5 Things: Wednesday 11th December

Mastermind Specialist Subject: Janis Joplin
My score, 5. Competitor’s score, 12. He was good…

Martin Sharp 1942 – 2013
William Yardley, New York Times: “He painted Marilyn Monroe blooming in a Van Gogh vase, devoted decades to documenting the cultural significance of Tiny Tim and was sentenced to prison for breaking obscenity laws in his native Australia. Martin Sharp, who died on Sunday, pursued his distinctive Pop Art for half a century without much concern for whether it was popular. But for a brief period in the late 1960s, his muse helped shape the imagery of rock music. It started with a beer at a bar in London in 1967. Mr. Sharp had arrived the year before to start London Oz, an extension of the irreverent Australian magazine Oz, for which he had been artistic director. At the Speakeasy Club on Margaret Street, he befriended two musicians. When Mr. Sharp mentioned that he had written a poem that might make a good song, one of the musicians said he had just come up with new music but needed lyrics. Mr. Sharp scratched out his poem and his address on a napkin. A couple of weeks later, the musician dropped by and gave him a 45 r.p.m. record. He was a guitar player for a band called Cream. His name was Eric Clapton. On the A side of the 45 was “Strange Brew.” On the B side was Mr. Sharp’s poem put to music, “Tales of Brave Ulysses.”

Bonnie Raitt, BBC4 Sessions
Bonnie, wine bottleneck slide on finger, shubb capo at the second fret, calling up the ghost of Lowell George. What I first thought was a ridiculous manicure was, in fact, a set of white plastic fingerpicks. Every solo was a thing of controlled emotion and dexterity in the service of soul and beauty. She also had Mike Finnigan on keys (who played on Electric Ladyland and toured in Maria Muldaur’s astonishing band in 1975—see below). “I always think of John Lee Hooker when we do this,” she says, as they launch into John Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love” and then plays a wonderful intro before the song becomes a pretty boring chug-a-long. But every time the bottleneck hits the strings it zings. My friend Mark was there and said they all seemed a little tired, and the production team kept asking for retakes, but certain things really worked on TV. Hutch Hutchinson’s use of a small travel bass on “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was great, there was a tremendous “Million Miles”, where she articulated the words way better than Bob, and Finnegan got all Mose Allison on its ass… (not that I much care about articulation, but the song seemed all the more desperate for it). And “Love Has No Pride” nailed you to the wall. Against simpatico bass and pump organ, Raitt played her 1972 classic and bought forty more years of a life lived to it. All X Factor contestants should be forced to watch this performance.

Midnight At The Oasis (Soho Branch)
Reminded of Maria Muldaur at Ronnie Scott’s, a gig I failed to get into, I look up some reviews on rocksbackpages. I remember that I spent a week hassling Barbara Charone in the Warner Brothers press office trying to get an interview with Amos Garrett. I don’t know why. I was at art school and had no journalistic credentials. I think I just wanted to tell Amos how great I thought he was. Karl Dallas in Melody Maker: “She is backed – if that is an adequate word for so brilliant an aggregation – with quite the tightest, most talented little six-piece band any singer was ever blessed with, which came out from behind her and featured pianist Mike Finnigan as singer once in each set. Everything about this band is a joy – from the cool, right-on drumming of Earl Palmer, to the twin guitars of David Wilcox and Amos Garrett, so contrasting and yet so complementary.” Earl Palmer! Rock & Roll History right there. However, neither this review or Charles Sharr Murray’s in NME mentioned the fact that the bassist was James Jamerson, which is bizarre. How could you not mention James Jamerson! (Murray also found the performance bland beyond belief, but then he sneered about Springsteen at the Hammersmith Odeon, and he was wrong there, too.)

Braids XOYO
At sea in a roomful of hipster beards and square rimmed glasses. Of course, there’s no obligation to like the music made by relatives or friends, but there’s nothing nicer than when you do, here in the shape of the ferociously talented Austin, Taylor and Raffaele. Down to a trio from a four-piece, what before was impressive loop-driven modern ambient music has now become thrillingly visceral and really emotional. They were aided by the best sound I have ever heard in a club, or maybe in any venue. Their soundman, John, puts drums, keyboards and guitars through the PA, using no amps (he previously worked for the legendary Clare Bros, leaders in the field). It was whisper-quiet – something I’ve literally never heard before – and it allowed the music to form, in pinsharp detail, in front of your ears. Each mallet stroke or snare lick or signal-processed synth effect or treated vocal sat exactly where it should in the mix, allowing the performance to build to a fantastic climax. Incredible.


Five Things: Wednesday 17th April

Words Fail, pt. 73
From the Evening Standard: The soundtrack to David and Samantha Cameron’s marriage is an album of Depression-era US folk music, the PM’s wife has disclosed. Time (The Revelator) is a 2001 collection of austere narratives by Nashville singer Gillian Welch. Peter Mensch, manager of rock stars such as Metallica and husband of ex-Tory MP Louise, discussed the Camerons’ tastes at a Tory function. “I asked Samantha Cameron, ‘Why Gillian Welch?’,” said Mensch, who manages the singer and invited the couple to her Hammersmith concert in 2011. “She said, ‘There was a record store  in Notting Hill where David and I used to live. I would say to the guy with the purple mohawk: “What should I be listening to?” He sold me Time (The Revelator). For the past 10 years David and I listened to it all the time’ .”

Lana Del Rey, Chelsea Hotel No 2
Nicely simple and atmospheric version of a song its author has often felt uneasy about. I’m not even sure anyone but Leonard Cohen should sing this, but the solemn and melancholy tune is a draw to a certain type of singer. I think my favourite version is actually Meshell Ndegeocello’s, where she creates such a slowed-down, sultry arrangement that it seems that she’s only singing the song for one person to hear, not an audience. I don’t think it’ll be on the setlist next week at Ronnie Scott’s.

From Our Woodstock Correspondent
The road from RT 28 to W’stock, formerly rt. 375, will be officially re-named Levon Helm Highway. Meanwhile, all Robbie has named after him is the house next door, and that’s not even official. (But a couple has moved in and are done a nice job renovating…) as ever, john c

What I Say
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s notice, posted on the doors of Webster Hall, New YorkYeah

Killing Them Softly
The soundscape of this beautifully shot film based on George V Higgins’ fine book, Cogan’s Trade, and recently released on DVD, is fantastic. It’s worth watching just for that, from the opening credits of crunching footsteps underneath a voiceover of Obama on the election trail. The election is a presence throughout the film, playing on TVs in bar and on car radios. From the creak of car seats, the roar of throaty engines and the rain on the windshield, to the clangs of echoing hallways, real care is taken. Music supervisor is Rachel Fox, piano pieces and musical ambiences by Marc Streitenfeld. Take a bow.

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