Thursday, October 20th

Mark, you don’t need to tell me this is too much Dylan…!

ONE RING NO BELLS
In one of the best among the plethora of the Why Bob Dylan is a worthy Nobel Prize winner pieces – as my friend Graham emailed, “an anagram of Blonde on Blonde is BD done Nobel (although there’s an o, n and l leftover)” – Richard Williams mentioned a song that may be obscure, but is a great piece of work – “’Cross the Green Mountain”, written for the movie Gods and Generals. Dylan’s fascination with the Civil War as a country-defining event was chronicled in Chronicles, of course, and thus is a natural fit. It’s memorable not only for its fine lyric but for the extraordinary sombre slow march created by the musicians – that chugging electric rhythm, the ghostly organ, the keening violin and the tension-and-release press rolls on the drums.

 It’s a-one off, really, in the Dylan canon, and comes from a fertile period of writing songs for films – from “Things Have Changed” for Wonder Boys, through “Waiting For You” in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to the wonderful “Tell Ol’ Bill”* from North Country and “Huck’s Tune” from Lucky You. Most of these were finally collected together in Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8.

That said, the song’s video (it loses about four verses) is one of the stranger ones I’ve ever seen, for Bob’s hair and hat alone.

 This is from a terrific piece by Tom Junod in US Esquire from 2014 [that can be found here]: “When Ron Maxwell, the director of Gods and Generals, got it into his head to ask Dylan for an original song, his music coordinator laughed at him. But when he asked, he got a reply from Dylan’s management right away, and both Maxwell and his wife wound up listening to “Cross the Green Mountain” with Dylan and his band at a studio in the Valley. “He was there in his New Balance shoes,” Maxwell says. “He was a bit shy, I want to say. We said hi and shook hands. When they played the song back, he was looking away. I heard the whole thing, taking notes. At first I was thinking, That’s a lot of verses. Then it was finished, and I stood up and he looked at me. I said, I really like it. He said, You do? You like it? I said, I more than like it – are you kidding? And he relaxed and all the band members relaxed. The tension left the room. They let me know they were all fans of [Maxwell’s first Civil War movie] Gettysburg and watched it over and over again on the bus.”

*Google the outtakes for this song – they must have tried it ten different ways, at every tempo known to man…

TWO LANGUAGE CORNER
We can thank The Donald for at least restoring some great and underused words to the English language, such as Prig & Blowhard. This piece on the decrepit state of Trump Tower’s public spaces, and what it says about the man, is brilliant.

THREE UGLIEST ALBUM COVER OF 2016?
Kings of Leon, take a bow. And don’t do any more chat shows, if last week’s appearance on Graham Norton’s show is anything to go by. Coming off like sulky teenagers is so, well, 1980s…

kolFOUR PETULA CLARK, “LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF” THE BIG ISSUE
My biggest piece of advice to the younger me is something I don’t think she could do. It would be to find your own voice. Something only you have. It’s not easy. Some people find it right away. It seems to me that Amy Winehouse found hers right away. But it took me a long time. I had to go through a lot of experiences. I don’t think I found it until I was into my 30s and working in America. I was learning along the way but my real voice didn’t come out until then. I think there’s something in my voice that I can’t describe – I’m not even sure what it is. Lots of singers sing better than me but what makes you an individual, makes you stand out, is almost impossible to define.

FIVE THANK YOU, JOHN
For sending me two Dylan related things. One: a fine drawing (I don’t know who for, with John it could be from the scrapbook, or for the hallowed pages of the New Yorker). John’s latest NY cover of Trump was unceremoniously bumped (just like Trump will be on Nov 8, I hope) on the day before hitting the newsstand, by, of course, the Bob Nobel News…

johnTwo: this great excerpt from Carol Bayer Sager’s new autobiography, titled Writing Lyrics With Bob Dylan Is Weird, something that I think we all suspected, but without the great detail that CBS goes into. In Bob’s chilly barn, she looks in her bag for a pen:
I had my usual yellow-lined legal pad and he gave me a pen when I couldn’t find mine in my overstuffed bag which included a wallet, a card case, a makeup bag in case I was sleeping over, Kleenex, Chapstick, a small collection of star crystals in a small silk pouch which I carried because I was afraid to stop carrying them in case they were protecting me, a croc case for my Lactaid and my Stevia, cards with people’s names on them I no longer knew, a mirror given me by Elizabeth with undistorted magnification, my eyeglasses, a rubber tip that a dental hygienist had dropped in one day, and scores of useless other things that just kind of piled up in there.
“Thank you,” I said, taking my head out of my bag long enough to take his ballpoint pen, which I wished had a thicker tip.
I refocused. “So, do you have any ideas of what you feel like writing?”
“Well, I’ve got a little bit of an idea.”
He mumbled his words very softly. I thought he said “I godda libble bid a deer.”

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Extra! Woodstock Mania, part 3

Woodstock Four The John Cuneo Woodstock Express

woodstock

John is an illustrator that I’ve worked with through the years, and it was great to finally meet him and his wife, Jan, when we pulled into Woodstock from Connecticut. John and Jan live in a house that was part of the Robertson spread, mostly used as a crash pad and rehearsal space during the time of The Band’s Woodstock years (John says that one visitor, returning to the scene of his old band days told him “I’ve had sex in every room of this house!”). We settle for a fine lunch and conversations that range far and wide. Later, concerned that we haven’t seen enough, John puts on a guided tour of the locale, taking in Dutch barns, The Levon Helm Memorial Boulevard, the Byrdcliffe theatre (located just above what was Bob Dylan’s home, and the slopes of Overlook mountain). After fond farewells we take our leave later than we should and end up lost in the wrong part of NYC in a snowstorm (that’ll teach me to say we didn’t need satnav), and are saved by the directions of a Josh Homme lookalike police officer, wearing the largest bullet-proof vest I’ve ever seen, printed with the words Strategic Tactical Unit. Finally we sink into the warm snug of the Marlton Hotel in Greenwich Village (where Jack Kerouac penned the Subterraneans). Later, I find this version of “Up on Cripple Creek” – shot at the same time as the better-known clip of “King Harvest” – recorded in John and Jan’s house. Great loosey-goosey drums in the false start, Levon’s cigarette insouciantly dangling from his lips, and a great moment where Garth decides to stroke his beard rather than play the wah-wah clavinet line…

Woodstock Five East Village Night
As our old friends Rick and Liney guide us through the doors of the Summit Bar, located in the old Alphabet City section (so named because of Avenues A, B, C, and D, the only avenues in Manhattan to have single-letter names) we are struck by two things. One is the unique bouquet of cardamom, as the bartender infuses sugar spirit with the world’s finest pod, and the other is the sound of Levon Helm singing “Up on Cripple Creek” – I mean, what are the chances? Hearing this, Rick says, “Do you remember his great part in The Shooter?” I’d forgotten it, but Rick brings it all back home… Mark Wahlberg plays a sniper caught in a double-cross and set-up by a hawkish senator and, in the scene in question, drives up to a house deep in the woods. He glances at his companion, saying, “Welcome to Tennessee, the patron state of shootin’ stuff” and they get out of the truck and knock on the door. What follows is another of Levon’s great film cameos…

 

Wahlberg (Bob Lee Swaggart): “Suppose I was looking for a man to make a 2,200 yard cold-bore shot? Who’s alive that could do that?“
Mr Rate: “Seems I heard about a shot like that bein’ made not too long ago – said the guy’s name was Bob Lee Swaggart – never met the man so I wouldn’t know.”
Wahlberg replies, “Yeah, they said that alright”.
Mr Rate: “They also said artificial sweeteners were safe, WMDs were in I-raq and Anna Nicole married for love…!”

We eventually tumbled out of the Summit and into the warm embrace of the great staff at Kafana across the road, where we drank Serbian Cabernet Sauvignon and put the world to rights. And so our Woodstock-related adventures came to an end, but if you are interested in the music that was made there and the history of how a small town in the Saugerties came to be such an artistic and musical powerhouse, read Barney Hoskyns’ fine new book, Small Town Talk.

Oh, and Five Things gold awards to: The Marlton Hotel at 5 West 8th Street, The Summit Bar at 133 Avenue C (try the oysters) and Kafana, a great Balkan restaurant at 116 Avenue C.

Postscript. I took a copy of Small Town Talk to give to John. A few days later he emailed, saying how much he was enjoying the book, and attached this…

!dylanbassett

 

Tuesday, 8th March

NUMBER ONE: A BUNCH OF DOGS

calloffyourdogs
If you have yearning for a stripped-back Pink Martini, or a Hall & Oates-sized hole in your musical life, or would even just like a slightly more flexible Rhiannon Giddens, then Lake Street Dive may be your new band of choice. Hipped to them by this, sent straight from the sketchbook of our worthy constituent and Woodstock Correspondent, John Cuneo, executed in his downtime between illustrating covers for The New Yorker. It’s inspired by their new single, “Call Off Your Dogs”. Here’s a live version from the Colbert Show. Dig the Jamerson /Fender bass stylings of the excellent upright bassist Bridget Kearney. Singer Rachael Price has a nice grain to her voice and is tasteful in the best sense of the word. The first clip I saw was this, a cute and sultry live take on “I Want You Back” on a Boston street corner.

NUMBER TWO: A RULE OF THUMB
…is that if Richard Williams has already written about something then writer beware. So I’m not going to write about either of these: Bill Frisell’s guesting on both Lucinda Williams’ The Ghosts of Highway 20 and I Long to See You by Charles Lloyd and The Marvels (I liked this more than Richard, I think, being no expert in Charles Lloyd). And now I can’t write about Ray Stevens’ “Mr Businessman”, one of the great anti-corporate protest songs of the 60s. We were having a conversation about the love of fairly obscure songs from the 60s in the South, and I was saying how much I loved John Fred and The Playboy Band’s “Judy in Disguise (with Glasses)”, and Richard said did I know “Hey Hey Bunny”, which I didn’t, but which is terrific. He then pulled out his iPhone and called up the lyrics to Mr Businessman. Spectacular. Read about it (and Bill & Lucinda & Charles Lloyd, too) here. And finally, am hugely enjoying the Tom Jones bio (written with Giles Smith, and recommended by Richard here), a bracingly honest look at a pop star life.

NUMBER THREE: A WORLD OF NO
AeroDrums is their name, avoiding them is your game.

NUMBER FOUR: A SHEERAN TAKEDOWN
Barbara Ellen in The Observer: “Australian actress Margot Robbie has revealed how she confused Prince Harry for Ed Sheeran at a star-studded party that the royal had gatecrashed. Clearly, both men have red hair, but Robbie says that it was because Harry was “not wearing his crown”. Robbie also revealed that Harry was “offended”, which seems a tad rich. What’s Harry got to be offended about? As it happens, I’ve criticised Sheeran in the past and with just cause. His global success as a singing pyjama case, dribbling saccharine platitudes into the poptastic-sphere, means that the music industry is now obsessed with signing other highly lucrative singing pyjama cases at the expense of different kinds of music. Or, to be technically correct, at the expense of music…”

NUMBER FIVE: A KOOL KRISTIAN KANYE
So this week it’s illustrators sending me illustrations, Mr John Cuneo swiftly followed by the estimable Marco Ventura, depicting Mr West as a religious icon for Rolling Stone. Captures well the slight truculence that always seems to attend Kanye. Now that he’s been outflanked by Kendrick Lamar, he seems in danger of disappearing into the fashion world’s luxe embrace.

KanyeWESTmarco

 

Monday, 8th February

ONE. THIS. THIS IS AMAZING…

graph
Found at Polygraph. I’ll let them introduce themselves: “Polygraph is a publication that explores popular culture with data and visual storytelling. Sorta. This thing is in its infancy. We’re making it up as we go”. This here is a moving flow chart of what Hip Hop’s Billboard Top 10 sounded like from 1989-2015, blending tracks every time the No 1 record changes. If you want to track the Pop-isation of Hip Hop go from Kirko Bangz “Drank in My Cup” on May 28th, 2012 thru to Pitbull’s “Timber” on February 7th, 2014. And then weep a little.

TWO. RADIO 4 ON SONG
Interesting interview with Bonnie Raitt on Woman’s Hour, with a nice mention of Dobell’s, (where she found a Sippie Wallace album in the early Seventies) and a fascinating programme on the commercialization of Gospel music, The Gospel Truth, presented by the financial educator Alvin Hall. The whole show had a very powerful soundtrack (it starts with Obama singing “Amazing Grace” at the funeral of one of those killed in a massacre in Charleston) and ended with “Everything’s Coming Up Jesus!” by contemporary gospellers Livre, which features a great bass part and a swooping chorus strong enough that I had to go and find it immediately.

THREE: THE BLACK SABBATH STORY
I have no idea how I had missed the story of Black Sabbath’s formation and Tony Iommi’s accident until now, but I had. It’s retold very nicely at Every Record Tells a Story here. And here’s a couple of excerpts:Tony Iommi had been a sheet metal worker but the machine had come down on his right hand and severed the tips of the middle and ring fingers. There’s never a good hand to lose a finger or two from, but as a left handed guitar player, the right hand is definitely the worst option. What’s more, the accident occurred on the day he was due to quit the job to take up music as a full time profession… A friend bought a profoundly depressed Iommi an album by Django Reinhardt. Django played gypsy jazz and used just two fingers to fret chords after burning his hand in a fire, and played the most intricate melodies. This inspired Iommi. He still couldn’t play with two fingers, but like when the A-Team were trapped by gangsters in a garage with just their van, a couple of conveniently discarded sheets of metal and a welder’s torch, he got busy on his escape. Iommi made a couple of thimbles from melted fairy liquid bottles, glued on leather to the sanded down tips and finally – and crucially – loosened the strings so he didn’t need to press so hard. Slowly and surely Iommi gained his confidence and technique with these Blue Peter-esque improvised finger tips. A deeper tone and slower sound began to emerge…”

“Black Sabbath was released on Friday 13th February 1970. The critics hated it, but it reached number eight in the UK charts and number 23 in the USA. Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Nirvana, Slayer, Mastodon and countless others all owe their careers to this album. An entire genre of music invented by a guitarist without a full set of fingers, a jazz drummer, a former abattoir worker and, best of all, a trainee accountant. And the most amazing part of this story? They recorded the whole album in just eight hours in a tiny studio at the back of what is now a guitar shop in Soho. Eight hours. It took them eight hours to invent heavy metal.”

FOUR: YET MORE INTERESTING LOOKING MUSIC FILMS
Two films are in production about the not-widely-known Danny Gatton, a guitarist of fearsome dexterity. For a flavour, try this.
As Damien Fanelli wrote in Guitar World last year: “The late Danny Gatton had a nickname: “The Humbler.” As in, “You think you’re so great? Let’s see you go head to head with Gatton. You will be humbled.” Gatton, who also was known as the Telemaster and the world’s greatest unknown guitarist (a nickname he shared with his friend Roy Buchanan) could play country, rockabilly, jazz and blues guitar with equal authority – and sometimes with a beer bottle! In this legendary clip from his 1991 Austin City Limits appearances, watch as Gatton plays slide guitar, overhand-style, using a full bottle of beer as a slide. Of course, since the bottle is full, some suds find their way onto his Fender Tele’s neck. So Gatton whips out a towel to wipe off the beer; only he keeps the towel on the neck – and simply keeps on playing. What’s most impressive about this sequence is just how fun and musical his playing is, despite the beer-bottle theatrics. Although there’s a good deal of showmanship involved, it’s by no means all about showmanship; as always, his playing is humbling.”

FIVE: FILLMORE EAST MEMORIES
Marc Myers’ always fascinating blog, JazzWax, leads me to this slightly hysterical (in a good way) piece about the Fillmore East, legendary NYC music venue, by resident historian of the Bowery Boogie, Allison B. Siegel [“as an urban historian, Allison can be found exploring and documenting buildings wherever she goes making it very hard to walk down the street with her”]. In March 7, 1968, Loew’s Commodore Theatre became the Fillmore East, renamed by the man behind the Fillmore West in SF, Bill Graham. It closed a few years later, and sadly “what was once the entrance to a whimsical place of drama and comedy, laughter and light shows, music and camaraderie, sex, drugs, disco and rock n roll is now… a bank.”

AND LASTLY…
This week I have mostly been swooning over the pace, attack and grace of both Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City and Billy Preston of Los Angeles. Dig Billy’s Wurlitzer playing on “Funny How Time Slips Away” from a CD I’d lost but now have found: Rhythm, Country and Blues, one of the best to be found in the Various Artists/Tributes to Something section of the record store. Produced by Don Was, the whole thing is highly recommended, from Patti Labelle and Travis Tritt’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” to “Rainy Night In Georgia” by Conway Twitty and Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave fame). And who knew that Lyle and Al would sound so good together? In one of those odd coincidences the CD arrived on the day I found this great sketch from my friend, illustrator John Cuneo…

johnc

 

Five Things, Wednesday 3rd September

I read John Banville’s new Philip Marlowe novel, The Black-Eyed Blond
There’s a few minor niggles with some of the vocabulary, and certain phrases cause the modern world to intrude in an otherwise strong evocation of Los Angeles in the early 50s, but I really enjoyed it. It’s set soon after The Long Goodbye and serves up the usual ingredients in a satisfying meal of corruption, drugs and mysterious women. “As I rounded the corner of the house and approached the conservatory, I heard the sound of a piano and stopped to listen. Chopin, I guessed, but I was probably wrong – to me everything on the piano sounds like Chopin. The music, tiny from this distance, seemed heartrendingly lovely, and, well, just heartrending. Imagine, I thought to myself, imagine being able to make a noise like that on a big black box made out of wood and ivory and stretched wires.”

I want Fred Bals’ job
Mick Gold sent me a link to this site. Fred gets to track down Dylan-related things like this: “In July of of 2010, I was commissioned to discover the name of the photographer – and, if possible – locate the original of this photo of Bob Dylan, used as the cover for a mono EP (French CBS EP 6270) released in March, 1966.” My favourite of the three tales of great detectiveness on his blog is this: “I was commissioned about a year ago to see if I could locate a specific photo taken during (actually, after) Dylan’s visit to Andy Warhol’s Factory in 1965.” It’s the story of Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis, a gift to Dylan, who proceeded to get Victor Maimudes to strap it to the roof of his station wagon and drive it to Woodstock. And speaking of Woodstock…

We catch up with our brilliant Woodstock Correspondent…
John C: Greetings from Woodstock, the town where “Woodstock” didn’t happen (but don’t tell that to the tourists that flock here all summer to snatch up tie-dyed t-shirts and and inhale the local vibe). Saw your post about Larry Campbell (who I see around town) and thought I’d check in.

Yesterday, while talking about Australian bass player Tal Wilkenfeld with David Sancious in an Italian restaurant in Woodstock, he told me that Jeff Beck does an amazing Jackie Mason impression – and that he broke it out on the ride back to the hotel after a gig in Tokyo. (I almost apologize for the head-spinning cultural mash up in that sentence, but there it is). btw, who had a better R&R Hall of Fame evening than David S? Inducted and performing with the E Street Band and also playing with Peter Gabriel during his induction  performance, and getting a mid-song shout out, by name, from both Brooce and Gabriel (in “Kitty’s Back” and “In Your Eyes” respectively). While I gushed right in his grill, David was typically gracious about the whole thing. Said that the HBO broadcast allotted everybody two songs, so “The River” and, regrettably, a terrific version of “Digging In The Dirt” went un-televised.

Was hunched over, doodling on a placemat  at an otherwise empty bar a few weeks back when Donald Fagen came in to pick up some takeout. Afterwards I asked the 22-year-old bartender if it’s exciting when that kind of thing happens. “What, when a guy comes in for takeout?” she said. No idea at all. The name Steely Dan also drew a blank – “So is his name Don or Dan?” Next time I saw her, she  related (somehow triumphantly I think), that David Bowie was in few days later, and that she had to be told who he was after he left as well. Christ, I’m old.

Same place the other night was introduced to Eric Kaz (“Cry Like a Rainstorm” and “Love has No Pride” – that one written with Libby Titus, Fagen’s wife and Levon’s ex etc…) Seemed like a funny, humble guy. I won’t even get into my wife walking the dog this past weekend, when a mom (Amy Helm it turns out)  playing in the yard with her kids, flagged her down to ask about Golden Retrievers. She’s thinking of getting one to scare off the bears, who have become a nuisance around here this summer. Never even mind locals Jack DeJohnette and Sonny Rollins dining at the Red Onion, or Happy Traum or…

Anyhow, to a guy that hasn’t seen live music in years and who rarely even leaves the house, it seem like musicians are coming out of the woodwork (or, more accurately, the woods) up here. Hey, did I mention seeing Milton Glaser at the Bear Cafe? Now there’s  a Rock Star…” John adds: “Feel free to share, but don’t make me come off as a craven celeb whore.” Heaven forfend, John, this is just excellently interesting.

We visit the Abba Museum in Stockholm
As weird as you may expect it to be. Through the gift shop (which, for extra profit, is by both the entrance and the exit) with its SOS Elastoplast packs and Honey, Honey jars of, well you know what (although the missing third Honey unaccountably annoyed me). Then you’re into a Swedish Folkfest forest where you get the early bios of Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid, before arriving at the “Eurovision” Star Guitar and a roomset of Polar Studios – the piano on the far left of the photo is twinned to Benny’s in his home studio and plays in the museum when he plays at home – I know, bonkers! Must be troubling for the nighttime security guards. Their writing cabin on an island in the archipelago is also featured, as is that fantastic piece of graphic invention, the reversing of the first B, seen here in a fine sign. You can mix their records, sing along with the backing tracks, and appear on stage with a holographic Abba. There is a circular room which has record covers from their entire career (and the gold discs they earned) lining the walls while their costumes glitter away in curved glass cases. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Abba

…and watch the Homeland Season 4 trailer
This time Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin are joined by Corey Stoll, last seen as Peter Russo in the exceptional House Of Cards, playing the US Ambassador to Pakistan. There’s Harvest-era acoustic, bass and drums on the soundtrack for this one, as Emily Jane White’s “Hole In The Middle” tells us: “Everybody’s got a little hole in the middle/Everybody does a little dance with the devil…”

Extra! Accompanying my mother on an MRI appointment
…there’s a choice of music whilst you lay down in the clattering contraption. Anyone for Blood On The Tracks or Born To Die?

MRI

 

Five Things: Wednesday, 28th May

Hal Blaine
In donating to Denny Tedesco’s Kickstarter campaign to get his Wrecking Crew documentary released, my treat, or reward, is a copy of Hal Blaine’s biography, which is fascinating, if plagued by the weaknesses of a self-published book: terrible proofreading, a fair amount of repetition and the kind of stuff an editor might ask (like – where’s the chapter about recording Bridge Over Troubled Water?). All that notwithstanding, it’s full of interesting detail on the man who, as Richard Williams wrote, “…virtually created a style by himself and became an elder statesman among West Coast session percussionists”. Here’s one of my favorite details: “Phil Spector is the only producer I’ve ever known who always had an extra 2-track recorder running constantly from the beginning of every session. Everything said or played went on tape, and it was quite a trick. Musicians often walk into the studio cold and start warming up in their own way before the tracking begins. They come up with strange riffs, and when asked what they’ve played they never remember. Not so at Phil’s sessions. He would ask, play back the lick and say, ‘Remember that, I want it on the front of the bridge’. Phil would pick out the nuggets he wanted and by playing them back, make them history (so many musicians play incredible warm-ups and never know it).” See the music player on the right for Hal live with S&G.

Eric Yahnker, Sticks & Drones, Paradise Row Gallery, Newman Street
Cactus Guitar/Bizarre Ferlin Husky-Mariah Carey interface/Obama watches Miley on wrecking ball through White House window. (click to enlarge).

Gallery

Daniel Lanois, The Barbican, Monday
From the opening two songs, both played solo on the pedal steel that sits towards the back of the stage, I start to anticipate a great gig. As clouds of distortion weave around the edges of the theatre, parting to reveal a clear shaft of melodic sunlight, I remember what I always loved about Lanois’ sound. Like a curdled, clotted version of Red Rhodes, he’s the master of the almost-resolved filigree, of the blur coming into focus, of a heavenly melody. As the last notes die away in a swoosh and buzz someone in the audience shouts “Turn the volume down!” And it all goes a bit south from there. “I’ll do whatever you want if you come up on stage. Otherwise I’ll see you after the show…” He straps on his gold top Les Paul and, although there are flashes of brilliance, he’s just not a very interesting songwriter and a fairly woeful lyricist. And despite great bass and drums from Steven Nistor and Jim Wilson it doesn’t really catch fire for me, especially when Emmylou Harris comes on to play Wrecking Ball. The problem of playing one album in sequence, especially one that is so locked in to a particular sonic palette is that there’s almost no room for the music to breathe, and it’s not helped by Emmylou’s unvarying approach to each song. I’ve never really warmed to any of her records and I finally realised why – I find her voice unyielding and somehow lacking warmth, warmth that her duet partners, be they Dylan, Earle or Parsons, bring in spades. I felt bad that I didn’t enjoy it more.

From Our Woodstock Correspondent
John Cuneo writes: Having a bunch of colleagues over tomorrow, and they’ll all have to drive through town while this is going on. Such a goofy place this is… “It takes a lot to laugh, it may take seven hours of lip-synching Bob Dylan for Linda Montano to cry. The performance artist, known for her endurance pieces, will be impersonating the former Robert Zimmerman atop a 14-foot lift in front of the Kleinert/James Art Center in Woodstock on May 24 from noon to 7 pm in honor of Dylan’s 73rd birthday. The Dylan endurance outside the Kleinert/James stems from Montano’s realization that her family members look like Bob Dylan. She adopted the Dylan persona in order to “be like my brothers, having always wanted to be a man as a child—knowing that they were always getting the better cultural deal,” she says. Montano’s interest in Dylan, and other historical figures whom she has portrayed, like Mother Theresa, are intricately linked to her investigations of the blurred boundaries and interconnections between art and life: between being, having been, and wanting to be—not be anything at all. Here’s Linda Mary Montano posing as a young Bob Dylan. New York City, 1989.

Linda

Only just caught up with this…
…“Royals” cover in Lorde’s home town. Bruce adds a judicious ”fucking” into “Every song’s like, Gold Teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom…” and changes ”We crave a different kind of buzz” to “kind of love”, Queen Bee to King Bee (nice Muddy Waters link there) and generally gives it a bang-up performance.

 

Five Things: Wednesday 26th February

Of Time And The City
I caught twenty minutes of Terence Davies’ great half doc/half memoir, his love letter to Liverpool. From the Korean War footage, overlaid by the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” – a mixture that shouldn’t work, but does – through Terry’s hilariously voiced-over Yeah Yeah Yeahs when the Beatles come on-screen, to the stunning slum clearance/building of the tower-blocks sequence set to Peggy Lee singing “The Folks Who Live On The Hill”, it never fails to move. If you’ve not seen it, you can watch that scene here.

Jason Wood: The film shows you a Liverpool beyond The Beatles and football, which is what people tend to think about when they think about the city. Your narration is very significant. It lends character because it is so impassioned.

Terence Davies: What was odd was that I was writing this commentary as I was doing it and recording it as a rough guide. We got someone to do part of the narration, but it just didn’t work and the producers said, No, you must do it. I was worried that when you hear your own voice, it can sound a bit like the Queen Mother after she died. All my films have strong Liverpool accents. It always makes me feel a bit embarrassed… At one point they asked me to put in how I lost my accent and I said, “You can’t be serious? You really can’t be serious? I’m not doing that.” I was worried and I was staying with my sister Maisie and I said, “When did I lose my accent?” and she said, “You never had one!”

I have no illusions about my work but I must add I have no illusions about anybody else’s either. I am very strict with myself and I think, “no, that could have been improved”. It was what I thought was right at the time – and you have to stand by that. And if it completely fails, you have got to say, “But that is what I meant at the time.” There’s a line by Vaughan Williams, I think it’s on his Sixth Symphony, when he says, “I don’t know whether I like it, but it is what I meant.” And that’s a wonderful thing to say upon your own work.

Tim Sends This Link
…to Postmodern Jukebox’s rather lovely twenties-styled version of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, perhaps inspired by Bryan Ferry’s take on his back catalogue. “My goal with Postmodern Jukebox is to get my audience to think of songs not as rigid, ephemeral objects, but like malleable globs of silly putty. Songs can be twisted, shaped, and altered without losing their identities – just as we grow, age, and expire without losing ours – and it is through this exploration that the gap between “high” and “low” art can be bridged most readily.” – Scott Bradlee, founder. Well, OK, Scott! File alongside The Ukelele Orchestra Of Great Britain and Pink Martini. Oh, and the Sad-Faced-Clown version of “Royals” rocks, too. Are you listening, Michael B?

A Quote I Really Liked
Laura Barton talking to Willy Vlautin, singer/guitarist with Richmond Fontaine: We’re sitting in an empty London pub, where the clipped twang of Vlautin’s Nevada accent seems to lift the gloom. Though he now lives in Oregon, he grew up in Reno, his father leaving home when he was four. His mother was left alone to raise their two sons. Although Vlautin was “so shy that I could barely go to school”, he was a diligent student who never seemed to be paid back with good grades. He lived largely inside his own head. “I’ve used escapism as a crutch my whole life,” he says. “I hated being a kid, so I escaped. But I never thought of myself as a rich guy driving a Cadillac hanging with James Bond. I was pragmatic. My big dream was to have an uncle that owned a wrecking yard and then I could just work there, and he’d actually like me and he’d make me dinner. And I would live in that fantasy world. I’d wake up every morning and check in.” …he’d actually like me and he’d make me dinner… That’s a line that could make you cry.

Live Music Extra:
1. Dotter scolds me for not mentioning her ‘awesome’ wedding band

And it’s true. I was so tired after the wedding I could barely think what to say. The band was put together by Mike Pointon, who I collaborated with on Ken’s book, alongside Ray Smith. It was made up of musicians who had played with Ken Colyer (Mike, since he was nineteen) supported by sons of Ken’s peers on drums and bass. They really swung. One guest, bowled over, assumed they’d been together for years, and at the end asked Mike how long “The Lavender Hill Mob” (the venue was on said hill) had played as a unit, and Mike answered “About three hours.” The acoustics were great, the sound of the musicians tight and warm, and the repertoire wide-ranging. Even when they were playing softly during the meal, people were applauding the solos. I’ve never seen that happen at a wedding before.

2. Jaz Delorean at The Alleycat

Alleycat
At the Iko’s Record Shop night, it was Lee Dorsey time, the highlight of which was Dom Pipkin’s wonderful re-imagining of “Working In A Coalmine”, in which he left the rhythm section behind and proceeded to conjure up all sorts in a trance-like meditation. I heard Scott Walker, Stravinsky, Booker, and Dr John before he got back on the straight and narrow… The evenings are always fairly ramshackle, with misses and hits, but there’s usually something like this to treasure. Jaz Delorean delivered my favourite band performance with a terrific take on Louis Prima’s medley of “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” on the crowded, tiny stage, featuring fabulously sleazy horns and a winning vocal from the guitarist (with the crowd on the chorus). Anyone trying to get to the women’s bathroom had to run the gauntlet of the four horn players (and an accordionist) who couldn’t actually fit on the stage.

3. Avant-improv at The Harrison
Mark and Tom describe their band, Throttling Tommy, as “the unlistenable in pursuit of the unplayable. A blues-rock power trio without the Marshall stacks and the bass player, who hasn’t turned up. And who have forgotten how to play blues. Or rock. Or anything else, for that matter. Allergic to songs”. A pretty succinct description, if you ask me, and their first gig doesn’t disappoint. I’m a sucker for funk drumming and trem-bar harmonics/histrionics, and they sound wonderful together in this blanket-covered de-mobbed bunkhouse, playing forty minutes without a safety net. Tom has a lovely line in, er, tom/cymbal interfacing, and it’s always fun listening to Mark trying to avoid anything as shocking as a melody. Video here.

Mark

Headliners Horseless Headmen were tight and fascinating. Stand up, G. Painting (guitar, effects king), Paul Taylor (trombone, fabulous tone), Nick Cash (drum kit and percussion, check out the upside-down water bottle) and Ivor Kallin (fretless bass guitar and chopsticks in beard). I love a gig that almost ends when an audience member shouts as an improvisation closes, “That was brilliant! You’ll never top that!” and the band actually have a discussion about whether playing another number (which there’s time for) is a hostage to fortune…

HH2

From our Woodstock Correspondent, John C
“Saw Prince a few times myself. Once in Denver he came out while Vanity 6 was setting up, sat down at a piano to the side of the stage and played for a half an hour. No mic, just for himself. The most mind-boggling stuff. We were up front and close enough to hear. If memory serves, I believe The Time came up after Vanity and before Prince. One of the funkiest nights of my life. I was levitating.”

Five Things: Wednesday 25th September

I Liked This Painting

Laura

Glanced through the window of the Riflemaker’s Gallery – once the Indica Gallery where Yoko Ono’s show in November 1966 had one J.Lennon as a visitor – a rather lovely painting with stylistic echoes of John Currin. Take the Night off (Laura Marling) by Stuart Pearson Wright [oil on canvas, 2013, 60 x 40 cm].

I Liked This Email
From Our Woodstock Correspondent, John Cuneo:
“I thought of you after reading that lovely Springsteen/burger story on your blog, and then 20 minutes later when I went out for a walk and said hello to a passing David Sancious  (he of the early E Street Band, and, I gather, just back from the road touring with Sting). We were about  mile out from downtown, across the street from the Bear Cafe  (the restaurant that Albert Grossman opened) and right at the bottom of Striebel Rd (where Dylan had his bike spill). I’ve never spoken a word to the guy before, but there was no one else around and it would have been awkward to not acknowledge each other, so I smiled and blurted out a “Hello David”, as if we see each other every day. Being from Jersey, I feel it’s my inherited geographical privilege to refer to all the E St. members by their first name ( I plan to go with just “Steve”, not Little Steven, if the opportunity presents itself).

I Liked This Poem
Bob Johnson, at the end of the Another Self Portrait Short Documentary.
“Down the kerb and around the bend he came and
It’ll never end now because he’s been on this rollercoaster ride ever since he left Minnesota.
He’s been brutalised, sunrised, baptised in the waters of the Village.
Still it goes on, from Soho to Moscow to Oslo.
They speak of this trip, this battleship, who sailed in the harbour of Tin Pan Alley and sank it with his Subterranean Homesick Blues.
There isn’t but one Bob Dylan.”

BobAnd now Bob,
metalwork artist,
is Cold Irons Bound
(or, as the Guardian
would have it,
singing “Ballad of
a Tin Man“).

I Liked Seeing Jimmy Nail On ’Later’
Just after the Kings Of Leon had vied for the title of World’s Most Unexciting Rock Band (they looked to be boring themselves to death with the sludge coming out of their amps), it was excellent to spy Jimmy Nail (Spender!) singing backing vox for Sting, looking in great shape. I remember our friend Sarah doing the costumes on Spender, and saying that she was off to work with Jimmy again on a “Country-singing-Newcastle-Boy-goes-to-Nashville“ story and that they were searching for an American actress who could sing. I remembered “Too Close”, sung beautifully by Amy Madigan on Ry Cooder’s Alamo Bay soundtrack and gave Sarah the record to play to the director and producer. Lo, they hired her! I hadn’t realised (’til a quick search told me) that Amy had form: throughout the late 1970s she played keyboard, percussion, and vocals behind Steve Goodman on tour. Sting’s luxury brand of Steely Dan Light™ came dripping with expensive guitar playing, like so many Swarovsky crystals flung over a bolt of minor ninths and flattened fifths. It was the aural equivalent of a Gucci Ad. For songs about the shipworkers of Newcastle, that’s sort of weird.

I Liked Zigaboo Modeliste At The 100 Club
A party in the summer of ’75 in Kennington. My friend Mick Gardner commandeers the deck and puts on the newly released album by the Meters, Fire On The Bayou. The evening had been a whirl of great funk records but this topped them all, and I recall thinking I would never in my life hear something funkier than this. I thought of that night on Sunday, listening, or rather feeling, the viscerally thrilling drumming of Joseph Modeliste, the Meters drummer. It was a terrific show, presented with avuncular charm (should that be afunkular?) by a master. Mark pointed out that the band were obviously inspired by the girls joyfully dancing at the foot of the stage, rather than the less-well coordinated gaggle of middle-aged white men behind, offering a variety of dance styles that covered the waterfront. To be fair, it was impossible not to dance, such was the floor-shaking power of Zig’s snare and hi-hat. Most things that you wanted to hear were played (“Africa”, “Just Kissed My Baby”, “People Say”, “Hey Pocky Way”), each better than the last.

Five Things: Wednesday 17th April

Words Fail, pt. 73
From the Evening Standard: The soundtrack to David and Samantha Cameron’s marriage is an album of Depression-era US folk music, the PM’s wife has disclosed. Time (The Revelator) is a 2001 collection of austere narratives by Nashville singer Gillian Welch. Peter Mensch, manager of rock stars such as Metallica and husband of ex-Tory MP Louise, discussed the Camerons’ tastes at a Tory function. “I asked Samantha Cameron, ‘Why Gillian Welch?’,” said Mensch, who manages the singer and invited the couple to her Hammersmith concert in 2011. “She said, ‘There was a record store  in Notting Hill where David and I used to live. I would say to the guy with the purple mohawk: “What should I be listening to?” He sold me Time (The Revelator). For the past 10 years David and I listened to it all the time’ .”

Lana Del Rey, Chelsea Hotel No 2
Nicely simple and atmospheric version of a song its author has often felt uneasy about. I’m not even sure anyone but Leonard Cohen should sing this, but the solemn and melancholy tune is a draw to a certain type of singer. I think my favourite version is actually Meshell Ndegeocello’s, where she creates such a slowed-down, sultry arrangement that it seems that she’s only singing the song for one person to hear, not an audience. I don’t think it’ll be on the setlist next week at Ronnie Scott’s.

From Our Woodstock Correspondent
The road from RT 28 to W’stock, formerly rt. 375, will be officially re-named Levon Helm Highway. Meanwhile, all Robbie has named after him is the house next door, and that’s not even official. (But a couple has moved in and are done a nice job renovating…) as ever, john c

What I Say
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s notice, posted on the doors of Webster Hall, New YorkYeah

Killing Them Softly
The soundscape of this beautifully shot film based on George V Higgins’ fine book, Cogan’s Trade, and recently released on DVD, is fantastic. It’s worth watching just for that, from the opening credits of crunching footsteps underneath a voiceover of Obama on the election trail. The election is a presence throughout the film, playing on TVs in bar and on car radios. From the creak of car seats, the roar of throaty engines and the rain on the windshield, to the clangs of echoing hallways, real care is taken. Music supervisor is Rachel Fox, piano pieces and musical ambiences by Marc Streitenfeld. Take a bow.

Five Things: Wednesday 27th March

Poliça
If Rooney Mara was the lead singer of a band, it would be Minnesota’s Poliça. With her alt-Dusty Springfield arm gestures Channy Leaneagh seems – in the words of Daughter – to be the flamboyant conductor of this little orchestra that consists of a bassist and two drummers (the Independent’s critic thought the same). Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishman tour had two drummers, as did Steely Dan’s ’73 roadtrip and there’s something wonderful and thrilling about the thump and paradiddle of synchro’d drumsets, especially when they control the beat as much as Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson. Chris Bierdan’s bass half holds the bottom end, half dances around the ghostly, swooning melodies of Leaneagh’s auto-tuned, layered and reverb-ed vocals. Even though she seems out of sorts for the first half of the set, the sounds coming off the stage are monstrous. The third number’s juxtaposition of solo vocals and pulverising drum breaks is nothing short of astonishing. Their set is a perfect length – 60 minutes – and for an encore there’s a ghostly solo version of the old folk song ‘When I Was a Young Girl’ followed by a new rollercoaster thumper. Fabulous!

Davidoff’s Cigar Shop, Jermyn Street

Cigar

Youth In Revolt. The last sentence is not made up.
“British rap star Professor Green refused to let sub-zero temperatures freeze his secret gig at a bus depot on Saturday night. “I have got a lot of powers, but unfortunately controlling the weather isn’t one of them,” the ‘Read All About It’ singer joked to fans at the Kings Cross garage in London. Instead the star raised the temperature by ordering fans to thrash around to his tracks in order to beat the big chill. Meanwhile Pro’s stunning girlfriend, Made In Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh, was also in attendance to see her beau on stage. Millie proved she’s just like the rest of us as she was also seen enjoying a greasy pizza and bottle of beer to help keep warm at the exclusive gig. Professor Green was performing in celebration of Barclaycard Contactless now being accepted on buses.”

Arthur Rothstein, dust storm in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936
Snowbound at my friend Kwok’s. We’re talking about Elliot Erwitt and his photos of Yukio Mishima, when he pulls this beautiful print out to show me.

Arthur

I know it as the covDustbowler to Folkways’ Dust Bowl Ballads Sung By Woody Guthrie. Arthur had wanted Kwok to have it – he was given it by Eve Rothstein, Arthur’s daughter on November 11, 1985, the day that Arthur passed away.

 

 

 

 

Philip Larkin, Garrison Keillor and Bob Dylan go antiquing
I loved this drawing when John Cuneo did it in 2011, and this week it gets blown up and put over a whole wall at the Delaware Art Museum. Roll On, John!

JohnC

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