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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Thursday, July 5th

I’ve been distracted from weekly posting by a project that’s taken up a fair amount of time, but it’s finally come to fruition. Here’s a quick and dirty look back at the last few weeks. So, listening to Frazey Ford’s lovely Indian Ocean, recorded with the Hi Rhythm Section in Memphis (thanks, Tim – I missed this in 2104), here’s Five Things from the last three weeks…

ONE I LOVED SEEING OLD PALS MICRODISNEY
…who had reformed to receive the inaugural IMRO/NCH Trailblazer Award 2018 – an award which celebrates seminal albums, in this case The Clock Comes Down the Stairs, by iconic Irish musicians. Post the Dublin concert hey played a show at the Barbican, where their songs were revealed to have real heft, standing the test of time. Thirty years fell away and it was great to see them play to a wildly enthusiastic full house.

5-microdisney.jpgThe highlight for me was “Past”, where Cathal’s keening delivery sounded so good enfolded in the warmth of the band’s sound.

TWO WHY DOES THE BBC HAVE TO BE A CONCERT PROMOTER?
I’m not sure events like the Big Weekender are the best use of their (our) resources. There’s so much music on tv but, while it’s not totally narrowcast, it certainly excludes whole swathes of interesting stuff. There has been pitifully little coverage, for instance, of the extraordinary moment that is happening now in jazz in Britain. They just can’t seem to find a way to document or support it. When we look back and are thrilled that someone recorded Big Joe Williams or Josh White, or Rosetta Tharpe or Thelonius Monk or Jimi Hendrix or Ry Cooder or Talking Heads – where is that coverage now? Does it always have to be put through the funnel of newly hyped acts, Jools Holland or a giant music festival? End of rant.

THREE I LOVED THIS IMPASSIONED PAEAN TO FREE (THE BAND, NOT THE CONCEPT)
Commenting on one of Bob Lefsetz’ extraordinary almost-daily stream-of-consciousness missives [the Lefsetz Letter] from the front line of the music biz, was Hugo (Gang of Four) Burnham.

Subject: Re: Paul Rodgers Podcast. “Yes, that voice… that was so strong and mature, so young, and has stayed that way for decades. “My Brother Jake” is still one of the saddest, loveliest songs ever. Chokes me up every time. They were the second band I ever saw live (and on my own) at The Royal Albert Hall in 1972. I stood transfixed at the lip of the (quite low) stage. Paul wore a red flared-sleeve T-shirt… which took me an age to find to buy – in Kensington Market, eventually. There is SO much more than “Alright Now” – they were still teenagers when they recorded “Fire & Water’, FFS. Free was simply the biggest influence on G4. It killed us that the only damn label who didn’t want to sign us in ’78/’79 was Island Records… We covered “Woman” in the early days; I copied Simon Kirke’s whole sit-up playing style – the master (along with Charlie) of less-is-more playing. I met him at [Jerry] Wexler’s memorial service in NY and shook his hand. (Right after that I shook Bernard Purdie’s hand. What a day!) I still listen to Free all the time. Elemental, wonderful stuff.”

FOUR WORST PHOTO OF THE LAST FEW WEEKS

5-mooch.jpgNot the fault of Christopher Lane, the photographer, but down to the fact that people who don’t play guitars always hold them so awkwardly. This Epiphone in the hands of the Mooch (interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead for The Guardian) still has its label hanging off the head stock, and is poorly signed by OneRepublic. Who? What? I listened so you don’t have to. I didn’t have to listen long. “In creating their third full-length album, OneRepublic travelled to Paris, Greece, London, New York, Seattle and Vancouver to write, record and immerse themselves in elevating and expanding their already-sweeping sound.” Right, that’s me told. They could have tried harder with the signatures, I feel, as could the Mooch with the tongue thing. I assume he’s making like Gene Simmons of Kiss. It figures that Scaramucci’d be thirty years out of date.

FIVE THE PEERLESS AMANDA P ON PAISLEY PARK
From The New Yorker: “Before I arrived, I found the property’s purpose somewhat oblique: was it a shrine, a historic site, a mausoleum, a business? In the atrium, I discovered that Paisley Park provides an immediate target for a very particular kind of grief. (The museum’s curator, Angie Marchese, described it to me simply as “a place to go.”) Most of Prince’s fans didn’t know him personally, yet his work was essential to their lives. When he died, where could they mourn? An ungenerous reading might be that Americans are so ill-equipped to manage death that we are forced to mediate it through tourism. We soothe our pain by buying a plane ticket, booking a hotel room, buying a keychain: expressing gratitude via a series of payments. It works, to an extent.”

EXTRA! WHAT THE HELL… WILLIE DE VILLE DOES “ACROSS THE BORDERLINE” IN 1999.
Alongside the glorious mandolin of Freddy Koella, the great James Luther Dickinson, John Robert Hiatt and Ryland Peter Cooder song is still pertinent after all these years.

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