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 I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 4th July

Take A Giant Step Around The Block
In the office Hugh started singing Goin’ Back (I can’t remember why. Nor can he) and I said, “Oh, the Monkees did the original version of that…” and he said he was sure it was Dusty Springfield. We were both convinced it was written by Goffin and King (we were right), but a short Wiki later it turned out that Dusty’s was the first released (although Goldie of Goldie & The Gingerbreads had recorded first it before falling out with G&K over some changes she’d made to the lyrics). Anyway… the song I was actually thinking of was Take A Giant Step, also by Goffin & King, that was on the Monkees first album. Then I said, “Oh that was recorded around the corner, at the Philips recording studios at Marble Arch.” As it was, as well as You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me and If You Go Away. Philips Studios opened in 1956, located in the basement of Stanhope House, close to Marble Arch. It was also used by the Walker Brothers for Make It Easy On Yourself and The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore. By 1983 the studio had become part of the Polygram group, was put on the market and bought by Paul Weller who renamed it Solid Bond.

Paul Weller—“Dusty Springfield, The Walker Brothers and all that recorded in Philips Studios. And then all of a sudden this desk wasn’t ‘any good’ any more and this tape machine wasn’t ‘any good’ any more and everything had to be digital. And as soon as we all went digital, man, everyone sounded the fucking same. From country & western to funk to rock’n’roll or whatever, everybody sounded glassy and linear. A technical thing, but it’s true.” And so he sold it, and all the equipment.

Well, I went down the road to see what was still there. I passed Le Pain Quotidien—where we had lunch the other day and, bizarrely, Paul Weller walked past with some dry cleaning—and negotiated safe passage past the machine-gun wielding cops outside Tony Blair’s house in Connaught Square. I found an imposing set of steps leading to Stanhope House (1), an excellent resprayed Sixties mini—can’t you just see Dusty holding down her bouffant to squeeze into it? (2), a Middle Eastern electronics shop selling translated copies of Tony Blair’s biography, next to some irons and hair trimmers (3), and, next door, a shop whose purpose I couldn’t pin down. There were replicas of the creature from Alien, some crash helmets and petrol cowlings with airbrushed women on. There were TVs and mobile phones. There was a five string G+L bass (4). I asked how much the bass was. “Ah, that’s not for sale. It’s in the window to attract attention.” It’s things like this—it was the least attention-grabbing part of the display (except to me, that is)—that make me love Edgware Road.


Dusty vs Scotty
It’s great when you dig out something that you really loved as a teenager and it still sounds as great, in every way, as you remembered it! I’m gathering tracks to make up a DJ set for illustration Collective ART SCHOOL DISCO—I know, what were they thinking?—I’ve never DJ’d in my life, but they said I didn’t have to stand there actually doing anything clever, I could just give them a CD… They are pitching up at Boxpark in Shoreditch to illustrate to the Sounds Of Disco for the day, so I was looking for stuff we loved in our Manresa Road studios from 75-79. Scotty was loved for Draw Your Brakes from The Harder They Come soundtrack, and for the most fabulous and wonderful Skank In Bed. YouTube it (it’s not available in any other way as far as I know). Over a version of Breakfast In Bed (as heard on Dusty In Memphis, written by Eddie Hinton and Donnie ‘Flipside’ Fritts) Scotty sings, shouts and pleads with Lorna —who did the version of the song that Scotty is freaking out over—and then breaks off to admonish his musicians in a, frankly, undescribable, way. Majestically bonkers.

Another Mag Done Gone/Word Down
“Sad news, sad news, come to me where I sit.” Word Magazine closed this week. Now who’s going to interview all those amazing and interesting characters that no-one else has the brains to talk to? And provide a home for the peerless Rob Fitzpatrick, whose writing about the end of music just gets better and better:
On Neil Young’s
Americana: “But if you remove the comfort blanket of (in this case entirely unwanted) hero worship for a moment—and I love Neil Young dearly—what you’re left with is a record that no one in their right mind could possibly want to play more than once or twice. There is a great deal to be said for recording quickly and intuitively, but not much for bashing through everything once and then calling it a day.”
On the myth of Scott Walker:
“For example, a discourse on the song Patriot (A Single) runs aground when the writer can’t decide what Walker really meant in a particular line. “It’s virtually impossible to say,” they admit, “and Walker has always been sparing with his explanations…” All of which makes me think, “Well, if you don’t know and he won’t, or can’t, say, what is the point of all this? What are we doing here?” Sometimes it’s important to step back and open a window and remember that this is pop music; it’s not meant to hurt this much.”
On the shelf life of bands: “ If I were a musician, the question I hope I would ask myself more than any other is: who cares? …the facts are simple: a hundred years of recorded music is available at the touch of a button to anyone who cares to listen. Are you really sure it’s necessary to put out another LP? It is more than ten years since The Cranberries released a record, but despite no one on Earth missing them, they have decided to make another. Sadly, 30 seconds into the first tremulous, ponderous, say-nothing, waltz-time. half-arsed shrug of a track you will be screaming at the sky. Here’s Cast… John Power’s relentless lack of imagination makes Beady Eye sound like Sun Ra.  Criticising Guided by Voices is a bit like criticising weather—momentarily distracting, but entirely pointless when it just keeps coming anyway.”
On Karen Dalton’s 1966: In 1966 Dalton was 29 years old and had left New York to live in a remote cabin in Colorado with her husband, Richard Tucker, and children. Most nights they would gather around a log fire and sing and on one of those nights a friend called Carl Baron, who’d sweated up to this address-free outpost with his precious reel-to-reel tape recorder, captured the songs as they were sung. Forty-five years later, the ghosts of that evening have finally been let loose… Dalton certainly doesn’t seem to be performing these songs; this is eavesdropping on a grand scale and it has all the dark thrill and guilty tang that comes with that behaviour. We are the unseen watchers, the eyes at the window, the ears at the wall, and there is, I think, a psychic cost involved in that deal. Friends and lovers trading songs around a sparking grate is one thing: having those same moments digitally diseminated decades after your death is quite another. The covers and the traditional songs that inhabit this exquisitely presented recording are deeply moving and I wouldn’t want to be without them, but rarely, if ever, have I been as haunted by a collection as I am by 1966.…on 1966 [Dalton] sounds relaxed. Safe. At peace. Whether you’re willing to risk disturbing that hard-won peace by listening in is, of course, entirely up to you.”

I’m bereft.

Inappropriate Musical Illustration
“Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me, maybe?

Ripped from the sketchbook, illustrator John Cuneo’s visual reaction to the Carly Rae Jepsen song that has been driving America mad (judging by the comments after John’s post). nb—John has informed me that “I draw to praise that song, not to bury it.”

Next—Fontella Bass?
Always nice to to discover a typeface named after a great soul singer. (Staton by Henrik Kubel, a2-type, 2010)

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