This afternoon I had to blow up the tyre on our wheelbarrow. As I struggled to put the sodding pump onto the inaccessible fucking valve I felt a sharp stab of nostalgia, nay a veritable Proustian rush, as I recalled this thread, surely a contender for what in Afterword post terms is known, I believe, in these acronym-filled times, as the GOAT.
I know THAT song of course. But otherwise Peter Frampton and his music have pretty much passed me by. However there is a lovely interview with him in this month’s Mojo. He comes across as a thoroughly decent cove.Not falsely modest, but grateful for the success he’s had. Aware but not bitter about the times he’s been ripped off. Uniformly generous about those he’s encountered along the way; Steve Marriott, David Bowie, his larger than life former manager Dee Anthony. And now philosophical and positive about the incurable and rare degenerative disease he has. It’s lovely and heartwarming stuff.
The one real downer is that the interview was done to promote a tour he should be doing right now, which was likely to be his last ever given his condition. I really hope he gets a chance to do it later this year instead, or in 2021 before it’s too late.
This may be of interest to those of a folky bent. The excellent Folk on Foot podcast is streaming a virtual festival on Easter Monday with artist like Bella Hardy, Julie Fowlis, Jon Boden, Martin Simpson and Karine Polwart all performing thirty minute sets form their front rooms. It’s a great line up. They are fundraising as well, and splitting the proceeds equally between the artists and the charity Help Musicians UK.
These performers have all been on the podcast and have been uniformly excellent, so it should be a good one
Following on from the recommendations already posted for online gigs from Elvis Costello and Neil Young, Richard Thompson is one of this growing list of artists doing free live stream gigs – this Sunday at 9pm.
Laura Marling is doing live guitar lessons on Instagram.
The Berlin Philharmonic has made its archive of live streams available for free.
The National Theatre is doing weekly streams on Thursday evenings of past productions.
Any other good ones that might be of interest to discerning Afterworders?
This appears to be all over Facebook, but why not do it here. An A to Z of a live act you’ve seen, with one for each letter. Strictly surname or band name only.
Here’s mine. Not having seen XTC or X-ray Specs, I have one letter missing:
Joan Armatrading Bjork Civil Wars Bob Dylan Eurythmics Fairport Convention Rory Gallagher Horslips Iron and Wine Tom Jones BB King Daniel Lanois Laura Marling Randy Newman Ozark Mountain Daredevils Gretchen Peters Q Tips Josh Rouse Simple Minds The Temptations UB40 Villagers Papa Wemba Yes Zutons
It’s a complete shitstorm. Our health, our jobs and livelihood, our way of life – it’s all being blown to the winds, at least temporarily and maybe longer and more terminally. And the sheer uncertainty of what’s coming next is exhausting.
In times like this, music can help. I put an old playlist of favourite songs on shuffle today, and this came up first. It’s brilliant, of course. Paul Simon’s bittersweet melody and typically economic lyrics; his beautifully phrased vocals; the arrangement, Michael Brecker’s sax break.
And, yes it worked. I felt just a little bit buoyed up. Partly because it’s a comfort blanket – I’ve known and loved this song and the album it’s from since it came out and it’s seen me through some good times. And partly because all the time there are people on the planet who have the creativity and skill to make something like this, you have to think we still have a fighting chance.
If you’d like to post some examples of music that you turn to at times like this, please be my guest. God knows, we’re going to need all the help we can get.
Lyric Theatre, Belfast
I’ve seen Van Morrison in concert several times. But I’ve always wanted to see him perform in his – and my – city of birth, Belfast. So when my Christmas present from Mrs BB was a ticket for this concert, you can imagine my excitement. Not only was it a hometown gig, it was in the intimate surroundings of the 400 seat Lyric Theatre. And it was 6 rows back, dead centre. The ticket price was eye watering, but, hey, it was a fundraiser for the esteemed and historic Belfast Linen Hall Library, so it was all in a good cause.
And so it was I found myself as part of an audience buzzing with anticipation last night, expecting a decent gig (Van never delivers less than that these days) and hoping for a special one. The evening began with the Director of the Library thanking us for our contribution, and giving a heartfelt encomium to Van, ‘a true Bard of Belfast’, for doing this concert for them, and for accepting an honorary membership of the library. He finished and was off stage a few seconds before the advertised start time, and true » Continue Reading.
Spotify has today informed me that my top ten artists of the last decade are
Van Morrison; Bob Dylan; Paul McCartney; Bruce Springsteen; Eric Clapton; The Rolling Stones; John Eliot Gardner; Joni Mitchell; Laura Marling; Emmylou Harris.
Christ, I’m a lost cause aren’t I? Anyone got anything vaguely more 21st Century?
What does it sound like?:
Van Morrison may be 74 but there is little sign of his slowing up. This is his fifth album in just over three years and his third this decade of all new material. There is a mellow laid back feel to this one – reminiscent at times of ‘Magic Time’. The arrangements are simple understated guitar, piano, organ, drums and bass. Morrison’s voice is in remarkable shape. He doesn’t extend it much – the days of ‘Listen to the Lion’ or ‘Summertime in England’ are perhaps behind him – but that control and expressiveness are still there, particularly on tracks like ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ and ‘You Don’t Understand’.
Some of Van’s old themes are here, present and correct, belying the mellowness of the sound. ‘Fame Will Eat the Soul’ (with vocal guesting by Righteous Brother Bill Medley) revisits his obviously genuine horror at the corrosive power of celebrity. ‘You Don’t Understand’ is the darkest song on the album, a slow brooding blues which is Van at his most misanthropic and paranoid. ‘Nobody in Charge’ is an enjoyable pop at politicians ‘waffling endlessly’ and ‘getting paid too much for screwing up’. Which is » Continue Reading.
Normally you have to read very carefully between the lines of an obituary to get any sense that the subject may have been anything less than a combination of William Shakespeare, Mahatma Gandhi and Judi Dench. But Richard Evans’ obit of historian Norman Stone in The Guardian today is as joyous a hatchet job as Max Hastings piece on (the still with us) Boris Johnson already posted here on the blog. Do read; it gets better and better as it goes on.
What does it sound like?:
I guess most people know the setup. In 1963 ITV took 14 seven year old English children from various backgrounds and decided to follow their lives, returning to them every seven years and see how they were getting on. In doing so they would explore the extent to which class and background influenced how they turned out, and the extent to which our DNA means the person we are is already there in the seven year old child.
Remarkably, 56 years later, eleven of them are still taking part – two declined this time, and one sadly died five years ago.I don’t know if I have a particular empathy with the participants because I am just one year younger than them. The life changes they’ve been through I’ve been through at the same time, not to mention the hairstyles, the fashions, and the widening girths. But I find it immensely moving televison.
The answer to the influence of background and DNA, is, of course, ‘quite a lot’ in both cases. But the programme also quietly subverts lazy assumptions, not least in the way many of the working class kids have turned out – the » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Until a couple of weeks ago I had never near of Mike Hart. But I was listening to an old Mojo free CD which had been gathering dust unplayed, featuring music from Liverpool artists, and a track by him just leaped out of the speakers. I checked out the album it’s from, and I can’t stop listening to it.
Mike Hart was part of Liverpool music through the 60s. He initially fronted Merseybeat band The Roadrunners, and was then part of Adrian Henri’s music and poetry group The Liverpool Scene. He was signed by John Peel’s Dandelion label and released two solo albums, of which Mike Hart Bleeds was the first, coming out in 1969. Sadly, neither did anything, and Hart, who seems to have had a massive self destruct button, descended into alcoholism. He died in an Edinburgh nursing home three years ago.
Mike Hart bleeds is an classic archetypal 1960s Folk/pop singer-songwriter record; it reminds me of near contemporaries like Ralph McTell, Harvey Andrews or Rab Noakes. For better or worse, Dylan’s shadow inevitably looms large, particularly the Dylan of Bringing it Back Home. Disbelief Blues is either an outrageous rip-off or » Continue Reading.
Someone called Bill Wyman has ranked all the Beatles songs; see the link at the bottom of this post. Turns out its not THAT Bill Wyman, but an American critic who shares the name. He clearly likes a list – is he perchance an Afterworder?
Some right old nonsense in here, it has to be said. I think we can all agree that Good Day Sunshine isn’t the very worst track recorded by The Beatles. I doubt even he thinks that.
For the last ten years @Hannah has popped up in late December to ask us all how the year has been for each of us. Sadly she hasn’t been around the site for a while so I guess she won’t be asking it this year. So allow me to step in and ask for your reflections on 2018. And what are your hopes and plans for 2019?
And if Hannah and some of the others who have been away happen to pick this up, it would be lovely to hear from you – your voices here are missed.
What a shambles. A deal to leave the EU no one likes. A shower of utter shits who willed this thing all bailing out and looking after their own careers. A PM who inherited (her choice, so sympathy can only go so far) an impossible task and who at least is sticking to it, and showing a sense of duty, but clearly can’t deliver. An opposition who is adopting a tactic to keep shtum and let the Tories destroy themselves which makes electoral sense but is hardly an honourable position.
So where now? If the deal gets overturned in Parliament as it surely will, will May hang around and take the view that given Parliament cannot sort this, the only alternative is a second referendum? Is this all a masterly long game in which she anticipates that second vote leads to a vote to Remain, and the whole thiing goes away?
Whatever happens surely history is going to judge Johnson, Gove, Rees Mogg et al very very harshly. I can thing of few examples of such utterly venal self interest in British politics.
Ed Vulliamy has written today in The Observer in praise of Taylor Swift for expressing explicit political views in favour of the Democrats, of LGBTQ rights, and against what she describes as ‘the systemic racism we still see in this country’. These might seem unexceptionable views to express, but Vulliamy’s points are that, firstly, she has a lot to lose with her middle America appeal, and, in particular, that such an explicit political stance from a pop star is pretty rare these days, compared to the late sixties/early seventies.
He has a go at a number of stars for their political silence. I don’t agree with that – I have never felt that musicians should be obliged to speak up politically, any more than they should be beaten up when they do so. But he has a point, doesn’t he, about the relative political tameness of major pop stars these days? Or are there in fact plenty of current examples out there? My sense is that there is plenty of political songwriting going on, but that its a different kind of politics – of gender, identity and behaviour rather than geo-political protest. Recent examples welcome.
‘Hey Jude’ was released in the U.K on 30 August 1968. The link below the video is to a nice Guardian piece on the song pointing out that it is probably now The Beatles’ most popular song (though I’d have thought ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Let It Be’ must run it close). All McCartney songs – Lennon’s most popular is surely ‘Imagine’.
I can vouch for its enduring global appeal – at an outdoor concert I was at in Shanghai recently, featuring orchestral Beatles numbers, it was ‘Hey Jude’ and those na-an-nas that had the locals singing and swaying along. Hey Jude Hitmakers, indeed.
People tend to be a bit sniffy about ‘Hey Jude’ but I’ve never understood why – it worked when it came out and it still works now half a century later. Long may it run.
What does it sound like?:
Olivia Chaney’s first album, ‘The Longest River’, released in 2015, was a work of huge promise. Since then she’s worked with The Decemberists on the Offa Rex album, and the Kronos Quartet on their Folk Songs record. Now, her second solo record, ‘Shelter’ sees her spreading her wings as a songwriter, and more than fulfilling that promise. Here is a collection of songs bound together by echoing themes and narratives, in a production by Thomas Bartlett which seems simple but in fact in its simplicity and lack of adornment is utterly compelling.
In the title track Chaney pleads plaintively for the listener to persist in giving her shelter from her demons, over a simple acoustic guitar backing. In Dragonfly, the sight of a dragonfly in New York takes her back to memories of her childhood, this time over piano and strings. The loveliness of the chorus belies the hints of darkness in a lyric thinking back to her mother ‘I look back to see that someone stole her time’. ‘A Tree in Brooklyn’ opens with the arresting matter of fact line ‘Father’s a drinker, rolls down the stairs’, and tells of a close » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
The album opens with a simple strummed mandolin introduction; and then the warmest sweetest vocal Ry Cooder has given in years as he launches into the Pilgrim Travellers 1950s gospel song ‘Straight Street’. Son Joachim comes in with some gentle drums, and, glory be, there’s the great team of Bobby King and Terry Evans (who has sadly died since this recording) together with Arnold McCuller with perfectly weighted backing vocals. It’s Cooder, it’s King and Evans, it’s a revived old American classic you’ve never heard before, and all’s right with the world.
The album is full of stuff like this. Cooder established himself in the early 70s as a one man curator and rediscover of American folk, blues and country song, and here he is doing it all over again.
There are two Blind Willie Johnson songs from the 20s and 30s. ‘Everybody Ought to Treat a Stranger Right’ Has a wonderfully funky groove with superlative slide guitar, and backing vocals perfectly locked in. ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ is funeral in pace; it’s dark and full of foreboding and fear, and as powerful a version as I’ve ever heard.
The title track and Rosetta » Continue Reading.
There’s been a bit of a stir over this year’s Pulitzer Prize for music. It’s almost always awarded to a classical composition – winners have included Samuel Barber, John Adams, Steve Reich and Elliott Carter, with the occasional concession to jazz artists like Ornette Coleman.
But this year the panel gave it to Kendrick Lamar for DAMN. He’s not only the first hip-hop winner, he’s the first winner in anything that might be defined as ‘pop’. Not before time some say: a sign of the decline of western civilisation say others (particularly following Bob Dylan being given the Nobel Prize). Personally I’m just amazed that he’s the first. And looking at the winners I see a lot of music which is and probabaly always will be largely unknown and a sense that most contemporary classical music is pretty much irrelevant.
Here’s a New York Times article discussing what this all means (link is below the video).
I have two tickets for Courtney Marie Andrews at Gorilla Manchester on 22 April which I can’t use now (am going to the Liverpool gig instead). Anyone like them? They’re £14.70 each but happy to accept, say, £15 for the two, so they get used. PM me if interested
So it’s Saturday night, Spurs are in the FA Cup semis, Ireland have won the triple crown, there’s a paella cooking up nicelly on the stove, bottle of French red opened and all is well with the world. The soundtrack tonight – Vans really very good last album of new songs Keep Me Singing.
When it comes to Bob Dylan, I’m a completist. I’ve got all the official albums, and whenever he releases a new one, however awful it is, I know I’ll be parting with my money. Same with Van Morrison. I’ve been invested in his records for so long it’s too late to stop now.
Of course compared to many here I’m a complete lightweight. I’ve never bothered with bootlegs, and even with the Official Bootleg series I’ve restricted myself to the 2CD sets rather than the big shiny box sets. But still, that collection from ‘Bob Dylan’ to ‘Trouble No More’continues to give me a lot of pleasure.
Except there’s been a big Christmas shaped hole in the middle of it. For some reason I’ve never been able to bring myself to buy ‘Christmas in the Heart’. Until today. I finally cracked in HMV today – at £3.99 it would have been rude not to. I listened on the drive home from work. And what a gloriously funny, barmy, joyous record it is. When I wasn’t singing along at the top of my voice (even less tunefully than Bob it has to be said) I was grinning from ear to ear. » Continue Reading.
Anyone read the winner or any of the rest of the shortlist? Anyone care?
I used to religiously read the shortlist and discovered many fantastic writers and novels (and some duds) as a result. But the balance of good v bad seemed to shift in more recent years and I lost interest. Picked up the thread again last year and read five of the six, but ye gods….
This year’s list hasn’t interested me in the least to date, with the one exception, as it happens, of the winner, Lincoln in the Bardo which I read a review of when it first came out and thought it sounded interesting. Will give that a go at some point but not sure about the rest of them. And meantime I cannot imagine that any of them are better than Sebastian Barry’s unbelievably great ‘Days Without End’ which unaccountably didn’t even make the list.
Thoughts from the Afterword’s literary critics?
It’s early days but I’m really enjoying Neil Finn’s new record Out of Silence, as I did his last, very different, album Dizzy Heights. It was recorded in various sessions put out live on Facebook (the films are all online) but the record stands up on its own beyond the notion of that particular experiment . It’s darker and more sombre than much of his best known output, both in lyrics and in the largely piano and orchestral arrangements. Maybe that’s a function of age – he’s 60 next year – maybe just the subject matter he has taken on, including the Bataclan murders in Terrorise Me. But it’s beautiful in a largely minor key, understated way.
I’ve dipped in and out of Crowded House and Finn brothers’ solo material. But the more I listen the more I think that there are very few songwriters since the 60s who can match his unerring ear and ability to write wonderful melodies. The comparison with Paul McCartney has been made so many times it’s become a cliche, but you can see why. He shares with McCartney and a few others like Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach, Carole King, an apparently effortless ability to » Continue Reading.