Tuesday, 15th March, updated 30th March

I failed to post a Five Things before leaving on a trip to the States, so here it is, slightly amended, on our return. Extras to follow on Woodstock & Detroit, people…

MARINA HYDE ON FIRE!
“In the meantime, we must turn our attentions to Kanye, who places his personal debt at $53m, explaining to the world: “If I spent my money on my ideas, I could not afford to take care of my family. I am in a place that so many artists end up.” Like various notables before him, Kanye declares: “I wanted the world to know my struggle.” (Then how about writing a $10 book entitled My Struggle? There must be at least 5.3 million ironists who would buy a copy of the German edition.)

Admittedly, his wife did claim this week to be “transferring 53m into our joint account”, but the suspicion must be that Kanye wishes to place himself on a more independent footing than one underwritten by the Bank of Kim. Not that he is against bailouts. In fact, the sense that Kanye is simply too big to fail was my takeout from a series of tweets he posted shortly after the debt ones, imploring Silicon Valley bigwigs to invest in his “ideas”. These ideas remain tantalisingly unspecified, though the past few days of tweeting alone have yielded such standouts as: “I don’t personally like suit jackets any more”, “I believe that Kim is our modern day everything”, and the peerless “super-inspired by my visit to Ikea today”.

But back to his plea for financial intervention. Lost in Showbiz would argue that what is taking shape is nothing less than a new theory of celebronomics: a theory that argues that an entirely free Kanye West market is not the most beneficial model for society. Yes, you can hope that the billionaire private sector plays a part. But governments have a responsibility to intervene at various stages in the cycle in order to provide the shared goal: full Kanye. Thus, far from encouraging thrift in a downturn, the state should actively encourage spending on Kanye West products. I hereby christen this theory Kanyesian economics, in honour of its leading thinker, and implore governments across the world to subscribe to its principles without delay.” – from The Guardian.

CALUM STORRIE’S EXCELLENT METHODOLOGY!
From Calum’s likeahammerinthesink blog, this excellence issues forth, complete with a how-to:

calum

  1. Locate obscure lounge album on vinyl…preferably with ‘erotic’ overtones (and in this case with rain effects and bells).
  2. Digitize Track 3, Side 2 (Il se fait tard).
  3. Copy track and reverse copy.
  4. Add echo.
  5. Slow the whole thing down by 50%.
  6. Fade to silence.

And the result? Beautiful. You could do an entire film soundtrack using this method.

JACO’S JOURNEY!
The DVD arrives in the post, directed by the excellent team of Stephen Kijak & Mr Paul Marchand. There is so much here, from Pastorious’ love for the guitar playing of Willie ‘Little Beaver’ Hale to his encyclopedic knowledge of big band jazz, learned from his father (a pro jazz singer – “there was no bad music played in our house!”). Loved this bit of Super 8 of an early Pastorious band in Miami, with Jaco on drums…

pastorious As a teenager, the only clothes he owned were two pairs of cords and three t-shirts – a wardrobe that would fit into his Fender bass case. When he joined Wayne Cochran (I’ve said it before, but you just have to check out Wayne Cochran on YouTube), the tuxedo (that all band members had to wear) was too big for his wiry frame, so he’d wear his compete wardrobe under it. Jerry Jemmott interviews him in 1984 for a bass lesson DVD and lists his accomplishments, telling him that a generation of bass players have been inspired by him, and ends up asking him, “How do you feel about that?”. He looks up, slightly lost in a mist and says, “Just gimme a gig!”

Jemmott – bassist on King Curtis (and Aretha) Live at Fillmore West, among a fairly awesome ton of credits – is an eloquent presence throughout: over Jaco duetting with himself on Coltrane’s “Naima”, he says… “that voice, it’s the voice of music, the singer in the horn. It’s not the rhythm section – the rhythm section is there doing the work to support it, we’re  the setting for the ring, to let the diamond shine brilliantly… so our job is to support that stone – but he was able to become a stone, also”. And, at the end of a story about prising the frets off his Fender after his upright bass fell foul of Florida’s humidity, Jemmott says… “And the rest is history!” Pastorious nods, but his eyes drop, and his expression tells the story.
And if, a little like Janis Joplin, his legacy is not quite the sum of its parts, there are still moments of swooning marvellousness. If you’re interested in the art of musicmaking it’s a must-see, despite its sorrowful arc. And I’m no fan of bass solos, but I’ll make an exception for this take on Hendrix’s “Third Stone from the Sun” – along with sundry other Hendrix tunes. After a miasma of feedback he quotes “The Sound of Music” before putting the bass on the stage and spraying harmonics until he picks out a delicate melody and walks off, vulnerable in the midst of virtuosity. nb. Don’t miss some hilarious South Bank Show footage of Melvin Bragg introducing the programme’s documentary on Weather Report in the ’80s… Melvyn’s hair is, as always, a thing to behold.
 

INTERNET + DATA = GLORIOUS MADNESS!
I mean, really, this is some kind of voodoo. I know I have a penchant for this sort of stuff, but this is as good as the HipHop Billboard No 1s from a couple of weeks ago. Every Noise at Once – every genre, every tributary in that genre. Check out Geechy Wiley’s “Last Kind Word Blues”, one of the strangest, most naggingly mysterious blues ever written. You could, as Em would say, lose yourself in the music. Personally, I’m just off to negotiate my way around dark psytrance.*

musicmap

 

AND FINALLY…
… do yourself a favour and read this exceptional piece by David Remnick in The New Yorker, on the complex majesty that is Aretha. As the time draws nearer that we all may be able to see the Amazing Grace concerts – as filmed by Sidney Pollack – Remnick pays tribute to America’s greatest voice. As the Prez says, “American history wells up when Aretha sings. That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings “A Natural Woman,” she can move me to tears – the same way that Ray Charles’s version of “America the Beautiful” will always be in my view the most patriotic piece of music ever performed – because it captures the fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top, the good and the bad, and the possibility of synthesis, reconciliation, transcendence.”

* I did. But you’ll be pleased to know that I’m recovered now…

Five Things, Wednesday 1st October

Steve Punt on Celebrity Antiques Road Trip
A programme where people drive around, tip up at various Antique Dealers, and drive down their prices by haggling – only to find that, when they auction what they’ve bought, they are worth just about what the Antique Dealer was selling them for. Why am I even mentioning this? Only because they were in Coventry and went to the recently opened Coventry Music Museum which has a recreation of Jerry Dammers’ bedroom! I’m a sucker for that kind of thing after the Abba Museum, so if I find myself in the Midlands, I’m there.

Aretha does Rolling In The Deep
I dreaded this, but it’s actually terrific to have Aretha singing again, over a pared-down arrangement, keeping the clever ‘offset’ chord changes, as she and her sisters take it back to church, finding a different way through the melody. Just check the way she sings “We could have had it all…”, or how she drags out h-a-a-yy-a-n-d, or the strangled second verse, just before the backing vox hit “Ain’t No Mountain”. The vocal sound is great, too, recorded hot and on the edge of distortion (unless it’s just lousy audio encoding, in which case I retract that comment).

Bruce Wagner, author of Maps to the Stars, The Guardian
“The kids who worked in showbiz would come late to middle school – just after lunch – straight from the set, still in makeup and wardrobe. Dean Paul Martin Jr revved his Ferrari past the playground on his way to Rexford, a private bastion of learning for the incorrigible offspring of the famous. I graduated to Beverly Hills High. Beverly’s swimming pool, beneath a retractable basketball court, had made its screen debut in It’s a Wonderful Life. Special lunchtime assemblies featured the Doors and Linda Ronstadt. (! – ed) I used to give rich out-of-towners fake tours of stars’ homes in Holmby Hills. I’d point to this house or that and say, “Sinatra. Lucille Ball. Jimmy Stewart.” The addresses were available from curbside vendors but most of us were too bored or lazy to bother with veracity. One day, on a fake tour of Bel‑Air, I saw a dishevelled man in a bathrobe in the middle of the street. I slowed and took a closer look and couldn’t believe my eyes: Brian Wilson. He asked if we had a light for his cigarette. The Texans were so thrilled they tipped me $100. I finally understood the cryptic, dadaist bumper stickers popular at the time: I BRAKE FOR BRIAN WILSON.”

The Tardis Church
All Saint’s Church in Margaret Street is astonishing. On a small London street, just north of Oxford Circus, it seems ridiculous that there’s a  cathedral-sized space inside. But there is, beautifully restored, and featuring a four-manual Harrison and Harrison organ with 65 speaking stops, built in 1910. We were there to hear a challenging recital (it featured three Messiaen pieces) by Carl Bahoshy, in aid of Iraqi Christians in Need. Three was perhaps one too many Messiaen, but they showed off the bass notes of the organ impressively, and the depth of the registers used in  Apparition de l’eglise eternelle actually caused your stomach to churn. My favourite piece was much calmer, Bach’s sublime Liebster Jesu, Wir Sind Hier.

Sam Amidon, Lily-O
Sam’s new album features his great live collaborators, Shahzad Ismaily and Chris Vatalaro, with the added gorgeousness of Bill Frisell’s electric guitar. In his note on the songs, Sam says, “At one point in Iceland we were at the end of a full day of recording. We had just finished listening through some of the takes just to see where everything was at. It was about 8pm, nighttime in Reykjavik, and we were all sitting there on the couch at the back of the main control room in Greenhouse studios. I put some music from my computer onto the big speakers. Music sounds so strong and clear through those big speakers! I put on “We’ll Be Together Again” by Pat Martino, recorded in 1976. Bill said it was the first time he was hearing it in ages. We listened. Then I put on “Jesus Maria” from Jimmy Giuffre Trio 1961 with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow. That is beautiful music. It lifts you up, doesn’t it. We just listened for a good while, before heading downstairs to dinner.”

On first listen the album sounds tremendous, strong songs and vivid performances. And I have to add that the Guiffre piece is just beautiful… For a taste of what Frisell brings to Amidon, here’s a video of “Saro” shot live at the Poisson Rouge. Sam essays the song’s chords on an old dustbowl-dull Martin, a professorial Frisell to his left as they take this beautiful ballad for a stroll down by a clear flowing stream. Frisell is such an inspirational guitarist, and, playing off Sam’s elegant and affecting plainsong, wraps his fearless, chiming lines around the vocal. It’s a wonderfully openhearted performance, and Bill’s smile at the end is treasurable.

 

Extra!
Italian Paparazzi Elio Sorci – who was named “Highest paid photographer in the world in 1963” – featured in the Sunday Telegraph magazine. I loved this pic of Raquel Welch and Marcello Mastroianni in ’66. Remind anyone else of Amy Winehouse?

Sorci

 

 

 

Five Things Extra: Welcome To Muscle Shoals, Hit Recording Capital Of The World

“David, little David, help me now, c’mon little David…”

ShoalsSign

Excerpts from David Hood Q&A, Soho Hotel Cinema

Audience member: Do you have a theory about what the magic of Muscle Shoals was?
DH: I think it’s a group of young people who wanted to make good music, that was the driving force. We never thought we’d be famous, we never thought we’d be Beatles or anything like that… always my role has been a supporting role. I was always the guy by the drummer playing and trying to do whatever I could to make the artist sound good… we all had the same goal and that was to play great music and to hear it on the radio. And that was a thrill… it’s still a thrill.

I was interested in the fallout of Aretha’s appearance in the Shoals and her sudden departure after Rick Hall and her husband, Ted White, came to blows. Was there a difference in feel, working in New York, where the sessions relocated, compared to the Shoals?
DH: Well it was a lot more formal. There were union guys saying You can’t unplug that amplifier, we gotta have someone come in. We did the Letterman show three weeks ago in New York and we’re setting up and I wanted to move my amplifier, and… In Muscle Shoals, we were the guys, that’s the thing. [But in New York] once we got in there, got in our positions, playing the music, it was the same, then…

Our little studio, 3614 Jackson Ave., when Paul Simon came and recorded there, he came to record “Take Me To The Mardi Gras”, because he had heard “I’ll Take You There” and wanted those black Jamaican musicians to play, so he came and booked the studio time. He booked four days for that song and when he came in it was raining and the studio leaked… I don’t know if it’s polite to say this but the sound engineer [Jerry Masters] taped tampons across the back of the control room roof, because the water was dripping on the control board. We got “Take Me” on the second take, so we had three more days – Paul Simon’s not going to give up the studio time he’s paying for so we cut “Kodachrome” and those other things… [those other things included “Loves Me Like A Rock”, “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” and the luminous and delicate “St. Judy’s Comet”, showing the deft touch that made them perfect collaborators. Just listen to Pete Carr’s guitar fills, Hood’s super-melodic bass and Barry Beckett’s cool vibes. The Rhythm Section also cut “Still Crazy After All These Years” and “My Little Town” with Simon].

So, very primitive facilities that we had… but it’s the sound of the musicians – it’s not the room, it’s the musicians. Many, many accidents happen in music. At the end of “Kodachrome” you hear Paul Simon go “OK” – that’s when he’s trying to get us to stop, to do it again, and we keep playin’ and it sort of becomes the record, so you never know on things like that.

My friend Alex: Often in the film Rick Hall comes across as an eccentric and sometimes brutal character – is that a fair depiction?
DH: That’s some true depiction – to this day. The session where you see [in the film] Candi Staton  recording ”I Ain’t Easy To Love”…

Alex: He’s all over it, isn’t he…
DH: He was so typical Rick Hall. He was still as awful as he ever was. “No man, that’s no good! That’s not what I want…”

Audience member: Is it a love/hate thing?
DH: Mostly love [audience laughs]. He gave me my start, I would be nowhere without him… I tell him that every time I see him. It’s a small town where we are. You either love each other or kill each other!

Other than the fact that I missed MSTthere being any mention of Eddie Hinton (add your own non-hitmaking Shoals denizen here), the film captures something of the time and place that those wonderful records came from. Read Mick Brown’s lovely piece on the Telegraph’s site, that tells you what you need to know.

I caught up with David after 25 or so years – the last time we talked was in his office at 1000 Alabama Avenue. I wore the T-Shirt the studio had given us, and Alex took a picture on his phone.

Quote at the top: Mavis Staples’ exhortation to David Hood in “I’ll Take You There”. Sign photograph taken by me in ’87.

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