Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's a Tenth Avenue freeze out (The Boss)

Please excuse the temporary absence of posts this week. I am in transit back to New Zealand. Normal transmission should resume shortly!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I impure thee, come explore me (Patti Smith)

Dear Patti

I am coming to the end of Just Kids and feel the need to write.

It sometimes feels like I've loved you forever and it sometimes feels like I only started to live differently the day Linley Wood told me about a great record called Horses. I was 19. We were standing outside the entrance of the library at Auckland University, half way through our first year at Auckland University (1977). She knew I loved music and she told me about a record she loved by Patti Smith. You had tentacles and you reeled me in.

The Auckland University Bookshop had copies of Seventh Heaven and Witt and The Night (with Tom Verlaine) and Ha! Ha! Houdini and Babel. I'm not sure how some pretty obscure poetry books by a pretty obscure New York poet found their way to far away New Zealand but I loved each one.

Then it was singles and Piss Factory and suddenly it's Easter and my American poetry lecturer blows our minds with John Giorno's Suicide Sutra, Robert Mapplethorpe and Babelogue. Then I find myself going to shows with Dallas Smith, then I come out of the university years and I'm married to Jacky Smith, ain't it strange?

Patti, I loved reading Just Kids. I didn't want it to end because I knew it would end as it began and I wanted your liquid prose to keep me adrift.

Simply - thank you.

Sincerely - WNP

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Out in the great wide open, a rebel without a clue (Tom Petty)

Following on from the Baxter Dury post, I thought I'd focus on some more famous parent/progeny musical relationships.

Rock and Roll is such a new musical form that the idea of sons and daughters following in the musical footsteps of their famous parents is still pretty new. I can't think of any grandparent/ grandchildren relationships for that reason (they obviously exist in older music genres like folk, jazz and blues).

It seems to me that it is largely a poisoned chalice being born to a gifted and/or famous musician. How the hell does anyone follow on from a Beatle, or a Dylan?

Impossible I would have thought, but it hasn't stopped Jakob Dylan trying to carve out a career, and nor should it when you think about it, but what must it feel like following in those footsteps?

Some famous rock and roll progeny:
  • John Lennon - Julian Lennon, Sean Lennon
  • Paul McCartney - James McCartney
  • George Harrison - Dhani Harrison
  • Ringo Starr - Zak Starkey
  • John Bonham - Jason Bonham
  • Frank Zappa - Ahmet, Moon and Dweezil Zappa
  • Loudon Wainwright III - Rufus and Martha Wainwright
  • Tim Buckley - Jeff Buckley
  • Jim Croce - A J Croce
  • Ozzy Osbourne - Kelly Osbourne
  • Eddie Van Halen - Wolfgang Van Halen
  • Steven Stills - Chris and Jennifer Stills

None of these sprogs have outshone their famous parents. How can they?

Zak Starkey is a terrific drummer. He's played with The Who and Oasis but he'll never outshine the gear fab Ringo.

A J Croce went for a different genre than his singer songwriter dad but with limited success.

Dweezil has gone for a Zappa tribute show - playing his dad's songs and keeping the legacy alive with quite a lot of success but he'll never actually write a body of work that comes close to Frank.

The Wainwrights, Stills, Dylan and Buckley have all emerged as chips off the old blocks (tragically Jeff, like Tim, also died far too young). They have managed to create niche careers in music - albeit ones that always hover in the shadows of their more illustrious parents.

Others like Jason Bonham, Wolfie Van Halen, Moon Zappa and James McCartney have gone for a more musically obscure role in their fathers' bands which seems to be one way of getting around the problem. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

That leaves the Lennon blood brothers. Problem.

I feel for them both. I really do.

Imagine writing a lyric, composing a pop song, knowing in your heart of hearts that it will immediately be compared to Beatle John; that it won't measure up - how can it?; wondering how much their name and how much their talent secured the record deal and lead people like me to buy their product; trying to live up to an ideal image of the greatest songwriter of the rock era (I'm biased).

Like I said: Problem. But I wish them well. And I'll continue buying their albums (Julian has a new one out soon apparently http://www.list.co.uk/article/37431-julian-lennon-releasing-new-solo-album/) as long as albums exist.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

She's early for no reason (Baxter Dury)

I heard a great little pop song this morning on a sampler attached to the latest Mojo Magazine.

The voice was very familiar and the backing was stonking. A long lost Ian Dury and The Blockheads song? 

When I got to school I wasn't that surprised to see it was Baxter Dury who was responsible for my upbeat mood.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In a whirl, see a girl with a smile in her eyes (Manfred Mann)

The 1966 Yardbirds (Keith Relf is
at the back second from right) 
The previous post reminded me of another great pop single that had a couple of killer versions that I could never tell apart.

Ha! Ha! Said The Clown was a hit for Manfred Mann in 1966 (reached #4 in the UK hit parade).

And then there's The Yardbirds version, except it's not The Yardbirds from 1967. Confused?

For some bizarre reason lead singer Keith Relf and a bunch of session musicians (but billed as The Yardbirds) decided to record a copy cat version of the song a year later! I wonder why? It's certainly not their style of blues drenched guitar wig out. It's quite a stoopid song really - all about a girl the singer likes but it turns out she's married to the clown (which is presumably why he's laughing).

Whatever the reason it wasn't as successful as the Manfred Mann one but it is the version I have on a single.

I do have a soft spot for Manfred Mann, however, because Klaus Voormann replaced Jack Bruce on bass. Yeh Klaus!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

You are all the woman I need and baby you know it (take yer pick from the groups below)

Bend Me, Shape me is one of those songs that was covered by various sixties groups and it's hard to figure out its exact derivation, mainly because the versions sound very similar to each other.

It was written by a couple of Americans and originally appeared on an album by an obscure American group called The Outsiders in 1966. It's a great version too.

When it was the big hit in America it was done by The American Breed; the version doing the rotation in the googoomobile though is the British version by The Amen Corner.

Not confused yet, I hope. I've included a local version too to complete the bamboozlement.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Why do I give valuable time to people who don't care if I live or die? (The Smiths)

I've never got Leonard Cohen.

I've said before that hating a piece of music is stoopid but, by Jiminy, there are some groups/singers that get me jolly close to that point.
Obviously this is entering very subjective territory.

Category 1 - singer offends my ears:  Zager and Evans' In the Year 2525; Bjork (everything), Portishead (everything); Geddy Lee from Rush; Opera (everything); the bloke from Pavlov's Dog; Leonard Cohen.

Category 2 - the song's boring: Zager and Evans' In the Year 2525; George Bakers' Little Green Bag; all techno/trance club drone music with a mechanical durff durff beat; Leonard Cohen (yep - all of it).

Category 3 - the subject matter is offensive: a lot of Heavy/Hard Rock posturing can be quite cringe inducing and that goes for a lot of Rap as well; all of the Satan worshipping sub-genre of Metal turns me right off; any misogynist song (Jagger? Guilty as charged, and a lot of rap bilge); self aggrandisements (my name is Prince? Yawn).

Category 4 - sheer unrelentingly depressing music: Leonard Cohen.

I don't mind getting into a melancholy state of mind from time to time but I draw the line at infinite sadness. And that seems to sum up Leonard's oeuvre.

Various friends and colleagues have tried to get me to enter Cohenville over the years and I did watch a lot of the Live In London DVD from a few years back (Lenny in tie 'n' fedora down t'O2 Arena) but I got bored after a few songs and needed a dose of Rammstein to cleanse the palette.

He's a weird one really - a Canadian misery guts poet who fell into being a song and dance man.

Even his poetry fails to move me.

In Suzanne, frinstance, we have the enigmatic refrain - you've touched her perfect body with your mind. What the hell does that mean? And then Jesus appears in the song! Whaaaat?????

There's nothing in there for me to grab onto and so I drift off. Have a go...

Yeah I know - he's world famous, he's sold heaps of records, he gets the ladies, he's on the cover of Mojo... but (picture me shaking my head from side to side with a quizzical expression) I just don't get it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A trail of ruby red and diamond white hits her like a sunrise (John Mayer)

I compiled some.CDs for pootling in the car recently and an automatic inclusion was my favourite John Mayer song - Neon.

I've mentioned my admiration for his talents before - stunning guitarist, unbelievably soulful voice and he writes some great tunes. Yes - his on stage patter can be embarrassing at times but I forgive him because his musical talent is undeniable.

Neon (written with Clay Cook) is, lyrically at least, a pretty simple song built around a central simile - that a girl he (maybe) knows is 'always buzzing just like neon'. He seems to want her to be more of a constant in his life but she's not like that - she comes and goes like flashing neon. As a result a distance grows in the relationship and he has to let her go.

Like Dylan in If You See Her Say Hello, Mayer addresses the subject in the third person 

[I (Dylan) always have respected her for doing what she did and getting free. Oh, whatever makes her happy I won't stand in the way]

and he (Mayer) also doesn't want to (or can't) restrain her

[I can't be her angel now, you know it's not my place to hold her down].

A bit ironic given Mayer's tabloid reputation with girls methinks but I like the sentiment and the distanced approach that he adopts here.

Marry all this to a great tune and some brilliant solo guitar and you have a standout track from the sublime John Mayer.

It's one of his earliest songs and appears on his first album (Room For Squares) in a full band version. He obviously recognises it as a great song because it has appeared a number of times on his live albums and he still performs it regularly.

I really want to play this song - he uses his thumb and index finger to play/pluck the chords which sounds simple but, having watched a youtube instruction video it is pretty complicated. Extremely so for a novice like me.

I need to learn more chords and continue to practice, but my goal is to one day play this song and make it sound close to the original!

In the meantime I'll have this on high rotate in the googoomobile.