Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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

 

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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)

Join Hands 11.11.1918-11.11.2018

In 1979 I went to see Siouxsie & The Banshees playing at Hammersmith Odeon – it remains one of the best gigs of my life. Just before the tour half the band had gone AWOL so new musicians had to be drafted in including Budgie on drums (formerly the token man in The Slits, one of my favourite drummers – Stewart Copeland considers him one of the most interesting drummers for his “very economical and offbeat” playing, that offbeat being what I most like about him) and John McGeoch on guitar (formerly of Magazine). That tour marked the release of the LP ‘Join Hands’. The hands joining are those of four bronze WW1 Tommies on the war memorial between Horseguards Parade and St James’s Park (the Guards Memorial) – I passed it regularly when I was working at Channel 4 and it always brought me back to that music and excitement. The LP opens with the tolling bells of a 2-minute track called Poppy Day.

In the same way that Punk (especially The Clash) introduced me to reggae, through this track it introduced me to the First World War poetry of John McCrae, a typical example of the less known poets who emerged in the Great War, the one-hit wonders and offbeats. McCrae was a high-ranking Canadian army doctor serving on the Western front. In Poppy Day the resonant bells give way to the distinctive driving guitar wailing of The Banshees and then just a few short lines, delivered in a distorted Siouxsie voice:

In Flanders fields
The poppies grow
Between the crosses
Row on row
That mark our place
We are the dead…

I don’t think McCrae is credited for the lyrics which are very close to the opening of his In Flanders Fields, in fact every word is derived from the poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Siouxsie & The Banshees filtered out the patriotic and the warmongering/cheerleading to open their record with the zombie or heroic or haunting dead, we don’t know which. What we do know, two years after the Silver Jubilee and the Pistols’ God Save the Queen (the Fascist regime), with rubbish piling up in the streets of strike-bound London, is that these dead were neither glorious nor patriotic in the establishment way.

The band were inspired not only by the chaos and crapitude of the late 70s Home Front but also by conflict witnessed on their suburban Kent TVs, particularly in Iran. (Plus ça change).

siouxsie and the banshees join hands vinyl record album LP cover design

Siouxsie_and_the_banshees_Join_Hands_war guards memorial

The LP cover was extracted from this shot – L to R Steve Severin (bass), John McKay (guitar), Siouxsie Sioux (vocals), Kenny Morris (drums) – before McKay and Morris went AWOL

Banshee stalwart, bassist Steven Severin in the wake of watching the two minutes of silence in memory of the war dead on TV on Sunday 12th November 1978 explained about Poppy Day: “We wanted to write a song that would fittingly fill that gap”. On the inner sleeve of the record (which sits still in the room just below me, alongside its vinyl sisters The Scream, Kaleidoscope, Juju and A Kiss in the Dreamhouse) beside the lyrics of the song is specified (with echoes of John Cage): “2 minutes of silence”.

So here we are on Sunday 11th November 2018, 40 years after Severin watched that broadcast, 100 years after the world watched that bloodbath, that futile wiping out of a generation, and we are still all struggling to join hands. The irony of The Banshees brooding in the studio while recording this masterpiece of an LP and splitting up in its aftermath is as nothing to the irony that we mark this centenary at a time when the world’s international institutions are being deliberately dismantled, Europe re-fracturing and the zombie voices of patriotism, nationalism and fascism wailing more discordantly than John McKay’s guitar. We are the Dead. We are turning in our graves row on row between the poppies.

siouxsie and the banshees paris 1980

Reinforcements arrive: L to R John McGeoch (guitar), Budgie (drums), Siouxsie & Steve – Paris (1980) where 70 world leaders are arriving this morning to mark the centenary of the Armistice including Macron (accordion), Merkel (tuba), Trump (mouth organ) and Putin (triangle)

 

Something Is Happening

highway 61 revisited photo session bob dylan bobby neuwirth LP cover

Highway 61 Revisited photo session (New York 1965)

Just listened to a music podcast called ‘Is It Rolling, Bob? (talking Dylan)’ in which two actor blokes (Kerry Shale and Lucas Hare) talk to a journo bloke (David Hepworth) about a song & dance man, Bob Dylan.

It is a lot better than ‘Stalking Time for the Moon Boys’ in which two TV blokes (David Baddiel and Tim Hincks) talk to various other blokes and each other about a song & dance man, David Bowie. But it’s still not great. Entertaining enough if you’re keen on your Dylan.

One interesting fact I picked up was that Dylan named himself not after Welsh poet D. Thomas (which I’d believed) but after Marshall Dillon in some TV cowboy show (‘Gunsmoke’). Dylan as lifelong cowboy makes a lot of sense.

A question they asked David was how did you first come across Dylan. Got me thinking.

As a six year-old, just allowed to go by myself across one road to the newsagent (Eric & Mavis’s or perhaps it was the previous incarnation), I bought myself a fold-out poster magazine. I got it home expecting it to fold out to reveal a hippy rabbit (Dylan of ‘Magic Roundabout’ fame). Instead it was an unprepossessing bearded bloke with a guitar. A disappointing first encounter.

When I first fell under Dylan’s spell was having one of those Moments listening to ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’. I’d heard bits & pieces of Dylan during my childhood, listened to him a bit at uni through friends who were advocates (but I still had my Punk head on). But it was listening to this track on ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ when the light went on. It was the Surrealism of the lyrics that really grabbed me – I’m not really a lyrics man but the words made their impact, above all the non-rational, dream-like nature of them. I was in.

This moment lead directly to my ending up with a son called Dylan (who looks at times a little like the Big Man of this vintage).

IMG_2051

highway 61 revisited bob dylan bobby neuwirth LP cover

You walk into the room with your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked and you say, “Who is that man?”
You try so hard but you don’t understand
Just what you will say when you get home
Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?
You raise up your head and you ask, “Is this where it is?”
And somebody points to you and says, “It’s his”
And you say, “What’s mine?” and somebody else says, “Well, what is?”
And you say, “Oh my God, am I here all alone?”
But something is happening and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?
Sometimes it’s really good not to know what it is – just let it sink in and brew up.

Oh Geno (Gee Knows)

screening of oh geno at curzon bloomsbury 23 october 2018

Curzon Bloomsbury 23 October 2018 – Dalton Deverell (Prod) Sophie Shad (Wr/actress) Onyinye Egenti (Dir) GENO Washington ??? (Ram Jam Band bass player)

On arrival at the Curzon Bloomsbury on Tuesday evening to see a drama-doc short ‘Oh Geno!’ I was greeted with a lovely surprise – the director Sophie Shad welcomed me and explained that the film had come about because of me. I had no idea. But was delighted. Here’s how it happened…

I was introduced to Sophie through a fellow trustee at the Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley, the oldest purpose-built cinema in the country (which is about to join the Curzon group – there’s a Company Members’ meeting going on as I write but I’m 8,000 feet above Finland so unfortunately can’t be there).

Sophie had just produced her first scripted short ‘Kitty’s Fortune‘ (2016), a story set in Auschwitz, and came to see me at Channel 4 about next moves with her producing partner Dalton Deverell. They were thinking of following up with another holocaust story. During the course of the chat it came to light that Sophie’s grandfather is none other than Geno Washington, the soul singer (who I first came across through Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ eponymous song).

That man took the stage, his towel was swingin’ high
(Oh Geno!)
This man was my bombers, my dexys, my high
(Oh Geno!)
How the crowd, they all hailed you, and chanted your name

I gave the opinion that at that particular juncture a holocaust story might be especially challenging to get off the ground and perhaps the Geno connection was a more joyful route for the times and a better use of weapons in their young armoury.

We discussed a short form documentary series in the wake of that meeting but it never quite came together, I left Channel 4 and our ways parted (largely because their focus was on scripted).

geno washington ram jam band my bombers lp cover design

A few weeks ago an invitation arrives for the screening and I am surprised and delighted the Geno project came off. What I hadn’t realised was that it was on leaving that initial meeting at Horseferry Road that the pair of them determined on making a film about Geno.

Sophie kindly explained my role in the genesis of the film in the Q&A after the screening to 150 delighted audience members. Besides her and Dalton on the panel was the director,Onyinye Egenti, and the great man himself, Geno. Geno bantered with me in the audience, saying I was to blame, with his crazy infectious laugh.

Oh Geno short film poster geno washington

The film is to debut at Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York next month. It is a really well scripted piece focused on the meeting of Geno and his wife-to-be, Frenchy (Sophie’s grandmother) in a London club in the mid-60s. He was just out the US Air Force, getting to love Britain. She was a Jewish refugee from France, a single mum and feisty club manageress. Sophie plays her own grandmother – which has a certain resonance – with a beautiful stylishness (the camera loves her). The moment zoomed in on is just right to capture the essence of an extraordinary couple. And the ending is pulled off with aplomb – avoiding the common pitfall of the punchline-type ending of short dramas (it has the punch-line dynamic but it is subtle and judged just right).

sophie shad plays frenchy in oh geno short film

Sophie Shad plays Frenchy

At the screening I found myself sitting beside the young actor who portrayed Geno, Edward Nkom. He captures the physical charm of Geno well.

Edward_Nkom_actor HSA_associates

Edward Nkom plays Geno

It will be interesting to see if this nugget develops further and into what – scripted, drama-doc, it could go in various directions. I’d love to see it evolve into an iterative project centred on this fascinating couple.

Geno_Sheet_Muisc_1 dexys midnight runners

68 Comeback Special Comes Back

Marked the passing of Elvis to the great gig in the sky (on this day in 1977) by going to watch his ’68 Comeback Special on the big screen. I filed out of the Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley along with Elvis admirers from near and far (including actor John Simm all the way from Muswell Hill) with a big smile on my face and a warmed heart as Elvis on screen was a unique, charismatic blend of cool and warm.

“…he was a bad muthafucka boy, Elvis was bad…”

Eddie Murphy, Delirious

Here are six of the seven or so costumes he wore in the show, designed brilliantly by Bill Belew.

elvis 68 comeback special costume black leather

The famous black leather

elvis 68 comeback special costume white suit

The most famous white suit until Stop Making Sense

elvis 68 comeback special costume suit gold

Pure showbiz gold

elvis 68 comeback special costume suit brown Saved

‘Saved’ in brown tones

elvis 68 comeback special costume suit denim Guitar Man

Stylish denim ‘Guitar Man’

elvis 68 comeback special costume red black

Classic black & red combo

Rock in Peace, big man

And what a coincidence that the Queen of Soul died today on the same date as The King (of Rock n Roll) – Respect to another unique one…

aretha franklin singer soul

The Queen is dead

aretha franklin singer soul

Long live The Queen

Elvis talks in the 68 Comeback about how the roots of his music are in gospel and then launches into ‘Saved’.

For the record

A relative in Ireland recently sent me one of those chain postings in Facebook – I don’t go for passing those on but since I did the thinking – about what my favourite records are – I’ll plop them in here for posterity.

Talking Heads Remain in the Light record album cover design music

marvin gaye whats going on record album cover design music

kind of blue miles davis record album cover design music

My funeral record (last track)

solid air john martyn record album cover design music

blood on the tracks bob dylan record album cover design music

the clash london calling record album cover design music

garveys ghost burning spear record album cover design music

van morrison a night in san francisco record album cover design music

songs for swingin lovers frank sinatra record album cover design music

john coltrane a love supreme record album cover design music

My other funeral record (first track)

David-Bowie-Station-To-Station record album cover design music

 

Coincidences No.s 322 & 323

Black Panther Party member Bobby Hutton carries a loaded shotgun in front of the Oakland police

Man With Gun. Black Panther Bobby Hutton carries a loaded shotgun in front of Oakland police station. California legislators passed a law prohibiting carrying loaded weapons in public in 1967 after Black Panther members demonstrated with loaded guns at the Capitol. Hutton was killed in a shootout with Oakland police a few months later. (Ron Riesterer/East Bay Times Staff Archives)

OAKLAND

In the morning I am working on a documentary called ‘Back in Black’ to be shot in Ghana, Morocco and Oakland CA. It is the first commission for my second slate at Little Dot Studios/Real Stories.

In the afternoon I go to Allianz Stadium, home of Saracens rugby club, to meet full back Alex Goode to discuss a media project. He is wearing a black Oakland Raiders cap.

In the evening Enfant Terrible No. 1 (who I once gave an identical Oakland Raiders cap I found on an airport bus in San Francisco) talks about Oakland in the context of the Black Panther movie.

SEAT CHANGES

I get an email from a ticket agency informing me they want to allocate me new seats for the Waterboys gig I’m going to at the end of the month at The Colosseum in Watford because one of the original seats is broken.

Within the hour I get an email from EasyJet telling me that the aircraft I am due to travel on early next month to Belfast has been changed to another aircraft with a different seating arrangement so my allocated seat is being changed.

Out Of The Blue Album Cover the waterboys

Man With Hat

 

 

Coincidences No.s 208 & 209

13.ii.18 Theatre503

I meet the Creative Accountant, Sydney Levinson, for tea in Mayfair (Little House). At the end of the meeting he has to head for home to get ready to see the play of a friend of his at a small theatre in Battersea – Theatre503. I’ve never heard of the place.

I leave the tea with Sydney to go to a special preview screening of a documentary I’d recently commissioned, Sorry I Shot You. The screening is in Bermondsey in a back-street cafe run by an ex-offender. The director of the film, the protagonist, and various people at the gathering are also ex-cons. I meet an interesting and pleasant man called John who has done time in Liverpool for armed robbery. He is smartly dressed and articulate. He has recently written a play about his time inside which is about to be put on …at Theatre503.

10.iii.18 & 14.iii.18 Wildwood

I am walking from home to Crouch End through a string of woods. When I get to Queen’s Wood I read the information board at the entrance which explains that the woodland which covered England until 5,000 years ago was known as ‘Wildwood’. Not a term I have ever heard but I know a road called Wildwood near where I live, beside an island of woodland. I explain all this to my friend Roddy over breakfast at Banners.

An email comes through this evening about a newish band I’ve never heard of: Wildwood Kin.
A family trio – two sisters and their cousin – Wildwood Kin formed four years ago while in their mid to late teens. Their extraordinary debut album Turning Tides entered the UK charts in the top 40 and whilst it borrows from early folk influences, not least in their hypnotic three-part harmonies, it delves deeply into other genres, featuring both electric and acoustic instruments and boasts inventive electronics and spectral atmospherics.”

I’m listening to their inventive electronics and spectral atmospherics (out of Exeter) as I write this and it’s not unpleasant. Though I’d sooner have the band I saw last Monday (5th March) at the Imagining Ireland gig at The Barby, Saint Sister, a harp-keyboards duo (out of Derry & Belfast), not actual sisters but with a sisterly vibe. 

saint sister irish band

Gemma Doherty (Derry) & Morgan MacIntyre (Belfast)

Here’s a really striking song they performed, Corpses:

 

The State of NME

joy division nme newspaper magazine cover 1980 ian curtis tribute

Ian Curtis tribute edition (1980)

You never listened to a word that I said
You only seen me from the clothes that I wear
Or did the interest go so much deeper
It must have been to the colour of my hair

Public image you got what you wanted
The public image belongs to me
It’s my entrance my own creation
My grand finale, my goodbye

Public image
Public image
Goodbye

NEW

Today the last printed edition of NME is being published. It played a vital role in many British teens’ lives at a certain point, especially during the dynamic days of Punk and Post-Punk. In many ways it was our internet.

MUSICAL

It was the place to find out about gigs, get the latest band news, find upcoming talent, get hold of the most desirable records, get insights into the musicians that mattered.

EXPRESS

It also nurtured a generation of writers from Paul Morley to Danny Baker, from Julie Burchill to Nick Kent. My friend & former colleague from Channel 4, Stuart Cosgrove, was among their ranks. His latest book ‘Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul‘ has just this week been shortlisted for the Penderyn Prize for Music Book of the Year, which the NME dubbed “The Mercury Prize of Books”. It’s the second book in the trilogy that began with ‘Detroit 67’ – he’s currently writing the third, ‘Harlem 69‘. It’s up against Cosey Fanni Tutti’s ‘Art Sex Music‘ which looks like formidable competition (though I haven’t read it yet).

Cosey Fanni Tutti was in Throbbing Gristle. I saw a then unknown Marc Almond perform a 15-minute version of the Throbbing Gristle song ‘Discipline’ at Hammersmith Odeon, supporting an emerging band called The Cure and headliners Siouxsie & The Banshees. Years later, down the road at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I saw Marc Almond (son of Leeds) perform Wendy Rene’s ‘After Laughter Comes Tears’, a Northern Soul classic. Stuart is an aficionado of Northern Soul, it’s from that passion that ‘The Soul Trilogy‘ springs. These are the threads that made up the text and texture of NME in its heyday when it was ENeMy of the state and friend of new musical expression.

NME
NME
Goodbye

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS (NME) Music Paper 28th MAY 1977 SEX PISTOLS GRATEFUL DEAD JOHNNY THUNDERS (NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS NME)

Changing of the Guards: The Pistols meet The Dead – May 1977

The original NME Cover of the Clash from April 1977 By Chalkie Davies

The Crossroads: The Clash meet Fleetwood Mac – April 1977

keith levine guitarist public image limited PIL NME cover

The Tangled Web: Keith Levine of Public Image and The Clash – 1980

undertones nme cover

The Threads: The Undertones meet Siouxsie meets PiL

nme cover the slits

The Slits – September 1979 (one was married to PiL’s John Lydon)

the specials nme cover two tone

Two Tone: The Specials – August 1979

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