Five Things, Wednesday 13th August

Don’t hold back, just push things forward
Ithaca Audio’s pertinently titled mashup uses one of the great intros (Shaft) and a bizarre selection of other imagery and soundtracks (Star Wars, Horse/Surf Guinness Ad) to excellent effect. “Shaft” is a Proustian Rush™ thing for me. It always transports me to Tony Blackburn’s (I think) chart rundown show on Sunday evenings, when all the homework – that you should have done on Friday – loomed. The Chart Show as background made it more bearable (though probably not good for the concentration) and occasionally something would issue out of the warm AM fuzz and demand that you stopped what you were doing to listen in wonder and awe. “Shaft” is the track I remember more than any other…

Prestige New Jazz v Esquire
At London Jazz Collector’s blog, a graphic Battle of the Brands: US jazz label Prestige’s covers translated or re-versioned by the UK’s Esquire when they were issued here. I don’t know which I prefer – there’s great work on both sides, as well as the odd duffer. I have the Prestige of Ray Bryant’s Alone With The Blues, but check out the IKEA-like (those ubiquitous piled stones that were done as large prints a few years back) Esquire version…

Royal Blood, Shortlist Interview
The new Morphine (only without the sax)? Not really, but I always like being put in mind of Morphine. Great drummer, wailing saxist and a bassist, Mark Sandman who played 2-string slide bass (!) and created such a unique vibe that you didn’t miss any other instruments. Check these two songs from a French TV show. They sound, if anything, better now, and still as unusual. Sandman died, of a heart attack, way too young… Anyhow, I liked Royal Blood’s answer when they were asked about appearing on US TV: Shortlist: You appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live. What was that like? Mike Kerr:I’d never been to Hollywood, and it’s a very strange place. It’s like a theme park for millionaires. But the show is a very isolated experience. We didn’t meet Jimmy Kimmel or watch the show. It was like turning up to a place in Hollywood and doing a gig to 20 competition winners that were Googling you on the way in.

Paul Anka, on writing “My Way” for Frank Sinatra
In 1967, Frank Sinatra confided over dinner that he’d decided to retire. The Rat Pack was starting to splinter, which made him feel vulnerable, and he was being harassed by the FBI because of his Mob connections. ‘Kid, I’m fed up,’ he said. ‘I’m going to do one more album and I’m out of here.’ Then he lightened up and said: ‘Hey, kid, you never wrote me that song you always promised me. Don’t take too long!’ He’d often joshed with me about writing a song for him, but I’d never got round to it.

A few months later, at home in New York, I couldn’t sleep one night. So I sat at my piano and started playing a French song, “Comme d’habitude”, to which I’d bought the rights. There was a storm brewing and as I played I suddenly sensed myself becoming Frank, tuning into his sense of foreboding. That’s how I got the first line: ‘And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain.’ I thought of him leaving the stage, the lights going out, and started typing like a madman, writing it just the way he talked: ‘Ate it up… spit it out.’ I’d never before written something so chauvinistic, narcissistic, in-your-face and grandiose. Everything in that song was Sinatra.

When I finished, it was 5am. I knew Frank was in Las Vegas, but by then he’d be offstage and at the bar. I called: ‘Frank, I’ve got something interesting – I’m gonna bring it out.’ When I played the song for him, he said: ‘That’s kooky, kid. We’re going in.’ Coming from Mr Cool, that meant he was ecstatic. There was never any question of singing it myself; “My Way” was done Sinatra’s way – and that was unquestionably the right way. Though I do like the way Sid Vicious did it…

I had one of those, honest
On Jeff Gold’s Record Mecca, an autograph book containing The Beatles signatures is priced at $7,500. It’s very similar to my autograph book, which once had the Beatles autographs on a single page, too. It also had The Searchers, Freddie “Parrot Face” Davis and Pete Seeger: they were all guests on Sunday Night at The London Palladium. Our friend, the bassist Lennie Bush, had the gig with the Jack Parnell Orchestra (which was full of great jazzers). Lennie (Sinatra’s go-to bass player on any sessions that Frank did in London) always took my autograph book with him. And then at some point I decided that my friend and colleague, Colin McHenry, was a bigger Beatles fan than me and that he should have that page. Colin, you owe me…

I love that—"To, Martin, keep with it” written by Sinclair Traill, editor of Jazz Journal, who then joked around with Earl and they ended up signing their names as Sinclair Hines and Earl Traill…

I love that—”To, Martin, keep with it” written by Sinclair Traill, editor of Jazz Journal, who then joked around with Earl and they ended up signing their names as Sinclair Hines and Earl Traill…

 

 

 

Five Things: Wednesday 2nd April [Late]

Oxfam Remembers The Great Skip James, Marylebone High Street

Oxfam

 

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…

Jesse

 

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

Sammy

 

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.

George

 

FTIS&HTW: Wednesday 27th February

Psychic City by Yacht
I can’t even remember what this song was used for this week, tracking an advert, or a programme segment, or something. All I knew was that it hit all those Blondie/Ze Records/Waitresses buttons. Great—almost dumb, possibly smart—pop.
“I used to live in a voodoo city,
Where every little thing had its own secret life.
I might be washing up the dishes
And the kitchen might say,
“Hang around baby baby, hang around baby baby,
Hang around baby we’ll be baking a cake for you…”

And for when you have a few minutes to spare…
says Steve Caplin, and directs me to http://www.facebook.com/AwkwardBandAndMusicianPhotos. The first two are my favourites from a quick browse. The third? In the week that Heino releases a new album and it shoots to the top of the German charts here’s one he made earlier. As The Guardian reports:  “The album contains cover versions of punk, hip-hop and hard-rock hits—to the disgust of many of the bands who originally performed them [this in reference to Heino’s alleged far-right views].” Heinous, no?
But Made Parole, Will Travel! may just be the finest album title ever…

Covers

Johnny Marr, Shortlist interview
Can you remember the moment you fell in love with the guitar?
“Yeah, I was four or five and there was a little wooden toy hanging in the window of a shop that sold mops and buckets and brooms around the corner from my house in Ardwick. Whenever we walked past it I’d be doing that thing that you see dogs on a lead do, where they just dig into the pavement and don’t move. My mother got so sick of it that she bought it for me. I painted it white and stuck on beer bottle tops to make it look like an electric guitar, and I carried that thing around everywhere. I couldn’t believe it when I discovered there were shops that sold real ones…

Jack&Natty

On the left: Natty Bo. Marcel’s Nephew Jack. Not in that order
Note to self: definitely catch the next Yiddish Twist Orchestra gig.

“And the sun don’t shine anymore/And the rains fall down on my door ”
From Rolling Stone via Dave Ashmore: “The Band’s Garth Hudson saw some of his belongings sold off this weekend by his landlord in a Kingston, New York, garage sale after failing to pay rent on his loft space for about seven years. The multi-instrumentalist, most-known for his organ and keyboard playing, kept the space for storage. He stored everything from personal possessions and household items to handwritten sheet music, and among the goodies are uncashed checks, including one issued from EMI in 1979 for $26,000. Hudson’s Facebook page had a note to fans encouraging them to attend the garage sale and purchase items to allow Hudson to buy them back. “We were told everything there was sold,” read the note. “We were not seeking funds, but were asking purchasers to allow us to reimburse them for what they bought as we were not on premises ourselves.” The owner of the space has already made an agreement with an online auction company to sell off the music-related items on April 1st. As for the fans, they’re already on it: one woman bought Hudson’s household items and personal belongings for a few thousand dollars with the apparent intention to return them to him.”

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 31st October

Danny Baker, Shortlist Questionnaire
Who’s the most overrated band of your lifetime? “Queen. A dreadful group. They were neither Led Zeppelin nor Bowie and they played that middle ground in between. Punk rock didn’t come around because of prog rock or anything like that, it came around because of Queen. Abba, Queen and ELO—that was what people were trying to move away from. You can find everything Queen did better elsewhere.”

Bob Dylan & The Poetry Of The Blues
Michael Gray, my favourite writer on Bob Dylan, gives a talk in Canterbury, close enough to drive to. Mick Gold comes with me, supplying an excellent compilation CD and fascinating conversation for our tiny road trip. Michael’s presentation is terrific—funny and revelatory. Over a meal afterwards we talk about the fact that Freddy Koella is both Michael and my favourite Dylan guitarslinger. Mick reveals that the night before, Freddy had guested for two songs at Bob’s Santa Barbara gig—the first time since he was a member of the Never-Ending Tour Band in 2004.
Michael on Freddy: “Freddy was Dylan’s best-ever lead electric guitarist (and just might be the best electric guitarist altogether since the heyday of Hubert Sumlin). Robbie Robertson was near sublime—the next best, a very close second—but Freddy was better. And in The Band all the other musicians were crucial too, whereas in Dylan’s band Freddy had to carry the whole front line. Of course you could say Mike Bloomfield was right up there, but he was, though a virtuoso, essentially more limited (Dylan had to tell him, for Like A Rolling Stone, to play ‘none of that B.B. King shit’); and G.E. Smith was terrific, but safe. You never wondered excitedly what he might do next. Whereas Freddy played by living on the edge, like Bob, fusing Django Reinhardt and Carl Perkins and playing as if it were 1957 now. He was the electric lead guitarist Dylan himself would have been, had Dylan ever bothered to master the instrument.” That line is fantastic, and spot on—“Playing as if it were 1957 now…”

Papa Nez’s Blues
To the Queen Elizabeth Hall with my mum to see her old fave, Mike Nesmith (The First & Second National Band stuff, not The Monkees, just so’s you know). I seem to be making it a point lately to see only Senior Citizens Of Rock™ but it’s just coincidental. It’s instructive to compare and contrast the approaches, however.
Leonard “Ladies’ Man” Cohen, 78, 4 years into his latest group of tours, is in fantastic voice, playing three-and-a half-hour shows with some of the finest musicians on God’s earth and playing versions of his songs that make the original tracks seem pale shadows. It is, in all senses, not just another show. It’s a summation of a life’s work.
Ian “Mott To Trot” Hunter, 73, belts out his impressive and rockin’ back catalogue with ferocious intent, fronting a hell-for-leather combo, The Rant Band. On lead guitar, Mark Bosch is a passionate and note/feel-perfect Seventies/Eighties Noo Yawk (think Leslie West or Mike Rathke) player, matching Hunter every step of the way. His tribute to Mick Ronson, Michael Picasso, is really moving, and the sense of community between him and his fans something to feel.
Mike “Papa Nez” Nesmith, 70, hasn’t played London since 1975, and makes a rather terrible decision. Sold to the audience as cutting edge technology by Nesmith, the three musicians on stage play along with pre-recorded tracks (mostly triggered by the keyboardist), which a) makes the sound terrible, all clunky Casio drums and booming sound effects, and b) forces everyone into a rather tight and metronomic way of playing—an already fairly predictable bass player becomes almost immobile, and the music has no sway or grace. This seems a real shame, as Nesmith’s use of soundscapes on tracks like Nevada Fighter, Bonaparte’s Retreat or Beyond The Blue Horizon were really innovative, especially in a country rock context. There are some beautiful songs here, from Joanne to The Grand Ennui to Rio, and Nesmith has the fine idea of setting up each song with a short piece of fiction contextualising the events that have (supposedly) led up to the song. But the bad sound, the gloopy and excessive synth string playing, the hopeless beats and Nesmith’s out of practice and strained voice leaves us feeling underwhelmed.

www.bullettmedia.com/article/music-journalism-cliches-that-need-to-be-retired-today/
Well, this brilliant broadside by Luke O’Neil makes rock journalism just that bit more difficult (but—hey—upside… potentially better!)

Not So Lucky, Lucky, Lucky
“I love all the PWL stuff slowed down, it sounds great.” says Kylie talking about The Abbey Road Sessions, where she re-records her pop hits of the eighties. I remember when the band I was part of (who NME saw as the antithesis of Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s PWL stuff—Rick Astley, Kylie, Jason Donovan etc.) decided to record a slow version of Kylie’s I Should Be So Lucky for a radio session. Sounded great when Mark roughed it out on piano with Heather, but someone somewhere hit the Irony Alert! button and thought better of it…

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