Sunday, September 10th

ONE IMAGE OF THE WEEK

5-cloudshillThis spectacular gramophone belonging to T.E.Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), seen at his tiny rural retreat, Clouds Hill, in Dorset. From the National Trust website: “The Music Room was where Lawrence used to write and where he entertained his guests. Sometimes they would listen to music played on the special gramophone Lawrence had made, with its huge horn. At other times they would chat, or eat simple suppers out of tins.”

TWO RIP WALTER BECKER 1
“To properly honor Walter Becker, your editor is auditioning 15 freelance eulogists.” 
– American music critic Brad Shoup, on Twitter.

RIP WALTER BECKER 2
Rickie Lee Jones: “The best musician of our group loved Steely Dan, and that was how I came to hear “Bodhisattva”, “My Old School”, “Pearl of the Quarter”. Lines about Annandale and oleanders with pesky stomping bass and drums. I mean these guys knew how to make music. They had a hit on every record – I mean a thing that was played on the radio over and over – that became part of how we saw our collective selves. I was brought up, you might say, on writing thick with imagery and subtle implication and I loved it. I loved the innuendo, the humor, the sting. The genius was as much in the part we filled in, the lines they didn’t write. That was where the sticky stuff of memory made their music a part of our own personal history. I knew about hiding behind the oleanders, heck I grew up in Arizona… It wasn’t the specific line, it was the sorrow and fury of the melody, Bring back the Boston rag. Tell all your buddies that it ain’t no drag.”
On the music player on the right hear Steely Dan in 1974 at the Rainbow Theatre in London ripping through “The Boston Rag.”

RIP WALTER BECKER 3
The “Mu Major” chord. This is the clearest explanation that I found. Apparently, its first appearance was in the 12th Century, in Perotin the Great’s “Viderunt Omnes”. It appears in many Dan songs, including “Deacon Blues”, “Black Cow”, “Don’t Take Me Alive” and “Fire in the Hole”.

THREE DON’T FORGET THE MOTOR CITY
I’m trying to finish Stuart Cosgrove’s book, Detroit 67 before I go to see the movie, but frustratingly, it’s a bit of a slog. Great research, fascinating information, but poorly edited, so progress has been slow. The story told here of the Supremes is perfect as a microcosm of the problems inherent in Berry Gordy’s Motown project, and the Florence Ballard material key, but there’s too much repetition and it isn’t focused enough. The evocation of that time in Detroit is terrific, and I’d still recommend it, but the skill involved in book editing should not be overlooked. (Still below from a selection of photos of performers backstage, taken by Magnum photographers – thanks, Bob).

5-supremes

For extra background, this WXYZ-TV Detroit Channel 7 segment on Detroit in 1967 is interesting. There’s a lovely bit 11 minutes in where Dennis Coffey plays the intro to “Just My Imagination”. Which is just fabulous.

FOUR THE VILLAGE VOICE’S PRINT EDITION IS DEAD
I remember occasionally finding copies of VV in Camden, and on any trip to New York, it had to be picked up immediately. There were some excellent online tributes, amongst them this from Joe Levy, who was the music editor there in the late eighties/early and is currently contributing editor for Rolling Stone“In 1987 I was an intern for the Voice music editor, Doug Simmons. There was a strike benefit for the union that summer — Public Enemy and Sonic Youth played. It was at a small club, but Public Enemy’s show was already pretty much arena-sized, with the S1Ws stepping as Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Terminator X upended all notions of musical possibility. When Sonic Youth took the stage, they announced they would play an instrumental set because ‘Public Enemy had used all the words.’ Think for a second about these two groups, and how they defined the noise that New York City gave the world. And think about the next year, which would bring Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. Then think about the two of them showing up at a newspaper’s union strike benefit and playing back to back. That was the Voice, and its music section, in action.”

FIVE DON’T YOU LOVE A PRESS RELEASE FROM ANNIE (ST. VINCENT) CLARK?
hi, all.
it’s been a while. songs, albums, videos, shows, press. putting out a record is like having a bridezilla-style* wedding every 2-3 years. lots of “did you get the save the date? it was an email cause, you know, the planet…” and fussing over flower arrangements, except you’re walking down the aisle to your own music by yourself, to your “self.” your bridesmaids and groomsmen are your label, agents, managers, day managers, personal assistants standing expectant with a mixture of stress, excitement, pride. the fans are the attendees, who will pick sides (this side prefers the old you walking down the aisle, this side is onboard for the new you waiting at the altar, there is definitely one person who will protest the marriage in a drunken, dramatic way…) a lot of pomp. plenty of circumstance. but sometimes what gets lost in all the mothers-in-law, speeches, and seating arrangements (has this metaphor stretched so thin that it belies the fact that i have neither attended many weddings, nor aspired to my own?) is this simple fact: it’s about love**. At its best and at its core, it’s about love. that’s it. that’s all. that is literally the only point. (and i mean “literally” to mean literally.) this record is from my heart to yours. i hope it finds its way there.
love, ac
* yo, i know it’s sexist AF.
** for the sake of the emotional momentum of this note, we are choosing to ignore that century of marriage were not, in fact, about love but about wealth consolidation/women as chattel***
*** yo, i know that’s sexist AF.

A RECOMMENDATION
Ozark on Netflix. Money launderer for the cartel Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) has to get out of town with his wife (Laura Linney) and kids and swiftly relocate. To the area of the title (the highland region of the central United States) where the lake of the Ozarks has more shoreline than California. Great acting and terrific to look at, and there’s some nice work on the soundtrack, especially in the early episodes. One of the later ones has Bob Seger’s “Still the Same” running through it, used in almost every scene. I missed Bob and His Silver Bullet Band back in the day – just not on my radar, but I was pleased to make amends.

Five Things: Wednesday 29th May

Wayne Miller died last week
Wayne Miller was one of the less famous names at the legendary photo agency Magnum. When we were looking for a cover for our album in 1986, to be called South, we were determined not to have ourselves in the frame. Our first single had used a Weegee photo of a burning building, and we liked the anti-80s feel of black and white photography. In the mid-80s every cover seemed to have sharp pinks and hard yellows and glossy, overlit faces shining out.
Wayne
We were looking for a photo that summed up the feel of a record recorded partly in the Alabama heat of Muscle Shoals, and found it in the book that accompanied Ed Steichen’s famous Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955. The photo we fell in love with was of a couple in a clinch. It was part of a series taken in 1949 of migrant workers – cotton pickers – in California. We thought that the intensity and intimacy was something to behold. There’s another wonderful image in this series of the same couple, the man sitting disconsolately on the bed, with the woman lazily fiddling with her nails. I’m still not sure how we convinced anyone to go with this approach, but we did. Of course, the record company could probably point to the cover having something to do with the paltry sales of the album… The type is cut out of some posters that we had printed by Tribune Showprint, of Earl Park, Indiana. You can read about the rather great Mr. Miller here. If you’re curious, more on our failed career here.

The Clash interviewed, The Guardian
Paul Simenon on musicianship: I’d become musically more capable. I could take off the notes that were painted on the neck of my guitar. But then I did make a mistake in being really confident: I went for one of those jazz basses that didn’t have frets… and when it goes really dark, and you can’t quite hear what you’re playing, it suddenly sounds like you’re drunk. So I said: “You know what? I think I’ll have the frets put back on.” I got a bit carried away. I thought I was getting quite good, but I got a big slap in the face.

…and on presentation: A lot of the looks were down to financial problems. Everyone in those days wore flares and had long hair. So if you went into secondhand stores, there’d be so many straight-legged trousers because everyone wanted flares. That instantly set you apart from everybody else. And also there was another place called Laurence Corner… Mick Jones: Selling army surplus…

I work along the road from where Laurence Corner was, and still fondly remember the green Army Jacket I bought there. Now there’s a chemist in its place, but they’ve put a nice plaque in the window…

Laurence

That Difficult Second Album
Sexual Healing, Pamela Stephenson Connolly’s sex therapy column in The Guardian: “My boyfriend talks too much during sex. We’ve been together for a year and recently he’s started talking to me while we’re intimate. At first it was everyday stuff like what he wants for dinner but then essentially he began ranting. Do you know how hard it is to climax while listening to someone talk about how many bands have produced “disappointing second albums”? I don’t know if I can go on like this.”

Rolling Stone’s Bob Dylan Special
No professional manicures for Bob…

bobmanicure

Stephen Collins’ strip, Guardian Weekend
Still, his wonderful anti-Mumfords bandwagon rolls on…

Scollins

Not room this week for Sam Amidon at Bush Hall, intriguing, strange and moving in equal measure. More next week…

%d bloggers like this: