Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

The fixed grins and lipgloss don't fool us - we know no-one does Nordic heartbreak like ABBA.

Happy New Year everyone.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

So Good, So Good...

James Brown: May 3rd 1933 - December 25th 2006.

He's miming, but the dancing is real.

And they don't make shoes like that no more...

RIP the Godfather Of Soul.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Searching For The Dolphins In The Sea

For Robbie in particular, all Buckley fans in general. The Old Grey Whistle Test, 1974.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Johnny Rotten Was Right



The Ghost is back!

No thanks to the muppets at our Internet 'Service' Provider but because, rather than waiting another week on their 'procedures', we took Johnny Rotten's advice ("f***ing ignore the system, use it when it suits you'') got off our rapidly-expanding pre-Christmas arses and bought a new modem from PC World.

Did you miss us at all?

Post to come, dear readers.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of the season, may we direct you to the superb Christmas music zip put together by the lovely people at 'I Am Fuel, You Are Friends' ?

God it's good to be back on t'interweb....


Friday, December 15, 2006

Lost In Space

The Ghost has been unable to post.... since lightning struck our internet connection last week in a storm at the tail end of the North London Tornado (!).

As we speak, a crack team of highly-trained engineers are working round the clock to resolve the problem/a few muppets from BT are thinking about getting round to it (delete as applicable).

Meanwhile this comes commando-like from 'the field' (well, a public library PC).

Morale is not good. No music downloads, no email, no blogging. Isolation.

We hope normal service will be resumed soon, but we're not counting on it.

Wishing you Merry Christmas now, just in case....

Friday, December 01, 2006

Your Life Becomes A Travelogue Of Picture Postcard Charms


23 years ago (I find that very hard to compute; but as my Mother always said, and I never believed, 'The older you get, the quicker the time goes') - 23 YEARS AGO!! Joni Mitchell played Wembley, London, England.

The BBC screened it - and I plugged my crappy Tandy cassette recorder into my parents' telly with my separately purchased crappy Tandy grey 'jack plug'.... and taped it.

I had heard and liked 'Big Yellow Taxi' and I had read that she was a Very Important Artist Of The Kind I Might Appreciate.

I played the (badly recorded) C90 tape over and over and over again; I tracked down the songs to the original albums; I bought them one by one, as my pocket money would allow..... and I became A Major Fan.

Here's a clip from that very show.

Gawd bless the glories of You Tube.

And Gawd Bless Joni.

It was far from a false alarm.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Looking Through A Glass Onion

I haven't seen Cirque Du Soleil's Beatles extravaganza 'Love' at The Mirage, Las Vegas because Hey! I don't get to Vegas too much anymore, pally! but judging from George (& son Giles) Martin's extraordinary mash-up/pop art collage/extended suite of the Beatles' greatest hits created to soundtrack the performance, it must be quite a show.

Listening to the CD itself is a startling experience.

Firstly, this is the first time anyone's been permitted officially to mess with The Beatles music. The Martins have cut, segued and overlain riffs, drumbeats, instrumental sections, vocal snippets and miscellaneous sounds from a number of Beatles recordings over others.

Sometimes this makes for a bit of a dog's breakfast - I'm not sure that 'Strawberry Fields Forever' (which is a pretty much perfect cut-up of several Lennon interpretations and 'takes' in its original form in any case) benefits tremendously from more chaotic overdubs in its crescendo section - but occasionally it is dazzling.

Running the hypnotic drum loop of 'Tomorrow Never Knows' over the intro of George's 'Within You, Without You' is a case in point; extending 'Eleanor Rigby' with sections of George Martin's original vocal-free string arrangement (released for the first time on the Anthology collection) is another.

And the only track to feature newly recorded music - an early solo version of Harrison's 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' which George Martin has orchestrated with characteristic beauty and restraint - is easily the most moving piece here, its abandoned-on-the-final recording lyric - 'I look from the wings at the play you are staging.....As I'm sitting here doing nothing but aging' - both perfect for a theatrical work and eloquently touching given Martin's age (80) and Harrison's all too recent death.

Sometimes listening to this CD is a kind of hallucinatory experience. Like looking through a glass onion, in fact - at songs so familiar they are part of our very consciousness, and watching them twist, stretch, spin, shatter, merge, wink and frequently shimmer in unexpected light.

That light is mostly cast by the restored sound. Because incredibly, cruelly, criminally (GUILTY Apple/EMI!) this is the first time that most of these songs have been remastered.

TGOE joins all those other thousands of voices on the web (and off it) in begging and pleading with The Powers That Be in The Beatles camp to finally give us the original albums - and not just this interesting one-off - in remastered forms.
For a limited period you can listen to a stream of the whole of Love at http://www.beatles.com/

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Star Of A Story I'll Always Tell


You're in a bar with a friend. Someone you've known for a while, though never really got 'deep' with. A few vodka limes (his favourite drink) have gone by...The conversation turns (when doesn't it with the people we love?) to music. You pop The Big Question....

''So listen. When it comes right on down to it, what's your favourite album of all time? No, really.'

He takes a sip of the vodka lime.

'Well....'

You prepare yourself for One Of Those Answers. You know the contenders, need we detail them here?

He says...

'You know what, it's probably Give Me The Night by George Benson. You know it?'

'Yes I know it. Never put it in THAT category though....'

-----

Later, you bid goodbye. Just catch the last train home.

Next day, you put on that album. You think you might hear it with new ears....

Well....first off, acknowledge you HAVE always loved it. Think of your friend; hear what he might hear in it.

Think....

' You know what? This is not Obvious, but it IS lovely'.

Composed. A mood. A moment. A WARM, intimate 45 minute thing (remember when albums lasted just three quarters of an hour?).

The friend is right.

A prodigiously talented jazz instrumentalist turned popular singer (precedent = Nat 'King' Cole) - with a voice, by the way, that could melt Big Frozen Things - George Benson is one of the great critically unsung heroes of black American music of the 70s and 80s.

This record'll be warming the cockles of the hearts of ordinary people in ordinary love on ordinary Friday nights long after the OK Computers of this world have been boxed and labelled 'Officially Classic....Yet Mostly Unplayed'.

Go on. Indulge yourself. Say The Ghost's friend sent you.

England, Half English




With his part-polemic, part-autobiog The Progressive Patriot in the book shops, and his CD back catalogue reissued and remastered, Stephen William Bragg is enjoying a much deserved upsurge in meeja interest.

Here he is bringing Barking Bardotry to our American cousins back, as they say, 'in the day'...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Grapefruit moon, one star shining


As Tom Waits releases Orphans, a triple-disc set of new and uncollected material, songs from the other end of the man's strange and wonderful career - his debut album Closing Time and its follow up The Heart Of Saturday Night - are currently soundtracking TGOE's cold November nights.

What beautiful, bluesy, boozy, late night bar-fly lyricism there is here! What storytelling! How come these albums don't make all those top 50 lists and how come (just imagine!) Sinatra never got to sing a Tom Waits song?

How come I got to forty before I even heard this stuff?

Tom's off the booze now - but meet me at the bar and I'll buy you a bourbon and we'll 'laugh at that old bloodshot moon in a burgundy sky'....

These albums criminally cheap here.

While you're at it, and while we consider laureates of the American lost, Raymond Carver's short story collection Where I'm Calling From here.

Finally, a cracking interview with Tom Waits in this month's edition of The Word magazine.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

21 Songs

We take it for granted now - we can take all our music with us, wherever we go.

I mean, lookit, I've got 7,360 songs on my iPod, and it's only half full.

The much-loved High Fidelity-esque bar games of the '20 Songs you'd take RIGHT NOW if you could only take 20 ON PAIN OF DEATH!!' variety are only ever academic.

Aren't they?

Well....for the first time (fortysomething late adopter) I own a mobile phone that can accommodate MP3s on its 'media card'. But here's the deal. It'll only take about 20.

20!!!

Without much thought (no, really), turning off the head, turning on the heart and the short-term memory that holds the things that I'm liking NOW and In This Season rather than The Things I Know Are Classics And Must Always Appear On These Lists (TM), from a potential list of thousands I ended up with these 21 songs....

Some certainly are Songs I Could Not Live Without - others would never make that cut. And some pretty Big Ones are missing (no Marvin Gaye??!!! No DYLAN???).

But do you know what? For me, it's a good personal collection that'd pass the 'music for an emergency' test. This month.

Perhaps it's the beginning of a TGOE manifesto....

The 21 Songs (in no particular order)

Barefoot In The Head (acoustic) - A Man Called Adam
Coast Is Clear - Curve
Coles Corner - Richard Hawley
London Calling - The Clash (might consider this as a ringtone kids)
Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
Song To The Siren - This Mortal Coil
Blue Canary (from Slava's Snowshow) - Fiorino
Ramblin' Man - Lemon Jelly
Way To Blue - Nick Drake
The Ocean - Richard Hawley
Hong Kong - Gorillaz
I'm 49 - Paddy McAloon
Who Knows Where The Time Goes - Fairport Convention
No End - Sandy Denny
Thieves Like Us - New Order
(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais - The Clash
Atmosphere - Joy Division
Tell It Like It Is - Bettye Swann
All Flowers In Time (demo) - Elizabeth Fraser & Jeff Buckley
Arnold Layne - Pink Floyd
Autumn Leaves (Irresistible Force Full Chill mix) - Coldcut

Friday, October 20, 2006

Blues Run The Game


Reading the Clinton Heylin biog (see previous post) clued me in to a player in the mid sixties London folk scene I had never heard about before: his name is Jackson C. Frank and his story is extraordinary.

Traumatised, and badly injured, at just 11 years of age when a gas boiler exploded at his school in Buffalo, NY, killing many of his class mates, Frank took up guitar during long spells in hospital. Haunted in ways we can only imagine, he showed up in London in the early 60s as the folk clubs were burgeoning and fell in with a crowd that included countryman Paul Simon, also then an unknown singer/songwriter; they shared a flat - and Frank began dating a 19 year old nurse called Sandy (Denny).

A song Frank had written on the boat to England, 'Blues Run The Game', became a kind of standard in the clubs - performed, and later recorded, by Simon, Bert Jansch, Sandy Denny and others. Painfully shy, Frank was persuaded to record an eponymously-titled album of his material in 1965, produced by Paul Simon. Featuring just Frank's rich baritone and acoustic guitar, it is a lost classic.

Dogged by mental illness and addiction, Frank fell back into obscurity and onto hard, hard times, living penniless and homeless for a time after showing up in New York City in the mid-70s searching for, but not finding, the by-then internationally-famous Paul Simon.

He was persuaded to write and record again in the 1990s by a fan called Jim Abbott, but his voice was largely shot.

He died in 1999 aged just 56.

TGOE most seriously recommends you check out this man's extraordinary music.

A 2CD compilation called 'Blues Run The Game' is available here.

You can sample Frank tracks at the always excellent music blog Keep The Coffee Coming (look for the September 13th post).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Across The Evening Sky, All The Birds Are Leaving


Sandy Denny (1947-1978) wrote and sang so beautifully and so often about the lovely, sad season of autumn that a crisp October morning seemed the right kind of time to visit her grave at Putney Vale Cemetery, London.

It is a very plain grave - at the foot of a tree, right by the path, facing west - and unadorned by any of the left-by-fans paraphernalia that weighs down the resting places of other 'rock legends'.
Sandy's brother David, who also died in his thirties, is buried just behind. There are many more elaborate monuments nearby.

Unlike Nick Drake, that other great articulator of English melancholy in song, with whom she shared a record label and management team, Sandy was famous during her lifetime.

Not Royal Variety Performance famous, but then she'd have hated that.

Famous enough to sell-out decent sized venues in Britain either solo, or with Fairport Convention and Fotheringay (and combinations of both); famous enough to have been twice named Female Vocalist Of The Year by Melody Maker (RIP); famous in the folk-clubs (and famously fond of a good time and a few or more brandies there) long before that.

Since her death, her star has risen still further and her status as the finest British female singer/songwriter of her generation (and a master interpreter of songs by Richard Thompson, Dylan, Joni Mitchell and many others) is assured.

More and more of us are discovering that clear, sad, pitch-perfect, very English voice for the first time - and discovering in it something that is very special indeed.

Sandy would have turned 60 in January 2007.

Hard to imagine, because she's now, in Dylan's words, forever young.

Here's Ghost Of Electricity's completely subjective list of 17 of her greatest recordings (a CD full, if you will) in rough chronological order...

With Fairport Convention
Fotheringay (from 'What We Did On Our Holidays')
I Don't Know Where I Stand (from 'Heyday - The BBC Sessions')
Who Knows Where The Time Goes (from 'Unhalfbricking')
Autopsy (ditto)
Crazy Man Michael (from 'Liege & Lief')
Farewell, Farewell (ditto)

With Fotheringay
Nothing More (from 'Fotheringay')

Solo
Blackwaterside (from 'The North Star Grassman And The Ravens')
Next Time Around (ditto)
It'll Take A Long Time (from 'Sandy')
Listen, Listen (ditto)
The Music Weaver (ditto)
Solo (from 'Like An Old Fashioned Waltz')
Friends (ditto)
No End (ditto)
No More Sad Refrains (from 'Rendezvous')


One More Chance (from 'Rising For The Moon')

Buy Sandy albums at Amazon.

For more about Sandy, TGOE recommends Clinton Heylin's 'No More Sad Refrains - The Life And Times Of Sandy Denny' (Helter Skelter Publishing) - out-of-print, but you can still get it if you try hard enough (thanks to a very nice man at Helter Skelter for mine) ....

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pearl


Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs....or, to be specific as I was (relatively) young and tipsy upfront at the Reading Festival (1991)...we were all caught up in that 'shoegazing' thing: Ride; Slowdive; Curve; and from the former colonies (Hello America!) - The Drop Nineteens. We didn't use the 'shoe' word, of course: it had been invented by a Smart Person From The Music Press who I am sure had spent too much time in the VIP tent drinking sambucas with Shane. Bless! But never mind...

There was a band from Oxford (or possibly Reading or Newbury or Bracknell...very Home Counties this 'scene') called Chapterhouse. Their Big Song was 'Pearl'.

The cover of their debut (and I suspect only) album had on it a picture of a Big, White Fluffy Sleeping Cat curled up in a tight swirly ball. The album was called 'Whirlpool'.

Bet you didn't know that...

1) The cat's name was Albert.

2) He belonged to a Frenchman called Marc who designed the sleeve.

All this is true. Would I lie to you?

Today - so much fatter, older and balder - I 'upgraded my Blackberry' (yes, I know) to the new Pearl model.

I remembered Albert. And Home Counties kids painting white-noise washes with guitars.

And I thought: I'm going to Glastonbury next year. Without the frickin' Blackberry.

Buy 'Whirlpool' here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

And One More For The Road


Late night Saturday, drinks run dry, needing to go to bed. I play Frank Sinatra's vocal-to-solo-piano version of 'One For My Baby'. Never released in its time. A studio run-through. Just Frank and longtime accompanist Bill Miller. Just perfect.

And I go to choose something to follow it, though what would be suitable I do not know.

The iPod freezes. The reset does not work. The 'sad iPod icon' appears.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: sleep is a good thing; all hard drives eventually fail; you cannot follow Frank.

Buy Frank Sinatra - 'The Capitol Years' (box set).

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Snowbound


Slava Polunin is a 56 year old Russian clown who makes magic happen in theatres across the planet.

His stage world is an indeterminate snowscape in which his innocent and bewildered clowns wander and wonder: playing, dreaming, worrying, making friends....trying to keep the snow swept. It is a funny, sad, quirky, confusing, sometimes frightening and frequently beautiful world.

To spend two hours in a theatre with Slava is to be five years old again. You leave full of joy - and probably with your pockets full of paper snow.

'This is the single most beautiful thing I have ever seen in a theatre in my life' - Simon Callow.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Skeleton Keys And The Rain



How are you doing?

Come in out of the rain and pull up a chair.