Tuesday, July 2nd

I took this cartoon from a batch submitted by Ray Lowry in about 1983, when I worked at The Listener. I don’t know whether it’s tragic or incredible that you could run it in Private Eye this week and it would still work…

Two interesting and heartfelt pieces on Dr John. First, in Rolling Stone, by Jonathan Bernstein, about the album that he was making before his death:
The resulting album is anchored largely in traditional country music. “These were people he grew up on, a lot of people didn’t know that,” says guitarist and producer Shane Theriot. Dr. John had idolized Hank Williams Sr. since he was a teenager, and according to jazz vets like John Scofield, he had been talking about recording a country-tinged piano record a la Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music since at least the Eighties. The album features several country classics like “Old Time Religion” (a duet with Willie Nelson), Johnny Cash’s “Guess Things Happen That Way,” and “Funny How Time Slips Away,” as well as several Williams covers like “Ramblin’ Man.”

“There’s a version of [Hank Williams’ 1949 song] “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” that’ll make you cry when you hear Mac sing it,” says Theriot. “As this record took shape, it wasn’t intentional, but the common thread is that the songs all deal with time and looking back. When you hear Mac sing, it’s somebody that’s lived a really full life. He sounds great, but he sounds exposed.” “The lyrical content” is country, keyboardist David Torkanowsky says of the record, “but it was completely Rebennack’ed out.”

And this, by Chris Rose on myneworleans.com.
In a career marked by many strange phone calls – an occupational hazard for a newspaperman – one I got in the fall of 2005 was a true corker. The voice on the other end of the line was unmistakable. At the time, he was living in New York City and had been taking in the news of Hurricane Katrina from afar, from friends and family and TV. And, it turned out, my stories in the Times-Picayune.

“You da’ only one who gets it,” he told me. And thus, we actually became friends. He called me every now and then to talk, to vent, to spleen. And then one day he called with a favor to ask. He was coming to New Orleans for the first time since the flood, and he asked if I would show him around. Me? Give a disaster tour for Dr John? What ya’ gonna do? And so time passed. Mac and I fell out of touch for a while. He was writing and recording new music. I was going insane, getting divorced and getting addicted. And then came another call from Mac, out of the blue, this one even stranger than the first one. He said he was working on a new record that would be called “City That Care Forgot,” by far the most political and angry record of his career. He told me that a couple of unfinished songs were inspired or based on some of my newspaper stories. And then he asked me if I would write them with him, polish them off for him. Whoa. Giving Dr John a disaster tour was one thing. Now he wants me to write songs with him? What the hell do you say to that? Sure, I said. And then: Umm, how do you write songs?

“Jack’s only likeable quality is that he’s into the Pixies (he has their poster on his wall) and wears a Fratellis T-shirt. Honestly, the idea of a world where nobody knows the Beatles is nowhere near as surreal as a world where people remember the Fratellis. (Note: I love the Fratellis, and could sing their 2006 U.K. hit “Chelsea Dagger” for you right now.)”
“It continues the weirdest and most noxious trend in the nouveau breed of rock flicks, like A Star Is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Dirt: there is never the slightest suggestion that female musicians exist. The idea just never comes up. (In A Star Is Born, when Gaga sleeps under a Carole King album cover, it’s a shock because Carole is the only other female presence in the movie who listens to music, much less performs it.)
“But nothing about Jack’s rise to fame makes sense, really. He plays “Back in the U.S.S.R.” in Moscow without changing a word. (Fun fact: Ukraine and Russia are no longer the same country! Thousands of people have been killed fighting over this!)”

From Len to M, sold recently for $21,250. “I put steel strings on my guitar, that’s like changing from underwear to armour, that’s New York City. Given up plans for sainthood, revolution, redemptive visions, music mastery, just the ageing man with a notebook.” [He was 33 at the time! – Ed.] “Walking through the city, insisting that no one follow, feeling either black or golden, dead to lust, tired of ambition, a lazy student of my own pain, happy about the occasional sun, thin and dressing very shabbily, hair out of control, feeling good tonight as I write my perfect friend… Isn’t it curious and warm to grow old in each other’s life?”

… and two had heart attacks. After seeing the film, you can see why. At the start of Diego Maradona, the BBFC certificate warns, excellently, of nudity and bloody detail, and the film doesn’t disappoint. From Diego’s wide-eyed terror, to the crazed Napoli fans – the most impoverished football club in Italy buying the world’s most expensive footballer – the film uses the degraded videotape images as an immersive experience. It’s director Asif Kapadia’s signature of course – the no talking heads rule from Senna and Amy is maintained here – and it’s electric. The use of Foley, to amp up the sound of the ball as it’s passed, kicked and headed, and to intensify the crowd, is almost overwhelming. “That’s the most Italian thing ever”, says Gabe as Maradona is unveiled in chaos and clamour to a stadium full of Napoli fans. See how the weight of their expectations, followed by an inability to let Diego leave Napoli when he wanted to, causes – to mix metaphors – a car crash.

David Crosby as Rolling Stone’s Agony Aunt? It totally works
Ken Burns tackles Country Music over eight episodes for PBS – there’s a trailer here.
A fabulous piece on Dylan by Steven Heller, New York design guru, in Design Observer.
In the New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich’s Lil Nas X Is the Sound of the Internet, Somehow is terrific, and has an Einstein quote to die for.

Five Things: Wednesday 4th June

Jane Bown Exhibition at King’s Place
A very nice, small exhibition of Jane’s work, in which I really liked this indirect portrait of Sinead O’Connor. I remember when I was at the Observer we were doing a piece on U2. To their credit, they asked if Jane could go to Dublin and photograph them. We were only too happy to send her, and she came back with shots of them together on the docks, and individually in a pub nearby. I had worked with Jane a fair bit at that time and I think I was the first person to ask her to try shooting in colour, for a series on estimable women in The Listener (in the interests of full disclosure it wasn’t my idea, but Russell Twisk’s, my editor). Anyway, I laid it out and used the four single shots because I thought that they were far better than the group shots. Jane, however, didn’t, and it took some time to be forgiven…


Will Birch writes about Nick Lowe’s (What’s so funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
A couple of excerpts: “Tune-wise, Lowe acknowledges the influence of Judee Sill and her ‘ginchy little lick’ in “Jesus Was A Cross Maker.” Never would have spotted that, but now Will mentions it… “In 1992 the song was covered by American musician Curtis Stigers for the soundtrack album to the hit movie The Bodyguard. It became the biggest selling soundtrack recording of all time, consequently earning Lowe considerable royalties, allowing him to work at a more elegant pace, but also enjoy artistic control of his subsequent music and retain his trusty road band. The song is still a permanent fixture in Lowe’s live shows. Sung at a slow tempo to acoustic guitar accompaniment, it has acquired an almost hymn-like quality and his attentive audiences listen in reverence. He recalls the song’s genesis: “I think I’d originally thought of it as being funny, because the old hippie thing, which I’d invested a lot of my time and energy into, had become a load of old bollocks. I had that poetic thing… ‘As I walk this wicked world, searching for light…’ I was doing it tongue in cheek, using those words. I thought it was a fantastic title, I couldn’t believe my luck. As long as that title popped up now and again it didn’t really matter what I sang about in between… ”

Really? No Spindle Trails? Then a bargain, I’d say…


I love the, uh, over-the-top listings of some items on ebay (this is heavily edited): “A TRULY STUNNING, 60 YEAR-OLD DISC WITH A FANTASTIC HERITAGE – EVERY COLLECTOR’S DREAM!! Wow!!! Recorded in February 1957 and issued in the UK shortly thereafter, this absolutely incredible LP from ALEX KORNER’S BREAKDOWN GROUP featuring CYRIL DAVIS (sic.) is one of the most important items in the history of British Blues!!! The LP was produced, in a run of just 99 copies in order to avoid liability to UK ‘Purchase Tax’, by the now legendary ‘Dobell’s Jazz Record Shop’ in London’s Soho region and issued on the store’s own 77 Records imprint. The LP finds Korner and Davies attempting to re-create the US Blues of LEADBELLY and MONTANA TAYLOR. As the title suggests, the recordings were captured at London’s Roundhouse; a Blues club established by Korner and Davies in 1956. The session was committed to tape by the late, great JOHN R T DAVIES and the finished sleeve benefits from hugely informative notes courtesy of CHARLES FOX. This incredible, 57 year-old gem came to me almost 20 years ago from DON SOLLASH; the son-in-law of DOUG DOBELL who owned the label!!! So, bid now to win this gem or, after the auction has ended, you can sit back in your chair and wonder how you managed to such a MONSTER BLUES RARITY pass you by!!! The classic dark green and white labels with gold and black print and DEEP RIDGE are in AS NEW condition; absolutely NO wear and NO spindle trails!!!

Seeing the Brooklynites on Later, and intrigued by the duo vocals fronting a rough and raucous band – stand up drummer, slightly out-of-control slide guitarist – bought the album. Best when they’re looser, less fun when they’re glossier and more produced, if they make it to album two it could get really good. Standout track to check out: “Go Home”. I like this slower sultrier version recorded at KEXP.

Led Zep advertising, Great Portland Street


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