Thursday, 2nd July

Still moving, so this week is mainly things that I read and found fascinating…

HUNCH V. DATA: IN THE RED CORNER, JOHN HAMMOND
Kevin drops in a great article from intelligent life, by Ian Leslie: “One February night in 1933, Hammond rapped on an anonymous door on 133rd St. One of his singer friends, Monette Moore, ran a new speakeasy, and he had come to see her perform. As it turned out, she couldn’t make it. Her replacement was a girl called Billie Holiday. Hammond hadn’t heard of her—which meant nobody had—but she took his breath away. Just 17, Holiday was tall, unconventionally beautiful, with an imperious bearing. Her artistry gave Hammond shivers. She sang just behind the beat, her voice wafting languidly over the accompaniment like smoke from a cigarette. She didn’t just sing the songs, she played them with her voice. “I was overwhelmed,” Hammond said.

Nobody had told Hammond to go and see Billie Holiday that night in Harlem. She had no fan base, no manager pressing her claims. Nobody would record her. But the moment he saw Holiday, John Hammond knew she was going to be a star. He just had a feeling about this girl. A hunch.

John Hammond understood jazz through society and vice versa, and he knew that the future of neither was written down (jazz, said the critic Whitney Balliet, is “the sound of surprise”). At the time that he came across Billie Holiday, a vocalist who did not also play an instrument or front a band was not even considered a jazz singer, but Hammond sensed that the world was ready for one. Later, Holiday became one of the first singers to perform regularly in mixed-race jazz clubs, and her popularity cut across the rigid ethnic lines of the day. In Monette Moore’s bar that night, Hammond saw the future of jazz and the future of America at the same time.”

KANYE BELIEVE IT! (© The Sun)
I wanted to write about Kanye West’s performance at Glastonbury, but read this and it caught what I felt so well that I’ll just quote a little: it’s by David Bennun and was on The Economist Magazine’s website.
“The first 45 minutes or so were an act of quite astonishing bravado. One man, apparently dressed as the world’s most fashionable plasterer, all alone in a blazing box of light and smoke, with only that infamous ego and a microphone to satisfy a crowd over 100,000 strong, and millions more watching on live television. Has any Glastonbury headliner ever flown solo and by the seat of his expensively spattered pants for so long? It took extraordinary cojones, especially when you consider that, although he is a brilliant rapper in the studio, he is not a great live MC. His voice doesn’t have the heft and authority to carry all before it like, say, Eminem’s or Chuck D’s… Kanye West is the star who’s never a bore even when he’s boring. The people who profess to hate him can’t tear their eyes away. The joke is emphatically on them, and on their apoplectic, blimpish indignation.”

THIS. IS. INSANE.

AbbeyAs I called the Albert Hall Box Office 15 minutes after the tickets went on sale and found it almost sold out, I realised that it was probably not an April Fools’ Day joke. Yes, on April 1st, 2016 there will be a re-creation, in a huge glass box containing a replica Studio Two, of every note played by The Beatles at Abbey Road – every false start, every incomplete take, every bit of jokey banter between the studio floor and the control room. Overseen by Geoff Emerick, the engineer on many of the sessions, it promises much for the tape-heads, but what it’ll sound like as a concert is beyond guessing. We’re promised that it won’t be a lookalike or tribute show, just… “each song, from the first recording of “Love Me Do” up to “The End” – played exactly as it was recorded – all instrumentation, arrangements and vocals identical to the original recordings. It will be the closest thing to actually being in the studio with John, Paul, George and Ringo.”

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

CastlesSkateboardersUndercroft, South Bank; The Lukin pub, Fitzrovia

SOMETHING I LEARNED
I’d not heard of Bob Bain, legendary session guitarist, but I’d sure enough heard his work – The Peter Gunn theme, M*A*S*H, Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable”. Marc Myers’ excellent blog, JazzWax pointed me towards this, from Fretboard Journal – Bain’s description of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s sessions, along with a lovely video of him now, playing a beautiful small-bodied Martin.

“We did three sessions. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We were packing up and Henry Mancini asked me to stick around. He said, “Go next door to Nickodell’s, get a drink and come back.” He said, “You can pack up everything, but I want a nice, small acoustic guitar sound…” I was thinking, “What is he doing?”

So I had a nice small guitar, a Martin. I just left that guitar out and came back. The studio was empty, kind of dark. There were three guys in the booth: Henry, Blake Edwards the director, and one stagehand. And all of a sudden Audrey Hepburn walked in. Hank [Mancini] introduced me and she was very nice. He said, “We want to record Audrey without the orchestra, because she doesn’t want to sing in front of a big band.” We ran it down — just the two of us. And I said to Henry, “Turn off the mics so you don’t hear us.” She was real nice; a good singer.

“She knew the tune. And I said, “Why don’t we make a take?” I waved at Hank and he turned the mic on. We ran it through once and I said, “What do you think?” She said, “Well, I don’t know.” I said, “Why don’t we do one more and then we’ll go in and listen?” So we did one more take, just guitar and voice. We went in. Henry said, “I loved it.” Blake said, “I loved it.” And they took the second take and that was it!”

…and I really want to thank Steve Hurrell for the Wham-O Super Pro frisbee. Steve worked on a video shoot that we did back in the 80s, but before that was a semi-pro frisbee player. How excellent to have that on your CV.

Five Things: Wednesday 2nd October

Lick The Stamp, Jack!

Cash-Charles

Seeing this just-released stamp of Ray, here paired with an earlier release of Johnny Cash, sent me back to a tape given to me by Bob Wray in Muscle Shoals. Bob (Member of the Third Great Rick Hall Rhythm Section, and a wonderful bassist) was playing on a Ray Charles album. Johnny Cash dropped by the studio and they started playing a Kris Kristofferson song that they both knew, “Why Me, Lord”. Bob described Ray getting so into it as he ripped out a solo on the old beige Wurlitzer that the piano started to jerk across the studio floor, almost crashing over. Just listen to Ray’s stubby intro, heightened by the bass drum, followed by the band dropping right in behind JC. Off the cuff and probably better than anything that made the album. [You can hear it on the music player at the right of the page]

There’s An Owl In The Background
Neil Brand interviewing Angelo Badalamenti about David Lynch in the wonderful Sound of Cinema: The Music that Made the Movies: One day in 1989 the pair sat down at Badalamenti’s piano and, in a single take, wrote the theme for a groundbreaking new television series. Badalamenti tells the story: David comes in and says, “Angelo!” – now we’re pals, you know – and he says, “We’re in a dark wood”, and I’m going like… [plays a pulsing two-chord pattern on the keyboard].

“No, Angelo, those are beautiful notes, but can you do ’em slower?”

“Oh, OK.” [It’s starting to feel closer to the theme we know].

“No, Angelo, slower”.

“David, if I play ’em any slower I’m gonna play in reverse”. (laughs) [He plays what is now recognisable as the opening to Twin Peaks].

“OK, Angelo, now there’s a girl named Laura Palmer, she’s a very troubled teenager and she’s in the dark woods, and she’s coming out from behind the trees. She’s very beautiful, too… give me something that’s her”. [The crepuscular sequence of climbing notes start].

“That’s it, Angelo, now let it build…”

“ ’Cause she’s coming closer, and she’s so troubled”. [Badalamenti plays a string pad behind the piano melody]

“And she’s got tears in her eyes, Angelo, it’s so sad, now reach a climax… that’s it, just keep it going, beautiful, beautiful. Now start coming down, but fall slowly, down, down, that’s it, that’s it, quietly. Now, Angelo, go back into the dark woods, and stay there. There’s an owl in the background…” [the strings disappear and fade].

“Angelo – you just wrote Twin Peaks…”

Later
Kanye West sings “Bound 2” with Charlie Wilson from The Gap Band. I remember when people protested at pop stars when they compared themselves to God or Christ, but I guess there’s so much stuff out there now that no-one bothers. Kanye’s crucified pose at the climax of this song was kind of stupid, but the song itself – fantastic. Built on the back of “Bound”, by the sensationally named Ponderosa Twins Plus One – taking just the intro – and samples of Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s”, it’s a highlight track of Yeesus, and could, quite possibly, be your entry point to this great album. He seems a miserable bugger, though. Oh, and mention, too, of Lorde, New Zealand teen sensation! Precocious, or what? Mannered but mature, and a sure, sure sense of melody, pitching her sultry voice against a choir and a synth bass. Real Name: Ella Yelich-O’Connor. As of July 2013, a Year Twelve student at Takapuna Grammar School. God knows how good she could get to be.

Dig/Dead
The Artangel installation of Daniel Silver’s Dig at the old Odeon site on Grafton Way, just off Tottenham Court Road, is fantastic. This musical set of dancing figures, amidst the

DigDead“recovered’ statues of Freud and Darwin, caught my eye. As, later that day, did this bottle of Grateful Dead wine. Tasting notes will follow anon (apparently the Rolling Stones 40 Licks offering is not up to much, but the guy at Gerry’s told me this was a proper bottle of wine).

The Man With The Bullwhip Speaks, Finally
Sorry it’s more Bob stuff, but Rick emails me this fascinating story about Victor Maymudes, Dylan’s righthand man in the ’60s. This short film is part of a pitch, and his son is now working on a manuscript taken from hours of interviews done in 2000.

Five Things: Wednesday 17th July

Oh, Yeezus…
​You know when pop stars ​used to re-record their latest hits in the language of another market – say, Germany or France – before the world was totally consumed by the language of Amerenglish pop? Bowie did it, Dusty did it. I wish we could bring it back, and Kanye West would re-record Yeezus in a language I don’t understand. Then I’d be happier when I listened to it. Because the words on Yeezus are f***ing unlistenable. As if written by a seriously misogynistic asshole with self-aggrandisement issues. You wouldn’t want to be his wife. And it’s a drag, because the music, the beats, the soundscape, the whatever… is utterly, utterly, utterly great. Just out-of-the-park brilliant. Here’s Laughing Lou Reed on the talkhouse: “The guy really, really, really is talented. He’s… trying to raise the bar. No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet. If you like sound, listen to what he’s giving you. Majestic and inspiring”. Lou also had an issue with the words and talks interestingly about that – it’s worth checking the full review out).

Oh, and $120 will buy you this Kanye West white T-Shirt. Dazzling.

Kanye

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) is set to cover some interesting, if maligned, years. The complete IOW performance from August 31, 1969, a personal favourite (even in really bad audience-taped quality) with Dylan and the Band alternating a sweet, woody country sound with ragged roadhouse rip ’em ups. Also some great New Morning alternate versions (a piano-based “Went To See The Gypsy” and “Sign On The Window” with a string section should be particularly good if real bootlegs from the past are anything to go by). And finally, some cleaned up/stripped down Self Portrait tracks accompanied (amusingly) by liner notes courtesy of Greil Marcus, writer of the famous SP review in Rolling Stone with the deathly opening line, “What is this shit?”.

May need to start a Ken Colyer Corner in Five Things
Two more letters about The Stones, The Guardian:
• Messrs Gilbert and Blundell, prepare to eat dirt (Letters, 6 July). I saw the Stones at the Ken Colyer Jazz Club (It was actually called Studio 51, but was generally known as Ken’s Club) in Leicester Square in June 1963. “Come On” was slowly climbing the charts. It was the first date I ever went on. I was 16. The cellar venue was stifling with condensation and we drew CND signs in it on the low ceiling. The Stones looked like cavemen and sang every great rock number, including “Poison Ivy”, “Johnny B Goode” and “Route 66”. My date and I caught the last train back – the 12:42 from Victoria to Bromley South. When we arrived at Shortlands Station, my father was on the platform to meet us. “Just checking,” he said and walked off. My boyfriend lasted less than 50 days, but the Stones – well, you all know the rest. Susan Castles, Wem, Shropshire
• How about 1962 in the small cellar Studio 51, Great Newport Street, W1? Chatting with all of them every Sunday at the bar during the break. Two sessions, 4pm and 6pm. Signed pre-first record release photo to prove it, with a note from Bill on the back apologising for no news of first “disc”. Anybody else who was there? Gerry Montague, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

FYI: The Beatles visited the Rolling Stones on September 10th, 1963 as they rehearsed at the 51. They presented them with a new, unfinished song, “I Wanna Be Your Man”. On  hearing that the Stones liked the song, John and Paul went into Ken’s office and completed it, thus giving the Stones their first hit with a new song rather than a cover.

The Americans awakens a long-buried love for post-Peter Green Mac
The 80s-tastic Russian/US spy series features a cracking soundtrack from my least-liked decade. “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac in episode 1 sends me to the remastered album – as recommended, months ago, by Tom at work. It’s amazingly odd for a mainstream Californian rock record (and amazingly good, though I didn’t listen in 1979) and nothing’s stranger than “Tusk” itself, with the tribal percussion, the mumbling/chanting and the most eccentric drum rolls in pop’s history.

Bob Gumpert sends me this, An Alan Lomax Gallery…with this sensational contact sheet. This is Stavin Chain playing guitar, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934. The movement in that top triptych is just stunning. More here.

Lomax

FTIS&HTW: Wednesday 6th March

Bruno Mars, Jonathan Ross Show, ITV
I started this blog because I watched Bruno Mars at the Brits a year ago, and loved the performance of his bass player so much that I wanted to write about it. It was these non-headline moments that I found interesting, and no one seemed to be writing about them. This week Bruno does the promo round for his next tour and turns up at Jonathan’s with a piano player, an organist and a pretty good gospel/r&b song. He’s very slick and can really sing, but what’s great is the interplay between his voice and the stripped-back accompaniment, and it makes a change from the usual banal “just like the record” performance.

Almost Finishing Michael Gray’s fine Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell
“… McTell comes storming through here, fusing great feeling with an intimate looseness of delivery that he has never captured on record before. It is thrilling to hear—and this is what he keeps up as he moves on to the marvelous Savannah Mama, where, right from the magnificent opening moments, his guitar work is so concentrated and precise, so felt and so assertive (this is what inspired the Allman Brothers’ slide style), while his vocal lines flow across all this precision with the grace of heartfelt risk-taking. He sings with an experimental mannered fluidity somehow freed from artifice by open ardor.”

Noma Bar’s Time Out London Rock ’n’ Roll Cover
As always, brilliant.

NomaWest Of Eden?
Kanye West to Paris’ Le Zenith crowd: “There’s no motherfucking awards or sponsorships or none of that shit that can stop the dedication to bringing y’all that real shit.” He continued: “No matter how they try to control you, or the motherfucker next to you tries to peer pressure you, you can do what you motherfucking want. I am Picasso. I’m Walt Disney, I’m Steve Jobs.”

There’s Something about Kodachrome and New York Summer Evening Light in the Seventies
From Robin Aitken in Scotland: “I am in the process of writing an article about the Dobell trip to the first Newport Jazz Festival in New York which was attended by ten of us—Myself, Rick Antill, Micky Brocking, Jack Armitage, Ray Bolden, John Kendall. Doug Dobell, Ginger (can’t remember his name), Lou Watkins and Jimmy Reid with occasional appearances by Albert McCarthy… I took some photos in New York using Bill Colyer’s Konica 35mm camera which he had just bought and lent me for the trip—a typically generous gesture. I have attached one of my favourite photographs, which I took outside Jim & Andy’s at West 55th Street in late June 1972—the last incarnation of that famous musicians’ bar.”
Doug’s in proto-Tom Wolfe mode, and how cool is Ray Bolden? I loved working for the legend that was Ray—the man who ran the Blues side of Dobell’s— and friend to BB, Muddy, Wolf and the whisky makers of Scotland and Kentucky.

Dobell's NY

Left to right: Richie Goldberg (jazz drummer), John Kendall, Ray Bolden, Scoville Brown (clarinet and alto, who recorded with Louis in 1932 and played with many bands thereafter—check the Buck Clayton Quartet sides recorded for HRS in 1946) and, of course, Doug Dobell.

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