Archive for the ‘songs’ Category
My copy of Tapestry sits uneasily beside Give ‘Em Enough Rope and Love Bites. It wasn’t really where I was at in the 70s. It was given to me (by way of legacy) by my friend Steve whose birthday it should be today. That’s him at the top.
This was taken by my friend Judyth at the SchluperBowl – an occasional soft ball game Steve, Stu (Toronto) and I organised on the Heath. The lime green shirt I’m wearing was bought with Steve and/or Stu at a shop in Middle Lane, Crouch End after a Saturday morning gathering at Wisteria cafe. We all bought a green jacket there and I wore mine today in honour of Steve.
Stu’s is now history. And of course Steve’s is lost in time. I was particularly conscious of Steve’s presence two evenings ago when I went to see Beautiful, the Broadway musical about the life and times of the great songwriting partnership of Carole King and Gerry Goffin. When Lewisham’s own Katie Brayben (playing CK) sang Natural Woman, that’s when the dust got in my eyes. I laughed, I smiled, I shook a leg. What an uplifting, entertaining production – way beyond anything I expected. I had been told by Jonathan Shalit a few days before (at a breakfast at The Ivy thrown by his agency ROAR) that it was a good show, but I was largely going as a treat for my other half, who has You’ve Got a Friend as her party piece. She grew up with Tapestry because they were doing hippy in Eire when we were doing punk here in London.
What the show made you realise is what an amazing array of brilliant songs Goffin-King wrote – from The Drifters Up on the Roof to The Shirelles Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow – across a number of years. The backbone of the story was the craft of song-writing, played out in the friendly rivalry between Carole & Gerry and Cynthia Weil & Barry Mann, either side of a thin partition in the Brill Building song factory.
Tonight my mum gave me a clipping about the performance the night before. Seemingly Carole King was in the audience unbeknownst to Katie Brayben and joined her in a rendition of You’ve Got a Friend after the show. That’s a moment I’d have loved to have witnessed – Katie seeing Carole emerge from the audience.
I remember hearing in a podcast – I remember exactly where I was, jogging along a field at the edge of Beit Chananyah – how James Taylor sort of nicked You’ve Got a Friend to put on Mud Slide Slim. They were recording in the same studios and sharing musicians – that’s how come JT appears on Tapestry. He did a kind of “I hope you don’t mind but…” on her and she was too polite to say anything. He scored a Billboard No. 1 with it. Joni Mitchell also appeared on both albums (her own Blue came out that same year). Carole said of You’ve Got a Friend “The song was as close to pure inspiration as I’ve ever experienced. The song wrote itself. It was written by something outside myself, through me.”
Talking of writing and inspiration, the whole experience the other night gave me an idea for a book. I went to write down a note about it when I got home from the Aldwych and found I’d already written the very same idea a while back in the same place. Meant to be. I started to work on the idea there&then and ploughed on through the night. Made the next day at work …interesting.
I’m listening to the record now as I write and Natural Woman, which has just come up, reminds me that Carole King first entered my life (I’m not counting the 8-track in my step-dad’s car, as I wasn’t paying attention, other than to the picture on the cover) thanks to Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill, one of my favourite movies. It accompanies Harold and Meg as they make a baby.
I had a conversation about Carole King when my sister-in-law Bronagh wanted to find a song for her own funeral and asked for my advice. I suggested Way Over Yonder and we listened to it together. She was lying in a bed upstairs at my other sister-in-law Bernadette‘s house in Carlingford, overlooking the lough, preparing us for her impending death like Jesus preparing the disciples. It’s now just finishing playing Beautiful as I writes this, and has just segued into Way Over Yonder.
Way over yonder is a place that I know
Where I can see shelter from hunger and cold
And the sweet-tasting good life is so easily found
Way over yonder, that’s where I’m bound
I know when I get there, the first thing I’ll see
Is the sun shining golden, shining right down on me
Then trouble’s gonna lose me, worry leave me behind
And I’ll stand up proudly in a true peace of mind
Way over yonder is a place I have seen
It’s a garden of wisdom from some long ago dream
Today I hope the sun is shining golden on Steve, Bronagh and Bernadette in the land where the honey runs in rivers each day…
Was talking Christmas music with Catalan Brian and The Luck Habit earlier this week in the wake of my moment on The Robert Elms show last weekend – see Radio Radio. In the good ol’ US of A of course it’s a genre in its own right, as reflected in the iTunes genres/CD metadata which includes Holidays Music or something like that. So we agreed to put together a selection of the best ‘Holidays’ tunes by way of party game cum useful list.
1. Last Month of the Year – Blind Boys of Alabama
This is the one we kick off proceedings with every year in our house.
Father: Tell me when was Jesus born?
It was the last month of the year
Was it January?
Children: no [etc.]
March, April, May? no
June, July, August, September, October, November?
It was the 25th day of December
It was the last month of the year
What’s not to love?
2. Children Go Where I Send Thee – Nick Lowe
This was our 2013 acquisition – it was the year I got to really appreciate Nick Lowe. I saw him live at a recording of Songwriter’s Circle a couple of years ago for BBC4 and really started to rethink his music. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rockabilly, right back to when the local greengrocer’s delivery boy was in The Polecats.
3. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty McColl
I’ll get it out the way – at the risk of losing TLH from the discussion. I just love the slagging bit in the middle. And Matt Dillon (Rumblefish era) featuring in the vid. I spoke to Kirsty’s mum earlier this year while writing my book – Jean Newlove – an incredible 91 year old who looked after Dance and Movement for some of Joan Littlewood’s theatrical enterprises. Sinead O’Connor has also played this live with The Pogues in Kirsty’s absence.
4. Jingle Bells – Frank Sinatra
From Frank’s cracking Crimbo LP imaginatively entitled ‘The Christmas Album’. The voice – unbeatable.
5. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens
Christmas has nothing to do with good taste.
6. Let It Snow – Ella Fitzgerald
A voice as pure as driven white stuff.
7. Cool Yule – Louis Armstrong
The dude was cool as the white stuff.
8. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt
Naughty but nice.
9. Silent Night – Sinead O’Connor
What Sinatra is to the male voice, Sinead is to the female voice i.e. as good as it gets. Seems like a good one for this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War and that Christmas moment in No Man’s Land.
I’ll be adding more to these over the next few days. In the meantime Brian has got together a formidable list which I’ll post in the first comment. Feel free to add your faves…
What piece of music means the most to you?
The guitarist/vocalist from pioneering Belfast punk band Protex picks a short sharp blast of punk-pop not a million miles away from Don’t Ring Me Up and other Protex 2-minuters.
The Song: Sheena Is a Punk Rocker by The Ramones
Here’s how that inspiration played out:
And here’s the inspiration itself: (2 mins 39 V 2 mins 51 – what’s 12 seconds between friends?)
Bach to the Future (James Rhodes)
“What song or piece of music means the most to you and why?”
A coming of age experience from Paul
The Song: I’m Waiting for the Man
The Artist: The Velvet Underground
Paul could remember exactly how the slightly older girl had signed the record for him, with a special pen that raised the letters like embossing. He still has the copy she gave him. The connection with the girl and the connection with the record seem completely intertwined although Paul didn’t think there was a sexual dimension to his choice.
David Bowie performing it with Lou Reed (who wrote the song):
And here are the lyrics, an everyday story of tasting forbidden fruit in the Big Apple:
I’m waiting for my man
Twenty-six dollars in my hand
Up to Lexington, 125
Feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive
I’m waiting for my man
Hey, white boy, what you doin’ uptown?
Hey, white boy, you chasin’ our women around?
Oh pardon me sir, it’s the furthest from my mind
I’m just lookin’ for a dear, dear friend of mine
I’m waiting for my man
Here he comes, he’s all dressed in black
PR shoes and a big straw hat
He’s never early, he’s always late
First thing you learn is you always gotta wait
I’m waiting for my man
Up to a brownstone, up three flights of stairs
Everybody’s pinned you, but nobody cares
He’s got the works, gives you sweet taste
Ah then you gotta split because you got no time to waste
I’m waiting for my man
Baby don’t you holler, darlin’ don’t you bawl and shout
I’m feeling good, you know I’m gonna work it on out
I’m feeling good, I’m feeling oh so fine
Until tomorrow, but that’s just some other time
I’m waiting for my man
Songlines is a project I’ve been doing for some years (in fact, decades!), recording the answer to the question
“What song or piece of music means the most to you and why?”
from all kinds of people. I am now expanding it to video as well as audio – way back when it started on one of these:
No. 7 is a very moving contribution from Morgan.
The Song: Soul to Squeeze
The Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Song Performed:
And here are the previous Songlines on Simple Pleasures part 4 (these are just a small selection of the Songlines to date)
Can you imagine the looks on the two teenage faces when their mother tells them that she is going to invite people round to the house every eight weeks to sing in the back room …and say poems …and read stuff? WTF?! And she wants you boys to join in. You can just listen but you’re to be there. WTFF?!! On Saturday night the second such session took place. Enfant Terrible No. 2 engineered a sleep-over. No. 1 actually showed his face at the end after a no-show eight weeks earlier.
Here’s what was on the menu…
Una opened with a Spring theme reading Wordsworth’s Daffodils. The next morning this Wordsworth quote arrived by serendipity in my InBox (7th April being his birthday, in 1770):
The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love.
Later she read one of her own poems, Bodies, a moving and intimate Heaneyesque account of dressing her father’s body for his wake. Towards the end she read another of her pieces, Underground, inspired by a Northern Line encounter and written on the spot.
Here are two of my own recent Northern Line encounters:
For my contribution this time I read one of my favourite posts from this blog, Starless and Bible Black, and then the passage from James Joyce’s Ulysses to which it refers. It’s when the two protagonists have an outdoor piss together under the night sky, all done in the form of a catechism, and containing that very special line:
THE HEAVENTREE OF STARS HUNG WITH HUMID NIGHTBLUE FRUIT.
At the first session I read the opening of the first chapter of my book in progress, When Sparks Fly, about Allen Ginsberg. I concluded with a Ginsberg poem referencing the same incident mentioned in the first line of the book.
Joyce linked nicely to the next person up, an actress specialising in Beckett (who was Joyce’s secretary) – she read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by TS Eliot (whose masterpiece, The Wasteland, was published seven years later in 1922, the same year as Ulysses).
She also recited from memory a brilliant poem of her own about her days as a ballet dancer and how that went down in the Midlands of Ireland. And as if that wasn’t delight enough, she sang a powerful Sinead O’Connor song (from Universal Mother I think). And then a song in Irish about a boy from Loch Erne (Buachaill ón Eirne).
All the music and much of the rest of the singing came from our friend Patmo and his gee-tar. Highlight for me was a song about the potboy in the Dorset Arms in Stockwell where we used to go to watch Patmo and his band The Stone Rangers play. It’s called Put one in the tank for Frank and celebrates plying the late lamented Frank Murphy with beer to get access to the storeroom with all their gear in it. He also played Una’s favourite of his songs, A Little Bit of Lace (as immortalised on Adie Dunbar and the Jonahs’ Two Brothers), as well as some classic singalongs from Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon to John Denver’s Country Road (some painful, submerged teenage memories there from the height of the punk era but surprisingly enjoyable all these years later).
Our old friend Roddy read from a great early 60s first edition he has of Brendan Behan’s Island, a beautifully illustrated (by Paul Hogarth) travelogue around the old country. His other half, Alex, also by coincidence a former ballet dancer, read some Yeats love poetry (it was an evening of the Irish reading the English, and vice versa – perfect to herald the week which sees poet and president Michael D Higgins making a state visit to London, on the very day (8th April) Gladstone presented his first Home Rule Bill to Parliament in 1886). Alex closed proceedings with a parting shot of Dorothy Parker.
All in all, a pretty darn good evening (and that’s not counting the Connemara whiskey and fresh homemade soup).
Dorothy Parker, when asked what she’d like for breakfast…
Just something light and easy to fix. How about a dear little whiskey sour?
Just hanging in at the moment. Been working on the Joan Littlewood/Theatre chapter tonight but really fallen out of any kind of regular routine and slowed way down. The day job is pretty demanding and I get home knackered most days. Chuck in some child stuff and that just about does you in. Occupational hazard of the part-time writer of course.
That said I feel another burst of activity coming on. Maybe I needed a bit of a break. My plan is just to work steadily through Stuff I Have to Do til I get back into my flow. Carry on with the Theatre chapter until I get some real momentum going. And, as a motivational treat, I’ll watch the interview with Joan Littlewood on the BFI DVD of Bronco Bullfrog, a 1969 black & white film featuring some of the teenagers who hung around the Theatre Royal in Stratford East with Joan. I need to immerse myself back into this world.
I took Enfant Terrible No. 2 to see Oh What a Lovely War at the Theatre Royal early last month – he liked in almost as much as the pizza marguerita before the show, and was particularly struck by the scene where the countries tumbling into conflict are personified in representative men and women and their fatal manoeuvrings played out like pieces on a chessboard. I’m going to see A Taste of Honey at the National Theatre (which Joan was pretty down on for its lack of accessibility and authenticity and its narrowness) in a month’s time. And I’ll probably go to see Gary Kemp in Fings Ain’t What They Used t’Be at TRSE in May.
A Taste of Honey was written by a teenage factory worker from oop Narth (Shelagh Delaney) who, after seeing her first theatre, reckoned she could do better and banged out a play in a couple of weeks. That Joan took it on and helped build on its youthful energy and naive confidence is testimony to her openness – to new talent, to non-metropolitan perspectives, to alternative voices (a link to Channel 4 I should try to bring out). Fings is similar in that it was written by an ex-con, Frank Norman, who Jeffrey Barnard described in an obituary as “a ‘natural’ writer of considerable wit, powers of sardonic observation and with a razor sharp ear for dialogue particularly as spoken in the underworld.” Joan loved the energy and particularity of that outsider, street voice. She took his play and fused it with music and songs from echt East Ender Lionel Bart to create an unlikely but bang on mix.
In the forthcoming 20,000 Days on Earth – the best music film since Stop Making Sense – a Film4 production (directed by Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard) centred on Nick Cave which I saw at C4 HQ a couple of weeks ago, Nick Cave gives ‘the secret of great songwriting’ – “counterpoint” and the kind of unlikely combination typified by Joan’s bringing together of Norman’s words and Bart’s songs. As Cave says not 5 minutes into the film:
Songwriting is about counterpoint. Counterpoint is the key. Putting two disparate images beside each other and seeing which way the sparks fly.
The title of this book of mine, When Sparks Fly, does not derive from Nick Cave (it actually comes from Andre Breton, which may well be where Cave’s words have their roots) but it was a lovely C4-F4/book coincidence which illustrates well this kind of thinking (from American scribbler Jonathan Ames) which really speaks to me:
I live for coincidences. They briefly give to me the illusion or the hope that there’s a pattern to my life, and if there’s a pattern, then maybe I’m moving toward some kind of destiny where it’s all explained.
I’m not too bothered about destiny or even explanation but I do like the notion that there’s pattern and purpose.
Started the day off track at a coffee shop meeting inspired by Russell Brand’s interview by Jeremy Paxman a couple of weeks ago. Chris Ward, who gave me some publishing advice on Day 22, gathered together a small bunch of people who were struck by the Newsnight interview to discuss its implications and possibilities. We met up in Somerset House for a couple of hours and kicked about some ideas. This is an appropriate location in that it’s within yards of both The Coal Hole and the site of The Fountain Tavern (home of The Kit-Kat Club) which were places of political gathering and activism in the 17th and 18th Century. Given his increasing activism, Allen Ginsberg would have approved of this tangent.
Having spotted Ginsberg in the background of DA Pennebaker’s Subterranean Homesick Blues promo (shot in 1965) on an ad on Channel 4 the other night (Day 43), and being just a couple of streets away, I decided to seek out the location. And very atmospheric it was. Totally unchanged since 1965 (though the scaffolding has finally gone). Documentary-maker DA Pennebaker came back around 1985 and they were still working on The Savoy building on its left-hand side. The streets and alleys around The Savoy remind you of the rich palimpsest of history and stories that lays over this fabulous city.
I set up office in Westminster Reference Library, the Art bit, and carried on with my current pass at the Literature/Ginsberg chapter. Research-wise I pushed on with Hettie Jones’ memoirs, How I Became Hettie Jones, taking it into the legendary Gaby’s for lunch (it’s as perverse as ever, how many Cash Only restaurants can there be in Central London?)
In the late afternoon I spoke to the Allen Ginsberg Project / Estate in the East Village, NYC who are kindly helping with some interviewees, thanks to documentary-maker Yony Leyser whom I met in Leipzig last week.
I found out today while researching the Ginsberg chapter that the term “subterraneans” was one Ginsberg coined to describe the intellectual hipsters and hip hedonists who hung out in Greenwich Village bars like the San Remo and Fugazzi’s. Dylan took the term from Kerouac but Kerouac had actually adopted it from Ginsberg.
I’m having a session with The Box tonight and its 50+ songs as I’ve just made an adjustment to the record-player set-up to increase accessibility (a crafty pull-out shelf) and to usher in a new age of black plastic – the Vinyl Frontier is crossed.
Here’s what I’m listening to and the thoughts prompted/verdicts. Going according to how they sit in the box, so pretty much random order.
Thin Lizzy – Emerald
Started with this B-side after which my friend Eddie named his production company, with which I worked for a couple of very happy years. The song is typical Thin Lizzy, a romantic view of the Hibernian past, epic battles turning green fields red. Phil Lynott was a fascinating character and I love passing his statue off Grafton Street in Dublin, with plectrums attached by fans in homage (I believe it’s been restored recently, though it’s not that old – probably been living the high life and taken plenty of abuse).
Pet Shop Boys – It’s a Sin
Always had a bit of an ambivalent attitude to the PSBs. Couldn’t take the Smash Hits roots seriously. This one has a touch of the A-ha synth sound about it but is none the less catchy for that. Jolly and not very sinful or dark.
Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U
How on earth can a vinyl single wow and flutter? – this one does! But nothing can obscure a unique, soulful and beautiful voice like this. It’s not flawless but it is perfect. This song is very difficult to separate from its video which sears itself into the memory with its simplicity and beauty.
Irish Heartbeat – Billy Connolly
Bit of an Irish theme so far (not that surprising given the mix of my friends). This is comedian Billy (who used to make me laugh the minute he opened his mouth, from his accent and attitude alone) doing a Van song, with a Scottish twist when he wheels in the band of bagpipers. It’s a live performance and he gets away with a larger than life approach. (But I’ll take the Van version if push comes to shove.)
So the idea was simple: 50 songs from 50 friends/family to mark 50 years. All in a box decorated by the Enfants Terribles. In short, Now That’s What I Call a Birthday Present 50.
Various people asked me what was in The Box so I’ve finally gotten round to listing the gifts, all 7″ vinyl singles. There turned out to be 65 songs in the box as some people decided to give one song per decade, some very naturally hedged their bets as choosing just one is tough as we all know from Desert Island Discs and the like. (There’s no special significance about the first nine, that’s just how WordPress decided to cut&paste and the wisdom of five decades dictates that life’s too short to tidy up such things.)
- She Loves You – The Beatles [Jonathan & Julie] (No. 1 the weekend after I was born)
- Righteous Man – Little Roy [Nigel]
- One by One – Ruefrex (Good Vibrations) [Conor & Aoife] (given to him by Terry Hooley)
- Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys [Meabh & Orla] (I gave them Pet Sounds – the first CD they ever owned)
- Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan [Sean]
- I Want That Man – Deborah Harry [Maura]
- Carmen – Malcolm McLaren [Maura]
- Higher & Higher – Jackie Wilson [Patsy]
- From Me to You – The Beatles [Anthony & Ruth]
10. Send Another Moses – The Willows (CoxSone) [Neil]
11. Run Run – Delroy Wilson (Studio One) [Neil]
12. Door Peeper – Burning Spear [Neil]
13. There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards – Ian Dury [Neil]
14. Telegram Sam – T-Rex [Neil]
15. Something – The Beatles [Neil]
16. Double Barrel – Dave & Ansil Collins [Neil]
17. The Ayatollah Song – Not the 9 O’Clock News [Dave & Nicole]
18. Murphy’s Law – Cheri [Elizabeth & Des]
19. Close to Me – The Cure [Eileen] (we saw them live together in Wembley Arena)
20. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd [Matthew]
21. LA Woman – The Doors [Jon]
22. Cat People – David Bowie [Jon]
23. Changing of the Guards – Bob Dylan [Jon]
24. Wet Dream – Max Romeo [Peter]
25. Go Wild in the Country – Bow Wow Wow [Judyth]
26. Modern Love – David Bowie [Mike] (we saw him together live in Grenoble on the Serious Moonlight tour)
27. A Paris – The Style Council [Mike] (we once bumped into each other totally by chance in the Louvre)
28. Speak Like A Child – The Style Council [Mike] (Mick Talbot shares the same birthday)
29. Universal Soldier – Donovan
30. Young Parisians – Adam & The Ants [Noah]
31. Pictures of Lily – The Who [Dylan] (he wanted My Generation but couldn’t find it – I taught him how to spell WH question words using a photo of Keith Moon’s drumkit)
32. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron [Dan & Steff] (we saw him together at Somerset House shortly before he died)
33. Denis – Blondie [Paul] (we went to see them as his first and my second gig)
34. Thank You Very Much, Mr Eastwood – Dermot Morgan [Elizabeth-Ann]
35. Come Fly With Me – Frank Sinatra [Cecelia] (we both adore Frank)
36. Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye [Stuart]
37. Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin [Stuart]
38. The Celtic Soul Brothers – Dexy’s Midnight Runners [Stuart] (he mispronounced ‘Celtic’ in his best-man’s speech at our wedding)
39. Baby I Love You – The Ronettes [Seth]
40. Live at Hollywood High – Elvis Costello [Joan]
41. The Next Day – David Bowie [Ela]
42. Shady Lane – Pavement [Alfie]
43. Congratulations – Cliff Richard [Annie]
44. Blanket on the Ground – Billie Jo Spears [Annie]
45. Ernie – Benny Hill [Dan]
46. Tears of a Clown – The Beat [Dan]
47. Ball of Fire – The Orb & Lee Scratch Perry [Sarah]
48. Nelson Mandela – Amy Winehouse [Farrah]
49. It’s a Sin – Pet Shop Boys [Anita & Don]
50. Nothing Compares 2U – Sinead O’Connor [Maud] (my favourite female voice)
51. Irish Heartbeat (Billy Connolly) [Maud]
52. A Dreams A Dream – Soul II Soul [Maud]
53. Take It Easy – The Wilf Brothers [Maud]
54. Dedication – Thin Lizzy [Maud]
55. Round About Midnight – Miles Davis [Una] (Debbie Gould sang this magnificently at my party)
56. Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright – Bob Dylan [Una] (we named a son after him)
57. Breakfast in Bed – Lorna Bennett [Sue]
58. Wildwood – Paul Weller [Sue]
59. Streets of London – Ralph McTell [Katherine]
60. September – Earth Wind & Fire [Ja]
61. Life’s What You Make It – Talk Talk [Ja]
62. Reasons to Be Cheerful – Ian Dury [Ja] (source of Simple Pleasures blogs)
63. Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush [Ja]
64. 2-4-6-8 Motorway – Tom Robinson Band [Ja] (my first gig)
65. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division [Ja]
66. The Boys Are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy [Eddie]