Friday, June 2nd

A visually-driven 5 Things this week…

ONE FOUND ON THE BOOKSHELF
I found this the other day (while attempting to lay my hands on a Raymond Chandler book that I’m convinced I own but can’t find). I bought it a few years ago, mostly for the cover, and it cost £5 (it’s a 1963 third reprint, with pages 82-96 bound in upside down). It’s a good knockabout read, and it occurs to me that it could easily be updated with a little Photoshop work. Hell, the Russian guard even looks like Vlad…

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“During the charity golf tournament, I was just addressing the ball to tee off the first hole, when suddenly all hell broke loose. A wild cacophony of sounds fractured the air like the testing area of a bagpipe factory. For a moment I thought Spike Jones had parachuted in. Then I saw where all this was coming from. A ragged group of tall, bearded, white-turbanned Berbers were standing at the edge of the green. As the noise they produced from thin clarinet-like pipes and twelve-foot horns beat through my skull, I got a glimmer of what was going on. They were brother Jack’s newest ‘discoveries’ and they were ‘audiotioning’. I’d never heard anything like the Riff (sic) Mountain Boys, and I was sure no-one else had either, so later I had them on my television show… their music blew out tubes in sets all over America. I’ll never forget them. Whenever I drive by the plush headquarters of the musicians’ union in Hollywood, I think of those tall, bearded tribesmen and their weird instruments. If there’s any music on the moon, it probably sounds like the stuff the Riff Mountain Boys turn out.”

TWO FOUND AT CHRISTIES
Among the Enigma Ciphers, a working Apple-1 (originally priced at $666.66, current estimate, $300,000 – $500,000), and a letter from Charlie Parker appealing a union fine of $350 levied after his resignation from the American Federation of Musicians, the “Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts Including Americana” auction on June 15 has this example of an early Excel spreadsheet: a newly discovered preliminary plan for the festival at Woodstock.

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“A testament to the moving target that was the Woodstock festival during its planning stages, it appears to have been intended to run from Wednesday 13 August to Wednesday 20 August 1969. The plan lists each day horizontally, and each row is divided into smaller, but unspecified time intervals (perhaps 10 minutes per slot?). Only the prime nights (Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) were scheduled, and many of several of the planned acts, including Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane and The Who, were scheduled to play four nights in a row. Jean Val Ernst, a staff member of Woodstock Ventures discovered the chart in a trailer behind the stage after the conclusion of the festival.” I liked this note on the listing: “accomplished in various color markers and pencil”.

THREE FOUND AT PHOTO LONDON
I could feel myself falling out of love with photography as I walked around Photo London. Too much of the work felt plastic and unmoored. The vintage photojournalism is great (but we all knew that) and there was a considerable amount that had been done better before. The artier end of stuff is foundation level and the transgressive stuff unengaging and yawny. In music-related finds, Taschen had the handsome Dan Kramer book on Bob, there was a nice shot of John Cale in front of Warhol’s Double Elvis, and Brian May was on hand to give you his favourites from the whole show.

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Two good things: NYTimes Pic Ed Kathy Ryan’s talk with young Jack Davison was great, as was David Hurn’s Swaps, a neat exhibit curated by Martin Parr, with Hurn, that put the pictures Hurn had swapped with other photographers – over sixty years – next to those they’d given him in return.

FOUR SPEAKING OF PHOTOGRAPHY…
I came across this cover for Bill Evans & Jim Hall’s Undercurrent album, which I had never seen, shot by a photographer I didn’t know. Whatever, it’s beautiful and seems to have been released at various points with no type at all.

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It’s by Toni Frissell, and was shot at Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida, in 1947. Fast fact: When she grew tired of fashion photography for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, she was hired as the first woman on the staff of Sports Illustrated in 1953.

FIVE THE STANLEY BOOK OF FURNITURE
Found at my father-in-law’s. Where Dad has his cool new sterogram, and the teen bedroom has an, I’d guess
, Italian-made electric guitar in the wardrobe. Well done the art director, for flipping the picture

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EXTRA A PLUG FOR PATRICK…
Patrick Humphreys’ emails… “Just to let you know that the programme I have been developing for years will be broadcast on Saturday 3 June at 10.30am. Howzat For Hollywood tells the intriguing and little-known story of the Hollywood Cricket Club. Just imagine, Errol Flynn at Silly Mid-Off… David Niven, 12 Not Out and Boris Karloff as wicket keeper… Jim Carter, taking time off from butler duties at Downton Abbey, presents the half-hour documentary.”

EXTRA TWO FIVE THINGS IS CURRENTLY ENJOYING…
Two albums that tangentially look back to Laurel Canyon, while feeling absolutely now. Laura Marling’s exceptional Semper Femina has great singing, fine songs, and an intriguing Blake Mills’ production. It’s an album that, as they used to say, repays careful listening. Check “Wild Fire”, “Nothing, Not Nearly” (with its one-chord, one-minute guitar solo) and especially “Soothing”, with its gorgeous dual bass part. Interestingly, I can’t find out who actually plays on the record. So few reviews even concern themselves with anything but the lyrics, which seems to miss at least 50% of what the album’s about, but is still typical of how music is approached by the press.

And Josh Tillman as Father John Misty (on Pure Comedy) is strange as strange can be but successful on its own terms – I just don’t know what they are. It’s baffling and fascinating in equal measure. Thanks, Tim!

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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, 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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Five Things: Wednesday 5th June

Daft. Not Punk.
So I ask Mark what he thinks of the new Daft Punk album and he says “Rubbish,” and I think 50 million people and all the broadsheet critics can’t be wrong. So I listen. I put it on Spotify when Summer arrives for a day and we have a barbecue. I play it when I’m walking around the house, or making tea. And guess what. Mark is right. Everyone else is wrong. And I love disco, and I love session musicians, but this is just… for instance, one track sounds like wonky, rubbish version of a Police song. The nadir is reached with  the Paul Williams tune, which sounds like a lame copy of something from Joss Whedon’s genius Buffy musical. It’s a cute idea to work with Williams (who wrote some of the Carpenters hits) but it just sounds… rubbish. So why is everyone so invested in saying it’s great. Is it because half of them seem to be creative partners in some promotional campaign (stand up, Pitchfork), or have got special access and an interview? The sell is clever, and it’s smart to get their collaborators to act as shills for them, but I’ll leave you with three words: Emperor’s New Clothes (or in this case, Motorbike Helmets).

Pink

The Blues, a film.
Sam Charters showed us this, his brilliant, little seen, 1962 film, as he was on his way to Scotland to spend time with Document Records remastering it. Shot as he and Ann Charters travelled through the South recording bluesmen who had had their moment in the sun in the 20s and 30s, it is 22 minutes of poetry and poverty. From a host of riveting performances, a favourite moment: Pink Anderson and his sweet-faced boy, Little Pink, playing Leadbelly’s Cottonfields. Hopefully the DVD will see the light of day later in the year.

Go Away You Bomb?
Bob Bomb
Hand-typed [as opposed to…?] lyrics to a Bob Dylan song which he never recorded are expected to sell for £35,000 when they go up for auction at Christies in London next month. Dylan’s lyric sheet for “Go Away You Bomb” will go under the hammer at Christie’s in London on June 26. Israel ‘Izzy’ Young: “I was compiling a book of songs against the atom bomb and asked Dylan to contribute; he gave me this song the very next day. I have never sold anything important to me until now and the funds raised will help to keep the Folklore Center in Stockholm going. I have always had a passion for folk music and I have collected books and music since I was a kid. I produced my first catalogue of folk books in 1955, comprised of books that nobody had ever heard of – this was the beginning of the interest in American folk music. Bob Dylan used to hang around the store and would look through every single book and listen to every single record I had. Since opening the Folklore center I have organised over 700 concerts with some of the biggest names in this music world. I’m a fun-loving Jewish boy who loves folk music and never gave up – that’s why I’m still alive.”

Cerys Matthews on Bob.
From The Guardian: “By 2008, her marriage was over and she was back in the UK. By now, she had a low-key solo career up and running, made an unexpected appearance on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! and was starting to present shows on BBC 6 Music. A year later, she married her manager, Steve Abbott. The couple met when she recorded a duet with one of Abbott’s other clients, Aled Jones. “We just clicked. We had very similar taste in music, right down to the line between liking Bob Dylan and not really liking Tom Petty.” She smiles. “That kind of thing is important to me. I’m very opinionated about music. So is he.” Exactly right, Cerys! People always assume that you’ll like Tom Petty because you like Bob. And it’s just not true.

You Really Couldn’t Make This Up…
Cabin
The sisters Mamet [daughters of David, band name The Cabin Sisters] introduce their [in their own words] unique brand of folk via body percussion, banjo and harmonies. This will be their first music video. “This music video for Bleak Love is our chance to realize through the visual artistry of some very talented people the universal feeling of un-requited love. Your support for this project will be the backbone to a body of excited filmmakers, producers and musicians all making something from nothing. we have a wonderful concept from a bright young director that includes, beautiful gowns, statues, a large opulent loft space, extensive make-up, saturated tones needing anamorphic lens (for those technically inclined). We also have those folks who are good enough to work for free that we are trying to travel and feed. It is an expensive proposition when all is said and done, but we have a realistic budget that we know we can make work. So, please please join us in the fight against heartbreak!” Apart from the hazy punctuation and capitalisation, wtf? Listen to Zosia’s stumbling and half-assed reasons why you should back her in the begging video. Well-paid, well-connected actresses using Kickstarter for vanity projects? I’m betting that, for your $8,000, the director styled chair is not cutting it.

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