Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Openings – first lines of songs

In most creations with a time dimension (film, music, etc.), the opening is very important. This is particularly true of Short Form Video where the drop-off rates in the first minute on almost all platforms is very high (75%+). It’s all about grabbing attention and retaining interest. While it’s critical in this most modern of art forms, it’s pretty much as true of the positively ancient art of song writing.

Here are some favourites from a lively thread on our Facebook account…

God said to Abraham…
God said to Abraham “Kill me a son”
Abe said “Man, you must be puttin’ me on”
[Bob Dylan, Highway 61]
 
I don’t believe in an interventionist god
But I know, darling, that you do
[Nick Cave, Into My Arms]
 
Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine
[Patti Smith, Gloria]
 
I wanted to change the world
But I could not even change my underwear
[Sinead O’Connor, written by John Grant – Queen of Denmark]
 
Some of us live like princes; some of us live like queens;
Some of us live just like you and me and don’t know what it means…
To take our place in one world; to make our peace in one world; to make our love in one world…
[John Martyn, One World]
 
If you kissed the sun right out of the sky for me
If you told me all the lies I might deserve
If you lay right down and you died for me
I could not love you more
[John Martyn, Couldn’t Love You More] perhaps the greatest in his simplicity
 
You curl around me, like a fern in the spring.
[John Martyn, Go Down Easy]
 
I can hear her heart beat for a thousand miles
And the heavens open every time she smiles
And when I come to her that’s where I belong
Yet I’m running to her like a river’s song
[Van Morrison, Crazy Love]
 
I am a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm
[Iggy and the Stooges,  Search and Destroy]
 
In the time of chimpanzees I was a monkey
[Beck]
 
Jeremiah was a bullfrog
Was a good friend of mine
[Three Dog Night, Joy to the World]
 
I’ve been working on a cocktail called grounds for divorce.
[Elbow]
 
When me and Pam are hand in hand, we make a lovely pair.
But when we fight her awful spite is more than I can bear.
[Ian Dury, Pam’s Moods]
 
I guess I should’ve known
By the way you parked your car sideways
That it wouldn’t last
[Prince, Little Red Corvette]
 
Tumble out of bed stumble to the kitchen,
Pour myself a cup of ambition
[Dolly Parton, 9 to 5]
 
I may not always love you
But as long as there are stars above you
You never need to doubt it
[Beach Boys, God Only Knows] one of the most beautiful of songs
 
An old man turned 98…He won the lottery and died the next day
[Alanis Morissette, Ironic]
 
Son I am 30
I only went with your mother cos she’s dirty
[Happy Mondays, Kinky Afro]
 
I never thought it would happen
With me and the girl from Clapham
[squeeze, Up the Junction] a top rhyme
 
Abra Abra Cadabra
I wanna reach out and grab ya
[Steve Miller Band]
 
A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, A-lop-bam-boom
[Little Richard, Tutti Frutti]
 
I did you wrong my heart went out to play
But in the game I lost you
What a price to pay, hey I’m crying
[Smokey Robinson, Ooh Ooh Baby]
 
Oh, my land is like a wild goose
Wanders all around everywhere
Trembles and it shakes till every tree’s loose
It rolls the meadows and it rolls the nails
[Gram Parsons, A Song for You]
 
Hey Charlie I’m pregnant and living on 9th Street
Right above a dirty bookstore off Euclid Avenue
And I stopped takin dope and I quit drinkin whiskey
And my old man plays the trombone and works out at the track
[Tom Waits, Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis]
 
It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better
New York is cold, but I like where I’m living
There’s music on Clinton Street all through the evening.
I hear that you’re building your little house deep in the desert
You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record.
[Leonard Cohen, Famous Blue Raincoat]
 
No regrets Coyote
We just come from such different sets of circumstance
I’m up all night in the studios
And you’re up early on your ranch
You’ll be brushing out a brood mare’s tail
While the sun is ascending
And I’ll just be getting home with my reel to reel
There’s no comprehending
Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
And the lips you can get
And still feel so alone
And still feel related
Like stations in some relay
You’re not a hit and run driver
No no
Racing away
[Joni Mitchell, Coyote]
 
They’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot
[Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi]
 
I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook’s
Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein
[Warren Zevon, Werewolves of London]
 
I met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca Cola
C-O-L-A, Cola
[The Kinks, Lola]
 
I’ve been loving you a long time
Down all the years, down all the days
And I’ve cried for all your troubles
Smiled at your funny little ways.
[The Pogues, a Rainy Night in Soho]
 
In Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know
And the people that come and go
Stop and say hello.
[The Beatles, Penny Lane]
 
When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way,
[The Beatles, Help!]
 
I can feel the earth begin to move
I hear my needle hit the groove
And spiral through another day
I hear my song begin to say
Kiss me where the sun don’t shine
The past was yours
But the future’s mine
You’re all out of time.
[The Stone Roses, She Bangs the Drums]
 
Well you tried it just for once, found it alright for kicks.
But now you’ve found out that it’s a habit that sticks.
[Buzzcocks, Orgasm Addict]
 
I’m a glum one, it’s explainable, I met someone unattainable
[Frank Sinatra, I Can’t Get Started]
 
Someone’s got it in for me they’re planting stories in the press.
[Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind]
 
Bless my cotton socks I’m in the news
[Teardrop Explodes, Reward]
 
Look out, mama, there’s a white boat coming up the river
With a big red beacon, and a flag, and a man on the rail
[Neil Young, Powderfinger]
 
Last week I attended a family affair,
and a few remarked upon my recent growth of facial hair
[Loudon Wainright III, Surviving Twin]
 
Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street
[Joe Jackson, Is she really going out with him?] 
 
Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard
But I say…
Oh Bondage! Up yours!
[X-Ray Spex, Oh Bondage! Up yours!]
 
Some people might say my life is in a rut
But I’m quite happy with what I got
[The Jam, Going Underground]
 
It’s a God-awful small affair
To the girl with the mousy hair
But her mummy is yelling, “No”
And her daddy has told her to go
[David Bowie, Life on Mars?]
 
There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
[Nature Boy]
 
There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a stairway to Heaven. 
[Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven]
 
If you are the dealer
I’m out of the game
If you are the healer it means
I’m broken and lame
[Leonard Cohen, You Want it Darker]
 
Me and Mrs. Jones
We got a thing, goin’ on
[Billy Paul, Me & Mrs Jones]
 
The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves.
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays.
[Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road]
 
I’ve got six things on my mind, you’re no longer one of them.
[Paddy McAloon, Desire As]
 
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
[Nina Simone, I wish I knew how it would feel to be free]
 
Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste.
[Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil]
 
I am an antichrist
[Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the UK]
 
It’s been 7 hours and 15 days
Since you took your love away
[Nothing Compares 2U]
 
Hey ho, let’s go.
[Ramones, Blitzkrieg Bop]
 
It’s been 7 hours and 15 days
Since you took your love away

More Favourite Social Media Accounts

Toyah Willcox & Robert Fripp in their kitchen

(1) Toyah & Fripp’s Sunday Lunch Film (YouTube)

It being Sunday lunch time I have just watched Toyah & Fripp’s latest Sunday Lunch Film (their fun-filled take on Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze). As I look out my window at a farm in Barnet (it may be a sheep farm for all I know about things agricultural) I think back to the young punk of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee and that debut EP Sheep Farming in Barnet

The only Toyah record in my collection

What interest she had in Barnet (as a Brummie) or sheep I have no idea – she has had a very particular success as a singer and actress (my favourite of her performances is in Quadrophenia). Now, every Sunday at noon she and her husband, King Crimson guitarist Ropert Fripp, release a short video of them performing a song in their kitchen. She is 62 and he is 74. They are on a mission to have fun in Lockdown.

(2) Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties (Twitter)

Another of the great things to come out of Lockdown is Tim Burgess of The Charlatan’s group LP listening sessions connected via Twitter. Tim picks a record. We all hit Play at the same time. And chat. Simple as that. Among the best Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties I’ve joined were a series of Sunday night ones spotlighting Bowie’s LPs with input from Mike Garson (Bowie’s pianist) and others from his band; Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ neglected classic Don’t Stand Me Down; a couple of The Cure ones such as Pornography (which is one of the few of their albums I didn’t know that well so this was a great way to discover it communally) and a brilliant The The one (Infected) with Matt Johnson.

The format grew so popular that after a while musicians started to join in in this way and give anecdotes and explanations around their songs. This has meant I’ve had direct contacts with musicians from Dexy’s guitarist to Bowie’s to The Cure’s, for example. The communal music experience is the beating heart of the thing, but the closeness to the creators is cherry on the cake. Really one of the very best things to come out of Lockdown.

Dexy’s fiddle player and guitarist in dialogue with the fans (i.e. me)
[back L-R] Kevin Rowland, Nick Gatfield [front] Billy (Kev) Adams, Helen O’Hara

(3) Chop Daily (Instagram)

Chop Daily is an energetic minute of dance to your phone every day of life from the account’s followers. Simples.

Bowie revelation

 

Listening to lots of David Bowie music over his birthday weekend (Friday was his birthday, 8th January) I had a bit of a revelation. One of my favourite LPs of all time – The Talking Heads’ Remain in the Light – I suspect was very heavily influenced by Bowie’s Lodger. I remember the release of Lodger, his third Berlin album, well, him explaining on some BBC radio show the background to the world sounds drawn from Turkey, Africa and other diverse places. Lodger was released in May 1979 (one of the great years for music) and Remain in the Light in October of the following year. The connection should have been obvious because both were produced by Brian Eno and he has proven himself one of the creative greats of our times.

Eno’s impact on Bowie’s work on Lodger and the other two Berlin records is very well captured in David Bowie: Verbatim, the archive programme made by my friend Des Shaw at Zinc in January 2016, which was repeated last night to mark the 5th anniversary of Bowie’s passing in that month – you can listen to it here

Coincidences No.s 291 & 292 – A London Boy

No. 291 All Things Must Pass

I go for my last run (of hundreds) in St Pancras & Islington cemetery. It’s only open on weekends at the moment due to Lockdown/Covid so this Sunday is my last opportunity. I am due to move house on Tuesday. I know every inch of this huge cemetery-cum-nature reserve and have deeply enjoyed the hours I have spent here running, walking and meditating. I jog listening to a BBC Radio programme (‘Archive on 4‘) about George Harrison’s first solo record ‘All Things Must Pass’. 

As I reach the gate coming out for the last time the narrator, Nitin Sawhney, reminds us that the record first came out in the UK 50 years ago on 30th November. This is 29th November. On the 30th I am packing up the house and home office of ArkAngel to move out. 

As I reach the side gate of the house at the end of the run George says (referring to the long recording process):

“…and it’s finished.”

No. 292 A New Dawn

I just received the following message (30 seconds ago via Facebook):

“Listening to it myself. Dedicating Nina to you. Xx”

It refers to this playlist, ‘Weekend at Home‘, created by my Best Man, and the track ‘Feeling Good’ (by Nina Simone). I’ve been listening to the playlist all morning on the first Saturday in my new home, where I’m sitting at my new ArkAngel desk.

About two minutes before the message arrived I got an email from a colleague/friend at Little Dot Studios. It was about somebody pirating ‘Surf Girls Jamaica‘ and at the end he asked

“How’s the new place?”

Exactly as I read the email these were the very words I heard from Spotify…

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me

Yeah, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me

And I’m feelin’ good

‘Feeling Good’ was actually written by two Londoners – Anthony Newley (Hackney) & Leslie Bricusse (Pinner) for a musical, ‘The Roar of the Greasepaint’ . As I finish off this post, on the ‘Weekend at Home’ playlist I’ve reached the track ‘The London Boys‘ by David Bowie. It was a 1966 B-side on Deram records which put out his early work. He sings it in a very Anthony Newley London style as Newley was a huge influence on Bowie when he was starting out. My move takes me back to my native postcode: London NW7

It’s a new dawn

East Street Band

East Finchley has done pretty well on the music front in recent years with Feargal Sharkey of The Undertones, Ray Davies of the Kinks and Jon King of the Gang of Four among the local residents, as well as having the house called Fairport just down the road which gave its name to Fairport Convention. But the crowning glory is the little known fact that David Bowie played one of his first gigs, aged 17, in this (not very large) building in East Finchley High Street…

 

Finchley Youth Theatre

Here’s how the two shilling event was billed:

Sunday 26th June 1964

This was Bowie’s – or as he was then Davie (not Davy) Jones – second band. They mainly did RnB covers but had nevertheless attracted the attention of TV (BBC’s Juke Box Jury, ITV’s Ready Steady Go!, and The Beat Room on BBC2 [the third British TV station,  which had just launched in April 1964]). Their first and only single, Liza Jane, had just been released (5th June 1964), Bowie’s first ever record. It was recorded not far away at Decca Studios in West Hampstead.

Bowie left the King Bees shortly after the gig to form The Mannish Boys. Five years later, after struggling to break through, he released Space Oddity under the name David Bowie.

J.Y.C. stands for Jewish Youth Club. Beatles manager Brian Epstein was Vice-President of the club from 1964 to his death in 1967, and visited it at least once a year to meet the young members. The club was sent copies of all Epstein’s record releases the day they came out.

Davie Jones and the King Bees
jewish Chronicle 15th September 1967
 Brian Epstein signing autographs at the Youth Club in September 1965

Art School was Rock School

A couple of years ago I went to a meeting at University of the Arts/Chelsea College of Arts to discuss a programme idea about Art Schools in the UK. Waiting in the cafe bit near the entrance I was really struck by the proportion of Chinese and South-East Asian students in the packed room – a sign of the times. In 2016 I was teaching on an MA course at the Royal College of Art, set up by designer Neville Brody (of ‘The Face’ fame) – I had helped him shape its curriculum. Of the 18 students in the room, one was British – most of the others were European, a couple from South-East Asia. My point is about the mix and the absence of young Brits (rather than the presence of students from abroad).

brian eno roxy music

Brian Eno in Roxy Music

In February 2017 I went to an event in Cecil Sharp House, Camden Town at which Brian Eno was interviewed by Tanya Byron (with whom I worked on ‘Bedtime Live‘ [Channel 4]). He talked a lot about his teacher at Ipswich Art School, Tom Phillips (a signed print of whose is sitting on this desk, just behind my screen, a present from my mum – we went to collect it from Tom’s house together). His teachers there had a formative role in his development as a musician. There’s a good account of their relationship here.

Today I was reflecting again on the vital contribution of Art Schools to British music, not least in the punk and post-punk era in which I was a teenager.

malcolm mclaren vivienne westwood

malcolm mclaren & vivienne westwood

What those schools represented among other things was a space for experimentation, to figure out what you want to do with your life and art, to come across & play with ideas. No nine grand a year debt hanging over your head. They were also a place for people who didn’t fit the mainstream tertiary education system – or rather it failed to fit them.

Paul Simonon The Clash by Sheila Rock

Paul Simonon of The Clash [photo by Sheila Rock]

This is the first of a two-part article on the subject – I want to round off this introductory part with a (kick-off rather than comprehensive) list of musicians who went to art schools around the UK to give a sense of the enormous impact of these places on music across the globe:

  • John Mayall – Regional College of Art (Manchester), 1955-1959
  • Charlie Watts – Harrow Art School, 1956-1960
  • John Lennon – Liverpool College of Art, 1957-1960
  • Keith Richards – Sidcup Art School, 1959-1962
  • Jimmy Page – Sutton Art College, 1960-1964
  • John Cale – Goldsmiths, 1960-1963
  • Viv Stanshall – Central St Martins, 1961-1962
  • Ronnie Wood – Ealing Art College, 1961-1964
  • Eric Clapton – Kingston Art College, 1961-1962
  • Pete Townshend – Ealing Art College, 1961-1964
  • Ray Davies – Hornsey College of Art, 1962-1963
  • Cat Stevens – Hammersmith School of Art
  • Syd Barrett – Camberwell College of Art, 1964-1966
  • Roger Waters – Regent Street Polytechnic, 1962-65 [architecture]
  • Nick Mason – Regent Street Polytechnic, 1962-65 [architecture]
  • Rick Wright – Regent Street Polytechnic, 1962-65 [architecture]
  • Bryan Ferry – Newcastle College of Art, 1964-1968
  • Brian Eno – Ipswich Art School, 1964-1966 & Winchester College of Art, 1966-1969
  • Malcolm McLaren – St Martin’s & Chiswick Polytechnic & Croydon College of Art & Harrow Art College & Goldsmiths College, 1963-1971
  • Ian Dury – Royal College of Art, 1964-1967
  • Freddie Mercury – Ealing College of Art, 1966-1969
  • Joe Strummer – Central St Martins, 1970-1971
  • Adam Ant – Hornsey College of Art, 1972-1975
  • Jerry Dammers – Lanchester Polytechnic, Coventry, 1972-1975
  • Mick Jones – Hammersmith School of Art, 1973-1974
  • Paul Simonon – Byam Shaw (London), 1975-1976
  • Marc Almond – Leeds Polytechnic (Leeds Beckett University), 1976-1979
  • David Ball of Soft Cell – Leeds Polytechnic (Leeds Beckett University), 1976-1979
  • Andy Gill of Gang Of Four – Leeds University
  • Jon King of Gang Of Four – Leeds University
  • Sade – Central St Martins, 1977-1980
  • Jarvis Cocker – Central St Martins, 1988-1991
  • Graham Coxon – Goldsmiths, 1988-1989
  • Damon Albarn – Goldsmiths
  • Alex James – Goldsmiths
  • Justine Frischmann of Elastica – Central St Martins
  • PJ Harvey – Yeovil Art College, 1990-1991
  • Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian – Stow College (Glasgow Kelvin College) 1995-
  • Stuart David of Belle and Sebastian – Stow College (Glasgow Kelvin College) 1995-
  • Fran Healy of Travis – Glasgow School of Art
  • Corinne Bailey Rae – Leeds University
  • Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine – Camberwell, 2006-2007
  • Paloma Faith – Central St Martins

Damon Albarn of Blur by Julian Opie

Damon Albarn of Blur by Julian Opie

If you know other British musicians who came out of art school, please add them in the comments below.

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)

 

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