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.

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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. 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

Ten Things, Friday, March 15th

{ONE} NO MORE AUCTION BLOCK FOR ME
Very few guitars owned by Bob Dylan have ever come up for auction – the last one I can find was his 1963 Martin, played from the late 60s to 1977, most notably at the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. That went for $400,000. This week sees the auction of his Fender XII twelve-string. Sending a press video link to me, Richard points out the hilarious voiceover. For a start, it isn’t a key Dylan guitar at all. Heritage Auctions put up a picture of Dylan playing it in the studio, saying, “the 12-string instrument was used to record the double LP Blonde on Blonde – it is believed to be one of the best albums ever released and may rewrite music history when it crosses the auction block March 16 at Heritage Auctions.” Errr, probably not. Those pictures of Dylan in the studio with the XII are captioned as being from the Highway 61 sessions on Fender’s own website. More important is the fact that no electric 12 string appears on any Dylan tracks from 1965 (unless I just haven’t dug through the 18 CDs of The Cutting Edge forensically enough).

Bob’s mint guitar, in the studio with it, and the 1969 Fender catalogue

The hyperbolic narration ends with… “this piece could very well be the ultimate Dylan guitar – it is definitely one of the most important guitars of the 1960s, and popular music history for that matter…” No, no, and no. It’s not the storied Stratocaster he played at Newport in 1965 (the only other guitar of Bob’s that’s come up for auction, going for $965,000, although that authentication was controversial), which maybe fits the bill. His Greenwich Village Gibson, possibly. His small-bodied Blood on the Tracks Martin, again, maybe. But not this, a Fender publicity opportunity gift, that looks to be in unplayed condition, that may not feature on any of Dylan’s released music.

nb. I’ve always liked this eccentric guitar, probably since seeing Tim Buckley play one (I certainly liked the guitar more than I liked Tim Buckley). The Electric XII used the offset Jazzmaster/Jaguar body allied to what became known as “the hockey stick” headstock. Jimmy Page used his 1965 Electric XII on the arpeggiated rhythm guitar parts in “Stairway to Heaven” and as a drone on “When the Levee Breaks.”

{TWO} THE GEORGE MICHAEL AUCTION
Michael tells me that I should see the show before the auction happens, so I hotfoot it to Christies at St James, arriving at the back of the building to see Damien Hirst’s vitrine of a bull’s carcass pierced by lances (Saint Sebastian, Exquisite Pain, 2007). The piece was too heavy to get into the main exhibition space, so had been left in a loading bay with some disco lights and a music player. It is playing Michael’s rather glossy and antiseptic version of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” Suitably off balance, I head round to the front. This is some show, room after room filled with giant blow-ups of George, video screens and mad outfits from video shoots, and George’s collection of the art of the YBA’s (with other artworks also).

The cover image for Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 is projected onto the staircase

The stages of George’s career are rather portentously spelt out in panels around the main staircase – “So, on 24th November 1994, five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, George Michael chose to publicly declare the beginning of a new era of his own…”

The wildly impressive staging…

It is excessive and fun, but diverting too – his taste leans towards the glib and glossy, very surface-driven, but one man’s art and all that… and I guess if you’re rich, like art and have the wall space then this is what you do.

Giant video screen, prop from video shoot

{THREE} THE GREATEST SIDEMAN
When Hal Blain’s third edition of his life story was published in 2010, it carried the fabulous subtitle, The Story of the World’s Most Recorded Musician. In Art Garfunkle’s words, “If music in the second half of the 20th Century were the Empire State Building, Hal Blaine would be the ground floor.” Blaine was an arranger as much as a drummer, and for a gilded period was on more hits than almost any other musician. The book’s a good read, especially where Phil Spector is concerned…

“Phil had a way of holding me back while the band rehearsed. I felt like a racehorse who wants to run as soon as the gate opens and Phil, the jockey, would rein me in until we were coming around the clubhouse turn, heading for the final stretch. When the right take materialized, he would start his incredible gyrations in the booth, running from one side of the glass to the other, looking at key people during crucial moments like Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. He would conduct with one hand asking for loudness, while the other hand was directed at another section calling for quiet. Then he would give me that magical look that meant only one thing – Go! And we would both go crazy, me doing fills that were total lunacy. I would do eighth-note and 16th-note fills during a shuffle, and vice versa!”

“We would rehearse for hours and hours, and no one could even go to the toilet for fear of moving a mic. Finally, after endless run-throughs, Phil would call a “ten” and scream, “Don’t touch the mics!” And no one did. I clearly remember how carefully we would all get up, twisting our bodies and moving delicately. Phil had positioned the mics himself, and the placement was sacred. Like ballet dancers, we would step around the mics and over the cords strewn all over Studio A. The heat was incredible. There was no real air-conditioning in those days… we used to say that the flies buzzing around the Gold Star were getting as large and as famous as us musicians!”

{FOUR} THE LAST BLUESMAN
David Remnick writes a fine portrait of Buddy Guy (cool playlist included, too) in the New Yorker. He’s following Buddy around his house while a Gumbo cooks on the stove: “Guy took me around the house to give the flavours, as he said, time to “get acquainted.” There were countless photographs on the walls: all the musicians one could imagine, family photographs from Louisiana, grip-and-grin pictures from when he was awarded the Medal of Honor in the Bush White House and from the Kennedy Center tributes received during the Obama Administration. (Obama has said that, after Air Force One, the greatest perk of office was that “Buddy Guy comes here all the time to my house with his guitar.”)

An enormous jukebox in the den offered selections from pop, gospel, rock, soul. “I listen to everything,” Guy said. “I’ll hear a lick and it’ll grab you – not even blues, necessarily. It might even be from a speaking voice or something from a gospel record, and then I hope I can get it on my guitar. No music is unsatisfying to me. It’s all got something in it. It’s like that gumbo that’s in that kitchen there. You know how many tastes and meats are in there? I see my music as a gumbo. When you hear me play, there’s everything in there, everything I ever heard and stole from.”

{FIVE} R.I.P., MR PARALLEL FOURTHS…
One of the finest guitar sessioneers ever died recently, the man responsible for some of the greatest fills in Southern Soul – Reggie Young, guitarist at both Muscle Shoals and American Studios in Memphis. From a 2013 interview:
Do you remember the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
“Well, I was listening to this guitar solo on the radio in ’78, and I said to myself, “I can play a better solo than that guy.” Then I realized it was me!
I decided then that I needed to slow down. I was doing two, three, four sessions a day and I’d stay after the sessions were over and overdub harmonies or whatever had to be done. Then I’d be pushed for time to get to the next session…
Have you had any unusual calls?
Steve Jordan (the session drummer) asked if he could give my number to someone. I said, “Sure,” and a couple of days later Steven Segal called me. He was very nice. He kept saying, “My brother” (laughs). Well, he asked if I was interested in doing a benefit and I said I was, then he said I needed to be in Korea on Tuesday (laughs)! I told him that I couldn’t be there, but I gave him Tony Joe White’s number!”

{SIX} A FILM RECOMMENDATION!
I saw a preview at the end of last year (thanks, Hedda!) of Wild Rose, with Jessie Buckley playing a mouthy, car-crash Glasgow girl desperate to get to Nashville to be discovered. It should be a disaster of cringe-worthiness I know, but it neatly sidesteps most of the pitfalls (except for a cameo by Bob Harris that put one in mind of Graham Hill in Grand Prix). A typically excellent performance by Julie Walters helps, as does the fact that Jessie can really sing. She’s backed by a band of grizzled musos – Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham are there, as is Sam Amidon’s drummer, Chris Vatalaro – some decent songs, and a storyline that dials down the fairytale so as to not overshadow the realism. I loved it.

{SEVEN} BREATHLESS, NOT TOPLESS
That New York Herald Tribune knit shirt worn by Jean Seberg in Breathless? Now available here

{EIGHT} IF 5 THINGS HAD A RADIO STATION…
It would sound something like this, but probably not as well-compiled and eclectic: Graham Lovatt’s latest incarnation, at Completely Sound, with the excellent tagline, Music from all directions.

{NINE} IS THIS THE GREATEST…
photo in Jazz History? A quiet Sunday night in 1953. The Dodgers had just won the pennant. J.F.K. and Jacqueline Bouvier had just married. And four titans of bebop came together in a dive bar for a rare jam session. Read it at the New York Times.

{TEN} THE RBP PODCAST
The day ended and began with Giorgio Morodor. Doing some homework on Sigue Sigue Sputnik prior to appearing with Barney and Mark I listened to their hit single from 1985, “Love Missile F1-11”, and found that Moroder produced it, a fact I had not known. Their tagline – “We invented the future” – was never destined to last, and their schtick now looks quaint. And they last updated their website in 2015, so not really covering the “future” bit, lads. Part Adam & the Ants, part Sweet, it’s rockabilly strapped to an Autobahn rhythm. Still, it was fun to talk about their journey from Moroder to Stock, Aitken and Waterman, and then I got to quote Greil Marcus on Curtis Mayfield.

Someone described it as “bedroom dancing” which was a perfect description of the joyous quality it had

Afterwards, I headed to the other side of town, to Oslo in Hackney with Tim for The International Teachers of Pop. Such a fine name that I went not having heard a note. I did read an interview, however, and it told me that “Sheffield has a great history of drawing out these awkward, gangly weirdoes that make a very British, nay eccentric, kind of pop music that stews in the underground for a few years then appears seemingly from nowhere fully formed, like a very peculiar butterfly.” Spot on. They were terrific, a kind of reverse Human League with the two girls not as backing singers, but as strutting frontmen, and a drummer who laid into the beat with such ferocity and metronomic time that we assumed it was all done with computers. Dry Sheffield wit, pointedly political lyrics, and as they say, “a bona fide 125bpm cuddle for the masses!”

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Saturday, 23rd February

{ONE} CROWDFUNDER OF THE WEEK
From Popbitch: “A man in Newhaven has been petitioning his local council to let him build a statue in memory of Eazy-E from NWA. The council, somewhat predictably, have refused – but they have granted him permission to build a Newhaven Eazy-E Memorial Bench if he can rustle up the £2,000 funds. Anything over and above the target will be donated to a Brighton AIDS charity, so it’s got to be worth a punt, surely?” It’s halfway there, and according to one donatee, “It’s what Eazy would have wanted.”

{TWO} EXHIBITION OF THE WEEK – CORITA KING: POWER UP
The House of Illustration has a terrific show dedicated to the joyful posters of Sister Corita, a Roman Catholic nun who, as the HOI say, “challenged the Roman Catholic Church and offered a bold new perspective on misogyny, racism and war. A contemporary of Andy Warhol, admired by Charles and Ray Eames, John Cage and Saul Bass, Corita’s radical Pop Art brought the sublime to bear on the everyday.” Weaving in lyrics by The Beatles and Jefferson Airplane with advertising slogans, she achieves a mash-up effect not disimilar to Dylan’s “It’s Alright, Ma.” And the free screenprinted posters of Corita’s print-room rules repay close attention.

After the private view, I walked around the newly opened Coal Drops Yard and grabbed a bite to eat in Spiritland, home of an extraordinary sound system, but the noise of the diners talking and clattering cutlery reduced the music to a cardboard thud of bass, a smidgen of trebly vocals, and an indistinct murk of chords. It must be frustrating to be the person working the decks, although maybe when the dining ends more attention’s paid. A good wine list, though, and Coal Drops Yard is pretty spectacular at night (and has a Face magazine outdoor exhibition at the moment).

{THREE} CAPSULE FILM REVIEWS
I watched a bunch of films pre-Oscars, and here are my short thoughts on them.

A STAR IS BORN. Cloth-eared. You’d expect no cliche to be left unturned. The title alone is a moving cliche, made four times, with just the one tale. Miche asked who the current equivalent of Bradley Cooper’s countryish singer, the hilariously named Jackson Maine, would be, but it’s so out-of-time that I couldn’t think of anyone big enough. Ideally, they should have made it with R Kelly or Ryan Adams, but the canvas wouldn’t be massive enough for Hollywood. Bradley wanted giant festivals (they filmed at Glastonbury) and arena-sized crowds of rubber-armed fans screaming through his guitar solos. Like never happens at actual gigs.

The songs by Brad and Lukas Nelson are okay, in an ersatz Townes Van Zandt kind of way, but sadly, Gaga is made to sing what sound like very poor pastiches of Lada Gaga songs with added Jess Glynne. However, she’s excellent, especially when she fights her way through Bradley’s wearisome turn as Mumbly Rock Country guy. Best (worst?) moment – a ludicrously polished performance of an unfinished song that LG had warbled a couple of lines from in a supermarket parking lot the night before. Weirdest music reference – Gaga wearing a Roger Dean Yes T-shirt. So if you like the sound of a famous singer who resembles Jeff Bridges (lite version) giving a helping hand to a Suzi Quatro impersonator, this is the movie for you. For its entire two hours 11-minute runtime.

GREEN BOOK. Curate’s Egg, solidly made. You know how this will go from the trailer, although it cleverly wrong-foots a couple of times and manages to be quite moving at the end. Good performances, great soundtrack, especially the sensational “Goodbye, My Lover, Goodbye”, by Robert Mosely. Who Robert Mosely? I’m sure some readers are way more knowledgeable than me on this one. There’s very little on the web about him – he cut this in 1963 and The Searchers and Lulu (with the Dixie Flyers) both covered it, but both slightly miss the strangeness of the arrangement and melody of the original.

LIFE ITSELF. Babel with added Dylan. I seem to be the only person who didn’t like Girl from the North Country. Now I seem to be the only person who likes Life Itself, a film subjected to a terrible critical barrage. It’s far from flawless (“As a young New York City couple goes from college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child, the unexpected twists of their journey create reverberations that echo over continents and through lifetimes” – eeeek!) but it gains points for a strand that runs through the film that asks whether Dylan’s Time Out of Mind is weakened by the inclusion of “To Make You Feel My Love.” That’s quite mad, isn’t it? The first scenes are played out with three of the album’s songs on the soundtrack. I’m not going to précis the plot; it will just seem corny and ridiculous. Watch it and tell me if I’m wrong. I want to know…

CAPSULE CAPSULE REVIEWS. The first two-thirds of “Buster Scruggs” is mad and brilliant, but the last two segments blow it. “Vice” I found strangely uncompelling, mainly because most everyone in the story is ghastly. “BlakkKlansman” is terrific, if a little slapstick, ”The Wife” is dreadful movie-of-the-week tosh. “Roma” didn’t do it for us – if you want black and white and a tough story then “Cold War” is your film. “Can You Ever Forgive Me? is quite fun, in a depressing way. “The Favourite”? Just bonkers – great acting, but in the service of what?

{FOUR} AND THE ACADEMY AWARD GOES TO… MOONLIGHT (R4)
Stepping back a year, Paul Gambaccini (Rolling Stone magazine’s London correspondent in 1970) presented a beautifully rounded programme about an astounding film. It made me realise over again how gorgeous the soundscape and scoring (by Nicholas Britell) are. And also, that apart from Leave No Trace (not even nominated), nothing touched me this year as much as Moonlight did last.

{FIVE} BROTHER RAY IN NASHVILLE
In a Rolling Stone piece on the re-release of Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, David Cantwell talks of Nashville’s response. He mentions the Anita Kerr Singers had Vocal Stylings of “The Genius” in Harmony and says, “The Kerr Singers’ haunted reading of Brother Ray’s “Drown in My Own Tears” feels almost surreal, a slow-motion submersion in depression.” Weirdy sparse and oddly moving, it can be found on YouTube here.

{EXTRA} FROM CURTIS TO SPUTNIK
I was thrilled to be a guest on the rocksbackpages podcast this week. You can listen in iTunes or here and be regaled on the founding of RBP and the book of Five Things.

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.

Five Things, July 5th

ONE TANGLED UP IN TOTALITARIANISM
The Handmaid’s Tale is so good, it makes everything else on tv look faintly pallid. Here are the words of Offred, at the top of episode two, as the Commander begins “The Ceremony” and she tries to take leave of her corporeal vessel by looking at the colour of the ceiling and slowly running down a list of the blues…
“Blue Moon, Rhapsody in Blue, Tangled Up in Blue, Blue Oyster Cult, Blue Monday.”
The updating is full of great touches, and great song choices (such as a slowed-down “Heart of Glass” soundtracking the explosion in the cafe during the riot in episode three).

Margaret Attwood, in a terrific column for the New York Times: “By 1984, I’d been avoiding my novel for a year or two. It seemed to me a risky venture. I’d read extensively in science fiction, speculative fiction, utopias and dystopias ever since my high school years in the 1950s, but I’d never written such a book. Was I up to it? The form was strewn with pitfalls, among them a tendency to sermonise, a veering into allegory and a lack of plausibility. If I was to create an imaginary garden I wanted the toads in it to be real. One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the “nightmare” of history, nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the Devil.”

TWO CHESS MEN

5-barneyBarney and Mark visit Chicago for Rock’s Backpages, and discover this extraordinary wall at the Chess Studios Museum. Barney reports: “they are slightly weird and creepy death masks… but a good number of the people are still alive!” I found this interesting piece on Chicagobusiness.com, asking why the Chess Studios aren’t a tourist mecca. I have to book a ticket to Chi-Town immediately.

I bought a copy of the Oxford American’s Music Issue (typically excellent) last month, and found that nearly all the adverts were for blues tours through most every city in the American South. There’s “New Music City” Birmingham, Alabama, Georgia is apparently on my mind, and I’m Soul’d on Stax and Memphis (where [Cap A] Authenticity comes from, according to Memphistravel.com). I find that music and history live where Robert Johnson died, in Greenwood, Mississippi and that Jackson in the same state has the most markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail. History also goes to be recorded in Muscle Shoals, recently refurbished by Dr Dre and Beats Entertainment (I’m not making this up).

THREE AFTER 40 YEARS, JOE ALLEN PREPARES TO MOVE AROUND THE CORNER
…and I wonder if The Divine Miss M will still be above the door to the restrooms… (I’m hoping they keep all of Jim McMullan’s great Lincoln Center Theatre posters, too).

5-bette

FOUR PSYCHO, ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL
Nick invites my mum (or should that be Mother! MOTHER!) and I to a screening at the Festival Hall of Psycho, with the Herrmann score played live by the London Philharmonic, conducted by Robert Zeigler. Zeigler introduced Bernard Herrmann’s widow, Norma, and asked about the fallow period in his career after his falling out with Hitchcock over Torn Curtain in 1965. “Everyone in Hollywood at that time was afraid of being old hat – all the men had their shirts open to down to here, chains, middle-aged people smoking pot… Not Bennie. Or me. They were scared of being left behind, and Hitchcock wanted to tune in, and said: I want you to write me a pop song… And Bennie did what was best for the film – no pop tune, and that caused a rift between them. Even when he called Lionel Newman [Randy and Thomas Newman’s uncle, and senior vice president of all music for Twentieth Century Fox Films] and said What have you got?, he said Sorry, Bennie, we’ve decided to run with the kids… meaning You’re old hat… Well, he was really furious and he paced up and down, saying run with kids, run with kids? But come Scorsese and Truffaut and Spielberg… Taxi Driver… and Lionel Newman rang him and said Are you free? Are you free?, and Bennie said I’m sorry… I’ve decided to run with the kids!

5-psychoThe original score has never been released, apparently, although it has been bootlegged. The track names are great:
1 Prelude – The City – Marion and Sam – Temptation
2 Flight – The Patrol Car – The Car Lot – The Package – The Rainstorm
3 Hotel Room – The Window – The Parlour – The Madhouse – The Peephole
4 The Bathroom – The Murder – The Body – The Office – The Curtain – The Water – The Car – The Swamp
5 The Search – The Shadow – Phone Booth – The Porch – The Stairs – The Knife
6 The Search – The First Floor – Cabin 10 – Cabin 1
7 The Hill – The Bedroom – The Toys – The Cellar – Discovery – Finale

FIVE OLD CROW AT SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE
Along to the old BBC TV Theatre with “Discount Fireworks” competion winner Lloyd to see OCMS playing the whole of Blonde on Blonde, turbocharged Bluegrass-style. They are incredible at what they do, and they remember all of the lyrics, even “Sad Eyed Lady”. Their London crowd is partisan, and the evening is a blast (apart from a “comedy” version of “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat” that we’ll pass lightly over). My only criticism would be that the softer side of BoB doesn’t really stand a chance. Even if they start a song as a stately dressage-like waltz, by halfway through they’re thrashing its hindquarters and racing for the finish line. The end with “Rock Me Mama like a Wagon Wheel”, a song they co-wrote with Bob, even though they’ve never met him. See the full story on the music player to your right.

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Friday, 28th August

batchtandy

VISUAL OF THE WEEK
Now that’s a magazine cover. Love the Cilla type, too. And Sharon Tandy! Atlantic’s marketing guys knew how to use white space. Both of these from the Rock’s Backpages archive… I have Sharon Tandy’s single from ’67 of “Stay With Me”, but I think it doesn’t quite hit the heights of the Lorraine Ellison original, produced (and written) by Jerry Ragavoy. Philly’s Queen of Soul, indeed – a performance for the ages.

COVER GIRL
The 50th anniversary of Otis Blue is being celebrated by Rhino Records with a deluxe edition. There’s a search on to find out just who it is in the cover photo. Rhino’s press release: “The photograph was a stock image licensed for use on the cover, which was standard at the time. Recently, the photographer, Peter Sahula, told Stax Museum archivist Tim Sampson that “I’m almost sure this is Dagmar [Dreger], but I can’t find any others from that shoot, and her face is in shadow. So it’s hard for me even to be sure…” Sahula further went on to explain that if it wasn’t Dagmar, it was almost certainly Nico, the enigmatic singer for The Velvet Underground, who was also an occasional model for Mr Sahula’s shoots. So, using a combination of Otis Redding’s Facebook reach (strange concept, no? – Ed) and other online efforts, it is hoped that the worldwide community can find Ms Dreger to confirm this. Join the search by following @OtisRedding on Facebook or Twitter, and contribute information with the hashtag #FindDagmar.”

COVER ME
With a mighty bound, a favourite Bruce Springsteen bootleg springs free of storage and is quickly digitised. In the music player on the right you’ll find one of my favourite ever Bob covers. As Michael Hann wrote in The Guardian a few years back, “Extended runs through “Kitty’s Back”, “New York City Serenade” and “Rosalita”, one of the most vivid expressions of joy rock has ever produced, highlight both the incredible understanding of the band, with instinct supplemented by hours of hard graft, and their empathy for their leader’s needs. But for all the epicry, the covers here show the true heart of the E Street Band: Harold Dorman’s “Mountain of Love”, a 1960 rock’n’roll throwaway, is given a treatment so overwhelming it sounds like a showstopper. Only some problems with sound quality prevent this eclipsing any official Springsteen live release.”

TWO SONGS THAT MADE A GREAT SOUNDTRACK…
to driving across town with money for the builders – Quincy Jones’ “Money Runner” (excellent wah-wah and groove) and ZZ Top’s “I Gotsta Get Paid” (a cover of a famous 90’s Houston hip-hop track called ”25 Lighters”). If you haven’t heard this, do. It’s insane. Gnarly riffs, fantastically bluesy breaks, a mighty groove. Poor video, tho.

COME ON YOU O’s
I had kind of hoped that I’d see out my days without ever again being reminded of Chicory Tip’s “Son of My Father”, but it was not to be. At the first game of Orient’s season, a chant started not long after the kick off to a tune I couldn’t place. A couple of more times and I had it: “Son of My Father”, a particularly egregious example of early Seventies Production-Line Pop, notable as the “first UK number one single to prominently feature a synthesizer, in this case a Moog”, playing a particularly hideous riff. Apparently a terrace favourite around the country for years (what do I know?), it was written by Georgio Moroder, and under his own name was a rare miss. The lyrics. Well, the lyrics are fine: “Son of my father / Molded, I was folded, I was preform-packed / Son of my father / Commanded, I was branded in a plastic vac / Surrounded and confounded by statistic facts”. [By the way, in Orient news, it’s been a great start to the now-League Two club’s season, and if any Premiership scouts are reading, check out wing back Sean Clohessy, a player who combines a fantastic attitude with real skill – not only terrific defensively, but also involved in virtually every goal.]

REVIEW OF THE WEEK
This reminded me of the classic Charles Shaar Murray NME review of Lee Hazlewood’s Poet, Fool or Bum album, which was one word shorter. Bum.

F4 Review CSM Lee Hazelwood

Five Things, Wednesday 8th October

From an unsparing – but excellent – profile of Willie Nelson at 81 in Rolling Stone, written by Patrick Doyle
“We walk across the driveway to what Nelson calls Django’s, a small log cabin where he spends most of his time. A baseball bat sits by the door; Al Jazeera plays with the volume off on the flatscreen, while a liberal talk-radio show blares in the back of the room. There are shelves of books – books about the history of the Middle East, a book of sketches by Julian Schnabel and a Django Reinhardt songbook. Reinhardt has long been Nelson’s favourite guitarist; he has been taking lessons lately, learning some of the jazz great’s techniques from a teacher in Maui.”

From Michael Parkinson’s biography, picked up at my in-laws
“Yehudi Menuhin had been booked to appear and the researcher reported that, while visiting him, she saw an album by Stéphane Grappelli on his desk. She enquired if he was a fan and Menuhin said he had been sent the album but was not aware of Grappelli’s work. We called Stéphane, who was working in a club in Paris, and asked if he would appear on the show with Menuhin. He was uncertain. “He is a maestro. I am a humble fiddle player,” he said. We convinced him and he flew in to meet Menuhin who, by this time, had listened to Grappelli’s album and was insisting that if they played together they must first rehearse at his house. Stéphane arrived, straight from his stint in the nightclub, and was whisked off to meet Menuhin. He was very nervous. He returned three hours later, wreathed in smiles. we asked him how the rehearsal had been. Stéphane said, “How did it go? I tell you. Five bars into Lady Be Good, who is the maestro?” Menuhin was in awe of Grappelli’s effortless improvising, something he found as impossible to achieve as it would have been for Stéphane to play the Brahms Violin Concerto. It is hard to imagine two more diverse personalities – Menuhin, an infant prodigy, a protected species from childhood; Stéphane, a child of smoke-filled rooms who never had a formal lesson in his life and created, along with Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club, a sound as enchanting and fresh as any in all of jazz.”

My one meeting with Monsieur Grappelli was when Roger Horton, owner of the 100 Club, asked me to photograph him, in order to have his portrait on the walls of the club. Barely out of art school, I had spent a year or so photographing musicians at the Jazz Centre Society in Seven Dials Community Centre on Shelton Street, Covent Garden. It was good practice – there was almost no light and no space, so you really had to work hard to get anything worthwhile. I had no real knowledge of the music, mostly at the more experimental end of the jazz spectrum, but it was always interesting. I snapped Mongezi Feza, Peter Ind, Tony Coe and Bobby Wellins with various degrees of success. I remember squeezing into a tiny space at Louis Stewart’s feet and shooting almost vertically upwards. Louis is a great jazz guitarist from Ireland, who was also in Grappelli’s band that night, along with the equally gifted Martin Simpson. At the point Roger asked me I was competent, but no more, and nervous to boot. I think that Roger asked me to shoot with a flash, because I never would have otherwise used it… Stéphane was polite, but tired, and I felt awful making them pose. The performance, however was terrific. Here’s the contact sheet. Roger chose frame 3, I chose the sans-flash frame 8.

SG

From The Financial Express
Sian sends me this: Scientists sneak Bob Dylan lyrics into research articles: Five Swedish scientists who have been quoting Bob Dylan lyrics in research articles for the last 17 years are running a wager on who can squeeze in most of the American singer’s songs in their articles. The game started 17 years ago when two Professors from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, John Jundberg and Eddie Weitzberg, wrote a piece about gas passing through intestines, with the title Nitric Oxide and inflammation: The answer is blowing in the wind. “We both really liked Bob Dylan and we thought the quotes really fitted nicely with what we were trying to achieve with the title”, Weitzberg said. “We’re not talking about scientific papers – we could have got in trouble for that – but rather articles we have written about research by others, book introductions, editorials and things like that”. A few years later a librarian spotted an article written by two other medical professors working at the same university titled Blood on the tracks: a simple twist of fate. The librarian connected the foursome. Junberg and Weitzberg then invited their colleagues to take the idea to the next level and they started competing to see who could get the most Bob Dylan lyrics into their articles before retirement. The winner will get lunch in a restaurant in Solna, north of Stockholm.

From Small Acorns
After another great Tuesday night at the Harrison to watch the Horseless Headmen, Grahame Painting’s terrific improv project, Marcel thinks he recognises trombonist Paul Taylor from seeing the Yiddish Twist Orchestra recently. One innocent enquiry leads to a fascinating conversation, which takes in the upcoming Orchestra CD – two years after its recording, the stars have finally aligned – Brass bands, the UK Cuban music scene, trombone poetry (Paul’s invention), the Three Mustaphas Three, Don Ellis, the Mingus Big Band and the nature of music. Marcel and I agreed that it was as enjoyable as the gig.

From Rock’s Backpages, and the Other Side
A recording made by John Pidgeon of an extraordinary interview he did with Michael Jackson, through the medium of his 13-year-old sister Janet, has been animated by Blank on Blank, in their Famous Names, Lost Interviews series. It was recorded in LA in January 1980 as Off The Wall was being released.

From John’s introduction: “One thing,” she said, as if it was an insignificance she had overlooked and just remembered, “you don’t mind if his sister sits in on the interview, do you?”
“Of course not, Shirley,” I assured her with a smile.
“What’s her name?”
“Janet.”
“Janet,” I repeated.
“Oh, and one more thing…” Shirley paused, to ensure she had my attention. Anticipating another trivial afterthought, I wasn’t ready for the bomb Shirley was about to drop.
“If you could direct your questions to Janet, she’ll put them to Michael.”

Michael Jackson: “I hate labels because it should be just music. I don’t see anything wrong with disco. You can’t dance to [imitates guitar thrashing sound] or… Call it disco. Call it anything. It’s music. Would you call “She’s Out of My Life” disco? “Off The Wall”, “Rock With You”… I don’t know. It’s music to me. It’s like you hear a bird chirping. You don’t say: “That’s a bluejay. This one is a crow.” It’s a beautiful sound. That’s all that counts. Listen to it. You watch them soar in the skies. It’s just beautiful.”

Extra! Mike Disfarmer and Birney Imes
If you’re interested in photography of the American South, check out this fascinating post by Gerry Corden, at That’s How The Light Gets In. Nominally about the new Lucinda Williams CD, it mutates into a fascinating look at photography, music and mutual inspiration.
“Disfarmer is an unusual name – because Mike made it up, changing his name to indicate a rift with both his kin and his agrarian surroundings. He was born Michael Meyer in 1884 and legally changed his name to Disfarmer to disassociate himself from the farming community in which he plied his trade and from his own kinfolk – claiming that a tornado had accidentally blown him onto the Meyer family farm as a baby.”

Five Things: Wednesday 29th January

Folk Music Has Another Moment…
A fitting soundtrack to The Naked Rambler (some Nick Drake, I think, and Tom Paxton’s “Rambling Boy”). The Joan Baez documentary I’ve not quite finished watching. BBC4 showing Murray Lerner’s great Festival. The opening of Inside Llewyn Davis and attendant media blitz. And lastly, all the obits for Pete Seeger folk’s been all over everything in the last week or so. My favourite act in Lerner’s film were the amazing Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers, clean-cut college kids looking for all the world like cousins of Buddy Holly and Annette Funicello, high-stepping and twirling, accompanied by Seeger’s banjo-playing, to a standing ovation from the crowd. “In 1962 from in and around the little mountain town of Hendersonville, NC, the so-called Dancingest Little Town in America, a group of teenagers and one adult, 24-year-old James Kesterson, started the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers. Hendersonville had been the Home of the retired world champion North Carolina Cloggers and a bit of their influence can be seen in the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers.”

At The Foot Of Richard Williams’ Fine Pete Seeger Tribute
on the Guardian site: Seeger jeans, just in…

Seeger

Happy Traum, Interviewed By Ken Hunt, 1981, Found On rocksbackpages.com
Happy: “It seems to me that folk music is a very funny form musically, because it can be easily a kind of dead issue. I think that’s the way many people do folk music; when it’s put in those terms, it really can lose the vitality that it’s supposed to have. So, naturally I’m attracted to people who can take folk songs and make them alive and make them exciting, without necessarily turning them into something different. I mean, you could play folk songs with a symphonic orchestra or you can play folk songs with a rock and roll band, but it will very often lose the essence just as much as if somebody’s doing an old Burl Ives imitation, which also loses the essence to me. But when Ry Cooder plays a folk song, most of the time he keeps the essential things about that music that attracts me to it and yet at the same time adds something which is fresh and different. So that’s one of the reasons why I think both he and Taj Mahal are very important. Because they take those old songs and add a life to them.”

Excerpt From Neil Young’s Grammy Speech (Producers & Engineers Wing)
“So this is a cool night because we’re all here together… A lot of us, you know, producers and engineers –I’m kind of a producer, partially, an engineer, I’m not really good at either one. It’s hurt my records in the past. We’re performance-oriented: technical things don’t matter that much. That’s only one way of making records. A lot of you out here are craftsmen: just beautiful records, and take great care with every note. And I know I’m not one of them. I like to capture the moment. I like to record the moment. I like to get the first time that I sung the song. I like to get the first time the band plays the song. So there’s a lot of compromises you make to get that feeling, but in the long run, that’s where the pictures are when I hear my words and when I see the pictures while I’m listening. So that’s what we try to record.

I love you all people, because I know what you’re doing. I know how crazy you are about all the things that I don’t care about. Sometimes you make great records, and it’s fantastic. They’re not like my records – sometimes I can’t feel them, but I really appreciate them. No, sometimes I can feel them and I go, “Holy shit, how did they do that? How did they make that record? I know they layered it – it’s not like a documentary where something happens and you take a picture, cinema verite. This is a movie: somebody created all the scenes, and there was the dialogue, and then they did the dialogue again, and there was the foley to do the sounds, and they did all the stuff, and everything’s perfect – but it’s still good.”

There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just a different way of doing it than I could ever do, because I have so little ability to do that, that it would really suck: over and over again, getting it right. That’s why I’m flat, that’s why it doesn’t matter that there’s bad notes. That doesn’t mean it’s not production – it just means it’s the kind of production that we do.

Some people are here tonight that I’ve worked with over the ages that are just really incredible people. Al Schmitt’s here tonight… because he’s the father of what’s going on here, and he’s still here. He has staying power. And he was recording the way that I want to record now. I’m going to make a record with Al – we’re talking about making a record together where there’s only one mic, but we do a huge orchestra. And when we finish doing that performance, and every guy’s standing the right length from the mic: the background vocal is like “hey-hey-hey,” and of course I’m up here, but they’re right there, so it sounds like that there. So we’re going to do it that way. We’re not going to mix it: we’re going to do it, and mix it while we do it. Everybody can get in the right place, and if it’s not right – well, we’ll move the bass up. Move the bass closer. It’s not loud enough? Move the amp closer, then! It sounds good, but it’s just too quiet, so move it up. Move it in, and the drums? Leave it over there, go back farther.

Do you know how fun that is to do? That is so much fun. It’s like playing music – it’s not making music, it’s playing it… There’s something that happens with one mic. I’ve just never been able to do that, with some rare instances like when I record in a recording booth from a 1940s state fair. I got that sound by closing myself into a telephone booth. And I notice, it sounds just like an old record. And I like the sound of old records! I’ve always loved that.

The thing we do is, we make great stuff in the studio and then we kiss its ass goodbye, because nobody’s ever going to hear it. That’s unfortunate, and it didn’t used to be that way. That’s something that happened to us – that’s an injury we sustained, and it deeply hurt us. So the time has come for us to recover and to bring music back to the people in a way that they can recognize it in their souls – through the window of their souls, their ears. So they can feel and vibrate and so that they can get goosebumps. We cherish those fucking goosebumps. We really need those.”

Some Non-Folk: I walked between the raindrops…
…to work, eschewing my usual Boris Bike, and “Day Dream”, the Ellington/Strayhorn song on Allen Toussaint’s The Bright Mississippi album, sneaked into my earphones. It’s really something, and somehow I’d never properly listened to it before – Joshua Redman on burnished tenor duetting with Toussaint’s exquisite piano. It makes time stand still as I walk past a hundred people standing in the rain in Rathbone Place, victims of a fire alarm drill. It comes to an end as I cross the coffee shop threshold, usurped by Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” as I stand in line behind Ian Hislop and Andy Hamilton catching up with one another.
nb, from Michael Hill’s liner notes on Nonesuch Records’ website: Apparently, Redman nailed his solo on the first take. Toussaint praises Redman’s “beautiful tone. I could just listen to him alone, solo. I’d love to catch him on a street corner somewhere. And everyone was hip to him much more than I was. When I told my son about him, he said, ‘Oh yes, he’s the bomb.’ And my son was right. Joshua is a marvelous musician. He’s finely tuned to what he’s looking for in his sound; he doesn’t accept stock.”

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