Five Things: Wednesday 15th May

Bowie Walk

Bowie
Having helped the V&A with a photo of Dobell’s, they’re kind enough to send me this Jonathan Barnbrook-designed pamphlet, David Bowie Is Walking In Soho. The tour starts here.

Riders Of The Stars
FRANK SINATRA: One bottle each: Absolute, Jack Daniel’s, Chivas Regal, Courvoisier, Beefeater Gin, white wine, red wine. Twenty-four chilled jumbo shrimp, Life Savers, cough drops. No mixers?
BRITNEY SPEARS: Fish and chips, McDonald’s cheeseburgers without the buns, 100 prunes and figs, a framed photo of Princess Diana. Britney, as always, touched by genius!
AL GREEN: Twenty-four long-stem (dethorned) red roses. Having seen Rev. Green present these in the flesh to his adoring audience, I’m touched by the thoughtfulness.

Cat Power, Bathrooms & Bullies
On Woman’s Hour I catch Chan Marshall talking about the best places she found to sing as a teenager and she talks of school bathrooms when no-one was in them, singing to the walls and the echo – and when she’s on Later that night you can see how her voice now has those reflections and deflections built into it. With a haircut borrowed from Nick Lowe and her hands jerking in and out of her jean shirt, her performance of “Bully” was twitchy and vulnerable, but beautifully her – she doesn’t sound much like anybody else (the same is true of Laura Mvula, also on the show, who – making a nod to Nina Simone – is refreshingly different from her peer group).

Found on the website bestofneworleans.com while googling “who wrote Walkin’ to New Orleans.”
Well Composed: Bobby Charles tells how he wrote three of his classic songs.

Walking to New Orleans
“I had sent Fats a copy of ‘Before I Grow Too Old,’ and he had recorded it, but I didn’t know. The next night he was playing in Lafayette, and I went to see him play. He told me, ‘I cut your song last night – I wish I’d brought a copy of it for you to listen to.’ And he said, ‘You gotta come to New Orleans to see me and hang out with me.’ I said, ‘I’d love to, but right now I’m really on my butt and got no money and no way to get over there.’ He said, ‘Take a bus or something.’ I told him, ‘The only way I’d be able to get there would be to walk to New Orleans.’ As soon as I said that, I said, ‘I gotta go.’ I jumped in the car and wrote the song on the way back home from Lafayette to Abbeville.”
See You Later Alligator
“I used to say to the band or friends, ‘See you later, alligator.’ One night after a dance, I was walking out the door, and my piano player was sitting down in a back booth, and there were two drunk couples in the booths in front of him. I said, ‘See you later alligator’ to him as I was walking out, and it was one of those doors that closed real slow. I heard a girl say something about ‘crocodile.’ I walked back in and said, ‘I don’t mean to bother you, but I just told him, “See you later, alligator.” What did you say?’ She said, ‘After a while, crocodile.’ I said, ‘Thank you,’ and went home and wrote the song in 20 minutes. My daddy was screaming at me to turn out the lights, because he had to get up and go to work at 5 o’clock in the morning. I said, ‘Give me five more minutes.’ I had to sing it to myself over and over so I wouldn’t forget it.”
The Jealous Kind
“I was married at the time, and I was in the bathtub. My wife was fussing and hollering at me while I was taking a bath. I said, ‘Why don’t you bring me paper and a pencil and just leave me alone for 30 minutes.’ She said, ‘You and your damn paper and pencil.’ I wrote it right there in the bathtub. Same thing with ‘Before I Grow Too Old.’ She said, ‘You gonna be like this for the rest of your life?’ I said, ‘I’m gonna try and hurry up and do as much as I can before I get too old.’ Bam! Bring me a paper and pencil!”

I’m appalled that I’d never known that Bobby Charles wrote one of my all-time favourite songs.

And more from The Big Easy…
…in the shape of another Hugh Laurie documentary. He’s dry and funny, and has great taste in producers and musicians, and plays pretty good piano. I just never want to hear him sing again, if that can be arranged. Best bit: the amazing Jon Cleary, an Englishman in New Orleans, doing a staggering take on James Booker and Professor Longhair. He rips through a sonic wonderworld of rhumba rhythms and tumbling blues, then turns to Laurie and says, “New Orleans comes into fashion, goes out of fashion. They don’t stop playing here just because no-one’s looking.”

Professor Longhair’s House, 2010

Professor Longhair’s House, 2010

Longhair had my favourite band name ever: Professor Longhair and The Shuffling Hungarians [called that, as Wikepedia says, for reasons lost to time. As far as I can ascertain, there were no Hungarians in the band]. I do remember going with Mark to see James Booker at the 100 Club. As we came down the stairs to the basement room we heard the sound of a New Orleans band pounding out “Junco Partner”, the bass shaking the walls, what sounded like a horn section high-stepping the accents. We stepped through the door to find Booker alone at the piano, committing his mischief, conjuring up an orchestra’s worth of accompaniment with just two hands…

FTIS&HTW: Wednesday 6th March

Bruno Mars, Jonathan Ross Show, ITV
I started this blog because I watched Bruno Mars at the Brits a year ago, and loved the performance of his bass player so much that I wanted to write about it. It was these non-headline moments that I found interesting, and no one seemed to be writing about them. This week Bruno does the promo round for his next tour and turns up at Jonathan’s with a piano player, an organist and a pretty good gospel/r&b song. He’s very slick and can really sing, but what’s great is the interplay between his voice and the stripped-back accompaniment, and it makes a change from the usual banal “just like the record” performance.

Almost Finishing Michael Gray’s fine Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell
“… McTell comes storming through here, fusing great feeling with an intimate looseness of delivery that he has never captured on record before. It is thrilling to hear—and this is what he keeps up as he moves on to the marvelous Savannah Mama, where, right from the magnificent opening moments, his guitar work is so concentrated and precise, so felt and so assertive (this is what inspired the Allman Brothers’ slide style), while his vocal lines flow across all this precision with the grace of heartfelt risk-taking. He sings with an experimental mannered fluidity somehow freed from artifice by open ardor.”

Noma Bar’s Time Out London Rock ’n’ Roll Cover
As always, brilliant.

NomaWest Of Eden?
Kanye West to Paris’ Le Zenith crowd: “There’s no motherfucking awards or sponsorships or none of that shit that can stop the dedication to bringing y’all that real shit.” He continued: “No matter how they try to control you, or the motherfucker next to you tries to peer pressure you, you can do what you motherfucking want. I am Picasso. I’m Walt Disney, I’m Steve Jobs.”

There’s Something about Kodachrome and New York Summer Evening Light in the Seventies
From Robin Aitken in Scotland: “I am in the process of writing an article about the Dobell trip to the first Newport Jazz Festival in New York which was attended by ten of us—Myself, Rick Antill, Micky Brocking, Jack Armitage, Ray Bolden, John Kendall. Doug Dobell, Ginger (can’t remember his name), Lou Watkins and Jimmy Reid with occasional appearances by Albert McCarthy… I took some photos in New York using Bill Colyer’s Konica 35mm camera which he had just bought and lent me for the trip—a typically generous gesture. I have attached one of my favourite photographs, which I took outside Jim & Andy’s at West 55th Street in late June 1972—the last incarnation of that famous musicians’ bar.”
Doug’s in proto-Tom Wolfe mode, and how cool is Ray Bolden? I loved working for the legend that was Ray—the man who ran the Blues side of Dobell’s— and friend to BB, Muddy, Wolf and the whisky makers of Scotland and Kentucky.

Dobell's NY

Left to right: Richie Goldberg (jazz drummer), John Kendall, Ray Bolden, Scoville Brown (clarinet and alto, who recorded with Louis in 1932 and played with many bands thereafter—check the Buck Clayton Quartet sides recorded for HRS in 1946) and, of course, Doug Dobell.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 4th April

Acoustixx
Could you sound like the xx with just a cheap acoustic guitar and a cassette tape machine meant for accompanying karaoke? Willis Earl Beal can. Young, black, Southern, heartbroken, can draw, could soundtrack Juno. Evening Kiss is beautiful, insistent, mournful, touching. “This record was recorded on bad equipment. I like it that way.” Amen.

Churn, Churn, Churn
To everything there is a season… and it seems that right now it’s a fashion season, belonging to Flo and Lana. It used to be that it would take a good few years for pop or rock stars to get sucked into other orbits such as film or literature, but now the career path is Voguealicious. Is this diversification, to make the Fame Moment™ last longer? We’ve had Flo and Karl, sittin’ in a tree, yet Stylist’s cover story this week says that, “despite two number 1 albums and 18 awards Florence Welch is a reluctant star.” Really? Reluctant? It sure looks it, in the 327 full-page pictures they’ve run of her. To be fair, it’s a good interview that does paint her as someone who accepts all of this so that she can do the work she cares about… And Lana, first whispered about in September last year, now (already!) the recipient of the fashion equivalent of the Légion d’honneur, a Mulberry bag named after her, because of her—are you ready?—“retrospective look.” As for the bag, straight out of W. Eugene Smith’s Life Magazine story, “Country Doctor,” I’m failing to see much Del Rey.

Tommy, Can You Hear Me?
Tracklist for Tom Jones’ upcoming album, produced by Ethan Johns:
Tower Of Song (Leonard Cohen)
(I Want To) Come Home (Paul McCartney)
Hit Or Miss (Odetta)
Love And Blessings (Paul Simon)
Soul Of A Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
Bad As Me (Tom Waits)
Dimming Of The Day (Richard Thompson)
Travelling Shoes (Vera Hall Ward)
All Blues Hail Mary (Joe Henry)
Charlie Darwin (The Low Anthem)

Great song choices. Do I want to hear Tom Jones sing them?
Answer: Save Me, Jesus (Bobby Charles)

The Sound Of Dobell’s
“Every Jazz fan is born within the sound of Dobell’s!”
An email from Leon Parker, announcing the launch of his resource dedicated to Britain’s hugely influential Record Shops. Charlie Gillett introduced us because of Doug Dobell’s shops on Charing Cross Road (which my dad Bill built, and where I worked as a teenager). There are some nice reminiscences on the site (to which more will hopefully be added) and I particularly liked Rob Hall’s: “It was an ambition of mine to own all the albums featured on the bags they used.” Bill had selected the albums and had them photographed by an advertising photographer he knew in Soho, who shot it on lith film for better reproduction. Accidental design, it still looks good today. www.britishrecordshoparchive.org/dobells.html

Pic(k) Of The Week
“Sometimes, if I crave silence I turn to my Land 250. The experience of taking Polaroids connects me with the moment. They are souvenirs of a joyful solitude.” Patti Smith.
I thought that maybe I’d lost this, a sweet souvenir from an installation at Fondation Cartier in Paris that “reflected 40 years of her more personal visual art-making and creative expression,” but it turned up this week. And it will never be used in anger, of course.

%d bloggers like this: