I do have some video somewhere of a few songs). So then I’m thinking “Well, at least I have handsome books with wonderful liner notes and essays”. And one of the books has those things, by Michael Simmonds and Greil Marcus, and it holds the discs as well. But the other book is a bizarre hotch-potch of photo sessions from this period mixed with press clippings and foreign single covers. John Cohen is a good photographer (his Young Bob book is terrific, as is There Is No Eye), but his work is ill-served by reproducing repetitive and poorly-focused shots of a one-expression Bob. The reproduction looks cheap – flat and badly balanced –and Al Clayton’s Nashville black and whites really suffer. The proofreading is appalling – Jack Keroac, anyone? The guilty man is Bob’s house designer, Geoff Gans, a man who wouldn’t know a smart quote if it hit him. The production copyright credit reads: ©2013 Perceived Value Publications. I feel wound up – it works out that this extra book has set me back around £55. Can I Have My Money Back, Please Sir, as Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty once sang.

See the music player for a couple of versions that didn’t make the cut, but should have…

Hurry, Hurry, Buy Your Bob Dylan ’66 Tour Treggings Now!
Into Marks & Spencer, past the embalmed-looking Annie Leibovitz portraits of Britain’s great and good women (someone should be reprimanded for making the riverboat Helen Mirren look like she’s stepped out of Are You Being Served?, what with that jaunty cap and scarf). My gaze alights on a rack of these. The Dylan ’66 Houndstooth! As created by the Hawks’ favourite tailor in Toronto! If only they were for men (and came with a jacket) then my fashion decisions for Bob at the RAH in November would be sorted… Oh, and Treggings? A cross between trousers and leggings, obviously.

Bob Treggings

Ken Colyer visits Eddie Condon’s club, NYC, early 50’s
A great selection of Jazz photos from the 50s in colour, by Nat Singerman, runs in the New York Times Magazine. One of them shows Eddie Condon’s band.

Condon and Band by Nat; A table card that Ken had  autographed by Condon.

Condon and Band by Nat Singerman; A table card that Ken had autographed by Condon.

Around 1950, my uncle Ken was in the Merch and visited Condon’s club. He paints a vivid picture:
“I got washed and changed, once again forgetting that nightlife doesn’t start ’til later this side of the ocean. I shined my shoes and I was ready to go with my sub in my pocket. There were still four dollars to the pound. I had read about Eddie Condon’s club and heard their once-a-month town hall concerts on the BBC at home. I had no idea where the club was. New York is a big place. I saw a news-stand and asked if they had a Downbeat. “No, don’t you know it’s not due out ’til next week?” I didn’t know about the New Yorker then, which has an excellent section devoted to nightlife with Whitney Balliett’s pithy descriptions of each place and its style of entertainment. I walked on until I saw a cabby tinkering under the bonnet of his cab. “Do you know Eddie Condon’s club?”

“Hop in; I’ll be with you in a minute.” He didn’t want to lose a fare. I got in the cab. It had seen better days, in fact it was a wreck. But I didn’t mind as long as it got me there. I was sure I would find the place like a homing pigeon finds his home. The cabbie finally got the engine going and we started cruising.

“What was the name of that place?” I told him. “What sort of musicians play there?” “Jazz musicians.” “Who’s playing beside Condon?”

He’d got me there. I didn’t know Eddie’s present lineup. I mentioned a few names, then Pee Wee Russell. “Pee Wee, he’s a friend of mine, know him well. I took him for his medical when he got drafted. He told me to wait; he was only gone ten minutes. They threw him out because he was seventy proof. Now I’ve got an idea it might be the old Howdy Club. Used to be a burlesque joint, they’ve got these marvellous old dolls in the chorus line, not one under sixty. Want me to try there?” he asked, eyeing the clock.

“Go ahead,” I said. We drove into Greenwich Village, turned a corner and there was the ‘mutton chop’ sign David Stone Martin designed for Eddie hanging over the entrance. I was elated. I gave the cabbie a generous tip. He told me not to forget the address: West Third Street. Before he pulled away he called: “Don’t forget to tell Pee Wee his old friend Al brought you here. So long, pal.”

There was a commissionaire in livery standing by the door looking dignified. He saw me reading the board. “Are all these people playing tonight?” “Yes, but it’s a little early yet. They don’t start playing ’til nine. Why don’t you go to that little bar down the road and have a drink. Come back about eight-thirty and you’ll get a seat right by the band.”

I said, “Thanks, I will.” He was no hustler. I found out later that Eddie wouldn’t allow it. He had played enough clip joints himself and also considered it was important to encourage youngsters to listen to the music. And they turned a blind eye if you were obviously under age.

On each table was a small green card. On one side it gave the personnel: Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Wild Bill Davison, cornet; George Brunis, trombone; Gene Schroeder, piano; Sid Weiss, bass; Maurey Feld, drums; Eddie Condon, guitar, and Joe Sullivan, intermission piano. On the other it proclaimed: “Jazz in its finest flower,” a quote from my favourite critic, Whitney Balliett.

As I sipped a beer the band turned up. George oiled his slide with an elaborate flourish, then the band kicked off. Within a couple of numbers they were playing with a power, swing and tonal quality I would not have believed possible. It struck me for the first time that the gramophone record is badly misleading when it comes to jazz. No recording could ever completely capture the greatness of this music. As each number got rocking I seemed to be suspended, just sitting on air. And when the music finished I flopped back on my chair as though physically exhausted.

The sensation I got from hearing Wild Bill for the first time was a sort of numb joy that such a man lived and played. If Louis Armstrong was better in person, then it was beyond my imagination. His teaming with Brunis heightened this reaction. When Edmond Hall took over from Pee Wee, playing his cutting electric phrases, it was almost more than I could bear.

Brunis was entertaining to watch. While playing excellent trombone, he constantly screwed his body into the most awkward-looking positions, sometimes jamming one leg against the piano. If there was a drunk in the room he would play snatches of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, or something equally appropriate, in the most syrupy manner, during the breaks, then crack back in with glorious golden-toned tail-gate.

Pee Wee, with his broken comb moustache and a slightly distant look in his eyes, was also entertaining. I was told he had a select band of fans, who follow him mainly to watch his weird expressions that contort his face while he plays. Also he is a little eccentric and difficult to get to know, but if you knew anything about poodles, he would open up and be friendly.

As nightclub prices go in New York, Eddie’s were very reasonable. But I still had to make every beer last as long as I could. The waiters didn’t like this too much. The first night I left comparatively early. I felt a little sick but hadn’t drunk very much. It was the emotional impact that was making me feel groggy. The old Negro toilet attendant was sympathetic and understanding. That’s OK, son, I know how it is.

David Bailey Names Exhibition After His Favourite Song, ”Stardust“.
I work my way through all the versions I own. Top of the pops: Larry Adler’s fabulous harmonica, alternately shuddering and gliding over the timeless Hoagy Carmichael melody. And of course, the fantastic scene in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories where he eats breakfast as Louis Armstrong plays his giddily great take. As the instrumental first half unwinds, Sandy, played by Allen, talks: “It was one of those great spring days, and you knew summer would be coming soon… We came back to the apartment , we were just sitting around and I put on a record of Louis Armstrong, which is music that I grew up loving, and it was very, very pretty, and I happened to glance over and I saw Dorrie sitting there… and, I dunno, I guess it was the combination of everything – the sound of the music, and the breeze and how beautiful Dorrie looked to me and for one brief moment everything seemed to come together perfectly and I felt happy, almost indestructible, in a way…” and Charlotte Rampling fixes the camera with one of cinema’s greatest stares, as Armstrong’s vocal comes in, singing and scatting Mitchell Parish’s words, giving the merest approximation of the actual lyrics. And then it cuts to the cinema audience watching it, split between a woman saying, “That was so beautiful”, and another shouting, “Why do all comedians turn out to be sentimental bores!”

Rock Murals: Are They Ever A Good Thing?
Seen near our new offices, off Carnaby Street


Five Things: Wednesday 21st August

Booker T Jones, Ronnie Scott’s Q&A, Saturday Afternoon
I ask how come Booker T played bass on “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”. He replied [spoken in the soft but strong voice of a man who thinks before he speaks]: “In my community, out in Malibu, musicians would very often stop by, and one of them was Bob Dylan. He would come, and bring an acoustic guitar or play one of mine and play his songs… try out his songs on me. In my little studio. Bring his electric guitar, plug it into my tape recorder, which I never thought to turn on (as he says this his eyes widen slightly and he smiles to himself – the audience cracks up). Anyway, he was working on this movie with Jason Robards and Sam Peckinpah and thought to ask me to come play bass with him on that song, late one… late… early one morning, so we went out to Burbank and recorded that. I was a bass player from the beginning – that was how I made my living. I started out at the Flamingo Rooms. I was known around Memphis as a bass player, just happened to play the Hammond because of “Green Onions” at Stax. At heart, I still have my bass”.

Bob Dylan, “Went To See The Gypsy”, Another Self Portrait
Streamed by The Guardian, and the only track I’ve heard so far, this demo version of an (imagined?) visit to see Elvis in Vegas is like a stunning precursor to “Blind Willie McTell”. Dylan doesn’t seem to have yet fixed the melody in his mind but the passion of the performance carries it to a wonderful outro where the guitar accompaniment (David Bromberg, I’m guessing) is fantastic, like Robbie Robertson on “Dirge” or Mark Knopfler on “Blind Willie”.

The Conventions Will Apply
That awful blight of current TV programmes – they spend the first ten minutes telling you what the other 50 will consist of – reached a nadir with the documentary on Fairport Convention. A series of talking heads said “they changed English Folk Music” fourteen different ways, as did Frank Skinner on the voiceover (and over). None of the unthrilling footage of the current band trundling around in coaches and playing was doing the job, so they must have figured we’d better tell the viewer how great and influential they were. What turned out to be an interesting programme with some neat footage was ill-served by the turgid and off-putting start. Film makers don’t do that kind of thing. They generally trust the audience. It has to be the dead hand of the commissioners.

An Olympic Night
Evening Standard: “A former London recording studio where everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Spice Girls made albums is to return to its original life as a cinema. Olympic Studios in Church Road, Barnes, will reopen on October 14 with two screens, a café and dining room and a members’ club, after local businessman Stephen Burdge stepped in to save it. One recording studio will remain in the basement.”

In the 70s, Tony’s mum’s friend says that he runs Olympic Studios. We’re 16 years old. We believe him. Why would he say it if it wasn’t true? So we go along one evening and he lets us in. I have a very vague recollection of creeping around on a balmy night, trying not to be conspicuous. I email Tony and ask him who we saw recording and he says: “Colin Skeith let us in. He claimed he ran the place but was, in fact, merely the raging alcoholic janitor. We saw Rod Stewart, Pete Townsend and a very angry Leslie West!” Tony is unforthcoming on why Leslie West was so angry. If you don’t remember Leslie West, he was a great ‘Rock Guitarist’, most famously in Mountain, with Felix Pappalardi on Gibson EB-1 violin bass. Check out their version of Jack Bruce’s “Theme From An Imaginary Western” on the Woodstock 2 soundtrack. Still sounds great.

As Seen On Twitter: Don’t Diss Vanilla Fudge


Five Things: Wednesday 17th July

Oh, Yeezus…
​You know when pop stars ​used to re-record their latest hits in the language of another market – say, Germany or France – before the world was totally consumed by the language of Amerenglish pop? Bowie did it, Dusty did it. I wish we could bring it back, and Kanye West would re-record Yeezus in a language I don’t understand. Then I’d be happier when I listened to it. Because the words on Yeezus are f***ing unlistenable. As if written by a seriously misogynistic asshole with self-aggrandisement issues. You wouldn’t want to be his wife. And it’s a drag, because the music, the beats, the soundscape, the whatever… is utterly, utterly, utterly great. Just out-of-the-park brilliant. Here’s Laughing Lou Reed on the talkhouse: “The guy really, really, really is talented. He’s… trying to raise the bar. No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet. If you like sound, listen to what he’s giving you. Majestic and inspiring”. Lou also had an issue with the words and talks interestingly about that – it’s worth checking the full review out).

Oh, and $120 will buy you this Kanye West white T-Shirt. Dazzling.


And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) is set to cover some interesting, if maligned, years. The complete IOW performance from August 31, 1969, a personal favourite (even in really bad audience-taped quality) with Dylan and the Band alternating a sweet, woody country sound with ragged roadhouse rip ’em ups. Also some great New Morning alternate versions (a piano-based “Went To See The Gypsy” and “Sign On The Window” with a string section should be particularly good if real bootlegs from the past are anything to go by). And finally, some cleaned up/stripped down Self Portrait tracks accompanied (amusingly) by liner notes courtesy of Greil Marcus, writer of the famous SP review in Rolling Stone with the deathly opening line, “What is this shit?”.

May need to start a Ken Colyer Corner in Five Things
Two more letters about The Stones, The Guardian:
• Messrs Gilbert and Blundell, prepare to eat dirt (Letters, 6 July). I saw the Stones at the Ken Colyer Jazz Club (It was actually called Studio 51, but was generally known as Ken’s Club) in Leicester Square in June 1963. “Come On” was slowly climbing the charts. It was the first date I ever went on. I was 16. The cellar venue was stifling with condensation and we drew CND signs in it on the low ceiling. The Stones looked like cavemen and sang every great rock number, including “Poison Ivy”, “Johnny B Goode” and “Route 66”. My date and I caught the last train back – the 12:42 from Victoria to Bromley South. When we arrived at Shortlands Station, my father was on the platform to meet us. “Just checking,” he said and walked off. My boyfriend lasted less than 50 days, but the Stones – well, you all know the rest. Susan Castles, Wem, Shropshire
• How about 1962 in the small cellar Studio 51, Great Newport Street, W1? Chatting with all of them every Sunday at the bar during the break. Two sessions, 4pm and 6pm. Signed pre-first record release photo to prove it, with a note from Bill on the back apologising for no news of first “disc”. Anybody else who was there? Gerry Montague, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

FYI: The Beatles visited the Rolling Stones on September 10th, 1963 as they rehearsed at the 51. They presented them with a new, unfinished song, “I Wanna Be Your Man”. On  hearing that the Stones liked the song, John and Paul went into Ken’s office and completed it, thus giving the Stones their first hit with a new song rather than a cover.

The Americans awakens a long-buried love for post-Peter Green Mac
The 80s-tastic Russian/US spy series features a cracking soundtrack from my least-liked decade. “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac in episode 1 sends me to the remastered album – as recommended, months ago, by Tom at work. It’s amazingly odd for a mainstream Californian rock record (and amazingly good, though I didn’t listen in 1979) and nothing’s stranger than “Tusk” itself, with the tribal percussion, the mumbling/chanting and the most eccentric drum rolls in pop’s history.

Bob Gumpert sends me this, An Alan Lomax Gallery…with this sensational contact sheet. This is Stavin Chain playing guitar, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934. The movement in that top triptych is just stunning. More here.


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