Wednesday, 4th November


I had no idea that these were still around, two-handed fretboards that work independently and are played by tapping. My only problem with the Stick is that I’ve never heard anything other than pallid jazz funk or new age played on them, maybe with the exception of bass player Tony Levin (who I remember using one with Paul Simon in the 80s). I could, of course, be wrong… Anyhow, this particular busked performance was of George Harrison’s “Something”, which ticked both those boxes. Impressive, but too many notes for an echoe-y tube station.

It turns out that Stu Kimball’s solo guitar introductions were from the deep American folk & blues songbook… the first half entrance was to “Foggy Dew”, the second to “Deep Ellum Blues”. According to – your one stop shop for all hard-to-find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures – “Deep Ellum is a part of Dallas, Texas, and was a legendary music scene built by the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, Lead Belly, and Bill Neely, which all but disappeared with the construction of Dallas’s Central Expressway in the 1950s”.

I never thought I’d hear Bob play “She Belongs to Me” live, so that was a thrill, as it’s a song that lingers on through the decades, never losing its magic. This particular version was loaded with a rich, thick stew of guitars, especially a lovely, molten sound from Charlie Sexton that sent me back to his wonderful production and playing on Lucinda Williams “Essence”. There was also a great break during the first harmonica solo, before drummer George Recili led the band back in with a couple of snappy funk fills.

I remember having lunch with Charlie Gillett the week after Diana died. It was early September, 1997, and we sat outside a Caribbean restaurant that had just opened in Covent Garden. He gave me a track sheet of his programme [It’s Saturday Night with Charlie Gillett] from the previous weekend, and quizzed me on the reason for the songs’ inclusion. Some were easy, like Nicky Thomas’s “Love of the Common People” (a great Trojan single), but I was stumped on the specifics of “She Belongs to Me” – which was shocking as I’d been trying to earn a living as a lyricist for the previous decade. My only defence is that I’m often more interested in the mood the words conjure or the song’s feel than specific lines. I have a cheap theory that great lyrics and a boring melody are never a success, whereas a great melody with duff lyrics still has a chance. You may not agree, but there it is. I listened anew to the song after that lunch and have been listening to it ever since. I’ve added the tracklist at the end of this week’s post – it makes interesting reading. Oh, and the versions I most love are the live ’66 acoustic version with its bluesy “Cathedrals of Sound” harp solo, and the alternate take from the Bringing It All Back Home sessions included on the No Direction Home soundtrack. Vastly different, but equally beautiful.

Watching the bizarre F1 coverage of the USA Grand Prix, I realised that all sport now aspires to the glamour of Motor Racing. I want this explained to me. Because every major sporting event I go to – in sports that were always regarded as serious and competitive, such as athletics or cycling – are now all covered in an expensive blanket of razamatazz. The disco light nonsense reached a zenith with 6 Day London, where the centre of the arena was held by a large booth containing a DJ from the Ministry of Sound and his exploding airjets and cannons. From this perch he was able to force competitors to wear giant foam hands and generally dance like only people wearing cycling footwear can dance. The music didn’t even break for the actual racing either: Keirin or Derny, it didn’t matter – the big thudding bass beat trailed them every wheel of the way…


Recommended by Gemma Cairney, Radio 1 presenter, in The Guardian: “I want to tell you a secret. Lurking at the end of some Hackney streets, the London borough I have gallivanted and lived in for the past decade, is a place of solitude. It becomes hazy in the summertime and wraps you up in green as far the eye can see. It’s called the Hackney Marshes, a strange and unexpectedly big patch of grass, reservoir and haven for happy bell-ringing cyclists. Adjoining it is an ever-stretching canal, plunging you further north, filled with houseboats that make you want to throw out all your things and join “floatsville”. At one particular moseying point, you can hear a plonkity, plonk soundtrack to your dreamy walk. You stop and realise that it comes from the floating record shop, a simple set-up consisting of some boxes of carefully selected vinyl and a smiley boat-owning guy to help you choose. It has everything from 50p bargains to deliciously gold-adorned Motown specials. It’s the ultimate pleasure to flick through, outside, in one of London’s loved no-man’s lands. Whenever I buy a vinyl from there, I always feel like I’m bringing home a memento of the perfect Sunday afternoon.” We came across it recently, and purchased some fine singles from the collection of Kerry Stone…


Stay with me, here. This is the Chipmunks – a cynical attempt to wrest money from junior fans of the cartoon show – covering Blondie’s “Call Me” (from American Gigolo, let’s not forget). C’mon, stay with me here – the trick is playing it back at 16 rpm, whereupon it sounds, well, just amazing. Jim Morrison, anyone?

And my Jordan sends me this YouTube link of another Jordan, a 5-year-old, creating a hip hop song in 30 seconds (well, almost…) The world is a strange place.

TRACKLIST FOR It’s Saturday Night with Charlie Gillett, 6 September, 1997


Five Things: Wednesday, 16th July

Watching: Amazing Bass Lines
I don’t know whether I admire his stamina or dexterity more. In fact maybe it’s his memory that is the most impressive thing about this…

Watching: Ray Charles sing the hell out of “Sail On Sailor”
Thanks to Grahame for putting me on to this. Fast forward to 9.08. It’s the Beach Boys 25th Anniversary in 1986. It’s in Hawaii. Carl and Brian do a very strange intro, you’re not sure where it’s leading, then suddenly it’s Ray – in an awesome flower-print jacket and garlanded with a Lei.

Finding: A pack of Neil Diamond Playing Cards at a rather desultory Record Fair


Watching: A Recreation of The Sopranos’ Credit Sequence in Grand Theft Auto Style
Why Recreate The Sopranos’ Credit Sequence in Grand Theft Auto Style? Because it was there to be done…

Listening to: Lily Allen on Desert Island Discs
“This song was the first dance of mine  and my husband’s… It was really sweet, actually. Sam and I got together the day I played Glastonbury and I remember I had a week off after that, and I hired a yurt and put it up in my dad’s back garden and invited him down. And as we left he gave me this mix CD that he’d made for me, and this was the first song that was on it and it became the song that we danced to at our wedding. We actually flew the guy that sang it, Tommy McLain, who’s in his nineties, all the way from Louisiana with an eleven-piece band and he played this song…” Tommy McLain’s “Grow Too Old” is a great, great cover version, that finds a seam of melancholy in the midst of songwriter Bobby Charles’ swaggering braggadocio. It was originally on a fabulous compilation called Another Saturday Night, a celebration of the sound of South Louisiana made in 1974 by Charlie Gillett for his Oval Records label.

%d bloggers like this: