Thursday, January 14th. Five Things that I Didn’t Write About in 2015, Part Two.

BREAKING BLING
In a distinguished lineage that includes Peter Sellers doing “A Hard Day’s Night” in the style of Richard III, and Burt Lancaster fronting The Highwaymen, intoning “The Birdman of Alcatraz”, we have Actors meeting Song, in this case, Drake’s “Hotline Bling” narrated by Bryan Cranston (amongst others). Enjoy.

FAVOURITE SONG I HEARD AND THEN SET OUT TO TRACE…
A hot summer’s day and I’ve just parked the car in a side street in Walthamstow, about to pick up some pegboard that was being made up for me. Bleeding out of a car with closed windows is this great tune, with the repeated refrain – “I’ve got a girl on the other side of town, she’s waiting for me to come around…” There are those moments when a piece of music just seems so right for that time and that place. I motion to the guy inside and politely enquire if he knows who’s singing and what it’s called ­– but he doesn’t, although he agrees that it is a top tune. I find out a while later – Barry Boom singing Lou Ragland’s “Making Love”. It seems that it’s one of the best Lovers Rock tunes out there. It’s here, if you’re interested.

JAMIE XX – I KNOW THERE’S GONNA BE (GOOD TIMES)
It’s always nice to hear a sample of The Persuasions. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot about the rest of Jamie’s song that’s very interesting. I saw The Persuasions once at Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues in a ridiculously hot basement where the audience was on the stage with the group. Two feet from acapella doo-wop is a great place to be. Here’s their lovely version of Dylan’s “The Man in Me”.

And if you like that, this is my absolute favourite, a doo-wop classic, “Looking for an Echo”. What a cracking title – a phrase that sums up a lot of what life’s about. Written by a folkie [Kenny Vance] who acted – guest star on Kojak and The A Team, no less – its yearning and touching lyric hitting dead centre on that large nostalgia target…

And if we went to a party / and they wouldn’t let us sing
We’d lock ourselves in the bathroom / so nobody could get in
’Cause we were looking for an echo / an answer to our sound
A place to be in harmony / a place we almost found…

BEST ONE-STOP SHOP FOR CLASSIC JAZZ COVERS…
…was this post by London Jazz Collector. Virtually every major design style from the Fifties until now is captured in these stunning albums. As the man says… “These are my personal choices, you can see where I’m coming from. Portraiture cements the relationship between the musician and the instrument. Record = hearing, Cover = seeing, Great music, great covers, brings it all together.”

top-covers-late-entries2

ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE
I love a story that dates time like this: “I started working for Selmers around the Truvoice/Grey crocodile era, and left around the grey/silver speaker-cloth era.” Just brilliant. This memoir by Patrick Kirby was found when I was looking for stuff on Selmer amps, whose store used to be at 114-116 Charing Cross Road. After talking about Teisco guitars (see earlier posts), Mark had mentioned that Selmer amps were really sought after as they were so amazing, and that he had once been the proud owner of one. Brett (Best Coast) had mentioned them too, so I realised that was why they now go for thousands instead of hundreds…

“My colleague in the Organ Salon was an unlikely chap called Ted Woodman, who was totally sold on Art Tatum. When I first saw Ted playing Jazz on organ I feared he was having an epileptic fit, or was on drugs… his eyes rolling as he writhed his arms over the keyboards, twisting and turning his legs across the massive 32 note pedalboard, swinging his head around dangerously. Soon after, having seen Alan Haven on TV with the Beatles, doing exactly the same thing, I quickly picked up the art and with the encouragement of a guy called John Bell, who ran the drum department (and was rather nifty with the skins himself), we were out playing jazz gigs in dodgy Soho clip-joints most nights, earning on average 10 shillings each a session (then fondly known as half-a-knicker).

“John and I used to beg and borrow keyboards from the store for gigs, but eventually saved up and bought a second-hand Lowrey Heritage organ from Selmers. I discovered some of the words to a Sergeant Pepper song written on the polished wooden top, and thought this was sacrilege until I found out from John that this was the organ that Selmers used to hire to EMI, Abbey Road! For Bob Dylan and The Band, appearing at the legendary Isle of Wight Music Festival, Selmer engineers took weeks customising a Lowrey H25 console organ. The result was the most amazing set of sounds you’ve ever heard.”

THE NOTE OF A ROOM
From a terrific interview with Richard Flanagan on Bookclub, R4. They were discussing his 2014 Man Booker Prize winning novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which is set among prisoners of war who were forced by the Japanese to work on the notorious Thai-Burma railway. He reads an excerpt where a widow is talking to her visitor about love:
“I have a friend in Ferntree who teaches piano, very musical she is. I’m tone deaf myself, but one day she was telling me how every room has a note – you just have to find it. She started warbling away, up and down, and suddenly, one note came back to us, just bounced back off the walls and rose from the floor and filled the place with this perfect hum, this beautiful sound, like you’ve thrown a plum and an orchard comes back at you. You wouldn’t believe it Mr Evans… these two completely different things, a note and a room, finding each other. It sounded right. Am I being ridiculous – do you think that’s what we mean by love, Mr Evans?”

Flanagan stops reading, and a member of the audience joins in: “Yes, I really noticed that passage in the book, ’cause I’m sort of a failed musician and I know exactly that feeling you get in a room when it just works right to play music in, and I thought it was a lovely metaphor for love, that I’ve never seen used elsewhere before, and I just wondered how you came to think about it…”

Flanagan: “I was drinking with some musicians one night and we ended in a wine cellar in Hobart, in a vineyard in Tasmania and they told me that every room has a note – and I’d never heard this before. Then they started ‘pitching’ their throats, going up and down the scales ’til they found the note of that room and then suddenly it all came back, and as a musician you know this, but I didn’t know it, and I cannot tell you what an extraordinary sound it is when you find the exact pitch of a room, and you hear it coming to you. The whole room thrums with it. It is the most beautiful resonance with the world…”

Five Things, Wednesday 22nd October

Gordon Bennett!
Switching to Strictly Come Dancing I am assaulted by Lady Gaga, looking like Barbara Streisand crossed with Liza Minnelli, shouting jazz lyrics into Tony Bennett’s spookily unlined face. It seems a little cruel and I don’t know what Tony did to deserve this. Then they do a bloody second song! It’s worse than the first! It’s “Anything Goes”, and I much prefer T Bone Burnett’s updating of the Cole Porter standard (It’s in the music player on the right.) I remember, too, that T. Bone also did a great rewritten version of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in which just before the last verse, he amusingly shouts “Let’s Rock!” Lady G does nothing so entertaining. It’s like Variety’s not dead… next they’ll bring back Sunday Night at the London Palladium. Oh. They have…

More T Bone
This week we caught up with True Detective, which was compelling despite the fact that, in the end, it was a rather typical Bayou-set story of tangled family histories, guns, drugs and creeps. If you’ve read any of James Lee Burke’s memorable detective series featuring Dave Robicheaux, you’ll know the territory. The relationship between the two cops across the timeline of twenty years is riveting, though, and wonderfully acted by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The music, either recorded or sourced by Burnett, is excellent, and deliberately avoids slide guitars and accordions while still evoking swamps and hollers.

From London Jazz Collector, this is rather beautiful

Atlantic

The Potency of Cheap Music
Liked this para from Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”, a book about the year her daughter was ill and her husband, John Gregory Dunne died. “…I realized that my impression of myself had been of someone who could look for, and find, the upside in any situation. I had believed in the logic of popular songs. I had looked for the silver lining. I had walked on through the storm. It occurs to me now that these were not even the songs of my generation. They were the songs and the logic, of the generation or two that preceded my own. The score for my generation was Les Paul and Mary Ford, “How High the Moon”, a different logic altogether. It also occurs to me, not an original thought but novel to me, that the logic of the earlier songs was based on self-pity. The singer of the song about looking for the silver lining believes that clouds have come her way. The singer of the song about walking on through the storm assumes that the storm could otherwise take her down.”

From Zoe Williams’ fabulous piece on Northern Soul, The Guardian
“Northern soul was happening everywhere except London,” Constantine says. “That’s because London had a new release culture. They were pushing psychedelia, but a lot of these kids, they didn’t want to wear makeup and dress like hippies. They were coming out of the mod movement, which also played a lot of soul. They had shit jobs where they were dirty in the day – when they went out, they wanted to look sharp.”

Andrew Marlin, 61, was wearing the Fred Perry shirt that he bought in 1970. Between 1971 and 1979, he never missed a Wigan weekend. “I was marked one of the best dancers there,” he says. “Not being big-headed, but I was.” He says his father died at 91 on a dancefloor, but I took this with a pinch of salt. His dancing was, however, unfakeable (I saw it with my own eyes): inimitable, sparse, solitary, beautiful. I don’t mean beautiful in a sentimental way – what a beautiful life, still to be lost in the music of your youth, on a Thursday night in 2014. I mean it literally: graceful and instinctive, like a deer. They say you’re meant to dance like there’s no one watching; no one said you couldn’t watch.

There’s talc in the corner of the dancefloor, though the purists don’t like it. “You don’t need talc,” says Marlin. “Just get some leather soles.” Debbie describes going to the famous Wigan Casino: “We used to put our vodka in a squeezy bag, so if they squeezed your handbag, they couldn’t feel it. One night, we just didn’t get time, and my friend went with a bottle, and they found it, and they confiscated it. They put it on the back shelf, and it was, like talc, talc, talc, talc, bottle of vodka, talc.”

Swoz and Les Beaton (who runs the night with his wife, Carol) DJ under a frilly standard lamp, their record collections worth tens of thousands of pounds. “The sad thing is,” says Swoz, handing me 7 inch after 7 inch records, for me to look at and give back, even though he’d whited over the labels (for confidentiality), so they all looked the same, “when I go, my kids aren’t going to be interested in any of this. They’ll find someone to buy it, but they won’t keep it for themselves.” He hands me a record in an anonymous homemade white cardboard cover, a note on it saying: “RIP Max, not to be sold, ever, never, until we meet.” No, crying? Of course not. Something in my eye.

Five Things, Wednesday 13th August

Don’t hold back, just push things forward
Ithaca Audio’s pertinently titled mashup uses one of the great intros (Shaft) and a bizarre selection of other imagery and soundtracks (Star Wars, Horse/Surf Guinness Ad) to excellent effect. “Shaft” is a Proustian Rush™ thing for me. It always transports me to Tony Blackburn’s (I think) chart rundown show on Sunday evenings, when all the homework – that you should have done on Friday – loomed. The Chart Show as background made it more bearable (though probably not good for the concentration) and occasionally something would issue out of the warm AM fuzz and demand that you stopped what you were doing to listen in wonder and awe. “Shaft” is the track I remember more than any other…

Prestige New Jazz v Esquire
At London Jazz Collector’s blog, a graphic Battle of the Brands: US jazz label Prestige’s covers translated or re-versioned by the UK’s Esquire when they were issued here. I don’t know which I prefer – there’s great work on both sides, as well as the odd duffer. I have the Prestige of Ray Bryant’s Alone With The Blues, but check out the IKEA-like (those ubiquitous piled stones that were done as large prints a few years back) Esquire version…

Royal Blood, Shortlist Interview
The new Morphine (only without the sax)? Not really, but I always like being put in mind of Morphine. Great drummer, wailing saxist and a bassist, Mark Sandman who played 2-string slide bass (!) and created such a unique vibe that you didn’t miss any other instruments. Check these two songs from a French TV show. They sound, if anything, better now, and still as unusual. Sandman died, of a heart attack, way too young… Anyhow, I liked Royal Blood’s answer when they were asked about appearing on US TV: Shortlist: You appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live. What was that like? Mike Kerr:I’d never been to Hollywood, and it’s a very strange place. It’s like a theme park for millionaires. But the show is a very isolated experience. We didn’t meet Jimmy Kimmel or watch the show. It was like turning up to a place in Hollywood and doing a gig to 20 competition winners that were Googling you on the way in.

Paul Anka, on writing “My Way” for Frank Sinatra
In 1967, Frank Sinatra confided over dinner that he’d decided to retire. The Rat Pack was starting to splinter, which made him feel vulnerable, and he was being harassed by the FBI because of his Mob connections. ‘Kid, I’m fed up,’ he said. ‘I’m going to do one more album and I’m out of here.’ Then he lightened up and said: ‘Hey, kid, you never wrote me that song you always promised me. Don’t take too long!’ He’d often joshed with me about writing a song for him, but I’d never got round to it.

A few months later, at home in New York, I couldn’t sleep one night. So I sat at my piano and started playing a French song, “Comme d’habitude”, to which I’d bought the rights. There was a storm brewing and as I played I suddenly sensed myself becoming Frank, tuning into his sense of foreboding. That’s how I got the first line: ‘And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain.’ I thought of him leaving the stage, the lights going out, and started typing like a madman, writing it just the way he talked: ‘Ate it up… spit it out.’ I’d never before written something so chauvinistic, narcissistic, in-your-face and grandiose. Everything in that song was Sinatra.

When I finished, it was 5am. I knew Frank was in Las Vegas, but by then he’d be offstage and at the bar. I called: ‘Frank, I’ve got something interesting – I’m gonna bring it out.’ When I played the song for him, he said: ‘That’s kooky, kid. We’re going in.’ Coming from Mr Cool, that meant he was ecstatic. There was never any question of singing it myself; “My Way” was done Sinatra’s way – and that was unquestionably the right way. Though I do like the way Sid Vicious did it…

I had one of those, honest
On Jeff Gold’s Record Mecca, an autograph book containing The Beatles signatures is priced at $7,500. It’s very similar to my autograph book, which once had the Beatles autographs on a single page, too. It also had The Searchers, Freddie “Parrot Face” Davis and Pete Seeger: they were all guests on Sunday Night at The London Palladium. Our friend, the bassist Lennie Bush, had the gig with the Jack Parnell Orchestra (which was full of great jazzers). Lennie (Sinatra’s go-to bass player on any sessions that Frank did in London) always took my autograph book with him. And then at some point I decided that my friend and colleague, Colin McHenry, was a bigger Beatles fan than me and that he should have that page. Colin, you owe me…

I love that—"To, Martin, keep with it” written by Sinclair Traill, editor of Jazz Journal, who then joked around with Earl and they ended up signing their names as Sinclair Hines and Earl Traill…

I love that—”To, Martin, keep with it” written by Sinclair Traill, editor of Jazz Journal, who then joked around with Earl and they ended up signing their names as Sinclair Hines and Earl Traill…

 

 

 

Five Things: Wednesday 31st July

Everyday I Have The Blues…
Or everyday that Richard posts, anyway. And in a good way. Not to be bossy or anything, but you really should all be following thebluemoment, for the way Richard Williams illuminates popular (and some other kinds of) music with a lucidity that shines out of the computer screen. This week, one of the things that propelled him to the keys was Frances Ha. “It’s not often I want to get up and dance in the aisles of a cinema, but that’s how I felt halfway through Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha the other night, when David Bowie’s “Modern Love” erupted out of the speakers. I’ve never been keen on Bowie (although I admire the stuff from his Berlin period), but “Modern Love” is one of those tracks — like Boffalongo’s “Dancing in the Moonlight”, Danny Wilson’s “Mary’s Prayer” or the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give” — that automatically quicken the heartbeat and turn the world’s colours up a shade. It doesn’t matter who it’s by. Listen without prejudice, as someone once suggested.”

Last Night I Had A Dream…
…in which Bill Nighy suggests I listen to the music of GT Moore and the Reggae Guitars. Strange.

Neil, hung
NeilHanging Henry Diltz’s beautiful photo of NY at Balboa Stadium in 1969 (bought at a strikingly strange auction after a showing of Legends Of The Canyon), I put iTunes on a random Neil Young playlist and it threw up something I had never heard (let alone knowingly owned). It’s from the Citizen Kane Junior Blues bootleg recorded at the Bottom Line in New York in May, 1974. Young was there to see Ry Cooder – and was so inspired that, when Ry had finished, he got up on the stage and played for an hour. Most of the material was unknown to the audience, being from the as-yet unreleased On The Beach. “Greensleeves was my heart of gold” sings Neil, before talking amusingly about depressing folksingers… Hear it in the music player to your right.

Now That’s a Record Cover
H HawesFrom London Jazz Collector’s blog, the moody Hampton Hawes, caught in a great sepia mood. And look at its recording venue: Live at the Police Academy, Chavez Ravine, June 28, 1955, Los Angeles, CA. In related news; if you can, look up a copy of Ry Cooder’s Chavez Ravine, a concept album which tells the story of the Mexican-American community demolished in the 1950s in order to build public housing, which, this being LA, was never built. Eventually the Brooklyn Dodgers built a stadium on the site as part of their move to Los Angeles. Fantastic music, especially good on hot summer days, with fine guest vocalists and astonishing percussion.

Best. Busker. Ever.
Donovan (“Sunny Goodge Street”) meets Arthur Brown (“Fire”)  at twilight by the American Church.

Tubafire

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

From The Blog Of Photographer Heather Harris
“The first four words of vocabulary we learned in Synthesizer 101 class at UCLA (circa 1972, so we’re talking monophonic ARP 2600s) were the descriptions of all musical sound notes: attack, sustain, decay, release. How fitting to the lifeworks of creative types.” Wow. Attack. Sustain. Decay. Release. That’s a manifesto right there, and a great title for a project…

Martin Carthy on Bob Dylan on Desert Island Discs
“The influence of British folk music shows in his later work—he started writing these really anthemic tunes… he was a great performer, a wonderful performer. I don’t believe that anybody who saw his first performance at the King and Queen down in Foley Street would be able to say he gave a bad performance. He stood up, did three songs, absolutely knocked everybody flat. People loved him.”

Is it right that you used to share a flat together?

“No [exasperated exhale]. This story started going round that he stayed with me when he came to London—no, he didn’t. But we did actually chop up a piano. The piano was a wreck, half the keys were missing and it was a very, very cold winter and my wife and I decided to chop up the piano so we took it bit by bit. And by the time Bob came along we were down to the frame. And I’d been given, for my birthday, a Samurai sword and Bob came round to have a cup of tea, and Dorothy—my then wife—said, “Make a fire, Mart,” so I got the sword, and he stood between me and the piano and said, “You can’t do that, it’s a musical instrument!” I said It’s a piece of junk and went to swing at it and before I could swing at it he was whispering in my ear, Can I have a go?

The London Jazz Collector Thinks (A Regular Feature On His Wonderful Site)
“A bent piece of metal pipe with holes called the saxophone transforms human breath into a voice, drums extend the pulse of the heart beat, a piano exchanges ten for eighty-eight fingers, while the bass is the feet on which music walks. Instruments are physical extensions of human form and function that transform man into musician, the ultimate analogue source. Whilst the vocal singing voice can be beautiful, (though often, not) how does it compare with a stream of triplets and sixteenths soaring from Charlie Parker’s alto? It strikes me that not only are records the new antiques, they are works of art, the equal of art framed on gallery walls. You are not just a mere record collector, a figure of fun and pity, poking around in dusty crates. You are, in that immortal expression of Charles Saatchi, an artaholic, in need of a life-sustaining drink.”

This Fabulous Photograph Of John Lee Hooker Explaining It All
John Lee

“I’m not getting any younger, but I’m not feeling very old, Not shoutin’ for my cemetery tomb soon, I’m gonna wait ’til John Lee Hooker makes room…”
Garland Jeffreys, ’Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me, from his latest album (can we still say that?) The King Of Inbetween, where, with the help of the great Larry Campbell, he continues to plow a furrow of his own making, never beaten down, a streetwise NYC poet, part Lou Reed, part Doo-Wop, part John Lee, still a ghost writer with 35mm dreams.

And From Next Week…
For you loyal seventeen followers—or Seventeen Spurious Widows, as an unreleased Bob Dylan song would have it—after one year or 52 posts, and prompted by a great time spent helping out Richard Williams on his new blog (thebluemoment.com, go there now!), a redesign—and to kick it off, a special issue devoted to Bob Dylan and Bette Midler’s hilarious and fascinating Buckets Of Rain session.

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