Wednesday, July 18th

This week’s Five Things was written to the sound of a BBC commentator exclaiming “In Paris tonight, they’re going to party like it’s 1998!” as the World Cup Final ended, a line that had to have been thought of in prep for the game, and one they probably winced over, but, what the hell, decided to use.

Oh, and also written to the awful soundtrack of the vassal state that is Piers Morgan getting all boys-toys excited by Air Force One and the enforced closure of Stansted Airport for his exclusive interview with you-know-who. Almost everything about the programme (#pierstrumpaf1) was staggeringly offensive. I’m saying that so that you don’t waste an hour of your lives, but I still think you should watch it, in case the Revolution comes, Piers Morgan gets captured, and this is needed to build the case against him. To clear my head, I put on Lee Dorsey singing “River Boat”, an extremely weird and discombobulated slice of sparse funk. Check it out if you don’t know it. Okay, Five Things

ONE FATHER AND SONS
As 8 o’clock, as Belgium v France entered its second spell I thought about Caetano Veloso and his concert at the Barbican. I’m not the only person with tickets who couldn’t pass up the game. I wondered about his first half audience. Luckily – or not – Brazil were taking no part in the Semi-Finals, and as his concert promotor, Serious, tweeted “Don’t let last Friday night be a reason to stay in today; come celebrate Brazil with ‘one of the greatest songwriters of the century’ (@nytimes) @caetanoveloso.”

So I watch the game with son Gabe, at my mum’s flat in Covent Garden, before grabbing a cab to the Barbican. I wait for a break in the performance to be admitted. It doesn’t take long, and as I find my seat, I’m struck by the palpable warmth that exists between the musicians and the audience. There are shouted requests and laughter and some conversation from the stalls to the stage.

Caetano Veloso and three of his sons (Moreno, Zecas and Tom) sit in a line across the stage – one at a keyboard, one on bass and the third with a nylon string guitar, twin of the one that Caetano plays. That son (No. 3 if you’re counting from the left) sat insouciantly crosslegged and barefooted, his flip-flops cast aside. The son who started off on bass played a spoon on a plate for the next number, before putting it down so that he could do a kind of sand-dance shimmy across the stage.

Then they start to play a percussive, choppy samba rhythm under a song that the audience knows, seemingly as well as the musicians. Lovers entwine their arms and ecstatically join in, pitch perfect. Like other veteran musicians playing London, there’s a diaspora audience here. I’ve seen it with both Charles Aznavour and Paolo Conte, where a shared heritage turns the evening into something that may be tagged as nostalgia but is actually a deeper celebration of a state of being – here, being Brazilian. And even as a stranger here among this crowd, with no notion of the subjects of the songs, I feel a sort of drunken joyfulness. There’s something special about familial harmonies, atop a velvet Fender Rhodes bed, some nimble bass and sparsely-plucked nylon-stringed guitars. I only caught forty minutes, but it was a great forty minutes. Here’s son Tom leading them in one of the beguiling songs from this new project, Ofertorio.

And on the tube home, I step into the carriage and see a sad couple, with Belgian flags painted on their faces, staring into the middle distance.

TWO STAN THE MAN
I remember wanting to figure out the chords to Andy Razaf and Don Redman’s “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” when it appeared on Geoff Muldaur is Having a Wonderful Time in 1975. My dad said, “Oh, I know someone who can help…” A couple of nights later he handed me a blank cheque, torn out of his Midland Bank chequebook. On the other side, the chords, courtesy of pianist – and my dad’s old mucker – Stan Greig. Stan had played the drums in the Colyer band’s four-month Düsseldorf stint in 1954 (and on Humph’s “Bad Penny Blues”, the inspiration for “Lady Madonna”) and duly delivered all the essential chords, although it took me a while to find out that Fº was otherwise known as F diminished. Oh, and the C13 can be subbed with a C7, but it doesn’t sound quite as good. [Mark sends this: “It’s worth noting that the Muldaur version of “Gee Baby”… is slightly different to any others in that he makes the opening chord of a verse minor rather than major. It really works!]

 

5-greigchequeTHREE HERRMANN AND?
Walking out of an afternoon screening of Taxi Driver into the bright, hot London sunshine was a disorientating experience. The hellish neon and tenement grime of the movie, overscored by Bernard Herrmann’s stunning music, took a while to dissipate. We stayed through the credits mostly to see who played the alto sax and trumpet parts that are so central to the intensity of Herrmann’s score, but they weren’t credited. Some digging turned up that the sax was often misattributed to Tom Scott.

The Library of Congress had this to say: “Orchestrator Christopher Palmer, who was present at the recording sessions in Los Angeles, assured this writer that Ronnie Lang played the alto sax solos and that the so-called “original soundtrack album” was actually a re-recording, made a day or two later and following Herrmann’s death, for which Lang was no longer available and for whom Tom Scott subbed. Other musicians included Uan Rasey (MGM studio’s lead trumpeter), Warren Luening and Malcolm McNab on trumpets…” So I still don’t know who played the trumpet solos. Listening to it, I thought of Jack Sheldon’s fine work on Tom Waits’ score for One From the Heart and the Foreign Affairs album, where he absolutely shines. It turns out that Sheldon studied with Rasey. And I love the fact that Ronnie Lang’s professional début was aged sixteen, with the fantastically named Hoagy Carmichael’s Teenagers…

FOUR LEFSETZ & GAMBINO
Following on from last week, I started reading The Lefsetz Letter because Lionel told me that I should. “Bob Lefsetz is famous for being beholden to no one and speaking the truth. He addresses the issues that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy protection, pricing and the music itself.” Whew! The letters are long and sometimes too insider-y for the likes of me, but it’s a pungent and entertaining look at the machinations of the music biz. A month ago he wrote about Donald (Childish Gambino) Glover and the astonishing video for his song, “This is America”, possibly the only video that has prompted mainstream media to run features telling you what’s going on it… And it also inspired Pinot (on Instagram) to recreate Glover’s dance moves on a Mac SE using MacPaint. Which is insane.

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From Bob Lefsetz: “History always repeats, just not in the way you think it does. We were waiting for anthems to bubble up and dominate radio. But the anger is more tribal and less singable, and music lives online, not over the airwaves. You pull it up on demand, there are no gatekeepers, you get a vibe on the wind, and you check it out.

That’s how hard it is to make it these days. Glover was playing to sold-out theatres, and still most people had no idea what he was doing. Let that be a lesson to the wannabes wondering why they’ve not had their chance. You’ve got to make your own chance, over and over and over again. And I’m not sure how long Glover’s moment lasts. Today some art is evanescent, and some lasts nearly forever. You can have an impact for a moment and be in the rearview mirror just that fast. But if you’re establishing a body of work as opposed to reaching for a momentary brass ring, you survive. Watch the video, have your own opinion, but just know it’s not your father’s music business anymore. Pop is dead. You know, that manufactured sound constructed by a team, refined for smoothness to the point where there’s no edge to catch you.

And rock became so formulaic as to be uninteresting. But hip-hop… The lesson is not to be calculated, not to play it safe, not to second-guess the audience. To dig down deep and tell your own truth. Over and over and over again. To experiment, take chances and then maybe… The public will catch up with you. As it just did with Donald Glover.”

Glover, creator of “Atlanta”, is undoubtedly having a moment, and the video is an astonishing, unsettling piece of work. Between Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino, there’s an impressive level of thinking going on.

Of course, I remember Glover most fondly from Community, where he was terrific as Troy, the ex-high school quarterback who abandons his jock mentality and embraces his nerdy, childish side as the result of his friendship with Abed Nadir. Here they are with their Spanish Rap, “La Biblioteca”.


FIVE FIVE THINGS: A BRAND EXTENSION
This Friday. Hold on to your hats, all you 173 readers of Five Things (and the 50 more on LinkedIn, obvs). All I’ll say for now is that it’s made of paper and ink.

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Wednesday, January 31st

ONE THE WEATHER STATION, OSLO

5-weatherTim and I stand with our backs leaning on the bar, watching Red River Dialect play their support-set songs, muggily. “It’s like listening to an It’s a Beautiful Day bootleg” says Tim, with unerring accuracy. I’m concerned that the subtlety of Tamara Lindeman’s songs will suffer a similar fate, but as soon as the Weather Station hit the first chord my worries evaporate. I was sent here by a review that Richard Williams wrote (here) and he captures just what makes their gigs so special. “Some of these songs are like the deepest conversations you ever had with someone you care about – and very often they’re like things that were formulated but somehow never got said. On the faster songs she piles lines on top of each other to create a river of thought and feeling. And none of the nuances are lost when she sings them with a band in front of an audience.”

Lindeman and her collaborators create an organic soundworld, and find the new in clever variations on the old. Sonically there are echoes of David Crosby’s chords, Joni Mitchell’s Hejira-era strumming, and, more tellingly, the spectral space found by the Cowboy Junkies when they recorded with one microphone in a church. But that makes the music sound too gentle – there’s a steamroller drive to the faster songs, powered by the bass of Ben Whiteley, who Tim singles out as the player the music seems to revolve around. Erik Heestermans disdains the obvious on drums and Will Kidman’s guitar solos are febrile and brittle in the manner of Richard Thompson. He’s also playing a structural role in the songs, teasing out melodies that Lindeman fleetingly suggests. The basic building blocks of rock – two guitars, bass and drums – hypnotically remade. Seventy five minutes went by in the blink of an eye.

TWO BASQUIAT AT THE BARBICAN
A fantastic show, where Basquiat’s crazed genius shined through. What I had forgotten was just how much he referenced musicians in his work – often an older Jazz than you may expect (Louis Armstrong’s “Potato Head Blues” and Ben Webster’s “Blue Skies”, say, although his main man was Charlie Parker).

5-BasquiatThere’s also cracking film of August Darnell and Andy Hernandez leading Kid Creole and the Coconuts through their early-80s set in a New York Club. [Polaroid of AD above].

THREE FROM NICK COLEMAN’S NEW BOOK
Voices: How a Great Singer Can Change Your Life, published by Jonathan Cape on 25 January. I’m really looking forward to this. Here’s a bit about Al Green: “We are in New York on Seventh Avenue, high up in the sky in his hotel bedroom. This is my second attempt to interview the Rev. The first time round, which he clearly only half remembers, if at all, from a year ago, we’d got bogged down in thick theological mud. I’d wanted to draw out the lineaments of his faith in order to unravel the fabric of his genius, or something along those lines. Most of all, I’d wanted to uncover the ambivalences that allow him to sing about God like a lover and about Love like a metaphysical poet. This is not possible in 20 minutes. And Al, being a true soul man, had chosen to sing most of his replies in robust Biblical quotation. This was great for me but no use at all for you, dear reader.
So Al, when you’re singing, do you wait for the spirit to come to you or do you summon it? “What magazine do you work for?  in London? Ah, well, I don’t really speak on that subject because it’s a Utopia subject and, anyway, no one is always in the spirit or under the anointing. Not that I know of. And if you sit and wait for it and do what the scripture says – ‘And if anybody ask anything of the Lord, let him be prepared to wait on it’ – you may be waiting a few days. And then your studio time runs out!”

FOUR THE BLOODY BOB MUSICAL, AGAIN…
I saw this review by Caroline McGinn in Time Out. Apart from my obvious disagreement over the production, just check her In My Opinion! “It’s poignant and stirring and totally fresh to see “Like a Rolling Stone” voiced by a middle-aged woman – the electrifying Shirley Henderson as Nick’s wife Elizabeth – who’s losing her inhibitions and her mind. Or the – IMO hokey and forgettable minor ballad – “I Want You”, slowed down and revealed as a sexy, aching, unrequited duet for Nick’s son Gene and yet another character, the girl who’s leaving him for a guy with a real job.”

FIVE DO RE MI
I came upon this while looking for something else. It’s rather fine. Bob, Van Dyke Parks and Ry Cooder play Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi” at the Malibu Performing Arts Center in January 2009.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 28th November

The Return Of Scott Walker
Exciting news for us Scott fans! In a relatively revealing Guardian interview as his new album, Bish Bosch, is launched, Scott talks about his fear of performing, as well as saying that no promoter would put him on anyway, as they’re only interested in money. But Scott could tour cultural festivals, not rock arenas, if he chose. In 2008, for instance, The Barbican put on Drifting and Tilting—The Songs of Scott Walker. It was more opera than rock. Scott, eyes hidden beneath baseball cap, stood at the mixing desk conducting his collaborator Peter Walsh. It was all I could do to drag my eyes away and back to the stage, which teemed with extraordinary visions. The most arresting image? Possibly a boxer using a pig’s carcass as a percussion instrument. Or maybe Gavin Friday as Elvis (“It casts its ruins in shadows/Under Memphis moonlight”), perched on a stool, singing to his stillborn twin Jesse, while a bequiffed and backlit figure strode  from the back of the stage until he assumed gigantic proportions, looming over the whole theatre. Whichever, it was an evening that lives on in the memory. Long may Scott run.

Amy’s Blues
The National Portrait Gallery in London buys a portrait by Marlene Dumas of the late Amy Winehouse, and  the curator says: “Dumas said that she had been very moved by the news of Winehouse’s death.” Which sort of begs the question: why not be moved by something useful like her talent or her voice—while she was alive. What’s “moving” about her death? “Dumas, who is based in Amsterdam, sought out images of Winehouse online for the work which draws the viewer in to the singer’s distinctive eyes and eye liner.” Yes, you read that right. In Art Speak, she sought out images of Amy online. And then copied some of the photos she found, quite badly. So, basically, this mediocre fan painting was co-created by Google Image Search (79,600,000 results).

Kermit The Frog, Meet Miles Davis & Louis Malle & Jeanne Moreau
Genius overlay of Davis’ session (filmed by Malle) recording the soundtrack to Lift To The Scaffold, the great French noir from ’58, with LCD Soundsystem’s New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down. The film of Davis playing to a huge projection of Moreau walking the streets of Paris at night is just stunning. That’s cut with Kermit on a rock across the river from midtown, and in Times Square. Hats off to Alessandro Grespan for his inspired and crazy jamming together of these two videos. The despairing mood of both pieces is eloquently summed up in James Murphy’s brilliant couplet “There’s a ton of the twist, but we’re fresh out of shout…”

Is It Rolling, Keith?
My favourite moment so far in Crossfire Hurricane, the Stones doc, is the extraordinary stage invasion footage. Keith: “It started, man, on the first tour. Half way through things started to get crazy [here the on-stage cameras filming the concert record a group of young besuited guys pushing the Stones over, singing into Jagger’s mic, attempting to pull Brian Jones’ guitar off, as the soundtrack becomes phased and fragmented]… we didn’t play a show after that, that was ever completed, for three years… we’d take bets on how long a show would last—you’re on, 10 minutes…”

Christies Pop Culture Auction Preview, South Kensington
A random sampling of the 20th Century, from chairs that were part of the set of Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, via Harrison Ford’s bullwhip from Raiders to the ‘Iron Maiden’ from Ken Russell’s Tommy (a snip if it goes for its estimate of £1000). I was there to gaze upon Mitch Mitchell’s snare drum (as featured on Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, Hey Joe etc) and Andy Warhol’s mock-up of an unpublished book of the Stones ’75 tour. Favourite item? Hibbing High School Yearbook, 1958, signed, “Dear Jerry, Well the year’s almost all over now, huh. Remember the “sessions” down at Colliers. Keep practicing the guitar and maybe someday you’ll be great! A friend, Bob Zimmerman”

Jerry’s Yearbook, Hibbing High School, 1958

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