Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Optimists of Nine Elms

In writer/director Anthony Simmons' words, Peter Sellers gives "a great gut performance" in the 1973 film The Optimists of Nine Elms as the variety performer, reduced to busking, who is befriended - and ultimately redeemed - by two children.

It's a role which fits him like a glove, and it's surprising that it's taken so long for this film to be issued on DVD (and still not in its natural homeplace of Region 2), and that it's not one of the pieces automatically cited as an example of Sellers at his best.

That could be because of the associated negative connotations of a "children's film", which it could be argued this is. It certainly has lots of music (Lionel Bart and George Martin), and it mostly favours the children's point of view; indeed, the original, rather less complex, novel is told by one of the kids. But it's to Simmons' and Sellers' credit that there is very little in the film which is sentimental (meaning unearnt emotion), so the music could be seen as a way of sugaring the pill.

Don't by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

Just found this clip, below, on youtube of Dave Gilmour's beautiful performance of Don't, the song associated with Elvis Presley, from the 2001 Leiber and Stoller concert at Hammersmith Apollo. Read my review of the show here.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Jerry Leiber

Very sad to read that Jerry Leiber (above, left) is dead.

Click here for a link to a 2001 interview with Leiber and Stoller at the NFT to promote a documentary about their work. I remember it well because I was present and even got to ask a question. It covers most bases and is well worth reading in full. Below are some brief extracts.

But if you're in a hurry, what with your busy schedule and lack of any sense of musical history, the gist is: they put in the hours and we all benefited.
Q: How unfinished was the song Stand By Me when Ben E King brought it to you, did you make the arrangement on the spot?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Gnome Thoughts ... 37 (Over the Wall We Go)

There hasn't been much to add to this series of posts about Bowie's early influences lately, but idly looking through post 16, about the original version of My Old Man's a Dustman (you can read it here), I suddenly remembered where I'd heard the term "nana" used on a record before, namely a composition by one ... David Bowie.

Stands back in amazement, as Eddie Large (ne McGinnis) used to say. Actually, the version I heard, on BBC Radio 2's Sounds of the Sixties a while back, was actually by Oscar (aka Paul Nicholas), embedded below, alongside what sounds like a pretty rough demo version by Bowie.

The arrangement on the Paul Nicholas recording is brassy and bouncy, calling to mind Quincy Jones's This is the Self Preservation Society, though I'm not sure, and can't be bothered to check, which came first..

While it would be a cheap gag to describe the "Oscar" version as winning, there is one detail which I can't resist pointing out as further evidence of what can only be termed intertwangularity in these posts. There is a direct  quotation from Spike Milligan's Wormwood Scrubs Tango produced by George Martin: we hear a prisoner who is desperately attempting to file the bars exhort the musicians, who've suddenly stopped: "Keep it up lads - another chorus and we're out."

Trouble is, that explicit invitation to compare this song with the material Martin produced for Peter Sellers or Spike Milligan in the fifites does show up the limitations of Master Jones's composition.