Five Things: Wednesday 7th August

Selfridges Shoe Department
Blue suede shoes by Jeffery West, with the deathly “Please allow me to introduce myself…” line that we can’t seem to avoid, engraved on the sole. And don’t you step on my blue leopardskin shoes, either. {fyi: Both remained unbought.}

Blue SuedeFavourite Song Of The Summer (so far)
Lana Del Rey has covered Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s 1967 track ‘Summer Wine’, (“Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring/My summer wine is really made from all these things”) with, appropriately, her boyfriend – Barrie-James O’Neill of Scottish rockers Kassidy – stepping into Lee Hazlewood’s cowboy boots. It’s bass-heavy and groovy, with gloriously woozy backing vox. It ends with a distant peal of thunder, a snatch of Billie Holiday, some chattering and some beachside noises. In a great piece of iPhone synchronicity it merges into the start of Kevin Ayers “Song From The Bottom Of A Well” with its treated guitars and booming noises (sounding exactly like the song’s title) static-ing between the speakers like some early version of Scott Walker’s Drift.

Underneath Putney Bridge, Sunday

FormbyUkelele practising/busking.
We do a quick duet on
”I’ll See You In My Dreams,”
the Isham Jones/Gus Kahn
tune from 1924 that
Joe Brown played to close
the George Harrison tribute
concert in 2002.

 

Missive from Tim, RE: The Alleycat
”Just to let you know the Iko’s New Orleans Music Shop at the Alleycat is fab. The excellent house band played tunes by Champion Jack Dupree, Professor Longhair,  Jelly Roll Morton, the Band (”Ophelia“) and more. The jam session that followed was of an amazingly high standard and the vibe was all-inclusive, everyone from twentysomethings to pensioners, dreads to suits. I had to drag myself away at midnight to catch the tube, though apparently they carry on to 2am…“ From the venue website: The Alleycat sits just beneath the fabled Regent Sound Studios which was set up at 4 Denmark Street in 1963. With the Rolling Stones recording their first album here, The Kinks recording ”You Really Got Me”, Black Sabbath recording “Paranoid” as well as many other seminal moments of music history, the studio took off as the place to be seen to be making music.

Late Afternoon, Tottenham Court Road
Have Mercy

Taxi advertising my friend MJ Paranzino’s choir, quite possibly a first in choral advertising, swiftly followed by a roller-derby flash mob gyrating to “Disco Inferno”, blasting from a tricycle with giant speakers. We once worked with the co-writer of DI, Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey, cutting a version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” in LA. Ron was fabulously louche, feet on the control board as he lazily played the bassline on a synthesiser, gassing and joking with his engineer, the wonderfully named Hill Swimmer. My memories of the session are of Mark playing the most beautiful Reggie Young-like parallel fourths to the general amazement of the studio gatherees, and Ron asking where the hell he’d learned to play like that, and if he was available for sessions. And of sitting against the wall of the recording room as Alex Brown (Ron’s partner and genius vocal arranger/songwriter for the likes of Anita Baker and Whitney) and her girls sang the backing vocals. What on the record sounds sweet and swooping was delivered to the microphones at an ear-bending volume and hair-raising power. Heather and I stepped back into the control room, emotional and speechless. Ron then had an acetate cut and took us to his local bar, where he would play stuff he was working on to the patrons, for feedback! I can see him there, sipping a gin and tonic through a thin black straw, laughing, enjoying their bemused reaction.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 9th January

Weird iPod Synchronicity Pt4: Hyde Park Corner, London
As Lana Del Ray sparks into life in my headphones, hitting the chorus of Day At The Races [And I’m off to the races/Cases of Bacardi chasers/Chasing me all over town…] a trap and four outriders, all jodhpurs, riding hats & crops, trots in front of the bus, past Apsley House, and makes their way into Hyde Park.

On The Road Again
Fact Of The Week: At number 17 in the Highest Earning World Tours last year, Leonard Cohen is ahead (at £28.4 million) of Justin Bieber… and at Number 27, The Black Keys are ahead of Celine Dion, having grossed $23.5 million. The Black Keys. $23.5 million. Wow…

emusic Find Of The Month: Menahan Street Band, The Crossing
Recorded in a studio paid for by a Jay Z sample, by some of the musicians behind Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley’s sound, mostly during the night, this instrumental album is wonderful. Some of it is Spaghetti Western, some a kind of handicraft Portishead—try Ivory & Blue: jazz horns, soulful wah-wah guitar, funky Seventies pop drumming. Just the right amount of loose, just the right amount of tight, just the right amount of great.

Jeff Buckey: Three Films In Pipeline…
But the one I’m looking forward to (Brendan Fletcher’s A Pure Drop) is written by the fabulously named Train Houston. You’d have to gravitate towards music in some form with a name like Train Houston.

Bowie Back, Nile Rogers Bio, Letters Of Note
One the evening before David Bowie’s return to PopWorld™ I was reading Nile Rodgers’ very entertaining biography Le Freak, and had reached the part where he talks about recording Let’s Dance with the label-less Bowie.

“As I say to vocalists who are singing a little flat, sharp, or out-of-the-pocket, We’re in the neighbourhood, but we haven’t found the house yet.” David Bowie helped me find the house.

Not long after I arrived in Switzerland, Bowie strolled into my bedroom with a guitar.“Hey, Nile, listen to this, I think it could be a hit.” What followed was was a folksy sketch of a composition with a solid melody: the only problem was it sounded to me like Donovan meets Anthony Newley. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. I’d been mandated to make hits, and could only hear what was missing… I started reworking the song. I soon discovered the diamond in the rough.

[We] asked Claude Nobs, creator of the Montreux Jazz Festival, to round up a handful of local musicians… gone were the strummy chords… I’d replaced them with staccato stabs and a strict harmonic interpretation. I used silence and big open spaces to keep the groove and kept rearranging it on the spot, like I always did with Chic. David quickly got down with the reshaping of his song. We had a lot of fun and laughter in that Swiss studio with those terrific musicians… Laughter is the key to my sessions—the unconditionally loving parent in the room.”

And from Letters Of Note: In November of 1970, a month after signing a five-year publishing deal with Chrys­alis Music, 24-year-old David Bowie wrote the following letter to Bob Grace, the man who signed him, and briefly filled him in on his life so far:

November 17th, 1970
Haddon Hall

Mr. Bob Grace
Chrysalis Music Ltd
388/398 Oxford Street
London W1

Dear Bob
I was born in Brixton and went to some Schools thereabout and studied Art. Then I went into an Advertising Agency which I didn’t like very much. Then I left and joined some Rock ’n’ Roll Bands playing Saxophone and I sang some which nobody liked very much.

As I was already a Beatnik, I had to be a Hippie and I was very heavy and wrote a lot of songs on some beaches and some people liked them. Then I recorded Space Oddity and made some money and spent it which everybody liked.

Now I am 24 and I am married and I am not at all heavy and I’m still writing and my wife is pregnant which I like very much.

LOVE DAVID

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 4th April

Acoustixx
Could you sound like the xx with just a cheap acoustic guitar and a cassette tape machine meant for accompanying karaoke? Willis Earl Beal can. Young, black, Southern, heartbroken, can draw, could soundtrack Juno. Evening Kiss is beautiful, insistent, mournful, touching. “This record was recorded on bad equipment. I like it that way.” Amen.

Churn, Churn, Churn
To everything there is a season… and it seems that right now it’s a fashion season, belonging to Flo and Lana. It used to be that it would take a good few years for pop or rock stars to get sucked into other orbits such as film or literature, but now the career path is Voguealicious. Is this diversification, to make the Fame Moment™ last longer? We’ve had Flo and Karl, sittin’ in a tree, yet Stylist’s cover story this week says that, “despite two number 1 albums and 18 awards Florence Welch is a reluctant star.” Really? Reluctant? It sure looks it, in the 327 full-page pictures they’ve run of her. To be fair, it’s a good interview that does paint her as someone who accepts all of this so that she can do the work she cares about… And Lana, first whispered about in September last year, now (already!) the recipient of the fashion equivalent of the Légion d’honneur, a Mulberry bag named after her, because of her—are you ready?—“retrospective look.” As for the bag, straight out of W. Eugene Smith’s Life Magazine story, “Country Doctor,” I’m failing to see much Del Rey.

Tommy, Can You Hear Me?
Tracklist for Tom Jones’ upcoming album, produced by Ethan Johns:
Tower Of Song (Leonard Cohen)
(I Want To) Come Home (Paul McCartney)
Hit Or Miss (Odetta)
Love And Blessings (Paul Simon)
Soul Of A Man (Blind Willie Johnson)
Bad As Me (Tom Waits)
Dimming Of The Day (Richard Thompson)
Travelling Shoes (Vera Hall Ward)
All Blues Hail Mary (Joe Henry)
Charlie Darwin (The Low Anthem)

Great song choices. Do I want to hear Tom Jones sing them?
Answer: Save Me, Jesus (Bobby Charles)

The Sound Of Dobell’s
“Every Jazz fan is born within the sound of Dobell’s!”
An email from Leon Parker, announcing the launch of his resource dedicated to Britain’s hugely influential Record Shops. Charlie Gillett introduced us because of Doug Dobell’s shops on Charing Cross Road (which my dad Bill built, and where I worked as a teenager). There are some nice reminiscences on the site (to which more will hopefully be added) and I particularly liked Rob Hall’s: “It was an ambition of mine to own all the albums featured on the bags they used.” Bill had selected the albums and had them photographed by an advertising photographer he knew in Soho, who shot it on lith film for better reproduction. Accidental design, it still looks good today. www.britishrecordshoparchive.org/dobells.html

Pic(k) Of The Week
“Sometimes, if I crave silence I turn to my Land 250. The experience of taking Polaroids connects me with the moment. They are souvenirs of a joyful solitude.” Patti Smith.
I thought that maybe I’d lost this, a sweet souvenir from an installation at Fondation Cartier in Paris that “reflected 40 years of her more personal visual art-making and creative expression,” but it turned up this week. And it will never be used in anger, of course.

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