Five Things, Wednesday 22nd October

Gordon Bennett!
Switching to Strictly Come Dancing I am assaulted by Lady Gaga, looking like Barbara Streisand crossed with Liza Minnelli, shouting jazz lyrics into Tony Bennett’s spookily unlined face. It seems a little cruel and I don’t know what Tony did to deserve this. Then they do a bloody second song! It’s worse than the first! It’s “Anything Goes”, and I much prefer T Bone Burnett’s updating of the Cole Porter standard (It’s in the music player on the right.) I remember, too, that T. Bone also did a great rewritten version of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in which just before the last verse, he amusingly shouts “Let’s Rock!” Lady G does nothing so entertaining. It’s like Variety’s not dead… next they’ll bring back Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Oh. They have…

More T Bone
This week we caught up with True Detective, which was compelling despite the fact that, in the end, it was a rather typical Bayou-set story of tangled family histories, guns, drugs and creeps. If you’ve read any of James Lee Burke’s memorable detective series featuring Dave Robicheaux, you’ll know the territory. The relationship between the two cops across the timeline of twenty years is riveting, though, and wonderfully acted by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The music, either recorded or sourced by Burnett, is excellent, and deliberately avoids slide guitars and accordions while still evoking swamps and hollers.

From London Jazz Collector, this is rather beautiful

Atlantic

The Potency of Cheap Music
Liked this para from Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”, a book about the year her daughter was ill and her husband, John Gregory Dunne died. “…I realized that my impression of myself had been of someone who could look for, and find, the upside in any situation. I had believed in the logic of popular songs. I had looked for the silver lining. I had walked on through the storm. It occurs to me now that these were not even the songs of my generation. They were the songs and the logic, of the generation or two that preceded my own. The score for my generation was Les Paul and Mary Ford, “How High the Moon”, a different logic altogether. It also occurs to me, not an original thought but novel to me, that the logic of the earlier songs was based on self-pity. The singer of the song about looking for the silver lining believes that clouds have come her way. The singer of the song about walking on through the storm assumes that the storm could otherwise take her down.”

From Zoe Williams’ fabulous piece on Northern Soul, The Guardian
“Northern soul was happening everywhere except London,” Constantine says. “That’s because London had a new release culture. They were pushing psychedelia, but a lot of these kids, they didn’t want to wear makeup and dress like hippies. They were coming out of the mod movement, which also played a lot of soul. They had shit jobs where they were dirty in the day – when they went out, they wanted to look sharp.”

Andrew Marlin, 61, was wearing the Fred Perry shirt that he bought in 1970. Between 1971 and 1979, he never missed a Wigan weekend. “I was marked one of the best dancers there,” he says. “Not being big-headed, but I was.” He says his father died at 91 on a dancefloor, but I took this with a pinch of salt. His dancing was, however, unfakeable (I saw it with my own eyes): inimitable, sparse, solitary, beautiful. I don’t mean beautiful in a sentimental way – what a beautiful life, still to be lost in the music of your youth, on a Thursday night in 2014. I mean it literally: graceful and instinctive, like a deer. They say you’re meant to dance like there’s no one watching; no one said you couldn’t watch.

There’s talc in the corner of the dancefloor, though the purists don’t like it. “You don’t need talc,” says Marlin. “Just get some leather soles.” Debbie describes going to the famous Wigan Casino: “We used to put our vodka in a squeezy bag, so if they squeezed your handbag, they couldn’t feel it. One night, we just didn’t get time, and my friend went with a bottle, and they found it, and they confiscated it. They put it on the back shelf, and it was, like talc, talc, talc, talc, bottle of vodka, talc.”

Swoz and Les Beaton (who runs the night with his wife, Carol) DJ under a frilly standard lamp, their record collections worth tens of thousands of pounds. “The sad thing is,” says Swoz, handing me 7 inch after 7 inch records, for me to look at and give back, even though he’d whited over the labels (for confidentiality), so they all looked the same, “when I go, my kids aren’t going to be interested in any of this. They’ll find someone to buy it, but they won’t keep it for themselves.” He hands me a record in an anonymous homemade white cardboard cover, a note on it saying: “RIP Max, not to be sold, ever, never, until we meet.” No, crying? Of course not. Something in my eye.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 21st March

Homeland’s sound design
British dramas tend to have clean, neat soundtracks. I don’t mean the musical elements, but the overall soundscape. Often brilliant atmospherics and great scoring, but generally pristine voice recording and foley work. US programmes on the whole have a funkier sound (it may be partly a technical thing, I’m no expert). However, Homeland has taken funky to new levels. It’s oppressively, brilliantly, noisy—all cicadas and compression. [Compression |kəmˈpre sh ən| noun. Compression in audio recording lessens the dynamic range of the audio by reducing the level of the louder parts, resulting in an “in your face” sound. The proper use of compression will bring out the quieter parts of the audio and make the entire piece sound louder.] In each scene, the outside seems as loud as the inside (witness the crickets at night in the episode where Carrie sleeps at her sister’s house and the same background sounds run into Brody’s house. Air conditioners whirr, fridges hum, interview rooms throb. There’s no escape…

emusic find of the month
Late Late Party, a compilation of songs recorded by The Pac-Keys and The Martinis, at Stax in the mid-Sixties, both bands featuring Packy Axton, son of the label’s founders. Like a frat boy version of Booker T and The MGs. Fantastic. Hear Greasy Pumpkin. If you like that, hear the rest.

White On White
I hadn’t reread The White Album by Joan Didion for years. But it’s extraordinary. Against a backdrop of California, Manson and her own mental issues, it’s filled with brilliant passages like this one. After Manzareck and Morrison discuss, in a circular way, where they might rehearse the next day… “I counted the control knobs on the electronic console. There were seventy-six. I was unsure in whose favor the dialogue had been resolved, or if it had been resolved at all. Robby Krieger picked at his guitar, and said that he needed a fuzz box. The producer suggested that he borrow one from the Buffalo Springfield, who were recording in the next studio. Krieger shrugged. Morrison sat down again on the leather couch and leaned back. He lit a match. He studied the flame awhile and then very slowly, very deliberately, lowered it to the fly of his black vinyl pants. Manzarek watched him. The girl who was rubbing Manzarek’s shoulders did not look at anyone. There was a sense that no one was going to leave the room, ever. It would be some weeks before The Doors finished recording this album. I did not see it through.” Read anything about music that good recently?

Karen Dalton 1966
Personal recordings made in her family living room, now released. The folk world’s Billie Holiday sings Darroll Adams rhythmic, pretty Green Green Rocky Road with such a motionless sadness, it’s as if she’s staring transfixed out of her window at the road itself.

Winogrand/Dylan interface
Funny how certain songs leap into your head when prompted by something visual. I was walking down Edgware Road on Monday with the morning sun flooding past street signs and traffic-light poles and jaywalkers, and everything was angles and glare. I always think of views like that as Garry Winogrand mornings, a reference to the great American photographer whose photographs captured the extraordinary cityscapes of New York. A half-remembered lyric comes to mind: “Perhaps it’s the color of the sun cut flat and coverin’/the crossroads I’m standin’ at…” (Bad, bad attempt below)

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