Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

The most beautiful bit of music I’ve heard in a long time

…and I mean bit. 45 seconds from a half hour piece. I’m not that up on Classical Music but I heard this on the excellent new Netflix drama Unorthodox. Some students were practising it in a conservatoire in Berlin.

5.05-5.50 is the bit I mean. (The clip is supposed to start there but if it’s not behaving, you’ll have to go there yourself.)

Divine.

McCoy Tyner – pianist

“To me living and music are all the same thing. And I keep finding out more about music as I learn more about myself, my environment, about all kinds of different things in life. I play what I live. Therefore, just as I can’t predict what kinds of experiences I’m going to have, I can’t predict the directions in which my music will go. I just want to write and play my instrument as I feel.”

mccoy tyner pianist jazz

mccoy tyner pianist jazz

McCoy Tyner with John Coltrane at Van Gelder studios, New Jersey in 1963

McCoy went to the great jazz gig in the sky this weekend – his performance on ‘A Love Supreme’ is transcendent and I’m having it played at my funeral (on the way in)

Best Music of 2019

Just taking a moment to record for posterity/reference the highlights of 2019’s music from a London point of view in the form of the playlist of Robert Elms’ annual New Year’s Eve episode of his Radio London show before it drops off BBC Sounds (Audio on Demand app) in a couple of weeks. (The bolding is my recommendations.)

celeste singer

Celeste

The recorded music and live sessions from his show played by Robert Elms on 31/12/19.

  1. Bob James Trio
 – Ain’t Misbehavin’
  2. Hiss Golden Messenger – 
I Need A Teacher
  3. 
Jack Savoretti
 – Catapult (Radio London Session, 15 Jan 2019)
  4. Monkey House
 – 10,000 Hours [shades of Steely Dan – in a pleasing way]
  5. Danny Toeman – 
She’s Got Something About Her (Radio London Session, 8 Aug 2019)








 [shades of 70s soul – in a groovy way]
  6. Emily King – 
Look At Me Now
  7. 
HAIM
 – Summer Girl
  8. Celeste
 – Lately (Radio London Session, 4 Apr 2019)
  9. Nick Lowe
 – Love Starvation [can still teach the young’uns a thing or two]
  10. Natty Rebel
 – Copper And Lead [fresh roots reggae]
  11. 
Jo Harman – 
Cloudy (Radio London Session, 1 Mar 2019)
  12. Michael Kiwanuka
 – You Ain’t The Problem [contender for LP of the year]
  13. Ralph McTell
 – West 4th Street & Jones (Radio London Session, 27 Nov 2019) [lovely reflection on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan – a cover I own the original contact sheet from by photographer Don Hunstein]
  14. Paul Weller
 – You Do Something To Me (Live At Royal Festival Hall, 2018) [just a great song]
  15. Kat Eaton – 
Barricade
  16. Monks Road Social
 – If It Was All Down To Me
  17. Bruce Springsteen
 – There Goes My Miracle [his singing is impeccable on this]
  18. Kelly Finnigan
 – I Called You Back Baby [shades of Aretha – in a funky way]
  19. 
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – 
Texas Sun
  20. The Divine Comedy – 
Norma And Norman (Radio London Session, 7 Jun 2019)








 [quirkiness at its best]
  21. Teskey Brothers
 – Pain And Misery (Radio London Session, 11 Feb 2019)








 [shades of Otis – in a surprising way]
  22. The James L’Estraunge Orchestra – 
Closer [shades of Aztec Camera – a lone Scot in his bedroom making an astonishingly big sound, playing everything himself]
  23. Durand Jones & the Indications
 – Morning In America [shades of Gil-Scott Heron – in a respectful way]
  24. Greentea Peng
 – Risin’ (Radio London Session, 24 Oct 2019)
  25. 
Gabriella Cilmi
 – Ruins
  26. 
Lissie
 – Dreams
  27. The Delines
 – Eddie & Polly (Radio London Session, 4 Nov 2019)
  28. Roseanne Reid
 – Amy [offspring on a Proclaimer]
  29. The Brand New Heavies & N’Dea Davenport
 – These Walls
  30. Maisie Peters – 
Favourite Ex (Radio London Session, 2 Aug 2019)
  31. 
Leif Vollebekk
 – The Way That You Feel
  32. Richard Hawley
 – My Little Treasures
  33. 
Judi Jackson
 – Better In The Fall (Radio London Session, 20 Mar 2019)
  34. Geraint Watkins
 – Heaven Only Knows
  35. Ady Suleiman
 – Strange Roses (Radio London Session, 7 Mar 2019)
  36. Jamie Cullum
 – Drink (Radio London Session, 10 Jun 2019)
  37. Yola
 – Faraway Look

    The original programme [3 hours] is here  but will disappear at the end of January 2020.

Greentea Peng


Greentea Peng
 – more proof that young music is alive & kicking in London

Sweet Little Mystery

Sarah Jane Morris

First gig of the year was an absolute cracker – spine-tingling and uplifting. It was singer Sarah Jane Morris (think Preraphaelites meet Janis Joplin) at Ronnie Scott’s. She was singing songs by my favourite of favourites John Martyn. The venue is one of the best, still redolent of the 70s. You just sip cocktails (no two the same) and watch&listen from just feet away.

jane morris dante gabriel rossetti proserpine

Jane Morris as Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1874)

The support act was Jonathan Gee Trio. As we share two-thirds of our name (my middle name is Jonathan) I felt compelled to go talk to the eponymous pianist after the set. He was delighted to meet on that basis. When I enquired whether Gee was all there was he explained it originated from Goldstein or similar, curtailed in the 30s. I said snap: Gewürtz.

sarah jane morris singer

SJM = Janis meets African Earth Mother

Sarah Jane Morris played the following John Martyn songs – her approach is to find her own way of rendering songs that are meaningful to her, like JM she has a baritone voice which therefore suits these songs (although she has a 4 octave range):

  • Couldn’t Love You More – an unbelievably brilliant and simple love song
  • Head & Heart – an unbelievably brilliant and simple love song, the heart of JM’s genius
  • Call Me
  • Send Me One Line – from the film 84 Charing Cross Road, bit of a rarity
  • Over the Hill
  • Solid Air
  • One World
  • Sweet Little Mystery
  • Glorious Fool – one of my favourites, apparently dedicated to another Ronnie – Ronnie Reagan
  • May You Never

Among these there were several transcendent moments (which is all you can really ask from a concert), sometimes from the singing, sometimes from the playing, particularly Jason Rebello’s piano.

Sweet Little Mystery sarah jane morris LP album record

What it made me realise is that John Martyn was a genius (truly) at writing powerful love songs – not like a poet or a micro-novelist but an honest-to-goodness songwriter – simple, repetitive, rhythmic.

The band were top notch:

  • Jason Rebello, piano – one night only, gave it his all
  • Tim Cansfield, guitar
  • Tony Rémy, guitar and co-creator of the John Martyn covers project, realised in an album called Sweet Little Mystery (2019)
  • Henry Thomas, bass – his double-bass was bust (SJM told me after the set) and so he was playing electric, not his norm – but he played it with a remarkable soft fluidity which really stood out
  • Martyn Barker, drums
  • Dominic Miller, guitar – played with Sting for a long time, a very distinctive, individual style, subtle, spare

It’s not surprising that it took three guitarists to equal one John Martyn, a guitar great as well as one of the greatest songwriters.

John martyn sweet little mystery LP album record

After the gig I got to chat briefly to Sarah Jane Morris and Tony Remy, the cherry on the cake of a brilliant night. I told her that I shared a birthday with John and that he is the only person I didn’t know, not family nor friend, whose death I deeply mourned. The day he died the world was a lesser place.

The moment I stepped out of Ronnie’s into the Soho night air the world was a greater place.

john martyn young

A touch of the messiah about him

jane morris

Jane Morris, posed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in his garden in Chelsea, 1865 – albumen print by John R. Parsons ::  Jane Morris (1839-1914), wife of William Morris (1834-96), muse of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82)

 

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

 

Jewel of Irony

Gary Oldman (actor) is 13 days younger than Gary Numan (singer)

gary oldman actor sid and nancy vicious

Oldman is young (in Sid & Nancy)

Replicas gary numan album singer tubeway army

Numan is old

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

Story Snippet – Trondheim train

I find myself sitting next to Sissel on the six-hour train journey from Trondheim to Oslo. She is an elegant elderly lady with a wicked laugh. A native of Trondheim, she used to be the projectionist at the Cinemateket where I delivered my lecture on Thursday. She is on her way to Oslo airport heading for Berlin, her first visit there since 1977. The last time she went she tried to call David Bowie and Iggy Pop. She found the phone number of their flat under James Osterberg (Iggy’s non-stage name) in the phone book. She rang but a woman answered and said they were out.

david bowie iggy pop berlin

4 of the Greatest Drummers

I’ve been enjoying the 3-part series Guitar, Drum & Bass on BBC4 commissioned by my old friend & colleague Jan Younghusband. Some of the presenters are better than others (Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads a real natural on Bass; Stuart Copeland gives it a good try on Drums, enthusiastic but not the full monty).

Of course it gets you reflecting on the greats so here are who I consider 4 of the drumming greats:

1) Michael Shreeve – Santana

[comes in at 0:38] He blew everyone away at Woodstock as a fresh 20-year-old.

2) John Bonham – Led Zeppelin

A driving force of great technical accomplishment – heavy as it gets.

3) Budgie – Siouxsie & the Banshees

[kicks in at 0:36] A perfect off-beat sound

4) Clyde Stubblefield – James Brown

[solo at 0:30] Funky as fuck

Bubbling under:

  • Elvin Jones – John Coltrane
  • Gene Krupa – Benny Goodman
  • Itamar Doari – Avishai Cohen

Itamar Doari with Avishai Cohen

Also of note:

  • Gregory Coleman – The Winstons (creator of the Amen Break)
  • Stockton Helbing – Maynard Fergusson

[6 famous seconds at 1:26] The Amen Break

 

Quote of the Day: Resilience

Learn to deal with the valleys and the hills will take care of themselves.

– Count Basie

Sinatra with Count Basie

The Count & The Chairman of the Board (Basie & Sinatra)

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