FTIS&HTW: Wednesday 20th February

What I’ve Learned, Thom Yorke, US Esquire
“My grandfather would come to our house in the countryside, borrow one of our bikes, and disappear. He’d come back after dark and we had no idea where he’d been. If he ran into anybody, he’d just ask them where the good nightclub was. He did that right up until his nineties.”

The Disarray Of Staff Benda Bilili

Benda
Sad news that SBB are no more. Last year, Marcel and I went to see a preview of the film telling their story, followed by the band in concert, and both were wonderful. The film’s an uplifting piece of work full of great scenes (my favourite being when teen genius Roger—player of self-invented tin-can and wire instrument, having just been found downriver and asked to join the band—is given a stern talking-to by his mother and sister). The show was as riotous as a concert in a chapel can be, and finished with some of the finest dancing I’ve ever seen, especially as most of it was done by men on crutches and in wheelchairs.

Mr Hyde Mailout, extolling virtues of “Birmingham Scene”
IS THIS THE NEXT BIG MUSIC SCENE? shouts the headline. “What do you know about Digbeth? We do have one useful thing you should know about it: it’s been lazily dubbed the “Shoreditch of Birmingham” thanks to three young bands who are rising to prominence after spending their formative years hanging out there. Is “B-Town” 2013’s version of Madchester? Meet the major players and decide…”

So I do. I Soundcloud them all. Three bands from the, uh, West Midz. First up is Swim Deep: According to Mr Hyde, “producing ethereal, synth-heavy music that’s unashamedly poppy, yet also soulful and endearingly rough around the edges.” The band’s vocalist says “[Birmingham bands] are making the UK’s best music. It’s not all the same like in other scenes–it’s a really varied sound.” Mmmm. I say: Ordinary boy vocals. Ordinary melodies. Tinny beats.

I try number two. Jaws. Mr Hyde again: “their fuzzed-out shoegaze-indebted sound can’t remain in the shadows for long in any era that sees a new My Bloody Valentine album so warmly received. The vocalist says: “I heard someone describe us as Ian Curtis In LA, which is pretty cool.” Right. Ordinary boy vocals. Ordinary melodies. Tinny beats.

Sensing a pattern I move to number three, Peace. My Jekyll (sorry, I mean Mr Hyde): “Their gift is writing complex, Foals-esque tracks but with huge, sing-along choruses. The vocalist says: “Our music should make you want to shake and make you want to cry at the same time. And sometimes it should make you want to party.” Ordinary boy vocals, more guitars than the others, slightly less tinny beats.

I’ve got to say, five minutes in the company of each of these bands only made me think Where’s the new here? Why are they all so satisfied with replicating what’s gone before? Why are all the vocals so… dull? And how desperate are journalists to discover a new “scene”?

Lately, A Ken Colyer State Of Mind

Dobells Listeners

Before filming an interview with John Williamson and his charming crew for a BBC 4 documentary, I had looked out some hopefully useful material. Among my favourite finds was this picture, taken by the Brighton Evening Argus, of Doug Dobell’s first shop, shopfitted by my dad, in 1956. The programme, to be shown in late May, focuses on the British Jazz Revival of the late Forties and early Fifties. My job was to help illuminate the extraordinary trip that Ken made to New Orleans in 1952, jumping ship in Mobile to play with some of his heroes, breaking the law in several ways to do so. I also recently compiled this piece for The Stansbury Forum about Ken’s pilgrimage, based on reminiscences and letters from Goin’ Home: The Uncompromising Life and Music of Ken Colyer.

The Mad Opening Number of A Chorus Line
My mother’s birthday. A show. The pre-opening night, the last of the previews, where the audience seems packed with the cast’s relations, which gives a peculiarly heightened air to the whole performance. It’s actually pretty great—in some ways a weirdly prescient view of Reality TV’s audition process—but my favourite musical moment comes right at the beginning. The opening number I Hope I Get It pits frenzied Seventies Lalo Schifrin wah-wah disco, all tom rolls and rim shots, against the Tin Pan Alley tune of the refrain, “I really need this job/Please, God I need this job/I’ve got to ge—t this jo—b.” Cue massed jazz hands and that particularly Michael Bennett-style of angular shock dancing. Magic!

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 30th January

What In Music’s Name Is This?:
Marcel’s Miller/Moptops Mayhem

A small package arrived in the post. Square, the size of a CD. It was a ESD* and was covered in writing. There was no mystery who it was from, as it was signed, but it had an air of mystery around it.
“Martin, follow these five simple steps to nausea and amazement. 1. Log on to http://forgottenalbums.com/albums/?p=59. 2. Bask in a warm nostalgic glow as you enjoy the album cover. 3. Read the blog, remembering that this guy is not making this album up. 4. Play the CD 5. Ask yourself ‘Why?’ P.S. The guitar solo on Let It Be is THE FINEST thing I’ve ever heard x Marcel.”

Marcel

From:      Martin Colyer
Date:       24 January 2013 07:56:31 GMT
To:           Marcel Ashby
Subject:   Has a song not benefited from the…
Glenn Miller treatment more than Something? God Almighty, that’s horrific! Oh, hold on, I’ve just listened to Michelle. Still trying to locate the original melody. Let It Be? Let It Stop, more like. I’m thinking you shortened it by one track (that great Beatles classic, Bird Cage Walk) just out of the kindness of your heart. I must lie down now.

At least they spent some money on the cover

At least they spent some money on the cover

Oh, and don’t get me started on that guitar solo in Let It Be, which seems to actually be playing a different song. It’s as if there was a surf guitarist walking past the studio door playing, and they grabbed him, hit record and didn’t miss a beat. The fact it has nothing to do with the tune of Let It Be, or, indeed, any tune, is neither here nor there. And the last two notes are to die for. Or something.

*Evil Silver Disc, according to vinyl obsessives.

In Bob News This Week
First impressions, Inside Llewyn Davis Trailer
1) They’ve captured the look of 1962 New York rather well.
2) It’s nice that a lesser-known Bobsong soundtracks this teaser.
3) Looks like Carey Mulligan has some good lines.
4) Bob-strokes-cat a little earlier than Guy Peellaert would have us believe (although the character of Llewyn Davis could equally be based on Dave Van Ronk).
5) John Goodman will have plenty of raucous lines, and his will be the haircut of the film.
6) Fresh from Homeland, F Murray Abraham as the owner of the Gate of Horn Nightclub in Chicago. Which makes him Albert Grossman in this scenario.
7) Oscar Isaac’s teeth are in way-too-good condition for 1962.

Uh Huh—It Was The Manfreds
From Tom McGuinness’ sleeve notes for the Manfred Mann Ages Of Mann compilation CD:
“Bob Dylan’s Mighty Quinn was our third number One. Al Grossman, Dylan’s manager, played us the song.“Why does Dylan get such a useless vocalist to sing his demos?” Manfred asked. “That’s Bob singing”, said Al.”
Oh, and I never knew that Jack Bruce was in Manfred Mann. He plays bass on the great Pretty Flamingo. Or, indeed, that Klaus Voormann replaced Bruce when he left.

Aimee Mann, Ghost World, RFH, Jan 28th
My favourite moment at Aimee’s concert (thanks, Barney!) was her performance of the best post-school/pre-life song ever written. Prompted by a twitter request, this rarely-played (and unknown by the rest of the band) gem stood out. Named for, and inspired by, Daniel Clowes’ great graphic novel, every glorious line rang clear, sat on the cushion of Aimee’s patented J45 strum—“Finals blew, I barely knew/My graduation speech/And with college out of reach/If I can’t find a job it’s down to dad/And Myrtle Beach”—joined by bassist Paul (Mountain Man) Bryan’s harmonies and the trippy off-the-cuff keys of Jebin (Freak Flag) Bruni, all carnival swirl and hum. And by coincidence, watching Community the following night (your next must-rent boxset) and having Jeff and Pierce’s hysterical Spanish Project performance acted out to Aimee’s Wise Up.

Dateline: New Orleans. Brett Mielke Reporting…
“Well, the record shop I first went to and bought Ken’s records back in 2003 survived Katrina and the slow death of record stores! Had a visit and bought a wealth of KC music. Also had a long chat with the clerk who was about my age and knew an unbelievable amount about the music. Fear not, relatives of all generations, the Ken Colyer legacy is still alive and well in the Crescent City…”

NO

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 15th August

Emusic Find Of The Week
“My name is Dale Hawkins, and I wanna dedicate this song… to the three cities… that I, uh… had the pleasure of recording this tune in! Give a listen and you’ll hear ’em.”—DALE HAWKINS, cousin to Ronnie, creator of the fabulous Susie Q (if you haven’t heard it in years download it now! James Burton’s guitar—out-of-this-world!). This is from L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas, title song of his obscure late sixties release, with Burton, Cooder, Mahal, Penn & Oldham all playing. It’s on the great compilation Country Funk 1969-1975. “Ain’t no bum trip, man,” he drawls over a particularly out-of-place flute solo. “It just goes to show ya, man, you can take the soul pickers out of the soul country, but you can’t take the soul out of the pickers…” As Pitchfork says “Weird, in a totally wonderful way,” and it’s hard to disagree.

From Dakar to Kampala!
We started two weeks ago at the football with Senegal’s lovely anthem and, in some excellent circularity, ended with hymne Uganda—“a musical treat” according to The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw—at the final medal ceremony, in honour of Stephen Kiprotich’s stunning gold-medal run in the marathon. A musical treat it is—I’d pay good money to hear either Randy Newman or Garth Hudson do an arrangement…

Best Coast, 100 Club, London
I hadn’t been to the 100 since it was saved by Converse’s sponsorship. Very happy to see that nothing much had changed—remarkably branding-free and still sweaty, loud and rocking. Brett was playing bass and guitar with Best Coast, and I took his picture by the plaque that’s there for my uncle, his great grandfather, Ken.

Fifty Shades Of Tortoiseshell

Jazz-themed sunglasses from St Albans. Nice.

Take A Load Off RP
Robert Pattinson in French culture mag Les InRockuptibles: “I’m going to do a movie about The Band, the one that played with Dylan: a beautiful script about the nature of songwriting.” Mmmmmmm… I may be lost for words {although, to be fair, he comes over well in the interview}.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 18th July

Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie, born 14th July, 1912
My favourite photograph of a musician is this, a picture of Woody Guthrie, kindly given to me by the peerless Bob Gumpert. It’s my favourite because it has all the essential ingredients for a great music photo: An Icon. A Cigarette. A great location. A wide-angle that puts you right there. An acolyte, absolutely in the moment of playing with an trailblazer. A fascinated, curious crowd, all looking about fifteen. Their expressions are priceless.

Jack ’n’ Woody

I asked Bob how he came to have the picture: “It was taken by a photographer named Art Dubinsky—I am guessing the late 50’s-early 60’s in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, NYC. The other guitar player is Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. Art was a friend, a generous man who was a far better photographer than he got credit for. He lived in NYC at the time—at least I think so. I met him when he lived in LA and I was working in a rental darkroom, time behind the counter for time at the enlarger. He came in one day to use the darkroom as his home had burned down. We got to talking and became friends. He put me in contact with the National Lawyers’ Guild which led first to my photographing farmworker housing at Gallo wine, housing they said they didn’t have, and then to Harlan County, Kentucky for three months of photographing a coal miner’s strike. That in turn led to everything else. Sorry—I guess that is really more about Art and I and not the photo. He gave me the image, probably for no other reason than I liked it and had said so.” An appropriate story to celebrate Woody’s hundredth birthday—a story of friendship, inspiration and workers’ rights.

Poor Old Donovan, Destined To Be Dissed By Dylan Comparison Forever*
The always-amusing Barney Ronay on André Villas-Boas, new Spurs Manager, Guardian. “…there was something oddly heartening about the return in full-page panoramic close-up of André Villas-Boas, now formally in place as the new head coach of Tottenham Hotspur, and appearing, austerely suited in the middle of all this wretchedness, like an unexpected knock at the door from the local curate, who against all expectation you find yourself delightedly ushering inside. Welcome back, André. It has become fashionable to see Villas-Boas as a rather tarnished figure, to recall the frictions of his time at Chelsea, to balk at that familiar air of manicured expectancy. And to portray him instead as a kind of weak-chinned, own brand José Mourinho, Donovan to Mourinho’s Dylan, a provincial Wimpy bar to Mourinho’s gleaming McDonald’s, a managerial Sindy doll of prodigious inauthenticity. This is more than a little unfair. If nothing else there is much to admire in the way Villas-Boas is still out there… displaying the unshakable backseat extroversion that all the best managers have, as he winces and struts centre stage in skinny-trousered splendour, looking each time a little more like a tiny little dancing soldier on top of a wedding cake, or, increasingly, like a particularly convincing waxwork of himself.”

* However, Donovan doesn’t see it this way himself—there’s not much humility going on in his autobiography, The Hurdy Gurdy Man. The evidence of Don’t Look Back doesn’t lie, however—It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue vs To Sing For You?

Roll Away The Stone
The Stones played their first gig at the Marquee club 50 years ago this week. Bill Wyman, in his book, Stone Alone: “On 3 March 1963 we played… an afternoon session at the Ken Colyer Club, Studio 51, in Soho. It was ironic that we were given a great welcome by the ladies, Vi and Pat, who ran this stronghold of New Orleans-style jazz, whereas the jazz snobs at the Marquee and elsewhere saw us as upstarts who should not be encouraged.” The Stones went on to play Ken’s club most Sundays for a year. On September 10th, 1963, The Beatles visited them 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 the office and completed it.

The Sound Of Gatz
Ben Williams is on stage through the whole of Gatz (so that’s about six-and-a-half-hours in all), sitting at a desk off to one side, controlling the sound effects and cues, as well as playing various characters. He does a stunning job—sometimes intensifying the drama, sometimes broadening it out with humour—running the gamut from car crashes and gunshots to air conditioner hums and vaudeville turns. One of the most (unexpectedly) moving moments comes when Mike Iveson, playing Gatsby’s houseguest Klipspringer, turns the office sofa into a piano and mimes the gestures of a pianist, paying along to Williams’ tape. He abruptly stops and sings, acapella, the only words in Gatz which don’t come from Fitzgerald’s book, the song The Love Nest.
Building houses still goes on
Now as well as then
Ancient Jack and Jill are gone,
Yet return again.
Ever comes the question old,
“Shall we build for pride? Or,
Shall brick and mortar hold
worth and love inside?”
Just a love nest, cozy and warm,
Like a dove rest, down on the farm,
A veranda with some sort of clinging vine,
Then a kitchen where some rambler roses twine…

In an exquisite rendition, Iveson turns the theme from the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, a pretty standard Twenties musical number, into a complex, achingly poignant commentary on the emptiness at the heart of Jay Gatsby’s mansion.

M.I.A.’s ‘Bad Girls’ Video, As Recommended This Week In Metro By Shirley Manson
Words are extraneous. Just go to 2:03. Go on.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 6th June

Jubilee Concert Song Choices
Cliff Richard. Devil Woman. Wronged man song. “She’s just a Devil Woman, with evil on her mind.” Give that man a knighthood! Oh, they did…
Robbie Williams. Mack The Knife. Song about a murderer. “Now on the sidewalk… whoo, sunny mornin’, Lies a body just oozin’ life.” Don’t harsh my mellow, Rob!
Ed Sheeran. A Team. Song about a junkie prostitute. “Go mad for a couple grams… And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland, Or sells love to another man.” Thanks, Ed!
Tom Jones. Mama Told Me Not To Come. Song about drug-fuelled party. “That cigarette you’re smoking ’bout to scare me half to death.” Delilah. Song about death and adultery. “She stood there laughing—I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more.” Loving the imagery, Sir Tom!
Stevie Wonder. Superstition. “Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin’ glass, Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.” Hmmmm…

No respite, not even in popular Classical music…
Renee Fleming. Un Bel Di Vedremo (from Madame Butterfly). Deluded woman waits for philandering, unpleasant husband to return.

Best Thing About The Jubilee Concert
Grace Jones. Slave To The Rhythm. The Hula Hoop. Enough said.

The genius of Spy Magazine, now complete and online

Al Hirshfield draws the British editors who made their careers in NYC in the 90s. Diggin’ Anna Wintour as Paul McCartney!

2012-1951
In this Jubilee Week, a look back at the Festival Of Britain, put in mind by a lovely present from the erstwhile jazz drummer Colin Bowden. A framed 78 by the Crane River Jazz Band (on the Parlophone label) of I’m Travelling, with Ken Colyer on cornet and Bill Colyer on washboard. Colin: “That record of I’m Travelling was the first major recording I ever did, because I was in the audience!” Colin was a schoolboy at the time, but went on to become one of the major figures in the Traditional Jazz revival of the early fifties.

Clockwise: Parlophone 78, Bill’s misspelled invite, Princess Elizabeth meets Ken, Programme cover

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