Archive for the ‘gigs’ Category

All Souls’ Day

Patti Smith 1975 by Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989

Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe (1975)

Today is the day the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946. Today is the day the guitarist Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith of the MC5 died, a quarter of a century ago. Today is the day Patti Smith’s grandchild was born. Patti was married to Fred, and was best-friends with Robert.

Coincidences is one of the things I write often about on this blog. It feels like there’s a pattern in the coincidences of these dates. It’s the kind of thing that makes me think of myself as a pantheist.

Two days ago, on All Souls’ Day, I went to see Patti Smith at the Central Hall Westminster aka Methodist Central Hall, a two-thousand seat domed venue near the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey (and Channel 4) which served as venue for a number of key Suffragette events around 1914. It is also the building where the first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly took place (in 1946). Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Churchill have all spoken there.

On Saturday evening Patti Smith spoke about her work and life and read from her new memoir ‘Year of the Monkey’. She also performed six songs with her bandmate Tony Shanahan.

1 Wing

I was a wing in heaven blue
soared over the ocean
soared over Spain
and I was free
needed nobody
it was beautiful
it was beautiful

After the UN General Assembly used the hall on 10th January 1946 with 51 nations attending it repaid the venue by paying for it to be painted light blue – perhaps heaven blue.

The song comes from ‘Gone Again’, Patti’s 6th studio album, which was released in the wake of various losses in her life – Fred, Robert, her brother Todd and her pianist Richard Sohl among them. All Sohl’s Day.

2 Beneath the Southern Cross

Oh
To be
Not anyone
Gone
This maze of being
Skin
Oh
To cry
Not any cry
So mournful that
The dove just laughs
The steadfast gasps

This song is from the same LP – it features Jeff Buckley on backing vocals. Tony Shanahan played bass on the record. ‘Gone Again’ came out in the summer of 1996 – Jeff died in the summer of the following year. All Souls’ Day.

3  My Blakean Year

In my Blakean year
I was so disposed
Toward a mission yet unclear
Advancing pole by pole
Fortune breathed into my ear
Mouthed a simple ode
One road is paved in gold
One road is just a road

I’m not sure which year was Patti’s Blakean one – it might have been 2004. That was the year ‘Trampin’ ‘ came out, her 9th studio album. I am sure that her Year of the Monkey was 2016 – a trying year for many of us – Brexit, Trump, illness in the family, it was one you celebrated reaching the end of. The day after this gig I broke out this T-shirt from 2017 to mark the memory:

2016 survivor tshirt

on the floordrobe

Blake is a big presence in Patti’s life, as he was in Allen Ginsberg’s. I met Patti Smith briefly once not far from Blake’s grave in Bunhill – it was after a concert she gave at St Luke’s church/concert hall in Old Street. We talked about Rimbaud and his time living in London. Rimbaud is another big literary figure in her life. In the wake of the All Souls gig I went for a walk yesterday with the member of my family who had been unwell in 2016 and we passed the house where Rimbaud lived for a couple of months with Verlaine.

verlaine rimbaud camden town plaque

8 Royal College Street, Camden Town

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur
Monotone.

Chanson d’automne (Paysages tristes – Poèmes saturniens) – Paul Verlaine (1866)

[Autumn song from Sad Landscapes]

4 After The Goldrush by Neil Young

neil young patti smith

Neil & Patti

This song appears on ‘Banga’, Patti’s 11th studio album from 2012. It was co-produced by Patti, Tony Shanahan and others. Both her children with Fred – son Jackson and daughter Jesse – played on it.

Well I dreamed I saw the knights in armor comin’
Sayin’ something about a queen
There were peasants singin’ and drummers drummin’
And the archer split the tree
There was a fanfare blowin’ to the sun
That was floating on the breeze
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the 1970s
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the 1970s

A timely anthem for the climate emergency. She changed the lyrics towards the end to:

Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the 21st Century.

5 Because the Night

patti smith bruce springsteen

Patti & Bruce (1977)

This song was co-written by Patti & Bruce Springsteen, fellow New Jerseyites. Patti said at the gig that it is about Fred. It was on ‘Easter’, her 3rd studio album, the first one I bought, after having picked up a single ‘Hey Joe’ / ‘Piss Factory’ out of intrigue at the cover and the B-side title. Inside the ‘Easter’ vinyl sleeve is a photograph of Rimbaud, a First Communion portrait with his father Frédéric.

Take me now, baby, here as I am
Pull me close, try and understand
Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe
Love is a banquet on which we feed

Come on now try and understand
The way I feel when I’m in your hands
Take my hand come undercover
They can’t hurt you now
Can’t hurt you now, can’t hurt you now

6 Pissing in the River

patti smith hey joe piss factory single record cover

1974 debut single

Two years after her debut single (Piss Factory) came another piss song (Pissing in a River).

Pissing in a river, watching it rise
Tattoo fingers shy away from me
Voices voices mesmerize
Voices voices beckoning sea
Come come come come back come back
Come back come back come back

It appeared on her second studio LP, 1976’s ‘Radio Ethiopia’, which followed her ground-breaking, landmark debut ‘Horses’. ‘Horses’ features a classic photo by Mapplethorpe on the cover:

horses-cover_patti smith

1975 debut LP

Patti got most into her stride performing this song, which is perfect for All Souls’ Day

Come come come come back come back
Come back come back come back

She spoke most movingly about working with her friend Sam Shepherd on his final publication. He passed on in 2016. As did her friend record producer Sandy Pearlman who produced Blue Oyster Cult and The Clash’s ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ among others. I remember walking through the snow on New Year’s Day down to Loppylugs in Edgware to buy that record in the days when you had a delicious wait for things.

I always associate in my head BOC’s ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ and ‘Because the Night’ – I’ve no idea why, they were released two years apart (1976 and 1978). Patti didn’t talk about Pearlman although he was one of the key losses behind ‘Year of the Monkey’. But she spoke at length about Shepherd and made it clear that he didn’t really fear the reaper – he got to the end of his book with Patti’s help – he could no longer hold a pen or type on a keyboard, or play his Gibson in the corner of the room where they worked together on his Kentucky ranch – so she had to capture his voice and ten days after finishing he went to the big farm in the sky. One thing that really struck me about what she recounted about Sam was that they had written together back in the early days in New York so it was familiar to do it again at the end of his time in Kentucky. They had always been able to write side by side on their own things, alone and together at the same time. I love being alone but together – for example, in the house when all the family are sleeping like this weekend just passed, all souls as one.

patti smith at central hall westminster 2 nov 2019

Soul music: Patti & Tony at Central Hall

 

My Saucer Runneth Over

Nick Masons Saucerful of Secrets Roundhouse London 4 May 2019

Nick Mason & Gary Kemp

In October 1966 Pink Floyd played an all-nighter at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London, the circular former railway turning shed which that night proved a musical and cultural turning point too.

floyd roundhouse allnight rave international times poster handbill

It’s interesting to see what language was already in circulation in 1966 – “rave” which we commonly think of as an 80s term from the E era; “pop-up” as a 2000s term from the new age of austerity.

This line-up touches on my life in a couple of ways. I have met Barry Miles, editor of International Times, a couple of times since 2013 – once when I was writing about Allen Ginsberg, another time at a party at the October Gallery given by my friend Kathelin Gray. The Roundhouse event was the official launch of the publication.

My wedding suit was made by John Pearse, co-founder of Granny/Grannie Takes a Trip, which was established at 488 Kings Road, Chelsea that February. (He also made my Lucky Jacket which I’ll be wearing next week to the TV BAFTAs.)

nick masons saucerful of secrets roundhouse london 4 may 2019

So to be gathered in The Roundhouse in 2019 awaiting the arrival on stage of Pink Floyd’s drummer, Nick Mason, the most consistent member of the landmark band, with his new band, Saucerful of Secrets, was highly resonant.

The new band consisted of:

  • Dom Beken, on keyboards, formerly of The Orb
  • Lee Harris, on guitar & vocals
  • Gary Kemp, on guitar & vocals, beating heart of Spandau Ballet
  • Guy Pratt, on bass & vocals, related by marriage to Rick Wright (Floyd’s keyboardist) – as far as I know, I last saw him live on Bowie’s Serious Moonlight tour in 1982

Gary Kemp I had the pleasure of meeting around the same time as Barry Miles, in connection with the same writing project (When Sparks Fly). He has a very clear take on bands, their dynamics and motivations. I also met him when he unveiled the David Bowie blue plaque in Haddon Street. And one other time briefly (with Barbara Windsor, who I also interviewed for When Sparks Fly) at the Theatre Royal, Stratford when he was performing in a Joan Littlewood musical, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be.

On Saturday night, the final night of their tour of the UK and USA, Saucerful played a great selection of songs from pre-Dark Side of the Moon Floyd, from 1967’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn to 1972’s Obscured by Clouds, their first and seventh studio album respectively:

Interstellar Overdrive – probably the one everyone was waiting for, emblematic of early Floyd psychedelia, it didn’t disappoint from those distinctive opening chords – the lighting replicated the lava lamp type effects I’ve seen in photos and footage from the era
(The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)

Astronomy Domine
(The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)

Lucifer Sam
(The Piper at the Gates of Dawn)

Fearless – from my favourite early Floyd record, one I grew up with
(Meddle)

Obscured by Clouds
(Obscured by Clouds)

When You’re In
(Obscured by Clouds)

Remember a Day
(A Saucerful of Secrets)

Arnold Layne – also grew up with the 1971 compilation album Relics, as Guy observed, it was the one everyone had because it was cheap (on MfP label I think – Music for Pleasure) – Nick Mason designed the cover when he was an architecture student at Regent Street Polytechnic
(single March 1967)

Vegetable Man
(1967 unreleased)

If – a highlight sweetly sung by Gary
(Atom Heart Mother)
+
Atom Heart Mother
(Atom Heart Mother)

The Nile Song
(More)

Green Is the Colour
(More)

Let There Be More Light
(A Saucerful of Secrets)

Childhood’s End
(Obscured by Clouds)

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun – another highlight, epic
(A Saucerful of Secrets)

See Emily Play
(Relics, single June 1967)

Bike
(The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Relics)

One of These Days
(Meddle)

Encore:

A Saucerful of Secrets
(A Saucerful of Secrets)

Point Me at the Sky – suitable goodbye lyrics
(single Dec 1968)

Gary mentioned how pleased he was to be home in London with the show. The way most of the songs were sung felt very London – connected back through Bowie (especially early Bowie on Deram – see Mr Gravedigger in this post on the death of Bowie) to Anthony Newley.

syd barratt nick masons saucerful of secrets roundhouse london 4 may 2019

Syd

Nick made a point of paying tribute to Syd Barratt, prime mover of Pink Floyd. I saw him, Dave Gilmour & Rick Wright play at a Syd tribute gig at the Barbican, with Roger Waters playing separately. That night they played Arnold Layne, the debut single that started the whole story.

relics pink floyd album cover record 1971

Fond memories

Van & Tom

I just found this on the phone I’m about to dump – meant to post it at the time (8th Nov 2015, just home from the gig) but must have lost it in all the excitement…

PAY--Van-Morrison-and-Tom-Jones-performing-at-Prudential-BluesFest-O2-Arena-in-London

Robert Elms introduced Van Morrison and Tom Jones tonight at Blues Fest in the Millennium Dome, saying this is the first time they’ve performed live together – I’ll believe it (though I’m slightly surprised).

Van played first, brought Tom on at the end of his set. Then Tom played with his young band and brought Van back on at the end. They didn’t look rehearsed which was good – small mistakes about when to come in is a small price to pay for some proper connection.

Van’s band was old and experienced; Tom’s was young and spunky. Van’s set was jazzy blues; Tom’s was raw chapel gospelly blues.

Van was in wry humourous mood (contrary to reputation); Tom was nostalgic in a forward-looking, energetic way.

Who in this generation (or recent ones) I wondered will be capable of doing a gig like this in 50 years?

Some highlights included:

Van:

* Making love in the afternoon – where the ‘high’ in ‘highway’ was brought to my attention for the first time, Van really getting into the sex&drugs groove

* Baby please don’t go – with drum beat gun shots at the climax

* No Plan B – Van’s band followed him to a higher place, building to a driving end of set

Tom:

* What is the soul of man – the stripped down blues of Praise & Blame

* I love you baby can’t help myself – beautiful sparse arrangement Tom made full use of

Van & Tom:

What am I living for if not for you & Strange Things – where the pair of them found their together groove

No Whenever God Shines His Light nor Gotta Serve Somebody but the event lived up to its promise and was more than the sum of its parts. Their connection through the Celtic and the Blues made it a match of the heavenly variety.

Van’s set

VM-Essential_retouch

Tom’s set

924jones

Best of 2014

20,000 Days on Earth

20,000 Days on Earth

Film:

20,000 Days on Earth

Selma
Boyhood
The Theory of Everything

Male Lead:
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

David Oyelowo – Selma

Nicholas Cage – Joe
Tom Hardy – Locke
Benedict Cumberbtach – The Imitation Game
Ralph Fiennes – Grand Hotel Budapest

Female Lead:
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Male Support:
Tim Roth – Selma
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Tom Wilkinson – Selma

Female Support:
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Sienna Miller – American Sniper

Director:
Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard – 20,000 Days on Earth

Christopher Nolan – Interstellar
Pawel Pawlikoski – Ida
Paul King – Paddington
Yann Demange- ’71

Writer:
Paul Webb – Selma
Paul King – Paddington
Wes Anderson – Grand Hotel Budapest
Anthony McCarten – The Theory of Everything

Production Design:
Grand Hotel Budapest

Visual FX:
Interstellar
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Michael Franti & dancer

Michael Franti & dancer

Single:
(John Newman – Love Me Again)

Album:
Morning Phase – Beck
Tribute – John Newman

With The Artists – Rhythm & Sound
Liquid Spirit – Gregory Porter
(WomanChild -Cecile McLorin Salvant)

Gig:
Van Morrison on launch night of Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club

Michael Franti & Spearhead – Islington Assembly Hall (with D)

John Newman – Empire Shepherd’s Bush
ABC – Lexicon of Love – Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Peter Gabriel – So – Wembley Arena

Play:
A Taste of Honey – Shelagh Delaney – National Theatre, Lyttleton

Fiesta – adapted & directed by Alex Helfrecht – Trafalgar Studios
Oh What a Lovely War – Joan Littlewood & the Theatre Workshop – Theatre Royal Stratford East (Joan Littlewood centenary – with D)
Fings Ain’t Wot They Used to Be – Frank Norman – Theatre Royal Stratford East

Art Exhibition:
Egon Schiele drawings: The Radical Nude – Courtauld

John Craxton – Fitzwilliam, Cambridge
Richard Hamilton – Tate Modern
Abram Games: designing the 20th Century – Jewish Museum, Camden Town
MALBA – Buenos Aires
Museum der bildenden Kunste – Leipzig (with N)

Book: (that I read this year)
Rabbit at Rest – John Updike

Sport:
Germany crushing Brazil at the World Cup (7-1 semi-final)

Jonny May’s try for England against the All Blacks at Twickenham

Event:
Philae probe from European spacecraft Rosetta landing on a comet

Dearly departed:

Joe Cocker
Jack Bruce
Tommy Ramone

Egon Schiele - The Radical Nude

Egon Schiele – The Radical Nude

Best of 2013

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

Best of 2013

[work in progress]

wolf-of-wall-street-jonah-hill-leonardo-dicaprio

Film:
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Way Way Back
Gravity

Male Lead:
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Female Lead:
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Judy Dench – Philomena

Male Support:
Matthew McConaughy – The Wolf of Wall Street

Female Support:
(Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine)
(Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle)

Director:
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

Writer:
Nat Faxon & Jim Rash – The Way Way Back

Single:
Love Me Again – John Newman
Down the Road – C2C
Children Go Where I Send Thee – Nick Lowe
Where Are We Now – David Bowie
Get Lucky – Daft Punk
Nothing’s Changed – Tricky (with Francesca Belmonte)
Hang Me, Oh Hang Me – Oscar Isaac

Album:
Quality Street – Nick Lowe
Cecile McLorin Salvant – WomanChild
Big Inner – Matthew E White
False Idols – Tricky
(Lee Perry presents – Candy McKenzie (1977 reissue))

Gig:
Van Morrison at Ronnie Scott’s

Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium (Darkness on the Edge of Town)
The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park
Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar – Duke Of York’s Theatre

Play:
Othello at Olivier Theatre

Art Exhibition:
All that is Solid Melts into Air (Jeremy Deller), Manchester

Sport:
Andy Murray winning Wimbledon

Event:
My birthday party – incorporating The Box

Mick Jagger

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

The Man with the Boo guitar

Songwriters' Circle

I’ve long been fascinated by the relationship between musicians and their instruments – guitars especially, like Neil Young (now elder statesman) and his axe and BB King (with whom my older son shares a birthday, I share mine with John Martyn) and his trusty, curvy soulmate Lucille. I’m making my way back right now from a unique gig at Bush Hall in BBCland courtesy of Songwriters’ Circle (recorded for BBC4 broadcast in the autumn).

Chris Difford’s  (of Squeeze) guitar had a glittery border around the body and the hole (is there a special name for the big hole in a guitar?) They looked like old pals.

Boo Hewerdine (of The Bible and songwriter for the likes of Eddi Reader) had the most striking design of the evening’s six acoustic guitars – black with * BOO * inlaid on the neck in pearl. He had a very strong presence on stage, big and quiet but all his mots justes right. Had a brief exchange with him in Nandos after the gig, enjoying the balmy evening of the Uxbridge Road with my old pal JRT.

Justin Currie’s (of Del Amitri) had a morse code of inlaid mother of pearl around the Hole with No Name. Like Boo, a fine, strong voice but a touch lighter and more soulful.

Chris, Boo and Justin played the first session – a spectrum ranging from great lyricist to great voice, with Boo the lynchpin in the middle. Boo has composed with Chris and recorded with Justin.

Richard Thompson’s guitar was pale and functional, a work tool, with a couple of plectrums attached to the top. He proved a fabulous embellisher of his two fellow singer-songwriters’ tunes.

Suzanne Vega’s instrument was rich browns, in perfect condition, matching her hair. Between Richard and Loudon she provided a melodic female counter-balance.

Loudon Wainright’s axe had a cheeky bit of walnuty-wild cat pattern finishing. He appeared like Clint Eastwood meets Bob Dylan. Gifted with words, a streak of humour through everything, somehow making the sad even more poignant. The highlight of the night was the song about going through his dead dad’s closets. Another highpoint was the laugh-out-loud funny tale of a guitar he had to leave behind in Durrango thanks to Suzanne, an airline bitch.

12 feet away from those six in a tiny old venue was a once-in-a-lifetime music experience. Of the six, Boo and Richard Thompson seemed to have the deepest connection to their music-machines. Of the two, Richard seemed truly joined at the hip and totally living through his. I’m writing this paragraph walking home from the gig across the road to Muswell Hill from which the great man hails and where the origins of the Fairport Convention name stems. He struck me tonight as perhaps being the bearer of the John Martyn guitar-baton in the wake of the sad, sad loss last year of that even greater man .

Boo Hewerdine, Justin Currie & Chris Difford beating round the Bush

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."
...


The blue guitar
And I are one.

Wallace Stevens

Astoria La Vista baby

Music with minerals

Music with minerals

This week marked the sad demise of the Astoria in London’s Tottenham Court Road to make way for an expanded TCR station for the forthcoming Crossrail. It started life as one of four Astoria cinemas in London and became in latter years a music and dance venue. Like many others I have fond memories of it. Stand-out ones include seeing Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros there about a year before Joe died. I was surprised by how much of The Clash’s sound was centred on Joe’s voice, how reminiscent it was of the old days at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town – the main difference being that, twenty odd years down the line, after sustained pogoing I was starting to feel sick and my legs were getting numb. Seeing Atlanta’s Arrested Development there was also a kick – following chat and doobers round the corner in Mateo’s crapped up old Brixton Jag, the gig seemed simultaneously 3 minutes and 3 days long.

Coming in to town the other day I bumped into Feargal Sharkey of Derry’s finest The Undertones on the tube platform (I knew he lived in the hood but I’d never seen him around). I introduced myself and we chatted on the train about music digital and live, including the new emphasis on live gigs as an opportunity to make some serious dough. I guess it’s the grime and edge of the Astoria that will be most missed with the advent of super-corporate venues like the O2 (a venue named after a phone network, that says a lot in itself – where’s the magic and colour of names like The Music Machine, The Palais, The Electric Ballroom, The Marquee?). I think the O2 is very well done and there’s a place for it and such venues but the dirt and a bit of background fear added spice to my teenage live music experiences, and I’d hate to see that vanish. As a fairly sheltered 14 year old suburban Londoner meeting the Hardest Man in the World on the way to that Clash gig at the Electric Ballroom was all part of the rich mix of the experience. He was standing at the exit of Camden Town tube in army fatigue trousers, filling those huge khaki pockets with coins extorted from less hard passers-by (i.e. everybody).  He had the standard skinhead cut but was so hard that on his feet were not the de rigueur DMs but plimsoles – that’s how hard he was, he could pull off soft footwear and still terrify all-comers. Music needs a bit of that sort of edge and dirt for its minerals – if the diet is all too processed and clean the taste gets bland and it does nothing to strengthen your body or soul.

The Opposite of Digital

Camille at the Roundhouse

Camille at the Roundhouse

It started deep below Tate Modern. In three large circular spaces, formerly oil tanks for the Bankside power station, Will Gompertz, Director of Tate Media, mentioned he would love to do an event in the brick-walled space before it gets transformed into new gallery space for 2012. The acoustics were enchanting, a huge cylindrical echo chamber punctuated with iron pillars, and a low hum from the remaining generators which made me think of Le Fil, the album by London-based(?) French singer Camille. The name of the record – the Thread – comes from the single note which threads across the whole of it. So when I noticed Camille was playing at the Roundhouse I invited Will.

Le Fil I came across by chance. Just liked the cover. I was down in Brick Lane with the Enfants Terribles one weekend when I ducked into Rough Trade East. When we pass a record or book shop they habitually form up into a SWAT team to bar my way but on that occasion I was too quick for them. It was a good session of buying on instinct – I came across Burial’s Untrue for the first time that day too.

As things turned out Will couldn’t make it in the end (had to meet Steve McQueen of Hunger fame) and I ended up inviting James, my neighbour, on the touchline at Finchley RFC vs Harrow RFC U12s out in Stanmore on an autumnal Sunday morning.

Now James hadn’t been to the Roundhouse since ’69 when he saw Pink Floyd, of which there are colourful accounts in Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles, including a mention of Donegal’s own Henry McCullough, the only Irishman on stage at Woodstock (with Joe Cocker). So it was a pleasure to reintroduce them and resonant to be standing next to an iron column not dissimilar from that secret Tate space.

Camille‘s performance was the opposite of digital. In this age of easy copying, reproduction, recording, on demand, clones – it was a unique performance of an unpredictable singer in dialogue with the live crowd. She seems to have a thing about the colour orange which suits me as so do I (childhood bedroom colour at 2A Selvage Lane aka La Sirene, appropriately enough – lord knows why my parents called the house that (or anything) but the sign ended up being flipped around and having the even worse Popin added to the former reverse side at the next house where my mum still lives and Sirene still hangs hidden).

Camille in short hand is Bobby McFerrin meets Kate Bush with a bit of Swingle Singers, Marcel Marceau and Beardyman thrown in for a good measure of machine-free madness. So all voices and body beats with no instruments beyond a piano which she doesn’t really need.

The gig came to a collective climax and just to show how live it was she came on for one too many encores and an improv with Jamie Cullum which didn’t quite work and dissipated the hard-won energy. But that’s the beauty of transcending the 1s and 0s – you win some, you lose some, you can’t tell til you try, human fallibility seeps in alongside human spirit.

The best 0 of the night was when she came back on for the encore that took the performance to its high point. She’d changed from the LBD under her orange robe to a Longer Black Dress. Then at 1 point she turned around to reveal a large 0 cut into the dress at the base of her spine, revealing an expanse of back which recalled Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger and a delightful toppest bit of bum, an emblem of that mad French sexuality we know and love from the likes of L’Ete Meutrier (One Deadly Summer) and 37.2 degres le Matin (Betty Blue). That threat of madness, that touch of unpredictability, the moment of unevenness, the ambiguous attractions among the band are the undigitalness we all need from time to time.

Random poll brought to you courtesy of WordPress’ new alliance with Polldaddy – couldn’t resist having a quick go

What is it worth?

Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills

Holding Hands: Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills & Neil Young

We parked up by Goldhawk Road tube (always echoes of Jimmy the Mod for me) and walked back past the Pie, Mash, Liquor and Eel shop to my most unloved venue in London, the Empire in Shepherd’s Bush. Stephen Still’s blast from the past included his underground classic ‘51.5076 0.134352’ and concluded with ‘For What It’s Worth’ which resonated in a particular way after another week of global economic disintegration. What is it worth?

There’s something happening here
[the day before yesterday rounds off a 20% FTSE fall]

What it is ain’t exactly clear
[although I think we’ve all got a good sense of broadly what territory we’re in – how we got there is a bit more confounding]

There’s a man with a gun over there
[currently a cold-hearted woman, life-long member of the NRA: “our leaders, our national leaders, are sending soldiers out on a task that is from God. That’s what we have to make sure that we’re praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God’s plan.”]

Telling me I got to beware
[are they really going to elect a man who keeps calling the electorate “my friends” in a manner devoid of warmth or friendship?]

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn

Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
[there’s a real opportunity here, with the merry-go-round ground to a halt, to get off the ride that goes nowhere]

Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep
[anxiety is seeping out of every opening crack]

It starts when you’re always afraid

[yet fear is what holds us back individually and collectively]

You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down

Stop, hey, what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s going down

What’s that sound? It’s mud falling on a coffin lid. It’s ancient song shot through with deepest pain. It’s the sound of a single man burying 20,000 bodies one by one. On Tuesday Rev. Leslie Hardman MBE died. He featured as a key character  in a docudrama, The Relief of Belsen, commissioned by Channel 4 which was shown almost a year ago to the day (15.X.07).  He was one of the first Allied soldiers (an army chaplain) in to the Bergen-Belsen death camp in North-West Germany when it was liberated in May 1945. Auschwitz had been liberated by the Russians a couple of months of months earlier but it was Belsen that gave us in Britain our first terrifying view of what was going down. This was Richard Dimbleby’s report from the camp…

“Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which … The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them … Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live … A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms, then ran off, crying terribly. He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days.

This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.”

Leslie Hardman was a man who knew what’s worth what. He insisted on burying each of the 20,000 corpses that confronted him as an individual with an individual ceremony (no question of mass burial). He restored in death the dignity they had been denied in life.

In a tribute to him on Radio 4 this morning, a resonant phrase from Kierkegaard (via psychiatrist Viktor Frankl) was cited to capture the man he was : The door to happiness opens outwards. 

Leslie Hardman dealt with the chaos he experienced in the front-line by dedicating himself to the well-being of others.

As Jonathan Sacks (the Chief Rabbi of the UK) put it on the same radio programme: He Chose Life. Now I always thought  – and this was reinforced by the Glasgow office of Channel 4 which has the words engraved on the glass of the entrance – that “Choose Life” comes from FilmFour’s Trainspotting. But apparently it comes from Moses in the Old Testament: ” I place before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. … Choose life that you and your descendants shall live”

  (which echoes what his predecessor and my namesake was told:  “You may choose for yourself, for it is given to you.”)

Now Jim (the God, not the Mod), much though I respect him, summarised his approach as being to “get his kicks before the whole shithouse goes up”. As things fall apart, I’d say the rock-striking prophet is a better bet than the pose-striking rock god: Choose Life. Choose sustainable living. Choose actually creating something instead of gambling nothing. Choose holding hands not holding hostages. Choose what’s going up. Choose what’s of real worth.

Frock-coats and drama kings

Jason Isaacs

Sitting here in Carlingford, County Louth on a quiet evening in charge of sleeping children above, with my other half out with some of her dozens of cousins on the other side of Carlingford Lough in Rostrevor, County Down, with some godawful pseudo-american chatshow on RTE1 (Tubirdy Tonight – the name captures the height of shite it represents – a charmless, dull host behind a reproduction antique desk on the other side of which sits a fake nobody guest (the renowned Deirdre O’Kane?) with a D4 tango tan behind which are wooden window panes giving on to a fake cityscape unlike any part of Dublin I’ve ever seen, a lifeless photo devoid of dynamism or truth) and some two-bit boxing match on RTE2 with a ringside commentator with huge arched eyebrows and a forehead like the Mekon – jaysis, we’re blessed with our public service broadcasting back in Blighty, Ireland has much to offer the world but telly isn’t among its riches – I flick to a movie on Ulster TV, Joe Wright’s recent iteration of Pride and Prejudice with Ikea Knightley, as Mark Kermode (who popped up earlier this evening on the Culture Show) calls her on his weekly movie review show on Radio 5 with Simon Mayo. (How’s that, heavenly muse, for a Miltonian sentence?)

From this movie, which has somehow lost its appeal on a second, small-screen viewing, I drift off to an altogether more engaging gathering than the one before me with the dreadful Mr Collins showing off his lightness of foot. The other night I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Darcy himself, Matthew Macfadyen, and his charming wife Keeley Hawes (Cock and Bull Story, Ashes to Ashes, Spooks, The Bank Job) at the RTS Production Awards where he very deservingly won the best actor award for the excellent Secret Life in which he portrays a recently released paedophile striving for rehabilitation. This Channel 4 commission, written and (first-time) directed by Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later, Gas Attack), culminates in an astonishing scene in a fairground where the struggling ex-con brings his handsome Darcy-like features and non-Darcy-like charm to bear on an underage girl. Will he or won’t he? It’s painfully impossible to call.

I watched the drama as one of the twenty hours I went through as a judge in the Scriptwriter – Drama category in the company of the likes of Simon Cellan Jones (Cracker, The Trial of Tony Blair) and Kudos’ Derek Wax (Sex Traffic). For me it was the best film, alongside Mark O’Rowe’s Boy A, but the BBC’s adapted screenplay for Mrs Gaskell’s Cranford eventually won the category. Brilliantly crafted of course and a wonderful cast to deliver the lines with the greatest of expertise – but not brave in the Channel 4 way of Secret Life and Boy A. Too much Pride and Prejudice, too little Shameless for me.

I’d been introduced to the self-effacing (for such a tall man) Matthew Macfadyen by Jason Isaacs, who I hadn’t seen for some twenty years. On occasion we traveled together to school on the bus when he was a big boy and I an insignificant underling. I remember him being warm and open – most bigger boys just ignored you at best. He remembered himself as being unpleasant at that age and “driven by fear”. Mark Kermode – who says hallo to Jason Isaacs and David Morrissey every week on the aforementioned review programme – recalls Jason (who was in the same year as him) as very cool and collected. Jason recalls Mark as the cool one to be looked up to with his quiff and rockabilly persona. Which all goes to show the gulf between our perception of ourselves and how we actually come across to others, as well as the role self-confidence and fear plays in our formative years and beyond. Darcy has just walked out suddenly on a confused Elizabeth for just such reasons.

It was lovely catching up with Jason after so long, last time we met he was still in Capital City with Clive Owen et al. [Correction – see comment below: Make that Douglas Hodge – Clive Owen was in Chancer which aired the same year with Peter Vaughan and Leslie Phillips, written by Tony Grounds.] Since then he’s been to Hollywood (Mel Gibson’s The Patriot, Armageddon, Harry Potter, etc.) and back (to be able to raise his daughters properly) and the night of the RTS was playing Harry H Corbett in The Curse of Steptoe and Son on BBC4 to enthusiastic reviews. We chatted about the urban myth that was the Edgware Walker (as brought to the screen by the maverick Lee Kern), about mutual schoolmates including the legendary Laurence Gould, broader than he was tall, famous for launching two skinheads down the stairs at Stanmore Station, and that was another subject of conversation, the neo-nazi violence of the mid-70s which Jason recalls much more vividly than I can. My first gig was the Tom Robinson Band at the Hammersmith Odeon – TRB introduced me to Anti-Nazi League activism, as well as the notion of gay rights – but it was all a bit theoretical for me. It seems like the couple of years age gap between us made it all much more real for Jason. He also spoke insightfully about his own craft. Producer Vadim Jean (Leon the Pig Farmer, Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather) joined us for that bit of the convo – he held up Gene Hackman as one of the most consistently excellent screen actors. Watching Donald Sutherland as Mr Bennett does make you think about consistency – the man from Mash and Klute is also the winner of the all-time worst accent award for his role in Goldcrest’s disasterous Revolution. But in the end it’s all just make-believe. Jason’s older brother, a doctor, it turns out saved a man’s life by performing an emergency tracheotomy (with a biro!) on a plane heading to North Africa. In the light of that, Lydia running off with the perfidious Wickham seems to pale into insignificance.

A few years ago I was filming in Northern Ireland with Eddie McCaffery of Joose TV (then Emerald Productions) and Roddy Gibson (now a TV specialist course director at Middlesex Uni). We had a break from filming and headed up to Horn Head in Donegal. Whilst walking out on the bog of the headland we came across an older man collapsed with blood coming from his mouth, his distraught sister kneeling at his side. The three of us had recently spent weeks in an edit suite cutting a scene involving first aid and so were quite up on our life-saving. We did all the right stuff, got blood all over Roddy’s new jacket which served to cushion the old fella’s head, ended up carrying the prone body (surprisingly heavy) by stretcher back up off the bog to the ambulance which took him to Letterkenny hospital. We never heard a word from the man or his sister. Jason’s brother was given an airline voucher for £30 for his trouble. Elizabeth Bennett may be struggling a bit with her values here but those are both seriously out of whack. Jason’s brother was, however, invited to his emergency patient’s subsequent wedding where he came to see for himself what the act meant to the young man’s parents. Lady Catherine de Burgh (Judi Dench, who also featured in Cranford) has just been shown the door by the feisty Elizabeth, a frock-coated Matthew Macfadyen is striding through the mist, so wedding bells are just around the corner now as things trundle to their happy ending.

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