Friday, May 20th

lakestreetONE LAKE STREET DIVE: A DAUGHTER SPEAKS
In the half cinema-half club that is the Scala we see Lake Street Dive. Afterwards I asked J about it.

Dad What did you think?
Daughter They were constantly surprising – there were ballads, 60s style pop, country, jazz – it really felt like being at a roadside bar, and the only thing missing was the cigarette smoke! Vaping doesn’t feel the same! 

D I thought they really looked like they were having a good time.
D Yes! They had a great rapport with the audience, and with each other. You really felt they were four friends making great music together, who just happened to be giving a concert – to another bunch of friends! In sitcom terms, Bridget the bass player looked kooky and fun, Rachael the singer was the glamorous one, one boy a little serious and studious (the guitarist), the other a little showy (the Italian drummer). He did an excellent solo on a rented kit (coincidentally painted in the colours of the Italian flag!).

D Did you have a favourite song? Had you actually heard much before we went?
D I only knew a couple, but I think “Saving all my Sinning” was my favourite live – it had a great intro about growing older and saving up all your bad decisions for a party night. And I thought the cover they did of the Kinks “Lola” was a perfect fit for their sound. I really like their sound, it’s very rich, considering there are only three instruments. Oh, apart from when the guitarist plays trumpet, but that still makes three, as he puts down the guitar!

D I think the fullness is down to subtle percussion and really nicely worked-out guitar parts…
D Yes, but I think the bassist is the key to their sound. On one song it was just Bridget behind Rachael for the first half and there didn’t seem to be anything missing…

D I thought the first encore was terrific, all of them clustered round one mic doing “Nobody Knows What I’m Doin’ Here”. I tried to video it, but I held the phone the wrong way up…
D Typical! That was great, but the song that touched me the most was “So Long”, dedicated to Prince – the sound of longing really stayed with me…

TWO ON TOM HANKS’ FASCINATING DESERT ISLAND DISCS THERE WAS…
Hands up who’s never heard Dusty Springfield’s “Doodlin’”. I can’t be the only one, surely. How did I miss it? Whoa, my knowledge has such enormous holes in it. Whatever, what a track, with its lovely slinky drumming and psychedelic strings. Oh, yes, and a spectacular lyric! Starting with “Usin’ the phone booth/makin’ a few calls/Doodlin’ weird things/usin’ the booth walls – yeah!” It continues in a restaurant: “Later the waiter/had me arrested/took me to Bellvue/where I was tested…” and at the hospital with the doctor… “Showed him hidden thoughts that linger/find an outlet through your finger”. I head over to Wikipedia to find that “Doodlin’” is a composition by Horace Silver, with lyrics added by Jon Hendricks (of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross). It has become a jazz standard. Reviewer Bill Kirchner suggests, “Take a simple riff, rhythmically displace it several times over D-flat blues harmonies, resolve it with a staccato, quasi-humorous phrase, and you have “Doodlin’”. Thanks, Bill. Time to listen to it once more, while chuckling at Hanks’ calling David Byrne “Weird Dave” as he chooses Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime”.

THREE ROBBIE FULKS HAS A NEW RECORD OUT
I hope it matches his description of his new, redesigned, website: “The new look – from the Russian Tea Room to the Trump Tower! What a snazzy makeover we’ve gotten here at the worldwide. The friendly navigational tools are sure to make blog-reading and record-shopping like falling off a log. The magnificent (except for the subject) photos taken by Andy Goodwin provide an environmental hue so warm and deep and cosy, you’ll be tempted to bring your business partners here to butter them up and shoot them. Many thanks to Mike Sosin of the fledgling Bloodshot record label of Chicago, Ill. for bringing this website to life and ignoring all helpful input. Be sure to let us know what you think! We can’t wait to ignore you.”

FOUR SUTTON HOUSE
As the oldest Tudor House in London, Sutton House is fascinating, but when you get to the room upstairs, time periods co-exist. Over time the house had fallen into disuse, and it was squatted in the 1980s by a local group who wanted to turn it into a community centre and neighbourhood hub, but they were moved on after several months. Their aim survived, though – the National Trust took it over and it’s now used for local events as well as being a window into the past. What’s nice is that the squatters are paid tribute to by an approximation of how the room looked when they were there.

sutton

And the caption tells us that “this eye was painted by an anonymous squatter in 1985. It is said to be the emblem of the rock group PSI”. That may be Psi Com, Perry Farrell’s first group but I can’t find that image anywhere. I can tell you that the record on the deck is by the Thompson Twins.

FIVE MICK VS MILES
My friend Mick Gold had kindly invited me to a screening of “Miles Ahead” and I having said yes excitedly, sadly had to cancel. The next day, Mick sends his thoughts. “Aaargh! You didn’t miss much. For a start, the script is awful, Ewan MacGregor is totally unbelievable as a Rolling Stone journalist with a Scottish accent who knows nothing about music, there is an evil record producer who is a cardboard villain, and the whole thing is orchestrated by blaxploitation guns & car chase clichés that don’t even work.
“But I think it’s weirder than that. I don’t think it’s cynical. I think it’s a labour of love gone wrong. Maybe it reveals that Don Cheadle is a fine actor but has no taste and no writing ability. I understand he spent nine years getting the movie made – he wrote it, produced it, starred in it, directed it, crowdfunded it, and poured his own money into it. This was not some cynical quickie movie.
“The sad thing is I think Cheadle is striking as Miles: he looks good, he does the voice well. Only problem is its farrago of bad Superfly and tortured genius cliches. Not everyone was as miserable as me. There was laughter and applause at BAFTA, and I sat next to two editor friends who said to me afterwards, That was great. When I said, That was awful, their faces fell.” 

In other news, it’s BobWeek on rocksbackpages, and full of wonderful writing on the Iron Range’s favourite son, so head on over and get a subscription now… [end of marketing plug].

Five Things, Wednesday 20th August

Stephen Fry talking to Professor John Mullan, on Reading Aloud, R4
“We take for granted, that this thing we have, this language, this sound of the tongue hitting the back of our teeth and the labials and the dentals and the fricatives, and all these strange little things our mouths can do – has a beauty, it can dance in our head – and when the words are the words of a magician, a great, great writer then the rhythm and the flow and the glide of language in one’s ear is a solace and a beauty that very little else can replace, wouldn’t you agree?”

Leonard Cohen, “Almost Like The Blues”
First song from Leonard’s latest album, the wonderfully titled Popular Problems. And it’s sounding pretty fine, continuing the minimal late-night urban blues feel that he’s lately found. And featuring, of course, the mordant and downbeat lyrics that he writes so well:
I saw some people starving/There was murder, there was rape
Their villages were burning/They were trying to escape
I couldn’t meet their glances
/I was staring at my shoes
It was acid, it was tragic/It was almost like the blues/It was almost like the blues”
Interesting that both he and Dylan are staking out a claim on this wellspring territory as they age – there’s something so natural about their voices negotiating that I-IV chord change.

“I’m not a morose person, I just like morose music!”
Malcolm Gladwell on Billy Bragg’s “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” on Desert Island Discs: “To my mind, music is at its finest when it explores the melancholy side of human nature. And [this song] has the most depressing opening couplet, I think, in the history of modern music… I mean it’s an extraordinary achievement! “With the money from her accident, she bought herself a mobile home/So at least she could get some enjoyment out of being alone…” I don’t think you can top that. The achievement of bringing someone to tears is infinitely greater than the achievement of bringing them to laughter. I happen to be obsessed with this notion: we laugh all the time, and easily… and yet we continue to reward people who bring us to laughter, as if it’s some great feat. It’s not, it’s the easiest thing in the world. I will make you laugh over the next whatever minutes. I will not make you cry. I am simply not good enough to make you cry. So I think that people who bring us at least to the brink of tears are geniuses, and to do it in two lines? I’m ready to be moved after I hear those two lines…”

Willy DeVille
When the internet isn’t trying to sell me Michael Kors handbags or Oakley sunglasses, it can be a very useful thing. And after reading Thom Hickey’s Immortal Jukebox on Willy (Mink) DeVille, I went on a YouTube bender. And what terrific stuff I found. I hadn’t appreciated how good he was, and why Jack Nitzsche (a man with pretty stellar taste, if you look at a list of his collaborations) why so enamoured of him. There’s a really nice Dutch fan film in five parts and a great set from Montreux with Freddy Koella on guitar. Larger than life, and cooler than Keith Richard.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Last of the Belles
Reading this brilliantly written and poignant short story, I liked this paragraph’s description of the narrator’s unattainable love-interest, Ailie Calhoun, and the country club’s Saturday night:
“On Saturday night she and Bill Knowles came to the country club. They were very handsome together and once more I felt envious and sad. As they danced out on the floor the three-piece orchestra was playing “After You’ve Gone”, in a poignant incomplete way that I can hear yet, as if each bar were trickling off a precious minute of that time. I knew then that I had grown to love Tarleton, and I glanced about half in panic to see if some face wouldn’t come in for me out of that warm, singing, outer darkness that yielded up couple after couple in organdie and olive drab.  It was a time of youth and war, and there was never so much love around”. Which sent me looking for versions of “After You’ve Gone” and finding rather lovely ones by Dinah Washington (great, as you’d imagine), Chet Atkins & Suzy Bogguss (cute and jazzy, and I dug the twin guitars), Written in 1918 (when the story was set by FSF) and covered by Bessie Smith, Judy Garland and, oh, nearly everyone in the world. But Nina Simone’s version? That’s something special. Live in a small club with an almost out-of-focus backing – bass, drums and guitar – there’s a great build and release into her piano solo, and a fantastic vocal throughout.

 

 

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 6th February

From The Blog Of Photographer Heather Harris
“The first four words of vocabulary we learned in Synthesizer 101 class at UCLA (circa 1972, so we’re talking monophonic ARP 2600s) were the descriptions of all musical sound notes: attack, sustain, decay, release. How fitting to the lifeworks of creative types.” Wow. Attack. Sustain. Decay. Release. That’s a manifesto right there, and a great title for a project…

Martin Carthy on Bob Dylan on Desert Island Discs
“The influence of British folk music shows in his later work—he started writing these really anthemic tunes… he was a great performer, a wonderful performer. I don’t believe that anybody who saw his first performance at the King and Queen down in Foley Street would be able to say he gave a bad performance. He stood up, did three songs, absolutely knocked everybody flat. People loved him.”

Is it right that you used to share a flat together?

“No [exasperated exhale]. This story started going round that he stayed with me when he came to London—no, he didn’t. But we did actually chop up a piano. The piano was a wreck, half the keys were missing and it was a very, very cold winter and my wife and I decided to chop up the piano so we took it bit by bit. And by the time Bob came along we were down to the frame. And I’d been given, for my birthday, a Samurai sword and Bob came round to have a cup of tea, and Dorothy—my then wife—said, “Make a fire, Mart,” so I got the sword, and he stood between me and the piano and said, “You can’t do that, it’s a musical instrument!” I said It’s a piece of junk and went to swing at it and before I could swing at it he was whispering in my ear, Can I have a go?

The London Jazz Collector Thinks (A Regular Feature On His Wonderful Site)
“A bent piece of metal pipe with holes called the saxophone transforms human breath into a voice, drums extend the pulse of the heart beat, a piano exchanges ten for eighty-eight fingers, while the bass is the feet on which music walks. Instruments are physical extensions of human form and function that transform man into musician, the ultimate analogue source. Whilst the vocal singing voice can be beautiful, (though often, not) how does it compare with a stream of triplets and sixteenths soaring from Charlie Parker’s alto? It strikes me that not only are records the new antiques, they are works of art, the equal of art framed on gallery walls. You are not just a mere record collector, a figure of fun and pity, poking around in dusty crates. You are, in that immortal expression of Charles Saatchi, an artaholic, in need of a life-sustaining drink.”

This Fabulous Photograph Of John Lee Hooker Explaining It All
John Lee

“I’m not getting any younger, but I’m not feeling very old, Not shoutin’ for my cemetery tomb soon, I’m gonna wait ’til John Lee Hooker makes room…”
Garland Jeffreys, ’Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me, from his latest album (can we still say that?) The King Of Inbetween, where, with the help of the great Larry Campbell, he continues to plow a furrow of his own making, never beaten down, a streetwise NYC poet, part Lou Reed, part Doo-Wop, part John Lee, still a ghost writer with 35mm dreams.

And From Next Week…
For you loyal seventeen followers—or Seventeen Spurious Widows, as an unreleased Bob Dylan song would have it—after one year or 52 posts, and prompted by a great time spent helping out Richard Williams on his new blog (thebluemoment.com, go there now!), a redesign—and to kick it off, a special issue devoted to Bob Dylan and Bette Midler’s hilarious and fascinating Buckets Of Rain session.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 30th January

What In Music’s Name Is This?:
Marcel’s Miller/Moptops Mayhem

A small package arrived in the post. Square, the size of a CD. It was a ESD* and was covered in writing. There was no mystery who it was from, as it was signed, but it had an air of mystery around it.
“Martin, follow these five simple steps to nausea and amazement. 1. Log on to http://forgottenalbums.com/albums/?p=59. 2. Bask in a warm nostalgic glow as you enjoy the album cover. 3. Read the blog, remembering that this guy is not making this album up. 4. Play the CD 5. Ask yourself ‘Why?’ P.S. The guitar solo on Let It Be is THE FINEST thing I’ve ever heard x Marcel.”

Marcel

From:      Martin Colyer
Date:       24 January 2013 07:56:31 GMT
To:           Marcel Ashby
Subject:   Has a song not benefited from the…
Glenn Miller treatment more than Something? God Almighty, that’s horrific! Oh, hold on, I’ve just listened to Michelle. Still trying to locate the original melody. Let It Be? Let It Stop, more like. I’m thinking you shortened it by one track (that great Beatles classic, Bird Cage Walk) just out of the kindness of your heart. I must lie down now.

At least they spent some money on the cover

At least they spent some money on the cover

Oh, and don’t get me started on that guitar solo in Let It Be, which seems to actually be playing a different song. It’s as if there was a surf guitarist walking past the studio door playing, and they grabbed him, hit record and didn’t miss a beat. The fact it has nothing to do with the tune of Let It Be, or, indeed, any tune, is neither here nor there. And the last two notes are to die for. Or something.

*Evil Silver Disc, according to vinyl obsessives.

In Bob News This Week
First impressions, Inside Llewyn Davis Trailer
1) They’ve captured the look of 1962 New York rather well.
2) It’s nice that a lesser-known Bobsong soundtracks this teaser.
3) Looks like Carey Mulligan has some good lines.
4) Bob-strokes-cat a little earlier than Guy Peellaert would have us believe (although the character of Llewyn Davis could equally be based on Dave Van Ronk).
5) John Goodman will have plenty of raucous lines, and his will be the haircut of the film.
6) Fresh from Homeland, F Murray Abraham as the owner of the Gate of Horn Nightclub in Chicago. Which makes him Albert Grossman in this scenario.
7) Oscar Isaac’s teeth are in way-too-good condition for 1962.

Uh Huh—It Was The Manfreds
From Tom McGuinness’ sleeve notes for the Manfred Mann Ages Of Mann compilation CD:
“Bob Dylan’s Mighty Quinn was our third number One. Al Grossman, Dylan’s manager, played us the song.“Why does Dylan get such a useless vocalist to sing his demos?” Manfred asked. “That’s Bob singing”, said Al.”
Oh, and I never knew that Jack Bruce was in Manfred Mann. He plays bass on the great Pretty Flamingo. Or, indeed, that Klaus Voormann replaced Bruce when he left.

Aimee Mann, Ghost World, RFH, Jan 28th
My favourite moment at Aimee’s concert (thanks, Barney!) was her performance of the best post-school/pre-life song ever written. Prompted by a twitter request, this rarely-played (and unknown by the rest of the band) gem stood out. Named for, and inspired by, Daniel Clowes’ great graphic novel, every glorious line rang clear, sat on the cushion of Aimee’s patented J45 strum—“Finals blew, I barely knew/My graduation speech/And with college out of reach/If I can’t find a job it’s down to dad/And Myrtle Beach”—joined by bassist Paul (Mountain Man) Bryan’s harmonies and the trippy off-the-cuff keys of Jebin (Freak Flag) Bruni, all carnival swirl and hum. And by coincidence, watching Community the following night (your next must-rent boxset) and having Jeff and Pierce’s hysterical Spanish Project performance acted out to Aimee’s Wise Up.

Dateline: New Orleans. Brett Mielke Reporting…
“Well, the record shop I first went to and bought Ken’s records back in 2003 survived Katrina and the slow death of record stores! Had a visit and bought a wealth of KC music. Also had a long chat with the clerk who was about my age and knew an unbelievable amount about the music. Fear not, relatives of all generations, the Ken Colyer legacy is still alive and well in the Crescent City…”

NO

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 23rd January

Daughter Reviews Les Mis
Running time: 2.5 hours
Spoken word count: 17
Number of times Hugh J cries: 6
Most used facial expression: anguish mixed with constipation
Most enhanced facial feature: lines around the mouth
Number of times stolen bread is mentioned: 12
Laugh-out-loud moments: Sasha B-C and Helena B-C as pick-pocketing inn keepers
Time it takes Cosette and Marius to fall head over heels in love: 4 seconds
Most moving songs: Anne H/I Dreamed a Dream and Samantha Barks/On My Own
Supporting Show Stealers: Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche and Samantha Barks as Eponine

Reasons That Awards Are Stupid
Chose between these acts for Best International Male at the Brits:
a) Bruce Springsteen b) Frank Ocean c) Goyte d) Jack White e) Michael Bublé

Amazing Facts From Patrick Humphries’ Biography Of Lonnie Donegan, King Of Skiffle
“The first record Art Garfunkel remembers buying for himself was Lonnie’s Rock Island Line; and in Fairfax, California, that same Lonnie song was the very first tune that a shy 17-year-old Harvey Phillip Spector learned to play on the guitar. In New Orleans, the young Dr John—Malcolm “Mac” Rebennack was another who remembers being inspired by the Donegan hit. And way, way down in Texas, Jerry Allison and his buddy, Buddy Holly, were so captivated by Donegan’s Rock Island Line that they began incorporating it into shows they played around Lubbock.”

“Can You Dance To It?”
Listening to a CD lovingly compiled by my friend Tim, of African singles [African Serenades 44: Kenyan Singles] and finding this quote from him on the back: “I taught near Eldoret for two years in the early 1980s, fell in love with the music and then found that my Zigzag-reading, album-sleeve-obsessive completist’s mindset was completely turned upside down because, of course, none of the friends I made cared about who was responsible for that amazing guitar solo or impassioned vocal on individual songs. All they were concerned about was, “Can you dance to it?” Which isn’t a bad take on things when it comes down to it…”

Priceless
Teaser on rocksbackpages.com: “No one can define creativity. If you don’t have it, you can’t expect to understand it…”
Wham!’s Andrew Ridgeley to Smash Hits (1984)

Snow-based Pop Criticism, Marylebone High Street
One direction

 
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