Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 19th December

Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
As we drove along Spain’s Costa Tropical, past the last remaining sugar cane factory in Europe, the sky turned orange and Blind Willie Johnson came on the CD player. I don’t really have the words to describe this performance, but it may be the loneliest sound ever committed to shellac. Driving as the sun fell it stilled the conversation. Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas is pretty much based around it. from wikepedia: In 1977 Carl Sagan and a team of researchers were tasked with collecting a representation of Earth and the human experience for sending on the Voyager probe to other life forms in the universe. They collected sounds of frogs, crickets, volcanoes, a human heartbeat, laughter, greetings in 55 languages, and 27 pieces of music on the Voyager Golden Record. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground was included, according to Sagan, because “Johnson’s song concerns a situation he faced many times: nightfall with no place to sleep. Since humans appeared on Earth, the shroud of night has yet to fall without touching a man or woman in the same plight.”

Sky

Tony Staveacre, Letter To The Guardian
“Ravi Shankar did a great kindness to a young television director in November 1968. The great man was performing a raga in the BBC Riverside Studios (behind the Hammersmith Odeon) to be broadcast as part of the trendy BBC1 pop series How It Is. The trainee director had told the recording engineer to load a 20-minute videotape—that’ll be long enough. But it wasn’t. A raga is an improvisation, unpredictable in content and length. So the tape ran out while the maestro was still playing. The director, close to tears, had to go down to the studio floor, apologise for his incompetence, and plead with the musicians, Would you mind doing it again? The response was a shrug, a beatific smile and: Of course we can – and it will probably be better this time. And it was. The director was fired shortly after that, by telegram. I’ve still got it.”

Wayne Shorter On The Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way Recording Session, Mojo Magazine
“When we recorded it [in February 1969] there were no written-out parts. Miles didn’t want to know what you were going to play. “Play music that doesn’t sound like music,” he once told me. It was to get you out of your comfort zone… if he heard someone practising, he’d say, “Don’t practice!” He told John [McLaughlin], “Play the guitar like you don’t know how to play the guitar.”

In Praise Of Sinead
Clearing the hard drive, I watch an episode of Later from a few weeks ago. Amongst the dreary hipsters (yes Foals, that’s you—the world doesn’t need a Prog-Rock-Slash-Funkapolitan in 2012—songs that want to be instrumentals but still seem to have words) and the old soulsters (Graham Central Station—Where’s Sly? We need Sly! Larry has a microphone attached to his bass by a gooseneck. We can see why this has never caught on. Awful bass sound. They forgot to bring a song) and the Primark Bonnie Tyler that is Ellie Goulding, there is Sinead O’Connor, She is singing Nothing Compares To You. She has a flaccid band (imagine her backed on this song by Marc Ribot and Jay Bellerose instead, for instance) and by rights the song should have been consigned to the I’ve heard it too many times—it has no power left pile in the corner. But. But. She is one of the great natural singers of our age. There’s not an unmelodic note. Hell, there’s not an unmelodic breath between the notes… She rips the bloody guts out of the song and leaves them on the studio floor, focused on extracting everything it has to give. And, even when it’s just her breath you’re listening to, she sounds like no-one else on earth, and that’s a rare, rare thing.

Blue Note? Is That A Code Name?
Ever see something that you wished you’d thought of?
And something that you know how hard it is to do well?
Take a bow, Ty Mattson at Mattson Creative.

Homeland

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 28th November

The Return Of Scott Walker
Exciting news for us Scott fans! In a relatively revealing Guardian interview as his new album, Bish Bosch, is launched, Scott talks about his fear of performing, as well as saying that no promoter would put him on anyway, as they’re only interested in money. But Scott could tour cultural festivals, not rock arenas, if he chose. In 2008, for instance, The Barbican put on Drifting and Tilting—The Songs of Scott Walker. It was more opera than rock. Scott, eyes hidden beneath baseball cap, stood at the mixing desk conducting his collaborator Peter Walsh. It was all I could do to drag my eyes away and back to the stage, which teemed with extraordinary visions. The most arresting image? Possibly a boxer using a pig’s carcass as a percussion instrument. Or maybe Gavin Friday as Elvis (“It casts its ruins in shadows/Under Memphis moonlight”), perched on a stool, singing to his stillborn twin Jesse, while a bequiffed and backlit figure strode  from the back of the stage until he assumed gigantic proportions, looming over the whole theatre. Whichever, it was an evening that lives on in the memory. Long may Scott run.

Amy’s Blues
The National Portrait Gallery in London buys a portrait by Marlene Dumas of the late Amy Winehouse, and  the curator says: “Dumas said that she had been very moved by the news of Winehouse’s death.” Which sort of begs the question: why not be moved by something useful like her talent or her voice—while she was alive. What’s “moving” about her death? “Dumas, who is based in Amsterdam, sought out images of Winehouse online for the work which draws the viewer in to the singer’s distinctive eyes and eye liner.” Yes, you read that right. In Art Speak, she sought out images of Amy online. And then copied some of the photos she found, quite badly. So, basically, this mediocre fan painting was co-created by Google Image Search (79,600,000 results).

Kermit The Frog, Meet Miles Davis & Louis Malle & Jeanne Moreau
Genius overlay of Davis’ session (filmed by Malle) recording the soundtrack to Lift To The Scaffold, the great French noir from ’58, with LCD Soundsystem’s New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down. The film of Davis playing to a huge projection of Moreau walking the streets of Paris at night is just stunning. That’s cut with Kermit on a rock across the river from midtown, and in Times Square. Hats off to Alessandro Grespan for his inspired and crazy jamming together of these two videos. The despairing mood of both pieces is eloquently summed up in James Murphy’s brilliant couplet “There’s a ton of the twist, but we’re fresh out of shout…”

Is It Rolling, Keith?
My favourite moment so far in Crossfire Hurricane, the Stones doc, is the extraordinary stage invasion footage. Keith: “It started, man, on the first tour. Half way through things started to get crazy [here the on-stage cameras filming the concert record a group of young besuited guys pushing the Stones over, singing into Jagger’s mic, attempting to pull Brian Jones’ guitar off, as the soundtrack becomes phased and fragmented]… we didn’t play a show after that, that was ever completed, for three years… we’d take bets on how long a show would last—you’re on, 10 minutes…”

Christies Pop Culture Auction Preview, South Kensington
A random sampling of the 20th Century, from chairs that were part of the set of Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, via Harrison Ford’s bullwhip from Raiders to the ‘Iron Maiden’ from Ken Russell’s Tommy (a snip if it goes for its estimate of £1000). I was there to gaze upon Mitch Mitchell’s snare drum (as featured on Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, Hey Joe etc) and Andy Warhol’s mock-up of an unpublished book of the Stones ’75 tour. Favourite item? Hibbing High School Yearbook, 1958, signed, “Dear Jerry, Well the year’s almost all over now, huh. Remember the “sessions” down at Colliers. Keep practicing the guitar and maybe someday you’ll be great! A friend, Bob Zimmerman”

Jerry’s Yearbook, Hibbing High School, 1958

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 23rd May

Modern Family Rocks! Or Is That Soft Rocks?
Haley has been ripped off—her dad gets ready to confront the perpetrator. Phil: “Yeah I got a plan. Either he gives us the money or he gets a private performance from (holds up left fist) England Dan and (right fist) John Ford Coley.” Later, he amends this to “Crosby (left fist), Stills (right fist), Nash (knee), and Young (kicks out his foot).” Baby Boomer scripting par excellence— and Ty Burrell as Phil just gets better and better.

I Missed The Radio Doc About The Missing Bobbie Gentry
Yes, I conspired to miss something I know I’d have loved. I only found out after it broadcast and then—just as my finger was hovering over the play triangle on iPlayer—it disappeared. I can only hope it featured the wonderful Jill Sobule song, Where Is Bobbie Gentry? Set to a clever melody closely modelled on Ode To Billie Jo it tells of a fan’s devotion…

“Out in the desert where the skin slowly cures deep brown
She’s got a little shack, a pickup truck, parked out on the edge of town
It’s just what I imagined, no one knows where’d she be
Maybe she’s in heaven passing black-eyed peas
Where is Bobbie Gentry?

Up in Alaska hauling wood or maybe in Japan
I bet that she’s still beautiful, goes barefoot everywhere she can
Does she still play guitar or write a song or two?
Maybe that was over; she’s got better things to do
Where is Bobbie Gentry?

If I could just find you
Say I love you and then leave you alone
If I could just find you
Say I love you and then leave you alone

1967, Bobbie made it on the Billboard charts
Ten years later, disappeared and broke everybody’s heart
Does she ever go to Chickasaw? Ever go back on that bridge?
Well, I was the baby thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge
Yeah, I was the baby thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge…”

Love that middle eight…

That “Bird On A Wire” Was A Real Cracker Of A Movie, Wasn’t It?
Someone has made a a psychological thriller, due out in a couple of weeks, titled after Leonard Cohen’s A Thousand Kisses Deep, from Ten New Songs. It stars Emilia Fox and Dougray Scott (in a pork pie hat, playing jazz trumpet in the bath). Snap judgment from the trailer? Absolutely preposterous.

Niles ’n’ Miles
Fascinating piece hidden away in the Money section of The Guardian, by the always interesting Nile Rogers, in a regular column called My Greatest Mistake. He tells of the many occasions on which Miles Davis would ask Rodgers to write him a song. Nile: “This is a great man who changed my life—and he wanted me to help change his. I believe he kept asking me for about two years, and all that time I couldn’t believe he was serious… he had a funny coding system for when we spoke on the phone at night, like I was calling the president of the US: I had to ring three times and ask for so-and-so and then he would know it was me. I kept doing jazz fusion demos and whenever Miles heard them he’d say to me: “I can do that myself. I want a motherfucking Good Times.” Miles Davis was 100% clear but I didn’t hear him. He was completely sincere and had opened himself up by asking for my help. If I wasn’t so stupid I might have done it.”

Bob. Dylan. Boot. Leg.
From Bobby Keys’ autobiography Every Night’s a Saturday Night we learn that the feet poking out from the Rolls Royce on Delaney & Bonnie & Friends are Bob’s. And the Rolls? Albert Grossman’s.

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 2nd May

Miles Davis, the “My Funny Valentine” scene, Homeland
Carrie presses play on her music system and Miles’ trumpet entwines round the next five minutes, as the would-be dinner à deux fails to materialize. She puts on lipstick, walks past the painting of a jazz trumpeter on the stairs. Brody’s at the door. Their clothes rustle, the ever present cicadas throb as the background sounds are foregrounded. She pours wine. “Miles Davis!” she barks. “Do you like Jazz?” “I don’t know anything about it.” He tells her why he’s there, he leaves, the double bass climbs, she ditches the wine. As the title melody resurfaces, the camera cuts to Brody getting into his car and staring out the windscreen, then back to Carrie, wretched in her kitchen, then to Saul. He’s the only one who knows about Brody and Carrie’s relationship, has a tangled relationship of his own with Carrie as her mentor, and now he’s staring into a CIA fridge, filled with all the things that office fridges always contain: medicines and mustard and peanut butter… The tune spirals and stretches as Saul walks back to his office and, seen from behind the blinds, sighs as he realizes he’s forgotten a knife. He looks in his desk drawer and pulls out a ruler to spread the peanut butter, and at 5 minutes, 10 seconds, with the song only 50 seconds away from finishing, it cuts into an electronic bass hum/high pitched drone and a child’s drawing in a mansion window, as the next day dawns—and brings with it the fateful surveillance operation in the square.

Freak Out!
In a particularly wide-ranging segment of Jools Holland’s Later, an incandescent Annie Clarke—a refreshingly un-Marina And The Machines-like woman singer, and a considerable guitarist. I was so-so about the song, but the guitar playing! Well, great joy! Not since seeing the latest Chili Peppers guitarist [Josh Klinghoffer] has someone stopped me in my tracks like that. “As of late 2011, her pedal board includes the following: Korg PitchBlack, DBA Interstellar Overdriver Supreme, ZVex Mastotron Fuzz, Eventide Pitchfactor, Eventide Space, BOSS PS-5 Super Shifter, Moog EP-2 Expression Pedal. All her pedals are controlled by a MasterMind MIDI Foot Controller. She usually plays with a 60s Harmony H-15V Bobkat guitar.”—Wikipedia

Olly: Life On Murs
Oh the fabulous poptastic late-night treats continue… I don’t remember the channel, but here’s a programme possibly commissioned for the Title Pun alone. We follow the cheeky chappy (a kind of cut-price Robbie Williams) as he tours. Memorable moment—the backstage huddle just before hitting the stage. Rather than Madonna’s prayer circle, a raucous New Orleans-style number led by the horn players as the band leap around singing “I feel like fuckin’ it up, I feel like fuckin’ it up.” Brilliant.

Nostalgia Time! House Of Oldies
Photographer Nick Sinclair’s mailout this week.

I remember this record shop! I bought Bruce Springsteen bootlegs (Passaic, The Roxy ’78—“All you bootleggers out there in radioland, roll your tapes”) from them in the early Eighties.

Joplin. Grave. Spinning.
Not since I saw a poster in Times Square for Bob Marley Footwear [see picture] has something clothes-based seemed so wrong.

A re-issue of Pearl had this flyer inside: “Made for Pearl is part gypsy rambler, and part cosmic cowgirl… a bit of joyful rebellion. MFP has produced clothing and accessories as enduringly modern, beautiful and timeless as Joplin’s colourful legacy.” Who writes this shit?

And finally…
chuckrainey.chipin.com/chuck-rainey-well-health-fund

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