In no particular order: Five Things from the past couple of weeks (Part One)

VISUAL OF THE WEEK: 1
In the post: US Post Office stamps in honour of Janis Joplin.

JanisstampsIF YOU MISSED THIS…
I really loved this set of photos taken in the early days of CBGB, shared on Marc H Miller’s 99 Bowery site. “Our first photograph of Bettie with the movers and shakers was taken during our very first visit to the club in late 1976. Standing alone by the bar was one of Bettie’s favorite performers, the poet-rocker Patti Smith. At home at CBGB and a wee bit tipsy, Patti was more than happy to oblige our request for a picture with Bettie. Soon we were CBGB regulars, checking out the different bands and slowly adding to our collection of pictures. Although the buzz about CBGB was growing, the place was still a neighborhood bar where future rock legends were just as likely to be hanging out and drinking by the pinball machine as performing on stage. As our “Paparazzi Self-Portraits” morphed into “Bettie Visits CBGB,” we saw our photographs as a reflection of the new aesthetic emerging, a contradictory mix of high and low culture energized by fun and humor, the lure of fame and fortune, and a cynical appreciation of the power of a good hype.” I mostly love the fact that Bettie’s rather demure and straightforward gaze rarely falters.

PAOLO CONTI AT THE BARBICAN
For Simon’s big birthday I had wanted to get the two of us tickets to see Jerry Lee Lewis at the Palladium (We’d been to the Wembley Country Festival together in the late 70s and seen The Killer top the bill, but I was too late). Searching around I realised that someone I’d wanted to see, Paulo Conte, was at the Barbican in November. I know what you’re thinking – it’s his birthday, not mine. In my favour, Simon loves Naples and has visited it many times. Also, he has very wide-ranging musical tastes, from The Singing Postman – he’s an East Anglian boy, after all – to the Folk Songs of Georgia. We both loved Conte, conducting proceedings with arms down at his side, rather like Chaplin, his waggling hands giving prompts to the musicians. And what musicians! A brilliant, blazing orchestra – oboe, a horn section that included a baritone sax, violin, accordion, vibraphone, organ, bass, drums and piano. Oh, and three guitarists – a formidable sound when they locked-in for any gypsy jazz passages. My recall of the specifics of the gig is less than perfect: I had been in an, um, traffic incident the previous day but had not wanted to let Simon down, so arrived at the venue lightly concussed. The next day I had a dim memory of Simon, apropos the incredible audience reaction toward the end of the two-hour show (abandoned dancing in the aisles, general screaming and mayhem), telling me of the night that he saw BB King in Naples. I emailed, asking him to fill me in…

SIMON’S BB KING/ITALIAN FOOTBALL INTERFACE
“I went to see BB King one hot night about twenty-five years ago in a vast tent in the outskirts of Naples. He played this grand stately blues instrumental that lasted about fifteen minutes, after which the entire audience responded in kind by singing the Napoli football anthem – for about 5 minutes! BB just had to stand there and make I love you all-type gestures til the frenzy abated…”

He then follows this with a second email: “I’ve got my football seasons muddled up – well it was last century. They won the league in 1986-87 (the Napoli flag on the wall over my bed says so!). The next season they were pipped to the post by the dreaded AC Milan (who sing some horrible song about Neapolitans living on a dunghill) after losing 2-3 to them at home in April/May, a week or so after that over-optimistic evening serenading BB King. I watched the match on TV with my friend Antonio in his flat in the Spanish Quarter. Milan scored first and everything went very quiet. Then Maradona equalised and the whole street went out on to their balconies and did a little jig and sang their Ole’s. Then Milan scored again – silencio. Careca equalised and we all went out onto the balconies again. Then Van Basten scored a third for Milan. Cacca frita! The next day Naples – which was normally totally manic – was like a city of the dead…

He adds a postscript: “This was happening just weeks before Maradona’s Napoli won the Scudetto for the first time – hence all the footie madness. The city was full of the sound of aerosol trompetti and every shrine seemed to have a prayer for Diego.” Here’s Simon’s version of the shrines, and how the streets of Napoli looked at the time:

maradona

BEST COAST IN LESS-THAN-SUNNY BRIXTON
Dotter and I met up with “lovely Brett” around an old piano in a Brixton pub. We talked of car crashes and old guitars and amplifiers until Brett looked at his watch, announced that he had to go to work, and headed off to play bass for Best Coast. California pop indoors at night, and sounding just fine.

! BrettPOSTSCRIPT
I was talking to Tim about getting tickets to see the Allen Toussaint Band at the Barbican this Sunday. I’d last seen him at Ronnie Scott’s in April last year in the company of Richard Williams, who was going to interview him the next day. Here’s Richard on his surprise encore that night. It was a wonderful, warm show, by a truly talented musician, and it was so sad to hear the news yesterday. I’ll cue up “Tipitina and Me” from the post-Katrina fundraising album – a beautifully measured and melancholy version of the Professor Longhair classic. As “Thank You”, his tribute to Longhair, says: “Thank you, Lord, for this very special man/and thank you for letting me be/around to see/one as great as he…” Here are my memories of that night at Ronnie’s, and the music player on the right has live versions of “Thank You” and “Freedom for the Stallion”.

Part Two on Friday with Charles Aznavour, John Lennon’s J160E, Be Reasonable and Demand the Impossible (a punk event at Central St Martins), The Aberlour Voice-O-Graph and Lillian Roxon’s wonderful Rock Encyclopedia.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 15th August

Emusic Find Of The Week
“My name is Dale Hawkins, and I wanna dedicate this song… to the three cities… that I, uh… had the pleasure of recording this tune in! Give a listen and you’ll hear ’em.”—DALE HAWKINS, cousin to Ronnie, creator of the fabulous Susie Q (if you haven’t heard it in years download it now! James Burton’s guitar—out-of-this-world!). This is from L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas, title song of his obscure late sixties release, with Burton, Cooder, Mahal, Penn & Oldham all playing. It’s on the great compilation Country Funk 1969-1975. “Ain’t no bum trip, man,” he drawls over a particularly out-of-place flute solo. “It just goes to show ya, man, you can take the soul pickers out of the soul country, but you can’t take the soul out of the pickers…” As Pitchfork says “Weird, in a totally wonderful way,” and it’s hard to disagree.

From Dakar to Kampala!
We started two weeks ago at the football with Senegal’s lovely anthem and, in some excellent circularity, ended with hymne Uganda—“a musical treat” according to The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw—at the final medal ceremony, in honour of Stephen Kiprotich’s stunning gold-medal run in the marathon. A musical treat it is—I’d pay good money to hear either Randy Newman or Garth Hudson do an arrangement…

Best Coast, 100 Club, London
I hadn’t been to the 100 since it was saved by Converse’s sponsorship. Very happy to see that nothing much had changed—remarkably branding-free and still sweaty, loud and rocking. Brett was playing bass and guitar with Best Coast, and I took his picture by the plaque that’s there for my uncle, his great grandfather, Ken.

Fifty Shades Of Tortoiseshell

Jazz-themed sunglasses from St Albans. Nice.

Take A Load Off RP
Robert Pattinson in French culture mag Les InRockuptibles: “I’m going to do a movie about The Band, the one that played with Dylan: a beautiful script about the nature of songwriting.” Mmmmmmm… I may be lost for words {although, to be fair, he comes over well in the interview}.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 27th June

Hall & Quotes (ouch!)
Rebecca Hall interview, Stylist. There’s a rumour you’re a total music geek… “Yes, that’s true. This is how much of a music geek I am; if I have a day with nothing to do, one of my favourite things is to just sit at my computer and make playlists of pretty much anything. If I could be a musician, I’d do it. I love singing.”
Is there one song you think everyone should listen to?
“That’s a really tough question. Do you mean the song or the version? I always go back to Ella Fitzgerald singing My Man at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1977. It’s not necessarily the song, and it’s not even necessarily her, it’s that particular recording. For some reason, it always gets to me. And I’ve got a bunch of those but that’s the first that comes off the top of my head.”

I’m a sucker for actually bothering to listen to things that people recommend (in all those My Playlist, or Favourite Saturday Night/Sunday Morning Record magazine features), and that’s an interesting response: The song or the version? Sometimes there are particular versions of songs that just work for you. For instance, Rick Danko singing Unfaithful Servant (part of last week’s post). That’s not the version I’d play anyone if I were trying to convince them of the brilliance of the song (that would be the original Band version, if you’re interested). It’s not even the second version I’d play them (that’s Rock Of Ages if you’re still interested). But it is the one that moves me now and makes me hear the song anew.

Anyway: I go to iTunes to get Ella’s Montreux version and find this:

Do explicit songs get a 20p surcharge? No, cause I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart apparently doesn’t have swearing and is 99p. WHAT IS THIS SWEARING? So I buy it. My Man is lovely, throaty and intense (the last time through Ella hits the title phrase like a tenor sax), starting with a deep breath as Tommy Flanagan picks out the intro. It has all her signatures, and a beautiful virtuoso ending. I can see why Rebecca Hall loves it. I’ve listened to Come Rain and damned if I can find any @#%&*! swearing. If anything, Ella sings like she has a broad smile for the whole song (for me this song is owned by Ray Charles’ glacial take). So, unlike Ella’s My Man, it’s not a version for the ages. Just a version with a 20p surcharge.

The Wide, Wide World Of Sport (And Music)
From Sport Magazine, June 22: BEATS BY DR DRE PRO HEADPHONES: What Modern sportsman doesn’t carry round a hefty pair of cans? “They are noise-cancelling, so great before a big race, and for travelling,” he explains. “I like all kinds of music, from Jay Z to Michael Jackson.”—Team GB swimmer Lian Tancock.

Pot. Kettle. Black.
“After a day with Bono, she might want to put herself back under house arrest.”—Bob Geldof on Aung San Suu Kyi.

Tin Pan Alley, Stefan Grossman, Sound Techniques
Sound Techniques was a studio housed in an old dairy building between Chelsea Embankment and the King’s Road. I was thinking about it because I walked past one of the guitar shops on Denmark Street and idly glanced at a beautiful inlaid Martin acoustic. I looked closer and realised it was a Stefan Grossman signature model. Stefan was, and is, an extremely brilliant  guitarist. I had been talking about him with Sam Charters, who was tasked in the mid-seventies with making a mainstream Grossman record by Transatlantic Records’ Nat Joseph. To this end he hired Alan White, Danny Thompson and Richard Thompson to play. When Sam was in town producing I would hang around the studio after work or college, just enjoying watching the creative process and soaking up the atmosphere (Nick Drake’s albums were recorded at ST), looking down from the control booth to the live room below. I have two memories of those particular sessions: One is watching Sam and Stefan patiently making the curly-headed Richard Thompson overdub one electric guitar part for hour after hour, trying to get him to play it more aggressively. Difference between a session man and an artist in his own right—a session man will say, “You want this? Or this? Or how about this?” Richard just tried to play it better each time. And the other memory was of picking up a comic that was lying in Alan White’s Drum Case and being given very short shrift by the Plastic Ono Band drummer for not asking first…

Maltese Diamond Position Inlays. £4,179.

Best Coast
Always nice to see a relative on stage, even if they are second cousins (did I get that right? Or is it first cousins twice-removed? Or not even cousins but something else?) Whatever, Brett is my cousin Nickie’s son. And bass & guitar player for Best Coast on tour. A grand night had by all!

Best Coast, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 20th June. Brett and Bethany Cosentino

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