Five Things: Wednesday 2nd April [Late]

Oxfam Remembers The Great Skip James, Marylebone High Street



Jesse Winchester: Not Dark Yet
…although news travelled around that it was. Looked out his great first album, on Ampex (a tape manufacturers’ short-lived attempt to run a record label), and listened again to a fine set of songs, helped along by Robbie Robertson’s light-handed production. And what now seems an envelope-pushing fold out sleeve…



Loved this Patti Smith Questionnaire
Favourite song That No One Else Has Heard Of: “The… song that I think of is “If I Can’t Have You” by Etta & Harvey. Etta James used to sing with Harvey Fuqua and it’s an awesome song. No one knows about it – I’ve asked a million people, do you know this song by Etta & Harvey? And there’s just something so… it’s a very sensual… it’s a badass song!” Check the elongated “I” just before a minute in, from Etta, and the “Well-a-hooo” that Harvey follows with. Sensational. And in the week that my sister-in-law gives birth to a baby girl called Etta, most appropriate.

Lunch With Sammy & Louise Rimington



1970 Jazz Fest poster, bass drum in the basement (with a calfskin head that Sammy had fitted, Sammy playing his 1982 Fender Telecaster Elite (a commercial unsuccessful attempt to do a Fender version of a Gibson Les Paul Recording model) and the mandolin that Sammy will take to this year’s Jazz Fest for his string band with Sava Venet.

George Harrison Selfie, Taj Mahal, sometime in the Sixties. Cool wide-angle.



Five Things: Wednesday 19th March

Sammy Rimington, Martin Wheatley, Cuff Billett, Vic Pitt, Chris Barber, Kenny Milne, Camberley Cricket Club


An unprepossessing room, but a great evening, with music ranging from New Orleans to St Louis and New York, via Hawaii (for Martin Wheatley’s cracking solo performance of “Laughing Rag”). Hadn’t seen Chris play for years, but nice to get a chance to thank him for his contributions to British & American music. And lovely to make the acquaintance of Martin, too modest to tell me that he was part of the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, but keen to share a love of Hawaiian guitarists in general and Roy Smeck, the “Wizard of the Strings”, in particular.

The Whistle Test 70s California Special
Two highlights (apart from the obvious ones, Little Feat’s “Rock ’n’ Roll Doctor” and James Taylor’s pellucid, almost weightless, guitar playing): JD Souther doing “Doolin-Dalton” with the accompaniment of a bass player who switched to piano for the bridge and coda, playing beautifully… just a shame that JD wasn’t handsome enough to join the Eagles. And Ry Cooder’s fantastic take on Sleepy John Estes “Goin’ To Brownsville” with quite the most violent mandolin playing ever committed to video.

Avicii, DJ, creator of the biggest hits on the planet, by Simon Mills, ES Magazine
“Bergling is on his computer. An Apple laptop screen illuminates the tired-looking but puckishly pretty-boy face (which Ralph Lauren chose to front its Denim & Supply jeans ads). His concentration is trance-like as his fingers move across the keyboard at the warp speed of a jonesing IT man. ‘Sorry. If you can wait a minute… I just have this tune in my head and I need to get it down before I forget.’ Avicii, who has worked with Madonna and Lenny Kravitz, the geeky Swede whom not even One Direction could knock off the number one spot last summer, is writing his next hit song. Right in front of me.

The melody coming from the mini speakers sounds plinky-plonky, almost puerile, but Bergling keeps trimming and honing, adding notes and beat-matching, turning the laptop to show me the Tetris visuals of the FL Studio programme. After five minutes, something approaching the top line of a hit emerges.
It’s impressive but somehow all too easy, too convenient to be what the old fart in me would call ‘real music’. ‘Listen,’ he says. ‘I don’t consider myself “a musician”. Yes, I can play guitar, I can play piano; in fact, I play almost every instrument. I was never good enough to perform with a band… but I always knew about melody. I could vision for how I wanted things to sound. And I don’t think you can say that what I do, what DJ producers do, is not “real music”… it’s electronic music. You are drawing the melodies, drawing the chord progressions. You are making music. Mozart wrote everything down on a piece of paper. DJs write on computers. I really don’t see any difference.’

There’s a pause. ‘I’m not comparing myself to Mozart, by the way…’

You just did.”

My New Favourite Blog: My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection
“Alex and I have lived together for 9 years. In those 9 years we have packed up, moved and unpacked his record collection 5 times. It’s about 15 boxes, about 1500 hundred records, “that includes the singles and stuff, which you’re also going to have to review.” Is what Alex just said to me from the other room.

This project was my idea, inspired by maybe one too many glasses of wine last weekend, when I was in charge of changing the music. So here we are. Alex’s taste in music could probably be best described as eclectic on the snobbier side. My taste in music has changed from the early beginnings of Disney musicals to Dave Matthews Band, to discovering the Pixies in college. I’ve never been ahead of the curve with music, but my taste could probably also be described as eclectic on the snobbier side too – just in a much more clueless way. Alex said reading a reaction from a person like me, rather than a person who knows about the history of what I might be listening to, who has been listening to the same stuff for decades and has the vocabulary to talk about it, will be funny, sincere and maybe even thought-provoking. Maybe? I don’t know, I guess we’ll see. Here are the rules I’ve set for my self. Start with the A’s. Listen to the entire thing even if I really hate it. And make sure to comment on the cover art. Are you with me? Let’s see how far I can go.”

Two excerpts: “There is an article by Ralph J. Gleason on the back cover of this album called Perspectives: The Death of Albert Ayler which is very good and making me wish I liked this music more. Maybe it’s an acquired taste. While I already knew that this type of jazz existed, this is probably my first time listening to an entire album of it all the way through and intentionally.”

“I really love these liner notes.  For the song “We all Love Peanut Butter” by the One Way Streets (which is also very good) it says: “One hot summer day in 1966, two mom-driven station wagons pulled up outside Sunrise Studios in Hamilton, Ohio and out piled 4 insane teens. While their moms set up a table on the lawn outside and played bridge and drank lemonade, the One Way Streets were inside the studio shredding their way through 2 songs they felt would create a major disturbance. As a finishing touch to their wild afternoon, they ripped off an eighty dollar mike on their way out the door and haven’t been heard of since.” Every single detail about that anecdote makes me very, very happy.”

Hate Is A Strong Word, Tim Chipping, Holy Moly, Thursday 13th March
“Just when you thought New Zealand singing teenager Lorde could do no wrong, she goes and upsets reggae fans. Lorde somewhat confusingly wrote on her blog: “I hate Reggae, Reggae makes me feel like am late for something.” She’s not welcome at the offices of newspaper The Jamaica Star. Their resident gossip columnist has put the “Royals” singer firmly in her place, roots-style. Writing in the paper’s Roun’ Up section, columnist Keisha says: “International artiste Lorde say she hate reggae music. Everybody nuh haffi like everything but HATE is a very strong word. Lorde, you always look like smeagol from Lord of the Rings. You always look like you a have seizure when you deh pon stage a try move you crawny body. If you need fi HATE anything, you need fi HATE you age paper. A nuh our fault say you a 17 and look like 3 million. A nuh our fault say you caan sing live. Gwaan from ya, Miss One Hit Wonder.”

Would anyone mind if we spent the rest of the day saying gwaan from ya?”

Five Things Photo Extra


Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 7th November

Best Music-Related Tok Pisin Phrase
“The Prince of Wales spoke in the local language called Tok Pisin as he introduced himself as the nambawan pikinini bilong Misis Kwin—the number one child belonging to Mrs Queen. It is a creole language widely spoken in Papua New Guinea. Tok is derived from the English word talk and Pisin from pidgin. Much of its vocabulary has a charm of its own. For instance, liklik box you pull him he cry you push him he cry is an accordion…”

The Video That Killed A Career
Alexis Petridis wrote an interesting piece about the new book, I Want My MTV, a few weeks back, and mentioned eighties arena rock star Billy Squier and the video for the track Rock Me Tonite, directed by Kenny Ortega. I finally got around to watching it, and it is quite the most deranged and strange video ever made (it often makes lists of the worst videos of all time), after which Billy’s career tanked. As I watched it I felt sad for Billy, and perused the usual sidebar links to other Billy Squier videos. I alighted on one where he’s sitting on a high stool in a lecture theatre, alone except for a blonde Telecaster, capo’d at A. I clicked the link. He’s playing a smallish fundraiser, fairly recently. He has a suit jacket on, and looks like a better preserved, more dignified Joe Perry. The guitar is powerfully amped, and he starts a strutting riff as he plays In The Dark. It’s terrific. A fairly generic eighties rock number, he gives it 110%, wailing and bending strings like a man possessed, and for as long as it plays you want to be driving down a road, really fast, at night.

Nail. Head. Ladies & Gentlemen, Robbie Fulks
On sifting and sorting and downsizing his CD collection: “Scrapping fat glossy packages by the likes of Timbaland, Nelly, Luke Bryan, and T.G. Sheppard (to be clear, and not to inflame everyone, I like a few songs by all these guys okay, but can’t justify the permanent storage of dozens of them) reminds me of the passing nature of fashionable taste, and the extravagance of the moneyed sector of the music industry in satisfying it. The photography on the Timbaland record that has somehow come into my possession looks like it cost a hundred thousand dollars. The booklet is so thick you can hardly coax it from the jewel case. If some dude turns a goofball idea into a popular hit and everyone dances around and enjoys the summer more, it doesn’t seem very objectionable. But when you give a moment’s thought to the year-of-vaccines-for-Bangladeshis’ worth of art design, the carbon footprint of multiple buses crisscrossing the country for years on end, and the transfer of millions upon millions of dollars from work-weary parents to summer-enjoying kids… you almost have to weep.”

Albert Hall Ceiling

No Day In The Life references here, no siree…

What Has Happened Down Here Is The Wind Have Changed
Listening to jazz clarinetist Sammy Rimington sing River Stay Away From My Door on Saturday night, I’m put in mind of the effects of Hurricane Sandy on friends on the East Coast. Rick in NYC: “It’s weird and slightly creepy walking back into the deep dark of lower Manhattan below 30th Street at night. I expect highwaymen with every breeze.” And John in Woodstock: “A bunch of big old trees came down, leaving us cold and dark and off the grid until early this morning. The soundtrack is chainsaws, nothing but chainsaws.” As the song’s lovely Carmichaelish melody unfolds, Sammy sings plaintively over the top: “Don’t come up any higher/Cause I’m all so alone/Just stay away from my bed and my fire/Cause that’s all I own…”

The Sammy Rimington International Band, Headcorn Village Hall

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 7th March

Busker, Charing Cross tube station, Thursday 1st March
An alto saxist, playing Ewan McColl’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, with every phrase so extended it took the entire length of the subway corridor for the tune to fall into place, which it did, rather beautifully. And at 30p, cheaper than an iTunes download.

Dark Ages Musician-Fan Communication
Found in a folder of old things: this returned envelope from a simpler, less efficient time. Attempting to join the Levon Helm Organisation, which would have given me an 8″x10″ glossy and a quarterly newsletter. For $6. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter? What? Who needs ’em?

For illustration fans: The early Isabelle Dervaux rubber airmail stamps are trumped by the United States Post Office Returned To Sender.

Close Up to a Clarinet
I’m working on a book with a great musician, Sammy Rimington. Sammy’s played clarinet over the years with some of the greats of the Jazz world, as well as with the likes of Muddy Waters and Ry Cooder, and I asked if he’d bring his clarinet the next time we met to work on the book, a scrapbook of his life. He obliged and, sitting two feet away from him as I pushed the record button, was struck by how great it was to be in such proximity to a) a great musician, and b) that most gorgeously fluid and smoky-sounding instrument.

Pro-Rata Music Documentaries
Talking with my friend Steve Way about the Gerry Rafferty doc, he proposed that future music documentaries should be made in appropriate formats. eg: Punk Rock documentaries should be very short, preferably under three minutes; Prog Rock documentaries should be be extremely long and in multiple parts (the “Gatefold” approach).

Kasabian vs Lou Reed, Friday 2nd March
The Graham Norton Show, BBC1. Kasabian are so bad, so indie dishwater bland, they make me want to crawl into a hole and die. All the moves, all the thin jeans and pointy shoes and shades in the world couldn’t rescue the flaccid strumming and the la la la’s. Goldie Hawn attempted to describe this sorry mess, causing the singer (looking for all the world like someone’s dodgy bearded uncle) to reference Be My Baby and Roy Orbison.

Oh Please.

Fuck. And Off.

Over on BBC2 a few minutes later, a discussion about Lou Reed reaching seventy. After a clip from Later, of Lou with Metallica, writer Christina Patterson made this observation: “I kind of think—why should he carry on doing the same stuff? He did some stuff absolutely brilliantly, that’s more than most of us do in a lifetime and I think it’s a great temptation for artists to do the same thing again and again… And I think good on him… to try and do something fresh. Personally I think it’s disastrous, but I don’t see there’s anything wrong in the quest…” Absolutely spot on. But then Lou’s done something great in the first place, unlike Kasabian. Result? Victory for Lou!

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