Archive for the ‘john martyn’ Tag

A parlour game for Easter

This has flown in from Dan McKevitt in Carlingford (via Facebook). A musical parlour game for the holidays.The emphasis is on records that have meant a lot to you rather than the all-time greatest.

“Here are the rules. Post up 12 albums on to your timeline that have stayed with you for whatever reason. One album per Artist/Band. Tag 12 friends and get them to do likewise, include me so I can see your choices. Don’t overthink it. Enjoy. No Compilations.”

1 Kind of Blue – Miles Davis [how to become tranquil in 5 easy steps/tracks]


2 Jesus Christ Superstar [as a young teen I used to spend hours and hours drawing and colouring to this]


3 What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye [I played it the night my fist born made his appearance]


4 Another Music In a Different Kitchen – Buzzcocks [my route into punk]


5 A Love Supreme – John Coltrane [took me somewhere higher]


6 Hot August Night – Neil Diamond [the first LP I bought myself – helluva jean jacket]


7 Let’s Dance – David Bowie [helped me find the joy in my first year away from home]


8 Glorious Fool – John Martyn [prompted me to recognise that JM was the greatest singer of them all …ever]


9 Give ’em Enough Rope – The Clash [trudging through the snow to get this from Loppylugs the day it came out – there’s never been such anticipation]


10 Moondance – Van Morrison [contains my eponymous wedding dance]


11 The White Album – The Beatles [teen memories of discovering the Fab Four and others with JRT]


12 The Scream – Siouxsie & the Banshees [will life ever get more exciting?]

Hot_august_night

By the way, here are the Best Albums ever

And here are some more music lists

Desert Island Discs Day

KIRSTY-YOUNG

I was at a meeting this afternoon chaired by Kirsty Young of Desert Island Discs which set me thinking about the various times I’ve had a stab at my 8 discs, as well as playing the game with the Enfants Terribles. It’s interesting to have musical yardsticks over time to see how consistent or otherwise you are.

Here’s the first one I can find online from October 2006 when Kirsty had just started on DID:

1* Miles Davis – Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane – A Love Supreme part 1 (Acknowledgement)
3 Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (?)
4 Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
5 The Clash – White Man in Hammersmith Palais
6 Bill Evans – Love theme from Spartacus
7 Bjork – Hyperballad
8 The Doors – The End
Book: Ulysses – James Joyce
Luxury: Mouth organ (with teach-yourself disc and book)

Here’s another go from later the same day, indicative of how impossible the challenge is for anyone who loves music:

1* Miles Davis – Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane – A Love Supreme part 1
3 Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me
4 Eric Satie – Gymnopedie
5 Bruce Springsteen – Into the Fire
6 Siouxsie & the Banshees – Icon
7 Sinead O’Connor – On Raglan Road
8 Frank Sinatra – One for my Baby

I recently [17th Jan] redid my list (without reference to past efforts of course) on a trip to Berlin with Enfant Terrible No.1 (his choice is further below):
1 Curtis Mayfield – move on up
2 John Martyn – small hours [new entry]
3 Miles Davis – flamenco sketches
4 John Coltrane – a love supreme, part 1
5 Van – in the afternoon [new entry]
6 The Clash – white man
7 Marvin Gaye – what’s going on [change of track]
8 Frank Sinatra – one for my baby
Book: Ulysses – james joyce
Luxury: pencil & notebooks [change]

Given that’s a 9 year gap, remarkably consistent I’d say, with a healthy bit of change. The appearance of John Martyn reflects my gradual realisation (particularly in the wake of his elevation to The Great Gig in the Sky 7 years ago) that he is the best of the best of singers, a Big Soul. Van’s entry simply corrects a big oversight in the 2006 vintage. I probably haven’t nailed the right track yet. The change of Marvin song just indicates I can’t make up my mind which track from What’s Going On to pick out from a perfect LP which doesn’t really compute as individual tracks in isolation.

Tangentially, here’s another variation – Inheritance Tracks – from November of 2007, broadly aligned with my Desert Island choices:

  • Inherited Track: ‘Everything’s Alright’ from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ OR ‘Soolaimon’ by Neil Diamond
  • Bequest Track: Miles Davis’ ‘Flamenco Sketches’ from ‘Kind of Blue’

Moving on to the next generation, here’s Enfant Terrible No. 2’s first ever go, aged 6:

1 Madness – Embarrassment
2 Bruce Spingsteen – Atlantic City
3 The Cranberries – Ode to my Family
4 Cornershop – Brimful of asha
5 Max Romeo – I Chase the Devil
6 Trumpton – Windy Miller song
7 The Jam – Batman theme
8 AC/DC – It’s a long way to the top
Book: Claris Bean/My Uncle is a Hunkle
Luxury: My house

That’s some list for a 6 year old – clearly getting a proper musical education! I’ll quiz him in the next couple of days and see how radically his list has changed as a 16 year old. [I’ll insert his 2016 list here:]

To see the significant change of teenagehood, here’s Enfant Terrible No. 1’s first ever go from late 2006, aged 11. He wrote it out in long hand in a notebook, taking several months to pin his choice down (typical of him in its careful consideration):
1 U2 – Vertigo
2 Unite Tribe – Life and Death
3 Oxmo Puccino and the Jazzbastards – Perdre et Gagner
4 The Cure – Love Cats
5 * Michael Franti & Spearhead – Sometimes
6 MC Solaar – Solaar Pleure
7 The Raconteurs – Steady as she goes
8 Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

I pushed him for a swifter, more spontaneous choice this time:
1 James Taylor – fire & rain
2 The Beatles – lucy in the sky with diamonds
3 Carol King – it’s too late
4 Curtis Mayfield – move on up [paternal influence at work]
5 Bob Dylan – hurricane
6 Nirvana – teen spirit
7 The Doors – riders on the storm
8 Led Zep – stairway to heaven
Book: the odyssey – homer
Luxury: my pillow

So only one track persists over the decade – Smells Like Teen Spirit. That’s the spirit of teen for you. BTW I could happily add Kurt singing Where Did You Sleep Last Night? to my grateful eight:

4 tracks really worth a listen

Here are 4 tracks really worth a listen which I’ve dug out from the back of the cupboard over the holidays – they’re arriving here one by one, one a day…

(1, Christmas Eve) TIDES by Nitin Sawhney from Beyond Skin LISTEN

beyond-skin

I don’t know too much about this album, I never liked it that much when I got it in around 1999 after it was nominated for the Mercury Prize. After I saw Talvin Singh play a couple of weeks ago at Kings Place, Kings Cross at a Not So Silent Movies session with Evelyn Glennie, and really enjoying his drumming (as well as hers – it was a brilliant improvised percussion-focused session), I had a vague memory of having one of his records – but it turned out to be this one. Wrong talented British Indian. But nevermind, it turned out to be a great find – loads of fabulous tracks such as Nadia and Broken Skin. But Tides was the stand out. It picks up on a big theme of the record, nuclear weapons, in particular in India and Pakistan but weaving a thread all the way back to Oppenheimer and Los Alamos. It melds the Drum & Bass spine of Beyond Skin with jazz piano and the gentle breath of the waves. The piano theme is very reminiscent of Stan Tracey on Starless and Bible Black. And like that precedent, it’s simply beautiful.

Disturbed ocean after French underwater nuclear test, Mururoa Sept 1995

Disturbed ocean after French underwater nuclear test, Mururoa Sept 1995

(2, Christmas Day) DON’T YOU GO by John Martyn from Glorious Fool LISTEN

john martyn glorious fool

A lot of John Martyn’s work from later in his career is written off in the wake of his classic 70s albums like Solid Air, but he never made a record that didn’t have something of genius on it. Glorious Fool came out in the bad taste decade that was the 80s, in 1981, produced by not-to-everyone’s-taste Phil Collins. From memory both of them were in the aftermath of messy divorces. This track has an immense sadness in it, a keening quality you get in Irish sean nos singing. It has a background drone reminiscent of the bagpipes (he went to school in Glasgow, real surname McGeachy) or uillean pipes (he died in Ireland), complemented by a simple piano. It’s an anti-war song though which war he had in mind I’ve no idea, the Falklands conflict didn’t break out til the following year, but there’s never really any shortage to chose from. Listen to it at the right moment and there never was anything more melancholy.

alfred-eisenstaedt-soldier-tenderly-kissing-his-girlfriends-forehead-as-she-embraces-him-while-saying-goodbye_large

by Alfred Eisenstaedt

(3, St Stephen’s Day) PARADISE CIRCUS by Massive Attack from Heligoland LISTEN

Massive Attack Heligoland

One of those cases where an album has a track that just stands out a mile. The combination of Hope Sandoval’s Mazzy Star-style laid-back vocals and a phat old bass line are a totally winning one, perfect for back to mine in the wee small hours.

Hope Sandoval

Hope Sandoval

(4 plain old Thursday) TIGHINN AIR A’mhuir Am Fear A Phosas Mi by Capercaillie from Nadurra LISTEN

nadurra capercaillie

From memory I came across Capercaillie on a compilation of Celtic music, most of which was Irish, but they were holding up the Scots end. I don’t know much about the band and have no idea what the song’s about, although I think I heard the word Gra in there a few times which is Love in Irish so I presume the same in Scots Gaelic. It’s a sweet sound any way and very reminiscent of Irish singers like Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan (who I met in Carlingford a couple of years ago and had a drink with at the sailing club bar) and the Brennan sisters of Clannad (one of whom is a friend and whose painting The Ghost of Our Trees sits in my hall below). Bottom line, I just like listening to the soft spoken Celtic words.

Karen Matheson

Karen Matheson

9/11 is My Day

Terrorists and killers, this is what babies have to say to you

John Martyn. Herbert Lom. DH Lawrence. Mick Talbot. Pierre de Ronsard. And me. We all share one thing – a birthday on 9/11, that date now with a resonance all of its own. Each year I wait for some low-life to blacken it again. This year I’m a little more worried than usual on account of the round number.

10 years ago today I was out for my birthday lunch with colleagues/friends from Redbus CPD, the internet start-up whose production department I was running for the couple of years before I came to Channel 4. They gave me two lovely presents which have a certain emblematic quality for me looking back. One was a book about London, Peter Ackroyd’s biography of the city. The other was the brand new record by Bob Dylan, Love and Theft, released on that very day. So Literature and Music, two of my greatest loves and essentially the opposite of 9/11. Creative. Fueled by Love. What makes life worth living. One of my sons is called Dylan so I take the latter as a reflection also of Family. And I’m a real Londonphile, born&bred here (I’d bear a London passport if they’d let me), so the former also captures the notion of Home. Music and Literature, Home and Family, Work and Friendship – I was basking in it all as we headed back down the appropriately named Arcadia Avenue back to the office. It was around 2pm.

As we settled back to work one of my business partners called us all into the boardroom to watch something incredible playing out on the big TV. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre. I knew the building from when I spent a semester at high school in Montclair, New Jersey and visited the iconic twin towers for the first time. As we were trying to absorb the images a second plane appeared and the rest is history.

I went out for my planned birthday dinner that evening in Camden Town with my wife, brother, sister-in-law and my oldest friend (we’ve known each other since we were six). The pall of the day’s events hung over our meal and I imagine everyone around the table was as numb as I felt. My stomach was in bits.

Over the years since I’ve felt a degree of outrage at having my birth date appropriated by such a dark and soulless act. And I’m not giving it over. This side of the water it’s 11/9 and this year’s a special palindromic one 11-9-11. 11/9 is about Music, Literature, Home, Family, Creativity and Friendship. It’s about New York and London. It’s about Soul (John Martyn), Laughter (Herbert Lom), Passion (DH Lawrence), Groove (Mick Talbot), and Poetry (Pierre de Ronsard). It’s about Birth and Life and what makes life worth living.

Shelter from the Storm

get bornWalter Pater, the art and literary critic much admired by Oscar Wilde, wrote that “All art aspires to the condition of music.” I read that as other arts striving for the direct impact music has on the heart and spirit without recourse to any physical medium and being able to by-pass the intellect. Much though I love music I’ve never tended to listen to the lyrics of songs in a coherent and systematic way. Phrases and lines emerge over time in their own way and hook themselves into the brain.

I was jogging along yesterday morning listening to a podcast of the evergreen Desert Island Discs when a Bob Dylan song came on and a line really resonated for me as a perfect expression of what women mean to men. When I got home and sat down in front of my machine for the first time that day I whacked the line into Quotables for posterity – and to look at it on its own for a moment.

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

Not particularly poetic. Quite ordinary really. But in its context perfect and to the heart of the matter, to the matter of the heart.

So I felt inspired to pick out 10 great lines from songs that are worthy of the condition of music, that have the resonance and penetrative power of the supreme art. I tried being strict about one stand-out line per song only (only cracked once with a couplet).

1. Bob Dylan, Shelter from the Storm (1974)

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

2. John Lennon, Oh Yoko! (1971)

In the middle of a cloud I call your name

A powerful yet simple expression of romantic love.

3. John Martyn, Couldn’t Love You More (1977)

If you kissed the sun right out of the sky for me

Song lyrics straining to capture Love (is there a theme emerging?)

4. Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze (1966)

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky

This could be love or drugs that’s fogging Jimi’s brain – either way it’s a great line.

5. The Clash, Garageland (1977)

Back in the garage with my bullshit detector

A spirited (spirit of Punk) response to an early bad review (of a gig with The Sex Pistols at Islington’s Screen on the Green): “The Clash are the kind of garage band who should be returned to the garage immediately, preferably with the engine running”. [Charles Shaar Murray – what did he know?]

6. Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City (1982)

Well now everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back

Reckon there’s a load of philosophy buried in this couplet.

7. David Bowie, Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed (1969)

As I am unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed

Loved this phrase for a long time, the “somewhat” is just what’s needed to throw it off kilter.

8. The Doors (Jim Morrison), The Wasp (1968)

Out here we is stoned – immaculate

One of those lines that throws a word into a whole new light.

9. John Coltrane, Acknowledgement (1964)

A Love Supreme

Sometimes you don’t even need a whole line or clause – this is a transcendent chant. They’re the only words in this track and all the more striking for that.

10. Well, why don’t you add this one? What song words do it for you?…

[I’m treating this as a work in progress – going to be putting some more bath time into it]

UPDATE 11.ix.11

After some more bath-time reflection here are some other stand-out lines, plus some picked out by commenters below that strike a chord with me too:

Michael Franti & Spearhead, Oh My God (2001)

I slept with Marilyn she sung me Happy Birthday

Magazine, Song from Under the Floorboards (1980)

I am angry I am ill and I’m as ugly as sin

The Passenger, Iggy Pop (1977)

We’ll see the city’s ripped backsides

Marvyn Gaye/Dick Holler, Abraham Martin and John (1970)

Has anyone here seen my old friend Martin?

PJ Harvey, Let England Shake (2011)

England’s dancing days are done

You seem confused by your own ideals

You will not be able to stay home brother

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

It took it 3.5 billion years to decide that you live just where you live [it = the universe]

The Man with the Boo guitar

Songwriters' Circle

I’ve long been fascinated by the relationship between musicians and their instruments – guitars especially, like Neil Young (now elder statesman) and his axe and BB King (with whom my older son shares a birthday, I share mine with John Martyn) and his trusty, curvy soulmate Lucille. I’m making my way back right now from a unique gig at Bush Hall in BBCland courtesy of Songwriters’ Circle (recorded for BBC4 broadcast in the autumn).

Chris Difford’s  (of Squeeze) guitar had a glittery border around the body and the hole (is there a special name for the big hole in a guitar?) They looked like old pals.

Boo Hewerdine (of The Bible and songwriter for the likes of Eddi Reader) had the most striking design of the evening’s six acoustic guitars – black with * BOO * inlaid on the neck in pearl. He had a very strong presence on stage, big and quiet but all his mots justes right. Had a brief exchange with him in Nandos after the gig, enjoying the balmy evening of the Uxbridge Road with my old pal JRT.

Justin Currie’s (of Del Amitri) had a morse code of inlaid mother of pearl around the Hole with No Name. Like Boo, a fine, strong voice but a touch lighter and more soulful.

Chris, Boo and Justin played the first session – a spectrum ranging from great lyricist to great voice, with Boo the lynchpin in the middle. Boo has composed with Chris and recorded with Justin.

Richard Thompson’s guitar was pale and functional, a work tool, with a couple of plectrums attached to the top. He proved a fabulous embellisher of his two fellow singer-songwriters’ tunes.

Suzanne Vega’s instrument was rich browns, in perfect condition, matching her hair. Between Richard and Loudon she provided a melodic female counter-balance.

Loudon Wainright’s axe had a cheeky bit of walnuty-wild cat pattern finishing. He appeared like Clint Eastwood meets Bob Dylan. Gifted with words, a streak of humour through everything, somehow making the sad even more poignant. The highlight of the night was the song about going through his dead dad’s closets. Another highpoint was the laugh-out-loud funny tale of a guitar he had to leave behind in Durrango thanks to Suzanne, an airline bitch.

12 feet away from those six in a tiny old venue was a once-in-a-lifetime music experience. Of the six, Boo and Richard Thompson seemed to have the deepest connection to their music-machines. Of the two, Richard seemed truly joined at the hip and totally living through his. I’m writing this paragraph walking home from the gig across the road to Muswell Hill from which the great man hails and where the origins of the Fairport Convention name stems. He struck me tonight as perhaps being the bearer of the John Martyn guitar-baton in the wake of the sad, sad loss last year of that even greater man .

Boo Hewerdine, Justin Currie & Chris Difford beating round the Bush

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."
...


The blue guitar
And I are one.

Wallace Stevens

Best of 2009

[this is a work in progress]

film still

Burn, baby, burn - it fired me up

Film:
1. Inglourious Basterds – because it reignited my excitement with cinema

2. The Hangover – because it afforded me a fine evening of laughter with the Enfants Terribles
3. A Serious Man – for the uncompromising ending and beautiful cinematography by my former boss Roger Deakins
4. Moon – for being intriguing and thought-provoking
5. District 9 – for realising an inventive concept well
6. An Education – for a supercharismatic central performance
7. Nowhere Boy – for fine performances all round

Actor:
1. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) – couldn’t take my eyes off him

2. Sam Rockwell (Moon)
3. Christian McKay (Me & Orson Welles) – not an easy persona to capture
4. Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy)
5. Andy Serkis (Sex & Drugs & Rock’n’Roll)
6. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man)
7. Adam Sandler (Funny People) – got papped behind him leaving BAFTA (that’s no way to live)
8. John Travolta (The Taking of Pelham 123)

Actress:
1. Carey Mulligan (An Education) – old school screen charisma

2. Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy) – did a great, feisty Q&A for us at The Phoenix, East Finchley
3. Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey)
4. Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank)

Supporting Actor:
1. Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) – captured the humour whilst retaining the character’s intrigue

2. Alfred Molina (An Education) – also a close second, helped pull off the ending with a pivotal moving scene
3. Ed Helms (The Hangover)
4. Thomas Sangster (Nowhere Boy) – striking screen presence
5. Peter Capaldi (In the Loop)
6. Fred Melamed (A Serious Man)

Supporting Actress:
1. Kristin Scott Thomas (Nowhere Boy)

2. Claire Danes (Me & Orson Welles)
3. Rosamund Pike (An Education)

Director:
1. Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) – gets it on the strength of the opening scene alone

2. The Coen Brothers (A Serious Man)
3. Neill Blomkamp (District 9)
4. Todd Phillips (The Hangover)
5. Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)
6. Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)
7. Duncan Jones (Moon)

Script:
1. The Hangover

2. A Serious Man
3. District 9
4. Up in the Air
5. Moon

TV:
Gavin & Stacey

Gig:
1. Hothouse Flowers – Community hall, Baltimore, West Cork

2.
Bat for Lashes – The Roundhouse
Christy Moore – Festival Hall
Lisa Hannigan – Festival Hall

3.
Blur – Hyde Park (The Enfants Terribles’ first gig)
Michael Franti & Spearhead – Empire Shepherd’s Bush
David Gray – The Roundhouse

LP:
Sea Sew – Lisa Hannigan

The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

Single:
1. Glass – Bat for Lashes

2. Say Hey – Michael Franti & Spearhead

Book:
The Great Lover – Jill Dawson

Art:
Dream – Jaume Plensa

Anish Kapoor – Royal Academy

Play:
August: Osage County (NT)
Prick Up Your Ears (The Comedy)

Sports event:
1. Ireland winning the 6 Nations

2. Spurs 9-1 victory over Wigan

Website:
Posterous

Saddest loss:
John Martyn

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