A Catch up of Sorts…

Well, it’s been some time. To recap, I used to write something, most weeks, called Five Things I Saw and Heard This Week. Obviously, that’s not been the case lately. I know that at this point I’m a prize-winning dilettante, but really… I’m going to attempt to stick to a schedule in 2020 (and hoping that someone, somewhere is thinking of a song-by-song cover of the Beach Boys’ 20/20). So, on waking from falling asleep in the Second Quarter of the Super Bowl to see first Shakira, then J Lo, strutting their stuff terrifyingly (especially the outdated Jackson-era crotch-grabbing) I went to bed, only to miss the outrageously exciting end to the game. But I awoke and started writing a Bunch of Things as a kind of catch up, along with a few observations from the last few months of movie watching in anticipation of the Oscars.

{ONE} I’d like to personally thank Joe Biden for bringing the word Malarkey into the modern world. Trump brought Blowhard and Carpetbagger back, and Joe is making his linguistic pitch with his campaign slogan, painted on his campaign buses as they criss-cross Iowa — “Joe Biden: No Malarkey”. He once said to Paul Ryan that what he’d stated about Obama’s foreign policy was “a bunch of malarkey”. Something makes me feel that Joe doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of the nation, or, possibly, anything. In more US politics news: the story that this New Yorker piece, “Impeachment by Day, Drum Solo by Night”, tells is just so weird…

{TWO} Sam Mendes’ 1917 was, for its first 45 minutes, exceptional. And then it got less and less exceptional as the Mendes traits of cliched storytelling and over-egged theatrical performances from stunt-cast stars (Firth, Cumberbatch, Scott) took its toll. The night time stuff looked like a video game, and the last scene with “Wooden” Richard Madden (as he’s known in our house) was the final straw. Of course, it won all the BAFTAs.

{THREE} I’ll watch Adam Driver in anything*, even a Kramer v Kramer for the New Twenties, Marriage Story, which was compelling, save for the two musical interludes courtesy of the Steven Sondheim songbook. Driver’s was in a New York bar, singing “Being Alive”, and Scarlett Johansson’s family performance of “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” took place in Sunny SoCal. Both were strangely naff and slightly WTF. Apparently they “represent some of the finest interpretations of Sondheim ever seen on-screen, capturing the richness and emotion of the lyrics and, in recontextualising them, adding new meaning”, according to Little White Lies. I beg to differ. 

*I say that but I’ve just realised that I tested that theory to destruction with Jim Jarmusch’s dreadful The Dead Don’t Die, hands down the worst made, most narcoleptic, in-joke drivel I’ve ever (half) seen. 

{FOUR} Spoiler Alert: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has Quentin Tarantino’s signature use of music — finding the best 30 or 40 seconds of a song — intact. A great example is the Mamas and the Papas’ “Straight Shooter”, a proto-“Last Train to Clarksville” (they both use the same musicians, a few months apart). It has a great lick for the intro and then, after you hit the end of the first verse, becomes much less compelling. 

The same is true of “Little Green Bag” by the George Baker Selection from Reservoir Dogs, a fantastic first minute followed by a truly terrible mariachi chorus, where it goes major Torremolinos. The film — you know the Hollywood one I started talking about, that one — it’s awful. It meanders and tries to be funny, and not one section of it works as a satisfying part of an over-arching story. You won’t ever get that 160 minutes back. It used the same dopey trope as Yesterday, the “what if someone stopped the Manson gang on the night of August 8th” replacing “only a couple of people in the world knew the Beatles existed”. 

And the day after I watched it, browsing in Fopp, I bought Etta James’s first 5 albums bundled together for a fiver. A cursory listen revealed that “Seven Day Fool” from Second Time Around gets nominated for my “Should be Used in a Tarantino Film” music award. I’m also partial to her fantastic vamp over a spectacular arrangement on “One For My Baby (and One for the Road), also from Second Time Around. The way sings “One Mo-awwwww…” before the modulation is just fabulous. 

{FIVE} If you’re looking for something Tarantino-esqe, but good, then try Drew Goddard’s Bad Night at the El Royale, better written and more fun than Once Upon a Time, with a great ensemble cast (Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson) and a show-stealing turn from Cynthia Erivo as a nightclub singer. She’s an actor and singer — both totally convincingly. She’s up for an Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman. Another double threat is Jessie Buckley, who was, apart from Joaquin Phoenix, by some stretch the only reason to watch the BAFTAs. She sang a song from the film Wild Rose, “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)”. Before it, she said, “I woke up this morning and thought: I’m going to enjoy myself tonight. I’m doing the song with my beautiful friends Neil MacColl and Ben Nicholls. We’re sitting on a stool and we’re just going to give it laldy [Scottish for “thrashing”]. I’m just going to sing my socks off and really enjoy it. Life’s too short not to enjoy these things.” She did, indeed, sing her socks off.

Oh, and Parasite is the best fiction film that I’ve seen in the last year. Its nailing of character and plot by the tautest of dialogue is like an object lesson in nuance and style. Your sympathies and loyalties shift with each scene, you find out all you need to know with the deftest of strokes, and the film as a whole is beautifully played, directed and edited. 

{SIX} Show Me the Picture!

At the Elgar Room in the Royal Albert Hall, we see an early showing of a beautifully made (great footage, exceptional editing, wonderful soundtrack) documentary on the great San Francisco photographer, Jim Marshall. Q&A with director Alfred George Bailey and Marshall archive director Amelia Davis hosted by RBP’s own Barney Hoskyns. Highly recommended.

{SEVEN} For my birthday I was given the beautiful 50th-anniversary box of the remastered Band album. It is a fabulous thing. Leaving aside the usual complaint about price (£90) and the gouging of faithful fans who have bought this album in three formats over the years, listen to this alternate version of “Rag, Mama, Rag”. It’s looser than the released version (if such a thing is possible) and has an inimitable piano intro courtesy of Garth, no tuba and the slinky Richard Manuel groove that shouldn’t work, but does because of the counterpart of Levon’s chunky mandolin and Robbie’s taut guitar.


If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Extra! A Christmas Song

Normally, at this point of the year, I’d post a cover of a traditional Christmas song that I like. This year, however, I couldn’t find something that I felt like doing, so I looked through my back catalogue (!) and found something Christmas-centric. Eight years on I finished it off. Featuring David Miles on bass, and a list of the randomest place names I could find (that rhymed), here is “(I’m Trying to Make it) Home for Christmas”.

Baby, I’m writing you, just to tell you that I love you,
And I’m really trying hard to come home for Christmas.
Baby, I’m trav’ling from the Eastside to the West
And it’s a long winter’s march to get back home for Christmas.
… and it’s cold outside

Oh I might be in Kyiv or Tuscumbia
Carmarthen or Nepal
Wherever the hell I am in this world
I’m trying to make it home for Christmas…
I’m trying to make it home for Christmas…

Baby, I’m calling you, just to tell you that I love you,
And I’m really trying hard to come home for Christmas

Well I might be in Dubai or Columbia
Kandahar or St. Paul
Wherever the hell I am on this earth
I’m trying to make it home for Christmas…
I’m trying to make it home for Christmas…

You can find the other Christmas Songs here.

More Than 5 Things, September 12th, Pt. 1

I’ve seen lots of stuff over the weeks since the last post, and here it is, in no particular order. It has nothing to do with music, but you have to watch The Octopus in My House on iPlayer to see the finest nature programme of the past year. Three-hearted, blue-blooded and entirely boneless… you’ll never order octopus in a restaurant again. And, as the publicity happens for The Last Waltz at 40 tour, I’m just trying to figure out why none of the publicity mentions Garth Hudson, only musicians like Warren Haynes and Jamey Johnson, who, last time I looked, have no real Band connections. It’s also been amusing to see which media outlets had an issue with Lana Del Rey’s latest, Norman Fucking Rockwell, and how they decided to deal with that middle word. Was it F***ing? F—ng? Or F@!%ing? And there are no words for what’s happening politically at the moment in Britain, so on with the show…

{ONE} I LOVE A GOOD INTERVIEW
Fascinating Clive Davis interview by David Browne in Rolling Stone.
Which act do you regret not breaking?
“You’re always somewhat regretful of any artist you thought would break. There was the Alpha Band years ago that had T Bone Burnett and a young violinist named David Mansfield. And there were the Funky Kings with Jack Tempchin, who has written so many great songs [the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Already Gone”]”.

I may be the only person who has all three of The Alpha Band albums. Featuring great T-Bone Burnett songs like “The Statue Makers of Hollywood” and “Perverse Generation”, and even a song written with artist Larry Poons. They broke in my house, but possibly not in anyone else’s. Here’s the photographic proof…

AND ALSO…
Rob Stoner interviewed by Jason Woodbury on Aquarium Drunkard, about his role in Rolling Thunder, and what he thought of the Scorsese film. He asks Stoner about Dylan’s tendancy to cloud and obscure facts about his life and work: “I mean you could even look at that as in his sartorial approach, how he changes his lid every era: started out with a little newsboy hat, a little commie, comrade worker hat, and then he went on to the top hat, then the cowboy hat, then the fucking cab driver hat. It’s all part of him just being a shapeshifter. It’s all intentional, and it’s all in fun. It makes for a more entertaining movie than just another goddamn rock documentary. Also, it’s because it poses more questions than it answers. It sets them up for a sequel.”
AD: Do you think that there will be one?
Rob Stoner: Well, they’ve got plenty of performances left in the can, and furthermore, when they set out to begin this project 12 years ago, Scorsese sent a team around to every principal who was alive at the time to do a day’s worth of interviews. They came to my house. Bob’s manager, Jeff Rosen, sat in my studio with me for an entire day, interviewing me. So they have all these interviews in the can. They’ve got enough to do it. This time, if they do it again, hopefully they’ll mention Jacques Levy, Howard Alk, and Paul Goldsmith.
When asked how he handled working with demanding artists, he put it down to “incredibly good luck and people skills. You have to employ a lot of psychology and tap dancing and tip-toeing around these people’s idiosyncrasies. These idiosyncratic individuals, man, they’re artists. Some of them have acquired their strange quirks and personality by design, some of them are just naturally that way, but either way, you have to accommodate them. It’s all about psychology, really.
AD: And that was just a natural skill set that you possessed?
Rob Stoner: Well, basically, it was a desire to keep the job!
AD: Did you ever work for anybody who was more difficult to please than Dylan?
Rob Stoner: I’m gonna have to save that one for my book, man. [Laughs]

{TWO} MUSIC TO WORK TO

At least, that’s how this track worked for me. Forty two minutes and twenty seconds of “Wichita Lineman”. In places it is exquisitely beautiful. Apparently mentioned in Dylan Jones’ new book about the song (yes, just that song. A whole book). Hear DJ talk about it on the Rock’s Backpages Podcast here (it’s Episode 37).

{THREE} WORLD’S COOLEST TRUMPET?

Coming up in late October, as part of Christies Exceptional Auction, this Miles Davis-owned trumpet… “The trumpet was made by the Martin Company, which had been founded in Chicago in 1865 by the German instrument-maker, Johann Heinrich Martin. By the middle of the 20th century, demand for its trumpets was pretty much insatiable. Dizzy Gillespie was a huge fan, Miles Davis was another. Davis was particularly fond of a model called the Committee. So much so that when the Martin Company was sold to a rival manufacturer in the 1960s – and the production of Committee trumpets officially stopped – they continued to be custom-made for Davis. The Committee horn being auctioned was one of a set of three conceived by designer Larry Ramirez, who was a part-time jazz trumpeter himself. At Davis’s request, one was coloured red, one blue and one black – each of them decorated with a gilt moon and stars, and with the word ‘Miles’ inscribed inside the bell. Ramirez told the story, in later life, of the nerves he’d felt at the moment Davis handed him back one of the horns and said, ‘You play, don’t you?’. He duly played a tentative passage from Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and remembers his relief when Davis observed, ‘Man, you play pretty good’.”

{FOUR} RIP JIMMY JOHNSON, RIP DONNIE FRITTS
When we recorded in the Shoals, Jimmy lent Mark his Telecaster, and us his car. Jimmy, like all of the Shoals team, wanted to help out. Tape Ops, receptionists, engineers, legends – all of them the embodiment of Southern Hospitality. I promptly reversed the car into a telegraph pole. Here I am on the bonnet of the Jimmymobile, pre-prang.

And Donnie (Flip-Side) Fritts was the subject of this lovely memoir by David Hood’s son Patterson (thanks, Bob, for The Bitter Southerner tip). A tribute to “Alabama’s Leaning Man”, he starts, “There was never a time when I didn’t know Funky Donnie Fritts…” and goes on to tell of Donnie’s life and times. “One of my favorites among Donnie’s songs was “Where’s Eddie,” which he and Eddie Hinton co-wrote around sunrise one morning. They got drunk, climbed a tree, and wrote the tune while sitting among the limbs. The British artist Lulu ended up recording it for New Routes, the album she recorded in Muscle Shoals. Years later, my band Drive-By Truckers recorded it for our album Go-Go Boots. Donnie later told me that he and Hinton drunkenly argued over whose name would grace the title. Fortunately, neither fell out of that tree.”

Donnie Fritts and Jimmy Johnson at Muscle Shoals Sound during the Prone to Lean Sessions

{FIVE} NICE NAMING, BRIAN…
The excellent film on Dieter Rams, part of the BBC’s Design Week of programmes, was graced with a fine Eno soundtrack (evocatively named, as usual). The three outliers were a Lotte Lenya Brecht/Weill track, Mancini’s “Days of Wine and Roses” and John Lewis’ “D&E”, both performed by Oscar Peterson.

{BEFORE YOU GO…}
The Tom Waits song location map

The RBP podcast with Richard Williams
A great episode. As Barney writes, “In the latest episode of the Rock’s Backpages podcast, Jasper Murison-Bowie (left) and I talk with very special guest Richard Williams about his long & august career as a writer, editor & author… and about Easy Rider, Arthur Lee, Albert Ayler, Laura Nyro, Melody Maker & much, much more. Richard gave me my first break as a music writer when he (and Ian Birch) gave me some reviews to write for MM in 1979. I owe him more than I can ever express. His taste and erudition have been beacons for me for at least 45 years. Thank you, sir.” Find it here (it’s Episode 41).

Life looks better in Super 8
Rather beautiful Super 8 movies of the Elliot Lawrence Big Band on the road in 1950, from Marc Myers’ JazzWax.

If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full Five Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

The book of Five Things is available from Amazon here.

Front Cover

“He writes with the insight of someone who has inhabited the world of the professional musician but also with the infectious enthusiasm of someone who is a fan like anyone of us. He also comes at the subject from an entirely personal, slightly sideways perspective, with no agenda and no product to sell. It’s entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.” – from an Amazon review by Zuma
“A terrific book, stuffed to the gills with snippets of news items and observations all with a musical theme, pulled together by the watchful eye of Martin Colyer… lovingly compiled, rammed with colour photos and interesting stories. He has a good ear for a tune, an eye for the out-of-ordinary and can write a bit too.” – Steve Carr, everyrecordtellsastory.com

Monday, December 24th

A Christmas Song for all the readers of Five Things…


The book of Five Things is available from Amazon here.

Front Cover

“He writes with the insight of someone who has inhabited the world of the professional musician but also with the infectious enthusiasm of someone who is a fan like anyone of us. It’s entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.” – from an Amazon review by Zuma

“What a treat! And it has the years before I discovered your blog…” – Dan Franklin, Publisher

“A terrific book, stuffed to the gills with snippets of news items and observations all with a musical theme, pulled together by the watchful eye of Martin Colyer… lovingly compiled, rammed with colour photos and interesting stories. Colyer has a good ear for a tune, an eye for the out-of-ordinary and he can write a bit too.” – Steve Carr, everyrecordtellsastory.com

“I’ve been dipping with huge enjoyment since it arrived” – James Walton, writer and presenter of Radio 4’s books quiz, The Write Stuff, and the R4 pop quiz All the Way from Memphis.

Tuesday, December 4th

I thought that normal service was resumed, but life can be complex sometimes, as Chas and Dave noted in 1975, what with “one fing ’n’ anuvver.” Here’s a quick Five Things, with a promise of various things seen and loved recently (Bill Frisell! Ry Cooder!) being written about soon. WordPress have just changed everything about the blog designing process, so bear with… Oh, and I have two tickets that I (sadly) can’t use for the fascinating Julia Holter at Hackney EartH on December 12th. Email me at martinworkbench@gmail.com if you’re interested.

{ONE} BEST RECENT AUCTION LOT
I love the “Late 20th Century” attribution, but sadly it’s being sold without the fibre optic lights…

{TWO} DANCE ME TO THE END OF… AFRICA?
From Time Out… “Everyone loves ‘Africa’ by Toto. It’s a fact. It’s dance floor catnip, a glorious 4 minutes and 55 seconds of pure 80’s tune-age. Because we just can’t get enough of the ear worm, there’s now a club night where you can hear the nostalgic banger non-stop for a whole four hours. That’s right, Toto’s ‘Africa’ played 53 times on repeat. And if you stay for the whole thing you might finally be able to perfect that weird As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti line.

{THREE} CAROL KAYE WRECKS BASSES…
The legendary “Wrecking Crew” bassist on her chosen instrument…
Reverb: You’ve said the Fender bass wasn’t a great instrument, but it got a certain sound that no other instruments got. Why was it not great?
Carol Kaye: It was a great instrument for recording those kinds of sounds back in the ’60s and ’70s, but it wasn’t great like a Steinway piano or a Gibson L-5. It was a board with four strings on it, but it got the job done; it got the sound and the feel for the music. The first Fender I played was neck heavy and always pointed toward the floor. You had to constantly hold that neck up because it was not balanced, and that is very hard on your neck. I usually bought a new Fender every two years to get new strings. I was working day and night, so I’d run into the music store on my lunch hour, grab a new bass, and sometimes I had to pull the neck off real fast to put a shim in the neck to make it play well.

{FOUR} FROM PRIVATE EYE‘S PSEUDS CORNER. WONDERFUL.
“There was 15 one-way streets and one solitary two-way street where me and my brother got to meet in the middle. Two worlds definitely collided. When two worlds collide, two things happen: destruction or the genesis of new beginnings, and you created water on a new planet.” – Matt Goss on the reformation of Bros, The Sun

{FIVE} JERRY CHRISTMAS…?
A frightening bunch of musical Santas channelling Jerry Garcia at a Garden Centre somewhere in the Home Counties…

If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full Five Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser


The book of Five Things is available from Amazon here.

Front Cover

“He writes with the insight of someone who has inhabited the world of the professional musician but also with the infectious enthusiasm of someone who is a fan like anyone of us. It’s entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.” – from an Amazon review by Zuma

“What a treat! And it has the years before I discovered your blog…” – Dan Franklin, Publisher

“A terrific book, stuffed to the gills with snippets of news items and observations all with a musical theme, pulled together by the watchful eye of Martin Colyer… lovingly compiled, rammed with colour photos and interesting stories. Colyer has a good ear for a tune, an eye for the out-of-ordinary and he can write a bit too.” – Steve Carr, everyrecordtellsastory.com

“I’ve been dipping with huge enjoyment since it arrived” – James Walton, writer and presenter of Radio 4’s b

Extra! Daniel Kramer’s year with Bob Dylan

Written for Pulp magazine last year.

5-coverBob Dylan: A Year and a Day. Photographs by Daniel Kramer

Edited by Nina Wiener / Art Direction by Josh Baker / Design by Jess Sappenfield
Published by Taschen, hardcover in a clamshell box, edition of 1,965 (cute!)

“In retrospect, it’s clear that Bob was in the process of winding up a very large spring. I didn’t know then 
how much of that spring would be let loose in the coming months.” – Daniel Kramer

On July 20th 1965, Bob Dylan, the star of the Greenwich Village Folk Boom, exploded onto the pop charts. America’s first modern singer-songwriter, Dylan, in the six minutes and thirteen seconds that it took for the epochal “Like a Rolling Stone” to be debuted on US radio, virtually created grown-up rock music. But Dylan’s spectacular reinvention of himself and his music had not just happened overnight – it had been brewing for a while. At the beginning of this astonishing, game-changing period – the like of which had previously been the preserve of fine artists such as Matisse and Picasso – photographer Daniel Kramer found himself, through a mixture of talent, persistence and chance, in the position of recording the highs of an extraordinary year in the life of Bob Dylan.

Having first seen Dylan on Steve Allen’s variety show in February, 1964 (“It was the kind of sound I always liked. It reminded me of a voice from the hills… like a voice that had been left out in the rain and rusted…”) Kramer decided that he had to photograph this performer who was brave enough to play songs about social injustice on a mainstream tv show. He called Dylan’s management: “Naturally I was told Mr Dylan was not available. And so it went. I would call, and they would say no.” Eventually, Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, picked up the phone. “By this time he knew why I was calling. I convinced him that I was a reasonable, completely sane, published, professional photographer. I was caught by surprise when his almost immediate answer was, Okay, come up to Woodstock next Thursday. You can have an hour. Just like that… just like that!”

5-dylanbook2

So Kramer drove two hours north of New York City on a bright August morning and spent the day following the 23-year-old musician as he read newspapers, played chess, and hung out with Sally Grossman (Albert’s wife) and his own wife-to-be, Sara Lownds. In the early Sixties, Woodstock was still a sleepy burg, a place where Dylan could keep the increasing intensity of life in New York at bay. The pictures are winningly relaxed and goofy, Dylan obviously finding Kramer a copacetic presence, and from that simple beginning, Kramer found himself photographing Dylan on thirty occasions over the next 365 days.

Kramer had come to photography early, aged 14, and later fell into a job working as an assistant at the studio of the fashion photographer Allan Arbus. “His wife, Diane Arbus, also did her darkroom work there – it turned out to be more than just a job. From Allan I learned to manage a studio, work with models, and run the business – and from Diane, I learned to open my eyes a bit wider, to think about my pictures in new ways.” His next gig was assisting Philippe Halsman, legendary Life magazine cover photographer. “From Philippe, I learned how to make light do your bidding, instead of the other way around, and how to choose a decent wine – and that photography could be a great adventure and a pathway to the whole world.”

5-dylanbook.jpg

From Kramer’s fascinating recollections in the accompanying text, we find that he becomes one of Dylan’s travelling companions. In this role, he’s given both space and time to produce meaningful work. It’s a hallmark of Dylan’s relationships with the producers, musicians and photographers who come into his orbit – once they are admitted, they are allowed to bring their vision with them. Only Alfred Wertheimer on his trips around the country with a young Elvis Presley had such access to a popular star, with similar results – to show the nuts and bolts of the music business and lift the veil at the moment that the cultural plates were shifting.

Listen to any of the session tapes of recent release The Cutting Edge (every single note of music Dylan recorded, complete with false starts and unused takes, throughout 1965, the year of Kramer’s book) and you’ll find that Dylan’s moulding of what’s happening is subtle and understated, only occasionally direct and demanding. And if you met his approval, his world was your oyster. Kramer takes full advantage, producing classic black-and-white reportage backstage, onstage, in cars and cafes.

The book, beautifully laid out, is broken into sections (Woodstock / Town Hall / In the Studio / Bob & Joan / Early ’65 / Forest Hills) by lyrics letterpressed onto heavy matt paper, with Kramer’s excellent narrative set in typewriter, an era-specific evocation of the prevailing technology of the time.

5-dylan2

The sheer size of the book lets you feel that you’re at a really well-curated exhibition, one where the scaling and sequencing of the images are perfectly judged. The detail drawn out of the gorgeous grain of the 35mm Kodak Tri-X film that Kramer used is wonderful, and the book is a much more satisfying way to see these photographs than as individual prints in a gallery.

The colour film that Kramer shot of Dylan, the cover session for Bringing It All Back Home, one of the two albums he would release in 1965 (the other, Highway 61 Revisited, also had a cover shot by Kramer) sits happily at the centre of the book, in a section called “Intermission”. Kramer’s studio shoots (including a meeting at Kramer’s New York studio that would provide the cover for Dylan’s first book, Tarantula) give a break between the reportage either side and show that his earlier experiences in the studio with Arbus and Halsman served him well.

5-dylan1

But first, he needed the persuasive techniques of Bob’s manager to make these shoots happen. After Columbia’s art director, John Berg, refuses to commission the (as he saw it) inexperienced Kramer to shoot the cover of Bringing It All Back Home, Grossman intervenes. “Mr Grossman took us [Dylan and Kramer] to the art director’s office, where he proceeded to make a series of predictions of what bad things would happen [to Berg] if I did not get this assignment.”

Having been present at the recording sessions, Kramer knew that he had to deliver something that related to Dylan’s new direction – and a technique he was working on for a fashion shoot with his 4×5 view camera seemed perfect. It enabled him to make “multiple exposures on one sheet of film while moving, blurring, or keeping sharp parts of any single exposure”, a world away from the fly-on-the-wall 35mm reportage that Kramer had been shooting up to this point.

Arranging Dylan in a room set at Grossman’s Woodstock house, with Sally Grossman draped decoratively on a sofa, Kramer adds elements to make his technique work. “We scoured the house and basement to find things to put in the picture so there would be things to ‘move’ when the camera back was revolved. I wanted to say that Bob Dylan was less a folksinger and more a prince of music. So there in the centre of the turning record is Bob Dylan without an instrument, in this beautiful room, seated with a beautiful woman in a red dress… we were lucky to get one exposure with the cat looking into my lens.” Kramer can’t resist telling us that he and John Berg were nominated for a Grammy Award for best album cover photograph…

5-dylan4

Around this time, a new Dylan snaps into view, as the pages turn from images of joking around with old friends to those of Dylan with an early hero, Johnny Cash. Dylan is about to play one of his last acoustic shows and has morphed from the chubby-faced Chaplinesque troubadour to a more angular and focused presence. Over dinner with Cash, he seems to be burning with a particular intensity, fixing Dan Kramer and Cash both with a piercing gaze.

The next stage is about to begin in earnest, and it will lead to the alienation of Dylan’s loyal fanbase. His artistic horizons are widening to take in Pop Art and filmmaking – from Greenwich Village to the Warhol factory was only a matter of a few downtown NY blocks, but in 1965 it was an artistic chasm. On one side, the gruesomely authentic folksters, on the other, the achingly hip (yet blatantly commercial) scenesters. As Dylan moved inexorably across from one to the other, the air was thick with cries of Sell Out! and worse. Kramer finds himself shooting from the inside out.

A show at Forest Hills with electric backing will plunge Dylan into a maelstrom that the world of rock has rarely seen, as a performer’s desire to follow his muse sees him branded a Judas and pelted with objects. Visually, Dylan’s look begins to assume the sharp outlines of an icon – even in a close-field blur, with Albert Grossman far away in the stands of the Forest Hills stadium, Dylan is instantly recognisable, entering the period where he would be drawn by Milton Glaser as a rainbow-headed visualisation of the grooviness and excitement of the middle sixties.

5-dylan forest

And that concert signals the end of Kramer’s travels with Bob. The last shots are of Dylan at one remove from his audience, backlit by blinding spotlights as someone invades the stage, chased by cops. A tour of the US and Europe awaits Dylan, his world accelerating until it culminates in a motorcycle accident that will remove him from the public glare for the following years.

Daniel Kramer moves onto a long and successful career straddling editorial, advertising and motion-picture work, and never photographs Dylan again. And Dylan? Well, he’s still “on the road, heading to another joint…”, not stopping long enough to be pinned down. But we, luckily, have this epic production to linger over, reliving that remarkable year when the times were truly changing.

If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

The book of Five Things is available from Amazon here.

Front Cover

He writes with the insight of someone who has inhabited the world of the professional musician but also with the infectious enthusiasm of someone who is a fan like anyone of us. He also comes at the subject from an entirely personal, slightly sideways perspective, with no agenda and no product to sell. It’s entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.”

“A terrific book, stuffed to the gills with snippets of news items and observations all with a musical theme, pulled together by the watchful eye of Martin Colyer… lovingly compiled, rammed with colour photos and interesting stories. Colyer has a good ear for a tune, an eye for the out-of-ordinary and he can write a bit too.”

Five Things: The Book!

Cover1Released on Friday, and available at Amazon in the US, Europe and Great Britain, “Five Things I Saw and Heard This Week” is an offbeat take on music in everyday life, whether heard on screens, in supermarkets or on stages. From award shows to obscure acts, I follow my interests to end up down some fascinating cul-de-sacs. Fact-filled, entertaining, informative and inspiring in equal measure, “Five Things” will make you search out hidden gems in your record collection or on the world wide web, and possibly introduce you to your next favourite musician.

Cover2Five Things I Saw and Heard This Week, Volume One, July 2018


Published by martinworkbench&co. / Independent Publishing Network


ISBN 978-1-78926-180-6


209.5mm wide x 152.5mm deep


212 pages with Full Colour throughout!


Price (UK) £19.99 (EU) €24.99 (US) $27.99
Sorry about the toppy price, but the whole print-on-demand thing gets expensive when you want a particular format in full colour with bleed. On the plus side, I don’t have boxes of books jamming up the studio, never to be sold. Here are a couple of random spreads to give you a taste…

5T Spreads

At the foot of the pages, you’ll find recommended songs, relevant to an item on that page, or Google tags that will take you to videos or articles mentioned. Most can be found on Spotify or YouTube, but where the songs are super obscure and hard to find, there’s a type mark, †, which tells you that the song is part of a Zip file that I will happily send if you email me. Here’s the tracklisting for that.

Five Shadow


The book is edited by Rick Ball, with a foreword by Richard Williams and a cover illustration by Sam Falconer.


Kevin Cheeseman has made a Spotify playlist to accompany the book, featuring almost all of the songs that are mentioned at the foot of the pages. That’s 142 songs. Great work, Kevin!


All best, Martin

Wednesday, April 18th

This week’s missive has been written to a soundtrack of Bettye Lavette singing “Emotionally Yours” from her new record of Dylan covers, “Sometimes It Snows In April” from Me’Shell Ndegéocello’s Ventriloquism, her album of 80s covers, Melody Gardot’s fine Live in Europe, and The Kills’ new single (see below).

ONE RECOMMENDED FILMS 1
If you’re a lover of B-Movies then get to the cinema quickly for A Quiet Place, so you don’t read anything more about it [like this – Ed]. Director John Krasinski played composer Marco Beltrami Peter Gabriel’s version of Bowie and Eno’s “Heroes” as a direction for the minimal score, to be done on a minimal budget. “All I needed were strings and a piano. I de-tuned the piano’s black keys to make it a little askew.” It works beautifully, merging in with the almost silent film, where most of the sound comes from whispers, feet padding on sanded paths, and the tiny creaks of floorboards.

TWO RECOMMENDED FILMS 2
Also out now, the terrifying You Were Never Really Here, by Lynne Ramsay, with Joaquin (or as he’s now known in our house, WhackHim)
Phoenix. Wow. Dark, disturbing, oppressive, incredibly filmed and directed, it’s a nasty, bruitish tale that seems totally at home in the world today. I always think that films dealing with exploitation veer perilously close to the thing they’re moralising about, and this is in the tradition of Scorsese and Schrader’s Taxi Driver, and, especially, Paul Schrader’s Hardcore, the next film he wrote, about a father searching for his daughter amid the world of Snuff films. There is one of those sequences that critics call “bravura”, where Phoenix is seen dispatching various hoods via CCTV screens, as a distorted soundtrack plays Rosie and the Originals “Angel Baby”, a song that even in its original form is pretty distorted.

In an interview with Emily Yoshida for Vulture, Ramsay tells how this sequence came about: “So we started walking through the whole sequence, and the DP shot it, and I started thinking about how I was going to use the sound. And I started to think, you know, this [the grainy CCTV footage] feels right for that moment in the film. It’s a risky thing to do, but it was kind of a light-bulb moment when our backs were against the wall in many ways. And then for the sound stuff, with the skipping music, we tried a lot of different things; we tried using just room tone. But “Angel Baby” was the first track I tried, and I thought, maybe it’s just an interior track. And we were playing with it, and it kind of messes with your brain a little bit; it comes out of different speakers. And then the idea of the time slice, where you take little pieces of the song out, so the cuts “jump” even more. It sets up sort of a startling tone. So once we kind of hit on that, I was like, we’re kind of using the music in a different way — you don’t exactly know what or why, but it does something to you.” Startling is right – it’s a brilliant effect, and if the film is slightly unsatisfying it’s not for want of realism or talent.

THREE ANOTHER FILM RECOMMENDATION!

5-billfrisellThis time on DVD, this one Emma Franz’ intimate film about Bill Frisell, Bill Frisell: A Portrait, which illuminates the rather terrifying creative process that takes place in Bill’s mind. At one point he’s doing a concert with pianist Jason Moran, and sends him over a sheaf of song ideas, about forty, from a pile of hundreds that he’d written in a short period. My favourite section has Frisell trying to remember how a particular song goes, and failing, saying how he hopes it will come to him in the moment, and cutting to him playing it brilliantly that night. It also has the treasurable Joey Baron, as interviewee and collaborator, whose recollections are a total hoot. Help enable Emma to make more great films by buying a copy!

FOUR THINKING ABOUT RECORDING WITH…
Ndugu Chancler [see the music player on the right] made me look out this, Eric Leeds’ horn chart for Hot House’s “Means Too Much”
.

5-ericleeds

He flew into L.A. from Minneapolis to work with our co-producer, Susan Rogers, who was also recording with Wendy & Lisa on her days off. We asked Susan if Eric would write a horn section for this song and, boy, did he ever. He came in and blazed his way through the five parts (alto, three tenors, baritone), not a note out of place. It was like magic.

FIVE EIGHT BY EIGHT BY…
I was interviewing legendary NYC Art Director Robert Priest by Skype this week about his extraordinary global football magazine, Eight by Eight, when he asked me what I was listening to. That question always blindsides me, but as I was seated at the computer, I was able to give him a couple of names. I reversed the question, and he said that the Priest & Grace office loved The Kills. Which was weird, as I was going to mention their new single in answer to his original question. It’s called “List of Demands (Reparations)” and is fantastic – a howling thump of in-your-face menace, placed right at the corner where The Ting Tings meet Queen’s “We Will Rock You”!

If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

 

Extra! Protest Songs No.2: “The Danger Zone”

Songwriter and singer Percy Mayfield was a scribe for the loveless and lost, but also for the man railing against the possibility of Armageddon. Even in the most plaintive and beautiful lovesick ballad, his apocalyptic bent creeps in. Here’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love”:
“Show the world how to get along
Peace will enter, when hate is gone
But if it’s not asking too much
Please send me someone to love…”

“River’s Invitation” conjoins his missing sweetheart with thoughts of suicide:
“I spoke to the river
And the river spoke back to me
It said man you look so lonely
You look full of misery
And if you can’t find your baby
Come and make your home with me”

Even a visit home was no fun. “Stranger in My Own Hometown”, cut famously by Elvis, finds the singer bemoaning his lot…
“I came home with good intentions
About 5 or 6 years ago
But my hometown won’t accept me
Just don’t feel welcome here no more…”

5-percymayfield

His most famous song was for his mentor, Ray Charles – “Hit the Road, Jack” was a monster hit in 1961. But on the B-Side, cut at the same session, was “The Danger Zone”, blessed with one of Ray’s greatest ever performances. Here’s a lovely piece about the song, and its relation to Leonard Cohen’s “Almost Like the Blues”, at thebluemoment.

5-dangerzone

Its refrain has been running around my head for the last few months, to the point where I had to record a version of it. So forgive me the gall. Here it is. [removed for remixing]

 

 

If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

Extra! All best for the holiday season…

rushingxmas

Next week, before the year ends, I’ll attempt to write about Josh Ritter at Shepherds Bush Empire (stunningly good), the American Pie Classic Albums on BBC4 (no Rob Stoner, not enough Paul Griffin), David Lynch’s Twin Peaks scene sountracked by Otis, and Guitarmaggedon (Matt Umanov’s on Bleeker Street closing, guitar sales down).

This week, though, a Christmas card from Jimmy Rushing and family, sent to my dad in the late 50s, and my take on another* Christina Rosetti Christmas song. Apologies for the unmixed state of it, but you know Christmas and deadlines… Thanks for reading over the past year, and best wishes to all.

 

* A couple of years ago I recorded “In the Bleak Midwinter” as an eight-minute soundscape. using the Teisco Baritone guitar that I had recently acquired [you can listen to it here]. The bari is back this year, wrestling with twitchy drummers and a ghostly choir (thanks, Mimosa!).

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