Friday, March 29th

Once a giant date of political upheaval, now its proximity to April Fool’s Day just looks prescient. Even Uri Geller was powerless to guide us. Here’s Five Things with tariff-free content, a warm embrace and no backstop.

{ONE} GOODBYE SCOTT WALKER (NOT WALKER)
I first listened to Scott Walker properly when my wife was doing interview transcriptions for documentary filmmakers. She was working on Stephen Kijak’s 2006 film about Walker, 30 Century Man, and we had piles of DVDs of interviews and studio footage. Transferring the sound onto cassette tape while watching the unedited reels became a fascinating experience – Stephen was allowed to film the studio sessions for The Drift, resulting in long takes of discussions between his co-producer Peter Walsh and a variety of musicians. This included a carpenter building a plywood box in the studio to deliver a certain sound and resonance when hit, the now-notorious percussion (a side of pork played by Alasdair Malloy), and the brilliant guitarist Hugh Burns, being pushed into chords that were almost physically impossible to play, his hand stretched to its limits on the fretboard. Scott’s instructions to Evan Parker, that he wanted “clouds of saxophones”, gives a hint of the textures and sonics that he was after.

Stephen, collaborating with his director of photography, Grant Gee, filmed each of the contributors listening to a Scott track of their choice on a portable record player, a lovely invention that pulls you both into the world of Walker, and of his acolytes. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

As film director Atom Egoyan said, “I have rarely seen a biographical documentary that is able to make the viewer experience the perspective of a devoted fan, a concerned friend, and a complete stranger at the same time.” And I like singer Barb Jungr’s take on it: “In a rare moment Walker talks of the seductive quality, the power, of the baritone voice. Clearly, the gift he was given has been a double-edged sword. But this film reveals that he’s learned to wield that sword in a unique manner, and out there on the edges of music, where he walks alone, he’s leaving a magical, fairy tale trail that many may wish to follow, but few can.”

{TWO} SCOTT, ALMOST IN CONCERT
In 2012 I wrote about The Barbican putting on an astonishing show, Drifting and Tilting – The Songs of Scott Walker, a few years earlier. “It was more opera than rock. Scott, eyes hidden beneath a baseball cap, stood at the mixing desk conducting his collaborator Peter Walsh. It was all I could do to drag my eyes away and back to the stage, which teemed with extraordinary visions. The most arresting image? Possibly a boxer using a pig’s carcass as a percussion instrument. Or maybe Gavin Friday as Elvis (“It casts its ruins in shadows/Under Memphis moonlight”), perched on a stool, singing to his stillborn twin Jesse, while a bequiffed and backlit figure strode from the back of the stage until he assumed gigantic proportions, looming over the whole theatre. Whichever, it was an evening that lives on in the memory. Long may Scott run.”

{THREE} AS DAVID BAILEY DOES THE ROUNDS…
publicising his giant new Taschen book, I find this (below, right) in a book that I found, bizarrely, in a basement. Fashion students take note – and ignore Bailey’s cynicism.

{FOUR} HILARIOUS
Messy Nessy is a rather fabulous guide to Paris. This is from her always interesting weekly post, 13 Things I Found on the Internet Today.

Number 2. A Reminder that Barbra Streisand has a Mall (above, left) in her Basement. “Instead of just storing my things in the basement, I can make a street of shops and display them,” Streisand says. The mall at her Malibu home includes a doll shop, a costume shop and candy store where she serves guests ice cream. Ryan Murphy spoke of the time he had dinner with Lady Gaga at Streisand’s home. “We had dinner with Barbra and Jim, and Kelly [Preston] and John [Travolta], and Gaga and I. That’s all the people who were invited. And after dinner, she said, ‘Do you want to see the mall?’ And Gaga and I were out of that chair so fast… We went down to the mall and spent an hour down there. She pulled out her collection of gowns from Funny Girl and Hello, Dolly! And then she said, ‘Do you want frozen yoghurt?’ I could write a whole book about that night.”

What’s sad is how generic ye olde worlde mall looks, like it’s been lifted from a rather poor theme parks…

{FIVE} TWO BENCHES
… walked past this week, one in Hackney marshes, where a saxophonist sat blowing, lost in the notes and impervious to the thumbs-up from passers-by. The other in Knutsford, Cheshire, while walking the dog around a lake, with a quote worthy of Miles Davis, although it is, in fact, from American Composer Truman Fisher, a man who adored Count Basie, accompanied The Ink Spots in Hollywood nightclubs in the 80s, and whose works inlude Pocahontas in London and Requiem for Wyatt Earp.


{EXTRA} RBP PODCAST, EPISODE 19
Listen to this excellent episode for the stunning interview with Minnie Riperton by Cliff White. Minnie was an amazing person with an extraordinary voice, who died way too young. Guest James Medd also has great stuff on Hal Blaine, Charlie McCoy and Joanna Newsom.


{BUY} FIVE THINGS THE BOOK, HERE


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Five Things: Wednesday 11th September

Another Self Portrait Deluxe Edition: An Accountancy Issue
I – yes, yes, a Dylan Nutter™ – go for the one with the extra two discs and a couple of books. But wait! A 3-CD set of this ilk (we’ll ignore the remastered ‘Original Self Portrait’ Disc) would probably retail at about £19.99, say £23.99 if we’re being generous, with a fair sized book and box. We have to ignore the fact that I’d lazily thought it included a film of the Isle Of Wight Performance (not sure where I got that idea – I do have some video somewhere of a few songs). So then I’m thinking “Well, at least I have handsome books with wonderful liner notes and essays”. And one of the books has those things, by Michael Simmonds and Greil Marcus, and it holds the discs as well. But the other book is a bizarre hotch-potch of photo sessions from this period mixed with press clippings and foreign single covers. John Cohen is a good photographer (his Young Bob book is terrific, as is There Is No Eye), but his work is ill-served by reproducing repetitive and poorly-focused shots of a one-expression Bob. The reproduction looks cheap – flat and badly balanced –and Al Clayton’s Nashville black and whites really suffer. The proofreading is appalling – Jack Keroac, anyone? The guilty man is Bob’s house designer, Geoff Gans, a man who wouldn’t know a smart quote if it hit him. The production copyright credit reads: ©2013 Perceived Value Publications. I feel wound up – it works out that this extra book has set me back around £55. Can I Have My Money Back, Please Sir, as Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty once sang.

See the music player for a couple of versions that didn’t make the cut, but should have…

Hurry, Hurry, Buy Your Bob Dylan ’66 Tour Treggings Now!
Into Marks & Spencer, past the embalmed-looking Annie Leibovitz portraits of Britain’s great and good women (someone should be reprimanded for making the riverboat Helen Mirren look like she’s stepped out of Are You Being Served?, what with that jaunty cap and scarf). My gaze alights on a rack of these. The Dylan ’66 Houndstooth! As created by the Hawks’ favourite tailor in Toronto! If only they were for men (and came with a jacket) then my fashion decisions for Bob at the RAH in November would be sorted… Oh, and Treggings? A cross between trousers and leggings, obviously.

Bob Treggings

Ken Colyer visits Eddie Condon’s club, NYC, early 50’s
A great selection of Jazz photos from the 50s in colour, by Nat Singerman, runs in the New York Times Magazine. One of them shows Eddie Condon’s band.

Condon and Band by Nat; A table card that Ken had  autographed by Condon.

Condon and Band by Nat Singerman; A table card that Ken had autographed by Condon.

Around 1950, my uncle Ken was in the Merch and visited Condon’s club. He paints a vivid picture:
“I got washed and changed, once again forgetting that nightlife doesn’t start ’til later this side of the ocean. I shined my shoes and I was ready to go with my sub in my pocket. There were still four dollars to the pound. I had read about Eddie Condon’s club and heard their once-a-month town hall concerts on the BBC at home. I had no idea where the club was. New York is a big place. I saw a news-stand and asked if they had a Downbeat. “No, don’t you know it’s not due out ’til next week?” I didn’t know about the New Yorker then, which has an excellent section devoted to nightlife with Whitney Balliett’s pithy descriptions of each place and its style of entertainment. I walked on until I saw a cabby tinkering under the bonnet of his cab. “Do you know Eddie Condon’s club?”

“Hop in; I’ll be with you in a minute.” He didn’t want to lose a fare. I got in the cab. It had seen better days, in fact it was a wreck. But I didn’t mind as long as it got me there. I was sure I would find the place like a homing pigeon finds his home. The cabbie finally got the engine going and we started cruising.

“What was the name of that place?” I told him. “What sort of musicians play there?” “Jazz musicians.” “Who’s playing beside Condon?”

He’d got me there. I didn’t know Eddie’s present lineup. I mentioned a few names, then Pee Wee Russell. “Pee Wee, he’s a friend of mine, know him well. I took him for his medical when he got drafted. He told me to wait; he was only gone ten minutes. They threw him out because he was seventy proof. Now I’ve got an idea it might be the old Howdy Club. Used to be a burlesque joint, they’ve got these marvellous old dolls in the chorus line, not one under sixty. Want me to try there?” he asked, eyeing the clock.

“Go ahead,” I said. We drove into Greenwich Village, turned a corner and there was the ‘mutton chop’ sign David Stone Martin designed for Eddie hanging over the entrance. I was elated. I gave the cabbie a generous tip. He told me not to forget the address: West Third Street. Before he pulled away he called: “Don’t forget to tell Pee Wee his old friend Al brought you here. So long, pal.”

There was a commissionaire in livery standing by the door looking dignified. He saw me reading the board. “Are all these people playing tonight?” “Yes, but it’s a little early yet. They don’t start playing ’til nine. Why don’t you go to that little bar down the road and have a drink. Come back about eight-thirty and you’ll get a seat right by the band.”

I said, “Thanks, I will.” He was no hustler. I found out later that Eddie wouldn’t allow it. He had played enough clip joints himself and also considered it was important to encourage youngsters to listen to the music. And they turned a blind eye if you were obviously under age.

On each table was a small green card. On one side it gave the personnel: Pee Wee Russell, clarinet; Wild Bill Davison, cornet; George Brunis, trombone; Gene Schroeder, piano; Sid Weiss, bass; Maurey Feld, drums; Eddie Condon, guitar, and Joe Sullivan, intermission piano. On the other it proclaimed: “Jazz in its finest flower,” a quote from my favourite critic, Whitney Balliett.

As I sipped a beer the band turned up. George oiled his slide with an elaborate flourish, then the band kicked off. Within a couple of numbers they were playing with a power, swing and tonal quality I would not have believed possible. It struck me for the first time that the gramophone record is badly misleading when it comes to jazz. No recording could ever completely capture the greatness of this music. As each number got rocking I seemed to be suspended, just sitting on air. And when the music finished I flopped back on my chair as though physically exhausted.

The sensation I got from hearing Wild Bill for the first time was a sort of numb joy that such a man lived and played. If Louis Armstrong was better in person, then it was beyond my imagination. His teaming with Brunis heightened this reaction. When Edmond Hall took over from Pee Wee, playing his cutting electric phrases, it was almost more than I could bear.

Brunis was entertaining to watch. While playing excellent trombone, he constantly screwed his body into the most awkward-looking positions, sometimes jamming one leg against the piano. If there was a drunk in the room he would play snatches of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, or something equally appropriate, in the most syrupy manner, during the breaks, then crack back in with glorious golden-toned tail-gate.

Pee Wee, with his broken comb moustache and a slightly distant look in his eyes, was also entertaining. I was told he had a select band of fans, who follow him mainly to watch his weird expressions that contort his face while he plays. Also he is a little eccentric and difficult to get to know, but if you knew anything about poodles, he would open up and be friendly.

As nightclub prices go in New York, Eddie’s were very reasonable. But I still had to make every beer last as long as I could. The waiters didn’t like this too much. The first night I left comparatively early. I felt a little sick but hadn’t drunk very much. It was the emotional impact that was making me feel groggy. The old Negro toilet attendant was sympathetic and understanding. That’s OK, son, I know how it is.

David Bailey Names Exhibition After His Favourite Song, ”Stardust“.
I work my way through all the versions I own. Top of the pops: Larry Adler’s fabulous harmonica, alternately shuddering and gliding over the timeless Hoagy Carmichael melody. And of course, the fantastic scene in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories where he eats breakfast as Louis Armstrong plays his giddily great take. As the instrumental first half unwinds, Sandy, played by Allen, talks: “It was one of those great spring days, and you knew summer would be coming soon… We came back to the apartment , we were just sitting around and I put on a record of Louis Armstrong, which is music that I grew up loving, and it was very, very pretty, and I happened to glance over and I saw Dorrie sitting there… and, I dunno, I guess it was the combination of everything – the sound of the music, and the breeze and how beautiful Dorrie looked to me and for one brief moment everything seemed to come together perfectly and I felt happy, almost indestructible, in a way…” and Charlotte Rampling fixes the camera with one of cinema’s greatest stares, as Armstrong’s vocal comes in, singing and scatting Mitchell Parish’s words, giving the merest approximation of the actual lyrics. And then it cuts to the cinema audience watching it, split between a woman saying, “That was so beautiful”, and another shouting, “Why do all comedians turn out to be sentimental bores!”

Rock Murals: Are They Ever A Good Thing?
Seen near our new offices, off Carnaby Street

Carnaby

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 16th January

Marianne Faithfull interview, The Guardian
The Guardian: There’s a fantastic YouTube clip of you in 1973, wearing a nun’s outfit, singing with David Bowie at the Marquee club. It’s like watching an early Lady Gaga.
Marianne Faithfull: “I’ve known that ever since Lady Gaga came along­—I did it much better and long before you! Working with David Bowie was very interesting, but I couldn’t surrender to it. I should have let him produce a record for me, but I’m very perverse in some ways. He’s brilliant, but the entourage were rather daunting.”

It’s amazing how large the Marquee looks in this clip. It was a tiny place, but the US tv crew filming this special in ’73 have made it seem much more expansive. I remember the band looming over the audience. And the costumes. I remember the costumes. But very little else, so it was great to see the space-rock Sonny & Cher again, and to hear the lovely guitar obbligato from Mick Ronson.

I Should Have Known…
“What is the Obscurometer? Simply put, it’s a tool to measure just how obscure the music you listen to is.” And with that, people who are—or were—in bands, typed their bandnames into the dialogue box and hit return. And, I’m guessing, got a similar result percentage-wise…

Obscureometer

Excellent David Bailey quote
I once saw the world’s grumpiest photographer give a lecture at the Marble Arch Odeon in London. Everyone before him had done lavish slide shows with overviews of their ouevre. Bailey handed a polaroid to a person in the first row and asked them to pass it along. So it was passed along, row by row, as he talked brilliantly about his career, cameras, lenses, models… In the Guardian Weekend Questionnaire he was asked Which living person do you most admire?, and answered: Bob Dylan, because he is like a singing Picasso.

Motörhead: “Down. Down. Stop! Up, Up, A Little Bit, A Bit More—Great, That’s It!”
Lemmy has launched a line of Motörhead branded headphones in the United States. Specifically made for listening to rock music, the all-metal headphones are called Motörheadphönes. “People say we’ve never sold out. No one ever approached us,” said Lemmy, at the US launch earlier this week. I didn’t realise until recently that I saw a very early Motörhead gig (their eleventh), supporting Blue Oyster Cult at the Hammersmith [remember No Sleep ’til Hammersmith?] Odeon. We had gone because BOC had a kind of rock-crit cachet as being “intellegent” hard rock. My lasting memory was of Larry Wallis trying to tune his guitar between songs without turning off his fuzz box (ah, loved those pre-electric tuner days) and getting helped by the audience, as illustrated by the headline…

This Guitar, British Heart Foundation Charity Shop, £25
Made in Valencia by the firm of Vicente Tatay Tomás—not top of the line— with a huge crack along back held down by sellotape (but hey, hasn’t Wille Nelson proved that extra holes in guitars have no effect on the tone…)

Guitar

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