Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Story Snippet No. 399 – news commentary

In my local coffee shop, Maurizio’s aka Amici, there is a man who goes in early every day and annotates in biro the cafe’s copies of the newspapers, in particular the Daily Mail, both text and photos. Rumour is he’s a former journalist. By the time I get there the next wave of activity is under way. People are sitting around debating the daily annotations, their author long gone. This morning two middle-aged local women were connecting over the phenomenon, one sitting in the enigmatic author’s habitual window seat. I joined in. The non-window woman referred to the cafe as a “community centre”, celebrating the fact that, prompted by the annotations, you can discuss the news there freely without fear of offending or being offended whilst remaining lively.

I left after my emergency cappuccino and went back to the car, switching on Robert Elms’ bank holiday show on Radio London. He started playing ‘Shout to the Top’ by The Style Council. As the first notes played, especially the piano ones, it prompted this thought and subsequent email to Robert:

From: Adam Gee
Date: 1 May 2017 at 10:11:32 BST
To: Robert Elms
Subject: LA Style
Is it just me or did the beginning of this Style Council track sound like something out of LaLa Land? Do those Hollywoodfolk owe Weller?

Within 60 seconds he was reading it out and launching into his theory of the common roots of the band and the film soundtrack, as well as a brief evaluation of Paul Weller’s career. Always a kick. Gotta love London.

The Style Council

The one on the right shares a birthday with me and John Martyn

Update: 4/5/17

I got my second mention on Robert Elms this week. He wanted a suggestion for a ‘fourfer’, a quartet of tracks on a particular theme or by a particular artist which he plays every Friday. This was my suggestion:

From: Adam Gee

Subject: Fourfer suggestion

Date: 4 May 2017 at 11:53:49 BST

To: Robert Elms

Songs with bells in

Not little tinkly bells but full-on big ones

Think AC/DC – Back in Black or Pink Floyd – The Division Bell

He thought the category was too narrow and broadened it to ‘Songs with sound effects’

Nature Boy

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This is my favourite couplet from any song – and how come my philosophy on life is derived from George Benson.

I first came across the song ‘Nature Boy’ on the record ‘In Flight’ by jazz guitarist Benson. In time it emerged that it was a cover of Nat King Cole. In more time I became aware that it was written by someone called Eden Ahbez (who I’d never heard of). He turned out to be a proto-hippy and a very interesting character whose extraordinary story gave rise to this fascinating photo:

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The dapper Cole and the Jesus-like Ahbez came to coincide in the wake of Ahbez pushing a dirty, rolled-up manuscript onto Mort Ruby, Cole’s manager, backstage at the Lincoln Theater, LA. On it was a tune and these words:

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day
A magic day he passed my way
And while we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return

Beautiful simplicity – as has that fantastic closing couplet.

This happened shortly after World War Two, in 1947. Ahbez at the time was of no fixed abode and unemployed. Cole liked the song and began playing it live to audiences. In 1948 he recorded it but before the recording could be released Ruby needed to track down its writer to secure the rights.

Ahbez was eventually discovered living just below the first L of the Hollywood sign with his family. They slept under the night sky. Ahbez ate vegetables, fruits and nuts. He had shoulder-length hair and a beard, wore sandals and white robes. He studied Eastern mysticism and claimed to live on $3 a week.

‘Nature Boy’ became a No. 1 hit in the US Billboard charts for eight consecutive weeks during the summer of 1948. That same year RKO Radio Pictures paid Ahbez $10,000 for the rights to the song to use it as the theme tune for the movie ‘The Boy With Green Hair’.

Meanwhile he lived a proto-hippy life under the big L of Hollywood. Letters were significant for him. He actually called himself eden ahbez rather than Eden Ahbez as he reckoned only the words “God” and “Infinity” merited capitalisation.

eden ahbez songwriter

During the 30s he lived in Kansas City and worked as a pianist and dance band leader. In 1941 he moved to LA where he got a gig playing piano in Eutropheon, a health food shop and raw food cafe on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, owned by John and Vera Richter. The Richters lived by a philosophy based on ‘Lebensreform’ (Life Reform) and the notion of the ‘Naturmensch’ (Nature Man) which was derived from the ‘Wandervogel’ (Wandering Bird) back-to-nature movement in Germany.

ahbez became part of a California-based group known as the ‘Nature Boys’, prominent among whom was Gypsy Boots (Robert Bootzin). Bootzin is another fascinating character, a hippy decades ahead of the 60s counterculture, with shared elements of ahbez’s background.

Bootzin was born in San Francisco to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. His father was a broom salesman. His mother brought him and his four siblings up as vegetarian. She led the family on hikes in the Californian hills and fed the homeless with her black bread. In the wake of his older brother’s premature death from TB, Bootzin resolved to pursue a healthy, natural lifestyle. He grew his hair long. By 1933 he had dropped out of high school and left home to wander the wilds of California with a group of fellow vagabonds. In the 40s he lived off the land with a dozen other Nature Boys in Tahquitz Canyon near Palm Springs, CA. They slept in caves and trees, and bathed in waterfalls. Long hair and beards were the order of the day.

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Hence ahbez’s Jesus hair and beard, and diet of raw fruits and vegetables. It was at this juncture that he adopted the name ‘eden ahbez’ (ahbe to his friends). He was actually born George Alexander Aberle on 15th April 1908. On subsequent adoption (1917) he became George McGrew. Then George became eden.

ahbez was originally of the East Coast not West. He was born in Brooklyn to a Jewish father and a Scottish-English mother but spent his early years in the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum. He was then adopted at the age of 9 by the McGrew family of Chanute, Kansas.

How much of the life of eden ahbez is self-mythologising is difficult to gauge. He claimed to have crossed the U.S.A. on foot eight times by the time he was 35. He settled in L.A., married Anna Jacobsen, with whom he slept in a sleeping bag in Griffith Park. They had a son, Tatha. The family continued living out under the stars, with just a pushbike, sleeping bags and a juicer. ahbez was to be seen on Hollywood  street corners sharing gems of Eastern mysticism.

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eden anna tatha/zoma – January 1948

Having been handed the scruffy  ‘Nature Boy’ manuscript via Ruby, Cole recognised the underlying melody in the song as Yiddish. He decided to add it to his repertoire because he wanted a Jewish song for his act (presumably good for capturing that particular constituency). Cole recorded ‘Nature Boy’ on 22nd August 1947 with an arrangement by Frank DeVol and a piano part written by Cole played by Buddy Cole (Edwin LeMar Cole, no relation).

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Despite Capitol releasing ‘Nature Boy’ as a B side, its quality overcame record company cluelessness to quickly hit the #1 spot. Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and others rushed out cover versions and it remains a much covered song, from David Bowie to John Coltrane, from Ella Fitzgerald to Bobby Darin.

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Frank and eden

ahbez’s relationship to the greenback seems to have been an awkward one. Once ‘Nature Boy’ became a hit, the publishers and composer (Herman Yablokoff) of the Yiddish song ‘Schwieg Mein Hertz’ (‘Shvayg Mayn Harts’/ ‘Be Still My Heart’) claimed that the melody of ‘Nature Boy’ came from their song and sued, subsequently settling out of court with ahbez for a whopping $25,000. ahbez said he had “heard the tune in the mist of the California mountains.” Prior to this, when Ruby and Cole had eventually tracked him down under the L, it turned out that ahbez had given various people different shares of the publishing rights so he ended up with pretty much big fat zero. The happy ending though is that after Nat ‘King’ Cole died in 1965, his wife eventually gave all the rights back to its creator ahbez.

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ahbe anna zoma 1961

In the  wake of ‘Nature Boy’ ahbez continued to write songs for  Cole, including ‘Land of Love’ (covered by Doris Day and The Ink Spots). In the mid 50s he supplied songs to Eartha Kitt, Frankie Laine and others. His composition ‘Lonely Island’ was recorded by Sam Cooke in 1957, his second and final tune to make the Top 40.

He collaborated with jazz singer-songwriter Herb Jeffries, in 1954 releasing the LP ‘The Singing Prophet’ including ahbez’s 4-part ‘Nature Boy Suite’.  In 1959 he started recording his own distinctive brand of instrumental music. He could be seen in beatnik coffeehouses around LA performing on bongos and flute as accompaniment to beat poetry.

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outside Health Hut, LA

In 1960 (thanks to the prompting of Bob Keane, boss of Del-Fi Records) he cut his only solo record, ‘Eden’s Island’ – “the first ever psychedelic pop classic” according to my pal Doug, and he knows his shit. It combines beat poetry with off-beat jungle exotica arrangements. ahbez promoted the LP by making personal appearances on a coast-to-coast walking tour. (He recorded another similar album, ‘Echoes from Nature Boy’, again containing his poems set to music, which was released posthumously.)

He pops up in various places during the actual Hippy era. Grace Slick, later of Jefferson Airplane, then of The Great Society, covered ‘Nature Boy’ in 1966. Early the next year ahbez was photographed in the studio with Brian Wilson during one of the ‘Smile’ sessions. Later in ’67 Britain’s very own psychedelic pioneer Donovan tracked down ahbez in Palm Springs and the two like-minds communed.

ahbez had his fair share of personal tragedy. His wife Anna died relatively young (47)  of leukemia (in 1963). His son, Zoma (originally named tatha om ahbez) drowned as a 22 year old (in 1971). He himself met an ironically unnatural death at the sharp metallic end of an automobile, succumbing to the injuries sustained in the accident in LA on 4th March 1995. He was 86. The fruit and veg had agreed with him.

On the subject of fruit, ahbez said he once told a cop who was hassling him for his shaggy appearance:  “I look crazy but I’m not. And the funny thing is that other people don’t look crazy but they are.”

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April 1948

 

Phucket List

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.

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Vanessa Fenton parading her stuff

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Where two corridors intersect in the National Portrait Gallery

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Martyn Ware records the action

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Spirit of Diaghilev

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Ware’s Satie?

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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

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Any suggestions for 5 – 12 gratefully received…

The Next Day: fragments of Bowie

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Outside 155 Hauptstrasse Schoeneberg Berlin – Bowie’s apartment – 17 Jan 2016

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.

So adding to the photo album of my Bowie’s Berlin trip last January and my post on hearing of his death (Blackstar Rising) from yesterday’s post are:

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]

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Outside 155 Hauptstrasse Schoeneberg Berlin – Bowie’s apartment – 17 Jan 2016

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.

The Man Who Rose From Earth

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Front door of 155 Hauptstrasse Schoeneberg – Bowie’s apartment in Berlin – 17th January 2016

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.

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Berlin, 16th January 2016 – 8 days after Blackstar release

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.

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My 1977 vintage badge which dropped off my lapel in Berlin, January 2016 – from Carnaby Street to a mysterious final resting place

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Best of 2016

Updated 1.1.17 & 7.1.17 – put to bed 10.1.17

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American Honey

Film:
Manchester by the Sea
American Honey

Sing Street
American Pastoral
The Accountant
Allied
The Nice Guys

Male Lead:
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

Female Lead:
Sasha Lane – American Honey

Rebecca Hall – Christine
Marion Cotillard – Allied
Dakota Fanning – American Pastoral
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Amy Adams – Arrival

Male Support:
Jack Reynor – Sing Street

Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
Tom Wilkinson – Denial
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

Female Support:
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Hayley Squires – I, Daniel Blake
Jennifer Connelly – American Pastoral
Riley Keough – American Honey
Margot Robbie – Suicide Squad

Director:
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

Writer:
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

John Carney – Sing Street
Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Tom Ford – Nocturnal Animals
Eric Heisserer – Arrival

Editing:
Joe Walker – Arrival
Jennifer Lame – Manchester by the Sea

Cinematography:
Vittorio Storaro – Cafe Society
Rodrigo Prieto – Silence

Film Music:
Sing Street

Single/Song:
In Tiburon – Van Morrison

Album:
Blackstar – David Bowie
Keep Me Singing – Van Morrison

Gig:

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)

Play:
Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park)

Things I Know to be True – Andrew Bovell (Lyric, Hammersmith)
How the Other Half Loves – Alan Aykborn (Haymarket)

Art Exhibition:
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

Book:
The Sellout – Paul Beatty
Judas – Amos Oz

Read This Year:
All Fall Down – James Leo Herlihy

TV:
Ambulance
Humans 2.0
The Night Manager
Long Lost Family

Sport:
Ireland beating New Zealand at rugby in Chicago
Jack Laugher and Chris Mears winning diving gold at Rio Olympics

Event:

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

Dearly departed:

  • David Bowie
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Gene Wilder
  • Leonard Cohen
  • George Michael
  • Bobby Wellins
  • Terry Wogan
  • Ronnie Corbett
  • Johan Cruyff
  • Robert Vaughn
  • Peter Vaughan
  • Maurice White
  • Frank Finlay
  • George Martin
  • Sylvia Anderson
  • Arnold Wesker

bowieessential

Best of 2015

Best of 2014

Best of 2013

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

Three Days a Week

 

Eight Days A Week

Eight Days a Week

Day 2: Liverpool

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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.

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Day 1: Sheffield

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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.

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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.

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Day 2: Sheffield

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Edith Sitwell by Roger Fry

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.

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“So we sailed on to the sun”

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine

 

 

Dream of Life

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Patti Smith: Dream of Life

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.

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On Rimbaud’s toilet

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.

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Patti Smith & photographer Robert Mapplethorpe

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).

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Patti Smith & Allen Ginsberg

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.

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With 1930s guitar given her by playwright Sam Shepherd in the 70s

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.

 

Frida Smith

There seems to be a connection

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Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe

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Frida Kahlo meets Patti Smith

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Patti meets Frida (Wave)

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Frida as Odalisque

1978 in Music

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:

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(4) Easter – Patti Smith

I was transfixed by the hairy armpit in the cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe.

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(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.

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(6) Stage – David Bowie

One of the few things outside of punk to catch my attention.

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(7) Handsworth Revolution – Steel Pulse

Can’t recall how I came across this but it will have been thanks to the Punk-Reggae axis.

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(8) Public Image – Public Image Ltd

How could Johnny Rotten transcend the Pistols? With a single as startling as anything those bad boys did.

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(9) An American Prayer – Jim Morrison & The Doors

I still reckon Jim was a significant and talented poet.

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(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.

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(11) Moving Targets – Penetration

Something a little exotic from the regions

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(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.

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