Archive for the ‘Music’ Category
I’ve always winced at the phrase ‘Bucket List’ – it smacks of inauthenticity. There was an awful looking movie about a decade ago which I avoided, much though I like Jack Nicholson and Rob Reiner. I think that may have done much to mainstream the concept but I’ve no idea where it originates from or how far back it goes.
Last night I went to the Late Shift Extra at the National Portrait Gallery to hang out at Everything You Can Imagine Is Real. The NPG was a favourite in teenage years as it gave a face to much of the literature and history I was learning about. In recent years I’ve done some pro bono consultancy on the Gallery’s digital strategy. And me and the Mrs go every year to the BP Portrait Award exhibition. Even if I wasn’t such a long-term fan, I love galleries and museums after dark – there’s something slightly naughty about it.
As I came in to the Gallery yesterday evening I bumped into Martyn Ware of Illustrious, Heaven 17, Human League and BEF. We had a chat about the future of energy and Port Merrion and stuff. I know Martyn a bit from the early days of BAFTA Interactive. He curated the Everything You Can Imagine Is Real evening to complement the Picasso portraits exhibition currently showing at the NPG.
“Everything you can imagine is real.”
- Pablo Picasso
I like the quote for giving equal value to the outer and inner world; for putting conscious thought, the dreamed, the imagined and the unconscious on a level playing field.
Some of the playing I most enjoyed last night was a short performance by dancer Vanessa Fenton to Martyn’s reworking of Parade by Eric Satie. I listen to Satie often when I’m writing as his work features on my Music To Write To playlist.
Parade was a ballet by Satie for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1917 on which he collaborated with Cocteau (scenario), Massine (choreography) and Picasso (sets). Vanessa’s costume by Bruce French in midnight blue and deep-sea green was redolent of the era.
I also enjoyed a performance by the Radiophonic Workshop, famous scion of the BBC, forever associated with the Dr Who theme tune, and no doubt a significant influence on Martyn and his electro-pop pioneers in Sheffield. They premiered a new composition with visuals derived by Obsrvtry from Picasso. In the middle of it the theremin, that quintessential early electronic instrument, which had been sitting tantalisingly towards the front of the stage, went into action. The previous act, White Noise, had deployed some electronic glove instrument through which hand gestures shaped the sounds but the Theremin is the real shit. It was created by Russian Leon Theremin in 1920 and graced movie soundtracks from Hitchcock’s Spellbound (with its Surreal visuals by another Spanish painter, Salvador Dali) to The Day The Earth Stood Still (a precursor of this year’s Arrival).
Anyway, it prompted me to start my Phuket List here, to be completed over time:
1 Play a Theremin
2 Spend a month painting abroad
3 Go fishing in a Spanish river like in The Sun Also Rises
4 Walk around the Antrim coast
Any suggestions for 5 – 12 gratefully received…
So today is The Next Day – the day after Bowie’s birthday, after the anniversary of the release of Blackstar, the day before the anniversary of his death, the middle day, the limbo day.
As promised in yesterday’s birthday post, The Man Who Rose from Earth, in this one I’m going to gather some of the Bowie posts from across the years of Simple Pleasures part 4. As a blog about Creativity and the quest for Happiness through the Simple Pleasures of life Bowie was always bound to feature as a great creator, an outstanding innovator and a man who worked hard to know himself and find Peace.
Bowie: The Next Day [11 January, 2016] My reflections on his death
The Berlin Trilogy 1 [16 January, 2016] the first day oy my trip to Berlin in the days after his death
The Berlin Trilogy 2: Where Are We Now? [17 January, 2016]
The Berlin Trilogy 3: Goodbye to Berlin [19 January, 2016]
Heroes Mystery Solved [27 January, 2016]
David Bowie locations in Berlin [22 January, 2016] a ready-made tour
Heddonism [11 April, 2012] a first-hand account of the unveiling of his plaque in Heddon St.
A Bowie Moment [13 January, 2016] Ziggy Stardust plaque unveiling video
4 for 66 (Happy Birthday David Bowie) [9 January, 2013] 4 of his best songs
Sound & Vision [12 November, 2016] the best of Bowie’s art collection
Cut up by Bowie’s Black-out [20 January, 2016] a Bowie-style cut-up
Where Are We Now? [11 January, 2016] an animation
100 Greatest Songs [12 January, 2008]
Celebrated The Big Man’s birthday yesterday evening by watching David Bowie: The Last Five Years, a new BBC feature documentary commissioned by my friend and former Channel 4 colleague Jan Younghusband. It is an excellent watch, breaking new ground with its focus on his last half decade and last two LPs in an intelligent and insightful way. It was directed by Francis Whately. There are various clips here.
I fell asleep with the radio on…
…when I woke just before 4am, death hour, David Bowie was playing and the listeners to Up All Night on Radio 5 had selected Sound and Vision as the song that best captures Bowie, and one caller was arguing for Station to Station as the best LP, which was my view too in the wake of his death on 10th January last year. Sound and Vision was the track on my first directorial showreel (of which a poor digitisation is to be found here, though I think it may have been blocked by YouTube during the last year because of the copyright track (I can still see it but sorry, you may not be able to)) – cutting that reel is why it is burnt into my consciousness, hard wired from the edit suite.
Update 8.i.17 21:30 – I managed to find a badly encoded/pixellated copy of my Sound & Vision reel from which you can get the general idea
So it’s 04:40 now on Bowie’s birthday – one year on. We’re all going to be bombarded with Bowie The Next Days of course but it’s worth asking “Where are we now?” like the image I saw on the Big Man’s front door at 155 Hauptstrasse in Schoeneberg, Berlin on 17th January 2016. I was due to work in Berlin by chance, at Documentary Campus, six days after I first heard the news of Bowie’s ascension early one morning on the radio. I decided to make it something of a tribute trip. Here’s the photo album.
Where Are We Now? The world looks quite different from 10th January 2016.
That set of photos is the first fragment as I start over the next couple of anniversary days to pull together a picture of where we are now Bowie- & Other-wise.
My initial reaction at this point one year on is that his death cast a shadow over the whole year which is extraordinary for someone I didn’t know and never talked to. I saw him in the flesh a couple of times but I feel less about his passing emotionally than that of John Martyn, however his music is woven into my life, like that of many other people of the Bowie era (a long one by popular music standards) and that I reckon is one of the main reasons his passing prompted such widespread, strong and unique reaction.
The second fragment is this – written 15 minutes after hearing the surprise black news 363 days ago, another occasion I have been woken early by Bowie.
Updated 1.1.17 & 7.1.17 – put to bed 10.1.17
Manchester by the Sea
The Nice Guys
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Ben Affleck – The Accountant
Tom Hanks – Sully
Shia LaBeouf – American Honey
Chris Pine – Hell or High Water
Brad Pitt – Allied
Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys
Sasha Lane – American Honey
Rebecca Hall – Christine
Marion Cotillard – Allied
Dakota Fanning – American Pastoral
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Amy Adams – Arrival
Jack Reynor – Sing Street
Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
Tom Wilkinson – Denial
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
Hayley Squires – I, Daniel Blake
Jennifer Connelly – American Pastoral
Riley Keough – American Honey
Margot Robbie – Suicide Squad
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Ewan McGregor – American Pastoral
John Carney – Sing Street
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Woody Allen – Cafe Society
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
John Carney – Sing Street
Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Eric Heisserer – Arrival
Joe Walker – Arrival
Jennifer Lame – Manchester by the Sea
Vittorio Storaro – Cafe Society
Rodrigo Prieto – Silence
In Tiburon – Van Morrison
Blackstar – David Bowie
Keep Me Singing – Van Morrison
Imagining Ireland – Friday 29 April 2016 at Festival Hall
Bruce Springsteen – Wembley stadium
Fela Kuti tribute – Bukky Leo & Black Egypt (Jazz Cafe)
Carole King – Tapestry (Hyde Park)
Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park)
Things I Know to be True – Andrew Bovell (Lyric, Hammersmith)
How the Other Half Loves – Alan Aykborn (Haymarket)
You Say You Want a Revolution? (V&A)
Georgia O’Keeffe (Tate Modern)
opening day of the Design Museum, Kensington
Russell-Cotes gallery, Bournemouth
Graves gallery, Sheffield
Neue Pinakothek, Munich
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
Judas – Amos Oz
Read This Year:
All Fall Down – James Leo Herlihy
The Night Manager
Long Lost Family
Ireland beating New Zealand at rugby in Chicago
Jack Laugher and Chris Mears winning diving gold at Rio Olympics
Commemorating the Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin (100 years to the minute after, right on the spot)
David Bowie trip to Berlin with Noah
Day 2: Liverpool
So I’m sitting in front of Liverpool Town Hall in the Indian summer afternoon sunshine. I’m discussing a documentary with a Scouse film-maker, the protagonist of the film and the cameraman. We’ve just arrived, the beers have just landed and out of the open balcony door of the Town Hall tumble the strains of Let It Be. Then more Beatles. Then a female singer doing covers of their songs. I couldn’t have scripted or timed it any better. My fantasy Liverpool afternoon. After the meeting I trotted down the street to the Odeon for the world premiere of the Beatles documentary, Eight Days A Week, put together by Ron Howard. The red (actually blue) carpet shenanigans were broadcast live from Leicester Square to this and other cinemas around the country and beyond, including the arrival of Paul and Ringo. Where better to watch it than in Beatlesville. The moment and song that punched out was when John composed Help. It stood out as the point when their song-writing went up a gear or three.
Day 1: Sheffield
Spent the day working with an indie producer in Sheffield – which was fun. After we wrapped for the afternoon, I headed into the city centre from the atmospheric, leafy burbs. In the golden early evening sunlight surveyed the city’s excellent array of street art, not least the excellent work of Rocket01.
After a fine Mexican beano, hung out chatting in the Peace Gardens with their monumental fountain portals and all-round perfect mix of water, stone and grass. I’m usually in the city for DocFest in the summer so it was good to see it under other circumstances. It has some of the finest regeneration in the country, with a brilliant passage from the station up to the Peace Gardens. The blade sculpture bordering the station with a thin layer of water flowing over the gigantic knife-edge of shining steel. The tower of the university bearing a poem by Andrew Motion about standing looking at the tower of the university. The art deco Showroom cinema. The art deco Library and (Graves) Gallery. The wooden ribs and hothouse glass of the Winter Gardens. The Victorian Town Hall, sheltering the Peace Gardens.
Day 2: Sheffield
Began the day at a working breakfast with a Sheffield-based film producer who is a very nice guy. Then a quick visit to the Graves Gallery to look at the hidden treasure that is their permanent collection. Catching my eye this time: Christ Carrying the Cross attributed to Luis de Morales (late C16), a prematurely aged, weary Jesus, right beside a striking painting of a man holding a skull, a dark momento mori where the difference between the head and skull is marginal; The Hours by Burne-Jones, six ladies representing the sweep of the day, their dress ranging from dawn blue to late afternoon russet and back to night-time blue-black; a Paul Nash landscape, an Auerbach cityscape of Mornington Crescent; Sam Taylor-Wood suspended from the ceiling (flashback to young John Lennon); a portrait of Edith Sitwell and her languorous hands – one of the best galleries in the land.
Then the train to Liverpool across the Peak valleys bathed in Indian summer gold.
Day 3: Sheffield
Rain after the early hours thunder, making the work at Roco (a new creative co-operative space) all the cosier. A good creative session, inducing headache in the journey to a possible break-through, wrestling with knotty problems between cups of tea. A burst of sun as we left to mark the conclusion in grand style.
“So we sailed on to the sun”
The Beatles – Yellow Submarine
I met Patti Smith one time – it was in St Luke’s Church near Old Street roundabout after an intimate gig of hers. We talked briefly about Rimbaud and the time he spent in Camden Town with Verlaine. Rimbaud of course features in a scene of the ten-years-in-the-making poetic hotchpotch of a film that is Steve Sebring’s documentary ‘Patti Smith: Dream of Life’ which I saw on the big screen this afternoon at the Arthouse Cinema in Crouch End thanks to Doc n’ Roll.
I went with my old friend, film-maker and teacher Roddy Gibson. We went to see Patti in 2007 at The Roundhouse where she did a wonderful gig centred on her album ‘Twelve’. I’ve probably seen her play live around ten times, always in London, from the Union Chapel to St Giles-in-the-fields by Denmark Street – and even in one or two places that weren’t churches.
The best moment of the film for me was when she, without warning, pours out from an exotic urn Robert Mapplethorpe’s ashes into her hand, explaining the texture, that it’s not like normal ashes or dust. Their connection is a fascinating one, not least as it overlapped with her intense marriage to Fred Sonic Smith.
Her smile which punctuates the film is another thing that stays with you.
I liked the moment when she meets Jesse Jackson at an anti-war demo, as it struck me that he bears the names of both her children – Jesse is the daughter (on piano), Jackson the son (on guitar).
The presence of Allen Ginsberg in the film really resonated for me. I have been writing about him in recent times – here’s an extract. His poetry, in my experience, has the marvellous effect of inspiring the reader to write poetry. Patti is clearly a descendent of his, and that they were friends is inevitable. Blake, Corso, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Burroughs are all present in the film as a constellation at the centre of a particular cultural universe – one that really sings to me.
The line that punched out for me was where Patti asserts that we all have a voice and a responsibility to use it. As I watch my 19 year old wrestle with the shape of his identity and life mission it’s a salutary reminder to tread softly as someone lays their dreams at your feet, to be careful not to crush nascent ambitions or visions, to enable them to use their singular voice and realise their dreams of life.
My mission is to communicate, to wake people up – it’s to give them my energy and accept theirs. We’re all in it together, and I respond emotionally as a worker, a mother, an artist, a human being …with a voice. We all have a voice. We have the responsibility to exercise it, to use it.
There seems to be a connection
I wrote about 1971 as the key year in music this time last year and this week David Hepworth has released a book on exactly the same theme. I started thinking about this in 2013 when I had a discussion at BAFTA with Malcolm Garrett, designer of the covers of Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites (referred to below) – Malcolm argued for 1970. Today my friend & best man Stuart Rubenstein proposed 1978 as an alternative. I don’t really buy it as the most significant year but it was a landmark, dynamic one.
Here are a dozen of the LPs that got my blood racing that pivotal year of my youth and I write this listening to Stuart’s 1978 playlist.
1978 was the year I fully got the punk bug thanks to Buzzcocks who released 2 great LPs during those palpitating 12 months. So in no particular order:
(1) Give Em Enough Rope – The Clash
I trudged through the snow to Loppylugs in Edgware to buy this. I saw the tour at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town with Mikey Dread and Joe Ely supporting, one of the greatest gigs of my life.
(2) The Scream – Siouxsie & the Banshees
Was transfixed by this band, not least the track Switch. Saw them at Hammersmith Odeon and the Music Machine in Mornington Crescent around this time.
(3) Another Music in a Different Kitchen – Buzzcocks
Got this as a Christmas present (at my own request) from someone I didn’t much like. The single from it (which I got first from Smiths in Chichester), What Do I Get, was what opened me up to Punk. The sleeve design was really striking with its silver and fluorescent orange. It was a kick years later to meet its super-talented designer Malcolm Garrett through work. My copy now bears his signature.
(4) Easter – Patti Smith
I was transfixed by the hairy armpit in the cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe.
(5) Plastic Letters – Blondie
I had a crush on Debbie Harry as Debbie had on Denis. I saw them for my 2nd ever gig at Hammersmith Odeon, as well as outside their record label, Chrysalis, near Bond Street.
(6) Stage – David Bowie
One of the few things outside of punk to catch my attention.
(7) Handsworth Revolution – Steel Pulse
Can’t recall how I came across this but it will have been thanks to the Punk-Reggae axis.
(8) Public Image – Public Image Ltd
How could Johnny Rotten transcend the Pistols? With a single as startling as anything those bad boys did.
(9) An American Prayer – Jim Morrison & The Doors
I still reckon Jim was a significant and talented poet.
(10) Here My Dear – Marvin Gaye
As intense as records ever get – I pictured Marvin alone in the studio in the dark, laying his voice over and over itself.
(11) Moving Targets – Penetration
Something a little exotic from the regions
(12) Power in the Darkness – Tom Robinson Band
My very first gig at Hammersmith Odeon with PJE. I used the stencil which came with this on my school bag.
This has flown in from Dan McKevitt in Carlingford (via Facebook). A musical parlour game for the holidays.The emphasis is on records that have meant a lot to you rather than the all-time greatest.
“Here are the rules. Post up 12 albums on to your timeline that have stayed with you for whatever reason. One album per Artist/Band. Tag 12 friends and get them to do likewise, include me so I can see your choices. Don’t overthink it. Enjoy. No Compilations.”
1 Kind of Blue – Miles Davis [how to become tranquil in 5 easy steps/tracks]
2 Jesus Christ Superstar [as a young teen I used to spend hours and hours drawing and colouring to this]
3 What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye [I played it the night my fist born made his appearance]
4 Another Music In a Different Kitchen – Buzzcocks [my route into punk]
5 A Love Supreme – John Coltrane [took me somewhere higher]
6 Hot August Night – Neil Diamond [the first LP I bought myself – helluva jean jacket]
7 Let’s Dance – David Bowie [helped me find the joy in my first year away from home]
8 Glorious Fool – John Martyn [prompted me to recognise that JM was the greatest singer of them all …ever]
9 Give ’em Enough Rope – The Clash [trudging through the snow to get this from Loppylugs the day it came out – there’s never been such anticipation]
10 Moondance – Van Morrison [contains my eponymous wedding dance]
11 The White Album – The Beatles [teen memories of discovering the Fab Four and others with JRT]
12 The Scream – Siouxsie & the Banshees [will life ever get more exciting?]
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…
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:
* 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
* 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.