November 13th. Normal Service Resumed…

ONE RIP TJW
Sad news that a true one-off, Tony Joe White, has passed away at 75. His early albums were rough and ready, gusty and emotional. Listen to “Aspen, Colorado” (covered beautifully by Robert Cray on his recent Hi Rhythm album), or “The Train I’m On” for his simple yet sophisticated storytelling. He was by far the best thing on a Muscle Shoals bill at the Barbican a few years back, leaning back on his chair, accompanied only by his swamp guitar, a small amp and a plaintive harmonica, spinning tales, slowly putting the audience under his spell and sounding only like himself.

Jeb Loy Nichols wrote beautifully at Caught by the River: “In my life as a musician, no one has been more important to me than Tony Joe White. For forty-five years his music has been my soundtrack, my daily touchstone, my reminder, my bedrock. I once asked him who, or what, had been the biggest influence on him; he thought about it for a moment and then, in his quiet drawl, said, the rain.”

TWO IT’S SENSORY MARKETING, BABY!
“Some clients hire Rob Wood [founder and creative director of Music Concierge, a company that chooses background music for businesses] because they want to influence individuals’ behaviour. When the football club Tottenham Hotspur was looking for music for its new training ground complex, Wood was asked to provide playlists for a holistic programme covering every aspect of Spurs’ players’ psychological and physical wellbeing. Others seek to create a certain atmosphere, such as the restaurant German Gymnasium, for which he sourced particular bell sounds that evoked Mitteleuropean cafe culture.” – from Jake Huyler’s fascinating Guardian piece on the “music design” – formerly known as muzak – industry.

THREE INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK
John Cooper Clark by Tim Adams, in The Observer. A typically insightful and amusing set of responses from the good Doctor. Among a shout-out to Bill Withers and Busby Berkeley was this answer to a question posed by DJ Lauren Laverne.
Q: What is it that mono can do that stereo can’t?
A: “Hi Lauren. Well, for one thing, mono could produce the Phil Spector “wall of sound”. You couldn’t have that in stereo. That glorious bank of french horns bleeding into a mess of cellos and strings. I tend to live by the dictum “less is more”, but that mono sound proved more can be more. It is also more true to life. If you went to see a band, the Beatles, the Stones, they were up there on the stage; you would naturally expect all the sound to come from their general direction. What do you want to listen to the bass player over your left shoulder for? Stereo is some nerd twiddling his knobs. The only stereo I like is a jukebox: two speakers but both on the same piece of furniture. Phil Spector is obviously out of circulation right now, but I am keeping the faith alive. Stereo, my ass.”

FOUR A RECOMMENDATION…
One of the things that really helps in times where grinding stress is balanced with periods of mind-numbing boredom is a gripping read. Thanks go to Steve Way for giving me three of Mick Herron’s terrific Jackson Lamb series, charting the exploits of a group of MI6 cast-offs, billeted in a run-down office, Slough House, near Barbican Station. This gives them the tag “Slow Horses” among the spooks at Service headquarters – characters half-off the books but too tricky to sack, slowly being bored into resignation.

Herron balances the behind-the-curtain-realism of John Le Carré with a blistering sense of humour and a tuned ear for the way people speak – he’s the first author I’ve read to recognise that people say “gunna” not “gonna”, as in “I’m gunna do something”. He also describes London as it actually is, in all its everyday, grimy glory. And he cleaves to the British Crime Novelist template of “Jazz Lover”. There aren’t many references to music, but this passage creeps into the fourth novel of the series, Spook Street:

“Apart from his fingers he is still, but these move unceasingly, his keyboard pushed aside to better accommodate this, and while an observer would see nothing more than an advanced case of the fidgets, what J.K. Coe is describing on the scuffed surface of his desk is a silent replica of what’s coursing through his head via his iPod: Keith Jarrett’s improvised piano recital from Osaka, 8 November1976, one of the Sun Bear concerts; Coe’s fingers miming the melodies Jarrett discovered on the night, all those miles and years away. It’s a soundless echo of another man’s genius, and it serves a dual purpose: of tamping down Coe’s thoughts, which are dismal, and of drowning out the noises his mind would otherwise entertain: the sound of wet meat dropping to the floor, for instance, or the buzz of an electric carving knife wielded by a naked intruder.”

Someone should make these into a tv series, especially as the weirdly under-cooked The Little Drummer Girl was so short on laughs or thrills.

FIVE AND ANOTHER…
It’s the new podcast from Rock’s Backpages! Yes, I’m biased, but it’s really good. Like eavesdropping on two good friends off on a hike through the foothills of the mountains of rock… hear Mark liken Keith Moon to “the ghastly showoff at school that you just want to thump…” and Barney reminisce about the time they met Wu-Tang’s U-God – “a very bizarre encounter, where Mark and I were waiting at the San Francisco airport, and we suddenly realised that in the departure lounge with us was most of The Wu-Tang Clan – not that I’d ever done a headcount…” And, as Mark would say, “So on and so forth!” Episodes here.

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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.

Wednesday, 5th November

That’s me in the picture, the Guardian
After Michael told me of his near-death brush with the Beatles as a child, the Guardian that day has a piece on two girls photographed on train tracks saying goodbye to the lads at Minehead station. Cynthia Wilkinson: “As the pair of us stood on the sidelines, having spotted the Beatles in their stationary train car, Marian and I just looked at each other and said, “Let’s go.” We headed across the railway track, not thinking for one moment about safety. We were 13 and 14, and didn’t think about danger then. We just thought, “Wow, there they are. Oh my God!”

At The Movies, Thayer Street, Marylebone
Nice Mad Dogs & Englishmen poster, from the film, not the tour.

Mad Dogs

Robert Cray, Royal Albert Hall, Blues Fest 2014
Lloyd and I are the lucky recipients of Loggia box tickets, courtesy of his daughter Maisie. I haven’t seen, or even heard much, of Robert Cray since the Strong Persuader tour of 1986, and, truth to tell wouldn’t have gone out of my way to see him on a double bill with Beth Hart. However, I was incredibly moved by his 90 minute set, for a mixture of reasons that I won’t go into now, but his easy charm and stunning touch reminded me of being at the Observer Magazine in 1986. June Stanier, our wonderful and fearsome Picture Editor had despatched Deborah Feingold to take a portrait of Cray in a bar somewhere, Chicago or LA, I think. She’s a great shooter, sent us some terrific frames, and confessed, laughingly, to June that she’d fallen “a little bit in love” with Robert during the shoot. I think the whole Albert Hall felt like that on Thursday. There’s no effects to speak of, just the pressing of fingers onto fretboard, and the timing of a master, with his lovely soulful voice sat on top. There were some beautiful Curtis Mayfield licks in one song, and another where they sounded like a T Bone Walker recording from the late 40s. It was like a tour of the blues, played by a man as good as anybody. After that, Lloyd and I could only take four numbers from Beth Hart. The warning sighs were Les Pauls instead of Strats – you just knew the Boogie Button would be hit halfway through the first song. And it was, complete with the Swamp Button for added hideousness, and the leather lungs of Ms Hart just made the poor song die a death. A couple more followed, with the guitarists actually having a “duel” (I know, I know) halfway through song two. As she announced her intention to play a song by the wonderful Melody Gardot (“murder”, as Lloyd put it), we knew it was time to go.

Cray

Lensomnia
I couldn’t sleep the other night, so I spent an hour at 2am reading Sylvie Simmons’ terrific biography of Mr Cohen, I’m Your Man. Satisfying and stylish, and certainly not a hagiography, it’s a totally fascinating look at career often made up of happenstance and luck. I’m struck again that things seen from the outside that seem so planned, are the result of chaos and frustration, especially with songs that he can’t finish.

Favourite music interview of the week
Unlocking the Truth: Brooklyn’s teen metalheads, the youngest group ever to sign to Sony, by Hermione Hoby in the Guardian:
“I meet them in the downtown office of their management, which, in the way of most such offices, looks like a teenage boy’s dream: pool table, bubblegum machines, mounted guitars, flatscreens playing music videos. Dawkins, the drummer, sits down beside me on the sofa, hands clasped in an attitude of professional attention. The other two bounce around until they’re finally corralled into place by a succession of managers and mothers. Lots of people think metal is about anger, I say… “That,” says Dawkins soberly, “is a stereotype.” Soft-spoken and still, he continues: “Music is music, and as long as you can express yourself in a way that you think is good for people to hear then it’s something you should do. I wish everybody could not be afraid to do the things they want to do.” At 12, Dawkins is the youngest, but has a gravitas more often associated with aged clergymen than pubescent heavy-metal drummers. It hasn’t gone unnoticed by his bandmates. “Jarad, you should be a pastor!” says Atkins. “When you retire, I’ll nominate you as the pope. ‘Pope Jarad is coming everyone, look your finest!’ You’re going to be the first black pope.” “That would be good,” he says, quietly.”

Extra! Goodbye Acker! A fine “Clarry man” and a lovely, genuine guy…
And possibly the only British Trad Jazz Musician to be signed to Atlantic by Ahmet Ertegun!

Acker

 

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