Nov 252014
 

Robert Wyatt

It’s hard not to love Robert Wyatt. In every interview he comes across as such a thouroughly nice bloke and I’m happy to assume that this is actually the case.

As I came out of my metal phase in the early 80s, and during the struggle to find a direction, I became aware of Robert. Firtsly, of course, thanks to the astounding Shipbuilding (arrived at via Costello of course) – I had a lovely gatefold 7″ of it, that I gave to a huge Costello fan I was friends with at work (sort of wish I hadn’t).

On the back of that discovery I picked up a copy of Rock Bottom at a record fair. But Rock Bottom, wasn’t an album to suck me in, I love it now but at the time I found it difficult, and it was filed away… and I headed towards indie-guitar music

Many years later an interview with Damon & Naomi where Damon sung the praises of Robert Wyatt (and Rock Bottom in particular) probably in 96 or 97, inspired me to pull out the album again (actually I had to buy myself a CD copy) and start finding more Robert to love.

Dondestan sort of passed me by, the mid-90s rediscovery coincided with Schleep and that and Rock Bottom and Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard pretty much filled my needs. This was an opportunity to fix that.

Of course I’ve been helped back into this by the lovely Unthanks who released a rather excellent half-an-album of Robert Wyatt covers, including the title track of Dondestan.

Here’s them covering Rock Bottom’s Sea Song (which they also released on their second album in 2007)

… and here’s Robert doing it in 2003

I just found this half finished blog post in my drafts, so I’ve popped in a few videos and published it as I found it

Nov 222014
 


A step up from Downhill and a smoking performance from the lead, Easy Virtue is still far from a classic. Larita is in an unhappy marriage to a bullying and sneering husband and finds some happiness in the arms of a portrait painter who, in an ensuing altercation and fearing he has murdered Larita’s husband, tops himself. Larita is implicated in the divorce, heads to France to escape scandal… and takes up smoking… big time!

She then falls in love and marries a younger man but omits to tell him about her scandalous past and when he takes her home to meet his family things begin to unravel… and Larita takes further refuge in tobacco.

The cigarette shows, not how bad she is, but how bad she feels. She doesn’t start smoking until the south of France and her husband’s suspicious and unfriendly family drive her nicotine crazy. She’s clearly not a bad person at all – her first husband was a brute and her love for her second husband was genuine – perhaps a little honesty at the start of their relationship might have helped. But perhaps this is really a story of how damaging snobbery can be.

Lesson learned: Check out his family before you say “yes”
Watched: 2014-11-10
Source: YouTube
Rating: 5/10

Oct 122014
 

Last night Hazel and I headed east to see the lovely Haiku Salut at St John’s Church in Bethnal Green… again. Almost exactly a year after one of the best shows of 2013 (also possibly ever). It was just as wonderful last night, the “lamp show” had been extended to include some tellies and there were some new tunes. I took a few rubbish snaps, and did a half-time sketch.

Haiku Salut

Haiku Salut

Haiku Salut

Haiku Salut

Haiku Salut

Haiku Salut stage

Sep 222014
 


A mostly dreadful story and some decidedly average acting is barely rescued by a few imaginative Hitch offerings. And even if Hitch’s genius had shone brightly – the dreadful story would still overshadow it.

Our DVD copy was silent… not as in a “silent film” but as in a film with no sound… at all. After 10 minutes we opted to put on a record, and chose one we’d picked up at a charity shop a couple of months ago. Joyce Hatto‘s Music from the Films was an authentic Hatto recording from the early 60s rather than from her later, fraudulent catalogue.

The music fitted surprisingly well, not always, but often enough to make its fit more enjoyable than the film itself.

Lesson learned: Friendship and loyalty should be a two way street
Watched: 2014-08-20
Source: DVD
Rating: 4/10

Hitchcock Wiki
BFI Screenonline

Sep 182014
 

ViNiL
In 1979 Motorhead ruled my life. My mate Paul was a fan of Tubeway Army and The Police. I was proud that I converted him to a Motorhead fan. Over the years I have grown to love electronic music but I’ve steered clear of Tubeway Army and Gary Numan – I imagine a fair bit of that is down to Numan’s Thatcher-loving past – frankly he always came across as a bit of a prat (and as far as I can tell, still does).

Today I decided it was time to give the breakthrough second Tubeway Army album Replicas a listen to see if I could get past my prejudices.

I couldn’t – it was patchy and only very rarely interesting. Mostly it was ordinary and quite often not very modern sounding at all – and lets face it the best electronic music sounds like the future regardless of how many years ago it was made! It makes sense that Are ‘Friends’ Electric? was a hit but there’s very little else on the album that rates it a second listen…

Here’s what the future sounds like to me

… or this …

Sep 172014
 

Just home from seeing Joan Baez at the Royal Festival Hall. We sauntered up a bit late so missed the beginning but what we saw was mostly pretty stunning. Catch The Wind gave me chills, Joe Hill was powerful, There But For Fortune was perfect. Not so good was an overlong ballad I didn’t know, House of the Rising Sun, Swing Low Sweet Chariot and trotting out Imagine (and bizarrely telling us the lyrics so we could sing along… I mean who doesn’t know the words to Imagine!?).

I’m sure she introduced Seven Curses by saying she hadn’t played it for 30 years – YouTube suggests otherwise.

Another highlight was Diamonds and Rust, which was a treat because those early early 70s albums were often so much more interesting than the folk ballad 60s LPs (I wrote about my favourite last week).

Here’s Joan’s original, written in 1974 about her relationship with Bobby Dylan ten years previously.

I just discovered that Judas Priest covered it (I can’t believe that I never knew this – although I was never that big a fan of Judas Priest) and my first search of YouTube found a thoroughly dreadful recent live version but they originally recorded it in 1976/7 and the version released on their album Sin After Sin is actually pretty good.

… and here’s a live version from 1983 with Priest in all their hilariously camp, studded glory

Sep 092014
 

Joan Baez - Blessed Are... (1971)
My dad’s a Joan Baez fan so we had plenty of her albums around the house. Blessed Are… is the one I listened to more than any of the others, and doesn’t it look like it? I’m not sure who was responsible for the failed sticker removal, it could quite easily have been me – I know that at some point I decided this album was mine, and not my dad’s.

I’d guess that it was those high profile cover versions that got me listening in the first place (The Band, The Stones, The Beatles), but the more I listened the more I started to notice the other songs on the album, both Joan’s and those by songwriters whose names meant less than Robertson, Jagger/Richards and Lennon/McCartney. It’s been a good few years since I’ve dug this LP out (last time I listened to it I expect that Joan’s version of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down was the version I was most familiar with) so hearing it again was a treat, I was surprised how familiar the whole thing was.

Next week I’m off to see Joan at the RFH as my dad can’t make it and he off-loaded his tickets on us. We were very glad to take them.

Aug 302014
 


… and classic Hitch really kicks in with The Lodger. The conceit is superb, the mood is as beautifully dense as the London fog, and the performances he elicits from his actors are impeccable. Throw in a blonde, a twist, some fun with the camera, and a (possibly) innocent man, and you have a recipe that the master cooks to near perfection.

The DVD we have (from a German box set) has a decent orchestral score, no idea where it’s from.


Lesson learned: Sometimes a poker is just for poking the fire and a knife just for whipping the top off your boiled egg.
Watched: 2014-08-30
Source: DVD
Rating: 8/10

Hitchcock wiki
BFI Screenonline

Aug 282014
 

The Chameleons - What Does Anything Mean? Basically?
I hardly ever listen to The Chameleons, and I know I should. They’re another band that I was aware of for a long time before I actually gave them any serious time, and by the time I did they were long gone.

This, their second album, is a fine album. Listening to it makes me wonder why you don’t see the young kids walking around with Chameleons T-shirts they way they walk around with Joy Division ones, or Smiths ones. I don’t think any of Joy Division’s albums are a patch on What Does Anything Mean? Basically.

I guess they’re the best band to come out of Manchester then?