Wednesday, November 16th (late!)

 A week for Art and Guitars, starting with a trip to Bond Street…

ONE SOLACE IN ART
Searching for something to lift my spirits on the ninth of November, I turn first to the Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street for the latest in Bob Dylan’s series of exhibitions there (it’s on until December 11th). I tried to feel what a rather over-emotional Jonathan Jones did when he reviewed it for The Guardian, but didn’t come up trumps. I liked some of the large canvases, and it was entertaining, but fell slightly short of compelling. There was a cool wall with Daniel Kramer’s On a Triumph in Woodstock shot, a video player and a set of stats… I was leaving as one of the visitors got into a rather intense discussion of the merits of Bob’s style with the curator. Her point – if it wasn’t Dylan who had done them, they would not have merited a large and fulsome West End showing. I stayed long enough for the blood to be mopped up and the combatants to agree to a draw.

bob

TWO MORE SOLACE IN ART
Then to the Bowie show, right across the road at Sothebys. It’s interesting to see how well auction houses now display their sales. This had full-wall graphics and comprehensive captions, and a nicely displayed selection of objects that ran the gamut from painting to, uh, furniture (mostly Ettore Sottsass and Memphis objets, including his red Valentine typewriter for Olivetti, of which he said, it was “the sort of thing to keep lonely poets company on Sundays in the country”).

bowie1

The audience for this melange was a fascinating bunch – wild-haired men from the fringes of rock, mingling with Eurotrash art dealers, busy edging their way past German art students and Japanese tourists. Oh, and there was the odd East End Camp Criminal-type, all shined shoes and classy cashmere coat, to give it the full Performance vibe. It was as catholic a collection (people and art) as you could imagine, Bomberg to Basquiat, via St Ives.

bowie2

THREE IT’S NOT ART…
but you gotta love this. Vintage Reggae record sleeve photography geographically located in the here and now. And how lovely to be reminded of the fabulously named Smiley Culture. It’s one of those name that makes you break into a grin if you say it out loud, much like the name of Michael Jackson’s one-time spiritual guide and rabbi (I know, I know) Schmuley Boteach, does.

covers

FOUR I MENTIONED GUITARS…
So check out these babies, from an auction a couple of weeks ago. These were my favourites, but the one on the left takes the biscuit: Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar, 1954, serial no. 5238, with Parsons-White Pull-String, owned by John Beland, Flying Burrito Brothers. It is signed extensively, including Roger McGuinn, Chet Atkins, Thumbs Carlile, Ricky Nelson, James Burton, Ray Price, George Jones, J.J. Cale, Charlie Pride, Glen Campbell, Dickey Betts, Merle Travis, Roy Nichols, and others, with case.

guitars

Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar, 1953, the body with hand-tooled leather wrap, with flight case stenciled WAYLON/NASHVILLE TN and bearing the tag of Waylon Jennings’s trucking company, Road Inc. Fender Musicmaster II/Mustang Prototype Electric Guitar, 1967, from the workbench of Leo Fender, Daphne Blue body, Candy Apple Red headstock, the body exhibiting prototypes for the three-bolt Micro-Tilt neck adjustment and a Jazzmaster-style tremolo system, with hardshell case. Gibson Style U Harp Guitar, 1908, serial no. 8618, factory order no. 1004, with original hand tooled leather case. Their estimates were all pretty high and all 4 went unsold.

AND, FINALLY, FIVE A SHAMELESS PLUG
Rocksbackpages’ excellent new compendium of Joni Mitchell articles and interviews is now available – go here. As Barney says in his introduction, “Included in Reckless Daughter are some of the most open and thoughtful interviews Mitchell has ever given, as well as some of the finest snapshots of her complex, often spiky personality.”

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Thursday, October 20th

Mark, you don’t need to tell me this is too much Dylan…!

ONE RING NO BELLS
In one of the best among the plethora of the Why Bob Dylan is a worthy Nobel Prize winner pieces – as my friend Graham emailed, “an anagram of Blonde on Blonde is BD done Nobel (although there’s an o, n and l leftover)” – Richard Williams mentioned a song that may be obscure, but is a great piece of work – “’Cross the Green Mountain”, written for the movie Gods and Generals. Dylan’s fascination with the Civil War as a country-defining event was chronicled in Chronicles, of course, and thus is a natural fit. It’s memorable not only for its fine lyric but for the extraordinary sombre slow march created by the musicians – that chugging electric rhythm, the ghostly organ, the keening violin and the tension-and-release press rolls on the drums.

 It’s a-one off, really, in the Dylan canon, and comes from a fertile period of writing songs for films – from “Things Have Changed” for Wonder Boys, through “Waiting For You” in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to the wonderful “Tell Ol’ Bill”* from North Country and “Huck’s Tune” from Lucky You. Most of these were finally collected together in Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8.

That said, the song’s video (it loses about four verses) is one of the stranger ones I’ve ever seen, for Bob’s hair and hat alone.

 This is from a terrific piece by Tom Junod in US Esquire from 2014 [that can be found here]: “When Ron Maxwell, the director of Gods and Generals, got it into his head to ask Dylan for an original song, his music coordinator laughed at him. But when he asked, he got a reply from Dylan’s management right away, and both Maxwell and his wife wound up listening to “Cross the Green Mountain” with Dylan and his band at a studio in the Valley. “He was there in his New Balance shoes,” Maxwell says. “He was a bit shy, I want to say. We said hi and shook hands. When they played the song back, he was looking away. I heard the whole thing, taking notes. At first I was thinking, That’s a lot of verses. Then it was finished, and I stood up and he looked at me. I said, I really like it. He said, You do? You like it? I said, I more than like it – are you kidding? And he relaxed and all the band members relaxed. The tension left the room. They let me know they were all fans of [Maxwell’s first Civil War movie] Gettysburg and watched it over and over again on the bus.”

*Google the outtakes for this song – they must have tried it ten different ways, at every tempo known to man…

TWO LANGUAGE CORNER
We can thank The Donald for at least restoring some great and underused words to the English language, such as Prig & Blowhard. This piece on the decrepit state of Trump Tower’s public spaces, and what it says about the man, is brilliant.

THREE UGLIEST ALBUM COVER OF 2016?
Kings of Leon, take a bow. And don’t do any more chat shows, if last week’s appearance on Graham Norton’s show is anything to go by. Coming off like sulky teenagers is so, well, 1980s…

kolFOUR PETULA CLARK, “LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF” THE BIG ISSUE
My biggest piece of advice to the younger me is something I don’t think she could do. It would be to find your own voice. Something only you have. It’s not easy. Some people find it right away. It seems to me that Amy Winehouse found hers right away. But it took me a long time. I had to go through a lot of experiences. I don’t think I found it until I was into my 30s and working in America. I was learning along the way but my real voice didn’t come out until then. I think there’s something in my voice that I can’t describe – I’m not even sure what it is. Lots of singers sing better than me but what makes you an individual, makes you stand out, is almost impossible to define.

FIVE THANK YOU, JOHN
For sending me two Dylan related things. One: a fine drawing (I don’t know who for, with John it could be from the scrapbook, or for the hallowed pages of the New Yorker). John’s latest NY cover of Trump was unceremoniously bumped (just like Trump will be on Nov 8, I hope) on the day before hitting the newsstand, by, of course, the Bob Nobel News…

johnTwo: this great excerpt from Carol Bayer Sager’s new autobiography, titled Writing Lyrics With Bob Dylan Is Weird, something that I think we all suspected, but without the great detail that CBS goes into. In Bob’s chilly barn, she looks in her bag for a pen:
I had my usual yellow-lined legal pad and he gave me a pen when I couldn’t find mine in my overstuffed bag which included a wallet, a card case, a makeup bag in case I was sleeping over, Kleenex, Chapstick, a small collection of star crystals in a small silk pouch which I carried because I was afraid to stop carrying them in case they were protecting me, a croc case for my Lactaid and my Stevia, cards with people’s names on them I no longer knew, a mirror given me by Elizabeth with undistorted magnification, my eyeglasses, a rubber tip that a dental hygienist had dropped in one day, and scores of useless other things that just kind of piled up in there.
“Thank you,” I said, taking my head out of my bag long enough to take his ballpoint pen, which I wished had a thicker tip.
I refocused. “So, do you have any ideas of what you feel like writing?”
“Well, I’ve got a little bit of an idea.”
He mumbled his words very softly. I thought he said “I godda libble bid a deer.”

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Friday, October 14th

clintonsA late posting for most of this, covering more than just the last week, in the usual slightly disorganised way. In breaking news, I’m obviously glad that Bob got his due, finally. Twitter, predictably, provided amusement (left). And great to see that Bob was in fine voice at the Desert Trip last weekend in California. A fantastic and ominous Masters of War (here) was even relevant to the current election:
“Let me ask you one question,
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness,
Do you think that it could?
Well I think you will find
When your death takes its toll,
All the money you made
Won’t buy back your soul…”

ONE NOTES FROM THE MERCURY AWARDS: A DREAM
As I sat idly wondering if one could write a song with lyrics entirely provided by episode titles from The Real Housewives of Orange County (“Ooh baby baby/You’re swimming with the sharks/Beneath judgy eyes/and Tahitian Skies…”) I remembered that I’d watched the Mercury Awards the other day while, as Tom Waits would say, several sheets to the wind. I had jotted down notes on a page of that day’s Guardian, but when I came to look at them I couldn’t understand how any of it fitted together, so here they are, as a piece of abstract poetry, perhaps.

A weird walk-through alphabetised history of Mercury’s/J for J/Klaxons instead of Amy W/Skepta genuinely modest/almost only genuine moment in a night of untrammelled narcissism…

Unappealing 1975/ripping off Bowie’s “Fame”/a strange and ferociously efficient sound/“Blurred Lines” was sued…

Radiohead out-of-place before a musical chicken-in-a-basket crowd/not really listening…

Benjamin Clementine/what happens when a good backstory and striking looks come together/song is a farrago of music theatre clichés run through a Nina Simone simulator…

Michael Kiwanuka/the Terry Callier du nos jours/left his song at home/so little movement in this dullness/“Fantastic Stuff” appaz, according to/Lauren Laverne – smug host…

TWO IT’S LATER THAN YOU THINK
A confusing episode of Later, which is almost too exhausting to parse, containing as it did men walking around the stage in the name of grime, t-shirts alternately commemorating Buddy Rich and rallying the “Give 17-year-olds the Vote” segment of the audience, and even acapella songstresses. What did we learn? That Lisa Hannigan has an extraordinary voice, especially at the closing of her song; that Barry Gibb has sort-of-lost his extraordinary voice and his new band compensates with three extra guitarists (one his son), that Slaves are throwback rubbish, and that Jools slightly overplays when sitting-in with Norah Jones (who had a really tight band, great drummer, interesting guitarist). Oh, and that Declan McCann (t-shirt owner, below) is precociously interesting, but only if you happen to be under 25.

declan

THREE NEIL YOUNG COVERS
On the extended version of that episode of Later, Norah Jones lit into a tune that made me look up – Neil Young’s “Don’t Be Denied”. It’s a song that almost defies a cover– it exists in a ragged (wonderfully so) version cut live on the ill-starred Time Fades Away tour, and is a piece of caustic autobiography set to music, mostly about Buffalo Springfield. She has form where Young’s songs are concerned, playing this song live at NealFest in 2015 and playing “Down by the River” at The Bridge Concerts with Young himself. I assume it speaks in some way to her about her experience of the music biz – she did it well, giving it the right shade of downbeat anger. It sent me back to another odd Young song cover – a track on David Bowie’s Heathen, a CD that I’d bought as my wife loves the wonderful “Everyone Says Hi”. It’s “I’ve Been Waiting for You”, from Young’s first solo album, a strange and brilliant piece of work. Bowie covers it with keening and brassy synths and truckloads of echo, but keeps the original arrangement pretty intact. As does Chip Taylor on a third NY cover version that I found buried deep in an iTunes folder – “Words (Between the Lines of Age)” from MOJO Presents: Harvest Revisited, which suits his parched voice to a T.

FOUR JOHN PLATANIA PLAYS “ANGEL OF THE MORNING” WITH CHIP TAYLOR

platania
I’ve been listening obsessively to John Platania’s guitar solo on “Sweet Thing” since it was released on Van Morrison’s It’s Too Late to Stop Now Vol 2, 3 and 4. Hard to believe it didn’t end up on the 1974 record as it matches any performance on the original two-disc set. And here he was, accompanying Chip Taylor in a tiny room downstairs at Clerkenwell pub, The Slaughtered Lamb. Taylor, last of the Yonkers Cowboys, weaves stories of growing up with his brothers (one, Barry, a Volcanologist, the other, Jon Voigt, actor) in New York in the early fifties as Platania drapes beautiful filigreed guitar lines around the shoulders of Taylor’s deceptively simple four or five-chord country songs. This is not Nashville country, but a kind of cowboy country, a mesas and plains music, big on telling tales and dispensing sage advice. Each and every song was electrified by Platania’s sure touch – one moment Tennessee rockabilly, the next an orchestral pealing of notes tumbling down – and if the heart came from Taylor’s whispered and wry voice, the soul came from John’s Stratocaster.

FIVE “I’M TRAVELLING LIGHT, IT’S AU REVOIR…”
A few favourite paragraphs from David Remnick’s great New Yorker piece on Leonard Cohen:
And then, like my mother, [Cohen] offered what could only have been the complete catalogue of his larder: water, juice, wine, a piece of chicken, a slice of cake, “maybe something else.” In the hours we spent together, he offered many refreshments, and, always, kindly. “Would you like some slices of cheese and olives?” is not an offer you are likely to get from Axl Rose. “Some vodka? A glass of milk? Schnapps?” And, as with my mother, it is best, sometimes, to say yes. One day, we had cheeseburgers-with-everything ordered from a Fatburger down the street and, on another, thick slices of gefilte fish with horseradish.

Leonard studied; he worked at the clothing factory, where he picked up a useful skill for his career as a touring musician: he learned to fold suits so they didn’t wrinkle. But, as he wrote in a journal, he always imagined himself as a writer, “raincoated, battered hat pulled low above intense eyes, a history of injustice in his heart, a face too noble for revenge, walking the night along some wet boulevard, followed by the sympathy of countless audiences… loved by two or three beautiful women who could never have him.”

And this lovely quote from Dylan, when Remnick asks him his thoughts on Cohen… “When people talk about Leonard, they fail to mention his melodies, which to me, along with his lyrics, are his greatest genius,” Dylan said. “Even the counterpoint lines – they give a celestial character and melodic lift to every one of his songs. As far as I know, no one else comes close to this in modern music.” There’s also a delightful bit where Bob talks about the similar craft (and crafty-ness) shared by both Irving Berlin and Cohen.

AND FINALLY… PLAY VINYL WITH NEW £5 NOTE
From What HiFi “The plastic £5 note isn’t just waterproof, tear-proof and recyclable, it can also hold a tune… The new fiver is made from polymer (plastic) and is claimed to be stronger, cleaner and safer as a result. And it seems the new hardier design brings into play plenty of other uses – such as acting as a needle on a vinyl record. YouTube user Michael Ridge tested the fiver on an Abba record. It’s not quite as simple as it looks. Ridge also used a contact microphone and a small amplifier to muster up the sound. But, yes, the new £5 note does do the job of a particularly poor needle.”

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Tuesday, August 24th

Untitled-4ONE LAWRENCE OF ARABIA’S SCARF, OR JOHN LENNON’S CUFFLINKS?
Or, hell, the Parliamentary robe of Lord “Lucky” Lucan. Your choice. They’re in a particularly weird auction at Christies called Out of the Ordinary. Accurately, I’d say. 14th September, 2016. Add it to your diary.

TWO LIZA WITH A Z, STREISAND WITH AN S
In urgent breaking news, Barbra Streisand told NPR: “Siri pronounces my name wrong. [It’s] Streisand with a soft S, like sand on the beach. I’ve been saying this for my whole career. And so what did I do? I called the head of Apple, Tim Cook, and he delightfully agreed to have Siri change the pronunciation of my name, finally, with the next update on 30 September. So let’s see if that happens because I will be thrilled.” Much simpler than writing and recording a song about it, as Liza Minnelli did – “Liza with a Z, not Lisa with an S…” I tried to get Siri to pronounce “Liza Minnelli”, but she just kept asking me if I meant Liz Kent, a friend. Siri then sent me to a site on the web where people have recorded their own pronunciations of famous names. It asks you to rate their efforts. Really, we don’t deserve to survive Climate Change.

THREE THE MUSIC IN THE MIMICRY
There’s something extraordinary watching as an impressionist performs his sleight-of-voice to suddenly inhabit another person’s sound. At the top of this video on The Guardian’s website, Alistair McGowan’s Dara Ó Briain is astonishing, as is the sight of Rory Bremner and McGowan essaying their Boris Johnson’s, pointing out the “ooeeew” sound, which is all you can notice when it cuts to the clip of Boris himself. Nailing George Galloway with “Tainted Love” and Nigel Farage with “My Way” is very neat, too.

FOUR HAVE YOU HEARD THE BRISTOL HUM?

bristolhum.jpg

This is a fascinating short on the BBC Futures site – we’re deep into the world of Fortean Times here… secret government low-frequency radio waves or tinnitus or your body telling you that you’re run down? “It sounds to me the sound of a speaker where the volume’s been left up but there’s no music playing…

FIVE DIDN’T THINK WE’D GET OUT OF HERE WITHOUT SOMETHING ON BOB, DID WE?
I met the wonderfully named Colton Huelle at a memorial celebration of Sam Charters’ life in Connecticut early this spring. Colton is Kelsey’s boyfriend, and she’d grown up next door to the Charters’ and at the end of the day, somehow the topic turned to Dylan. I promised to send him a compilation that I made years ago of unreleased Bob songs, lost his address, found it again and sent it. He wrote a really thoughtful email back – here’s a bit where he talks about Bob: “Your package arrived just a few days before Kelsey and I saw Dylan in New Hampshire. During the concert, two things happened:
1) He forgot the words to the “She lit the burner on the stove” verse of “Tangled Up In Blue.” So he mumbled and mumbled until he finally sang (without losing the tune, somehow): “What are these lines? / I guess I don’t even know these lines/ …from me to you… Tangled up in blue.” It was both very sad and very delightful.
2) While Dylan was singing one of the songs from his Sinatra cover album, someone in the audience yelled “JUDAS.” Can you believe it? Kelsey and I spent a lot of the car ride home debating the motivations for shouting that. Was he just trying to make a funny reference? Was there malice behind it? And how often have jokers like that pulled the same stunt since the RAH concert in 66?”

ON THE MUSIC PLAYER
A tape made in 1975 of Paul Simon on the BBC featuring the legendary, and sadly late, Toots Thielemans. It’s also on YouTube here, in a much better quality version.


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Tuesday, June 28th

ONE THE MOST TIMELY QUESTION IS, WHY?

beatlesFrom this month’s issue of Vanity Fair, the maestro Beatles watch. Aesthetically a complete non-starter, this is what you get: “The 13 Beatles’ album titles are written all around the bespoke dial, with a special “Help” index at 4 o’clock which recalls the cover of the iconic album released in 1965. The silver galvanic dial matches the polished steel bracelet. It features the official Beatles logo and a date window at 3 o’clock. This unique timepiece paying tribute to the legendary Fab Four is limited to 3,000 pieces.” A “Help” index?You can join the discussion at #RWThe Beatles.” What discussion? Who’s discussing this? “It retails at around £950.” I know, I know, we can’t wait ’til we get to the shop… “Each maestro Beatles will be presented with a dedicated watch case celebrating the music icons. An impressive drum with the official Beatles logo decorates the top of the box.” Believe me, the drum box is not impressive…

TWO THIS IS WHAT THEY WERE LISTENING TO FIFTY YEARS AGO IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA…! KHJ29June66.jpg

THREE THE QUIETEST MUSIC VIDEO EVER
Greenpeace: “Through his music, acclaimed Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi has added his voice to those of eight million people from across the world demanding protection for the Arctic. Einaudi performed one of his own compositions on a floating platform in the middle of the Ocean, against the backdrop of the Wahlenbergbreen glacier (in Svalbard, Norway).”

 

FOUR CRUISING UP PARK LANE AT NIGHT IN A DROP-TOP MERC…
…with Joan Armatrading’s “Love & Affection” and “Down to Zero” on the sound system. An enjoyably bonkers Chelsea School of Art reunion/event ended up with a lift in Kwok’s new car with a suitably late-seventies soundtrack. I was recently reminded of her odd, stern, almost solemn voice when I watched current act Rationale on Later… with Jools Holland. And those songs still sound unusual as pop hits…

FIVE SNAP SHOT!
Loving the groovy table at Snap Gallery – the place for all your Rock music photographic needs. I remember Guy’s first gallery in the Custard Factory in Birmingham, which, if memory serves me well, featured Daniel Kramer’s photos as its opening exhibition.

! snapdesk

And now Dan Kramer returns to Snap in Piccadilly Arcade for A Year and a Day: “Daniel Kramer first photographed bob Dylan on 27 August 1964 in Woodstock, and his final photographs of Bob Dylan were taken on 28 August 1965, just over a year later. Dan was in the studio when Bob Dylan recorded Bringing It All Back Home, and took the Grammy-nominated cover photograph for that album, and its follow up Highway 61 Revisited. He photographed Dylan live in many guises – solo, duetting with Joan Baez (triptych, below), and in his final session, electrified with The Hawks at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium – and behind the scenes, relaxing off stage with friends.”

! snapdylan

AND ON THE MUSIC PLAYER…
to the right, from last week’s post, hear Van Morrison and the Caledonia Soul Orchestra awesomely funk up “Sweet Thing” as John Platania’s guitar and David Hayes’ bass burn up the Rainbow. From the recently released It’s Too Late To Stop Now, Volumes II, III and IV.

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Tuesday, 21st June

ONE I THINK WE’VE REACHED PEAK ROCK ’N’ ROLL…

brides

Complete with a David Bowie tribute (why?) a drugstore guide (wrong kind of drug reference, no?) and, from the glorious inside pages, a typical R ’n’ R Bride pull quote.

TWO CHIPS MOMAN, R.I.P.
At the turn of the millennium Chips Moman sold some of his astonishing guitar collection at Christies. My pal Mark went along, said Hi to Chips, didn’t bid, gave me the catalogue. Here is the jewel of the collection, although for me it was given a run for its money by the Coral Sitar, as featured on From Elvis in Memphis (where it was played by the sublime Reggie Young) and on “Cry Like a Baby” by The Box Tops.

scotty

The price realised by the 1956 Gibson Super 400 CES was a staggering £67,550, but as the man says, “This guitar is believed to have been used on more hit records than any other comparable instrument in pop history.” Originally purchased by Scotty Moore, the guitarist with Elvis Presley’s backing band, it became known by other musicians and fans as “the blonde Elvis guitar.” Among the Presley records on which Scotty Moore used the guitar were All Shook Up, Loving You, Jailhouse Rock, King Creole and One Night. In addition, Scotty is seen playing the guitar in the Elvis Presley feature films Loving You and Jailhouse Rock. According to Chips, Moore would get annoyed with Elvis for playing around with the guitar he described as “his pride and joy.” Scotty: “In 1963, I was working at Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, TN. We needed some equipment for the studio for which funds were not available. Chips Moman owned his studio in Memphis, American, and he had the set of vibes which we needed. I had recently acquired a new guitar and had the old one available, which Chips wanted for the historical value. The guitar was traded for one set of vibes, a small classic guitar, and $80.00 cash.” Was that ever a bargain…

Chips regularly used the guitar during his own recording sessions, both as a player and a producer. It was used on literally hundreds of sessions between 1963 and the early 70s, appearing on several hundred hit records, including Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman” and “Never Loved A Man” and Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally.” Session guitarist Reggie Young played the guitar on Elvis’s 1969 sessions in Memphis, which produced the hit singles “Suspicious Minds” and “In The Ghetto.”

THREE SOUND OF THE WEEK
Working with French photographer Lionel Derimais on a book project about his time living in China, he shows me this: flocks of pigeons in Beijing, with whistles attached to their tail feathers.

FOUR WHILE I’M HAPPY TO HAVE MORE FROM THE VAN VAULTS…
…in the shape of It’s Too Late To Stop Now Volumes II, III and IV, I’ve got to say that the packaging sucks. There are seventeen photos of Van (yes, I counted them), all essentially variations of the same shot, but none of the wonderful Caledonian Soul Orchestra (unless you count a couple of fuzzy B&W’s of saxophonist Jack Shroer). Why downgrade the input of one of the great bands in rock? Also, there’s just a perfunctory liner note, but no context-setting essay, no reminiscences – in short, no great effort. I still have to watch the DVD of the Rainbow show, but hey – poor work, Sony Legacy. In the music player to the right, hear the Orchestra awesomely funk up “Sweet Thing” as John Platania’s guitar and David Hayes’ bass burn up the Rainbow.

FIVE BOB FINALLY PLAYS A REQUEST SHOUTED OUT FROM THE AUDIENCE!
It’s just not for one of his songs
In other Bob news, this sent by Bob G: Mikael Wood in the LA Times site on Dylan at the Shrine: “What a treat it was to hear someone at this stage in his career playing what excites him now rather than what excited him 3 million years ago.”

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Friday, June 3rd

ONE BOBBY CHARLES ROLLS ON AT THE EE STORE!

! ee

TWO WE WATCH VICTORIA
Shot in one real-time take, be immersed in a young Spanish woman’s night out gone wrong. It’s breathless and brutal and has a terrific score by Nils Frahm. “We were given unusual creative freedom by approaching the movie together with [director] Sebastian Schipper, who was keeping the production and direction to one single team. The score was recorded in a special location, the former GDR broadcasting production facilities that today host Studio P4. We simply put a big screen in the middle of the room, filled it with microphones and instruments, set the movie on loop and kept improvising on top of it together – my good friends and I.” Frahm had wondered if such a unique film even needed music, but his score becomes a compelling part of the whole experience. Afterwards, we sat asking each other questions – how did the cinematographer avoid getting any of the crew in shot? how scripted was the dialogue? would a traffic jam stop them reaching their next set of marks? I’d watch it again tomorrow.

THREE PAY DONNIE HERRON HIS DUES, REVIEWERS!
I don’t think I’ve seen more than a cursory mention of Donnie Herron in the Fallen Angels Dylan album reviews (or, for that matter, in those for Shadows in the Night) but his pedal steel playing on both records takes the instrument in new orchestral directions. It’s never over-sweet or brash – it’s luscious, swooning and widescreen. Too often the discussion of Dylan centres on his voice (or lyrics) to the exclusion of truckloads of great, inspired musicianship. I was pointed to this great article by legendary engineer Al Schmitt on the recording of Shadows in the Night, where he talks eloquently about the process of recording live: “At one point Schmitt did suggest some kind of mixing process, but Dylan had other ideas. “We wanted everything to sound like it was done at the same time in the same room,” the engineer recalls. “I rode the fader on his vocals, and I panned everything pretty much as it was in the room, apart from the electric guitar, which I panned to the left, opposite the pedal steel. I placed the bass where I felt it should be, which was not too loud. At end of the session we listened back to the final takes, and that was it. Dylan decided which take of each song he liked best, and that one would immediately be locked as the master. When I mentioned mixing Dylan said: ‘No, I love the way this sounds.’  …It really was just the way records were made in the old days! In those days you could not edit or fix things, and so you had to do the take when things were emotionally right. And you chose the take that had the feel on it. This is why so many records from back then are so much more emotional and touch you so much more deeply. Today everything is perfect, and in many places we have taken the emotions out of records.”

FOUR FOUND IN A FLEA MARKET, RIGHT UP CALUM*’S STREET…

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A box of 16 singles from the 50s/60s. Ranging from the Red Army to Mahalia Jackson. Mine for 10 Euros. *Calum blogs about sound, provocatively, at likeahammerinthesink.

FIVE IN A DRESS MADE FROM CURTAINS!
I liked the excellently psychedelic video for Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”. Familiar ground lyrically, of course, but a real earworm of a tune. Like the song, Patrick Daughters’ video doesn’t really build or go anywhere, but it’s a pleasant Bollywood-esqe ride. And a strong look, no?

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EXTRA ON THE MUSIC PLAYER
In a recent interview, Elvis Costello said that Prince was right about everything to do with the rights of artists, the music industry and the Internet. But Melanie Safka got there first… “Well you know that I’m not a gambler / But I’m being gambled on / They put in a nickel and I sing a little song / They’re only putting in a nickel and / They want a dollar song…”

Extra! Woodstock Mania, part 3

Woodstock Four The John Cuneo Woodstock Express

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John is an illustrator that I’ve worked with through the years, and it was great to finally meet him and his wife, Jan, when we pulled into Woodstock from Connecticut. John and Jan live in a house that was part of the Robertson spread, mostly used as a crash pad and rehearsal space during the time of The Band’s Woodstock years (John says that one visitor, returning to the scene of his old band days told him “I’ve had sex in every room of this house!”). We settle for a fine lunch and conversations that range far and wide. Later, concerned that we haven’t seen enough, John puts on a guided tour of the locale, taking in Dutch barns, The Levon Helm Memorial Boulevard, the Byrdcliffe theatre (located just above what was Bob Dylan’s home, and the slopes of Overlook mountain). After fond farewells we take our leave later than we should and end up lost in the wrong part of NYC in a snowstorm (that’ll teach me to say we didn’t need satnav), and are saved by the directions of a Josh Homme lookalike police officer, wearing the largest bullet-proof vest I’ve ever seen, printed with the words Strategic Tactical Unit. Finally we sink into the warm snug of the Marlton Hotel in Greenwich Village (where Jack Kerouac penned the Subterraneans). Later, I find this version of “Up on Cripple Creek” – shot at the same time as the better-known clip of “King Harvest” – recorded in John and Jan’s house. Great loosey-goosey drums in the false start, Levon’s cigarette insouciantly dangling from his lips, and a great moment where Garth decides to stroke his beard rather than play the wah-wah clavinet line…

Woodstock Five East Village Night
As our old friends Rick and Liney guide us through the doors of the Summit Bar, located in the old Alphabet City section (so named because of Avenues A, B, C, and D, the only avenues in Manhattan to have single-letter names) we are struck by two things. One is the unique bouquet of cardamom, as the bartender infuses sugar spirit with the world’s finest pod, and the other is the sound of Levon Helm singing “Up on Cripple Creek” – I mean, what are the chances? Hearing this, Rick says, “Do you remember his great part in The Shooter?” I’d forgotten it, but Rick brings it all back home… Mark Wahlberg plays a sniper caught in a double-cross and set-up by a hawkish senator and, in the scene in question, drives up to a house deep in the woods. He glances at his companion, saying, “Welcome to Tennessee, the patron state of shootin’ stuff” and they get out of the truck and knock on the door. What follows is another of Levon’s great film cameos…

 

Wahlberg (Bob Lee Swaggart): “Suppose I was looking for a man to make a 2,200 yard cold-bore shot? Who’s alive that could do that?“
Mr Rate: “Seems I heard about a shot like that bein’ made not too long ago – said the guy’s name was Bob Lee Swaggart – never met the man so I wouldn’t know.”
Wahlberg replies, “Yeah, they said that alright”.
Mr Rate: “They also said artificial sweeteners were safe, WMDs were in I-raq and Anna Nicole married for love…!”

We eventually tumbled out of the Summit and into the warm embrace of the great staff at Kafana across the road, where we drank Serbian Cabernet Sauvignon and put the world to rights. And so our Woodstock-related adventures came to an end, but if you are interested in the music that was made there and the history of how a small town in the Saugerties came to be such an artistic and musical powerhouse, read Barney Hoskyns’ fine new book, Small Town Talk.

Oh, and Five Things gold awards to: The Marlton Hotel at 5 West 8th Street, The Summit Bar at 133 Avenue C (try the oysters) and Kafana, a great Balkan restaurant at 116 Avenue C.

Postscript. I took a copy of Small Town Talk to give to John. A few days later he emailed, saying how much he was enjoying the book, and attached this…

!dylanbassett

 

Extra! Woodstock Mania, part 1

In the lead up to a trip to the States (that would include lunch in Woodstock with this blog’s local Correspondent), a series of random events coalesced around the subject of that small town in the Saugerties. So with three weeks to go ’til we left, we started with this…

Woodstock One The Last Waltz Recreated
An Irish group, called “The Group”, bring a show they have done for a few years now to London for the first time. In it “The Group” play most of the songs from The Last Waltz, the movie of The Band’s swansong concert. 
Tim sees a small listing in Time Out, and a few days later we find ourselves (Tim, Alison, Alex and me) at the Islington Assembly Rooms watching a live concert that is a tribute to a movie that was made about a live concert.

lastwaltz

The picture shows Winterland, er, Islington. From left, Unknown, Ronnie Hawkins, Rick Danko, Neil Young, Van the Man, Robbie Robertson (obscured), Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond (and Muddy Waters), Joni Mitchell and Paul Butterfield. But I’m sure you could tell that [click to enlarge].

The musicians all dress as the guys in The Band did on that night and they make a fair fist (Tim’s phrase) of the songs. There’s a horn section at the back, from which “Garth Hudson” steps out to take a couple of sax solos. They’ve got the moves down, from Robbie Robertson’s flailing hand shtick while soloing to Rick Danko’s bobbing and weaving (the bass player is pretty uncanny, actually, musically as well as visually). Behind them a very poor presentation of bad graphics and clips from the film is run from a Windows Laptop (boys! Really…). It’s great to hear the songs played well, although you can never quite shrug off the Tribute Band™ feel.

The revolving guest artists (who ranged far and wide at the The Last Waltz) are played by a motley crew. To actually convey how strange this whole thing was, I will just tell you that the same person played both Neil Diamond and Muddy Waters. Diamond spot on, Muddy, well… less spot on.Thankfully, we were spared “The Staples” singing “The Weight”. Eric Clapton was played by a very short older gent with a silver grey afro, who virtually had to be restrained from “Clapton-ing” everything he played on after “Farther On up the Road”. As the entire audience roared the chorus of “The Weight” back at the stage it was hard to tell who was in charge of the whole thing – the band or the crowd, a fair proportion of whom appeared to be friends of the group. Whatever, it made for a fitting end to a mad celebration of a unique event.

Woodstock Two Full Tilt…
follows next week.

 

Friday, March 4th

ONE: BOB!
So he was not only down in the basement mixing up medicine and making tapes, but squirreling away mountains of artifacts in a hideaway storage facility. Thus the late period curtain-reveal of Bob Dylan’s career continues. This is from the NYT piece by Ben Sisario on Dylan’s huge secret $60 million archive: “Humanizing touches appear, but in small and scattered pieces. There is a wallet from the mid-1960s containing Johnny Cash’s phone number and Otis Redding’s business card. We can see the 1969 telegram from “Peter and Dennis” (Fonda and Hopper, that is) about the use of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” in the film “Easy Rider,” but the response is by a lawyer. Amid these mountains of paper, Mr. Dylan, the man, remains an enigma.”

telegram

TWO: IGGY!
From Big O: It’s already a big deal to have a celebrity in class but what happens when it is Iggy Pop, 68, who poses nude for your art class? Twenty-one artists, aged 19 to 80, at the New York Academy of Art were greeted by a naked Iggy Pop on February 21, 2016 as the rocker was recruited by the Brooklyn Museum to serve as the class’ nude model. Rolling Stone reported that conceptual artist Jeremy Deller, who was the driving force behind the Iggy Pop Life Class project, said: “For me it makes perfect sense for Iggy Pop to be the subject of a life class; his body is central to an understanding of rock music and its place within American culture. His body has witnessed much and should be documented.”

THREE: ENNIO!
How nice to see a dynamic B&W photograph used on a concert poster for once…

! morricone

FOUR: MAVIS!
Mick Gold treats me to a viewing of the very affecting Mavis! at BAFTA. Highly recommended for its story of family ties and Civil Rights – for Mavis Staples, it’s always all about the music. No diva-ishness, no dilution – the struggle runs through her like a seam of coal. Most moving moments: a visit to Levon Helm in his studio, rail thin and gaunt, intently listening while Mavis sings to him, and finally being compelled to join in by the beauty of her voice; Mavis talking about Pops with Jeff Tweedy and his son, and feeling the love of another musical family in the projects that they’ve recorded with her.

Other highlights: the least gnomic Bob Dylan interview, possibly ever, and the performances with her current band, a terrific ensemble consisting of guitarist Rick Holmstrom, bassist Jeff Turmes and drummer Stephen Hodges (whose work I mainly knew from the swordfishtrombones-era Tom Waits).

Mick sent me this, from the filmmaker’s notes: Many people have wondered what it was like to ‘meet Dylan.’ WTTW rented a suite in the North Side hotel where Dylan was staying. We invited Mavis and her sister Yvonne to watch the interview; they had not seen Dylan since Mavis sang background on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone for David Letterman’s 10th anniversary show in 1992. Dylan arrived on time and alone. He wore a black riverboat gambler outfit, framed by a black cowboy hat and black gypsy boots. Like a schoolboy, Dylan tiptoed into the room with a shy stride. He carried a single red rose for Mavis. They embraced… Dylan and the Staples had some good times. This didn’t make it into our documentary, but Pervis (who left the group in 1970) recalled Dylan diving off a board at the motel where they were staying during the Newport Folk Festival. “He jumped off the board and his shorts came off,” Staples said. “I went in and got ’em. I thought something happened to him because he had his boots on, too. We got to be friends. We bought some wine, and he wrote “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” on the back of a shirt board.” I asked Dylan about this story. He said it “pretty much sounds right” and that he wrote many songs on many different objects.

In an interesting interview with Noah Schaffer for Arts Fuse, Holmstrom explained his philosophy for backing Mavis: “I really think Mavis sounds best in a stripped down setting because it gives her voice more room to resonate. Plus, a lot of my favorite Staples Singers stuff was just Pops Staples on guitar and their voices, occasionally with bass and drums too. To me, that’s where the deep Staples vocal blend really shines. It’s as if the singers are an orchestra horn section, punching and popping lines, being a lead instrument at times, not just singing “oohs and aah’s.” If you add too much it takes away from what makes it so soulful in the first place. We like to use silence and a bigger range of dynamics than most bands. We try to play really quiet at times so that when we play at medium volume it has an impact, rather than starting on 10 and staying there all night. It also makes it easier on the six singers to really sing rather than strain to hear ourselves. It’s something we have to constantly work on, remind ourselves of.”

FIVE: MICHAEL ABRAHAMS!
If only all health warnings were like this…

 

Thanks this week to Marc Myers of JazzWax fame for running some fine Terry Cryer shots of Sister Rosetta Tharpe with Ken Colyer this week. Marc had written about Sister Rosetta and linked to the fine BBC documentary about her, so I had sent him the shots out of interest.

Oh, and look out for a Five Things Extra! next week on all the strange Woodstock related events and coincidences that seemed to happen in the last few days.

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