Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 9th January

Weird iPod Synchronicity Pt4: Hyde Park Corner, London
As Lana Del Ray sparks into life in my headphones, hitting the chorus of Day At The Races [And I’m off to the races/Cases of Bacardi chasers/Chasing me all over town…] a trap and four outriders, all jodhpurs, riding hats & crops, trots in front of the bus, past Apsley House, and makes their way into Hyde Park.

On The Road Again
Fact Of The Week: At number 17 in the Highest Earning World Tours last year, Leonard Cohen is ahead (at £28.4 million) of Justin Bieber… and at Number 27, The Black Keys are ahead of Celine Dion, having grossed $23.5 million. The Black Keys. $23.5 million. Wow…

emusic Find Of The Month: Menahan Street Band, The Crossing
Recorded in a studio paid for by a Jay Z sample, by some of the musicians behind Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley’s sound, mostly during the night, this instrumental album is wonderful. Some of it is Spaghetti Western, some a kind of handicraft Portishead—try Ivory & Blue: jazz horns, soulful wah-wah guitar, funky Seventies pop drumming. Just the right amount of loose, just the right amount of tight, just the right amount of great.

Jeff Buckey: Three Films In Pipeline…
But the one I’m looking forward to (Brendan Fletcher’s A Pure Drop) is written by the fabulously named Train Houston. You’d have to gravitate towards music in some form with a name like Train Houston.

Bowie Back, Nile Rogers Bio, Letters Of Note
One the evening before David Bowie’s return to PopWorld™ I was reading Nile Rodgers’ very entertaining biography Le Freak, and had reached the part where he talks about recording Let’s Dance with the label-less Bowie.

“As I say to vocalists who are singing a little flat, sharp, or out-of-the-pocket, We’re in the neighbourhood, but we haven’t found the house yet.” David Bowie helped me find the house.

Not long after I arrived in Switzerland, Bowie strolled into my bedroom with a guitar.“Hey, Nile, listen to this, I think it could be a hit.” What followed was was a folksy sketch of a composition with a solid melody: the only problem was it sounded to me like Donovan meets Anthony Newley. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. I’d been mandated to make hits, and could only hear what was missing… I started reworking the song. I soon discovered the diamond in the rough.

[We] asked Claude Nobs, creator of the Montreux Jazz Festival, to round up a handful of local musicians… gone were the strummy chords… I’d replaced them with staccato stabs and a strict harmonic interpretation. I used silence and big open spaces to keep the groove and kept rearranging it on the spot, like I always did with Chic. David quickly got down with the reshaping of his song. We had a lot of fun and laughter in that Swiss studio with those terrific musicians… Laughter is the key to my sessions—the unconditionally loving parent in the room.”

And from Letters Of Note: In November of 1970, a month after signing a five-year publishing deal with Chrys­alis Music, 24-year-old David Bowie wrote the following letter to Bob Grace, the man who signed him, and briefly filled him in on his life so far:

November 17th, 1970
Haddon Hall

Mr. Bob Grace
Chrysalis Music Ltd
388/398 Oxford Street
London W1

Dear Bob
I was born in Brixton and went to some Schools thereabout and studied Art. Then I went into an Advertising Agency which I didn’t like very much. Then I left and joined some Rock ’n’ Roll Bands playing Saxophone and I sang some which nobody liked very much.

As I was already a Beatnik, I had to be a Hippie and I was very heavy and wrote a lot of songs on some beaches and some people liked them. Then I recorded Space Oddity and made some money and spent it which everybody liked.

Now I am 24 and I am married and I am not at all heavy and I’m still writing and my wife is pregnant which I like very much.

LOVE DAVID

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 9th May

Janis Joplin, Get It While You Can, Take Three, July 27th 1970
“Everybody I know is crazy, except President Nixon… and that’s his problem…” This is take three of the Jerry Ragavoy/Mort Shulman song, still not quite polished, but rawer and freer. When they reconvene on September 11th to finally record it, they’re more focused—“brighter”— in producer Paul Rothschild’s words. But take three still has the edge, a more pleading vocal, and a coda of “No No NoNoNo NO…” that is absolutely moving, and missing from the final take.

Alabama Shakes, Electric Brixton, May 3rd
In the sleevenotes to an album by one of Alabama’s greatest musical talents, Eddie Hinton, that fine Memphis journalist Robert Gordon wrote: “If a frayed rope could sing, it would sound like only two people, and since Otis is dead, that leaves Eddie.” And since Eddie is dead, that leaves Brittany Howard. It’s erroneous that Janis is the cheap ’n’ easy invokee—Howard’s models seem more to be those two men, especially when you factor in her tone. First seen when the excellent Laura Barton wrote about a lone YouTube video in The Guardian last year, I’d deliberately avoided listening, but bought tickets to see them. As my daughter Jordan said, that way you’re not just anticipating the couple of songs you know, and not listening properly. So we let it wash over us and tried to ignore the ******* hipsters talking at the bar and the drunks hollering next to us (hard to do in the moodily quiet numbers). Punching her guitar, stomping her boots and seemingly conducting the songs by shakes of her head, Brittany Howard lived up to the hype, and the band are just slick enough to make it work, but not so slick that it sounds mechanical—you just wish you could be watching them at The Lamplighter, outside of Muscle Shoals, instead of here. Oh, one last thing: the name. It’s not easy to do a great band name these days – see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds for example – but this is most excellent, both geographical locator and mission statement.

Black Cobra
Enable the subtitles on your TV, get to see who’s sold their music to Ad Agencies! Cobra beer ad, Black Keys’ Gold On The Ceiling. In two minds whether the lyrics really fit the product – “Gold on the ceiling/I ain’t blind/Just a matter of time/Before you steal it/It’s all right/Ain’t no God in my eye.” I’m not sure that’s on brand.

VanMan SatNav
Driving with my friend Steve Way to a cartoon festival, he was taken with the Irish voice on our car’s SatNav, and started doing the instructions in the style of Van Morrison. Genius! Leaving motorways and approaching roundabouts has never been so entertaining. Googling to see if anyone had already thought of this I could only find one reference, from a thread on Julian Cope’s Modern Antiquarian… “My Van Morrison Sat Nav has caused me to flood my brakes in the slipstream and I’m now stuck between two viaducts. It’s also told me to fuck…” and there, wonderfully, access to the thread ends, as I can’t get on to the site.

Message From Chuck!

chuckrainey.chipin.com/chuck-rainey-well-health-fund

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