Five Things: Wednesday, 11th June

Lorde, Shepherd’s Bush Empire
It would be an exaggeration to say that one song brought me here, but not by much. That pop masterwork and critique of consumer rapping, “Royals”, is actually joined on the album by other good songs, and they all translate to the stage in a club/dance music fashion, with sub-sonic bass, crashing beats and synth string pads. The lighting is simple but effective and she’s not afraid to be minimal – some songs have very little safety net going on musically behind her. As Kitty Empire said in The Observer, “tonight’s gig sometimes has the atmosphere of a rave in an art gallery”. And even though at times it feels like a PA rather than a proper concert, with the banked backing vocals all flown in by the keyboardist, it’s seventy minutes of really enjoyable noise. Yes, I’m too old to be here among the mid-twenty-something couples that surround me, but what the hell. I actually like gigs where I don’t have a slavish devotion to the music – when I saw Mos Def at the same venue I only really knew the brilliant “Quiet Dog” from the album he was promoting, but it was a terrific show.


I was taken aback by how much the audience loved Lorde, howling like religious devotees every time she did her trademark hair toss, and screaming at the end of every song. She couldn’t stop saying how much playing the Empire meant to her (it’s certainly a change from playing to 50,000 people in Lisbon a few days earlier) and seemed genuinely delighted by the response. A nice cover of The Replacements’ “Swingin’ Party” quietens down the mood for a short spell but it soon vibes up again and by the time of “Team”, she’s added a gold cape and cannons fire paper squares (see above) in the air. Then she’s gone, no encore, with the crowd suddenly stilled, all hint of messianic fervor gone as they swarm out of the doors and on to the Green.

From a site Bob G recommends, two lovely 1977 photos
David Byrne, journalist Lisa Robinson, and Ramones manager Danny Fields in Paris, during the Talking Heads/Ramones European tour, 1977 and Iggy Pop photographed by Esther Friedman, The Idiot/Lust For Life era, West Berlin 1977.


Best Dancing Seen This Week
Sam Herring, Future Islands, “Seasons”, Letterman show. I’m essentially resistant to Future Islands brand of synth pop (I always listen to anything that Laura Barton mentions, but they left me cold). This, however, is kinda great. Patently sincere, equal parts Kevin Eldon, Joaquin Phoenix, and Anthony Hopkins’ Lecter, it elicited this excellent comment on YouTube: “Oh noes! he needs to stop!”

Very funny French Canadian film with a great central performance from Patrick Huard as David, father (by sperm donation) to 200 kids (remade as Delivery Man with Vince Vaughn for the US, apparently unsuccessfully). Recommended.
“David! What are you doing here? I spoke to the psychologist. He said he met you and you’re perfectly normal.”
“I told you so…”
“You’re not normal! I’ve known you 20 years. You’re not normal. How much did you lose in that scheme to import Cuban cigars?”
“The guy seemed like a legit businessman…”
“He walked around in a swimsuit! Who does business with a guy in a swimsuit? Make sure you mention you once paid $500 for one of Hall and Oates’ guitar picks.”
“When they die, it’ll be worth a fortune…”
“That won’t be for another 30 years! Besides, it’s Hall and Oates! They’d do a gig at a kids’ party for $500!”

Imelda May, Later
Catching up with a particularly drab edition of Later (Sharon Van Etten, Wild Beasts and Damien Jurado all vying for title of Dullest Four Minutes Of Music TV, 2014), headlined by Arcade Fire (David Byrne, get your lawyers! Sue Them!) the stand out for me was Imelda May, whose band of wonderfully-faced men created a lovingly noir-lit rockabilly blues to back her on “Gypsy In Me”. Darrell Higham’s guitar introduction was a thing of wonder, from the haunted feedback-and-whammy-bar start to the steely, rust-drenched trilling that set the stage for Imelda to strut upon. So often, this retro stuff just falls flat on its face, but she delivered a ramrod-straight performance that kept the tension up.


Five Things: Wednesday 22nd May

RIP George Jones: A memory of the Wembley Country Festival, 1981
Simon and I loved the Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis, and were prepared to endure any amount of maudlin production-line Nashville filler to see him. However, the bill at the 1981 International Festival Of Country Music (© Mervyn Conn) at the Empire Pool was pretty good, and Carl Perkins’ set led into Jerry’s, the highlight of which was a staggeringly over-the-top rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. The icing on the cake, however, was the towering (but pretty short, if memory serves me well) performance by the legendary George. I had inveigled a press pass and snuck into the VIP section, and found myself next to Elvis Costello, who was there to pay homage, I’m guessing. Two frames, a rather evil-eyed look from one of Elvis’s companions, and I concentrated on the stage. My favourite shot, though, is of Simon, resplendent in bootlace tie and Jim Reeves badge…


Michael Hann v Ginger Baker, Guardian video
I’m with Ginger on this. It’s not nearly as awkward as The Guardian claims, and Hann should have realized from question one that he needed to be a bit less rock writerly. The business of being a working musician is often about money, and survival, not art, so asking him questions like “Your time in Africa – it seems from the film to be very, very important to you, was that the time when you felt most musically fulfilled?” may not be the best starting point, especially as it implies that anything post that period was a let down…

Bowie Fan album, £650
Weirdest item in the Selfridges pop-up Bowie shop.


A Week of Gifts…
Lloyd gives me Imelda May’s plectrum: “Hubbard, my oldest friend from Hull, is mad about Imelda. He went to see her and after the gig got chatting and she gave it to him – it’s the one she used.”


And Weston kindly gives me these cigarette cards of guitarists, part of a set issued by Polydor in the seventies. It reminds me that I need to download the Shuggie Otis outtakes that Richard Williams writes so well about here.


Ladies & Gentlemen, Henry Diltz
I’m introduced to Henry, legendary lensman of Laurel Canyon, whose iconic pictures of The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell and CSN&Y were the visual soundtrack to my adolescence. I ask him when he switched his focus from musician (he was a member of the Modern Folk Quartet, playing banjo) to photographer. He tells me that Steve Stills mentioned that the Springfield were going to do a gig at Redondo Beach, so he tagged along to take pictures for the slide show that he would do for his friends every weekend, showing pictures of L.A. itself and sometimes its musicians, who were often among those gathered in Henry’s house. The Springfield came outside from their sound check and he asked if they’d pose in front of a large mural. A magazine heard that he had some shots and paid him $100. Realising he could make this photography thing work he started taking more and more and, often with designer Gary Burden, photographed his friends album covers. I loved hearing about his time playing banjo for Phil Spector: Spector was interested in the nascent folk-rock scene and took The Modern Folk Quartet into the studio, where they recorded a Harry Nilsson song, “This Could be the Night”. Brian Wilson dropped by whilst they were recording it, in his pajamas and dressing gown, and sat there with the song on repeat, mesmerized. Spector, very paranoid about any song he released, afraid that it wouldn’t scale the heights of his previous successes, and would therefore damage his reputation, never put it out. But Henry did get to play banjo sitting next to Barney Kessel in the guitar section of the Wall Of Sound, on the Righteous Brothers “Ebb Tide” among others…

Henry introduces the film Legends Of The Canyon at the Mayfair Hotel, tiny Canon camera always at hand

Henry introduces the film Legends Of The Canyon at the Mayfair Hotel, tiny Canon camera always at hand

There’s a very good interview with Henry here, from rockcellarmagazine, that tells the stories in more detail.

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