More Than 5 Things, September 12th, Pt. 1

I’ve seen lots of stuff over the weeks since the last post, and here it is, in no particular order. It has nothing to do with music, but you have to watch The Octopus in My House on iPlayer to see the finest nature programme of the past year. Three-hearted, blue-blooded and entirely boneless… you’ll never order octopus in a restaurant again. And, as the publicity happens for The Last Waltz at 40 tour, I’m just trying to figure out why none of the publicity mentions Garth Hudson, only musicians like Warren Haynes and Jamey Johnson, who, last time I looked, have no real Band connections. It’s also been amusing to see which media outlets had an issue with Lana Del Rey’s latest, Norman Fucking Rockwell, and how they decided to deal with that middle word. Was it F***ing? F—ng? Or F@!%ing? And there are no words for what’s happening politically at the moment in Britain, so on with the show…

{ONE} I LOVE A GOOD INTERVIEW
Fascinating Clive Davis interview by David Browne in Rolling Stone.
Which act do you regret not breaking?
“You’re always somewhat regretful of any artist you thought would break. There was the Alpha Band years ago that had T Bone Burnett and a young violinist named David Mansfield. And there were the Funky Kings with Jack Tempchin, who has written so many great songs [the Eagles’ “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Already Gone”]”.

I may be the only person who has all three of The Alpha Band albums. Featuring great T-Bone Burnett songs like “The Statue Makers of Hollywood” and “Perverse Generation”, and even a song written with artist Larry Poons. They broke in my house, but possibly not in anyone else’s. Here’s the photographic proof…

AND ALSO…
Rob Stoner interviewed by Jason Woodbury on Aquarium Drunkard, about his role in Rolling Thunder, and what he thought of the Scorsese film. He asks Stoner about Dylan’s tendancy to cloud and obscure facts about his life and work: “I mean you could even look at that as in his sartorial approach, how he changes his lid every era: started out with a little newsboy hat, a little commie, comrade worker hat, and then he went on to the top hat, then the cowboy hat, then the fucking cab driver hat. It’s all part of him just being a shapeshifter. It’s all intentional, and it’s all in fun. It makes for a more entertaining movie than just another goddamn rock documentary. Also, it’s because it poses more questions than it answers. It sets them up for a sequel.”
AD: Do you think that there will be one?
Rob Stoner: Well, they’ve got plenty of performances left in the can, and furthermore, when they set out to begin this project 12 years ago, Scorsese sent a team around to every principal who was alive at the time to do a day’s worth of interviews. They came to my house. Bob’s manager, Jeff Rosen, sat in my studio with me for an entire day, interviewing me. So they have all these interviews in the can. They’ve got enough to do it. This time, if they do it again, hopefully they’ll mention Jacques Levy, Howard Alk, and Paul Goldsmith.
When asked how he handled working with demanding artists, he put it down to “incredibly good luck and people skills. You have to employ a lot of psychology and tap dancing and tip-toeing around these people’s idiosyncrasies. These idiosyncratic individuals, man, they’re artists. Some of them have acquired their strange quirks and personality by design, some of them are just naturally that way, but either way, you have to accommodate them. It’s all about psychology, really.
AD: And that was just a natural skill set that you possessed?
Rob Stoner: Well, basically, it was a desire to keep the job!
AD: Did you ever work for anybody who was more difficult to please than Dylan?
Rob Stoner: I’m gonna have to save that one for my book, man. [Laughs]

{TWO} MUSIC TO WORK TO

At least, that’s how this track worked for me. Forty two minutes and twenty seconds of “Wichita Lineman”. In places it is exquisitely beautiful. Apparently mentioned in Dylan Jones’ new book about the song (yes, just that song. A whole book). Hear DJ talk about it on the Rock’s Backpages Podcast here (it’s Episode 37).

{THREE} WORLD’S COOLEST TRUMPET?

Coming up in late October, as part of Christies Exceptional Auction, this Miles Davis-owned trumpet… “The trumpet was made by the Martin Company, which had been founded in Chicago in 1865 by the German instrument-maker, Johann Heinrich Martin. By the middle of the 20th century, demand for its trumpets was pretty much insatiable. Dizzy Gillespie was a huge fan, Miles Davis was another. Davis was particularly fond of a model called the Committee. So much so that when the Martin Company was sold to a rival manufacturer in the 1960s – and the production of Committee trumpets officially stopped – they continued to be custom-made for Davis. The Committee horn being auctioned was one of a set of three conceived by designer Larry Ramirez, who was a part-time jazz trumpeter himself. At Davis’s request, one was coloured red, one blue and one black – each of them decorated with a gilt moon and stars, and with the word ‘Miles’ inscribed inside the bell. Ramirez told the story, in later life, of the nerves he’d felt at the moment Davis handed him back one of the horns and said, ‘You play, don’t you?’. He duly played a tentative passage from Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and remembers his relief when Davis observed, ‘Man, you play pretty good’.”

{FOUR} RIP JIMMY JOHNSON, RIP DONNIE FRITTS
When we recorded in the Shoals, Jimmy lent Mark his Telecaster, and us his car. Jimmy, like all of the Shoals team, wanted to help out. Tape Ops, receptionists, engineers, legends – all of them the embodiment of Southern Hospitality. I promptly reversed the car into a telegraph pole. Here I am on the bonnet of the Jimmymobile, pre-prang.

And Donnie (Flip-Side) Fritts was the subject of this lovely memoir by David Hood’s son Patterson (thanks, Bob, for The Bitter Southerner tip). A tribute to “Alabama’s Leaning Man”, he starts, “There was never a time when I didn’t know Funky Donnie Fritts…” and goes on to tell of Donnie’s life and times. “One of my favorites among Donnie’s songs was “Where’s Eddie,” which he and Eddie Hinton co-wrote around sunrise one morning. They got drunk, climbed a tree, and wrote the tune while sitting among the limbs. The British artist Lulu ended up recording it for New Routes, the album she recorded in Muscle Shoals. Years later, my band Drive-By Truckers recorded it for our album Go-Go Boots. Donnie later told me that he and Hinton drunkenly argued over whose name would grace the title. Fortunately, neither fell out of that tree.”

Donnie Fritts and Jimmy Johnson at Muscle Shoals Sound during the Prone to Lean Sessions

{FIVE} NICE NAMING, BRIAN…
The excellent film on Dieter Rams, part of the BBC’s Design Week of programmes, was graced with a fine Eno soundtrack (evocatively named, as usual). The three outliers were a Lotte Lenya Brecht/Weill track, Mancini’s “Days of Wine and Roses” and John Lewis’ “D&E”, both performed by Oscar Peterson.

{BEFORE YOU GO…}
The Tom Waits song location map

The RBP podcast with Richard Williams
A great episode. As Barney writes, “In the latest episode of the Rock’s Backpages podcast, Jasper Murison-Bowie (left) and I talk with very special guest Richard Williams about his long & august career as a writer, editor & author… and about Easy Rider, Arthur Lee, Albert Ayler, Laura Nyro, Melody Maker & much, much more. Richard gave me my first break as a music writer when he (and Ian Birch) gave me some reviews to write for MM in 1979. I owe him more than I can ever express. His taste and erudition have been beacons for me for at least 45 years. Thank you, sir.” Find it here (it’s Episode 41).

Life looks better in Super 8
Rather beautiful Super 8 movies of the Elliot Lawrence Big Band on the road in 1950, from Marc Myers’ JazzWax.

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The book of Five Things is available from Amazon here.

Front Cover

“He writes with the insight of someone who has inhabited the world of the professional musician but also with the infectious enthusiasm of someone who is a fan like anyone of us. He also comes at the subject from an entirely personal, slightly sideways perspective, with no agenda and no product to sell. It’s entertaining and inspiring in equal measure.” – from an Amazon review by Zuma
“A terrific book, stuffed to the gills with snippets of news items and observations all with a musical theme, pulled together by the watchful eye of Martin Colyer… lovingly compiled, rammed with colour photos and interesting stories. He has a good ear for a tune, an eye for the out-of-ordinary and can write a bit too.” – Steve Carr, everyrecordtellsastory.com

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

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