Five Things: Wednesday 19th February

After last week’s scheduled interruption…

A gift from Bob & Sandy, in which stunning clay figures mash the Day Of The Dead with celebrity icons
Name all six, Win A Prize!

MexicoPrince’s plectrum from his first visit to London, 1981
As Prince plays small gigs in the capital, from front rooms in Leyton to the offices of The Guardian, a look back… I knew of Prince because my friend Mick had given me Prince, the album. I was working in my first  job at the Radio Times and went to the Lyceum  show with two friends from work, Sue and Ruby. I remember it being virtually empty as there hadn’t been much publicity. It was the Dirty Mind band of Andre Cymone on bass, Lisa Coleman and Matt Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z on drums and Dez Dickerson on guitar. The keyboardists were disguised (Matt Fink had some kind of radiation suit on) and the frontline wore underwear and trenchcoats. Quite mad. It was a spectacular show, with Prince’s guitar playing  outstanding, and they went down a storm with the few hundred people there (mostly music-biz types, I think). I was right at the front (well, the whole audience were, actually) and close enough to catch Prince’s plectrum.

Prince

I have a memory of Prince being bad-tempered, not with the audience, but at the empty hall. He stomped off at the end throwing his pick rather petulantly… and cancelled the rest of the tour. I recently read the brilliant Ian Penman on this gig. He hated it. Really, really hated it. See for yourself in this cut-down excerpt (I know I shouldn’t but it is pretty long: “For a wolverine habituee of the sharper clubs and bars of our capital such as myself, this tawdry ‘gig’ was something like a step into the horrors of Hieronymous Bosch from the accustomed gilt-edged decadent sumptuousness of Klimt! The dry ice and fright lights – whose calculated effect is undermined and rendered pretty pathetic by way of the Lyceum’s half-emptiness – turn out to be a good index of the Prince live repertoire’s ancient grasp of sub-cultural subtlety: the plot doesn’t thicken, it keeps its consistency. Heavy, stodgy, overdone, tasteless, lacking in spice or space – you get the picture? ‘Outfront’, Prince prances in unison with his two guitar cohorts – they walk it like they talk it, as the saying goes, every song split down the middle or battered to bed with the tedious exaggeration of third-rate Heavy Metal. Someone remarked to me the next day that oh, you know what these young chaps are like with their Hendrix fixations. Hendrix? It never began to shimmer with a hint of the historical avant-shapelessness or spirited slipstreams or sexual harangues of a Hendrix! This was calculated – Madison Square Garden here we come! – coldly choreographed strut rut muzak, in which context Prince’s thigh flashes and camp come-hither persona is stretched pretty thin. My two fellow funkateers and I unanimously elected to wander away from the endlessly guitar wrenching spectacle after about half an hour – we didn’t really even ‘walk out’; it was more of an embarrassed shuffle.”

I, on the other hand, was obviously taken in by the dry ice and the third-rate Heavy Metal. I still am – see the music player on the right…

Annie Clark review, from our French Correspondent, Steve Way
“St Vincent was awesome at Le Cigalle – small theatre venue, great fun – she has the arty moves, channeling  a deranged Barbie rock android. Did the whole gig, including climbing steps, on high heel strappy black pixie boots. Fiona most impressed.”

Tip Jar in Attendant, a Victorian Men’s urinal turned cafe in Foley Street. Highly recommended for Ironwork, and coffee

Tipjar…and on the playlist as we ate breakfast, The Tallest Man On Earth. Rather great, all in all.

Oh, and I thought I might write about the soul-sapping Brits…
but every record tells a story does it better. Except he fails to mention the strange absence of any discernible talent in Ellie Goulding, Kate Moss’s voice (don’t speak, don’t break the illusion), the pitiful MasterCard plinth, Pharell’s Club Tropicana trousers (I said he’d look back in six months and rue the day, but Miche pointed out that six hours might be more accurate), and the absurd bigging-up of host James Corden by most of the bands (why? He was so poor). OK, that’s it.

Five Things: Wednesday 18th September

Amy Winehouse Exhibition, Jewish Museum
A touching collection of the memorabilia of someone who died too young.

AmyOne of the records displayed, Sarah Vaughn’s The Divine One, still had its Record & Tape Exchange sticker. Starting at £10, by the time Amy bought it, the price was a bargain £3.

The songs our parents gave us, The Guardian
My favourite piece of writing here was Lucy Mangan’s: “Wichita Lineman” (the words of Jimmy Webb sung by Glen Campbell) had been playing in the background for years until one day when I was about seven or eight. I suddenly seemed to become old enough to hear, properly at last, one of my mum and dad’s favourite songs. The words didn’t make much sense at first – for a start, I would need Wichita, lineman and county explained to me once it had finished – but I could hear the… well, I would need a new word for that too, but a long time later I would come across “yearning” and be able to give a name to that strange ache the music produced in me.

From then on I played and replayed that record on my own account… I was in love – with the words now even more than the music (though in later years an ex-boyfriend would explain to me what every part of the latter was doing and why and how it was working all together to produce something even greater than the sum of its parts, which made me fall in love with him all over again). “I am a lineman for the county, and I drive the main road/Searching in the sun for another overload …”

It’s the sparest of songs – just 16 lines, 13 if you don’t count the repeated final verse – and it suited our family’s inexpressive collective temperament perfectly. Whatever damage I did to their enjoyment during those first obsessive months has since been repaired and now when we gather we will play it, and it alone has the power to still us all while we follow that battered stoic across the state and, separately together, indulge in a little vicarious longing of our own.

One Night In Soho: Part One
It started with Barney’s phone call to come see a screening of Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen’s take on a would-be Folk Star in Greenwich Village, ’62. The night before I’d watched a Mastermind contestant do his Two Minutes on the LIfe and Work of Bob Dylan. He scores 13. I knew one he didn’t – the studio in Minneapolis where Bob re-recorded Blood On The Tracks (that’s Sound 80, pop pickers). He knew one I didn’t – the two books of the Old Testament that feature in the lyrics of “Jokerman” (that’s Deuteronomy and Leviticus, fact fans). And I screwed up an easy one, by interrupting and shouting Robert Shelton! when they asked about the night in the Village when Dylan was reviewed in the New York Times, when the answer was the name of the club (The Gaslight).

And the Coen’s film centres, dramatically, on that very night. Which made me wonder about the mainstream audience reaction to a film that turns on a concert review… The evocation of time and place is predictably good, and its sense of humour is not a million miles from A Mighty Wind, especially the hysterical record session where Justin Timberlake (half of folk duo Jim and Jean with Carey Mulligan) is attempting to cash in with an assumed name (The John Glenn Singers), and a Space Race ditty (“Dear Mr Kennedy”). The supporting actor casting is worthy of Broadway Danny Rose or Stardust Memories – extraordinary faces, pungent performances. Carey Mulligan rocks an acerbic fringe, John Goodman is monstrously withering, and Oscar David is really convincing as an almost-good-enough troubadour. If you know your Village in the early Sixties, go see it. If not? Not so sure. I’d be interested to know what an impartial observer would make of it.

One Night In Soho: Part Two
The restaurants of Soho seem to be having a Boogie/Swamp moment. If it’s not the Allmans and John Fogerty’s “The Old Man Down The Road” (ooo-eee – remember that? Creedence in all but name?) playing in ramen joint Bone Daddies, it’s Canned Heat at Pizza Pilgrims, which is where I found myself after the film. As I walked to meet Tim in St Giles, I passed this in Soho Square, screening off the Crossrail development. It seems that Dobells is unavoidable at the moment…

Soho

One NIght In Soho: Part Three
Tim’s spot, The Alleycat in Denmark Street, is a dive, in all the best senses of the word. Every other Tuesday, #4 on the door, and Paloma Faith’s Musical Director, Dom Pipkin, playing excellent Longhair/Booker piano, his keyboard sonically split, with bass in the left hand and electric piano in the right. Along with a drummer doing the right thing (staying on the hi-hat, not much cymbal action) and a lowdown trombonist, they make a holy noise. Dom’s dad is coaxed up for Doctor Jazz, N.O. style, before he and his wife head off for Wales, a man in a cap adds fine accordian, the young dudes in the audience groove, and we’re all happily transported to Claibourne Avenue and Rampart Street for a couple of hours. Catch Dom and The Iko’s on Sunday where they are promoting and supporting Zigaboo Modeliste at the 100 Club. I tell my mother about it, and she says that’s how it used to be, and so we make a date to hit The Alleycat some future Tuesday.

Dom

Five Things: Wednesday 7th August

Selfridges Shoe Department
Blue suede shoes by Jeffery West, with the deathly “Please allow me to introduce myself…” line that we can’t seem to avoid, engraved on the sole. And don’t you step on my blue leopardskin shoes, either. {fyi: Both remained unbought.}

Blue SuedeFavourite Song Of The Summer (so far)
Lana Del Rey has covered Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s 1967 track ‘Summer Wine’, (“Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kiss in spring/My summer wine is really made from all these things”) with, appropriately, her boyfriend – Barrie-James O’Neill of Scottish rockers Kassidy – stepping into Lee Hazlewood’s cowboy boots. It’s bass-heavy and groovy, with gloriously woozy backing vox. It ends with a distant peal of thunder, a snatch of Billie Holiday, some chattering and some beachside noises. In a great piece of iPhone synchronicity it merges into the start of Kevin Ayers “Song From The Bottom Of A Well” with its treated guitars and booming noises (sounding exactly like the song’s title) static-ing between the speakers like some early version of Scott Walker’s Drift.

Underneath Putney Bridge, Sunday

FormbyUkelele practising/busking.
We do a quick duet on
”I’ll See You In My Dreams,”
the Isham Jones/Gus Kahn
tune from 1924 that
Joe Brown played to close
the George Harrison tribute
concert in 2002.

 

Missive from Tim, RE: The Alleycat
”Just to let you know the Iko’s New Orleans Music Shop at the Alleycat is fab. The excellent house band played tunes by Champion Jack Dupree, Professor Longhair,  Jelly Roll Morton, the Band (”Ophelia“) and more. The jam session that followed was of an amazingly high standard and the vibe was all-inclusive, everyone from twentysomethings to pensioners, dreads to suits. I had to drag myself away at midnight to catch the tube, though apparently they carry on to 2am…“ From the venue website: The Alleycat sits just beneath the fabled Regent Sound Studios which was set up at 4 Denmark Street in 1963. With the Rolling Stones recording their first album here, The Kinks recording ”You Really Got Me”, Black Sabbath recording “Paranoid” as well as many other seminal moments of music history, the studio took off as the place to be seen to be making music.

Late Afternoon, Tottenham Court Road
Have Mercy

Taxi advertising my friend MJ Paranzino’s choir, quite possibly a first in choral advertising, swiftly followed by a roller-derby flash mob gyrating to “Disco Inferno”, blasting from a tricycle with giant speakers. We once worked with the co-writer of DI, Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey, cutting a version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” in LA. Ron was fabulously louche, feet on the control board as he lazily played the bassline on a synthesiser, gassing and joking with his engineer, the wonderfully named Hill Swimmer. My memories of the session are of Mark playing the most beautiful Reggie Young-like parallel fourths to the general amazement of the studio gatherees, and Ron asking where the hell he’d learned to play like that, and if he was available for sessions. And of sitting against the wall of the recording room as Alex Brown (Ron’s partner and genius vocal arranger/songwriter for the likes of Anita Baker and Whitney) and her girls sang the backing vocals. What on the record sounds sweet and swooping was delivered to the microphones at an ear-bending volume and hair-raising power. Heather and I stepped back into the control room, emotional and speechless. Ron then had an acetate cut and took us to his local bar, where he would play stuff he was working on to the patrons, for feedback! I can see him there, sipping a gin and tonic through a thin black straw, laughing, enjoying their bemused reaction.

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