Five Things End of Year Part 1

The reasons that I don’t write about everything that I see and hear each week are many and various. Sometimes it’s laziness, sometimes I just can’t find the time to do something justice, sometimes I don’t want to be too negative, so I just let the subject slide, and sometimes everyday life gets in the way. So here are some things that slipped through the net in 2018. [All photos enlarge when clicked]

Celeste Boursier-Mougenot’s BEAUTIFUL AVIARY, with birds landing on and triggering electric guitars, and her drum kit played by cherry stones that fell from the ceiling – set off by visitors’ mobile phone signals – were part of the Voyages a Nantes art fair. Nantes is well worth a visit. There’s always something art-related happening, it’s the home of LU Biscuits and Les Machines de L’ile (the giant elephant, among other huge mechanical puppets), the Loire is gorgeous and it’s a quick drive to the seaside town of Monsieur Hulot.

I really loved the BOB DYLAN EXHIBITION at the Halycon Gallery in Bond Street, but not for the exhibits that were the basis of the show, rather lame drawings illustrating selected lyrics, uninterestingly handwritten by Bob. The bookshelf with Bob tomes (above) was an inspired idea, the Steel Gates still look pretty, but the best came on the back wall downstairs – a fantastic art piece in itself: a wall of cards from the Savoy “Subterranean Homesick Blues” shoot by D.A. Pennebaker. And, alongside, a rather good fifteen minute encapsulation of Dylan’s career ran as a film loop.

Oh, and this was a pretty good use of photography, too…

Two brilliantly AMERICAN THINGS that I unaccountably forgot to mention. The 749 song requests that the organist at Fenway Park, Josh Kantor, received this season (and played)! But, as he told one follower, “Your dream of a world where every ballpark has organ instrumentals of Pile songs may be a long-shot at best.” And this beautiful song map of the USA from the brilliant Dorothy (check out their Electronic Music Stamp Set).

In the New Yorker, this extraordinary piece by John Seabrook on STEVE MILLER’S COLLECTION of 450 guitars. “I had two humidified rooms,” he said the other day, during a visit to the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of Musical Instruments. “I had a hidden room next to the studio. I’d say, ‘Open, sesame,’ ” and a door would open, revealing a guitar forest of rare mahoganies and rosewoods…” When he’s asked to be on the board of Jazz at Lincoln Center, “I walked in and said, ‘Jesus, this is a real fuckin’ board. That’s the guy who built the building. That’s the guy who raised the twenty million.’ ” And now there’s the guy who wrote, “Ab-ra-ca-dabra / I wanna reach out and grab ya.”

From JEB LOY NICHOLS’ regular column at Caught By The River, on “As I Don’t Want To Take A Chance” by Wee Willie Walker: “I remember as a child, driving along the Texas coast with my father, listening to the radio, and telling him that the song playing was “the best song ever!” When the next song came on, I dismissed it, saying “this song is awful.” He stopped the car, and we stood on the beach. After a few minutes he said, listen to everything! Who are you to turn up your nose at someone’s hard work? You can’t say that anything is the best. I don’t want to hear that. You can’t dismiss anything. That’s like standing on the beach and saying you got a favourite wave. It’s nonsense. Music, he says, just keeps coming.”

In graphic news, who doesn’t love a piece of data that reveals the most and least “HIP HOP” WORDS? From The Pudding.

Sadly, I didn’t enjoy DEVA MAHAL at St Mary’s Music Hall in Walthamstow – an odd gig in a newish venue under the umbrella of the EFG London Jazz Festival, for no good reason. A noodling piano player, a somewhat robotic drummer, a bass player who seemed to be in a different postcode and a rather ineffectual guitarist, all served up with a muggy sound mix, rendered the soul / RnB of her debut album formless, with her voice just one more murky instrument trying to reach the congregation…

My FAVOURITE TV MOMENT may well have been Trini Lopez on one of those ghastly Andre Rieu broadcasts on Sky Arts from somewhere like Vienna (best city in the world for quality of living for the ninth year in a row, apparently). Trini was sporting his fantastic Gibson Trini Lopez model from 1964. [For Guitar fans only: It’s a 335 with mods, mostly in the form of diamond-shaped f-holes and neck inlays, with a Firebird six-in-line headstock. It’s Dave Grohl’s favourite guitar, which is why his signature Gibson is based on Trini’s]. It was utterly bizarre – an orchestra playing “If I Had a Hammer” featuring a rather frail vocal performance from Trini, Andre fiddling like Rome was burning, and an audience who looked like they were at a young fogey’s convention, going batshit crazy.

I’ll end Part One with a favourite video clip discovered this year. Guitarist FREDDY KOELLA, playing Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief” on guitar, which is a tricky thing to do. But Freddy plays the hell out of it, complete with a lovely breakdown solo. He’s some kind of genius. Part Two later this week…

November 13th. Normal Service Resumed…

ONE RIP TJW
Sad news that a true one-off, Tony Joe White, has passed away at 75. His early albums were rough and ready, gusty and emotional. Listen to “Aspen, Colorado” (covered beautifully by Robert Cray on his recent Hi Rhythm album), or “The Train I’m On” for his simple yet sophisticated storytelling. He was by far the best thing on a Muscle Shoals bill at the Barbican a few years back, leaning back on his chair, accompanied only by his swamp guitar, a small amp and a plaintive harmonica, spinning tales, slowly putting the audience under his spell and sounding only like himself.

Jeb Loy Nichols wrote beautifully at Caught by the River: “In my life as a musician, no one has been more important to me than Tony Joe White. For forty-five years his music has been my soundtrack, my daily touchstone, my reminder, my bedrock. I once asked him who, or what, had been the biggest influence on him; he thought about it for a moment and then, in his quiet drawl, said, the rain.”

TWO IT’S SENSORY MARKETING, BABY!
“Some clients hire Rob Wood [founder and creative director of Music Concierge, a company that chooses background music for businesses] because they want to influence individuals’ behaviour. When the football club Tottenham Hotspur was looking for music for its new training ground complex, Wood was asked to provide playlists for a holistic programme covering every aspect of Spurs’ players’ psychological and physical wellbeing. Others seek to create a certain atmosphere, such as the restaurant German Gymnasium, for which he sourced particular bell sounds that evoked Mitteleuropean cafe culture.” – from Jake Huyler’s fascinating Guardian piece on the “music design” – formerly known as muzak – industry.

THREE INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
John Cooper Clark by Tim Adams, in The Observer. A typically insightful and amusing set of responses from the good Doctor. Among a shout-out to Bill Withers and Busby Berkeley was this answer to a question posed by DJ Lauren Laverne.
Q: What is it that mono can do that stereo can’t?
A: “Hi Lauren. Well, for one thing, mono could produce the Phil Spector “wall of sound”. You couldn’t have that in stereo. That glorious bank of french horns bleeding into a mess of cellos and strings. I tend to live by the dictum “less is more”, but that mono sound proved more can be more. It is also more true to life. If you went to see a band, the Beatles, the Stones, they were up there on the stage; you would naturally expect all the sound to come from their general direction. What do you want to listen to the bass player over your left shoulder for? Stereo is some nerd twiddling his knobs. The only stereo I like is a jukebox: two speakers but both on the same piece of furniture. Phil Spector is obviously out of circulation right now, but I am keeping the faith alive. Stereo, my ass.”

FOUR A RECOMMENDATION…
One of the things that really helps in times where grinding stress is balanced with periods of mind-numbing boredom is a gripping read. Thanks go to Steve Way for giving me three of Mick Herron’s terrific Jackson Lamb series, charting the exploits of a group of MI6 cast-offs, billeted in a run-down office, Slough House, near Barbican Station. This gives them the tag “Slow Horses” among the spooks at Service headquarters – characters half-off the books but too tricky to sack, slowly being bored into resignation.

Herron balances the behind-the-curtain-realism of John Le Carré with a blistering sense of humour and a tuned ear for the way people speak – he’s the first author I’ve read to recognise that people say “gunna” not “gonna”, as in “I’m gunna do something”. He also describes London as it actually is, in all its everyday, grimy glory. And he cleaves to the British Crime Novelist template of “Jazz Lover”. There aren’t many references to music, but this passage creeps into the fourth novel of the series, Spook Street:

“Apart from his fingers he is still, but these move unceasingly, his keyboard pushed aside to better accommodate this, and while an observer would see nothing more than an advanced case of the fidgets, what J.K. Coe is describing on the scuffed surface of his desk is a silent replica of what’s coursing through his head via his iPod: Keith Jarrett’s improvised piano recital from Osaka, 8 November1976, one of the Sun Bear concerts; Coe’s fingers miming the melodies Jarrett discovered on the night, all those miles and years away. It’s a soundless echo of another man’s genius, and it serves a dual purpose: of tamping down Coe’s thoughts, which are dismal, and of drowning out the noises his mind would otherwise entertain: the sound of wet meat dropping to the floor, for instance, or the buzz of an electric carving knife wielded by a naked intruder.”

Someone should make these into a tv series, especially as the weirdly under-cooked The Little Drummer Girl was so short on laughs or thrills.

FIVE AND ANOTHER…
It’s the new podcast from Rock’s Backpages! Yes, I’m biased, but it’s really good. Like eavesdropping on two good friends off on a hike through the foothills of the mountains of rock… hear Mark liken Keith Moon to “the ghastly showoff at school that you just want to thump…” and Barney reminisce about the time they met Wu-Tang’s U-God – “a very bizarre encounter, where Mark and I were waiting at the San Francisco airport, and we suddenly realised that in the departure lounge with us was most of The Wu-Tang Clan – not that I’d ever done a headcount…” And, as Mark would say, “So on and so forth!” Episodes here.

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Front Cover

He writes with the insight of someone who has inhabited the world of the professional musician but also with the infectious enthusiasm of someone who is a fan like anyone of us. It’s entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.” – from an Amazon review by Zuma

“What a treat! And it has the years before I discovered your blog…” – Dan Franklin, Publisher

“A terrific book, stuffed to the gills with snippets of news items and observations all with a musical theme, pulled together by the watchful eye of Martin Colyer… lovingly compiled, rammed with colour photos and interesting stories. Colyer has a good ear for a tune, an eye for the out-of-ordinary and he can write a bit too.” – Steve Carr, everyrecordtellsastory.com

“I’ve been dipping with huge enjoyment since it arrived” – James Walton, writer and presenter of Radio 4’s books quiz, The Write Stuff, and the R4 pop quiz All the Way from Memphis.

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