Monday, March 6th

ONE MOST EXCELLENT SHOP OF THE WEEK
In Paris (feeling unfettered and alive, natch) I search for La Galcante, the shop from a magazine junkie’s dreams. It’s off a small Rue in Paris, hidden behind an archway. I had discovered its existence in this article in Christie’s online magazine, where they accurately describe it as a treasure trove of ephemeral publications. I was ushered into the vaults in search of various artistes, where I came across this hilarious Rock & Folk cover (“au service du rockn roll depuis 1966”). Elsewhere in the shop, Elvis Costello popped his head up…

galcante

“We have tickets, envelopes, bills. We are interested in every type of paper.” Pierre Aribaud leans over the counter, smiles and starts rolling a cigarette. Aribaud is a seasoned documentaliste at La Galcante, a unique Parisian emporium offering papiers anciens – newspapers, magazines, postcards, photographs, maps, journals – to curious collectors. It’s like Google, just with dust motes and silverfish.

TWO JAZZ! NICE…
Nick Hornby, Esquire magazine UK, 25th anniversary edition:
“The last couple of years, I’ve finally got jazz. I know it’s the cliché of my age, but it’s fantastic. I was reading something and suddenly thought I was fed up of everything I listen to being in 4/4 and sounding more or less the same, I’d like to hear something different. I found the right jazz and that was that.” Frustratingly Nick doesn’t tell us what the “Right Jazz” was for him.

THREE BOB DYLAN SHOPS FOR TIES…
… with Alan Price (and his ever-present bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale). Here’s a short excerpt from a fascinating post written by Michael Chaiken, curator of Bob Dylan’s Archives for the Helmerich Center for American Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma: “The archive boasts hundreds of hours of live recordings, going back to Dylan’s earliest coffeehouse days and continuing into his recent tours. There are many instances in the archive where a song can be studied from its initial iteration on paper, to the moment Dylan first stepped to the microphone to record it, through to its reinvention over several decades onstage. A good example of this is “Tangled Up in Blue”, from the 1975 album Blood on the Tracks – it’s a song that began on paper with the title “Dusty Sweatbox Blues”, whose first studio take was a solo acoustic performance; it was ultimately released on record with a full band and has since had its lyrics and tempo radically altered in live performance. The ability to trace out this evolution is among the archive’s greatest strengths.” The article is full of teasing references to material as yet unshown (if you’re a Dylan nut, that is), and this short piece of original footage from Dont Look Back is just great. The young shop assistant who gurns at the camera wouldn’t look out of place in the Arctic Monkeys…

FOUR LARRY ON LEVON
From a nice interview in Vintage Guitar magazine with multi-instumentalist and producer Larry Campbell:
Talk about playing in a band with Levon as the drummer… “Oh, man! You have never played a blues shuffle until you’ve played a blues shuffle with Levon Helm. It’s like you’re sitting in a hammock, rocking in the breeze. The guy was nothing but feel. Finesse had nothing to do with Levon’s drumming. There was no distance at all between who he was and what he did. Every note he sang, every beat he played, every strum on the mandolin came out of him as naturally as breathing. That kind of immediate, honest expression is irresistible. You can’t not be moved by that…

It’s not like he had perfect time or he played the most interesting fill or that he had a huge vocabulary on the drum kit – but none of that stuff mattered. What mattered was the way he would make a song feel… it was a lesson in simplicity. I’ve played with other drummers who, technically, could run rings around Levon. And I’m not saying that’s something you should avoid; a lot of different drummers knock me out. But Levon had his particular thing that was unique to him, and it was always a great place to be. Never failed.”

FIVE THE PRE-INAUGURATION CONCERT
I was going to write a 5 Things extra on this extraordinary (for all the wrong reasons) show, but too much time has passed – and Dave Holmes on Esquire.com did a great job [read it here]. Some observations, though, with a couple of excerpts from his piece. I was watching it on CNN, and it started with Trump saluting Abraham Lincoln, as the Stones’ “Heart of Stone” blasted out the PA. Dave Holmes: “You know – the song about two lovers who, try as they might, cannot feel honest emotion for one another. They have been too wounded by the events of their past to risk getting hurt again, so they just remain ice-cold. Lonely together. Numb. Donald and Melania introduce themselves to America as her new First Couple to that song, and then take their seats behind bulletproof glass. So that’s fun…”

Next came the shockingly named Frontmen of CountryTM to sing a bunch o’ songs about ’Merca, including Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis”. I thought that if, as the song has it, WC Handy did look down over America today, really, he’d think it was just the same-old-same-old. And the First Lady seemed somewhat bored –no-one seemed to have clocked that a 15-minute country medley may, in the cold of a late afternoon in Washington, seem to last an hour. Holmes in Esquire: “She said, Tell me are you a Christian child?/And I said Ma’am I am tonight!” As are all in attendance, ceremonially Christians for the night, Christians who leave out the parts about feeding the hungry and having compassion for the poor and loving your enemies and turning the other cheek and casting out the moneychangers and welcoming refugees and that whole bit about how a camel will pass through the eye of a needle before a rich man gets into heaven. Other than that, super Christian. Anyway, getting back: Memphis!

trump

Mildly headbanging – yet shockingly generic – rock poured out over the crowd, as huge video screens showed Chinooks and attack boats and drones and gung-ho militarism. Trump, in the manner of someone who knows cameras are trained on him, tried to keep in motion, pointing at things the audience couldn’t see, but he was also looking over his shoulder in a slightly weird way, almost at the crowd, but never quite meeting its eyes. Melania looked like she may have only just realised that the next four years will largely consist of smiling at a bizarre parade of “entertainment”, and meeting people she will not be able to feign interest in. The parade followed with YouTube sensations, The Piano Guys, and a bunch of silver-suited numpties dancing as DJ Ravi drummed his heart out to no great effect.

Here we moved into the realms of the tragically talentless. Truly the March of the Mediocre on Washington… Toby Keith attempted to set country music back, oh, only 50 years or so, with lyrics of the “whiskey for my man, beer for my horses” kind. You really felt for all the people who live in Nashville, tarred by this brush. By the end, after fireworks were accompanied by “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in an arrangement that Mitch Miller himself would have passed on for being too cheesy, the CNN reporters covering the whole affair looked askance and said, “Now we’re listening to “Don’t Stop Believing” – like it’s the last episode of The Sopranos!”

I’ll leave the summing up to Dave: “There’s some good country music out there, but most of it is sung by millionaires, droppin’ their Gs, namin’ American states, sayin’ aw shucks and singin’ about pickup trucks and then goin’ home and not givin’ a shit about their actual audiences. Modern mainstream country panders so hard, every song might as well start with Hey, listener: have you lost weight? Trump taught himself how to do this too, which is why 63 million Americans think a guy who lives inside a bar of gold in midtown Manhattan gives one single damn about them.”

AND FINALLY…
Towards the end of last year I wrote a piece for eye magazine – a major profile of Peter Brookes, the Times’ political cartoonist. I had the thoroughly enjoyable tast of interviewing Peter in his office early one morning before he began that day’s task.

brookes

And in researching images for the story, I came across this great Time Out cover of Frank Zappa, from the golden era when Pearce Marchbank was the art director (Peter and Pearce were at Central School of Art together). eye is out now…

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

Thursday, January 26th

ONE RECORD OF THE WEEK
London’s myriad opportunities for vinyl purchasing leads to some odd places, but this is up there with the (floating) Record Deck – Subtitles café on Balls Pond Road, where you can not only get coffee but original Czech film posters and 331/3 records. Navigating its tiny space is fun, as is flicking through the racks, where I came across this – Charlie McCoy’s The Real McCoy. I know that it will, in all probability, not set the world afire (although it won a Grammy), but it’s basically the Area Code 615 lineup, put together after recording Nashville Skyline (most of them had also worked on Blonde on Blonde three years earlier). One of the few bands named after phone area codes, although you can find some others here (but not Area Code 615, strangely).

mccoy

TWO REAL COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Of the Oscar-nominated films that films I’ve seen so far, Hell or High Water is the most solid. A small story told exceptionally well with great performances all round and a kickass country score (Billie Joe Shaver, Waylon Jennings et al) surrounded by mood music from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The final song is “Outlaw State Of Mind” by Chris Stapleton, which, if you have an affinity to the outlaw country scene of Willie and Waylon and the boys, will take you back to Luckenback, Texas. Investigating further, I found this fine clip of Stapleton performing George Jones’ “Tennessee Whiskey” – bass and keyboards have the Muscle Shoals ’67 look down pat. Chris also gives good interview – “If somebody tells me it sounds dated, I’d say that’s great, as long as the date is 1978… I’m a fan of polarization. If you make something that is palatable to everybody, it’s like making vanilla ice cream, and I think we have enough of that.”

THREE IN OTHER OSCAR NEWS
The gloomy Manchester by the Sea has Lesley Barber’s classical score ladled over it like clam chowder, never letting the film breathe. It jerks into life in a bar scene when there’s a knockout triple of Shirley and Lee’s cataclysmic “Let the Good Times Roll” segueing into Albert King’s solid “Driving Wheel” followed by Ray Charles with “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’”, as Casey Affleck picks another hopeless fight. It’s a beautifully crafted film, with great performances (except, somehow, Michelle Williams, who feels over the top), but we left wondering what the point of it was. I’ll report back on La La Land (I’m not hopeful – it looks like One From the Heart with extra dancing).

FOUR HOWEVER, THIS I WANT TO SEE
From a US Esquire cover story on Pharrell, by Jeff Gordinier: “Pharrell’s feminist inclinations fueled his latest endeavor, Hidden Figures, a film he worked on as a producer and wrote original music for. The movie tells one of those stories from the course of American history that you can’t believe has gone unheard for so long.

Directed by Theodore Melfi and starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, it raises a toast to three African-American women (Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson) who worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, where they played pivotal roles in America’s space race against Mother Russia in the early 1960s. Without their breakthroughs in mathematical formulas, computer programming (then in its infancy), and engineering, astronaut John Glenn may never have made it into orbit – nor would he and his capsule have splashed down successfully near Grand Turk island.

For decades, their story wasn’t merely marginalized; it was unknown, not even a blip on the radar. No one was listening. “The female contribution to anything significant has always been historically dismissed or discounted, or often erased,” Pharrell says. To a degree, the women were unseen and unheard within the white management structure of NASA, even while they were in the midst of making the calculations that would eventually send American astronauts to the moon. The movie has a series of scenes in which Henson, playing Johnson, has to totter frantically in high heels to a building far away from the main Langley war room because no one thought, in those last days of segregation, to provide a nearby restroom for black women. “That’s how rigged the matrix was,” Pharrell says.

AND FINALLY… STATISTIC CORNER!
I stumbled across this site that purports to tell you what your site is worth, should you be in any way interested in monetizing it. I of course ran the numbers on Five Things. I then ran them for two of the finest music blogs, thebluemoment and JazzWax. Here are the results:

worthofweb

In Eurovision terms I think that makes Five Things nul points.

Next week, I’ll catch up with the March of Mediocrity that was the Pre-Inagaration concert, great rock reads, and Barry Gibb.

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

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

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Thursday, October 20th

Mark, you don’t need to tell me this is too much Dylan…!

ONE RING NO BELLS
In one of the best among the plethora of the Why Bob Dylan is a worthy Nobel Prize winner pieces – as my friend Graham emailed, “an anagram of Blonde on Blonde is BD done Nobel (although there’s an o, n and l leftover)” – Richard Williams mentioned a song that may be obscure, but is a great piece of work – “’Cross the Green Mountain”, written for the movie Gods and Generals. Dylan’s fascination with the Civil War as a country-defining event was chronicled in Chronicles, of course, and thus is a natural fit. It’s memorable not only for its fine lyric but for the extraordinary sombre slow march created by the musicians – that chugging electric rhythm, the ghostly organ, the keening violin and the tension-and-release press rolls on the drums.

 It’s a-one off, really, in the Dylan canon, and comes from a fertile period of writing songs for films – from “Things Have Changed” for Wonder Boys, through “Waiting For You” in The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to the wonderful “Tell Ol’ Bill”* from North Country and “Huck’s Tune” from Lucky You. Most of these were finally collected together in Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8.

That said, the song’s video (it loses about four verses) is one of the stranger ones I’ve ever seen, for Bob’s hair and hat alone.

 This is from a terrific piece by Tom Junod in US Esquire from 2014 [that can be found here]: “When Ron Maxwell, the director of Gods and Generals, got it into his head to ask Dylan for an original song, his music coordinator laughed at him. But when he asked, he got a reply from Dylan’s management right away, and both Maxwell and his wife wound up listening to “Cross the Green Mountain” with Dylan and his band at a studio in the Valley. “He was there in his New Balance shoes,” Maxwell says. “He was a bit shy, I want to say. We said hi and shook hands. When they played the song back, he was looking away. I heard the whole thing, taking notes. At first I was thinking, That’s a lot of verses. Then it was finished, and I stood up and he looked at me. I said, I really like it. He said, You do? You like it? I said, I more than like it – are you kidding? And he relaxed and all the band members relaxed. The tension left the room. They let me know they were all fans of [Maxwell’s first Civil War movie] Gettysburg and watched it over and over again on the bus.”

*Google the outtakes for this song – they must have tried it ten different ways, at every tempo known to man…

TWO LANGUAGE CORNER
We can thank The Donald for at least restoring some great and underused words to the English language, such as Prig & Blowhard. This piece on the decrepit state of Trump Tower’s public spaces, and what it says about the man, is brilliant.

THREE UGLIEST ALBUM COVER OF 2016?
Kings of Leon, take a bow. And don’t do any more chat shows, if last week’s appearance on Graham Norton’s show is anything to go by. Coming off like sulky teenagers is so, well, 1980s…

kolFOUR PETULA CLARK, “LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF” THE BIG ISSUE
My biggest piece of advice to the younger me is something I don’t think she could do. It would be to find your own voice. Something only you have. It’s not easy. Some people find it right away. It seems to me that Amy Winehouse found hers right away. But it took me a long time. I had to go through a lot of experiences. I don’t think I found it until I was into my 30s and working in America. I was learning along the way but my real voice didn’t come out until then. I think there’s something in my voice that I can’t describe – I’m not even sure what it is. Lots of singers sing better than me but what makes you an individual, makes you stand out, is almost impossible to define.

FIVE THANK YOU, JOHN
For sending me two Dylan related things. One: a fine drawing (I don’t know who for, with John it could be from the scrapbook, or for the hallowed pages of the New Yorker). John’s latest NY cover of Trump was unceremoniously bumped (just like Trump will be on Nov 8, I hope) on the day before hitting the newsstand, by, of course, the Bob Nobel News…

johnTwo: this great excerpt from Carol Bayer Sager’s new autobiography, titled Writing Lyrics With Bob Dylan Is Weird, something that I think we all suspected, but without the great detail that CBS goes into. In Bob’s chilly barn, she looks in her bag for a pen:
I had my usual yellow-lined legal pad and he gave me a pen when I couldn’t find mine in my overstuffed bag which included a wallet, a card case, a makeup bag in case I was sleeping over, Kleenex, Chapstick, a small collection of star crystals in a small silk pouch which I carried because I was afraid to stop carrying them in case they were protecting me, a croc case for my Lactaid and my Stevia, cards with people’s names on them I no longer knew, a mirror given me by Elizabeth with undistorted magnification, my eyeglasses, a rubber tip that a dental hygienist had dropped in one day, and scores of useless other things that just kind of piled up in there.
“Thank you,” I said, taking my head out of my bag long enough to take his ballpoint pen, which I wished had a thicker tip.
I refocused. “So, do you have any ideas of what you feel like writing?”
“Well, I’ve got a little bit of an idea.”
He mumbled his words very softly. I thought he said “I godda libble bid a deer.”

If you’re receiving the e-mailout, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

 

Tuesday, 20th October

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Five Things is a little all over the shop this week – some pieces are in the wrong place, and others, about things I actually saw this week, will be in next week’s column. I hope that’s clear… for instance, Friday bought Paolo Conte to the Barbican, and I’ll try to write about that next week. He’s 78, and was the first of The Big Beasts of the A/W 2015 Season™ – and was utterly fantastic. The others are Bob [74] this week, and Charles Aznavour [91!] in November.

EXTRA! 5 THINGS INTERIOR DÉCOR TIPS
Years ago, Rolling Stone did a piece on Levon Helm’s studio, The Barn, and they were extremely taken with the full-size American flags that were hung from the tall double-height walls. They suggested that Levon could well turn his talents to interior design. Well, my current tip is inspired by Bernard Paturel’s Café Espresso in Woodstock. In a set of photos taken by Douglas Gilbert in 1964 for Look magazine – but rejected, as Dylan was deemed too scruffy – there are shots of Bob writing in the upstairs room. Behind him are tools hung on pegboard (perforated hardboard to the timber trade), and I became obsessed with finding some to put on the studio wall. Of course, it also has memories of record-listening booths in the early sixties, so seemed apposite. Thrilled to actually find some, this was the result. I am, obviously, available for all freelance interior design gigs…

Dylantypestudio[I also remember that we once saw Julia Childs’ kitchen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It had been taken from her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts to be displayed at The Smithsonian. She had used pegboards to hang her utensils.]

IT’S NOT HAPPY VALLEY…
but Unforgotten’s pretty good and the cast is cracking: Bernard Hill, Ruth Sheen, Brian Bovell, Tom Courtenay, Hannah Gordon, Cherie Lunghi and Trevor Eve among them. Loved the exchange between the lead detectives, Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar. His character is nicknamed Sunny, and when he gives his boss (Walker) a piece of information that she’s been obsessing over, she breaks out Bobby Hebb: “Sunny, yesterday my life was full of rain, Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain…”

IF YOU LIKED THAT, YOU MAY LIKE THIS…
Also in detfic news, Aby Morgan’s weird police procedural, River, (think Sixth Sense crossed with Prime Suspect) has a first episode brilliantly bookended by “I Love to Love (But My Baby Loves to Dance)” by Tina Charles, first as a singalong in the car, by Nicola Walker (excellent again) and Stellan Skarsgård, and at the end, as karaoke. Produced by Biddu (remember the Biddu Orchestra?) it’s a creditable lift of the TK house band sound – way better than I remember it.

RADIATING SUNSHINE
Not being able to find Sunny at home and wanting to hear it again I went to YouTube, and discovered this excellent tv performance with Bobby Hebb accompanied by the great Ron Carter on (electric!) bass. After the intro, Bobby goes into the setup for the first verse but unaccountably, teasingly, slips in a bit of the James Bond theme. And the way the key just gets higher and higher towards the end is just great. Don Cheadle could play him in a heartbeat.

Richard Williams wrote a terrific obituary when Bobby died in 2010: “Two minutes and 44 seconds of unrepeatable pop-soul alchemy, recorded almost as an afterthought at the end of a session in which greater attention had been paid to other songs. A two-second snare-drum roll, an irresistibly cool bass figure, the mentholated chimes of a vibraphone, and a guitar and a hi-hat italicising the backbeat introduced Hebb’s light-toned but unmistakably ardent voice, soon buttressed by a purring horn section, kicking drums and cooing backup vocals. It was a gift to discotheques everywhere.”

Bobby had a proper backstory, too… “He was born [Robert Von Hebb] in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of blind musicians, and he and his brother Harold, who was six years older, performed on the street as part of the family’s washboard band, Hebb’s Kitchen Cabinet Orchestra, while they were still children. In his teens, Hebb became the only black member of Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys, playing the spoons and other instruments, at a time when commercial country music was an exclusively white preserve.” See what I mean?

You can also watch James Brown kicking it out of the park here. This performance was uploaded by rare soul films, which does what it says on the tin – a real treasure chest of great tv performances.

SPEAKING OF DON CHEADLE
An interesting review of Don’s Miles Davis biopic from Matt Patches of US Esquire:
“In his prismatic, percussive biopic Miles Ahead, which just premiered at the New York Film Festival, actor-director Don Cheadle picks up with Davis at his lowest point, a late-’70s stretch of musician’s block provoked by depression and fluffed with cocaine. Through flashbacks and haunting memories, we see the full pendulum swing – from success stories, down to derailment, and all that jazz in between. Cheadle evokes Davis’ recordings with mercurial style and his own rambunctious performance as the late legend. The past ebbs and flows out of the present. Deeper cuts (think Agharta) rub against the classics in an anachronistic splatter painting. The main thrust of the film, the hunt for stolen studio tapes, imagines Davis and amalgamated Rolling Stone writer Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) in a swinging version of T.J. Hooker. Cheadle pulls out all the stops to capture Davis’ essence. He never quite gets there. Miles Ahead is the rare biopic in need of Hollywood’s “cradle to grave” blueprints. By scrapping Davis’ origin story – picking up his first trumpet, finding his sound, abandoning the culture around him – the film simply insists upon importance. The music never speaks for itself.”

Friday, 25th September

bobedge

VISUAL OF THE WEEK
This may be some form of Holy Grail. I tried working out how long this would take to listen to – I’m not even sure I’ve heard all of the 6CD Basement Tapes yet – and came up with 32 hours (379 times an average of 5 minutes per track (obviously some are uncompleted takes, but some will run longer and there’ll be lots of chat). I’ve put something on the music player on the right that will be included – an outtake/alternate version of “I’ll Keep it with Mine (or, Bank Account Blues)”.

Excerpts from a few things that I liked recently but forgot, or only just got round to reading

SHOUT-OUT TO THE DRUMMER’S MUM
Charlotte Church writing in The Guardian: “But, in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus against it, how can anybody possibly think that drilling in the Arctic is OK? There have already been many, much more scholarly and informed articles and books written on the subject than I could offer, such as Rick Steiner’s essay on Arctic drilling, Terry Macalister’s book Polar Opposites: Opportunities and Threats in the Arctic; and Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and Annie Leonard, published in June. I wouldn’t have read any of them had I not been approached by my drummer’s mum, who spoke to me extensively in my kitchen about the (at that point) intended drilling plans, and encouraged me to sign the Arctic Declaration. I implore you all to go speak to your own drummer’s mum.”

KEITH RICHARDS INTERVIEWED BY SCOTT RAAB, US ESQUIRE:
Do you know that José 
Feliciano lives in the same town as you in Connecticut?
“I do know that, but I’ve never met him. We’ve never crossed paths, even though Weston is a very small town – there’s a gas station and a market.
So you’re actually the 
second-best guitarist in Weston, Connecticut.
“I’d go for that. He’s a far better guitar player than me.”

I don’t think so.
“No – I mean technically, classically. I ain’t trained that way. I force the thing to do as it’s told.

I don’t know much beyond the sounds I hear.
“Thank God, nor do I. The technical aspects – my horror is doing interviews with Guitar Magazine or something. I’ve got my favorite axes that I 
do know quite a bit about, 
but when they start to go, “Is that the Gibson S3?” – I don’t fucking know. It works all right for me.”

Listening to Crosseyed Heart, Keith’s new album, I’m struck by the youthfulness of his voice, and the fact that, in places, he sounds like Mark Knopfler. Hell, in places it even sounds like a Dire Straits record…

SUBSCRIPTION ADVICE
Tune in to Joe Boyd’s A-Z. He’s up to F! The first [A] is partly about Andy Razaf, lyricist on “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You”, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose”, the second [B] about Rastafarians in Jamaica and the birth of Reggae. Toots & The Maytals song “Bam Bam” is the B of the A-Z. “Those trombone parts were overdubbed by Rico Rodriguez, a great Rasta trombone player. Toots had no written arrangements, he would just go into the studio and hum a melody line in Rico’s ear, and Rico would try and follow it. When he got one line done, Toots would them hum a harmony, and once they’d got that done, we’d move on to the next bar. It was a very, very slow process – they went in the studio about nine, and emerged about four in the morning with blood trickling down Rico’s chin from his split lip. But he was grinning…”

That’s as far as I’ve got, but they are highly recommended for information illumination par excellence.

ONE MORE PIECE OF FILM (FOR THE ROAD)
Watch this staggering film. I was sent there by Jonny Trunk in his always amusing 50p Friday emails: “I managed to license some very good music this week by the amazing Ernest Berk. He was a ballet dancer, teacher and modern creative thinker who turned to avant-garde composing for his own ballets. All I can say is wow. And then wow again. I came across him a few years ago and it’s taken me years to track down some music and actually license it. To give you a flavour of what lies ahead here is one of his scores, made for David Gladwell’s 1964 An Unitled Film for the BFI. Hold tight. I suggest you do not look if you are a vegetarian. [Ed’s note… Type lovers, check out the titles, where more prominence is given to the words FOR THE than either the filmaker or the BFI. David Gladwell, best known as an editor (Lindsay Anderson’s If… and O Lucky Man!) filmed this short at 200 fps. As the BFI says, “it depicts a series of pastoral scenes from a British farm, edited together to produce a suggestion of violence in contrast to its visual beauty”].

Wednesday, 1st April

VISUAL OF THE WEEK

Chris

“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right”, I imagine Virginia Woolf to be singing as we chance upon the latest hoarding at Fitzroy Place, the Candy Bros high-security detention centre for the obscenely rich. It tells us that Coldplay formed at the University of London. And on the right, as I’ve pointed out before, Dylan’s illustration is accompanied by the fact that he played The King and Queen in Foley Street on his first visit to London. Fitzroy Place is, apparently, Where Creativity Lives and that fact is illuminated by said hoardings. Chris looks strangely unmoved by this knowledge.

SOMETHING I LEARNED 1
Searching for a release date for Alex Gibney’s documentary on Scientology, Going Clear, (it’s just premiered on HBO) I came across this. You’ll need a strong stomach to watch, and an even stronger stomach to listen, but it’s worth it for the subtitles explaining the fate of Scientology’s 1990 top tier.

SOMETHING I LEARNED 2
A memory of the Rolling Stones live at Hyde Park, 5 July 1969 by co-promoter Andrew King in M magazine:

“It was the week Brian Jones had drowned. They’d already sacked him a month before and were rehearsing guitarist Mick Taylor. Mick and Keith thought someone might have a pop at them that day, so there were guns around. It was the first time I’d ever seen guns in the music biz. They were very worried.
During the course of that day a million people came and went. For me, the day kicked off at three in the morning and went on very late indeed. The butterflies were such a bloody hassle! Mick announced that he was going to read a poem by Shelley on the death of Keats, which he did quite extraordinarily badly, as if he’d never heard of a comma or full stop in his life. It was obviously Marianne’s idea – she was the literary one.
When he finished, all these butterflies were supposed to fly out, representing the soul of Brian Jones. It was my job to unleash them. The butterflies were bred at a farm in the West Country [and] came up by overnight train in cardboard boxes to Paddington Station. I remember the breed had been a thing of considerable consternation with the gardeners, because they didn’t want them to affect the park’s ecosystem. We were chuffed we’d managed to find the right species of butterfly – but it wasn’t plain sailing from there. I remember being down at Paddington Station at 4.30am to collect them, peeped into one of the boxes… and they all appeared to be dead! I panicked and called the butterfly farm, who told me they were just cold and asleep, and I had to warm them up to get them to fly.
So I took them backstage, but the only heating we had were two tiny electric fires students use to heat cans of baked beans. We started stacking up these butterfly boxes on the heaters and one of them caught fire. It was a real palaver. In the end, we managed to perk them up a bit and by the time of the gig a few butterflies did fly out as they were supposed to, but an awful lot just went plonk onto the stage. I’ll always remember Mick in that tutu, looking on somewhat aghast…

A QUOTE QUITE-LIKED
Lulu in a Q&A in the Guardian Weekend: If you could go back in time, where would you go?
“To the 60s, when I was 16, at the Marquee in Soho, and Eric Clapton asked what I was doing that night. I would give him a better answer.”

OH NO, NOT THAT AGAIN…
An excellently argued piece by US Esquire’s Andy Langer about the need for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to go dark for five years. “It needs a way out in years in which Seal, Primus, and Sublime or, worse yet, Counting Crows are looking for a way in.”

AND ON THE PLAYLIST THIS WEEK…
“All I Have to Do is Dream”, Keith Richards solo piano version, recorded at Longview Farm, North Brookfield, Mass, in late May 1981. As Keith works it out – playing piano like a guitar player – he inches towards Charlie Rich territory, and it’s strangely affecting.

 

Wednesday, 17 December

A ‘Five Things’ film recommendation
I notice that Whiplash is coming out early in the New Year. I saw it at the London Film Festival, and thought it was a terrific addition to a small genre: the struggling musician film. It’s really difficult to make fictional music films. As John Jeremiah Sullivan wrote of Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis, “It’s easy to find actors who can play and sing, and it’s easy to find musicians who believe they can act, but to find someone who can do both at the level needed, and at the same time, is rare… the problem with putting live performance in a narrative movie, the reason nobody does it, is you can’t splice the film together later; if the tempo is even a hair off between takes, the flow is ruined.” Issac was like a metronome, according to T Bone Burnette, who “sat off camera with a stopwatch, timing his individual measures.” What also makes Whiplash work is its twist on the “inspirational teacher movie”: As its young director, Damien Chazelle, says, “it’s structured like any inspirational teacher movie is structured, except my teacher is an asshole.”

Joe Keohane, in American Esquire captured it well: “The gist: Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is a first-year student at the top conservatory in New York. He’s a promising jazz drummer, but no one seems to notice. Legendary music teacher Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) takes the kid under his wing, and sure enough, over time, whole worlds of potential are revealed. Ah, the magic of great teaching! Thing is, Fletcher isn’t a great teacher in the way, say, Robin Williams was in Dead Poets Society. He’s more of a sadistic monster, a bulging forehead vein of a man who believes there are no two more harmful words than good job. He screams at his students, pits them against one another, and pushes them until they cry and bleed… Sure, it might sound like something Ayn Rand wrote with Gordon Ramsay and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, but thankfully Whiplash resists any easy conclusions. It just looks at greatness, the seductive power of it, the collateral damage done in its pursuit, and asks, again and again: Is it worth it? You watch the drumming and you look at the human wreckage trailing in its wake, and it doesn’t look good, frankly. But then you watch more of that drumming, the stray beads of sweat on the ride and the blood on the snare, riot straining against rhythm, the whole of it capturing something elemental and profound, and you think, in spite of yourself, It is.

“The American jazz musician who saved my life”
Hidden away in Family (for the most part, a fairly ghastly section of the Saturday Guardian), this astonishing tale. It’s introduced thus: “Aged 21, Francois Grosjean’s father introduced him to a dinner guest one night, with a cryptic remark. They never met again but 45 years later, he discovered that this old friend of his parents had been pivotal to his existence.” He is looking through a short autobiography his mother wrote: “As I was reading about her pregnancy, I came across a few sentences that startled me, and that I had to read twice. My mother had written, “One day (my husband) brought home to dinner an American soldier, Jimmy Davis, a musician. He had just finished writing a song called “Lover Man” which became a big success. He persuaded me that it was wrong to abort. With his help, I decided to keep the baby.” It starts his search to find out more about Jimmy Davis…

Bob. An Audience of one. Totally Bonkers: “Will he experience the complete euphoria?”
Gabe alerts me to this, in which a Swedish company asks (with a little help from Google Translate) this: “Do we have more fun together with others? In Experiment Alone gambling company Paf investigates the role of community to human enjoyment and well-being. After five experiments and with more than 700,000 viewers, We Have Reached now the Grand Finale. One of Sweden’s, perhaps even the world’s, biggest Bob Dylan fans Is About To See his idol performances at an arena gig – all alone. How Will Frederick Find the experiment? Will he experience the complete euphoria or Will a feeling of emptiness come creeping It When there is no one to share the experience with?” Hear Bob and Band play Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat” to an almost empty theatre, and the sound of one man clapping. Then hear Bob do a truly weird, deconstructed, voodoo version of “Blueberry Hill” that sounds like a bad New Orleans dream…

Jonny Trunk’s demented ordering instructions for his release of rare Brazilian album “Tam…Tam…Tam…!”
“Yes, I’d not heard of it either until August this year, which is why the LP is quite unexpected. Originally it was released in 1958 (in Brazil), and is a recording made relating to a musical extravaganza called “Braziliana” that toured the world in the 1950s. The music is a potent mix of hypnotic tribal chants, rhythms and extraordinary melodies – it sounds like no other album I can think of… The more you listen to Tam…Tam…Tam…! the more of the future you hear. To Order:
1) First decide what you version you would like.
2) Find yourself the correct note(s) – £5, £10. £20 etc.
3) Find yourself a piece of paper, upon which you must write i) your name, ii) your address, and iii) what format(s) you would like.
4) At the bottom of the paper draw something to do with Brazil or Brazilians. And yes, I know what you are thinking. Your drawing could be as good or as bad as you like. A simple football will suffice.
5) Finally wrap your money up in the paper, put it in an envelope and send it.

Image Of The Week: Gods Own Junkyard
At Lights of Soho, Brewer Street, the great creations of Neon Man, Chris Bracey…

Neon

 

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 17th October

Rock Me, Davy!
1972, Fulham. Tony Cane Honeysett calls me over to his record player. Listen to this! he says. The 45 starts with a snarly riff, before going into a moody, groovy blues, with snappy drums and hooky fuzz guitars. The singer sounds both pop and familiar. After a few minutes I tumble. It’s David Cassidy, essaying a new, more grown-up direction, trying to move on from teen fandom to a kind of rock/blues. In May of ’72 he’ll pose nearly naked for Annie Leibovitz in Rolling Stone. This week in 2012, four of Cassidy’s albums from this period are re-released. Not sure I’ll check them out, but for old times sake (Hey, Tone!) I re-listen to Rock Me Baby, and it’s great. The Wrecking Crew rhythm section—Hal Blaine on drums and Joe Osbourne on bass—get down while Mike Melvoin (father of Wendy) prowls around the edges on piano. In the centre of the soundstage Larry Carlton and Dean Parks strut and fret, combining to brew up a nasty Southern Rock snarl. It’s just great, and I’m back in Anselm Road with Tony…

Seamus Ryan Sings ‘Liverpool Lou’
We had 12 minutes to photograph Billy Connolly in a room in a painfully Boutique Hotel™ this week. Photographer [to the stars] Seamus breaks the ice and makes a connection by revealing that he’s Dominic Behan’s godson, and Billy, famously, once decked Dominic in a bar, a fight broken up by Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners. Billy remembers the incident in detail, including the fact that he apologized the next morning to Dominic (sober throughout the whole fracas). At one point in the twelve minutes Seamus sings a few bars of Liverpool Lou, one of his godfather’s most famous songs [he also wrote The Patriot Game], very prettily. On a recent Desert Island Discs, Yoko Ono selected Liverpool Lou as one of her choices, remembering that her husband had sung it to their son as a lullaby. Oh, and Seamus delivered, as always.

Now This Sounds Intriguing…
The Coen brothers’ next film is Inside Llewyn Davis, about a struggling folk musician in the Village at the height of the 1960s folk scene. Apparently, the film’s title character is based on Dave Van Ronk. Bob Sheldon called him The Mayor of MacDougal Street [the name of Van Ronk’s autobiography, written with Elijah Wald] and everyone who went through Greenwich Village at that time seems to owe him a debt, most famously Dylan. John Goodman was interviewed in US Esquire this month by Scott Raab, and talked about it:
Raab: What are you shooting in New York?
Goodman: Inside Llewyn Davis. I’m playing a junkie jazz musician for Joel and Ethan Coen. I haven’t worked with them since O Brother, Where Art Thou?—15 years. Boy, it’s great to be back with them again. We have a real good comfort zone. I just adore being with those guys. It’s like hanging around with high school guys or something.
Raab: I’ve heard the film is based on folk singer Dave Van Ronk’s life. So it’s set in Greenwich Village in the ’60s?
Goodman: Right on the cusp of Dylan’s big explosion.
Raab: I’m probably one of the few people who’s seen Masked and Anonymous, the movie you were in with Dylan, half a dozen times. It’s such a strange movie, and it has so many moving parts. It’s a fascinating film. How was Dylan on set?
Goodman: Being around Bob was a trip. I just hung back and watched him. When the cats had downtime, they’d go somewhere and play together. And I’d listen to that. The film got a god-awful reception at Sundance. There were a lot of walkouts, but who cares? It was kind of an absurdist, futurist piece. It was fun. And I got to work with Jeff Bridges again. I got to stand next to the fabulous Penélope Cruz for a little while. That was worth the price of admission. Senorita Cruz.”

Mortification Corner
1>
“Diana Krall has collaborated with Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood and acclaimed photographer Mark Seliger to create a series of beautiful and striking images for Krall’s new album, Glad Rag Doll. They are inspired by Alfred Cheney Johnston’s pictures of the girls of the Ziegfeld Follies taken during the 1920s.” Well, if you say so…
2> Pity poor Art Garfunkel as he sits on the sofa being interviewed by the One Show dolts whilst they implore the Mrs Robinson’s in their audience to text photos of themselves, preferably with toyboys. Art tried to modify the disdain in his expression, but didn’t quite succeed…

King Harvest (Has Surely Come): Hyde Park, Saturday

“Corn in the field, listen to the cars when they cross Hyde Park Corner…”

Five Things I Saw & Heard This Week: Wednesday 11th April

Lionel Richie, What I’ve Learned, Esquire (US), April issue
“If what’s happening now in America had happened in the sixties, we would have protests like you’ve never seen before. But in 2011, people can name every player on the football team, but they can’t tell you how badly they’re being taken advantage of and by whom. They know what Gaga’s doing, but they don’t know what the government’s doing. Everyone’s on Facebook and Myspace and Yourspace and Theirspace and Twitter and Tweeter. Great, fantastic! But anybody paying attention?” From Tuskegee, Alabama, to 1600 Penn Ave—Lionel for Vice Pres 2012!

emusic find of the month
Hayes Carll’s Kmag Yoyo (military acronym, “Kiss My Ass Guys, You’re On Your Own”), which features the beautiful, Willie Nelson-esque Chances Are. “Chances are I took the wrong turn, every time I had a turn to take.” Every so often a classic country song is just what you need. And the title track’s Subterranean Homesick feel is pretty cool, too.

Havenly
News that Rumer is to cover It Could Be The First Day by Richie Havens sent me back to Stonehenge, one of the albums he made in the late sixties which also featured his great covers of I Started A Joke and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. Richie also features on An Album To Benefit Preservation Hall (2010), which rounds up some usual and unusual suspects (Paolo Nutini, Andrew Bird, Tom Waits, Pete Seeger, Merle Haggard, Dr John, Steve Earle, Amy Lavere) in support of this venerable New Orleans institution, and his track may just be the best thing on it. Trouble In Mind is a totally gorgeous version of a old chestnut—with soft horns, walking bass, sad dobro and sandpaper clarinet underpinning Havens’ stoic vocal.

Girl Talk, Girl Talk
Speaking of muted horns, that song prompted me to find a tape recording I’d made in the late seventies. I had, unfashionably, gone to Ronnie Scott’s with tutor-cum-landlord, Dennis Bailey, to see Panama Francis And His Savoy Sultans. Dennis insisted we see a bit of jazz history, and we weren’t disappointed. To hear a (little) Big Band in a small club is an experience not to be forgotten, but what stayed with me was a glorious take on the torchy Girl Talk, a song composed by Neal Hefti, lyrics by Bobby Troup, written for the 1965 film Harlow, a biopic starring Carroll “Baby Doll” Baker. The song has been described by Michael Feinstein as the “last great male chauvinistic song written in the 60’s,” but hey—an instrumental version = no-one offended! Panama laid out a sifty undertow on his kit, the horns spread out and one of the great melodies took shape. By the time the second chorus comes round they’ve put the burners on and the whole thing is glowing and swinging and Dennis is shouting yes! yes! and we’re laughing with sheer joy, enveloped by the sound of beautifully burnished brass.
nb. Julie London does my favourite vocal version, and it is a staggering chauvinistic lyric…

In A White Room
We were talking about the surviving Abbey Road letters (as seen on the back of the Abbey Road album) that were on the memorabilia and antiques show, Four Rooms, and discussing what item of rock memorabilia we’d most like to own. The Jayne Mansfield cut-out from Sgt Pepper? Brian Wilson’s sandpit? The guitar on the cover of Joan Baez/5? My favourite choice was Simon’s: Nick Drake’s cape/blanket, Way to Blue cover.


%d bloggers like this: