Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Duke Consideration

I don't imagine you'd think yourself familiar with the work of Vladimir Dukelsky, and the name Vernon Duke might draw a blank with you too.

But if you've been digging 'Can't Get Started' in the Cannonball or maybe already know vocal versions by Sinatra or Mel Tormé, if you've ever sung along to 'Autumn In New York' or 'April In Paris' or swung along to 'Taking A Chance On Love' then You Have Been Listening to the man in question.

A Belarusian émigré to the US who trained at the Kiev Conservatory, staged ballets with Serge Diaghilev, became a close friend of both Sergei Prokofiev and George Gershwin and continued to compose 'classical' music throughout his life under his real name, Duke (as we shall cheekily call him) also happened to pen some of the most beautiful standards in the American popular songbook.

Sinatra especially always namechecked him in performance. His wistful lyricism and soaring melodies are really quite something; and with Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern as contemporaries, he was hardly running in a race of pygmies.

On Monday I started playing his tunes, but the strange thing is, I didn't make the connection...I just hopped from the perfect-for-the-time-of-year 'Autumn' to a lovely 'What Is There To Say?' as done by both Bill Evans and Sonny Rollins, to 'Can't Get Started', which I posted for feeling that way, and only afterwards did I realise all these songs were Vernon Duke's.

Then I learned from Wiki that his 'old calendar' birthday was on Sunday.

'These are the coincidences that thrill my imagination'.

Let the leaves fall....

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - 'Autumn In New York' (1957)
Sonny Rollins - 'What Is There To Say?' (1957)
Frank Sinatra - 'I Can't Get Started' (1959)

As you'll tell from the crackles, the first and third are vinyl rips. Thanks to Greer, who stoked the flames of this one x

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blue Monday

We've got that same feelin', Jules and me.

Julian "Cannonball" Adderley - 'I Can't Get Started' (1961)

Friday, September 25, 2009


Keepin' it old skool, bro.

I have this on single from back in the day; that Sugarhill label's a purty thang.

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - 'The Message' (1982)

Monday, September 21, 2009

No Smoke Without Fire

I bought my first new 7" single in two decades from the Rough Trade shop at the weekend. It's this lovely thing from the lovely Smoke Fairies, which comes in a limited edition pack with a 'free' 5 track CD (which is, let's face it, the EP). What larks!

The Smoke Fairies are two nice girls from Sussex who picked up some dirty blues and slide guitar licks and sad, dark Appalachian bits in the States and Canada that offset their sweet English folk harmonies like a good Kentucky bourbon does a ginger ale. Or something. I like them a lot.

They're supporting Richard Hawley on tour next month, which would seem a winning combination all round, so I'd better get my ticket sorted pronto.

Smoke Fairies - 'Morning Light' (2009)

Their MySpace.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I've Got A Loverly Bunch Of Coconuts

August Darnell! Hipster turned popstar! A single I haven't played in 25 years!

Steady me matron, I'm getting a Proustian rush....'Stool Pigeon' at the Radio One roadshow at Torre Abbey Meadows Torquay with your host DJ Mike Read, get there early and get to the front, it's the happy, happy sound, souvenir mug and back to Tall Phil's to hear 'Sandinista'.

This is slower than I remember. Is there another version they play on the radio? I tried cranking it up, but then it goes all Alvin & The Chipmunks.

No hang on, that lilting bass is a bit sexy....Damn it, it sounds good.

'Ona, ona, onomatopoeia, ona, ona, onomatopoeia...'

Kid Creole & The Coconuts - 'Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy' (1982)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Finders Keepers

Friday Mrs H and I take some quality time-out together down the Portobello Road, saying we must come back with the eldest daughter, who at 10 is very interested in small things from bric-a-brac stalls.

Saturday This excerpt from Victoria Coren's new book appears in the paper...

I am 12 years old, in Portobello market with my father. He thinks it's time for me to start collecting something. So we are rummaging around the antique shops and the bric-a-brac stalls, looking at ornaments and knick-knacks and pictures and hats and stuffed animals and silver trinkets, deciding what I am going to start collecting.

It's a beautiful day. The air is soft and warm, smelling of jasmine and hot-dog stands. All the stall-holders are chatty and ready to haggle. I've got a toffee apple. In the back of a dusty little shop near the Ladbroke Grove end of the market, my father picks up a china boat. It has a funnel at each end, also made of china, and if you lift them out they are salt-and-pepper shakers. The boat is a creamy-pearly colour, with blue piping, and on the side is printed "A Present from Southend-on-Sea".

"How about that?" my father says.

I think it is the cleverest, prettiest thing I have ever seen. It is a lovely shiny object anyway, but it's also a salt-and-pepper set and it's also a boat!

"And it's a present from Southend-on-Sea," my father says. "You could collect china seaside souvenirs. You could look for ones that said Bournemouth and Weymouth and Margate and Clacton. That's about right for a collection: bit difficult to find, but not too difficult."

We buy it for £12. "Just enough to make it a significant purchase," my father says, "but not enough to cripple you." The man from the shop wraps it up in newspaper and gives it to me. And as we walk back down the street, me gingerly clutching what at this point constitutes my entire collection, my father says, "One day, when you're all grown up and I'm not here any more, you'll remember the sunny day we went to the market together and bought a boat."
My throat feels tight because, as soon as he says it, I am already there. Standing on another street, without my father, trying to get back.

I try to soak up every aspect of the moment, to help me get back when I need to. I feel the weight of the chunky parcel under my arm, and the warmth of the sun, and my father's hand in mine. I smell the flowers with their sharp undertang of cheap hot-dog, and taste the slick of toffee on my teeth. I feel the joy of an adventurous Saturday with my father and no school, and I feel the sadness of looking back when it is all gone. When he is gone.


I've had this post-Tamla Four Tops song about fathers on my brain for the last few days; I found it in a junk shop years ago. It's a curious old thing with it's wah-wah pastiche of the Whitfield/Strong Temptations 'protest' sound and its contrasting call to absent Dads to quit said protest and get on back to their families where they belong. I like the tune though, and the pink Probe label.

The Four Tops - 'Keeper Of The Castle' (1972)

Friday, September 11, 2009

You Should Know The Score By Now

Extended disco classics to cut out and keep; our occasional series builds into a magnificent collection your whole family will enjoy.

Odyssey - 'Native New Yorker' (12") (1977)

(With big love to the good people of New York City).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Face Dances


Long time, no blog tennis

The Small Faces - 'I'm Only Dreaming' (1967)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Winner's Speech

Never mind Kate Moss stropping and dropping her lipstick (though that is very funny), this was the big entertainment news last night.

Well done Ms Elliot.

Speech Debelle - 'Live & Learn' (2009)

Her site

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Friday, September 04, 2009

Yeah Baby

We're pushing it with this in early September I know, especially after 'Harvest Home' and all, but 'Ian just driving back from Margate to London' asked Trevor Nelson to play it on the radio the other night and good for you Ian just driving, because it's lovely.

If you listened to Robbie Vincent's Soul Shows in the mid-80s I'm told you might know it well; me, I heard it this week for the very first time. And all I know about the McCrarys is here.

Did Lady Summer quit your scene? Then turn up the music baby, and dream...

The McCrarys - 'Love On A Summer Night' (extended mix) (1982)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Sweet Rain

I first got this out of Torquay Library (on a cassette tape!) when I were a lad.

(It smelt of old books and old people, did Torquay Library; the old people came in there to sit somewhere warm, the old books didn't seem to mind).

Later I bought it on Compact Disc: older readers may remember these unloved and unlovely things, insets always too small to read the sleeve notes, and that was the least of their problems, oh yes.

Now here it is (or a bit of it) as a little file in the ether.....whilst thick drizzle thwacks SW London, my, my.

Stan Getz - 'Sweet Rain' (1967)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Traditional (Reprise)

David Sylvian - 'September' (1987)