Wednesday, December 14th

ONE JAZZIE B: FROM DOLE TO SOUL, BBC 4
This documentary started lazily, but gradually sharpened up to be a fascinating portrait of black experience in 80s London. “The media painted us all with the same brush, but we were all different strands of that brush… not everybody in south London and Brixton enjoyed West Indian food – no we didn’t. We were sick of chicken and rice and dumpling and all that stuff, ’cos that’s what we were raised on. We aspired to the Wimpy Bar – we wanted to eat chips. I was born and raised in England. I wanted to be like my mate at school. I wanted to go fishing down on the River Lea. I wanted to play Subbuteo, I wanted to roller skate. I wanted to have those kind of experiences. I played Ice Hockey, for Christ’s sake!”

TWO RICHARD HARRIS IN A COMMENT ON thebluemoment
On a post about the Stones’ new album: “May 12, 1963 (Sunday) they played an afternoon “R&B” session at The 51 Club (Ken Colyer’s place). We were in London, up from Wales for the opening concert that night of Ray Charles’ hugely anticipated first British visitation, so wandering through Soho just to kill time, we drifted in. Yes, they cranked through the Chess Best Of anthology rather well, loud and tight, and with embryo attitude! I do remember they also did “I’m Moving On” with a two chorus break, the second with the bass lifting up an octave. We stole that! The Stones at a pivotal, enthusiastic point and Ray & that Band on one London Sunday… to be alive etc…”

THREE LORRA LORRA ROBBIE ROBERTSON THIS WEEK…
from an animated (!) interview by Andy Kershaw on Radio 4, to a very interesting Michael Simmonds piece in Mojo. The Kershaw interview felt to me to be treading old ground (the Starlight Lounge story is told in the Last Waltz and in every book about the Band ever written), but reading the interview in Mojo reminds me that there’s more than one side to any story. I was idly looking at robbierobertson.com when I came upon this gallery of his guitars. I singled out one Telecaster, partly because of its extraordinary appearance, partly because of its extraordinary history.

robertsonguitars

Then I went off on a detour around Chuck Berry. First, a wonderful piece by Peter Guralnick, where he discusses a series of meetings with Chuck Berry, where the subject of poetry’s influence on the words of Berry’s songs comes up.

It’s here, too, in this interview shot for “Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll”, with Robertson and Berry looking through Chuck’s scrapbook. It’s fascinating how subtle and tender Berry’s thoughts are.

FOUR A LOVELY IDEA…
Tyler Coates in US Esquire on the news that no, Bob won’t go to the Nobel Ceremony, but yes, he has written a speech for it: “Usually when one RSVPs “no” to an invitation, it isn’t necessary to submit a long explanation or – perhaps even more ballsy – a script to be read to the people who did show up to the party. Then again, we’re talking about a guy who ghosted on the people who simply wish to bestow upon him one of the world’s most coveted awards. Would it be too much to ask for a member of the Swedish Academy to stand up in front of the crowd, silently hold up Dylan’s speech on cue cards and drop them to the floor?”

The reality was a moving rendition of “Hard Rain” by Patti Smith, beautifully chronicled here by Amanda Petrusich on newyorker.com (she’s the author of Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records, a fantastic book.)

FIVE REST IN PEACE, HERB HARDESTY
Not only a kick-ass saxophonist on those great Fats Domino records out of New Orleans, but for those of us who saw Tom Waits touring in ’79, a fabulous trumpet player, too. Follow this link to hear him on the glorious medley of “Summertime/Burma Shave” essayed on that tour. Apparently, his trumpet was custom-made by Henri Selmer Paris, one of two made in France by a master craftsman; the other was owned by Louis Armstrong.

AND FINALLY… PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Halfway up the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, we come across this…

gaga

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Extra: An Update on “The Colyer”

thecolyer2

In July last year I wrote: “As we went walking that ribbon of highway that links Covent Garden to Soho, en route to see Amy at the Curzon, most of Great Newport Street was covered in scaffolding. Not such a rare sight in the centre of town these days, with properties being developed at a giddy rate. However, the covering of the scaffolding was – frankly – gob-smacking. A huge 60s-style caricature covered the top half of the four-story high structure, with my uncle Ken flanked by Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger.”

Now, an update, prompted by a comment on that 5 Things post by Californian legend Peter Asher, OBE, (“Just happened to see this. I went to all the Stones gigs at Studio 51 and was also a Ken Colyer fan. And when I later went on the road myself (as one half of Peter & Gordon) our tour manager was Keith “Avo” Avison who used to play trombone in Ken’s band! – Peter Asher).

In brief, the redevelopment of a site on Great Newport Street (at which there was a jazz club called Studio 51, which became known as the “Ken Colyer Club”) was branded (love those branding ideas!) by calling it The Colyer. Without asking Ken’s son. I quickly found out that there was nothing to stop the developers (an enormous Insurance multinational) from using Ken’s image or name. I wonder how that would have played out if they’d called it The Jagger? Anyhow, I made enquiries as to whether they would like to make a donation to Help Musicians UK (previously the Musician’s Benevolent Fund) who I knew had helped some of the members of Ken’s various bands when they had, as musicians do, money troubles. But the Large Insurance Multinational plc™ declined. Which sadly came as no surprise. A World Without Love, indeed.

The Heritage plaque affixed to the building by Westminster Council, is still there – Ken Colyer Played New Orleans Jazz here in the basement “Studio 51” 1950-1973. There’s a discreet nameplate with the apartment intercoms and the entrance hall carpet has a cornet woven into it. Two-bedroom apartments available now at £1,750,000.

thecolyernow

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Five Things Extra, Monday 6th July: Attack Of The 50 Foot Jazzman!

As we went walking that ribbon of highway that links Covent Garden to Soho, en route to see Amy at the Curzon, most of Great Newport Street was covered in scaffolding. Not such a rare sight in the centre of town these days, with properties being developed at a giddy rate. However, the covering of the scaffolding was – frankly – gob-smacking. A huge 60s-style caricature covered the top half of the four-story high structure, with my uncle Ken flanked by Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger.

thecolyer2

The site of Ken’s old club, the Studio 51, is now a development of 14 luxury apartments and has been branded (drum roll…) The Colyer. No, really. Words fail. The logo has a cornet rather than a trumpet (very good) and the illustration is cute. I knew about The Stones’ residency during 1963, but I hadn’t realised that Clapton had played his first gig there – at least, according to London60sweek.com he did. The developers seem to have the notion that it was like an uptown cabaret club with round tables and crisp white linen and glasses of champagne, but my memories are of a much less salubrious room, with a decided lack of chairs and no alcohol license. Quite what lifelong socialist Ken would make of all this is up for discussion…

Kengrab

Five Things, Wednesday 15th October

Who’s in charge?
From Roy Keane’s slightly mad new autobiography, The Second Half: “It might seem strange but you find out about characters when you look to see who’s in charge of the music. A young lad might want to put on the latest sound; an older player might say: ‘I’m the senior player’ and put himself in charge. But I noticed none of the players [at Sunderland] were in charge of the music and this was a concern for me. A member of staff was in charge. I was looking at him thinking: ‘I hope someone nails him here.’ The last song before the players went on to the pitch was “Dancing Queen” by Abba. What really worried me was that none of the players – not one – said: ‘Get that shit off.’ They were going out to play a match, men versus men, testosterone levels were high. You’ve got to hit people at pace. Fuckin’ “Dancing Queen.” It worried me. I didn’t have as many leaders as I thought.”

Hedi Slimane: Sonic
No, I didn’t see this, but Steve’s partner Fiona did, and writes about it on her always interesting fashion blog, Something I’m Working On. “A couple of years ago, when I was Art Director of Russian Vogue, I used to design the covers and fashion stories Hedi Slimane shot for us. Among other things, this involved trying to reason with his agent about how to leave a white border of exactly one centimetre around Hedi’s photographs without cropping the photographs, despite the fact that Hedi’s photographs were not the same shape as our pages. Hedi is (understandably) passionate about his pictures, and the way they are presented. Hedi likes to be in control. Which is why (a) this exhibition is gorgeous, and (b) it’s so fascinating: the subject matter – the music scene – after all, is pretty much the opposite of control.” The exhibition is at the Fondation Pierre Bergé/Yves Saint Laurent in Paris until January 11, 2015.

Terry Cryer’s Best Shot, The Guardian
Glad to see that Terry chose this lovely photo of George Lewis and Joe Watkins at Ken Colyer’s Studio 51 in 1957. It’s been one of my favourites ever since I came across it when we put together the book about Ken. Terry was by far the best photographer of that whole pre-rock scene, and his shots really stand out, partly from his use of a large format camera, partly from his clever use of flash. He was great at capturing the joy of an audience, to which this picture testifies. [It’s the square picture to the right of Bob recording Highway 61…]

Wall of Loft

Greetings from Darktown!
And strangely, that very day, I had made a mask from Terry’s photo of Ken and Sister Rosetta Tharpe [the largest of the rectangular pics above], as Jonny Hannah’s book launch insisted that entry was contingent on wearing a mask – the invite included a pre-cut mask shape that the invitee had to customise in some way. Having just given a rave review to his book in Eye magazine, I didn’t want to miss it but arrived late, only catching the last part of Sandy Dillon and Ray Major’s spooky sounding set (more on this in the Five Things End of Year roundup). But I do get to congratulate Jonny (a nicer fellow you won’t meet) and pick up a copy of the book in a hand drawn carrier bag (see below). I chose the Flying V as it seemed an odd choice of guitar for a man obsessed with Hank Williams. Although, after Jonny waxed eloquent about the beauty of the Flying V, it made more sense.

JH1

“Birds flying high, you know how I feel…”
Driving through sheets of rain just outside Colchester, with Nina Simone on the car stereo, singing Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free”. And as she leans into the last verse, Well I wish I could be like a bird in the sky/how sweet it would be if I found I could fly, the rain stops and hundreds of swallows swoop from the trees to begin a murmuration, wheeling like a storm cloud against the suddenly bright sky.


Extra! Up Close with Robin Bannerjee
At dinner with my mother at a local bar, we luck into a set from Verity Guthrie and Robin Bannerjee. I am so close to Robin that I can feel the chord changes. And they’re great chord changes. Robin was Amy Winehouse’s guitarist (see the wonderful Other Voices performance in Dingle) and tonight he’s partnering the sultry voice of Verity Guthrie. He loops his rhythm part so he can solo over it, pulls out songs from his depthless folder and gets Verity to find the words on her iPhone, and generally plays a blinder. We have to leave before they finish, so I don’t get the chance to request Tom Waits’ Old Boyfriends, a number they would kill. Next time.Robin

Five Things: Wednesday 17th July

Oh, Yeezus…
​You know when pop stars ​used to re-record their latest hits in the language of another market – say, Germany or France – before the world was totally consumed by the language of Amerenglish pop? Bowie did it, Dusty did it. I wish we could bring it back, and Kanye West would re-record Yeezus in a language I don’t understand. Then I’d be happier when I listened to it. Because the words on Yeezus are f***ing unlistenable. As if written by a seriously misogynistic asshole with self-aggrandisement issues. You wouldn’t want to be his wife. And it’s a drag, because the music, the beats, the soundscape, the whatever… is utterly, utterly, utterly great. Just out-of-the-park brilliant. Here’s Laughing Lou Reed on the talkhouse: “The guy really, really, really is talented. He’s… trying to raise the bar. No one’s near doing what he’s doing, it’s not even on the same planet. If you like sound, listen to what he’s giving you. Majestic and inspiring”. Lou also had an issue with the words and talks interestingly about that – it’s worth checking the full review out).

Oh, and $120 will buy you this Kanye West white T-Shirt. Dazzling.

Kanye

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Vol. 10 – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) is set to cover some interesting, if maligned, years. The complete IOW performance from August 31, 1969, a personal favourite (even in really bad audience-taped quality) with Dylan and the Band alternating a sweet, woody country sound with ragged roadhouse rip ’em ups. Also some great New Morning alternate versions (a piano-based “Went To See The Gypsy” and “Sign On The Window” with a string section should be particularly good if real bootlegs from the past are anything to go by). And finally, some cleaned up/stripped down Self Portrait tracks accompanied (amusingly) by liner notes courtesy of Greil Marcus, writer of the famous SP review in Rolling Stone with the deathly opening line, “What is this shit?”.

May need to start a Ken Colyer Corner in Five Things
Two more letters about The Stones, The Guardian:
• Messrs Gilbert and Blundell, prepare to eat dirt (Letters, 6 July). I saw the Stones at the Ken Colyer Jazz Club (It was actually called Studio 51, but was generally known as Ken’s Club) in Leicester Square in June 1963. “Come On” was slowly climbing the charts. It was the first date I ever went on. I was 16. The cellar venue was stifling with condensation and we drew CND signs in it on the low ceiling. The Stones looked like cavemen and sang every great rock number, including “Poison Ivy”, “Johnny B Goode” and “Route 66”. My date and I caught the last train back – the 12:42 from Victoria to Bromley South. When we arrived at Shortlands Station, my father was on the platform to meet us. “Just checking,” he said and walked off. My boyfriend lasted less than 50 days, but the Stones – well, you all know the rest. Susan Castles, Wem, Shropshire
• How about 1962 in the small cellar Studio 51, Great Newport Street, W1? Chatting with all of them every Sunday at the bar during the break. Two sessions, 4pm and 6pm. Signed pre-first record release photo to prove it, with a note from Bill on the back apologising for no news of first “disc”. Anybody else who was there? Gerry Montague, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

FYI: The Beatles visited the Rolling Stones on September 10th, 1963 as they rehearsed at the 51. They presented them with a new, unfinished song, “I Wanna Be Your Man”. On  hearing that the Stones liked the song, John and Paul went into Ken’s office and completed it, thus giving the Stones their first hit with a new song rather than a cover.

The Americans awakens a long-buried love for post-Peter Green Mac
The 80s-tastic Russian/US spy series features a cracking soundtrack from my least-liked decade. “Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac in episode 1 sends me to the remastered album – as recommended, months ago, by Tom at work. It’s amazingly odd for a mainstream Californian rock record (and amazingly good, though I didn’t listen in 1979) and nothing’s stranger than “Tusk” itself, with the tribal percussion, the mumbling/chanting and the most eccentric drum rolls in pop’s history.

Bob Gumpert sends me this, An Alan Lomax Gallery…with this sensational contact sheet. This is Stavin Chain playing guitar, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1934. The movement in that top triptych is just stunning. More here.

Lomax

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 18th July

Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie, born 14th July, 1912
My favourite photograph of a musician is this, a picture of Woody Guthrie, kindly given to me by the peerless Bob Gumpert. It’s my favourite because it has all the essential ingredients for a great music photo: An Icon. A Cigarette. A great location. A wide-angle that puts you right there. An acolyte, absolutely in the moment of playing with an trailblazer. A fascinated, curious crowd, all looking about fifteen. Their expressions are priceless.

Jack ’n’ Woody

I asked Bob how he came to have the picture: “It was taken by a photographer named Art Dubinsky—I am guessing the late 50’s-early 60’s in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, NYC. The other guitar player is Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. Art was a friend, a generous man who was a far better photographer than he got credit for. He lived in NYC at the time—at least I think so. I met him when he lived in LA and I was working in a rental darkroom, time behind the counter for time at the enlarger. He came in one day to use the darkroom as his home had burned down. We got to talking and became friends. He put me in contact with the National Lawyers’ Guild which led first to my photographing farmworker housing at Gallo wine, housing they said they didn’t have, and then to Harlan County, Kentucky for three months of photographing a coal miner’s strike. That in turn led to everything else. Sorry—I guess that is really more about Art and I and not the photo. He gave me the image, probably for no other reason than I liked it and had said so.” An appropriate story to celebrate Woody’s hundredth birthday—a story of friendship, inspiration and workers’ rights.

Poor Old Donovan, Destined To Be Dissed By Dylan Comparison Forever*
The always-amusing Barney Ronay on André Villas-Boas, new Spurs Manager, Guardian. “…there was something oddly heartening about the return in full-page panoramic close-up of André Villas-Boas, now formally in place as the new head coach of Tottenham Hotspur, and appearing, austerely suited in the middle of all this wretchedness, like an unexpected knock at the door from the local curate, who against all expectation you find yourself delightedly ushering inside. Welcome back, André. It has become fashionable to see Villas-Boas as a rather tarnished figure, to recall the frictions of his time at Chelsea, to balk at that familiar air of manicured expectancy. And to portray him instead as a kind of weak-chinned, own brand José Mourinho, Donovan to Mourinho’s Dylan, a provincial Wimpy bar to Mourinho’s gleaming McDonald’s, a managerial Sindy doll of prodigious inauthenticity. This is more than a little unfair. If nothing else there is much to admire in the way Villas-Boas is still out there… displaying the unshakable backseat extroversion that all the best managers have, as he winces and struts centre stage in skinny-trousered splendour, looking each time a little more like a tiny little dancing soldier on top of a wedding cake, or, increasingly, like a particularly convincing waxwork of himself.”

* However, Donovan doesn’t see it this way himself—there’s not much humility going on in his autobiography, The Hurdy Gurdy Man. The evidence of Don’t Look Back doesn’t lie, however—It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue vs To Sing For You?

Roll Away The Stone
The Stones played their first gig at the Marquee club 50 years ago this week. Bill Wyman, in his book, Stone Alone: “On 3 March 1963 we played… an afternoon session at the Ken Colyer Club, Studio 51, in Soho. It was ironic that we were given a great welcome by the ladies, Vi and Pat, who ran this stronghold of New Orleans-style jazz, whereas the jazz snobs at the Marquee and elsewhere saw us as upstarts who should not be encouraged.” The Stones went on to play Ken’s club most Sundays for a year. On September 10th, 1963, The Beatles visited them as they rehearsed at the 51. They presented them with a new, unfinished song, I Wanna Be Your Man. On hearing that the Stones liked the song, John and Paul went into the office and completed it.

The Sound Of Gatz
Ben Williams is on stage through the whole of Gatz (so that’s about six-and-a-half-hours in all), sitting at a desk off to one side, controlling the sound effects and cues, as well as playing various characters. He does a stunning job—sometimes intensifying the drama, sometimes broadening it out with humour—running the gamut from car crashes and gunshots to air conditioner hums and vaudeville turns. One of the most (unexpectedly) moving moments comes when Mike Iveson, playing Gatsby’s houseguest Klipspringer, turns the office sofa into a piano and mimes the gestures of a pianist, paying along to Williams’ tape. He abruptly stops and sings, acapella, the only words in Gatz which don’t come from Fitzgerald’s book, the song The Love Nest.
Building houses still goes on
Now as well as then
Ancient Jack and Jill are gone,
Yet return again.
Ever comes the question old,
“Shall we build for pride? Or,
Shall brick and mortar hold
worth and love inside?”
Just a love nest, cozy and warm,
Like a dove rest, down on the farm,
A veranda with some sort of clinging vine,
Then a kitchen where some rambler roses twine…

In an exquisite rendition, Iveson turns the theme from the George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, a pretty standard Twenties musical number, into a complex, achingly poignant commentary on the emptiness at the heart of Jay Gatsby’s mansion.

M.I.A.’s ‘Bad Girls’ Video, As Recommended This Week In Metro By Shirley Manson
Words are extraneous. Just go to 2:03. Go on.

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