Monday, May 8th

I’ve managed to stop howling at GQ Style’s Brad Pitt feature long enough to post these things that amused/interested me in the last couple of weeks, thus making it Eight Things…

This week’s Eight Things is sponsored by the letter “F” and features rather a lot of videos…

ONE STOCK FOOTAGE

splitIt’s so hard to find new ways to put images together. This absolutely rocks – beautiful split-screen use of stock footage (apart from the cheap sensationalism of a couple of splices. And the song, a rather pale “Get Lucky” a-like, by Cassius feat. Cat Power & Pharell). Just how much stock footage did director Alex Courtès (or his researchers) actually have to look through?

TWO SELF-FLAGELLATING
Born to Run. It seems an unimaginative title for Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography – but, as it pans out – becomes the only title that could possibly fit. It’s actually exhausting following Bruce’s downbeat road-movie retelling of his life. He’s excellent on the awkwardnesses inherent in the whole friend/bandmate/employee thing, and brilliant on the hard craft that went into maximising what he saw as an everyday set of talents, but I always end up wanting more about the construction of the music and how it feels to play it. Publishers, I guess, want more details of angst and love and sex – which they think is relatable stuff for a general audience. However, it’s precisely because you can’t relate your life to his that makes his so interesting…
nb. I also zoomed through Clinton Heylin’s book on the E Street Band years (it was cheap at Fopp). Pretty good, although, as always with Clinton, his habit of telling the artist what they should have done with their life, and which songs “should have been recorded/should have been binned” is typically tedious. It’s a shame, as he’s a really thorough and engaging writer.

THREE “I’M HAVING THE SAME REACTION THAT YOU’RE HAVING, WHICH IS FREAKING OUT…”
Paul F Tomkins unboxing Aimee Mann’s new release, “Mental Illness”.

tomkins

FOUR OLD FAVOURITES: YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION?
In Classic Rock World™ news recently, Wendy and Lisa get the band back together…
Wendy Melvoin [talking to David Browne of Rolling Stone]: All this is fluid right now. But the plan today – and it’s changeable – is we only perform songs that don’t distance us as the band. So in other words, if we perform “Darling Nikki,” none of us are going to sing it. We’re going to have someone come out and do it. Wherever we go, there’s going to be an artist who loved him deeply and they can come up and sing that song.

But the other tracks that were specifically geared around a band – say, “Let’s Go Crazy” or “Controversy” – we’re going to [sing them]. We’re also going to do some of the songs that didn’t call for a lot of his calisthenics or his screaming. There’s no one who could do that. No one. You’re going to see us doing things more like “Girls and Boys”, “Love or $” [the B-side of “Kiss”]. There’s a massive catalog of what we can perform. Most of it is the big hits… and people who are saying, Who’s going sing “Purple Rain”? Fuck, we just… Once again, let’s break this down. Why doesn’t everybody in the audience sing it? We’ll play it, we’ll put a couple microphones out there, and you sing it! That song is bigger than any of us now. It’s a group vocal. Everybody sing it.

In your mind, how different were the Revolution from his later bands? “We’re not the most thrashy musicians he had. After we broke up, he had guys that were, like, notating their parts. We’re just not that. We’re scrappy. We were a band. Bobby says it all the time: We were the last band Prince was ever in.
 
Also, here’s Don Was on playing The Band’s songs [for The Last Waltz 40 Tour], talking to Bob Ruggiero of the Houston Press: Was knows he has big shoes to fill in playing Rick Danko’s parts, though he’s not interested in doing a “karaoke” take on them. “If you listen to the live recordings, the thing about Rick is that he never played the same way twice. It’s not like if you play “Something” by the Beatles, you have to play that bass exactly right! My thing is to try to get into [Rick’s] head and conjure up the spirit of what he was doing. The thing that I can relate to is at the core, he’s an R&B bass player. And me growing up in Detroit with soul and Motown music, there’s a relation.”

And finally in CRW™… The Classic is the name given to a new series of two-day concerts in the US that bring back the rock stars of yesteryear – Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Steely Dan, Journey, Earth, Wind & Fire and The Doobie Brothers. They will perform at the Classic East and Classic West two-day festivals in July. The first event will be held on July 15-16 at Los Angeles’ Dodgers Stadium, followed by Classic East from July 29-30 at Citi Field in New York City. Yesteryear. Don’t you love that word?

FIVE FOURTEEN?
This is the songwriters’ credit list for Jidenna’s “Classic Man”, as used on the soundtrack of Moonlight. 14 people! It’s on Wondaland Records, Janelle Monae’s label (whose fine acting graces both Moonlight and Hidden Figures.) My favourite name on the list is Roman GianArthur Irvin, although Amethyst Amelia Kelly runs him close.

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SIX “THAT’S HOW YOU F****ING DO IT!”
Haim come back with a live-in-the-studio-in-real-time video of a new song. I’m not sure the song’s all that great, but it’s a pretty cool video, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Este Haim: “My mom was studying to be a teacher and to get your credentials you have to shadow another teacher. My mom gets a gig at a school in the Valley, shadowing the art teacher. First week, the teacher has a heart attack in the parking lot and my mom becomes the sole art teacher. My mom was younger than me, like 22/23, and she now has 5 or 6 classes of kids. She would always talk about this one kid named Paul, that she loved – he was very energetic, artistic, vivacious. We’d turn the TV on and Boogie Nights would come on or Magnolia and our mom was like, ‘oh that’s Paul’s movie.’ That being Paul Thomas Anderson. We were like, Mom are you talking about Paul Thomas Anderson? And she was like, ‘Yes that is Paul, I taught Paul.’”

SEVEN FONDA & FRISELL’S INSPIRATION
Rest In Peace, Bruce Langhorne. The real Mr Tambourine Man has sadly passed away, so I listen to Peter Fonda say goodbye on Last Word (Radio 4): “Universal said, Fonda – you just can’t go hiring your friends to play on the soundtrack [of The Hired Hand], and I said, Listen, this cat’s a virtuoso on forty-two stringed instruments – he can play an entire symphony orchestra sound!” Writing an article for Pulp magazine about Taschen’s enormous book of Daniel Kramer’s great photographs, Bob Dylan, A Year and a Day, I discover an image that I’ve not seen before, of Bob ’n’ Bruce playing on the Les Crane TV show. They’re both playing parlour guitars [Langhorne’s a 1920 Martin 1-21] and Bruce is a few steps behind Bob in half-shadow. Then I put on The Hired Hand, Langhorne’s soundtrack to Fonda’s movie, twenty-four minutes of beautifully hand-stitched music, and undoubtably an imfluence on the soundtrack work of Ry Cooder.

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The programme said that he did the soundtracks to Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, which wasn’t the case, although he had worked with Jonathan Demme on Melvin and Howard and Swing Shift. Jonathan Demme: “Just occasionally, you come across these geniuses. Bruce Langhorne was one. These people all tend to work in the same way: they respond instinctively to the visual image. I still remember the insane thrill of being with Bruce in his apartment, with his guitar and other instruments, and looking at scenes from Melvin and Howard. He was playing things and I was just saying, ‘Oh my God, that’s amazing.’ Bruce Langhorne has done some of the most beautiful scoring that I have ever been involved with, or ever known.”

Bill Frisell talking to Michael Ross on premierguitar.com: “I didn’t realise how big an influence he was until many years later. It was almost subliminal, but that is too soft a word. He had this gigantic effect… I used to listen to the early Bob Dylan records he was on when I was a kid, lying on the floor with the speakers next to my head, playing them over and over. I just heard him as part of the total sound. Years later I realized his playing was this line between accompanying and having a conversation, being spontaneous and completely integrated into the music from the inside out, playing a part but not a part, unpredictable… that was the way I have been trying to play my whole life.”
 
EIGHT WTF
“A $30 bag of Doritos chips that plays the entire soundtrack of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 has sold out instantly. The controls on the packet fit around the image of a cassette deck. The crisp bag is rechargeable so you can listen to the soundtrack more than once.  The follow-up soundtrack to the first Guardians flick, which went on to become one of the best-selling vinyl records of recent years, features a huge range of stone-cold ’70s hits.”

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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

 

 

 

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.

Xylo

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 8th August

Killing Me Softly With Their Song
Now the second season of The Killing has come to an end I’ll hear no more the striking and enigmatic theme, my favourite piece of tv music. Some Great Detectiveness (© Bob Burden’s genius Flaming Carrot) leads me to find that it was written by a couple of London-based musicians (see Alabama 3/The Sopranos for similar US tv/London-based musician interface). Richard File and Wendy Rae Fowler perform as We Fell To Earth—name and logo influenced by the Nic Roeg/David Bowie film The Man Who Fell To Earth. I resolve to find out more…

Readers/Writers
Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian: This week Aditya read David Remnick’s profile of Bruce Springsteen. “Is it a sign of age when you read a music piece not because you like the singer, but the journalist?” I don’t think it is. My guide to the quality of writing in a magazine has always been the same—how many pieces have I read here that are about subjects that are of no, or little, interest to me. The higher the number, the better the writing.

Desert Island Discs 1; Saro by Sam Amidon.
In the performance with Bill Frisell live at the Poisson Rouge on Vimeo. 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 player, and, playing off Sam’s elegant and affecting plainsong, wraps his fearless, serpentine lines around the vocal. It’s a wonderfully openhearted performance, and Bill’s smile at the end treasurable.

The Musical Life, New Yorker, July 23
Watts said the difference between playing jazz in clubs and playing rock and roll with the Stones was the volume. “Also in jazz you’re closer,” he said. “In a football stadium, you can’t say you’re closely knit together. It’s difficult to know what Mick’s up to when you can’t even see him. He’s gone around the corner and he’s half a mile away.”—Alec Wilkinson

Olympic Music
The BBC have pulled out their Battles and xx mp3s with a vengeance for the Olympics, tracking short films about the rowers or cyclists with choice selections, but the overwhelming memory of music at the Games will be Vangelis’ bloody Chariots Of Fire. At first I thought the IOC and LOGOC had just done away with the National Anthems altogether in the Medal Ceremonies and gone with the uplifting, glorious and triumphant™ Britfilm classic, but it turns out that it just soundtracks most of it, before ending with the winners anthem. Ol’ Vangelis’ royalty cheque should make interesting reading…

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