Sunday, 27 October 2013

Lou Reed



 I have just heard that Lou Reed has died so I am reposting this piece from 2012.

The Word - a magazine I ought to have read more often than I did - is shortly to be no more; its final edition is in UK shops just now.

Others will be better placed to eulogise; I only mention it because skimming through its last hurrah reminded me of an early post on this blog, and a matter which has been occupying me on and off for some time, namely the content of Lou Reed's record collection, stolen in the sixties.

In an interview with John Medd in the final edition of The Word he mentions a few artists presumably among those purloined, and it's gratifying to see that he liked "anything by the Flamingos" and the Diablos' The Wind, a near neighbour of Flamingos recordings at their ethereal best:

Reuben, Reuben (1983 film with Tom Conti)


Have just watched Reuben, Reuben for the second time - with a gap of about thirty years in between. The first time was, if memory serves, at the former Glasgow Odeon, now gone or translated, the second time was last night, with the film shrunk to the dimensions of my fairly small telly screen.

Is it a good film? Not sure, although I didn't stop watching it last night, which must mean something. Mind you, I'd mislaid the remote, so maybe I just couldn't be *rsed with all the kerfuffle of stopping and starting.  The ending is quite something, and I'd retained that from the first viewing; avoid the w*kipedia page as it gives everything away - and I mean everything.

Although I momentarily fancied myself as a critic in those days - I did a few pieces for the student paper - I think I saw films as purely entertainment. I was studying Drama, and it was quite nice to feel free  not even to shape critical thoughts in my head if I wasn't sitting watching a play. The Glasgow Film Theatre, or GFT, would give out a closely printed A4 for most of its films as you filed in; I would read these but I think I made a conscious decision not to join the game.

Anyway, that's by the by. What it means is I don't have a handy set of notes to compare my reactions then and now. All I really remember is that the ending made an impression. And that I was in two minds about the film as a whole, while accepting that the central performance was a piece of bravura acting.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Crackerjack May 1964


Clips from this edition of Crackerjack have has featured in several documentaries (Danny Baker's programme on Peter Glaze and The Unforgettable Leslie Crowther) but I haven't seen it since a repeat on TV in the late eighties.

It's Eamon Andrews' final programme and although I probably saw it as a kid I don't remember it from then: for me Crackerjack was always presented by Leslie Crowther, but Pip Hinton and Gillian Comber  and of course Peter Glaze are present and correct in memory, though I seem to remember Gilliam Comber as more maternal, less glam.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

They're not juvenile delinquents ...

A clip of 14 Karat Soul not seen before (by me) is cause for celebration. Presumably this is Sesame Street as the background is the same as for their version of the ABCs of Love. Stay tuned for developments re my doo wop presentation. Forty years boiled into an hour. How can I do it? I did jokily suggest to the kind person who has encouraged me that five hours would be more realistic but he wasn't wholly convinced. Also going back to basics, the play which I occasionally alluded to in my posts on the Kewl Steve site may be more realistically within sight of a production, and one of the lead characters is obsessed with doo wop. Ee, it's all happening, or it might be. Also in the pipeline is a book but, cursed as I am with the ability to talk a good game I shall shut up until matters become more concrete. I ache for the moment I hold a hardback in my hands. Anyway, here be the group:

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

There'll be fifteen minutes of expoundin' my thesis, and then you'll holler "Please, DO stop!"

No time, I'm afraid, to write a detailed post, so consider this an interim bulletin for those who might care. This blog is going back to basics as I have been asked to prepare a presentation for students about doo wop music. I will post audio when it's done and add the occasional entry here as I go along if you want to keep up with my progress.

Which task has made me think back to Phil Groia's They All Sang On the Corner, the first book I read devoted to the subject. I have to admit it didn't live up to my expectations. Not that there wasn't good info in it, but as the first book I read specifically about doo wop, there was a bit too much of the trainspotter about it. Yes, I know: following the changing members of the Cadillacs, etc is important, and there were some great phrases in the book, for example describing Frankie Lymon as the little boy who "lit up like a Christmas tree" whenever a microphone was placed before him. But the "list" aspect seemed - to me, anyway - to devalue the book a bit.

Against that, of course, you could say what's a history of the subject for if not to set the record straight? And such books may be better regarded as reference books than sparkling single-sitting reads. 

I mention this partly because I have just received Johnny Keyes' book Du-Wop (sic), have already read half, and it really puts you there, in the middle of a group. It's fairly short but it answers questions I've often thought about but don't think I've seen answered before.

In particular, Keyes says that the backing musicians for doo wop groups in the studio would compose arrangements which essentially came from the singers' acapella version of the song, though it would be the musicians who would get all the credit. Interesting, too, to note that the musicians were usually older and could be contemptuous of the groups. If a band was supporting a group or groups live, it could be that a current hit might be played at the wrong tempo, either through negligence or a deliberate attempt to mess the singers up. But the main thing is that, according to Keyes, the real creativity was in working out the vocal arrangement then bringing it into the studio, whereupon the band would quickly work up a backing.

I will have more to say on that and maybe some other books in my next post. So join me, why don't you, in my quest to boil down forty years' enthusiasm for streetcorner sounds into one measly hour. Which gives a whole 'nother meaning to Sixty Minute Man, hence the above title.