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.

5-film

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.

5-bruce

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.”

5-doritos

If you’re receiving the e-mail out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Tuesday, September 20th

ONE MOGWAI GO ATOMIC
Kindly gifted tickets – thanks, R! – to Mogwai playing a live soundtrack to Mark Cousins’ documentary Atomic (which is edited together from “Duck and Cover”-type films and documentaries on the Cold War, Chernobyl and Faslane) at the Barbican, I was looking forward to some crepuscular soundscapes filled with creeping dread. Their music for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, bleeding into the frames of the film between the crowd noises and the shouts of the players was beautifully atmospheric. Hunting for someone who’d like the other ticket revealed that Mogwai like volume – one person said that he and his daughter, both fans, had left a gig earlier this year as the eardrum-shredding levels of sound had made it too uncomfortable to stay. I like noise and volume, and it was at the rather restrained Barbican – how loud could it get? Answer, very.

mogwaiMy problem wasn’t the volume, but rather the ordinariness of both the film and music. Atomic was put together with little visual panache, poor graphics and illiterate subtitles. Nuclear Power, it told us, seemed to be one of two things – Good in Medical Hands (possibly)! Bad in Government Hands (definitely)! The score consisted of way too much use of the “Cathedral Organ” setting on the synth, and a general “It’s about Atom bombs and reactors blowing up, so we’d better play lots of loud bombastic rock” approach. This feeling was not helped by the guitarist stage left. His rail-thin legs in authentic rock posture, he leaned back and violently thrummed his guitar, creating a wall of sound that was impressive at points, but unrelenting to the point of boredom. I was very much in a minority when they ended with the guitars left on the stage feeding back until a roadie walked around turning amps off one by one. The audience leapt to their feet cheering and clapping. I was sorry that I didn’t feel the same…

TWO FOUND IN FRANCE
A bench in Cognac, celebrating the bare feet of Levester “Big Lucky” Carter, a Memphis-based blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, who recorded for the Sun, Savoy and Hi labels in the 50’s; the soles of Ray Charles’ shoes, in 2000; and the feet of Dana Gillespie, big-voiced blues diva. Then, from nearby Angoulême, home of the Bande Dessinee Festival, this wall-sized Robert Crumb at the very chic International Cartoon Museum.

franceApparently, Dana Gillespie organises an annual Blues festival at Basil’s Bar on Mustique in the Caribbean. Wikipedia tells me that many blues artists have appeared there through the years. Among the list: Ronnie Wood, Donald Fagen and Rolf Harris.

THREE GROWIN’ UP
From the interesting but poorly written cover story in Vanity Fair it looks like Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography will be the real deal, although the writer of the profile, David Kamp, seems a little presumptuous (and way too pleased with himself) when he tells Bruce what “Born to Run” is really all about…

FOUR MAYBE THE WHOLE CRAFT BEER/ROCK ’N’ ROLL INTERFACE HAS RUN ITS COURSE…
Quite why a grapefruit infused IPA is called Elvis Juice is not explained, although it contains some nicely named hops – Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic.

beer

FIVE A COUPLE OF RANDOM TV RECOMMENDATIONS
People Just Do Nothing is wonderful, reinvigorating the tired mocumentary format by being painfully accurate about the level of the music business that’s three degrees below success. The world of Garage and Grime is played out in lockups and recording studios, where time is money and money is short, but the lure of Jean-Claude Van Damme YouTube clips proves too distracting… Also on the iPlayer (and BBC2, late at night) is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s fearless, filthy and ultimately tragic Fleabag. It’s like the first time you watched Green Wing or Peep Show or Flowers – the cobwebs of the sitcom are blown away by strange, often melancholy stories that actually reflect a more accurate view of the lives people live than in the marquee dramas that win the Baftas.

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

Friday, 28th August

batchtandy

VISUAL OF THE WEEK
Now that’s a magazine cover. Love the Cilla type, too. And Sharon Tandy! Atlantic’s marketing guys knew how to use white space. Both of these from the Rock’s Backpages archive… I have Sharon Tandy’s single from ’67 of “Stay With Me”, but I think it doesn’t quite hit the heights of the Lorraine Ellison original, produced (and written) by Jerry Ragavoy. Philly’s Queen of Soul, indeed – a performance for the ages.

COVER GIRL
The 50th anniversary of Otis Blue is being celebrated by Rhino Records with a deluxe edition. There’s a search on to find out just who it is in the cover photo. Rhino’s press release: “The photograph was a stock image licensed for use on the cover, which was standard at the time. Recently, the photographer, Peter Sahula, told Stax Museum archivist Tim Sampson that “I’m almost sure this is Dagmar [Dreger], but I can’t find any others from that shoot, and her face is in shadow. So it’s hard for me even to be sure…” Sahula further went on to explain that if it wasn’t Dagmar, it was almost certainly Nico, the enigmatic singer for The Velvet Underground, who was also an occasional model for Mr Sahula’s shoots. So, using a combination of Otis Redding’s Facebook reach (strange concept, no? – Ed) and other online efforts, it is hoped that the worldwide community can find Ms Dreger to confirm this. Join the search by following @OtisRedding on Facebook or Twitter, and contribute information with the hashtag #FindDagmar.”

COVER ME
With a mighty bound, a favourite Bruce Springsteen bootleg springs free of storage and is quickly digitised. In the music player on the right you’ll find one of my favourite ever Bob covers. As Michael Hann wrote in The Guardian a few years back, “Extended runs through “Kitty’s Back”, “New York City Serenade” and “Rosalita”, one of the most vivid expressions of joy rock has ever produced, highlight both the incredible understanding of the band, with instinct supplemented by hours of hard graft, and their empathy for their leader’s needs. But for all the epicry, the covers here show the true heart of the E Street Band: Harold Dorman’s “Mountain of Love”, a 1960 rock’n’roll throwaway, is given a treatment so overwhelming it sounds like a showstopper. Only some problems with sound quality prevent this eclipsing any official Springsteen live release.”

TWO SONGS THAT MADE A GREAT SOUNDTRACK…
to driving across town with money for the builders – Quincy Jones’ “Money Runner” (excellent wah-wah and groove) and ZZ Top’s “I Gotsta Get Paid” (a cover of a famous 90’s Houston hip-hop track called ”25 Lighters”). If you haven’t heard this, do. It’s insane. Gnarly riffs, fantastically bluesy breaks, a mighty groove. Poor video, tho.

COME ON YOU O’s
I had kind of hoped that I’d see out my days without ever again being reminded of Chicory Tip’s “Son of My Father”, but it was not to be. At the first game of Orient’s season, a chant started not long after the kick off to a tune I couldn’t place. A couple of more times and I had it: “Son of My Father”, a particularly egregious example of early Seventies Production-Line Pop, notable as the “first UK number one single to prominently feature a synthesizer, in this case a Moog”, playing a particularly hideous riff. Apparently a terrace favourite around the country for years (what do I know?), it was written by Georgio Moroder, and under his own name was a rare miss. The lyrics. Well, the lyrics are fine: “Son of my father / Molded, I was folded, I was preform-packed / Son of my father / Commanded, I was branded in a plastic vac / Surrounded and confounded by statistic facts”. [By the way, in Orient news, it’s been a great start to the now-League Two club’s season, and if any Premiership scouts are reading, check out wing back Sean Clohessy, a player who combines a fantastic attitude with real skill – not only terrific defensively, but also involved in virtually every goal.]

REVIEW OF THE WEEK
This reminded me of the classic Charles Shaar Murray NME review of Lee Hazlewood’s Poet, Fool or Bum album, which was one word shorter. Bum.

F4 Review CSM Lee Hazelwood

Friday, 10th July

VISUAL OF THE WEEK: IN RBP’S STOCKROOM
Working from the offices of Rock’s Backpages has many pluses – Mark’s espresso machine, bizarre early 80s New York  playlists (Lydia Lunch, brilliant), a fine view of West London – but none outweigh the magazine archive. Everywhere you turn, another gem: a Jim Marshall shot from the Beatles’ last gig at Candlestick Park, Tiger Beat’s Official Monkees Spectacular!, cassette tapes of interviews with Johnny Otis. This shot captures a terrible illustration of Bob, and the days when Roland Kirk was bigger news than the Beatles coming to lunch with the Melody Maker.

RBPROBERT FRANK’S THE AMERICANS
From a terrific New York Times piece by Nicholas Dawidoff, on photographer Robert Frank

“Over the years, The Americans would follow the trajectory of experimental American classics like Moby-Dick and Citizen Kane – works that grew slowly in stature until it was as if they had always been there. To Bruce Springsteen, who keeps copies of The Americans around his home for songwriting motivation, ‘the photographs are still shocking. It created an entire American identity, that single book. To me, it’s Dylan’s Highway 61, the visual equivalent of that record. It’s an 83-picture book that has 27,000 pictures in it. That’s why Highway 61 is powerful. It’s nine songs with 12,000 songs in them. We’re all in the business of catching things. Sometimes we catch something. He just caught all of it.”

CHARLIE “SATCHMO” WATTS
The Rolling Stones – Exhibitionism has been three years in the planning. Jagger said the exhibition would include some “really silly things … and really I mean silly”. Not all band members were able to contribute as much as others: “I’ve got more Louis Armstrong stuff than I have Rolling Stones,” said drummer Charlie Watts.

MITCH! NOOOOOOO!
If you complain bitterly about how you are portrayed in a sensitive, even-handed and rounded documentary, then don’t give interviews where you say things like this: There’s also talk of a full-scale biopic and Mitch already knows who he would like to star. “Lady Gaga has been mooted as Amy,” he told Heat recently. “But I’d definitely have George Clooney play me…”

RONNIE SCOTTS’ INSTRUMENT AMNESTY
A brilliant idea. Give away unplayed instruments. See and hear the results down the line. From Ronnie’s website: “Your instrument will be given a tracking number enabling us to inform you of its ultimate destination. Once the amnesty is over, we will prepare the instruments for delivery and send them to Sistema England in the UK and Music Fund based in Brussels. Sistema England, founded by Julian Lloyd Webber, seeks to transform the lives of children, young people and their communities through the power of music making. It is part of an international movement inspired by El Sistema, the Venezuelan programme that benefits children and young people through the creation of grass roots orchestras. Overseas, the collected instruments will be given a second life through Music Fund who distributes to projects in international conflict zones from their base in Brussels. Music Fund is a humanitarian project that supports musicians and music schools in conflict areas and developing countries operating in Africa, the Middle East and Central America.” So there goes my black semi-Fender Strat.

Some Kind of 2014: What I Learned…

Bruce Springsteen has really good taste in music books
New York Times Book Review: What are the best books about music you’ve read?
Bruce Springsteen: “At the top of my list remains Greil Marcus’s Mystery Train, followed closely by Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis. I’d include Dylan’s Chronicles and a recent book by Daniel Lanois, Soul Mining, that gives insights into the making of music I found unique from any other book out there. Sonata for Jukebox, by Geoffrey O’Brien, has some lovely chapters in it, particularly its opening discussions of Burt Bacharach’s career.

So I read “Soul Mining”. And Bruce is right…
Notwithstanding my ambivalent view of Dan the Man (and the book has plenty of odd-slash-annoying tributaries that slow it down) the chapters on recording sessions are totally fascinating, and he is such an enthusiastic and expressionistic describer of the creative process that I was willing to forgive a lot. Anyone who can reference both Sly’s “In Time” and Link Wray’s “Fire and Brimstone” in a discussion on what a drummer needs to know is alright by me. One is a drum machine made to play like three drummers, the other seems to be people hitting suitcases and mason jars. Both great.

A couple of excerpts: The Neville Brothers Yellow Moon: “I loved having Eno around with his nonstop stream of sonics. The Nevilles were very curious about him. At an impressed moment, Art Neville leaned over to me, pointed to Eno, and whispered in my ear: “Where did you find this cat?” Art was so impressed that he paid him the greatest compliment, “That’s some cold-blooded shit”. Art knew what he was talking about. Check out his hit from the fifties called “Mardi-Gras Mambo” – definite soul, with a kick-ass sax solo, tone big as a house.”

The one-point source: “I was recently impressed by a Blind Willie Johnson recording… it gave me the sensation of a one-point source. It felt like I was standing in front of him, rather than listening to him. There was a darkness in the guitar, a warble in the voice, but the two ingredients had unity. I believe the human ear finds comfort in these more snapshotlike technically non-complex recordings, like the human eye finds comfort in a movie scene shot with one camera.A recent visit to a friend’s restaurant reinforced this… He couldn’t afford a big sound system, and so only had a small blaster on his open kitchen counter. A lack of funds might have led to a stroke of genius. The cook got to be the DJ – the cook, who is obviously in tune with the action of the room…” Later he talks about plugging both his and Dylan’s guitars into one amp, a small Vox, and how musical the resulting blend was. “The one-point source is a musical friend. If rock ’n’ roll was meant to be spontaneous, perhaps options are the enemy.”

By law, all adverts now come with pop soundtracks
The best ones made you listen again to great music: Chanel’s bonkers Coco ad had Kiera Knightley dispensing tester bottles at a Sixties Black & White party before disappearing and then reappearing in a speedboat under a bridge, all to the Zombies’ timeless “She’s Not There”; Suzuki put James Brown’s “I Want You So Bad” to work, following their previous use of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put a Spell on You”. And in a newly-recorded and distressed version, “You’re the One that I Want” in an even more mad Chanel ad – Surfer mom, directed by Baz Luhrmann, with Gisele Bündchen, music by Lo Fang. Ludicrous.

Owe Thörnqvist is still going strong

Sept 24 Owe
I love this poster for his 85th celebrations, pasted up around Stockholm. I researched Owe, and found that he is an 86-year-old Swedish troubadour. Go, Wikipedia, Go! “In 1955, Thörnqvist released his first record. His musical style spans over both rock, rumba and calypso; his texts are characterised by word play and humour. Thörnqvist was one of the first people to do stand-up comedy in Stockholm in the 1950s. In 1963, Thörnqvist provided guest vocals and performed the song “Wilma” on the Flintstones episode The Swedish Visitors. In 2004, Thörnqvist received The King’s Medal in the 8th size for his many contributions to Swedish culture as a songwriter, singer and composer.”  He looks so happy. I wonder what the King’s Medal in its 8th size is, and what you need to do to get, say, the 5th size?

Lana Del Ray is the most interesting vocalist working in mainstream popular music
I may have been an early adopter here. I loved “Video Games” long before it became the most played and played-out song of 2013, issuing from any radio or shop that you walked past. I think that Ultraviolence may be my favourite pop album of 2014. There’s so much going on here… she’s a tremulous fifties-grained vamp in “Shades Of Cool”, her voice swirled into the sandpapered-cinema strings-reverb of Dan Auerbach’s genius production. She’s funny, too, playing up to a critics’ view of her in “Brooklyn Baby” (or maybe it’s just a diss to Brooklyn) “Well, my boyfriend’s in a band/He plays guitar while I sing Lou Reed/I’ve got feathers in my hair/I get down to Beat poetry”. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the extraordinary widescreen use of her voice, multi-tracked over scrubby Nancy Sinatra guitars and ghostly strings. And she swears better than most people – check out the way she sings this refrain… “You never liked the way I said it/If you don’t get it, then forget it/So I don’t have to fucking explain it…” The woozy change time verse/chorus on “West Coast”, flipping the dial from surf rock to Fleetwood-Mac-at-a-narcotised-crawl is just wondrous. Hey, don’t worry, I know I won’t get many takers for this view…

And what I learned this year (in pictures):

Ukeleles always sound good outdoors (here, the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain seen at the Walthamstow Festival)

EOY Ukes

My mum’s recall of First World War songs was excellent (At the Royal Academy of Music Exhibition)

EOY Bette

Dylan Thomas’s poetry sounds best when read by a Welsh Shepherd in Fitzroy Square (in a Shepherd’s hut, with sheep, natch)

Fitzroy Shepherds

It’s really nice to discuss the work of Bob Dylan in the South of France (here, the view from Michael Gray’s house, looking not unlike a recent Bob painting).

IMG_4712

If you’re invited to a Private View, don’t arrive at the end of the evening
At Jonny Hannah’s I arrived for the last number of Sandy Dillon and Ray Majors’ set, which sounded impressively bayou in tone. Catching up with them afterwards we talked of the strange machinations of the music business, and Sandy’s incredible homemade electric keyboard/thumb Piano, dubbed The Thing.

Sandy

Timing is key to junk shop finds
I managed to wander past this one – with its potentially rare guitars – when they were closed, and we were about to leave town. So these two in Truro, one a Stella, sadly got away…

Mimi’s Phone_20141114_004

Five Things: Wednesday, November 27th

“The best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced”
There are certain people so musical that everything they are is musical. Their movements, their voice, their atmosphere. James Booker was one of those people. Not that he wasn’t a truly colossal pain in the ass to those around him, but the fact that many stayed with him and attempted to help his journey through this world pays testament to their appreciation of his genius. In a film, Bayou Maharajah, comprised of great interviews, fascinating recordings, amazing clips (from local bars aplenty to German TV) and some wonderfully eerie black and white “ghostly” videos, this original native son of New Orleans vividly grabs your attention. His voice, talking or singing, is hypnotic. His piano playing… well, that defies description. Neither “standard” Professor Longhair derivation, nor straightforward funk ’n’ boogie, but a weird hybrid of these things with a dash of Liberace’s romanticism (don’t laugh), and Chopin and Rachmaninoff’s melodies. There’s a distorted improvisation  that slowly turns into “A Taste Of Honey” that somehow deepens a piece of pop fluff right in front of your ears. And always – always – something bitter and sweet mixed in. Often you watch him play an outrageous passage with a hard glint in his eye, a steely focus and drive, and as he ends it, a sly, shy smile to himself, as if to say, there, that’s what I can do… My favorite interviewee (and there are some great ones) is Harry Connick Jr., who knew Booker as a slightly wayward uncle figure (well, more than slightly) since Harry’s father, the district attorney of Orleans Parish, had befriended and helped Booker at various times. His recall of the night that Booker phoned him at two in the morning to ask Harry to come rescue him from some drug escapade gone wrong (“James, dude – I’m twelve years old!”) was extraordinary. He tells of recording Booker’s phonecalls, and you can see that he’s still unsure to this day why he did. He says something along the lines of I just loved hearing him talk, and I thought if I taped him, I’d always have his voice to listen to. Watch as Harry shows, beautifully, how Booker added layer upon layer of complexity to a tune. Mesmerizing.

I’ve found my harmonica, Albert…
Bathed in the warm glow of Bob’s band, a Dylan concert to really enjoy. Charlie Sexton still has the moves of a heart-throb (let’s not forget that he fronted the bar band in Thelma & Louise), Donny Herron’s like a young engineer at his desk, working tirelessly on all manner of instruments and sounds, and the New Orleans engine room of George and Tony just keeps rolling on, making even the most ordinary twelve-bar come to life. Yes, it had its up and downs. Michèle, up until then an enthusiastic applauder, said I’m not clapping that… after a particularly calamitous “Spirit On The Water.” I was with her – it was like a drunken showband at the end of the pier, with Les Dawson on piano. But the high points were high. A malevolent “Pay In Blood” that far surpassed the studio take. A great re-visit of “All Along The Watchtower” with a left turn, two-thirds through, into a spacey and atonal breakdown, before a thunderous climax. A lovely “Waitin’ For You”, a song written for the soundtrack of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, highlighted by a Sexton solo that sounded for all the world like the great Grady Martin. A gorgeous “Forgetful Heart”. Oh, and a beautiful and soulful “Blowin’ In The Wind” to end with.

Good Vibrations
It’s the story of Terri Hooley, godfather of Belfast punk (he started a record shop called Good Vibrations) and it’s nominally a feel-good music film, but is actually pretty hard-nosed about the difficulties of Belfast in the 70’s. The fast-cut collage that follows the opening scene takes our main character from Childhood to 1976. It’s brilliantly done, in a kind of kinetic pop art way, packed with news images of the Troubles, and edited to Hank Williams singing “I Saw The Light”. As it progresses it becomes more and more distorted, and finally the song disappears among swirls of echo, to be replaced by a hum of feedback and soundwash.

Mel Brimfield, 4’ 33” (Prepared Pianola for Roger Bannister).
Strangest piece of art owned by We The People, seen on a short tour of the Government Art Collection. [4’ 33”, a 1952 composition by US experimental composer John Cage (1912-1992), is referenced in the title but not played. The actual score for the pianola takes as its starting point athlete Roger Bannister’s performance in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics where he came fourth – the race that spurred him on to his sub 4 minute mile].

Piano

Bruce Springsteen, New York City Serenade, Rome
I remember a night in Sheffield, in 1974, when my friend Mike and I played this track (newly released) to Colin Graham, old family friend, editor of Angling Times, and big-time “Jazz Buff”. We were trying to prove that rock musicians could play their instruments and felt the combo of Bruce and David Sancious was a good bet… or something like that. In a game of what Charlie Gillett would turn into Radio Ping-Pong, we were searching through the records we’d brought with us (oh for an iPod) for something that we thought could pass muster. I wish I could recall what Colin, pipe in mouth, thought of it. Watching this recent performance of it, beautifully filmed and played, gives a Proustian rush back to the time I spent obsessively listening to The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. Apparently I bought it at Dobells, and it was £2.99.

Bruce

Five Things: Wednesday 28th August

Simmy Richman interview with Stephen Stills, The Independent
Is it true that you play percussion on the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing”?
We were in the studio next door making a CSN album and David was all full of himself and saying this is going to be the album of the year. I went, “No it’s not, that’s being recorded across the hall,” cos I’d heard some of that Saturday Night Fever stuff and I knew it was totally unique and going to be a monster. So I played timbales and for a long time that was my only platinum single.

You have a reputation for sometimes being short with journalists…
I had a torturous day in New York one time where someone had fed a writer this thing that I had tried out for the Monkees and failed. The truth was that I wanted to sell my songs to a hit TV show to make money. The thought of being a pretend Beatle on TV was so appalling that I couldn’t imagine it, but I went down and said I know a kid, and I sent them Peter Tork. This journalist kept saying, “But they turned you down right?” I was like, “You’re not getting the point.” So I ended up going fuck you! Often the journalist has already written the piece and all they’re looking for you to do is to confirm their obnoxious preconceptions. There’s a point where you just go – fuck fame, fuck being famous, fuck being a celebrity, fuck this. I’m a fucking musician. Take my picture and make it up.

Thanks for not being like that with me. That was an absolute pleasure.
It was. I love that I talked about all the things you were warned not to talk to me about. High fives on that!

Bruce Springsteen I
Daughter sends link to this very sweet blog entry, and while I have issues with the design aesthetics, the tale itself is funny and heartwarming.

Bruce Springsteen II
Then my inbox pops up with: “Springsteen: Saint In The City – this book covers the year from Springsteen’s birth to 1974,  the year before his breakthrough album Born To Run”. Personally, I like the ‘about the author’ bit: “Craig Statham has an MA in History from the University of Edinburgh. He currently works for East Lothian Council and has previously published four successful books on local Scottish history. The author believes that to fully understand Springsteen’s recorded work it is necessary to understand the formative years that shaped him. It covers: The genealogy of the Springsteen family from earliest times; his relationships with his managers – how whenever success beckoned he would move in a new direction; the development of his drive to sound like Van Morrison and Joe Cocker (in the Bruce Springsteen Band); the fight to get support from Columbia Records and how the musicians changed the rules to all-night Monopoly sessions”.

Heard And Seen at the at the Zoological Museum
Artist in museums. Not sure that they really work, and feel they’re always overshadowed by the exhibits. So poor Sam Risley Billingham is onto a hiding to nothing with his “Structurally amassed beat-mix soundscape” when up against A Jar Of Moles.

Zoology

Guardian Fashion

Bella

Can anyone explain this particular bit of fashion to me? And why poor Anastasia has been forced to a) stand like that, and b) wear ‘cute’ animal ears. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to the Gil Scott Heron one.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 19th September

Oh, Lighten Up Man!
Wynton Marsalis, responding to Mojo’s
Questionnaire, in their November issue:
[I’ve cut this to just the opening of each answer]
What, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favourite album?
I don’t have a favourite album.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Bought? I don’t think I’ve ever bought a record.
Which musician, other than yourself, have you ever wanted to be?
I’ve never wanted to be another musician.
What do you sing in the shower?
I never sing in the shower.
What is your favourite Saturday night record?
I don’t think I’ve ever played a record on a Saturday night—I’ve played a gig almost every Saturday night since I was 13.

To be fair, the rest of the answer to Which musician, other than yourself, have you ever wanted to be? is interesting: “You have no idea what they’ve had to deal with. The person I rate for something musical might have had an endless headache, or a back pain. Every person has something you can’t imagine to deal with.”

Classified Ad Mann
So I’ve just filed an interview with Aimee Mann to Rock’s Backpages and it has this reference to a movie that she’s going to make:
“I’m actually doing a little indie movie. Joe Henry is involved in it and his brother, I think, wrote the screenplay. It’s based on a This American Life episode [TAL is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations, usually centering around a theme that tells stories from everyday life] about this journalist who thinks: suppose she got a bunch of musicians from Craig’s List, just kind of randomly posting, Looking for musicians, and forms a band and puts them in a studio for a day—what would that look like? So I’m playing that woman. And Joe Henry’s going to be in it, and John Doe is going to be in it and Loudon Wainwright… and Joe is doing the music for it. So it sounds interesting, right? Too bad I don’t know to act…”

The next day I get a mailer from a website I like that runs a weekly Mystery Song competition, and (click to enlarge):

The actual version of Rocket Man is, uh, quite interesting…

From the Hammersmith Odeon To Lillehammer: Steven Van Zandt

Van Zandt’s extraordinary profile, seen to great effect in The Sopranos and, this week, Lillyhammer, reminded me of the extraordinary first night at Hammersmith Odeon in 1975, picture captured here by courtesy of the battered Chelsea School of Art photographic department black Pentax, on Tri-X.

Why They Invented The Internet, And Why It’s Come Time To Shut It Down…

Yes, A Bob Dylan Tempest Commonplace, crowd-sourcing the sources of the lyrics on Tempest. They don’t want to read what Bob said about the plagiarism issue in Rolling Stone…

Harry Smith: A Postscript
Esteemed writer and documentary maker Mick Gold emails about the Conference: “Harry Smith conference had good stuff. Very detailed history of Moonshiners Dance Part One from Anthology, which was funny history of Minneapolis/St Paul. Rani Singh (director of Harry Smith archives) said that when they were reissuing the Anthology in 1997, they asked Alan Lomax for a comment. Lomax’s reply was dismissive, similar to Charters—Smith was a nasty piece of work, his Anthology wasn’t that important, he ripped people off. Clearly there are political tensions in how this old music was presented historically, and the message it conveyed. Remember that when Irwin Silber got involved in running Folkways in 1960s, he changed the Anthology cover, substituting a Ben Shahn FSA (Farm Security Administration) shot of a poor farmer for Fludd’s celestial monochord. Perhaps Alchemical versus Popular Front perspective.” Mick had earlier told me that in his opinion, Greil Marcus “created Harry Smith the Magus. Why? Because Harry offered Greil a completely different narrative on the uncovering & collecting of traditional songs & blues from the “voice of the people,” oppressed blacks, Lomax popular front orthodoxy. Harry offered alchemy, esoteric magic, mystification, and he came from the West, all big pluses in the eyes of Greil. Hence Invisible Republic.”

%d bloggers like this: