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.


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.


Five Things: Wednesday 10th July

Robert Christgau on the Louis Armstrong House Museum,
“Armstrong never made the money he should have – Glaser kept most of it. But he could have afforded a far grander place, and that he chose not to says something telling about a genius who never aspired to rise above a common station except in the notes he played. Within the limits he laid out for himself, however, Armstrong didn’t stint. Reading about the mirrored bathroom, gold-plated toilet fixtures, cheetah-print stair carpet, and aquamarine everything, you may fear the house is pretentious or embarrassing, but it’s not at all, at least not to someone who grew up in Queens when Armstrong lived there. On the contrary, it’s an object lesson in limited luxury. With its careful period authenticity – even the air conditioners are very 1970, although their guts have been replaced – the museum is a vivid reminder of how much more acquisitive, pretentious, and would-be hip wealth has become since the days of the affluent society.”

This reminded me of something that Rupert Everett, the actor, said in an interview to coincide with the release of his second book, the brittle and fascinating vanished years. “If you look at books of Hollywood homes in the 70s, it’s just amazing how humble they are; they’re like little beach shanty houses with bric-a-brac furniture. Now the smallest fucking brainless Hollywood producer lives in an Earth Wind & Fire Egyptian Palace. It’s just… become so tasteless, I suppose.”

Starry-eyed an’ laughing
I swear I don’t try to shoehorn Bob into every post, but visiting Mayfair’s (and, quite possibly, the World’s) greatest wine store, Hedonism, the record on the deck (they have a ridiculously high-end system, somewhat matching the drink selection) is Another Side Of… and track four, side one plays as I wander around, window shopping. Later, around the corner, I pass this plaque on the wall of the building that used to be home to The Robert Stigwood Organisation…


Two letters about The Stones, The Guardian
• In 1963 or 1964* I went to Ken Colyer’s jazz club with other members of High Wycombe YCND. A note on the door said that the usual Dixieland wouldn’t be playing: instead, “a young rhythm and blues band, the Rolling Stones”. Not impressed, we spent the evening in the pub.
Jo Russell, Stoke-on-Trent
• I remember seeing the Stones about 1964 at the Empress Ballroom in Wigan (Later to become the Wigan Casino, home of Northern Soul). During their performance, Jagger threw his sweaty shirt into the audience. I and another girl caught it. She ended up with one sleeve and I won the rest of it. I stored it carefully in one of my drawers at home, where my mother found it and, seeing it was damaged, tore it up and used it for dusters.
Marie Blundell, Wigan

* I think it may have been ’62, but certainly not ’64…

Busker, Euston Station
The summer heat brings an unusual sight and sound: a black guy, possibly blind, Bizet’s Carmen blasted through an amp hanging from his neck, playing the top line (tone courtesy of Paul Butterfield) on a crunchily amplified harmonica. Orchestral Harp vs Blues Harp. No contest.

Rickie Lee Jones, On My Playlist, Metro. Eloquent.
• “On The Road Again” Canned Heat
Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, the harmonica player, plays so lyrically, I often quip and hoot to myself as I listen.
• “Linden Arden Stole The Highlights” Van Morrison
The lyric on this is so wild. Van is a master. This is timeless, uplifting and healing, and is a transporter to some other realm.*
• “John Barleycorn Must Die” Traffic
This song was very influential: the sound of the recording, the sweet voices and the English accents were all very interesting to me when I was 16.
• “Into White” Cat Stevens
Like Van, Cat seemed to be familiar to me, as if his musical language emanated from a home I shared.
• “Voodoo Chile” Jimi Hendrix
This is live and crazy good. Avoid the new remastering – it’s like a graffiti artist smudging the Mona Lisa. The original mixes were perfect. Delicate, loud, sexy and otherworldly. And Jimi’s rather silly-sounding voice is not silly at all. as told to Zena Alkayat

* Helped along by a stunning piece of fretless bass playing by David Hayes.

EXTRA: Yasiin Bay (Mos Def as was) undergoing Guantánamo Bay force-feeding procedure.
Watch it and weep.

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