And you can hear Jack say.. MOAR COWBELL

…or rather, ‘Sweet Jane’.

Many, many bands have covered this song. it’s a great warm-up number and I have vague memories of seeing Hello Sailor use it as a set opener back sometimes during one of their mid-80s incarnations.

It’s got a chugging basicness, a riff which kind of pulls you in.

I’ve always loved the Mott the Hoople version. I think it’s my favourite one, although the Cowboy Junkies and Lone Justice run it close.

Not to mention, of course, the original, on Lou Reed’s final album with the Velvet Underground.

Mott the Hoople’s big hit, All the Young Dudes, was written by David Bowie, and he produced them in 1972.

This demo track seems to have been a warmup number in the studio, that year, and they are backing the man who actually wrote Sweet Jane, Lou Reed.

The recording quality is a bit fuzzy but you can hear the zest and verve in the playing.

Thoughts on the week, from elsewhere….

 

‘ The essay form is a tricky one to handle. It is not as though you have a story to tell. Anyone will listen to a story. What you are doing is just grabbing the reader by the slack of his coat and babbling to him, and all the time his probably dying to get away and go about his business.’

PG Wodehouse

That’s from the introduction to  a collection of Wodehouse’s more obscure articles initially written for magazines.  Picked up the collection ‘Louder and Funnier’   a few months back and dipping into it late at night  the past  couple of weeks.

It’s good to have a chuckle at Wodehouse’s  essentially good-natured but still quite acute wit before pulling the shades down and attempting eight hours of the restorative.

Someone else pointed out once – oh, go and have a look on the Googe for it, it’s bound to be online somewhere – that Woodhouse’s  writings inhabit a prelapsarian world.

That exaggerates things a little bit,  but not much. If there is a snake in this garden of Eden, it is either an aunt or an income tax inspector.

If there is a snake in this garden of Eden, it is either an aunt or an income tax inspector.

To the more fallen, real  world:  the election of Donald Trump.

Is he a Hitler on the rise?  that analogy  has been used so often, since the 1940s,  about every political leader the speaker or writer does not like,  it is now meaningless.

Actually, that is not quite true: it usually means the person making the claim is intellectually bereft of argument.

Back in the days, pre-internet, pre-Godwin’s Rule,  there was an informal rule amongst adjudicators in Auckland University’s Debating Society that any debater who compared opponents’ case to Nazi Germany/Hitler automatically lsot 10 points.

Is he a Berlusconi with nukes?  Maybe.

There is a clatter and a howl, a maelstrom of reaction to Trump’s election, and much of it seems to insist on only one overriding reason for his win.

It’s the sexism!

No, it’s the smug liberaliness!

It’s the poverty!

It’s the bloody media!

It’s that if Trump was a bad candidate, Hillary was worse!

It’s the FBI director!

It’s the Brexit!

It’s chemtrails!

The thing is, this US  election trashes so many previous presumptions  about what is supposed to work in politics, and is driven by many many factors –  probably almost all of the above (and I might even be willing to considering chemtrails before dismissing them completely out of hand)  that any instant wisdom doesn’t seem particularly wise.

Any one of the dozen or so scandals, gaffes, call them what you will, involving Donald Trump would have sunk any previous candidate, let alone all of those events together.

But they made him stronger.  Working out why  is going to take some time. Because it seems a candidate whose lack of almost any characteristic of human decency gathered momentum the more people saw of that side.

And really, we don’t really know what this guy is going to do because  it doesn’t seem as though he believed a lot of what he was saying himself.

I think we can only conclude two things for certain right now: one is his election upends so many previous presumptions about how politics works that a major re-think is needed.

The second, about Trump himself, is that he represents primarily an exaltation of power and celebrity that is highly unhealthy and dangerous in any democracy, let alone the world’s largest one.

This isn’t even about ‘left’ or ‘right’ – well, its not for me, anyway. I distrust untrammeled power, and even more, I distrust the worship of power, irrespective of who is wielding it.

I keep thinking of Ulysses’ great speech in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida

Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.

Finally, the death of Leonard Cohen. Not a huge fan, but so many folk whose insight and taste I respect are fans I have to pause and note the event.

A particularly good piece comes from my good friend David Cohen, who has a lovely appreciation on Radio New Zealand site here.

I was struck, when reading Aussie singer-songwriter Paul Kelly’s autobiography a few years back (reviewed here, btw) how much Kelly revered Cohen.

Kelly toured with Cohen, opening for the older singer, and although himself far too old for hero-worship sounds almost awestruck by Cohen’s approach.  and Kelly’s observations of the older singer, when opening for him on a tour.

Kelly marveled at Cohen’s attention to detail – attention paid not just for its own sake, but because it was an essential means for paying  respect to the people who came to see and hear him.

‘At the age of 74, at an age when some performers are merely phoning it in, he attended every sound check, which lasted usually between an hour in 90 minutes, and then backed it up each night with an intense three hour show.

Leonard’s performance was studied, gestural. …The devotion coming at him from the audience, the release of the pent-up hunger created by the years of absence, were matched, and more, by his devotion in turn to them. He served his audience sacramentally, given proper weight to his words and actions as he offered up his song prayers, everything in due order like stations of the cross. You know he meant it when he says, “Thank-you for keeping my songs alive”. He was paying everyone battle for, and respect.

I watched him and thought, that’s a way to be, that’s a way to act, there is a road to travel.

To walk in gravity and lightness, to be serious but not take yourself seriously, to pay attention, to know that you shall reap what you sow.’

I have added emphasis on that last sentence. It applies to us all, in any walk of life. It is precisely the opposite of a worship of power, or of any of the lazy and damaging abstractions which lead to abuse of our own strengths in our own daily lives.

It is an observation is founded in respect, mutual and deep, and an essential generosity of spirit.

Bob Dylan – the Nobel of Rhymney

Bob Dylan gets a Nobel. For literature, just in case you were thinking it’s for economics or anything.

Hmm.

I’m in the rather large camp which believes St Zimmy’s songs were best done by other people. I don’t like his singing much – his style, especially in his better-known songs from the ’60s, is very sneering, very off-putting.

And like others, I’m sure, I’ve heard too many bad buskers hooting ‘how does it FEEL???’ too many times not to feel a certain weariness.

I’ve only ever owned one Dylan album – Blood on the Tracks, which became the soundtrack for one of the numerous, not particularly happy, road trips I did around the North Island back in the ’80s.

It is, to be fair, pretty good, and ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ is one of the great ‘Track One, Side One’ songs of all time.

More recently, I downloaded a few of the mono mixes of some of his famous songs from the mid-60s.

Yeah, they’re good. But Dylan is a bit like the Beatles. We’ve been saturated in adulation for the “genius” of these “icons” for so long the colour and flavour has kind of leached out of them. It’s kind of difficult to tell if they’re really that good any more. Besides, I’m of an age group that grew up after they were already towering eminences, great cultural gods. The urge to lay about these icons with a hammer is never far away – or at least, to point out these Emperors might not have been naked but they did have many of the less personally admirable aspects of emperors down the ages.

And the Nobel? For literature? Dylan’s influence is huge but it’s musical rather than literary. It doesn’t feel right, somehow.

Dylan himself once said the band who did his songs best was Manfred Mann. The Dylan Disciples – of whom there are many- have always maintained this was one of the Bobsters’s great jokes.

Good one.

And finally: William Shatner does Mr Tamborine Man. As only Bill S & his singing hairpiece can.

Clever Basterds: another reason to be cheerful

Ian Dury’s birthday.
Early 80s, there were two albums of Ian Dury and the Blockheads  which got thrashed to death and beyond, at least in the circles in which I was, somewhat unstealdy, inclined to move. 

One was New Boots and Panties, the debut album which came out – from memory – sometime in 1978. 

The other was Juke Box Dury, a compilation album of singles, both A and B sides. This was one of those B-sides.  

Dury and the Blockheads were one of the last bands to regularly produce singles which did not appear on albums. This was something done by British bands, going back to the sixties, but most dropped the practice in the ’70s, especially if they had ambitions to conquer the US market. This did not mean singles were not taken from albums, it is just that a number of singles woudl be released in between albums. 

By the early ’80s only a few bands were doing this on any regular basis- the Jam, Dury, and….um. The Beat, I think, did a couple of non-album singles (the fantastic ‘Too Nice To Talk To’ was one). The Pretenders intially did ‘Talk of the Town’ as an inter-album single but it later appeared on their second album. DExys Midnight Runners initially did ‘Plan B’ as an inter-album, one off single, though they did re-record it (with a very different lineup) for their second album ‘Too Rye Aye’.

NOTE: These are all fantastic numbers.

I think Madness also did some inter-album singles but I can’t recall what they were right now.

Anyway, Dury. Brilliant lyricist, by all accounts a pain in the arse to deal with. The Blockheads were an amazing band – their rhygthm section was one of the bestand tightest   around and when they were first heard in the US people could not beleive they were (mostly) white. 

Dury had a hard life – handcapped from youth due to polio, he used to lean on the mic stand for support (Johnny Rotton/Lydon, of the Sex Pistols, saw him doing this and copied the stance even though Lydon’s sole handicap, appart from his attitude, was his teeth).

He was put in a home at one point, and abused ( he sang about it in ‘Dance of the Crackpots’, which starts as a joke and then turns into something much more painful and harrowing).

And he couldn’t keep his trousers on. He seems to have been sexual catnip, to the point of self destruction: there’s a tale in a biogrpahy of him where the bnad was taken to dinner by the head of their record company’s entire European division. They were poised to make it big on the conttinent, but Dury copped off witht he wife of the head of the record company during the dinner. And that was the end of their chances in Europe.

Dury also wrote plays, appeared in films, and was an all-round brilliant bloke. His lyrics are often hilarious and rarely not clever. But he tended, like a lot of birtlalin bods, to self-sabotage. 

‘Pay no attention if I crawl across the room/It’s just another full moon…’

The full moon’s still up there,
Like a great white balloon.
The owls are a-callin’,
And they’re singin’ my tune..

 

Ray Davies wrote a lot of songs either about, or referring to, Insomnia (and yes, I capitalize the word).

There is a reference to it in the Kinks’  first  big hit,  the famous You Really Got Me  (“you got me so I can’t sleep at night…”).

That song came out about  the time I was keeping my own parents awake by screaming a lot in the cot  (it was a hit about a month after I was born – yes kids, it was that long ago).

Over the Kinks career  there were plenty of other songs referring to sleep and sleeplessness ( even a demo,  I Go to Sleep,  resurfaced years later when Davies’ then-partner, Chrissie Hynde, recorded with her band The Pretenders).

Anyway at one point the Kinks did an entire album on the theme, Sleepwalker . It’s not one of their better known ones, and certainly a long way from their best, but it has some good numbers and this is one of ’em. 

 

 

 

Return of the Short Ginga Duchess…

Since Bowie-related stuff is still in the ether, since I’m taking a tea break, and since apparently today is Hug a Ginga Day….Here’s Lulu doing ‘The Man Who Sold the World’. 

I gather it was Bowie’s idea she cover the song – he plays saxophone on it and may have produced as well.

 It’s probably the best thing Lulu ever recorded – not so much Return of the Thin White Duke as Return of the Short Ginga Duchess- even if she seems a bit bewildered at times during this UK Top of the Pops clip (watch the eyes. There’s a few ‘WTF?’ moments). 

It’s a measure of Bowie’s brilliance he could pull off something as mainstream pop as this, and something like ‘Low’. Man, the guy had range.

I can remember this being a hit in New Zild – not sure when, sometime in the mid-70s. Can  recall hearing it on the radio at the summer place we used to stay. I thought she was singing about the man who stole the world, which was confusing: had a mental image of someone trying to hoist a globe onto his back.

Hippies

For Keith Richards’ birthday tomorrow. Honoured as one of the great bad asses of all time. Even those of us who, when it comes to bad-assery in our own lives, manage only an occasional miscreant mule-ishness, venerate Keef.

But at one point he was also a bit of a hippie. This was one of the songs he wrote for the ‘Stones. Even named his daughter after it, some years later.

Oh, and Marianne Faithful was gorgeous.

Gotta get away from the busy man’s iphones….

Musical trivia time!  The bass player on this – Herbie Flowers – has two other claims to fame. One is he played bass on Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and came up with one of the great bass hooks of all time.

Second claim is he wrote ‘Granddad’ for Clive Dunn. This was one of those novelty Christmas hits the Brits love so well   much  excessively.  It was a hit here too.

Loved both these songs when I was a kid. Now? I’m embarrassed about the Clive Dunn thing, but ‘Good Morning Freedom’ has aged better than it might have.

Off to the hills for a week. Good morning, freedom.

The Beatles – Hey Bulldog in the studio

http://youtube.com/v/UaRz-3DYV7c

Back in the late 60s the only time I remember seeing musical clips was when they were jammed in between programmes to fill a gap. The word ‘Interlude’ could come up. More often than not it was an orchestral version of ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose’ being played with a film of a steam engine. My brother and I used to call that ‘The Interlude Song’.

I remember seeing a musical clip at my aunt’s – this would have been mid- 1968, and I was four – and being told it was The Beatles. I could never recall the song – the only thing I remembered was one of them, at the end,  picking up his jacket and throwing it over his shoulder.

Discovered recently, through Youtube, the song was ‘Lady Madonna’.

This clip is from the film which went with that, but – obviously – the song is not ‘Lady Madonna’

The tale goes they wanted to film the Beatles in the studio to go with the ‘Lady Madonna’ single and they figured, since they were in the studio anyway, they’d record a song.

The Lady Madonna clip has them singing and playing and at no point do the words and singing and playing match the tune, but that was pretty common in those days anyway.

A few years ago someone went back to the film, unscrambled it and put this together.

The song is one of Lennon’s nonsense numbers, in the same vein as the more well known ‘I Am the Walrus’. I like it for a lot of reasons, one of the big ones being it hasn’t been played so often any magic has long since departed, which is how I feel about most of the Beatles output.

It’s also got some great playing. The bass in particular, along with that nagging rhythm guitar riff. Ringo’s drums are heavier on the tomtoms than usual, and the lead guitar break is a great little slash and burner.