Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Gnome Thoughts ... 39 (Liltin' Hilton or Wherefore to Bradford?)

I thought this blog's series of posts about the early David Bowie, entitled Gnome Thoughts, had come to a natural end but today I heard Ronnie Hilton's version of The Laughing Gnome, recorded in 1967, for the first time.

The youtube uploader describes it as "pretty dreadful", which seems monstrously unfair. True, it may lack the propulsive beat of Bowie's original but on its own terms, considered as a novelty song along the lines of his earlier A Windmill in Old Amsterdam, it's perfectly serviceable. Behave, as Paul McCartney might say.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

My Old Man's a Fireman/Soldier/Dustman (strike out whichever is not applicable)

Some time ago I looked into the origins of My Old Man's a Dustman, the 1960 song by Lonnie Donegan which helped broaden his appeal.

I didn't look hard enough.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Dick Lester's It's Trad, Dad! on Talking Pictures TV, 5th July

For UK readers, the happy news that Dick Lester's It's Trad, Dad! is to get a rare television airing on Thursday the 5th of July at 6.05pm on Talking Pictures TV. Made before A Hard Day's Night, it fizzes with the same kind of inventiveness and fun, and can be seen as a kind of dry run for the later film, as Lester plays around -  a more appropriate verb than "experiments" - with different ways of presenting pop and jazz performances.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Reposted Notes From Nowhere Boy

Having written recently about Michael Hill, author of a memoir about the young John Lennon, this seems a good time to repost my earlier piece about the film Nowhere Boy.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

New musical about Deborah Chessler and the Orioles


If you happen to be within reach of West Chester, Pennsylvania, a new musical about the Orioles and Deborah Chessler, entitled Soul Harmony, is running at Uptown Knauer Performing Arts Center until July 1st. As the show's publicity notes, after the success of Jersey Boys and Million Dollar Quartet, maybe now could be the moment for a doo wop musical; I certainly hope so. Chessler is undoubtedly worth the attention as she wrote It's Too Soon to Know, which started off the doo wop boom in 1948.

Soul Harmony was workshopped in 2015 but it was a 1993 article in Rolling Stone by Greil Marcus which sparked off the idea, as cowriter Alan Berg recently told journalist Denny Dryoff:

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

But I do know something about the record labels ... (Michael Hill and John Lennon)

If you aren't already familiar with the longrunning Something About the Beatles podcast, it can be heartily recommended - always assuming that you are the kind of person likely to be drawn to a regular programme about that much-discussed group.

One of its cofounders, Richard Buskin, left the show a few months ago, and I miss the give-and-take between him and Robert Rodriguez, now presenting solo, which was a considerable part of the podcast's appeal: the effect was of an occasionally spikey conversation between two friends, each acutely aware of the other's predilections and never above some affectionate mockery.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

How George Benson Was Banjoaxed By Bird

Such is the magic of onlinery that the above photograph, tweeted last night by Kliph Nesteroff, swiftly led to an explanation of a piece of musical jargon which had long puzzled me in Johnny Keyes' memoir Du-Wop. It's a good read, as described here and here, and is one of the few books that I know of which contains a detailed first hand account by a doo wop group member of the experience of recording and performing.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Inez Andrews

Discovering that this great 1965 gospel record by Inez Andrews and the Andrewettes is, at long last, on youtube has prompted memories of when I first heard it - on the double album Black Gospel, released in the UK in 1985 to coincide with the book of the same name by Viv Broughton, and presumably compiled by him.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Come to the Sabbat or Crossroads in My Life

I can pinpoint the moment I succumbed - at least, I think I can.

When I call the details to mind they seem fantastical: a young couple atop a scooter in various shades of white and gray - the overall fuzzy picture, I mean - are haring off to attend, or more likely prevent, some sort of Satanic ceremony. And as they drive off the bottom right of the screen and the already familiar theme starts to swell, something changes in me.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Stand By Me - the short(ish) read

Knowing of my regard for Ben E King's song Stand By Me, a friend emailed to share his unease that it had been "so casually appropriated for such a trivial event" as occurred last Saturday. He assumed I'd share his pain but, as it happens, I didn't. Not that I felt particularly moved by what seemed a sedate and streamlined rendering of the soul classic, although its inclusion in a royal wedding is certainly noteworthy as an illustration of just how much the song has become part of mainstream culture, adaptable to any circumstance. It has survived being a film theme, being used to peddle jeans, and it's still around, unaffected, uncheapened, bigger than any of the uses to which it has been put.