Archive for the ‘woodstock’ Tag

Latest photographs in the ArkAngel collection

ArkAngel has a small but perfectly formed collection of photographs and these are the latest additions. Three of these four come from Magnum photo agency which offers small signed or estate-stamped prints. The fourth is direct from the photographer (Danny Clifford) with whom I had a fascinating chat in Marlow, Buckinghamshire before the plague hit.  

Eve Arnold – Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses by James Joyce. Long Island, New York (1955)

‘Ulysses’ is my favourite book and Marilyn is an important name in our family (and our Marilyn is blonde too). I read a concise biography of Marilyn Monroe as a teenager and was struck by her intelligence and intellectual aspirations. This image, which was on a poster in Black Gull Books, East Finchley in recent times, says body and mind, natural beauty and artistic beauty, ‘low’ culture and ‘high’, adult and child.

Eve Arnold’s grandson Michael wrote: “This image was made by Eve during her first shoot with Marilyn Monroe. Monroe had shown Eve her down-to-earth, relaxed personality as they worked together. But the photographer had yet to really witness the actress’s candour. The following is an excerpt from a passage in Eve’s book, In Retrospect, in which she recalled meeting with Marilyn a second time, in order to show her the photographs she had taken:

She met me at the door in a diaphanous black negligee. She had a hairbrush in her hand. Would I mind sitting through an interview for a European magazine—then we could talk? Almost immediately the reporter showed up. Marilyn greeted her, and while the woman had her head down, looking in her purse for notebook and pencil, Marilyn asked if she minded if she (Marilyn) brushed her hair during the interview. No, of course not. When the woman raised her head, Marilyn was brushing her pubic hair.

Due in no small part to Monroe’s laidback temperament, the two were to become close over the months that followed.”

Elliott Landy – Bob Dylan in Woodstock, NY (1968)

This is the second Elliott Landy shot of Dylan in the collection. This is the first:

Elliott Landy – Bob Dylan with son Jesse, Byrdcliffe home, Woodstock, NY (1968)

The collection has print 7/100 which is 50 x 35cm.

The new infrared shot is most striking of course for its colour. It derives from a Saturday Evening Post cover image assignment. Landy was just starting out but his work with The Band had impressed one of Dylan’s friends and that’s how they first connected. The connection and subsequent friendship eventually yielded an album cover (Nashville Skyline). The shot was taken outside Dylan’s home in Byrdcliffe, New York state, as was the shot with his young son, Jesse.

Danny Lyon – Bob Dylan behind the SNCC office. Greenwood, Mississippi (1963)

This shot is reminiscent of the brilliant 2019 creative documentary Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan story by Martin Scorsese (to give it its full title) in which Bob takes his guitar out at times in a spirit of activism and solidarity. 

After giving a concert in a cotton field with folk singers Pete Seeger and Theo Bikel, Dylan played behind the office of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC – pronounced “snick”). Bernice Reaon, one of the original Freedom Singers and later the lead singer of Sweet Honey in the Rock, is the woman listening intently in front of Dylan.

The Freedom Singers started in 1962 as a student quartet in Albany State College, Albany, Georgia. Their sound combined  black Baptist church singing with protest songs. They were big supporters of the SNCC during the emerging civil rights movement and they played a significant role in making communal song a key means of empowering and educating audiences about civil rights issues and combatting Jim Crow segregation.

Mendy Samstein is sitting behind Dylan and talking to Willie Blue. Samstein quit his Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago to join the civil rights movement in the South as a full-time organiser for the SNCC. Black Panther leader Stokely Carmichael (previously chairman of SNCC) said Samstein was “one in a million”.

Danny Clifford – Amy Winehouse backstage at 4th BBC Radio Jazz awards, Hammersmith Palais, London (2004)

Amy Winehouse was another one in a million. This July marks the 10th anniversary of her sad passing and I have been working on a documentary to mark the event.

The deliberate choice of such an early image comes down to the way this shot captures the youthful promise of Amy before other pressures intruded. It was exhibited in a church in Hampstead a couple of years ago as part of a Danny Clifford show. 

Danny had a studio set up backstage at these BBC jazz awards. Amy had just come off stage after performing some songs from her debut album Frank. She was reluctant to go over to the press wall and didn’t really give them what they wanted. Danny managed to steer her into his makeshift studio after and got much more relaxed shots including this beauty. Katie Melua came over a couple of minutes later and Danny suggested taking shots of the two of them together. Katie was well up for it but Amy said: “I ain’t having a picture with her. She’s shit. She doesn’t even write her own songs.” Danny thought she was joking at first but there was no sign of that. “I’ll take that as a No then” was his retort.

Havens to Heaven

When I was still half asleep this morning, the radio playing from some vague distance, I heard the sad news of Richie Havens’ passing on. I found myself standing in front of my Wall of Fame where a photo of Richie is among the select few. I looked out a non-existent window to the left and the top of a ship could just be spotted. As the news hit home it transformed into the top rigging and masts of a bright white ghost ship like Frank Hurley’s images of The Endurance.

Frank Hurley Endurance

Richie Havens first entered my life as the opener of Woodstock. I went to see Michael Wadleigh’s movie of the festival of festivals at the cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue near Seven Dials with my best man and music compatriot Stuart R. The big close up of Richie’s pounding sandal stays in my head – a true leg/end. He had to go on first, although he was originally billed fifth, because traffic was holding up other performers. He held fort and held forth for a couple of legendary hours until reinforcements arrived and his repertoire was entirely exhausted. He climaxed with an improvised medley of Motherless Child and a chant of Freedom (not sure where that comes from). The energy and deep soul is spell-binding and made his name for ever…
woodstock richie havens

I met him once – on a very special occasion. September 1995, Jazz Cafe, Camden Town, London. I took my mum out for a last night out with me still as her unattached boy. We had a chat with Richie after the show and he signed the picture which has since sat on my Wall of Fame. Alongside the likes of Michael Powell and Neil Armstrong and Dave Brubeck. He was the last man standing on the Wall – now they are all up there together again…

Richie Havens on the Wall of Fame

He sang a song called Adam on his 1988 LP Mixed Bag. It has his distinctive voice underpinned with its characteristic gruffness. It has the hippy vibe, more San Francisco than his native Brooklyn (I’m not sure why I associate him with San Fran, maybe he lived there in the 90s?) It has the strongly rhythmic approach. Echoes of Gil Scott-Heron, Cat Stevens and Terry Callier. A bit of Jefferson Airplane psychedelia. A wonderful mix all his own.

The sweat on the back of his monk orange kaftan as he walks off stage still singing Freedom at the end of his Big Moment at Woodstock says everything you need to know about what he put into his music.

The Opposite of Digital

Camille at the Roundhouse

Camille at the Roundhouse

It started deep below Tate Modern. In three large circular spaces, formerly oil tanks for the Bankside power station, Will Gompertz, Director of Tate Media, mentioned he would love to do an event in the brick-walled space before it gets transformed into new gallery space for 2012. The acoustics were enchanting, a huge cylindrical echo chamber punctuated with iron pillars, and a low hum from the remaining generators which made me think of Le Fil, the album by London-based(?) French singer Camille. The name of the record – the Thread – comes from the single note which threads across the whole of it. So when I noticed Camille was playing at the Roundhouse I invited Will.

Le Fil I came across by chance. Just liked the cover. I was down in Brick Lane with the Enfants Terribles one weekend when I ducked into Rough Trade East. When we pass a record or book shop they habitually form up into a SWAT team to bar my way but on that occasion I was too quick for them. It was a good session of buying on instinct – I came across Burial’s Untrue for the first time that day too.

As things turned out Will couldn’t make it in the end (had to meet Steve McQueen of Hunger fame) and I ended up inviting James, my neighbour, on the touchline at Finchley RFC vs Harrow RFC U12s out in Stanmore on an autumnal Sunday morning.

Now James hadn’t been to the Roundhouse since ’69 when he saw Pink Floyd, of which there are colourful accounts in Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles, including a mention of Donegal’s own Henry McCullough, the only Irishman on stage at Woodstock (with Joe Cocker). So it was a pleasure to reintroduce them and resonant to be standing next to an iron column not dissimilar from that secret Tate space.

Camille‘s performance was the opposite of digital. In this age of easy copying, reproduction, recording, on demand, clones – it was a unique performance of an unpredictable singer in dialogue with the live crowd. She seems to have a thing about the colour orange which suits me as so do I (childhood bedroom colour at 2A Selvage Lane aka La Sirene, appropriately enough – lord knows why my parents called the house that (or anything) but the sign ended up being flipped around and having the even worse Popin added to the former reverse side at the next house where my mum still lives and Sirene still hangs hidden).

Camille in short hand is Bobby McFerrin meets Kate Bush with a bit of Swingle Singers, Marcel Marceau and Beardyman thrown in for a good measure of machine-free madness. So all voices and body beats with no instruments beyond a piano which she doesn’t really need.

The gig came to a collective climax and just to show how live it was she came on for one too many encores and an improv with Jamie Cullum which didn’t quite work and dissipated the hard-won energy. But that’s the beauty of transcending the 1s and 0s – you win some, you lose some, you can’t tell til you try, human fallibility seeps in alongside human spirit.

The best 0 of the night was when she came back on for the encore that took the performance to its high point. She’d changed from the LBD under her orange robe to a Longer Black Dress. Then at 1 point she turned around to reveal a large 0 cut into the dress at the base of her spine, revealing an expanse of back which recalled Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger and a delightful toppest bit of bum, an emblem of that mad French sexuality we know and love from the likes of L’Ete Meutrier (One Deadly Summer) and 37.2 degres le Matin (Betty Blue). That threat of madness, that touch of unpredictability, the moment of unevenness, the ambiguous attractions among the band are the undigitalness we all need from time to time.

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