Thursday, 21st July

In an honest and strangely fascinating book, it’s this one: “In 1980 New York was near bankruptcy, with garbage strikes every month it seemed, and a crumbling weedy infrastructure. These days it gleams and towers in ways most people I know hate and can’t understand. Hugging the parkway in the West Sixties and Seventies is an ugly sheet of Trump buildings, a monument to urban corruption, soft money, and natives – who should have taken to the streets – saying nothing. Farther down the island, joggers, baby strollers and blue and red bikes flow alongside a fluted, flower-filled river walkway alongside once-scary, now-forgotten docks, where gay men once met up in the dark for dates, hookups, and hookers in mink coats and high boots worked the nights until sunrise and breakfast.”

This week’s newsletter from WowHaus (for all your modernist property needs worldwide, people) has not one but two houses with attached recording studios. One is Frank Zappa’s, on Woodrow Wilson Drive, LA.

zappa“This is what the agent describes as the ultimate Artists’ retreat, complete with the famed Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. The house also has the kind of quirks you would expect for a Zappa house too, such as porthole windows and doors salvaged from vintage submarines.” Yours for $5.5 mil.

houseThe other, with a more discreet seller, is St Ann’s Court in Surrey. “Moving on to the Coach House; that’s laid out over a single floor, currently used as a creative working and living space. A good amount of that is used as a recording space, originally built by Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera (a previous owner) and used by the likes of Paul Weller, Robert Wyatt and David Gilmour. It has since been redesigned and now has a ‘large live room and a spectacular control room’.” Yours for around £9 mil. Well, not yours – or mine – obviously.

At daughter’s party at Battersea Arts Centre, Alan finds an old upright in a corridor. He – with the aid of Google and an iPhone – calls up the chords and lyrics for great pop songs like “Five Years” and “We Are the Champions” which he then proceeds to play, rather fabulously, in the style of Chas and Dave.*


I’m not even sure how I stumbled across this, but Vince Gill’s guitar collection is a treasure trove. He’s even had a custom built set of drawers to cushion and protect them, although (rather endearingly) he clunks two extremely rare Martin acoustics together at one point.


From his desk in Paris, I receive Steve Way’s next cartoon for the William De’Ath column (a majorly eccentric column at that) in The Oldie, which he said he’d been waiting to do for years


* for those who don’t know of them, Chas and Dave are “an English pop rock duo, most notable as creators and performers of a musical style labelled “rockney” (a portmanteau of rock and cockney), which mixes pub singalong, music-hall humour, boogie-woogie piano and pre-Beatles rock ’n’ roll.”

For the full 5 Things experience, please click on the Date Headline of the page in the email and you will go to the proper site (which allows you to see the Music Player). Also all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Ten Things: Wednesday 16th April/Wednesday 23rd April

Keith Haynes Exhibition, Charlotte Street

Going Underground
Knew Donovan’s “Sunny Goodge Street”, which features in another of Keith Haynes vinyl artworks, but didn’t know “Sunny South Kensington”. Listening to it on YouTube, I decided on balance I’d not missed a lot:
“Come loon soon down Cromwell Road, man/You got to spread your wings/A-flip out, skip out, trip-out, and a-make your stand, folks, to dig me as I sing/Jean-Paul Belmondo and-a Mary Quant got Stoned to say the least/Ginsberg, he ended up-a dry and so he a-took a trip out East.”

I Left My Heart in San Francisco
Reminded when Bob sends this: “Here I am again in the cafe for my morning coffee and read. I like this place because it is a good mix of working class, tech and the poor. Like myself, I guess. Anyway, they again have turned the music selection to Pandora… Motown and related music is in the air, the customers are about to burst into dance. It feels like a Bollywood movie. What a great way to start the day. I exit to BB and the thrill is gone. Bob/Sent from my iPhone

Allen Toussaint…
may be the man to call if you need a Silent Film Pianist. His evocation of childhood piano lessons, being taught “Chopsticks”, segues into a cracking romp through his favourite classical pieces and culminates with Rhapsody in Blue, via a car chase, a Hurricane and some pratfalls. His version of “St James infirmary” with a soupcon of moody “Summertime” is also a highlight. But he saves the best ’til last. Richard leans over as he finishes his set and asks what he’ll play for an encore, but I’m still hypnotised by the 20-minute long nostalgiafest of “Southern Nights” with its evocation of Allen’s childhood visits to his Creole grandparents in the bayou (“My father would take us there, to show us where we came from, so we would know where we were going… we didn’t care much about the philosophy… but we liked the ride”). I can’t think, but Richard says, quizzically, “On Your Way Down”? “Freedom For The Stallion”? And I say it’s unlikely that he’ll do the former… and then he does. It’s the moment of the night (read about it here).

Talk to Me of Mendocino
Finally catching up with the Gene Clark documentary, The Byrd Who Flew Alone made me want to a) check out Roadmaster, and b) move to Mendocino: beaches, trees, backroads, wine.

King, Springs

Seen on WowHaus: The Palm Springs estate Elvis and Priscilla Presley honeymooned at in 1966 is on the market for US$9.5 million. The house at 1350 Ladera Circle is “designed in four perfect circles, on three levels, incorporating glass and peanut brittle stonework for indoor-outdoor living.” Boasting art deco design and furnishings throughout, the four-bedroom, five-bath estate was recently “restored to is 1960s splendor” and includes a pool, private garden, tennis court, fruit orchard and – because this was the King’s castle – a stage. It’s nestled at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, with ‘the honeymoon suite’ offering a panoramic view of the Santa Rosa Mountains & the Coachella Valley.” Peanut brittle stonework?

Brilliant Shelving Exhibition, Martino Gampler at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery
I know, a shelving exhibition! But it’s fantastic, not only for the iconic shelving systems, but for the witty way that they are dressed. This is the most music related, but the weakest of the exhibits. Go see the century brought to life through tiny things on shelves.

ShelvesThe Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie
I don’t feel qualified to even comment on this extraordinary piece from John Jeremiah Sullivan for The New York Times. If this is a subject you’re interested in, just read it. And watch the beautifully made films accompanying it (Photographs and video by Leslye Davis, production by Tom Giratikanon). And at the bottom, listen to the songs. And finally hear the Kronos Quartet’s version, scored by Jacob Garchik, to hear another setting of a melody so singular, so strange and so unique.

Jesse Winchester
A lovely tribute from Allen T, who had produced one of his albums, led me to this: the poise and perfection of both guitar and voice are really affecting.

A List to Argue Over
They’re wrong about five of them, I reckon.

Farfisa Organ, Steptoes & Son Scrap Yard, Peckham.
“Yours for £150, or £80 if you take it now, as I’m closing and then I won’t have to take it in…”



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