Archive for the ‘patti smith’ Tag
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.
It turned out something of a literary day today. It started with a note on this humble blog from an actor interested in Jean Newlove, collaborator of Joan Littlewood and pioneer of movement as a discipline in theatre. The actor in question appeared as a young Alan Turing in ‘The Imitation Game’, growing up into Benedict Cumberbatch (patron of our very own Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley). I interviewed Jean Newlove, mother of the late Kirsty MacColl (who will be coming in to season shortly as the female half of the greatest of all Christmas songs, ‘Fairytale of New York’), for the Littlewood chapter of my not-yet-finished book ‘When Sparks Fly’.
I was keen to read the last couple of chapters of the excellent novel I’ve been reading the last couple of weeks, Amos Oz’s ‘Judas’, so I left a bit early for my first meeting in Old Street and repaired to nearby Bunhill Fields to read in the low yellow winter sunshine. I sat down by John Bunyan’s tomb, inhaling the roll-up smoke of two Eastern European workers on the adjacent bench, and by way of hors-d’oeuvres downloaded a copy of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ to my phone and read the opening. It’s a good complement to ‘Judas’. I then read some of the wizardry of Oz before heading off to my first meeting with a young scriptwriter of the Paul Abbott school. I’m producing a short film for him. On my way over to Silicon Roundabout I remembered there were other literary types in Bunhill Fields and sauntered past them – Daniel Defoe and beside him the great Londoner William Blake, born in Marshall Street, Soho where my very first job (for a film company) was located. I’d spotted on a Twitter post just after the note from the actor that today was Blake’s birthday. I hadn’t paid much attention but once in front of the grave it came back to me and the coincidence of showing up at his death place on the day of his birth delighted me as I have been much taken with coincidences in recent times.
I’ve had two other good ones in the last couple of days. On Saturday night I was on my way to see Michael Keegan-Dolan’s brilliant dance Swan Lake / Loch nEala when I came across One Lost Glove and photographed it as is my wont with a caption playing on a song title as is my wont: Whole Lotta gLove. I was having dinner first with some friends and as I took my seat in Miz En Bouche in St John Street, Islington over their sound system came a version of Led Zep’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ covered by a relatively sedate female singer.
Today, after I’d finished the Oz book, I resumed Paul Beatty’s ‘The Sellout’, winner of this year’s Man Booker prize. In it I read this sentence: “Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised by p values in the .75 range.” I got that it was taking the piss out of a certain kind of academia and social science but I had no idea what p values are, never heard of them before. This evening I’m at a lecture by Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland (who I also interviewed for ‘When Sparks Fly’) on Behavioural Economics. He mentions p values of course.While I’m at it a Blake-related coincidence this time last year which proved very important for me. When BAFTA season is in full flow you get inundated with PR emails from film publicity companies. I normally don’t read them but I did read one entitled A Bigger Splash because that first job of mine in Soho, opposite Blake’s birthplace, was with a film company that made a movie in 1974 entitled ‘A Bigger Splash’, about David Hockney and his circle. So the subject line caught my eye and I scrolled through the email. It was for a new romantic comedy (?) featuring Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton. At the bottom of the email was the address of the publicity company – 35 Marshall Street, the very address of Buzzy Enterprises where I worked. So it was Buzzy’s address and Buzzy’s title united on a single email. What are the chances? Two items with no intrinsic connection. Unlike the hearing the same word for the first time twice on the same day type coincidence there can be no rational explanation for this baby. I ended up sending it to my former boss, director of the original ‘A Bigger Splash’, Jack Hazan, and that triggered a train of events which lead to us working together for the first time in decades, on a documentary based on something he shot three years before ‘A Bigger Splash’.
The first chapter of ‘When Sparks Fly’ is about poet Allen Ginsberg, who was hugely influenced by Blake. The road I crossed to get to Bunhill contains St Luke’s church where I once met Patti Smith, who is also a massive fan of Blake and wrote a song called ‘In My Blakean Year’ (but we talked about two other poets who resided in London, albeit briefly – Rimbaud & Verlaine).
The coincidences, both explicable and inexplicable, are the kind of thing that make life worth living. They suggest pattern, yes, but more importantly they suggest magic.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
There seems to be a connection
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:
(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.
(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.
(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.
(4) Easter – Patti Smith
I was transfixed by the hairy armpit in the cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe.
(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.
(6) Stage – David Bowie
One of the few things outside of punk to catch my attention.
(7) Handsworth Revolution – Steel Pulse
Can’t recall how I came across this but it will have been thanks to the Punk-Reggae axis.
(8) Public Image – Public Image Ltd
How could Johnny Rotten transcend the Pistols? With a single as startling as anything those bad boys did.
(9) An American Prayer – Jim Morrison & The Doors
I still reckon Jim was a significant and talented poet.
(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.
(11) Moving Targets – Penetration
Something a little exotic from the regions
(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.
Rounded off the week with a delightful phone conversation with Rosebud Pettet, a long-time, close friend of Allen Ginsberg, who lived with and beside him for over quarter of a century on&off. She was at his bedside when he passed on to the great poem in the sky and wrote a story about that experience which she shared with the likes of Patti Smith, Francesco Clemente and Philip Glass as well as Allen’s brother Eugene and partner Peter Orlovsky. She gave some beautiful insights into life with Allen from their meeting in the 60s when she was a teenager to his final years when he finally moved out of the building they had shared on the Lower East Side for yonks.
At one point in her travels Rose lived in London (not three miles from my end of the call) and at another point she was in Christiania in Copenhagen where I was last week.
I began the day back in the walled kitchen garden of Kenwood researching Sylvia Beach and her relationship with Joyce, with whom she was very close and supportive, not just around the publication of Ulysses but in his Parisian family life too.
In the afternoon I wrote about the legendary 4th June 1976 Sex Pistols gig in Manchester, attended by some 35 people and yet which inspired a great blossoming of music from Manchester including Joy Division and The Fall and their knock-on effects. It’s a good way into exploring the interface of truth and mythology around Tony Wilson, Factory and the Manchester scene of that golden era.
All week I’ve been trying to get in touch with a lead singer from another great band of the time to interview, wracking my brains about who I know who would have worked with him in recent times. Was drawing blanks from that line of inquiry until I was standing at the bread bit of the local supermarket during the weekend when I turned around and there he was. Singer of one of the great singles of all time and a landmark of punk, both of us loaves in hand, both in our silver fox period, face to face over a basket of family shopping. The world works in mysterious ways…
After playing the 100 Greatest Songs of all time parlour game with my friend Doug Miller over Christmas (me in the North of London, him in the South of France) he came back with the 50 Greatest LPs of all time challenge (no compilations, only one record per artist/band). I failed miserably – couldn’t boil it down to less than 75. So here they are – the 75 best LPs ever (of course, I’ll be popping back from time to time to make the odd sneaky change):
Beauty Stab – ABC
The Stars We Are – Marc Almond
The Last Waltz – The Band
The White Album – The Beatles
Post – Bjork
Go Tell It on the Mountain – Blind Boys of Alabama
Plastic Letters – Blondie
Space Oddity – David Bowie
Love Bites – Buzzcocks
The Clash – The Clash
A Rush of Blood to the Head – Coldplay
* A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me – The Cure
* Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
Don’t Stand Me Down – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
Hot August Night – Neil Diamond
The Doors – The Doors
Pink Moon – Nick Drake
Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan
Bill Evans – Conversations with Myself
Tiger in the Rain – Michael Franks
* Stay Human – Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Score – The Fugees
* What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Flesh – David Gray
Guys & Dolls movie ST
Are you experienced? – Jimi Hendrix
The Miseducation of – Lauryn Hill
Yarona – Abdullah Ibrahim trio
All Mod Cons – The Jam
Jesus Christ Superstar
Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division
On Song – Brian Kennedy
Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
Imagine – John Lennon
Cinquieme As – MC Solaar
The Snake – Shane MacGowan & the Popes
Madness – Madness
Correct Use of Soap – Magazine
Exodus – Bob Marley & the Wailers
* Solid Air – John Martyn
New World Order – Curtis Mayfield
Monk’s Dream – Thelonius Monk quartet
A Night in San Francisco – Van Morrison
Blues and the Abstract Truth – Oliver Nelson
Throw Down Yours Arms – Sinead O’Connor
Meddle – Pink Floyd
Dummy – Portishead
Metal Box – Public Image Ltd (in the metal box)
O – Damien Rice
Some Girls – The Rolling Stones
Stranded – Roxy Music
Rumblefish OST (Stewart Copeland)
The Crack – The Ruts
Abraxas – Sanata
Gymnopedies – Eric Satie
Never Mind the Bollocks – The Sex Pistols
* Songs for Swinging Lovers – Frank Sinatra
The Scream – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Six Days in June
Easter – Patti Smith
The Specials – The Specials
The Rising – Bruce Springsteen
We’ll Never Turn Back – Mavis Staples
Tea for the Tillerman – Cat Stevens
Brilliant Trees – David Sylvian
Remain in the Light – Talking Heads
Sweet Baby James – James Taylor
Stan Tracey – Under Milk Wood
Joshua Tree – U2
Signing Off – UB40
Live in Leeds – The Who
Talking Book – Stevie Wonder
Harvest – Neil Young
*Road to Freedom – The Young Disciples
And in case you’ve ever lain awake at night wondering what the top 7 LPs of all time are in order, here you are:
1 Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
2 What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
3 A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
4 Songs for Swinging Lovers – Frank Sinatra
5 Solid Air – John Martyn
6 Road to Freedom – The Young Disciples
7 Stay Human – Michael Franti & Spearhead
Doug’s top 50 is somewhat more sophisticated as befits an international man of mystery:
1. Mariano/Vant’hof/Catherine – Sleep My Love
2. Garbarek/Gismonti/Haden – Folk Songs
3. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
4. Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder
5. Beyond Skin – Nitin Sawhney
6. Soro – Salif Keita
7. Leftfield – Leftism
8. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
9. Airto Moreira – Seeds on the Ground
10. Khomsa – Anouar Brahem
11. Santana – Caravanserai
12. Edu Lobo – Cantiga De Longe
13. Remain in Light – Talking Heads
14. Eastern Sounds – Yusef Lateeef
15. Devotional Songs – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
16. The Velvet Underground and Nico
17. Gabor Szabo & Bobby Womack – High Contrast
18. The Isley Brothers – 3+3
19. This Is My Country – The Impressions
20. Pharaoh Sanders – Journey To the One
21. Miles Davis – In a Silent Way
22. DJ Shadow Entroducing
23. Keith Jarrett – The Koln Concert
24. Sigur Ros – Takk
25. Let it Bleed – The Rolling Stones
26. Brian Eno/Harold Budd – The Plateau of Mirror
27. Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
28. Tabula Rasa – Arvo Part
29. Mothership Connection – Parliament
30. Lou Reed – Transformer
31. Led Zeppelin – 2
32. David Sylvian – Secrets of the Beehive
33. Free Will – Gil Scot Heron
34. David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name
35. Spirit – 12 Dreams of Dr Sardonicus
36. Jdilla – Donuts
37. Five Leaves Left – Nick Drake
38. Clube De Esquina – Milton Nascimento
39. Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus
40. Lonnie Liston Smith – Expansions
41. Anthony and the Johnsons – I am a Bird Now
42. TheInflated Tear – Rahsan Roland Kirk
43. Blue Camel – Rabih Abou-Khalil
44. What Colour is Love – Terry Callier
45. Fat Albert Rotunda – Herbie Hancock
46. Diamond Dogs – David Bowie
47. Assagai – Afrorock
48. Biosphere – Sub-Strata
49. Ein Deutche Requiem – Brahms (Simon Rattle)
50. The Nordic Quartet – Rypdal/Surman/Storaas.Krog
Feel free to join in…
Shame it’s not November yet, specifically the 9th, because then I could characterise the gig I’ve just been to as the opposite of 9/11 i.e. 11/9. But life’s rarely that neat so let’s push on regardless…
Patti Smith, Philip Glass and Lenny Kaye performed a show of poetry, music and song in tribute to Allen Ginsburg at LSO St Luke’s in Old Street, London – and it was the quintessence of New York (New Jersey) creativity, the polar opposite of the vacant dead-beats who flew those planes into New York’s towers. Today I arranged my first trip back to NYC since I went to collect the Grand Award at the New York International Film & Television Festival in 1994 – with my mum, fiancee and sister-in-law-to-be in tow. In the foyer after the ceremony Richard Norley of Jump Design introduced me to a certain Peter Fincham who was then at TalkBack. I had to apologise for not being able to shake his hand on account of all the silverware I was carrying 😉 . Believe he went on to do quite well for himself – lousy bastard never even answered my letter when I wrote to him for a job before he went to the Beeb (probably still jealous about the big silver bowl from which we drank copious amounts of champers – that was a great night, said sister-in-law arrived at the party in her apartment on E14th St dressed in a black cat-suit draped in the stars and stripes, as she had gotten her US citizenship that same weekend – the official at the swearing allegiance ceremony had asked her if she would bear arms for her country – Bronagh’s reply: Honey, there ain’t no machine gun big enough!).
So Patti & Philip began with some poems by Ginsberg, then by her – she speaks poetry so well with that great Noo Joisey accent. Philip Glass went on to play solo on the piano Night on the Balcony, Piano Etude #2 and Piano Etude #10 – getting onto that pulsating thing he does like John Adams and Steve Reich. Patti & Lenny then took to the stage and performed a few songs including In My Blakeian Year and Ghost Dance.
We shall live again, we shall live again,
We shall live again, shake out the ghost dance.
Here we are, Father, Lord, Holy Ghost,
Bread of your bread, ghost of your host,
We are the tears that fall from your eyes,
Word of your word, cry of your cry.
We shall live again, we shall live again,
We shall live again.
She dedicated the song to the monks in Burma. The first song she had dedicated to Rimbaud, whose birthday it is today. I spoke to her briefly after the gig about Rimbaud’s time in London in College Street, Camden Town.
The three of them performed some more Ginsberg poems including Magic Psalm and On the Cremation of Chogyam Thungpa Vidyadhara:
I noticed food, lettuce salad, I noticed the teacher was absent,
I noticed my friends, I’ve noticed our car, I’ve noticed the blue Volvo,
I’ve noticed a young boy hold my hand
Our key in the motel door, I noticed a dark room, I noticed a dream
And forgot, noticed oranges lemons and caviar at breakfast,
I noticed the highway, sleepiness, homework thoughts, the boy’s nippled chest in the breeze
As the car rolled down hillsides past green woods to the water.
I noticed the sea, I noticed the music – I wanted to dance.
This very special, intimate performance – Glass and Ginsberg were pals, Patti and Allen were friends (both New Jerseyites), Glass and Patti were present in Ginsberg’s last hours in his New York loft (she lifted a book from his shelf at random and it was a volume of Blake’s poetry which Ginsberg had completely rewritten in every piece of available white space in the margins) – came to a close with the Footnote to Howl:
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy!
The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand
and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is
holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an
Holy the sea holy the desert holy the railroad holy the
locomotive holy the visions holy the hallucinations holy the miracles holy the eyeball holy the
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours!
bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent
kindness of the soul!
I love that word “kindness” – it’s the opposite of 9/11.